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TUF 23 Finale: Jedrzejczyk vs Gadelha Breakdown

Dan Tom

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McBryde Mats - LargeThis UFC Fight Night 90: Dos Anjos vs Alvarez Breakdown is brought to you by McBryde Mats – All American – Quality Mats & Accessories for MMA, BJJ, Wrestling, Gymnastics and much more. 

 

JJ1

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (10-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 28 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 65.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Valerie Letourneau (11-14-15)
  • Camp: Berkut (Poland)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Strawweight Champion
+   5x Muay Thai World Champ
+   Multiple Muay Thai Accolades
+   4 KO victories
+   1 first round finish
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Heavy hands/stopping power
+   Active & accurate jab
+   Hard leg kicks
+   Superb defensive & offensive clinch
^   Solid head positioning & forearm framing
+   Underrated grappling IQ
+   Good get-up technique & urgency
^   Effectively uses the cage
–    Head often stays on center
^   Counter availabilities

 

Claudia2

Claudia Gadelha (13-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’4″ Age: 27 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 63.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Jessica Aguilar (8-1-15)
  • Camp: Nova Uniao (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   3x BJJ World Champion
+   6 Submission wins
+   2 KO victories
+   7 first round finishes
+   Improved overall striking
^   Puts together striking well
+   Hard body kicks & knees
+   Physically strong inside the clinch
^   Favors knees & takedowns here
+   Underrated wrestling ability
^   16 takedowns in 3 fights
+   Solid back taker
+/-Heavy on her lead foot
^   Leg kick/counter availabilities
–    Gas tank bears watching

Summary:

Headlining the TUF 23 Finale is a rematch fueled with fire as Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her title against rival coach Claudia Gadelha. With their first meeting arguably being both girls toughest test thus far in the UFC, I expect another closely fought battle despite each fighter’s intentions of keeping this one from the judges.

Although Joanna had the advantage standing going into their first fight, Claudia showed she is much more than just a Jiu-jitsu champion inside the cage. Hailing from the renown Nova Uniao camp in Brazil, Claudia demonstrates the Muay Thai staples of her stablemates. Utilizing a classic high-guard and posture, Claudia will steadily march forward as she looks to capitalize on openings created by her pressure. Even though she bears some solid teeps and kicks(particularly to the body), Claudia prefers to punch as she consistently puts together her shots in a healthy variety.

Showing not just striking improvement under Andre Pederneiras, but also showing to pick up on the underrated wrestling that comes from that camp, Claudia has developed into one of the most complete fighters in the division. Although I am still giving a striking edge to the champion, Claudia will not be far behind as she is a real threat in this match. That said, there are some tendencies in her game that I suspect the champion will attempt to exploit. In Claudia’s last fight against Jessica Aguilar, it was apparent that Claudia’s stalking style naturally puts her weight over her lead leg. Not only was this pointed by Joe Rogan on commentary, but also by Aguilar as she continued to kick Claudia’s leg throughout the contest.

Despite Joanna Jedrzejczyk demonstrating devastating leg kicks, I suspect she will throw them sparingly against Gadelha. Although Claudia has shown a knack for catching kicks, Joanna has shown she is acutely aware of this technique. In fact, Joanna was admittedly reluctant to utilize her kicking game until her overall MMA game was up to par(Hence why we have only seen her kick recently in the UFC). Although Letourneau was able to have brief success in catching the champions kick and taking her down early, Joanna has demonstrated fundamental defense when experiencing a caught leg. That said, I feel that Joanna will likely limit her leg kicks to later in the fight, especially considering that takedowns are Gadelha’s best shot at winning the rounds.

I suspect that Joanna will have the most success in the boxing department, particularly within her use of the left hand. Similar to teammate Jose Aldo, Claudia will revert to a defensive shell that emphasizes on protection from the overhand right. Although her left hand comes high, her right hand has a tendency to parry preemptively and retract at a lower position. Traditionally, this opens up Gadelha to left hooks on that side, or uppercuts that can come up underneath the guard(similarly to what dropped her in the first fight with Jedrzejczyk). Even though Joanna does not throw left hooks in volume, she wields an effective one as she variates it nicely to the body.

With distance being the name of the game for Jedrzejczyk, I suspect the jab will be the key punch for the champion. Throwing it actively and accurately, Joanna will set a perceived range for her opponent while simultaneously setting up her right hands and leg kicks. Sadly, this will also serve as Joanna’s best defense due to the champions lack of head movement. Although Joanna keeps her chin tucked and retracts her strikes nicely, her natural aggression tends to keep her head on the centerline as she sometimes overstays her welcome in the pocket. With this traditionally opening up the champion to right hands(as seen in fights with Lima, Letourneau, and of course Claudia), I suspect Gadelha will be looking for this standing.

Never the less, the Brazilian’s best chances in this fight are on the ground. Although the three-time world champion has not scored an in-fight submission in 6-years, Claudia demonstrates an excellent translation of her grappling game into MMA. Like many Nova Uniao fighters, Claudia has embraced and excelled in the wrestling aspect of grappling inside the cage. Although Claudia favors her takedown attempts from the clinch, she possesses a decent reactive shot that may be her best chance in grounding the champion. Despite many feeling that Claudia’s control time against the fence was enough to win her the first fight, Joanna was able to negate any legitimate advances due to overlooked technical intricacies.

In fact, I feel that Joanna shows an intelligent understanding of not just grappling, but grappling in regards to her style and how it relates to MMA. Most impressively is her translation into clinch fighting, as I am certain her Muay Thai base plays a solid role. Displaying good grip awareness, Joanna will effectively hand-fight to assist her defensive & offensive intentions. Supported by a solid base and balance, the champion will often hop to the fence(if not already there) to help her keep upright. Consistently working for a superior head position(forehead driven into and underneath her opposition’s chin), Joanna will look to reverse her opponent to the fence once she establishes this.

What is most impressive about Joanna’s clinch game, is the devastating offense derived from her use of forearm framing. Using her forearms to frame against the face of her opponent, Joanna creates space and opportunities to land nasty short elbows in close. Even when able ground the champion, Joanna shows impressive get-up instincts and urgency. If not already near the fence, Joanna will unabashedly work toward it as she uses it to stand with efficiency. The use of the cage was very helpful against Gadelha, who is excellent at taking backs in transition. Keeping her back to the fence, Joanna was able to prevent this as she worked for under-hooks to reverse position.

Even when the champion has been taken down in the open, she demonstrates a disciplined and intelligent get-up approach that you seldom even see with experienced grapplers. Favoring to work from the half-guard, Joanna uses a far-side under-hook as her legs assist her leverage to come up to a single-leg. This position naturally gives her opponents less to work with(as far strikes & submissions go) and also allows her to either reverse position or stand up in the scramble. Although Claudia possesses the ability to ground Joanna and perhaps steal some rounds, I wonder what the cost will be to the Brazilian’s gas tank in a five round affair.

In life, there is no such thing as a biological free ride as Claudia’s athletic frame comes with a price. Whether it is Claudia’s musculature or output management, the fact remains that she has the propensity to fade in fights. Even if Claudia can ground the champion and win rounds, she may find herself in trouble should she not find a finish by mid-fight. With the emotion Claudia showed in their first meeting, I imagine that intangible has only doubled since then. Even if her intentions is to manage her output conservatively, a measured Gadelha may ultimately prove to be the less effective fighter. Although this is a close contest that I caution playing, I believe Joanna’s chances should only increase after riding out the initial storms.

Official Pick: Jedrzejczyk – Decision

 

UFC Fight Night: Pearson v Trinaldo

Ross Pearson (19-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: SD win / Chad Laprise (3-19-16)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 9 Lightweight Winner
+   Black Belt TKD/Brown Belt Judo
+   7 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   6 first round finishes
+   Good feints & head movement
^   Looks to slip & counter
+   Accurate left hook
+   Excellent pocket awareness
^   Favors uppercuts off the crouch
+   Improved takedown defense
^   Shows get-up initiative & technique
+   Hard leg kicks
+/-Often dips heavily low
–    Struggles with wrestling pressure
+   20th UFC fight

 

Brooks2

Will Brooks (17-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 29 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Marcin Held (11-6-15)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Bellator Lightweight Title
+   5 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   3 first round finishes
+   Deceptively athletic & agile
+   Good distance management
+   Controls pace of fight
^   Makes in-cage & corner adjustments
+   Diverse striking arsenal
^   Heavy kicks & hard knees
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Strikes & stifles
+   Excellent takedown defense
^   Solid base & balance
+   Underrated TD ability
+/-UFC debut

Summary:

The co-main event of the evening features the arrival of former Bellator lightweight champion “Ill” Will Brooks as he meets Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson. After being stuck in between contracts, Will Brooks will finally fight in the organization of his dreams as he enters the UFC. A veteran of the organization, this will be Pearson’s 20th fight with the UFC as he looks to spoil the party.

An anomaly of athleticism, the term “natural ability” is an understatement when used to describe Will Brooks. Despite no combat sports or collegiate base, Brooks has developed into one of most well-rounded fighters in MMA’s deepest division. His victories over Michael Chandler alone were proof of this, as Will was able to out wrestle the 4x NCAA qualifier in route to the title. Although he favors fighting on the feet, I suspect Brooks natural grappling abilities will come in handy for his UFC debut.

A well-rounded martial artist himself, Ross Pearson has trained and traveled worldwide to maintain his skills and relevancy in the UFC’s most stacked division. Primarily a striker by trade, Pearson’s best chances for success lies within his ability to dictate terms of this fight. It will be interesting to see Pearson’s approach in this fight as he usually employs one of two patterns. One: Pearson will pressure forward looking to push the action, although this has gotten him countered and cost him in many of his defeats. Or Two: Pearson will circle on the outside as he looks to capitalize and counter.

Regardless of his game plan for this fight, I suspect he will carry his biggest advantage within the boxing range. Although he is known for his accurate left hook, I feel that Pearson’s uppercut will serve him well in getting underneath Brooks shell defense. Often thrown from a crouch(weight heavy over the power side at a low-level), Ross will unleash uppercuts that lead into hooks as he variates them to the body & head. However, Pearson has a tendency to duck dangerously low when doing so, and may open himself up to a Brooks knee as I see that being the strike to look for here.

Whether he inside the clinch or intercepting his opposition with a knee, Will is accurate with his shot selection. Favoring to fight from the outside, Brooks wields heavy kicks that come from all angles. More impressively, Brooks maintains a solid sense of awareness when attacking, as he can seamlessly transition from striking to defending shots with ease. An efficient puncher, Will rounds out his game nicely as he strikes well inside the clinch and off the breaks. Bearing a solid base and balance, Brooks defends effortlessly from the clinch as the usually looks to manage the fights pace from there.

The obvious intangible in this fight will be whether or not the “UFC jitters” will effect Brooks. We have seen world class Olympians like Daniel Cormier come into their debut’s feeling flat or outside of their comfort zone. With Will undoubtedly coming into this contest with multiple pressures, it will be interesting see how he looks come the first round. Never the less, I feel he has a good skill-set to get the job done. I see Brooks’ heavy kicks and range fighting hampering the movement of Pearson, as Brooks’ wrestling threat will serve him well in-close. That said, I recommend staying away from betting Brooks at his current asking price. Although I don’t favor Pearson stylistically, I feel that the oddsmakers have criminally undersold the Englishman here as he is a live dog.

Official Pick: Brooks – Decision

 

Superboy1

Doo Ho Choi (13-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 25 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Sam Sicilia (11-28-15)
  • Camp: Gumi MMA (Korea)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   10 KO victories
+   7 first round finishes
+   1 Submission win
+   KO power
+   Deceptive hand & foot speed
+   Excellent footwork
^   Rarely out of position
+   Preternatural reactive instincts
^   Insanely accurate shot selection
+   Times & intercepts opposition
+   Superb sense of hips & base
^   Sprawls & floats effectively
+   Good transitional ground game
^   Chains submissions to get-ups
+/-2 fights in 3 years

 

Tavares3

Thiago Tavares (20-6-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 31 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Clay Guida (11-7-15)
  • Camp: Team Tavares (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   14 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   Active right-hand
+   Good knees in close
+   Strong inside the clinch
+   Solid takedown ability
^   Favors double-legs
+   Taken down 15 of 17 UFC opponents
+   Scrambles well
^   Always looks for back
+   Excellent top control
–    Lacks head movement
^   Propensity to take damage

Summary:

In a matchup with heavily forecasted fireworks, “The Korean Super Boy” Doo Ho Choi draws the dangerous veteran Thiago Tavares. One of the most highly touted prospects to come out of Asia in quite some time, Doo Ho Choi has teased the MMA mainstream with his brief, but memorable performances thus far in the UFC. Nearing his 10th year with the organization, Thiago Tavares will look to maintain his relevancy by turning away a young prospect.

Although the common conception of this fight for many lies within whether or not Thiago can take Choi down, I disagree with that assessment as I feel there is more than meets the eye to this matchup. With Tavares taking down 15 of his last 17 opponents it is easy to see why the takedown will be Thiago’s looming threat. That said, Tavares has only finished 5 of said 15 as grounding his opposition is a far cry from a sure thing. More importantly, I believe Choi carries some skills in that department that we have gotten a glimpse of, but not yet fully seen.

An unassuming, smirking assassin, Choi operates his overall game with preternatural instincts that are downright spooky. Although a bit close for conservative standards, the Korean keeps a measured distance as he prefers to sit just outside of his opponents range. Moving deceptively well, Choi maintains his feet beneath him as he will utilize feints to draw out his opposition’s attacks. Only needing one or two bites to get down his opponents timing, the Korean will then accurately intercept his oncoming foe with jab-cross-hook variations(as seen in his fights with Sicilia & Puig).

With the Korean Super Boy often exploding forward to execute, one would think that a reactive double would work nicely. However, Doo Ho has shown brief instances of brilliance in not only defending, but also in transitioning from the defensive grappling phases. Demonstrating an awareness of his opposition’s takedown range and intentions, Choi keeps his hips at the ready as he possesses a strong sprawl. He will float position on top to strike should the opportunity arise, but maintains a solid sense of things as he seldom commits himself unnecessarily.

Although we have yet to see him on the bottom in the UFC, Choi has demonstrated in past bouts that he is no slouch there as well. Displaying a solid transition game, Choi will intelligently chain together his submissions into sweeps or standups. Showing off deceptively strong hips, the Korean pops up with the immediacy and ease of a wrestler. Even though I give Tavares the advantage on the ground, I do not suspect the skill differential to be as vast in-fight as it is on paper. Never the less, Thiago’s best route in this contest will undoubtedly reside on the ground.

Although an accoladed Brazilian Jiu-jitsu black belt, Tavares bears a base in Judo as he is effective inside the clinch as well as controlling the action on top. Getting in close and grounding the Korean will be paramount for Tavares as we have yet to see Choi tested, much less grounded at the UFC level of competition. However, Thiago will have to mind his engagements of Choi’s space when looking to shoot(or do anything for that matter), especially considering the way in which Tavares operates.

Not only does the Brazilian have a bad habit of entering in on straight lines, but does so with his head exposed down and forward. Usually throwing a right hand over the top in an attempt to mask entry, Thiago will explode forward into his favored double-leg. Assuming he doesn’t get picked off priorly inside the boxing range, Tavares will need to be careful enacting this level change as Choi wields devastating uppercuts & knees. Utilizing his deceptive hand and foot speed, Choi owns multiple knockouts in this fashion.

With the transition and ground analysis on Choi presented, I feel his biggest advantage is obviously in the boxing range. Although Tavares has made steady improvements to his striking over his career, he has lacked any significant adjustments or efforts in that department to expect something different here. More importantly, Thiago still shows a lack of head movement which is troubling against the fast-calculating Choi. Although a takedown artist with Jiu-jitsu chops should prove a tough test for Choi, I ultimately feel that the Brazilian’s propensity to take damage will likely play into the hands of the Korean Super Boy.

Official Pick: Choi – Inside the distance

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Holbrook def. Silva
  • *Maynard def. Bruno
  • Smith def. Ferreira
  • Arantes def. Sanders
  • *Lee def. Mathews
  • JingLiang def. Zafir

Recommended Plays:

Draft Kings Rosters:

 

Team #1: N/A

Team Summary:N/A

Team #2: N/A

Team Summary:N/A

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Pearson/Brooks over 2 1/2: -190 (1 Unit)
-Li Jingliang by Decision: +250 (.05 Unit)
-Joanna Jedrzejczyk by Decision: +180 (.25 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-John Moraga
-Li Jingliang

Fights to avoid:

-Jake Mathews vs Kevin Lee
-Cezar Ferreira vs Anthony Smith
-Gray Maynard vs Fernando Bruno

For the complete analysis of future & past UFC events visit MixedMartialAnalyst.com and for future breakdowns & your latest in worldwide MMA news, stay tuned & follow @MMALatestnws MMALatestNews.com

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GLORY: Redemption – Breakdown and Predictions

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Glory returns to pay-per-view today with a stacked card, featuring some of their greatest fighters. Among them are reigning champions Rico Verhoeven and Alex Pereira, as well as the return of former title holder Nieky Holzken.

In the main event, Rico puts his heavyweight title on the line against the very dangerous Jamal Ben Saddik, who defeated him 6 years ago. Rico comes into the fight riding an impressive 14-fight Glory winning streak.

The co-main event features a rematch of the 2016 Fight of the Year between light heavyweight veterans Michael ‘The Dreamcrusher’ Duut and Danyo ‘Dibuba’ Ilunga. The card is a must-see for kickboxing fans, as well as those who just love a good scrap. And with that out of the way, here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting fight’s on Saturday’s super-card. Enjoy.

Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Nieky Holzken vs Alim Nabiyev

Nabiyev came into Glory with a decent amount of steam behind him, but following his bout against short-notice opponent Jimmy Veinot, I honestly don’t see it. Nieky’s reign as champion was one of the best, and despite two close losses to the equally talented Cédric Doumbé, he’s still one of the best welterweights in the world today. With wins over Raymond Daniels, Joseph Valtellini, and current champion Murthel Groenhart, it’s hard to imagine Nieky having much of a problem with Nabiyev.

Expect plenty of pressure from Holzken early on. Coming off two straight losses Nieky will want to make a statement, and prove that he’s still the man to beat at 170. The liver shot will do it. Holzken will just be too much for Alim. Nabiyev has  potential and could be a contender in the future, but right now Holzken is on a whole ‘nother level. Nieky is back, and he wants that title.

Prediction: Nieky Holzken by 1st Round TKO

 

Alex 'Po Atan' Pereira

Alex ‘Po Atan’ Pereira – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Alex Pereira vs Yousri Belgaroui

Pereira’s win back at Glory 46 came as a shock to me. Simon Marcus has proven himself to be one of the best fighters in the division, and while Pereira is a solid kickboxer in his own right, I fully expected Marcus to win that one pretty easy. I was wrong. Pereira was the better man, and is now the Glory middleweight champion. But don’t expect it to last. Yousri completely shut Pereira down in there last meeting at Glory 40. And based on his last performance, a first round TKO over former champ Jason Wilnis, he’s only getting better.

Pereira’s path to victory is pretty simple, strike hard and strike early. The deep waters are not a place where Alex thrives. His cardio has been questionable in the past and his vaunted knockout power diminishes as the fight goes on. If Pereira can’t put Yousri on the back foot early it’s hard to see him taking this one.

The last fight was a fairly decisive win for Belgaroui. Alex was unable to score on Yousri and was picked apart after gassing out late into the fight. Pereira is a talented striker with some serious power, but Belgaroui’s well-rounded game and superior cardio should be enough to win him the championship.

Prediction: Yousri Belgaroui by Unanimous Decision

 

Michael Dreamcrusher Duut

Michael ‘Dreamcrusher’ Duut – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Michael Duut vs Danyo Ilunga

Last year these two stole the show, putting on one of the greatest fights of the year, maybe of all-time. But can they do it again? It’s hard to say. Consistency is not a strong suit for either of these men. Following his thriller with Ilunga, Duut went on to lose his next Glory contest by disqualification due to excessive clinching, then later won a contender tournament in less than a minute (48 seconds to be exact).

Duut’s incredible power and brawler style make him a dangerous fight for just about anyone in the light heavyweight division, but his lack of defence make him an easy target. Unfortunately, Ilunga hasn’t hit a bullsye in quite some time.

Danyo comes into this fight on a whopping 7 fight losing streak, and hasn’t won a fight in Glory since 2014. On the bright side, all 7 losses have come by decision so his chin has held up. Plus Duut isn’t the most durable guy in the world, so it’s possible that Ilunga could knock him out. But I don’t see that happening. Duut is just too powerful and Ilunga isn’t the same fighter he used to be. Hopefully the fight is as great as the last one was, but don’t expect it to go to a 4th round this time. Ilunga’s on a slippery slope, and Duut’s about to cause an avalanche.

Prediciton: Michael Duut by 3rd Round KO

 

Rico The King of Kickboxing Verhoeven

Rico ‘The King of Kickboxing’ Verhoeven – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik

Despite being the main event this was one of the easier fights to pick. Rico has looked unstoppable lately, and as much as people hate to give him credit for anything, he really is the best heavyweight in the world right now. That doesn’t mean a whole lot considering how weak the division is at the moment, but Rico is champion for a reason.

The rest of the heavyweights just aren’t on his level. ‘Big Ben’ included. Jamal’s last fight against Guto Inocente was a total snoozefest, and if not for his rivalry with Rico he probably wouldn’t even be in the title picture. Badr Hari better get his act together cause Rico’s running out of opponents.

The only advantage I see Jamal having is his power. Rico is faster, more precise, and his striking is more diverse. Again, this is a heavyweight contest so anything can happen, but Jamal hasn’t KO’d a world-class opponent since he fought ‘Braddock’ 2 years ago. Since then, Rico has knocked-out Benjamin Adegbuyi, ‘Braddock’, Bigfoot Silva, and broke Badr’s arm earning him a TKO victory. Rico’s the better fighter, simple as that. And no amount of chest hair is going to change that.

Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by 5th Round KO

All images used in this article are accredited to GLORY Kickboxing

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UFC 218: Holloway vs Aldo 2 Main Card Predictions and Analysis

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Image result for holloway vs aldo

The passing of the torch. A usual occurrence in combat sports. There comes a time when the old guard has to step down and let the new generation take its place. UFC 218 is all about the passing of the torch. Holloway-Aldo 2, Overeem-Ngannou, Alvarez-Gaethje, the card is chock full of young hungry fighters looking to make a statement against their aging counterparts. But don’t expect the old lions to give up without a fight. Aldo is still a world-class striker and Eddie’s still got some tread on the tires. And at the age of 37, Overeem is still one of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world today.

Max Holloway is a perfect representative of the new generation. He’s scrappy, well-rounded, and will fight whoever you put in front of him. He’s got the fire. So do Ngannou, Gaethje, and the rest of the young guys. Aldo hasn’t had that fire in a long time. Sure he’s still a great fighter,‌ but in his last few fights, he’s lacked that burning passion he used to have. Aldo has all the tools to beat Holloway, but does he have the drive? Does the fire still burn, or was it put out long ago? That’s what we’re going to find out come Saturday.

 

Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson

This is such a weird fight. Torres’ climb to the top has been impressively mediocre. She has wins over quality opponents like Angela Hill, Felice Herrig, and Paige VanZant. However, with just a single finish to her credit, Tecia hasn’t given the fans a reason to pay attention to her. Waterson is the complete opposite. She has only gone to decision twice and is one of the more popular fighters in the division. However, injuries and losses have prevented Waterson from gaining any real momentum.

As far as the fight goes I really don’t know what to expect. Waterson is fairly inconsistent and Torres is so consistent it hurts. My assumption would be that Waterson has the better ground game, so if anyone’s going to take it to the mat it will be her. Torres has the better overall stand-up game but doesn’t possess the same finishing ability of the Karate Hottie. My guess is that this one stays on the feet with Torres pushing the pace early, then getting caught by a powerful strike from Waterson that puts her down for good.

Prediction: Michelle Waterson by 2nd Round TKO

 

Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

How the hell did Cejudo-Pettis get billed higher than this? Alvarez vs Gaethje has the potential to be the Forrest-Bonnar of the modern era. Both men are aggressive brawlers on the feet and strong wrestlers on the mat. I’d give the submission edge to Eddie, but that’s about it. Gaethje’s striking game is more diverse than Eddie’s is, and his youth is definitely something to consider. With 34 fights to his credit, Alvarez is certainly no spring chicken. He’s not nearly as durable as he used to be, and against a dangerous scrapper like Gaethje, that’s not a great quality.

I really wanted to go with Alvarez on this one, but facts are facts. Gaethje is younger, tougher, and most importantly, better for business. Eddie already lost to the biggest draw in the game. Money-wise he doesn’t have much to offer. Gaethje, however, is a promoters wet dream. He’s durable, dangerous, and damn fun to watch. Basically, everything Eddie used to be. Why does any of this matter? Because the judges work for the UFC. If the UFC brass wants Gaethje to win, then he will. Simple as that. Is it right? No, but business is business. And Justin Gaethje is good for business.

Prediction: Justin Gaethje by Split Decision

 

Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis

This feels like too big a step up for Sergio, which is weird considering he’s ranked #4 and Cejudo is ranked #2. After Cejudo’s fight with Mighty Mouse, I wrote him off as nothing more than a sacrifice to the flyweight king. But his close fight with perennial #1 contender Joseph Benavidez and his vicious knockout over veteran submission artist Wilson Reis have shown me that Cejudo is more than just a big-headed wrestler. Henry is one of the best. If anyone in the division is taking the belt off Mighty Mouse it’s him.

Sergio is a talented kid, no doubt. Give him a few more years to develop and he could be champion one day. Unfortunately for him, the UFC doesn’t have time for that. They need flyweight contenders. If that means a few prospects have to bite the dust then so be it. I just hope Sergio doesn’t get completely outclassed and is able to make a good showing, but against a guy like Cejudo, I’m not holding my breath.

Prediction: Henry Cejudo by Unanimous Decision

 

Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou

Call me crazy, but I’m still not completely sold on Cheick Kongo with dreadlocks. His only quality win is a knockout over what’s left of Andrei Arlovski. Overeem, on the other hand, has fought nothing but quality contenders in his climb back to the top, with his only loss coming against reigning champion Stipe Miocic (although some would argue they saw the tap). On paper, this is Overeem’s fight to win. Unfortunately, paper is what Overeem’s chin is made of.

Ngannou may not be as technically sound as Overeem is, but he hits just as hard, maybe harder. One good shot from the Predator and Overeem could drop like a sack of horse meat. Combine that with Overeem’s uber-cockiness and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Picking Overeem is always a gamble, but I’m willing to roll the dice on this one. It’s not gonna be pretty but Overeem’s in-and-out kickboxing and “run like hell” defensive style should be just enough to win this.

Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision

 

 Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo 2

Holloway TKO’d Aldo about 6 months ago. Max is in the best form of his career. Aldo is taking the fight on short notice. I really can’t think of a good reason to pick Aldo on this one. Sure his striking is still some of the best in the division, but at this point, he’s writing checks his body can’t cash anymore. His chin has degraded significantly and his patented leg kicks are nowhere to be found. It pains me to say this because Aldo is an incredible fighter, but it’s starting to feel as though the sport is passing him by. Aldo is the past, Max is the future.

Despite just winning the title this summer, Holloway has effectively cleaned out the division. Swanson, Lamas, Stephens, Pettis, all fell to the young Hawaiian. Hell, since his loss to McGregor nobody’s even come close to beating Holloway. This doesn’t mean Max is invincible though. Frankie is still a huge threat to Max’s title, and those who sleep on Aldo are often put to sleep themselves. The road ahead of him is not an easy one, but something tells me Max is going to do just fine. It is what it is.

Prediction: Max Holloway by 2nd Round TKO

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GSP vs Robert Whittaker is Easily the Best Fight to Make at Middleweight

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GSP became the new middleweight champion of the UFC this past weekend, and many questions have been asked his way. Is he officially the greatest of all time? Who does he fight next? Does he stay at middleweight?

The G.O.A.T. conversation will never be settled completely. There will always be separation in opinions between Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP, Demetrious Johnson, Fedor Emelianenko, and some even say Conor McGregor is the greatest, simply due to the fact that he is the first ever UFC champion to hold two belts simultaneously. Regardless of how that conversation is driven, the biggest question that should be the only concern at this point is the immediate plans for the new middleweight champion.

Where does GSP go next, and who does he fight?

Well, the fact of the matter is, it would not make sense for GSP to go down to the welterweight division again. 170-pounds is alive and kicking at the moment, with new stars emerging such as Darren Till and Mike Perry, to return of veterans like Carlos Condit, and also new additions to the division like Rafael dos Anjos. St-Pierre would have to stay extremely active in order to keep the division flowing.

At the age of 36 and having just returned to MMA last weekend, St-Pierre is unlikely to stay as active as he used to be when he was the king of the welterweight division. Plus, would it really make much sense for him to get on his old diet again in order to make the welterweight weight limit? He looked massive last night, all bulked up, and even seemed like the bigger fighter against Bisping, who used to fight at 205-pounds.

On the other hand, if he decides to stay at middleweight, which is what UFC president Dana White stated would happen yesterday, then there is one clear path for him to take and based on his statements on his contract, will be forced to take: Robert Whittaker.

Whittaker won the interim middleweight belt earlier this year against Yoel Romero at UFC 213, which was a razor close fight that went to Whittaker at the end of 5 rounds. Since then, Whittaker has been sidelined due to the injury he suffered during the fight, damaging his ligament in the left knee.

4 months later, he has seemed to have healed up perfectly, as he was in the arena for the madness last night and even answered a few questions from the media, stating that he is healthy now. The fight against Whittaker would be the best that the UFC could put on at this point in 185-pounds division on a few different levels.

GSP and Whittaker have a lot in common. Starting with the most obvious, they both used to fight at welterweight. Which means that neither fighter will have a massive size advantage. This brings the match up nearly even as far as physicality is concerned.

Then comes the match up itself. St-Pierre and Whittaker both represent the very definition of being ‘well-rounded’. Whittaker, although not an offensive wrestler, proved that his defensive wrestling was second to none in his fight against Romero, a former Olympic wrestler. And while GSP is not necessarily the best wrestler in pure wrestling, his ability to wrestle in MMA is phenomenal due to his timing and fight IQ, which makes this fight even more intriguing to find out whether Whittaker can defend GSP’s takedown attempts.

This fight also represents the UFC an opportunity to see a birth of a superstar. Whittaker, while not a huge talker, is a very marketable fighter especially over in Australia and New Zealand. If he is able to defeat GSP, who’s arguably the biggest draw in the history of the company, it would boost Whittaker’s popularity up an extraordinary amount. And being only 26 years old, Whittaker has the tools and potential to be a dominant champion, much like St-Pierre in his “prime”.

Booking this fight would also clear up the confusing state of the middleweight division. With Bisping’s reign as the champion coming to an end, some hope was born for other contenders in the division. Fighters like Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza were having an extremely hard time getting a hold of Michael Bisping during his reign, and with a new champion now and possible unification of the belts soon, the contenders will have a goal to work for again.

The fight is one of the best fights that UFC could put on for the fans right now and one that can happen as early as February of 2018, which is when the UFC returns to Australia with a PPV. If it can come to fruition, then it will easily be one of the best fights of the year and one that all the fans can count the days down to.

Onnit Primal Bells
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