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UFC 194: Aldo vs McGregor Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Aldo2

Jose Aldo (25-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 29 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Chad Mendes (10-25-14)
  • Camp: Nova Uniao (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Excellent
  • Overall Fight Grade: A+

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Featherweight Champion
+   WEC Featherweight Title
+   4x BJJ World Champion
+   11 first round finishes
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   14 KO victories
+   91% TD defense
+   KO power
+   Excellent fast-twitch striker
^   Superb reactive instincts
+   Dangerous kicks & knees
^   Devastating leg kicks
+   Accurate counter right hand
+   Good head movement
–    Seldom shows ground game
–    Faced 1 Southpaw in 7 yrs
^   Struggled with striking lanes

Conor1

Conor McGregor (18-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 27 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Chad Mendes (7-11-15)
  • Camp: SBG Ireland
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: A-

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Interm FW Champion
+   Cage Warriors FW & LW Titles
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   12 first round finishes
+   16 KO victories
+   14 fight win streak
+   KO power/heavy hands
+   Agile & Athletic movement
+   Excellent footwork
^   Deceptively conducts distance
+   Diverse kicking attacks
+   Accurate left hand
^   Set up with right hand
–    low hands/counter available
+   Improved counter wrestling
?    Questionable overall ground-skill
+   Solid Chin

Summary:

As we finally we make it to the weekends main course, Conor McGregor will get his chance to unify the Featherweight Championship against Jose Aldo. Coming off physical injury and an emotional build-up, expect a fully motivated Aldo to show as he attempts to restate his supremacy. With the mind games of McGregor being no coincidence, an underlying intangible leading up to this fight will certainly be the emotional narrative. Though this is not traditionally measurable, it could factor positively or negatively in terms of Aldo’s aggression & approach.

In the spirit of keeping our analysis technical and evidence-based, let’s look at each man’s striking style as I suspect this one will stay standing. An aggressive Muay Thai stylist known for his leg kicks, Aldo will march forward stalking opposition with a constant threat of counter offense. Standing squared to his opponents with his safety switched off, Jose’s fast-twitch reactive instincts has been a key intangible to his success. Though often feared offensively, it’s his said counter striking game that will serve him best in this fight.

Aldo particularly wields an accurate counter right hand that should have play given that McGregor has been hit with significant rights in 4 of his last 6 fights. That being said, Conor has also yet to be hurt or dropped as he’s displayed a rock hard chin. Despite the cost of low hands, Conor shows an evolving brilliance to his striking game that’s thus far allowed him to pay these bills with ease.

Operating out of a Traditional Martial Arts stance, McGregor intelligently conducts distance with agile lateral & lead-foot movement. Using deceptive feints and kicking attacks, McGregor will disrupt distance as he draws out reactions for counters. Showing to focus more on breaking opponents to the body(as seen in his fights with Siver & Mendes), Conor will variate kicks to the mid-section with accuracy & conviction. McGregor may however hold kicking liabilities of his own, particularly the inside leg kick which Conor’s heavy lead legged stance may feed into.

Though the possibilities of potential are difficult to grasp, this fight becomes more clear when watching Aldo’s match against Kenny Florian. With Kenny being the only Southpaw Aldo has faced in over 7 years, I referenced this heavily given its value. In that match we saw Jose primarily struggle to find  the appropriate striking lanes, as his output and effectiveness suffered greatly. With McGregor being a much more unique & dynamic threat than Florian standing, we could see Connor more effectively conduct traffic to gain advantage. Despite showing solid instinctual head movement, Aldo will also habitually(especially against Southpaws) hop back slightly out of range.

If Jose elects back-stepping as opposed to head-movement, it may play into Conor’s hand similarly to what we saw last July against Chad Mendes. Feinting & pawing at the lead hand, Conor will cleverly persuade movement as he accurately fires his long left to intercept. The unspoken intangible in this match will be Jose Aldo’s world class ground game should he decide to dust it off. But given Jose’s on-paper to emotional trends, I suspect Scarface will continue to make his money standing. With McGregors proven chin & said intangibles, expect high risk & high reward at it’s finest as I predict a new King to be crowned.

Official Pick: McGregor – Inside the distance

Weidman1

Chris Weidman (13-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 31 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Vitor Belfort (5-23-15)
  • Camp: Serra-Longo Fight Team (NY)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good
  • Overall Fight Grade: A+

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Middleweight Champion
+   2x Div.1 All-American Wrestler
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   6 first round finishes
+   6 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   KO power/heavy hands
+   100% Takedown defense rate
+   Excellent TD entries
^   Times & adjusts well
+   Effective ground striker
+   Strong top game
+   Solid transitional Jiu-Jitsu
^   22 passes in 9 fights
+   Manages distance well
+   Dangerous L Hook & Elbows
+   Never out-struck by an opponent

Rockhold4

Luke Rockhold (14-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 31 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 77″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Lyoto Machida (4-18-15)
  • Camp: American Kickboxing Academy (San Jose, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good
  • Overall Fight Grade: A

Supplemental info:
+   Strikeforce Middleweight Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   10 first round finishes
+   4 KO victories
+   8 Submission wins
+   Good distance management
+   Solid kicking variety
^   Dangerous left liver kick
–    Head leans heavily left
+   Excellent top control
^   Technically aggressive
+   Dangerous in transition
^   Crafty submissions
+   Efective ground striking
+/-2 official TD’s in 14 fights
+   Consistent pace & pressure

Summary:

For the evening’s co-main event, we are treated to the highest level of  Middleweight Title matches as Luke Rockhold looks to dethrone Chis Weidman. With both men possessing nearly every attribute you’d want in a Champion, we’re very lucky to see the first of possible many, as these two meet in their fighting primes. Tall and long for the weight class, Rockhold’s rangy frame supplements his Southpaw stylings standing. Using a varying kicking attack, Luke dictates the distance of exchanges as he consistently sticks and moves. Wielding a dangerous left power kick(primarily thrown to the liver), Rockhold may find his most success in this realm as Machida did when facing Weidman.

Though not playing a huge factor in that fight, Luke’s power kicks have shown to effect opponents even when blocked(as it damages arms and takes away punching pop). This  however will not be Chris Weidman’s first time partying with Southpaws, as 6 of his last 7 fights has come against some of the best lefty’s in the business. On the feet, Weidman wields a more subtle but effective pressure boxing style, as he’ll intelligently play distance and angles. Stalking just outside of range and disrupting space with his intercepting offense, Chris shows excellent distance management as I see that being the key standing.

Not only dangerous from kicking range, Luke also shows a good counter game as he favors an accurate check right hook. Weidman however, shows a natural knack for evading & rolling to his left setting up offensive angles and right hands. As seen in his fight with Lyoto Machida, Chris would consistently roll & angle off to his left while doubling-up on his right hands. This could be particularly effective in this fight given Rockholds tendency to slip his head heavily(and often unprotected) to his left. We saw Vitor Belfort pick up on this habit, as he continually went to his spinning wheel kick to intercept Luke’s hard movements left.

Despite Weidman’s Wrestling & ADCC Accolades, the MMA grappling is very close in this fight with Luke’s shown technics & abilities. However, Rockhold’s yet to face a wrestler or submission fighter to the caliber of Chirs in his career. From Weidmans subtly effective top pressure to Luke’s technical transition game, I believe wrestling will be the key factor in ground exchanges. I give the on-paper & in-fight advantage to Weidman in that category, but he’ll have to mind his belongings as Rockhold is sneaky & proficient in transit. As close as this fight certainly is, I feel Weidman holds the key skill-sets to dictate the terms of this fight.

Official Pick: Weidman – Decision

Souza1

Jacare Souza (22-3-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 35 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Chris Camozzi (4-18-15)
  • Camp: X-Gym (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good
  • Overall Fight Grade: A-

Supplemental info:
+   Former Strikeforce MW Champ
+   BJJ & ADCC World Champion
+   BJJ & Judo Black Belt
+   15 first round finishes
+   13 Submission wins
+   5 TKO victories
+   Improved striking
+   Heavy right hand
^   Counters well well with it
+   Good head movement
+/-Heavily reliant on speed
^   Improved wrestling
+   Dangerous in transition
^   Always looks for back
–    Activity lulls standing

Yoel2

Yoel Romero (10-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 38 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Lyoto Machida (6-27-15)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: B+

Supplemental info:
+   Decorated Olympic Wrestler
+   Multiple Wrestling Accolades
+   9 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes
+   Incredible athletic & agile
+   KO power / heavy hand
+   Deceptive tempo changes
^   Explodes in entries
+   Variates attack levels
^   Favors flying knees
+   Dangerous late in fight
+/-Sometimes wild in exchanges
^   Counter availabilities
–    Inconsistent pace
^   Gas tank bares watching
+   Devastating ground striker

Summary:

Leading perfectly into the Middleweight Title affair is an eliminator match to determine it’s next contender, as Yoel Romero touches down to meet “Jacare” Souza. This in my opinion being one of the most competitively contested bouts on paper, expect this one to come down to the inches & seconds that are either given or taken in close. Despite the heavy accolades carried by both men, this fight may still ultimately breakdown like many grappler vs grappler match ups and stay standing. Souza, who has steadily improved his striking over his career heavily relies upon his natural speed & athleticism.

Using head movement & feints, Jacare will looks to draw out reactions and create openings to attack. Though playing Matador can be dangerous against the explosive entires of Romero, his ability to powerfully hit counters may be his best bet standing. Yoel’s movement makes him very hard to hit, but he’s shown to expose himself as he’ll occasionally engage recklessly. Souza’s heavy right hand could have play here, especially should he use to it counter as he did in his fight with Derek Brunson(fellow UFC southpaw). Yoel will however pose the intangibles standing as his unorthodox yet dangerous style should sternly test Souza.

The little trouble Jacare has shown throughout his career has come against the likes of technical, athletic, or Southpaw fighters. Romero possesses a little of each as he amalgamates both the traits of technique & raw power. Using deceptive tempo changes, Yoel will lull the perceived rhythm standing only to explode offensively. Covering & closing distance at an insane speed, Romero may very well cancel out the athletic advantage Souza usually holds against opposition. Even if Souza finds himself ahead standing, he’ll still need to be careful as we’ve seen Yoel maintain fight finishing power even when hurt and tired.

On the floor, and more particularly in transition is where the “X-Gym” fighter holds the X-factor in this fight. Despite his renown Wrestling credentials, Yoel’s shown that he’s not above being taken down in MMA fights. Though he’ll still need to mind strong forward entries(due to Souza’s well time double-legs), Romero’s footwork & counter wrestling still largely dictate the Where & When of grappling exchanges. Though possessing solid get-up ability, Romero will have to be most careful when making way to his feet.

With a menacing transition game, Jacare shows a second to none ability to take backs, and may have ample opportunity as many wrestlers habitually give it when standing(in MMA). Yoel is still a bit suspect in his overall Jiu-Jitsu game, as we’ve seldom seen him operate from his back. Both these men are so talented as there’s little to criticize, however each man will occasionally lull standing-action with inconsistent activity making this even harder to sort. Admittedly coming into my analysis, I thought Souza carried the edge, but after reviewing footage my feelings have changed. Though I still agree that Jacare should be the on-paper favorite, Romero’s style will prove more than troublesome should he come in north of his average.

Official Pick: Romero – Inside the distance

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Maia vs LaFlare

Demian Maia (21-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 38 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Neil Magny (8-1-15)
  • Camp: Demian Maia BJJ (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: B

Supplemental info:
+   2x BJJ World Champion
+   ADCC Champion 2007
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   10 first round finishes
+   10 Submission wins
+   Deceptively strong
+   Effective from clinch
^   Favors trips & double-legs
+   Underrated wrestling
^   Improved shots & entries
+   Excellent top game
^   74 passes in 21 fights
+   Always looks for back
+   Competent striking
–    Tends to fade in fights

Gunnar1

Gunnar Nelson (14-1-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 27 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Brandon Thatch (7-11-15)
  • Camp: SBG Ireland (Iceland)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: B

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   Brown Belt Karate
+   11 first round finishes
+   9 Submission wins
+   Good distance management
^   Closes it quickly
+   Deceptive wrestling ability
^   Strong double-leg TD
–    Low hands standing
^   Counter strike liable
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Well timed cross
+   Excellent top pressure
^   Seemingly passes & transitions

Summary:

In a fantastic match up of grappling greats, Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson meet in the UFC’s stacked Welterweight division. With both men’s ground-game being the highlight of their skill-sets, many of us fantasize about a possible Jiu-Jitsu match with strikes. They both however carry similar stylings that could very well cancel each other out. Often seen in MMA when two wrestlers collide, the bout tends to progress and contest standing. Though Maia and Nelson aren’t “wrestlers” per say, they both have very underrated games as they favor similar entries and shots into clinch space.

Once in the clinch, both Fighters deceptive strength shine through as they’re hips turn into magnets, especially when pressing against the fence. With each man wielding creative chain wrestling to ground fights, their similarities also follow them to the floor. Showing a consummate understanding of the ground-game, Maia will effortlessly float and pass to dominate positions. Gunnar will also utilize a “floating-pressure style” when topside, as he displays no waste in movement wielding an all-incompasing limb dexterity to support his technical game.

Overall I have to give the on-paper advantage to Demian on the mat, especially with his shown extra gears from bottom(something with seen very little of Gunnar in his career). Though Maia showed a killer guard & triangle game in the Jiu-Jitsu world, he’s had limited success with being effective from here in the back half of his MMA career. Regardless of who gets grounded first, I assure you we’ll be in for a treat from butterfly guards to exciting passes. Where this road begins to split for me is the standing footwork movement of Nelson, which I see being a key factor in this fight.

With his consistent management of distance to his quick reaction speeds, I believe Nelson will be difficult for Maia to pin against the cage. Maia will also have to to navigate the deceptive distance closing of Gunnar, as Nelson shows impeccable timing & accuracy on his intercepting punches. Regardless of the success Maia may have, Gunnar’s durability & activity will likely make the Brazilian work hard in strikes, entries, and wrestling exchanges. Showing to consistently tire past round 2 since dropping to Welterweight, the fight momentum may sway should Maia not find success early against the composed and technically sound Nelson.

Official Pick: Nelson – Decision

Max3

Max Holloway (14-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 23 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Charles Oliveira (8-23-15)
  • Camp: Hawaii Elite MMA (Honolulu, HI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Excellent
  • Overall Fight Grade: B+

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   3 first round finishes
+   6 KO victories
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Volume & variety striker
+   Excellent shot selection
^   Variates attack levels
+   Intelligent footwork
+   Effective strikes in space
+   Dangerous Guillotine
+   Solid TD defense (79%)
–    Susceptible to slow starts
+   Stronger down the stretch

Stephens3

Jeremy Stephens (24-11)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 29 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Dennis Bermudez (7-11-15)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: B-

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   17 KO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO power / heavy hands
+   Dangerous right hand
^   Always ready to counter
+   Underrated wrestling
^   Favors power double-legs
+   Improved submission defense
+/-Propensity to brawl
–    Hand tends to lower
^   Counter shot availabilities
+   Physically durable
+   Deadly late in fights

Summary:

Kicking off the main card is a main event worthy match-up, as rising sensation Max Holloway draws the always deadly Jeremy Stephens. Holloway comes in riding a 7 fight win streak as he’s shown us incredible fight-to-fight improvements as of late. This momentum has seemingly made Max one of the more heavy favorites on the card, but don’t let the oddsmakers fool you as Jeremy Stephens has all the intangibles of a live dog. Showing improved technical striking and even moments of brilliance, Stephens has enjoyed the new lease on his career since moving to Alliance MMA.

With borderline hammers for fists, Jeremy will have the one-shot power advantage in this fight as he usually enjoys this over most of his opposition. With improved combinations and setups, Stephens will look to read where his opponents weight is as he looks to intercept them with force. Though very competent on his feet, Jeremy is ultimately more plotting in his movement which could hinder him in this fight. Holloway who possesses excellent movement, will present a limited availability for Stephen’s power, as I see footwork being a key factor in this fight. Early in the Hawaiian’s career we would see proactive movements, as he showed your general outside circling to feinting-forward setups.

Somewhere before his bout with Cub Swanson we saw Max’s movement evolve into something else, as he would now move less and actually be more affective by mixing in stance-switching. Not just by definition mind you, but by doing so intelligently through counter movement. With already attuned distance management tools, Holloway will use his movement to draw his opposition into a natural momentum. Once his opponents achieve a level of mid-motion, Max will then attack and usually catch his prey off guard. Incorporating Southpaw looks, Max has increased his arsenal as he’ll switch stances when opposition attempts to set. Creating this state of constant pressure & guessing, Holloway can potentially frustrate and chip away at Stephens.

With Max’s likely approach being to “Box the Brawler”, Jeremy’s best chances will be by making this a gritty & ugly affair. Though Max’s head movement & balance seldom put him out of position, Jeremy may have success countering his kicking game. Though Holloway a nice a variety of such attacks, Stephens has a knack for catching right kicks to the body and countering with a right of his own. This often leads him right into a takedown, which in my opinion is an unspoken intangible of this fight. Working a lot of Wrestling in his camp, Jeremy may very well surprise Max with it early or dust it off should he need it late.

Should Stephens fail in close, he’ll need to be careful when exiting space. The quiet X factor to Max’s striking is his ability to strike while breaking off the clinch/standing exchanges. Wielding killer instincts & accuracy here, Holloway can really look to sway the momentum as these counter opportunities have traditionally troubled Stephens(seen in his fight with Yves Edwards). Although I do not agree with the odds on either man, I do see Max as the justified favorite. I caution plays here as Stephens KO power carries late into fights, but I feel stylistically the Hawaiian will give us a show whether or not he finds the finish.

Official Pick: Holloway – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions

  • Uriah Faber def. Frankie Saenz
  • Tecia Torres def. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger
  • Colby Covington def. Warley Alves
  • Kevin Lee def. Leonardo Santos
  • Magomed Mustafaev def. Joe Proctor
  • Yancy Medeiros def. John Makdessi
  • Court McGee def. Marcio Alexandre Jr.

Recommended Plays

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-Conor McGregor
-Urijah Faber
-Chris Weidman

Low Tier Picks:

-Yoel Romero
-Yancy Medeiros
-Jose Aldo

Pieces for your parlay:

-Kevin Lee
-Chris Weidman
-Tecia Torres

Props worth looking at:

-Yoel Romero – by KO/TKO
-Urijah Faber – by Submission
-Gunnar Nelson – by Decision

Fights to avoid:

-Max Holloway vs Jeremy Stephens
-Yoel Romero vs Jacare Souza
-Colby Covington vs Warley Alves

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

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UFC 216 Breakdown: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee

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As a fight fan, you can’t ask for a much better match up than Tony Ferguson vs Kevin Lee.

This match up is easily one of the most fascinating ones of the year, and with the interim lightweight title on the line, the stake doesn’t get much higher. But the bigger meaning of the fight lies in that fact that a clear number one contender will be determined to virtually guarantee a future opportunity at the current champion, Conor McGregor.

The talks of McGregor next facing rival Nate Diaz next have been circulating for the past few weeks, but once this fight between Ferguson and Lee concludes, and someone walks out of the arena on Saturday with that interim championship around their waist, they will be very hard to deny for McGregor.

Although this fight is a very exciting match up, on paper, it may deceive some people as a mismatch, since Lee’s resume of wins doesn’t include too many top contenders. His biggest win was against Michael Chiesa in June of this year, Chiesa was ranked 6th at the time. But let’s look deeper into it and see what makes this one a must-see fight.

Where Ferguson Flourishes

Ferguson and Lee may be stylistically two completely different fighters, but their ground games and grappling are both extremely high level, possibly the top 3 in the division, a list that can’t leave out Khabib Nurmagomedov. In the grappling department, it is hard to decide a winner here.

Even about five months ago, I would have leaned towards Ferguson, but watching Lee take control against a high level grappler like Chiesa the way he did was beyond belief to be honest. Ferguson will have his hands full if the fight hits the canvas, and likewise for Lee. However, if there is one thing that Lee needs to watch out against Ferguson, it is the unorthodox style he brings, even in the grappling.

“El Cucuy” is a bizarre fighter, but in a good way. Watch him fight against Edson Barboza and do a couple of imanari rolls. Watch him roll while on the bottom against dos Anjos. It is mind-blowing how good he is with such peculiarity and Lee can’t overlook that.

With that being said, advantages for ‘El Cucuy’ are quite clear: Stand-up, cardio and experience. Ferguson showed time and time again what a well-rounded fighter he is, and his record shows it too. Out of 17 finishes on his win column, 9 of them are by knockout and 8 are by submission. He really is a fighter who can do it all.

Tony Ferguson defeated Rafael dos Anjos via Unanimous Decision in November of 2016 at UFC Mexico City.

We also know that his cardio is exceptional, this was displayed in his fight against Rafael dos Anjos, where he went five hard rounds with the former champion in Mexico City, at an altitude of 7,382 feet. Just to give an idea of how high that is, Colorado’s altitude is 6,035 feet.

Ferguson knows what it is like to be in the deep waters. But when a fairly young fighter such as Lee reaches the later rounds, nobody knows how he will respond to the situation, so Ferguson has his advantages in the experience department laid out clearly.

Don’t Count Out Kevin Lee

‘The Motown Phenom’, on the other hand, is a completely different fighter with different strengths. He possesses advantages in the physical department, career mileage, and in the fact that he has less pressure going into the fight. The physical advantage is the most obvious one for Lee. He has spoken before on the fact that he cuts from about 180-pounds, where Ferguson has talked about him being capable of making 145-pounds.

Ferguson may be taller, but it is not difficult to see that Lee is bigger when they stand next to each other. Lee’s second advantage comes from the fact that he is not as battle-tested. In a way, it could be a disadvantage, but he has taken considerably less amount of damage throughout his career compared to Ferguson. The last advantage for Lee listed was explained more specifically on my article ‘Tony Ferguson can’t afford to lose at UFC 216’. Feel free to go and check it out.

Kevin Lee defeated Michael Chiesa by first round submission (rear-naked choke) at UFC Oklahoma City in June 2017.

Now that both guys’ assets are laid out for this fight, it’s time to make a prediction.

Time and time again leading up to this fight, I’ve heard people say that this fight is going to end in a submission, and most say it’s going to come from Ferguson. I would agree with that but here’s one thing. As previously mentioned, Lee’s grappling is top-notch and he is brilliant defensively. This was evidenced when he was on the bottom against Michael Chiesa, a position in which he was easily able to escape.

I don’t believe Lee is a fighter that can be easily submitted. But here’s what I agree with most on: I also see Ferguson winning, because of his experience, cardio, and definitely unpredictability. Kevin Lee, while he is a very talented fighter, I believe it is just a tad bit too early for him at this moment.

Prediction: Tony Ferguson def. Kevin Lee via TKO (punches) in the 5th round.

 

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UFC 216 Breakdown: Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg

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If Demetrious Johnson is able to defend his flyweight title this Saturday at UFC 216, it will be an attempt to break a major record, as he will then have defended his belt for the 11th consecutive time.

It is a remarkable record that he attempts to break, which is currently being held by Johnson and the former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, at 10.

When this fight was first announced for UFC 215, the reactions from the fans were not exactly what the UFC hoped it would be. There were two possible reasons for this, and maybe even both:

1) The talks of Johnson defending his title against T.J. Dillashaw was roaming around at the time, which got fans excited, only to disappoint them in the end when it wasn’t finalized.

2) Ray Borg is not necessarily a fighter that fans are dying to see yet, mainly because he is not the most marketable fighter and he is very young, which made us ask, “Is he ready for this opportunity?”

However, there is one thing we must keep in mind when looking at a fight between a dominant champion and a young rising contender: Expect the unexpected. We saw it last December when Dominick Cruz fought Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207. Who would have ever thought that Garbrandt would be able to outclass Cruz the way he did?

Cody Garbrandt provided yet another shock title change when he defeated Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 in December of 2016.

But don’t get it mistaken. ‘Can’ doesn’t mean ‘will’. And although Borg could shock the world in this fight, it is way more reasonable to lean towards Johnson. After all, if we are being honest, ‘Mighty Mouse’ is the closest thing to a perfect fighter. The only times he lost was to Brad Pickett, which was seven years ago, and to Dominick Cruz, who unlike ‘DJ’ is a natural bantamweight.

This is a tough fight for Borg. The only way for him to win is either catch Johnson with a big shot and finish him or keep up a ridiculous pace for 5 rounds straight and outmatch the champion with skills.

Borg is at a couple of disadvantages here, one being his cardio. “The Tazmexican Devil” has previously shown that he often has a tough time making the 125-pound weight limit, and if you add that to the fact that he never fought past three rounds, his cardio is in question. Whether he will be able to keep up with Johnson, who can put on a ridiculous pace for 25-minutes straight, remains to be seen.

Also, we never know what is going through a fighter’s head, so it will be interesting to see how Borg performs under pressure. He’s never had a title shot, and Johnson has been in the same spot 12-times in his career, so experience also goes to Johnson.

Ultimately, I’m leaning towards the champion in this fight. I do like Borg and what he brings to the table, however, too many questions are unanswered about Borg at this point to pick him over Demetrious Johnson.

Prediction: Demetrious Johnson def. Ray Borg via Unanimous Decision.

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UFC 215 Main Card Breakdown

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The UFC makes its return to Canada as current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson looks to break the record for most successful, consecutive, title defenses, against Ray Borg. Also on the card is a women’s bantamweight title fight between champion Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko, Gilbert Melendez makes his featherweight debut against power puncher Jeremy Stephens, Ilir Latifi looks to bounce back against Tyson Pedro, and Rafael dos Anjos looks to continue his welterweight journey against Neil Magny. Let’s take a look and see how it each fight plays out.

Jeremy Stephens vs Gilbert Melendez

Gilbert Melendez is a fighter who has built his career on being a talented boxer and being incredibly strong both in the clinch and the ground. For years he has been a monster for most lightweights to deal with. However, since having joined the UFC from Strikeforce he has gone just 1-4. In his last couple of fights, he has found himself slowed down due to unchecked leg kicks and opponents who are quicker than him. In an attempt to resurrect his career ‘El Nino’ has dropped down to featherweight and will meet former lightweight, himself, Jeremy Stephens. Stephens has made a career out of hitting hard, knocking opponents out with either hands, legs, or even his knees. Stephens is a fighter who excels in the pocket and has the durability to stand toe to toe with almost any opponent. In his last five fights, he has gone 2-3 due to his opponents being quicker than him and keeping him on the end of their punches.

How the fight will go

Gilbert will come into the fight as the stronger fighter with the better grappling game and better control of the Octagon. His excellent boxing will match-up well with Stephens. However, Stephens will come in as the faster fighter, harder puncher, and will already be used to cutting down to 145. Melendez will need to gain control of the Octagon early and keep Stephens against the cage both in the clinch and on the ground, in order to tire out “Lil Heathen”. If he can use his boxing to keep Stephens at the end of his punches, control the Octogan, and stay out of the pocket, it’s his fight to lose. Stephens does his best work in the pocket and although he’s slow for a featherweight he will have the advantage speed wise in this match-up. If he can keep his back off of the cage, gain control of the Octagon, land his powerful leg kicks, and mix up his powerful strikes, then he will have a dog in this fight and can very well pull off the upset.

Prediction

Gilbert Melendez fights very similarly to the way he fought in the Pettis fight. He keeps Stephens’ back against the cage and forces him to the ground every chance he gets in order to tire him out. Stephens occasionally finds success using his speed and power in the pocket but eventually finds himself too tired to stop the stronger Melendez from imposing his game plan. Assuming Gilbert’s first cut 145 goes well, he beats Stephen’s via a close but clear decision to put his career back on track and start his journey at featherweight on the right foot.

Ilir Latifi vs Tyson Pedro

Ilir Latifi is coming off of one of the most brutal knockout losses of 2016. He ate a huge knee from Ryan Bader in the second round of their fight and has not returned to the Octogan since. The Swedish ball of muscle looks to bounce back against the undefeated Australian Tyson Pedro. Tyson Pedro is a fighter who has never experienced anything beyond a first round stoppage win, his fight against Latifi represents his biggest test yet. Latifi is a fighter with a game centered around his incredible strength and power. He is a fighter who brings a calm energy in the cage and an interesting physique. He is only 5’10, the same height as former featherweight Anthony Pettis, what he lacks in height he makes up for with muscle. His muscle alone makes him one of the strongest and most powerful fighters in the UFC. Pedro is one of the tallest fighters in his division, coming in at 6’3 he’s used to being the stronger, taller fighter and likes to smother his opponents both on the ground and in the clinch.

How the fight will go

A lot of Pedro’s advantages come from being the taller, stronger fighter. He likes to keep his opponents at range, eat them up with oblique kicks, clinch up, take them down and find the stoppage. Latifi’s strength means clinching and takedowns won’t be easy. He can over power most opponents and avoid trouble in those areas. Latifi does have a tendency to get stuck on the outside and eat leg kicks, his tendency to rush in can lead to counters, like in the Bader fight. Latifi is an excellent wrestler but has trouble taking his opponents down, often expanding a lot of energy in the process. Pedro has been hurt before by his lack of head movement and that can lead to him taking big shots, Latifi can always find a big shot early on and take the Australian out.

Prediction

This fight will all depend on how the first round goes. If Latifi can find his range early on he can land the knockout shot and finish the Australian. If he can’t, he will find himself on the outside where Pedro will pick him apart with body kicks and oblique kicks and hold him against the fence where the Swede will tire himself out. If Pedro stays patient he can tire out Latifi and score the finish. Pedro scores the upset and finishes an exhausted Latifi in the third round by TKO.

Neil Magny vs Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos looks to win his second fight at welterweight as he faces long time contender Neil Magny. Dos Anjos is coming off of a well-fought decision win against Tarec Saffiedine in a fight that helped him discover how he stacked up against a real welterweight and how his body would hold up. He brings into this fight excellent body and leg kicks that he uses to break down his opponents and slow down their movement. He has a game that is perfectly suited for his height as he uses a lot of pressure and forward movement to make sure he stays on the inside. His excellent ground game has carried over to 170 as he uses his top pressure to smother his opponents. Neil Magny last fought against Johny Hendricks in a fight where he used his long range better and showed a new technique with his kicks to create range. Magny’s game uses excellent cardio, as well as good footwork and movement. He’s starting to better understand how to use his long and tall body. He also uses his long legs to create triangle attempts from the bottom.

How the fight plays out

If Magny can use his height and reach correctly he can leave Dos Anjos stuck on the outside, as well as using his footwork to ensure he doesn’t take too many shots. His cardio will keep him fresh throughout the three rounds and he can use that to his advantage if dos Anjos tires out. Dos Anjos will look to use his leg kicks to stop Magny’s footwork as well as use his powerful body kicks to sap his cardio. Dos Anjos’ pressure based game could very well negate Magny’s reach advantage and his smothering top game would keep Magny from using his reach.

Prediction

Although Magny has the tools to beat dos Anjos, the Brazilian remains an elite fighter even at welterweight. Dos Anjos uses his leg and body kicks to slow down Magny as well as using his wrestling to tire the American out. Dos Anjos has fought tall opponents in the past and knows how to use his forward pressure to remove the reach advantage, as he did against Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz. The former lightweight champion takes a decision win and moves to 2-0 at welterweight.

Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko

Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko meet for the second time after fighting each other at UFC 196. The first fight ended in a close 29-28 decision win for the now champion Nunes. Nunes is a long and rangy kickboxer who likes to fight at range, where she uses her jab and cross keep her opponents back. She has been known to finish most of her fights early on, however, if she fails to do so she has a tendency to get tired, gas out, and get finished herself. Shevchenko, although undersized at 5’5, has been beating her opponents using her ever evolving ground game and her excellent Muay-Thai. Her patience and forcing her opponents to lead has brought her victories over top contenders like Holly Holm and Julianna Pena.

How the fight plays out

Amanda Nunes used her strength on the ground to beat Shevchenko in the first two rounds the last time they fought. Nunes didn’t have a whole lot of success on the feet as she was overpowered in the clinch and found herself having trouble with Shevchenko’s patience and lack of counter opportunities. Nunes’ ground game, while she was still fresh, was very dangerous last time out, nasty ground and pound as well as multiple submission attempts. However in the third round of their fight Nunes gassed and found herself too exhausted to overpower her opponent like she had done in the first rounds and found herself eating a lot of shots on the ground and in the clinch. If early on she can force Shevchenko to the ground and use her strength, she can find a submission or a ground and pound TKO. However, if she can’t, she’ll find herself getting tired in the later rounds and seeing her window for victory closing. This fight, being five rounds, heavily favors Shevchenko and her ever evolving game.

Prediction

Much like in their first fight Shevchenko will stay patient and lose the early rounds. Her lack of activity hurt her last time out as well as Nunes’ aggressive ground game. If Nunes can use her strength early on, she can take Shevchenko down and have her way with her as she looks for the early finish. If Shevchenko can weather the early storm, she can take advantage of her tired opponent and finish her late. Shevchenko will force Nunes to lead and although she’ll have to weather the early storm, her patience will eventually pay off as her opponent tires herself out. Valentina Shevchenko finishes an exhausted Amanda Nunes in the fourth round by TKO to become the new women’s bantamweight champion.

Demetrious Johnson vs Ray Borg

Current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson takes on Ray Borg in an attempt to break the record for most successful consecutive title defenses. His 11th title defense comes against skilled wrestler Ray Borg and his ever evolving striking. Johnson brings to the Octagon one of the most well-rounded games in all of MMA. His excellent stand up paired with his world class grappling has not failed him at 125. His excellent footwork has always troubled his opponents and his lack of clear weaknesses means it’s difficult to exploit problems in his game. Ray Borg started his career as a world class grappler who would immediately take his opponents down and smother them until the fight was over or he was able to find a submission. His striking used to be a big weakness in his game until he started training with Brandon Gibson.

How the fight plays out

Ray Borg used to start his fights by immediately taking his opponents down and smothering them. Now that his striking improved he’s content with staying on the feet and striking with his opponents. This is where he will have problems against Johnson, Johnson is the much quicker fighter out of the two and will keep Borg on the outside. Borg’s incredibly short reach of 63” means he will need to cover a lot of distance, something he struggles with. Borg is not the quickest of flyweights and is a lot slower than Johnson. While Johnson has the bigger advantage on the feet, the wrestling is where it gets tricky. Borg’s ability to find the takedown and stay on his opponent is something he will need to use to tire out Johnson and force him to make a mistake. Johnson’s patience on the ground means he won’t panic if he goes down with Borg and has shown in the past he can easily get back up or even grapple with the best of them. Borg’s gas tank will be a problem in this fight, as Johnson never seems to tire out and is used to going five rounds. If Borg tires, Johnson will completely take over the fight.

Prediction

Borg starts the first round on the feet and ends up getting frustrated as he finds Johnson too quick and gets stuck on the outside. He eventually finds the takedown and forces Johnson to go through some scary moments. Johnson survives the early storm on the ground and starts to run away with the fight in the third round as Borg starts to tire. Although the fight will be close on the ground, it’s obvious Johnson has all the advantages in the standup. Demetrious Johnson beats Ray Borg by unanimous decision to break the record for most successful title defenses in a row.

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