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UFC 196: McGregor vs Diaz Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Conor7

Conor McGregor (19-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 27 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Jose Aldo (12-12-15)
  • Camp: SBG Ireland (Dublin, IE)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Featherweight Champion
+   Cage Warriors LW & FW Titles
+   17 KO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   KO Power / heavy hands
+   Agile & Athletic movement
+   Excellent footwork
^   Deceptively dictates distance
+   Diverse kicking attacks
+   Accurately & deadly left cross
–    Low hands-on engagements
+   Improved counter wrestling
?   Questionable overall ground skill

 

Diaz2

Nate Diaz (18-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 30 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Michael Johnson (12-19-15)
  • Camp: Cesar Gracie Fight Team (Sacramento, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 8 Winner
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   5 KO victories
+   8 first round finishes
+   11 Submission wins
+   Good cardio & conditioning
^   Taking fight w/10 days notice
+   Volume & pressure striker
^   Accurate jab-cross
–    Struggles with leg kicks
–    Head high/low hands & retractions
+   Dangerous transition game
^   Deadly submission dexterities
+/-4-4 against UFC southpaws

Summary:

Despite Conor Mcgregor’s two-title aspirations being altered by injury, UFC 196 has seemingly picked up more steam as it enters our atmosphere. Replacing the injured Rafael Dos Anjos is Stockton’s finest, as Nathan Diaz will look to crash the Irish King’s quest for gold. Fresh off his signature post-fight antics on FOX, Diaz will have his call-out of Conor granted sooner than expected. Taking this bout with a caveat of 10 days notice, Nate will finally get the big fight he has spent his career searching for.

Even though the Diaz brothers are known for their extra-curricular cardio & conditioning, ten days notice is a tall order for anyone in regards to high-level combat. Considering that Nate’s pace & pressure is largely predicated off his stamina, it will be interesting to how his output is effected in this southpaw scrap. With speed and power arguably going to McGregor, Diaz’s ability to dictate distance and control the center striking lanes will be crucial. Firing jab-cross continuums with the snap of a coiled cobra, Nathan will off-set striking rhythms and even disrupt a fighter’s overall approach. Coupled with unabashed physical taunts and mental warfare, Stockton’s own can make things interesting should he establishes himself early & often.

Despite being a pleasure to watch offensively, Diaz does things defensively that could play right into the hands of McGregor. With leg kicks being a common kryptonite for the Diaz brothers, most people are calling for Conor to expose that opening here. Although I feel McGregor has the kicking variety to pose problems, I see his punches having the most promise of placement. Particularly, with Nathan’s strike retractions, as he will tend to retract his punches low and slow. Leaning on his length and technical superiority, Diaz has been able to get away with this against most fighters. However, these habits could cost him with the reach and technical ability of McGregor.

Known for his devastating left hand, Conor will surely be looking to coat-tail his crosses behind the pulls of Nathan’s punches. Although Diaz keeps an upright head position that can aide over-the-top attacks, his defensive dips and slips could open him up to uppercuts. Whether he is dipping forward off his punches or leaning left in defense, Diaz could inadvertently run into McGregor’s underrated uppercut-hook combinations. As we saw in his debut against Marcus Brimage, Conor will dust off these techniques when facing fellow southpaws. With both men lacking orthodox dance partners to dissuade at a distance, McGregor’s ability to be effective at multiple ranges should make the difference standing.

Since Diaz holds a distinct advantage on the floor, it will be interesting to see what attempts are made to get it there. Although traditional wrestling shots are all but devoid of Diaz’s game, he does have some craftiness inside the clinch that could see the light of day. The utilization of an over-hook will be a key tell for grappling initiations. Not only will this setup Nate’s patent Uchi Mata(hip toss), but it will also open up trips and guard pulls should Diaz get desperate or tired. Deadly and proficient in transition, Nate only needs but a moment to shift the fights momentum. As long time fan of Nate Diaz, I cannot say I would be disappointed to see him spoil the party. But with Conor’s obvious physical advantages, to the psychological strikes he has already landed, it’s hard to bet against the streaking Irishmen.

Official Pick: McGregor – Inside the distance

 

Holm1

Holy Holm (10-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 34 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Ronda Rousey (11-14-15)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Excellent

Supplemental info:

 

Tate2

Miesha Tate (17-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 29 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 66.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Jessica High (7-25-15)
  • Camp: Xtreme Couture MMA (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:

Stated Bias:

Due to professional ties with Miesha Tate through Bryan Caraway & Xtreme Couture, I have opted to not break this match down in order to maintain efficacy. Thankfully, Emma Challands from FightNewsAustralia.com & WomensWorldofSport.com was able to help me out on this one. Being one of the only writers to have officially taken Holm over Rousey, Emma shares her take on the evenings co-main event:

Summary:

Conor McGregor may be headlining UFC 196 but there’s only one belt on the line on March 5th and that belongs to women’s bantamweight champion, Holly Holm.

Holly Holm became a household name and the golden girl of the UFC when she knocked out the previously undefeated Ronda Rousey last year. In a fight where Holm was expected to be disposed of early on, the world stood to their feet with mouths gaping open in shock when she did the unthinkable and became the new bantamweight champion. While the UFC was reeling about what to do off the back of their biggest stars’ devastating loss, the fans relished the fact that the bantamweight division was blown wide open and competitive for the first time since its inception in 2013.

The ‘Preacher’s Daughter’ will be heading into her first title defense on a 10-0 win streak(3 in the UFC) and will be more confident than ever. One of the most accomplished athletes on the UFC’s roster, Holm is the only fighter to hold both a world title in boxing and in the UFC.

Holm is a master at technical application and has a world-class training camp to thank for that. Under the tutelage of MMA masterminds Greg Jackson & Mike Winklejohn, they continue to execute the perfect game plan for opponents.

There is no question that Holm’s stand up game is some of the best in the biz, male or female. Her use of range, crisp counter striking, and ability to stay cool, calm, and collected have all made her the incredible fighter she is today. What we haven’t seen from Holm, however, is a large sample size of her ground game.

Now we know that Holm is incredibly good at avoiding takedowns, in fact, the stats speak for themselves – 100% takedown defense since joining the UFC last year. However, her opponent, state-champion wrestler Miesha Tate, may have something to say about that.

With 6 submissions in her MMA career, Tate’s ground game is formidable as she will look to impose her will on the champ with a grinding, aggressive approach. Tate has a relentless work ethic and can overwhelm opponents with a high volume of striking akin to a swarm of bees around the honey pot. She can be susceptible to taking a beating but if there’s one thing that Tate has got in her favor, it’s a rock solid chin and a ton of heart. Tate’s come from behind victories are something to behold.

You’re probably thinking to yourself at this point that if Rousey couldn’t get Holm to the ground what makes you think Tate will? Well, Tate is a wrestler so she doesn’t necessarily need to strike to get into the clinch for the takedown. She can utilize a single or double leg takedown and essentially bum rush the champ, forcing her onto her back or at the very least getting her up against the cage where she can inflict some damage with knees and elbows.

Will Holm have a response for this? Of course, it’d be silly to think she won’t be prepared for Tate’s biggest weapon in this fight. But it’s about whether or not Tate can execute, and if her fight against Olympic medallist Sara McMann is anything to go by, the answer is a resounding yes.

Tate wins this fight if she gets it to the ground early and keeps it there.

Official Pick: Tate – Decision

 

Villante1

Gian Villante (14-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 30 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Anthony Perosh (11-14-15)
  • Camp: Bellmore Kickboxing Academy (NY)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   NY State Wrestling Champ
+   College Wrestling Exp.
+   9 KO victories
+   8 first round finishes
+   2 Submission wins
+   KO power
+   Hard leg kicks
+   Dangerous right-hand/uppercut
+   Accurate check left hooks
+/-Willinges to exchange
^   Hands low off retractions
+   89% takedown defense

 

Latifi1

Ilir Latifi (11-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 32 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Sean O’Connell (1-17-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   ADCC European Champion
+   Swedish National Wrestling Team
+   6 KO victories
+   8 first round finishes
+   4 submission wins
+   KO Power
+   Devastating right-hand
^   Thrown off entries & counters
+   Improved leg kicks
+   Solid takedown ability
^   Favors power double
?    Questionable in later rounds

Summary:

In another fun light heavyweight tilt, Gian Villante draws the dangerous Ilir Latifi. Since his short notice debut in the organization, the powerful Swedish National has yet to see the second round. Moving shop to American Top Team in Florida, the ADCC European Champion will be looking to show the improvements to his game. A long time friend and training partner to Chris Weidman, Villante will seek to put together a win streak as he makes another ascension up the ranks. With the division in desperate need of contenders, both men will have ample opportunity to establish themselves here.

Starting off on the feet, Gian Villante should be the more technical striker. The Bellmore Kickboxing Academy protege throws a nice variety of strikes, as he maintains a high output for an athlete of his size. Deceptively accurate with his check hook, Villante’s right-hand wields bad intentions through the form of uppercuts and crosses. Gian also has an underrated leg kick game, although I am not sure how heavily he will lean upon it given Latifi’s looming takedown threats. Ilir also showed us in his fight with Hans Stringer, that he has the ability to catch kicks and counter effectively. Carrying a war hammer for a right hand, Latifi demonstrates little trouble in attaching it to takedown entries or utilizing it off the counter. In fact, I feel his right-hand in particular will be a key factor in this fight.

As impressive as Villante’s volume is, his willingness to exchange has traditionally made him hittable. In keeping a slightly-low left standing guard, Gian will also retract his hands low off strikes. These tendencies have often cost him right crosses and hooks from his opposition. Villante also favors a collar tie off his left hooks to the head. Establishing a loose clinch/head control from this technique, Gian uses his left-handed grip to guide his opposition into right hands. An instinctual habit for Villante could prove as a natural advantage for Latifi, as this method of dirty boxing exposes the New York native unfavorably. Allowing for right hooks & overhands to come around the blind-side, Villante’s collar tie is also an open invitation for body lock clinches. Although Ilir doesn’t show the eagerness he perhaps should in wrestling engagements, tempting the strongest suplex machine in the organization may not bode well for Gian.

However, Villante does boast an 89% takedown defense rate that’s fueled by his footwork. Subtly circling and moving, Gian makes it difficult for his opposition to set up their shots. Villante’s best chances in this fight will be using his measured aggression and movement to control the center of the Octagon. If he can show defensive adjustments to Latifi’s right hand, Gian’s pressure coupled with some body work could break down Ilir in the later rounds. As a fan of Villante since his early days in Strikeforce, it would be great to see him finally put his long expected potential together. But with being hurt or dropped in 4 out of 5 of his last fights, I am not sure I like the Long Islander’s chances of trading with the power puncher.

Official Pick: Latifi – Decision

 

Corey1

Corey Anderson (7-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 26 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 79″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Fabio Maldonado (11-7-15)
  • Camp: Ricardo Almeida BJJ (New Jersey)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 19 Winner
+   2x All-American Wrestler
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   3 KO victories
+   3 first round finishes
+   Fight-to-fight improvements
^   Training w/Mark Henry & Co.
+   Consistent volume & pressure
^   Keeps a high pace
+   Good strike to takedown transitions
^   Favors double-leg takedowns
+   Active ground striker
+   Excellent footwork
^   Manages distance well

 

Lawlor1

Tom Lawlor (10-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 32 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Gian Villante (7-25-15)
  • Camp: Syndicate MMA (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 8 Alum
+   3x National Collegiate Wrestling Champ
+   Purple Belt in BJJ
+   4 KO victories
+   6 first round finishes
+   4 submission wins
+   KO power / heavy hands
+   Favors check right hook
+   Hard straight left
^   Shows outside-foot-awareness
+   Dangerous Guillotine choke
+   Strong pressure against fence
^   Works takedowns/Double-legs
+   Solid chin/physically durable

Summary:

In a battle of the bold, Corey “Beastin 25/8” Anderson takes on “Filthy” Tom Lawlor. A young prospect training with Mark Henry & Co. out of New Jersey, Anderson has showed consistent fight-to-fight improvements since winning season nine of The Ultimate Fighter. Putting together a win streak since his hiccup against Gian Villante, Corey will face one of his toughest tests to date. A long time fan favorite, Tom Lawlor will look to continue his winning ways and spoil Corey Anderson’s ascension.

Starting off on the feet, is where the fun begins in this battle of footwork and placement. In facing the first notable southpaw of his career, it will be interesting to see Anderson’s application of outside-foot-awareness in this fight. Demonstrating active footwork, Corey’s ability to move and control range is his strong suit as I feel distance management will be a key factor in this fight. In having an overall reach & length advantage, Anderson’s pace and his variety of strikes should give him an edge in exchanges. However, Corey has shown to be hittable in his willingness to trade. It appears that Mark Henry has worked diligently with his prospect defensively, as Corey has shown an improvement in head movement and the fashion in which he exits exchanges.

That said, he will need to be careful with his shown tendencies to exit to the left. Although this will move him away from Tom’s power side, it will also put him right into the line of Lawlor’s check right hook. Even though Lawlor doesn’t present the widest array of strikes, what he does throw he throws well. Showing excellent outside-foot-awareness, Tom favors a left cross to right hook setup. Working with John Wood at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, Lawlor has been busy in his time outside the Octagon making these technical refinements. Tom’s new found love and ability to counter will certainly be tested in this match.

Where this road begins to split for me, is in Anderson’s transitional game. Displaying excellent takedown chains off his strikes, Corey’s ability to change offensive terms at this weight class drowns most competitors. Although Lawlor is a solid wrestler with more than competent takedown defense, his aggressiveness and hunger for submissions have often cost him positions in fights. That said, Tom possesses an underrated Guillotine choke that could pose problems for Corey should he not mind his head placement on doubles. As a huge Tom Lawlor fan, I would love to see him upset the young lion. But unless he can catch Corey on the counter, he may have to face some unfavorable scorecards.

Official Pick: Anderson – Decision

 

Nunes3

Amanda Nunes (11-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 27 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Sara McMann (8-8-15)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   9 first round finishes
+   9 KO victories
+   2 submission wins
+   KO power / physically strong
+   Dangerous right-hand
+   Aggressive pace & pressure
^   Fades as fights progress
+/-Propensity to brawl
^   Counter availabilities
+   Strong top game
+   Devastating ground striker
^   Hard elbows & punches

 

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Kaufman vs Shevchenko

Valentina Shevchenko (12-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’5″ Age: 27 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 65.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Sarah Kaufman (12-19-15)
  • Camp: Tiger Muay Thai (Thailand/Peru)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   17x Muay Thai & K-1 Champion
+   9x IFMA Champion (56-2 pro record)
+   2nd dan Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   6 first round finishes
+   2 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   Excellent straight punches
+   Accurate check right hook
+   Hard left head & liver kicks
+   Competent & crafty clinch game
^   Underrated trips & takedowns
+   Good takedown defense
^   Strong & explosive hips
+   Solid from inside the guard
^   Hand fights & keeps position

Summary:

Kicking off the main card in Las Vegas is a battle of budding bantamweight contenders as Amanda Nunes meets Valentina Shevchenko. A long time physical force in female MMA, Amanda has steadily sharpened her overall skill-sets. Being one of the few challengers to emerge during the Rousey reign, Nunes will look to state her case for a title shot against the co-main event’s winner. Born into a martial arts family, Shevchenko is no stranger to fighting as she has been competing since childhood. Although the Muay Thai champion is a relative newcomer to mainstream audiences, Valentina will be looking to prove she belongs amongst the organizations best.

With two different approaches to striking, the Muay Thai stylings of each fighter will start and likely shape this fight. A brawler by nature, Nunes has demonstrated dramatic adjustments in her technique since moving to American Top Team. Displaying improvements to her hand positioning and footwork, Amanda has shown to be a bit more measured in her execution. However, she still shows suspect to scraps as her aggression often puts her out of position. Usually parlaying said pressure into clinch situations, Nunes has largely been able to get away with her fundamental position and defense errors. However, in facing a technical counter striker like Shevchenko, the Brazilian might not be so lucky.

Utilizing deceptively subtle footwork, Valentina will shuffle just in-and-out of her opposition’s striking range. Maintaining a balanced position, Shevchenko can counter efficiently and with great effect. In fact, I believe Valentina’s ability to manage the distance will be a key factor in this fight. At range, Shevchenko should have a distinct arsenal advantage. Should she effectively exile Amanda at range, Valentina’s hard body, and head kicks could pay some serious dividends. Nunes could very well look to overwhelm Shevchenko with a blitzkrieg, but Valentina has an accurate check right hook that can pose problems for an eager Amanda.

Holding a clear on-paper advantage on the ground, forcing grappling exchanges will surely be Amanda’s best bet. However, this may be easier said than done for the BJJ Black Belt. With her game being devoid of traditional wrestling shots, Nunes heavily relies upon the clinch for her takedowns. Very underrated in this department, Valentina shows to have seamlessly translated her Thai clinch game into MMA. Demonstrating solid head positioning and under-hook awareness, Shevchenko’s natural strength & balance make her difficult to take down. Not afraid to initiate offensive wrestling of her own, Valentina will flow from clinch strikes to crafty trips and takedowns. Favoring to work from inside the opposition’s guard, Shevchenko shows intelligent hand fighting to help her keep the position.

Although lacking activity and largely conservative, safety should serve Shevchenko well in this fight. Where Valentina is most vulnerable, is her inability to get going from the bottom. Since Nunes is nothing short of terrifying on top, I expect Shevchenko to avoid being on her back at all costs. Should she find herself on the bottom, her guard retention and reversal attempts may not bode well against the aggressive ground striker. Given Amanda’s momentum and improvements, I can see why she is the slight favorite according to the odds. But if she fails to stop Shevchenko early, I feel the Brazilian’s propensity to brawl may exhaust her against the more technical striker.

Official Pick: Shevchenko – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions

  • Thatch def. Bahadurzada
  • Silva def. Taleb
  • Miranda def. Guimaraes
  • Skelly def. Elkins
  • Sanchez def. Miller
  • Saggo def. Salas
  • Erosa def. Ishihara

Recommended Plays

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-Conor McGregor
-Erick Silva
-Ilir Latifi

Low Tier Picks:

-Nate Diaz
-Valentina Schevchenko
-Miesha Tate

Pieces for your parlay:

-Vitor Miranda
-Brandon Thatch
-Chas Skelly

Props worth looking at(5Dimes):

-Silva/Taleb – Under +125
-Nunes/Schevchenko – Over +100
-Chas Skelly – inside the distance +234

Fights to avoid:

-Erosa vs Ishihara
-Anderson vs Lawlor
-Latifi vs Villante

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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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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