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UFC 198: Werdum vs Miocic Breakdown

Dan Tom




FOX UFC Saturday: Werdum v Browne

Fabricio Werdum (20-5-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 38 Weight: 242 lbs Reach: 77″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Cain Velasquez (6-13-15)
  • Camp: Kings MMA (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Heavyweight Champion
+   2x ADCC 3x BJJ World Champ
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   10 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   6 KO victories
+   Deceptively effective showman
^   Baits & taunts opposition into game
+   Underrated & dangerous striker
^   Dynamic attack arsenal
+   Fluid & effective combinations
^   Superb improv & directional changes
+   Improved takedown ability
+   Excellent sweeps & scrambles
^   Capitalizes on chaos
+   Dangerous submissions/guard game
–    Low L.-hand w/R.-hand availabilities
^   Dropped in 3 of his last 6 fights
+   Manages energy/recovers well


UFC 195: Miocic v Arlovski

Stipe Miocic (14-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 33 Weight: 245 lbs Reach: 80″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Andrei Arlovski (1-2-16)
  • Camp: Strong Style Fight Team (Ohio)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Regional Heavyweight Title
+   Golden Gloves Champion
+   NCAA Div. 1 Wrestler
+   11 KO victories
+   6 first round finishes
+   Well-conditioned athlete
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Good volume & output
+   Excellent transitions
^   Mixes punches with takedowns
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Dangerous right hand
+   Solid takedown ability
^   Favors head outside singles
+   Scrambles/gets up well
–    Head sometimes stagnant
–    Hands often retract low
^   Counter availabilities
–    Low priority kick defense


Headlining this legendary card in Brazil is Fabricio Werdum as he hosts Stipe Miocic in a battle for the heavyweight title. From his legendary upset of over Fedor Emelianenko to his dismantling of Cain Velasquez, you can easily make the argument for Fabricio in being atop the heavyweight history books. That said, the current champion has a tough task ahead as he meets Stipe Miocic. One of the most athletic prospects to rise amongst the heavyweight division in recent years, Miocic will now have his chance to upset an arena as he attempts to take the Brazilian’s gold.

Similar to my take on Werdum’s fight with Velasquez, this fight comes down to the environment needed for Miocic’s style to be successful, and how those terms factor into Fabricio’s strengths. Similarly to Velasquez, Miocic’s game is heavily predicated on his takedown threats & executions to open up his punches. However, Werdum is so dangerous off of his back that takedown threats are not only nullified but welcomed. Considering Miocic averages 4-takedown attempts per round, it will be interesting to see how Werdum’s unique threats affect the Croatian’s transition game. With Fabricio being able to take that option off the table, it inherently forces his opponents to take their striking to task. And in a pure striking matchup, Werdum has the more dangerous & dynamic attacks on paper.

Werdum is unique in the fact that he is truly a double-threat in devastating proportions, whether we are talking about his renown ground game or his drastically improved striking. Under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro, we have seen Fabricio’s confidence & competence in striking skyrocket since his awkward encounter with Alistair Overeem in Strikeforce. Stringing together punches, kicks, and uppercuts fluidly, it is Werdum’s ability to improvise that is so impressive. What I mean is, Fabricio can not only set you up high to come underneath but can also change course mid-motion when he senses something awry. This preternatural instinct combined with Werdum’s ability to read & react makes him a very fun technical watch, as we saw these skills in full conjunction with his flying knee execution against Mark Hunt.

Despite said improvements, Werdum still has a lot of defensive holes that Stipe can exploit in this fight. Relying heavily on head movement & defensive-pulling, Fabricio will often keep a low & loose standing guard. Welcoming most oncoming exchanges, Werdum tends to keep a low left-hand that traditionally gets him caught with right hands over the top. With the right-cross being Miocic’s most accurate punch, this will undoubtedly be his best weapon in this fight given that right-hands were the common culprit in dropping Werdum in 3/6 of his last outings. However, many of Fabricio’s falls were arguably flops as he is known for his in-cage baits & showmanship.

Similarly to playing the Matador, Werdum will deceptively roll with punches as he relinquishes to his back. Appearing like a basketball player trying to draw an offensive foul at first glance, this madness has a method on multiple levels. The first being Fabricio’s invitation to the ambush that is his guard. As we’ve seen time and time again, Werdum can not only submit world champions here but more importantly, he creates situations to scramble and sweep his way topside(often utilizing deep-half & X-guard variations). If Fabricio’s opponents decide not to chase him into deep waters, they inherently let him off the hook if he is in fact hurt, or give him a breather at the very least. This tactic has stifled the best of killer instincts and allowed Werdum back into many fights.

The book on how to beat Werdum was once widely thought to be by pressure fighting against the fence. That said, we have seen Fabricio’s devasting clinch game put those theories to rest with his most recent statement of establishing terms on Velasquez. Although Stipe is positionally sound inside the clinch, he carries less offensive weapons there than either Cain or Fabricio as he relies heavily upon his takedown threats against the cage. I am not so certain Stipe will want to engage in takedowns against the submission ace, especially since Stipe favors a head outside single-leg, a takedown that particularly exposes your neck.

If Miocic is forced to fighting at range, he has more than enough speed & power to change this fights course. However, I feel that Fabricio has a deeper arsenal to pull from, as I see his Stipe’s low priority kick-defense not doing him any favors here. Although Stipe is a firefighter by trade, he will likely find himself in the middle of a four-alarm fire should he not find an answer early. Ultimately, I have a hard time seeing Stipe make it out of the kitchen without being burned.

Official Pick: Werdum – Inside the distance


UFC on FX: Jacare v Camozzi

Ronaldo Souza (22-4-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 36 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Yoel Romero (12-12-15)
  • Camp: X-Gym (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Former Strikeforce MW Champion
+   BJJ & ADCC World Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ & Judo
+   15 first round finishes
+   13 Submission wins
+   5 Ko victories
+   Heavy right-hand
^   Counters well
+   Improved footwork
+   Moves head well
+   Underrated wrestling
^   Solid takedown ability
+   Dangerous in transition
^   Active submissions & back-taking
+   Superb ground control
–    Subject to lulls in activity



Vitor Belfort (25-11)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 39 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Dan Henderson (11-7-15)
  • Camp: Team Belfort (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC LHW Champion
+   UFC Heavyweight Tournament Winner
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   19 first round finishes
+   18 KO victories
+   3 submission wins
+   KO power
+   Improved striking
^   Effectively implementing kicks
+   Accurate left hand
^   Often sets up left kick
+/-Leans/slips heavily left
?   Questionable takedown defense
–    Struggles w/grappling pressure
+   Excellent killer instinct
+/-20+ year fighting career

Serving as Curitiba’s co-main event is a battle of Brazilian standouts as Jacare Souza faces Vitor Belfort. The longtime dark horse to the division’s title, Jacare Souza will look to recover from a setback at the hands of Yoel Romero last December. Standing in his way is the living legend that is Vitor Belfort, as the former champion attempts another late run for the top.

In what is a potentially an exciting affair on paper, may surprisingly be subject to a slow start. With both fighters preferring to counter strike and showing surprising stints of action, we could experience some staring and activity lulls early on. None the less, Vitor should have the intangible advantage early given his drop of a dime killer instinct. Although Vitor is the more technical striker on paper, he may have some stylistic liabilities standing.

Displaying his retention for space & movement, Vitor often slips and operates in heavily left leaning dips. This movement will get Belfort offline of oncoming strikes, as well as set up his left uppercut-right hook returns. However, leaning left at the inopportune time could put him on course with Souza’s intercepting right hand. Demonstrating effectiveness offensively and off the counter, Belfort will have to be respectful of Souza’s improved striking abilities. That said, I suspect Belfort may be more preoccupied with Jacare’s looming takedown threats.

Stepping up his wrestling game since entering MMA, Souza has made notable upgrades to his shot entries and takedown chains. With Vitor only being shot on or taken down twice in the last four years, it is hard to make a fair assessment of where he stands. However, the Brazilian has traditionally struggled with grappling pressure as this seem to be the case most recently against Chris Weidman. I can only imagine how much Souza salivated when seeing Belfort’s lack of hip & posture awareness.

The key factor in this matchup will obviously be Belfort’s ability to avoid grappling engagements. Although Vitor will have the big cage in which to move, Jacare has excellent penetrations on his entries, not to mention reactive shots that may limit Belfort’s attack. Outside a big left hand or kick, I have a hard time seeing Vitor fair well in this fight.

Official Pick: Souza – Inside the distance



Cristiane Justino (15-1-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 30 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Daria Ibragimova (1-16-16)
  • Camp: Chute Boxe/RVCA Gym (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Invicta FC Champion (FW)
+   Former Strikeforce FW Champ
+   BJJ Brown Belt
+   13 KO victories
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+/-Aggressive by nature
^   Superb killer instinct
+   Improved striking
^   More technically refined
+   Solid wrestling ability
+   Physically strong in clinch
^   Favors body-locks/lateral drops
+   Transitions well on top
^   Devastating ground striker
–    First time making 140 lbs.



Leslie Smith (8-6-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 33 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Rin Nakai (3-19-16)
  • Camp: Cesar Gracie Fight Team (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   4 KO victories
+   1 first round finish
+    Consistent pace & pressure
^   High volume striker
+   Puts together strikes well
+   Solid lead left-kick
^   Often off breaks & combos
+   Improved takedown defense
+   Underrated grappling
–    Head often stagnates
^   Counter availabilities
+/-Aggressive nature
^   Traditionally takes damage


Making her long-awaited UFC debut, Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino will fight Leslie Smith in front of her home country of Brazil. Never one to turn down a fight, Leslie Smith was more than happy to welcome Cyborg to the UFC in this catchweight bout.

With insane betting lines that we haven’t seen since the Rousey era, Cris Cyborg will be the largest favorite listed on UFC 198. Although Cyborg is the justified favorite and my official pick, Leslie Smith will be the toughest opponent she has faced in some time. With Smith’s strongest assets being her durability & heart, she may be able to defy the odds long enough to capitalize on possible intangibles.

More specifically, this is Cyborg’s first cut to 140-pounds, which is just five pounds shy of a weight class that she says she cannot make. That said, it will be interesting to see her on the scale come Friday, as that may bear tells to how this weight venture south has been. Intangibles aside, it is pretty clear that Cyborg should have the on-paper advantages in this bout.

However, do not be too quick to count a fighter like Smith out. If there were such a thing as a Diaz sister, Smith would be it as she possesses similar qualities to her Cesar Gracie stablemates. A consistent volume & combination striker, Leslie puts on a pace that can often offset her opposition. Favoring a lead-leg kick to finish combinations, she is also active in striking off the breaks. Leslie’s head does tend to stagnate mid-combination, as she is usually open to counters and traditionally takes damage.

Although leaning on her durability has saved her before, Cristiane Cyborg is not a storm you sail into head first. The Brazilian has always been an explosive Muay Thai knockout artist, but in recent years, she has shown the evolutions of a technically refined striker. Displaying improvements from her energy to distance management, Cyborg executes her dangerous flurries much more efficiently. Even though she carries an advantage standing, it is on the floor where I can see her closing this show.

Demonstrating solid wrestling chops, Cyborg has improved her ability to not only defend takedowns but complete them as well. Primarily operating from the body-lock, Cyborg favors lateral drops and foot sweep variations. Although Leslie shows some craftiness on the mat, Cyborg is a completely different animal from topside. Displaying solid positional awareness, Cyborg will transition seamlessly from knee-on-belly to ground strikes. I am a huge Leslie Smith fan personally and would love nothing more than to see an upset, but it is hard to pick against the baddest woman on the planet.

Official Pick: Cyborg – Inside the distance


Sport UFC

Mauricio Rua (23-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 34 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Little Nog (8-1-15)
  • Camp: Kings MMA (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC LHW Champion
+   Pride Grand Prix Winner (’05)
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   19 KO victories
+   17 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Heavy right hand
+   Hard leg kicks
+   Underrated takedown ability
+   Devastating ground striker
–    Often struggles in scrambles
^   Favors turtle-dives & guard rolls
+/-Aggressive by nature
^   Dropped or stopped in last 6/8



Corey Anderson (8-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 26 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 79″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Tom Lawlor (3-5-16)
  • Camp: Ricardo Almeida BJJ (New Jersey)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 19 Winner
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   2x All-American Wrestler
+   3 KO victories
+   3 first round finishes
+   Training w/Mark Henry & Co.
^   Fight-to-fight improvements
+   Consistent pace & pressure
^   High volume output
+   Excellent footwork
+   Good strike to takedown transitions
^   Favors double-legs
+   Solid top game
^   Active ground striker


In a crossroads fight in the light-heavyweight division, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will take on Corey “Beastin 25/8” Anderson. An absolute legend in the world of mixed martial arts, Shogun will attempt to maintain relevancy with a win in his hometown of Curitiba. As one of the division’s more promising prospects, Corey Anderson will look the take the next step as he faces by far the biggest name of his career.

As a long time fan of this sport, it is hard to fathom Shogun’s recent state since following him from his 2005-run with Pride. The talent was never a question with Mauricio, as we saw in fast ascensions with both Brazilian Jiu-jitsu & MMA. Embodying the quintessential Chute Boxe style, Shogun stormed onto the scene in an aggressive awe-inspiring manner. That said, we have seen him progress little progress since making his way into the Octagon. Granted many Pride fighters had difficulty adjusting from overseas, and Shogun’s slew of knee surgeries between ’07-’09 did not help, but he was ultimately able to return and score a title.

Although Shogun returned with similar successes, we saw the effects of his Chute Boxe stylings as he steadily diminished in front of us. Since losing his title to Jon Jones, we have seen Shogun come into fights with vast inconsistencies from his lack of motivation to physical state. Even more disturbing, Mauricio has demonstrated a decreasing ability to take a shot, as what’s left of his chin often keeps him in fights longer than he arguably should be. Even though Anderson is not a knockout striker, Shogun’s classic Thai marching may not bode well for him in this matchup.

Displaying excellent distance management as he moves his feet, Anderson’s footwork will likely be the biggest problem for a plotting Shogun. Training under the tutelage of Mark Henry & Co. for the better part of two years, we have seen consistent fight-to-fight improvements from Anderson. Even though his overall output is his biggest strength, it is his transition game that makes him effective. Similarly to his stablemate Frankie Edgar, Anderson mixes in volume & variety to keep his opposition behind the 8-ball.

However, despite Corey’s ever-growing offense, he still has shown defensive liabilities that could see the light in this fight. Like many high-volume strikers, Anderson runs the risk of getting hit early & often if his entries are not technically sound from hands to feet. We saw him taken to task on this in fights with Gian Villante & Tom Lawlor, as both men were able to score big with right hands. Since Mauricio’s right-hand is a threat that is still intact, Corey will have to be mindful in his approach as this will be a live threat throughout the contest. Ultimately, if Shogun can’t get a beat on Anderson early, I feel he will be subject of a stick & move tutorial.

Official Pick: Anderson – Decision



Warlley Alves (10-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 25 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Sub win / Colby Covington (12-12-15)
  • Camp: X-Gym (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF Brazil 3 Winner
+   Multiple Kickboxing Accolades
+   7 Submission wins
+   1 KO victory
+   4 first round finishes
+   Heavy-handed striker
^   Effective right hand
+/-Very aggressive by nature
^   High output & emphasis in 1st round
+   Physically strong inside clinch
^   Favors takedowns from here
+   Underrated wrestling ability
^   80% takedown defense
+   Dangerous Guillotine choke
^   5 finishes including TUF
–    Shows some trouble w/southpaws
^   Jab finding & kick availabilities
–    Struggles w/pressure
–    Propensity to fade



Bryan Barberena (11-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 27 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72.5″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Sage Northcutt (1-30-16)
  • Camp: MMA Lab (Arizona)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles (MW & WW)
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   8 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   Experienced at multiple weights
+   Improved technical aggression
^   Grows in pace & pressure
+   Adjusts well inside fights
+/-Slow starter / strong finisher
+   Accurate check right hook
+   Active clinch striker
^   Dangerous elbows
+   Competent ground game
^   Solid positional awareness
+   Good get up urgency
–    Head sometimes stagnant off strikes
^   Traditionally takes damage
+   Durable chin / never stopped


Kicking off the main card in Curitiba is fun welterweight scrap, as TUF Brazil winner Warlley Alves locks up with the gritty Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena. One of the more promising young Brazilian prospects, Warlley Alves has made strong statements and impressions thus far with the organization. Warlley will look to keep his undefeated record intact as he meets the always-dangerous Bam Bam Barberena. A quintessential underdog, Bryan will look to score another upset against what is his third straight undefeated prospect the UFC has given him.

Let me first thank you for not immediately condemning my pick before actually reading my explanation. As my positive winning ratio per card and overall would suggest, I do not make an official pick without reason. If you have read my work, then you know that I do not cut corners in my research as I usually bring a solid evidence-based argument to the table(whether you agree with it or not). I will attempt to do the same here, as I explain my take on why conforming to the common narrative can be dangerous as I feel this is a closer fight than the line suggests.

Although I do feel Warlley is the justified favorite, the jury is still out on this young fighter as his sample size of scenarios are still relatively small. That said, I believe Alves is the more superior striker, wrestler, and submission artist on paper. But as I stated(and as we saw) in my last breakdown on Krylov-Barroso, consistent pace & pressure can unwind on-paper advantages. Even though Warlley shows very few deficiencies technically, his lone knock thus far is that he has the propensity to fade as the fight goes on.

The term “front-runner” can be tricky since it can be used generally or perceived negatively. But the truth is, that some of our favorite fighters fit under this umbrella from Mike Tyson to BJ Penn. I also feel Warlley Alves could be a similar fit to that prototype based upon his fights inside the Octagon. Now again, me feeling that Alves may operate better as the hammer as opposed to the nail is no way a condemnation of his skills. But as we saw in his fight with Alan Jouban, Alves was clearly facing some in-fight adversities that he did not react favorably to.

What I found telling, was that although Alan hit him with solid shots to the body that help turn the tide, Warlley succeeded momentum before the damaging blows ever came. Like many aggressive, out of the gate finishers, we often see the strongest forces lose steam when not able to complete their heavily emphasized objectives. Not only did Warlley’s physical(and arguably emotional) tank fade, we also saw him call for referee interventions multiple times in that match for phantom fouls. That said, I am not here to condemn Alves for that lone performance, much less the controversial decision that followed.

However, in watching Warlley’s fights since, he showed similar tells even in bouts he was clearly controlling. In his fight with Nordine Taleb for example, we saw Alves score a knockdown and takedowns in each round as he dictated the overall pace and clearly won the frames. That said, Warlley still consistently took deep breaths and checked the clock throughout the back end of rounds. Again, these are not condemnations, but they are consistent tendencies you can see when reviewing his UFC tape. Although he out-marks his opposition on paper, that same paper also points to durable pressure fighters posing the most problems for this prospect.

Enter Bryan Barberena, a deceptively slow burn, it is very easy to underestimate him upon first glance. It is also hard to confidently pick his most likely path to a finish, given that he is not your typical one-shot knockout or submission artist. That said, the previously mentioned key intangibles that show to be effective with Warlley is something Bryan has in spades. Not only is he durable, but he is also a solid southpaw striker. Although Alves was able to top his southpaw opposition in fights with Marcio Lyoto & Alan Jouban, he showed difficulty in establishing his punches and a surprising availability to kicks(especially against Marcio in a bout he was controlling). Barberena also throws a deceptive check right hook that could find it’s home on an oncoming, aggressive Alves.

That said, Barberena will likely be the one with a target for right-hands as those have been consistent culprits throughout his career. Being a southpaw the right cross is naturally open, but more importantly, Bryan keeps a low guard as his sometimes stagnant head opens him up for counters. He will have to be mindful of this as he will be playing with fire when comes to the right hand of Alves. With the praise & pontification going the way of the Brazilian prospect, there is little talk of his wrestling as I feel this will be a key factor for a victory here. Warlley wields an underrated takedown game that could help him control portions of this fight and perhaps catch his breath should he not find a finish.

Even though Warlley should have an advantage from topside, Bryan demonstrates a good urgency & technique in getting up or creating scrambles. More importantly, Bryan displays excellent positional awareness as he rarely(if ever) gives his head & neck in transition, much less from the top or bottom. In facing one of the best Guillotine applicators in the division, these technique tendencies become very important, as I am sure Bryan’s coach John Crouch has worked this extensively with him. Not to mention Alves gets most of his Guillotines from the clinch, a place where Barberena is active with dangerous elbows & strikes off the break. Honestly, I feel that claiming certainty for either side is silly given each man’s sample size and the game they’re playing, as I strongly caution any plays on this match. Ultimately, I stand by my pick as I feel the 5-1 odds in Alves favor turns into a “pick’em” should this fight go past the first.

Official Pick: Barberena – Inside the distance

Preliminary Card Predictions

  • Maia def. Brown
  • Santos def. Marquardt
  • Trinaldo def. Medeiros
  • Font def. Lineker
  • Cummins def. Nogueira
  • Moraes def. Chagas
  • Tukhugov def. Carneiro

Recommended Plays

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-Fabricio Werdum
-Cristiane Justino
-Jacare Souza

Low Tier Picks:

-Bryan Barberena
-Rob Font
-Renato Carneiro

Pieces for your parlay:

-Thiago Santos
-Francisco Trinaldo
-Demian Maia

Props worth looking at(

-Francisco Trinaldo -by Decision: +180 (1 Units)
-Demian Maia -by Submission: +150 (1 Unit)
-Corey Anderson -by Decision: +105 (1 Unit)

Fights to avoid:

-Rob Font vs John Lineker
-Warlley Alves vs Bryan Barberena
-Sergio Moraes vs Luan Chagas

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

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UFC 216 Breakdown: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee



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



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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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