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UFC 202: Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor 2 Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Diaz1

Nate Diaz (19-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 31 Weight: *170 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Conor McGregor (3-5-16)
  • Camp: Cesar Gracie Fight Team (Stockton, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 5 Winner
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   12 Submission wins
+   5 KO victories
+   8 first round finishes
+   Pressure fighter
+   Good cardio & conditioning
+   High volume striker
+   Accurate jab-cross
^   Disrupts timing & tempo
–    Lackadaisical leg kicks defense
+/-Low hands/head often upright
+   Dangerous transitional grappler
^   Solid submission & choke acumen
+/-Traditionally takes damage
^   Physically durable / recovers well
+/-5-4 against UFC southpaws

 

Conor02

Conor McGregor (19-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 28 Weight: *170 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Nate Diaz (3-5-16)
  • Camp: SBG Ireland (Dublin, IE)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Featherweight Champion
+   Cage Warriors LW & FW Titles
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   17 KO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Agile & athletic mover
+   Excellent footwork
^   Deceptively dictates distance
+   Diverse kicking attacks
+   Accurate & deadly left cross
+/-Low hands / head often upright
^   Heavily reliant on trunk movement
+   Improved wrestling/counter grappling
^   Urgent get-ups & clinch breaks
+   Underrated grappler
+/-3-1 against career southpaws

Summary:

The main event of UFC 202 features a rematch that stems from UFC 196 as Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor run it back one more time. In a last minute shakeup earlier this March, Nate Diaz stepped in for an injured Rafael Dos Anjos with just 10-days notice. Accepting this stand-in, and even allowing for weight accommodations at welterweight, Conor McGregor would take what was his 1st loss with the organization. With the fallout from this event being equally compelling, Conor McGregor will now have his shot at repaying one of the most memorable upsets of 2016.

The hardest part about breaking down a rematch of this magnitude is the thickly spread narrative that has already been laid out. The common narrative has went from: “How can Nate win with just 10-days notice?” to “How can Conor win if Nate beat him with just 10-days notice?”. Not that either of these statements are not valid, but I’ll try and steer clear of those reasonings for my pick as I will focus this breakdown on what adjustments we could see from both men.

Although my pick was incorrect when these two first met, many of the things I predicted came to light on both sides of the stanzas. Although many, including myself, called for Conor’s patent left-crosses to coat-tail behind the strike retractions of Diaz, I felt that uppercuts would be the unspoken threat as Conor will dust off those techniques against fellow southpaws. Despite McGregor’s conviction to these left-handed shots off of slipped jabs, it was Nate’s steady grasp of timing down the center lane that helped him take over the contest. Firing jab-cross continuums with the snap of a coiled cobra, Nathan will off-set striking rhythms or, as we saw at UFC 196, disrupt a fighter’s overall approach.

With Conor arguably controlling the fight until the middle of the second round, we saw a distinct example of Nathan’s off-beat offense take effect at the 2:21 mark. Although it looked like a jab-cross combo that Nate has thrown a million times before, he broke the perceived rhythm of McGregor as it caught him mid-motion and off guard. What compounded the effect of the blow was the manner in which Diaz fires his cross. Shifting his rear hip forward to accompany the lunge off his attack, Diaz will attach his cross directly behind his jab for cover as this also cuts down the strike’s delivery time. With the initial jab causing a slight disruption to the senses, Nate’s follow-up cross becomes a game-changer when gone unseen.

That said, the side-effects of Nate’s style remains the same as the uppercut will still be a live threat. Often leaning heavily forward on his approaches, Diaz’s posture off his punches inherently allows him to be available to shorter ranged weapons despite his advantages of height & length. When retracting said strikes, Diaz will heavily lean back and to his left as Josh Thomson most famously capitalized on this by timing a head kick. Conor’s chief corner & coach, John Kavanagh, also picked up on this tendency as he strongly urged his fighter to follow-up his left crosses with right uppercuts to intercept Diaz.

To McGregor’s credit, he did try to follow his corner’s advice as he came out for the second round, but Diaz had seemingly begun to grasp the center striking-lanes as this prevented Conor from a proper setup. With Diaz’s defensive habits causing him consistent damage to his right eye throughout the Stockton native’s career, it is hard to imagine that McGregor will avoid emphasizing his left handed attacks. However, if Conor intends on catching Diaz off guard in the punching department, I suspect a shovel hook from the right side will be the punch that holds the most potential given said tendencies. Regardless, as we saw in their last outing, all will be for not if Conor fails to apply an answer to Nate’s control of the center lane.

Once Diaz establishes a rhythm, it quickly becomes difficult to dissuade him at a distance as we saw McGregor’s more diverse arsenal eventually run out of road against the Stockton slugger. Considering that Conor surprisingly uses minimal jabs and check-hooks as a southpaw, I have a hard time seeing McGregor outdo Diaz down the center striking lanes. Instead, I suspect we will see Conor stick to his original approach in the 1st round by mixing in base-debilitating kicks. However, McGregor may forgo the oblique kicks and instead go with more traditional leg kicks as these have been crucial keys for success in Diaz’s past opponents.

Usually using his kicks to corral his opposition, we seldom see Conor throw leg kicks. Although I am sure that McGregor is capable of being effective with an outside leg kick, I suspect the inside leg kick may make for a more likely culprit given its connectivity to Conor’s arsenal. For example, If Conor’s right shovel hook comes off of his left cross, then by nature McGregor will need something to setup said cross to have success and avoid a repeat of his last performance. The inside leg kick provides a low-risk solution to debasing Diaz and also is a technique that feeds naturally into overhands & crosses ala Dan Henderson. Regardless of the Irishman’s approach, control of the center striking lanes will be the key factor in this fight.

Despite Diaz holding the clear advantages on the floor, I feel that Conor’s ground skills have been underestimated grossly if not written off altogether. Now, I am not going to tell you that McGregor’s game is elite, much less a threat to submit Nate. But what I will say is that there are small intricacies to his grappling techniques that suggest a sober McGregor may be able to stay safe in-close. In Conor’s fights with Holloway & Siver, we saw the Irishman’s diversity on top as he smoothly pressured and passed. Although a knee injury made for a lackadaisical display from his back at UFC 189, McGregor gave us a brief glimpse of his bottom acumen at the end of the 1st round against Diaz as he hit a “Curu Curu” sweep variation.

That said, unless Diaz can once again force McGregor into desperation mode, I do not see Conor carrying any intentions of grappling engagements. 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 from Nate. Not only will this setup Nate’s patent Uchi Mata(hip toss), but it will also open up trips and guard pulls should Diaz be so inclined. Deadly and proficient in transition, Nate only needs but a moment to shift the fights momentum. McGregor did a great job in their first outing of avoiding Nate’s over-hook entanglements as he was able to break away from clinches early.

Although I am officially siding with Diaz, I believe that Conor has more options available overall to adjust and win this fight. That said, the key to all of Mcgregor’s paths to victory lies within his ability to maintain the utmost amount of discipline. Against a physical & psychological threat as durable as Diaz, Conor will need to upkeep his focus as Nate will only grow stronger should the Irishman slip. Unless Conor’s power can produce a different outcome on Diaz, he will likely need a safe or near perfect fight to earn a decision. But with only 1-bout reaching the distance in a 22-fight career, we will likely have another do-or-die scenario on our hands. Though I have a strange feeling Conor has something special in store, the Irishman’s reliance on defensive trunk movement may once again get him burned should he not find an answer for Stockton’s fire starter.

Official Pick: Diaz – Inside the distance

 

MMA: UFC on Fox 18-Johnson vs Bader

Anthony Johnson (21-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 32 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Ryan Bader (1-30-16)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   JUCO National Wrestling Title
+   Regional MMA Championship
+   15 KO victories
+   11 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Devastating right hand
^   Overhands, uppercuts, & hooks
+   Dangerous left kicks
^   Set up off stance switches
+   Underrated takedown defense (%79)
+   Shown grappling improvements
+   Solid top pressure & positional rides
^   Superb ground striker
–    Struggles when pressure fought
^   Gas tank bares watching

 

UFC 146: Dos Santos v Mir

Glover Teixeira (25-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 36 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Rashad Evans (4-16-16)
  • Camp: Team Teixeira/ATT (Danbury, CT)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   16 KO victories
+   17 first round finishes
+   6 Submission wins
+   KO Power
+   Solid boxing technique
^   Accurate R. hand-L. hook
+   Good economy of movement
^   Rarely throws self out of position
+   Works well off single-legs
+   Underrated wrestling abilities
+   Improved getup ability/urgency
^   Uses under-hooks or turtles out
–    Struggles w/pressure against fence

Summary:

The co-main event in Las Vegas features the top 2 contenders at light-heavyweight as Anthony Johnson takes on Glover Teixeira. Coming off a pair of knockout victories, “Rumble” Johnson will seek to cement himself once again as the number one contender for Daniel Cormier’s belt. Also considered the division’s most dangerous man not long ago, Glover Teixeira will look to earn another title shot should he add to his 3-fight finishing streak.

Starting off on the feet is an interesting battle of pressure-style strikers. Subtly stalking forward in left-to-right plots, Anthony Johnson maintains a state of constant offensive and defensive readiness. Using said left-to-right shifts, Johnson is already set in motion to move defensively one way in order come back offensively the other. These movement principles keep Rumble in balance and translate beautifully to his kicking game. As seen in his fight with Jimi Manuwa, we saw Anthony throw left power kicks as he counterbalanced this attack with hard right hands from the other side.

Although Anthony’s overhand right is seemingly always on the table as a threat, he may find some success with his uppercut in this contest. Even though Teixeira is no stranger to eating his fair share of overhands, I noticed that Glover’s defenses are a bit lackadaisical to uppercuts on the inside. In fact, all four of his opponents previous to Rashad Evans were able to exploit him inside this space(Jones, Davis, OSP, & Cummins). Though Teixeira took these shots with little issue, Johnson’s power is proven and not to be taken lightly. It will also be interesting to see what Johnson’s kicking selections are for this fight, especially given that Glover has a knack for catching body kicks and turning them into takedowns.

As for the Brazilian, Teixeira also maintains a solid economy of movement as he employs a tight and technical boxing game. Wielding a dangerous right-hand of his own, I feel that Glover’s left hook will be the punch to look for in this fight. Often initiating exchanges with his right cross, Teixeira will create chaos that draws out his opposition’s defense and allows for his accurate left-hand to serve as a cleanup hitter. Training Rashad Evans for Teixeira earlier this year, I am sure that Henri Hooft is more than aware of this as he and the rest of the Blackzilians staff ready Rumble for this fight.

That said, Anthony will need to maintain discipline with his hand positioning as his inherent aggression could cost him if he is not careful. Often in the heat of exchanges, Johnson tends to wind up when chambering as well as retract his right-hand low. Given Glover’s looming left hook, these small windows inside the pocket could be crucial pickings for a veteran fighter like Teixeira who shows wherewithal under pressure. With the standing exchanges between these two destroyers feeling like a heavyweight affair, it will be interesting to see if either man employs a ground fight.

With Teixeira obviously having more motive to take this fight to the floor, we will likely have a further gauge of the grappling improvements of Anthony Johnson. A former collegiate wrestler, Anthony has been even harder to take down since improving the balance of his striking. With Anthony’s defense difficult to penetrate on initial shots, Teixeira’s patent single-legs may not be enough as he’ll likely have to chain his attempts for success. Should Glover ground Johnson, his on paper advantages may not be as big as projected. Working with renown catch wrestling coach Neil Melanson, Anthony has shown improvements to his grappling game in recent performances.

From his top pressure to positional rides, Anthony appears to be embracing the part of his game that has plagued him in the past. Although Anthony has the tools to pose problems from the top, I am not so certain how much he will look to initiate grappling exchanges. Possessing a dangerous Guillotine choke threat, Glover is also an underrated wrestler himself. Using under-hooks or fighting hands and turtling out, Glover is relentless in his reversal and get-up attempts. With the grappling back-and-forths being what traditionally tires Rumble, he could get burned if he plays Teixeira’s game for too long, or trapped should he end up on the bottom.

A smooth pressure passer, Glover is a veteran chef when it comes to cooking his opposition underneath him. Methodically(and brutally) using ground strikes, Glover adds fuel to the fire as he force-feeds opponents to turning into head & arm chokes, or catching them with rear-naked-chokes as they turn away. Although I initially came into this fight favoring Anthony Johnson, I feel that this bout is closer than the betting lines reflect. Not only does Teixeira have more than enough tools for the job, but the Brazilian also demonstrates the durability to contest with Johnson as well as the veteran savvy to capitalize where he needs to. That said, bet carefully and enjoy one of the best matchups on the card.

Official Pick: Teixeira – Inside the distance

 

Story fights Nelson in a welterweight MMA bout at the UFC gala, at the Globe Arena in Stockholm

Rick Story (19-8)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 31 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Tarec Saffiedine (5-29-16)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Collegiate Wrestling Experience
+   4 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   4 First round finishes
+   KO Power

 

Cowboy7

Donald Cerrone (30-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 33 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Patrick Cote (6-18-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Multiple Muay Thai Accolades
+   28-0 as pro kickboxer
+   6 KO victories
+   16 Submission wins
+   13 First round finishes
+   KO Power

Summary:

**Full Disclosure**: Due to personal affiliation’s with Rick Story for this fight week, I have opted out of doing my usual in-depth breakdown for this matchup. That said, I stand by my pick as I will loosely list some of my thoughts for this fight below.

As I always say, a durable southpaw who can wrestle can be the most potent style to upset fighters inside the cage. With Donald traditionally struggling with pressure fighters, the styling’s of Story could bring these problems to light. Now fully healthy and operating at 100%, it will be interesting to see more from Rick as this will now be his second fight since his return. Reuniting with an old coach of mine, Neil Melanson, Story has spent this entire camp with the Blackzilians.

Not only will Neil’s catch-wrestling style help Story with his overall grappling, but Neil also specializes in Triangle chokes which happen to be Cerrone’s most potent submission threat. On the feet is where Cowboy should have his biggest on-paper edge, but it is hard to overlook to body onslaught Story brings. An underrated counter and combination puncher, Rick will repeatedly rip lefts to the body with impunity. In similar fashion to the shots that Rafael Dos Anjos landed on Cerrone in their contests, this will be the punch to look out for in this fight.

Usually, this is the part where I tell you that Cerrone’s superior kicking game will be a key to dissuading Story at a distance and winning this fight. However, the wild card for Cowboy comes in the form of Brandon Gibson. A quiet storm in the striking department at Jackson-Wink MMA, Six Gun Gibson has been a crucial and cerebral piece behind the scenes to some of the biggest fighters. Coming more into his own, we saw Cowboy have his 1st camp under the supervision of Gibson as the results were evident against Cote.

In fact, that last fight Cowboy turned in completely flipped the sample size we had on him as he looked like a different fighter within the boxing ranges. Showing slicker head movement than before, Cerrone connected it beautifully in conjunction with counters and combination punches. Assuming that Donald continues with this recent recipe, we may see an even more improved Cowboy in what will be his 22nd fight with the organization. Although a Cerrone win would not surprise me, I feel the intangibles Story brings are equally compelling as I’ll be siding with his on paper attributes to score the upset.

Official Pick: Story – Decision

 

Lim1

Hyun Gyu Lim (13-5-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 31 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 79″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Neil Magny (5-16-15)
  • Camp: Korean Top Team (Korea)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   10 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Devastating knees
^   Shuffles & intercepts
+   Improved jab
+   Dangerous hooks
+   Active guard
^   Good leg dexterity
–    Keeps/retracts hands low
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
+/-1 fight in 23 months

 

Perry1

Mike Perry (6-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 24 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: KO win / David Mundell (5-14-16)
  • Camp: Team Sparta (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   6 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Athletic & agile
+   Heavy right hand
^   Uppercuts & overhands
+   Dangerous knees
+   Competent takedown ability
+   Shows good submission defense
+   Scrambles well
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
+/-UFC Debut
+/-Fighting on 2 weeks notice

Summary:

In a potential war at welterweight Hyun Gyu Lim welcomes UFC newcomer Mike Perry. Originally slated to face Sultan Aliev, Hyun Gyu Lim will now meet Mike Perry, an undefeated up-and-comer from the South Florida fight scene. With an injury keeping the Korean Top Team fighter from the Octagon for over a years time, Hyun Gyu Lim will attempt to get back on track.

Although he is amongst the shorter end of the welterweight stable, Perry is deceptively agile and athletic. Utilizing a boxing-based style, Mike Perry will attempt to slip and dip his way inside similarly to a vintage Mike Tyson. Carrying potent one-shot stopping power, Perry will often blast his way inside with overhands as he favors uppercuts & hooks in the pocket. It is in this space where Perry will be the most dangerous in this fight given Lim’s defensive tendencies.

Despite the height and reach advantages Lim carries into most fights, his aggression often causes the Korean to close the distance for his opposition as he eagerly looks to intercept. With a low guard by nature and a tendency to retract strikes even lower, Lim will be playing with fire anytime he lacks discipline inside the pocket. With Lim being no stranger to absorbing right-hands in his fights, I suspect that will be the likely culprit in a Perry victory.

Although most of Perry’s finishes come off of his knees in close, I am not sure how available those shots will be due to height differentials. That said, the renown knees of Hyun Gyu Lim may be more than live in this particular matchup. Utilizing said boxing stance and stylings, Perry will often dip heavily forward and or to his right side. Though this habit allows Perry to slip off the centerline and come back with his noted right-hand, it also puts him directly in-line with Lim’s intercepting knees.

A specialty of the South Korean, Lim will reign down strikes from above as this will often force his foes to come at him from below. Anticipating this, Lim does a spectacular job of shuffling in to land with his left knee. Considering that Perry habitually dips to that same side, I expect that to be the key strike to look for from Lim. Despite neither man wielding a particularly impressive wrestling acumen, an effort from either fighter to get this to the floor wouldn’t surprise me. Although the Korean is the more experienced and diverse submission fighter on paper, Perry shows surprisingly good submission defense from credible threats outside the Octagon.

Perry’s athleticism also translates to his wrestling, as the Floridian appears to be a good scrambler with a natural inclination to get after it. That said, I suspect ground fighting to be a near wash should each man engage soberly. Although I agree that Lim should be the favored fighter, I heavily caution playing him at the current price as this fight is closer than the odds indicate. Although I am siding with South Korean, it is hard to be confident as this is essentially a welterweight war with heavyweight intangibles.

Official Pick: Lim – Inside the distance

 

Means1

Tim Means (25-7-1)

Staple info:

  • Height:6’2″ Age: 32 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: KO win / John Howard (12-10-15)
  • Camp: Fit NHB (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   17 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   13 first round finishes
+   Superb technical striker
^   Good footwork, angles, & diversity
+   Strong volume & pressure
+   Accurate left hand
+   Deadly elbow acumen
+   Underrated grappler
+   Improved wrestling
^   Active getup urgency
+   Good chin/never stopped

 

Sabah1

Sabah Homasi (11-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 27 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Jorge Patino (8-5-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 21 Alum
+   8 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Physically strong & athletic
^   Moves well on the feet
+   Solid jab
^   Hard cross & hook follow-ups
+   Strong top pressure
^   Good elbows inside the guard
+/-Fighting on 2 weeks notice
+/-UFC Debut

Summary:

Kicking off the main card of UFC 202 is a guaranteed scrap in the welterweight division as Tim Means meets Sabah Homasi. Originally slated to face Sean Strickland, Means does not seem concerned with the late opponent switch as he is hungrier than ever coming off of a brief layoff. Stepping in for the injured Strickland is Sabah Homasi, an American Top Team staple from the TUF 21 season. Coming straight off a victory as recently as August 5th, Homasi was more than happy to make a quick turnaround to debut on the big stage.

An athletic and physical force bred by American Top Team, Sabah shows the well-rounded game you would suspect. Though demonstrating a competent wrestling ability, Homasi prefers to make his money on the feet. Showing solid footwork & head movement, Sabah gauges the distance well as he works behind his jab. Wielding hard hook & cross follow-ups, Homasi has more than enough skill and power to pose problems for the veteran Tim Means.

That said, “The Dirty Bird” Tim Means will be the most technical striker by a longshot. Proficient from both stances, Tim primarily operates out of southpaw as I suspect he will do here. Not only does Means have a deeper arsenal to pull from, but the angles in which he creates makes it difficult for opponents to get a beat on the oncoming waves of pressure. Considering that Sabah seems to rely heavily upon the establishment of his jab to get going, the southpaw stylings of Means may pose problems for Homasi in finding his target.

Couple that with Means’ seemingly nonstop pressure and volume, the short notice debutant may have difficulty establishing himself comfortably. If Tim can put Sabah behind the 8-ball early, he will likely force a fight that favors his terms. Although Homasi throws his punches technically with power, Tim demonstrates superb head movement as he is amongst the top-5 at welterweight in regards to striking defense.

Should this contest hit the floor, I expect the action to remain high as both fighters have increased their urgency on top and bottom as of late. With Means showing to struggle with succeeding to his back early in his career, there could be some motive for Sabah to ground Means(especially should he start to get tagged). Should Sabah make his way on top, he shows to execute elbows well from inside the guard. However, Means has made marked improvements to his wrestling, Particularly in his get-up ability.

Showing an urgency to turtle out and stand, Tim has proven increasingly difficult to control. When Tim is on top, he is a terror as the Fit NHB fighter shows superb catch-like controls. From his excellent top pressure, submissions setups, and strike activity, Tim Means is all offense all the time. In the sport of MMA, you cannot discount anyone as Sabah has the skills to score on the big stage. That said, the division’s dark horse is a tall order as I see it hard for Sabah to make it out of the kitchen without being burned.

Official Pick: Means – Inside the distance

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Garbrandt def. Mizugaki
  • Pennington def. Phillips
  • Lobov def. Avila
  • Casey def. Markos
  • Magny def. Larkin
  • Covington def. Griffin
  • Vettori def. Uda

Recommended Plays:

Draft Kings recommended rosters:

 

Team #1: $50,000.00

-Colby Covington ($11,300.00)
-Tim Means ($10,900.00)
-Cody Garbrandt ($10,300.00)
-Marvin Vettori ($8,800.00)
-Glover Teixeira ($8,700.00)

Team Summary:

For my first Draft Kings roster, I went with the high-tier favorites of Colby Covington, Tim Means, and Cody Garbrandt as my picks. Colby Covington is a solid pick on this card as he welcomes UFC newcomer Max Griffin. Although Griffin’s all-action stylings have earned him titles and attention on the regional circuit, he has not faced nor shown the high-caliber of grappling that will likely take place in this match. Despite Covington being the highest priced pick of the litter, I feel it is for good reason as he has the exact tools & approach for finding a finish here.

For my second pick, I went with Tim Means as I like his chances of finding the finish against Sabah Homasi. For reasons stated in the breakdown above, I feel Tim’s high-pressure striking acumen will force a finish of some sort to come to fruition. For the final favorite, I went with Cody Garbrandt as I believe he is a stylistically difficult matchup for Mizugaki. Carrying the highest average points on Draft Kings for this card at 93.375, I feel that Garbrandt is a steal at the $10,300.00 listing price.

For my lower-tier picks, I elected to go with Marvin Vettori and Glover Teixeira. Another prospect from the Italy’s budding MMA scene, Marvin Vettori is coming off his 2nd camp with Kings MMA in California. Fresh off a submission win over BJJ Black Belt & UFC Vet Igor Araujo, I like Vettori’s stylistic chances against Alberto Uda, who is a decade his elder and fighting at welterweight for the 1st time. Finally, I capped off this team with Glover Teixeira for the reasons listed in the breakdown above. Quietly the 3rd highest scorer on the card at 87.35, I feel that the durable Teixeira makes for a solid choice to fill out the bottom end of your roster.

Team #2: $50,000.00

-Colby Covington ($11,300.00)
-Tim Means ($10,900.00)
-Cody Garbrandt ($10,300.00)
-Nate Diaz ($9,200.00)
-Mike Perry ($8,300.00)

Team Summary:

For my second Draft Kings team, I ended up going with the same high-tier picks as my 1st recommended roster. Although there is flexibility with your mid to high-tier choices, I feel Colby Covington, Tim Means, and Cody Garbrandt make solid picks for the reasons stated above. As for my low-tier picks, I elected to go with Nathan Diaz and Mike Perry.

Regardless of what the Vegas odds say, I am of the hardcore majority who feel that Nate Diaz is tough stylistic matchup for Conor McGregor (as I list my reasons in the breakdown above). As a main event participant with the propensity to find a finish, I feel Nate makes for a solid supporting cast member at $9,200.00.

For my final pick, I elected to go with Mike Perry despite officially picking Hyun Gyu Lim. As stated in my breakdown above, this is a welterweight war with heavyweight intangibles. Although Lim is the bigger and more experienced man, Perry’s athleticism and one-shot stopping power will be at play given his Korean opposition’s inherent recklessness. At the low price of $8,300.00, Perry can be used to round out those high priced and heavy hitting lineups.

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Colby Covington by Submission: +295 (0.5 Unit)
-Cortney Casey by Decision: +273 (0.5 Unit)
-Tim Means by Submission: +420 (.25 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Tim Means
-Colby Covington
-Raquel Pennington

Fights to avoid:

-Hyun Gyu Lim vs Mike Perry
-Neil Magny vs Lorenz Larkin
-Artem Lobov vs Chris Avila

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

*This breakdown is in memoriam to Rick Budo. An MMA hardcore who touched many in the short time he was here. Rest in peace, Rick. #JunkieNation

Budo

 

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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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