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UFC 206: Holloway vs. Pettis Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Max Holloway (16-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 25 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Ricardo Lamas (6-4-16)
  • Camp: Hawaii Elite MMA (Waianae, HI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Excellent

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   6 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   3 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Manages distance well
+   Superb feints & footwork
^   Moves laterally / attacks off angles
+   Excellent shot selection & variety
+   Improved wrestling (82% TD defense)
+   Deceptively counter-clinches/grapples
^   Strikes well of the breaks
+   Underrated ground game
^   Dangerous submissions in transition

 

Anthony Pettis (19-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 29 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Charles Oliveira (8-27-16)
  • Camp: Roufusport (Milwuakee, WI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Lightweight Champion
+   WEC Lightweight Title
+   9 KO victories
+   7 Submission wins
+   12 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Athletic & agile
+   Good footwork & feints
+   Improved boxing
^   Accurate counter cross
+   Diverse kicking game
^   Dangerous body attacks
+   Improved wrestling ability
+   Active from the bottom
^   Slick submission setups

Summary:

Serving as the newly minted main event for UFC 206, Max Holloway will take on Anthony Pettis for an interim featherweight title. With the UFC long having a holdup atop the featherweight division, the organization has seemingly stripped Conor McGregor of his belt, which will now go to Jose Aldo who awaits this fight’s winner. For Max Holloway, this is a chance to cement his status amongst the top of the division as he is riding the wave of a 9-fight winning streak. For Anthony Pettis, this is a chance to fast-track his goal of holding gold in two divisions as this will be the former champion’s second fight at 145-pounds.

As their on-paper stylings would suggest, I suspect the majority of this fight will be on the feet. Although both men are highly skilled strikers, I believe the former lightweight champ should have a slight edge within the kicking realm. Coming from a Tae Kwon Do base, Anthony Pettis has been able to bring in a spectacular array of kicking attacks into the cage. Balancing out his traditional stylings under the tutelage of Duke Roufus, we have seen Pettis round out his attacks with punches and feints to help set up his fight-ending kicks. As flashy as some of the kicks on his highlight reel may be, Anthony’s body kick is probably his best tool as he can unload them from either stance.

Although Anthony’s ability to read and react to his opposition is impressive, he will have all he can handle in trying to get a beat on the consistently moving Hawaiian. Showing solid striking and footwork fundamentals since coming onto the scene, we saw Max Holloway turn a corner in his Cub Swanson fight. Now demonstrating technical evolutions from fight-to-fight, Holloway is embracing his creativity and range in his movements and attacks. Subtly switching stances as he shifts laterally, Max will deceptively draw his opposition into reacting as he executes attacks that catch them off guard. Showing superb timing, Holloway will usually wait until his opposition is in mid-motion before attacking and angling off safely.

Despite Pettis being the more dangerous fighter at range, I feel that Holloway’s movement and ability to dictate distance may compromise the former champion’s shot selections. Max is also the more consistent striker both offensively and off of the counter as I see him having the advantage at boxing range. That said, the Hawaiian will need to mind the counter cross from Pettis, as that is his most accurate punch. Making measurable improvements to his boxing in the past few years, Anthony’s counter right-hand has been his most consistent weapon in both victory and defeat. Although Holloway is seldom caught clean or hurt, we saw him hit by hard counter crosses from Ricardo Lamas in his last bout as this may be worth looking out for in this fight.

Even though I do not see much of this match happening on the floor, I believe Anthony will be the man with more motive to take it there as he has the on-paper advantages. Long known for his attacks off of his back, Pettis has worked diligently on his wrestling with Izi Martinez in effort combat the top-pressure at the upper echelon of the sport. And though many may focus on Anthony’s shortcomings in said department, he has made measurable improvements to his overall wrestling fundamentals. In fact, the former champ has a decent reactive shot that may be worth watching for in this fight. That said, he will not have an easy time taking down Holloway as the Hawaiian has only been taken down 3-times in the past 3-years.

Considering how often the Hawaiian competes, that stat is especially impressive as Holloway only seems to get better from fight-to-fight. Not only does Max show the balance and defense to stuff takedowns, but he also shows an excellent awareness of how to conduct his hips and grips in close. Deceptively hand-fighting to counter clinches and grappling efforts, Holloway demonstrates a knack for striking off the break as this will be worth watching for in this fight. Pettis will also have to mind his behaviors off of failed shot attempts given what we saw in Max’s last time out. Having his takedown defense tested by one of the best grapplers in the division, Holloway would successfully thwart the shots of Lamas while re-wrestling his way to ride positions.

Where this road of potential possibilities begins to split for me is when looking at Pettis’ head movement. Although Anthony has made improvements in slipping at the end of combos, he still shows the defensive tendencies from his past. Coming from his aforementioned traditional martial arts base, Pettis tends to rely on his fleet-of-foot reactions and trunk movement to manage his defensive distancing. Against faster fighters like Rafael Dos Anjos or Edson Barboza, these tendencies translated into the former champion taking more shots than usual. Not only will Pettis have another fast-fighter on his hands in Holloway, but the Hawaiian is also longer with arguably better footwork as I see him dictating the terms of the action. Couple that with the accuracy of Max’s shot selection, and I ultimately see the Hawaiian stacking up the volume en route to a statement-making performance.

Official Pick: Holloway – Decision

 

Donald Cerrone (31-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 33 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Rick Story (8-20-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Multiple Muay Thai Titles
+   28-0 as a Pro Kickboxer
+   7 KO victories
+   16 Submission wins
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Intelligent strike setups
^   Feints, reads, and reacts
+   Devastating head kicks
+   Accurate & intercepting knees
+   Hard leg kicks
^   Most landed in UFC history
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Excellent transitional grappler
^   Favors triangle chokes
–    Head & posture often upright
^   Overhand & body shot availabilities

 

Matt Brown (20-15)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 35 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Jake Ellenberger (7-30-16)
  • Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver, CO)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 7 Alum
+   Regional MMA Title
+   13 KO victories
+   7 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   Relentless pace & pressure
+   Strong volume & variety
+   Deceptive fight IQ
^   Creates & capitalizes on scrambles
+   Excellent clinch striker
^   Dangerous elbows
+   Improved wrestling
+   Active guard game
^   Sets up submissions & sweeps
+   Scrambles well
–    Aggression allows for counters
^   Dropped/stunned in last 6/8 fights

Summary:

The co-main event in Toronto is a war of welterweight gunslingers as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone takes on Matt “The Immortal” Brown. Originally scheduled to face Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 205, Cowboy Cerrone was unfortunately pulled off the legendary card when his opponent failed to make weight. Now drawing a big slot against a name opponent, Cowboy will seek to make a statement to the division’s top-5 with a win here. Coming off the first TKO loss of his career, Matt Brown will look to get back on the horse as he attempts to halt Cerrone’s rise.

In the striking department, both fighter’s skills point to a potential Muay Thai maelstrom. With each man having unique advantages over each other, Cowboy should have the edge when striking at distance. Embracing his frame and kickboxing base, Cerrone does an excellent job of using teeps and legs kicks at range. Mixing in punches appropriately, Cowboy will draw out his opposition’s defenses to set up fight-ending head kicks. When his opponent tries to close-in on Cerrone’s preferred range, Cowboy will intercept them with accurate check-knees up the middle.

Despite these techniques working well against lighter weight fighters, Donald would need to upgrade his game to counter the pressure from bigger, stronger welterweights, and he did just that. Enter Brandon Gibson, the quiet storm in the striking department at Jackson-Wink MMA, as his help has shown in this recent iteration of Cerrone. Moving his head and torso offline and at angles, Cowboy will unload his punches with different mechanics than before–as he now has more of a presence inside the pocket. Often punching his way out of exchanges with his left-hook, Cerrone will feed his newfound flow it into his patent head kicks as his arsenal is much more symbiotic.

Even though Donald is showing a solid technical-renaissance, he will still need to mind the areas that have traditionally plagued him. Despite Cowboy’s improvements to his head movement, he still tends to get upright as this will typically open him up to overhands and body shots. Although Brown lacks the liver kicks that have shown to stop Cowboy in the past, he does have a left hook that he likes to throw in succession as he variates it well to the body. Matt also has an overhand right worth watching for, as we have seen him blitz and dust his opposition in the opening stanzas.

Despite Brown’s power and technique not being amongst the divisions’ best, his ability to pressure is second to none as I see that being a key factor for him in this fight. Willing to walk through a wood chipper, I suspect Brown will not be waiting around for Cowboy to find his rhythm and test his combos. Not only that, but I also feel that Brown will have his biggest striking edge inside the clinch. Treating the clinch like a butcher shop, Brown will utilize all the angles on his elbows to slice away at any available pieces of flesh his opponent leaves open. Mixing in knees, punches, and slick trips, Brown to could turn the tide of this fight in his direction should Cowboy allow him to overstay his welcome.

Even though Cerrone’s clinch game does not have as much of an offensive presence, he does a deceptively good job of maintaining his base and stifling his opponent as he looks to strike off the breaks. Even if Brown is successful in grounding Cowboy, I do not think ground stanzas will last long as I see Cerrone having the advantage. Despite Brown’s multi-faceted ground game, his aggressive eagerness has often cost him dominant positions as well as submission losses. Against a submission specialist like Cerrone who makes his money in transition, I do not like the Immortal’s odds when tangling with Cowboy. Considering that Cerrone has an underrated reactive shot, we could expect to see him explore possibilities on the floor.

From slow starts to southpaw pressure-fighters, Cerrone has conquered many of his traditional tropes since moving to welterweight. And although he has already topped two pressure fighters in Patrick Cote and Rick Story, he will be put to the ultimate test of pressure against a marauding Matt Brown. If Brown can close the distance and create the chaotic environment he thrives in, then we may see an eye-opening upset in the early rounds. That said, it is hard to side with Brown’s chances of not getting burned when seeing that he has been dropped or stunned in 6 of his last 8-fights. Ultimately, I see Cowboy coming out on top of what should be an entertaining gun fight.

Official Pick: Cerrone – Inside the distance

 

Cub Swanson (23-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 33 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Tatsuya Kawajiri (8-6-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   11 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Good footwork & movement
^   Stance-switches, shifts, & darts
+   Creative offensive flow
^   From boxing to cartwheel kicks
+/-Often keeps a low standing guard
^   Heavily reliant on head movement
+   Underrated wrestling ability
^   Improved hips, frames, & fundamentals
+   Solid transitional grappler
^   Works well from topside

 

Doo Ho Choi (14-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 25 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Thiago Tavares (7-8-16)
  • Camp: Gumi MMA (Korea)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   12 Fight winning streak
+   11 KO victories
+   1 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Deceptive hand & foot speed
+   Excellent footwork
^   Rarely out of position
+   Preternatural reactive instincts
^   Insanely accurate shot selection
+   Times & intercepts opposition
+   Superb sense of hips & base
^   Sprawls & floats effectively
+   Good transitional ground game
^   Chains submissions to get-ups

Summary:

In a featherweight fight that has hardcore fans salivating, Cub Swanson squares off with Doo Ho Choi. Coming off of a three-round thriller with Tatsuya Kawajiri earlier this year, Cub Swanson seeks to add to his winning streak as he attempts another run toward the top. Standing in Cub’s way will be the fast-rising Doo Ho Choi. One of the most touted prospects to come out of the Asian scene in quite some time, Choi has met all expectations and more since coming to the big show. With getting his wish to fight Cub Swanson, the Korean Super Boy will now face his most dangerous test to date.

Starting off on the feet is an interesting predicament between two skilled-strikers. One man prefers to bait offense and counter, whereas the other likes to use offense to open up counter-opportunities of his own. One of the organization’s more prolific offensive artists, Swanson shows all the attributes you would want in an action-fighter. Although his movements may seem sporadic at times, there is a method to Cub’s madness as he seldom moves against momentum.

Whether he is shifting his stance to throw liver kicks from southpaw or darting off of his favored lead right-hand, Swanson is ultimately looking to initiate the reactions that will allow for his opposition to open themselves up inadvertently. Working with Yoel Diaz for many years, Swanson’s boxing influence shines through in his follow-up punches as he variates brilliantly to the body. That said, I feel that Swanson’s kicking arsenal may come in handy with this particular matchup.

Accurately prodding with inside and outside leg kicks, Cub could certainly test the checking abilities of his South Korean counterpart. That said, he will, of course, need to be weary of the counters Choi keeps at the ready. However, the Korean Super Boy often leans heavily to his left side so that he can stay loaded for his preferred choices of counter shots. This tendency could put Choi in line with Swanson’s attacks from that side, as Cub throws a cartwheel kick off his offensive flow with surprising fluidity.

But, as impressive as Swanson’s arsenal can be, his reliance on being the speedier man could get him burned against a counter striker of this caliber. An unassuming, smirking assassin, Choi operates his overall game with preternatural instincts that are downright spooky. Despite staying close for conservative standards, Choi keeps a measured distance as he hangs just outside of range. Moving deceptively well, Choi maintains his feet beneath him as he will utilize feints to draw out his opposition’s attacks.

Only needing but one or two bites to get a beat on his opponent’s timing, the South Korean will then accurately intercept his oncoming foe with jab-cross-hook variations. Should Choi successfully counter Cub early, we could see him disrupt Swanson’s rhythm and seriously shift the momentum of this match. Even though Cub should have the on-paper advantage on the floor being the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, I doubt we will see much ground time given each fighter’s trends.

Despite Swanson arguably having more of a motive to take this party to the floor, he has only clocked 7-takedown attempts in his last 22-rounds of fighting. Cub will also have to be careful when shooting for takedowns given that Choi is exceptional at intercepting his opposition with knees and uppercuts. The South Korean also displays deceptively effective defense when thwarting takedowns, as I suspect he may make things difficult for Swanson.

Demonstrating an awareness of his opposition’s takedown range and intentions, Choi keeps his hips at the ready as he possesses a strong sprawl. Floating from the top position opportunistically, the South Korean maintains a solid sense of things as he seldom commits himself unnecessarily. Utilizing subtle but effective grip-fighting, Choi disrupts his opposition’s attempts to re-wrestle while dropping bombs from a comfortable cruising altitude(as seen in his fight with Nagakura). Even when the Korean Super Boy is taken down, Choi has demonstrated in past bouts that he is no slouch from here.

Displaying a solid transition game, Choi will intelligently chain together his submission attempts into sweeps or standups. Showing off deceptively strong hips, the Korean pops up with the immediacy and ease of a wrestler. In his last bout, we saw Choi effectively utilize the cage to get back to his feet against a veteran fighter, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt in Thiago Tavares. With the young Korean’s fight-to-fight improvements, ground stanzas will certainly be interesting, even if they are brief. Considering both men’s nature to scramble and stand, I do not expect grappling exchanges to last long no matter who ends up on top.

Where this road of potential chaos becomes clearer to me is when looking at Swanson’s tendencies. Even when at his best, Cub tends to keep his hands low as he relies heavily upon his speed and reaction times. These instincts have cost Cub in the form of strikes and scorecards when facing technically proficient strikers who have a good grasp of timing(Holloway, Edgar, & Stephens). Against a fighter that is possibly more precise and powerful than those aforementioned, Swanson could very well find himself in the fire as I see the Korean Super boy scoring big.

Official Pick: Choi – Inside the distance

 

Tim Kennedy (18-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 37 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Yoel Romero (9-27-14)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Army Combative LHW Champion
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   8 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   Heavy hands
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Coming forward & countering
+   Underrated wrestling ability
^   Solid takedowns & shot defense
+   Excellent top control
^   Smothers, strikes, submits
+   Superb scrambles & get-ups
+   Strong inside the clinch
–    1st fight in 25 months

 

Kelvin Gastelum (12-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 25 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Johny Hendricks (7-9-16)
  • Camp: Kings MMA (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 17 Winner
+   Wrestling State Champ
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   5 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   High pressure approach
^   Good volume & combinations
+   Improved boxing
^   Accurate R. hook—L. cross
+   Hard left body kick
+   Solid scrambling ability
^   Always looks for back
+/-Willingness to trade
^   Counter availabilities

Summary:

In an interesting fight in the middleweight division, Tim Kennedy makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum. Originally slated to face Rashad Evans at UFC 205, medical issues forced the former champion off the card, leaving Kennedy without a dance partner in New York. With Toronto following suit in denying Evans a license, Kelvin Gastelum will now step up to his new home of 185-pounds. After failing to make weight at UFC 205, Kelvin will be looking to take a step closer to redeeming himself with a big win against America’s finest.

In one of the most intangible filled fights on the card, it can be tricky when trying to get a beat on how this one will unfold. Although I do agree with Kennedy being favored to win, I feel that Kelvin is more than a live dog here. With weight issues plaguing the majority of his UFC career, it is easy to get lost in the negative narrative of Gastelum when initially assessing his chances in a fight. However, when looking closer at his actual career, Kelvin’s only losses are two split decision’s to top competition that could have gone his way. One of which was to the current champion, Tyron Woodley, in a fight where Kelvin was sick and hospitalized within 24-hours of the event.

That said, Tim Kennedy may be one of his toughest tests stylistically in quite some time. A strong middleweight who is not deterred easily from his tasks, Tim may be able to put Kelvin in positions we have yet to see him in inside of the Octagon. A tactical fighter, Tim will tailor his approach to his opponent as the former sniper stays focused on his objectives. Considering he has a ground advantage on paper, I suspect we may see Kennedy look for takedowns early and often as he did in his fights with Michael Bisping and Melvin Manhoef. Considering that Kelvin has been taken down in 5 of his last 7-fights, it is hard to deny Tim’s chances in grounding Gastelum.

However, Kelvin may not be as easy to takedown as the statistics suggest. Although Tim is not shy in committing himself to his shots off punches, he is most effective when he can get his opposition to the cage. In Gastelum’s fight with Neil Magny, we saw Kelvin surprisingly taken down from the fence multiple times in their match. Even though Magny’s long frame undoubtedly helped his leverage, Neil was ultimately able to work takedowns off of high under-hooks in a similar fashion that Tim likes to score. That said, we saw Kelvin show improvements to this area in his last fight with Johny Hendricks.

Utilizing high and tight over-hooks, Gastelum was able to thwart Johny’s attempts against the fence. Using his free hand to disrupt grips and retain under-hooks, Kelvin was able to reverse position and separate on multiple occasions. Although it will be interesting to see if he can stuff Tim’s attempts, it will be even more interesting if Tim can get Gastelum down. With both men scrambling well, ground stanzas should be fun as each fighter consistently hustles for position. That said, Kennedy has a smothering top game that could prove to be the antithesis for Kelvin’s style of grappling.

Whether Tim is hanging heavy in half-guard or grapevining into his mounts, he leaves little room for rebudle as his transitions are air-tight. Regardless of who is on bottom, both men tend to turtle out when standing, which makes things intriguing when you consider that they both are proficient back takers. Although I can see Tim winning a dogfight within this realm, it is on the feet where my opinions begin to sway. Despite Kennedy being able to do a little bit of everything standing up, he tends to revert to fighting along the outside of the cage when his initial attacks fail.

Although Kennedy is accurate with his counter shots, hanging out along the outside of the fence could ultimately play into Kelvin’s hand as he does his best work when his opponents are in this space. An inherent pressure-fighter, we have recently started to see Gastelum’s skills come to fruition under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA. Having a history of transforming southpaw grapplers into dangerous pressure-fighting strikers, Cordeiro has seemingly imparted the same knowledge to Kelvin as he now incorporates crushing kicks to his already potent punches.

Staying in the Southern California scene, we have also seen Kelvin make measurable improvements to his boxing and footwork. In his last fight, we saw Gastelum pivot more off of his right hand which allowed him take superior angles and get the jump on Johny. In fact, I feel Kelvin’s right hand will be a key factor in this fight. Tim’s last two losses come to hands of southpaws who were both able to drop him with leaping right hooks. Considering that a leaping right hook is Kelvin’s most consistent and accurate strike, this could be a shot worth looking for on the feet.

That said, the biggest intangible in the striking department will be the potential improvements of Kennedy. Although two years out of competition is troublesome no matter who you are, Tim Kennedy has not exactly been inactive as his background certainly gives him some competitive edges. Tim has also spent a lot of time under the tutelage of Brandon Gibson over the years, which I feel is also worth noting. However, if Kennedy cannot establish himself early on the feet or floor, Kelvin’s output and pressure could turn into a runaway train that earns him scorecards standing. Ultimately, I recommend caution in playing what is one of the harder fights to call on the card.

Official Pick: Gastelum – Decision

 

Jordan Mein (29-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 27 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Thiago Alves (1-31-15)
  • Camp: Canadian Martial Arts Centre (Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Amateur MMA Accolades
+   16 KO victories
+   7 Submission win
+   19 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Good footwork
^   Will switch stances
+   Solid boxing technique
^   Puts together punches well
+   Accurate left hook
^   Variates well to the body
+   Excellent clinch striker
^   Elbows, knees, & dirty boxing
+   Improved grappling & sub defense
+   Active ground striker
+   Competent takedown ability
+/-1st fight in 23 months

 

Emil Meek (8-2-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 28 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Rousimar Palhares (5-21-16)
  • Camp: Frontline Academy (Norway)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Venator Welterweight Champion
+   7 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   5 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Solid boxing technique
^   Puts together punches well
+   Good head movement
^   Changes level & rolls well w/punches
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Deadly knees, elbows, & dirty boxing
+   Competent takedown ability
^   Explosive double-leg
?   Questionable overall ground game
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Counter availabilities
+/-UFC Debut

Summary:

Kicking off the main card is a firefight as the returning Jordan Mein welcomes Emil Meek to the UFC. Despite his young age, Jordan Mein has been competing in professional MMA since high school as the young gun comes from a fighting family. Retiring after a loss to Thiago Alves almost 2-years ago, Mein will make his return to a mainstage spot as he attempts another ascension up the ranks. Seeking to spoil the homecoming is Emil Meek. Despite Meek being a year older with a fourth of Mein’s experience, the Nordic fighter has stormed the European scene as he now sets his sights on the UFC.

Coming off of a 45-second dusting of former UFC welterweight Rousimar Palhares, Meek made himself known to many as that win put him on the international radar. Although his record is lacking in name value, Emil carries raw, but impressive abilities to go along with a particular type of confidence that draws comparison to Conor McGregor. Despite the ferocity and aggression that often opens up his finishes, Emil shows a surprising amount of technique in his boxing. Prodding with jabs just outside of range, Meek is not shy in exploding forward with cross-hook variations.

Changing his level on feints as well as attacks, Emil demonstrates some solid head movement when he is not going in for the kill. Even when throwing his crosses from the rear, Meek rolls fluidly off of them which typically clears his head from check hook counters. Considering who Emil is facing, these head movements will be crucial for the aggressively advancing Nordic fighter. Although Mein is known for his hooks, it is the diversity in his setups that make him so dangerous. Often switching to southpaw, Mein throws accurate check-hooks from both stances as he pivots appropriately. Given Emil’s pressure-fighting sensibilities, I suspect Mein to lean heavily on his crafty counters in this match.

Never bashful in going to the body, Jordan will variate his hooks with impunity when he senses his opponent is hurt. Even though the Canadian has an aggressive killer instinct and approach, Mein’s technical craft and experience has seemingly molded him into a stick-and-move stylist. Typically prefering to play just outside of range, Jordan will steadily apply pressure as he looks to establish his timing and rhythm. That said, Jordan has traditionally struggled with maintaining his process when pitted against fighters who are not afraid to pressure, as he will need to keep his cool as the likely Matador in this matchup.

Where the striking exchanges get even more interesting is when entering the clinch space. Despite both fighters being effective with similar weapons, Mein is much more technical as he wields wicked elbows that will be worth watching for anytime these two get close. Although more brutish, Emil is equally effective in close range with his dirty boxing and knees. Getting creative with angles, Meek showed us in his last fight that he can get it done with elbows as well. With the clinch fighting also being difficult to forecast, I can only promise that this storm will be violent for as long as it lasts.

If Mein fails to put out the appropriate fires on the feet, we may see him explore his on-paper advantages on the floor. Even though Jordan seldom shoots for takedowns, he does work well from a head-outside single as he shows competent chains from that position. That said, those type of takedowns typically exposes the neck, which in turn could open up a Guillotine choke. Although there is not a huge sample-size on Meek’s ground game, he seems to be strong from the front headlock as he owns Guillotine wins on his professional and amateur record.

Although I do not usually side with the fighter who is making their UFC debut, Meek shows the type of intangibles in his attitude and abilities that play potent parts in a successful debut. Not only that, but I feel that Emil also presents a stylistic matchup that has traditionally troubled Mein. Despite Jordan being much more technically refined, shaking off ring rust and reestablishing rhythm can be tough to do when facing a pressure-fighting madman with crushing power. If you are considering a play on this fight, then I recommend you sprinkle lightly as this shootout can go either way.

Official Pick: Meek – Inside the distance

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Cirkunov def. Krylov
  • Dober def. Aubin-Mercier
  • Letourneau def. Pereira
  • Gagnon def. Lopez
  • Vannata def. Makdessi
  • Khabilov def. Saggo
  • Makovsky def. Ortiz

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

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UFC on Fox: Emmett vs Stephens – Breakdown and Predictions

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UFC returns to Fox with an exciting card full of up-and-coming talent, crafty veterans, and a main event featuring two of the featherweight division’s most powerful punchers. While the card seems to lack some star power, it holds some interesting and exciting match-ups. The co-main event features two of the best women’s 115ers in the world both vying for a shot at the title as Jéssica Andrade takes on Tecia Torres. In the main event, knock-out artist and division staple Jeremy Stephens takes on the young and hungry Team Alpha Male product Josh Emmett. A great main event to head off a solid Fox card, and now onto the breakdown.

Mike Perry vs Max Griffin

This fight should be fun for as long as it lasts, but don’t bet on it lasting too long. Mike Perry is one of the hardest hitters in the UFC’s welterweight division. Griffin can bang too, but Perry’s just a different animal in that department. The good news for Griffin is that there’s already a pretty decent blueprint on how to beat Perry; pick him apart from the outside and don’t brawl with the guy. The bad news is Griffin is a brawler at heart, which isn’t gonna do him any favors against a superior striker like Perry.

Mike Perry is one of the most marketable guys in the UFC’s crowded 170 pound division. Priority number 1 for the UFC is to get Perry back on the winning track. And Max Griffin is the perfect man for the job. Both men will come forward throwing heaters until someone goes down, and chances are that someone is gonna be Griffin. Perry is just too powerful, and unless Griffin can keep Perry on the outside early it’s gonna be a short night for ‘Pain’.

Prediction: Mike Perry by 1st Round KO

Ovince Saint Preux vs Ilir Latifi

Nobody has ever beaten Ovince Saint Preux. OSP beats himself. He’s sloppy, has terrible technique, and is almost always behind on the scorecards. Yet somehow he continues to score victories over the 205’s elite, most of the time in spectacular fashion. It is insane. Latifi is a more complete fighter, with solid boxing and a strong wrestling game to fall back on. Latifi tends to favor the stand-up, but against a big, powerful guy like OSP, that might not be the best idea.

The big question here is; how is Latifi going to approach this one? Striking with the big man is risky due to his monstrous power and 7 in. reach advantage. Wrestling is a safer option, however Ovince is not an easy man to hold down. Latifi’s best bet is to make it ugly. Grind Ovince up against the fence and dirty box the s**t out of him. Then once he’s good and tired, take him down to ice the round. Sure it’s not the most entertaining style, but if it works it works.

Prediction: Ilir Latifi by Decision

Jessica Andrade Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Jéssica Andrade vs Tecia Torres

After seeing her completely demolish two-time title challenger Cláudia Gadelha, I was confident picking Andrade over anyone in the division (not named Joanna of course). But after giving it some serious thought, I think Torres might just be the one to bring down the Brazilian brawler, think about it. Joanna was able to keep Andrade away with her jab for the better part of 25 minutes. And while Torres is no Joanna, she’s still an excellent striker with wins over some solid opposition.

Andrade has made vast improvements since her loss to then champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk. This was evident in the Gadelha fight. The same can be said for the ever-improving Torres, whose only loss in mma was to current champion Rose Namajunas (a woman she’s beaten in the past). This truly is one of the most high-level women’s match-ups in recent memory, but I believe the kickboxing of Torres will be enough to keep Andrade on the outside, securing Torres her fourth straight win and possibly a title shot.

Prediction: Tecia Torres by Decision

Josh Emmett vs Jeremy Stephens

Josh Emmett made waves last year, knocking out perennial contender Ricardo Lamas on short-notice in Winnipeg. While impressive, it’s worth noting that this was the first finish of Emmett’s UFC career and he missed weight for the bout (weighed in at 148.5). Stephens on the other hand just scored a vicious knock out over featherweight prospect Doo Ho Choi. This was Stephens’ first finish since July of 2015 when he flying knee KO’d Dennis Bermudez. On paper, this looks like it will be a barn-burner, on paper.

Stephens has struggled against good wrestlers in the past, most recently Frankie Edgar at UFC 205. And Frankie is small for the weight class, unlike Emmett who fought the majority of his career up at lightweight. I give Jeremy the edge in the striking department, but Emmett has some wicked power at 145. If it stays on the feet it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. But if Emmett does the smart thing and takes Jeremy down often, we just might have a new top contender in the UFC’s stacked featherweight division.

Prediction: Josh Emmett by Decision

 

 

 

 

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GLORY: Redemption – Breakdown and Predictions

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

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

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

Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Nieky Holzken vs Alim Nabiyev

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

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

Prediction: Nieky Holzken by 1st Round TKO

 

Alex 'Po Atan' Pereira

Alex ‘Po Atan’ Pereira – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Alex Pereira vs Yousri Belgaroui

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

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

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

Prediction: Yousri Belgaroui by Unanimous Decision

 

Michael Dreamcrusher Duut

Michael ‘Dreamcrusher’ Duut – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Michael Duut vs Danyo Ilunga

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

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

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

Prediciton: Michael Duut by 3rd Round KO

 

Rico The King of Kickboxing Verhoeven

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

Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik

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

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

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

Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by 5th Round KO

All images used in this article are accredited to GLORY Kickboxing

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

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

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

 

Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson

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

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

Prediction: Michelle Waterson by 2nd Round TKO

 

Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

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

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

Prediction: Justin Gaethje by Split Decision

 

Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis

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

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

Prediction: Henry Cejudo by Unanimous Decision

 

Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou

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

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

Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision

 

 Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo 2

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

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

Prediction: Max Holloway by 2nd Round TKO

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