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UFC 209 Breakdown: The Main Card

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To complete the UFC 209 breakdown, we take a look at the stacked main card action to give insight as to how these fights could play out:

Tyron Woodley vs Stephen Thompson

The main event of the evening provides us with an eagerly awaited rematch between two of the UFC’s premier welterweights. Although their previous bout at UFC 205 provided much in the way of excitement, many left the fight with more questions than answers, as no definitive winner was crowned. Although Tyron Woodley left the Empire State that night just as he had entered, with the belt in hand, it was a majority draw that allowed him to do so. Hardly the most definitive of statements to kick-off his reign as champion. Despite dominating the most memorable portions of the bout and almost earning a finish in round 4, which saw him pick up a 10-8 round on the judges’ scorecards. It was Thompson who got the nod in rounds 2,3, & 5, making the fight a draw and ultimately earning the right to challenge “The Chosen One” for his title once again at a later date.

Strikers of the caliber of Stephen Thompson are few and far between in mixed martial arts. With a plethora of high-level kickboxing experience under his belt, the man they call “Wonderboy” poses a unique threat, the likes of which has seldom been seen in the UFC. Many fighters seem perplexed when tasked with fighting the dynamic striker, which was obvious during his ascension to the number one contender spot at welterweight.

Although not the fastest, Wonderboy is a very accurate and diverse striker, he looks to employ a dangerous kicking game from the southpaw stance. With his main weapons from southpaw being his quick lead leg hook kick, which wobbled Jake Ellenberger. And his lead leg side kick which stung Johny Hendricks, as he mixed things up intelligently, punishing both body and head of the former welterweight champion. Looking to adopt a more punch oriented strategy, the orthodox stance is where Wonderboy will look to land punches, particularly the right straight as a counter. Thompson will keep his hands low and dip his head slightly forward in an attempt to bait his opponent into thinking they are in striking range. This strategy is a high-risk one against a powerful puncher like Tyron Woodley, as it relies heavily on head movement and Wonderboy has been hurt in previous fights where he has been caught circling out with his hands low.

Tyron Woodley’s right hand is the key weapon in his arsenal, a fact which Stephen Thompson knows all too well as he was on the receiving end of two in the 4th   round of their previous bout, both of which left him on the canvas. Should Thompson look to blitz forward with punches against Woodley like he has in the past, a right-hand counter may well be awaiting him. “The Chosen One” is one of the most naturally powerful athletes in the sport today, with four first round knockouts in just nine bouts since joining the promotion back in 2013.

The offensive threat Tyron Woodley poses has never been in question, it is his defensive choices inside the cage that sometimes land him in trouble. Most notably his habit of backing himself on to the cage, which invites forward pressure from the opponent but leaves little opportunity in the way of backward movement for him. And although he has shown good lateral movement, Rory Macdonald exploited this by mixing things up with jabs to the body and head which caused Tyron to be hesitant while in defensive mode on the cage. This was also key in his first meeting with Thompson, despite never being in danger, it allowed Wonderboy to control the center and win rounds. Should Woodley neglect this hole in his game, it could well cost him.

If the fight should hit the ground, it would undoubtedly be Tyron Woodley who holds the advantage, as we seen in their previous outing where he was able to inflict damage from top control in round one after catching a kick. It would be wise of Woodley to make more of an effort this time to get the fight to the ground, perhaps by attacking the lead leg of Thompson with kicks to slow him, and then working for a takedown. Wonderboy has shown good improvements on the ground, but Woodley is clearly the superior wrestler both technically and physically.

If their first bout is anything to go by, this will be a hotly contested fight. Should Tyron Woodley choose to make some strategical changes and employ a wrestling oriented game-plan, I believe he will have great success. While Wonderboy is always a threat, I believe Woodley will emerge victorious this time. The over 2.5 rounds would also be an intelligent play in this position as both men are very durable.

Pick: Woodley via Decision


 

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson

In what many are calling one of the most intriguing match-ups in the history of the sport, unbeaten Khabib Nurmagomedov will look to extend his winning streak to 25 as he meets “El Cucuy” Tony Ferguson, a fighter who is 15-1 in the UFC and currently enjoying a 9 fight win streak of his own. Few have had careers as dominant as The Eagle, going 8-0 in the UFC in a seemingly effortless showcase of his grappling prowess, with dominant victories over Abel Trujillo, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Michael Johnson. Since his 2012 defeat at the hands of Michael Johnson, Tony Ferguson has shown marked improvements in all facets of his game, blossoming into an offensively creative striker with a clinical repertoire of chokes at his disposal should the fight hit the ground.

A much more diverse striker with power in both hands, it is on the feet where Tony Ferguson will look to pressure the Russian with constant forward movement and unorthodox set-ups, a style almost synonymous with “El Cucuy” in recent years. Well, the striking of Khabib is serviceable, it serves mostly as a means of creating an opportunity for a takedown, often waiting until his opponent has their back to the cage before unloading with wild strikes in an effort to create an opening and grab a leg. It might be wise of Ferguson to utilize his powerful long jab & straight which we saw him use at times against Rafael Dos Anjos, this is a key weapon against the smaller man, over who he will enjoy a 6” reach advantage, as it will keep him out of range for a takedown whilst also scoring points.

Should “El Cucuy” choose to get wild, as he has been known to do in the past, it could well be his downfall. His Tendency to spin could afford Nurmagomedov the opportunity to take him down, and should the Russian end up on top, it would be no easy task shaking him off, even for a grappler of Ferguson’s caliber. Tony’s tendency to square up while striking could also prove key in this fight, as it would provide the Russian with a clear opening to shoot on his legs. Should “El Cucuy” hope to keep this on the feet, this is something he must avoid at all costs, choosing to adopt a conventional stance would benefit him a great deal more as he has been effective in the past with a boxing oriented strategy.

If his career in the UFC to date has taught us anything, it is that Khabib Nurmagomedov will look take the fight to the canvas at any opportunity. The constant forward momentum of Ferguson could actually benefit “The Eagle” here as he will undoubtedly be given multiple opportunities at a takedown, which could see Tony put on his back for large portions of the fight. Should Ferguson sprawl and avoid the takedown initially, we have seen how relentless Khabib is in the past as he will grab a single leg, push his opponent against the cage, and work for a takedown from there. Although there is an ever present danger of the D’Arce choke from “El Cucuy” as a counter to the takedown, it is unlikely that a grappler of Khabib’s experience will put himself in such a dangerous position.

Should the Russian get top control, it could spell major trouble for Tony. We have seen the smothering nature of Khabib’s top control in recent fights with Michael Johnson and Darrell Horcher, where neither man offered much in the way of resistance. While Ferguson is undoubtedly a handier grappler than the aforementioned duo, it would be unwise to afford top position to one of the game’s most devastating grapplers. When on top, Nurmagomedov is very active with strikes from half-guard where he will control the far wrist of his opponent, and will often look to pass to the mounted crucifix, a position from which he is utterly dominant. We have seen “EL Cucuy” put on his back in the past, and although he is clearly comfortable there, striking from unorthodox angles and threatening a tricky guard game, it would be in his best interest to keep this fight on the feet.

For Tony Ferguson to win this fight, he must offer up some form of resistance to the grappling of Khabib by sprawling and not allowing “The Eagle” to lock his hands when threatening a takedown, and if taken down, show the ability to get straight back to his feet. When on the feet, he would likely see great success should he choose to employ a boxing oriented style centered around the use of his long jab and straight, while choosing his spinning attacks sparingly. For Khabib it would seem the strategy is as it has always been, get the fight to the ground, and impose his will.

In what is one of the most intriguing match-ups in recent memory, it is impossibly difficult to be confident when picking a winner, although I am leaning towards Khabib, as I believe Tony will put himself in dangerous positions as he chooses to get wild and give “The Eagle” the openings he needs to capitalize and get the job done via grinding decision. Much like the main event, it would be wise to play the over 2.5 rounds as this fight could go the distance.

Pick: Khabib Nurmagomedov via Decision


 

Rashad Evans vs Daniel Kelly 

I believe Rashad is the far superior athlete and this is a fight which will likely restore some much-needed confidence, as he looks to put on a dominant display in his middleweight debut. Although Daniel Kelly has played spoiler before and could score the upset, it is hard to see a path to victory for him here as “Suga” is seemingly superior in all facets of the game, coupled with his championship experience against many of the sports greats, and this may well be a long night for the Australian.

Pick: Rashad Evans by KO/TKO


Lando Vannata vs David Teymur

Lando Vannata garnered a great deal of hype as a result of his impressive performance as a late replacement against Tony Ferguson in his UFC debut. Since then he has scored a spectacular wheel kick knockout over John Makdessi which served only to heighten his ever growing reputation amongst fans. Looking to rise up the ranks in what is arguably the UFC’s most talent-rich division is no easy task, and standing in his way will be Swedish striker David Teymur.

With both fighters primarily known for their prowess as strikers, it is highly likely that the majority of this fight will be contested standing up. Although both are similarly notorious for knockouts, they are quite different when it comes to their method of operation on the feet.

Lando Vannata is a very creative striker with a variety of spinning moves in his arsenal, but can also leave himself exposed defensively when on the attack. David Teymur, though still young in his MMA career, holds a wealth of experience in kickboxing which shows in his fighting style as he throws powerful kicks and has a quick left hand which he looks to counter with. Defensively, “Groovy” Lando Vannata relies heavily on head movement to avoid strikes and leaves his hands very low, which can become a problem, especially as he tires. Tony Ferguson capitalized on this as he was able to land quite a few jabs as Vannata faded and became very hittable. Teymur is much more conventional defensively as he keeps his hands high and despite being hit in previous fights with counters to his kicks, appears more defensively sound then Vannata.

Offensively, Teymur has a powerful arsenal of kicks which punish the head, body, and legs of his opponents. The counter left of the Swede is always a danger as he shown in his last outing against Jason Novelli, and should Vannata get lazy defensively this could prove important as Teymur settles well into the fight if given the chance. “Groovy” is a terrifically creative striker, his mobility and speed allow him to hit and get out of the way effectively. His use of the oblique kick to the leg acted as a good set up against Ferguson, as he used it numerous times to land the back fist. With power in both his hands and feet, Vannata is an offensive threat from almost any position on as was clear in his fight with John Makdessi as he landed a spectacular wheel kick KO. In a game of inches on the feet, this is an evenly matched contest which could go either way.

Should this fight hit the ground, it would appear that Vannata is the superior grappler. Although Teymur has shown the ability to escape from the bottom during his stint on the Ultimate Fighter, he still appears rather green on the ground, using strength to escape positions as opposed to technique. With four victories by way of submission “Groovy” is undoubtedly the more dangerous fighter on the canvas and should he decide to take the fight there it could well provide him with a path to victory.

Despite being very creative offensively, Vannata’s defense leaves a lot to be desired, which Teymur could exploit. In a fight as close as this, with odds this enticing, it would be wise to bet small on the underdog.

Pick: David Teymur via Decision


Alistair Overeem vs Mark Hunt:

Few heavyweights have more top level experience than Alistair Overeem, as he enters the octagon for what will be his 57th bout as a professional mixed martial artist since his career began back in 1999. His opponent, Mark Hunt also has a wealth of top-level experience as he returns to the UFC octagon for the first time since his controversial bout with Brock Lesnar at UFC 200. Both men will be eager to return to winning ways, as they look to climb the ladder once again in their quest for UFC heavyweight gold.

Since making the move to Jackson-Winkeljohn in 2014, “The Reem” seems completely reinvented as a fighter. Much more patient and calculated in the attack, Overeem poses a completely different threat nowadays, as opposed to the reckless juggernaut he once was. With defense and movement now clearly a priority for the Dutchman, he seems to have remedied many of the defensive shortcomings which cost him so dearly in the past.

Eagerly awaiting any opportunity to exploit a chink in the defensive armor of Alistair Overeem, “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt needs only one opening to finish the fight, as he will look to land the left hook or right hand which so many of his previous opponents have crumbled beneath.

With an 8” reach advantage, Overeem will no doubt look to employ a strategy heavily reliant on movement, which will allow him to fight at a range safe from danger. Look for him to make use of powerful low kicks, much like he did in fights with Junior Dos Santos and Roy Nelson, both opponents who lean very heavily on their lead leg. While Hunt himself has powerful low kicks, it is unlikely he will make use of them too much, for fear of being taken down.

Although “Super Samoan” has shown the ability to get out of range well with good footwork, he tends to slow in the later rounds and become quite hittable. Hunt’s habit of ducking his head very low could also prove a key factor, as Overeem is renowned for the power of his knees and closes distance frighteningly quick with them.

For “Super Samoan” to be victorious, he must stifle the momentum of Overeem early on and prevent him from fighting at a range and pace where he is comfortable. To effectively do this he must pressure the Dutchman by cutting off the cage and forcing him backward, much like Stipe Miocic did. When pressured against the cage, Overeem has a tendency to shell up, and against a striker as powerful as Mark Hunt that would be an unwise strategy. The left hook of Hunt is always a threat and should “The Reem” choose to get reckless as he has done in the past, it could see him in major trouble.

Should this fight hit the canvas, it is clearly the Dutchman who will hold the advantage. Although Hunt has shown great improvements on the ground and good ability to get up from the bottom, Overeem would certainly appear the far more polished grappler and would likely enjoy great success should he decide to take the fight there, particularly in the later rounds.

The power of Mark Hunt is always a danger, but the diverse attack and ground game of Overeem may prove too much for him.

Pick: Alistair Overeem by decision

 

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MMA Latest’s UFC 216 Betting Preview

Harry Davies

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The UFC returns to the fight capital of the world, as the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas hosts UFC 216, a fantastic PPV card with two title fights at the top of the bill.

Eight months after we were supposed to have one, an interim lightweight champion will be crowned on Saturday night. Top contenders Tony Ferguson (23-3) and Kevin Lee (16-2) will go to battle in the main event of UFC 216. Having polar opposite fight styles, this title fight will certainly be an intriguing contest.

Looking to break the record for the most consecutive title defenses on the night, UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1) faces #3 ranked Ray Borg (11-2). A conclusion that should have already been established, Borg pulled out of a scheduled bout with “DJ” at UFC 215 due to illness.

Amongst the title fights are a plethora of exciting match-ups, such as the heavyweight contest between Derrick Lewis and Fabricio Werdum, and the preliminary bantamweight bout between hot prospect Tom Duquesnoy and Cody Stamman. We bring you the best bets on the card to earn yourself an extra few quid or so.


Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis – Heavyweight Bout

Fabricio Werdum to win by Submission – 11/4 – SkyBet

The debate of who is the best BJJ practitioner in MMA is ongoing. Some say ‘Jacare’ Souza, some say Demian Maia, some say Werdum. “Vai Cavalo” is a master on the mat, and although he hasn’t racked up a submission win since defeating Cain Velasquez in June of 2015, we expect Werdum to submit Lewis on the night.

In Lewis’ last fight against the unyielding Mark Hunt, we saw what happened when someone could take “The Black Beast’s” best punches. By the third round, Lewis was exhausted and Hunt secured the TKO finish in the fourth.

Expect Lewis’ reckless ground game to be his downfall in this heavyweight contest. Given his size, he often finds himself just standing back up when underneath his opponent, this is where Werdum can capitalize and secure a submission of some sort to finish the fight.

Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg – Flyweight Title Fight

Demetrious Johnson by KO or Submission – 10/11 – Paddy Power

Would you be surprised if I told you that Demetrious Johnson has four finishes in his last six wins? Most would. The stigma surrounding ‘DJ’ is that he doesn’t finish fights, well the numbers don’t lie and we think we will see another finish from ‘Mighty Mouse’ this weekend.

From manhandling an Olympic gold medal wrestler in Henry Cejudo, to submitting an elite BJJ black belt in Wilson Reis, Johnson can do it all as he continues to improve fight after fight.

Given the weight cutting problems Borg has had in the past, it wouldn’t be surprising to see “The Tazmexican Devil” struggle to keep up with the pace Johnson fights at. Expect ‘DJ’ to break the record for most consecutive title defenses in style, perhaps in the later rounds.

Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee – Interim Lightweight Title Fight  

Total Rounds: Over 2.5 – 4/6 – Betfair

 

Lee on the other hand couldn’t be so different. His methodical and calculated approach to fighting contrasts that of the free-flowing Ferguson. It’s the first time Lee has been booked for five rounds in his career, whilst “El Cucuy” has already showed he can go 25-minutes at over 7000-feet in altitude.

Whilst Ferguson has tallied up a few first and second round finishes in his UFC career, expect the solidity of Lee to be his biggest asset in the fight. It’s unlikely we will have a foregone conclusion in the early rounds, so jump on these odds whilst you can.

Our longshot fourfold: Tom Duquesnoy, Lando Vannata, Beneil Dariush and Pearl Gonzalez – £5 returns £34.95 – Betway.

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BAMMA 30 – Full Fight Card, How to Watch and Betting Odds

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Tomorrow night BAMMA is back in Ireland for yet another cracking night of fights. This card will be aired live from start to finish providing non-stop action from about 6.30pm until about 10:30/11pm. The Prelim card will be available to view on the UNILAD Facebook page from 6:30 followed by the televised section of the card live on Dave from 9pm.

The event is of course taking place in the 3Arena, doors will open as early as 5pm for those attending the event that are eager to get there before the rest. For those looking to attend and still without tickets, there are still some available here.

For those looking to make a bit of money on the card, back our favourite fighter or maybe just chance your arm on a gut feeling you may have on one of the fights. BAMMA have now officially partnered with BetBright.com so here’s your chance.

Live odds currently stand at:
*Odds are subject to change*

Chris Stringer 9/2  v Niklas Stolze 1/20

Blaine O’Driscoll 1/10  v Harry Hardwick 7/2

Maciek Gierszewski 11/4  v Steve Owens 1/6

Ben Forsyth 6/4 v Matt Clempner 2/5

Henry Fadipe 3/1  v Ion Pascu 1/6

Decky Dalton 1/9 v Mick Brennan 4/1

Daniel Olejniczak 1/4  v Richard Kiely 2/1

Rhys McKee 5/6 v Richie Smullen 5/6

Daniel Barez 5/1  v Ryan Curtis 1/10

Aaron Kennedy 5/1  v Fabian Edwards 1/10

Paul Redmond 15/8 v Rob Sinclair 2/5

Alan Philpott 15/8 v Shay Walsh 1/3

BAMMA 30: Philpott Vs. Walsh Fightcard

Main Card – Live on Dave from 9 pm Main Event – BAMMA World Bantamweight Title: Alan ‘The Apprentice’ Philpott (16-9) Vs. Shay Walsh (16-4)

Co-Main Event – Lightweight Feature Bout: Rob ‘C4’ Sinclair (13-4) Vs. Paul ‘Redser’ Redmond (11-6)

Middleweight Bout: Fabian ‘The Assassin’ Edwards (1-0) Vs. Aaron Kennedy (Debut)

Lonsdale European Flyweight Title: Ryan ‘Chaos’ Curtis (4-0) Vs. Daniel Barez (7-4)

 

UNILAD Prelims – Live on UNILAD Facebook page from 6.30 pm

Lonsdale European Lightweight No.1 Contenders Bout: Rhys ‘Skeletor’ McKee (5-1) Vs. Richie Smullen (3-0)

Welterweight Bout: Ion ‘Bombardierul’ Pascu (15-7) Vs. Henry ‘Herculeez’ Fadipe (9-8-1)

Lightweight Bout: Ilkin “Monster / Hulkin’” Gasimov (4-1) Vs. Phillip ‘Honeybadger’ Mulpeter (7-5)

Welterweight Bout: Richard Kiely (1-0) Vs. Daniel ‘Obi Wan’ Olejniczak (1-0-1)

Welterweight Bout: Kiefer ‘BDK’ Crosbie (2-0) Vs. Dariusz Swierkosz (3-1)

Light Heavyweight Bout: Ben ‘Spider Monkey’ Forsyth (2-2) Vs. Matt Clempner (1-0)

Featherweight Bout: Decky ‘The Diamond’ Dalton (6-3) Vs. Mick ‘Basher’ Brennan (4-7)

Featherweight Bout: Arann McGuire (1-1) Vs. Dylan Logan (0-1)

Welterweight Bout: Steve Owens (2-0) Vs. Maciek Gierszewski (1-0)

Bantamweight Bout: Harry Hardwick (2-0) Vs. Blaine O’Driscoll (4-1)

*SWING BOUT*  Lightweight Bout: Niklas ‘Green Mask’ Stolze (8-2) Vs. Chris ‘The Menace’ Stringer (11-12-1)

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UFC Fight Night 107 Breakdown:

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Jimi Manuwa vs Corey Anderson

In a main event which was has come under a lot of criticism, two top ten ranked light heavyweights do battle as Corey Anderson takes on hometown favorite Jimi Manuwa at London’s O2 Arena.

With the hometown crowd in his favor, “Poster Boy” Jimi Manuwa will look to come out aggressively and push forward as he usually does with heavy low kicks and powerful punches. Possessing devastating power in both hands and feet, Manuwa will look to attack the legs of his opponent in an attempt to close range and deliver lethal hooks to either the body or head, much like we seen in the second round of his last outing against Ovince St. Preux.

Corey Anderson, a skilled boxer in his own right, prefers to employ a more calculated strategy which relies heavily on volume and movement as opposed to landing single heavy shots. With a clean jab and a snapping right straight to go along with it, “Overtime” will look to land an accumulation of straight shots from bell to bell, sometimes doubling up on the jab in an effort to set up his right and mask his takedowns. Whilst boxing may be Anderson’s biggest strength on the feet, he has also showcased powerful low kicks, particularly to the inside leg of a southpaw fighter. Despite the fact that Manuwa is not a southpaw, the utilization of low kicks could pay dividends for the American as he will look to stifle the forward momentum of “Poster Boy”.

With 14 finishes by way of KO or TKO, the power advantage is most certainly in the corner of Manuwa, something which could prove pivotal to his success on Saturday night. Despite being a fundamentally sound boxer, it is Anderson’s tendency to get hurt which has cost him dearly in the past. One need only cast an eye back to his 2016 bout with Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua, a fight in which ‘Overtime’ was enjoying great success, only to end up on the canvas at the end of rounds 1 & 2 after eating hard counter shots from the Brazilian, and end up on the losing end of a split decision. Should Manuwa get the opportunity to land cleanly on Anderson, it could spell the end for the American.

The wrestling of ‘Overtime’ could prove key in this bout as we have seen Manuwa taken down in the past. A decent defensive grappler “Poster Boy” will look to either get to the fence in an effort to get back to his feet or choose to lock his half guard down and wait for the referee to stand things up. The far superior wrestler, Anderson has an excellent double leg which he masks well with strikes and level changes. Once on top, the American will look to land strikes from half guard or side control, much like we seen in his most recent bout with Sean O’Connell. Expect ‘Overtime’ to land takedowns early in the fight as he looks to put ‘Manuwa’ on his back and neutralize the Brit’s colossal power.

The major question mark surrounding this fight will be whether or not Corey Anderson can withstand the offense of Jimi Manuwa for all five rounds, something which I feel he can not. I expect Anderson to dominate the early portion of this fight with superior wrestling, but feel that Manuwa will land at some stage and send the English crowd into raptures.

Pick: Jimi Manuwa Inside the Distance


Gunnar Nelson vs Alan Jouban

Iceland’s favorite son makes his return to the octagon this Saturday night as Gunnar Nelson takes on Alan Jouban in the co-main event of the evening. With both men coming off victories in 2016, this is a high-stakes bout which will have serious implications on the upper end of the 170-pound division.

A grappler of the highest order, Nelson has compiled a 6-2 record since joining the UFC. With 5 of them coming by way of submission it is no great mystery as to where his biggest strength lies. A well rounded and intelligent fighter, Jouban is at his most comfortable on the feet where he can utilize his sharp muay-thai, despite being a technically gifted striker, “Brahma” has a thirst for violence which he often looks to quench by engaging in wild brawls, a habit which has earned him successes and failures alike.

The 11 submission victories on the record of “Gunni” may lead you to believe that he is but a one trick pony, this, however, is not the case at all. With a karate base, the Icelander has a lightning quick right straight which he lunges forward with to close the distance and a serviceable kicking game to accompany it. Defensively, Nelson does tend to leave himself exposed, as he keeps his hands very low, relying on reflexes and speed as opposed to a more conventional method of defense. This can cause him problems as the fight progresses, which we saw against Rick Story, as Gunnar ate shots aplenty when he became tired in the latter rounds. Although the right hand of Nelson is a formidable weapon, his reliance on it can also become a hindrance when he fails to set it up, Story was able to time the right hand and return fire with multiple counter shots time and time again, something which was key to his victory. The addition of a left hook is something which Nelson has benefited greatly from in recent fights as it proved pivotal in victories over Brandon Thatch and Albert Tumenov, both of whom are dangerous strikers in their own right.

Despite gaining a reputation as a brawler, Jouban turned in a very mature performance last time out, as he put his feud with the brash Mike Perry to bed and emerged victorious via unanimous decision back at UFC on Fox 22.  Although his slow starts have gotten him in trouble in the past, when allowed to settle into the rhythm of a fight “Brahma” is a threat with his diverse repertoire of kicks and left straight from the southpaw stance, a punch which caused Perry a great deal of trouble and even left him on the canvas at one point. This could be an important weapon against Nelson as he primarily fights from an orthodox stance, meaning the opportunity to land the straight punch will be there for Jouban, just as it will be “Gunni”. Where Jouban excels is when he is given the opportunity to unload with strikes against an opponent with their back on the cage, much like we seen during his demolition of Brendan O’Reilly.

In terms of technical striking, Alan Jouban would appear the more diverse and dangerous, yet Nelson’s constant improvement on the feet leave a cloud of doubt over who may hold the advantage.

When debating who may have the advantage in the grappling department, things become a great deal clearer. Gunnar Nelson is one of the finest grapplers to ever grace the sport, as his record would suggest. Few are superior when it comes to MMA grappling than the stoic Icelander, eclipsed only maybe by Demian Maia, a man who handed him only his second career loss just two fights ago. Despite being on the losing end of a lopsided decision, Nelson gave a great account of himself when the success Maia has had since then is taken into account. For “Gunni” to take the fight south, he will attempt to bait Jouban forward, where he will then look to hit a reactive takedown by establishing a body-lock, and then looking for either an inside or outside trip. Although the American is a competent grappler who has never been submitted, his habit of starting slow coupled with Nelson’s grappling prowess could spell major trouble here.

Look for Nelson to get the takedown early, pass to mount, and soften Jouban up with strikes as he patiently awaits any opportunity to pounce on a submission.

Pick: Gunnar Nelson by Submission


Brad Pickett vs Marlon Vera

As the curtain closes on the career of Brad Pickett, few could have imagined a more fitting send-off for a true pioneer of the sport as he gets a chance at one last victory in front of an adoring home crowd. Standing in the Londoner’s way is a fighter at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of experience, at just 24 years of age Marlon ‘Chito’ Vera is still a developing prospect, but a win in enemy territory on Saturday night would do wonders for his progression.

The style of Brad Pickett is one which relies heavily on his boxing fundamentals, as the nickname “One Punch” would suggest. Often looking to incorporate a low calf kick as a set-up, the Londoners best weapons are his hooks to the body and head. Where the Brit has struggled most in the past has been at range, sometimes finding it difficult to get inside on the longer fighter, this was glaringly obvious in his bout with Cisco Rivera. Despite getting the nod from the judges, Pickett was forced to fight on the outside for large portions of the bout as Rivera kept him on the end of his straight shots. This inability to get inside can sometimes frustrate Pickett and force him to push forward in a reckless manner, something which has caused him a lot of trouble in recent fights as he can become quite hittable.

The range could be a key factor in this bout, as the preferred strategy of Marlon Vera on the feet is to sit on the outside and throw kicks in an effort to fully capitalize on his length. “Chito” will enjoy a 2.5” reach advantage over the Brit and as we have seen in the past, keeping Pickett at range is key to stifling his offense. Although Vera has looked a far more comfortable kicker than puncher in his UFC career so far, Pickett has been susceptible to counter hooks in the past, so it would be no surprise if we see an improved punching game from Vera on Saturday Night. “Chito” does tend to leave his back to the cage however though as he looks to strike from the outside, this could spell trouble against a puncher like Brad Pickett as it will allow him to cut the cage off and get inside on the taller man.

Offensively, the Englishman would appear the superior wrestler, should the fight hit the ground, though, Vera is notoriously tricky from his back as his long legs allow him to threaten with triangles and arm-bars. Despite being the better wrestler, Pickett may struggle to mount any substantial offense on the mat, as the Ecuadorian is very good at avoiding damage on the bottom by breaking the posture of his opponent and constantly threatening with submissions and sweeps. There is always the possibility that Pickett will grind out a decision by remaining busy on top, but against a grappler as tricky as “Chito” I feel that is an unlikely outcome.

The experience of Brad Pickett could serve him well here; I do however expect to see great improvements from Vera here as he proves too dynamic for the aging Brit.

Pick: Marlon Vera via Decision


 Arnold Allen vs Makwan Amirkhani

Two of featherweights finest prospects do battle as we kick off the main card with a much-anticipated bout between Arnold “Almighty” Allen and “Mr. Finland” Makwan Amirkhani.

A man with no shortage of confidence, the exuberant Makwan Amirkhani quickly captured the attention of fans and fighters alike as he burst on to the scene with an impressive eight-second victory over Englishman Andy Ogle. Hoping to fare better than his countryman this time out is Arnold Allen, who had a tricky task in his premiere UFC outing as he faced the experienced Alan Omer. Despite emerging victorious in the end, many believed he was well on his way to being handed a debut loss before locking up a guillotine in the final round. Both men have continued their winning ways since then and remain undefeated in the promotion, something which will stay true for only one come Saturday night.

With good boxing fundamentals and a solid kicking game, Arnold Allen is undoubtedly the cleaner of the two on the feet. Often looking to counter from Southpaw after slipping shots, “Almighty” has been susceptible to right straights in the past from opponents in the Orthodox stance, this was visible during his debut bout with Alan Omer as he ate a lot of straight shots early on. Although he did adapt well as the fight progressed by slipping and countering, it is still something of which to be wary. The threat of a right hand from Amirkhani will be almost non-existent, as he fights from a southpaw stance and uses his striking purely as a means of taking the fight to the floor. Should “Mr. Finland” get the fight to the ground, that is where he excels, something which his UFC career to date has highlighted.

The wrestling of Arnold Allen has looked much improved since making the move to Tri-Star, in the past “Almighty” has struggled when pressed against the cage, as he was held there for large portions against Alan Omer and Marcin Wrzsozek. This hole in his game seemed slightly remedied in his most recent outing against Yaozin Meza, as he was able to defend the takedowns of Meza on numerous occasions. Offensively, the Englishman is a competent wrestler who will use trips to take the fight to the canvas, but against a wrestler of the caliber of Amirkhani, it is doubtful he will seek any form of takedown.

So far in his UFC career, Makwan Amirkhani’s modus operandi has been simple, get the fight to the ground and use his superior wrestling to get the victory. Looking to take the fight south from the first bell, “Mr. Finland” will take any opportunity to shoot or grab a leg in what is a predictable yet effective offensive strategy. This has proved fruitful so far in his UFC career as both Masio Fullen and Mike Wilkinson have fallen victim to the Finns dominant wrestling. Most effective when on top, Amirkhani is a very patient and fluid grappler who will often wait for his opponent to move before committing himself. When in side control, he will often look for a crucifix or pass to mount. Although Allen has shown a good ability to get up in the past, he may struggle against a ground game as smothering as Amirkhani’s.

Should this one stay on the feet, Arnold Allen will likely enjoy great success as the technically superior striker, the big question mark, however, will be whether he can fend off the takedown attempts of “Mr. Finland”. Amirkhani tends to get caught in guillotines as he is shooting for takedowns, and as we have seen from Allen in his UFC debut, he needs just one opportunity to latch on to a neck. I do feel however though that the technical top game of Amirkhani will prove too much for the young brit, as he picks up the victory via decision.

Pick: Makwan Amirkhani via Decision

 


Preliminary Card:

Joe Duffy vs Reza Madadi: Joe Duffy*

Francimar Barroso vs Darren Stewart: Darren Stewart

Daniel Omielanczuk vs Timothy Johnson: Timothy Johnson

Vicente Luque vs Leon Edwards: Vicente Luque

Marc Diakiese vs Teemu Packalen: Marc Diakiese

Tom Breese vs Oluwale Bamgbose: Tom Breese*

Ian Entwistle vs Brett Johns: Brett Johns*

Scott Askham vs Brad Scott: Brad Scott

Lina Lansberg vs Lucie Pudilova: Lina Lansberg*

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