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UFC Belfast: Mousasi vs. Hall 2 Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Gegard Mousasi (40-6-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 31 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Vitor Belfort (10-8-16)
  • Camp: Red Devil International (Netherlands)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Former Strikeforce & Dream Champion
+   Amateur Boxing Champion
+   8-0 as a Pro Kickboxer
+   Black Belt Judo
+   23 KO victories
+   10 Submission wins
+   29 first round finishes
+   Manages distance well
+   Active & accurate jab
+   Solid defensive fundamentals
+   Underrated Wrestling ability
^   Well-timed reactive shot
+   Good ground strikes and submissions
+   Crafty guard retentions & sweeps

 

Uriah Hall (12-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 32 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 79.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Derek Brunson (9-17-16)
  • Camp: Team Tiger Schulmann (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 17 Finalist
+   2x Ring of Combat Champion
+   Regional Muay Thai Titles
+   10 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   6 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Fast hands & feet
^   Counters & reads well
+   Dynamic kicking arsenal
^   Accurate/deadly spinning attacks
+   Underrated Grappling ability
^   Strong defensive instincts
+   74% Takedown defense

Summary:

The main event in Belfast is a rematch in the middleweight division as Gegard Mousasi meets Uriah Hall for the second time. Turning a new leaf since his defeat to Hall in September of last year, Gegard Mousasi will now seek redemption for a loss that he considers a fluke. Out to prove him and the oddsmakers wrong, Uriah Hall will look to show he is not a one-trick pony in this showcase spot.

Considering the fashion of defeat Mousasi suffered, Uriah Hall may have an inherent mental edge coming into this fight. However, Hall has struggled since their last meeting–dropping his last two fights in comparison to Mousasi’s three straight victories. Not only has Gegard had more success since their first bout, but he also shed his skin as Mousasi is much more outspoken and honest. This evolution of Mousasi’s mentality has also translated into his fighting game as the Dutchman is visibly more aggressive in his approach. The once listless and lackadaisical expressions of Mousasi would now be a look of disdain as he carried out his objectives in his last three fights.

Although this marriage of aggression and technical-sharpness may serve Mousasi well in this match, the Dutchman will still be playing with fire whenever engaging Hall. Despite often being associated with his dynamic striking offense, it is within the countering realm that Uriah makes his money. Whether it is the counter crosses we saw Hall utilize against Leben & Stallings or even his high-flying aerial assaults, it is Uriah’s ability to read and react that makes his game so special. We saw this in his first fight with Mousasi as he intercepted Gegard with a jump-spinning-sidekick off the smallest of tells.

Usually using more jabs and feints in his approach, Mousasi lacked the cover-fire to disguise his intentions as he changed levels for his attack. Given Gegard’s stance, he would naturally dip to his right side which is directly in the wheelhouse of Hall’s spinning assaults. Considering that a similar threat still looms in this rematch, it will be interesting to see what adjustments Mousasi will make. Since that fight, we have seen Gegard get back to utilizing feints to facilitate his jab and subsequent offense. I suspect he will continue that trend for this opponent as feints are fantastic for drawing out kicks and counters.

Seldom throwing himself out of position, Mousasi’s jab also serves as a solid launching point for level changes as the Dutchman hits reactive shots on the drop of a dime. Considering that it only took one takedown to earn Mousasi over 4-minutes and 30-seconds of control time in their first fight, the takedown will probably be Gegard’s best threat against Hall. Although Mousasi’s jab can dictate a fight, establishing it on Uriah may not be as easy as it seems. An excellent manager of distance himself, Hall uses his foot speed and lateral movement to make his opponent’s reach on their shots. Once successful in getting is opposition out of position, Uriah packs a precise counter cross that may see some light in this fight.

However, the danger with speed advantages is that Hall can be too dependent on his head and trunk movement when defending or moving away from strikes. Keeping low hands like many traditional martial artists, we have seen Hall get caught in his evasive efforts as he would circle out unprotected. Not only did this burn him in his last fight with Derek Brunson, but it also costed him his first professional loss to Chris Weidman early in his career. If this is something Hall has not addressed, then this may be an avenue Mousasi will look to exploit anytime he can corral Uriah along the fence.

Even though Mousasi’s punches are potent anytime his opponent is against the cage, his takedown game may fair better out in the open. Already possessing an excellent base and balance, Hall has shown improvements to his takedown defense from the cage. Should this fight hit the floor, it will likely be accomplished by one of Gegard’s aforementioned reactive shots. Although Mousasi should have a distinct advantage in ground fighting, Uriah proved in his last outing that he is no slouch defensively. Despite having limited success, I was impressed with Hall’s grip and positional awareness as he displayed small nods that showed he was keen to Gegard’s intentions.

Although Mousasi earned a massive amount of control time in that opening round, he would ultimately lose multiple opportunities on the floor due to the impatient nature he demonstrated in that fight. Unlike his bout before with Costas Philippou, Gegard lacked the usual staging for advancements as he looked to overcorrect his last performance with aggression. Hall, on the other hand, stayed poised and composed as he timed his bridges and explosions perfectly with Mousasi’s transitions. That said, Uriah failed to capitalize on those windows with any reversals or re-wrestling efforts as he was ultimately grounded for the rounds remainder.

With Mousasi seemingly hungry to make a point with his performances, I will be curious to see if the emotion of revenge gets the better of him here. Even though Hall is coming off of two disappointing performances, he is the type of fighter who is always dangerous, especially when his back is against the wall. Training with multiple camps in Las Vegas, Uriah is certainly making all the efforts he can to continue improving his game. However, it is the mental triggers that will remain the question for Hall until he can prove otherwise. Despite the outcome their first time around, I feel that Mousasi should still be a justifiable favorite. That said, the numbers on this line screams of a possible trap fight as I caution any heavy plays.

Official Pick: Mousasi – Inside the distance

 

Ross Pearson (19-12)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 32 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Jorge Masvidal (7-30-16)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (Australia/CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 9 Lightweight Winner
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   7 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   6 first round finishes
+   Good slips & head movement
^   Looks to slip & counter
+   Accurate left hook
+   Excellent pocket awareness
^   Favors uppercuts off crouch
+   Improved takedown defense
^   Shows getup initiative & technique
+/-2-3 against UFC southpaws

 

Stevie Ray (19-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 26 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Alan Patrick (9-24-16)
  • Camp: Higher Level MMA (Scotland)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Former BAMMA Lightweight Champ
+   Former Cage Warriors Lightweight Champ
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   6 KO victories
+   8 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   Accurate left cross
^   Heavy R. hook follow-ups
+   Hard left body kick
+   Solid top game
^   Strong shoulder pressure
+   Improved wrestling transitions
+   Effective ground striker
+   Good chin / physically durable

Summary:

The co-main event in Belfast is a fireworks fight in the lightweight division as Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson battles Stevie “Braveheart” Ray. Coming off of a hard-fought two-fight skid, Ross Pearson will look to right his ship as he faces off with Scotland’s finest. A champion of both BAMMA and Cage Warriors, Stevie Ray has done his homeland proud as he has gone 3-1 since coming to the UFC. Suffering his last loss on the road in Brazil, Ray will now have a shorter trip for redemption as he enters Belfast hungry for the upset.

Even though I suspect that the majority of this fight with contest standing, I would not be surprised to see Stevie Ray attempt to ground Pearson as I believe he is the man with more motive to do so. Despite losing his last fight in the grappling department, Ray was facing a well-trained black belt in Alan Patrick who was able to play it smart positionally. Whatever struggles Stevie may or may not have from the bottom, the Scotsman does an excellent job when operating from the top position. Demonstrating a solid understanding of shoulder pressure for pinning and passing purposes, Ray is an effective smotherer who has shown improvements on transitioning with his strikes.

Should Stevie elect to take a page out of Even Dunham’s playbook, we may see Ray engage in grappling anytime he can corral Pearson to the cage. However, it will not be an easy task as Ross has excellent footwork and shows improved takedown defense. Even when taken down, Ross is a relentless scrambler and displays a good get-up urgency as I suspect most grappling stanzas will be brief. Given the takedown threat and pressuring approach of Ray, Pearson will likely elect to stick and move as he shown to do that more as his career has progressed.

Although the Scotsman should have a size and power edge over Ross, I feel that the Brit will be more potent inside of the pocket, especially when looking at how these two line up. Often utilizing a crouch variation to set up his uppercuts and right hands, Pearson also possesses a precise left hook follow-up. Considering that Ray has a tendency to keep a low-lead hand or revert to a shell defense, Pearson’s uppercuts and left hooks to the head or body will be worth looking out for in this fight. However, Pearson will have things to look out for as well given the offense of Ray.

Even though Stevie does keep an aforementioned low-lead hand, he uses it to counter from deceptive angles as he wields a check hook that is in a similar spirit to Luke Rockhold’s. Utilizing it to counter effectively, Ross will need to be on his utmost awareness whenever entering the pocket to attack. Stevie also throws an excellent body kick that could see some light in this fight. Not only does Ray’s southpaw stance facilitate a nasty liver shot, but Pearson tends to dip to his right side which could further fuel the impact of kicks to his body, head, and arms.

Despite my soft spot for Scotland, I agree with the oddsmakers here in making Pearson a slight favorite. Even though Ross had a rough time out in his last bout, the Brit has been one of the more consistent warriors in the UFC’s deepest division. Although the durable Scotsman will be a live threat throughout the contest, I suspect we will see Pearson take a competitive and entertaining decision on the scorecards.

Official Pick: Pearson – Decision

 

Kyoji Horiguchi (17-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’5″ Age: 26 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Neil Seery (5-8-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida/Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt Karate (2nd degree)
+   Multiple Shooto Titles
+   9 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   5 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Fast hand & foot speed
^   Superb blitzes & lateral movement
+   Solid pocket awareness
^   Moves head well
+   Dangerous left hook & switch kicks
+   Improved wrestling & scrambles
+   Devastating ground striker
^   Postures & positions well
+/-Keeps hands low

 

Ali Bagautinov (14-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’4″ Age: 31 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 65.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Geane Herrera (6-18-16)
  • Camp: Fight Nights Team (Dagestan, Russia)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Master of Sports in Sambo & Wrestling
+   Multiple Combat Sambo Titles
+   5 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   6 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Dangerous cross-hook combo
^   Improved kicks on follow-up
+/-Aggressive in approach
^   Tends to headhunt
+   Strong clinch/clinch takedowns
+   Solid top game
^   Devastating ground striker
–    Traditionally open to body kicks
+   Good chin / never stopped

Summary:

In a fun flyweight affair, Kyoji Horiguchi squares off against Ali Bagautinov. Despite losing to the champion early in his career, Kyoji Horiguchi is still widely regarded as one of the division’s few dark horses. Challenging for his top-5 spot is another former title challenger in Ali Bagautinov. Part of the Dagestani invasion that has gotten the attention of the MMA mainstream, Bagautinov will attempt another ascension to the top as a win here would make for a strong statement.

Starting off on the feet, we essentially have a dangerous power puncher in Bagautinov, who will be looking to land on an elusive Karate stylist in Horiguchi. Considering that both men tend to favor fighting on the outside to stage counters and blitzes, it will be interesting to see which man decides to lead. Although Ali has shown he is flexible enough to play the bull or the Matador, I do not believe he has the speed nor footwork to dictate this dance. Heavily emphasizing on power, Bagautinov tends to load up on his shots which may provide cues for the man with an inherent distance advantage.

Training in martial arts since the age of 5, Kyoji Horiguchi shows the preternatural understanding of combative ranges you only see from years of emersion. Effectively circling on the outside, Kyoji will masterfully blitz once finding an angle to his liking. What makes Horiguchi an above average Karate striker is his superb pocket awareness and lateral movement as I see this being a key factor in this fight. Rolling exceptionally well underneath hooks, Kyoji may have ample opportunities here given the looping nature of Bagautinov’s assaults. Incorporating rolls into his lateral exits, Kyoji will then look to plant and counter once getting under or offline of the oncoming punches.

Favoring a devastating left hook, Bagautinov will have to be especially mindful as he tends to retract his right-hand low. That said, the Dagestani’s counter right hand will be his most potent punch against the in-and-out aggression of Horiguchi. However, Ali has traditionally shown a body shot availability both at range and inside the clinch. Not only was Demetrious Johnson able to score with repeated success, but so was likes of John Lineker and Joseph Benavidez. Against the devastating body kicker in Kyoji, the Dagestani’s durability could be tested should a liver kick land. Where Bagautinov has the edge on paper, is within the submission fighting realm.

An accoladed Sambo practitioner, Ali is more than proven on the floor as the resilience displayed in his last fight shows he is not an easy man to handle. Should Horiguchi exercise his growing wrestling ability, he will need to be careful when engaging Bagautinov. Often relying on his athleticism, Kyoji has a tendency to give his neck on his takedown entries as this has gotten him caught in precarious Guillotine positions in 5 of his last 7-fights. Although Ali only has one official win by Guillotine choke, this will be something to worth watching for as I assure you that an opportunistic Bagautinov will not be shy.

That said, I feel that Ali will be the one looking for takedowns. Despite showing a solid reactive shot, Bagautinov prefers to make his money like most Dagestani fighters, inside the clinch. However, Ali may find both avenues of approach difficult considering how hard Horiguchi can be to catch. The Japanese fighter also demonstrates an excellent base and balance that makes him difficult to take down. Even if Ali is successful in getting him down, keeping him there presents another challenge as Kyoji possesses an explosive getup ability. Regardless, the Japanese fighter will need to mind himself whenever on the bottom as Ali is an aggressive ground striker.

If Horiguchi can make his way on top, he also presents potential problems for his Dagestani counterpart. Although not applying a typical grappling pressure topside, Kyoji shows a solid understanding of framing and positional awareness. From his subtle knee & foot placements to his overall hip positioning, Horiguchi will smoothly advance to a perfect cruising altitude that is appropriate for bomb dropping. The space given in this approach can usually allow for room & reactions to stand, but Ali will need to be careful in these transitions as Kyoji is a custom to punishing opponents on their way up and off of the breaks.

Although Ali is a dangerous opponent for anyone in the Top-10, I feel that this will be an unfavorable styles match for him as I see Horiguchi’s speed giving him problems. Ultimately, I feel good about Koji’s chances, especially that he has been spreading out his training to American Top Team. In a fight with back and forth potential on paper, I expect Horiguchi to take a clear decision, if not find a late finish.

Official Pick: Horiguchi – Decision

Main Card Predictions:

  • Mousasi def. Hall
  • Pearson def. Ray
  • Johnson def. Volkov
  • Ishihara def. Lobov

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • McCall def. Seery
  • Cedenblad def. Marshman
  • Horiguchi def. Bagautinov
  • *Lee def. Mustafaev
  • Cooper def. Elmose
  • Ledet def. Godbeer
  • Cummings def. Yakovlev
  • Reneau def. Dudieva
  • Kwak def. Johns
  • Alhassan def. Ward

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

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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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Image result for holloway vs aldo

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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GSP vs Robert Whittaker is Easily the Best Fight to Make at Middleweight

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GSP became the new middleweight champion of the UFC this past weekend, and many questions have been asked his way. Is he officially the greatest of all time? Who does he fight next? Does he stay at middleweight?

The G.O.A.T. conversation will never be settled completely. There will always be separation in opinions between Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP, Demetrious Johnson, Fedor Emelianenko, and some even say Conor McGregor is the greatest, simply due to the fact that he is the first ever UFC champion to hold two belts simultaneously. Regardless of how that conversation is driven, the biggest question that should be the only concern at this point is the immediate plans for the new middleweight champion.

Where does GSP go next, and who does he fight?

Well, the fact of the matter is, it would not make sense for GSP to go down to the welterweight division again. 170-pounds is alive and kicking at the moment, with new stars emerging such as Darren Till and Mike Perry, to return of veterans like Carlos Condit, and also new additions to the division like Rafael dos Anjos. St-Pierre would have to stay extremely active in order to keep the division flowing.

At the age of 36 and having just returned to MMA last weekend, St-Pierre is unlikely to stay as active as he used to be when he was the king of the welterweight division. Plus, would it really make much sense for him to get on his old diet again in order to make the welterweight weight limit? He looked massive last night, all bulked up, and even seemed like the bigger fighter against Bisping, who used to fight at 205-pounds.

On the other hand, if he decides to stay at middleweight, which is what UFC president Dana White stated would happen yesterday, then there is one clear path for him to take and based on his statements on his contract, will be forced to take: Robert Whittaker.

Whittaker won the interim middleweight belt earlier this year against Yoel Romero at UFC 213, which was a razor close fight that went to Whittaker at the end of 5 rounds. Since then, Whittaker has been sidelined due to the injury he suffered during the fight, damaging his ligament in the left knee.

4 months later, he has seemed to have healed up perfectly, as he was in the arena for the madness last night and even answered a few questions from the media, stating that he is healthy now. The fight against Whittaker would be the best that the UFC could put on at this point in 185-pounds division on a few different levels.

GSP and Whittaker have a lot in common. Starting with the most obvious, they both used to fight at welterweight. Which means that neither fighter will have a massive size advantage. This brings the match up nearly even as far as physicality is concerned.

Then comes the match up itself. St-Pierre and Whittaker both represent the very definition of being ‘well-rounded’. Whittaker, although not an offensive wrestler, proved that his defensive wrestling was second to none in his fight against Romero, a former Olympic wrestler. And while GSP is not necessarily the best wrestler in pure wrestling, his ability to wrestle in MMA is phenomenal due to his timing and fight IQ, which makes this fight even more intriguing to find out whether Whittaker can defend GSP’s takedown attempts.

This fight also represents the UFC an opportunity to see a birth of a superstar. Whittaker, while not a huge talker, is a very marketable fighter especially over in Australia and New Zealand. If he is able to defeat GSP, who’s arguably the biggest draw in the history of the company, it would boost Whittaker’s popularity up an extraordinary amount. And being only 26 years old, Whittaker has the tools and potential to be a dominant champion, much like St-Pierre in his “prime”.

Booking this fight would also clear up the confusing state of the middleweight division. With Bisping’s reign as the champion coming to an end, some hope was born for other contenders in the division. Fighters like Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza were having an extremely hard time getting a hold of Michael Bisping during his reign, and with a new champion now and possible unification of the belts soon, the contenders will have a goal to work for again.

The fight is one of the best fights that UFC could put on for the fans right now and one that can happen as early as February of 2018, which is when the UFC returns to Australia with a PPV. If it can come to fruition, then it will easily be one of the best fights of the year and one that all the fans can count the days down to.

Onnit Primal Bells
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