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UFC Chicago: Holm vs Shevchenko Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Holm2

Holly Holm (10-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 34 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Miesha Tate (3-5-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Excellent

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   Pro Boxing Experience (33-2-3)
+   Amateur Kickboxing Accolades
+   Multiple Boxing Titles
+   7 KO victories
+   5 2nd round finishes
+   Disciplined footwork & movement
^   Excellent distance management
+   Moves well laterally
+   Hard left body & head kicks
^   Setup well off of punches
+   Active & accurate cross
+   Gauging right side kick
+   Deceptively strong inside clinch
^   Works well off over & under-hooks
–    Struggles from the bottom
^   Lack of shown get-up technics
–    Sometimes lunges with low hands
^   Counter availabilities
+   Consistent round winner

 

Valentina8

Valentina Shevchenko (12-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’5″ Age: 28 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 65.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Amanda Nunes (3-5-16)
  • Camp: Tiger Muay Thai (Peru/Thailand)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   17x Muay Thai & K-1 Champion
+   9x IMFA Champion (56-2 pro record)
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do (2nd Dan)
+   5 Submission wins
+   2 KO victories
+   6 first round finishes
+   Solid fundamental footwork
^   Rarely out of position
+   Accurate check right hook
+   Excellent counter cross
+   Dangerous knees, elbows, & kicks
^   Throws with variety & efficiency
+   Competent & crafty clinch game
^   Good trips, tosses, & positional awareness
+   Underrated takedown defense
^   Deceptively strong hips & balance
–    Struggles from the bottom
^   Lack of shown get-up technics
–    Traditionally starts slow
+   Solid chin/physically durable

Summary:

Headlining UFC Chicago is a battle of bantamweight contenders as the former champion Holly Holm takes on the division’s dark horse Valentina Shevchenko. Coming off a disappointing title defense earlier this year, Holly Holm will attempt to get back on track with a win over an accoladed striker. A resident of Peru and native of Kyrgyzstan, Valentina Shevchenko was born into a martial arts family. A practitioner since the age of four, Shevchenko has amassed multiple titles in K-1 & the IFMA(an organization where she fought & beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk 3-times), but this will be by far her highest profile fight to date.

A headlining fight on FOX aside, Holly Holm is one of the few fighters who’s accolades in striking can contend with Shevchenko’s. An inspirational relationship between Holm and her head coach Mike Winkeljohn, we have steadily seen Holly grow alongside the talented stable at Jackson-Wink MMA. Being long, athletic, and disciplined have been the staples in Holly’s boxing game that have shown to carry over well to her MMA game. The addition of being able to use kicks(as she originally started in kickboxing) have only helped in flourishing her abilities to finish combinations and fights alike. Holly’s kicks are also a key player in her distance management, something I suspect she will need in full-force for this contest.

Although I am officially going with the underdog, I have no illusions of how or why Holly Holm is the favorite coming in. Aside from Jackson’s being a renown “super gym”, they do a particularly good job of implementing round-winning ethics. As one of their most disciplined fighters, Holly has had little issue cementing close rounds or closing out dominant ones with measured flurries. In facing a traditionally slow starter like Shevchenko(a carry over common from traditional Muay Thai), Holm’s disciplined output & distance management will likely earn her the edge early, justifying her projected chances according to Vegas odds. However, Holly’s ultra-disciplined approach can be a double-edged sword as I attempt to state why I see Shevchenko having success.

It can be dangerous to over value one name and overlook the other in this matchup, as the limited sample size of budding female divisions serve as a reminder that styles make fights. Although this is Valentina’s biggest stage to date, she will be the most dangerous striker Holly has faced in MMA by a long shot. Although both women carry impressive accolades, Shevchenko has arguably faced a higher level of opposition as she has competed worldwide consistently for the last decade. The quiet factor(and possible theme) for me in this fight, is the rare matchup of two southpaw strikers.

Although a common striking stereotype is that orthodox stances struggle against southpaws, a southpaw fighting another southpaw presents it own unique factors. With the premise of this generalization being that southpaws are rarer to find in the practice rooms, Orthodox fighters are often not getting the consistent reps needed to be optimal against southpaws. For this reason, southpaws can also be befuddled when running into a fellow lefty, due to the fact most have inherently based their games off of orthodox stance opposition. That said, I am sure both fighters will be aptly prepared for what lies ahead.

Holm will obviously have the on-paper edge in regards to preparation, as she will surely have a healthy amount of southpaw looks at Jackson-Wink MMA. Although splitting her camps between her home of Peru and Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand, Shevchenko’s best training partner will be her sister Antonina Shevchenko. Another product of Valentina’s fighting family, Antonina is also a multiple-time Muay Thai champion who fights southpaw and is of similar height & stature to Holm. That said, Holly Holm’s athleticism and movement can be difficult to duplicate.

Even though Holm’s efficiency and discipline are impressive, she is a bit predictable in the plays that she runs. A consistency of patterns that she carried over from boxing, Holm will usually circle to her left to reset, and to her right when attempting to achieve attack angles. Supported by her previously mentioned athletic attributes, Holly’s understanding of subtle technics(like her outside-foot-awareness) has made her successful against what has mostly been orthodox fighters. In resetting/circling to the left, Holly gets her opposition to follow as she quickly shifts the other way striking on the exit.

When doing so, Holm does a good job of getting her head offline as she throws her patent cross down the center. That said, Holly’s tendency to exit exchanges towards her opponents weak side now gets flipped around when facing a southpaw. With Holm’s right side being Shevchenko’s power side, Holly will have to be careful overcommitting given Valentina’s accurate cross-counters and Thai kicks. With that in mind, I suspect we will see more lead leg side kicks from Holly as these traditionally give way to her left sided retreats/exits.

Although resetting to the left should serve Holm well on paper, the perceived “weak side” of the southpaw stance is an area I feel Shevchenko is especially dangerous within. When her previous opponents have tried hard to achieve attack angles around her lead foot, Shevchenko has had no problem showing off her Tae Kwon Do base as she throws spin back & hook kicks with surprising accuracy. More specifically, Valentina’s best punch is her check right hook as I feel that will be the strike to look for in this fight. Although Holm operates at safe distances and displays a solid sense within the pocket, she often conducts business with her head exposed.

For the reasons listed above, Holly has been able to get away with this side effect to her style thus far. However, Holm’s most notable loss in boxing was due to her exposures within the pocket. In her first fight Ann Sophie Mathis, we saw a slightly more aggressive version of Holly as she classically leaped in & out to score. Although there were many punches in the lead-up to Holm’s defeat, the right hook that set things off stood out the most to me as Holly was caught rolling out to her left with her head unprotected. Upon further film study, I found that an unprotected head was a common theme for Holly when exiting and entering exchanges. Though Holm came back to defeat Mathis, we saw Holly’s point scoring style personified as she edged out rounds and avoided exchanges.

Holm also showed a tendency to lunge heavily in that rematch, which to me, was a sign of subconscious caution to a hard-hitting threat. That said, lunging heavily forward can often expose your head further and make you easier to counter. We saw a less accoladed striker in Raquel Pennington eventually pick up on Holly’s patterns, as Raquel was able to land counter right hands with regularity by the third round. Against a solid counter fighter like Shevchenko, it will be interesting to see if Holly can make the proper adjustments through the course of five rounds.

Although I do not expect much grappling from either striker, the clinch is where the x-factors lie as takedowns may be a key to solidifying rounds. Holly Holm surprised us all with the extent of her clinch game when she successfully fended off an aggressive Ronda Rousey last year. Displaying a solid positional awareness, Holly works well with under-hooks or uses deep over-hooks as she frames her opponents hips with her forearms to prevent base disruption. However, when her opponent was able to get in on her hips or achieve a body lock(ala Miesha Tate), Holm struggled defensively. Although Holly has other clinch tools that she has carried over from boxing, I do not feel they are as applicable to the grappling intricacies of our sport in comparison to Muay Thai for example. More specifically, traditional Muay Thai, an area in which Shevchenko’s style embodies the most.

A devastating striking art with an often overlooked emphasis on clinch wrestling, Shevchenko embraced & excelled in the grappling aspects of Muay Thai as it became a huge key to her success. When most of Valentina’s opponents were attempting to achieve traditional Thai plums, Shevchenko would opt for almost Greco Roman-like body locks. Killing hip space with immediacy, Shevchenko would also shut down her opponents leverage to strike or counter-grapple. Once achieving the body lock, Valentina instinctually slides beneath her opponents arms and around to their backs. From here, Shevchenko would show her mean streak with hard knees into her opponents glutes & thighs that parlayed into smooth debasing takedowns that she used to punctuate her presence.

Although I give Shevchenko an edge in the overall grappling, she shows a drastic skills-gap in regards to her bottom game. Even though Amanda Nunes is one of the more dangerous fighters in that division to have on top of you, we saw a lack of get-up technics and options employed by Shevchenko. With Holly sharing similar criticisms in her last fight, the fighter who ends up in top position will likely have the advantage in grappling scenarios. Ultimately, I do not see a lot of mat time as I feel this contest will be decided on the feet. Though it may start slow with each fighter preferring to counter, I suspect things to stay competitive through the fights duration. For that reason, I recommend caution in playing this one as I feel the Kyrgyzstani finds her counter shots before the final bell.

Official Pick: Shevchenko – Inside the distance

 

Edson7

Edson Barboza (17-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 30 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Anthony Pettis (4-23-16)
  • Camp: Ricardo Almeida BJJ (New Jersey)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Accolades
+   Multiple Muay Thai Titles
^   Record of 25-3 (22 by KO)
+   10 KO victories
+   7 first round finishes
+   1 Submission win
+   KO power
+   Explosive fast twitch striker
+   Improved boxing technique
^   Good check hook & counter right
+   Devastating leg kicks
^   Inside & out
+   Accurate spin kicks
+   Lightning left switch-kick
+   Underrated counter grappler
^   85% takedown defense
+   Solid Butterfly guard/get-ups
+/-Requires space to operate
^   Struggles when pressure fought

 

Josh Thomson vs Gilbert Melendez

Gilbert Melendez (22-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 34 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Eddie Alvarez (6-13-16)
  • Camp: Skrap Pack (Santa Ana, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   2x Strikeforce Lightweight Champion
+   Former WEC Lightweight Champion
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Wrestling Base
+   12 KO victories
+   7 2nd round finishes
+   Predominant pressure fighter
^   Can push the pace
+   Improved boxing technique
+   Heavy right hooks & uppercuts
^   Variates well to body
+   Dangerous elbows
–    Heavy on front foot
^   Leg kick availabilities
+   Good catch kick counters
+   Strong double-leg
^   Favors attempts against fence
+   Active ground striker
–    2 fights in 3 years

Summary:

Serving as the newly minted co-main event is a fantastic lightweight fight between Edson Barboza and Gilbert Melendez. A fun stylistic matchup of two of the division’s most exciting fighters, this battle will also serve as a crucial crossroads for both men. Still in search of the one title that got away, Gilbert Melendez will look to surmount another run at the top as he returns from a one-year suspension. With age & activity being the intangibles for Gilbert on paper, the former Strikeforce champion looks to be in great shape heading into this bout.

Standing on the other side to welcome Melendez back is Edson Barboza, who despite recently going 2-2 in his last four fights is arguably showing an upswing in trajectory. Making the permanent move to New Jersey, Edson is now training full-time with Mark Henry & company as he attempts to take his career to the next level. Storming onto the scene with thunderous leg kicks, Edson became renown for his initial impressions as he has only added to his arsenal in subsequent years. However, since doing his training camps with Mark Henry, we have steadily seen Barboza’s boxing game come to life.

Edson always possessed an underrated counter right-hand(seen early in his Cerrone fight) but has since developed his left hand. Throwing his jab with much more efficiency, it is the improvements of his check left hook that may serve him well in this fight. Using the check hook to punch out of exchanges or catch opponents coming in, I suspect it may come in handy against an engaging Gilbert Melendez. Predominantly a pressure fighter for the better part of his career, you would have to imagine that Melendez will look to dust off said skills for this particular styles fight.

As much as Edson Barboza has added to his arsenal, the key to finding success against him has always remained the same, pressure. Requiring space to operate his striking regiments, the Brazilian has seemingly struggled against pressure fighters who can wrestle(Jamie Varner, Danny Castillo, Michael Johnson, and Tony Ferguson). As one of the more renown pressure fighters in the division’s history, Gilbert Melendez certainly has the style and skills to win this fight. However, he will truly have to spawn the Gilbert of old and abandon the brakes for this battle.

In comparison to his career in Japan or the early days in Strikeforce, we have seen Melendez mature into a more measured pressure fighter. Refining his boxing and overall game with his Nor-Cal collective, we have seen Gilbert use his pressure to initiate engagements and open up counters. Utilizing his length and left-hand behind feints, Melendez commits himself inside with his eyes open as he often looks for his right hook variations. Mixing in a healthy amount of uppercuts, Gilbert will also work to the body with impunity.

That said, Melendez’s inconsistent fight activity has seemingly lead to inconsistencies in his pace and performances. Assuming Gilbert comes in with the proper intent and tools for this task, the jab will be a key player in his approach. Whether Gilbert is looking to set up a shot or his patent right-hand, the jab will likely support his efforts in either realm. The jab will also play a role for Barboza, as this will be his first line of defense and the connecting piece to his offensive options. Considering that solid jabs have disrupted Edson in his fight with Cerrone as well as Gilbert when facing Thomson, it will be interesting to see who establishes their striking-lanes first.

Aside from the on-paper advantages, I believe Barboza’s edge will come to life given Gilbert’s boxing based stance. Pressuring forward with heavy feints and jabs, Melendez tends to keep his weight loaded on his front leg. Traditionally, this has made Melendez susceptible to leg kicks, as we have seen 4 of 5 of his last opponents consistently score and do damage there. Now facing the most devastating leg kicker in the organization, Melendez’s legs may be vulnerable whenever in range. Considering the right-handed counters of Gilbert, expect Edson to continue his trend of inside leg kicks to quell this threat and disrupt his opponents base.

Not only leg-kicks but also body kicks have been one of the more common culprits landed on Gilbert. Keeping his guard high, Melendez seemingly attracts body kicks as he makes a conscious effort to catch them and counter. Although he has scored most of his takedowns in the open this way, he will undoubtedly be playing with fire against Edson. Ultimately, Gilbert’s success will hinge on his ability to push the pace as pressure-fighting will be the key factor in this fight.

If he can ground Barboza early, it will likely be a good sign for Gilbert. However, it will not be a certainty as Edson is hard to hold down. The Brazilian bears an underrated butterfly guard that he utilizes well to get back to his feet. Whether he is against the fence or working from a modified guard, I imagine Edson has only continued to fill in these holes working with Frankie Edgar & company.

As much as I am a fan of Gilbert Melendez, the Santa Ana native’s lack of activity makes it hard to have confidence in what we will see from him. And given Edson’s subtle signs of an upswing, I suspect the momentum will be on his side as I feel the oddsmakers are correct in making him a slight favorite. Bet lightly and enjoy heavily, as this match up has fight-of-the-night potential written all over it.

Official Pick: Barboza – Decision

 

Francis7

Francis Ngannou (6-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 29 Weight: 250 lbs Reach: 83″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Curtis Blaydes (4-10-16)
  • Camp: MMA Factory (France)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Accolades
+   4 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   3 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Physically athletic & imposing
+   Accurate & active with left hand
^   Jabs, hooks, and uppercuts
+   Manages distance well
+   Hard knees inside the clinch
+   Improved takedown defense
^   Deceptively agile hips
+   Good get-up technics
^   Cage & under-hook awareness
+   Maintains composure & endurance
–    Struggles off his back

 

Bojan1

Bojan Mihajlovic (10-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 36 Weight: 235 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Muhamed Mahmic (11-2-15)
  • Camp: Family Fight Team (Serbia)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Accolades
+   4 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   6 first round finishes
+   Heavy hands
+   Active leg kicks
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Favors body lock takedowns
+   Decent double-leg
+   Solid wrestling sensibility
^   Scrambles well
+   Excellent mount position
^   Transitions well to & from
–    Slightly low hands/strike retraction
^   Counter availabilities
–    Lacks high-level competition

Summary:

In a heavyweight showdown, Francis Ngannou welcomes Bojan Mihajlovic to the UFC. Storming onto the scene last December with a devastating knockout win over Henrique da Silva, this will now be Ngannou’s third bout with the organization as he once again faces a debutant. Despite starting his career off with three consecutive losses, Bojan Mihajlovic has not dropped a bout in the subsequent decade since. Stepping up to the big stage, we will likely see where the Serbian stands.

Like many fighters entering from foreign mixed martial arts markets, Bojan lacks the quality opponents on his resume to grasp an accurate assessment of his skills. The thing about these matchups is that Mihajlovic may also be unaware of his operating level, as we have seen many fighters come in undefeated only to succumb to the pressures of their first UFC experience. Despite a big task ahead in facing Ngannou, Mihajlovic possesses certain skills that may serve him well in this contest.

Although undersized for the division at a stout 5’11”, Mihajlovic is deceptively quick as he puts his frame to good use. Prodding with flicking jabs and hard low kicks, Bojan will look to close the distance whenever possible. Whether he is coming directly into the clinch or making his way in off a failed shot, Mihajlovic’s intentions are clear as he shows some wrestling sensibilities. Though wielding a decent double-leg, Bojan scores most of his takedowns from the clinch as he works well with body locks. That said, the tall Frenchman he is facing will also prove to be a tall task to take down.

Despite the slightly upright operating posture of Francis, the Cameroon native keeps a good sense of his space as he manages distance well. Demonstrating a deceptive athleticism & agility within his hips, Ngannou has shown the ability inside and out of the Octagon to defend or return to his base. Coupled with the addition of under-hook fundamentals, we have seen Francis improve in his ability to defend takedowns and get back to his feet.

Accustom to his opposition trying to take him down, Ngannou has spent the early portion of much of his fights having to defend from the fence. Spreading out his 6’4″ frame into a wide-base, Ngannou keeps calm and collected as he demonstrates surprising muscular endurance despite his build. If Bojan fails to ground Francis or establish himself early, then he will likely be relegated to striking on the outside ranges. A place where he will be at an on-paper disadvantage, I doubt things will bode well for Bojan if forced to fight on Francis’ terms.

Despite his solid jab and low kicks, Mijahlovic keeps his standing guard slightly low as he retracts his strikes even lower. Though able to get away with such habits at the lower-level, this could cost Bojan dearly against a striker like Ngannou. Despite the imposing presence and knockout power, Ngannou refreshingly relies on neither to get the job done. Whether throwing straight or variating his patent up-jabs & shovel-hooks, Francis conducts traffic off of his left hand. Keeping active and accurate with it, most of the danger will come from that side as it is the common conduit to his combinations.

The most impressive thing about Ngannou is the fact that he has only competed in combat sports for three years. In such time, the Frenchman has shown maturity and development that is very uncommon as I am interested to see his progressions. Whereas his counterpart, Mihajlovic, has been competing for four times as long showing little consistency or developments outside of winning. With this being a heavyweight contest between two men who are still largely unproven, I suggest strong caution in any big plays here. However, given Ngannou’s success in thwarting the takedowns of Curtis Blaydes(NCAA Champion) in his last contest, I suspect he will be able to do the same here as he finds the finish before the final horn.

Official Pick: Ngannou – Inside the distance

 

Herrig7

Felice Herrig (10-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’4″ Age: 31 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Paige VanZant (4-18-15)
  • Camp: Team Curran (Illinois)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Multiple Kickboxing Accolades
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   Athletic & aggressive
+   Solid kicking variety
+   3 Submission wins
+/-Struggles w/consistent volume
^   Sometimes throws in singles
+   Physically strong inside clinch
^   Good trips & knees
+   Actively looks for back
+   Deceptively dangerous guard
^   Excellent leg dexterity
+/-2 fights in 3 years
+   Solid chin/never stopped

 

Curran7

Kailin Curran (4-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’3″ Age: 25 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 65″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Emily Kagan (12-10-15)
  • Camp: RVCA Gym (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Wrestling Base
+   Kickboxing Experience
+   Athletic & aggressive
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   1 Submission win
+   Accurate jab-cross
+   Excellent combination puncher
^   Finishes well with kicks
+   Improved clinch framing/fighting
^   Strikes well off the break
+   Solid takedown game
^   Reactive shots & from clinch
–    Overstays welcome on top
^   Submission & sweep susceptibilities

Summary:

Kicking off the main card on FOX is a fantastic female fight as Felice Herrig squares off against Kailin Curran. A veteran of both kickboxing and MMA, Felice Herrig is once again tasked with turning away another young contender. Fighting in her home state of Illinois, Felice will undoubtedly be motivated to get back on track with a win here. Getting her first taste of the big stage, the young Hawaiian Kailin Curran will look to capitalize on this spot as she attempts to show further improvements.

Like many fighters who enter the UFC early and undefeated, Kailin Curran was fastly tested as she ultimately dropped her first two fights despite being competitive in both(and even dominating one until getting caught). Though brief mental lapses may have lead to those defeats, it is hardly a condemnation of Curran’s skills as she is still a young and developing fighter. Under the care of Ryan Parsons, Kailin has trained with many high-level camps like Kings MMA and the former Reign Training Center. Now training with the likes of Jason Parillo at the RVCA Gym, it will be interesting to see what improvements Curran has made to her striking and other areas.

With last years FOX card in Newark being the last time we saw Felice, the question for Herrig is whether or not the year-plus layoff will produce positives or negatives. Training in her usual camp of Team Curran(Jeff Curran) in Illinois, Felice looks to have brought in former foe Carla Esparza amongst others to help her prepare for this battle. Looking in tip-top shape in the lead-up, Herrig will need to have her condition dialed-in in what will likely be a three round war.

Despite Herrig being the more accoladed striker, I feel Curran may have a slight edge standing. With both ladies displaying durable chins, I suspect volume will be a key factor in this fight as I feel Kailin throws with more volume and consistency. Not only that, but I also believe that the Hawaiian may prove to be the better puncher. Pulling and returning her jabs & crosses preternaturally, I only suspect Curran’s striking prowess has improved under the tutelage of Jason Parillo. Not to mention having the luxury of training partners like Cris Cyborg, I suspect Kailin will be prepared to trade with Felice in this fight.

If Felice elects to participate in striking range, she will need to have her patent kicking game on point. Herrig throws a good variety of kicks but often lacks the punches and set-ups to get her momentum going. That said, Kailin Curran will have to be careful when throwing her kicks Felice’s way. Like many Muay Thai practitioners who transfer to MMA, Herrig has a knack for catching kicks and countering as she has scored many takedowns in this fashion. Although not known for her top control, Herrig is more than proficient enough to eat some control time and edge out what will likely be close rounds.

That said, I feel Felice will be most dangerous from the bottom in this particular matchup. Possessing superb leg dexterity(another carry-over from kickboxing), Felice has deceptive submission and guard retention abilities. With these attributes earning Herrig three armbar victories, that will likely be Curran’s red flag in this fight given her troubles in the past. Not only was Kailin defeated with an armbar in a fight she was dominating, but similar submission catches(although only caught once) have been a theme thus far in her career.

Although I am sure Curran is getting solid training as she continues to improve, she has a tendency to overstay her welcome when operating from certain top positions. Now being on top is, of course, a good thing in MMA, however, there are some principles of technics that have shown to cost Curran in the past. Whether inside her opponents guards or settling in off advances, Kailin tends to float a bit too much in limbo as opposed to playing all-the-way-in or out. Though this habit is common amongst grapplers of all levels, it has also cost Curran close-calls in both victory and defeat.

With the sample size of women’s MMA making it one of the more traditionally harder divisions to decipher, this seems to be a straightforward crossroads matchup. However, similar to what the oddsmakers suggest, I also feel this is closer to a “pick’em” fight as I recommend strong caution in playing this one. That said, I suspect Kailin’s striking volume and scrambling ability will make the difference in edging out tight rounds, as I feel the Hawaiian will earn a hard fought decision.

Official Pick: Curran – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Saenz def. Wineland
  • Elkins def. Pepey
  • Usman def. Yakovlev
  • Prazeres def. Cottrell
  • Oliveira def. Moontasri
  • Sullivan def. Urbina
  • Alers def. Knight
  • Henrique def. Smolyakov

Recommended Plays:

Draft Kings recommended rosters:

 

Team #1: $49,900.00

-Alex Oliveira ($10,700.00)
-Michel Prazeres ($10,900.00)
-Edson Barboza ($10,400.00)
-Luis Henrique ($9,300.00)
-Valentina Shevchenko ($8,600.00)

Team Summary:

For my first roster, I went with Edson Barboza, Alex Oliveira, and George Sullivan for my high-tier picks. Not just for the reasons listed above, but Barboza’s consistent work rate and propensity to score knockdowns make him a solid choice. Although I am a fan of Moontasri’s style, I don’t feel it bodes well against a pressure fighter with a chin like Oliveira. I believe the Brazilian may overpower Mootasri inside and eventually find a finish. As for Prazeres, he is facing UFC newcomer J.C. Cottrell. Cottrell is an aggressive mid-West fighter who com comes from a wrestling base. Given Prazeres’ experience at the high-level and the fact that he thrives in grappling battles, I give him a distinct edge in this fight. Coupled with the fact that Cottrell is do-or-die type fighter, the debutant’s game plan may end up looking like a dumpster fire after the first round.

For my low tier picks, I went with Luis Henrique and Valentina Shevchenko. If my fourteen hundred word write-up above is not sufficient enough, Shevchenko is essentially an underdog with high-value given her chances and the fact that she has five rounds in which to work. As for Luis Henrique, he may have ended up on the wrong end of a highlight reel courtesy to Ngannou, but he appears much more well-rounded and proven than Smolyakov. Despite Henrique facing low-level competition previously to his UFC debut, Smolyakov has faced even less experienced competition as this will likely be the first decent grappler he comes across. I see Henrique’s slight edge in versatility and experience getting it done here.

Team #2: $49,600.00

-Holly Holm ($11,000.00)
-Darren Elkins ($10,300.00)
-Edson Barboza ($10,400.00)
-Luis Henrique ($9,300.00)
-Alexander Yakovlev ($8,600.00)

Team Summary:

I don’t blame you if you don’t share my optimism for Shevchenko, as I included the justified favorite of Holly Holm in this recommended roster. A main event 5-round fighter, Holm’s consistent work rate, and volume make her a solid addition if you’re willing to spend the money. Accompanying her in the higher-tier picks is Edson Barboza and Darren Elkins. With my explanation for picking Barboza listed above, I feel even more confident in my pick of Darren Elkins. As one of the most durable fighters in the division, Darren has rejuvenated his game since moving shop to Team Alpha Male. Facing a fighter who will be willing to play his game in Pepey, I don’t favor the Brazilian’s chances, especially coming off over a year long layoff.

For my low-tier picks, I once again went with Luis Henrique as well as adding Alexander Yakovlev. Although I officially sided with Kamaru Usman to win, Yakovlev possesses some tricky factors as he is a live dog. Despite my adoration of Usman’s ground game, Yakovlev is very underrated on the floor as he was able to thwart Demian Maia despite dropping the decision. Tall, rangy, and durable, Yakovlev presents a difficult task as he reminded us of his power in his last contest. If you’re looking to bite the bullet on a low-tier pick, Yakovlev may be worth looking at to complete a high-priced roster.

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Herrig/Curran Over 2 1/2: -175 (1 Unit)
-Edson Barboza by Decision: +110 (.05 Unit)
-Darren Elkins by Decision: +100 (.05 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Darren Elkins
-Michel Prazeres
-Cowboy Oliveira

Fights to avoid:

-Holm vs Shevchenko
-Henrique vs Smolyakov
-Saenz vs Wineland

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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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.

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UFC 217: Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Rose Namajunas Preview

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UFC 217 is hoping to explode Madison Square Garden with a stacked card featuring three title fights.

One of the three title fights, is a bout between women’s strawweight champion, undefeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0-0) and rising star #4-ranked Rose Namajunas (7-3-0).

What we have here is a fight between an aggressive, clinical technician in Joanna, and an unpredictable, well rounded submission artist in Rose.

Joanna is regarded as (out of both male & female fighters) one of the best strikers in the UFC. Undefeated in both kickboxing & MMA with her calculated method of increasing the pace and volume as the rounds go by until what looked like a  fight starts to look close to assault & battery.

With Vegas odds having Joanna as -600 to Rose’s +400  there is no secret that Joanna is highly favoured to win. One can get a clearer picture to why this is by looking at some of her records..

  • Has never lost a professional MMA fight
  • Most sig. strikes landed in a UFC Title Fight
  • 2nd most sig. strikes landed in a UFC fight
  • Most legs kicks landed in a UFC fight
  • – List Info pulled from MMAJunkie –

Rose began her UFC career since the weight classes’ inception into the ranks, in the TUF house. Winning all her fights by stoppage, but coming up short against Carla Esparza for the inaugural women’s strawweight championship. Rose went back to the drawing board to reset, improve and come back stronger.

Rose has fought a high level striker from Poland before in Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and lost via split decision on her way to the title. True to Rose’s form however, she came back better, smarter and more dangerous, securing a win over touted UFC prospect Michelle Waterson. Dispatching “The Karate Hottie” with a perfectly timed high kick that she finished off with a rear naked choke in round two.

Rose’s perseverance, will and ability to overcome her career misfortunes & failures as well as personal problems at home, has granted her nothing but success. Her grit & drive is on display every time she fights. Looking sharper, more refined, well rounded and dynamic, achieving the accolade of “Most submission wins in UFC women’s starwweight history.” 

Joanna has shown to be beyond dominant and ahead of her competitors, time and time again. So far nobody has found a real weakness in her game or has been able to exploit one if they did. Out striking strikers, out grinding grinders and nullifying grapplers of all types. Yet she has never faced a fighter as well rounded & explosively creative as Rose, who is happy to strike and then throw a flying arm bar from standing, seemingly out of the blue. Uncertainty and on the fly creativity is hard to train for. So, though on paper the favour is for Joanna, the devil is in the details and the details are what make this fight so compelling!

Jul 8, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Joanna Jedrezejczyk (red gloves) fights Claudia Gadelha (blue gloves) during The Ultimate Fighter Finale at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

If Rose beats Joanna, she achieves the dream she has sweat, cried and bled for over the past 4 years. It will catapult her to a very different echelon of fighter hierarchy, UFC fame and financial security. She will also have beaten one of only two current UFC Champions who are undefeated in their MMA Career in “JJ”. (Cody Garbrandt, who will fight on the same card in the following match up against TJ Dillashaw, is the other).

If Joanna wins, she will tie Ronda Rousey’s record of most title defenses in women’s UFC History. She will have effectively “cleaned out” the division and from there the she can chose to break Ronda’s record, or go up to the new 125-pound division for a super fight.

A lot to lose, a lot to gain, two super elite competitors, two fighters who are known for giving spectacular performances at a high level, to the bitter end. Despite neither fighter reaching 5″7, & only 115lbs, make no mistake, this fight is Monumentally HUGE! Regardless of the outcome, expect to be entertained.

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Khabib vs Barboza UFC 219 breakdown

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All Credit to https://article.wn.com for the image

Khabib vs Barboza has been made official for UFC 219 and it promises to be an absolute cracker, so in this article, I’m going to give a full breakdown of this fantastic fight.

UFC 219 just got a whole lot better with the addition of Khabib vs Barboza to the main card, Khabib will be hungry to grab a victory in his first fight since his submission win over Michael Johnson at UFC 205.

However, UFC fans will be crossing their fingers and hoping that the fight does happen as Khabib has been scheduled to fight in the main event, back in April 2016, but his opponent Ferguson had to pull out of their scheduled main event because doctors had found fluid and blood in his lungs. Khabib also pulled out of there fight at UFC 209 because he was hospitalized trying to cut weight for there highly anticipated bout, which played down his chances at him getting a title shot against McGregor. This fight is a chance for him to once again prove himself to get that title shot. Hopefully, we do not see a repeat of these past scheduled fights for Khabib and hopefully, we can see him back in the octagon for UFC 219.

I take no credit for this image

Now onto Barboza, who is an explosive and aggressive fighter, his last three fights have resulted in three wins for the Brazilian who won his last fight by TKO/KO with his latest loss coming from Ferguson by way of submission at the Ultimate Fighter Finale, back in 2015.

This Brazilian fighter prefers to stand and trade with his opponents and usually outclasses his opponents on the feet, however, most of Barboza’s losses have come by submission, one of those opponents being Michael Johnson (who Khabib beat by submission) so Barboza may want to work on his submission defence and ground game altogether because Khabib is a very dominant fighter who can control the fight and has a strong ground game so he will be looking to take Barboza to the ground.

Barboza needs to try to take control of the fight away from Khabib and keep it stood up to try and outclass Khabib, which will make for a very Interesting bout on December the 30th and many will be tuning in to see how it turns out.

I believe Khabib will walk with the victory over Barboza at UFC 219 in a fight which promises to be exciting and aggressive throughout.

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