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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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UFC on Fox: Emmett vs Stephens – Breakdown and Predictions

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

Mike Perry vs Max Griffin

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

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

Prediction: Mike Perry by 1st Round KO

Ovince Saint Preux vs Ilir Latifi

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

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

Prediction: Ilir Latifi by Decision

Jessica Andrade Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Jéssica Andrade vs Tecia Torres

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

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

Prediction: Tecia Torres by Decision

Josh Emmett vs Jeremy Stephens

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

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

Prediction: Josh Emmett by Decision

 

 

 

 

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GLORY: Redemption – Breakdown and Predictions

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

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

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

Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Nieky Holzken vs Alim Nabiyev

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

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

Prediction: Nieky Holzken by 1st Round TKO

 

Alex 'Po Atan' Pereira

Alex ‘Po Atan’ Pereira – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Alex Pereira vs Yousri Belgaroui

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

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

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

Prediction: Yousri Belgaroui by Unanimous Decision

 

Michael Dreamcrusher Duut

Michael ‘Dreamcrusher’ Duut – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Michael Duut vs Danyo Ilunga

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

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

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

Prediciton: Michael Duut by 3rd Round KO

 

Rico The King of Kickboxing Verhoeven

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

Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik

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

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

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

Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by 5th Round KO

All images used in this article are accredited to GLORY Kickboxing

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

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

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

 

Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson

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

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

Prediction: Michelle Waterson by 2nd Round TKO

 

Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

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

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

Prediction: Justin Gaethje by Split Decision

 

Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis

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

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

Prediction: Henry Cejudo by Unanimous Decision

 

Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou

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

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

Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision

 

 Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo 2

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

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

Prediction: Max Holloway by 2nd Round TKO

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