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UFC Fight Night 77 Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Vitor2

Vitor Belfort (24-11)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 38 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Chris Weidman (5-23-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: B

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC LHW Champ
+   UFC HW Tournament Champ
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   Boxing experience (1-0 as pro)
+   Jiu – Jitsu Champion(unspecified)
+   18 first round finishes
+   17 KO victories
+/-One fight in 2 yrs.(Weidman loss)
+   Improved Kickboxing
^   Effectively adding kicks
+   Accurate left hand
^   Sets up L. head kick
+/-Slips heavily to left side
^   Counter L. Uppercut – R. Hook
–    Will succeed to bottom
^   Looks to sub or stall
–    Struggles with top pressure/G&P

Hendo3

Dan Henderson (31-13)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 45 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Tim Boetsch (6-6-15)
  • Camp:Team Quest (Temecula, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: B

Supplemental info:
+   2x US Olympic Wrestling Team
+   Multiple Greco-Roman Accolades
+   Pride MW & WW Title holder
+   UFC 17 MW Tournament winner
+   Strikeforce LHW Champion
+   14 first round finishes
+   15 KO victories
–    2-7 in last four years
+   KO power/Heavy hands
+   Physically strong in clinch
+   Deadly right hand
–    Throws himself out of position
+/-Slips heavily to his right
^   Possesses R. Uppercut counter
–    Head dips low/right on entries
^   Shows counter vulnerabilities
+   Dangerous Ground & Pound

Summary:

In the evenings “main course”, Brazil is treated to a rubber match between legends as Vitor Belfort & Dan Henderson battle one last time. When you not only consider their last meeting, but the fact that Henderson is 2-7 in the last four years, it’s easy to see why Belfort comes in as the favorite. His only losses in nine years come to the sports best(Silva, Jones, and Weidman), but he’s only fought once in the last 2 years in what has arguably been a troublesome time in “The Phenom’s” career.  Though I do acknowledge Vitor’s positive test/level history, and his visible physical to performance variances, I try to maintain efficacy by keeping my analysis technically based and free from private intangibles or personal opinions(That doesn’t mean I don’t factor in these intangibles for my personal analysis or private plays).

With all that out of the way, let’s jump into this bouts technical action. Vitor is well known for his blitzing killer-instinct but is primarily a counter fighter. Habitually slipping to his left, Belfort possesses an excellent left uppercut-right hook counter. I would say that this is Henderson’s best chance to land his right, but in their most recent(and relevant) fight, we saw Vitor’s speed & technique prevail as his countering was spot on. Granted it’s in Dan’s entries where he’s most vulnerable, he’ll none the less have to show improvements and awareness here. With a “never say die” aggression & power, Henderson will often throw himself off balance and out of position. It’s here that he’s available for TD’s & counter punches, especially given his nature to overcorrect this by swinging back into the fire(his opponents range).

Defensively, Dan keeps his right hand high and will dip & slip hard to that side. He will have to be careful when doing this with Vitor’s looming left high kick. Sharpening and showing this tool since his fight with “Sexy-Yamma”, this could once again prove useful to Belfort with Dan’s propensity to lean heavily right. Henderson’s best chance to beat Belfort’s speed & aggression is utilize his counter right-hand set ups. As we saw in his fights with Fedor & Boetsch, Dan can still be effective with his power moving backwards. Henderson should also have an advantage on the floor, but given Vitor’s movement & Dan’s TD tendencies(10 for 27 TD’s in 39 fights) I doubt we’ll see much ground time. However, should this fight go past a second round, I feel Dan’s TD interests & overall chances of winning will greatly increase.

The one intangible I will factor in(and you should too) is the age & experience of each man’s glorious but weathered career. Though I feel Henderson’s line is mis-valued & worth looking at, I’d avoid any Fantasy picks despite this being a 5 round affair. I am self admittedly a huge Dan Henderson fan, but in unbiasedly looking at the information I give a slight edge to Belfort in this fight. Although I don’t necessarily agree that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, I feel any expectations on either man should be respectfully tempered as so.

Official Pick: Belfort – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: To be determined

Glover3

Glover Teixeira(23-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 35 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Ovince St. Preux (8-8-15)
  • Camp: ATT/Team Teixeira (Danbury, CT)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: B+

Supplemental info:
+   Sport Fight Champion
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   14 KO victories
+   16 first round finishes
+   4 Submission wins
+   KO power/Heavy hands
+   Solid Boxing technique
+   Good head/economy of movement
^   Rarely overextends himself
+   Excellent follow up left Hook
+   Competent TD Defense
+/-Will drop for Guillotines
+   Favors single-leg TD’s
+   Strong Ground & Pound
+/-Turtles out from bottom
^   Vulnerable to strikes/controls
–    Struggles when backs against cage
+   Good durability & recoverability

Cummins2

Patrick Cummins (8-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 34 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Rafael Cavalcante (8-1-15)
  • Camp: Kings MMA/RVCA (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: B-

Supplemental info:
+   2x All-American Wrestler
+   2x US National Team Wrestler
+   4 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes
+   75% overall finishing rate
+   Well chained TD attempts
+   Excellent reactive shots
+   Grinding top controls
^   Powerful G&P/Elbows
+   Physically strong/stopping power
–    Hands low/head leads on entry
^   Vulnerable to counter shots
–    Lacks head movement off strikes
+   Good ground scrambling
+   Excellent forward TD drive
^   Usually takes opposition to cage
+   Solid submission defense
+   Well paced & conditioned

Summary:

In the “Co-Main Event” of the evening, Light-Heavyweights Glover Teixeira and Patrick Cummins do battle. Given both men’s stylistic strengths this one breaks down fairly simply. On the feet, Teixeira possesses solid Boxing technique with a nice economy of head & overall movement. Glover will seldom kick or throw himself out of position, making him match up well with Cummins on the feet. Cummins however does show improved stand up, particularly in his distancing where he manages it by utilizing shots/TD threats. It’s when Pat closes this distance in his entries is when he’s most vulnerable. With low hands and leading with his head, Cummins will shoot his way into space(often unaccompanied by punches). Here is where Glover will have his best chance to close the show given his counter punch abilities.

As good as Teixeira’s attack/counter-attacks are, he shows to struggle offensively & defensively when his backs to the cage. This is exactly where Pat will need to dictate this fight both standing and on the ground to walk away victorious. In fact, an initial tell to this fights outcome will be told within Pat’s early approach. Despite possessing an explosively well timed Power-Double(in which he uses to discourage/counter forward pressure), Should Pat allow Glover to establish the center and get comfortable, his striking & TD effectiveness may diminish. Cummins will need to keep  an “in your face” range of strikes to shots for his best chances of grounding Glover. Less we not forget that Teixeira is an underrated wrestler with good defense & get ups from the bottom.

With Teixeira proving hard to be held down, Cummins best chances top-side will be from inside the guard. From here, not only will he be able to maximize his offensive tools, but will also limit Glover’s escapes being that he favors under-hook & turtle out get ups. Should Pat succeed this much in his fight dictation, I wouldn’t bank on a finish given Glovers durability & defense. Which means if Cummins is gonna win this fight, He’ll have show the up-most discipline to do this to Glover for three rounds in hostile territory. Given that lofty task I’ll be siding with the Brazilian on this one albeit slightly. Even in a flat performance against another stylistic challenge in Phil Davis, Glover still showed the conditioning & heart to relentlessly fight back to his feet. Though Davis who rarely tires, was exhausted even after a clear victory. Though a different style of wrestler than Davis, Cummins more than possesses the tools to upset in similar fashion. With that said, I’d strongly caution any plays on this one’s outcome.

Official Pick: Teixeira – Decision

Official Outcome: To be determined

THomas3

Thomas Almeida (19-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 24 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 72.5″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Brad Pickett (7-11-15)
  • Camp: Chute Box (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: B

Supplemental info:
+   Legacy BW Champion
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   15 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   15 first round finishes
+   Aggressive forward pressure
+   Volume/variety striker
+   Finishes combos with L. Hooks
^   Especially liver shots
+   Dangerous lead switch-knee
+   Good elbows & uppercuts
+/-Will stand toe-to-toe
–    Takes damage(especially early)
+   Favors lead right hand
^   Head leans heavily left
+   Excellent get up ability
+   Improved TD defense
+/-Gets hurt but recovers well

Birchak1

Anthony Birchak (12-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 29 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Joe Soto (6-6-15)
  • Camp: Luta Elite MMA (Tucson, AZ)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: B-

Supplemental info:
+   Regional BW Titles
+   NCAA Div. 2 Wrestler
+   4x Greco State Champ (AZ)
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   6 first round finishes
+   6 submission wins
+   4 KO victories
+   Very strong in clinch
^   Good body-lock TD’s
+   KO power
+/-Aggressive submission hunter
^   Often misses/losses position
+   Active scrambler
^   Will expose back in turtling
+   Excellent G&P/Elbows
–    Shown leg-lock vulnerabilities
–    Head high/hands low on entries
+   Volume & variety striker

Summary:

In my pick for the potential “Fight of the Night”, Thomas Almeida collides with Anthony Birchak. Almeida is a hot rising prospect from Brazil who embodies the classically aggressive “Chute Box” style. He’ll be facing his most well rounded opposition to date as he meets Birchak. Although coming from a wrestling base, Anthony shows a wild variety of techniques & aggression. This especially is apparent on the feet, where he keeps his opposition guessing from superman punches to clinch space, or fake shots into flying knees. However, the common thread here is that he keeps his head high and hands low on his entries. Favoring his right uppercut lead-ins, Anthony could particularly play into Almeida’s hands.

Thomas favors a lead/intercepting right hand of his own, which he uses to come over the top of oncoming attacks. Though Almeida’s willingness here has costed/exposed him to straight punches, Birchak’s wide open attack should prove less resistance for his accuracy. It is important to note that Thomas will turn his lead rights into counter set ups, as he leans heavily left/forward coming off his cross. This sets him up to come back hard with left hooks to the head & body. However, it’s in this high risk game that he also allows for his own counter vulnerabilities(seen in Pickett fight).

Though I give Almeida an overall edge standing, his willingness to go “toe-to-toe” makes Birchak’s KO power a live intangible in this fight. Not to mention Anthony’s shown durability & chin, you should not write this man off on the feet. That said, Birchak’s best chances will be by making this a gritty fight in clinch/grappling space. Almeida also shows improved TD defense & excellent get up abilities making the clinch the “Key Junction” in this fight. Should Birchak get Thomas down, I suspect he’ll try and test the Brazilian as we’ve seldom seen him grounded. However, I highly doubt we see any prolonged ground stanzas given each mans stylings.

Though possessing excellent ground striking & an aggressive sub game, Anthony will often make hasty/slightly technically deficient attempts that cost him position(even his back with his habit of turtling). Speaking of wrestling related habits, Birchak also shows to leave his legs for the taking in ground transitions(threatened/caught with leg-locks in last 4 of 4). Almeida also shows to threaten Heel Hooks in the scramble and whether he can catch Anthony or not, he should be able to use these opportunities to stand at the very least.

I actually like Birchak’s style & aggression for this fight, and I feel the odds are off as he’s a very live dog. But given the facts at play, I’ll be leaning toward the fight-to-fight improving prospect to get it done in his backyard. I cannot stress enough how close this fight actually is, and caution any plays for Almeida’s high price. That said, he is worth looking at for your high tier Fantasy picks given this ones promise for action. “When two Tigers fight, one losses but both end up maimed.” Expect high risk and high reward at it’s finest.

Official Pick: Almeida – inside the distance

Official Outcome: To be determined

CowboyOliveira1

Alex Oliveira (12-3-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 27 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 77″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Joe Merritt (6-27-15)
  • Camp: TATA Fight Team (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate
  • Overall Fight Grade: C+

Supplemental info:
+   Pro Muay Thai experience
+   BJJ Blue Belt
+   8 KO victories
+   9 first round finishes
+   Strong in clinch
^   Looks for body-lock TD’s
+   Consistent back taker
+   Good counter striking
^   Accurate L. Hook – R. Hand
–    Lacks volume & urgency
+   Underrated counter-wrestling
+   Solid Chin/never stopped

Piotr2

Piotr Hallmann (15-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 28 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Magomed Mustafaev (6-20-15)
  • Camp: Gym Flamingo (Poland)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: C

Supplemental info:
+   European LW Titles
+   7 KO victories
+   7 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   Physically strong & durable
+   Improved transitional wrestling
+   Good cage/clinch pressure
–    Heads dips on feints
–    Propensity to take damage
^   Shows good recoverability
+   Favors single-leg variations
+   Grinding top-game

Summary:

Once again in the deep Lightweight waters, Alex Oliveira meets Piotr Hallmann. With both men owning finish rates north of 80%, this one has some on-paper potential. Starting out on the feet, Hallmann will come out with consistent forward pressure. Favoring straight punches, he puts his strikes together well often finishing with chopping leg kicks. Piotr does however show defensive deficiencies, particularly when feinting his way inside. Piotr utilizes feints to set up strikes and keep his opponent guessing. In doing so, he has a tendency in over exposing his head by bringing it out and forward with his hands. This is where he traditionally has gotten hit and will have to be careful against a counter striker like Oliveira.

Alex will be more than happy to play Matador here, as he shows a natural ability to move in & out of range. Always looking to angle off, Oliveira wields an accurate left hook – right hand that Piotr will have to mind. With the larger and more proven arsenal, I have to give Alex the advantage standing. Piotr’s also the more defensively liable man given his stated issues(dropped in 3 of last 5). That being said, Hallmann is insanely tough and shows great recoverability. We’ve seen Piotr on many occasions outwork/out will opponents despite being hurt and tired.

Hallmann’s best chance of winning this fight is turning it into a grinding grappling affair. Showing a decent take down variety from the clinch, his single-legs should serve him best given Oliveira’s long frame. However, Alex shows underrated counter-wrestling and could find himself on top if Hallmann’s not careful. On the floor I give the overall scrambling & submission advantage to Oliveira, which means Piotr’s positional game will have to be on point. Hallmann’s showed progress in this part of his game when working with John Crouch & The MMA Lab.

Since departing with him, this will be Piotr’s second fight camp done in Thailand. With that said, I’m not sure what strides he’s made there or how it will translate(no slight intended). Should his transitional grappling falter, he could be subject to the active back-taking of Oliveira. From here, Alex could potentially steal control time should he not find a finish. In summation, this fight is so close it may come down to who fades first. With the new IV ban and both men’s admittance to struggle making Lightweight, fading could be a live intangible here. But with all things being equal, I’m siding with the hometown “Cowboy” to get the job done.

Official Pick: Oliveira – Decision

Official Outcome: To be determined

Gilbert1

Gilbert Burns (10-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Alex Oliveira (3-21-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: B

Supplemental info:
+   BJJ World Champion
+   2nd Degree BJJ Black Belt
+   6 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   Aggressive cage pressure
^   Breaks off for strikes
+   Powerful right leg kick
+   Strong clinch
^   Variety of Trips/TD’s
–    Counter strike susceptibility
^   Strike retraction/exiting range
+/-Reverts to shell defense
+   Active & efficient passing
+   Excellent scrambling IQ
^   Dangerous submission variety

Rashid3

Rashid Magomedov (18-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Elias Silverio (12-20-14)
  • Camp: ATT/Gorec (Russia)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good
  • Overall Fight Grade: B

Supplemental info:
+   M-1 WW Title Holder
+   Master of Sports: Boxing (Russia)
+   8 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   Excellent lead left kicks
+   Accurate right hand
+   Good distance management
+   Variates levels in attacks
+   Strikes off breaks/transitions
+   Effective counter puncher
^   Times/accesses attacks well
–    Susceptible to inactivity
+   Good TD defense (92%)
+   Scrambles/gets up well
?   Questionable overall ground skills

Summary:

In what is my most anticipated bout of the evening, Lightweight prospects Gilbert Burns & Rashid Magomedov do battle. This will be each man’s toughest test to date, as they will attempt to make statements in the UFC’s deepest division. Given both men’s consistent approach & this stylistic “Striker vs. Grappler” match-up, this one is pretty straight forward. Rashid will look to use his efficient footwork & distance management to dictate the striking traffic. Here he shows to methodically breakdown & measure opponents with a solid jab and varying(head, body, and thigh) lead-leg kicking attacks. Though his left body kick arguably is his best weapon, it’s Magomedov’s counter punching abilities that will serve him best here.

Although Gilbert continues to demonstrate improvements under Henri Hooft, he shows counter availabilities on strike retractions and exiting range. This will be Rashid’s best chances to sway momentum given his accurate counter-right and check left-hook(which I particularly see giving Burns trouble). Once hit or outdone in exchanges, Gilbert often reverts to a “shell defense”. If this happens, Burns will have to mind Magomedov’s said body attacks. Though Rashid doesn’t show one punch KO power, you can visibly see the displeasure of his opponents once cleanly landing.

Despite showing a durable chin, I doubt Gilbert will play more than he has to here. I heavily suspect Burns to utilize his aggressive forward pressure into clinch/cage space. Though lacking the Sambo & Wrestling credentials of his Dagestan counter-parts, Magomedov maintains a 92% TD defense rate. That said, the times he’s been taken down was from the cage clinch(where he’s also shown control susceptibility). This particular position is a strong suit for Gilbert, and what I believe to be the “Key Junction” in this fight.

Should Burns get Magomedov down, it could be a very long(or short) night for the Dagestani. Although Rashid’s training partners at American Top Team rave about how hard he is to hold down, Gilbert’s top/transitional game is at another level. With both men young in their MMA careers, their fight-to-fight improvements will be the intangible factor at play. Regardless of the outcome, I see this being a close fight that should bare lessons & maturity for both men. That being said, I’m leaning toward the more well-rounded Blackzilians prospect to edge this one out. I caution plays heavily here, and instead recommend the classic “Avoid & Enjoy!”.

Official Pick: Burns – Decision

Official Outcome: To be determined

Fabio1

Fabio Maldonado (22-8)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 35 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Quinton Jackson (4-25-15)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Poor
  • Overall Fight Grade: C

Supplemental info:
+   22-0 as Pro Boxer
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   14 KO victories
+   6 first round finishes
+   Accurate shot selection
–    Hands low/Head upright
^   Propensity to take punishment
+/-Durable but weathered chin
+   Excellent tempo changing
–    Shows TD susceptibility
–    Ineffective from bottom

Anderson2

Corey Anderson (6-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 26 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 79″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Jan Blachowicz (9-5-15)
  • Camp: Ricardo Almeida BJJ (New Jersey)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair
  • Overall Fight Grade: C+

Supplemental info:
+   2x All-American Wrestler
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   Training w/Mark Henry & Co.
+   Good strike to TD transitions
+/-Short notice fight(3 weeks)
+   Accurate left hook
+   Consistent volume  & output
–    Lacks leg kick defense
–    Stationary head in pocket
+   Solid Double-leg TD’s
+   Active elbows/G&P

Summary:

In the first fight on the main card, Light Heavyweights Fabio Maldonado and Corey Anderson square off. Though taking this fight on 3 weeks notice, Anderson claims to have already been in shape and actively searching for a fight. Looking at each man’s styles & tendencies, their respective paths to victory are clear. Maldonado being the more predictable fighter, will look to keep it standing at Boxing range. From here, he plays possum in pocket exchanges using deceptive tempo changing to draw out brawls. This is where he’s most dangerous as he possesses accurate counters and momentum shifting body shots.

Corey will have to avoid the brawling and stick to his game if he wants to be victorious here. Working with Mark Henry & Frankie Edgar’s team, Anderson shows an ever improving transition game. From accurate volume punches to well executed Double-legs, Corey only gets better every time we see him at 26 yrs of age. I expect him to lean heavy on his transitional wrestling skills, especially given how their strengths & weaknesses line up. Fabio shows take down susceptibility with glaring deficiencies in his ground game. Corey’s best chances are exposing this early and sticking it/Maldonado like glue.

Fabio is traditionally a slow starter, and usually gives up the first round(losing 7 of 10 opening rounds in the UFC). However, Fabio does possess the heart & durability to mount comebacks should Corey falter. This looming threat in particular will be a stern mental test in Mr. Anderson’s young career. I’m a big fan of Fabio Maldonado as he certainly holds the intangibles/tools to upset here. But between the on-paper stylings to the trajectory of their careers, I see Corey taking this one. Though lacking shown killer instinct & KO Power, I’d expect a gritty decision over a stoppage.

Official Pick: Anderson – Decision

Official Outcome: To be determined

Preliminary Match Predictions

  • Gleison Tibau def. Abel Trujillo
  • Johnny Case def. Yan Cabral
  • Thiago Tavares def. Clay Guida
  • Chas Skelly def. Kevin Souza
  • Gasan Umalatov def. Viscardi Andrade
  • Jimmie Rivera def. Pedro Munhoz
  • Matheus Pereira def. Bruno Rodrigues

Recommended Plays

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-Thomas Almeida

Low Tier Picks:

-Dan Henderson

Pieces for your parlay:

-Johnny Case
-Alex Oliveira
-Chas Skelly

Props worth looking at:

-Almeida vs. Birchak – inside the distance
-Chas Skelly by Submission

Fights to avoid:

-Guida vs.Tavares
-Burns vs. Magomedov
-Andrade vs. Umalatov

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

Onnit Primal Bells

brazil

UFC 219: Cyborg vs Holm recap

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In yearly tradition , the UFC hosted a pay per view fight card at the T-Mobile Arena  in Las Vegas once again and for the second year in a row, the card was headlined by two females fighting for the title of the baddest woman on earth. Cristine Cyborg Santos was looking to defend her featherweight title for the first time since capturing the title last summer in a tko victory over Tonya Evinger.  Her opponent would be Holly Holm, the woman who shot into stardom after knocking out Ronda Rousey to become the bantamweight champion in 2015 and was fighting for the featherweight title for the second time after being unsuccessful in a controversial loss to Germaine De Radamie in Brooklyn.

In the co main event, The UFC welcomed one of the most feared lightweights and beloved contender Khabib Nurmagomedov who returned to the cage after a year layoff after failing to make weight earlier this year in a title eliminator with Tony Ferguson . Welcoming Nurmagomedov to the cage was exciting Brazilian striker Edson Barboza who was on a 3 fight win streak after losing to interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson in 2015. The winner would guarantee a title shot for themselves against either Tony Ferguson or the winner of the title unification fight between Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson if it happens.

The rest of the card had other stories that intrigued the fans with the return of former UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit taking on Neil Magny, Cynthia Carvillo looking to go 5-0 in 2017 with a win over Carla Esparza and an exciting lightweight fight between Marc Diakiese and Daniel Hooker.

 

The Main Event

UFC Women’s Featherweight championship

Christine ” Cyborg” Santos vs Holly ” The Preachers Daughter” Holm

When the UFC announced it’s intentions to start a featherweight division for females in the UFC, a fight between Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm was the most logical fight to start the division. It took almost a year to come into fruition but on Saturday night, we finally had the answer of who would be the most feared female fighter in the world.

The fight started off with Holm tripping Cyborg after a kick and started the clinch game for Holly , who overpowered Cyborg against the cage. A move that would slow down Cyborg’s attacks in the later rounds but this was not the case tonight. Cyborg, who was known as a devastating berserker like striker in her earlier has become a more patient striker under the guidance of Jason Parillo. Cyborg caught Holly with a variation of counter strikes throughout the fight which swelled Holm’s left eye. Holm had her moments in the fight and gave Cyborg her toughest fight to date.

As we moved into the later rounds, the counter strikes were landing more often for Cyborg and started to dictate to fight. The final bell rang and although many scores were thrown around on twitter all in favor for Cyborg. Cris Cyborg won a unanimous decision with one judge scoring the fight 49-46 which had Cyborg winning four rounds and the other two judges scoring the fight a lot closer 48-47.

What’s next for Cyborg? She asked for Meagan Anderson in Australia , the last Invicta featherweight champion who has yet to make her debut for UFC after signing last summer. With the card in 6 weeks, its unlikely she will get her wish but Cyborg vs Anderson should be next in the shallow and confusing 145 division for females.

 

The Co-main event

Khabib ” The Eagle ” Nurmagomedov vs Edson Barboza

A fight that in many people’s eyes was the true main event with fan favorite Khabib Nurmagomedov putting his unbeaten 24 fight win streak on the line against fellow top contender Edson Barboza.

What can you say about Nurmagomedov that hasn’t been said already. He was nothing short of perfection.

Implementing his game early, Nurmagomedov took the fight to the ground early in round 1 after failing on the first attempted takedown on Barboza. Once the takedown was secured, the Russian posture to his feet and landed devastating ground and pound on Barboza. It took a minute to see Barboza would be in for a rough night as by the sound of the bell ending for the first round, Barboza was bloodied up and looked defeated.

The second round was even more devastating when Khabib had Barboza on the ground for the entire round. The commentators in awe of Khabib’s abilities began to sound concerned that Barboza took too much damage as no matter who much punishment Nurmagomedov would deliver to Barboza, Barboza continued to be in the fight and looked for the knockout whenever the fight would go back to standing which ultimately ended in the brazilian being taken down again.

Barboza had a chance to end the fight in the third when he landed a head kick on Nurmagomedov who showed a granite chin and walked through the shot like T-1000.

The fight went to the judges and the judges scored the fight in favor of Khabib Nurmagomedov ( 30- 25, 30-25,30-4) which just highlights the one-sided victory for the Russian who moves to 25-0 and will likely take on Tony Ferguson next year.

The rest of the card

Although not the most exciting run of fights in the lead up to the main and co main. The main card hosted the return of Carlos Condit who after returning to the cage following a 16 month hiatus only to suffer a decision loss to an impressive Neil Magny who used his wrestling to take down the former champ on numerous occasions.

Speaking of former champs, former strawweight champion Carla Esparza scored a big win beating undefeated Cynthia Carvillo, who impressed in round 1 before Esparza turned the tides and finished the fight with a flurry of strikes to secure the victory.

Daniel Hooker used the ” McKenzietine” guillotine choke to submit the Brit Marc Diakiese in the third round after winning the first two rounds with his ground game. In what many anticipated to be a stand up war, the fight was quite the opposite and Hooker sinked in the choke after an attempted takedown by Diakiese.

Preliminary cards

We won’t be ringing in the new year celebrating the prelims this year as every fight on the FS1 portion of the card went to a decision.

Michal Oleksiejczuk got the biggest underdog win on the night upsetting Khalil Rountree Jr in a decision in which both fighters gassed early after Rountree held on the a guillotine which gassed the American when he failed to get the submission. The other decision victories went to Myles Jury looking impressive at featherweight against Rick Glenn and  Matheus Nicolau who knocked down Louis Smolka three times in the first round to win a one-sided decision.

Omari Ahkmedov and Marvin Vettori went to a majority draw in what seemed like the longest fight in history and finally Tim Elliot scored a submission victory over Mark  De La Rosa and dedicated the victory to the late great Robert Follis who sadly took his own life this month.

Overall UFC 219 wasn’t a great card but a masterclass by Khabib Nurmagomedov was worth every penny.

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Forget Cormier vs. Jones – Cyborg vs. Megan Anderson Should Headline UFC 214

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Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones II is all but confirmed for UFC 214 in Anaheim, California on July 29. Despite the magnitude of the light-heavyweight championship rematch, the UFC would do well to look elsewhere for their UFC 214 main event — namely in the direction of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and Megan Anderson.

The UFC’s schedule for the first half of 2017 is largely booked as of now. Fight announcements for July are coming in daily but there is still no clue as to who might headline UFC 213, the promotion’s International Fight Week pay-per-view offering. Jon Jones is expected to make his long-awaited return in July however not for 213.

UFC President Dana White has stated that Jones will not be eligible to compete during International Fight Week due to his suspension, making UFC 214 in late July the most likely option. White also insisted that Jones cannot be trusted to headline an event due to his past transgressions.

If White holds true to his word it’ll be a bizarre and unfortunate set of circumstances to promote the most important rematch in the history of the UFC. Many titleholders are booked for the moment, so the Cormier vs. Jones rerun would seem the most logical choice. However, as has been the norm in the past two years of UFC promotion an interim title can be slapped on to any semi-interesting match.

Countless arguments are made about how interim titles are senseless and harmful to the actual titleholder but those arguments although valid, are not much more than gripes.

The absence of sanctioning bodies in mixed martial arts are a contentious point of debate in the MMA community and combat sports in general but sanctioning bodies in regard to titles are almost always a nuisance in the world of boxing.

Any educated fan knows who the real champion is. Even in the rare instance where the interim titleholder is held in higher regard or more popular than the actual champion as was the case with Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, nothing was done to diminish the value of the featherweight belt.

The notion that a title fight must headline a card may be antiquated but it seems that is the manner that the UFC will continue to handle business for the foreseeable future. Five rounds are seldom a negative in high-level MMA and an interim belt would be most justified if a match is made between former Invicta featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and current champion Megan Anderson.

If Cormier vs. Jones will play second fiddle to another fight, an interim featherweight title fight between “Cyborg” and Anderson would be a sensible headliner for UFC 214. Given the lack of options and the current featherweight champion’s fighting future in doubt, the fight would merit its headlining spot.

Jones in a co-headliner may seem strange business wise. It is rare for Dana White to put morale ahead of dollar signs but if it is the case it may be for the better. An alpha male like Jones doesn’t want to be second to anyone. The very fact that the marquee will say Cormier vs. Jones instead of Jones vs. Cormier most likely rankles with the superstar.

Yet the promotion of Jones is more intriguing now than it ever has been. Jones reportedly pulled in right under 500,000 buys for UFC 197. Not too shabby for a 15-month layoff with a lukewarm undercard.

Moreover, a fight with the magnitude of Cormier Vs. Jones will be heavily promoted under any circumstance. ESPN, TMZ, Deadspin, will all be pulled towards covering the event, so the co-main event placing may not be that big of a deal. The benefits that the Cormier/Jones rematch can provide for the women’s featherweight division are substantial.

..that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.

UFC 208 was the official introduction of the featherweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and it wasn’t loved by many spectators. Germaine de Randamie outpointed Holly Holm in a 25-minute striking affair.

Technically, the fight was brilliant but provided not a single awe-inspiring moment. The fact that there was controversy regarding some illegal blows, a contested decision, and that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.

The great thing about a Cyborg/Anderson fight is that both women really want the fight and also happen to be great kickboxers that have genuine horsepower. “Cyborg” trounced Leslie Smith in less than a round and utterly pummeled Lina Lansberg in just over five minutes. Anderson is young and still relatively raw but has some exceptional power at featherweight.

The desire to improve is also not lost on the talented Aussie. Her Invicta FC debut was an embarrassingly one-sided loss to notorious overachieving veteran Cindy Dandois.

Grappling is an aspect of MMA that Anderson hasn’t fully grasped as of yet but is miles ahead of where she was in 2015. Anderson’s 2016 was outstanding with three knockouts in a row and she showed her artistic side as she used Charmaine Tweet’s blood to splatter the canvas red like a deranged college activist student.

There was a USADA flagging for “Cyborg” after her last win that was retroactively cleared. Unfortunate and badly timed, it ended up rekindling an old hatred that some in the MMA community have had for the Brazilian since her first positive test in 2011.

“Cyborg” is a respectful competitor and her fighting style is barbaric but her past with PEDs rubs some fans the wrong way, making her a lightning rod for controversy. More often than not, controversy sells.

In the skills and experience department “Cyborg” will hold a distinct advantage, however, Anderson is not lacking in confidence and may be the first fighter that can match “Cyborg’s” power. Anderson also happens to be a fan favourite in Invicta and isn’t shy about trash talking when the opportunity calls for it.

Justino vs. Anderson would not only be a well-matched and entertaining scrap, it would possess something many women’s MMA fights are too commonly missing, intrigue.

Ronda Rousey is unlikely to come back and that leaves the UFC looking for ways to create a new female star. This bout would seem like the most probable one to do that.

Rousey had a great home backing in Southern California from early on in her career and it might be time for “Cyborg” to take some of those fans as she has been a SoCal native for years. Anaheim is only a few miles from “Cyborg’s” hometown of Huntington Beach and it shares an ocean with The Land Down Under.

If a sacrifice is made by the UFC to prove a point, then let it be one that carries some positive possibilities for other athletes who are hungry and deserving of the spotlight. Step aside Jones, and let the ladies handle this one.

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Reports: Vitor Belfort to step in against Anderson Silva at UFC 212

Matthew Wells

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UFC 212 may have a new co-main event featuring two legends from Brazil.

Ag.Fight has reported Vitor Belfort has offered to fill in for Kelvin Gastelum to face Anderson Silva at UFC 212 in Rio on June 3.

Gastelum was originally scheduled to face Silva, but due to a potential USADA anti-doping violation which saw Gastelum flagged for marijuana metabolites stemming from an in-competition sample collected on March 11, 2017, a provisional suspension was levied and he was removed from the card.

Silva, who celebrates his 42nd birthday on April 14, will remain on the UFC 212 card which is headlined by a featherweight title fight between Max Holloway and Jose Aldo. Silva found his way back into the win column at UFC 208 where he won a unanimous decision over Derek Brunson, notching the 34th professional victory for the former UFC Middleweight Champion. The win over Brunson is the first official victory on Silva’s record since UFC 153 over Stephan Bonnar since the win over Nick Diaz at UFC 183 has since been overturned to a No Contest.

Due to Gastelum’s USADA issues, we may have a rematch of a title bout that took place at UFC 126 that saw Silva defend his middleweight strap against Belfort in devastating fashion.

Belfort, who turned 40 on April 1, has one more fight remaining on his UFC contract and expressed his desires to fulfill his contract after suffering a loss in his last outing to the aforementioned Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 106 in March. The loss was the third straight TKO loss for the former champion, whose last win came over Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 77 in November 2015. Belfort always wants the biggest fight available, and name-wise, they don’t come much bigger than Anderson Silva.

While both men have had their bumps in the road in the recent final chapters of their careers, fighting on their home soil in Brazil is something both men always look forward to.

UFC 212 takes place at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janerio, Brazil on June 3, 2017.

Confirmed bouts include:

  • Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
  • Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
  • Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Eric Spicely
  • Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez
  • Marco Antonio Beltran vs. Delveson Alcantra
  • Yancy Medeiros vs. Erick Silva
  • Paulo Henrique Costa vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
  • Leonardo Santos vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
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