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UFC Fight Night 81: Dillashaw vs Cruz Breakdown

Dan Tom

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TJ1

TJ Dillashaw (13-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 29 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Renan Barao (7-25-15)
  • Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver, CO)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   TUF 14 Finalist
+   3x NCAA Qualifier (Wrestling)
+   6 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes
+   Effectively shifts stances
^   Intelligently adjust to opponent
+   Favors overhands & uppercuts
+   Dangerous head/body kicks from Southpaw
^   Usually setup off left crosses
+   Active check right/jab
^   Uses to pull & return
+   100% Takedown defense rate
+   Excellent scrambler/back-taker
+/-Low lead hands standing
^   Heavily reliant on head movement
+/-Willingness to play in counter-range

 

Cruz7

Dominick Cruz (20-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 30 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Takeya Mizugaki (9-27-14)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ *Former UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   WEC Bantamweight Title
+   Wrestling Base/Experience
+   7 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   Consistent speed & stamina
+   Excellent distance management
^   Constantly moves & feints
+   Utilizes “Darts” & “Crouches”
^   Allows misdirection/directional changes
+   Solid knee-tap takedowns
^   Well-timed penetrations & executions
+   Intelligent & effective scrambler
+   Accurate R. crosses & counter hooks
+/-Low handed standing guard
^   Relies on head/overall movement
+   Great in-fight instincts/IQ

Summary:

In a technical maelstrom of mixed martial arts potential, two different stories of unbeaten Champions will finally come to fruition as TJ Dillashaw meets Dominick Cruz. Not only are their stories very different, but I’m of the minority who feel their styles are also different as I explain why that is and how it could impact the possibilities of this fight. Let me first start off my citing and thanking my sources in researching this match, as Luke Thomas & BJJ Scouts’ video “Dominick Cruz Study Part 2” were very helpful in not just understanding the Former Champion’s style, but, more importantly, demonstrating the effectiveness in which he utilizes Crouches & Darts. Also, Jack Slack’s article “The Art of Shifting” was very insightful into the success of the current Champion TJ Dillashaw. I highly recommend you check out these articles as not only will it help you understand the breakdown of this fight, but it will further expand your overall knowledge & understanding of striking. Now that the pleasantries are aside, allow me to present my take on how each man’s technical particulars will fit into this puzzle of footwork & evolution.

Like many natural Orthodox fighters who switch to Southpaw, TJ Dillashaw will conduct traffic largely off of his right hand. Setting up left crosses & power kicks from Southpaw or favoring his hard uppercuts & overhands from Orthodox, it’s Dillashaw’s check right hand/jab that’s most impressive and a key to his offense. Using it to off-beat opponents’ offensive rhythms, TJ will add to the disarray by incorporating subtle but effective shifts that change the stance and even angle of attack. As much as I could pontificate on the shifting brilliance & technical progression of TJ, it’s his measured aggressive pacing that brings everything together as I’ll explain. If you listen to Dillashaw’s corner, you’ll often hear head coach Duane Ludwig heavily emphasizing TJ to, “TouchPullReturn.

“Pulling & Returning” is a boxing term that refers to a general method of drawing out attacks in order to return offense of your own. Let’s dive into how TJ translates this method to better understand possible applications (or implications) of his style in this fight. Touch: As previously stated, TJ wields a quick right hand (Darting from Orthodox or more typically conducting from Southpaw) that he uses to establish his range or set up a perceived range to his opponent. Pull: After initiating contact in hopes of rebuttal, Dillashaw will draw or even shift back in order to avoid the opposing counters with intent to set up counters of his own. Return: Once avoiding the counter attack, TJ will return an even heavier wave of offense assuming he’s made the correct angles & anticipations. Another fighter who utilizes shifts to execute his Pull & Returns is – yes, Dominick Cruz.

However, Dominick does so in a more lateral fashion as he’ll heavily lean on “Darts” & “Crouches” to change direction and overall offensive terms as opposed to the Champions strongly linear approach(in regards to his attack). Though TJ may have a slight speed & aggression edge stylistically (which could prove key), I see Cruz as having an edge in overall footwork as he more safely manages distance while showing & applying more lateral based options. Where I see his style being specifically effective, is the manner in which he exits exchanges while still deceptively staying in range to counter. Using a Shifting style that in traditional Martial Arts is referred to as “Opening the Gate“, Cruz will swing his lead foot back (often from a Crouch) in order to change angles and present a false perception of range to his opposition. Often exiting to his right, Dominick will tack on accurate counter hooks that I feel will be his best weapon against TJ.

Hold on, won’t moving to the right put Cruz directly in line with Dillashaw’s left head kicks & crosses? -not necessarily. As stated above, from TJ’s left-sided show-closers to his “Touch-Pull-Return” methods, his offense is largely predicated off the right hand. If Dominick can effectively navigate this through his movement, he may be able to negate a surprising amount of the Champions offense. I’ll spare you my ground predictions not out of laziness, but as I honestly don’t see much time being spent there. I feel Cruz has more motive & ability to take the fight to the floor, but Dillashaw’s 100% takedown defense rate coupled with his incredible ability to scramble will likely keep this war topside.

I’m a huge fan of the evolution of TJ Dillashaw’s style under Duane Ludwig and wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see intelligent adjustments made to dominate “The Dominator“. Ultimately, however, TJ’s shown linear attacks & arguable over-willingness to trade has led him to take more damage (even in dominant victories) than I’m comfortable with. Despite Dominick not carrying your classic “One-shot Knockout Power”, I feel his style shows to be the more efficient fishing pole in regards to drawing bites and, more importantly, conducting action. With the obvious intangibles of Cruz’s time off & physical health, I strongly caution any serious plays here. Instead, enjoy what hopefully is a treat of the sports two most technical fighters.

Official Pick: Cruz – Decision

 

Pettis4

Anthony Pettis (18-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 29 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Rafael Dos Anjos (3-14-15)
  • Camp: Roufusport (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Lightweight Champion
+   WEC Lightweight Title
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   12 first round finishes
+   9 TKO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   Active Guard/Bottom game
+   Effective in scrambles
+   Improved wrestling/TD defense
+   Excellent feint utilization
^   Intelligently reads & reacts
+   Accurate shot selection
+   Dangerous kicking variety
^   Hard body kicks
+/-Plays along the outside
–    Struggles w/pressure against fence

 

Eddie1

Eddie Alvarez (26-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: SD win / Gilbert Melendez (6-13-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians MMA (Florida/Philly)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former Bellator Lightweight Champion
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   16 TKO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   5 Submission wins
+   Good  cardio & conditioning
^   Excellent recoverability
+   Underrated takedown ability
+   Accurate right hand/uppercut
^   Often setup w/ “Darts” or “Crouches”
+   Quick shifting lateral footwork
+/-Heavily reliant on head movement
–    Low hand position/strike retraction
^   Counter availabilities
–    Lacking leg checks/defense
–    Dropped or shown hurt in last 8/10 fights

Summary:

In an intriguing styles matchup, Boston’s Co-main event features two of the most exciting championship level Lightweights as Anthony “Showtime” Pettis takes on “The Underground King” Eddie Alvarez. Coming off a devastating Title loss in which he was hurt early & often, it will be interesting to see how Pettis approaches this fight as I’m sure he’s hungry for redemption. Though not coming off a loss himself, this match will be equally important for Alvarez who’s had an adverse go of things in his past few fights/years of his career (suffered from inactivity between ’12-’15). Never the less, I suspect both men to come in top form as I conducted my usual in-fight studies to break this one down.

Possessing more than a solid kicking game, Eddie Alvarez is most known for his active Boxing based attacks. With his right hand being his most accurate & effective weapon, Eddie often enters with it off a “Dart” or setups the right uppercut from a “Crouch“. Utilizing excellent lateral footwork, Alvarez will Shift his position by stepping into an opposing stance in order to open up effective angles of attack. Though possessing good head movement, Eddie will employ this style with generally low hands(especially off his strike retraction). This, coupled with his signature aggression, has left Eddie consistently open to counters as he tends to hang out longer than he needs to offensively. With right hands being the usual culprit in that situation, he’ll need to mind the accurate counter-right of Pettis.

Though Anthony has underrated Boxing abilities, leaning on his dangerous kicking variety should serve him best in this fight. Despite Alvarez making a career of exciting fights, he’s actually faced a small sample size of effective “kickers” in MMA. Though his said lateral shifts can make him hard to target, we saw Eddie reluctantly check or defend kicks when exchanging with skilled kickers like Donald Cerrone or Katsunori Kikuno. Anthony’s deceptive but deadly head kicks could also help corral(or even catch) Alvarez as he attempts his lateral shifts & head movements. This technique theory of kicking to deter head movement is often referred to by Hall-of-Famer Pat Miletich in his commentary and could play a factor in this fight.

Make no mistake, as impressive as Anthony’s kicks may be, it’s his ability to process reactions & setup precision shots off feints that’s most spectacular. Although I give Alvarez a movement advantage standing, Pettis has the appropriate tools to equalize the playing field. I feel Eddie’s underrated takedown game is his best chance for success and a Key Factor in this matchup. Though Anthony has made strides in his Wrestling, we’ve seen him struggle with grappling pressure against the fence (which just so happens to be where Alvarez is most effective at corralling fighters). Eddie could ultimately use this pressure to take down or at the very least stifle the former Champion who tends to circle in this outside area. But with Alvarez being dropped or shown hurt in 8 of his last 10 fights, I’m not sure I like his chances against the dangerous attack variety of Pettis.

Official Pick: Pettis – Inside the distance

 

Travis1

Travis Browne (17-3-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’7″ Age: 33 Weight: 236 lbs Reach: 79″
  • Last TKO loss / Andrei Arlovski (5-23-15)
  • Camp: Glendale Fight Club (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   13 KO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Solid kicking variety
+   Improved Boxing
+   Deadly elbows in close
+   Underrated ground skills
–    Slightly low hands standing
^   Especially upon retreating
+/-Gets hit – recovers well

 

Matt4

Matt Mitrione (9-4))

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 37 Weight: 255 lbs Reach: 82″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Ben Rothwell (6-6-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians MMA (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair/li>

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 10 Alum
+   Former NFL Pro Athlete
+   8 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Excellent Athleticism
^   Closes distance quickly
+   Dangerous left hand
+   Deceptive right hook
+   Hard left power kick
–    Slightly low hands standing
^   Especially on strike retraction

Summary:

In a fun showdown of Heavyweight strikers, Travis Browne faces off against Matt Mitrione. For many reasons Travis comes into this fight as an on-paper favorite, whether it’s his shown resume of finishes or his slightly more well-rounded skill-set. That said, I feel based on each’s man shown record/want to stand & trade, this match will ultimately be decided to strike. As both fighters carry knockout power, I feel the key factors standing will be footwork and defense. Browne came on to scene drawing attention for his size and ability to move but has since refined his striking with his most recent relocation to the Glendale Fight Club.

Since making a concerted effort to clean up his Boxing, we’ve seen improvements on Browne’s standing guard & striking fundamentals. Now I feel this was an overall positive adjustment to his game, as this would give balance to his sporadic movements & shot selections. However, I feel this matchup, in particular, would better suit Travis’s previous sporadic stylings. Mitrione may be culpable to single-dimension criticisms, but none the less has intelligently worked hard to improve & support this part of his game. Calling Matt a natural athlete would be an understatement as the former NFL Pro has translated his abilities into unbelievable in-cage speed, power, and footwork. It’s those key intangibles of speed & movement that can give Travis trouble should he come out in his more “plotting” Boxing stance.

Despite each man’s striking improvements, they still share the same criticism of largely single-shot attempts(which again make me lean toward the fighter with more efficient movement & timing). With Mitrione being a confident guy who’s hard to hurt, I feel Browne will have to either take this away by hurting him early, or disrupt his movement game by going back to his kick-heavy approach. If Travis relies too heavily on his jab or timing a naked right hand, he could have trouble establishing his range given Matt’s Southpaw stance & footwork. Both men share a history under coach Neil Melanson and carry underrated ground skills. However, I feel Travis has shown to be more proficient & active in that category and could possibly sway this fight if he chooses to implement it.

Working closely with another one of the sports best grappling coaches Ricky Lundell, It will be interesting to see what strategy is employed as I feel Browne has a ground advantage(Although keeping Mitrione grounded can be harder than grounding him). This is one of those matches where I came in giving the edge to one man, only to end up siding with the other upon tape review. In fact, this fight is so close that if it took place in the small cage I’d likely have a different pick. However, this bout will contest in the large Octagon which caters more toward Mitrione’s conduction of offense and the terms it happens on.

Official Pick: Mitrione – Inside the distance

 

Ross1

Ross Pearson (18-9)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Paul Felder (9-5-15)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 9 Lightweight Winner
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   Brown Belt Judo
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   6 first round finishes
+   7 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   KO power
+   Good feints & head movement
^   Looks to slip & counter
+   Accurate left hook
+   Improved takedown defense
+   Shows get-up initiative & technique
+   Excellent overall movement
+/-Dips head heavily to his right

 

Trinaldo1

Francisco Trinaldo (18-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 37 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Chad Laprise (8-23-15)
  • Camp: Evolucao (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF Brazil Alum
+   Jungle Fight Lightweight Title
+   Multiple Kickboxing Accolades
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   8 first round finishes
+   6 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   KO power
+   Dangerous left hand
+   Underrated takedown ability
^   Counters off kick catches
+   Effective ground striker
+   Improved striking & defense
+   Good chin/Physically durable
+   Strong in clinch & on top
–    Gas tank bears watching

Summary:

Kicking off main card festivities in Boston, the UFC will once again look to its Lightweight Division where we’ll get a closer look at quietly rising contenders Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson and Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo. Pearson, in my opinion, is one of the best and most underrated fighters to come out of England. A UFC veteran who hasn’t shied from traveling, learning, and growing as a martial artist, Ross maintains a fairly straight forward approach. Using improved footwork & counter-wrestling, Pearson will look to manage range while trying to establish his own. Usually taking a round or so to do this, he’ll need to be on point against the dangerous fast starting Trinaldo.

Don’t let the age of Francisco Trinaldo fool you, he’s a man who’s fought adversity his entire life and still shows fight-to-fight improvements despite this stage of his career. His physical strength & heart alone has kept him in fights, got him out of bad spots, and even won him close decisions. Though Massaranduba comes from a Kickboxing base, I feel his best chances against the Englishmen will be by utilizing his grinding clinch & wrestling game. Despite Pearson’s shown counter wrestling improvements (particularly his get-up initiatives to turtle out and stand), we’ve seen him struggle against superior grapplers who deny him space to operate. Now I’m honestly not sure if Trinaldo is a superior grappler in any category against Ross, but this is something worthy of note coming into this fight. Even if Francisco fails to keep Pearson grounded, his relentless engagements will still make Ross work and possibly stifle his offensive eagerness.

As stated in his pre-fight interviews, I see Pearson looking to avoid this and counter punch his way to a victory. As a justified favorite coming into this match, Ross earns that listing due to his shown striking prowess as he’s outstruck 12 of his 14 opponents in the UFC’s Lightweight Division. Over Pearson’s years spent with Alliance MMA he’s seemingly picked up some solid footwork habits from his stablemate Dominic Cruz. Though not utilizing the same footwork or Dart-like penetrations, Pearson does heavily rely on The Crouch as shown beautifully through “BJJ Scout: Dominic Cruz Study Part 1” (@BJJScout). Heavily dipping to his right, Ross will set into The Crouch position but won’t “open the gate” (stepping back with his left into a Southpaw stance in order to open more options).

Instead, Ross will load his right uppercut as he’ll generally start his counters by throwing this to the body or head (which also will naturally set up his accurate left hook from the blind side). Though I give Pearson the technical edge standing, he’ll have to be most careful here as dipping heavily right will put him in line with Trinaldo’s devastating left hand. Though the oddsmakers are seemingly giving Francisco more respect than usual, this fight is still probably a lot closer than what’s on paper. I’m self admittedly a big fan of Pearson’s style as I came into this one leaning toward him. But after watching film on both men, I feel there are more paths to victory for Trinaldo who’s never been stopped and seldom seen hurt. I see those key intangibles keeping him in this fight as Massaranduba’s heart, power, and improvements always seem to make him a valuable dog play.

Official Pick: Trinaldo – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions

  • Saunders def. Cote
  • Wade def. Baghdad
  • Herman def. Boetsch
  • Blanco def. Sanders
  • Felder def. Cruickshank
  • Latifi def. O’Connell
  • Rosa def. Mendes
  • Font def. Gomez
  • Mutapcic def. Barroso

Recommended Plays

Pieces for your parlay:

-Anthony Pettis
-Paul Felder
-Chris Wade

Props worth looking at:

-Anthony Pettis – Inside the distance
-Matt Mitrione- by KO/TKO
-Paul Felder – by Decision

Fights to avoid:

-Ross Pearson vs Francisco Trinaldo
-Rob Font vs Joey Gomez
-Ilir Latifi vs Sean O’Connell

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-TJ Dillashaw
-Anthony Pettis
-Maximo Blanco

Low Tier Picks:

-Dominick Cruz
-Matt Mitrione
-Francisco Trinaldo

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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