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UFC Mexico City: Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Tony Ferguson Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Rafael Dos Anjos (25-8)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 32 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Eddie Alvarez (7-7-16)
  • Camp: Kings MMA (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Lightweight Champion
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   5 KO victories
+   8 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Disciplined w/pace & pressure
^   Aggressive but intelligent stalker
+   Hard & accurate left kicks
^   Favors body & inside leg kicks
+   Solid left hand–right hook
^   Variates well to the body
+   Good takedowns against the fence
+   Improved get-up ability
+   Strong top game
^   Smashes & passes effectively
+/-Favors shell-defense
–    Struggles w/wrestling pressure

 

Tony Ferguson (21-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 32 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Lando Vannata (7-13-16)
  • Camp: 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   2x All-American Wrestler
+   BJJ Purple Belt
+   11 KO victories
+   7 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   Relentless pace & pressure
^   Well-conditioned/consistent stalker
+   Long & accurate jab
+   Dangerous knees & elbows
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Traditionally takes damage
+   Solid wrestling ability
^   Superb hip & lever awareness
+   Excellent from front-headlock
^   Chokes, transitions, & back-takes
+   Active & attacking guard
–   Will give position for submission
+/-3-1 against UFC southpaws

Summary:

The main event in Mexico City features a showdown between the former lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and the division’s most dangerous contender in Tony Ferguson. Looking the bounce back from a crushing defeat to Eddie Alvarez earlier this year, Rafael Dos Anjos will have no easy path back to his recently lost title. Standing in the Brazilian’s way is Tony Ferguson, who aside from a decision loss to Michael Johnson back in May of 2012, has remained perfect in the UFC’s deepest division. That said, Tony will be risking his 8-fight winning streak against a hungry former champion.

Starting off on the feet, we will be subject to an interesting battle of pressure fighters. However, each man applies said pressure in slightly different ways. Although Dos Anjos is no stranger to marching forward with success, the Brazilian is a bit more flexible in his approach as he will circle just outside of range when he needs to. I suspect that we will see the disciplined Dos Anjos apply that measured approach of pressure here. An almost frantic forward mover, Tony Ferguson can seldom be found taking a back step in watching tape on his fights. Whether he is feinting or throwing, Ferguson consistently puts pressure on his opponents as he looks to half-step his way into kill shots.

That said, Tony will likely need to lean on his jab as I see that being a key factor in this fight. Not only will the length of an accurate jab be useful against the oncoming pocket engagements of RDA, but the angle in which Ferguson throws it could be particularly effective against the Brazilian. Usually keeping his lead hand low, Tony’s jab will come at a slightly upward angle which could find it’s home against a shorter, shelling opponent. However, missed jabs could cost Ferguson dearly as Dos Anjos loves to slip and rip his way into the pocket.

Typically slipping off to his right side, Dos Anjos will throw his left hand down the center as he variates between the head and body. Whether RDA is throwing his hard left hands or Thai kicks, the Brazilian will usually counterbalance his attack with his right hook as I suspect this may be the strike to watch for from the former champ. Not only does Tony’s tall stature make him available for such shots naturally, but he is also typically caught upright when retracting his strikes low. Considering that RDA likes to collide strikes and follow retractions, the Brazilian’s power will be most potent in these spaces.

However, Rafael has some tendencies of his own the may make him vulnerable inside the pocket. Often planting his heels to hold his ground, Dos Anjos tends to get wide on his retractions as he wings his shots from left to right. Although RDA usually has the upper hand in these stanzas(being that he is bombing from below), he will still need to be mindful of Ferguson’s dangerous and diverse arsenal. The shot I see being most effective for Ferguson is his uppercut. Even though Dos Anjos does a better job of retracting his strikes, he typically reverts to a shell guard that traditionally exposes him to uppercuts(going all the way back to his loss against Stephens and as recently as his win over Pettis).

The biggest on-paper edge in striking should come within the kicking realm. Between training in Singapore to his work with the renown Rafael Cordeiro, RDA has steadily found a way to bring baseball bats into the Octagon in the form of his legs. Embracing his southpaw stance, Dos Anjos will throw his left leg with impunity to the liver and lead legs of his opponents. Even when blocked, you can see the discomfort in its recipients as RDA hits with an arm breaking intent. Considering that Ferguson broke his arm defending kicks from a southpaw in his lone UFC loss, expect Dos Anjos to be throwing early and often. Although Tony is primarily a puncher, he will still have a presence at kicking range due to his preferred weapons of choice.

Despite not being known as traditional Thai kicker, Tony throws a decent teep kick that could disrupt an oncoming RDA. Although Benson Henderson and Anthony Pettis would both inevitably lose to Dos Anjos, they were each effective with their front kick variations nearly every time that they threw them. Considering that Tony already appears to carry one in his toolkit, we may see him utilize it more to capitalize on his length. Whether they are kicking or clinching, I feel that the key intangible will come down to who has the takedown intent. In looking at Dos Anjos’ recent career trend and Tony’s traditional struggles, it is almost a no-brainer that RDA should have a clear motive in making his way topside(which is probably why he is favored on paper).

However, almost all of Dos Anjos’ takedowns are attempted when he can get his opponent’s back to the cage, a place that you seldom find Ferguson. For someone who rarely takes a back step, Tony does a deceptively good job at slipping & rolling his head out of ugly spots and darting off to safe angles. Couple that with his already solid sprawl and takedown defense(when he’s not dropping for submissions), and things may start to get interesting should RDA be forced out of his preferred fight. The Brazilian does have a reactive shot that I see being effective against an aggressive El Cucuy, but largely only goes to it when under heavy fire. Should Tony be the one who pursues the takedowns, then I feel that RDA will be in real trouble of the script being flipped.

Although the former champion’s smash & pass styling has served him well on top, I do not feel he is nearly as effective when on the bottom. Usually electing to retain guard despite not having an active bottom game, we have seen RDA traditionally struggle with fighters who can wrestle. Despite making huge improvements to his getup game and overall wrestling in recent years, Dos Anjos still shows to struggle when defending shots as a tired Anthony Pettis was able to score a takedown in the fourth round of their fight. Although that is in no way a condemnation of RDA’s abilities(as he was able to get right up), it does show me that Tony is likely but a choice away from making this into a difficult fight.

That said, Ferguson is not known for taking traditional shots as he prefers to initiate his grappling efforts in the form of a front-headlock. A huge proponent of the snap down, Tony will create his own opportunities to take the fight into his realm as we saw Ferguson seal Vannatta’s fate by catching Lando in a front headlock as he was rolling away from his punches. Considering how well Tony transitions between chokes to back-takes from here, the front-headlock will undoubtedly be a key factor in this fight. Although Dos Anjos keeps a strong posture inside the clinch as he seldom overstays his welcome, Tony’s height and length will naturally create scenarios that will keep the former champ in check anytime his level lowers. Failed shots from RDA could also give way to these situations, or at the very least dissuade further attempts as the fight wears on.

Regardless of who ends up on top in the ground stanzas, I feel the scale of this fight will eventually slant to one side. Dos Anjos has an ideal grappling style to contend with Tony Ferguson. A positional grappler with solid submission defense, Dos Anjos does a good job at keeping his hands inside(on the chest or inside bicep controls) as he maintains a form of head-to-head pressure. This type of fundamental top game is great for disrupting or defending against high-guard styles like the rubber guard. That said, Tony has shown a steady improvement in his fight IQ as he is much more urgent in not allowing positions to stagnate. Even in his victories, we have seen Ferguson succeed rounds due to his willingness to fight from his back. Although RDA has the skills to recreate that type of environment, I feel that his efforts may evolve into diminishing returns should he not produce a finish.

Although both men are training at altitude and are already known for their conditioning, I believe that Ferguson’s ferocity is on another level in regards to pace. Whether it is his hard work or natural ability, Tony consistently fights at a breakneck pace that not only drowns his opposition but also comes close to drowning himself in the process. However, a durable chin and preternatural ability to compose and recover has kept him alive in the sink-or-swim environment he creates. Even if RDA takes control early on(which is likely considering Tony tends to have a tough first round), I feel that the wheels will start to come off as soon as this fight enters the scrambling realm.

Even though RDA is no slouch in the scramble, I feel Ferguson is on another level as I see his patent Granby roll playing a big factor in close spaces. Whether he is looking to ground a fighter or control a scramble, RDA favors re-wrestling for double-legs or transitioning to side rides when appropriate. Although these are solid control options in MMA, they still allow enough space for your hips to hit a Granby roll if you know what you’re doing, and Tony Ferguson does. In fact, we have seen Ferguson hit his Granby rolls in mid-air against Josh Thomson as he reversed what were solid attempts from the Punk. If Tony is not taking a leg or a limb in his rolling efforts, the scramble usually makes for a space that forces the opposing fighter to choose between standing and re-wrestling.

It is in these specific exchanges where I see the former champion potentially slipping. Even if RDA avoids giving up a front-headlock through the typical routes of a failed shot or turtle-out, his favored getup technique(especially inside of a scramble) is an under-hook getup. Although I am a huge proponent of the under-hook to single-leg get up in MMA, this technique can make you vulnerable to guillotines and D’arce chokes if you are not careful. Unless you are diligent with your head to hip position and keep your under-hook below the ass(as opposed to underneath the armpit), then you inherently put yourself at risk of these chokes–especially against a specialist with long limbs like Ferguson. Unless Dos Anjos can catch an upright El Cucuy early and often, then I see the former champion eventually drowning in his own success and likely suffering his first submission loss.

Official Pick: Ferguson – Inside the distance

 

Diego Sanchez (26-9)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 34 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Joe Lauzon (7-9-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 1 Winner
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   6 KO victories
+   9 Submission wins
+   11 first round finishes
+   Good pace & pressure
^   Well-conditioned
+   Hard left Thai kick
+/-Propensity to brawl
^   Counter availabilities
+   Strong pressure against fence
^   Favors double-leg takedowns
+   Active & effective scrambler
^   Excellent back-takes
+   Solid takedown defense
–    Dropped/hurt in 8 of last 11 fights

 

Marcin Held (22-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 24 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Dave Jansen (5-20-16)
  • Camp: Bastion Tychy (Poland)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   9 first round finishes
+   4 KO victories
+   12 Submission wins
+   Improved striking
^   Solid left hook
+   Good chin/physically durable
+   Improved wrestling
^   Works well against fence
+/-Succeeds position for submission
^   Creates dangerous scrambles
+   Active bottom game
^   Attacks from awkward angles
+   Diverse & deadly submission acumen
^   Consistently chains attempts
+/-UFC Debut

Summary:

The co-main event for Mexico City is a fun fight in the lightweight division as Diego Sanchez welcomes Marcin Held to the UFC. The original Ultimate Fighter winner with a pro career dating back to 2002, Diego Sanchez is still competing in the UFC’s most stacked division. With no easy tasks at lightweight, Sanchez will meet Marcin Held who has spent the last five years of his young career cutting his teeth in the Bellator organization.

Given each man’s aggression and intentions on the feet, it is hard to say just how long the stanzas will last. However, the longer things remain standing, the more likely Sanchez will be at an advantage considering his opponents strengths. Although Sanchez is the better striker on paper, I do not feel it will be by much as his Polish opponent has displayed the fight-to-fight improvements that young fighters tend to make. Despite Held’s grappling intentions being no secret, the Pole has punched his way into space much more convincingly in recent bouts.

Marcin has also demonstrated better hand-positioning as he retracts to–and throws from a more proper standing guard. Held’s best strike by far is his left hook, as I suspect this will be the strike to look for from him. Although Marcin primarily moves forward when throwing his hooks, he adapts them nicely into checks when thrown defensively. Not only is the check-hook an excellent weapon against aggressive strikers, but Sanchez has traditionally struggled against that strike in particular throughout his career. Often coming forward with a low hand position, Sanchez also has a tendency to retract his strikes low and wide.

These tendencies have traditionally opened up Diego to hooks off the counter and inside exchanges. However, that same aggression is also what makes Diego so dangerous as he will throw his arsenal unabashedly coming forward. Although he is often associated with his wide hooks and uppercuts, I feel that Sanchez’s patent left Thai kick will be the most troubling shot for Held. Not only will the striking-lane of Diego’s left kick be wide open given the stance matchup, but Marcin has a tendency to lean heavily to his right side. Although a fighter leaning to their power side is not necessarily abnormal, I doubt it will help Held as this habit will only further put him into Diego’s power strikes.

Where I feel this fight gets exciting, is the moment things hit the floor. Of all the things said on Diego Sanchez, surprisingly little is said about his grappling game as I feel it is underrated. Although Sanchez has not leaned on his grappling as heavily as he once did, this is a fight where his skills will undoubtedly be called upon and tested. Regardless of who can ground the other fighter, these grappling exchanges will not be decided over the simple top versus bottom scenarios. Each grapplers game is heavily reliant on the scramble, but both go about it in different ways.

Coming from a more traditional wrestling base, Diego will utilize switches or out-swim his opponents positionally when looking to turtle and stand. Although his submission skills are seldom on display, Sanchez is a superb back-taker as he shows a preternatural ability to snatch a back in transition. Marcin Held, on the other hand, will succeed to traditional trouble spots before creating a scramble that will flip the fortunes of those involved. As a leg-lock specialist, Held is the perfect type of grappler to disrupt traditional stylings as leg locks allow you to attack and create scrambles from positions where most players feel helpless from.

As an experienced competition grappler who is not shy about dropping for a leg himself, one would think that Diego should be able to navigate the trouble spots and out-scramble his opposition. That said, Sanchez’s aggressive nature on the feet–often follows him to the floor as I suspect that may get him into trouble here. Not only is Held’s level of submission chaining a real threat, but the Pole’s kill zone resides in a neighborhood that Sanchez often travels through. Even when winning positional stanzas, Sanchez’s said aggression tends to cost him these positions through failed transitions and submission attempts.

A superb scrambler with solid submission defense, Sanchez has been able to get away with his sporadic stylings thus far. However, he may finally get caught speeding considering that Held makes his money when his opposition thinks they are working for a better position. Even when Diego is controlling a position, you will seldom see Sanchez emphasize any type of head control which I find very troubling for this matchup. Whenever grappling a leg-lock specialist or superior scrambler, controlling the head his key in killing their momentum and intentions of getting underneath you.

Unless Diego can overcome his habits and grapple in a more disciplined style, then we may see Sanchez in some precarious positions that we are not accustom to. Although Diego has the skills and experience to win this fight everywhere on paper, his traditional aggression and recent career trends make it difficult to pick him. Even though he should be favored on the feet, Diego has been dropped or hurt in 8 of his last 11-fights. With a debuting fighter facing an aging veteran in a potent styles fight, I suggest staying away from any major plays. That said, I feel Sanchez’s propensity to play with fire will get him burned unless he finds another way home.

Official Pick: Held – Inside the distance

 

Ricardo Lamas (16-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 34 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Max Holloway (6-4-16)
  • Camp: MMA Masters (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Div. 3 All-American Wrestler
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   4 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   Accurate left jab & hook
+   Diverse kicking attacks
^   Favors R. leg kicks & L. switch kicks
+   Strong in clinch & against fence
^   Looks for knees & takedowns
+   Excellent top pressure
^   Effective ground striker
+   Solid transitional grappler
^   Deceptive submissions & back-takes
–    Lacks counters/pocket presence

 

Charles Oliveira (21-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 27 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Anthony Pettis (8-27-16)
  • Camp: Macaco Gold Team (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   BJJ Brown Belt
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   6 KO victories
+   13 Submission wins
+   10 first round finishes
+   Solid Muay Thai arsenal
^   Dangerous knees & elbows
+/-Upright shell-defense
^   Body shot susceptibility
+   Underrated wrestling
+   Crafty clinch game
+/-Will pull guard
^   Deadly off of back
+   Superb transitional grappler
^   Diverse submission acumen

Summary:

In a fun featherweight fight, Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas meets Charles “Du Bronx” Oliveira. Coming off a hard-fought loss to Max Holloway last June, Lamas will look to get back on the horse after a disappointing card cancellation, where Ricardo was originally slated to headline against BJ Penn. Filling the void of an injured Penn is Charles Oliveira, who is also eager to get back in the 145-pound Que following his loss to Anthony Pettis this past Summer.

Starting off on the feet, I expect we will see the Muay Thai marching of Oliveira versus the circling and setting offense of Ricardo Lamas. Despite the wrestling and grappling credentials of Lamas, he is deceptively agile on the feet as he throws spins kicks and evades attacks almost effortlessly. However, the strange part about Ricardo’s striking style is that you will seldom, if ever, see him attempt to counter his opposition. That said, I do not think that will necessarily be a bad thing against a fighter like Du Bronx.

Although Oliveira will undoubtedly be open for counters as he comes forward, the Brazilian welcomes these engagements as his game is built to capitalize inside of chaotic, close quarters. Whether he is unleashing knees & elbows or looking to take the fight to the floor, Du Bronx can instantly become dangerous whenever you are within his grasp. With Lamas not being one to play inside the pocket, I expect to see his standard stick-and-move approach as The Bully favors prodding with his diverse kick arsenal.

Despite a lack of accuracy in his spinning attacks, Lamas more than makes up for it with his powerful body and leg kicks. In fact, I believe that Lamas’ leg and body attacks will be a key factor in this particular matchup. No slouch when it comes to kicking, Charles has some nice kicks of his own as he throws solid teeps and leg kicks off the shuffle. However, the Brazilian has always seemed to lack a defensive presence when it comes to blocking kicks–particularly when thrown to the body.

Consistently reverting to a shell defense, Charles has traditionally been susceptible to body shots. In fact, 2 of 3 TKO losses sustained by Oliveira were triggered by body shots that seemingly crippled the Brazilian. Whether or not this specific fragility is due to the issues Oliveira has had making the weight(officially missing the limit 3-times at featherweight), body kicks will certainly be the strike to look out for from Lamas.

Where things start to get tricky–is when this fight hits the clinch. A place that is usually considered a safety zone for Lamas now becomes a consistent danger zone to the touch as Oliveira needs only but a limb to initiate his sticky style of clinching. It will be interesting to see what adjustments Lamas makes to his clinch game, especially in the under-hook and head position department when considering what Charles can do with the grasp of a neck or over-hook.

I suspect we may see Lamas elect for a body lock whenever these two are in close. We saw Hatsu Hioki and Nik Lentz both have success early against Du Bronx by utilizing a body lock to navigate the clinch and take him down(although they were both ultimately submitted). Never the less, the body lock is a solid takedown option as it helps neutralize guard attacks and increases pass percentages once you hit the floor. However, the second you touch down on the mat with Oliveira you have to be on high alert for a sneaky submission attempt.

That said, it is not the first attempt of Oliveira you need to worry about as the Brazilian chains submissions one-after-another like he is firing them from an M-60 machine gun. Charles will use his diverse approach to force his opposition into poor decision making as he capitalizes on traps or drowns them in interweaving submission waves. Even though Du Bronx is dangerous from all positions, Lamas shows the positional awareness and defensive tendencies that should help him stay safe.

Diligent with his hand positioning, Lamas fights very well from inside the guard as his grip fighting fundamentals allow him the opportunities to deliver devastating blows. Intelligent hand positioning is also the silent hero when it comes to disrupting an opponent’s offense, as I suspect Lamas will be looking to do plenty of stifling against the aggressive Oliveira. Where I see Lamas at a potential disadvantage–is anytime these two get into a scrambling scenario. Although Ricardo is no slouch when it comes to scrambling, it is the way in which he does so that may put him at risk with Oliveira.

Even though I am a big fan of fighters choosing to use transitional spaces and scramble opportunities to re-wrestle for position, this effort often involves giving your head as you reach in for a single or double-leg takedown. Despite these techniques serving Ricardo well in his MMA career, giving a head or front-headlock position away to Du Bronx can be as good as a death warrant. Having a knack for finding a neck in transit, Oliveira’s long frame also allows him to lock up Anaconda variations(Bronx choke) as we saw the Brazillian hand Hatsu Hioki his first submission loss.

I agree that Ricardo Lamas should be favored to win this fight as he has more paths to victory, but this is a close contest no matter which way you cut it. Ultimately, I see Ricard able to dictate the terms of battle which is why I will be siding with him as my official pick. That said, I recommend caution in playing this matchup due to the intangibles and trap-fight feel that Du Bronx often brings.

Official Pick: Lamas – Decision

 

Beneil Dariush (13-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 27 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: KO win / James Vick (6-4-16)
  • Camp: Kings MMA (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   Black Belt Muay Thai
+   2 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   6 first round finishes
+   Improved striking
+   Accurate left hand
^   Going forward & off the counter
+   Heavy left Thai kicks
^   Typically targets legs & body
+   Competent takedown ability
^   Favors attempts from clinch
+   Superb top game
^   Positional awareness & passing
+   Excellent back-takes
^   Dangerous submission acumen
–    Low-handed guard/strike retractions
^   Counter availabilities
+   Solid chin & superb composure

 

Rashid Magomedov (19-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 32 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Gilbert Burns (11-7-15)
  • Camp: Gorec/American Top Team (Russia)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Excellent

Supplemental info:
+   M-1 Global Challenge Champion
+   Master of Sports in Boxing
+   8 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   5 first round finishes
+   Excellent distance management
+   Effective & efficient footwork
^   Outside angles & defensive pivots
+   Accurate & precise striker
^   Scored knockdowns in last 3 fights
+   Favors left-sided attacks
^   Check hooks, jabs, & switch-kicks
+   Consistently strikes off the break
+   Deceptively strong inside the clinch
^   Effective with high over-hooks
+   Solid takedown defense(82%)
^   Good balance & hip awareness
+   Competent submission defense
^   Shows positional awareness
?   Questionable overall ground skills

Summary:

In a battle of Top-15 lightweights, Beneil Dariush takes on Rashid Magomedov. A stablemate and friend to former champion Rafael Dos Anjos, Beneil Dariush has made a name for himself as he ascends the UFC rankings. Standing in his way is a Dagestani who has yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon, as Dariush draws the division’s dark horse, Rashid Magomedov.

Despite Magomedov being one of the most skilled strikers in the division, Dariush will be his stiffest test standing thus far in his UFC tenor. Although Beneil came into MMA as an accomplished grappler, he has steadily rounded out his game under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro. Initially more of a stick-and-move stylist, Dariush has developed a taste for pressure-fighting as he has gotten more and more comfortable moving forward.

Prodding jabs with his right-hand measures the target for Beneil, as the Iranian usually favors unleashing a left cross or kick to follow. Although Dariush’s left hand appears to get more dangerous each time out, his baseball bat for a left leg may be his best weapon in this fight. Throwing it with accuracy and impunity, he could slow down the consistently moving Magomedov should he find his range early. That said, Rashid’s footwork and management of distance are the quiet x-factors in his game.

More of a slow burn than a slow starter, Rashid Magomedov will steadily find his rhythm as he primarily looks for the counter. Depending on the matchup, a technical–counter fighter can do quite well when faced with a pressuring opponent, especially if their footwork is in order. Rashid, for example, is traditionally difficult to pin against the fence due to his application of defensive pivots which allow him to angle out. These options are crucial when facing a fighter like Dariush, who looks to land his big strikes and takedown attempts in that space.

Where I see Magomedov having an edge in the exchanges, is when I look at the strike retractions of Dariush. Already carrying a slightly-low standing guard, Dariush will also retract his strikes low as well. Against an accurate counter striker like Magomedov, Beneil may get more than he bargains for in exchanges. In fact, I feel that Rashid’s check left hook will be one of the strikes to look out for in this fight. Even though the Iranian does a good job of getting his head off the centerline, he tends to lean heavily to his right side.

Not only does this put Dariush in the danger zone for a check hook, but it will also put him in the path of Magomedovs lead left kicks. Possessing excellent speed and dexterity in his legs, there is little telegraph to the kicks of Rashid Magomedov. Not only does the Dagestani use them to punctuate his combinations, but he will also sneak them in over his opponent’s shoulder when drawing them in off of a baiting jab. Should Magomedov slip Dariush’s initial offerings, the Iranian may find himself on the losing end of exchanges should he not mind his head and hand positioning.

Although I see Magomedov having the edge standing, Dariush’s advantages will certainly be on the ground. A jiu-jitsu player who’s game converts well to MMA, Dariush’s rock solid composure translates seamlessly to his grappling. Displaying an excellent pressure from topside, Beneil will use his shoulder to pin down his opponent’s head. From here, Dariush will look to threaten with an arm triangle choke, but usually only uses it as a smokescreen to disguise a pass. Should Magomedov find himself on the floor, he will likely have these tricks and more thrown at him.

The problem for Beneil is that I am not so sure he will be able to take this fight to the floor. Averaging only one takedown per fight, Dariush does not need much in regards to opportunities to find a finish. That said, a lot of the ground stanzas that Dariush has capitalized on has come more from his opponent’s mistakes than his successful takedowns. Against a fighter who is renown for his takedown defense and movement, these opportunities may become fewer as the fight moves forward.

Even if Beneil can get Rashid to the fence, his favored single and double-leg variations may be difficult to execute considering that Magomedov is excellent at utilizing high and tight over-hooks. Using the over-hook to hoist his opponents upward, Rashid makes it difficult for attackers to establish control of his hips. Magomedov also displays an excellent base and balance that surely helps assist his upright efforts. Although there is not a huge sample size on Rashid’s ground game, he has been in some troublesome spots that show me he has a solid positional awareness and understanding.

When most people are impressed by high-flying submissions, it is the little things that impress me most about a martial artist. Magomedov shows glimpses of this in his grappling by the way in which he applies certain intricacies. Whether he is disrupting his opponent’s grip with a wrist control or appropriately framing away with his back to the fence, Magomedov shows the grappling IQ that not only impresses me–but tells me that he is aware of where he needs to be against dangerous grapplers. Although Dariush is more well-rounded than Magomedov’s recent submission opposition, I feel that the Dagestani’s slick counters and elusive footwork will likely earn him a decision.

Official Pick: Magomedov – Decision

 

Alexa Grasso (8-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’5″ Age: 23 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Jodie Esquibel (7-29-16)
  • Camp: Lobo Gym (Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: N/A

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   4 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes

 

Heather Jo Clark (7-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 36 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: Dec. loss / Karolina Kowalkiewicz (5-6-16)
  • Camp: Xtreme Couture MMA (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: N/A

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 20 Alum
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   2 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   3 first round finishes

Summary:

Due to my personal affiliation with Xtreme Couture MMA and it’s fighters, I have chosen to not break down this matchup.

Official Pick: No Pick

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Bravo def. Puelles(*main card)
  • Perez def. Arantes
  • Soto def. Beltran
  • Griffin def. Montano
  • Andrade def. Briones
  • Alvey def. Nicholson
  • Reyes def. Novelli
  • Barzola def. Avila

Recommended Plays:

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Magomedov by Decision: +175 (0.5 Unit)
-RDA/Ferguson under 3 1/2: +115 (0.5 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Sam Alvey
-Enrique Barzola

Fights to avoid:

-Martin Bravo vs Claudio Puelles
-Marco Beltran vs Joe Soto
-Enrique Briones vs Douglas Silva de Andrade

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

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GLORY: Redemption – Breakdown and Predictions

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

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

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

Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Nieky Holzken vs Alim Nabiyev

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

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

Prediction: Nieky Holzken by 1st Round TKO

 

Alex 'Po Atan' Pereira

Alex ‘Po Atan’ Pereira – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Alex Pereira vs Yousri Belgaroui

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

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

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

Prediction: Yousri Belgaroui by Unanimous Decision

 

Michael Dreamcrusher Duut

Michael ‘Dreamcrusher’ Duut – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Michael Duut vs Danyo Ilunga

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

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

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

Prediciton: Michael Duut by 3rd Round KO

 

Rico The King of Kickboxing Verhoeven

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

Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik

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

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

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

Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by 5th Round KO

All images used in this article are accredited to GLORY Kickboxing

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

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Image result for holloway vs aldo

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

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

 

Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson

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

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

Prediction: Michelle Waterson by 2nd Round TKO

 

Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

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

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

Prediction: Justin Gaethje by Split Decision

 

Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis

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

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

Prediction: Henry Cejudo by Unanimous Decision

 

Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou

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

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

Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision

 

 Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo 2

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

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

Prediction: Max Holloway by 2nd Round TKO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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