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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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UFC 216 Breakdown: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee

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As a fight fan, you can’t ask for a much better match up than Tony Ferguson vs Kevin Lee.

This match up is easily one of the most fascinating ones of the year, and with the interim lightweight title on the line, the stake doesn’t get much higher. But the bigger meaning of the fight lies in that fact that a clear number one contender will be determined to virtually guarantee a future opportunity at the current champion, Conor McGregor.

The talks of McGregor next facing rival Nate Diaz next have been circulating for the past few weeks, but once this fight between Ferguson and Lee concludes, and someone walks out of the arena on Saturday with that interim championship around their waist, they will be very hard to deny for McGregor.

Although this fight is a very exciting match up, on paper, it may deceive some people as a mismatch, since Lee’s resume of wins doesn’t include too many top contenders. His biggest win was against Michael Chiesa in June of this year, Chiesa was ranked 6th at the time. But let’s look deeper into it and see what makes this one a must-see fight.

Where Ferguson Flourishes

Ferguson and Lee may be stylistically two completely different fighters, but their ground games and grappling are both extremely high level, possibly the top 3 in the division, a list that can’t leave out Khabib Nurmagomedov. In the grappling department, it is hard to decide a winner here.

Even about five months ago, I would have leaned towards Ferguson, but watching Lee take control against a high level grappler like Chiesa the way he did was beyond belief to be honest. Ferguson will have his hands full if the fight hits the canvas, and likewise for Lee. However, if there is one thing that Lee needs to watch out against Ferguson, it is the unorthodox style he brings, even in the grappling.

“El Cucuy” is a bizarre fighter, but in a good way. Watch him fight against Edson Barboza and do a couple of imanari rolls. Watch him roll while on the bottom against dos Anjos. It is mind-blowing how good he is with such peculiarity and Lee can’t overlook that.

With that being said, advantages for ‘El Cucuy’ are quite clear: Stand-up, cardio and experience. Ferguson showed time and time again what a well-rounded fighter he is, and his record shows it too. Out of 17 finishes on his win column, 9 of them are by knockout and 8 are by submission. He really is a fighter who can do it all.

Tony Ferguson defeated Rafael dos Anjos via Unanimous Decision in November of 2016 at UFC Mexico City.

We also know that his cardio is exceptional, this was displayed in his fight against Rafael dos Anjos, where he went five hard rounds with the former champion in Mexico City, at an altitude of 7,382 feet. Just to give an idea of how high that is, Colorado’s altitude is 6,035 feet.

Ferguson knows what it is like to be in the deep waters. But when a fairly young fighter such as Lee reaches the later rounds, nobody knows how he will respond to the situation, so Ferguson has his advantages in the experience department laid out clearly.

Don’t Count Out Kevin Lee

‘The Motown Phenom’, on the other hand, is a completely different fighter with different strengths. He possesses advantages in the physical department, career mileage, and in the fact that he has less pressure going into the fight. The physical advantage is the most obvious one for Lee. He has spoken before on the fact that he cuts from about 180-pounds, where Ferguson has talked about him being capable of making 145-pounds.

Ferguson may be taller, but it is not difficult to see that Lee is bigger when they stand next to each other. Lee’s second advantage comes from the fact that he is not as battle-tested. In a way, it could be a disadvantage, but he has taken considerably less amount of damage throughout his career compared to Ferguson. The last advantage for Lee listed was explained more specifically on my article ‘Tony Ferguson can’t afford to lose at UFC 216’. Feel free to go and check it out.

Kevin Lee defeated Michael Chiesa by first round submission (rear-naked choke) at UFC Oklahoma City in June 2017.

Now that both guys’ assets are laid out for this fight, it’s time to make a prediction.

Time and time again leading up to this fight, I’ve heard people say that this fight is going to end in a submission, and most say it’s going to come from Ferguson. I would agree with that but here’s one thing. As previously mentioned, Lee’s grappling is top-notch and he is brilliant defensively. This was evidenced when he was on the bottom against Michael Chiesa, a position in which he was easily able to escape.

I don’t believe Lee is a fighter that can be easily submitted. But here’s what I agree with most on: I also see Ferguson winning, because of his experience, cardio, and definitely unpredictability. Kevin Lee, while he is a very talented fighter, I believe it is just a tad bit too early for him at this moment.

Prediction: Tony Ferguson def. Kevin Lee via TKO (punches) in the 5th round.

 

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UFC 216 Breakdown: Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg

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If Demetrious Johnson is able to defend his flyweight title this Saturday at UFC 216, it will be an attempt to break a major record, as he will then have defended his belt for the 11th consecutive time.

It is a remarkable record that he attempts to break, which is currently being held by Johnson and the former middleweight champion Anderson Silva, at 10.

When this fight was first announced for UFC 215, the reactions from the fans were not exactly what the UFC hoped it would be. There were two possible reasons for this, and maybe even both:

1) The talks of Johnson defending his title against T.J. Dillashaw was roaming around at the time, which got fans excited, only to disappoint them in the end when it wasn’t finalized.

2) Ray Borg is not necessarily a fighter that fans are dying to see yet, mainly because he is not the most marketable fighter and he is very young, which made us ask, “Is he ready for this opportunity?”

However, there is one thing we must keep in mind when looking at a fight between a dominant champion and a young rising contender: Expect the unexpected. We saw it last December when Dominick Cruz fought Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207. Who would have ever thought that Garbrandt would be able to outclass Cruz the way he did?

Cody Garbrandt provided yet another shock title change when he defeated Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 in December of 2016.

But don’t get it mistaken. ‘Can’ doesn’t mean ‘will’. And although Borg could shock the world in this fight, it is way more reasonable to lean towards Johnson. After all, if we are being honest, ‘Mighty Mouse’ is the closest thing to a perfect fighter. The only times he lost was to Brad Pickett, which was seven years ago, and to Dominick Cruz, who unlike ‘DJ’ is a natural bantamweight.

This is a tough fight for Borg. The only way for him to win is either catch Johnson with a big shot and finish him or keep up a ridiculous pace for 5 rounds straight and outmatch the champion with skills.

Borg is at a couple of disadvantages here, one being his cardio. “The Tazmexican Devil” has previously shown that he often has a tough time making the 125-pound weight limit, and if you add that to the fact that he never fought past three rounds, his cardio is in question. Whether he will be able to keep up with Johnson, who can put on a ridiculous pace for 25-minutes straight, remains to be seen.

Also, we never know what is going through a fighter’s head, so it will be interesting to see how Borg performs under pressure. He’s never had a title shot, and Johnson has been in the same spot 12-times in his career, so experience also goes to Johnson.

Ultimately, I’m leaning towards the champion in this fight. I do like Borg and what he brings to the table, however, too many questions are unanswered about Borg at this point to pick him over Demetrious Johnson.

Prediction: Demetrious Johnson def. Ray Borg via Unanimous Decision.

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UFC 215 Main Card Breakdown

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The UFC makes its return to Canada as current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson looks to break the record for most successful, consecutive, title defenses, against Ray Borg. Also on the card is a women’s bantamweight title fight between champion Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko, Gilbert Melendez makes his featherweight debut against power puncher Jeremy Stephens, Ilir Latifi looks to bounce back against Tyson Pedro, and Rafael dos Anjos looks to continue his welterweight journey against Neil Magny. Let’s take a look and see how it each fight plays out.

Jeremy Stephens vs Gilbert Melendez

Gilbert Melendez is a fighter who has built his career on being a talented boxer and being incredibly strong both in the clinch and the ground. For years he has been a monster for most lightweights to deal with. However, since having joined the UFC from Strikeforce he has gone just 1-4. In his last couple of fights, he has found himself slowed down due to unchecked leg kicks and opponents who are quicker than him. In an attempt to resurrect his career ‘El Nino’ has dropped down to featherweight and will meet former lightweight, himself, Jeremy Stephens. Stephens has made a career out of hitting hard, knocking opponents out with either hands, legs, or even his knees. Stephens is a fighter who excels in the pocket and has the durability to stand toe to toe with almost any opponent. In his last five fights, he has gone 2-3 due to his opponents being quicker than him and keeping him on the end of their punches.

How the fight will go

Gilbert will come into the fight as the stronger fighter with the better grappling game and better control of the Octagon. His excellent boxing will match-up well with Stephens. However, Stephens will come in as the faster fighter, harder puncher, and will already be used to cutting down to 145. Melendez will need to gain control of the Octagon early and keep Stephens against the cage both in the clinch and on the ground, in order to tire out “Lil Heathen”. If he can use his boxing to keep Stephens at the end of his punches, control the Octogan, and stay out of the pocket, it’s his fight to lose. Stephens does his best work in the pocket and although he’s slow for a featherweight he will have the advantage speed wise in this match-up. If he can keep his back off of the cage, gain control of the Octagon, land his powerful leg kicks, and mix up his powerful strikes, then he will have a dog in this fight and can very well pull off the upset.

Prediction

Gilbert Melendez fights very similarly to the way he fought in the Pettis fight. He keeps Stephens’ back against the cage and forces him to the ground every chance he gets in order to tire him out. Stephens occasionally finds success using his speed and power in the pocket but eventually finds himself too tired to stop the stronger Melendez from imposing his game plan. Assuming Gilbert’s first cut 145 goes well, he beats Stephen’s via a close but clear decision to put his career back on track and start his journey at featherweight on the right foot.

Ilir Latifi vs Tyson Pedro

Ilir Latifi is coming off of one of the most brutal knockout losses of 2016. He ate a huge knee from Ryan Bader in the second round of their fight and has not returned to the Octogan since. The Swedish ball of muscle looks to bounce back against the undefeated Australian Tyson Pedro. Tyson Pedro is a fighter who has never experienced anything beyond a first round stoppage win, his fight against Latifi represents his biggest test yet. Latifi is a fighter with a game centered around his incredible strength and power. He is a fighter who brings a calm energy in the cage and an interesting physique. He is only 5’10, the same height as former featherweight Anthony Pettis, what he lacks in height he makes up for with muscle. His muscle alone makes him one of the strongest and most powerful fighters in the UFC. Pedro is one of the tallest fighters in his division, coming in at 6’3 he’s used to being the stronger, taller fighter and likes to smother his opponents both on the ground and in the clinch.

How the fight will go

A lot of Pedro’s advantages come from being the taller, stronger fighter. He likes to keep his opponents at range, eat them up with oblique kicks, clinch up, take them down and find the stoppage. Latifi’s strength means clinching and takedowns won’t be easy. He can over power most opponents and avoid trouble in those areas. Latifi does have a tendency to get stuck on the outside and eat leg kicks, his tendency to rush in can lead to counters, like in the Bader fight. Latifi is an excellent wrestler but has trouble taking his opponents down, often expanding a lot of energy in the process. Pedro has been hurt before by his lack of head movement and that can lead to him taking big shots, Latifi can always find a big shot early on and take the Australian out.

Prediction

This fight will all depend on how the first round goes. If Latifi can find his range early on he can land the knockout shot and finish the Australian. If he can’t, he will find himself on the outside where Pedro will pick him apart with body kicks and oblique kicks and hold him against the fence where the Swede will tire himself out. If Pedro stays patient he can tire out Latifi and score the finish. Pedro scores the upset and finishes an exhausted Latifi in the third round by TKO.

Neil Magny vs Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos looks to win his second fight at welterweight as he faces long time contender Neil Magny. Dos Anjos is coming off of a well-fought decision win against Tarec Saffiedine in a fight that helped him discover how he stacked up against a real welterweight and how his body would hold up. He brings into this fight excellent body and leg kicks that he uses to break down his opponents and slow down their movement. He has a game that is perfectly suited for his height as he uses a lot of pressure and forward movement to make sure he stays on the inside. His excellent ground game has carried over to 170 as he uses his top pressure to smother his opponents. Neil Magny last fought against Johny Hendricks in a fight where he used his long range better and showed a new technique with his kicks to create range. Magny’s game uses excellent cardio, as well as good footwork and movement. He’s starting to better understand how to use his long and tall body. He also uses his long legs to create triangle attempts from the bottom.

How the fight plays out

If Magny can use his height and reach correctly he can leave Dos Anjos stuck on the outside, as well as using his footwork to ensure he doesn’t take too many shots. His cardio will keep him fresh throughout the three rounds and he can use that to his advantage if dos Anjos tires out. Dos Anjos will look to use his leg kicks to stop Magny’s footwork as well as use his powerful body kicks to sap his cardio. Dos Anjos’ pressure based game could very well negate Magny’s reach advantage and his smothering top game would keep Magny from using his reach.

Prediction

Although Magny has the tools to beat dos Anjos, the Brazilian remains an elite fighter even at welterweight. Dos Anjos uses his leg and body kicks to slow down Magny as well as using his wrestling to tire the American out. Dos Anjos has fought tall opponents in the past and knows how to use his forward pressure to remove the reach advantage, as he did against Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz. The former lightweight champion takes a decision win and moves to 2-0 at welterweight.

Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko

Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko meet for the second time after fighting each other at UFC 196. The first fight ended in a close 29-28 decision win for the now champion Nunes. Nunes is a long and rangy kickboxer who likes to fight at range, where she uses her jab and cross keep her opponents back. She has been known to finish most of her fights early on, however, if she fails to do so she has a tendency to get tired, gas out, and get finished herself. Shevchenko, although undersized at 5’5, has been beating her opponents using her ever evolving ground game and her excellent Muay-Thai. Her patience and forcing her opponents to lead has brought her victories over top contenders like Holly Holm and Julianna Pena.

How the fight plays out

Amanda Nunes used her strength on the ground to beat Shevchenko in the first two rounds the last time they fought. Nunes didn’t have a whole lot of success on the feet as she was overpowered in the clinch and found herself having trouble with Shevchenko’s patience and lack of counter opportunities. Nunes’ ground game, while she was still fresh, was very dangerous last time out, nasty ground and pound as well as multiple submission attempts. However in the third round of their fight Nunes gassed and found herself too exhausted to overpower her opponent like she had done in the first rounds and found herself eating a lot of shots on the ground and in the clinch. If early on she can force Shevchenko to the ground and use her strength, she can find a submission or a ground and pound TKO. However, if she can’t, she’ll find herself getting tired in the later rounds and seeing her window for victory closing. This fight, being five rounds, heavily favors Shevchenko and her ever evolving game.

Prediction

Much like in their first fight Shevchenko will stay patient and lose the early rounds. Her lack of activity hurt her last time out as well as Nunes’ aggressive ground game. If Nunes can use her strength early on, she can take Shevchenko down and have her way with her as she looks for the early finish. If Shevchenko can weather the early storm, she can take advantage of her tired opponent and finish her late. Shevchenko will force Nunes to lead and although she’ll have to weather the early storm, her patience will eventually pay off as her opponent tires herself out. Valentina Shevchenko finishes an exhausted Amanda Nunes in the fourth round by TKO to become the new women’s bantamweight champion.

Demetrious Johnson vs Ray Borg

Current flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson takes on Ray Borg in an attempt to break the record for most successful consecutive title defenses. His 11th title defense comes against skilled wrestler Ray Borg and his ever evolving striking. Johnson brings to the Octagon one of the most well-rounded games in all of MMA. His excellent stand up paired with his world class grappling has not failed him at 125. His excellent footwork has always troubled his opponents and his lack of clear weaknesses means it’s difficult to exploit problems in his game. Ray Borg started his career as a world class grappler who would immediately take his opponents down and smother them until the fight was over or he was able to find a submission. His striking used to be a big weakness in his game until he started training with Brandon Gibson.

How the fight plays out

Ray Borg used to start his fights by immediately taking his opponents down and smothering them. Now that his striking improved he’s content with staying on the feet and striking with his opponents. This is where he will have problems against Johnson, Johnson is the much quicker fighter out of the two and will keep Borg on the outside. Borg’s incredibly short reach of 63” means he will need to cover a lot of distance, something he struggles with. Borg is not the quickest of flyweights and is a lot slower than Johnson. While Johnson has the bigger advantage on the feet, the wrestling is where it gets tricky. Borg’s ability to find the takedown and stay on his opponent is something he will need to use to tire out Johnson and force him to make a mistake. Johnson’s patience on the ground means he won’t panic if he goes down with Borg and has shown in the past he can easily get back up or even grapple with the best of them. Borg’s gas tank will be a problem in this fight, as Johnson never seems to tire out and is used to going five rounds. If Borg tires, Johnson will completely take over the fight.

Prediction

Borg starts the first round on the feet and ends up getting frustrated as he finds Johnson too quick and gets stuck on the outside. He eventually finds the takedown and forces Johnson to go through some scary moments. Johnson survives the early storm on the ground and starts to run away with the fight in the third round as Borg starts to tire. Although the fight will be close on the ground, it’s obvious Johnson has all the advantages in the standup. Demetrious Johnson beats Ray Borg by unanimous decision to break the record for most successful title defenses in a row.

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