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UFC on FOX 18: Johnson vs Bader Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Rumble1

Anthony Johnson (20-5))

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 31 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Jimi Manuwa (9-5-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Juco National Wrestling Title
+   Regional MMA Championship
+   14 KO victories
+   10 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Devastating right hand
^   Overhands, uppercuts, and hooks
+   Dangerous left high kick
^   Set up off stance switches
+   Underrated takedown defense(79%)
+   Working diligently on grappling
^   Improvements shown in last fight
–    Struggles when pressure fought
^   Gas tank bears watching

 

Bader3

Ryan Bader (20-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 32 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Rashad Evans (10-3-15)
  • Camp: Power MMA (Arizona)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   2x Div. 1 All-American Wrestler
+   3x Pac-10 Champion
+   7 KO victories
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Explosive power double TD’s
+   Strong pressure against fence
^   Effective clinch & body locks
+   Solid positional awareness & rides
+   Active ground strikes
+   Good footwork & movement
+   Much improved overall striking
–    Strikers sometimes retract low
^   Counter opportunities

Summary:

The evening’s main course features a battle for contender-ship at light heavyweight, as Anthony Johnson takes on Ryan Bader. Riding a 5-fight winning streak, Bader will surely cement his case for a title shot should he get past Johnson. As one of the toughest outs in the division, Anthony will look to skip over Ryan with an impressive vintage win here. Although I do feel Johnson is a justified favorite, I found myself disagreeing with the odds as this is a much closer fight stylistically.

Starting off on the feet, it’s not difficult to see why Johnson carries an on-paper advantage. Under the tutelage of striking coach Henri Hooft, Anthony’s natural aggression has been steadily honed into a more technically efficient wrecking machine. Subtly loading in left-to-right plots, Johnson will constantly counter-balance himself with strikes to maintain offensive & defensive readiness. Using said left-to-right shifts, Anthony is already set in motion to move defensively one direction, which will naturally load up hooks that he’ll use to throw himself back into position.

These movement principles also translate seamlessly with Anthony’s kicking game, as we saw this demonstrated in his last fight with Jimi Manuwa. Smoothly changing angles by switching to southpaw, Johnson threw his patent left power kick that set him up to come back with a right hook from the other side. Though known for his devastating punches, I believe Anthony’s kicks off movement will be key in this fight. Should Johnson effectively variate his attacks, he could limit Bader’s shot selection and even discourage his offense.

Despite the edge in striking going to Johnson, I don’t feel Ryan is as far behind as many suggest. Working heavily on his stand up with his new striking coach Chaz Turner, we’ve seen clear fight-to-fight improvements in his techniques. With a huge focus on opening up Ryan’s hips & stance, he’s shown to more fluidly hit and move. Although displaying improved entries, Bader will occasionally retract his hands low opening up counters(as seen in his fight with Lyoto Machida). Footwork will certainly be a key factor for Ryan standing if he means to avoid Anthony’s power shots.

Bader’s most consistent weapon may also be the key intangible to this fight. Wielding an explosive power double takedown, Ryan can disrupt Anthony’s forward aggression by parlaying it into pressure of his own. Though Johnson has underrated counter wrestling, consistent shot attempts could put Anthony on defense and force him to work. Although Phil Davis struggled to take Johnson down, it’s important to note that he and Bader have different takedown styles. Despite displaying more direct entries, Bader also executes solid reactive shots that could serve him well. With a shown superior gas tank, I believe Bader has the tools to make this a pressure fight. Traditionally struggling with said pressure, Anthony may have a chance to prove his cardio critics wrong if this fight goes past three. But with finishes beyond round 2 non-existent in Johnson’s career, I’m not sure I like his chances should he not close the show early.

Official Pick: Bader – Decision

 

Ben3

Ben Rothwell (35-9)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 34 Weight: 263 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Matt Mitrione (6-6-15)
  • Camp: Rothwell MMA (Kenosha, WI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Undefeated in IFL run (9-0)
+   Finished 32 of 35 wins
+   91% finish rate overall
+   28 first round finishes
+   20 KO victories
+   12 Submission wins
+   KO wins / heavy hands
+   Improved footwork
^   Will switch stances
+   Excellent pressure fighter
^   Draws counters well
+   Dangerous L. Hooks & R. Uppercuts
+   Underrated submission game
+   Effectively gets up / uses cage
+   Durable chin / hard to stop
+/-Takes damage to give it

 

Barnett3

Josh Barnett (34-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 38 Weight: 248 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Roy Nelson (9-26-15)
  • Camp: CSW (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC HW Champion
+   Accomplished No-Gi Grappler
+   10 KO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   18 Submission wins
+   KO power
+   Dangerous clinch game
^   Setup w/wrist controls & under-hooks
+   Hard elbows & knees in close
^   Consistently works body
+   Will switch stances
^   Powerful kicks from southpaw
+   Superb top-game/mount
^   Effective ground striker
+   Diverse submission variety
+/-Willingness to exchange

Summary:

The evening’s co-main event contests in the heavyweight division, as “Big” Ben Rothwell takes on Josh “The War Master” Barnett. With both fighters being amongst the most well rounded & dangerous at heavyweight, tossing a dart blindfolded could serve as a strong prediction for either man. Rather than use that method, I’ll instead provide some technical aspects of what I feel you should consider before taking this ride.

Starting off on the feet, “Big” Ben has shown a gradual evolution & understanding of striking, as he’s steadily honed in on what works for him. Barnett, on the other hand, has always shown a well-rounded arsenal of attack. However, it wasn’t until his last fight against Roy Nelson where we really Josh take things to the next level. Adding stance-switches in conjunction with forward momentum, Josh effectively opens up left power kicks to the body that may find a home on Rothwell. Aside from his natural height & hand position, Ben often retracts his standing guard high opening up the body(exposed particularly well in his fights with Vera & Overeem). With Rothwell being so dangerous in close, this could be a useful navigation tool standing for Josh.

Although he may not be as pretty on his feet, Don’t let Rothwell’s standing demeanor fool you. Utilizing pressure in an awkward but intelligent fashion, Ben will stalk forward while baiting his opposition to initiate exchanges. Most fighters who play this game, ultimately end up paying due to Rothwell’s incredible durability and devastating power. If an opponent doesn’t have answers such as a Cain Velasquez-like transition game, then we often see Rothwell force frantic footwork & bad decisions. That being said, Barnett won’t be as easy to dictate with his consistently aggressive style.

Despite their different approaches to pressure fighting, I feel the fighter who establishes their terms first will speak volumes. With Rothwell being more of a counter fighter, I expect Barnett to be the one with stronger advances. That said, he’ll need to be careful when traveling from boxing to clinching range. This is where most of Josh’s defensive liabilities lay and is also where Ben is most effective. Although Josh has shown suspect head movement in the pocket on previous occasions, he demonstrated recent improvements in footwork & distance management to help supplement this(something crucial for this match).

The key factor for me lies within the clinch exchanges. As a custom in most Barnett fights, it’s from the clinch where he likes to strike and set up takedowns. As a huge Catch Wrestling enthusiast, there’s nothing I’d rather see more than some violent ground fighting. However, with Josh’s shown trend to strike(51% of his accredited offense) as opposed to wrestle(5 official TD attempts in over 5 yrs), I’m not sure how much mat time we’ll actually see. Not to mention Rothwell’s improved takedown defense and ability to scramble to/up from the cage. Although Barnett carries an on-paper ground advantage, Ben’s grappling is very underrated. He may not be able to submit a sober Barnett, but I believe Rothwell is more than competent to negate Josh’s offense.

Although I also give Barnett a technical edge in the clinch, he will still be essentially playing with fire. As seen in his fight with Brendan Schaub, Rothwell can still close the show when his back is to the cage. With Josh favoring the right under-hook to establish clinch offense, he’s shown right uppercut openings in the past that could prove costly against Ben. If Barnett can stay disciplined with his hand fighting in close(as seen in his fight with Nelson), then he may nullify some of Ben’s offense and open up his own. Ultimately, I give Barnett the overall technical advantage in this fight. However, should this battle primarily contest upright, I feel Rothwell’s chin, power, and fight-to-fight improvements may see the light of day. Regardless of who you favor, I recommend caution as this is heavyweight MMA and should be treated as such.

Official Pick: Barnett – Decision

 

Iuri2

Iuri Alcantara (32-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 35 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Leandro Issa (8-1-15)
  • Camp: Marajo Bros Team (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional Jiu-Jitsu Champion
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   Muay Thai Accolades
+   19 first round finishes
+   13 KO victories
+   12 Submission wins
+   Underrated wrestling
^   14 for 20 in UFC takedowns
+   Strong top game / control
^   36 passes in last 12 fights
+   Heavy left hand
+   Hard left Thai kick
+/-Crafty but content on bottom
^   Struggles when pressure fought

 

Jimmie1

Jimmie Rivera (18-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’4″ Age: 26 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Pedro Munhoz (11-7-15)
  • Camp: Team Tiger Schulmann (New Jersey)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   3rd degree Black Belt(Tiger Schulmann)
+   4 KO victories
+   2 first round finishes
+   17 first round finishes
+   KO power/heavy hands
+   Wrestling base
^   Excellent takedown defense
+   Solid positional awareness
+   Manges distance well
+   Maintains pace & pressure
+   Consistent 2-3 punch combos
^   Mixes in body work / kicks
+   Tight striking defense / recovers well

Summary:

In what should be a fun styles matchup, rising contender Jimmie Rivera meets the always dangerous Iuri Alcantara. Holding wins over UFC fighters from flyweight to welterweight, calling Alcantara experienced is an understatement. Despite seeming like a perennial contender, the Brazilian’s technical acumen and knockout power have kept him more than relevant amongst the division’s best. However, Iuri has typically struggled with pressure fighters & wrestlers as he’ll get just that in Jimmie Rivera.

Coming off a victory over the highly touted Pedro Munhoz(another Muay Thai/Jiu-Jitsu specialist), Rivera is slowly but surely proving himself to be the dark-horse of this division. Showing consistent pace & pressure, Rivera will move and manage distance as he fires off combinations. Mixing in body-shots and accenting his volume with kicks, Jersey’s own will move especially well to his left as he’ll attach an accurate hook in conjunction. This movement will be key in facing a dangerous southpaw like Alcantara, who heavily leans upon his left sided attacks.

Although possessing underrated takedown defense, Iuri is most successful in discouraging shots through his left power kick. Throwing his shin at a 45-degree angle across the body, Alcantara will time his opposition coming in. Iuri will need to be careful when doing this with Rivera, as Jimmie shows a natural ability to catch kicks and counter. With Alcantara carrying a length advantage in most fights(including this one), it tends to grant him a false sense of security as he often loads up on single-shots. Should the Brazilian approach exchanges with single-shot setups in mind, I feel he will end up playing catchup for the remainder of the night.

Iuri should have his biggest on-paper advantage in the grappling department. Particularly from top-side, the BJJ Black Belt holds 36 passes in his last 12 fights. But with Alcantara facing one of the hardest men to take-down in the division, I’m not sure it will play out his way. Though Iuri is 14 for 20 in UFC takedown attempts, Jimmie shows excellent technical reactions in defending shots. From his superb positional awareness to his polished MMA wrestling, Rivera should decide where this fight takes place. If he’s smart, he’ll follow Frankie Saenz & Uriah Faber’s footprints of pressure and positional control. Without discounting the threats & skills of Alcantara, I see the younger lion taking the right-of-way in this crossroads match.

Official Pick: Rivera – Decision

 

Sage1

Sage Northcutt (7-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 19 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 74.5″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Cody Pfister (12-10-15)
  • Camp: Gracie Barra Katy (Katy, TX)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   Black Belt Kajukenbo
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   5 first round finishes
+   4 TKO victories
+   100% finish rate
+   Manages distance well
^   Plays all the way in or out
+   Excellent lead leg side kick
+/-Aggressive advances/sub attempts
^   Often losing position
–    Appears uncomfortable on bottom

 

Barber1

Bryan Barberena (10-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 26 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Chad Laprise (4-25-15)
  • Camp: MMA Lab (Arizona)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   Experienced at multiple weights
+   8 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   Improved technical aggression
^   Grows in pace & pressure
–    Tends to start slow
–    Sometimes stagnant off strikes
^   Counter opportunities
+   Active clinch striker
+   Competent takedown defense
^   Scramble to stand up urgency
+   Good chin (never stopped)

Summary:

As customary, the UFC’s lightweight division will kick off the main card on FOX. Featured first, rising star “Super” Sage Northcutt takes on the dangerous Bryan Barberena. Clearly being pushed as a prospect by the UFC, this will certainly be the toughest test of Sage’s career. Aside from an early competitive start in traditional martial arts, Northcutt possesses uncanny athleticism that facilitates(and largely compensates) his well-rounded skillsets. Narrowing down his kicking arsenal for MMA, Sage has shown to utilize his lead side-kick to manage the distance. Playing all-the-way in or out, it’s Northcutt’s ability to quickly close said distance(or even the show) that’s most impressive.

In fact, I believe Sage’s ability to dictate range will be a key factor in this fight. Bryan is, in my opinion, a more technical striker overall. However, Sage’s speed advantage could disrupt Barberena’s offensive pressure, particularly early on should he start slow. That being said, the assumption that Sage can enact the necessary discipline to consistently dictate range has yet to be proven. With a low sample size of Northcutt against mid-tier strikers(much less Southpaws), it will be interesting to see him against a more advanced striker with a chin. Despite a sometimes slow burn, the brooding Barberena will consistently build in pace & pressure with little signs of slowing. Supported by a strong chin, Bryan’s technical aggression will certainly test the young prospect.

In order to hedge his bets, I feel Northcutt’s reactionary takedowns will serve him well in this matchup(unlike against his original opponent). Though Bryan’s no slouch on the ground(BJJ Blue Belt under John Crouch), Sage could create these exchanges to counter momentum. But even when in top position, Northcutt’s shown eagerness for advancing/submission attempts has cost him positions despite eventually winning fights. Although Sage’s athletic aggression has made him difficult to control, he does show some technical indecisiveness in scrambles. This could cost him against an active and urgent fighter like Barberena, who seldom succeeds position.

Between the late notice & name value, I can completely understand why Northcutt is a justified favorite. That said, I feel that the current asking price screams caution if you’re thinking about playing him. On the flip-side, I believe there’s big value in Barberena’s style and the intangibles the durable striker brings. If Sage can’t stop him or establish clear dominance by the end of the first, I feel that Barberena will take over mentally and physically. Sage hasn’t experienced the same in fight adversities as Barberena, much less shown the in-corner adjustments that he’s executed. This won’t be Bryan’s first short notice fight for the UFC, as he’s stepped in last minute to stop Joe Ellenberger at lightweight. And with this bout being contested at welterweight, I like the stylistic chances of the man who was already in camp.

Official Pick: Barberena – Inside the distance

Preliminary Card Predictions

  • Saffiedine def. Ellenberger
  • Mercier def. Ferreira
  • Natal def. Casey
  • Ortiz def. Reis
  • Yakovlev def. Sullivan
  • Caceres def. Fullen
  • Brown def. Dwyer
  • Makashvili def. Jackson
  • Martin def. Olivieri

Recommended Plays

Pieces for your parlay:

-Jimmie Rivera
-Tarec Saffiedine
-Rafael Natal

Props worth looking at:

-Bryan Barberena – Inside the distance
-Randy Brown- by KO/TKO
-Jimmie Rivera – by Decision

Fights to avoid:

-Ben Rothwell vs Josh Barnett
-Tony Martin vs Felipe Olivieri
-Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs Carlos Diego Ferreira

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-Anthony Johnson
-Randy Brown
-Jimmie Rivera

Low Tier Picks:

-Felipe Olivieri
-Ben Rothwell
-Ryan Bader

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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