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UFC Ottawa: MacDonald vs. Thompson Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Rory1

Rory MacDonald (18-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 26 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 76.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Robbie Lawler (7-11-15)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   7 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   Excellent footwork
^   Rarely out of position
+   Long & accurate jab
^   Manages distance well
+   Solid kick acumen
^   Favors right sided attacks
+/-Often heavy on lead foot
+   Good power double takedown
^   Well-timed level changes
+   Superb top control
^   Devastating ground striker

 

Wonderboy4

Stephen Thompson (12-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 33 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Johny Hendricks (2-6-16)
  • Camp: Upstate Karate (South Carolina)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   5x Kickboxing World Champion (57-0)
+   Black Belt Kempo Karate (3rd degree)
+   7 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Excellent range management/footwork
^   Plays in & out of striking lanes
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Instinctually intercepts with punches
+   Well-disguised kick variety
^   Favors right legged attacks
+   Improved wrestling (80% TD defense)
^   Intelligently gets up/scrambles
+   Underrated clinch game
^   Solid head positioning/strikes off break
+/-Low-handed standing guard

Summary:

The main event for UFC Ottawa features two of the top contending welterweights as Rory “Red King” MacDonald takes on Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Taking some time off after his fight of the year last July, Rory MacDonald will look to get back to his winning ways after a failed bid for the title. Seeking one step closer to said title, Stephen Thompson will look to make another statement on his steady rise through the division.

Although a Wonderboy win could be considered an upset on many standards, the oddsmakers opened Thompson as the favorite to beat the former title challenger. Despite my official pick, I found this very surprising as most(including myself) feel that this a bad styles matchup for Stephen on paper. A technically sound and disciplined fighter with wrestling ability should be able to pose multiple problems for a free-form Karate striker. However, MacDonald’s path to victory may not be as simple against an outlier like Thompson.

Like many point-Karate based fighters, Wonderboy employs the low-handed approach that is considered fundamentally reckless within the realms of Boxing & Muay Thai. However, this style of conduction allows for a fighter to throw a multitude of strikes at various unorthodox angles. Coupled with technically sound footwork, we have seen Stephen’s natural defensive instincts steadily improve as he now combines his defensive angles with offensive counters. In other words, Thompson will step offline of an attack with just the right amount of range & angle to offensively return with immediacy(demonstrated perfectly in his last fight with Johny Hendricks).

Offensively, Thompson is just as tricky, as he often overloads his opposition with different looks through stance-switching and feints. Although primarily known for his well-disguised and dangerous kicks, I feel Stephen’s underrated punching acumen will be a key factor for him in this fight. Demonstrating almost preternatural instincts, Thompson will intercept his opposition’s oncoming attacks with consistent 1-2 combinations that are similar to a snake in the way in which he enters & retracts. Almost in a dart-like fashion, Thompson will not only move off of his offense, but often sneaks in high-kicks behind his punches(and even behind his opponents shoulders).

I know this all sounds great in theory, but how will Thompson’s skill set play into the game of MacDonald? For starters, I suspect we may see fewer kicks coming from Wonderboy given Rory’s kick-catching acumen/looming takedown threat. Working behind his patent long jab, MacDonald will force his opponent to make unfavorable choices in response to his offense. From range, Rory looks to corral his opposition into crosses & head-kicks, or force their offensive hand in coming forward as he keeps a reactive double-leg at the ready. However, Thompson’s movement can make setting up any offense difficult, as I suspect clean shots may be hard to find.

Although MacDonald has found success against switch-stance fighters like Saffiedine, he may have difficulty translating that success here. Against Tarec, Rory did a beautiful job of jabbing every time Saffiedine switched stances as this disrupted his opponent’s flow and won him the fight. That said, Saffiedine operates within the same striking standards of Rory, as the non-similar style of Thompson may prove less symbiotic. In fact, I feel Rory’s emphasis on his jab may get him into trouble in this fight. Even though MacDonald does a great job of keeping his feet under him while moving, his tends to keep heavy on his front foot. Although this is a common side effect of a long jab with a low-level, it may fuel the more mobile Thompson’s pull & return style as he keeps lighter on the foot. Not to mention MacDonald’s lack of combination presence, which will likely allow Wonderboy to punctuate the exchanges should he achieve his angles.

Like I imagine most of you suspect, Rory will have his best chances to sway this fight on the ground. A trademark of his early UFC career, MacDonald displays a superb top-control to go along with devastating ground strikes that can turn the tide of any fight. Although he can test, or even take Thompson to task here, Rory may find difficulty in getting him to the floor. In recent years, Rory has shown to be much more selective about his shots in the open, as well as his reactive shots. With MacDonald usually keeping to high-percentage attempts, Thompson may fair well in the open considering that he operates off of angles. Most of MacDonalds offensive shots(and offense in general) comes when he can get his opposition in between the fence and inner-black Octagon lines. With this also being Thompson’s preferred fighting space, one would think this plays right into Rory’s hands.

However, like the initial assessment of on-paper advantages, outliers like Thompson can often put a wrench in things. One of the best lateral movers in the sport, Stephen is more than comfortable capitalizing off the counter or resetting to range. More importantly, keeping within earshot of the cage allows Thompson to defend takedowns using the fence. Making fight-to-fight improvements on his wrestling, Stephen now shows comfort in keeping upright and countering clinches. Proving himself in these departments against fighters like Hendricks, Ellenberger, and Cote, I would not be surprised if he can give fits to MacDonald. Should Rory fail in close, he will need to mind Stephen’s strikes off the break as I see that being a key opening for Thompson. Although MacDonald has all the tools to win on paper, I feel the alternate operating systems of Wonderboy will dictate the terms of this fight.

Official Pick: Thompson – Inside the distance

 

Cowboy2

Donald Cerrone (28-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 33 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Alex Oliveira (2-21-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Multiple Muay Thai Accolades
+   28-0 as a Pro Kickboxer
+   5 KO victories
+   16 Submission wins
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Intelligent strike setups
^   Feints, reads, and reacts
+   Devastating head kicks
+   Accurate & intercepting knees
+   Hard leg kicks
^   Most landed in UFC history
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Excellent transitional grappler
+   Favors triangle chokes
–    Head often upright
^   Counter/right-hand availabilities
+/-Subject to slow starts

 

Cote1

Patrick Cote (23-9)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 36 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Ben Saunders (1-17-16)
  • Camp: BTT Canada (Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   10 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   10 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Heavy right-hand
+   Good feints & footwork
^   Closes distance well
+   Accurate leg kicks
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Improved takedown game
^   Favors late round attempts
+   Solid top control
^   Active ground striker
+   Scrambles intelligently
–    Dropped/stunned in last 4/5 fights
^   Recovers well/never stopped

Summary:
Canada’s co-main event features a fantastic pairing of kickboxing veterans, as Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone squares off with Patrick “The Predator” Cote. Never one to back down from a fight, fan-favorite Cowboy Cerrone will be going into enemy territory for this bout. Although this will be Donald’s second official fight at 170-pounds, this will be his first time facing an actual welterweight. Originally debuting in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division, Patrick Cote has seemingly had a career resurgence since moving down to welterweight. Riding a three-fight winning streak, Cote will be looking to make a big statement on Canadian soil.

From his hard fought resume to his highlight-reel head kicks, it is not hard to see why Cowboy comes in as the favorite for this contest. However, I see some stylistic flags that I feel may favor his Canadian counterpart. Although most of Cerrone’s losses come at the hands of southpaws, the common thread of struggle in victory & defeat for Cowboy is the way in which he deals with pressure fighting. Most of Cerrone’s primary weapons are only in play when he is the one conducting the dance. When he is not leading, Donald will look to retreat and reset the terms of offense to his preferred range.

The problem with that equation lies within Cerrone’s upright posture, as he will often exit with his head straight up and hands slightly out of defensive position. Against competent pressure strikers, this habit has traditionally opened up Cerrone to right-hands as we saw in his fights with Eddie Alvarez & Edson Barboza. Considering that Cote’s renown for his devastating power and right-hand setups, I feel that punch, in particular, will likely be a key factor in this fight. Initially known for his pocket brawling abilities, Patrick Cote has steadily sharpened his technical kickboxing game.

Consistently stalking his opponents, Cote compliments fundamentally sound footwork with feints in the effort to draw out his opposition’s counters. Considering the kicking acumen of Cowboy, I suspect Cote will double up in the feinting department as he did against previous kicking threats in Kyle Noke & Stephen Thompson. If Patrick can continually force this fight into pocket & clinch ranges, I feel that he should come out on top of most of the exchanges. And if forward pressure and durability fail to earn Cote a fight-changing shot, I suspect it will help him gain favor on the judges scorecards.

In the spirit of winning rounds, Cote also has shown a knack for late-round takedowns that have been a staple in his resurgence. Showing a decent reactive shot, Cote’s most technical improvements come off of his single-leg chains and finishes. That said, Cowboy will be no easy task to take down as he bears underrated wrestling abilities of his own. Although Cowboy has the skills to take down the Canadian, Cerrone has only shown to shoot when stunned as of late. In his fights with Barboza, Alvarez, and most recently Oliveira, Cowboy was hit by said over-hand right availabilities before deciding to engage in grappling.

Regardless of who ends up on top in grappling exchanges, the key junctions on the ground will lie within the transitions. Though primarily known for his guard game, Cerrone is most lethal with his submissions while scrambling in transit. However, Cote has shown to make solid defensive choices in the scramble that may make him difficult to catch soberly. Cowboy’s best chance of hurting Cote may be by catching him on the way in with a knee(similarly to how Kyle Noke did in round 2 of their fight). But if Cerrone fails to hurt the durable Cote, he may ultimately find himself fighting for kicking range and eating shots off of the break.

Official Pick: Cote – Decision

 

Bosse3

Steve Bosse (11-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 34 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: KO win / James Te Huna (3-19-16)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   9 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   9 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Athletic & explosive
^   Moves deceptively well
+   Improved takedown defense
^   Defends well from cage
+   Heavy right hand
+   Dangerous elbows in close
–    Keeps/retracts left hand low
^   Right hand availabilities

 

OC5

Sean O’Connell (17-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 32 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Ilir Latifi (1-17-16)
  • Camp: Elite Performance (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   9 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Consistent pace & pressure
^   Throws with good volume
+   Accurate left hand
^   Often follows up w/right-hand
+   Strong inside the clinch
+/-Willingness to exchange
^   Traditionally takes damage
+   Physically durable

Summary:

In a potential fan-friendly scrap at light-heavyweight, Canada’s Steve Bosse takes on the always game Sean O’Connell. Despite Bosse’s previous bouts of injury and inactivity, the French Canadian is now making a second career run as he currently stands 1-1 in the UFC. No stranger to fighting in enemy territory, Sean O’Connell will look to get back on the winning track after a disappointing loss to Ilir Latifi earlier this year.

A former Hockey enforcer, Bosse has seamlessly translated his natural athletic abilities into his MMA game. Not just a skilled dirty boxer inside, Bosse has also made technical strides in his striking these last few years. Training for a boxing bout before making his return to MMA, Steve has shown improvements in moving with his punches. Bosse’s athleticism particularly shines through in his movement, as he closes the distance deceptively fast. In fact, I feel speed will be the key factor for him in this matchup.

Although Steve may have a speed advantage, that does not mean O’Connell is an athletic slouch by any stretch. The former collegiate football player has shown that he bears the intangibles of durability, power, and a fighter’s heart that can help turn the tide of any battle. Consistently stalking forward, O’Connell throws with an impressive flow of volume, especially for heavier weight fighter. This trudging Nick Diaz-like style has shown it can be costly for O’Connell who often overwhelms his opposition after surviving the initial storms.

However, it is in Sean’s forward moving high-volume approach that usually gets him into trouble. Despite displaying improved head movement off of strikes, Sean still traditionally takes damage by the virtue of his stalking style. With his significant strikes landed ratio nearly identical to his strikes absorbed(6.5 per minute), O’Connell’s fights can often feel like predicting a coin flip. That said, I believe O’Connell brings certain tools that may serve him well.

With Bosse’s particular boxing acumen, the French Canadian demonstrates a heavy crouch upon his entries that he often uses to set up his right hand. However, in leaning so heavily to his right side, Steve subsequently leans his head into any attacks that come from that direction(as seen in his fight with Thiago Santos). Although O’Connell is not particularly known for his left high kicks, Sean does possess an accurate left hook that could see the light of day. Not to mention O’Connell’s patent right-hand follow-ups, which could be especially effective considering Steve’s habit of retracting his left-hand low.

That said, Steve does not make himself as available in exchanges as Sean is a custom to, as I feel the French Canadian’s footwork will help his efforts here. I am a big fan of Sean O’Connell fights as I believe he has all the intangibles to make this the type of war he thrives in. However, his propensity to pressure may play into Bosse’s hands as I ultimately feel that speed will be the difference.

Official Pick: Bosse – Inside the distance

 

OAM1

Olivier Aubin-Mercier (7-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 27 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Diego Ferreira (1-30-16)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   TUF Nations Finalist
+   Black Belt Judo
+   Multiple Judo Accolades
+   7 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   Good pace & pressure
+   Improved striking
+   Hard left body kick
+   Strong clinch game
^   Excellent trips & takedowns
+   Solid top control
^   Transition & submission acumen
–    Lacks head movement off strikes
^   Often open to counters

 

Gouti2

Thibault Gouti (11-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 29 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 72.5″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Teemu Packalen (2-27-16)
  • Camp: Big Team (France)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   #1-Ranked French Lightweight
+   3 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   This camp at Jackson-Wink MMA
+   Good pace & pressure
+   Active left jab & hook
+   Hard right cross
+   Well-timed double leg
^   Changes level well
+   Shows solid top game
^   Competent w/submissions & transitions
–    Lacking in high-level competition

Summary:

In another encounter in the UFC’s lightweight division, Olivier Aubin-Mercier squares off against Thibault Gouti. A finalist off TUF Nations, Aubin-Mercier has been steadily improving his game at the Tristar Gym. Coming off a hard-fought loss to Carlos Diego Ferreira earlier this year, the French Canadian will look to get a win in his home country. Attempting to play the spoiler, Thibault Gouti will make his second appearance in the Octagon as he searches for his first UFC win.

Spending the last 8-weeks at Jackson-Wink MMA in New Mexico, it will be interesting to see what improvements the French-based fighter has been able to make. Regardless of those intangibles, Gouti appears to be a fast learner when you look at his 4-year career span and fight-to-fight improvements. Developing a particular taste for the ground game, the Frenchman possesses a solid double-leg as he changes levels surprisingly well. Demonstrating technical intricacies such as shoulder pressure and positional floating, Thibault will look to steadily work over his opponents from topside before attacking with submissions.

The problem with that approach is that it is also his opposition’s specialty, as Aubin-Mercier’s accolades would suggest an on-paper advantage. A multiple-time Judo champion, Olivier has subsequently taken quickly to both Jiu-jitsu and MMA. Teaming up with Firas Zahabi in Montreal, Aubin-Mercier has added to all phases of his game, including his ability to transition in between them. Although he is not at the level of stablemate Georges St. Pierre, Olivier displays a consistent process as he steadily improves each time out.

Although I am not sure how much Aubin-Mercier will elect to stand with Gouti, his recent experiences in the Octagon proved he has the tools and composure to stay competitive. Although Olivier throws a solid left-hand and right hook, his best weapon is undoubtedly his left power kick. Against an orthodox opponent, this kick should certainly have play in this fight. However, that lane of striking is a two-way street that could work against Olivier. Despite not hailing from a background in striking, Thibault throws a solid right cross off of his jab that could find it’s home in this fight.

Regardless of the flow of grappling or striking stanzas, I suspect Olivier will be able to corral Gouti to the fence in efforts to control him. Not only is this a staple of Aubin-Mercier’s game, but it is also a place where Thibault lacks experience given his background in a cageless French MMA scene. Ultimately, I feel Olivier’s grappling is more proven at a higher level as I see that being the deciding factor here.

Official Pick: Aubin-Mercier – Decision

 

Val1

Valerie Letourneau (8-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 33 Weight: *125 lbs Reach: 68.5″
  • Last Fight: Dec loss / Joanna Jedrzejczyk (11-14-15)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   Amateur Kickboxing experience
+   4 KO victories
+   3 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Good volume & combination work
+   Accurate left hook
+   Hard counter right-hand
+   Excellent left switch kick
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Favors over-hooks & knees
+   Improved TD defense (88%)
–    Lacks head movement
^   Traditionally takes damage
+   Physically durable/recovers well

 

JOJO1

Joanne Calderwood (10-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 29 Weight: *125 lbs Reach: 65.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Cortney Casey (7-18-15)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   19-2 as a Pro Kickboxer
+   4 KO victories
+   3 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Throws w/volume & variety
+   Accurate knees
^   In close & off the shuffle
+   Strong clinch game
^   Elbows, knees, & trips
+   Underrated grappling
^   Improved positional awareness
+/-Willingness to exchange
^   Traditionally takes damage
+   Physically durable/recovers well

Summary:

Kicking off the main card is the UFC’s first female flyweight fight, as Valerie “Trouble” Letourneau takes on Joanne “JoJo” Calderwood. Coming off a failed bid for the strawweight title last November, the former bantamweight will search for middle-ground as Valerie looks to get back on the winning track. Now training in her Canadian counterpart’s backyard, Scotland’s own Calderwood will also be looking to experiment her skill set at a new weight class.

As seen above in the above supplemental sections for both ladies, these two fight styles line up very similarly on paper. Since both combatants possess a solid takedown defense rate with a high propensity to trade, I suspect most of this match to contest standing on the feet. With both women’s stalking tendencies tailor-made for a collision course, I will attempt to give my take on what we could see from each fighter.

Also known as “Dr. Kneevil“, Joanne Calderwood has a knack for knees on the inside or off the shuffle. Feinting effectively off of her Thai marches, Calderwood enters off a multitude of strikes she carries in her arsenal. Favoring uppercut-hook combinations to get going, Joanne often scores with a nice check-jab as she exits exchanges. In fact, I feel Calderwood’s propensity to finish combinations off of her left side will serve her particularly well in this fight, especially considering that Letourneau has traditionally struggled with her right eye in contests.

Even though Valerie’s lack of head movement and willingness to trade consistently costs her damage, the same can be said for Calderwood. Similar to a Thomas Almeida, Calderwood’s aggressive application of combinations often come with the cost of counters. Consistently countered by right hands over the top in her last few bouts, this will certainly be a key factor for a Letourneau victory as that is her best punch. Valerie also possesses excellent check hooks and left switch kicks she uses to dissuade her oncoming opposition.

However, I feel the kicking advantage in this contest should belong to the Scottish fighter. Although Calderwood’s leg kicks may be very effective given Letourneau’s last outing, I see Joanne’s teep kick carrying some real value in this fight. As seen in Calderwood’s fight with Ham, she packs a powerful and accurate teep kick. Considering Valerie was caught by this technique on multiple occasions in her fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, this could be something to look for from Calderwood.

Just as their ground skills are a wash on paper, the clinch battle may be equally challenging for each fighter. Calderwood does a deceptively good job inside the clinch as she keeps an excellent position of her head at all times. Keeping busy with elbows and knees, one would think the Muay Thai maelstrom of Calderwood would command an advantage. However, Letourneau’s over-hook approach in close was able to nullify the ferocious forearm framing of Joanna Jedrzejczyk, as I don’t suspect the Canadian will make things easy for Calderwood.

In what is a very close fight, I feel this contest’s key intangibles lie with Calderwood and her last year spent training at Tristar Gym. When you look at Joanne’s skill set on paper, the main things missing are wrestling applications, ring generalship, and jab fundamentals. With all three of those things being something that Firas Zahabi specializes in instilling into his fighters, this could be a perfect fit as we may see a much improved martial artist. Ultimately, I feel Letourneau struggles when faced with Muay Thai based strikers that can match her in volume. Although I am leaning toward Calderwood to get the nod, I recommend caution if you intend on playing this all-action affair.

Official Pick: Calderwood – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions

  • Saggo def. Silva
  • Cirkunov def. Cutelaba
  • McCrory def. Jotko
  • Soto def. Beal
  • Alvey def. Theodorou
  • Jones-Lybarger def. Markos
  • Covington def. Meunier
  • Herrera def. Bagautinov

Recommended Plays

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-Stephen Thompson
-Steve Bosse
-Tamdan McCrory

Low Tier Picks:

-Patrick Cote
-Sam Alvey
-Ion Cutelaba

Pieces for your parlay:

-Olivier Aubin-Mercier
-Jason Saggo
-Tamdan McCrory

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Cowboy/Cote – Over 2 1/2: -135 (1 Unit)
-Macdonald/Stephens – Under 2 1/2: +150 (.05 Unit)
-Tamdan McCrory- ITD: +105 (1 Unit)
-Patrick Cote – by Decision: +260 (.05 Unit)

Fights to avoid:

-Misha Cirkunov vs Ion Cutelaba
-Randa Markos vs Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger
-Chris Beal vs Joe Soto

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

Onnit Primal Bells

breakdown

GLORY: Redemption – Breakdown and Predictions

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

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

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

Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Nieky Holzken vs Alim Nabiyev

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

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

Prediction: Nieky Holzken by 1st Round TKO

 

Alex 'Po Atan' Pereira

Alex ‘Po Atan’ Pereira – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Alex Pereira vs Yousri Belgaroui

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

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

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

Prediction: Yousri Belgaroui by Unanimous Decision

 

Michael Dreamcrusher Duut

Michael ‘Dreamcrusher’ Duut – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Michael Duut vs Danyo Ilunga

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

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

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

Prediciton: Michael Duut by 3rd Round KO

 

Rico The King of Kickboxing Verhoeven

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

Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik

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

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

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

Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by 5th Round KO

All images used in this article are accredited to GLORY Kickboxing

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

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

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

 

Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson

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

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

Prediction: Michelle Waterson by 2nd Round TKO

 

Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

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

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

Prediction: Justin Gaethje by Split Decision

 

Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis

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

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

Prediction: Henry Cejudo by Unanimous Decision

 

Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou

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

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

Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision

 

 Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo 2

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

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

Prediction: Max Holloway by 2nd Round TKO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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