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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

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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