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UFC Portland: Lineker vs Dodson Breakdown

Dan Tom

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John Lineker (28-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’2″ Age: 26 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 67″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Michael McDonald (7-13-16)
  • Camp: OCS Jiu-jitsu (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   13 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Persistant stalker
^   Deceptively closes distance
+   Good cage-cutting & pressure
+   Devastating R. hand-L. hook
^   Variates well to the body
+   Underrated wrestling
+   Dangerous Guillotine choke
–    Struggles off back
+/-Willingness to exchange
^   Counter availabilities
+   Solid chin/Physically durable

 

John Dodson (18-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’3″ Age: 32 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Manny Gamburyan (4-16-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   2x Wrestling State Champ (NM)
+   9 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Devastating left hand
^   Accurate & intercepting
+   Athletic & agile
^   Closes distance quickly
+   Dangerous off the counter
^   Works well w/caught kicks
+   Solid counter wrestler
^   84% Takedown defense
+   Superb scrambles & get-ups
–    Slightly low standing guard
+/-Output/Adjustments bear watching

Summary:

The main event for UFC Portland is a fun fight between two former flyweights as John “Hands of Stone” Lineker meets John “The Magician” Dodson. Now enjoying life without weight cuts, the growing John Lineker seems to be making himself a permanent home in the bantamweight division. Coming off crushing victories over three well-respected opponents, Lineker will seek to make another statement for his status as a contender. Standing in his way is John Dodson, a veteran of the lighter weight classes who has already made his claim for the crown.

Despite each man being among the smaller of their contemporaries, both fighters carry supernatural stopping power that makes this feel like a heavyweight affair. That said, I believe this fight should come down to the space in which one man operates, opposed the space in which the other man makes his kills. Dodson, for example, is similar to a smaller version of Chuck Liddell in that he makes his money off of the counter shot. When he is not conducting his bombing runs of explosive jump-knees to dip-and-rip combinations, Dodson will often revert to playing the inner-black Octagon lines along the outside. Looking to land is left hand, in particular, the Magician will patiently bait his opponents into exchanges and counter shots.

Although Dodson is as lethal as he is accurate, the New Mexican native can sometimes be too willing to let the action come to him. Whether Dodson is too patient or not, he seems to lack the consistent volume and output as he is often involved in close rounds. The biggest question in this matchup for me is: How will Dodson deal with the Brazillian’s pressure? Despite Dodson being agile and athletic enough to play the Matador, he has seldom been pressured in the UFC, outside of his fights with Demetrious Johnson. Most of the fighters Dodson faced at flyweight respected his power and explosiveness, but the few who pushed forward were successful more often than not.

Although most of Dodson’s vulnerabilities only showed when facing the outlier that is Demetrious Johnson, he did show difficulty to dealing with pressure through distinct parts of his battles with Zach Machovsky and Tim Elliot. Though one man was wild with their pressure while the other was technical, they both found success in getting the better of exchanges with Dodson when doing so under those terms. In my opinion, this is because Dodson is so dependent and faithful in his counter-left, that he will quickly look to reset for it again instead of flowing into other offensive or defensive options. Hence, when a fighter can avoid the counter shot and disrupt his process with pressure, Dodson will seemingly become more vulnerable off the breaks and against the fence.

Enter John Lineker. Similar to when Super Mario acquires the star of invincibility, is John Lineker in the way in which he walks down his opposition with impunity. Despite wielding power that can change the course of a fight in a single shot, it is Lineker’s durability that makes his game so scary. Don’t let his short stature fool you, despite lacking bounce to his step, the Brazilian closes distance deceptively well. Cutting off the cage and feinting forward, Lineker will look to force exchanges off of his pressure. Wielding devastating hooks from both sides to the head & body, John usually enters off his opponents strike retractions as he gets them to initiate.

Although Lineker’s right-hand is his preferred method of body crushing and cleanup hitting, I feel that his left hook will be the key punch to look for from the Brazilian. Often initiating, or even punctuating with it, Lineker’s left hook is arguably his most accurate punch as it usually sets up his kill shots. Considering that Dodson has a tendency to keep his lead hand low, this could be a shot worth looking for inside the exchanges. That said, Lineker will be the more defensively vulnerable man on paper as the Brazilian is not without pocket liabilities of his own. Unabashedly throwing hooks from left to right with little regard for defense, we have seen Lineker eat punches with no signs of getting full.

Even though his durability is what makes him dangerous, Dodson is no slouch in the power department either, as a stopping shot from him would not surprise me. That said, we have seen Dodson develop some other striking tools since working with Brandon Gibson. Now putting his punches together more fluidly, we have also seen a front kick from his power side show itself with consistency. I feel that kick, in particular, will serve him well against a pressuring Lineker. However, both men will need to be mindful when throwing kicks, as each fighter has a knack for catching them and countering.

That brings us to this fights key-intangible, the takedown. With neither fighter traditionally going for takedowns, Dodson will clearly have more of a motive to do so, as well as the better tools to do it. That said, Dodson usually only engages in takedowns when he or his opponent is hurt in mid-exchange. Though I do not doubt his ability, nor his camp’s intelligence, it is just hard to see a fighter that is 32 years old and has a decade of experience dramatically adjust their style. Another thing to consider is the quiet improvements to Lineker’s wrestling. Knowing that most of his opposition will be looking to take him down, Lineker will lower the level in his approach as his short stature makes him difficult to take down.

However, should Dodson fight smart and look to ground the Brazilian, he could chalk up rounds and momentum in this match. Although Lineker likes to create space with leg-locks, his acumen there is not strong, nor does he use these opportunities to scramble as he is often content to fight from his back. That said, the Brazilian has a dangerous Guillotine choke that almost caught Ian McCall, and subsequently scared him off his takedown game. Even though I agree with Dodson being favored slightly in this fight, I feel that his preferred choice of space will be his undoing as he will ultimately be operating inside Lineker’s kill zone.

Official Pick: Lineker – Inside the distance

 

Will Brooks (18-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 29 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Ross Pearson (7-8-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Bellator Lightweight Title
+   5 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   3 first round finishes
+   Athletic & agile
+   Good distance management
+   Controls pace of fight
^   Makes in-cage & corner adjustments
+   Diverse striking arsenal
^   Heavy kicks & hard knees
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Strikes & stifles
+   Excellent takedown defense
^   Solid base & balance
+   Underrated takedown ability

 

Alex Oliveira (14-4-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 28 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 77″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / James Moontasri (7-23-16)
  • Camp: TATA Fight Team (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Pro Muay Thai Experience
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   9 KO victories
+   9 first round finishes
+   2 Submission wins
+   KO Power
+   Fast starter
+   Manages distance well
+/-Heavily reliant on head movement
^   Slips & rolls well
+   Dangerous L. hook-R.hand
+   Physically strong in clinch
^   Favors body locks
–    Struggles off back
+   Good chin/never stopped

Summary:

The co-main event for UFC Portland is a lightweight fight between “Ill” Will Brooks and Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira. After a successful UFC debut back in July, the former Bellator champion Will Brooks will now set his sights on climbing toward the top of the UFC’s lightweight division. Seeking to spoil the party is Cowboy Oliveira. A fast rising fan favorite, Alex will look to score the upset on American soil.

An anomaly of athleticism, the term “natural ability” is an understatement when used to describe Will Brooks. Despite no combat sports or collegiate base, Brooks has developed into one of most well-rounded fighters in MMA’s deepest division. His victories over Michael Chandler alone were proof of this, as Will was able to out wrestle the 4x NCAA qualifier en route to the title. Although he favors fighting on the feet, I suspect Brooks natural grappling abilities will come in handy against the explosive Cowboy Oliveira.

From his fan friendly style to his unmistakable smile, there is a lot to like about the former bull riding Brazilian. A long and physical presence at lightweight, Oliveira moves deceptively well as his fast feet have a knack for finding angles or pressing forward. Although he keeps his hands low, Cowboy does a good job of slipping or rolling with punches. Despite his shown senses and comfortability inside the pocket, the Brazilian is a bit too reliant on his head movement for my liking. Considering that Will’s kicks and knees are the most accurate strikes in his arsenal, Cowboy could run into some heavy gunfire should he not protect himself when slipping and rolling.

However, the pressure Olivera brings early could be the key to opening up Brooks. Traditionally a slow starter, the first round has usually been the closest round for Will in his last few fights. Despite being a good mover himself, we have seen Brooks often revert to a shell defense when coming under heavy fire. With this guard style typically presenting openings up the middle and to the body, expect the uppercut to be the strike worth watching for from Oliveira. Usually implementing his pressure toward the fence anytime the opportunity arises, Alex could make for some interesting exchanges depending on the prerogative Brooks applies.

Although Will is an active clinch striker himself, he tends to let the fight come to him before getting going. Utilizing his preternatural defensive abilities to survive the storms, it is Brooks’ adjustments that allow him to overcome all shapes and sizes of opposition. That said, Oliveira is a deceptively strong clinch fighter that does not allow for lulls in the action. In a borderline head-butting fashion, Alex will drive his forehead into and underneath the chin of his opponent(ala Randy Couture). From here, the Brazilian will use a mix of collar ties, throat grabs, and wrist pins to open up unrelenting elbows, knees, and uppercuts.

Despite Brooks wielding fast hands and knees in close, the former Bellator champ has a far more promising plan B than the Brazilian does. Should things get ugly for Will, he has an underrated takedown game that will serve him well against Alex. Whether he is scoring inside the clinch or off of reactive shots, Will could make this a long night for Alex should he fail to shore up his defenses. Even though Oliveira’s pressure translates well to his top game, he shows to struggle when on the bottom. Not only does Alex display fundamental errors in his hip positioning and under-hooks, but he also demonstrates a lack of technique and urgency in regards to his get-up ability.

We saw the extent of Will’s top control and positional awareness in his fight with Marcin Held, as the Pole was able to put Brooks in a multitude of precarious positions to no avail. Fortunately for Will, Oliveira’s submission and scramble acumen should not be as threatening as Held’s. That said, Brooks will need to maintain a healthy respect for his foe given his heart and opportunistic nature. Although Cowboy is more than capable of winning this fight, this one should be Will’s to lose as I see him weathering a storm en route to a decision win.

Official Pick: Brooks – Decision

 

Josh Burkman (28-13-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 35 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Paul Felder (5-29-16)
  • Camp: The Pit Elevated (Salt Lake City, UT)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 2 Alum
+   Former JUCO All-American (Football)
+   9 KO victories
+   8 Submission wins
+   15 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Deceptive counter strikes
^   Dangerous check right hook
+   Powerful kicks (both stances)
^   Favors body & leg kicks
+   Physically strong in the clinch
^   Looks for takedowns/slams
+/-Primarily throws from right side
+/-Willingness to trade
^   Propensity to take damage

 

Zak Ottow (13-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 29 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Craig Eckelberg (6-11-16)
  • Camp: Pura Vida BJJ (Milwaukee, WI)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   Collegiate Football Experience
+   Wrestling base
+   13 KO victories
+   9 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   Fundamental striking setups
^   Uses to setup shots
+   Strong clinch/cage pressure
^   Favors takedowns from here
+   Solid top game
^   Looks to ride & control
+   Good ground strikes
^   Uses to setup strikes
–    UFC debut on 1 week notice

Summary:

In an impromptu welterweight affair, Josh Burkman will welcome Zak Ottow to the UFC. Originally slated to face Bobby Green at lightweight, Burkman will now meet Zak Ottow at 170 pounds. Although Ottow will be fighting on just over a weeks notice, the Wisconson native was already training for a fight on October 7th. That said, Zak will need to be in his best shape if he means to overcome the durable veteran in Josh Burkman.

Starting off on the feet, Burkman should have the advantage striking as he is the more dangerous man. Often switching his stance, Josh strikes effectively from either side as I see his patent check hook working well against the oncoming Ottow. Although Zak rarely throws himself out of position with his fundamental approach, his striking only seems to exist to set up his shot entries. Despite most of Ottow’s attempts often ending up with him pushing his opponent into the fence, Burkman’s choice of circling the outside may inadvertently feed into Zak’s game. Josh will also have to be careful when throwing kicks, given that catch counters will be Ottow’s best chances of getting this fight to the floor.

Once topside, Ottow has a solid control game as he is clearly a wrestler who has embraced jiu-jitsu. Not afraid to take the mount position, it is Zak’s steady approach to the transition game where he makes his money. However, I am not sure that Ottow can consistently ground Burkman, much less control the terms of the ground fight. Often relying on his athleticism and explosiveness early on his career, Burkman has steadily accrued the technics to strengthen his underrated grappling game. Not only should Josh be able to match Ottow’s strength inside the clinch, but I suspect we will see Burkman reverse position and give Zak some of his own medicine.

Even though Burkman’s eagerness to engage in his opponent’s strength bit him in the ass against Dong Hyun Kim, he has appeared to approach fights more tactically since working with Xtreme Couture’s Dennis Davis. Even if Josh does decide to play in Zak’s wheelhouse, I do not feel that the grappling of Ottow will be near the level as Dong Hyun Kim. Despite being a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, Ottow’s no-gi game does not appear to translate as effectively, and is reliant on him being on top. I do not mean to discount Zak’s chances here, but I ultimately feel that Burkman’s veteran savvy should shut him down for three rounds, if not find a late finish.

Official Pick: Burkman – Decision

 

Louis Smolka (11-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 25 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Ben Nguyen (7-13-16)
  • Camp: Hawaii Elite MMA (Hawaii)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Brown Belt Kenpo Karate
+   Brown Belt Judo
+   4 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   2 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
^   Well composed & conditioned
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Excellent check hook
+   Improved takedown game
+/-“Gives to get” positionally
+   Relentless transition game
^   Thrives inside the scramble
–    Head often upright

 

Brandon Moreno (11-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 22 Weight: 125 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: Sub win / Isaac Camarillo (4-16-16)
  • Camp: Entram Gym (Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 24 Alum
+   BJJ Purple Belt
+   WFF Title
+   8 Submission wins
+   1 KO victory
+   6 first round finishes
+/-Aggressive striker
^   Dangerous knees
+   Accurate left hook
+   Solid back controls
+   Active guard game
^   Favors triangles & armbars
–    Suspect transitional choices
^   Willingness to fight from back

Summary:

Kicking off the main card on Fox Sports 1 is a flyweight fight between Louis Smolka and Brandon Moreno. Originally slated to face Sergio Pettis, Smolka will now meet a recent TUF 24 contestant in Brandon Moreno. Despite Smolka being hailed as one of the dark horses to challenge for Demetrious Johnson’s title, Brandon Moreno will look to follow in Eric Spicely’s footsteps and shock the world.

Starting off on the feet may be Moreno’s best shot, especially considering that Smolka tends to take a minute in finding his striking rhythms. Moreno looks to be an aggressive combination striker when he is not circling the outside and throws a solid left hook that may serve him well. Despite Smolka’s shown fight-to-fight improvements, he is quite tall for the division as his head tends to keep upright. In fact, we have seen the Hawaiian stung in his previous bouts due to his defensive posture. Brandon also has dangerous jump-knees that Smolka will have to be aware of, as the Mexican throws them sporadically and with little regard.

That said, Smolka should be the better striker by a clear stretch. Coming from a Kenpo Karate base, Louis displays the distance management and darting attacks that you would expect from that style. However, the Hawaiian will now put his punches together more fluidly, as he promises to show an evolved version of his striking for this fight. Although Moreno’s wrestling game has improved over his short career, he makes questionable calls in transition that could get him burned against a more skilled scrambler. Not only will Smolka be the better overall wrestler, but he is also one of the best scramblers in the sport(and I stand by that statement). Louis is also the more active and efficient clinch fighter, which I see only further fueling the bad decisions from Brandon.

Anytime a fighter entangles with Smolka, the Hawaiian stays two-steps ahead as he uses his long frame as an active blanket of non-disseminating offense. Although Smolka has thankfully shown less head & arm throws, Louis still tends to give his back when attempting tosses and takedown variations. Despite finding the back usually being Brandon’s best case scenario(as it is also his best position), he may ultimately end up taking a deeper step into the quicksand. We saw much more proven back takers in Paddy Holohan and Ben Nguyen struggle here, as they ended up losing the exchanges as well as positions. If Brandon lets his emotions get the better of him and he dives in head first, Moreno may fall into the downward spiral that is Louis Smolka’s scramble game.

An interesting dichotomy of grappler, Smolka possesses the technical flow chart of a black belt that is fueled by the offensive eagerness of a white belt. Whether he is sweeping, standing, shucking, or sitting out, Smolka is snake-like in the way that he denies his opposition complete control. Although I could pontificate on the positional wherewithal of Smolka’s grappling for days, the essence of his game comes down to his give-and-take mentality. Smolka has no problem succeeding the small battles to win the war, as that is what I see happening here.

Official Pick: Smolka – Inside the distance

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Da Silva def. Christensen
  • Dias def. Fili
  • Abdurakhimov def. Harris
  • Nakamura def. Dos Santos
  • McCrory def. Marquardt
  • Cutelaba def. Wilson
  • Blaydes def. East
  • Faszholz def. Vieira

Recommended Plays:

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Lineker by TKO/KO: +190 (0.5 Unit)
-Louis Smolka ITD: -230 (2 Units)
-Abdurakhimov/Harris over 1 1/2: -120 (1 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Tamdan McCrory
-Louis Smolka

Fights to avoid:

-Henrique Da Silva vs Joachim Christensen
-Curits Blaydes vs Cody East
-Jonathan Wilson vs Ion Cutelaba

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

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UFC 216 Breakdown: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee

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

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

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

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

Where Ferguson Flourishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Count Out Kevin Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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UFC 216 Breakdown: Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UFC 215 Main Card Breakdown

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

Jeremy Stephens vs Gilbert Melendez

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

How the fight will go

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

Prediction

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

Ilir Latifi vs Tyson Pedro

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

How the fight will go

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

Prediction

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

Neil Magny vs Rafael dos Anjos

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

How the fight plays out

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

Prediction

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

Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko

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

How the fight plays out

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

Prediction

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

Demetrious Johnson vs Ray Borg

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

How the fight plays out

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

Prediction

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

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