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UFC Sao Paulo: Bader vs. Nogueira 2 Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Ryan Bader (12-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 33 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Ilir Latifi (9-3-16)
  • Camp: Power MMA (Arizona)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   2x Div. 1 All-American Wrestler
+   3x Pac-10 Champion
+   8 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Improved striking & footwork
+   Accurate jab
+   Good cardio & conditioning
+   Explosive power double takedown
+   Strong pressure against fence
^   Effective clinch & body lock
+   Solid positional awareness & rides
^   Active ground striker
+/-2-3 against UFC southpaws

 

Antonio Nogueira (22-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 40 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Pat Cummins (5-14-16)
  • Camp: Team Nogueira (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   Pan-American Boxing Medalist
+   7 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Solid boxing technique
^   Accurate left hand–right hook
+   Hard knees to the body
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Crafty Submission setups
^   Excellent grip/hand-fighting
+   Favors deep half-guard
^   Creates sweeps and scrambles
?   Questionable physical state

Summary:

The main event in Sao Paulo is a rematch between Ryan Bader and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira as they do battle one more time. Coming off an impressive win over Ilir Latifi in Germany, Ryan Bader will once again hit the road as he makes his way back up the ranks. Also fresh off a fantastic performance is Rogerio Nogueira, as he will be looking to avenge a loss to the American in front of his home country of Brazil.

From Nogueira’s point of reference, he has seen this matchup many times before. In fact, the bulk of his UFC career(’10-’14) was spent facing the who’s who of wrestlers in the light-heavyweight division (Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, Tito Ortiz, and Rashad Evans). Despite showing improvements to his surrounding game and making for competitive affairs, Nogueira’s style ultimately scored poorly within the western scenes of MMA as the Brazilian spent most of his Octagon time defending shots & losing rounds.

Six years later, the same factors will likely still apply as wrestling usually has a purpose within the gameplan of Ryan Bader. Whether he uses it to stay standing when the striking is going well–or uses it offensively to change the terms of a fight, Bader will possess the more effective plan B between the two competitors. However, Bader has a tendency to shoot naked(without strikes for disguise), which can put him in precarious positions when his opponent is able to sprawl out and transition(as seen in his bouts with Johnson & Latifi). Although Nogueira is not known for explosive transitions and positional riding, the Brazilian is an underrated wrestler who could once again pose problems for Bader’s shots.

Favoring a power double-leg takedown, Bader can be effective coming forward offensively or using it in a reactive capacity to counter the offense of his opposition. However, we saw Nogueira stuff his shots repeatedly as the Brazilian defends this style of takedown particularly well. Like many southpaws, Nogueira has traditionally shown to defend standard shot entries easier with the given space differentials, whereas single-leg attempts can be harder to stop as the lead leg is forward and vulnerable. We saw Phil Davis discover this in his fight with Rogerio, as the Penn state alum was able to adjust and outwork Nogueira later on in the match.

Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua also had moments of success in taking down Nogueira when switching-off or chaining from a single-leg. With the given information out there, it will be interesting to see Bader’s approach in that department. That said, Ryan’s power double-legs may have success should Nogueira show a further decline in his hip mobility. Regardless of the route, no picnics will take place on the ground as Rogerio should still be competitive given the technical basis for his style. Utilizing superb grip fighting to stifle and set up opponents from guard, the Brazilian also has a renown half-guard that he favors operating from.

Referred to as “Deep Half“, Nogueira will brilliantly dive a deep under-hook followed by his head underneath his opposition. Not only does this make Rogerio hard to hit, but it also obstructs his opponents base and opens up multiple avenues to sweep. This will without a doubt be his most tangible path back to his feet against Bader, who will likely have his own answers to this. Although Ryan had a poor showing against Anthony Johnson on the floor, I do not believe that should be a condemnation of his skills as I feel that performance was a panic-driven downward spiral(and a technically brilliant performance by Johnson).

That said, I feel Bader shows the positional awareness to stay out of danger, but will likely lack the pathways for major advancements if he cannot combat the grip-fighting of Nogueira. Ultimately, I believe Bader will be looking to strike or get back to his feet in this fight. Although Rogerio should still have the striking edge on paper, the Brazilian will be facing a much different fighter than he did six years ago. Working heavily on his stand up with his new striking coach Chaz Turner, we’ve seen clear fight-to-fight improvements in Bader’s techniques. With a huge focus on opening up Ryan’s hips and stance, he’s shown to more fluidly hit and move as he strings his strikes together.

Quietly developing an active and accurate jab, Bader has been able to bludgeon the right eyes of both Phil Davis and Rashad Evans in more recent history. In Ryan’s first fight with Nogueira, we saw very little jabs as Bader lacked the outside-foot-awareness to open up striking lanes, much less find his range. Subsequently, Nogueira was able to abuse the young Bader anytime they would exchange in boxing range. Now moving much better, Bader’s in-and-out approach will serve him well in this fight. However, if he cannot use his improved jab to establish the range on his southpaw foe, his arsenal may not have the effect he desires.

That said, Bader wields some underrated kicks from his right side, as I see his kicks to the head and body being a key factor in this fight. As we saw in Nogueira’s fight with Phil Davis, you can still win rounds against the boxing Brazilian by leaning heavily on kicks and footwork. From that fight with Davis to his most recent bout with Shogun, we have seen Nogueira be traditionally susceptible to body kicks. Considering that the right body kick is Bader’s most effective kicking technique, I suspect we may see a healthy serving in this fight. And although Nogueira does a good job at blocking head kicks, he tends to naturally lean heavy to that side as a southpaw, which could accentuate the impact of oncoming attacks.

However, Bader will not be without worries of his own as he some tendencies worth watching for. Despite his improvements offensively, the All-American still shows the defensive issues that have traditionally troubled him. Although he does not carry his hands as low as before, Bader will still typically retract his hands low when coming forward with strikes. We saw this perfectly demonstrated in his fight with Lyoto Machida, as I suspect the counter left will be Nogueira’s best bet to close the show here. As a fan of both Nogueira brothers, I would love to see Rogerio score the upset in Sao Paulo. That said, I ultimately see the scale being too tilted at this point of these two fighter’s careers.

Official Pick: Bader – Inside the distance

 

Thales Leites (26-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 35 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Chris Camozzi (8-6-16)
  • Camp: Nova Uniao (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   4 KO victories
+   15 Submission wins
+   10 first round finishes
+   Improved striking
^   Heavy cross-hook combos
+   Hard leg kicks
+   Strong body lock/outside-trips
^   Favors attempts off the fence
+   Excellent back taker
+   Smooth transitional grappler
^   Dangerous arm-triangles in transit
+/-1-1 against UFC southpaws

 

Krzysztof Jotko (18-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 27 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 77″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Tamdan McRory (6-18-16)
  • Camp: Planet Eater (Poland)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   2x Amateur Polish Champion
+   6 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   4 first round finishes
+   Good lateral footwork
^   Unorthodox mover
+   Heavy left hand–right hook
^   Offensively & off of the counter
+   Hard Thai kicks
+   Deceptively strong inside the clinch
^   Competent takedown defense
+   Scrambles well on the floor
+/-Often fights along the fence

Summary:

In a middleweight matchup on the main card, Thales Leites takes on Krzysztof Jotko. A former challenger for the title, Thales Leites will attempt one more run to the top after bouncing back with a win in his last fight. Looking to spoil the party is Krzysztof Jotko, an unassuming talent who has been quietly climbing the ranks.

Starting off on the feet, I give a slight edge to the Polish striker as I see Jotko’s unorthodox movement giving him an intangible advantage. Utilizing odd tempos and deceptive lateral footwork, Jotko will mostly look to counter with crosses and hooks as he sprinkles in sporadic forward attacks. Perhaps it is the Pole’s breakdancing background that is responsible for his odd movement and abrupt timing changes, nonetheless, Jotko is honing in on his style and finding his range more effectively from fight-to-fight.

Although Krzysztof has shown to add in some hard Thai kicks to his arsenal, I doubt he will lean too heavily on them here with the threat of Leites looking to take him down. The problem with Jotko’s game is that he tends to circle along the outside of the cage. In doing so, the Pole has often found himself in ugly clinch battles along the fence. Considering that he is facing a fighter who is most effective within that space, this could be a potentially bad night for Jotko.

Despite not having a huge sample-size of southpaw opposition to draw from, Leites wields an arsenal that translates well to this type of stance. Showing good outside-foot-awareness, the Brazilian will throw his patent cross-hook combinations as he enters space. Although he will often punctuate his combos with leg kicks, Leites is ultimately looking to take his opponents down as I suspect he will attempt to do here.

Given that the Pole does tend to play along the fence, Thales will have ample opportunities to corral Jotko into clinching situations. Although Krzysztof’s potential improvements and athleticism cannot be overlooked, it is hard not to see the persistence of the savvy veteran paying off in these scenarios. In the past, Jotko’s scrambly nature has saved him from precarious positions, but against a world-class grappler, it may only further sink him into the quicksand.

Unless Jotko can catch Leites coming in with a counter, then the Brazilian will likely be able to force his terms of the fight. And although Leites has the striking to close the show, I feel his advantages on the floor should be the clearer path. Despite officially siding with the Brazilian to find a submission, bet cautiously on this one as it has all the makings of a trap fight.

Official Pick: Leites – Inside the distance

 

Pedro Munhoz (12-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 30 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 65″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Russell Doane (7-7-16)
  • Camp: Blackhouse/Kings MMA (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   RFA Bantamweight Title
+   2x No-Gi Champion (Brazil)
+   3 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   Improved Muay Thai
^   Accurate elbows & knees
+   Hard leg & head kicks
+/-Favors shell-defense
+   Competent takedown ability
^   Favors double-legs from fence
+   Good base & balance on top
+   Dangerous Guillotine (5 finishes)
+   Good inside the scramble
^   Transitions well w/leg-locks

 

Justin Scoggins (11-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 24 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Ray Borg (2-6-16)
  • Camp: Revolution Martial Arts (South Carolina)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt Kenpo Karate
+   IKF Wold Kickboxing Champion
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   6 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   5 first round finishes
+   Excellent footwork & movement
^   Manages distance well
+   Accurate shot selection
^   Counters well w/left-hand
+   Solid kicking variety
^   Favors lead-leg side & hook kicks
+   Superb defensive/positional awareness
^   Inside the pocket & in scrambles
+   Smoothly floats & transitions
^   31 passes in 6 fights

Summary:

Headlining the action on UFC Fight Pass is a fantastic bantamweight matchup between Pedro Munhoz and Justin Scoggins. Coming off an impressive submission win, Pedro Munoz will look to give his home of Sao Paulo something to cheer for with another big performance here. Seeking to spoil the homecoming is Justin Scoggins, who will be moving up in weight and into enemy territory.

Originally slated to face Ian McCall at UFC 201 in July, Scoggins was forced to withdraw due to medical issues stemming from a bad weight cut. Huge for the flyweight division, the young and growing Scoggins decided that it was time to move up to bantamweight as he felt that it would be a healthier fit. Standing in front of him is no easy litmus test as he draws Pedro Munhoz. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and accoladed no-gi grappler, Pedro has steadily developed his striking since moving to the United States.

Spending his time between Blackhouse and Kings MMA, we have seen a diverse Muay Thai arsenal emerge from Munhoz. A carryover from his grappling game, Pedro’s leg and hip dexterity translate nicely to his kicking as he has a natural snap to his assault. Pedro’s flexibility also translates into accurate knees, as we saw Munhoz execute beautiful roundhouse knees in his war with Jimmie Rivera.

Although Munhoz has admittedly lacked a strong boxing presence, his ability to manage distance with his kicks have kept him alive and well in most of his outings. However, the problem with playing the distance game with a Karate striker is not that they are better at it, but that they are operating on different terms as they subtly force traditional combat strikers from their games.

A Karate fighter cut from the same cloth as Stephen Thompson, Justin Scoggins bears the similar traits of stance switches and lateral shifts. When standing orthodox, we will see Scoggins employ more kickboxing based attacks. When standing southpaw, the South Carolinian favors lead-leg side & hook kick variations to keep his opponents honest. From Justin’s counter cross he keeps at-the-ready to his spatial awareness and reaction times, Munhoz may start to get overloaded if Scoggins finds his rhythm first.

Where I see Scoggins having some potential success is in his body kicks. Munhoz often reverts to a shell-defense, which traditionally opens up uppercuts and body shots. It is not that the shell is a bad defense, but it can become a false sense of security when relied upon up heavily while wearing small gloves. Should Pedro continue his defensive trend, he may open himself up to body kicks from Scoggins’ oncoming bombing runs. Where I see Munhoz having his best chances of winning is on the floor.

An on-paper edge in the grappling department, Munhoz could gain some real ground if he can get topside in this contest. However, Scoggins is not an easy striker to takedown as he has been wrestling since he was a small child. Utilizing his preternatural positional awareness, Scoggins can scramble with the best of them. Employing solid hand-fighting and head positioning, Scoggins displays the ability to shut down his opposition on a technical level.

Not afraid to engage in takedowns of his own, Justin will seamlessly change his levels and transition. Carrying over his taste for transitions topside, Scoggins floats from position-to-position with impunity as the 32-takedowns & 31-passes in 6-fights would suggest. That said, the eagerness of Justin has got him caught speeding before as he tends to give his head on entry. We saw Scoggins nearly get Guillotined by Will Campuzano and eventually tapped by John Moraga in this fashion.

Justin will need to be especially careful in this fight as Munhoz has one of the best Guillotine chokes in the division. Not only is this a submission that Pedro consistently looks for in transition, but he also shows the ability to variate and improvise with his attacks. In his last fight, we saw Munhoz jump on an arm-in Guillotine variation that is often referred to as a Boa choke. Regardless of the manner, chokes in transit will likely be the Brazilian’s most potent path to victory.

That said, Scoggins showed major improvements to his head positioning and grip awareness in his last fight with Ray Borg, another dangerous submission artist. Although it is hard to count out a Brazilian fighting at home, I feel that Scoggins’ striking and speed will be too much for Munhoz. And with Justin arguably being the better wrestler, I feel that he will ultimately be the one dictating the terms of this fight.

Official Pick: Scoggins – Decision

Main Card Predictions:

  • Bader def. Nogueira
  • Almeida def. Morales
  • Gadelha def. Casey
  • Leites def. Jotko
  • Usman def. Alves
  • Moraes def. Ottow

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Hermansson def. Ferreira
  • De Lima def. Antigulov
  • Eduardo def. Gamburyan
  • Henrique def. Colombo
  • Scoggins def. Munhoz
  • Barroso def. Stewart

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

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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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Image result for holloway vs aldo

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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