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UFC SLC: Rodriguez vs Caceres Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Yair1

Yair Rodriguez (8-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 24 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Andre Fili (4-23-16)
  • Camp: Izzy-Style Wrestling (Illinois)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF LATAM 1 Winner
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   3 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   3 first round finishes
+   Athletic & explosive mover
^   Covers distance quickly
+   Dynamic kicking attack
^   Variates stances & style
+/-Rarely strikes from the left side
–    Low hands/head upright
+   Improved overall wrestling
^   Shows solid hip awareness
+   Active & attacking guard
+   Excellent leg dexterity
^   Retains guard well

 

Caceres33

Alex Caceres (12-8)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 28 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 73.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Cole Miller (6-4-16)
  • Camp: MMA Lab (Arizona)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 12 Alum
+   2 KO victories
+   5 Submission wins
+   2 first round finishes
+   Deceptive speed & athleticism
+   Excellent footwork
^   Good outside foot awareness
+   Accurate jab
^   Hard left cross follow-ups
+   Solid kicking game
^   Variates to legs & head
–    Low & loose hands
+   Underrated wrestling ability
^   Maintains base & balance
+   Does well inside scrambles
^   Actively looks for back

Summary:

The main event for Salt Lake City features fireworks in the featherweight division as Yair Rodriguez takes on Alex Caceres. With the promotional hype machine behind him, Mexico’s brightest prospect will attempt to further his accession with this showcase spot. Looking to spoil the party is Alex Caceres, a TUF 12 contestant who has steadily become a veteran under the UFC banner as this will be his fifteenth fight with the organization.

Although the oddsmakers will suggest that Rodriguez is a heavy favorite, I feel that this fight is much closer than meets the eye. Not only is this MMA, but more specifically, this is a match between two dynamic strikers. With each fighter employing free-flowing methods of their own, it can difficult to dissect exactly how the exchanges will go. Both men can manage and control distances with equal effect, but Yair certainly has an edge in regards to his arsenal and the explosiveness in which he throws it. A poster boy for dynamic striking, it can be hard to see the forest through the trees in regards to deciphering the values of flashiness versus effectiveness.

As a Tae Kwon Do black belt myself, I can truly appreciate Yair’s technique applications, but I also immediately noticed his lack of hand presence and habitual one-sided ways. Despite the constant stance switches and dazzling displays, Rodriguez seldom throws any strikes off of his left side. With forms of his left-sided offense including lackadaisical paws for punches and the occasional left-kick accentuation(aerial attacks ala his Andre Fili finish), the Mexican barely clears 10-attempts off his left side per round(not including ground strikes). This single-sided approach makes Rodriguez’s stance switching crucial, as it opens up options and gives the illusion of a dual-sided repertoire.

Luckily for Rodriguez, his right-sided sensibilities may serve him well in this particular matchup. His opponent, Caceres, lives up to his moniker of Bruce Lee-Roy as he keeps a loose-flowing standing guard. Although this style allows him to free-flow combinations from odd angles, it also opens him up defensively as his head is often upright with his hands low. Even against the shorter opposition in Sergio Pettis & Edwin Figueroa, we saw Caceres dropped or stunned by head kicks off of the right-side on multiple occasions. For this reason, I feel Yair’s right-sided head kicks will be the strike to look out for in the event of a finish.

However, Yair has shown similar defensive liabilities of his own. Like many traditional based martial artists who leap in-and-out, Rodriguez tends to keep his head upright with his hands low. Although Yair demonstrates good defensive awareness to kicks, we have seen him caught most by straight lefts from multiple stances & opponents in the UFC. Considering that Caceres’ left cross is one of his most effective tools, this will certainly be the strike to look for from him. Since moving shop to the MMA Lab, Alex has made marked improvements to his overall game.

Always an underrated grappler, we have seen Caceres start to bring his striking game to life. With southpaw stablemates to work with such as Benson Henderson and Bryan Barberena, we have seen Alex sharpen his tools standing. However, Alex tends to be reliant on connecting his combinations off of his active jab. Although that is fundamentally something good, he may have trouble finding his distance against the non-stop(and sometimes sporadic) movement of Rodriguez. Although Yair still lacks a presence within boxing ranges, his age, as well as other intangibles, suggests that he may make larger leaps than usual in regards to fight-to-fight improvements.

However, where I feel Yair’s hype train may get caught speeding is on the floor. Although his leg dexterity does him a lot of favors as far as translating his dynamics, the developing Mexican still shows signs of a possible lack of positional awareness. When I refer to Yair’s positional awareness, I am not directing that toward his wrestling, as I feel Rodriguez will have an edge in that department due to his athleticism and arsenal showed in past performances. However, when searching for submissions inside the scramble, Yair’s free-flowing approach may come at a high-price if he is not careful.

Whether Rodriguez finds himself on top, bottom, or even from the clinch, we have seen him drop for heel-hooks with regularity(despite failing to come close on a catch). Say what you will about his abilities, Alex Caceres can be a dangerous fighter to threaten with heel-hooks. An underrated wrestler himself, Alex has found himself attacked by many leg-lock threats throughout his career. Showing competent in textbook defenses such as prying legs and spinning-out, Caceres prefers doing a defensive maneuver that I particularly fancy myself.

Whenever Alex’s opposition rolls for a leg, Caceres will promptly cross his legs in a body-triangle fashion to kill the submission attempt. At the same time, Alex will continue with the momentum of said attempt, until the leverage point allows him to sit up to his opponents back. From here, Caceres will grasp the hips of his opposition as he kicks his legs back, freeing himself up to now attack the back of a turtled opponent. Aside from Charles Rosa(who gave Yair his toughest fight to date), we have not seen Rodriguez taken to task on the floor. If Caceres is to win this fight, much fewer rounds, I feel that it will be accomplished on the mat.

Although Yair is a competitor who appears to thrive inside the storm, we have seen brighter prospects have to pay their taxes at some point in this sport. That said, I do agree that Yair should be favored in this fight, although not at the number he is priced at as this match is much closer than the common narrative suggests. For my money, a play on the underdog(especially by submission) may be more worth your time, but I ultimately recommend in playing this one lightly as it has caution signs written all over it. Although I’d love to see a Caceres victory as there are clear paths, it is hard to pick against the rider of storms that is Yair Rodriguez.

Official Pick: Rodriguez – Inside the distance

 

Dennis2

Dennis Bermudez (15-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 29 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Tatsuya Kawajiri (2-21-16)
  • Camp: Long Island MMA (New York)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 14 Finalist
+   NCAA Div. 1 All-American
+   4 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   4 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
^   Athletic/well-conditioned
+   Good fundamental footwork
+   Excellent combination striker
+   91% Takedown defense
^   Superb hips & base
+   Scrambles well/positionally aware
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Heavily forward on front foot

Jason1

Rony Jason (14-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 571″ Age: 32 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: No contest / Damon Jackson (5-30-15)
  • Camp: Evolucao Thai (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF Brazil 1 Winner
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   5 KO victories
+   8 Submission wins
+   12 first round finishes
+   Heavy hands
+   Dangerous knees & elbows
+/-Aggressive inside the pocket
^   Counter availabilities
+   Active & aggressive guard
^   Favors triangle-armbars
–    45% Takedown defense
+/-1 Fight in 2-years
+/-1st Fight outside of Brazil

Summary:
The co-main event of the evening features fun match in the featherweight division as Dennis Bermudez does battle with Rony Jason. Riding a 7-fight winning streak not long ago, Dennis Bermudez has dropped 2 of his last 3-fights as he attempts to start another streak here. Standing in his way is Rony Jason, who will be returning off a 1-year suspension as he looks to get back to form.

Starting off on the feet, I feel that Bermudez is the more technical striker. Employing aggressive doses of in-and-out footwork, Dennis puts together his punch combinations smoothly as he often punctuates with hard leg kicks. Consistently striking his way inside, Bermudez loves working in the clinch as he unabashedly uncorks uppercuts and knees. Although Dennis has shown improvements to his head positioning and overall defense, the Long Islander’s inherent aggression is what usually gets him off course and into trouble.

In facing a heavy-handed striker like Rony Jason, Bermudez will have to be extra careful when engaging inside the pocket. Not only does Bermudez’s aggression make him more hittable, but he also tends to keep his weight heavily on his front foot. Traditionally, this head-first approach opens him up to leg kicks and other right-sided attacks such as uppercuts and knees. We saw all of those things demonstrated to great effect in his fight with Jeremy Stephens. Considering Rony Jason is very active with his intercepting knees, that will likely be the strike to look for from the Brazilian.

Although Jason throws hooks with force from both sides that will command Bermudez’s respect, Rony is also most hittable when doing so as he tends to square his stance and abandon his defenses. Despite Dennis doing his best work coming forward, the New York native throws an accurate right cross off the counter that I see having play in this matchup. On the ground, both men are accoladed grapplers in different areas as they each employ completely different styles. As his All-American credentials would suggest, Bermudez will have a clear wrestling advantage as he is also the more positional player in regards to MMA grappling.

With his stout but powerful frame, Bermudez commands a superb base as his hips often position himself to safety. Couple that with his well-versed takedown game, Dennis will certainly be deciding where this fight takes place. With the majority Bermudez’s losses coming by way of submission, it can be easy to draw a path for the jiu-jitsu prowess of Jason. However, Bermudez’s most recent submission defeats(1 in the last 5-years) have traditionally come off chaotic scrambles or from being hurt. Although Jason can be relentless with set-ups & submission attempts, he does not usually create nor capitalize in scrambles as he does most of his work from the guard.

Though the Brazilian is more than talented enough to catch Bermudez here, Dennis demonstrates excellent fundamentals of fighting inside the guard. Rarely will you see Dennis put his hands on the mat, as he likes to maintain inside-bicep control or even stack from a can-opener to strike. If Jason cannot hurt Dennis or disrupt his senses in the scramble, then it may be a long night of working to-and-from the fence for the Brazilian. That said, if the New York native fails to keep his cool, he may once again end up losing the lead due to small mistakes. Ultimately, I feel Bermudez should be able to outwork Jason in a clear but competitive affair.

Official Pick: Bermudez – Decision

 

Thales1

Thales Leites (25-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 34 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Gegard Mousasi (2-27-16)
  • Camp: Nova Uniao (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   4 KO victories
+   14 Submission wins
+   10 first round finishes
+   Improved striking
^   Heavy cross-hook combinations
+   Hard leg kicks
–    Carries/retracts left-hand low
^   Counter availabilities
+   Strong body-lock/outside trips
^   Favors attempts off fence
+   Excellent back take ability
+   Smooth transitional grappler
^   Dangerous arm-triangle in transit

 

Camozzi1

Chris Camozzi (24-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 29 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 75.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Vitor Miranda (5-29-16)
  • Camp: Factory-X Muay Thai (Denver, CO)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   TUF 11 Alum
+   8 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   Accurate distance striker
^   2nd most landed at MW(in UFC)
+   Excellent leg kicks
^   Most landed in MW history(UFC)
+   Active jabs & feints
^   Takes angles well
+   Improved takedown defense
^   Good under-hook awareness
–    Sometimes struggles w/grappling
+   Solid chin/never stopped

Summary:

In a middleweight maelstrom taking place on the main card, Thales Leites takes on Chris Camozzi. Despite winning his first five fights upon his UFC return, Thales Leites has seemingly found himself on a 2-fight skid. With those losses coming at the hands of the division’s best, Thales will now look to get himself back on track with a win here. Standing in his way is Chris Camozzi, another veteran of the UFC’s middleweight division who has been finding more success in his second time around.

Starting off on the feet, I feel that the on-paper advantage in striking belongs to Camozzi. Although Muay Thai has long been the base of Camozzi’s game, his southpaw stylings have come to fruition with the embrace of angles and an active jab. Chris has also shown to be much-more-effective with feints, particularly from the hip as he parlays his leg kick threats into punch opportunities. Not only does Camozzi show improvement in initiating and putting together punches, but he does so as he simultaneously steps to the outside, giving himself the superior outside foot position.

Although these intricacies have helped Camozzi’s combination game come to life, Leites will present his fair share of threats standing. A long time member of the renown Nova Uniao camp, we have seen steady improvements to Leites’ striking acumen in the second half of his career. Employing a similar stalking style to his stablemates, Thales will measure his opponents looking for hooks & leg kicks off the counter or on the attack. Considering that Leites has seldom faced southpaw opposition in his career(in-and-out of the UFC), that will certainly be the big question heading into exchanges here.

Despite having excellent timing on his leg kicks, Thales will have limited looks against his southpaw opposition, who happens to lead the division in leg kicks landed all-time. Although Thales may not find his usual success downstairs, he throws a solid cross-hook combination that I feel is live in this matchup. In an open stance matchup(southpaw versus orthodox) a cross-hook combination can be effective to not only land but close the distance at an advantageous angle. We saw Rafael Natal and Tom Watson have success with this combination on multiple occasions against Camozzi, especially considering his defensive habits.

Often slipping hard to his left side, Camozzi does a good job of getting offline from crosses down the center, but tends to reset with is right-hand low. Traditionally, this has made Chris more hittable off his right side in exchanges, which in my opinion, makes the left hook of Leites the punch to look for in this bout. However, Thales tends to retract and even carry his left-hand low. Typically, this has opened up Thales to attacks from the right side, as this was evident in the damage sustained to his left eye in his last 3-fights. Although Camozzi is not the heaviest hitter, he throws with activity & accuracy that can influence exchanges as well as scorecards.

Leites’ best chance at winning this fight will certainly reside on the floor. A legitimate black belt in jiu-jitsu hailing from a camp with underrated wrestling, Leites’ path to victory seems clear as the oddsmakers have him favored in this fight. However, Camozzi is not as easily thwarted with grappling pressure as he once was. More importantly, Chris defends takedowns particularly well from the fence and inside the clinch, the two places Thales prefers to score. With Camozzi only being taken down by reactionary takedowns in the past 3-years, I feel that Leites will have to get his through caught kicks as he traditionally shows little success in his level-changing shots.

Even if Leites can successfully ground Camozzi, Chris has shown developments that suggest he won’t be as susceptible to submission artists. Parlaying the superb under-hook awareness he shows inside the clinch, Camozzi will also use under-hooks to get up from the bottom. Using these strict fundamental get-ups as opposed to turtling-out to stand, Chris may at the very least shut down back-take opportunities, if not stand back up. However, if this fight happens to take place in the small cage, the grappling probabilities will likely be in Thales’ favor.

Although I do not disagree with the Brazilian being favored, I feel that this fight is deceptively closer than it appears. Although both men are coming off resurgences, I feel that the fighter with the on-paper advantages is not the fighter who is on the up-trend. Ultimately, if Thales cannot keep this up close and personal, I see Camozzi’s volume putting up more points on the board as I suspect a breakthrough performance.

Official Pick: Camozzi – Decision

 

Ponzi1

Santiago Ponzinibbio (22-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 29 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Court McGee (4-16-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF Brazil 2 Alum
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Striking Base
+   12 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Strong pace & pressure
+   Excellent combination puncher
^   High-volume/variating attacks
+   Accurate R. cross-L. hook
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
–    Strikes sometimes retract low
+/-55% Takedown defense
+   Showing wrestling improvements
+   Good get-up urgency
+   Strikes well off the breaks
+/-Gets hit/recovers well

 

Cummings3

Zak Cummings (19-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 32 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Nicolas Dalby (4-10-16)
  • Camp: Glory MMA & Fitness (Missouri)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 17 Alum
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Wrestling Base
+   5 KO victories
+   9 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Deceptively manages distance
+   Accurate right hook
+   Dangerous left-hand
^   Variates angles of attacks
+/-Carries hands low
^   Moves head well
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Favors takedowns from the fence
+   Excellent from front-headlock
^   Crafty chokes & controls
+   Good chin/never stopped

Summary:

In what has the makings of a welterweight war, Santiago Ponzinibbio does battle with Zak Cummings. Since coming off the second season of TUF Brazil, we have seen Ponzinibbio evolve into a more complete martial artist as well as a fast-rising fan favorite. Standing in the Argentinian’s way is Zak Cummings, a crafty veteran who is also riding a 2-fight streak coming into this contest. With both men on the verge of cracking Top-15 competition, expect each fighter to be looking to make a statement.

Starting off on the feet, the on-paper advantage in striking should point to Ponzinibbio. From the output of his combination punching to the placement awareness of his footwork, Santiago’s pressure-fighting abilities are clearly the strengths of his game. That said, I do not believe the striking advantage will be as vast as you may think. Zak Cummings is an underrated striker, who has recently gotten a good grasp of his heavy-hands as he’s scored knockdowns in 3 of his last 4-fights. Although Zak’s low-handed guard looks like a red flag considering Santiago’s possible speed edge, Cummings does a good job of moving his head just out of range as he deceptively manages the distance well.

With Zak’s granite chin also amongst the supporting cast of this countering style, Cummings can compensate for speed discrepancies as he counters with conviction. Although he wields a crafty check-hook that will likely serve him well, Cummings often follows up with a left shovel hook that Santiago will have to mind. Sometimes leaning forward off his combinations, Ponzinibbio also shows a tendency to retract his right hand almost to his chest level. Traditionally, this has opened up Ponzinibbio to counter hooks and jabs in exchanges. That said, if Cummings fails to find his counter shots, Ponzinibbio could ultimately put up more points on the board should he maintain discipline with his volume.

Although Zak’s advantages in this fight will certainly reside in the grappling department, grounding his Argentinian opposition will not be an easy task. Since moving shop to American Top Team, we have seen Santiago’s supporting game take gradual steps up. Although he has still shown the be susceptible to takedowns in the open and against the cage, Ponzinibbio demonstrates urgency in getting back to his feet and an improved ability to break away from the fence. Santiago will need these facets of his game firing against Zak, who will likely be looking to close the distance for the bout’s duration. With Zak scoring the majority of his takedowns from the fence, look for Cummings to corral Santiago into a clinch anytime near the cage.

Anytime Zak fails to take down Santiago he may be subject to strikes off the break, as Ponzinibbio is particularly dangerous in those small spaces. However, similar to his striking stanzas, Santiago will lean heavily forward as he pushes from the clinch. With Cummings being particularly good from the front-headlock, this could give him the looks he needs to snap down his opposition and initiate grappling exchanges. Should Cummings ground Ponzinibbio, I feel Zak’s relentless pressure could open up a submission or sway the momentum at the very least. As one of the tighter matches on the main card, I recommend caution in playing either man here. Although I do not disagree with Santiago being favored to win, I feel that Cummings is an underrated fighter who carries the right type of intangibles. Durable southpaws who can wrestle seem to be a potent combination that upsets the odds, as I feel Cummings fits that bill here.

Official Pick: Cummings – Decision

 

Smith1

Trevor Smith (13-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 35 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Dan Miller (7-12-15)
  • Camp: Ring Demon Jiu-jitsu (Washington)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Wrestling Base
+   9 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   1 KO victory
+   Steadily improved striking
+   Hard right leg kicks
+   Stifling cage & clinch pressure
+   Solid double-leg takedown
+   Competent submission grappler
^   Dangerous Guillotine choke
–    Leans head heavily forward
^   Often caught/countered coming in
+/-1 fight in 2-years

 

Joe1

Joseph Gigliotti (7-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 22 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 68.5″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / John Popple (4-15-16)
  • Camp: Power MMA (Arizona)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Wrestling Base
+   4 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   4 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Heavy right-hand
+   Strikes well off the breaks
+   Physically imposing in clinch
+   Good takedown ability
^   Changes levels well
+   Solid top control
^   Hard ground striker
+   Shows choke competency
+/-UFC Debut

Summary:

In a middleweight bout on the main card, Trevor Smith welcomes Joseph Gigliotti to the UFC. A veteran who has been in the cage with the division’s top-10, Trevor Smith will be seeking to surmount some momentum as he looks to return from another one-year layoff. Tasked with the notorious UFC debut, Power MMA prospect, Joseph Gigliotti looks to make a statement with this main card spotlight.

Both men come from wrestling bases as Smith has the advantage in regards to his Iowa State credentials. That said, he may not necessarily be the more effective MMA wrestler. Despite Trevor’s takedown ability as seen in his patent double-leg, the former All-American has not shown the best takedown defense in his MMA career. Tall for the division at 6’3″, Trevor has often found his opposition coming in underneath and beating him at under-hooks to score. Against the game of Joseph Gigliotti, Smith will have to be alert to this as the stout debutant possess an explosive power-double.

Demonstrating a knack for maintaining top position, Gigliotti shows solid positional awareness as he floats from ride-positions delivering hard shots with effect. Being underneath Joseph could be troublesome for Smith, who often reverts to a turtle off of failed shots or stand-up attempts. That said, Gigliotti will have to mind his takedown entries as the Guillotine is Smith’s best choke. Although Trevor has not officially scored a submission, much less Guillotine choke in over 4-years, an excited Gigliotti could easily fall into a veteran’s trap.

On the feet, neither fighter is particularly crafty as they both lack a consistent volume. Smith has the wider arsenal as he throws nice leg kicks, but he may lay off those considering the takedown threat of Joseph. Aside from sheer knockout power, where I see Gigliotti having an advantage standing is in Smith’s posture. Although the overhand is typically open on the taller man, Trevor tends to hunch forward as he leans into his assaults. Traditionally, this has made Smith susceptible to uppercuts and knees in exchanges and on his entries.

With uppercuts showing to have a strong presence in Joseph’s arsenal, I expect that will be the key-punch look for in this fight. Ultimately, I suggest staying away from playing this match, as we essentially have a debutant going against an inconsistent fighter. Although I do see Joseph finding a finish, you can count on Trevor Smith being a legitimate test for Gigliotti’s skill-set.

Official Pick: Gigliotti – Inside the distance

 

Moroz1

Maryna Moroz (7-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 24 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 67″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Cristina Stanciu (4-10-16)
  • Camp: YK Promotion (Ukraine)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Ukrainian National Boxing Team
+   Master of Sports: Boxing & Kickboxing
+   4 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   1 KO victory
+   Manages distance well
^   Good in & out movement
+   Hard left hook-right hand
+   Solid lead leg kicks
+   Dangerous armbars
+/-Will pull guard
+/-Aggressive in exchanges

 

Taylor1

Danielle Taylor (7–1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’0″ Age: 26 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: N/A”
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Jamie Colleen (3-5-16)
  • Camp: Saekson Muay Thai (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   1 Submission win
+   2 first round finishes
+   3 KO victories
+   Heavy hands
+   Powerful & athletic frame
^   Solid base & balance
+   Good footwork
^   Moves well
+   Dangerous right-hand
?   Questionable overall ground game

Summary:

Kicking off the main card on Fox Sports 1 is a strawweight scrap between Maryna Moroz and UFC newcomer Danielle Taylor. Storming onto the scene with a submission win over Joanne Calderwood, Moroz has since gone 2-1 with the organization as she attempts her way up the ranks. With her original opponent forced to withdraw, Moroz will now face the dangerous debutant Danielle Taylor.

With only one fight in the last year and limited footage available, it makes it difficult to access the skill of Taylor accurately. Despite standing short for the division at 5-foot even, Danielle appears to be very athletic as she moves well and deceptively closes the distance. Having a strong taste for the counter, Taylor will often follow her opponents strike retractions inside as she throws with heat. Wielding a potent right-hand, I suspect that will be the punch to look for from Taylor.

Despite Moroz being a member of the Ukranian National Boxing Team, her inherent aggression makes her more hittable than her Master of Sports titles would suggest. Considering that Maryna traditionally takes damage from right hands in fights, she will need to check her stubbornness in this match due to her opposition’s heavy-handed nature. That said, Moroz is still very young as she continues to show fight-to-fight improvements. We saw that in her last fight, as the Ukrainian was a bit more disciplined with her in-and-out attacks.

Although Taylor’s looming right-hand makes a confident pick for Moroz difficult, I feel the potential plan B of Maryna will help hedge her bets. Whether the exchanges are going her way or not, Moroz shows to mix in a healthy amount of grappling engagements. Whether she is going to her trip repertoire or sporadically pulling guard, Maryna’s nature to mix things up may serve her well in testing Taylor’s grappling.

With even less footage on Taylor’s ground game, it is hard to say with confidence of how she will fair defensively or offensively. That said, I have to assume Moroz will have a slight edge being one of the division’s more proven submission threats. I strongly recommend staying away from playing this fight, as the limited sample size makes for a high-intangible affair. Ultimately, I see the Ukranian’s range and distance troubling the newcomer in a competitive scrap.

Official Pick: Moroz- Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • McGee def. Steele
  • Tybura def. Pesta
  • Teymur def. Novelli
  • Ishihara def. Gutierrez
  • Swanson def. Kawajiri
  • Ledet def. Sherman

Recommended Plays:

Draft Kings recommended rosters:

 

Team #1: $50,000.00

-Teruto Ishihara ($11,500.00)
-Yair Rodriguez ($10,500.00)
-Zak Cummings ($10,000.00)
-Joseph Gigliotti ($9,300.00)
-Chris Camozzi ($8,700.00)

Team Summary:

In my first recommended roster for Draft Kings, I went with Yair Rodriguez and Teruto Ishihara as my high-tier options. For the reasons listed above, Yair Rodriguez makes for a valuable pick at $10,500.00 as his flashy finishes are favored to come through in the 5-round main event. Although Teruto Ishihara is the most expensive option at $11,500.00, he is worth the wager as I feel he holds a stylistic & experience advantage over Horacio Gutierrez, in what is a promising bout of two action fighters.

For my mid to low-tier underdog options, I chose to go with Zak Cummings, Joseph Gigliotti, and Chris Camozzi. Although I predicted Zak Cummings to score the upset by decision, Zak has scored knockdowns in 3 of his last 4-fights as he is fighting a willing dance partner who traditionally takes damage. Quietly carrying the 3rd-highest average point percentage on the card(67.7), I feel that the durable Cummings is a steal at $10,000.00 flat. For the reasons stated above, Joseph Gigliotti also comes in at a bargain of $9,300.00 as I have him favored to find a finish against Trevor Smith. Lastly, I went with Chris Camozzi as I also feel he scores an upset for the reasons listed above. At the low price of $8,700.00, I feel Camozzi is one of the most promising picks to support the bottom of your roster.

Team #2: $49,500.00

-Teruto Ishihara ($11,500.00)
-Dennis Bermudez ($10,400.00)
-Santiago Ponzinibbio ($9,400.00)
-Joseph Gigliotti ($9,300.00)
-Alex Caceres ($8,900.00)

Team Summary:

For my second recommended Draft Kings roster, I chose Teruto Ishihara and Dennis Bermudez as my high-tier picks. Not only do I feel the experience & activity of Teruto Ishihara will allow him to get the edge in this all-action affair, but he is also the 2nd-highest average scorer(68.75) on the card. Although I feel Dennis Bermudez will likely get things done by way of decision, he scores healthy doses of knockdowns and takedowns as he comes in as the 4th-highest average scorer(65.5) on the card for $10,400.00.

For my mid to low-tier options, I elected to go with Santiago Ponzinibbio, Joseph Gigliotti, and Alex Caceres. Although I officially picked Cummings to score the upset, it is undoubtedly a close contest as Santiago Ponzinibbio is favored to win. Carrying the highest average score on the entire card(73.5), Ponzinibbio is a steal at $9,400.00. For the reasons listed above, I also feel that Joseph Gigliotti is a bargain at $9,300.00 as he his favored to finish his fight. Finally, I went with Alex Caceres to round out the roster. Although I officially picked Rodriguez to win, Caceres arguably puts up more volume as I stated his paths to victory above. If you also have a sneaky suspicion of the upset, Caceres makes a valuable pick as a 5-round fight participant at $8,900.00.

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Dennis Bermudez by Decision: +152 (0.5 Unit)
-Tybura/Pesta Over 1 1/2: -140 (1 Unit)
-Chris Camozzi by Decision: +230 (.25 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Teruto Ishihara
-Cub Swanson

Fights to avoid:

-McGee vs Steele
-Moroz vs Taylor
-Ledet vs Sherman

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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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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