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UFC SLC: Rodriguez vs Caceres Breakdown

Dan Tom





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



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


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



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


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

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



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



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


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



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



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


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



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



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


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



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



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


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(

-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 and for future breakdowns & your latest in worldwide MMA news, stay tuned & follow @MMALatestnws

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UFC 216 Breakdown: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee



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



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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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