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UFC Tampa: Teixeira vs Evans Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Glover4

Glover Teixeira (24-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 36 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Pat Cummins (11-7-15)
  • Camp: Team Teixeira/ATT (Danbury, CT)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   15 KO victories
+   16 first round finishes
+   6 Submission wins
+   KO Power
+   Solid boxing technique
^   Accurate R. hand-L. hook
+   Good head/economy of movement
^   Rarely throws self out of position
+   Competent takedown defense
+   Underrated wrestling
+   Improved get-up ability/urgency
^   Uses under-hooks or turtles out
–    Struggles against the fence

 

UFC on FOX 2: Evans v Davis

Rashad Evans (19-4-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’111″ Age: 36 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 75.”
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Ryan Bader (10-3-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC LHW Champion
+   TUF 2 Heavyweight Winner
+   All-American Wrestler(Michigan State)
+   8 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Excellent footwork
^   Closes distance quickly
+   Good head movement
+   Devastating right hand
+   Solid transition game
^   Favors level-changing double
+   Efficient ground striker
+   Scrambles back to feet well
+/-Gets hurt but does recover well
+/-Overall timing based game

Summary:

Florida’s newly minted main event is a light-heavyweight battle between the resurgent Glover Teixeira and the former champion Rashad Evans. Originally slated to face Shogun Rua, Evans will now take on Teixeira as he attempts to find the form that got him gold. Although stepping in as a replacement, Glover has had five weeks to prepare for this bout as he now finds himself in a main event opportunity following two spectacular wins.

In a matchup that has many potential intangibles, I feel that each fighter’s skillset should line up fairly clear in regards to advantages. For my money, this match will be won by the fighter who can successfully force his opposition to the fence. Both men show similar offensive strengths when forcing their opposition into this space. That said, they both also show defensive liabilities when it is their backs that are to the cage.

Although the space between the inner black Octagon lines and fence serve as a kill zone for both fighters, each man approaches the execution of attacks differently. Evans will utilize movement and exaggerated feints to stifle opponents while setting up his big right hand or reactive shots.

Teixeira demonstrates a more traditional stalking approach, as the Brazilian’s economy of movement keeps him in a constant state of defensive & offensive readiness. Wielding a dangerous right-hand of his own, I feel that Glover’s left hook will be the punch to look for in this fight. Often initiating exchanges with his right cross, Teixeira will create chaos that draws out his opposition’s defense, allowing for his accurate left hand to serve as a clean-up hitter.

Glover’s offensive sensibilities aside, I feel that Evans defensive tendencies will be the conduit that could spell trouble should he find his back to the fence. Although Rashad has always had solid head movement, he often dips and leans his head heavily to the right. This tendency may be accentuated when the cage prevents backward or angled escapes.

However, playing the pressure game is a two-way street in this particular matchup. Although Glover is menacing when moving with momentum, he has shown to struggle when forced to fight off the cage(as seen in his fights with Jones & Davis). If Evans can corral Teixeira on these terms, the former champion has solid clinch striking & grappling tools that can help sway things in his direction. Rashad also has one of the best transitional games in MMA, in regards to his ability to smoothly move off strikes and into explosive level changing shots.

That said, Teixeira seldom throws himself out of position, which limits the opportunities to be taken down. Even then, Glover is no slouch when it comes to counter wrestling, as he displays excellent get-up technique & urgency. It is important to note that speed has been a key factor in the former champions success, as Evans game is largely timing based. Considering that these attributes tend to go first in aging fighters, this could be a troubling trend for Rashad. With signature performances and championship form furthering itself in the rear-view mirror, Evans will be in for a rough night should he fail to turn back the clock.

Official Pick: Teixeira – Inside the distance

 

Tecia3

Tecia Torres (7-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’1″ Age: 26 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 65″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Jocelyn Lybarger (12-12-15)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 20 Alum
+   Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   Karate & Kickboxing Accolades
+   Excellent footwork
^   Uses angles & lateral movement
^   Closes distance quickly
+   Manages range well
+   High volume striker
^   Averages 45 strikes per round
+   Will shift stances
+   Hard side kicks
^   Often off combos & R. round kicks
+   Good counter wrestling
^   Strong hips & balance
+   Solid positional awareness
^   In scrambles or on top

 

Rose3

Rose Namajunas (4-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’5″ Age: 23 Weight: 115 lbs Reach: 65″
  • Last Fight: Submission win / Paige VanZant (12-10-15)
  • Camp: Grudge Training Center (Denver, CO)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 20 Finalist
+   Black Belt in Karate & TKD
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   3 first round finishes
+   4 Submission wins
+   Good distance management
+   Shifts stances well
^   Going forward or backward
+   Accurate shot selection
+   Excellent kicking variety
^   Front, leg, and head kicks
+   Improved wrestling
^   Body lock takedowns
+   Solid transition game
^   Looks/floats towards back
+   Dangerous Arm Bars
^   Explosive hips

Summary:

The co-main event on FOX comes strong with a showdown between the strawweight divisions’ top contenders, as “Thug” Rose Namajunas faces off against Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres. Since coming off TUF 20, Tecia has maintained an undefeated professional record as she sets her sights on the title. A finalist from that same season of TUF, Rose will look to avenge the first professional loss of her career in this rematch with Torres.

In what is easily the tightest matchup on the main card, a sensible argument can be made for either woman. With that in mind, I will attempt to examine the most probable paths to victory for both fighters.

Starting off on the feet is a battle of two technicians with different approaches. Tecia, the more Karate influenced striker, will use excellent lateral movement and angles to fire-off high volume blitzes. Starting off her career as a southpaw, we have seen Torres tighten up her fundamentals since moving to American Top Team, as she now primarily operates from an orthodox stance.

However, like her opposition, Tecia will often shift stances mid-combination. Often finishing her combos with low-to-high right round kicks, Torres will then parlay her hip position and momentum into powerful side kicks with the same leg. Not only does this subtly open up her southpaw options, but it also allows her to exit at angles and reset safely(a la Holly Holm).

Although Torres shows improved head movement, her aggression still leaves for small opportunities to counter. If Tecia does not maintain discipline, an accurate counter striker like Rose could very well make her pay. Stalking forward in a more measured fashion, Namajunas is technically crafty coming forward and off the counter. In their first meeting, we saw Rose have success in backstepping/baiting Tecia’s attacks into her shifting check-hook counters.

Even though these scenarios will likely present themselves again, I feel Rose’s improved straight punches may serve her best. Should Namajunas time & intercept Torres early, she could disrupt the tiny tornados momentum and tip the scales in her favor. That said, I suspect we will see Rose continue her recent trend of taking fights to the floor.

Demonstrating serious strides in her wrestling and positional grappling, Namajunas is steadily filling her holes and connecting the dots of her overall game. Should she ground Torres, Rose displays good top control and a menacing ability to float to the back and make life difficult. Although Tecia showed off her submission defense by escaping Rose’s most dangerous spots in their first outing, Namajunas was still able to control her once on top, as I feel she should carry the edge on the floor.

That said, achieving takedowns may not come so easily for Rose in this matchup, especially since her attempts primarily come from body-locks. Regardless of the fact that Torres is hard to get a hold of, her natural base & balance make her difficult to take down in close. Fueled by her athleticism and under-hook awareness, Tecia’s improvements to her wrestling will be a key factor in this fight. Torres also displays an improved transition game, particularly in her level changes into takedowns.

Should Torres be the one the who finds herself topside, she shows strong submission defense and a niche for positional awareness that could keep her safe and even earn her rounds. I am a huge fan of “Thug” Rose, and although I think she is more dangerous and well-rounded than Tecia, I feel that stylistically she can be stifled should she not find a finish. And given Tecia’s durability, defense, and non-stop work rate, I could easily see her judge-friendly volume earning her the close rounds once again.

Official Pick: Torres – Decision

 

Khabib1

Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 27 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Dec win / Rafael Dos Anjos (4-19-14)
  • Camp: American Kickboxing Academy (San Jose/Dagestan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   2x Sambo World Champion
+   7 KO victories
+   10 first round finishes
+   7 Submission wins
+   Superb transition game
^   Technically sound grappling
+   Strong & relentless inside clinch
^   Chains together trips & throws
–    2-year lay-off
+/-Aggressive entries
^   Counter availabilities

 

Horcher1

Darrell Horcher (12-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 28 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Stephen Regman (10-31-15)
  • Camp: Unrivaled Athletics (Pennsylvania)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   CFFC Lightweight Champion
+   6 KO victories
+   3 first round finishes
+   1 Submission win
+   KO Power
+   Good check right hook
+   Dangerous left hand
^   Offensively & off the counter
–    Seems to struggle off back
–    Lacks high-level competition
–    Short notice fight

Summary:

After two years outside of the Octagon battling injuries instead of opponents, Khabib Nurmagomedov will finally get to make his return against Darrell Horcher. Originally slated to headline the card, this match was sadly altered due to an injury forcing Tony Ferguson to withdraw from the fight. Stepping in on just under two weeks notice, Darrell Horcher will attempt to shock the world by knocking off the top contender in the sports deepest division.

With matchups that feature on-paper disparities such as this one, it is easy to get swept away in the social current, and also away from our own eyes. Recent examples of Dan Kelly’s victory of Carlos Jr., or Tom Breese’s close call with Nakamura, have provided to be healthy reminders of what is the intangible Rubix cube of MMA. Although it is my duty as an Analyst to provide the most probable paths for both fighters, I can tell you without hyperbole that Horcher has a very tangible path to success.

As much as I would love to pontificate on the brilliance and intricacies of Nurmagomedov’s transitional grappling game, I can say confidently that most of us are on the same page in regards to his advantages on the floor. However, the aggression that fuels his success in grappling can potentially cost Khabib in striking exchanges. Similarly, to his Dagestani counterpart Islam Makhachev, Nurmagomedov’s blitzing entries although effective, leave him susceptible to counters.

Although there is not a lot of footage on Horcher, what is available shows that he has a taste for the counter shot. A stalking southpaw by trade, Darrell demonstrates devastating power in his left hand, as he has dropped his opposition on multiple occasions amongst his stoppage wins. If he cannot catch Khabib cleanly, then he will need to get his respect early & often to maintain any semblance of momentum.

That said, Nurmagomedov has shown improved head movement off of his strikes and entries since working with the American Kickboxing Academy. Once Khabib finds his way into clinch space, except a relentless wave of takedown chains. Whether it is his trips & tosses from the body-lock or his single-leg repertoire of high-crotches & pipe-running, Nurmagomedov can do it all. Although bigger dogs have found ways to win in MMA, I expect to this to resemble the bear attack in “The Revenant” should this contest hit the ground.

Official Pick: Nurmagomedov – Inside the distance

 

Swanson 1

Cub Swanson (21-7)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 32 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Max Holloway (4-18-15)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   11 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Athletic & Agile
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Excellent footwork
^   Shifts, angles, and darts well
+   Creative & dynamic striker
^   Variates stances & attacks
+   Good head movement
^   Solid pocket awareness
+   Improved takedown defense
+   Active guard
^   Looks for submissions or gets up
–    Struggles with positional grapplers

 

Dias1

Hacran Dias (23-3-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 31 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 69″
  • Last Fight: Dec win / Levan Makashvili (6-27-15)
  • Camp: Nova Uniao (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   4 KO victories
+   8 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   Good base & balance
^   79% takedown defense rate
+   Underrated wrestling
^   Favors takedowns from fence
+   Strong inside the clinch
+   Good positional awareness
^   Transitions well on top
+   Improved boxing technique
^   Moves head well
+   Hard leg kicks
+/-Consistently conservative
–    Pace steadily fades
^   Gas tank bares watching

Summary:

Kicking off the main card on FOX is solid featherweight fight as the always exciting Cub Swanson squares off against Nova Uniao staple, Hacran Dias. Coming off back to back loses for the first time in his career, Cub Swanson comes in motivated to right his ship and start another winning streak. Standing in his way is Hacran Dias, who despite coming off two wins, will be looking to establish a momentum of his own after battling through injuries & inconsistencies.

Given both fighters striking styles, I suspect that distance management will be the name of the game. Swanson, for instance, thrives off of distance as he confidently explores and explodes through space. His movement will be his biggest advantage over Hacran Dias, and a key factor for him in this matchup.

In a similar styling to his stablemates, Dias demonstrates the classic Muay Thai marching of his camp. Displaying a consistent economy of movement and a disciplined standing guard, Hacran will steadily stalk his opponents down, firing hard leg kicks when appropriate. His noted improvements to his head movement and boxing have assisted him in this approach.

That said, Hacran is more of a stationary striker in comparison to Cub, as the Brazilian will often plot when coming forward. Swanson traditionally does well against this style of movement, as the dynamic striker excels when given the space to operate. Should Dias fail to effectively cut off Cub, it could allow Swanson to lead the dance and dictate this fight’s momentum.

With Hacran being a stronger starter than he is a finisher, he will likely have to create and capitalize on opportunities early to impose his presence on Swanson. On the other end of that equation is the consistent pace & pressure of Cub, as his high-volume output could very well win him the close rounds here. The Brazilian’s most probable path to victory will likely depend on his ability to get this fight to the floor. Once on top, Hacran’s second-nature transition game could stifle Swanson, who typically struggles with positional grapplers.

Like many fighters who hail from Nova Uniao, Dias is very underrated in his ability to wrestle. Although not shy to attempt reactive shots, Hacran is particularly effective off the fence. That said, I am not so sure he can consistently corral & control Cub in these areas, as I suspect Swanson’s activity earns him a nod in a tightly contested affair.

Official Pick: Swanson – Decision

  • Dariush def. Chiesa
  • Pennington def. Correia
  • Ponzinibbio def. McGee
  • Dodson def. Gamburyan
  • Brown def. Graves
  • Makhachev def. Dober
  • Bamgbose def. Ferreira
  • Akhmedov def. Zaleski dos Santos

Recommended Plays

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-Khabib Nurmagomedov
-Glover Teixeira
-Beneil Dariush

Low Tier Picks:

-Cezar Ferreira
-Tecia Torres
-Manny Gamburyan

Pieces for your parlay:

-Islam Makhachev
-Glover Teixeira
-Beneil Dariush

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Beneil Dariush – by Submission: +420
-Namajunas/Torres – Over: -230
-Glover Teixeira – by TKO/KO: +250

Fights to avoid:

-Bamgbose vs Ferreira
-Swanson vs Dias
-Pennington vs Correia

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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UFC 216 Breakdown: Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee

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

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

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

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

Where Ferguson Flourishes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Count Out Kevin Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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UFC 216 Breakdown: Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UFC 215 Main Card Breakdown

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

Jeremy Stephens vs Gilbert Melendez

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

How the fight will go

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

Prediction

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

Ilir Latifi vs Tyson Pedro

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

How the fight will go

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

Prediction

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

Neil Magny vs Rafael dos Anjos

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

How the fight plays out

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

Prediction

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

Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko

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

How the fight plays out

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

Prediction

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

Demetrious Johnson vs Ray Borg

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

How the fight plays out

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

Prediction

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

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