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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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GLORY: Redemption – Breakdown and Predictions

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Glory returns to pay-per-view today with a stacked card, featuring some of their greatest fighters. Among them are reigning champions Rico Verhoeven and Alex Pereira, as well as the return of former title holder Nieky Holzken.

In the main event, Rico puts his heavyweight title on the line against the very dangerous Jamal Ben Saddik, who defeated him 6 years ago. Rico comes into the fight riding an impressive 14-fight Glory winning streak.

The co-main event features a rematch of the 2016 Fight of the Year between light heavyweight veterans Michael ‘The Dreamcrusher’ Duut and Danyo ‘Dibuba’ Ilunga. The card is a must-see for kickboxing fans, as well as those who just love a good scrap. And with that out of the way, here’s a breakdown of some of the more interesting fight’s on Saturday’s super-card. Enjoy.

Nieky ‘The Natural’ Holzken – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Nieky Holzken vs Alim Nabiyev

Nabiyev came into Glory with a decent amount of steam behind him, but following his bout against short-notice opponent Jimmy Veinot, I honestly don’t see it. Nieky’s reign as champion was one of the best, and despite two close losses to the equally talented Cédric Doumbé, he’s still one of the best welterweights in the world today. With wins over Raymond Daniels, Joseph Valtellini, and current champion Murthel Groenhart, it’s hard to imagine Nieky having much of a problem with Nabiyev.

Expect plenty of pressure from Holzken early on. Coming off two straight losses Nieky will want to make a statement, and prove that he’s still the man to beat at 170. The liver shot will do it. Holzken will just be too much for Alim. Nabiyev has  potential and could be a contender in the future, but right now Holzken is on a whole ‘nother level. Nieky is back, and he wants that title.

Prediction: Nieky Holzken by 1st Round TKO

 

Alex 'Po Atan' Pereira

Alex ‘Po Atan’ Pereira – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Alex Pereira vs Yousri Belgaroui

Pereira’s win back at Glory 46 came as a shock to me. Simon Marcus has proven himself to be one of the best fighters in the division, and while Pereira is a solid kickboxer in his own right, I fully expected Marcus to win that one pretty easy. I was wrong. Pereira was the better man, and is now the Glory middleweight champion. But don’t expect it to last. Yousri completely shut Pereira down in there last meeting at Glory 40. And based on his last performance, a first round TKO over former champ Jason Wilnis, he’s only getting better.

Pereira’s path to victory is pretty simple, strike hard and strike early. The deep waters are not a place where Alex thrives. His cardio has been questionable in the past and his vaunted knockout power diminishes as the fight goes on. If Pereira can’t put Yousri on the back foot early it’s hard to see him taking this one.

The last fight was a fairly decisive win for Belgaroui. Alex was unable to score on Yousri and was picked apart after gassing out late into the fight. Pereira is a talented striker with some serious power, but Belgaroui’s well-rounded game and superior cardio should be enough to win him the championship.

Prediction: Yousri Belgaroui by Unanimous Decision

 

Michael Dreamcrusher Duut

Michael ‘Dreamcrusher’ Duut – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Michael Duut vs Danyo Ilunga

Last year these two stole the show, putting on one of the greatest fights of the year, maybe of all-time. But can they do it again? It’s hard to say. Consistency is not a strong suit for either of these men. Following his thriller with Ilunga, Duut went on to lose his next Glory contest by disqualification due to excessive clinching, then later won a contender tournament in less than a minute (48 seconds to be exact).

Duut’s incredible power and brawler style make him a dangerous fight for just about anyone in the light heavyweight division, but his lack of defence make him an easy target. Unfortunately, Ilunga hasn’t hit a bullsye in quite some time.

Danyo comes into this fight on a whopping 7 fight losing streak, and hasn’t won a fight in Glory since 2014. On the bright side, all 7 losses have come by decision so his chin has held up. Plus Duut isn’t the most durable guy in the world, so it’s possible that Ilunga could knock him out. But I don’t see that happening. Duut is just too powerful and Ilunga isn’t the same fighter he used to be. Hopefully the fight is as great as the last one was, but don’t expect it to go to a 4th round this time. Ilunga’s on a slippery slope, and Duut’s about to cause an avalanche.

Prediciton: Michael Duut by 3rd Round KO

 

Rico The King of Kickboxing Verhoeven

Rico ‘The King of Kickboxing’ Verhoeven – Credit: GLORY Kickboxing

Rico Verhoeven vs Jamal Ben Saddik

Despite being the main event this was one of the easier fights to pick. Rico has looked unstoppable lately, and as much as people hate to give him credit for anything, he really is the best heavyweight in the world right now. That doesn’t mean a whole lot considering how weak the division is at the moment, but Rico is champion for a reason.

The rest of the heavyweights just aren’t on his level. ‘Big Ben’ included. Jamal’s last fight against Guto Inocente was a total snoozefest, and if not for his rivalry with Rico he probably wouldn’t even be in the title picture. Badr Hari better get his act together cause Rico’s running out of opponents.

The only advantage I see Jamal having is his power. Rico is faster, more precise, and his striking is more diverse. Again, this is a heavyweight contest so anything can happen, but Jamal hasn’t KO’d a world-class opponent since he fought ‘Braddock’ 2 years ago. Since then, Rico has knocked-out Benjamin Adegbuyi, ‘Braddock’, Bigfoot Silva, and broke Badr’s arm earning him a TKO victory. Rico’s the better fighter, simple as that. And no amount of chest hair is going to change that.

Prediction: Rico Verhoeven by 5th Round KO

All images used in this article are accredited to GLORY Kickboxing

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UFC 218: Holloway vs Aldo 2 Main Card Predictions and Analysis

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Image result for holloway vs aldo

The passing of the torch. A usual occurrence in combat sports. There comes a time when the old guard has to step down and let the new generation take its place. UFC 218 is all about the passing of the torch. Holloway-Aldo 2, Overeem-Ngannou, Alvarez-Gaethje, the card is chock full of young hungry fighters looking to make a statement against their aging counterparts. But don’t expect the old lions to give up without a fight. Aldo is still a world-class striker and Eddie’s still got some tread on the tires. And at the age of 37, Overeem is still one of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world today.

Max Holloway is a perfect representative of the new generation. He’s scrappy, well-rounded, and will fight whoever you put in front of him. He’s got the fire. So do Ngannou, Gaethje, and the rest of the young guys. Aldo hasn’t had that fire in a long time. Sure he’s still a great fighter,‌ but in his last few fights, he’s lacked that burning passion he used to have. Aldo has all the tools to beat Holloway, but does he have the drive? Does the fire still burn, or was it put out long ago? That’s what we’re going to find out come Saturday.

 

Tecia Torres vs Michelle Waterson

This is such a weird fight. Torres’ climb to the top has been impressively mediocre. She has wins over quality opponents like Angela Hill, Felice Herrig, and Paige VanZant. However, with just a single finish to her credit, Tecia hasn’t given the fans a reason to pay attention to her. Waterson is the complete opposite. She has only gone to decision twice and is one of the more popular fighters in the division. However, injuries and losses have prevented Waterson from gaining any real momentum.

As far as the fight goes I really don’t know what to expect. Waterson is fairly inconsistent and Torres is so consistent it hurts. My assumption would be that Waterson has the better ground game, so if anyone’s going to take it to the mat it will be her. Torres has the better overall stand-up game but doesn’t possess the same finishing ability of the Karate Hottie. My guess is that this one stays on the feet with Torres pushing the pace early, then getting caught by a powerful strike from Waterson that puts her down for good.

Prediction: Michelle Waterson by 2nd Round TKO

 

Eddie Alvarez vs Justin Gaethje

How the hell did Cejudo-Pettis get billed higher than this? Alvarez vs Gaethje has the potential to be the Forrest-Bonnar of the modern era. Both men are aggressive brawlers on the feet and strong wrestlers on the mat. I’d give the submission edge to Eddie, but that’s about it. Gaethje’s striking game is more diverse than Eddie’s is, and his youth is definitely something to consider. With 34 fights to his credit, Alvarez is certainly no spring chicken. He’s not nearly as durable as he used to be, and against a dangerous scrapper like Gaethje, that’s not a great quality.

I really wanted to go with Alvarez on this one, but facts are facts. Gaethje is younger, tougher, and most importantly, better for business. Eddie already lost to the biggest draw in the game. Money-wise he doesn’t have much to offer. Gaethje, however, is a promoters wet dream. He’s durable, dangerous, and damn fun to watch. Basically, everything Eddie used to be. Why does any of this matter? Because the judges work for the UFC. If the UFC brass wants Gaethje to win, then he will. Simple as that. Is it right? No, but business is business. And Justin Gaethje is good for business.

Prediction: Justin Gaethje by Split Decision

 

Henry Cejudo vs Sergio Pettis

This feels like too big a step up for Sergio, which is weird considering he’s ranked #4 and Cejudo is ranked #2. After Cejudo’s fight with Mighty Mouse, I wrote him off as nothing more than a sacrifice to the flyweight king. But his close fight with perennial #1 contender Joseph Benavidez and his vicious knockout over veteran submission artist Wilson Reis have shown me that Cejudo is more than just a big-headed wrestler. Henry is one of the best. If anyone in the division is taking the belt off Mighty Mouse it’s him.

Sergio is a talented kid, no doubt. Give him a few more years to develop and he could be champion one day. Unfortunately for him, the UFC doesn’t have time for that. They need flyweight contenders. If that means a few prospects have to bite the dust then so be it. I just hope Sergio doesn’t get completely outclassed and is able to make a good showing, but against a guy like Cejudo, I’m not holding my breath.

Prediction: Henry Cejudo by Unanimous Decision

 

Alistair Overeem vs Francis Ngannou

Call me crazy, but I’m still not completely sold on Cheick Kongo with dreadlocks. His only quality win is a knockout over what’s left of Andrei Arlovski. Overeem, on the other hand, has fought nothing but quality contenders in his climb back to the top, with his only loss coming against reigning champion Stipe Miocic (although some would argue they saw the tap). On paper, this is Overeem’s fight to win. Unfortunately, paper is what Overeem’s chin is made of.

Ngannou may not be as technically sound as Overeem is, but he hits just as hard, maybe harder. One good shot from the Predator and Overeem could drop like a sack of horse meat. Combine that with Overeem’s uber-cockiness and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Picking Overeem is always a gamble, but I’m willing to roll the dice on this one. It’s not gonna be pretty but Overeem’s in-and-out kickboxing and “run like hell” defensive style should be just enough to win this.

Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision

 

 Max Holloway vs Jose Aldo 2

Holloway TKO’d Aldo about 6 months ago. Max is in the best form of his career. Aldo is taking the fight on short notice. I really can’t think of a good reason to pick Aldo on this one. Sure his striking is still some of the best in the division, but at this point, he’s writing checks his body can’t cash anymore. His chin has degraded significantly and his patented leg kicks are nowhere to be found. It pains me to say this because Aldo is an incredible fighter, but it’s starting to feel as though the sport is passing him by. Aldo is the past, Max is the future.

Despite just winning the title this summer, Holloway has effectively cleaned out the division. Swanson, Lamas, Stephens, Pettis, all fell to the young Hawaiian. Hell, since his loss to McGregor nobody’s even come close to beating Holloway. This doesn’t mean Max is invincible though. Frankie is still a huge threat to Max’s title, and those who sleep on Aldo are often put to sleep themselves. The road ahead of him is not an easy one, but something tells me Max is going to do just fine. It is what it is.

Prediction: Max Holloway by 2nd Round TKO

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GSP vs Robert Whittaker is Easily the Best Fight to Make at Middleweight

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GSP became the new middleweight champion of the UFC this past weekend, and many questions have been asked his way. Is he officially the greatest of all time? Who does he fight next? Does he stay at middleweight?

The G.O.A.T. conversation will never be settled completely. There will always be separation in opinions between Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP, Demetrious Johnson, Fedor Emelianenko, and some even say Conor McGregor is the greatest, simply due to the fact that he is the first ever UFC champion to hold two belts simultaneously. Regardless of how that conversation is driven, the biggest question that should be the only concern at this point is the immediate plans for the new middleweight champion.

Where does GSP go next, and who does he fight?

Well, the fact of the matter is, it would not make sense for GSP to go down to the welterweight division again. 170-pounds is alive and kicking at the moment, with new stars emerging such as Darren Till and Mike Perry, to return of veterans like Carlos Condit, and also new additions to the division like Rafael dos Anjos. St-Pierre would have to stay extremely active in order to keep the division flowing.

At the age of 36 and having just returned to MMA last weekend, St-Pierre is unlikely to stay as active as he used to be when he was the king of the welterweight division. Plus, would it really make much sense for him to get on his old diet again in order to make the welterweight weight limit? He looked massive last night, all bulked up, and even seemed like the bigger fighter against Bisping, who used to fight at 205-pounds.

On the other hand, if he decides to stay at middleweight, which is what UFC president Dana White stated would happen yesterday, then there is one clear path for him to take and based on his statements on his contract, will be forced to take: Robert Whittaker.

Whittaker won the interim middleweight belt earlier this year against Yoel Romero at UFC 213, which was a razor close fight that went to Whittaker at the end of 5 rounds. Since then, Whittaker has been sidelined due to the injury he suffered during the fight, damaging his ligament in the left knee.

4 months later, he has seemed to have healed up perfectly, as he was in the arena for the madness last night and even answered a few questions from the media, stating that he is healthy now. The fight against Whittaker would be the best that the UFC could put on at this point in 185-pounds division on a few different levels.

GSP and Whittaker have a lot in common. Starting with the most obvious, they both used to fight at welterweight. Which means that neither fighter will have a massive size advantage. This brings the match up nearly even as far as physicality is concerned.

Then comes the match up itself. St-Pierre and Whittaker both represent the very definition of being ‘well-rounded’. Whittaker, although not an offensive wrestler, proved that his defensive wrestling was second to none in his fight against Romero, a former Olympic wrestler. And while GSP is not necessarily the best wrestler in pure wrestling, his ability to wrestle in MMA is phenomenal due to his timing and fight IQ, which makes this fight even more intriguing to find out whether Whittaker can defend GSP’s takedown attempts.

This fight also represents the UFC an opportunity to see a birth of a superstar. Whittaker, while not a huge talker, is a very marketable fighter especially over in Australia and New Zealand. If he is able to defeat GSP, who’s arguably the biggest draw in the history of the company, it would boost Whittaker’s popularity up an extraordinary amount. And being only 26 years old, Whittaker has the tools and potential to be a dominant champion, much like St-Pierre in his “prime”.

Booking this fight would also clear up the confusing state of the middleweight division. With Bisping’s reign as the champion coming to an end, some hope was born for other contenders in the division. Fighters like Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman, Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza were having an extremely hard time getting a hold of Michael Bisping during his reign, and with a new champion now and possible unification of the belts soon, the contenders will have a goal to work for again.

The fight is one of the best fights that UFC could put on for the fans right now and one that can happen as early as February of 2018, which is when the UFC returns to Australia with a PPV. If it can come to fruition, then it will easily be one of the best fights of the year and one that all the fans can count the days down to.

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