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UFC Vegas: Almeida vs Garbrandt Breakdown

Dan Tom

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Almeida3

Thomas Almeida (21-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 24 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 72.5″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Anthony Birchak (11-7-15)
  • Camp: Chute Boxe (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Legacy Bantamweight Title
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   16 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   16 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Solid footwork
^   Rarely out of position
+   Strikes with volume & variety
+   Often leads with this right
^   Favors finishing with his left
+   Deadly left switch knee
^   Mixes well with inside leg kicks
+   Improved wrestling ability
^   Good get-up technique & urgency
+/-Consistently/unabashedly aggressive
^   Can over stay welcome in pocket
^   Traditionally takes damage

 

Cody1

Cody Garbrandt (8-0)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 24 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 65.5″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Augusto Mendes (2-21-15)
  • Camp: Team Alpha Male (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   Multiple Wrestling Accolades
+   32-1 as an Amateur Boxer
+   7 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Fast hand & foot speed
^   Attacks well of angles
+   Improved hand movement
+   Accurate left hook
^   Checks, attacks, & counters
+   Dangerous right-hand
+   Underrated kicks
+   Explosive power double TD’s
+   Demonstrates good grappling IQ
+   Gets up/scrambles well
+/-Willingness to brawl
^   Sometimes engages emotionally

Summary:

Headlining UFC Vegas is the most potent firefight of the entire card, as Thomas Almeida squares off against Cody Garbrandt. In the rare meeting of young undefeated prospects, it is matchups like these that make you feel like Christmas has come early. Similar to when John Lineker fought Francisco Rivera, we will be in store for a bantamweight scrap that bears heavyweight intangibles in regards to power.

Starting off on the feet, both men employ aggressive approaches but in different ways. Almeida, the more persistent stalker, and forward mover, embodies the classic Chute Boxe stylings of old. Covering distance quickly and parlaying his marches appropriately, Almeida displays variety & volume as he fires off preset combinations at the drop of a dime. What is even more impressive than the Brazilian’s striking flow, is the fact that he rarely finds himself out of position despite his voracious approach.

Often entering with his hard right-hand(or elbow depending on the range), Almeida will accentuate his combinations off of his left side. Thomas particularly favors finishing with left hooks to the liver, as he will also unabashedly quark screw uppercuts inside the pocket. Although lacking the outside leg & head kicks demonstrated by his stablemates, Almeida handily makes up for it with his use of the left leg. Parlaying his previously mentioned Thai marches, Almeida beautifully mixes up his inside leg kicks with devastating knees off the shuffle.

Despite his impressive offensive tools, the Brazilian’s inherent aggression has allowed him to take more damage than many think he should. Although Almeida keeps his hands high with improved pocket awareness, his constant fearless attempt for the finish often encourages him to overstay his welcome inside range. Thomas has been able to get away with his fan-friendly recklessness thus far, but he will be certainly playing with fire against the combination & counter prowess of Garbrandt.

Carrying a similar narrative, Cody is also an offense-first fighter. Sharing similar defensive criticisms as his opponent Almeida, Garbrandt has since shored up many of his liabilities since working with Brandon Gibson. Always a skilled boxer, Cody has been able to get away with his aggression through his natural toughness & durability. Realizing the problems with that approach early in his career, we have since seen Garbrandt incorporate much-improved head movement and angling off of his strikes.

In fact, I feel Garbrandt’s ability to slip off angles will be a key factor in this fight. Using his aggressive engagements to bait exchanges, Cody will subtly & slightly move off center to execute his combinations. Like Almeida, Garbrandt will also initiate action with his heavy right hand, but does his cleanup-hitting with the left. I feel Cody’s left hook, in particular, will serve him well in this contest. As seen in Almeida’s bout with Brad Pickett, the Brazilian often keeps and resets his head within range. Despite retracting his hands high, this habit has led Almeida into left hooks on multiple occasions.

Garbrandt’s biggest enemy in this fight will likely be himself. Never one to back down from a brawl, Cody has a tendency to get emotional if the action is not to his liking. If he fails to keep his emotions in check against a destroyer like Almeida, he will likely find himself in the eye of the storm. However, unlike his opposition, Garbrandt wields an explosive power-double takedown that could add an interesting fold to this fight. Whether countering his opponents aggression or solidifying a round, Cody’s ability to take this fight to the floor may prove crucial. That said, Almeida has shown wrestling proficiency of his own with his underrated get-up ability.

Given each fighters stylings and ability to scramble effectively, I doubt we will see prolonged ground stanzas. I believe this fight will be decided by mere inches on the feet, making certainties for either side hard to argue. However, after putting this one under the microscope, I feel Almeida’s approach may end up costing him in this stylistic standoff. Regardless of who you like here, make no mistake about it, this is a gun fight.

Official Pick: Garbrandt – Inside the distance

 

Barao1

Renan Barao (33-3-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 29 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 70.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / TJ Dillashaw (7-25-15)
  • Camp: Nova Uniao (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Bantamweight Champion
+   BJJ Black Belt
+   8 KO victories
+   13 first round finishes
+   15 Submission wins
+   KO Power
+   Dynamic striker
^   Accurate spinning attacks
+   Solid left hook
+   Dangerous right hand
+   Heavy leg kicks
+   Superb takedown defense
+   Excellent transitional grappler
^   Effective scrambler & back taker
+/-Often reverts to shell defense
^   Uppercut & body availabilities
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Will overstay welcome inside

 

Stephens1

Jeremy Stephens (24-12)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 29 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Max Holloway (12-12-15)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   17 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   13 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Devastating right hand
^   Uppercuts & overhands
+   Catches kicks & counters
+   Dangerous late into fights
+   Hard kicks & knees
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Improved submission defense
^   Good grip & hand fighting
+/-Often turtles to stand
^   Risks back being taken
+/-Propensity to brawl
^   Counter availabilities
+   Solid chin / Physically durable

Summary:

In a creative co-main event matchup, former bantamweight champion Renan Barao moves up to featherweight to face Jeremy Stephens. After losing his title to the hands of TJ Dillashaw, Barao has since struggled to regain the form & ferocity he had early in his UFC career. No longer having to diminish himself with the cut to 135, Barao will look for a fresh start at featherweight. Welcoming the former champ to the division, Stephens will look to use this opportunity to maintain his relevancy in the standings as he has dropped 3 of 4 of his last fights. With all of Stephens’ recent losses coming by competitive decisions, his record may be deceiving as Jeremy has proved his status of a live dog time & time again.

That said, judges scorecards and on-paper advantages may not matter considering the serendipitous matchup of these two violent strikers. Stalking in a similar fashion to his Nova Uniao stablemates, Barao traditionally comes forward with a full clip on the ready. Wielding a classic Muay Thai repertoire, Renan will occasionally show his wild side with surprisingly accurate spinning attacks. Although his right-hand is most prominent on the highlight reels, Barao possesses an effective left hook that may serve him well in this fight.

Even in his devastating losses to TJ Dillashaw, Renan Barao was still able to land left hooks throughout the contest(especially when thrown as a check). Against an aggressive striker like Stephens, a check hook can become your best friend as we saw Yves Edwards find success with this in his fight with Jeremy. Never the less, the surface level of Barao’s striking skills can be deceiving as we have recently seen the former champion’s aggressive style taken to task in the last two years.

Despite his dynamic attack ability, Barao has steadily become predictable in his plots. These subtle dips in his step often tip off Renan’s oncoming attacks, as his aggression has seemingly enabled him to overstay his welcome in exchanges of late. Barao also reverts to a shell defense, that coupled with his dipping tendencies, have traditionally exposed the Brazilian to uppercuts. Considering Stephens throws a devastating uppercut, I feel this will be a key punch to look for from the little heathen.

In a similar spirit, Stephens also presents a unique threat in the form of knees that may see some light in this fight. As he brilliantly stated after his victory over Dennis Bermudez, Stephens will look for his opposition to heavily put their weight on their front foot, as this opens up knees and uppercuts. Considering Renan consistently keeps heavy on his front foot, this could be something to look for as Barao comes forward.

I feel that Barao’s best chances of closing this show will be on the floor or in transition. Although I am not sure how Renan’s size will translate to this division, he possesses an underrated strength and takedown ability inside the clinch. Even though Stephens has some solid wrestling ability of his own, he was taken down from the clinch in his last three fights. Never the less, Stephens will be at his highest risk while transitioning back to his feet. Often turtling-out to stand, Stephens runs the risk of getting his back taken by the more proficient scrambler in Barao.

Stephens is no slouch in defending submissions as we saw him successfully thwart the attempts of specialist, Charles Oliveira for three rounds. Demonstrating intelligent grip fighting, a sober Stephens may prove difficult to catch. That said, a single back take from Barao could cost him a round positionally as it did with Oliveira. Although I do not disagree with Renan coming in as a slight favorite, I am not sure a durable knockout artist will be the best matchup for Barao to get his groove back.

Official Pick: Stephens – Inside the distance

 

MMA: UFC on Fox 18-Saffiedine vs Ellenberger

Tarec Saffiedine (15-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 29 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 70.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Jake Ellenberger (1-30-16)
  • Camp: Tristar Gym (Canada)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Strikeforce Welterweight Title
+   Black Belt BJJ & Karate
+   Amateur Kickboxing Experience
+   5 first round finishes
+   5 Submission wins
+   Good distance management
^   Moves well laterally
+   Disciplined striking defense
^   Head moves well off strikes
+   Effective jab from both stances
^   Conducts tempo/sets up kicks
+   Superb leg kick timing
+   Underrated counter wrestling
^   86% takedown defense
+/-Consistently fights along the fence
–    Sometimes vulnerable off the break

 

Story fights Nelson in a welterweight MMA bout at the UFC gala, at the Globe Arena in Stockholm

Rick Story (18-8)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10″” Age: 31 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Gunnar Nelson (10-4-14)
  • Camp: MMA Lab (Washington/AZ)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Title
+   Collegiate Wrestling Experience
+   4 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes
+   4 Submission wins
+   KO power / Heavy hands
+   Persistent pressure
^   Consistent volume & combos
+   Dangerous left hand
+   Hard body shots
+   Counters well of the break
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Solid strikes & transitions on top
+/-Willingness to brawl
^   Traditionally takes damage
+   Physically durable / never KO’d

Summary:

In a welterweight pairing that promises action, Tarec Saffiedine will take on the returning Rick Story. Due to a recent run of injuries, we have not seen Rick Story in action since his 5-round victory over Gunnar Nelson back in October of 2014. Now with a clean bill of health, Rick will look to use this main card spot to continue his journey.

Standing in his way is Tarec Saffiedine, who has also struggled with fight activity due to injuries in the past few years of his career. With an undisclosed injury sustained late in Tarec’s camp, it will be interesting to see how close to competition level he will be. With that intangible stated, let’s take a look at how these two stack up technically.

Although Story has shown striking improvements since moving shop to the MMA Lab, Saffiedine is still the superior striker on paper. One of the most proficient switch-stance fighters in the UFC, Tarec will effectively fire off jabs from both sides as this allows him to dictate and disrupt striking tempos. With Tarec’s patent leg kicks that usually come behind his straight punches, Saffiedine’s approach should be straight-forward against an aggressive looping puncher like Story.

That said, Story has shown time and time again that his application of aggression is not as simple as it seems. Displaying improved head movement and an understanding of angles, Rick has shown to be just as dangerous off the counter as he is coming forward. In fact, Story shifts particularly well going backward, as he scored knockdowns against Kelvin Gastelum & Gunnar Nelson by deceptively countering on retreats.

With Saffiedine possessing the advantages at range, he will likely be trying to avoid pocket exchanges with Story. However, Tarec will need to be careful when exiting the pocket as his last three knockdowns(or times he was clearly stunned) have all come off the break. Since Story is most dangerous when striking off the break, I suspect this will be a key factor in this fight.

Even though Saffiedine more than has the skill and stamina to stick & move, he habitually finds himself operating from the outside which could be a detriment in this fight. A persistent pressure fighter by nature, Story is most consistent with his combinations when his opposition is in between the fence and inner-Octagon lines. If Saffiedine chooses to circle inside Story’s preferred kill zone, he will need to be as sharp as a sword.

Given each man’s styling, I doubt we will see prolonged stalemates on the floor. I do feel that Story is the better on-paper grappler, and will have more motive and ability to take this match to the mat. However, Tarec is an underrated grappler, as there is more than meets the eye in his takedown defense. As a fan of technicians, Saffiedine has always been a fun watch since his days in Strikeforce. That said, I do not feel this is a good style matchup for him, as I once again preach the underdog value of a durable southpaw.

Official Pick: Story – Decision

 

Miranda1

Vitor Miranda (12-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 37 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 77″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Marcelo Guimaraes (3-5-16)
  • Camp: Team Nogueira (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF Brazil 3 Alum
+   23-8-1 as a Pro Kickboxer
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   10 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Accurate shot selection(64%)
^   Measures well with jab
+   Dangerous head kicks
^   Often snuck over the shoulder
+   Hard leg kicks & knees
+   Underrated wrestling ability
^   Improved TD defense
+/-Often retreats towards fence
^   Comfortable & effective from there

 

Camozzi1

Chris Camozzi (23-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 29 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 75.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Joe Riggs (2-21-16)
  • Camp: Factory-X Muay Thai (Denver, CO)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 11 Alum
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   8 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   Accurate distance striker
^   2nd most landed MW in UFC
+   Excellent leg kicks
^   Most landed in UFC MW history
+   Active long jab
+   Underrated Guillotine choke
+   Improved takedown defense
^   Good under-hook awareness
–    Struggles when pressure fought
+   Solid chin / never stopped

Summary:

In a Muay Thai maelstrom at middleweight, UFC staple Chris Camozzi takes on the surging Brazilian veteran Vitor Miranda. In a fight that measures up to be an all-out war, each man will look to parlay their recent momentum by taking full advantage of this main card showcase.

Although both fighters strike from Muay Thai bases, Miranda is the more technically refined practitioner as his well-accoladed past would suggest. Like Chris Camozzi, Miranda’s striking was also stifled early on in his MMA career due to grappling pressure. Since Vitor’s debut with the UFC, we have seen steady improvements in his takedown defense and overall wrestling ability. Even though Miranda often retreats toward the fence, he demonstrates comfort & efficiency in operating from this space.

Staying calm and collected, Miranda’s defenses and get-up ability usually forces his opposition to exert much more energy than he does. That said, he will likely not have to worry about this with Chris Camozzi. As his statistic accolades would suggest, the long & durable Camozzi prefers to make his money at range. Staying behind an active jab, Chris keeps a consistent flow of leg kicks coming as he does a good job of mixing in teeps and mid-level kicks. These tools coupled with his ability to dictate range will likely be Camozzi’s best chances at a victory.

Even though Camozzi has solid offensive accuracy he can stand by, his willingness to exchange has shown to expose him defensively. Displaying a tendency to keep his head upright(especially when exiting space), Camozzi traditionally takes damage in both victory and defeat. Chris also tends to keep/retract his left-hand low when exchanging, which could cost him against the attacks that Miranda brings from that side. Wielding deceptively accurate jabs and leg kicks of his own, Miranda will smoothly sneak his patented right head kick over his opposition’s shoulder.

Durable southpaws often make for deceptive underdogs, but unless Camozzi can establish his terms early, he may find himself outclassed by a superior striker. And even though Chris’s chin has allowed him to surmount comebacks before, his propensity to take shots may get him burned here as he will surely be playing with fire.

Official Pick: Miranda – Inside the distance

 

Masvidal1

Jorge Masvidal (29-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 31 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Ben Henderson (11-28-15)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Former AFC Welterweight Champ
+   Undefeated in the streets
+   11 KO victories
+   6 first round finishes
+   2 Submission wins
+   Accurate shot selection
+   Solid balance & footwork
^   Rarely out of position
+   Active transition & clinch game
^   Strikes well off the break
+   Excellent wrestling ability
^   81% Takedown defense
+   Underrated submission game
^   Dangerous from front headlock
+/-Often shells upright
^   Body/right-hand openings
–    Low priority leg checking
–    Sometimes subject to activity lulls

 

Larkin2

Lorenz Larkin (16-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 29 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Albert Tumenov (1-2-16)
  • Camp: Millenia MMA (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   10 KO victories
+   7 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Good distance management
^   Closes range quickly
+   Fast hand & foot speed
+   Dynamic kicking game
^   Accurate spinning attacks
+   Heavy leg kicks
?   Questionable ground game
+/-Heavily prioritized TD defense
^   Limits clinch game
+/-Often reverts to Philly Shell
^   Head upright/counter available
–    Struggles when pressure fought
^   Especially when forced into cage

Summary:

The fight that I am looking forward to most resides in the welterweight division, as fan favorites Jorge Masvidal and Lorenz Larkin face-off. Both men were 2-0 since making the move to 170-pounds until dropping close decisions in their most recent bouts. Masvidal lost a razor thin decision to the former champion Benson Henderson last year in Korea, whereas Larkin found himself on the wrong side of the scorecards in a close contest with Albert Tumenov. No stranger to suspect scorecards, Masvidal will look to combat his criminally underrated career by leaving this one out of the judges hands. And with a willing dance partner like Lorenz Larkin, we should be in for quite the show.

Both men are technically sound strikers, as they each demonstrate diversity & flexibility whether they are attacking or countering. However, both men also struggle with pressure fighting as I suspect that will be the key factor in this fight. For my money, whoever decides to lead first on the dance floor should have the edge in striking exchanges. In looking at each fighter’s ring generalship that man will probably be Masvidal, as he employs the more straight forward approach.

Although Lorenz is more than capable of effectively coming forward, he tends to favor using his creativity at range. Larkin usually carries a speed advantage over his opposition that compliments his footwork and anti-grappling agenda. Given the looming grappling threat of one of American Top Team’s most underrated wrestlers, I suspect Lorenz will stay on his horse when attacking Masvidal. Despite being a former light-heavyweight, I suspect Larkin will still have a slight speed advantage over Jorge.

If Larkin can dictate the distance and draw Jorge into a battle of range-finding, he will have his best chances of picking apart Masvidal as I see leg kicks in particular being effective. Although Jorge’s footwork is not as flamboyant as Larkin’s, he closes the distance deceptively well as he utilizes subtle angles to enter. What makes Masvidal such sound stalker is the fact that you will rarely catch him out of position. Not only does this keep Masvidal’s striking & countering arsenals open, but it also lends to his takedown defense, as he consistently keeps balance in his form.

Should Masvidal get his pressure game going, we may seem him expose some of Larkin’s defensive tendencies. Although Lorenz moves well laterally, he will often retreat toward the cage in a Philly Shell(Power hand high with head tucked into the lead shoulder as the lead hand hangs low). Traditionally, this has opened up Lorenz to right hands when caught up against the cage(as seen in his fights with Philippou & Brunson). Considering Lorenz tends to circle on the outside, he could be playing with fire whenever he finds himself between the fence and inner-black Octagon lines.

With the biggest skill differential residing in the grappling department, Larkin will need to be especially mindful in clinch situations. Although Lorenz has made improvements to counter-grapple from in close, his over-prioritization of defending takedowns ultimately limits his offensive threats & overall clinch game. Against a multifaceted threat like Masvidal, Larkin may likely find himself in trouble, especially if Jorge takes this fight to the floor. Even if Lorenz can break the clinch and avoid being taken down, he will still need to be careful when exiting space, as even a lackadaisical Masvidal is consistent with striking off the breaks.

I am self admittedly a huge fan of both fighters but have a hard time going against the man with the bigger arsenal. Without seeing Larkin’s ground game since his 2014 bout with Derek Brunson, it is hard to make a fair assessment of where he stands. That said, their sample sizes of grappling acumen seem to reside on separate ends of the spectrum, as Masvidal’s craft & in-fight IQ is on another level. With neither fighter the type to go quietly, this is likely your early contender for Fight of the Night.

Official Pick: Masvidal – Decision

 

Burkman1

Josh Burkman (28-12-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 35 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 72″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / KJ Noons (2-6-16)
  • Camp: The Pit Elevation (Utah)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 2 Alum
+   Former JUCO All-American(Football)
+   9 KO victories
+   8 Submission wins
+   15 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Deceptive counter striker
^   Dangerous check R. hook
+   Powerful kicks (both stances)
^   Favors leg & body kicks
+   Physically strong in clinch
^   Looks for takedowns/slams
+/-Primarily throws from right side
+/-Willingness to trade
^   Propensity to take damage

 

Felder1

Paul Felder (11-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70.5″
  • Last Fight: Sub win / Daron Cruickshank (1-17-16)
  • Camp: Team Renzo Gracie (Philly)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   2nd degree Black Belt Tae Kwon Do
+   Blue Belt BJJ
+   7 KO victories
+   2 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Diverse striking arsenal
^   Accurate spinning attacks
+   Dangerous Knees
+   Underrated takedown defense
^   Good butterfly guard/get-ups
+   Deceptive submission acumen
+   Solid feints & footwork
+/-Willingness to trade
^   Solid chin / Physically durable

Summary:

Kicking off the main card on FOX Sports 1 is fantastic lightweight scrap as the veteran, Josh “The People’s Warrior” Burkman draws the always dangerous Paul “The Irish Dragon” Felder. With both men recently righting their ships with hard-fought victories, this fight will be a good measuring stick for the current momentum of each fighter’s career.

Starting off on the feet, I suspect we will see a classic pairing of aggressive stalkers & counter fighters as each combatant is consistent with their approach. Felder is the more forward moving fighter, as he will utilize a variation of Thai-marching to stalk & feint his way inside. Whereas Burkman primarily makes his money off the counter, as he will parlay his aggression(and chin) into high-risk exchanges. I expect Josh will lean on his craftiness from the outside, as he will look to play matador with the oncoming Irish Dragon.

Although Burkman can powerfully variate his attacks from both stances, he primarily throws from his right side. That does not mean Josh is a one-sided fighter, but throwing from his left-side may serve him well in this fight. Burkman has a solid left hook in particular that may find its home, especially when you look at Felder’s past performances against fighters like Ross Pearson. That said, Felder may be harder to counter than expected.

Despite being known for his forward pressure, Felder does a good job at feinting his way inside. As we saw in Burkman’s fight with Cote, he struggles to find his rhythm when being drawn out prematurely with feints. I expect that this facet of Felder’s game has only improved since moving shop to New Jersey to train with Mark Henry & company. If Felder can bait Josh effectively, we may see his striking variety and volume advantages come to life.

Burkman’s best bet may come by mixing in his underrated takedown game. As we saw in Josh’s last fight, he still demonstrates the ability to change gears when he needs to. However, Burkman scores most of his takedowns off the fence, a place Felder is very familiar defending from. Demonstrating a fundamental understanding of takedown defense, Paul has steadily improved his abilities in counter grappling. In his last fight, we saw his progression here, as he was able to threaten and eventually finish with his deceptive submission acumen.

As a fan of tough veterans like Burkman, you cannot be too quick to count someone out. That said, all the on-paper signs point to the Irish Dragon in what I imagine will be a three round war.

Official Pick: Felder – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions

  • McMann def. Eye
  • Trujillo def. Rinaldi
  • Uda def. Collier
  • Campbell def. Koch
  • Caraway def. Sterling
  • Milstead def. De La Rocha

Recommended Plays

Fantasy MMA Picks

High Tier Picks:

-Abel Trujillo
-Paul Felder
-Vitor Miranda

Low Tier Picks:

-Cody Garbrandt
-Jeremy Stephens
-Jorge Masvidal

Pieces for your parlay:

-Vitor Miranda
-Abel Trujillo
-Paul Felder

Props worth looking at(5Dimes.eu):

-Barao/Stephens – Under 2 1/2: +110 (1 Unit)
-Jorge Masvidal – by Decision: +185 (1 Unit)
-Sara McMann – by Decision: +155 (.05 Unit)
-Jeremy Stephens – by TKO/KO: +365 (.05 Unit)

Fights to avoid:

-Erik Koch vs Shane Campbell
-Thomas Almeida vs Cody Garbrandt
-Chris De La Rocha vs Adam Milstead

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

Onnit Primal Bells

breakdown

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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