Cleat Geeks

UFC on FOX 26 Predictions

UFC on FOX 26 takes place Saturday, December 16, 2017 at the Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Canada. The four-fight main card will begin at 8 PM EST and is televised on FOX, while the prelims take place on UFC Fight Pass for the opening two bouts, moving to Fox Sports 1 at 5 PM EST for the remaining 6 prelims. The opening bout will feature third-ranked and seventh-ranked light heavyweights Glover Teixeira and Misha Cirkunov. Both fighters are coming off losses, but the winner will find himself among title discussion in the beginning of 2018 in a shallow division. The second bout will see fan favorite Mike “Platinum” Perry take on tenth-ranked welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio. Both fighters are coming off impressive knockout wins in their last bouts and the winner will find a good top-10 matchup in the near future. The co-main event will feature former featherweight title challenger and current third-ranked Ricardo Lamas and late replacement Josh Emmett. Lamas was scheduled to fight Jose Aldo in a rematch from 2014, but Aldo was pulled out in favor of a rematch against Max Holloway earlier this month when Frankie Edgar was removed with an injury. The main event is a fight that should produce the next title challenger in the 170-pound division as former welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler and former lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos meet.

 

Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov

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The main card kicks off with a fight that is unlikely to reach the judges’ scorecards after three rounds. Glover Teixeira has finished 7 of his 9 UFC fights while his counterpart has finished all 4 of his UFC fights. Both fighters are coming off knockout losses from May in this year, to Alexander Gustafsson and Volkan Oezdemir, respectively. Teixeira has faced much tougher competition in his time in the UFC, with wins over future hall of famers Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson, having shared the Octagon in losses with Gustafsson, Anthony Johnson and Jon Jones. The most respectable name on Cirkunov’s list of wins is Nikita Krylov, who is no longer in the UFC. This fight should be contested mostly on the feet where both guys have heavy hands and knockout power. The fight could hit the mat and that’s where it could get interesting, both fighters have black belts in Brazilian Jit Jitsu with 7 submission wins each in their respective careers. Glover may be a little shop worn at this point in his career, and at 38 years old, the clock is ticking. This may be his last opportunity to climb back to the top for another shot at gold. Cirkunov is only 30 years old but is still inexperienced, but will own a 1-inch height and reach advantage. Teixeira is comfortable on the feet but has relied on his BJJ skills and underrated wrestling to bail him out of tough spots in the past, while that isn’t likely to work well against Cirkunov. Cirkunov hasn’t shown much ability to lock up chokes from the bottom but I suspect he’s capable of doing so with his slick submission skills. This fight really depends on which version of Glover shows up. I think he’s seen better days, but I don’t think his skills and/or chin have diminished enough to get beat by Cirkunov. Teixeira by second-round TKO.

 

Mike Perry vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio

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Mike Perry has quickly become a fan favorite, not only for his exciting style and knockout power, but also because of his personality. He’s one of those guys you either love or hate, but he comes to fight every single time and he’s downright fun to watch. Ponzinibbio is coming off the biggest win of his career as he upset 13th-ranked Gunnar Nelson in their main event bout in July. Perry had a Knockout of the Year contender in April when he disposed of Jake Ellenberger with a vicious elbow. He’s looked impressive thus far, finishing all 4 of his UFC win, while his opponent also touts 4 finishes in 7 fights. Ponzinibbio will own a 2-inch height and reach advantage in this fight and will likely use his reach to stay away from the power of Perry. He may look to take this fight to the ground as Perry has finished all of his professional MMA wins via strikes, with no submissions or decisions. The win against Gunnar Nelson was somewhat controversial as he appeared to land an eye poke prior to the finishing shots. Both of these guys have knockout power, but Perry is more powerful and more confident in his striking. Although I think Ponzinibbio may make it to the final bell, you can’t bet against a guy who’s never won a decision before. This fight will be violent and fun. Perry by third-round KO is the pick.

 

Ricardo Lamas vs. Josh Emmett

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Respect to Josh Emmett for taking this fight as an unranked opponent going up against the third-ranked featherweight in the world on short notice. That will be the only positive thing that comes out of this fight for him. He’s earned some respect from the MMA community, Ricardo Lamas and Dana White, surely. Unfortunately for him, “atta boys” don’t get you very far in the UFC. He’s being thrown in the deep end against one of the best featherweights the UFC has ever seen. Emmett fights with a very similar style to Lamas, he’s just not as good as Lamas wherever this fight goes. Emmett made his return to featherweight in October and was able to beat Felipe Arantes, but he ran out of gas fairly quickly. He was still able to dominate that fight, but he’s up against a different animal now. I’m tired of writing about this fight. Lamas by first-round submission is the pick.

 

Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos

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This is a very intriguing matchup for a variety of different reasons. Since dropping the welterweight title to Tyron Woodley in July of 2016, Lawler’s fought just once, a unanimous decision win against Donald Cerrone. He came out like a man possessed and tried to take Cerrone’s head off, and nearly did, but found himself reeling a little bit in the second and third rounds of their exciting UFC 214 bout this past July. That’s not the same Robbie Lawler we’ve seen fight since his return to the UFC in 2013. If he fights like that against a fighter as technical and aggressive as RDA, he’s going to come out of this fight the loser. Rafael dos Anjos has looked incredible since going up to the welterweight division, but he beat Tarec Saffiedine and Neil Magny, neither of who are on the level of Lawler. His most recent performance was rather impressive though, submitting Neil Magny in the first round, a feat that took BJJ wizard Demian Maia two full rounds to do. Lawler used to come out firing away with reckless abandon, but has since changed his style to a much more technical and methodical approach. It’s paid dividends for his career as he tasted UFC gold when he beat Johny Hendricks at UFC 181 to capture the welterweight Championship. He went on to defend it twice, both in Fight of the Year winners, against Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit. It’s a little unfair to lay any blame on him for the Woodley loss, it was a flash knockout that was the first significant strike landed in the fight by either man. Lawler is surely licking his chops for another shot at the Champion, but he’s got to get through one of the very best pressure fighters the UFC has ever seen. Once upon a time Rafael dos Anjos fought “Cowboy” Cerrone as well, and he beat him in just over a minute. MMA math doesn’t always work out, but I see dos Anjos giving Lawler problems, assuming his chin holds up. This fight being five rounds could benefit either man if it goes that long. Lawler’s shown an ability unlike any other to find another gear in the final frame of his fights before. Dos Anjos put on a clinic against Anthony Pettis to win the lightweight title at UFC 185 in a five-round beating, never slowing down. There were questions about dos Anjos before his move to welterweight as he lost the title via knockout to Eddie Alvarez and was picked apart for five rounds against current interim Champion Tony Ferguson. He’s bounced back since, but questions still remain about his size, as he will give up 3 inches of height and 4 inches of reach against Lawler, a former middleweight. This is a very difficult fight to predict and it’s a coin flip, as evidenced by the lines in Vegas, with Lawler giving up no more than -124. Dos Anjos can strike with Lawler, maybe not for extended periods of time, but he has some brutal leg kicks and a smothering top game to fall back on. Unless he gets clipped early, I just see him being too much for Lawler over the course of five rounds. Lawler was hurt by Rory and Carlos in those fights, and he’s just taken too much damage throughout his career. RDA by fourth-round TKO is the pick.

It’s Time to Put McGregor in the Rearview Mirror

Image result for Tony Ferguson defeated Kevin LeeAfter UFC 216, it seemed as if all would finally get back to normal when Tony Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee to become the interim lightweight Champion. Dana White all but confirmed that Ferguson had stamped his ticket for a mega-fight with the superstar, Conor McGregor, to unify the lightweight belts. Yet here we are two months later and there’s still no indication who, if anyone at all, McGregor will fight next. Quite frankly, it’s annoying that he doesn’t seem to have any interest in defending the belt he was gifted a title shot at and that his name is brought up anytime there are fights on live TV. He’s irrelevant to the UFC world right now. After Georges St. Pierre beat Michael Bisping to claim the middleweight Championship, fans clamored for a super fight between him and McGregor. This past weekend at UFC 218, Max Holloway finished Jose Aldo in the third round of a featherweight title fight for the second time this year. Once again, McGregor found his way into discussions of a fight with the winner of a PPV, as he has for the last 3. It’s time for the UFC to put Conor McGregor in the rearview mirror. He’s spent enough time holding up divisions with fighters who haven’t hit their ceiling, preventing them from becoming bigger stars. GSP doesn’t need a super-fight with McGregor to get or stay relevant, he was the PPV king before McGregor came along. Max Holloway and Tony Ferguson are both stars in the making, but they’re both wasting their time campaigning for a fight with him. The UFC has made it clear that Conor McGregor calls his own shots, and if he doesn’t want to fight someone, it’s not going to happen. Tony Ferguson is an exciting fighter and the best lightweight on the planet right now. He deserves to be crowned the undisputed Champion and he’s got unfinished business with Khabib Nurmagomedov. If Khabib gets past Edson Barboza at UFC 219 later this month, that’s the fight to make in the 155-pound division.

The Conor McGregor that didn’t seem to forget where he came from is all but a forgotten memory.

Conor McGregor seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. If you’re not familiar with Conor McGregor’s rise to stardom, I’d encourage you to watch some interviews and listen to him speak humbly about his struggles prior to the UFC. He’s made claims of being on welfare in Ireland, fighting at local shows and using government assistance just to make ends meet. You won’t hear him talk like that anymore because, quite frankly, money and fame changes people and he is no exception. Unfortunately for fans of the UFC, the Conor McGregor that wept with emotion when he captured the interim featherweight title from Chad Mendes at UFC 189 is no more. The Conor McGregor that didn’t seem to forget where he came from is all but a forgotten memory. The UFC allowed him to breach his contract with them to step into the boxing ring with the greatest boxer of our generation and he doesn’t seem ready to return the favor. Questions have surrounded him since that defeat that left him filthy rich. He doesn’t seem motivated or in a hurry to get back into the Octagon to defend the belt he’s left on the shelf since November of last year. Meanwhile, Tony Ferguson, the newly-crowned lightweight interim Champion, awaits confirmation on his next fight. If I were a betting man, I would bet the house that his next bout won’t be against McGregor in the UFC. Dana White said at this past weekend’s UFC 218 scrum that Image result for georges st. pierre middleweight championhe’s not even sure if McGregor ever fights again.

So too is the case for Georges St. Pierre as the newly-crowned middleweight Champion. He has been mum about his fighting future since capturing the middleweight title from Michael Bisping last month at UFC 217. It should be noted that Dana White, at the same UFC 218 media scrum, ripped into the Champion, saying that he won’t be happy if he doesn’t defend the belt. Dana said part of the agreement for him coming back was to defend the belt if he won it. His relationship with GSP hasn’t always been the best and it seems there is still a breakdown in communication somewhere. It may seem a little premature to be calling for a Champion to defend his belt after only 4 weeks while McGregor has held onto his for a year without Dana calling him out publicly. Unfortunately for everyone else, Dana White knows that McGregor is his cash cow and realizes he isn’t in control. The UFC has a bad reputation for playing favorites, although you can’t necessarily blame them for doing so. However, Champions should be treated equally, and a world title needs to be defended regularly.

There is no official rule in place for a timetable to defend your title, it seems to be at the discretion of the UFC, who plays judge, jury and executioner. Dominick Cruz went 609 days on the shelf before vacating his bantamweight Championship from 2012-2014. He was scheduled to fight longtime rival Uriajh Faber for a third time at UFC 148 for the bantamweight title before pulling out with an injury. Renan Barao stepped in on short notice and defeated Faber before defending the interim title twice. Barao was then scheduled to fight Cruz for the undisputed bantamweight title but Cruz again had to pull out, forcing the UFC to declare Barao the undisputed Champion. By contrast, in 2004 Frank Mir won the UFC heavyweight title when he defeated Tim Sylvia. The following October he was scheduled to fight Andrei Arlovski but was still healing from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash. The UFC stripped him of his title after 419 days of inactivity. Earlier this year at UFC 208, Germaine de Randamie defeated former bantamweight Champion Holly Holm for the inaugural featherweight Championship. Her first title defense was supposed to be against superstar Cris “Cyborg,” but rumors swirled that she was unwilling to fight her based on her previous banned substance positive tests. The UFC made the decision to strip her of the title after only 128 days of inactivity.Image result for germaine de randamie ufc

128, 419 and 609 days of inactivity caused three Champions to be stripped of their titles. Those numbers represent a very large range and are perplexing to someone from the outside looking in. A male Champion went 609 days without being stripped of his title while a female only went 128 days without being stripped. In any other industry, that would get you a lawsuit. Not in the UFC apparently. Conor McGregor went 189 days before he was stripped of his featherweight title, this while he currently held a title in another division in which he’d never competed. As of this day, it’s been 391 days since McGregor won the UFC lightweight title and not only has there been no talk of a title defense, UFC president Dana White doesn’t sound confident that he will ever fight again.

Conor McGregor gets preferential treatment based on who he is and how much revenue he generates for the company while people like Germaine de Randamie don’t have much say in anything at all.

I don’t particularly like writing opinion-based articles and that’s why I’ve done the research to present facts and figures. The bottom line is that the UFC, as I eluded to earlier, plays the part of judge, jury and executioner. Conor McGregor gets preferential treatment based on who he is and how much revenue he generates for the company while people like Germaine de Randamie don’t have much say in anything at all. Life isn’t always fair but punishments should be the same across the board, no matter who you are. The UFC got big long before McGregor came into the picture and he wasn’t around at its peak at the beginning of the decade so they will survive without him.

Role Model Monday; Diego Sanchez

UFC lightweight Diego Sanchez usually doesn’t lay down for anybody. But at the Isleta Casino and Resort in Albuquerque on Friday, the winner of the first installment of “The Ultimate Fighter” did exactly that against Isaac “The Shermanator” Marquez, but for good reason.

“The Shermanator” visited Jackson Wink Academy in Albuquerque to watch pros train. Sanchez invited Marquez to train with him, and the two quickly became friends. Marquez suffers from Down syndrome and has been training at Jackson Wink Academy since Sanchez invited him to train with him during a visit when the 32-year-old first came by the gym. Not only did the two strike up a friendship but Sanchez actually promised his friend that he would eventually get a title fight against the tenured UFC fighter. On Friday night, Marquez’s dream came true when “The Shermanator” submitted Sanchez in the first round with an armbar.

It was one of those feel good moments where Sanchez had the opportunity to make a fan’s dreams come true. And with Marquez dedicating the fight to his late mother, the former top lightweight contender wanted to make sure that his friend had the opportunity of a lifetime.

“Most down syndrome adults don’t live past 45,” said Sanchez. ” Isaac is 32, and I just wanted to see this young man be healthy. Exercise and martial arts are one of the most healthy things you can do.”

Deigo may be called “The Nightmare” but on this night he made a dream come true, and for that, he is our Role Model Monday #3.

UFC 218 Predictions

UFC 218 is one of the best cards from top to bottom the UFC has put together in recent memory. It all goes down this Saturday in Detroit, Michigan at the Little Caesars Arena. The main event features a rematch from UFC 212 in June between current featherweight Champion Max Holloway and former featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo. The first fight was competitive early on, while Holloway continued to apply pressure, Aldo simply ran out of steam in the second and was dropped with a sharp jab and finished for just the second time in his lengthy UFC career. It also pits two of the biggest heavyweights on the roster together, most likely in a title eliminator. Former heavyweight title challenger Alistair Overeem is set to take on rising contender Francis Ngannou in a fight that could end in the blink of an eye. Speaking of can’t miss fights, it also features former lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez against the opposing coach on the The Ultimate Fighter’s most recent season, World Series of Fighting transplant Justin Gaethje. Gaethje made a splash in the UFC in July when he beat perennial lightweight contender Michael Johnson in dramatic, comeback fashion. That fight may produce the next title challenger at lightweight, or at the very least an intriguing match-up in a title eliminator. Flyweights Sergio Pettis and Henry Cejudo likely battle for the next crack at longtime flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. The main card opens up with an intriguing women’s strawweight bout between Tecia Torres and Michelle Waterson.

 

Tecia Torres vs. Michelle Waterson

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The main card kicks off with a fight between two women in the upper echelon of the women’s strawweight division. Torres and Waterson are currently ranked fifth and sixth in their respective division, both close to a title shot. Waterson’s most recent bout came in April when she was submitted by current Champion Rose Namajunas. Torres’ most recent loss was also to “Thug” Rose, a loss that came back in April of 2016, having won two since over Bec Rawlings and Juliana Lima, the latter a rear-naked choke in the second frame. Both fighters are primarily karate-based with slick submission skills. This fight should be contested mostly on the feet and Waterson will own a 2-inch height and 1-inch reach advantage over her opponent. The size difference, although small, could play a big part in this match-up as Waterson looks to establish her range and use her diverse attack. This is only her fourth fight in the UFC and it’s still difficult to gauge her skillset at this point in her career. She’s had her moments where she looks great, but she’s also had some serious lapses in judgment in her MMA career. Torres is extremely underrated and dangerous on the ground while holding good enough stand up skills to make this a fight. If she can drag Waterson to the ground, she will likely have her way with her there and finish this fight with a submission. Waterson has a great offensive submission game but her defensive submission skills are lacking as she isn’t comfortable in those positions. I expect a competitive, close bout but Torres will do enough to walk away with a decision.

 

Eddie Alvarez vs. Justin Gaethje

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These two coached opposite each other on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. It wasn’t your typical back-and-forth trash talking that we were used to seeing as they seem to have the utmost respect for one another. Both fighters were Champions in other promotions before coming to the UFC, Alvarez being the former lightweight Champion in Bellator while Gaethje held that title under the World Series of Fighting banner. Gaethje is a deceptively large lightweight fighter as he will hold a 2-inch reach and height advantage in this fight. He holds a very impressive resume as an NCAA D-I collegiate wrestler, although you’d never know if you’ve seen his fights. Alvarez has a sneaky good wrestling pedigree of his own, which helped propel him to split decision wins over Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez. Alvarez will likely look to do the same here, using clinch work and his wrestling to keep Gaethje at bay. Gaethje will look to be the aggressor early, as he always does, and use his pressure to try and break Alvarez. Both fighters have excellent boxing skills and respective power. Gaethje loves using leg kicks to soften up his opponents before turning up the volume, while Alvarez will look to establish his hands from the opening bell. This bout has all the makings of a Fight of the Night winner, and even a Fight of the Year contender. Whichever fighter can establish control and control the pace likely wins this fight. Alvarez was willing to engage in a fire fight with Dustin Poirier and that almost cost him dearly. That fight ended in drama when Alvarez landed two illegal knees to a downed opponent. He looks to bounce back and into title contention with a win here and the winner here likely finds himself in good position in a crowded lightweight division. This fight is a coin flip, but Alvarez will do enough to win a close decision and move back into title contention.

 

Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis

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Henry Cejudo’s much-improved striking was on full display in his most recent performance, a second-round KO of former title challenger Wilson Reis at UFC 215 in September. Prior to that bout, he hadn’t notched a finish inside the Octagon yet. His counterpart lost two of his first five UFC bouts, one by submission and one by TKO, before winning four straight. His most recent performance was a dominant one over rising contender Brandon Moreno in their main event bout in August. Pettis will own a 2-inch height and 5-inch reach advantage, which will play a big part in this bout. Cejudo is a former Olympic gold medalist with one of the absolute best wrestling resumes in all of MMA. His striking has improved but he will look to get this fight to the ground as soon as possible to keep Pettis from firing away his diverse striking arsenal. Pettis has good takedown defense, but he’s never fought someone as relentless as Cejudo on the ground. Fortunately for Pettis, each fight, and round for that matter, starts standing up, which is really the only avenue for him to win this fight. Being a three-round fight may help Cejudo, as he’s never been past the third round in a UFC fight. Pettis cuts a lot of weight to get to the 125-pound limit, but he’s never missed weight or looked drained at the weigh ins, unlike Cejudo, who’s missed weight twice in his short UFC career. The winner of this fight likely gets a title shot and I expect Cejudo to ground Pettis enough times to earn a close decision win and net a rematch with Mighty Mouse.

 

Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou

 

Image result for alistair overeem vs. francis ngannouAs I said earlier, two of the biggest fighters on the entire roster meet in a fight that should produce the next heavyweight title challenger. Alistair Overeem has won two straight since losing a first-round KO to current Champion Stipe Miocic back in September of last year. Although his most recent performance wasn’t great and was somewhat controversial, he was able to come away with a split decision and set himself up with this bout. Francis Ngannou is a fearsome striker with deadly power, not having any of his 5 UFC fights make it to the third round. That is somewhat alarming should this fight go to the final frame, seeing as how we’ve yet to see how his gas tank would hold up. Fortunately for him, his opponent doesn’t bode well in the third round and beyond either. Ngannou will hold a 4-inch reach advantage while both fighters tower at 6’4” tall. Overeem’s chin hasn’t held up like it used to and one crack from Ngannou could have the former title challenger being woken up to the bright lights in Detroit. Overeem wasn’t very aggressive in his fight with Werdum and he should look to employ the same strategy in this fight. Getting over aggressive against a guy as powerful as Ngannou won’t get you anywhere. Greg Jackson surely has Overeem well-prepared for this fight, although we have yet to see any holes in Ngannou’s game. Overeem’s striking is world-class, with some of the best knees in the sport’s history. His ground game is much-improved and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him try to get this fight to the ground like he did against Stefan Struve. Ngannou has ungodly power in all of his limbs and he’ll find an opening, most likely one created by an over extension or well-timed counter, and put Overeem out in the first round. Ngannou will find himself a title shot in the early-to-mid part of 2018.

 

Max Holloway vs. Jose Aldo

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These two met back in July and the first fight was very strange with Aldo, known for his lethal leg kicks, not landing any. That was likely the result of an injury sustained in his training camp. Those will be crucial in the second fight with Holloway if he looks to regain his throne in the featherweight division. Holloway has relentless pace but fought Aldo very smart the first time, not over extending with his punches and remaining patient and calculated with his attacks. Holloway is much bigger with a 4-inch height advantage, but finds himself at a 1-inch reach disadvantage in this fight. Aldo is one of the very best counter strikers the sport has ever seen and if Holloway gets wild, he could get caught easily. Holloway has won 11 straight since an August 2013 defeat to current lightweight Champion Conor McGregor. Even so, he was able to take McGregor the distance, a feat no other featherweight on the roster can claim. Aldo has very underrated wrestling and may look to the takedowns McGregor landed in that 2013 bout to game plan against the ultra-tough Hawaiian. The first fight saw them trade punches back and forth over the better part of three rounds before a jab dropped Aldo as Holloway pounced on him for the finish. Aldo went over a full decade without a single loss to his name in his MMA career and rarely even found himself in trouble. His chin has faded along with his cardio over time, while he’s 6 years older than his opponent. He used primarily his leg kicks to beat Urijah Faber under the now-defunct WEC banner during Faber’s prime. He’s used that same strategy to wear his UFC competition down and use his superior boxing skills to establish dominance. Few men in the UFC could trade punches with Jose Aldo and come out on top but Holloway is one of them. He fought intelligent and patient last time and he’ll do the same this time. Aldo looked tired midway through the second frame and that will be the case again. Aldo was one of the most feared men in the sport for a long time, and deservedly so. Holloway is just too big and creative for him. Holloway wins by 4th-round TKO.

UFC Fight Night 120 Predictions

UFC Fight Night 120 will be held on November 11, 2017 at Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia. The event will mark the first time that the promotion will visit the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. There will be a three fight preliminary round on the fight network another preliminary round of four fights on Fox Sports 1 that includes two women’s fights, and the main event card has a 6 fight card also on Fox Sports 1.

Joe Lauzon vs. Clay Guida

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You might be shocked to know that these two fighters are only 33 and 35 at this point in their careers. It sure seems like they’re both in their 50s. Both fighters will enter the Octagon for the 25th time, putting them tied for third place all-time for most fights in UFC history. Lauzon has alternated wins and losses in his last 8 fights, unable to put together back-to-back wins since 2013-2014. Guida, on the other hand, has had his fair share of losses recently, getting back on track with a unanimous decision win over Eric Koch this past June after losing 6 of his past 9. Neither of these guys are fighting for their jobs, but the loser will likely fall back into permanent gatekeeper status. While the winner won’t be fighting for a title anytime soon, this is a fight that really determines who still has something left for some up-and-comers in the lightweight division. Lauzon has good stand up and power in his shots while his BJJ remains some of the best the UFC has ever seen. Guida is a wrestler with an endless gas tank and uses feints to set up his unorthodox striking. Lauzon is 3 inches taller and will have a 1.5-inch reach advantage come Saturday and he can use that to thwart the attacks from Guida. Neither fighter resembles the one we saw years ago but this could be an entertaining scrap as they’ve combined to take home 22(!!!) performance bonuses. This fight should produce a fire fight between two savvy veterans, who have nothing to fight for but pride and money. Lauzon is the taller fighter and the more durable. He’ll use his improved boxing skills to keep Guida away long enough to win a decision.

 

Raphael Assuncao vs. Matthew Lopez

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This fight is eerily similar to the match-up we saw earlier this year when Jeremy Stephens, a top-five featherweight was matched up against unranked prospect Renato Moicano. Lopez is currently ranked 13th in the bantamweight division according to the UFC rankings, while Assuncao is ranked 4th, with his only loss in his last 10 has come to current Champion TJ Dillashaw. He’s bounced back since that UFC 200 defeat by taking split decisions from Aljamain Sterling and Marlon Moraes. Lopez is still quite unknown at this point. He was picked up from the UFC as part of Dana White’s Looking for a Fight series on YouTube and has won 2 straight since dropping his debut via arm-triangle to Rani Yahya in July of last year. His most recent performance, a first-round TKO of hard-hitting Johnny Eduardo, netted him the opportunity of a lifetime. Assuncao will give up 2 inches of height and 2.5 inches of reach on fight night but has much more of a sample to choose from. He’s fought just 3 times since October of 2014 due to injuries and hasn’t looked the same as before. Lopez is well-rounded and very durable. If Assuncao is able to drag him to the ground, he’s in big trouble. Lopez came to the scale missing weight and presumably very drained for the biggest fight of his life. Assuncao will end this one in the second with a submission.

 

Nate Marquardt vs. Cezar Ferreira

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I think last week was Johny Hendricks’ final fight in the Octagon and I think this week will be the end of Nate Marquardt’s. He’s 3-8 in his last 11 fights and goes up against Cezar Ferreira, who’s also been somewhat inconsistent since winning The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil in 2012. Marquardt is much like Hendricks, a little too small for middleweight but a little too large to cut to welterweight without trouble. Nate will give up 1 inch of height and a 4-inch reach advantage to Ferreira, coming off two consecutive decision losses. Cezar will look to get back on track as well as he had a three-fight win streak snapped when he lost to Elias Theodorou back in February via unanimous decision. The Brazilian has been unfairly criticized for his lack of performances in the UFC. He’s had numerous last-minute opponent changes and has tried his hand at 170 pounds, which Image result for Andrei Arlovski vs. Junior Albinilasted only one fight. He’ll get back on track against “Nate the Great,” on his way to a unanimous decision in a lackluster fight.

 

Andrei Arlovski vs. Junior Albini

 

It’s hard to believe that Arlovski is still employed in the UFC. He’s lost 5 fights in a row since January of 2016 and all but his most recent loss came via stoppage. He’s come back from big losing streaks before and found himself only a fight away from the title before current Champion Stipe Miocic flattened him in that January 2016 bout. Albini has only had one fight in the UFC but he was able to beat Timothy Johnson by first-round TKO in a Performance of the Night bout. Arlovski’s game is well-known at this point, he’s a tall fighter with good striking but his chin has diminished rapidly over the last few years. Albini is still a big question mark at this point but he is 12 years younger and gets to fight one of the legends of the sport. This fight will be contested mostly, if not completely, on the feet. If Albini can make it a fire fight he can clip Arlovski and likely end his career in the UFC. Greg Jackson won’t allow that to happen as Arlovski will use his jab to keep the younger prospect at bay. Albini is still younger, faster and more explosive than his 38-year-old counterpart and he will land something significant in the third round and pounce for the TKO stoppage.Image result for matt brown vs. diego sanchez

 

Matt Brown vs. Diego Sanchez

 

Diego Sanchez will enter this bout for his 26th Octagon appearance and what should be one of his last. His opponent, Brown, enters having said numerous times that this will certainly be his curtain call. Diego Sanchez has fought at 145, 155, 170 and 185 pounds, respectively, throughout his career. He’s put his body through absolute torture and has beat some of the very best this sport has ever seen. He’ll be 2 inches shorter and giving up 3 inches of reach but he’ll find the perfect dance partner to engage in a slugfest for Brown’s final bout in the UFC, if he is to be believed. Sanchez’s last two losses have come via knockout after previously having never been knocked out, alarming for a guy who’s been involved in the wars he has. Brown has lost 5 of six since 2014, his only win in that stretch being a submission of Tim Means at UFC 189 in July of 2015. He’s battle-worn as well but these two are some of the most aggressive fighters on the planet. They both have underrated wrestling, top game and submissions. I say it’s underrated because it is there but you never see it because they prefer to stand and trade punches. Do that they will. One of them will fall and probably early. Unfortunately for Diego Sanchez, he’ll be the one laid out. Brown is too big for Sanchez and his aggression may cost him dearly. Enjoy this fight, it’s got Fight of the Night written all over it and may be a contender for Fight of the Year if it lasts more than a round. Brown rides off into the sunset a winner by first-round TKO.

 

Anthony Pettis vs. Dustin Poirier

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Aside from a shocking first-round knockout loss to Michael Johnson, Poirier has looked great since his 2014 loss to lightweight Champion Conor McGregor. He’s won 5 of 7 bouts since returning to 155 pounds, with the other fight being declared a no contest due to illegal knees Eddie Alvarez landed on him in a fight he was winning. Anthony Pettis got back on track with his first fight back at 155 pounds against Jim Miller, winning a unanimous decision easily. Both fighters’ last win was a unanimous decision win against Miller and they both looked the part of future contenders. Pettis has been to the top, fallen down on hard times and climbed back up in a different division, only to fall down again. There’s no shame at all in losing to Max Holloway and lightweight is where he belongs. Pettis looked like the Pettis of old when he fought Miller this past July and he will need to keep that momentum if he wants to beat Dustin Poirier. Poirier’s resume is still missing a win over a marquee name and this fight gives him the opportunity to shed his gatekeeper status and move into title contention. Poirier is currently ranked 8th at 155 pounds while Pettis finds himself ranked 13th, with the opportunity to jump right back into the top 10 and the title picture. Poirier’s game is quite simple and unfortunately for him, somewhat predictable. He’ll look to establish control from the center of the Octagon and be the aggressor, setting up his left hand from southpaw. Pettis won’t oblige initially and will find himself backing up to get the space he needs to fire off his unforeseeable kicks. Pettis has some of the very best striking in all of the UFC and aside from his fight to Holloway, has rarely been in trouble in the Octagon. This fight should stay mostly standing although a Poirier takedown attempt is not out of the question. Clay Guida, Eddie Alvarez and Rafael dos Anjos were able to push Pettis against the cage and stall his attack for minutes at a time and found great success so I wouldn’t be shocked to see Poirier employ the same strategy. Their height and reach are virtually identical, which makes this matchup even more intriguing. While I think Poirier is the better fighter at this point, it’s hard to envision how he beats Pettis. Unless he can get control in the clinch or throw him off his game with some trips or takedowns consistently, Pettis should be able to land the big shot over the course of 25 minutes. It will be entertaining while it lasts but Pettis lands something Pettis-like in the third and puts him away to climb back into the title picture.

 

 

GSP vs. McGregor? Not So Fast.

Saturday night/Sunday morning, social media erupted as Georges St. Pierre became just the fourth fighter in UFC history to earn titles in two different divisions. Conor McGregor used his tweet to remind the world that he not only held two belts, but he did at the same time, a feat which no one else has accomplished and may never. Naturally, fans called for a super fight between the newly-crowned middleweight Champion and his lightweight Champion counterpart. Sounds like a great idea, right? Not so fast. Not only do I think that’s an extremely bad match-up for McGregor, to date he has held the featherweight and lightweight titles a total of 709 days without a title defense. He was stripped of the featherweight title he won at UFC 194 when he knocked out Jose Aldo after 350 days of inactivity. He won the lightweight title last November at UFC 205 against Eddie Alvarez and currently has not defended it, nor does he have a fight scheduled yet, leaving his current mark at 359 and counting.

Instead of going all in trying to break PPV records and generate silly amounts of revenue, which it most certainly would, why not pair these two up with the interim Champions to create two big fights that could each headline PPVs?

 

2-time division Champion TJ Dillashaw called out flyweight kingpin Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson in his post-fight speech this past weekend. Although that’s a great fight to book, he just won the title and he’s calling for a super fight with the pound-for-pound king of the world. If you make these two fights and neither of them are for a title, you have 4 of your biggest superstars and Champions locked down, keeping the divisions they represent on hold. Don’t get me wrong, a TJ-DJ fight and a GSP-Conor super fight has most fans, myself included, clamoring at the thought of those dream match-ups. GSP and Conor both represent divisions that currently house interim Champions as well as having the title despite never having a previous win in their respected divisions. It’s easy to see why they both received title shots despite all of that, they’re both huge draws for the UFC. That’s part of my issue with the thought of a GSP-Conor super fight. Conor McGregor might have more star power than anyone in the history of MMA, with GSP not far behind him. Instead of going all in trying to break PPV records and generate silly amounts of revenue, which it most certainly would, why not pair these two up with the interim Champions to create two big fights that could each headline PPVs?

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For those of you familiar with WWE, November 19 marks the date for one of their biggest PPVs of the year, Survivor Series. For those of you unfamiliar with it, that is a PPV in which Raw and Smackdown, who employ their own set of Champions and rosters, come together for a large show that will feature Raw’s best vs. Smackdown’s best. It was a great PPV last year and looks like it should exceed last year’s show with the current lineup. It will see Raw’s Champion Brock Lesnar battle Smackdown’s New Champion AJ Styles, in a match where neither participant can win the other’s title. Sound familiar? It should. It represents a PPV in which, at the current time, only one title belt is up for grabs. Having TJ-DJ and Conor-GSP headline a PPV guarantees large success for that PPV but the reality is that you can market those two fighters defending their belts, like they should be, against the respective interim Champions.

The UFC has an obsession with super fights, and us fans are more than slightly to blame.

Conor McGregor is a household name now. He caught the attention of the free world 2 years ago when he started calling out Floyd Mayweather. He used his voice and his never-ending wit and trash talk to land a boxing match with the best boxer of our generation, and arguably all-time. If the UFC paired him up with a non-ranked fighter from bantamweight, people would buy it. Before his numbers reigned supreme in the UFC, Georges St. Pierre was one of the biggest stars they had. He’s professional, he has never had a drug test failure and he’s beat the majority of his competition with rather ease. The same applies to him, a fight with just about anyone on the UFC roster would have fans pulling out their wallets for tickets, PPV buys and merchandise.Image result for ufc 218 poster

 

For the immediate future, there is currently only one titleholder scheduled to make his defense. That happens next month at UFC 218 when Max Holloway defends his title against Frankie Edgar, which is a great fight by the way. After that, not a single Champion in the UFC has a title fight scheduled. If you match four Champions up against each other and don’t have any Champion defending in the near future, who’s going to headline PPV cards? The UFC match makers have put together some great cards this year and they’ve always done a great job at finding match-ups that generate interest and revenue. However, it’s difficult to envision a scenario in which the UFC gets large PPV numbers without a Champion on a PPV card consistently.

 

The UFC has an obsession with super fights, and us fans are more than slightly to blame. We were robbed of opportunities at the height of MMA’s popularity without fights like Anderson Silva vs. GSP and Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brock Lesnar. Now, everyone wants an opportunity to go chase a second belt or money fight, also due in part to Conor McGregor and his lightweight title shot. Whether that title fight was deserved or not isn’t the point, him and GSP received title shots because they are seen as superstars and the UFC saw dollar signs. The UFC making money is a good thing, despite what most fans and pundits would have you believe. Without money, the UFC wouldn’t be in business today and what they’ve accomplished since the early 90’s is nothing short of incredible. They took a failing business idea and turned it into a mogul and one of the most popular sports in the world today. Fighters getting paid big money is deserved for some, but it comes at a cost. Did you see Conor McGregor’s demeanor after he got TKO’d by Floyd Mayweather? It wasn’t the same Conor that we saw holding his head when Nate Diaz choked him out or when Joseph Duffy did it long before his UFC days. How could you possibly be upset with a performance knowing you just made that kind of money, whatever that number is? Didn’t you notice the same demeanor from Michael Bisping Saturday night? It creates a false sense of accomplishment among UFC fighters, even in losing efforts. GSP’s comeback tour seems like it’s going to be short and sweet anyways, why would you want to pay the guy a ton of money and break records so he can only fight once more and ride off into the sunset filthy rich? Milk those cows as long as you possibly can. Conor McGregor isn’t in a hurry to climb back into the Octagon and I still think there’s a chance he doesn’t again, especially since Dana White shot down his demand last week to be a co-partner and co-promoter with the UFC for his upcoming fight. The UFC initially invested in him as a fighter and they deserve to market one of the greatest ever and get some return on their investment.

 

Making that much money can change a person’s entire career, take a look at Nate Diaz since his fight with Conor. He was not excited to fight prior to that because of his pay and was very open about his lack thereof. He fought Conor McGregor, made millions upon millions and is currently sitting out and may never return. Diaz isn’t a superstar like McGregor but McGregor made him relevant again and he could do the same with Tony Ferguson, win or lose. I’m not saying that a McGregor-Ferguson fight would surpass a potential super fight with GSP in terms of money, but it would pair with a GSP-Whittaker PPV headliner. GSP fighting Robert Whittaker would create a very similar situation. The end result is you’ve either got one of the best ever with a title defense or he uses that fight to catapult into stardom in front of his home crowd in Australia, as that is believed to be where that would take place. Two heads are always better than one and those are the fights for the UFC to book, for the sake of their rankings and credibility.

Throwing In The MMA Towel

We could spend all day talking about fighters who fought, or are currently fighting, longer than they should have. The list goes on and on but unfortunately, it’s a harsh reality for most of the fighters in the sport of MMA today. Between their training regimen, the brutal weight cuts they put their bodies through, and the amount of damage they sustain, working a full-time job isn’t feasible. There are a lot of fighters who work other jobs between MMA fights but a lot of them use fighting to put food on the table. You’ve got guys like Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson who endured more knockouts than they should have in their time. You’ve also got guys like Fedor, “Big Nog” and “Bigfoot” Silva who continue to fight well past their primes and put their bodies through extreme punishment.

Silva has an abnormally large head, so large and thick in fact that multiple opponents have broken their hands punching him.

 

I want us to focus on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva for a few minutes and look at his career. The nickname “Bigfoot” comes from the fact that he wears a size 16 shoe and one look at the massive human and it’s easy to see why. He towered above most of the competition, even at heavyweight, standing at 6’4” and cutting weight to get to 265 pounds on fight night. Silva suffers from a condition known as acromegaly, which is essentially a form of gigantism. Silva has an abnormally large head, so large and thick in fact that multiple opponents have broken their hands punching him. Yet for all of his physical attributes and being deceptively fast for his size, he has suffered knockout after knockout in the last few years of his MMA career. The ban of TRT in the UFC was really the end of the line for Silva when it was banned from the promotion in 2014. Prior to that, Silva had suffered a TKO loss to then-Champion Cain Velasquez after winning two straight against Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem.

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After the Velasquez loss, his second to the Champion, the thought of him fighting for the title a third time was all but gone. He would have needed to win multiple fights against top-tier opponents. Instead, his career took a turn for the worse. He and fellow friend Mark Hunt put on a great fight in front of Hunt’s home crowd in Australia, a bout that ended in a draw, only to have the decision overturned due to elevated testosterone levels from Silva. Silva would go on to lose 5 of his 6 final bouts in the UFC by knockout or TKO, which earned him his release from the promotion in September of 2016. Many thought his career in MMA would be over, whether that was his decision or not. Less than 60 days after being knocked out by Roy Nelson, Silva found himself fighting for Titov Boxing Promotions in the main event, a fight he lost by unanimous decision. In June of 2017, he found himself fighting at Fight Nights Global 68, this time opposite former Bellator heavyweight Champion Vitaly Minakov. Minakov would go on to end the fight via knockout just 1:37 into the second frame.

 

I hadn’t even heard that he’d been given another fight, but read on the internet last week that “Bigfoot” Silva had been knocked out again, this time in a Glory kickboxing bout against Rico Verhoeven. 43 seconds into the second round, the referee made the decision to call the fight, making this Silva’s 10th knockout or TKO loss since 2011. 10 fights stopped in 6 years and for some reason, promotions keep offering him the chance to fight. We watched Chuck Liddell fight punch drunk for the latter part of his career, he was kept from fighting in the UFC after 4 knockout or TKO losses in a 3-year span. Dana White basically made him retire, which was a really honorable thing to do, especially considering the amount of revenue Liddell generated.

Someone has to stop this guy from continuing to fight. Silva is currently the forerunner to be patient zero for CTE in the UFC. Not only has he suffered all of these knockout losses, this is a guy who has a condition that kills most people that suffer from it. MMA fighters have proven time and time again that they don’t know when to stop, it’s up to someone else around him to be the voice of reason. The sport of MMA has changed drastically over the last few years. The banning of TRT and IV use in the UFC paired along with USADA and doping testing have cleaned up the sport and rid it of some of its abusers. The UFC did the right thing parting ways with “Bigfoot” Silva, but his time there and the name he earned have other promotions willing to watch him suffer for a few lousy ticket sales. Ariel Helwani has been accused of a lot of things, being shy isn’t one of them. He called a few weeks ago, after the Kevin Lee weigh-in fiasco, for more weight classes in the UFC to keep this from happening. As spectators, we need to do more to voice our concerns for guys like “Bigfoot” before he ends up dead. We’ve read multiple reports of MMA fighters on the regional scene dying in recent years and one is too many. Although I think the UFC takes a lot of precautions to ensure that fighters don’t put themselves in danger of losing their lives, the other promotions obviously don’t share their enthusiasm.

UFC Fight Night 119: Brunson vs Machida Predictions

UFC Fight Night 119 will be held on Saturday October 28, 2017 at Ginásio do Ibirapuera in São Paulo, Brazil. This card has been changed several times with fighters withdrawing for various injuries. On September 19, promotional newcomer Carlos Felipe was flagged for a potential USADA violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collected July 29. On October 20, it was announced that Felipe accepted a two-year suspension retroactive to the date of his provisional suspension. He tested positive for metabolites of stanozolol, 16β‐hydroxy‐stanozolol and 3’‐hydroxy‐stanozolol. The following is the preview and predictions for the 6 matches that still make up and are scheduled for the event.

John Lineker vs. Marlon Vera

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The main card in Brazil kicks off with a fight that should entertain the crowd and fans. This fight pits the 5th-ranked fighter in the division against a non-ranked opponent who is very dangerous on the ground. Lineker hasn’t been in the Octagon since last December at UFC 207 when he dropped a unanimous, one-sided decision against former Champion TJ Dillashaw. In his 10 months away from the Octagon, Vera has upset Brad Pickett and submitted Brian Kelleher and has quietly put together a 3-fight win streak. Lineker is well-versed and does have good takedowns, although he won’t likely look to use his wrestling against the BJJ Black Belt. Lineker was forced up to bantamweight when he failed to make the flyweight limit on multiple occasions. He finds himself very undersized in the bantamweight division but is still 4-1 against good competition in the division. Lineker is clearly the better and more aggressive fighter. He has some of the best body shots in the division and he’ll use those with his power to put Vera away in the second via TKO.

 

Thiago Santos vs. Jack Hermansson

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This fight isn’t getting a lot of hype but it’s my pick for the Fight of the Night. Santos and Hermansson both have a high finishing rate with serious power and this fight should play out mostly on the feet. Both fighters have put together 2-fight win streaks after being submitted. Both guys have stayed active in their respective careers and have fought for multiple promotions. Although you could apply the “journeyman” label to both fighters, one of them has the chance to earn a big fight in their next contest with a win. Santos is a black belt in Muay Thai while his counterpart is a kickboxer who prefers to strike at range. This fight will be fun and bloody. Hermansson will win a back-and-forth decision.

 

Francisco Trinaldo vs. Jim Miller

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Much like the fight before it, these two fighters are eerily similar in their styles. They’ve both put together long winning streaks in their careers but struggled against the elite of the division. Trinaldo’s most recent trip to the Octagon came back in March when he was submitted by former lightweight title challenger Kevin Lee while Miller dropped a decision to former lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis in July. Miller is just 4-6 in his last 10 fights in the UFC but he always comes to fight and he likes to dirty box and turn his fights into brawls. Trinaldo will gladly oblige and that should make for a very entertaining scrap between 2 of the most well-rounded fighters in the 155-pound division. Both guys are comfortable on their feet and on the ground and I expect a little bit of everything in this one. Although Miller has been fighting for much longer, Trinaldo is 5 years older at 39. For that reason, give me Miller with a split decision win.

 

Pedro Munhoz vs. Rob Font

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Like the rest of the fights on this card, this is another great match-up pairing by the UFC. Munhoz has won 3 straight while his opponent has won 2 straight. Both fighters are currently ranked in the top-15 of a strange bantamweight division and have the opportunity to jump into the top-10. Munhoz has finishes in 3 of his 4 wins while Font has won all 4 of his bouts by submission, KO or TKO. Font will enjoy a 6-inch reach advantage and that will play a big part in this fight as Munhoz will likely look to get this fight to the mat where he can display his BJJ black belt skills. Font was knocked out viciously by John Lineker but has looked very good in his UFC career. Munhoz has been the only person who’s given Jimmie Rivera any kinds of trouble in his short time in the UFC and that speaks volumes for his skills. This fight could go either way but despite the reach disadvantage, I like Munhoz to control this fight on the ground and wrap up a limb with a second-round submission.

 

Demian Maia vs. Colby Covington

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After his most recent performance, a unanimous decision loss to Tyron Woodley that set the record for fewest strikes landed in a five-round fight, it’s hard to be excited for Maia’s return to the Octagon. Colby Covington has been campaigning for a big fight since his unanimous decision win over Dong Hyun Kim. I don’t think we will ever see Maia challenge for a title again in the UFC but a win for Covington will get him very close. Maia is ten years older than Covington and his BJJ background speaks for itself and he could arguably be the best BJJ practitioner the UFC has ever seen. Unfortunately, Covington’s background is primarily his wrestling. He could fall right into the trap of Maia, but I don’t think there’s anyone in the division dumb enough to enter the world of Demian Maia. This fight could easily be a headliner for this card and I expect a very intriguing chess match. Covington is supremely confident right now and I just have to think Maia isn’t based on their most recent performances. Covington has the same kind of confidence Weidman had in his run to the top, I’m aboard the Covington train until it derails. He’s out to make a statement and he’ll clip Maia in the second and finish with strikes on the ground.

 

Derek Brunson vs. Lyoto Machida

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I think at this point it almost goes without saying that Americans have not fared well in the land of Brazil in enemy territory. Fortunately for Brunson, his opponent has dropped 3 out of 4 with his only win in that span coming against C.B. Dolloway and hasn’t found since July of 2015 returning from a USADA test fail. Brunson got back on track after losing two straight to Anderson Silva and interim Champion Robert Whittaker when he knocked out fan favorite Dan Kelly in June. Brunson has solid wrestling but he’s fallen in love with his knockout power as he’s finished his last 5 fights with strikes. For most, standing with Machida has not turned out well. He fought Whittaker with reckless abandon and threw wild haymakers and wound up getting countered for the better part of 4 minutes before he was finished towards the end of the first round. Lyoto Machida, although he’s seen better days, is one of the best counter strikers we’ve ever seen and he’ll gladly play that role if Brunson fights recklessly again. Machida looked like a future middleweight Champion after beating Mark Munoz and Gegard Mousasi in his first two fights at 185 pounds. He gave Chris Weidman all he could handle in the Championship rounds of their UFC 175 title fight but ultimately fell short in a decision. He bounced back with a first-round TKO of C.B. Dolloway in December of 2014 before being submitted by Luke Rockhold in April of 2015. Just two months later he ran into the buzzsaw that is Yoel Romero and was finished in the third round. He’s dropped 3 out of 4, has been away for 28 months and is coming off a 2-year suspension for a failed drug test at age 39. There’s not a lot to like about this fight for Machida, he’s become more chinny in the latter part of his career and Brunson hits really hard. If Machida can win this fight, I’ll climb back on the train, but this is Brunson’s fight to lose even in Brazil. Brunson by first-round KO is the pick.

 

 

Is Ferguson The Perfect Dance Partner For McGregor’s Return?

With UFC 216 over, Tony Ferguson can finally breathe a small sigh of relief. His third-round submission win over Kevin Lee was the culmination of an exciting, drama-filled weekend in the UFC. In a scene that is all too familiar with Ferguson, his opponent struggled to make weight for their interim title fight with Kevin Lee weighing in at the 25th hour of the weigh-in only to be a pound over. Due to a rather unknown rule in Nevada, the doctors cleared him to cut the additional pound with an extra hour of weight cutting opportunity. Lee hit the mark three hours after his opponent, weighing in at 154.5 pounds, making their interim title fight official. Lee joked with Ariel Helwani the day prior that he was 19 pounds over and had had eaten tiramisu. It seemed like a jab at Khabib Nurmagomedov and his weigh-in failure from UFC 209, but Lee apparently wasn’t kidding about being 19 pounds over and struggled mightily. He appeared to have a staph infection as well, which would certainly affect his ability to cut weight.

Ferguson may not have the charisma and drawing power that Nate Diaz offers, but Dana White shot down rumors of a trilogy fight quickly, stating that McGregor vs Ferguson “has to happen.”

Ferguson did what he usually does—start off slow, find an opening, wear his opponent out and wrap up a choke. He reminds me a lot of Tim Duncan, who will go down as one of the greatest to ever play in the NBA. He didn’t have any real finesse to his game, he just stayed quiet and let his game do all of the talking for him, much like Ferguson. Tony’s ripped off 10 straight in one of the thickest divisions in the UFC right now and it hasn’t always been pretty, but he continues to find ways to win. He found himself in somewhat unfamiliar territory in the closing seconds of round one with Kevin Lee raining elbows and punches from full mount. He bounced back once Lee started to slow down and was able to lock in a triangle choke after an unsuccessful armbar just a few seconds prior in the third round. He wasted little time in his post-fight interview to call out “McNugget” in an expletive-filled callout.

 

Image result for tony ferguson and conor mcgregorFerguson may not have the charisma and drawing power that Nate Diaz offers, but Dana White shot down rumors of a trilogy fight quickly, stating that McGregor vs Ferguson “has to happen.” I agree. Had Nate Diaz not beat McGregor the first time, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. He’s one of the most unreliable UFC fighters on the roster, fighting just 4 times in the last 4 calendar years. He’s 2-2 in those 4 fights, coming in 5 pounds over for his December 2014 affair with Rafael dos Anjos and getting beat handily. His other 2 wins were the first over McGregor and a one-sided beating of Michael Johnson. He’s made some ludicrous demands in regards to money as if he’s the draw and McGregor isn’t.

 

A fight between Tony Ferguson and Conor McGregor needs to happen not only to unify the lightweight titles, but also because it’d surely be a fun fight to watch. Prior to his win Saturday night, Ferguson’s last 5 fights had won some form of Performance of the Night bonus. He’s finished 7 of his current 10-fight win streak and he continues to evolve inside of the Octagon. He’s more than comfortable off his back, although that’s not something he’d have to be too concerned with against McGregor, and has a very diverse striking attack on his feet. From a technical standpoint, he isn’t as precise or powerful as McGregor, but he seems to get stronger as the fight goes on. Few fighters in the UFC could match his pace over the course of a five-round fight and McGregor is not one of them.

 

For all of his accomplishments, Ferguson does have a weakness that’s been seen in his last few fights, he absorbs a lot of punches. Lando Vannata had him all but beat in the first round of their fight when he landed a flush head kick. He somehow bounced back and found a second wind in the second round but he was in all sorts of trouble. Kevin Lee, whose striking is far from great, had some success early on finding his chin with punches and even kicks. That’s great news for McGregor, who’s one of the best ever at finding his opponents’ chin. Ferguson has started slow in 3 of his last 4 fights and McGregor, by comparison, starts off fast and slows down as the fight goes on. As is the usual narrative, McGregor has his best chance of success early in the fight and that makes this fight extremely dangerous for Ferguson.

When looking at the landscape of the lightweight division, Ferguson, aside from the fact that he’s now the interim lightweight Champion, is the only suitable dance partner for McGregor. McGregor’s made it well-known that he doesn’t trust Khabib to show up for a fight on weight, and as well he shouldn’t. He’s already beat Eddie Alvarez, who’s currently booked for a match-up with Justin Gaethje. The process of elimination in the top-5 of the division leaves Edson Barboza as the only other potential match-up and that’s just not in the cards. He receives a lot of criticism for his choice of opponents but McGregor is simply looking for someone consistent who can move the needle like him. Although Ferguson wouldn’t be the biggest name in the division, to quote Dana White, ”it doesn’t just make sense, it has to happen.”

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Ferguson’s pressure has made many of his opponents wilt, including former lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos, who’s a great pressure fighter himself. McGregor likes to apply pressure himself but he’s also pretty comfortable counter punching, even from his back foot as we saw in the Aldo fight. Both fighters use great movement, fight with their hands mostly down and use odd angles to land shots. They’re very similar in style but McGregor is the far superior striker while Ferguson is the far superior grappler. Ferguson was being outstruck on the feet against Edson Barboza when they met in December of 2015 and he had to resort to his grappling. If there’s one area where we know McGregor isn’t supremely confident, it’s on the ground. His takedown defense against Diaz was good but he struggled against Chad Mendes at UFC 189, taken down multiple times in the first two rounds. Ferguson has sneaky takedowns and trips and that would be where he wants the fight to take place. It would, and should, be an interesting clash of styles if they meet in the Octagon to unify the titles. I look for this fight to be booked in the coming weeks and headline UFC 219 in Las Vegas on December 30. It could end up playing out a lot of different ways but it would draw the masses and it would leave one of them as the undisputed lightweight Champion.

UFC 216 Predictions

Beneil Dariush vs. Evan Dunham

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The main card kicks off with a lightweight bout between top-15 ranked fighters Beneil Dariush and Evan Dunham. The latter has had 17 fights in the UFC, winning 11 of those, while dropping 6 to only the elite competition in the 155-pound division. Dunham is good everywhere but I wouldn’t say he’s great anywhere. He’s also a four-time Performance of the Night winner and has won four straight. Dariush is 7 years younger at 28 years old and boasts an impressive 8-3 record as a lightweight in the UFC. Both fighters are black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but Dunham has only one submission victory while his opponent owns 3. Both fighters are 5’10” while Dariush will own a 2-inch reach advantage and does have the power to end this fight on the feet. He was doing well against Edson Barboza before he caught a flying knee that rendered him unable to continue. Dunham has struggled with the upper echelon of the division for too long, and while the jury is still out on whether or not Dariush is elite, he does hold notable wins over Jim Miller and Michael Johnson, who are much better than any fighter Dunham has beat in his time. Dariush wins a close, back-and-forth decision.

 

Fabricio Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis

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2 of the biggest guys on the entire roster look to get back on track, both coming off losses in their most recent performances. Both fighters really underperformed, Werdum found some success with his punches and had Overeem all but finished on his feet but opted for a takedown instead of follow-up shots that earned him a split decision loss. Lewis wore out over the course of his four-round affair with Mark Hunt and fell victim to a Hunt TKO, which there’s no shame in. Werdum has lost 2 of his last 3, the other loss coming at the hands of current Champion Stipe Miocic in a first-round knockout shocker. He’s improved his standup dramatically but he did nothing to push the pace in the Overeem fight, even though he seems to have a better gas tank than Overeem. He’s still much more comfortable on the ground and should look to get this fight to the mat as soon as possible. Lewis has an underrated gas tank but that wasn’t the case in his last fight, wearing himself out and getting finished more from exhaustion than from punishment. Prior to the loss to Hunt, he had won 6 straight, finishing 5 of those 6 fights. He had a brief retirement after the loss to Hunt but now finds himself still very close to a title shot. A win over a former Champion like Werdum would put him within reaching distance of a shot at gold. Fortunately for him, every fight starts standing up and let it be known that is where he wants this fight to stay. If Werdum is able to drag him to the ground, he’s in big trouble. His last 3 fights have all been scheduled for 5 rounds and I think a 3-round fight suits him better. Lewis likes to push the pace and chase his opponents down and throw combinations. He’ll have to be careful doing that against someone as seasoned as Werdum, but he will evade the takedowns en route to a unanimous decision.

 

Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray BorgImage result for demetrious johnson vs. ray borg

 

Demetrious Johnson may very well be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. Although the idea of a superfight with TJ Dillashaw would likely have served a much better fight on paper, I’m sold on Ray Borg. Borg is only 5-2 in the UFC and has struggled to make weight in a few of his bouts, most recently his scheduled title bout from last month at UFC 215. Both of his losses came by way of decision and he’s never been put in trouble in his young UFC career. He’ll have his hands full with the best flyweight of all time, by a wide margin I might add. Johnson has slick submissions, great takedowns, the gas tank to go for days and the striking to compete with anyone in the division. Borg possesses all of those same skills, but doesn’t have anywhere near the experience that Johnson has. Mighty Mouse comes into this fight looking for his 11th consecutive title defense, with the opportunity to pass Anderson Silva for most consecutive title defenses in UFC history. Borg was quoted as saying that TUF 24 Winner Tim Elliott laid the blueprint to beating the Champion. While Elliott did enjoy some early success and had the Champion in trouble with a submission attempt, I don’t think a blueprint exists to beat a guy as well-rounded as Johnson. His resume speaks for itself and aside from his first fights with Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, he’s beat the majority of his opposition with ease. For as great as he is, I think Mighty Mouse avoided the fight with TJ because he saw the bout with Borg as an easier road. I also think he’s distracted by multiple things, including but not limited to, not headlining a PPV and taking a back seat to an interim title that really means nothing at this point. I wrote months ago about how I believed Borg was the guy to dethrone the Champion and I still believe that to be true. Borg is younger, hungry and extremely confident. He’s also coached by Greg Jackson, whose fighters always have a great game plan in Championship fights. I’ll stick to my guns and pick Borg to shock the world and win a unanimous decision.

 

Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee

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I want to get excited about this fight but I just can’t. I love the trash talk that’s ensued between these two and I think Kevin Lee is a great talker, but I’m not sure he’s a great fighter. Watching him fight, I don’t see any areas where he can be problematic for a guy like Tony Ferguson. Aside from a minor setback that came in the form of a unanimous decision loss against Michael Johnson, Ferguson has looked unstoppable. He overlooked Lando Vannata when he stepped in on late notice to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov and found himself in early trouble but he rebounded in the second route and choked him out with a D’Arce choke. In the last 2 years, Ferguson has beat Josh Thomson, Edson Barboza, Vannata and Rafael dos Anjos. In the same 2 years, Lee has defeated 6 guys but none of them are as good as the competition Ferguson has fought recently. His last win, a submission win over Michael Chiesa, was very controversial and ultimately got him this fight. Both fighters are well-rounded and are very evenly-matched when it comes to height and reach. Lee doesn’t have what I consider to be big fight experience and Ferguson has had his fair share of big fights, having gone five full rounds with former lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos. Ferguson fights long and keeps his opponents at the end of his jab but has the grappling skills to compete with the best in the division. Both fighters grew up in Michigan and attended Grand Valley State University as wrestlers. Ferguson is 8 years older and for that reason, they never faced each other in any form of wrestling nor did they spend time together on the same team. Ferguson’s chokes are some of the best in the division but he proved his standup is lethal as well when he beat Edson Barboza back in December of 2015. Lee certainly has the tools to upset the favorite but Ferguson looks poised to take over the lightweight division. The winner of this fight, although they will be the interim lightweight Champion, may have to sit out while Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz settle their score, although that’s not been made official yet. Ferguson will use his boxing and striking at range to pepper Lee and wear him out over time, mixing in some takedowns throughout the fight. Ferguson will finish the fight via submission in the third round and make a strong case for a fight with McGregor to unify the lightweight belts.

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