Tag: UFC on FOX

UFC on FOX: Poirier vs. Gaethje Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC on FOX: Poirier vs. Gaethje Punch Drunk Predictions

I’ve got family in town and have been running around for the entire 36 hours they’ve been here. The next 8 days of my life are planned down to the minute. There is little time for idle chatter, so here we go.

These are the UFC on FOX: Poirier vs. Gaethje Punch Drunk Predictions.

Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje

The big question for me in this one is “can Poirier win a big fight” and I’m still leaning towards no. He’s been a fringe contender for the last couple years across two divisions, but whenever that key fight that could carry him into the championship mix comes up, Poirier falters or something happens that causes the fight to get ruled a No Contest.

Additionally, Gaethje is the kind of guy that is going to draw Poirier away from his game plan and lure him into a brawl and that favours Gaethje, who has shown a greater ability to take punishment and return heavy fire.

I have a feeling this one doesn’t make it out of the first round, but it should be an absolute smoke show for as long as it lasts.

Prediction: Justin Gaethje

Carlos Condit vs. Alex Oliveira

Oliveira is gritty and dangerous and capable of hanging in a knock-down, drag-out scrap, but I think Condit will get back into the win column here.

As long as the former interim welterweight champion is firing on all cylinders – or at least 85% of his cylinders – he should be able to push the pace and put hands on the Brazilian “Cowboy,” who tends to trust his chin and his hands more than he tries to avoid punches and escape bad situations. Condit still has a diverse arsenal and a ton of experience, so after flubbing his comeback late last year against Neil Magny, I expect “The Natural Born Killer” to earn a victory in this one.

Prediction: Carlos Condit

Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori

I’m very tempted to pick the upset because Rob Wilkinson got Adesanya down three times and I think Vettori has a much better top game than the Australian veteran. That being said, Adesanya defended 12 more takedown attempts and was able to piece up “Razor Rob” en route to stopping him in the second and Vettori has a bad habit of stopping punches with his face.

I do think this will be a much closer fight than most seem to be envisioning – not because I’m don’t think Adesanya is a quality prospect, but because I think Vettori is much better than everyone is giving him credit for heading into this one. I truly believe we’ll learn a lot more about both athletes here and whoever ends up coming away with the win should established himself as the top prospect in the middleweight division.

Prediction: Israel Adesanya

Michelle Waterson vs. Cortney Casey

Unless Casey comes out looking to engage in a staring match like she did against Felice Herrig, I think she’s got the more active, more potent game and will end up handing Waterson her third straight loss.

Tecia Torres was able to find success in the grappling department opposite Waterson last time out and I believe Casey is a bigger, stronger athlete than Torres and boasts superior chops on the ground. Remember, she quickly tapped Randa Markos and has spent this camp working exclusively with the crew at The MMA Lab, so don’t be surprised if she looks her best in this one.

Prediction: Cortney Casey

Preliminary Card Predictions

Antonio Carlos Junior def. Tim Boetsch
Muslim Salikhov def. Ricky Rainey
Wilson Reis def. John Moraga
Krzysztof Jotko def. Brad Tavares

Gilbert Burns def. Dan Moret
Lauren Mueller def. Shana Dobson
Yushin Okami def. Dhiego Lima
Arjan Bhullar def. Adam Wieczorek
Matthew Lopez def. Alejandro Perez
Luke Sanders def. Patrick Williams

2018 Predictions Record: 64-48-0 (.571)

UFC on FOX: Emmett vs. Stephens Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC on FOX: Emmett vs. Stephens Punch Drunk Predictions

So the good news – for me and anyone who chooses to follow my picks for wagering purposes (Hi Patty B!) – is that I went 8-4 with my selections for last weekend’s UFC Fight Night event in Austin, Texas, including posting a 5-1 mark on the main card.

The bad news (for only me) is that hitting at 66.6 percent (repeating) on that show still didn’t pull my yearly win percentage up above the 60 percent threshold, which shows you both (a) how detrimental a couple bad weeks can be and (b) how difficult it’s going to be for me to reach the goal I’ve set for myself of getting 70 percent of my picks right over the course of the year.

But I’m not hedging and I’m not changing my target. The goal remains the same.

Here are my picks for Saturday’s UFC on FOX fight card in Orlando.

These are the Punch Drunk Predictions.

Josh Emmett vs. Jeremy Stephens

I don’t want to discredit what Emmett did last time out when he flattened Ricardo Lamas in Winnipeg. Beating “The Bully” is no easy task and he landed a beautiful counter shot that laid him out stiff; it was a great connection and a very big win for the Team Alpha Male member.

Looking at his past results, that finish feels like a little bit of an anomaly, as Emmett has never been one to just straight up settle fools with walk-off shots like that. He’s more of a grinder who buries you with volume or chokes you out on the ground and his four fights before that – including a loss at lightweight to Desmond Green – all went the distance.

That’s the long way of me saying I need to see it again before I believe Emmett is a guy that is going to roll into the Octagon and sleep guys on a consistent basis.

Additionally, he’s fighting someone who has only been knocked out once (I was there, it was a beautiful shot) and has only been finished four times in his entire career, so the odds aren’t in his favour.

But the biggest factor in me taking Stephens here is that the 31-year-old veteran has found his rhythm and finally harnessed all the raw potential and power that has made him fun to watch throughout his career and turned it into an aggressive, but technical approach inside the cage that has produced his best two-fight stretch to date.

Stephens now uses all of his weapons effectively and dictates the terms of engagement, halting aggressive fighters with leg kicks and crashing home crisp, forceful combinations on guys that want to sit back looking to counter. He’s refined his technique and found an approach that works for him and I think he’ll continue this nice little run he’s on here.

Prediction: Jeremy Stephens

Jessica Andrade vs. Tecia Torres

Torres has been on a nice little run of late, but this is a terrible matchup for her. She is most successful when she can get into point-fighting bouts against fellow volume strikers with minimal power or use her good, but not great grappling to control things along the fence and on the ground.

It’s why I loved her fight with Michelle Waterson – it was tailor-made for Torres to do exactly what she did and felt like an easy pick.

And that’s why Andrade is such an easy pick here.

The compact Brazilian does not care about being hit and is the superior grappler of the two, so Torres is going to have to deal with a powerhouse walking her down and firing blistering combinations at her for 15 minutes.

Now, is it possible that she tries to pick and move and avoids any prolonged exchanges, eking out a victory? Maybe, but I just don’t think she’s going to be able to do enough damage to swing the fight in her favour if that’s the approach she takes.

I expect Andrade to march forward and connect with enough heavy combinations and high amplitude takedowns to win this handily on the scorecards.

Prediction: Jessica Andrade

Ovince Saint Preux vs. Ilir Latifi

I think this fight hinges on which version of Saint Preux shows up on Saturday evening in Orlando. There are times where he is too relaxed, too lackadaisical inside the Octagon and more aggressive opponents are able to put it on him, but when he’s looking to pull the trigger and moving well, OSP can be a handful.

Knowing how hyped he is to be fighting in his home state for the first time in his career, my guess is that he shows up ready to work and if that’s the case, I think he should win this one fairly easily by working on the outside, picking his spots and potentially catching Latifi with something unexpected, like the kick he blasted Corey Anderson with last time out.

Prediction: OSP

Mike Perry vs. Max Griffin

Listen – Griffin is tough and has a little pop in his hands, but this one is all about getting Perry a showcase win at home and setting him up for a bigger, more high profile pairing later this year.

Whether you like him or not, you have to admit that “Platinum” is tough and can crack and I just don’t see Griffin being able to go in there and out-work Perry over 15 minutes. Maybe I’m mistaken and he turns this into a grind, but the more likely scenario to me is these two trading shots and Perry landing something filthy that brings the fight to a sudden halt.

Then he’ll probably say something stupid on live network television.

Prediction: Mike Perry

Preliminary Card Predictions

Brian Kelleher def. Renan Barao
Sara McMann def. Marion Reneau
Angela Hill def. Maryna Moroz
Ben Saunders def. Alan Jouban
Marcin Prachnio def. Sam Alvey
Rani Yahya def. Russell Doane
Eric Shelton def. Alex Perez
Manny Bermudez def. Albert Morales

2018 Prediction Record: 41-28-0 (.594)

UFC Austin Aftermath: It’s All About How You Frame It

UFC Austin Aftermath: It’s All About How You Frame It

Sunday night’s return to the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas produced an entertaining night of action, with twice as many fights ending inside the distance as went to the scorecards and Derrick Lewis and Donald Cerrone closing out the show in memorable fashion.

A couple new arrivals looked outstanding. Two of the four bouts that lasted all three rounds were wildly entertaining. Sage Northcutt and James Vick gave us things to talk about as they both try to scale the lightweight ladder. Lewis did what Lewis does, inside the cage and on the microphone afterwards, while Cerrone halted his three-fight losing streak with a first-round buzzer-beater against Yancy Medeiros, who promptly scaled the fence and shared a wonderful moment with Cowboy’s Grandma at cageside.

This was a solid little card on paper and it managed to exceed expectations, which prompted MMAFighting.com and Yahoo! Sports contributor (and all-around great dude) Dave Doyle to tweet the following:

This was my response:

 

Dave is all the way correct – the pitchforks only come out when we sit through a six-hour slog and even those events that are littered with decisions can get a pass at times because there are one or two outstanding finishes or a couple of intriguing matchups that captured everyone’s interest going in, like at UFC 219.

What’s interesting (probably only to me) is how much the way we frame these events and the athletes competing impacts the way we experience the shows themselves and interpret the results.

This month’s pay-per-view event in Perth, Australia was lambasted going in, but once the smoke cleared, everyone came away talking about Curtis Blaydes’ breakthrough effort against Mark Hunt, the upside of Jake Matthews, Tai Tuivasa and Tyson Pedro and christening Israel Adesanya as the next big thing in the UFC.

Because most had written off the show from the outset, there wasn’t much of time and energy invested into discussing what a win for Blaydes could mean, how Jussier Formiga’s fight with Ben Nguyen was a Top 10 flyweight battle with legit divisional implications or how there was a ton of emerging talent on the card.

All the talk about this event happened retroactively, leaving most people playing catch-up on the key performances that transpired at a show the most prominent voices in the sport didn’t spend much time discussing.

Since Sunday’s card featured popular fighters atop the marquee and a few more familiar names scattered throughout the show, it received more attention in the days leading up to the event, even though there were fewer Top 10 matchups (one) and ranked fighters (six) competing in Austin as there were the week before (three and seven, respectively) in Australia.

But the names were bigger this weekend and watching the fights didn’t cost anything more than you’re already paying for cable and so the anticipation for the show was far greater.

And as Dave said, no one was moaning about there being too many events and too many fights before, during or after this weekend’s event because UFC Fight Night: Cowboy vs. Medeiros delivered.

I believe that we need to get to a place where we’re having more proactive conversations about the impact of various fights, the upside of different competitors and identifying the intriguing elements on every card.

People used to get snarky when I would write my weekly “5 Reasons to Watch” column, especially before some of the televised events that didn’t feature many big names. While there were a couple times where penning the piece was genuinely challenging – I once cited Brian Ebersole’s chest hair as a reason to tune in – for the most part, I can look at any fight card and give you five or more elements that genuinely interest me.

They may not interest casual fans that only parachute in for the biggest events and more recognizable names, but they should be of interest to the most prominent voices in our sport and anyone who identifies him or herself as a fight fan.

The fact that they probably won’t is a problem.

Everyone wants to talk about how the UFC needs to get back to the sporting architecture that rewards winning and makes tracking a fighter’s progression up the divisional ladder easier to follow, but not enough time is committed to charting those journeys and giving attention to those crucial fights happening just beyond the walls of the Top 15. The fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Jeremy Kennedy a couple weeks ago was a great example of this, as was the Formiga-Nguyen scrap I mentioned earlier.

The former was a meeting between two featherweights with a combined 6-0 record in the UFC hoping to break through in division that is really interesting right now, while the latter was a bout between Top 10 competitors in a division that is in dire need of fresh contenders.

Neither got much attention because nothing outside of the main event and how much the card sucked got much attention.

The problem is that now Formiga is a win away from challenging for the title and Volkanovski is probably going to face someone established next time out and everyone will be wondering who this guy is that came out of nowhere and is fighting Myles Jury or Darren Elkins.

Nobody comes out of nowhere; it’s just a matter of putting in the time to familiarize yourself with the athletes stepping into the cage and paying attention to more than just the most popular names in the sport.

We in the media don’t do that enough, we don’t encourage fans to do it enough and that’s how we end up where we are right now.

Instagram posts and Twitter beefs get you more attention than winning fights and athletes are often judged more on their ability to generate pay-per-view buys or their personalities than they’re performance inside the cage.

Mike Perry gets tons of attention, but Neil Magny can’t get any love, even though he’s got nine more UFC victories than “Platinum,” has fought significantly better competition and has been a fixture in the rankings for three years.

Adesanya shines in his debut against a dude who is likely going to be released now and becomes everyone’s favourite new fighter, but Thiago Santos earns his fourth straight stoppage win – against a game-as-hell Anthony Smith – and it’s crickets.

Demetrious Johnson has won 13 straight fights and successfully defended the flyweight title 11 consecutive times and yet we’re still talking about what more he needs to do to “get over” with fans and become a bigger star.

Dude hit the most ridiculous submission I’ve ever seen last time out and is one of the complete fighters in the history of this sport and everyone still wants more. Winning isn’t enough, neither is being one of the most skilled fighters to ever grace the Octagon, not to mention a great role model and legitimately entertaining interview.

Same goes for heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, who didn’t say much of anything in the run-up to his fight with Francis Ngannou, but went out there and handled business like a professional, which should be the most important piece, but isn’t.

If that doesn’t change, we’re never going to get to the point where this sport operates more like an actual sport.

Maybe it never will because the pay-per-view model requires folks to be excited to part with their money 13 times a year and simply being the best light heavyweight or bantamweight in the world facing the No. 1 contender doesn’t seem to be enough to make a lot of people open their wallets, but if we start focusing more on the wins and losses and less on the things people say or post on social media, maybe that will change.

Maybe if we took more of a long-range view of things and cared about the progression of divisions and not just individual fighters, we wouldn’t be caught off guard by the likes of Curtis Blaydes and wouldn’t dismiss legitimate talents because they don’t have big personalities or massive fan followings.

Maybe if we stopped complaining about how Josh Emmett is in the main event of a FOX card on Saturday and instead looked at it his bout with Jeremy Stephens as the exciting Top 10 featherweight pairing it is more people would actually be excited about what is a fun main card and quality lineup from top to bottom.

Seriously – we’re getting two Top 10 pairings and a Top 5 fight in the strawweight division, plus a Mike Perry appearance, on a two-hour main card that will wrap up early compared to most events and the thing I’ve heard the most about this card is how Emmett headlining is some kind of catastrophe.

Dude just absolutely starched a Top 5 fixture and former title challenger on FOX two months ago. I know he missed weight, but what are you going to do – stick him in the middle of next weekend’s pay-per-view that everyone is going to moan about because it doesn’t feature enough big names so that his momentum is effectively wasted and his chance to build on that win over Ricardo Lamas happens while fewer people are watching?

Besides, people would whine even more if the women were given the headlining assignment, even though the fight between Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres should be fire and could very well produce the next title challenger in the strawweight division.

If that doesn’t illustrate that there is a problem with the way we frame things right now, I don’t know what to say.

UFC on FOX: Jacare vs. Brunson 2 Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC on FOX: Jacare vs. Brunson 2 Punch Drunk Predictions

Saturday’s event on FOX is another one of those cards everyone says it’s terrible and not worth watching, but as per usual, I beg to differ.

Look, I’m not going to try to convince you that this is some stacked event and you’re a jerk if you aren’t hyped to see Gregor Gillespie do his thing, but I will say that the main event should be compelling and competitive, the co-main will be fun and that there are a handful of intriguing up-and-comers on this show – like Gillespie – that you might want to keep an eye on.

Here’s how I see things shaking out.

These are the UFC on FOX: Jacare vs. Brunson 2 Punch Drunk Predictions.

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Derek Brunson

One thing I know for certain is that this is going to last longer than the first time these two met when Jacare iced a green Brunson in 41 seconds thanks largely to a beautiful inside right hand to the chin.

Under normal circumstances, I would probably take Souza – he has a more diverse offensive arsenal and is the savvier fighter, but he’s been off since losing to Robert Whittaker last year, had two different surgeries since then and contemplated walking away. Couple that with Brunson having serious power and I think we see the hometown boy draw level with another knockout win.

Prediction: Derek Brunson

Dennis Bermudez vs. Andre Fili

This one feel pretty straightforward to me: Bermudez by wrestling.

As much as Fili could stick on the outside and snipe with long punches and occasional kicks, I just don’t see Bermudez letting him hang out at range and trading with him. This is going to be a classic “crash forward and grind” performance from the perennial Top 10 fixture Bermudez.

Prediction: Dennis Bermudez

Gregor Gillespie vs. Jordan Rinaldi

Gillespie is a legit lightweight to watch.

I know the division is loaded and he’s 31 and he hasn’t fought anyone of real substance yet, but trust me on this one: “The Gift” is the goods.

He’s a four-time All-American and a perfect 10-0 since transitioning to mixed martial arts. His hands are still a work in progress, but he’s shown flashes there too, like when he blasted Andrew Holbrook in no time flat in his sophomore appearance in the Octagon.

This one is going to be lopsided.

Prediction: Gregor Gillespie

Drew Dober vs. Frank Camacho

Losing Ovince Saint Preux and Ilir Latifi forced this welterweight fight to get moved up to the main card and it should end up being a Fight of the Night contender as Camacho has taken home an additional $50,000 in each of his first two UFC appearances and Dober is down to scrap with anyone.

As much as Camacho’s pressure could make this interesting, Dober is the better overall talent and his technical advantages should carry him to victory. He’s quietly been very good since moving to Colorado to work with what used to be the Elevation Fight Team and should be able to make “Frank the Crank” pay no matter whether he stays outside or crashed forward.

Prediction: Drew Dober

Preliminary Card Picks

Bobby Green def. Erik Koch
Mirsad Bektic def. Godofredo Pepey
Mara Romero Borella def. Katlyn Chookagian
Randa Markos def. Juliana Lima
Justine Kish def. Ji Yeon Kim
Vinc Pichel def. Joaquim Silva
Niko Price def. George Sullivan
Cory Sandhagen def. Austin Arnett

2018 Prediction Record: 14-8-0 (.636)

UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos 10 Things We Learned Last Night

UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos 10 Things We Learned Last Night

RDA Deserves Next

Rafael dos Anjos deserves the next welterweight title shot.

Saturday night, the former lightweight kingpin marched into the Octagon and put it on former champ Robbie Lawler for 25 minutes, distancing himself from the vaunted veteran with each successive five-minute round until the final results read 50-45 across the board. It was a third straight victory over a Top 10 opponent (at the time of their fight) for dos Anjos in his new weight class and the kind of drubbing that should land him opposite Tyron Woodley the next time “The Chosen One” defends his title.

While Colby Covington has been talking a blue streak and put up a couple quality wins (and five straight overall) to enter the conversation, dos Anjos’ pressure style is tailor-made to draw an exciting performance out of the champion and there is a difference between grinding out a win over Demian Maia and laying the wood to Robbie Lawler.

Performance, results and reputations need to carry more weight than trash talk and social media campaigns and by those measures, RDA is the clear choice to be the next challenger for the welterweight title.

Upheaval at Featherweight Continues

Josh Emmett made an emphatic contribution to the changing complexion of the featherweight division this weekend, planting a beautiful check left hook on the chin of Ricardo Lamas as the two were exchanging punches in the pocket that left “The Bully” rigid on the canvas as the Team Alpha Male staple celebrated.

In the last couple weeks, long-time champion Jose Aldo was handed a second consecutive loss at the hands of Max Holloway and perennial contender Cub Swanson was choked out by Brian Ortega, shifting the focus at the top of the 145-pound weight class from the established names to the new talent climbing the ladder.

Emmett’s performance on Saturday adds to that as the once-beaten 31-year-old is less than two years into his UFC career and now finds himself in the thick of the title chase. While he still has more work to do before fighting for the belt, Emmett should get the opportunity to face another established contender next time out.

Quality Performance from Santiago Ponzinibbio

There have been a number of fighters who had excellent campaigns inside the Octagon in 2017 and Santiago Ponzinibbio is one of them. The American Top Team product collected his third win of the year with a hard-earned 29-28 sweep of the scorecards against Mike Perry in “The People’s Main Event” in Winnipeg.

Now riding a six-fight winning streak, it has been a slow burn for the former Ultimate Fighter: Brazil contestant who began his UFC career with a loss to Ryan LaFlare and was 2-2 after his first four outings. He hasn’t lost since and has continued to show improvements each time out, displaying more grit and toughness than we’d seen in the past in this back-and-forth battle with Perry.

He’s a man on the rise in the always competitive and freakishly deep welterweight division and someone we should been talking about far more heading into this one and definitely cannot leave out of conversations about the top contenders in the future.

Very few people manage to string together six straight wins and even fewer do it in a shark-infested division like welterweight, so it’s time to start giving “The Ponz” his due and treating him like the contender he is going forward.

Pump the Breaks on Mike Perry Hype

Perry turned in a good effort against Ponzinibbio on Saturday night in “The Peg,” but ultimately, “Platinum” came out on the wrong side of the scorecards and it should bring the hype of the middle-of-the-pack welterweight to an end.

I get that he has a weird magnetism and talks all kinds of junk, but he’s now been in the cage with two quality opponents (sorry Jake Ellenberger) and come away with losses both times. He’s fun to watch and capable of blistering anyone in the division, but he’s also largely unproven, so how about we hold off an treating him like a contender before he’s actually cracked the Top 15?

Far more people were talking about Perry heading into this fight than Ponzinibbio even though the latter was coming off a 90-second knockout win over Gunnar Nelson and sporting a five-fight winning streak.

If you’re wondering why the UFC struggles to create stars and quality fighters fail to connect with the larger audience, that’s why – we spend too much time hyping guys who don’t necessarily deserve it because they’re flamboyant personalities and overlook proven, polished, more deserving talent in the process.

Still Sharp, Still a Contender

Glover Teixeira’s matchup with Misha Cirkunov could have been a passing of the torch situation – a fight where the veteran contender gave way to the younger, more athletic upstart – and early on, that’s how it looked like things were going to play out.

Cirkunov started quick and looked to be finding a rhythm on the feet when a small mistake gave Teixeira a chance to clinch up and quickly bring the fight to the floor. From there, the Brazilian veteran went to work, attacking submissions before transitioning to back mount and unleashing a torrent of strikes that brought the contest to a halt.

This was a savvy veteran effort from Teixeira, who proved he’s still very much one of the elite contenders in the light heavyweight division. Though the might not be in line for the title shot he chatted wit Daniel Cormier about at cageside following the finish, the 38-year-old proved that he’s far from finished and still a tremendously tough out near the top of the 205-pound weight class.

Great Performance, Good Dude

Julian Marquez made an instant impression Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contenders Series this summer, icing former prospect Phil Hawes with a head kick. Saturday night, he made his debut in the Octagon and after playing some Rock’em Sock’em Robots with Darren Stewart early, the affable Las Vegas-based fighter finished things in the second with a slick guillotine choke.

Afterwards, “The Cuban Missile Crisis” had some fun on the microphone, challenging Tyron Woodley to a “Best Beard in the UFC” contest, lobbying to fight alongside his teammates James Krause and Zak Cummings in St. Louis and giving a shout out to his mom after saying he’s open to fighting the winner of the upcoming middleweight title bout between Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold.

While it wasn’t quite a star-making performance, it was a great start for the likable middleweight who delivered a wildly entertaining performance in the cage before showing you don’t have to talk trash and be an asshole to get noticed in this sport.

No Substitute for Experience

A sharp right hand dropped Chad Laprise early in his bout with Galore Bofando, but as soon as the Chatham-Kent, Ontario native got back to his feet, he showed why experience is so crucial inside the cage.

A foot sweep brought the fight to the ground, with Laprise landing in side control. A minute of ground-and-pound and control gave him the space to move to mount and from there, “The Disciple” was able to pound out a third-straight stoppage win.

Bofando is fun to watch when he’s upright and offering flashy, powerful strikes, but he was completely out of his element once Laprise initiated the clinch and brought the fight to the floor. The Canadian veteran talked about his edge in the other facets of the game before the bout and wisely played to his strengths after getting stung out of the gate.

As we talk about all the time, there are levels to this stuff and Laprise showed that again on Saturday.

Good Lord!

When a guy partially blocks a headkick and still needs to grab a handful of cage to keep himself upright, you know there was some serious force on the strike.

That’s what happened in the welterweight clash between Nordine Taleb and Danny Roberts, with the former causing the latter to snatch up two hands of cage after catching a kick early in the first. Unfortunately for Roberts, the follow-up right hand down the pipe was something fierce and landed flush, bringing the fight to a sudden halt.

Roberts complained about the stoppage after he was done trying to takedown referee Jerin Valel, but this was a clean finish and impressive performance for the long-time Tristar Gym representative Taleb.

Nasty Knee

Things were moving at a snail’s pace in the middleweight scrap between Alessio Di Chirico and Oluwale Bamgbose more than a minute into the second round. The first five minutes featured little action and the action resumed in the middle stanza, it seemed like it would be more of the same as Bamgbose continued to hang out on the outside, hesitant to engage.

As soon as Di Chirico was able to get his hands on his opponent, however, the Italian brought the crowd to their feet and sent Bamgbose collapsing to the canvas face-first, a well-placed knee knocking him out cold.

There have been a number of impressive finishes off nasty knees this year in the Octagon and this one is right up there.

Big Victory for Jordan Mein

Five years ago, Jordan Mein seemed destined to be a Top 10 fixture in the welterweight division. He was young, aggressive and seasoned, having started his career at age 16 and worked his way to the UFC by facing tough regional vets before a three-fight stint in Strikeforce, where his only setback came by split decision to current UFC titleholder Tyron Woodley.

But injuries and apathy sent Mein into an early retirement a couple years back and the results hadn’t been great since he returned last year at UFC 206. He looked like a hesitant, faded version of his former self.

Saturday night, Mein got back in the win column by getting back to what got him to the big leagues in the first place, coming out aggressively against Erick Silva before taking what the Brazilian gave him en route to a unanimous decision victory. It was the 30th win of Mein’s career, his first since August 2014 and his most complete performance in years.

After a bunch of ups, downs and even a brief departure from the sport, perhaps this is the start of a second chapter for the 28-year-old Canadian.

UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos Punch Drunk Predictions

As I said in my column this week for The Province, I think this weekend’s FOX event in Winnipeg is going to be an avalanche of awesomeness that sends people into the Christmas break before UFC 219 on a high.

From start to finish, this event is loaded with combustible matchups that should produce explosive results and add to what has been a really entertaining final couple months in the Octagon.

But who will leave Winter-peg with their hand raised in victory?

Here are my thoughts.

These are the UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos Punch Drunk Predictions.

Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos

This is such a compelling fight to me because Lawler isn’t far removed from being champion, still has tremendous takedown defense and can take apart pretty much anyone in the division in a striking battle on any given night, while dos Anjos put on a clinic against Neil Magny back in Edmonton and has the kind of pressure style with strong grappling at his disposal that could be problematic from “Brutal Bob” Lawler.

People are going to think this is weird when I say it, but I’m picking dos Anjos based on current/recent form, even though he’s 2-2 over his last four and Lawler is 3-1 with a couple successful title defenses in there. But please, hear me out.

I think the Rory MacDonald fight took a toll on Lawler the same way it did MacDonald and after another brawl with Carlos Condit, he got caught by Tyron Woodley. While he rebounded with a good win over Cowboy Cerrone, he wasn’t the same menacing force we’re used to seeing, especially when you consider how good Darren Till looked dispatching Cowboy in the first round three months later.

While dos Anjos dropped back-to-back outings to end his time at lightweight, we’e since heard the horror stories about his weight cut prior to his bout with Eddie Alvarez and going the distance with Tony Ferguson is no easy feat. After a good, not great debut at welterweight against Tarec Saffiedine, he looked scary-good opposite Magny at UFC 215.

I think the likelihood of seeing a similarly strong performance from him here is greater than the potential of Lawler putting it on him early and putting him away. I have a feeling dos Anjos shines here and makes the UFC strongly consider awarding him a title shot in the first half of 2018.

Prediction: Rafael dos Anjos

Ricardo Lamas vs. Josh Emmett

Normally, I would give this a lot of thought and break it down in detail because Emmett is tough and durable, but homeboy missed weight by a couple pounds on Friday and Lamas was already salty about having his original opponent (Jose Aldo) pulled so he could fight for the title, which is the second time that has happened to the Top 5 fixture in four years.

Lamas is out to prove that he’s deserving of another title opportunity and a second bout with Max Holloway and I think he delivers a dominant performance here.

Prediction: Ricardo Lamas

Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry

I get that Perry is slightly unhinged and completely unfiltered, which makes him an interesting interview and general curiosity, and that he carries a bunch of dynamite around in his hands, which always makes him a threat. That being said, I’m not sold on “Platinum” being anything more than a middle of the pack wild card in the welterweight division – a guy that collects some highlight reel wins and talks a bunch of nonsense, but ultimately fails to crack the Top 10.

Ponzinibbio is far from unstoppable, but he’s proven himself against quality competition and is the more seasoned, complete fighter of the two. While Perry is always capable of landing that one blow that brings the proceedings to a sudden halt, “Gente Boa” has power in his hands as well and has shown far more poise and patience in the Octagon to date.

As always, Perry will come out of the gate fast and throw smoke the entire time he’s in there, but look for Ponzinibbio to frustrate him with movement and counters until he connects with something stiff and settles things inside the distance.

Prediction: Santiago Ponzinibbio

Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov

This is the fight I have had the most trouble with because despite his advanced age and slowly diminishing skills, Teixeira a tough old cuss and capable of putting Cirkunov down with one of his patented clubbing hooks.

Youth and athleticism are on the side of the Latvian-Canadian grappler, but Teixeira is no slouch on the canvas either, so it’s not like Cirkunov can rush in, blast a double and grind out the win from top position. The usual path to beating Teixeira has been to out-work him on the feet and avoid his big punches and I’m not completely sold on Cirkunov’s ability to do that yet.

But I’m gonna roll the dice on the younger, fresher, more mobile fighter and see what happens.

Prediction: Misha Cirkunov

Preliminary Card Picks

Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier
Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart
Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando
Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts
Abel Trujillo def. John Makdessi
Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose
Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva