Tag: UFC

UFC London: Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC London: Punch Drunk Predictions

Since I’m starting to include main card predictions in my What’s at Stake? column with Sporting News prior to every event, this series is basically just going to become a republishing of those picks for record-keeping purposes and the sake of continuity.

I know that might sound lazy to some – and it probably is – but if my thoughts on these matchups are already out there, why not just replicate them here rather than running through everything a second time?

So here they are.

These are the UFC London: Punch Drunk Predictions.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Volkov

As much as I want to see Volkov emerge as a new name to potentially challenge for the heavyweight title – or at least feature in pairings with other established, tenured veterans – I need to see him beat someone of this caliber before I’m comfortable picking him to beat someone of this caliber. Werdum is slowing down, but he’s still a tremendous talent.
Pick: Werdum
Jimi Manuwa vs. Jan Blachowicz
Manuwa won the first time around, but I feel like Blachowicz has made some solid adjustments of late and will fight a more tactical, effective fight this time. Plus, he lost to Manuwa in Poland, so it’s only fitting that he beat “Poster Boy” in London to return the favor.
Pick: Blachowicz
Tom Duquesnoy vs. Terrion Ware
Duquesnoy didn’t look great last time out and is returning to European soil. This is a showcase opportunity and a classic “get right” fight for “Fire Kid” and he should roll.
Pick: Duquesnoy
Leon Edwards vs. Peter Sobotta
The German is savvy and has enjoyed a nice little run of success during his second run in the UFC, but Edwards is the more athletic, more dynamic fighter of the two. He’s faced and beaten better competition and while he’ll have to be careful if and when they hit the canvas, he should be able to outwork Sobotta on the feet and pick up his fifth straight win.
Pick: Edwards
Preliminary Card Picks
John Phillips def. Charles Byrd
Oliver Enkamp def. Danny Roberts
Hakeem Dawodu def. Danny Henry
Magomed Ankalaev def. Paul Craig
Kajan Johnson def. Stevie Ray
Dmitriy Sosnovskiy def. Mark Godbeer
Nad Narimani def. Nasrat Haqparast
2018 Prediction Record: 59-38-0 (.591)
UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya Punch Drunk Predictions

How’s this for a take: this card is better now than it was before Max Holloway fell out.

Listen – I love “Blessed” and that isn’t a commentary on his skills, but his original opponent, Frankie Edgar, remained on the card in a terrific fight with Brian Ortega that serves as the co-main event and adding Cris Cyborg defending her title against Yana Kunitskaya is an intriguing main event.
As for how things shake out, let’s get to it.

Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya

I don’t think this is as “Yana’s gonna get murdered!” as most people.

She’s a well-rounded fighter with good size and had a full training camp for this date, even if the change to Cyborg only came a couple weeks ago. Plus, she trains at Jackson-Wink and was part of Holly Holm’s camp for her UFC 219 tilt with the featherweight titleholder, so she’s got coaches and teammates with some experience against Cyborg to lean on.

I still think she’s going to lose, but I don’t think she’s going to just get completely mauled.

I’m really interested in seeing how Cyborg looks jumping back into the cage this quickly because it’s going one of two ways: she’s either going to look great and start fighting more frequently – which her coach Jason Parillo has always wanted – or she’s going to look a little off and go back to fighting every four-to-six months. How she’s feeling will likely have an impact on how she approaches this fight as well.

My feeling is that she’s probably perfectly fine hustling back into the cage like this, so I envision a patient, measured performance similar to what Cyborg showed against Tonya Evinger – walk her down, touch her up and then swarm in the third when the damage starts adding up.

Prediction: Cris Cyborg

Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

Brian Ortega is an outstanding talent that has matriculated his way up the rankings, finishing literally everyone that has stood opposite him in the Octagon. He just turned 27, continues to improve and will remain a championship contender for the next several years.

But he’s losing here.

Look – Ortega is ultra-talented, but he’s facing a goddamn legend in Frankie Edgar and while I think he’ll do better than Yair Rodriguez did opposite “The Answer” at UFC 211, this one really feels like one of those “how does he beat him?” fights for Ortega.

He might be able to catch Edgar with something unexpected, but Frankie has never been finished and I just don’t see the path for him beyond that. He’s not out-striking the former lightweight champion and he’s not out-wrestling him either.

Ortega needs a finish, while Edgar can just out-hustle him for 15 minutes and win on the cards, which is how I see this playing out.

Prediction: Frankie Edgar

Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath

O’Malley is getting a little push here, with a main card assignment in his second UFC appearance, and I’m just not sure he’s going to be able to make good on it.

He has talent, but it’s not “jump off the page, this kid is insane” talent. He rallied to beat Terrion Ware in his debut – winning the first, dropping the second and digging deep to get the third – but if you’re rallying to beat Terrion Ware in your debut, I’m not sure you’re an elite prospect and a guy that should be getting an early push.

So yeah, I’m picking Soukhamthath here. He’s more experienced, he’s got the ability to finish in multiple ways and he has zero pressure on his shoulders heading into this one.

O’Malley likes to fight with his hands down and I think the 29-year-old Rhode Island resident makes him pay.

Prediction: Andre Soukhamthath

Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski

I’m not going to put a lot of time into this one because honestly, I think whoever lands the first clean shot is going to get their hand raised and neither guy is really in the mix at heavyweight.

As much as Arlovski is only one fight removed from a prolonged losing streak, I still think he’s going to win here because Struve still gets hit way too much for a guy that should be able to keep pretty well everyone on the end of his jab and I just don’t think the gigantic Dutchman has been that locked in on his fighting career since coming back from his heart issues.

It’s understandable, but it’s also a recipe for disaster in the cage.

Arlovski lights him up early to get a second straight win.

Prediction: Andrei Arlovski

Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira

This is the most intriguing fight on the main card to me because Zingano hasn’t fought in 18 months, but has the talent to be a force in this division, while Vieira just keeps getting better and better each time out.

I kind of want to side with the more active fighter and not roll the dice on an athlete looking to bounce back from a host of serious personal issues over the last several years, but I also remember watching Zingano roar back against Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes.

If she’s right – and she said she’s right and fired up when we spoke earlier this week – Zingano will get the job done and put herself right back in the mix for the bantamweight title.

Prediction: Cat Zingano

Preliminary Card Predictions

Mackenzie Dern def. Ashley Yoder
Beneil Dariush def. Alexander Hernandez
John Dodson def. Pedro Munhoz
C.B. Dollaway def. Hector Lombard
Zak Ottow def. Mike Pyle
Cody Stamann def. Bryan Caraway
Jordan Johnson def. Adam Milstead

2018 Prediction Record: 47-34-0 (.580)

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 Austin: Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC Austin: Punch Drunk Predictions

Heading into last weekend’s event in Australia, I said I wanted to bounce back from going 4-7 on the previous fight card in Belem and get back on track towards reaching my goal of getting 70% of my picks correct over the course of the year.

That kind of happened, but also kind of didn’t because while I went 6-6 – which is far better than 4-7 – my winning percentage for the year dropped for the second straight event and now sits below 60% for the 2018 campaign.

Hopefully that changes this weekend.

Here are my picks for Sunday’s fight card in Austin, Texas.

These are the Punch Drunk Predictions.

Donald Cerrone vs. Yancy Medeiros

This one feels slippery because Cerrone and Medeiros enter on veery different streaks, but also have very different reputations and track records, none of which line up right.

Do you go with the perennial contender who has lost three straight to a trio of Top 10 welterweight talents or the guy who has been an entertaining action fighter who has yet to crack the Top 10 in his career, but has rattled off three straight victories? I’m siding with Cerrone, even though his recent results make me a little nervous about how this one shakes out.

I think he hustled into the Darren Till fight too quickly and didn’t give the kid enough respect; it was a terrible matchup for him and came overseas, which puts Cerrone out of his element and he paid for it dearly in the Octagon. Medeiros, however, is the kind of guy “Cowboy” has made a career of beating – tough customers who aren’t quite elite, but are willing to trade with him in the center of the Octagon.

Cerrone seems to be rejuvenated for this one and unless that is all talk (which it could be), I think he gets the job done here.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone

Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura

Tybura could very well grind this out over three rounds, but when you’re dealing with a guy like Lewis who can end a fight in an instant, it’s hard not to pick him in a matchup like this.

If this were someone with a little more seasoning, a little more pedigree, I’d be taking them because Lewis has obvious holes in his game and flaws that you can exploit, but I just don’t think Tybura has the ability to do that for 15 minutes while simultaneously avoiding the sledgehammers that are going to be coming his way. Though I expect him to have success pinning Lewis to the fence and perhaps even getting him to the canvas, eventually he’s going to eat one of those cinder blocks Lewis calls fists and the fight will end soon after.

Prediction: Derrick Lewis

James Vick vs. Francisco Trinaldo

There is a risk that Vick rolls into this one too fired up for his own good after lobbying for a Top 10 opponent and a main event assignment for this card and settling for a date with Trinaldo in the middle of the main card, but he’s been on-point as of late and should be able to use his substantial height and reach advantage to get the job done here.

Trinaldo has been great over the last couple years, going 8-1 and turning in a bunch of stellar performances, but Vick brings a little more weaponry to the table in this one. He’s shown how potent his hands can be in striking exchanges and does a great job locking up chokes using his long arms, so while the Brazilian might be able to muscle him around at points if he gets inside, the more likely outcome is Vick picking away from the outside and catching Trinaldo with something stiff as he looks to close the distance.

Prediction: James Vick

Thiago Alves vs. Curtis Millender

Given how good Alves looked against Patrick Cote last April, it’s hard to pick against the tenured welterweight in this matchup with a UFC newcomer.

While that fight was now 10 months ago and Alves is 34, it’s not like Millender is some young kid on a tremendous run who is going to roll into the cage and out-everything him on his way to greatness. The 30-year-old LFA graduate has put together a nice little run of success, but he’s lost to the best competition he’s faced thus far in his career and I don’t think that is something that you can correct this far into things.

Alves is as polished and technical a fighter as their is in the division and he should be able to out-work Millender in every facet to get a second straight win.

Prediction: Thiago Alves

Steve Peterson vs. Brandon Davis

Honestly, I’m not sure why this fight is on the main card other than not wanting to shuffle the prelim lineup.

Davis faltered in his Octagon debut last month in Boston, coming up short against Kyle Bochniak, but if he can get back to being a more active fighter now that he’s gotten rid of the Octagon jitters, he should be able to have his way with Peterson, a regional vet who has yet to win the kind of pivotal bout that really helps him stand out in the crowd.

Prediction: Brandon Davis

Sage Northcutt vs. Thibault Gouti

This is a showcase opportunity for Northcutt and it should be fairly one-sided.

Gouti avoided going 0-4 in the UFC last time out with a first-round knockout win over Andrew Holbrook and Northcutt will need to avoid getting caught with something similar, but the 21-year-old Texan should be able to get this fight on the ground and finish it there, either with strikes or a rear naked choke.

Prediction: Sage Northcutt

Preliminary Card Predictions

Jared Gordon def. Carlos Diego Ferreira
Geoff Neal def. Brian Camozzi
Joby Sanchez def. Roberto Sanchez
Sarah Moras def. Lucie Pudilova
Alex Morono def. Josh Burkman
Oskar Piechota def. Tim Williams

2018 Prediction Record: 33-24-0 (.579)

UFC 221: Romero vs. Rockhold Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC 221: Romero vs. Rockhold Punch Drunk Predictions

So I started off the year strong and have stumbled since, culminating in a 4-7 mark last weekend in Belem.


It’s time to reverse that trend and start putting up some quality numbers in this series.

Let’s get it.

Yoel Romero vs. Luke Rockhold – for the UFC interim middleweight title, at least for Rockhold

I thought Rockhold was going to win this fight from the day it was announced. I became more convinced of it as I started prepping for this event and checking out some of the things both guys had to say, especially how focused and confident Rockhold seems to be this time around. My opinions were cemented when Romero missed weight yesterday, turning this into one of those weird fights where only one half of the tandem can earn the title.

Romero is a tremendous athlete and it’s insane that he’s still an elite talent at his advanced age, but I think Rockhold thrashes him here. In fact, I think Rockhold rolls through this one and cements his standing as the best middleweight in the world later this year when he fights to unify the middleweight titles against Robert Whittaker later this year.

Prediction: Luke Rockhold

Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes

There is very real possibility that Hunt connects with one of those Samoan sledgehammers he calls fists and ends this one in traditional Mark Hunt fashion. That being said, I think we see Blaydes pull off the upset and collect the biggest win of his career.

Hunt’s takedown defense is very good, but is it good enough to deny Blaydes over and over and over again? I’m going to say no. I think we see Blaydes get in on takedowns and deploy the same approach Stipe Miocic did when he fought Hunt a couple years back (and Francis Ngannou a couple weeks ago). His transitions and entries have gotten better as he’s continued working with the crew at Elevation in Denver and I believe he has the potential to be a player in the heavyweight ranks down the line.

Tai Tuivasa vs. Cyril Asker

“Bam Bam” is going to bulldoze Asker here; that’s what is supposed to happen and what is most likely going to happen.

The former Rugby League player turned Mark Hunt protege has blistering power and is more athletic and nimble than he looks and that should lead to a one-sided mauling. Asker is a solid grappler and far more experienced, but this is set up for Tuivasa to shine and he should do it with style and ease.

Prediction: Tai Tuivasa

Jake Matthews vs. Li Jingliang

A couple years back, I thought Matthews was an elite prospect who would blossom into a contender by this point.

I was wrong.

“The Celtic Kid” has kind of stalled out and while the more to welterweight produced a victory last time out, Matthews hasn’t taken the next step forward in his development as of yet and that makes for a rough pairing with Jingliang here. While Matthews has faltered (or at the very least flattened out), Jingliang has continued to improve, adding powerful striking to the smothering grappling style he came into the organization with nearly four years ago.

“The Leech” has won four straight, three by stoppage, and I think he extends that run here, probably by an early stoppage.

Prediction: Li Jingliang

Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov

Pedro is another one of those guys that I’m high on, which could be the kiss of death given my recent results.

He’s a 26-year-old light heavyweight with a bunch of raw potential who is coming off his first career loss to Ilir Latifi, a sturdy, seasoned veteran. It wasn’t anything too grizzly and should serve as a massive learning experience for the Australian upstart, who earned first-round stoppage victories in each of his first two UFC appearances. Unless he gets clipped and finished, I think this will be an excellent bounce-back performance and another positive step forward in a division that is always in need of fresh, young names to track.

Prediction: Tyson Pedro

Preliminary Card Predictions

Dong Hyun Kim def. Damien Brown
Israel Adesanya def. Rob Wilkinson
Jeremey Kennedy def. Alexander Volkanovski
Ben Nguyen def. Jussier Formiga
Mizuto Hirota def. Ross Pearson
Jose Alberto Quinonez def. Teruto Ishihara
Daichi Abe def. Luke Jumeau
2018 Predictions Record: 27-18-0 (.600)
UFC Fight Night 125: About Last Night in Belem

UFC Fight Night 125: About Last Night in Belem

Machida Wins, Anders Learns

Lyoto Machida collected his first victory in more than three years, returning home to Belem to earn a split decision win over talented upstart Eryk Anders Saturday’s main event.

It was a close, tactical contest throughout, with Machida using his familiar evasive style to keep Anders guessing and avoid getting cut off and while everyone agreed the fight was close, the 49-46 scorecard turned in by judge Tony Weeks felt a little off as most had Machida winning the first and fifth with the second frame serving as the deciding round in the split.

As much as it was a happy moment for the hometown crowd to see their favorite son get back in the win column, this was one of those fights that felt bittersweet to me as it was once again clear that Machida is in the twilight of his career and doesn’t have many more trips into the Octagon left. While he was able to squeak out the victory, there was nothing about this fight that made you think he’s set to go on one final run at middleweight and the likelihood that this leads to another ugly knockout loss is high.

For Anders, this is a massive learning experience. He showed flashes, like when he split Machida open with a perfectly timed knee along the fence, and there are instinctive things that he does that you have to really like, but his lack of seasoning was also evident on Saturday. He couldn’t cut off the cage. He lunged after too many big shots. He failed to capitalize whenever he stung Machida, opting to duck in for a takedown far too often.

That being said, he’s only 11 fights into his career and just went 25 minutes in hostile territory with a former world champion and could have come away with the victory. That’s a net positive in my books and Anders will be better for having gone through this next time out and his future in the middleweight division remains bright.

Shevchenko Shines

Valentina Shevchenko turned in the blistering, dominant effort everyone was expecting in her flyweight debut opposite Priscila Cachoeira. She rocked the Brazilian neophyte right out fo the chute, exhibiting the extreme discrepancy in their skills and experience from the jump and then spent the next four minutes mauling the overmatched Cachoeira on the canvas. For some unknown reason, the fight progressed to the second round, where Shevchenko took things up another notch, securing a mounted crucifix and continuing to beat down on Cachoeira for another several minutes before finally choking her out late in the round.

This was an absolute mugging and it was exactly the kind of performance the UFC needed from the ultra-talented former bantamweight title challenger.

Look, I hate seeing Cachoeira get beat up like that and think both referee Mario Yamasaki and her corner have some explaining to do (but that won’t happen) for not stopping the fight, but as far as Shevchenko and the promotion go, this is what you wanted. This is what you needed to position Shevchenko as a menacing force in the flyweight division and move her into a title fight with Nicco Montano whenever the champion is ready to go.

As great as she has looked at different points during her bantamweight run, this was a next level, “nobody is going to want to fight this woman” kind of effort from Shevchenko. She showed the same slick hands as always, but they were quicker and she looked more powerful on the ground as well. The 29-year-old has legitimate star potential and this flawless effort should help push her one step closer to realizing her championship dreams and reaching that superstar level later this year.

Odds, Ends & Observations

Here’s one of those “why people don’t take MMA seriously” situations: Michel Prazeres blew weight on Friday, missed the agreed upon upper limit on Saturday and still walked into the Octagon and collected a victory over Desmond Green. If this sport is going to move forward and become anything more than a niche that lunatics like us pay too much attention to, the UFC (and other organizations) need to pull the plug on those fights and enforce greater punishments on athletes that fail to make weight.

Tim Johnson did what Tim Johnson does against Marcelo Golm, forcing the unbeaten heavyweight newcomer to carry his weight, fight in a phone booth and deal with a more savvy, more experienced fighter. It was a suffocating reboot of his win over Marcin Tybura and a reminder of why the UFC struggles to have turnover in various divisions at times. This was the 25-year-old Golm’s second UFC appearance and instead of handing him a more winnable matchup, they put him in there with a smothering grappler who has limited upside. It’s a good win for Johnson, but a bad result for the division.

Douglas Silva de Andrade is the kind of exciting, entertaining fighter who isn’t going to be a contender that every division needs. He’s ultra-aggressive, rocks the vintage Vitor Belfort mullet-hawk and is 25-2 overall, but just 3-2 in the UFC. He’s the quintessential “you can count on him for a fun fight” guy at bantamweight and should be able to maintain that position for the next several years.

It’s time for Thiago Santos to get another crack at a Top 10 opponent in the middleweight division after he stopped the stupid-tough Anthony Smith on Saturday night. “Marreta” has won four straight – all by knockout – and should already be higher than the No. 15 position he occupied coming into this one. He’s ridiculously powerful, always entertaining and rolling right now; get him in there with Kelvin Gastelum or David Branch or someone like that and see what happens.

Sergio Moraes getting the nod over Tim Means was trash, even if you could smell it coming from a mile away. While the Brazilian veteran won the first round, Means landed the more significant strikes in the second and dominated down the stretch, yet two judges scored it in favour of his opponent. The part that really sucks is that it was wholly predictable, as Moraes was slinging hooks and getting loud cheers every time he connected. I don’t know if judges need to wear noise cancelling headphones or what, but Means deserved better.

Polyana Viana straight up mauled Maia Stevenson in their joint promotional debut in Belem. It was a one-sided mugging (as expected) with the Brazilian getting the finish with just over a minute left in the opening round. I don’t normally do the “doesn’t belong in the UFC” thing too much, but Stevenson has no business fighting at this level as her six victories have come against opponents with a combined 0-13 record following their fights.

Iuri Alcantara is the most frustratingly inconsistent fighter in the bantamweight division. Just when you think the 37-year-old veteran is slowing down, he goes out and smashes Joe Soto in 66 seconds, looking like a wrecking machine in the process. He’d lost two straight before this, but also has the third most bantamweight wins in UFC history. Dude is just perplexing, but he looked outstanding on Saturday night.

Really nice performance from Deiveson Figueiredo to kick things off, knocking Joseph Morales from the ranks of the unbeaten with a second-round stoppage win. The 30-year-old is 14-0 with 12 finishes and deserving of a step up in competition next time out. He’s already cracked the Top 15 and needs to get a push in the somewhat stale flyweight division.

Lots of Twitter squabbling and posturing today in the hours leading up to Fight Night after news broke that Max Holloway was out of his UFC 222 title fight against Frankie Edgar. The dumbest of the bunch: people actually thinking it made sense for T.J. Dillashaw to defend the bantamweight title against Cody Garbrandt in four weeks. Losing the Holloway-Edgar fight sucks, but that doesn’t mean you go rushing into a rematch no one (besides Team No Love) is really craving a month from now to make up for it.

Predictions Results: 

UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Anders Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Anders Punch Drunk Predictions

Since this is becoming the sole piece that I seem to write here from week-to-week (I’ll work on that, I promise), I’m going to skip the intro and get right to the goods.

Here are my picks for Saturday’s Fight Night event in Belem, Brazil.

Lyoto Machida vs. Eryk Anders

This just feels like a terrible matchup for Machida, who enters on a three-fight skid that includes getting crushed in his last fight pre-suspension and first fight post-suspension. Now he’s stepping in with an athletic, powerful emerging middleweight who actively campaigned for this exact assignment. When guys are calling you out and you’re on a three-fight losing streak, it’s usually means they think you’re easy prey and I think Anders takes full advantage of this pairing.

While he didn’t look nearly as impressive against Markus Perez as he did knocking out Rafael Natal in his promotional debut, Anders remains a promising prospect with top of the food chain potential. Machida is no longer the elusive, challenging puzzle he used to be inside the Octagon and as long as Anders keeps his chin tucked, he should be able to get inside and find a home for something sharp that puts “The Dragon” on the canvas once again.

Prediction: Eryk Anders

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira

Cachoeira has a harrowing story and a sparkling resume, but it was fashion by running through scrubs on the regional circuit and against the skilled and experienced Shevchenko, the raw, aggressive striker is going to get lit all the way up.

Shevchenko should dominate from the outset and while she’s yet to show knockout power in the UFC, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she overwhelmed Cachoeira with counters early, got her backing up and finished her with a choke. This should be the showcase opportunity Shevchenko needs to punch her ticket to a title shot against flyweight champ Nicco Montano later this year.

Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko

Michel Prazares vs. Desmond Green

Prazares is a truck at lightweight and considering that he missed weight (by a considerable margin), I have a feeling we see him put those extra pounds and that additional strength to good use in a sluggish, grind’em out performance against Green.

This should be similar to Green’s last fight against Rustam Khabilov, which he lost by unanimous decision, as he was unable to nullify the Dagestani grappler’s abilities in the clinch and couldn’t muster enough meaningful offense in space to swing things in his favor. As much as I expect Prazares to fade down the stretch, he should be able to salt away the first two rounds and coast to a win from there.

Prediction: Michel Prazares

Timothy Johnson vs. Marcelo Golm

Johnson has the kind of grappling abilities that could turn what should be a chance for Golm to shine at home in Brazil into an upset that doesn’t help anyone, like when he beat Marcin Tybura, but the more likely scenario is the unbeaten 25-year-old Brazilian stinging him with strikes and finishing him inside the distance. It will probably take more effort and energy than he was forced to expend in his debut win over Christian Colombo, but the outcome should ultimately be the same.

Prediction: Marcelo Golm

Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Marlon Vera

Vera is one of those guys that everyone roots for and wants to see succeed, but he hasn’t quite been able to put it all together as of yet. Just when you think he’s figured things out and is ready to take the next step forward in his development, the UFC drops him in against John Lineker, he gets blanked on the scorecards and you realize he’s not quite ready for prime time and may not ever get this.

This is a chance to get another read on where he stands as DSDA is a tough, durable veteran with plenty of experience under his belt and similar results in the UFC. He tends to be a little wild and run out of gas the later the fight goes, so as long as Vera keeps it clean and simple, he should be able to land from the outside and look to capitalize on any openings that are presented.

Prediction: Marlon Vera

Thiago Santos vs. Anthony Smith

You have to give Smith props for being a tough cuss who has hung around, worked his way back to the big stage and put up a trio of impressive performances, but this feels like one of those fights where you come away thinking, “Man, they really didn’t do right by him, throwing him in there like that with Santos.”

Because Thiago Santos is a bad man.

These two are going to come out swinging for the fences and while both carry home run power, Santos is the quicker of the two and mixes things up much better than Smith and I’m thinking he’ll land something filthy that shuts the lights off in a hurry.

Prediction: Thiago Santos

Preliminary Card Picks

Tim Means def. Sergio Moraes
Damir Hadzovic def. Alan Patrick
Polyana Viana def. Maia Stevenson
Joe Soto def. Iuri Alcantara
Joseph Morales def. Deiveson Figueiredo

2018 Prediction Record: 23-11-0 (.676)


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 220 Aftermath: Experience Matters

UFC 220 Aftermath: Experience Matters

Saturday night at UFC 220, reigning heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic exploited the holes in “one in a million” challenger Francis Ngannou’s skill set to grind out a demoralizing unanimous decision victory, setting the record for the most consecutive successful title defenses in the division in the process.

From the outset, Miocic used his wrestling, putting Ngannou on his back, nullifying his power and sapping his energy. With each passing round and every successful takedown, the challenger got slower and more exhausted. When you’ve got the kind of power Ngannou possesses, you’re always dangerous, which is why Miocic remained cautious whenever they were standing and went back to his wrestling every chance he got.

By the third round, Ngannou looked like he was fighting in quicksand. By the end of the fourth, he struggled to get to his feet and make it back to his corner. Those questions about his takedown defense, skill off his back and conditioning were all answered.

Ngannou was tested and he failed.

It’s not the end of the world, but it was a terrible showing given that the challenger was positioned as a man of destiny and an unstoppable juggernaut heading into the contest.

While the unknowns about Ngannou were made clear in the cage and sharply contradicted the role he was cast in during the build to the fight, it was the things everyone already knew about Miocic that shone through on Saturday night in Boston and should stand out in the aftermath of UFC 220.

He’d been the distance with elite competition and shown he could keep maintain a solid pace for 25 minutes. He’d nullified the power of a knockout artist by utilizing his wrestling. He’d proven that he could absorb punishment and keep coming forward, making adjustments to minimize damage and land big blows of his own.

He’d beaten the only two established talents Ngannou had beaten on his march to Saturday’s championship fight, finishing them inside the opening five minutes, just like the challenger.

He’d proven he was the best heavyweight in the UFC and yet he entered Saturday night’s contest as the underdog; an all-time great expected to get mauled by a guy who made his professional debut two years after Miocic started fighting on the biggest stage in the sport.

As intoxicating as potential can be, there is something to be said about known commodities – fighters with proven skills and abilities and established track records who may not have the look and feel of a titleholder, but have the knockout victories and shiny gold belt that make them the champion nonetheless.

Credentials matter. Experience matters. As Frankie Edgar said after dismantling hyped prospect Yair Rodriguez last year, “There are levels to this.”

Miocic reminded everyone that doubted him on Saturday night of that with his lopsided win over Ngannou. Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier did the same in stopping challenger Volkan Oezdemir one fight earlier. Demetrious Johnson does it every time he steps into the cage.

It’s okay to get excited about an emerging talent and thinking about what they could do in the future, but there is no way to skip any steps in this sport.

Literally every current champion in the UFC right now has faced some kind of setback along the way and been forced to regroup, make adjustments and get better.

Every single one of them knows what it is like to lose. Some have losses on their resumes that seem unbelievable today, but if you ask them, they’d probably tell you that those are the performances that had the greatest impact on their careers.

Ngannou will be a better fighter because of this loss. He’ll be forced to get in the gym and work on his takedown defense and drill ways to get back to his feet. He will have to assess whether looking like an action hero in the cage is more important than having the conditioning to go more than five minutes at a good clip without becoming exhausted.

He’ll have to develop a Plan B for those times when his opponents don’t simply fall over and stay on the ground when he lands a good shot. And he’ll need to develop a Plan C to have in his back pocket, just in case.

Ngannou remains a ferocious hitter and potentially terrifying force in the heavyweight division and he’ll hopefully learn more from this one setback than he did all 10 of the victories that came before it. He might even still one day be champion, but a “one in a million” addition to the heavyweight ranks he is not and he never should have been positioned as such.

Conversely, it’s time to stop paying so much attention to all the pomp and circumstance and commit a little more time, energy and attention to the established talents who have no interest in singing their own praises, but have proven themselves inside the cage time and again.

There was a way to promote Saturday’s heavyweight championship matchup for what it was – a pairing between a surging prospect with tremendous potential, but a few lingering questions that needed to be answered and a no-flash Midwesterner who likes dumb jokes and shoveling his driveway and just so happens to be the baddest man on the planet, too.

Instead, the reigning champion was positioned as an obstacle standing in the way of destiny; another victim who was likely to fall at the hands of the challenger.

That’s not what happened – not even close – and now a lot of people are scrambling to figure out how to move forward from here.

Here’s an idea: stop over-hyping inexperienced and unproven talent and selling established competitors short, especially champions.

Tell their stories as they are – they’re compelling enough without the over-the-top hyperbole – and focus on outcomes, not expected results.