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UFC 186: David vs Goliath

UFC 186: David vs Goliath
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UFC 186: David vs Goliath

Man, Canada just can’t catch a break. The once highly touted PPV has had several considerable changes over the past month, including the scrapped rematch between current BW champ TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao due to injuries and the unfortunate cancellation of Canada’s Rory MacDonald vs Hector Lombard due to Lombard getting popped for steroids. Lombard is now serving a one year suspension due to his stupidity. And then there’s the Rampage Jackson vs Fabio Maldonaldo fight. Originally slated to be a part of the main card, after Dillashaw pulled out due to injury, the fight was moved to co-main status with the original co-main match between current FFW champ Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and rising star Kyoji Horiguchi becoming the main event of UFC 186. Then Bellator, another MMA promotion, sued Rampage Jackson for allegedly breaking contract rules while he was under Bellator’s contract, filing an injunction against him to prevent him from fighting under the UFC banner. The injunction was then upheld and UFC yanked Rampage Jackson off the card, replacing him with an ex-NHL player and Canadian favorite, Steve Bosse. AND THEN. A reversal of the injunction imposed on Rampage Jackson was awarded, allowing Rampage to reclaim his co-main status on the card but at catchweight of 215 pounds instead of the original weight at 205 pounds. Abel Trujillo also had to pull out of his bout versus John Makdessi due to a broken arm, effectively neutering the ability for the PPV to reach top levels on the violence meter. Alas, we all must move on from the tragedy that has befallen UFC 186, and hope the Japanese PHENOM Kyoji Horiguchi can pull off the massive upset over Mighty Mouse and his long reign as the flyweight champion. I BELIEVE IN HIM!

Aisling Daly (+230) vs Randa Markos (-270)

Battle of the losers from TUF 20! All right, that seemed kinda mean. Randa Markos was one fight away from making the finals of the tournament style TUF 20 that crowned Carla Esparza as the strawweight champion. Aisling Daly lost to Jessica Penne in the early rounds, but was solid enough to get a call-back and fight on the TUF 20 finale undercard, submitting Alex Chambers. Originally slated to face Claudia Gadelha on UFC FN 64, Randa Markos is stepping in on a month’s notice, and both women were teammates on the TUF show as well. Daly has been on record saying Markos is the weaker version of her, knowing her advantages/disadvantages from their days as sparring partners. Well, we’ll find out, won’t we missy?

Aisling Daly trains with Conor McGregor. ANOTHER MCGREGOR REFERENCE AHHHHHHH!!!!! Anyways, she is a unique striker who loves to switch stances constantly as she dances around the octagon, reaching in with the jab and straight combo with the occasional kick to finish it off. She is constantly throwing feints, moving back and forth while keeping a forward pace to eventually push her opponents up the cage. While her boxing is powerful and effective, it is a little sloppy at times and her striking defense isn’t very great, eating too many jabs as she goes forward. She then uses her strength to overpower her opponent up the cage in the clinch, eventually dragging them to the ground where she puts her brown belt in BJJ to use as she has 8 submission wins on record. She is fairly aggressive on the ground as she can both ground and pound while keeping her knees active and ready to slide into armbars. While she is a very good top control submission fighter, for some reason she isn’t very active off her back, often keeping stationary and keeping a closed guard. If she is unable to use her strength to her advantage up the cage or from the clinch, she often gets taken down and laid on. Versus Rosi Sexton, Daly was unable to stop Sexton’s take-down attempts or get away from Sexton’s top control, losing in an unanimous decision that was all Sexton. In most of Daly’s losses, they have had similar results to the Sexton fight, getting taken down and controlled on the ground.

Randa Markos does not have Daly’s unique striking style or her BJJ credentials, but she is a quicker striker with more usage of the leg kicks that she mixes in with her jabs as she patiently waits for an opening to quickly get inside her opponent. She uses back trips for most of her take-downs but can also get in double leg take-downs. She is strong in the clinch, staying busy as she uses some dirty boxing and knees to the body. Like most of her opponents, Markos also likes to use the hip toss out of the clinch. Once on the ground, she usually looks to get into side control and work the body with some ground and pound. She tends to lay heavy if she can’t get out of half-guard but usually stays busy in whatever position she is in. If the opportunity presents itself, she is smart enough to pounce on an armbar attempt and is a capable ground and pounder. Her take-down offense will be key in defeating Daly, possibly using the same game plan that allowed her to pull the upset over Tecia Torres on TUF.

While Daly thinks Markos is a weaker version of her, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Daly is the stronger and more aggressive striker with quick-changing stances and a better top control, but lacks striking defense as well as take-down defense versus better grapplers. Markos also isn’t stationary off her back unlike Daly, which might help her out if Daly is able to get Markos on the ground. Markos is just a more patient, better grappler than Daly and both women tend to push forward to get their hands on their opponents up the cage or in the clinch. Gotta give the advantage to Markos in that situation. I don’t think this will be a finish unless Daly is able to overpower Markos to the ground and get in an armbar. If this somehow stays standing, I would give the advantage to Daly even with her porous striking defense as I think she is a little too shifty for Markos to handle. Markos should be able to out-grapple Daly and grind out a decision though.

Markos via unanimous decision

Jessica Rakoczy (+145) vs Valerie Letourneau (-165)

Jessica Rakoczy reached the finals of the TUF 18 season, losing in dominant fashion to Julianna Pena, something that wasn’t expected out of the 36 year old Rakoczy. She had a very good professional boxing career before delving into MMA, going 33-3. Valerie Letourneau is a Canadian native making her 2nd appearance under the UFC banner after her exciting bout against Elizabeth Phillips, where despite a swollen left eye she toughed it out in a decision win with 104 significant strikes landed! Neither woman look to get any fights to the ground, so this should be a standing affair all the way, which could mean a fantasy gold mine.

Rakoczy is now 38 years old, and even though she still has her boxing prowess, age has caught up to her and diminished her hand speed enough to take notice in her fights. She still has all the classic boxing combinations that she throws with perfect technique despite her lowered velocity. After her prominent boxing career, Rakoczy never really got a chance to hone her defensive skills in wrestling and stopping take-downs as well as knowing what to do off her back. As a result of those shortcomings, she amassed a 1-4 record in MMA, often getting taken down and brutalized on the ground. Thankfully, Letourneau probably won’t consider taking the sage Rakoczy down as she isn’t a great wrestler herself either. While Rakoczy is at an advanced age where she is what she is at this point, she still has a good gas tank and can go all out for 3 rounds if needed be. This match-up is a good chance to see what Rakoczy still has left and if she can still be a fun scrap for Joe Silva to schedule fights with.

Letourneau has had a rough start to her MMA career, having faced Claudia Gadelha, Sarah Kaufman, and Alexis Davis already. She handled herself well despite the strong challengers, losing twice by split decision and getting TKO’d by Kaufman after Letourneau rocked Kaufman with a vicious headkick. Not bad. Letourneau is a very tough striker, with a powerful follow-through left hook to go with well-timed leg kicks. She has some good speed in her hands with a decent amount of combinations, although she seems to prefer the hook/straight combo in most exchanges. She also has some power in both her hands and feet, owning 4 finishes by TKO and almost knocking out the aforementioned Kaufman. Letourneau should have the clear speed and power advantage over the elder Rakoczy, but maybe experience will be the key to the fight.

Unless Letourneau knocks out Rakoczy, which is a real possibility considering her distinct speed advantage, this fight should be favorable for both fighters as far as fantasy points goes. Both women should rack up the significant strikes in a crowd-pleaser. Being the bigger, faster, and stronger striker, this is Letourneau’s fight to lose. Will she start things off with a bang?

Letourneau via 3rd round TKO

Chris Clements (+220) vs Nordine Taleb (-260)

Another Canadian training out of Tristar! Nordine Taleb looks to improve on his current UFC run to 3-0, defeating Jingliang Li and Vik Grujic, the latter having just been KO’d by Taleb’s current opponent, Chris Clements. Now while Clements hasn’t had a good run in the UFC as Taleb, he can still put on a show with his brawling fighting style. Taleb is looking to live up to the UFC’s expectations, as he had already been chosen to participate in two TUF shows, something that rarely happens. He lost in both seasons, and UFC still decided to give him a chance. Going 3-0 in the UFC will certainly help continue his employment.

Nordine Taleb is an intriguing prospect, as he has some solid striking and good power with a very strong wrestling base. Taleb just hasn’t gotten into a rhythm yet, not knowing exactly what he should lead with and what his real advantages are. He goes with the flow of the fight and can seem passive at times. He has a powerful overhead and good left hook to go with a nice left body kick, but doesn’t flash enough consistency on the feet to be a real threat. His wrestling is both power and technique, as he can get the trip and single leg take-downs off leg kicks. On the ground he is nothing special, mostly staying heavy on top with some ground and pound, not making many advances. Overall, Taleb is just an all around solid fighter that has yet to live up to his potential. With more fights under his belt and some coaching, Taleb may put it all together and become a well-rounded fighter that looks more comfortable in the octagon. Only time will tell though.

Chris Clements is a brawler with putrid take-down defense and is also at an advanced age at 39 years old. He is capable of finishing fights with one punch at anytime, but doesn’t string together many combinations to set up any fight-ending strikes. He usually leads inside with the powerful right overhand, but will mostly be relegated to counter-striking during exchanges. His defensive wrestling isn’t there, often ceding to most take-downs and being stuck on the ground. Clements does have some decent clinch offense, able to do some dirty boxing up the cage with solid power shots and knees, as he did rock Vik Grujic out of the clinch and eventually clobbered him for the upset. Clements has to avoid the take-downs versus Taleb to have a chance to put away the Canadian.

While Clements can make any fight a fun brawl, his lack of take-down defense is worrisome when facing someone with good wrestling chops such as that of Taleb’s. Add in the fact that Taleb also trains out of Tristar and showed in his last fight vs Jiangling Li in being more proficient in utilizing his wrestling, this has all the signs of a long night for Clements on the mat. Clements will probably be a popular dog pick due to his power, but it’s just a bad match-up on paper.

Taleb via unanimous decision

David Michaud (+315) vs Oliver Aubin-Mercier (-385)

The TUF: Nations runner-up Olivier Aubin-Mercier is looking to wipe away the memories of his split decision loss to Chad Laprise with a dominant win over David Michaud. Aubin-Mercier is a black belt judoka with a brown belt in BJJ, having finished all of his opponents by submission before his loss to Laprise. He got the good fortune of facing punching bag Jake “The Librarian” Lindsey after that loss and, to no one’s shock, submitting Lindsey in the 2nd round. David Michaud doesn’t have the elite credentials as Aubin-Mercier does, as he is more of a fledgling brawler with decent wrestling. It seems as if the UFC wants to continue feeding Aubin-Mercier low level competition before they book a big fight for the high ceiling Aubin-Mercier.

Aubin-Mercier is a southpaw judoka with quick punches and solid leg kicks, but his true strength lies in his ability to get the fight to the ground with his Judo. Aubin-Mercier will generally stay back out of range and feel his opponents out, throwing out a jab here and there to see what happens, then rush inside with uppercuts and get into the clinch for a sweep or a quick double-leg take down. On the ground, Aubin-Mercier has strong postures and a great ground and pound game that he employs to force his opponent to defend themselves by changing positions or scramble back up. That is when Aubin-Mercier pounces on them, getting into full mount or transitioning into side mount and grabbing their back, going for his bread and butter RNC submission. Aubin-Mercier is deadly on the ground, and while his striking is clean and polished, it lacks volume and is mostly full of long range striking options. He should be looking to take Michaud down to the ground as soon as possible.

David Michaud is just a decent fighter, with mostly a leading jab/overhand combination and some wild hooks when pressured or involved in a brawl. His take-downs are nothing special, mainly well-timed duck and shoots, with good top control on the mat. Michaud just doesn’t get my juices flowing and has been a bit underwhelming to me thus far, mostly looking like that scrappy guy who can take a punch and survive for 2 rounds, only to come back in the 3rd versus a gassed opponent. His take-down defense isn’t great and can be too stationary as fighters run up to him in an effort to take him down or push up the cage. That’s something Aubin-Mercier excels in. Now some people think Aubin-Mercier is the better striker and while he may be the more polished of the two, Michaud has a brawler’s mentality, willing to throw down with high volume of strikes and barrages of hooks. Not to mention he actually has a jab he can lead forward with, unlike Aubin-Mercier who mostly sits back and bides his time.

This realistically should be all Aubin-Mercier with quick take-downs and getting in Michaud’s face with some early ground and pound, before getting into a good position to finish the fight with a submission. Aubin-Mercier can tend to be a little passive in the 1st round then flip the switch in the 2nd and show why he is a great prospect in the making. For his price range on any site, you would need to hope he doesn’t stay passive for too long and lets Michaud get comfortable on the feet. Michaud is a tough little dude, but I don’t think he can hold off Aubin-Mercier’s transitions and stave off his submission attempts. I won’t call a 1st round sub until I see more action from Aubin-Mercier in the 1st round of fights.

Aubin-Mercier via 2nd round RNC

Bryan Barberena (+325) vs Chad Laprise (-400)

The TUF: Nations winner and native Canadian, who also trains out of Tristar, is yet another intriguing prospect at lighweight. That division is just getting bloated at this point with all the talent and killers that reside there, not to mention reports of McGregor AND Jose Aldo wanting to move up to 155 in the future. Whew. Laprise faces a strong foe on the feet in Bryan Barberena, who pulled off the upset of the night by knocking out Jake Ellenberger’s younger brother, Joe Ellenberger. Granted, it was when Joe gassed badly in the later rounds after dominating Barberena in the 1st round, but a win’s a win. Barberena will be another underdog that is likely to be a popular pick based on his power and willingness to let it fly on the feet.

Chad Laprise is a well-rounded fighter with a speedy left jab/right straight combination that can act as a very quick counter, and did earn him a spot on the finals for TUF: Nations with his 2nd round KO of Kajan Johnson. Laprise moves well and keeps his hands close to his body, probing his way inside with the jab and throwing out the straight follow-up but nothing else after that as he will back away and shift to the other direction as to avoid any counter follow-ups by his opponent. A very important trait to have when he faces a guy like Barberena who will take any chance to push the pace and get in a power shot. Laprise will also have the much better wrestling and take-down offense to go with his speed advantage over Barberena. Laprise usually feels his way around in the 1st round with the jab, and then if he has the distinct advantage with his wrestling, he will push his way inside for a body-lock or get into the clinch for a quick trip or a double-leg. He instilled this very same strategy versus the defensively deficient Yosdenis Cedeno, taking down the Cuban five times and controlling him on the ground with relative ease. Laprise is a smart fighter who will fight to his own strengths, as he out-struck Olivier Aubin-Mercier to win the contract with the UFC rather than testing him on the ground. That fight IQ will be of great use versus Barberena.

Bryan Barberena is another brawler on what seems to be a brawler-heavy card. He leaves his hands low and often gets hit during striking exchanges, including some glancing blows by Joe Ellenberger that would have put away half of the division. Not Barberena though, as the Californian native has a zombie chin. Barberena is not a polished of a striker as Laprise, nor does he have the quickness or wrestling pedigree. What he does have is power, and the courage to walk through strikes to get in a slobber-knocker of his own. 8 of his 10 wins have came way of TKO/KO, with one other loss by decision when he couldn’t stop the wrestling of Tyler Klejeski. His take-down defense is so-so, often forgetting to use underhooks to stop the take-downs as he is always looking for the knockout blow, often leading to easy take-downs.

Laprise has all the advantages to stay away from Barberena’s powerful striking, as well as the fight IQ to know when to get the fight to the ground. I don’t expect Laprise to engage Barberena for too long on the feet, but if he does indeed decide to do that, his speed and quick jab might be enough to counter Barberena’s power-oriented striking. I don’t expect Laprise to finish Barberena unless he gets him into a bad position for a submission.

Laprise via unanimous decision

Alexis Davis (+170) vs Sarah Kaufman (-200)

This will be the trilogy bout between both fighters, with Sarah Kaufman having won the previous 2 battles. Kaufman has long been one of the best, most technical boxers in her division, battering her opponents with high volume of speedy but aggressive 1-2 combinations that has been her bread and butter. She can turn on the volume in any round with no care at what her opponent is doing at the time. Her last fight versus Leslie Smith saw Kaufman land 206 significant strikes! In the 2nd rematch between Kaufman and Davis, both fighters earned 130+ significant strikes each in a back and forth striking affair, and even though Kaufman won by majority decision, I personally think she won more decisively than what the judges decided on. Alexis Davis is also coming off a recent loss to unstoppable champion Ronda Rousey in a 16 second KO loss. Prior to that disappointing loss, she had won 3 straight decisions including a close split decision win over Jessica Eye that I had originally given to Eye at the time of the fight. So, maybe Alexis Davis has something to prove to her doubters and to Kaufman herself in the 2nd rematch.

Sarah Kaufman is one of the fastest and possibly the most accurate boxers in the bantamweight division, throwing her favorite go-to jab/straight combination with some serious snap behind it. Kaufman also has the prototypical boxer’s stance and feet movement to help Kaufman be able to consistently string together countless amounts of combinations with little effort. In almost every fight she has been involved in that didn’t result in a stoppage, she has had tremendous success in landing waves upon waves of significant strikes. In fact, let me add up her significant strikes landed during her time in the UFC and StrikeForce. BE RIGHT BACK. (types on calculator)…….In 7 of her fights that didn’t result in a stoppage (also includes the NC match vs Eye), Kaufman has landed 877 total significant strikes! WOW! That is an average of well over 100+ sig strikes per 3 round fight! It’s safe to say Kaufman  will always be a great fantasy option based on her high volume aggressive striking style. Kaufman also has very solid defensive wrestling to keep the fight standing and to be able to hold her own in the clinch, something Alexis Davis looks to do in every fight.

Alexis Davis is a black belt in BJJ, owning 7 submission victories on record. Her striking isn’t the best or the most technical, but she can brawl with the best of them. She takes a lot of damage during striking exchanges, but she has only been knocked out once in her career, which was more of a TKO versus Ronda Rousey as Rousey had Davis’s head trapped on the ground with Davis unable to shield herself from Rousey’s punches. Nevertheless, Davis is one tough girl to crack, only succumbing to a couple of TKO losses with one coming by doctor’s stoppage and the other to….you guessed it. Sarah Kaufman in their 1st meeting 8 years ago. She is fairly slow compared to Kaufman and the rest of her division, but what she lacks in speed she more than makes up for it with volume and willpower as she doesn’t back down from an exchange. Her punches are more of the wild swinging variety rather than quick successive jabs and straights, with the occasional leg kick mixed in. Davis’s main threat is her clinch work that she consistently can get in every fight as she is able to push through whatever barrage of punches that comes and grab her opponents into the clinch. From there, she will either tire you out up the cage with some knees and the occasional elbow, or try the ol’ trusty hip toss or back trip and go to work on the ground. On the mat, Davis is well-experienced in making the right pass to get into a dominant position as she works her way into getting full mount. From whatever position, she employs the ground and pound very effectively while still keeping on the threat of a submission. However, she has struggled in the past versus stronger opponents that she couldn’t overpower from the clinch, resulting in  a striking affair that exposes her lack of speed and striking defense. In both fights vs Kaufman, that very same scenario happened twice with Kaufman getting the better of Davis repeatedly.

While Alexis Davis maybe didn’t deserve a title shot after beating up Rosi Sexton, who has since been cut, and a questionable split decision win over Jessica Eye, she is still one of the top fighters in the division. Her strong BJJ skills and clinch work have been keys to her success in MMA, with some gritty striking to go along with it. Kaufman is just simply the better fighter in speed, experience, aggressiveness, and technique. She has already faced Davis twice and knows what she looks for as well as being able to plaster Davis’s face with unrelenting combos. For fantasy purposes, if Davis is able to survive the onslaught that is bound to come by Kaufman, she theoretically could imitate her striking success from their 2nd fight where she landed 130+ sig strikes. That was over 3 years ago though, with Kaufman only getting better and Davis having suffered more damage since then. I just think Kaufman is too quick and too powerful for Davis to overcome her speed deficiency and lack of polished striking. Kaufman gets her 2nd KO/TKO win over Davis, thereby slamming the book on the ill-advised trilogy.

Kaufman via 2nd round KO

Joe Riggs (+175) vs Patrick Cote (-210)

Hey, there Joe Riggs! This is all you need to know about Riggs – as well as the fact he actually accidentally shot himself before he was slated to fight Paulo Thiago this past year. Nevertheless, Riggs gets a fight with a similar fighter in Patrick Cote, who is looking to continue his strong run after dropping to welterweight after a bad loss to the “Wonder Boy” Stephen Thompson. Both men are heavy hitters, using overhands as their means of knockout, with Riggs being the more versatile striker and Cote having the stronger chin. Will we get another Riggs anecdote?

Joe Riggs is 32 years old but looks like he could be 50. Already having been involved in 55 professional MMA fights, Riggs’ body is breaking down at an alarming rate. In his last fight versus Ben Saunders, he attempted a take-down on the 6’3 Saunders, only to tap out to Saunders’ rubber guard after temporarily losing feeling in his arms. Scary situation that thankfully was averted, but that just shows how fragile Riggs’ body is right now. Riggs is a southpaw who has decent striking, often sitting back and waiting for counter windows. He will often go for a single leg take-down when pressured, and on the ground he is mostly a lay’n’prayer, with some decent submission skills. Riggs has shown in the past he has been susceptible to the counter-right, having been knocked out in 2 of his 3 losses before his 6 win fight streak prior to the Saunders loss.

Patrick Cote has long been known as a brawler with an iron chin, willing to take damage in exchange for his counter-right that has helped Cote get 8 knockout wins. While not having any unique combinations, mostly relying on his power and speedy overhand, Cote still can be a dangerous counter-striker, as he has good footwork and can react quickly to change levels for the take-down. Much like Joe Riggs, Cote tends to stay in top control and work on the ground and pound from half guard. Cote is nothing special, mainly working his way inside with 1-2 punch combinations and hoping to crack through for the knockout. He can be one dimensional at times while striking, telegraphing his punches and leading to badly-damaging counters as seen vs Thompson and Noke. Facing Joe Riggs and his dilapidated body should help out Cote’s usual game plan of getting inside and making it a dirty fight.

Joe Riggs is a decent underdog vs Cote, as he could conceivably take down Cote and grind his way to a decision. If he decides to keep it standing, I don’t trust his chin to withstand the impending striking exchanges between the two, or for Riggs to knock out the always tough Cote. In theory, Riggs has a better striking arsenal while both men’s wrestling should cancel each other out. So realistically speaking, what’s keeping Vegas from making Riggs the favorite? His chin. Can Cote break through and get to Riggs before he gets taken down or held up the cage? I say yes.

Cote via 2nd round KO

Thomas Almeida (-450) vs Yves Jabouin (+360)

The unbeaten prospect Thomas Almeida had spent most of his career beating up everyone that was in way as the bantamweight champion in Legacy FC. Coming off a solid UFC debut versus Tim Gorman that saw some early struggles for Almeida as Gorman took his back, only for Almeida to bounce back in a big way, showcasing his dangerous striking ability with the lethal liver punch and overhand right. Almeida also trains out of vaunted top camp Nova Uniao, home of current FW champ Jose Aldo and former BW champ Renan Barao. Yves Jabouin trains out of Tristar along with fellow Canadian teammate John Makdessi, and Makdessi’s fighting style can be seen in Jabouin’s fights at times, especially the wide orthodox stance and the use of the front lead leg kick. This should be an interesting back and forth striking affair between two different styles.

Thomas Almeida will be a force in the bantamweight division. The guy may seem like a patient, surgical striker at first, but when he smells blood in the water he is ferocious going for the finish, mixing up the overhand with the nasty liver punch (left hook to the lower right of the body). Almeida keeps his hands close together and near his face to be able to shield himself from attacks while still being quick enough to counter. His hand speed is fantastic, and while he does have some kick ability, he mostly uses the low leg kick as a combo finisher. Almeida has only had one of his fights go to the decision, and that was his UFC debut vs Tim Gorman in 90 degree heat and Gorman eating a ton of punches that would KO plenty of other bantamweights. Almeida also holds a brown belt in BJJ but he is really a devastating striker who can finish a fight on the ground if he rocks them. He has good scrambling ability and defensive wrestling, and while I couldn’t see much on his take-down offense, I don’t think that will even be needed versus Jabouin. This guy is the real deal.

Yves Jabouin is a shifty striker, moving left and right while trying to duck away from most punches. Even though he does try his very best to be a difficult fighter to hit consistently, he gets hit way too much. Instead of circling around punches as he tries to duck away, he actually just basically tilts his head back and still absorbs most of the damage from a punch. Not good, and versus Wineland and Pickett, that strange style resulted in a KO loss in both matches. Asides from his bad striking defense, Jabouin has a good left hook and a decent jab to go with a powerful side kick that he can switch into a headkick, much like his counterpart in Makdessi. The problem is he tends to give away when he is going to utilize the kick, often moving his back leg inside to get the torque needed to snap the kick. That can be easily telegraphed and punished accordingly, something Wineland did repeatedly. Also, in some of his fights where Jabouin did not want to keep the fight standing, he would often go for take-downs and simply try to stay on top, not being very active or looking to make a pass. He often got stood up in those fights, including vs Mike Easton, much to the chagrin of the crowd. While Jabouin could be an effective striker at times, it’s his strange shifting style that does more harm than good that worries me versus the accurate striker Almeida.

There’s a reason Jabouin is a big underdog here, having already been KO’d several times in the past few fights versus guys who simply had better boxing than Jabouin. His bad striking defense, telegraphed kicks, and inability to defend himself versus the left hook are all telltale signs of an impeding knockout. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jabouin try to take the fight to the ground and try some lay’n’pray, Almeida is no slouch on the ground. Anywhere this fight goes it favors Almeida, plain and simple. Take him with confidence.

Almeida via 1st round KO

John Makdessi (-170) vs Shane Campbell (+150)

The Canadian-bred Taekwondo/Shotokan black belt John Makdessi makes another appearance on a Canadian card, training out of the vaunted Tristar camp that is renowned for its superb training in the art of the jab. He is facing a short notice opponent in Shane Campbell, who is taking the spot for the injured Abel Trujillo on about a month’s notice. Both men are skilled kickboxers, with Shane Campbell having a Muay Thai background, going 62-9 as a professional kickboxer including appearances on the K-1 circuit. Makdessi went 22-0 in his stint in pro kickboxing as well, and is currently 12-3 with a 5-3 record in the UFC. Now, you would think being 5-3 in the UFC would mean Makdessi hasn’t been impressive, but he’s actually beaten some solid competition including the dangerous Daron Cruickshank and had to face Anthony Njokuani before age caught up with him. His last fight was a very controversial loss to blue chip prospect Alan Patrick in a fight I thought Makdessi clearly won, while others thought his lack of aggressiveness and constant circling lost him the fight. Either way, his record in the UFC doesn’t necessarily correlates to his talents, and the bout versus Shane Campbell should provide to be an entertaining fight.

Makdessi is a very technical striker, rarely pushing the pace and inviting his opponents to rush in as Makdessi circles around them, waiting for the opportunity to counter with his patented left jab and hook. Makdessi is a little small as a lightweight and has a fairly short reach at 68 inches, but he has shown excellent ability to consistently stay out of range while still allowing himself enough space to be able to counter effectively with the left jab as opponents try to get inside Makdessi’s range. Similar to Daron Cruickshank, he is patient as he tries to figure out your next few combinations as he constantly circles around the octagon, throwing out the occasional side kick from his wide orthodox stance. He counters most punches with his left hook and will sporadically mix in the right straight/overhand, though it is mostly used as a counter-punch to overly aggressive strikers. His defensive wrestling is very good since he is always keeping himself out of range and stays low, ready for the quick sprawl to shut down any take-down attempts. Asides from his take-down defense, Makdessi is through and through a technical, smooth striker who picks apart his opponents with technique and a barrage of jabs. The one weakness that could turn the tide into Campbell’s favor is Makdessi’s ineffectiveness in checking leg kicks, often opting to absorb all power kicks to his lead leg. That will be a big issue versus the heavy kicking Campbell, and a dead lead leg would drastically cut down Makdessi’s ability to stay out of range and push off his leg on his punches.

Shane Campbell is a little bit of a brawler despite his Muay Thai style and background. He doesn’t have Makdessi’s speed or quickness, but he is the more powerful of the two. While his boxing isn’t as crisp as Makdessi’s, Campbell goes for the power shots more often than not, finishing off each combination with the left leg kick. He constantly uses the low leg kick out of either stance as he pushes forward, tenderizing his opponent’s legs as he tries to counter with a big overhand. He can use body kicks with accuracy, but he really just loves to throw those low leg/thigh kicks with thunderous force that you can hear through the TV. He is better pushing the pace and running through his opponents rather than backing up and defending against combinations and counters, often covering up and eating whatever comes his way then moving outside. He is capable of getting some take-downs from the clinch and up the cage, but they are mostly just using leverage rather than strength or actual take-downs, so I doubt he can be effective with take-downs vs the always ready to scramble Makdessi. One thing to note is Campbell will have a 4 inch reach/height advantage over Makdessi. Of course, considering Makdessi basically invites his opponents to rush inside, I don’t think Campbell is likely to use those advantages and be a long range striker. One thing I noticed in some of Campbell’s fights is he often took a lot of punishment trying to counter-strike someone who was quicker than him, eating left straights and jabs often. While he can take the damage, facing a guy like Makdessi who is very proficient in utilizing the left jab/hook, that seems like bad news for Campbell.

I really think this comes down to Campbell’s leg kicks and destroying Makdessi’s lead leg versus Makdessi’s left jab/hook and handling Campbell’s pacing. Makdessi is such a technician that he can sometimes be overly passive in the opening round, taking note of how his opponent approaches him and what they usually start their combinations with. As the rounds progress, Makdessi increases his striking volume and will occasionally throw out a flashy kick for good measure. There is a good chance for a high volume of sig strikes being thrown by both fighters provided Campbell doesn’t try to take the fight to the ground, and I would favor such a fight to the more technical striker in Makdessi. Campbell isn’t a bad dog play if he can get the leg kick going early and often while getting inside Makdessi’s range with his power shots. Tough task to ask out of a young fighter on short notice.

Makdessi via unanimous decision

Michael Bisping (-145) vs CB Dollaway (+125)

The Count makes his return to the octagon after a brutal loss to possible eventual champion Luke Rockhold that saw Rockhold obliterate Bisping standing, finishing him off with a guillotine choke submission win. Bisping gets a solid all-around fighter in CB Dollaway who is also coming off a rib-shattering KO loss to Lyoto Machida, who just coincidentally got battered and submitted by Luke Rockhold in the last event. Strange…..Anyways, this is a good fight for Bisping to get back into top 10 contention in the middeweight division as CB Dollaway is a good fighter that has been surging recently. I don’t really have a whole lot to add about each fighter as this should be a straight-forward match-up for either fighter on paper.

Bisping is the most technical boxer in the division, with excellent footwork and circling ability to go with his brisk left jab and equally quick counter-right. What has always kept Bisping among the top middleweights is his boxing skills in being able to strike back with surgical precision and increase the volume of strikes to finish off his opponents. Along with his sound defensive wrestling and scrambling ability, Bisping has long been an annoying and persistent boxer on the feet, always keeping himself out of range and out-pointing his opponent with well-timed jabs that can accumulate over time and become increasingly more damaging. In his past few losses, Bisping’s sound fundamentals were neutralized with effective and incessant wrestling that kept Bisping on the ground and unable to get back on the feet to do what he does best. Kennedy and Chael Sonnen both proved that if you continue to force the issue with take-downs and push Bisping up the cage, you can crack his tough defense and nab a win. CB Dollaway would be wise to take a gander at those fights and take note of their blueprint to success.

CB Dollaway doesn’t have anything overly impressive, having both solid striking to go with strong wrestling base as he was an All American at ASU and a purple belt in BJJ. Dollaway is a bit of an enigma, as he could really be a threat to the top guys in the division if he added more variety to his striking arsenal and strung together better combinations instead of depending on the counter-left hook and throwing out one punch combos. His wrestling is also very good as he proved in his fight versus Francis Carmont, who had been one of the better grapplers in the division. Dollaway’s wrestling is more shoot-inside based, ducking under a punch and trying to get in a trip take-down or grab a leg and drag them to the ground. While Dollaway could be better served in being more aggressive on the ground with making transitions, he still has good top control and can stifle most scramble attempts. That will be the key to beating Bisping for Dollaway, his capability in being able to get inside Bisping’s range and finding the right timing for a shoot. Bisping is always ready to sprawl and shed off any take-down attempts, so Dollaway cannot easily give up on that game-plan if he wants continued success in the UFC. Dollaway’s countering ability will also be a big part for his chances of getting the win, as Bisping has shown in the past he can be knocked out by the right punch.

There is a small chance this fight ends up being a battle on the feet, one I would give a distinct advantage to the quicker and more effective boxer Bisping. Chances are, Dollaway will have to goad Bisping into a telegraphed punch so he can duck under and grab a leg for a take-down attempt. Dollaway also has to continuously keep the pressure on with threats of take-down attempts and push Bisping around the cage to get the upset. Dollaway does have the power to put away Bisping, but rushing towards Bisping has never been a good idea unless you’re Dan Henderson. This has all the makings of a classic Bisping match, showcasing his fluid striking and impeccable footwork. While I don’t think Bisping can finish Dollaway, he certainly can add on plenty of sig strikes to help pad his final score en route to a decision win.

Bisping via unanimous decision

Rampage Jackson (-290) vs Fabio Maldonado (+245)

QUINTON RAMPAGE JACKSON!!!! (HOWLS) One of the meanest, most powerful boxers of the light-heavyweight division makes his return to UFC after a short stint with Bellator. He gets to face another boxer in Fabio Maldonado, who just absolutely loves to put a show on for the fans with tons and tons of punches, especially the body punches he is famous for. While to some casual fans, this fight doesn’t have the star power one would expect out of a typical Rampage fight, it is perfectly suited for violence as both men will stand and trade all night long. Neither men have any interest in taking the fight to the ground, or holding each other up the cage as Rampage has vocally despised such maneuvers (hello King Mo). I absolutely love this fight just off the boxing prowess both men possess and the potential for a highlight knockout.

Rampage Jackson is a long time veteran of the UFC, working on his 2nd stint as he tries to reclaim his top 5 ranking in the LHW division. Rampage is mostly known for his brash trash talking and powerful punches, most notably knocking out the Iceman himself, Chuck Liddell (yes, the guy from the DuraLast commercials). Rampage generally doesn’t push forward, instead optioning to keeping himself in front of his opponents and lightly moving his feet/head, preparing for his bruising counter-hooks at any moment’s notice. Rampage doesn’t use the jab often, but with that knockout power of his, he sure as hell doesn’t need to. Rampage has a great uppercut to go with a nasty right straight that he throws with surprising velocity. You do not want to eat one of his counter-straights. Cornering his opponents has been one of Rampage’s favorites, as he is able to cut them off and punish any retaliatory strikes accordingly, as he is one of the best counter-strikers in the division. One of his biggest gripes to date has been his cardio and desire to train, often taking fights while out of shape from either doing movies or random TV appearances and not putting in the time and effort into training for the fight. Jackson would often be gassed after the 1st round, unable to stop take-downs or have his speed advantage at his disposal. Thankfully, Rampage seems to have changed for the better, training early and often to stay in shape and keep off the weight to make the cut easier for him, as he usually walks around at 220-230 pounds but had ballooned up to 240-250 pounds when he started caring less. Even at his age (36 years old!), he still has the hand speed that has made him a force among his own to go with his tenacity and power. Watch out Fabio, Rampage’s coming.

Fabio Maldonado is a fun scrappy fighter who won’t back down from anyone, having fought at middeweight, light-heavyweight, and heavyweight in the UFC! He took a short notice fight versus Stipe Miocic at HW in a short lived affair that resulted in a KO loss in the 1st round. Shame. Nevertheless, Maldonado loves, loves, LOVES a brawl. He has fairly quick hands, using plenty of jabs and straights with an emphasis on body punches. Fabio also loves himself some dirty boxing out of the clinch, pushing his opponents up the cage and battering them with uppercuts and liver punches. Fabio can turn it on at any time with flurries of jabs and uppercuts as seen in many of his fights where he stockpiled so many significant strikes that had he faced enough opponents who didn’t look to take him down and take advantage of his complete and utter lack of ground defense, Maldonado would probably break Nate Diaz’s record for the most significant strikes landed in a fight. That record still stands at an astonishing 238 significant strikes! In a three round fight at that! Maldonado has basically averaged 70-80 significant strikes in almost all of his fights that didn’t end in a KO, including fights where he was taken down over and over. His ability to string together flawless combinations and batter his opponent’s body with punches that sneak up on them in the later rounds is just unbelievable. He won’t ever be a contender in any division just off his lack of take-down defense and complete disdain in doing anything off his back. It’s almost soul-crushing to see him flopping around on the ground, easily getting full mounted and pummeled into oblivion.

I just can’t wait to see how Rampage Jackson looks like, especially with an opponent tailor made to showcase Jackson’s speed and power. Maldonado has long been known as one of the toughest guys around, taking a great deal of damage and still punching his way through the match. After so many years of taking damage to the chin, it’s bound to catch up to him as it has for any fighters renowned for their iron chins. Rampage should be the stronger boxer with better countering ability, but his cardio will remain an issue until proven otherwise. Maldonado should rack up the sig strikes if he survives 3 rounds with Jackson, so on any site he is cheap on I would take a flier on him. I’m not gonna pick against that baaaaaad man Rampage Jackson, and I’ll go as far as to give him a 1st round knockout.

Jackson via 1st round KO

Demetrious Johnson (-1000) vs Kyoji Horiguchi (+650)

Yet another title defense for Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. He has just about defeated all the top contenders in the flyweight division, including a surprising 1st round knockout of Joseph Benavidez. No one has really came close to defeating Mighty Mouse, short of a Ian McCall draw that was well over 3 years ago, and Johnson got his revenge the very next fight. In fact, one of the few guys that had a good shot in giving him a tough fight was John Dodson, who had hit Johnson hard and gave him some tough striking exchanges before eventually getting out-hustled and out-grappled in a decision loss. After a devastating kick to end Moraga in the 2nd, Dodson was expected to possibly rematch vs Johnson, only to tear his ACL in training. Johnson then faced Ali Bagautinov, completely dismantling the Russian standing and proving once again why he is a top 5 P4P fighter in all of UFC. Certainly a tough test for the Japanese superstar. Kyoji Horiguchi has won his last 9 fights, including a perfect 4-0 record in the UFC. And he’s only 24 years old! While I may sound like I am drinking the kool-aid on the hype on Horiguchi, there are good reasons to love his potential, even if he is facing a behemoth in Johnson. Hopefully he can survive 5 rounds so he can prove all the doubters and Las Vegas wrong.

Demetrious Johnson is damn good. I could end it there, but whatever. The man has some of the most technical and accurate striking in all of UFC, with just about anything you can think of striking-wise he can throw out with flawless technique and speed that has thus far been unrivaled. He moves in and out of range effortlessly, with great footwork as he is constantly moving both his feet and his head waiting for the moment to strike. He can lead with whatever combination he wants and finish it off with whatever kick he wants. And that’s just striking. His wrestling is the best in the division thus far, with maybe Henry Cejudo possibly trying to overtake that distinction. His take-down offense is well-timed, with some of the best single-double leg take-downs. On the ground he is relentless with his top control and excellent leg weaving as he passes his opponent’s guard with relative ease. His submission game is very underrated as well, most notably finishing off Cariaso with an unbelievable kimura that had never been pulled off in any of UFC’s championship fights. I mean the list goes on and on about this guy, even making Chris Cariaso the biggest underdog ever in UFC history odds-wise. Does he have any weaknesses? No, not that I can see right now. Maybe a little bit of a chin issue as Dodson did hit him with some glancing blows that knocked the champ down several times, but no one else has even came close to getting around Johnson’s lighting quick striking to even crack his chin. What the hell can Horiguchi do?

Kyoji Horiguchi has been on a recent tear, dispatching some bottom/mid-level competition on his road to facing the mighty Goliath (see what I did there?). A 2nd degree black belt in Karate, Horiguchi is both superb in the orthodox and southpaw stances, often switching to southpaw if the match-up favors it, as seen versus Jon Delos Reyes where Horiguchi improved on his impressive counter-striking, knocking down Reyes several times. Horiguchi already possesses great footwork as he leaves a lot of space in front of him while constantly dancing around his opponents as he pops left and right with his herky-jerky movement. He has very quick reflexes, able to jump ahead in an instant to close the wide gap he leaves himself with, usually bulldozing ahead with an overhand right that he occasionally will mix up with a flying knee or a headkick. Horiguchi has already shown impressive power for a flyweight in his short tenure with the UFC. He has some vicious uppercuts that he will plaster his opponents with in close range combat. Horiguchi also can be a patient striker, biding his time as he awaits his moment to counter, something that will be absolutely crucial while facing Mighty Mouse. He has some good scrambling ability and solid wrestling, but he tends to overexert himself out of position while defending take-downs, putting himself in precarious situation that he shouldn’t be in, like when he was able to push down Dustin Pague in the early 1st, only to give up his back to Pague. Fortunately, he was able to stand up with Pague on his back and shake him off, later punishing his cowardly efforts to put away the Supernova with some vicious ground and pound in the 2nd. Obviously, facing such a phenomenal wrestler in Johnson, Horiguchi isn’t going to look to get the fight to the ground, rather choosing to test the chin of the champion. Both men never stop moving around and are always looking for an angle to jump inside with whatever combination they feel like throwing. Horiguchi thus far has shown some really impressive countering ability, as he is capable of landing a wild hook while ducking a punch or kick at the same time with either hand. It is almost Dominick Cruz-like with how effective and powerful Horiguchi can be with either hand in either stance, even if he is back-pedaling. He has to tone down some of his wild strikes, keeping them clean and compact as Johnson has the speed and technique to punish a misplaced punch with a flurry of jabs. I believe in him!

The cards are stacked against Horiguchi as he looks to break the pattern of becoming yet another notch on Johnson’s bedpost. Normally, I wouldn’t even give this a 2nd thought as I had only thought Dodson had a smidgen of a chance against the powerhouse, but after watching Horiguchi in all of his 4 fights and his potential, I’m intrigued. While Horiguchi doesn’t have the versatility of Dodson, he does have the same kind of power to go with better footwork and the capabilities to quickly jump in and out of range, something Dodson did not do much in his fights as he was more of a stationary striker. The one thing I do find worrisome about Horiguchi is his inexperience facing other grapplers, as he sometimes was in out of position on the ground the few times he was there. I could very, very easily see a repeat of the John Moraga/Johnson fight, where Mighty Mouse had 67 sig strikes, 12 take downs, 13 dominant positions, and 3 submission attempts, including the fight-ending 5th round armbar. Add up the points all you want, but that’s a (expletive)-TON! I am banking on Horiguchi’s countering ability against the speedy technical striking of Johnson, in the hopes he can catch the right strike at the right time for the massive upset. That’s right. A classic David vs Goliath match.

Horiguchi via 3rd round KO