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UFC 188 DFS Picks: VelaSquishing the Fats

UFC 188 DFS Picks: VelaSquishing the Fats
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UFC 188 DFS Picks: VelaSquishing the Fats

About damn time! Cain Velasquez finally steps inside the octagon after nearly two years since his last fight due to a litany of injuries that still continues to plague his great UFC HW career. Nonetheless, the champion makes his arrival versus a brand new opponent for once (last 5 fights are as follows: Junior Dos Santos, Antonio Silva, Junior Dos Santos, Antonio Silva, Junior Dos Santos), and it’s been a sort of a nice story for Fabricio Werdum, revitalizing himself and improving into a much better fighter. Some of you may remember Werdum as the guy who got the massive upset over “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko, ending his almost 10 year dominance at heavyweight and his 28 fight winning streak. It also was Fedor’s only submission loss of his career, and damned if he didn’t show his pride when he refused to tap out,  instead going to sleep in peace. That loss unfortunately was the beginning of the end for the great Fedor, a truly very saddening end to a legend. But as legends’ careers start to wane and flicker away into the abyss, new stars are born and legends are created anew. Will Werdum continue his surprising run with yet another massive upset?

Alongside that very intriguing story line is a pair of top lightweights that have the tools and talent to be perennial title contenders but are coming off disappointing losses in Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez and Eddie Alvarez. The loser likely has to start working harder and prove to the UFC they are damn well worth the money invested in them, as both are coming off blockbuster contract deals with tons of potential and hype behind them. Another possible title contender who might gain heavy traction if he wins again in dominant fashion is Henry Cejudo in the flyweight division. The Olympic gold medal winning wrestler has been crushing his opponents and showing off his impressive striking to go with his fantastic wrestling pedigree. The flyweight division may start becoming more relevant as John Dodson, Joseph Benavidez, and Henry Cejudo continue to impress and give the fans greatly entertaining fights despite mumble mouth Demetrious Johnson’s utter lack of a personality. It’ll be hard to top last week’s incredible card that featured 7 finishes (tied for most finishes on a card all time) and a main card that had ALL finishes! What a crazy night! Impressive night of violence no doubt, but UFC 188 has all the potential in the world to be yet another gem in the rough for the UFC as last week was. Are you ready yet?

 

Albert Tumenov (-450) vs Andrew Todhunter (+360)

This will be a very short notice fight for Andrew Todhunter after Tumenov’s original opponent, Hector Urbina, had to pull out due to injury a week ago. Todhunter is undefeated at 7-0 with all wins by submission, and was a sniper for the U.S Army hence his nickname of “The Sniper”. He’s also usually fought at middleweight, and the fight against Tumenov will be his 1st pro fight at welterweight. So not only will Todhunter be making his UFC debut on a week’s notice, he also has to cut far more weight that he has done in that much (less?) time. Apparently, he also had just recently fought a professional boxing match at 197 pounds a mere two weeks ago. Sure, he’s an U.S army veteran who obviously has gone some rigorous training, but this is a very difficult situation for him facing an elite striker on the level of Tumenov in addition to the weight cut. Albert “Einstein” Tumenov is coming off an incredible double headkick KO of Matt Dwyer and a great comeback decision win over big welterweight Nico Musoke that saw Tumenov batter Musoke repeatedly with glancing straights and devastating headkicks that almost took the soul out of Musoke’s body. Interesting match-up!

ALBERT TUMENOV

Strengths

  • Throws every strike with force, loves to clean up the right straight/overhand with a headkick follow-up
  • Shows good countering ability especially when he can telegraph kicks and lands the counter-straight for the knockdown
  • Decent combinations, throws with all of his might so doesn’t need extensive ones to get the job done
  • Doesn’t become too passive and needy of striking exchanges for counter opportunities
  • Strong chin
  • Shows ability to switch stances and land the left hand if it works early

Weaknesses

  • Can open himself to take-down attempts on his straight/overhands
  • Doesn’t attempt many passes on the ground, but he does have a very good GnP game
  • Limited film on how Tumenov is on his back, reversed Alcantara early in the 1st but was controlled on the ground otherwise in the later rounds
  • Little bit of cardio issue as he expends a ton of energy behind his strikes
  • Tries to catch kicks and counter, which can result in Tumenov eating several body kicks at a time, though it doesn’t seem to have a major effect on him
  • Sometimes relies on the straight/overhand a little too much, needs to work on mixing up attacks, room for improvement
ANDREW TODHUNTER

Strengths

  • Looks to get the fight to the ground as soon as possible, which is great considering his skill-set once on the mat
  • Plethora of take-downs, from the single leg to back trips that he can quickly transition into full mount, strong enough for body lock throws and constantly target single/double leg take-downs
  • Doesn’t waste time on the ground, passing the guard early and often
  • Forces mistakes on the ground to set up RNC/arm triangle opportunities with barrages of punches at opportune times

Weaknesses

  • Not a great striker, average skills and a little slow at times
  • 1st fight at welterweight, usually fighting at middleweight
  • Fought a professional boxing match at 197 pounds 2 weeks prior to call up, resulting in a pretty drastic weight cut on such short notice
  • Gas tank may be a big issue if he is unable to get the take-downs early and the massive weight cuts wears him down

Tumenov has to absolutely be wary of Todhunter’s take-down attempts and keep the fight standing for as long as possible, where he has a huge distinct advantage over Todhunter. He could very easily batter Todhunter around and get an early KO, or wait till the later rounds to gas him out and finish the job accordingly. Todhunter has a little bit of upset potential here considering his nice variety of take-down attempts he can create from anywhere, and will most likely look to push the action up the cage as early as possible. Tumenov was able to keep Nico Musoke at bay when Musoke attempted to try and take Einstein down, so it is possible that Tumenov has been learning from his past mistakes regarding his take-down defense. Tumenov is just too powerful on the feet and is quick enough to stay upright for majority of the 1st round. You couple that with Todhunter’s likely big weight cut and short notice call-up, and it has all the signs of an early blowout win for Tumenov. I’d predict Todhunter makes it a little interesting in the 1st round, maybe get a quick take-down but Tumenov gets back up quickly and starts pounding away at Todhunter’s face, finishing the job versus a gassed Todhunter in the 2nd.

Tumenov via 2nd round KO

 

Clay Collard (-255) vs Gabriel Benitez (+215)

The always entertaining Clay Collard has already sort of impressed during his short time in the UFC, with a thrilling fight against fast rising superstar Max Holloway that did end in a late round stoppage loss for Collard, and a recent win over Alex White. The high volume striker meets TUF: Latin America FW semi-finalist Gabriel Benitez, coming off an impressive showing versus Humberto Brown, showcasing his jiu-jitsu skills with 5 submission attempts, including the 3rd round guillotine choke sealing win. There is a good chance the fight will turn into a brawl as both men are willing to exchange blows on the feet without many pauses or breaks in between. Benitez owns 9 submission wins on record, utilizing his active guard to pull off armbars and also has a sneaky guillotine choke that can be a detriment to wrestlers who often try to change levels and shoot for the take-down. Collard has 8 KO/TKO wins with 7 of those wins in the 1st round, so both men are equally adept at finishing their fights. Potential!

CLAY COLLARD

Strengths

  • High volume oriented striker, loves to throw jab/straight/double hook combos over and over, with several hard kick combo finishers
  • Relentless aggressive striking style, will lunge with several punches
  • One hell of a chin, can take a ton of punishment
  • Will have a 2 inch reach/height advantage
  • Good at catching kicks and trying to get opponent down by pushing them down or tripping them
  • Never-ending supply of strikes, will mix up random strikes here and there to keep opponents guessing
  • Decent off his back, capable of landing a triangle/armbar, but not his thing – he wants to keep it standing

Weaknesses

  • Depends way too much on the Anderson Silva-like lean back evasion, runs backwards versus pressure instead of circling out, getting hit in the process
  • Mediocre striking defense, doesn’t care to defend himself as long as he can counter back with constant barrages of punch combos, can be sloppy at times
  • Can deplete his gas tank quickly in the 1st round if he goes wild with his striking, but will still keep striking back even when extremely gassed – gotta respect his willpower
  • Has been subbed in two of his 5 career losses, has tendency to expose his neck on the few take-down attempts he does
  • Will throw out many random strikes that don’t make sense, like flying crane kicks and spinning backfists, like the energy behind them but needs to stay in control better
GABRIEL BENITEZ

Strengths

  • Little bit of a lanky southpaw, loves the low kick into left straight combo
  • Devastating knees from clinch, will often clinch up as he approaches the cage or gets cornered
  • Will abuse the guillotine choke if opponents attempt take-downs on him and expose their neck
  • Active guard, will set up traps to get the armbar/triangle opportunities, tough to be aggressive on top of Benitez
  • Shows some ability to land the headkick with good accuracy, decent countering ability, mostly by uppercuts

Weaknesses

  • Can be controlled up the cage for some time
  • Lack of combinations, depends on left hand punches for damage
  • Leaves chin high during striking exchanges, making Benitez extremely hittable on counters (has been dropped before)
  • Hand speed is a little slow at times, which is worrisome versus quicker strikers such as Collard
  • Needs to improve overall striking defense

Clay Collard has been involved in two great fights (maybe not for him and his chin) with his exciting fight style due to his wild striking combined with his lack of defense (even if he tries the Fight Night evade stick too much). He should be able to generate plenty of offense against Benitez, as neither fighter should be looking to get it to the ground, even if Benitez may have the advantage there. Both men don’t have great striking defense, but Collard’s speed and willingness to land extreme amount of combinations should bode well for him versus Benitez. As long as Collard doesn’t get stupid and go for a take-down, or Benitez doesn’t take it to the ground, Collard may very well land massive amounts of significant strikes and possibly a finish.

Collard via 2nd round KO

 

Augusto Montano (-160) vs Cathal Pendred (+140)

A pair of tall welterweight get ready to square off with Augusto Montano being the hometown favorite and Cathal Pendred currently riding a 3 fight winning streak in the UFC. Though Montano will be the taller WW at 6’2”, he won’t have the reach advantage as Pendred will have 2 inches on Montano. Both men have fought at middleweight before, but Pendred should have the size advantage over Montano, while Montano has finished all of his opponents in his wins with his sole loss via decision to current UFC MW and sizzling knockout artist Sam Alvey. Let’s break down their strengths and weaknesses.

AUGUSTO MONTANO

Strengths

  • Has good feet movement and is usually never a stationary striker
  • Excellent power in his hands and has the quickness to beat opponents to the punch often
  • Lethal when he corners his opponents up the cage and batters them with vicious uppercuts and knees
  • Average take-downs, but crux of his ground game based on strong ground and pound that opens up sub attempts
  • Good usage of the headkick as a combo finisher

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t string together many combos consistently, though when he does they are effective
  • Can be baited into counters that exposes his balky chin (has been dropped in several fights)
  • While he doesn’t get taken down much, opponents who were persistent with the threat were able to take him down and stay in control
  • Sometimes puts himself in bad situations on the ground but hasn’t hurt him thus far
CATHAL PENDRED

Strengths

  • Long, lanky length allows Pendred to stay out of range so long he doesn’t become overly aggressive or gasses
  • Has a solid kick repertoire, loves the inside leg kick to lead leg
  • Has a strong right overhand
  • Very persistent with the single leg/body lock take-downs, and can latch onto opponents’ back for a suplex/trip take-down to get into back mount
  • Aggressive submission hunter on the ground
  • More of a wrestler than striker, can win tough fights with his frustrating take-down attempts

Weaknesses

  • Much like Montano, Pendred can be baited into counters and rocked (was knocked down by Mike King and Gasan Umalatov)
  • Depends on one punch combos too much, especially the overhand
  • Can gas himself if he doesn’t get the take-down
  • While he does have some power in his hands, he just doesn’t have the quickness to be a real threat consistently, can be beat to the punch early and often
  • Can get countered when he lunges forward with the uppercut
  • While Pendred doesn’t have an awful chin and can survive getting rocked, it’s still worrisome how he opens himself to punishment

I agree with Montano being the favorite, as he is just simply the quicker and more powerful fighter. Both men have shown in the past they can be susceptible to counters, with Montano having the better countering ability of the two. Pendred still needs to learn to take advantage of his length to be a good long range striker to complement his strong wrestling and aggressive submissions. Pendred just doesn’t have the speed or quickness to challenge Montano on the feet, even with Montano’s questionable chin. He’s gonna have to make this fight dirty with constant take-down attempts and push Montano around the cage to tire him out. I won’t be surprised if Pendred is able to get Montano down quickly with a single leg and stay in top control for the decision win, but considering Pendred’s speed deficiencies and bad striking defense at times, I’m gonna stick with Montano by TKO.

Montano via 2nd round TKO

 

Francisco Trevino (+335) vs Johnny Case (-420)

Johnny “Hollywood” Case has been an intriguing prospect at lightweight, and thus far in the UFC he has been impressive, dispatching Frankie Perez with his defensive wrestling and GnP, and a Performance Of The Night submission win over Kazuki Tokudome. He faces an undefeated fighter in Francisco Trevino (12-0) who is also coming off a good win over Renee Forte, overcoming an early misstep in the 1st round where he got taken down and gave up his back. He won the fight via unanimous decision, showcasing his kicking ability and perseverance as he got taken down five times by Forte, but scrambled back up on most of those. Trevino gets a huge step up in competition in relation to the guys he’s faced on record, and it might be too much for him. Here’s why.

FRANCISCO TREVINO

Strengths

  • Loves the body kick, has a very kick-centric offense landing kicks at all angles
  • While not his forte, can land the tough punch that hurts more than it looks
  • Switches stances as he moves around the cage
  • Brown belt in BJJ
  • Moves left and right effectively, using his kicks to find his range

Weaknesses

  • Not very athletic, can struggle versus quicker fighters (33 years old)
  • Average take-down defense, gives up his back too easily
  • Leaves his hands down on kicks, has been countered/punished due to that bad tendency
  • Gasses in later rounds, can be hit by barrage of combinations up the cage as he covers up
  • Despite being a BJJ brown belt, grappling skills look shoddy at best, not a real threat off his back
  • Undefeated record mostly consists of dented cans and mediocre competition, Case will be a big step up for Trevino
JOHNNY CASE

Strengths

  • Uses good amount of combinations and mixes in kicks, sets up his devastating right hand
  • Has power in his hands, knows how to finish (18 of 20 wins by KO/TKO or submission)
  • Big for a lightweight at 6’1”, will have 4 inches height/2 inch reach advantage on Trevino
  • Purple belt in JJJ (Jury Jiu-Jitsu, basically BJJ)
  • Defensive wrestling/grappling is great, can reverse opponents’ take-downs into advantageous positions on the ground, good scrambling ability
  • Good ground and pound, solid submission grappling
  • Loves to use the back trip take-down when opponents push him up the cage and get reversed instead by Case
  • Almost a clone of Myles Jury (minus his striking arsenal), which makes sense since he’s been training under Jury’s tutelage

Weaknesses

  • Was frustrated by veterans early in career and submitted, but that was quite a long time ago and Case has improved tremendously since
  • Stays in one position while on top too long, even if he does utilize ground and pound effectively during the time
  • Would like to see more mixture of combinations instead of the basic 1-2 punch and kick, but room for improvement (only 25 years old with 24 fights under his belt already!)
  • Same thing goes for movement, but it’s worked so far for him (riding a 10 fight win streak over the last 4 years)

Johnny Case might be too much for Trevino since it will be Trevino’s 1st true test in MMA as his record is a fairy tale on paper. Case can punish Trevino’s kicks with relative ease and if he decides to take him down to expose Trevino’s tendency to give up his back, he very well could get the submission win and has the ability to do so. Combine that with Case’s killer instinct and great defensive wrestling, and you have all the ingredients of a nice fantasy pick on any site. Case continues his sizzling winning streak with yet another finish, taking advantage of Trevino’s bad take-down defense.

Case via 1st round RNC

 

Alejandro Perez (-165) vs Patrick Williams (+145)

This is a strange match-up by the UFC, as Perez won their 1st inaugural TUF: Latin America in the bantamweight division, and Pat Williams is coming off a flying knee loss to Chris Beal. Whatever the reasoning, this may be a one sided affair as Perez is a strong wrestler and is facing someone coming off a loss. At 1st glance, the fight just seemed strange to me, but I soon changed my mind. Here’s why.

ALEJANDRO PEREZ

Strengths

  • Big for a bantanweight, fought at featherweight before
  • Strong wrestling base, has different types of take-downs he can utilize, from body lock slams to single leg drop downs
  • Constant pressure on the ground with guard passes, very heavy on top
  • Counter-striker, will wait for his opponents to come to him
  • Loves to use low kicks

Weaknesses

  • Limited as a striker, relies on counters and using low kicks to generate offense on the feet
  • Balky chin, dropped by Quinonez in his 1st match and lack of real striking offense can cause bad defense at times, TKO’d by Masio Fullen
  • Very dependent on his wrestling, can be picked apart standing
  • Average on his back as most wrestlers are, has been submitted in 2 of 5 career losses and almost triangled by Quinonez
  • Not much feet movement, can be very passive and throw almost no strikes for long periods of time
PATRICK WILLIAMS

Strengths

  • Loves to stay far back out of range then jump inside and counter back
  • Very fast and quick with his strikes, can land a heavy leg kick with powerful 1-2 combos and vicious uppercuts as he lunges in and out of range, switches stances as well
  • Surprising power for a bantamweight, 4 of 7 career wins by KO/TKO, 2 other by sub after he rocked his opponents
  • Great mixture of different kinds of strikes, keeps opponents guessing and frustrates with his strange sitting far outside of range and back to the cage fighting style
  • Due to his ability to stay far out of range, Williams is able to defend most take-downs with underhooks ready to sprawl, very good overall defensive wrestling
  • Can get a surprise trip take-down as he jumps back inside range

Weaknesses

  • Can get countered when he lunges back inside range, though Williams generally does a good job at avoiding the big blow
  • Questionable chin, has been rocked/KO’d in a couple of losses, Beal was able to counter and hurt Williams several times before his flying knee KO
  • If he can’t impose his will standing with his sitting far back and lunging inside, he can be literally running away for most of the rounds until his opponents decide to engage him standing
  • Tough to get down on the floor, but if Williams does end up there, can struggle versus top control wrestlers and forced into submissions

So after watching both of these guys, I gotta say I was completely wrong on my initial assessment of the match-up. Williams definitely has the talent and striking repertoire to be a frustrating match-up for anyone, especially since he has the speed and quickness to match even the elite. Perez is going to have to get his hands on the always moving Williams one way or another, since his stand up is mediocre at best and can get shredded by Williams’ pace. Likewise for Williams, he has to keep himself upright and take advantage of Perez’s limited striking and possibly get a finish. Both men have questionable chins so there is a decent chance for a finish for either, but I’m going with the upset after rewatching all of Williams’ fights.

Williams via unanimous decision

 

Drew Dober (-155) vs Efrain Escudero (+135)

Drew Dober is coming off what probably was one of the worst losses I have seen in the UFC as Leandro Silva got the submission win over Dober, even though Dober didn’t even tap and was basically out of the sub before the ref decided that Dober had indeed tapped out. All the replays and even during the live broadcast, it was obvious Dober had never tapped. Thankfully, the CABMMA overturned the decision and declared it a No Contest. So Dober will be looking to bounce back with a win over longtime UFC vet Efrain Escudero, coming off an impressive and dominant win over BJJ black belt Rodrigo De Lima. Escudero is making his 3rd stint with the UFC after getting cut twice, and he will be looking to make the most of his third chance with the organization. I’m not sure who wins here, as they are both fairly similar, so their weaknesses will be the key to the match-up.

DREW DOBER

Strengths

  • Fights out of southpaw stance, good hand/foot speed
  • Can land quick 1-2 combos and finish with a body kick, doesn’t rely on any particular strike
  • Moves around and stay relatively out of range versus slower strikers
  • Can be persistent in getting the single/double leg take-down, often holding his opponents up the cage for some period of time
  • A willing brawler if it comes to it, can land glancing hooks
  • Good submission grappling if he is able to get on top, can quickly pass into dominant positions (likes to get the RNC if he can get to opponent’s back while changing levels)

Weaknesses

  • Can be broken down by more technical boxers, Sean Spencer consistently jabbed and beat Dober to the punch to the tune of 105 sig strikes
  • Not the strongest of lightweights, take-down offense average at best, mostly depends on tiring opponents out up the cage
  • Can be controlled on the ground with top control
EFRAIN ESCUDERO

Strengths

  • Has improved striking from being a patient counter-striker, to engaging his opponents more on the feet
  • Uses jabs more now, has developed a nice uppercut to mix in with the usual 1-2 combination
  • Bigger, stronger than Dober and likely may have more punch power as well
  • Has good submission grappling, 12 of 23 wins by submission
  • Can threaten with the guillotine choke on take-down attempts, good guard on the ground for the most part
  • Decent power take-downs, though he only really uses them when it’s an advantage
  • Warts from previous fights less visible, so experience is starting to pay off for Escudero

Weaknesses

  • Main issue from past fights was Escudero would struggle mightily versus bigger opponents than him who could wrestle him down and keep top control
  • Has since improved greatly, but would be passive at times standing and had never developed a consistent jab
  • As said before, biggest issue was stopping the take-down and getting up from his back, was submitted several times due to inability to get opponents off him

I’m a little surprised that Escudero is a short dog in the match-up, considering in his last fight he showcased improved striking and landed 94 sig strikes on De Lima. He did get taken down versus a gassed De Lima, but it really didn’t matter and he was able to get back up quickly versus the former welterweight. Escudero has historically struggled versus bigger wrestlers than him, and Dober doesn’t fit that mold. Sure, he can certainly get a take-down if he forces the issue enough, but Escudero shouldn’t have a major issue with Dober’s attempts. This likely comes down to who can win the striking exchanges, and I favor Escudero in that department. Don’t be surprised if we see a fun back and forth fight with both men nearing 80-100 sig strikes each.

Escudero via unanimous decision

 

Chico Camus (+700) vs Henry Cejudo (-1100)

The hype train of Henry Cejudo’s just keeps on rolling and rolling, as the UFC continues to feed him hapless victims one after another. He gets yet another tasty match-up in Chico Camus, a decent striker with nonexistent take-down defense pitted against the Olympian wrestling of Cejudo’s. Yeah, you can see where I’m going here. Let’s make this short and sweet.

CHICO CAMUS

Strengths

  • Quick combinations, uses good 1-2 punches and can land high volume of strikes, one of the better technical strikers
  • Good feet movement, solid striking defense
  • Decent cardio
  • Mixes up his attacks well, doesn’t telegraph anything
  • Decent top control whenever he can get it

Weaknesses

  • Struggles big time versus wrestlers/anyone who can get consistent take-downs
  • Passive on his back, can be squished into a paste and submitted
  • Doesn’t have real power, dependent on volume striking and movement to win fights
  • Can be rocked by a stray punch here and there
  • No real defensive wrestling/grappling versus stronger/more competent grapplers
HENRY CEJUDO

Strengths

  • Quick and fast for someone his size, a huge flyweight who seems to have righted the ship on his weight-cutting
  • Superior wrestling that can look like Cejudo rag-dolling his competition at times
  • Surprisingly adept at grappling, can transition into dominant positions with ease
  • Developing a strong ground and pound game, prefers to stand at the moment
  • Uses good footwork and can be flashy at times striking, showing off his athletic ability, but has shown some very good boxing
  • Could turn into one of the few flyweights with real power in his hands and is already one of the strongest, if not the strongest, flyweights

Weaknesses

  • Not really a weakness since he seems to have found a comfort zone in his weight cutting, but need to keep a watchful eye on him during weigh ins
  • Can be too wild at times striking, trying to be too flashy and get a highlight reel knockout
  • Untested on his back, but he’s too damn good of a wrestler that it won’t be an issue until he faces an elite flyweight, and Camus isn’t one
  • Whew. -1100? My goodness. I mean, what do you want me to say? Cejudo wins by whatever he wants.
Cejudo via unanimous decision

 

Angela Hill (+255) vs Tecia Torres (-310)

Boy, what a tough draw for Angela Hill’s debut in the UFC. She squares off against one of the more complete fighters in the UFC in Tecia Torres, who was the favorite to win TUF 20 for the inaugural strawweight championship. Both Randa Markos and Carla Esparza exposed some of her weaknesses on the show though, so it will be interesting if she can build off those losses and become even more of a lethal fighter. Angela Hill is also fairly inexperienced, having only had 2 MMA pro fights before the call up to the UFC, and has already lost to Carla Esparza during TUF 20 that was a laughter for most of the 1st. When the going gets tough, the tough get going! I guess…

ANGELA HILL

Strengths

  • Has a quick and strong right overhand that she uses every chance she gets
  • Good usage of 1-2 combinations
  • Muay Thai background, can land the headkick after any punch with ease
  • Stalker mentality, will corner her opponents
  • Excellent at catching kicks and countering with the right hand, credit to her Muay Thai experience
  • Good athletic ability and quickness, potential is there

Weaknesses

  • Limited sample size, two pro MMA and Muay Thai fights (2-0 in both)
  • Not the strongest, can be held and taken down if not ready for take-downs
  • Gas tank issue in one of her fights
  • While it is a powerful weapon, spamming the overhand isn’t ideal versus elite strikers in the division
  • Hasn’t developed any sort of take-down offense or real wrestling/grappling, strictly a striker
TECIA TORRES

Strengths

  • Possibly the most complete fighter in the division
  • Very technical, sound boxing with excellent usage of powerful kicks that she mixes up well as she switches stances
  • Black belt in Karate and Taekwondo
  • Can overwhelm with strikes, 96 sig strikes in her UFC debut vs Angela Magana
  • Great defensive wrestling, always ready to defend the take-downs
  • Can switch gears from being patient to aggressive combinations whenever she smells blood
  • Excellent countering ability, top in the division as far as speed and quickness goes
  • Footwork and octagon control also tops in the division, knows her range and how to stay elusive
  • Not many strawweights have real power, but Torres one of the few that do

Weaknesses

  • While it doesn’t happen often, once taken down she can be controlled from top and stifled
  • Carla and Randa Markos were successful in cracking her take-down defense and exposed her inability to get back up off her back
  • While Torres definitely has power, she has no finishes on record and has had ample opportunities to get one, needs to develop that killer instinct

While Angela Hill has some promise as a striker in the division as long as she can continue to work on her overall strength and staying away from being held up the cage and taken down, a debut versus Tecia Torres? Boy. Torres has already defeated several top 10 fighters in Felice Herrig, Paige VanZant, and Rose Namajunas before she was even in the UFC! I’d only seriously pick Angela Hill as someone who can rack up significant strikes in a loss as a salary dump if needed, but this should be another day at work for Torres who should rack up the sig strikes with ease. Maybe Torres can finally get a finish and start a finishing streak as she clobbers everyone in her path to get that 12 pounds of gold around her waist.

Torres via unanimous decision

 

Charles Rosa (-230) vs Yair Rodriguez (+190)

Yair Rodriguez, the TUF: Latin America featherweight winner, faces off against a similar fighter in Charles Rosa as they both like to switch stances and throw out unorthodox strikes as well as having good guards. I have a feeling one of these men will pull off a highlight reel finish, whether by way of a crazy kick or a slick submission. Rosa has more fights under his belt (10-1) while Rodriguez is only 4-1, though both men haven’t fought great competition asides from Rosa having already fought twice in the UFC (most notably a decision loss to Dennis Siver). The match-up likely hinges on who can control the pace and dominate the ground.

CHARLES ROSA

Strengths

  • Crafty striker, switches stances early and often, even using a wide southpaw stance reminiscent of Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson
  • Mixes his kicks well, can land the headkick/body kick from all angles, side/hook kicks from wide stances
  • Not going to throw many punch combinations, but has good quality power punches and can counter effectively
  • Brown belt in BJJ and it shows with 7 of 10 wins by submission
  • Picks his moments during striking exchanges to quickly change levels and grab a leg for the take-down
  • Has an aggressive guard, will go for the armbar/triangle attempt even if it gives his opponent a chance to get into a more dominant position
  • Has very good cardio, can go the full match with no problems
  • Strong chin, mitigates his average striking defense

Weaknesses

  • Average striking defense still a worry even if his chin is robust, head needs to be on a swivel and put more effort into head movement
  • Shows little urgency in defending take-downs, though his guard is competent enough that it probably doesn’t matter versus lower level competition
  • Experienced fighters can take advantage of Rosa’s aggressiveness on the ground and be able to stuff his sub attempts, landing sufficient ground and pound/move into side control
  • Doesn’t check leg kicks
  • Maybe a little too dependent on the counter KO for real damage
YAIR RODRIGUEZ

Strengths

  • Much like Rosa, a crafty striker that switches stances, but is more of a counter-striker
  • Can land spectacular looking strikes such as spinning backfists, handstand kicks, axe kicks, whatever you can think of
  • Loves using trip take-downs whenever he corners his opponents
  • Good wrestling base allows Rodriguez to employ his unique striking without depending on the one hit KO
  • Has a good guard, can be aggressive off his back like Rosa, probably better in getting reverses than Rosa
  • Decent ground and pound

Weaknesses

  • Not very technical with his strikes, can be very sloppy at times
  • Not as intuitive as a counter-striker, mostly swinging when pressured rather than timing his strikes
  • Can be a little top heavy at times instead of advancing into better positions for submission opportunities
  • Can leave hands down when backing up which opens himself to counters, can be stationary at times
  • Relatively untested as far as UFC caliber competition goes, never faced someone with the jiu-jitsu chops of Rosa’s

I was surprised to see many similarities between the two fighters, as both quickly switch stances often and are aggressive off their back, going for armbars and triangles. Rosa is the bigger and stronger man of the two, with noticeably more polished striking, but Rodriguez has the better wrestling and is capable of keeping top control. The fight likely comes down to both men’s grappling skills, with maybe Rosa forcing the issue standing to try and pick apart Rodriguez’s sloppy striking. On the other hand, Rodriguez could take advantage of Rosa’s lack of urgency in defending take-downs and stuff his sub attempts on the ground. As I said before, I have an inkling that we will see a finish in the fight, but who? I’ll predict that Rosa keeps the fight standing and picks Rodriguez apart, eventually rocking him and finishing it with a RNC

Rosa via 3rd round RNC

 

Kelvin Gastelum (-450) vs Nate Marquardt (+360)

Welcome to the middleweight division Mr. Gastelum. Wait, you still wanna go back to welterweight? But you’ve missed like…50 cuts already at WW! WHATEVER DUDE. Kelvin Gastelum faces off long time veteran and always dangerous Nate Marquardt in what is likely the swan song of Marquardt’s career, as his age and chin continue to catch up with him. I miss the beard. So why is Gastelum such a big favorite over Marquardt? Pretty simple, cuz he can wrestle him down and gas Marquardt out. Among other things, of course.

KELVIN GASTELUM

Strengths

  • Big wrestler, can overpower his opponents with any take-downs
  • Stays heavy on top, good usage of ground and pound
  • Purple belt in 10th Planet jiu-jitsu, very capable on the ground in notching submissions
  • Improving striking offense, has been landing his jab more often and mixing in low kicks, has been working on his boxing and claims to be the new Mike Tyson (shrug)
  • Also has improved striking defense with more head movement
  • Possibly may not have cardio issues anymore since he won’t be cutting to welterweight anymore, as he missed the 171 pound cut several times

Weaknesses

  • As said before, when he was a welterweight the weight cut seemed bad for him as he would gas in the later rounds badly and get dominated standing (was hurt by Story late and almost finished)
  • Can be a little passive at times standing, when he should push forward when trapping his opponents near the cage
  • Despite being a big welterweight, never really had knockout power and didn’t display enough ability to string together consistent combinations, relying mostly on his wrestling/grappling
  • Early in career, opponents were able to hurt Gastelum with counters, but that seems to have improved since then
NATE MARQUARDT

Strengths

  • Has a propensity for finishing his opponents, with 25 of his 33 wins by KO/TKO or submission
  • Several black belts in several fighting styles, including a black belt in BJJ
  • Experienced veteran with 49 fights under his belt
  • Strong wrestling base, once he gets on top it’s very difficult to get him off and stop his submission attempts
  • Diverse array of strikes he can lead with, strong right hand and nasty leg kicks
  • Decent take-down offense, usually uses trips

Weaknesses

  • Chin has deteriorated over the years along with his gas tank
  • Age may be becoming a factor, as Marquardt slows down heavily after the 1st round
  • Can be countered into sleep, doesn’t have the quickness he used to have anymore
  • Backs up and gets cornered up the cage versus pressure
  • Can be pretty one dimensional on offense if he can’t get into a rhythm and dictate the pace

I wish I could tell you to use Marquardt as a sneaky underdog play, but he just doesn’t have it anymore. Bad gas tank, terrible chin, and facing an elite prospect (well, for MW anyways) all spell doom for the elder Marquardt. I fear we will see lots of hugging and take-downs by Gastelum, badly gassing Marquardt and possibly trying to end his life on the ground. Though Gastelum really wants to show off his improved striking, he’d be better off just keeping the fight on the ground and avoiding Marquardt’s still dangerous striking.

Gastelum via unanimous decision

 

Eddie Alvarez (+155) vs Gilbert Melendez (-175)

Two of UFC’s recent blockbuster signings square off with both men coming off disappointing loss, more notably Melendez as he was seemingly in control of then LW champion Anthony Pettis, before a 2nd round guillotine choke gave “El Nino” his 1st submission loss of his career. Alvarez is coming off a loss to potentially the number 1 title contender in Donald Cerrone, after a 1st round that saw Alvarez frustrate Cerrone with his excellent boxing and footwork before getting his legs sawed in half by the elder Cerrone’s vicious Muay Thai attack. They are both two of the better boxers in the division with some of the better defensive wrestling and grappling as well, with Alvarez having more of a wrestling pedigree than Melendez, who presumably has the boxing advantage. It should be a very balanced match-up with neither men showing many weaknesses thus far at their point of their careers. FOTY candidate? I think so.

GILBERT MELENDEZ

Strengths

  • Usage of the jab tops in the division, excellent in utilizing the jab/straight combos
  • Very quick and efficient boxing, using his hand speed and expert footwork to overwhelm his opponents and pick them apart
  • One of the better defensive wrestlers in the division, very hard to take down as he always has underhooks ready and has a fantastic sprawl + impeccable footwork helps too
  • Underrated grappling skills as some may not know Melendez is actually a BJJ black belt
  • Very good fight IQ in understanding what he needs to do to win his matches and not let his opponents’ strengths take over, had a great game plan versus Pettis by controlling him up the cage and picking him apart with punching combinations without giving Pettis any room to operate
  • Relentless attack with high energy that fits his fantastic cardio

Weaknesses

  • Not the strongest of lightweights, bigger guys can penetrate his take-down defense and win tough, close battles (Josh Thomson and Benson Henderson)
  • Doesn’t have knockout power, mostly relying on quick, technical boxing with a stiff jab to discourage opponents from rushing forward, jumping on them whenever they get hurt, so finishing potential is limited
  • Can be prone to firefights, though in limited moments, Diego Sanchez ignited Melendez’s fire and dropped him momentarily
EDDIE ALVAREZ

Strengths

  • Superb boxing and footwork and much like Melendez has a great jab/straight combination, with more emphasis on the overhand
  • Good defensive wrestling/sprawl that’s mostly assisted by Alvarez’s strong wrestling base
  • Bigger, more powerful than Melendez
  • Uses plenty of take-down attempts whenever necessary, good from the clinch, and will have more tools in the match-up
  • May not hold a belt, but grappling skills better than most, surprisingly effective at getting submissions

Weaknesses

  • Does not use many kicks, and can have his offense doused versus competent strikers who flatten his lead leg with hard kicks to slow down Alvarez’s boxing
  • Does not have the striking defense of Melendez’s, can be hit during striking exchanges more often than not and hurt
  • May struggle at times with his cardio if he exerts too much energy early on, but does have experience in 5 round fights
  • A bad concussion injury before joining the UFC kept Alvarez shelved for some time, and could be an issue later down the road if his striking defense doesn’t improve
  • May not be as quick as Melendez, but will still have the more powerful punches

This is really a coin flip between Melendez’s quicker, more crisp boxing versus Alvarez’s more tools at his disposal, possibly using his wrestling to stifle Melendez’s offense. It’s probably a wash if it goes to the ground as both are excellent scramblers and won’t be easily submitted. It all comes down to power versus speed, technique versus versatility, and possibly their cardio as well. It’s a shame this isn’t a 5 round fight, as I don’t think 3 rounds is enough to decide a true winner unless one of them completely dominates the other. I’ll stick with “El Nino” and his speed/quickness advantage.

Melendez via unanimous decision

 

Cain Velasquez (-500) vs Fabricio Werdum (+400)

As I mentioned before, this will be Velasquez’s 1st new opponent after fighting JDS three times and Bigfoot twice in his last 5 appearances. Velasquez has also suffered many injuries over the years that has prevented him from competing/defending his titles on a consistent basis. He’s still the champion (technically) and the outright number 1 heavyweight in the division by a wide margin after besting JDS twice in dominant fashion. Still, Velasquez cannot sleep on the dangerous Fabricio Werdum and his vaunted BJJ skills that could make for quite a chess match between the ferocious wrestler/GnP’er and the legendary submission artist. Werdum has come into his own as a complete fighter, improving his striking offense that was once a part of the long-standing stereotype of “BJJ black belts/legends just can’t develop a striking game”. His flying knee KO of Mark Hunt earned Werdum the interim heavyweight championship title. I can’t think of such a polarizing match-up in the heavyweight division between two of the elite in the division in a long time, and it should be a great test for Velasquez as he continues to forge his own legacy as a dominant champion. Yeah, he beat Brock Lesnar, too.

CAIN VELASQUEZ
  • StrengthsSome of the very best take-downs in the UFC, with both aggression and technique combined together to make one mean, lean wrestling machine that has yet to be stopped by anyone in the division (besides the JDS KO of course…..shhhh!)
  • One of the better boxers of the division, possessing great hand speed and technique that has battered some of the best strikers with his sizzling jab/straight combo
  • Probably the best ground and pound in the UFC, bashing his opponents into a bloody pulp as he uses his great grappling skills to pass his opponents’ guard
  • The best cardio in the division, which is a huge advantage considering it does have 230-300 pound men fighting for 3-5 rounds
  • Excellent from the clinch, utilizing dirty boxing and mixing in take-down attempts to disrupt his opponents’ timing
    Did I mention that he also has the best wrestling in the division? No? He’s just a complete beast when it comes to a combination of wrestling, aggression, technique, and overall fighting game

Weaknesses

  • Has a pretty shoddy chin, and has been rocked several times by different fighters (JDS knocked him out to become the new HW champion, though Cain obviously got his revenge – twice!)
  • No one knows how Velasquez will fare on the ground versus a submission expert on the level of Fabricio Werdum and his extraordinary jiu-jitsu, even if Velasquez is a BJJ black belt himself
  • Same thing goes if he so happens to be on his back, as no one has been able to do that yet to Velasquez, but maybe Werdum can get a reverse or two in the process during Cain’s GnP attack
  • Ring rust may be a factor, last fight was in Oct. of 2013, along with his myriad of injuries possibly catching up to the champion
  • HIS CHIN!!! It’s not an HUGE issue, but it is an issue nonetheless (see Cheick Kongo fight) and Werdum has shown improved striking, maybe his BJJ pedigree makes Velasquez rethink taking him down and exposing his neck in the process
FABRICIO WERDUM

Strengths

  • World class black belt having submitted one of the greats of the sport in Fedor Emelianenko by triangle
  • Fantastic guard that should aid Werdum in the match-up if Velasquez does decide to take him down and test Werdum’s grappling skills/ground defense
  • Improved striking aided by Werdum’s Muay Thai background, powerful overhands and good mixture of fast kicks
  • Also improved his countering ability, though he can still be too stationary at times
  • Underrated athleticism and a great gas tank
  • Surprisingly good trip take-downs out of the clinch and has shown he can get the single/double leg take-down as he did versus Travis Browne

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t have many combinations, usually relying on one hit knockouts and a few kicks here and there, mainly a counter-striker
  • His striking may have vastly improved, but he can still struggle at times with his striking defense, getting countered a little too easily for my taste
  • Much like Velasquez, he also has a questionable chin, getting dropped by Mark Hunt in his last fight and getting KO’d by JDS (but who doesn’t these days?)
  • Might be too dependent on his BJJ, needing the fight go to the ground to really put the pressure on and win the fight his way if the stand-up doesn’t go his way, even pulling guard

While he does have a solid arsenal of take-downs, he can still struggle versus those who know his tricks
This is such an interesting stylistic match-up between two contrasting fighting styles. Velasquez loves using his crisp boxing and aggression to set up his wide array of take-downs, as he rains down fists without mercy in his vicious ground and pound. Werdum is more controlled and slower paced, looking for the counter knockout and chances to take the fight to the ground if possible, where he is deadly patient as he sets up his submissions. Who wins between Velasquez’s grappling and GnP versus Werdum’s grappling and dangerous guard? I don’t know. Hell, the fight might not even go to the ground at all with how unpredictable each heavyweight’s chin can be, and Velasquez definitely will have the advantage standing with his speed and excellent boxing. It’s no surprise Velasquez is the big favorite even though it’s a title fight against the currently ranked #1 title contender Werdum, as no one has seemed to figure out Velasquez apart from testing his chin as JDS did in the 1st meeting.
As much as I’d love to pick the upset (and I do think it has all the potential in the world to happen), Velasquez is just too damn good right now, but maybe the ring rust has a big factor as Cain hasn’t fought in almost two years and is coming off some tears in his knees which can affect his take-down offense and movement. Still, gotta go with the champ!

Velasquez via 3rd round TKO

 

Whew! Fun card indeed! Be sure to follow me at @4000Pounds for….well, just follow me damn it! Be on the lookout for upcoming strategy articles outlining the top 5 attributes that can change a fight! VIOLENCE I TELL YA,VIOLENCE!

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