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UFC 192: All Gussied Up

"Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson 2014" by Frankie Fouganthin - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons. Enhancements by your friends at DailyRoto.
UFC 192: All Gussied Up
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DFS MMA UFC 192: All Gussied Up

Oh, hey. A 13 fight PPV card during NFL season? Yes, please. Daniel Cormier makes his title defense against Alexander Gustafsson, who many thought had defeated the seemingly unbeatable Jon Jones before Jones’ fall from grace. Were there other deserving contenders besides ol’ Gus? Maybe, but it’s still an interesting match-up between vaunted wrestler Cormier and a giant LHW in 6’5” Gustafsson. Along with that intriguing title fight is a pair of big boys in Ryan Bader and the return of “Suga” Rashad Evans, coming off a bad knee injury. Bader has won four straight fights and had been wanting to beat up Cormier for some time, but he can’t overlook perennial LHW contender Evans, even if Rashad is coming off an injury and should have some ring rust. Former WW champion Johny Hendricks is also fighting on the card against a guy who Hendricks had defeated during collegiate wrestling in Tyron Woodley. Hendricks doesn’t like the fact that he got passed over for the title shot against Robbie Lawler, while Woodley has been asking for Hendricks for a while to avenge his wrestling loss to Hendricks. Drama! CAN YOU HANDLE THE HEAT???? Hendricks is too fat to fight anymore – what a bum. Rose Namajunas, Johny Hendricks, Rashad Evans, and a guy named Sage will be fighting on the card as well as the fat guy who served some sweet chin music against poor fellow fat guy Derrick Lewis! Tasty!

Francisco Trevino (+335) vs Sage Northcutt (-420)

Boy, the hype on Northcutt is reaching critical levels. Sure, the guy had a 6 pack by the time he was six years old, but jeeeeebus! Enough is enough! The guy’s a male model and a Karate expert with an undefeated record. He doesn’t need anyone to stroke his ego any further than it already is at this point. Northcutt also gets a fairly easy opponent to push around for his UFC debut in Francisco Trevino. Don’t let Trevino’s 12-1 record fool you as the majority of his wins were against dented cans and low level competition. He recently lost to a phenomenal contender in Johnny Case that both exposed his skill level and ability to defend…..most anything. He’s also 33 so there’s no real chance for growth as compared to the 19 year old Northcutt. Get your Abercrombie shirts ready!

Oh, Francisco Trevino. What are we gonna do with ya? You like to kick a lot and switch stances a lot. You also look kinda weird and small for a lightweight, especially at 33 years of age. You defeated Renee Forte in your UFC debut a year ago, and Forte hasn’t recovered from that devastating loss since. You have a brown belt in BJJ, but struggle to out-grapple opponents you should have an advantage on, and don’t exactly look good on the ground. Oh, Trevino. What are you good for? Absolutely nothing. Maybe you can last 3 rounds against the male model? Shrug.

Sage Northcutt is the new phenom that the UFC will be pushing, but will it turn into a disaster? Maybe not, as Northcutt does have a legitimate Karate background, becoming a black belt Karateka by the time he was 8 years old! Northcutt has fantastic explosiveness and athletic ability to go with awe inspiring Karate techniques. Similar to Machida, he keeps a wide stance and loves to land several kicks to the body to force his opponents to engage him. From there, he will counter instantly with straights and try to rush in for the finish. He’s also got a purple belt in BJJ, so he’s got some grappling skills. His biggest weakness is going to be professional MMA experience, as he’s only had 5 pro fights against low level competition with a combined record of 29-46. Yipes. There’s no doubting his Karateka skills and technical prowess, but inexperience can rear its ugly head at any point in the octagon, especially against someone who may have an unorthodox fighting style, a great chin, stifling wrestling game, or something along those lines. Trevino is none of the above, so we will see if Northcutt can blast away his inferior opponent.

I mean, there’s not much to say here. Trevino just isn’t good and doesn’t belong in the UFC. Northcutt is still young as hell and only has 5 pro fights under his belt despite fighting in many, many Karate and kickboxing tournaments. Northcutt is better everywhere than Trevino, and it should be the case come Saturday.

Northcutt via 2nd round KO

Derrick Lewis (+140) vs Viktor Pesta (-160)

A really fat guy versus a pasta! Lewis’s fights typically end in one of two ways – Lewis by KO or Lewis withers and either gasses out/gets taken down and GnP’d to death. Pesta has a zombie chin and is mostly a wrestler with meh GnP. Harrumph. Got a feeling this is gonna be a pretty lackluster showing for both men.

Derrick Lewis is mainly a one punch counter-striker with your basic garden variety punch attacks, but if one of the punches connect, it’s all over. Lewis has finished all of his 12 wins with 11 by KO/TKO, thanks to his ground and pound, which at times can seem as if Lewis is exorcising the demons from his past upon his opponents’ face and sometimes even the ground nearby. He’s a very, very fat heavyweight who can barely cut down to the designated 265 pound weight limit, and is pretty slow standing even for a heavyweight. It’s one round or bust for Lewis in a competitive fight, and if he doesn’t get the KO punch or a take-down into his angry GnP game, it’s probably best to look away as he squirms around the cage/off his back pleading with the ref to have mercy on his soul.

Viktor Pesta is not made out of pasta, but rather he is made out of steel. He possesses a durable zombie chin, as evidenced by his sheer absorption of Konstantin Erokhin’s flurries in the 1st round before utilizing his persistent wrestling for the decision win. He’s a pretty strong wrestler with no inclination of a striking game whatsoever. He’s willing to take punishment in favor of a well timed take-down attempt, and once it hits the ground Pesta at the very least shows some willingness to try some risky submissions. Outside of leveraging for positional advantages on the ground and the occasional GnP, Pesta is just an annoying corkscrew pest.

Guys, if Pesta can’t get this fight to the ground, I don’t know if his chin can outlast all of 5 punches that Derrick Lewis is capable of throwing in 3 rounds. If he does indeed get the whale down to the ground (which is entirely possible since Lewis doesn’t have good take-down defense), it very well may be a quick victory for Pesta, whether by GnP TKO or a submission win (leaning towards submission). Shield your eyes if this fight goes past 1 round.

Pesta via 1st round RNC

Chris Cariaso (+160) vs Sergio Pettis (-185)

It always seems like Cariaso gets the short end of the stick thus far in his UFC flyweight career. He’s had to fight Mighty Mouse, Cejudo, Smolka, and now Anthony Pettis’ little brother. Sergio Pettis has all the talent in the world, but just doesn’t have his big brother’s aggressive mentality and often pisses away matches that he had no business losing in. Can Cariaso finally break through and get a win over former hype train and ex-bantamweight Sergio Pettis?

Cariaso is really good at one thing and one thing only – his boxing. He can land several well timed kicks and keep opponents honest with their lead legs, but Cariaso relies on his crisp and effective boxing. Namely his jab/straight combinations. He’s one of those guys that depends on footwork and movement in the cage to set up his combinations and find those pesky striking angles. His biggest weakness is his utter lack of take-down defense, which may be an issue against Pettis if Sergio decides to utilize his size advantage over the smaller Cariaso. Outside of that? It should be an entertaining striking affair between two technically sound strikers that both have vastly different striking styles.

Sergio Pettis used to fight at bantamweight before deciding to delve into the flyweight division as to try and utilize his inherent size advantage over most flyweights. His striking arsenal and credentials are tops in the division, and while Pettis may be very technically sound and explosive, his mental aptitude and fight IQ still continues to give him issues. He recently suffered a shocking KO loss to Ryan Benoit despite shellacking Benoit in the 1st round and showing off his renewed aggression on the feet. While it was disappointing to see Pettis get caught by a lesser striker, that fight did show me some promising improvement by Pettis, most notably his mixture of attacks and more of a push forward pace instead of laying back as was usual for Pettis. Interesting!

Pettis doesn’t necessarily have great take-down offense, but if his gameplan is to take advantage of his size and Cariaso’s deficiencies at defending take-downs, Pettis may very well try to win the fight with a gritty decision. If not, be prepared for an exciting and entertaining back and forth affair that could end up turning into a KO victory for Sergio Pettis. Technical boxing and footwork versus spacing and Taekwondo!

Pettis via unanimous decision

Adriano Martins (+100) vs Islam Makhachev (-120)

A legitimate BJJ black belt and brown belt in Judo but prefers to stand versus a very good LW prospect that has the backing of Khabib Nurmagomedov! Will Mother Russia weep with joy or scream out of anger and disappointment?

Adriano Martins is an interesting fighter. He has legitimately good take-downs/trips and can quickly notch a submission whenever on top, but most of his fights consists of Martins standing and trading blows. His chin doesn’t have enough durability to withstand most brawls, so it’s mystifying at times on why Martins doesn’t just attempt a take-down in a favorable match-up. Still, you should know that his stand up is serviceable enough that he can keep it standing without being at an disadvantage versus most, using the jab to gauge the distance and land some hard straights/leg kicks. He does have 12 KO/TKO wins out of his 27 wins on record, but against a real prospect in Makhachev, he’d be better off trying to get top control as much as possible.

Islam Makhachev is a training partner of the infamous Khabib Nurmagomedov, and has some fantastic wrestling/Sambo skills to go along with a very slick submission game. Makhachev made quick work against his fight versus Leo Kuntz, notching a rear naked choke in the 2nd round after dominating Kuntz for the entirety of the 1st round. His speed and quickness combined with great lower body strength/cardio makes Makhachev a match-up nightmare for many people in the LW division, as Islam is a willing brawler on the feet with several hard straight/overhands as he goes for the knockout punch on every attack he throws, but still has the frame of mind to always be ready for the opportunity to get a take-down. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

Martins is very adept on the ground whether on top or off his back, so it is a little bit of a bad stylistic match-up for Makhachev, even if he should be able to avoid Martins’ dangerous guard and land some tough ground and pound. The way Makhachev throws his strikes with reckless abandon will either spell his doom with how sloppy his technique can be at times, or pave the way for a knockout win as Martins does have a questionable chin. This fight could go either way as it’ll likely hit the ground at some point, so the BJJ black belt versus the quicker, stronger wrestler who has great top control…..tough call there. I always side with the Russians though, so I’ll guess a Makhachev decision win with a chance of a knockout win late.

Makhachev unanimous decision

Angela Hill (+220) vs Rose Namajunas (-260)

After a rough debut against real competition in Tecia Torres, Angela Hill’s road to the top of the strawweight division doesn’t get any easier as she faces off a real contender in Rose Namajunas. We last saw Namajunas get wrestled into a submission loss against Carla Esparza to lose the inaugural strawweight championship belt during the TUF 20 season. She was supposed to fight Nina Ansaroff some time ago, but Ansaroff fell ill and the fight was ultimately scrapped when she couldn’t make weight. Namajunas will be looking to make a statement for those who forgot about “Thug” Rose.

Angela Hill shares one thing with Namajunas, and that’s lack of pro fighting experience. From what I can gather, Hill is a proficient boxer with good power compared to others in the division and some athletic ability as she can sprawl somewhat in addition being the quicker fighter. She enjoys spamming the right overhand and landing some hard kicks thanks to her Muay Thai background. What she really lacks asides from fight experience is take-down defense and overall ground knowledge, as she is helpless on the ground which Tecia Torres only further highlighted in their last fight. Hill has some crisp combinations and does have a push forward pace with pretty good ability at cornering her opponents to the cage. Other than that, I don’t see too much to be excited about especially against a high caliber opponent that Rose Namajunas can be.

Namajunas is a very aggressive and unpredictable striker, owning a black belt in both Karate and Taekwondo. She finds weird angles and will go all out in an effort to break her opponents’ will to fight with relentless flurries and awe inspiring kick attempts. What really makes Namajunas so dangerous is her submission skills, capable of landing a flying armbar at any moment’s notice. She has a purple belt in BJJ, and while she isn’t the best off her back, once on top from either a successful take-down/trip attempt, she goes for the kill immediately with a submission attempt of some sort. Considering her age, fight experience, and striking/submission skills, you have the recipe for a legitimate contender for years to come if Namajunas can polish her techniques and become more mature/patient on the feet.

Namajunas has the advantage everywhere in this fight, asides from maybe technique as Hill should be more technical of the two. Hill’s lack of take-down defense and inept ground defense could be her demise if Namajunas can pressure enough to crack Hill’s defense, and inevitably notch a take-down. Hill will have to be extremely aware and execute a perfect gameplan against Namajunas if she wants the upset win. Use your technique!

Namajunas via 1st round armbar

Alan Jouban (+230) vs Albert Tumenov (-270)

Dude. This is sheer and unadulterated violence. If someone doesn’t get brutally knocked out (or a Jouban sick submission), this fight is an absolute disgrace. Two powerful and diverse striking men who love violence and punching faces, two different but equally devastating fighting styles. Russia vs America! COLD WAR BABY!

Alan Jouban is a disciple of Eddie Bravo’s jiu-jitsu, 10th planet. He currently owns a brown belt and has shown that his guard is very, very dangerous. But that’s not the best part of his fight game, it’s his Muay Thai and knockout power. He has 8 knockout wins out of his 12, with 1 other by submission. His southpaw stance also gives some opponents trouble as he trounces forward with some devastating lead hooks and hard body kicks. Jouban is a man on a mission, looking for a war of attrition on the feet that usually favors him. He’s calm, patient, yet cold blooded whenever the situation arises for a deadly combination, whether it be an on the button left straight or a vicious roundhouse kick. His clinch fighting is also fantastic, which is something I think Jouban has to pull off against Tumenov in order to stifle the young Russian’s explosive offense. It’s very rare to see Jouban get to show off his submission skills, but his guard is very dangerous nonetheless and I imagine his top control is too. What you got Tumenov?

Albert “Einstein” Tumenov is a killer with tons of hand to hand combat experience and the usual Master of Sport Russian accolades. Tumenov is similar to Jouban in the way he approaches his opponents with caution and patience, but with enough sense to land several devastating punch combinations and headkick finishers. Just look at what he did to poor Matt Dwyer’s head! Tumenov has the advantage on the feet over Jouban simply due to his better boxing skills and spacing. Tumenov’s only real weakness is he tends to try to catch kicks and counter with a left, which if he misses the follow through, it either means an unabated free kick to Tumenov’s abdomen or a counter hit for the opponent. He also has some cardio issues that were partially answered in his last fight against Musoke as well as his take-down defense. EINSTEIN!!!

Tumenov is more technical than the Muay Thai strategist Jouban with just as much power, but does has some question marks as far as his ground defense goes. Jouban isn’t the kind of fighter to take advantage of such question marks, as he prefers to stand and bang. One thing I need to mention though, Jouban has had a history of getting rocked early but bouncing back for the knockout win or just a hard fought victory win. Considering Tumenov’s punching prowess and finishing instinct, Jouban can’t afford to get knocked down even once in the great Stand Up War. GET READY FOR VIOLENCE!!!!

Tumenov via 2nd round TKO

Daniel Hooker (+250) vs Yair Rodriguez (-300)

Yair Rodriguez had a great debut against Charles Rosa in UFC 188, showcasing his thrilling athletic ability with acrobatic kicks and some exciting stand-up as well as a fearless guard that gave Rosa fits at times. His inexperience showed up as well, getting caught in submissions he had no business being caught in, and sloppy technique on the feet that opened him up to counters. Still, he gets a little bit of an easier match-up against the defensively deficient Daniel Hooker. I mean, this guy got hit by Blanco to the tune of 132 sig strikes! Yeesh. Should be a fun fight either way.

Daniel Hooker is one thing and one thing only. A brawler. He pushes forward and tries to land some vicious left hooks and overhands as much as possible, sacrificing his striking defense in favor of several killshot opportunities. It worked out for him against Hatsu Hioki, when he clobbered him in the 2nd round after looking lost in the 1st round. He’s powerful and swift, but his sheer lack of overall defense is worrisome even if his chin is extremely sturdy. No real wrestling is also a big concern, though it’s probably a non-issue against Rodriguez. Whatever the case, he’s gonna be looking for the KO sooner or later. Will that be his downfall? Probably.

Yair Rodriguez looks to be one of the few bright stars of the recent TUF Latin season that has thus far paled in comparison to other TUF seasons’ talent pools. With an exciting and unpredictable stand-up game that’s more kick centric than anything, Rodriguez is almost an Anthony Pettis clone with his spacing and usage of attacks, though it can be really sloppy at times. Rodriguez also has a really nice guard with an aggressive mentality as he goes for triangles and sweeps into armbar opportunities. Rodriguez’s real issues lie in his technical striking and being able to employ his gameplan without deviating from it too quickly. He’s got oodles of potential thanks to his stand-up and good trip take-downs, but he’s gotta commit to this MMA thing if he wants to turn into a serious contender.

So, the question is can Rodriguez knock out Hooker? Yeah, I suppose. Hooker’s got one hell of a chin though, and I have a feeling he’s gonna try to get the fight to the ground and take advantage of Hooker’s inexperience on the ground. Wherever the fight goes, Rodriguez looks to have the edge on Hooker, but as long as Hooker’s got his aggressive mentality, anything’s possible.

Rodriguez via 2nd round armbar

Ali Bagautinov (+280) vs Joseph Benavidez (-340)

Bagautinov makes his return to the UFC after testing positive for EPO (a banned substance), coming back against an arguably top 2-3 flyweight in Joseph Benavidez. What makes Joe B so good? It’s everything he offers whenever he steps into the octagon. Whether it be his fantastic stand-up game or his unheralded jiu-jitsu skills (Joe Jitsu is also another one of his many nicknames), Benavidez is a tough, tough opponent to face for just about everyone in the division. Everyone besides the current champion….but hey! Maybe Bagautinov can wraaaaassle him around!

Ali Bagautinov is a Sambo world champion, being able to combine his power and speed into strong, stifling, and effective wrestling that has made Ali into a great flyweight contender. While his stand-up isn’t terrible by any means, he’s mainly a counter-striker who loves to land the power bombs and uppercuts as he sits back at a comfortable range. The real danger with Bagautinov is he can take over the match with his Sambo alone, being able to overpower the majority of his opponents with his size advantage and powering through the clinch. He can suplex, slam, trip, throw people out of the cage, or just simply sneeze on his opponents for the take-down, and the inevitable GnP that follows the take-downs. When he is unable to pull off that gameplan, Bagautinov struggles mightily against much better stand-up fighters, something that Mighty Mouse badly exposed Bagautinov during their fight. Has the time off made Bagautinov better disciplined on the feet, or will he continue to rely on his Sambo roots?

Joseph Benavidez is quite simply one of the most consistent flyweights in the division, boasting an overall fighting game that allows Joe Jitsu to do whatever he wants to do in any fight. Take it to the ground? No problem, he’s got plenty of take-down offense and an absolutely fantastic guard/top control. Keep it standing? Puhlease! Benavidez has great hand/feet speed to go with numerous combinations that come from all angles and isn’t predictable at all. Benavidez has only succumbed to two people in his entire career, and they are 2 of the absolute best the BW/FFW division has to offer in Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson. He actually did get knocked out in the 1st round to the aforementioned Johnson, something that should be kept in mind. Maybe his chin is starting to erode? Bagautinov does have all the weapons to be a frustrating match-up for Benavidez with his power and wrestling. Still…

I think Joe B is on a mission to get back to his title contender ways, and will be making a statement against Bagautinov to remind the world that John Dodson isn’t the number 1 guy after Demetrious Johnson: it’s Joseph Benavidez. The only realistic chance Bagautinov has against Benavidez is to take the fight to the ground ASAP and utilize stifling top control at all costs, never letting Joe Jitsu’s guard overwhelm him. It’s a tough task to ask out of someone who hasn’t been in the octagon for over a year. If this fight stays standing, it’s going to get ugly and fast. Joe B racks up the sig strikes in this one.

Benavidez via unanimous decision

Ruslan Magomedov (-185) vs Shawn Jordan (+160)

A pair of heavyweights! This has some potential for an exciting knockout win for either fighter, with Magomedov having the better skills standing and Shawn Jordan having the wrestling/ground advantage. Can the former fullback from LSU make it 4 in a row against a very skilled striker?

Ruslan Magomedov is a rare breed nowadays, a light footed, quick striker with various striking angles that he pursues with flawless technique and speed. He’s a great kickboxer with some power but seems more comfortable playing for points as he’s only knocked out 4 opponents on 13 wins. He’s an intuitive counter-striker who can sense whenever pressure is necessary at certain moments, but will still continue being an at range striker with effective leg kicks and crisp 2 punch combinations. His biggest weakness is his overall wrestling game, both offensively and defensively. He’s not very good off his back and tends to struggle against stronger opponents who can bully through Magomedov, avoiding his pinpoint striking for the take-down. That’s likely going to be Shawn Jordan’s gameplan, and it’s something Magomedov has to show progress in if he wants to move up the rungs in the HW division.

Shawn Jordan is currently riding a 3 fight streak, albeit versus some very questionable competition. His win over Derrick Lewis was astonishing as he landed a fantastic hook kick that demolished Lewis’ chin, showing the world why the Heartbreak Kid’s move really was some sweet chin music. Jordan’s a stout heavyweight at six feet of height, but don’t be fooled by his short stature. He’s got some very impressive athletic ability for a fat guy, capable of making a back flip as a celebratory dance. Jordan’s main weapons are his punishing hooks and overhands combined with his stifling cage control and power take-downs. On the ground, he is a tough, tough guy to get off and stay away from his pertinent ground and pound. He has 14 KO/TKO wins out of his 18, which is quite impressive for a guy who doesn’t show too much mixture in his attacks despite his hook kick KO over Lewis. Biggest weakness? His chin. Jordan has been knocked out cold in 4 of his 6 career losses. Yikes.

Striker vs wrestler. That’s as simple as it gets. Can Jordan land the one punch knockout over Ruslan? Absolutely, but I think Jordan isn’t going to risk rushing forward against an experienced kickboxer on the level of Magomedov, instead focusing on utilizing his wrestling to get the fight to the ground where he has the biggest advantage. Magomedov is going to play keepaway against Jordan, and while he’s usually a points fighter who can rack up sig strikes in certain match-ups, against a brittle chinned fighter like Jordan, there is a legitimate chance for a KO for Magomedov. Definitely a fight to hedge here, but I side with the striker…..for now.

Magomedov via 2nd round KO

Jessica Eye (+210) vs Julianna Pena (-250)

Jessica “Evil” Eye is making a quick turnaround after Miesha Tate gave her a molly whopping courtesy of some vicious Tate overhands that cracked Eye’s bad head movement. Her new opponent isn’t any easier, as Julianna Pena is coming off a similar drubbing, except she won in the 1st round handily against Milana Dudieva. Pena was also coming off a devastating knee injury that seemed career ending. Can Eye get back on the winning trail or will Pena’s undeniable ground offense talent shine once again?

Jessica Eye, for all intents and purposes, is a technical boxer, nothing more nothing less. Her stiff jab leads the way on every combination she does, and in addition to her footwork, Eye also relies on being able to keep her distance away from the opponent and blast numerous significant strikes to stifle her opponents’ offense. The problem with that is Eye doesn’t necessarily have the size to prevent bigger fighters (mostly wrestlers) from being able to bully Eye around. Her head movement is also subpar, which Tate exposed badly with some well timed overhands. Eye is as technical and quick as they come in the division, but she’s kinda small for a bantanweight so that leaves her at an disadvantage versus strong wrestlers/grapplers. That’s exactly what Julianna Pena is.

Julianna Pena is mostly a BJJ practitioner, using her strong grappling skills to dominate her opponents both in the clinch and on the ground. Her stand-up is so so right now, mostly consisting of wild overhands and low leg kicks to set up some sort of single/double leg take-down. Her clinch work is pretty good however, and she can continue to build her offense off clinch take-downs. Where she shines is in top control, making aggressive and concentrated guard passes to set up her great ground and pound. All 6 of her wins are either by TKO on the ground or a submission. Her biggest weakness is her lack of polish on the feet and no real combinations or feel of the flow standing. She has to get better in that aspect if she wants to compete with the best of the best, even if her ground offense is better than the majority.

This is a fairly simple fight from my point of view. Pena is going to try to overpower Eye with several take-down attempts and try to get Eye into the clinch, where Pena’s size/strength advantage can be administered. Eye will play keepaway against Pena, using quick successive jab/straight combos and being careful not to get hit by a random overhand or getting caught on a shoot in take-down. Unfortunately for Eye, Pena is just too big and too effective from the clinch to really put that keepaway gameplan to work for 3 full rounds. Good chance for a finish for Pena since Eye isn’t active off her back.

Pena via 3rd round RNC

Johny Hendricks (-355) vs Tyron Woodley (+295)


These guys wrestled each other in NCAA and Woodley complained about Hendricks complained to the refs. Bunch of complainers! Hendricks is the former WW champion who’s looking to get his revenge against Robbie Lawler, but 1st he’s gotta get past Tyron Woodley, who’s looking to make a case for a title shot. Woodley’s just as strong of a wrestler as Hendricks is, and they both have tremendous power in their hands. Southpaw RAFFI BOMB versus orthodox T-HOOD BOMB!

Johny Hendricks has made huge strides in his striking game, most notably being better at stringing combinations and gauging his distance between him and his opponents. This has helped Hendricks be able to change levels quickly, taking full advantage of his fantastic wrestling to take over matches. His take-down offense is some of the best in the division, with a wide plethora of power take-downs he can pull off. He doesn’t need to rely on his wrestling to win fights though, as his vicious left hand bomb has ended several of his past opponents. I mean, being able to last versus Robbie Lawler standing through 5 rounds TWICE is pretty damn impressive! His biggest weakness is mostly his cardio, as he gets depleted later in the match if he’s unable to fully control his opponent. He’s still working on his striking defense as well, but he does have a very sturdy chin so it’s not that big of a deal….yet.

Woodley is a little bit of an enigma in my opinion. He’s a physical freak as a welterweight, with huge size and strength advantage over many, many other welterweights. He’s also got impressive knockout power and speed that rivals even the best. Woodley just hasn’t put it together yet, having inconsistent results in his last few fights with bad gameplans/injuries/chin health being factors. Woodley is just as great of a wrestler as Hendricks is, but he does have one thing over Hendricks. His grappling skills. Woodley’s got a brown belt in BJJ and owns 5 submission victories, with his 10 other wins evenly split between KO/TKO and decisions. His overhand right bomb is just as damaging as Hendricks’ left, but Woodley is very judicious on how he sets it up. He forces his opponents to have underhooks ready to defend against take-downs, and due to his speed/explosiveness, Woodley is able to interchange between faking a take-down attempt and landing a right straight hand. Very sneaky indeed!

In all likelihood, this is going to be a wrestling exhibition, with maybe a small chance of a brawl between two gun happy strikers. Hendricks is the more polished/technical wrestler, while Woodley has the size/strength advantage (though probably not a significant one), and has the better grappling skills. This may come down to Woodley’s reaction time/chin (which has been an issue) against Hendricks’ quicker combinations and clinch work. Tough, tough match-up and the odds sort of confuse me. Hendricks is clearly the more experienced, accomplished fighter, but Woodley is no slouch himself. Meh.

Hendricks via unanimous decision

Rashad Evans (-135) vs Ryan Bader (+115)

The long awaited return of top 5 LHW “Suga” Rashad Evans has finally arrived! After tearing his ACL over a year and having his implanted ACL get rejected by his body (yes, that happened), Evans hasn’t fought in almost two years since his surprising domination over Chael Sonnen. Yeah, Chael Sonnen. He gets a tough test against always tough competition, Ryan “Darth” Bader, who’s also riding a 4 fight winning streak on his likely last run for a title shot. Bader’s a great wrestler with solid striking, and Evans is a fantastic and elusive boxer with great take-down defense to go with good wrestling/take-downs.

Rashad Evans is the epitome of what an elusive boxer should look like. Great head movement, slippery on the feet with footwork and great circle outs versus pressure, but still capable of landing several punch combinations at any time. Evans has great sense of when to attack and when to be patient, protruding with his left jab/hook as he lunges inside with some sort of combination. He’s got the wrestling pedigree to keep himself standing against other wrestlers, and enough strength and speed to go on the offensive with level changes on his lunging attacks. Evans’ biggest issue, asides from his obvious ring rust coming back from a bad knee injury, is that Evans can be lethargic at times and end up hugging his opponents longer than he should. Evans has to realize he has all the tools and strengths to be at  a distinct advantage against most LHWs with his combination of speed and power plus boxing ability. He even has a black belt in BJJ! Sure, it’s no GI but….well, that’s what the UFC is! He’s also a decision machine, with 10 of his 19 wins by decision. That’s mostly due to the issue mentioned before, plus his reliance on his wrestling to finish fights instead of duking it out and getting a knockout.

Ryan Bader is fairly simple to understand as far as his gameplan goes in most fights. He stays at a range, landing some jab/straight combinations to open up his offense, maybe a few leg kicks here and there. Then he starts to pile on take-down attempts as he tries to bully his way to the ground and land some ground and pound. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. He’s definitely got some of the better take-down offense in the division, but he’s just a little bit too predictable these days. He’s also had a history of rushing in too quickly and getting caught by a counter (Teixeira/Machida), and if he can’t get his wrestling game going, it’s a long night for him. His questionable chin and obvious gameplans has made Bader sort of a gate-keeper for the division. Beat him, you’re basically top 5. Lose to him? Get your wrestling up, bum!

Bader’s chin versus Evans’ boxing. Evans’ defensive wrestling versus Bader’s relentless take-down attempts. Hmm…tough one to pick, especially with the ring rust on Evans, but I gotta side with Suga. He’s just too good everywhere even if there’s some concerns with his knees and how it may limit Evans’ explosiveness and short area quickness that makes him so darn elusive. Bader just doesn’t have enough standing to really stand a chance on the feet, and unless he’s able to crack Evans’ wrestling defense, it’ll be a long night for him. Points? Probably not much in this match-up outside of an Evans KO.

Evans via unanimous decision

Alexander Gustafsson (+245) vs Daniel Cormier (-290)

This marks the 1st title defense for Daniel Cormier after he defeated Anthony “Rumble” Johnson to win the interim LHW title. Yes, I know it was actually an official title fight for the actual LHW belt, but as long as Jon Jones is still employed by the UFC, Cormier has to fight him to become the rightful champion. With that out of the way, Gustafsson is an interesting match-up for Cormier. He will have a significant height/reach advantage against the shorter Cormier, to the point where Cormier’s usual skill-set may be actually disadvantageous for him. I’ll explain.

Alexander Gustafsson is 6’5” with an impressive 79 inch reach, which gives ol’ Gus 7 inches on Cormier in that department along with 6 inches of height. That’ll be the biggest match-up in the fight, whether or not Gustafsson can utilize that advantage to the fullest. Gustafsson is a little bit of a long range striker, not always sticking to his range and lunging forward with a jab or the right uppercut that he especially loves. Gustafsson also can land several hard low kicks to keep his opponents honest and mix it up with some headkicks sprinkled in, but the basis of his striking game is the jab/uppercut combination. Gustafsson doesn’t always go for the take-down, but due to his height and long limbs, he’s capable of using leverage and getting in some quick hip sweeps or trip take-downs on lunges. He’s very adept from top control, going for aggressive submissions as he does have a purple belt in BJJ. He’s also got some great defensive wrestling, giving Phil Davis a hard time in the 1st round as Davis tried over and over to take him down before eventually finding the sweet spot with a great trip that led to the eventual submission win. Gustafsson was able to corral most of Jon Jones’ take-downs as well, and while Cormier is on a different level than those two guys combined, it’s something to keep in mind. His height and great body control allows Gustafsson to be able to keep pressure on his opponents’ backs and force some tough decisions if they choose to grab one of his long legs. Off his back is something I’m worried about with ol’ Gus, as he was very bad during sprawls against Phil Davis and looked uncomfortable off his back. Cormier has the strength to bulldoze through Gustafsson’s take-down defense, as he has done to everyone else time and time again.

Daniel Cormier is a world class wrestler, having competed in the Olympics. He’s fought at heavyweight, so he’s a pretty big LHW and has all the power he had at HW. An underrated striking game, Cormier can land effective straights and overhands that most opponents don’t see coming due to Cormier’s take-down ability hindering their defensive gameplan. Cormier has the power and quickness to effectively shoot in and change levels for just about any kind of power take-downs, even coming close to slamming poor Dan Henderson through the octagon mat. His stifling and tiresome clinch work/top control is what makes Cormier such a difficult opponent to prepare for, as he’s powerful enough to thwart even the best of defensive gameplans and countering his attempts. His biggest disadvantage to date is his need to close the gap versus almost everyone in the division, as he only has a 72 inch reach at 5’11” of height. Pretty bad, huh? He’s overcame his height/reach disadvantages simply by being such an efficient wrestler, that he’s capable of taking over a fight simply by his threat of take-down attempts. He just powers through his opponents and gets whatever power take-downs he wants. While his grappling could be better, he did submit Dan Henderson and Rumble Johnson, and his fantastic top control could be a boon against Gustafsson.

The one thing I don’t like about Gustafsson is he gets hit hard way too often by overhands. Like….way too often. Rumble Johnson annihilated Gustafsson with an overhand, and both Rua/Manuwa were able to pierce Gustafsson’s chin several times, even if it barely made him flinch. Cormier may be short armed at times striking wise, but his overhand right is just as powerful as they come, and that;s something I think will be a big factor in the match-up. Gustafsson’s usage of the right uppercut and landing hard kicks will help him keep his range advantage over Cormier, but eventually they are going to butt heads one way or another. That favors Cormier big time, and that’s how Cormier is going to dictate the flow of the match. Shake that belly Cormier!

Cormier via 5th round submission

Phew! Not the usual article like the past few ones, but hey, those are my true opinions! I’ll do a better job next event with the usual structure as past articles, but don’t skimp on your reading skills! READING IS FUN-DA-MENTAL!!!!