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UFC 201 DFS Picks: How Much Wood Can A Ruthless Man Chuck?
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UFC 201 DFS Picks: How Much Wood Can A Ruthless Man Chuck?

Well, UFC 200 was a disaster for the UFC as a whole, with both Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones getting popped for PEDs which likely ends both men’s UFC careers. Jones was pulled off the card just mere days before the colossal PPV, while Lesnar ended up fighting (and winning) against Mark Hunt in a slightly unspectacular fashion, only to be flagged for PEDs a few days later. That’s UFC 200 though, and I’m not here to dwell on the past, as frightening as it may be, but instead telling you degenerates about the mighty power of the LAWLER. That’s right, “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler gets to add another notch on his bedpost, as he yearns to annihilate Tyron Woodley’s face with his fists made out of reinforced steel. I must warn all of you before I delve any further: this is not a very good PPV card. Not by any means, but we take what we can get, right? I’ll try to keep it short and sweet on most of the match-ups, while sprinkling in my lovely charm throughout the piece. Nothing but violence awaits you as you scroll down further and further into the fiery depths that is the world of mixed martial arts!

Cesar Arzamendia vs Damien Brown

Who? What? Where? Huh????? Who are these bums? Do I care? Should you care? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I’ll get to the bottom of the atrocious match-up! This I promise thee!

CESAR ARZAMENDIA

Strengths

  • Muay Thai base with very crisp, hard leg kicks and a good right headkick follow-up
  • Swings with all of his might on all of his punches, goes for the home run flash KO instead of stringing combinations, attacks every forward progressing attack with something right back
  • Intuitive on take-down attempts, reads opponents and will get the level change after a kick if he expects a counter back
  • Just like his stand-up, aggressive on the ground as he tries to get the most out of his time from top with swinging ground and pound attacks and hunting for submissions
  • As expected from his Muay Thai background, clinch work is very good with a strong collar tie and the knees/trip take-downs that follow it

Weaknesses

  • His wild swinging striking style against literally anything that comes close to him essentially makes Arzamendia a wide open target to punishment – last fight against Polo Reyes saw Arzamendia get dropped a couple times and knocked out in the 1st round
  • Can often get put out of position or lose it completely by accident while overpursuing a submission or just trying to land a big blow from top position

DAMIEN BROWN

Strengths

  • Mostly a wrestler-striker who tries to get the advantage by getting top control early in the fight and capitalizing on mistakes into submissions/GnP TKOs
  • Has a solid single/double leg take-down and bodylock trip take=downs, but nothing overwhelming
  • Prefers to bide his time and try to land a clean one hit quitter to get inside position and either work out of the clinch from the fence or dive in for the take-down
  • Serviceable grappler, semi-dangerous guard if he can get himself into position for the reversal using kimuras from bottom

Weaknesses

  • Majority of wins are against regional circuit guys in Australia, basically inferior opponents with very limited MMA experience/skill-sets
  • Has lost every fight against anyone of note or who actually had some semblance of a MMA skill-set, went 0-3 in Cage Warriors and lost his UFC debut
  • Very average striker who needs to jump inside the range of his opponents to be an effective wrestler, and has mediocre take-down defense – was taken down several times in UFC debut against Alan Patrick and was basically plastered on the ground

Damien Brown is a very average fighter. Arzamendia at least has showcased some skills in his repertoire, with fast and technical kicks and a sneakily good offensive take-down game. Brown is just a scrapper that’s more of a grinder than a stand and bang guy, usually picking on the inexperienced/limited fighters on the regional circuit rather than simply being the much better overall fighter. Sure, he could end up controlling Arzamendia on the fence/ground, and he did show some good instincts off his back against Patrick, but was generally smothered by Patrick and ineffective at stopping any take-down of his. Arzamendia’s biggest weakness is being way too eager to attack everything that comes his way and try to get that flash KO, but considering Brown isn’t really a striker and doesn’t have the countering skills that Polo Reyes has (KO’d Arzamendia last fight), I’m not too worried about it. Arzamendia is just simply the better fighter who can get the take-down if he needs it, or keep Brown at bay with his Muay Thai tactics.

Arzamendia via unanimous decision

Ryan Benoit vs Freddy Serrano

Well, at least I know who these bums are. They’re a bunch of half decent flyweights who can kinda, sorta do some good-ish things inside the octagon. Serrano is currently undefeated and has some malleable MMA skills backed up by his solid wrestling core. Benoit is just….kinda there. He can strike a little bit, but he’s pretty erratic at times and thus far he’s mostly known for literally kicking Sergio Pettis in the tush. Like, actually kicked him in the butt. Seriously.

RYAN BENOIT

Strengths

  • Quick but powerful boxer who tries to jab his way inside to get position to land his right straight, decent circling out ability
  • Can be frenetic at times as he starts swinging wildly against pressure, but can be surprisingly effective as it was against Sergio Pettis
  • Not much of a counter-striker, more of a paint by numbers guy as far as his striking goes, whatever volume Benoit puts out, he hopes it lands somewhere very hard
  • Wrestling is more about grinding out his opponents than any sort of technique/power, will shoot in for the single/double leg and stay in that position up the cage
  • Not too much of a threat from top control, more of a control guy with limited GnP but it is a tool at his disposal

Weaknesses

  • Even though he has a wrestling background, his take-down defense is pretty bad as he can get dominated by stronger wrestlers and controlled on the ground, limited ground defense and stays passive off his back
  • Against pressure, Benoit swings wildly and hopes something hits and while that can work sometimes, that’s a bad habit to have
  • Striking defense is also mediocre at best, eats a ton of sig strikes due to his paint by numbers striking offense and lack of countering ability –

FREDDY SERRANO

Strengths

  • Big and athletic flyweight with power, big physique and the strength to match
  • Loves him some jab/straight combos, with some serious firepower behind the right hand, mixes in some headkicks and kicks of the spinning variety due to Serrano’s athleticism
  • Not very technical on take-downs, but brute strength and physicality allows Serrano to just rag-doll smaller opponents around
  • Will duck under or get in a slam take-down against pressure, but will stand majority of the fight and pick his moments to tag his opponents with deft counter-attacks and acrobatic spinning stuff
  • Solid ground and pound game, not much of a transition guy but hey, with his power and strength Serrano doesn’t need to move much to be able to dole out punishment

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t have much head movement and can be static at times on the feet, can be an easy target to quick jabs or wild counter-strikes (Benoit’s specialty)
  • Surprisingly lacking at take-down setups despite apparent size/strength advantage Serrano has on the division, reliant on just ragdolling or getting the easy duck under single leg and fall take-down
  • I suspect quicker, more agile strikers who can stay outside of Serrano’s range and keep jabbing away will give Serrano the most problems

For all the flack I give Benoit for being a barely memorable flyweight, he does provide some entertaining fights with his scrappy,  wild fighting style. Serrano is built like a truck and hits like one, but is kinda basic with his punch combinations and doesn’t quite have the dangerous offensive take-down game to just simply shut down Benoit. If Benoit wasn’t so damn wild and sloppy at times, I’d probably favor him over Serrano, but considering he’s been hurt badly against other opponents and has trouble avoiding basically any take-down, I gotta give the edge to Serrano. Will there be a finish? I’m not sure, since Serrano doesn’t pour it on and Benoit is tough enough to last a couple rounds against non-pressure strikers. That power can’t be ignored though.

Serrano via unanimous decision

Michael Graves vs Bojan Velickovic

Michael Graves was barely memorable during his stint on TUF, but thus far in the UFC Graves has gained some traction and a smidgen of hype after his thrashing of Randy Brown, a talent hand-picked by Dana White himself. He’s an annoying wrestler with decent jits, but he’ll get a good test against Bojan Velmdiuehuefheurfhnj, also known as “Serbian Steel”. He had a successful UFC debut when he was able to outlast against Alessio Di Chirico. Like I said, this isn’t a very good card.

MICHAEL GRAVES

Strengths

  • Boring, grinding wrestler who will continuously try take-down attempts throughout the fight, even if they don’t land right away – very, very persistent wrestler who can be a stylistic nightmare for some opponents
  • Average to below average stand-up, can hit basic 1-2s but nothing more nothing less, just very good at shooting in and landing reactive take-down – definition of a true grinder
  • However, Graves at least will try to do something on the ground and make guard passes, will try to land some ground and pound to open up sub opportunities
  • Good gas tank, which is a must for his exhausting style of wrestling

Weaknesses

  • Very hittable on the feet and not a threat during striking exchanges, can be caught and knocked out
  • Fighting style can be an absolute bore if Graves decides to keep it up near the fence and start holding once his initial take-down attempts start to sputter
  • Did I mention that his stand-up sucks?

BOJAN VELICKOVIC

Strengths

  • Prototypical southpaw who employs the triple threat atack – quick left straight and a mixture of the left body/headkick
  • Spacing striker who does an excellent job at mixing up the left straight with the body/headkick then avoiding the counter-attacks of his opponents
  • Very good at circling out and sensing when pressure is coming, rarely back pedals and keeps head on a swivel
  • Decent wrestling if he can get a bead on opponents’ striking patterns and get a reactive ducking single leg take-down
  • Methodical, if at times boring transitional offense from top control, not much GnP but is a threat at getting submissions, looks to capitalize mistakes from half guard to get into full/back mount
  • Very defensive guard, likes to stay in closed guard and prevent any attempts of an advance which make it difficult to get any ground offense going, including getting into position/posturing up for ground and pound

Weaknesses

  • Needs space to be at his best as a striker, good cage tacticians who can cut off the cage well while keeping a steady pressure can give Velickovic some issues
  • Average take-down defense, mostly depends on his own size and tendency to not give an inch from bottom – knows he can depend on a ref stand-up if he does end up on the ground
  • Usually avoids getting countered, but there are moments during exchanges that Velickovic tends to leave his chin open on random winging attacks, probably a non-issue against Graves’ very average stand-up

If Graves can’t get the fight to the ground, he’ll lose to the much better striker, and even if Graves is successful in his take-down attempts, it may not be enough. Velickovic’s guard is very stingy and could result in many long stand-offs on the ground with several ref stand-ups and very little offense. I really hate wrestler/striker match-ups when the wrestler is someone like Graves, who clearly has no intentions of keeping it on the feet and will constantly shoot in for the take-down regardless of what happens. Sigh. I’m gonna hope for a split decision win for Velickovic after getting laid on for 2/3rds of the fight.

Velickovic via split decision

Wilson Reis vs Hector Sandoval

Reis was slated to fight against current FFW champion Demetrious Johnson, but a surprising injury pull-out by the champ scrapped the title bout. Instead, Reis will fall back into the televised prelims against newcomer Hector Sandoval. Reis has been pretty darn good of late, and a short notice fight against a relatively green prospect who has already lost to a current UFC FFW in Willie Gates probably means a Reis’ rampage. Well, to get more information about both fighters, you know what to do!

WILSON REIS

Strengths

  • Great on the ground with his legitimate BJJ black belt and great back-take/transitional offense especially on scrambles
  • Improved striking to rely less on trying to land that one big punch and instead depend on quick combinations and using foot movement to better put Reis in a position to get a take-down
  • Will throw in a double leg here and there, but usually relies on reactive take-down during striking exchanges
  • Very strong, physical top control with heavy usage of guard passes and a knack at getting in RNC attempts, very savvy veteran with his grappling skills
  • Fantastic defensive grappling and guard, capable of completely reversing course on the ground and getting on top after seemingly being put in a precarious position

Weaknesses

  • Has been known to have a weak chin, was dropped several times by Jussier Formiga and flat out knocked out in the past before his recent winning streak
  • Has tightened up his striking defense since being less reckless trying to land that counter-bomb, but against better strikers (like Mighty Mouse) that could have been a glaring weakness….not so much against Sandoval
  • Since it won’t be a 5 round fight, I’ll omit out any possible cardio issues with Reis, but it’s a potential weakness of his for the future

HECTOR SANDOVAL

Strengths

  • Will be taking the fight on short notice, but should be a legitimate prospect for the FFW division
  • Short, stocky build with ability to switch stances and attack from either side
  • Likes to sit back then blitz with very quick, powerful 1-2 combinations and duck under for the double leg take-down – very good at using that set-up vs anyone
  • Has the power to put away with only one punch but still has the hand speed to match the elite guys of the division
  • Built like a wrestler and it shows with low center of gravity and being able to overwhelm opponents into a successful take-down from either a drop down attempt or a bodylock take-down
  • Heavy top control but actually will position himself out of the closed guard and land some quick ground and pound, not a lay’n’pray fighter which is a great thing to see from a young prospect with his potential
  • Has a great guillotine choke, as is usual for Team Alpha Male members, which could be huge for Sandoval if Reis decides to shoot in

Weaknesses

  • Short notice fight against a top 10 flyweight with a legitimate black belt, which could pose a problem for Sandoval’s wrestling
  • Noticed Sandoval would get caught in a precarious position while from top, but was able to evade/power his way out of triangle attempts, can’t say he’d be able to do the same against Reis’ excellent guard
  • Not sure how Sandoval’s take-down defense is, since he didn’t really fight anyone who had the grappling skills or wrestling of Reis, plus his stocky build/guillotine were already deterrents against take-downs – something to watch especially after Reis eviscerated one of the better wrestlers in Dustin Ortiz at his own game

Upon further watching of Sandoval, I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he was able to get the upset over Wilson Reis. He’s got the uncanny combination of power and speed to complement his already powerful wrestling. His blitzing striking style could be a problem for Reis considering his chin woes and past issues of panicking under pressure. It likely come down to the grappling exchanges between the two, which rightfully should be a big advantage for Reis. After all, he could have very easily submitted Dustin Ortiz, and Sandoval isn’t on Ortiz’s level as far as wrestling/grappling goes. It’ll be a fun scrap and people will be surprised at how competitive Sandoval is, with the slight possibility of an upset looming. I’m a risk taker, so I’m gonna go with the Team Alpha Male product by knockout.

Sandoval via 2nd round KO

Anthony Hamilton vs Damian Grabowski

Hooray, a fats battle! I must give a quick warning before we proceed. DO. NOT. BET. ON. HEAVYWEIGHTS!!!!! The same rule applies to this very match-up, since who the hell knows what could happen when two walruses show up to battle? Hamilton is bigger (fatter?), can strike somewhat, and utilizes wrestling so he can steamroll his opponents on the floor with his own weight. Grabowski can’t stand, prefers to battle on the ground, and actually has some decent jiu-jitsu skills. We’ll see what happens between these fat young men.

ANTHONY HAMILTON

Strengths

  • Hamilton is really fat, and knows that being really fat is an advantage if he can get his average take-down offense going, since being really fat can help with the whole smooshing your opponent on the ground thing
  • Basic bread and butter 1-2 combo with average hand speed, but has enough power to put away half the division if he gets into a rhythm
  • Likes to stay back and bide his time, not necessarily a counter-striker but just a patient striker, if sometimes a little too tentative
  • Very fat take-down attempts and will push the fight to the fence to try and tire out opponents via fattage and fat clinch work, capable of landing a double leg I guess
  • Strong ground and pound with excellent fatability at utilizing his stomach to keep his opponents on the floor without using his hands to do so

Weaknesses

  • It seems like there’s no middle ground when it comes to chins in the HW division – you either have a great chin or a really bad one….in this case Hamilton has a bad one
  • Average gas tank, but let’s be honest here….you aren’t surprised at that
  • While his GnP is indeed very good, his take-downs aren’t and his stand-up is serviceable at best, but not good enough to win if his take-downs fail
  • Very bad off his back, can easily be dominated and submitted if he falls over his own feet

DAMIAN GRABOWSKI

Strengths

  • Not as fat as Hamilton, but he’s still a fatty, brown belt in BJJ with 11 career submissions and that is the main focus of his fighting game
  • Very basic stand-up, almost entirely consisting of overhands and winging hooks
  • Has a good reactive double leg take-down and excels in the clinch with bodylock slams and trips
  • One of the better top control grapplers for a heavyweight, knows how to get leverage and find ways to get into dominant position for the arm triangle or back take into RNC
  • Decent guard, will try to coax opponents into armbar traps, but considering it’s heavyweight and any punch from any position could result in a KO, Grabowski is better off just playing it safe off his back

Weaknesses

  • Very bad striking defense, can be a huge liability on the feet if unable to get the take-down or trip
  • Lack of real opponents faced beyond getting crushed by Derrick Lewis, and while Hamilton isn’t anything to write home about, he’s still a guy in the UFC with some experience
  • Size disadvantage against Hamilton may be worrisome as Derrick Lewis was able to shrug Grabowski off him despite a successful take-down, but Lewis is a literal monster at heavyweight and Hamilton is just…..fat

I lean towards Grabowski for the upside of a finish since he actually knows what he’s doing from top control. He can very easily maneuver across Hamilton’s non-existent guard defense and quickly notch a submission. The problem isn’t whether or not Grabowski can finish Hamilton, it’s that can he even get the big man down? Hamilton has a very mundane striking game and will sometimes get into the clinch whether off a failed take-down or just exhaustion from standing around doing nothing. That should be Grabowski’s moment to turn the tide of the fight into an easy submission win. As long as Grabowski doesn’t get taken down and laid on for probably the entire fight, I’m liking him as an option to fit in the more expensive guys.

Grabowski via 1st round arm triangle

Ross Pearson vs Jorge Masvidal

Pearson just got done getting his ass handed to him by UFC’s latest FA signing in Will Brooks, and making a quick turnaround to fight against a tough opponent in Jorge Masvidal seems strange, especially if you realize that Pearson is actually fighting at welterweight instead of his usual lightweight. Pearson will be at a size advantage as well as being the shorter man in both height and reach, so it’s a pretty puzzling match-up. Can Masvidal finally get past the judges and get a finish for the 1st time since 2013? No, I’m not counting his KO win over Cezar Ferreira.

ROSS PEARSON

Strengths

  • Technical boxer who utilizes movement and footwork effectively, loves to land the counter left-hook and some uppercuts
  • Classic 1-2 combinations with a little more emphasis on landing hooks, and less usage of the stiff jab – power oriented but with enough speed to still be an effective range striker
  • Depending on the match-up, but if he has a wrestling advantage Pearson will sprinkle in some level changes and add a double leg or two during the course of the fight
  • Good jiu-jitsu but mostly leverages his position from top to land some quick ground and pound then get the fight back to the feet

Weaknesses

  • Bigger, stronger wrestlers can overwhelm Pearson and keep him on the ground where he is at his least effective
  • Tendency to keep chin high during counter-hooks has gotten Pearson in trouble if he gets tagged as he doesn’t have the strongest of chins
  • Capped out as far as potential goes, he is what he is at this point in his career, which may cause Pearson to seem a little predictable at times with his punch setups

JORGE MASVIDAL

Strengths

  • Will have a significant height/reach/size advantage over Ross Pearson at welterweight, which makes this an intriguing fight
  • Similar to Pearson as Masvidal is primarily a boxer by trade, but utilizes the jab much more effectively than Pearson and prefers landing straights to hooks, will hit the uppercut in close range as well
  • Puts more pressure on his opponents than Pearson does as a boxer, more usage of leg kicks as well and is a much better counter-striker
  • Excellent take-down defense and very cerebral when it comes to grappling exchanges anywhere in the octagon, wily veteran
  • Would argue that he’s more technical of a striker than Pearson is due to better usage of pressure and cutting off the cage
  • Endless cardio tank and the chin to match, will even laugh if he gets tagged

Weaknesses

  • Has always struggled against quicker strikers who can bounce around and stay away from Masvidal’s jab combinations
  • Doesn’t check leg kicks, which cost him the fight against Al Iaquinta, among other reasons which I will add further
  • Has a very bad tendency to coast/take rounds off if Masvidal gets an early lead

It should appear that Masvidal has a clear, distinct advantage over Pearson and what he needs to do to secure the victory. Keep applying the pressure, land the jab and find his range, and force Pearson to overcompensate/over-reach on his punches for the counter-striking opportunities. With Masvidal’s annoying tendency to take rounds off, he easily could simply lose the fight due to inactivity. As long as Masvidal does what he’s capable of, it should be a runaway decision win for the bigger, stronger Masvidal.

Masvidal via unanimous decision

Nikita Krylov vs Ed Herman

AL CAPONE RETURNS!!!! Krylov is one of my favorite fighters to watch in the UFC, as he’s just an aggressive psycho once the fight starts. No one knows what he will do, or even predict his fight game plan. He gets a tough, gritty match-up against UFC veteran Ed “Short Fuse” Herman, who just recently knocked out Tim Boetsch. That was right after he got knocked out by Derek Brunson in the early part of the 1st round, much to everyone’s surprise. It’s something I definitely could see Krylov doing, with how unflattering unathletic but kinda sort of athletic but not really Krylov’s striking is. I shall get out my best alcohol for this fight.

NIKITA KRYLOV

Strengths

  • In the same mold as that of Matt Brown, keeps a frenetic, forward paced fight with unpredictable striking and having a very underrated jiu-jitsu game from top control
  • Crazy kicks and strong punch blitzing combinations with a Karate feel, albeit sloppy at times, lead the way for Al Capone, but pressure is the name of the game for Krylov regardless of the tactics employed
  • Has some very solid clinch offense with several trip take-downs at his disposal alongside landing kicks with the collar tie inside
  • If Krylov can get top position from whatever happens within the fight, it’s a very high chance that he’ll try to finish it quickly with some sort of submission, has 13 submission wins on record and it definitely shows during grappling exchanges

Weaknesses

  • Doesn’t waste much energy on defend take-downs, as he’d prefer to try for a guillotine choke than just simply defending the take-down, will even still try for an ill advised submission/reverse from back and end up getting choked out
  • Wild and sometimes sloppy striking opens up windows for quick take-downs as well as leaving Krylov open to punishment for a counter-strike
  • Has never gone to the judges in any of his wins/losses, so you know Krylov will always be ultra aggressive no matter what, even to a fault with 1 KO and 3 submission losses

ED HERMAN

Strengths

  • Very experienced veteran with a gritty fighting style, stays on the inside of his opponents and tries to counter with the hard right straight or his great counter-left hook
  • Primarily a counter-striker, but will mix in some low kicks and try to bull his way into the clinch where Herman is very adept at landing knees and busting up lips with vicious uppercuts
  • A little bit of an all around fighter, can get a take-down if he needs it or make an effort to win the battle on the ground with his black belt in BJJ and 13 career submission wins
  • Has a tough chin, can take a ton of damage while trying to get inside edge of opponents and dole out his trademark right straight

Weaknesses

  • Herman has lost some sizzle on his punches, not as quick as they used to be, speed disadvantage against Krylov
  • Horrendous striking defense, seems to lack the reaction time needed to be an excellent counter-striker and instead eats right hand bombs for breakfast, was knocked out by Brunson in 36 seconds!
  • Despite BJJ black belt, Herman isn’t very good off his back or defending against strong take-down attempts, seems content to offer no threat against guard passes

Ed Herman will probably be Krylov’s biggest test to date outside of Pezao (Marcos Rogerio De Lima), who Krylov quickly dispatched with a submission in the 1st, as Herman offers a different fighting style that maybe Krylov isn’t used to. Herman can overpower Krylov in the clinch and has the chin to withstand the early onslaught that is sure to come from Al Capone. The question likely comes down to whether or not the whole Derek Brunson knocking Herman out in less than a minute is a very real possibility for Krylov. Because if Krylov isn’t able to finish it early, Herman may decide to quit standing against Krylov and take it to the ground, where he probably has the advantage from top, considering Krylov’s struggles against defending anything off his back. Remember OSP was able to get in the rarely seen Von Flue submission against Krylov, partly due to Krylov’s stupidity in not letting go of the guillotine choke. With that said, I still favor Krylov over Herman simply because he’s faster, more creative standing, and Herman just looks pretty slow compared to Krylov. Don’t get taken down Al Capone! THE GOVERNMENT’S COMING FOR YOU!

Krylov via 2nd round TKO

Ian McCall vs Justin Scoggins

Uncle Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy has returned after a year and half hiatus since his last fight, a decision loss to John Lineker, and it’s against one of the better prospects (if you can still call him that) in the flyweight division, Justin Scoggins. Injuries had continually slowed down McCall’s return to the octagon and he was even sick before his fight against Lineker, so hopefully we can expect a fully healed, 100% Uncle Creepy against Scoggins. If McCall truly is at 100 percent, then we can expect a great, great battle between two elite-ish flyweights. Karate power!

IAN MCCALL

Strengths

  • Uncle Creepy’s a pretty straight-forward fighter who loves to dance around the cage and land blitzing combinations while sprinkling in take-downs
  • Likes to lead inside with a jab/straight combo and then react to whatever follows up from the opponent, usually landing a power shot after it
  • One of the better level changes in the division, can drop on a dime so opponents have to show respect for it and be cognizant
  • Adds in the double leg take-down on top of his level changes and can slow down fights if it gives him the edge
  • Constant cage movement and footwork makes McCall a difficult target to pinpoint and land clean strikes

Weaknesses

  • Injuries have slowed down McCall in the last few years, and McCall had some issues before the Lineker fight, so it’s hard to really say if those last few fights is the best version McCall can give us
  • Counter-strikers who can force McCall to have to close the distance in order to be effective can land hard shots from time to time, something Lineker was able to do
  • McCall can sometimes back himself up to the wall without realizing it, so a pressure fighter who’s patient can try to trap him using McCall’s own movement against himself

JUSTIN SCOGGINS

Strengths

  • Creative and explosive fusion of Taekwondo and Karate striking, with pinpoint accuracy similar to that of WW phenom Stephen Thompson
  • Mixes up his attacks well and keeps his combinations short and tight while never discerning the pattern or timing of his striking
  • One of the quickest flyweights and has the foot speed/reaction time to be a very good counter-striker
  • Good sprawl and scrambler, knows his way around the ground and can escape danger against top flight competition

Weaknesses

  • Biggest competition to Scoggins are guys who can get around his unorthodox striking style and turn the fight into a grinding, slow paced fight with clinch holds and constant take-down attempts
  • Like I said before, Scoggins can handle himself on the ground but he’s not really a threat with submissions or a powerful top control, so opponents can take more risks against him on the ground
  • Used to turn into a points fighter instead of being aggressive and really attacking with his dearth of strikes, but seems to be turning the page on that weakness

This is a very good test to see if Scoggins can rise to the top of the elite in a division begging for real contenders. McCall is the type of fighter that can give Scoggins headaches with his movement and erratic attempts at take-downs, but can also feed into Scoggins’ gameplan with his rangy but creative striking if those take-downs fail early. Scoggins has the ability to mix and match his strikes to better fit what his opponents are currently doing, even adding in side/hook kicks to deter forward movement, something McCall likes to do quite a bit. If it turns into a grinding match with McCall dictating the pace and the location of the fight, it’ll be a long and frustrating day for Scoggins. If Scoggins can force McCall to stand and trade against him, he should be able to keep McCall away enough to punish his entry attacks with whatever Scoggins wants. I’m anticipation a very fun scrap between two upper echelon flyweights, with Scoggins taking the fight due to being the quicker, more diverse/technical striker.

Scoggins via unanimous decision

Francisco Rivera vs Erik Perez

Man, who can forget Rivera’s instant classic against John Lineker? What an incredible 1st round! Even if it resulted in brain damage for Rivera. Anyways, he gets a much easier match-up as he battles Mexico’s own Erik Perez, also known as “El Goyito”. It’s a nice stylistic match-up for Rivera, as he can probably stop Perez’s take-downs and force it to become a striking match, which heavily favors Rivera’s power bomb striking style. It’ll be interesting to see how Perez attacks Rivera’s tendency to overreact to quick jabs and combinations with heavy counters.

FRANCISCO RIVERA

Strengths

  • As the bantanweight division continues to rise into must watch TV, Rivera is still an underrated BW with legitimate knockout power and a fighting style that is very appeasing to watch
  • Loves to strike back at anything that gets thrown back at him but with ten times the force, heavy hitting bomber that does best in a counter-striking role
  • Mixes in hard kicks well, has good cage movement and always keeps himself compact, ready to deliver bone crushing power bombs at a moment’s notice
  • Strong take-down defense, thanks in part to his strength and good wrestling chops
  • Will mix in a single/double leg take-down to keep opponents honest, but looking at past few fights it seems as if Rivera is starting to feel much more comfortable being a striker all fight

Weaknesses

  • His loss to Lineker showcased Rivera being too eager at accepting barnyard brawls and how limited his countering can be, winging a million hooks and just swinging as hard as he can isn’t exactly a great gameplan
  • Would like to see more diverse punch combinations, especially leading with the jab as Rivera can fall in love with his own power too often
  • It will be interesting to see how Rivera fares against an opponent who will test his take-down defense more often than not, but I think Rivera does okay in that regard

ERIK PEREZ

Strengths

  • Wrestler-striker with an uneven striking game that doesn’t really have any flow to it, but enough at his disposal to not be at a huge disadvantage standing
  • Moves around and prefers to sit at range, then jumping forward with jab/overhand combo or a body kick to try and set up some take-down opportunities
  • Persistent wrestler who will stick to the attempt for as long as possible, wants to drain opponents’ energy from the fence and force scrambles on the ground where Perez has a great nose for back-takes
  • Strong double leg take-down and capable of landing bodylock slams/trips from clinch, but seems to do best getting into opponents’ faces from the fence and slowly work his way into a scoop take-down
  • Not a BJJ savant, but enough grappling skills to be a threat from top, especially if he finds an opening to land his favorite submission in the RNC – 7 wins by submission

Weaknesses

  • Tends to get countered by good/elite boxers who have a fantastic counter-hook, was rocked badly by Lapilus on an entry attack and battered around by Mizugaki, a very good boxer
  • Lacks consistency in striking, especially in stringing together combinations – too uneven with his attacks and relies on getting a random counter-strike into a take-down

I can understand why the books have Perez as the current favorite, since his fighting style is how one can beat Rivera, utilizing constant take-down attempts and keeping Rivera on the fence where he can’t land all of his glorious power bombs. Here’s the thing, Rivera is actually good. Perez is just….kinda whatever. Rivera has pretty good take-down defense in my opinion, and should be the stronger of the two. Perez seemed to be at an immense disadvantage whenever he tried to stand against both Lapilus and Mizugaki, and Rivera is in that mold of a striker who can box inside/outside and batter Perez with hard counter-hooks. It simply comes down to whether or not Perez can control Rivera with his own wrestling, but even if he does, it’s likely not going to be a finish and will give very little points to Perez. Either way, I’m picking Rivera for the upset with a good chance at a late round knockout.

Rivera via 3rd round TKO

Matt Brown vs Jake Ellenberger

Boy, the UFC really doesn’t like Matt Brown right now. Yet another wrestler/take-down guy for Brown? Either Brown wants to finally get over the hump of sucking against wrestlers, or everyone else is just too scared to face Brown’s ferocious offensive attack. Luckily for him, Ellenberger is just about washed up as a wrestler can be in the welterweight division. Ellenberger is just a shell of his former self, with obsolete striking and a surprisingly average take-down offensive game to go with a questionable chin. Brown could overwhelm Ellenberger and get a knock out, much like our beloved Robbie Lawler did a few years back to poor ol’ Jake. Then again, Brown is woefully bad against wrestlers based on past performances. Only time will tell if Brown can get over his past issues.

MATT BROWN

Strengths

  • Likes to set a frenetic pace from the very start of the fight, heavy blitzer with quick but damaging punch combinations and the occasional kick
  • Does his best work out of the clinch, as his clinch offense can be brutal at times with relentless elbows and knees
  • Pressure laden fighting style can create opportunities for Brown to get a quick take-down up the fence, putting to use his brown belt in BJJ with stifling top position and constant search of a submission
  • Gas tank is almost never empty, can go for miles and miles while still keeping up the fast pace he creates, not to mention he has a ridiculously sturdy chin that affords Brown to take unnecessary risks on the feet

Weaknesses

  • Has the “I’m invincible”mentality due to great chin strength, so is willing to take damage in order to dole out damage of his own – striking defense can be very porous at times
  • Extremely average take-down defense beyond the first line of defense against most take-downs, almost all of his past losses have been to wrestlers who were able to expose that weakness repeatedly
  • Not awful off his back, but the whole I’m invincible mentality can fool Brown enough to where he’ll try for a sweep or reverse that invariably puts Brown into the arms of a fight ending submission

JAKE ELLENBERGER

Strengths

  • Longtime UFC veteran who was at one point a legitimate top 5 contender of the WW division, age and injuries have caught up to Ellenberger however
  • Wrestler-striker with enough power to get one punch knockouts, primarily a counter-striker who loves him some hooks
  • Has a good double leg take-down and serviceable level changes, but past few fights have been nightmare bad stylistic match-ups for him that Ellenberger wasn’t able to utilize his wrestling to his advantage
  • Stays heavy from top with some ground and pound, makes it difficult to escape quickly as Ellenberger is meticulous with his guard pass approaches
  • Not much else can be summed up as a strength these days, an old dog can’t learn new tricks!

Weaknesses

  • Has looked very human in his last few fights, having been finished in 3 of his last 4 losses and in the last 5 fights overall
  • Struggles against pressure if unable to slow it down with take-downs and being able to muscle his opponents around
  • Lackluster striking offense, can be too basic at times with his punches which can delve into one hit and runs
  • Cardio still seems to be an issue for the older Ellenberger, as he’s been fading quicker than usual

This is a pretty tough match-up to figure out. Ellenberger is probably one of the fewer actual wrestlers that I would actually favor Matt Brown over. Ellenberger just hasn’t looked the same since Lawler took his soul with the clinch knee knockout, and his wrestling just hasn’t been there as usual in the past. Brown may struggle mightily against persistent take-down attempts, but his breakneck fighting style and great clinch offense should be enough to thwart whatever Ellenberger throws at him. I’m gonna go with the Immortal here, and hope that Ellenberger doesn’t just lay on him as some may predict.

Brown via 2nd round TKO

Rose Namajunas vs Karolina Kowalkiewicz

THUG ROSE! Namajunas has put herself right at the brink of getting a title shot against the incomparable Joanna Champion, and a win against rising prospect Karolina Kowalkwhatever should be enough to get that 2nd shot at gold. It won’t be an easy fight for Namajunas by any means, as Karolina is a very good striker with good take-down defense, so if Namajunas is able to get the win against Kowalkiewicz, it’s a great sign of how improved Namajunas has been over the last year. The strawweight division is just starting to heat up despite Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s apparent dominance over the division, and the battle between Rose and Karolina will just be the tip of the iceberg for the future of the division.

ROSE NAMAJUNAS

Strengths

  • Ever improving Taekwondo with good spacing and enough athletic ability to land flashy kicks but still continue to press forward
  • While striking is improved and can be a strong part of Namajunas’ overall game, biggest strength is her ability to get the fight to the ground in close quarters and dominate from top positions
  • Loves to get the hip toss from close range, will attack with clinch take-downs and knees near fence
  • Very aggressive jiu-jitsu, will scramble to find a fight ending submission from any position on the ground and makes concentrated efforts to get into dominant positions from top, very difficult opponent to maneuver against
  • Seems to have tightened up her long range striking, did an excellent job against a quicker, more technical opponent in Tecia Torres which is a great sign of things to come especially against Kowalkiewicz

Weaknesses

  • Still would like to see how Namajunas fares against the elite, more technical strikers of the division despite her win against Torres before I grade her striking skills completely
  • Aggressive nature on the ground can be problematic if she overpursues a submission and gets into a bad position, was a major issue against Carla Esparza but Kowalkiewicz doesn’t have that kind of pedigree
  • Can be a little dependent on getting into the clinch for majority of her take-down attempts, especially if range striking isn’t getting the job done

KAROLINA KOWALKIEWICZ

Strengths

  • Undefeated 9-0 record with 2 wins in the UFC already against Randa Markos and Heather Jo Clark, Muay Thai base
  • Mixes at range striking with cage pressure, crisp jab and punch combinations, good hard kicks as well and will attack the body with uppercuts and spinning liver kicks
  • Good usage of footwork and sliding in/out of striking range against pressure, very sturdy take-down defense
  • One of those fighters who get better as the rounds go on, gets into a rhythm and starts picking the pace, pouring on more punch combinations and applying more pressure
  • Not a bad grappler, can battle with mid/lower level fighters and stay out of trouble

Weaknesses

  • Lack of head movement is a concern, Clark is not known for her stand-up and yet was able to land 70 sig strikes on Kowalkiewicz, same issues pop up in most fights
  • Back pedals here and there, which is not great against great pressure fighters, and it’s something Namajunas could pick up throughout the course of the fight
  • Hasn’t faced a good/elite grappler or someone who’s a real threat to put her on the ground, which is where I think Namajunas will try to do early on

I’ll admit, I wasn’t that impressed with Kowalkiewicz’s UFC fights, as she just seems like a solid striker with nothing special or having a big edge in any category. She’s not extremely quick or powerful, doesn’t have a dangerous grappling or wrestling game, and is kinda short for the division. Namajunas has some serious potential with her improving striking and extremely dangerous, if at times overly aggressive grappling. She’ll have a height/reach advantage against Kowalkiewicz, and should have a decided advantage whenever it gets to the ground. Kowalkiewicz is decent in the clinch if not uninspiring, while Namajunas has tricks up her sleeves whenever she gets there. Kowalkiewicz will have to give Namajunas her best effort as an at range striker, and avoid getting too close to Thug Rose. I don’t think she’ll be able to keep Namajunas away long enough to win a decision, and it’s very possible Thug Rose just ends it with a submission on the ground. I’ll give Kowalkiewicz the benefit of the doubt and say it goes to a decision.

Namajunas via unanimous decision

Robbie Lawler vs Tyron Woodley

RUUUUUUUUTHLESS! Listen, I’ll be the first to admit that I used to like Woodley. He was a powerful striker with a fantastic wrestling game/background and a sneakily good countering game with his cage antics. He’s turned into an annoying, whiny fighter who didn’t deserve a title shot by any means against the likes of Stephen Thompson, a rematch against true champion Carlos Condit, or even Demian Maia. Still, I gotta give my opinion of both fighters and what may or may not happen. Spoiler: Woodley gets knocked out.

ROBBIE LAWLER

Strengths

  • One of the hardest hitting, if not the hardest, welterweights in the division, legitimate one punch knockout power throughout the entire fight even in the final seconds of the 5th round
  • Does a little bit of everything on offense, but is at his best jockeying for position with foot movement and forcing opponents’ hand to either strike back or get bludgeoned by the left straight
  • Excellent counter-striker, reads your striking patterns and finds the best counter-measure for each scenario
  • When jockeying for dominant foot position, Lawler can trap opponents near the fence and then go to town with his impressive pressure trap combinations that is very hard to escape with their backs to the fence
  • Take-down defense has developed into one of the stingiest in the division, extremely hard to get down and has an excellent sprawl – helps that Lawler is freakishly strong for a welterweight
  • Somehow changed from a guy who used to get tired as the rounds dragged on, into one of the scariest men on the planet to fight if Lawler feels like he’s down on the cards or needs a finish to win – 5th Round Lawler is a very real and frightening phenomenon

Weaknesses

  • Can be picked apart from range with quick successive jab combinations and avoiding the fence traps Lawler employs so tactfully
  • Avoiding Lawler’s countering game is a must, but the best way to keep Lawler on his toes is to continuously mix in take-down attempts – even if they miss, Lawler has to respect it
  • If Woodley is able to get the fight to the ground, it could be the turning point of the fight as Lawler isn’t used to being on his back and it could create mistakes by Lawler for Woodley to capitalize on

TYRON WOODLEY

Strengths

  • Decorated wrestler, physical specimen with the knockout power to match and the gameplan that may give Lawler the most fits out of the top contenders in the division
  • Patient counter-striker who invites opponents to get within striking distance and will either hit back with the counter-right or an instant shot take-down – forces opponents to lower hands in anticipation of defending the quick shot/level change which opens out more striking opportunities
  • Has a sneaky cage lure countering game, will slowly pedal back until back is near fence as to appear that Woodley has “trapped” himself, but in reality it’s a way of closing the gap between Woodley and his opponent
  • With that cage lure trick, Woodley then puts to use his wide assortment of take-down attempts which, coupled with his physical strength and explosiveness, can be some of the most dangerous offensive take-downs in the division
  • Powerful but woefully underutilized leg kicks could be a game-changer against Lawler

Weaknesses

  • Wobbly chin, can be hurt and rocked easily by well struck punches
  • Very mediocre gas tank despite wrestling background, if Woodley does his usual take-downs then he has about 2 rounds of effective wrestling before he’s toast
  • Lack of punch combinations is worrisome when facing a lethal counter-striker like Lawler who doesn’t need to sit back to be effective
  • Very tentative striking if Woodley feels he can’t get a wrestling advantage early in the fight, which could spell doom for him since he’ll play right into Lawler’s hands (literally) with his back pedaling to the fence

I think this is a pretty self explanatory fight. Woodley has to put on a wrestling clinic against Lawler if he wants the best legitimate chance at beating the champion. If he decides to stand and bang against Lawler, inviting him to battle near the fence, Woodley may be dead before the 1st round is over. Then there’s the whole cardio issue Woodley has, compared to Lawler’s innate ability to summon up the last of his energy and morph into 5th Round Lawler, a most terrifying spirit that is incomparable in the MMA world. With how hard nosed Lawler is, and how weak Woodley chin can be, I can’t see any striking exchange favoring Woodley throughout the fight. Maybe he gets lucky and blows out Lawler’s ACL much like he did to Condit. Rest in peace Woodley, for 5th Round Lawler nabs yet another victim to feed its lust for blood. Let us pray.

Lawler via 1st round knockout

And there you have it! A completed piece of an average PPV card of an average organization in an average month! Sob.

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