OH! It’s the return of Ronda Rousey! And it’s for the title, too? Yes, it’s what everyone’s been waiting for, aside from the McGregor vs Mayweather fight, for the past year or so now. She’ll get a tough test against the current champion, Amanda Nunes, who’s been showcasing her terrifying power with multiple knockouts on her way to victory and proving that women can hit hard too! But that’s not the only title fight that will be on the card, as the co-main event’s title fight will feature bantamweight champion Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz against one of the hottest bantanweights in the UFC in Cody “No Love” Garbrandt and his undefeated 10-0 record. He’s also won 5 UFC fights in a row, with 4 of those coming by KO/TKO. Yikes. The main card has some known names and some new up and comers such as the man, the myth, the face-breaker John Lineker against former champ T.J. Dillashaw. It’s a fight that no one should miss, and I’ll have a front row seat to the madness! I hope a tooth falls out and hits me. OK, maybe not. Let us continue.
MMA DFS UPDATE – Cain Velasquez vs Fabricio Werdum is OFF! It’s an unfortunate and strange turn of events regarding Cain and his back issue/his doctor/NAC’s doctors/basically everything that doesn’t make sense. Shame!
Alex Oliveira vs Tim Means
It’s Fake Cowboy! Alex Oliveira fancies himself as a Cowboy, despite the real Cowboy (Donald Cerrone) already in his division, but I digress. He’ll face one of the better strikers in the WW division in Tim Means and his Dirty Bird tactics. It may either turn into a take-down clinic by Oliveira, or a good ol’ fashioned Texas shoot-out but with fists instead of guns. And by fists, I mean getting punched in the face. Repeatedly.
The fight may end up on 1 of 2 ways – Means/Oliveira take turns battling on the feet with their own Muay Thai/kickboxing striking styles, with Means having a height/reach advantage against Fake Cowboy. Or Oliveira utilizes his underrated double leg take-down that he’s been able to land consistently through all of his UFC fights and stifles Means on the ground. The reason why I think Oliveira may choose the latter is due to Means’ suspect grappling and overall ground defense. Means usually keeps it standing due to his striking edge, and in the majority of his losses it’s been due to getting taken down repeatedly and not getting back up. Means has a very diverse array of attacks he can hit Oliveira with pinpoint accuracy, and might even have the speed advantage. I’m a fan of the Dirty Bird and unless he really struggles against Oliveira’s take-down offense, I think he blows Fake Cowboy away for some big points, maybe a late round stoppage.
Means via 3rd round TKO
Brandon Thatch vs Niko Price
Thatch was supposed to fight Sabah Homasi before an injury forced Homasi out of the fight. His replacement will be Niko Price, making his UFC debut and bringing his 8-0 record to the table. Thatch is at a career crossroads, going from massive hyped prospect with real title shot hopes to possibly getting cut due to consecutive losses (3 fight losing streak). Getting a green prospect may be what the doctor ordered for the imposing Thatch and his brutalizing striking style, but even he can’t overlook Price no matter the situation (short notice, UFC debut).
There is very little information available on Niko Price but from what I could gather, he’s a solid if not a little clumsy striker with good ground offense. His resume is typical of a newcomer from an unknown promotion, full of tomato cans and regional scrubs. He’s got a spinning elbow stun on video, but outside of that I cannot confirm nor deny his striking prowess. What I can confirm is Thatch is a monster on the feet, or well, he used to be. He’s a towering 6’2” with long limbs and thunderous power, having knocked out 7 opponents in his 11 wins and the rest by submission. He’s got a very clean kickboxing base, relying on his countering ability and raining knees from the clinch. Thatch’s got a sweet headkick setup that may help him out against Price. His biggest issue has been both his cardio and take-down defense, as he’s been taken down and submitted in all 3 of his consecutive losses. This Niko Price guy may or may not have the take-down offense needed to win against Thatch, but I have no idea about the guy and that displeases me. Thatch needs a knockout to keep the dream alive and prove he wasn’t a one hit wonder. Gotta go with the known!
Thatch via 2nd round KO
Antonio Carlos Junior vs Marvin Vettori
Carlos Junior, or Shoeface as he prefers to be called as (yes that’s a real nickname), has been trying to mold his game and become a top 15 welterweight. That road hasn’t been easy, with an upset loss to Daniel Kelly and a no-contest against Kevin Casey due to an eye poke. Shoeface will get Marvin Vettori, coming off a great UFC debut that saw him dominate Alberto Uda for a 1st round guillotine choke. Vettori’s got some skills that could translate very well into the UFC, but he’ll have to work on his grappling if he wants to get the win over Shoeface.
Both guys have uninspiring stand-up games, but Vettori has some good setups with pot shots to get into grappling range and go to work from the clinch. He’s got more clinch offense than Carlos Jr. and has solid take-downs from it as well. Shoeface will have a size advantage and a likely grappling edge against Vettori, so it’ll come down to who can win within the clinch. Vettori’s very aggressive from either top or bottom on the ground and hunts for submission chances as much as possible, willing to use ground and pound to open opponents up. Shoeface is more calibrated and technical, biding his time while he tries to advance into better positions and eventually find a way to get a back-take. I’d say Vettori has a more functional striking game and more athletic ability than Shoeface, but I’m not sure how he can handle Carlos Junior’s grappling anywhere the fight goes. This could end up being a snorefest with Shoeface taking Vettori to school with dominant positions and holding him for the entirety of the round. I’d probably side with Carlos Jr. just based on the size advantage and better grappling, but I wouldn’t expect a ton of points for either if there isn’t a finish.
Carlos Jr. via unanimous decision
Alex Garcia vs Mike Pyle
Strangely similar to the Mike Swick fight, Garcia gets another chance to put away an old veteran with no chin using his freakish physique and enormous power. The problem with having such a build is he gasses quickly and ends up taking 10 years to load up an overhand punch. Pyle may have the chin of an 80 year old man with arthritis, but he’s still a dangerous submission grappler and has a multitude of fights under his belt. This has the potential for an early finish for either fighter, so be sure to hedge your bets accordingly.
Garcia is a physically imposing welterweight with tremendous power in his hands, but lacks technical striking and can be very wild at times. He’s athletic and it shows on his front kicks and headkicks, but all that power and athletic ability go to waste once the Lactic Acid Monster shows up in his body. That terrible monster has forced several of Garcia’s seemingly dominant performances into a grinding halt and were big reasons for his 2 past UFC losses. He faces a wily veteran in Mike Pyle, who’s been surviving by the skin of his teeth despite 5 UFC losses by devastating knockouts. He’s a legit BJJ black belt but has the chin of a pretzel, and therein lies the rub. Garcia may lack striking savvy, but any punch from him could shatter Pyle at any time. Pyle doesn’t really have any exciting, difficult take-downs that he can employ to take advantage of his BJJ skills. That could mean spending too much time on the feet against Garcia, which may spell doom for the veteran. Garcia’s got some solid take-down offense and could land some ground and pound on Pyle, but I think he’ll keep it standing as long as possible and pray his gas tank doesn’t deplete quickly. All that power against a very bad chin? I’m taking Garcia.
Garcia via 1st round KO
Johny Hendricks vs Neil Magny
Man, that Neil Magny just takes on any fight, huh? Dude’s fought like 20 times in the past year and keeps asking for more. He’s also got 9 lives it seems, defeating Hector Lombard despite getting walloped twice in said fight, almost forcing the ref to step in and end the fight. He’ll get a strange test against Hendricks, who’s on a similar career path as that of Thatch but in a different way. He’s a former champion who’s struggled to deal with his weight and energy levels, has been lackadaisical in his past few fights, and is still one of UFC’s known fighters. If he doesn’t get his act together, he may get demoted to Fight Pass prelims or just outright cut if his weight cut issues continue to plague ol’ Johny.
Hendricks is what he is, a very strong wrestler with a doozy of a left hand that many have affectionately called the Raffi Bomb. That hasn’t changed throughout his time in the UFC, and while he does have more to his game than just a powerhouse of a left, it is what butters his bread. The one weakness he’s had has always been the same and that’s his average gas tank. If Hendricks can’t control you with his wrestling and he starts to slow down, then he becomes extremely hittable and mortal. Magny is probably one of the few guys I can say without a doubt in the UFC that has unlimited cardio. He’s long, rangy, and will have a huge reach advantage on Hendricks (11” advantage!). Magny basically wins by sheer will, heart, and determination even in perilous situations. It helps that he’s got a really annoying protruding jab and constantly circles around, setting up the occasional take-down here and there. If Magny doesn’t eat a left hand (has really bad chin issues – dropped by Lombard, Gyu Lim, and several others), he can probably just run around in circles against Hendricks and just keep on punching him in the nose with the jab. Best way for Hendricks to win is to unleash that atom bomb of a left hand for a 1st round knockout, or to just keep Magny on the ground for as much as possible. Both strategies are equally viable, as well as Magny running around all fight. I think Magny’s just too long for Hendricks and can avoid getting blasted to survive 3 rounds.
Magny via unanimous decision
Louis Smolka vs Ray Borg
Two of the better grapplers in the flyweight division, this fight will probably end up on the ground quite often. Smolka recently got guillotined in a huge upset against Brandon Moreno, which halted his possible title shot hopes. Now he’ll get the “Tazmexican Devil” Ray Borg and his very, very tough grappling skills. Smolka’s a very lanky fighter with equally lanky ground game that’s been giving most of his opponents fits, but facing Borg may mean his grappling edge could vanish within a second. It’s chance to see real grappling in action and see why some people prefer to watch BJJ tournaments instead of 2 guys getting punched in the face. I’m not picky unlike those heathens.
Smolka will have the edge on the feet against Borg’s improving but still somewhat predictable striking offense, but I’m not quite sure who may have the edge in the grappling department. Smolka’s a brown belt in Judo and has some filthy clinch offense, sweeping and throwing people out of the cage from the plum. His ground offense is hard to figure out, as he’s a very opportunistic submission hunter but has a tendency to get himself into precarious situations while trying something silly. He’s been able to quickly reverse his position into an advantageous ones due to his opponents’ lack of grappling ability, but he won’t get away with such mistakes against the young but very technical Borg. What Smolka lacks in technical grappling Borg has in droves, and that may end up being the turning point of the fight once it hits the mat. Either Smolka overwhelms him with his clumsy traps and haphazard attempts at reversing positions, or he gets his neck caught in a submission once again. There’s always the possibility that it stays standing due to both guys’ grappling prowess, and if that’s the case Smolka probably wins with his superior length and rangy attacks (5” height and 6” reach advantage). I’m going with Borg in an upset but wouldn’t blame you if you chose to stick with Smolka on most lineups. All those take-downs and advances possibilities? Either one is a good choice.
Borg via 2nd round RNC
Dong Hyun Kim vs Tarec Saffiedine
It’s the real Donger here, folks. Not the guy who was involved in probably the craziest brawl I’ve seen in a long time. Real Donger gets a somewhat of a gate-keeper in Tarec Saffiedine, who’s got the skills and all the accolades one could ask for in every striking category imaginable. Problem with all of those fancy schmancy titles is Saffiedine still struggles against wrestlers of all types. Real Donger is a persistent wrestler with a Stun Gun of a left hand (hence the nickname Stun Gun), so it may turn into a wrestler vs striker battle. Can Saffiedine finally break through the WW division and start piling up wins and prove all of those striking titles aren’t just purty on paper?
Saffiedine has some seamless transitions from his orthodox stance to southpaw, and both stances are just as unique and powerful as the other from a striking standpoint. Saffiedine has some brutal straight leg kicks that can leave a nasty mark on wherever it lands, but his boxing is a little lacking. It’s accurate but doesn’t have the kind of pop that can scare away opponents, which may explain why he’s never been able to be a legitimate threat on the feet and only had 1 career KO/TKO wins (happened in 2010). He’s got 5 submission victories but all of those were before 2010 as well, so he’s been a decision machine in all of his wins. As a result, opponents have been willing to get into Saffiedine’s range and just simply get the man down, and that’s what I think Dong Hyun Kim does. Real Donger has his moments of trying to stand too much and prove to the world that he isn’t just an extremely skilled 4th dan black belt judoka with an underrated top game. That’s gotten him into trouble before, but those were against power punchers, and Saffiedine doesn’t exactly fit the bill. Real Donger should be able to control from the clinch and get whatever take-down he wants against Saffiedine provided he doesn’t try to stand against the multi-talented striker, and it’ll probably be a fairly easy victory for Real Donger. Good chance for lots of take-down/advance points for Kim, so don’t ignore him on your lineups!
Kim via unanimous decision
John Lineker vs T.J. Dillashaw
The stance-switching Dillashaw wanted another title shot after losing his title to Cruz, but he’ll have to get through “Hands of Stone” John Lineker in order to get it. Lineker just came off a riveting performance that saw Lineker somehow get the better of John Dodson despite the glaring speed disadvantage, showcasing Lineker’s beautiful corner traps and ability to cut off opponents that try to escape him. Dillashaw’s a master of flipping the script at any moment through his combinations and footwork, but Lineker has a zombie chin and a psychotic love for violence. Basically, Lineker is my idol. Swing them arms, John! Swing ’em hard!
Dillashaw’s in the Cruz mold, but to a lesser extent. He does the feints and switching stances, but it’s more of a flow than a way to trap others into getting countered. Dillashaw utilizes his speed and frequent combinations to try and set up awkward striking angles for that big fight ending strike. This is especially true on the majority of his headkick setups, switching stances and suddenly rising up a kick that stuns his opponents. Here’s the thing. Lineker doesn’t get stunned. He just simply gets angry that you dared to punch/kick him in the face and demands retribution. How does Lineker get said retribution? By plunging his fists into their faces through meaty hooks and dazzling overhands, set up beautifully by using body shots that’s sorely lacking from many fighters’ repertoire.
It’ll be Dillashaw’s octagon control and movement against Lineker’s unrelenting pressure and swinging arms to decide each other’s fate. Dodson is quicker and a better counter-striker than Dillashaw and still wasn’t able to escape Lineker’s lunatic antics, so I’m not sure Dillashaw can do any better. He’s got more tools than Dodson and an attack first mentality, which may help him more than Dodson’s preference to sitting back and countering. Dillashaw probably has more ways to deal with Lineker’s pressure than Dodson did, but good god almighty does that Lineker feller really hit hard. I just have visions of Dillashaw switching into southpaw to set up something and getting blasted by a right hook in the process. My head says Dillashaw but my heart says Lineker, and the heart wants what it wants.
murder unanimous decision
Cody Garbrandt vs Dominick Cruz
Garbrandt is a part of the Team Alpha Male organization led by the now retired Urijah Faber, and boy, does Cruz absolutely hate that team. Alpha Fail, as Dominick likes to call them, is going through some difficult times with Faber’s retirement and Paige VanZant’s untimely loss to Michelle Waterson. Now Garbrandt may end up looking like a fool as he tries to counter Cruz’s unrelenting stance changing and feint-based striking to no avail. Cruz is what Dillashaw wishes he could be as a striker, and Garbrandt will be Cruz’s 1st time facing a legitimate power puncher in a long time. It’s a match-up worthy of 5 rounds, as Garbrandt could only need 1 punch to become the new champion. Or end up wailing away and punching the invisible air around his fists, getting clocked by Cruz’s patented head-shake uppercut counter. Fake and baked! Bake and fake? Shake and fake?
Cody Garbrandt is a little bit of a one trick pony, having basically won the majority of his fights off his right hand. He was able to knock out Thomas Almeida quickly by pressuring him and just swinging hard with that right overhand. It’s very fast and equally powerful, so I don’t blame him for spamming it. Cody’s got a very solid wrestling background and has good defensive wrestling which helps keeps it on the feet for Garbrandt. However, fighting against Cruz presents a plethora of problems Cody has to face head on or suffer an embarrassing loss. Cruz’s overall movement, including his head fakes, feints, and switching stances constantly, is what has made him a champion and one of the most difficult fighters to prepare for. He has a counter to your counter and a fake for your fake. Then you add in Cruz’s fantastic wrestling and instant level change take-downs, and it’s no wonder why no one likes to fight him. Garbrandt just doesn’t have any other tricks outside of the right straight/overhand counter while Cruz has….well, everything else. You’re banking on a 1 punch knockout if you choose to roster Garbrandt, and that’s not good enough for me. Cruz wins in yet another dominant performance and puts up 100+ DK points for his efforts.
Cruz via unanimous decision
Amanda Nunes vs Ronda Rousey
I mean, what more could we all say about Rousey? She was one of the most dominating fighters of our generation, turning the bantamweight division into a wasteland as she plucked apart every opponent the UFC sent her way. Then came Holly Holm with the headkick heard round the world. Ever since that loss, Ronda has gone into hiding and avoided most media interactions, leaving many to wonder if she may enter retirement soon. Then came Nunes, knocking out Miesha Tate and choking her out to become the new champion and opening the door for Rousey to legitimately win her title back. It’s not a knock on Nunes’ ability as a fighter, just simply based on the match-up for Ronda in comparison to the others viable title contenders. Can Rousey return to form and cut off the head of the Lioness? Or will she suffer the same fate that has befallen many of Nunes’ past opponents?
Here’s the fight in a nutshell – Can Ronda get into the clinch against Nunes without getting dropped by one of the Lioness’ overhands? Can Nunes stick to the Holly Holm gameplan and not allow Ronda to get anywhere near her and continue to stick and move? Those are the questions you must answer if you wish to roster either fighter, but I am here to help you answer those very same questions! Nunes has had trouble in the past at getting out of the clinch, most notably against Cat Zingano, getting tossed to the ground and eventually finished in the waning moments. So, there’s Rousey’s edge right there. On the other hand, Nunes has improved since then and shown more of a stick and move mentality instead of being an outright brawler. I still think Rousey’s intense pressure and obvious judoka skills will overwhelm Nunes and eventually get it to the ground where Ronda is an absolute shark. Holm proved that Rousey’s striking defense has massive holes that can get her badly countered, and that is realistically the only way Nunes can win the fight. If her cardio starts to falter or Nunes starts to backtrack and doesn’t take advantage of said counter windows, it’ll be over very fast. I’m sticking with Rousey as the new (and old) bantamweight champion after a 1st round submission. Which submission you say? The armbar, of course! Let’s get ROWDY!