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UFC Fight Night 65: Time to go SUPER SAIYAN!

UFC Fight Night 65: Time to go SUPER SAIYAN!
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UFC Fight Night 65: Time to go SUPER SAIYAN!

2ToN’s UFC Fight Night 65 DFS Analysis

Now it’s time for the REAL fighting sport to stand out after the alleged “Fight of the Century” went down and crushed our souls with boredom and as Mike Tyson said, left us feeling underwhelmed. The UFC will be welcoming the Aussies with an exciting main event between two heavyweights that look to finish the fight with their fists in Mark Hunt and Stipe Miocic. Sure, it’s a five round match that might as well be one round, but I will never turn down the opportunity to watch some violence! Joining alongside the heavyweights will be several Aussies headlining the card including sizzling prospect Jake Matthews and lovable YMCA dad, Dan Kelly. Will they do their country proud with decisive wins or will they come up short and break their hearts as much as Corey Anderson broke mine? Time will tell, but at least I’ll be here to pick up the pieces with these neat and lovely breakdowns of each match-up that is based on what I see on film, NOT based on name status or preconceived notions that people will attempt to feed you without some explanation or merit behind their reasons. I also will not discredit a fighter and give them no chance of winning, but rather state their strengths/weaknesses and what may doom them in their match-up. That is how you dissect fights, not by arbitrarily deciding their fate without good reasoning. Read the breakdowns, watch some fights if you want to confirm your suspicions, but don’t let a pick alone decide who to use in your line-ups. I am by no means an expert, and the only people I would truly trust as an expert on MMA are trainers/teachers or world class fighters who do not have any bias. I simply write what I see on film and go from there. I also am open to discussion on each fighter’s traits and their strengths/weaknesses, if I missed a spot or two. I have enjoyed good success in fantasy MMA doing it this way, and I hope all of you guys can achieve the same kind of success as I have!

Alptekin Ozkillic (-185) vs Ben Nyugen (+160)

Ozkillic is coming off an entertaining but ultimately a crushing loss to John Lineker, in what was probably Lineker’s last fight at flyweight. Once a highly regarded prospect coming into the UFC, he has since went 1-2 with his only win coming against Darren Uyenoyama, who has since been cut after that loss. Not a great start. He faces a guy riding a 7 win streak in Ben Nguyen, who also has a viral video on YouTube knocking the bejesus out of a bum. Nguyen is a strange guy, having fought out of orthodox early in his career and having been more of a take-down guy with wild kicks, to now fighting out of southpaw and leaning more on his inconsistent but quick and powerful flurries of hooks and straights. He finished 5 out of his last 7 opponents, showing the kind of killer instinct the UFC loves.

Ozkillic is a fairly decorated Greco-Roman wrestler, having wrestled for his native Turkey, and he has been an All American at NCAA. His wrestling is both strength and technique-based, ducking and pushing forward to get the single/double leg take-down or hold them up the cage and tire them out. He isn’t very creative when it comes to applying take-down pressure, mostly using his strength as he is fairly big for a flyweight. He is not very active on the ground, electing to stay in one position and throwing some punches if at all. His striking early on was not very polished, mostly serving as a way to push inside and get leverage for the take-down. As he has progressed over the last few years, his striking has improved, adding the jab and solid but still inconsistent counters and long range striking. He looks more comfortable on the feet than in the past, willing to involve himself in striking exchanges rather than covering up and hastily rushing in for a take-down. His striking defense still hasn’t improved however, often getting beat to the punch by quicker and better strikers, as seen by Louis Smolka and John Lineker. That has allowed his opponent to rack up a ton of significant strikes, as Ozkillic has one hell of a chin. Truth be told, Ozkillic is just another name in the flyweight division with mainly a strong wrestling base, decent striking, and a mediocre top game that is stifling simply due to him laying and doing nothing. Not to mention his cardio issues. Not impressed.

Ben Nguyen can be an exciting scrappy fighter who often pushes forward with his random flurries of wild swinging hooks as he ignites a barnyard brawl with his opponent, provided said opponent is wiling to engage in such a situation. Often times he will win those type of exchanges, with several exceptions in the past where his chin just wasn’t as strong as his opponent. In those particular cases, Nguyen exhausted himself striking furiously and eventually gassed out, getting TKO’d on the ground with his depleted energy and stamina. Other than that, Nguyen is a solid, all around athletic guy who can get some decent take-downs, force the issue standing, and can be a threat on the ground with submissions. His game plan is usually up and down, so I can’t really with any sort of inclination tell you what I expect him to do vs Ozkillic. I’ll predict that this stays a striking affair with some entertaining bouts of swinging overhands and maybe some clinch striking from both men up the cage. Or he could just get taken down over and over, possibly eye-poking Ozkillic in frustration.

Ideally, this fight should stay standing with Nguyen’s athleticism and scrambling ability offsetting Ozkillic’s strong wrestling, making it a stalemate. Both men are willing to trade blows and fire away at will at a maddening pace. I’d give the edge to Nguyen in that situation since he seems to love that type of fight, and Ozkillic already lost that kind of firefight to Lineker. Of course, Ozkillic could just decide to use his superior wrestling to douse Nguyen’s fiery offense and make it a boring fight in his favor. Hopefully that doesn’t happen, but considering he is 1-2 in the UFC and doesn’t have a good win yet, that really could happen. I’m picking the dog but will probably stay away from this fight as Ozkillic is a willing lay’n’prayer.

Nguyen via unanimous decision with 500 significant strikes

Brendan O’Reilly (-105) vs Vik Grujic (-115)

Let me just nip this in the bud real quick. This will probably be a wrestling match between the two with little action on the feet. Be forewarned if you pick either guy as they could get very little points if it does indeed turn into a cage-hugging match. With that out of the way, here’s a brief breakdown on both guys.

They like to wrestle. Alot. Grujic is the better striker but that isn’t saying much as O’Reilly is very undisciplined and often gets tagged as he pushes forward to get into the clinch or get a body lock for a take-down. Grujic at the very least seems competent enough on the feet to move around a little bit and set up some decent, uninspired combinations that is more blunt power than technique. He will still often try to shoot inside for a single leg take-down, or do the same thing O’Reilly likes to do, get into the clinch and work his way there. On the ground, neither man has awe-inspiring ground and pound games, but they are both equally effective and violent. I can’t discern one way or another on who is the better wrestler, but considering O’Reilly is moving up from lightweight and will have a 5 inch height disadvantage, Grujic should be the considerably stronger guy as well as having a 4 inch reach advantage. He’s a little bit more persistent than O’Reilly and has enough striking to win anything on the feet. Oh, and he’s 38 years old. Old man strength!

O’Reilly faced a stronger, better wrestler in Lipeng Zhang, which resulted in the TUF China champ getting O’Reilly back twice and controlling the majority of the match. Now Grujic isn’t on the level on Zhang both physically and wrestling-wise, but he certainly could achieve the same results as Zhang. O’Reilly is more aggressive of the two, and seems to have the better clinch game as he will throw early knees and try to push the action to the ground as soon as possible. Grujic has been KO’d before from the clinch versus Chris Clements, so there is a precedent for O’Reilly if he decides to work out of the clinch. Grujic has the stronger top game of the two, but again, there isn’t much of a difference between the two to really give an edge to either fighter other than to just give it to Grujic based on size alone. O’Reilly probably won’t be looking to keep the fight standing for too long, so we could see some cage-hugging with some back and forth jockeying for position up the cage. Barf.

I’m just gonna pick Grujic by decision and leave it at that.

Grujic via unanimous decision

Alex Chambers (+185) vs Kailin Curran (-225)

Alex Chambers is a 3rd dan black belt in Karate as well as a purple belt in BJJ. Kailin Curran currently holds no titles. On paper, this may seem like a mismatch, but this isn’t football or baseball. This is MMA, and stepping in the octagon erases all credentials on paper. Chambers hasn’t shown enough skill in the cage to warrant drooling over her black belt in Karate and overpowering the seemingly plain Kailin Curran. Here’s why.

Alex Chambers is a methodical striker, staying at far range while often backing up if she senses pressure. She has quick and strong leg kicks that she uses as a counter often to go with a quick right straight, but other than that she doesn’t string together many combinations, mostly relying on 1 hit and runs. Chambers has decent wrestling and can take her opponents down if needed and get a good ground and pound going, but doesn’t seem to hunt for the submission while on the ground. Despite her skills in BJJ, she seems to put herself in bad positions both from top and bottom, as she got armbarred by Aisling Daly while she was on top on the ground. I don’t know why she allowed Daly to get in what was a nice reversal into an armbar on her when it was a fairly obvious move. Nevertheless, Chambers is a solid striker when she isn’t pressured, as both Rose Namajunas and Daly pushed forward to Chambers and forced a lot of mistakes and bad striking defense, with Namajunas repeatedly hitting home with front kicks and eventually getting her back for a RNC. Kailin Curran is not on those two women’s level when it comes to BJJ, but she can hold her own when it comes to wrestling and take-downs.

Kailin Curran is not as accomplished of a striker as Chambers, nor does she possess a strong striking game, mostly relying on the left jab and low kicks to get a feel on the feet. She will throw several 1-2 combos and try to get into the clinch where she employs the hip toss well. There are times where she feels the need to get pressure and pushes the pace, possibly getting in a trip. This will be important when facing Chambers and avoiding the right straight. From the clinch, Curran works the body well with knees and uppercuts and setting up the hip toss. On the ground she has an active but sometimes sloppy ground and pound, sometimes not properly positioning herself on top as to prevent a sweep/reversal, something Paige VanZant took advantage of. Curran postures early and often whenever she can, but she would be remiss to allow Chambers to get back up quickly on her feet where she has the advantage. Her striking defense, as is with most women in the division, is mediocre at best, sometimes falling victim to episodes of wild swinging punches in retaliation instead of keeping compact and timing her counters.

I don’t expect much out of Chambers as far as evolving into a better martial artist as she is 36 years old and unlikely to improve. So she is what she is, a methodical striker who bides her time for that vicious counter, decent wrestling that is more defensive than offensive, and a perplexing lack of defense on the ground. Kailin Curran is a solid prospect for the strawweight division, having already had a thrilling fight versus the badass Paige VanZant, holding her own until the very end. Curran should look to utilize her clinch take-downs versus Chambers and get a strong decision win with timely ground and pound so she doesn’t get out of position for a potential reversal by Chambers. There is a decent chance for a late round TKO stoppage.

Curran via unanimous decision

Brad Scott (-115) vs Dylan Andrews (-105)

Battle of the fighters that don’t like to push the pace or start the exchanges! Both men have similar stalking fight-styles, electing to bide their time and find their moment to get a knockout blow counter. Both men also employ the low kick as they try to force their opponents to throw something out. This is going to come down to who decides to be the aggressor and get the counter-striking game going early.

Brad Scott looks like Forrest Griffin. Kinda fights like him, too! Scott gets in front of his opponents closer than Andrews does, but he still utilizes the stalking his prey style, as he blocks and dodges all incoming punches/kicks and gets in a counter right straight that is both powerful and quick. His left hook is not as powerful as Andrews, but it’s still a threat in combinations. His take-down offense isn’t much as he mostly looks to get the single leg take-down from up the cage, and if he can’t get that single leg he will just hold them. He is much more active on the ground than Andrews, looking to take their back early and get into his favorite submission, the RNC. What he does best is beat his opponent up from the clinch, as he has some very good knees and dirty boxing. Neither guy will bow you away with punch combos or speed, but they are no doubt heavy-handed swingers with 17 KO/TKOs combined, 12 for Andrews. Excellent.

Dylan Andrews stays back in most of his fights, electing to be mainly a counter-striker as he seems to do his most damage there. When people run at him or be the aggressor, Andrews has usually excelled in landing the counter-left or a strong right overhand that staggers his opponents. When he is unable to catch his opponents off guard with the overhand, he struggles to keep his opponents off and will often clinch up or try to take them down. His wrestling is decent enough that he can pull it off versus lesser opponents or those with little take-down defense. Scott has enough scrambling ability to shut down those type of halfhearted take-downs, but if Andrews is persistent and pushes through the take-down, Scott has shown in the past he can be taken down over and over as seen in his last fight vs Claudio Silva. Andrews can be a bit flat footed at times if no one engages him on the feet, and he doesn’t seem to be very good backpedaling versus pressure if he is unable to counter back or circle out. I imagine Scott’s ability to stay in front and push forward without actually throwing too many strikes should give him the edge over Andrews as they both stalk each other. Andrews’ wrestling might be the difference maker in the match-up though.

I expect both men to duke it out on the feet despite their lack of being an aggressor, as they both enjoy throwing out heavy punches and countering one another. I would say both men are equal in speed and strength with maybe the younger Scott having a little bit more speed and better cardio than Andrews, who gassed pretty badly versus Clint Hester and eventually lost in a doctor’s stoppage. His fight versus Sam Alvey also showed how uncomfortable Andrews can be backing up as he swings wildly, hoping for his overhand to land. I don’t see this fight going the distance unless both men just decide to take the fight to the side of the cage and sleep there. I’m going with the younger guy with the better chance to be the aggressor and take advantage of Andrews being overly reliant on counters and take-downs.

Scott via 2nd round KO

Bec Rawlings (-165) vs Lisa Ellis (+145)

“Rowdy” Bec Rawlings (no, she is not related to the real “Rowdy”, Ronda Rousey) will be looking to avenge her UFC debut loss to Heather Clark, who essentially held Rawlings for most of the rounds before winning an unanimous decision. Lisa Ellis is also coming off an UFC debut submission loss to Felice Herrig, a spirited fight that saw Ellis have several attempts to finish Herrig via sub, but in the end Herrig was too much for Ellis. This should be a fun fight if Ellis elects to keep the fight standing, but I have a feeling she won’t give the fans what they want.

Bec Rawlings is a pretty rowdy fighter in her own right, with aggressive striking and a push forward pacing that can overwhelm many strawweights that aren’t as polished striking. Rawlings can lead with either a left hook or a right straight into a flurry of combinations as she swings for the fences then runs inside to get into the clinch, where she will bury her opponents with knees. Rawlings can get the body lock throwdown or a back-trip, where she is then aggressive in transitioning into a favorable dominant position as she searches for a submission. In her past wins, she was able to get into full mount quickly, dispatching her opponents with vicious ground and pound or sliding into an armbar. There has been a pattern in the majority of Rawlings’ losses, and that’s getting controlled both up the cage and on the ground. Both Heather Clark, Carla Esparza, and Mizuki Inoue were able to control Rawlings with either suffocating cage pressure or constant take-down attempts and holding top control for most of the rounds. Esparza is a great wrestler who won the 1st inaugural strawweight championship, Heather Clark is a decent wrestler who mostly just held her and wasn’t active but did have Rawlings’ back for most of the 2nd round, and Mizuki Inoue more or less did the same thing but doesn’t have an extensive wrestling background. That is something to worry about when facing Lisa Ellis, who is capable in her own right in taking control of Rawlings.

Lisa Ellis is a spunky fighter, with solid striking consisting of quick 1-2 combinations and some leg kicks added in. The one thing I didn’t like when watching her previous fights was she leaves her chin high whenever she counters back, often getting plastered in the process. While she has a strong chin, that kind of damage isn’t good in the long run, especially in the middle of a three round fight versus an aggressive striker like Rawlings. Her take-downs mostly consists of hip tosses out of clinch and several leg trips, but she is capable of changing levels and getting in a power take-down. On the ground she is all right, mostly hunting for a submission from whatever position she is in rather than passing the opponent’s guard and posturing into ground and pound. She often gives up position to get reversed or swept into a submission. When she isn’t on top of her opponent, she tends to struggle on the ground and can be rushed into a submission, as 6 of her 9 career losses have been to submissions.

If this fight stays standing and Rawlings can avoid getting taken down or controlled up the cage, this should be a fun brawl between two women who don’t mind getting down and dirty. Rawlings has the better combinations and can take full advantage of Ellis’ tendency to leave her chin high during exchanges, possibly rocking her and getting in a take-down into full mount, finishing it off with strikes. Ellis is one tough gal but her struggles off her back will be evident in the match-up if Rawlings can overwhelm her from the clinch and get it to the ground. Let’s get ROWDY!

Rawlings via 3rd round TKO

Daniel Kelly (+335) vs Sam Alvey (-420)

As I continue to be employed by DailyRoto (tentatively), eventually there comes a time where I will be talking about the same fighter on multiple occasions. This is one of those times. I’ll keep it as brief as I can.

Daniel Kelly is a 4th dan Judoka, having competed in the Olympics in Judo for his native Australia. He also has a purple belt in BJJ, making him a dangerous man to get close to as he can instantly throw his opponents to the ground and submit them. Unfortunately, Kelly seems baffled at his skill-set, inconceivably keeping fights standing and pretending he can actually be a good striker. Instead of using his immense advantage on the ground and superb grappling skills, Kelly seems content in having a slap fight with his opponents, sometimes resembling a YMCA dad as he throws random straights and flapping his arms for a wild overhand left. The one time where his opponent basically ran head-first into him, he was able to trip him to the ground and (GASP) submitting him with a very nice kimura. Kelly doesn’t seem to look to clinch up quickly early on unless his opponents pressure him and get too close to Kelly. Facing Sam Alvey, who will no doubt be the much better man on the feet, I really hope Kelly realizes his distinct advantage over Alvey and actually pursues the take-down as quickly as possible to finish the fight with an upset submission win. Alas, you can’t trust these darn YMCA dads.

Sam Alvey smiles a lot. He punches a lot. He gets hit a lot. He doesn’t care that he gets hit a lot. Kelly doesn’t hit hard. Alvey will laugh and smile at Kelly. Alvey has a brawler’s mentality, often throwing strong but wild hooks and straights, but does have very good countering ability as he put away Cezar Ferreira with relative ease considering he didn’t throw a single strike until 3 minutes into the match, his 2nd strike being the counter that put “Mutante” to sleep. Going 3 minutes without throwing an actual strike isn’t something new to Alvey, as he can seem at times to have drank a little bit too much whiskey the night before. Then he wakes up and realizes the errors of his ways, avenging his inactivity with a brutal knockout. Alvey is not very good off his back and can be prone to submissions as he tends to put himself in bad positions trying to get back up. Hmm, I wonder what Kelly should do?

Alvey is a big favorite for one reason only. He can dominate Kelly with easy combinations and obliterate him standing en route to a 1st round knockout win. Other than that? He doesn’t have good grappling skills, is bad on his back, and has mediocre striking defense. Kelly stinks at striking effectively, doesn’t use any leg kicks, and has the Judo credentials to get Ronda Rousey all hot and bothered, but doesn’t wanna use it enough to be a real threat. C’mon Kelly! Just grab the guy and toss him to the ground then end his misery! I believe in the Aussie! Just don’t smile at him!

Kelly via 1st round armbar

Jonavin Webb (-110) vs Kyle Noke (-110)

The UFC signed an interesting welterweight prospect in undefeated Jonavin Webb, a BJJ black belt with good wrestling and plenty of take-down offense. He gets a good stylistic match-up versus the veteran Kyle Noke, coming off a loss to Patrick Cote after coaching TUF: Nations. While Kyle Noke is a solid striker with good size and athleticism, he is on the downswing of his career at 35 years of age and has had constant issues facing wrestlers with good take-downs. This is a good thing for Webb in his UFC debut, as he can take advantage of Noke’s inability to stay away from take-downs and staying glued to the mat.

Jonavin Webb isn’t a proficient striker, mostly using long range kicks and a little bit of jab to push inside for the take-down, most notably his body locks that he can use to slam down his opponents. On the ground, he is well-versed in making transitions while keeping busy with some ground and pound. He is a constant threat on top as he searches for submission attempts, and Noke has shown in the past he can be passive at times on his back as he holds his opponents for dear life. While Noke only has a couple submission losses on his record, his old age and zero improvement in ground defense may catch up to him versus a black belt in Webb. While Webb isn’t there yet striking, it can be enough to stay away from Noke’s dangerous pokes and get inside for multiple take-down attempts. He has to get the take-down though, otherwise Noke will have a field day standing.

Kyle Noke utilizes the low kick effectively, as he circles around probing inside with jabs and the occasional overhand. Even at 35 years old, Noke still has power and a little bit of speed in his striking, but he tends to not pay attention to his footwork and can overextend himself on kicks which can lead to easy take-down attempts as seen versus Cote. He often does not have an underhook to block/scramble on take-down attempts, often letting opponents shoot in far too easily. Even at six feet of height and having fought at middleweight, Noke isn’t particularly strong enough to be able to shake off multiple take-down attempts, especially since he can leave himself open during striking exchanges. Noke is going to have to utilize his 76” reach and fight at long range, keeping Webb away for as long as possible with timely counter rights and low kicks. There is a decent chance for a Noke KO if he can frustrate Webb enough standing, as Webb can be picked apart by good strikers.

Yes, I’m going to pick yet another underdog. Webb is younger, stronger, and has all the tools to take advantage of Noke’s bad take-down defense that has long plagued his career. Webb is also smart enough not to put himself in a bad position standing for Noke to get in counter attempts and hurt Webb. He should be able to shoot in uncontested and get into his body lock for the quick take-down and finish it on the ground with a slick submission.

Webb via 2nd round arm triangle

Daniel Hooker (+250) vs Hatsu Hioki (-300)

Striker versus wrestler!!!!! NOOOOOOOOO!!!! Daniel Hooker came into the UFC riding a 5 win streak that were all finishes, faced a deadly submission artist in Entwistle for his UFC debut and destroyed him with hellbows as Entwistle tried to secure the heel hook, and had a entertaining but lopsided loss to Maximo Blanco shortly thereafter. Hooker is one thing and one thing only, a bruising brawler. He has a little bit of Sam Alvey in him, as he will walk forward swinging wild hooks and keeping on the pressure. When he faced someone who could handle the pressure and continuously counter Hooker’s striking exchanges such as that of Maximo Blanco, he didn’t back down and still went all out. Unfortunately, Hatsu Hioki does not like to fight that way. One of the better grapplers in his division, Hioki will be looking to stifle Hooker’s offense with plenty of take-downs from either the clinch, up the cage, or use a trip. He hasn’t been able to use his superior grappling skills thus far in the UFC, losing to wrestlers/grapplers that may or may not be better than him in Ricardo Lamas, Charles Oliveira, Darren Elkins, and my man #CLAYMANIA, Clay Guida. Hooker is not on the level as those 4, or even 1/4th of their level. I smell a mismatch!

Daniel Hooker likes to punch and hurt people. He keeps his hands close to his chest much like the fantastic prospect Thomas Almeida that I talked about in the last event, but unlike Almeida, Hooker doesn’t consistently flash enough combinations to be a force standing. He is mostly one dimensional with his punching, looking to get in big left hooks and overhands as he picks and prods his way inside. Versus Blanco, he couldn’t keep up with his speed and mixture of combinations, getting shellacked left and right and leaking blood in the process. Blanco landed 133 sig strikes on poor Daniel Hooker, but at least Hooker got 91 of his own! Success! Much like Sam Alvey, Hooker will often simply walk down his opponent and get punched in the nose, shrug it off, and land a couple of his own nose breakers. The problem with that particular fight style is he leaves his chin open, making himself vulnerable to counter strikes, as well as not being able to defend take-downs very well. He got wrapped up by both Blanco and Entwistle numerous times as they tried to take him down, with Blanco getting one successful take-down and Entwistle basically pulling guard. Blanco didn’t really need to attempt the take-down as he was battering Hooker’s chin with booming punches. That doesn’t seem like a good thing facing Hioki now, does it? While Hooker is pretty bad at defending take-downs, he doesn’t seem to put himself in bad positions when he gets a chance to scramble back up, so maybe Hioki’s 4 year submission win drought might still continue.

Hatsu Hioki, a BJJ black belt, is one of the best grapplers in the featherweight division, having some of the best guard passes on the ground. He has a stifling top control game, and while some people may think he is inactive at times while on top, he is merely setting up his prey for a submission or just staying in control for decisive ground and pound. Even though he hasn’t had a submission win since 2011 (11 submission wins before then), that’s not due to lack of trying, as he simply just faced stiff competition and some things just didn’t go his way including his 1st ever submission loss to Charles Oliveira in a back and forth match. The main issue Hioki has had in the past is sometimes he is too content in keeping the fight standing when he has the advantage on the ground. While his striking isn’t horrible and he has a decent jab/low kick, he tends to stay at long range and waits for people to come to him, resulting in moments of….well just standing there. What he really needs to do is force the action and just be aggressive every second of the round, get his hands on his opponents for a trip out of clinch and finish his business on the ground. That is his forte, his bread and butter, and he should never go away from that game plan.

I mean, Hioki should be able to finish this fight with relative ease by taking Hooker down repeatedly and securing a submission win for the 1st time in 4 years. Hioki’s tendency to shy away from his own strengths and Hooker’ inclination to get in a brawl may seem very enticing in picking Hooker as a dog play, but I think Hooker gets tied up by Hioki a bunch and gets stuck on the ground for long periods of time. I probably won’t be picking Hioki too much in comparison to the other guys, but a 1st round submission isn’t out of the question.

Hioki via unanimous decision

Jake Matthews (-175) vs James Vick (+155)

Another upstart prospect that had been so highly touted that even Dana White himself proclaimed Jake Matthews to be the future of MMA in Australia. Quite a compliment indeed. Matthews has won his 1st two fights in the UFC in dominant fashion, annihilating the now cut Dashon Johnson and submitting esteemed BJJ black belt Vagner Rocha. He faces a tall task (literally) in James Vick, who is at a towering 6’3” with a limber 76 inch reach. Vick has improved in every fight thus far, with some warts still being problematic for the young Vick. He is a long range fighter with a kick heavy striking attack that utilizes the crazy long reach of his legs with well-timed body kicks that can be hard to distinguish between the headkick he throws along with it. This should be an entertaining bout.

Jake Matthews is a smooth striker who excels at staying out of range then jumping in and out with a jab and a very hard straight/overhand that can pierce through even the best of defenses. He also maximizes the hard low kick, adding them in at opportune times to deaden the lead leg of his opponents. Matthews might end up employing this tactic on Vick in order to lessen Vick’s power if he can’t push on his lead leg to get the torque needed for his body/headkick pokes. He shouldn’t be rushing in versus the long James Vick or it will be a short night for him. While Matthews looks very comfortable standing, being able to circle around and still be able to counter effectively, his best trait is being an aggressive submission hunter. Matthews doesn’t shoot in for the take-down often, usually waiting until he corners his opponents near the cage and pushes inside with a combo then clinching up. Whatever method he uses to get the fight to the ground, once he is on top he has thus far shown to be unstoppable, slithering his way into a dominant position. Coupled with his punishing ground and pound and relentless search for submissions, Matthews’ purple belt in BJJ really shines through as he has the perfect mix of those two important attributes for ground offense. I would say his only weakness so far is he depends on that strong right hand as his main weapon, needing to mix it up a little bit more later down the road. He has all the tools to be a top 10 LW in the future, and dispatching Vick quickly will help build his name in the UFC.

James Vick has come a long way since his days on TUF, going from a guy who couldn’t find his range and keep fighters off him standing, to a lethal long range striker with improved kicking that has been used as successful pokes. Vick has some decent boxing that is more counter-based than the typical long range strikers who use the jab as a way to dissuade opponents from getting within their range. Vick’s leg kicks are his jabs, which some may have thought would lead to several take-down attempts on a caught leg kick or a duck under, but Vick has shown some good scrambling ability to not get off base on his kicks and get taken down. What has still been his biggest issue is his striking defense and his questionable chin. His last fight vs Hein, whom Vick had an incredible 10 inch reach advantage on as well as being nine inches taller, saw Hein hit Vick hard with several right hands that knocked Vick down in the 1st round. With Vick’s lanky build, his guard defense is very good, as he reversed Hein after getting knocked down, and scrambled back up quickly on the 2nd knockdown. His fight versus Valmir Lazaro was also a grim reminder of Vick’s inability to keep fighters away from him as Lazaro, even while gassed, racked up 91 significant strikes including some brutal blows that hurt Vick somewhat. Vick won both of these fights regardless, but Jake Matthews probably is better than both of those guys combined. Not to mention Hein does not possess Matthews’ BJJ/grappling prowess, so if Matthews was able to rock Vick and pounce on him on the ground, it could be all over before Vick gets a chance to get back up.

The fight should start off with both fighters trying to find their range and being cautious at first, with plenty of Vick kicks (hmm….that could catch on) and Matthews trying to gauge how quickly he can jump in and out on Vick without eating too many Vick kicks. Eventually, I would think Matthews starts trying to time a Vick kick for a take-down attempt and finish it on the ground. If he is unable to get inside Vick and punish him with that powerful right hand, Vick could accumulate the significant strikes throughout the round. With how bad Vick’s striking defense can be at times and his shaky chin, I gotta go with the Celtic Kid getting a finish in some way.

Matthews via 2nd round KO

Anthony Perosh (-150) vs Sean O’Connell (+130)

Oh, god. I can’t believe this is an actual fight. My word. Anthony Perosh’s fights are hilarious to watch, as the 42 year old (actually turns 43 after the event) Aussie’s fights usually end in 1 of 2 ways: Perosh somehow gets into the clinch and gets a take-down from either a trip or a throw, then finishes it by submission, or he gets blasted standing or annihilated on the ground with his face breaking the other fighter’s hands. I mean the guy may be a BJJ black belt and definitely knows his way around on the ground, but man, does he get knocked out a lot. “The Hippo” is a rare favorite over the fun brawling Sean O’Connell, who is mostly a high volume wild swinging but inaccurate striker, who gives no (expletive) and really fights above his ability. Someone’s gonna get finished.

Anthony Perosh is called The Hippo because of his grappling style and being such a tough guy to get off on the ground. 10 of his 15 wins have came way by submission, and they are all hilarious still to me. Perosh also has some funny knockouts, including one over the infamous Vinny Magalhaes that ended before the fight even started. Perosh’s striking is mostly staying out of range with occasional low kicks and a random overhand, but his number one plan is to shoot inside and get into the clinch eventually. While he does have a decent clinch game with good trips, he isn’t a world beater wrestling-wise, and he often simply gets manhandled even if he is the one pushing his opponent up the cage. He can get battered left and right standing as his chin is not very good, often giving out to strong hooks as Perosh covers up and whimpers quietly. Among those who have defeated The Hippo are known excellent strikers with power – Mirko Cro Cop, Ryan Jimmo, and James Te Huna to a lesser extent. Ryan Bader is also a solid boxer with great wrestling who pummeled Perosh into oblivion for 3 rounds and honestly, it should have been stopped several times. Sean O’Connell is not on the level of those guys, but he can be a crazy brawler and throw a massive amount of random strikes at any moment. He also doesn’t have much wrestling, so that’s probably why Perosh is the early favorite…..for now.

Sean O’Connell will walk forward versus anybody and bring the fireworks. Pushing the pace with a high volume, mostly power than accurate striking that resembles a man doing the windmill with both arms, O’Connell can rack up the significant strikes like no one’s business. Even when he was consistently getting beat to the punch and countered by Matt Van Buren for two rounds, O’Connell came roaring back for a 3rd round KO in a fight he was decisively losing in. O’Connell also got into a firefight with Gian Villante, who also ended my Vegas dreams, and came out of it a loser. A split decision loser, but a loser nonetheless. In both of those fights, the other guy landed 90-100 significant strikes since O’Connell omits striking defense in favor for striking offense as he is willing to take damage to dole out his own punishment. His combinations consist of…..well, left hook right overhand right overhand, wild left hook wild overhand random uppercut. Not in that order of course, but something like that. His take-down defense isn’t there yet, but who cares? The man wants to punch so let him punch!

Point blank, if Perosh can survive the early onslaught by O’Connell and avoid the death blows as Perosh tries to get his hands on O’Connell, he should be able to end it fairly quickly on the ground with a submission. His brittle chin and O’Connell propensity in being a battering ram standing scares me away from picking Perosh. This is one of those fights you just gotta hedge and take both guys in different lineups as this should be a finish either way. The battering ram or the hippo? You decide.

Perosh via 1st round RNC

Brad Tavares (-150) vs Robert Whittaker (+130)

Ugh, another striker vs wrestler match-up? Can’t we just have some striker vs striker match-ups for once, UFC???? Brad Tavares is the wrestler in the fight, with a strong wrestling pedigree that has thus far stoned the lower echelon of the middleweight division. However, his wrestling isn’t strong enough to be a part of the elite in MW, having lost to Yoel Romero and to a much, much lesser extent Tim Boestch in a typical Boestch fight. Robert Whittaker is a very good striker, having a black belt in various styles such as Hapkido and Karate, to go with a purple belt in BJJ. Whittaker had mostly fought as a big welterweight, but does have a little experience fighting at middleweight before, so the move up shouldn’t be a drastic change for Whittaker. Both men have shown in their past fights what their game plan consists of, and neither man usually delve away from that said game plan. Tavares wants to push his opponents up the cage and notch a take-down for some ground and pound, grinding his way to a decision if he can’t break his opponent’s will with punches. Whittaker wants to KO his opponents with his missile of a right hand and an equally powerful left hook, but fights at his best when he is primarily a counter-striker. Who will have the edge?

Brad Tavares entered the UFC on a 5 fight win streak, all by RNC or TKO. In his next 11 fights in the UFC? Only one KO with 10 decisions. Safe to say his fighting style has generally turned most fights into cage-holding defense and blocking Tavares’ take-downs, and if unsuccessful in doing so, often laid on by Tavares for the remainder of the round. I actually remember someone complaining that Tavares didn’t get a finish on Nate Marquardt, as if his past history suggested he could do so consistently. Oh well, with that asides, Tavares does have some decent boxing with a solid jab and straight follow-through that he will often use to change levels and secure a take-down. Often times, Tavares will find himself holding his opponent up the cage and jockeying for position, or just trying desperately to get the double leg take-down. That can waste away several valuable minutes of the round, both decreasing the fantasy output he and his opponents can put forth and tiring out his opponents. On the ground he is a willing ground and pounder, but can be a little passive at times when he tries to pass the opponent’s guard. When he can’t consistently get to his opponents inside and work his way up the cage, he struggles to land his combinations without getting countered in the process. While he has a good chin, versus Yoel Romero he was getting beat to the punch quite often and actually got elbowed hard on an attempted take-down that rocked him. Obviously, Romero is too much of an idiot to realize his sheer advantage standing with Tavares unable to even get close to Romero for a take-down. As a result, Romero was content to just ragdoll Tavares around with 7 take-downs and dominating him on the ground for a decision win instead of potentially KO’ing him and giving the degenerates who chose him more fantasy points. Damn it, Yoel!

Robert Whittaker may not be a flashy striker, but he has some real power in his right hand. Whittaker had some issues in the past with his striking defense as he would sometimes leave his right hand tucked under his chin ready to blast someone’s face off instead of moving around to defend himself versus pressure. That led to easy counters for his opponents and hurting Whittaker. He has since corrected those issues, utilizing better footwork to go with smarter usage of his hands. While Whittaker isn’t going to throw many combinations, his one punch volume-oriented striking is more than enough to pose a threat on the feet as he can lead with his jab to set up his blistering overhand right. Whittaker also doesn’t mix in kicks too often, but they are a part of his arsenal if needed, usually using the low kicks early and a headkick late in the rounds. Whittaker also has excellent scrambling ability as he always has an underhook ready to defend against take-downs, a very important attribute to have against wrestlers. He is quick to react and will circle out of said attempts instead of leaving himself up the cage. I wasn’t able to see how Whittaker holds up if he does get taken down and is on his back, so I can’t comment on whether he has an active guard or not.

If Tavares continually whiffs on his take-down attempts, he may get countered left and right by Whittaker’s left and right! Okay, that was bad. I have a bad feeling that Tavares is going to hold the bejesus out of Whittaker though, causing many ref break-ups to resume the action standing. Whittaker’s excellent take-down defense and quick reactions should serve him well versus the stronger Tavares, and his striking should be much better than Tavares as well. Just comes down to if Tavares can grind Whittaker down to sap away his cardio in the later rounds and lessens Whittaker’s ability to defend take-downs successfully. I’m going to stick with the trend Tavares has had in the last 9 fights, a decision.

Whittaker via unanimous decision

Mark Hunt (+200) vs Stipe Miocic (-240)

Aw, yeah! Battle of the Bulge! Oh wait, that was Hunt vs Roy Nelson. Never mind……Both men are coming off disappointing losses to some of the very best their division has to offer with Hunt losing to a wild and crazy flying knee KO by #1 contender Fabricio Werdum, and Miocic losing a hard fought (and I mean REALLY HARD FOUGHT) decision to possibly the best gatekeeper of any division in Junior Dos Santos. JDS was also a former HW champion, having only lost twice to the now current champion Cain Velasquez in 13 UFC fights. So while both men are coming off losses, they are still arguably top 5 in their division, making this main event fight all the more important to win. Both men possess iron chins, which I now affectionately call “zombie chins”, although Hunt has been knocked out more recently late in his career, so maybe all of the ridiculous damage he has taken during his career are starting to take its toll on Hunt. Whatever the case may be, he still possesses some of the most powerful punches in the division and is not to be taken lightly (yes, that was a fat joke). Miocic is no slouch in the power department either, but he is more about volume and efficiency rather than one punch all out power like Hunt. Makes for a tasty match-up!

Mark Hunt has thrived as a MMA fighter for two reasons: his uncanny ability to absorb power shots over and over, simply walking through it as if nothing happened, and his powerbombs that could register on the Richter scale. If you don’t know what the Richter scale is, I am disappointed in you. Hunt has survived this long just based on those two attributes alone, pushing his way into top five conversation and trying for one last shot at a UFC title as he isn’t getting any younger at the ripe age of 41 years old. While I wouldn’t say he’s a one trick pony, he has some severe weaknesses that can be exploited by Stipe Miocic. He will be at a big speed and height/reach disadvantage, as Miocic will have 6 inches on Hunt in both areas at 6’4” and 80 inch reach. Hunt also has a lack of any kind of ground defense, as he is extremely vulnerable off his back, having been submitted in 6 of his 9 losses. While Miocic isn’t a savvy submission artist, he knows enough to be an ample threat to Hunt if he is able to get the big boy on the ground. Even though I’m naming all of Hunt’s glaring weaknesses, that’s not to say he’s a pushover. I mean, the man is called the Super Saiyan! His bellowing overhands and piercing uppercuts have long been a staple of his as he pummels his way through his opponents, paying no mind to the many hits he takes on his way inside. But what happens if he can’t get close enough to get the knockout blow? Bad, bad things.

Stipe Miocic is arguably one of the fastest heavyweights in the UFC, boasting great hand speed to go with crisp, excellent boxing. A former Golden Gloves champion and NCAA D1 wrestler, Miocic has all the tools to be a frustrating fighter, sometimes even a match-up nightmare with his speed and footwork. Miocic loves to lead early with the left jab, landing several stiff jabs at once and finishing off with the classic right straight. He can also punish his opponent’s lead leg with quick leg kicks as he scurries and circles around his opponent, keeping on his unrelenting pressure with his boxing acumen. While he doesn’t land a ton of power shots, he times those moments well to stagger his opponents and finish them off on the ground with decisive ground and pound. As I mentioned earlier, he was a former NCAA D1 wrestler, and his big frame allows for Miocic to get guys in the clinch and push them around, waiting for his time to get in a single leg take-down. He is not the most active guy on the ground, usually staying in half guard and getting in a few punches here and there. Hunt’s inability to do anything on the ground may be exacerbated if Miocic pushes the issue with relentless take-down attempts to try and get in a submission win. I don’t think that’s likely as Miocic has Hunt beat on the feet both athletically and technically. His game usually revolves around his speedy jab and his ability to counter quickly with his vicious left hook that broke the zombie chin of Maldonado. Good thing for Miocic is Hunt really doesn’t care who his opponent is or their strengths, he is going to fight his way and push his way forward to try and get inside his opponent to batter them with overhands and uppercuts. Miocic must keep that in mind if he wants to escape with his jaw attached to his face after the fight.

I love Mark Hunt. He is just a really fun and engaging human being that simply loves to brawl and put on a show for the fans. Being 41 years old and having been around the block more than a few times, even being a huge icon in Japan, Hunt has shown some signs of wear and tear with his chin, but his power continues to shine through his fights as well as his tenacity. I would like nothing more than to see another Mark Hunt highlight reel KO, but the odds are stacked against him vs the faster, more technical Stipe Miocic. A 5 round back and forth affair wouldn’t surprise me in the least, as his FOTY match vs “Bigfoot” Silva was one for the ages and NO ONE expected that to happen. I’m still giving a big edge to Miocic, and while Hunt’s chin may be slowly eroding away, I’m not ready to call an early round KO for Miocic. However, a 1st round submission could very well happen.

Miocic via 3rd round ground and pound TKO

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How do you see the fights going down?