UFC Fight Night 80: Every Rose Has Its Thorn
This weekend in UFC will involve 3 cards in 3 days beginning on December 10th and will start with one of the more anticipated showdowns in the women’s strawweight division, as two of their most recognizable fighters in Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas square off in a potential five round thriller. Then comes Friday’s card that will pit two of the best featherweights in an epic match-up that has been terribly tough to figure out, as both Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes both have their own strengths and weaknesses that can stymie the other. And of course, Saturday is the pinnacle of all 3 events, as the fight the fans have been beckoning for finally arrives. A battle of wits, blood, and pride between “The Notorious” Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo will likely have everything a fight fan could want in a title fight. It truly will be a once in a lifetime, history changing war of attrition that could start a war between Brazil and Ireland. I’m exaggerating, of course….or am I? Better tune in on Saturday night!
Anyways, my main focus will be on UFC 194 and all the goodies involved on that beautiful card, and that takes time and energy. The FN 80 and TUF 22 cards will have quick pick ’ems so you guys can have something to read and make somewhat informed picks for your DFS MMA lineups on whatever site that offers contests involving the respective cards. Like uh….Kountermove which currently has a 25% deposit bonus that lasts through UFC 194! Use promo code “CHAMP” and also ask for 2ToN so you can get laughed at when you don’t get anything. Shazam! Reminder, both cards on Thursday and Friday will be fought in the smaller octagon, which is 5 feet smaller than the usual cage that the UFC selects for bigger events. This usually means a slight uptick in the amount of finishes and favors certain people in certain match-ups, and is a little bit of a disadvantage to the space/at range strikers as well as favoring aggressive/fast paced fighters. Keep that in mind when making your picks.
Kailin Curran vs Emily Kagan
Just pick Curran. She is the much better fighter and could land oodles of significant strikes on Kagan, as Kagan is quite literally simply an ineffective wrestler with little to no striking skills. Curran’s fight to lose, and I think she should be able to land copious amount of significant strikes.
Curran via GnP TKO
Phillipe Nover vs Zubaira Tukhugov
Nover just isn’t good, period. While Tukhugov hasn’t impressed me outside of his easy win versus a low level fighter in Ernest Chavez, you can tell Zubaira has some serious skills especially on the feet. Nover is just a warm body at this point in his career, and unless he can keep the fight on the ground while maintaining top control, he’s probably going to get knocked out. Tukhugov has a big advantage on the feet and has some pretty good wrestling himself, so he should be able to fend against Nover’s take-down attempts. Sorry Nover, but your 2nd attempt at UFC glory won’t be a pretty one.
Tukhugov by TKO
Danny Roberts vs Nathan Coy
OK, we last saw the 37 year old Nathan Coy get brutally knocked out by Adam McDonough on Bellator. It was not pretty…..AT ALL. This Danny Roberts guy just got recently signed by the UFC and boasts a 11-1 record. Not much to go on with the guy other than he’s a solid boxer with decent wrestling but low on experience when it comes to grappling exchanges, especially on defense. Nathan Coy is a grinder, plain and simple. His stand-up is mediocre at best, and while Roberts is new and everything, he should be able to dominate on the feet whenever it stays that way during the fight. The main issue here is defending Nathan Coy’s obvious take-down attempts, and Roberts’ take-down defense is questionable at best. Roberts by TKO or Coy by unanimous decision is what I’m thinking here, but something tells me Coy is gonna make this one unwatchable and with the smaller cage helping cut off Roberts escape angles, Coy is my upset special.
Coy via unanimous decision
Andreas Stahl vs Santiago Ponzinibbio
It’s been a long time since we last saw Andres Stahl in the octagon, as his last fight was against Gilbert Burns back in ’14, which he lost by decision. He’s mostly a grinder, using his strength and length to frustrate his opponents up the cage and in the clinch. Ponzinibbio got absolutely smoked by Lorenz Larkin in his last fight, but before that match, Ponzinibbio was 9-1 in his last 10 fights, including a gritty win over Sean Strickland. Ponzinibbio is a mix of good power striking with body kicks and some wrestling/top control with the threat of the submission as he’s a BJJ black belt. He’s a pretty good overall fighter with one major flaw – his chin in addition to his striking defense.
Stahl isn’t a huge threat on the feet, but it’s serviceable enough to warrant some thought. Even then, Stahl depends mostly on his size and offensive wrestling to win most of his fights, and Ponzinibbio is just a better fighter in my opinion.
Ponzinibbio via unanimous decision
Aljamain Sterling vs Johnny Eduardo
Sterling is a legitimate bantamweight with tons of potential to be a top 5 BW for years to come, with his kick-centric offense and fantastic movement/athletic ability. He’s also got some pretty slick grappling skills that’s enhanced by his underrated take-down offense, including some of the best double leg take-downs in the division. Johnny Eduardo got a major upset with his KO win over Eddie Wineland at around +800 odds. He’s currently at +500 as a dog, but it’s pretty unlikely that history repeats itself against Sterling. The Nova Uniao coach hasn’t fought in well over a year and is mostly a stand-up fighter with average take-down defense which isn’t typical for a Nova Uniao fighter. You couple that with Eduardo’s early losses to submissions and Sterling’s undeniable talent, and it just looks like a really bad match-up. Take Sterling with confidence.
Sterling via RNC
Antonio Carlos Junior vs Kevin Casey
This is quite simple. Casey is a legitimate BJJ black belt with absolutely no cardio or a chin. Antonio Carlos Junior is a very good top control grappler with improving striking skills and is a pretty big guy at MW since he’s been normally a light-heavyweight, which gives him a huge size advantage over Casey. Antonio Carlos should be able to dominate Casey the short time it stays standing (possibly even to a quick knockout in the 1st) and is big enough/smart enough to stay away from the ground against Casey. After Casey struggles to get the bigger guy down with his failed attempts, he’ll eventually gas out. Then it’s duck hunting season for Antonio Carlos.
Carlos Jr. via TKO
Omari Akhmedov vs Sergio Moraes
Another pretty straightforward fight. Moraes is one of the best black belts on the planet, with mediocre stand-up and an even worse chin. His grappling skills are great and if he’s able to get Akhmedov down on the ground (Omari has average take-down defense), it should be fairly easy for Moraes to lock in a fight ending submission. However, if Moraes is unable to do that, he’ll be at the mercy of the power punching Akhmedov. What he lacks in technique, Omari more than makes up for it with sheer power in his strikes. Moraes frustrated me last time I picked him, but I think I’ll still stick with the old guy. Akhmedov just doesn’t have the take-down defense in my opinion to get enough chances to KO Moraes.
Moraes via arm triangle choke
John Howard vs Tim Means
Man, Means has been on an absolute tear lately, destroying his opponents one by one, until he met Matt Brown. Means tried his damnedest to put away the formidable Brown, but eventually succumbed to Brown’s hellbows. He gets an easy fight against mediocre competition in John Howard, who finally notched a win over Cathal Pendred (who has since retired). Howard doesn’t have the best chin and has pretty bad striking defense, and relies heavily on his average offensive wrestling whenever he’s in trouble. Means is an absolute monster on the feet with his technical but powerful boxing and underrated kicking game. Means has been blowing away his opponents that weren’t on the same level as the “Dirty Bird”, and that same trend should continue versus Howard.
Means via KO
Elias Theodorou vs Thiago Santos (Marreta)
The silky haired Theodorou will be looking to pad his undefeated 11-0 record against the resurgent Thiago Marreta. You may remember Marreta from his last fight against ex-hockey player and known tough guy Steve Bosse, who was put to sleep by a vicious, vicious, VICIOUS Marreta headkick. Theodorou has been working on his stand-up tirelessly, as his wrestling and GnP game is pretty damn good in its own right. Marreta struggles against strong wrestlers as his ground defense off his back is pretty abysmal. I’d figure Theodorou knows Marreta’s big weakness and takes full advantage of it, but just in case he doesn’t realize that and it stays standing…..I’d favor Marreta big time in that scenario. His kicks are a thing of beauty and while his boxing isn’t quite up to snuff technically, they still hurt. Unfortunately for Marreta, I don’t think Theodorou will keep the fight standing and will use the small cage to the fullest, landing several take-downs. We had some good times Thiago Santos, but this won’t end well for you.
Theodorou via unanimous decision
Cody Pfister vs Sage Northcutt
Sage by KO.
What? You want more? Northcutt looks like Zack Morris from Saved By The Bell.
Jim Miller vs Michael Chiesa
Well, this is a tough fight. Jim Miller is as good as they come for formidable opponents, as his BJJ skills are fantastic and his stand-up, while not great lately, is serviceable enough to defeat most opponents in his division. Michael Chiesa can hold his own against the elite in the grappling department and has been working on his jab/straight combinations. He had one hell of a fight against Joe Lauzon, and while Jim Miller seems to be declining alongside with his striking defense, Miller is still a legitimate threat to anybody in the lightweight division. I’m inclined to believe that both men will treat this fight as a grappling showcase, with Miller winning the majority of the exchanges. Unless of course, Miller really is on the downside of his career.
Miller via unanimous decision
Paige VanZant vs Rose Namajunas
This is lovely. Just lovely, I tell ya! Paige VanZant has been slowly ascending to the top of the strawweight divisional rankings as she continues to pile on the wins. She’s a gifted athlete with superb cardio and offensive wrestling/clinch game that can frustrate just about anyone in the division, but what really sets VanZant from the rest of the crop is her ground and pound skills. Man, it’s vicious. It’s a combination of Patrick Cummins’ posturing skills and Mirsad Bektic’s hatred as Paige VanZant clobbers her opponent’s faces off. She’s also pretty dangerous in the submission game as well if given the chance. Her biggest weakness? Her stand-up is very, very wonky. I mean, I thought it’d get better at this point, but it just isn’t. She looks pretty awkward trying to string together combinations and tossing up headkicks. All she really wants is to pressure her opponents so she can get into their personal space and yank them to the ground by any means possible. That includes hair pulling. That’s why Namajunas shaved her head! IT’S A CONSPIRACY!
Rose Namajunas is a Taekwondo striker with impressive submission skills and an aggression that rivals even that of Paige VanZant’s. Obviously, Namajunas’ strength lies in her stand-up skills and using it to take advantage of VanZant’s nonexistent striking defense (and striking in general I suppose). Even if the fight gets to the ground (and I suspect it will despite Namajunas’ obvious edge on the feet), Namajunas is dangerous enough off her back to take advantage of the sometimes sloppy VanZant’s ground transitions. VanZant has an annoying tendency to go for the hip sweep haphazardly, which allows her opponents to get top control on VanZant. If Namajunas is able to get positional advantage on VanZant, then things will get interesting as VanZant (much like Namajunas) will aggressively pursue any triangle/armbar opportunities, even if it means giving her opponents more submission chances.
Tough, tough fight to grade, but VanZant’s bad stand-up and aggression on the ground seems to be way more of a disadvantage than what the currents odds say. Namajunas is just too good of a fighter to not punish any of VanZant’s mistakes, both on the feet and on the ground. It’s currently -180 for VanZant, but I’m going with the upset pick here.
Namajunas via triangle choke
Quick pick ’ems for the TUF 22 Finale will be up the next day, so keep an eye out for that! Oh, and go win money!