UFC on FOX 19: A Glover’s Quarrel
An injury to Tony Ferguson (and a steroid suspension to Lyoto Machida) marred the potential of UFC on FOX 19, as Khabib Nurmagomedov is now fighting a newcomer in Darrell Horcher at 160 pounds instead of an amazing, thrilling, engaging 5 round fight against the aforementioned Ferguson. The winner would have very, very likely received the next title shot against whoever the LW champion would be at the time. Instead, us fight fans now get a 5 round battle between Glover Teixeira and Rashad Evans. Uh….yay? The new co-main is also now Rose Namajunas vs Tecia Torres, a rematch that’s been begging to be made for the last year as Namajunas has continued to significantly improve her overall fighting game with her past few fights. You may remember her from the sheer beatdown she gave to Paige VanZant. The new co-main move is largely thanks in part to Lyoto Machida’s apparent knowingly ingestion of an unknowingly known banned substance. What a knowingly unknown clown. So, instead of the rematch against Dan Henderson, poor ol’ Hendo just gets to sit in smelly Tampa and watch all of his brethren walk past him. Ya know….cuz old people are in Florida and Hendo is old? Right. Quick pick ’ems time!
Elizeu Zaleski (+125) vs Omari Akhmedov (-145)
We last saw Akhmedov get brutally knocked out by Sergio Moraes in the 3rd round in surprising fashion, despite seemingly having handily won the 1st two rounds. That knockout told me that my suspicions on his chin and overall striking defense as being extremely lacking were right, and it’s also why I’m picking the upset here. Zaleski can be summed up in one word – OVERHAND!!!!! The man loves to spam the overhand right, and it’s for a damn good reason. It’s incredibly fast for such a power punch, and Zaleski is surprisingly accurate with it, almost even using it as a jab to control space! He’s also got a solid guard and shouldn’t be too worried about Akhmedov’s top game as it isn’t all that scary to fare against. Akhmedov will have to play the range striking game against Zaleski instead of his usual wild swinging power countering-centric offense, and probably will have to get some dirty take-downs and hold Zaleski a bit on the ground as well. I’m taking Zaleski in this spot, as the match-up really favors him in my opinion.
Zaleski via 2nd round knockout
Cezar Ferreira (+160) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (-185)
Bamgbose will be filling in as a short notice replacement for Caio Magalhaes against Cezar “Mutante’ Ferreira, and yet he’s still the favorite? It’s simply because Mutante just has NO CHIN WHATSOEVER!!!!!! Mutante is an accomplished striker with his capoeira background and a deadly BJJ black belt with all the skills and talent to back up his career accomplishments in various martial arts. Despite all of that, his chin is easily one of the worst in the UFC, having been knocked out 3x in his last 4 fights, including 2 straight KO losses. If Bamgbose KO’s Mutante, it would make it 3 straight and a likely retirement from MMA for Ferreira. So, can the “Holy War Angel” do the job? Absolutely! Bamgbose is a very explosive, athletic monster of a power striker, with crisp headkicks and a mean right hand. I mean, he kicked Sarafian’s head clean off in his last fight! He was also a short notice replacement! His biggest issue is his take-down defense and utter lack of ground defense. Sadly, Ferreira has to get a take-down against Bamgbose if he stands a chance against such holy power, and I don’t think Mutante has enough left in him to muster a take-down without running into a fist. If you’re feeling plucky, add Ferreira to a GPP team and hope for a quick take-down, because once on the ground, Mutante absolutely will finish the fight with a submission.
Bamgbose via 1st round knockout
Drew Dober (+170) vs Islam Makhachev (-200) FIGHT CANCELLED
Makhachev had all the traits of a star in the making after he destroyed Leo Kuntz (yes, that’s a real person), then the hype train quickly got derailed when Adriano Martins knocked out Makhachev out of nowhere in the 1st round. It was an unfortunate loss for one of UFC’s rising prospects, but the loss can only make Makhachev a better fighter for it. He faces a spunky lad in Dober who, for all intents and purposes, is just an annoying pest with no real strengths. Dober is a light footed, tenacious jabber with decent wrestling and not much else. His biggest weakness is Makhachev’s biggest strength, and that’s Dober’s difficulty in handling bigger wrestlers who can control him from top. Makhachev is essentially a lite version of Khabib Nurmagomedov, as his Sambo is very good in taking down opponents from anywhere, and he’s a power ground and pounder from top control with sneaky submission skills. The only thing that Makhachev struggles with is his striking technique, as he prefers to swing early and often, often wildly and sloppily. Dober isn’t dangerous on the feet due to lack of power, so I’m not worried about Makhachev getting caught in another knockout. His wrestling and vicious GnP/submissions should help Makhachev coast to victory.
Makhachev via 3rd round RNC
Michael Graves (-115) vs Randy Brown (-105)
Randy Brown is a similar prospect to Oluwale Bamgbose in that he’s a very explosive athlete with great power in his strikes, but struggles mightily against wrestlers or anyone with solid take-downs. He may have a purple belt in BJJ, but he’s much more dangerous from top than from bottom, which leaves us in a quandary against Graves. Michael Graves was a semi-finalist on a TUF no one cared about, and won a gritty decision against a much better fighter in Vicente Loque with his 7 successful take-down attempts and not much else. As you can imagine, Graves doesn’t merit much attention to his striking, as his wrestling is his bread and butter. It’ll be his best tool to defeat the quicker Brown, or risk getting knocked out by the infinitely better striker. Another good thing for Graves is Brown’s lack of cardio, something Graves can easily deplete just by simply clinching up Brown near the fence. I almost always side with the wrestler in fights like this that involve an athletic guy with no take-down defense and a wrestler who knows how to avoid stand up battles. Probably a snoozefest.
Graves via unanimous decision
John Dodson (-550) vs Manvel Gamburyan (+425)
Manny the Anvil! Ah, too bad he faces a buzzsaw in John Dodson, even though it’ll be Dodson’s 1st UFC fight at bantanweight after fighting for years at flyweight. He was a huge flyweight in comparison anyways, so BW shouldn’t be an issue for the wrecking ball. Dodson’s a huge favorite just simply because he’s very good. VERY, VERY GOOD. Dodson’s lightning fast and has the rare power to knock out anybody while still having damn good overall wrestling to keep himself upright or get a round sealing take-down. Dodson’s primarily a counter-striker, but knows how to toe the line between being patient and switching up the pace with several landed quick combinations. Gamburyan is just a stocky and annoying wrestler with just basic stuff all around. He’s a decision machine despite what you may read about his black belts and whatever, let’s not think too hard about this. Dodson is laughingly much faster than Manny, has the defensive wrestling to shrug him off, and the power to finish Gamburyan at a moment’s notice. The question is at his current DK price, is Dodson worth it? Probably not. Gamburyan’s a tough nut to crack, but Dodson is definitely a nutcracker you don’t wanna bet against. I will though.
Dodson via unanimous decision
Cub Swanson (-125) vs Hacran Dias (+105)
Beautiful Destruction is back! Cub Swanson is in a little of a downswing in his career, having suffered 2 straight losses where Swanson just absolutely got decimated by both opponents. He’s also getting older at 32 years with a good amount of mileage on his body. Facing Hacran Dias also doesn’t help matters much, since Dias’ skill-set also coincides with Swanson’s weaknesses. Swanson’s been pretty consistent in what he wants to do and what he excels at – organized chaos. His “Beautiful Destruction” fighting style allows Swanson to be as random as possible while still putting himself in positions to either quickly retreat or turn it into a brawl. Even at his age, Swanson still packs enough power to put away the majority of featherweights, Dias included. The biggest worry with Swanson is the fact that his take-down defense has eroded over the last few fights, to the point where it’s essentially made Swanson one dimensional as a striker.
Hacran Dias is just one of those overall solid fighters with a pretty record but just can never get over that hump from being solid to great/elite. He’s got a very methodical, technical striking that’s heavily based on his low kick setups with the occasional counter-strike. The thing that Dias seems to fall back on quite a bit is his wrestling, as he’ll go ahead and jump into a take-down to get the fight to the ground where he can utilize his soul-eating heavy top game. Despite being an excellent BJJ black belt, Dias is content to stay in one position and take his sweet time, hence the numerous decisions he’s had in almost every fight in the UFC. Can you see where I’m going with this? You do? Good job?
While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Swanson rebound into his old Beautiful Destruction form and actually knock out Dias, I’d err on the side of caution and say it’s very likely a decision for either fighter. I really want to take Swanson over Dias, but damn it if Dias just always seems to find a way to win boring fights.
Dias via unanimous decision
Court McGee (+145) vs Santiago Ponzinibbio (-165)
McGee made a successful return to the UFC with a win over Marcio Alexandre, coming back after 2 years off due to injuries. He gets a stiff test in Santiago Ponzinibbio, who is coming off a bounceback knockout victory over Andreas Stahl after a KO loss to Lorenz Larkin. This is a very difficult fight for me to handicap, as both men have some stylistical clashes that can swing the pendulum towards either one. McGee likes to use fast, effective jab/straight combinations in conjunction with his low leg and body kicks, something Ponzinibbio struggles against. On the other hand, Ponzinibbio has tremendous power in his hands and has been improving upon his striking techniques as to not swing as wildly anymore, while still maintaining the threat of a take-down into a submission set-up thanks to his black belt in BJJ. It’s a case of whose striking defense will falter the most, as McGee tends to get smacked by overhands a little too much for my taste but has the chin to take the punishment, while Ponzinibbio’s striking defense has always been pretty lax in favor of pushing forward into a fight ending counter-strike. That was one of the reasons why Strickland and Larkin were able to pop Ponzinibbio several times, even rocking him in the process (and of course, finishing him in Larkin’s case). McGee can be taken down as his take-down defense is just adequate, so there’s a good chance for a submission victory for Ponzinibbio. There’s also a good chance that McGee wins off sheer volume from his combinations and lands 100-150+ significant strikes. It’s a tough call, but I think McGee moves and circles around better than Strickland did against Ponzinibbio, and that was nearly a knockout win for Strickland. I’m sticking with my 1st instinct and picking McGee for the upset.
McGee via unanimous decision
Bethe Correia (+200) vs Raquel Pennington (-240)
Betche has returned! After her embarrassing KO loss to Honda Housey, Betche Coheia will look to get back in the win column against a surging Raquel “Rocky” Pennington, fresh off a submission win over Jessica Andrade that avenged her previous loss to Andrade. This is an interesting fight between two similar boxers with one distinct difference, and that’s Correia’s clinch game. Correia likes to get into the clinch if she can corner her opponent and start fence holding, while still landing some shots from dirty boxing and knees to the body. She’s very difficult to get out of the clinch, plus Correia can land some trips and land some GnP from half guard. The majority of the fight will be won and lost at the center of the octagon, with both women’s boxing on display. Pennington is the better technical striker of the two, while I would say Correia has more power and better at finding striking angles. Pennington has more experience fighting actual competition than Correia, which gives her a huge edge over Correia, and it’s probably why I think it might be a pretty lopsided victory for Rocky. That’s not a knock on Correia’s skill-set and her talent, but the title shot against Rousey was absurd as Correia had fought literally nobody worth mentioning before the title shot. I’m taking a wait and see approach on Correia before I fully judge her fighting prospects for the future, as Pennington has showed quite a bit more against much, much better competition as of late. Chances for oodles upon oodles of sig strikes for either fighter as well.
Pennington via unanimous decision
Beneil Dariush (-170) vs Michael Chiesa (+150)
Chiesa asked for a top 10 fighter, and he got it in Beneil Dariush. While Chiesa’s submission win over Jim Miller was very impressive, Dariush also handled Miller with relative ease as well. Dariush is also a much more accomplished grappler than the elder Miller, alongside with a smooth, transitional striking offense that’s continuing to improve as Dariush gets more fights under his belt. Chiesa’s striking has also improved as well, instead of heavily relying on his grappling and take-downs to get the fight to the ground where Chiesa has ended 9 of his 13 wins by submission. It’s a battle of great grapplers with distinctly different striking styles and attacking on the ground.
Dariush likes to stay back and land several body kicks from his southpaw stance, while biding his time to land the left straight as a counter or as a poke to get inside for a take-down attempt. His double leg take-down is one of his more dependable approaches, but he’s also underrated from the clinch, capable of landing quick trip take-downs as well as body knees. He’s probably going to want to keep the fight standing, where he has a decided advantage over Chiesa, but if it does go to the ground, Dariush is a world class grappler with a very strong guard, so I’m not sure Chiesa can crack the defenses of Dariush. If Chiesa can land his usual jab combinations at will and control the distance, he could frustrate Dariush enough to force some mistakes and capitalize on them, whether it be landing more counters than Chiesa does or a level change take-down to win the round in the judges’ eyes. Dariush is a buzzsaw to me though, and his grappling is just on another level compared to Chiesa. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Dariush catch Chiesa on a take-down attempt and get a guillotine out of it, or even scramble into a back take/RNC submission.
Dariush via 3rd round guillotine
Darrell Horcher (+700) vs Khabib Nurmagomedov (-1100)
Sigh. Nurmagomedov was slated to fight Tony Ferguson in what would have been a hellacious 5 round battle of wits as the main event of the current card, but alas, the MMA gods decided to spit upon us and remind all of us that we have no control over anything. Dastardly fiends! Instead, Nurmagomedov will fight the Cage Fury lightweight champion in Darrell Horcher. Yes, Cage Fury. He’s a power puncher with some nice counter-striking skills and good octagon movement, but not much else. He’s a very solid prospect due to his striking and power, but against a behemoth like Nurmagomedov, just being a decent guy isn’t going to be enough. Nurmagomedov hasn’t fought in a while due to nagging injuries to his knees, but he’s still one of the very best Sambo technicians in the UFC, maybe even top 5 in the world. His brutal take-down offense and power smashing GnP game has vaulted Nurmagomedov to the top echelons of the lightweight division, with a title shot looming in the vicinity. Oh yeah, he already defeated the current LW champion in Rafael Dos Anjos like….50 years ago. He’s a beast and there’s not much else I should really say here other than go familiarize yourself with Nurmagomedov’s fight against Abel Trujillo. That’s what probably will happen against Horcher. Goodness gracious.
Nurmagomedov via 2nd round TKO
Rose Namajunas (-240) vs Tecia Torres (+200)
This will be a rematch between Namajunas and Torres, with Torres having won the 1st fight nearly two years ago when Namajunas was just 1st starting out at 21 years old! Namajunas has obviously improved tremendously over the past 2 years into a very exciting and dangerous fighter, one that can crack the puzzle that is Tecia Torres. Why is Torres a puzzle? She has the best overall fighting game out of anyone in the strawweight division, with great hand/foot speed and crisp but powerful combinations, hard leg kicks, defensive wrestling and offensive take-downs, and an equally tough ground game that’s precipitated by Torres’ difficult top control that has won some boring fights for her and keeps Torres out of harm’s way against opponents’ guards (namely Namajunas’ guard). Her only weakness is defending constant take-down pressure due to her lack of circling out from behind, essentially being trapped by the fence. That error seems to have been corrected, making the rematch against Namajunas even more interesting. You could say her lack of reach could be a disadvantage, but Torres just finds ways to get around it. Can “Thug” Rose finally get inside Torres’ head and not get caught in the “Tornado”?
The key to Namajunas success is her own aggression, whether it’s pushing the pace striking wise, or applying pressure from the clinch and making guard passes into submission attempts. Namajunas has evolved from a sort of a Cub Swanson type of striker that enjoyed thriving in chaos, to a more concentrated striker, avoiding leaving herself out on an island during one of her aggressive combinations. Her biggest edge against Torres will be her height and reach advantage against the smaller Torres, something she was never able to fully utilize in the 1st fight. Namajunas lost against Torres due to her lack of understanding distance and being way too aggressive against the smarter, quicker Torres. Another key, and it’s what I think has Namajunas as a surprisingly big favorite over Torres, is Namajunas’ grappling skills, or specifically, her submission grappling. Having long, rangy legs and an aggressive mindset, Namajunas is able to conjure up a variety of submission attacks from anywhere, especially from her guard. A more experienced Namajunas with a better understanding of fight gameplans could end up being too much for Torres if Namajunas is able to beat Torres up from a distance to force a reckless take-down that Namajunas can quickly turn into an advantageous position on the ground for a submission win. It’s a tough task to ask out of Thug Rose, but it’s definitely in the realm of possibility. Wonder if Torres brought her garden gloves?
Namajunas via unanimous decision
Glover Teixeira (-230) vs Rashad Evans (+190)
The new main event of the evening! The change from the usual 3 round fight to a 5 round battle has drastically changed my opinion of how the fight could turn out. If it was 3 rounds like it originally was, I would have maybe given the edge to the dancing Rashad Evans, finding a way to frustrate all of us fight fans with his evasive moves. Now, with two extra rounds for Glover to batter around Evans, I now lean heavily towards a finish for Teixeira. Why is that? You have to remember that Rashad Evans suffered an ACL tear and was out of commission for quite a while, returning back against Ryan Bader in October of 2015. It was not a good debut. Maybe it was the ring rust, maybe it was the injury, but whatever it was, Evans just did not look the same. He still tried to dance his way into a win, but his technical boxing just wasn’t as crisp and quick as it used to be. Evans consistently got beat to the punch by the lesser boxer in Bader, and Evans’ take-downs are a thing of the past. So what does Evans really have as an edge over Teixeira? He’s probably still quicker than Teixeira, and his boxing could always re-emerge from its deep sleep or his double leg take-downs suddenly awakens from the dead and plasters Teixeira on ground Phil Davis-style. Probably not though.
So why am I picking Teixeira to finish Rashad Evans? Well, Evans has always had a little bit of a wobbly chin (so does Teixeira), and Glover still packs quite a wallop in all of his strikes. His performance against Ovince St Preux and Patrick Cummins has me convinced the Glover Teixeira that made a run for a title shot against Jon Jones still exists, and that version of Teixeira is just that much better than the current version of Evans. Great jiu-jitsu, good take-downs, power punching and good countering instincts, and a vicious GnP is what makes Glover such an interesting LHW. If he does finish Rashad Evans with ease, I really think he will make a push for another title shot with one more fight against one of the top guys like Rumble Johnson or perhaps even Jon Jones himself since he’s technically not the champion (yet). No Glove, no love!
Teixeira via 2nd round TKO
Next week is UFC 197 with Jon Jones against Daniel Cormier! Oh wait, Cormier pulled out? And it’s an interim title fight against Ovince St Preux? Really? AGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!