So we’re back again this week with another hefty Fight Night card on ESPN+. But before we dive into the matches here, let’s go over what went wrong at UFC 235.
I went pretty much unscathed throughout the prelims, despite Hannah Cifers somehow eking out a split decision over Viana. Credit to her, her submission defense was impressive, but I don’t think she’ll become a star unless she becomes alright with talking into a microphone. Diego Sanchez surprised everyone with an absolute beating of Mickey Gall that was sooo impressive. I thought Sanchez was down for the count, but Nightmare still has a good bit of fire in him.
The main card, on the other hand, did not have the success I was hoping for. I have absolutely no love for No Love right now. He seems to be a shell of the fighter he was against Dominick Cruz, instead giving in to his emotion and bloodthirst and leaving himself open to get hit. Munhoz came in cold and calculated, and will be a fighter worth keeping an eye on. My girl Tecia Torres fought well, but without her usual explosive volume and was outstruck to a decision victory for Weili Zhang.
Ben GODDAMN Askren! He took a heavy amount of shots to pounce right back on Robbie Lawler. A poor but understandable referee’s call gave Askren a round one submission victory and although many were disappointed with the outcome, Askren no doubt lives up to his wrestling hype. Someone who DID NOT live up to their hype was Tyron Woodley. He didn’t show up with any of his usual fire and quick power. Usman utterly dominated him. Just brutal. Hopefully, Tyron can take out a top contender then come back and give Usman another run for his money. Jon Jones dominated, as everyone thought. But the fight was not a brawl, like many expected. Instead, Smith let Jonny Bones use his range to work him over for a decision. Lionheart though, could have taken an illegal knee victory, but instead took the honorable loss. Clap clap. Let’s get Santos v. Smith 2 next, maybe?
Overall, UFC 235 was still a profitable night, just not as much as I would have hoped. Hopefully, this week’s fight night will prove more fortuitous.
Alex White vs. Dan Moret (LW)
Despite his two-fight skid, Alex White is definitely an impressive fighter. I mean he beat the true GOAT, Artem Lobov. Since moving to Lightweight, however, he has a 1-3 record and his 12 wins have 5 by KO and another 5 by submission. White definitely holds the striking advantage but worries me without a good takedown defense, as evidenced by his last fight.
Dan Moret similarly has been unable to find that special sauce that shoots fighters to the next level (not steroids, get outta here Brock). Moret’s 13-4 record has 8 wins by submission, making him the much more dangerous fighter on the ground. His Achilles heel for me is his chin, which does not seem very durable, getting brutally KOd by Gilbert Burns in his last fight.
This sort of makes this a toss-up for me. Keep it on the feet and White should have a KO win ripe for the taking, but if his takedown defense once again fails him, he’s in for a submission loss.
Take The Shot: Alex White via ROund 3 TKO
Alex Morono vs. Zak Ottow (WW)
Zak Ottow’s 17-6 record has been bouncing back and forth with wins and losses. He seems like a well-rounded fighter who just kinda uses his boxing to set up his wrestling. His gas tank is a serious concern for me, but it seems like he remedied that in his last fight, a split decision win over Dwight Grant. Although he has 10 submissions on his record, he has been mostly a decision fighter in the Octagon who goes in to grind out a win.
Alex Morono likes to keep it on the feet and use his boxing. He has good takedown defense and a good chin, but his chin should not be a worry here. His gas tank is not a concern at all. He should be able to fight off of Ottow’s wrestling and will be able to break Ottow open after his gas tank runs out. While a finish is possible, I see Morono going all the way.
Take The Shot: Alex Morono via Unanimous Decision
Louis Smolka vs. Matt Schnell (BW)
Louis Smolka came into the Octagon with a string of losses that got him released. After growing a lot after his time off from the UFC he came back with a massive victory. He has cleaned up his gas tank concerns and his ground game will be his main advantage. I think he is very underrated and has a lot of potential going forward.
Schnell’s 12-4 record comes with many submissions, and his boxing does not come up against Smolka. He has looked very impressive out so far but is moving up a weight class and his size may not benefit him, even though Smolka is also a former Flyweight. His wrestling style does not match up to Schnell, in my opinion, and I see Smolka using his game all around to beat up on Schnell and cement his spot in the UFC, but regardless this will be an amazing fight.
Take The Shot: Louis Smolka via Round 2 Submission
Maurice Green vs. Jeff Hughes (HW)
This is the first Heavyweight fight of the night on a card stacked with the bigger fighters. These fighters actually fought in a five-round fight last April, with Hughes emerging victorious at the end of the decision. Maurice Green has more experience through his TUF run, but did not show off any expert skill that really impressed me. Green is mostly a kickboxer and that won’t do him many favors. However, Green has impressive power and definitely has a chance with that.
Jeff Hughes is Stipe Miocic’s training partner and his wrestling skill should pay off just like in the last fight. Hughes ground him out and destroyed his gas tank. Hughes seems like the much more well-rounded fighter, but his experience isn’t the most impressive. That shouldn’t be a factor in this fight, since they have already fought prior. Hughes will have the wrestler’s advantage and the ability to pull it down, but Green’s power will always be something to consider.
Take The Shot: Jeff Hughes via Unanimous Decision
Grant Dawson vs. Julian Erosa (FW)
Grant Dawson is making his Octagon debut after a stunning performance on Dana White’s Contender Series. Every one of his 12 victories are by finish and though you would not guess it by his 9 submission wins, he carries heavy hands for the FW division. He moves very well and quickly, with surprising speed and willingness to throw down. He should have the advantage on the ground.
Julian Erosa is dropping from Lightweight to Featherweight, hopefully finding success in the less stacked division. The bigger fighter with a higher range, he should hold the striking advantage with his heavy kicking and punching combinations. However, Dawson has a solid chin and should be able to get close to “Juicy J” without much trouble. Erosa, on the other hand, struggles with his chin, and I’m not convinced in his ability to stand and trade. “The Prophet” should be able to find an opening to showcase his strength if he plays smart.
Take the Shot: Grant Dawson via Round 1 TKO
Marion Reneau vs. Yana Kunitskaya (BW)
Marion Reneau is old. Real old. But credit to her, she’s the same fighter she has been. In her last fight, a decision loss against Alpha Cat, she had the same pop along with her heavy hands. But she also has a submission game, which should be her strongest skill against Yana. She offers power along with a well-rounded ground game, but her age may very well put her out of commission any day now.
Yana Kunitskaya’s Octagon debut was a first-round loss to Cyborg and she dropped back down to her natural Bantamweight division and took a dominant decision over Lina Lansberg. She was a seriously impressive kickboxer and has an 11-4 record in her MMA career. She will by far take the kickboxing advantage and if she should keep it on the feet, she will have an easy victory. Her takedown defense may be a hole, but Reneau is still primarily a striker and may very well just try to stick on the feet. I see Kunitskaya will another well-done decision win.
Take The Shot: Yana Kunitskaya via Unanimous Decision
Anthony Rocco Martin vs. Sergio Moraes (WW)
Rocco Martin (the fighter formerly known as Tony Martin) has looked like a god since moving up to Welterweight. He looks very impressive at his new weight and has brought solid power up with him along with his elite submission and wrestling game. Martin shows a lot of promise to me and I see him moving up the ranks higher and higher.
Sergio Moraes is a submission fighter and may very well take the advantage on the ground. However, his standup is lacking to me and Martin takes that advantage. His only UFC loss is to Kamaru Usman, and his jiu-jitsu holds a huge advantage. He looks to be at the end of his career to me and I do not see him winning this. He does not have the skill to get it to the ground and Martin should hold the advantage practically everywhere. Look to see Rocco Martin in the future, I see him as a big name.
Take The Shot: Anthony Rocco Martin via Round 2 TKO
Tim Boetsch vs. Omari Akhmedov (MW)
Tim Boetsch comes back from his submission loss in April 2018. The 28-12 veteran has enormous power for the division and just keeps jumping back in. He comes in swinging every time and is always fun to watch. He just beats the hell outta people. He doesn’t go to the ground, and doesn’t want to.
Akhmedov’s 17-4 record was stopped by a USADA suspension. He is another fighter who is fun to watch and is much more well rounded with a better gas tank. He has a submission background and would be smart to utilize this against the older fighter. A worry is how Omari comes out swinging, and that may become a worry up against a massive hitter. I see Akhmedov slowly picking Boetsch apart for the win, but not diving in with his usual explosive style.
Take The Shot: Omari Akhmedov via Unanimous Decision
Beneil Dariush vs. Drew Dober (LW)
There was a time where Dariush was seen as a possible champion, however, a three-fight losing streak halted his dreams. These losses are not to be ashamed of, as they have come by simply being out beaten by more athletic fighters like Barboza and Hernandez. He has a chance to regain his position with a dominant victory over Dober. Dariush is a danger at every level of the fight, holding impressive jiu-jitsu skill along with heavy hands to match. His wrestling game bolsters both of these abilities, meaning the fight should go wherever he wants it.
Drew Dober has been in the UFC since TUF 18, compiling a 6-4 record in the UFC. Like Dariush, his resume would suggest he is well rounded, but many of his recent fights have outlined him as a striker. He will give up two inches of height and reach to Dariush. Dober’s ground game is his weakness here, which is probably Dariush’s biggest strength and Dober simply does not have the same athletic ability that bested Beneil before. Dariush should be able to take this to the ground easily and finish it off.
Take The Shot: Beneil Dariush via Round 2 Submission
Blagoy Ivanov vs. Ben Rothwell (HW)
Blagoy Ivanov lost his UFC debut against JDS (see the title fight) but still has promise in the UFC. A well-powered striker, but honestly who isn’t at Heavyweight, with a Sambo world championship, he has a well-rounded game with an impressive 16-2 record. His wrestling is definitely his strongest suit, (Sambo is what Khabib does), but his power shouldn’t hurt his chances.
Big Ben Rothwell is finally back. He’s a huge veteran with a 36-10 record. He is a heavy hitter who’s last fight was a 2016 loss to the very same JDS. He has a bit of a wrestling game, but Ivanov will take the ground advantage. However, Rothwell should take the striking advantage, and this seems close to me. This puts it on Rothwell’s 69% takedown defense and his UFC experience. I see a long slow-paced match with neither fighter doing that much.
Take The Shot: Blagoy Ivanov by Unanimous Decision
Tim Means vs. Niko Price (WW)
Tim Means surprised me with how long he has been in the Octagon. He is an entertaining striker with a Muay Thai style. However, he seems to have lost his pop as he has gotten older and I’m not confident in his ability to take this one. His only advantage should be Price’s willingness to trade, but he does not have any ground skill.
Niko Price’s 12-2 career has been very impressive with both of his losses coming in the Octagon. He hits very hard and is always willing to war, but he also has a very underrated submission game. He is younger and better and I have seen his fight IQ being his only worry, but his work at American Top Team has been working on that. Price has a possibility on the feet, but if he goes to the ground, it’s an easy win.
Take The Shot: Niko Price via Round 2 Submission
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Curtis Millender (WW)
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos has a wild, entertaining style, utilizing the Capoeira style of dance fighting. He is an up and comer for me, and I’m surprised he hasn’t been given more a spotlight. He is so entertaining to watch and he has a bit of a ground game, but that won’t be an issue against the striker he is fighting.
Curtis Millender has a 3-0 career in the Octagon and carries immense power, but two of his fights have gone to decision. He was the LFA champion and definitely is an impressive kickboxer. I see him having more of a problem with his gas tank, but he may very well be able to find shots against Zaleski. I see dos Santos coming very close on the fighter, but he should hold a heavy advantage on the ground. This is a very close and VERY entertaining fight, with two up and comers, but I think Zaleski is on a brutal streak and will soon be making a run at the top.
Take The Shot: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos via Round 3 KO
Derrick Lewis vs. Junior dos Santos (HW)
This fight is very interesting. Derrick Lewis is coming off of a loss to Daniel Cormier at UFC 230. He’s honestly just a puncher and one of the few fighters that cuts to 265. There is a definite argument on who hits harder between him and Francis Ngannou, but don’t watch their fight. Spoiler alert: they don’t answer that argument. He hits very very hard and while he is a slower fighter without much of a ground game, he can end the fight with one good shot. Just ask Alexander Volkov, who was destroying him until the very last minute of their fight.
Junior dos Santos, on the other hand, is much more of a light fighter, at least for the Heavyweights. Don’t get me wrong, he hits very hard, but he has a much higher gas tank and his weakness lies in his ability to be bested by wrestlers, which Lewis is not. However, his chin is certainly questionable after so many years at the top of the division.
Cigano holds the technical advantage here, keep it at range and play smart, and he should gas the Black Beast out and find an easy KO win, but open himself up to a bomb from Lewis and he will have a nice quick nap. However, JDS has been in the game much longer and definitely has the experience necessary to play his cards right and send himself back up to the top of the division.
Take The Shot: Junior dos Santos via Round 3 TKO
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Regardless of the outcome, we have a damn good card ahead of us for Saturday. I’m excited to see how this all goes down and I’m already on the edge of my seat with anticipation. This will be a card to remember.
I’ll catch ya later, Freaks!