The Octagon will be once again arriving in Minneapolis for a Heavyweight match between Francis Ngannou and Junior Dos Santos that is looking to determine the next title shot at 265 pounds. There’s quite a few more fun matchups here on this ESPN card and this is one not to miss.
Francis Ngannou vs. Junior Dos Santos (HW)
Francis Ngannou (13-3, 8-2 UFC) is a scary, scary man. Apart from having the hardest recorded punch in human history, Ngannou has an underrated submission game with 4 submissions on his record. While he doesn’t like to take it to the ground, he is surprisingly capable there. However, the main forte of “The Predator” is his violent power and ability to stop a fight at any second. In fact, each of his Octagon fights has been getting shorter and shorter. Ngannou is a finishing machine and his only losses are when a fight goes the distance. A five rounder with two heavy hitters makes me find it highly unlikely this goes there.
Since his lost championship shot against Stipe, Junior Dos Santos (21-5, 15-4 UFC) has been a man on a mission. He tore through Ivanov, Tai Tuivasa, and Derrick Lewis, setting up this match with The Predator. “Cigano” is an elite boxer with the skills and power that has kept him at the top ranks of the Heavyweight division for many years. Although only holding the title for a brief period, JDS has always been a contender and a huge name in the UFC. Very few can outstrike him and the rest have to find some way to try to beat him by escaping his power and insane cardio.
This is a fun match sure to be fireworks. The winner here is almost guaranteed the next title shot and it’s hard to disagree. JDS has ways to win this match. The only real loss Ngannou has in the Octagon is Stipe (the match with Lewis isn’t a fight in my eyes) where Stipe was able to wrestle Ngannou and exploit his gas tank en route to a decision win. While JDS has the cardio advantage, his wrestling simply isn’t at that level. Even Stipe got rocked by Ngannou and going into a striking battle with The Predator is a surefire way to get your lights knocked out.
Take the Shot: Francis Ngannou via Round 1 Knockout
Jussier Formiga vs. Joseph Benavidez 2 (FLW)
Jussier Formiga (23-5, 9-4 UFC) picked Deiveson Figuieredo apart back In March to a unanimous decision prompting this title shot eliminator match. Formiga gets most of his work done with his wrestling and submission game, holding 10 victories in subs. He showed that he can outpoint an opponent on the feet, but his advantage has always been his wrestling. Defensively, Formiga is sound, using good head movement and speed to avoid big shots and take the fight to the mat.
Now that Demetrious Johnson has made his way over to ONE, Joseph Benavidez (27-5, 14-3 UFC) would seem to be perfectly in line for the title shot he’s been working towards for the longest time. Benavidez has solid hands and mixes his shots up to the body and the head extremely well. In his last match with Formiga, Benavidez ended the fight using knees to the body and dispatching his opponent inside the first round. On the mat, Benavidez holds 9 submissions with 5 coming in by way of guillotine choke.
On the feet, this isn’t close as Benavidez can easily outpoint Formiga, both in volume and power shots. Formiga’s path to victory is to get his wrestling going like he did with Figueiredo. Benavidez has enough skill with that black belt of his to avoid a submission if he does get taken down, but that guillotine he grabs may be enough to dissuade Formiga from attempting too many. That leaves this to a striking match and it isn’t close there.
Take the Shot: Joseph Benavidez via Unanimous Decision
Demian Maia vs. Anthony Rocco Martin (WW)
Demian Maia (26-9, 20-9 UFC) is the OG submission king, other than being a UFC mainstay for almost 12 years and a title challenger. Maia is a fairly simple fighter. He uses his jiu jitsu to finish the fight at all costs. It has worked wonders for him. His striking isn’t the worst, but it is only really used as a means to an end at getting the fight to the mat. In terms of a ground game, Maia is as good as it gets.
Anthony Rocco Martin (16-4, 8-4 UFC) is no stranger to the mat either. Martin has 9 wins by submission, but has an overlooked stand up game. He has an added measure of power since moving up to Welterweight and is undefeated at that level. Martin has been overlooked for some time, but is now getting his chance at a ranked opponent in the Welterweight division.
Against strikers, Maia gets it to the mat and scores a submission (Lyman Good in February). Against other grapplers (Carlos Condit), Maia out grapples them to a decision or a dominant position and finds a submission. The fighters to beat Maia all have something in common. Woodley, Unman, Covington — they’re all wrestlers. Martin just doesn’t fit that caliber and has shown weaknesses against higher level grapplers. I love Martin and would be thrilled to see a surprise performance, but fighting style and skill give this match to Maia.
Take the Shot: Demian Maia via Round 3 Submission
Vinc Pichel vs. Roosevelt Roberts (LW)
Although you wouldn’t guess it, Vinc Pichel (11-2, 4-2 UFC) is now 36 and may be in his waning athletic years. Pichel is a great wrestler along with heavy hands, landing 8 wins by knockout. “From Hell” has crisp and accurate boxing, but doesn’t have a lot of finishing ability from range. He will need to get in close being the shorter fighter in this match.
Just around a month ago, Roosevelt Roberts (8-0, 2-0 UFC) came out victorious against Thomas Gifford that was about as high-level of a grappling match as UFC gets. In that match, he showed just how skilled his long 6’2 frame is on the ground, but an element that wasn’t highlighted there or in his other Octagon match, a first round submission over Darrell Horcher, was his striking. Roberts has impressive power and a composed striking ability highlighted with a nice jab and a stellar right cross. His last match against Gifford was the only one to go the distance with 3 wins by knockout and 4 in submission.
Roberts has faced his fair share of wrestlers and they all have shared one thing… a crusher of a guillotine. If Pichel goes for a takedown, I find it unlikely he avoids that arm finding a way around his neck. On the feet, this is closer. Both fighters have power and solid boxing, but I am leaning with Roberts based on his expert head movement and range management.
Take the Shot: Roosevelt Roberts via Round 2 Submission
Drew Dober vs. Marco Polo Reyes (LW)
Drew Dober (20-9, 6-5 UFC) lost in a submission of the year contender in March to Beneil Dariush. Dober is about as well-rounded as they come, using a combination of power striking and wrestling as his modus operandi in the cage. Although he is announced as a wrestler, we have not seen Dober use his wrestling much as of late, instead relying on his striking. His boxing is not to bad and he has scored seven knockouts over his pro career. Although he has an excellent chin, he would do well to lean on his wrestling for this match.
One of the most entertaining fighters of our time is Polo Reyes (8-5, 4-2 UFC). “El Toro” comes into every single fight looking for a brawl and throws every punch with malicious intent. His boxing is incredible and is second to none in that martial art, but he doesn’t mix up his striking, besides a few leg kicks or perhaps a knee. The Achilles heel for Reyes has time and time again been his ground game. Actually, his lack of a ground game. Reyes is entirely lost whenever the fight hits the mat and really only can offer a few chances to get up.
On the feet, Dober may be just what the doctor ordered for Reyes. He only fires punches for the most part, playing into exactly what Reyes would like. Dober also tends to fold under pressure, making this look perfect for the brawling style of El Toro. This gets complicated when you factor in the wrestling of Dober. Reyes is abysmal on the mat, but Dober is not exactly a master on the mat either and Reyes has been against significantly better ground talent than Dober. This is a tentative pick, but Reyes’ love for a firefight should tear Dober off his usual rhythm.
Take the Shot: Marco Polo Reyes via Round 2 Knockout
Paul Craig vs. Alonzo Menifield (LHW)
Just three months ago, Paul Craig (11-3, 3-3 UFC) scored a late third-round submission over Kennedy Nzechukwu in a match where he was a heavy underdog. Craig lives and dies by the sword in every single one of his fights, having never seen the distance. We saw that style in his last match, where he entirely abandoned his striking and just dove for takedowns relentlessly. On the feet, Craig is wild and uses it entirely as a setup for his ground. But when he does get to the ground, ooooohhhh boy. He has 10 wins by submission and is one of the most skilled fighters on the ground at 205 pounds.
Alonzo Menifield (8-0, 1-0 UFC) decimated both of his opponents on the Contender Series with knockouts. He has never seen a fight go past a minute of the second round because of his unrelenting pressure and brutal firepower. In his UFC debut, he dominated Vinicius Moreira (check out the undercard) before the first round closed and entirely pieced Moreira up on the feet, while avoiding all his takedown attempts. Craig is the exact same mix of a fighter that Moreira is with god-awful striking but an elite submission game. Menifield will showcase himself with a. destructive knockout.
Take the Shot: Alonzo Menifield via Round 1 Knockout
Once again, these fights are gifted to the public on ESPN, so no streaming lag, you crazy kids. Check out the prelims picks and don’t forget to have fun with these amazing matches.
Until next time, Freaks.