How is it that every Pay-Per-View in the ESPN era is an absolute banger?!?
No matter. I’m thrilled just to get to sit back and enjoy these marvelous fights. We have two champ matches between GOATs Jon Jones and Thiago Santos along with Rousey killers Amanda Nunes against Holly Holm! We have Ben Askren making another appearance, along with Diego Sanchez who is somehow still fighting!?!
What even is this card?!? I’m so happy!
Let’s kick this bad boy off.
Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos (LHW)
Jon “Bones” Jones (24-1, 18-1 UFC) is the GOAT. There’s no argument, at least not from me. His only loss was in a DQ because of illegal elbows. Jones began his MMA career as a wrestler and can boast a ridiculous 95% takedown defense, That’s after two fights with Daniel Cormier, just saying. From there, his kickboxing has gone through the roof, where he now has 10 wins by knockout. Jones loves his teep kicks and uses his massive frame at 6’4 with 84 inches of reach to throw all sorts of strikes. As I have said before and will say again, what makes Jones just SO good is his fight IQ. He studies tapes and always comes in with a gameplan and an amazing ability to know just how to react no matter what his opponent does.
In the infamous words of Joe Rogan, “You don’t get a hammer tattooed on your chest if you’re not serious”. Right as always, Joe. Thiago Santos (21-6, 13-5 UFC) is a psychopath. “Marreta”, which means sledgehammer, has power in everything he throws and comes in throwing hot. Santos started MMA with capoeira training, a Brazilian dance-fighting style that is populated by spinning kicks and the like. Very entertaining stuff. Santos uses those exact types of kicks to hammer (heh heh) home ruthless power shots and uses all sorts of kicks just as much as punches in order to get the job done.
I think Santos does have a shot here and it’s in more than a freak Chris Weidman upset where Jones doesn’t take him seriously. Santos’ power is there when he pressures and when he is backing up, so Jones can’t simply use a certain style to offset his opponent’s best offense like he did with Anthony Smith. However, Jones does have too many paths to victory. He can use wrestling and dominate Santos’ downright disgusting ground. He can tire him out then beat him to a pulp. He can outstrike him using his range, as Santos has not been the hardest person to hit in the past.
While it’s worth at the very least a small bet on Santos, just in case, there are way too many paths to victory for Jones. His kicks and unnaturally long frog limbs should give him a nice advantage in the kickboxing and his head movement and wrestling are there defensively if he needs it. One thing I do like about Santos is that he said “I just like to make my opponents feel pain”. That’s the mentality you need to have when facing Jon Jones and not let him walk circles around you. However, Santos is too one-sided and gasses too easily to solve the Jon Jones puzzle.
Take the Shot: Jon Jones via Round 4 Submission
Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm (BW)
Amanda Nunes (17-4, 10-1 UFC) has been one of my favorite fighters for a long time and it’s truly incredible to see her finally get the recognition she deserves. Not to mention that she’s the best (and only true) double champ, as she is the first one to defend her
original belt. “The Lioness” is as violent of a striker as they come, as shown by her brutal knockouts of Ronda Rousey, Raquel Pennington, and Cris Cyborg. Although Nunes began her MMA career training in karate and boxing at only 4 years old, she has an underrated submission game that is well-respected in the jiu-jitsu world. Nunes is incredible on the feet and has shown almost no holes in her game, fighting well off her front and back foot, as well as impeccable striking defense and movement.
Fellow Rousey killer Holly Holm (12-4, 5-4 UFC) shot to stardom after that knockout over the once queen of the UFC, with one of the most stunning head kicks ever seen in the Octagon. If Nunes is the most violent striker, Holm is the most technical. She has a long and credentialed career in both boxing and kickboxing and that has given her 8 of her victories in MMA by knockout, almost all with brutal kicks. She trains at the notorious Jackson-Wink MMA camp with none other than our headliner Jon Jones, and that has clearly worked wonders for her career.
It’s hard to see a way for Holly to win this. She doesn’t have the one punch power of Nunes and works almost only as a counter-striker. While Nunes will almost surely put up the pressure to let Holly have that part of her game in, she has no comparison to Nunes on the mat. Although a look at Nunes’ MMA record may not make her seem like a crazy talent on the ground, she is truly amazing in that field as well. Keep the fight on the feet and Nunes boasts power and a higher volume to Holm, along with an incredible ability to maximize range, but go to the mat and Nunes has the wrestling and jiu-jitsu to make Holm have a truly awful night.
Take the Shot: Amanda Nunes via Round 3 Submission
Ben Askren vs. Jorge Masvidal (WW)
At a glance, Ben Askren (19-0, looks like an incredibly well-rounded fighter with his 6 knockouts, 6 subs, and 7 decisions. Not the case. “Dadbod”, err, I mean, “Funky” is a world-class wrestler, maybe one of the best MMA has ever seen. He is ridiculously powerful on the mat and anyone who’s seen the watermelon video (you know the one) knows just how powerful his grip is. Still, he is not without holes. Askren is not good striking. In his debut against Robbie Lawler, he did not throw a single punch and just went to his wrestling. Even in his matches at Bellator and ONE FC, the striking demonstrated was not exactly world-class. Still, he’s undefeated for a reason and in that Lawler match, his wrestling and ground game got the job done (although VERY controversially).
Jorge Masvidal (33-13, 10-5 UFC) made his return to the Octagon after a year in the half in the right way — with a flying dick kick. Oh yeah, and then after that he knocked Darren Till out COLD. “Gamebred” has a backyard fighting background and one of the most technical and powerful boxing games in the sport. He has an amazing jab, great footwork, and violent strikes in the clinch. With this great striking game, you may think he is lost on the ground, but that is far from the case. Although he only has two submissions on his record, one is against Michael Chiesa and his wrestling only boosts his defense and submission ability.
I am sure Masvidal will want to keep this one on the feet against the funk wrestler Askren. Against Maia, Masvidal showed he was able to get held down by a dominant wrestler, but he also showed great defense in that match once his brawling style toom some of the wind out of Maia’s sails. Lawler’s mistake against Askren was being too hesitant against the wrestler, but Masvidal has never been hesitant with his wild style. On the feet, Masvidal has every weapon, both offensively and defensively to close the show, and the defense to keep this out of harm’s way, as Funky isn’t a submission ace and Masvidal has defended subs against much higher BJJ talent. Look for Askren to put in some good wrestling round one to be pounded out by Gamebred once his striking and clinch game goes into effect.
Take the Shot: Jorge Masvidal via Round 3 Knockout
Luke Rockhold vs. Jan Blachowicz (LHW)
Luke Rockhold (16-4, 6-3 UFC) is coming off a layoff of more than a year after a knockout loss in the Interim MW championship to Yoel Romero. Rockhold was brought over from Strikeforce as the champion after they were bought by the UFC. Although his Octagon debut to Vitor Belfort did not go as he would have wanted, he quickly mounted a five-fight win streak that saw him as the UFC champion for a whole match before he was starched by Michael Bisping in their rematch. With Rockhold, you always know you’re going to get a fight as he has not gone the distance in over seven years.
Rockhold will be making his Light Heavyweight debut against Jan Blachowicz (23-8, 6-5 UFC). Still, Blachowicz is an amazing boxer with one of the best jabs I’ve ever seen. He follows that up with a great cross and a good wrestling game.
He has 8 submissions on his record and is no slouch on the mat. Blachowicz is typically a counterpuncher and is skilled at drawing out matches with his style of starting slow.
Jan is coming off a knockout loss to Thiago Santos in February, and I honestly would like to see more time following a knockout like that. If you have ever read my ramblings before, you know that I hate weight cutting and think fighters moving up is always a great idea. That should work wonders for the 6’3 Rockhold, who has stated many times he deprives himself significantly to try and make 185. Rockhold’s biggest weakness has been his chin, with every loss coming by knockout and the heavier hitters at LHW will make that a problem. Still, as long as he doesn’t overly pressure into the counters of Jan, he shouldn’t have to worry too much about that.
On the mat, this is more of a toss-up. Rockhold trains out of the notorious American Kickboxing Academy with DC and Khabib, where you know his wrestling is being worked on constantly. Rockhold is amazing at submissions and has a great repertoire for when his opponent shoots in on him. On the other hand, Jan’s most proficient subs are on his back, where I don’t see much of this fight taking place. Rockhold’s weight boost in combination with array of leg kicks and technique on the feet should make this a rough night for the Pole, along with a great defensive game should Blachowicz want to grind this to the mat.
Take the Shot: Luke Rockhold via Unanimous Decision
Diego Sanchez vs. Michael Chiesa (WW)
Even at 37, Diego Sanchez (29-11, 18-11 UFC) is still a killer. The Season 1 TUF winner has had a wildly entertaining career and continues to be a fan favorite to this day. “Nightmare” still uses the same game that got him here and it’s looked better than ever in his last few matches. He uses his amazing cardio and durability to deal power shots and then uses his wrestling to dominate opponents on the ground. He loves getting people into that dark place where they are exhausted and can barely even fight back and does it better than most.
The move up to Welterweight looks amazing for Michael Chiesa (15-4, 8-4 UFC). He looks stronger, faster, and not as deprived at the new weight class. “Maverick” is a jiu-jitsu master and has 11 wins by submission, over some elites such as Jim Miller, Al Iaquinta, and many others. Chiesa’s striking has never been elite, but he hasn’t needed it because of his high-level ground game.
Despite going up against numerous ground killers like Jim Miller and most recently, Mickey Gall, Sanchez has never been submitted. He looks like his old self back at Welterweight and the main issue for him has been his chin after all the wars he has been in. Chiesa has been beaten by people like Kevin Lee who can wrestle him and tire him out. That is always Sanchez’s goal and his underrated submission game has kept him out of harm’s way all these years on the mat. This is a hard one because there is the intangible of which Sanchez will show up. I’m thinking it will be the Sanchez of the past two matches, but come weigh-ins we may see a different outcome.
Take the Shot: Diego Sanchez via Split Decision
Until next time, Freaks!