So first.. last week’s foray into China’s MMA scene.
We did pretty well for ourselves over at FFF until the co-main. One of my favs in EZ took a beating from the Leech and ended up going down, but that didn’t sting as much as Zhang’s wildly impressive first-round KO of the champ.
Weili Zhang seems to be a serious force with that kind of power and although that Chinese juice may have played a little factor in things, no one will have an easy out against someone like her.
We have a highly anticipated Lightweight title reunification bout between Khabib and Dustin Poirier, as well as other Lightweight stars, not to mention numerous prospect matchups from the Eastern part of the world!
*Quick note: The card order may not be perfect. I pride myself on getting these picks out before anyone else!*
Joanne Calderwood vs. Andrea Lee (FLW)
Joanne Calderwood’s (13-4, 5-4 UFC) move to Flyweight has worked wonders so far, producing a 2-1 record with the only failure to Katlyn Chookagian who is looking to be the next title challenger. JoJo does her work in the decision, but doesn’t just have the point striking of Chookagian, for example. She mixes in her grappling really well and has shown some good power at 125 pounds. She looks to improve with each fight and the absolutely insane volume and warlike mentality she brings makes her a fan favorite on almost every card she appears on.
Andrea Lee (11-2, 3-0 UFC) has brought some of the karate style into the women’s divisions. She has yet to find a finish inside the world’s most famous cage, but is a tough out with her volume and movement. The karate stance she uses makes it difficult for fighters to get a handle on her and she uses some wrestling as well, complete with four submission wins.
In a pure striking match, I’m inclined to go with Lee. The karate stance is difficult to maneuver with all the kicks and wide angle she cuts on her punches. However, this is MMA. I think the path for JoJo in this match is undoubtedly the ground game. While Lee has great submissions off her back, the control of JoJo combined with her volume will make this competitive. I foresee a super tight decision that could go either way, but I’m liking the control time of JoJo to get the edge here.
Take the Shot: Joanne Calderwood via Split Decision
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Lerone Murphy (FTW)
Zubaira Tukhugov (18-4, 3-1 UFC) is another one of the many Russian wrestlers that we have on this card. He has not made an appearance since a 2016 split decision loss to Renato Moicano, that is now not looking too bad at all. Tukhugov is simply not a finisher, but has serviceable striking and incredible defense, but really is in the zone when he can establish control. The issue here is how will the time off affect his game.
UFC newcomer Lerone Murphy (7-0) is fighting out of the British scene, looking to make a name for himself in the big leagues. “The Miracle” is a volume striker with five knockouts, all coming from inside the first round. He mixes up his striking well, but does lose some of that power as the fight gets into the later rounds.
This feels like a setup fight for the Russian. If he can land a takedown in the first round and nullify that knockout chance, it’s pretty much a shoe-in victory. Even if it stays standing, the range and movement of Tukhugov make this a hard out for the Brit, who won’t have many opportunities to find big power shots to cripple his opponent.
Take the Shot: Zubaira Tukhugov via Unanimous Decision
Sarah Moras vs. Liana Jojua (BW)
I don’t even like the look of this fight.
Sarah Moras (5-5, 2-4 UFC) should not be here. She has had almost no success in the Octagon, only getting anything done against the most mediocre of fghters. Her only real skill seems to be lying in top position as she has horrific volume, no striking defense, and a poor wrestling game.
That all works out nice for Liana Jojua (7-2). She is coming into the UFC with 5 submissions to her name, four by armbar and another with a heel hook. She loves to pull guard and has a decent volume, using her kicking to do so as she has no fear at all in going to the ground. Moras will undoubtedly head to the mat, as that has been her only real area of success, but it will end quickly.
Take the Shot: Liana Jojua via Round 1 Submission
Teemu Packalen vs. Ottman Azaitar (LW)
Teemu Packalen (8-2, 1-2 UFC) has not appeared in the UFC since a 2017 KO loss to Marc Diakese. Prior to that, he fought once a year for a total of three UFC fights and did not do much to impress in any of those matches. The Finnish fighter is a jiu-jitsu expert holding six wins in submission with not a single victory reaching the judges scorecards. While he has good striking accuracy, he has incredibly low volume. Even in his own world of the ground game, Packalen has awful takedowns and few ways of getting it into that area.
Making his UFC debut in Abu Dhabi is Ottman Azaitar (11-0). The German-born fighter is a particularly dangerous striker fighting out of the Brave FC promotion. He has 8 wins by KO, 6 of which have come inside the first round. He has some decent wrestling, but mainly he uses it in reverse to keep it in his own playing field of striking. Trying to stand and bang with Azaitar, especially in that first round, is a recipe for disaster.
If Packalen had any success in takedowns, this would surely be his fight. The issue is that he is going against a well-versed striker with dangerous power and his takedown defense has always been his crippling problem. Unless he has learned something in his three years without a pro win, this will be a short fight.
Take the Shot: Ottman Azaitar via Round 1 Knockout