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!*
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier (LW)
The undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0, 11-0 UFC) has quickly become one of the superstars in the world of MMA, let alone Russia and the surrounding areas. The Dagestani-born fighter has wrestling of the highest level and has been able to successfully dominate and even entirely break his opponents and their will to fight. We have seen his striking come along significantly, just take a look at his knockdown of Conor McGregor. Still, his ability to tie up his opponents and not let them off their back is an entirely dominant strategy that we have seen coming to play more and more in recent years. Khabib does it better than anyone else.
Dustin Poirier (25-5, 17-3 UFC) finally secured Lightweight gold at UFC 236 this year. Or at least a version of it. “The Diamond” has been practically unkillable since his move to Lightweight, amounting an impressive 9-1 record at the weight class. He has ridiculous power at that weight, a nice gas tank, and a heavily underrated submission game. In his FOTN back in April against Max Holloway, he demonstrated his ability to handle five rounds as well as dish out the necessary volume to secure victory.
The issue ofr Poirier here is that Khabib’s wrestling and control is too dominant. Even the killer game that Diamond has off of his back is useless because of Khabib’s ability to wrap up the legs to secure his position. If he can somehow thwart every one of Khabib’s endless takedown attempts, he may have a shot. However, DP’s takedown defense is adept at best and it’s simply unrealistic against a grappler of Khabib’s level. While Poirier would be a fitting champion at many weight classes, this seems to be one he just won’t be able to get the drop on.
Take the Shot: Khabib Nurmagomedov via Unanimous Decision
Paul Felder vs. Edson Barboza 2 (LW)
If you want to know why Edson Barboza (20-7, 15-7 UFC) is so terrifying, just watch his famous wheel kick knockout over Terry Etim. Or maybe his most recent match against Dan Hooker, where he brutally damaged Hooker until he collapsed into a turtle ball. Barboza is a brutal kickboxer. And he is really a KICKboxer. Every single leg kick, body kick, or god forbid head kick, cracks off his opponent and you can see the pain in their eyes. He HURTS people. However, Edson’s failures have always been known. He quite frankly fails on the ground. Even when Hooker was entirely gassed and destroyed, he was all over Barboza on the ground. “Junior”‘s only escape came because his opponent had nothing left. Barboza’s other HUGE problem is his gas tank. After the first round, his movements get more telegraphed and his hands go down.
Paul Felder (16-4, 8-4 UFC) is a lot more than a color commentator. He is a powerful striker with some of the deadliest clinch work in the UFC, with three straight knockouts by elbows in the clinch. At distance, he has some work to be done, but uses good boxing. Inside the close distance is really where he does his best work. “The Irish Dragon” has some okay wrestling to get behind, but that really isn’t hgis main forte and I certainly don’t see that coming into play against the high TDD of Barboza.
The winner of this fight ultimately comes down to where the fight ends up taking place. And I don’t mean Abu Dhabi. If Felder can get inside, he will be able to seriously mess uo Barboza, especially if he is able to keep him on the back foot. Likewise, if it stays at the distance, Barboza will be able to easily work over his opponent with his deadly kicking game. I am liking Felder to drive in close, as he used that strategy to much success against James Vick and it is quickly becoming his bread and butter.
Take the Shot: Paul Felder via Round 3 Knockout
Islam Makhachev vs. Davi Ramos (LW)
Islam Makhachev (17-1, 6-1 UFC), better known as Diet Khabib, trains with the Lightweight champ. They are best friends and have been training partners for the longest time. Islam has similar wrestling, but less dominant top control. Instead, he has more power in his hands and a scary talent for submissions. Still, the wrestling is his bread and butter but he is a fiend on the ground, regardless.
Jiu-jitsu standout Davi Ramos (10-2, 4-1 UFC) is another killer on the ground. Instead, he leans more towards the submissions. He does not have the best moves off his back, but does not have the wrestling to get it there often and can be worked over easy in a stand-up battle. The wrestling, submissions, and power of Islam are a threat much too hard for Ramos to try to match.
Take the Shot: Islam Makhachev via Unanimous Decision
Curtis Blaydes vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov (HW)
Curtis Blaydes (11-2, 6-2 UFC) has had an interesting career in the Octagon. His only losses have come to Francis Ngannou, but he has looked like a world-beater in every other matchup, most recently dominating Justin Willis over fifteen minutes. Blaydes has some good power, but also D1 wrestling to back it up, making sure that he is always able to dictate where the fight is going to take place.
Another Dagestani wrestler will be entering the cage in Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-4, 5-2 UFC). “Abrek” has mainly been going over the little guys (well, little being a figurative term in the Heavyweight divison) in his UFC career, with his highest profile victory being a split decision over Walt Harris. Shamil has solid wrestling, but is more of a control type of fighter, using a low output and looking to grind out his opponent.
This is a fairly easy match. Not only has Shamil lost against all the better names in the division that he has gone up against, he seems to be a lower output version of Blaydes, both in striking and wrestling. Razor Blaydes will be able to piece him apart on the feet with reverse wrestling, or work over to decision in top control.
Take the Shot: Curtis Blaydes via Unanimous Decision
Mairbek Taisumov vs. Diego Ferreira (LW)
Mairbek Taisumov (27-5, 7-1 UFC) is one dangerous bastard. He has beautiful striking and unreal power in his counter shots. He has floored 3 opponents with KNOCKOUTS. None of that TKO shit, he has too of those also, but he puts people out with one punch. On top of that, he can dominate you on the mat with his top-notch wrestling game. “Beckan” has been calling for a spot in the top 15 and now he has a real shot to make it happen over another budding prospect.
His opponent Diego Ferreira (15-2, 6-2 UFC) has a similar love for war. Ferreira has great volume striking but his real skill is in submissions. Ferreira can wrap up tight chokes from anywhere, but has struggled against better wrestlers. If he looks to stand and trade, he will undoubtedly go to sleep but I don’t see him securing a ground game against the better wrestler.
Take the Shot: Mairbek Taisumov via Round 1 Knockout
Until next time, Freaks!