Saturday, December 19, 2015

UFC on FOX: dos Anjos vs. Cerrone II preview

There is a joke Stephen Colbert uses where he shows all the US presidential candidates piled up in a ridiculous display that eats up about three-quarters of the page. Then he'll bring up Donald Trump and Trump will absorb the space all the other candidates had taken up.

 Yeah, there it is.

Anyway, that's kind of how the UFC is dealing with their new World Featherweight Champion, Conor McGregor. Ever since he defeated the top pound-for-pound fighter in a fight so short it could fit on Instagram, McGregor has been the talk of the town.

It's now to the point that he's the most important conversation piece at the UFC World Lightweight Championship fight tonight.

McGregor has claimed that he will be moving soon to the 155-pound weight limit to chase a second title. There has been talk that his corner would really rather he not make the cut down to 145 anymore.

This may not be true anymore, though, as McGregor has an obvious No. 1 challenger for the belt he actually holds. Frankie Edgar, a former lightweight champion in his own right, is looking for to be a multi-division champion too, and he made his case for a match with a first-round KO win over Chad Mendes last week.

There is talk that McGregor would jump up a weight class, then move back down to fight Edgar at UFC 200, but that may not be likely when held up to scrutiny. This would require McGregor to cut to 155 around March, then conduct an additional weight cut - 10 pounds more this time - in July.

It may just be my own opinion, but when McGregor does choose to become a lightweight, if he succeeds, that's it for him at featherweight. And that is a shame because there are so many fights at featherweight worth making first.

A rematch with Aldo is there. Urijah Faber is ready, willing and able to jump back up to 145 for a fight. Dominick Cruz has probably stuck at bantamweight for far too long now...

And most of this blog is talking about McGregor instead of the fight that's actually happening tonight, isn't it?

See, this is exactly the point! And it's a shame because the fight between champion Rafael dos Anjos and challenger Donald Cerrone has all the makings of an absolute classic.

Cerrone is the fighter known for taking on all comers, whether he gets a full camp or not. He's been on an absolute tear in recent months (years, technically) and is riding an eight-fight win streak dating back to 2013.

The man who beat him, though, is Rafael dos Anjos.

It's kind of a unique situation where dos Anjos has beaten his challenger before, won a championship, and yet still has more losses in the last two years. (Cerrone has been 8-0 while dos Anjos is 4-1 with a loss to No. 2 contender Khabib Nurmagomedov.)

As for how the match-up shakes out, it's clear that while dos Anjos is an excellent striker, boasting a high rank in Muay Thai, he's outclassed by Cerrone's boxing and kickboxing background. A stand-up fight will almost definitely go Cerrone's way.

It will come down to ground game if the champion wants to win. Though he hasn't won by submission in a few years, dos Anjos has a 3rd-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Cerrone isn't any slouch on the ground thanks to Greg Jackson's training, but those are chops he's years from earning himself.

Looking at the fight as a whole, my guess is that the fight stays standing more than it's on the ground. Cerrone has good takedown defense and should be able to free himself without relying on the referee to stand the fighters back up.

I will say Cerrone takes the decision in this fight and moves on to face Nurmagomedov. Or Pettis. Or...

Dang it, McGregor!
Oh right, there are other fights on this card!

Heavyweight Bout: Junior Dos Santos v. Alistair Overeem - This may be a final gasp for the title aspirations of 'The Reem.' These gasps will go unanswered. JDS by KO in Round 2.

Lightweight Bout: Michael Johnson v. Nate Diaz - The Diaz brothers are never going away, are they? Well, at least Johnson is more than a match for the little Diaz. Johnson by decision.

Strawweight Bout: Randa Markos v. Karolina Kowalkiewicz - What is with all the Eastern Bloc fighters in the strawweight divison. You may remember Randa Markos as that woman who annoyed the crap out of EVERYONE in the TUF 20 house. Kowalkiewicz is undefeated, but I'll take the experience of the Iraqi-Canadian "Quiet Storm." Markos by decision.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Return of the Blog: UFC 194 preview


Hello again! I have returned with a single, fused blog and my picks for UFC 194.

Yeah, so the MMA blog is moving in with everything else, if only to make it easier to maintain. But enough talk, let's talk about the pair of title fights going on tonight.

I don't think it's possible for those who pay any attention to the fight game to not have heard about UFC World Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo's title defense against Conor McGregor. Brazil vs. Ireland may not be the national clash that comes to mind in the fight game, but needless to say, both nations will have their sights set on the MGM Grand Garden Arena tonight.

Aldo has not lost a fight in the time I've followed him, which dates back to my first viewing of a WEC event in the mid-2000s, so it's safe to say he's built up a Fedor-like aura of invincibility in the minds of many-a-fan.

This is not without good reason. Aldo's striking is known for quick finishes, as evidenced by the double flying knee he used to open a fight with a KO victory. But he also has a legitimate submission game and always has had the look of a man who should be at lightweight but instead chooses to dominate at 145.

And then there's the greatest fighter since Muhammad Ali in terms of both mouth and skill - or at least that's what McGregor and his handlers would have you believe. McGregor's ability to get people to pay attention to him has not been seen in MMA since Ronda Rousey talked her way into a Strikeforce title shot a mere three professional fights into her career.

But don't think for a minute that McGregor's mouth means he's all talk. He may well be a better striker than Aldo. His ability to angle himself perfectly for strikes and punishing power make him an incredible threat to the champion. His weakness is that he has yet to really be tested on the ground, and if he does prove to be too much for Aldo standing, that could be a location for the champion to rack up the points.

I'm not going to lie here - I REALLY want to see McGregor pull this out. An Irish champion with a mouth that can sell a million buys with minimal effort? Count me the heck in!

That said, I know what Aldo is capable of when he wants to win, and it's hard for me to take him as a failure on his biggest stage ever. I will pick Aldo by decision.

It's OK, UFC forgot this was on the card too.
In the other main event, Chris Weidman, most likely the second best in the world pound-for-pound, will defend against "I Really Am Not Interested In Watching" Luke Rockhold.

Yes, I made that nickname up, but can you blame me? The dude was about as bland as they came in his Strikeforce career (in spite of his title run near the end of the company's existence), and since then has come off as a fairly unlikable individual.

Weidman has a mouth, but he mostly lets his winning do the talking. This is the man who KO'ed Anderson Silva to win the title, then retained in the rematch by breaking Silva's leg with a shin-check.

From a match-up standpoint, I see Weidman as the clear superior. Rockhold's striking is legitimate, but Weidman's has been tested at the highest caliber. For wrestling, I'd also give Weidman the edge, and while Rockhold has looked solid on the ground, at best he's a match for Weidman.

I don't see this going the full five, and I'll take the World Middleweight Champion to retain via a 3rd-round KO.

Rest of the Main Card

Middleweight Bout: Jacare Souza (#2 MW) vs. Joel Romero (#3 MW) - Jacare by submission Round 2.

Welterweight Bout: Demian Maia (#6 WW) vs. Gunnar Nelson (#12 WW) - Nelson by decision

Featherweight Bout: Max Holloway (#5 FW) vs. Jeremy Stephens (#8 FW) - Stephens by decision