Boxing

The Opening Salvo – Vasyl Lomachenko vs Jose Pedraza

As I mentioned in my earlier post, this weekend has three top level fights, 2 in MMA and one in Boxing: this is that fight. Vasyl Lomachenko is, in my opinion, the pound-for-pound best boxer in the world. Terrance Crawford and Errol Spence have a seat at the table, but Lomachenko is the king at this moment in time. He will look to continue his dominance and add to his argument when he takes on fellow Lightweight Champion Jose Pedraza to unify the division.

Main Event

Lightweight Division

Vasyl Lomachenko 11-1-0 (9 KOs) World Boxing Association (WBA) and RING Lineal Lightweight Champion (-5000)

vs

Jose Pedraza 25-1-0 (12 KOs) World Boxing Organization (WBO) Lightweight Champion (+1400)

To follow up last week’s exciting boxing fight between two great Heavyweight boxers with the best pound-for-pound fighter trying to unify a division is like following up the college football championship with the Super Bowl in back-to-back weekends.

To say Vasyl Lomachanko is a great boxer is an understatement. His mastery of the sweet science is truly something to appreciate each and every time he fights. In his last bout, he moved up in weight and fought Lightweight lineal champion Jorge Linares in a potential fight of the year. Linares was the bigger man and matched Lomachenko in boxing acumen through 10 hard fought rounds.

Lomachenko dislocated his shoulder in the second round and popped it back into place in between rounds. He was also dropped in the 6th round by a straight right from Linares. The end of the fight though, came on a flurry from Lomachenko and a hard liver shot from which Linares could not recover. That is the definition of fighting through adversity to win a championship.

Lomachenko fights with speed, power, and precision. He uses angles defensively to escape opponents’ counter punching and to set up new openings for his offense. He is technical and methodical and is rarely out of control in a fight. His only professional loss came very early in his career against Orlando Salido in a very rough fight. Looking back, it is hard to believe that Lomachenko lost to Salido with how much of a difference they have in boxing skill. At 11-1, a casual fan may assume Lomachenko is inexperienced, however, that record hides the 396-1 amateur record.

Jose Pedraza is a 29 year old Lightweight champion fighting out of Puerto Rico. He is a tall lightweight at 5’ 8 1/2'” and fights behind a long jab and digging body punches. In his last fight against champion Ray Beltran, he fought smart and used his length and elusiveness to batter the champion in an equally matched bout. The momentum changed in the fight when Pedraza switched his stance to southpaw and landed a hard left-handed uppercut. He poured it on from there and ended the fight with momentum, earning the fight and winning the championship.

Pedraza lost in January of 2017 to a very fast and skilled boxer by the name of Gervonta Davis by 7th round KO. He had a horrible game plan and played right into his opponent’s strengths. He did wear out Davis in the middle rounds and was able to get some leather on him but eventually the speed and power of Davis overwhelmed Pedraza and he lost his IBF super featherweight title. Lomachenko is better in almost every way than Davis.

If Pedraza did not learn from his fight with Gervonta Davis, I fear that this will be much like a fight we have seen in the past, mainly Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs the late Arturo Gatti. In this fight, Arturo Gatti looked like his feet were stuck in cement and his hands had 50-lb weights attached to them. He looked slow to Mayweather’s speed and precision. Mayweather dismantled Gatti and this is the fight I see happening tonight in my mind’s eye. I have Lomachenko by destruction in the 5th round.

I will be watching this fight to witness greatness at work. If Lomachenko wins, this sets him up for future fights against bigger names that will be more competitive like Mikey Garcia or the previously-mentioned Gervonta Davis.

What: Lomachenko vs Pedraza to Unify the Lightweight Division

Where to watch: ESPN

When: Saturday December 8th, 2018

Time: 8:00 PM CST

The Opening Salvo – Holloway vs Ortega

Fight fans rarely get weekends as loaded as tonight. There are not one, but three, marquee fights this weekend: two in MMA and one in boxing. A 1a or 1b for this weekend is the top fight of tonight’s UFC PPV when Max Holloway defends his featherweight championship against number one contender Brian Ortega. The third best fight this weekend is in the co-main event, a bout for the vacant flyweight title between Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. These are the fights that any fan can get excited about.

Main Event

Men’s Featherweight Championship

Max Holloway (C) 19-3-0 vs Brian Ortega (#1) 14-0-1

This fight gives me all sorts of anxiety because of how close both of these fighters are in skill and because I have to pick a winner. I enjoy watching both of these fighters ply their trade and both have very distinct and dominant skillsets that make them the very best in the division. I truly cannot wait to watch this fight.

Max “Blessed” Holloway is the reigning champion in the featherweight division, having won the interim belt in a fight with former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. He later unified the belt by knocking out longtime champion, Jose Aldo, and then knocked him out again in a rematch six months later. That was December of 2017. Since then, there have been several factors that Holloway has had to deal with that have not allowed him to defend his belt, or even fight for that matter. All those seem to be in the past, and we finally get to see the featherweight champion get tested against a tough opponent.

Holloway uses his long frame to pick apart opponents for the duration of a fight. He also uses his world class cardio to gradually increase his output and put pressure on his opponents to keep the pace. These two strategies, along with his excellent use of space and timing, have allowed Holloway to beat the very top of the featherweight division and go on a 12-fight win streak culminating in winning and defending the championship. He also has an underrated ground game (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Purple belt) that he uses to get the fight back to standing or finish the fight if his opponent makes a mistake.

Brian Ortega will not make a mistake on the ground. He is a very high level Jiu Jitsu practitioner with his black belt lineage going straight back to Carlos Gracie. Ortega compliments his ground game by using slick striking to beat down opponents. Much like Holloway, Ortega is more of a volume striker vs a pure power puncher. In his last fight against Frankie Edgar, Ortega used his high fight IQ and continually improving striking to land an intuitive elbow in the clinch which led to a barrage of punches and finally a massive uppercut that turned the lights out on Edgar. Being the first man to stop Frankie Edgar is a huge feather in Ortega’s cap and lends credibility to his underrated striking.

Holloway’s path to victory is to keep the fight standing and use his length to slowly beat down Ortega over the course of five rounds. If he continues to increase the pressure, there is a chance Ortega makes a mistake and Holloway capitalizes. He can win via decision or TKO.

Ortega’s path to victory is to get in close to Holloway and use a dirty boxing and clinch game to beat up Holloway and maybe land a knee or elbow that Holloway doesn’t see coming to begin the finishing sequence of a fight. He can also try to apply pressure and get takedowns to wear Holloway out and try to catch him in a submission on the ground. His Jiu Jitsu is better than Holloway’s and could be a huge factor if he can get the fight to the ground.

Ortega loses too many rounds for my liking and because of that I have Holloway winning via decision.

Co-Main Event

Women’s Flyweight Championship

Valentina Shevchenko (#1) 15-3-0 vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk (#1) 15-2

The co-main event features a high level striking bout between perennial contender and all around badass, Valentina Shevchenko, and former Straw-weight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Both of these women are championship-caliber fighters and I expect a great fight.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk is coming off of a win in the Straw-weight division against Tecia Torres after losing two championship fights to Rose Namajunas: the first she lost her belt via TKO, and the rematch she lost a unanimous decision. She is moving up from the 115lb division to the 125lb division.

Jedrzejczyk uses volume striking, along with pin point precision accuracy, to slowly and methodically pick apart her opponents. She defended her straw-weight championship five times before being dethroned. She has experience in big fights.

Shevchenko’s only losses in the UFC are to Bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes. She is coming down from mainly fighting in the 135lb division to the 125lb division and will be the bigger, stronger fighter tonight. Much like Jedrzejczyk, Shevchenko has a kickboxing and Muay Thai background.

Jedrzejczyk’s path to victory will be to use her speed and timing to counter Shevchenko and keep her opponent frustrated. She will need to avoid Shevchenko’s pressure and power to see the fight through to a decision victory as Shevchenko has never been stopped in MMA (her TKO in 2010 was a doctors stoppage.)

Shevchenko’s path to victory is to keep the pressure on Jedrzejczyk and use that pressure to land power strikes. Jedrzejczyk was knocked out by Namajunas and has not looked the same since that fight.

I have Shevchenko winning by Decision to claim the Women’s Featherweight Championship.

Undercard

The undercard has several great fights on paper, including knockout artist #7 light heavyweight Jimi Manuwa taking on #15 Thiago Santos, and the return of #14 ranked welterweight, Gunnar Nelson, taking on fan favorite and #13 ranked Alex Oliveira. The early prelims have great fights as well, and the fights I am interested in are #3 Claudia Gadelha taking on rising prospect and #11 ranked Nina Ansaroff, Olivier Aubin-Mercer taking on Gilbert Burns in a lightweight bout and #14 Welterweight Elias Theodorou taking on unranked Eryk Anders.

This fight card has exciting bouts and I’ll have to roll out my trusty two-screen setup to watch the boxing matches at the same time. Fight overload, yes please!

What: UFC 231 Holloway vs Ortega

Where to watch: Prelims FS1 - Main Card Pay Per View

When: Saturday December 8th, 2018

Time: Prelims- 7:00 PM CST– Main Card- 9:00 PM CST

The Opening Salvo – Wilder vs Fury

The best fight in combat sports this weekend is between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury. This fight will help in determining who the undisputed heavyweight champion is. Both of these men, with a win, will have a claim to that title with only a justified objection from Anthony Joshua standing between them and glory.

Main Event

World Boxing Council (WBC) Heavyweight Championship

Deontay Wilder (C) 40-0 (39 KOs) -165 odds vs Tyson Fury 27-0 (19 KOs) +135 odds

There is now a trio of fighters at the top of the Heavyweight division with an actual claim to the “baddest man on the planet” title. One of the most recent fighters to make such a claim is 33-year-old American, Deontay Wilder. Wilder has been on an incredible run, and although he was fed easy wins early in his career to pad his KO record, he has answered all his critics with impressive knockouts of increasingly difficult assignments.

In Wilder’s last fight against Luis Ortiz, pundits correctly stated that this would be the toughest fight of his career so far. Fighting through adversity and being hurt several times, Wilder found his range and knocked out Ortiz in the 10th round. This TKO was easily the best win of Wilder’s career.

Another fighter that lays claim to the title is 33-year-old Tyson Fury. The best win of Tyson Fury’s career was almost three years ago to the day on November 28, 2015. Fury convincingly and dominantly beat the lineal and undisputed champion of over ten years, Wladimir Klitschko. This win was supposed to be the beginning of the Tyson Fury era, but instead Fury’s demons took over, and he went on a two-and-a-half year hiatus, mainly using this time to do drugs and drink heavily. During this time Fury also gained weight, to the tune of adding 150 lbs and most fans and pundits thought we had seen the last of Tyson Fury as a legitimate boxer.

Fast forward to 2018 and we have now seen Fury win the initial battle against his vices and weight ,and has had two tune up fights, one in June and one in August. In those tune up fights, you could tell that the old Fury is still somewhere inside of this new version. He still uses great footwork and boxing skills to pepper his opponent with stiff jabs and counter punches. He is still active and went 10 rounds in his last fight. Although a lot of his offense still seems to be there, his defense seems to have stayed the same. He was able to get away with some of his lapses with lesser competition, but as he’s shown in the past, Fury is susceptible to counter right hands from long opponents.

During the lead up to this fight, Wilder has grown increasingly more agitated and aggravated with Fury and how this fight is being promoted. Fury’s “hiatus” and drug use are being softened, something Wilder says would not happen to him if the tables were turned. Fury has also pushed Wilder during the press tour physically and mentally which climaxed in a brawl between the fighters’ camps at one of the last press stops. Wilder is taking this personally and Fury is using gamesmanship to get an edge. Fury wants Wilder off of his game so he can take advantage of any mistakes that are made.

Wilder is tall and lean, 6’7”, 212.4 lbs, Fury is a tall and massive 6’9” 256.6 lbs. This is a classic heavyweight bout, with one side, Wilder, being the puncher, and the other, Fury, being the boxer. Wilder will need to show even more of his boxing acumen to stop a fighter that has never lost and Fury will have to show that his skills have not eroded enough to allow an easy win for him three years ago to beat him today.

I am picking Deontay Wilder via KO in the 7th round.

What: Wilder vs Fury for the WBC Heavyweight Championship

Where to watch: Showtime PPV $74.99 or stream on Showtime.com or Showtime App

When: Saturday December 1st, 2018

Time: 8:00 PM CST