MMA

One Fight Hangover: Korean Zombie vs. Rodriguez

Have you ever witnessed something great and special, but with an ending that was even better?

Off the top of my head, I can count six times I’ve had this feeling. In music, it was Tupac’s Hit em up, where the expletive-ridden outro elevated the song from great diss track to all-time memorable art. Kanye’s 2010 Blame game, off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, has the same effect: the song is great, but the Chris Rock skit at the end puts it into the upper echelon of music-comedy genius. In movies, it’s The Sixth Sense: the movie on its own is a classic, but the twist at the end makes it an all-time great. In television, Breaking Bad had a very memorable five-year run that ended with one of the greatest episodes ever written.

In combat sports, two fights sit atop my memory of great fights with greater endings. The first one is 1990’s Julio Cesar Chavez’s Hail Mary knockout of Meldrick Taylor in the waning seconds of the twelfth round (justified stoppage, don’t @ me). The second is 2005’s Griffin vs. Bonnar I, where the two battled for the full fifteen minutes before Griffin was selected the winner by judges. The great and unexpected part was when Dana White eagerly announced that both fighters had earned a six-figure UFC contract instead of just one of them.

Every hundredth blue moon or so, the planets align, the temperature is at its optimum, the setting is primed and we fans are treated to what can only be described as the essence of a sport. In this instance, we saw the essence of MMA, the soul of mixed martial arts. Saturday’s fight between Chan Sung “Korean Zombie” Jung and Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez was a war of attrition. Minute after minute, round by devastating round, these two men showed the world their heart. Every punch was answered with an equally destructive counterpunch, every crashing kick answered with a thudding one. These two put on a fight of the year through the first 24 minutes and 55 seconds, and then the earth stopped for a second.

To get the full understanding of this fight, you have to understand the mindset of both of these fighters. Chan Sung Jung’s Korean Zombie moniker was earned through several fights that showcased his style of walking through an opponent’s best offense to earn a victory. He is a fan favorite who does not shy away from a fight.

In Yair Rodriguez’ recent MMA career, he has entertained fans with dynamic striking and two electrifying finishes. Before his recent loss to Frankie Edgar, his fighting heart would not have been questioned. He always came forward and looked for a finish.

This was supposed to be a good fight on paper: two action fighters who love to strike, one coming off a bad loss and one coming off an injury. What we were treated to far outweighed the pre-fight hype.

After four rounds, the Korean Zombie was ahead on two of the three judges’ scorecards by two rounds. Jung controlled the fight, for the most part, stalking forward, delivering overhand rights and leg kicks. Not to be outdone, Rodriguez used his length and counterstriking to keep Jung on the outside of his comfort zone. Both men dealt damage over the four frames. The fight was tight, but Jung was probably edging out a win. The fifth round would be crucial to both sides.

The fifth round was copy and paste of the first four, except that it was interspersed with hugs, handshakes, and nods to the other’s willingness to throw caution to the wind. It looked like, at worst, a split decision for one of them and at best a draw. A draw would have been a cruel joke from the MMA gods: five rounds of beating each other senseless, only to come away without a win or a loss.

The time judge signaled to the entire arena that there were 10 seconds left in the war by clapping two wood blocks together. The men looked at each other, knowing that the only recourse was to fight until the bell.

Jung and Rodriguez could have eased up, like 95% of the fighters would do, their work already done. Instead, both men came forward. Both men threw with reckless abandon, trying to get a knockout finish to leave the judges out of the equation. The ten seconds of engagement looked like the rest of the fight until you blinked and saw Chan Sung Jung face down on the mat in a heap.

The ref called the fight with only one second remaining. The producers scrambled to get a replay up so everyone could see the masterstroke. In the interim, one announcer alluded to a potential head-butt, but this was wrong. Upon the replay, you could see a master at work. In this split second, Jung crashed forward, swinging a left and loading up a right. Rodriguez bent forward at the waist to avoid the blows; at the same time, he swung his right elbow up and behind his body. The elbow, perfectly placed, melted the Korean Zombie to the floor, putting his lights out and defining this war with a clear winner and loser.

Make no mistake; there is no shame in losing like Jung did. He had a decision in the bag. Maybe he didn’t know that, but even if he did, the fight would have ended the same way. He does not know any other way to fight. Rodriguez painted his Mona Lisa on Saturday. He will forever be remembered for this fight, just like Griffin, Bonnar, Chavez and Taylor were remembered for theirs. Don’t get me wrong, he will have more fights and more highlight reel knockouts, but none will get within arm’s length of November 10th, 2018.

After the fight, the two shared a picture of both of them in the hospital shaking hands, Jung there for concussion tests and Rodriguez there for a broken foot he suffered in the first round. If you look closely, you can see MMA’s beautiful soul.

The Opening Salvo – One Championship: Heart of the Lion

This weekend is packed with great fights, and up first is One Championship: Heart of the Lion. That’s not to be confused with Heart of a Lion, which is too random. Again, it is Heart of the Lion. Which lion? I don’t know, but apparently one that is somehow related to MMA; stick with me here.

Although One Championship is not very well known here in the United States, they are the marquee organization in Asia, and they have made some big splashes recently by signing former UFC and Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez and trading for former UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrius Johnson. This Friday’s card is littered with good matchups and technically skilled fighters. If you enjoy the UFC, you will enjoy One Championship. Did I mention the fights are free to watch on One Championship’s mobile app?

Main Event

Bantamweight Division - Title Unification

Bibiano Fernandes (C) 22-3 vs Kevin Belingon (IC) 19-5

Both of these men have been fighting for One Championship since 2012 and fought against each other in January of 2016. 38-year-old Fernandes is the company’s longest-reigning champion and is on a 14-fight winning streak. He defeated Belingon in January of 2016 and has fought only three times since that bout. Belingon, on the other hand, has six fights and six wins in that timeframe, including the bout in which he won the Interim Bantamweight Championship in July against two-division champ Martin Nguyen. Belingon is a powerful and creative striker. He is ridiculously fast and throws everything with bad intentions. Belingon will use his speed, power and striking prowess to try to keep the fight standing.

Fernandes is a well-rounded mixed martial artist with his base coming in the form of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. He has a high fight IQ and will use his strengths to win a fight. In the previous fight with Belingon, Fernandes took the fight to the ground early and used his grappling skills to secure a kimura for the submission victory. Two of Fernandes’ three losses have come to arguably the best fighters in the history of the bantamweight division: Urijah Faber and the late Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. Belingon’s best win was his last against Nguyen, and he’s lost to other submission specialists.

Belingon does not have a great ground game, but in the four minutes and four seconds of the first fight, he was able to inflict some damage on Fernandes. I anticipate more of the same from these two and have Fernandes winning by submission in the second round.

Featherweight Division

Preliminary Undercard Bout

Garry Tonon 2-0 vs Sung Jong Lee 2-2

The original co-main event card was a champion vs champion between atomweight champion Angela Lee and strawweight champion Xiong Jing Nan for the 125 lbs. title. This bout was cancelled due to a back injury to challenger Angela Lee. This cancellation leaves no other clear high-profile fight on the main card; however, if you look a little lower on the card, there is a very interesting fight at the top of the preliminary card that will stream on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m talking about world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Garry Tonon against Sung Jong Lee. Lee is coming off of a TKO loss to Amir Kahn (not the boxer) in May. Tonon is coming off of his first submission in MMA against Rahul Raju in July. This is a clear showcase fight where the promotor is trying to build up Tonon against lower tier fighters and get as many eyes as possible to watch. Tonon has been exciting to watch on the grappling scene, and I’ve been interested to see how his skillset would translate to MMA.

Sung Jong Lee has four fights to his name, winning two and losing two. In his last fight, he tried to take his opponent to the ground every time he took damage on his feet. He went for different leg locks, and this left him open to strikes which led to the eventual TKO. If he uses the same game plan against Tonon, he will get submitted. This fight should allow more experience minutes in the cage for Tonon, but he should get out of this fight with a W. I’m picking Tonon by submission in round one.

Super Series Kickboxing Match

Giorgio Petrosyan 88-2-2-1 NC vs Sorgraw Petchyindee Academy 37-17

This isn’t an MMA fight, as One Championship likes to insert one-discipline bouts into their MMA cards. This is a kickboxing fight between an established and dominant veteran and a streaking newcomer. Petrosyan recently won the inaugural Bellator Kickboxing Lightweight Championship, and Sorgraw recently beat a very tough opponent in Samy Sana at One Championship: Spirit of a Warrior back in June. This fight will gauge whether Sorgraw will continue his climb in the kickboxing ranks, or if he needs more experience to truly compete at the highest level. I’m picking Petrosyan, even though he will have to deal with the rabid home crowd for Sorgraw. Petrosyan by decision.

Undercard

There are several other interesting matchups on the card with fighters trying to make a name for themselves. The actual co-main event features two fighters coming off of losses and needing to get on the right side of the ledger, Christian Lee and Kazuki Tokudome. There is also a women’s bout in the strawweight division between Tiffany Teo and Michelle Nicolini. There are also two other Super Series matches on the card in the sport of Muay Thai.

This fight card has something for everyone: MMA, kickboxing, Muay Thai, and women’s fights. I’ll be taking these fights in with some strong coffee and an eye towards Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 139: Korean Zombie vs Rodriguez.

What: One Championship: Heart of the Lion

Where to watch: Prelims streaming on Facebook & Twitter; Main Card – One Championship mobile app

When: Friday, November 9th, 2018

Time: Prelims – 4:00 AM CST; Main Card – 6:30 AM CST

UFC 230 Cormier vs Lewis Hangover

Well, that was fun while it lasted. Last night’s main fight card delivered many storylines, including but not limited to: the coronation of the GOAT; a new contender rises; a champion is put out to pasture; and an introduction to a division. Let’s just get into it.

Main Event: Heavyweight Division

Daniel “DC” Cormier(C x2) 22-1-1 vs Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis 21-6-1

This fight ended like many experts, pundits, and Vegas predicted: a dominant wrestling clinic by Cormier leading to a finish. Cormier controlled the fight from the outset and rag-dolled a man at least 30 lbs. heavier than him for two rounds. He took Lewis down in the first round and used ground and pound and top control to begin to wear his opponent down. When Lewis did power back up, Cormier used his Olympic-level wrestling to drag Lewis back down to the mat to continue his onslaught. Eventually (or inevitably), Lewis made a mistake, and Cormier capitalized on it, sinking in a rear-naked choke in the 2nd round.

Where do they go from here?

Daniel Cormier is now in the discussion of greatest MMA fighter of all time, and the fight almost didn’t happen. He is a two division champion and has beaten a list of who’s who in MMA. The only problem is the one blemish Cormier has on his record is another fighter that is in the discussion of greatest MMA fighter of all time, Jon Jones. Cormier immediately called out Brock Lesnar in what seems to be an inevitable fight to be made in 2019, but as a fan I absolutely hate that fight. Lesnar as an opponent checks all the boxes for Cormier: Heavyweight-check; Former UFC Champion-check; Huge draw- check; Legacy builder-check; and biggest payday he’s ever seen-check.

Lesnar, in MMA, is coming off a decision win against Mark Hunt over two years ago in a fight in which he was caught using performance-enhancing drugs. This fight led to the UFC being sued by Mark Hunt for allegedly conspiring with Lesnar to circumvent the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s strict PED testing rules. A fight against Lesnar would be a clear money grab for all parties involved. I wouldn’t’ be mad at Cormier for getting his bag while he can, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth knowing a final, legacy-cementing/G.O.A.T-confirming fight with Jones is right there for the taking.

As for Lewis, he lost when everyone thought he would lose. He stepped in on short notice and knew his only path to victory was getting a knock out. I am a little confused as to why he then decided to throw so many kicks. Kicking a wrestler is inviting him to take you down.

Lewis didn’t hurt himself too bad in the standings, and there is a clear opponent for him going forward; former Champion, Stipe Miocic. If Cormier hadn’t beat Miocic earlier this year, we would more than likely have seen this fight last night, but instead we can settle for a number one contenders fight between these two men who have both been humbled by Cormier.

Co-Main Event: Middleweight Division

Chris Weidman (#3) 14-4 vs Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza 26-6-0-1 NC

One of these men was going to put the other out of championship contention for the rest of their careers. For two-and-a-half rounds, it looked like former champion Weidman was going to regulate Souza to gatekeeper in the middleweight division. Souza had a bad first round and competitive second, but he was clearly down two rounds going into the third. He dug deep and continued to battle through a likely broken nose. He kept digging to the body and pressuring Weidman, forcing him to use his movement to stay away from danger.

The game plan worked, and by the middle of the third round, Weidman had no answer to the pressure and couldn’t keep Souza from walking him down and throwing bombs. One of those bombs, a thunderous right hand, landed squarely on the top of Weidman’s head putting him to sleep. The ref stepped in after two unneeded hammer fists by Souza.

Where do they go from here?

Souza is back in title contention with a big statement knockout of a former champion; however, the two fighters at the top of the division, Robert Whitaker and Kelvin Gastelum, have both beaten him soundly in the past eighteen months. This leaves Jacare one win away from a title fight and there is a fighter from one of last night’s other fights that he’ll need to derail to get his shot.

Weidman is done as a contender in a stacked middleweight division. He has lost 3 of his last 4 fights by knockout or technical knockout. It’s been a pretty remarkable fall from grace for the former champion that wrested the Championship from the best Middleweight in UFC history when he beat Anderson Silva in 2013. He defended the title three times and will go down as a champion that had potential taken from him through injuries, long layoffs, and the level of his competition rising while he was declining. He will still get fights but his chin is no longer capable of taking three rounds of damage from the top of the division.

Middleweight Division

Derek Brunson (#6) 18-7 vs Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya (#9) 15-0

This fight is the one I was most excited about, and it did not disappoint. “The Last Stylebender” is on a meteoric rise in the middleweight division only comparable to those of Jon Jones and Anderson Silva. Adesanya easily handled the awkward but dangerous fighting style of Derek Brunson. Throughout the first round, Adesanya dominated the spacing and did not allow Brunson to get anything going offensively.

Instead, Adesanya made Brunson make several tactical mistakes and finally used one of those mistakes to put a knee on the chin of his opponent, putting him on skates. Adesanya wasted no time and continued to punish Brunson on his feet, knocking him down several times until the accumulation of punches and kicks forced the ref to step in and stop the fight.

Where do they go from here?

As I alluded earlier, the only fight for Adesanya is going to have to be against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a title eliminator fight. #6 Brunson just lost to Adesanya, #7 David Branch lost to an unranked fighter, #5 Jacare beat #3 Weidman, #2 Luke Rockhold is injured, #4 Kelvin Gastelum is fighting the Champion Robert Whitaker, and #1 ranked middleweight Yoel Romero is hurt and has #8 Paulo Costa waiting for him. Thus, only ‘Jacare’ and ‘The Last Stylebender’ are without dance partners, and are a match made for each other. Adesanya would jump at this fight and Souza has no recourse but to try and derail the hype train to secure a title shot and rematch against the winner of Whitaker vs Gastelum. The anticipation is already building.

Brunson is now coming off back-to-back losses to Souza and Adesanya, both by TKO. He should now be relegated to gatekeeper of the top 10 in the division or to welcome new fighters to the UFC. He is too streaky and awkward to string together enough wins to merit a top contender’s fight. He is still exciting and has a lot left, but these two losses really demonstrate where he is in the pecking order of the best middleweights in the world. A second fight against Uriah Hall or a fight against Antonio Carlos Junior in Brazil could potentially be in his future.

Middleweight Division

David Branch (#7) 22-5 vs Jared Cannonier 11-4

Jared Cannonier was making his introduction into the middleweight division after two consecutive knockout losses in the light heavyweight division (and also previously competing the heavyweight division.) Seventh-ranked Branch dominated the first round by controlling the distance on the feet with a pesky jab and then switching it up and taking Cannonier down several times.

This gameplan would have been a great path to victory for Branch had he not used all his energy keeping the very explosive Cannonier down in the first round. Once he was gassed and Cannonier realized Branch didn’t have the power to hurt him, Cannonier simply walked Branch down, and 30 seconds into the second round, unloaded a right hand that sent Branch to the canvas. Cannonier followed up with ground and pound and forced the referee to step in and put an end to the damage.

Where do they go from here?

Cannonier made a statement knocking out the seventh-ranked middleweight in the world in his first fight in this division. He will be ranked in the top 15 and will probably draw Thiago Santos or Elias Theodorou, both of which present intriguing style matchups.

Branch has alternated wins with losses since his second stint in the UFC began in May of 2017. He’s not in danger of getting his walking papers just yet, but he is surely on thin ice. A fight with Uriah Hall or Brad Tavares looks right.

Undercard

The undercard had several exciting fights, including Sijara Eubanks earning the worst possible win you can after failing to make weight. Eubanks’ days fighting at featherweight are over since she has missed weight several times. Fan favorite Ben Saunders took the L against a surging Lyman Good who looked like his namesake in dispatching ‘Killa B’ early in the first round. Sheymon Moraes defeated Jorge Arce via split decision in a bloody brawl that saw Arce get off the canvas several times to make the fight competitive. Karl Roberson looked decent beating Jack Marshman via decision in a fight that was meant to prop up Roberson since he was coming off a bad loss.

Overall UFC 230 was a very entertaining fight card that delivered in different ways than initially expected. I’m now looking forward to the November 9th One Championship: Heart of a Lion fight card that is immediately followed on November 10th by UFC Fight Night Denver. What a time to be a Combat Sports fan!

WSIC MMA Fight Schedule November 2018

Those of us who have had the pleasure of working in sales know what ‘WIFM’ means. Those that don’t, let me indoctrinate you. It’s an acronym for “What’s In it For Me,” a question every good salesperson has to answer about their prospective client before making their pitch. With that in mind, I’m making the acronym of ‘WSIC,’ or “Why Should I Care” about these MMA fights in November. Glad you asked.

November 3rd - UFC 230 PPV Cormier vs Lewis

Why should I care? It’s the hometown fighter trying to wrest the heavyweight crown from a two-division kingpin, arguably one of the most dominant MMA fighters of the past decade. The undercard has a grudge match between #6 middleweight Derek Brunson and undefeated #9 middleweight Israel Adesanya. These two have been going back and forth over social media and the contempt is real. If you need more motivation than that, you probably shouldn’t be a professional fan.

November 9th – One Championship: Heart of the Lion

WSIC? There are two championship fights at the top of this card, one unifying the Men’s Bantamweight Title and the other a Champion vs. Champion. The co-main event is champion Bibiano Fernandes and interim champion, Kevin Belingon, unifying the strap, and the main event is atomweight champion, Angela Lee, stepping up to challenge Xiong Jing Nan for her strawweight world title.

November 10th - UFC Fight Night Denver: Edgar vs Korean Zombie vs Rodriguez

WSIC? This fight showcases a consistently underappreciated fighter versus an aging action fighter, but the real question is which statement describes each fighter? Stepping in on short notice, Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez is looking to get back on the W side of the ledger after getting exposed against Frankie Edgar in May of 2017. That, along with a bizarre contract standoff with the UFC, makes this fight a must-win for the young, 15th-ranked Rodriguez. Tenth-ranked Chan Sung Jung is coming off of a win in February of 2017 here in Houston, and is looking to build some momentum. Ring rust and altitude may be a factor for both of these fighters, but it should be a good scrap.

November 15th - Bellator Israel: Freire vs Sanchez

WSIC? It’s in Israel, and Patricio Freire is defending his featherweight title against Emmanuel Sanchez, who is on a four fight win streak. On the undercard, former UFC Top Five light heavyweight stalwart, Phil Davis, looks to continue his winning ways so he can get a rematch with Ryan Bader for the light heavyweight belt.

November 16th - Invicta FC 32: Spencer vs Sorenson

WSIC? Pam “Bam” Sorenson is coming off of two wins in 2017, but this will be her first fight this year. She has wins over current UFC alums Nicco Montano and Jessica-Rose Clark. Felicia Spencer is undefeated in five career fights, and is a heavy favorite.

November 17th

UFC Fight Night Buenos Aires: Magny vs Ponzinibbio

WSIC? It’s in Buenos Aires, and both of these fighters are Top 10 in the UFC’s welterweight division. Magny and Ponzinibbio are looking to continue the climb to eventual title challenger. Ponzinibbio is riding a six fight win streak and Magny is looking to build on his two wins in a row.

One Championship: Warrior’s Dream

WSIC? A new One Champion will be crowned as Tyler McGuire will take on Zebaztian Kadestam in Jakarta for the Welterweight strap. Also, there is an exciting undercard fight between Jomary Torres and Indonesian favorite Priscilla Hertati.

November 23rd - One Championship: Conquest of Champions

WSIC? Brandon “The Truth” Vera will defend his One Championship Heavyweight Title against Mauro “The Hammer” Cerilli. For those of you that do not remember, Brandon Vera had a UFC career that spanned almost eight years, with his last fight coming in August of 2013. When he came into the UFC, he proclaimed he would be the first heavyweight and light heavyweight simultaneous champion. He wasn’t able to accomplish that feat in the UFC, but if he wins this fight, all signs point to One Championship setting up a super-fight between light heavyweight champion Aung Le N Sang and Brandon Vera in the near future for the former’s title.

November 24th - UFC Fight Night Beijing: Blaydes vs Ngannou 2

WSIC? These guys fought in 2016 in Croatia at a very early stage in both of their careers. Now, both fighters are more or less a better version of themselves, with Ngannou challenging for the title 11 months ago and coming up short. The undercard has another hard-hitting heavyweight in Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem taking on UFC newcomer, Sergey Pavlovich. Heavyweights with heavy hands: what’s not to like?

November 30th

Bellator 210: Manhoef vs Njokuani

WSIC? 42-year-old veteran and KO artist, Melvin Manhoef, will make his first Bellator appearance since a KO loss in April of 2017 against 29-year-old Chidi Njokuani. Njokuani is coming off of his first win at 185 lbs. in December of 2017. Both of these men have had long layoffs, and I am curious who can shake the ring rust off quicker.

UFC The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Dos Santos vs Usman

WSIC? Kamaru Usman is finally getting a “big name” fighter in former UFC lightweight champion, Rafael Dos Anjos. Usman is undefeated in the UFC with a record of 8-0, and will more than likely be first in line for a title shot if he gets past Dos Anjos. Dos Anjos is coming off of a loss in an interim championship title bout against Colby Covington, and he is fighting to stay in the championship picture.

11 fight cards in 30 days means a busy schedule for MMA fans. I’m here for it, how about you?

The Opening Salvo – UFC 230 Cormier VS Lewis

Last week’s UFC Fight Night produced several good fights and really punched above its weight class. I went 4-1 in my official picks, and my only oversight was miscalculating Anthony Smith’s high fight IQ. He executed a game plan that took a very dangerous fighter into waters he had never swum in before and capitalized after that. Hats off to Mr. Smith; I look forward to seeing more of his exciting fights soon.

Last week’s fights were a mere prelude to this weekend’s Pay-Per-View event.

Main Event

Heavyweight Division

Daniel Cormier (C) 21-1-1 vs Derrick Lewis (#2) 21-5-1

Cormier enters this weekend’s UFC 230 as a two-division champion with many pundits arguing that he is in the conversation for greatest of all time. A loss to Lewis here would erase all the debates, but a win opens the door to a big-money, big-legacy fight against either Brock Lesnar or Jon Jones in the first part of 2019. Cormier has stated several times that he wants to retire by March of 2019, which leaves this weekend’s fight as a trap game.

Hometown fighter Derrick Lewis, on the other hand, can only win on Saturday. Lewis comes in on less than 25 days’ notice. He last fought at UFC 229 on October 6th and was beaten up by Alexander Volkov for the better part of fourteen minutes and 40 seconds. Three-round fights last fifteen minutes and Lewis used all of that time to secure a late third-round knockout. After the fight, Joe Rogan asked Lewis if he was ready for a title shot. Lewis matter of factly stated, “Not with a gas tank like that.” Stepping in at the last minute to fight the two-division kingpin will only bolster Lewis’ standing in the UFC and grant him future big fight considerations. Unless something crazy happens, like getting knocked out in the first 30 seconds of the fight, Lewis is in a good place no matter what the outcome.

Lewis is a +450 underdog coming into this fight, which implies an 18.1% probability to win. I can count on one hand how many bigger underdogs actually won a UFC title. Lewis was beat up 25 days ago, doesn’t have enough time to fix his gas tank issue and is fighting a two-division champion known for dominating heavyweights.

This fight comes down to Cormier’s pedigree and fight IQ. Cormier has too much to lose and will use his dominant wrestling, above average speed, and heavy hands to knock out Derrick Lewis. Lewis will use his power, size, and counter wrestling to try to knock Cormier out. All signs point to a Cormier W, but I have to pick the Hometown fighter with a puncher’s chance: Lewis by TKO in round 2.

Co-Main Event

Middleweight Division

Chris Weidman (#3) 14- 3 vs. Ronaldo Souza (#5) 25-6-0-1NC

Both of these fighters are coming off of fights against the same opponent, but with very different outcomes. Weidman last fought Kelvin Gastelum in July of 2017 and used his heart and stamina to earn a career-saving submission victory after he was badly hurt in the first round. Souza fought Gastelum in May of this year and looked slow and gun-shy for the entirety of the fight. He dropped a split decision, and the MMA math will dictate that Weidman will win this bout.

Since I don’t normally buy into MMA math, I think this is a very close matchup from a skills perspective. Weidman uses his wrestling base to keep the fight standing and uses his great boxing skills to beat up opponents and to knock them out or submit them eventually. The only losses on his ledger have come against a former champion and one of the best strikers in the middleweight division, Luke Rockhold, and against freak of nature and two-time title challenger Yoel Romero and methodical striker Gegard Mousasi. All three of these men patiently picked Weidman apart with precision striking that eventually led to TKO or KO victories for them.

Souza is not this type of fighter. He uses his world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu to force his opponents into avoiding the ground game at all costs and trading with him instead. He has sharpened his striking game over the years and wields knockout power in his hands and feet. In a standing fight, the edge goes to the former middleweight champ, Weidman. I anticipate Weidman clipping Souza early: Weidman by TKO early in round 2.

Spotlight fight

Middleweight Division

Derek Brunson (#6) 18-6 vs. Israel Adesanya (#9) 14-0

As stated in my monthly fight preview, this is the definition of a grudge match. These fighters do not like each other at all. This fight will either cement Adesanya near the top of a stacked middleweight division or Brunson will use his awkward style and experience to derail the hype train.

Brunson’s fight above style has been his best weapon and his biggest liability. His off-balance style catches some opponents (Machida, Hall, Herman, etc.) off guard or is used against him in knocking him out (Souza x 2, Whittaker). His path to victory is to get Adesanya to abandon his discipline and charge into an awkward Brunson counter. That’s why Brunson has been ramping up his criticism of Adesanya before the fight, in an attempt to get into his opponent’s head.

Adesanya will need to lean on his superior striking and athleticism to break Brunson’s will and keep his undefeated record intact. Adesanya has twelve knockouts in fourteen professional fights, but his last two fights, against better opposition, have gone the distance. He is coming off a five-round, unanimous decision against eighth-ranked (at the time of the fight) Brad Tavares. Against Tavares, Adesanya did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted and looked like a Top Five middleweight.

These fighters are going in opposite directions, with Brunson coming off of a KO loss and Adesanya winning a five-round decision against a Top Ten fighter in his first headlining bout. I have Adesanya by KO in the 3rd round.

Undercard

The undercard has some veteran UFC fighters looking to get back on track in their careers. Welterweight Ben Saunders takes on Lyman Good with both coming off losses. The Ultimate Fighter alums Sijara Eubanks (#4) takes on Roxanne Modafferi (#7) in a women’s flyweight top contenders match. Middleweights David Branch (#7) and Jared Cannonier fight for continued relevance in a stacked division. My picks are in bold for the record.

This fight card has a little bit of everything: a championship fight, an undefeated prospect, veterans, a women’s contender bout, and most importantly, a hometown fighter trying to bring another championship to H-town. I’ll be locked in on Saturday night, how about you?

What: UFC 230 Cormier vs. Lewis

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

When – Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

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