Jesus Estrada

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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

The Opening Salvo – UFC Fight Night Adelaide

Last night’s fights went more or less according to the script. I went 3-0 in my official picks and I’m counting on keeping the trend going tonight. The UFC returns to Adelaide, Australia for the first time since 2015. Throughout the fight card you will notice a trend in matchmaking, older vets taking on athletic prospects to accomplish one of two things: either boost the prospect higher in name recognition, or prove that the veteran still has something in the tank.

Main Event

Heavyweight Division

Junior dos Santos 19-5-0 vs Tai Tuivasa 8-0-0

Dos Santos followed up a TKO loss to then-champ Stipe Miocic in May of 2017 with a lackluster decision win against an athletic prospect in Blagoy Ivanov in July of 2018. Ivanov tried to beat Dos Santos in a standup fight only to find out that Dos Santos’ wheelhouse is exactly that type of fight. The book on beating Dos Santos has already been written. Former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez wrote the book on beating Dos Santos with pressure wrestling and clinch work against the cage. Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem wrote the book on beating Dos Santos in a standing fight by coming forward, timing him, and using power punches as he is backing up.

Dos Santos’ path to victory in any fight is using his superior boxing to batter his opponent and eventually win a decision or find a punch to turn the lights out. He sets up traps with his boxing and catches unprepared fighters. You can find examples of this in his first fights with Cain Velasquez and Stipe Miocic. The second time through the order was not as great for Dos Santos, as both Cain and Stipe figured out how to beat him, and Dos Santos didn’t evolve as a fighter.

Tai Tuivasa is a young, athletic, and powerful brawler. He used a blitzing style to knockout his first two UFC opponents in highlight reel fashion. His last fight was more measured, and you could tell he was being selective in his advances to conserve energy for a long battle with grizzled veteran Andrei Arlovski. He has the power and creativity to put the lights out on Dos Santos, but if he brings the measured approach he had in his last fight versus what got him to the dance, he’s looking at a long night of stiff jabs and overhand rights that will lead to a loss.

This match is really a toss-up for me but I’m going with the veteran in Junior dos Santos. Dos Santos via bloody decision.

Co-Main Event

Heavyweight Division

Mark Hunt 13-13-1-1NC vs Justin Willis 7-1-0

44 year old Mark Hunt is more than likely fighting for his last time in the UFC. The “Super Samoan” is in the middle of a lawsuit with the UFC that accuses the organization of conspiring with Brock Lesnar and the United States Anti-Doping Agency to allow Lesnar to circumvent a doping test so he could fight Hunt while on steroids. At the end of his contract, the UFC would be wise not to give a party that is suing them another chance to force their hand in giving him money to fund said lawsuit.

As far as the fight is concerned, Mark Hunt is a fan favorite that somehow resurrected his career in the UFC after the organization bought out Pride FC and its contracted fighters. Hunt’s strengths have always been a granite chin and powerful striking. His major weakness has always been a horrible ground game. In his current UFC run, he has been able to plug the holes in his ground game by getting better at stuffing takedowns and he’s elevated his MMA status by giving us fans several “walk away knockouts.”

Justin Willis is a former all-conference college football player at San Jose State University. A very athletic prospect with power in his hands, he has been a professional fighter since 2012. Willis has amassed an 8-1 record with his only loss coming during his first bout. He is on an 8 fight win streak.

This fight comes down to Willis’ chin and I don’t think it’s enough to withstand the Super Samoan’s onslaught. I have Hunt by walkaway KO in the 2nd round.

Light Heavyweight Division

Mauricio Rua 25-11-0 vs Tyson Pedro 7-2-0

Another veteran going up against an athletic prospect. Although I will say the level of veteran here is far more than the two heavyweights in the Main and Co-Main event. Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua is royalty in this sport. His winning run in Pride FC starting in 2003 is a who’s who of all-time great fighters: Quinton Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueria, Alistair Overeem x2, Ricardo Arona, Cyrille Diabate, Kevin Randleman, Kazuhiro Nakamura, and Akihiro Gono. He did this between age 22 and age 26 years. He could have quit there and been considered one of the all-time greats.

Instead, he came to the UFC and finally the solved the puzzle of beating Lyoto Machida to win the Light Heavyweight Title. He is also the champion that reluctantly passed the torch to a fighter that is now arguably considered the greatest fighter of all time: Jon Jones. His style has been the same for the past fifteen or so years: hard Muay Thai strikes, a strong Brazilian Jiu Jitsu ground game, and a high fight IQ that makes him great.

The downside to early success and success overall is a sense of complacency. Although Rua has never had the chiseled Greek statue physique throughout his career, he also has come to fights out of shape on several cards and has paid dearly for those instances.

The most recent instance was his last fight against late replacement Anthony Smith. Anthony Smith beat the brakes off of Rua. This loss led to many speculating that Rua should retire. No one wants to see a fighter retired, instead they want to see the fighter retire on his own. Father time is unbeaten and although the UFC boasts a 39 year old Heavyweight Champion , Rua has been in too many wars to sustain a championship level run.

Tyson Pedro is an uber athletic prospect that is slowly making his way up the contender ladder in the light heavyweight division. He is 6’3’ with a long reach. He is 3 and 2 in the UFC and coming off of a loss. He needs a win to keep his standing in the organization. If he can keep this fight at his range and not let Rua kick his legs out from under him, he should win, but that’s a big ‘if,’ though.

I have Pedro by TKO in the second round.

Undercard

The undercard has much of the same matchmaking theme: older veterans vs athletic prospects. A few of the fights I’ll be looking forward to are: Yushin Okami vs Alexey Kunchenchko in a welterweight fight, Wilson Reis vs Ben Nguyen in a flyweight bout, and Jake Matthews (not the football player) vs Tony Martin in a welterweight tilt.

Last night’s fights were good, but these figure to be better. I’ll be watching closely to see if I can improve my picking record or if I’ll regress to the mean.

What: UFC Fight Night Adelaide

Where to watch: Early Prelims on UFC FightPass/Prelims on FS1/Main Card on FS1

When: Saturday December 1st, 2018

Time: Early Prelims 6:00 PM CST - Prelims- 7:00 PM CST– Main Card- 9:00 PM CST

The Opening Salvo – The Ultimate Fighter Season 28 Finale

That’s right fight fans, we’ve reached peak reality show saturation by getting to the last and final season of The Ultimate Fighter. The reality show has had its ups and downs, but I think the UFC has milked it for all that it had to give and its Tuesday Night Contender Series is a great and natural successor. Even though we do not get to look forward to the coaches fighting on the Saturday after the Finale, as is the norm, the top of the card still has a great welterweight showdown with title ramifications. The rest of the card is not too shabby, either.

Main Event

Welterweight Division

Rafael Dos Anjos (#3) 28-10-0 vs Kamaru Usman (#5) 14-1-0

I am really looking forward to this fight. This fight is when that one saying actually gets put to the test: “When the rubber meets the road.” This fight is going to answer several questions about each of these fighters.

For Usman, this fight will answer if he is an actual title contender. A winning streak for Usman would be an understatement as he is undefeated in the UFC (8-0) and hasn’t lost since May of 2013 (12 victories.) Usman is both underrated by pundits and respected by the division. He is the guy every welterweight in the UFC does not want to fight unless they have to. He uses a strong wrestling base to control his opponents. Once on the ground, he punishes them for the entirety of the fight. He’s used this style to win 6 out of 8 victories in the UFC by way of decision.

Usman’s last fight and win was against a perennial top five welterweight in Damien Maia. Maia is, in my opinion, a top 3 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner in MMA right now, and Usman dominated a five round fight against him. Usman has been ready for top level competition for a few years but he has been unable to secure a name fighter that will boost his stock within the division until now.

Rafael Dos Anjos is a former Lightweight Champion that is coming off of a bad loss to Colby Covington. He uses an aggressive Muay Thai style and a sneaky counter wrestling game to batter his opponents on the feet. He had more power in the lightweight division, but facing bigger fighters, he’s had to adjust. After losing the Lightweight Championship to Eddie Alvarez and losing one more time to lightweight title contender Tony Ferguson, he moved up to Welterweight and won three tough fights in a row, setting up a title elimination fight against Colby Covington. Covington easily beat the smaller Dos Anjos by using his own wrestling and continued pressure to grind out a decision victory.

That loss forced Dos Anjos into accepting this fight with a fighter on the rise looking for a name to step over on the way to a title shot. This fight will answer if Dos Anjos is done at the top of the division or if he had a setback on the way to challenge for a championship.

Usman is basically the same fighter as Covington with slightly better striking, and at this point in Dos Anjos’ career I do not think he’s solved the ‘heavy pressure wrestler that can take his power’ riddle. I have Usman by Decision.

Co-Main Event(s)

Heavyweight Division

The Ultimate Fighter Final

Juan Francisco Dieppa 8-1 vs Justin Frazier 10-2

This bout is one of those fights that unfortunately has to have a loser. Both of these men have great backstories that are deserving of a shot at the UFC. Both were underdogs the majority of the season, but someone has to get their hand raised.

Justin Frazier was the last heavyweight fighter picked for team Gastelum and rode his underdog role to the finale for a chance at a UFC contract. He has a lot of power in his hands but can also wrestle if needed. His path to victory will be stuffing takedowns and trying to tag Francisco Dieppa on the feet.

Juan Francisco Dieppa is a wrestler with a high fight IQ. He used his limited, but improving, boxing technique to beat the show favorite Maurice Green by launching a huge overhand right and following up immediately with a shovel uppercut that had Green scrambling to regain his bearings. Francisco Dieppa ended the fight with a rear naked choke and showed that he does have some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in his game as well.

I hate to pick a winner in this fight but alas, no one is telling me no, so I am absolutely forced to do so. I have Juan Francisco Dieppa by submission in the 2nd round.

Women’s Featherweight Division

The Ultimate Fighter Final

Macy Chiasson 2-0 vs Pannie Kianzad 13-3

This final in the Women’s Featherweight Division was surprising given that both of the finalists come from team Gastelum. Pannie Kianzad squeaked out a decision in her semifinal bout against Julija Stoliarenko to earn a shot at the UFC contract. Chiasson has steamrolled her way into the finals by winning both of her fights in the first round (1 KO, 1 TKO.) Chiasson has looked like the best fighter in the house the entire season. I have Chiasson by TKO in the 3rd round.

Undercard

The undercard has one very interesting fight at the top of the Prelims. Twenty-four year old rising star, Alex Perez, of the Tuesday Night Contender series I mentioned above, takes on veteran Joseph Benavidez. Perez has been impressive in winning his four UFC fights, finishing three of the four. Benavidez is coming off of a decision loss to Sergio Pettis and is relegated to gatekeeper of the top 5 of the flyweight division. This fight is a big step up in competition, and it may be too soon for Perez, but I am excited about the potential fireworks.

Other notable fighters on the undercard include TUF Season 28 semifinal loser Maurice Green trying to keep his UFC dreams alive against fellow semifinal loser Michel Batista. Number fourteen in the Bantamweight division, Bryan Caraway, takes on number nine Pedro Munhoz, and unranked and undefeated women’s flyweight, Antonina Shevchenko, takes on eleventh-ranked Ji Yeon Kim.

There are plenty of good matchups and great storylines on Friday’s fight card. Don’t miss out!

What: The Ultimate Fighter Season 28 Series Finale

Where to Watch: Early Prelims on UFC FightPass/Prelims on FS1/Main Card on FS1

When: Friday November 30th, 2018

Time: Early Prelims 5:30 PM CST - Prelims- 7:00 PM CST– Main Card- 9:00 PM CST

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 – UFC Fight Night: Korean Zombie vs Rodriguez

Last week’s UFC fight card gave fans more than we expected, and I am hoping the trend continues with Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Korean Zombie vs Rodriguez. I went 2-4 in my official picks, and that brings my overall record to 6-5. (I could have been 3-3 if I had gone with Cormier instead of the hometown fighter, but I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I did that.) There is plenty of action on this card; don’t sleep on it.

Main Event
Featherweight Division
Chan Sung Jung (#10) 14-4 vs Yair Rodriguez (#15) 11-2

To say I am excited about this fight is an understatement. The Korean Zombie is a holdover fan favorite from ten years ago. It is a shame (but understandable) that we fans lost about four years of his prime fighting career due to his country’s mandatory military service. The Korean Zombie is coming off a win in February of 2017 and was scheduled to fight in July of the same year; however, a knee injury forced him off of the card. Jung is no stranger to long layoffs between fights, but coming off an injury, fighting a young and hungry fighter, and fighting at altitude are several factors working against him.

Jung is well-rounded and can take the fight anywhere. He is still the only man to ever pull off the ultra-rare and ultra-awesome ‘Twister’ submission in a UFC fight. His ground game is his backup technique, as standing and throwing hands is his primary option. His willingness to take damage to give damage is the reason he was aptly nicknamed the Korean Zombie. He has walked through many opponents’ best strikes and come out the other end as the victor. I fear that his age and accumulation of damage throughout his career have made him more susceptible to power shots.

Yair ‘El Pantera’ Rodriguez is an exciting prospect that was on a hype train derailed by Frankie Edgar. To say that Frankie Edgar beat the brakes off Rodriguez would be a disservice to an actual brake beating; it was worse.

Losing to Frankie Edgar is nothing to hold your head down about. Edgar is a walk-in Hall of Famer and hasn’t lost a step in his older MMA age; however, the way Rodriguez reacted to the loss leaves plenty to be desired. The bizarre contract issue with the UFC and Dana White had many fans, including yours truly, wondering what was going on. Here is a prospect who was maybe fed to the lions a few fights too soon and now, in his first UFC loss, is getting cut?

Reading between the lines, you can surmise that Rodriguez did not want to fight Zabit Magomedsharipov in his next fight after taking the Edgar beating. I don’t blame him for that, since Zabit is a bad fight for anyone in the division. Rodriguez relented and eventually had a date with Zabit in September, but he pulled out due to an undisclosed injury. That gets us to where we are now: Rodriguez stepping in on short notice for the man who humiliated him in May of 2017.

I was excited for Yair Rodriguez as he was climbing the rankings ladder. He had a highlight reel knockout of Andre Fili, retired the aging BJ Penn, won several decisions against good fighters, and he’s a countryman. After his fight with Edgar and his antics with who he wanted to fight, he’s lost some of that luster. It will be up to him to gain it back by fighting someone who is tailor-made for his fighting style. This match will be predominantly a standing fight unless Rodriguez chooses to go for a takedown. Rodriguez hits hard, has good leg kicks and decent enough defense, but I don’t think he is fully recovered from his first UFC loss.

I have the Korean Zombie by KO in the third round.

Co-Main Event
Welterweight Division
Donald Cerrone (#12) 33-11-0 1NC vs Mike Perry 12-3

Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone is 1-4 in his last five fights and has not looked great in those losses. He is an action fighter, and his brawling style is catching up to him. He is a great striker with deficiencies in the area that blocks fists from landing on your chin.

Mike Perry is 1-2 in his last three fights but is coming off a decision victory where he held on to beat the undersized Paul Felder. Perry has a lot of power in his strikes and is not known for being technically sound nor for having a game plan. He usually just goes into the cage and is looking to wing heavy punches, knees, and kicks until one connects and his opponent goes to sleep. The fighters who have beat him have picked him apart and won via decision. That being said, I don’t think Cerrone has the chin to withstand Perry’s power.

I have Perry by KO in the second round.

Undercard

The undercard has several potentially exciting matchups including one of my favorite nicknames in the sport trying to keep his undefeated record intact. Luis ‘Violent Bob Ross’ Peña will be fighting fellow undefeated fighter Michael ‘The Lone Wolf’ Trizano. Beneil Dariush is trying to keep his UFC paycheck after going 0-2-1 in his last three fights by welcoming Thiago Moises to the Official UFC. (He was on Dana White’s Tuesday Contender Series.)

Two top five women’s bantamweights, Raquel Pennington (#4) and Germaine de Randamie (#5), fight to inch closer to a title shot. Another Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series alum, Bobby Moffet, is welcomed to the cage by veteran Chas Skelly. There are several fighters making their UFC debuts on this card. Debuts can usually go one of two ways: either they win in fantastic fashion, or the bright lights scare them into defeat. Let’s hope we get more of the former than the latter.

What: UFC Fight Night Korean Zombie vs Rodriguez
Where to watch: Prelims FS1; Main Card FS1
When: Saturday November 10th, 2018
Time: Prelims 7:00 p.m. CST; Main Card 9:00 p.m. CST

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