Sunday, October 4, 2015

UFC 192: Clash of The Light Heavyweight Titans!

Wow!  Contrary to popular belief, there are still great UFC light heavyweight fighters not named Jon Jones!  In the classic "boxer vs. wrestler matchup", Gustafsson and Cormier put on a "Fight of the Year" candidate.  Here are my thoughts on each match of the card:

Eye vs. Pena: Alright, maybe Pena isn't quite ready for Rousey yet.  Nonetheless, she proved that she is an elite female bantamweight by dominating Eye in Round 1 and Round 3 on the ground.  Not to mention that it's hard to fault "The Venezuelan Vixen" for not stopping an opponent who hasn't been finished since 2011.  Pena was only in trouble in Round 2, when Eye her down, took her back, and later got an arm-triangle.  Even then, she escaped and was back on top when Eye fouled her with a knee to the head (which definitely did NOT look accidental) and got a well-deserved point deduction.  While I would like Pena to get one more fight against a top-five bantamweight before she fights Rousey, that's unlikely.  The champ has mowed down everybody else, so Pena's the number 1 contender by default and will probably get the chance she requested to prove that she's Rousey's "Evander Holyfield" (unless Holm can pull the upset next month).

Winner: Julianna Pena (unanimous decision)  

Benavidez vs. Bagautinov: Benavidez had more diverse striking, using knees and headkicks as well as boxing combos.  Nonetheless, I felt Bagautinov won the last two Rounds because he was more aggressive.  On top of that, he got two takedowns and a suplex in Round 2.  The judges, however, saw it differently, which is why you should always finish your opponent in MMA.

Winner: Joseph Benavidez (unanimous decision)

Jordan vs. Magomedov: Apparently, experience isn't everything.  Even though Round 1 was even, the "Leopard" ran circles around "The Savage" for the rest of the fight with boxing 1-2 combos and roundhouse kicks to the head.  In the highlight of the fight, Magomedov did a spinning back kick in Round 3 which cut open Jordan's right eye.  Other than a takedown in Round 1, Jordan was simply too slow for Magomedov, and, in spite of his strength, was often outmuscled when he did clinch with him.

Winner: Ruslan Magomedov (unanimous decision)

Bader vs. Evans:  With two takedowns and by working his jab, Bader easily outpointed Evans and proved he is the one who most deserves a light heavyweight title shot (although he will probably be leapfrogged by Jon "Teflon Bones" Jones).  In contrast, Evans just made a couple of half-hearted takedown attempts and threw the occasional punch or kick which didn't do any damage.   In other words, the former light heavyweight champ's heart doesn't seem to be in it anymore and if that's the case, he would be better off retiring and becoming a full-time analyst.

Winner: Ryan Bader (unanimous decision)

Cormier vs. Gustafsson:  What do you get when you put a boxer and a wrestler in the cage?  World War III!  I personally would have given Gustafsson the nod, but it was a really close fight!  In this standup war, Gustafsson was the technician, working over Cormier's face and body with boxing combos and knee strikes, including one knee to the face which dropped "DC" in Round 3.  Only Cormier's heart and grit allowed him to survive.  In contrast, DC was more aggressive, hitting Gustafsson with uppercuts in the clinch and proving that he could box as well as wrestle.  On top of that, he did his most spectacular slam ever, hoisting the 6-foot-5 Swede into the air, flipping him upside down, and dumping him on his back.  Gustafsson, however, proved he could wrestle, too, by becoming the second man to ever take Cormier down and stuffing most of the champion's takedown attempts.  To be honest, this "Fight Of The Year" candidate was so awesome that both men were winners.

Winner (and still UFC light heavyweight champion): Daniel Cormier (split decision)   

Saturday, October 3, 2015

UFC 192: My Predictions

Finally, another stacked UFC PPV!  As much as I am disappointed by the loss of Hendricks vs. Woodley (which was scrapped due to a weight cut which ended with Hendricks going to the hospital), there are still enough other matches to keep this card solid.  Here are my predictions for each fight:

Eye vs. Pena:  Julianna Pena is a tenacious, powerful monster who has crushed everyone who has gotten in her way since she was on "The Ultimate Fighter."  I believe she is actually the greatest threat to Ronda Rousey at the moment, because, in addition to her ferocity, heart, and KO power, she has never failed a test for steroids (unlike a certain other "challenger" who's not even on UFC's roster).  In contrast, Jessica Eye seems to have peaked with her decision victory over Sarah Kaufman in October of 2013 (which was overturned due to a failed drug test for marijuana).  While she is a decent technical striker, she was manhandled for 2 out of 3 rounds in her match against Alexis Davis  and dominated in her fight against Miesha Tate.  In other words, she is currently in gatekeeper mode, and I believe that Pena will mow her down with ground-and-pound in Round 2 on the way to getting a title shot.

My prediction: Julianna Pena by TKO.

Benavidez vs. Bagautinov:  I have never seen Bagautinov fight, but I have seen Benavidez, who would be flyweight champion if it wasn't for the much faster "Mighty Mouse."  I see Benavidez staying at the top of the division by grinding out a decision victory with his wrestling.

My prediction: Joseph Benavidez by decision.

Jordan vs. Magomedov: I have to pick Jordan here, due to his UFC experience and that brutal headkick which took down Derrick Lewis in June.  I do not see this going the distance: Jordan will probably KO Magomedov in Round 2.

My prediction: Shawn Jordan by KO.

Bader vs. Evans: Three years ago, I would have gone with Evans.  However, the former champion has been on the shelf for 2 years due to injury and is 36, whereas Bader is 32 and on a 4-fight winning streak.  For that reason, I think "Darth" Bader is finally going to earn a title shot with a decision win over "Suga" in his comeback tour.

My prediction: Ryan Bader via decision.

Cormier vs. Gustafsson: After dominating Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, it is clear that "DC" is the best light heavyweight other than Jon Jones.  He arguably has the best wrestling technique in the UFC as well.  That being said, at 36, he is fighting on borrowed time.  Gustafsson, at 28, is in his prime, and spent three-and-a-half rounds brutalizing the guy who gave DC his first loss before getting robbed by the judges.  At the same time, we can't discount the fact that Gustafsson was violently knocked out by "Rumble" in one round, whereas DC popped right back up after getting hit with the same overhand right and managed to wear Johnson down with wrestling before submitting him in Round 3.  This fight comes down to strategy: if Gustafsson can use his boxing and footwork to keep DC at bay and drag him into the later rounds, then he will win by decision.  If DC can close the distance early and go "Zangief" on "The Mauler", then he will win by submission.  Personally, I believe that Gustafsson will be able to implement his game plan first and take the decision, albeit by the skin of his teeth, and set up a rematch to settle the score with Jon Jones (assuming "Bones" decides to come back to the UFC, of course).

My prediction: Gustafsson via decision.