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Ben Askren, King Of Twitter, Mows Down Danis, McGregor

Don’t ever play the logic game with “Funky.”

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion, Conor McGregor, trained jiu-jitsu under Dillon Danis (again) ahead of his Khabib Nurmagomedov title fight at UFC 229 last October in Las Vegas.

Danis was so confident in McGregor’s abilities, he went on record to suggest “Notorious” could defeat “The Eagle” in a straight-up grappling match, roughly one month before McGregor was submitted by Nurmagomedov in round four of their headlining affair.

So do we blame the teacher or the student? Let’s ask Danis.

Then Ben Askren with the flash knockout (words you may never hear again):

That’s not to suggest Askren is loyal to little brother Nurmagomedov.

The “Funky” welterweight just likes to make trouble with every available fighter, regardless of weight class. When he’s not busy trolling “Marty from Nebraska,” the former Bellator MMA and ONE Championship titleholder is prepping for his Robbie Lawler fight at UFC 235.

Just don’t expect him to ever call out McGregor.

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Predictions! Breaking Down UFC 234 Main, Co-Main Event

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will take a break from its ESPN+ fight cards to bring mixed martial arts (MMA) fans its latest and greatest pay-per-view (PPV) offering, headlined by a middleweight title fight, as well as a 185-pound No. 1 contender’s clash.

Front and center will be Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum, who battle for “The Reaper’s” belt across five rounds of middleweight action. Unless, of course, something dramatic happens before the 25 minutes expire.

Speaking of dramatic, former 185-pound champion, Anderson Silva, makes his return to the Octagon against kickboxing import Israel Adesanya. The winner is expected to compete for the title, which means the winner of Whittaker-Gastelum already has his next opponent lined up.

Before we break down the main and co-main event (stream them on Amazon by clicking here), let’s take a look at what “Prelims” maestro, Patrick Stumberg, had to say about all the action spread across the ESPN and UFC Fight Pass cards by clicking here and here.

UFC 234 odds and betting lines can be unpacked here.

185 lbs.: Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker

Record: 20-4 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -235
Wins: 9 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 73” | Leg reach: 43”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 774 of 1901 (41%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt | Takedown attempts: 4 of 7 (57%)

Kelvin Gastelum

Record: 15-3, 1 NC | Age: 27 | Betting line: +195
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 71” | Leg reach: 39”
Stance: Southpaw | Striking accuracy: 637 of 1458 (44%)
Ranks: 10th planet jiu-jitsu purple belt | Takedown attempts: 9 of 18 (50%)

I know Kelvin Gastelum doesn’t always get the respect he deserves, and sometimes he brings the problems upon himself. Whether it’s smoking pot before a big fight or refusing to skip pasta night the day before weigh ins, the former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) champion has relied more on talent than hard work. That should give you a pretty good idea of just how good he is (and can be), as the porky welterweight masquerading as a middleweight has been able to notch wins over some notoriously tough outs in the form of Tim Kennedy, Michael Bisping, and Ronaldo Souza. He also neutralized Tyron Woodley back when Uncle Dana allowed him to fight at 170 pounds.

He’s solid in just about every area and should not be taken lightly.

Unfortunately for Gastelum, he’s facing someone his own age and not a thirty-something veteran who’s been through the proverbial mill. Also a former welterweight, Whittaker has been an absolute monster at 185 pounds and is now the winner of nine straight with five finishes. The big selling point is “The Reaper’s” ability to withstand the bludgeoning power of Yoel Romero and for good reason: it’s something no other fighter has been able to accomplish in UFC. How those brutal, five-round wars affected Whittaker’s ability to compete at the highest level is certainly a question worth asking, but at age 28, I’m not sure he’s going to exhibit any signs of deterioration just yet.

This fight is fairly simple for me, at least in terms of predicting. Gastelum is like that entry level video game character who comes with a basic set of sills, enough to get the journey started, and would eventually become Whittaker after a series of level-ups and in-game bonuses. “The Reaper” is simply better in every department and I don’t see where the challenger has an advantage. Gastelum is not the better boxer, certainly does not have the better cardio, and won’t be able to wrestle his way to a decision. He is one tough S.O.B., however, and will likely be in the fight for all five rounds, but don’t expect the scorecards to be close.

Prediction: Whittaker def. Gastelum by unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya

Anderson “The Spider” Silva

Record: 34-8, 1 NC | Age: 43 | Betting line: +450
Wins: 22 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC, 1 DQ
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 77” | Leg reach: 42”
Stance: Southpaw | Striking accuracy: 740 of 1213 (61%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 3 of 4 (75%)

Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya

Record: 15-0 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -600
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 80” | Leg reach: 44”
Stance: Switch | Striking accuracy: 241 of 436 (55%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt | Takedown attempts: 0 of 3 (0%)

I know all the cool kids already have Anderson Silva dead and buried, based on his age and tough run over the last couple of years, but let’s not break out the pine box just yet. I think in the case of “The Spider,” his extended layoff was a positive (just like his last drug test), because it gave his body and mind the ability to heal, refocus, and reenergize. We know going into this fight against Israel Adesanya that the action is going to play out on the feet and that will actually work to “The Spider’s” advantage. Keep in mind, this is only a three-round contest and we can already call the opening frame a wash, as both strikers settle in, establish range, and flick the jab, waiting for the other to commit.

We never got the chance to see Silva test his striking — both offensively and defensively — against any real competition. Finishes over guys like Chael Sonnen, Stephan Bonnar, and Yushin Okami look great in the highlight reels, but are they a true measure of one’s technical prowess? Adesanya, meanwhile, was making his mark in the kickboxing circuit which admittedly, has a depressingly shallow talent pool as the marquee names jump ship in search of those MMA bucks. But even Silva’s most challenging opponents who were best known for their hands, like Vitor Belfort and Rich Franklin, would get embarrassed in stand-up fights against most of Adesanya’s past opponents, like Bogdan Stoica and Simon Marcus.

Silva is over the hill and hasn’t looked impressive in many moons, but that doesn’t change him as a competitor. Why does he still fight at this age? He certainly doesn’t need the money. “The Spider” is a fierce competitor and loves to win, and I would expect the very best version of the Brazilian come fight night. It won’t be enough, but I think some fans are going to be surprised at just how competitive this bout is, and Silva may even leave with a moral victory. If Marvin Vettori and Brad Tavares can make it a fight against Adesanya, so can the former champ.

Prediction: Adesanya def. Silva by unanimous decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 234 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

To see who else is fighting at UFC 234 click here.

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Predictions! Breaking Down UFC Fortaleza Headliners

To sign up for a free seven-day trial of ESPN+ click here.

Marlon Moraes and Renato Carneiro want to fight for the UFC title.

To do that, they’ll first need to dispose of two longtime veterans in the form of Raphael Assuncao and Jose Aldo, in what is an all-Brazilian affair atop the UFC on ESPN+ 2 mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card this Sat. night (Feb. 2, 2019) inside Northeast Olympic Training Center in Fortaleza, Brazil.

Moraes and Assuncao are no strangers, having fought to a split-decision at UFC 212 in June of 2017. It was the Octagon debut for “Magic,” who was forced to settle for a split-decision loss. As for Aldo, this will be his opportunity to prove he’s still got some gas left in the tank.

Well, at least enough to last three rounds.

Before we take a closer look at the UFC Fortaleza main and co-main events, let’s see what pro fighter and MMAmania.com fight analyst Andrew Richardson had to say about the rest of the ESPN+ main card by clicking here.

Odds and betting lines for all of this weekend’s action can be located here.

135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Marlon Moraes

Raphael Assuncao

Record: 27-5 | Age: 36 | Betting line: +150
Wins: 4 KO/TKO, 10 SUB, 13 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’5“ | Reach: 66” | Leg reach: 38.5”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 796 of 1961 (41%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 13 of 61 (36%)

“Magic” Marlon Moraes

Record: 21-5-1 | Age: 30 | Betting line: -170
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 5’6“ | Reach: 67” | Leg reach: 37”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 103 of 304 (34%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt | Takedown attempts: 1 of 4 (25%)

I’m always fascinated at how Raphael Assuncao can make any fight boring, which sounds like a biting critique, but it’s actually kind of an amazing attribute and a testament to his complex game. The Brazilian has a way of shutting down explosive fighters and making dynamic strikers like Marlon Moraes look … well, ordinary. That’s what happened in their first go-round and I would not expect much of a difference in their bantamweight rematch.

Part of what makes Assuncao so difficult to open up against is his counterattack, as well as his formidable grappling. He’s not perfect, of course, but 7-1 over the last eight years is pretty damn close and his patient, defensive-minded style is well suited for five rounds. I think the big question for me, is how healthy he is at age 36 in a career that saw its fair share of debilitating injuries.

Like his opponent, Moraes has been a tough nut to crack at 135 pounds. Jimmie Rivera learned — after waking up — that trying to stand and bang with “Magic” will make your consciousness disappear. That performance, along with his blistering knockout over Aljamain Sterling, is exactly what Moraes needed after the first Assuncao fight, which he followed up with a ho-hum win over flyweight export John Dodson. That tells me he’s settled in and comfortable in his new home. Hopefully not too comfortable.

I think Assuncao is a bad match up for Moraes, much like he was the first time they fought. That said, “Magic” is firing on all cylinders and is competing in his athletic prime. Assuncao turns 37 in July and speed — as well as timing — are the first to go. Look for something clean to land, and land early, making Moraes the clearcut contender at 135 pounds.

Prediction: Moraes def. Assuncao by knockout

Jose “Junior” Aldo

Record: 27-4 | Age: 32 | Betting line: +115
Wins: 16 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 10 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’7“ | Reach: 70” | Leg reach: 40”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 943 of 2115 (45%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 12 of 19 (68%)

Renato “Moicano” Carneiro

Record: 13-1-1 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -135
Wins: 0 KO/TKO, 6 SUB, 7 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 0 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 72” | Leg reach: 42”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 404 of 861 (47%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 6 of 11 (55%)

It’s weird to hear people talk about Jose Aldo like he’s some old, washed-up relic from the days of World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC). The Brazilian is still just 32 years old and his only losses in the last 14 years have come against Conor McGregor and Max Holloway, two of the best strikers in the world, in any weight class. I think it’s the manner in which he lost that has everyone jumping ship, but his finish over Jeremy Stephens tells me that Aldo isn’t done just yet. He’s still a dangerous striker with blistering speed and a resume that boasts the best fighters to ever compete at 145 pounds.

Where Aldo runs into trouble is his cardio. When opponents allow him to operate at a measured, defensive pace, “Junior” shines through a combination of precision striking and punishing leg kicks. Unfortunately, as we saw against Holloway and even as far back as Mark Hominick, his meaty frame will often betray him in high-output fights. Limbs become heavy, breathing becomes labored, and the Brazilian is essentially a sitting duck. Sorry, I don’t believe that crap about title shots when it comes to choosing a three-round fight.

Carneiro, 29, is touted as one of the premiere grapplers of the featherweight division and for good reason. Not only is he adept at out-thinking his opponents, that long, lean frame bodes well for wrapping up limbs during a ground scramble, much like Charles Oliveira. That said, he doesn’t get enough credit for his striking, which may be because he doesn’t have any wins by knockout in 15 trips to the cage. Cardio has never been an issue and I don’t expect this fight to be the exception.

It’s no secret that MMA is a cruel mistress and when she’s done with you, she’s DONE. Has Aldo been door slammed? Maybe, but I think this is the fight that makes (or breaks) that case. Carneiro has been impressive to date, but his level of competition has been “good” and never great. Submitting Cub Swanson is something that has been done seven times and “winning the Brian Ortega fight until…” is a poor argument. You’re only winning a fight when it’s over and your hand is raised and “Moicano’s” wasn’t. Without a victory over a Top 5 opponent, I can’t see a reason to pick him over someone as decorated as Aldo.

Prediction: Aldo def. Carneiro by decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 144 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

For the complete UFC Fortaleza fight card and ESPN+ line up click here.

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Predictions! Breaking Down Lee-Iaquinta, Barboza-Hooker 

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will end its seven-year run on the FOX network with the UFC on FOX 31: “Lee vs. Iaquinta 2” mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card, taking place this Sat. night (Dec. 15, 2018) inside Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Sorry to all the financial planners out there but Fiserv is a terrible name and I hate it.

UFC on FOX 31 will be headlined by the lightweight rematch pitting top lightweight contender Kevin Lee opposite 155-pound slugger Al Iaquinta. In the Milwaukee co-main event, lightweight striking sensation Edson Barboza, apparently too cool for a nickname, trades leather with dangerous Dan “The Hangman” Hooker.

Before we take a closer look at those two fights, see what resident fighter and top MMA analyst, Andrew Richardson, had to say about the rest of the main card match ups in his “X-Factor” preview right here. Looking for a breakdown of the UFC Milwaukee “Prelims” bouts? Patrick Stumberg has those locked down here and here.

UFC on FOX 31 odds and betting lines can be found here.

155 lbs.: Kevin “Motown Phenom” Lee (17-3) vs. “Ragin’” Al Iaquinta (13-4-1)

The Good:

Lee has won six of his last seven and was right there with Ferguson until getting caught in a submission. His rebound fight against Edson Barboza proved he’s not going anywhere and at age 26, he’s still in his fighting prime. You can even argue that the best is yet to come from one of the most athletic fighters in the division. His last five wins have all come by way of knockout or submission.

It appears Iaquinta is serious about his career again, though it wasn’t that long ago when he was telling promotion president Dana White to “shut the fuck up” and begging UFC to cut him. I know the “stick to real estate” jokes are plentiful after he got jabbed to death by Khabib Nurmagomedov, but prior to his short-notice “Eagle” showdown, “Ragin’ Al” won five straight with four knockouts.

The Bad:

Lee is fast and built like a shredded running back, but where is his stopping power? In 17 wins, “Motown Phenom” has just two knockouts and one of those came by way of doctor’s stoppage. I also question his level of competition. Hey, wins are wins, I get that, but his only victory over a lightweight currently ranked in the Top 10 is Barboza. And I have a real problem with his view of drunken Jersey Boys because they are actually from Long Island.

Iaquinta didn’t fight at all in 2016 and competed just once in 2017. He’s aways been something of a maniac (just ask the hotel staff), but his disgruntlement has cost him prime years of his fighting career. I believe he’s taking this fight seriously, but I also believe “Ragin’ Al” hasn’t evolved since the last time he fought Lee. I agree that Nurmagomedov doesn’t get enough credit for his striking, but Iaquinta was still looking pretty silly at UFC 223.

The Ugly:

Lee is practically boiled alive in his attempts to make the lightweight mark.

Iaquinta needs to work on his Twitter game.

Stats:

Lee, fighting orthodox, is 26 years-old and stands 5’9” with a 77” reach. He holds just two knockout wins against eight submission victories. “Motown Phenom” has been defeated by knockout (1), submission (1), and decision (1). Iaquinta, 31, is 5’9” with a 70” reach and also stands orthodox. He’s scored seven knockouts and just one submission win against three losses by submission and one by decision. The betting lines have Lee as the favorite (-350) and Iaquinta (+290) as the underdog.

Prediction:

Iaquinta was a collegiate wrestler, just like Lee, so “Motown Phenom” won’t have his usual bag of tricks to rely on. But MMA wrestling is more than just takedowns. Good wrestlers use it for control and to stop the attack of power punchers while also frustrating their opponents. I’m sure anyone paying attention knows how easily it is to frustrate “Ragin’ Al” and that is Lee’s path to victory.

I expect this fight to be decided by the better athlete, not the better fighter. Iaquinta has power and has already proved he can box, but his style becomes predictable and there isn’t much diversity in his offense. I think Lee outworks him across most of their five rounds and to be honest, I’m not sure it will even be that difficult. Mentally, I believe Iaquinta checked out a long time ago and is never coming back.

Prediction: Lee def Iaquinta by unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Edson Barboza (19-6) vs. Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (17-7)

The Good:

Barboza is, and always was, one of the division’s flashiest strikers and has the kind of highlight reel that up-and-coming fighters dream of. His legs are so deadly that he’s finished three opponents by way of leg kick. Prior to his MMA career, the Brazilian was 25-3 in Muay Thai with 22 knockouts and 17 first-round finishes. When the action stays on the feet, Barboza is about as exciting as they come.

Hooker may have looked avenger on paper, thanks largely in part to his 3-3 record to open his UFC career, but “The Hangman” is one of the most ruthless finishers in any weight class, ending 16 of his 17 bouts by way of unbridled violence. You can thank his move up to the lightweight division for that and Hooker is in the prime of his career, showcasing his ability to win fights wherever they go.

The Bad:

It’s almost 2019 and Barboza still cannot defend the takedown or work from guard, evidenced by the near-death experiences against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee. The former is forgivable considering “The Eagle” is the best in the world, but the Brazilian is simply unable to beat top-five fighters, previously losing to Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone, among others.

There isn’t much to say about Hooker after his jump up to 155 pounds, the guy is a fucking killer. I guess the only knock on his vaunted streak is that it came against the cream of the crap. Ross Pearson hasn’t been relevant since 2008, Marc Diakiese dropped three in a row, and Jim Miller has more miles on his tires than my sister’s ‘72 Buick. Gilbert Burns, meanwhile, isn’t even ranked in the Top 15.

The Ugly:

Barboza absorbed 138 significant strikes to the head in his loss to Lee.

Hooker wants to make a name for himself by beating up brain-dead opponents.

Stats:

Barboza, fighting orthodox, is 32 years-old and stands 5’11” with a 75” reach. He’s finished 11 opponents by way of knockout and locked up just one submission. The Brazilian has been defeated by knockout (2), submission (2), and decision (2). Hooker, 28, is a switch-stance fighter who stands 6’0” and holds a 75” reach. He has just one decision win against nine knockouts and seven submissions. “The Hangman” has been defeated five times by decision and submitted twice. The odds have Barboza a slight underdog at +100 against the favored Hooker at -120.

Prediction:

If you’re going to be a one-dimensional fighter and expect to compete for a division title — or at least be in the running — then you need to be a suffocating wrestler. See Askren, Ben. Stand-up attacks are so much easier to neutralize and let’s face it, Barboza is not that hard to figure out. He’s going to try to kick you and expect the same in return, like when Frank Dux out-kicked Paco in Bloodsport.

That’s not going to cut it against Hooker, who doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being such a cerebral fighter. He doesn’t score finishes because he’s winging punches or grabbing limbs out of desperation, he knows when to adjust, how to be fluid, and when to go for the kill. This fight will be no different and as much as it pains me to say this, Barboza is likely shot after his last two lopsided losses.

Prediction: Hooker def. Barboza by technical knockout

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 31 fight card on Saturday (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

For much more on UFC on FOX 31 click here.

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Predictions! Breaking Down Lee-Iaquinta, Barboza-Hooker 

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will end its seven-year run on the FOX network with the UFC on FOX 31: “Lee vs. Iaquinta 2” mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card, taking place this Sat. night (Dec. 15, 2018) inside Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Sorry to all the financial planners out there but Fiserv is a terrible name and I hate it.

UFC on FOX 31 will be headlined by the lightweight rematch pitting top lightweight contender Kevin Lee opposite 155-pound slugger Al Iaquinta. In the Milwaukee co-main event, lightweight striking sensation Edson Barboza, apparently too cool for a nickname, trades leather with dangerous Dan “The Hangman” Hooker.

Before we take a closer look at those two fights, see what resident fighter and top MMA analyst, Andrew Richardson, had to say about the rest of the main card match ups in his “X-Factor” preview right here. Looking for a breakdown of the UFC Milwaukee “Prelims” bouts? Patrick Stumberg has those locked down here and here.

UFC on FOX 31 odds and betting lines can be found here.

155 lbs.: Kevin “Motown Phenom” Lee (17-3) vs. “Ragin’” Al Iaquinta (13-4-1)

The Good:

Lee has won six of his last seven and was right there with Ferguson until getting caught in a submission. His rebound fight against Edson Barboza proved he’s not going anywhere and at age 26, he’s still in his fighting prime. You can even argue that the best is yet to come from one of the most athletic fighters in the division. His last five wins have all come by way of knockout or submission.

It appears Iaquinta is serious about his career again, though it wasn’t that long ago when he was telling promotion president Dana White to “shut the fuck up” and begging UFC to cut him. I know the “stick to real estate” jokes are plentiful after he got jabbed to death by Khabib Nurmagomedov, but prior to his short-notice “Eagle” showdown, “Ragin’ Al” won five straight with four knockouts.

The Bad:

Lee is fast and built like a shredded running back, but where is his stopping power? In 17 wins, “Motown Phenom” has just two knockouts and one of those came by way of doctor’s stoppage. I also question his level of competition. Hey, wins are wins, I get that, but his only victory over a lightweight currently ranked in the Top 10 is Barboza. And I have a real problem with his view of drunken Jersey Boys because they are actually from Long Island.

Iaquinta didn’t fight at all in 2016 and competed just once in 2017. He’s aways been something of a maniac (just ask the hotel staff), but his disgruntlement has cost him prime years of his fighting career. I believe he’s taking this fight seriously, but I also believe “Ragin’ Al” hasn’t evolved since the last time he fought Lee. I agree that Nurmagomedov doesn’t get enough credit for his striking, but Iaquinta was still looking pretty silly at UFC 223.

The Ugly:

Lee is practically boiled alive in his attempts to make the lightweight mark.

Iaquinta needs to work on his Twitter game.

Stats:

Lee, fighting orthodox, is 26 years-old and stands 5’9” with a 77” reach. He holds just two knockout wins against eight submission victories. “Motown Phenom” has been defeated by knockout (1), submission (1), and decision (1). Iaquinta, 31, is 5’9” with a 70” reach and also stands orthodox. He’s scored seven knockouts and just one submission win against three losses by submission and one by decision. The betting lines have Lee as the favorite (-350) and Iaquinta (+290) as the underdog.

Prediction:

Iaquinta was a collegiate wrestler, just like Lee, so “Motown Phenom” won’t have his usual bag of tricks to rely on. But MMA wrestling is more than just takedowns. Good wrestlers use it for control and to stop the attack of power punchers while also frustrating their opponents. I’m sure anyone paying attention knows how easily it is to frustrate “Ragin’ Al” and that is Lee’s path to victory.

I expect this fight to be decided by the better athlete, not the better fighter. Iaquinta has power and has already proved he can box, but his style becomes predictable and there isn’t much diversity in his offense. I think Lee outworks him across most of their five rounds and to be honest, I’m not sure it will even be that difficult. Mentally, I believe Iaquinta checked out a long time ago and is never coming back.

Prediction: Lee def Iaquinta by unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Edson Barboza (19-6) vs. Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (17-7)

The Good:

Barboza is, and always was, one of the division’s flashiest strikers and has the kind of highlight reel that up-and-coming fighters dream of. His legs are so deadly that he’s finished three opponents by way of leg kick. Prior to his MMA career, the Brazilian was 25-3 in Muay Thai with 22 knockouts and 17 first-round finishes. When the action stays on the feet, Barboza is about as exciting as they come.

Hooker may have looked avenger on paper, thanks largely in part to his 3-3 record to open his UFC career, but “The Hangman” is one of the most ruthless finishers in any weight class, ending 16 of his 17 bouts by way of unbridled violence. You can thank his move up to the lightweight division for that and Hooker is in the prime of his career, showcasing his ability to win fights wherever they go.

The Bad:

It’s almost 2019 and Barboza still cannot defend the takedown or work from guard, evidenced by the near-death experiences against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee. The former is forgivable considering “The Eagle” is the best in the world, but the Brazilian is simply unable to beat top-five fighters, previously losing to Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone, among others.

There isn’t much to say about Hooker after his jump up to 155 pounds, the guy is a fucking killer. I guess the only knock on his vaunted streak is that it came against the cream of the crap. Ross Pearson hasn’t been relevant since 2008, Marc Diakiese dropped three in a row, and Jim Miller has more miles on his tires than my sister’s ‘72 Buick. Gilbert Burns, meanwhile, isn’t even ranked in the Top 15.

The Ugly:

Barboza absorbed 138 significant strikes to the head in his loss to Lee.

Hooker wants to make a name for himself by beating up brain-dead opponents.

Stats:

Barboza, fighting orthodox, is 32 years-old and stands 5’11” with a 75” reach. He’s finished 11 opponents by way of knockout and locked up just one submission. The Brazilian has been defeated by knockout (2), submission (2), and decision (2). Hooker, 28, is a switch-stance fighter who stands 6’0” and holds a 75” reach. He has just one decision win against nine knockouts and seven submissions. “The Hangman” has been defeated five times by decision and submitted twice. The odds have Barboza a slight underdog at +100 against the favored Hooker at -120.

Prediction:

If you’re going to be a one-dimensional fighter and expect to compete for a division title — or at least be in the running — then you need to be a suffocating wrestler. See Askren, Ben. Stand-up attacks are so much easier to neutralize and let’s face it, Barboza is not that hard to figure out. He’s going to try to kick you and expect the same in return, like when Frank Dux out-kicked Paco in Bloodsport.

That’s not going to cut it against Hooker, who doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being such a cerebral fighter. He doesn’t score finishes because he’s winging punches or grabbing limbs out of desperation, he knows when to adjust, how to be fluid, and when to go for the kill. This fight will be no different and as much as it pains me to say this, Barboza is likely shot after his last two lopsided losses.

Prediction: Hooker def. Barboza by technical knockout

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 31 fight card on Saturday (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

For much more on UFC on FOX 31 click here.

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Swanson Shoots Down Reports Of Aldo Rematch At UFC 233

Consider the gun officially jumped.

Cub Swanson will not be fighting Jose Aldo at the upcoming UFC 233 pay-per-view (PPV) event next month in Anaheim, Calif., despite online reports suggesting the deal was already done. The part-time brewer did, however, express interest in that potential rematch at a later date.

Swanson and Aldo have fought just about everyone there is to fight on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster, including one another, thanks to more than a decade spent throwing hands in mixed martial arts (MMA).

Anyone else suddenly nostalgic for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC)?

Aldo (27-4) ran through Swanson in just eight seconds at WEC 41 way back in 2009, part of a ridiculous 18-fight winning streak that included two championship titles and nine violent finishes. “Junior” was eventually upended by Conor McGregor at UFC 194 and has since gone 2-2 with a pair of losses to current champion Max Holloway.

After his drubbing against Aldo, Swanson (25-10) rebounded to win eight of his next 10, but has recently fallen on hard times. “Killer Cub” is mired in a three-fight losing streak in which he was finished twice, including last August’s submission loss to Brazilian wunderkind Renato Carneiro.

Not sure if the promotion (or Aldo) would be interested in holding off until February, but I don’t hate this fight, considering where both combatants are in their respective careers.

Anyone disagree?

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Whittaker Shoots Down ‘Bulls—t’ Rumor Spread By Dana White

“Seems ridiculous that we’re still talking about Rob becoming mainstream in his own country, but from what I hear from my people, Rob doesn’t love doing PR.” — Dana White

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, is scheduled to defend his title against top 185-pound contender, Kelvin Gastelum, at the upcoming UFC 234 pay-per-view (PPV) event on Feb. 10, 2019 inside Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

That will, of course, require champion and challenger to promote their five-round affair both locally and abroad. But it seems “The Reaper” is being accused of acting like a media diva and refusing to meet his championship responsibilities.

So naturally, promotion president Dana White ran with it during his recent press tour “Down Under,” because White likes to tell the mixed martial arts (MMA) community when his fighters are acting like insufferable egomaniacs.

“Someone told Dana White that I don’t do PR or I’m not easy to work with and that’s bullshit,” Whittaker told Submission Radio. “I’ve done every PR and every media event they’ve put up to me. The big thing is, though, they get the shits when I say, ‘Sorry, I can’t make it, I have training at this time.’ What do you want me to do? Do you want me to fight or do you want me to do this? Work around me a little bit. It was just a miscommunication and that’s all.”

It’s not uncommon for UFC champions to complain about their media obligations because the more famous you get, the more coverage you receive. That was one of the biggest problems the “attacked” Ronda Rousey had during her championship title reign, which eventually led to this.

“I do all sorts of media stuff,” Whittaker said. “I’ve never said no or turned down a media event unless it clashes hard with a session I cannot miss. So, it’s part of the job. I think it’s just gotta be a healthy balance. I don’t know anything about running the company of UFC. That’s not my specialty. All I do know is that I need to train in order to win fights. UFC want me to win fights. So if you want me to do PR, let’s work together, let’s work around it. Try to fit in around my times, please.”

Silly “Reaper,” only the fighting Irish are allowed to get away with that.

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Calvillo Wants Waterson, Shoots Down Weigh-In Conspiracies

Some of you newer fans may not remember when Gina Carano weighed in for EliteXC: “Heat” back in 2008, but poor “Conviction” had to drop her drawers — and everything else — in order to hit the 141-pound mark for her catchweight fight against Kelly Kobald.

The towels were less than cooperative, leading to a few close calls (recap here).

These days, female fighters who strip to make weight get to lumber onstage hiding inside that shower-curtain costume that Daniel LaRusso wore in The Karate Kid, but even then things can get a bit dicey.

That explains why Cynthia Calvillo was so wobbly when trying to make weight for UFC Fight Night 140 last weekend in Argentina (watch the replay here). Sure, she felt like shit, but by her own words, she wasn’t on the verge of fainting.

“I think it looked way worse when I weighed in,” Calvillo said on Saturday. “It looked like I almost fainted, but the truth of the matter is when I got onto the scale my face didn’t look too happy. I was being really careful, the towel itself was too low, they told me to put my hands up and I would have shown my whole top. So that’s why I went down, it looked like I was gonna faint, but that’s not the case. I just didn’t want to give everyone a free show.”

Calvillo came in at 118 pounds for her strawweight fight against Poliana Botelho, a bout she won by first-round submission to kick off the FOX Sports 1 main card from inside Parque Roca Arena in Buenos Aires (highlights here).

Perhaps it’s time for that Michelle Waterson fight?

Calvillo (7-1) was actually booked to throw down with “Karate Hottie” earlier this year; however, a failed drug test for marijuana torpedoed that bout and sent Waterson to victory against Cortney Casey-Sanchez last April.

“It’s just a fight that we had at the time,” Cavillo said. “She was somebody who was ranked above me. I think it’s a good fight, I have respect for her, but we signed a contract and I like following through with it.”

Waterson (16-6) was last seen capturing a unanimous decision win over Felice Herrig at UFC 229 back in October.

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Predictions! Breaking Down UFC Argentina Main, Co-Main Events

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is charging full steam ahead, which means a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card every night for the rest of the year (that’s seven, for all you math wizards). That includes the UFC Fight Night 140 event on FOX Sports 1, taking place this Sat. night (Nov. 17, 2018) inside Parque Roca Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Leading the charge will be welterweight title hopefuls Neil Magny and Santiago Ponzinibbio, who may not be mainstream stars (yet), but are definitely in “the mix” with a big performance this weekend. The former sits at No. 8 in the official rankings (see them here), whereas the latter clocks in at No. 10.

Before the 170-pound headliner pops off, former featherweight title contender, Ricardo Lamas, will look to prove he’s not yesterday’s news by turning away the venerable Darren Elkins. Separated by just one spot in the official rankings, this 145-pound showdown is a pivotal fight for both combatants, who are both in their mid-thirties.

Before we go ahead and look at the main and co-main events, be sure to see what pro fighter and resident analyst Andrew Richardson had to say about the rest of the main card bouts by clicking here. In addition, the UFC Fight Night 140 preliminary fights were dissected by the indomitable Patty Stumberg here and here.

Let’s finish the job here and now.

Welterweight: Neil Magny (21-6) vs. Santiago ‘Gente Boa’ Ponzinibbio (26-3)

Biggest Win For Magny? Unanimous decision victory over Carlos Condit
Biggest loss? Submission defeat to Rafael dos Anjos
Biggest Win For Ponzinibbio? Unanimous decision victory over Mike Perry
Biggest loss? Technical knockout defeat to Lorenz Larkin
Latest Odds: Magny (+240) vs. Ponzinibbio (-280)
How these two match up: Consistency is the biggest issue with Magny, who always seems to stumble right at the precipice of greatness. After a dreadful 1-2 start to his UFC career, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 veteran put together seven straight wins with four finishes. Then came a high-profile submission loss to perennial title contender Demian Maia. Certainly no shame in that, and Magny rebounded by winning his next three, including back-to-back victories over Hector Lombard and Kelvin Gastelum. Similarly, his journey to the 170-pound title was derailed by submission, courtesy of former lightweight champion, Rafael dos Anjos. Do we once again put faith in Magny based on his recent wins over Carlos Condit and Craig White?

I think we have to first decide what condition Condit was in during that contest, something that is applicable to earlier victories, as well. “The Natural Born Killer” has dropped four of his last five, Johny Hendricks coughed up five of his last six, and Hector Lombard is the loser of six straight. Was Magny the superior fighter, or the beneficiary of shot journeymen who no longer had the chops to compete at the elite level? I want to put more stock in the Kelvin Gastelum victory, but that was 2015 and the UFC 234 headliner performs far better at middleweight. I think my biggest issue is that Magny looks great, even against “names,” until he faces them in their primes, like Maia and Dos Anjos.

I suppose a similar critique is warranted for Ponzinibbio. The Argentinian has looked outstanding in recent years, capturing eight of 10 under the UFC banner. It’s kind of hard to find the downside to a six-fight win streak, because there really isn’t one, but in the interest of objectivity we also need to be real about his level of competition. Mike Perry has dropped three of his last four, Gunnar Nelson is just 3-3 over the last four years, and Nordine Taleb has been finished twice in 2018. I would like to see a signature win that was beyond reproach and right now … I got nothing. I don’t want to blame “Gente Boa” for that because he’s not the matchmaker and he can only work with the tools he’s given. By that same token, I’m not going crazy over his technical knockout loss to Lorenz Larkin. Not only was it over three years ago, it was just his second defeat since 2011, a span of 11 fights.

This is an interesting clash of styles. Percentage-wise, Magny is by far the more accurate striker, one of the benefits of having an 80-inch reach, which leaves Ponzinibbio at a seven-inch disadvantage. He’s also the more consistent grappler, landing 41 takedowns in 86 attempts. Considering how “Gente Boa” has only attempted nine takedowns in his UFC career, it’s understandable to think he might keep this fight upright, but we also can’t sleep on his takedown defense after stuffing Zak Cummings four out of five times and giving Court McGee nothing in four attempts.

If Magny fights to win, he is likely to cruise to a decision. That would require him to spam the jab and work in well-timed shoots. Does he have the discipline for that? It’s hard to stay focused when a power-punching bruiser is walking you down and dropping bombs. I want to pick Ponzinibbio for the finish, but Magny is such a difficult fighter to figure out because of his length, as well as his craftiness. I’m sure there will be a handful of close calls, but I think Magny lets “Gente Boa” gas himself out while swinging for the fences — in an attempt to please the hometown crowd — before taking over and mopping up the final three frames.

Winner: Magny by unanimous decision

Featherweight: Ricardo ‘The Bully’ Lamas (18-7) vs. Darren ‘The Damage’ Elkins (24-6)

Biggest Win For Lamas? Submission victory over Cub Swanson
Biggest loss? Knockout defeat to Josh Emmett
Biggest Win For Elkins? Submission victory over Michael Johnson
Biggest loss? Unanimous decision defeat to Alexander Volkanovski
Latest Odds: Lamas (-200) vs. Elkins (+170)
How these two match up: Ricardo Lamas is about halfway to his 37th birthday and coming off back-to-back losses to Josh Emmett and Mirsad Bektic. The former is the most troubling, as it represented the fourth time “The Bully” has been stopped by strikes and he was unable to rebound from that loss with a strong performance. In fact, I think we have to go all the way back to his Dennis Bermudez fight to find a victory over a Top 10 opponent. That’s traveling back more than four years and since that time, Lamas has been handily defeated by the upper echelon of the weight class. That includes losses to both Max Holloway and Chad Mendes. Those sorts of defeats would be more forgivable if the Illinoisan was blowing out the mid-card middlemen, but he’s struggling there, too.

His record just doesn’t hold up very well as we start to put some distance between now and the names of yesteryear. How much stock do we put into unanimous decision wins over guys like Hatsu Hioki and Hacran Dias? I’m probably being too hard on him, but my job here is to stack him against an opponent who is looking to take his soul. Regardless of his performances or his consistency, Lamas is, and always was, a complete fighter. He hits with power, has sneaky submissions, and can compete for five rounds without batting an eyelash. As we’ve learned in this unforgiving sport, the physical tools are not enough. Mental acuity, gameplanning, and poise under pressure are also part and parcel of any successful fight.

Everything said about Lamas can, for the most part, be applied to Darren Elkins, an equally battle-tested veteran with a long and fruitful run under the UFC banner. “The Damage” climbed to No. 10 in the official rankings after putting together six straight wins, including January’s submission over former lightweight, Michael Johnson. I’m sure it was massively disappointing for the 34 year-old bruiser to give it all away in his unanimous decision loss to Alexander Volkanovski, but that’s life in the fight game. No doubt a highlight-reel finish over Lamas would go a long way in erasing that memory and let’s face it, the clock is ticking for Elkins, who cannot afford another defeat if he hopes to position himself for a run at the strap.

Elkins, like Lamas, brings with him two post-fight performance bonuses. I don’t think anyone expects this bout to be a snoozefest. I am a bit concerned that “The Damage” has only secured two finishes in his last eight fights, especially when you consider he opened his MMA career by stopping nine of his first 10. By that same token, he’s only been finished once over the last eight years and that came by way of Chad Mendes and his Duane Ludwig-trained fists. His biggest threat is his wrestling, where he won a state championship as a high school senior before hitting the mats at University of Wisconsin Parkside. Elkins scored six takedowns against Steven Siler and seven apiece against Chas Skelly and Rob Whiteford. Lamas is successful in defending about half the shots taken against him, but if Hatsu Hioki can score four of five takedowns, it’s pretty clear to me that when “The Damage” wants to take “The Bully” down, he’s going down. The question remains, what will he do once he gets there?

I like Lamas if this fight stays on the feet, where the reach (71”) is the same for both combatants. He’s the better striker and has more stopping power. I’d probably favor him in the submissions, as well, but only if he’s in top position, unlikely against a grinder like Elkins. Since this is a three-round fight, and the winner only needs to capture two for the victory, I have to side with the wrestler, because judges love those last-second takedowns, even when they yield little-to-no results. I think Lamas will look great in the opening frame, then get walled and stalled in rounds two and three. I’m not anticipating a finish in a fight that may have some fans (and judges) divided when the final numbers are tallied.

Winner: Elkins by split decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 140 fight card tomorrow night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

To see who else is fighting at UFC Argentina click here.

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Face Off! Magny Stares Down ‘Gente Boa’ In Argentina

An intriguing welterweight showdown between top contenders Neil Magny and Santiago Ponzinibbio is set to headline the upcoming UFC Fight Night 140 mixed martial arts (MMA) event this Sat. night (Nov. 17, 2018) inside Parque Roca Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It’s a no-brainer to have the hometown hero, Ponzinibbio, headline the FOX Sports 1 event in what will mark the promotion’s first trip to Argentina. “Gente Boa” is currently riding a six-fight win streak and was last seen beating the brakes off Mike Perry in Dec. of 2017.

As for Magny, he currently owns a two-fight win streak and was scheduled to face off against Alex Oliveira at UFC Fight Night 137 back in September, but was ultimately yanked from that contest in favor of pairing him against Ponzinibbio.

Watch them come face-to-face at Thursday’s media day in the embedded video above.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 140 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

To see who else is fighting at UFC Argentina click here.

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