MadLab’s UFC 249 Breakdown and Predictions!!! Here is what Twitter is saying…
Well, Well, Well….. It’s good to be back!!!
In a perfect world, this is a fight that we would not choose to be the main event. We are all starting to walk under the same umbrella when it comes to the realization that Tony vs. Khabib may actually be a cursed fight. Five times canceled just does not seem like a coincidence to me. There is something the MMA Gods see in this fight that either scares them or they just don’t like. Very odd to me, considering it is one of the most curious style matchups since I can remember. Needless to say, it seems as if August or September may be the timeline for the 6th attempt. The reason I say attempt, is because I wouldn’t be shocked if it doesn’t come to fruition yet again. With that said, here we are.
I don’t know how we got here, but we are finally here and it seems to me the clarity in the water is very 20/20. Dana White thought that he pulled off the borderline impossible, until at the witching hour, the governor of California decided to pull the rug out from under his feet by making a call to Disney, asking him to stand down. In a world that has been getting curve balls thrown at us day to day, while others buckled and threw in the towel, White ducked and dodged his way to answers and daylight just to be blindsided by what I would like to call a personal and political agenda on California’s part.
The embarrassing mainstream MMA shit and pissed all over White without ever knowing any facts whatsoever. The fake Twitter brains and touts out there who haven’t a clue about the ins and outs of the business outside of clicking their remote controls to turn and watch it on TV or make believe they know what they are watching on film, either stayed neutral or silent throughout the process. The entire landscape truly showed who is who in this field, and I must say, I am disappointed at the people who claim “They Support The Sport” or have any sort of a voice.
Whether it be an analyst, a tout, a journalist or a voice with any sort of skin in the game, they should be absolutely embarrassed how they conducted themselves during this time and I, for one, will never forget who they are and neither should you. If you had a voice against it or no voice at all during this time, you are both the same, being someone who covers the sport. You either berated a sport you apparently love and cover without knowing any facts or protocols, and if you kept your mouth shut, then you are nothing more than a mouse.
I do understand what a trying time this has been for our nation and our world, and I also wish with the snap of my fingers I can put the entire world on my back and make it all go away, but I can’t or I absolutely would. With that said, the people throwing shade at me for supporting Dana White and these events are throwing it from a very far distance. I am in the fox hole here in the Tri-State Area. I am seeing things here in New York that other states only see on TV. So, if anyone understands the severity of this situation, it is me as well as the people who live here because we are seeing this first hand.
With that said, I also do understand there are ways to handle a situation without shutting the entire world down. There are protocols, steps and guidelines that can be taken to ensure the safety and the well being of all parties involved in a particular event. Now, having a stadium filled with people roaming in from the outside world who aren’t monitored would be catastrophic, but to think Dana White and the UFC, a Four Billion Dollar conglomerate, would hinder their business model for a few events without having every duck in a row is absolutely immature, absurd and uneducated. People are saying Dana is doing it strictly for the money, and I hate to break the news to all the misinformed, but the guy could have walked away a few years ago when he cashed out. He doesn’t need the money.
This is more of a legacy thing for the company in its entirety. A sport that just a few short years ago was looked down upon, couldn’t get any airtime anywhere and seemed to have a cultish following that has turned the tide as of late to being embraced by even a network as big as ESPN. He worked hard for this, his people worked hard for this, and this is a time where he can bring this sport completely over the top and accomplish goals for this company he sought out to achieve many moons ago. Timing is everything in life as well as business, and you never know when that window is going to open or close. However, when that window opens, the strong jump through no matter what the situation or cost.
Dana White understands what will happen if someone leaves any of these events sick. The backlash would be strong and severe. Every stone needs to be turned over and answered.
Sometimes, it takes situations like this to really trim the fat to see who is who and what is what from a coverage of the sport standpoint. If you shit on this situation having a voice, then shame on you for not knowing the facts and details before making your assumptions, and if you stayed neutral or quiet in this situation, then you honestly should not have a voice given that this is your job.
When the fight was canceled, all these same people were on Twitter downplaying their victory laps. Meanwhile, inside, they were smiling from ear to ear. The irony of this entire thing is every single person who gave backlash to this decision will be front and center watching this fight on the 9th, and that just makes you the biggest hypocrite around. Why watch something you are jet-set against? I would never do or engage in something I didn’t believe in fully. So why will these people watch if they voiced how wrong this truly is? Because they are drama-filled hypocrites.
Let us turn the page and allow me to give you a small understanding of how they did this, what is at stake, and how this will work since I have not heard a proper talk about it yet. We all know UFC was the last one to get an event off before the full lockdown. They were able to get away with this due to the 50 person maximum congregation that was in effect. Fifty people is just about a good number to have a few fighters, trainers, judges, ref and a production crew. Once they cut it to 10, it was merely impossible in such a small window of time.
However, like any rule put in place, there are always loopholes and slightly open back doors. Not to say there won’t be any trap doors, but in any maze, there is a way in and a way out. The difference between Dana White and everyone else is he was hell-bent about finding the exit door. With an all hands on deck supporting cast, White and his crew were able to find those openings and jump right through the window. Here is how he did it, the philosophies behind it and the possible consequences involved.
The pros of this are simple. In everything you eat, view, participate in, drive, play or whatever it is that we indulge in, there had to be a first. There is a first for everything. Hell, there had to be a first man to take the very first bite of a cheeseburger or cook the very first steak. Dana White was the first person with a set of balls to take a stand in this situation and be that first person to break the silence.
For that, he should be commended and not degraded. This will also possibly show other leaders of sports there are ways around this situation if they search hard enough and possibly start gathering their teams searching for their own back doors and windows, breathing life back into sports a bit faster. Take all that and add the angle of putting a sport that has varied outlooks into the spotlight and giving the people something to watch to take their mind off the negative, and you have the ultimate win for everyone.
Now, the cons def don’t outweigh the pros, but there are some. This will not be a sanctioned event, and here is why. California has been a major voice in support of the lockdown. They are also one of the biggest players when it comes to the athletic commission. Dana White has found a way to secure a venue inside the walls of the actual walls of California where their legislation really can’t do anything about it but watch from an outside window. So, California is looking at this seemingly like Dana White is standing behind bulletproof glass, giving them the finger, and I am sure they aren’t liking it. However, tribal lands are not attached to the California rule sets even if it is on the California landscapes.
However, the repercussions that can ensue on the backend of this when things go back to normal can be in ways of California punishing anyone involved in their own ways, such as not holding events and such. I highly doubt that to happen, considering California is such a HotBed for MMA that they would be biting their nose off to spite their face at that point. So the only way this thing can be stopped nationally is through a federal order, and given the relationship White has with POTUS, I highly doubt that is happening.
Now, that is nationally. For international flights, the UFC has reserved a private island where the infrastructure is being put in place as we speak. Fighters will be flown in and out via private jet, and business, as usual, will ensue on what I like to call “Fight Island.” The only issue I see coming out of any of this is if one of the fighters, staff members, judges or refs test positive after the fact. Then we could be looking at a shutdown and some issues going forward, but I have no doubt that all bases have been covered here for a seamless and successful event.
I am also happy to lead the charge with Dana White and the UFC in proudly taking your mind away from all the negative media, press and just all the bad news we have been hearing, far and wide. I would like to thank all the first responders from the bottom of my heart for carrying us through this trying time. You have been carrying quite the load, and you truly are the heroes here. However, every hero needs a break. You have fought for us, and it’s my absolute honor to break down these fighters who will be fighting for you! I wish everyone nothing but health and safety through these hard times. Now, join me in the Lab, if you will… I have been busy and have much to say!
UFC 249 MAIN CARD
Tony Ferguson (-170) DK $8700 / FD $17 vs. Justin Gaethje (+150) DK $7500 / FD $15
5 ROUND MAIN EVENT TITLE FIGHT
It is not Khabib, but God Damn, what a fight! I will be honest with you. From a matchup and viewers’ perspective, this can be a far more entertaining fight for a multitude of reasons. Khabib brings an element that is so dominant that if he actually did succeed getting Tony secure, it could shape up to be a slightly boring fight in spots. Also the drag out and the anticipation for fights like this sometimes just don’t deliver as advertised. However, it has to be seen to answer that one dancing question in all of our minds. Does Tony in fact have the style that just matches up well enough to freeze Khabibs relentless blueprint? Well, we are going to have to wait a little longer to find out, unfortunately. With that said, if there was ever a fight that can be the poster board for sheer violence, this would be the one. However, with the anticipation of so much violence, sometimes it puts major stress on the fight to come to fruition and live up to the projections. Both men bring different types of spotlights but hold one similar candle. A candle that when it burns to its very last drop and there is no more light to give, they will fight blindly in the deepest and darkest places where most men are just not willing to go. JG has made a living on fighting his opposition with one philosophy in mind. Fight on a very even floor and slowly drag his opposition to a place that many just aren’t willing to explore. When Fighting JG you need to be mentally prepared in ways that most fighters just can’t comprehend. Not only will you be tested in skill, but your will and your medal will be tested in extremely deep water and if you aren’t willing to swim into the deep with him, you will just drown. Justin made a name for himself over in the world series of fighting where he was putting on highlight reels in almost every fight. It was becoming evident that he would soon be on the radar of White and company. Once he got his chance under the UFC umbrella, he didn’t disappoint. In an absolute war against Michael Johnson where both men were hurt on numerous occasions, it was Justin that proved once again that if you dare to go into the deep water with him, you better know how to swim and swim well. In 2 rounds there were almost 200 strikes landed and these guys just went after it from horn to horn. It was quite apparent that this kid could be a star in the making. However, my concern was his longevity along with his physical and mental health. For a fighter to engage with such reckless abandon and absorbing more strikes then delivering, it was just going to be a matter of time before his spark plugs were not firing sharp enough and quick enough to respond in prime capacity. The human brain can take only so much punishment before a punchy vibe starts to set in. I really felt that something had to change with his style. Knowing that he was a 2-time state champion wrestler in high school and a D-1 All American in College, it was mind-bending to me that he never once leaned on his wrestling to win a fight. I figured at some point in his career he would need to resort to this or maybe he was holding out for the right time to completely change up the blueprint a bit. After his fight with Michael Johnson, the star began to fade dropping 2 fights to top-flight competition in Eddie Alverez and Dustin Pourier. Now holding a 1-2 record I thought that this would be the time in his career that if he ignited his new blueprint with wrestling it would be now. Did he? Not a chance. Bouncing back with 3 straight KO wins against Barboza, Cerrone, and Vick all in the very first round. No damage done, and no wrestling needed. I still do believe that Justin is playing a dangerous game health-wise but his plan is not to be in the game too much longer. He plans on making his money and leaving soon. His angle is the accumulation in bonuses on top of his actual contracted money. He has won a bonus for all 6 fights in the octagon, including 3 Performance of the Night bonuses and 4 Fight of the Night bonuses. The reason he got 7 bonuses in 6 fights was due to the fight with Michael Johnson; he received both fight of the night and performance of the night. Justin is a pure poster boy for a true “Human Highlight Reel.” There is nothing truly special about his technical game. He comes forward with no real footwork or traps. He trusts in his chin and utilizes his devastating leg game to slow you down and keep you in place. While most fighters tend to do the complete opposite by creating angles and setting traps. Justin uses his leg game to give you no choice once your movement is taken away from you where you become more of a sitting duck target if you are not seasoned in checking kicks. He also does have very underrated power in which he has clearly put on display numerous times, but the thing that makes him special is that he carries it with him throughout the fight. Where most fighters tend to fade in spots, losing their pop, Justin can be out on his feet, land one clean shot, and spark you clean out. With 21 career wins and 18 of them by way of KO, there is a clear indication of what he wants and how he wants things to end. In his 2 losses, he has been knocked out both times and that is also an indicator of his kill or be killed style. However, he too knows what is at stake here because the man he is facing is almost like looking at himself in the mirror on a mental level with a little darker twist to him.
Tony Ferguson is an extremely special fighter. Not only is he talented but this guy has the mental strength of a Navy Seal when it comes to fighting. He has literally trained his mindset to go to places normal people just can’t figure out. Tony is the perfect mixture of Justin and Diego Sanchez mentally all mixed into one brain. Skill-wise, there is no one that can match his style. He mixes his philosophies, his own odd forms of dancing and extremely awkward footwork that creates distortion and havoc trying to lay a bead on him. He doesn’t set traps and isn’t strategic in his approach. His offense is his defense and the sheer thought of the unknown with him will allow his opposition to be curious and cautious enough to hesitate when pulling the trigger. His striking is sloppy at times, not very well thought out and he can get lost in range whether being too far or too close but it works for him clearly and his grappling chops couldn’t be more fitting coming from 10th planet jiu-jitsu under Eddie Bravo. 10th planet is a very out of the box way style of jiu-jitsu. Creative, original and just unchained. Eddie Bravo is the creator of the “Twister” so that shows you how unfiltered his style actually is. A perfect student for that style is someone like Tony Fergusson who can just relate to that way of thinking adding his own twist in the mixing bowl. Fergusson is a conditioning machine as well and his style of training is a lot of balance and natural body movements. If you watch him train or do his open workouts, there are no fundamentals involved. The rules are his and even though it may not make sense to us, to him, they all serve a certain purpose. It all ties into something that he is manifesting that he feels will at some point be utilized situationally in a fight. He is at a constant work rate, and even when you take him down, he gets his hips loose the minute his ass hits the floor and if he is searching for submissions that are not there he will dice you up with a barrage of razor-sharp elbows. If there is one person that can actually win a fight by strikes from his back, it’s Tony Fergusson. Justin knows this and Justin knows on a short camp against a guy that is willing to swim deep with him, that this can be a potential problem. He has openly stated that this has been a fight that has scared him more than any fight in his career. Maybe it is because of the short notice and it really hasn’t had time to resonate into the calm for him, but I think it is something different. I think he realizes now, for the first time in his career he is facing a guy that will swim just as far as him and if not farther. When you have two minds like that then dangerous things can happen. Tony was grossly overlooked for a long time despite his insane run in the UFC. Since 2011 Tony has only lost 1 fight in 16 fights and now holds an active 12 fight win streak.
Justin knows what he is, and Justin knows they share a commonality. I am expecting Justin to come out firing leg kicks and pacing himself. The short camp and knowing that Tony can go for days will be something sitting in the back of his mind. He will need to really conserve a bit. Do something that I never thought I would say, but fight patient and smart. However, eventually, instinct takes over and when he is brought into the fire, Justin will go into a mode and the war will be on. At that point you can expect to be on the edge of your seat and things will get dicey for both men. However, I think Tony is going to swim a little faster and a little farther here and Justin’s philosophies and blueprint may be turned around on him a bit in this one. Not because he isn’t willing to go there, but because Tony will be much more prepared and Justin’s body just might not comply with where he wants to go mentally. I’m expecting a sick scrap where JG surely has his spots, but Tony is going to weather the storm and start putting JG on skates later in the fight, and when Tony sees you hurt or back-peddling, Tony looks to finish his dinner…
The Pick: Tony Ferguson
Dominick Cruz (+200) DK $7400 / FD $12 vs. Henry Cejudo (-240) DK $8800 / FD $19
5 ROUND C0-MAIN EVENT TITLE FIGHT
It seems that history always repeats itself in many different ways. Sometimes the old ways of thinking make its way back to being the most logical. Sometimes old fashion music and style in general storms back onto the scene. However, sometimes there are just straight passing of the guards. It seems that there has been a temporary passing of the guard to Henry Cejudo. After losing to DJ in his first fight in quick fashion, Cejudo went back to the drawing board and honed his skills to make them sharp and rounded all in the same breath. Cejudo, a Gold Medalist in the Olympic games for wrestling understands where his abilities live contently, but the way he raised the bar in his striking to pair up and play in concert with his wrestling in such a short period is incredible. Cejudo has proven over and over again that he is not here today and gone tomorrow. After his win against DJ for the title he came back with 2 huge wins knocking out TJ Dillashaw and Marlon Moraes. As he cleans the canvas with the biggest of names, there is one guy sitting in the wings who has been there, done that, and is really not ready to let a young gun run away with the division unless it’s on his terms. Cruz is one of the original gangsters in the division and he too has cleaned the gyms out in his hay day. Holding a win streak from 2008-2016, He almost seemed untouchable during this time. Defeating guys like TJ Dillashaw, DJ, and Uriah Faber was a normal day at the office for Cruz. After leaving the WEC as Bantamweight champion and winning the UFC Belt in the process, Cruz successfully defended the strap 2 times until injuries would sideline him for 3 years. During his comeback, he regained the UFC strap and defended it one time after before being completely outclassed by a red hot Cody Gharbrant. Sidelined yet again with more injuries, Cruz is set to make 1 more run to see if he can carbon copy the success that he had on his first comeback. The difference is that he is fighting a very new bread in Cejudo on less than primed status Cruz. In a lot of ways, what made Cruz special was what makes Ferguson special. You just can’t really train for someone like Cruz. He fights very long and rangy, but he creates very odd angles and traps with his movements that just seem like they can come and go at any time. He will begin a pattern of feints and false promises that will bait you into guessing when he is coming into the pocket and when he is just bluffing. He never stops moving and he uses footwork to create his success. The issue I do have with him now is will his injuries allow him to get that same movement that he once had. Against Cody 3 years ago it seemed as if he was just a second short and although he was getting off, he was getting off second and that doesn’t win fights. So the question remains the same because that is truly where the full answer sits. We know Cruz has been there and done that. We know the lights aren’t too bright. We know he is war tested. We know that he has the intelligence and the ability to beat someone like Cejudo. We know all these things. However, the question is this. Will his body allow him to do what his brain wants him to do? Many times your brain still understands everything that needs to be done, knows, and has a memory of what you once were able to do, but when it comes time to hit the gas, the pop, reaction time, speed and precision just isn’t there anymore. Your body pretty much says “Great idea, but I can’t do it like I once did.” That is the question with Cruz. We know he has the tools, We know he has the ability, but I don’t think that it’s his time anymore. I think what carries him through this fight is his ability to be awkward and different. I think it will take Cejudo a bit longer to put a bead on Cruz. However, in the end, Cejudo will start to find his range and comfort zone with Cruz and start to pull away in the fight.
The Pick: Henry Cejudo
Greg Hardy (-180) DK $8600 / FD $17 vs. Yorgan De Castro (+155) DK $7600 / FD $12
I’m sorry, but Greg Hardy is just not good, period. The guy is living off his name from the NFL and all the controversial baggage he brings along with it. I will give Hardy one compliment: he is a good athlete and a big boy with a lot of heat behind his punches, but a fighter, he is not. The UFC has been feeding him combatants who they really aren’t looking to keep around. In a sense, they are using each other. Hardy is getting his way by getting B level opposition and The UFC is getting the fat trimmed out of the division. With that said there has to come a day where there is no more fat to trim and they are going to have to feed him real fighters. Outside of Volkov, Hardy has not beaten anyone impressive, he hasn’t looked impressive, and he is always one dumb move away from getting disqualified for something. He is never going to be smooth on his feet. He is never going to be a good BJJ player. He is always going to be an athletic, low cage IQ brawler with power. That is what he is and that is always what he will be. Guys like Derrick Lewis can be categorized that way but they are in a different bracket and to be quite honest, Look what happened when Lewis fought DC. It was like a masters class in DC’s favor. Hardy is never going to pan out. He will always have a puncher’s chance with good athletic ability, but his ceiling is tapped and the day of truth is not far from now if he keeps beating cans. As bad as he is, there is a guy across the cage from him that may be worse. Decastro has the same sloppy style as Hardy. Wild style, with no technique behind it. Just sheer heavy hands with his entire body trucking it around. He doesn’t generate his torque properly from his hips and just lets his hands go with no regard to his body positioning. I don’t care what he looks like on video and when he is hitting pads. During the fight when it counts, he is an extremely sloppy striker. When he throws his hooks, he opens up so much that he actually looks like a pitcher after his release. His chin is literally sitting there on a shelf just waiting to be had. When he throws his low kicks, he is looking directly at the ground which is a sanctuary for a follow up blind head kick. One fight that he was getting a lot of credit for was his fight against Justin Tafa. People were commenting on what a beautiful check hook he threw off his back foot and it almost did look like to me that it was planned. Almost like he baited him in like a Sam Alvey style set up, but it was the farthest thing from it. That punch was ‘right time… right pace’. I came to this conclusion after watching the fight about 5-6 times. His eyes were completely closed and it was a hail mary swing that he just tossed out into the sun. Watch it in slow motion and you will see exactly what I am saying and these are the things you guys need to start noticing when you are watching film. You can see tons of KOs like that and even if they look perfectly timed and perfectly placed, if you look closely, sometimes the sun even shines on a dog’s ass. It was pure luck and when he walked away, even tho he played it pretty cool, he himself even knew that he just tossed a rock in the pond on that one. So, where do we go from here with these 2 underperformers? Well when you really look at the film and just see the nuts and bolts of it, it is quite clear who the UFC wants to win the fight. If Hardy wins the fight then he moves on and that’s what the UFC wants. They didn’t get behind him like this for him to lose to a guy that is 6-0 with 3 of them owning losing records. It would be a diabolical failure if Hardy by some stroke of ‘right place, right time’ loses. I see Hardy winning this fight but I really have no confidence in him and I don’t think I ever will. However, this is his fight to win or lose and it’s the big boys so you really never know.
The Pick: Hardy
Vicente Luque (-255) DK $9000 / FD $18 vs. Niko Price (+215) DK $7100 / FD $13
Well, this fight certainly has the potential to be a Fight of the Night candidate. I am expecting a very scrappy fight here. Niko Price has been a big question mark for me and he still is. The talented Florida native has obtained wins in the oddest of Manors. He seems to generate a certain element of power that no matter the angle he is on, He can put you out from that position. Just ask Randy Brown. If you look at his record as of late he has had an up and down roller coaster of wins and losses. One thing I did notice in his losses is they are all men that are willing to stand in the pocket and trade with him who possesses legitimate power. It is quite clear that come hell or high water he is looking for a finish and he is willing to get finished in the process if it means getting the kind of scrap he wants. With a record of 14-3, only 1 fight on both sides of his record has gone to decision, which was a win against Willie Hosch in 2016 on the regional circuit. A Brown Belt in BJJ, Niko is much more comfortable in the chaos when it’s on the feet. With 10 wins by KO, it is clear what Niko is looking for. However, he isn’t polished. He fights very much like a kill-or-be-killed fighter who is willing to throw caution to the wind at any cost, but doing that with a seasoned fighter can be the back step on him. The showtime fury style will carry you so far up the ranks, but eventually, you will need to really buckle into a blueprint and have some sort of identity fundamentally speaking. Mistakes are made on the regional circuit, and mistakes are also made in the interviewing stages of the UFC, but once you start to hit stride in the deep end of the division, the mistakes are much more minimal and the windows of opportunity are also less opportunistic. Vicente Luque has a very polished game, although he will sit in the pocket with you, as he did against Bryan Barberena. His functionality in the fundamentals is very solid. A brown belt in BJJ Luque can do it both on his feet and on the ground with 9 wins by KO and 6 by way of submission. In his 7 losses, an interesting note here is that he has only been submitted 2 times and he has never been knocked out. Even tho Price has 10 KOs on his record, I find it hard to believe he will have that same success against Vicente’s Sharp yet tight style. Especially when he has fought and beat some sledgehammer punches like Mike Perry. In their first meeting in 2017, Vicente beat Price by way of Darce choke. Even tho we are 3 years past that fight and Niko has evolved, so did Vicente. I don’t see this being the same fight as before, especially knowing the revenge factor involved here, but I do see it ending the same way with Vicente Luque getting his hand raised. The fight will be an exciting one out of the gate with both men having their spots, but it’s the sound fundamentals that Luque brings to the table that Niko just does not. If Niko is the 1st one to KO Luque, then I’ll eat my crow, but I don’t see it happening.
The Pick: Vicente Luque
Jeremy Stephens (+190) DK $7300 / FD $14 vs. Calvin Kattar (-255) DK $8900 / FD $18
This fight is a sleeper, for sure. Let me give you a little background on Jeremy Stephens if I may. This is a guy who has been fighting for a very long time, and like many fighters, tend to fly under the radar for the majority of their career. They may be looked at as a tough journeyman, a gatekeeper to the division, or even just a “very tough out.” However, some of these fighters tend to have a surging moment in a big spot or display a run that allows the masses to finally appreciate who they really are. Jeremy is one of those fighters. Always looked at as a tough customer, but against big names, you would probably scoff at it a bit until he started to surface again big spots. If you look at the resume of Jeremy you will see that he is a guy that beats everyone that he is supposed to beat, but when it comes time to fight the Frankie Edgars and Jose Aldos of the world, he just can’t hop that fence. It has been a thorn in his side his entire career. However, 2017 into 2018 brought a spark back into Stephens’ career. He tied together a 3 fight win streak against Gilbert Melendez, Doo Ho Choi and a majorly surging Josh Emmett, who at the time was on an absolute tear and coming off a violent KO win against the always tough Ricardo Lamas. It was time once again for Stephens to finally get his back off the wall in a big-time fight against Jose Aldo to make it 4 in a row and stake a heavy claim for a title shot. Once again he couldn’t answer the call. He was finished in the 1st round and since then it has been 3 fights with 2 losses and 1 no contest. Usually, in the pattern of Stephens’ career, this would be the fight he grabs a win and starts the cycle all over again, but he is facing a Kattar that is more than happy to fight the fight that Stephens is so inclined to fight. Stephens is never going to WOW you with his grappling skills or his wrestling chops. He likes to stand and trade and if given the opportunity, he will do that for all 15 minutes. His record is not the most impressive one at 28-17 but I can assure that he is better than his resume exposes. However, in his 28 wins he has 19 wins by way of KO which is a mighty fine finishing rate. In his 17 losses, he has proven to be durable with 12 losses by decision, submitted 3 times and KO’d only 2 times. The reason he has dumped so many decisions is that he really is not a volume striker. He is also not someone who is going to that and is going to look to secure takedowns unless they are needed. He shows about 1 takedown per affair, but I wouldn’t rest my hat on that to be, quite honestly. He also absorbs about the same amount of strikes per minute as he delivers which will tie into his decisions possibly landing on the wrong side of the fence. Stephens holds about a 65% takedown defense, but the people who wanted to take him down ultimately did: Zabit (3 Times), Aldo (1 Time), Edgar (5 Times), etc. So if you are really dialed into taking him down, it absolutely can be down. However, to his advantage, he will not have to worry about that with Calvin Kattar. Kattar does like to stand and let the leather fly just like his opponent does and that can be the death of him if he is not leading the dance in this one. To give you a bit of a streamline of how both men approached their fights against Zabit, allow me to offer you this. Kattar looked very uncomfortable in there because Zabit was stalking him, forcing Kattar to fight much more defensively to keep Zabit off him. In turn, you saw how clear the exchanges were going. Zabit looked fluid and loose where Kattar was late on the exchanges, getting off second and leaving the pocket last. He was fighting off of Zabit’s reactions instead of his own. That shows you who is truly leading the dance. He had his moments where he started laying a bead on Zabit but it just never stuck. He would find him, lose him and have to really lay the bead again. Stephens had a little different problem with Zabit. Stephens was pushing the action and putting Zabit on his heels but he just couldn’t find him landing only 40 significant strikes. Zabit’s 3 takedowns played a small part in that obviously, but at the end of the day, Stephens just couldn’t really lock-in and he was throwing at the wind a lot. In turn, he became desperate and really was lunging into his punches, allowing Zabit and his tricky long frame to counter and be successful. He wasn’t fighting tight or loose. He was fighting like a man in desperation to hunt before the sun goes completely down. He was looking too much for that pocket fight instead of letting it come to him. There is a point of setting and baiting traps for the hunted, but when you start to make it obvious what you want, you tend to lay too much down sending the wrong signals. Zabit knew exactly what he wanted and played the game as such by using his range to get in out on his terms. After watching both fights it became much more clear to me that Kattar is the one that will be more willing to take a backstep in this affair. Stephens just doesn’t have that in his DNA unless he is hurt or gassed. He will move forward whether you are backing him or not where Kattar seems to bend a little more in that arena. However, He does bring a little more patience and that could slow the fight down for him in which many people were able to do with Jeremy. The key to beating Stephens is if he wants a pocket fight and you want to give it to him then that’s fine, but it has to be on your terms. Your Speed, your tempo, and at your pace. If you plan on going into the pocket with Stephens for wild exchanges, it may not fare well for you. But if you can slow it down, make him chase you and become impatient, then you will have the targets needed to counter and pop shot him. Kattar comes in with a 20-4 record with half his wins by KO, but he also has 8 wins by decision, which shows he knows how to win in length. A big part of that is really predicated on his ability to hone in on the fundamentals of striking and not stray from it. Slowing things down can keep Jeremy in the 30-60 punch count, and outpacing him from there would be the task. But if you give him what he wants, then he can hit the 90-100 count, as he did against Gilbert Melendez when Stephens absolved his legs, leaving Melendez a sitting target. That is also a key point that Kattar really needs to be wary of here. He doesn’t exactly like to check leg kicks, and if Stephens starts to have success with them, Kattar could be slowed down plenty for Stephens to keep him in one spot. At that point, when your legs are taken out like that, you can still fight, but you are not generating as much torque and power at that point. You are basically throwing with your arms instead of throwing and generating from your hips, legs and core. That can be a problem for Kattar for the mere reason that if Stephens knows you lost mustard on your pop and you can’t hurt him then he will just move in at that point throwing caution to the wind and look to get violent. So it will be crucial for Kattar to be prepared to check leg kicks. I feel this fight will really come down to who gets off first and who leaves the exchanges with the quicker, sharper and more visually appealing striking packages. Both men are fairly durable so this can really come down to a who lands more at this point if it goes to the final horn. I’m looking at Kattar as the faster and more crisp striker here. I like what Stephens does, but I can’t see him out-voluming Kattar here unless he implores a heavy kicking game to slow Kattar down, which is extremely possible. But it will be something that really needs to be coupled into his game plan because it is not something that Jermey just does to do. He needs a reason or a plan behind it. I see Kattar tearing a page out of Zabit’s playbook with far fewer dynamics involved. A simple strategy that will allow him to stay in space and pop in and out of the pocket as needed and when he is comfortable to do so. If he can stay out of the trap of low kicks then he should be the one winning the exchanges here unless he gets caught by one of Stephens thundering silver bullets that put him on skates, but Kattar has never been finished by strikes so I am not banking on that to happen in this one. Very close fight but it doesn’t have to be if Kattar fights the correct game plan and doesn’t get baited into the wrong fight.
The Pick: Calvin Kattar
UFC 249 PRELIMS
Uriah Hall (+105) DK $7900 / FD $15 vs. Jacare Souza (-125) DK $8300 / FD $16
Both of these men come from 2 different worlds of Martial Arts. Souza is a well-decorated BJJ player with a 4th-degree black belt and also a 2nd-degree black belt in Judo under the Machados. With one of the highest pedigrees is BJJ, there aren’t many people who can play in the sandbox with Souza. With a record of 26-8, Souza has 14 wins by submission but has also fallen in love quite a bit with trading leather and possesses 8 wins by way of KO. In his losses, he has been KO’d 3 times and has never been submitted. The thing with Souza is he needs to start realizing that he is not a kid anymore. At 40 years old your body will, in fact, slow down and start to give out on you. However, the best thing about having such a high BJJ pedigree is that it is the one martial art that you can utilize very effectively at an older age. However, if you think you are going to stand and trade with the young guns at 40 when that is not your ace pedigree I would say that it’s probably not the greatest idea. With that said Souza needs to also realize if he is going to stand for even a short period of time, he needs to also be very aware that his gas tank is not what it once was as a young man and his biggest issue is that he tends to fall off a visual shelf quickly when he does start to gas out. It does not come gradually with him. When he gets a hole in his tank it just kind of goes. The visuals are clear. He just starts to throw wildly, backpedals, takes very sloppy shots, and sometimes if he gets you down, he tends to be too tired sometimes to even really get his groove going on the ground. There is no doubt that no matter who he faces the edge in grappling will always be his, but when you have a situation like this, it should really be all that he goes to. He is taking on Uriah Hall with a record of 15-9. With 11 KOs and only 1 submission. In his losses, he has never been submitted oddly enough and has been KOd 4 times. The 2nd-degree black belt in Karate is on a 2 fight win streak and his last victory was against another high pedigree grappler in Shoe Face. Show Face is a very high pedigree grappler but I would not put him on the level of Souza. However, He was able to take Hall down 3 times in that affair, but Hall was able to get back to his feet on all occasions and win a very close split decision. Souza is not a takedown machine and he hasn’t been in a very long time since his days at dream and strike force when he would be able to tie 4-6 takedowns on any given night. Now he averages around 1. In his last 10 fights, he scored 1 takedown in 7 of them. His last two fights in which he lost, he was not able to secure a takedown but he was taken down 3 times by Jack “The Joker” Hermanson in a spectacular showing. So Hall will have a path here if he plays his cards right. He is the better striker, has a better gas tank, hits very hard and has a serviceable takedown defense when he is dialed in. The problem with Hall is he either shows up or he doesn’t. That goes for his chins as well. He is a very good striker and as of late he has been showing quite a bit of attitude in his fights and style which I do like. With that said he is very prepared for this fight. He packed his things and has been living full time in Fortis MMA training facility alone so he can train. Where Souza is claiming to be using his wife’s workout equipment at home, which I find that hard to believe to be quite honest. With that said it is a very very interesting fight that can honestly go either way here. I am going to surprisingly go with Hall here. I think he is a little more dialed in at this point and has momentum behind him. Hall at one time was supposed to be something special and he never really panned out. Not because he isn’t talented, but because he just had a few rough goes in his career. The talent is there and if he hones in on it and taps it the proper way, Hall can do some good things in the division before it’s his time to drop the gloves in the center of the cage. Souza is always dangerous and extremely scary to pick against, but Hall is a very live dog in this spot and I think he actually should be the favorite here.
The Pick: Uriah Hall
Carla Esparza (-150) DK $8400 / FD $16 vs. Michelle Waterson (+130) DK $7800 / FD $14
I’m a little torn here, to be honest, but there were finally a few elements that put me a little more onto one side. In women’s MMA, it is a known fact, if you have solid wrestling, you have a major leg up on the other ladies. Not many women have that deep-rooted wrestling pedigree behind them. They may have very seasoned BJJ backgrounds, but wrestling and BJJ are 2 entirely different entities and serve different purposes. BJJ is great to have, but if you have no ability to take it there, then you can be stuck in a situation with not being able to use the ace of spades in your pocket, and sometimes if your BJJ is not well rounded enough, then you can find yourself being neutralized by the wrestling, not being able to get your hips loose enough to really do anything about it from a submission standpoint. So, here we are with a matchup between Waterson being the far better striker with a slippery ground game and Esparza with a serviceable standup game but a very, very threatening wrestling and takedown game. Esparza has made a point of utilizing her wrestling to her advantage, and even though the other fighters know this, stopping it and knowing about it is an entirely different ball of wax. Averaging almost 4 takedowns an affair, Esparza tends to start tying up her takedowns in bunches once she starts to see that she has a path to get in on your hips. She does a really good job of dialing in on your hips, and once she sees the mark, she will take it there if you don’t keep your hips in space. Waterson has the ability to take you down, but she uses an extremely dangerous path to get you there. She lives and dies with a head and arm throw that even tho when it works it’s very effective, it is not a high percentage move, and if Esparza is able to use her wrestling to switch it around, then Waterson can find herself on her back against Esparza with issues getting her hips active. JJ was able to take Waterson down 3 times, which is very worrisome here, considering JJ is not one to go to the ground. JJ had more takedowns in that fight then she did in her last 13 fights with 2. Esparza, on the other hand, has 33 takedowns in her last 12 fights, which tells me that if she wants to get Michelle there, she is going to do so. Now, will she want to get her there? That is the question. The answer is, absolutely. Waterson is going to be the more dynamic and faster striker with her karate background, but the one issue that has always hindered Waterson in spots is her size. Being crafty and fast is one thing, but she is a blown-up Strawweight due to her being a natural Atom Weight at heart. Waterson will be the smaller fighter like in most of her fights, and when Esparza has the opportunity to bully her with her wrestling, I am not sure Waterson will have too much success being offensive from her back at that point. The key for Waterson is to stay very nimble and sharp on her feet while being very very aware of defending the second level. Keeping Esparza at bay with her all-around kicking game will be crucial. Legs are longer than arms so sending a few messages to Esparza early is important. Let her know that closing space will come with a cost and Esparza may think twice if she is caught with anything significant. Waterson also needs to completely rid her mind of the head and arm throw with Esparza. I keep having this visual in my mind with her landing a good exchange, winning the round, and just as fast as she starts to steal the round, she gives it up with a failed head and arm throw that puts Esparza in control. So throwing that out the window for this fight is important. Concentrating on range management is crucial here for her, and she needs to adjust in that wheelhouse if adjustments need to be made. Esparza needs to really just push the pace and put Waterson on her back foot early. Threaten the takedowns right out of the gate and let her think twice about getting cute with her dynamic striking game. If she goes high, then capitalize by trying to catch her leg and taking it to the ground. Even if she gets up, it shows her you have her timing and you see what she is doing. It’s all about sending messages to the other fighter to slow down their process in this fight. With that said, I think Esparza has a better path to victory here. She’s the naturally bigger fighter here; she knows Waterson is faster and better in the striking department and understands wrestling is her path to all things here. I am expecting her to eat some shots, and I am also looking for Waterson to have her spots in this one. But at the end of the day, Esparza wins a majority of her fights by decision from the pedigree she has behind her with 8 of her 15 wins coming by the way of decision. Waterson holds a higher submission rate than everything else even given her high pedigree striking background with 9 submissions in 17 of her wins. However, submitting Esparza is not easy, considering she has only been submitted once by extremely high pedigree and ADCC bronze medalist Megumi Fuji back in Bellator in 2010. I like Waterson, but this is a bad matchup for her if Esparza stays true to who she is.
The Pick: Carla Esparza
Anthony Pettis (-135) DK $8200 / FD $15 vs. Donald Cerrone (+115) DK $8000 / FD $15
I mean, I don’t even know what to say about this fight. This is a rematch in which Pettis got the best of Cerrone back in 2013 by KO. Back then Pettis was throwing with some really good and effective power. He seemed like he was a different fighter back then, using much more of his karate style in a more matrix type of way. As time went on Pettis became more universal when he began utilizing his submission game as an equal part. The Black Belt in karate and BJJ wasn’t called showtime for nothing at one point. The kid was actually on a Wheaties box and his signature cage kick against Ben Henderson will forever go down as a staple in MMA highlight reels. However, Somewhere he lost his way for a while and showtime dimmed his lights down for a while. After his loss to RDA, it just seemed like he lost some of that fire and he lost 2 straight after that. Since then it has been a rotating wheel with him. A rotation of wins and losses up until this point where he has now dropped 2 straight. When Pettis wins, you can’t help but ask yourself if showtime is back and then he will go out, have a good showing and lose and the cycle will start all over again. He faces a 3 fight losing streak here in which would tie his most consecutive losses since his fall from grace and it surely is not a place you want to be sitting if the night doesn’t go his way. To his credit, he has faced nothing but top-shelf opposition and even tho he has been up and down, Pettis really never lays down. He will always come to fight, and if he loses, he isn’t going out without a fight. So, credit to him there, but when he wins, it can literally be in the blink of the eye, as he did to Wonder Boy when he was getting picked apart and superman punched him off the cage, handing WonderBoy his first KO of the night. The name value is nice, but the fight itself is a real head-scratcher. Not because I don’t want to see it but because who the hell knows where Cerrone’s head is at. This guy is coming off one of the worst performances of his life in the biggest spot of his career, where he openly admitted that he just didn’t even want to be there 2 days before. Now if you can’t get up for that fight then how in God’s name are you going to get up for any fight. It really is a concern for me at this point with him and I am not sure what to think to be quite honest. Cerrone is an extremely seasoned vet but how can someone so seasoned just constantly collapse in the biggest of moments? Doesn’t make any sense to me at all. With that said Cerrone has his back against the wall yet again and is on a 3 fight losing streak in which matches the most in his career. A 4th loss in a row would not be a good look at all for a guy who literally admitted not wanting to be in the biggest fight of his life. It’s hard to believe that he would go out like that dropping 4 straight. The guy is aging and the guy has def seen better days, but there is no denying that when he is dialed in and turns it on, he can do damage on all ends of the spectrum. The issue is, will he be dialed in? If I knew factually that he was going to show up, as he did against Alexander Hernandez, I pick Cerrone, and here is why. The guy’s chin is getting a bit dusty but Pettis seems to be searching for his sweet spot. Transferring from lightweight to welterweight on a few occasions. Now we have seen this in the past with guys like Rashaad Evans. At a point in time, they really try to find a home and it seems Pettis is caught in the middle of where he should reside and where he wants to reside. I was never a fan of that. As a fighter you know where you have a good bead on your body and where you feel best. I know for myself I have been 275 and I have killed myself to get to 205. I know where my sweet spot is and where I feel my most energetic and where I feel my most lethargic. My sweet spot is about 245 and although I try to stay close to that weight because it’s where I perform at my best. So when you are a professional fighter and you are playing around with science looking for answers it sometimes isn’t a good sign because it shows desperation. With that said Cerrone also has issues of his own and it all will boil down to HIM. Like I said here and many times. We know Pettis is going to bring it. Whether it’s enough, that is yet to be determined. The outlier is if Cerrone will bring it or leave it in the locker room behind him. There is no doubt to me that Cerrone is the better fighter so that is why I need to pick him here. When you know someone is the better fighter and you pick against him, it stings a little more if he or she loses, because you know they are better and you know on a good day it’s their fight. But if Cerrone loses because he left it behind him before entering the cage then that is something that I can’t control. However, from a skill level, Cerrone really should win this fight so I am rolling the dice here.
The Pick: Donald Cerrone
Aleksei Oleinik (+260) DK $7000 / FD $9 vs. Fabricio Werdum (-320) DK $9200 / FD $21
Very interesting fight here and one I am actually looking forward to on this card. Usually, when Oleinik fights, you always know what his clear path to victory is. With 46 wins by submission in his 58 fights, it is more times than not, the 42-year-old usually gets his way. He isn’t a fancy submission artist. He isn’t going to throw up legs, throw up a flying triangle or show you the next variation to a twister of GoGoPlata, but what he will do is slowly trap you somewhere you don’t want to be. He has become a master at letting you walk yourself into your own submission, and once he sees it, he slowly starts to constrict as panic starts to set in. There is something about his grip that just seems like a slow turning vice grip – once it starts traveling down the threads, you just can’t reverse it. I would call it old man strength in which I do believe in, but this is something else. This is reversible or stopped only to a point, then the lights will start to fade. He isn’t much on his feet and actually looks like a robot that is going haywire, with broken parts running out of batteries, but it all has a means to an end. He will utilize it to get things where he wants it. In his 13 losses, he has been KO’d 7 times and only submitted twice. I mean, the path to beating him is quite simple. Dice him up on the feet, stay off the ground, and if you do get taken there, stay calm and make sure you really understand where your limbs are and be versed enough to understand where he is trying to walk you. It literally takes one slip up for him to start putting you into a vice grip like the movie SAW. However, his opponent is someone that is extremely well educated in the world of submissions.
For those of you who are pretty new to the game, at one time, Fabricio Werdum was on his way to staking claim as one of, if not, the greatest heavyweights of all time. Being the first fighter to put a halt to Fedor’s 28 fight win streak, the former UFC heavyweight champion has been widely known as one of the more well rounded and dangerous fighters in the division, but USADA issues have really tarnished his road to greatness that could have been written. With a record of 23-8, Werdum has a very well rounded finishing rate with 11 by submission and 6 by way of KO. With a very serviceable stand-up, Werdum is widely known for his insane grappling ability in which he is a 2nd-degree black belt in BJJ and holds multiple gold medals in some of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. In his 8 losses, Werdum has been KO’d 3 times and this should be noted that he has never been submitted. Werdum is getting older, but the reason why both men tend to still surface the water past their 40’s is due to the fact grappling is much more long-lasting then slanging and banging. All in all, even with Werdum’s multiple USADA suspensions and his long layoff, it is really just a bad matchup for Oleinik. If you look at his paths to victory, they are very slim. He isn’t going to KO Werdum, and although his grappling is elite on the ground, Werdum is at a higher level with more ground options, faster, better gas tank, slicker, smoother and smart enough to understand where Oleinik is trying to go. Listen, there is a first time for everything and if anyone might be able to walk Werdum onto a submission, especially knowing that Werdum’s timing may not be there due to the layoff, maybe his cardio and confidence may be halted a bit from inactivity and also the mental note that he isn’t getting any liquid help, it’s Oleinik. However, a very bad matchup and I just don’t see it happening. I see Werdum having a very good shot at finishing this fight either way, by KO or Submission, depending on how he looks on the rebound from USADA and on the terms he doesn’t fight too safe.
The Pick: Fabricio Werdum
Bryce Mitchell (-225) DK $8500 / FD $18 vs. Charles Rosa (+175) DK $7700 / FD $11
This is a really good fight. Bryce Mitchell is blasting onto the scene undefeated in UFC play. Mitchell has always caught my eye with his undertone creative and active style but, what really solidified him in the pubic face was his extremely low percentage submission against Matt Sayles. He was able to land Eddie Bravo’s move, “The Twister”. The Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has a very slippery and creative game and it shows. With 9 submissions in 12 victories, it is quite clear where Bryce wants to take his talents. Although he has not fought the who’s who of competition, he has fought some very top up and coming prospects in the division. Matt Sayles and Bobby Moffet were slated to be very promising young fighters and Mitchell was able to dispose of them both. Bryce Mitchell will use his striking as a means to get the fight in close where he averages a little over 1 takedown per affair. His takedown defense statistically is not the greatest at just under 40%, but when you know a guy’s strength is his ground game, the attempts are not plentiful in nature. There is something very creative and raw about his style. It seems very unchained in a sense. No one comes out with a plan to attempt a twister unless you are completely aware of your surroundings and very composed. Such low percentage moves aren’t sought after all too often because at this level one mistake can cost you position and a loss of position can easily cost you the fight. So you need to be extremely aware, composed and confident to attempt such a move. He takes on Charles Rosa who may not be on the run as his younger counterpart but the kid is super talented and extremely overlooked. Rosa comes in with a 12-3 record which is a good one in his own right but he has not been able to really tie things together in a very consistent manner as of late. Since his entrance into the UFC, he has had a swinging door of win-loss-win-loss and will be looking to change that on Saturday night coming off a huge submission win against fellow grappling ace Manny Bermudez. Rosa is a Black Belt in BJJ under the legendary Ricardo Liborio and that is NOTHING to shake a stick at. He, like Mitchell, has a majority of his wins by submission with 8 wins and also carries 3 KO’s under his wing as well. In his 3 losses, he has never been submitted but has been KO’d 1 time recently by Shane Burgos in a fight he was doing very well in. Outside of the Manny Bermudez fight with his impressive submission, one of his recent losses was against the very Dynamic Yair Rodriguez where he lost a very close split decision. However, he showed the ability to fight in all areas against a guy in Yair that brings a very unchained style on the feet and on the ground. It showed he can adjust well on the fly because training for fighters like Yair is not really possible to find a very similar shadow to mimic. These two match up very well, but I think Rosa is the more seasoned grappler. The Grappler that really understands all the detailed nuances of the game where Mitchell is much more the wild card that is willing to take chances. Taking chances is a great thing when you are grappling with a guy that is a little less seasoned, but all black belts are not created equal and Charles Rosa obtaining a Black Belt under Ricardo Liborio is a little bit different than your normal Black Belt that you would obtain from your local school. He is as world-class as it gets, and Ricardo does NOT just hand those out. However, there is a big difference in straight grappling and translating it to MMA. You don’t need to be a Black Belt in BJJ to be an efficient grappler in MMA. We have seen it very often, but being an efficient grappler that takes wild chances against a guy that holds the ace in this area can be dangerous. It doesn’t mean Bryce can’t catch him, but Rosa never being submitted and he will have to more than likely win this on the feet which is very possible. However, when you have 2 fighters that hold the same strength. It’s really hard to go against the kid that is schooled under a guy like Laborio in a fight I expect to go to the ground at some point. Razor close fight, but I am going to give a slight lean to the dog here.
The Pick: Charles Rosa
Ryan Spann (-400) DK $9300 / FD $22 vs. Sam Alvey (+325) DK $6900 / FD $9
This fight is really a dangerous one to predict for many reasons but really one solid reason, and it is just Sam Alvey. Sam Alvey has made a career in being extremely boring, but defensively solid and has fallen in love with the science of the counter game. He isn’t the fighter that is going to come out of the gate and try to put a pace on you or dictate any sort of a dance. Sam Alvey does the exact opposite. He wants you to lead and he will follow. That is his form of baiting a trap. He will fight off his heels, fight going backward, and just take what you give him while he tries to study your patterns and vulnerabilities. Then when the time is right he will try to slowly make you walk onto something big. In the past, Alvey would basically sell you false promises. Giving you the appearance that you are in complete control and when you feel like all things are in your favor he will walk you onto a blistering overhand right. With 33 wins, 18 have come by way of KO which is a big number for a low volume counter striker. He has 2 submissions and 11 by way of decision. In his 13 losses, he was KO’d 3 times and submitted once. Alvey has shown very good durability in his career and coming from Quest he has also shown the ability to defensively wrestle his way out of tough situations. The issue with Alvery was that now being in the Light Heavyweight division he isn’t really a pure Light Heavy. Starting his career at welterweight and spending most of his resume in the middleweight division you need to wonder how his power will translate against possibly the strongest pound for pound division in MMA. Losing 3 of his last 3 Alvey has been KO’d 2 of those times. Now you wonder if his chin is going or it may be due to the power coming back at him in a bigger division considering he has only been KO’d 3 times in his entire career and 2 of them were in his last 3 fights. His last fight was a close decision and he voiced his anger where he thought he actually won the fight and I think I would agree with him there but it doesn’t take away my concern with the light heavyweight translation for him. He takes on up and comer Ryan Spann fighting out of the highly and newly surging Fortis MMA. Spann is on an absolute tear in the UFC right now winning his last 7 fights in which 4 of them have been under the UFC umbrella since leaving LFA. A long 6-5 frame with an 80-inch reach, Span is a good-sized light heavy, but his wheelhouse isn’t in the business of Knocking you out. It is, in fact, his submission game. In 17 wins, 4 have come by way of KO and 11 by way of submission. In his 5 losses, he was KOd 2 times and submitted 1 time. If Spann was fighting someone with equalizing power, I can see this being a tough fight for him, but he has shown clearly in some previous fights that he can take pressure, he can take a certain level of abuse, and bounce back to win. A perfect example is his fight against Alexander Nicholson in LFA. Nicholson was taking it to him for the better part of the fight and Spann was literally just a sitting duck. However, Alvey just isn’t much of a predator and it will be Spann that can be creative and force the attack on Alvey. With that said, he is going to need to really mind his business doing so. Alvey can and will lull you into a false sense of security and uncork something when you least expect it. In all honesty, unless Alvey comes out on a mission, this is Spann’s fight to win or lose. I just don’t know how active of a fight it will actually be. Alvey loves the Mud Drags, but you have to pick Spann here.
The Pick: Ryan Spann
Ngannou (-280) DK $9100 / FD $20 vs. Rozenstruik (+240) DK $7100 / FD $10
This fight was really tricky for me because I am really scared of the outcome on both sides. I know Francis has the effect on the masses with his larger than human style and power and it is all legit. I mean just ask Overeem about what being catatonic feels like. However, he has not shown much other than power. Anyone that has been able to hang with him and not make that stupid mistake of dipping your chin or keeping you chin on the shelf has faired pretty well against him. A huge element here is wrestling which has been his biggest heal. Take him down and he will completely give up his ace which his power. You can’t punch with power from your back or when someone is on your hips taking away that range and space. However, if you give him that opportunity, it truly only takes one. Most people fight him very very scared of his power so they reach. They reach way too much trying to stay out of range and in turn they are doing much more harm than good exposing their chin and exposing themselves to a much more violent ending. You need to stay patient, distant, and trust your process if you are going to fight Francis. Fear his power and be aware of it but also trust in your own power and understand that you can out point him and tire down the giant if you play your cards right. Rozenstruik is that guy that has the ability to outland him and out work him on the feet. He is the more polished fighter with the Kick Boxing resume that he poses and he also carries very good power, but he cant make the mistake that overeem made. You cant dip, duck and dodge with your head against Francis. You need to utilize space and range management to outpoint him, hope he tires out and then take it to him late in spurts. I hated the fight with Rozenstruik and Overeem because he was fighting in spurts. He was losing the fight as well until he finally let loose and corked Overeem with 10 seconds left when reem was exhausted. That was a boring fight and a shitty fight but that is the type of game plan that works against a guy like Francis. Lull him into your fight. Let him throw and waste useless energy. Chop his legs and let them all accumulate. Use every second of the 15 minutes intelligently. Don’t look for the home run because chances are he will be the one that hits it. I know Francis really should win this fight and hell he may win it. But I actually think Rozenstruik is the better striker here and if he can tear a page out of his kickboxing days, it may be extremely beneficial to him. Be patient, use range, create distance and be the matador. Pick your spots and keep your chin tucked. Call me nuts and maybe I am but I am taking a swing on Rozenstruik here. I think he has a legit shot to win here.
The Pick: Rozenstruik
UFC 249 DFS
Tony Ferguson – DK $8700 / FD $17
He is dynamic. He is active no matter where the fight goes and can score from all areas. He will need to be a little more cautious early with Gaethje, which can take away from some of his value with a pretty high tag against a dangerous fighter like Gaethje. However, in a 5 round fight where JG is really a kill-or-be-killed fighter, the path will be there for Ferguson to finish the fight, and if it does go 5 rounds, there will be blood and there will be points scored. Don’t be too frightened by the tag. Get some Ferguson.
Justin Gaethje – DK $7500 / FD $15
This dude is a straight-up wildcard. You know what you’re getting with him every fight. Seven Bonuses in six fights. He is either getting starched and loses or is getting starched and storms back to starch. Tony is very hittable and will present opportunities for JG here. The ticket for JG is to get rounds in the bag early and put it on him. There is no way that his cardio holds up to Tony’s in the long run of the race. Tony has a seemingly endless gas tank, and even tho he is very hittable, he manages ways to escape no matter what situation he is put. As the clock ticks away, Tony gets better. JG has a clear path here, but he will have to do it before the championship rounds or Tony can run away with this thing. With that said, JG is a live dog against anyone, and fading him completely would not be smart. Save some room for him on some rosters. He has pulled off some amazing things before, and it wouldn’t be too much of a shock if he did it again.
Dominick Cruz – DK $7400 / FD $12
This is a guy who brings a style you just can’t train for properly. He is long, rangy and just very loose in his approach. He creates angles and really tries to keep things moving and fluid. Cruz has fought the best of the best and only had a few very minor hiccups along the way. With that said, he is getting older and his health has not been the poster board of optimal. With 2 layoffs equating to over 5 years, Cruz will look to use his cerebral approach here. If it wasn’t Cruz in this spot, I would fade him totally, but I can’t say I can do that. At the end of the day, it is still Cruz, and even though I am not expecting this to be a superstar performance, if there is one person who I wouldn’t be shocked if he was able to pull it off, it would be Cruz. He does hold value here.
Henry Cejudo – DK $8800 / FD $19
It seems Cejudo has become the new matrix fighter. The highest of wrestling pedigrees with extremely sharp hands. Cejudo has evolved at an insane rate, and he does not intend on stepping off the gas anytime soon. After Cejudo’s first loss to DJ, it was quite apparent he wasn’t going to sit on his hands. He was going to get up and find his way back to the throne at some point. After all the big names he has beaten along the way, this is a very different fighter he is fighting in a sense of Cruz’s style. As mentioned above, you can’t train for Cruz. You need to understand how to adjust on the fly with him, and that is going to be a very interesting task for Cejudo. I am not crazy about his price, to be quite honest with you. I know it is 5 rounds and there will be plenty of points to be had, but Cruz is going to make him at least think about things in the beginning. Before you can really get comfortable, you need to lay a bead on your opposition, and the longer it takes to do that, the longer it takes to get into a tempo. I don’t hate it, per se, and I will have some because of the 5 round action and the volume that should be accumulated, but this fight should be closer than what it really is in pricing standards. So, I would say play it, but don’t go overboard here.
Greg Hardy – DK $8600 / FD $17
I would like to start off by saying, Hardy is not good at fighting. His athletic ability is helping him take small steps, but they are all against extremely weak competition. With that said, he does have power and he does have the gift of athleticism. And with that said, he can also blow your night up with extremely boneheaded decisions like getting DQ’d for taking a hit of an inhaler in his corner and striking someone when they’re down. The UFC is really trying to get behind this guy. What they see outside of the name, I have no idea, but they see something I must be missing. With that said, they know he needs a win badly and they can’t just feed him a can so they are giving him a guy who has a padded record with enough skill to be legit. He should pass this test if he plays his cards right, and from a DFS perspective, he’s never a safe play. But I can make an argument for plugging him into some lineups for the upside of a finish. Tread lightly, but you can tread a bit.
Yorgan De Castro – DK $7600 / FD $12
I mean, the guy has value. Any heavyweight has value, especially when the opposition is not polished at all. Yorgan is getting A LOT of shine from that one hitter step back cross check knockout. However, if you understand why watching film is a craft, then you will see that his eyes were completely closed when he let that go. It was a desperation punch. So, great punch? Yes. Looked tremendous. Did he actually lay a bead on that target? No. So, the only thing he showed me is he does have very good power. However, his mechanics are not good and he throws with hopes and prayers. Can he catch Hardy with something? Absolutely. Do I see it as being more likely than not? I don’t. The UFC has plans for Hardy right now, and they don’t include De Castro. However, it’s the heavyweights so I wouldn’t fade him completely. But I wouldn’t go crazy on this fight in general. A small taste on both sides with a heavier lean on Hardy would be the way to go.
Vicente Luque – DK $9000 / FD $18
Yes… he’s pricey… yes… he’s fighting a tricky opponent, and yes… he can get it done everywhere. Luque is not only more talented and well rounded, but he will bait Price into the fight that will sell Price false security. The dangerous part will be in the first half of the fight where Price can surprise you. Luque should be able to lock in and drop Price at some point during a wild exchange. I’ll def pay up for some Luque this week, and you should get some too.
Niko Price – DK $7100 / FD $13
Look, I see where the value lies here, but I really just don’t see him beating Luque. If you’re running a bunch of lineups, then it’s ok to pivot away to cover your tracks a bit, but I can tell you this: if you’re not running many, then I would leave Price in the locker room for this one.
Jeremy Stephens – DK $7300 / FD $14
As good as of a stylistic matchup this is for Jeremy, it is also a very bad one. Kattar is going to bring the style that JS wants in this fight, but I can see Kattar being the sharper, faster and younger fighter, getting off first and finishing the exchanges as well, which in turn, will earn him the judges’ nods in these moments. JS has more power and more experience, but unless he connects with something very big against Kattar, it can be a long, dragged out fight where he is fighting from behind. I would never count him out in a fight like this, but I also wouldn’t look to him to be one of your optimum choices for your builds. Depending on how active he is in this fight in which I am looking for it to go to the decision, at $7300 dollars, you never know what activity you will get from him. He is cheap enough to have some shares but go in expecting him to fall behind on the cards and possibly lose a decision with the hopes that maybe it’s close enough where he can sway the judges a bit. However, my official pick to win the fight is, in fact, Kattar.
Calvin Kattar – DK $8900 / FD $18
This is a dicey price for me here. Kattar doesn’t score all that well when fights go to the final horn and a big part of that is because he really takes care of his business standing. So the volume that needs to be shelled out is high if he wants to supersede his value. Unless of course he KO’s Jeremy. With that said, $8900 is a number that I am not all too thrilled about. If this fight goes to the cards, which I think it does, he may not be able to really spit out hard volume against a guy that has well-respected power. You tend to be a little more cautious with how you let your hands go. Just because I feel he does enough to win the fight doesn’t mean I am looking at him as a prime DFS play. I would rather pay up a bit for a fighter that I have a stronger bead on getting a finish.
Uriah Hall – DK $7900 / FD $15
Love Hall’s chances here. He is the better striker and Souza is not getting any younger. I like the fact that he moved into fortis MMA full time to finish camp while Souza “claims” that he has been using his wife’s CrossFit equipment. Souza is a dangerous man if he gets you on the ground with his pedigree, but if Hall can keep standing and not get webbed, he has a great shot as Souza’s well-known gas tank starts taking a turn. He holds very good value here at sub $8k.
Jacare Souza – DK $8300 / FD $16
Souza, even at 40, is always dangerous. However, the man does gas and when he does it is very very visible. It’s hard to fade a guy with his pedigree and history but I can tell you this, I will have a heavier lean on the dog here.
Carla Esparza – DK $8400 / FD $16
Carla Esparza is sitting at a price where she should be sitting, and what I mean by that is, in a win, she is usually hovering around here, give or take a few points. She hasn’t broken the 90 point barrier since 2014 when she beat Thug Rose. If she wins, you can expect the 70-mid 80 range, and that would basically be skimming her value at that point. Sometimes, that’s all you want tho to stabilize your lineup instead of paying down a bit for a low shot dog with a prayer and end up with 15-20 instead. So, she isn’t going to be a slate breaker, but if she wins, she will fall short or exceed her value slightly.
Michelle Waterson – DK $7800 / FD $14
Her value seems really tasty here because she is sub $8k, but she is really going to have to stay off her back if she wants to win and score. Waterson also hovers around the mid-70 range so win and you can expect just that unless she gets a finish, which I don’t see happening. With that said, if Esparza puts her on her back numerous times, then she can actually score much lower. I am not expecting this to be a volume affair, and I am also ultimately picking Esparza. So, this really isn’t piquing my interest as a solid play.
Anthony Pettis – DK $8200 / FD $15
Donald Cerrone – DK $8000 / FD $15
Close in price; you know what you should do here. However, this is a very important fight for both men. Cerrone is on a 3-fight losing streak, and Pettis is on a 2-fight losing streak. Something has to give for one of them, but there is much more pressure on Cerrone here with the possibility of dropping the most consecutive losses in his career. He needs this fight, and even tho Pettis beat him in the first fight, that was long ago and the stakes weren’t as crucial. Cerrone is the bigger man, the better wrestler and grappler, and although he isn’t the matrix on the feet as Pettis is, the guy can slang and bang with the rest of them if his chin holds up. I know what Cerrone said about Conor, and I know he has failed many times in pressure spots, but I find it hard to believe he won’t be up for this one, knowing what’s at stake here. The comparison in pricing is close so you can plug in and out without disrupting much on the rest of your builds. With that said, I will have a heavier lean on Cowboy here.
Aleksei Oleinik – DK $7000 / FD $9
Love this guy, and even tho Werdum has been MIA for a while, I don’t see a path here for Oleinik. I’m fading him here.
Fabricio Werdum – DK $9200 / FD $21
There is no reason Werdum can’t finish this fight anywhere. Oleinik has such a sloppy Frankenstein style that usually works against people, but Werdum is too seasoned and should neutralize Oleinik’s strengths until he tires out and can take over the outcome. He’s pricey, yes, but his upside is very good here.
Bryce Mitchell – DK $8500 / FD $18
I see everyone on Bryce here, and I get it. He’s crafty, and he brings that blue color style with him. He will have the size advantage here, which also works in his favor. This can be a scrambling fest if it pans out properly. I do think that this fight should be much closer but if he wins and the scrambles are there he can def cover his value. I just don’t see him submitting Rosa here and that can also take away from his value a bit. However, many people will be on him here because they don’t know much about Rosa and they DO know about Bryce landing that insane Twister against Matt Sayles in his last fight. However, Rosa is a far different animal on the ground so submitting him will be tough. So I would def have some on this young firecracker but don’t load like as many people will. This is a MUCH better fight than people are placing it out to be.
Charles Rosa – DK $7700 / FD $11
Rosa has a chance to really pull off something great here. We know he can grapple being a black belt under Ricardo Liborio, but submitting Manny Bermudez was just another feather in the cap of his submission prowess. Rosa is the smaller fighter but he is also the more technical one. Better striking and the more seasoned and more fundamentally sound grappling. He is older than Bryce and def not as active but he is a dog with a shot that I feel may be getting a bit disrespected here. I def would have some swings on Rosa here in a very very interesting fight.
Ryan Spann – DK $9300 / FD $22
I’m so torn on this here. Sam Alvey is never going to allow you to bring heavy volume at him without a price. He is the master at slowing down the fight. The guy would rather watch paint dry than to get into a pocket war with anyone. Usually, Alvey has been one of the more durable guys in the division but as of late he has been showing some deterioration. Spann is a good prospect and he really should win this fight but given the style of Alvey if Spann doesn’t finish him early he most likely won’t hit his value. At $9300, I don’t see him being a slate breaker. Not because of him, but because of the style Alvey tries to make you fight at. He will really need an early finish to cover the price, and I am not really willing to bet on that in the first fight of the night.
Sam Alvey – DK $6900 / FD $9
This guy… This guy won me a ton of money against Prachnio. When everyone was on this kid, I told everyone to roll it on Alvey, and sure enough, it worked out in our favor. However, that was then and this is now. He has taken a step back since then and trusting his chin at this point is in fact in question. His take down defense is really not bad coming from that old school style of quest, but I really don’t see him fairing well here unless he can find that step back cross check and win it that way. He is less Volumatic then a counter fighter so him winning a decision accruing points with volume is really not something that will probably happen. I like Alvey but outside of a small swing, He has a bad matchup here.
Ngannou – DK 9100 FD 20
I mean you would be a fool not to have him rostered in some spots. The guy is a finishing machine. However, while people are going full bore on this guy, I am not going to bite so hard. Rozenstruik can present a problem here and I am treating it as such. Tread, but I wouldn’t go crazy here. Strange things do happen.
Rozenstruik – DK 7100 FD 10
Call me out of my mind but I think Rozenstruik can win this fight. This could be a complete Snoozer or he can get completely starched here, but if you give me a high pedigree striker against another striker in the HW division at 7100, I am willing to play ball abit. I think people will be realllllly over looking him and in large field tournaments, he could be a slate breaker if he can find his mark to finish the titan. I wouldnt fade him here and I wouldnt go heavy either but I would open this door and take a chance….
UFC 249 PRIZE PICKS
We have a new game in town and it is Prize Picks! This is such an awesome add on to the MMA landscape and I am so happy to be apart of such a cool and unique game. So what prize picks offers is very black and white and it ties in DFS and Wagering all in one format! Quick, easy to navigate, and so fun to play. Here is how it works.
Prize Picks will give you a hand full of fighters with their projected DFS score after their fight. Your job is to basically pick the over/under of their projected total correctly and you win! It’s as simple as that! The kicker is that you can parlay any fighter you want up to 4 fighters. It’s that simple.
I will be adding this to my article every week as an inclusive add on to my already extensive article.
I am trying to give you guys every outlet to win money with my article giving you the best bang for your buck and the ultimate ROI. Below I will give you some of the plays I will be looking at here. I am telling you right now that you will LOVE this game. Use the below link and use promo code ELITE to get started!
I may add Some more…. This is what I am on as of now
Inside the Distance -125
1.25 to win 1
3.4 to win 2
1.4 to win 1
goes Decision -140
1.4 to win 1
1 to win 1.3
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