UFC on Fox 28: Emmett vs Stephens; 5 Most Important Bouts

For the 7th week in a row, Mixed Martial Arts’ premier organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, will hold a televised event; this time, going live from Orlando, Florida.

Unlike last week, the main-card for the UFC’s 28th event on Fox will only feature 4 bouts but the entirety of the card holds more recognizable faces than lineups in recent weeks. Before the fights are broadcasted, further analysis of the five most important contests are available below.

5) Renan “The Baron” Barao vs Brian “Boom” Kelleher (135lbs/Bantamweight Fight)

 

If 4 years ago you were to tell MMA observers that Renan Barao would be fighting on the undercard of a free-to-watch event, they would probably write you off as crazy. Yet, 4 years have now passed since Baraos’ first title loss to TJ Dillashaw, a knockout he has never fully rebounded from. Since losing to Dillashaw in May of 2014, “The Baron” has gone 2-3 inside the octagon, with his last win being a less than impressive victory over Phillipe Nover in 2016. After succeeding the Nover win with a loss to Aljaman Sterling, Barao seemed to reiterate claims that he is still unable to regain the form he once had when he maintained a 31-fight win-streak over the span of 9 years. To illustrate the struggles of Barao, the following statistic should be considered:

5 Fights Before/After First KO Loss to Dillanshaw

Before

After

Strikes Landed

270

247

Strikes Absorbed 178

340

The reason for the struggles of Barao, a once feared striker are unknown. However,  it is clear that he is still in need of serious adjustment should he wish to reign the division once again. In an attempt to do so, Barao has decided to move to the United States and train at American Top Team (ATT) for this camp. Though fans are yet to see Barao compete at his new camp, he has assured audiences that they can “expect a nice KO” and that he has received “the best preparation possible” for this bout.

“I got the best preparation possible…. I chose ATT so I could change my way of training, look for improvements. Since I already had some friends of mine training over there, telling me how different everything was, that’s what me decide. Everything changed. I’m doing my cardio with one coach, boxing with another, wrestling with another. I think I improved quite a lot.”

Hoping that the career move will be unsuccessful for Barao, Brian “Boom” Kelleher is looking to move up the bantamweight rankings should he be able to have his hand raised for the second consecutive time.

At the moment, Kelleher sits at 2-1 under the UFC banner, most recently dispatching Damian Stasiak by way of TKO late last year. Although the UFC footage is minuscule in comparison to Barao, Kelleher has shown a willingness to fight both standing and on the ground in his trio of UFC contests and is sure to look to mix up his punches and takedowns once again. To do so, “Boom” must use his movement to trap and cut off Barao when possible as he will be forced to overcome a 6.5inch reach disadvantage for the third time in 4 UFC bouts. Based on their most recent performances, Kelleher is quicker than Barao to the punch and does a much better job disguising his attacks.

If Renan Barao can fight at least to the level he did against Mitch Gagnon he can definitely earn a similar submission result from that evening. This may be easier said then done though as “the Baron” has shown hesitancy across his last 5 fights and seems like a sure win for anyone willing to put out more volume than him.

Kelleher hasn’t been extremely impressive in the UFC thus far, but he should be able to pickup the biggest victory of his career as long as he avoids getting caught in a careless submission attempt by his opponent. Come fight time, expect Barao to have confidence in his striking ability and look to keep the fight standing, a strategy that should work in Kelleher’s favour who will outpoint him and earn a decision win.

P R E D I C T I O N

Brian Kelleher Def. Renan Barao via  SD (30-27,29-28,28-29)

4) Ovince Saint-Preux (5-LHW) vs Ilir “The Sledgehammer” Latifi (8-LHW) (205/Light-Heavyweight Fight)

When two of the divisions top Light-Heavyweight fighters face off, there’s a good chance fans will be treated to a spectacular finish. At UFC on Fox 28, Ovince Saint-Preux and Ilir Latifi are sure to deliver on this expectation when they are scheduled for 3 rounds of MMA action.

The man who will be first introduced by the ring announcer on Saturday will be the underdog, Ilir “The Sledgehammer” Latifi. Latifi last fought in September of 2017 when he won a one-sided decision over the impressive Australian prospect, Tyson Pedro. In the fight, Latifi showed off his well-rounded skillset, not only out-striking Pedro, but also winning in the takedown department 4-0.

Overall, Latifi is 6-3 since debuting in the UFC in 2013, but 2 of his 3 losses did come to top-ranked fighters in Ryan Bader and Gegard Mousasi. Outside of those two losses, the short stature of the “Sledgehammer” has not seemed to phase him as Latifi has become a powerhouse in the division, finishing 5 opponents since 2014. Additionally, Latifi is tied with Volkan Oezedemir and Anthony Johnson for the most stoppage victories within a minute in the history of the UFC’s Light-Heavyweight division, illustrating how deadly he can be when taken lightly.

Standing 5 inches taller in the red corner, Ovince Saint-Preux is looking to build off his 2017 momentum when he closed out the year on a 3-fight win-streak. In the final two fights Saint-Preux competed in, he impressed UFC executives, earning a Performance of the Night bonus award for each. The extra money awarded to Saint-Preux is not only sure to help his financial situation further, but also may have given him the confidence needed to return to his best form; as the last incentive bonus he received in a win came way back in 2014 when he stunned the world in a knockout victory over Shogun Rua.

ovince-saint-preux-3

Following the Shogun fight, Saint-Preux went 3 calendar years without beating a top-10 opponent, but his recent head-kick KO of Corey Anderson did put on end to this cold-streak for Saint-Preux. In the Anderson fight, Saint-Preux did struggle to gather control of the fight, being out-struck on the feet and failing to secure a takedown; whole giving up 4 at the same time. The 38% takedown completion percentage over his UFC career does bring up some cause for concern in this fight for Saint-Preux, who’s opponent has never been taken down in 9 career UFC fights.

If Saint-Preux is unable to utilize his grappling advantage, he does still hold a 5 inch reach advantage and uses his kicks well for a 205’er. With that being said, Latifi is used to being the shorter man come fight time and has no problem closing distance to land powerful blows; something Saint-Preux has been prone to.

When comparing the MMA careers of the two men being discussed here, one correlation that can be drawn is the fact that both Latifi and Saint-Preux have failed to overcome the hurdle of defeating elite competition. Furthering this idea, both men had decisive losses to Ryan Bader and Gegard Mousasi when they shared organizations and Saint-Preux has gone 0-4 against the divisions current top 6 fighters (Jon Jones included).

As a result, this featured bout may be deemed the least important on the main-card as neither man seems like a threat to the divisions top athletes and are nearing the end of their primes. Should Latifi win, UFC matchmakers could pair him up with any of the divisions top-7, however, we would likely see a pairing with the likes of Misha Cirkunov or Glover Texeira should he impress

Oppositely, expect to see Saint-Preux matched up with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua no matter the result as both men seem deadest on a rematch with one another. At the end of the night, I do expect to see Saint-Preux have his hand raised as his unique grappling skillset should be able to take advantage of a tired Latifi late in the fight and secure another submission victory.

P R E D I C T I O N

Ovince Saint-Preux Def. Ilir Latifi Via Submission (choke) Round 3

3) Mike “Platinum” Perry vs Max “Pain” Griffin (170/Welterweight Fight)

 

Kicking off the main-card in Orlando, fan-favourite Mike Perry will look to add to his long list of knockouts when he faces Max “Pain” Griffin. Picking up a win is essential for both men as each of them are coming of losses In their most recent outings. This specific bout may hold more importance to Perry, who will be fighting in his current town of residence, Orlando, Florida.

For Perry, this will be the first time he gets to participate in his home state of Florida under the UFC banner, but he has gone 3-0 with two first round knockouts in previous professional bouts in the Sunshine State. At the moment, “Platinum” has a 100% knockout ratio in 11 wins over his career and has gone 4-2 inside the Octagon since being picked up by the UFC. As mentioned earlier, Perry did fail to have his hand raised at the end of his last bout when the top-10 ranked Santiago Ponzinibbio used a higher volume of strikes to ultimately beat out Perry on points. In the fight, “Platinum” did show much improved head movement, however, he still seems unable to fight at a high pace for the duration of a 15-minute contest; a flaw that has contributed to keeping him on the outside of the Welterweight divisions’ top-15 athletes.

Moving onto his opponent on Saturday, Max “Pain” Griffin. Like Perry, Griffin prefers to keep the fight standing and seeks the knockout; currently holding 7 wins by way of this method. Adding to this, Griffin’s last 4 victories have come by way of KO, however, he has not experienced this since November of 2016, when he finished Erik Montaño with his fists.

If Griffin—who competed on The Ultimate Fighter 16: Carwin vs Lesnar—looks to improve on his dismal 1-2 UFC record, he must utilize a patient game-plan that should feature a long, jab-heavy attack that will help keep Perry from aggressively closing the distance. If Griffin can make it through the opening stanza and allow Perry to fade as he always does, he certainly has the power and ability to give Perry his first KO/TKO loss of his MMA career.

600.jpeg

With that being said, Griffin’s lone UFC win did come over a much less talented and athletic fighter than Perry. Furthermore, the blitz-like style of Perry has given opponents who are simply better than Griffin, such as Ponzinibbio and Jake Ellenberger complications in the past. For this reason, Perry should be able to catch Griffin early and often, ending his night within the first two rounds.

 P R E D I C T I O N

Mike Perry Def. Max Griffin Via KO/TKO Round 1

2) Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade (2-WSW) vs Tecia “The Tiny Tornado”
Torres (5-WSW) (115lbs/Women’s Strawweight Fight)

 

Heading into 2017, the previous 3 years in the Women’s Strawweight (115lbs) division was mainly dominated by the likes of Joanna Jęrzejczyk and Cláudia Gadelha. When the year ended however, multiple women solidified themselves as legitimate contenders in the division. Of the fighters to do so, both Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres picked up defining wins that kept them both atop of the division.

Beginning with the Brazilian, Jessica Andrade. “Bate Estaca” had a tremendous 2017 all around, as she not only got engaged and participated in her first title contest, but she also rebounded from a tough loss to former champion, Joanna Jęrzejczyk by defeating the aforementioned Gadelha. In doing so, Andrade became the first woman to defeat Gadelha other then Jęrzejczyk. Additionally, the loss Gadelha suffered courtesy of Andrade was possibly the most decisive of her career, being the first fight where she absorbed more strikes and takedowns than she delivered.

andrade2

As the fight with Gadelha showed, Andrade is perhaps the most physically imposing woman in the entire division. This is likely attributed to the fact she is one of the few strawweights who had success at 135lbs before the inauguration of the lighter women’s division. In fact, she even holds a win over current title challenger, Raquel Pennington (who also happens to be engaged to Torres).

What Torres lacks in the strength department against Andrade, she is sure to make up for in speed and technique. Perhaps the most underrated woman in the strawweight division, Torres not only surprised many when she defeated Michelle Waterson in December, but is also the first fighter to defeat both Paige VanZant and current champion, “Thug” Rose Namajunas. Adding to her list of notable wins, the “Tiny Tornado” also has beaten the top-10 ranked Felice Herrig early in her career.

tecia3.pngIn the UFC, Torres is 6-1 so far and a win will put her into immediate title contention for the first time. If she hopes to complete her goal of becoming UFC champion, her main objective will be to keep the fight standing as she is a slick striker. For example, Torres not only lands at a rather efficient rate of 50% strike accuracy, but also yields a 70% striking defense which first in her division and tied for 9th throughout the entirety of the UFC roster.

Although staying mobile and throwing combination counter-strikes (like Jęrzejczyk did against Andrade) is Torres best strategy for victory, she must be weary that Andrade is the strongest female in her division and thus holds the power to end her night standing.

Overall, both women are extremely tough and each may challenge for the title in the future. With that being said, Andrade is not only a brute force at 115lbs in the grappling department, she does possess a solid striking game as well. Don’t expect to see either female be finished, but do anticipate seeing Andrade using her physical advantages well and securing another dominant win on Saturday.

P R E D I C T I O N

Jessica Andrade Def. Tecia Torres Via UD (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

1) Josh Emmett (4-FW) vs Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens (7-FW) (145lbs/Featherweight Fight)

 

In one of the hardest fights to pick in recent memory, two of the most powerful men in the lighter weight-classes are set to face one another in the main event of UFC on Fox 28: Orlando.

In the blue corner, Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens is seeking his 19th career knockout and 15th UFC win when he enters the octagon for the 28th time. Although this will tie Stephens for the second most UFC appearances, he has failed to show much consistency over that time, never having a win streak longer than 3. He is 14-13 overall in the UFC overall.

The fight on Saturday will be the quickest turnaround in the long UFC tenure of Stephens who most recently defeated one of the divisions most popular fighters, Doo Ho Choi 7 weeks ago. In the fight, both participants seemed even on the feet, each getting their timing down early in the fight. Through less than 2 rounds, the two men combined to land nearly 100 strikes, with Stephens knocking out the “Korean Superboy” late in the second frame.

Though the result on paper seems great to fans of Stephens, “Lil Heathen” will have to fight a more defensive fight if he wishes to move into the top 5 of the featherweight rankings. The reason for this is that eating a high volume of strikes from Emmett early on is not something Stephens wants to do; no matter how tough he is. Luckily for Stephens, he does have a career striking defense of 60% and Emmett is rather predictable with his strikes, suggesting it may be very possible for Stephens to outlast Emmett in this one.

Looking to silence any critics who feel the Ricardo Lamas knockout was a fluke, Josh Emmett is looking for his second straight victory over a top-10 opponent when he faces Jeremy Stephens in Orlando. Currently sitting ranked number 4 in the featherweight division, Emmett leapfrogged a majority of his peers when his huge counter left-hook KO over Lamas catapulted him from the bottom 15 of the division to the top-5. It’s not often a single punch shakes up the rankings so significantly, but considering both former and current Featherweight champions Jose Aldo and Max Holloway had difficulty putting Lamas away, experts had no choice but to determine Emmett was ready for the divisions elite.

In his 5 UFC fights so far, Emmett is 4-1, but a recent move to featherweight has seen Emmett go undefeated with two lopsided wins. Like Stephens, Emmett not only throws extremely powerful punches, but also leaves himself somewhat susceptible to getting hit as well. Elaborating on this, Emmett had absorbed at least 40 strikes in all of his UFC fights except his quick victory of Lamas (who was also nearly doubling him in strikes landed before suddenly losing).

Training at team alpha male, Emmett does use his footwork very well, often switching stances in hopes of hiding his big right hand. Additionally, Emmett’s training has granted him an underrated ability to change levels and secure the takedown, landing 53% of his attempts over his 5 UFC contests.

If Emmett is to win, he will be required to remain disciplined and hear out the advice of his coaches who should suggest Emmett seek the takedown on multiple occasions. If Emmett is able to frustrate Stephens by using his footwork to avoid his wide hooks and secure takedowns, he should be able to have his hand raised by way of unanimous decision. Unfortunately, for Emmett and his supporters, Stephens has shown improved takedown defense across his UFC career and does hold 14 more knockouts than that of Emmett.

In conclusion, Emmett will not be able to handle eating 50-100 significant strikes from Jeremy Stephens and will need to showcase more striking weapons than powerful hooks to take out the veteran Stephens. At this point, Stephens is too much for Emmett.

P R E D I C T I O N 

Jeremy Stephens Def. Josh Emmett Via KO/TKO in Round 4

 

_______

 

Rest of the Card

As the title suggests, only 5 of the fights scheduled for UFC on Fox 28 were broken-down but a handful of exciting matchups with noteworthy athletes are expected to take place as well.

________________________________________________________________________

Albert “The Warrior” Morales vs Manny “The Bermuda Triangle” Bermudez (135lbs/Bantamweight Fight)

P R E D I C T I O N 

Manny Bermudez Def. Albert Morales via Submission Round 2

________________________________________________________________________

Eric “Showtime” Shelton vs Alex Perez (125lbs/Flyweight Fight)

P R E D I C T I O N

Alex Perez Def. Eric Showtime via SD (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

________________________________________________________________________

Rani Yahya vs Russell Doane (135lbs/Bantamweight Fight)

P R E D I C T I O N

Rani Yahya Def. Russell Doane Via Submission in Round 1

________________________________________________________________________

“Smile N” Sam Alvey vs Marcin Prachnio (185lbs/Middleweight Fight)

P R E D I C T I O N

Sam Alvey Def. Marcin Prachnio via UD (29-28. 28-28, 29-28)

________________________________________________________________________

Ben “Killa B” Saunders vs Alan “Brahma” Jouban (170lbs/Welterweight Fight)

P R E D I C T I O N

Alan Jouban Def. Ben Saunders via TKO Round 2

________________________________________________________________________

Maryna “Iron Lady” Moroz vs Angela “Overkill” Hill (115lbs/Women’s Strawweight Fight)

P R E D I C T I O N 

Maryna Moroz Def. Angela Hill via Submission Round 3

________________________________________________________________________

Sara McMann(7-WBW) vs Marion “The Belizean Bruiser” Reneau (8-WBW) (135lbs/Women’s Bantamweight Fight)

P R E D I C T I O N

Sara McMann Def. Marion Reneau via UD (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)

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