I remember my first International UFC Fight Week. I drove 2500 miles to meet some of my favorite fighters. The ultra charismatic Renzo Gracie was the first person I met. When I mentioned to him that I trained at one of his affiliates, he immediately proceeded to load me up with autographed shirts and shorts as we had a laugh about how my BJJ coach’s 10-year-old son would kick my butt in warmups.
It was off to a great start. After Renzo, I met the always interesting Shonie Carter. Little did I know that a few years later I would witness my teammate Johnny Parsons would knock Shonie out in the 1st round at an MMA event in Grand Junction, Colorado.
I can remember standing in line to meet Randy Couture for an hour only to bolt when I had the chance to meet my idol, Anderson Silva. One of my first Vegas gambles paid off as this was the only time I would get the opportunity to meet Silva, while I ended up sharing Starbucks black coffees quite often with Randy as he and I ended up neighbors.
To go along with the Fan Expo, the UFC has their Hall of Fame induction ceremonies on Thursday, The Ultimate Fighter Finale on Friday, and of course the biggest pay-per-view of the year, UFC 226.
Even though I won’t be in Las Vegas this year for all the festivities and scalding heat, I am uber excited for both the TUF Finale and UFC 226. My old gym in Vegas, Syndicate MMA has fighters all over both cards.
As I reviewed some of the odds on BetOnline, I found some excellent value with several fighters.
One of those fighters is Brian Ortega. Unfortunately, Max Holloway had to pull out of Saturday night’s title fight due to concussive symptoms. I looked up a recent interview UFC Tonight had with Max. Michael Bisping and Kenny Florian could each sense something was wrong with Max. Bisping went as far as to ask Max on national television what was wrong with him, and if he had just woke up.
If you listen to the interview, you can tell that his speech is very slurred. As much as I wanted to see this fight and make some cash on Ortega, I have to agree with the call that was made. The fighter’s safety is paramount.
The rest of the card, thank goodness, is still intact including the champion versus champion main event of Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier.
World class K-1 kickboxer Gokhan Saki will be in action opposite Anderson Silva’s protege Khalil Rountree Jr. This fight is almost sure to finish inside of 15 minutes.
Another battle that I don’t see lasting very long is a heavyweight collision between Francis Ngannou and the “Black Beast” Derrick Lewis. Both of these men bring so much heat with their hands, one guy is sure to fall.
Underground sensation “Platinum” Mike Perry and the hard-nosed Muay Thai machine Paul Felder from Philadelphia will likely have their matchup moved to the main card. This is Perry’s first fight camp at the famed Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico, so expect to see at the very least a decent game plan from the powerful brawler.
UFC 226 is stacked from top to bottom. Let’s go ahead and break down these fights, find the best value, and pick winners.
Jamie Moyle (-200) Emily Whitmire (+170)
This is an undercard matchup, but I can’t leave out the ladies. Plus, Jamie was a training partner of mine and good friend at Syndicate MMA for several years. The Vegas local has since relocated her fight camp to Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California.
The change of pace and scenery is just what Moyle needed, I think. She went from one great camp to another, and will definitely evolve from that. There are many more training partners around her size at Team Alpha Male, so I expect to see a much-improved Jamie Moyle.
Her opponent, Emily Whitmire did not impress me as I went back and watched some tape of her on Fight Pass. Don’t worry, I adjusted for the fact that I’m friends with Jamie and just don’t see Emily beating her.
Whitmire was submitted by a deep armbar in the 1st round of her only UFC fight. Jamie has a couple 3-round wars under her UFC belt already, if you will, so far winning one of those contests. Emily will be a little taller, but she holds her hands low and in front of her face.
Jamie loves to chain together looping punches with her takedowns and will have a surprising 4-inch reach advantage. One of those will land every round and I see Jamie getting the submission by rear naked choke in round 2.
PLACE YOUR BET
Paul Felder (-145) vs Mike Perry (+125)
Don’t blink ya’ll! This is just one of several fights on Saturday’s card that I can see ending in a knockout. Neither man is known for their takedowns or submissions, although Mike Perry may fight more game plan oriented. For his own sake, he better fight with some brains or he won’t have any left.
Mike is very talented and has knockout power in both hands. That’s about all we can say about him at this point because that’s all he has shown us. It worked on lesser competition, but he has since dropped two straight.
Word is that Mike has a strong takedown game.
Will we get to see it?
I doubt it.
Men who love to bang, bang.
Whether or not we see any wrestling in this fight, I feel the outcome will be the same. Paul Felder is a very technical Muay Thai striker with much more Octagon experience and has power in all 8 limbs, not just 2.
I don’t think he will stop Mike, but Paul should consistently land the cleaner shots to the legs, body, and head of Perry.
PLACE YOUR BET
Paulo Costa (-400) vs Uriah Hall (+330)
Wow, these are huge odds against someone as dangerous as Uriah Hall, right?
I think so. Hall has his share of defeats inside the Octagon, but most of them have been against top-notch competition. After winning 5 out of 6 including a shocking victory of one of the world’s best in Gegard Mousasi, Uriah dropped 3 in a row including a rematch loss to Mousasi and losing a decision to current Middleweight Champ Robert Whitaker.
Uriah will hold a 7-inch reach advantage and 4 inches in the legs! Both guys are ranked next to one another at 9th and 10th, respectively, and if Hall is confident and careful, he can definitely win this fight.
Paulo Costa is 3-0 in the UFC and 11-0 overall. After reviewing tape on him and watching his 3 UFC fights, I have concluded that he isn’t that good. He doesn’t shoot for takedowns and has mediocre technique on the feet.
He recently destroyed Johny Hendricks, but that isn’t saying much. Johny has been on the decline ever since USADA rode into town, and was severely undersized. Other than that win, his other two victories were against tomato cans and he didn’t even look that good.
I thought Costa covered up too much when he saw a punch coming his way he didn’t like. That plays right into the game of Hall as he can hit you with a kick you don’t see coming if you’re staring straight at him.
If you put both arms in front of your face with only the threat of a jab, good luck with the wheel kick or whatever is coming your way.
I love Uriah Hall here to pull off what the books consider an upset, but I just don’t see it.
PLACE YOUR BET
Gokhan Saki (-132) vs Khalil Rountree (+112)
Gokhan the “Turkish Tyson” Saki has fought some of the world’s top strikers and cemented his place among them. He is now on to the next journey, a career in MMA.
MMA is obviously a different sport altogether. You can have the very best striking in the world but if your opponent is an All-American wrestler, good luck.
With that being said, Khalil Rountree is not at all known for his ground game or wrestling prowess. He has been training MMA much longer than Saki, so a takedown attempt or two from Khalil shouldn’t be a bad idea.
Khalil is a ninja. I try not to use that term very often, but I promise you it fits in this situation. I was lucky enough to train with him for a couple years in Las Vegas, and I’ve never seen a man his size move so well.
He introduced me to slacklining and while I considered myself to have a decent balance at the time, I quickly learned that there are levels to this stuff. I wasn’t alone either. In a gym full of professional martial artists, Khalill was the only one to walk across safely and consistently. He even threw in some jumps for the heck of it.
I still bear a scar from Rountree’s southpaw left kick. We were in the ring doing a round of sparring when he caught me with just his big toe right below my lip. It wasn’t a super hard shot, but enough to take a chunk out and keep me bleeding for the rest of practice.
Khalil has seen his struggles inside of the Octagon fighting a guy like Tyson Pedro with such a bigger frame and his cardio has been suspect as he carries quite a bit of muscle for his 5’11” frame.
I would say more about Saki, but there isn’t much else to say. He’s super powerful with the best tricks in the book. As much as I would like to see a striking match between the two, it would behoove Khalil to attempt to grind Saki out with clinch and wrestling work.
This is really hard for me, but I am going to take Saki in this matchup. His quickness should be the difference. Khalil hasn’t shown the conditioning to be able to impose his will and grind the other fighter out. Dang it, still pulling for my boy.
PLACE YOUR BET
Michael Chiesa (-158) vs Anthony Pettis (+138)
Hey, Mike got the lacerations on his face taken care of from the Conor McGregor dolly through a bus incident. I was very excited to see these two guys lock horns and happy to see the UFC is still going through with the fight.
Okay, I’m a bit biased on this one too. Whenever Chiesa is fighting a striker like Anthony Pettis, he holds his camp in Las Vegas at Syndicate MMA. I wasn’t there for this camp, but I “let him” beat me up a few times in the past.
This matchup will not be easy, though, as Anthony is the superior athlete. Mike’s rear naked choke is one of the best in the UFC, but Pettis’ grappling is severely underrated.
Mike had an ace in the hole with Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez as his primary sparring partner for this fight. Yair’s style matches up well with Anthony’s, and that should keep Mike relatively safe on the feet.
The question remains, though, will Mike be able to impose his wrestling on Anthony for at least 2 rounds?
I say yes, but barely. This fight has split decision written all over it. Anthony wins the striking battle but the fight is ⅔ grappling, so Mike edges it on the scorecards.
PLACE YOUR BET
Francis Ngannou (-355) vs Derrick Lewis (+290)
The now co-main event is no doubt going to be a cracker. Not a man or woman on earth truly believes this fight will go to a decision. One of these two men may be the hardest puncher in the UFC today.
Francis has the cleaner technique with his hands, and will likely hold the speed advantage.
Ngannou is another guy on this card that did his camp at Syndicate MMA. I don’t know for sure, but it seemed that his original coach lacked a strong MMA knowledge base.
Coach Wood of Syndicate has been knee deep in MMA for over 20 years and should help Francis further evolve his game to fit the level of the UFC.
I’m a fan of both fighters, so it’ll be difficult to pull for either guy. I think Ngannou wins by 2nd round TKO, but Lewis has more value at (+290). I wouldn’t try to make money on Francis here, but if you want to put a few bucks on the “Black Beast”, go ahead.
PLACE YOUR BET
Stipe Miocic (-235) vs Daniel Cormier (+200)
I think I did the big Bruce Buffer main event announcement last time, so let’s just jump into it.
This is one of the most anticipated fights of all-time. Both fighters will be considered for GOAT status. That stands for greatest of all time if you didn’t know. Daniel’s only losses in his career are to one man, Jon Jones.
With this win, Stipe Miocic will arguably be the greatest heavyweight of all-time and not far from being the greatest pound-for-pound fighter ever.
Stylistically, both men are similar. Stipe likes to box and wrestle when needed. Cormier likes to wrestle and box when needed.
We can’t focus 100% on the technical aspects of the fight as we must remember that it is a heavyweight fight. I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but there are many more knockouts at heavyweight than any of the other weight classes.
While Daniel may actually weigh more than Miocic on fight night, he doesn’t have the frame or muscle mass that Stipe possesses.
Miocic is in the prime of his career and Daniel is at the tail end of his already discussing retirement, so I don’t see Daniel imposing his will as he so often does.
Stipe Miocic hasn’t shown any weakness in his career, so it’s hard to imagine Daniel Cormier beating him.
One of the biggest question marks going into this one is at what range will they be fighting?
Daniel has made a living beating taller longer guys, yes.
Most of those guys threw long punches which are easier to slip as Daniel loves to do.
Stipe loves the short right hand which is much harder to slip because you have less time to react. Reaction time declines around the age of 40 and Cormier is getting close.
I would love to see Daniel pull off the victory and ride off into the retirement sunset as the double-champ, but I don’t see him doing it against the baddest man on the planet.
PLACE YOUR BET
It sucks that we aren’t going to see Max Holloway vs Brian Ortega, but it will no doubt be scheduled in the near future.
I am still jazzed about the whole card, though, especially the main event.
I love the Uriah Hall pick. I would take him at (-180), but he is currently sitting at a pretty (+330).
Hall is a killer, man. I like him to put a heel behind the ear of Costa after Paulo covers up on some quick punches.
Jamie Moyle is another pick in which I am very confident. She probably should be (-350) in this one, so go ahead and risk the extra money. Moyle will deliver.
Mike Perry is just as dangerous as anyone on the card but has several holes in his game. A technical veteran like Felder will use more weapons more efficiently and should pull off the victory.
Khalil has a very bright future ahead of him in the UFC as he is still in his mid-20’s, but his opponent has quite possibly the nastiest left hook in the entire division.
The odds are very close, but I see Saki catching Khalil later in the fight as he starts to gas.
Chiesa and Pettis is probably the hardest fight to pick. They have opposing styles and whoever is able to impose their will should come out ahead.
Lewis and Ngannou will be fun. Don’t go to the bathroom or you’ll regret it! I like Ngannou’s chances to land a clean shot first. The odds are long, though, and the fight could go either way so don’t risk too much here on Francis.
Enjoy the weekend team and hopefully, you still have all your fingers so you can place those bets!