The last time we say “The Last Stylebender” in action was in a 5-round war with Kelvin Gastelum where we saw both men hurt but Israel proved his heart, dominated the last stanza, and won convincingly.
Many are saying that Gastelum exposed the New Zealander and while he may have shed some light on a couple of holes in the defense of the interim champ, Izzy proved he can go 5 rounds and take a licking.
The Nigerian-born Kiwi Adesanya had never really been in a war inside the Octagon until this fight but now he knows he can handle the pace, the punches, and the pressure.
Well, good on ya, mate.
I suppose that was the reaction of the current Middleweight Champion of the world and Australian megastar Robert Whitaker.
Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the commonly used phrase down under means something to the effect of “Cool story, bro” with a little bit less condescension.
More on the main event in a few.
The co-main features another member of Adesanya’s gym in Auckland, City Kickboxing. Dan “Hangman” Hooker will be taking on the higher-ranked but now underdog “Raging” Al Iaquinta.
I love this stylistic matchup as well. It is similar to the main event in that you have a stocky vs lanky fighter but Al tends to only use his hands as opposed to Whitaker utilizing all 8 limbs.
This 2 versus 8 weapons approach was taken by Iaquinta in his fight against Cowboy Cerrone and it didn’t work out so well.
If you have overwhelming power and/or a wrestling advantage, you can get away with 2 vs 8 but I don’t think that will be the case against “The Hangman”.
BetOnline has the lines for us this week.
Before we get into our picks for this week, let’s examine what we did wrong and right last Saturday in Copenhagen.
UFC Copenhagen Review
I am trying to get us back on the 75% winning percentage track we were riding for over 2 months but lately it’s been around 50/50.
Marc Diakiese came through with an easy victory of Lando Vannata out-striking him from distance with a decided speed advantage.
I then took “Cowboy” Oliviera to be too wild and wiry for Nicolas Dalby but the Dane proved to be far too determined and focused for that to happen. He was also much thicker.
Oliviera looked like me out there. My friends in Korea used to call me fish because I was so skinny, if I turned sideways, my body resembled that of a fish. Flat.
Dalby looked like he’s been doing bent-over rows with Ronnie Coleman.
And I went with my friend again. This time, Khalil let me down.
The light heavyweight division is a scary one and for a guy less than 6 feet tall, it can prove difficult, especially against a man the size of Ion Cutelaba.
Real quick, I want to touch on a topic that never gets as much attention by commentators or analysts as it should.
Khalil simply has too much muscle and not enough frame for the 205-pound division. Almost every time he gets in there against a fighter whose bone structure is significantly larger than his own, he struggles.
Johnny Walker, Ion Cutelaba, and Tyson Pedro are all massive men who are bigger than some heavyweights.
Two men he beat, Gokhan Saki and Eryk Anders, while talented and athletic, are both around Khalil’s size.
I even heard the commentators mention on Saturday how big Rountree was and all I could think was “Are you blind?”
Cutelaba is the much larger man. Muscles are cool and all and they help but at the highest level, these fighters are efficient and learn to use their frames when grappling and even striking more than their muscles.
Bones don’t get tired.
Using explosiveness and whipping action to gain power can benefit you, of course, but simply getting your width and weight behind your strikes uses less energy and normally generates a greater deal of power.
Once I saw these two weigh in, I thought “ruh row”.
Rant over guys. You can use this tidbit in the future when betting fights online or even just a friendly wager among friends.
Jared Cannonier proved that he is a problem in the middleweight division by dispatching the favorite and grappling ace Jack Hermansson. I don’t think Cannonier is quite on the level of Saturday’s main eventers but his ceiling is high.
Let’s get to the betting odds, picks, and predictions for UFC 243 from Melbourne.
Ji Yeon Kim vs Nadia Kaseem
Ji Yeon is 2-2 in her brief UFC career with losses to Antonina Shevchenko and Lucie Pudilova, both tall women who are very good strikers.
Nadia is only 23-years-old so I think she may have a future in the UFC but she isn’t a top fighter at the moment.
She has basic striking, weak takedown defense and isn’t afraid to go for submissions on the mat.
The latter two may prove to be her downfall against Kim who should definitely be the more polished grappler inside the Octagon Saturday night.
She also has a 72-inch reach at just 5’7” tall. This is massive as she is very patient with her strikes and Nadia lacks the athleticism to cover distance quickly and potentially surprise the Korean.
I think Kim gets her to the mat in the first, Nadia throws up an unsuccessful armbar and subsequently gets her back taken.
Kim will flatten her out and land a few until Kaseem gives her the neck.
Dhiego Lima vs Luke Jumeau
We can’t confuse Dhiego with his brother and Bellator Welterweight World Champion Douglas.
We also can’t mix is up Jumeau.
I actually remember Luke Jumeau from his team’s Youtube series, Phuket Dreaming.
Before I came to Thailand, I was living through videos like these literally “Phuket Dreaming”. Now that I’m here, I haven’t watched it in a while.
I did stop by the gym when I was down on the island and was thoroughly impressed. Phuket has a tough-guy vibe to the city, though, with all of the MMA gyms that have popped up.
Bangkok is all about traditional Muay Thai and up here in Chiang Mai, the attitude is much more happy and easy-going or “sabai sabai.”
This is going to be a fun fight. Don’t think that because Luke is a Kiwi fighting out of Thailand and his opponent Dhiego is Brazilian that it’s a striker vs grappler matchup.
The MMA guys in Thailand keep a grappling chip on their shoulder as they know they are putting in the time and work with world-class grapplers just like people in the States or Brazil.
Both men are very good strikers and I expect this one to play out on the feet. I have to give the edge to Lima, though, as he poses a takedown threat and has an all-important 5-inch reach advantage.
Tai Tuivasa vs Sergey Spivak
I’ll keep this one short.
- Tai is the type of overweight dude to spin on his head at a wedding reception
- Sergey is the type of dude to get knocked out by previously mentioned type of dude
Spivak is just 0-1 in his UFC career as he was KO’ed in the first round by the surging savage Walt Harris.
Conversely, Tai has been in there with some of the UFC’s top heavyweights.
He fought Andrei Arlovski and Junior Dos Santos, both former UFC Heavyweight Champions.
He hung in there against Junior but was TKO’ed in the second but he beat Andrei by 3-round decision.
Sergey is a relative unknown. Watching his tape, though, he is at least technical on the feet and likely a better grappler than Tai.
Sergey is probably going to lose 2 out of 3 times these two fight so a bet on him isn’t the worst.
What I do like, though, is the over/under.
Yes, Tai gets after it pretty quick but Sergey appears to have a solid fight IQ along with a good grappling base.
I think he will obtain the clinch and if he can’t get Tuivasa to the ground, he can at least wall-and-stall his way to the halfway point of the second round.
Dan Hooker vs Al Iaquinta
Right into the co-main!
This is a very weak card overall but the appeal of the main event is so strong, I’m sure the pay per view money will be higher than average.
The co-main event is just a bonus.
Dan Hooker won us some dough in his last outing against James Vick when he dropped him hard with a left hook and quickly finished.
Al did the same when he predictably utilized just 2 out of his 8 potential weapons against Donald Cerrone.
I’m not saying he should come out and throw naked leg kicks with no setup on “The Hangman”. If he does that, he will probably get countered hard with a right hand over the top.
It would be nice, though, to see him throw some elbows on the break but his best shot to catch the taller man is an overhand right off a lazy jab.
Not that Dan is lazy but he does leave openings when he’s striking. One of those, which is hard for anyone to close when fighting with small gloves, is the window between his lead arm and his chin.
Al can time him up and while Hooker is throwing a jab, he can simultaneously throw a right hand over the top while slipping his head to the inside.
He can only do that if he has the timing.
If he doesn’t have it yet, he will have to wait on the jab, take it off the glove or the top of the head, and then it becomes a race back to the face, and arms move faster going forward than they do backward.
This is why it is imperative for Hooker to lower his level when he jabs by bending his legs as opposed to jabbing down to the shorter opponent otherwise that window opens wide and Al has been very successful throughout his career operating inside that window.
Iaquinta can also attempt to use his wrestling base and scoop up the chicken legs of Hooker. Easier said than done, though, as “The Hangman” has outstanding takedown defense of 77% in his UFC career.
Man, he is hittable, though. Hooker is hit more than 5 times per minute. That is not good for a striker by nature who usually possesses a reach advantage against his opponents.
He hasn’t shown to be chinny but Edson Barboza caught him to the body with a punch that eventually led to the fight being stopped in the third round.
That was after many of the Brazilian’s patented switch kicks to the liver and ribs, though.
Betting on Al to land a liver shot isn’t nearly as wise as betting on Hooker to use a higher quantity and quality of striking tools he has in his repertoire.
This fight comes down to timing. Can Dan time the level changes and overhand rights/shovel hooks to the body from Iaquinta or can Al time the jab, right kick, and knee attempts from Hooker to effectively counter with big punches?
I’ll take “The Hangman”. He has the reach, the home crowd, and more tools. Al is a dog, though, who can’t be broken.
Israel Adesanya vs Robert Whittaker
I really like Izzy’s style of fighting. It appears that he may need to sit down on his punches a little more if he wants to survive a trade with Paulo Costa or even his opponent Saturday night,
As much as he hits people with his hands, they rarely drop. I know he has the precision, accuracy, and timing. I guess he is just a guy with small hands like me and/or he has learned not to overthrow them thangs as world-class wrestlers will put you on your back quicker than you can say “I miss Muay Thai”.
This is a tough fight to call, guys.
On one hand, you have Robert Whittaker, the UFC Middleweight Champ who has no weaknesses.
Show me one!
He does everything well.
I guess if I had to pick one weakness it would be that he doesn’t have any.
I don’t know if Rob is good enough to take the fight to the ground IF he is being soundly out-performed on the feet.
Rob is as confident as anyone in his abilities anywhere the fight goes but has never really had to use his offensive wrestling because he’s getting tagged on the feet.
He has the body type for it and Adesanya is just a hair on the lanky side, albeit with 80% takedown defense.
We can’t pick this fight according to the what if’s in the wrestling department. We have to judge the two on their striking alone and Israel is better in that area.
Rob is awkward, though. Izzy is a technician and would prefer to fight other fighters who are by the book because he is well-versed on said book.
Do you remember Marcos Maidana taking Floyd Mayweather to a split decision?
Is he one of the top ten fighters that Mayweather ever faced? Probably not but he was the most awkward. Styles make fights and awkward is the most difficult style to deal with.
Adesanya will have a height and reach advantage but Rob is probably the best in the UFC at covering that distance with a quick glide and near to no telegraph of movement.
Izzy loves to feint and the outcomes of those feints will likely decide the winner.
A feint is different than a fake. A fake is you actually showing the beginning movement of a technique but it’s clear that you are throwing that technique.
A feint is just a quick jolt of the hip, shoulder, or hand(s) that could be several different techniques coming from that side.
If your opponent reacts too hard the feint, you do it then hit them with something else in the area they opened up by defending when they didn’t need to.
If they react just enough, the feint was unsuccessful.
If they don’t react at all, skip the feint altogether, and just hit them because you have desensitized them. This usually happens after you have used the feint successfully several times already.
That’s the question. If Rob is continually bouncing and gliding around, darting in and out and throwing disruptive jabs, Izzy won’t have time to feint and play his game.
If Adesanya can freeze Rob with his length and sharp counter striking then I think he will be able to begin to utilize the feint and that will likely lead to a lethal head kick or at least enough points to win the round.
I’m taking Adesanya and the over 3.5 rounds. Both are nearly even money and with each man as highly skilled and durable as they are, I think we will get to the 17:30 mark.
The last time the UFC was in “Melbin”, Ronda Rousey suffered the first loss of her career. I think all of us MMA fans remember where we were that night.
Whew, Holly was juiced to the gills for that one but what a great performance nonetheless.
Ronda was delusional and so were her fans, myself included. Even Joe Rogan speculated that she could defeat some of the men on the UFC roster.
Well, she got a male’s level of testosterone and muscle mass against Holm and she couldn’t do it.
This weekend isn’t about false hype or steroids, though, as all of these performers are proven and the UFC has since adopted the strictest performance-enhancing drug policy in the world.
- As for our picks, I think Kim cruises to a win likely inside of the distance and Dhiego Lima uses his length to outpoint Luke Jumeau in a close fight.
- On the main card, let’s hope Tai Tuivasa takes his time and Sergey Spivak proves to be a worthy opponent, at least for 7 minutes and 30 seconds.
After that, I’ve got Team City Kickboxing taking it home for Auckland. Hooker and Adesanya represent for the Kiwis in Australia.