Tag Archive for: MMA

5 Storylines going into UFC 278

With UFC 278 around the corner, this PPV card is layered with many big names as well as many sleepers as well. Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards look to look up for a second time, this time with the UFC Welterweight Championship on the line. Luke Rockhold makes his return to the UFC Octagon for the first time in just over 3 years and takes on the devastating knockout artist Paulo Costa. On top of that you add elite bantamweight action with Jose Aldo taking on the rising Merab Dvalishvili who’s looking to make his win streak 8 on Saturday. In the Prelims we have undefeated Heavyweight Alexander Romanov looking to become 17-0 and secure his 6th straight win in the UFC. Let’s take a look at some of the top storylines going into UFC 278

  • How can Kamaru Usman add to his legacy?

Kamaru Usman has been on a path of destruction since entering the UFC, going on a 15-fight win streak, not counting the 2 wins he picked up on The Ultimate Fighter. With a win this Saturday, he can tie the legendary Anderson Silva for first place in UFC history with a win streak of 16. To answer the question of how Usman can add to his legacy this weekend starts with getting the win. If he gets the win this Saturday, he can have a legitimate claim of being the greatest Welterweight of all time. GSP certainly still is at the top of that conversation, but Usman getting a win makes that conversation much tougher. If Usman is able to get the finish over Edwards, that would mean he would have 4 finishes in 6 title defenses, all while only having 2 finishes leading into his championship fight. This would show the incredible growth that he has made as a champion, even further proving his dominance and legitimizing his spot as #1 Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world. 


  • Can Leon Edwards make adjustments from fight #1 

The last time Leon Edwards lost a fight was 7 years ago, to his opponent Saturday Kamaru Usman. Since that time, Leon has won 9 fights in a row, all while having bad luck getting fights scheduled during the Covid Era. During that time the southpaw has polished up his clinch work all while becoming one of the most technical strikers in the division. His ability to mix it up in close with elbows as well as work you from a distance is what makes him so dangerous. But when you have someone who is as gifted of a wrestler as Kamaru, what can Leon do to change the outcome of the fight this time. The obvious start to the answer is better takedown defense than the last fight. Usman had over 10 minutes of ground control time and that’s not including the clinch control time. If Edwards wants to win this fight, he needs to address this and try to change the game plan. Coming forward and putting the pressure on Usman would seem to be the most ideal strategy. When a wrestler is on their back foot they don’t have the same success on their takedowns as well as it makes it harder for them to cut off the cage. The second key would be to use those clinches early to damage Usman. We have seen that Kamaru has been rocked at times in his UFC career, so if Leon can put Usman on the back foot and use that pressure to land the cleaner strikes in the exchanges, he can change the outcome from the last time these two met. 

  • Will Luke Rockhold be able to get his first win in 5 years?


Luke Rockhold finally makes his Octagon return after 3 years and welcoming him back is the man with 11 knockout wins, Paulo Costa. Luke is 4 years removed from his last title opportunity vs Yoel Romero in 2018 and is 7 years removed from being a champion in 2015. That being said, after losing 3 of his last 4 fights by KO, he took some time to allow his body to heal and make the right decision regarding his future. His return is one that has made a lot of noise and his comments during fight week didn’t make it any quieter. The only issue is that he is facing a devastating striker in Paulo Costa. Say what you want to about him, his weight, or his online tactics, but you have to respect the man as a striker and a finisher. Luke can come back and win a fight versus Paulo but the path to victory is tough. He’s going to have to weather the early storm and pressure of Paulo while trying to land his own. Although Rockhold isn’t known best for his wrestling, this fight would be an ideal opportunity to show his octagon experience and fight IQ and take Costa down and try to wear on his gas tank. For Paulo, the path seems to land one punch clean on Rockhold, and you’re walking away with your win bonus. For Luke, the chin is suspect and although the skills are there for the former champion, it may seem that he is over the hill on his career and will be a marquee name for the UFC. But he can go there Saturday and put Costa’s lights out cold, & that is why we watch. 

  • Is Jose Aldo still elite?


When it comes to career longevity, Jose Aldo has to be one of the guys at the top of the list in the UFC. 14 years after his WEC debut in 2008, the former UFC Champion is on a 3 fight win streak after losing his initial bout at 135 lbs. Marlon Vera, Pedro Munoz, and Rob Font are 3 of the toughest bantamweights in this division and he was able to pick up wins consecutively on all 3. Now he faces a dangerous grappler in Merab Dvalishvili. Merab comes into this fight averaging 7 takedowns a fight which is an absolutely absurd number. He ranks #1 all-time in the UFC Bantamweight division with 63 takedowns. That number all-time enough to be ahead of former champion Rafael Dos Anjos and just behind guys like Colby Covington and Damian Maia. Aldo will have a tough challenge on his hand but one thing we know about him is that his takedown defense is one of the best of all time. During his time at featherweight, he had the 3rd best takedown defense of all time at 91%. During his 4 fights at 135lbs, he has only been taken down twice and he only spent 50 seconds being on the bottom in his last 3 fights. This fight will be a true test to see if Aldo is still elite, or if Merab is going to take that torch. 


  • Can Alexander Romanov continue his unbeaten streak


Undefeated Heavyweight Alexander Romanov is going to the Prelim Headliner, a spot usually reserved for someone who the UFC wants eyes on since it is the last fight for free before the PPV gets started. Romanov has been dominant since his time in the UFC winning 6 in a row in the promotion. He faces off against his toughest challenger yet, Marcin Tybura whose only loss in his last 6 fights is to #8 ranked Heavyweight Alexander Volkov. Romanov is a dominant submission fighter who loves to take his opponents down and wreak havoc. He even tends to throw his coach as a celebration after his wins as well. Romanov has yet to have met his match and his unrelenting pressure and ability to get his opponents on their back has been nothing short of spectacular. If Tybura is able to keep this fight standing, he has a chance of winning, but if Romanov gets this fight to the mat, I’m betting that the fight is over and Romanov walks out 17-0. 



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Why Shane Burgos signing with the PFL is a win for All Fighters

When Shane Burgos signed with the PFL, it seemed like it was going to be just another UFC fighter crossing over to “MMA’s League”. But Shane Burgos makes for a unique case for multiple reasons, and for those reasons, his signing with the PFL could open doors for many more fighters in the future. The reason that Shane Burgos is a unique case because he is still in his prime, he was a ranked UFC contender, and he’s coming off a win streak with a chance to make more money. 

Shane Burgos entered the UFC at 7-0 with all of his wins coming by finish. He was still very young at 25 years old and had an extensive amateur career in which he was also undefeated. He was able to secure 4 “Fight of the Night” bonuses during his 11 fights in the UFC and has only taken losses to top ranked opponents. Add to that experience with the fact that he is only 31 years old in the prime of his career makes him a very dangerous contender in the upcoming PFL Season.

For Shane to leave on a win, in the prime of his career makes him different from guys like Rory MacDonald and Anthony Pettis. For both of those guys, they have already either fought for UFC gold or became UFC Champions in their tenure with the UFC. For guys like the 2021 PFL Light Heavyweight Champion Antonio Carlos Jr. and 2022 Playoff Contender Chris Wade, they were cut by the UFC and didn’t even have a chance to negotiate contracts with them. By going to the PFL, Shane opens the door for more contenders in the UFC to maximize their pay by going to the PFL and other promotions. 

The PFL presents a unique opportunity with their season style format and the million dollar tournament. Having fights lined up for you as well as the opportunity to fight for a million dollars is something that many fighters under the current PFL banner has touted as one of the biggest benefits of being signed to the PFL. They have a big platform on ESPN and ESPN+ as well as they bring a very unique perspective on the sport of MMA. They also have the opportunity to make superfights and marquee matchups with the more names that come on over. Shane Burgos vs Anthony Pettis? Sign me up. 

Now why is this a win for all fighters? For a long time, the UFC has been the main stage for fighters to build their name on and make the most amount of money. Bellator has taken a few fighters such as Benson Henderson and others, but Shane is one of the first in the modern era to be in his position and do what he did.

This also allows the opportunity for other fighters to test free agency and look at the potential other doors that could be open and be a better opportunity. Shane speaks about having to go home and look at his two daughters and when it’s all said and done, this is a career for many people, so when a door that is opened financially for one fighter, that door will remain open again when the opportunity arises.



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5 Takeaways from McGregor’s Loss, More in UFC 264

With McGregor breaking his tibia at the end of the first round, the Poirier-McGregor trilogy came to an end. After a dominant first round, Dustin Poirier seemed like he was on his way to another win but then the unfortunate injury cut things short. The series goes to Poirier and now he’s on his way to fight Charles Oliveira for the undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship. The rest of the card was loaded with fighters taking the next step in their UFC career. Let’s take a look at the top takeaways from this weekend’s card


  1. There seems to be one more chapter left in the Poirier McGregor Series


Although he was winning the first round handily, Dustin Poirier wasn’t able to put the finishing stamp on this fight. With the lack of closure on this fight and the continuation of the trash talk and bad blood, it seems like these guys are destined to throw down in the octagon once more. When it comes to how their paths will intersect again, that’s a much tougher question to answer. Dustin will be on his way to fighting Charles Oliveira for the belt. On the other hand Conor has to recover from this injury and now is coming in 3-4 for his last 7 MMA fights. Conor truthfully is 2-3 wins away from legitimately challenging for UFC Gold once again. But this is Conor McGregor, and he tends to get what he wants. If Dustin Poirier becomes champion and pulls a Kamaru Usman and calls out the money fight with Conor McGregor, we could see this fight again. If not in that manner, we can see this fight in 2-3 years after Dustin might be past his title reign and at 34-35, these guys will still be in great competitive shape. If Dustin fails to win the belt, maybe that’s the next fight for him since it would get him probably the most money out of any fight. Regardless, this rivalry seems far from over and I feel we are bound to see these two grace the octagon once again.


2. Gilbert Burns is one (small) step closer to a shot at UFC Gold


Gilbert Burns was able to solve the puzzle of Wonderboy Thompson in the co-main event of the card, and regardless of Dana White wanting to tout his win as a “boring” one, this sets him one step closer to a rematch with Kamaru Usman. Burns was able to rock Usman in the first round of their first encounter and on his account he claimed to get over-excited chasing the finish. That lead to his ultimate demise, but not without showing he does have the ability to put the champ in danger. Stephen Thompson has some of the best takedown defense and his wide karate stance and unique usage of kicks makes him a hard puzzle to figure out. Burns was able to close the distance and rely on his ground game expertise in route to tying a personal best 3 takedowns. With this win, he shouldn’t need more than another win or two to be able to challenge Usman once again.


3. Sean O’ Malley has to fight a top Bantamweight next 


Sean O’Malley and Kris Moutinho put on an absolute show to start off the pay-per-view card. The Sugar Show was in full effect with O’Malley showboating in between strikes and hitting at a near record clip. He landed 230 significant strikes before Herb Dean saw enough. But Kris Moutinho raised his stock just as much in this fight, if not more. He continued to walk O’Malley down even after getting dropped at the end of the first round. He would’ve made it to the scorecards if Dean didn’t waive the fight off but it was more than likely for his own good. This fight showed us that O’Malley is leaps and bounds ahead of someone who is a newcomer and is worthy of a top bantamweight to fight next. Whether it’s Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz, Petr Yan, or “Fob Ront” (His own personal twist on Rob Font) is still yet to be seen 


4. Tai Tuivasa is evidence of building your own star 


Tai Tuivasa has become beloved by fans because of his famous post fight “shoey”. When he stepped into the arena during his walkout, the crowd erupted for one of the biggest pops of the night. Tai is proof that you can build your own star in the UFC. He’s been interactive with fans on social media and shows the awesome personality he has on top of being a great Heavyweight. It’s in the best interest of the UFC for more of their fighters to understand how to build fandom behind your name. Of course winning will always be number one, but if you’re able to create a community of fans in the UFC, you will have unbound support throughout your career. 


5. Michel Periera is our next exciting fighter rising up the ranks


Periera’s fight vs Niko Price was a fight between two of the most exciting, spontaneous fighters there. With this win, he has won 4 of his 6 UFC fights, 5 of 6 if you don’t count his DQ loss vs Diego Sanchez which he was winning handily. He’s proven to be able to do it on the ground and standing up, and his unique style makes him a hard person to imitate in training. With some good competition under his belt like Niko Price and Khaos Williams, it seems like now is the time to put him up against an upper echelon guy in this division. Two guys I feel would be great learning matchups for him would be Carlos Condit, who’s coming off of a loss now or Geoff Neal who is on a slight skid. One thing’s for sure for Periera, his unique fighting style and showmanship in the ring will make him a name to remember.


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Five Takeaways from the McGregor-Poirier Presser

Leading up to potentially the biggest fight in UFC history, Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier took two completely different approaches going into the press conference. Conor came in as the Conor we knew when he made his phenomenal run, making quirky remarks, waging psychological warfare, and guaranteeing victory. On the other hand, Dustin kept everything strictly business, not biting at any bait thrown out by McGregor or paying any mind to the pro-Conor crowd. But he did not have a lack of confidence or focus coming in. This led to a perfect balance of two fighters on the opposite ends of the spectrum going right at each other. Let’s take a look at some of the top takeaways from the press conference 


  1. Dustin delivered the best line of the Press conference

Before I can deliver the line in a way that was as powerful as how Dustin said it, some context is needed. For the first 15 minutes of the press conference, McGregor would continually attack Dustin while Dustin would remain calm. After these continual attacks, one media member asked Conor why he went from being kind in the buildup to the last fight to now flipping the switch end being aggressive, as to which Dustin answered


 “Because he got knocked the f#%k out… Not McGregor Fast, McGregor sleep” 


This comment got the biggest pop of the night and left Conor unable to say anything. Dustin picked his shot perfectly and delivered exactly what needed to be delivered without overdoing it. He kept quiet for most of the time but when he spoke, it was worth listening to.. 


  1. Conor has no lack of volume on the Mic


It was very evident that from the start of the press conference, we were going to see the McGregor of old. The psychological warfare, the head games, the non stop verbal shots, it was all there for Conor. Every time a question was asked to Dustin, Conor would interject and trash Dustin in whichever way he could. Conor seemed to have prepared a myriad of one liners to try and get into Dustin’s head. From personal attacks to his wife to just saying he sees a dead man, there was no shortage of the verbal ammunition McGregor had prepared.


(Catch a preview of the fight with Alex Donno’s Five Rounds sponsored by Quarterdeck)



  1. Dustin was unaffected by the trash talk

The biggest growth for “The Diamond” from the first fight might be his mental growth. Undoubtedly his skills in the octagon have taken leaps and bounds but for Dustin, the mental edge that he brings into every fight is one that is rarely seen. He famously says 

“ A fight isn’t a fight until there’s something to overcome” 

In this press conference, Conor would continually cut Dustin off, talk trash to him, get the crowd riled up and even try to make things personal by bringing up his wife. At the end of all of it, Dustin was completely unphased by any of it, smiling away. When one reporter asked both guys if they respect each other, Conor gave his classic “ I don’t give a fook” while Dustin said yes I respect Conor and everything he’s done. At that moment the world knew that the pressure from early in his career has made The Diamond unbreakable. 


  1. Conor’s losses have affected his luster 

When Conor McGregor was going to face Jose Aldo for the UFC Featherweight championship, he was the winner of 15 straight. That type of winning against top level competition was nearly unheard of and the way he was knocking people out left and right touted his left hand “The Kiss of Death”. Even going into the Khabib fight he was the winner of 18 of his last 19 in the UFC so the star still shined. But now being 3-3 in his last 6 with his only win since 2016 being a win over a past-prime Cowboy Cerrone, that threat and mystique of Conor is no longer there. Of course he is still the sport’s biggest star, but is he still the top of the competitive mountain? Absolutely not. He got knocked out by Dustin Poirier and  choked out by Khabib and Nate Diaz. Those losses take away the invincibility factor and make his words have less meaning. Athletes now understand it’s what’s done inside the Octagon that really counts, and Conor can only affect you if you buy into what he says. 


  1. Dustin won the Press Conference 

When it came down to it, we saw what we thought we would see with both guys. Conor came out constantly attacking Dustin and on the other hand Dustin would let most of it slide. But when it came to delivering the KO punch, Dustin delivered it perfectly, getting the biggest reaction from a Pro-McGregor Crowd. Add that on to the unphased mentality of Dustin Poirier and it was clear that McGregor was unable to get into Dustin’s head. Conversely, the small lines that Dustin did say would shut Conor up completely, taking him out of his element and looking starved for a comeback. Of course we will see how it plays out in the octagon but when it came to the verbal warfare, tally this win down for Dustin Poirier.


You can follow Johnathan on Twitter @ThreePieceCombo

UFC Fight Night: Hermansson vs Vettori Picks & Predictions

Parlay of the Night: Movsar Evloev, Ovince St. Preux, Jack Hermansson 


Main Event: #4 Jack Hermansson vs #13 Marvin Vettori

Pick: Jack Hermansson

By: Decision

Breakdown: Jack Hermansson is finally locked in on Marvin Vettori after his two previous opponents Darren Till and Kevin Holland fell out due to various reasons. This fight is a great matchup where we will see the ever evolving Hermansson take on the last guy to push the Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya in Vettori. This being a 5 round fight is a big advantage for Jack being that he was preparing for this while Vettori was preparing for 3 rounds against Jacare Souza. Hermansson comes in with a strike advantage of 5.1 to 4.3 when it comes to landed strikes per minute. Vettori isn’t heavy on throwing lots of volume on the feet. He tends to throw one strike at a time whereas you will see Jack Hermansson throw multiple at a time, especially if he is able to land that first shot. He does a good job using his jab and striking to back you up to the fence where he will either continue to piece you up with shots or he will put you in a position vulnerable for a takedown. By no means is Jack Hermansson a highly technical striker, but he is a level above Vettori and has good enough combinations and variety on the feet to give him an edge. Hermansson has shown the ability to control the ground game as well. Vettori does offer a better takedown percentage at 47% compared to Hermansson’s 35%, however Hermansson averages more takedowns on a per 15 minute basis averaging 2.2 takedowns per 15 mins compared to 1.7 for Vettori. In this fight we will see it start out very competitive but throughout the course of the fight, Hermansson will take control and get the win. Vettori hasn’t been finished before, so this one is likely to go to the cards. 

Potential Props: Over 2.5 (1.66/-152), Hermansson to win by UD (7.5/+650) 


Fight #2: Ovince St Preux vs Jamahal Hill

Pick: Ovince St. Preux  

By: Submission

Round: 2

Breakdown: Ovince St Preux is coming off of an impressive knockout win where he finished his opponent with a slicing counter left hook on the button. On the other side you have the undefeated Jamahal Hill who has looked good in his first few UFC outings. OSP is one of the most experienced fighters on this UFC roster formerly challenging for a title. The athletic OSP that we’ve known over the years isn’t the same one we see today, however he brings a high octagon iq and a ton of experience with him entering the cage. Jamahal hill has not faces anyone close to the caliper of OSP and although he’s a great striker, that’s the only dimension of his game that is threatening. He does have good footwork and has shown good takedown defense against lower level fighters but going against someone as big as Ovince is will be a new challenge for him. Hill also will not have his usual few inches of height and reach advantage due to the big frame of OSP. This big frame will be strong enough to initiate the clinch and control Hill to the ground. Once he’s in this position, look for OSP to wear out Hill on the ground with ground and pound until the submission presents itself. 


Fight #3: Gabriel Benitez vs Justin Jaynes

Pick: Justin Jaynes

By: Knockout 

Round: Round 1

Breakdown: This fight is a sleeper for a potential fight of the night or at least a performance bonus. Justin Jaynes is a heavy hitter with a mean left hook that has put out a few opponents. On the other hand Gabriel Benitez is a bouncy striker who likes to enter and exit range and use a good diversity of strikes. Benitez comes in having 4 of 8 of his losses coming in the first round. He is someone who starts slow and gets better as the fight goes on but sometimes that costs him. Jaynes on the other has won his last 5 by way of first round knockout. This seems like almost a perfect storm for Jaynes to deliver one of those excellent left hooks. There is of course the chance that Benitez will survive and gets better as the fight goes on, but Jaynes as an underdog in this fight has a good chance of cashing in and coming off of his first loss in 2 years where we saw him fade in the later rounds, look for him to be able to carry that hitting power longer than before. 


Fight #4: #14 Montana De La Rosa vs Taila Santos

Pick: Taila Santos 

By: Decision

Breakdown: Let me tell you that initially due to the amount of unknown in this fight, it would be safer to leave this one out of parlays. That being said we will see a heavy clash in styles when we see someone who is great on the ground in Montana De La Rosa taking on the great striker Taila Santos. Santos is coming in with only one loss, and that loss being a split decision so she has shown the ability to get fights won by scoring and using her footwork. Montana De La Rosa does not have good striking by any means but if she is able to take this fight down, then it will most likely be hers. The reason we are going with Taila Santos is due to her showing before. Even if she gets taken down, she has shown to avoid it for a while and is able to also score enough to mitigate the scoring of the takedown and control time. Look for Santos to try to keep this fight standing and work De La Rosa to the scorecards. 


Fight #5: Roman Dolidze vs John Allan

Pick: Roman Dolidze

By: Submission

Round: 3

Breakdown: 1 of 3 undefeated fighters on the main card, Dolidze is coming in off of an impressive head kick win in his UFC Debut. John Allan did pick up the win in his last time out against Mike Rodriguez, but it was overturned to a no contest due to a failed drug test. Dolidze has finished all of his fights and has won multiple world grappling titles outside of the UFC. This is a huge problem for Allan because 80% of his losses have come by submission. Allan has heavy hands and it will be interesting to see if he carries the same power after coming off of PED’s. Dolidze is a heavy hitter as well so we might see some time where both fighters are feeling each other out initially. Allan is a slight underdog in this fight, but due to the credentials of Dolidze it feels like that number should be bigger. Look for Dolidze to pick up the win late in this fight, or for it to potentially hit the cards. 


Fight #6: Movsar Evloev vs Nate Landwehr

Pick: Movsar Evloev 

By: Decision

Breakdown: Undefeated Movsar Evloev is coming in having won all 3 of his UFC fights in the same dominant fashion. He is continuing to get better on the feet while having near Khabib-esque technique with his takedowns and the way he keeps his weight on you. Nate is a great fighter who when paired up against the right person is sure to always deliver a banger of a fight. But facing someone like Movsar Evloev is a different animal from the ones that Landwehr has faced before. Movsar keeps his hands high which will do well against someone who is a headhunter like Nate. Nate does show the ability to avoid that first takedown, but when his opponent continues to try and drag him down, he usually ends up on the floor. In this position we will see Movsar control most of the fight and likely pick up the decision win. 


You can follow Johnathan on Twitter @ThreePieceCombo

Three Piece Picks: UFC 255 Figueiredo vs Perez Card

Main Event: (C) Deiveson Figueiredo vs #4 Alex Perez


Pick: Deiveson Figueiredo 


Round: 3

Breakdown: Deiveson Figueiredo is coming in making his first title defense after putting down Joseph Benavidez twice. He is coming into this fight with a single blemish on his MMA record at 19-1. On the other side, Alex Perez is coming in as Dana White Contender Series Alumni and having a record of 6-1 in the UFC and 24-5 overall. In this fight, the power of Figueiredo is going to be the key. He comes in with a distinct advantage in striking. He also comes in as a Brazilian Ju Jutsu Black Belt. Alex Perez comes in with an advantage in the wrestling advantage, but how long will he be able to keep Figueiredo down? Proven in his previous fights, he is shown to be able to stave off takedowns, and even if he does get taken down, he can get back up and work off of his back if not fully get back up. Perez is also shown to leave himself open when striking. In his fights against Joseph Benavidez, he got dropped after leaving himself open to counterpunches. If he gets dropped against Joey B, it’s hard to see him fight a perfect fight against Deiveson Figueredo and make him miss if he plans to throw any type of offense. Now there is a clear path for Alex Perez, which is if he can get the takedown, he can sap the energy of Figueiredo and tire him out. We know that Figueiredo has shown a bit of a cardio problem, and it’s uncertain if this will be a problem going forward. He has made claims that he is 9 lbs lighter now than he usually is at this time, so if his body fat and amount of muscle that he’s carrying is a bit down, we can see his gas tank improve. Perez has great wrestling and this fight is much closer than the odds show ( +230 Alex Perez), but his striking still has holes in it, and if Figueiredo can land just one, it could be the beginning of the end for Perez. Look for Figueiredo to outpower Alex Perez and take this win by TKO 


Co-Main Event: (C) Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jennifer Maia


Pick: Valentina Shevchenko


Round: 2

Breakdown: Maia is coming in as a heavy underdog going as high as +1000 on some books. Valentina comes in with an advantage in almost all the stats. This is going to be her 4th title defense and she has looked impressive in every one of her title fights. Even in her only loss in a title fight against Amanda Nunez, it was a split decision and she took the female GOAT to the judge’s scorecard. She has a distinct advantage on the feet because of her footwork and striking. Her ability to manage distance and keep herself at a safe distance has been her strength. She makes her opponent miss so much and then works the counterpunches. She comes in as a southpaw and is an excellent muy thai practitioner. She comes in with all the advantages in the striking stats and grappling stats except for significant strikes per minute which is only because Maia gets more shots down once she takes her opponent down. In this fight, Maia will need to try to get Valentina on her back and keep her there. Valentina has good takedown defense which is sitting at 77% right now. She is also great at timing her clinches with her opponent’s takedowns and getting knees and punches on the break. Valentina will systematically break down Jennifer Maia in this fight and it will be an excellent showcase for her. Maia does have a path to victory in trying to take this fight to the ground, but the former Invicta FC Flyweight Champ has a tall order in trying to impose her will for 5 rounds with the champ. Look for Valentina Shevchenko to show her brilliance both on the feet and with her defense and take this fight in the middle or later rounds via TKO. 


Fight #3: Tim ‘The Dirty Bird’ Means vs platinum’ Mike Perry


Pick: Mike Perry 

By: Decision

Breakdown: Tim Means is coming in off of an impressive win vs Laureano Staropoli where he showed his veteran ring awareness. The problem is that every time he has gotten a win recently, he’s followed it up with a loss. Mike Perry is also coming in 3-5 over his last 8 fights, but his last 3 losses were against Donald Cerrone, Vicente Luque, and Geoff Neal. He has fought much harder competition than Tim Means and for not having a corner in his fight he showed a lot of diversity in his game. Not only did he fight a stand-up game, but he also took the fight to the ground and defended very well against someone who was excellent on the ground. His gas tank looked great and on top of that, he’s got a lot to fight for. He’s got a baby on the way, he’s infamously got some taxes due and he’s had some out of the octagon engagements that haven’t been in his favor when it comes to his wallet. Tim Means is an excellent veteran who can still put a win together if he’s able to put it all together as he did in his last fight, but look for Perry to take control of this fight and brawl his way to a win. 


Fight #4: #2 Katlyn Chookagian vs #4 Cynthia Calvillo

Pick: Cynthia Calvillo

By: Decision

Breakdown: Katlyn Chookagian is coming in off of a loss vs Jessica Andrade, while Cynthia Calvillo is coming in with a win over former #1 Contender Jessica Eye. She is also on a 3 fight winning streak not including the draw she had. In her last fight, she showed her ability to keep on the gas pedal and maximize her output. She landed 150 of 294 in her last fight averaging about 30 significant strikes per round. She also is multifaceted with the ability to take the fight to the ground. She averages 2 takedowns per 3 round fight and if she’s able to land two in this fight, her low center of gravity will make it very hard for Katlyn to get back to her feet. Chookagian has shown the ability to beat lower-level fighters, it’s just a problem once she’s fighting against high-level ones. She got dominated in her losses vs current champion Shevchenko and former champion Jessica Andrade. She uses a lot of mirage in her fights meaning she throws a lot of volume that doesn’t really hurt her opponents. Calvillo has all the advantages in the striking and grappling stats. For her, the big key will be trying to manage her distance vs a taller fighter and potentially taking her down. If she can do so, it’s more than likely we’ll see her win by decision. 


Fight #5: Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs Paul ‘Bearjew’ Craig 2

Pick: Paul Craig 2

By: Decision

Breakdown: This is a rematch after their draw in November of last year. Rua is coming in having won 5 of his last 7 but those fights span over the last 5 years. The fights he had 4 fights ago is a different version of the fighter he is now. He’s absorbed lots of damage over the time and is now past his prime. Paul Craig is coming in the more active fighter with 5 fights to his name in the last year and a half. Interestingly, Rua is 1-6 in his last 7 fights in the US. Craig has 12 of his 13 wins coming by submission, so that seems like the path he will have to try and pursue. With the BJJ Black belt of Rua, it’s unlikely that he will be able to get the submission fully, but we will likely see him control the fight with top position and grind it out to a victory. 


You can follow Johnathan on Twitter @ThreePieceCombo


Three Piece Picks: UFC Fight Night (Felder vs Dos Anjos)

Main Event: #7 Paul Felder vs #12 (WW) Rafael Dos Anjos


Pick: Rafael Dos Anjos

By: Decision

Breakdown: Paul Felder is coming in on 5 days notice taking this fight which makes this fight all the more crazy. We might see him come out early and try to get an early win which he is more than capable of doing. Rafael Dos Anjos is coming in having lost 4 of his last 5, but 3 of those are fights against Usman, Covington, and Leon Edwards which are not easy outings. This fight is a little more one dimensional as Felder does not utilize the takedown very often. He tries to stand and bang and it is evident with 10 of his 17 wins coming by knockout. This fight is an uphill battle for Felder because of the lack of time to prepare and if Dos Anjos can take him down early, it would tremendously hurt the chances of him winning the fight. I see Dos Anjos winning this one because he can change levels if need be and he has had a longer time to prepare for a fight. Felder is tough so this one has a good chance of making it to the judges. 


Co-Main Event: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs Khaos Williams

Pick: Khaos Williams

By: Decision

Breakdown: If you can hold your breath for the first two and a half minutes, then you can bet on Khaos Williams winning this fight. Most of Abdul Razak Alhassan’s fights have ended within the first half of the first round. If you can hold him down and eliminate the power early, you have a much higher chance of winning the fight. Alhassan has not won a fight outside the first round. Khaos has the ability to take the fight to the ground. It was shown in his fights outside the UFC. If he is able to utilize his wrestling and take this fight down, it really gives him a huge chance in this fight. Abdul is shown to gas out in the later rounds and his punches become very labored. He has a good chance to win the fight in the first two and a half minutes but after that, his chances go down heavily. Khaos should come in with a good gameplan and should be able to take this fight.  


Fight #3: Julian ‘The Cuban Missile Crisis’ Marquez vs. Saparbek Safarov

Pick: Julian Marquez 

By: KO

Round: 2nd Round

Breakdown: Marquez is coming in off of a two-year layoff so it will be interesting to see how the time off has affected his game. He comes in still decently young at 30 years old and only has 9 total fights on his record. As of right now, he sits at 7-2 with 6 of his 7 wins coming by way of KO/TKO. As for Saperbek Safarov, he’s had a tough outing here in the UFC. He has gone 1-3 in his 4 fights losing all 3 via finish. It seems like he has had a tough time finding his footing in the UFC. It is favorable that we will see a finish in this fight. Safarov does have the ability to take this fight down and if he does he have a gameplan to win. But the advantage on the feet is heavily favoring Marquez and we will take him by the win. 


Fight #4: Kay Hansen vs Cory ‘The Hobbit’ McKenna

Pick: Kay Hansen

By: Decision

Breakdown: This strawweight bout is an exciting one as we’ll see Cory McKenna make her UFC Debut to take on Kay Hansen. Kay Hansen is coming in with an edge especially on the ground. She has 4 of her 7 wins by submission and in her first fight in the UFC, she was able to get two takedowns and an armbar for the victory. This fight is going to be a tough outing for Mckenna. She is outmatched on the ground and Hansen is known to be able to get the fight on the floor. It is possible that Cory steals a round by being abe to keep the fight standing for a small period of time, but this one feels like it’s going to be a lot of groundwork with Kay Hansen on top. 


Fight #5: Eryk ‘Ya Boi’ Anders vs Antonio Arroyo

Pick: Antonio Arroyo

By: Decision

Breakdown: This fight is a very close one in the betting books with Anders coming in -155 and Arroyo coming in at +125. Anders is coming in having lost 4 of his last 6 and 3 of those 4 losses have come by decision. On the other hand, 9 of 12 fights for Arroyo has ended in the first round. He is more well rounded as he has 4 wins by knockout and 4 wins by submission. I think the ability to take the fight to the ground and control the position for Arroyo will be the key to the fight. Anders does seem to have the power advantage in this fight, but the power gets neutralized on the ground. 


You can follow Johnathan on Twitter @ThreePieceCombo 


Three Piece Picks: Terence Crawford vs Kell Brook Main Card

Main Event: Terence Crawford vs Kell Brook, 12 rounds, WBO World Welterweight Title 


Pick: Terence Crawford


Single Round: 10th round 

Winning Group of Rounds: (7-12)

Fight Goes the Distance: No                                                                                                                                                                           

Breakdown: Terence Crawford is coming undefeated at 36-0 with 14 wins coming in title fights. With this title fight experience, he is 14-0 in those title fights as well as having 11 of them come by way of knockout. On the other side, you have Kell Brook, who is coming in with a lot of big fights under belt. He has fought the likes of GGG, Shawn Porter, and even Errol Spence. He does not take the easy fights and for that, you know that there is a warrior in him. In this sport, it is important to have a strong mental game and when you’re going after killers and not worrying about your record, you will develop a reputation of being a hitman going after the best fights. But he is going against the top Pound for Pound fighter (According to ESPN) and Crawford is still in his prime. This fight for him will allow him to showcase his talents and build him up towards a super fight. For Brook to win this fight, he would need to continue to put on a pace that would make Crawford uncomfortable for most of the first rounds. It is able to be done, but it is more likely that Crawford picks up the win here. 


Co-Main Event: Joshua Franco vs. Andrew Moloney, 12 rounds, WBA WORLD SUPER FLYWEIGHT TITLE

Pick: Joshua Franco

By: Decision

Fight Goes the Distance: Yes                                                                                                                                                                        

Breakdown: This fight is a rematch from earlier in June where Franco won and took the WBA (Regular) super-flyweight title. In that matchup, Franco was able to dictate the pace of the fight and was able to cruise into a 12 round unanimous decision. The scorecards showed a relatively easy win for Franco and he became the new Champion. This fight will most likely look similar to the first one. One good thing about Franco is his ring awareness and ability to dictate control of the ring. By doing this he keeps the fight in his comfort zone and gets his punches warmed up by the time the middle rounds are coming up. Look for Moloney to come out a little strong early to try and avenge his loss but Franco taking control in the 3rd round and winning an easy decision. 


Fight #3: Joshua Greer Jr. vs. Edwin Rodriguez


Pick: Joshua Greer

By: Decision

Fight Goes the Distance: Yes 

Breakdown: Joshua Greer is coming in off getting dropped twice in only his second loss of his career. He has fought much harder competition that Edwin Rodriguez has. Every fight that Rodriguez has fought that has been a higher level of competition, has lead to him taking a loss. Greer is coming in with a heavy speed advantage. If he is able to get a feel for using his speed early in this fight, it could end in KO, but being that it is only an 8 round fight, it is more likely to see the scorecards. For Rodriguez to win, he’d have to try to get some more dirty boxing in to close the gap between him and Greer but if Greer is able to do what he is able to do with most people, which is stay out of reach and use his speed to get combos in, he will win this fight counterpunching away. Greer by Unanimous Decision. 


Fight #4: Tyler Howard vs. KeAndrae Leatherwood


Pick: Tyler Howard 

By: Decision 

Fight Goes the Distance: Yes 

Breakdown: Tyler Howard is coming in as the undefeated boxer in this bout and Top Rank is looking to push him as far as he can go. He is a good fighter with great head movement and fundamentals in striking. This fight is made for Howard to get the win and continue to build his record. At 18-0 it is getting closer to him being able to have a record to challenge one of the bigger names sitting atop of the division. 


Fight #5: Luis Porozo vs. Raymond Muratalla


Pick: Raymond Muratalla


Round: 8th

Fight Goes the Distance: No

Breakdown: Raymond “Danger” Muratalla is a great exciting prospect to keep your eyes on. At only 23 years old, he is 10-0 and is working his way up into being a good fighter in the 135lb division. Luis Porozo on the other hand is coming in 15-4 and has had a few tough outings as of late. Muratella is good at fighting a technical fight and working those combinations. He will start with a one, and work his combinations up to four and five piece combinations that will catch his opponents from all different angles. If he continues to grow at the pace he is, we could see him in a few years vouching for a title shot. His skillset is transferrable through most levels of the division so keep your eye out for Raymond Muratalla. 


You can follow Johnathan on Twitter @ThreePieceCombo

Next for the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion: Adesanya or Texiera?

With 2020 on the cusp of ending, there has been a crossroads as to which way the UFC should go when it comes to who gets the shot at the Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Błachowicz. With Jon Jones relinquishing the belt and seemingly having his eyes on the Heavyweight strap, Jan was the first person not named Daniel Cormier or Jon Jones in the last 10 years. Now, with rising star Israel Adesanya cleaning out the Middleweight division, he has set his eyes on becoming a double champion. But after a dominating win over the former #1 contender Thiago Santos, Glover Texiera has made himself a huge case for getting himself a title shot. So which one of these two options are the best and most likely to end up happening. 


Israel Adesanya- Best for Business 

After clearing out the division beating the likes of Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum, and even Anderson Silva, Israel Adesanya has become a star in the UFC with a path to become the GOAT. Undefeated at 20-0, he now eyes becoming the 5th ever “Champ-Champ” holding both the Middleweight title and Light Heavyweight title. After winning the title, he hopes to face off against who the boss Dana White says is the GOAT, Jon Jones in what would likely be one of, if not the biggest fight of all time. This would also come roughly at a time where fans would likely be back in play and this fight would sell out an arena. The current record for most attendance in a UFC event is Adesanya vs Whittaker in the Marvel Stadium, Australia, where they sold 56,214 seats. You put Jon Jones in that mix and you have the potential to top that. The only person left to face Adesanya in the Middleweight division is Robert Whittaker who he already beat, and he has earned the reputation to be able to try to become a double champion. Seeing a fight between fighters in the GOAT conversation is rare and when you have the chance to put this together, this isn’t a chance you want to miss. This is on the same level as putting Khabib vs GSP because you know for a fact the fighter that wins this fight, will be regarded as the Greatest of All Time. 


Glover Texiera – Best for the Division

With Jon Jones gone from the Division, there seems to be a new life in the Light Heavyweight Division. After losing to Jon Jones in 2014, Glover has remained a staple of the top of the division. Multiple times since then, he has come one fight away from a rematch, only to fall short. Now well in his 40s, Glover has seemed to figure something out winning 5 fights in a row including two title challengers. After a statement win over Thiago Santos, it makes 100% sense for him to get the next shot against Jan Błachowicz. Both of them have a similar story, taking a much harder path to get to the belt than most. For Jan this would allow him to work through his own division and start building his own legacy. This would also allow for the most flow from this division to continue working through it’’s talent allowing the newer Light Heavyweight contenders to get their shot at the belt as well. The division has new life for the first time in 10 years and this chance to release all the buildup from the past will allow for some fresh matches that are sure to deliver. Texiera vs Jan would be an absolute banger with a finish near guaranteed.


My Guess: Israel Adesanya

The odds are is that they are going to go with the money. Whenever that is an option for Dana White, it seems like that is the one he will take. Having the once in a lifetime ability to put two guys at or near their primes like Jones and Adesanya would be one for the ages and not something you would want to pass up. 


You can follow Johnathan on Twitter @ThreePieceCombo

Three Piece Picks: UFC Fight Night, Santos vs Texiera Card

Main Event: #1 Thiago Santos vs #3 Glover Texiera 


Pick: Thiago Santos

By: KO 

Round: 2nd Round

Breakdown: This fight will likely end up being the #1 contenders fight for the UFC Light Heavyweight belt. As of right now, Current LHW Champ Jan Blachowicz is looking like he will face Israel Adesanya. But if one of these fighters can make some real noise, ending the other one emphatically, they can bring the spotlight to themselves and try to get a shot at Jan. Thiago Santos is coming back off of a torn up knee in his valiant effort in a split decision loss to Jon Jones. Glover Texiera is coming in off of a comeback win against Anthony Smith where he dominated the latter rounds to score a win by TKO. Glover is an excellent technical fighter, he has good stand up, he able to take you down and he can submit you. But at he takes some time to start up, as where Santos comes out explosive at the start. With having advantages in all the striking stats, this one could end quick with the amount of power and explosiveness that he brings. He comes in guns blazing having 15 of his 21 wins come by KO/TKO many in the first and second round. Look for him to come out explosive with Texiera starting slow, and this one may end in spectacular fashion. 

Co-Main Event: Andrei ‘Pitbull’ Arlovski vs. Tanner ‘The Bulldozer’ Boser

Pick: Tanner Boser

By: Decision

Breakdown: Looking to have his first 3 fight win streak in the UFC, Tanner ‘The Bulldozer’ Boser is also looking to make a name off the former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei ‘Pitbull’ Arlovski. Tanner has won 3 of his 4 fights in the UFC and if he wins this one, he’s going to crack the top 20 and potentially secure a fight for a ranking. Andrei is coming in having gone 4-9 in his last 13 fights but he is still a great fighter at his age. The problem is that he’s going against someone that averages 1 extra strike per minute (Arlovski: 3.54 Boser:4.54) and who has defense is 5% better. Boser is finding his groove here in the UFC and facing someone like the 41 year old Arlovski who has 11 of his 19 of his losses come by KO/TKO. Look for Boser to come out and wear down the defense of Arlovski early and wear him down later in the fight. Arlovski is no wash with only having been only been KO/TKO’d twice over the last 4 years. The two guys to do it? Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, but who has not been knocked out by those guys? Boser will be able to land some strikes but the veteran sense of Arlovski keeps him alive long enough to see the judges.  


Fight #3: Raoni Barcelos vs Khalid Taha

Pick: Raoni Barcelos 


Round: 3rd Round

Breakdown: Raoni Barcelos is coming in on an 8 fight win streak and Khalid Taha is coming in off of a 13 month layoff. What we can look to this fight and see right off the top is that Taha might be coming in with some ring rust. He has a disadvantage in striking (2.64 vs 4.79 for Raoni in Landed per Minute) a lot of this comes in as ground and pound. For Barcelos, the easiest path to victory for him will be to continue to do what he has done which is winning 4 of his last 5 with a finish. With only a 64% takedown defense for Taha and 58% takedown accuracy for Raoni, it will only take 2 attempts to get him on the ground. With also having the ability to use that ground game as a weapon, opponents tend to worry about the takedown and forget about the hands. It is very possible that Taha gets caught, but it is more likely that Barcelos takes him down, gets into dominant position, and finishes him via ground and pound.


Fight #4: #15 Ian ‘The Hurricane’ Heinisch vs Brendan ‘All In’ Allen

Pick: Brendan Allen

By: Decision

Breakdown: Both of these guys are extremely well rounded and this is one of the tougher matches on the card. If you’re looking for a parlay, its recommended to stay away from this one. A backstory in this one is that both guys come in having held the LFA Middleweight championship in 2018 and 2019. Getting into the numbers, both guys are willing to take it to the ground. They both average north of a takedown a fight so as well as have a strike differential less than a strike per minute off of each other. This fight could come down where they go shot for shot and whoever is able to get the takedown first will get the win. Allen does have a knockdown and at least takedown in 2 of his 4 fights and is coming in on a 7 fight win streak, a being perfect 3-0 in the UFC. This is an eliminator for the 15th rank in the Middleweight division and if Allen can dominate this fight he can see himself knocking in the Middleweight top 10. 


Fight #5: #4 Claudia ‘Claudinha’ Gadelha vs. #8 Xiaonan ‘Fury’ Yan

Pick: Xiaonan Yan

By: Decision

Breakdown: Xiaonan is looking to break into the top 5 with a win over Claudia Gadelha. She comes in having all advantages in all the striking stats while still showing the ability defend and even shoot for the takedown. Gadelha is much more ground game focused and if Yan is able to keep it on the feet, this fight easily goes to Yan. She is coming in on a 5 fight win streak and is looking for more. This fight is unlikely to end in a finish due to the nature of the fighters. It is more likely we will see a round of Claudia able to take Yan down and try to control her, and 2 rounds of Yan boxing Claudias face in. 29-28 Yan.