UFC Fortaleza betting odds: Vitor Belfort a huge underdog versus Kelvin Gastelum

Check out all the betting odds for UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum. Vegas thinks Belfort will get blasted in the main event, what do you think? UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum goes down Saturday night, live from Fortaleza, Brazil. Every single match-up on the card features a Brazilian, but according to the oddsmakers it might be a mixed night for the hometown crowd. The bookies are also confident that in the main event Brazil will weep for Vitor Belfort (+353), who takes on Kelvin Gastelum (-425), as the biggest underdog on the card. The co-main might prove more palatable to Brazilians with Mauricio Rua a decent favorite (-135) over Gian Villante (+124).
See all the odds below via BestFightOdds (check there often to catch all the latest line movements):


Line Movement:
Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum: Middleweight


Since the odds opened on February 6th, Belfort – a former UFC light heavyweight champion and a future ‘Hall of Famer’ – has been saddled with the underdog tag. The initial odds posted for him were around +235, but as money has come in on Kelvin Gastelum – who looked phenomenal himself versus Tim Kennedy at UFC 206 – Belfort’s odds have steadily grown to over +300. It might rise even higher as we get closer to Saturday’s main event.
Francisco Trinaldo vs. Kevin Lee: Lightweight


The odds have widened since this fight was announced. Initially Vegas had it as a very close affair between Massaranduba (-130) and the MoTown Phenom (-110). Trinaldo, a TUF Brazil veteran has one of the longest win streaks in topflight MMA currently (7 wins since September, 2014), is coming off an eye-opening victory over Paul Felder last September. Lee looked fantastic last time out when he choked out Magomed Mustafaev at UFC Belfast in November. It would seem the public are more thrilled with Lee’s stoppage than Trinaldo’s streak, as their money has pushed the American to a -175 favorite.
Tim Means vs. Alex Oliveira: Welterweight
Means seemed to have the beating of Oliveira when they faced off in December. The Dirty Bird was landing stiff combos and out muscling the Brazilian Cowboy against the cage before a pair of illegal knees ended the fight in controversy. Means told Bloody Elbow he felt stronger than Oliveira in the clinch. He also said he had a deep dislike for his opponent. Oliveira did knock Means down in their first fight, with a nifty spinning back kick, but if things play out like we’ve already seen you can expect to see the American get his hand raised at the end of this one. You can get Means to win at -211 with some outfits.
Garreth McLellan vs. Paulo Henrique Costa: Middleweight
The South African McLellan is the second biggest underdog on the card, with some bookies listing him at +257. This is all despite him having something his opponent does not: a win in the UFC. Costa is coming out of Jungle Fight at 8-0 (all stoppages), but we don’t know how he’ll react to the bright lights of the UFC. McLellan’s only UFC win (he’s lost his other two) came against Bubba Bush at UFC Fight Night 76. He was the second biggest underdog on that card too (+290). With the odds stacked so high in favor of an unproven fighter, it might be worth putting a little sprinkle on Soldier Boy.
For a comprehensive analysis of this entire card, including picks, watch The MMA Vivisection featuring Zane Simon and Conor Ruebusch.

Do you or someone you know have a gambling addiction? Get help by contacting The National Council on Problem Gambling at 1-800-522-4700.

Source: bloody

UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum – Mauricio Rua vs Gian Villante Toe to Toe Preview

Phil and David breakdown everything you need to know about Rua vs. Gian at UFN 106 and everything you don’t about football-to-MMA success. Mauricio Rua and Gian Villante try to prove they’re not just light heavyweight placeholders this March 11, 2017 at the Centro de Formação Olímpica do Nordeste in Fortaleza, Brazil.
One sentence summary
David: Why?
Phil: The timeless battle of age vs inconsistency.
Record: Mauricio Rua 24-10 Gian Villante 15-7
Odds: Mauricio Rua -145 Gian Villante +125
History / Introduction to Both Fighters
David: Rua has managed to stay relevant after what should have been career altering knee injuries. Now that I think about it, there’s actually nothing false about that statement. It’s just, I can’t decide if he’s that Dan Kelly feel good story of the week, or if he’s part of the seedy MMA narrative of the UFC giving fighters bouts who are strolling around past their expiration date like Romero symbols. Yea he’s won his last two, but does this really give us hope for the endgame?
Phil: It seems weird that Shogun is still here. More than that it seems weird that he’s still here and in odd ways doing about as well as he ever has? I mean, there was that brief period of about two fights (Chuck and Machida I) where he looked like he’d recovered some of his old speed and explosion, but since then I just have no idea what’s going on. There hasn’t been any kind of consistent decline, as he can look better and worse from fight to fight (presumably depending on whether he’s bothered to train or not) but there is an overall downwards trend. That said, Shogun’s decline has been outpaced by the decline of the division as a whole in recent years. Yay?
David: Give me a second. I need to go back to wikipedia to make sure I have Gian’s history correct. Oh right. I forgot he got laid the fuck out by Tom Lawlor. I don’t mean to sound spitefully dismissive. But Villante comes from a long storied history of ex-football players who are pretty good fighters for a stick and ball yeoman. As such, their success mostly wanes, rarely waxes.
Phil: When it comes to good natural athletes, there’s a default expectation that at some point they’ll turn some kind of corner. Somehow it’ll all come together- they’ll stop making that one mistake, or they’ll find some way of shielding themselves from making the mistakes in the first place. Villante is relatively unique, in that fairly on people shrugged their shoulders and said: nah. Don’t think so. Fun action fighter, but nah.
What’s at stake?
David: Just the usual – a few stacks of underpaid high society compliments of the chef-baldardee. Shogun will at least be good for a high profile fight if he wins. Villante? Depends. If he punches Shogun through the chain linked fence and becomes an ESPN highlight, maybe then we talk real money.
Phil: So dismissive, my friend. This is Shogun’s chance to notch his biggest win streak ever in the UFC, at three whole fights. More than that, there’s nowhere for him to go apart from into the top 5 off a win.
That said, I desperately hope he doesn’t go there. Like, what if Jones needs a return opponent? I shudder to think. Win or lose, someone suggested Shogun-Anderson at light heavyweight, and that’s basically the only thing I want to see from either man right now.
Where do they want it?
David: Shogun has never really bothered to expand beyond the boundaries of his muay thai base. Which is quite alright. He’s still a hell of a pugilist. And he still has supernatural timing with his punches. In that way he’s a bit like Dan Henderson; tactically he should be a disaster, but his timing, experience, and raw power keep the loyal opposition from being as effective as you’d otherwise suspect. Perhaps the biggest change in Shogun’s game, and it’s not big so much as vital, at least from what I’ve gathered, is that he’s a little more active defensively. It’s not just the classic earmuff retreat he likes to use when being boxed, but his movement. He makes better use of angles, and thus doesn’t get punished as readily. After all these years, he’s still a master technician on the ground. With his arsenal of trip takedowns and torso manipulation, he’s heavy on top with punches, slap chops, and a veritable grocery list of five knuckle meat tenderizing.
Phil: Shogun seems to have adapted to the fact that he’s no longer going to be zipping around people and flying stomping them into oblivion with the exuberant abandon of his 23-year old self. The Henderson comparison is an apt one, because the new Shogun is normally (but not always) a plodding power puncher. His leg kicks disappeared from his game for a while, but in the Nogueira rematch it looked like he started trusting his knees enough to be able to throw them again, albeit in a much lighter form than the clubbing femur-crushers he used to throw back in the day. These days they’re there to set up his counterpunch game, which has absorbed all the commitment the leg kicks used to have and then some: Shogun lives and breathes off winging but relatively accurate overhands and hooks. Like Henderson, these feed into the clinch, where Shogun works for underhooks and dumps. His takedown defense, as evinced in the Anderson fight, is also much better. Essentially, this is all evidence of a fighter who used to be tuned for speed, and has been forced to switch to a power game.
David: Gian is basically white OSP, for all intents and purposes. A comparison that extends beyond their football backgrounds when you consider that when they fought each other, it ended in this Timecop-esque scenario where the same matter couldn’t occupy the same space and a technical decision was handed gracelessly to St. Preux. As such, the comparison carries with it all of the pros and cons of OSP. Villante is more of a linear fighter. Very traditional, and were he more committed, would possess the premiere leg kicks in the division. They’re very good, but also very inconsistent. He’s not unskilled or anything, and packs quite the punch. But as we saw against Lawlor, he’s a headhunter, and can become ‘overexuberant’, if you will.
Phil: Instead of OSP’s decent instincts but utter lack of hierarchical assemblage, Villante has become a fairly sound kickboxer who is nonetheless completely incapable of keeping his eye on the ball. Which is ironic considering the whole football thing.
Every part of his game can be described as functional. He’s has decent takedown defense, but leaves his head resolutely on the center line. While he’s good at knocking opponents off balance with the inside leg kick and cracking them with the cross, Villante’s ability to successfully integrate his defense and offense has traditionally been somewhat… not there?
Insight from Past Fights
David: Even though Shogun is nothing like Latifi stylistically, Villante fell prey to the kind of offensive tactics Shogun can duplicate. The work inside the clinch, his opponent dictating range too easily and sending heat seeking missiles at his dome as a result. Even at half speed, I don’t like Gian in this bout. I’m starting to wonder why it was set up at all.
Phil: The primary thing I took away from the Villante fight was that Villante was slow enough that he couldn’t outfight against Latifi, who (much as I love him) is one of the most footslow fighters in the UFC.
On another note, the Lawler-Villante fight is one of the weirdest viewing experiences I’ve ever had. Villante was absolutely kicking the shit out of Lawler, and I was suddenly overcome by this really strong conviction: Lawler is going to knock him out. Any second now, this grinding clinch grappler with limited striking who is obviously on the ropes is going to absolutely clean his clock with a left hook. And then he did. Weird (Editor’s Note: now that I’ve learned to spell English with a capital E, I’ve learned to keep Phil’s grammatical errors intact, as I enjoy this parallel universe Phil has created in which it was Robbie, and not Tom, who decapitated Villante).
David: Shogun’s health? He seems fine and maybe I’m just falling into that sports talk trap of having nothing original to say, so I invent original nonsense to compensate. I haven’t followed enough of the pre-fight festivities to tease out any unusual factors that could come into play. Although Villante did say he wanted to “party”. Not for nothing, but we do remember what happened to the last guy to use the word ‘party’ carelessly as a euphemism for fighting, right? (technically said by Arnold, but why haggle over details?)
Phil: While this bout lacks the raging homoeroticism of Commando, it should at least provide a similar brand of wheezy, muscular, old-fashioned fun for as long as it lasts. The X-factors are pretty defined: Shogun’s at that point where he can suddenly look a lot worse, and Villante has (for all that we’ve been a bit down on him) been slowly tightening up over his last few fights. The question is obviously around what point those trajectories intersect.
David: Villante has some skill. And more important for a not-quite-heavyweight division, he has some power. But nothing about his history of skills lead me to believe he can beat Shogun. Even WITH Shogun missing his kneecaps. Rua is still too savvy, hard hitting, and offensively technical after all these years. Mauricio Rua by TKO, round 2.
Phil: If Villante’s analogue is OSP, then that doesn’t say particularly good things for Shogun’s chances. A younger, bigger, faster opponent will probably be able to destroy the aging ex-champ if they match strength in any direct way. However, Shogun has still been able to summon up craft and dynamism of late, and Villante has so consistently been vulnerable to whatever offense his opponent throws his way. Shogun Rua by TKO, round 1.
Source: bloody

Jussier Formiga hopes to make case for a title shot at UFC Fight Night 106

FORTALEZA, Brazil — Fighting in Fortaleza will be special for Jussier Formiga.

The experienced flyweight will compete for the first in the capital of Ceara since 2011, when he finished Michael Costa to win the Shooto Brazil flyweight championship and kicked off the four-fight stoppage streak that earned him an UFC contract.

“Fortaleza is right next to my hometown Natal, so I was super excited when they offered me this fight,” Formiga, who meets Ray Borg at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 106, told MMA Fighting. “Fortaleza is where I won the Shooto belt, so this place brings good memories, a good energy. I’m really excited to fight here in the Northeast.”

Formiga has fought all over the country since signing with the UFC in 2013, and his only submission victory inside the Octagon came when he fought Scott Jorgensen in his hometown. Fighting so close to his family and friends got him motivated to win fast, he says.

“I want to win as quick as possible,” Formiga said. “If I can end this fight in one minute, I will. But if it’s a three-round war, I’m ready too. I’m really motivated and focused for this fight. I’ll do my best. I want to put on a great performance to show the UFC I have what it takes to fight (UFC flyweight champion) Demetrious (Johnson).”

The UFC officially announced last week that the flyweight king will put his belt on the line against Wilson Reis on April 15, and Formiga believes the only thing separating him from a title shot is lack of finishes.

“It’s time to bring back the submissions,” he said. “I think that’s what’s missing, a submission or maybe a knockout, something I haven’t done yet in my career. I’m working hard in my striking for a long time and I’m confident in the work we’re doing. I believe in my hands and legs. I have all the tools to fight Ray Borg. It’s going to be a great fight. My ground is always sharp, I won’t waste opportunities. If we go to the ground, we’ll roll until I catch him.

“After this fight, I hope they recognize me as someone who can fight Demetrious,” he continued. “Everyone had their chance and I deserve mine. Not taking anything away from Wilson Reis, he’s doing his thing, but I’m on this road for a long time and I have what it takes to face Demetrious. Wilson will have his chance, and I’m looking for my chance. I wanna focus on Ray Borg now because it’s my next fight and it’s important, and then I’ll think about the belt.”

In fact, the next flyweight contender’s only loss since moving down to 125 pounds was to Formiga.

“I fought Wilson in May 2015 and it was a great fight, a good test for me,” said Formiga, who won via decision when they fought in Goiania, Brazil. “He’s doing his thing, he’s well ranked, and that’s it. But it’s nice to see two Brazilians close to the belt.”

Coming back from an ankle injury that forced him to cancel a fight with Sergio Pettis in January, the Nova Uniao athlete reveals that the promotion offered him a spot at the Fortaleza card before he was completely healed.

“I couldn’t throw any kicks or do some movements, so the (Pettis) fight was cancelled,” Formiga said. “I did physical therapy for 20 days and it got better and I went back to the gym right away.

“I was still injured when they offered me the fight in Fortaleza. My coach said that my injury wasn’t that serious, so I could accept it and go back to training in a couple of weeks. In fact, it was supposed to be Tim Elliot, but it didn’t work out, and they offered me Ray Borg. I don’t pick fights. I fight whoever they offer.”

Formiga sees Borg as “an important opponent” that will give him “a big test,” and admits that he doesn’t know exactly what to expect from his opponent when the fight starts.

“That’s the big question,” Formiga said. “Borg is a good wrestler, has some good striking skills, but he’s more grappler than striker. He’s versatile, has a dangerous guillotine, good transitions, but I don’t know what’s going on in his head, if he will try to stand with me and take me down in the final seconds of the rounds to score points. But I trained hard, ready for anything he brings. You can be sure I’m ready for all areas.”

Source: mmafighting

UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum card in Fortaleza, Brazil. The Bloody Elbow staff unanimously agrees that Kelvin Gastelum will beat Vitor Belfort in Saturday night’s UFC Fortaleza main event. Only Ram Gilboa and Zane Simon are picking Gian Villante over Mauricio Rua in the co-main event. Phil Mackenzie, Stephie Haynes, and Tim Burke all like Beneil Dariush to best Edson Barboza in the other big feature fight on this quality FS1 card.
Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Mookie Alexander: Vitor has about three minutes to win this fight. If he doesn’t KO Gastelum in those three minutes, then the rest of the fight is a formality. I know why this fight is the main event (Vitor is still a big draw), but Barboza-Dariush is a five-round caliber bout that ends up being three because of 2017 Vitor Belfort. Gastelum pieces Belfort up and then Vitor probably pulls guard and gets smashed from top position. Kelvin Gastelum via TKO (strikes), round 2.
Ram Gilboa: Belfort is a true celebrity in his homeland, like GSP in Canada or Demetrious Johnson in Madisonville, Kentucky. So a lot of Brazilian fans aren’t going to be very happy late Saturday night, but they’re usually a calm and quiet bunch so no worries there. Let’s be honest, whatever the reasons, his last truly impressive win was Luke Rockhold almost 4 years ago; and before that, now in hindsight, against Bisping and Anthony Johnson. Ever since Bisping, he only has those two on Dan Henderson; and catching good old Henderson is very different than cutting the Octagon on a very dynamic Kelvin Gastelum. The 25-year-old Gastelum employs enough movements to frustrate a housefly, so forget about a turning 40 Vitor Belfort. Gastelum’s a boxer/wrestler fella who can intercept a kick into a butt-drop, and as a grappler, he shouldn’t get dragged into too deep waters for his comfort. When Belfort was Gastelum’s age, he was beating Heath Herring at heavy, and losing to Chuck Liddell at Light-heavy, relying foremostly on his natural gifts, and those have expiration dates – just ask Chuck Liddell and many others. In my mind Belfort is always going to be fighting Tank Abbott this one night in 1997 in St. Louis. Now it looks like Belfort wants to move on to something of the sorts of a ‘League of Legends.’ If final, unfortunately he’ll end this part, like so many others, with a loss. Kelvin Gastelum by KO/TKO, round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: At first glance, this is a very winnable fight for Belfort. He’s still got great striking chops and amazing bursts that allow him to turn the tide quickly in any fight. Gastelum is young and comparatively inexperienced, but a phenom in his own right with a lot of raw potential that has really only had major shortcomings at welterweight due to weight cutting problems (which largely appear to have stemmed mostly from not staying closer to his target weight out of competition). Without the concern of a heavy cut, we saw him absolutely brutalize established veteran Tim Kennedy last time out. You can make the case that Kennedy hadn’t fought in a long time and was also getting long in the tooth – it doesn’t change the fact that Gastelum showed improved striking and excellent control of space and range. Belfort could catch him standing, but that’s it. I have no faith in him doing any better than he did in the Weidman fight (where he tried to throw straight punches off his back from under mount) or the Jacare fight where he would have had his face turned to Vietnamese plum sauce if the ref didn’t stop it. There’s no reason to believe that he’ll fare well when – not if, but when – he is inevitably taken down. As soon as the pressure becomes too much, Belfort will break and the fight will end soon. So yeah, this is Kelvin’s fight to win unless he dawdles a bit while standing, and even there he’s likely to outshine Belfort. Kelvin Gastelum by TKO (ground strikes), round 2.
Zane Simon: Gastelum is hard to hurt and has never been finished. Belfort loses almost every fight that he doesn’t win inside the first few minutes of round 1. Kelvin Gastelum via TKO, Round 2.
Nick Baldwin: Kelvin Gastelum is very good at everything. Super well rounded. Superb boxing and wrestling. Gastelum can beat the aging and declining Vitor Belfort wherever the fight goes. Gastelum is really, really durable, and should be able to take all of the Brazilian’s shots. If Belfort surges forward early, there’s a slim chance he might be able to take this. It is Vitor Belfort, after all. But I can’t trust non-TRT Belfort in 2017, so give me Gastelum with a heavy youth advantage to win inside the distance. Kelvin Gastelum via TKO, round 2.
Fraser Coffeen: I really want to pick Vitor here. Every once in awhile, he turns back the clock and delivers the kind of performance we think is no longer there for The Phenom. And if he’s got one more of those in the tank, this seems like the fight where it gets uncorked. Trouble is, as much as I want to go there, I just can’t rationally see it, as he has looked pretty dreadful in his past couple outings. Experience says we have, at long last, truly seen the end of the line for the “old” Vitor, replaced forever simply by old Vitor. Kelvin Gastelum, TKO, R1
Staff picking Belfort:Staff picking Gastelum: Bissell, Phil, Nick, Ram, Victor, Mookie, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Fraser
Mauricio Rua vs. Gian Villante
Mookie Alexander: Shogun’s gas tank is awful. Villante is a willing striker with a questionable gas tank and unquestionably bad defense. This could be a really fun one-round fight for a piss-awful three-round fight. Rua probably has enough left to KO Villante and then get pointlessly slaughtered by an actual top LHW. Mauricio Rua by KO, round 1.
Ram Gilboa: And Shogun is going to get stopped tomorrow night too? Oh man. Gian Villante by KO/TKO, round 1.
Victor Rodriguez: Before anyone comes in chiming “PRIDE NEVER DIE”, I’d like to politely remind you all that PRIDE is dead, and it needs to stay dead. After the OSP loss, I thought Shogun was done, but there’s so many IQ lapses in Villante’s game that make it possible for Shogun to pull out another big finish. Not that Villante can shut his lights off, but it’s a matter of who you can trust the least, and the odd man out is gonna be Gian. Sorry dude. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by KO, round 2.
Phil Mackenzie: If Shogun wins this, it’s his longest win streak ever in the UFC! And he probably goes into the top 5 because there’s nowhere else to go! It might make you happy to hear those things, but it really shouldn’t. Shogun Rua by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: There’s no reason to think that Shogun will win this fight, other than even in 2017 Shogun will still be far and away the best win of Villante’s career. That spells doom for Villante but I’ll roll with him anyway. It’s either that or trust 2017 Shogun. Gian Villante via KO, Round 1.
Nick Baldwin: This is such a weird fight. Rua is almost top five at light heavyweight, which is not exactly good, considering it’s 2017. Villante has the power shot to take the former champ out, but I’m not a fan of the New York native’s chin and cardio. I actually like Shogun here, but that’s more of a fade on Villante than anything. Mauricio Rua via unanimous decision.
Fraser Coffeen: I just wrote about how my gut says Vitor but I can’t get my brain to agree no matter what. So I’m letting the gut have this one as a consolation prize. Shogun Rua by KO, R1
Staff picking Shogun: Bissell, Nick, Victor, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, FraserStaff picking Villante: Ram, Zane
Edson Barboza vs. Beneil Dariush
Mookie Alexander: Barboza struggles with pressure fighters and anyone with the power to dent his chin. Dariush possesses both things, has terrific jiu-jitsu, and Barboza is prone to getting submitted. That said, for as much as Dariush has made serious strides on the feet, Barboza has improved his takedown defense considerably, his boxing looks better than ever, and he is a more advanced striker than Dariush is. The longer this fight stays on the outside, where Barboza can fire off those absurdly quick and powerful leg kicks, the worse it gets for Dariush. I love this stylistic clash and am a fan of both fighters, but I have to favor Barboza here based on how well he’s performed in his last few fights. Edson Barboza by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Sweet gods of combat, we have a great one on our hands here. Dariush is a real threat, and the potential for violence and technique is absolutely beautiful. Barboza should have the advantages standing, negating Dariush’s range and disrupting his timing as he did against Anthony Pettis, but Darius won’t let himself get picked apart easily. Trust that the Cordeiro tutelage will help him prepare for some of Barboza’s tendencies and figure out how to close the distance. Also, Dariush is going to have to be extra crafty to get inside and actually get the takedown, since Barboza is no slouch when it comes to preventing takedowns or springing back to his feet. It’s going to be good and pretty close, but Barboza’s style is more suited to win rounds for this kind of matchup, so I have to go with him. Edson Barboza by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: This is a glorious fight, easily the best on what is a pretty fantastic card, from the bottom to the top almost the top. This should be a fun open stance jabbing matchup, with Dariush closing off combinations with the left body kick or straight, and Barboza countering with that trademark left hook. I’d like to see Barboza win- I just really enjoy his game, and watching him painstakingly build it has honestly been an absolute pleasure. However, a few things give me pause: namely, the ability of opponents to limit his game by throwing takedowns into the mix, and Barboza’s lack of offense in the clinch. These two things combine to mean that I think the outfighting, counter-heavy game he wants to play can be eaten up by cage time, and that Dariush will have several near risk-free opportunities to work for takedowns. Hope I’m wrong, but Beneil Dariush by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: The biggest thing I see here is speed. Both guys can be chinny, both guys are very confident in their ability to strike. But, Barboza is way way faster. If Dariush can work a pressure game that ties Barboza up inside and gets him a takedown or two, he could win, but I think Barboza will stay mobile outside and keep his hands fast and his defense sharp. Edson Barboza via TKO, Round 3.
Staff picking Barboza: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Victor, Mookie, Zane, FraserStaff picking Dariush: Phil, Stephie, Tim
Ray Borg vs. Jussier Formiga
Mookie Alexander: Formiga hasn’t really declined anywhere, so this is all about Ray Borg. Perhaps his win over Smolka was partially due to Smolka himself being overrated, but Borg made tangible improvements in his stand-up and looked leagues faster on the feet and on the mat. This is a fight where I cannot imagine Borg consistently outgrapples Formiga, so Borg’s best chance to win is to outstrike him and at least break even when (and I do mean when) this fight hits the mat. Even then, Formiga is a functionally good kickboxer without being great. If only partially because I want a new flyweight contender in a division, I think Borg gets the upset. Ray Borg by split decision.
Ram Gilboa: This is a great match-up because these two are serious grapplers, and you know they’re coming in to grapple – which is now rarer, and therefore more intriguing, than a comparable strikers fight. At least we know for sure that Borg will push for the ground, being the kind of a sticky grappler; it’s very hard to get him off of you. And if the other guy preempts the attack Borg has nice reversals. What might spoil this match-up or at least postpone its peak, is that both Borg and Formiga carry much better takedown defence statswise than takedown offence. We might be looking at a lot of struggle next to the cage wall.
Standing up, Formiga has reach on Borg, but Borg cuts distance like a rubber band. Interesting meet, and I’m going with Ray Borg by decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Another great bout, and the approach both fighters take will be interesting to see. Formiga seems to hit harder, but Borg seems like such a wily and unpredictable enough fighter to pull something crazy off, even if it doesn’t do that much damage. Formiga’s got great BJJ skills, but Borg has the wrestling to take him down and keep him there for a bit. I’m hoping for a bunch of fun scrambles, but we’ll probably end up with a decent standup bout with some clinchwork. I’m feeling Formiga uses his experience and pacing to earn a decision. Jussier Forgmiga by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Borg is probably an athletic level or two above Formiga. However, I haven’t seen anything to make me think that Formiga’s on the downside, or that actively grappling with him is the way to beat him, and he’s a much better boxer than Borg. Unless Borg has dramatically improved his functional kickboxing (and for short-term improvements you don’t get much better than Jackson-Wink), he’s just going to have to win on power and speed while in Formiga’s wheelhouse, and his high-speed scrambling game seems primed to give his back up at some point (see: Formiga vs Makovsky). Jussier Formiga by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Can Borg get his top game going? Because if he can’t this is Formiga’s fight to lose. Borg is getting better as a striker, but he still has a lot of improving to do. And as we saw in the Scoggins fight, he can be out-worked and out maneuvered on the mat. Formiga tends to lose to really elite athletes that can keep him standing and box him up. That doesn’t feel like Borg just yet. Jussier Formiga via decision.
Staff picking Borg: Nick, Ram, Mookie, Stephie, TimStaff picking Formiga: Bissell, Phil, Victor, Zane, Fraser
Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau
Mookie Alexander: I picked Reneau over Correia on this week’s Three Amigos Podcast … it’s time to hedge my bets! Reneau isn’t active enough to consistently win fights, while Correia isn’t athletic or powerful enough to convincingly win fights. Correia has the edge in volume, which should make up for her lack of athleticism, and I predict she wins by just doing more on the feet and stopping Reneau from taking her down. Bethe Correia by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Close fight. Bethe Correia is pretty rad. As with Kevin Lee below, I enjoy how utterly unfiltered and fearless she is. While being dismissed as a punchline, she’s gradually developed into a technical volume boxer and swarmer, one who was able to hang with dark horse Raquel Pennington for two extremely close rounds. What happened in the third is the concerning part from Correia’s end: Pennington realized that she was much stronger than Correia, gave up on going technique for technique, and just bullied her. Reneau is old, but she’s a better athlete than Pennington and a long way beyond Correia. So, Correia has to walk the line between hitting tons of volume while not getting into lock-ups with the bigger, more powerful woman. I think she can do that, but I also worry that her aggression feeds into Reneau’s counter game. Close, fun fight, but I’ll go with Bethe Correia by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Reneau is a hell of an athlete and an underrated grappler, but she may be in danger of losing this fight due to Correia’s ability to suffocate opponents with volume and pressure. Reneau can’t get too comfortable with the counter game, but she might be able to get to the clinch and punish Bethe against the cage. Reneau could also make good use of knees from the clinch to the body and legs to wear Correia down, but this one’s gonna be a rough slugfest. Bethe should be able to outpoint Reneau and be more active, leading to better scorecards. Bethe Correia by decision.
Zane Simon: Reneau has major problems delivering volume… or really any meaningful offense at all. She’s a way better athlete than Correia, but that doesn’t mean anything if she’s going to be sitting on her heels doing nothing. Correia has a big edge in volume and I expect it to win her rounds as long as she stays out of Reneau’s guard. Bethe Correia via decision.
Staff picking Correia: Ram, Phil, Victor, Stephie, Zane, Tim, Fraser, MookieStaff picking Reneau: Bissell, Nick
Tim Means vs. Alex Oliveira
Mookie Alexander: I picked Oliveira the first time around but it’s so evident that his game is heavily dependent on being physically overwhelming. He essentially needs to get big moments of offense (similar to the spinning back kick in the first Means fight) to have a chance here. Otherwise, Means gets the win by being the smoother, more crafty, and more technical fighter. Tim Means via TKO (punches), round 3.
Phil Mackenzie: This one seems pretty straightforward. Means is a much better technical fighter than Oliveira, so the question in their last fight was whether Oliveira’s sheer physical power would be able to overwhelm him. The answer was looking like a pronounced: “nope”, as Oliveira’s best chance was to blow Means away early, and instead he got the snot beaten out of him before Means landed those ill-advised knees. Short of a low-variance early finish or sudden and surprising technical improvements from Oliveira, Tim Means by TKO, round 2.
Victor Rodriguez: Despite the brevity of their first fight, I’m not sure how Oliveira does much better this time around other than getting beat up less. Means is a more measured fighter, and I’m rocking with Phil on this one. Tim Means by TKO, round 2.
Zane Simon: The finer points of this matchup all favor Means. He’s a much cleaner, faster striker, every bit as good a clinch fighter, and has turned into a much better wrestler over the years. Add in that he’s bigger and almost impossible to finish and this is a tough one for Oliveira. He could catch Means with something huge, he’s dynamic and capable everywhere, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Tim Means via TKO, Round 2.
Staff picking Means: Bissell, Phil, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Zane, Tim, FraserStaff picking Oliveira:
Kevin Lee vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Mookie Alexander: I picked Magomed Mustafaev to beat Lee. That was a poor misjudgment. Tempted to pick Massuranduba here. His striking is better, he packs a punch, and can stuff takedowns better than Mustafaev can. With that said, Lee is a better pure wrestler than anyone else Trinaldo has faced during his winning streak, and he’s a really good grappler who can wear you down. I see Trinaldo taking the opening round before Lee starts timing Francisco better, getting his takedowns, and getting the decision win through his ground game. Kevin Lee by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: I really like Kevin Lee. Stuff happens and then he’s all like: “that guy sucks! What a bum!” He’s so consistently abrasive, and I respect that. That said, I also like Massuranduba a lot. Essentially, I think the willingness of opponents to grapple with Lee has had a sizable effect on how successful he’s been of late, but Tibau Two is likely to keep more distance in the open-stance matchup and strike, where he is just much better than Lee. His deeper takedown defense is something of a question mark, especially considering the Chiesa loss. As such, this would probably be a slightly easier stylistic fight for Tibau Prime than it is for Massuranduba. Still, gotta pick him to get vengeance for Trator, and Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I feel like Trinaldo has done a much much better job lately of managing just where he wants his fights to be. And while his takedown defense hasn’t been great, it’s not as bad as Magomed Mustafaev, who just let Lee have whatever takedowns he wanted. I don’t think Lee will be able to get Trinaldo down and just keep him there. On the flip side, Lee’s striking is still a problem. He has power and speed, but he’s far too wooden in his approach and can be KO’d. Trinaldo’s kickboxing has taken a big step up, so I’m taking Trinaldo via TKO, Round 3.
Victor Rodriguez: Kevin Lee is a talented powerhouse wrestler that can hit hard and has great boxing basics, but Trinaldo is very durable and so good at doing the little things. Trinaldo’s winning streak isn’t a fluke, and that win over Ross Pearson opened a lot of eyes and showed that he wasn’t just a boxer that outmuscled his way out of submission attempts on the ground. As much respect as I have for Lee, Trinaldo should be strong and sharp enough to negate the takedowns and hurt him standing. Let’s also not forget Trinaldo’s gas tank has gotten a lot better, so there’s another concern. Massaranduba takes this late. Francisco Trinaldo by TKO, round 3.
Staff picking Lee: Ram, Mookie, TimStaff picking Trinaldo: Bissell, Phil, Nick, Stephie, Zane, Fraser, Victor
Sergio Moraes vs. Davi Ramos
Ram Gilboa: I choose Moraes in the face of this. Sergio Moraes by decision.
Phil Mackenzie: Sergio Moraes is still undefeated at welterweight in the UFC, which is… kind of boggling? He hasn’t fought the greatest competition, but still. Janky striking, a suspect gas tank(tm), and a general lackadaisical approach to winning rounds have been saved by decent basic athleticism, good instincts and one of those styles which just picks up close decisions for whatever reason. Ramos’ better athleticism and wrestling advantage is concerning, but I think that Moraes’ veteran guile allows him to survive an early scare and take over late in a decision where both guys are absolutely spent by the end of it. Sergio Moraes by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Ramos is an absolutely sensational grappler, and we could get an amazing grappling match between the two. Either that, or we get the sloppy kickboxing bout that we often get when two elite grapplers refuse to actually grapple in an MMA fight. Moraes should have a striking advantage, and should also make the most of the opportunities on the ground with mixing up ground strikes with positional transitions and submission attempts, but it seems unlikely either party finishes the other. Sergio Moraes by decision.
Zane Simon: Sergio Moraes has been cutting it really close against some sub standard competition lately, and I think this is where it really costs him. Moraes has been able to lull a lot of people into a funky striking match because they absolutely do not want to grapple with him. But, I don’t think Ramos will have any fear of Moraes’ ground game at all, and may even be able to beat him there. Otherwise Ramos keeps a good jab and hard kicks going, and should keep the striking relatively close. Davi Ramos via decision.
Staff picking Moraes: Bissell, Nick, Ram, Phil, Mookie, Victor, Stephie, Tim, FraserStaff picking Ramos: Zane
Joe Soto vs. Rani Yahya
Phil Mackenzie: As above, should be a great grappling matchup. Soto is the far better striker, but he’s not the kind of guy to work a sprawl’n’brawl gameplan. Instead, look for him to engage in a scrambling battle with Yahya. While MMAth isn’t the greatest metric, it’s easy to see their respective matchups with Tanaka and see the consistent advantages Yahya holds in that phase. Both are vets and unlikely to show significant evolution between fights. Rani Yahya by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Welp. Yahya is tough to watch sometimes. Not because he’s not good – he really is – but his striking hasn’t developed much and he seems content to do more controlling than actual submission attempts. It’s frustrating to watch, because it often feels like he’s not doing as much as he could to win some fights. Against Soto, he’ll have an opponent that can punish him for spamming low kicks and could actually put him away while staying out of trouble in the submission department. Joe Soto by decision.
Zane Simon: Would love to see Soto win this, but the more I think about it, the more I see it being a series of scrambles where Yahya keeps getting control positions and making Soto work too hard to escape them. Rani Yahya via decision.
Staff picking Soto: Nick, Victor, FraserStaff picking Yahya: Bissell, Phil, Ram, Mookie, Stephie, Tim
Josh Burkman vs. Michel Prazeres
Mookie Alexander: I do not understand how Josh Burkman is still on the UFC roster. Prazeres will likely take care of that. Michel Prazeres by unanimous decision.
Phil Mackenzie: The second of the two Tibaus on this card (hooray!) really impressed last time out against Gilbert Burns, where he largely dismantled the BJJ ace with a far more developed and cohesive Muay Thai game than he’d ever shown in the past. Burkman is still just a mess- broadly skilled, but constantly allowing his opponent to dictate exactly the phase they’d like the fight in. He’s tricky and a good finishing threat and Trator the Tertiary Tibau has never been uncrackable. Still. Michel Prazeres by unanimous decision.
Victor Rodriguez: Nope. Not falling for that one this time. I picked Burkman against Ottow, and regretted it once Burkman ate one leg kick after another and kept lurching forward. Burkman couldn’t keep Lombard from taking him down, and it doesn’t look like Prazeres can’t bully Burkman as well. Unless Burkman ditches the wild Kung-Fu stance and actually uses his range, well… Michel Prazeres by decision.
Zane Simon: I wouldn’t pick Josh Burkman to beat most of the lightweight division, let alone a guy on a run like Prazeres who actually knows how to take rounds against good fighters. Michel Prazeres via Decision.
Staff picking Burkman:Staff picking Prazeres: Bissell, Phil, Nick, Ram, Mookie, Stephie, Victor, Tim, Zane, Fraser
Rony Jason vs. Jeremy Kennedy
Phil Mackenzie: I’ve never really been impressed with Jason’s physicality. He’s a classic crafty finisher, but I think I put his success down to commitment rather than brute physical power. In longer grappling battles he’s struggled, and is generally something of a glass cannon (win early or don’t win). Debatably his not-great physicality has been fading recently, and Kennedy is the bigger fighter and should be able to hit takedowns- being able to fight back off bottom is a hard thing to do against a power and youth advantage. Jeremy Kennedy by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I really have my doubts about Kennedy in the UFC. His record is largely built on the lowest level of talent, and his wrestle-grappling style turned really quickly to “cling to control positions” once he got to the UFC. Maybe that’s all down to size, but Jason is a very dangerous finisher, with a solid enough kickboxing base and a lot of speed on the mat. I don’t see Kennedy matching it. That said, I think the biggest knock on Jason may be work ethic. He doesn’t always look like he’s in great shape. So if this just becomes a cardio battle, Kennedy might wear him out. Rony Jason by submission round 1.
Staff picking Jason: Bissell, Tim, Ram, Victor, Zane, FraserStaff picking Kennedy: Nick, Phil, Mookie, Stephie
Paulo Henrique Costa vs. Garreth McLellan
Phil Mackenzie: I really enjoy the essential aggressive Muay Thai shape of McLellan’s game and his obvious heart and work ethic. I just wish he had better attributes, because he’s just not quite technically or athletically gifted enough to make it work. As it stands, he relies on pressure, but his wrestling and striking defense makes it unsustainable, and he can’t rely on his toughness because he gets too tired. Costa is athletic and dangerous in multiple phases. His crappy gas tank is a question mark, but even if he can’t find McLellan’s chin early (which is there for the taking), McLellan has struggled to stop takedowns even from exhausted opponents. Paulo Henrique Costa by TKO, round 1.
Zane Simon: McLellan is a good intro to the UFC for a young fighter on a roll who may have cardio/defensive issues. McLellan will come after him and challenge him, without generally being dangerous enough to win (unless Costa isn’t ready to fight at this level). Costa has some fantastic offensive kickboxing and looks to be a super powerful athlete. Paulo Henrique Costa via TKO in round 2.
Staff picking Costa: Nick, Ram, Phil, Mookie, Stephie, Tim, Zane, Victor, FraserStaff picking McLellan: Bissell
Source: bloody

Dan Kelly: Anderson Silva would be ‘dream’ fight, Rashad ‘didn’t hit as hard as I thought he would’

UFC middleweight Dan Kelly has cut an unlikely swath through the promotion and he’s got a couple of ideas for what he’d like to do next. Rumble, old man, rumble. Dan Kelly has been on the warpath in the UFC’s middleweight division. What started with an inauspicious run on TUF Nations (Kelly was subbed in under a minute by Sheldon Westcott in his only fight on the show) has turned into a UFC career that’s exceeded everyone’s expectations. Maybe even including Daniel Kelly himself.
In an interview with Submission Radio, Kelly revealed that his success in MMA is starting to drive away some of the disappointment he felt over his Judo Career.
“This is one of the big ones,” Kelly said of his win over Rashad Evans. “This is one of the really, really big ones. I said in a post-fight interview thing that I did, that in Judo I beat some world Olympic medalists and got close to winning a medal myself and never quite got there, and beating guys like Rashad and starting to move up is kind of washing away some of the – not regret, but some of the disappointment. I didn’t quite get a world or Olympic medal, this is starting to push that away as I’m progressing along. So it’s like a new life for me. So this was a really big one because it was under a bit of pressure that I put on myself, on a massive card, and people again didn’t expect me to win really. So yeah, massive, massive, massive, massive win.”
And while beating Rashad may have been a huge deal to Kelly personally, it doesn’t sound like it was a fight he found particularly difficult. The Aussie said that Evans didn’t hold any surprises for him in the bout, excepting maybe that he didn’t hit as hard as Kelly expected.
“No. To be honest,” Kelly told Sub Radio when asked if his UFC 209 fight held anything unexpected, “he didn’t hit as hard as I thought he would – which was good – and everything else was pretty much as I expected. I implemented my game plan pretty much how I wanted. I would have liked to have taken him down, but man, he was like a cat. I chopped his legs down, he’d land on his front. Then he’d be springing straight back up and I swept his feet out and he landed on his bum and he jumped straight back up. Like, he was really athletic. He was also very flexible. I caught one of his high kicks and thought, “oh beautiful, I’m gonna take him down, get him down,” then he managed to squirm out of that. So he’s super athletic. Like, super, super athletic. So that was even more so then I thought. But yeah, they were the main things. He didn’t hit as hard and he was harder to put on his back than I’d hoped he’d be.”
So, what’s next for Dan? Mostly it sounds like he’d like a crack at anyone in the top 5.
“(Fighting) Vitor would be awesome,” Kelly agreed, when asked about the potential mathcu. “Look, outside of the top six – well now we’ve got GSP who’s thrown a spanner in the – not a spanner, he’s made the title picture a little bit more interesting. So you got Bisping, GSP, Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold, Jacare, Rob Whittaker, Mousasi, they’re all fighting for the title thing at the moment. Anyone down from that I’d be happy to fight, more than happy to fight.”…“Anderson Silva’s everyone’s dream to fight him, isn’t it?” Kelly continued when asked if he’d consider a fight with the former middleweight king. “So outside of everyone going, ‘I want to fight Conor McGregor,’ Anderson Silva would be awesome. Another former champion, same as Vitor, but Anderson would be really cool. But we’ll see what they offer me in the next week or so. As long as it’s a ranked guy, I don’t really mind.”
The UFC is headed to New Zealand for the second time in the promotion’s history in June of this year. That should be far enough out to give Kelly a crack at a ranked middleweight. Whether or not he’ll be able to get a crack at the top 5 off his win over Evans remains to be seen.
Source: bloody

Joe Lauzon vs. Stevie Ray set for UFC Nashville

Lightweights Joe Lauzon and Stevie Ray will face off at UFC Nashville on April 22nd. Scotland’s Steven Ray will be fighting longtime lightweight fan-favorite Joe Lauzon at UFC Nashville on April 22nd. UFC officials announced the matchup on Thursday. The night’s main card airs live on Fox Sports 1.
Lauzon (27-12) is coming off a split decision win over Marcin Held at UFC Phoenix. A disappointed Lauzon disagreed with the outcome and felt that Held should’ve gotten the nod. His previous fight was a split decision loss vs. Jim Miller in August. The 23-fight veteran has collected a whopping fifteen post-fight bonuses, tied with Nate Diaz for most all-time in UFC history.
Ray (20-6) is 4-1 in the UFC, having edged out Ross Pearson by split decision at UFC Belfast last November. His only defeat inside the Octagon came against Alan Patrick, last September in Brazil. The former Cage Warriors lightweight champion will be fighting in the United States for the first time in his career.
The main event of UFC Nashville is a five-round featherweight bout between Cub Swanson and Artem Lobov.
Source: bloody

GSP has no desire for rematch with Johny Hendricks: ‘He’s not the same anymore’

Georges St-Pierre has no desire to rematch Johny Hendricks because Bigg Rigg is no longer in his prime. Georges St-Pierre’s ninth and final welterweight title defense against Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 was one of the most controversial bouts of the year.
St-Pierre, who will return to the Octagon after a three-year hiatus to challenge Michael Bisping for the middleweight championship in the Summer, beat ‘Bigg Rigg’ in a hard-fought split decision but many fans scored the fight for Hendricks.
Since then, Hendricks has struggled to generate the knockout power that made him such a dangerous foe and the Texan has gone 3-4 in his last seven fights. The former 170-pound champion recently snapped a three-fight skid after beating Hector Lombard via unanimous decision in his middleweight debut at UFC Fight Night 105.
GSP, 35, has no interest in a rematch with Hendricks despite the controversy in their 2013 bout because, in his own words, ‘the best Johny Hendricks’ is gone.
“I believe the best Johny Hendricks I’ve seen is gone,” St-Pierre said on the “UFC Unfiltered” podcast, per MMA Mania’s Ryan Harkness. “When he fought Jon Fitch, Martin Kampmann, Carlos Condit, when he fought me, I think this Johny Hendricks is gone. I didn’t feel the same pop, the same explosiveness. Maybe he’s going to prove it wrong at 185 maybe, but I feel he’s not the same anymore.”
The Canadian star didn’t completely rule out the idea of a rematch, but it will depend on how well Hendricks performs at 185 lbs.
“We’ll see what’s going to happen with him,” GSP continued. “Maybe if he bounces back like before. I believe he has the tools to go back to title contention for 185.”
St-Pierre is expected to take on Bisping during international fight week in July, although no official date or venue has been confirmed.

Source: bloody