Saturday, September 17th, 2016 in Hidalgo, Texas for UFC Fight Night 94: “Poirier vs Johnson” by Daniel Tom

The opinions expressed in these breakdowns are for entertainment purposes only, as my goal here is to provide analysis for those who enjoy the technical or gaming aspects of our sport. If you chose to gamble, I recommend doing so responsibly and legally as it is at your own risk. Enjoy the fights!

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Dustin Poirier (20-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 27 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 73″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Bobby Green (6-4-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   10 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   12 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Improved boxing & footwork
^   Good cage-cutting & angles
^   Shifts & strikes smoothly
+   Accurate left cross
^   Dangerous off the counter
+   Underrated wrestling ability
+   Solid submissions & scrambling
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Right hand tends to lower
+/-2-1 against UFC southpaws

Michael Johnson (16-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 30 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Nate Diaz (12-19-15)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 12 Finalist
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   7 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   7 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Aggressive pace & pressure
+   Volume/combination striker
+   Accurate left hand
^   Dangerous off the counter
+   Improved footwork
+   Wrestling base
^   81% Takedown defense
–    Struggles from the bottom
^   Submission defense/get-ups
+/-1-3 against UFC southpaws


You cannot bring a card to Texas without having a gun fight as Dustin Poirier meets Michael Johnson in the main event. Looking better than ever since moving back to the lightweight division, Dustin Poirier will get his wish for a big fight against a top-10 opponent. Coming off a tough loss to Nate Diaz nearly nine months ago, Michael Johnson will look to avoid losing three straight as he attempts to right his ship.

In a battle that I feel will contest mostly on the feet, the key intangible for this fight will be the unique matchup of two southpaw strikers. As a southpaw myself, I tend to expand passionately on this subject as it is often an overlooked aspect from both fans and fighters alike. Although southpaws can pose problems for orthodox fighters due to the lack of looks and repetitions found in most gyms, the same can be said about southpaws when faced with another lefty in front of them. Despite the traditional offensive openings that this stance pairing can make available, it is the defense that tends to suffer as the different distances and angles make counter shots more potent and hard to read.

For this reason, the most skilled striker doesn’t always win in a battle of southpaws, as it usually comes down to who is more comfortable naturally in this styles matchup. As the statistics above would suggest, I would give Dustin Poirier the slight edge when it comes to striking with southpaws. Although numbers do not always tell the tale, I feel that Poirier carries a deeper arsenal accompanied by the proper improvements. Along with his move up in weight, Dustin has also moved his residence to Florida to become a full-time member of American Top Team. In the subsequent years, Poirier has made many upgrades to his game as I feel his boxing and footwork has improved immensely.

Demonstrating an excellent awareness of angles, Poirier will now shift his stances as he sets up or adjusts to his opponent accordingly. Often doubling up on his dangerous left hand, Dustin will disguise his approach as he smoothly shifts to orthodox. From here, Poirier will use this brief element of surprise to unleash right hands over the top or even leg kicks. Utilizing this style of shifting to create attack angles, Poirier has also shown to sit down on his punches more effectively as he has given three-fighters their first stoppage losses since moving to lightweight. Against a fighter who attacks in almost pre-set plays, the adjustments of angles in close may be the difference between life and death, as is often the case when two pressure fighters collide.

That said, Poirier shows a glaring defensive hole that could cost him in this contest. Still showing a tendency to keep his lead hand low, Dustin’s aggression in exchanges only seems to exacerbate this habit on his right side, as left hands have often been the common culprit in his fights. Considering that Johnson packs a fight-ending counter cross, Poirier will need to have this threat addressed, if not at the top of his radar. Although Johnson is more known for the pressure-fighting style that comes out of the Blackzilians camp, it is his application of said pressure that ultimately opens up his counter game. Stalking forward and taking more traditional attack angles, Johnson will force his opposition into an uncomfortable range as he throws hard and at high volumes.

When Johnson can establish his pressure-fighting rhythms, we have seen him turn into a runaway train that can overwhelm superior strikers(as seen in his fight with Edson Barboza). However, if a fighter can disrupt Johnson’s rhythm as Nate Diaz did, then he can become more susceptible to frustration and fatigue. When facing said southpaws, Johnson will often opt for inside angles off lead foot pivots. Diaz will also take similar angles when facing southpaws, except that Nate will attach a check right hook to help cover his tracks. Johnson, on the other hand, lacks in check-hooks as he shows a propensity to cross his back foot when moving to the right or even lift it up when throwing his left. We saw Nate pick up on this early on in their fight, as Diaz was able to dominate the center striking lanes with his jab-cross continuums.

Although Dustin is obviously different striker than Diaz, the Louisianan also has a knack for landing his crosses down the pipe. Considering that the pocket will be a potent war zone, the striking edge may ultimately be determined by where this fight takes place. Despite both fighters showing improved lateral movement, they each do their best work when able to get their opposition in between the fence and inner-black Octagon lines. For my money, whoever finds themselves moving forward with more consistency in the first round, will likely be the striker who is finding more success. That said, the threat of the counter will be a constant theme worth looking out for in this fight.

As far as the grappling exchanges go, Poirier should have the advantage as his submission and scramble acumen make him dangerous from both top and bottom. That said, I am not certain of how much ground fighting we will see given Johnson’s defense. Although Poirier’s wrestling ability and takedown game have improved, so has Johnson’s as he has not been officially takedown down in over 3-years. Michael’s movement and footwork limit his availability, while his fast-twitch hips and under-hooks hedge his bets nicely. Even though I expect Dustin to attempt takedowns throughout this contest, I feel that he will have more success with them later on in the fight, especially if Poirier can get things to the fence.

Even if Dustin fails to ground Johnson, making Michael work inside the clinch could pay dividends in a five round affair. I also feel that Poirier should have an advantage striking inside the clinch, as he shows a solid dirty boxing game that may see some light. Given the style matchup and each fighters current momentum, I feel that the oddsmakers got this one right by making Dustin the favorite. And though I may be siding with the more diverse martial artist on paper, make no mistake about it, this will be a firefight.

Official Pick: Poirier – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Johnson – KO (round 1)

Uriah Hall (12-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 32 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 79.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Robert Whitaker (11-14-15)
  • Camp: Xtreme Couture MMA (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: N/A

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 17 Finalist
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Tiger Schulmann Black Belt
+   10 KO victories
+   1 Submission win
+   6 first round finishes

Derek Brunson (15-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 32 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Roan Carneiro (2-21-16)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: N/A

Supplemental info:
+   3x Div.2 All-American Wrestler
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   BJJ Blue Belt
+   8 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   11 first round finishes


Due to Uriah Hall now training full-time at Xtreme Couture and my personal/professional affiliations with this gym, I will forgo an official breakdown on this fight in the spirit of professionalism. Apologies for shorting you on a write-up, but I appreciate your understanding of my stance.

Official Pick: No pick

Official Outcome: Brunson – Knockout (round 1)


Evan Dunham (17-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 34 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Joe Lauzon (12-11-5)
  • Camp: Dunham Jiu-Jitsu (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Excellent

Supplemental info:
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   6 Submission wins
+   3 KO victories
+   4 first round finishes
+   Good footwork & movement
+   Volume & variety striker
^   Top 3 sig. strikes landed at LW
+   Accurate cross & check-hook
+   Underrated wrestling
+   Well-timed double leg
^   Excellent chains & adjustments
+   Active on bottom
^   Looks to sweep & scramble
+   Creative submission game


Rick Glenn

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 27 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Ramiro Hernandez (6-24-16)
  • Camp: Pura Vida BJJ (Iowa)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   WSOF Featherweight Title
+   3 Submission wins
+   12 KO victories
+   6 first round finishes
+   Accurate left hand
+   Solid left body kick
+/-Will revert to shell-defense
–    Tends to start slow
+   Active knees inside the clinch
+   Competent guard game
+   Good top game/floats well
^   Devastating ground striker
+/-UFC debut
^   Fighting on 10 days notice


In one of the organization’s most competitive divisions, Evan Dunham welcomes Rick Glenn to the UFC. One of the early multi-dimensional fighters branded as MMA’s new breed, Dunham has matured nicely despite key fights in his career not going his way. Originally slated to face Abel Trujillo, Dunham will now defend his 3-fight winning streak against newcomer Rick Glenn. A veteran of the regional and mid-west circuits, Glenn has been competing almost as long as Dunham despite being 8-years his younger. Taking this fight on 10-days notice, Glenn will attempt to capitalize on the biggest opportunity of his career.

*Full disclosure* I have trained with and been coached by Evan Dunham in the past, so please keep that in mind as you read this breakdown. With that said, I will attempt to keep this short and fact based. On the feet, we will be in store for yet another southpaw versus southpaw matchup. Although I am sure that Glenn has had ample experience training with southpaws(especially during his time spent at Roufusport), he has not faced a lot of lefties in his MMA career. Not only does Dunham have more experience against southpaws(winning all matchups minus one controversial split-decision to Raphael Dos Anjos), but I also feel that Evan’s overall style will translate better.

Although he does not carry your traditional one-shot knockout power, Dunham compensates for it with a disciplined approach to his striking. Often circling the outside and searching for advantageous angles, Evan will step into his combination onslaughts as he looks to land his patent left crosses and check right-hooks. Although Glenn will have check hooks and liver kicks that Dunham will have to be aware of, Rick tends to revert to shell-defense. Traditionally, this defense can allow your opponent to get off in MMA due to the limited protection from its gloves. Against a top-3 significant striker in the UFC’s deepest division, I do not favor Rick’s chances against Dunham.

As we saw in Evan’s fight with Lauzon, Dunham was able to adjust his shots to up-jabs and shovel hooks that accommodated the shelling nature of his opposition. Couple that with Dunham’s well-timed double legs, I suspect the UFC debutant will have his hands full as he is ultimately forced into defense. Although he appears to have a competent game from his back, Glenn makes his money on top as his positional floats and ground strikes have been the key to a majority of his victories. Even if he ends up on top in this fight, it is hard to see him out doing Dunham, who shows to be effective when working from the bottom as he will look for sweeps and stand-ups.

That said, I believe Dunham will be the one who ends up in top position judging by the takedown defense displayed by Glenn. With Dunham having an almost Demian Maia-like renaissance in regards to his fusion of wrestling and Jiu-jitsu, expect to see the veteran embrace and exploit that path. Although Glenn has beat quality names like Johnny Case and Georgi Karakhanyan, the slow-starting Glenn was being dominated in those fights before his opponents sustained injuries. Considering the styles matchup and short notice debut, I suspect this should be a fairly one-sided affair featuring a ton of veteran savvy.

Official Pick: Dunham – Decision

Official Outcome: Dunham – Decision

Roan Carneiro (20-10)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 38 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 74.5″
  • Last Fight: KO loss / Derek Brunson (2-21-16)
  • Camp: American Top Team ATL (Atlanta, GA)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Black Belt BJJ
+   3 KO victories
+   9 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   Improved striking
^   Solid counter right hand
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Slick body lock controls
+   Underrated wrestling
^   Has not been taken down in 5 yrs.
+   Excellent transitional grappler
^   Active back taker

Kenny Robertson (15-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 32 Weight: 170 lbs Reach: 74″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Ben Saunders (7-25-15)
  • Camp: Central Illinois Combat Club (Illinois)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Division 1 Wrestler
+   7 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   10 first round finishes
+   Deceptively effective striking
^   Heavy hands
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Strikes well off the break
+   Diverse wrestling ability
^   Creative catches & submissions
+   Solid submission defense
^   Good positional awareness


In an interesting stylistic matchup, Roan Carneiro returns to the welterweight division to face Kenny Robertson. One of the well-respected veterans in the fight game, Carneiro will look to bounce back from a devastating loss to Derek Brunson earlier this year. With it being over one year since Roberston’s controversial loss to Ben Saunders by split-decision, Kenny will also look to return to his winning ways in what should be a close contest.

Starting off on the feet, both men carry deceptively heavy-hands as they each have steadily improved their striking. That said, I feel that Roan will have a slight edge in the striking department as he demonstrates the better fundamentals. Although Kenny employs the more diverse attacks from his elbows to spinning back-fists, the American tends to throw himself out of position, especially off of his kicks. Against an underrated wrestler like Carneiro, these could cost Kenny takedowns as well as open up Roan’s counter right hand. With the counter right being Carneiro’s best punch, that should be the strike worth looking for if this fight stays standing.

However, it is worth noting that Robertson has not been a traditionally active fighter, as his shown fight-to-fight improvements will be something to look for in this striking matchup. Another intangible is the status of Carneiro’s chin, given that he is cutting back down to welterweight at the age of 38-years old(for the 1st-time in the post-IV era). After coming off of a devastating knockout loss, I am not sure how comfortable I feel with Carneiro cutting down to a weight class that he has reportedly struggled to make. On the other side of the equation is Kenny Robertson, who does not cut a lot of weight and is deceptively strong in this division.

For that reason, I suspect Robertson’s pressure-fighting ways should pay dividends the longer this fight goes. For my money, I feel that the battle in the clinch should be a key factor in this match. Although Robertson is the more accoladed wrestler, the Brazilian carries a higher takedown defense rating as he is especially effective when able to establish body locks. That said, Roan may find it difficult to secure those positions on Robertson. Even when taken down, Kenny shows a good discipline in regards to finding under-hooks with immediacy. Not utilizing your typical under-hook getups you would expect from a wrestler, Kenny will instead accompany his efforts with butterfly hooks to help him reverse position.We have seen Carneiro capitalize on more wrestling based transitions, as the back taking Brazilian will salivate over an opponent who turtles out.

With Kenny showing limited looks in that regard, his unorthodox grappling game could pose problems for the Jiu-jitsu specialist. I also feel that Robertson’s catch-as-catch-can style will pose problems for the game that Roan likes to apply. With Carneiro being more known for his top game, things may get interesting whenever Kenny finds himself topside. A deceptively smooth passer and positional rider, Robertson demonstrates an awareness offensively and defensively with a solid ground striking acumen to boot. If this match were 4-years ago, I would certainly side with the veteran to edge this out. But considering the recent trends and wear on each man, I like Robertson’s chances in what will likely be a closely contested affair.

Official Pick: Robertson – Decision

Official Outcome: Caneiro – Split decision

Chris Wade (11-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 28 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 75″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Rustam Khabilov (5-8-16)
  • Camp: Long Island MMA (New York)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   Multiple Wrestling Accolades
+   Amateur Kickboxing Champion
+   4  Submission wins
+   3 first round finishes
+   Improved combination striking
+   Diverse kicking attacks
^   Accurate leg kicks
+   Crafty inside the clinch
^   Favors trips & throws
+   Difficult to takedown
^   Solid base & balance
+   Smooth transitional grappling
^   Rides/works-well off front headlocks
+/-Will work from bad positions
^   Counter availabilities

Islam Makhachev (12-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 24 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 70.5″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Adriano Martins (10-3-15)
  • Camp: Fight Spirit Team (Russia)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Moderate

Supplemental info:
+   Sambo World Champion
+   4x Russian Sambo Winner
+   2 KO victories
+   6 Submission wins
+   5 first round finishes
+   Finishes camps at AKA San Jose
+   Diverse takedown ability
^   Excellent hip awareness
+   Smooth transitional grappler
^   Positional floats to back takes
+   Active strikes & subs from top or bottom
^   Superb hand-fighting/grip acumen
+/-Near 1-year layoff
+   Accurate check hook
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Counter availabilities


In one of the most tightly contested matchups on paper, Chris Wade takes on Islam Makhachev. A talented prospect from Long Island, Chris Wade had a 6-fight winning streak snapped from him earlier this year when he met Rustam Khabilov. Tasked with yet another tough Dagestani fighter, Wade will attempt to get back on track as well as earn some redemption. Eagerly looking to stifle those plans is Islam Makhachev, who is coming off the first loss of his career when he was stopped by Adriano Martins last October. With a failed USADA test halting the Dagestani’s return in April of this year, Makhachev will seek redemption of his own on this main card showcase.

In the fight I am looking forward to most, it was admittedly hard to get a confident read on this one. Both men are young in their perspective careers and carry aggressive grappling styles that should match up uniquely. The American, Wade, comes from a wrestling base that has evolved into more of a catch-wrestling approach as he translates his game into MMA. Whereas Makhachev embodies the trademark Sambo style that is popular in his region of Russia, as his world championship pedigree shines through in the technical intricacies he applies. That said, both fighters make their money inside the clinch as this will likely be the key-junction in this fight.

With this being a similar styles match to Wade’s last fight against Khabilov, it will be interesting to see what adjustments are made by Chris. Showing hints of funk-based wrestling entries, Wade will often initiate grappling exchanges semi-sloppily, as his superb transitional skills often finish the job on the second or third chain. Although I am a fan of Wade’s unorthodox choices as they are effective against many grappling styles, we saw his style get severely stifled when faced with a Sambo practitioner. Considering that Sambo has a strong emphasis on the clinch game, playing into the Russian’s grasp may not bode well for Chris. Even Wade’s crafty scrambles and leg levers were shut down against Rustam, as I am sure Sambo players get their healthy looks of the leg grabs and rolls you might see from funk or catch-wrestling stylists.

Although Rustam is more of a physical threat than Islam, I believe that Makhachev is the more technical grappler as he shows superb hip awareness and anticipation both offensively and defensively. Despite giving a slight edge to Makhachev in the clinch, Chris is more than capable of having his moments here, if not to stifle Islam at the very least. Should the American succeed in the clinch and keep things standing, he should have the striking advantage on the feet. Despite the kickboxing accolades and rave reviews from his coaches, Chris Wade has yet to show us his full potential of striking prowess inside the Octagon. A natural stance-switcher who is effective from both stances(and at multiple ranges), there is a lot to like in regards to Wade’s potential standing.

Considering Wade’s recent trend to go southpaw, and the success Adriano Martins had in that stance against Makhachev, expect the American to deploy a healthy amount of attacks shifting off that southpaw stance. In a similar dynamic to the main event, there is often a margin of error that is more potent when two southpaws collide. With most gyms predominantly filled with orthodox fighters and coaches, punches from the alternate angles of a southpaw can be difficult to deal with despite training for them. We saw a perfect example of this in Makhachev’s last fight against Adriano Martins, as the Brazilian caught Islam with a beautiful check right hook. That said, Makhachev has a nice check right hook of his own that should be live whenever Wade is in the southpaw stance.

Like many Sambo stylists, Makhachev throws a solid casting punch off of his left side. Although this aggressive punching style cost him in his last outing, the pressure Islam applies may pay off considering Wade’s defensive tendencies. Lacking defensive angles or pivots, Wade tends to back straight up when overwhelmed with combinations. Although this could play into Makhachev’s pressure game, the Dagestani’s aggression will still have it’s availabilities in regards to counter shots should he not adjust. With both fighter’s striking deficiencies being defensive in nature, I suspect the losing party of the exchanges will be the one who reverts to grappling.

If this fight is decided within the grappling realm, I have to lean slightly toward Islam Makhachev. In a styles matchup this close on paper, I feel the Dagestani’s hand-fighting may make the crucial differences. An underrated part of grappling and clinch striking that I stress in my breakdowns, hand-fighting is the silent partner in success both offensively and defensively. We saw a brilliant glimpse of Makhachev’s grip awareness on his second back-take of Leo Kuntz in his UFC debut. With Leo initially escaping the first back-mount through the backdoor, Islam did a slick job of using wrist controls to take away his posting hands. Fighting the hands first as opposed to going for the choke straightaway, Makhachev was able to close the show decisively.

Although Wade displays some solid grips within his positional rides, the American had trouble when having a good grip acumen applied to him. We saw this in his last fight as Khabilov was able to shut down Wade’s striking and advancements, despite being on his back. If the Long Islander isn’t onto the grip game early, he may be in for a long night as I feel hand-fighting is the key factor in this match. I initially came into this bout leaning toward Wade, especially as the underdog. And although my heart says Long Island, the on-paper advantages lean toward Dagestan.

Official Pick: Makhachev – Decision

Official Outcome: Makhachev – Decision

Chas Skelly (15-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 31 Weight: 155 lbs Reach: 73.5″
  • Last Fight: Decision loss / Darren Elkins (3-5-16)
  • Camp: Blackzilians (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Boxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   NAIA All-American Wrestler
+   8 Submission wins
+   3 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   Diligently working striking
^   Heavy lead right-hand
+   Effective but awkward takedowns
^   Favors attempts from the clinch
+   Deceptively strong scrambler
^   Always looks for the back
+   Creative submission catches
–    Hands lower in exchanges
^   Counter availabilities
+/-Gas tank bares watching

Maximo Blanco (12-7-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 32 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: Submission loss / Luke Sanders (1-17-16)
  • Camp: Yoshida Dojo (Japan)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former King of Pancrase (155 lbs.)
+   Multiple Wrestling Accolades
+   8 KO victories
+   5 first round finishes
+   Athletic & explosive
^   KO Power
+   Diverse striking offense
+   Excellent wrestling ability
^   Solid double-leg takedown
+   Difficult to control
–    Low hands
^   Counter availabilities
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Propensity to fade


Kicking off the main card on Fox Sports 1 is a fantastic featherweight matchup as Chas Skelly meets Maximo Blanco. A former member of Team Takedown, Chas Skelly has now moved shop to South Florida to train with the Blackzilians. Coming off a tough loss to Darren Elkins earlier this year, Skelly will attempt to get back to his winning ways. Standing in his path is Maximo Blanco, a former King of Pancrase who will be looking to rebound off an upset loss to Luke Sanders.

Despite both fighters being a bit sloppy on the feet, Blanco should have the striking advantage on paper. Initially a student of Tae Kwon Do before moving to Japan, Maximo’s Asian influences of striking shine through in his diverse arsenal of attack. Whether he is throwing jump-knees or kicks, Blanco is as dangerous as he is unpredictable. Although Maximo strikes off unique angles, he tends to retract his hands low as he is traditionally hittable. That said, he throws some deceptively effective uppercuts and shovel hooks that could find their mark against Skelly, especially considering the posture the American shows on his entries.

Although his overall approach appears awkward, to say the least, Chas Skelly is deceptively effective with his entries. Packing a powerful lead right-hand, Chas will enter space as he only needs brief contact in the clinch to get going. Favoring to score his takedowns from here, Skelly will chain and transition his attempts until he can force the action. Even though Blanco should have a definitive wrestling advantage over the lesser athlete, I believe Skelly’s superb scrambling abilities will be the key factor in this fight. Despite Maximo scoring takedowns with regularity in his matches, his over aggression often costs him positions as his opponents regularly find their way back upright.

Often applying a loose tripod as his go-to passing maneuver, Blanco’s style will likely open up backdoor options and leg-lock opportunities for Skelly, who just needs a little bit of space to get his transition game going. Although Maximo’s aggression and athleticism allow him to pressure opponents, the Venezuelan’s style tends to tire him out as the fight goes on. Though you can arguably say the same for Skelly, I feel the American’s sample-size is a bit skewed. Although he tired late in his war with Sean Soriano, Skelly took that fight on short notice as he just fought Tom Niinimaki two weeks prior. In his most recent fight with Darren Elkins, Skelly had a poor showing against arguably the best showing of Elkins career.

That said, the now defunct Team Takedown dismantled it’s ranks right as Chas booked that fight, leaving him without a training camp nor partners for sparring. Now having one of the best training camps thus far in his career, it will be interesting to see what improvements are made by Chas as I feel his work with the Blackzilians camp holds a major-key. Although I am sure that Henri Hooft is helping Skelly along with his striking, I feel that the real secret ingredient will be Skelly’s work with Neil Melanson. A catch wrestling and submission fighting expert, Neil has a knack for working especially well with grapplers who come from wrestling bases(as we have seen with Michael Chandler & Anthony Johnson).

Not only that, but Melanson is also a leg-lock specialist who emphasizes on scrambling to win fights. When looking at Skelly’s grappling style, it is very easy to see that this style of coach should be the perfect fit to shore up his skillset. For that reason, I feel that Skelly should be able to take Blanco to task anytime the Venezuelan allows for unnecessary space. Though I expect Maximo to have a clear edge early, I can seem him getting more than he bargained for in the grappling exchanges(like getting his back taken trying to spin out of leglocks). Even if Skelly cannot score the sub, we have seen his back taking acumen earn him rounds due to sheer control time.

There are few times where I feel that a coach or camp is perfect for a fighter. As someone who employs a similar grappling style to Skelly and who has worked extensively with Neil Melanson, I cannot overstate enough how perfect I feel this pairing is. Although an early stoppage by Blanco wouldn’t surprise me, I see scrambles winning this fight as I suspect Skelly finds a submission before the final horn.

Official Pick: Skelly – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Skelly – Submission (round 1)

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • Benitez def. Sicilia
  • Muhammad def. Montano
  • Guimaraes def. Carlos Jr.
  • Quinonez def. Gomez
  • Brown def. Montano
  • Morales def. Perez

Recommended Plays:

Draft Kings recommended rosters:


Team #1: $49,300.00

-Jose Quinonez ($10,500.00)
-Dustin Poirier ($10,400.00)
-Belal Muhammad ($10,200.00)
-Derek Brunson ($10,000.00)
-Gabriel Benitez ($8,200.00)

Team Summary:

In a card filled with action fights, there is a lot to choose from in regards to your potential Draft Kings lineup. I elected to go with Jose Quinonez, Dustin Poirier, and Belal Muhammad for my high-tier picks. Jose Quinonez is an all-action fighter who finds himself in one of the more promising matchups to produce a finish. Although I am a fan of Gomez, Quinonez is the more versatile fighter who will be pushing a harder pace and likely accompanying it with volume. If he can overwhelm Gomez, he could find himself on the right side of a finish early. Next, I went with Dustin Poirier for the reasons listed in the breakdown above, and also for the fact that he is the favored fighter in a 5-round main event.

Lastly, I went with Belal Muhammad as I feel he will be out to impress and has the matchup to help him do so. Though most of us remember Augusto Montano for his running against Cathal Pendred, Belal brings solid cage cutting that should force Montano into a firefight. For my lower-tier picks, I went with Derek Brunson and Gabriel Benitez. Although I opted for no pick as I’ll be rooting for Hall, Derek Brunson is coming in as the favorite as well as the highest scorer on the card with an average of 81 points per fight. For only $10,000.00, it is hard to beat that bargain in regards to filling out your team. Finally, I went with Gabriel Benitez as he is the underdog pick that I feel strongest about on this card. One of the better TUF LATAM fighters, Benitez is a durable southpaw who emphasizes on all the tools you would like to see. As the lowest priced fighter on the card at $8,200.00, I feel that Gabriel is a steal here as his volume and body kicks may open up a finish.

Props worth looking at(

-Dunham by Decision: -155 (1 Unit)
-Benitez ITD: +274 (0.5 Unit)
-Skelly ITD: +154 (0.5 Unit)

Playable favorites for your parlays:

-Evan Dunham
-Belal Muhammad
-Chas Skelly

Fights to avoid:

-Jose Quinonez vs Joey Gomez
-Antonio Carlos Jr. vs Leonardo Guimaraes
-Erick Montano vs Randy Brown

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