Saturday, July 22nd, 2017 in Long Island, New York for the UFC on FOX 25: “Nelson vs Ponzinibbio” by Daniel Tom

The opinions expressed in this free content 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 choose to gamble, I recommend doing so responsibly and legally as it is at your own risk. Enjoy the fights!

Chris Weidman (13-3)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 33 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 78″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Gegard Mousasi (4-8-17)
  • Camp: Serra-Longo Fight Team (New York)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Former UFC Middleweight Champion
+   2x Div. 1 All-American Wrestler
+   Multiple Grappling Accolades
+   6 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   6 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Manages distance well
+   Accurate L. hook—R. hand
+   Hard body & leg kicks
+   Excellent reactive shot
^   Times & adjusts well
+   Superb top game / transitions
^   28 passes in 12 fights
+   Effective ground striker
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Counter availabilities

Kelvin Gastelum (14-2)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 25 Weight: 185 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: No contest / Vitor Belfort (3-11-17)
  • Camp: Kings MMA (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Southpaw / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 17 Winner
+   Wrestling State Champion (AZ)
+   Purple Belt BJJ
+   7 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+   6 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   High-pressure approach
^   Good volume & combinations
+   Improved boxing
^   Accurate R. hook—L. cross
+   Hard left body kick
+   Solid wrestling & scrambling
+   Strong from font-headlock
^   Always looks for back
+/-Willingness to trade
^   Counter availabilities

Summary:

The main event in Long Island features fireworks at middleweight as Chris Weidman welcomes Kelvin Gastelum to his backyard.

Growing up down the street from Nassau Coliseum, Chris Weidman will be fulfilling yet another childhood dream in regards to competition. However, the former champion will be returning home under must-win conditions, as Weidman is currently on a three-fight skid, all of which coming by way of stoppage.

Looking to play the role of spoiler is Kelvin Gastelum, a seemingly reluctant contender to this division who has made waves since coming up from 170-pounds. Now, with one of the biggest fishes in the middleweight pond ahead of him, Gastelum will attempt to cement his status as a contender by adding another big name to his resume.

Starting off on the feet, we have a battle of two hard-nosed pressure fighters who seldom take a step back.

A persistent stalker, Weidman does an excellent job of keeping the temperature high, while managing the distance with an almost preternatural sense.

Typically using his left hand in a pawing or feinting fashion, Weidman has a good feel for when to throw strikes with his opposition, and how to capitalize in exchanges. Whether he is throwing a body kick or doubling up on strikes to get an angle, the former champ makes it difficult for his contemporaries to keep up with him.

That said, Weidman has steadily been caught more often, and with greater effect in recent history as this could be signs of a subtle trend. Despite improvements to his head movement and hand positioning –– Weidman tends to get a little too comfortable exchanging inside(for my liking anyway) –– as his attitude and confidence have consistently gotten him caught here.

In his victories over Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort, we saw Weidman wave on his opposition’s attacks and eventually get the win. However, if you look closely to his post-fight behavior and speech, you can see and hear just how hurt Weidman may have been(asking what happened, etc.).

Since those victories, the trend has only gotten worse as the All-American would go on to lose his next three bouts, taking considerable damage in each outing. For that reason, it will be interesting to see how Weidman handles the approaching young lion that is Kelvin Gastelum.

An inherent pressure-fighter, we have recently started to see Gastelum’s skills come to fruition under the tutelage of Rafael Cordeiro at Kings MMA. Having a history of transforming southpaw grapplers into dangerous pressure-fighting strikers, Cordeiro has seemingly imparted the same knowledge onto Gastelum as he now incorporates crushing kicks to his already potent punches.

Staying in the Southern California scene, we have also watched Gastelum make measurable improvements to his boxing and footwork. In recent outings, we have seen Gastelum pivot more off of his right hand, which allowed him to take superior angles and get the jump on opponents.

Considering the speed advantage Gastelum should have on paper, I would not be surprised to see him look to get his hands going early and often. However, I feel that the patent southpaw liver kick will have particular play against his opponent.

Weidman, who does a good job of checking low and blocking high, has typically neglected incoming kicks to his midsection. Should Gastelum dust off the “Rafael Cordeiro special,” he could sway this fight’s momentum.

Nevertheless, Gastelum cannot get too greedy as his aggression has cost him in the form of counters before. And although Weidman is not your typical counter-fighter, he carries an accurate counter-cross that he seemingly keeps at the ready.

Weidman also demonstrates a knack for catching kicks and countering, something I would not be surprised to see him do here, especially given the layout of this matchup.

With Gastelum’s strengths standing –– coupled with Weidman’s recent trend of suffering strikes –– I suspect this battle may hinge on the outcome of early wrestling exchanges.

Not only does Weidman carry the on-paper edge on the floor, but I also feel that stylistically, the All-American’s grappling style could be potentially problematic for Gastelum.

Despite Gastelum being a solid wrestler who displays good positional awareness and scrambling abilities, he has traditionally allowed opponents in on his hips and or into advantageous under-hook positions, which typically leads to takedowns.

Nevertheless, one could argue that this borderline lackadaisical approach to grappling may come from Gastelum’s confidence in his abilities –– as he is usually quick to grip-fight, hit a switch, or create a scramble back to a standing or top position.

The problem, in my opinion, is that Gastelum has yet to face an opponent who can make him pay for his tendencies as he may have one in front of him here.

A craftsman from the front-headlock position and underrated back-taker to boot, Weidman could potentially tax Gastelum every time he turtles or tripods up in a scramble, which is a spot the young Mexican-American is commonly found defending from in his fights.

Against Neil Magny, we saw Gastelum struggle with the mechanics of a longer frame fighter in grappling stanzas, giving up his back as well as takedowns on more than one occasion. And considering Weidman’s core tendencies and past pathways to victory, I would not be surprised to see former champ bust out the old playbook and hand Gastelum his first submission loss.

However, if Weidman cannot find success when in on his opponent’s hips or back, it will likely be due to the intelligent grip-fighting and positional awareness Gastelum has shown throughout his career, hitting Granby and Peterson rolls on the drop of a dime.

Furthermore, Weidman will also be accountable for the same wrestling tropes that could cost Gastelum in this fight, which means any failed shots from the All-American may lead to him being the one who is defending front-headlock to back-take transitions –– a particular specialty of Gastelum’s.

In looking at the betting lines, I have a hard time disagreeing with the oddsmakers who opened Gastelum as a slight favorite. That said, I strongly caution anyone looking to bet this fight heavily given the intangibles at play.

Although I picked against Weidman in his last two home-state showings, I do feel that the hometown/must-win intangibles hold water here –– as I would not be surprised to see Weidman return to his roots –– reminding us all of his skills and size differential.

But if that plan doesn’t play out smoothly, then Weidman will likely be forced to fight the smaller man’s fight, which I see weighing heavier on his gas tank as I feel the former champion has traditionally slowed in both victories and defeats. Whereas Gastelum –– albeit a smaller sample size –– has only shown to increase his pace and comfort, even at altitude in a five-round affair.

For that reason, I have difficulty seeing this fight go five-rounds given the do-or-die narrative it carries both stylistically and otherwise. Should Weidman not find a submission or pathway to hit his stride, then I see Gastelum making him pay off the breaks, beating him to the punch standing, and possibly even taking the former champ’s back off of a bad shot. Either way, I will watch with baited breath, and slightly hope I am wrong given the stakes at hand.

Official Pick: Gastelum – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Weidman – Submission (round 3)


Dennis Bermudez (17-6)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 30 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 66″
  • Last Fight: KO loss / Chan Sung Jung (2-4-17)
  • Camp: Long Island MMA (New York)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   TUF 14 Finalist
+   NCAA Div. 1 All-American Wrestler
+   4 KO victories
+   4 Submission wins
+ 4 first round finishes
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Good fundamental footwork
+   Solid combination striker
^   Variates attack levels well
+   Strong inside of the clinch
^   Good knees & dirty boxing
+   91% takedown defense
^   Superb hips & base
+   Scrambles well / positionally aware
^   Excellent hand-fighting & defense
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Counter availabilities

Darren Elkins (23-5)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 33 Weight: 145 lbs Reach: 71″
  • Last Fight: KO win / Mirsad Bektic (3-4-17)
  • Camp: Team Alpha Male (California)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Wrestling Base
+   BJJ Brown Belt
+   8 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   9 first round finishes
+   Relentless pace & pressure
^   Well-conditioned
+   Improved overall striking
^   More diversity shown in combos & kicks
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Good knees & dirty boxing
+   Solid wrestling ability
^   Shots, re-shots, scrambles
+   Competent subs from bottom
+   Works well w/front-headlocks & cradles
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Traditionally takes damage

Summary:

In a potential featherweight war, Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez does battle with Darren “The Damage” Elkins for the evening’s co-main event.

A perennial top-10 contender at 145-pounds, Bermudez is tasked to take on another veteran in Darren Elkins. Despite taking enough damage to be anointed with said nickname, Darren Elkins is seemingly at the top of his game at 33-years of age, looming just outside of the division’s top-10.

Starting off on the feet, we have a battle between two unrelenting, pressure-fighting strikers.

Seldom taking a step back, I suspect Elkins will be the one coming forward as he typically does so with the vigor of a marauding zombie, seemingly having no receptors for pain.

That said, the Indiana native has added to his game since moving shop to Team Alpha Male. No longer relying on his jab–cross–jab entries, Elkins will now do a better job of mixing up his straight punches with hooks, finishing up with kicks off his lead leg when appropriate.

Nevertheless, Elkins’ inherent aggression and low defensive priority ultimately allows him to consistently take shots both on the back foot, as well as when coming forward. In facing a superior stick-and-move stylist who can match his consistency with pressure, Elkins will likely have to earn everything he takes from Bermudez, who is a proven pressure-fighter himself.

Whether Bermudez is facing Jeremy Stephens, Rony Jason, or even in his epic battle with Matt Grice, you can see the unrelenting will and genetic hard-wiring to move forward that is reminiscent to a prime Roberto Duran.

Employing aggressive doses of in-and-out footwork, Bermudez puts together his punch combinations smoothly as he often punctuates them with hard leg kicks. Consistently striking his way inside, the Long Islander loves working in the clinch as he unabashedly uncorks uppercuts and knees.

Although Bermudez has shown improvements to his head positioning and overall defense, his aggression –– like Elkins –– is also what usually gets him off course and into trouble as counter strikes are his common culprit.

Regardless of how things go standing, I suspect we will see a lot of this fight take place in the clinch. A safe spot for both men, I will be curious to see how stanzas play out given the work rate of each fighter in said spaces.

Considering that clinch striking may be an arguable wash inside and off the breaks, I believe these exchanges will be won out by the superior wrestler, who is, in my opinion, Bermudez.

Wrestling may be the heart of Elkins’ game, but it is his relentless effort –– as opposed to his technics –– that pays the majority of his bills in fights, as the numbers and stats would also support this.

Furthermore, we have seen Bermudez –– who has the highest takedown defense rate in the division’s history next to Jose Aldo –– thwart off some of the best with his back to the fence, Elkins’ most advantageous position.

Against Tatsuya Kawajiri, Bermudez would only give one official takedown early, getting right back to his feet with immediacy. Utilizing high and tight Whizzers to support his already stellar base and balance, Bermudez would miraculously belly down despite being driven into the fence by the Japanese grappling specialist, making him pay with punches from his posted position.

Considering the wrestling acumen of Bermudez –– backed by his stout and sturdy frame –– he will likely be the one who is deciding the majority of “when’s” and “where’s” in this fight. Still, the Long Islander cannot afford his previous mental lapses in position as Elkins is competent from all areas, even off of his back.

And though they both work similarly from topside, I see Bermudez being the one who gets there more often as he utilizes positional rides to control his opposition, as well as ground strikes and elbows to cook what he catches.

Despite Elkins’ success in close against Mirsad Bektic, Bermudez may be better suited for conducting action from the clinch, as I see traditional shot entries giving way to potentially troubling scenarios for the New York native.

Even though Bermudez times his level changes well, he could be playing with fire should he get stuffed on a shot as Elkins makes his money from the front-headlock. Whether he is threatening with a front choke or transitioning off to a cradle for control, Bermudez could quickly find himself in the undertow of a turning tide should he turtle and or take a break at the inopportune time.

In Bermudez’s defense, he has only been submitted once in the past 5-years, and that was after being rocked by a punch as he was put away by one of the division’s best(Ricardo Lamas). Since then, we have seen dangerous submission threats like Tatsuya Kawajiri and Rony Jason get a hold of Bermudez’s neck, only to be thwarted by intelligent defensive hand-fighting.

In fact, Bermudez has shown improvements to his overall positional awareness as he displays good fundamentals when fighting inside of the guard and elsewhere.

Ultimately, I feel that this is a fight between two men whose games are similar at heart, but one man skills are just on a different level. And with the oddsmakers opening Bermudez at a two-to-one favorite, I have to imagine they agree.

Don’t get me wrong, Darren Elkins is never out of a fight and Dennis Bermudez, at times, can seem to almost give them away toward the end. Subsequently, it can be easy to overlook the consistency in Bermudez’s game, as I see his wrestling winning out the day, and his striking –– both standing and on the floor –– earning him enough points in a competitive but clear decision.

Official Pick: Bermudez – Decision

Official Outcome: Elkins – Split Decision


Gian Villante (15-8)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 31 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: TKO loss / Shogun Rua (3-11-17)
  • Camp: Bellmore Kickboxing Academy (New York)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   NY State Wrestling Champ
+   Collegiate Wrestling Experience
+   10 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   8 first round finishes
+   KO Power
+   Dangerous right hand
^   Variates well to uppercuts
+   Hard right leg kicks
+   Accurate check hook
+   Underrate wrestling ability
^   80% takedown defense
+   Willingness to trade
^   Counter availabilities

Patrick Cummins (9-4)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’2″ Age: 36 Weight: 205 lbs Reach: 76″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Jan Blachowicz (4-8-17)
  • Camp: CSMMA (Florida)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   2x All-American Wrestler
+   2x US National Team Member
+   2004 NCAA runner-up
+   4 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   4 first round finishes
+   Steadily improved striking
+   Excellent reactive shots
^   Well-timed level changes
+   Strong inside the clinch
^   Dirty boxing to snap-downs
+   Solid positional rides & transitions
^   Effective ground striker
–    Sometimes retracts strikes low
^   Counter availabilities

Summary:

In a fun light-heavyweight affair, Gian Villante squares off with Patrick Cummins.

Fighting for the second time in his home state, Gian Villante will attempt to get back on the winning track after coming up short against Shogun Rua in Brazil earlier this year.

Standing in the Long Islander’s way is Patrick Cummins, a hard-nosed fighter who is attempting to surmount a comeback of his own as he once again finds himself going behind enemy lines.

Even though the on-paper edge striking is not on Cummins’ side, the former All-American wrestler has steadily made efforts to improve his game. Doing a better job of rolling under his right crosses, we would see Cummins avoid left hooks early on in his battle with Glover Teixeira.

However, Cummin’s aggression –– coupled with Teixeira’s takedown defense –– would ultimately lead him into unfavorable exchanges as he would end up losing to the Brazilian. In his return bout to Brazil, we would once again see early success from Cummins, only to see his old defensive tropes show up upon adversity.

Now, working in South Florida with boxing great, Antonio Tarver, it will be interesting to see what improvements Cummins can bring to the table. Nevertheless, the All-American will likely have to temper his boldness approaching Gian Villante, who has the on-paper advantages in the striking realm.

The Bellmore Kickboxing Academy protege throws a nice variety of strikes as he maintains a high-output for an athlete of his size. Deceptively accurate with his check hook, Villante’s right-hand wields bad intentions through the form of uppercuts and crosses.

The Long Islander also has an underrated leg kick game, although I am not sure how heavily he will lean upon it given the looming takedown threat of Cummins.

Despite Villante’s improvements to his striking and takedown defense, he tends to leave his kicks out there for a beat too long as we saw Ilir Latifi and Shogun Rua capitalize on this multiple times.

That said, Villante usually shows the ability to recover and get back to throwing punches. But as impressive as the volume is that Villante brings to the table, it does not come without a price.

Willing to exchange no matter the weather, Villante’s attitude, though heroic at times, has cost him in both fights he was winning and losing. With a tendency to keep and retract his left-hand low, right crosses and uppercuts have often been the common culprit for Villante.

Even if Cummins is not as polished of a threat on the feet, he does throw hard uppercuts from the clinch. And though Villante possesses his own uppercuts on the inside, he will need to be careful not to let Cummins get going in-close as it could cost the New York native takedowns.

Should Cummins get Villante to the ground, the former All-American wrestler will be operating in the world where he holds the on-paper advantages. A grinding grappler who was known for breaking high-level fighters in the gym, Cummins has given us brief glimpses of those stories with the ground work he has tracked thus far in the Octagon.

An excellent positional rider, Cummins favors wearing on his opposition, beating them in transition and cooking them from top side with unforgiving ground strikes. Now, working with Neil Melanson –– a renown catch wrestling coach –– I only expect Cummins transition acumen and submission savvy to improve.

However, Villante is no slouch when it comes to counter-grappling as he came up wrestling in both high school and college. More importantly, Villante is the amongst the division’s top-3 in takedown defense, which I imagine is a side-effect from training with other high-level MMA wrestlers like Chris Weidman.

Even when Villante is taken down, the Long Islander is quick to return to his feet as he smartly fights hands and tripods up to stand.

If Cummins cannot take away Villante’s posts and or stop him from scrambling to topside, then he may be in for a long night. But if Cummins can consistently ground and or control Villante, then we may get a glimpse of his potential improvements en route to a possible victory.

As a fan of Pat Cummins and a former student of his new-found coach, Neil Melanson, there is nothing more I would love to see more than an upset victory via a Cummins submission. Unfortunately, the analyst in me has to be honest as I see Villante’s takedown defense holding up, and Cummins’ propensity to get caught in space costing him here.

Official Pick: Villante – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Cummins – Split Decision


Jimmie Rivera (20-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’4″ Age: 28 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 68″
  • Last Fight: Decision win / Urijah Faber (9-10-17)
  • Camp: Team Tiger Schulmann (New Jersey)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk Management: Good

Supplemental info:
+   Regional MMA Titles
+   3rd degree Black Belt (Tiger Schulmann)
+   4 KO victories
+   2 Submission wins
+   2 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Good footwork
^   Manages distance well
+   Consistent pace & pressure
+   Solid combination striker
^   Mixes in kicks & body work
+   Excellent awareness in the pocket
^   Accurate left hook
+   Solid wrestling ability
^   100% takedown defense
+   Intelligent inside the scramble
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Counter availabilities

Thomas Almeida (21-1)

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’7″ Age: 25 Weight: 135 lbs Reach: 70″
  • Last Fight: TKO win / Albert Morales (11-19-16)
  • Camp: Chute Boxe (Brazil)
  • Stance/Striking Style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk Management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+   Legacy Bantamweight Title
+   Brown Belt BJJ
+   17 KO victories
+   3 Submission wins
+   16 first round finishes
+   KO power
+   Solid footwork
^   Rarely out of position
+   Strikes w/volume & variety
+   Often leads with his right
^   Favors finishing with his left
+   Dangerous left switch kicks
^   Mixes well w/inside leg kicks
+   Improved wrestling ability
^   Good get-up urgency / technique
+/-Aggressive in exchanges
^   Can overstay welcome in pocket
–    Traditionally takes damage

Summary:

Kicking off the main card on FOX is a barnburner in the bantamweight division as Jimmie Rivera takes on Thomas Almeida.

A top-5 fighter who is knocking on the door of title contention, Jimmie Rivera will look to use this showcase to state his case for his right to challenge for gold.

Standing in his way is the dangerous Thomas Almeida, a Brazilian contender who is currently rebounding from his first career loss with a vengeance.

Starting off on the feet, we have a matchup between two technical strikers who seemingly ride waves of pressure into victory, but in different ways.

Almeida, a Muay Thai marauder, is the more persistent stalker of the two. Covering distance quickly, and parlaying his marches appropriately, Almeida displays variety and volume as he fires off preset combinations at the drop of a dime.

What is even more impressive than the Brazilian’s striking flow, is the fact that he rarely finds himself out of position despite his voracious approach.

Often entering with a hard right-hand(or elbow depending on the range), Almeida will accentuate his combinations off of his left side. Particularly favoring to finish with left hooks to the liver, Almeida will also unabashedly quark screw uppercuts inside the pocket.

Lacking the outside leg & head kicks demonstrated by his Chute Boxe stablemates, Almeida handily makes up for it with his use of the left leg. Parlaying his previously mentioned Thai marches, Almeida beautifully mixes up his inside leg kicks with devastating knees off the shuffle.

Despite his impressive arsenal of offense, the Brazilian’s aggression has inherently allowed him to take more damage than many think he should.

Although Almeida keeps his hands high with improved pocket awareness, his constant fearless attempt for the finish often encourages him to overstay his welcome inside of range.

Even after having to pay his taxes against Cody Gardbrandt, Almeida would show us in his return fight later that year that his aggressive approach was still in tact, as it would earn him a win against Albert Morales.

Nevertheless, the Brazilian phenom will have to be careful as he finds himself back at the top of the food chain, where mistakes come with higher costs.

Enter Jimmie Rivera, a darkhorse in the division who is steadily earning respect and opening eyes. Despite being stout and well-muscled for a bantamweight, Rivera moves deceptively well as the New Jersey native grew up with wrestling and martial arts.

A 3rd-degree black belt under Tiger Schulmann, Rivera’s kickboxing chops shine through as he melds a boxing arsenal disguised behind slick kicks and solid footwork.

Even though Rivera is aggressive by nature, he does his best work countering inside the pocket and off of the breaks. Throwing strikes in an intercepting effort, Rivera will meet his opposition’s attacks as his slight angles and slips inside often allow him to punctuate the exchanges.

This countering style could be effective against Almeida, who traditionally is caught by left-hands on the way in, as well as hooks off of the break on his way out. In fact, I see Rivera’s patent left hook serving him particularly well in this matchup.

As seen in Almeida’s bout with Brad Pickett, the Brazilian often keeps and resets his head within range. Despite retracting his hands high, this habit has led Almeida into left hooks on multiple occasions.

Nevertheless, Rivera has shown counter availabilities of his own, particularly in the form of right hands as the New Jersey native will need mind what is coming back at him –– and not get greedy with his successes.

Although Rivera keeps a good sense of things in the pocket, his propensity to trade often leaves him open for counters by nature. Both Iuri Alcantara and Pedro Munhoz found success with counter shots as they were each able to drop Rivera in their fights.

Regardless of Rivera demonstrating the ability to absorb and recover quickly, he will be playing with fire should he show any signs of weakness against the killer instinct of Almeida.

Given the propensities and trends of each fighter, I do not expect much of this battle to hit the floor. However, Rivera has shown a knack for opportunistic takedowns to score at the end of rounds, or even utilizing his wrestling to recover from previously absorbed strikes.

Still, if Rivera means to ground Almeida with real intent, he will likely need to work for it as the Brazilian has proven to be difficult to hold down.

From the pop in his hips he uses to create space, to the hand-fighting he uses to break grips, Almeida quietly wields excellent technique as he downright hustles his ass off to get back to his feet. That said, takedowns still score as I expect them to be a real threat that Rivera carries in his back pocket for this contest.

In a matchup that initially opened Rivera as a moderate favorite, has since steadily ballooned in price as the public seems to second the bookmaker’s sentiments. And though I am also on Rivera –– whom I have been high on since coming into the organization –– I preach caution on any major plays, as this is a bantamweight fight with a heavyweight feel.

Rivera presents the traditional tropes that have troubled Almeida, as I see his pressure-fighting approach and left-hook punctuations paying dividends against the Brazilian. However, Almeida will always be one right-hand or jump-knee away from potentially closing the show. And even if both fighters are poised enough to go the distance, I suspect that Almeida’s do-or-die tendencies will bring about a conclusion faster than we may foresee.

Official Pick: Rivera – Inside the distance

Official Outcome: Rivera – Decision

Preliminary Card Predictions:

  • dos Santos def. Good
  • Anders def. Natal
  • LaFlare def. Oliveira
  • Sherman def. Grabowski
  • Kennedy def. Bochniak
  • Kelleher def. Vera
  • Johnson def. Albini
  • Burgos def. Pepey
  • Wade def. Perez

Dan’s Plays:

(*like my breakdowns, these are for your reference & entertainment)

Props worth looking at(@ 5Dimes.eu):

-Weidman/Gastelum “Doesn’t go distance” -185 (1.5 Units)
-Villante “Inside the distance” +160 (0.5 Unit)
-Burgos “by TKO” -135 (1 Unit)

Playable parlay pieces(My most confident favorites within play):

-Chris Wade
-Shane Burgos
-Dennis Bermudez

Straight plays:

-Dos Santons +165 (0.5 Unit)
-Bermudez -185 (1 Unit)
-Rivera -200 (1.5 Units)

Fights to avoid(live dogs, inflated lines, high intangibles, etc.):

-Bochniak vs Kennedy
-Kelleher vs Vera
-Natal vs Anders

For further technical and betting analysis, listen and subscribe to: The Protect Ya’ Neck Podcast and for future & past UFC breakdowns, stay tuned to: MixedMartialAnalyst.com


  • Muna F. Bear

    Another great breakdown, especially for the main event.


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