The 10 best MMA Fights of the Weekend – Volume 8
Every week, I will be providing the 10 best MMA fights of the weekend.
A new UFC Welterweight champion will be crowned come Saturday night. Johny Hendricks is the favorite coming into the fight, but it would be foolish to overlook the always dangerous Robbie Lawler. Hendricks’ last fight ended in controversy as he lost a razor-thin decision to Georges St.Pierre. Prior to that Hendricks had won his last 6 fights. Hendricks has been feast or famine, in that he either scores an early 1st round KO, or fights to very close decisions. Lawler’s road to the title has been a bit of a cinderella run. His career seemed to stall in Strikeforce, where he went 3-5 overall. Then, his former employer, the UFC bought out Strikeforce, and with it Lawler’s contract. Lawler immediately dropped down to 170 lbs., and has since gone 3-0. Both fighter possess one-punch KO power. Hendricks will have the wrestling edge, which at times has given Lawler troubles.
Carlos Condit is fighting for another title shot, which was guaranteed to him by UFC President Dana White, should he defeat Tyron Woodley. Condit is considered a heavy favorite coming in due to his experience and striking. Meanwhile, Tyron Woodley has an impressive wrestling background along with some KO power. Condit was originally scheduled to face Matt Brown, and this fight against Woodley certainly seems to be a tougher matchup for the former WEC Welterweight champion. Condit has at times struggled against wrestlers. Woodley could institute a takedown-heavy gameplan and conceivably grind out a decision, but the more likely scenario in the opinion of oddsmakers is that Condit will keep the fight standing, and beat Woodley to the punch.
Two battle-tested veterans are hungry for some respect in the UFC Welterweight division as Jake Shields and Hector Lombard face off at UFC 171. Shields is 2-0 since returning back to Welterweight, following a no-contest with Ed Herman in 2012. Shields has taken some heat for his fighting style, but one can’t argue with the results of his grappling-centric skills, having beaten Top 10 fighters Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley. Shields will have his hands full with former Bellator Middleweight champion Hector Lombard. Lombard is as explosive of a striker as they come. He’s likely going to come out head-hunting early, and has the power to end Shields’ night early. Lombard’s 4 career losses have all come via decision, so if he doesn’t capitalize early, Shields has the conditioning and ground control to possibly take advantage.
Daniel Straus and Pat Curran are set to complete their trilogy, having each won one contest thus far. Many fans were angered with Bellator’s decision to institute an immediate rematch of Straus vs. Curran, considering they have a logjam of hungry tournament champions (Freire, Khasbulaev) waiting in the wings. Nonetheless, Straus was able to win the last fight by doing what he does best, which is using his superior conditioning, wrestling, and ground control. Curran is very capable of winning back his title, but he cannot hesitate because Straus is an in your face type fighter.
This booking was a bit of a head-scratcher when first announced. Sanchez has been one of the UFC’s most popular fighters over the years, while Myles Jury is still a virtual unknown beyond the hardcore UFC fans. Sanchez is coming off his Fight of the Night performance against Gilbert Melendez, which also won him back some respect in the rankings, considering his last fight against Takanori Gomi. Meanwhile, Jury has gone 4-0 in the UFC, highlighted by a 2013 decision victory over Michael Johnson. Jury was a cast member on Season 15 of The Ultimate Fighter, having come up short against Al Iaquinta. Most experts are favoring Jury in this bout due to the overall trajectory of each fighter’s careers. Sanchez, while competitive, has struggled to beat Top 25 competition, while Jury seems capable of developing into a future contender down the road. Sanchez has been in some close decisions over the years, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this fight came down a split decision.
Rick Story is a big step up in competition for Kelvin Gastelum. It seems as if UFC matchmaker Joe Silva is ready to test Gastelum’s skills against a perennial Top 25 Welterweight in Story. Gastelum is best known for winning The Ultimate Fighter 17, having stunningly defeated Uriah Hall and Josh Samman. Gastelum has since dropped down to Welterweight where he dominated Brian Melancon. Gastelum and Story recently trained together at Tristar Gym prior to this booking. Gastelum claims he held his own in training, and thinks he can beat the 23-fight veteran. Story’s been trying to resurrect his career ever since losing to Charlie Brenneman back in 2011. He’s gone 3-3 since that loss, though he’s lost to every fellow Top 25’er he’s faced.
Andrey Koreshkov was dominated by Ben Askren’s wrestling last time he was in the Bellator cage. Now, with Askren gone to One FC, Koreshkov is a likely future title contender at 170 lbs. Koreshkov still has to get through an 8-man tournament to get his shot against the winner of Lima-Hawn, but he is certainly the favorite to make it to the end, after Joe Riggs pulled out due to injury. Koreshkov’s 1st round matchup will be one of his most difficult as he faces former UFC and Strikeforce veteran Nah-Shon Burrell. Koreshkov and Burrell are two of the top fighters in the entire 8-man field, which makes it a curious decision to book these two fighters against each other in the opening round.
Dennis Bermudez has won 5 straight fights in the UFC, and one would think he’d deserve a bout against a higher ranked opponent. Make no mistake though, Jimy Hettes, is an extremely talented fighter with a dangerous ground game that could exploit Bermudez’s prior struggles against submission artists. This fight is getting very little publicity, but rest assured these are two of the top fighters in the UFC Featherweight division. The winner of this fight will certainly face a Top 15 name next time out.
Alex Garcia and Sean Spencer are two rising prospects in the UFC’s Welterweight division. Garcia has the better pedigree, having been a longtime training partner of Georges St.Pierre at Tristar Gym. Garcia recently debuted in the UFC, where he knocked out Ben Wall in the very 1st round. Sean Spencer is 2-1 in the UFC, having won both his fights via decision. Garcia is an explosive style fighter, and his gas tank has been questionable in the past. He will need to pace himself in this fight should he not score the early finish because Spencer is well-equipped to steal a decision should Garcia gas out.
The final bout on my 10 fights to watch this weekend comes out of Asia’s One FC promotion, where former UFC veteran Yasuhiro Urushitani faces off against Brazilian phenom Adriano Moraes. Moraes lost his last fight via split decision, but it should be mentioned that he accepted the fight on short notice and fought above his normal fighting weight of 125 lbs. Throw in the fact that it was his first fight outside of Brazil, and his opponent was no slouch, and I strongly believe there’s good reason to still consider Moraes a future star at Flyweight. This could be Moraes’ coming out party if he can beat a respected veteran like Urushitani.
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