Awesome April

In a month where we get the shimmering animosity of DC vs Bones II The Spit Bucket scours the fight scene for some match ups to whet the whistle. Kick back and enjoy some of these hand picked beauties.

 

GUILTY PLEASURE

Johnson [c] vs Cejudo, UFC 197 April 23rd

‘Mighty Mouse’ has a bad rep. It’s mainly due to his smothering all round superiority that has led to over fifty percent of his latest nine straight victories coming by way of a decision. But to hate on a guy who has no credible opposition and is just insanely good at his craft is harsh. ‘The Messenger’ is the first challenger who can actually nullify Johnson’s strong wrestling base given he is a former Olympic gold medalist. The glaring deficiency, however, will be in the stand up exchanges despite persistent improvements in each outing from Cejudo. Whilst a dethroning will be a step too far, a strong showing from these two will set up an interesting rivalry in the years to come. Prepare for the grind.

 

CAREER FINISHER

Machida vs Henderson, UFC on Fox 19 April 16th

In the battle of past champion veterans, the old timers have central stage for possibly a last hurrah. ‘Hendo’ is on an unimpressive slide having lost six of his last eight fights. ‘The Dragon’ has not fared much better having lost three of his last four (albeit against superior opposition). ‘Hendo’ is a true warrior with a booming right and an iron chin. He will always draw in fans, but the time has come to think about health and retirement. If Machida wins as expected then Henderson should hang up his gloves. A reversed result, however, presents an interesting conundrum. Savour the legend while you can.

 

RISING STAR

Chiesa vs Dariush, UFC on Fox 19 April 16th

Dariush has largely flown under the radar in his fledgling career. He has avoided the headlines due to his lack of highlight reel finishes; instead he has a presided over a fifty percent submission rate. ‘Maverick’ has a similar penchant for the submission, with a sixty nine percent ratio. His awkward and slippy style will test Dariush who will attempt to contain the wild fourishes with a suffocating approach. One expects this is a tailor made fight for the stock of Dariush to continue it’s upward trajectory thus cannot see past a submission win for the former Brazilian ju-jitsu champion. One for the purists.

 

TITLE GAME CHANGER

Rothwell vs Junior dos Santos, UFC Fight Night 86 April 10th

The heavyweight title scene is attempting to lure itself into becoming a curious battlefield over the next few months. It is a notoriously difficult class to predict given the widespread one punch knockout ability, but The Spit Bucket plans to detail the future in an upcoming focussed preview. Rothwell has hit a purple patch in which he has submitted the unsubmittable (Barnett) and knocked out the kickboxing champion (Overeem). ‘Cigano’ has blown hot and cold but is a former titleholder and a true test for the reformed Rothwell. If he has his mind right and his sprawl ready, JdS should take it. An intriguing spectacle with title implications.

 

NEEDLE MOVING FANS FAVOURITE

Barboza vs Pettis, UFC 197 April 23rd

If Barboza vs Felder is anything to go by this should resemble Street Fighter more than the UFC. Possibly the only way to make this more awesome would be to have ‘Cowboy’ as the referee. Guaranteed an entire fight on the feet and guaranteed some explosive and outlandish moves, we’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. Although Barboza has a tight game, ‘Showtime’ should show his class and be allowed to express himself with little thought of being taken down. Dana, hand them the bonuses now!

 

HEADLINE HONCHO

Cormier [c] vs Jones, UFC 197 April 23rd

‘Bones’ is not a happy man. His archenemy ‘DC’ is parading around with the belt he never lost. And what is worse than an angry man? A super stacked angry man. No longer a gangly but gifted pound for pound champion, ‘Bones’ has spent his reflective time in the gym and it remains to be seen if that will impact him in the cage. Will he come out swinging with months of pent up frustration? Will he be rusty and let ‘DC’ in? Or will he even make the fight or be in jail? One thing is for sure – their genuine hatred for one another makes this compulsory viewing if it happens. Possibly the headline of the year.

UFC Brisbane Review

The latest event in Australia was a success. The right mix of exciting prospects, controversial officiating and the local favourite winning the main event meant fans went home happy.

 

RAWLINGS def HAM – unanimous decision

It all kicked off with Rawlings making hard work of a spiky but much smaller opponent, so much so the two looked like they compete in different weight classes. Sadly, Rawlings did not use her bulk and power to bully the impressive Ham. Instead she attempted to stand up against the more technically precise and faster foe. Ultimately the advantage paid in the latter rounds, but 30-27 from two of the judges? Vastly inaccurate. It is a shame there is not a lighter division for Ham to ply her trade as she will have won a few more fans from the outing.

 

KELLY def CARLOS jnr – TKO rnd 3

In the upset of the night the gnarly but game vet Kelly scored a shock third round barrage to end the fight against the potential future title challenger. Widely expected to be an opponent to take a few shots then buckle, Kelly obviously forgot to pick up that memo. All was going to plan in the first as Carlos had total control on the mat. The ju-jitsu champion really should have finished it then and there with a full round of back control. His weaknesses then began to tell – a jittery stand-up game lead to his demise in the subsequent rounds. Still, one bad showing does not make a fighter and his prospect status will be preserved. A future confrontation versus Camozzi would be shrewd. Clearly superior in all facets but enough of a name to gain some respect.

 

MATTHEWS def CASE – sub rnd 3

This was a fun fight. Matthews looked the bigger fighter but Case had the nous and awkward style to challenge the rising star of down under. The early exchanges saw Case being the aggressor with tidy combinations versus single power shots from Matthews. The tide soon changed in the second and third when Matthews found a home for some crippling body kicks which lead to the eventual smothering in the third when Case had faded. The direction of travel from here is interesting. He has done enough to earn a headline act in his native Australia, but a true test would be to put him on a plane and begin to break the US market, and top 15. A tantalising match would be against Iaquinta. Talented counter striker, young and looking for a fight after time out with his injury, he also has the baggage of angering fans so Matthews would get some support away from home.

 

MAGNY def LOMBARD – TKO rnd 3

Could easily have been stopped in the first round when Lombard burst his gas tank and unleashed a tirade of unanswered strikes. Should have been stopped in the second when Magny unloaded multiple undefended blows upon the proned Lombard. Eventually was stopped when Magny assumed top control in the third. The problem with Lombard is not with his lack of cardio, but his lack of learning. Every single fight he goes out swinging then stutters around empty for the next two rounds. Either the guy has no ambition or no self-control – either way it is obscenely frustrating to watch. Magny, however, has the coachability of a piece of plasticine. He needs a chance to test himself against the elite of a monumentally stacked division, and Hendricks would be just that. Coming off a couple of dodgy showings but with proven pedigree we can see if Magny will only ever be an also ran.

 

HUNT def MIR – KO rnd 1

Another walk off KO from Hunt. This guy packs serious dynamite in that right hand and uses it with startling aplomb. Cocked and laden in his arm, we were waiting for it to connect. And boy it did not disappoint. However, this is a loss that should leave Mir contemplating his career. He needs to think of his health, his record and his direction. The man is a hero of the sport and has nothing left to prove. It is time he hung up the gloves and helps nurture the future generations with his vast experience. Hunt on the other hand still has golden aspirations. With most of the top 10 already signed up, he needs to sit back and enjoy the chaos in the knowledge that his stock is high. The likely destination of the Kiwi is against the Rothwell vs Jnr Dos Santos winner.

 

 

MATCHES TO MAKE –

Antonio Carlos Junior vs Chris Camozzi

Jake Matthews vs Al Iaquinta

Neil Magny vs Johnny Hendricks

Mark Hunt vs Ben Rothwell / Jnr Dos Santos winner

Featherweight Fancy

With the ridiculous mutterings of a rematch between Diaz and McGregor plus the long overdue addition of Barao to the featherweight roster The Spit Bucket plays match maker and outlines the path to glory for the UFC brass.

 

MENDES vs BARAO:

Why it should happen –

Mendes has repetitively shown that he cannot mix it with the true elite of the division. He is stuck in real limbo as he is better than the chasing pack by far but lacks that edge to push for the gold. Here he is being used as a gatekeeper to judge the impact Barao could have on the division. The only other possible match up for either would be against Holloway.

 

HOLLOWAY vs ALDO: (#1 contender fight)

Why it should happen –

Holloway’s eight fight win streak will not have gone unnoticed. He has flown under the radar due to the chaos strewn by McGregor but has really matured in recent outings showing his craft and intelligence to eek out decisions. He deserves the chance to face off against the top level of the division. The stumbling block is Aldo. He would probably only be interested in either Edgar or McGregor but a sparkling victory would cement him right at the front of the queue. Sadly, it is likely he will stay true to form and choose to stay inactive in his quest to regain the crown.

 

EDGAR vs McGREGOR:

This just makes sense. The only man left in the top five to fell in order for McGregor to truly be hailed as the undisputed champion is Edgar. Edgar too knows this and has been pushing hard to land the fight. Stylistically it works as Edgar has the chin, footwork and hustle to worry McGregor but lacks in the ground game to potentially finish off proceedings. This bout all rests on whether McGregor cedes his long-term lightweight plan to rekindle the hype train.

McGregor’s Risk

Conor McGregor undertook a huge risk in his attempt to make history. But the question is, did his gamble pay off?

Simple facts – McGregor stepped up two weight divisions. He did not have to undertake a harsh weight cut. His foe changed on late notice. On the flip side, this meant Diaz basically did not have a training camp and was meant to be a mere speed bump in the progress of the Irish sensation. It failed.

The fight made sense; they both talk audacious trash so despite such little time to hype the fight the sales would never drop. Also, Diaz is not known for his blow away power so would never have inflicted a crushing loss. After all, McGregor is the biggest cash cow for the UFC and no corporation wishes to endanger the prize asset.

There were many reasons for the loss, but perhaps the most worrying was the lack of variation. His characteristic wide based lackadaisical style was evident but the normal fluid transition between attacks was thrown off by loading up with power. Perhaps he has indulged in his own hype and become punch drunk but the crushing left was simply absorbed by the bigger opponent.

Unfortunately, his experiment also had the unwanted side effect of landing a template to dethrone the Irish joker. Close distance by swarming him then finish with the ground game. You simply cannot let him dictate pace and distance. This was partially highlighted by Mendes who rag dolled the Irish man for two rounds only to run empty on his gas tank. But now it sets up all future opponents with an obvious game plan.

His undefeated legacy in the UFC and his fifteen-fight win streak has been shattered. He will most likely return to featherweight to remove his last main threat in Edgar and regain ascendency. His clearing of the division will be a true marker in the pound for pound claim.

Conceivably, this was the warm up event for his full on assault on the higher weight classes. If he learns from this fight and focuses on his defence and patience he can achieve success. The early signs are there too – the ‘inefficient’ energy use refers to his fixation on finding the highlight reel with each punch.

The only sure way to judge the outcome of the trial is by his future performances. If he takes the silver lining, the limit is the sky. But at this moment the risk does seem to outweigh the benefit.