Friday, 12 May 2017

UFC 211 Picks and some thoughts on Man Utd

We are geared up for the best card of the year with UFC 211 stuffed full of meaningful fights. It has been three weeks since the last UFC event and absence has made the heart grow fonder at least here. The news has been a little slow but I do have two random things on my mind.

First of all, I've become irrationally convinced that Jose Mourinho is low key trying to ruin my life. That has nothing to do with MMA or Shenmue or anything but our Manchester United side has been absolutely dire by their standards in not just recent weeks but in fact recent years!

I heard people talking the other day, asking the question "If United don't win the Europa League, would this season be considered a failure?" Forget that, I say, even if they do win the Europa League the season is already a failure. Manchester City and Arsenal have grossly underachieved, Liverpool have been a barely above average side and somehow all those teams are ahead of us in the league.

To make matters worse Tottenham, who will for sure embarass us in the last ever game at old White Hart Lane, have stolen a march on us at a time where we would have otherwise hoped to pry away key players from their squad like Harry Kane and Eric Dier to augment our own. Failure to take the initiative in our own games has allowed our competitors to strengthen their position against us.

The game on Thursday against Celta Vigo, a razor thin 1-1 draw on the night was so typical of the inefficacy of the team this year. After stumbling out of the blocks and allowing Vigo to dictate play early in the match, United finally settled in and started to knock the ball around with confidence leading to our goal, a header from Marouane Fellaini. But after that, United sank further and further back showing less and less ambition.

Vigo's equalizer instigated full-scale panic because barely a soul in the side has a spine. Athletic lugnut Eric Bailly unwisely shoved his hands in some diving prick's face and got himself sent off. When play resumed, Rooney promptly ran the ball up to the corner flag in an attempt to waste time. Against Celta motherfucking Vigo. Are you fucking kidding me?

I'm not inspired by Mourinho. I'm still irrationally convinced he will win us the league out of nowhere next year but I don't think he'll last much longer beyond that. In the meantime, he will have driven away all our promising youngsters and homegrowns, in particular the beleagured Luke Shaw and no doubt leave us right back where he started from. He truly is a desciple of van Gaal in that respect. To Stockholm we trudge then.

In lighter news, Paige VanZant apparently caused quite the stir when she posted a suggestive video of herself showing off her Reebok undiepanties imploring her followers to buy a set for their sisters or girlfriends. In full disclosure, when I saw the video free of any context (not that there was much to begin with) I believe I exclaimed out loud, "She's gone completely batshit insane!" but as a born contrarion once the criticism started pouring in I started to feel a paternal or perhaps hot-girl-privilege inspired need to defend her. Not that I did that but I would note that yes she is a hot girl and yes that does mean she gets a pass. That's just how it is. I know Angela Hill is a critic but shehas made some odd videos herself in the past but they're not nearly as effective because she is not hot leading me to believe the hate is borne from either jealousy or angry, frustrated virgins. That's how I see it anyway.

Picks after the jump.

[C] Stipe Miocic vs [4] Junior Dos Santos

Junior Dos Santos was originally slated to fight Stefan Struve at UFC Fight Night 105 on February 19th but Struve pulled out with a shoulder injury. With no new opponent available, most notably Fabricio Werdum talking tough but not putting up, "Cigano" was rewarded for being a good soldier with a title shot. Miocic and Dos Santos have foguth once before, two and a half years ago on FOX. That time, Dos Santos walked away with a razor-thin unanimous decision.

Miocic totally controlled the first two rounds of their first encounter, battering Uncle Junior in the face over and over again but in the third, big fight veteran Dos Santos vaught him with a crafty left, knocking him down and flipping the momentum of the fight on it's head. Having had that success with his power hitting the first time, Dos Santos will feel confident he can repeat the trick and become a two-time UFC Heavyweight champion.

I think otherwise though. Since UFC on FOX 13, Miocic has won four straight, all by KO. He has continued to improve in a period where Junior has fought only twice, one of those being a sudden and brutal TKO loss to Alistair Overeem. I see this being another entetaining slugfest along the cage wall but this time it will end much earlier and it will be "and still..."

[C] Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs [3] Jessica Andrade

After three consecutive dominating wins in the Strawweight division, Jessica Andrade is rewarded with her first title shot against reigning champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk whose name I've finally learnt how to spell without having to look up first. I'll explain why that matters, or perhaps doesn't in a just a sec.

Andrade wades forward with a hyper aggressive boxing style looking to press her opponents against the cage and overpower them. Her footwork is not exactly the best, a little reminiscent of John Lineker. While Jessica Penne never stood a chance against the assault, Angela Hill hit Andrade over and over - it's just that she couldn't break an egg with her punches. Even while being wary of the power, an elite striker with a significant length advantage like Joanna should find lots of opportunities to zone and counter and she hits with far more purpose than Hill.

With that in mind, while Andrade certainly has the power to knock out Joanna and JJ was knocked down in her last fight against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, she will have to catch her first. Andrade has a tendency to get cut and I expect her to suffer some more against an opponent known for striking with and from awkward angles. While she would certainly be the superior grappler, it doesn't seem to be the foundation of her gameplan. Sometimes, power punchers get an ego about their striking and get baited into swinging when it's not necessarily the best option. All in all I think Joanna is the superior fighter.

I don't think she will win however. Where I think this fight turns is on the mental side. It's often said that when an MMA fighter starts talking about retirement, it usually means retirement is not far off and you've heard those kinds of noises coming from Joanna's side as she looks forward to her marriage and one day starting a family. She and Andrade used to have the same manager, Tiago Okamura but Jedrzejczyk left him apparently seeking better opportunities. The split appeared amicable but since then she has accused him of putting trash talk in Jessica Andrade's mouth.

The kicker for me is that while she joined American Top Team to continue to develop, to hear others and even herself talk about her experience there, she seems to keep more or less to herself. I thought it was strange that Amanda Nunes was touting Nina Ansaroff as the future strawweight champ so bullishly when the current champ was a teammate but it seems there's just not that much crossover. It makes me wonder where Joanna's head is at with all the changes in her life and it's enough to make me think her time has come. If Andrade catches her, rather than trying to finish with strikes the way Karolina did, she will likely go straight for the guillotine which will be far harder for Joanna to escape at which point, it will be "and new..."

[3] Demian Maia vs [5] Jorge Masvidal

I just can't for the life of me figure out why UFC brass hate Demian Maia so much. It's tough enough to understand how they saw him finish Carlos COndit in two minutes and Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson chip his way to an incredibly boring decision over Rory McDonald and gave the title shot to Wonderboy.

To force Maia into a fight a week before Woodley and Wonderboy and for that fight to turn out the way it did with the appetite there for a new champion or at least challenger just makes you wonder what the hell they are smokign up there. If the reasoning is "Maia has to keep his name out there to stay relevant" to me that doesn't wash. All that does for me is confirm that you are absolutely hopeless at promoting your talent and you well know it.

This is a very dangerous matchup for Maia. Should the fight go to the ground, I don't believe Masvidal will have anyhting for him. The problem is getting it there. "Gamebred" belies his carefree brawler image by being one of the most skilled defensive fighters in the division. While it's well noted that Demian Maia was able to take Middleweight wrestlers like Chael Sonnen down at will despite everyone knowing what his intentions were, Masvidal's mentality is often different.

Masvidal is usually hesitant to engage and despite his high boxing-style guard is well prepared to sprawl and defend takedowns. His counters are fast and efficient but against Maia with that threat of being bulldozed over, I expect any flurries to be infrequent. This bout might not be so pretty to watch. If it goes the distance I think Masvidal will edge a decision. I think and hope Maia can get him down once though. That ought to be enough.

[2] Frankie Edgar vs [7] Yair Rodriguez

Yair Rodriguez is the hottest property outside of Max Holloway in the Featherweight division but has he bitten off more than he can chew by specifically requesting a bout with former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar? Edgar represents a huge step-up in class from any of his prior opponents most of whom Rodriguez and decimated with his speed and highly unpredictable striking.

In his last fight Edgar defeated Jeremy Stephens, a much larger opponent, controlling him despite his reach disadvantage. The one time he got caught was with the toes of a head kick - Rodriguez's specialty. Rodriguez is longer than Stephens and Edgar will have to stay further back to avoid "El Pantera's" lightning fast arsenal of kicks. This will make completing a takedown, his surest path to victory, significantly harder to achieve.

I would not normally advise trying to catch one of Rodriguez's kicks as his style is so unorthodox and difficult to time but if anyone could do it I bet Edgar could. The promotional push aside, Yair is not quite the finished article yet and I have a sneaking suspicio that Edgar's experience will be just a little too much after three rounds.

[9] Krzysztof Jotko vs David Branch

This bout was added to the main card after Henry Cejudo withdrew due to a hand injury leaving Sergio Pettis without an opponent. David Branch was a two-weight world champion in World Series of Fighting although that came against inferior opposition to that which he'd encounter on a UFC roster. He was reasonably dominant in most of his WSOF matchups, rarely looking in serious trouble.

Jotko is a rising prospect with some momentum behind him but I even wonder how serious people realize this kid is. After knocking out Tamdan McCrory last June, Jotko followed it up in November by dominating Thales Leites on the ground and pounding the heart right out of him. He is a true mixed martial artist and what's more, his movement is highly unusual and will be a big test for a more orthodox fighter like Branch.

Sometimes guys who come over after having success in other organizations look overwhelmed and outclassed in their debut fights. Eddie Alvarez got chewed up by Cowboy and Will Brooks has failed to impress in three fights now. I don't think that will be such a problem for David Branch though as he's been in the UFC before. I do think he may underestimate Jotko though as I expect him to have a slight size advantage and the awkward motion can fool you. Jotko is a very underrated prospect and the main card of UFC 211 will be a great place for him to showcase his skill.

I pick: Miocic, Andrade, Maia, Edgar, Jotko

Chris picks: Miocic, Andrade, Masvidal, Rodriguez, Jotko

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