Saturday, 10 February 2018

UFC 221 Picks

With Max Holloway out of his title fight against Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 due to an injury, the Las Vegas based promotion has reshuffled its deck and come up with a new main event that's the surest sign yet that it's high time the UFC drastically scale back their PPV business if not spike it entirely. We'll wait for it to roll around and see if the scheduled fights actually happen before commenting too much on that front.

With FOX spending big for Thursday night NFL rights, the bargaining position for UFC broadcast rights continues to weaken. There's no chance whatsoever they'll be able to extract the $400m per year they were reportedly hoping for but a step in the right direction would be guaranteeing more title fights for the broadcast network. Frankly I'm not even sure Cyborg vs Kunitskaya would be a legitimate FS1 main event. But at least people would know who they were and maybe start caring a little if they could watch them without having to pay for them.

Meanwhile I'm ready to announce the first main event for the Oceanic Fighting Championship (formerly Openweight Fighting Championship but retaining the same initials). Before Stipe Miocic broke the consecutive Heavyweight title defence record last month, Daniel Cormier had talked about going up in weight to defend Cain  Velasquez's honor in that regard. Now he and Miocic are fighting for real in the summer. So in the meantime how about Cain goes and defends DC's honor? Battling at Openweight I present to you Jon Jones vs Cain Velasquez. Since we're in international waters, both can do whatever steroids they need to in order to make it to the fight. Who says no to that?

Picks after the jump.

[1] Yoel Romero vs [2] Luke Rockhold

Well I held off talking about this godawful card, Exhibit A in why the UFC should abandon the PPV business, for as long as I could but here we go. This is the only fight at the event worth paying for. I would be shocked if this did more than 250k buys. After the withdrawal of Robert Whittaker due to injury, Romero and Rockhold battle for an interim title because of course they do. Romero was set to face David Branch, Rockhold's last victim, before the late call up.

As much as I like Michael Bisping it's fair to acknowledge at this point his knockout win over Rockhold was very, very fortunate and a true indicator of where either man stands in their career. With that loss, a knee injury and a slow start against Branch however, some seem to disregard how dangerous Rockhold truly is. An elite wrestler and BJJ practitioner, his weakest point might actually be his striking where he is known for his deadly array of kicks.

Romero will likely attempt to crowd Rockhold and force a  power attack early. Other than the Bisping fight, his chin has held up for the most part. Rockhold may want to go at the legs and body with kicks but will be wary of Romero grabbing his leg and explode into position. I think fighting someone as diverse as Rockhold over five rounds will wear on the forty year old Romero though. Whittaker came out on top of him over five with a busted knee and Rockhold has many more ways of finishing a fight. I don't think this one goes the distance.

[5] Mark Hunt vs [9] Curtis Blaydes

While young talent is pushing its way to the top of pile in the lighter divisions with manifold skills and styles exposing former stars as one-dimensional brawlers, the opposite seems to be happening at Heavyweight. The great future hope of Francis Ngannou was brutally exposed at UFC 220 while another fĂȘted prospect in Curtis Blaydes is just as rough-hewn.

Blaydes is a former wrestling national champion at JUCO leveland will attempt to muscle his way inside and control the fight with his grappling. I think the UFC us hoping he will win this but I also think they'll end up disappointed. Highly motivated fighting at home Hunt has the experience to win clinch situations and hurt his opponent with his heavy strikes. Blaydes is very durable and will keep fighting through whatever punishment he receives but this is perhaps too big a jump for him or most of these other younger Heavyweights right now.

Tai Tuivasa vs Cyril Asker

Or indeed, "Who?" vs "WHO?". Tuivasa is a training partner of Mark Hunt's and has won all eight of his professional fights by T/KO. Asker is a jobber they fly into various places hoping his opponent will beat the crap out of him and make a name for themselves. I think they'll get their wish in this case. Too bad no one will see it! They should have downgraded this event to a Fight Night the moment Whittaker got knocked off.

Jake Matthews vs Li Jingliang

Matthews showed some promise as a Lightweight when he first emerged in the UFC but has tailed off and stopped progressing in recent times. He seems to panic easily and forget his gameplan making the classic MMA mistake of diving for a takedown when overwhelmed whether he is having success or not.

Of course none of this matters at all. He is fighting an Asian guy in a big spot and one I quite like at that so he 100% certainty nailed on to win. Expect Matthews to get a takedown early in each round and lie on top of "The Leech" the whole time.

[13] Tyson Pedro vs Saparbek Safarov

I mean, really? This is another set-up for the local fighter and possible prospect. It's not the kind of dangerously mis-matched farce that Valentina Shevchenko vs Priscilla Cachoeira was but Safarov lost to Gian Villante. That's really all you need to know.

I pick: Rockhold, Hunt, Tuivasa, Matthews, Pedro

Chris picks: Rockhold, Hunt, Tuivasa, Li, Safarov

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