Saturday, 4 August 2018

UFC 227 Picks

Hot on the heels of the news that FOX Sports will be ending their broadcasting relationship with the UFC, it transpires in the UK, BT Sport will no longer be showing events from the end of 2018. Going forward, the rights will be in the hands of Eleven Sports, as yet a streaming only network. Some suckups, I'm sorry, journalists, assure us that they will have a channel on cable by the time they begin their deal though it's decidedly unclear as to what providers will carry it, if it will be part of a basic package or premium, and so on.

No one will miss BT Sport's coverage which did not bother synchronising their ad breaks with the host broadcastyet somehow would still manage to muffle out any remotely potentially awkward language. All events were blacked out from UFC Fight Pass, even cards ostensibly exclusive to Fight Pass. Their coverage of other sports is also spotty, frequently distorting their schedule, shunting events behind unrecordable digital walls. Nearly all of their studio shows not directly connected to pre or post match have been cancelled. On Wednesday during the Mladenovic vs Babos tennis match at the Silicon Valley Open, their HD channel had a major sound issue for over two hours they did not bother fixing or even addressing. What I'm saying is, no one is shocked by this parting of ways.

But this is not some triumph of common sense by the UFC. It's just another money saving tactic on the part of the owners. Of course it transpires Eleven Sports is part owned by IMG. They are working towards building their own global empire of which the UFC is just a tiny piece. They are cutting costs all over the place whether it's something large like allowing the likes of Lyoto Machida to walk or ending the UFC Pick'Em game on their website. One thing observant viewers may have noticed is the number of events held in small towns with tiny venues, like Boise, Utica and Liverpool.So much for world domination.

A couple of big fights were announced at the press conference on Friday with obviously the major attraction being Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor in October in Las Vegas. But as yet there is no main event on the horizon for UFC 230, the annual New York show. The only potential one looming that feels significant enough would be Cormier vs Jones III. Most main PPV cards including UFC 227 are mostly composed of filler that would struggle to feel relevant on a Fight Night card. Many Fight Night cards now are regional promotion quality.

When they do have something good brewing such as Paulo Costa, they show no patience, catapulting him from a series of heavily flawed opponents into a bout with Yoel Romero. He is not ready for that, doesn't have enough mainstream heat behind him and will get destroyed. As I said, it feels like the company is being run not as the NFL of combat sports but as a minor cog in a giant machine. There's little to get excited about right now and it feels like the higher ups barely care. Well if they don't care, I don't care. If they put together something worth talking about then we'll talk. If not...

Picks after the jump.

[C] TJ Dillashaw vs [1] Cody Garbrandt

This is the only fight on the card that really matters but man is it a good one. The first fight was highly enjoyable. The heat of the rivalry has faded and it was probably too soon to do a rematch but beggars can't be choosers.

It's also terrifically difficult to call. In their first official meeting, Garbrandt shaded the first round and knocked down Dillashaw. The Duane Ludwig protege rallied in the second, finding his rhythm and finishing hos opponent. I suspect that second round is more indicative of what we'll see here.

Garbrandt is very orthodox with his striking. There is probably not much of significance he can add at this point and still retain his feared power. On the other hand, Dillashaw's movement and angles can flummox in the heat of battle. With his fluidity, now that he found his range and knows he can slide in and out and hit him, I think TJ carries that confidence into this fight and wins, probably with another finish.

True trilogies are rare and for a reason so the odds are against Garbrandt a little but I certainly think it's possible. If he wins, I think it will be Marlon Moraes next for him. Or of course, that trilogy. But we all expect buy rates to struggle to crack 200k for this event so it might be worth sitting on that idea even if it comes to pass.

[C] Demetrious Johnson vs [1] Henry Cejudo

It's very difficult to pick against "Mighty Mouse" versus any other Flyweight until he shows deficiencies. Cejudo is easily the best and most deserving contender in the chasing pack and has shown consistent improvement but not enough to make me think he can beat Johnson. Many of Johnson's recent triumphs have been wrestling heavy which you'd think might give an opening to the former Olympic gold medalist Cejudo but in their first meeting Johnson worked him over in the clinch and struck the decisive blows from that position.

Cejudo was struggling badly with his weight cut at that point in time. He seems to have it more under control now which should help his endurance and ability to survive those elbows, Johnson not typically a power striker. I think it goes the distance and is fairly competitive but obviously in the end, Johnson wins and retains unanimously.

It's worth nothing that every time Demetrious Johnson has fought someone for a second time he has won decisively. On those three occasions he had serious trouble in the first fight and it would be tough to win more definitively than knocking out Cejudo inside a round the way he did at UFC 197.

"Mighty Mouse" ought to be looking for something new after this as there are no other viable contenders. While undoubtedly ludicrously talented, the lack of depth and challenge at Flyweight makes it difficult to take him seriously as "The Greatest of All Time". It's been discussed before about the possibility of a super fight between him and the Bantamweight champion. I really think he should be the one to go up in weight. It's the division from which he came, he is the one in need of a challenge and he is the one who has earned the right to win a second belt.

[5] Cub Swanson vs [10] Renato Moicano

Renato Moicano opened as a big favorite and the gap has just continued to widen with good reason. Cub Swanson is washed up. We noted before that his return to prominence was something of a mirage. I called for a match with Brian Ortega because I knew Ortega could beat him. The only semi-credible name he fought on his recent win streak was Doo Ho Choi who was rushed in to a big fight too soon, a common theme.

Moicano is a technically excellent Muay Thai striker who out pointed everyone he has danced with, including Brian Ortega until he went full retard and stuck his neck in the crook of Ortega's elbow. Cub has some tricks, but not the kind that should hold Moicano from winning comfortably.

Polyana Viana vs JJ Aldrich

I think of these two I have watched one fight total while half asleep and don't care to go back and check. Sometimes I like when they put a women's fight on the main card to try and promote the divisions a little but there is very little justification for this one.

I guess the idea is that Viana has been a finisher in her career, able to finish scrubs of which I think we can safely assume Aldrich will be one. But you're trying to sell a Pay Per View on which you've raised the price. Is this going to get people's blood pumping? I severely doubt it. As I said. They don't care so why should I?

[13] Thiago Santos vs Kevin Holland

This fight I suspect was promoted to the main card after various matchups involving Alexander Gustafsson fell through. I was looking for a substitution in this matchup also as i find it a little odd that Thiago Santos who can still bang would be matched up against a debuting fighter who had to go through DWTNCS to get a contract but that is the modern UFC for you. It's a good opportunity for Holland, a consistent finisher on the regional circuit, to make a little name for himself but I still for now at least, think the veteran Santos should be able to see how the young blood.

I pick: Dillashaw, Johnson, Moicano, Viana, Santos

Chris picks: TBA

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