If I’m not doing the Q & A format, I’ll often try something else, but today it’s as bare bones as it gets. It’s a busy week, and I’ll be tinkering with the preview format in the future. In the meantime, odds are listed respective to the listed fighter: so Barboza is -240, Story -280, and so forth. All numbers are taken from Best Fight Odds.
Lightweight Edson Barboza vs. Evan Dunham (-240 vs. +220)
If there’s a prospect fans have soured quicker on, I’m not aware of them. Barboza broke onto the UFC scene in the best way possible for a striker: violently destroying a man’s legs to earn a TKO via the Cecil Peoples Special. His first loss in the UFC to Jamie Varner felt a little anomalous to believers. But then his near loss to Danny Castillo seemed to confirm what some fans suspected since his competitive bout with Ross Pearson: perhaps his striking still needs a lot of work.
Barboza’s problem is his kickboxing pecadillos are aplenty. He invites that overhand right (especially against wrestlers who can keep him guessing) like chicken fried steak after a week on Hoth on a diet of snow camel guts.
The mechanics are in place. Just not the engineer.
This is a solid fight for both men, really. Dunham is also a prospect turned project. For both guys, defense seems to be the issue, and both are youngish (well…Dunham is my age: a veritable Methuselah at 32) fighters who nonetheless possess a lot of mileage. Still, I predict this bout to be ripe for the taking on Barboza’s part. Dunham is a guy who will take one to give one, and Barboza, for all of his faults, sticks to those leg kicks. Dunham is a good bet, but not the correct pick. Where Edson gets into trouble is not where Dunham excels: rushing an opponent violently. Edson’s problem is not one of strategy: it’s one of execution. Whereas I think Evan doesn’t always fight to his strengths, and is a little too eager to brawl with his opponents. Even in victory, as he did against Nik Lentz, it’s a misplaced strategy, and one that will definitely not benefit him here.
Welterweight Rick Story vs. Leonardo Mafra (-280 vs. +255)
I can’t look at Mafra’s name without thinking of Jello Biafra. Even though I listened to a lot of punk in college, assuming it would make me a freethinker, I never listened to much of his stuff. I didn’t like the raw, deliberately scattered nature of some of the most iconic punk. My background was Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. So I ended up enjoying stuff like AFI, Pennywise, and Death by Stereo. Punk that was a little more radio friendly even if there wasn’t necessarily a radio station that played their music in good ole’ Fort Worth, TX.
My point? None. Now you know my musical tastes, and can judge me accordingly.
As for this fight, Mafra is a very interesting prospect out of Chute Boxe with a throwback style. While he’s the significant underdog, this is a winnable fight. Mafra is a kitchen sink style striker. He’ll throw everything available to him, and at his disposal, and as often as possible. His main asset is his arsenal of kicks. Whether low or high, he’s always chucking metatarsals.
Story’s career is at the proverbial crossroads, where he can’t seem to beat the up and coming prospects, who can beat everyone else. Despite his horrible start against Kelvin Gastelum, I thought he looked increasingly poised against Kelvin, eventually landing a right hand with such a comical force, I’m amazed he didn’t finish him.
Mafra has pretty solid takedown defense, though I expect Story to get some takedowns. Rick is still a solid wrestler, and even on the feet, he’s got enough power to remain confident in the pocket against the quicker Mafra. While I like Mafra’s future in the division, this feels like another fight that Silva is giving a prospect way too early: similar to the Gastelum fight. I don’t know why the UFC loves handing prospects over to Story, which dates all the way back to giving him Johny Hendricks, but one thing’s for sure: we’ll know a lot more about Mafra after this bout.
Lightweight Justin Salas vs. Joe Proctor (-135 vs. +115)
And finally, a game of “this one does not belong”.
True, this fight really sticks out as one undeserving of main card status but Salas has been doing what he needs to do in the UFC: pick your shots from your southpaw stance, keep them guessing, and hope you’re not overwhelmed by the many fighters more talented than you are in the division. That’s not sarcasm either. Salas is a technically fine fighter who will get obliterated by more talented fighters. Thiago Tavares is what feels like a decade removed from his prospect status, and Salas got steamrolled. This is not a fighter who is long for this cage.
Meanwhile, Proctor is quietly pretty good, which makes that +115 a can’t miss bet.
Salas snaps a pretty good right hook, but he’s given the perfect matchups: Ben Wall simply didn’t belong in the UFC, and Aaron Riley was fighting without ligaments, and 90% of all the skeletal muscle in his body. Proctor is solid in the clinch, where he picks good shots in close while aggressively pushing for top control on the ground.
Flyweight John Lineker vs. Alptekin Özkiliç (-265 vs. +245)
So Lineker promised to make weight. This is the cage fighting equivalent of trusting Roose Bolton.
I’m still kind of bitter about Lineker’s career. Which I know is morally awkward in philosophical terms. After all, I don’t know where I stand on steroids, but I’m not especially convinced on the arguments against it. And yet a fighter missing weight three times with a smile on his face and the gall to promise finally doing what he’s contractually obligated to do in the first place just kind of angers me. Am I crazy? Help me reconcile my hypocrisy philosophers.
Can I also note how awesome it is that BE readers are referncing Heavyweights in the comments section? Kudos people. It’s not some unheralded classic, but it worked just fine growing up.
Anyway, Lineker wins because he has a lot of power in his hands. And that’s mostly it. A very heavy right hand complimented by an equally heavy left hook and well rounded skillset makes him a constant threat to opponents. That’s all he’ll need against Ozkilic, who I think is a fine fighter facing too many tough matchups in the division: the guy just isn’t good on the feet, which means he’s not making it to the 3rd round, which is where he’d have the best shot to win. Lineker will bring the violence, so don’t get sucked in by those attractive odds.
Featherweight Lucas Martins vs. Alex White (+140 vs. -160)
Two 25 year olds who like to take their chances on the feet in violent fashion? Yes please.
This fight is perfect to open up the main card. Somebody is getting slept. I kind of prefer White in this one. His story is pretty fascinating. As a toddler he drank gasoline that was inexplicably put into a milk jug, which burned his larynx, explaining his speech impediment. And he fights exactly like someone who used gas to quench their thirst while still sleeping underneath a mobile.
The dude is reckless, and possess a very heavy chin to compliment his style. Ultimately this is how the fight will be won: White will be able to take Martins’ punch better than Martins can take White’s.
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