The UFC makes its return to action this weekend, returning to the familiar confines of the UFC Apex UFC Vegas 46. The return didn’t come a moment too soon as MMA action has been sparse since the UFC took their usual beginning of the year hiatus. You’d expect there to be a lot of fights ready for the public to consume, but the card has been picked clean for various reasons ranging from COVID-19 to injury to re-scheduling of contests, leaving just ten on the card, four on the prelims. We’re even lucky to have that as two of the fights remaining on the card were announced just hours ago from when this article was posted. I can’t wait to see how many more get cancelled on the day of weigh-ins….
- Am I the only one getting vibes of Joe Silva for the contest between Jamie Pickett and Joseph Holmes? The former UFC matchmaker was notorious for making contests that amused him for one reason or another – such as “Cowboy” Cerrone vs. “Cowboy” Oliveira – and a pair of middleweights with an 80” reach sounds like something he’d take delight in. Pickett has a huge advantage when it comes to experience and is an underrated grappler and clinch fighter. However, he has been cowed by more physical opponents and Holmes isn’t lacking for physicality. While much of what Holmes is getting by on is based almost solely on his raw talents, he has plenty of it to work with. I get the feeling he won’t truly begin to utilize his reach appropriately until after a slick striker makes him pay for his defensive deficiencies, but his wrestling defense is more concerning against Pickett. Fortunately for Holmes, his grappling chops should be good enough to handle what Pickett has to offer. There is a path to victory for Pickett – especially if Holmes forgets to let his hands fly as he has been wont to do — but I think Holmes is at the stage where his improvements will make up the difference. Holmes via TKO of RD2
- For the last several years, Court McGee has been on a steady decline. While his legendary cardio was as good as ever, the wrestling that was so key to his early UFC success had hit a wall, having succeeded in just 2 of his 31 attempts. For whatever reason, McGee turned back the clock against Claudio Silva and re-discovered his ability to secure a takedown. Was that an aberration or is McGee breathing life into a career most considered on life support? Ramiz Brahimaj presents an interesting challenge in which to answer that question. An uber-aggressive and strong submission grappler, Brahimaj tends to burst out of the gates on fire, securing eight of his nine career wins via first round submission, including his first UFC win. However, his effectiveness has dropped significantly after exiting the first round, winning only one of his four fights that have left the opening frame. Even as McGee’s effectiveness has faded, he has only been finished once in his career and that came over five years ago against reputed striker Santiago Ponzinibbio. While few mention McGee’s grappling as a strength, it is grossly understated, at least in terms of his defensive abilities. Brahimaj will likely drop this contest if it leaves the opening round. McGee via decision
- There has been plenty of reasonss to question whether Charles Rosa is good enough to be fighting in the UFC at this stage of his career, but no one will ever question the Boston native’s heart and toughness, accepting this bout with TJ Brown on very short notice. A crafty grappler with a kick-heavy offense, Rosa’s entire UFC career has seen him trading wins and losses. Coming off a loss, he’s due for a win. However, even Randa Markos’ long streak of trading wins and losses came to an end and this feels like an appropriate time for Rosa. At this stage of his career, Rosa has proven too easy to hold down and though he likes to point out he made his UFC debut on about the same short amount of time, that was seven years ago when his body was younger and less banged up. Brown isn’t a world-beater by any means, but he is scrappy as hell and will not stop coming, whether it be on the feet or on the mat. Part of Brown’s scrappiness is a lack of attention to defense, meaning Rosa might be able to catch the fighter with a full camp in a sub. The likelihood of that happening is too chancy for my likings. Brown via decision
- For a long time, Cowboy Cerrone represented the mantra of “anyone, anywhere, anytime,” better than anyone. I vouch Brian Kelleher as the new face of that mantra. Not only is he fine with accepting Kevin Croom as a new opponent just days out from when he was previously scheduled to face Saidyokub Kakhramonov, he’s doing so at featherweight when his previous bout was at bantamweight… and it doesn’t feel like Kelleher is sacrificing much in terms of his chances of winning. It’s hardly a given Kelleher wins as Croom is a big featherweight and has almost as much experience as Kelleher in the cage. Plus, Croom has made his bones throughout his career as a crafty submission artist and Kelleher has dropped most of his career losses due to over-aggression on the mat and getting submitted. Of course, Kelleher has also picked up more wins in his career via submission than any other manner for the same reasons. At 35, Kelleher has taken a bit more of a mature approach as of late, taking more of a position-over-submission approach. Throw in he’s been the more dangerous striker of the two and I feel like Kelleher has this in the bag despite fighting a larger opponent on short notice as Croom is likely to fade late due to the late notice weight cut. Kelleher via submission of RD2
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