Some of the recent PPV’s have been top heavy, leaving the prelims a bit on the skinny. UFC 273 is on the bulky side, but with potential caveats. While the organization is putting uber prospect Ian Garry in the featured position, there are two other contests on the prelims that could reasonably be Fight Night main events. Granted, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Marcin Tybura, nor Aspen Ladd and Raquel Pennington would be highly anticipated five round fights, but they would do the trick. It helps that each of them have headlined a card at one point or another. However, both of those fights have the potential to be major stinkers, which is why the anticipation for them isn’t sky high. Regardless, kudos to the UFC for another fat PPV card.
For the early prelims preview, click here.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura, Heavyweight
There may not be a more simplistic fighter on the entire UFC roster than Rozenstruik. A former professional kickboxer, Rozenstruik throws clean punches and kicks with plenty of power. If only he threw those strikes with greater frequency, he might stand a chance of winning a decision. Fortunately, when I say Rozenstruik throws with power, I wasn’t kidding. The native of Suriname has legit one-punch power that puts him in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division in terms of finishing ability. The issue is Rozenstruik tends to remain static for long stretches. If his opponent has any idea of how to utilize angles and distance, it isn’t difficult to outpoint Rozenstruik given his lack of volume.
I realize I’m making that sound easier than what it actually is. Tybura isn’t a bad striker, especially by heavyweight standards. He’s actually pretty damned good. But he isn’t the technician Ciryl Gane is, the last person to outwork Rozenstruik on the feet. No one is expecting that to happen, but that doesn’t mean Tybura isn’t without hope. Tybura has been able to climb back into the top ten of the division after a poor stretch thanks to his high fight IQ and ability to do a little bit of everything.
Tybura will need every bit of that fight IQ. While Rozenstruik is simplistic, part of his strategy is neutralization. His takedown defense has proven to good and his physical strength has made him more than just a handful to deal with in the clinch. Alistair Overeem may have been able to control Rozenstruik for long stretches in the clinch, but Rozenstruik proved to be more productive in that arena. Tybura has relied heavily on grinding away on his opposition during his recent winning streak, but much of that came on the back of his ability to hold his opponents down and pound away on them. Even if Tybura can get Rozenstruik down, holding him down hasn’t been an easy task.
If I knew for a fact the fight was going to go the distance, I’d be picking Tybura. Even as Rozenstruik has picked up his volume by throwing low kicks with greater frequency, it’s doubtful he would match Tybura. The problem is, Rozenstruik has the greater range and Tybura has questions about his chin. To be fair, Tybura has eaten some heavy shots in recent contests, but he also had that stretch where the lights went out in three out of his five contests. While Rozenstruik is too patient to win a point fight, he knows what he is looking for and usually finds it. When it lands, it’s almost always lights out. Rozenstruik via KO of RD1
Aspen Ladd vs. Raquel Pennington, Women’s Bantamweight
It’s amazing to see how quickly the stock on Ladd has fallen. The California native was once seen as the best candidate to dethrone longtime champion Amanda Nunes at 135 before Juliana Pena succeeded in that endeavor. Now, some are writing off the 27-year-old as a has-been whose best days are already behind her. While most would agree that is presumptuous, the primary reason for that is her repeated botched weight cuts. Not only do the continued botches leave her future at bantamweight in question, but the question of how much damage she has done to her body in the process. That doesn’t even address the continued questions of her mobility as she didn’t look right in her first fight after surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL. Was it the bad weight cuts, her knee, or a combination of both?
If Ladd is right, there is no denying her talents. Though her frame isn’t huge for bantamweight in comparison to most of the other ladies who populate the UFC’s roster at 135, Ladd’s physical strength allows her to overwhelm most of her opponents. Much of that is due to her raw tenacity, allowing her to make up for the notable deficits in her overall technique. No, she isn’t the cleanest wrestler, but Ladd usually gets the fight to the mat if she puts her mind to it. She’s terrible defensively on the feet too, but her opponents have a tendency of shying away after she connects cleanly, a testament to her power. However, none of those factors were there in her flat performance against Norma Dumont. It should be noted the fight was at 145, but does that explain her inability to show fire?
Pennington has been continually overlooked throughout her UFC career. Not the most physically gifted fighter, Pennington has utilized grit and determination to the extreme. Though there aren’t any major holes in her boxing technique, it isn’t exceptionally tight either. Where Pennington makes up for that is her ability to make tactical changes throughout her fights, swinging the momentum in her favor the later a fight goes.
What appears to be the most important factor for Pennington in this contest is her durability. Despite having been in several grueling battles, only Nunes has managed to put her away. On the flip side, Ladd has finished every one of her victories that came against someone not named Sijara Eubanks. It isn’t that Ladd can’t outwork Pennington; she’s just unlikely to. That said, Ladd can put Pennington away given she has the most vicious GnP in women’s MMA. But Ladd has too many questions to answer given her most recent performance before I can trust her against someone the level of Pennington. Pennington via decision
- Given he’s an outspoken prospect out of Ireland, it was inevitable Ian Garry would receive comparisons to Conor McGregor. Whether Garry is worthy of those comparisons is yet to be determined, but the results thus far have been pretty good. With a long frame, pinpoint accuracy, and KO power, Garry is an offensive dynamo on the feet. However, he has the traditional tall man defense that tends to be problematic. Jordan Williams did a pretty good job exposing that in Garry’s UFC debut before Garry turned out his lights. Given Darian Weeks has more raw power than Williams, that could be a major problem if Weeks is able to connect cleanly. However, Weeks is a wrestler at heart and doesn’t have the range of the much longer Garry. That also leaves open the possibility of Weeks ragdolling Garry as the Irishman’s wrestling hasn’t been tested, at least not against a credible wrestler. Garry is a slick grappler and plus scrambler, so it wouldn’t be a shock for him to find the back of Weeks. Garry deserves to be the favorite, but not the level he’s currently at in the betting books. I’m picking Garry, but it shouldn’t be seen as the massive upset I’m sure the commentators would sell it as if it were to happen. Garry via decision
- When someone has been on the UFC roster for six years, you’d think you have a good feel for them. That isn’t the case for Mickey Gall. That isn’t to say his strengths and weaknesses aren’t known. He’s a solid grappler with a knack for finding his opponents back and either putting them to sleep or making them tap with his patented RNC. Gall has even shown some power on the feet. Unfortunately for him, he’s also clunky in his striking and has never developed the wrestling arsenal to take advantage of his awesome BJJ. The question is how good Gall is. One fight, he looks like he’s going to become a world beater, the next he appears he would barely be scrapping by career regional journeymen. To make matters worse, this contest is against another question mark in Mike Malott. Malott looked awesome in his most recent contests, finding submissions in less than two minutes. The issue is those are his only fights in the last five years. In other words, there is less than three minutes of footage of him over the last five years. No matter what, Malott is expected to have a sizeable advantage on the feet with his Muay Thai stylings. The question is whether being the smaller fighter will work against him against the bulky Gall, giving Gall the edge he needs to get the fight to the mat. What has me leaning towards Gall is his advantage in high level competition and his durability, though I admit I’m picking him with very little confidence. Gall via submission of RD2
* Update: Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura has been cancelled due to Tybura illness
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