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Game Matchups Preview #10: Bills @ Cardinals
Bills’ Passing Offense vs. Cardinals’ Passing Defense
Josh Allen is dominating this season. Through 9 games he has 2828 yards, 24 TDs, 68.9 Cmp %, and just 9 turnovers. And to be honest, he hasn’t broken math, he just simply has gotten better. Each game you see something else, one week its pocket presence, the next it’s vision, then it’s pre-snap adjustments, basically every week he adds a new wrinkle to a fold to the point where he is inarguably a top 5 QB in the NFL, at least in 2020. Bills fans have clamored for a franchise QB since Jim Kelly, and for the first time they can say “We got our guy”.
And this week “Our guy” goes up against a defense which ranks 10th in the NFL in Passer Rating against. For context, only the Dolphins rank higher (#8) making this one of the more difficult pass defenses Allen and the Bills have faced in 2020. The Cardinals have accomplished this mainly due to 2 studs in their secondary, Patrick Peterson (CB) and Budda Baker (S). Peterson is in the 10th season of a career where he has made the Pro Bowl 8 times and been named an All-Pro 3 times. A lockdown corner who has consistently shut down opposing #1s, Peterson will likely shade Diggs and should be an incredible matchup to watch Sunday. Then there is Budda Baker, who is a Darkhorse for DPOY. With a similar playstyle to Jordan Poyer, Baker is a safety that is everywhere and anywhere making plays on balls in the air or players in the backfield. As dominant a safety as you will see in the NFL in 2020 Baker is a more complete version of Jamal Adams capable of wreaking havoc at every level.
But I’m not too worried about the coverages that the Cardinals will throw at the Bills however, I am weary of their blitzing. The Cardinals blitz 40% (#5) of the time which is a bit misleading because they play a 3-4 but is still something to monitor. Haason Reddick is their primary blitzer blitzing 15% of his snaps, getting home 5 times for 5 sacks. The Bills will need to account for this unique blitz set and should get a boost there by the return of Mitch Morse (C). Assuming Morse comes back the Bills, for the first time, could have their #1 OL unit on the field. It’s going to be an offensive battle this week so anything will help but regardless of what is on the field, the Bills should take this matchup.
EDGE: Bills 👏 👏 👏
Bills’ Rushing Offense vs. Cardinals’ Rushing Defense
The Bills HAD to rush against the Patriots and didn’t NEED to rush against the Seahawks. 38 rushes for 190 yards against the Patriots turned into 19 for 34 yards against the Seahawks. The stats were not pretty but perfectly encapsulate the Bills’ gameplan against the Seahawks, pass, then pass again, and pass some more. Still the most interesting thing to come from this game was the split between Singletary and Moss. Moss played 56% of the snaps, to Singletary’s 46%, and had 9 rushes to Singletary’s 2. I honestly don’t know what to make of this spread but still believe this will be a 50/50 share moving forward making it a clear Sigfried & Roy situation instead of a Penn & Teller.
But if the Bills WANT to run this week, they should find some lanes. The Cardinals currently rank 25th in Y/A at 4.6, exposed by how much they blitz. I’ve talked about this in past posts that blitzing is a live by and die by mentality. If the blitz hits home a team is golden but if it misses you leave open lanes with 2nd level OL able to break large chunks. The Seahawks game is a great example of this as they were able to put up 200 yards on the ground against this Cardinals’ defense, led by their QB, Russel Wilson, who had 84. Blitzing teams often struggle against mobile QBs because it exposes them to rollouts in the event the blitz misses and while Josh Allen has not run as much this year, we all know he is still one of the premier ground threats in the NFL.
But if Allen isn’t moving with his legs this week, more than last, the Bills will need something from their RBs. And these RBs will run into an old friend in Jordan Phillips who mans the interior of this DL. Phillips frankly is having a mediocre season with only 10 tackles, 2 sacks, and 1 TFL through 8 games but as all Bills’ fans know embraces the “revenge” game as a chance to make his presence known. Still the Bills will need to rely on the interior of their OL to push back Phillips and Corey Peters (DT) to give their RBs space to run. If the Bills can move the ball consistently on the ground, you will see them put up a big score again this week.
EDGE: Bills 👏
Bills’ Passing Defense vs. Cardinals’ Passing Offense
It is an odd thing to say that your pass defense played incredibly well when they gave up 362 yards through the air, but that’s what I am going to say. MVP front runner Russel Wilson has had a sub 100 passer rating just 2 times this season and the Bills are one of them holding him to a rating of 94.6. There were 3 major causes of this. 1 – Tre White balled out, often shadowing DK Metcalf, giving up a passer rating of just 36.9 while having an interception. 2 – Jordan Poyer continued his dominant season with an interception and 10 tackles, he is on All-Pro watch by the way. 3 – The pass rush was great and constantly pressured Wilson to throw early. While one player deserved shade for most of the season, he doesn’t this week. A.J. Klein was the Defensive Player of the Week regardless of what the NFL says and made a MASSIVE impact this game. Give that man kudos.
And now the Bills go from MVP frontrunner to MVP Darkhorse in matchup with Kyler Murray. Murray is having an exceptional second season already with 2600+ yards and 27 TDs, in just 8 games, the 5’10” Murray is proving why the Cardinals selected him #1 overall in 2019. It also does not hurt that Murray has a three-headed monster at WR that rivals even the Bills trio. Larry Fitzgerald is still hauling in passes at the end of his career continuing to prove why he will be considered a top 5 WR all time. Deep Threat, Christian Kirk, is coming on as of late with 75+ receiving yards in 3 out of his past 4 games. Last is the star of the group, DeAndre Hopkins who I could argue is the most complete WR I have ever seen play football. Combining a physique built to play WR, the instincts & vision of a tactician, and pure talent few possess Hopkins has the ability to turn bad QBs good and good QBs great.
And Hopkins will be ½ of the best matchup of this game, Hopkins vs. Tre White. In the past 2 games where these 2 have been on the field Hopkins has racked up 153 yards, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the 2019 Wildcard game Tre White held Hopkins to just 29 yards going into the 4th quarter and in their 2018 regular season matchup held him to just 39 yards in the first 3 quarters. This is an interesting trend which may continue Sunday where Tre gets the better of Hopkins through 3 and Hopkins breaks through in crunch time. A cause for concern, if Micah Hyde is unable to go the over the top coverage will be weakened forcing Tre to play tighter than normal on arguably the best WR in the game.
EDGE: Cardinals 👏 👏 👏
Bills’ Rushing Defense vs. Cardinals’ Rushing Offense
Bills fans love to talk about comebacks so how about another one. I have been very critical of Tremaine Edmunds through the first half of the season, rightfully so, but his game against Seattle may be the start of something. While I’m not willing to call it a “comeback” just yet I am excited to see what he can do the remainder of the season. The 3rd year LB was all over the field racking up 11 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 TFLs. Edmunds seemed to be dissecting plays much faster and hitting the correct gap quickly allowing him to be a force over the middle. This week he will likely be in a similar role as last, spying Murray on pass plays, and moving forward on runs.
The Cardinals use a 2/3 split at RB with ex-Dolphin, Kenyan Drake, taking 66% of the carries and 3rd year RB Chase Edmunds taking the other 33%. Drake, a highly agile back can make multiple cuts and force defenders to miss. Often used in zone reads the threat Kyler Murray poses with his legs allows Drake to often get free and be 1 on 1 with opposing DBs. When this happens, Drake has consistently been able to gain big yardage. As for Chase Edmunds, while he is primarily a receiving back, he is a solid runner of the football. What stood out to me most watching Edmunds tape is just how good he is at breaking arm tackles. On nearly every play I watched when one defender got just an arm on Edmunds, he was either able to completely break it or fall forward for 3-4 more yards.
Still, as I alluded to, the key on the ground here is not the RBs but instead Kyler Murray. Behind an average at best OL, headlined by LT D.J. Humphries, Murray is often forced to scramble and when doing so has been deadly. Right now, Murray leads the NFL with 7.1 Y/A and is on pace to exceed 1000 yards on the ground. He has a unique ability to make defenders miss with top end speed to break away once getting to the open field. Edmunds will generally be tasked with the spy here but, as is tradition, Bills DEs must play contain. This is a game the Bills would love to have Matt Milano back for but since that can’t happen expect the Bills to almost exclusively play Big Nickel to ramp up the speed on the field in an effort to contain Murray.
EDGE: Cardinals 👏 👏 👏
Bills’ Special Teams vs. Cardinals’ Special Teams
Andre Roberts’ started the Bills Seahawks game with a 60-yard return, oh so close to proving my prediction right and scoring a TD. Roberts is the best return man in the NFL in 2020 and while he hasn’t put a TD on the board his ability to flip the field has been a weapon for Buffalo all season. Another weapon for Buffalo has been their punter, Corey Bojorquez, who is averaging just 2.3 punts per game but is averaging nearly 50 yards per punt. Then there is Tyler Bass who kicked 9 times against the Seahawks and made 8 of them, his only miss? A 61-yard field goal attempt. Live or Die by the Bass I say, but he has been thumping as of late.
The Cardinals use different players a KR and PR. At KR is RB Chase Edmunds who is averaging just 23 Y/R with a long of 42 on the season while WR Christian Kirk is handling PR duties with a long of 10 and a Y/R of just 2.8. Make no mistake, regardless of these players recent struggles they both have top end speed and if the opportunity arises could do damage. Punting for the Cardinals is Andy Lee who is having an awful season with a Y/P of just 43.9, net Y/P of 39.6, and an I20 % of just 13.8 (Bojo’s is 42.9). Last at kicker is Zane Gonzalez, who is 11/15 for FGs and 27/28 for XPs. With more misses under 50 yards (#3) than over 50 yards (#2) Gonzalez has been a liability for the Cardinals thus far in 2020.
EDGE: Bills 👏 👏 👏
Why We Will Lose
I’d liken the challenge of stopping Murray in 2020 to the challenge of stopping Lamar Jackson in 2019, with one caveat, Murray is a better passer. While the Bills bailed out against the Ravens last year to stop the run, and for the most part held Lamar Jackson in check, they can’t do the same against the Cardinals. Yes, Murray will run the ball and likely pick up big yardage from time to time, but it is his passing ability that will set him apart and he should be able to slice up a secondary which has struggled through 2020. Hopkins will be the focus of the Bills but if they lose over the top protection Murray has shown an affinity to hit the deep ball to Christian Kirk. This could be a long day for Buffalo and a great day for Kyler.
On defense the Cardinals have ball hawks throughout their secondary and big hitters up front. As Bills’ fans saw against the Titans & Chiefs turnovers can be the deciding factor in games, and that could be just what happens here. Budda Baker and Patrick Peterson will both challenge WRs for the ball, but it is the pressure on Allen that has me worried. Reddick will come at Allen on a unique set of blitzes and if able to reach the Bills’ QB will be coached to rip the ball out. At the end of the day though it is the ex-Bill that has me most worried. Jordan Phillips has something to prove here, he wants to prove the Bills should have paid him, and the best way to do that is to wreck this game and push the Bills to 7-3.
Why We Will Win
At this point in the season the MVP order is likely 1 – Aaron Rodgers, 2 – Patrick Mahomes, 3A – Russel Wilson, 3B – Josh Allen. Allen has been the entire Bills’ offense and is finding ways to get everyone of his receivers the ball. Stefon Diggs will challenge an older Patrick Peterson in a fun matchup to watch, John Brown will force an Over Bracket Coverage and should find some success down field, and Cole Beasley will continue to do what he does best and be that pressure release valve for Josh Allen. Sure, the run game could get going but at the end of the day this is Josh Allen’s world and we are all just living in it.
On defense the Bills may finally be jelling as they held the Russel Wilson led Seahawks in check. Success in that game came from the Bills’ stars; Tre White, Jordan Poyer, & Tremaine Edmunds, and from their role players, like A.J. Klein. With this defense slowly rounding back into form they can be expected to get better and better every week. Bad news for the Cardinals because if this Bills’ defense can be 75% of what they were in 2019 the Cardinals may just be running into one of, if not the, most complete team in the entire NFL.
Prediction: Bills 34 – Cardinals 31
As I write this Vegas has the Cardinals at -2.5 which makes this a pick’em (Home field is basically an auto -3). I was wrong last week in picking the Bills to lose and the crow I had to eat was delicious, I won’t be wrong this week. The Bills’ offense is most dangerous when they are spread out into 4 WR threats where Josh Allen is one of the most imposing figures in the NFL. I expect him to have another big game in this shootout and then fully expect talking heads like Nick Wright to say something along the lines of “Well it was just the Cardinals, do it against a team like the Steelers.” The Bills leave the desert 8-2 and get some much deserved rest heading into their bye week.
UFC Fight Night Sandhagen v Moraes Fight Predictions
I hope every single one of you is having a good week, and if not, I hope it gets better.
This is a chunky card, not too huge but getting there. Some excellent fights but also a whole lot of debuts and a whole lot of new faces which makes predicting kinda difficult. But with that aside, lets get down and dirty.
I'm thinking of adding some more stats, but i've yet to decide what kind of stats. I'm not a numbers guy but I know a lot of you are, so let me know what you're most interested in, in terms of stats.
(c) - Champ
(D) - Debut
FLS - Fight Lose Streak
FWS - Fight Win Streak
NS - No Streak
(#x) - Rank in Division
Tagir Ulanbekov (#1 Russia) (D) (12-1-0, 3 FWS) v Bruno Silva (10-5-2, 2 FLS) - A very interesting debuting fighter coming from Russia, I fully expect some form of fireworks in this fight. Ulanbekov is coming in as a hot prospect, and for very good reasons, he is incredibly fast to work on the ground, if he sees a potential choke or a submission, he goes for it, and it’s not like he’s choking out cans or anything, he’s facing opponents who have 13 wins and 3 losses, people who have a legitimate career in MMA, and that alone makes me think this is the perfect time to debut in the UFC, we need to beef up the Flyweight division, and this is a perfect addition to the roster. Silva is also a profoundly good grappler, with a heavy focus on takedowns and taking control on the ground, it’s unfortunate that in both of his UFC fights, he got absolutely dominated by both Dvorak and Taha. I don’t see Silva getting the upper hand on the ground in this bout. If he manages to land a takedown on Ulanbekov, he needs to keep active or he’s probably going to get caught into a limb lock or an arm triangle because Ulanbekov is a very long and lanky fighter and so it would be easier for him to slip in an arm for a choke or set up a triangle off the back. But i’m no psychic so I really don’t know how this fight will go. I got Ulanbekov on this one though, an incredibly interesting debutant.
Ulanbekov via Sub R1
Tracy Cortez (7-1-0, 7 FWS) v Stephanie Egger (D) (5-1-0, 3 FWS) - I don’t really think there’s much going on in this fight. Cortez is a grinder. She doesn’t have the cleanest striking in the game, she might look incredibly wild, but all of that is to set up a takedown or initiate a clinch situation in which she can somewhat easily control her opponent. Cortez is physically very strong and that no doubt helps with her takedown and wrestling. That’s probably going to be her gameplan coming into this fight, get in close with a flurry then initiate a clinch. I don’t expect a finish. Egger is a very new fighter and I haven’t watched a lot of her videos yet, but from what I could see from two years ago, her striking was much like a teenagers bedroom, messy and depressing, it was very slow, and although it did open up her opponent to a takedown, that’s not gonna work in the UFC and I hope she’s refined her striking capabilities since then, i’m sure she has. I have Cortez on this one. I’m not gonna go into specifics into what she’s better at because frankly I have no clue, but in my opinion she’s got this.
Cortez via UD
Giga Chikadze (10-2-0, 5 FWS) v Omar Morales (10-0-0, 10 FWS) - I believe Morales is dropping down to 145 so that will be interesting. Chikadze is a very proficient kickboxer who doesn’t rely on overwhelming his opponent with vicious and wild combos, he is a patient fighter who waits for a perfect opening. He is great defensively but also very choosy, you’ll notice his diversity in targets, he’ll never throw the same thing twice. If there is one thing that i’m sure will land, it’s his kicks, his front kick and leg kicks are accurate and hit with impact. He is a very good kickboxer, plain and simple, and that’s already a big selling point for me. Morales is an undefeated prospect who has proven to use twice in the Octagon that his striking is excellent and can not be underestimated. His methodical movements and feints to read his opponent is imperative to his gameplan and he has such a diverse range of striking, his step in head kick not only covers a huge distance, but it lands, even if its on the glove its enough to back up his opponent and keep them guessing. This is a fun match up. Both fighters are at their prime and frankly i’m not sure who is going to win this one, we have yet to see Morales at Featherweight so already that makes me wonder how drained he will be, if he will be. I’m going with Chikadze on this one. He’s going to open up with strong leg kicks and negate Omars ability to explode and cover huge distances.
Chikadze via UD
Ali AlQaisi (8-4-0, NS) v Tony Kelley (6-2-0, NS) - This is a fun one. AlQaisi is a fairly well rounded fighter who had a very competitive fight against Irwin Rivera. There was a lot of energy and cardio used during this fight, so many explosive moves and not all of them were effective, so it’s very hard to tell where he is on a skill level. He still seems like a developing fighter so there is no doubt still a lot for him to work on, with that said though, he is powerful, his right hand, when it lands, it lands hard, nut Rivera isn’t exactly known for moving away from danger, and i suppose in this case, Kelley isn’t either. Kelley fought a wild and exciting fight against Kamaka earlier this year, it was the first fight of the event and both fighters stepped up to the occasion and made every fight fan tune in. It was a beautiful and violent fight, but it did make me wonder how far Kelley will go in the UFC. His defences aren’t exactly there, he covers up but he doesn’t move, he clashes and somewhat hopes to be the one standing after the end of those exchanges. He is a very fast and wild striker and he is no doubt going to make a solid career in the UFC, but he needs to be patient, especially in this fight where AlQaisi can explode and land some solid takedowns, takedowns which from what I can see, are an issue for Kelley. I should also note that Kelley is moving down a weight class, which means a larger weight cut and potentially a more drained Kelley. If he can safely cut weight and maintain his power and speed, then i’m all for Kelley winning this one. It’s just a difficult fight to predict overall.
Kelley via KO R3
Impa Kasanganay (8-0-0, 8 FWS) v Joaquin Buckley (10-3-0, NS) - Kasanganay has a very interesting stance when he fights, he stays quite low and loads up his punches, so expect him to come out low and looking for an overhand or a left-right hook combo. He doesn’t exactly have much head movement or raise any defenses, he’s more of a pressure fighter, someone who is constantly moving forward, eating shots only to throw them back with extra spice. From what I could see in his fight against Maki Pitolo, he loves his left hook to the head, followed by a straight right to the body, then finishing with a left hook to the head, so his ability to change target mid combo will be troublesome for any opponent because either way, he’s gonna land something, and that’s exactly why he stays so low when he moves around, such explosive and accurate movements. REally my biggest worry with Kasanganay is his absorption rate, the dudes a punch sponge, and in terms of longevity, it ain't the right way to fight, especially against a walking cloud like Buckley. Buckley has a heavy reliance on power and forward momentum. He will hop into range and launch an overhand left, a dangerous move, but as we saw with his fight against Holland, all it takes is one well placed shot and Buckley backs off. I don’t know who is going to win the exchanges coming into this particular fight since both fighters tend to explode in bursts, and with Impas tendency not to move his head, he’s a target waiting to get hit. I can only hope that Impa has implemented some form of head movement drills during his camp or else Buckley will find his mark and shut down Impa. This is an interesting fight simply because I can see it going either way, but I like what I see from Impa.
Kasanganay via KO R3
Rodrigo Nascimento (8-0-0, 8 FWS) v Chris Daukaus (9-3-0, 2 FWS) - Nascimento is a submission artist who has completely shut down Don’tale Mayes, despite being the smaller fighter, it was very clear that Nascimento has worked incredibly hard to master his ground game and his takedown proficiency. What I loved about Nascimento was his attitude, he didn’t back down from the strikes of Mayes, and just stayed in his face. Now, this is heavyweights so its very clear that anyone at heavyweight can strike and has knockout capabilities, but not everyone has the masterful ground game like Nascimento. I’m not saying he’s Werdum levels of great on the ground, but he’s still a huge threat to pretty much any heavyweight that is allergic to any form of ground based fighting. Daukaus from what I can see, has pretty decent striking and great timing, especially with that right hand. He is not technical by any means, but he is also fairly young in terms of experience and knowledge and i’m sure that over time he will improve. I just don’t see Daukaus getting the upper hand here, the threat of the takedown will always be on Daukaus’s mind, and when fighters think one dimensionally like that “I gotta stop the takedown, i can’t get to the floor” they eat knuckles. I feel like Nascimento will overload the senses of Daukaus and end up taking the fight to the ground, maybe even rock him by faking a takedown.
Nascimento via Sub R2
Tom Breese (11-2-0, NS) v KB Bhullar (D) (8-0-0, 8 FWS) - These are some very tall Middleweights. Breese in his early career was a very formidable submission artist, and over time has racked up quite the resume of knockouts as well. In fact his only decision win in the UFC was against Keita Nakamura back in forever ago. Breese has faced some incredibly tough opponents and I truly believe that experience and his level of competition far exceeds that of the newcomer, no disrespect to Bhullar. Breese hasn’t been the most active fighter on the roster, in fact his last win was against Dan Kelly back in 2018. Bhullar is a tall, lanky middleweight who is on a fairly decent undefeated streak, the only thing that makes me mildly disappointed in his record, is the fact the he hasn’t fought the best of the best. Sure, he’s fought experienced fighters, but none on the level of Breese, so I feel like this will be a relatively large step and a challenging one at that. If Sherdog isn’t trippin on something, then I believe he also has a fight scheduled next month for DWCS, so he’s certainly getting his name out there. Bhullar seems fairly well rounded, with a variety of wins on his record, but he’s got quite a challenge ahead of him and I don’t see him winning very easily. Breese is a challenging fighter for anyone and it’s gonna be an interesting, competitive fight. I got Breese on this one.
Breese via KO R2
Youssef Zalal (10-2-0, 4 FWS) v Ilia Topuria (D) (8-0-0, 8 FWS) - An interesting start to the main card. Zalal has slowly become a fighter that I have come to respect. He may not have any finishes in the UFC but he always puts on a spectacular performance and always introduces his opponents to the nasty style he has. He is incredibly fluid on the feet, and if you watched his last fight against Barrett a few weeks ago, you’ll know exactly why I love him so much, that spinning back kick in the first round? Cleaner than lemon pledge. Zalal is a perfect example of a striking prodigy that still has years ahead of him to learn and develop and that’s exactly why he’s going to go very far in the UFC. His footwork is impeccable and allows him to subtly switch stance and mask his incoming attacks with just a whole lot of feints and movement. Everything you love about kickboxing or striking based martial arts, you’ll love about Zalal. He has also won all 3 of his UFC fights this year, so I don’t see any slowing down from him. Topuria is on a very strong streak at the moment and by the looks of things is a substantial danger on the ground, 7 submission victories makes it pretty clear to me that he’s most comfortable on the ground and will most likely look to avoid any striking exchanges when fighting Zalal. Now, Topuria is a somewhat late replacement, but that shouldn’t matter too much because it gave both fighters a little over a week to prepare for the upcoming bout, which is much better than the typical covid-cancellations in which its an overnight change where both fighters think “who da fook is that guy”. This is an interesting fight, and i’ve got my eyes on Zalal winning this one, the year 2020 is made for Zalal, and he has certainly proven to us time and time again that he’s the next gen fighter that everyone wants to see.
Zalal via UD
Tom Aspinall (8-2-0, 4 FWS) v Alan Baudot (D) (8-1-0, 2 FWS) - I fucking love this. Aspinall had his octagon debut a few weeks ago and he absolutely blew me away with his outstanding performance against Jake Collier. A knee to the body, followed by a one two combo within the span of 1.5 seconds, this dude isn’t a normal fat blob of a heavyweight that we’re used to seeing. He’s very fast, very powerful, and fucking huge. Now, I don’t want to overhype him because anything can happen and if there’s one thing that I saw that might be an issue for Aspinall, that’s his head movement, he might have too much of a reliance on counters and offensive, and not enough on avoidance and defense. But that’s just a quick ass analysis from a very short fight. Aspinall is someone you simply cannot miss, and that’s not a double entendre. Baudot is a debuting fighter coming from a strong record of 7 knockouts, although some of his opponents raise some sort of a red flag, especially when he fought some can called Yuto Nakajima. Baudot seems to be given a jump start and an easy path to the harder fights, but that’s not gonna fly in the UFC and when you have someone like Aspinall on the other side of the Octagon, you’re going to have to let everything fly loose. I don’t really know what Baudot has to offer that Aspinall hasn’t already seen. Shit i’m just pretty excited to see Aspinall again so soon. Ride this train whilst you can guys.
Aspinall via KO R1
Markus Perez (12-3-0, NS) v Drecis Du Plessis (#1 South Africa) (14-2-0, 2 FWS) - I have no idea what to think of this one. Perez has been semi-active during his UFC career, and with a rough loss against Wellington Turman, it’s hard for me to tell where he is at mentally and physically. His last win way back when Cejudo just fought Dillashaw… Feel old yet? Perez is probably going to be fighting differently, he was a proficient grappler and a wild striker, but perhaps throughout the past year or so he’s calmed down a bit and perhaps found himself a proper style that doesn’t tax on the cardio or is more effective. Now onto the interesting debuting fighter in Du Plessis. Du Plessis has a 100% finish rate and at a young age of 26 he isn’t showing signs of fatigue, he has been a dominant fighter throughout his whole career, 14 finishes, 16 including losses, but all that means is he’s never had a fight go the distance, and I doubt that’ll be the case here. Not exactly a deep dive analysis I know, but I think Du Plessis is going to show us something spectacular.
Du Plessis via KO R2
Ben Rothwell (38-12-0, 2 FWS) v Marcin Tybura (#14) (19-6-0, 2 FWS) - This is gonna be a brawl. Rothwell is one of the most experienced heavyweights in the UFC, he’s up there amongst the likes of Overeem and Aleksei Oleinik. His experience is no doubt a key advantage coming into this fight, but he also has disgusting power. Especially when he aims for the nuts. The Skyscraper lost his soul that day. Rothwell is a powerhouse and whilst he doesn’t necessarily throw volume, he does have excellent timing with his strikes, he’s methodical and waits for the perfect time to land an overhand or a quick little combo. The only way I see him not really succeeding is on the ground, and Tybura is an incredible grappler, speaking of which… Tybura is on a relatively decent streak at the moment, granted it’s against relatively forgotten fighters, but that aside, he’s facing a legend and long standing heavy hitter, and I can say with some confidence that he’s going to be looking to grapple, and grapple a lot, we’ll see some long, drawn out ground game stuff going on, both fighters will probably be exhausted by Round 3, but in my opinion, Tybura will probably get the most advantage coming into this fight, because as I said very early on in this prediction post, every heavyweight can swing and land, but not every heavyweight has excellent wrestling capabilities. Tybura is that rare fighter that has the ability to simply take the fight to the ground. Tybura is I believe an underdog so if you want money, this feels like the safest underdog of the card to bet on. I got Tybura on this one. Feel free to bet on Rothwell because he has stupid power, but Tybura in my opinion has the tools.
Tybura via Sub R2
Edson Barboza (20-9-0, 3 FLS) v Makwan Amirkhani (16-4-0, NS) - Does Barboza need any introduction? If you’re new to this sport, then you’re about to watch one of the most insane kick-based strikers in the history of the UFC. The power and speed, and the sheer simplicity of Barboza's kicks still baffle me, how can something so simple look so incredible. It’s like a pizza, all it has is cheese, tomato sauce and maybe pepperoni, but holy hell it looks divine. That’s essentially Barboza’s kicks, it’s hella pizza. Now, unfortunately, Barboza is on a rough losing streak, but they’re also wins in a sense because those fights were absolute bangers and he stood his ground and fought like a champ throughout all three fights. Barboza seems to not do very well on his back pedal and I feel like Amirkhani will make use of that. If Amirkhani throws hands whilst coming forward, that negates the kicks of Barboza completely, you can’t kick and step backwards, you don’t only lose balance, but you also lose significant power, so even if you do land, nothing really big happens. Amirkhani is a very well rounded fighter with a very heavy focus on grappling, there really hasn’t been a fight where he doesn’t take down his opponent and mauls them completely. He isn’t the most active striker but that doesn’t mean he won’t strike. He needs to set up those takedowns somehow, and I know trading with Barboza isn’t a smart idea, but you can be smart about setting up a double leg, heck he could even catch a kick if he’s fast enough, either way, this feels like a traditional grappler v striker bout and it’s a perfect co-main. I don’t know who I have coming into this one. I am a huge, huge Barboza fan and personally I feel like he’s got this.
Barboza via KO R2
Marlon Moraes (#3) (23-6-1, NS) v Cory Sandhagen (#4) (12-2-0, NS) - A great main event. Moraes needs no introduction, he has been on the top of the division for a very long time, and for a very good reason. Moraes is a magnificent striker, with sniper-like accuracy and he has such grace when he throws combinations. He also has significant power and he’s dangerous at all ranges, but especially in the clinch… His knees are masterful, it’s clear that it’s his main weapon because his clinch hold is strong enough to land knee, after knee, after knee, without a break. Moraes is a savage, plain and simple. He’s coming into this with some anger though because despite winning against Aldo, Aldo fought for the belt before him, it makes zero sense and it was a controversial decision. Sandhagen was on the receiving end of an incredibly quick submission by Aljamain Sterling, and we didn’t get a chance to see Sandhagens incredibly slick kickboxing. Sandhagen also has a very methodical movement style, a lot of switches that is very fast, and he just constantly changes, always changing his stance, giving his opponent different looks and with a wide variety of attacks, it’s clear that Sandhagen will be a challenge for anyone willing to trade, which is perhaps why Aljamain went to grapple instantly. I don’t know who is actually going to win this one. I’m 51/49 leaning on Moraes simply because of his experience and that clinch game could easily shut down the distance striking of Sandhagen, but on the other hand, Sandhagen will probably stick to a certain range to avoid any attempts at a clinch from Moraes. Sandhagen is coming in at a large physical advantage, with a huge reach advantage that could compliment his kicks and his ability to weave in and out of danger effortlessly. This is a great fight, and a fight like this isn’t easy to predict. Probably an unpopular pick but let’s do this.
Sandhagen via KO R3
Holy shit that's longer than I expected. I forgot to do a word count prior to copy and pasting from my drive.
Anyway, there it is!
I hope that there are no cancellations, because what happens with cancellations post-prediction is that the fight is null and void unfortunately, because there's just not enough time to re-write stuff. I gotta have my days off too ya know.
Anyway, Feel free to start a discussion down below, more than happy for a nice chat :)
If you would like to follow me on twitter, you can find me @Slayer_Tip or if you want, add me on discord and we can have a super friendly chat about all things MMA: Slayertip#7013
Until then, it's been a pleasure writing for you lovely people, take care of yourselves :)