After the train wreck that was the last Fox show in Charlotte last month, the UFC gets back to on track this Saturday in Orlando with a main card full of excellent matchups, with the top three having an impact on the title chases of their respective divisions. The main event pits two top featherweight from rival camps against one another, and both guys can crack. In other words, we are getting back to business.
Mike Perry (11-2, 4-2 UFC) vs. Max Griffin (13-4, 1-2 UFC)
It is a home game for the Florida native Perry, who thanks to his outrageous comments on the mic and his severe knockout power in the ring, had become a cult hero after less than two years in the UFC. His in your face style has cemented himself as a star, even with his sometime one-dimensional attack in the cage, hence his second appearance on a FOX show in three months.
Perry is coming off a banger of fight in December in Winnipeg against Santiago Ponzinibbio, where he hurt the excellent Argentine several times, but Ponzinibbio superior conditioning and ground gamer secured him a close, but clear victory. This time Perry has a much more basic opponent in California’s Griffin, another good young prospect who loves to make exciting fights. Griffin has a solid wrestling background, but he has tended to like to use his fists in the cage, and that makes him made to order for Perry. Griffin showed a lot of heart in last fight, a loss Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, but you don’t need heart to beat Perry as much as you need defensive and a high fight IQ. I don’t think Griffin has that just yet…
Light Heavyweight Bout
Ovince Saint Preux (22-10, 10-5 UFC) vs. Ilir Latfi (13-5, 6-3 UFC)
A year can make a whole lot of difference, and no one proves that more than Ovince Saint Preux. At this time a year ago, OSP was on a three-fight losing streak, having lost to Jon Jones, been wiped out by Jimi Manuwa, and lost a narrow decision to Volkan Oezdemir, a fight that means a lot more a year later. OSP responded by going on absolute tear, winning three fights in a row, all by stoppage. He got both Marcos Rogerio De Lima and Yushin Okami with his signature Saint Preux Choke (Von Flue Choke) and then destroyed Corey Anderson with a third-round head kick at Madison Square Garden. Now he has gone from being on the verge of being released to on the verge of a title shot.
Standing in the way is Latifi, the muscled-up Swede is coming off perhaps the biggest win of his career, taking care of hyped Australian prospect Tyson Pedro in September. But Latfi will come into this fight with a seven-inch height disadvantage and while this has been the case many times in his UFC career for the 5’9 Latifi, OSP is especially good as using his height, reach, and leg length. Latifi has also had problems with tall strikers, having been stopped by Ryan Bader and Jan Blacowicz.
The ex-factor here is probably mental. The light heavyweight division is thin on top contenders and if OSP gets the win here, it’s not out of the question that he gets a title shot next. This is the point where mere that not serious contenders fail. OSP has not shown himself to be totally serious. Guess we’ll see on Saturday.
Jessica Andrade (17-6, 8-4 UFC) vs. Tecia Torres (10-1, 6-1 UFC)
This is a fight that I wasn’t too hot on at first, but the more you think about, the more it makes all the sense in the world. Both of these women are tremendous runs, and this fight is basically an elimination fight to get the next shot at the UFC Strawweight Title, once Thug Rose and Joanna Champion finish their bidness is Brooklyn.
Torres has been a bit frustrating in the past, due to a lack of finishes and not having the most exciting style, both in and out of the ring. But 2017 saw Torres turn things around a little, as she went 3-0, including scoring the first finish of her career against Juliana Lima and scoring the best win over her career, dominating Michelle Waterson in December in Detroit. The move from American Top Team to Colorado Springs, Colorado to be closer to her fiancée, UFC bantamweight contender Raquel Pennington. Torres seems to be more relaxed these days, both in and out of the cage, and that has served her well.
She will need all the help she can get against Andrade, who after decent run at bantamweight, dropped to 115 pounds and started killing women. While she was thoroughly outkickboxed by Joanna last May in Dallas, she bounced back by going to Japan and beating the absolute shit out of Claudia Gadelha, setting a new record for strikes landed in a strawweight fight.
On paper, these have the styles to create a good fight. Andrade is a 115 tank, coming forward and throwing seemingly endless combinations to the head and body. Torres isn’t dumb enough to stand right in front of Andrade and her while her throw combinations and move style is the right one to beat Jessica, Torres isn’t 5’6 with a strong jab like Joanna, and it remains to be seen if Torres can keep Andrade off her.
But there are some wild cards in this fight for me. I get the sense that Andrade may be looking past Torres to her next title shot, plus she went into her fight with Gadelha with a personal beef, which may have motivated her to come in and fight like a woman possessed. She may not have that here. Also coming into play is that Andrade fought Pennington, Torres’ fiancée, twice, with Pennington actually choking her out and sending her down to strawweight in their second meeting. That has to give Torres more confidence in training. This, my friends, may be a good old-fashioned pick em.
Featherweight Main Event
Jeremy Stephens (27-14, 15-13 UFC) vs. Josh Emmett (13-1, 4-1 UFC)
This main event is one of the more interesting ones I’ve seen a while, because there seems to be so many wild cards. First, you have Emmett, who went from being an unranked, somewhat anonymous lightweight prospect to one of the top five rated featherweights in the world, all the strength of a scary knockout of longtime featherweight contender Ricardo Lamas (he came in overweight, yuck) in December. Then there is Stephens, one of the longest tenured fighters currently in the UFC, riding a two-fight winning streak, including blasting out Doo Hoi Choi six weeks ago in St. Louis. You can see why the UFC saw a recipe for fireworks.
This fight comes down to several things. First-this is the time in story that Jeremy Stephens losses. He’s been in the UFC for over ten years and every time he looks like he’s about to make a title run, he loses. Second, it’s hard to know how good Emmett is. He came late notice, overweight, and starched a guy ranked really high. Those things happen. But is he really the elite type of fighter that has been able to handle Stephens? We really don’t know yet.
The prevailing thought seems to be that these two guys, from the rival Alpha Male and Alliance Camps, are going to come and bang. But it would be a who of Emmett, who has a solid wrestling background, to try to take down and wear out Stephens, and grind him out. I think he has the right mind and right style to do that.
Also, if you look at Emmett, he’s very awkward. He changes stances and levels back and fort and it’s hard to know where his attacks are coming from sometimes. That might be the best style against the straight forward bulldozer that is Stephens. But also, we never seen Emmett’s chin really tested. Few men can test a chin like Stephens. This fight is a freaking quandary. If there was any more confusion, both these guys took the fight on five weeks’ notice. Good luck picking this one.
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