The Weekend Preview returns for an absolute monster of a weekend, with UFC and Bellator both featuring cards, WWE and WWE NXT offering their first big shows of the year, and HBO Boxing showcasing their first card of their Spring 2018 season. Let’s GO!
Friday, January 26, 2018
LFA 32 — Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino — Lake Charles, Louisiana, 9 p.m. ET (AXSTV)
The country’s biggest independent MMA promotion has gotten off to a roaring start so far in 2018, with the two previous cards producing noteworthy events in title fights. The notoriety of Legacy has gone up with many of its fighters being featured on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, as well as many of their recent fighters producing in the UFC. This time, LFA heads to one of their major strongholds in southern Louisiana, closing the fight with a banger of a doubleheader.
The main event will feature two big time middleweight prospects “All In” Brendan Allen (8-2), a local Louisiana boy who now trains at noted Rofusport Academy in Milwaukee, facing undefeated Anthony Hernandez (5-0) of California for the vacant LFA middleweight title. Allen is fighting for the fourth time in the promotion and this is his second crack at the title, having lost a five-round decision to Eryk Anders for the title last June. Anders has gone on to become one of the hottest prospects in the entire UFC. Allen bounced back with a second-round submission over top prospect in Chris Harris in August and now will face Hernandez, who will be making his promotional debut. Hernandez trains out of the MMA Gold team in California and has finished all five of his opponents by first round stoppage, the last four coming by guillotine choke…
While Allen trains at a renowned kickboxing gym, Allen is a talented grappler with five wins by submission, and while Hernandez has finished his last four fights with the guillotine, he tends to like to beat his opponents down before finishing with submissions. It is a very interesting fight and the winner will probably end up in the UFC soon.
The co-main event is equally interesting as DWTNCS vet Ryan “Superman” Spann (12-5) faces UFC veteran Alex Nicholson (9-4) at 205 pounds. Spann was kayoed in just 23 seconds by Karl Robertson on the show but he has bounced back two first round stoppage wins, including knocking TUF 23 veteran Myron Dennis in December. Meanwhile, Nicholson had a disappointing 1-3 run in the UFC and seemed drained fighting at 185 pounds. Nicholson looks rejuvenated at 205, knocking out both of his opponents in the first round. Given they are a starved for talent in the UFC 205 division, the winner getting a call up to the big show is not out of the question, especially since both guys can hit. This one might not last long…
Bellator 193 — Pechanga Resort and Casino — Temecula, California, 9 p.m. ET (Paramount Network)
Bellator presents their second show of the year with an interesting main event, with Lorenz Larkin (18-7, 0-2 Bellator) facing Fernando Gonzales (27-14, 7-1 Bellator) in a battle of seasoned welterweight veterans. It’s an interesting fight from two guys who both having something to prove and for different reasons, both desperately need a win.
Larkin jumped to Bellator last June while on a major roll, having four out of five in the UFC (the loss was a robbery to Albert Tumenov) and was considered to be a serious welterweight title threat before the jump. But since jumping to Bellator he lost a five-round decision to then Bellator welterweight champ Douglas Lima and was knocked out by Paul Daley, so he needs a win badly. Meanwhile Gonzales is coming off a big win over Brennan Ward in August, but his problem has been making weight. He’s missed weight twice before, one of the reasons that this fight was held at a catchweight of 180 pounds, but then Gonzales went and missed weight by .3 pounds…
The desperate nature of this fight makes it hard to predict. Logic tells you that Larkin’s hard leg kicks and good boxing should carry him, but who knows where his head is at after two losses. Gonzales may have an advantage here because of his style. It’s a very unpredictable fight.
Saturday, January 27, 2018
UFC on Fox 27 — Time Warner Arena — Charlotte, North Carolina, Prelims – 4 p.m. ET, Main Card – 8 p.m ET (UFC Fight Pass/FOX)
You can look at this card and think of it two ways. You can see it as one of the weakest Big Fox cards of the Fox era or look at this an opportunity for young fighters to get over on the biggest platform of their careers. Given the kind of a guy I am, I look at the latter.
The main event is an interesting one as forth ranked middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (24-5, 7-2 UFC) faces eighth ranked Derek Brunson (18-5, 8-3 UFC) in a rather interesting rematch. The two met in Strikeforce back in 2012 and Jacare flattened the much less experienced Brunson in less than a minute, but there is a lot of water under the bridge since then and the two could not be coming off more different experiences in their last two fights. Jacare was knocked out in the second round by Robert Whitaker last April in Kansas City, while Brunson went down to Brazil and scored the biggest win of his career, knocking out Lyoto Machida in one round.
Given the streak he’s on, the fact that he’s fighting in his home state of North Carolina, and he’s looking to avenge a loss, Brunson has a lot on the line here. One would think that Jacare can shake off the layoff and knockout loss in his last fight, but at thirty-three and with twenty-nine pro fights, one has to wonder if Souza might be a little long in the tooth. It is a fight with a lot of wild cards and that could make this very exciting.
The co -main is a battle of skilled, but flawed featherweights, as eleventh ranked Dennis Bermudez (16-7, 8-5 UFC) faces Team Alpha Male’s Andre Fili (17-5, 5-4 UFC). These are two guys who have massive potential but can’t seem to get a win streak going lately. Bermudez is coming off two losses, a knockout to the Korean Zombie and a close decision to Fili’s teammate Darren Elkins. Fili is coming off a solid win over Artem Lobov but has yet to win two fights in a row in the UFC. But Fili has lost mostly to wild strikers, and Bermudez is basic in that department. That may give Fili the advantage.
The fighter that may benefit the most from this platform is undefeated Gregor Gillespie (10-0, 3-0 UFC) who will be taking a big step up in class against Jordan Rinaldi (13-5, 1-1 UFC). Gillespie is a big-time wrestler who is coming off a Fight of the Night victory in his last fight against Jason Gonzales, who is the biggest lightweight I’ve ever seen. He has the look of a real championship contender and he can launch himself against local boy Rinaldi, who is coming off a submission victory last August in Mexico City. This one should be really fun.
After being shut out last week in Boston, the ladies return full force this week on the undercard. The biggest fight is Kaitlyn Chookagian, dropping down to 125 from 135 for the first time in the UFC, facing Italy’s Mara Romero Borella. whose coming off a big win against Kalinda Faria in October. Chookagian was once one of the top flyweights in the world before jumping up to 135 in the UFC, so it should be interesting to see how she looks here. At 115, Randa Markos (7-5, 3-4 UFC) will look to get back in the win column against Juliana Lima (9-4, 3-3 UFC) and in what should be a barnburner, Justine Kish (6-1, 2-1 UFC) will be moving up to flyweight to face Ji Yeon Kim (6-1-2, 0-1 UFC) who is moving down from 135. Both of these ladies really like to scrap, so this one should be real fun. And hopefully, Kish doesn’t shit on anyone this time.
NXT Takeover Philadelphia — Wells Fargo Center — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 p.m. ET (WWE Network)
Oh my what a joy this world be! The first Takeover of the year will launch from Philadelphia and in the main event, Johnny Gargano will challenge Andrade Cien Almas for the NXT Championship. It’s the culmination of an underdog story that has been playing out ever since Gargano’s DIY partner, Tommaso Ciampa, attacked him and abandoned him last May in Chicago. Gargano entered the mini tournament to become number one contender as a late replacement and somehow came out the winner. It’s serendipity that Gargano is challenging Almas, who beat him in Brooklyn to launch his own title run. Almas, formerly known as La Sombra, was one of the best wrestlers in the world before coming to NXT, and he’s finally proved it over the last six months. And it’s been a long time since a female performer had as much influence in male-female package as Celine Vega has had on Almas. They are a dynamite package.
Also on this card, the team formerly known as reDRagon, Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly will face the Authors of Pain for the NXT Tag Team Belts, while their Undisputed Era partner, Adam Cole will face Aleister Black in a No Holds Barred Match that has expectations that may be too damn high. In what should be a highly intriguing match, Ember Moon will defend her hard-fought for Women’s Title against Shayna Baszler, who used Kevin Owens esque bullying tactics to get William Regal to give her a very quick title shot. I haven’t looked forward to a Women’s Title match this much in a while.
HBO World Championship Boxing — The Forum — Inglewood, California, 10:30 p.m. ET (HBO)
The first HBO Boxing card of the year will launch two fighters who have been mainstays of the network for many years in separate fights. The main event will be long time junior welterweight contender Lucas Matthysse (38-4, 35 KOs), fighting at welterweight for only the second time, facing completely unknown Thai Fighter Tewa Kiram (38-0, 28 KOs) for a vacant welterweight title.
Matthysse is one of the best fighters in boxing to somehow never win a world title, having lost three times in junior welterweight title shots. The first two were close decisions to Zab Judah and Danny Garcia, but in his title match fifteen months ago, his face was destroyed in a knockout loss to Viktor Postal. After a ten-month layoff, Matthysse moved up in weight and knocked out Emmanuel Taylor in the fifth round. Meanwhile, Kiram has only fought once outside of Thailand and that was years ago. While he has fought some solid foreign competition, he has also fought some softies as well. But he’s a big welterweight and he seems to have some skills. But you can’t say anything about how he will do with Matthysse or how he will stand up to his punch. This is a complete wildcard fight.
The co-feature will be WBC/WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares (43-3, 27 KOs), one of the best fighters in the world in my eyes, defending his belts for the sixth time against Filipino American Mercito Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs). Linares has risen in the last two years from a what-might-have-been to the best lightweight in the world. He is undefeated for the last six years and is coming off one of his toughest wins to date, a close decision over England’s Luke Campbell. Linares is hoping for a big fight with WBO champion Mikey Garcia, but politics look to make that fight impossible.
Gesta is here to keep Linares busy. He too was once one of the best prospects in boxing and despite going 5-0-1 over the past five years, he has never quite recovered for his loss to Miguel Vasquez in 2012 in one of the most boring world title fights in modern boxing history. Much of it seems to be mental, but Gesta does not have the speed and power he seemed to display as a prospect. Anyways, this card is a showcase for two stars HBO wants to push. Hopefully, they do well, and we get a pair of good fights.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
WWE Royal Rumble — Wells Fargo Center — Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 p.m. ET, (WWE Network)
It’s finally here. The Road to WrestleMania begins with the Royal Rumble and we aren’t just making history tonight, we are making Herstory, with the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble. With eighteen women only announced for the match, there is no telling who else is gonna fill those 12 spots, which makes this match highly intriguing, especially with the slim, SLIM prospect of Ronda Rousey (she’s supposed to be in Columbia right now). But anyways, I could not be more excited that match.
The Men’s Rumble is still happening, and really, I have no idea whose gonna win. While I’m going to be safe and say Roman Wins (LOL), who knows what else is gonna happen in that match. Callups? Returns? Surprises? Whatever.
Also, we have a Triple Threat title match as Braun Strowman and Kane will challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Title, and with how he’s built over the past few weeks, Braun should win the title, but this is WWE. Whatever, you’ll pay to go see it. F**k you.