While most of the MMA world has focused on the Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo main event for UFC 189 = there are other fights on the card. Some really good fights in fact including the co-main event between Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler. I will be doing a complete breakdown of that fight next week but there are several other fights I am looking forward to on this card.
The three that have me the most excited are; Matt Brown versus Tim Means, Brad Pickett versus Thomas Almeida and Gunnar Nelson versus Brandon Thatch. Each of these fights is an intriguing and exciting matchup. They also have potential future title implications.
This is one fight during which the judges can take a break. These two veterans have a combined 63 fights and only 13 decisions between them. Means has 20 of his wins by stoppages and Brown checks with 17 of his own.
If you play word association with the average MMA fan and you mention Matt Brown the first thing they will think and say is violence. His 12 KO/TKO wins have earned him that reputation, that and his nasty elbows. Brown simply has some of the best standing elbows in the UFC today, they are both cutting and powerful.
He enters this fight on a two fight losing streak but those losses were to Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler. Before that he had rattled off a seven fight win streak in the division with six of them coming via KO/TKO. A win does not get him a title shot but it keeps him close to one a loss and he will start to fade into gatekeeper status.
Brown has a tough fight in front of him in Means, who has put together a four fight win streak of his own since dropping his first fight back to the UFC. When Means originally competed in the UFC he fought at lightweight. At 6’2″ his was extremely tall for the weight class but his size also made the cuts difficult.
Since moving up to welterweight he has looked great and finished the tough George Sullivan via a submission in his last fight. Before that he was seen TKO’ing Dheigo Lima. A win over Brown would by the cherry on his win streak and get him into the title discussion. Means would need a couple more wins but he could get there and it needs to start here. It would do a lot for him if he could get the finish.
When you look at this fight Brown is the favorite but Means has the kind of awkward style that makes him a difficult matchup. Means also has some pretty nice elbows of his own
This is a potentially great fight between two aggressive well-rounded fighters. I look for a lot of violent action much of coming via their elbows.
This is a classic right out the Old West with the older aging gunslinger coming up against the new young gun. Pickett is moving back up to bantamweight right before moving down to flyweight.
Despite his “One Punch” nickname Pickett actually has more submissions that TKO/KO’s. He does have good power in the standup though and can still hurt someone if he catches them clean. Pickett will have a tough time catching Almeida.
“Thominhas” is one slick customer both on his feet and on the ground. He is able to channel the famed aggression of the Chute Boxe but with a more clinical approach. He is a fighter that I have been excited about since first seeing him in Legacy Fighting Championship.
Almeida is an excellent athlete, he combines that with an intelligent approach to his fights and has uncanny power and accuracy. When you watch him he looks more complete than a fighter should be at only twenty-three-years-old. Future champion is often associated with him and it easy to see watching him in the octagon. He has that something special you see in the great ones.
Pickett is the perfect test for Almeida at this stage of his UFC career. If he is truly a future champion then he should be able to get the win here.
This fight gives me goosebumps, both fighters seem like really nice guys in their interviews and pre-fight features, but are just nasty inside of it. Again, two stone-cold finishers here in Nelson and Thatch as they have 23 wins and 22 finishes between them.
Another element that makes this fight so juicy is that they both are coming off of tough losses and will be looking to make a statement. Nelson dropped a five round SD to Rick Story while Thatch lost to Benson Henderson via a Rear-Naked-Choke.
Each of them had been working their ways up into future title talk. It is what happens when you are able to finish people in the UFC early in your career. All too often top prospects enter the UFC with pretty records and high finishing rates only to struggle and often times get quickly cut. That was not the case for either Nelson nor Thatch.
Nelson quickly won three of his first four fights in the UFC by submission before dropping the last one to Story. As impressive as Nelson’s start in the UFC has been Thatch’s has been explosive.
Thatch needed less than a round in his first two fights. He stopped Justin Edwards via knees and punches. Thatch brutalized Edwards with knees to the body and head while mixing in punches. In his next fight against Paulo Thiago it was a perfect knee to the liver that ended the fight.
This fight is also a nod to the classic grappler versus striker with a modern twist on it. Nelson will definitely want to get the fight to the ground where he will have the advantage. He is a good striker and very unorthodox but he is a better grappler. Nelson can win a standup fight with Thatch but it will be a tough path to victory and a much more dangerous one.
What Matt Brown is to elbows Brandon Thatch is to knees. Thatch also has some nasty elbows but it is his knees that make him so dangerous. At 6’2″ he is one of the taller fighters and it gives him an advantage when it comes to his knees in the clinch.
Both Nelson and Thatch are well-coached and have strong teams around them. True champions learn from their losses and it will be interesting to see who learned the most from their loss.
The winner he moves back onto the title track and will put themselves within three to four more wins of a possible title shot. The loser will not be out of the title picture completely as they both are young but they will have a tougher path. The loser of this one will need to string together at least five or six fights to get close to a title shot. With so much at stake and both fighters coming off of losses look for this one to be potentially one of the best fights of the year.
It is easy to forget that there are other fights on the UFC 189 card. There has been so much attention and drama around the main event the other fights have gotten lost.
To me one of the things that makes this card so special is the depth of it. Every fight on the card has the potential to be an exciting one, and the two title fights should deliver. It is these three that standout from the rest for me. I expect them all to be thrillers and the winner of each could be a future UFC champion.
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