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UFC 211: The Fight Wolff breakdown of Demian Maia versus Jorge Masvidal

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Many fans feel that Demian Maia has done enough to earn a title shot. The number three ranked welterweight in the world is 9-2 in the UFC since moving down from middleweight. He currently rides a six-fight win streak into this fight with Jorge Masvidal. The number five ranked Masvidal has gone 4-2 since moving up to welterweight with the two losses being close split-decisions, something he seems to specialize in. His last three losses have been split-decisions that many think he won. He brings a three-fight win streak to this battle.

There those who think Maia should not have taken this fight, including current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. If Maia does win there is some heat building there between him and Woodley based Maia’s response to Woodley’s comments on the latest episode of the UFC Unfiltered podcast. 

A Maia win would also give him a seven fight win streak. That should have earned him a title shot but in today’s UFC you never know. If he and Woodley could develop a rivalry that would help solidify his chances. If Masvidal wins he could be next. Especially, if he finishes Maia in a spectacular manner.

Finding the balance between caution and aggression

Both Maia and Masvidal have struggled with not being aggressive enough at times. Masvidal’s three-fight win streak could easily be a 10-fight streak, but for the three split-decision losses. Before the streak he went 1-3 in the previous four fights. Since then, Masvidal has upped the aggression resulting in the three straight wins with the last two being finishes of Jake Ellenberger and Donald Cerrone.

Maia struggled with valuing position over submission. He started his UFC career with five straight submission wins. After that impressive start he secured one submission win out of his next nine wins. The same number of TKO/KO wins during that time.

Not what you would expect from Tapology’s number one ranked MMA grappler of all time.  However, in his last four wins Maia secured three of them by submission. Gunnar Nelson is the only fighter to survive during that run. Masvidal is not looking to just survive and if he can stop the takedown he will stop Maia’s win streak.

It really is that simple or strengths and weaknesses

It is easy to see Maia’s strength’s and weaknesses, great grappling/ground game with below average striking. In today’s modern MMA, Maia is an anomaly, a throwback to a different time. In the UFC it is rare to see a title contender that is so one-dimensional.

Maia is one-dimensional in the sense that he is a grappler but he has evolved from being just a jiu-jitsu fighter into a grappler. He added stronger takedowns and started to incorporate ground strikes into he arsenal. The ground strikes are not to finish the fight themselves but to open up a submission. The result has been three submissions and a dominant win over a talented grappler in Nelson.

The ground strikes have been a nice addition but he is still very weak in the standup. That was glaring in the loss to Rory MacDonald. In that fight, Maia landed two takedowns in 22 attempts. After a strong first round Maia looked weaker and weaker with each failed attempt. Against Condit, he did try to jab his way into a takedown but the three jabs were pathetic; since Condit has woeful takedown defense it still worked. The same sequence against Masvidal is more likely to get him knee’d in the face than scoring the takedown.

For Masvidal, his main strength is his completeness as a fighter. His striking is sublimely dangerous, he’s shown strong defensive jiu-jitsu, and underrated wrestling. On the same above Unfiltered Podcast, Din Thomas talked about Masvidal consistently out-wrestling division one wrestlers in practice on a daily basis. Masvidal checks in with a 79% takedown defense compared to Condit’s 39%.

He is mostly a defensive grappler using it to keep the fight standing. Since the three split-decision losses in four fights Masvidal has been a beast. He dominated Ross Pearson, stopped Ellenberger, and TKO’d Cerrone twice in one fight. All three fighters with strong standup themselves. Cerrone,  is the number nine ranked Knockout Artist in the UFC. And while the standup is a strength, the ground is not generally a weakness for Masvidal, but it is for this fight.

Paths to Glory or it really is that simple

Where this fight takes place will determine the winner. Maia needs to get this fight to the ground where he will need to get the submission or keep Masvidal there. As big as of an advantage for Maia on the ground Masvidal will have a bigger one in the standup.

For me this fight exposes the issue for Maia and his title chase. Any fighter with a strong takedown defense is a bad fight for him. If Maia gets past Masvidal it is difficult to see him beating a wrestler at the level of Woodley.

Masvidal is good at managing distance, has a good jab, uses combinations, and has strong knees. When you mix in his strong, underrated wrestling and it looks like a long night for Maia.

The winner of this will be the fighter who manages his aggression the best. Both fighters enjoy their recent success because they upped their aggression. But, if they are too aggressive in this fight it will cost them. If Maia struggles to get takedowns, starts to shoot from too far away, he is in danger of catching a knee. If Masvidal gets aggressive with his strikes, gets a little off-balance he exposes himself to the takedown. On the ground being too aggressive to get back up puts him in danger of getting submitted. Neither can afford to be passive either.

Who wins

I like Masvidal’s takedown defense to holdup and put himself in a position to fight for the title.  I do like the feisty Maia we have seen recently and if he can channel that then I like his chances more.

This is a risky fight for Maia if he wants a chance at the title. The welterweight division is one filled with talent and several legitimate title contenders. Also lurking on the outside are former champion Georges St-Pierre, the ubiquitous Conor McGregor, and the ‘he may never fight again’ Nick Diaz.

A loss for the almost 40-year old Maia, will put him behind a long list of fighters that are bigger PPV draws. The UFC appears reluctant to give him a title shot. His impressive six fight win streak earned him a tough fight with Masvidal. For Masvidal, a loss would be setback but he is younger and able to put together another run.

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UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story

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UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9

Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.

UFC Fight Island

Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.

“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”

The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry. 

When, and Where?

The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.

The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.

The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.

As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249

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It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia. 

Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.

To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively. 

But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.

Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib. 

The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade. 

All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.

Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC. 

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UFC to provide a welcome sports fix for hungry fans

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UFC 249 had promised to be a rare occasion of a sports event going ahead, but the April 18th showpiece ultimately fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak, and was cancelled. However, UFC chief Dana White is not one to be put out, and so came the recent announcement that there would be a series of UFC fight nights in May.

It’s a great chance for fans to see some sporting action, for fighters to keep in shape and perhaps make a name for themselves in these strange circumstances, and for people stuck in lockdown to have some alternative entertainment, something a bit different from Joe Wicks workouts or Zoom quizzes! Here, we look at why these UFC fight nights will be welcomed by so many people.

Live action

The sporting world has basically been at a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe. It feels like an eternity ago that we were watching horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League, but the measures put in place by the government to protect the public meant that most events had to be cancelled. 

And so, the news that there will be some live sporting entertainment in the form of several UFC fight nights will give sports fans that much needed fix of live action. Sports nuts all over the world have been forced to make do with virtual championships and races, or with trawling the archives to reminisce on past sporting occasions, but now White and co. have brought some welcome live sporting action back to our screens.

Mouth-watering match-ups

Of course, these are not just any old fighters going head to head. Some of the best in the business will be battling it out, not least Tony Ferguson who takes on Justin Gaethje on May 9th. The Tony Ferguson odds have him as hot favourite for the bout, but Gaethje will be a man on a mission on fight night to prove he has what it takes to cause a stir at the highest level of the sport. 

May 9th sees two other interesting clashes, as Henry Cejudo takes on Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight Championship, and Francis Ngannou meets Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The Cejudo vs Cruz fight features two men with similar records, and will therefore be an intriguing clash as both try and prove themselves on the big stage. Meanwhile, Rozenstruik will be trying to defend his 10-fight unbeaten record as he takes on Ngannou, and so there will be plenty on the line in that one.

A welcome distraction

Perhaps one of the key benefits of these fight nights is that they will provide a welcome distraction from the sad news and gloomy headlines we’ve all been reading in recent weeks. Sport has the power to unite people and spark a feel-good factor among the public.

Although the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a chance for a lot of people to get to know a sport they perhaps wouldn’t have considered watching before, and few sports have to power to grip and entertain like mixed martial arts. Many people are craving a dose of live sporting action, and thanks to the UFC, that sporting fix is not too far away.

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