Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

Category Archives: Bellator

Quick Thoughts on Tomorrow’s Bellator 120

I’ve gone over this before, but there are a couple reasons I haven’t been covering Bellator lately. One is that I already spend a lot of time covering the near-weekly UFC events and it would be a challenge to add weekly Bellator events on top of that. The other is that a large portion of my analysis is reliant on Fight Metric statistics, and Fight Metric does not cover Bellator.

Even then, I would be somewhat inclined to give Bellator at least some coverage, but to be perfectly honest I’m not a fan of how Bellator has done business recently. I liked Bellator a couple years ago when it was a promotion that focused on the tournament format, developed prospects, and stuck to the mantra that title shots are “earned,” not given. I never preferred Bellator to the UFC but I liked it as a change of pace and an opportunity to sit down and watch some fights in a low key environment.

However, Bellator has recently transformed into a company that is suddenly employing fighters like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz, who at this point are badly diminished versions of what they used to be. They’ve gone into the pay-per-view business, something that’s a lot easier to sell to me when it feels like the fights are important. They’ve made a mockery of their “title shots are earned” mantra by burying Patricio “Pitbull.” Their legal feud with Eddie Alvarez left a bad taste in my mouth.

The one fight scheduled for Bellator 120 that I could really get behind was the rubber match between Alvarez and Michael Chandler, both fighters I feel would perform at a very high level in the UFC lightweight division and would be serious threats to take the UFC title. Unfortunately, Alvarez recently suffered a concussion, forcing Bellator to replace him with Will Brooks and promoting the Jackson – “King Mo” fight to the main event. What’s left is a pay per view show with a main event featuring a shot Quinton Jackson and a badly faded “King Mo” (injuries really seem to have taken their toll on Mo), two squash matches and one somewhat interesting fight.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (-235) vs. Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal (+215)

It’s amazing to me that Jackson is considered this strong a favorite to win this fight. (At one point the line on Jackson was -465! How?!) I guess knockout victories over Joey Beltran and Christian M’Pumbu were enough to get people back on Jackson’s side? Lawal hasn’t exactly been spectacular in Bellator, losing twice to Emanuel Newton, but there is at least some hope for Lawal to break through and become the top tier light heavyweight it appeared he could become in his early career. There’s no hope of that from Jackson, and it’s worth questioning how motivated he really is at this point, even coming off two knockout wins. I’m going to throw a degenerate gambling bet on Lawal, risking $3.00 to win $6.45.

Michael Chandler (-1000) vs. Will Brooks (+800)

Brooks isn’t half bad for a short-notice replacement fighter. The problem is that he’s taking on an opponent in Chandler who is one of the sport’s best examples of a wrestler with knockout power. I like Brooks but not if he’s taking on the lightweight version of Chad Mendes.

Alexander Shlemenko (-510) vs. Tito Ortiz (+440)

The reality of Tito Ortiz is that he hasn’t been good at MMA for ten years now – at least, not good by high-level standards. In this particular matchup, Ortiz will have a serious size advantage but it isn’t going to matter at all. Ortiz crumples when he’s hit hard to the body and Shlemenko is excellent at landing strikes to the body. Skill beats size at the end of the day, and Shlemenko’s skill is far beyond Ortiz’s at this point.

Blagoi Ivanov (-130) vs. Alexander Volkov (+120)

This is by far the most interesting fight on the card to me. Ivanov is undefeated at 11-0 and initially became famous for defeating Fedor Emelianenko in a Sambo competition. As Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov have shown, Sambo can be an outstanding base for a mixed martial artist, and Ivanov appears to be one of the better examples of Sambo working in MMA. He’ll be taking on a tough opponent in the tall and lanky striker in Volkov, but I suspect Ivanov’s advantage in takedowns and grappling will be enough to carry him to victory.

If you’re buying this show tomorrow (and I won’t be), I sincerely hope you get to watch some good fights and feel like you got your money’s worth out of your purchase. Best of luck.

Advertisements

Bellator Prediction: Quinton Jackson vs. Tito Ortiz

Obviously I haven’t given Bellator a lot of coverage recently. There are three reasons for this:

1. UFC coverage takes enough time as it is

If the UFC held one event per month like it used to then obviously covering Bellator would be a lot easier.

2. My analysis often isn’t needed with Bellator

Their most recent event featured some outstanding fighters: Michael Chandler, Ben Askren, “King Mo” Lawal, and Patricio “Pitbull.” Their respective opponents were David Rickels, Andrey Koreshkov, Jacob Noe, and Jared Downing. I don’t think I need to write a collective 2,400 words about how I like Chandler, Askren, Lawal, and “Pitbull” to win their respective fights.

3. Fight Metric doesn’t cover Bellator events

Since my analysis is now based on FPR, and FPR is now based on Fight Metric, I’d have a hard time providing analysis that’s any better than what others provide.

With that said Bellator is planning a pay-per-view with a headliner of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Tito Ortiz. I’ve decided to cover this fight for two reasons. One is that even though both fighters are well past their prime, they are big names in MMA and it is going to attract some interest. The other is that I’d better get a post written about the fight now before somebody (most likely Ortiz) gets injured.

Jackson-Ortiz

I’ll be brutally honest – I would prefer to see both guys retire. Ortiz has more often than not been reduced to a punching bag in his recent fights. Jackson’s biggest strengths as a fighter were his knockout power and takedown defense, and those are both gone now. What’s left are two fighters who are shells of their former selves.

Now there are plenty of people who were astonished that Jackson opened as just a -265 favorite. I think a lot of people expected Jackson to be -400 or better. Already Jackson has climbed to -310 and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him end up somewhere close to -450. I’m not the world’s top expert on betting the fights, but the sportsbooks (Nick Kalikas) know what they’re doing. When I look at the data I see a fight that is more competitive than a lot of people expect.

The dynamics of this fight are simple. As long as the fight is standing, Jackson wins. If Ortiz can take Jackson down a few times, Ortiz wins. Let’s look at the striking portion first. On the whole, Jackson has been a very good striker throughout his career. In particular, Jackson had good punching power and an excellent chin. With the long list of incredible fighters Jackson has faced it’s astonishing that he was only knocked down twice. By contrast Ortiz was never a good striker – he has landed a grand total of one knockdown in his entire career.

In recent fights Jackson has had difficulty landing strikes but has fared much better than Ortiz. More often than not, Ortiz stands in one spot while his opponent just hits him over and over again. Jackson might be badly faded but he’s still light years ahead of Ortiz on the feet.

Where Ortiz could win this fight is if he takes Jackson down. Jackson has a reputation for great takedown defense but in his last few fights that has gone out the window. Glover Teixeira was 5-for-5 in takedowns against Jackson and Ryan Bader was 4-for-9. Ortiz isn’t as good as Teixeira or Bader at takedowns at this point in his career but he’s still a threat to get Jackson down.

The challenge for Ortiz will be to keep Jackson on his back. Jackson is decent at getting back to his feet and Ortiz has had trouble keeping fights on the ground. With how badly Ortiz gets beaten up on the feet these days… he needs to keep the fight on the ground this time. The best way Ortiz can do that is to land a takedown in such a way that he achieves side mount or full mount. If Ortiz can establish a dominant position he should be able to maintain it and win the round, or even threaten to submit Jackson.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect the fight to play out that way. I still think the most likely way this fight unfolds is that Jackson stuffs the takedown attempts and punishes Ortiz on the feet. Jackson by TKO is the most likely way this fight ends in my opinion.

If I had to give out betting advice… the data says Ortiz is good value but honestly, stay far away from this fight. Why would you want to risk your money on two fighters who are badly faded, with questionable motivation? It might seem like Jackson is a safe pick but how would you feel if he weighs in at 211 pounds?

Pick: Somebody gets injured… but if not, Jackson by TKO

Bellator 86 Post-Fight Analysis

Here are my immediate reactions to the fights that took place at Bellator 86:

Ben Askren showed the value of having a stifling top position game in MMA. With the way judges score fights, it’s nearly impossible for a fighter to win a round from bottom position. Karl Amoussou did himself no favors by choosing to invest a large portion of his energy in strikes from the bottom. Punches and elbows from there might harass and annoy an opponent, but they’re unlikely to convince a judge to score a round for that fighter, and even less likely to hurt his opponent in any meaningful way. Amoussou would have been better served trying to get back to his feet, although Askren’s smothering top control certainly would have made that difficult. If Amoussou had conserved his energy more, he may have given himself more chances to catch Askren with a strike and win by knockout. It would still have been unlikely, but Amoussou’s strategy was not optimal.

The fight also showed why Askren would probably struggle to win fights at a high level in the UFC. In the first two rounds, when Amoussou was still fresh, Askren needed help to get the fight to the ground. He was able to catch one of Amoussou’s kicks in the first round, and in the second round, it was actually Amoussou who landed in top position, but was reversed after attempting a heel hook. When the fight was standing, Amoussou was crushing Askren. If Askren had to fight wrestlers with good striking, such as Georges St-Pierre, Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger, or Josh Koscheck, he would probably fail to get the fight to the ground, and get knocked out by his opponent.

-There’s not a lot of meaningful information I can take from Muhammed Lawal’s win over Przemyslaw Mysiala, apart from saying that “King Mo” is obviously at a much higher level of fighting. King Mo did show a quick and punishing jab, but to the extent he’s stopped fights with his striking at distance, he’s done so against fighters like Mysiala, Roger Gracie, and Travis Wiuff. It’s possible that King Mo’s striking is steadily improving, but it’s hard to tell unless we see him take on some better strikers.

-Usually, when a fight is won by TKO due to leg kicks, the damage is caused by an accumulation of kicks. Such was not the case with Douglas Lima against Michail Tsarev. Instead, Lima likely broke something in Tsarev’s knee with one powerful kick. Tsarev was allowed to take more punishment than necessary; the fight should have been stopped the moment it was apparent that Tsarev was unable to take a single kick without being knocked down. It’s the same reason fights can be stopped due to technical submission – once a fighter sustains a serious injury, the fight should be stopped for the sake of protecting that fighter from taking unnecessary punishment.

-One thing high-level fighters understand well is that, in a 15 minute fight, it’s important to conserve energy, and use techniques that are energy efficient. When I see a fighter like Koffi Adzitso gas out in the second round, and then attempt something like a suplex later in the fight, that’s a signal to me that the fighter attempts a technique like that because he lacks the skill to perform effective or efficient techniques against his opponent. By fighting hard over the course of three rounds without getting exhausted, Ben Saunders showed that he’s simply a higher-level fighter than Adzitso is.

-I didn’t watch the preliminary fights, but… what the hell was Marius Zaromskis trying to do against Brent Weedman?

Bellator 86 Preview and Predictions

Bellator put together a very solid fight card last week, and it mostly delivered with entertaining fights. This week, Bellator has come back with a fight card that has some top talent, but I can’t really call it a good fight card, since the fights aren’t nearly as competitive. But let’s take a look.

Bellator Welterweight Championship: Karl Amoussou (16-4-2) vs. Ben Askren (10-0)

There are some fighters whose fights are difficult to predict, because the fighters themselves are unpredictable. We’ve all seen wrestlers and ground fighters fall in love with their striking, and we’ve also seen strikers decide to go all-out on takedown attempts. For prognosticators such as myself, Ben Askren makes things very, very easy. Askren is a wrestler, but unlike so many wrestlers who have competed in MMA, Askren has no delusions of being a high-level striker. Instead, Askren sticks to what he does best, and goes for takedowns on a very consistent basis.

Askren has taken a fairly limited skill set and maximized its effectiveness. We know that Askren isn’t much of a striker; if his opponents were able to shut down his takedowns, he wouldn’t stand much of a chance. Askren also hasn’t developed a great submission game; if he had, he would have a lot more submission wins than he does, because his takedowns and guard passing would enable him to attack with submissions. Some fighters are a jack of all trades, but Askren is the master of one. He knows how to take his opponents down, control them, and win a decision, and nobody has stopped him yet.

It’s hard to see Karl Amoussou being the first. To be sure, Amoussou is an aggressive and dangerous fighter. His stoppage wins are primarily by submission, as he displayed in his last fight against Bryan Baker, defeating Baker by diving on his leg and torquing a heel hook. I highly doubt Amoussou will force Askren to tap out with a move like that, or a submission of any kind for that matter. One reason is that, if Amoussou and Askren are on the ground, it will almost certainly be with Askren in top position. It’s naturally more difficult to submit an opponent from the bottom position.

Amoussou’s best chance is to catch Askren with a standing strike. Amoussou has very good knees and kicks, and does have a KO win by flying knee. If Askren shoots in too aggressively, it’s possible Amoussou could knock him unconscious with a well-placed knee. Amoussou’s chances to do something like that figure to be very brief. If Amoussou couldn’t stop a guy like Kazuhiro Nakamura from taking him down and controlling him, he’s unlikely to shut down Ben Askren. Askren by decision.

Light-Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal: Muhammed Lawal (8-1) vs. Przemyslaw Mysiala (16-7)

While the first three light-heavyweight tournament quarterfinal fights took place last week, the fourth will serve as the co-main event of Bellator 86, as “King Mo” Lawal will be taking on the man Bellator has chosen to lose to him, Przemyslaw Mysiala (don’t ask me to pronounce it). Obviously, this is MMA, and nobody should ever be completely counted out, but this is very reminiscent of the two heavyweight fights that took place in Strikeforce earlier this month. It’s just a badly lopsided match. On one side is King Mo, one of the best light-heavyweight prospects in recent memory, and a fighter who has already defeated a series of high-level opponents in MMA. On the other side is Mysiala, whose success in MMA has been primarily limited to quick stoppage wins over obscure opponents and cans.

Mysiala has also lost to fighters like Valentino Petrescu, Tom Blackledge, and Neil Wain, all of whom proved to be not close to UFC level fighters. This is like the champion of your high school’s chess club taking on Magnus Carlsen – it’s not even a contest. Lawal by TKO.

Welterweight Quarterfinal: Brent Weedman (20-8-1) vs. Marius Zaromskis (19-7)

Weedman is a fairly average Bellator tournament fighter. His wins have been against guys like J.J. Ambrose and Thiago Michel, while he fell short against the likes of Rick Hawn and Jay Hieron. Weedman has fairly good striking and submissions, but is a fighter with a limited ceiling. His opponent is Marius Zaromskis, a striker famous for winning the DREAM welterweight grand prix with a series of head kick knockouts. Zaromskis is the kind of fighter who either wins or loses by knockout; 13 of his 19 wins are by KO/TKO, as are five of his seven losses.

Bad news for Zaromskis – Weedman has only lost by TKO once, and that was due to a cut. Meanwhile, Zaromskis has been stopped by strikes a number of times, and had to struggle to beat the now 9-11-1 Waachiim Spiritwolf. I have to take Weedman to win by TKO in this one.

Welterweight Quarterfinal: Douglas Lima (22-5) vs. Michail Tsarev (24-3)

I don’t know what it is about Russian MMA fighters, but a lot of them seem to have heavily padded records, similar to a lot of boxers. Michail Tsarev is the latest, as his 24-3 record was largely built with a steady diet of fighters with a record of something like 0-0, 0-1, or 2-1. To go back to the chess analogy – how are you going to get better if all you do is beat opponents way below your level? Douglas Lima is a proven quality welterweight, and should prove to be too much for Tsarev here. Lima by TKO.

Welterweight Quarterfinal: Koffi Adzitso (18-9) vs. Ben Saunders (14-5-2)

Ben Saunders is back for his third attempt to win a Bellator welterweight tournament, and this might be his best chance to win it yet, although he’ll probably run into Douglas Lima again. In this fight, his opponent is Koffi “The Lion King” Adzitso. Adzitso does have a few name wins on his record, most notably against Kevin Burns, but also a few too many losses against the Kyacey Uscolas of the world. Saunders is nothing if not aggressive, and is likely to overwhelm Adzitso with a steady stream of punches and knees. Saunders by TKO.

Welterweight Quarterfinal: Raul Amaya (10-1) vs. Jose Gomes (32-8-1)

Gomes is an experienced fighter who has lost to notable fighters such as Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Erick Silva, and Daniel Acacio, and has yet to win a fight against anybody I’ve ever heard of (and trust me, that’s saying something). Meanwhile, Amaya was overwhelmed by Saunders in Bellator’s last welterweight tournament, and his biggest career win is against… Kenny Moss, I guess. So this looks like a good matchup! My very uneducated prediction will be Gomes by decision in a mild upset.

Bellator 85 Post-Fight Analysis

Here are my brief, rapid-fire thoughts on the fights that just took place…

-I expected Michael Chandler’s blend of speed and power to be too much for Rick Hawn to handle, but I didn’t think Chandler would be able to take Hawn down so easily. Chandler’s first takedown attempt was so quick that Hawn didn’t even have time to react to it, let alone muster a defense. On the ground, it was all Chandler, as Hawn clearly was unfamiliar and uncomfortable with being on his back. Chandler is one of the very best lightweights in the world, and with Eddie Alvarez presumably moving to the UFC (if he can sort out his legal dispute with Bellator), I don’t see anybody in the Bellator lightweight division who will be able to hang with him.

-Hawn is still a very good fighter, but this fight showed the difference between a lightweight who is a solid “A” and a lightweight who is a solid “B”. There are a lot of fighters that Hawn has the skill to beat, but he’s just not quite good enough to beat elite lightweights.

-I enjoy fights like Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar, but as great as fights like that are, I enjoy fights like Pat Curran vs. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire even more. It’s hard not to be impressed with Curran’s boxing – unlike most MMA fighters, Curran has good fundamentals, tight defense, and technical, effective offense. He’s also shown the ability to throw effective strikes without compromising his takedown defense, which is very important as well. With all of that said… if it was a three-round fight, it would have been 29-28 Pitbull. What won the fight for Curran was superior conditioning, as Curran looked fresh in the championship rounds, while Pitbull really faded. In the first three rounds, Pitbull threw with speed and power, and his strikes came in combinations. In the championship rounds, Pitbull’s speed and power were gone, and he was throwing single shots instead of combinations.

-Out of all divisions in MMA, the featherweight division has the most top talent not fighting in the UFC. Curran and Pitbull would both easily be title contenders at 145 pounds in the UFC, and the same goes for Daniel Straus as well.

-According to Renato “Babalu” Sobral, his daughter was pleading with him to stop fighting. He should listen to his daughter. Mikhail Zayats hits hard for sure, but it’s not good to be dazed by a spinning backfist of all things. Sobral comes from a generation of fighters whose time has come and gone. He’s now fought 47 times in professional MMA, he’s been fighting for over 15 years, and now he’s been knocked out three times in five fights, all in the first round. Sobral has had a great career in MMA, but if he doesn’t call it quits now, he’s going to regret it later.

-I knew that Jacob Noe would have a good chance of beating Seth Petruzelli if he took the fight to the ground. What I didn’t expect was for Petruzelli to shoot takedowns. Petruzelli was doing just fine on the feet, landing a few big punches and some kicks. But when he shot in for a takedown attempt, Noe forced Petruzelli onto the ground, and Petruzelli immediately turtled and just ate shots until the referee had to stop the fight. In a tournament with Muhammed Lawal and Emanuel Newton, Noe has very little chance of actually going all the way. If he runs into Newton, he’s in trouble, and if he runs into Lawal, he’s just done.

Atanas Djambazov had a 17-2 record full of wins against cans, and against Emanuel Newton, he looked like a fighter who is used to fighting cans. Djambazov attacked recklessly early, and hit Newton with a few punches, but was exhausted by the end of the first round. The worst thing that can happen to a fighter is to be exhausted while his opponent is fresh. Newton illustrated that by getting Djambazov to the ground, and tapping him out in the second round.

Bellator 85 Preview and Predictions

I don’t cover every Bellator event, but I have no choice but to cover this one. Not only is it Bellator’s debut event on Spike TV, it has two championship fights on the main card. And they’re not bad championship fights, like Cole Konrad vs. Eric Prindle… they’re truly high-level fights. It’s a great fight card, so let’s take a look at it.

Bellator Lightweight Championship Match: Michael Chandler (10-0) vs. Rick Hawn (14-1)

The main event of the evening will feature Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler taking on former Olympian and Bellator lightweight tournament winner Rick Hawn. I’m very excited for this fight, because both Chandler and Hawn are fighters I think would perform very well in the UFC – it’s not always the case in Bellator, but this is a high-level fight taking place in the main event.

Chandler is a wrestler whose fighting style is very similar to guys like Gray Maynard and Chad Mendes. He has a very strong wrestling base to go along with power striking. It’s a model that has proven very successful in mixed martial arts. Chandler is a constant threat to land takedowns on his opponent, and this benefits his striking greatly. Good strikers are hesitant to engage Chandler, fearful of Chandler changing levels and landing a rapid takedown. And make no mistake about it – Chandler is a great athlete with a lot of speed to go along with his power.

Where Chandler can be beat is that he’s not the world’s most precise striker. He hits very hard, but he’s not a polished kickboxer, and he often leaves himself open to counters. The fighter type that would beat Chandler is the same fighter type that beat Maynard and Mendes – a fighter with superior striking technique and great takedown defense. In other words, guys like Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. Indeed, the fighter who has had by far the most success against Chandler was Eddie Alvarez, who was able to stuff Chandler’s takedowns and out-point him standing. It’s a credit to Chandler that he was able to hurt and finish Alvarez in the fourth round, but Chandler was on his way to losing the fight before the finishing sequence.

At first glance, it might appear that Rick Hawn has the attributes needed to give Chandler a run for his money. Hawn is a former Olympian in Judo, and has put that skill on full display in his MMA career, as he’s landed some spectacular throws on his opponents. While Hawn has never fought a wrestler as good as Chandler, he might have the takedown defense needed to stay off his back.

Unfortunately for Hawn, I just don’t think he’s a good enough striker to handle what Chandler is going to throw at him. That’s not to say Hawn isn’t a good striker, because he has shown a quality striking game with more than decent KO power. But in this fight, Hawn is going to have to deal with relentless forward pressure, the constant threat of a takedown, and the constant threat of eating a big punch and losing by knockout.

That’s the kind of challenge Aldo and Edgar would be capable of taking on. Even then, Edgar was hurt badly by Maynard, and Eddie Alvarez – a fighter who has all the skills needed to beat Chandler – still got caught before losing by submission. As good as Rick Hawn is, and he’s very good, I just don’t think he has what it takes. I have to pick Chandler to win by knockout in this one.

Bellator Featherweight Championship Match: Pat Curran (17-4) vs. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (17-1)

Believe it or not, it’s been 20 months since we’ve seen Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in the Bellator cage. Since his win over Daniel Straus to earn a title shot, Freire has had to wait. First, he had to wait for Joe Warren to defend his title against Curran. Then, after Curran knocked Warren out, Freire had to wait to fight Curran. Naturally, Curran suffered an injury that delayed the fight even longer. Finally, we’re going to see this fight, and I can’t blame Freire if he sees this fight as a way to release a lot of frustration.

I also can’t blame Curran if he’s not exactly eager to get in the cage with “Pitbull.” Curran has a unique fighting style that’s served him well in his last few fights. Curran is a striker who fights at a relatively slow pace. Generally, Curran waits for an opening before he attacks, and focuses on defending his opponent’s attacks until that opening happens. Against a wrestler in Joe Warren, it worked in brutal fashion, as Curran was able to shut down Warren’s game before winning with a devastating flurry in the third round. Against an aggressive striker in Marlon Sandro, Curran was able to stay patient before landing a head kick that knocked Sandro unconscious – Sandro has never been the same since.

Against Freire… I don’t see Curran’s style working so well. The thing about Curran’s patient, methodical approach is that it almost requires his opponent to have flaws in his striking. I’m not going to say Freire’s striking is flawless, but it’s very good, and he’s a lot more aggressive with it than Curran is. Sure, maybe Curran will find an opening to land a knockout blow like he did against Sandro. But if that doesn’t happen, Curran is almost certain to lose on points, and is in serious danger of being knocked out himself.

MMA is all about matchups. Pat Curran won the Bellator featherweight championship because he matched up well with his opponents. In this fight, I think Patricio Freire will beat Curran for exactly the same reason. Freire has the right blend of technique and aggression to capitalize on Curran’s methodical style. My pick is Freire by decision, but a knockout wouldn’t surprise me either.

Light-Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal Match: Renato “Babalu” Sobral (37-9) vs. Mikhail Zayats (19-6)

Renato “Babalu” Sobral has certainly suffered a career decline, punctuated by KO losses against Gegard Mousasi and Dan Henderson. But there’s a big difference between a career decline and a career collapse. Sobral still has very good submissions, and his striking really isn’t all that bad. Against Mikhail Zayats, a fighter with very limited experience against high-level competition, Sobral should prove to be the superior fighter. Sobral by submission.

Light-Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal Match: Jacob Noe (8-1) vs. Seth Petruzelli (14-6)

In a light-heavyweight tournament featuring Renato Sobral, Muhammed Lawal, and Emanuel Newton, it’s hard to see either of these guys making much of an impact. Petruzelli is a one-dimensional fighter, a striker who is in immediate trouble if his opponent takes him to the ground. Jacob Noe might be capable of that, but Noe’s record is very light on quality opponents, and his one loss was by TKO to a fighter who is now 1-4 overall. If a 1-4 fighter can score a TKO on Noe, so can Petruzelli. Petruzelli by TKO.

Light-Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal Match: Atanas Djambazov (17-2) vs. Emanuel Newton (18-7-1)

Djambazov might have a glittery record of 17-2, but here are his top five wins, ranked by opponent winning percentage…

  • Nikola Dipchikov (5-3)
  • Stanislav Drakov (6-4)
  • Valdas Pocevicius (33-31-4)
  • Ilija Loncar (5-11-2)
  • Oliver Petrovski (1-3)

His other 12 wins were all against opponents who have yet to win a fight. Emanuel Newton by decision.

Time Capsule Results For January 2012 Prognostications in MMA

Hmm… what’s this? It looks like a time capsule. And it says I need to open it up on New Year’s Day 2013. Uh oh…

Last January, I published a series of posts comparing a fighter’s SILVA score to his ranking in the Bloody Elbow meta rankings. I then used that comparison to make some predictions. For fighters whose SILVA score was high but ranking was low, I predicted their ranking would increase in 2012. For fighters whose ranking was high but SILVA score was low, I predicted their ranking would decrease in 2012.

Here are links to the posts I wrote last January:

Let’s see how I did, starting with fighters I predicted would rise in the rankings.

Fighter December 2011 ranking December 2012 ranking Did the rank increase?
Phil Davis 7 6 Yes
Daniel Cormier 8 4 Yes
Luke Rockhold 9 7 Yes
Michael Chandler 9 8 Yes
Bibiano Fernandes 9 6 Yes
Muhammed Lawal 11 14 No
Hector Lombard 12 11 Yes
Alexander Gustafsson 13 5 Yes
Ben Askren 13 12 Yes
Patricio Freire 15 25 No
Eduardo Dantas 15 11 Yes
Tatsuya Kawajiri 16 12 Yes
Tyron Woodley 17 18 No
Sean Sherk 17 Unranked No
Mike Russow 18 17 Yes
Rousimar Palhares 18 Unranked No
Johny Hendricks 18 2 Yes
Joe Warren 18 18 No
Cole Konrad 19 Unranked No
Alexis Vila 19 17 Yes
Matt Mitrione 20 Unranked No
Chris Weidman 20 2 Yes
Jay Hieron 20 17 Yes
Ryan Jimmo 22 17 Yes
Alexander Shlemenko 22 21 Yes
Josh Thomson 23 16 Yes
Ricardo Lamas 24 3 Yes

Overall, there were 27 fighters who were already ranked, who I predicted would rise in the rankings. 19 out of the 27 did improve, while the other eight either stayed the same or declined. That’s a pretty good success rate. Let’s see how I did with fighters I predicted would decline in 2012.

Fighter December 2011 ranking December 2012 ranking Did the rank decrease?
Chael Sonnen 2 6 Yes
Jon Fitch 2 4 Yes
Urijah Faber 2 2 No
Yushin Okami 3 9 Yes
Hatsu Hioki 3 7 Yes
Brock Lesnar 4 Unranked Yes
Mauricio Rua 4 7 Yes
Demian Maia 5 11 Yes
Jake Ellenberger 5 5 No
Marlon Sandro 5 15 Yes
Scott Jorgensen 5 10 Yes
Fabricio Werdum 6 3 No
Clay Guida 6 11 Yes
Shane Carwin 7 13 Yes
Forrest Griffin 8 12 Yes
Brian Stann 8 12 Yes
Martin Kampmann 8 7 No
Miguel Torres 8 20 Yes
Mark Hominick 11 Unranked Yes
Takeya Mizugaki 11 15 Yes
Joe Lauzon 12 12 No
Chan Sung Jung 12 5 No
Nate Diaz 13 4 No
Manny Gamburyan 13 20 Yes
Roy Nelson 14 10 No
Wanderlei Silva 15 25 Yes
Tito Ortiz 17 Unranked Yes
Stephan Bonnar 21 Unranked Yes
Mark Hunt 22 12 No
Pat Barry 23 Unranked Yes
Alessio Sakara 23 Unranked Yes

I had a similar success rate with fighters I predicted would fall in the rankings, as 22 out of 31 did fall, with nine either staying the same or rising.

Before you cry foul at guys like Brock Lesnar being listed, when we all knew he was retiring… it’s true, some of my picks here were cheap. In some cases, luck was on my side. But in other cases, luck was against me. Example: Urijah Faber still being ranked #2 at bantamweight, only because of Dominick Cruz’s injury. Another example: Joe Lauzon having the same ranking as last year, and he will presumably decline after his UFC 155 loss to Jim Miller.

Overall, there were 58 fighters I made predictions on. My predictions were successful for 41 out of the 58, for a success rate of 70.7%. I’m not running SILVA scores anymore, but it’s great to see that the time I spent developing them resulted in what was a pretty good predictive tool.

Bellator 77 Preview

Tonight, Bellator will start a new lightweight tournament. Here are the ELO ratings for all of tonight’s fighters:

MAIN CARD/LIGHTWEIGHT QUARTERFINAL FIGHTS

  • 16-2 Dave Jansen (2464) vs. 14-1 Magomed Saadulaev (2297)
  • 13-2 Marcin Held (2214) vs. 9-0 Murad Machaev (2006)
  • 14-2 Ricardo Tirloni (2267) vs. 10-2 Rene Nazare (1986)
  • 20-0 Alexander Sarnavskiy (2527) vs. 44-21-1 Rich Clementi (2290)

PRELIMINARY FIGHTS

  • 125 lbs: 5-1 Dave Morgan (2017) vs. 2-0 Matthew Lozano (1904)
  • 145 lbs: 0-0 Eric Albright (1946) vs. 3-0 Brett Martinez (1718)
  • 155 lbs: 3-1 Cosmo Alexandre (2000) vs. 4-0 Mike Bannon (1979)
  • 185 lbs: 8-8 Lewis Rumsey (1952) vs. 5-2 Duane Bastress (1942)
  • Catchweight: 14-5 Carmelo Marrero (2271) vs. 11-4 Lew Polley (1873)
  • 155 lbs: 7-0 Emanuel Brooks (2347) vs. 5-0 Darrell Horcher (2219)

It’s a little funny typing Rich Clementi’s record on the same line with Alexander Sarnavskiy’s, but it’s a fairly competitive fight despite the wide gap in career winning percentage. As one might expect, the 20-0 record of Sarnavskiy contains more than a few wins against inferior opponents. But unlike Jason Reinhardt, whose seemingly impeccable record was based exclusively on defeating cans, Sarnavskiy has some quality wins as well, including wins over Len Bentley, Douglas Evans, and Marcio Cesar. With Sarnavskiy, there’s no one win that stands out, but there are enough quality wins to consider him a legitimately good lightweight fighter. He’s my favorite to win this Bellator tournament, followed by former WEC lightweight Dave Jansen.

Bellator 76 ELO Ratings

My work with ELO ratings is almost complete. I now have ratings updated through October 7th. Right now, there are still a couple kinks that need to be worked out, but for the most part, things look pretty good.

I’m going to start by publishing ELO ratings for this Friday’s Bellator 76 participants. Bellator 76 is headlined by a lightweight match between Eddie Alvarez and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire, and also features four featherweight tournament quarterfinal fights.

Main Event: 23-3 Eddie Alvarez (2923) vs. 10-3 Patricky Freire (2266)

12-2 Rad Martinez (2317) vs. 22-2 Nazareno Malegarie (2298)

14-3 Wagnney Fabiano (2400) vs. 12-3 Akop Stepanyan (2191)

12-1 Jeremy Spoon (2385) vs. 12-1 Mike Richman (2224)

13-2 Cody Bollinger (2270) vs. 9-1-1 Shahbulat Shamhalaev (2121)

14-5-1 Dom O’Grady (2160) vs. 6-1 A.J. Matthews (2120)

5-1 Kyle Prepolec (1900) vs. 3-0 Jason Fischer (1882)

5-1 Ainsley Robinson (1864) vs. 5-0 Chad Laprise (1862)

5-2 Ali Mokdad (1821) vs. 9-5 Simon Marini (1685)

16-5 Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (2152) vs. 13-12 Nayeb Hezam (2012)

Alvarez is a clear favorite to win the main event, with a huge ratings gap between him and Freire. Both fighters are aggressive strikers, but Alvarez has been doing it at a much higher level than Freire.

The favorites to win the featherweight tournament are Wagnney Fabiano and Jeremy Spoon. Fabiano hasn’t fought in nearly two years, last losing to Joseph Benavidez at WEC 52 in November 2010. Meanwhile, Spoon’s only career defeat took place against Daniel Straus in a competitive match.

I’ll have much more soon, including ratings for UFC 153 and the current season of The Ultimate Fighter.

SILVA Scores Release – 8/27

Here’s the latest batch of SILVA scores to come out, with a bit of commentary on each fighter.

IN THIS POST

  • Vitor Belfort
  • Daniel Cormier
  • Eduardo Dantas
  • Jussier da Silva
  • Nate Diaz
  • Nick Diaz
  • Jake Ellenberger
  • Johny Hendricks
  • Frank Mir
  • Tyson Nam
  • Dennis Siver

Vitor Belfort – SILVA Score: 75.20

Ladies and gentlemen, the next challenger to Jon Jones’s title. Obviously, the circumstances leading to the selection of Belfort were quite unique and difficult, but that doesn’t mean Belfort isn’t an underwhelming selection. The thing Belfort has going for him is the same thing Dan Henderson had going for him – serious knockout power. Unfortunately for Belfort, he’s historically had difficulty with wrestlers, and I highly doubt that Jones is going to stand and strike with Belfort, and give him a chance to score that KO. I see Jones taking Belfort down and eventually winning by TKO or submission.

Daniel Cormier – SILVA Score: 86.77

This blog has never failed to sing Cormier’s praises, and the latest edition of SILVA is no exception. Unlike the last version, however, Cormier is not the #1 rated heavyweight – instead, he’s in a virtual tie with Cain Velasquez for #2. But here you have the best wrestler in the heavyweight division, and one who’s developed a quality striking game. Oh, and in his fight against Josh Barnett, he showed he knows what he’s doing in the submission game as well, as the dangerous Barnett was never too close to catching Cormier in a submission attempt. If you’re looking for a heavyweight to beat Junior dos Santos, I think Cormier has the best chance of anybody.

Eduardo Dantas – SILVA Score: 79.22

One of the themes of my analysis on this blog is the idea that one loss does not break a fighter’s career. Dantas really should have been able to beat Tyson Nam, but getting caught as Dantas did is hardly the most shocking upset ever in MMA. The open question is whether the Nam loss is Dantas’s “Matt Serra” moment, or if it’s an indicator of things to come. After watching the fight, it seems Dantas’s biggest error was overconfidence, something that hopefully will be corrected with proper coaching. The point is this: Dantas is still rated as the top bantamweight in the world by SILVA. You can decide whether that’s right or not, but Dantas is a greatly talented fighter whose career isn’t ruined by this one loss.

Jussier da Silva – SILVA score: 54.47

“Formiga” will be making his UFC debut soon, against John Dodson, in a fight highly anticipated by hardcore fans. His SILVA score might seem relatively low, but it’s actually quite high for the flyweight division, rating only below Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson. Da Silva does have a loss to Ian McCall on his record, but has more than made up for it with wins over Mamoru Yamaguchi, Danny Martinez, and Shinichi Kojima. Given how thin the flyweight division is, I anticipate “Formiga” will earn a title shot in the UFC relatively quickly.

Nate Diaz – SILVA Score: 71.04

SILVA has been VERY slow to warm up to Nate Diaz, who has recently been on a terrific run, but before that, had lost to wrestlers repeatedly. But perhaps Diaz deserves more respect from SILVA? Two of his five UFC losses were by split decision, and two others were to welterweights in Rory MacDonald and Dong Hyun Kim. Still, it’s hard for me to give Diaz a great chance in his upcoming title fight against Benson Henderson, a fighter who is a good wrestler on top of being a good striker and grappler. If Diaz’s fight history is any indication, though, it figures to be a very exciting and competitive fight.

Nick Diaz – SILVA Score: 82.64

The other Diaz – Nick – is received more warmly by SILVA, but he also has historically had problems with wrestlers. And as I have pointed out before, Diaz hasn’t faced a true wrestler since… Gleison Tibau? Sean Sherk? In the welterweight division, Diaz will eventually have no choice but to prove he can win a fight against somebody who will take him down. But against the diet of strikers and brawlers he’s been fed, Diaz has been fantastic, even with the close decision loss to Carlos Condit back in February.

Jake Ellenberger – SILVA Score: 80.84

“The Juggernaut” certainly qualifies as one wrestler, and along with Johny Hendricks, has the most striking power in the division. He showed it early in his last fight, against Martin Kampmann, but that fight also showed a lack of efficiency out of Ellenberger. After knocking Kampmann down early, Ellenberger settled into a top control game that completely failed to capitalize on Kampmann being hurt. Ellenberger definitely has the talent to be a championship contender, but I’m not sure if he has the fight IQ.

Johny Hendricks – SILVA Score: 88.87

There are some out there saying Hendricks is overrated, and will lose to Martin Kampmann. Maybe Hendricks will lose, but I do favor him to beat Kampmann, and I don’t think he’s overrated. Take some of the better wrestlers at welterweight – Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Mike Pierce. Improve their striking technique a tad. Then add a ton of knockout power. That’s Johny Hendricks, and while I wouldn’t pick him to beat a healthy Georges St-Pierre, I’ll pick him to beat any other fighter at 170 pounds.

Frank Mir – SILVA Score: 68.75

With his recent knockout loss to Junior dos Santos, it feels like Mir’s career has run its course. He’s been in the UFC for what seems like an eternity – besides B.J. Penn, who had to be coaxed out of retirement, I can’t think of an active UFC fighter whose UFC career began earlier than Mir’s*. Now, Mir will be headed over to Strikeforce, where he’ll have to find a way to submit Daniel Cormier. I highly doubt Mir will offer anything that Josh Barnett didn’t.

Tyson Nam – SILVA Score: 35.81

That’s right… Tyson Nam rates 44 points lower than Eduardo Dantas despite just knocking out the Bellator champion. I’ll simply say that just as one loss doesn’t define the career of Dantas, one win doesn’t define the career of Tyson Nam. And make no mistake about it – Dantas is Nam’s only win against a top 50 bantamweight fighter. The way SILVA is designed, it will want Nam to prove he can beat a quality opponent again before it gives him too much credit.

Dennis Siver – SILVA Score: 72.80

Siver is one of the better featherweights in the UFC, but I don’t think he’s going to rise any higher. Siver is a good striker, and has a strong base, but he doesn’t possess elite-level skills. I would say that Siver’s narrow decision victory against Diego Nunes is a great indicator of how good he is – an above-average, quality UFC featherweight, but not a serious title challenger.

*I thought of one! Vladimir Matyushenko. …I think my point stands.