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UFC Fight Night 124 card: Kamaru Usman vs Emil Meek full fight preview

MMA: UFC 210-Usman vs Strickland Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight up-and-comers Kamaru Usman and Emil Weber Meek will battle this Sunday (Jan. 14, 2017) at UFC Fight Night 124 inside Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.

As he announced to anyone listening immediately after his first-round knockout victory back in September, Usman is a definite problem for his division. For a long time, the decorated wrestler flew under the radar and was among my favorite dark horse predictions in any division, but “The Nigerian Nightmare” is quickly heading for the limelight. Luckily, his opponent is no stranger to being an underdog. Meek rose from the unknown and earned a UFC contract by violently dispatching leg lock ace Rousimar Palhares in 45 seconds, and he found success in his UFC debut as well.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each athlete:

Kamaru Usman
Record: 11-1
Key Wins: Sean Strickland (UFC 210), Leon Edwards (UFC on FOX 17), Warlley Alves (UFC Fight Night 100), Sergio Moraes (UFC Fight Night 116)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Despite his obvious athleticism and decorated collegiate wrestling background, it’s understandable why some were slow to fully buy into the Usman hype. On paper, winning four straight fights — of his current six fight UFC win streak — via decision doesn’t exactly light the world on fire.

However, that falls apart if you actually watch those fights. In each of them, Usman came close to finishing or otherwise battered his opponent in all areas like they weren’t even in the cage with him. The lack of knockouts was simple inexperience, something he’s quickly outgrowing judging by his recent knockout win.

Usman dominates his bouts via a combination of raw physicality, wrestling and aggression. Those traits should serve him just fine opposite Meek, who has never dealt with someone who can wrestle quite like Usman, even aside from his other skills. That said, an argument can be made that Meek is the heaviest hitter that Usman himself has faced. Last time out, Usman showed Moraes no respect at all on the feet while in pursuit of the knockout. That approach worked on the Brazilian jiu-jitsu guy, but he would be best advised to show a bit more caution here, at least until his foe is starting to slow down from Usman’s wrestling and pressure.


Emil Meek
Record: 9-2
Key Wins: Rousimar Palhares (Venator FC 3), Jordan Mein (UFC 206)
Key Losses: Albert Odzimkowski (Fight Exclusive Night 8)
Keys to Victory: Aside from being a strong athlete, not much was really known about Meek ahead of his UFC debut. In that bout, Meek showed off both a well-rounded game and hard-nose approach to combat, wearing down the veteran and growing stronger as the fight wore on.

Opposite Usman, the first goal for Meek is to remain on his feet. Usman’s top control is suffocating, the kind of miserable wrestling that sucks the life out of a fighter. Meek’s overall plan here should be to land a knockout blow of some kind, and that will be far more difficult to do if his arms are gassed out from grappling. Usman does his best wrestling along the fence, so that is not a position Meek wants to find himself in.

Instead, Meek should look to draw aggression out of his opponent. Brawling is certainly an option — Meek does hit damn hard after all — but a more ideal strategy would be to sting Usman with a crisp jab and long kicks. If he can get Usman to swing hard from too far out, he can find counter opportunities similar to the strikes Moraes landed.

In Meek’s case, however, those counters should prove far more devastating.

Bottom Line: It’s not the top opponent Usman has been asking for, but it’s still a solid match up of 170-pound prospects.

Right now, the sky is the limit for Usman. There are still areas for him to improve technically, sure, but his athleticism and wrestling are nearly unmatched. Plus, he’s still rather young in his pro career, not necessarily in his prime just yet. That period is approaching though, so another win — extending his UFC record to 7-0 — should finally earn Usman a Top 10-ranked opponent.

Meek’s ceiling is not so well-established. He looked very solid in his last two fights, but he does have a pair of stoppage losses on his record to a pair of unheralded European fighters, which causes some hesitation. If “Valhalla” derails Usman, however, those past defeats are largely forgotten, and he’ll steal Usman’s No. 10 position in the rankings.

For either man, a defeat would be his first in UFC. For Usman, losing his win streak and momentum toward a title shot would definitely hurt. On the other hand, Meek doesn’t yet have much momentum, but a loss in his second UFC fight hurts his job security moving forward.

At UFC Fight Night 124, Kamaru Usman and Emil Weber Meek will open the main card. Which man will have his hand raised?

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