In the war, I lost my first family. My prose, diction, theme. They lived in the desolation of my debauched mind. I left that train of thought behind because war was wrong. I came here to start over, begin a new family. Another chance to pass down the teachings. For 2000 years, knowledge passed from writer to reader, writer to reader. When my mind died, it stopped.
"Teach me; I can do it."
"You are not an author; you are not a Tolkien!"
"You told me, using any technique that works, never to limit myself to one style, to keep an open mind!"
"To honor you, Shidoshi."
That moment marked the beginning of my training. Lesson number one: Acknowledge a foe greater than I. A humble mind is an open mind.
Next came conditioning. A mind that can take a beating and never acquiesce to doubt cannot be broken. Shidoshi hurled criticisms, unconstructive, bordering on insults, over and over. But steadfastly, every day, I returned ready for more.
I began to operate in darkness, a blindfold over my eyes. As I typed—the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog—Shidoshi delivered blows that I soon learned to anticipate. Yesterday, I was given the honor of serving sake to Shidoshi and Mrs. Tanaka during the lunch hour. I did so, not spilling a drop. Taking my seat, I sat at the table, thankful for their presence. I felt the air flex; break. My hand went up in time to catch a blow aimed at my throat, a kill shot. I removed the blindfold to the greetings of two smiles.
It’s almost time.
The final test.
My limbs were fastened with rope to trees that served as posts to which connected a pulley system that allowed Shidoshi to pry my limbs apart as I remained suspended in the air. The certainty that all the muscles in my legs and arms would snap sent me into an immediate panic. But, through the pain, I remembered the litany and recited it faithfully: Show, don’t tell. Write what you know. Live free, write hard.
From the full splits, I slowly pulled myself up; the bondages resisted, moaning their protest. Still, I rose. The restraints faltered, then broke; I collapsed to the ground, free. Free of the limits placed upon my body at the behest of my mind.
With a Kitana in his hands, Shidoshi bestowed two strokes, one over each shoulder, and placed it in my hands. I am ready. I’ve always been ready.
They said it can’t be done. A number ten-ranked versus a former champion; you can’t make that interesting. In honor of Shidoshi, I will prove them wrong; It’s not only my duty, it's my destiny.
Erin Blanchfield vs. Jessica Andrade
I’m standing here, a roach nipping at my fingertips, wondering how we got here. We went from Chito Vera vs. Cory Sandhagen to Erin Blanchfield vs. Taila Santos to Erin Blanchfield vs. Jessica Andrade. If I’m keeping it one hunnid, when I heard Jessica Andrade was stepping in on short notice, I hoped it was in place of Erin Blanchfield. No hate, just facts. Taila Santos should be the champ after she was robbed against Valentina, and Jessica Andrade is in the mix for another shot at the belt. Don’t get me wrong, Erin Blanchfield is an undercover killer with a championship ceiling, but Santos and Andrade are Homer-jumping–the-gorge massive leaps in competition. But after what Alexander Volkanovski almost pulled off—and some (meaning me) believe did pull off—anything is possible. A matchup like this always leaves open the possibility of witnessing the Holy Grail of sports, a Buster Douglas upset.
I say all that to say this, Erin Blanchfield is walking into the casino like Dustin Hoffman on some Rain Man type-ish. She’s a card counter playing with house money. This is the Volkanovski win/win position she finds herself in. I hope everyone watching learned something from Volkanovski’s performance last week; when the odds are stacked against you, say f**k it and just go for it.
A disadvantage will be lurking around every corner when Blanchfield steps into the cage against Jessica Andrade. The same would have been true against Taila Santos. Physically, speed and power will be deficits Blanchfield will need to overcome, and her specialty, grappling, is a strength of Jessica Andrade’s too. Cue Rose Namajunas getting dropped on her head. For Blanchfield, this will be like that boring-ass computer game, Minefield. She will be surrounded by IED’s, a step in any direction could spell disaster. But Life is a game of risks, and it is the ones you don’t take that will haunt you in its waning moments.
Blanchfield will have to take risks closing the distance and committing to takedowns for twenty-five minutes. On the mat, she has the skills to dominate anyone; she uses aggressive ground and pound to open avenues for submissions. In her last bout, it took Blanchfield all of thirty seconds to take down Molly McCann and Gary Goodrich her. The ol’ Mel Gibson crucifix. Urban legend says Molly McCann is still trapped and eating punches and elbows to this day. Blanchfield has level change and clinch takedowns in her arsenal but her problem will be threatening enough on the feet to allow her to close the distance.
Erin Blanchfield has Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto stiff striking and uses Baby Einstein: Baby’s First Strikes combinations, left-right-left. She has a habit of not setting her feet when she throws punches and oftentimes enters the pocket without any cover fire. Jessica Andrade throws nothing but heavy bombs; any time spent on the feet, poking and prodding for a way in, will lead to an early night for Blanchfield. But she has no choice but to dawn a 90s No Fear shirt and commit to heavy strikes to close the distance and get hold of Andrade. Blanchfield has to make the Octagon a phone booth and keep Andrade locked up in the clinch.
Jessica Andrade needs no introduction, and her game plan will be a secret to none. She’s Charlie McGee, a Firestarter, who sets the Octagon ablaze just thinking about unloading short, heavy bombs on her opponent. Andrade has a mini-Mike Tyson stature as she sways menacingly side to side while unloading hooks to the body and head and angling off to close escape routes. Her best weapon is pressure. She marches down opponents and never ever takes a step backward. Even when facing a superior striker while under heavy fire, she continues up the beach toward the machine gun bunkers with a grenade in each hand. There will be no deviation from her tactics; she will compress the cage with constant forward pressure and extended combinations.
Andrade also has excellent wrestling to compliment her striking and will be tough to take down. Except for the Valentina Shevchenko fight, Andrade hasn’t been taken down in noine scraps. And if Blanchfield isn’t careful, it could be Blanchfield who finds herself on her back. Andrade carries her hands low, which generates more punching power and keeps her hands in a natural position to defend level changes. This will be Andrade’s fight to lose, and I think she is just a little too much too soon for Erin Blanchfield.
The numbers: Erin Blanchfield is 10-1 for her career with two TKO/KO’s and three subs and is 4-0 in the UFC with back-to-back submission wins. Jessica Andrade is 24-9 with noine TKO/KO’s and eight subs and is 15-7 in the UFC. She has almost as many career TKO/KO’s as Blanchfield has professional dubs. So far, the main event picks are undefeated in 2023. The streak sits at four after Islam Makhachev escaped defeat with a decision dub over the People’s Champ Alexander Volkanovski. Here’s to number five: Jessica Andrade via TKO, round three. On wax.
Jordan Wright vs. Zac Pauga
The best thing about this scrap is that it shouldn’t last long. No one can fall asleep and catch a full eight hours of sleep quicker than Jordan Wright. Like a kid on Christmas Eve, Jordan Wright can’t wait to fall asleep as soon as he steps into the Octagon. And Zac Pauga is fresh off a mid-afternoon nap in the Ultimate Fighter finale at the hands of Mohammed Usman, the somehow scarier version of Kamaru. Bust out the sleep apnea machines and set the Sleep Numbers to a firm eigthty-five; someone will be refreshed and ready for the day once he wakes up after this one.
Jordan Wright is a Karate black belt who earned his stripes at a Dojo in a strip mall in Idaho. Cue up 3-6 Mafia Riding Spinners; Jordan Wright’s best offensive weapons are spinning attacks and is especially handy with spinning wheel kicks. He’s never come close to landing one in the UFC, but I saw one on a nifty highlight reel on YouTube. In a way, Wright is a moron, an oxymoron; he’s a Karate expert but chooses to wrestle in the cage. That’s probably a smart move considering he throws hands from a glass jaw. The major malfunction of his striking is that he has TCU defense. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him defend an opponent’s strike. He wades into the pocket with Payless Wonderboy left-right blitzes and oftentimes runs face-first into counters.
Before making his UFC debut, Wright was an undefeated fighter at 11-0. His record is now 12-4; he’s the one doctor who didn’t recommend Colgate for healthy teeth and gums, 1-4 in the UFC. His Fantasy value will be slipping on a banana peel in the Octagon and landing a roundhouse in a pair of badass Hammer hot pants, and scoring a finish. There could be a scenario where he can clinch and drag Pauga to the mat and ride out top control to a late submission or decision. That 12-4 career record comes with a one hundred percent finishing rate with seven TKO/KO’s and five subs. He’s a finisher; I can’t argue with that. But he’ll be at a technical disadvantage on the feet and will need a walk-off homerun or a Keenum to Diggs Hail Mary to pull this one off.
Zac Pauga is coming off an encounter with a Grizzly bear in his UFC debut after competing on the most recent Ultimate Fighter. He’s a boxer with Brett Maher extra-point kicks and was also an undefeated fighter at 5-0 before stepping into the Octagon under the brightest of lights. The jab is his best weapon, and a stiff boxer’s jab is a good best weapon to have. Paugu uses the jab like a trusty wingman to set up opportunities for his right hand to come in and close the show. He’s a short combination fighter, and his special move is the lead-leg Superman punch that he sets up with round kicks. Before he got caught with a short left hook that Motel 6 couldn’t even keep the lights on after, Pauga looked good striking on the outside and out-pointing the massive Mohammed Usman.
Pauga will be the (-190) favorite and The Beverly Hills Ninja will be the (+230) mangy dog. There’s definitely long-shot value in Jordan Wright; one thing he doesn’t lack is aggression. He comes out the gate with no reservations and lets the hands and feets fly. A Wright TKO/KO will return (+350), and a Pauga TKO/KO finish will return (-160). Zac Pauga via TKO, round three. You know what to do with it. Put it on wax.
Josh Parisian vs. Jamal Pogues
Man, some of these scraps are like watching those Faces of Death movies in Driver’s Ed, hard to look at. That being said, the Gucci Bert Kreischer, Josh Parisian, is back after a successful Sober October and a second-round TKO dub in his last outing. He’ll be up against a guy who looks like they place him in a straight jacket and wheel him to the cage on a dolly, Jamal Pogues. Pogues is an undercover killer with same-day delivery hand speed—it’s at your door before you even flush—and honed technical boxing skills. This is another fight that has an excellent shot at providing finishing points.
Josh Parisian will have two paths to victory; he can try to relocate the fight to the mat from the clinch with trip takedowns or push all his chips into the center of the table and stand and bang with Pogues. On the feet, Parisian is an awkward fighter with counterfeit boxing footwork that they sell at swap meets. He attacks with combinations at a rate of five significant strikes landed per minute and will likely be the fighter initiating the majority of the exchanges on the feet. His special moves are the slowest spinning attacks you’ve ever seen. You get tired of waiting for them and just say, "f**k it," and let them hit you. He spins like the earth. The underrated part of his game is that he has some dog in him. In his last bout against Alan Baudot, he took a beating like when Cruel Intentions came out on VHS in the first round, only to come back and finish Baudot on the mat with strikes in the second.
Parisian’s value will be in overall output and an excellent finishing rate. For his career, Parisian is 15-5 with eleven TKO/KO’s and two subs. The biggest knock against Jamal Pogues is his low output and tendency to go long stretches without throwing much. Parisian can out-work Pogues and has the sneaky awkward power to put Pogues away on the feet or on the mat.
Jamal Pogues is the heavyweight Castor Troy; he’ll jab your face...off. Pogues’ jab is highly educated, holding a Master’s degree in boxing ears in. Death by one thousand jabs. He puts on jab clinics like GSP did when he defended his belt against Josh Koshcheck in their second scrap. Jamal is the rare exception of using the jab too much. It’s hard to jab too much; the jab is the most important strike in combat sports. But Pogues throws almost nothing but jabs to the point that it becomes a commitment issue. He’s afraid to take the next step and throw a 1-2. It’s like he’s allergic to throwing combinations. On the rare occasions that he does throw two successive strikes, it’s scary. He has heavy power and more speed than any man his size should be allowed to have.
Because of his commitment issues, Pogues had to fight twice on the Contender Series and won two unanimous decisions. Dana wasn’t sold on his lack of aggression while at the same time being perplexed by how good he is when he lets his hands go. The potential is there for Pogues, and he reminds me of a better, more technical Greg Hardy, like if Greg Hardy had played on the Patriots and not the Panthers and Cowboys. Pogues is 9-3 for his career with four TKO/KO’s and one sub. Without a finish, Pogues will be a middle-of-the-road Fantasy option likely to hover around the fifty to sixty significant strikes mark.
Pogues will be the sizeable (-250) favorite, likely because of his speed and more technical skills, but you know what time it is... Bust out the Piso Mojado signs; at (+200), Parisian will be dripping value all over your freshly Swiffer’d floor. He can make this an ugly fight in the clinch and on the mat and can get ahead on the scorecards with overall output. A Pogues TKO/KO will return (+250), and a Parisian TKO/KO will return (+500). A Parisian submission will return (+1600). I think Jamal Pogues’ skills are too hard to bet against in this matchup. Jamal Pogues via TKO, round two.
Marcin Prachnio vs. William Knight
Both of these guys are wild; they howl at the moon. William Knight might be the scariest looking mf’er in the UFC, and Marcin Prachnio has unpredictable Charlie Z striking that can accidentally KO anybody. This one could end in one of two ways: 1) they trade heavy bombs from the jump, and one ends up face down on the canvas, or 2) they stand and stare at each other for long stretches between intermittent bursts of action all the way to a decision.
William Knight is built like Rocksteady, built like Stone Henge. Dude is carved from the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs. If you sprinkled William Knight with some Suge Knight, he’d be a UFC double champ right meow. But instead of being Will I am, he’s too often Will I’m Not. He has nuclear reactor meltdown explosive power and often leaves you wide-eyed and scared shitless when on rare occasions, he detonates and throws heavy hands, flying knees, or picks someone up and slams them like it's Monday Night Raw. But like a nuclear reactor meltdown, it takes a century before the coast is clear to explode again. He suffers from stage four Jairzinho Rozenstruik syndrome.
Knight is all power and very little technique in every discipline. He has heavy hands and highlight-reel takedowns at his disposal and is at his best when he tries to fast-play a fight and end it in the first round. Otherwise, he’s a human timeout. Technically, Knight lacks basic defensive skills, reacting to strikes by sticking his chin in the air and backing up in a straight line. He doesn’t have the technical skills to engage in a typical kickboxing match on the feet or the technical grappling skills to do more than just hold the opponent down or press the Life Alert button hanging around his neck when he’s on his back. His Fantasy value will always be in an emphatic TKO/KO; one that comes out of nowhere. For his career, Knight is 11-4 with noine TKO/KO’s and is coming off back-to-back L’s.
Marcin Prachnio’s technical stand-up skills aren’t much better, but his style is better suited to engage in more traditional back and forth kickboxing exchanges. He’s stiff like gym socks, and his strikes are all haymakers that travel around the world. Marcin surpasses his carbon allowance for the month by the end of the first round. His striking reminds me of when you would make your action figures fight and bang them together. Much like Jordan Wright, Prachnio has some mall Karate kicks in his bag of tricks. Like when a Karate school is next door to a taco shop. His special move is a lead-leg high kick from either stance that he wings out of nowhere and is sneaky quick. For his career, Prachnio is 15-6 with eleven TKO/KO’s and one sub and is 2-4 in the UFC with only one TKO/KO.
This fight is a straight-up (-110) pick ‘em. There are paths to a finish for both fighters, but both also tend to gas, and they could end up as two jalopies broken down on the side of the road collecting buzzard shit. But just in case, clear your browser history and make sure your underoos are clean because the potential for an ESPN Top Ten KO is also a possibility. A Prachnio TKO/KO will return (+185), and a Knight TKO/KO will return (+175). William Knight via TKO, round two (wishful thinking).
Alexander Hernandez vs. Jim Miller
"Stop! Who approaches the Bridge Of Death must answer me these questions three."
"Ask me the question gatekeeper, I’m not afraid."
"What is your name?"
"What is your quest."
"To become a World Champion."
"What is the capital of Asyria?"
"Quit f**king around, Jim. I don’t know that!"
(Catapult ejects. Screaming fades in the distance)
The GOAT gatekeeper, Jim Miller, is back and continuing his own quest to become the only fighter to compete at UFC 100, UFC 200, and UFC 300. Just when I thought Jim was cooked on some Russ-type-ish, his career caught a second wind after winning three in a row. Not only has he won three in a row, but he finished all three, two of them on the feet. The key to Earthworm Jim’s longevity is his well-roundedness; he has no major holes in his game. Early in his career, he had underrated dangerous kickboxing to compliment a savvy grappling game, and other than a loss of some hand speed, that remains true to this day. He’s a crafty southpaw with sleeper power in his left hand and deadly submissions on the mat.
Check it: This will be Jim Millers forty-first scrap in the UFC. No shittin’. He has forty UFC appearances under his belt, and noineteen of his thirty-five career dubs came by submission and six by TKO/KO. That’s why he works the coveted opening shift at The Bridge Of Death; his likeness should be the UFC logo. He could stand and bang with Alexander Hernandez, but his most leisurely path to victory will be decking out in camo, taking down Hernandez, and going neck hunting. His Fantasy value will be in a submission finish or a long shot TKO/KO if he can grind down Hernandez, who tends to fade heavily in fights.
Alexander Hernandez is breaking into a dub factory and stealing an L personified. No one looks more like a killer than Hernandez does in the first round. And nobody looks more like a corpse on an autopsy table than Hernandez does in the second round. He goes from UFC World Champ to Bellator real quick. His biggest malfunctions are that he fades after pushing a heavy pace he cannot sustain, and he folds under heavy pressure. Alexander is a Ion Cutelaba Toyota Frontrunner. If you let him come out and gain a head of steam, throwing heavy 2-3's (cross-hook) and overhands, he will run right over you like Suge in a parking lot. But if you stand up to him and stay in his chest with volume, he will crumble.
Except for his win over Francisco Trinaldo and Beneil Dariush, Hernandez has lost to every good opponent he has fought. His wins have mostly come against average competition. Case in point, he lost his last two bouts against Renato Moicano and Billy Quarantillo, and his last win came against Mike Breeden. He had moments in the first round of both losses, but then the second round started, and he turned into Plaxico in the club. Playing to his strengths, Hernandez needs to get Jim Miller outta there early by looking to draw Miller into a firefight. This will be a battle of differing paces; Miller should look to slow-play the scrap and drag Hernandez into the latter rounds, while Hernandez will have to take batting practice homerun strokes from the opening bell.
Bust out the Piso Mojado signs, homies! Slip and falls are imminent. Jim Miller will be stepping into his forty-first scrap in the UFC as the disrespectful (+190) neglected dog. Not only is Hernandez riding a losing streak, but he also took the fight on short notice, and he’s still the (-240) favorite. You can get plus money (+180) if the fight goes the distance, but both fighters have clear paths to a finish. Hernandez can get Miller early on the feet, and Miller can drag Hernandez into AB-infested waters and finish him late. A Hernandez TKO/KO will return even money, and a Miller TKO/KO will return (+700). And a Miller submission will return (+400). This is a good opportunity to adopt a real dog in Jim Miller. Fook it! Jim Miller via rear naked choke, round three.
Jamall Emmers vs. Khusein Askhabov
You already know when you see an "ov" last name, some serious wrestling is about to go down. This will be the prototypical wrestler vs. striker matchup between two guys who have been sitting at the end of the bench hoping to score some garbage time minutes. Jamall Emmers hasn’t fought since 2021 when he Steve-Irwin-wrestled an L from the jaws of victory against Pat Sabatini. And Khusein Askhabov is making his debut and hasn’t fought since the infamous year 2020.
Jamall Emmers is a crafty striker, a Malt-O-Meal Bobby Green, and even though he’s no TLC scrub on the mat, he’ll be looking to keep this fight standing. He looks like a literal street fighter at happy hour outside the El Torito throwing hands; the loser picks up the tab. Emmers will be at a clear advantage on the feet and a clear disadvantage on the mat. He’s 18-6 for his career with seven TKO/KO’s and three subs and is 1-2 in the UFC. But he has already fought elite competition like Giga Chikadze, with whom he went the distance and lost a split decision. Fantasy-wise, Emmers averages over five and a half significant strikes per minute and went over one hundred in a decision win against Vince Cachero. A finish against the 23-0 Khusein Askhabov will be a long shot but not an impossibility if he can stay on his feet, force scrambles, and create long stretches on the feet.
If I was 23-0 at anything, I’d be bumping my gums and demanding preferential treatment everywhere I went. I’d be on some South Park Smug Alert! type-ish with my head between my legs, sniffing my own flatulence. I have no idea how Khusein Askhabov treats the feat, but I guess none of that matters until you do it inside the ultimate proving grounds, the Octagon. Khusein has excellent position over submission and position over striking wrestling but manages an excellent finishing rate with six career TKO/KO’s and ten subs. His game plan is always to take you down and keep you there because his major malfunction (from what I’ve seen) is his striking. He has Panic At The Disco striking, arm flailing, and Ohio State game-winner kicks. He’ll throw spinning shit, flying shit, and the kitchen sink at you before throwing his hands. If the takedown well dries up, this one will get interesting.
Emmers will be the slight (+115) dog, and Askhabov will be the (-140) favorite, and the odds are even for the fight going the distance. I think the bigger finishing threat is Askhabov, likely a submission. In his last appearance against Pat Sabatini, Emmers lost by submission, a heel hook. But he’ll have solid middle tier value with significant strikes landed if he can stay in the open mat and avoid the clinch.