The lobby was sleek and hospital-like in its sterile aesthetics.
"Mr. Blevins is ready to see you." A warm smile. "Right this way."
The man’s heart beat rhythmically with the succinct click-clack of the receptionist's heels against the freshly polished linoleum floor. Recessed lighting haloed around his tan pleather loafers as they walked the length of the expansive lobby.
"Ah, Mr. Martins." Beyond double glass doors, a round, gluttonous man in a loose-fitting gray suit stood, an offering hand outstretched, behind a half-moon-shaped Mohagany desk. "Please have a seat."
"Thank you, Sir."
"I’m sorry, I haven’t had a chance to look over your resume, but Mr. Brown gave you his highest recommendations. While I pull it up, why don’t you tell me a little about your experience in Nuclear Fission."
"Uh... I don’t really have any."
"Oh, that’s okay. We specialize in many fields here at Blevins’ Dynamics. How about gravitational propulsion?"
The man sat back; the chair groaned under his weight. "Well, what is your course of study?"
"Criminal Justice, but I dropped out fifteen years ago."
A look of perturbance. The rotund man stood up and offered a right fist, "I’m sorry Mr. Martins, I think Mike and I got our signals crossed. We’re looking for a little more experience than you can offer at the moment."
Mr. Martins dapped the human flatulence in a suit, "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to waste your time."
He had on ass cheek out the door, when from behind the Baron Harkonnen yelled after him. "Wait a minute! Hold up, Mr. Martins."
The man in the loafers, no pennies, turned around.
Blevins of Blevins’ Dynamics, held up a piece of paper with a single sentence written on it. Mr. Martins’ resume.
"This says you knocked out Islam Makhachev..." he said, with profound fascination.
"Yes, Sir. I did. A few years ago."
"Like in a dream?" Bewilderment. "Did you wake up and immediately apologize?"
"No, Sir. I knocked him out with a right hook. In real life." Mr. Martins smiled, "Only took me about a minute and a half too."
As if the sudden revelation had caused him to shed seventy-five pounds instantly, Blevins spryly maneuvered around the desk and scurried across the room, his pant cuffs caught underneath the heel of his shoes. "Well, Mr. Martins, why didn't you say so?" He offered a hand.
Mr. Martins shook it, "Please, call me Adriano."
"Yes, of course. Adriano, when can you start?"
"What time is it?"
They laughed heartily, old friends dusting off an inside joke.
Adriano Martins went on to become the worst physicist of all time. He also went on to lose every fight he had after knocking out Islam Makhachev. But I'll tell you this: If it had been me in his fight shorts that night, the feat wouldn’t just be the only thing written of my Indeed resume, it would be etched on my tombstone when I Brett Maher kick the bucket.
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Islam Makhachev
This could turn out to be one of the best fights of the year, and it was completely unexpected. In the Ev/Ov Game of Thrones, it's Islam Makhachev's ass groove is now molded into the coveted Iron Throne. Ankalaev, Chimaev, every Nurmagomedov, Islam reigns superior to them all. A title defense over a current champion will move Islam from the Lazy Boy in the corner to breathing down Khabib’s neck, poised to take Khabib's place sooner than we may have expected. For Alexander Volkanovski, he has an instant shot at MMA immortality and a shot at becoming Peter-In-Laws with Adriano Martins, the only man to defeat Makhachev in hand-to-hand combat.
On tap, we have a full-bodied grappler vs. striker matchup unless Makhachev does as he has recently suggested in interviews and decides to stand and bang with Volkanovski. The size and strength discrepancies between these two will be a near impossible task for Volkanovski to overcome in the grappling/wrestling departments. Even though Volkanovski once played Rugby weighing two hundred fifteen pounds, Makhachev is a massive lightweight and his strength will be unlike anything Volk has thus far experienced in the Octagon. Makhachev is a patient grappler who takes pleasure in slowly constricting his opponents until an opportunity to finish opens up.
Makhachev is a Smithsonian exhibit of takedowns, a complete archive of ancient and modern techniques on display in the Octagon. He can chain wrestle, outclass you with technique, or dominate you with pure power. His path to victory against Volkanovski is a six-lane highway with no speed limit or traffic, should he choose to take it. But I’ll tell you this right meow, Alexander Volkanovski is a better striker. Islam’s striking is overrated. I know professional fighters and coaches tout his kickboxing, and I know he dominated Charles Oliveira on the feet, but I’m still canceling after the trial period. I ain’t buying it.
I’ve never been sold on Oliveira’s striking; he is one of the worst defensive strikers in the division and almost loses every fight he wins because of it. Makhachev was often off balance, over-swinging, and fairly predictable. The left round kick and three-quarters overhand left are his best weapons, but he’s very vanilla. He attacks with mostly 2-3's (cross-hook) and an occasional naked round kick. His striking is power-based and not built to win twenty-five-minute kickboxing matches. If Makhachev is forced to stand and bang for long stretches, Volkanovski will pick him apart with speed and volume. Islam's superior physical attributes are best applied on the mat or in the clinch, and this fight is his to lose.
Alexander Volkanovski is a Michael Vick dog who’s built like Gimli. This is the perfect time for him to take a risk and jump up a weight class for a shot at accomplishing the impossible. In his last bout, he kicked every square centimeter of Max Holloway’s ass and likely posted his best career performance. You couldn’t hear Rogan and DC over the sonic booms his hand speed was creating. Volk was a blur in the cage, piecing up Max at range and inside the pocket. Alex is one of the rare short fighters who can fight on the edge of the pocket and doesn’t have to use his right hand to cover distance. Hand speed, feints, false pocket entries, and stance switches, Volkanovski uses all the tricks to cover distance and fight from the outside.
The lead leg is the key to Volkanovski’s striking. He peppers low kicks to either stance opponent and uses the constant low attack to open up his hands. Using kicks in combination is a massively underused technique in MMA but is fundamental in most stand-up disciplines. Volkanovski punctuates short hand combinations with low kicks and vice versa. Then there’s Volkanovski’s volume. He throws bones at a nearly seven significant strikes landed per minute clip and has recorded no fewer than one hundred thirty-seven significant strikes in his last five five-round fights, with a high of two hundred fourteen. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW MANY SIGNIFICANT STRIKES HE LANDED! Not if he ends up on his back.
And that is the question: Can Volkanovski stay upright or get back to his feet? He showed some serious submission defense and a heart the size of a Kentucky Derby thoroughbred against Brian Ortega. Volk was able to force scrambles, reverse position, and unleash heavy ground and pound in that fight. But Brian Ortega isn’t Islam Makhachev. How will he deal with the size and strength of Islam Makhachev? If I knew, I’d bet the Thunderdome (the world-class training facility in my one-car garage) accordingly. I will say this: Given enough time, Volkanovski will dominate the striking. Islam will have trouble with Volk’s speed, combinations, and ability to attack from range. Don’t let Volkanovski’s size fool you; this will be Islam’s toughest test in the cage so far. The Tsarukyan fight was competitive for Makhachev, but Tsarukyan didn’t pose the same danger to Islam. At least not the first time around.
Islam Makhachev is the prohibited (-400) favorite, and Volkanovski is the (+300) dog. Wait for it... Wait for it... Bust out the Piso Mojado sign because Alexander Volkanovski will be dripping value all over your freshly Swiffer’d floor. This has the Leon Edwards vs. Usman feel to it. Makhachev can get got on the feet. How do I know this? We’ve seen him get got on his feet. Makhachev’s Fantasy value will be in a win by submission. He averages over three and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes but has a fairly low landing rate on the feet, with a high of sixty-one in a four-round fight against Thiago Moises. But Makhachev is riding a five-fight finishing streak, and this one is favored (-205) to end before the final bell. I can’t imagine Volkanovski finishing Makhachev; he’ll have to traverse a Damer Party path to victory and out-strike Islam for twenty-five minutes.
The main event-winning streak sits at three after Sergey Spivak busted out the Koala Kare table and Pappy’d Derrick Lewis last week. I’ve struggled with this one for a while now. I think Volkanovski is a live dog, but I think Makhachev will be too big for him when it’s all said and done. When the day is at its end. Islam Makhachev via rear-naked choke, round five.
Josh Emmett vs. Yair Rodriguez
Nomak from Blade 2 is back, and he’s fighting for a title against a modern-day Ronin, Yair Rodriguez. This is a striker’s delight if there ever was one and a clash of styles. Josh Emmett has grenade launchers for hands and deploys nothing but heavy bombardments meant to destabilize entire countries. And Yair Rodriguez is a Hollywood stuntman striker with kicks so mind-bending you think they’re CGI amalgamations performed while wearing green pajamas with little white balls attached all over them in front of a green screen. This fight will be a battle of range and who can dictate it. Josh Emmett has dangerous wrestler striking, all hooks and overhands, that need to be employed inside the pocket at close range. And Yair needs space to throw his Encyclopedia of kicks and long, whipping hand combinations.
Emmett is basically a boxer with leg kicks and a Doomsday Bunker survivalist in the pocket. Everything he throws is explosive; he uses a combination of speed and his powerful right hand to close the distance and unload short combinations within the pocket. Nomak is a minimalist; he uses just enough head movement to avoid strikes and remain within striking range. He doesn’t move his head an inch more than is necessary to make the opponent miss so he can counter with thermal nukes. When Emmett enters the Octagon, he implements a scorched earth policy, leaving nothing behind but a radioactive hellscape and a convening war crimes committee. He was able to eke out a close decision in his last bout against Calvin Kattar because even when he wasn’t landing cleanly, he was knocking Kattar backward with every punch he threw, giving the judges the impression that he was causing more damage than Kattar.
Expect Emmett to implement a D-Day game plan against Yair. He will rush forward with all kinds of deadly shit exploding around him while unloading all the heavy artillery he has been stockpiling for the last several months. His value will be in a high output with a shot to end the fight suddenly at any time. Emmett averages nearly four and a half significant strikes landed per minute and landed over one hundred strikes in two of his last three bouts, and one of those was a three-rounder. In noine career UFC bouts, Emmett has only recorded three finishes, but Yair’s kill-or-be-killed style will provide many opportunities for Emmett to land a fight-ender.
Yair Rodriguez is a combination of Tony Jaa and Wonderboy and is the owner of a top three UFC knockout of all time when he KO’d the Korean Zombie with a walk-off Ong Bak elbow literally at the buzzer. This dude is a historian of all the kicking techniques ever implemented throughout human existence. Flash kicks, Shadow kicks, Helicopter kicks, Van Damme finishing move spinning splits kicks, Vegas showgirl kicks, FIFA bicycle kicks, they are all in Yair’s arsenal. The key to execute these kicks is space. You have to fight your instincts and get close to Yair, or you’ll end up in no man's land at kicking range, eating a buffet of feets to the face.
The underrated part of Yair’s game is his hands. They were on display against Max Holloway as he was more than willing to trade back and forth with Max. Yair has teleport hand speed, quantum leap hand speed with excellent range management. He has a blitzing style like Wonderboy, exploding into the pocket with quick two to three-punch combos and getting out. His major malfunction is that he tends to get lazy when trading hands. Yair lacks head movement and carries it high in the air when he exchanges back and forth. That will be very dangerous when fighting a pocket-power puncher like Emmett.
Yair’s Fantasy value will be in output; in three career five-round scraps, Yair was well over one hundred strikes landed in each of them and averages over four and a half strikes landed per minute. Despite having the best arsenal of kicks in the fight game, Yair hasn’t been a consistent finisher, and in twenty career scraps, Emmett has only been finished once. But this style matchup is built perfectly for both guys to have a shot at a finish even though the odds (-130) favor the fight going the distance.
Rodriguez will be the (-170) favorite, and Nomak will be the (+140) dog. Even in a loss, Emmett will be a valuable Fantasy option because this fight is guaranteed to be a firefight. But I think Yair has too many weapons, implements more techniques than Emmett, and will wear the belt after a twenty-five-minute war. Yair Rodriguez via decision. And new.
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Randy Brown
Sound the air sirens, batten down the hatches, fill the bathtubs with water, and stay away from any windows; this one will be a banger. We will find out if Jack Della Maddalena is the real deal after this one. Much like Yair vs. Emmett, this one will also be a battle of range and who can control it. Randy Brown is longer than the Dallas Cowboy’s thirty-year Super Bowl drought, and Jack Della Maddalena is a body snatcher who likes to use combinations to the body to set up kill shots to the head. So far, Maddalena has yet to be tested inside the Octagon, but that will change against the fourteen-fight UFC veteran Randy Brown.
Jack Della Maddalena’s striking is smoother than the feel of saying his name out loud. He’s the Fighting Irish logo personified and reminds me of a throwback 1920s boxer. I see Maddalena in choppy black and white footage when I watch him fight. Could just be my shitty Wi-Fi, but he reminds me of a time when they would box for one hundred rounds wearing gloves that looked like deflated footballs. He marches opponents down and batters them to the body to open avenues for his textbook left hook to travel. Maddalena is a master of both stances, and his jab from both sides is a spear that he uses when he goes marlin fishing. He likes to choose his stance based on the opponent and their weaknesses and can flow between them mid combination.
If you didn’t know already, I’m petty. I like to point out flaws. Although Maddalena’s striking is eye-pleasing, it doesn’t come without major holes. Maddalena lacks head movement in the pocket and tends to drop his hands and throw shovel punches from his waist when he engages with combinations. This leaves him wide open for coverup-counters and vulnerable during 50/50 exchanges. Also, he exits the pocket with his head straight up and never angles off to avoid counters. He just hasn’t fought a striker good enough to expose his weaknesses.
For his career, Jack is 13-2 with eleven TKO/KO’s and one sub and is 3-0 in the UFC with three first round finishes. He also has a dub on the Contender Series, the only fight to go the distance since his pro debut. Maddalena’s Fantasy Value will be a finish and a high output should he not be able to finish Randy Brown. He averages over eight significant strikes landed per minute, but all three of his UFC bouts ended in the first round.
Randy Brown is longer than the night in Barrow, Alaska. He’s an excellent kickboxer with a sneaky submission game that he uses as a potent takedown defense. Brown is the definition of a one-punch striker who likes to dance on the outside while attacking with long-range kicks and jabs. The best stand-up styles are the ones that combine traditional boxing techniques with kickboxing and Muay Thai techniques; Randy Brown mixes classic boxing head movement, footwork, and counters with Muay Thai kicks, elbows, and knees. Brown is at his best dancing on the fringe of the pocket, making the opponent constantly move their feet while lulling them into inactivity so he can deploy his Go-Go-Gadget right hand, which he can land from the Kraft Service station backstage.
Flaws? Yeah, he has plenty. Although he has excellent footwork, Brown sometimes gets lazy with his defense, gets trapped against the cage, and falls into the bad habit of bobbing and weaving his head without moving his feet to find an exit. He also doesn’t throw enough combinations and will have trouble with Maddalena’s volume. Brown averages an excellent four and a half strikes landed per minute, but he doesn’t put punches together well, and he’ll run the risk of getting out-worked on the scorecards.
Whoa. I just checked the odds. Maddalena is the sizeable (-325) favorite, and Randy Brown will be coming in at my sweet spot (+250). Bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out! Bust out the Piso Mojado signs. Not only can Brown score a finish on the feet, but the sneaky part of his game is his head-and-arm submission game. He uses D’arce/Anacondas and guillotine modifications to defend takedowns and offensively in the clinch and has five career submissions to go along with six TKO/KO’s. Brown will be a solid middle/low-tier Fantasy option with a high upside. A Randy Brown submission will return (+800) odds, and a Maddalena TKO/KO will return (-135). But Randy Brown’s output worries me. Without a finish, I think he will get outworked. Jack Della Maddalena via decision. On wax.
Justin Tafa vs. Parker Porter
Woof woof. This one is super ugly. Parker Porter "House" is a T-bone away from the super heavyweight division. One of his thighs alone could have fed the Domer Party for the entire winter. A spot on a PPV main card is Porter’s payback for taking one for the team and fighting Jailton Almeida on short notice his last time out. He’ll be up against Justin Tafa, who has been involved in nothing but wild fights in his five-fight UFC career. If this one stays on the feet, it will be a Flying J scrap for dibs on the lot lizard. If you squint a little, this one starts to look like an undercover big-boy banger.
Parker Porter has heavy hands, fifty pounds each, and has sneaky good wrestling and top control. Porter has bouncer takedowns; he manhandles opponents, dragging them to the mat, and his path to victory will be in doing just that to Justin Tafa. The last place you want to be on this earth is underneath Parker Porter. If he can drag Tafa to the mat, Tafa will have a hard time getting back to his feet. But if Porter can’t get Tafa down, he’ll be in a lot of trouble kickboxing with Tafa for extended periods. Porter has one month economy shipping from China hand speed and has trouble closing the distance because of it. But he does have nasty leg kicks and excellent cardio for a guy who looks like a Nathan’s hot dog contestant and not a prize fighter.
Justin Tafa’s brother, Junior, is a Glory Kickboxing veteran set to make his UFC debut in the near future, and you can only imagine the PPV scraps these two put on for the neighborhood growing up. Their dad was probably cleaning their room, eating their vegetables, and taking out the trash by the time they were in fourth grade. These guys were probably the original Kimbo Slice and Jorge Masvidal backyard scrappers. Junior is a better striker than Justin, but Justin is just as scary when he lets his hands go. The knock against Justin inside the Octagon has been his lack of aggression for long stretches of fights. But when he lets his hands go, he looks like he can KO anyone in the division.
Tafa likes to duck his head to the side, look down at the floor, and unleash hooks and overhands. His left hand is manslaughter, and his right hand is first degree murder. Tafa throws heavy wide punches from differing arm angles, crooked hooks, and has a stiff boxer's jab to complement his power. If he can keep the fight standing and increase his output, he’ll have the advantage on the feet against Porter. And Tafa will definitely be the bigger finishing threat. Tafa is only 5-3 for his career, but all five wins were finishes.
Tafa will be the (-125) favorite, and Porter will be a valuable slight (+105) dog. You can get plus money (+145) if the fight goes the distance, and if Porter wins, that will likely be the case. Porter will have to win with takedowns and top control. Tafa will have to end this suddenly before the allotted fifteen minutes is up. Tafa has a one hundred percent takedown defense but has only defended two takedowns in his UFC career. A Tafa TKO/KO will return (+145), and a Porter decision will return (+300). Give me Parker Porter via decision. On wax.
Jimmy Crute vs. Alonzo Menifield
The last couple of times we saw Jimmy Crute: He got KO’d by Jamahal Hill, and his leg looked like the hand in Army Of Darkness, running around the cage looking for an exit against Anthony Smith. Before his striking got exposed in his last two bouts, Crute was 4-1 in the UFC and looking like a future title contender. This fight against Alonzo Menifield will be far from a confidence builder for Crute. Menifield is the Terry Cruz of MMA, built like Lawrence Taylor on the juice instead of the booger sugar and will pose a major threat to Jimmy Crute.
First and foremost, Jimmy Crute is a wrestler. No matter how badly he wants to be a striker, Jimmy is a wrestler. Singlet and Princess Leia ear muffs wrestler. He’s a less boring Ryan Bader. Crute has excellent chain wrestling and savvy submissions. His bread and butter is the Kimura from side control that he attacks as soon as the opponent’s ass hits the mat. His wrestling is so good Crute took down Anthony Smith with one leg tied behind his back after Smith destroyed it with a calf kick. Crute isn’t a Jabroni on the feet, he has decent hands and solid leg kicks, but he lacks defense and intricate techniques. His path to victory will be out-wrestling the wrestler, Alonzo Menifield. Menifield has excellent offensive wrestling but lacks skills from his back.
Alonzo is as savage as his namesake in Training Day. "I didn’t know you liked to get wet, Jake." Menifield is a massive wrestler with homerun power in his right hand on the feet. It’s like getting tackled by a grizzly bear when Menifield shoots a double leg on you. In case you didn’t know, Grizzly bears eat you ass-first. TMI. Menifield has personal foul, roughing the passer takedowns. Waterboy takedowns. "Don’t talk about my mama!" But Menifield will have to beat Crute to the takedown, be the first to shoot. Alonzo’s grappling is on some Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Positions type-shit. From the top, he’s an assailant, but from the bottom, he’s a victim.
On the feet, Menifield is Webster’s definition of a wrestler striker with a napalm right hand that he uses too often to close the distance. He has 2-D 8-bit Atari striking, only moving in straight lines with little deviation from basic cross-hook combinations. If this fight stays standing, as it often does with two good wrestlers/grapplers, Menifield with have the one-punch KO power, but Crute will have the more diverse attacks.
There is very little chance this one will go the distance. It has a better chance of ending in the first round than going the distance. Zo is 13-3 for his career with ten TKO/KO’s and two subs, a near one hundred percent finishing rate. And for better or worse, every one of Crute’s last six fights ended in the first round. Crute can win the fight on the feet but will also have the added advantage of a submission. This is a classic toss-up. Have one of these guys on your Fantasy roster. A Menifield TKO/KO will return (+250), and a Crute TKO/KO will return (+250). And a Crute submission will return (+250). Jimmy Crute via arm-triangle, round two. Wax on, wax off.