Usman vs. Edwards 3 Break Down

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Location: Somewhere in Nevada

Date: August 20, 2022

It turned out to be a courier, referred to in official documents only as "Covington," who broke the whole thing wide open. A courier delivering Wings ‘n Things to an octagon-shaped compound in the middle of the Nevada desert provided the intelligence that hundreds of billions of dollars via an ever-expanding annual budget had failed so miserably to provide for three years. The downfall of the welterweight tyrant, known to the Central Intelligence Agency by the code name "Nightmare", can be attributed to a half-open door and the exchange of a dozen lemon pepper boneless wings.

Presently, green pyrotechnics illuminated the night vision goggles of special infantry unit Bravo Company as a half dozen stun grenades detonated inside the compound. The small, specialized unit of seven, comprising six breachers and one sniper positioned on the sixth level of a nearby parking structure, was chosen to perform the assault.

The first three through the door each fired a single shot, leaving behind three eliminated targets on the first floor. Another one-to-one ratio in the staircase created an unforeseen obstacle that cost Bravo Company time to circumvent in the narrow hallway. The drop was lost.

On the third level, non-targets, women and children, fled into the open. Heavy machine gun fire followed close behind from the rooms they had vacated. Bravo Company engaged, and the walls erupted into a dozen mouths, spitting plaster from the gaping holes. Tendrils of smoke danced sinuously from the perforation, and the gunfire from within ceased.

A helicopter’s propellers beat the air in the distance, but from the sound, not the Black Hawk that had performed the drop; it had experienced electrical issues and was forced to leave the restricted airspace.

The target was making an escape by the roof.

"Lima-Echo! Come in!" an excited voice broke into the unit’s earpieces.

No response.

"Lima-Echo, this is command. The target has made it to the roof; do you have visual?"

One thousand yards away, the target sprinted across the roof, never straying from the confines of a pair of crosshairs.

No response

"Lima-Echo, come in. Do you have visual?"

A shaky voice finally broke radio silence, "Affirmative, Command."

The chopper was overhead now.

"Lima-Echo, take the shot!"

No response.

"Dammit, Lima-Echo! Take the shot! That’s an order!"

No response.

As the target reached the chopper’s skids, a single shot pierced the cacophony of chaos. The buzzing propeller blades faded, faded, then were gone.

"Lima-Echo, what is the status of ‘Nightmare?’"

A momentary silence lingered for what seemed an eternity, and then, finally, a response; two words: "Headshot. Dead."

In a small conference room a continent away, raucous cheers rose, and high fives were doled out all around amongst a small group of spectators.

"Roger that, Lima-Echo. Headshot. Dead."

The reign of a brutal dictator, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the infamous GSP, had come to an end, and his clutches on the welterweight division relinquished over his cold prone body.

Main Card

Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 3

In 1775 a single musket shot launched a revolution. Two and a half centuries later, a single head kick launched another. And it almost didn’t happen. After a surprising first round in which Leon Edwards became the first fighter in the UFC to take down Kamaru Usman, he became Flat Earther’s exhibit A because he fell off the face of it for the next three rounds. Eddie Bravo was already planning a victory parade and had invited the Eagles fan who ate horse shit when they won their only Super bowl. Leon was dead in the water, an I.D. network three-part special. After seeing fighters such as Luke Rockhold gasping for air like they were Quaid on Mars, I chalked it up to the Salt Lake City elevation. Leon looked like a fighter who had been defeated by fatigue, and fatigue makes Leons of us all.

But then Leon finally let loose his best weapon, his left leg, and cashed in my Leon Edwards by TKO/KO twenty-twen-twen ticket. He put a distracting right hand in Usman’s face and got the reaction he anticipated, a duck to Usman’s power side. Usman answered the shin phone and accepted the long-distance charges collect. With a more consistent output and willingness to engage, Leon would have landed that shot a lot sooner. His technical and speed advantage over Usman on the feet is noticeable when Leon actually opens up. Also, Leon has a dynamic kicking game that Usman doesn’t have beyond occasional leg kicks.

Usman’s striking is power based and lacks the advanced intricacies of strikers like Leon and Wonderboy, the two best strikers in the division. Usman relies on bottom brick Dim Mak power more than he does technical footwork, head movement, and slick counters. He moves in straight lines and employs basic 1-2's from both stances. But Kamaru's specialty on the feet is managing range. His power is generated by landing punches at their apex, at the tail end of his reach. Left hand, right hand, orthodox, or southpaw, when Usman hits you, you wake up on Lost Island naked and afraid. Also, Usman’s constant pressure slowly erodes wills until the opponent crumbles under the constant barrage of Deebo bricks to the face.

But the element of Usman’s striking that Leon doesn’t have in this matchup is the takedown threat. Merab Dvalishvili showed how the constant threat of takedowns can completely erase deficits in every striking category. He dominated Petr Yan on the feet for twenty-five minutes because Yan couldn’t find any continuity, get into any kind of rhythm, or find his timing without being interrupted by level changes. Defending takedowns changes everything from stance and hand position to willingness to engage; I wouldn’t be surprised if Usman looked similar to Merab Dvalishvili in this fight. Kamaru had success in rounds 2-4 of the second fight disrupting Leon’s timing and stifling the few attacks Leon launched by level changing and initiating the clinch against the cage, and on some occasions, dragging Leon to the mat and making him fight back to his feet. Takedowns are effective whenever a fighter is forced to spend energy defending them instead of initiating their own offense.

The x-factor: The hunted has become the hunter. It’s the elk’s turn to cover itself in human urine, track through the forest, and stomp the shit out the guy with little branches glued to his head. Leon turned the tables like interior decorators with one kick. But the pressure always lies with the champ to defend their throne. As the old boxing adage says: You’re not the champ until you defend your title. It’s time for Leon to feel the entire weight of the crown for the first time. And the crown's pressure no longer weighing upon Kamaru Usman’s head, could bring out a different animal, one thought to be on the brink of extinction. You often hear athletes, when improbable streaks come to an end, talk about a sense of relief they feel, as opposed to disappointment. There is something liberating about freeing the mind of the inconsequential clutter that gathers over the years, one distraction at a time. Kamaru Usman is once again a Lynyrd Skynyrd Free Bird.

These two have now fought for almost a full forty minutes. All but five minutes and the time it took Leon’s shin to travel up to Usman’s head was dominated by Usman. As such, Usman is the (-265) favorite to do what he did for rounds 2-4 of their last meeting, make it a dogfight in the clinch, and pick his spots sparingly on the feet. If the elevation truly was the culprit responsible for Leon’s overall lackluster effort last time out, his output will be much higher, and it won’t take until the last minute of the fight for him to take a risk. With a proper gas tank, Leon can stalemate the wrestling and have more dangerous moments on the feet with a commitment to combinations and pressure that he didn’t have last time. Both fighters are finishing threats; Kamaru only needs to land once, and we know the same is true for Leon. An Usman TKO/KO will return (+265), and an Edwards TKO/KO will return (+500). I think Leon is more dependent on a finish to win, and a decision would likely favor the wrestling of Usman.

The main event-winning streak came to a screeching halt last week before Frank the Tank could even take off his pants. It was clear after the second round that Merab’s style was kryptonite to Petr Yan, and Merab instructed a MasterClass accordingly. This one is a classic toss-up, but I’m counting on Leon being much more aggressive this time. Leon Edwards via TKO, round four.

Rafael Fiziev vs. Justin Gaethje

Nobody in attendance will be walking out of the arena under the power of their two legs after this one. There will be a mass exodus of people crawling for the exits looking like Rick James in a pair of muddy boots. This fight is wild; it howls at the moon on some George Benson Give Me the Night type-ish. This is a matchup between two prominent kickers; Justin Gaethje is in the same pantheon of leg kickers as Pedro Rizzo and Jose Aldo, and Rafael Fiziev is a mini Mirco Cro Cop: left leg closed casket, right leg cremation. Make sure to strap on your Copper Fit compression socks for this one; some legs are gonna get the shit kicked outta them.

I can’t lie; I’m a little worried for Justin Gaethje. I’m like Van Damme in Kickboxer begging his brother not to fight Tong Po after Van Damme sees Po kicking stone pillars backstage before the fight. Except, if Gaethje doesn’t survive this fight, I won’t be trying to avenge his demise. Gaethje is the Webster definition of kill-or-be-killed, and at some point, in every fight, he looks like he’s in the Soul Train line busting moves, two steppin’ and chicken dancing all over the Octagon. The very first punch that Charles Oliveira threw in Gaethje’s last bout had Gaethje pop, locking, and dropping it like it was hot. No matter how hard Gaethje tries to stay technical and within himself, as he did in the Tony Ferguson fight, there always comes a moment when he throws all that cautious shit out the window, dawns the turn-out gear, and hops right into a firefight; he literally wants all the smoke.

Gaethje is as dangerous a striker as there is in the lightweight division; his special move is a chopping right low kick that he rolls off into a filthy left hook. His left hook has the power to enlighten and ordain non-believers and set them on a path to righteousness. Gaethje has a knack for rolling and generating massive power in his hooks and overhands, and both hands are medieval spiked maces that bludgeon and deform opponents. But this power doesn’t come without its detractions; when he gets to winging punches, his feet square up in the pocket, leaving him wide open and vulnerable to return fire. Also, he tends to fight too frantic, almost panicked, and loads up on every shot, making it easy to see his strikes coming and counter.

It’s too late to think you can change Justin Gaethje; he is what he is, and his path to victory will always be standing and banging and letting the chips fall where they may. He doesn’t save any nugs for tomorrow’s bowls because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone. He will be at a technical disadvantage against the Tiger Muay Thai gym head striking coach, Rafael Fiziez, but there isn’t any disadvantage his leg kicks can’t erase.

Rafael Fiziev is probably the scariest mf’er in the division. His round kicks are like getting donkey kicked by a thoroughbred; his kicks are considered cruel and unusual in forty-noine states, and each limb deployed carries a mandatory minimum of twenty-five to life. And if man-bun Fiziev shows up, pack it up, pack it in; this one will be over before it starts. Man-bun Fiziev doesn’t mess around. What makes Fiziev special is that he punctuates his kicks with crisp hand combinations. As I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as defending a kick unless you make it completely miss. Fiziev will destroy the opponent’s arms by making them defend his round kicks, then launch his hands right behind them. Fiziev also has nasty hooks that sound wet when they land, like the opponent’s insides change from solids to liquids instantly.

The big question about Fiziev was his takedown defense, but he answered that question in his last bout against RDA. Plus, he won’t have to worry about the takedown in this matchup. But Fiziev can get got on the feet. He lost his debut in a minute and a half when he was KO’d by a Magomed Mustafaev spinning back kick and follow-up punches. Also, go back and watch the Bobby Green fight. That fight ended with Bobby Green nearly finishing Fiziev in the third round, and I thought Green got robbed in that fight. One judge actually gave Fiziev the third round, which is nucking futs. But this is an excellent matchup for Fiziev and will be like launching boulders at a glass house from a stone fortress. I just don’t see Gaethje’s chin holding up to the onslaught coming his way.

Rafael Fiziev will be the (-240) favorite and Gaethje will be the (+190) shelter dog looking for a new forever home. Fantasy-wise, Gaethje will always have value and a path to victory on the feet. It only takes one or two of those calf kicks to change the whole landscape of the fight; he can make things ugly in the pocket and catch Fiziev in some wild 50/50 exchanges. I think this one ends before the final bell one way or the other. A Fiziev TKO/KO will return (+120), and a Gaethje TKO/KO will return (+300). Rafael Fiziev via TKO, round two.

Gunnar Nelson vs. Bryan Barberena

Holy mismatch, Batman! Man, Bryan Barberena just doesn’t give a fook. It’s not just empty rhetoric when he says he’ll fight anyone anywhere. Gunnar Nelson isn’t a killer-killer, but he has high-level grappling, and Barberena’s kryptonite is high level grapplers. Barberena and grapplers go together like the Human Torch and scuba diving, not at all. But Barberena is a First Team All Ruth Langmore fighter who you’re gonna have to kill to beat. If he can find a way to keep this fight standing for any length of time, his overwhelming output can make things interesting.

Bryan Barberena is a southpaw a month past his expiration date, rotten. He’s filthy-grimy and engages in nothing but firefights. He’s the first mf’er up the beach, yelling, "C’mon, you apes! Do you want to live forever!" Barberena is the king of throwing Killer Instinct twenty-five punch combinations; his scrap against Robbie Lawler is a perfect example. The homie just kept mashing all the buttons regardless of where his cardio meter was at. The key for Barberena is focusing on landing over power. He would rather hit you with ten shots than one big one. By keeping his hands in the opponent’s face, he stifles their forward pressure and disrupts their timing. Every time they’re ready to engage, they’re getting punched in the face. He licks you with one thousand papercuts and watches you bleed to death.

But Barberena’s downfall will come on the mat against Gunnar Nelson. Barberena’s grappling progress report reads:

Takedown Defense: Failing

Get-ups: Needs Improvement

Guard: Needs Improvement

Submissions: Failing

Scrambling: Needs Improvement

For his career, Barberena sports just above a fifty percent takedown defense, and in his last bout, RDA took Barberena down four times in less than two rounds and sub’d him. My neighbor’s Christmas lights have better takedown defense than Barberena—they’ve been up since the Christmas of ‘21. Barberena’s value will be in significant strikes if he can stay on his feet. But I don’t see that happening. This is just another bad matchup for Barberena, two fights in a row.

On the feet, Gunnar Nelson has a bladed Chuck Norris stance and utilizes blitzing 1-2s, darting in and out of the pocket. In and of itself, Gunnar’s striking ain’t all that, but he uses quick blitzes to close the distance and initiate the collar tie to the clinch. From the clinch, he has more trips than autumn. Inside and outside, it’s like playing footsie with Gunnar. He also has solid traditional-level change singles and doubles, but his bread and butter are nifty little trips. Once he gets you to the mat, his top control is stage five clinger. Dude is a weighted blanket, using his hips like an anchor to eliminate space and pin down the opponent. Like Aljamain Sterling, Gunnar’s specialty is taking the back and controlling from the backpack mount. In his last bout, he racked up over eight minutes of control time, and it was almost all from the back.

If this fight stays standing, it could be interesting because I’ve never been sold on Gunnar’s striking. But it won’t. Gunnar will get this fight to the mat and dominate from the top. Barberena is tough and has only been submitted twice in twenty-seven career fights, but I like Gunnar’s chances to find a choke at some point. For his career, Gunnar is 18-5 with four TKO/KO’s and twelve subs. I just don’t see any GPS alternative route around it; Gunnar Nelson via rear-naked choke, round three.

Jennifer Maia vs. Casey O’Neill

This will be a dope little scrap. For the last couple of weeks, this spot on the card was slated for Joanne Wood vs. Luana Carolina, and I couldn’t make any sense of it. These two young ladies right here are some high-level scrappers. Jennifer Maia had a full career before she made it to the UFC and is a veteran fighting in her thirtieth MMA bout. She made the slow climb to the top and earned a title shot against Valentina and even won the first round. And Casey O’Neill is a next-generation heathen with clean boxing and throwback 90s Tito and Mark Coleman ground and pound. Both fighters are well-rounded with no glaring holes in their games, and a win will be huge for both.

Even though she’s of no relation to Demian, Jennifer Maia has excellent Jiu-Jitsu to compliment her traditional Brazilian Muay-Thai. Although she lacks solid takedown defense, Maia is dangerous off her back and poses a submission threat if Casey decides to get back to her specialty, takedowns and top control. If Maia can keep it standing, this fight will be an FX Nip/Tuck back and forth affair that has split decision written all over it.

In her last bout against the female version of Dan Miller, Roxanne Modafferi, O’Neill spent the duration of the fight on the feet. She showed some high-level skills with clean short combinations, but she also had some sketchy moments. She didn’t record any takedowns and didn’t even really attempt any. Maia has some sneaky power and heavy kicks, so this will be a good time for O’Neill to get back to her ground game. From the top, she can punch the clock and put in some work with elbows and hammer fists and dominate as she did in her first three UFC bouts. She scored noine takedowns in her first three bouts but only attempted two against Modafferi.

I say all that to say this: I think this could end up being a kickboxing match and come down to who is first most often. The more aggressive fighter, the one initiating more exchanges, will win. Fantasy-wise, I think Maia is the bigger finishing threat. If she ends up on her back, she has submissions in her back pocket, and on the feet, her power could surprise O’Neill. In ten UFC bouts, Maia has yet to be finished. O’Neill is 9-0 for her career with three TKO/KO’s and two subs, including two TKO’s in four UFC bouts. Maia will be the (+145) dog, and O’Neill will be the (-175) favorite. Maia landed over one hundred strikes in her last bout against Maryna Moroz and could be a valuable dog and low-tier option if the fight stays standing. But I’m putting my eggs in the takedowns and top control basket. Casey O’Neill via decision.

Roman Dolidze vs. Marvin Vettori

This one is Biff Tannen vs. Hollywood Blvd. Andrei Arlovski. Marvin Vettori looks like a big Frat boy, head of the Cappadonna Wu house. And Roman Dolidze looks like a Kirkland brand Andrei Arlovski, when Arlovski was heel hookin’ Tim Sylvia and rockin’ the fang mouthpiece. Vettori is one of the least dangerous, most dangerous looking guys in the UFC, and Roman Dolidze is as dangerous as he looks (most of the time). This fight could go many ways; a stand-up slobber knocker, a stand-up dud, a clinch fest against the cage, or a grimy grappling firefight.

You might have missed the ending of Roman Dolidze’s last fight against Jack Hermansson because the FCC deemed it NC17 and cut the feed. In the 90s, that Dolidze finish would have come with a parental advisory sticker. It perpetuated eerie shades of Deliverance.

"Squeal, boy. Squeal!"

"Weeee! Weeee! Weeee!

Doldize caught Hermansson in a back-mounted calf slicer in transition after Dolidze forced a scramble from his guard. The calf slicer does exactly what the name suggests. It clamps the muscle against the opposing shin bone while putting tons of pressure on the quad muscles. It’s nasty, and several states have moved to replace lethal injection with Dolidze’s calf slicer for capital sentences. Dolidze bellied down Hermansson and beat him all about the head and face from the back mount while holding the submission. My mammy came running into the room and covered my eyes. Clear your browser history after you Duck Duck Go it.

If you look at Dolidze’s record, you will see he only has three career subs compared to seven TKO/KO’s and think he’s a better striker than a grappler. I think Dolidze is more dangerous on the mat from the top or bottom. His striking is one hundred percent power-based, complete with Cocomelon ABCs & 123s basic 1s and 1-2s. He relies on occasional brief blitzes and outbursts of aggression, where he unloads heavy, wide punches to overwhelm with his power. But he lacks movement and the ability to string combos together. But on the mat, he chains submissions together, forces scrambles, and catches limbs in the transitions. Hermansson is a top-level grappler, and he couldn’t handle Dolidze’s guard.

Marvin Vettori will have the overall better boxing, but he will be at a power disadvantage. It’s Vettori’s butt groove molded into the seat of the Decision Iron Throne. Since his debut in 2016, Vettori has only finished one fight and has never been finished in his twenty-four-fight career. Vettor is as dangerous as preschool safety scissors and non-toxic markers, despite his intimidating looks. Vettori’s game is wrestling when he can and controlling the top position and using speed and a steady flow of short combinations to outwork opponents on the feet. Also, he has a Mt. Rushmore granite chin. He has a 50 Cent jaw; it can take noine shots and still survive. In his last bout, a trouncing at the hands of Robert Whittaker, Vettori ate head kicks like Tarrare, the hungriest man in history. Vettori walked through about six direct-hit head kicks and somehow withstood a beating to make it to the final bell.

If the fight stays standing, Vettori will outwork Dolidze with a steady output and likely walk away with a decision dub. But if Marvin comes out with the Ralph Wiggum fight IQ and tries to relocate the fight to the mat, shit will get interesting quick. Fantasy-wise, Dolidze is the finishing threat, but Vettori is the output point scorer. Bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out! Bust out the Piso Mojado signs, slip and falls are imminent. Roman Dolidze will be dripping value all over your freshly Swiffer’d floor, coming in as the (+230) dog. He needs to come out aggressively and close the distance behind heavy strikes and drag Vettori to the mat. A Vettori decision will return (-135), and a Dolidze TKO/KO will return (+550) and a submission (+600). Once on the mat, anything is possible; he could be the first to finish Vettori. I’m feeling froggy right meow; I’m gonna take a chance on this one. Roman Dolidze via heel hook, round two.

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