For a few weeks, we thought the gym was haunted. Shit would just turn up missing, like the leftovers I would leave in the fridge. Or things would wind up in some random place where I knew I hadn’t left them. I was the only one who noticed for a while, but slowly, stories began to make their way around the gym. Wink said, one time, he thought he heard music playing and smelled Panda Express when he returned unexpectedly to get his phone after locking up for the night. Said he could swear someone was watching him, too. He got spooked and booked it.
Well, Wink ain’t no b**ch, so I knew something was up. I called the Paranormal Hunters, and they showed up with their little HAM radios buzzing and beeping and night vision cameras and such. They found two things: nothing and not a damn thing. They said they caught a disembodied voice on a recorder, but I thought it sounded more like some asshole playing the trumpet than a voice.
So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and set up cameras around the gym. It wasn't long before something went missing; my green chile breakfast burrito. Wink and I reviewed the video and damn near had a conniption when, around midnight, the ring apron lifted, and a glowing light shone from underneath. A tall figure crawled out on all fours, like the girl climbing from the well in that one horror movie. Wink said it could be Slender Man, but I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. The lanky shadow disappeared at the back of the gym and returned ten minutes later, crawling like a damn spider back under the ring.
We felt like Red and the Warden when they discovered the hole in the wall behind the Rita Hayworth poster when we finally peered under the ring. I’ll be damned if it weren’t a humble abode under there. There was a Foreman Grill, a cooler, a tv and Xbox, Bose speakers, and a bean bag chair with Jon Jones lounging in it. Wink and I had assumed Jon skipped town after that USADA jabroni showed up unannounced. But it turns out Jon had just hidden under the ring. Been living there ever since.
Yep, Jon was phrogging before it was a thing. He’s always been ahead of his time. Turns out, all that stuff between Jon and that USADA jabroni was just a big misunderstanding. In fact, they’re roommates now. That jabroni moved in a few weeks ago. Jon says he doesn’t mind, but I know he has his heart set on buying his own ring when he wins the heavyweight belt on Saturday. He’s already got the U-Haul booked.
This edition of Weekly KO is brought to you by Mr. Nice Guy and Maui Wowie. When life get’s hard, pick up that card with the smiley face.
Bones Jones vs. Ciryl Gane
Pico this, pico that. Aaron Pico, picograms; IDGAF, the only pico I know is de gallo. And yes, it has onions; all pico has onions. Or it would just be little leaves and tomatoes. He’s back, mf’ers! The best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be.
The man they call Bones.
In 2011, he became the youngest UFC Champion ever and still hasn’t met defeat; he refuses its repeated attempts for a face-to-face; there is no common ground. His lone "loss" was a 10-8 round that ended with Matt Hamill’s head bouncing on the canvas like Dre and Snoop in a Lo-Lo. Ring ding dong, even Hamill could hear them bells ringing. If that’s a loss, I never want to win. Humanity has endured much—toilet paper shortages, bubble championships, milk crate challenges—since the last time Bones’s shadow was cast upon the Octagon canvas. Some say it never left; it stayed behind frolicking, creating mischief, and fomenting doubt about those who never beat him but claimed to be Champions. It will finally be reunited with its physical form this Saturday when the heavyweight version of Jon Jones returns against the UFC's Frankenstein, Ciryl Gane.
What makes Jon Jones great isn't his arsenal of DARPA-developed offensive weapons; it is his D. He has the best D of all time. That’s a hell of a choice of words. His defense is the best in combat sports; it’s impetuous, impregnable. The way he anticipates and reacts to strikes is as if he knows what’s coming. Like Bill Belichick videotaping the opposing team’s practices. It’s like Jones looks at your controller when picking your plays during a game of Tecmo Super Bowl. He slips strikes with slight head movements and deflects shots out in front with an active hand guard that functions as an impenetrable forcefield. Also, his footwork is masterful; he circles off the cage when under attack, never allowing opponents to trap him in compromising positions. You have to track him down and beat him out in the open. Bones has remained undefeated for so long because he rarely takes heavy damage.
Offensively, Bones has scythes for elbows and shins and 300 spears for hands and knees, but his best weapon is range. He can employ all his strikes from long distance, including debilitating street stomps to your knees and thighs that stifle offensive advances. The biggest knock against Jones is sometimes he fights too cerebrally. He spends the better part of early rounds downloading data and allows opponents to score points and gain confidence. You can make a case that Jones has three unofficial losses on his record against Alexander Gustafsson (first time), Thiago Santos, and Dominick Reyes. None were better fighters, but Jones got out to slow starts, possibly trying to be too strategic with his attacks, waiting for perfect openings. If he had imposed his will from the jump in those fights, none of them except the first Gus fight would have been close.
All that being said, Bone’s clearest path to victory may be wrestling, dragging Gane to the mat and chipping away with elbows from the top. Gane has shown he can wrestle offensively, but also showed massive black holes that swallow galaxies in his ability to grapple from his back when he fought Francis. Gane is unlike any striker Bones has seen before, a true heavyweight with a lightweight’s footwork and athletic ability. There's a chance Bone may have no choice but to relocate the fight to the mat out of necessity.
Ciryl Gane is the most dynamic striker in the heavyweight division since Cane; no last name needed. #FreeCane. He’s a mad scientist’s perfect concoction of technical skill and absurd athletic ability. Gane is a Frankenstein of sorts, freakishly sewn together with parts and pieces salvaged from the cutting room floors of laboratories from every combat sports discipline and paraded around the Octagon like a Project Runway diva. Gane is Bone’s toughest test in the heavyweight division, and he’ll be fighting Gane after a three-year layoff.
Gane is light on his feet, and like Bones, attacks with a variety of offensive weapons from range. He leans back when throwing teep/snap kicks and can reach your body from across the cage. In his last fight against Tai Tuivasa, Gane was Parking Lot Simpin’ for body kicks; he attacked Tuivasa’s gut with stabbing teeps and blunt force round kicks from both stances repeatedly, giving each foot/leg equal opportunities to claim credit for the eventual TKO finish. But the key for Gane on the feet will be leg kicks. Thiago Santos Jay-Z'd the Blueprint for beating Jones: attack his ostrich legs. If you ever find yourself in an ostrich scrap, your only hope is to kick its scrawny legs. Leg kick TKO that mf’er. Mix in some satellite-guided missile jabs while skirting along the outside of the pocket, and Gane has a minimalist recipe to do something never seen before, beat Jon Jones.
The red flag for Ciryl Gane is his mental; he fumbled on the one-yard line while going in for the game-winning touchdown against Francis Ngannou. He scored an early fifth-round takedown, only to give up the position attempting a heel hook. He went on to spend the rest of the round on his back and managed to find the lone L in a dubstack. Also—it could be gamesmanship—Gane said he wasn’t training until just weeks ago when the fight was officially on the books. I know one thing about Bones Jones: he’s been training for the last three years.
Jon Jones is opening as the (-165) favorite, and Gane will be the (+135) underdog. Gane can win this fight with speed and perpetual lateral movement on the outside and finish it if he shows the same level of aggression that he showed against Tai Tuivasa. The fight is favored (-150) to go over four and a half rounds, which means a finish for either fighter will bring plus odds that can turn a twenty-twen-twen into generational wealth and a lifetime of exotic vacations in the Galapagos. A Bones Jones TKO/KO will return ( ), and a Gane TKO/KO will return ( ).
I’m riding the first main event L streak of the year after a sure Ryan Spann victory was thwarted by a late Krylov fight cancellation an hour before the two were set to make the walk. Instead, Andre Muniz showed up with my grappling abilities and was dominated by the undercover savage Brendan Allen. I have no fookin’ clue who wins this fight. Bones Jones via decision. Wax on, wax off.
Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Full disclosure: I tried to name my daughter Valentina, but the motion was vetoed. I’m a Valentina Shevchenko Stan. That being said, I think she lost her last bout to Taila Santos. The accidental headbutt that fractured Santos’s orbital bone saved Valentina, but I still believe Santos won the first three rounds. Santos looked like Harvey Dent—half her face melted—after that head butt. But... IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THAT FIGHT! Valentina is still the champ, and she’s back one more ‘gain.
Have you ever seen the video of that little blonde girl punching the shit outta trees in the forest? Valentina Shevchenko is that little girl all grown up. She’s a modern-day Paul Bunyon and can bring down giant Sequoias with her bare hands and feets. Shevchenko entered the UFC as an elite striker and, over the years, has developed into one of the most well-rounded women’s fighters of all time. Not only can she head-kick you into Narnia, but she can also take you down and pound you into the center of the earth where the crab people dwell. Your specialty as a fighter is also hers. Every path to victory against Shevchenko is lined with IEDs, bear traps, and topiary animals that come to life and eat you ass first like grizzly bears do.
But Taila Santos exposed and took advantage of some holes in Valentina’s game. Valentina couldn’t out-wrestle/grapple Taila and had to fall back on her striking. The problem was, Valentina was behind on the scorecards and had to be the one to initiate the exchanges. And that there lies Valentina’s weakness. She’s a counter striker who relies on taking advantage of the opponent’s forward pressure to engage on the feet. Her special move is the check-right hook, and that became obsolete when she fell behind.
The Santos fight reminded me of Anderson Silva vs. Patrick Cote. In that fight, Cote refused to be the one to initiate the exchanges, knowing Anderson liked to counter-strike more than lead the dance. It frustrated Anderson but led to a competitive (boring) couple of rounds before Cote blew his knee out and lost the fight. When Valentina fell behind and had to be the one to initiate offense, she struggled and, at times, got desperate. The good news for Valentina against Alexa Grasso, she can out-grapple Alexa and get out to a lead that will force Grasso to come to her, where she can get back to her bread and butter, counter-striking.
The key for Alexa Grasso will be avoiding the clinch and forcing Valentina to use traditional level change takedowns if she wants to take down Grasso. The only fighters in the division that can hang with Valentina in the clinch are Taila Santos and Erin Blanchfield. Other than those two, you’re in a shootout with Satan with an empty clip; you don’t have a shot in hell if you find yourself in the clinch with Valentina. The good news for Alexa... Alexa, shut up. No, I don’t want to reorder Preparation H; that was a one-time thing. Anywho, the good news for Grasso is that she has the hand speed and combination striking to be able to maintain distance and avoid the clinch.
In fact, Grasso may have to best pure boxing in women’s divisions. Her fundamentals are airtight, her hands always beginning and ending at her face from a high hand guard. She has excellent hand speed and straight, sharp punches that she throws in quick successive two to three-punch combos. But... there’s always a but. Her tight fundamentals also double as her weakness. Her hands always travel along the same plane, become repetitive, and are easy to defend with a simple guard. Throwing from different hand positions allows you to find holes in defenses by engaging from different peripherals.
Chuck Liddell is the perfect example of this. Chuck always carried his hands low, offense was his defense, but his low hand position allowed him to generate a ton of power and land from over-the-top and circumventing angles. If you put Chuck’s hands at his face in compliance with perfect fundamentals, he wouldn’t have been the same fighter. Grasso needs to learn how to open up and attack from differing angles to cause more damage.
Can Grasso pull off the upset? I don’t think so. I’ll save the upset for Blanchfield or Santos in a rematch. I will say this: I think Grasso will be more competitive than the (+450) next to her name would suggest. Once again, Shevchenko will be a massive (-675) favorite, but this may be the last time we see her with such a large number next to her name for a while. A Shevchenko TKO/KO finish will return ( ), and the play for Grasso will be in out-working and out-pointing Shevchenko to a decision dub ( ). Valentina Shevchenko via decision.
Geoff Neal vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
Banger. This is a filthy rotten banger. Sound the air raid sirens, batten down the Doomsday bunkers, and make sure you have a can opener for the stockpile of Chef Boyardee. Dancing Bear, aka The Head Furry in Charge, Shavkat, is back and taking over another Ramada Inn conference room for the first Gathering of the Furries in 2023. The special guest for this year’s festivities will be an absolute heathen, Geoff Neal. Always be weary of Jeffs who spell their names Geoff. This one will elevate one of these guys into the top title challenger's conversation.
Shavkat not only sounds like a Furry name, but it also sounds like a DJ in Ibiza. But don’t let the name and his I, Robot sterile aesthetics fool you; Shavkat is wild. Wild, like he doesn’t wear chanclas in a community shower. Rakhmonov is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the welterweight division; he can stand and bang with anyone and has the wrestling/grappling/submissions to hang with all the grappling dynamos at the top of the division. A win against Neal could produce one of the most intriguing scraps of the year: Shavkat vs. Chimaev. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
On the feet, Shavkat has well-honed, polished instincts and reactions, using the slightest movements to slip and counter. It almost looks like Shavkat is devoid of movement altogether and just standing flatfooted and stationary, but he’s making reads and only moving his head/feet the exact amount necessary to avoid a strike, and not an inch more. His hands are sharp and straight and have no tells that hint at their intentions. It’s like his hands hit a wormhole and materialize at the target; there’s no wasted motion, and both hands are pistons. His down+back+a+b special move is the spinning back kick. He times it perfectly after forcing the opponent to move within its path.
Although he can stand and bang with Geoff Neal, Shavkat’s path to victory will be on the mat. He uses savvy trip takedowns in the clinch, and there’s no escape once he establishes the top position. His top game is stifling, and his submission game is a perfect compliment. Shavkat has a one hundred percent finishing rate with a symmetrical eight TKO/KO’s and eight subs. He can literally finish you anywhere. Overall, this dude is flashy like Walmart duds, not at all, but he’s better than he appears to the naked eye. His Fantasy value will be in a near-guaranteed finish wherever the fight goes.
Geoff Neal really hit the scene when he ran over Mike "Platinum" Perry, like Suge Knight in a Ford Ranger. There’s no secret to what Geoff Neal’s game plan will be in any fight; land his left hand. His left hand is a war crime that leaves behind nothing but devastation, pain, and suffering. He has to stow his left hand in a lockbox when he flies. When he lands it, people wink in and out of existence like an avatar losing server connection. In his last fight, he had Vicente Luque looking like Urban Myer leaving Applebee’s happy hour, stumbling, bumbling around the Octagon aimlessly. Neal also has a nasty left-round kick that he doesn’t use nearly enough.
Neal’s major malfunction is that he is a bookend fighter. He usually gets off to a good start and finishes strong but will mysteriously take his foot off the gas in the middle minutes/rounds. He let Luque and The Ponz, Santiago Ponzinibio, back into fights he was in control of by slowing his output to a trickle. His game plan against Shavkat will be old fashion sprawl and brawl; keep the fight standing and take chances on the feet to land a fight-ending left hand. Generally, Neal is tough to take down, boasting an eighty-five percent takedown defense. If he can keep this fight standing, he can beat Shavkat.
Shavkat will be the massive (-525) favorite, a reflection of his superior ground game, and Neal will be the mangy, flea-ridden (+380) dog. There’s long-shot value for Neal Fantasy-wise; he averages nearly five and a half significant strikes per minute and has the one-punch KO power to erase any deficit. Shavkat is the much lower output striker at just two and a half strikes per minute, and Neal could outwork Shavkat if the fight stays standing. But I think there’s a little Furry in all of us, and I’m rolling with the HFIC, Shavkat Rakhmonov, via rear-naked choke, round three.
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Jalin Turner
Classics. This one is a quintessential grappler vs. striker matchup. There’s no GPS alternative route around it. Mateusz Gamrot is one of the best grapplers in the best division in the UFC, and Jalin Turner is a mile-long assassin on the feet. Each fighter will have sizeable advantages in his area of expertise, but it could turn into a firefight wherever the fight goes. A win for Jalin Turner would make him 7-1 in the lightweight division and ensure his name is mentioned with the best at 155. A win over Jalin Turner will keep Gamrot within striking distance of the title conversation and add to his persona of being a dog for taking such a dangerous fight on short notice.
Jalin Turner is longer than a Weekly KO write-up; he’s longer than War and Peace. Turner uses dual stances on the feet but looks like a natural southpaw and employs long range snap kicks to dominate the fringe of the pocket. The impaling standing knees he uses to punctuate hand combinations cover more distance than most fighter’s jabs. His bread and butter is attacking the body. Turner shoeshines the body with hand combinations and opens six lane highways to the head with a constant barrage of teeps and knees. Overall, Turner’s range, volume, and variety of strikes makes him one of the more dangerous strikers in the division.
The red flag for Turner came against Matt Frevola and briefly against "The Little Doodie That Could" Jamie Mullarkey. The much smaller Matt Frevola was Turner’s only loss at lightweight and came after taking down Turner four times in the fight and clocking over a round of top control. Jamie Mullarkey also took down Turner in the competitive first round and rode out over a minute and a half of top control. Mateusz Gamrot’s wrestling is better than both of those fighter’s combined, and although Turner has a career seventy-seven percent takedown defense, he has yet to face an elite, world-class wrestler like Gamrot.
Mateusz Gamrot’s takedowns per fifteen minutes look like significant strike stats at over four and a half takedowns per three-round scrap. In a five-round bout against Arman Tsarukyan, Gamrot landed six takedowns, and in his last bout, a loss, Gamrot scored four takedowns against the Lightweight Dark Horse Beneil Dariush. Dariush still went on to out-grapple Gamrot in that bout, but Turner doesn’t have anywhere near Dariush’s grappling prowess. I point this out for every Gamrot fight; he likes to switch stances on the feet but almost exclusively shoots from the southpaw stance. He will even start in the orthodox stance, throw a step-in right hand, and level change as he switches into the southpaw stance. Jalin, when Gamrot is standing goofy-footed, he’s gonna shoot. Have the up-the-middle strikes primed and ready.
Since his UFC debut, I haven’t been very impressed with Gamrot’s striking. I know he had a highlight-reel KO against Scott Holtzman, but I thought he was a far more dangerous striker from what I saw before he came to the UFC. If Gamrot gets stuck on the feet for long stretches, he will have a tough time closing the distance and get picked apart. He doesn’t have a consistent jab to work behind and mostly relies on power punches as cover fire to initiate a level change. But his level changes are quicker than Taco Bell regrets, and if he lays a finger on you, you’re gonna have a bad time. His game plan should be similar to Brock Lesnar’s when Lesnar fought Heath Herring: Run straight across the cage and truck stick Jalin Turner. Straight open field tackle him.
Gamrot will be the (-220) favorite, and Turner will be the (+175) dog. The fight is favored (-155) to end in under two and a half rounds, and both fighters have value as finishers. Gamrot will be a submission threat, and Turner will be a TKO/KO and submission threat; he’s handy with defensive guillotine modifications. Turner is a one hundred percent finisher with noine TKO/KO’s and four subs on his pro record. A Gamrot submission will return ( ), and a Turner TKO/KO will return ( ) and a sub ( ). The bet for Turner is a finish; he likely won’t win on points because he’ll have to spend a significant amount of time defending takedowns and being careful not to over-pursue on the feet and walk into takedowns. Mateusz Gamrot via decision.
Jamie Picket vs. Bo Nickal
Bo Nickal via arm-triangle, round one. Let’s cut to the chase. You and I both know what time it is. Jamie Picket "Fence" should have picketed not to take this fight. But I admire him for doing it. Make sure your draws and browser history are clean, Jamie. This has a Justine Kish finish written all over it, a literal shit show. This is a Charles Bronson Death Wish matchup for Jamie, but when you’ve lost four of six bouts in the UFC, you kind of have to take what they give you. Thank you Sir may I have another.
Jamie Picket will be up against a freestyle wrestling World Champion and 2020 Olympic Team Trials finalist. But I have good news;I busted out the Etch-A-Sketch and drew up the perfect game plan. The Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren game plan. Flying knee out the gate or bust. Bo Nickal only has three career pro fights, and one was against a custodian or janitor if you want to be a d**k about it. Bo’s total fight time in a cage is one minute longer than one minute. Jamie has to come out and do something drastic before he ends up on his back and his neck snatched from his shoulders. And that will be about ten seconds.
Bo Nickal is for the babies. Throw up the W. Protect Ya Neck if you’re within a ten-square-mile radius of Bo Nickal. If you’re in the same state as Bo Nickal. This dude has Tourette’s, and his ticks are choking people. Nickal is a highly touted world-class wrestler, and two of his three wins came on the Contender Series. His striking is completely untested; he’s a southpaw with a massive overhand left and round kick and not much else. Actually, everything about Bo Nickal is untested, but I’m not sure Jamie Picket will be the proctor to administer a proper exam. (Refer to the first sentence)