Last night was mad real. You either die a Champion or live long enough to get choked out. Defeat was creeping closer in recent fights, but this time Valentina couldn’t escape it. One day it comes for everyone, even the GOATS. The season premiere of Million Dollar Listing will feature the person who dropped a twenty-twen-twen on an Alexa Grasso submission with a guest appearance by last year’s season finale star, the guy who dropped an Andy Jackson on a Leon Edwards TKO/KO. Grasso stole a page from the women’s GOAT Amanda Nunes and came out southpaw like Nunes did against Juliana Peña in the rematch. Like Peña, Valentina was caught off guard, but Grasso was caught off guard by nothing Valentina did. Especially not by that spinning back kick... And new!
If he sticks around long enough, defeat will come for Bones Jones too. But that day wasn’t last Saturday. And it won’t be whatever night he fights Stipe. I was almost fooled by how Bones looked physically as a heavyweight. It looked like the only training he had been doing the last three years was the training mode on the UFC video game. To say the least, he completely dispelled all the picogram talk. At first glance, I thought: I’ve seen people with shellfish allergies fight off harder chokes at Red Lobster. But upon further review, Gane’s neck was kinked like a water hose, and he was trapped up against the fence with no escape. There was only one thing left to do.
Speaking of chokes, the one Shavkat put on Geoff Neal was so brutal it looked offensive. I was afraid Shavkat would get canceled after that choke. Your pappy does you like that when you hulk up one day, thinking you’re ready to challenge him for the man of the house and find out your just Robin Ventura trippin’. That shit was a Black Friday choke when someone is about to grab the last doorbuster. Toupee off to Geoff Neal. That mf’er fought like a dog. It took staring death in the face to bring it out, but even in a loss, I thought that was his best performance. What a war. Next up: Shavkat vs. Chimaev.
Merab Dvalishvili vs. Petr Yan
This fight is sitting in a Motel 6 room, sweating bullets and wearing a wire surrounded by Hell’s Angels, an undercover banger. It features the best cardio in the UFC and a former champ who once looked invincible. Merab Dvalishvili was fabricated from NASA grade parts for durability and designed specifically for five-round fights. Like the Diaz brothers, Merab would be undefeated if there were no time restraints. His frantic pace and roach-like ability to survive nuclear holocaust inside the cage and keep coming forward make him an often slept-on dark horse in the bantamweight division. Merab is a thorn in the side that slowly bleeds out the most dangerous predators, and Petr Yan is certainly that, even after recently falling upon hard times. But hard times create hard people, and when your game is survival of the fittest, there’s always a war going on outside. One that no man is safe from, and Petr Yan is a Universal Soldier always ready to answer the call of duty.
Speaking of Call of Duty, Merab fights like there’s one hundred Merab’s clawing at every opening of your safe house as you frantically try to board them all up. Merab doesn’t die, he multiplies. You’ll gas out watching Merab fight and be ten pounds lighter after. He is the spokesman for weaponized cardio and is the number one disciple of the Khabib mentality when it comes to takedowns.
Takedowns on top of takedowns without relenting. You will never see Merab give up on trying to relocate the fight to the mat. He averages six and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes and once had twelve and thirteen takedowns in back-to-back fights. In ten career UFC bouts, Merab has failed to score a takedown only once, in his most recent bout against Jose Aldo. But even though he couldn’t get Aldo to the mat, he never stopped trying. The threat alone left Aldo flat-footed, punching in place, and not moving forward with his usual kill-or-be-killed commitment. If Merab gets hold of you, he won’t let go. You’ll be taking a shit after the fight, and he’ll still be latched on to a single leg and won’t even ask for a courtesy flush.
The problem with scoring twelve and thirteen takedowns in a fight is that the opponent was able to get up eleven or twelve times. Except for the Marlon Moraes fight, Merab sometimes struggles to hold fighters down long enough to implement ground and pound or hunt for submissions. Case in point: Merab only has one finish in the UFC. That came against Moraes when Moraes gassed after trying to bury Merab alive in the first three minutes. Merab then pulled on the little string in his coffin and rang the little bell to alert the gravediggers. They exhumed Merab, he scored a takedown, and proceeded to crack Moraes's ass like the Liberty Bell for the rest of the round from the top position.
Merab’s weakness is on the feet. He doesn’t have terrible striking, but it’s fairly vanilla. His sneaky hand speed and aggression make up for technical deficiencies, but defensively, Merab doesn’t react to strikes well. Also, he engages in firefights and tends to stand tall in the pocket while squaring his feet, making him very hittable. When it comes to the stand-up, Merab will be brandishing pistols compared to Petr Yan’s arsenal of ARs, Javelins, and Abrams. Merab’s path to victory will be along the Donner Party trail by horse and buggy in the middle of the winter. He’ll have to out-hustle and out-point Yan for the duration and try to grind and wear Yan down over twenty-five minutes. Like Li Jingliang, it won’t be pretty. The Aldo win was far from thrilling, but a dub is a dub, and you never apologize for those.
After the first Aljo fight, it would have been hard to imagine Yan losing three of his last four bouts. My live reaction to Yan’s decision loss to Sean O’Malley was that Yan got robbed like Bruce Wayne’s parents but didn’t have millions in inheritance to fall back on. After watching it a second time, the fight came down to damage vs. control. Down the stretch, O’Malley seemed to have the bigger moments, and the cut Yan suffered late was a bad look to the judges. But as T.I. once said, "New shit poppin’, old shit stoppin’." Yesterday only has bearing on today if you let it. Yan has the skills/talent to get back into title contention with one or two wins.
Yan is a slick, subtle striker with a ground game to match. He is a rare fighter who deliberately puts himself in the middle of the fire and watches the world burn down around him. His bread and butter is cover-and-return-countering in the pocket. Like Alexa Grasso, Yan uses a high and tight hand guard that’s hard to penetrate. Yan will allow opponents to get off strikes while he covers up, biding his time to strike and catch the opponent at the end of their combinations. This also puts the onus of closing the distance on the opponent and puts Yan in range to initiate the clinch or a level change. His special move is a first-grade sandbox step-in outside trip that he disguises behind a kick feint. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time.
Yan flows between both stances fluidly, but I think he’s more dangerous from the southpaw stance. His left hand is the number one stunna; it was the left hand that repeatedly hurt O’Malley. In many ways, Yan’s style will benefit Merab. Yan squats in the pocket, and it often requires the services of the Sherriff’s department to evict him. Covering up and allowing Merab to close the distance with combinations will give Merab an opening to Yan’s hips for level changes. Yan will have to engage more from the outside and pepper Merab with up-the-middle attacks.
Merab’s Fantasy value will be in takedowns but not necessarily top control. He’s a moderate output striker averaging just over four significant strikes per minute but has never landed more than seventy-three strikes in a fight, and all but one of his ten promotional bouts went the full fifteen minutes. Yan will be the finishing threat, as he’s far more dangerous on the feet. In noineteen career fights, Merab was only finished once, by submission to Ricky Simon. He was waved off literally after the final bell when he couldn’t get to his feet after fighting off a guillotine. A Yan TKO/KO will return (+215), and a Merab decision dub will return (+300). Last week, Bones ended the main event-losing streak in just two minutes. Here’s to streaking again: Petr Yan via TKO, round two.
Alexander Volkov vs. Alexander Romanov
This one could turn into a shit show real quick: Two Alexanders, one cup. This is a heavyweight striker vs. WWE wrestler matchup and will be a tale of two rounds. The first round against Alexander Romanov is like a new installment of Final Destination; anything can happen. He could pick you up, throw you out of the cage and into one of the arena’s support beams, causing the structure to collapse and the resulting cloud of dust to blind a biker passing by who veers into oncoming traffic and causes a big rig to turn over and spill thousands of pounds of nuclear waste, which then turns Las Vegas into a desolate wasteland like Stephen Kings "The Stand." Sorry for the run-on sentence. My third-grade teacher is stewing in her urn right meow. And the second round against Alexander Romanov is like playing on rookie mode and winning the Super Bowl in Madden. If the veteran’s veteran, Alexander Volkov, can avoid getting launched into orbit in the first round, he’ll likely win the fight.
Romanov started his career 16-0, including 5-0 in the UFC until his last bout against Marcin Tybura, a tepidly contested affair. As in every Romanov fight, he rag-dolled Tybura for the first five minutes with intermittent Donkey Kong ground and pound before fading to black in the second and third. He landed more significant hugs in the third round than strikes. Alexander Romanov, Herbert Burns, Dricus Du Plessis, and Derek Brunson are the Mt. Rushmore of January 1st cardio. If Romanov could fight for a full fifteen minutes like he does the first five minutes, he’d be a huge problem in the division. He has aggressive bouncer takedowns; he picks you up and removes you bodily from the establishment through the backdoor and implements deadly ground and pound. He’s one of those fighters who have better ground striking than stand-up.
On the feet, Romanov throws view-level haymakers with power you have to respect. He also has some sneaky athletic kicks for a man his size, but he’s a one-punch striker and rarely throws combinations. Besides his lack of cardio, his ground game from his back is also a major malfunction. He has a Brazzers guard; he looks like he enjoys being on his back and makes little effort to get up. The play for Romanov is always a first-round TKO/KO or sub; he has a near one hundred percent finishing rate with six TKO/KO’s and noine subs. After the first round, he looks like he beat out a full-swing bunt in his beer league, head between his knees, huffing for air. Fantasy-wise, it’s all or nothing for Romanov; he’s a real gamble. He will either score an early finish or end up waved off against Volkov.
Once upon a time, Alexander Volkov was taken down fourteen times in a fight against Curtis Blaydes. Of course, that means he got up at least thirteen times, but it still doesn’t bode well for him early against Romanov. The first round against Tom Aspinall is also a red flag. But don’t let his 1960 NFL leather helmet hairline fool you; he will hand out a proper fade if Romanov can’t get him to the mat and keep him there. Volkov has always been a fairly underrated striker and one of the rare tall fighters who actually knows how to use his range. Stefan Struve is the best example of a tall/long fighter who was terrible at using his range. Volkov doesn’t have that problem because he has a stiff jab and range-establishing teep/snap kicks to the body. The teeps to the body are the most important weapons he uses to create an impenetrable threshold hold the opponent can’t cross without first being invited.
Volkov’s value against Romanov will be a second/third round finish or out-pointing Romanov to a decision after Romanov gases. I’m surprised Volkov opened as the (+130) dog, and he’ll be dripping with value Fantasy-wise and odds-wise. He averages nearly five significant strikes per minute with the ability to top one hundred in a three-round scrap. Romanov will be the (-155) favorite, but after the first round, you might as well tear up that ticket and use it as an ass napkin. A Romanov TKO/KO will return (+350) and sub (+250). A Volkov TKO/KO will return (+185). Alexander... Volkov via TKO, round three.
Nikita Krylov vs. Ryan Spann
This was supposed to be the main event two weeks ago, but Krylov fell ill the day of the fight and had to pull out hours before the two fighters were set to make the walk. I copied and pasted the write-up, and if you already read it, thank you for being a Weekly KO groupie; if you didn’t, shame on you. Here it is after a little trimming:
Krylov is coming off a wild decision win against Volkan Oezdemir and a one-minute trouncing of the exhumed remains of Alexander Gustafsson. He is the combination of a wild and reckless YOLO striker and a world-class wrestler/grappler. Check out his fight against Glover Teixeira if you want to see a classic grappler’s delight and a showcase for Krylov’s ground game. It looks like a National Geographic Sahara documentary when he locks up the body lock and thrashes his opponents like a croc bringing down a wildebeest. From the position, he employs trips and sags his weight to drag opponents to the mat, where he implements heavy ground and pound. Krylov can carve through the opponent’s guard and pass to dominant positions or sit in the guard and rain down punches and elbows like the old-school Tito Ortiz and Mark Coleman.
On the feet, Krylov is the spokesman for JFT, Just Fookin’ Throw. There’s a drunken cadence to his stand-up, an almost frantic panic to his pace, and he usually engages recklessly straight ahead behind wild hooks and overhands. It often looks like it’s your first time playing the UFC video game, and you’re pushing all the buttons to figure out what they do; it’s all random strikes with no real set-up or flow. The 1-2-lead high kick is his go-to combination; he simps for it, falls in love with it and sets it on repeat. But none of this means he’s not effective on the feet; he’s unpredictable and aggressive with sneaky power.
The most important thing you need to know about Nikita Krylov is that he’s a finisher with some gaudy stats. Krylov is 29-9 with twenty-seven finishes, twelve TKO/KO’s, and fifteen subs. Stats don’t get much better than that. His last fight against Oezdemir was only his second win by decision. His Fantasy value will be three-fold, a TKO/KO on the feet or the mat or a submission. His best path to victory will be putting Spann on his back and making him burn energy to get back to his feet. But Nikita Krylov is borderline crazy when he steps in the cage, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he stands and bangs longer than he should.
Ryan Spann is an Uno wild card in the light heavyweight division. He has the skills and power on the feet to finish anybody and a slept-on choke game. I’m not talking about the Philadelphia Eagles; I’m talking guillotines and head and arm modifications like D’arce and Anaconda chokes. It’s easy to get caught up in Spann’s power on the feet, but he has twice as many career submissions as TKO/KO’s; he has twelve subs and six TKO/KO’s in twenty-one career wins. He’s on the same finishing spectrum as Krylov, with only three career wins going the distance.
Spann has solid offensive wrestling, and what he lacks in takedown defense, he makes up for with the ability to force scrambles back to his feet and attack chokes in transition. He was submitted by Anthony Smith but had brief moments when he scrambled to the top position and threatened to snatch Smith’s neck. Krylov will be a different test for Spann on the ground than Anthony Smith because Smith is more Jiu-Jitsu based on the mat, and Krylov is more wrestling based. The top control will be much different from Krylov than it was from Smith.
On the feet, Spann’s hands are crispy, straight, and to the point. He has an excellent jab, and his special move is my favorite combination, double-jab-cross. Straight punches beat round punches every day of the year, including leap years. Spann’s punches travel right down the center and will give him an advantage against Krylov’s wide strikes that leave Krylov vulnerable defensively. And you already know Spann has power. Dominick Reyes acknowledged such with the deepest curtsy I’ve ever seen after eating that infamous jab. His head hit the floor before any other part of his body. Spann folded Reyes like origami into an articulating swan.
Fantasy-wise, Spann will have TKO/KO value on the feet and submission value on the mat. Six of Krylov’s noine career dubs came via submission. Krylov is often in grappling firefights, and this one could turn into just that. If I was in Spann’s corner, the game plan would be to test Krylov on the feet and avoid the ground other than if he can drop Krylov standing first. A big red flag for Spann: His last fight that went the full fifteen minutes was against Sam Alvey, and the third round ended with Sam Alvey getting him some. He had Spann all but finished in the closing minutes as Spann faded heavily late. Should this one not go according to plan, an early finish, Krylov will be the fresher fighter late.
Nikita Krylov will be the (-175) dog, making Spann a value-ridden (+145) dog. I think Spann will have an early advantage on the feet with the cleaner striking, and he’s tough to hold down, at least early in a fight. A Krylov TKO/KO will return (+250) and a submission (+210). And a Spann TKO/KO will return (+275) and a sub (+425). Ryan Spann via TKO, round one. On wax.
Jonathan Martinez vs. Said Nurmagomedov
This one is a Civil War surgeon specializing in lower extremity amputations and a Khabib Peter-in-Law. This matchup is a dope little banger because, despite the last name, Said Nurmagomedov isn’t a wrestle-first Nurmagomedov. He likes to stand and bang and has a very unique skillset on the feet. Of course, he has excellent wrestling/grappling in his back pocket, but this could turn into a crazy clash of polar opposite styles on the feet.
Jonathan Martinez is a crafty southpaw with a hacksaw for his left leg and some of the nastiest calf kicks in the promotion. Martinez is Charlie Murphy with the leg assaults; you best bust out the Brett Favre Copper Fit socks, or you could end up with secondhand compression syndrome just watching him fight. Martinez is a kick-first striker whose striking is mostly predicated on kicking. It’s all left everything for Martinez; he’s a classic Gus Fring striker missing half his body who mostly initiates attacks with left-side strikes. Martinez shops exclusively at the Flanders Leftorium. You have to overplay Martinez’s left side like you’re guarding a basketball player who only dribbles with their dominant hand. You either crowd his left side and not allow him any space to get his power strikes off or circle in the opposite direction. But you can’t get caugth in between in no-man's land or he’ll kick the shit out of you.
Not only does he have deadly calf kicks, but he also has a Big Lots Giga Kick in his arsenal, an upward traveling round kick to the body that eviscerates livers. When you start anticipating low and mid-level kicks, Martinez will target the head and constantly keeps you guessing. Jonny’s weakness, though, is his hands. From the outside, Martinez can stick and move and has an excellent jab but is overly dependent on his left hand, often setting it on repeat with the anti-skip function activated. The key to fighting Martinez is staying in his chest like heartbeats and forcing him into a firefight in the pocket.
Martinez is coming off a huge win against the O-OG Cub Swanson. He had Cub flopping around on the mat like a mermaid pulled from the water after Martinez destroyed his leg with calf kicks. Cub was straight Imanari rolling, trying to roll away from the pain. Daddy was a Rolling Stone, he rolled away one day, and he never came home. His Fantasy-value will be in moderate significant strikes with a distant shot at a finish if he can keep the fight standing. Martinez will likely be around the sixty to seventy significant strikes range, and for his career has eight TKO/KO's and two subs in seventeen career dubs.
Said Nurmagomedov’s special move is the spinning back fist. When you press the box, triangle, x, and circle buttons on the PlayStation controller, Said throws a spinning back fist. When you press R1, R2, L1, and L2, he throws spinning back kicks. Said has more spins than a Bad Bunny Track. Said is a lot like Umar Nurmagomedov in that the two don’t engage in traditional exchanges on the feet; they won’t come out working behind the jab or put together crispy hand combinations, but they’re deadly one-punch strikers with specialty attacks. Like Umar, Said has nuckin’ futs leg dexterity and can throw nasty lead leg question mark kicks with the frequency of a jab.
If Said starts to get the worst of the standup and gets to eating too many leg kicks, he can bust out his wrestling and slick submissions. But I think Said will take his chances striking before he resorts to wrestling. In seven career UFC bouts, Said has only recorded two takedowns, and his subs usually come after the opponent has initiated the takedown. For his career, Said is 17-2 with four TKO/KO’s and five subs and has a 6-1 UFC record with two TKO/KO’s and two subs. He can be out-grappled and lacks takedown defense, but Martinez isn’t the fighter to take advantage of those holes.
Said will be the sizeable (-220) favorite, and Martinez will be the (+175) dog. Bring ‘em out, bring ‘em out. Bust out the Piso Mojado signs; Jonathan Martinez will be dripping value all over your freshly Swiffer’d floor. If the fight stays standing (a strong possibility) and the two throw bones back and forth, this will be anybody’s fight. Martinez’s calf kicks are the great equalizer, and by the time you realize your leg is fooked up, it’s too late. Martinez is the slightly higher output striker at nearly five significant strikes per minute, and Said comes in at just over three and a half. Martinez could out-work Said and steal close rounds on the way to a judge's nod. But I’m going to play this one chalk. Said Nurmagomedov via decision.
Austin Lingo vs. Ricardo Ramos
This one is a reliable '01 Honda Civic with stock roll-up windows and a three-disc CD changer in the back vs. a Tesla Model S. Austin Lingo is the former, and Ricardo Ramos is the latter. Lingo is a 3rd of the month Jamie Mullarkey (because you get paid on the 1st and you’re broke by the 3rd), with First Team All Mr. Hanky honors, a doodie that won’t flush. He’s a classic overachiever who chooses the path to victory less traveled. And Ricardo Ramos is a flashy striker who chooses the Evel Knievel daredevil path that usually includes BASE jumping from the world’s highest natural structures. If he can’t knock you out with a spinning back elbow, he doesn’t want to knock you out at all. This could turn into a Mobb Deep Survival of the Fittest little banger.
Austin Lingo is a throwback take-one-to-give-one fighter who usually goes through a crucible on his way to victory. He’s like the NASCAR driver that starts the race in the back of the pack and drafts his way to the front. But Austin’s lingo is violence (see what I did there). No matter the extent of the damage he’s taking, he will continue to come forward with reckless pressure behind tight hooks and overhands. He will literally walk through fire for a dub and is often a danger to himself. The local Sheriff’s department is usually called between rounds to conduct welfare checks on Lingo. But Lingo is 9-1 for his career, and more often than not, his cardio, pressure, and penchant for throwing combinations lead him to victory. Lingo is 2-1 in the UFC and coming off back-to-back dubs and will cause Ricardo Ramos serious problems if Ramos takes him lightly.
Ricardo has the best fatality in the UFC, a devastating spinning back elbow that he can serve up more ways than the Broken Yolk can serve egg dishes. He throws it as an offensive lead, hiding it behind short hand combinations and steps across the opponent’s face like he’s bailing out the back door, then spins. Or he can lure the opponent forward while drifting backward and spin on a dime, leading the opponent right into the elbow. Or, or he spins off a level change feint and builds extra power from his legs. Made to order; have it your way. Ramos also has traditional Brazilian Muay Thai with a squared stance and heavy round kicks. He can engage in traditional back and forths and bust out a plethora of flashy shit to keep you guessing.
The x-factor will be Ricky Ricardo Ramos’s wrestling/grappling; he averages over two and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes and has seven career submissions to go along with four career TKO/KO’s. This fight will be Ramos’s to lose, and as long as he doesn’t start doing the Macarena, feeling himself, he can finish Lingo wherever it goes. Ramos is the (-365) favorite, and Lingo will be the (+265) dog. One of two things will happen: 1) Lingo will get overwhelmed by Ramos’s athleticism early and finished, or 2) Lingo will hang around and chip away and make things interesting until the final bell with a chance to steal it late. Ricardo Ramos via TKO, round two. On wax.