Pavlovich vs. Blaydes Breakdown

Twitter: @DadHallOfFamer


A raucous crowd had gathered. They screamed. They cursed. The foaming spittle from their gaping mouths sprayed on the one in front. They didn’t seem to mind. There was a hunger in their bellies that only violence could satiate. They wanted blood, but they had to settle for my humiliation.

Rivaling the heat radiating from the crowd’s hate, the sun warmed my freshly bald pate. They had shaved my head, stripped me, and covered me in only a burlap poncho.

The Holy man, who was anything but, stepped forward and addressed the crowd in a commanding voice, "He comes before you with a solemn heart. Shorn of secrets, naked before the eyes of Gods and men to make his walk of atonement."

Two dweebs, whom I recognized from their Twitter profiles, stepped on either side of me and tore away the burlap poncho like basketball warmups. The buttons in the back made a satisfying xylophone snapping sound all the way up, and there I stood, naked. I pictured the tv censoring my indecent parts and the pixels being but a single box.

Then the bane of my remaining existence, a portly Holy woman, who was anything but, stepped up and began clanging a cowbell and yelling, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" Someone from behind kicked my bare arse, and I lurched forward.

I stubbed my toes, and the bottom of my feet cracked and split as I stumbled over the cobbled street. From above, people standing in open windows rained buckets of putrid liquids upon me. The crowd hurled insults like projectiles along with actual projectiles. Rotted vegetables and fruit, baby diapers, small livestock, Bud Light cans. They hocked, gagged, and spat their vile phlegm on me.

"Shame! Shame! Shame!"

Onward I marched, led down a never-ending winding path likely used for Jeep commercials, its entirety lined with venomous spectators and sadistic rabble-rousers. I crawled the final dozen merciful feet on hands and knees. How far and how long I had walked, I do not know, but by the end, I was covered in more filth than a street in downtown LA. There was no telling how many infections would fester in my wounds.

My ordeal was over, but it was only the first step on the path back to righteousness. In the end, it was a small price to pay for such gross incompetence. I was further sentenced to a year of fight-talk probation and recently came good on my debt to society. I wasn’t the only one who picked Chris Daukaus to beat Curtis Blaydes last year, but I am the most contrite. Do better, they said, and I like to think I have.

Main Card

Sergei Pavlovich vs. Curtis Blaydes

I picked Chris Daukaus to beat Curtis Blaydes last year. There, it is all out in the open; no more skeletons hanging with the Frederick’s of Hollywood Oscar De La Hoya Spring collection in my closet. The pick was born from my lack of confidence in Curtis Blaydes to choose the path of least resistance. In a way, I was right. Blaydes chose to stand and bang, acquiescing to Daukaus's only chance of winning the fight, instead of Goldberg spearing Daukaus from the jump and stealing his soul like Shang Tsung from the top position. But new shit talks, old shit walks.

Although his last fight only lasted fifteen seconds, it sure looked like Blaydes was primed to stand toe to toe with Tom Aspinall. The fight ended when Tom blew out his knee while throwing a leg kick. But I have to say, I was having spice-enhanced prescient dreams of Aspinall lying on the mat face up with his feet crossed, the dead man's fall. Aspinall decided to trade naked leg kicks in the opening seconds while Blaydes fired right hands at Aspinall’s stationary head. I thought Blaydes may have only needed a couple more seconds to land a fight-ender.

For wrestlers, it is the curse of the knockout, losing touch with their wrestling after finding success with their striking. Rashad Evans and Tyron Woodley come to mind. After Rashad KO’d Sean Salmon and Tyron KO’d Jay Hieron, they turned into Kanye, "Uh uh, you can’t tell me nothing!" You can’t blame them; chicks dig the knockout. And I certainly don’t blame Blaydes; his striking has improved tenfold since his debut in 2016 against Francis Ngannou. With Ngannou’s UFC departure—who beat Blaydes twice—and Bones talking about retirement after a fight with Stipe Miocic, maybe Blaydes can stand and bang with the best in the division, but his biggest advantage remains his wrestling.

Such will especially be the case this weekend when Blaydes fights Sergei Pavlovich, a man with hands heavier than guilt. Pavlovich fights are quicker than shot clock violations, and this one will be no different if Curtis Blaydes doesn’t copyright infringe on the game plan Brock Lesnar used against Heath Herring when Brock started the fight with an all-out blitz across the cage. If Blaydes can’t immediately get Pavlovich to the mat, he will need to work behind his jab and 1-2 to set up his shots. And he will have to avoid extending combinations and engaging Pavlovich in the pocket. There is no such thing as 50/50 exchanges with Pavlovich; they’re more like 90/10 exchanges that end with Pavlovich’s opponents bursting into flames like vampires in daylight. Doubling up the jab in front of the cross will provide Blaydes the extra cover needed to close the distance and level change safely without getting blasted by an uppercut.

The biggest hole in Blaydes’s skills is his submission game. For a guy who averages over six takedowns per fifteen minutes, he has as many career submissions as you and I. None. If Blaydes ever learns how to take the back and synch up a rear-naked choke, he could be unstoppable. A Curtis Blaydes with a submission game in a division full of strikers has championship potential. Pavlovich’s only career loss came in his debut when Alistair Overeem took him down and melted Pavlovich with heavy ground and pound. As soon as Pavlovich’s ass hit the mat, he was blowing his Life Alert whistle and yelling for Alexa to call 9-1-1. Can Blaydes stand with Pavlovich? Yes, but takedowns will be like a Game Genie cheat code.

Sergei Pavlovich is wild; he howls at the moon. Against Pavlovich, the pocket turns into the Bermuda Triangle. Fighters turn up missing, no black boxes are ever recovered when they step into the pocket and exchange with Pavlovich. All you hear of them are firsthand accounts from locals on the Marshall Islands who describe seeing someone meeting their description being held captive. One thing you won’t get from a Pavlovich fight is closure. In his last bout, Tai Tuivasa got into a firefight, and Pavlovich lifted Tuivasa off his feet and spun him around with a right hand. In less than a minute, Tuivasa’s damage chart looked like the SnapCrap map of San Francisco. Tuivasa hasn’t been seen or heard from since.

What makes Pavlovich special is his eighty-four-inch reach and unorthodox arm angles. He throws punches with his arms almost fully extended past a forty-five-degree angle with his elbows locked out, creating a stiff frame instead of a whip. This forces him to shovel his punches using his body weight to heave them and eliminates arm punching. Lower peripherals are Pavlovich’s secret weapon. He carries his hands at his waist and throws wide hooks and upward hybrid uppercuts/hooks that come from the hardest place to track punches, below eye level. Pavlovich has a short power jab and a dynamic right hand that he throws like a baseball. He can throw it over the top like snapping off a curveball, three-quarters like a four-seam fastball, or from the waist like a Dennis Eckersley submarine. When he engages, Pavlovich blitzes into the pocket with alternating lefts/rights and changes his arm angles mid-exchange.

Power is easier to deal with than speed. Pavlovich’s hand speed is enhanced by how his punches start halfway to the target; they have a head start. Because he doesn’t carry his hands high, protecting his face, he doesn’t have to extend them very far to touch you. More than his power, it is his smoke and mirrors hand speed that catches opponents slippin’. But none of that matters if Pavlovich can’t stay on his feet. The fight was over as soon as Overeem tripped Pavlovich to the mat. Pavlovich looked like a Guage Creed caught in the headlights on his back. The good news is Pavlovich’s low hand position and propensity for firing off shots from low angles gives him a natural defense against level changes.

Pavlovich is 17-1 for his career with fourteen TKO/KOs, and all but three of his fights ended in the first round. He will either draw Blaydes into a firefight and no one will ever see or hear from Blaydes again, or he’ll get taken down and planted in the earth by heavy ground and pound where he will grow and bear fruit once a year and kids will carve their names into him for decades to come.

Blaydes is the (-160) favorite, and Pavlovich is the (+135) dog. The play is an early finish, under one and a half rounds. Fantasy-wise, Pavlovich is a solid middle-tier option; he is all or nothing, but his upside will be hard to overcome if you don’t have him because a first/second-round early finish is his only path to victory. What will his cardio look like in round three and beyond? No one knows. Pavlovich fast plays every fight, kill, or be killed.

The main event winning streak got back in the winning column last week when Max Holloway put on another striking Master Class. Turns out, Alexander Volkanovski is just that good, and Max hasn’t lost a step. This one is one of the toughest main event picks of the year so far. Sergei Pavlovich via TKO, round two. On wax. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Brad Tavares vs. Bruno Silva

Last week we saw several veteran vs. young up-and-comer matchups and the results were split. The co-main and main events saw the veterans reign supreme while the undercard saw the success of the younger fighters. Brad Tavares is another UFC veteran with a cape on, a super veteran, making his twenty-second appearance in the Octagon since competing on the Ultimate Fighter 11 back in 2010. Bruno Silva is a former Rizin Champion with extensive experience outside the Octagon and making his sixth UFC appearance since his debut in 2021.

Brad Tavares is a purgatory fighter; he’s stuck in the middle between average and... average. Cue the Stealer’s Wheels: "Yes, I’m stuck in the middle with you, and I’m wondering what it is I should do." Tavares is stuck in the fight friend zone; he’s non threating but will give you a good scrap with no strings attached and provide a shoulder to cry on should he fook around and beat you. He’s also the shift manager at the Bridge of Death; he’s one of the premier gate keepers in the middleweight division. He was the one who helped usher Izzy into the spotlight by costarring in Izzy’s first main event back in 2018.

Overall, Tavares is a solid striker who always shows up and scraps till the final bell. He has basic kickboxing with decent but not overwhelming power and can hang with most strikers in the division. His major malfunction is he has Titanic leaks in his defense. He likes to use "pulls" to evade strikes but never takes his head off the centerline and tends to stand and cover in front of opponents instead of using angles to avoid strikes. His descent is usually painful and slow like Jack Dawson’s, but Tavares will throw hands all the way to the bottom until a little submarine comes around one hundred years later and discovers him covered in barnacles, still punching. Ol’ Barnacle Bill-ass.

The best way to describe Tavares’s striking is refurbished. It looks good and works properly at the store but stops working when you get home. Early on, Tavares looks slick with boxer’s head movement and short counters, but then, somewhere around mid-fight, all that goes out the window, and he just starts taking heavy damage. The key for Tavares against the wild Bruno Silva will be avoiding the clinch and keeping the fight standing. Bruno is a wide puncher, and Tavares has tight straight punches, and as you know, straight punches beat wide punches every day of the week, including leap years. Tavares should be able to beat Bruno down the middle if he circles away from Bruno and not retreat in a straight line when Bruno blitzes.

Fantasy-wise, Tavares will be a moderate pickup at best. He only has one finish since 2011, when he KO'd... Phil Baroni. Blast from the past. And Tavares averages under three and a half significant strikes per minute. He's a Fantasy little person, a midget if you want to be a Richard about it.

Bruno Silva throws kicks and punches, but don’t call him a kickboxer. He’s a rare breed that has better ground strikes from the top position than standing strikes. Coming into the UFC, I thought of Bruno as a takedown guy with heavy ground and pound. I’ve seen very little of that over his couple of fights. His striking looks like he walked into a spiderweb and can’t get it off him. He flails and stabs and wings punches and can’t put together coherent combinations. But he makes up for lack of technique with Chief Wiggum stupid power. He’s a hockey scrapper, an old-school Tiger Williams (the most NHL penalty minutes of all time) enforcer, throwing haymakers like he’s fighting on skates. Silva attacks in short, wild blitzes like he’s the cannon fodder charging at the front line at Vicksburg. Here’s a red flag for you: Geral Meershaert dropped Bruno on the feet in Bruno’s last bout before Meerschaert choked him out.

Bruno, there ain’t nothing wrong with a little bit of clinch and grind. Bruno needs to get back to his essence, reconnect with his soul, and get back to the Bod Man cologne and LA Looks hair gel that got him to the dance. Get the fight to the ground and go to work from the top, Bruno. He busts out with the classic Donkey Kong ground and pound when he’s on top, heavy hammer fists and elbows. Silva’s Fantasy value will be in a TKO/KO finish. Check it: Bruno is 22-8 for his career with noineteen TKO/KO’s and zero point zero subs. His value will be dragging Tavares to the mat and grinding out a finish from the top.

Tavares is the (-175) favorite, and I wouldn’t trust him any more than I would a fart after eating Chipotle. Have your economy size bottles of Chipotlaway ready. Bruno will be a value-drenched (+145) dog and will have a clear path to victory if he can relocate the fight to the mat. Although Bruno is the bigger finishing threat, Tavares has only been finished three times in his career, so a decision is most likely. Damn, this is a complete toss-up. When in doubt, take the dog. Bruno Silva via decision.

Jared Gordon vs. Bobby Green

Let's get a couple of things out of the way. First, Bobby "King" Green is my favorite fighter. His style is impetuous, his defense is impregnable, and he’s just ferocious. Second...


Jared Gordon lost to Paddy Pimblett. I don’t like it any more than you do. In fact, I had an Andy Jackson on Jared Gordon in that fight. Paddy won the third round. Why? Because he threw three knees and two elbows, and Gordon didn’t throw anything. A little of something beats nothing of something. If Jared had landed even a foot stomp, he would have won that fight. Hell, I was begging him to throw just one shoulder strike. But he didn’t.

Bobby Green is one of the best pure strikers in the game. He’s got the footwork and head movement of a Dominick Cruz sippin’ Vitor juice. Bobby Digital is the God Father of slip and rip; make you miss and make you pay. Joystick movement is Bobby’s trademark, moving and striking in all directions and remaining in a position to strike. Pay attention to Bobby’s stance. He squares his shoulders and hips to the opponent, and darts punches from his waist. With the shoulders and waist already rotated, he can piston punches without any tells. Combine that with crazy hand speed, and Bobby hits you with shit you don’t see coming.

Cue the Schoolboy Q "No Hands on the Wheel:"

Look, ma, no hands. Bobby fights with his hands down by his waist and rarely uses a guard to defend. He is one hundred percent defensively dependent on movement and creating angles. The low hand position also aids his hand speed by traveling from the lower peripheral, which is hard to see. Bobby also uses step-in hooks to close the distance without looking like he’s closing the distance. The trade-off for all his movement and squared stance is a lack of power.

Bobby isn’t much of a finisher and usually overwhelms with superior speed and volume rather than power. You saw this catch up to him in his last bout against the cerebral Rain Man Drew Dober. Bobby was piecing up Dober for one and a half rounds before Bobby made a grave mistake. He allowed Dober to trap him along the cage, taking away Bobby’s ability to pull and create escape routes, and Dober took the first opportunity he had to capitalize with a massive left hand. The key for Bobby will be using his underrated wrestling/grappling to keep the fight standing and in the center of the cage, where he will dominate the striking and rack up significant strikes.

Don’t get me wrong; I love me some Jared Gordon, too. I’ve always thought he was criminally underrated, but he spurned me in his last three fights. I bet on him to beat Paddy and Grant Dawson, and he didn’t show up for large portions of each one. He beat Leonardo Santos last year but didn’t quite take the risks he should have to finish Santos. On the feet, Gordon throws mostly hooks and short overhands; he’ll be vulnerable up the middle to Bobby’s straight punches. And compared to Bobby, Gordon moves like an oak tree. Look at your damn boots; they’re starting to grow roots! Gordon stands flat-footed and walks into the pocket instead of using short, choppy steps or bouncing in and out. He’ll be a standing target if he doesn’t get the fight to the mat.

Gordon’s path to victory will be using his grappling to neutralize Green’s striking. If Gordon does get Bobby to the mat, he must take risks and look to create damage while he can. He can’t try to salt away the clock by simply holding Bobby down. Bobby is no chump on the mat, and lately, we have seen the judges award damage over control time. Scoring takedowns doesn’t guarantee you will win the round anymore. Jared must create damage this time.

I’ll be the first to admit the line on this one is a little wild. Bobby Green is the (-275) favorite, and Gordon is the (+220) dog. This fight will be much closer than the odds suggest. Gordon is a scrappy veteran, and Bobby Green tends to have some mental lapses in the cage. Jared Gordon will have chances to win the fight. The odds reflect the large discrepancy in their striking prowess. Bobby is just on another level. Put it on wax: Jared Gordon, he went to Jared, Jared from Subway, IDGAF! Bobby Green in three. TKO, round three.

Brogan Walker vs. Iasmin Lucindo

I don’t think this one will be very competitive. Iasmin Lucindo is a serial killer hiding murder material in a cereal box on top of her stereo. In her debut, Lucindo fought the lump that grew out of Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s head during the first Zhang Weili fight. She fought Yazmin Jauregui, aka Joanna Jr., in San Diego last year, and the two would have stolen the show had it not been for Nizzy Nate Landwehr. Lucindo throws nothing but Sylvester Stallone Over the Top overhands and ducking wide hooks. She’s a volunteer firefighter who will stand in the pocket and trade until the end credits roll. Her right hand is a little reminiscent of a Manny Pacman left hand, and the 2-3 is her manufacturer's stock setting. Overall, Lucindo is a member of the hands team; they put her on the field for onside kicks.

Brogan Walker recently made it to the finals of the Ultimate Fighter. She’s a CrossFit boxer with stiff hands and basic footwork. She’s all power and no tact and lacks the intricate nuances of fighting at this level. There are levels to this, and she’s not at Lucindo’s level. In addition to stiff striking, Walker has a negative ground game. Her ground game is a Madden –10. She has a gopher’s ground game, a Lupe Fiasco "The Cool" (IYKYK) ground game. She does have one thing going for her in this matchup. Every single time I completely write off someone in elegant calligraphy, they win. Ask Christian Rodriguez.

Iasmin Lucindo by TKO, round three.

Matthew Semelsberger vs. Jeremiah Wells

This is matchmaking at its finest. When it comes to the stand-up, this will be a brawler vs. boxer matchup. Jeremiah Wells is a baggage claims brawler outside Gate 7 to Toledo, and Matthew Semelsberger has chloroform power in his right hand. Just catching a whiff of Semelsberger’s right hand will put you to sleep. Save your doobie break for the next fight; you don’t want to miss the less than five minutes this one will last.

If you stand and bang with Jeremiah Wells, he will have you dancing with Demi Moore to the Righteous Brothers Unchained Melody real quick. You’ll be popping up in mirrors and scaring kids after they say your name three times real quick. This dude fights like he’s shot out of a cannon. He will sprint across the cage while windmilling his arms, pick you up, dribble you, then bust a Steph Curry half-court shot. Mercy is him taking you down and pounding on you. On the feet, he takes nothing but batting practice home run hacks and tells fundamentals to go F themselves. His hands are grim reaper scythes; if they touch you, you’re a goner.

But the unknowns about Wells are immense. He is 3-0 in the UFC and only one made it out of the first round, and that was only for thirty seconds. But he already has KO’s of Court McGee and Warlley Alves. The question is, can Jeremiah thrive in a traditional back and forth scrap in deep waters when eventually he can’t just rely on uber aggression to win?

Matthew Semelsberger is a throwback grimy fighter who likes to dirty box in the clinch and sit in the opponent’s guard and tee off like Tito. He also has excellent boxing with a devastating right hand. His right hand was custom fabricated to land on Jeremiah Wells’s chin. It’s straight down the pike and has already scored Semelsberger two fifteen-second KOs in the UFC. Wells’s punches are a mile wide, and Semelsberger’s right hand will beat Wells down the middle if Semelsberger can stand his ground in the pocket and not get swept out to sea by Wells’s power. Semelsberger’s right hand looks like a throw from third base, Ken Caminiti, from the seat of his pants across the diamond.

Fantasy-wise, both of these guys have fight-ending potential. Semelsberger will likely have to survive an early storm and mount a comeback. This could be the fight where Wells's aggression is used against him. This is basically a Vegas pick ‘em. Jeremiah Wells is (-115), and Semelsberger is (-105), and you can get plus money over a round and a half. This is another all-or-nothing toss-up. Jeremiah Wells via TKO, round one. Wax on, wax off.

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