Song Yadong vs. Ricky Simon
This will be a crunchy little banger between two underrated wrestler strikers. Song Yadong is one of the best wrestler strikers in the game, and in recent fights, Ricky Simon’s striking has become as dangerous as his relentless grappling. This will be the modern-day equivalent of Priscus vs. Verus fighting to the death in the Colosseum. Except Prsicus vs. Verus ended in a draw after fighting for hours, much to the ire of the spectators. You can imagine the wrath of ancient Roman heathens arguing over 10-8 rounds and damage vs. top control time and no one turning ancient Jacksons into Grants. Romans don’t get mad; they get stabby. Barring any point deductions, this one likely won’t end in a draw, and one fighter will be left in the mix at the top of an uncertain division with Aljo threatening a move to featherweight and the return of the King of Cringe Henry Cejudo.
You don’t want to mess with Yadong. At least, you want to be careful where you mess with Yadong. The Octagon is certainly not the place. After beating Marlon Moraes worse than life did Delonte West, Scott Spezio, and Ryan Leaf combined, Song Yadong earned a main event spot against Cory Sandhagen, a fight that would have, had he won, catapulted Yadong into the title contention conversation. Sandhagen was just a little too slick and managed to stay out of range of Yadong’s nuclear power for most of the fight. It ended due to doctor's stoppage between the third and fourth rounds, but Yadong proved he could hang with the elite.
Song Yadong is the perfect blend of power and speed with excellent defensive wrestling that ensures he can dictate where the fight takes place. On the feet, Song is a minimalist, surviving in the Octagon using only the most primitive weapons, a lead hook, cross, and rear-hand uppercut. He throws mostly 1-2s and 3-2s, and his special move is the rear-hand uppercut hidden behind the jab. The only major flaw in his design is that he falls in love with his right hand. Yes, he’s a power hand simp. But that right hand can put insomniacs to sleep and wake the dead.
The key for Yandong will be taking away Ricky Simon’s best weapon, his takedowns. Throw out the stats; Yadong has Stone Henge takedown defense, JRE takedown defense. Trying to double-leg Yadong is like double-legging a bronze statue. If Yadong can keep the fight standing and stay out of the clinch, his speed and power will give him a decided advantage on the feet. Sprawl and brawl; that’s the game plan for Song Yadong. His Fantasy value will be his four and a half significant strikes landed per minute and a good shot at a finish. Simon has only been finished twice in his twenty-three-fight career and only once by TKO/KO, but that loss came to Yadong’s coach, the legend Urijah Faber.
2019 was a bad year for Ricky Simon; his only two UFC losses came that year. If you throw out 2019, Ricky Simon would be 8-0 with dubs over Merab Dvalishvili, the sub–God Rani Yahya, Raphael Assuncao, and Jack Shore, who was 16-0 before facing Simon. If you haven’t seen his fight with Merab, stop what you’re doing and get on that. It was one of the wildest finishes you will see. It ended with Simon choking out Merab in a guillotine at the buzzer and Merab being waved off after the final bell. Ricky’s best attribute is that he has that dog in him. I’m talking the Black Mirror Metalhead machine gun dog in him. It takes that kind of dog to defeat the Resident Evil zombie dog inside Merab Dvalsihvili. Simon’s bread and butter is out-wrastlin' wrastlers. He will pick you up and carry you across the threshold like a new bride and slam you in front of his corner. Then he will lock up the Dagestani leg irons with the opponent trapped against the cage and proceed to beat you. As we saw with Merab vs. Yan, Simon will have to threaten Yadong with takedowns throughout the fight and try to stifle Yadong’s striking by making him defend them over and over. Simon averages over six and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes, with a high of fourteen in his debut and seven in three separate fights.
On the feet, Ricky has sneaky power. He isn’t the most technical and uses the same basic combinations as Yadong, but Simon lacks the same hand speed and ability to cover distance with his right hand. If he’s forced to stand and trade for twenty-five minutes, Yadong will likely walk away with the dub. But if Ricky can copy Merabs homework, peep around those corny little dividers at Merab’s Scan Tron, and keep Yadong on his heels, anticipating level changes, Ricky can close the gap in the striking.
The finishing threat will be Yadong, but Simon is the slight (-120) favorite, and Yadong is even money. Yadong opened as plus money last week when this bout was the scheduled co-main event, but the gap has since closed. Defending Siimon’s early takedowns will go a long way in Yadong establishing his striking. A Yadong TKO/KO will return (+200), and although I think it is a long shot, a Simon TKO/KO will return (+700) and a submission (+400). Give me the dog, Song Yadong, via TKO, round three. On wax.
Caio Borralho vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk
This is a matchup of Hollywood Boulevard street performers, mimicking the styles of two combat sports legends. On the feet, Caio Borralho is the second coming of Lyoto Machida, and Michal Oleksiejczuk wears a Spirit Halloween Drunken Master Emanuel Augustus costume when he steps into the Octagon. Bust out the Boombox and donation coffee can because these two are going to entertain the gathering crowd with wild fisticuffs.
Caio Borralho is a southpaw who uses a bladed upright Karate stance and relies on in/out movement to attack and defend. Borralho has two special moves, a counter-check right hook and a retreating flying knee. The knee is a timing technique that he throws while sliding out of the pocket when facing forward pressure. He draws the opponent forward, retreating just enough for the opponent to gather a head of steam before leaping into the air. The opponent will literally walk right into it. Like most Karate specialists, Borralho attacks in short left/right blitzes with his hands and has DeLorean hand speed, hands so fast they hit you yesterday. Defensively, he’s a distance manager who shows up whenever a lady with tapered shoulder length hair is disgruntled and asks to speak to whoever is in charge. Borralho relies on staying just outside the opponent’s striking range to avoid damage while simultaneously looking to counter with quick 1-2s or level changes.
But Borralho isn’t all stand-up; he’s a Shohei Ohtani double threat with a slick ground game that’s probably more lethal than his striking. He has JansSport back control along the same level as the Aljos of the world. Borralho uses the body triangle from the back mount and switches the triangle back and forth as the opponent tries to escape by rolling to the lock side. Although he’s more of a position over submission grappler, Borralho has satellite guided precision ground and pound. Caio emphasizes accuracy over volume, choosing his moments to strike wisely while maintaining top control. Watch when Borralho works from within the guard; he changes levels from tripoding to standing to striking back into the guard, using the momentum to add extra power on his strikes. He’s also very slick with guillotine sweeps, using them to defend takedowns and force scrambles.
As a fan, I want to see this fight stay standing to witness the clash of styles, but Borralho’s path to victory is on the mat. The key for Borralho will be using his in/out movement to draw out Oleksiejczuk’s aggression and use it to level change. Standing, this fight is a toss-up. On the mat, this fight heavily favors Caio Borralho. For his career, Borralho is 13-1 with four TKO/KOs and three subs, including 3-0 in the UFC with a dub on the Contender Series.
Michal Oleksiejczuk is a criminally underrated striker. Authorities often park on his street in suspicious unmarked vehicles, tail him around town, and dig through his trashcans, looking for discarded roaches to gather Oleksiejczuk’s DNA in an effort to build a case on him. Michal is awkward. Awkward, like running into two ex-girlfriends at a party and finding out one is dating a Big Lots manager and the other a Zumba instructor, both upgrades. Awkward, like standing at the end of a row of empty urinals and the next guy through the door pulls up to the one right next to. Everything about his striking is awkward, from his odd stance cadences to his Pavlovich-like arm angles. Michal never stops moving like Tyrone Biggums. He bobs and weaves continually while gesticulating with his hands like he’s doing sign language to distract opponents and hide his attack angles. His style reminds me of the Drunken Master, Emanuel Augustus who, according to Floyd Mayweather, was Mayweather’s toughest opponent of Mayweather’s career. Google him.
But above everything, Oleksiejczuk has stupid power; I’m talking an IQ of fifty stupid power. I’m talking only got points for spelling his name correctly on the SAT’s stupid power. He uses darting punches, almost leaving his feet and leaping into the pocket and pulverizes the body to open avenues for head shots. Gervonta Davis made body strikes sexy again last weekend, and Michal uses a similar emphasis. Michal’s major malfunction is takedown defense and ground game. He’s coming of an ID Network bludgeoning of Cody Brundage, but don’t let that fool you; he was taken down three times within three minutes. Jimmy Crute also took Oleksiejczuk down eight times in three minutes back in 2020. But that was a different weight class, and being taken down multiple times means you got back to your feet multiple times. The key for Michal will be getting back to his feet without exposing his back.
Caio Borralho will be the sizeable (-310) favorite, and that reflects his prowess on the mat. If this were a One FC Muay Thai match with four-ounce gloves, I’d give Oleksiejczuk the edge on the feet for his power alone. But this isn’t a Muay Thai match, and Michal will be the (+240) dog. I think Michal will have a ton of value as a low-tier Fantasy option. His path to victory will be scoring a finish against a guy who has yet to be finished in his career. Compared to other low-tier dogs, Oleksiejczuk has the highest upside as a finisher. But I’m rolling with the ground game of Caio Borralho. Put it on wax: Caio Borralho via decision.
Cody Brundage vs. Rodolfo Vieira
This is a wrestler vs. the Jitz God. Wrestling versus Jiu-Jitsu; the great debate. Many wrestlers have excellent takedowns and top control but can’t grapple from their backs. And many deadly Jiu-Jitsu specialists have terrible takedowns and can’t get the fight to the mat where they can implement their specialty. Cody Brundage is a fearless, wild young fighter who won’t hesitate to exchange haymakers on the feet but prefers to shoot doubles and punch the clock from the top position. And Rodolfo Vieira is one of the most decorated Jitz players ever to compete in the Octagon. But he has rudimentary striking, making him a sitting duck on the feet.
Against Rodolfo Vieira, your odds of winning triple if you can make it out of the first round. Vieira is the Captain of the first-team All Missy Elliot One-Minute Man squad. Against Fluffy Hernandez, Rodolfo famously gassed out in the first round to the point he could barely stand up. He didn’t even have enough energy to cover his face; he just stood there swaying like in Mortal Kombat when the voice says "Finish Him!"
Vieira has world championships stacked on top of world championships and made his MMA debut in 2017. Vieira is 8-2 and 3-2 in the UFC and has a one hundred percent finishing rate, including seven submissions and one TKO/KO. I’ll give Vieira this, his striking and ability to pace himself has improved, and he has developed a nasty little jab that has allowed him to be somewhat competitive on the feet against better strikers. But his path is and always will be scoring takedowns and choking you stupid. Check it; in his last bout against Chris Curtis, Vieira went 0-20 on takedowns, and that’s because he doesn’t have the striking to set them up. Vieira’s value will be in an early submission under the two and a half rounds mark.
I don’t know what to make of Cody Brundage. He’s an overachiever who fought the infamous William Knight on the Contender Series. Brundage lost that fight and his debut against Nick Maximov but rebounded with a first-round submission win over another giant man, Dalcha Lungiambula, and a vicious first-round TKO of Tresean Gore. This guy’s best attribute is that he’s the embodiment of track fifteen on the Slim Shady LP. Brundage will stand and bang with wide, heavy punches or use his wrestling/grappling to grind on you and wear you down.
Brundage is 8-3 for his career with four TKO/KO’s and three submissions. He will have the advantage on the feet and the mat late if Vieira gasses trying to take him down unsuccessfully. This is a straight-up kill-or-be-killed scrap for both fighters. The play for Vieira is a submission, especially early, and the play for Brundage is a TKO/KO stoppage around the midway point or later. Vieira is the (-240) favorite, and Brundage is the (+195) dog. Bust out the Piso Mojado signs; Brundage will be dripping with value Fantasy-wise and odds-wise. He’s a renegade on the feet but will have to survive early on the mat. Rodolfo Vieira, rear-naked choke, round one.
Marcos De Lima vs. Waldo Cortes Acosta
This one is an old-fashioned Walmart self-checkout scrap. These are two big dudes with heavy hands. I’m talking Southwest Airlines extra baggage fees heavy hands. Marcos De Lima may be a better grappler than a striker, but recently his boxing has been extra crispy with a side of biscuits. And "Where’s" Waldo Cortes Acosta is an undefeated 9-0 fighter and a rare volume striker in the heavyweight division. Acosta all but executed PC Principal, Chase Sherman's, will in his last bout. Although he has yet to score his first UFC finish in two official bouts, it wasn’t due to a lack of effort. But one way or the other, Waldo will experience a first inside the Octagon; he will either score his first TKO/KO or suffer his first defeat in the same fashion. This one will not go the distance.
Marcos De Lima looks like he wears his shirt in the pool but don’t let that fool you, homie will Power Slap KO you and have you looking like a melted wax figure on the slow-mo replay real fookin’ quick. In his last bout, De Lima bullied the unbulliable, Andrei Arlovski. He waited for Arlovski after school, leaning against his 1987 Trans-Am smoking a cigarette, and gave Arlovski Guardian burns, wet Willies, and atomic wedgies. De Lima threw bombs right out the gate and slumped Arlovski against the cage before choking him out. Few people have done that to Arlovski in Arlovski’s fifty-year career. De Lima has deceptively good striking, putting together clean two to three-punches combinations with surprising hand speed. He’s a power puncher who can stay within himself and maintain fundamentals while generating fight-ending power. In a way, his hands kind of look like a bloated Jose Aldo’s. I know that’s blasphemous, but it kind of does if you squint and tilt your head.
De Lima’s major malfunction is that he’s a windup doll striker. His activity is low until you pull his string, and he starts throwing 1-2-3's all over the place. But then he falls silent until someone pulls his string again. When it comes to pacing, De Lima has a hard time finding the "just right" porridge. Waldo Acosta has shown even when he is gassed, he can keep his output and pace high, while De Lima tends to fade. De Lima will have to fast play this fight on the feet OR take it to the mat. De Lima averages one takedown per fifteen minutes and he always has trip takedowns from the clinch in his back pocket. His game plan should be to cause havoc on the feet, close the distance, and get this fight to the mat.
The foundation of Waldo Cortes Acosta’s striking is his Castor Troy jab. He will jab your face... off. He jabs in multiples of two and jabs so much he might have commitment issues. Homie doesn’t get cold feet; he gets frostbite. Homie throws up deuces at the altar and leaves with the bride’s maid. It’s almost frustrating watching Acosta because he doesn’t follow up with his rear hand enough. Usually, fighters simp for the power hand, but Acosta is a jab simp. But it is highly effective, and Acosta has deadly hand speed. On the infrequent occasions when Acosta puts the cross behind the jab, you see flashes of an elite striker in the making. The power is there, but he just doesn’t unleash it enough. When he lets go with his right hand, he can throw it over the top or three-quarters and maneuver it around the guard.
But Waldo is all offense and little defense. His technique falls apart like swap meet shoes as he starts to loosen up. Your pair of Jordans turn into chanclas after a walk to the mailbox. Acosta has All Sales Are Final striking. When he jabs, he ties balloon animals with his right hand. It drops to his waist, and he has a tendency to chase opponents when he throws combinations. His boxing turns into flailing when he moves forward with heavy pressure. But his best weapon is aggression and crazy output. Acosta averages nearly eight significant strikes per minute. No bullshittin’. He landed one hundred forty-seven strikes in his las bout against PC Principal. When they were handing out ass whoopins backstage, Chase Sherman must have been off taking a dump. The keys for Acosta against De Lima will be maintaining the center of the cage, avoiding the clinch, and wearing down De Lima with unrelenting volume.
De Lima will be the (-155) favorite, and Acosta will be the (+130) dog. Bust out the Piso Mojado signs; Acosta will be dripping with value and causing Slip & Falls on every aisle. If De Lima struggles to secure and maintain the top position, Acosta can steal the fight with overall output and have a good shot at a late finish. But Acosta’s level of competition, Jared Vanderaa and Chase Sherman, is nowhere near the level of De Lima’s. De Lima has shared the Octagon with many elite fighters, and his overall experience dwarfs Acosta’s. Give me Marcos De Lima via TKO, round two.
Fernando Padilla vs. Julian Erosa
Julian Erosa is a member of an elite class. He is among the OSPs, Jairzinho Rozenstruiks, and Gerald Meershaerts of the world; fighters you should never ever bet on but find yourself betting on anyway. These are box of chocolates fighters; you have no idea which version of them you are going to get. When you drop an Andy Jack on one version, the other version shows up. You order a Bozo the clown for your kid’s third birthday party and Pennywise shows up. When you think Erosa is the one rolling the doobie, you find out he is the doobie. When you think Hakeem Dawodu’s speed and athleticism will be too much for him, Ersosa whoops his ass with one hand holding up a bird to the camera for the entire fifteen minutes. And when you think Erosa will do the Griddy over a prone Steven Peterson, Erosa has to hang on to the dub by the skin of his ass. Or he gets KO’d in the first round by Bruce Leeroy. So which Julian Erosa will show up against the debuting Fernando Padilla? I have no idea, but I got a Hamilton on Erosa.
Above everything, Julian Erosa is a finisher. In twenty-eight career dubs, Erosa has twenty-three finishes, including eleven TKO/KO’s and twelve subs. On the feet, Erosa is a Chito Vera striker who uses all eight limbs to create damage. When he runs out of limbs, he forms like Voltron and blasts you with his shoulder missiles. He fights with his hands low and chin up in the air and sends out RSVPs for firefights. While he’s a devout offensive striker, he is a defensive atheist. Despite outcries that Erosa is defensfobic, he will never apologize. When he’s getting the worse of the striking, Ersoa will trip you to the mat and snatch your neck. He’s handy with head-and-arm variations (D’arce/Anacondas) and has six subs from his guard, triangles and armbars. Dude is a walking H.H. Holmes house with death lurking around every corner and behind every bookshelf.
I have next to nothing on Fernando Padilla. I believe he is a Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu product with eight career submissions. Tenth Planet is known for using the Rubber guard and the "truck" position from the bottom to set up leg locks, twisters, banana splits, and sweeps. The Tenth Planet orthodoxy is the most creative translation of Jiu-Jitsu, in my humble opinion. They have their own language to describe transitions and positions, and it’s a style of Jitz that translates directly to MMA. From what little footage I was able to find on Padilla, I think he should look to make this a grappling match. He has long, loose kickboxing and didn’t look at all like a TLC scrub on his feet, but I don’t think he wants to be baptized in the Julian Erosa fires on the feet. Erosa has never been submitted, but he can be taken down and controlled. Padilla is 14-4 in his career with four TKO/KOs and eight subs.
The red flag for Padilla is that he is making his debut coming off a two-year layoff. He has experience in King of the Cage, LFA, and Fury FC, but none of that shit adds up to the bright lights of the Octagon. Erosa will be the (-165) favorite, and Padilla will be the (+135) dog. Although I haven’t seen much of Padilla, he should be a valuable dog and a low-tier Fantasy option. Erosa is erratic, emphatic, and ecstatic; he can get got on the feet, and Padilla has a nice submission game as a fallback plan. Only (+135) for a guy making his debut coming off a two-year layoff against a savage veteran says a lot about Padilla. But I’m gonna take the plunge one more time. Julian Erosa via TKO, round three.