Sorry I left ya'll without a dope breakdown to step to.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. "They" being Hallmark card Tolstoy's’ and Bed Bath & Beyond (R.I.P.) throw pillow Dickinson’s. I once wiped my ass with a "Never Give Up" hand towel at a BYOT (Bring Your Own Tissue) party in 2020. And there lies the irony: Never giving up is the cousin of insanity. If I took the hand towel's pre-wipe advice, I would fall into the trap. Sisyphus, to the ire of Hades, rolling the boulder up the hill for eternity. So, there I sat, and sat, perplexed, an agitated line growing down the hallway outside.
If someone never gave up, never quit, and kept getting back up and dusting themselves off, would they be insane? Maybe, if they kept doing the same things that resulted in their fall. But what if they were better, an improved version, each time they got back up, but Lady Luck (Life’s most faithful wing-lady) had it out for them? Is failing, in and of itself, even a negative outcome? Doesn’t most growth come from loss? What if failure is the ultimate life hack that can lead to infinite knowledge?
The polite knocking turned to urgent pounding on the door. But there I continued to sit, Rodin’s The Thinker.
I was reminded of the curious case of Scott "Lionheart" Blevins, a professional MMA fighter with a career record of 0-17, including seven L’s via TKO/KO and ten by sub, a one hundred percent finished rate. If there is a fine line between heart and stupidity, Blevins is it. He was either a masochist or an inspiration. I tend to lean towards the latter.
How do you step back in the cage after three straight losses... ten... sixteen? Imagine how loud the internal resolve must be to drown out the external laughter, mockery. But the ones laughing are always the ones who have never faced their own demons. Maybe Blevins was a can, a record padder, or maybe he was a perpetual underdog determined to indulge in the sweet taste of victory just one fookin’ time. He last fought in 2011, and I wonder if he wonders if eighteen was the magic number. Did he break the circular clutches of insanity one fight too soon?
The door started to shake in its frame. Someone was putting some shoulder into it now, but onward I sat, pondering.
I thought of this Saturday night and UFC 287. Scott Blevins was once 0-3, just like the former Champ Israel Adesanya is against the only opponent who matters. For Izzy to finally slay his demons, he must channel his inner Scott Blevins and not allow the past to affect the present.
Flipping around the "N r iv p" hand towel, I hung it back on the rack. The toilet wouldn’t flush. Of course. So, I climbed out of a little window, using the toilet seat as a stepping stool to escape the one I left behind.
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira 2
This is the latest installment in the Alien vs. Predator franchise. After centuries of constant war, the Predators have gained the upper hand. Their fiercest warrior, Alex Pereira, now has three Alien exoskeletons mounted over the fireplace of his antigravity spaceship. The Aliens sent their deadliest champion, Israel Adesanya, who fell in battle years ago, to challenge Pereira and since sent two Adesanya Gholas, artificial beings replicated from the DNA of the original Israel Adesanya. All three failed to defeat Pereira in ancient human hand-to-hand battle. A fourth defeat to the Predators will spell complete annihilation and, more importantly, relinquishment of the title of the galaxy's best strikers.
For Izzy, this fight will be some modern-day Charles Dickens type-ish, where he must confront the ghosts of KOs past. Despite dominating nearly the entireties of two kickboxing matches and one MMA bout, Izzy finds himself in a Boston Red Sox 0-3 hole, with two of the L’s coming by TKO/KO. Mr. Heartbreaker, grab the saltshaker; here’s some garnish for his wounds: Adesanya had Pereira hurt and a follow-up or two away from scoring two TKO/KO’s of his own. Both instances occurred within the first five minutes of the fight. Stylebender scored a 10-8 round in the second round of their second kickboxing match after stumbling Pereira around the ring for a standing eight count and had Pereira woozy after a cross and left hook at the buzzer of the first round last November.
What can we learn from this? Izzy should pressure early and wrestle late. Yes, wrestle. His best chances to finish Pereira came early; it is near impossible not to make any mistakes against Pereira for twenty-five minutes. Last time, Izzy managed about twenty-two minutes of nearly flawless execution, but those last three minutes were a mf’er. On the feet, Stylebender is faster and more dynamic than Pereira, and Izzy’s right hand is Bitcoin at 64k. Pereira’s main method of defense is deflecting strikes out in front of him with his hand guard. Straight punches are easily thwarted by this technique, but round punches are its kryptonite. Izzy has found the perfect angle for his cross that naturally circumvents Pereira’s guard. And when he hides it behind the jab, a classic 1-2, it is even more effective.
The x-factor will be Izzy’s wrestling. Pereira scored the first takedown of the fight at the buzzer of the second round, but Izzy was able to control Pereira easily from the top position in the third round. I know Izzy’s wrestling is still in its original packaging and greatly untested, but for this particular matchup, he doesn’t need to be Bo Nikal with the singlet. Izzy can save his receipt and return it after the fight and never use it again. From the clinch is the quickest way to add takedowns to your repertoire instead of developing level changes that take years to learn how to execute without putting yourself in danger. I think Izzy should pressure, attack with volume early in the fight, and look to salt away some clock in the middle, leaving some gas to sprint to the finish late. Also, Izzy needs to keep his back off the cage. Pereira did the most damage when he pinned Izzy against it and opened up with combos.
The biggest adjustment Alex Pereira will likely make for this re-re-rematch will be pace. Kickboxing rounds are three minutes, and the difference between fighting in a cage for fifteen minutes versus twenty-five is enormous. That’s why they’re called championship rounds. Real dogs don’t come out until 15:01. To me, it looked like Pereira took off most of the third round and all of the fourth except for a couple of offensive outbursts here and there. I think Pereira was worried about running out of gas and wanted to save himself for a late counteroffensive. This was evident by how he came out in the fifth round, pressuring Izzy with increased volume and urgency and a complete change in demeanor. It was almost like he lured Izzy into a false sense of security, exhibiting that Leon Edwards energy from most of the second Usman fight. The confidence Pereira gained from going a near five full rounds will encourage him to pressure sooner and more often this time around.
One of the best single weapons in MMA is Alex Pereira’s left hook. Pereira’s left hook melts people like Mt. Vesuvius. All that’s left is a plaster cast encapsulating the opponent’s final moments. You’re left frozen for eternity with your chonies around your chanclas in full ass wiping position while dweebs with beady eyes peer over bifocals at you and dust you with little brushes. What makes Pereira’s left hook so special is it generates nuclear power with very little range of motion. It is the shortest left hook you’ll see and is technically sound, the shoulder rolling forward ahead of the hand. Pereira doesn’t head hunt or go to the well too often, though. He’s patient, working behind his piston jab and compressing the cage into a cozy little box until there is nowhere left to go and he can unload his best weapon.
The x-factor for Pereira last time out was leg kicks, especially early. Pereira set a foundation for the rest of the fight by coming out and almost exclusively attacking Stylebender’s legs in the first round. Those kicks and the subsequent ones throughout the fight no doubt affected Izzy. Adesanya is the rangier, more elusive fighter, and Pereira needs to once again use leg kicks to hinder Adesanya’s mobility and dexterity. Pereira’s major malfunction is that he’s hittable. He stands tall and uses little head movement to avoid strikes; he’s far from invincible and can get got on his feet as easily as he can do the getting. This time, I don’t expect Pereira to spit all his pickup lines at Mary Jay five minutes before the bar closes. I think he’ll take more risks from the jump, and we could be in for a shorter night one way or the other.
Adesanya will be the (-140) favorite, and Pereira will be the (+115) dog. Either one of these guys at plus money against another striker is money in the bank. Imagine being a dog against someone you’ve beaten three times and put away twice. I think both fighters have incentives to come out more aggressive this time, and a finish is all but certain. But if Izzy tries to implement wrestling and finds some success, some money on a decision could prove valuable. Another Pereira TKO/KO will return (+165), and an Izzy TKO/KO will return (+350).
The main event-winning streak sits at two after Cory Sandhagen put on a technical and tactical clinic against your favorite fighter’s favorite fighter, Chito Vera. As all three fights have been, this one is a toss-up. I rode Pereira last time like a drunk on a mechanical Brahman Bull for eight seconds, and I see no reason to hop off now. Alex Pereira via TKO, round three.
Gilbert Burns vs. Jorge Masvidal
Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, select, + start. Character unlocked: Backyard Ponytail Jorge Masvidal. The only way for Jorge Masvidal to pull this one off is to resurrect the Jordache jorts and ponytail Jorge, the one who was stitched from the cloth of tattered hand-me-downs and wore his heart on the sleeves he didn’t have. The one who was bred from pain and suffering, the game. Jorge needs to purge his inner circle and make the walk with only his closest allies in his corner, the ones who got him out of the hood and under the bright lights: struggle, adversity, and doubt. Jorge needs to say his name in the mirror three times and summon Me Against the World Jorge Masvidal if he plans on making a final run at the belt. Standing in his way will be another opponent with skills primed to expose Jorge’s biggest weaknesses. The grappler vs. striker matchup has always been Jorge’s Achilles heel, and Gilbert Burns represents one of the most dangerous grapplers in the division.
At the heart of Jorge Masvidal is a street fighter, no Capcom. He was a real-life Van Damme Lionheart fighting in empty swimming pools and underground parking garages. Jorge developed into one of the best strikers in the world before he got the call-up to the big show. He climbed his way to the top one jab at a time while developing his footwork and becoming a low-key solid grappler. Although his biggest weakness is on the mat, he’s not easy to take down, and his submission defense is outstanding. Cue the Toby Imada reverse triangle footage. That was in 2009, and Jorge hasn’t been submitted since. And he’s only been finished once, by Kamaru Usman, in twenty-one UFC bouts. You can salt away some clock by holding Jorge against the cage and occasionally from the top position, but it’s hard to completely dominate Jorge Masvidal. Four of his eight losses in the UFC were split decisions and mostly robberies.
On the feet, Jorge combines speed, intricate footwork, and heavy kicks. Jorge was the first to ever use leg kicks in street fights (no fact check), and his kicks are the most underrated part of his game. However, Jorge’s special move is the switch-step right hook out of the orthodox stance. He used this technique to ruin Darren Till’s career, and a lot of the fight-ending sequencies Jorge creates come off the switch step. It almost looks like Jorge is running in place; it’s a misdirection, an optical illusion, a mirage made to illicit a reaction and create subsequent openings to land heavy hooks.
As of late, Jorge’s biggest malfunctions have been his lack of cardio and a slight down tick in hand speed. Jorge fights with quick blitzes, and his overall pace looks like Morse code with uncalibrated starts and stops. His biggest issue the last three fights has been his inability to keep a consistent pace and maintain offense throughout the fight. The return to a three round scrap should help Jorge’s overall output as long as he shows up in shape, which he hasn’t for a while.
Jorge’s only path to victory is with a finish. A decision heavily favors the grappler Gilbert Burns. The good news, all of Jorge’s last three wins came via a form of stoppage. Gilbert has only been finished twice in his career, and both were TKO/KO’s, one to Usman and one at lightweight to Dan Hooker. If Jorge lets his hands and feet go and stays away from the warning track and cage, he can win this fight.
But don’t get it twisted; Gilbert Burns is no TLC scrub on the feet. He’s built for power and speed and has a diabolical weapon in his arsenal, a Quagmire right hand that he developed using the Harvard study recommended twenty-six times per month to lower his risks of prostate cancer. Also, Gil Burns has a nasty right round kick. Overall, Burns is a dangerous wrestler striker with heavy basic 1s and 1-2s, and he uses his cross to cover distance to initiate takedowns. But Gilbert sits tall in the pocket and exits passively with his chin up. If he hangs out in the pocket exchanging with Jorge too often, he will get got.
For Gilbert, this is a Choose Your Own Adventure fight: To take down Jorge Masvidal, turn to the last page. To stand and bang with Jorge, turn to the next page. I expect to see Gilbert come out with the exact game plan he implemented against Wonderboy; takedowns, takedowns, and top control. A win for Gil puts him right in the mix for a title shot or, at the very least, a title eliminator, and I don’t think he’ll let his ego coax him into fighting to his disadvantage. He can hurt Jorge on the feet, but why take the chance of getting caught by a slick Jorge combination? The only place Jorge can win this fight is standing, so there’s no reason to grant him that chance.
For his career, Gilbert is 21-5 with six TKO/KO’s and noine subs. He can finish this fight anywhere it goes, but I think it’s more likely he wins by decision, taking Jorge down and using superior position to drain Jorge’s physical attributes and inferior cardio.
Gil Burns is the disrespectful (-550) favorite, and Jorge is the mangy flea-ridden dog at (+380). Jorge needs to fast play this fight, put all his shake into one Zig Zag, and blast off. He has to try to catch Gil with something fight-ending early, or he’ll eventually get dragged to the mat and controlled for the majority. I think there’s a ton of value for Masvidal to do just that, but I have to ride with Gilbert Burns and his superior wrestling. Gilbert Burns via decision.
Rob Font vs. Adrian Yanez
Banger. Straitjacket. Straight up and down. Straight like that. This one is a changing of the guard scrap; out with the old and in with the new. It wasn’t too long ago that Rob "Times New Roman" Font was on the verge of a title shot, but then he ran into a couple of legends, Jose Aldo and Chito Vera. This fight will be a tipping point for Font; a win will keep him at the top of the billing, but a loss will mean back to the opening act. And Adrian Yanez is on the verge of stepping into the mainstream, his face on billboards promoting main events. As the legend, DMX once said, "What do you do when you find out your dog is a cat?" Well, we will find out if Adrian Yanez is indeed a dog or if he’s just a calico identifying as one.
Rob Font has a Bradley Cooper American Sniper jab and worked his way into the top ten behind it. Font is a body snatcher, rummaging around at ground level before he makes his way upstairs to ransack the place. He also hides body shots behind infinite jabs, always peppering the guard and focusing on speed over power. What makes Font special is he can fight at any range; he’s technical on the outside and grimy on the inside. Excuse me, Sir, this is a family establishment. Rob Font also likes to switch stances using step-in hooks to disguise the sudden change in orientation. It’s also a clever way to close the distance where he can secure the collar tie and unload with donkey punches and uppercuts.
Font’s best attribute is that he is an absolute dog. Against Chito Vera, Font turned into Tony Romo holding the snap, into Danny Dimes tripping up at the fifteen-yard line with nothing but daylight ahead. He got out to large leads in every round, only to get dropped within the last minute and fumble away the 10-9. He outstruck Chito that night 271-159 and still lost a decision. But Font is hard to get rid of, like Kneehigh Park puppets, and he has a never-ending gas tank. He’s got that thoroughbred in him like Mr. Hands. Font will be at a decided speed disadvantage against Yanez, but he can make up for that with pressure and volume. His game plan shouldn’t be to attack Yanez from range; Yanez is too slick. Font needs to get in Yanez’s chest and stay there, make shit ugly like inbreeds and drag Yanez into AB-infested waters.
Adrian Yanez has been a sleeper since day one. I can’t explain it, but I see Adrian Yanez as a bantamweight Jamahal Hill in the way he came off the Contender Series and made an immediate name for himself. It feels like Yanez is around where Hill was heading into the Johnny Walker fight. Yanez might have the quickest hands in a division filled with lightning-quick hands. Yanez has Amazon transhuman hand speed; all you have to do is think about it, and it’s at your door before you can use the three seashells and flush. He’s got sonic boom hand speed; his hands travel through wormholes and materialize instantly at the target. Straight punches beat round punches; short punches beat long punches. Yanez has tight, short punches that will give him an advantage against Font’s longer punches. He’s also got a Baby’s First Alex Pereira left hook that he uses as a check counter and combination starter, and he loves the liver shot, my favorite punch.
Overall, Yanez is the slicker striker, using classic boxing slips and rips, shoulder rolls, and subtle footwork to step off combinations and set up angles. This matchup is like father vs. son, Simba vs. Scar. After this one, it will be back to his room without supper or working a new ass groove into the Lazy Boy. This fight represents the next level for Adrian Yanez; you better hope you’re not afraid of heights.
Fanstasy-wise, you can’t go wrong with either guy. Both average nearly six and a half significant strikes per minute with the ability to top one hundred inside fifteen minutes. I think Font will lead the dance early, and Yanez will have to rely early on effective counterpunching. But then this will turn into a Backdraft firefight. Yanez will be the (-175) favorite, and Font will be the (+150) dog. Font will be another valuable dog with a high upside. His pressure can break most fighters, and we have yet to see if Yanez can handle heavy pressure like Font’s. Yanez had scary moments against the heathen "Wavey" Davey Grant that could be replicated in this bout. I have no idea who wins this. In the end, I think Yanez’s speed will be the difference, but Font is a live dog. Adrian Yanez via decision.
Kevin Holland vs. Santiago Ponzinibio
This card is wild; it howls at the moon. If this one isn’t a banger, there’s no such thing. This will be a battle of range and a clash of stand-up styles. Kevin Holland, aka the Morgan Freeman of MMA, can kick your ass and narrate an entire docuseries while doing it. And Santiago Ponzinibio, aka The Ponz, is the real-life version of Jax from Mortal Kombat, with two bionic arms that he uses to tear your limbs from your body and then beats you with them. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. You go from prize fighter to Jim Carrey real quick.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"I’m kicking my ass! Do ya mind?"
After a TKO loss to the MMA Mona Lisa, Li Jingliang, it looked like The Ponz had jumped the shark. But then he rebounded with a big win against Miguel Baeza and was arguably robbed of two dubs against Geoff Neal and Michel Pereira. Then, against Alex Morono, The Ponz once again busted out the water skis. Maybe Santiago was caught off guard by Alex Morono’s unassuming looks—he looks like he plays the X-Box display at Walmart all day—and underestimated him. Morono was on his way to a decisive shutout victory when The Ponz landed a right hand that had Morono wondering where he was, like the John Travolta Pulp Fiction meme. That fight encapsulated the essence of Santiago Ponzinibio. He is a savage with a Cerberus, three-headed dog, in him; he can bite three asses at one time, the mailman’s, the UPS guy’s, and the Amazon guy’s.
Ponzinibio is a power striker who throws nothing but hooks and overhands. His hooks and round kicks help him cut off and trap opponents against the cage. Once he has an opponent boxed in, he unloads with extended combinations. The Ponz’s major malfunction is that he is a notoriously slow starter. You gotta roll this mf’er downhill and kick the clutch to get him started. In each of his close losses to Pereira and Neal, The Ponz gave away the early round due to a lack of output. Kevin Holland is the last guy you want to get off to a slow start against.
The Ponz will have to be in this fight for the long haul; his Fantasy value will be in out-working Holland on his way to a decision. I don’t see him finishing Kevin Holland. Ponzinibio is the higher-output fighter, averaging five significant strikes per minute to Holland’s four. One of Holland’s biggest weaknesses is defending the middle ground. The Ponz will have no problem using his speed and power to get inside on Holland and can steal rounds by being the first to bomb.
Kevin Holland is the welterweight version of Stefan Struve. Struve was the tallest mf’er ever to step into the Octagon, with the longest reach ever recorded, but he had no idea how to use it. Vern Troyer could get inside on Stefan Struve. Well, Kevin Holland has the same problem. Offensively, he pole vaults into the pocket, does Simon Biles floor routines into the pocket. He rarely stays disciplined behind his jab while using footwork to close the distance. He can, but he doesn’t. Instead, Holland throws leaping crosses and Roy Jones Jr. hooks and often over pursues, either smothering his punches or shooting them past the target. But if he catches you... you wake up with Smokey standing over you, talking that shit.
The key for Holland against The Ponz will be his kicks. Holland has long-range round and snap kicks. Everything about Ponzinibio is wide; the way to beat him is down the middle. Holland needs to throw up the middle kicks and keep his punches straight. He had Wonderboy hurt in the first round of his last fight from a textbook straight right hand. Wonderboy dominated that fight with superior speed, speed that the Ponz doesn’t have. The level map of Holland’s ass was fully explored, no shaded areas, when Wonderboy got done kicking it. I think that ass whoopin’ will humble Holland heading into this one. Being dominated by a grappling Gandolf like Khamzat was kind of expected, but getting completely smoked by a smaller opponent in your area of expertise has to be eye-opening.
Holland will be the large (-265) favorite, and The Ponz will be the (+210) dog. Bust out the Piso Mojado signs. Ponzinibio will be yet another dog dripping with value. He will have plenty of opportunities to touch Holland’s chin with some heavy bombs. Although I think a finish is a long shot, it’s definitely not impossible. But The Ponz can also win the stats battle. But-but, I see that go-go-gadget right hand of Holland’s landing. A Holland TKO/KO will return (+185), and a Ponzinibio TKO/KO will return (+500). Kevin Holland via TKO, round three.
Christian Rodriguez vs. Raul Rosas Jr.
Shark Week is starting two months early this year. Christian Rodriguez will be the foam seal pulled behind the boat to lure the Great White to breach the surface, and it will be Raul Rosas Jr.’s teeth impressions left in his ass. Rodriguez will be the chum thrown on the surface that later turns into the seagull doodie dropped on the William Knight statue still standing in the cage since Knight's last performance. Rosas Jr. was the youngest fighter to ever earn a UFC contract at just seventeen years old after an impressive grappling showcase on the Contender Series. And Christian Rodriguez is an incremental stepping stone in Rosas Jr.’s maturation.
Raul Rosas Jr. was putting his pappy in the Walls of Jericho when Raul was in fifth grade, which was like two years ago. Raul was reading his pappy bedtime stories and tucking him in before Raul could even read. When Raul was born, he drove his mother home from the hospital. At this early stage of his career, Raul is a specialist, a grappling Harry Potter with a James Dean Rebel Without a Cause mind state. He’s Tom Cruise in the cage, performing his own stunts because he’s too young to realize he isn’t invincible. Raul has creative takedowns and an Aljo-like affinity for taking the back, and he takes risks. Lots of them. He’s so confident in his grappling that he will give up dominant positions to attack submissions; he’s the definition of submission over position. Eventually, his borderline recklessness controlling position will catch up to him, but this Saturday night won’t be that day.
Don’t get me wrong, Raul has some major malfunctions. He is susceptible to guillotine chokes; he had to fight off a couple close attempts in his debut. And his striking still has the new car smell. I’m not saying he has Stephen Hawking stand-up, but it isn’t very impressive. He makes up for lack of technical skill with over-aggression and flashy flying/spinning shit. When the time comes that he can’t get his opponent to the mat, things could get ugly for the kid still stalking high school hallways. Fantasy-wise, Raul will be a submission threat, and even without a finish, he will put up solid takedown and top control stats. But don’t expect much in the way of punch stats. In two bouts where stats were tracked, Rosas averaged just over one, as in singular, one significant strike per minute. His Contender Series scrap went the distance, and he only landed twenty strikes.
Christian Rodriguez ain’t a killer but don’t push him. He has decent grappling; half of his eight career dubs came via submission, but he’ll be at a physical disadvantage. The impressive thing about Rosas is his strength. For a kid his age, Raul’s strength is what catches opponents by surprise. The bad news for Rodriguez, though, is that a guy with teal hair and a man bun was able to take him down in his last bout. That’s a bad omen. Also, his skills are fairly limited on the feet, and, like Rosas, he resorts to flashy spinning ish to make up for a lack of technical skills. And attempting spinning ish against a guy only looking to take you down is not a good look. But Rodriguez does have a trick up his tank top sleeve; he has a William Wallace guillotine choke in his arsenal, which means he has the ability to catch Rosas if Rosas gets lazy or complacent. Also, whenever I write off someone in elegant medieval script, as I’m basically doing with Rodriguez, they usually win.
Rosas Jr. will be the sizeable (-230) favorite, and Rodriguez will be the (+185) dog. Without a finish, Rosas might not justify his 9k Fantasy price tag, so tread lightly. Rodriguez did manage to make it to the final bell against a real heathen in Jonathan Pearce in Rodriguez’s debut. But I think the UFC is taking a reserved approach in Rosas’s development, and this should be a fairly safe matchup for him. A Rosas submission will return (+150), and a Hail Mary Rodirguez sub will return (+1000). Raul Rosas Jr. via the Walls of Jericho, round three.
Thanks for reading, homies. Much love. See you next week.