"It’s a celebration, b***hes!" I’ve spent the last twenty-four hours setting dumpsters on fire, turning over cop cars, bathing in confetti, and eating handfuls of horse shit like an Eagles fan. Now I sit before you in an Amazon gaming chair like Randy Marsh after erupting like Mt. Saint Helens and covering himself and his surroundings in ectoplasm when he finally found a little bit of internet after a Grapes of Wrath journey to Californiway.
The ‘72 Dolphins; the only perfect season ever recorded in NFL history. Don Larson’s perfect game in the ‘56 World Series; the only solo perfect game ever thrown in a World Series game. Mary Lou Retton’s perfect ten on the vault and floor routine catapulted her to an all-around gold medal in 1984. Floyd Mayweather’s perfect 50-0 career record, topping the previous unbeaten mark of 49-0, set by Rocky Marciano. Now there is a new epitome of perfection, the ‘23 Weekly KO unblemished 13-0 pick ‘em for UFC on ESPN 51 Luque vs. Dos Anjos.
Last night, we penetrated the annals of history (annal, not anal). We did what the ‘07 Patriots couldn’t; we closed the deal. Glengarry Glen Ross, ABC: Always Be Closing. We closed the deal like Grey Goose and Armani Acqua Di Gio. I say "we" because I could never have done it without those reading this now, those that have rocked with me for the last three years and never lost faith in the ultimate prize...
It has been a Kit Carson arduous journey, but it’s funny; as I sit here covered in ectoplasm, it feels more like a beginning than a culmination. I’ve been asked, will the feat be accomplished ever again? To that, I say this: Will the Dallas Cowboys ever win another Super Bowl? Probably not in our lifetimes, even if you were born ten minutes ago. But the pursuit won’t stop. Perfection is like the spice mélange; a single taste foments addiction, an addiction whose withdrawal is fatal.
There’s only one thing left to say: I’m the best there is, plain and simple. I wake up in the morning, and I piss excellence. I’m just a big, hairy American winning machine. If you ain’t first, you’re last. This blunt is for all the believers and more importantly, the nonbelievers. And this bowl is for the homies and more importantly, the haters. Put it in the air. Ooh wee! 13-0!
Sean O’Malley vs. Aljamain Sterling
Cue "Smoke Two Joints" by Sublime.
"Sugar" Sean O’Malley is back, aka, The Weedples Champ, aka, The Great Stoned Hype, aka, The Blunt, the Joint, and the Thrift Wardrobe. When you're talking top shelf and fisticuffs, O'Malley wants all the smoke, bogart. Puff, puff, never pass. O’Malley is on the cusp of going from a stoner to a stoner with a gold belt. Greatness was always O’Malley’s destiny; in 2017, he reached the pinnacle of his field after just one appearance on the Contender Series when he shared a joint with Snoop Dogg after the fight. Since that day, O'Malley has accumulated an 8-1-1 record in the UFC and is poised to summit the upper echelon of the fight game and achieve greatness in a second field. This Saturday night, O’Malley will pull out all the stems and throw seeds to the wind when he looks to disrupt the Aljamain Sterling ass groove that has been set firmly into the cushions of the iron throne for the past two years.
They fail to tell you in ninth grade Algebra the only equation you need to know in life is:
Length + Speed = Ass Whooping's
No two things are more difficult to overcome in striking sports. I’d rather fight The Mountain than a skilled guy built like Screech, aka Dustin Diamond—Dustin Poirier needs to get on that nickname since it’s not in use anymore. You snooze, you lose. O’Malley is one of the best examples of using every inch of your range. When you’re at the customer service desk and ask to speak to a manager, you holler at Sean O’Malley, the District Distance Manager. The two keys to managing range are lateral movement and the jab. O’Malley skirts the outside of the pocket behind a forcefield of jabs and uses L/R button jukes to freeze the opponent’s feet when he gets trapped against the cage. Straight lines killed the kickboxing star. When it comes to striking, moving in straight lines and moving in circular patterns separates the good from the great. Perpetual lateral movement is O’Malley’s best trait, and it will come in handy two-fold against Aljo. Lateral movement not only allows O’Malley to set up angles of attack and escape, but it will also make it difficult for Aljo to set his feet and level change.
When it comes to the stand-up, O’Malley will be the overall more technical and intricate striker. He has repeated-the-first-grade-three-times-stupid hand speed and varies the tempo of his attacks, flowing between peppering high percentage strikes and heavy power punches. But none of that matters if he can’t get back to his feet when Aljo takes him down. And Aljo will take him down. More important than takedown defense are get-ups. O’Malley has better get-ups from his back than he does takedown defense, and he has an excellent active guard. The key for O’Malley will be getting back to his feet without giving up his back, especially when against the cage. O’Malley has spent time competing individually in grappling tournaments throughout the years, and his Jiu-Jistu is highly underrated. He can hold his own with Aljo on the mat as long as he doesn’t give up his back.
Aljo is a specialist, a back specialist. Doctor said I need a backiotomy. If he achieves the back mount, you will either be tapping shortly after or staying in that position for the rest of the round. What you won’t do is get back to your feet. Every path Aljo takes on the mat leads to the back mount, and when he gets it, the round is automatically conceded. This isn’t always a fan-friendly style and is the reason why all Aljo fights are ugly. Steve Buscemi ugly. Ugly like stag dates at the prom. Yes, ugly like Li Jingliang, aka, The Hunchback of UFC. Aljo fights are like a Rorschach test; you can’t make sense of them no matter how you look at them. There’s no consistent flow/pace; the cadence is stop-and-go like Morse Code, and Aljo opponents always struggle to find their rhythm.
Aljo’s striking is very rigid and boxy. It looks like when you play the UFC game for the first time and you’re trying to figure out the buttons; it’s just a hotch-potch of single strikes. But, what Aljo lacks in technical ability, he more than makes up for with pace. And, like O’Malley, Aljo constantly circles and pot-shots from the outside. He also uses range well and has an underrated, heavy kicking game. Aljo is no TLC scrub on the feet, but he isn't the smooth striker that O’Malley is. The key for Aljo will be to take a nug from his teammate’s (Merab Dvalishvili) sack and set takedowns on repeat. Straight takedown simpin’. Always go full Merab. O’Malley slowed down late in the Petr Yan fight; he didn’t gas out, but his movement suffered halfway through, and he became easier to hit. Aljo has to make him burn energy early, defending takedowns and scrambling back to his feet. If he can do that, the Championship rounds could be all Aljo.
The numbers: O’Malley is 16-1 for his career with eleven TKO/KOs and one sub. He will be the much higher output striker, averaging nearly seven and a half SLpM to Aljo’s just over four and a half. Aljo is 23-3 with three TKO/KOs and eight subs. When it comes to finishes, you have to throw out Aljo’s numbers. On paper, he’s a fifty percent finisher, but unless he’s facing a pure wrestling/grappling specialist like Henry Cejudo, he will always be a massive submission threat. And that will be the case against O’Malley. Five of O’Malley’s eight wins in the UFC came via TKO/KO, but his path to victory isn’t finish-or-bust; he can outpoint Aljo on the feet if the takedown well dries up on Aljo. An O’Malley decision will return (+1800), and a TKO/KO (+330). An Aljo submission will return (+150). Aljo will be the (-250) favorite, and O’Malley will be the (+210) junkyard dog lying in wait behind a rusted-out Studebaker, waiting for some UPS man’s ass to bite. Fantasy-wise, O’Malley should spend enough time on the feet to hit some significant striking numbers even in a loss, and Aljo landed one hundred thirty-five strikes in his last bout against Cejudo.
So here we are. The main event-winning streak sits at seven, and the overall pick ‘em streak sits at fifteen. F the odds, this one feels like a toss-up to me. Both will have distinct advantages in their areas of expertise. When in doubt, I always heed the great Bob Barker’s words of advice: Help control the pet population; have your pets spayed or neutered. Well, how can I do that if I don’t have a dog? Sean O’Malley via TKO, round three. On wax. And to my homies who be actin’ too bold, take a seat. Hope you ready for the next episode. Hey-hey-hey-hey.
Smoke weed every day.
Amanda Lemos vs. Weili Zhang
As surely as you read the previous sentence in Nate Dogg’s voice, this one will be a little banger. This one is a drag race, a Bob Glidden stockcar versus a John Force funny car. Both women are built for speed and power and travel in straight lines to the finish line, none of that fancy drafting shit and pit stops and peeing in diapers because the next rest stop isn’t for another five hundred miles. These two will burn rubber as soon as the light tree hits green and will need a little parachute to shoot out their ass to slow them down at its conclusion. This is one of the best fights you can possibly make in women’s MMA, and there ain’t no night quite like lady’s night. Oh, what a night.
If Amanda Lemos were in the MLB, she would be an ambidextrous pitcher, switching mid-at-bat between a right-handed and left-handed delivery. She throws nothing but two and four-seam fastballs like Mariano Rivera brought in to close out a one-run lead in game seven of the World Series. Right hand, Nolan Ryan; left hand, Randy Johnson. She fights power with power, speed with power, technique with power; all power everything. Lemos has so much power her feints would sleep most people reading this. Her feints are more like punks, like when Nate Diaz flexed on that dude, and the dude spilled his beer all over himself. Lemos uses constant shoulder and hip feints that don’t deviate from the motion of her regular strikes. That’s the key to an effective feint; they have to look exactly like your normal delivery.
The key for Lemos will be staying on the outside and settling into her power. Speed before power. When I trained young kickboxers, this was rule number one. If you come out throwing bombs right away, you will gas quickly. You have to focus on speed and touching your opponent before unloading with power. It’s like running a marathon; the people you see sprinting straight out the gate usually pull up the rear by the end of the race. Also, Lemos has to stay on her feet. Although she only has two career L’s and only one by submission, she was choked out by Jessica Andrade in a standing triangle just over a year ago. It’s hard to get tapped with a standing triangle at this level, and that worries me coming against Weili Zhang, who has eight career subs.
What came first, the Weili or the Zhang? I’m gonna have to consult with Mary Jay and ponder this one for a moment. This lady is as close to a superhero as there is in women’s MMA. Zhang may be the most well-rounded women’s fighter of all time, and some consider her to be the dangerous first step in transhumanism, the transition from humans to machines. Her stand-up is nearly flawless (she did get head kick KO’d by Rose), combining speed, volume, and power. Frankie Edgar was one of the best at using his stand-up to set up level changes; Weili has a similar prowess, the ability to strike her way into double legs. Her hand speed gets your guard up, leaving your hips wide open.
Zhang is on a two-fight winning streak and coming off a bye week against Carla Esparza. Zhang regained the title she lost to Rose by trapping Esparza in a Gary Goodridge reverse crucifix, which is like a medieval torture device and the loneliest, darkest place to be trapped. Being buried alive doesn’t have shit on being trapped in a crucifix. But Esparza has Kron Gracie striking, and going from striking with Esparza to striking with Lemos is like going from hitting off a tee to stepping in the box against Shohei Ohtani. Weili can get got on the feet; I know this because Rose got her in the first matchup. Weili’s easiest path to a dub will be on the mat, using her speed to draw out big actions from Lemos and capitalizing on timely takedowns. If this stays standing, it could look a lot like the first Joanna vs. Weili fight, an all-time classic.
Fantasy-wise, both ladies are finishing threats. Weili is 23-3 with eleven TKO/KOs and eight subs. She's riding a two-fight finishing streak and finished three of her last four wins. Lemos is 13-2-1 with eight TKO/KOs and three subs. When it comes to submissions, Lemos is a club-and-sub'er; she snatches your neck after hurting you on the feet, and she is particularly handy with guillotine chokes. Weili is the higher output striker, averaging over five and a half SLpM to Lemos’ four and a half. Lemos is a one-punch striker, and her highest output in a fight that went the distance is eighty-three.
Weili will be the (-325) favorite, and Lemos will be the (+260) live dog. Lemos will have to finish this fight to get the belt wrapped around her waist. A decision highly favors Weili’s wrestling and her ability to salt away minutes from the top position. If I were in Lemos’ corner, we would fast-play this fight, put all our nugs in one Black & Mild and see if we can kiss the sky. An early finish is Lemos’ value and catching Weili with something heavy within the first two rounds. As the fight progresses, Lemos will gas, and her chances to win will dwindle with every passing minute. Weili Zhang via rear-naked choke, round four. On wax.
Neil Magny vs. Ian Garry
Cue "Make Me A Believer" by Imagine Dragons.
I’ve been sleeping on Ian Garry like Homer in church. I’ve had him on layaway waiting for pay day before I commit to buying him. Any questions I had about Garry surely would have been answered after a fight with his original opponent, Geoff Neal. But Neal had health issues and was replaced with a far less dangerous Neil. Neil Magny’s UFC career goes back further than his hairline; he is a super veteran working graves as a gatekeeper at the Bridge of Death, but he has transitioned from his prime to the twilight of his career.
What if Bic’d Magny was a thing? At this stage of his career, Neil Magny needs a major shake-up, and going full Walter White might be just what Magny needs. I say this from a place of mutual pain. My shit looks like someone stomped out a brush fire. Ol’ Fire Marshall Bill lookin’-ass. I think Magny is too emotionally attached to what’s left, and it’s holding him back. You must let go, surrender yourself, and acknowledge that you are powerless before you can move on. #BaldMagny
But I’ll say this about Magny, over the years he has embraced the late Al Davis’ mantra, "Just win, baby!" He has a knack for making fights ugly and emphasizing all the gray areas that are often overlooked. He doesn’t have a home run stroke, but he’s a master at working the count and making contact and will lead the league in on-base percentage. He’s like the great Tony Gwynn with two strikes; a tough out. For Magny to have a chance against Garry, he will have to stick to the Doc Martins, Ck One cologne, and Honda Civic that got him to the dance; make things ugly in the clinch against the cage and try to put Garry on his back.
The big red flag for Magny is that a hologram Coachella version of himself shows up in his steed to collect a check almost every time he fights on short notice. He’s like Grandpa Simpson walking into the brothel and turning around and walking right out the door when he sees Bart working the front desk. Remember berries; remember when Magny tapped to a Shavkat guillotine with a half-second left in the round? I don't remember if that was short notice, but there is an imposter Neil Magny on the loose that sometimes shows up and walks out to Kanye West's "Heartless."
Ian Garry reminds me of a smaller Israel Adesanya. He fights long and has a similar skill set on the feet. His hands are the Colonel’s Original Recipe crispy and don’t have a single degree of curve in them. They are starched and ironed like military fatigues and could pass line-up inspection. Garry has speed and power and all that fly-shit, but what makes him special is his precision. "Precision beats power, and timing beats speed." Conor McGregor said it best. Garry’s strikes are satellite-guided and can be programmed to land on a specific freckle on your ass. His hands are like DEW laser beams that disintegrate their target. But as good as his hands are, his rear-leg kicks are the real MVPs. His right leg dexterity is maxed out. Teeps, snaps, round kicks; they are all in his arsenal, and he mixes them up to keep you guessing and maintain range.
Garry’s special ability is fight IQ. You’re playing checkers, and he’s playing chess on some Bobby Fischer type-ish. He’s counting strikes, keeping track like Rain Man at the blackjack table. In his last bout against Daniel Rodriguez, Garry set up the eventual fight-ending head kick with repeated body kicks until he got the reaction he was looking for. The key against Magny will be avoiding the clinch and the cage and picking Magny apart from the outside. He is the far superior striker, and the only way he can get beat is if Magny can drag him to the mat and control him.
Garry will be the (-425) favorite, and Magny will be the (+325) mangy dog. I think the play for Garry is a win-by-decision (+200). Although eight of Magny’s ten career L’s came by finish, six were by submission. It’s rare that Magny gets finished on the feet. "The Ponz" Santiago Ponzinibio was the last to stop Magny via TKO/KO, and that was in 2018. But Garry is definitely the bigger finishing threat. A Garry TKO/KO will return (+100). A Magny decision, his only likely method of victory, will return (+550). Ian Garry via decision. Wax on; wax off.
Pedro Munhoz vs. Chito Vera
Don’t feed Pedro Munhoz after midnight; this little mogwai turns into a vicious little gremlin as soon as he steps into the cage. And Chito Vera is so notorious his introduction is stating that he needs no introduction. These guys have managed to dodge each other since 2014, the year they both debuted, and the timing couldn’t be better for their paths to finally cross. A win for either guy would put them on the fringe of the title conversation and possibly in a main event in their next bout. When it comes to kicking ass, these two are Mesi, Ronaldo, Pele, all that shit. These guys have forgotten more asses they've kicked than a gastroenterologist will ever see. This one right here could prove to be the best fight on the main card.
Pedro Munhoz is in the pantheon of great leg kickers. After a fight with Munhoz, you walk out of the cage with your legs looking like Patrick's. Ol’ starfish lookin’-ass. Munhoz will whittle your legs down until your stumps get stuck in shower drains, and you have to use coasters to even them out so they don’t wobble. Recently, I’ve pointed out that most good leg kickers don’t defend them very well. Like Jose Aldo, Pedro Munhoz is an exception. He checks kicks as well as he throws them and has no problem getting into an O.K. Corral leg kick shootout with anyone. Chito is also a good leg kicker but doesn’t defend them nearly as well as Munhoz. But Munhoz relies on his leg kicks as a primary weapon, and I’ve noticed when his leg kicks aren’t effective, his hands are less effective. Munhoz is at his best when he can get your mind on your mangled leg and the possibility of gangrene setting in before the end of the fight.
Once he has you thinking about possible amputation, Munhoz opens up with his hands and lights you up with little Hobgoblin grenades. Munhoz throws short hooks and overhands and has a "Why, I oughtta!" Three Stooges stature. Like he’s really gonna wallop you a good one this time. But although he’s built like the Travelocity lawn gnome, there’s a whole lotta power in this lil’ mf. He has New Mexico desert atomic power in his little hands and is a sucker for a good firefight. This guy is a serial arsonist in the pocket who returns to the scene of the crime like the Chicken Lover. Against Chito, Pedro has to attack the legs and extend combos in the pocket. Chito is notorious for giving up rounds due to inactivity; Munhoz can steal rounds by leading the dance and outworking Chito.
Chito Vera will straight-up murder your ass. I have to start every Chito write-up like that. Chito Vera is the Shrike from the classic Sci-Fi book series by Dan Simmons, "Hyperion Cantos." Every inch of the Shrike is covered in barbed wire, swords, razors, and pikes, and he impales his victims on a Katana blade protruding from his chest. Chito doesn’t just have weapons; he is a weapon. If you accidentally bump into Chito, you die. Chito is a damage-over-volume striker, a quality-over-quantity striker, who uses every one of his limbs to inflict damage. He often gets away with falling behind on the striking stats because one Chito strike equals the damage of ten opponent strikes. You can empty clip after clip at him, and Chito won’t trip because he knows he has howitzers for hands and feets. But Chito’s best weapons are his round kicks from the southpaw stance. This guy kicks like a mule without turning over his hips, making the strike quicker to the target.
The red flag for Chito is his output. Chito is "Casey at the Bat" the MMA version. The cocky Casey lets pitch after pitch go by, knowing he only needs one swing, and the next thing he knows, he strikes out. As was the case in his last bout against Cory Sandhagen, sometimes Chito waits and waits and waits to engage, and then the fight is over. He was losing to both Frankie Edgar and Dominick Cruz, but managed to get the pitch he was looking for late in each fight and hit it out of the park.
Cue "Urgent" by Foreigner: "You say it’s urgent, so urgent / So oh-oh urgent
Urgency is the key for Chito. The calm 90s slasher villain cadence is cool and all, but it won’t work against the top of the division. Chito can be the champ; he just has to increase his output. In every Chito fight, you see glimpses of genius striking and wonder why he doesn’t just keep throwing.
Chito will be the (-190) favorite, and Munhoz will be the live (+160) dog. Munhoz averages nearly five and a half SLpM to Chito’s four, and he can steal this fight with activity. He will be a solid middle/low tier Fantasy option because this fight will remain standing for the full fifteen minutes, and the blueprint for beating Chito is a secret to none. The play for Munhoz is a decision (+225). Chito will be the far greater finishing threat, and a finish may be his only method of victory if he lets Munhoz steal the early minutes. A Chito TKO/KO will return (+450). My confidence in this one isn’t as high as it should be. Chito Vera via decision. On wax.
Brad Tavares vs. Chris Weidman
Cue "What Goes Around... Comes Around" by Justin Timberlake
What were the chances that eight years after Anderson Silva wrapped his shin bone around Chris Weidman’s leg, Weidman would wrap his shin bone around Uriah Hall’s leg? Who said lightning doesn’t strike the same Octagon twice? As was the case with Anderson and McGregor, the worst part wasn’t the impact and subsequent break; it was when they tried to plant their foot back on the mat, and the leg just folded in half like a built-in feature for convenient storage. Two years after suffering a possible career-ending Mech Warrior fracture, Chris Weidman is making his return. Weidman was 2-6 in his last eight bouts before the injury, and I have to say this feels like a closure fight, like a victim impact statement. Weidman didn’t want his UFC career to end with him being hauled out of the Octagon on a stretcher, and I respect that.
I can’t speak from experience, but I have some words of advice for Weidman heading into this fight against Brad Tavares: For the love of a higher power, don’t try to prove a point and throw another leg kick with the same leg. "Can I kick it? No, you can’t! I said, can I kick it? No, you can’t!" Kick in the door waving the fo-fo... No, none of that. No Kickstarters, kicking game at fly Betty’s, getting a pair of new kicks, or even using a kickstand on a bike. F all that. As soon as the bell rings, start shooting double legs like a king-size Merab Dvalishvili. Weidman has never been a good striker, not even when he accidentally KO’d Anderson Silva. He has always looked like a third-of-the-month Dricus Du Plesis on the feet, awkward and stiff but lacks the stupid power and is not nearly as dangerous as Du Plesis. There, I said it. Dricus Du Plesis is dangerous.
Weidman’s game is wrestling, takedowns, and top control. It was his wrestling that led to a 9-0 start in the UFC with dubs over Demian Maia, Mark Munoz, Lyoto Machida, and Vitor Belfort. It was when his wrestling started to fail him that the L’s started piling up. I respect Weidman’s plight and his desire to erase the lasting images of that freak accident, and I also respect that he isn’t coming back to fight a Campbell’s Chunky Soup can. Brad Tavares is a solid veteran who has faced the best in the game. Weidman will have to spam takedowns, press Tavares against the cage, and eliminate space, not allowing extended periods in the open on the feet. For his career, Weidman averages just three SLpM to Tavares’ three and a half, but Weidman also averages nearly four takedowns per fifteen minutes. His Fantasy value will be strictly in takedowns and top control, and a finish... well, I’d drop an Andy Jack on another tib/fib fracture (+800) before I dropped one on a finish.
For Brad Tavares, this fight is like playing tee ball, and after three strikes, they bust out the tee. This should be like playing Duck Hunt an inch away from the tv. Tavares will have to turn into Lara Croft and go straight Tomb Raider to find an L. If you were Tavares, would you dawn the Sean Strickland shit-kickers and try to kick the shit outta Weidman’s leg? Or would you show mercy? Me? I’m kicking the shit outta that leg. The game plan for Tavares should center around leg kicks, messing with Weidman’s psyche while simultaneously making it difficult for Weidman to plant and level change. Tavares isn’t great anywhere, but he is good everywhere and will be the much better striker. Historically, Tavares has been difficult to take down and has an eighty percent takedown defense; against Omari Akhmedov, Tavares defended seven of noine takedowns, and against Antonio Carlos Junior, he defended eleven of twelve. Those were the last two times he was taken down in a fight dating to 2017.
Tavares will be the (-280) favorite, and Chris Weidman will be the (+215) dog. After all the setbacks Weidman faced (infections and whatnot) during his rehab, I thought Weidman would be a bigger dog. But if his wrestling is still elite, there’s an outside chance he could get Tavares to the mat and salt away the clock and limp off into the sunset. But the finishing threat will be Tavares, and this is his fight to lose. A Tavares TKO/KO will return (+130), and a win by decision (+180). A Weidman TKO/KO will return (+750) and a win by decision (+500). This Lizzo joint and tip of the toupee is for you, Chris Weidman. But I have to ride with Tavares. Brad Tavares, via decision, on wax.
Put that shit on wax! Much Love, homies!