Sergey Spivak vs. Ciryl Gane
"Hey, you guys!" He’s back. One of the most underrated heroes of our generation, a man who, with the help of his trusty sidekick, Chunk, brought the Fratelli Crime Family to its knees. Nothing has changed; Sloth is still kicking ass with Chunk in his corner. Pippen/Jordan, Allen/Bo, Shaq/Kobe, Lemieux/Jagr... Sloth/Chunk. A win this Saturday night will leave no doubt that their names belong among those of Sports greatest duos. But some One-Eyed Willy treasure hunt type-shit this won’t be. On paper, it will be one of the most glaring mismatches of all time, Sloth from Goonies vs. T-X, Skynet’s most advanced Terminator. But there is hope for a celebratory Truffle Shuffle; this is a classic wrestler vs. striker matchup, and Sloth, aka Sergey Spivak, might be the most dominant pure wrestler/grappler in the heavyweight division, and rumors of massive flaws in the T-X's, aka Ciryl Gane, takedown defense and Jiu-Jitsu software could create a viable path to victory.
At its heart, this will be a story of survival. For Spivak to have a shot at victory, he will first have to survive a Frodo-like trek across No-Man's Land, a desolate radioactive wasteland heavily defended by hypersonic kicks and punches. This fight will come down to Spivak’s ability to navigate around Gane’s impaling teeps and stabbing boxers’ jabs. On the feet, Spivak’s striking is only a formality. He has a starter’s kit jab but not much else when it comes to throwing hands. His boxing is all stock power punches built only to provide cover when closing the distance. Two of Spivak’s three UFC losses were early first-round TKO/KOS at the hands of guys with excellent hand speed. And Gane has a surplus of that.
I’ve told the story before about my first street fight. It was when I was in kindergarten or first grade. Some Huckleberry Finn MF and his Tom Sawyer cronies kept bullying me and a homie until we finally snapped like Gomer Pyle did on Sergeant Hartman. It went down at high noon at recess in the sandbox. It was two on three with me and my homie Antoine at the disadvantage. No punches were thrown; it was all pushes and trips. We tripped the shit out of those jabronis. Antoine dusted two, and I handled the third, dominating him with the ol’ step-behind trip. I like to think our performance that day was an inspiration for Sergey Spivak. He uses similar schoolyard tactics, sneaky little step-arounds, and nifty inside-leg trips as his base takedown attack. Spivak has trips like Autumn. They don’t have to result in a takedown; they only have to get the opponent off balance, and then he can chain a single or double. Spivak is extra handy with the high-crotch single because he barely has to level change to lock it up. Fighters think they are safe with Spivak in no posture to finish the takedown, and the next thing they know, Spivak lifts them into the air. This will be the takedown Gane will have to have a defense for, especially against the cage.
Spivak reminds me of Chris Benoit before he went crazy and was just a WWF wrestler. Benoit was known for the triple-Supplex. He would keep his hands locked and repeatedly throw the opponent. Spivak uses a similar tactic; he will drag you to the mat, allow you to get back up, maintain the lock, and drag you back down again. It’s a sadistic tactic, a cultivation of false hope like escaping Doctor Satan’s lair only to accept a ride to the police station from Captain Spalding. You repeatedly get back to your feet only to be dragged back down, and the process repeats until you’re too gassed to get back up again. Once he gets you to the mat, Spivak uses a perfect mix of chain wrestling, control, ground and pound, and submissions. Spivak is 16-3 with a symmetrical seven TKO/KOs and seven subs. Spivak is riding a three-fight winning/finishing streak and has won six of his last seven. That lone loss was telling, though. It was a TKO at the hands of Tom Aspinall, a guy with similar if not exact, physical attributes on the feet. Aspinall’s speed was too much for Spivak, and Gane’s speed is in the same ballpark.
The last time we saw Ciryl Gane, he looked like a poorly portrayed Lifetime movie of the week version of himself. He looked like the dude playing the dude, disguised as another dude.
"Or are you a dude who has no idea what dude he is and claims to know what dude he is?"
"I know what dude I am!"
Who knows which dude playing the dude disguised as Ciryl Gane will show up against Spivak? What I do know is that an imposter showed up in his steed the two times he fought for the belt. Gane was outwrestled by Francis Ngannou for three straight rounds when he lost his first title shot. The logical question to ask is, if Francis Ngannou can takedown Gane four times and control him on the mat to the tune of eight and a half minutes, what will Spivak do to him? Forty-five: That's the number to remember. But we ain’t talking firearms or malt liquor; we’re talkin’ Gane’s forty-five percent takedown defense. My son watches Gane’s takedown defense and grappling get picked up from the curb every Thursday morning. It’s trash; it ain’t it, chief. I ain’t your chief, buddy. I ain’t you buddy, guy. My neighbor’s Christmas lights haven’t been taken down in three years, but Gane has been six times in his last three fights.
Gane will have to copyright infringe, straight Gorilla Black bite Sean O’Malley’s entire steez. Perpetual lateral movement, especially against the cage, will be the key for Gane. He has to look like Barry Sanders hitting the hole every time he comes close to the cage. Although Aljo was able to trap O’Malley against the cage once in the first round, Aljo’s angle was off and it allowed O’Malley to escape out the back door. Kicks will also be a key for Gane. Usually, you want to refrain from throwing kicks early against an opponent hell-bent on taking you down, but Gane’s foot speed and leg dexterity will allow him to break the rules. Repeated round kicks to the body out of the southpaw stance will break Spivak’s posture and force Spivak to bring his hands down to defend. If Gane finishes the fight on the feet, it will be by a head kick.
Teeps/snap kicks will also be key. A red Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort punt-to-the-face-advisory-level will be in effect on Saturday night. Gane uses snap kicks like jabs to maintain range and influence future reactions. Gane has to keep them corns and bunions in Spivak’s face. If I were Gane, I’d be making my toes extra corny for this fight, rocking loafers with no socks for the entire training camp to get them nice and hard. Overall, attacking the body and not repeating the mistake he made early against Jon Jones and reaching for a cross will be pivotal for Gane. I wouldn’t even target Spivak’s head with my hands and maintain punching at chest level and below until Spivak is too compromised to close the distance and change levels.
This one won’t go the distance. Gane will either maintain range and piece up Spivak from the outside until the finish presents itself, or Spivak will snatch a single, fling Gane to the mat, and eventually finish with strikes or a choke. Gane is the higher output striker at five SLpM to Spivak’s four, but Spivak averages five takedowns per fifteen minutes. This is as grappler vs. striker as you can get. T-X is the (-185) favorite, and Sloth is the (+155) live dog. Spivak is an underrated heathen on the mat, and Gane has very little chance of surviving there. The main event-winning streak sits at noine, tying the two-time record after The Korean Zombie rushed the safe house and went out on his shield last week against Maxxy Baby. A Gane TKO/KO will return (-105). A Spivak TKO/KO will return (+450), and a submission (+400). This is one of the toughest main events to pick this year. But we didn’t come this far to turn back now. Bust out the Baby Ruth and Superman t-shirt; Sergey Spivak via rear-naked choke, round two. Put it on wax, homies.
Manon Fiorot vs. Rose
Thug Rose! Thug Rose! Thug Rose! When it comes to women GOATs, Rose Namajunas has to be near the top of the list. If you beat the two strawweight GOATS twice, you are the strawweight GOAT. But she lost twice to Carla Esparza... To that, I say: Why you bringing up old shit? Yeah, you're right; Rose was one-half of the participants in the worst fight in UFC history when she fought Carla Esparza for the second time last year. I’ve seen the Golden Girls quarrel more contentiously than that fight. I’ve seen my mom watch Murder She Wrote episodes more violent than that fight. The glove touch was the only significant strike that landed for the entire twenty-five minutes.
But forget all that. There is zero chance this fight will play out anything like Rose’s last appearance. Manon Fiorot is a champ in waiting. If you’ve been rocking with the Weekly KO for a while, you’ve had the inside track on Fiorot since her debut two years ago. Fiorot is a Holly Holm Ghola, an artificial Holm replica created from a single cell by the Tleilaxu in Axlotl tanks. For my non-Dune nerds, Fiorot is an iPhone software update from the Holly Holm base model. Their styles are uncanny, from their southpaw Karate-like bladed stances and dependence on their left hands to their propensity to initiate the clinch and use of nifty trips to relocate the fight. When I see Manon Fiorot, I see the young Holly Holm, who I placed my first bet on when she fought Ronda Rousey. This fight right here could be the changing of the guard, the beginning of a new era in women’s MMA; out with the old shit, in with the new, and all that.
Cue "My Mind Playing Tricks On Me" by the Ghetto Boys: "I keep looking over my shoulder and peeping around corners. My mind is playing tricks on me."
Rose vs. Everybody. Rose has never been in a fair fight inside the Octagon. In addition to her opponent, Rose fights a horde of her own demons every time she steps inside the cage. You can argue Rose is undefeated, her only losses coming to herself. "I’m the best! I’m the best!" She implements her own Bene Gesserit litany before the fight to keep her mind from playing tricks on her. When she’s at her best, Rose is the female Max Holloway, patrolling the outside of the pocket like a junkyard dog, back and forth, switching stances and using shadowbox feints to draw out reactions. She sits low in her stance like Max and fires off quick two to three-punch combos from arm angles that naturally circumvent the guard. And on the mat, Rose is underrated; she has a slick defensive guard she uses to avoid damage and get back to her feet. Against Carla, Rose didn’t trust her grappling, and it stifled her striking. It’s possible Rose could suffer a similar fate against Fiorot if she doesn’t trust her grappling. Fiorot likes to seal/steal rounds with late takedowns, but if Rose is on her game, she has nothing to fear from Fiorot’s ground game.
The key for Rose will be aggression, the same level of aggression she showed in the Joanna fights. Rose averages just over three and a half SLpM to Fiorot’s six and a half; Rose can’t afford to get out struck two to one, even if Fiorot’s strikes aren’t landing. This will be an FX Nip/Tuck close affair, and the difference could be who is leading the dance most often. Fiorot relies on volume and pace to overwhelm opponents, and when she can’t do that like she couldn’t against Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia, she loses some of her dominant aura and becomes very beatable.
Manon Fiorot is one of the best pure strikers in the women's divisions and is an amalgamation of Holly and Shevchenko. Her stance is identical to Holly's, and she has the patented Shevchenko check-right hook that she can use offensively to initiate attacks or as a defensive countermeasure. She relies heavily on the check right hook like Sam Alvey. Timing is everything; Fiorot same-time counters with the right hooks and gets opponents to start second guessing and become hesitant. Fiorot’s best attribute is that she is a Makaveli Seven Day Theory track one representative. Be First & Be Often. Manon strikes first and asks questions later. When in doubt, throw bombs. Her major malfunction: She’s a Groundhog Day striker.
"Didn’t we do this yesterday?"
"I don’t know what you mean."
"Don’t mess with me, pork chop. What day is this?"
"It’s February second, Groundhog Day."
Fiorot tends to fall into the same cadences and relies on the same basic combinations over and over with a heavy reliance on her left hand, just like Holly Holm. But she gets away with it because she allows for little dead air between engagements and stays on the attack. If you look at her five-fight UFC resume, Fiorot has quietly fought stiff competition: Jennifer Maia, Katlyn Chookagian, Mayra Bueno Silva, and Tabatha Ricci. None of those ladies are TLC scrubs, and Fiorot is 5-0 in the promotion. But as she has climbed the ladder, her performances have come down to earth some. Fiorot doesn’t look like a hands-down sure-fire future champ as much as she did two years ago. But a win against one of the GOATs will put her right in the mix for a title shot and eliminate all doubt.
Fantasy-wise, Fiorot is a high-output striker who is consistently near the one hundred SLpM range in every bout that goes the distance. I think a finish for either fighter is a long shot, and this one will come down to who appears to be pressing the action. Fiorot is the (-195) favorite, and Rose is the (+160) neglected dog. You already know what time it is; Bust out the Piso Mojado signs! Bet against Rose at your own risk. Rose is the dog because of that dog shit performance in her last bout, but before that, she beat Weili Zhang for the second time. The play for these ladies is a decision. A Rose decision will return (+330), and a Fiorot decision will return (+120).
"You wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love its will to reach the sun. Don’t ask me why, ask me how!"- Tupac
Rose Namajunas via decision. Put that ish on wax.
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Bogdan Guskov
Here starts the parade of unfamiliar faces. This card is stacked with a bunch of "Who the fook is that guy" type guys. This fight right here won’t sniff the final bell. This guy, Bogdan Guskov, looks like a cohort, like a classic 90s henchman. He looks like a GMO Anthony Smith. Bogdan Guskov looks like he committed every cold case murder in the world; he matches the composite sketch of every suspect ever suspected. But let me tell you, when this guy gets to throwing hands, dudes get to toppling like Jenga towers. This guy has Dim Mak bottom brick power and an arsonist's perversion for creating firefights. If Volkan Oezdemir steps into the Octagon, dancing the same ol’ lil’ half-step, he will wake up in an ethereal state with the ability to walk through solid objects.
I don’t know much about Bogdan Guskov other than the five minutes of available fight footage on YouTube. He is 14-2 with a one hundred percent kill rate, including twelve TKO/KOs and two subs. There’s a slight Fedor type of vibe in his style. There was a way that Fedor carried his hands, almost like he was offering you a bag of cheeseburgers in exchange for some illicit pharmaceuticals. "C’mon, man! I got these cheeseburgers!" Fedor held his hands like he was holding on to the handlebars of a Harley, those ones like you’re about to do a pullup. The purpose was to keep the wrists loose and whip them at the end of his strikes, adding a little extra pop. Guskov uses a similar technique and the classic Russian bounce. If you ever get into a scrap and your opponent starts bouncing on his toes with his hands at chest level, GTFOT. The bounce is quicker and more explosive than taking a step. Short, choppy steps are how most fighters cover distance as they strike, but a bounce allows you to disguise your intention and makes for quicker hand delivery to the target. It takes a long time to develop a bouncing boxing cadence.
From what I have seen, Guskov can manipulate range like Magneto manipulates magnetic fields. The only defensive measures he takes are using pull counters to stay just outside the opponent’s range and back pivots. Pivoting instead of sliding back out of the pocket is a good way to retreat while remaining in striking range. Guskov fires hands from chest level like Voltron shoulder missiles, and people just seem to melt when Guskov touches them. This is one of those fighters that makes you wonder if the UFC knows something we don’t. There must be something they know that we don’t if they are willing to throw him to a four-tour UFC vet like Oezdemir. All you need to know is that Guskov’s value is in an early finish. All five and six of his last seven bouts ended in the first round, and he has never heard the sound of a final bell ringing.
If it weren’t for Ryan Spann, Volkan Oezdemir would be the Thomas Edison of discovering ways to lose. He would be the Chargers of the UFC. He holds more patents for losing than the government holds for coronaviruses. When Oezdemir comes out throwing hands, he’s as dangerous as anyone in the light heavyweight division. Volkan throws nothing but short cluster bombs that turn the first twenty rows into a splash zone. It’s easy to overlook this guy, but his boxing is actually really good. You don’t see many guys Oezdemir’s size that throw tight, short punches. He can generate a ton of power with limited space. Like Guskov, Oezdemir has the classic Russian style; they don’t arm punch; Russians use their entire body from the feet up to transfer weight into their punches. Instead of whipping the arm, they frame it, locking it out at the elbow. They use their hips and waist to change the angles of their hands, flowing smoothly from over the top to underneath.
The problem for Oezdemir isn’t his striking; it's his ground game. I don’t know if it will come into play in this matchup, but if Guskov has any wrestling, the path to defeating Oezdemir is on the mat. Oezdemir has that Koala Kare station in the family room at the mall ground game. That diaper change guard. And after the first round, his takedown defense dwindles to the point that he runs the risk of becoming a projectile in Hurricane Hillary-like winds. Ground game aside, Oezdemir will have to meet fire with fire against Guskov. There will be no way to avoid a firefight, so Oezdemir has to commit to combinations and push the pace. Oezdemir is 18-7 with twelve TKO/KOs and one sub, and his value will also be in an early finish. Experience will be Volkan’s biggest advantage; he has competed against the very best in the world since 2017.
Oezdemir will be the (-140) favorite, and Bogdan will be the (+140) dog. Bogdan could be a valuable middle/low-tier Fantasy option and is worth the gamble. His upside is an early finish, and Oezdemir has proven he can’t be trusted. I had every intention of picking Oezdemir, but I’ve talked myself out of it. Maybe this will be a repeat of when Jiri Prochazka debuted against Oezdemir and TKO’d Volkan within two rounds. An Oezdemir TKO/KO will return (-105), and a Guskov TKO/KO will return (+225). Bogdan Guskov via TKO, round two. On wax.
Benoit St. Denis vs. Thiago Moises
Benoit St. Denis’ UFC debut and subsequent bouts played out like a Marvel origin story. In his debut against Elizeu Dos Santos, St. Denis was buried alive on some Lupe Fiasco "The Cool" type-shit. He had to use his grandfather’s pocket watch that he was buried with to dig his way back to the surface like a reverse archeologist. The beating was so bad the ref who presided over the fight was fired as soon as one ass cheek cracked the Octagon door. But in his next three fights, St. Denis rose like a River Phoenix with shock pads, winning all three via finish. St. Denis is a grappling Gandolf with View Level stadium striking. There are two types of fighters: those who say they DGAF and those that actually don’t. St. Denis is the latter. This scrap against Thiago Moises is an undercover banger and potential FOTN because every St. Denis fight is a potential FOTN.
On the feet, St. Denis is one of the most effective one-trick ponies you will see. He went straight prime Cro Cop in his last bout against Ismael Bonfim, repeatedly unloading left round kicks by the baker’s dozen. He put that bish on full-auto and sprayed back and forth. The only kick that doesn’t do damage is the kick that doesn’t touch you. All others are significant strikes even if you shield it. Throw in a Bo Nickal haymaker left hand, and that’s pretty much the extent of St. Denis’s striking. He can be effective in short bursts but not prolonged exchanges. He also likes to sprinkle in some Shonie Carter spinning backfists with excellent timing and relies on tricky shit to make up for an overall lack of technique.
But on the mat, St. Denis reminds me of a more aggressive Demian Maia. Maia was painfully position over submission, but Denis has a perfect mix of both with added ground and pound. He now claims Ismael Bonfim on his taxes as a dependent after son’ing him on the mat in St. Denis’ last bout. The single-leg is his go-to takedown, and he’ll hold on to that mudasucka even after the fight while you’re standing at the urinal. Khabib leg rides and crafty Judo throws are all in St. Denis’ repertoire. Fifty Shades of Beneil Dariush. Now that I think about it, St. Denis has a similar skillset to the former dark horse of the division. The big question is, can he finish Thiago Moises, a guy who is 17-6 and only submitted once? And that came to Islam. I think he can get the finish, but there is a better chance he could get Moises to the mat and chip away from the top for fifteen minutes. Moises has a sixty percent takedown defense and has shown shaky takedown D, especially as the fight progresses.
Thiago Moises fights like an action figure with an overhand right action button on his back. On the feet, he has typical Brazilian wrestler striking—the difference from regular wrestler striking is that the power right is a hook and not a cross with an added heavy rear-round kick. On his right hand, Moises rocks the Infinity glove with a pinky ring, and he will be the bigger one-punch KO threat. Moises’ success usually goes hand in hand with getting the fight to the mat and taking the back. He has some disgusting rear-naked choke modifications. He finished Christos Giagos with one; it was like a two-arm rear naked, instead of using a Gable grip or putting the offhand behind the head, he laced the offhand across the choking hand and tightened it like a ratchet. Really sadistic report-to-the-authorities-asap type-ish.
This one will come down to who can defend and initiate takedowns better. I think St. Denis is the more dangerous grappler; he uses more ground and pound and chain wrestles better than Moises. If the fight stays standing, it will be Moises’ fight to lose. Fantasy-wise, look elsewhere when it comes to Moises. Without a finish, he won’t add up to much. He averages barely two and a half SLpM and a takedown and a half per fifteen minutes. If you play Moises, you’re playing a longshot submission. Even after the beating, Dos Santos handed out to St. Denis, St. Denis has never been finished in twelve career scraps.
St. Denis will be the (-150) favorite, and Moises will be the (+125) dog. Moises can win this fight. He has enough striking to cause St. Denis problems on the feet, and if he can create damage there, he can dominate from the top. But St. Denis fights with more urgency and is willing to take more risks. And you already know: Life’s a risk, carnal. Benoit St. Denis via decision. On wax.
William Gomis vs. Yanis Ghemmouri
*The card lost multiple fighters, and the matchups for multiple fights were switched around at the last minute. Yanis Ghemmouri was set to face Caolan Loughran but is now fighting William Gomis who lost his opponent Lucas Almeida. And Caolan Loughran is now fighting Taylor Lapilus. I’m just gonna have to wing this shit. This card just managed to go from ugly to super ugly overnight.
Cue "Who Are You" by The Who: "Who are you? Who, who, who, who? Who are you?"
Gomis is 12-2 with six TKO/KOs and one sub and 2-0 in the UFC. His stand-up is a little stiff, but he fights long out of the southpaw stance with good judgment for range. There’s a little Bud Crawford in his punches and some O’Malley in his distance management. Gomis doesn’t throw combinations very well or very often, or any kind of often. When it comes to SLpM, Gomis averages less than two. He’s a cancer to Fantasy rosters. You have to go full Walter White if you pick up Gomis. Gomis does just enough to get by like C students. Gomis is the type of fighter that makes things awkward, slow, and generally kind of boring. His new opponent, Yanis Ghemmouri, will definitely be the more aggressive fighter on the feet, but Gomis fights long and will make it difficult for Ghemmouri to get inside and unload combinations.
I thought Yanis Ghemmouri had stiff striking until I saw Caolan Laughran. This guy Ghemmouri fights like he’s got a turtle head poking out, and he’s slowly losing the battle. Someone get this man some prunes. Some words of wisdom: If you have to push, you went too soon. I could only find one recent fight for Ghemmouri, and from what I can tell, he is a counter-puncher who likes to let his opponent lead the dance. So much so that he barely moves his feet; he looks like he’s shadowboxing in the shower. I think he may have a Valentina complex. Valentina relies too heavily on letting her opponents engage first and has a hard time closing the distance on her own. But Ghemmouri does have some Delorean hand speed and sleeper power. And he has crooked arm angles that will give him an advantage in a pocket if he can get inside on Gomis. But overall, he has Etch-A-Sketch striking, moving only in straight lines like an old-school NES directional controller.
Of his twelve career dubs, three came by TKO/KO, and four came via submission. I can’t say I’ve seen any of his grappling, but three of his subs were submissions from his guard, including two triangles and one armbar. This bodes well for Ghemmouri as Gomis likes to implement heavy wrestling game plans and is mostly position over submission from the top. And Gomis’ only career loss came via submission. There aren’t any odds for the new matchups, but I think the plays for Ghemmouri will be a submission or decision. I think striking stats may be hard to come by as Gomis will likely look for tie-ups, and Ghemmouri will be constantly fighting with his back against the cage.
I’m terrible at handicapping fights, but I’m going to say Gomis will be the favorite if for no other reason than he already has two fights under the bright lights. But Ghemmouri fought for Brave CF, and if you don’t know, Brave CF is a manufacturing plant for most of the "ev/ov" fighters that are slowly Pink and the Brain taking over the world. Also, Gomis will likely put up pedestrian Fantasy stats, so I may be looking at taking a chance on Ghemmouri and hoping to flip the script. I have no idea wtf is going on here, but give me William Gomis via decision. Put it on wax? Yeah, I guess so.
Good luck with the pick 'ems for this one, homies. This card is super ugly. Put one in the air, and put 'em on wax!