Mateusz Gamrot vs. Rafael Fiziev
This one right here is a Roman Colosseum main event when they let loose lions, hyenas, and sharks with laser beams attached to their heads into the arena. At its conclusion, Dana will rise and petition the crowd, placing directly in their hands the fate of the gladiator who falls in defeat. Thumb-up and the gift of tomorrow will be bestowed. Thumb-down and the victorious fighter will execute his special finishing move. Mateusz Gamrot’s finishing move: Lifting the opponent into the air and slamming him on the ground repeatedly until nothing is left but a puddle of human gore, which the elites in attendance later bathe in. Should Rafael Fiziev prevail, he unleashes a barrage of kicks to the body, sending shit and organs flying all over the arena like Oprah giveaways. He punctuates the deadly assault with a swift high kick that leaves the opponent headless, Sleepy Hollow, the open spout ejecting blood one hundred feet into the air like a Yellowstone geyser. A jester will then run into the arena, check the pulse of the heap of steaming viscera, and declare to the spectators, "Fatality!"
Gamrot vs. Fiziev is the epitome of a wrestler vs. striker matchup. Rafael Fiziev is a top-five dead or alive scariest striker of all time. Fiziev is the result of feeding Mirko Cro Cop after midnight. Right leg: closed casket. Left leg: urn. And the US government uses Gamrot’s takedowns to conduct inhumane experiments on elite athletes. The constant threat of takedowns turns opponents into MK Ultra patients, anxious and paranoid. They see takedowns everywhere they go, lurking around every corner. When offered a bro hug after another Dallas Cowboys victory, they pummel underhooks and sprawl. During sexy time, they shrimp, stuff the head, and get back to their feet. Jeremy Stephens didn’t submit himself. The winner of this one will be declared the modern-day Maximus Decimus Meridius and remain on the fringe of the lightweight title picture.
Mateusz Gamrot reminds me of an a la carte Dan Henderson that doesn’t come with the H-Bomb. When it comes to takedowns, Gamrot is the Diddy of the UFC: Can’t stop, won’t stop. Gamrot wants to be all up in the videos, all on the records, dancing. His first official single under Bad Boy was "I Wonder If Heaven Got a Wrestling Mat." Gamrot puts double legs on repeat with the ten-second anti-skip button activated. His special power is the double underhooks. Wack-ass special power, I know, but once he gets his hands locked behind you, there’s no escape. You’re basically forfeiting the rest of the round. This guy’s level changes are ridiculous; he gets low to the earth and can shoot from across the Octagon. And if he gets hold of any part of you, you’re going to the mat. The ankle pick... You remember the one Randy Couture hit on James Toney? Gamrot lands that all the time. If you're fighting Gamrot, pray if he gets hold of you, it’s not the single leg, or else he will put you on the pole doing the standing splits like you’re auditioning for amateur night. He hikes the leg over the opponent’s head and runs him across the cage to finish. What makes his wrestling special is his chain wrestling, stringing together takedown techniques like hand combinations. You defend one only to find yourself in another and another and another. It's turtles all the way down.
But Gamrot’s Galaxy Note 7—his major defect—is his striking. Before he made his UFC debut, I thought Gamrot had excellent boxing. But I haven’t seen it inside the Octagon. He had an impressive one-punch KO of Scott Holtzman, but other than that, his striking has been fairly benign. Also, Gamrot has a weakness in defending body kicks. Being a wrestler, he tries to catch them and counter with takedowns, but often, he gets caught with his hands down reaching. That’s some clever foreshadowing for a prolific kicker like Rafael Fiziev. You already know; when you try catching kicks, that’s when head kicks happen. And Fiziez has sixth story, book depository head kicks. Gamrot likes to switch stances on the feet, but everything leads to the southpaw stance. He almost exclusively shoots from southpaw and likes to start orthodox and use step-in right hands to switch on the way in. If I were in Fiziev’s corner, we would be looking for standing knees whenever Gamrot is in the southpaw stance.
Four states still have execution by firing squad as a means for carrying out a death sentence. They blindfold the offender and Rafael Fiziev head kicks them. Some people are afraid of clowns, some spiders, others heights... I’m terrified of Rafael Fizievs. I was genuinely afraid for Justin Gaethje when the two fought back in March. I was dead wrong like Biggie and Em when I completely wrote off Gaethje’s chances, but it was that fight that convinced me Gaethje would beat Dustin Poirier. That’s because Fiziev is the most dangerous striker in the division, and if you can beat him at his own game, you can beat anybody. Fiziev does nothing fancy but makes everything look fancy. His technique is so flawless that he makes day one combinations look like flashy techniques. Punctuating hand combinations with kicks is the building block of kickboxing/Muay Thai. Start with hands, end with kicks and vice versa. Fiziev is one of the few strikers who adheres to this basic concept consistently.
When it comes to hand/foot speed, Fiziev is so fast his strikes create sonic booms. When he lands, his strikes make splashing sounds. They sound like the culmination of a plunge from fifty stories up. Fiziev is a great example of fusing boxing and kickboxing techniques to create a hyrbrid style. He uses Tyson bobs and weaves to slip and rip short hooks and uses the lead left hook as effectively as a jab like Roy Jones. As for his kicks, he uses the right leg more for teeps and snap kicks up the middle, and the left leg for round kicks. The key to beating Fiziev on the feet is committing to combos, a death-defying task only a guy like Justin Gaethje is crazy enough to execute. Gaethje was able to wear down and slow Fiziev with volume. My man Bobby Green (who got robbed against Fiziev) also had success utilizing extended combinations and constant pressure.
Gamrot won't pose the same threat on the feet but will rather test Fiziev’s wrestling, which has held up so far in eight UFC bouts. Fiziev has a noinety percent takedown defense, BUT (big but) he hasn’t faced a world-class wrestler like Gamrot, whose sole focus will be getting Fiziev to the mat. If this stays on the feet, I see destruction. I see the Terminator scene when Sarah Conner watches from behind the chain-link fence as fire engulfs the playground. The key for Fiziev will be hiding his kicks behind his hands and scrambling back to his feet. He has to plan on being taken down and have escape routes mapped out. Takedown defense isn’t as important as getting back to your feet.
Fantasy-wise, Gamrot’s takedowns per fifteen minutes look like a high-volume striker’s punch stats; he averages four and a half takedowns and three SLpM. He has landed four takedowns in his last two fights, including against the grappling Harry Potter, Beneil Dariush. For his career, Gamrot is 22-2 with seven TKO/KOs and five subs. His value will be takedowns and top control. In his last bout against Jalin Turner, Gamrot racked up over seven minutes of control time. The Kimura from side control will be Gamrot’s method of finish. He prefers the side mount to the full mount, and the Kimura is elementary from that position. Fiziev’s value will be in a finish on the feet and five SLpM. Against Rafael Dos Anjos, Fiziev proved he could go five hard rounds defending takedowns and still have power late in the fight. Unless the takedown well runs dry for Gamrot, Fiziev will need a finish to win this fight.
Fiziev will be the (-160) favorite, and Gamrot will be the (+135) live dog. The odds reflect the success Jalin Turner had on the feet against Gamrot. Turner had Gamrot hurt multiple times in that fight, but each time, Gamrot was able to shoot an "Oh shit!" takedown and avoid potential finishing follow-ups. I think the play for Fiziev is a TKO/KO, and the play for Gamrot is a decision. A Fiziev TKO/KO will return (+175), and a decision (+250). A Gamrot submission will return (+700), and a decision (+240). The main event-losing streak remains suspended in purgatory at two after a bogus 10-8 fifth round and Grasso vs. Shevchenko 2 ended in a draw. This is one of those picks I have been going back and forth on for a couple weeks. I’m banking on Fiziev’s takedown defense affording him enough time to create some damage on the feet. Rafael Fiziev via TKO, round four. Wax on, wax off.
Bryce Mitchell vs. Dan Ige
Hit that Drake, "Back To Back." We going back-to-back like we on the cover of Lethal Weapon. Like we Jordan in ‘96-’97. We’re sitting on back-to-back wrestler vs. striker matchups. Bryce Mitchell was last seen on the mean streets of Pamplona, Spain, getting thrashed around violently by the seat of his pants at the end of one of Ilia Topuria’s bull horns. Not even Pennywise The Clown was willing to jump into the cage to distract Ilia from goring the shit outta Bryce’s ass that night. It was ugly with a cape on; super ugly. But, like taking samples from a mummy’s colon, that’s old shit. The UFC’s Dylan is back and ready to spit hot flame. Who are the five best rappers of all time? Think about it: Thug Nasty, Thug Nasty, Thug Nasty, Thug Nasty, and Thug Nasty.
Bryce Mitchell will beat your ass and go straight 2Pac on you and drop a "Hit ‘Em Up" diss track after. Thug Nasty is a wild mother-shut-your-mouth. He’s got Alabama boat dock striking with a karaoke singer’s inhibitions; he has no shame and doesn’t give a fook how bad it is. The left round kick is his best weapon on the feet; it doesn’t look like much, but it has sneaky power. His hands are wide and loopy, but he stays on his Anthony Bordain-ish and has no reservations. Bryce likes to instigate wild exchanges on the feet and use the chaos to level change and get the fight to where he really wants it, on the mat. Mitchell’s striking travels along the Merab spectrum, as it is made more effective because of the takedown threat. #NeverForget when Mitchell dropped Edson Barboza in the first round of their scrap because Barboza was too hyper-focused on defending against level changes.
But Thug Nasty’s secret weapon is his camo shorts. When he puts them on, he blends into the background on some predator-type-ish, and you can’t see him like John Cena. Wrestling-wise, Thug Nasty is a chain wrestler with Paul Wall takedowns; he gets low to the earth, similar to an ant, and snatches anything he can touch. He also shares the Khabib mentality and never gives up on his wrestling, even when it isn’t effective. Even though Bryce struggled to get Ilia Topuria to the mat, he still attempted noine takedowns in a round and a half. Fifty-six percent; that’s Dan Ige’s takedown defense. Against Movsar Evloev, a guy with similar wrestling prowess to Mitchell, Ige gave up noine takedowns, and throughout his career, takedown defense has been a thorn in Ige’s side.
Dan Ige ain’t about all the shiny suits and angry adlibs in the background; he’s bout cracking asses like single ply tp and making good on his nickname. Ige is a literal anytime/anyplace fighter who has had an even mix of highlight-reel wins and losses in his career. He’s one of those guys who’s good enough to beat everyone except the final two bosses; he could beat Piston Honda but never Glass Joe or Mike Tyson. Ige’s trademark is his Mega Man cannons. He’s a pocket striker with one-punch KO power in both hands. He’s like a defective Josh Emmett who didn’t pass quality control. Emmett is a guy Ige has a head-to-head loss against, and their styles are very similar. The firefight is Ige’s specialty, and he’s one of the better defensive pocket strikers in the division. He remains steadfast and defensively responsible when extending combos in the pocket and often elects to flip a coin and engage in 50/50 exchanges.
But there lies the problem. Ige is not a distance striker, so he has to engage within wrestling range. And Ige’s wrestling... well, he can’t even thumb wrestle. When Ige loses, it’s usually because he was taken down and gave up too much time on his back. Against Mitchell, Ige will have to bust out the old-school sprawl and brawl. He has to create damage on the breaks and in the clinch and try to break down Mitchell. Mitchell got Topuria to the mat, but Topuria made every second on the feet count. There wasn’t a moment when Mitchell wasn’t sustaining damage. Combinations are Mitchell’s kryptonite on the feet, so Dan has to commit to third and fourth-level strikes. For his career Ige is 17-6 with five TKO/KOs and five subs. I think Ige will be a finishing threat if Mitchell slows down and can’t secure takedowns late.
Thug Nasty is the (-200) favorite, and Ige is the (+170) live dog. Mitchell’s last three wins all came by decision, and I think Ige is good enough on the mat to force the fight to go the full fifteen minutes. That will give him time to land a fight-changing bomb. Fantasy-wise, Ige averages just under four SLpM, but it will be hard to strike at volume against a guy constantly looking to level change. If he can get to fifty strikes landed, that would be an accomplishment. Thug Nasty is 15-1 with noine subs and 0.0 TKO/KOs. His value will be in takedowns and top control time with a distant shot at a sub. Dan Ige has never been finished in his career, and he has faced the elite of the division. But I don’t think he will stay on his feet long enough to secure the dub. I’ve seen this movie before. Give me Thug Nasty via decision. I’ve watched Ige go from a (+140) dog to now a (+170) dog in twenty-four hours, and I’m starting to think Ige is being slept on heavy-heavy. I think Ige will struggle early to stay on his feet, but there will be a point when Ige starts stuffing takedowns and takes over on the feet. Give me the dog. Dan Ige via decision. Put that ish on wax.
Marina Rodriguez vs. Michelle Waterson-Gomez 2
The only thing that has changed since these two first fought is that The Karate Hottie has added an extra name. This a sequel to a 2021 main event and makes about as much sense as Weekend at Bernie’s 2. Was Bernie mummified like an Egyptian pharaoh and exhumed by the Torajan people and made the new mayor? Anywho, here we are. Marina Rodriguez got her hand raised after the first meeting, and it marked the beginning of a current three-fight losing streak for "The Karate Hottie," who has become more hottie than Karate as of late. When it comes to streaking, M-Rod is not to be outdone; she is riding her own two-fight losing streak. Barring an errant 10-8 round, one of these ladies will staunch the bleeding and get back in the dub column after this one.
I rewatched the first fight, so you don’t have to. "Hov did that, so hopefully, you won’t have to go through that." The key to the fight was that Waterson was only able to get Marina to the mat once over the course of twenty-five minutes. When there is no threat of the takedown, Marina is a formidable combination striker. She averages over four and a half SLpM and landed one hundred twenty-five in the first meeting. The problem is, everywhere Marina goes, the takedown threat is lurking. A crack in the sidewalk, grass moist with morning dew when she goes outside to retrieve the paper, the air blower when she walks into a convenience store; everywhere she goes, she sees the same foes. In fact, Rodriguez has been taken down at least once in each of her last eight bouts. Some people’s only career takedowns came against Marina Rodriguez.
But when Marina can stay on her feet, she has hands like poisonous blow darts; they’re quick, straight to the target, and have a slow, deadly accumulating effect over time. Marina outworks opponents from the outside with quick 1-2s and allows for little dead air between engagements. The only real knock on her striking is a lack of power. It was never more glaring than when she fought Amanda Lemos. In the third round, Lemos landed an overhand fastball that kicked Marina offline. Your session has ended. Cue the Widows shutdown chime. But Waterson doesn’t have anywhere near the power that Lemos has or the takedown prowess of Marina’s last opponent, Virna Jandiroba. This fight, a fight Marina has already won, is Marina’s to lose. The value for Marina will be strictly in SLpM as Waterson has only one loss in her career by TKO/KO, and in sixteen career wins, Marina only has one dub by sub.
Michelle, you could’ve been the female Wonderboy, but you play too much. Waterson used to be known for her Rex Kwon Do style, complete with annoying little sidekicks and blitzing, quick hand combinations. In many ways, her stand-up style is very similar to Wonderboy’s, except she is missing Wonderboy’s timing and counters. Somewhere along the way, Waterson started playing things safe and traveled along the Holly Holm spectrum, relying more on the clinch and trips to relocate the fight to the mat. But just like Holly, grappling isn’t one of her strong suits. Even when she is successful in getting her opponent down, Waterson really doesn’t know what to do next, and the takedown just becomes a means for salting away the clock.
Waterson has lost five of her last six, and if that isn’t enough to say "fook it!" and start throwing scissor kicks, wheel kicks, Double Dragon helicopter kicks, and Van Damme final boss flying roundhouses until the final bell, then that time will never come. Waterson has to stand and bang with Marina and not waste any energy in the clinch. She has to come out straight Chun-Li, throwing Lightning Legs nonstop until the final bell rings. Waterson averages over three and a half SLpM and landed eighty-eight in the first matchup. But that was a five-round bout; she would have to hit a similar number with ten fewer minutes in which to work to keep up with Marina’s pace.
Rodriguez is the (-325) dog, and The Karate Hottie is the (+250) mangy dog. I love the (+250) odds range; quite often, you can find value in a fighter in that range. But I just don’t see it from a straight betting standpoint for Waterson. Fantasy-wise, I think she will be more aggressive on the feet, and she could prove to put up some valuable striking stats. As far as a finish one way or the other, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Waterson hasn’t finished a fight since her debut in 2015, and Rodriguez only has one finish in eleven UFC bouts. Play a decision. Marina Rodriguez via decision. On Wax.
Bryan Battle vs. A.J. Fletcher
This is the third wrestler vs. striker matchup on the main card. At least, it should be if A.J. Fletcher plays it smart. For all my day-ones out there, Fletcher is a king-size Sean Sherk. I get strong 2008 vibes when I see A.J. Fletcher fight. And Bryan Battle is a recent Ultimate Fighter season winner who has proven to be an under-the-radar solid bet since his official debut in 2021, going 4-1 with two first-round finishes in under a minute. When it comes to physiques and physical attributes, this couldn’t be more of a mismatch; this one is like a senior fighting a frosh in the quad at lunchtime while all the spectators try to distract the yard duties.
It’s easy to overlook Bryan Battle. He comes out looking like he’s rocking Leatherface skin vest feetie pajamas, and he has a weird streak to him. Hit that "The Kids Aren’t Alright" by The Offspring. Bryan battle looks like something is a skosh off-kilter upstairs. Like, he has toys in the attic. He has that crazy ex-energy to him. But, when it comes to prizefighting, being a little off your John Rocker is a positive trait. You can’t be completely sane and do this shit for a living. That being said, people (meaning me) slept on Battle throughout the Ultimate Fighter competition and even after he won it. The truth is this guy has some sneaky good striking. He’s one of those rare strikers who throws twice as many kicks as he does hands. He uses a light lead leg to pepper round kicks and a heavy rear leg to attack with teeps. Like boxers change levels with their hands, Battle changes levels with kicks. He attacks with high-volume leg and body kicks and then throws in some sneaky head kicks. And when he lets his hands go, he has clean boxing with tight, technical combinations. If you fook around with Bryan Battle on the feet, you will find out.
Battle’s major malfunction: His ground game. His takedown defense and overall Jiu-Jitsu from his back ain’t it, ol’ hoss. I ain’t your ol’ hoss, pawtna. I ain’t your pawtna, buddy. Battle got mauled like Leo DiCap in The Revenant by Rinat Fakhretdinov. Check it: Rinat scored seven takedowns and recorded over fourteen minutes of control time in that bout. He held Battle on his back for all but forty-five seconds of the bout. That’s beyond getting dominated; that’s getting New York Giant’d on Sunday Night Football. Although Battle has a somewhat active guard, his sub attempts look like someone reenacting something they saw on a YouTube video. It’s like he’s just going through the motions with no idea how to finish the move. The good news for Battle: Although Fletcher will most likely try to get this fight to the mat early and often, his wrestling/grappling is not even in the same galaxy as Rinat’s. BUT (big but), Battle’s overall career takedown defense is thirty-eight percent. Only to be outdone by...
A.J. Fletcher’s twenty-eight percent takedown defense. A.J. is all offensive grappling and zero defensive grappling. Fletcher is the Model T, mass-produced, prototypical wrestler striker, complete with a heavy right hand and left hook. He has base model striking; no GPS, no heated seats, no electric windows, none of that. His striking is plain like P.E. clothes. He’s amorphous; there are no defining traits setting him apart from noinety-five percent of fighters who look like him. Fletcher is a muscle-over-hustle scrapper who tends to fade faster than Fruit Stripe gum.
"But wait... There’s more!"- Billy Mays voice.
A.J.’s major-major malfunction is that he doesn’t fight to his strengths; he has that Zach Wilson fight I.Q. He will engage in firefights when he has a clear advantage on the mat and reacts emotionally when he gets hit. He sees red, turns into a meathead, and starts swinging recklessly. My man needs a little anger management. Defensively, he has the one-thousand-yard stare when the fists and feets start whizzing by his head; there’s no reaction. If he fails to get the fight to the mat, Bryan Battle will pick him apart with kicks from the outside until it’s time to press the kill button and collect fifty G’s.
Bryan Battle will be the (-180) favorite, and Fletcher will be the (+150) unhouse-broken dog. Fletcher is 10-2 for his career with four TKO/KOs and five subs, a near one hundred percent finishing rate. He has good power in his hands and can deal heavy fight-changing blows if he can get inside on Battle. In addition to three and a half SLpM, Fletcher averages two takedowns per fifteen minutes. If he sticks to his wrestling, he can be a valuable Fantasy roster option, recording takedowns and clocking top control time. Although Battle has been taken down in three of his five promotional bouts, I don’t think Fletcher will commit fully to his wrestling. If Battle can stuff one or two early takedowns, Fletcher will abandon his wrestling and stand and bang. A Battle TKO/KO will return (+400). A Flether TKO/KO will return (+400), and a sub (+600). Bryan Battle via TKO, round two. Put that ish on wax.
Charles Jourdain vs. Ricardo Ramos
This is a banger and could be FOTN. Charles Jourdain is a Deion Sanders First Team Dog, and Ricardo Ramos is a batting practice home run hitter. This one should be a Back Draft firefight. Jourdain is coming off a dominant dub over the striking illiterate Kron Gracie, and going from kickboxing Kron Gracie to kickboxing Ricardo Ramos is like going from a foot race against __ to one against Usain Bolt. The Kron fight was one of the only times when a faded guy at the bar saying, "I could do better than this guy," was probably true. And I picked Kron to win that fight, smdh. Other than the main event, this is one you don’t want to miss.
Ricardo Ramos is a big play fighter. Ricardo Ramos doesn’t have time for any of that small-ball shit; he ain’t laying down a sacrifice bunt or working the count. He’s pointing to centerfield like the Babe and swinging for the fences. And quite often, he sends a kid in the bleachers home happy. Ramos has one of the best fatalities in the UFC, the counter-spinning back elbow. Every fight, Ramos baits his opponent into walking right into the spinning back elbow. Even when they know it’s coming. The key is timing. Ramos retreats, baiting the opponent into extending his combinations and chasing Ramos, thinking they have him on the run. Then, on a dime, Ramos stops and spins, and sixty percent of the time, it lands every time. He routinely puts people away with the counter-spinning back elbow. In addition to the trick play, Ramos has overall typical Brazilian Muay Thai with heavy round kicks and Do Bronx-like long straight punches.
Charles Jourdain is wild; he howls at the moon. Jourdan is a UFC war veteran who has faced stiff competition since debuting in 2019. He has a switch on his back that you can set on one of two modes: Brawl or Technical. Jourdain can engage in a technical back-and-forth kickboxing match or put all his nugs into one Swisher and see where he lands. Southpaw or orthodox, Jourdain can fight out of both stances and mixes in random spinning/flying shit to keep you honest. I could see these guys going spinning back elbow for spinning back elbow for a full round. Jourdain is the higher output striker, averaging over five and a half SLpM to Ramos’s under three and a half. Jourdain’s best weapons are volume and pressure, two things Ramos struggles against. The key for Jourdain will be staying on his feet. Ramos averages over two and a half takedowns per fifteen minutes and will look to use Joudain’s aggression to find opportunities to level change.
I’m surprised that Jourdain is the (-140) favorite. Although Jourdain defended takedowns well against Kron, Kron didn’t have the stand-up necessary to set up his attempts. Ramos does. And Jourdain rocks a career forty-eight percent takedown defense. Nathaniel Wood took down Jourdain five times, and Shane Burgos did twice. If Jourdain can keep it standing, I think he can systematically break down Ramos over time. Ramos is a lot to handle early but tends to wane late. Ramos will be the (+115) live dog. Not only could he catch Jourdain on the feet, but Ramos could control stretches with takedowns and top control. But in twenty-career scraps, Joudain has only been finished once by submission. And Ramos has been finished twice by TKO/KO in ten UFC bouts. But I think there is value in a late Jourdain TKO/KO and a Ramos TKO/KO. A Joudain TKO/KO will return (+250), and a sub (+1100). A Ramos TKO/KO will return (+800), and a sub (+400). Charles Jourdain via decision. I think he just has more dog in him than Ramos.
Thanks for reading, and happy Fight Day. Put 'em on wax, and put one in the air, oooh wee! I'll holler at you savages in two weeks.