Wednesday, December 9, 2015

UFC weekend preview/rewatches

Like every MMA fan, I'm super-stoked about the UFC weekend going on. I've watched a lot of video in an attempt to handicap some fights that interest me. Instead of giving who I think are good value, I will just highlight some style matchups that I think are interesting. I doubt anyone is interested in my tout service anyway after I said that I laid the -800 on Ronda Rousey against Holly Holm. I suspect/hope that will lead to a decline in people asking me to handicap fights in a quantitative manner.

Paige van Zant (-145) vs Rose Namajunas (+131)

For this fight, I rewatched:
van Zant vs Felice Herrig, 4/18/15: van Zant made a lot of technical errors vs Herrig. But she showed that she is very coachable. There were times where they would be in PVZ's corner, Herrig would threaten the back and you see PVZ first reach for a side headlock and then instead overhook Herrig's arm. So either the corner was screaming at her to let go of the side headlock, or she figured it out herself. These small technical errors could get her in trouble against someone who is as dynamic as Rose. But a 21-year-old can come a long way in 8 months with a good team, so she might make many few technical errors now.

Namajunas vs Carla Esparza, 12/12/14: Rose actually had a really solid first round against the way more experienced Esparza. But Esparza is an awful style matchup for her since she is way too savvy to give it up against Rose's aggressive submission game. What I didn't like about Rose her is that she really wilted (groan) after things started turning against her. She fights with a lot of emotion and I think she really started to crumble once Esparza started getting takedowns consistently. This bodes very poorly against someone like PVZ who sets a ferocious pace and has shown a lot of resilience.

Both fighters are so young (21 vs 23) and the winner will be whoever has improved most. They're both very athletic in different ways. If I wanted someone to help me move a piano, I would pick PVZ. If I wanted someone to jump over the piano while catching a football, I would pick Rose. Rose is more technically polished but PVZ is so tough, so in-your-face. When the line came out originally 2:1 in favour of PVZ, I wanted to jump all over Rose, but now I'm almost leaning the other way.

Frankie Saenz (+492) vs Urijah Faber (-592)

For this fight, I rewatched:

Saenz v Alcantara, 2/22/15: First of all, Alcantara fought like shit, strategically. Seemed like he was saving up for aggression that never happened. Pissed away rounds, looked like he was never even trying. But Saenz did things well. He was very well-coached; hitting an immediate double off of the first kick that Alcantara threw was awesome. But he made a lot of mistakes, giving up his back twice. If he gives up his back against Faber, I think he can get finished. On the feet, Saenz is good defensively, when he moves his head side to side and shuffles his feet, but got hit a lot while standing still. Real sloppy when coming forward (crossing feet etc). He is very much a less polished Faber in this respect.

Faber v Alcantara, 8/17/13: Faber was totally dominant other than his big mistake in the first few seconds. Once he recovered from that, he blew Alcantara out of the water. And unlike vs Saenz, Alcantara actually tried really hard here. He attacked with a ton of stuff, but Faber is technically too good of a grappler and just scrambled his ass off. There was no standup striking to speak of in this fight, though. For the direct wrestling comparison, I actually think Saenz is a more powerful wrestler than Faber but the latter is so much technically a better scrambler that he was always able to get the better position. Faber has never been submitted in a 40-fight career, and Alcantara even putting him in bad spots is impressive for him.

But I don't think that's a good apples to apples comparison because of how the "constant" Alcantara actually fought, plus Faber has aged 2 years and 5 fights since then. So let's go to:

Faber v Edgar, 5/16/15: Such an awful style match for Faber against maybe the best boxer-wrestler ever. Edgar just took angles on him over and over. What was interesting here is that Faber tried to both counter and lead. He actually did a little better off the counter than off the lead which is interesting because I think he prefers to be a more offensively-minded fighter than a counter fighter.
This line opened up tighter and money has come in on Faber. I think Faber is better technically, probably has better gas tank but unclear given Faber's age. Saenz more power, I think he can hit takedowns but probably a hard time establishing position/grinding UF down. I think Saenz finishes Faber almost never. Faber likely doesn't finish Saenz either, but is probably like 3x more likely to do so. 

Chris Weidman (-130) vs Luke Rockhold (+116)

For this fight, I re-watched

Rockhold vs Lyoto Machida, 4/18/15
Rockhold vs Michael Bisping, 11/7/14
Weidman vs Vitor Belfort, 5/23/15
Weidman vs Machida, 7/5/14

And I still have no idea what's going to happen. Weidman has beasted on people physically but for once he doesn't have a size/strength advantage. One big edge Weidman has is four straight fights against southpaws. Rockhold has seemingly cleaner technique in everything he throws, but Weidman gets significantly better in this aspect with every fight. Rockhold loves kicking the body, but Weidman is good at catching kicks and converting them into takedowns. I have no idea. This is gonna be awesome.

Conor Mcgregor (-121) vs Jose Aldo (+110)

I'll say I got the line movement on this way wrong. I assumed Conor money would come in late as the casual fans/Irish would wait until fight time, but it seems they got it all in early and now the hardcores are coming out.

This one is weird because both guys have fought Chad Mendes but under different circumstances and their strategies were both different. Both guys wanted to avoid Mendes' takedowns, but go about it in a completely different way. Aldo will stay in his Dutch-style Muay Thai stance and limp leg out of single legs to retaliate. McGregor conceded the takedowns and played an incredibly defensive stalling guard in order to get the fight back up. Big advantages/keys for McGregor: Aldo has typically not looked outstanding against southpaw strikers. Also McGregor's awesome straight left is a natural counter to Aldo's rear leg kick. Finally, gas tank, especially if he is allowed to play his pressure game and move Aldo backwards. Everyone remembers Round 5 of Hominick/Aldo. Big advantages/keys for Aldo: Wrestling: Because Aldo is such a feared strikers, he gets takedowns when he wants them (72% career takedown accuracy over big sample size). I've studied his wrestling and he has basically zero tells in this department. He is able to level change right out of that Muay Thai stance. Jiujitsu: the man beat Cobrinha twice; enough said (well maybe not, it was in the gi after all). In the MMA sphere, look at what he did on the ground to Korean Zombie who was at the height of his game at the time.

That's it. Sorry about the sloppy writing; just wanted to spill all of this out there before fights started. Enjoy!