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UFC 285: Jones vs Gane - Mar 4 🇺🇸


wandshogun09

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Well look who’s back…

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PPV MAIN CARD
Jon Jones vs Ciryl Gane - Vacant Heavyweight Title 

Valentina Shevchenko©️vs Alexa Grasso - Flyweight Title

Geoff Neal vs Shavkat Rakhmonov 

Mateusz Gamrot vs Jalin Turner

Bo Nickal vs Jamie Pickett 

ESPN PRELIMS 
Cody Garbrandt vs Trevin Jones

Derek Brunson vs Dricus Du Plessis 

Viviane Araujo vs Amanda Ribas 

Julian Marquez vs Marc-Andre Barriault 

ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS
Ian Garry vs Song Kenan

Mana Martinez vs Cameron Saaiman 

Jessica Penne vs Tabatha Ricci 

Farid Basharat vs Da’Mon Blackshear 

Loik Radzhabov vs Esteban Ribovics 

 

We’re just over 2 weeks out now, is this actually gonna happen?! Not sure if this is the final bout order. The main card looks right but I reckon the prelims might get a bit of a shuffle. I’d have thought Brunson vs DDP would be the prelim ‘headliner’. Can see Ian Garry’s fight getting bumped up as well. Whatever, what a fucking card!

 

 

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Jon Jones vs Ciryl Gane then. It’s a big ‘un and a fight I never really expected to be talking about, to be honest. It all seemed to come together quite suddenly and out of the blue. We’re only a few weeks out now but it still kind of feels like I’m jumping the gun previewing it. We’ve been burned and let down by Jones so many times at this point that I don’t think anyone will truly believe it’s happening until it’s actually happening. Even the way we found out was weird.

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On the day of the blockbuster Strickland vs Imavov card at the Apex in January, this photo started doing the rounds on social media. They hadn’t officially announced it yet and it was apparently a leak or a mistake. Initially I thought it must be someone fucking about on photoshop and people running with it. Such is my lack of faith in Jon Jones fight announcements these days. But yeah, it was legit. Madness. After all that time away, all the hints about a return, all his pics and tweets of the new bulked up version of ‘Bones’, this is how we find out he’s finally back? Again though, I’ll believe it when I see it. We’ve got just under 3 weeks to go yet. That’s plenty of time for him to cock things up.

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That’s the real champ right there. Francis Ngannou had been at odds with the UFC for some time behind the scenes. He’d been vocal for a long time about the issues around fighter pay and there’d been a couple of times him and Dana butted heads. We last saw him in the cage over a year ago, when he successfully defended his belt with a decision win over former teammate Gane. He remained inactive the rest of the year and a lot of rumblings started up about him being unhappy in the UFC and started making noises about a potential move to Boxing once his UFC contract expired. I think most thought it would be resolved and Ngannou had expressed interest in a big clash with Jones himself. It wasn’t to be. In December, Ngannou’s contract was up. In January it was announced that he and the UFC couldn’t agree on terms, he’d been stripped of the UFC title and they had parted ways. On the very same day, they announced this fucker was back and would be facing Gane to crown a new champion.

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He’s back. Fuck me his return has dragged on. To the point I think many had given up on him ever coming back. I know I was starting to have serious doubts about it. One of the most dominant champs in UFC history but when you look back to when we last saw him, he hadn’t looked great in a while. People think of Jones’ reign of terror and they think of him wrecking Shogun to win the title. Or choking Machida all the way out and dropping him in a lifeless heap. Or the 5 round war with Gustafsson the first time. Or the big Cormier rivalry. But the last few years weren’t like that. It was controversy after controversy and lacklustre showings and underwhelming performances. The last time he looked like the Jon Jones we remember was when he battered Gustafsson in their rematch. That was 2018. After that, the Anthony Smith fight wasn’t his best. And the Thiago Santos and Dominick Reyes fights were close to the point many felt he lost, especially the Reyes one.

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And that’s the last we’ve seen of old Jonny Bones. Who the fuck knows how he’s gonna look here? Especially going up in weight. I think a lot of people put those less than stellar performances in his last few fights down to him getting bored and complacent at the lack of challenges left for him at 205lbs. I kind of felt that way myself. But I don’t know. Maybe he was just on the decline. Seeing how poorly Santos and Reyes have done since taking Jones to the wire doesn’t help either. Jones nearly losing to those two hasn’t aged well. You have to remember, he’s been in the UFC a good decade now. Nobody’s prime lasts forever. And it’s not like he’s lived the ‘GSP life’ outside the cage. A fighter’s prime is typically only a few years as it is. Having a wild lifestyle outside the cage will only shorten it more. The fact Jones still managed to get pretty much a decade out of it is a testament to how good he is/was but he’s been such a fuck up over the years. He’s been successful despite himself. It’s scary to think how great he could’ve been if he’d had his head screwed on right this whole time.

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Out sniffing coke, drinking and driving, the domestic violence stuff, the PED stuff, it’s just been one thing after another. Just endless blunders and embarrassing shite. This stuff alone was enough to justify the doubts about him ever making a return. Then when you factor in just how long he’s been cock teasing a move to Heavyweight, Christ almighty! 

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Proper boy who cried wolf shit 😂

There are quotes going back to about 2013 of him saying he’ll “definitely be taking a Heavyweight fight this year” or something. A full decade he’s been at it. I remember him teasing fighting Cain Velasquez when he was on top. That’s how long this goes back. Cain’s since fizzled out of MMA, became a pro wrestler, been in WWE, shot at a nonce, served jail time and been released. And Jones is still yet to make that Heavyweight debut! He’s flirted with taking fights against Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou at various times. Those guys would bite and start going back and forth with him, media would run with it, fans would get excited, then nothing would come of it. Jones hasn’t exactly been shy about giving his views on the fighter pay issue himself either. Between all of this combined, it just felt like wishing for a Jon Jones comeback had become nothing more than a pipedream. It was never gonna happen. Until it was. Well, I think it’s gonna happen. I hope it is. Don’t hold your breath or anything though.

“I had eight fights left on my contract, I just wasn’t happy with my percentages. We just bumped up the pay and pretty much picked up where we left off with my commitment to the UFC. Hopefully I can get through all eight fights, that’s a lot of fighting at 35 years old. We’ll see.”

“I’ve got my sights set on Stipe Miocic. I think it just means the most. There’s a lot of guys out there, but for me, personally, for my legacy, to defeat the greatest Heavyweight of all time, it just means the most to me. As far as how soon, hopefully I get out of this fight with no serious injuries, but I’d like to get back out there as soon as possible. My goal is anywhere from two to three fights depending on how it looks.” - Jon Jones

2-3 fights this year, I’m assuming he means. Yeah, we’ll see about that. Hopefully he can stay active now. He seems happy enough with his new contract and he’s had enough time to ‘bulk up’. The only things stopping him staying busy now are injuries or him fucking up again. Both of which feel like they have a fairly high possibility of happening unfortunately. Especially the fucking up one. We say “I’ll believe it when I see it” a lot as MMA fans but it never applies more than when we’re talking about Jon Jones. The Stipe stuff is interesting, although I don’t really know how to take that. Is he looking past Gane? Or is it just an overall bigger goal on his bucket list? Either way, as much as I want to see Jones vs Miocic, and I’d be buzzing for it if it ever happens, even that feels like it’s not what it could’ve been a few years ago. Stipe’s gonna be 41 this year and he hasn’t fought in 2 years himself. Regardless, ‘Bones’ has got to get past this bastard first.

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Big Gane The Man welcomes Jones back. If he actually comes back. Really interesting fight. It’s nothing on Ngannou vs Jones. That was the one. The appeal of that one was the threat of Ngannou’s power. So many people have wanted to see Jones get sparked over the years and there wasn’t a man on the roster, maybe ever, that posed that threat like Ngannou would’ve. But that’s gone. This is a completely different kind of fight but it’s fascinating in its own way. Gane gets a lot of stick but I really like him. I’ve noticed there’s a weird kind of snobbery around the Gane detractors. Always wanting to point out that’s he’s not an elite Kickboxer and wasn’t one of the best in that game, has flaws in his striking etc. Who gives a bollocks? People moaned for years about the Heavyweight division being full of fat sloppy brawlers. Along comes someone different and that gets shat on as well? On top of that, Gane seems like a top bloke. Really comes off as a likeable big lummox in everything I’ve seen of him. And even the knock on him being boring, he showed in his last fight he can hold up his side of a barmy scrap when he needs to.

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Absolutely waffled Tai Tuivasa on the Paris card in September. It was such a fun fight and one that brought out a different side of Gane. He got tagged and dropped early on and his response wasn’t to get on his bike and play it safe like I think many would’ve expected. He returned fire and put a beating on Tuivasa and got him out of there. It felt like the big coming out party for Gane. Especially being on his home turf in France. He looked like a star that night. And now he gets the Jones fight. This is a monster opportunity for him.

“I’m really excited. Jon Jones…everybody wants to fight Jon Jones because Jon Jones has a big career. I’m so happy about that. I’m so excited because my coach told me also that last time he was a champion, I was playing basketball. So, that’s really crazy for me, a young guy with a young career. I’m feeling lucky.” - Ciryl Gane

Not sure what to expect out of this but obviously it’s a mega intriguing fight. Like I said, the Ngannou fight would’ve been bigger and more interesting but I really like this as well. Gane is not your typical Heavyweight. One of the advantages Jones has over most of the division is that he can move and should be faster than pretty much all the big sluggish lumps there. Or at least the Jones we remember should’ve been. But Gane is both a massive fucker and he moves really well. He’s not gonna just stand and brawl and leave silly openings. And while he doesn’t have the power of Ngannou, he still packs quite a punch. You look at that counter right hand he hurt Tuivasa with to set up the finish. Consider how tough Tuivasa is, a legit Heavyweight who’s sparred countless rounds with Mark Hunt, and Gane fucked him up with that shot. I think some are underestimating Gane’s power a bit. It’s not the same raw power as some in the division but with the added accuracy and timing, you still don’t want a dig off him. Jon Jones coming up in weight after 3 years on the shelf could be ripe for a knockout loss at this stage. On the other side of the coin, what if Jones wins? To come back at 35, after all that time out and go up in weight and beat a top Heavyweight like Gane would be some achievement. It felt like his last few fights at 205 kind of lowered his stock despite him getting the wins. A win here, given all the circumstances, would be a real legacy booster.

Ah, yeah. Anyway. All of this I’ve posted was probably just a big fat waste of time. No doubt something will scupper this fight in the next couple of weeks. I hope Jon’s coaches are keeping him under lock and key at night and only letting him out for training. Force him into a Marvin Hagler type camp and keep him away from all the bad stuff. In all seriousness, I know I’m probably being overly optimistic and I should know better but I do think this fight will go ahead. I think right now, as I type this, Jones is probably in a pretty good place and is likely feeling refreshed and 100% mentally up for this. But it’s only a matter of time, isn’t it? Once the novelty of his return wears off and maybe he wins a couple of fights again, I can see him slipping back into old habits. I hope not. Can’t stand the twat but I hope he’s matured a bit in his time away. I wouldn’t bet on it though. For now I just really hope this fight goes ahead because it’s a really interesting one. And let’s face it, the UFC needs these big fights.

 

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Valentina Shevchenko vs Alexa Grasso is your co-main. Not the strongest but it’ll do. It’s not a bad fight in fairness. I don’t really like Grasso’s chances much but who the fuck knows at this stage? After that nonsense with Julianna Pena beating Amanda Nunes a while ago, it feels like anything is possible. We’re at the point now with Shevchenko where it feels silly to pick against her.

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She’s been the reigning champ at 125lbs now for over 4 years. She’s 23-3 in MMA and 2 of those losses were against Amanda Nunes. She took Nunes the distance both times and even went to a split decision in the second fight. Since dropping to Flyweight in 2018, she’s been unbeaten and gone on a tear through the division. Beat Joanna Jedrzejczyk, murdered Jessica Eye with a headkick Cro Cop would be proud of, stopped Jessica Andrade, Lauren Murphy and Katlyn Chookagian. They haven’t all been the strongest of opposition, it’s not the deepest division, but she had been dominating who’s been put in front of her and you can’t really ask for any more than that. I say she “had” been dominating because that wasn’t the case in her last fight.

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She put the title on the line against Taila Santos at UFC 275 in Singapore back in June. It was the first time anyone’s made Shevchenko look human at 125. They went the distance and Shev walked away with a split decision win and her belt still intact. But it was a close one. A fight many felt Santos won. I can’t remember how I had it scored at the time. I think I kind of lost track on the night and haven’t rewatched it since. But I seem to recall thinking that it really could’ve gone either way. There was talk of an immediate rematch after that. I really thought that’s the way we were going but that talk seemed to fizzle out and, honestly, Val didn’t seem too enthusiastic about running it back. Not saying she’s ducking Santos. Far from it. But she didn’t seem too keen for whatever reason. She seems to think she won that fight fairly comfortably but she definitely didn’t from what I remember of it. Maybe she just wants fresh challengers. And to be fair, there are actually a few now. For ages it felt like she’d pretty much cleared out the division but there’s a bit of a new wave of potential contenders for her coming through now. Of course there’s always the Santos rematch, you’ve got Erin Blanchfield coming up and if she beats Andrade she’s in the mix, you’ve got Manon Fiorot on the rise, Tatiana Suarez is finally back although she’s got work to do now. There are finally some fresh faces in the title picture. And you can add Alexa Grasso to that list…

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Once it became clear that Shev vs Santos 2 wasn’t gonna be happening, this was the fight I was expecting to get made. Grasso’s 15-3 and on a decent little 4 fight win streak. She’s pretty fun to watch usually as well. I always bring it up but she dragged fucking Carla Esparza to a FOTN banger in Mexico City a few years back. Probably the only genuinely fun fight Esparza has ever, or will ever have in her life. I remember enjoying her fight with Karolina Kowalkiewicz as well but we’re going further back for that and those fights were at Strawweight, where she had some problems with the weight cut. Since moving up to Flyweight, she’s gone 4-0. Her recent run has consisted of points wins over Ji Yeon Kim and Maycee Barber, a first round submission over Joanne Wood and in her last fight she was in her first UFC headliner and took a decision off Viviane Araujo. Not the most impressive resume but she’s on a better run than most in the division and, of who’s around right now, she deserves a shot as much as pretty much anyone else I can think of. She’s a solid fighter and she has some nice striking, she’s aggressive, she’s usually in entertaining fights. The thing that kind of lets her down is she seems to lack power. Against higher level opponents anyway. If she could whack like Jessica Andrade she’d probably be a bit of a star by now. She’s not bad though. I’m just not convinced that ‘not bad’ is gonna be enough.

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Whatever happens, I can’t see this being dull to watch. That’s been the problem with some of Shev’s title defences. Sometimes it seems like she’s just coasting. If you talk shit going in like Eye did, you get wrecked. If you’re aggressive and come at Shev like Andrade did, you get wrecked. But then there’s been a couple of her fights in recent years where it’s felt like the opponent didn’t really do much so Shev kind of did the bare minimum and let them live to see the final buzzer. I think Grasso will be more along the lines of Andrade. She’ll go for it, I just can’t see it ending well for her. There’s nothing about her game that Shevchenko hasn’t seen before or that I see giving her serious issues. And I don’t think she’s got enough of a well rounded game to push her the way Santos did. But, like I say, stranger things have happened. All that said, Shevchenko turns 35 a few days after this fight. Not old by any stretch but it’s not all about years and age when it comes to a fighter’s prime. From what I can tell she had around 90 amateur/pro fights between Muay Thai and Kickboxing before her MMA career took off. In MMA she’s had another 26 fights. She started martial arts training at just 5 years old and at 12 she was already fighting. She’s been at it a long time. It’s got to catch up eventually. From everything I see she lives a pretty clean life. Doesn’t seem like a party type or anything. She’s always seemed laser focused and dedicated to her combat sports career. But there’s a limit on everything. I know it was only one fight (that she still actually won!) and it seems way premature to be talking about declines and stuff, but I can’t help wondering if we’ll look back at that Santos fight as the beginning of her slowing down. Maybe it was just a case of Santos having a good night. That’s entirely possible as well. Either way, I just don’t see Grasso being the one to end the reign. Sorry. I know she’s got some admirers on here. I’m a fan myself. But I would be more than a little bit surprised if she dethrones Shevchenko here.

 

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Geoff Neal vs Shavkat Rakhmonov was supposed to go down in January but Neal picked up an injury and dropped out. I’m glad they stuck with this matchup instead of cobbling together a replacement fight because this is one I was really looking forward to. Genuinely think Rakhmonov is one of the best up and comers in the entire sport right now. If you haven’t been taking notice, it’s not too late to get on board. He’s finally starting to make some progress and start moving up the ladder and this should be his toughest test yet.

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Geoff Neal’s had a turbulent couple of years. He was thought to be a rising prospect himself not too long ago. Came in off DWCS in 2018 and started racking up wins in impressive fashion. He stopped Niko Price and Mike Perry along the way and, most notably, took a decision off Belal Muhammad in 2019. In 2020 though, he got badly derailed by health issues. It was pretty serious stuff from what I remember, he was in a bad way and I remember seeing stuff at the time that he nearly died. Thankfully he made a full recovery but he came back and was immediately matched up with Wonderboy and Neil Magny in back-to-back fights and lost both on points. Nice one UFC. Bloke comes back from the brink of death and that’s how you welcome him back? Somewhere around this time he got done for a DUI and firearm possession as well. Hence the mugshot above. Christ. He seems to have got himself back on track of late. Beat Santiago Ponzinibbio on points and then stopped Vicente Luque over the summer in what was probably the best performance of his career to date for me. He’s 15-4 now with 11 finishes. I think a lot of people were quick to write him off after those Wonderboy and Magny losses but I think that’s a bit harsh considering what he was coming back from and how tricky and awkward those two can be at the best of times.

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Shavkat’s the boy though. 28 years old, from Uzbekistan, former M-1 champion, first ever Kazakh fighter to be signed to a UFC contract and currently undefeated at 16-0 with all 16 coming inside the distance! 8 by knockout, 8 by submission. Perfect. There are still obviously a bunch of questions for him to answer so I don’t wanna get too carried away just yet. But it’s not his fault that the guys he’s faced so far simply haven’t been able to ask him those questions. It’s been fun watching him just rip through his opponents so far but it became clear very quickly that he needed to be stepped up. He subbed Alex Oliveira in a round in his UFC debut and finished Michel Prazeres and Carlston Harris after that with very little resistance. It was crystal clear that he needed a step up because these sods had nothing for him. But it wasn’t like there was a line of Welterweights calling Rakhmonov out, and with good reason. So what do the UFC do when nobody fancies fighting a scary prospect like this? They call in Neil Magny. This would be a big jump in levels for Shavkat and his first proper test.

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Turned out not to be much of a test at all. He subbed Magny in the second round, banking a sweet POTN bonus for his troubles. This was impressive. It’s hard enough to beat Magny, let alone look great doing it. But Shavkat pretty much dominated from start to finish and put him away. Looked so calm and relaxed in there as well. Cold and calculated. Doesn’t talk a load of shite or try to be intimidating, he just goes about his business. I think that’s why he’s come up with relatively little fanfare until recently. Everyone’s paying attention now though. For all the hype on Khamzat Chimaev, and rightly so, I think Shavkat might have just as bright a future, maybe even more in the long run. I definitely think he might be the future at 170 more than Chimaev anyway, because I don’t see Chimaev fighting at 170 much longer. I hope Shavkat and Chimaev keep winning and eventually face off though. That could be a monster fight in a couple of years if they both stay on the right track. There’s already been a few comments traded back and forth between them. Just feels like those two are on a collision course and I’m here for all of it. Shavkat’s got to get past Neal first though. A dangerous guy but, based on what I’ve seen of both, I think Shavkat picks up another win here. And that should set him up for something juicy over the summer. He’s ranked #10 currently, Neal’s ranked #7. So he’s already getting up there. This could and should be a breakout year for Rakhmonov.

 

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Mateusz Gamrot vs Jalin Turner is ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH*** on this bad boy. It was a tough choice, there’s legitimately 4 fights on this card that I considered but there’s something about this one that’s grabbing me. It was supposed to be Turner against Dan Hooker, a cracking fight in its own right, but Hooker sustained a hand injury and withdrew. In steps Gamrot and, as good as the Hooker fight would’ve been, I think this is even better. It’s one of those fights I’d have been quite happy with as a 5 round Fight Night main event but it’ll do nicely here and it only strengthens the card. Poland’s Gamrot is a really good fighter. Former two weight KSW champion at 145 and 155. Record of 21-2-0-1 and his only losses are a close split decision against Guram Kutateladze and his last fight in October, a points defeat against Beneil Dariush. So safe to say, to beat this guy you have to be a bit of a beast. He’s exciting to watch as well. He’s fought 6 times in the UFC so far and picked up either a FOTN or POTN bonus in 4 of them. For Turner this is a big opportunity but also a big test and a step up. He’s 13-5 with 13 finishes and has looked the bollocks of late. He didn’t get off to a good start in the UFC. He debuted on the Khabib vs McGregor undercard back in 2018 and was fed to Vicente Luque right off the bat. He was only 23 at the time and he’d gone up to 170 as well, he got stopped inside a round. He dropped back to Lightweight and he’s now on a 5 fight win streak, all finishes, and comes into this fight off the best win of his career to date, a 45 second guillotine choke submission over Brad Riddell in July. He seems to be going from strength to strength but this is undoubtedly his stiffest test since that loss to Luque. Really unsure just how good Turner is but this fight should definitely provide some answers on that. Gamrot is coming in on short notice but he doesn’t strike me as the type to jump in unprepared. He was probably in the gym and roughly on weight anyway so he’ll fancy the job here. Great fight this. Can’t wait to see how it plays out.

 

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Bo Nickal vs Jamie Pickett opens up the PPV. The long awaited Octagon debut of Bo. There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding him and he’s being talked up as one of the hottest prospects MMA has ever seen due to his stellar amateur wrestling credentials.

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He’s one of the most decorated NCAA wrestlers ever and a Division I champion. The hype on him is nuts really, considering he’s only 3-0 so far in MMA and those fights lasted less than a total 3 minutes combined. Obviously his wrestling pedigree speaks for itself but I’ve seen people claiming he’s a future UFC champion and all sorts. No question there’s a ton of potential there but people are definitely getting carried away for me. He just hasn’t had enough cage time for that kind of talk yet, let alone against solid opposition. But time will tell. It’s gonna be interesting to see how this all unfolds. He’s already been vocal about names like Alex Pereira, Israel Adesanya and Khamzat Chimaev and he hasn’t even got in the door yet! He’s gonna ruffle some feathers. Pickett is nothing special but he’s about right for a guy making his UFC debut after just 3 fights. He’s 13-8, coming off back-to-back losses and was finished in both. It’s clearly a fight designed to be a showcase for Bo and it should be a bit of a squash match.

 

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Cody Garbrandt vs Trevin Jones will hopefully see the downward spiral of Cody No Brains continue because fuck him. The dopey, shit tattoo having, puppy ear mutilating dickhead. How the mighty have fallen. At one time he was considered one of the best Bantamweights in the world and was UFC champion for a short spell before his old buddy EPO Dillashaw destroyed his punch resistance over the course of their two fights. Since then it’s all gone downhill and fast. He’s now 1-5 in his last 6. The lone win was an admittedly awesome one punch knockout over Raphael Assuncao. Aside from that it’s been him getting waffled. Of those 5 losses, he was knocked out in 4 of them. And the one he wasn’t sparked in, Rob Font just boxed the head off him for 25 minutes. That performance against Dominick Cruz feels like a lifetime ago now, doesn’t it? 

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Gone are the days. Looking back I think Garbrandt was big time overrated and it’s largely on the back of that one great showing against Cruz. He fought out of his badly tattooed skin that night but I’ve always thought it was down to the element of surprise more than anything. He still had to go out and execute that gameplan so obviously he deserves his credit for that. But he peaked that night and I don’t think he’d have been able to replicate that performance in a rematch with Cruz. He never fought like that before the Cruz fight, and he’s never fought like it since. It was one night where he got it spot on and completely mind fucked Cruz but that Cody is never coming back. He attempted to make a fresh start at Flyweight last time out and got spectacularly chinned by Kai Kara-France. That was at the end of 2021, he sat out all of 2022. Now he’s back at Bantamweight. He was meant to fight Julio Arce here and I honestly think that would’ve been another loss for Garbrandt. But Arce is out with a knee injury. I’m vague on Trevin Jones but he’s coming off 3 straight losses and has never had any real notable wins. I don’t remember him being a particularly big puncher either so this might actually be one Cody wins unfortunately. I’ll be rooting against him as always though.

 

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Derek Brunson vs Dricus Du Plessis sounds like bedlam to me. Brunson is kind of in limbo at the moment. He’s had his setbacks but, until his last fight, he was on the best run of his career which saw him go on a 5 fight winning streak that included him ending the hype trains of both Edmen Shahbazyan and Kevin Holland and snuffing out Darren Till’s attempt at a career resurgence. But in early 2022 it all came to a halt when he got grounded and pounded out by the elbows of Jared Cannonier. Had Brunson won that fight he’d have been next in line for a title shot but it wasn’t to be. He’ll have been inactive just over a year by the time he steps into the cage here.

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DDP is back. Really become a fan of him over the last year or so. Former double champ at Welterweight and Middleweight for the EFC promotion in Africa. Former Welterweight champ for KSW in Poland as well. 18-2 record with 17 of those wins coming inside the distance. And Christ is he fun to watch! He finished Markus Perez and Trevin Giles in his first two trips to the Octagon but it was his last couple of fights that have really cemented me as a fan. He beat Brad Tavares in a barmy 15 minute war in July. Then outgrappled, demoralised and face cranked Darren Till into submission in December. Love watching him. You watch him and he looks awkward and sloppy as fuck a lot of the time but he just keeps going and absolutely refuses to piss off. We need to see him and Gregory Rodrigues throw down at some point in the near future. For now, this’ll do nicely.

 

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Viviane Araujo vs Amanda Ribas is an OK fight. Nothing amazing but it’s not a bad matchup. Araujo is coming off that 5 round decision loss against Alexa Grasso back in October so she’ll be looking to redeem herself here. She’s 11-4 and has been a bit up and down results-wise in the UFC.

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Ribas is the one though. Became a fan early into her UFC career after seeing a couple of interviews and her having that Junior Dos Santos likeable vibe about her which instantly made me root for her. She’s basically JDS with a slightly nicer arse. She got off to a fairly strong start in the UFC as well. Her second fight in she handed Mackenzie Dern the first loss of her career. She also got a submission win over Paige VanZant, which ultimately ended Paige’s UFC career. It’s fell off a cliff a bit since though. She got knocked out by Marina Rodriguez, bounced back with a win over Virna Jandiroba, but then got outpointed by bastard Katlyn Chookagian in her most recent fight in May. Even then though, she dragged Chook to a FOTN, which is no easy task. I’ll be pulling for Ribas. Yeah, shove your Kenneth Williams gif, I did say that.

 

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Julian Marquez vs Marc-Andre Barriault might be decent. Marquez has form for getting into wild and entertaining scraps. Actually, I can’t remember a fight of his that wasn’t something like that. I’d say his UFC debut against Darren Stewart in 2017 is a forgotten gem but I don’t think that many people even watched it to forget it. It was on a nothing card that a lot of people probably skipped. It’s well worth looking up on Fight Pass if you never saw it though. Trust me you won’t regret it. Since then he’s also pulled a FOTN out of Sam Fucking Alvey of all people! And last time out he got decked in a one round shootout with our Robocop Greg. He’s going nowhere but he’s always good value on the undercards. Barriault I’m lukewarm on but he’s shown he can have decent enough fights with the right opponents. And when it comes to enjoyable fights, Marquez seems to be the ‘right opponent’ for everyone.

 

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Ian Garry vs Song Kenan. The next chapter in the Ian Garry story. Haven’t been fully sold on him so far despite the perfect 10-0 record. I don’t know what it is but I’m always half expecting him to get clipped in his fights. So far, so good though. And I seem to recall thinking his last win over Gabriel Green in July was his best overall performance yet. He’s only 25 as well so he’s not the finished product yet. Hopefully the Conor McGregor comparisons die down soon. The only thing they have in common is they’re both Irish. That’s it. Move on. Song’s been on the UFC roster since 2017 and I can’t say I remember him really. He’s had a bunch of finishes against bottom rung opponents but the few times he’s stepped up he’s been put away. He last fought in March 2021, so a long layoff for him, and he got knocked out by Max Griffin that night. Garry should be winning this and hopefully he gets a better test later in the year.

 

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Mana Martinez vs Cameron Saaiman is a fight that’s hardly gonna get any attention going into this show and I totally understand why. I wouldn’t be shocked if it ends up being one of the best fights on the card though. Martinez has already delivered one banger last year with his losing effort against Ronnie Lawrence last February. Genuinely one of my favourite barely mentioned undercard fights last year. He’s 10-3 now with 8 knockouts. Saaiman’s only 22 years old and undefeated at 7-0 and 6 finishes. He made his UFC debut in December, scoring a third round TKO over Steven Koslow. He’s South African and I think he’s a teammate of Du Plessis. Looked promising in his debut and Martinez is gonna bring it so this should be good.

 

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Jessica Penne vs Tabatha Ricci isn’t much of a fight. Nothing to it really. Penne is 40 years old now and has never been that good, to be honest. Although in fairness to her, she managed to take a split decision off Loopy Godinez and armbarred Karolina Kowalkiewicz in a round in consecutive fights not long ago. She dropped a decision to newcomer Emily Ducote in her last fight in July though. And Ricci’s 7-1 and coming off a points win over Polyana Viana. Her only loss so far has been her UFC debut against Manon Fiorot in a fight she took on short notice and was badly outsized in. She should be beating a 40 year old Penne at this stage in both of their careers but we’ll see.

 

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Farid Basharat vs Da’Mon Blackshear. Going in blind really on this. Basharat is making his UFC debut here and is the younger brother of current UFC fighter Javid Basharat, who’s looked pretty handy himself so far. They’re from Afghanistan originally but moved to the UK as kids and settled in London. Both are unbeaten. Farid’s 9-0 with 6 finishes and won a decision on DWCS back in September to earn a contract. This’ll be the second fight in the UFC for Blackshear. He went to a draw with Youssef Zalal in his debut in August and he’s 12-4-1 overall.

 

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Loik Radzhabov vs Esteban Ribovics. Don’t know. This was originally supposed to be Ribovics against Kamuela Kirk, who I’ve at least seen a couple of times, but Kirk is out. Radzhabov steps in last minute. Apparently he was all set to appear on the new season of TUF but Gilbert Burns, who Radzhabov trains with, tweeted that Conor McGregor had him taken off the show in favour of one of his boys. Who knows? Either way, at least Radzhabov still gets a shot. He’s 16-4-1 and has fought in PFL and Eagle FC. Ribovics is Argentinian and 11-0 with 11 finishes. He scored a first round knockout on DWCS in August and has 3 other KOs on his record that came within the first 30 seconds! I’ll give it a look.

 

The end.

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Edited by wandshogun09
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Great write up!

DDP, Ribas and Cody on the prelims means Ill have to give them a watch. Youre spot on with Ribas too. Fell off a cliff indeed. There was alot of talk after she mauled PVZ, that she was going to be the next big star in the womens division. It nose dived completley after this fight though. A shame.

 

After all these years, the fact its only 16 days until Bones Jones fights again is super exciting. I dont think anyone can deny that his UFC run is probably the greatest of all time (then again, maybe its GSP, maybe its Anderson). He made minced meat of a who's who of amazing fighters during his reign. Purely in terms of his fighting career, hes been spectacular. Theres a million questions with regards to this fight; Will it even happen? What sort of shape will he be in? What will his weight be? How bad will the ring rust be? Was his last few fights just a case of him being unmotivated? Will he gas if it gets to the later rounds? Will he get popped for something post fight? Will we see him get KO'd for the first time ever? What will DCs reaction be if he gets sparked out? Just an amazingly interesting fight, which hopefully he wont fuck up before hand!

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Another great write up, Wand. 

Alexa Grasso and DDP on the same card?! Be still, my beating everything! I'm probably going with my heart instead of my head here, but bollocks to it, I'm going Grasso by decision. She's going to shock the world and then get on the Mic to reveal her love of fat, bearded men from Bradford. Naturally I will offer my assistance and Mrs Panhead will fully understand. That might be the least far-fetched bit of my prediction. 

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Jones is definitely looking bigger. I think I was expecting him to be a bit more cut. 

How much do we think he will weigh on fight night? He's not going to have to worry about the weight limit.

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I think they were intentionally smart in just showing him in the pool and with a hoodie on. Keeps the mystery surrounding his weight there for a little longer. Id probably say he will be right around the 240 mark, but its more a question of how good he looks at 240, and how much excess weight hes carrying around at that amount.

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More than the weight, I think the time has come to start asking when Jones is going to fall off the cliff? He's 35 years old, been away from the sport for three years, and has a well-documented history with alcohol and other issues.

I don't care how good an athlete you are, that shit catches up with you eventually. And if we're honest, he looked like he was slowing down when he fought Reyes and Santos as far back as 2019.

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Yep, and that's why i'm picking Gane. 

I think there's a general feeling that we are getting a prime Jones at Heavyweight here. No one seems to be talking about the fact that Jones hasn't really had a great performance since the 2nd Cormier fight 5 and a half years ago (i may be discrediting the Anthony Smith win after it, but cant really remember it), they are just excited to see Jones at Heavyweight. You could argue about being him not being motivated at 205 or perhaps struggling with the weight but I think there's more to it than that and I think this move up may be too little too late.

Also, you have to factor in Jones switching camps and then him taking a fight against the fastest and most athletic Heavyweight in the division.If Jones can't get a wrestling game going against Gane I think he's fucked.

Gane to win.

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Yeah, I'd agree with that.

I don't often agree with Dana White, but I'm sure he said that Gane is actually a tougher fight for Jones than Ngannou would be, and I agree with him. 

Ngannou can obviously put anyone to sleep if he connects properly, but he's less well-rounded than Gane, who might not hit as hard but who does have five knockouts from his eleven wins, and anyone who can stop the likes of Tai Tuivasa and Derrick Lewis isn't using pillow hands (trademark of @Kenny McBride)

Gane winning will likely be treated as a real upset, and will have fans talking about it alongside the likes of Serra/GSP and Nunes/Pena, but I wouldn't put it in that bracket at all. Not even close.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Egg Shen said:

No one seems to be talking about the fact that Jones hasn't really had a great performance since the 2nd Cormier fight 5 and a half years ago (i may be discrediting the Anthony Smith win after it, but cant really remember it)

I talked about it in the opening post! Although the Gustafsson rematch was after Cormier 2 and I remember that being a complete squash that resembled nothing of their epic first fight. That’s Jones’ last truly great win for me. Of course, Gus has dropped off a cliff since so it’s easy to look back and downgrade that win but at the time of the fight Gus was coming in on top form and had just beat Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira. And he’d never looked better than he did in that Glover fight. Even before those two wins, Gus had taken Cormier to a close split decision in a tremendous fight that gets forgotten because of Jones-Gus 1. So yeah, I’d rate Jones’ battering of Gus in their rematch as his last great performance. I can’t remember much of the Anthony Smith fight either but I do recall feeling really underwhelmed by Jones’ showing in that one. As I recall, there was no doubt Jones won, but it was far from one of his best performances. Then we got the Santos and Reyes fights and Jones did look like a man at the start of a decline to me. 

30 minutes ago, David said:

Gane winning will likely be treated as a real upset, and will have fans talking about it alongside the likes of Serra/GSP and Nunes/Pena, but I wouldn't put it in that bracket at all. Not even close.

Definitely. Under the circumstances, I don’t even think it would be that big of an upset at all. Obviously Jones is a much bigger name and has accomplished way more in MMA than Gane but the combination of Jones’ last few lacklustre performances, then the huge layoff, then the fact he’s coming up in weight, then you add in his age and lifestyle outside the cage. There’s a lot going against him.

I think some forget just how big Gane is as well sometimes, maybe because he doesn’t fight and move around like your typical Heavyweight lummox. Of course Jones has always been a huge 205er and purely size-wise, I think he’ll match up fine with a lot of them. But for reference, look at the size of Gane here next to Anthony Smith, who’s no small man himself.

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I was really unsure about this one when it was announced just because of all the questions and unknowns on Jones now. But the closer it’s getting, the more I’m thinking this doesn’t end well for him. If he was looking great before the layoff then maybe I’d give him a better shot but I get the feeling he was starting to drop off a bit back then, now he’s just 3 years older and going up against bigger, stronger, more powerful guys.

All that said, as much as I loathe the dickhead it’s only fair to say if he does win, it’ll be one of the most impressive wins of his career for all the reasons above. He’s up against it here so if he pulls it off, credit where it’s due. Well, after the drug tests come back obviously. 

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Edited by wandshogun09
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Posted (edited)

It's a really strange one for me. I would have given Jones next to no chance of beating Ngannou. I think Stipe pastes him too. Jon Jones wasn't just slipping in those last two fights, he was a full on 'former pound for pound great' during them. Those were poor performances, that actually look worse with time.

I scored the Santos fight for Thiago at the time, but it was close. We found out after though that Santos had no legs whatsoever and he went on to show after that, that he was totally done as a top end fighter. 

Then you have the Reyes fight. I didn't rate Reyes going into that, and I didn't rate him in his fights after it. Reyes best 25 mins he'll have ever had in his career, were that night against Jon Jones. Whilst it wasn't a pasting, it's as near as you can get to a close fight being a 'robbery'. If you're scoring fights as they're supposed to be, round by round, Reyes won three of them. I just couldn't understand where the third round for Jones came from. He was gifted that fight in my book. 

This fight, outside of a really flash KO either way, likely lies entirely on Gane having plugged enough of a gap to fend off a few early takedowns, to dissuade Jones from going for them at every single opportunity making him stand with Gane. We should know about a minute in, how it's going to play out. If Jones plan after watching the Ngannou/Gane fight is to do anything other than close the gap, shoot the double and force Cyril to give up his back, then he's a fucking mental case. Likewise, if Cryril Gane thinks he can win this fight without cramming about five years worth of grappling into 14 months, then he's a whale of a gambler that The Bellagio would love to host. I don't see how he's doing that in Paris either, to be honest. 

So yeah, for me what makes it so interesting is that I think Jones is likely already well over the hill, yet it's been disguised pretty well. And in Cyril Gane, he may have found himself exactly the legitimate, highly ranked heavyweight that he has a completely obvious and viable route to beating in a manner that could be quite comfortable. While obviously still having the same risk as a fight with Stipe, Francis, Sergei, Blaydes, Tuivasa etc in that he could get bombed out of there with the first shot. 

Edited by WeeAl
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