Well, this card is the beginning of a very busy month for the UFC, as they have events scheduled every weekend for the remaining of 2016. On paper, this might not be the flashiest card, but make no mistake, this is a solid card. This event features a flyweight title bout between Demetrious Johnson and TUF 24 winner Tim Elliott, a high-profile and possible No. 1 contender fight in Joseph Benavidez vs. Henry Cejudo, as well as many fun, interesting fights in Ellenberger vs. Masvidal, Hall vs. Maynard, and more.
Where: Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nev.
When: Saturday, Dec. 3. The two-fight UFC Fight Pass prelims begin at 7 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the six-fight main card begins airing on FOX Sports 1 at 10 p.m. ET.
About three years ago, I said that Demetrious Johnson was going to be a champion for a very long time. That statement still stands to day. In fact, I think it’s very likely Johnson retires without losing his belt.
There is just simply a huge skill gap between ‘Mighty Mouse’ and the rest of the flyweights in this world, and that includes Tim Elliott. This is no shot at Elliott, I actually questioned the UFC’s decision to let him go back in 2015. Yes, he was on a three-fight losing streak, but it was against the very best and every fight he was in was competitive. This is also a guy that’s very consistent with the level of entertainment he brings to his fights, and I find that to be very valuable.
I think Johnson can take this fight anywhere, and he’ll have an edge there. I see another clean, beautiful performance from the champ.
Here’s a high level fight between the two best guys at flyweight not counting the champion.
Joseph Benavidez has a very good wrestling, and excellent boxing too. The guy is extremely experienced, a very explosive athlete, and carries big power in his hands. He also fights southpaw and can give many guys trouble with his stance. Meanwhile, Cejudo is a very accomplished wrestler, with solid boxing, and like Benavidez, he’s very athletic too.
Just how I said that there is a gap between Johnson and the rest of the flyweights, I also believe there is a gap between Benavidez and the rest of the division. A much smaller gap than Johnson’s of course, but nonetheless a gap. I think ‘Joe B-Wan Kenobi’ will keep knocking off contenders until he gets a third crack at Johnson.
Benavidez should have the experience advantage here as he’s faced tougher competition than Cejudo. He’s also faster – in a division that speed is king, has better striking, and I would dare to say that he’s not far behind from Cejudo when it comes to MMA wrestling. I see Benavidez out striking Cejudo and stuffing his takedowns to win a decision.
I’ve always thought Jorge Masvidal to be an elite and a top-10 fighter at both 155 and 170 pounds. However, a series of bad decisions have plagued his career, specially in his most recent fights. Also, the lack of ranked opponents that the UFC has failed to give him has also caused fans to look pass him when talking about the top fighters of the division. Masvidal is tough as nails, has plenty of fight experience, always comes in good shape, has high-level striking technique, and quality grappling skills. His only issue has been against strong wrestling-oriented grapplers that have been able to overpower him.
Jake Ellenberger has shown to have the skills to overpower people with his wrestling, but that was closer to the beginning of his UFC career. Ellenberger has moved away from his wrestling, and now uses more of his explosive striking to blast his opponents. Like Masvidal, he’s got tons of experience. And unlike Masvidal, this guy gets the highest ranked guys possible despite coming off losses. Seriously, this guy can’t catch a break. I feel like the fan perception of Ellenberger as a fighter is very low, being 2-5 in his past seven bouts, but lets take a close look at his record. His past five losses have come to Tarec Saffiedine, Stephen Thompson, Kelvin Gastelum, Robbie Lawler, and Rory MacDonald. Some of these names have lost some steam today, but if you look at the time Ellenberger fought every one of these guys, they were all in their prime and kicking a lot of ass. And now, he finds himself fighting a guy I consider to be one the best in the division. It’s a rough road for Ellenberger.
Despite the Ellenberger rant, and his crazy power that always makes him game in any fight, I find Masvidal to be the cleaner, more technical striker here. He’s also tough enough to eat some of Ellenberger’s bombs.
This fight has the potential to end rather quickly.
Both and Jared Cannonier and Ion Cutelaba are decent strikers that have power to end the fight early. Cannonier might be the bigger, more powerful fighter here, but Cutelaba is durable and can absorb a great deal of punishment. He’s also very aggressive and keeps a high pace which can pose a problem to Cannonier’s gas tank.
I see it starting somewhat even with both guys dropping bombs on each other, but ultimately Cutelaba outlasting Cannonier.
I love this matchup. And I think their clash in styles bring up very fun, intriguing questions, making this a fight to look forward to. Overall speaking, Alexis Davis might be the most technical woman in the bantamweight division. She’s got phenomenal ground skills both on top and bottom, good takedowns, good fight IQ, and good, diverse striking. She’s also keeps a fairly high pace, and is extremely durable. The only thing that has been a set back for her has been her physical abilities, as she’s not the fastest, or strongest fighter in the division.
On the other hand, Sara McMann is extremely athletic. She’s quick, explosive, and physically strong. She’s got amazing takedowns and takedown defense, a solid top game on the ground, and decent striking. Her only three professional losses have come to two former champions in Rounda Rousey and Miesha Tate, and current champ Amanda Nunes.
I see this being an even fight, and I think either fighter can win this contest. However, I see McMann’s ability to smother Davis against the cage and maybe getting a late takedown to steal the round being a favoring factor in a fight that’s likely going to finish in a decision.
Mexico’s Brandon Moreno impressed many people during TUF 24, despite losing to Alexrandre Pantoja in the opening round of the tournament. However, his real eye-opening moment came when he defeated top flyweight Louis Smolka on short notice. Like most flyweights, Moreno is very well-rounded and comes in good shape, but his strong point has to be his grappling. He’s is very slick on the ground, has good takedowns, and grapples at a fast pace. I spoke to Moreno leading up to this fight, and he told me he spent this camp living with Joseph Benavidez and training with with Team Elevation and Duane Ludwig. Regardless of whatever you make of the whole drama with Team Alpha Male and Ludwig, Ludwig is a brilliant coach and has a good history in turning grapplers into solid strikers. Ludwig does not only give them technique, but also gives them confidence in their stand up. I can only imagine Moreno benefiting from this, and at only 22 years of age, I see him picking up skills at a quick rate.
Benoit, although 26, still hasn’t quite left the prospect zone in my eyes despite two setbacks in his UFC career. Benoit is physically strong, can put together fight-ending combinations on his feet, has a proficient ground game, and still has alot of potential to grow. I’d say Benoit might have a slight edge in striking over Moreno, but Moreno has an even bigger edge when it comes to grappling. I see Moreno coming out on top by mixing in his striking and takedowns.