The Ultimate Fighter
That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for an even saltier version of the Downes Side (yes, it is possible). Don’t worry, unlike beef jerky or that boneless buffalo chicken salad from Chili’s, this particular boost of sodium won’t harm your heart.
Live from the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah, the UFC brings us a Fight Night this Saturday. In the main event, featherweights Alex Caceres and Yair Rodriguez provide more than their fair share of spinning [stuff]. We’ll analyze that fight, a few others and still give you enough time to get a drink of water.
We begin live on UFC FIGHT PASS in the featherweight division with Cub Swanson and Tatsuya “The Crusher” Kawajiri. Once on the brink of a title shot, the No. 5-ranked Swanson broke his two-fight losing streak with a win over Hacran Dias back in April. Japan’s Kawajiri is a powerful grappler trying to get back into the win column after a loss to Dennis Bermudez.
Kawajiri does his best work when he has top position. The 38-year-old has been fighting since there were only three Harry Potter books, but his striking only serves as a means to wrestle. Swanson, on the other hand, has become very boxing-heavy.
He moves well and flows with his hands, however, I still worry that he’s placed so much focus on his hands that he’s forgotten he has other weapons. He slips punches better than most in the division, but he should worry about making this a track meet early in the fight. If he tries to slip too much, he leaves himself open to Kawajiri’s takedowns.
The Crusher doesn’t set up his shots (the majority of his takedowns occur against the fence), so Swanson will have more time to read it if he maintains distance. As long as he avoids a firefight, Swanson wins by decision.
Next, we move to welterweight for Santiago Ponzinibbio and Zak Cummings. A fierce Muay Thai striker, Ponzinibbio has back-to-back first round KOs over Court McGee and Andreas Stahl. Cummings may not be as athletic as Ponzinibbio, but he’s just as effective. Owning a 4-1 record inside the Octagon, 14 of his career wins have been finishes.
In a lot of ways, this is a more intriguing striking matchup than the main event. Ponzinibbio has excellent fundamentals. He’s patient and batters opponents with a stiff jab and a big right hand. He also avoids counter strikes by sliding his feet while keeping himself in range for more offense.
Cummings considers himself more of a reactive striker, but he needs to be a pressure fighter here. Ponzinibbio does well when he’s given time to pick his shots. He’s a purposeful striker, but appears to pause when he’s forced to freestyle. Having said that, the way Cummings dangles his left hand worries me.
As a southpaw, he leaves a lot of openings for a counter cross and Ponzinibbio finds the mark. Ponzi schemes his way to a second round TKO.
We shift to middleweight for two fighters who have made the most of second chances (unlike Joel Schumacher). Thales Leites began his newest stint in the UFC with five straight wins.
Decision losses to Michael Bisping and Gegard Mousasi have stolen some of his momentum, but he’s determined to get it back. Camozzi lost his UFC return match against “Jacare” Souza, but he’s rattled off three straight wins since then.
Another interesting tactical matchup, this fight could go a number of ways. Leites works on the outside and wears opponents down with low kicks. He go for takedowns, but they’re more reactive (i.e. after grabbing a kick) than primary attacks.
Camozzi is another Muay Thai style striker, but he’d much rather engage on the inside. His knees and clinch boxing are his most effective weapons. Leites likes to use his overhand right, but falls in after he throws it.
As long as Camozzi can defend the entry, he should be able to capitalize on the counter attack. It’ll be a back and forth fight, but Camozzi does enough to get the upset decision victory.
YAIR RODRIGUEZ VS. ALEX CACERES
Time for the main event! Undefeated in his UFC career, Yair Rodriguez possesses one of the most unpredictable offenses in the entire organization.
It’s impressive because most fighters just have unpredictable levels of maturity. Known for his flashy striking, he’ll look for an opportune submission, too. “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres came on to the scene for season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter (that was Koscheck vs. GSP for those too lazy to search), and he’s been an entertaining mainstay since. After two straight wins over Cole Miller and Masio Fullen, Caceres could accomplish the first three-fight win streak of his UFC career.
Both fighters have irregular rhythms of attack. That being said, they do have certain patterns. Rodriguez is a better kicker than boxer and needs space to operate. In his fight against Dan Hooker, he had difficulties when pressured. Not only does it limit his kicking offense, but his aggression leaves him especially vulnerable during scrambles.
Caceres has similar issues. He can hurt opponents with his straight left, but loses his balance if he can’t connect. Both fighters need space, but Rodriguez takes the initiative more. He’ll bring the fight to Caceres and even thought he’ll probably eat a couple shots for his trouble, his pacing and power will be enough to take the second round TKO.
That wraps up another alkaline-rich edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, thoughts, accusations and preferred spice on the page here, too. Don’t underestimate cardamom.