UFC/WEC veteran Dan Downes talks strategy and predictions for UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Leites, taking place Saturday, July 18
That’s right boys and girls, it’s time for another...uh...edition of the Downes Side!? You must forgive me, the Nostradamus of MMA has no problem educating his dozens of loyal readers, but this fight schedule has me scraping the bottom of the barrel for interesting intros.
Luckily we won’t have to worry about the world’s best fighters fatiguing this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland. Even though we’ll be live from the SSE Hydro Arena, there will be no aquatic combat (although that does give me an idea). In the main event of the evening, we have a fight between two top 10 middleweights as Michael “The Count” Bisping takes on Thales Leites. In the co-main event, veterans Ross Pearson and Evan Dunham try to keep their name in the mix. Put down your Super Soaker, it’s fight time!
STEVIE RAY VS. LEONARDO MAFRA
We begin in the lightweight division with Stevie Ray and Leonardo Mafra. “Braveheart” Ray won his UFC debut on short notice, taking out Polish submission expert Marcin Bandel via TKO. I wonder how many Scottish fighters are nicknamed Braveheart or William Wallace? More or less than Americans nicknamed Rocky? After losing a July 2014 fight to Rick Story, Mafra returned with a hard fought decision win over Cain Carrizosa.
Ray seems more comfortable striking, but he did show a lot of grappling prowess in his debut. He’s strong from top position, but he hasn’t shown any real offensive takedowns. He likes to stand at distance and single shot opponents. Mafra, on the other hand, likes to stand in the pocket and trade strikes. Both have subpar defense, but Mafra’a aggression and output should give him the decision win.
LEON EDWARDS VS. PAWEL PAWLAK
Next we move to welterweight for Leon Edwards and Pawel Pawlak. A heavy handed competitor, Edwards only needed eight seconds and a left cross to finish Seth Baczynski back in April. Also, despite the fact that he’s nicknamed “Rocky,” it doesn’t apply to my unscientific hypothesis because Edwards is British. He’ll get the stand-up fight he’s looking for against Poland’s Pawel Pawlak. A rangy striker that likes to use his knees and elbows, he showcased strong clinch work and takedown defense in his win over Sheldon Westcott.
Pawlak is an accumulation fighter. He wins by wearing out opponents and beating them piece by piece. Yes, he does have a number of first round finishes, but look at the quality of the competition. Edwards is much more fluid and has greater KO power. Edwards’s stance may leave him susceptible to takedowns, but he won’t have to worry about those coming from Pawlak. He wins this one by second round TKO.
JOANNE CALDERWOOD VS. CORTNEY CASEY-SANCHEZ
We shift to the women’s strawweight division for Joanne Calderwood and Cortney Casey-Sanchez. A TUF alumna who’s always willing to share her carrots (not a euphemism), Calderwood will try to bounce back from the first loss of her professional career after falling victim to a Maryna Moroz armbar. Casey-Sanchez makes her UFC debut. All four of her wins have come in the first round, and they’re split evenly between submissions and TKOs.
It’s hard to tell where Casey-Sanchez is in her MMA career. She’s had a number of pro and amateur fights, but she’s still reckless in her attack. The one thing we do know, though, is that she won’t have to worry about Joanne Calderwood’s tan. Even with that edge, it’ll be a tall order for her to submit Calderwood. More so than her takedown defense (a perfect 100%), her significant strike rate (7.27/minute) is going to overwhelm Casey Sanchez. JoJo wins by decision.
JOSEPH DUFFY VS. IVAN JORGE
We return to lightweight for Joseph Duffy and Ivan Jorge. While his previous claim to fame was being the last person to defeat Conor McGregor, Duffy looks to make his own name in the UFC. That mission started well enough as he finished Jake Lindsey by first round knockout in March. He may not have finished Conor McGregor, but Ivan Jorge has defeated 26 other people (13 by submission).
Duffy has it all. Smooth kickboxing, pro boxing experience, belts in tae kwon do and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He might not be as bad for your health as Joe Camel, but “Irish Joe” can hurt you in a lot of different ways. The big question here is, “Can a hotdog be considered a sandwich?” Actually, that’s from an entirely different discussion. The real question is if Duffy can deal with Jorge’s power. The answer is yes. Jorge is stronger and could hold up the Irishman’s attack, but he doesn’t close distance well. He just sort of jumps in and looks for the tie-up. Duffy by second-round TKO.
ROSS PEARSON VS. EVAN DUNHAM
We stay at lightweight for Ross Pearson and Evan Dunham. The Englishman has traded wins and losses in his last four fights, but the 30 year old keeps getting better and better. His movement and boxing combinations flow well, and he defends 80% of takedowns. Take that, English stereotypes! A UFC veteran since 2009, Dunham finally snapped his three-fight losing streak with a win over Rodrigo Damm.
Speed is the key to this fight. Dunham has a BJJ black belt and capable striking, but he doesn’t have the speed in his feet or his hands. Pearson does a good job of not getting into prolonged engagements. He moves in and out, and doesn’t just stand in the pocket and trade. Dunham needs to cut off the angles and force Pearson to fight with his back to the cage, but he won’t be able to do it. Pearson isn’t the most accurate striker (40.98%), but he’ll land enough to take the decision.
MICHAEL BISPING VS. THALES LEITES
Time for the main event! TUF 3 veteran Michael Bisping feels he has one more run at the title in him. He beat CB Dollaway in his last Octagon appearance, and now he sets his sights on fellow top 10 middleweight Thales Leites. Leites has won eight straight fights, and is a perfect 5-0 in his second UFC stint. He’s always been known for his submission prowess, but he’s finally rounded out the rest of his game.
Michael Bisping’s career is like the crane game at an arcade. The prize seems so close, there’s even the brief moment when you think, “Hey, it’s really going to happen!” but the prize never really does come. Bisping may never get the title shot he wants, but he’ll get one step closer. Leites does have a lot going for him, but his wrestling isn’t as strong as Sonnen or Kennedy, and his strikes aren’t as explosive/unpredictable as Belfort or Rockhold. Bisping may not have one-punch KO power, but he avoids taking damage and won’t get pushed up against the fence. He wins this one by unanimous decision.
That wraps up another totally adequate version of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own contributions, retributions, restitutions or attributions on the page here. I think most of my actions can attributed to my mother. See, when I was a growing up...