UFC 244 in Madison Square Garden, loaded card. Lot. Of. Action.
Main Event: 5 foot 11 Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal vs 6 foot Nate Diaz.
How this BMF title happened: Diaz disposed of the thoroughly overrated Anthony Pettis on August 17 and called out Masvidal (in a definite show of respect). Nate has a history of this. Let’s not forget the Pettis fight came about because Nate wanted it (and knew it was easy). Let’s also not forget the incredible post MJ fight interview when Nate barked: “Conor McGregor, you’re taking everything I worked for, mother f*cker. I’m gonna fight your f*cking ass.” And then beat him twice.
Problem is those guys (MJ, Conor, Pettis) are little guys. Dangerous at best. And still Nate’s fights keep you on the edge of your seat. And Masvidal is knocking out much bigger, skilled fighters. And in my delusional world of analysis, if you take away Jorge’s split decisions (obviously by definition, an extremely close fight) he hasn’t lost since 2013. And if you watch the Maia and Wonderboy fights – you can tell Masvidal fought strategically, not to finish necessarily (this has changed).
Add in that Masvidal doesn’t have the same fighter DNA in him that Nate does, he has more (google Kimbo Slice’s backyard). Just like that, Nate’s inherent mental edge over his opponents goes away.
Another problem is August 17 was only 2.5 months ago. Way too quick of a turnaround. And that Masvidal is playing with house money in 2019, with two sensational (and quick) finishes.
Prediction: You can hit Nate Diaz with a baseball bat and he’s going to keep coming. He’s my favourite fighter in the sport. But he is catching Masvidal at the PEAK of his journey. This is the best, most dangerous (physically and mentally) version of Gamebred we’ve all ever seen. And if Nate loses, he still has the $10mm payday for the Conor Trilogy. Masvidal by KO +200.
6 foot 5 Brazilian Johnny Walker, 27 vs. 6 foot 3 Corey Anderson, 30.
Both 205 pounds with tons of firepower. Walker is one of the most electrifying, unpredictable fighters on the UFC roster, and badly in need of a nickname. Watch some film on his 3 UFC fights so far (it won’t take long) and you’ll see the only damage he’s taken was a self-inflicted shoulder separation in one of his celebrations. Not to worry (well we hope it has healed up). He has another large target to torment this Saturday in Corey (I’d say mostly boring) Anderson. Look for the wildly explosive athletic ability of Walker to score another fast KO, leaving 3 legit fighters looking to unseat the undefeated Jon Jones in Reyes, Walker, and Blachowicz after he (sadly) dispatches of Jacare Souza Nov 16th in Sao Paulo). The odds are only -160 because of the shoulder and that Walker hasn’t been tested by an elite wrestler. Consider yourself lucky.
5 foot 9 American Kevin Gastelum, 28 vs. 6 foot Darren Till, 26, from Liverpool.
Till is moving up to 185 for the first time, vs Gastelum who was forced up 6 brawls ago for his penchant for burrito’s (no kidding, blamed it on missing weight a few times). So in theory, it’s a softer entry into the Middleweights for Till, because as we learned with Weidman a few weeks ago, moving up in weight is very dangerous. Main concern for Till: His chin. He took a bad KO by Masvidal in March this year (3 monster shots, plus his head to the canvas) and promptly went off the reservation (google his taxi cab), and that his kickboxing stance is just a bit one dimensional. Also, Kelvin’s fists.
Gastelum has caught everyone he fights, and it usually ends the bout quickly (See Kennedy, Belfort, Bisping). Where Gastelum struggles is actually reaching the head of taller opponents (see Adesanya, Weidman). With a 6 foot Till, Gastelum should have no trouble connecting, and finishing the job. Darren Till is a tough kid, with a good mind, but he needs to figure out his game plan at 185lbs with some softer opponents. This is way too much, way too soon. Gastelum by KO and then he’ll look to fight Whitaker next in a makeup for the cancelled contest this past February. Till should try It on with Mike Perry, and maybe Leon Edwards or Niko Price (brutal division, I see the odds in Till’s favour against very few contenders at 185). **Just heard Till had Visa issues and hasn’t arrived to NYC yet. Not good.
5 foot 9 Kevin Lee (fought a ton of great fighters) vs 5 foot 7 Gregor Gillespie (KO’d Yancy) fight at 155lbs. Experience favours Lee but momentum is all with Gillespie. Gillespie is an absolute (tatted up) animal, while Kevin is physically blessed, but mentally weak (for this sport, so far). Look for Kevin to start strong, have some success with the jab (reach advantage), bloody Gillespie up, and then tire badly after some unsuccessful takedown attempts. Gillespie is a better scrambler, has cardio for days (this is his natural division), and will eat him up after the early flurry. Gillespie finishes the job, moves to 14-0.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is only a slight favourite vs. the Silent Assassin, Vicente Luque?? You may think I’m crazy, but I don’t think Wonderboy has ever truly lost. Both Woodley fights were a bit of a wash. Till was a non-event fight, could have gone to Thompson, as there was zero damage either way. And this recent Pettis loss by KO? That was after destroying Anthony for 2 full rounds, and Wonderboy let his guard down at the last second of Rd2. My point is Wonderboy’s Karate stance and length and movement is a problem for everyone. Especially a Brazilian black belt that just learned how to strike. Luque is dangerous for sure. And Thompson’s chin is non existent at nearly 37yrs old. But no way am I giving the nod to a normal sized striker vs the highly skilled Karate man, Stephen Thompson. They buried him after the second championship snooze fest vs Woodley (for good reason, he fights for points not scalps), but it does not mean he’s any easier to fight. PREDICTION: Wonderboy is the definition of a problem. He will BATTER Luque. Problem is all Luque needs to do is glance a shot off Thompson’s face once and it’ll be over. And Wonder always gets hit a bit. Very tough to call this as I think it’s a batter job and the odds are disrespectful… But Luque by KO at +240 is the only bet to make here.
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis vs Blagoy Ivanov. I will bet against “The Black Beast” every time until I am wrong, or he is fighting Greg Hardy. It’s a great thing when you find fighters that you just have no faith in, so trusting my instinct here. I believe Derrick has been figured out, and that his championship bout vs Daniel Cormier was the single most wildly mismatched fight in UFC history in terms of skill differential.
6 foot Lyman Good, a local on the card, from the Spanish Harlem section of New York City. An ex Bellator champion. Also popped for steroids in 2016. He fights 6 foot 2 Chance “Black Eagle” Rencountre, a Native American from the Osage Nation. I gotta be honest, I don’t know a thing about these two other than what I just wrote… but I’m intruiged. Give me the Native American dude over the roider. Black Eagle!