FIGHT CLUB WEEKLY 3.14.2018 - GETTING STOKED FOR UFC 223
There’s nothing like a stacked card to really get my blood pumping. It’s hard not to look past this week’s MMA action and look forward to UFC 223 which goes down on April 7 in Brooklyn, NY. There are two title fights scheduled as well as some fan favorite bouts.
The long-awaited meeting of Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov will finally come to pass if everyone can stay healthy and make weight. Hopefully, this fight will restore some order to the chaos of the lightweight division whose champion, Conor McGregor, has been M.I.A. for 16 months. Little makes sense regarding this situation. The UFC has decided in lieu of stripping him of the belt outright that he will retain the belt until the first round of the fight. At that point, he will lose the belt making the contest between interim champ Ferguson and number one contender Nurmagomedov, a fight for the legit championship title; confusing and illogical but hopefully this will herald a new era of order for the division.
As most MMA fans who pay attention to the sport know, McGregor has yet to defend any of his titles. He was stripped of the featherweight belt due to inactivity; he has failed to defend any of his other titles that he earned in any of the smaller European promotions that he fought in. I suppose that the UFC’s decision to deal with the situation leaves McGregor a certain level of flexibility. If he loses the belt, he is freed of any obligation to defend, he can pursue the “money fights,” possibly schedule the Nate Diaz rubber match. If Tony Ferguson wins, he can attempt to win the belt back; early betting intel puts him as the favorite over Ferguson. If Nurmagomedov wins, he can avoid the brutal Dagestani with no danger of saving face because hey, after all, he’s not the champ any longer.
Who will prevail in the Ferguson – Nurmagomedov fight? That’s an interesting question because both fighters bring in two very different skill sets. Ferguson is an outstanding wrestler with elite submission skills in addition to a very awkward, unorthodox striking style. He doesn’t utilize the typical Muay Thai base that a lot of MMA fighter employ, but enters from odd angles and uses a lot of movement. With Nurmagomedov you know exactly what is going to happen. He is going to press forward, use his fundamental boxing and kicking game to set up a clinch and take you down. Once he puts his hands on you, it’s only a matter of time before you end up on your back. To date, no one has been able to stop him. Critics have said that he is hittable, reference the fight with Michael Johnson who had early success against him on the feet but ultimately succumbed to Khabib’s tireless grind.
I don’t see Ferguson being any different. My pick is Nurmagomedov by decision. Tony will avoid the stoppage and his jiu jitsu is slick enough to avoid a submission. Unfortunately, I see a long and painful demise going the full five rounds with Khabib getting his hand raised. Word has it that Conor McGregor is going to be in the arena to support Artem Lobov, who fights lower on the card. When Khabig gets his had raised, I see McGregor making a quick exit and catching the plane back to Ireland. Khabib is the last guy that McGregor wants to fight.
The co-main event is the rematch between champion Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejcyk. Most of you will remember they met back in November last year where Rose upset the world and finished Joanna with a first round KO / TKO. Much has been made regarding Joanna’s loss; her weight cut has been called into question among other things. My opinion is that Namajunas was simply the better fighter on that night. Most analysts that gave her a chance, predicted that she would take her down and force a submission, nobody really expected her to stand with Jedrzejczk, who is a former Muay Thai European champion. My prediction is that Rose pulls it off again, this time by submission.
There is a lot to look forward to on the rest of the card. Michael Chiesa faces Anthony Pettis; both are coming off of losses. We also have the return of Long Island’s own, Raging Al Iaquinta who faces Philadelphia kickboxing specialist Paul Felder. Iaquinta is coming off of a long lay-off, not having fought sinc April of last year. Felder is more active and has put together three consecutive wins, steadily climbing up through the rankings. If he catches number 10 ranked Iaquinta slipping, this could be his entry into the top 10.