Heading into the month of February, it was completely fair to say...
UFC on Fox VanZant vs Waterson
After a surprisingly entertaining UFC 206, the promotion puts on the 2nd to last card of 2016 in Sacramento, CA on Saturday night. There are lots of recognizable names on this card, but not a lot of importance to the matchups at least regarding title hopes between those names. Fans will get to say goodbye to a MMA legend Urijah Faber, and the UFC will hope the final two fights of the night launch some new star power to a roster in desperate need of some new blood. I will breakdown the best fights on this card, and I will also give some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts.
Notable Main Card Fights:
Urijah “The California Kid” Faber (7th) vs Brad “One Punch” Pickett (Bantamweight 135lbs)
Preview: Urijah Faber is part of this generation’s legends winding down their MMA careers as their mid-30s begin to take their toll on their ability to fight at a top-level. Faber has never backed down from a challenge, and despite him never capturing UFC gold during his career, he’s been a staple in the top 5 in the Bantamweight division. He’s already announced this is his farewell fight before he retires, and the UFC definitely gave him an opponent that is tailor made to send the California Kid out with a win. Faber’s opponent, Brad Pickett is a mere 3-6 in his last 9 fights. He knows he’s got a tall order if he wants to defeat a more talented fighter in his farewell fighter. Any close decision or judges call will likely go for the fan favorite, and legend about to hang up his gloves. This forces Pickett into a game plan where he must finish Faber in order to defeat him. Despite his record, Pickett is a tough out, as most of his losses have come by split decision. Neither fighter will have a size or reach advantage, but Faber is undoubtedly better at all facets of MMA than Pickett making this a near impossible feat for Pickett to stop the California Kid. Faber will likely wait to adjust to whatever game plan Pickett looks to carry out, as that is one of his best qualities of adapting his attack on the fly.
Odds: Faber (-450) vs Pickett (+350)
Prediction: This looks like a pretty easy one to call and the odds makers agree making Faber a near 5 to 1 favorite in his farewell fight. Unless Faber does not take Pickett seriously, I do not see how Pickett beats Faber. Faber has seen all the best talent his division has to offer, and while Pickett is a tough guy, he isn’t a high level opponent. I think at some point in the 1st or 2nd round Faber shows the large talent gap between the two fighters and imposes his will on Pickett on route to a stoppage victory. It may end in a submission or via a ref stoppage, but I think the California Kid goes out on an emphatic note to cap off a remarkable career.
(Faber (-450) via TKO) / Under 2.5 Rounds (+105)
Sage “Super” Northcutt vs Mickey Gall (Welterweight 170lbs)
Preview: This fight occurring is similar to the reasons the main event got put together; name recognition and marketability. These guys are the fight before the main event because casual fans may know who they are, and not because they are top ranked contenders. Mickey Gall is best known for beating the heck out of a completely out of his depth WWE wrestler C.M. Punk. Neither fighter has any real wins against fighter of note or rank. This fight happened because Gall called out Northcutt after his win against Punk, and the UFC figured they could at least bolster one of these two’s image with a win against the other. Gall is the taller fighter with the reach advantage but his game plan is to get Sage to the mat where he appears to have major holes in his game. Gall is a legitimate jujitsu practitioner but he is so young and inexperienced it’s tough to say what if anything else he can do at a pro level in terms of striking, wrestling, or defense. Northcutt has all the flashy stuff casual fans like about MMA, he can kick, he’s super athletic, and he looks like a Ken doll come to life mixed with a “aww shucks” personality. He appeared on a fast track towards a top 10 fight in the welterweight division only 2 fights ago, but then he seemingly gassed out and got submitted by Bryan Barberena derailing his hype train. The key for Northcutt will be his ability to stay on his feet against a submission specialist, and to test Gall’s chin early. We have not seen Mickey Gall fight anyone with even a smattering of pro-level striking, so he can expect Northcutt to see if his defense is up to the task early and often.
Odds: Northcutt (+100) vs Gall (-120)
Prediction: I think Northcutt is very similar to Paige VanZant, super young, super athletic, and super overrated. All that said, Mickey Gall has not fought anyone. No, his previous two victories in the UFC do not count, those opponents were just steps above tough guys you’d find in a bar late at night. Gall has legit jujitsu, and if he gets Northcutt to the mat he could very well submit him. I just don’t think he’ll get him to the mat, leaving him in a world of hurt against a young strong athletic striker. Northcutt doesn’t have a great opponent list himself, but at least he’s fought and beat pro level competition, so I’ll take the plus odds of the guy who I think is the better fighter at this point in their careers. I think Northcutt dispatches of Gall in a explosive knockout or TKO.
(Northcutt +100) via Knockout) / Bonus Play: (Under 1.5 rounds -115 )
Paige “12 Gauge” VanZant (7th) vs Michelle “The Karate Hottie” Waterson (11th) (Women’s Strawweight 115lbs)
Preview: Both of these women are decent but middle of the pack fighters. However, they have higher profiles than many of the top 5 in the division for one simple reason: they are marketable. The UFC can pretend all it wants that they are showcasing these two due to their fighting prowess, but a big part of why VanZant and Waterson are headlining their card is due to their marketability. Yes, they are both ranked in the top 15 in the women’s strawweight division but that has more to do with how shallow the division is, and less to do with their victories vs big time opponents. This is not meant to take away from their skills or abilities in the octagon, as they are both accomplished legit mixed martial artists. However, ignoring one of the reasons they are headlining a UFC card on Fox is willfully and intellectually dishonest. The UFC is in need of stars, and the winner of this fight the UFC will hope to launch a new one, regardless of the unlikelihood they’ll ever win a title in the division. VanZant is coming of a highlight reel stoppage win vs Bec Rawlings, and the UFC would like you to believe it was a similar Holm vs Rousey style kick in the fight promos. However, those who watched that entire fight, recognize VanZant was losing that fight to a relatively mediocre opponent until she landed a really flashy& ‘lucky’ kick setting up the stoppage. VanZant has one legit tough opponent in her UFC career: Rose Namajunas, and got destroyed by her. Fortunately for VanZant, Waterson is even more ‘green’ when it comes to tough opponents in her MMA career than VanZant. Despite a 13-4 record, ‘The Karate Hottie’ has only 3 career fights with top-tier MMA promotions, most of her career has been fought on smaller less talented circuits. VanZant will also hold a slight height and reach advantage over Waterson, potentially allowing her to patiently fight from the outside where she is most comfortable. Waterson’s best asset against VanZant is her speed, and her willingness to submit her opponents, something VanZant is susceptible to. The fight will likely come down to which of the two is able to dictate the pace of this fight. VanZant is best when she is coming forward and putting her smooth striking combinations together. However, at times she gets caught being complacent if her opponent can put her on her back foot and be defensive. Waterson cannot wait for the fight to come to her; she needs to use her speed to get VanZant off-balance from the opening bell. The one variable going for VanZant is she is still so young at only 22 years old, so there is a very real possibility she could continue to improve as a fighter, whereas Waterson is essentially who she is at this point in her career.
Odds: VanZant (-115) vs Waterson (-105)
Prediction: I honestly have no idea how to predict this fight. I think both women’s profiles as top 15 fighters are a little overrated. No one with any MMA background or experience thinks they could pose any kind of real threat to the real monster of the straw weight division, champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. They have impressive athleticism but relatively average MMA skills, making this fight tough to call. Typically I’d go with VanZant being that she is the younger fighter, and despite losing to her, has fought the tougher opposition in Namajunas as opposed to Waterson really thin record vs legit competition. However, I like Waterson here if only because VanZant’s last win I think was extremely flukey and may give her a false sense of her skill set heading into this fight. Waterson is faster than VanZant, and if she attempts another wild kick like she did against Rawlings, Waterson should make her pay for it with her quickness. If Waterson avoids the sloppy defense that ended up hurting Rawlings, I think she can dictate the pace of this fight, and impose her will on VanZant. I like Waterson to sink in a late submission stoppage vs VanZant. In the end, whoever wins this fight, I will likely be wagering against them in their next fight if it’s anyone of the legit top 5 straw weights.
(Michelle Waterson (-105) via Submission)
Prediction Record Year to Date (24-20-0) (-$247.50)
-Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only
*Stats via www.UFC.com