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UFC 184 Preview: The Main Card

women's mma

Now that we have looked at the prelims, we can take on the meat of this UFC 184 card taking place in Los Angeles, California at the Staples Center. Headlined by a fiery contest between Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano, this card will be a huge one for women’s MMA as it also features the UFC debut of female boxer, Holly Holm. Without further ado, here is the UFC 184 main card, and what you can expect to see out of it:

Tony Ferguson vs. Gleison Tibau

Slowly, but steadily, rising up the UFC lightweight division is “El Cucuy”, Tony Ferguson. Currently riding a four-fight winning streak since losing to Michael Johnson in 2012, Ferguson has shown an improving skill set that looks to put him right in the mix of the lightweight’s elite. Standing in his way is 155 pound staple, Gleison Tibau, who is the most experienced 155’er on the current UFC roster today. Tibau is also riding a bit of a win streak after beating Norman Parke, Piotr Hallman, and Pat Healy. This is a very crucial bout that might just produce the lightweight division’s next dark horse.

Stylistically, these guys match up great. Tibau boasts a muscly, stocky build, but has the technical skills to hang in there with the best of them. He has greatly improved his striking technique, and now throws crisp boxing combinations. The ground however is where he wants to be, and he uses his massive size advantage to get the fight there. From the top position, Tibau is submission-savvy, but intelligent in the fact that he doesn’t take too many risks. All in all, Tibau is a very experienced, intelligent fighter who uses his short reach to his advantage.

In Ferguson, we have quite the opposite. Tony boasts a very long reach that goes well with his venomous striking. While Ferguson isn’t the strongest fighter at 155 pounds, he is very crafty on the ground and knows how to lock up submissions. The chances of Ferguson submitting Tibau is very small, but don’t be shocked of Ferguson surprises Tibau on the mat with his own jiu-jitsu game. However, Ferguson is going to want to keep the fight on the feet. Once Ferguson gets comfortable, he is a difficult target to hit and is very accurate with his punches. Look for Ferguson to fight a very intelligent fight here by using his range to keep Tibau away from him. As long as Ferguson doesn’t get drawn into a firefight with Tibau, he should be able to piece together a decision victory while keeping the time on his back to a minimal.

Alan Jouban vs. Richard Walsh

In the welterweight division, we’re treated with an interesting contest that features the surging prospect, Alan Jouban, against Australia’s Richard Walsh. Jouban was last seen in the Octagon losing to Warrley Alves in one of the most hotly contested decisions of 2014. However, Jouban previously shocked the MMA community by knocking out Seth Baczynski in his UFC debut. Out of the little we have seen from Jouban, we can conclude this is a very tough fighter who aggressively pursues the finish and isn’t afraid to put himself in danger to get it. Jouban is all about offense, and he throws vicious combinations with real power, using all 8 points of contact. In addition to Jouban’s ferocious offense game, Jouban is a very large, athletic welterweight who boasts a talented submission arsenal as well. On the flip-side, Richard Walsh offers a relentless pace as he puts together forward pressure with simple boxing combinations en-route to takedowns and top control. From there, Walsh likes to grind opponents out, but always makes sure to stay busy.

What you can expect is a ferocious encounter between these two. Since both like to get into a fight right away, expect Jouban’s chance of a first round finish to be high. However, if Walsh can survive, look for Walsh to use his top game to make things interesting. Jouban is a real talent to keep your eye on though, and something tells me he is going to have an answer for Walsh’s wrestling. If Jouban doesn’t get the finish in the first round, look for him to get it later on in the fight.

Josh Koscheck vs. Jake Ellenberger

While we previously looked at two young, up-and-coming welterweights, now we look at two welterweight veterans desperate for a taste of victory. This fight features the comeback of Josh Koscheck, who took some time off to re-evaluate his fighting career after dropping three-straight. Ellenberger also finds himself on a 3-fight losing skid and in desperate need of a win. While both guys have their UFC careers resting on this fight, it’s Koscheck who is on the tail-end of his career while Ellenberger is still young, and still has a lot of room to grow.

The most definitive comparison between these two lies in the wrestling. Koscheck, at one time, had the most explosive power double in the sport. It’s questionable whether he can still shoot takedowns with the same speed and velocity that he could earlier in his career; if he can, Ellenberger might be on his back throughout much of this fight. The most likely scenario however is that Koscheck is still a great wrestler, but has lost a lot of his explosive power. With that said, I’m sure Josh’s right hand still packs some serious dynamite and will most certainly be looking to land that tonight. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Koscheck incorporate a much different striking style – perhaps something not revolving around a jab and over-hand right. After more than a year off, it’s hard not to except Koscheck has made some adjustments.

After Ellenberger’s last three outings, he has to pretty much re-evaluate his whole game. He showed a great mental weakness when he was shut down against MacDonald, and also when Gastelum took his back and submitted him. Stylistically, Ellenberger is a great fighter who throws beautiful punching combinations with serious power, but his mental game has plagued him as he has a habit of over-thinking situations and not being “in the moment”. Luckily, Koscheck isn’t the fighter that makes you think as he is very cut-and-dry. This is why I’m picking Ellenberger in this fight. Koscheck’s chin has been put into question, and it’s likely that Ellenberger cracks it, but the more popular pick would be a decision between two guy guys desperate for victory. Except a good scrap here.

Raquel Pennington vs. Holly Holm

The anticipated debut of Holly Holm is finally here, and what better card to have it on than UFC 184, co-headlining the women’s bantamweight title fight. Holly Holm is most likely the best striker in the 135 pound women’s division as she brings a superb professional resume into her arsenal. However, her kicks have developed greatly as well and she throws beautiful hook kicks, spinning back kicks, and side kicks from the southpaw stance; in fact, the majorit of her finishes in MMA have come from kicks. What she lacks in power she makes up for in speed and athleticism as well. She controls distance very well and, being that she’s very physically gifted, has a strong clinch game. The big question here will be how she does on the ground against Pennington.

Pennington is coming off of the most impressive performance of her career as she choked Ashlee Evans-Smith unconscious with a bulldog choke; showing that she is tenacious on the ground and will aggressively pursue the submission. Pennington, on the feet, can also hold her own as she throws technique punches, but she lacks the diversity that Holly Holm expresses so well.

Seeing as how Holm is not only big for the weight class, but moves fluidly and is very athletic, she will most likely be next-to-impossible for Pennington to take down. Although Raquel thrives in the clinch as well, she will have a difficult time closing the distance through the woodchipper that is Holly Holm’s striking offense. Because Pennington is very tough, I don’t see her backing down without a fight though. Expecting Pennington to bring the pressure to try and thwart Holm’s kicking gaming, however, Raquel will have to eat a few before she’ll much success. The popular pick here is Holm by decision, but a knockout via head kick wouldn’t be too far off the mark.

Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano

UFC 184’s peak, we have “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey defending her UFC women’s bantamweight title against “Alpha” Cat Zingano in one of the most highly anticipated women’s fights in the UFC. Ronda has been nothing but mind-boggling in terms of her dominance and is arguably the most dominant champion in the UFC today. She has four title defenses in the UFC, and then one in Strikeforce – finishing all but one of her opponents in the first round. Obviously, her judo is exceptional as she can hit hip-tosses, inside trips, and any other high-octane slam from just about anywhere against just about anyone. We have yet to see a fighter really over-power her in the clinch, and part of this is due to her extremely aggressive nature. She walks her opponents down and almost immediately has them on the mat. However, we have seen her get a little too aggressive at times and over-commit to her attempt, leaving her back open in the process. This makes for sloppy transitions and dangerous positions for her, but Rousey is ultra-confident in her ability to out-grapple anybody, and thus isn’t afraid to over-commit and get put in a bad spot.

Other facets of Rousey’s game have also come a long way, especially her hands. In her second fight with Miesha Tate, she stood toe-to-toe and showcased her chin as well as her punching power. Then of course there’s the 16 seconds KO of Alexis Davis where she had Davis out on the feet with a right hand before slamming her. While Rousey’s arsenal is becoming much more than just an armbar, she does need to be careful when it comes to her aggression. It is her best weapon, but can also be her biggest weakness and against a dangerous fighter like Zingano, she’s going to have to fight smart to put the resilient bantamweight away.

Cat Zingano, on paper, doesn’t pose that many challenges to Ronda. She has struggled with her takedown defense in the past, and doesn’t seem to be that much better on the feet than Rousey. However, it’s the undefinable things that make Zingano a huge threat. First of all, her resilience and toughness is second to none. Several times now we have seen her lose the majority of a fight, and then come back and stop her opponent through a series of punches and knees. Her own aggression is also something to behold as well, but she is in control of it more than Rousey is. Zingano doesn’t go full-blast all the time, she saves it for spurts, and is much more economical. Then you factor in her size, strength, and power that she has and she becomes a very stiff test for Rousey. Zingano is at her best in the third round when she’s on top and relentlessly attacking her opponent.

Expect Rousey to give Zingano much more respect than we’ve seen her give opponents in the past, and this might materialize itself in Rousey not blitzing her opponent right from the bell. Even if she doesn’t blitz, look for Zingano to still get put in trouble early as she is known to be a slow-starter; this might be on the feet, this might be on the ground. The chances of Rousey finishing early are still high, but not as high as they usually are due to Zingano’s rallying ability. Expect Zingano to survive the initial onslaught, and drag this fight into the later rounds through her heart and will to survive. As the fight drags on it’ll become sloppier, and more of a dog fight – this is where Zingano wants it. I’m not sold on Zingano winning the fight, but I do think she’ll be Rousey’s stiffest test and might just take her all 5 rounds. I’m picking Rousey by decision in a hell of a fight, but wouldn’t be surprised if either fighter gets the finish in the championship rounds.

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