It all goes tonight in New Jersey with UFC on FOX! Lyoto Machida and Luke Rockhold battle for the rightful number two spot in the middleweight division, and arguably the next grab at the UFC’s middleweight title. This matchup between Machida and Rockhold has had fight fans such as myself in all sorts of anticipation, and finally we will see who will prevail victorious. While the main card may only feature four bouts, this segment on FOX is sure to be one of the most entertaining cards that the UFC has ever put on network television. Here is what you can look forward to tonight:
Felice Herrig vs. Paige VanZant
One of the most talked about female stars in MMA, Paige VanZant has shown that she can do more than just fight – she can market herself. Now, she’ll have a chance to live up to the hype that surrounds her as she takes on Felice Herrig in what should be an absolute barn-burner of a match-up. Both Herrig and VanZant present very real threats to one another. Herrig is a physical beast at 110 pounds, and is almost always going to be the bigger fighter come fight time. With that said, Herrig brings a lot of finesse – especially in her ground and clinch attacks. Herrig has awesome control once she is locked up with her opponent, and has very good takedowns from there too. VanZant on the other hand is aggressive, smothering, and at times a little reckless. She looks to set a pace that her opponent simply can’t keep up with. While she may be the smaller of the two, she is scrappy and is going to create scrambles and chaos when she steps into the Octagon. VanZant is very much an opportunistic fighter.
On the feet, Herrig should have a huge advantage as she throws with much better technique and brings a Muay Thai base while VanZant has very little striking experience and will look to pursue the clinch at all costs. VanZant lives and dies in ground exchanges and even though she might be on the losing end of a few scrambles, she is constantly attacking and looking to go for something. Expect Herrig to be in complete control in the early goings as she uses her size and damaging striking game to get ahead, but VanZant’s relentlessness can’t be ignored. I see VanZant pulling off a razor-thin decision due to her aggression and activity in a fight that should be absolute chaos.
Cub Swanson vs. Max Holloway
This featherweight match-up brings two the division’s best strikers against one another in a fight that is tailor made for some hard-hitting blows. Cub Swanson is looking to rebound off of an extremely disappointing performance against Frankie Edgar while Holloway brings some solid momentum after he out-struck Cole Miller for a decision victory just two months ago. Both Swanson and Holloway are going to look to strike with one another in this contest, but this fight is going to come down to more than just who is the better striker. Style has a lot to do with it, as well as other factors such as movement, power, and the other facets of MMA.
Swanson should hold a massive edge in terms of power. He throws his punches a bit wilder with a bit more thrust on them, but in turn this could expose him and put Holloway in perfect position to land counters. Max throws crisp, tight combinations and while he may not have one-punch KO power, he throws everything with laser accuracy. That’s not to say Swanson is reckless, but Holloway just brings a tighter approach. They both have solid kicking games too. Holloway can chop the legs while Swanson likes to mix in high kicks in his punching combinations and throws the occasional flashy capoeira kick too.
Both fighters bring a much different approach in terms of movement. Swanson likes to move fluidly and use lots of head movement, but the problem with this is that he has to find his rhythm first. The best Cub Swanson is the one that gets off to a good start and carries his momentum all the way until the finish line. Holloway’s crisp muay thai attack is perfect for keeping Swanson frustrated and disrupted. While Holloway does have a tendency to freeze in the anticipation of heavy strikes, his counters could spell trouble for a sometimes too reckless Cub Swanson.
Ultimately, this should be a great fight where we saw a perfect collaboration of striking styles. In the end though, I think Swanson’s power is going to just be too much for Holloway. We might see Max land some solid shots and give Swanson a bit of trouble, but once Swanson lands big, he’s going to gain momentum and find his rhythm – from there, it’s nothing but beautiful destruction for the California native. Holloway is tough, and will stick around until the final bell, but look for Swanson to crank up the heat throughout the fight and get his name stamped on the scorecards.
Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza vs. Chris Camozzi
After the recent injury-notice from Yoel Romero, it seemed as if Jacare Souza was going to have to sit out on the sidelines once again. Luckily, former UFC middleweight Chris Camozzi answered the call and will be stepping in on short-notice against top-ranked Jacare Souza.
These two met before in Souza’s UFC debut, and that fight was not competitive whatsoever. Souza immediately implemented his ground game to full effect and tapped Camozzi with an arm triangle without even breaking a sweat in a fight that further installed the fact that Jacare Souza is hands down one of the greatest grapplers in the UFC. A lot of people are wondering if this fight will be any different. On paper, it shouldn’t be. Souza has improved even more since then while Camozzi went on a 4-fight losing skid and just recently rebounded with two victories outside the UFC. However, both Camozzi and Jacare find themselves in different positions. Jacare is on the verge of a title shot and Camozzi is stepping into this fight with absolutely nothing to lose whereas Camozzi brought a 4-fight winning streak into the first encounter. I mention this because Jacare has everything to lose, and not a whole lot to gain while Camozzi is the exact opposite. This might give Souza a little bit more added pressure, and give Camozzi the feeling that he can go ahead and swing for the fences without anything to lose.
Nevertheless, an overly cautious Jacare Souza will still beat Chris Camozzi, no matter where the fight goes. Souza has improved his striking leaps and bounds, and now holds himself with some good knockout power, and explosive punching combinations. Camozzi on the other hand is a rangy southpaw who throws some good, technical combinations, but doesn’t have the threatening knockout power that will stop Souza from engaging. Look for Souza to perhaps take a longer feeling out process than normal, but once Souza commits himself, I see Souza winning via strikes. There is no need to risk shooting into a flying knee in search of a quick submission win when I feel Souza can time a big overhand on the feet just as easily.
Lyoto Machida vs. Luke Rockhold
In what might be one of the most intriguing and competitive stylistic match-ups possible in the middleweight division, we have former light-heavyweight champion and middleweight title challenger Lyoto Machida battling for the 185 pound division’s silver medal spot against the last Strikeforce middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold. Like I said, this is one of the greatest match-ups even possible right now at 185, and it just goes to show how stacked this division is. Nevertheless, these two have set themselves apart from the rest of the division and will look to determine who will move on to battle the winner of Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort for the crown.
What you can expect from Lyoto Machida is exactly what we have been getting. A calculated southpaw karate striker who slams left kicks and left straights home with vicious torque and bad intentions. Machida presents a lot of problems due to his elusive footwork, and deceptively strong clinch game. He is extremely hard to take down and even harder to hold there as he has adapted his game to staying upright for as much as possible. Machida has excellent timing and looks to catch his opponent coming in with brutal, powerful counters that pack one-strike knockout power. Machida isn’t seen throwing much in terms of combinations, but that element was seen a little bit in his title showdown against Chris Weidman. A desperate Machida who is down on the scorecards is willing to step into the fire and start throwing pocketing combinations too – just another element to watch out for. The only real knack against Machida is that he has a past of being too inactive. He gets into a lull where he calculates too much, and doesn’t pull the trigger enough.
Luke Rockhold on the other hand is very similar to Machida in terms of the weapons he uses, but approach is much different. Like Machida, Rockhold has a dangerous left kick that he can throw high or low. Rockhold also has vicious counter punches – especially his check right hook that can catch his opponent coming flush with. However, where Rockhold differs is his aggression. Unlike Machida’s spontaneous explosions and aggression, Rockhold is more presure-oriented and suffocating on the feet. Rockhold likes to cut the cage off, and stay in his opponent’s face. Rockhold will look to feint in order to set up his long-range attacks, or bait his opponent into coming in, and catch with his check right hook. Also, Rockhold holds a physical edge in terms of his height and reach. This will give him much more leverage in the clinch. While Rockhold is known to be a fantastic striker, he is also a dangerous submission artist as well. He isn’t afraid to improvise and take risks on the ground whereas Machida is more determined on just getting back up to his feet. The big chink in Rockhold’s armor however is his defense. Machida uses his elusive footwork as his main tactic for defense while Rockhold chooses to take his chance at slipping strikes – something that has failed him in the past.
Ultimately, this is a very hard fight to choose. Machida packs that one-punch and one-kick fight ending power, but Rockhold’s pressure and length advantage is going to make it very hard for Machida to get comfortable. Expect a very competitive fight as neither fighter will make it easy for the other, and both are dangerous until the final bell. I favor Rockhold in this match-up as I think his forward pressure will put on the good side with the judges, and he has his ground game to fall back on if he can get Machida down. Lyoto has a past of being too inactive, and while he might have the power to hurt Luke several times throughout the bout, it’ll be Rockhold who gets the nod with the judges.