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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson – Main Card preview

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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson   Main Card preview

Feast your eyes on everything you need to know for the opening contests on the UFC 210 main card, featuring a clash between longtime UFC sluggers Patrick Cote and Thiago Alves.

A part of me felt obliged to try and argue why the opening contests on UFC 210 are worth plucking down your hard earned money. Then every argument I thought of in my head didn’t feel strong enough to present. It isn’t that these are bad contests. Every one of them has real potential to be top notch. But do they have any appeal to the casual fan? Nope. Good thing the main and co-main event do.

The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Cynthia Calvillo (4-0) vs. Pearl Gonzalez (6-1), Women’s Strawweight

I don’t want to rip on Calvillo and Gonzalez as both show the potential to become mainstays in a division that has filled up in a hurry. Maybe even contenders. But at this stage in their careers, they shouldn’t be on the main card of a PPV.

Calvillo’s UFC debut – which was just last month — came just over six months after her professional debut. No surprise that she is very raw as she doesn’t have a whole lot of experience. Despite that, he has shown noticeable improvements in each contest. A wrestler first and foremost, it is no surprise that she comes from Team Alpha Male with that background. Single and double-leg takedowns are prominent and Calvillo showed fantastic grappling accolades in sweeping Amanda Cooper, eventually securing the win with a RNC.

While Calvillo has progressed on the feet, she is still somewhat limited to a basic jab and side kicks. That may not be enough against Gonzalez, a cerebral technician on the feet. Owning an amateur boxing background, Gonzalez picks apart her opponents with a devastating jab while looking for openings to follow up with her power shots. It may not sound like much of an improvement over what Calvillo offers, but Calvillo has yet to pick up the understanding of angles and distance that Gonzalez possesses. Gonzalez isn’t an expert there by any means, but her advantage is very noticeable. Plus, Gonzalez compliments her punches with efficient kicks.

There is no reason to think Calvillo will dominate Gonzalez on the ground either. Gonzalez has picked up two-thirds of her wins via armbar and came this close to picking up another one of her wins in that manner.

I’m utterly confused how oddsmakers have favored Calvillo so heavily. Yes, she looked good against Cooper and has more natural power in her fists. She’s a superior athlete too. But making her greater than a 2-to-1 favorite is ridiculous when neither has established themselves. While Calvillo’s continued improvements can’t be discounted, I look at Gonzalez’s technical advantage on the feet in addition to her submission prowess on the ground and don’t see Calvillo scoring a victory similar to her UFC debut. In fact, I see Gonzalez pulling off the upset. While these two don’t have the name value to be in the place that they are on the card, they should put on a good show. Gonzalez via submission of RD2

Thiago Alves (21-11) vs. Patrick Cote (23-10), Welterweight

You want to talk about longtime vets? Alves has been in the UFC since 2005. Cote, in his third UFC stint, made his debut in the preeminent MMA organization all the way back in 2004 against Tito Ortiz. Their best years appear to be long gone, but these two are still capable of putting together an entertaining slugfest.

Alves may be the younger of the two – 33 as compared to Cote’s 37 years – but there are more questions about his decline than there are for Cote. That’s due to a series of long layoffs, injuries, and misguided expeditions into the lightweight division. To be fair, Alves looked like he still had something to offer in his loss to Jim Miller and it’s likely he’ll look better returning to 170 as he won’t be depleting himself nearly as much.

Against Miller, Alves had more energy than anyone expected and still packed a punch in his strikes. The problem was that he didn’t have the strength to stop takedowns or explode back to his feet. Perhaps the attempt to drop in weight has improved his conditioning, something that has long been a concern for longtime ATT representative. Hopefully he can regain his typical defensive wrestling while pushing a faster pace than usual.

If this fight were happening a few years ago, no one would be concerned about Cote’s takedowns anyway. The Canadian had established a reputation as a durable brawler whose power seemed to come and go. As a result, Cote wasn’t winning very many contests… at least not until he added the threat of a takedown. Cote still isn’t a great wrestler, but he is huge for welterweight and doesn’t easily give up on his attempts to get the fight to the ground. The takedown attempts have largely dried up again in the last few contests, but opponents know Cote has that in his back pocket which has opened up the door for Cote to land his power strikes.

What is concerning for Cote is his durability. He was KO’d for the first time in his career in his last appearance against Donald Cerrone. Often times when a fighter has their chin cracked for the first time, they become more susceptible to going lights out again. Look at Chuck Liddell and Dan Henderson. It’s too early to say that is what is going to happen to Cote, though it is certainly something to pay attention to.

I was initially tempted to go with Cote at first hearing of this contest. He’s only lost to Cerrone and Stephen Thompson in his last eight appearances, two of the best names at welterweight. But upon further inspection, I’m going with Alves. Both Cote and Alves have KO power in their fists with a record of durability, but a few things are pushing me towards Alves. Alves has only fought four times in the last five years, indicating he’s given his body – and perhaps his brain – recovery time Cote’s hasn’t received. I would be worried about rust, but Alves hasn’t taken too long to round into form after long layoffs and it has only been five months since he last fought. Aside from Cerrone finishing Cote, he also took Cote down with ease with a pair of reactive takedowns early and chewed up Cote’s legs with kicks. Alves is perfectly capable of doing those two things just effectively if not more. Alves via TKO of RD2

Will Brooks (18-2) vs. Charles Oliveira (21-7, 1 NC), Lightweight

Brooks and Oliveira are both supremely talented 155ers who are at a crossroads for their career as they come off of high profile losses. While it won’t be impossible for the loser to return to a lofty perch, it seems highly improbable.

Weight issues plagued each of these competitors in their last contest, just not in the same way. While Oliveira fought Ricardo Lamas over nine pounds above his contracted weight, Brooks was bullied by a much larger Alex Oliveira, who had over six pounds on Brooks and contributed heavily to his loss. Charles Oliveira was forced by the brass to return to lightweight as it was his fourth occasion of missing weight while Brooks was made a sympathetic figure for the first time in years following his outspoken attitude towards Bellator before forcing his way out of the UFC’s rival organization. Though there are no guarantees, weight issues are unlikely to play a part in this contest.

Brooks came into the UFC with high expectations after a dominant reign as Bellator’s champion. He’s disappointed thus far as he didn’t appear to be in peak form against Ross Pearson aside from the aforementioned loss. A fantastic athlete with smothering wrestling, Brooks has been unable to showcase those skills thus far as he was unable to keep Alex Oliveira down even when able to get him to the ground. Even if Brooks is able to get his bread and butter going against Charles, it will be a risky proposition as Oliveira is one of the slickest and most creative submission experts in the sport. Though he is best operating off of his opponent’s back Oliveira’s guard isn’t to be taken lightly either.

Don’t overlook the standup aspects of either competitor either. Oliveira has progressed into a more than functional Muay Thai practitioner, winging hard punches and kicks from a distance and slashing knees and elbows in close quarters. His defense leaves quite a bit to be desired and there are certifiable questions about his toughness.

Like Oliveira, Brooks’ standup is better than advertised. He isn’t as flashy as Oliveira, offering a more meat-and-potatoes boxing approach in comparison. It doesn’t mean Brooks is boring. He puts together slick combinations in the pocket, though he is most effective on the counter. Don’t underestimate his clinch game either. Brooks may have struggled against the much larger Oliveira, but it’s hard to see the smaller Charles Oliveira overpowering him in there.

My initial instinct was to favor Oliveira’s slick submission abilities. Then I remembered Brooks’ performance against Marcin Held a 17 months ago and recalled the ease in which Brooks was able to avoid Held’s submission attempts. I acknowledge Oliveira is a different beast than Held, but that combined with Oliveira’s lack of striking defense leads me to believe Brooks can withstand an early storm and wear down his Brazilian opponent… maybe even get a late finish. Brooks via TKO of RD3


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