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Diggin’ Deep on UFC on FOX 26: Lawler vs. dos Anjos – Main card preview

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Get the inside scoop on a clash of up-and-coming KO artists Mike Perry and Santiago Ponzinibbio, plus former title challenger Glover Teixeira meets Misha Cirkunov in the cage.

While the main event of UFC on FOX 26 — Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos — is meaningful and expected to provide plenty of aesthetic pleasure, it isn’t exactly the fight fans are most looking forward to. No, Mike Perry has managed to steal the spotlight – at least a little – with his antics and ability to knock silly any human being walking the planet. Sure, he makes it hard to like him, but you don’t have to like him to appreciate him. His dance partner, Santiago Ponzinibbio, should bring out the best in him. There is a light heavyweight contest featuring a former title challenger too… but trust me when I say Perry-Ponzinibbio is where it is at.

The main card begins on FOX at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) vs. Mike Perry (11-1), Welterweight

Many believe this contest will be the FOTN as Ponzinibbio and Perry both have major reputations as feared strikers. And to think, people were complaining about this contest….

Ponzinibbio isn’t as sexy of a name as Darren Till, who most would have rather seen Perry square off with. But it isn’t as if Ponzinibbio merely a consolation prize. He’s the only person to have stopped Court McGee. OK, that may not sound all that impressive – even though McGee has a win over Robert Whittaker — but being the only one to stop Gunnar Nelson adds a bit more credence to fans. Constantly pressuring his opposition behind a piercing jab, Ponzinibbio is most dangerous when he sits down on his combinations. However, he’s neglected another one of his primary weapons: his kicks. Whether it’s a low kick or a switch kick, Ponzinibbio can do some serious damage… when he throws them.

Perry’s attack isn’t nearly as diverse. That doesn’t make him any less dangerous as his fists are as powerful as any welterweight… perhaps more dangerous. His simplicity is actually a sign of intelligence from Perry as he knows his limitations, thus he plays to his strengths. Though it’s difficult to see the improvements he has made in his strategy at first glance, his footwork and feel for distance have made great strides. His defense still has holes in it as he trusts his durability which has held up exceptionally well thus far.

One major factor that has people excited for this contest: in a combined 14 UFC contests, they’ve scored a total of one takedown. This fight isn’t expected to go to the ground. Should it do so, Ponzinibbio has shown a bit of submission ability, particularly as a threat with his front headlocks.

It’s hard not to be excited by this bout. It’s also hard to see this one going the distance. Perry has never been finished in his career, but he has been hurt. Ponzinibbio has been stopped, but he’s hardly chinny. If Ponzinibbio remembers to utilize everything in his arsenal, he’s my pick to win. However, expecting him to flip the script isn’t wise to do when he’s been trending in a different direction. Perry is the pick. Perry via KO of RD2

Glover Teixeira (26-6) vs. Misha Cirkunov (13-3), Light Heavyweight

Teixeira is in a tough spot. Recent losses to Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson have made the likelihood of Teixeira getting a second title shot highly unlikely as he slows down at the age of 38. However, he’s still considered to be better than roughly 90% of the division as his #3 UFC ranking indicates. Yes, the UFC rankings are crap, but that number doesn’t seem fluky.

Though he developed his reputation as a power puncher upon his UFC entry – and he still has that power – Teixeira has resorted to his wrestling in recent contests, utilizing his vaunted single-leg takedowns. Sure, it’s been boring, but it also has saved the Brazilian a lot of damage as his durability has been called into question given his last two losses came via violent stoppage. Even though he’s a solid offensive wrestler, he has struggled to stop the takedowns of noted wrestlers Jon Jones, Phil Davis, and Patrick Cummins.

That has to be music to Cirkunov’s ears. The best wrestler and grappler to enter the light heavyweight division in several years, Cirkunov got reckless in his last contest, opting to trade with known striker Volkan Oezdemir. He paid the price, being KO’d in 28 seconds, exposing his striking as a still developing phase of his game. It doesn’t mean Cirkunov is useless on the feet as he does have heavy hands. The threat of his takedowns often allows him to land one of his heavy hooks he wouldn’t find a home for otherwise as his muscular frame is very stiff and prone to return fire.

Teixeira has never been much of an athlete, but his subtle footwork and angles allow him to land some heavy artillery. Much like Cirkunov, hooks and uppercuts are his primary weapons of choice. Should he land them with consistency, Cirkunov is in a lot of trouble. However, Teixeira’s durability has become a major question mark as of late too. It is a bit of a tossup, but Teixeira has yet to fall to someone at Cirkunov’s level. I can’t pick against him in this type of contest until I see him do that. Teixeira via decision

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