UFC 200: Hendricks vs Gastelum Preview

Hendricks
Johny Hendricks has a point to prove against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 200.

With all the hype surrounding the main card going into UFC 200 it’s easy to forget that the prelims are also playing host to some pretty interesting match-ups. One particular fight that stands out is the welterweight showdown between the division’s former champion Johny Hendricks (17-4) and The Ultimate Fighter season 17 winner, Kelvin Gastelum (11-2).

A win for either fighter could be the catalyst that kick starts a run at the 170lb title. However, given that both men are coming off losses, another defeat would be a major setback – especially for Hendricks who at 32-years-old might have to give up on a shot at regaining the belt.

Hendricks was easily dispatched by Stephen Thompson in his last fight and so another loss at the hands of one of the division’s rising stars in Gastelum could put the writing on the wall for ‘Big Rig’s’ career.

For Gastelum, the repercussions of a loss might not be quite so absolute, but they certainly won’t help him. Both of the 24-year-old’s defeats have been narrow split decisions, the latest of which was against Neil Mangy in Mexico last November.

If he loses again on Saturday it could force him to reconsider his future at welterweight where, like Hendricks, he’s had trouble making weight in the past.

The Match-Up

The first thing to point out about these two fighters is that they’re essentially both wrestlers with heavy hands. However, that’s a description that tars two unique fighters with the same brush and doesn’t do justice to the real range of techniques that these guys bring to an MMA fight.

When it comes to the striking, Hendricks’ biggest threat is his absolute bomb of a left hand. You only have to look as far as his highlight reel knockouts of Martin Kampmann and Jon Fitch to notice that. Where he is limited is in his range of techniques.

Gastelum might not carry quite as much power in his hands as Hendricks but his variety of strikes is a lot better. If he can fight intelligently and avoid getting into a swinging match with ‘Big Rig’ then he should have the advantage on the feet.

Where Hendricks will be more effective is with his grappling. Gastelum has used his wrestling effectively throughout his career but he’s yet to face someone with the credentials of Hendricks. The two-time NCAA collegiate wrestling champion wrestles as well as anybody inside the octagon, and although Gastelum will make it hard, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the former champion land a takedown or two (or three, or four…or five).

Once on the mat both fighters are more than capable of finishing the fight. Gastelum is far more dangerous than Hendricks when it comes to submissions but Hendricks should be able to nullify that threat as long as he’s on top.

Fans should expect this one to go the distance. If the fight stays on the feet then Gastelum should be able to do enough to earn the decision. However, it’s far more likely that we’ll see Hendricks grind away at Gastelum by out-wrestling him and trying to stay on top. It might not be the prettiest fight but the former champion should be able to do enough to get his hand raised and begin his journey back to the top of the division.

Prediction: Hendricks via unanimous decision.

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UFC 200: Jon Jones USADA Bust Reaction

Jon Jones

After digesting what feels like a lifetime’s worth of promotional material, fight fans across the globe are finally rubbing their hands together in anticipation of perhaps the most insane fight card MMA has ever seen. We always knew UFC 200 was going to be a huge event but Dana White and the UFC’s primary matchmakers, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, have put together a fight card that promises to excite from the very beginning.

The paragraph above is something I wrote yesterday before the iron fist of USADA (United States Anti Doping Agency) came crashing down on Jon Jones’ tiny, stupid head. With the anticipation and naivety of a small child I spent the day tapping away at my keyboard, writing about the impending second fight between Jones and the current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. I fell asleep a happy man with the intention of uploading the article this morning. Then, lo and behold, I wake up to the news that Jones has been pulled from the card due to an alleged anti-doping violation. *repeatedly bangs head*

The injustice I felt at essentially wasting a day burnt up inside of me to the point where I very nearly considered not writing anything at all about this glorious week of fights. Everything else felt frivolous if these two bitter enemies weren’t going to cap it all off by going toe-to-toe inside the octagon. I, like fight fans around the world, had eagerly lapped up hours of promotional content in the lead up to the event and for what? For Jon Jones, perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, to piss it all up the wall – that’s what.

I felt exhausted and betrayed so turned to Twitter for some light relief and more news on the story as it was breaking. It was at this point, after throwing my self-righteous (and well-deserved in my opinion) tantrum, that I turned my thoughts to Jones’ opponent, Daniel Cormier.

Daniel Cormier is the nicest man in the whole wide world. There I said it. He’s the sort of man who finds out his wife is having an affair but doesn’t say anything because he doesn’t want to upset her. He never steps out of line, always plays by the book and I bet his neighbours love him. However, despite all of this, when put on a stage next to Jones – the man who has literally fucked up more times than anyone else in the sport – he will be booed like a pantomime villain.

On top of that, and on a much more serious note, it’s now looking like he’ll lose millions of dollars because Jones either doesn’t check what’s in his supplements, or because he’s knowingly consumed something more sinister. The trickle-down effect of this means that because of Jones’ incompetence, not only will Cormier and his family go without the payday they deserve, but so will all of his coaches.

It’s unclear what Jones’ punishment will be for this slip up, but as Dana White acknowledged in the emergency press conference called last night, USADA may very well slap him with a two year ban. If that’s the case, I for one can’t see Jones sticking around. But if he does (and it’s a big ‘but’) it’s unlikely the UFC will continue to keep giving ‘second’ chances.

The new main event will be a three round bout between Brock Lesnar and Mark Hunt – a fight that is happening for literally no reason whatsoever. The rest of the UFC 200 card is obviously still insanely good, but it doesn’t really make up for the fact that Jon Jones has managed to prevent this rematch from happening…again.

What’s next for UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping?

bisping

In a sport where one clean strike can adjust the course of a fight, it seems somehow surprising that fans, fighters and the media alike are so often left staring slack-jawed at a perceived ‘upset’ inside the cage. Back at UFC 69 in 2007, when Matt Serra managed to finish Georges St. Pierre to win the welterweight belt, the MMA world was shaken to its core. Then, some six years later, Chris Weidman knocked out a showboating Anderson Silva at UFC 162 to win the middleweight crown and once again the MMA world was in disarray.

Recently though, these upsets seem to be more and more commonplace. First there was Holly Holm’s thunderous head kick at UFC 193 that derailed the Ronda Rousey hype train. Then there was the short right hook of a back-peddling Stipe Miocic that stopped Fabricio Werdum in his tracks at UFC 198 to win the heavyweight title. Now however, we have a whole new upset to talk about.

On Saturday (4th June), Michael Bisping became the first British fighter to wear UFC gold after knocking out his long-standing rival Luke Rockhold. At around three-and-a-half minutes into the first round Bisping landed a left that knocked the champion to the canvas before swarming him with a tirade of punches as the dazed Rockhold tried to stumble back to his feet. The fight was over and Bisping, a ten year veteran of the UFC, had finally realised what he described as his ‘destiny’.

What’s next for ‘The Count’?

With the middleweight division being pretty top heavy there are a few fighters who could be considered for his first title defence. The obvious choice is a trilogy fight between him and Rockhold. They’re one a piece now and each fighter holds a finish over the other. A third fight would decide the better fighter and give the two men the opportunity to put their differences behind them – although considering the bickering in Saturday’s post-fight press conference I wouldn’t bet on it.

The other two contenders are former champion Chris Weidman – who will undoubtedly be itching to get his belt back – and Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza who’s coming off an incredible first round TKO win over another former champion in Vitor Belfort.

However, Weidman’s still waiting on some pretty serious neck surgery and although he’s suggested he’ll be back in time to fight at UFC 205 at Madison Square Gardens in November, it wouldn’t be surprising if an injury of that nature keeps him side-lined for much longer. The next option then is Jacare, who Dana White admitted would have been the UFC’s first choice to replace Weidman at UFC 199 had the Brazilian not picked up a slight knee injury at UFC 198 in his win over Belfort.

Jacare, who has won nine of his last ten fights, is due a UFC title shot but that’s a fight that’s a lot more difficult for the UFC to promote than Bisping vs Rockhold 3 due to Jacare’s inability to speak English and the lack of a rivalry between the pair. The UFC measures itself by pay-per-view buys and as attractive as Bisping vs Jacare is for fight fans, a trilogy fight between Bisping and Rockhold is sure to move the needle a hell of a lot more.