In one of the more compelling match ups on the Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine card, undefeated wrestler Tyron Woodley takes on talented Canadian Jordan Mein in the welterweight class.
It was obvious that Tyron Woodley (9-0) was becoming more than a one-dimensional wrestler when he clubbed elite BJJ player Andre Galvao with punches for a first round stoppage. While many were hoping to take in a style vs. style clash on the mat, Woodley was intelligent to take the path of least resistance and surpass his best opponent to date without breaking a sweat.
The clout of his opposition continued to rise in his last two affairs, as Woodley went back to his roots to neutralize stand-up specialists Tarec Saffiedine and Paul Daley with stifling ground control, defeating both by decision. His striking has grown to a level where he can engage effectively enough to set up his takedowns smoothly and training at American Top Team has surely expanded his submission grappling awareness.
Jordan Mein (23-7) began his fight career at a blistering pace, competing six times in just six months on two separate occasions. This trial by fire has now paid dividends. Mein is a wee twenty-one years old with thirty fights clocked on his resumé. Seven fights back, scrapper Jason High was Mein's first taste of top-shelf competition. Though he lost by decision, the match sparked an eye-catching six-fight win streak that Mein is still enjoying.
The surge includes strike-stoppages over former UFC welterweight Joe Riggs and Evangelista Santos (the latter in his Strikeforce debut) as well as decisions over former DREAM welterweight champ Marius Zaromskis (in a fight contested entirely on the feet) and another former UFCer in Josh Burkman. He's turned it on recently and the kid definitely has all the ingredients to be a future superstar.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Striking-wise, Mein, barely old enough to slosh down a beer in the states, conducts himself with the cool composure of an experienced veteran.
To the right is a clip of him picking apart feared kickboxer Zaromskis in their Score Fighting Series match. Zaromskis kept hunching over to his left while covering to defend, and Mein picked up on the tendency and hammered him with the flying knee. Zaromskis postures a little and drops his hands after the knee, so Mein flicks out the push kick and then changes his stance before unfurling the right hook/left straight combo, which is his go-to sequence on the feet.
Against "Cyborg", Mein started to find his range after the first round and softened him up with long one-twos. Here, he cracks away with a series of his two favorite strikes before doubling up shots downstairs. He then goes back to his bread-and-butter combo and artfully dodges the uppercut. This is also a good example of the volume that Mein can put together. I count eight punches in this animation compared to a measly one for Santos. Mein has excellent footwork, a knack for measuring the distance, he integrates kicks from outside and he's a beast in the pocket.
Another sign of his maturity as a fighter is how he's patient and calculating while finding his rhythm, but knows exactly when to engage his killer instinct.
And "killer instinct" is quite a befitting term for the ruthless of barrage of short elbows that Mein overwhelms Santos with to the right. Many younger fighters will waste energy flurrying on a dazed opponent, but Mein -- again showing his phenomenal grasp of distance -- quickly switches from punches to short, cleaving elbows (with both hands) that bore right through the defensive guard of Santos.
Woodley's background is in freestyle wrestling but he's proven to be a monster in the clinch with Greco Roman tactics as well. Saffiedine's footwork allowed him to elude a few of his shots from outside, so Woodley adjusted and started to steer him against the cage and work takedowns from the body-lock. Not only was the change in approach a success, but it was a good sign of Woodley's intelligence and diversity. Against "Semtex", who has bullish strength and a wicked clinch game, Woodley had some trouble with upper-body clinching.
Daley did a good job of keeping his hips out of his reach and blasted him with a few solid knees in early tie-ups. Woodley kept clinching to avoid the perils of Daley's malicious Muay Thai in open space and started to drop levels and attack Daley's legs with ankle picks and high singles.
Again, altering his approach to securing takedowns made a world of difference. Daley became overly cautious to plant his feet, which threw off his striking and diminished his power, and his balance was affected because he was constantly retreating and back on his heels.
To the left we see Woodley's alternative to tangling with Daley in an upright clinch. This was a well executed compromise between rifling shots from outside and dealing with Daley's upper-body strength and knees in a deep clinch. Woodley was methodical in closing the distance, forcing Daley into a corner, darting into contact-range without eating punches, tying up his arms to muffle his striking and undermining his foundation by getting leverage on one of his legs. It's worth noting that Daley was admirable off his back with busy hips and constant activity.
There's no way Mein can match Woodley's strength and wrestling chops. He does, however, have phenomenal technique and fundamentals in every aspect. In his fight with another solid wrestler in Josh Burkman, Mein was adept with head-position in the clinch and used underhooks well to shuck off takedowns; in open space, his footwork and circling kept him free of all attempts. Burkman did nail a huge slam from the clinch for his only successful takedown, but Mein created space and got back to his feet almost instantly.
Since belt color means almost nothing in MMA nowadays, it's difficult to assess Mein's grappling and submission prowess. He's not an elite virtuoso who is unstoppable off his back but he is extremely capable with scrambling, defense, sweeps, submissions and escapes. He also has a full gas tank and gradually finds his rhythm as the fight progresses. Just like we saw against "Cyborg", he found a foothold in the second and had his timing perfectly dialed in by the third, which is when he started to connect at a higher frequency and slip most of Santos' strikes.
Though it's not his specialty, Woodley is no slouch on the feet and his power has to be respected. Mein should be able to undress him from outside but has to be cautious when entering Woodley's wheelhouse. Mein is not exactly a huge power-puncher as most of his knockouts have come from flawless fundamentals and accuracy or a mounting volume of strikes. In the past, he has surprised opponents by setting the tone with his telephone-pole punches from the fringe and then vaulting into the pocket with flying knees or aggressive combinations with uppercuts and short elbows.
Along with Saffiedine and Jason High, these are the premiere welterweights in Strikeforce. It's quite understandable that Woodley is the favorite here. He's never lost and has a style similar to High, who is responsible for Mein's last loss. Additionally, on paper, Mein matches up with Woodley a lot like Saffiedine, whose broad talent could not overcome Woodley's wrestling.
I'm going to hang my neck out and take Mein for the upset here, thinking he'll weather the first-round storm and start establishing his takedown defense and sighting in his hands soon after. Woodley is definitely the safer pick but Mein is worth a look at the +260 to +280 odds.
My Prediction: Jordan Mein by decision.
Mein vs. Zaromskis gif via Caposa
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com