Fighter images via UFC.com
Brazilian Ronny Markes, a former heavyweight who debuted in the UFC as a light-heavyweight, will take the plunge all the way down to 185-pounds for the first time tomorrow night. Markes tackles Division 1 All-American wrestler and feisty veteran Aaron Simpson on the main card of the UFC on Fuel TV show.
Ronny Markes (12-1) trains under Jair Lourenco at the "Kimura" branch of the prestigious Nova Uniao fight team and holds a brown belt in BJJ under Lourenco and the legendary Andre Pederneiras. Starting his career on the local circuit in Brazil, Markes won ten of his first eleven in devastating fashion, clobbering six victims by TKO and latching four submissions with one decision. This initial surge propelled Markes to his first marquee opponent in former WEC champion and Pride standout Paulo Filho. Markes fully capitalized on his considerable size advantage and Muay Thai acumen to batter Filho around the cage for all three rounds, scoring a commanding unanimous decision that inevitably launched his stateside career.
Karlos Vemola, a six-time wrestling champion of his homeland in the Czech Republic, welcomed Markes to the Octagon on the UFC Live 5 card last August. What was expected to be a case of an untested Brazilian succumbing to the venom of an experienced wrestler unfolded in reverse: it was Markes who imposed control and dominated the contest with staunch takedowns and a suffocating top-game. It was a clean sweep on the judges' score cards and Markes made a strong statement right out of the gate.
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The overwhelming reaction to the way Markes dismantled Vemola was to belittle the Czech's wrestling accomplishments, but that option will not be on the table with two-time All-American wrestler Aaron Simpson (11-2). Attending Division 1 powerhouse Arizona State University, Simpson was also a multiple-time Pac-10 champion, a Pan-Am silver medalist and took fourth place at the Olympic trials.
That same extraordinary success transferred well to MMA, as Simpson got a shot in the WEC after destroying his first four opponents (three by TKO and three in the first frame with one submission). He didn't disappoint either, sinking David Avellan at WEC 36 by first-round knockout in a mere eighteen seconds. The next step up presented itself and Simpson migrated to the big leagues of the UFC and duplicated his devastation with another quick strike-stoppage.
He would go on to notch two more victories -- one eased by Ed Herman blowing out his knee and the next a split-decision over Tom Lawlor -- before tasting a double-dose of defeat. After winning the first round handily, Simpson's pace slowed dramatically in the second against Chris Leben and left him a sitting duck in the voracious striker's cross-hairs. Next up was an equally decorated wrestler in Mark Munoz, who was just a little quicker and stronger in out-hustling Simpson to a unanimous decision at UFC 123. Simpson has since piled on three straight wins (Mario Miranda, Brad Tavares, Eric Schafer), all by decision.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
By all accounts, Markes fights like a bloodthirsty and untamed savage. Every action and all efforts are dedicated wholly to inflicting great bodily harm.
As evinced to the right, he doesn't throw punches casually nor as a distraction, but unleashes each blow with purely malicious intentions. Markes came into the UFC heralded as a double-threat fighter for his BJJ and Muay Thai, but ended up wielding three-dimensions by unveiling a fully functional wrestling game. This makes him a thoroughly complete fighter and his potential has maximized even further by dropping weight.
Above, we get a glimpse of the fireballs Markes hurls and the sound reactions and timing he has on the feet along with his offensive and defensive wrestling.
Against Vemola, Markes was faster, stronger, more agile and superior in every aspect. He lit up Vemola standing, nailed takedowns almost at will and also drubbed him with strikes in the clinch.
To the left, Markes gets excellent wrist control on Vemola's left arm and extends it away from his waist to leave his mid-section wide open for a brutal knee.
Even at the ripe ol' age of thirty-seven, Simpson shows no signs of slowing down and has managed to improve his boxing nicely.
While his wild power carried him through the embryonic stages of his career, he's been able to clean up his stance, footwork and punching technique without losing his raw striking heft.
Not so much of a finesse-guy from outside, Simpson prefers to barge into close quarters and whirl short, tight hooks with both hands at a frenzied pace.
Both of these animations versus Eric Schafer reflect that tendency. Most of Simpson's lead shots from the fringe are ferocious and he follows directly in their streaking path to shrink the distance and maul with volume-combos at phone-booth range. While his effectiveness is apparent, he is somewhat relegated to being stationed either outside and idle on the perimeter or sandwiched deep in the pocket and scattering leather. Admittedly, Schafer is not known for his striking prowess and this was a bit of a showcase for Simpson's stand up.
The reason all indications point to this match up being a bloodbath is that Markes shares Simpson's affinity for close-range brawling. Typically, you'll find neither biding their time cautiously or circling away to methodically counter punch. No, these gentlemen conduct themselves like long-leashed pitbulls who have just been let off the chain and envision their opponents like a juicy steak wrapped in Sprawl shorts, dangling enticingly before their ravenous eyes.
The edge with game-planning goes to Simpson, who's exhibited the ability to lay out and adhere to a strategy specifically crafted to his adversary. Pinpointing Schafer's striking deficiency, Simpson was unflinching in stuffing takedowns to keep the fight standing; miffed after getting a taste of Brad Tavares' punching power, he enveloped the heavy-handed fighter and buried him against the cage to squelch his striking.
Markes will have a substantial advantage in submission and is equally perilous from the top as he is off his back. Of course, the unknown pros and cons of his dramatic cut in weight will be at play and may be emphasized by the likelihood of this bout stretching into the later rounds. Even if his cut goes well, Markes will be an outright leviathan strength-wise at middleweight but will lose a little bit of his quickness, which is an integral aspect of his style -- and Simpson's too, who's fleet-footed for 185.
I imagine the opening moments will transpire as the classic battle of who can impose their will first. I expect Markes to come out with cannons blazing, but ready to react instantly to avoid being put on his back. Simpson would love nothing more than to demonstrate his superior wrestling and vault ahead early with a few successful takedowns. In the clinch, Simpson has a better base and control where Markes is more offensively geared with a diverse Thai arsenal.
This is a close match up that favors Simpson on paper, but I like Markes here. As long as he's not lagging from the cut or severely dehydrated, he should have too many weapons.
My Prediction: Ronny Markes by decision.
Aaron Simpson vs. Ronny Markes
Simpson (309 votes)
Markes (216 votes)
525 total votes