Ramsey Nijem vs. Benell Dariush Lightweight
When we last left our heroes...Nijem, despite losing the TUF finale, has made a decent UFC career for himself. He's 4-3 in the UFC which gives The Pit product an 8-4 overall record.
Like many guys coming from the TUF fratgrinders, he's a solid fighter with above average skills in at least one area. There's not much to say about his UFC career. Except that at the Henderson vs. Melendez show, Myles Jury took him out Shang Tsung style.
Across from Nijem stands the Kings MMA product from Yorba Linda, California, Beneil Dariush. Dariush started his career while concentrating on his grappling, thanks in part to Rafael Cordeiro. He's got a few grappling trophies from the Pan Ams to prove his worth. But like any specialist taking up MMA, he's had to adapt and integrate his specialty as simply a part of his arsenal.
I'm not sure what people expected from Dariush in his UFC debut, but I doubt many picked him to destroy Charlie Brenneman in under two minutes who was coming down from WW.
I actually like this fight quite a bit. Even though both guys are pretty limited and would be on the undercard for any other event, they're a great reflection of what the opening bout to a main card should be: two good exciting fighters whose flaws will guarantee a violent finish.
What both men can do: Nijem, for all of his faults...and we'll get to those...is fine with bulldozing his opponent into the ground. Sometimes it's just better to lose the scalpel and go for the hammer. Nijem understands this principle, which is not to say that he's not technical; just that he uses his strength well.
In addition to your classic wrestler barbarian strength, he's a very very good scrambler, which I think is an underrated part of his game. Granted, he often needs to scramble because of the way he rushes his opponents, but he's good at maintaining a body lock position even when he's not in great position. This is a stark contrast to many wrestlers who learn how to navigate away and off their backs but don't always translate that ability inside the cage. Nijem is an interesting exception.
Ramsey does have a right hand that's pretty good when holstered. He just needs to stop holstering it on the run. As for Beneil, he fights a lot like a guy who knows he can't fight more than one way. That sounds insulting but it really isn't. He knows his strengths and fights to apply them.
His striking is the one thing that really benefits grappling specialists in particular: being tricky. When you throw strikes because you could care less about being put on your back, that's not a bad place to be. Granted, MMA has seems to have ditched the "guard is dangerous" principle (how many fights are finished with a fighter from his back vs. 10 years ago?), but he chambers a left kick from his southpaw stance that is potent enough to distance himself from his opponent.
On the ground, he's what you'd expect out of someone with such a pedigree. He's very calm, and wastes little movement. We exalt fighters who scramble, as we should, but there's something to be said for the cold calculating grappler who simply anticipates and doesn't need a Diego Sanchez like freakout to transition into a better position.
What both men can't do: How many times have we watched that Nijem knockout? Probably a lot. It's kind of insane, and I'm not even sure of how much I credit Jury with said accomplishment. I mean, Nijem was throwing punches like he was aiming for each member of the Brady Bunch simultaneously. To say Jury capitalized on an opportunity would be an understatement.
So bad defense on the feet? Check. A chin that can't durably hide said bad defense? Check. And so forth. With Beneil's grappling acumen, it's possible he can submit Nijem as well.
I think Nijem is a decent fighter, so this isn't a given for Beneil, who himself hasn't done much to prove he can make real noise. Brenneman never had an opportunity to slow the fight on the ground, so it's hard to say what will happen of Nijem tries keeping Beneil pinned to the canvas. For me I just keep going back to the fact that it's a very tough stylistic matchup for Nijem.
Odds and Ends: Nijem at +175? Yes please. I'm not shocked by these odds since Beneil had an impressive showing against an established fighter while Nijem had a fairly middling showing against a much less established fighter, but the Brenneman win didn't tell us much other than that Charlie got caught and couldn't recover. It's a great win for Beneil and I'm not taking anything away from it (in fact, I predict him to win), but it's a win that tells us less about Beneil's limitations, and more about Brenneman's.
Prediction: Beneil Dariusch by guillotine, round 2.