The Match Up - Light Heavyweight
Favorite finishing move: Arm-triangle (2)
Patrick Cummins 6-1
Favorite finishing move: TKO punches (3)
3 Things You Should Know
1. Junior is a decent prospect by any measure, nevermind being a TUF winner.
You always approach these TUF winners from the international group with a degree of skepticism. Especially ones that look like a mix between Fabio Maldonado and Enrique Iglesias. Perhaps more so than usual. In part because if there's one thing fighters in North America typically have in terms of advantage, it's training. The world's best trainers, or rather, the abundance of top notch training can be found here in NA. However, that's not to say we should consider this to be some sort of maxim.
After all, Junior has spent time with Nova Uniao. In addition, if you want to substitute anything for a lack of access to premier training facilities, being an expert specialist in another art makes for a nice replacement. From 2010-2012, he's been stellar in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Championships, and took bronze at the World Cup two years ago in Abu Dhabi. On paper, he's what we've come to expect from Nova Uniao trained fighters: violently loud on the feet, quietly violent on the ground.
2. When you're an NCAA division 1 wrestler, being 34 matters less than if you aren't one.
There's just something about having a background in wrestling, and being spry even while the priest reads over your corpse I guess. Before Cummins fought Cormier, I didn't think all that highly of Cummins. Sure, there was respect for the late notice. But the more he traded what I guess passes for barbs against Cormier, the more it all felt like some sort of stunt to make Cummins relevant despite an irrelevant skillset. Needless to say, it's nice to be wrong.
Cummins has looked good thus far, and doesn't seem affected by age much. For me, his fight with Kyle Kingsbury was a bit of a mixed bag. Cummins has looked good at times, but he should have been able to put away a functionally retired fighter (for those that don't remember, Kingsbury had his orbital bone fractured against Manuwa in 2012).
It's hard to know where Cummins will end up. Usually fighters like Cummins who enter late notice, and yet somehow generate a semblance of hype end up being treated well by the island renting Zuffa president. Cummins has shown he's capable. The question is whether or not he's capable of more than expected.
3. The odds are perfect. But no less difficult to decode.
This fight is just flat out bizarre as a clash of styles. On the surface it's wrestlers vs. grappler (not much difference these days), but they're both strange inversions of how you expect such archetypes to fight. Cummins can stick to leg kicks, and keep it violent in the clinch. Junior will try to beat him to with fluid, windmill striking to get into the clinch where he can set up takedowns.
On the one hand this feels like Cummins' fight to lose. He just needs to stop Junior's takedowns and work him on the feet. However, traditional wrestlers are no longer afraid these days. So don't be surprised to watch Cummins wade into Junior's guard, successfully no less. The x-factor is Junior's age. He's 24, which means improvements come quick. If he's a little quicker with his punches, and more stout in the clinch (something traditional grapplers shy away from nowadays) then he's an interesting foil. The main thing is what he can do off his back. Some grapplers are brilliant overall, but have awful top games. BJ Penn is considered one of the best grapplers in MMA, but other than flash rubber guard, he wasn't that adept from the bottom. Whereas on top, he was one of the most brilliant fighters you'd ever see in top control. Junior is in the sort of mold, but like Penn, all it takes is one scramble and top control is all his. This won't be popular, but being in front of his 'hometown' means he'll be motivated to prepare diligently, and I think a good portion of the fight will end up on the ground where he has plenty of opportunities to revere fortune.
Junior by Decision.