January 3, 2015
Venue MGM Grand Garden Arena
City Las Vegas, Nevada
It's the undercard for one of the most anticipated events of the year, featuring Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier. Not as much bad blood on this undercard. Just good blood.
The Line Up
Lightweight Danny Castillo 17-7 vs. Paul Felder 9-0
Bantamweight Marcus Brimage 7-3 vs. Cody Garbrandt 5-0
Heavyweight Shawn Jordan 16-6 vs. Jared Cannonier 7-0
Lightweight Evan Dunham 14-6 vs. Rodrigo Damm 12-8
Welterweight Omari Akhmedov 13-2 vs. Mats Nilsson 11-3-1
Women's Bantamweight Alexis Dufresne 5-1 vs. Marion Reneau 4-1
Danny Castillo -240 Paul Felder +200
Cody Garbrandt +175 Marcus Brimage -210
Jared Cannonier +190 Shawn Jordan -230
Evan Dunham -550 Rodrigo Damm +425
Mats Nilsson +140 Omari Akhmedov -160
Alexis Dufresne -170 Marion Reneau +150
'Finish Him' Stats
Danny Castillo (6 TKO/KO) Paul Felder (6 KO/TKO)
Cody Garbrandt (5 TKO/KO) Marcus Brimage (3 TKO/KO)
Jared Cannonier (3 TKO/KO) Shawn Jordan (12 TKO/KO)
Evan Dunham (2 Guillotine/2 RNC) Rodrigo Damm (6 RNC)
Mats Nilsson (2 RNC) Omari Akhmedov (6 TKO/KO)
Alexis Dufresne (3 TKO/KO) Marion Reneau (3 TKO/KO)
3 Things You Should Know
1. Three undefeated fighters are making their UFC debut. All of them should pose interesting challenges for their veteran opponents despite how the odds make them look. Especially Garbrandt.
Castillo has had a pretty tough run. He's a solid 7-4 in the UFC, but lately he's looked to be on the cusp of taking home victory against solid opponents only to fail in the eyes of the judges. A lot of people felt like Tony Ferguson won their bout, which is a reasonable judgment, but it seemed like few people gave credit to what Castillo accomplished on the feet, instead chalking his behavior up to attempted lay and pray. Which is simply incorrect. The numbers don't lie.
On the surface, the Alpha Male team member is being given the soft touch. Felder is 29 years old with a nice undefeated record, and Cage Fury's LW champ. However, Felder is a neophyte, keeping busy with a pretty stiff striking attack. Felder has pretty heavy punches, and uses a wide array of kicks, but seems to be at his most violent in the clinch. I repeat, he seems to be at his most violent, in the clinch.
Whether that translates into a win over Castillo is anyone's guess. Personally I don't think so. While Castillo has not reinvented his game, he's generating a better grasp of the Alpha Male style. Before Castillo was too static for the phase shifting game that has defined Alpha Male fighters, but he's slowly began picking up their habits, and has benefited as a result. While it's not a fight I'd return to, I felt like he looked better than ever against a very tough Ferguson. Look for him to keep Felder on his back in this one.
Garbrandt isn't a departure from the Alpha Male octagon lifestyle, but he's a little different than the "controlled chaos" we're used to seeing from said team, with a yellow highlighter across the word 'controlled'. For one, Cody has an amateur boxing background. It's not overemphasized in his game. He prefers very quick, chopping leg kicks that shoot out like xenomorph tongues. His boxing background reveals itself in his stance. Cody has a strong base. He's not super quick with his punches, but he times them well, and has solid raw power.
He's up against a very stiff test in Brimage. On a night when it seemed like everyone was getting the brainstem switch turned off on the Rockhold vs. Bisping card, Brimage might have owned one of the more impressive knockouts of the night, scoring a head kick KO against Tuerxun. Still, Brimage is a guy who seems capable of just a little more, but can't find that extra gear. He'll need it against the undefeated 23 year old. In addition to his striking prowess, Cody is a solid wrestler who is less ADCC, more NCAA. I can see Brimage giving Cody trouble early on, but I really feel like Cody's ability to mark his territory at range with those kicks while set the tone for the bout.
Cannonier has a fitting name for a guy who likes shooting his fists. He made his MMA debut in 2011, but hasn't fought since January of this year. He's very short for HW, but then so is his opponent. It's hard to truly evaluate Jared with so little tape. Here he is against Jermain Haughton basically just scaring the shit out of him into submission. Not exactly an impressive performance by Haughton, but Cannonier does what he should do, which is beat him easily.
Cannonier's best asset is his movement. Like some MMA version of Oddjob, he moves quick, not just moving forward but laterally as well. With that movement he finds more ways to get inside with his feisty, but layered boxing. This feels like a tough matchup for Jordan, who hasn't done much to dispel anyone's notions that the crazy wild brawling we saw against Oli Thompson, is a habit he's evolved from.
2. In our lone female bout of the night, Dufresne is not the sum of her Kim Couture win.
Yes, Kim Couture is still fighting. Still getting destroyed too. I was a little shocked to see Dufresne lose to Sarah Moras, to be honest. Yea it was competitive, but Dufresne has a strong grappling pedigree with multiple Pan-Am and IBJJF titles. In addition, she's fairly imposing on the feet with her reach. It'll be difficult to know what to expect from Reneau. Tape of her recent fights essentially don't exist. But that's not to say she hasn't been in the spotlight: plenty of grappling matches can be found on youtube. That experience will come in handy against the grapple-centric Dufresne. In addition, Reneau is fairly technical on the feet; nothing flashy, but she throws her punches straight down the middle, doesn't overcommit, and is defensively responsible. Still expecting a win from the Team Quest product with her superior ground game.
3. Dunham shouldn't be as favored as he is according to the odds, but Akhmedov should.
Dunham is one of the hottest favorites you'll ever see on a three fight losing streak. It's easy to understand why. His losses have all come against top 10 lightweights. Meanwhile, Damm can't even beat top 15 featherweights. All the same, Damm is a solid fighter. He's strong on the ground, packs a decent punch, and will forever be tied to his "win" over Jorge Masvidal. Damm's problem is his defense. I've never seen someone fight who seems to have literally no idea what you're supposed to do when someone starts throwing punches at your face. His hands barely come up to cover his mug, and he has that awful Junior dos Santos habit of just backing straight up. The fact that he tends to gas too certainly doesn't help his defense, or lackthereof. Expect Dunham to exploit this with his high volume style, but Dunham is sloppy enough defensively that I could see a more competitive fight than the oddsmakers have it.
Akhmedov is what you expect out of these natives of Dagestan; lean mean fighting machines. However, Omari is a little less polished than his peers. I watch his fight with Perpetuo once a month just to remind myself what real destruction looks like. He has since lost to Gunnar Nelson, but that's where his losing streak should stop. Nilsson is no pushover, but I suspect that his best shot is on the ground. Omari should be able to keep the fight from going there while controlling the cage with his striking and gorilla strength aggression.
Castillo by Decision.
Garbrandt by Decision.
Jordan by TKO, round 1.
Dunham by TKO, round 3.
Akhmedov by TKO, round 2.
Dufresne by RNC, round 2.