The usual amount of veterans and some totally respectable prospects start the face punching this February 6, 2016
at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Line Up
Josh Burkman -170 K.J. Noons +130
Damian Grabowski -120 Derrick Lewis -120
Mickey Gall -505 Mike Jackson +335
Alex White -115 Artem Lobov -125
Justin Scoggins +220 Ray Borg -300
Diego Rivas +250 Noad Lahat -350
Lightweight Josh Burkman vs. K.J. Noons
Two men helping define the words 'last chance'. Burkman had a pretty good World Series of Fighting run, and looked good in a losing effort to Hector Lombard. But he's since looked like the Burkman of old (which is to say, strong, but inconsistent). And now he's fighting an opponent trending downwards as gradually as himself
There were never massive expectations for Noons. Any sense of 'loss' are due purely to his history. Otherwise his Strikeforce struggles, going 1-5 for a two year stretch, have prepared UFC fans for disappointment. Noons has been OK, but being OK in the lightweight division is the same as saying 'no future'.
The fight itself should be active, for lack of a better word. Burkman has always relied on posture, strength, and rugged versatility. He's got power in his knuckles, and has shown an increasing willingness to battle in the pocket. For the most part, he typically looks to battle on the ground where his grappling takes over. He's technically proficient, and reminds me of CB Dollaway in how he's much more effective when pressuring, and using his acumen in offensive situations. Defensively, like CB, he's a lot more adventurous.
Thankfully for him this is not where Noons will take the bout. Noons is all about economic movement to support his technical thudding boxing. He can hit hard but he's not the face melting type (Jorge Gurgel might disagree). This is a tougher fight for Noons than it is for Burkman. Burkman isn't great on the feet in the sense that he doesn't threaten much, but he is savvy. And if Hector Lombard couldn't bully him, Noons sure as heck won't.
It's difficult to say what kind of influence Burkman's move to 155 will have on him. That's the only thing keeping me from thinking this fight is his to lose. However, his brand of grapple-tough jiu jitsu should be enough to outlast the one dimensional Noons.
Heavyweight Derrick Lewis vs. Damian Grabowski
A heavyweight battle that should be as potentially awkward, sudden, or prolonged as you'd expect. Derrick Lewis wears his nickname well, overt connotations be damned. With his agility at range, and obvious power, he's a handful for any heavyweight sleeping on the job. He's taking on this dude:
Grabowski is sort of grapple-centric, preferring the ground, and exchanges that get the fight to the ground over much of anything else. Theoretically, this should allow him to get hooks, and eventually wrestle Lewis to the ground, but watching him struggle with Kita, who beat him up on the feet and eventually lost by running eye first into the commentary booth, makes me have as many doubts about Grabowski as Lewis.
Flyweight Ray Borg vs. Justin Scoggins
Scoggins is one of the more technically interesting fighters in the division. Despite his karate-esque base, his striking is used more for accoutrement than the entree. Honestly I don't know that it's in his best interest to fight that way.
Against Dustin Ortiz he was content to exchange submission attempts rather than punches which ended up costing him the bout in my opinion. He's still just 23. Figuring out his identity is integral to growth. But he's having learn with the training wheels attacking him like a bad Stephen King movie.
Borg is that sentient green goblin faced 18 wheeler in this fight story. Borg, like Scoggins, is ripe for the fight game at just 22. But unlike Scoggins, he has a strong sense of who he is. Borg is not just another in a long line of burgeoning grapple boxers. He's right in front next to the grade school teacher waiting for everyone else to shut up and walk quietly in line.
Borg is seamless on the ground, blending his arsenal with a grappling element that flows like a drill. He doesn't scramble. He stitches.
And he's been able to suture up his status in the flyweight hierarchy with a unstoppable ground game. This is a brilliant betting fight though. Scoggins is the bigger fighter. Normally I'd agree with our dear departed Patrick Wyman on Scoggins' striking advantage, but Scoggins' inability to find a rhythm that isn't interrupted by his own impulses makes it all moot. I wouldn't be surprised if Borg's striking improves enough to land on Scoggins with more regularity than anticipated.
Featherweight Noad Lahat vs. Diego Rivas
Lahat didn't impress me much until his win over Niklas Backstrom. It wasn't that he suddenly found a new gear so much as he finally remembered what his license plate says. Lahat is a rangy fighter who didn't make great use of his range. He's only lost to Godofredo Pepey, who Diego Rivas is a fingerless glove, change begging version of. Although that's probably exaggerating. Rivas has a pretty sinister right hand, and can throw well in combination. I don't think this fight is the wash the odds have it at, but I also don't see many ways for Rivas to avoid being dominated in other than getting Lahat to bite down on his mouthpiece and throw caution into the wind, which just isn't his style.
Welterweight Mickey Gall vs. Mike Jackson
Here's where Mickey got his start.
His end might be with CM Punk, should CM Punk be more than a TBA figment of Zuffa's imagination.
He looks like vaguely unique fighter, with awkward striking blended with what looks like a pretty solid overall ground game, and good timing with takedowns. He's fighting Legacy FC's official photographer. Needless to say, the stakes are high as they possibly could be with an MMA journalist fighting some dude that caught Matt Serra's attention in the boonies.
Jackson is a pretty potent striker, all things considered. Gall, like a lot of fighters on this card, is a massive favorite which means if you bet right, you won't need a nation wide power ball. Nothing about his game screams 'heavy favorite'. But it'll probably be enough.
Featherweight Artem Lobov vs. Alex White
White is the fighter famous for sounding weird because he drank gasoline in a milk jug by accident as a child. He's also known for nearly killing a guy because the ref was a killcrazy sadist.
Outside of that, White is a solid striker who reminds me of a more rigid, technical version of George Roop. He can eat shots, and put together strikes with a clean right hook, and some solid kick traffic which makes him dangerous for blue collar specialists. I don't know that this necessarily describes Lobov, but it comes pretty darn close. Lobov likes to keep his head off center, opting for high impact right hook/straight left counters. Problem is, he doesn't have natural power despite the speed and crispness of his punches. Which is why I don't see White having much trouble giving it right back in spades, and hand grenades.
Burkman by Decision
Lewis by TKO, round 1
Borg by Decision
Lahat by RNC, round 2
Gall by RNC, round 3
White by Decision