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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 208: Holm vs. de Randamie - Fight Pass preview

Get the scoop on the weekend’s UFC 208 card, kicking things off on Fight Pass, headlined by heavyweights Marcin Tybura and newcomer Justin Willis.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Pesta vs Tybura Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As the UFC makes its way to Brooklyn for the first time, it kicks things off with an interesting mix of fights with none of them promising much of a selling point. Are there action-fights? Well, Rick Glenn and Phillipe Nover might be, but that is hardly a guarantee. Hot prospects? Unless you want to count the mysterious quantity that is Justin Willis, there isn’t. Personally, I wouldn’t give him that type of praise. How about high stakes? Nope. There isn’t a lot to sell viewers on for the Fight Pass portion. About the only people watching will be the shit-eating wild men that consume all the MMA violence that they can — the type of people who read fight preview articles. So if you are reading this... you’ll be watching.

The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.

Marcin Tybura (14-2) vs. Justin Willis (4-1), Heavyweight

After the NYSAC informed Luis Henrique that they wouldn’t let him fight following the revelation of an eye surgery he had roughly a year ago, Tybura was left without an opponent with less than two weeks before fight night. Enter the largely unknown Willis to save the day.

A former collegiate football player, Willis needs to cut weight in order to make the 265-pound heavyweight limit. Standing only 6'1", he’s more than a little doughy as he carries a lot of unnecessary weight. Nonetheless, Willis possesses a lot of explosion in short areas whether it is his wrestling or his punches that makes him dangerous to deal with. He still has to iron out a lot of his technique as he’s getting by on his natural power and athleticism, but he’s in the right place to do just that, training with the likes of Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier at AKA. The biggest conundrum heading into the big leagues is how well he’ll be able to deal with rangier opponents as Willis’ outside attack has been largely nonexistent.

It’s easy to forget that Tybura was one of the top heavyweights on the European circuit when he made his way over to the UFC, though a lot of the amnesia can be attributed to his debut loss to Timothy Johnson. He may have avoided being taken down by former collegiate wrestler, but he wasn’t able to move his back off of the fence. Tybura did rebound with a brutal head kick KO of Viktor Pesta, reminding everyone that he is a dangerous and versatile striker. Tybura’s biggest strength is a gas tank that runs unusually deep for heavyweight, allowing him to push a hard pace that few outside of the elite can match.

Tybura may not be a household name, but for someone with Willis’ experience taking the contest on short notice, he’s an extremely difficult test. You could make an argument that Willis possesses the greater physical tools, but there is no question that Tybura has refined his tools far more than Willis has. It should be a relatively easy victory for the Pole as he picks apart the stout Willis before . Tybura via TKO of RD2

Ryan LaFlare (12-1) vs. Roan Carneiro (21-10), Welterweight

I’m not sure whether to be excited for this contest between veteran mid-carders or to dread it. If it hits the ground, we could get some incredible grappling exchanges. Then again, we could also end up with a major stinker….

Carneiro has been a veteran of the sport for over 16 years and has seen pretty much everything over that time. Few can match his fundamental BJJ skills, though he has lost some of his speed and athleticism, making him vulnerable in transitions and scrambles. Nonetheless, I can’t think of anyone this side of Demian Maia who is more dangerous from the top position in terms of passing guard or getting the back. The problem for his is getting the fight there as his wrestling has never been better than average. On the feet, Carneiro knows how to survive and has some hard kicks, but that is about it.

LaFlare has been prone to long absences from the cage due to injury, this marking his return after a 14-month absence. If there is a single weakness possessed by LaFlare, it would be a lack of striking power. That’s a pretty good indictment. He puts together a steady stream of volume with punching combinations, is durable, has incredible cardio, and is no slouch on the ground. A solid takedown artist and sound grappler, LaFlare doesn’t exercise great control on the ground… which I suppose could be labeled another weakness. Then again, it isn’t a major concern in this contest as he’s likely to avoid going to the ground at all costs.

Carneiro is lucky he has been able to make his career last as long as he has. He’s too much of a one-trick pony in an era where that no longer cuts the mustard. Carneiro has also had major issues with his cardio when he makes the cut to 170 and I see that being harder than ever for him at the age of 38. Thanks to his solid submission defense – he did survive five rounds with Maia -- LaFlare shouldn’t have too many problems in this contest. LaFlare via decision

Rick Glenn (18-4-1) vs. Phillipe Nover (11-7-1), Featherweight

Not much of a narrative to this contest. Both are coming off of losses to opponents they had no business being in the cage with. Nonetheless, Glenn impressed with his heart against Evan Dunham while Nover was able to go the distance with former bantamweight champion Renan Barao. Now they fight for their jobs.

Glenn has a tendency to take a lot of damage in his contests thanks to a combination of being a slow starter and his pressuring style. Though he tends to start out the fight on the outside and attack with leg kicks, he’s usually in his opponents face for the final two rounds putting together fundamentally sound boxing combinations. Glenn’s left hand is deceptively powerful and he tends to connect with it opportunistically. Where Glenn has a target on his back is his wrestling as his takedown defense has been adequate at best. Nonetheless, he is as durable as they come.

Nover owns one of the worst UFC records in the history of the promotion, clocking in at 1-5 for this contest. There is a reason he’s still around despite that record. He’s always been physically gifted with excellent athleticism and has lethal kicks that can end an opponent’s night quickly. The problem is connecting the dots between element of the fight to the other. He’s also been his heavily reliant on the immediate KO as he doesn’t throw much volume nor does he possess much of a wrestling game, offensively or defensively. His inability to find himself in favorable predictions on the ground often negates his above average BJJ skills too.

Glenn isn’t a killer and neither is Nover a walkover. Despite that, I’ll be genuinely surprised if Nover emerges victorious. He doesn’t possess the skills to expose Glenn’s weaknesses whereas Glenn’s pressure is likely to negate Nover’s kicking game. In laymen’s terms, this is a bad stylistic matchup for Nover. I don’t expect him to go the distance. Glenn via TKO of RD2