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BKFC 6: Paulie Malignaggi vs. Artem Lobov - A complete breakdown of this weekend’s madness

It’s the preview of the card you didn’t know you needed in your life: Paulie Malignaggi vs. Artem Lobov for all the marbles for this bare knuckle hostilities.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Moncton-Johnson vs Lobov Trevor MacMillan-USA TODAY Sports

Artem Lobov vs. Paulie Malignaggi and other pairs of fists go commando this Sat, June 22, 2019, with the main card starting at 9pm ET at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, FL.

One sentence summary

At least it’s not this kind of bare knuckle fighting...

The Bare Knucklers

Paul Malignaggi vs. Artem Lobov

Chris Leben vs. Dakota Cochrane

Reggie Barnett Jr vs. Johnny Bedford

Randall Bailey vs. Daniel Gustavo Santos

Joe Riggs vs. Walber Barros

Julian Lane vs. Tom Shoaff

Joey Beltran vs. Jamie Campbell

Elvin Brito vs. Jim Allers

What’s at stake?

What? You didn’t see Rollerball? The good one, I mean. Not the terrible one with a UFC soundtrack (and I do mean terrible) directed by the former heavyweight champ of action directing who was jailed for illegally wiretapping his own producer.

Breaking down (some of) the fights

Paulie Malignaggi vs. Artem Lobov

I’m not sure what split in the space-time continuum begat this unlikely grudge match, but here we are. Yes, Conor McGregor’s BFF has found a way to end up in the ring with Paulie Malignaggi. I know I need to preview this fight. But I’m so distracted by figuring out how we got here. I know the McGregor footage of sticking Malignaggi was a big deal, but was this really the next best thing? “Oh snap, McGregor and Malignaggi have beef. You thinking what I’m thinking?! Lobov versus Malignaggi in a bare knuckle grudge match! Woo! Winner gives McGregor a peace (or piece) of mind!”

So this is happening and we might as well make peace with it. I honestly don’t know how to begin this preview other than to keep stalling. This isn’t like the ring vs. cage debate, where subtle differences can make vital influences ala clay vs. concrete in tennis. It’s more like sticking them in an action movie. In a quiet Jersey shore, six childhood friends forge a bond that could never be broken. Until Soviet forces come to the quiet boardwalk of Ocean City. NOW, the fate of the world will depend on a pair of bare knuckles from Brooklyn.

How much does fighting commando style affect mechanics, and philosophy? I don’t know. I decided to do a weed watch of the previous BKBFC 5. When you slow the video down to .2x speed, I think you get a better idea of what’s doing on. Each punch isn’t just a thud. It’s a blade. The fighters seem to adjust correspondingly, desperately winging each strike like they’re in a half-naked, drunken fencing match. Look at Lobov’s face during these exchanges. The anguish is tangible. The gritted teeth, furrowed brows, and deployed arms - it’s like watching someone try to play mind games with Hannibal Lecter with the schizophrenic hecklers watching patiently.

I say all of this to say that I don’t know what you want from me. At his height, Paulie was a magnificent flickering jab-centric showman. He had minimal power, but excellent speed, and low-key durability that belied his east-coast frat frame. Paulie is not at his height. Neither is Lobov, granted. And neither fighter in their respective sports were ever considered defensive experts. I’m leaning toward Malignaggi. Bare knuckle fighting doesn’t lend itself to technique. I’ve gone down the YouTube rabbit hole of Insane Street Fights and Dude Gets Literally Destroyed in Crazy Street KO videos. I’m not an expert on bare knuckle fighting, but the first thing that goes is vision. Even a soft glancing blow can cut a person wide open. At that point you’re no longer boxing. You’re brawling. It’s hard to respond professionally with blood in your eye. Moreover, it’s difficult to put everything into your punches unless you want to shatter your hand into a million pieces. I think this favors Malignaggi.

Nonetheless, Bare Knuckle FC has just enough rules to keep the madness contained. I like Malignaggi’s ability to keep opponents at bay with a lengthy jab, and he has the kind of punches that seem to be effective in bare knuckle brawling: strikes that cut quickly inside, maximizing distance and damage. Lobov has to get Malignaggi biting down on his mouthpiece for inside chaos, and I just don’t see that happening unless he’s got Lobov hurt. I’ll give Lobov credit. In a bare knuckle fight, he had no problem going to absolute war. Will the weird dimensions of fighting sans-gloves throw Paulie off his already-retired game? Personally, I doubt it.

Prediction: Paulie Malignaggi by TKO, round 4.

Chris Leben vs. Dakota Cochrane

Leben blitzed his opponent, and took him out like yesterday’s trash when he switched to bare knuckle. Cochrane had no trouble doing the same against Johny Hendricks. Cochrane was never a KO machine, but his hands are extremely fast, and Leben’s motionless head movement will prove to be not ideal.

Prediction: Dakota Cochrane by KO, round 1.

Reggie Barnett Jr vs. Johnny Bedford

Probably the night’s snoozer. Barnett doesn’t have a ton of raw power, while Bedford still does all of the feinting and weird pivoting that defined his MMA career. Flip a coin.

Prediction: Johnny Bedford by Decision.

Randall Bailey vs. Daniel Gustavo Santos

Santos is a decent Brazilian prospect. Bailey is a former WBO light welterweight title holder. In 2000. Coin toss.

Prediction: Randall Bailey by Laceration.

Joe Riggs vs. Walber Barros

Walber Tete is a jiu jitsu tactician, so that makes him totally prepared. Hey...it worked for Diego.

Prediction: Joe Riggs by murder.

Julian Lane vs. Tom Shoaff

Because the clip never gets old, even if the joke does.

Prediction: I don’t care.

Joey Beltran vs. Jamie Campbell

Beltran by KO.

Prediction: Beltran by KO.

Elvin Brito vs. Jim Allers

Dana White is willing to set up Justin Bieber vs. Tom Cruise. Rollerball was way more prescient than I thought.

Prediction: Cruise. He’s done his own—Brito by TKO, round 3.

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