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Diggin’ Deep on UFC: Brunson vs. Holland - Can the UFC’s oldest fighter keep her roster spot?

Get the scoop on the early contests from UFC Vegas 22, featuring 43-year old Marion Reneau looking to hold back a fierce effort from the youthful Macy Chiasson.

Marion Reneau, who fights Cat Zingano at UFC Boise
Marion Reneau, who fights Cat Zingano at UFC Boise
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Is it just me, or does it feel like AARP should be sponsoring the UFC Vegas 22 prelims? Maybe they would have had Johnny Eduardo not pulled out, but even with his absence, there are still two other 40-plus competitors scheduled to compete. Eduardo would have made three, but it’s still got to be considered impressive to see anyone competing at this level at that age, especially if they aren’t heavyweights. In fact, Marion Reneau is the oldest member of the active roster, beating Aleksei Oleinik for that title by five days. However, she’s also on a three-fight losing streak and facing someone many thought at one point could be a future title challenger at women’s bantamweight in Macy Chiasson. If Reneau wants to remain the oldest member of the roster, she’s going to have pull out a sizeable upset.

  • It wasn’t that long ago Macy Chiasson appeared to be the future of the women’s bantamweight division. She was running through her competition with minimal resistance, making expert use of her size and strength. She then had her prospect loss that seems to inevitably befall all up-and-comers, had to reexamine her approach, and though she rebounded against Shanna Young, she didn’t provide any new solutions to old questions. Nevertheless, Chiasson’s massive frame and toughness allows her to walk through damage until she gets into the clinch and bully away. Unfortunately, she hasn’t been able to make effective use of her length from the outside, something Marion Reneau will look to expose. The 43-year old teacher has plenty of power in her punches when she chooses to sit down on her strikes. The problem is she is too often reluctant to pull the trigger. Even worse, her takedown defense has been a major problem. Given Chiasson’s bread and butter is taking her opposition down and pounding away at them, that’s very problematic. At the very least, Chiasson effectively smothers her opponent against the cage, another area Reneau has struggled to escape from. Reneau is one of the better submission artists off her back – perhaps the best in the division – so it wouldn’t be a shock to see her catch Chiasson in a triangle. Unfortunately for her, I’m not comfortable betting on that happening. Chiasson via decision
  • It looks like Grant Dawson is giving up on fighting at featherweight. A powerfully built sparkplug, Dawson required a full camp to work his way down to 145 lbs. and with the uncertainty of the COVID era, it was hard to see him resuming fighting at featherweight any time soon. While more fighters have been finding a high level of success recently when they move up, it’s reasonable to believe it will hurt Dawson given he relies heavily on his ability to bully his opponent. Whether it’s in the clinch or on the mat, Dawson’s wrestling is the backbone of his attack, his success on the feet largely dependent on opponents being worried about his takedowns. Perhaps Leonardo Santos won’t be concerned about that given his extensive BJJ credentials as the grappling coach of Nova Uniao. The lanky 41-year old is still undefeated in the UFC despite having been in the organization since 2013 with notable wins over the likes of Kevin Lee and Anthony Rocco Martin. Though his grappling is what he’s best known for, he’s scored several one-punch KO’s in the UFC, proving he can’t be taken lightly on the feet either. However, Santos didn’t look great in his most recent contest with Roman Bogatov, though it could have been the repeated low blows. Regardless, I can’t help but think age is starting to take a toll. Dawson hands Santos his first UFC loss. Dawson via decision
  • Roman Dolidze is a crazy man. All fighters are to an extent – they do get paid to voluntarily wreck their bodies – but Dolidze seems to be especially crazy. For one, he’s dropping to middleweight despite never having fought there, taking the contest with a little more than a week’s notice. He’s also seems to be unusually comfortable in the cage. There’s a chance that will change when he suffers his first KO loss – that tends to change a fighter’s outlook – but for now he’ll continue to fight with a degree of recklessness that will eventually lead to him losing for the first time. There’s a good chance Trevin Giles can deliver that. Giles has steadily become a better striker, throwing a stiff jab with regularity and occasionally following up with a power shot. Sure, he could stand to throw more, but he is exceptionally accurate and has never had an issue with fading, likely in part to his selectivity. Giles has been improving on the mat, but it’s hard to believe he has completely shored up his grappling issues in the last year. That’s cause for concern as Dolidze is a highly decorated grappler who hasn’t struggled very much to take larger opponents to the mat. Giles has been tough to take down, but Dolidze is a bear of a man. Dolidze via submission of RD1
  • Can someone tell me how in the hell Montel Jackson manages to squeeze down to 135 lbs. with his frame? At 5’10” with a 75” reach, he’s absolutely huge for bantamweight. At 28, it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to continue to do so for much longer. However, the frustrating part of the equation is his inability to take advantage of his long reach on a consistent basis. Jackson is a top-notch athlete and a sound wrestler, so he’s been able to win without playing to his unique advantages in height and reach. He will need to do so eventually, but he has been a pro for less than four years. What has been his Achilles heel is his takedown defense, but he probably won’t need to worry about that with newcomer Jesse Strader, an import from Combate. When Strader gets off first, he’s an exceptionally dangerous striker who is willing to work over the body. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown an inclination to go to the mat, he’s one of the few members on the roster who turned pro later than Jackson, and isn’t on the same athletic level as Jackson. While Jackson has his cracks, durability doesn’t appear to be one of them. An upset seems highly unlikely. Jackson via submission of RD2
  • Julia Avila hit a roadblock on her ascent through the women’s bantamweight division when she stumbled against Sijara Eubanks, but it would be foolish to think she shouldn’t be considered one of the brightest prospects in the division. An aggressive fighter in all aspects – whether it’s moving forward with a flurry of punches or throwing up submissions from her back – Avila’s roadblock was largely attributed to her massive energy dump early after her first attempt to engage in a brawl. If Avila can figure out when to strategically go for the finish as opposed to forcing the issue – something that worked on the regional scene – she’ll be a contender before she knows it. Of course, Julija Stoliarenko presents a unique challenge that could make that roadblock a little more permanent. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more effective armbar specialist this side of Ronda Rousey than Stoliarenko, eight of her nine career victories coming in that form. In her UFC debut, Stoliarenko was stifled by Yana Kunitskaya against the fence, but her perseverance was admirable. Given Avila’s aggressiveness, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Lithuanian product were able to snatch her arm. Regardless, Avila has proven to be a hell of a grappler herself. Her volume proves to be the difference as Stoliarenko is exceptionally difficult to put away. Avila via decision
  • Still on the search for a talent out of South Africa the UFC can legitimately promote, JP Buys appears to be the strongest candidate in recent memory to find significant success. Of course, fighting at flyweight might hurt his chances, but no one will deny that he hasn’t looked impressive on his road to the UFC. Given their light weight and speed, it’s been more difficult for flyweights to hold their opponents down for significant periods of time as compared to any other division. Buys has had an impressively high level of control. Of course, it won’t be as easy now that the 24-year old is in the UFC and Bruno Silva is no exception. The Brazilian has proven to be exceptionally scrappy with low kicks being his best weapon. Silva has also been adamant in taking the fight to the ground, but has struggled to do so and keeping the fight grounded when he does succeed has been even more difficult. Silva will probably have the edge on the feet, but I don’t see him staying standing enough for him to get the edge in the eyes of the judges. Buys via decision