Outside of the title fights, the main card of UFC 270 is very thin. I’m not saying the fights are bad. They are competitive, well-matched contests. But they are very much lacking in terms of the quality that have been populating PPV main cards for the last year or two. I’ll give the UFC some leeway in the that COVID and injuries ravaged the depth of the card, but there wasn’t a lot of depth even before those fights were wiped away by the PPV standards. Nevertheless, Said Nurmagomedov is underrated in terms of excitement and you never know what Michel Pereira might do. He could pull off the most incredible KO we’ve ever seen... or he could provide a stinker of a performance.
Cody Stamann vs. Said Nurmagomedov, Bantamweight
The amount of hate Stamann gets boggles the mind. While I’d agree with the idea he isn’t an elite fighter – and I’m not sure of anyone who would think that – he has proven himself to be an effective gatekeeper to the official UFC rankings. It isn’t a sexy role by any means, but it is a needed role.
I suppose a lot of the hate surrounding him has to do with his lack of flash, his last finish coming before he made his UFC debut four-and-a-half years ago. Stamann lacks power and his grappling game is focused almost exclusively on control as opposed to doing damage, much less finding a finish. That said, there is a beauty to the simplicity of his game. He crashes the pocket with simple boxing combinations before ducking out in hopes of avoiding return damage. Given his short reach, it’s a wonder he’s found the level of success he has using that strategy. Of course, the only reason it works is because he can threaten with his takedowns.
Then again, against the highest level of competition, Stamann hasn’t been able to get either his wrestling or striking working. The question is whether Nurmagomedov falls into that category of competition. Nurmagomedov isn’t the wrestler that others with his name are, but he is a much more diverse striker. When people think of Nurmagomedov, they don’t typically think of a power striker, but he has secured two first round finishes in his four UFC fights, kicks playing a part in both of those finishes. Perhaps more encouraging, Nurmagomedov has showed improved timing on the counter, something he’ll have an opportunity to use when Stamann crashes the pocket.
However, the other question is whether Nurmagomedov will be able to stop Stamann’s takedowns. The Russian’s lone UFC loss saw him struggle to stop Raoni Barcelos from taking him down. Barcelos may be a better athlete than Stamann, but he doesn’t have the gas tank Stamann does. Plus, Stamann has proven to be exceptionally durable, never having been finished via strikes in his career. Adding motivation, Stamann could end up on the chopping block with a loss. However, Nurmagomedov has a strong guard and the ability to climb back to his feet pretty quickly. I’ve wavered back-and-forth on this contest, looking at it as a dog-or-pass situation from a betting perspective. Given his explosiveness, Nurmagomedov feels like the right pick. Nurmagomedov via decision
- While Michel Pereira deserves credit for developing into a smarter fighter, it’s a bit of a disappointment as the athletic Brazilian developed his reputation by being recklessly exciting in a manner that hasn’t been replicated at the UFC level. I can’t think of another fighter who did a back-flip onto their opponent in the midst of their fight... and yet, Pereira has done that twice! I’m not saying it was effective – it wasn’t — but his unpredictable nature coupled with his burst and power has made traditionally aggressive opponents think twice about engaging in a firefight with him. Part of Pereira’s improved fight IQ has him pacing himself so he isn’t exhausted himself after a single round. That might be difficult for him to do as Andre Fialho is going to be right up in his face trying to knock his block off. Fialho may not have the same amount of flare as Pereira, but the native of Portugal has really hit his stride in the last few years, securing four straight KO victories, including the last three within the first round. It’s been good competition Fialho has been fighting too. When it comes to a straight up boxing match, Fialho has a huge advantage with his combinations and power. However, this isn’t a boxing match; this is an MMA match. I won’t be shocked if Fialho pulls the upset, especially if Pereira underestimates him. However, I think Pereira has learned his lesson from his loss to Tristan Connelly. And while everyone talks about Pereira’s unpredictability, he’s got a tough chin too. Pereira via decision
- Perhaps the best thing that could happen to Rodolfo Vieira was his upset loss to Anthony Hernandez. The highly decorated BJJ practitioner was forced to re-evaluate his approach in the sport of MMA, resulting in a far more measured performance in his return contest against Dustin Stoltzfus. The Brazilian has even developed a competent looking striking game, though it would be an understatement to say he is polished in that department. Without the threat of his BJJ, he’d lose damn near every fight. Fortunately for Vieira, Wellington Turman might be one of those whom he could beat in a kickboxing contest. Like Vieira, Turman is best known for his ground game, but no one will argue he has the pedigree of Vieira. However, much like I mentioned with Pereira, this is MMA, not a grappling contest. Turman has far more experience in the MMA realm than Vieira. Turman doesn’t have terrible form on the feet, but he has less of a feel for striking than the less experienced Vieira, nor does he have the power. Plus, Vieira is a superior athlete. There’s no good reason Vieira should lose this fight. Vieira via submission of RD2