During the early stages of the Covid pandemic, there were quite a few cards that were short on depth. A good chunk of those cards only had the main card that might interest casual fans. The quality of the cards has generally been better for the last year or so, but UFC Vegas 47 appears to be more in the tradition of the early Covid-era cards.
That isn’t to say the rest of the fights on the card are crap, but should Punahele Soriano and Nick Maximov be a co-main event? Maybe in two years, but certainly not now. Shavkat Rakhmonov might fit in a co-main event, but not against Carlston Harris. The other fights outside the main event are good, but they’re missing an ingredient or two that would make them great.
Jack Hermansson vs. Sean Strickland, Middleweight
Given his momentum and loud personality, Strickland has the look of a man of destiny on his way to a title shot. It’s possible he could get that title shot if he wins impressively enough against Hermansson. I may have crapped on the overall quality of this card, but there’s high enough stakes in this fight that it may very well make up for the rest of the card.
While Strickland appears to be the A-side of the fight, Hermansson is a more than worthy B-side who is more than capable of having his hand raised by the end of the contest. With a steady jab to anchor his steady boxing, Hermansson tends to wear down his opposition with his heavy pace. He can surprise with his power every now and then, but it’s the constant volume from his punches and kicks that do the damage that leads to his takedowns. That’s where the finishes tend to come for the Swede as his GnP is amongst the best in the division. Plus, Hermansson is also one of the better grapplers in the division. Jacare may have been past his prime, but Hermansson did outgrapple him about three years ago. That version of Jacare didn’t seem completely shot, providing some credibility to Hermansson’s pedigree.
However, there is a reason why Hermansson hasn’t broken through into the elite of the division. While Hermansson is tough and willing to walk through hell, his chin hasn’t held up well enough to allow him to do so. His chin hasn’t been cracked enough to the point where he’s considered chinny, but he could be stuck with that label should he have the lights turned out anytime soon. Plus, Hermansson has struggled attacking off the backfoot, not responding well to the constant pressure of Marvin Vettori.
If there is a fighter in the top ten whom Strickland is comparable to, it’s Vettori. Not only does Strickland have a similar style of fighting, he has the crazy streak that makes you wonder if he won’t end up behind bars should someone look at him cock-eyed on the streets. Strickland’s offense revolves very much around his jab, working his way up to offering power shots once he gets into a rhythm. Should an opponent try to turn the tables and pressure him, he’s an underrated counter striker capable of scaring them off with his power. It isn’t a complicated approach, but Strickland knows what he does well and sticks to it.
What rarely seems to get attention with Strickland’s attack is his underrated wrestling. Perhaps that’s due to his constant pressure limiting the amount of takedown attempts his opponents have thrown at him, but Strickland’s strong physical base has always made him difficult to takedown. Some may point out most of his wrestling tape comes when he was fighting smaller opponents at welterweight, but Strickland was very dehydrated fighting at 170. He has shown much better energy fighting at 185 and has grown even more into his frame the last year or so now that he has committed to the weight class.
In most key areas, Strickland and Hermansson aren’t significantly better or worse than the other. Both are technically sound strikers; Hermansson the more dynamic. Both are solid wrestlers; hard to know who to give the edge there. I’d give Hermansson a notable edge in the grappling, but I don’t know if he can get the fight where he wants it so he can take advantage of it. I might give Strickland a slight edge in stamina, but I can’t say it’s notable. However, there’s no doubt Strickland’s chin is superior. I’m not sure Strickland puts Hermansson away, but given Hermansson has been hurt in most of his fights, I think that’s just the edge Strickland’s steady approach can capitalize on for the win. Strickland via decision
- Even though he’s coming off the first loss of his career, there’s still plenty of reason to be high on the future of Punahele Soriano. A hard-hitting southpaw, the manner in which Soriano fell to Brendan Allen was indicative of the type of prospect loss that tends to be a major turning point in the careers of successful fighters. After a strong start, Soriano gassed out after a single round, blowing his wad early as he had been used to finding finishes early in his fights. However, even if Soriano manages to reasonably pace himself, there’s a good chance he’ll gas out anyway under the constant wave of takedown attempts Nick Maximov. A protégé of the Diaz brothers, Maximov has a similarly endless gas tank to his mentors and an understated wrestling pedigree to complement his fundamentally sound grappling. Where he is lacking is in the striking department. No doubt Soriano will look to exploit that as the native of Hawaii has proven to have serious KO power, though Maximov does have a notable reach advantage. The question is whether Soriano can stop Maximov’s takedowns. Soriano’s wrestling hasn’t been tested in the UFC, but I like what I’ve seen on the regional level. I think he can shuck Maximov off enough to deliver enough punishment to put his fellow prospect away. Soriano via TKO of RD2
- There are a lot of people high on the potential of Shavkat Rakhmonov. I mean very high. As in he could be strapping gold around his waist someday. I’m one of those believers. The native of Kazakhstan has picked up quality wins in his first two UFC contests over Alex Oliveira and Michel Prazeres. A broad-framed 6’1”, Rakhmonov is incredibly strong, difficult to move in the clinch, much less wrest to the mat. He combines his physical skills with surprisingly sound technique for someone as talented and youthful as he is. Throw in the fact the undefeated Rakhmonov has yet to go to decision – showing equal aplomb on the feet and the mat in his abilities to stop a fight – and it’s hard to find a real chink in his armor. And yet, that’s the task that’s being presented to the crafty Carlston Harris. Harris has been a surprise to many since touching down in the UFC, picking up a pair of first round finishes. However, Harris’ level of competition has been decidedly lower than that Rakhmonov has faced. Like Rakhmonov, Harris is a plus athlete, but he doesn’t appear to have the the same level of physicality of Rakhmonov. Harris is good on the ground, but so was Prazeres and Rakhmonov blew past him. While Rakhmonov can’t sleep on Harris – and I don’t think he will – this feels like a step backward from what Rakhmonov has been facing. The younger fighter should continue his ascent towards the top of the division. Rakhmonov via submission of RD2
- I have nothing against Sam Alvey personally. It seems there are some in the MMA community who do have issues with him, but I’m not one of them. Despite that, I fully understand why many are outraged the man is still employed in the UFC despite having been unable to secure a win in his last seven fights. It’s not like he’s a consistent action fighter. Every now and them, he’ll throw enough volume to turn in an entertaining performance, but too often he loses due to his inactivity as he waits to land his powerful left. Being a one-trick pony, opponents have caught on and Alvey hasn’t secured one KO in the last five-plus years. That doesn’t serve his reputation as a power puncher well. He’s lucky to be getting this opportunity this weekend as Brendan Allen stepped in for Phil Hawes earlier this week. As opposed to fighting for his job – like Alvey – Allen is seen as an up-and-comer who is looking to rebound from a Chris Curtis KO... just like Hawes was looking to do. A skilled grappler who has been filling out the other avenues of his game rapidly, mental lapses continue to plague Allen. Allen isn’t as prone to melting down the way Hawes is, but he still has his mental lapses, leaving open a window for Alvey to strike. Short notice doesn’t help Allen, but he should still find a way to get the job done. Allen via decision
- Tresean Gore was scheduled to face Bryan Battle for the most recent crowning of TUF, but an injury forced him out and Battle claimed the title. Now that Gore has healed up, many see this contest as the unofficial crown of TUF champion. Despite Battle’s edge in experience – including a win over Impa Kasanganay on the amateur circuit – many would have picked Gore due to his obvious physical gifts. The force in which he delivers his kicks turns heads in the gym and he shows a reasonable amount of ability in other phases of the game. That isn’t to say he couldn’t use further polishing, but he has a basic enough understanding that he wasn’t overwhelmed in his time on TUF. As for Battle, he’s the classic overachiever. He does have some decent length and knows how to use it, but he lacks the glitz and glamour that comes with Gore’s style. However, Battle’s fight style has the glue that Gore’s is lacking. Should Gore prove unable to stop Battle’s takedowns, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Battle score a sub or a controlling decision. My first impression was to pick Gore as he has one-shot power to end a fight. However, I’m picking Battle to outwork Gore as Battle’s fight IQ impresses me and Gore’s tendency to have long moments of inactivity are worrisome. Battle via decision
- Upon his UFC entry, Steven Peterson had a reputation as a no-holds-barred wild man willing to do whatever it took to win. While shades of that have certainly shown themselves since his debut in 2018, it also looks like his body can’t withstand those types of performances anymore. Several years of cutting down to 135 doesn’t appear to have done him favors either. Thus, while Peterson’s toughness doesn’t appear to have waned, his durability looks like something has faded, somewhat evidenced by Peterson’s more cautious approach as opposed to his formerly reckless style. If he is to return to his more reckless ways, Julian Erosa is going to be the man to drag it out of him. Erosa has established himself as one of the most consistent action fighters on the roster, regularly eating two shots to deliver one. However, he has also been finding greater success as of late, developing better tactical reads on his opponents to exploit holes in their defenses the deeper a fight goes. Of course, while Erosa has lived by the sword as of late, he has also died by the sword, suffering brutal finishes on several occasions. Despite that, Erosa never seems to waver in his approach, continually showing no fear of what his opponent might throw back at him. Peterson can surprise with his power, but more often relies on outworking his opponent. He’ll have a hard time doing that to Erosa. Erosa via decision