Thursday, June 30, 2022

UFC Rochester Predictions: Dos Anjos vs. Lee

UFC Rochester Confidence Levels

1: Gun to the head, forced to choose 

2: Minimum confidence

3-4: A small level of confidence

5-6: Significantly clearer path to victory for one person.

7 – Strong confidence.

8-9: Extremely confident.

10 – Bulletproof Confidence, barring freak occurrence

Davi Ramos (9-2) vs. Austin Hubbard (10-2)

In the first fight on the UFC Rochester main card, UFC vet Davi Ramos will be taking on the debuting Austin Hubbard. I struggle to find a clear path to victory by Hubbard outside of hoping Davi Ramos has an off night. Hubbard has good upper-body defensive movement, but his hand defense needs improvement. He does have good cardio, with experience going five rounds, which could be beneficial if the fight goes the distance.

Four of Hubbard’s last six wins have come by decision, and I do not see Ramos being stopped by Hubbard. I also believe Ramos has too many weapons to drop a decision to Hubbard. Ramos is far superior on the ground and has a black belt in jiu-jitsu, with seven of his nine professional wins coming by submission. His speed advantage over Hubbard isn’t major, but the explosion differential is noticeable, and I can see Ramos either landing the biggest shots in each round or earning a minimum of one takedown per round, that is if he does not earn the submission victory. Ramos also has a much more varied offensive attack than the somewhat predictable Hubbard, as Ramos is liable to throw spinning attacks, jumping attacks, and other flashy maneuvers if he gets in a groove or deems it necessary. I expect Ramos to carry the win home with him and Hubbard to receive the consolation of valuable experience.

Prediction: Davi Ramos

Confidence Level: 9/10

Charles Oliveira (26-8) vs. Nik Lentz (30-9-2)

It isn’t often that fans have the benefit of two former fights between participants to use as a direct frame of reference leading into crafting a prediction, but that is the case here in the second bout of the UFC Rochester main card when Charles Oliveira takes on Nik Lentz. Oliveira was initially ruled the winner of the first fight in 2011 before it was later overturned as a no contest due to an illegal knee, but four years later, Oliveira would leave no doubt, with a third-round submission victory over Nik Lentz, taking home both Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night honors. Oliveira has now won four straight and is ranked #15, while Lentz has won two straight and is unranked. Why Charles Oliveira is fighting Nik Lentz for a third time when he holds a victory over him and is currently ranked while Lentz is not is anybody’s guess, but I’d bet that it has something to do with the sparks that fly when these two match up.

Perhaps the most important factor to consider when deliberating who will win this trilogy fight is who is better and more dangerous in grappling and scrambling scenarios. Nik Lentz has demonstrated in their prior fights that he is not averse to taking the jiu-jitsu black belt Oliveira down to the mat. He was even able to control an entire round against Oliveira in their second fight after taking Oliveira down and halting the scrambles. You can expect Nik Lentz to try to make this fight look ugly and generate many winnable transitions for himself. Lentz will probably be looking for his treasured guillotine, brawling ability, and maybe even look to use his wrestling against Oliveira, once again being undaunted by Oliveira’s submission pedigree.

But I believe Oliveira has demonstrated that he can definitely stand and trade with Lentz. I personally believe that his long limbs make him a slightly more effective striker in this bout, even though Lentz’s striking has improved since their previous bouts. I also believe that Oliveira remains more dangerous both on the mat and in the scramble, where he is more capable of producing a split-second submission victory. Nik Lentz’s best path to victory is to use his wrestling to control Oliveira on the mat and then avoid the submission attempts long enough to win a decision.  But this strategy would most likely lead to scrambles, where Oliveira is more dangerous, or even simply a submission from his back. I think Oliveira will make it five straight here and earn his second official victory over Lentz.

Prediction: Charles Oliveira

Confidence Level: 5/10

Antonio Carlos Junior (10-2) vs. Ian Heinisch (12-1)

With a win against #12-ranked Antonio Carlos Junior, Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series alum Ian Heinisch will find himself ranked in the UFC after only his second fight in the promotion. If he wants to do that, Heinisch should do what he always does: push the pace, control the Octagon, swing with a purpose, and use his athletic advantage over Carlos Junior. Carlos Junior is primarily a counter striker, so if this fight goes the distance, I expect Heinisch to win at least one round with Octagon control and more activity. I expect Carlos Junior to look for the takedowns and look to grapple, especially early on.

But one thing Heinisch demonstrated in his last bout against Cezar Ferreira is that he does have an ability to get up to his feet fairly quickly using strength and the same determination that is visible when Heinisch is fighting on his feet. Indeed, Heinisch fights with a nonstop sense of urgency and just seems to want it more than the next man, which I expect to come into play as he takes on the more even-keel Carlos Junior. Carlos Junior could make the fight very close with some takedowns if successful, and might even win a round with this approach, but ultimately, I think Heinisch’s aggression, pace, and Octagon control will be enough to go the distance if need be and earn a decision for Heinisch.

Prediction: Ian Heinisch

Confidence Level: 5/10

Aspen Ladd (7-0) vs. Sijara Eubanks (4-2)

This will be another rematch on the UFC Rochester card, with Ladd defeating Eubanks two years ago in Invicta FC. Although Ladd earned the unanimous decision in their first fight, even with a couple of 30-27s in tow, the fight looked competitive and the victory gap was not wide at all. Eubanks was able to take down Ladd in the fight and arguably win the overall grappling exchanges, which would be very problematic for Ladd if Eubanks is able to repeat for obvious reasons but also because Ladd is most dangerous from the top position, with her ground-and-pound quite possibly being the best in the bantamweight division, and also because Eubanks is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Eubanks seemed to resist making the move up bantamweight, which makes me wonder how comfortable and confident Eubanks is in the bantamweight division given her reluctance to move up. This is especially relevant considering that Aspen Ladd was the last opponent Eubanks fought at bantamweight, which brings to question if Ladd directly influenced Eubanks’s move down to flyweight after seeing that she could not bully a fighter with the strength of Ladd. Ladd is a stocky and very powerful bantamweight so Eubanks’s style will certainly be tested once again. Eubanks loves to be physical with her opponents and play the bully, especially in grappling, and that won’t be easy to do against the powerful Ladd.

Eubanks best chance is perhaps to keep popping the jab along with some high kicks to Ladd, as Ladd fights somewhat similar to Jessica Andrade in that she continues moving forward regardless of the success her opponent is having. If Ladd is able to control the cage as she always does and force Eubanks to fight off the back foot, even if Eubanks is earning success, fighting going backwards is more fatiguing, and one thing to keep an eye on is how Eubanks’s cardio holds up in this fight.

Eubanks can win this fight. Ladd coming in as a 3-to-1 favorite seems a bit high, as Eubanks has looked very impressive in the UFC and Ladd is a very hittable fighter who marches forward in a straight line, while Eubanks has moderately better footwork and has what it takes to prevent Ladd powering her down to the mat and pounding her out. All in all, though, I’m going to run with the undefeated Ladd due to her confidence, composure, and her successful outing against Eubanks two years ago prior to Ladd increasing her power. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Eubanks took home a decision due to Ladd’s hittability or potentially outgrappling Ladd.

Prediction: Aspen Ladd

Confidence Level: 4/10

EDITOR’S NOTE: Megan Anderson vs. Felicia Spencer was promoted to the main card after the predictions were ready to roll. Aspen Ladd vs. Sijara Eubanks is now a preliminary bout.

Vicente Luque (15-6-1) vs. Derrick Krantz (22-10)

Derrick Krantz will be filling in for Neil Magny to take on Vicente Luque, and the current -1000 line for Luque is not at all surprising. I would be surprised if this fight makes it out of the first round. Krantz is extremely hittable and yet is someone who has a mean attitude who will look to push the action. Against Vicente Luque, that is just a bad, bad, recipe. Derrick Krantz’s defense is not good enough to be aggressive against a KO artist like Vicente Luque. Krantz’s footwork is not advanced enough to deal with Luque’s forward attacks and I expect Krantz to put himself in danger in this fight and suffer the consequences for it, either in the first or the second round. I do not believe a fighter debuting with 10 losses with the defense Krantz displays avoiding an 11th loss to a fighter many see as a potential title contender in Vicente Luque.

The only noticeable advantage for Krantz that I can see is that he has more experience than Luque. The problem is, this is not detectable in live action. Krantz’s best chance to win is to catch Luque with his hands down low, as Luque also has questionable defense to be fair, and land a walk-off KO. The problem with that is Luque has an amazing chin, so good luck with that.

Prediction: Vicente Luque

Confidence Level: 9/10

Rafael dos Anjos (28-11) vs. Kevin Lee (17-4)

Rafael dos Anjos may not have poor takedown defense in general, but the fact remains that he is yet to defeat a high-level grappler in the UFC who specifically looks to use their grappling as their main path to victory. I believe this has to be the predominant thought going through anyone’s mind before taking a deep dive into the UFC Rochester main event. In fights against Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington, Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s not just that dos Anjos lost, as between those three names, there are only two losses between them, but dos Anjos was not able to show enough resistance to give me any confidence that he will be able to contain Kevin Lee’s wrestling. He has also lost to other wrestlers who were not as dominant as the above three names, such as Clay Guida and Gleison Tibau.

Kevin Lee is not the wrestler as Khabib, Usman, or Covington, the fact remains that he is most likely going to look to grapple as his main path to victory. Some may lack confidence in Lee due to him moving up in weight, but it’s no secret that Lee has always been a massive lightweight, not to mention dos Anjos is a former lightweight as well, who has always been a small for welterweight, so even if size were to be an issue for Lee at welterweight, this wouldn’t be the fight where it would be exposed. In fact, I expect Lee to come in as the bigger man, which is very noteworthy for someone who’s biggest path to victory is his wrestling.

Kevin Lee has demonstrated that he can hold his own on his feet, most specifically in his fight against Edson Barboza. Even though Lee had a wrestling-dominant approach to that fight and had a stanky leg following Baroza’s spinning wheel kick that went viral, his standup still looked sharp in that fight and was also respectable against Al Iaquinta’s standup in his most recent bout.

The most likely way I see dos Anjos winning this fight is if Kevin Lee decides to stand to prove a point or to get some rounds in on his feet for practice, but I believe Lee will learn from his last fight against Al Iaquinta. In interviews following the Iaquinta fight, Lee himself has said that one of the reasons for the loss to Iaquinta is that he went away from what brought him to the dance, that straightforward Detroit freight-train physicality that allows Lee to run through opponents with his imposing power, punishing top game, and patented rear-naked choke submissions. So I expect Lee to make the adjustments and look to take dos Anjos down and earn the victory on the mat. And I haven’t seen anything from dos Anjos to make me believe he will be able to prevent Lee from outwrestling him to a decision or maybe even being submitted by “The Motown Phenom.”

Prediction: Kevin Lee

Confidence Level: 7/10

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