UFC 186 takes place this Saturday night at the Bell centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. As cursed as any UFC card in recent memory, this event is the embodiment of the caveat ‘card subject to change.’ Due to an injury, TJ Dillahaw will no longer be defending his bantamweight title against former champion Renan Barão and until very recently a court injunction looked to keep Rampage Jackson from making his return to the UFC to take on Fabio Maldonado. In a bizarre last minute reversal by the courts, it now looks like Rampage will be returning to bring some much needed big name value to the event. At the top of the card is flyweight champion Demitrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson, a man who could be the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
The Main Event
In the main event, Demetrious Johnson will look to defend his flyweight championship belt against young Japanese standout, Kyoji ‘The Supernova’ Horiguchi… Who? Due to a number of factors, including the fact that it’s the smallest and the newest male weight class in the UFC, the general public or the ‘casual MMA fan’ tends not to know or care too much about the flyweights. It doesn’t help that Demetrious Johnson is a quiet, lets his fighting do the talking kind of guy. He’s a phenomenal athlete but not exactly Conor McGregor on the mic.
The average MMA fan cannot be blamed for wondering why Kyoji Horiguchi in the main event, or indeed who exactly he is, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to be there. The 24 year old Japanese fighter is the former Shooto bantamweight champion, he is 15-1 in his MMA career and has a record of 4-0 in the UFC including two TKO finishes. He has been training in karate since he was a child and it shows inside the octagon, he utilizes a wide stance reminiscent of fighters like Conor McGregor and Lyoto Machida. He likes to keep his opponents at distance and use his speed to launch blitz attacks with left hooks, overhand rights and solid body kicks. He is strong and imposing at flyweight, technically sound in the clinch and likes to use power takedowns when the opportunity presents itself. Horiguchi is also a sound practitioner of defensive jiu-jitsu and can usually get back to his feet if he ends up on his back, a skill he all almost certainly need against DJ.
Current, 1st and only flyweight champion in the UFC is Demetrious Johnson. Dana White likes to call every champion defending his belt the best pound for pound fighter in the world come fight week. The difference with DJ however, is that he might be right. His crisp stand-up technique is aided by his knockout power, a rare ability at flyweight. His wrestling and control are top notch and his submission skills are a thing of beauty. However the most impressive aspect of his game lies in his transitions between disciplines. Mighty Mouse will hit a perfect three punch combo, finish with a leg kick and dive for a double leg takedown before his opponents can react. On the ground he uses leverage and control to submit opponents with varied techniques including armbars, kimuras and chokes. He is known as the fastest fighter in the UFC, his cardio is endless, his pressure is constant and his discipline unwavering.
Horiguchi will need to have the fight of his life if he is to capture the flyweight crown this week. His use of distance is likely to be nullified by DJ’s speed, he wont be able to outwrestle Johnson who has competed since high school and a submission win for the Japanese challenger seems unlikely. Horigushi needs to use his counter striking, lure DJ in and look for a big shot to land. If he can manage to keep the fight on the feet he might stand a better chance, but over five rounds he can’t afford to slow down, not even for a second, Demetrious Johnson most certainly wont. Barring a quick KO or TKO for Kyoji, DJ should continue his uncontested reign atop the flyweight division.
Pick: Demetrious Johnson defeats Kyoji Horiguchi via Submission.
The Co-Main Event
At the time of writing, Rampage Jackson is once again set to take on Fabio Maldonado at UFC 186, the fight will take place at a catch weight of 215 pounds, probably because of the last minute announcement that Rampage will in fact be fighting after all. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this fight is the battle in the courts between Bellator MMA and Rampage. Let’s sum it up using bullet points:
- Rampage Jackson became disillusioned with the UFC after three losses in which he says he was hampered by injuries.
- Being a big name in MMA since the Pride days, he was able to secure a very lucrative contract with Bellator.
- Over the last two years Rampage has gone 3-0 in Bellator but recently signed once again with the UFC saying that Bellator MMA had failed to honour his contract.
- Once his return to the UFC was set, Bellator filed a lawsuit to retain the services of Mr. Jackson.
- Owing to the fact that his scheduled bout at UFC 186 was fast approaching, Bellator sought a court injunction to prevent Rampage from competing in the UFC until such time as the lawsuit is settled.
- Bellator wins the injunction and Rampage is off the card.
- One week later the injunction is apparently overturned and Rampage is once again competing at UFC 186.
- I don’t have the legal expertise to talk about how or why this happened, however it does not mean that Rampage has won the lawsuit, it simply means that for now, Rampage can fight at UFC 186.
His opponent is perennial gate keeper and fan favourite, Fabio Maldonado. The 35 year old Brazilian has been fighting in the UFC since 2010. A former professional boxer, he possesses a very technical boxing game but is known for taking part in many stand up wars throughout his career, he’s not afraid to take a punch to land one and tends to stay in the pocket when the going gets tough. He is 4-1 in his last five UFC fights and the perfect opponent for Rampage’s return.
Rampage is a known commodity and easily still one of the most recognizable names in MMA, he aims to swing big hooks and knock his opponent out with every strike. Rampage is also a very decent wrestler, however he has always used it defensively to keep the fight on the feet, his weakness in the later years of his UFC career was the ground game. He can punish opponents with hard ground and pound from the top position but seems lost on the bottom, holding on and hoping to be stood up.
I don’t think either man wants this fight to go to the ground, they probably wont throw many kicks either. This may be as close to a straight boxing match as you are likely to see in the modern UFC. Both men will be hit, but Rampage hits harder and should secure the KO win inside two rounds.
Pick: Rampage Jackson defeats Fabio Maldonado via KO
One To Watch
This weeks one to watch is Ireland’s own Aisling Daly who kicks off the night on fightpass taking on Randa Markos. Fighting out of SBG, Ais became Ireland’s first female fighter in the UFC after competing on the Ultimate Fighter season 20. She was defeated by Jessica Penne in the quarterfinals of TUF in a close decision, however she competed on the finale card dominating Alex Chambers on the ground and winning via first round arm bar. After being pulled from the Poland card last month due to an injury to her opponent Cláudia Gadelha, Aisling was booked for the UFC 186 under card. She possesses a decent stand up game which is always evolving, she mixes up her punches and kicks well and excels in the grappling department. Her top control and strong technical jiu-jitsu will be a handful for anyone at strawweight, look for Ais to get another submission win and continue her rise towards the top of the division.
Michael Bisping vs. C.B. Dollaway: Bisping
John Makdessi vs. Shane Campbell: Makdesi
Yves Jabouin vs. Thomas Almeida: Almeida
Patrick Côté vs. Joe Riggs: Côté
Alexis Davis vs. Sarah Kaufman: Davis
Chad Laprise vs. Bryan Barberena: Laprise
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. David Michaud: Mercier
Nordine Taleb vs. Chris Clements: Taleb
Jessica Rakoczy vs. Valérie Létourneau: Rakoczy
Aisling Daly vs. Randa Markos: Daly
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