It’s a new month and 2018 is inching closer to its end, but the weekend mixed martial arts train keeps on rollin’!
We have yet another solid weekend of fights on tap starting with a busy Friday that includes CES 52, Final Fight Championship 33, Shamrock FC 311, and M-1 Challenge 98, headlined by a big middleweight title clash.
On Saturday, the world’s leading MMA promotion returns to the “World’s Most Famous Arena” for UFC 230 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Despite the numerous fight cancellations, injuries, and whatever the heck happened with Shevchenko vs. Eubanks, we’re still in for a great show. The main event will pit the fan favorite, hard-hitting, always quotable Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis against the two-division king, Daniel Cormier in a clash for heavyweight gold.
While I highly suggest watching as many fights as humanly possible this weekend, let’s look at the three must watch scraps of the first weekend of November.
Derek Brunson vs. Israel Adesanya
UFC 230 – Saturday, November 3
UFC 230’s main card opener will pit the #6 ranked Derek Brunson against the red-hot striking wizard, #9 ranked Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya in one of three pivotal middleweight clashes on the card.
There may be no fighter with more hype behind him than Adesanya, and it’s well deserved. With an extensive kickboxing resume and an undefeated start to his mixed martial arts career including two wins in the UFC, Adesanya faced his stiffest test at The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated Finale when he faced Brad Tavares. The confident and brash Adesanya predicted an easy night but was met with many skeptics, myself included. Adesanya hadn’t faced anyone the caliber of Tavares and it was believed that Tavares would be able to counteract the fluid, rangy striking of Adesanya by getting in his grill, bloodying him up and wearing on him in the clinch.
Adesanya made us all look pretty stupid.
“The Last Stylebender” thoroughly outclassed the vet Tavares in every aspect of the game. Not only did he continue to show why he is one of the best pure strikers in the UFC, he completely stifled Tavares’ clinch and take down attempts. “The Last Stylebender” answered some of the biggest questions surrounding his game with the biggest win of his mixed martial arts career.
However, on the way to the top in the UFC, one hurdle is often followed by another, larger hurdle. That hurdle comes in the form of North Carolina native Derek Brunson.
Brunson provides a lot of the same challenges Adesanya faced in his last bout, but this time they’re amplified.
Without a doubt, Brunson will be the hardest hitter Adesanya has faced in his MMA career to date. Brunson has ten KO/TKO victories to his name from 18-career wins, with several scary, one-punch KO’s on his highlight reel. On top of that, Brunson is a three-time Division II All-American wrestler at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
While Derek has been known to rely on the dynamite in his hands, you have to believe he’ll have that wrestling in his back pocket, especially against a guy whose combat experience has mostly been in kickboxing.
Oh, and these guys don’t seem to like each other, and you would be lying through your teeth if you don’t think that adds a little something extra to an already intriguing matchup.
Will Brunson put Adesanya on his back, wear him out, and end his night with his vicious power or will “The Last Stylebender” be the matador to Brunson’s bull rush and cause the #6 ranked middleweight to swing and miss for three rounds? I can’t wait to find out.
Artem Frolov vs. Bruno Silva
M-1 Challenge 98 – Friday, November 2
Before Saturday’s UFC 230, mother Russia is hosting M-1 Challenge 98 for some solid scraps headlined by a stellar Middleweight Championship showdown. The undefeated Artem Frolov looks to continue his perfect record when he defends his strap against Bruno Silva.
Frolov is near the top of the growing list of Russian fighters to keep an eye on. The M-1 champion caught the attention of the UFC and was briefly linked to a bout with CB Dollaway at UFC Fight Night 136 but was ultimately scrapped before we even had time to get excited. While I hope Frolov gets re-booked in the UFC sooner rather than later, you won’t find me complaining about this title tilt.
The 27-year-old Russian, like many of his countrymen, is an extremely well balanced fighter. At a perfect 11-0, Frolov is an “equal opportunity” finisher with five finishes by strikes and four submissions with wins over three UFC veterans in Joe Riggs, Ciao Magalhaes, and Luigi Fioravanti.
While he does possess a strong jab and above average footwork, Frolov is a brawler at heart. Often times he will forego the “technical” striking to try and move forward and break his opponent with absolute bombs. His iron chin and sound Sambo background allow him to leave himself open in these exchanges. Even if you happen to get the better of these exchanges and land on him when he’s coming in, more often than not he’s going to grab a hold of you and toss you on your head. From there, Frolov will either look for your neck, or beat you into submission. I’m not sure which is less desirable.
His opponent, Bruno “Blindado” Silva, is coming off the biggest win of his life. At M-1 Challenge 93, Silva finished Alexander Shlemenko, the heavy hometown favorite who was fresh off a fight against Gegard Mousasi that saw Shlemenko take the current Bellator Champion the distance in a fight that many fans scored for the Russian.
If Frolov wants to keep this one standing, Silva will oblige. It would probably serve him well to keep this one on the feet, as five of his six career losses have come via submission. The Brazilian is on a three-fight knockout streak that was capped off by a win over the aforementioned Shlemenko. He has found success against opponents with a style similar to Frevola, especially in his last two bouts. Against both Shlemenko and Gennadiy Kovalev, Silva took several shots by the more aggressive fighters, until he ultimately found an opening and finished the pair.
Make your arrangements to tune into this one on Friday afternoon as you could be seeing either one of these guys in the UFC in the near future.
Daniel Cormier vs. Derrick Lewis
UFC 230 – Saturday, November 3
The big boys are throwing down in NYC.
Yes, I know this isn’t Nate Diaz vs. Dustin Poirier for the Super Duper Awesomeweight title or whatever Diaz was calling for, but we have two massive human beings with massive personalities about to fight each other. Stop complaining. Life’s too short.
Let’s not mince words. On paper, this fight should not be competitive. The odds, and maybe even Lewis himself, will support an absolute mismatch. But this is MMA, baby, where anything can happen, especially when it comes to two gigantic men punching each other.
It will be the Olympic wrestler and two-division champion squaring off against the fan favorite who told everyone he doesn’t even consider himself a martial artist.
We will witness the winning machine in Daniel Cormier, against the man who has brought fans so much excitement, both on the mic, and in the cage with comeback knockout victory after comeback knockout victory. This could go down in the history books as one of the greatest underdog stories ever told should Lewis capture the title.
The wrestling coach who is looking to shape the youth of America into proud winners against the man who almost lost it all due to a felony charge at an early age who then found salvation in the sport.
Or, we could just see the double champ continue to do that thing that he seems to do a lot. I think it’s called winning. Either one works for me.
It’s really that simple.