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Five Question Main Card Preview for UFC 183

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Niala Samnarine- UFC Vip Experience

The return of the five-question main card preview for major UFC events is back. After a long hiatus, I’m rejuvenated to write and cover the great sport of MMA. Although I’ve been writing for the past few weeks, this is my first main card preview of an event since UFC 178. What better event to come back for than the most bizarre fight in MMA history at UFC 183? That’s all that needs to be said in giving a proper headline for Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz.

The fight is completely unpredictable, as the entire main card has shaped up to be. This is an excellent card full of exciting match-ups on paper. I’m joined by Nate Lahey, who has recently joined the site. We will be covering each main card fight through popular questions.

1. Thiago Alves and Jordan Mein are two of the more explosive strikers in the welterweight division. Who would you give the striking advantage towards in this close matchup?

Strk: Although Alves has only fought once in the past three years, the striking edge still points in his favor. It’s difficult to go against someone, who has been training in Muay Thai since 15 years old. Alves possess vicious leg kicks that can demoralize his opponent’s movement. His ability to diversify his kicks is also special. Mein has relied on movement heavily throughout his career. His knockout of Mike Pyle was on display through his faints and overwhelming hooks.

Mein is more of a boxer that prefers to maintain range. It’ll be important for him to maintain distance to avoid being broken down by Alves’ leg kicks. Whether it’s attempting a single leg takedown or throwing a straight counter punch, Mein will have to rely on counter striking to get the upper hand. Alves possess too much speed, explosiveness, and overall technical ability for Mein to fully engage with. If this fight translates in a similar fashion of Mein’s fight against Matt Brown, then Alves’ superior striking will most likely finish the fight in brutalizing fashion.

Lahey: Although I might say Mein is more well rounded, I have to give the strict striking advantage to Alves. He’s been largely inactive, with only one fight in the past three years. However, in that one fight (a unanimous decision win against Seth Baczynski) he set what was at that time a record, for most leg kicks landed in a fight, with 52.

If Alves comes back looking as good, as I know he’s capable of, then I think he should be able to handle Mein on the feet. He’ll possess a power advantage and can mix up his strikes with a kind of fluidity Mein doesn’t have. Brutal leg kicks, precision punches and vicious knees then expect to see all from Thiago on Saturday night.

2. Tim Boetsch seems to have declined over the past few years. Do you still see him posing a threat against a lower ranked middleweight like Thales Leites?

Strk: Boetsch’s determination and grittiness is what keeps him still relevant. If he had lost to Brad Tavares, his record would have been 1-4 in his last five fights. His lone win was controversial against C.B Dollaway. We could have very well seen Boetsch cut from the UFC. Instead he remains in the fold and managed to land a fight against an top-fifteen middleweight. In terms of the actual matchup against Thales Leites, this is very a winnable fight.

Leites is a below-average striker and his movement isn’t all that impressive. Boetsch tends to struggle against more athletic middleweights like Luke Rockhold and Mark Munoz. While he’ll have to beware of Leites’ world-class ground game, this is a matchup that he can impose his will in. Boetsch likes to make fights ugly and do damage inside the clinch. While his chances against other ranked middleweights would be slim, this is a prime matchup for him to get back into the rankings. There is no denying that Boetsch has looked terrible over the past two years. This fight offers him a gracious opportunity to revitalize his career.

Lahey: For the record, although he’s ranked eleventh, I do see Thales Leites as a top ten talent. I think he takes out the likes of C.B Dollaway, Michael Bisping, Gegard Mousasi and a few other fighters ranked above him. As for Boetsch posing a threat to him, I can’t say I see Leites having much trouble with him on Saturday.

I’ve learned my lessons in his fights against Yushin Okami and Brad Tavares to know better than to say Boetsch has no chance. This is because he’s got incredible heart and big power for a middleweight. In the end though, I don’t see this fight being all that competitive and Boetsch’s days as a top ten middleweight are almost certainly over.

3. What impresses you the most about Al Iaquinta? While he seems like a rising star, nobody points to a certain attribute that has propelled him into the pay-per-view spotlight.

Strk: Iaquinta came into the UFC as a well-decorated wrestler. That has quickly changed into him becoming a crisp boxer. From training at the well-acclaimed Serra-Longo gym, his past two knockouts have displayed significant improvement within his boxing. What Iaquinta specializes the most in comes from his movement. This has become an asset for many young fighters, as they’ve witnessed the evolution of the sport.

The elusiveness of the Long Island product has given his past opponents fits. In his impressive victory over Ross Pearson, he continuously got the better of those striking exchanges. Pearson is a respected veteran with terrific boxing. Although many people consider Iaquinta as a wrestler first, his improvement on the feet should be utilized to the fullest extent against Joe Lauzon. Michael Johnson gave Lauzon fits with his movement and crisp striking. Iaquinta may not be as quick as Johnson, but he can certainly pick Lauzon apart. It’s never a wise strategy to grapple with him on the ground. That has become well documented throughout Lauzon’s highlight reel.

Lahey: When it comes to Al Iaquinta, I don’t think there is a certain attribute that has propelled him to where he is now. What’s helped him achieve success is that he’s always evolving and always improving at every aspect of his game. He trains at Serra-Longo in New York, alongside the middleweight champion Chris Weidman. That makes all the difference in the world for him.

Aside from a slip up against Mitch Clarke (don’t forget, Iaquinta likely had a 10-8 first round in that fight, before slipping up and getting caught by Clarke’s Brabo Choke), Iaquinta has improved every aspect of his MMA game. It shows with his 5-1 record in the past year and a half. He seems to add something new to his bag of tricks every time out and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

4. Tyron Woodley is surprisingly listed as an underdog against Kelvin Gastelum. Do you think that decision is well-justified?

Strk: Gastelum is an impressive talent, who continues to evolve and break barriers in the welterweight division. He still remains as an enigma at 23 years old. His ability to take the back of his opponents to secure a rear-naked choke has been on display on two occasions. Many will remember how he submitted Jake Ellenberger, but he also tagged Brian Melancon and finished him in similar fashion. What I’m still waiting to see is how he fares in a striking battle. 

In his close win over Rick Story, Gastleum was tagged quite a bit. It’s hard to survive from taking too many punches against a powerful striker like Tyron Woodley. His credentials are convincing, as one of the best overall wrestlers and strongest fighters at welterweight. If Gastelum actually has continued success in taking down Woodley, it’ll be one of the bigger surprises in recent memory. It’s surprising to see a top five welterweight continue to be vastly underrated. Besides having cardio issues, there are no significant flaws in Woodley’s repertoire. Gastleum has yet to prove that he can be a dangerous striker or efficient in the clinch. The odds makers must be looking too deep into Gastelum’s undefeated record.

Lahey: I’m kind of mixed at the fact Woodley is the underdog against Gastelum. On one hand, Woodley likely has more ways to win – as he’s shown great power for a welterweight and his wrestling is amongst the best in the welterweight division. On the other hand, there has been fights (see vs. Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald) where Woodley seems to have no sense of urgency, especially in the later rounds when he is likely losing the fight.

Although I don’t agree with Dana White, when he said Woodley chokes in the big fights. It really all does depend on what mood Woodley’s in and how confident he’s feeling. This fight is extremely close and I can see it going either way, so to say I’m surprised Woodley’s the underdog would be false. I won’t be surprised if he pulls out the victory either.

5. What would be the smartest game-plan for Nick Diaz, if he were to pull off the upset against Anderson Silva? This seems like an insurmountable task for Stockton’s finest.

Strk: The best strategy to beat a fighter, who excels at using distance and utilizing his reach, has always been intelligently using forward pressure. Anderson Silva is usually an exception to many philosophies. Tat isn’t the case here from his recent fights. Chael Sonnen and Chris Weidman both had success in going forward and closing the distance. They didn’t allow Silva to get comfortable and find a striking rhythm. The big difference between those two middleweights and Nick Diaz is pretty obvious. Diaz isn’t the decorated wrestler that both middleweights are.

Diaz can still attempt to apply constant forward pressure and control of the octagon. It will be difficult for him, considering that Silva is the best counter striker in MMA history. His head movement has always been superb, along with his ability to connect on any particular strike. It’ll be interesting to see if Diaz has evolved as a fighter. Will he check leg kicks or throw kicks himself? Could he actually pull guard in trying to engage with Silva on the ground? Both questions are likely going to end up not happening. This is a nightmare matchup for Diaz on paper, although I’m sure that he couldn’t care less. If he was going to try to beat the former middleweight champion, constant pressure and controlling the octagon would be highly recommended.

Lahey: If Diaz pulls off the win against Anderson Silva to say the MMA world would erupt would be an understatement. Can he do it? Absolutely. Do I think he will? I really don’t know. The best formula Diaz can implement to ensure his hand is raised is to do what Diaz always does. It has to be constantly move forward, mix up his strikes, and get into Anderson Silva’s head.

Silva is definitely a counter puncher that doesn’t mind taking a round or two to gauge his angles and dissect his opponent. However, if Diaz comes forward and constantly mixes up his strikes, there won’t be enough time for Silva to think and figure out what Diaz’s next move will be. As well, Silva is used to being the one to taunt, so nobody knows how he’ll react when he’s getting “Stockton Slapped” and told to “Come at me bro”. Diaz should taunt, tool, and screw with Silva. Then he should absolutely target the formerly detached leg of Silva. As much as Silva will say he’s confident using the leg and has no problem kicking and checking kicks. There will always be doubts. Diaz should target the leg early and often. Get inside Silva’s head and get him uncomfortable. If Diaz does all of that i’m very hopeful he’ll get his hand raised Saturday night.

Twitter: @Allen_Strk & @BurgersMMA

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