It’s time to get over the fact that the original UFC 184 was one of the greatest cards on paper and start accepting this weekend. The new UFC 184 card is headlined by Ronda Rousey defending her title against the long-awaited title challenger in Cat Zingano. The fight cancellations on this card have been well documented, which makes this card relatively lackluster. It still features some rising contenders and veterans trying to keep their spot within the company. I’m joined by Justin Pierrot, who has taken a break from his dosage of writing about beer and dishing out unpopular opinions. He’s going to break down the main card with me through five popular questions.
1. Is Tony Ferguson capable of overcoming the constant pressure and grappling of Gleison Tibau? He’s been quietly one of the most improved fighters over the past year.
Pierrot: That’s a tough question, and pretty much exactly the reason this fight was made. Ferguson has improved a lot in the past 2-3 years since his last loss, that being to fellow lightweight upstart Michael Johnson in 2012. He managed to eke out a decision over Team Alpha Male’s heaviest member in Danny Castillo at UFC 177. That has me thinking that there is a small chance may not quite be ready for the test of Tibau. That said, I think the odds are in “El Cucuy’s” favor here, so expect to see him squeak by with another decision victory.
Strk: Ferguson’s victory over Danny Castillo is a solid example. His ability to work off his back was the turning point in that fight. Another student of Eddie Bravo’s tenth planet system, Ferguson’s hip escapes and ability to utilize short elbows off his back was outstanding. Tibau’s size is going to be quite the challenge for someone without major muscle mass in Ferguson.
The most efficient way to beat Tibau seems to be through utilizing distance and speed. When a fighter cuts so much weight, a decrease in speed is bound to happen. Michael Johnson picked him apart on the feet, before finishing him in the second round. Tibau is arguably the most predictable lightweight in the division. It’s well known that he’ll look to smother his opponents and try to gain top control at all costs.The fight will have to remain standing for Ferguson, as his chances aren’t very good in suppressing Tibau’s forward pressure.
2. Would you classify Alan Jouban as a top-tier prospect or overhyped for his looks?
Pierrot: Alan Jouban is, for better or for worse, going to have an exposure advantage simply due to his looks. It’s unavoidable. as Elias Theodorou and his magnificent hair have the same problem. With that said, Jouban didn’t make his way to the UFC fighting cans in Xplode Fight Series; he had legitimately tough fights in the RFA and other promotions. So the hype is fairly deserved. Let’s say about 90 percent. He’s a solid prospect, and one to keep an eye on.
Strk: Besides training under Eddie Bravo, there wasn’t much buzz about him. His career in RFA was mostly successful, but you heard more fighters being publicized from there. Then he knocked out Seth Baczynski in devastating fashion. His ability to mix up his striking and takedown attempts has looked excellent so far. While his defense could certainly use improvement, his ability to recover from taking major punishment has been on display in both of his UFC fights.
It’ll be important for him to continue to utilize his range. His kicks are fairly precise for someone, who’s only fought 13 times. It seems odd to label a 32-year-old as a top-tier-prospect. This is somewhat comparable to Yoel Romero’s case, whom got into the sport late. It’ll be important for him to continue to showcase himself in what seems to be a showcase fight.
3. Many people have been puzzled by Jake Ellenberger’s regression. Do you believe that he should focus more on his wrestling and mixing it up with heavy hooks? Are you still a believer in Edmond Tarverdyan’s development of making him into a technical boxer?
Pierrot: Ah, the great Ellenberger regression of 2014. I think Edmond Taverdyan requires a certain kind of student and I’m not sure Ellenberger is it. He’s talented, sure, but I can’t help to think that Jake’s best work was being done back at Reign Training Center, where he was led by another wrestler in Mark Munoz. He’s not a technical boxer and may never well be. Sometimes it’s best to just play to a fighter’s strengths and shore up his defenses instead of trying to turn him into the second coming of Peter Aerts.
Strk: Tarverydyan’s system seems to favor fighters that can utilize range efficiently. Travis Browne is an ideal fit given his size. Despite her struggles, Jessamyn Duke should be able to prosper from that camp. Ronda Rousey is the rare exception, as she can dictate wherever the fight goes. Ellenberger has always been a fighter that excels on forward pressure. Now we see him working on combinations and being reliant on tying to capitalizing on his opponent’s mistakes. That is simply too much thinking, which Ellenberger has admitted in changing his mental preparation.
He should revert back to his old aggressive self. That doesn’t necessarily mean trying to shoot in consistently against Josh Koscheck. His strategy should consist of utilizing his speed advantage and look to be more unpredictable. We haven’t seen Ellenberger use many kicks or knees in his recent fights. The biggest knockout of his career came from using knees inside the clinch against Jake Shields. Instead of trying to look for one-two combinations, it’s time for the old juggernaut to unleash. The overemphasis on timing isn’t needed for Koscheck, who looks considerably slower over the past few years.
4. Raquel Pennington has been overlooked by many pundits. Does she possess the efficient forward pressure and wrestling ability to spoil Holly Holm’s debut?
Pierrot: I’m going to say that “Raquel Pennington can get Holly Holm to the ground,” simply because Holm’s management made a point of keeping her away from strong grapplers in her pre-UFC career. You can ask Tonya Evinger about that. I mean go ask her the situation. Her response will make you laugh. Going over Holm’s record, I don’t see any strong grapplers. I only see two opponents who weren’t what you would consider .500 or worse fighters. Holm trains at Jackson’s, but I still can’t help but think that “Rocky” has the tools to gut out a win over the championship-level boxer.
Strk: Pennington seems undersized as a bantamweight. While some may take shots at Holly Holm’s resume, her ability to use her reach could be insurmountable. Distance will be the key in this fight considering their contrasting styles. Pennington is more effectively in engaging wildly rather than patiently waiting for openings. Holm has been fighting for too long to engage in boxing within a close distance. This fight will come down to Pennington simply making it ugly by closing the distance at will. She simply doesn’t have the capabilities to succeed in striking with Holm.
Whether it’s taking the fight to the ground or against the fence, Pennington has to be relentless. She tends to leave herself far too open in particular moments. This may come from believing in her grittiness or simply wanting to be aggressive. Pennington’s odds to pull off the upset are highly unlikely, due to being undersized and careless. Then again Holm is still relatively unknown against mid-level competition. It’s an intriguing fight for the reasons of not having a trace of what Holm can do. Not the greatest selling point for a co-main event.
5. As resilient as Cat Zingano has proven to be, there are two clear issues going into this fight. What concerns you more between the slow starts or takedown defense? Do you truly believe that she is Ronda Rousey’s biggest test?
Pierrot: I feel generally bad for Cat Zingano. Takedown defense against Ronda Rousey is all but irrelevant. This is simply due to the fact that her entries and takedowns are so different from what many wrestlers will ever experience in competition. Secondly, Cat’s slow starts will come back to bite her here. Remember what Rousey did to another slow starter in Alexis Davis? You couldn’t even open a beer before that fight ended. Zingano is tough as nails, but I expect Rousey to finish her within two rounds.
Strk: Both issues are on the same level of being a major concern. You make an excellent point on Rousey being so different in utilizing different takedown techniques. Even when someone like Miesha Tate landed a few straight punches, she would get overanxious and get judo tossed instantly. The slow starts have to be a bigger concern because Zingano has the power to change that. She will be taken down at some point, that’s just a given.
It’ll be important for her to either weather the storm like she has done in both her wins. The other more efficient option would be to push the pace early and try to lure Rousey into a striking battle. It’s become more apparent that Rousey is starting to use her hands with more confidence. That may be a scary thought, although it’s better to strike with her than try to grapple her. That’s just asking to be on her highlight reel of arm bar victories. Zingano has to be urgent in the first round similar to Liz Carmouche. There is no escaping a slow start against such a devastating finisher.