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411’s MMA Roundtable Preview – UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum

March 11, 2017 | Posted by Dan Plunkett

WELCOME:
Vitor Belfort looks to turn his luck around when he faces Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC Fight Night! In the co-main event, Shogun Rua returns to face Gian Villante. At lightweight, Edson Barboza fights Beneil Dariush. In flyweight action, Jussier Formiga battles Ray Borg. Plus, Bethe Correia takes on Marion Reneau, Alex Oliveira vs. Tim Means, and more!

THE STAFF:

  • He’s 411’s Jack of All Trades, Jeffrey Harris!

  • He’ll lock you in the guillotine, Robert Winfree!

  • And your host, Dan Plunkett!

    Preliminary Card
    UFC Fight Pass
    Middleweight Bout: Garreth McLellan vs. Paulo Henrique Costa
    Featherweight Bout: Rony Jason vs. Jeremy Kennedy

    Fox Sports 1
    Lightweight Bout: Michel Prazeres vs. Josh Burkman
    Bantamweight Bout: Rani Yahya vs. Joe Soto
    Welterweight Bout: Sergio Moraes vs. Davi Ramos
    Lightweight Bout: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Kevin Lee


    THE MAIN CARD:
    Welterweight Bout: Alex Oliveira vs. Tim Means

    Jeffrey Harris: Alex Oliveira, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Alex Oliveira, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Means, Decision
    The staff picks Alex Oliveira, 2-1.


    Bantamweight Bout: Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau

    Jeffrey Harris: Bethe Correia, TKO, Round 2
    Robert Winfree: Bethe Correia, TKO, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Correia, Decision
    The staff picks Bethe Correia, 3-0.


    Flyweight Bout: Jussier Formiga vs. Ray Borg

    Jeffrey Harris: Both men are solid fighters and could be close to title contendership in the flyweight division. Ray Borg’s problem is that he has trouble making the weight. Jussier Formiga’s problem is that he’s unable to win those key fights to make it to the title level. All of Formiga’s wins except one in the UFC are also by decision. I favor Ray Borg here. Provided he has a good weight cut this time and he’s prepared, I think he’s a little more dynamic and well rounded than Formiga.

    Winner: Ray Borg, Decision

    Robert Winfree: This is a very relevant flyweight fight, of course the UFC has struggled to promote that division so most people aren’t aware of it. Ray Borg only has one real loss in the UFC, Clucky cost him the Ortiz fight, but has missed weight twice and really needs to get that under control if he’s going to get a title shot. Borg is a great wrestler/grappler with incredible scrambling ability and a slick submission game, but his striking is still something of a work in progress. Jussier Formiga has a good ground game but his is more of the controlling style where Borg is more comfortable with motion and distance on the mat. Formiga is likely the better striker but he has had trouble when dealing with pressure fighters, and Borg will certainly try to pressure him. I just feel Borg is a bit more dynamic and should take a fun and competitive decision.

    Winner: Ray Borg, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: Borg looked awesome against Louis Smolka in December, so he’s jumping up near the top of the division here. Formiga has been a top flyweight for years, and he’s just below the three or four top guys in the division. Borg is a good grappler, particularly from the top, but Formiga is significantly more accomplished in that world. I think Formiga finds himself in good positions in this fight and wins a close decision.

    Winner: Formiga, Decision

    The staff picks Ray Borg, 2-1.


    Lightweight Bout: Edson Barboza vs. Beneil Dariush

    Jeffrey Harris: This is actually a fantastic lightweight battle between two legitimate top 10 lightweights. Both fighters have been looking good lately. Barboza won his last two fights against Gilbert Melendez and former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. It looks like he’s made some adjustments in his game and hit an even higher level. Dariush is very well rounded. He has some exceptional grappling, and he has very good takedowns and MMA wrestling. For Dariush, this is a huge opportunity for him to possibly break into the top five of the lightweight division. This could be a crucial fight in light of Khabib Nurmagomedov failing to make weight at UFC 209. So, right here, I’m leaning toward Dariush. Barboza is an incredible striker with dynamic kicks. However, far too often, I’ve seen him wilt under the pressure. If Dariush is able to keep a forward aggression and pace for Barboza, I think he can win.

    Winner: Beneil Dariush, Submission, Round 2

    Robert Winfree: While the lightweight title scene is still a mess between McGregor’s refusal to fight and some MMA god having cursed the bout between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, seriously they’ve tried that fight three times and it’s always fallen apart, a fight like this doesn’t quite mean what it should. Normally the winner here would be in prime position for a title eliminator fight. Barboza has won his last two fights and his most recent loss was to top contender Tony Ferguson so he could be in position for a shot and Dariush has kept a busy schedule while only losing twice in the UFC. But since everyone at the top of the division is screwing around a really compelling fight like this means a lot less. Barboza is a dynamic striker and while he’s had issues with pressure fighters in the past he seems to have learned to work around that weakness, his angles and turning in the face of aggression have improved a great deal since the Michael Johnson fight and at distance he might be the most dangerous lightweight in the world with his devastating kicking game. Dariush fights OK at distance, he favors a long left body kick to sap the energy of his opponents so he can close distance and force a grappling match. On the mat Dariush is very very good and that will be his avenue to victory here, forcing Barboza to eat body kicks and then tire him out grappling en route to a finish. I’m not sure he can do that though, Barboza has been improving recently and working a lot on his weaknesses and I think Dariush will be a little too comfortable at distance and will give Barboza enough time to cause damage and he wont be able to recover. That said, this is lightweight and Dariush taking this wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

    Winner: Edson Barboza, TKO, Round 2

    Dan Plunkett: This is an excellent matchup. Dariush is a tremendous grappler, while Barboza is super athletic and dangerous on the feet. Ultimately, I think Barboza keeps it on the feet and hurts Dariush.

    Winner: Barboza, TKO, Round 2

    The staff picks Edson Barboza, 2-1.


    Light Heavyweight Bout: Mauricio Rua vs. Gian Villante

    Jeffrey Harris: Despite Mauricio “Shogun” Rua probably being toward the end of his career, this probably isn’t the worst type of match-up for him at this point. Villante’s not the most elite opponent, and he frequently leaves his chin out to get punched and knocked out. Honestly, while I can’t see Shogun knocking out too many elite light heavyweights these days, this is a fight where he can win. The question is if Shogun will be coming into the fight in good shape and aware of the holes in Villante’s game. Now can Villante knockout Shogun here? Yes. He definitely has some knockout power. The problem is he’s also very inconsistent with his performances, hence his 5-4 UFC record. Good be a disaster, but I’m picking Shogun here. Interesting factoid for this fight. If Shogun wins, this will be the first time he goes on a 3-0 stretch in the UFC.

    Winner: Shogun, TKO, Round 1

    Robert Winfree: I’m not really interested in his fight. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua might be the second best light heavyweight of all time but he’s clearly on the down side of his career and needed the assistance of Brazilian Clucky to beat Corey Anderson. Rua doesn’t have the same game he used to, his knees have suffered a ton of damage over the years, so his kicks aren’t as frequent, his knees from the clinch are virtually absent, and he’s relying on either lunging hooks to close distance or body lock takedowns. He should still win here as Gian Villante is a very typical brawler who struggled a little in his last fight against an undersized short notice opponent. Rua is kind of shot and him losing wont be shocking, but this is the kind of fight that he should win if he’s even a fraction of his former self.

    Winner: Mauricio Rua, TKO, Round 1

    Dan Plunkett: It’s strange, and sad in many ways, to see Shogun in such a throwaway fight on a television card. Villante is younger, bigger, and good on the feet, but he has holes. Shogun is a slower and significantly less mobile version of the guy that won the world grand prix a dozen years ago, but he still has power and he can hang in there with solid opposition if he doesn’t leave himself open. I can see it going either way, but Villante is the safer pick.

    Winner: Villante, Decision

    The staff picks Shogun Rua, 2-1.


    Middleweight Bout: Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum

    Jeffrey Harris: I’m going all in on Kelvin Gastelum for this fight. He’s not forcing his body to cut down to welterweight. He’s also fighting an older, post-TRT Vitor Belfort. Gastelum actually has some very underrated boxing. He’s got great MMA wrestling, and that tends to be a nightmare type of match-up for Belfort. I will be surprised if this ends up going to the later rounds, but I’ve got Gastelum for this one.

    Winner: Kelvin Gastelum, TKO, Round 3

    Robert Winfree: Kelvin Gastelum survives the first two minutes of misplaced and ill timed aggression from Belfort, Belfort crumbles mentally and physically, pulls guard, and gets smashed from top position. Basically just like his last three losses. I want to see Gastelum against a middleweight who isn’t on the verge of retirement next, maybe Derek Brunson.

    Winner: Kelvin Gastelum, TKO, Round 1

    Dan Plunkett: Vitor may have one good burst in him within the first two minutes of the fight, but I don’t think he has much else in the tank. The longer the fight goes, the more it’s in Gastelum’s favor, and the fight should be in Gastelum’s favor the second it begins.

    Winner: Gastelum, TKO, Round 2

    The staff picks Kelvin Gastelum, 3-0.


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