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411’s MMA Roundtable Preview – UFC 231: Holloway vs. Ortega

December 8, 2018 | Posted by Dan Plunkett
UFC 231

Finally, Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega is on! The unbeaten Ortega challenges Holloway for the featherweight championship in the main event of UFC 231! In the co-main event, old rivals Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk square off once more, this time with the UFC women’s flyweight title on the line! At welterweight, Gunnar Nelson returns to fight Alex Oliveira. Plus, Hakeem Dawodu takes on Kyle Bochniak, Jimi Manuwa vs. Thiago Santos, and more!


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

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

  • And your host, Dan Plunkett!

    First four prelims on UFC Fight Pass, rest on Fox Sports 1.
    Light Heavyweight Bout: Devin Clark vs. Aleksandar Rakic

    Robert Winfree: Aleksandar Rakic, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Rakic, Decision

    Lightweight Bout: Carlos Diego Ferreira vs. Kyle Nelson

    Robert Winfree: Carlos Diego Ferreira, Submission, Round 1
    Dan Plunkett: Ferreira, Submission, Round 2

    Welterweight Bout: Chad Laprise vs. Dhiego Lima

    Jeffrey Harris: Chad Laprise, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Chad Laprise, TKO, Round 1
    Dan Plunkett: Laprise, TKO, Round 1

    Bantamweight Bout: Brad Katona vs. Matthew Lopez

    Jeffrey Harris: Brad Katona, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Matthew Lopez, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Katona, Decision

    Middleweight Bout: Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders

    Jeffrey Harris: Elias Theodorou, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Eryk Anders, TKO, Round 3
    Dan Plunkett: Theodorou, Decision

    Flyweight Bout: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye

    Jeffrey Harris: Jessica Eye, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Katlyn Chookagian, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Chookagian, Decision

    Lightweight Bout: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns

    Jeffrey Harris: Gilbert Burns, TKO, Round 2
    Robert Winfree: Gilbert Burns, Submission, Round 2
    Dan Plunkett: Burns, Decision

    Strawweight Bout: Claudia Gadelha vs. Nina Ansaroff

    Jeffrey Harris: Claudia Gadelha, Decision
    Robert Winfree: Claudia Gadelha, Decision
    Dan Plunkett: Gadelha, Decision

    Light Heavyweight Bout: Jimi Manuwa vs. Thiago Santos

    Jeffrey Harris: This is actually a pretty decent fight for the light heavyweight decision all things considered. Both guys are experienced veterans and usually make for exciting fights. Thiago Santos is very underrated. He actually has 10 wins in the UFC. Only one of those fights went the distance. Manuwa is coming off two tough losses here and is looking to avoid going 0-3. I actually like Thiago Santos for this fight. His striking and kickboxing are deadly. Manuwa probably has an edge with his boxing, but I think Santos, as long as he’s not too reckless, will be OK. Santos is very good with forward aggression, and I think that will pay off here.

    Winner: Thiago Santos, TKO, Round 2

    Robert Winfree: This has some potential to be a banger of a fight. Both men are big, looking at Santos here I’m a bit surprised he made middleweight so consistently, both men are powerful, and both men are a little bit chinny which tends to make for either entertaining fights or fights where neither man will engage. Santos is the more diverse striker, Manuwa tends to be more of a straight puncher whereas Santos liberally incorporates kicks into his game. I’m leaning towards Santos but with the power both of these guys will be swinging around I wouldn’t be shocked with either of them winning.

    Winner: Thiago Santos, TKO, Round 1

    Dan Plunkett: This one was made for violence. Manuwa is getting up there in age—he turns 39 in a couple of months, and he badly needs a win here after dropping his last two. Santos is on an upward trajectory. I like Santos here.

    Winner: Santos, TKO, Round 2

    Featherweight Bout: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak

    Jeffrey Harris: This fight is sort of an odd choice for the main card, especially with such a stacked set of UFC prelims, other than the fact that Hakeem Dawodu hails from Canada, and UFC probably had to fulfill some sort of obligation to book a Canadian fighter on the main card. Kyle Bochniak is coming off a loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov. It was awarded Fight of the Night honors, so that’s probably why he gets on the card here. I’m not expecting much. I’m predicting Kyle Bochniak to dominate Dawodu and get back on the winning track.

    Winner: Kyle Bochniak, Decision

    Robert Winfree: Hakeem Dawodu is here because he’s a local, he’s flashy but isn’t very good. Bochniak isn’t flashy but is pretty solid all the way around and I like him to avoid the flashy stuff in the first and drown Dawodu as the fight wears on.

    Winner: Kyle Bochniak TKO, Round 2

    Dan Plunkett: I like Dawodu here, but I don’t see a finish (Bochniak survived Zabit after all).

    Winner: Dawodu, Decision

    Welterweight Bout: Alex Oliveira vs. Gunnar Nelson

    Jeffrey Harris: This is actually a very good fight for the welterweight division. Gunnar Nelson, while he’s had some consistency issues in the Octagon, is an exceptional fighter and grappler. He’s also a human submission machine. Six of his seven UFC wins have come by the way of submission. Alex Oliveira at times can be a tricky fighter. He’s fairly well rounded, but I don’t think that will phase Nelson here. The main concern with Nelson is ring rust. This will be his first fight since July 2017, so almost a year and a half. However, if you’ve been paying attention to Nelson on social media, he hasn’t been getting lazy and out of shape in his off-season. In fact, he looks like he’s in some of the best shape of his career ahead of this fight. I think that bodes well for the fact that he’s been hitting the gym and not been getting rusty before this bout. Gunnar Nelson, when he’s on, is a cold-blooded killer. And I expect we will see that version of Nelson here.

    Winner: Gunnar Nelson, Submission, Round 2

    Robert Winfree: Alex Oliveira is one of the more under appreciated reliable action fighters in the UFC right now. Nelson is the superior grappler and Oliveira has been out grappled in the past, but only by someone of about Nelson’s caliber. Oliveira is more of a rough and tumble style fighter, he’ll beat you up from anywhere he can and has a physical game that surprises a lot of his opponents. I’ve got a weird image in my head of Nelson trying that karate bounce and lunging straight into a powerful counter that basically spells the end of the fight for him so I’ll go with that.

    Winner: Alex Oliveira, TKO, Round 2

    Dan Plunkett: Nelson has been off for a while and this is a good fight for him to come back to. Oliveira has had a hell of a recent run. He had the fight of the year contender against Yancy Medeiros last December, then stopped Carlos Condit on short notice, and in September he scored a 39 second win. I think Gunnar Nelson is in for a very tough night, but his grappling gets him the edge.

    Winner: Nelson, Submission, Round 3

    UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship Bout: Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

    Jeffrey Harris: On paper, this is a fantastic match-up. It’s definitely a match-up that’s worthy of the UFC women’s flyweight title. Valentina Shevchenko looks to secure her first UFC championship. Meanwhile, Joanna Jedrzejczyk looks to become the first woman to win titles in two different weight classes in the UFC and once again be called Joanna Champion. Both women have fought each other before multiple times. However, those were kickboxing bouts. Shevchenko won all of those fights. Granted, MMA is a completely different sport. Also, Jedrzejczyk will be fighting at a higher weight for the first time in her MMA career. Both women are seasoned strikers and exceptional kickboxers. Joanna is very good at keeping the fight where she wants it. Shevchenko has even proven to be pretty well rounded and shown some strong grappling skills in her recent fights. I can see ways for Joanna to win, but I’m picking Shevchenko. Joanna tends to be a slow starter in her fights. She likes to take her time, and I think that will be a big mistake for her. Ultimately, Shevchenko will outpoint and dominate her to pick up the win and become the new UFC flyweight champion.

    Winner: Valentina Shevchenko, Decision

    Robert Winfree: I’m still of the opinion this is the best women’s fight in MMA you can make, though there’s a valid argument that title goes to the upcoming bout between Amanda Nunes and Cris “Cyborg” Justino. Both women are gifted strikers with a profound understanding of distance and managing it that has led to much of their success. Jedrzejczyk is the more active fighter and she excels at winning rounds more than anything else, she’s also better playing the matador but will play the bull if her opponent isn’t obliging her in that respect. It’s that habit that I think will bite her here as Shevchenko is similar, she’s better countering but is content to let the fight come to her rather than push a serious pace. The more interesting aspect of this fight will be wrestling and if either part tries to use it, because Shevchenko is still very much in upper body and/or head and arm throws (a bad one of which possibly cost her the bantamweight title) whereas Jedrzejczyk has spent a lot of time on the more traditional wrestling fundamentals. All in all I’m leaning towards Shevchenko as I think her countering ability, lightness on her feet, and Jedrzejczyk’s habit of forcing action even when it’s to her detriment lead to Shevchenko winning. Jedrzejczyk also marks up very easily and I wouldn’t be shocked if Shevchenko opens her up or causes the kind of swelling that gets the doctor to stop this thing.

    Winner: Valentina Shevchenko, Decision

    Dan Plunkett: These last two fights are fantastic. I think we’ll see that Shevchenko is a step ahead of Jedrzejczyk in a close one. They have fought thrice before in muay Thai, and given the shallowness of the women’s flyweight division, Saturday might not be the last time they meet.

    Winner: Shevchenko, Decision

    UFC Featherweight Championship Bout: Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega

    Jeffrey Harris: As of writing this, this fight match-up is still intact. Hopefully nothing happens this week to prevent this long awaited featherweight title fight from finally happening. It’s hard to overlook Max Holloway’s litany of injuries and health issues that have prevented him from fighting for the last year. It’s also hard to overlook that he might be having trouble with his weight cuts. That could be affecting his brain. Dehydrating your body and your brain for your weight cut isn’t healthy. That being said, I’m still picking Holloway here. I’m going to disregard the injury and health issues for now, since that hasn’t really affected Holloway in the past. Ortega has been exceptional talent. He’s well rounded. He became the first man in the history of the sport to finish Frankie Edgar. He’s proven to be an amazing grappler with great submission skills. He’s proven he has knockout power too. However, Holloway has knockout power as well. I can see ways that Ortega can win, but Holloway’s striking and standup skills, the way he mixes things up with great accuracy, has me picking him here. Not to mention, for years, I always pick Holloway to win, and it’s served me pretty well so far. I expect a tough fight, but I’m picking Holloway to win this one.

    Winner: Max Holloway, TKO, Round 4

    Robert Winfree: Man do I love this fight. Max Holloway is a study in consistency, adjustment, and appropriate pressure. Holloway takes a minute or two to get a feel for his opponent then begins slowly, but relentlessly, increasing his pace and pressure until you break. His ability to adjust minute to minute in real time is unbelievable, and once he finds the spot he’s going to apply pressure on and the tool to do it with he will not stop until the ref makes him. Holloway’s jab, from either stance, is probably the best in the division and his up and down combinations are beautiful to behold. In point of fact both of these guys go to the body more reliably and effectively than 95% of the rest of the division. Holloway also has a solid kicking game, though he’ll likely be more conservative with it in this bout as hitting the mat with Ortega is a bad idea. Ortega is similar in that he seems to improve as the fight goes on, more through dogged determination than through adjustment and subtlety. Ortega is a jiu-jitsu wizard but doesn’t do much in terms of offensive wrestling, preferring to counter wrestle or grab a snap down or front headlock out of a clinch as opposed to shooting a traditional double leg. I think Ortega has a slight edge in power, Holloway is volume and accuracy rather than crushing one punch power, and Ortega has a really under appreciated elbow game that he’s surprised more than a few opponents with. I can see plenty of ways for both men to win but I’m leaning towards Holloway, I haven’t picked against him in a long time and can’t bring myself to here.

    Winner: Max Holloway, TKO, Round 5

    Dan Plunkett: Ortega is so extremely dangerous, but I have a hard time picturing Max Holloway losing at featherweight right now. His pace is unfathomable, and it seems that he can keep it throughout the course of the entire fight. I like Holloway late.

    Winner: Holloway, TKO, Round 5

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