Conor Mcgregor vs Cowboy Cerrone PPV: I’ve seen plenty of complaints about the undercard of UFC 246. While I would disagree with the quality of the prelims, I can see where those complaints are coming from with regards to the main card. Entering 2019,
Aleksei Oleinik was one of the more intriguing stories as an over-40 underdog in the heavyweight division, coming off an upset win over Mark Hunt. Two losses later and his story isn’t nearly as fun. And yet, he makes the main card with Maurice Greene? No disrespect to the Crochet Boss – his 3-1 UFC record is respectable – but when your best win is arguably Jeff Hughes, you have no business on a PPV main card. Plus, most believe Holly Holm and Raquel Pennington is an underwhelming co-main event. To be fair, Alexa Grasso and Claudia Gadelha is a quality contest. So is Diego Ferreira and Anthony Pettis. Not all is bad with the main card, but it does feel like the UFC could have given fans more; especially coming off a long layoff.Nobody has lived off a single win more than Holm has with regards to her win over Ronda Rousey. She has gone 2-5 since that industry-shattering win, her wins coming over Bethe Correia and Megan Anderson, victories hardly representative of the MMA elite. It could be argued she has been facing some of the best competition in that time – four of those losses were title fights with the other loss coming against future champion Valentina Shevchenko – but given the spotlight she continues to receive from the UFC, she should be winning some of these fights.
Despite her struggles, Holm is still a dangerous opponent, even if she isn’t elite. Possessing perhaps the best cardio in all the women’s division, she throws an astounding amount of strikes over the course of her contests with nary a sign of slowing down by the end of the match. Of course, most of those strikes fail to connect as Holm struggles to commit to her strikes, often coming up just short of connecting. In fact, it’s ironic the former boxing champion’s most effective strikes are her wide variety of kicks. Her two KO’s in the UFC were both head kick KO’s, but she also throws a lot of low kicks and side kicks to make up for her lack of accuracy in her punches.
Where Holm doesn’t get much credit is her abilities in the clinch. Huge for the bantamweight division – she hasn’t been undersized in her excursions to featherweight in the least – Holm does a good job of smothering opponents in the clinch and wearing them down. Then again, she isn’t very active in close quarters either. However, Holm doesn’t get a lot of credit for her wrestling either, though she only chooses to go in that direction when she has a clear advantage as she did against Megan Anderson.
She won’t have that against Pennington. Pennington isn’t a powerhouse wrestler by any means, nor does she go that route very often, typically only when she’s eating too many shots on the feet which contributes to her poor takedown percentage. Regardless, she’s tough to takedown and an underrated grappler, not having been submitted since the first year of her professional career.
However, it would be foolish to focus too much on what these two fighters can do on the mat, even if Pennington tries to go to the mat as Holm stuffed all her attempts in their previous contest. Granted, that contest was five years ago, but Pennington’s wrestling hasn’t changed since then. However, her standup abilities… those have matured. Pennington would have issues letting her fists fly at times, attempting to be a counter fighter… sometimes without the countering. She’s become an effective counter puncher now and more controlled on the attack too. She leads with a jab and rarely throws single strikes, usually putting together a large amount of simple kick-punch combinations.
This is a difficult contest to pick. Pennington is a better fighter since the first time they fought and she nearly pulled off the upset the first time. Based on that, it should be a given that she should get the win this time, especially given her increased level of activity in the clinch compared to Holm. However, Holm has also become a better fighter, even if her record doesn’t reflect it since the Rousey contest. Holm is coming off the first KO loss of her MMA career, leaving speculation of where she is mentally. However, she recovered beautifully to her KO loss to Anne Sophie Mathis. Then again, Holm is now 38 and has never dealt with an extended losing stretch like this. I’ll go with Pennington to take a tick for tack decision. Pennington via decision.
I’m sure it sounds like I was crapping all over Greene in the introduction paragraph. Let me make it clear: I have no problem with Greene. He has a lot of promise. He sports a 6’7” with an 80” reach with minimal flab. He’s not a powerhouse, but he has enough power to put a scare into his opposition. At 33, he’s still young by heavyweight standards. Plus, he has a functional submission game from off his back, a function that’s less valuable at heavyweight than it would be at other divisions, but nevertheless a skill set that’s unique and nice to have. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for him to develop into a top ten heavyweight by the end of the year.
The problem for him is on the mental end of things, an issue that was first revealed during his stint on TUF. When Greene has his head in the right space, he puts together solid punch-kick combinations. Other times, he appears to be throwing whatever comes to his mind in hopes of his opponent running into it. Most disappointing is his inability to use his height and length to his advantage defensively, opponents having little trouble navigating his reach.
Despite being 5-inches shorter, Oleinik has the same reach as his American counterpart. Though he isn’t known for being much of a striker – in fact, Oleinik is downright awkward – Oleinik’s experience helps him to see holes most fighters don’t see and land some powerful bombs. However, everyone knows Oleinik may be the most dangerous choke artist in the history of the heavyweight division, if not MMA. Who else is capable of performing an Ezekiel choke from their back when their opponent has mount? Neck cranks, arm triangle chokes, and RNC’s are other frequently used tools for the longtime vet.
There are legit concerns about Oleinik’s durability. He’s been fighting since well before the turn of the century and was violently finished in his last two contests. However, he was also facing two of the heavier hitters at heavyweight in Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris. Plus, Overeem and Harris had experience against better opposition than Greene has faced. Oleinik has feasted on inexperienced competition in the past, finding a way to get the fight where he wants. I see no reason why he won’t here. Oleinik via submission of RD1