UFC 286 Preview: Joanne Wood Returns

There is a price to be paid for running two PPVs so close together. First, it will be difficult to maintain high levels of quality in such a short period of time. In other words, given that UFC 285 was a high-quality card as a whole, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that UFC 286 suffers a noticeable drop.

Part of this can be attributed to the card taking place in the UK. Not that there’s anything wrong with the UK, but given that the majority of the UFC roster is based in North America, it might be difficult to get them to fly over the Atlantic. It’s even harder to convince those outside of Brazil to make the trip. Not that there aren’t Brazilians on the card, but it’s easier to twist the arm of someone new to the organization than someone who’s established.

That being said, there is a wide range of fighters early in their UFC careers on paper who could prove to be major players in the future. There are some that look like they might wash out quickly, but there’s a reason fights happen. After all, if everything went as planned, we wouldn’t have the trilogy match with Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman.

  • I like Gabriel Santos enough. In other words, it appears to have higher upside than the average outlook. The recently crowned LFA featherweight champion gained a reputation as a dangerous grappler early in his MMA career, but has proven to be just as much of a threat on the feet, if not more so. His impressive foundation in Muay Thai has really started to sink in after some adversity early in his MMA career. Unfortunately for Santos, I think he will bite off more than he can chew in his debut against Lerone Murphy. The undefeated Murphy may be the most underrated heavyweight on the roster. He has proven to be a top athlete with an amazingly well-rounded skill set. There may not be a specific area that it dominates, but the number of fighters that will overwhelm it in any area will be sparse. Santos is good and I wouldn’t completely rule out the possibility of Santos getting a puncher opportunity, but Murphy is a superior athlete in addition to having more substantial experience. I hope Santos gets a chance to show off some of his talent, but I don’t feel confident about that given the late update of the circumstances under which he accepted the fight. If I had to guess, Murphy scores a GnP win. Murphy via TKO of RD2
  • There are indications Dusko Todorovic he matures as a fighter. After all, he survived an early onslaught from Jordan Wright before turning the tables on him for the finish. Previously, Todorovic would probably have panicked before his opponent touched his chin. Instead, Todorovic kept his cool before turning the tables on Wright. Given that Todorovic’s chin is still out there for you to touch in normal, this is still a reasonable concern. As it welcomes the former Cage Warriors middleweight champion Christian Leroy Duncan for the organization, there is even greater cause for concern. Duncan is a fearsome and creative striker. Since he has proven to be just as dangerous with his punches as he is with his kicks, it has been difficult for his opponents to prepare. There is concern about his takedown defense and Todorovic is not a bad wrestler, paving the way to victory for the Serb. However, I haven’t seen enough I like from Todorovic in this division to feel confident in predicting that he can pull off the upset. Duncan has a history of making his opponents pay for trying to take him down and it’s hard to believe that Duncan – a Scotsman – won’t fuel the UK crowd to secure a highlight reel on his debut. Duncan via KO of RD2
  • It may come from loss, but Malcolm Gordon he has never seen his stock higher than it is now. That’s because the Canadian veteran showed his fight acumen, giving Muhammad Mokaev the toughest test of his career. Showing a confidence that was lacking early in his UFC career, Gordon successfully countered Mokaev’s early submission attempts, even reversing his position on him and catching him in a deep submission attempt. Given that Gordon also held his own against an athlete like Mokaev, there’s every reason to believe he can pull off the upset Jake Hadley. Hadley is a promising flyweight talent in his own right, but his wrestling and grappling have been disappointing compared to the hype he’s received on the regional stage. To be fair, Hadley hasn’t exactly hit the bed there, but he was easier to hold and hold than expected. His improved and varied hitting helped alleviate the frustration, which will likely be Hadley’s point of emphasis given Gordon’s history. I’m shocked how strong the odds are in Hadley’s favor given his recent struggles play into what Gordon does well. I’m still picking the latest and greatest, but I have a hard time believing that the betting community won’t take advantage of Gordon’s underdog line. Hadley by decision
  • It’s safe to say Joan Wood She never lived up to the high expectations the UFC had when they signed her in 2014. In hindsight, it’s clear the expectations were too high as Wood is a bit of a one-note fighter who excels in Muay Thai. The thing is, when he can play that note, it’s not hard to see why so many expected him to be in the title hunt. Unfortunately for Wood, her opponents have learned not to let her play that note and it’s not hard to stop her from doing so, resulting in a barrage of losses. To be fair, Wood has only lost to the best fighters in the flyweight division, and five of those losses have come against women who have fought for the title. The issue for Wood is that she is only comfortable in two areas: either outside spam breaks and a wide variety of kicks, or in the clinch. While her knees and elbows can do a lot of damage in close range, she’s also vulnerable to takedowns from there and has suffered three first-round losses in her last five appearances. This should not worry us Luana Carolina as the Brazilian has yet to complete a takedown in her UFC career. Carolina is both older and a superior athlete than Wood, but she also borders on reckless. Wood has her issues with grappling and grappling, but she’s also extremely tough to knock out with strikes. So it’s going to be a hell of a chore for Carolina to get a KO hit. If she doesn’t, she is likely to be outworked by the technically superior Wood, provided age and wear and tear have not fully caught up with the 37-year-old. Wood by decision
  • The UFC hasn’t Jay Herbert any grace. All three of his losses have come against opponents who have been in the UFC’s official rankings in recent years, if not currently ranked. However, because those losses were so one-sided, it’s easy to forget that Herbert has proven in the eyes of most that he is a legitimate UFC talent. Possessing a burly frame and the knowledge of how to use it to his advantage in striking, Herbert presents a challenge that many in the lightweight division will struggle to solve. It’s hard to say if Ludovit Klein can solve him. Klein is a dangerous striker who is best known for his headers, although it would be a mistake to assume he isn’t just as dangerous with his hands. The concern with Klein is that Herbert has been vulnerable to fighters who can threaten him with their ground game. Klein has looked much better since moving up to lightweight permanently, showing improved energy in the process. The concern is that he is short for the department, which could cause him problems against Herbert. I’m shocked the odds aren’t closer – not that they’re extremely long – but I’ll go with Herbert, believing he’ll get a boost from the home crowd. Herbert by decision
  • It blows my mind Veronica Macedo he’s still only 27. The native of Venezuela made his UFC debut in 2016, but has only made five appearances in that span, averaging less than one appearance per year. At one point, I thought she had a high ceiling given her athleticism and lack of experience. At this point, it hasn’t shown much progress, leading me to believe that it will be used as fodder at this point. Since the UFC pits her against the recent TUF winner Julianna Miller, they seem to believe the same thing. Miller isn’t much younger at 26, but she only has four professional fights under her belt. What he does have are extensive accolades for struggle and a hunger to succeed. It doesn’t take much film study to see that her standup needs work, but there are signs that she’s making progress. More importantly, when Miller is in the cage, she fights with a mean streak and confidence that Macedo has never shown. Macedo is a good athlete with enough power to surprise and an underrated race game. Being married to a top analyst like Dan Hardy doesn’t hurt either. That said, he has already retired from the sport once due to concussion issues. I understand she’s young, but it’s not like issues like concussions just go away. Miller should get an easy win. Miller via TKO of RD3

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