Fight Picks – UFC 184: Rousey vs Zingano

Ronda Rousey

“Card subject to change” could be the header for this weekend’s UFC 184 which goes down in Los Angeles’ famed Staples Center in the early hours of Saturday night. Initially, middleweights Weidman, Belfort, Jacare and Romero were scheduled to make this one of the strongest events of the year but the injury scourge put pay to those ideas. Instead, the ladies now take center stage in the top two fights with opportunity knocking for all four women.

Ronda Rousey (c) vs. Cat Zingano

From the very moment Dana White announced there would be females fighting in the UFC, it has been no secret that the division, and it’s success or failure, would largely come down to Ronda Rousey and how well she represents the women inside and outside of the cage. In the outside world, she has been nothing short of exemplary in her representation of the sport while being must-watch TV every time she fights. On Saturday, that will again be the case against what’s possibly her toughest opponent to date – Cat Zingano. Initially, the pair were scheduled to coach ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ side by side but a knee injury to Zingano, after beating Miesha Tate, scuppered those plans. Rousey went on to beat Tate and subsequently Sara McMann and Alexis Davis to take her UFC record to 4-0; while Zingano made a winning comeback against Amanda Nunes to regain her number one contender status.

A 2008 judo Olympic bronze medalist, Rousey is still undefeated in her MMA career and will look to extend that in her third main event since she debuted inside the Octagon. Her first line of offence will usually be that judo. Rousey is a pressure fighter and loves to tie up her opponents against the fence before tossing them on their back. On the floor Rousey might be the most dangerous fighter division for division in the UFC. The armbar is now synonymous with her but it’s her ability to control opponents in wild scrambles while keeping dominance that sets her apart. Add to that the ferocious boxing game she has been working on and Rousey is a daunting task for anyone.

Also undefeated, Zingano is as equipped as anyone around WUFC at the moment to to put it up to Rousey. Her main asset is a strong Muay Thai attack as she showed in brutal style against Miesha Tate. Zingano throws wild, hard punches and has some of the best knees in her division. On the ground, Zingano is also a really good scrambler and has the benefit of years working with her, now tragically deceased, husband who was known as an armbar specialist himself. Zingano May very well be the second best female fighter in the world but Rousey is, deservedly, a heavy favourite going into this one.

In her MMA career to date, Rousey has been known to want to finish the fight in the fastest manner possible and on Saturday night that’s probably going to be on the floor. Expect a bit of striking early but a clinch exchange shouldn’t be too far into round one. And it’s there where the fight will be won or lost. If Zingano can stop Ronda from throwing her, while landing strikes herself in the clinch, she will have a good chance of an making this one into a fight. But, that’s a massive if. In that clinch we will know fairly quickly how well Zingano can cope. For me, I don’t think she, or anyone for that matter, can stop the Rousey throw. I think the throwing and submission game of Rousey will be making a cameback here on Saturday. Even if it doesn’t, I think Rousey’s size and improving striking will be enough to see her through wherever this one goes.

Pick – Rousey via submission

Raquel Pennington vs. Holly Holm

For a long time, former professional boxing world championship Holly Holm has been pin pointed as the premier bantamweight outside of the UFC who might be capable of posing a challenge to champion Ronda Rousey. Holm has demolished everyone on the regional circuit to attain a 7-0 record but has had her career hampered by injury since singing with the UFC. Now, against TUF veteran Pennington, Holm will make her debut on the co-main event to Rousey and on the same weekend as Cris Cyborg returns to the cage. With an impressive win, it’s likely to start up talks of a Holm title shot again. Pennington, though, could be a tricky assignment. Although she has an unimpressive looking 5-4 record, mainly because of the level of fighter she faced early in her career, Pennington has improved as a fighter drastically since appearing on The Ultimate Fighter and has a real opportunity to cause the upset here.

As mentioned above, Holm is a former professional boxing champion but doesn’t totally rely on her base in MMA. Fighting out of Albuquerque under Mike Winklejohn and Greg Jackson, Holm has developed a style which has been effective in the MMA career so far and suits her strengths as a high output athlete. She had a wide, karate style, striking stance from which she can better stop takedowns and attack off the hip from the southpaw stance. Holm attacks, like all Team Jackson fighters, with a wood chipper offence, throwing oblique kicks and wild high kicks behind her long jab and straight left. What we don’t really know about Holm is her ability on the floor against top quality opponents – Pennington will be hoping to change that.

As she showed in her last fight with Ashlee Evans Smith, Raquel loves a scrap. Pennington is an unusual fighter in the women’s bantamweight division in that she thrives in a war of attrition. Her striking isn’t of the level of Holm but her ability to close the distance before engaging the clinch is extremely good. From that clinch, Pennington lands a tremendous amount of damage, especially with knees, and is dangerous with submissions if the fight is dragged to the floor. The big danger for Pennington is the amount of damage she takes and, against Holm, she can’t afford to take too much of that. Early in the fight I expect Holm to have plenty of striking offence but if she can’t connect with a KO blow, as she sometimes has trouble doing, the winning of this fight, like the main event, could be in the clinch. If Pennington can get that clinch and keep it for a prolonged period of time, or even drag Holm down, she has a huge opportunity of taking the upset here. It’ll be a tough task but I think she just might be able to do it. I’m going with Pennington to get the big upset here with a first round submission.

Pick – Pennington via submission

Jake Ellenberger vs. Josh Koscheck

Just a few short years ago, the meeting of Josh Koscheck and Jake Ellenberger would have been a real high quality welterweight contender bout with possible title implications. Now, after a poor run of form, both men are clinging to their place amongst the elite – and maybe even their jobs. Koscheck is by far the more decorated of the two in MMA. A member of season one of The Ultimate Fighter, “Kos” went on to fight for the welterweight title in a losing effort against Georges St-Pierre and has wins over the likes of Matt Hughes, Diego Sanchez and Anthony Johnson. Since 2012, though, Koscheck hasn’t won a fight, losing to Johny Hendricks, Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley. Although he has never reached championship level, Ellenberger has had an impressive 6 year run in the UFC – most of which was spent in the welterweight top 10. Although he has career wins over Jake Shields, Diego Sanchez and Nate Marquardt, just like Koscheck, Ellenberger has lost his last three on the ping against Lawler, Rory MacDonald and Kelvin Gastelum and really needs to bounce back here.

Wrestlers who have added boxing to their arsenal is a good way to describe both of these men. Koscheck was purely a grappler when he started but quickly added a nice technical stand-up game. It has taken Ellenberger slightly longer to do the same. “The Juggernaut” really lived up to his name early on and blitzed his way through opponents with his powerful wrestling and hard hands. The technique has only come in recent years and with it somewhat of a timidity has followed. At this stage in their respective careers, Ellenberger really should be winning this fight. Although he hasn’t been at all impressive of late that has been more to do with underperforming than any big decline. The opposite can be said for his opponent who has begun to look like the wear and tear of a long career is finally catching up with him. I think Ellenberger will be better able to settle in this fight than against previous, more athletic, opponents. If he can do that and get his striking going I’m not sure the chin of Koscheck will stand up to his power.

Pick – Ellenberger via KO

QUICK PICKS

Alan Jouban vs. Richard Walsh Jouban dominates and wins the decision
Tony Ferguson vs. Gleison TibauTibau stops the takedown and outpoints Ferguson.
Mark Muñoz vs. Roan Carneiro Munoz takes Carneiro down and stops him
Roman Salazar vs. Norifumi Yamamoto Kid Yamamoto roles back the years with a submission
Dhiego Lima vs. Tim Means – Lima gets inside and outstrikes Means
Derrick Lewis vs. Ruan Potts – It ends in round one, Lewis gets the KO
James Krause vs. Valmir LazaroKrause gets THE decision
Masio Fullen vs. Alexander TorresFullen takes a narrow victory

BONUS PICKS

Fight of the night – Ferguson vs. Tibau

Performance of the night – Pennington and Rousey

BET OF THE WEEK

Raquel Pennington, who I have picked, at 5/1 is a good outside bet. Other than that, an even money treble of Lewis, Ellenberger and Rousey should be a good way to double your stake.

START TIMES

Early prelims – Midnight on Fight pass

Prelims – 1am BT Sport 1 HD

Main card – 3am BT Sport 1 HD

Podcaster, lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Sunday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Also write for Sherdog. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma