UFC On Fox 15: Machida vs. Rockhold – Preview, Fight Picks and Kountermove Breakdown

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The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey is the MMA world’s premier destination this weekend as the UFC returns to Fox screens in America for the fifteenth time. Like many of the past events, this card is a top quality affair with contenders, former champions and big prospects littered throughout.

The main event of Saturday night’s violent symphony will be the meeting of top ranked middleweight contenders Luke Rockhold (ranked #4) and Lyoto Machida (ranked #2) with a title shot possibly on the cards for the victor. Rockhold, a former Strikeforce middleweight champion, enters the bout on a three fight winning streak having finished Costa Philippou, Tim Boetsch and Michael Bisping in increasingly impressive fashion. His only other fight inside the Octagon to date was a tough loss in his UFC debut to (TRT exempt) Vitor Belfort who fight Chris Weidman for the title later this summer. Machida, on the other hand, is a far more grizzled UFC veteran having debuted way back in 2007. The Brazilian is a former UFC light heavyweight champion having won the belt in 2009 but dropped down to middleweight in 2013 having lost to champion Jon Jones and Phil Davis at 205 lbs. Since his move to 185 lbs “The Dragon” has been ultra impressive beating Mark Munoz, Gegard Mousasi and CD Dolloway but did lose to champion Chris Weidman last summer. For both men, it’s a huge chance to knock off a fellow title contender.

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The match up, style wise, is absolutely fascinating. Machida is a karate stylist who uses his base martial art like no other inside the Octagon. The Brazilian likes to fight at long range while darting in and out, or using quick counters when attacked, to catch his opponent with strikes. We don’t often see Machida on the floor because of his elusive standing position and good takedown defence but, as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he should be more than able to hold his own. Rockhold is an equally effective fighter but very different. The American is a powerful kickboxer who constructs prolonged offensive attacks with his hands and feet while mixing it all up with a wonderful wrestling game. While, if it hits the mat, submissions are a huge plus point for the AKA fighter who has 8 so far out of 13 wins.

This fight is, by a distance, the toughest to call on the card. A finish is possible for either man but over five rounds I feel there might be a touch of energy preservation from both sides which could see it going the distance. Rockhold’s ability to close distance and either strike on the inside or get takedowns will play a big factor in how the fight goes while Machida will want to keep him at arms length and stay off of his back at all costs. Over the distance, I expect both men to have success at different times and for it to be a razor close decision. When it’s this close a fight I look for the x-factor in the match-up and, this time around, I think Machida’s quickness on the feet and defensive ability, coupled with Rockhold necessity to land a series of shots rather than just one big blow, will see “The Karate Kid” ever so slightly get the nod.

After Yoel Romero pulled up injured in training last week, it looked like the co-main even fight between himself and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza would be scrapped altogether with both men moving to a later card. Surprisingly, though, the UFC’s call for a replacement was answered and Jacare will now face Chris Camozzi for the second time on Saturday night. Their first meeting, which was also made on short notice in 2013, ended inside the first round with Jacare getting the arm triangle choke finish. Since then, Camozzi has had a whirlwind couple of years as he lost three more fight on the spin before getting cut by the UFC. Now, after two first round stoppage wins on the regional circuit, he is back at the big show. Despite three consecutive wins for Jacare since their first meeting, it hasn’t all gone his own way; with injuries and fight cancellations putting the roadblocks on a possible title run for the current #1 ranked middleweight.

The fight itself is very likely to resemble their first meeting and should heavily favour Jacare in every department. Camozzi, though, is a pretty well rounded fighter who has a powerful kickboxing game which he accompanies with a wrestling and jiu-jitsu base. Unfortunately for him, Jacare possesses all those things too – only better. The Brazilian is a world champion jiu-jitsu black belt who has come on in leaps and bounds in MMA since his days as the Strikeforce middleweight champion. Jacare has added rapid kicks, explosive takedowns and knockout boxing to his already extremely dangerous arsenal. None of that bodes well for Chris Camozzi. Even on a full camp, this would be a tough task for him, but on just one week of notice it’s practically impossible. Expect Jacare to light Camozzi up on the feet early and take him down whenever the feeling takes. From there, it’s only a matter of time before it’s over.

Following that there is a huge fight in the wide open featherweight division as the streaking Max Holloway meets veteran Cub Swanson with a place amongst the top dogs up for grabs. It should be a real back-and-forth war on the feet and a huge chance for both men, especially Max Holloway, to start a possible title run. Then, the new darling of UFC PR, Paige VanZant, gets the first real test of her career against Felice Herrig with a title shot possibly on the line. This may not be the most high quality of fights but what’s possibly at stake, as well as seeing how much VanZant’s MMA game has progressed, makes it rather intriguing. Before that, though, in the prelims, watch out for uber prospects Aljamain Sterling and Beneil Dariush while the meeting of Ovince St-Preux and Pat Cummins could signal the sprouting of new light heavyweight contender.

FIGHT PICKS (KOUNTERMOVE PRICES IN BRACKETS)

Lyoto Machida (5100) vs.Luke Rockhold (5500) – A close fight goes to Machida 
Ronaldo Souza (5400) vs. Chris Camozzi (4200) – Jacare wins whenever and wherever he wants
Cub Swanson (4500) vs. Max Holloway (5100) – Swanson outstrikes and decisions Holloway
Felice Herrig (5000) vs. Paige VanZant (4600)  – A close fight ends in a PVZ TKO

Jim Miller (4900) vs. Beneil Dariush (4400) – Dariush takes Miller down and gets the finish
Ovince Saint Preux (5100) vs. Patrick Cummins (4500) – A wrestling clinic wins it for Cummins
Corey Anderson (5000) vs. Gian Villante (4600) – Anderson lands a big KO
Takeya Mizugaki (4900) vs. Aljamain Sterling (4700) – Decision goes to Sterling 
George Sullivan (4600) vs. Tim Means (5000) – Means gets the finish
Diego Brandão (5200) vs. Jimy Hettes (4400) – A fun fight end in a Hettes win
Eddie Gordon (5400) vs. Chris Dempsey (4200) – Gordon gets the takedown and finish.

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KOUNTERMOVE PREVIEW

In Kountermove fantasy MMA this week we have a real treat with name fighters all over the card. The first person on everyone’s team sheet this week will undoubtedly be Jacare Souza. At 5400 in a bout which he is almost 100% certain of winning he is a must have. The main event, though, is a little tougher to choose but if you have a feeling one way or the other both men are reasonably priced with five rounds to score points. Outside of that there is good few underdog picks with PVZ (4600), Cub Swanson (4500) and Aljamain Sterling (4700) all worth big consideration. Although he has a good chance of winning wrestling orientated Pat Cummings (4500) would by my one to avoid this week while my lock for the week, outside of Jacare, is Beneil Dariush (4400) who I think has a great chance of beating Jim Miller.

So, to get started playing Kountermove fantasy MMA, simply follow these steps.

1. Click the link – http://www.kountermove.com/r/MMA/654925/

2. Sign up

3. Select a game

4. Select your 5 fighter team while staying under the 25,000 salary cap and submit.

5. Watch the money roll in!

BET OF THE WEEK

This week I’m going with an almost 5/2 accumulator of Gordon, Jacare, Swanson and Dariush

START TIMES, Saturday April 18th

Early Prelims – Fight Pass @ 9.30pm BST

Prelims – BT Sport 1 @ 11pm BST

Main Card – BT Sport 1 @ 1am BST

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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