The Size Up: UFC 215 – Johnson vs. Borg

Photo: SevereMMA/Andy Cowan

UPDATE: Johnson vs. Borg has been cancelled due to a Borg illness.

Flyweight Title – Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg

Johnson Notable Fights: Wilson Reis (W), Joseph Benavidez (2W), Dominick Cruz (L), Henry Cejudo (W)

Borg Notable Fights: Jussier Formiga (W), Louis Smolka (W), Justin Scoggins (L), Dustin Ortiz (L).

Johnson Stat: He is even with Anderson Silva on most UFC title defences ever.

Borg Stat: He had never lost by submission or KO.

The Match Up

With the hullabaloo of Conor McGregor’s boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather still working overtime in the minds of the MMA masses, we move onwards to Edmonton, Canada this week for a card headlined by the flyweight title fight between Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg. On the face of it, that might seem like a disappointing enough main event; and to be honest, it kind of is.

Photo: SevereMMA/Andy Cowan

What raises its importance is the fact that Demetrious Johnson will have more title defences than anyone ever if he wins. And, with Jon Jones currently in the midst of another legacy threatening crisis, this fight could strengthen Johnson’s claim of not only being the pound-for-pound King, but also the most skilled cage fighter to ever velcro up a pair of 4oz gloves.

Ray Borg, won’t be doing that. Instead, he will be fighting for just the 14th time and looking to pull off a huge shock against arguably the most dominant champion in the history of the UFC. That may seem like a less important venture, but to him it is more important than anything.

The Fight

As a fight this one is about as interesting as can be when a champion who has proven to be far superior than all challengers takes on the next one in line.

Borg is a very good fighter. He hits hard for the weight, he is lightening quick when he needs to be and he is extremely intelligent in the heat of battle. He is also really good at picking his shot and defending well during exchanges which will be all important on Saturday. His set-ups to wrestle are fantastic while his transitions on the floor are some of the best in the UFC and help to put his wonderful jiu-jitsu to good use.

Unfortunately for him, Mighty Mouse can do all of those things too; only better. He hits hard, he is maybe the fastest fighter ever in the UFC, his cardio is unrelenting, his jiu-jitsu is brilliant, his transitions are magnificent and he can finish fights after all of that.

Ray Borg is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division, but Mighty Mouse is the most well-rounded fighter of all time in any division or promotion.

Photo: SevereMMA/Andy Cowan

With that said, I think Borg will fight hard here and will have his moments, especially if it goes to the ground. On the feet I expect Mighty Mouse to use his speed and awkward angles to get through to his opponent but Borg’s ability to remain defensive and counter won’t be easy to break down. But when you play that game it’s very difficult to make any offensive inroads.

For that reason I think Johnson wins a decision here. If Borg decides to go all out attack late on I could see Johnson getting the finish but I expect this one to see the final bell.

Photo: SevereMMA/Andy Cowan

Women’s Bantamweight Title – Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Nunes Notable Fights: Ronda Rousey (W), Valentina Shevchenko (W), Miesha Tate (W), Cat Zingano (L)

Shevchenko Notable Fights: Holly Holm (W), Amanda Nunes (L), Sarah Kaufman (W), Julianna Pena (W)

Nunes Stat: This is her second year in a row headlining international fight week

Shevchenko Stat: She has beaten the only UFC women’s bantamweight champion that Nunes hasn’t.

The Match Up

In the co-main event on Saturday night, Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevechnko finally meet for the second time. Initially, the pair were supposed to fight for the UFC women’s bantamweight title which Nunes holds at UFC 213 in July but the bout was cancelled at last-minute when the champion had to pull out due to illness.

Their first meeting in March, 2016 was a close, tense affair with ebbs and flows throughout. Early on, Nunes was having the better of it with some good striking and brilliant grappling while Shevchenko was extremely defensive and careful. Late in the fight Nunes began to tire and Shevchenko started to land at will. After three rounds, Shevchenko was probably closer to finishing but the 10-point must system gave Nunes the victory.

Photo: UFC

On Saturday, the situation hasn’t really changed much in terms of the match-up. Nunes will still be aggressive early; looking to land power strikes and takedowns when it gets close. While Shevchenko will wait for openings to strike at the same time as being happy with playing the long game.

But what has changed is the length of the fight. And that could make all the difference.

The Fight

The single most important factor entering Saturday night as opposed to their first meeting is the five round distance instead of three. By her very nature, despite saying otherwise after recent wins, Amanda Nunes is a fighter suited to shorter bouts.

What makes Nunes, in my opinion anyway, the most talented fighter in the division is not just her power, skill and tremendous athleticism; but her willingness to use it. She is an aggressive monster in the opening rounds who hits harder than anyone in the division and has a very effective top game, as she showed in their first meeting, when the fight hits the canvas.

That high-octane, high-output game comes at a cost, though. If she gets the finish, it’s all well and good. But if she doesn’t, it’s big trouble for the petrol tank.

Photo: UFC

Valentina Shevchenko knows that, and will fight her normal game which is exactly what she needs to do here. Weather the Nunes storm, let her get tired and take advantage late on. Like in the first fight, Shevchenko will stay relatively active with leg kicks and counters early while conserving her energy, and her chin, by keeping her output low and defensive high. While at the same time doing everything to keep the fight standing because of Nunes’ huge advantage in that area.

If the fight goes her way and enters the last three rounds, look for her to use knees to capitalise on Nunes’ takedown attempts which get more sloppy as the rounds go on. And similarly, the output of her hands will increase too based on Nunes’ quality decreasing.

Unless something changes hugely from the first fight in terms of strategy, which it well could, this will either be Nunes early with power strikes and grappling dominance, Shevchenko late with better cardio and cleaner technique or a close decision. It might be odd to say this considering Nunes won the first fight and I think she’s more talented than everyone in the division, but Shevchenko is a bad match-up for her. She has the ability to keep away from her early onslaught, she has the petrol tank to outlast her and she has the skills to take advantage of it once that happens.

In combat sports they say styles make fights and, over five rounds, I think Shevchenko‘s style will see her become the new UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

Additional Picks
Welterweight – Neil Magny vs. Rafael dos Anjos – RDA
Light Heavyweight – Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro – Pedro
Featherweight – Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez – Stephens

Women’s Bantamweight –  Sara McMann vs. Ketlen Vieira – McMann
Flyweight –  Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis – Cejudo
Women’s Bantamweight – Sarah Moras vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith – Moras
Featherweight – Gavin Tucker vs. Rick Glenn – Tucker

Lightweight – Mitch Clarke vs. Alex White – White
Heavyweight – Luis Henrique vs. Arjan Bhullar – Bhullar
Lightweight – Kajan Johnson vs. Adriano Martins – Martins

Bet Of The Week

I’m going big this week with Shevenchko via KO/TKO at 6/1.

Start Times

Early Prelims – 12am on Fight Pass

Prelims -1am on BT Sport 2 and Fight Pass

Main Card – 3am on BT Sport 2

For more on UFC 215, listen to this week’s SevereMMA Podcast with Sean Sheehan and Graeme McDonnell.

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

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