Welcome back friends. For many moons I’ve been telling myself “you need to stop being a piece of shit and write more”. Turns out I’m still a piece of shit, but damn it we’re writing! We have an absolutely loaded weekend in MMA at all levels with a handful of close personal friends in big spots, so before we get to me redeeming myself for last week’s putrid slate with some winners, let’s take a look at those spots.
Friday, February 18th: Ring of Combat 75, The Tropicana, Atlantic City NJ
Despite being a modestly sized regional promotion, RoC has produced no shortage of UFC talent including the likes of Ragin Al, Aljo, Merab, Eddie Alvarez, Chris Weidman, and more. A staple of the Northeast MMA scene, Friday’s event is headlined by friend of the progrum and DWCS alum Dennis Buzukja (6-2) as he defends his featherweight title against Josh Rohler (6-4). You can find my full interview with Dennis as he prepares for the fight right here:
Along with Dennis, fellow SerraLongo fighters Lauren Braccia and Edwin Smart look to get back in the win column former CFFC featherweight champion James Gonzalez drops to bantamweight to challenge DWCS alum Phil Caracappa for the RoC 135lb Title. The other fight I’ll be keeping an eye on is the 2nd pro outing for Chris Weidman protege Tom Lane. At only 24, Lane possesses dominant wrestling and is a super intriguing prospect. I’m interested to see how his game develops but it feels like the sky’s the limit for this kid if can even just add average striking to his arsenal. If you can’t make it to AC, you can catch the event on fite.tv.
Friday, February 18th: PFL Challenger Series 1, Light Heavyweights, Orlando Florida
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when PFL announced their own version of Contender Series but I was very pleasantly surprised with how these cards turned out. They were able to secure a very strong pool of talent and a handful of fighters from each card are true blue chip talents. We open the 205ers with perhaps the best prospect of the bunch, LFA Middleweight and Light Heavyweight double champ Josh Silveira. The son of Conan Silveira, Josh was born into fighting and with 6 finishes on his 7-0 record, one would have to assume he has lived up to expectations. Silveira is probably not worth betting at -550, but he is my pick to secure a contract to compete for a million dollars in the PFL this year.
The other fight that really intrigues me here is Alexander Poppeck (12-3) and Tombstone Taylor Johnson (7-3). Both guys have high level experience with Poppeck previously fighting on DWCS (a loss to current #12 UFC LHW Jamahal Hill) and Johnson, who followed up his Contender Series effort with a 4 fight run in Bellator where he went 2-2 including a finish of Ed Ruth with a heel hook. This is a classic striker v grappler tilt with Poppeck holding the advantage on the feet and Johnson being the more credentialed man on the mat. The line currently sits at Johnson -175, Poppeck +145 and at those odds I absolutely think Poppeck is worth a sprinkle. His 3 losses are to Rob Wilkinson, Dusko Todorovic, and Jamahal Hill, all of whom fought in the UFC after fighting Poppeck. He’ll be the longer, rangier guy and as long as he can keep Johnson off his legs he has a clear path to victory with his striking. Gimme Poppeck +145 for 1.5 units.
Saturday, February 19th: Rocket Combat Sports, Winchester, VA
Nothing like some violence in the dirty south, am I right folks? While another fairly small show, promotions like RCS are the lifeblood of MMA and a great opportunity to watch the stars of tomorrow today. As you can see from the above poster, this event is headlined by friend of the progrum Dre Miley, The One Eyed Dragon himself. Dre has one of the most fascinating stories in pro MMA and has amassed a pro record of 8-5 with 6 finishes so far. Dre will be competing for the RCS Bantamweight Championship and views this fight as a stepping stone to the big leagues. When I asked for his thoughts on what comes next after this weekend, Dre very kindly told me “I think a win a here sets me up to be on on [a] UFC/Bellator call up list. In a perfect world, they would sign me right off the bat”. Dre is not lacking confidence after a great training camp and personally, I’m very excited to see him back in there and watch him continue his fighting career. You can find our interview with Dre right here:
Saturday, February 19th: Bellator 274, Mohegan Sun
So many pals fighting this weekend! An emotional rollercoaster I am simply not prepared for! While headlined by Neiman Gracie and Logan Storley, my focus on Bellator this weekend is almost exclusively on the prelims with a pair of undefeated SerraLongo fighters looking to add another W to their records. First, Justin “Kidd Marvelous” Montalvo (4-0, 3 finishes) makes his second appearance in the Bellator cage and puts his unblemished record on the line against Corey Samuels (3-2). Nicknamed The Body Snatcher for his commitment to a ruthless livershot, Kidd has been training at LAW since he was a teenager and is finally seeing the fruits of his labor in a big way.
After Kidd takes care of business, fellow undefeated LAW standout out and certified jiu jitsu wizard Aviv Gozali (6-0, 6 subs) looks to improve his spotless resume to 7-0. A second generation BJJ black belt whose father Haim, also a fighter, trained under the legendary Renzo Gracie, Gozali has fighting in his blood and hopes a strong performance in this bout with Bobby King (10-4) will propel him to a fight with a big name like Usman Nurmagomedov. You can currently get -126 on a little SerraLongo parlay, and I definitely think it’s worth betting both men to walk away with their undefeated records intact. I’ll also be betting the ever violent Georgi Karakhanyan at +240 over Adam Piccolotti. There are miles of experience between the 2 and while Piccolotti may be the younger man, he has a tendency to drop winnable fights when the competition gets a little stiffer (Outlaw, Bendo, Goiti Yamuachi, etc)
Gimme 2u on the SerraLongo Parlay and 1u on Georgi +240
Saturday, February 19th: UFC Fight Night, Las Vegas
Capping off a strong weekend of violence, we have a fairly lackluster UFC card that in fairness would be much better had Fiziev/RDA not fallen apart. Jamahal Hill and Johnny Walker headline (lol) in a fight with big ramifications for both men as Hill (#12) tries to continue his ascent and Walker looks to right the ship after dropping 3 of his last 4. Hill is rightfully a decent favorite at -260, but you can most likely find decent value on him by finish later this week. Outside of the main event, the spot that intrigues me most is UFC debutant and Anthony Pettis protege Christian Rodriguez. Sporting a perfect 7-0 record, CeeRod is easily one of the most promising young prospects I’ve had the privilege to see fight on the regional scene. He possesses crisp technical striking, strong TDD, and above average offensive grappling and at only 24 I really believe we might just be looking at a future champion. He very easily could have been signed off a strong showing on Contender Series last year, but a weight miss cost him that opportunity, one which I am sure he is eager to prove he deserved. You can get CeeRod at +260 over Jonathan Pearce. Pearce comes in with the experience advantage and will be the taller man, but I think Christian’s combination of crisp combination striking and speed should give him enough of an edge to at least make him a live dog.
CeeRod +260 1u
And that, my dear friends, is the first edition of This Weekend in MMA. We will workshop the title, the content, and just about everything else as I hopefully crank these out weekly. If you enjoyed this word vomit, be sure to give me and the basement a follow on twitter and IG and keep those eyes peeled for more of that sweet sweet #content this weekend as I trek up to Mohegan to try my best not to cheer in the press box (I will most likely fail).