For the penultimate card of the year we head to Sacramento, home of Team Alpha Male for its founder’s departure from competitive MMA. As Urijah Faber leaves the sport, he gets to do it in his backyard with a teammate headlining the card.
I’ve picked out the cream of the main card and given you my thoughts. 5Dimes, as always, provides the odds.
Alan Jouban vs. Mike Perry
Alan Jouban enters the Octagon for the third time of the year and is looking to round out 2016 in style with a 100% record of three in three. Rebounding from the second loss in his UFC tenure to Albert Tumenov at UFC 192, Jouban put on a clinic against Brendan O’Reilly followed by a Fight of the Night performance over Belal Muhammad in July
Mike Perry has arguably been one of the breakout stars of 2016 for the UFC, and the 170lb division in particular. Bringing a 7-0 record into the UFC, he has extended it to 9-0 with stoppage victories over Hyun Gyu Lim and Danny Roberts. Both Lim and Roberts are more established stars on the roster and Perry entered both fights as the betting underdog yet prevailed cleanly.
Perry is the type of fighter who loves to get into the mix and start throwing his hands, this could pose an issue for Jouban, who is hittable. Off the back, the edge goes to Jouban, but on the feet and in the clinch I favor Perry. If his last two performances have been anything to go by this fight could easily end in the first, but I’ll be taking Platinum by any means necessary, and most likely deep into the third round.
Recommendation – Mike Perry: 2 units at -135 (4/5) @ 5Dimes
Urijah Faber vs. Brad Pickett
On Saturday night in Sacramento we say goodbye to a future Hall of Famer. Urijah Faber has been one of the most active fighters on the roster at 135lb, both in the UFC and the WEC. In the latter promotion he became the only man to defeat Dominick Cruz and held championship gold; something that has eluded him in the UFC, but not for the want of trying. Faber has been involved in no less than four title bouts (full and interim) yet came up against the better man each time. While nobody likes to see a legend depart, the manner of his last loss to Cruz ensured that the elusive title would never adorn his waist. It’s time to go.
Much like his opponent on Saturday, Brad Pickett is a fighter who is openly discussing the likelihood of his final bout. Another future Hall of Famer, he has been instrumental in putting MMA on the map in the UK. Unlike Faber, he was never in a position to challenge for the UFC belt, but his fan-friendly style ensured that the reception was always good, and nobody was ever disappointed to see him booked on the card. If it were not for the UFC coming back to London in March 2017, this may have been a double retirement. As it stands, Pickett will fight one more time – win, lose or draw – before pulling the curtain on his career too.
Although it’s his last fight I give the edge to Faber by some distance. He knows it’s his last fight, he can comfortably leave the Octagon with the gas tank well and truly empty. Until his loss to Frankie Edgar he had a remarkable record; every career loss was countered by a submission win. Edgar broke that streak and Cruz and Rivera compounded it. Pickett has always been susceptible to the submission and I don’t see that changing on Saturday.
Recommendation – Urijah Faber wins by submission: 2 units at +200 (2/1) @ 5Dimes
Sage Northcutt vs. Mickey Gall
Sage Northcutt entered the UFC on a wave of hype and expectation due to his participation on the Lookin’ for a Fight show where he won the UFC lottery. His performance in his debut was as impressive as the forward flip he performed to celebrate. In his follow-up fight he showed an improved submission game as he submitted Cody Pfister to keep the hype train running. Enter Bryan Barberena, and the step up in class became apparent. Northcutt was outgunned and submitted. Suddenly the naysayers came out of the woodwork and were quick to trash the chosen one. His last outing against Enrique Martin also failed to impress but he did get the win.
If Northcutt won the UFC lottery then Mickey Gall found Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. Like his opponent, Gall was also scouted on ‘Lookin’ for a Fight’ and was entered into a bout with Mike Jackson for the right to face CM Punk himself, Phil Brooks. Gall won impressively and headed into PPV territory against Brooks. Gall went into the fight as a heavy favorite, rightly so, and he absolutely dominated Brooks en route to a first round finish by submission.
Northcutt may be a world champion in karate but Mickey Gall is at another level when it comes to BJJ. Only last year, Gall went the distance with Tom DeBlass protégé Gordon Ryan in the NAGA No Gi World Championship. Gall is legit off his back, an area of weakness for Sage that was exposed by Barberena. I do not see any outcome other than a dominant Gall win, most likely by submission, but the odds are ridiculously narrow for such a potentially one-sided fight.
Recommendation – Mickey Gall: 4 units at -150 (4/6) @ 5Dimes
Paige VanZant vs. Michelle Waterson
Paige VanZant is another fighter who has been put into overdrive by the UFC hype machine. By that virtue, she was another who saw the wheels come flying off when given a step up in class with Rose Namajunas. Rose was always a bad matchup for the relentlessly energetic, but somewhat reckless, Team Alpha Male standout. In previous UFC match-ups she has been given opponents that suit her style, but Namajunas is a good BJJ player and it ended up as a long and one-sided fight. Against Bec Rawlings, she got the win, but looked less than spectacular in.
Michelle Waterson is no novice to Women’s MMA. As the former Invicta Atom-weight champion she has fought for years against some of the toughest female competitors in the sport. She did lose her title in her final fight before transitioning to the UFC, where she debuted with a win over Angela Magana, and clearly appears to have been placed on a fast track to the top. After her win over Magana she was scheduled to face Tecia Torres, but a knee injury benched her for little more than a year. At age 30, with both time and experience on her side this could well be her time to challenge for the belt.
Here is the rub; this is a five-rounder and neither has ever gone five rounds. VanZant has the better gas tank, but Waterson arguably has the better technique. She also trains at the better gym with the better coaches. What I don’t understand is the bookmakers pricing this up to go the distance. It won’t. Not a chance. Both of these fighters are liable to gas and both can be stopped. Its VanZant’s fight to lose, but don’t be surprised if Jackson-Wink formulates the perfect game plan to put Waterson front and center for a title shot.
Recommendation – Fight Won’t Go 5 Round Distance: 2 units at +115 (5/2) @ 5Dimes