UFC expert David Walker gives us a detailed, knowledgeable preview of two of the key UFC battles this weekend here.
Diego Sanchez v Jim Miller | Sunday 00:35
Diego ‘The Nightmare' Sanchez matches up against Jim Miller for the headline fight on UFC Fightpass and this is either going to be a train wreck of a fight or a fight of the night contender.
Without being disrespectful to Sanchez, he needs to stop fighting. Having won TUF season 1, ‘The Nightmare' has been through some wars in his 10 year, 22 fight UFC career.
Recently, Sanchez has lost 4/6 fights with the 2 wins being extremely debatable split decision victories. Across the span of 6 fights, the New Mexico native has fought in three different weight classes (145, 155 and 170) in an attempt to try an regain some of his early day glory. It is not going to come back.
Sanchez is an extremely passionate and determined individual, however, he looks like an entirely different being from the one that began his UFC career in 2005.
Furthermore, listening to him speak is worrying as he speech his being to slur and his comprehension appears to be diminishing. With 35 professional MMA fights at an average fight length of 12 minutes 30 seconds, that is a lot of damage. Indeed, Sanchez's last nine fights have all gone to decision.
Jim Miller is another fighter whose best days may be behind him and like Sanchez, he has 4 defeats in his past 6 matches. Miller is another very durable fighter who has clocked up the miles in his MMA career with an average fight length of 10 minutes 30 seconds across 33 professional fights. There is no question that this kind of warfare on the body over a ten year period is going to take its toll.
With both fighters having such high average fight times, it would appear that the fight is likely to go to decision, however, this is only 1.53 and with the potential for a fight to end at any time in MMA, it does not appeal.
As well as similar average fight lengths, Sanchez and Miller match up quite evenly in other areas with 2.7 and 2.43 significant strikes landed per minute respectively.
The two fighters also absorb a common number of significant strikes per minute with 2.9 and 2.31 respectively. In terms of grappling, Miller has the better takedown accuracy with 44% compared to Sanchez's 22% whilst both have a 48% success rate at defending the take down.
Essentially there is very little to separate them statistically, but judging them on their recent fights, Miller has the clear advantage. Miller has looked much more likely to win his fights and appears less ravaged by time than Sanchez.
I expect this fight to begin with Miller and Sanchez striking, however, Miller's superior grappling skills should then come to the fore as he will look to implement his elite level jiu jitsu game. Miller has six submission victories in his 14 UFC wins and although Sanchez has never lost via submission, I like the 7.0 on offer with Betway for him to finish in this fashion.
Should Miller fail to get the submission victory, I do not feel he has the striking game to finish Sanchez so the fight will go to decision. If this is the case, I feel that Miller will have done more across 15 minutes than Sanchez and will come out victorious.
Miller to win via decision is 3.0 with BetVictor and although this contradicts Miller to win via submission, backing both bets will be more profitable than backing Miller to win at 1.73 (multiple bookmakers) – provided Miller wins!
Holly Holm v Miesha Tate | Sunday 04:30
Last year, most people outside of hardcore MMA fans had little knowledge of ‘The Preacher's daughter' Holly Holm. However, after November 14th everyone knew who she was following one of the biggest upsets there has ever been in MMA when Holly knocked out (via knock out of the year) the previously ‘unbeatable' Ronda Rousey.
From my own perspective, I gave Holm little chance of beating Rousey and, like many others, I was absolutely shocked at how impressively and comprehensively she devastated Rousey in only her third fight with the UFC.
Fast forward four months and Holm is now a heavy favourite against the only other woman to have made it past the first round with Rousey. This is quite a turnaround and whilst Holm's performance against Rousey was exceptional, it highlights how fickle the bookmakers are.
Holm's opponent for this fight is former Strikeforce champion ‘Cupcake' Meisha Tate. Up until Holm defeated Rousey, Meisha was actually discussing retiring from fighting due to being passed over for title fights as a result of Rousey having twice defeated her previously.
Tate's frustration was completely alleviated upon seeing Rousey laid prone after that brutal head kick from The Preacher's daughter. And although it took longer than Tate wanted, she was eventually rewarded with the title fight that her performances have most definitely merited.
Since her last defeat to Rousey in December 2013, Tate has won four fights in succession including notable victories over other top contenders, Liz Carmouche, Sara McMann and, most recently, Jessica Eye. Whilst each of these victories have come via decision, Tate has shown an incredible improvement in her skill set not to mention cementing her reputation as an incredibly resilient and durable fighter.
Throughout her four fight winning streak, Tate has been hurt badly by high kicks, knees and punches but has fought her way back to grind out a victory and it is likely that she will have to overcome such difficulties again when facing the current champion.
Holm demonstrated against Rousey that her striking, when accurate, is simply devastating. As a former boxing and kick boxing champion, Holm has a wide array of strikes at her disposal and this arsenal is improved further through her training out of Jackson Wink MMA where she has trained since she was a young woman.
Jackson Wink MMA are also responsible for training Jon Jones, Carlos Condit and Donald Cerrone which should give you an idea of how impressive this academy is in developing elite and diverse strikers.
Although Holly only has three fights in the UFC, she is undefeated across 10 professional MMA fights and in reaching this record, she has relied heavily upon her striking as she has recorded an average of 4.03 significant strikes per minute.
This is a very good average, however, her accuracy is only at 33% – the elite strikers in the UFC tend to have accuracy levels over 40%. Holm will need to improve upon this accuracy should she wish to reign as champion for a long time.
Holm has never been taken down in her MMA career and this wrestling defence was demonstrated beautifully against Rousey last year. However, this is an area that ‘Cupcake' will repeatedly look to test as she boasts an average 2.31 takedowns per 15 minutes, albeit with a low success rate of 35%.
Despite the poor accuracy of her takedown attempts, the numbers show how perseverant Tate is and what a grinding style of fighter she continues to be. I believe that if Holm's striking lacks accuracy, Tate will be able to get her to the ground and this is an area that we are unaware of how the champion will respond to.
In order for Tate to be able to put her wrestling skills to the fore in this match up, she needs to make it out of the first round and she has demonstrated time and time again what a slow starter she is.
In Tate's most recent fight against Jessica Eye, she was knocked down in the first round and had to scramble through this difficulty to eventually win by decision.
With the power that Holm possess, Tate might not have the chance to recover if the champ manages to improve her accuracy in the first round. Tate is aware that she starts slowly, so I fully expect her to have a plan in place to combat this issue for a title fight.
Getting into the nitty gritty, I believe that this fight will go one of two ways: Holm will win by KO/TKO in the first round or Tate will win by decision. Holm to win by KO/TKO can be backed at 2.3 with Coral and to do it in the first round can be backed at 5.5 with Bet365.
I do not believe that Holm will be able to finish Tate early on, however, and this will definitely play into the hands of the challenger. Prior to defeating Rousey, Holm had looked average at best in her two UFC fights and I believe that she was at her peak in defeating the former champ.
A myriad of things came into play that night allowing Holm to win and, as much as fate may have played a hand that fateful night in Australia, I think that everything points to a Tate win in this fight. With her pressing wrestling style, dirty boxing and durability, I believe that over a five round fight, Meisha Tate has the skills to dethrone the champ and see that belt strapped around her waist.
Tate is the underdog and can be backed at 3.75 just to win. However, I genuinely believe that Tate will take this fight to decision and win which can be backed at 10.0 with William Hill.
Diego Sanchez v Jim Miller – Jim Miller to win via submission (6/1 Betway)
Diego Sanchez v Jim Miller – Jim Miller to win via decision (2/1 Bet Victor)
Holly Holm v Miesha Tate – Miesha Tate to win (11/4 Bet365)
Holly Holm v Miesha Tate – Miesha Tate to win by decision (9/1 William Hill)