UFC 208: Holly Holm’s Spotlight

By: S. Davis
208poster

How will Holly Holm be viewed on Sunday?

Will her UFC 193 victory end up to be a curse after all? A shining moment against an opponent designed, perfectly, for her counter-attacking repertoire. A night that she, ultimately, couldn’t replicate once more? Will she be draped in gold or heckled with scorn?

She’s occupying an odd space within mixed martial arts. Holm could turn in a spirited performance against a tough opponent in Germaine de Randamie, have Dana White wrap her in the shiny new belt showcasing her as the new UFC Featherweight Champion and immediately she’d be labeled a fraud. (Although the same insults will be hurled upon her opposition provided she wins the heavy gold belt, in my opinion, but to a lesser degree when you view Holm’s peaks and valleys in the UFC.)

Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos is the cloud hanging over the entire division being that White created a title in a division, headlining a Brooklyn card this weekend, that doesn’t have a true featherweight on the roster besides her. (Personally, I think Cyborg is the best female fighter to ever compete in mixed martial arts – and that’s no slight to Gina Carano, Ronda Rousey or Joanna Jedrzejczyk.) Holm will sit at the dais and field inquires about Cyborg, losing three straight, not waiting to rematch Rousey or holding a championship that MMA-media are having a hard time trying to quantify. That awaits her…and it’s not entirely fair.

Was it smart business for the UFC to put Rousey in with Amanda Nunes? The UFC might have just killed a star by putting her in competition far too soon…in a title fight, no less. As a pivot, I fully believe someone had an idea to create another nauseating strap out of thin air in the hopes they can manufacture another supernova after this weekend. Imagine if Holm sat on the sidelines – and was the one to beat the version of Rousey that shouldn’t have competed against anyone at UFC 207. I feel a victory there would’ve been discredited in some fashion. I’m going on a tangent here…..

Holm is backed into a career crossroads after losing to Miesha Tate in a desperate scramble that cost her the bantamweight title and being stunningly flummoxed against Valentina Schevchenko – whose style could just turn out to be an unfavorable matchup for her no matter when they share the cage. She’s on a losing streak, yes, but she was controlling the majority of her title defense against Tate. Additionally, her struggles against Schevchenko were on live broadcast for the world to see but she wasn’t dominated.

It’s the fight game and everyone stepping into a cage will be beaten at some point but does the world have to step in to attempt to defeat the woman as well? How many fights does an athlete have to take on? Had she been devastating in the two wins that preceded her title triumph there would be detractors there as well. If the UFC is the pinnacle of the entire sport, shouldn’t any victory in the Octagon be enough on its own? Are style points the added criteria to having one’s hand raised at the end of battle?

I honestly don’t have a favorite in this fight; I think both women are worthy of championship shine. I just hate the narratives that will form around Holm if she should fail to win. They’ve already begun, unfortunately.

Scream hard, Brooklyn!

Picks: Holm, Silva, Jacare, Teixeira, and Poirier.

NFL: The Game That Matters

By: S. Davis

sb-51

Is there a football game this weekend? All I know is I have a tray of honey barbecue wings, guacamole, salsa, macaroni and cheese, fruit salad and a night full of flatulence in my very near future. The paint-by-numbers analysis can be found elsewhere so I’m going to focus on a few key areas that I find important.

The confetti has to fall onto someone, right? Here goes:

1. New England’s Defense (and Special Teams) vs. Atlanta’s Offense: Throughout the season the Patriots’ defense has been overlooked – and I think that’s directly attributed to the fact that they don’t have that one, splashy, star name as the leader of the unit. Looking deeper though, the Patriots hold up splendidly by allowing just 15.6 points per game which sits at the top of the league; numero uno. They are the best defense in the league; I rate surrendered points over yards as MY measure for defensive ranking.

Most of the talking heads are out of breath trying to gush over the possibility of a shootout; I’m not sure the game materializes in that fashion over 60 minutes. Matt Ryan has led his offense by spreading the ball around to all of his options. Julio Jones will be a target of the defensive strategy but did you know that when he’s been held to under 60 yards receiving the Falcons are 5-0? (When held under the century mark for the day the Falcons boast a fantastic 7-1.) That’s a massive little nugget that could short-circuit the best plans of the Patriots. Ryan will hit Taylor Gabriel, Mohamed Sanu, Tevin Coleman, Justin Hardy, Devonta Freeman, Jacob Tamme and Austin Hooper if his top target is covered by the Patriots’ cheerleaders and fan section.

One facet I like tremendously about the favorite here is their kicking unit. They aid their underrated defense by ensuring the opponent has to drive 85-90 yards on every offensive possession. As the number of plays that have to be run to get into scoring range increase so do the opportunities for the defense to directly hone in on tendencies. Additionally, longer drives produce more chances of a bad snap, a tipped pass, a fumble, an interception, etc. You get the idea. Starting field position isn’t a glossy statistic, term or topic worthy of much fanfare but I admire the way in which the Patriots use it as an integral element in their defensive approach.

The Patriots can be taken advantage of in the secondary and I fully believe that a competent quarterback taking snaps for the Houston Texans would’ve sent the Patriots home a few weeks ago. There isn’t a defense that can take away every weapon taking the field so where will the Patriots focus their defensive energy and where will Ryan look to attack in response?

2. Coleman and Freeman vs. Patriots’ Linebackers and Safeties: When Freeman is in open space – or any space to be honest – the advantage arrow will point to him. There’s no debating that. His ability to read on the run while remaining elusive and slippery has to be an area of concern for a Patriots unit that isn’t built with a tremendous athlete on the second and third levels. As a runner, Coleman is more punishing of the two but Freeman invites contact as well. Coleman runs with a burst and for some strange reason he’s viewed as a bruiser when his game is a mix of both styles.

Bill Belichick is going to take something off the menu for the Falcons, a novice should be able to see that but there’s no defense that can limit everything. The Patriots are going to have to take proper angles and use group tacking techniques in the hopes they can cause a few fumbles. Coach Hoodie can possibly take both backs away in the rushing game but both are adept receivers, either out of the backfield or in the slot as traditional receivers. Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler can’t cover both backs while also worrying about the Falcons’ corps of pass catchers. An offensive strategy that floods Patrick Chung’s perimeter with routes could yield dividends for the birds.

3. Patriots’ Offensive Line vs. Falcons’ Defensive Line: To have a high level of success against any quarterback, you have to decide how to produce pressure. Do you manufacture a passing threat from the edges? What about up the middle; directly through the A and B gaps? Do you collapse the pocket with the front four and drop all the linebackers into coverage surrendering precious real estate for eager receivers? Do you mix in the zone blitz where the point is to hide your rusher until the last possible moment?

What to do?

Decades of footage prove that cooking up pressure with the defensive line – and only the defensive line is the best way to upset any quarterback and stall his offense. The Patriots can teach a master class about that after their two losses to the New York Giants – and their endless line of fast, elite and powerful linemen. Can the Falcons copy/paste that performance on Sunday?

Unless they have one of those unexpected Super Bowl flash-type games, they’re not constructed in that fashion upfront. What works in their favor is that the protectors of Tom Brady have had bouts of inconsistency all season. They’ve been great over the last half of the regular season but if the Falcons can stay in their faces and rotate athletes to dominate line-play, they can make it interesting for Brady in the pocket.

If the Falcons’ playbook is full of five and six-man blitzes, just mail the trophy to Robert Kraft’s hotel suite on Saturday evening.

I don’t like the Patriots. I don’t and I won’t hide that. I do respect the team and their accomplishments. Their fans are insufferable and seem to have forgotten how much of a diarrhea sandwich the franchise used to be. The Patriots are probably going to win this game and definitely turn me off to the NFL until Brady retires and Belichick becomes the 45th man to govern in the White House. Whatever…

Pick: Falcons over Patriots, 29-23.  

Conference Title Week: 1-1
Playoffs: 7-3
Regular Season: 169-87

NFL: Super Bowl Appetizers, Please!

By: S. Davis
stpats

Green Bay @ Atlanta

He who possesses the ball last shall bathe in the jubilant euphoria of victory!

There are a number of ways to analyze the routes this game can take – and that’s obvious. It’s a football game, a playoff one at that, and so I’ll throw out the recycled football talk. Last week I predicted the Packers would lose; I even picked the Giants to knock them off two weekends back. For as great as Aaron Rodgers happens to be I do believe there is too much of his team’s fate that he controls. To put it simply, of the four quarterbacks starting this weekend Rodgers is the ONE that can’t afford to play anything less than an A-minus game for his team to book their tickets to Houston in two weeks.

As I’ve felt all year, the defensive side of the ball doesn’t make enough plays. The move to have Clay Matthews play inside for the past three years, in my personal opinion, was ill-fated, never made much sense and I think it has stunted his progression (and secretly I think he’s regressing now that he’s back, primarily, as their primary pass rusher). In open space once again he seems much slower and he doesn’t look to be as dynamic as he used to be. From there, the secondary – which at one point was a factory of stellar players – is struggling in coverage, tackling and taking the right angles against opposing pass catchers. Julius Peppers, Matthews and the front four have a large task ahead of them this weekend which brings us to….

Has there been an offense so prolific that’s been so overlooked at the very same time? Matt Ryan has been spreading the ball across every target in the same jersey colors. Of course most the of the attention centers around Julio Jones but Mohamed Sanu and Tyler Gabriel are just as involved within the scheme – and rate second and third respectively in terms of catches. As a unit they spark the scoreboard to the tune of 33.8 ppg, they’re third in passing yards at 295.5 and they rush the ball to the tune of 120.5. Are you wowed by any of the flashy statistics? You should be and it should send fire alarms to Dom Capers as he tries to limit Ryan inside the Georgia Dome. I don’t like it.

The Packers’ receivers are also limping into the game and I doubt Jordy Nelson dresses with broken ribs. Rodgers is spectacular but Ryan can match his play – while having more support if he isn’t his best.

Pick: Falcons over Packers, 38-34.

Pittsburgh @ New England

Let me get this out of the clear early: I picked the Steelers to win it all!

Done?

So am I blinded by that? No. Thinking about last week, the Texans would’ve beaten the Patriots if Brock Osweiler played slightly better. I don’t mean “game of his life” either. Had he produced a B-level performance he’s playing this weekend – and the Patriots would be packing for their vacations. Tom Brady looked human in the second half of that game and I point that out because there are times I watch his team and they aren’t this majestic world-beater; they can be defeated. All that aside, I came away impressed with how Dion Lewis scored his touchdowns and how versatile a weapon he is.

With the flu taking on clusters of Steelers at once earlier in the week, will they be sapped of energy in the second half of what looks to be a tight contest? Expect LaGarrette Blount to test their limits as the game winds down. Lewis will line up in a myriad of positions, according to the formation and I fully expect him to exploit the Steelers’ secondary in open space. Where will James Harrison make an impact? Defensive pressure through the middle is the best way to rattle a quarterback that isn’t fleet of foot and if the Steelers can attack Brady without sending a fifth (or sixth) defender…there’s a path that can get them to Houston.

New England’s defense isn’t great but they are better than they look on television; the main reason for that is the special teams unit. Bill Belichick ensures the opposition has to drive 80+ yards on every position just to sniff the end zone. The kicking game pins teams deep in their territory and puts the pressure on the offense to be perfect every single time they possess the ball.

What do we make of Ben Roethlisberger? If he had a different name, this season, he’d get very little credit for his play. It’s been odd how he’s been good at home and bad on the road; average play at best. That hasn’t been his brand of football since his first two seasons in the league. It’s like a game of Jekyll and Hyde with Big Ben; which version makes a difference on Sunday?

Can the defensive scheme of Belichick keep Le’Veon Bell from making an impact? Will Antonio Brown find himself smothered in the secondary? Can Roethlisberger play up to his usual standard? Does Brady lead the Patriots to another Super Bowl?

Pick: Steelers over Patriots, 30-24.  

Last Week: 3-1
Playoffs: 6-2
Regular Season: 169-87

NFL: Wild Card Week 2

By: S. Davis

kelce

The NFL “Divisional Playoff” has always sounded stupid so I’m over calling it that. Moving on…

Saturday

Seattle @ Atlanta

Will the Seahawks be able to score enough if the Falcons get up 10-14 points out of the starting gate? They can. Their defense is good enough to hold the fort and hand Russell Wilson a few extra possessions to close the gap just based on will. Yet I feel the Falcons will move the ball along the sidelines and exploit the middle of the field. Why? Earl Thomas is a weapon that won’t be able to play – and he’s great at limiting open seams and space in all areas of the playing field.

The Falcons have been the league’s top offense because of underrated line play, Matt Ryan spreading the ball to all targets and that guy named Julio Jones. Along with Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson (when healthy), I like Jones against ANY defensive back; I don’t care what name is on the back of their jersey. Period. His speed, strength, route running and hands are among the best at this position. Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor are among the elite defenders on the planet and they aren’t enough to limit Jones (and his other receivers) without Thomas.

The Seahawks have been the best team in the NFC for the last three years but they fall this weekend.

Pick: Falcons over Seahawks, 30-21.

Houston @ New England

Unless Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus have the game of their lives – and Tom Brady somehow throws 37 straight interceptions this contest will end in an avalanche of points for the Patriots. Brock Osweiler needs to get his team to, at least, 28 points to keep the game from being over after the opening kickoff.

Dion Lewis is going to blow them up on a wheel route – or four.

Pick: Patriots over Texans, 36-19.  

Sunday

Green Bay @ Dallas

The Cowboys’ kiddie corps are up against their biggest test to date. Dallas is the most complete team of the two; they are better on offense, defense and special teams but the Packers have Aaron Rodgers. You may have heard of the guy, no?

All season I’ve aired my concerns about the Packers’ defense – and how they fail to support the offense. I still feel that way and it was the main reason I went with the Giants last weekend. I don’t apologize for the pick at all. Rodgers can carry the team on his own but how much is too much? Julius Peppers is going to have to cause chaos in order to make up for the shortcomings of the rest of the defensive unit.

If the Cowboys play how they have all season, they take the Packers down.

Pick: Cowboys over Packers, 23-20. 

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City

All year, the offensive line of the Steelers has been stellar. They allow the extra time for Ben Roethlisberger to do Big Ben things and destroy teams covering his receivers for four seconds too long. I’m going to be on the look out for the short yardage situations when the Steelers hold the ball. Le’Veon Bell is set to have another masterpiece of a game but can the Chiefs’ defensive line make him wait too long for openings to develop in the run game?

If the Chiefs can execute long drives that end in touchdowns instead of field goals, they can put the pressure on the Steelers to force plays. Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks in the league but his play this season has been uneven and he can be goaded into putting the ball in terrible spots.

Pick: It’s going to be a clooooose one but I’ll take the Steelers over the Chiefs, 24-20. 

Last Week: 3-1
Playoffs: 3-1
Regular Season: 169-87

NFL: Wild Card Weekend 2017

By: S. Davis

trophyl

Saturday

Oakland @ Houston

The game that doesn’t make me hate the idea that I have to work. It’s hard to analyze a game where the Raiders are without their quarterback – and legitimate MVP candidate – Derek Carr. The Raiders don’t look remotely close to a good team without him, which goes without saying, but still. On the other sideline the Texans have reluctantly given the ball back to their prized free-agent possession of last year, Brock Osweiler. At the end of the day Osweiler has big game experience and his team does defend.

Pick: Seriously? I feel awful that Carr – and NFL fans – have to watch this game. Texans over Raiders, 20-12.

Detroit @ Seattle

The Seahawks have been such a weird team this season. They hung 31 on the Patriots (in Foxborough) while scoring an impressive five against the Buccaneers. How will they come out against a team that limped into the playoffs? I think they get a jolt to their system; I don’t think this game is as big a slam dunk as everyone else. The Lions will hang around. I guess you’re starting to think I’m typing this with a concussion, right?

Matthew Stafford – one year post Calvin Johnson – has been at his best spreading the ball around to all his weapons. When the ball is moved all over the field instead of being forced to Megatron it forces the defense to account for every single skill player that Stafford has to choose from. The remnants of the Legion of Boom can’t shade coverage to one receiver or scheme for one key player (aside from Stafford).

The Seahawks’ offense has performed fantastic…and then sputtered. Good thing is the Lions have run out of gas…at the wrong time of the year.

Pick: Seahawks over Lions, 24-20.

Sunday

Miami @ Pittsburgh

Field position, a consistent rushing attack and timely conversions by Matt Moore can lead the Dolphins to a playoff win; it’s possible. If they can limit their exposure to the Steelers’ offense they can coax Ben Roethlisberger into too many throws into tight windows when he’s on the field.

Taking all that into account…

I picked the Steelers to win it all this year, so…

Pick: Steelers over Dolphins, 24-13.

NY Giants @ Green Bay

The secondary of the Packers is horrible while the Giants’ strength, offensively, is their receiving corps. See an issue there? That alone could the derail the play of Aaron Rodgers. For about three seasons, the Packers’ defense has stifled the team’s potential. Rodgers can generate points just by slipping on his game jersey but since his defense is prolific in allowing teams to stick around, how much of a burden is too much to carry?

Big Blue can defend on all three levels and with Eli Manning’s playoff history I do like the Giants in this one. It’s going to be typical, January, weather in Wisconsin and one facet of football that proves to travel is defense. Will Rodgers pass all game long or will the Packers attempt to mix in a carry…or 22 to keep the G-Men honest?

Pick: This will be decided by a late third down conversion and I’ll take the G-Men over the Packers, 19-16.

Last Week: 16-0
Regular Season: 169-87

NFL: Week 17

By: S. Davis

kubiak

The playoffs are a week away so all the intrigue is inching closer, day by day. What else can be said about the unfortunate events that saw both Marcus Mariota and Derek Carr suffer leg injuries that knocked them from their rosters? Two of the most promising players going down with broken legs on the same weekend of action? It’s tough to recover from, particularly for a Raiders team that was poised to make some real noise in the postseason; something the franchise hasn’t done since 2002.

What can we say about the coaching vacancies (thus far)? Jeff Fisher was kept around, let’s say, two years too long so that was justified. Rex Ryan? I don’t feel as confident about that decision. Make no mistake, I’m not a cheerleader for the guy by any means but TWO seasons is just not enough time for a head coach to turn around a program. I could see if he won a handful of games over two seasons but the Bills have been competitive under his leadership. Surprisingly, they’ve been pedestrian defensively – which is the side of the ball that Ryan has built his resume on – and that was alarming for a team that has to play perfect just to place second in the AFC East. I think he was worthy of another year at the helm but the Bills are such a successful franchise so they must have an answer somewhere.

Gary Kubiak is coaching his last game for the Denver Broncos due to health and that is a great opening for coaching candidates on the open market. Even though the defending champions will be watching the playoffs like the rest of us, they will be on the shortlist of contenders next year once they find stability at the quarterback position. Defensively, they are still elite; offensive balance will make them a terror once more.

Finding a good head coach is difficult but if management pulls the plug too soon how can they learn what they truly have? There’s a reason why bad teams are bad, instability and a musical chairs philosophy at head coach; all the dysfunctional teams have that common characteristic.

Week 17:

Baltimore 23 @ Cincinnati 26
Houston 14 @ Tennessee 16
Carolina 13 @ Tampa Bay 17
Jacksonville 20 @ Indianapolis 33
New England 40 @ Miami 24
Chicago 20 @ Minnesota 23
Buffalo 14 @ NY Jets 19
Dallas 17 @ Philadelphia 23
Cleveland 19 @ Pittsburgh 20
New Orleans 24 @ Atlanta 27
NY Giants 27 @ Washington 20
Arizona 24 @ Los Angeles 3
Oakland 14 @ Denver 27
Kansas City 24 @ San Diego 20
Seattle 35 @ San Francisco 21
Green Bay 35 @ Detroit 33

Last Week: 11-5
Season: 153-87

UFC 207: A Championship Return?

By: S. Davis

nunesrow

T.J. Dillashaw vs. John Lineker

Dillashaw wins if he utilizes his footwork and speed. From the time he stunned the world by taking the title from Renan Barao – and solidifying it by defeating him in a rematch – he’s tapped into the peak of his abilities and there haven’t been many better fighters in the world. The precision, accurate punching and pace has overwhelmed every opponent during his title run and subsequent defenses. (For the record I scored the battle with Dominick Cruz for Dillashaw by a very slim margin.)

This fight should be controlled by the former champion provided he sticks to his blueprint. He has the advantage in almost every aspect except for power. Volume leans heavily with Dillashaw and if he can remain disciplined enough defensively to keep away from taking a power shot from Lineker, it will be a victory that should put him on the doorstep of a title fight. I wonder if he’ll use his wrestling if he takes a shot and survives it.

Lineker wins if he can draw his opponent into a brawl. He’ll have to show a level of cage control that he’s yet to express thus far in his career. If he fails to corral Dillashaw in tight spaces and doesn’t successfully use his size with offensive wrestling/grappling to try to set up an opportunity to hurt him with a hook or uppercut it’s going to be a blowout. I’m not sure he’ll be stopped in the cage but he could lose every round by a wide margin if he doesn’t employ new tactics. Lineker is skilled but he’s also a plodding fighter that will take a few shots to land one – now that one could end the night – but absorbing offense leads to a disappointing evening when the scorecards are read.

The power in his hands is brutal and he has a chin made of steel. He’s the traditional boxer in mixed martial arts and he’s great at cutting angles but he has to be lighter on his toes than just resorting to straight line pressure. Left and right body kicks could be there for him and possibly a question-mark kick due to the fact that Dillashaw is adept at changing levels. If he can find a way to lull him in, engage as a smokescreen and then launch a precise head kick as Dillashaw retreats, that could book his ticket to a bantamweight title shot. Over three rounds he’s going to have to stop the former champion because if the fight goes the distance…he loses.

Bantamweight Championship: Dominick Cruz (c) vs. Cody Garbrandt

Cruz wins if he can stick and move. This fight is tremendously similar to the Dillashaw vs. Lineker bout in that you have one fighter who has slick movement facing off against one who’s more of a puncher and is far more stationary in terms of movement; the boxer taking on the sprinter. He has to take control and frustrate the young title challenger with his awkward style; the feints, jabs, looping hooks, shuffling and wrestling.

He has the edge in experience, especially when we’re talking about headlining cards and title fights. Will that alone be enough to carry him to another title defense?

Garbrandt wins if he somehow lands a crushing punch. He doesn’t really need a second clean one to find flesh and earn that twelve pound belt of gold. It’s intriguing in that while Cruz is a favorite, the fight can turn if he gets overconfident and lazy just once. For all the footwork and speed, Cruz is susceptible to being hit…a lot, actually, when you consider how elusive his attack is. A lazy half-step or a single lapse defensively will make things interesting in a flash and open up an opportunity for the Team Alpha Male member.

He’s got to keep himself calm. During this whole week, we’ve seen Garbrandt unnerved by the champion in interviews so I wonder if he’s focused mentally on the challenge. Can he channel the simmering emotions and use them as positive fuel once that cage closes and he faces the most gargantuan task he’s encountered in his young career?

It’s going to be up to the challenger to create an opportunity for himself. He has to find a way to change the arc of the fight if he wants to pull the title away from one of the best fighters in MMA history.

Bantamweight Championship: Amanda Nunes (c) vs. Ronda Rousey

Oh yeah!

Nunes wins if she can stop the fight early, as in the first or midway point of the second round. She’s an impressive athlete but she’s not made for five rounds. She isn’t as scary once she enters the latter stages of a bout. (See her close win against Valentina Shevchenko for clear evidence.) Three of her four career losses have occurred outside of the first five minutes so there’s an obvious way to scout her when preparing to meet her in the cage; survive the first stanza and there’s a great chance to catch her as she gets tired and labors around the cage.

When she stopped Miesha Tate at UFC 200, we didn’t get to see if she’s any better at competing in a long fight; the extra time wasn’t needed. Her striking is stellar and she has real pop in her fists. She was able to batter Tate’s face into a crimson mask, breaking her nose in the process, with straight left jabs and precise overhand righs that offered her the rear-naked choke to capture the gold. If Nunes keeps the fight standing and takes her time in controlling the biggest moment of her professional career, she’ll retain. Will the enormous circumstances surrounding the fight seep into the cage and into her mind?

She excels where her opponent is at a clear disadvantage: striking. Rousey’s abilities on her feet have improved exponentially from the time she was a puppy in the sport and seemed to be miles ahead of where she really was when she knocked out Bethe Correia. That was fools gold for her – and the media coverage that emanated in its immediate aftermath armed her with a level of hubristic confidence in her striking as she stared across the cage from Holly Holm and attempted to match her strike for strike. That was her primary strategy and we all saw how that turned out.

Rousey wins if she can gain an armbar early. Like the champion, Rousey is stellar at making short work of her opponents. Unlike the champion, the times Rousey has been forced to fight longer than the first round she is 1-1. She doesn’t have any issues with cardio so, personally, I’d love to see the fight enter the championship rounds as neither woman has had to get off their stools for a fourth round.

I’m not concerned about her physically. It’s all mental with the former champion. I’ll ignore her media blackout although one has to wonder why she wasn’t turning away interviews, microphones and cameras when she was winning every single fight during her ascension. It’s a worthy observation. Will she wilt if she’s hit on a few occasions? Is the trauma from the Holm fight in the front of her mind? It’s an arduous task to handicap the fight for Rousey when all the questions revolve around her mental state. Rousey will make her famous walk to the cage tonight, could it be the last one of her career if she takes a beating? If she doesn’t enforce – and gain control in the clinch, Nunes has the skills to make the Holm knockout seem like a blip.

Picks: Borg, Kim, Dillashaw, Cruz and Rousey….uuuuh, Nunes. Wait…Nunes, I’ll pick her and stop typing.