By Josh Neighbors
It is the best time of the year to be a combat sports fans. While most other sports are in their dog days, the fight game has a way of delivering mid-Summer action that will keep you out of the sweltering heat and in front of your television screen. This weekend is no different. UFC on ESPN 4 in San Antonio Texas is sure to be a great appetizer to the Manny Pacquiao and Keith Thurman who will square off in a monumental welterweight title fight in Las Vegas. KCOU Sports’ Josh Neighbors identifies 5 fights you need to watch this weekend.
- Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman for the WBA Welterweight Title on FOX PPV.
At the age of 40 and in his 71st professional fight, Manny Pacquiao (62-7-1) is still going for welterweight gold. He will look to become a legitimate title holder for the first time since his controversial loss to Jeff Horn just over two years ago in Australia. To do so he will need to beat a former pound for pound great and the current champion Keith Thurman (30-0).
If this fight took place two years ago, the boxing community would probably be concerned for Pac-mans health and well being. Yet, injury and inactivity have seemed to take their toll on the 30 year old champion as he does not appear to be the puncher (or boxer for that matter) he once was. In January, Thurman took some considerable damage and struggled as he won a majority draw against Josecito Lopez.
Thurman has worked hard to sell this fight and himself in the build up to this title defense. It is hard to say which version of these guys we are going to get. The idea of this fight should get all combat sports fans excited. That being said, we have not seen either guy on their A game in over 2 years.
Thurman should take a hint from the Jeff Horn fight and not let this thing go to the scorecards. If he wants to reclaim the reputation he once had, he needs to dispatch of the 40-year old Pacquiao.
Prediction: Thurman via 11th round TKO
- Welterweight Main Event: Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Leon Edwards at UFC on ESPN 4
The up and comer meets the former champion and main stay. This fight has is all. This is a turning point for Rafael Dos Anjos (29-11). He is the 4th ranked welterweight in the world and if he has any ideas of getting a title shot at 170 lbs he’s going to need a big night. He has losses to the current champion Kamaru Usman and #2 contender Colby Covington. A victory here would set him up for another top-five opponent.
Dos Anjos’ resume should be appreciated as well. 7 of his last 10 fights have come against former or current champions and he boasts a 6-4 record in those 10 bouts. He is coming off a stoppage victory over Kevin Lee and even at 34 I expect he will be atop the welterweight heap for a while.
On the other side of the cage is Leon Edwards (17-3), whose last loss was to Usman in December of 2015. He reeled off 7 straight victories including consecutive wins over Donald Cerrone and Gunnar Nelson. Edwards currently sits 12th in the Welterweight rankings and a win here would throw him right into the title mix and probably earn him a matchup his new rival Jorge Masvidal.
Both of these guys are well rounded fighters. Rafael Dos Anjos has always tried to impose his physicality on opponents, and I think that will be the strategy here. Edwards has more of a slender build and has had his struggles on the ground. He showed improvements in his ground game during his victory over Nelson, but Dos Anjos poses a whole different kind of challenge on the ground with his physicality. He is not merely hunting for submissions. He is looking to wear you down, and only when the window is there go for the finish.
Prediction: Rafael Dos Anjos via Decision.
- Heavyweight Bout: Greg Hardy vs. Juan Adams at UFC on ESPN 4 in San Antonio, Texas
This is a monumental fight for both fighters. The former all pro defensive end Hardy (4-1) is going to get his first test in Juan Adams (5-1). Both of these guys are heavyweight prospects that the UFC sees potential in. Both of these guys scored 1st round KOs on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Both of these guys have suffered setbacks in the not so distant past.
Hardy was disqualified due to an illegal knee in his first official UFC bout against Allen Crowder. He bounced back with a TKO victory this past April. Hardy now has his sights set on Adams, who is coming off of his first professional loss when he was comprehensively out-wrestled by Arjun Bhullar this past May.
Hardy has struggled when he faces wrestlers. Luckily for him, this one appears to be staying on the feet. Between the two of them they have 9 wins, all of which have come by stoppages due to strikes.
Adams has added extra heat to this fight with his trash talk in the media. He clearly detests Hardy(for obvious reasons) and has even stated that the mother of Hardy’s children has messaged him on instagram showing him proof of how bad of a person Hardy is(as if we needed a reminder) in what appears to be an effort to motivate Adams.
Much to the public’s chagrin and the UFC’s delight, I think Hardy continues to gain momentum here. He is in an elite tier of athlete and still in his physical prime at 30. I see him getting the win by stoppage.
Prediction: Hardy via 1st round TKO
- Lightweight Bout: Daniel Hooker vs. James Vick at UFC on ESPN 4 in San Antonio, Texas.
Here is your odds on favorite for fight of the night. Two action fights who are both in desperate need of victories. Daniel Hooker (17-8) took an uncomfortable amount of damage before succumbing to a body shot by Edson Barboza. After six months off, he is looking to make it 5 wins in his last 6 fights and crack the rankings in the most stacked division in all of MMA.
The “Texecutioner” James Vick (13-3) is looking to avoid 3 straight losses, and a drop from the lightweight rankings. Questions about his chin were warranted after he suffered a brutal first round KO loss to Justin Gaethje last August. His chin seemed to hold up fine, but a bit of hesitancy seemed to remain during his last fight, a unanimous decision loss to Paul Felder earlier this year.
Vick’s 6’3 frame and 76 inch reach is typically a concern for opponents. He is good about setting pace and using his kicks to keep opponents away from him. Daniel Hooker stands at 6’0 but does bring a 75’ inch reach so the discrepency is not as prominent in this matchup as it has been in others.
Vick is 32, and his back is up against the wall here in this division. If he wants to remain relevant, he needs to score a victory here. I think Hooker will still be feeling some effects from the beating he took at the hands of Barboza.
Prediction: James Vick via 3rd Round TKO
- NABF Lightweight Title Fight: Teofimo Lopez vs. Masayoshi Nakatani
If you haven’t had a chance to watch 21 year old lightweight phenom Teofimo Lopez (13-0), now is your chance. This dude has lightning in his hands and ridiculous charisma. He is an action fighter who has finishes in 11 of his 13 pro fights. He gets better each fights and so do his celebrations. This is man is not afraid to stunt on his opponents while they are lying on the canvas unconscious. That might cost him someday, but for the time being there is no end in site.
Prediction: Teofimo Lopez via 4th round KO.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org