By Josh Neighbors
What a time to be a combat sports fan! Last week the five fights to watch completely delivered. At the age of 40, Manny Pacquiao turned back the clock to become the fifth oldest champion in boxing history with his split decision victory over previously undefeated WBA Welterweight champion Keith Thurman. Also in the sweet science, Teofimo Lopez looked sluggish but still got the victory.
In MMA, Leon Edwards made it to eight victories in a row with a comprehensive and methodical beat down of Rafael Dos Anjos in the UFC main event on ESPN 4. It took Greg Hardy less than a minute to prove why he’s here to stay in the UFC heavyweight division. And, last but not least, Daniel Hooker got back on the winning track with a vicious knockout of James Vick.
This week, UFC 240 takes center stage in the combat sports world. It’s not a strong card, and there is not a ton of great boxing this weekend, so instead I’ll give you three fights to watch this weekend.
1: (UFC 240 Main Event) The UFC Featherweight Championship: Max Holloway vs. Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar (23-6-1) at the age of 37 finally gets another shot to become a two-division champion in the UFC. Max Holloway (20-3) will look to make it 14 straight wins at 145 lbs and further his case for being considered the greatest featherweight of all time.
The champion Holloway is looking to bounce back after his foray into the UFC lightweight division was unsuccessful. Holloway attempted to become the fourth fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously, but his momentum was stopped by a sharp Dustin Porier who battered the featherweight champion for a majority of the fight. Max is the heavy betting favorite, and he should be. The question surrounding “Blessed” is how well has he recovered from his beating(s).
Luke Thomas this week brought up that Max Holloway absorbs 4.33 strikes per minute. The UFC average is 3.16. Conversely, he lands 6.93 strikes per minute. This walk forward style for Holloway has endeared him to fans, but the rent is due at some point. A fight like this is definitely where the accumulation of blows could affect Holloway, especially considering that his fight with Porier was a little over three months ago.
For Edgar, it is going to be about establishing his wrestling and his striking. Typically, establishing the former makes it much easier to get the latter going. Frankie is going to have to get Max to the ground and do some damage there in the first few rounds if he wants to make this fight close. He does not need to administer a beating like he did to Yair Rodriguez, but that style of attack would be the one he should go for.
I think Holloway does pay for the short turnaround, but I think he is just too much for Edgar at his age once he settles in.
Prediction: Max Holloway via decision
2: Women’s Featherweight Co-Main Event: Cris Cyborg vs. Felicia Spencer
This fight is the most consequential fight of the weekend by far. There have been more compelling matchups, but the war of words in the media has brought the heat to this bout. This fight is more about Cyborg (20-2) making a statement to UFC President Dana White, who has been persistent that Cyborg is afraid to fight Amanda Nunes. This statement is disingenuous at best. This is the last fight on Cyborg’s contract, and fighting Amanda Nunes as the last fight on your contract would make no sense at all for Cyborg. A win here would give her some momentum after the Nunes loss and give the UFC reason to re-sign her to a longer term deal, give her more security and then give her the rematch.
As for the challenger, Felicia Spencer (7-0) will come into this fight on home soil in Canada riding some heat after an upset win over Megan Anderson. Her plan is simple: get Cris Cyborg to the ground and wear on her. If she stays on her feet, it might not be a long night at the office. Unlike most of Cyborg’s opponents, this is Spencer’s natural weight class. Oh yeah … she is also a sixth grade teacher. A real underdog story.
Cyborg has to be carrying a massive chip on her shoulder. I think she comes in to this fight to make a statement to Dana White that she can still produce some of the magic that MMA fans grew so accustomed to.
Prediction: Cris Cyborg via second round TKO
3: (Showtime Boxing) The WBA Junior Lightweight Title: Gervonta Davis vs. Ricardo Nunez
Davis (21-0) gained notoriety by scoring a knockout on the Mayweather vs. McGregor undercard. At the age of 24, “Tank” has made a habit of leaving the judges out of things. 21 professional bouts, 20 knockouts. The last time he went the distance was October of 2014. He is brash. He is talented. Most importantly, he is very well rounded. Davis is on a trajectory to prove that he is the best legitimate challenge to Vasyl Lomachenko.
The hope is that Davis can continue his winning ways and ultimately run his mouth to generate some buzz. If they match him up the right way and he stays active, a matchup between he and Lomachenko would be arguably the most hyped sub-140 lb fights in the modern era. Bottom line is this: Davis is fighting in front of his hometown crowd in Baltimore, so I would expect him to try and put on a show as opposed to going for the quick kill.
Prediction: Gervonta Davis via fifth round TKO
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org