UFC Fight Night:
Cannonier vs. Strickland
By Michael Jones - @keepingitrealmma
Dave Manley - @mmabobblehead
"Night after night, going 'round and 'round my brain,
his dream is driving me insane" - Roger Waters
In an even more bizarre world
where Roger Waters is an MMA fan,
I would imagine this to be his reaction to UFC 282
and the plight now haunting Dana White going forward.
1. Jared Cannonier (15-6) vs. Sean Strickland (25-4)
We must dig ourselves out of the strange dream that was UFC 282, we must venture forward and back to reality. This middleweight clash is the way, the truth. We can take solace in knowing that Jared and Sean will do absolutely everything in their power to keep this fight out of the judges' hands. We might expect 5 rounds of reckless abandon as Sean relentlessly marches Jared down, peppering him with jabs and straight punches. We might predict Sean to lower his guard more often than is advisable and get checked with a deadly right hook from Jared. So much can happen in 25 minutes and all signs point to a finish. Of Jared's 14 UFC fights, 8 have ended by KO or TKO. Of Sean's last 8 UFC fights, half of them have gone to decision. That's 12 finishes in a combined 22 fights, a decent hint at the most likely outcome.
Sean is notorious for saying too much, "If I fight the guy again, I’d do the same f*cking thing. Just put this (right) hand (up) a little more”. That was his sentiment in an interview with Mike Bohn from MMA Junkie when asked about how he would approach a rematch with current champion Alex Pereira. He doesn't sound like he's planning to dial back the bad intent, he might as well have told us he plans to kill or be killed in every fight going forward. That will play right into the hands of Jared, who started his UFC run as a heavyweight and still hits like a Mack Truck. The best example of his power might be the right uppercut that ended Jack Hermansson's night only 27 seconds into the 2nd round. Check out that 2019 finish and how it resembles an uppercut KO of Curtis Blaydes dished out by UFC heavyweight Derrick Lewis, coincidentally that 2021 finish also came early in round 2 (a noteworthy addendum).
Hardcore History: Jared Cannonier grew up in Dallas, Texas. With a cousin in pro football and 2 older brothers big enough to give him hell, he had plenty of competitive athleticism around him to inspire a career in sports. After high school, he instead opted for a career in the military. His interest in combat sports was ignited by Army Combatives Training, but after 3 years in the Army, he was discharged for a positive marijuana test (huge sigh). Upon moving to Anchorage, Alaska where he and his wife eventually had 3 kids, he took a maintenance job with the Federal Aviation Administration. That was simply to make ends meet, on the side he trained at Legacy Jiu-Jitsu. He eventually took his first amateur MMA fight in 2011 and fought exclusively in Alaska for 3 years. After successfully reigniting his passion for competition and chaining together 7 wins, he got the call to join the UFC. Fast forward to 2017 with over 100 pounds lost, he was geared up for a move to Arizona with his family in tow. He has since been training with The MMA Lab under John Crouch and Benson Henderson.
As for his opponent, Sean Strickland grew up in Southern California with an abusive father and no real guidance. After getting kicked out of school early, he found combat sports and went pro as soon as he could. He took his first pro MMA fight just 1 month after his 17th birthday and evidently found his calling. He won his first 13 fights and earned a shot in the UFC, he won his promotional debut by 1st round submission. To this day he resides in California and has trained with the likes of Millenia MMA, Syndicate MMA, and Xtreme Couture.
Dave’s pick: This fight is a Pick’em and the total is 4.5 rounds with the favorite to the over at -130. Here’s what I like and don’t like about this fight. I don’t like the idea of rewarding garbage performances with a Main event. BOT of these dudes had garbage performances last time out. Both looked AWFUL. Here’s what I like…I honestly believe that both men will want us to forget said performance with something special. Something magical. Something violent. I really believe in my heart that these dudes are going to come bang. Don’t forget, there was a time a few years ago where all Cannonier did was FINISH fights. On the other side of the cage is loud talking Strickland. Talks a BIIIIIG game, this Sean Strickland. I think it’s time to put up or shut up and the MMA world knows it. He knows it. 4.5 rounds? The under at PLUS money? Sign me up. All day.
2. Arman Tsarukyan (18-3) vs. Damir Ismagulov (24-1)
These are two killers you probably don't know much about, but that will change quickly after they fight on Saturday. Arman had a back-and-forth war with Islam Makhachev in his UFC debut. He ultimately fell short in the bout, but it was a great display of his potential seeing as Islam just won the lightweight belt. He rebounded well, winning his next 5 fights before running into grappling stud Mateusz Gamrot. Another fight in which he lost an uncomfortably close decision but had a good showing. As for Damir, he convincingly won his first 4 UFC fights before running into the 'Georgian Viking' Guram Kutateladze. He narrowly escaped that fight with a split decision win. It's interesting to note that Guram beat Mateusz via split decision in his UFC debut, the reality is that all these guys are capable of beating each other on any given night.
Looking at Arman's grappling compared to Damir's, they both have a very strong top game employing heavy ground and pound. Arman leans a little more on his grappling which has led to mild gas tank struggles in the later rounds, falling victim to decisive takedowns and reversals. This is only a 3 round affair so as long as he moderates his output in the first 2 rounds he should be able to keep up with Damir. One unknown variable is who will have the speed advantage in the striking department. Damir tends to shuffle forward with looping hooks and heavy uppercuts, but that plays right into Arman's kicking game. On the flip side, Arman will need to mind the distance if he doesn't want Damir to time them, catch them, and turn them into a takedown. We should probably expect another closely contested decision, but both men have the skill to catch each other. The power advantage probably leans toward Damir, as he tends to sit on his punches a little more.
Hardcore History: Arman Tsarukyan is of Armenian descent, but was born in a small Georgian village with a population of just over a hundred. When Arman was 3 years old, his father moved their family to Russia for work opportunities. Of course, he also knew there would be better athletic competition and viable career paths stemming from that. Arman trained in karate and freestyle wrestling while in school, but was scouted by a local hockey coach and would go on to play for 10 years. Unfortunately, his father saw no future for him as the expenses to play outweighed his potential. He retired from hockey to work in construction per his father's request. After just a few months of hard labor, he decided to try out MMA, anything to get out of work and back into sports. He had his first fight at 18 years old and joined the UFC 4 years later.
Damir Ismagulov grew up in Orenburg, Russia participating in multiple conventional sports. Like many Russian athletes before him, he attended his local university to earn a 'Master of Sport' degree. He went on to practice combat sports and began his pro MMA career at 23, one year after winning the 2014 Cup of Russia. He was subsequently awarded 'Master of Sport' in MMA and would go on to train with Bellator veteran Alexander Schlemenko. He joined the UFC in 2018 and has trained with Tiger Muay Thai in Thailand and American Top Team in Florida.
3. Drew Dober (25-11-1NC) vs. Bobby Green (29-13-1)
Two heavily tested veterans, one inspired by the fire while the other aims to control it. When most effective, Bobby tricks his opponents into thinking he wants the fire but instead sits back and counters. His most exciting fights are losses where he goes toe to toe with equally impressive counter strikers. This bout against Drew will most likely resemble the former. Contrastingly to Bobby's game, Drew thrives playing the bull, going shot for shot and leaning heavily into thunderous hooks and paralyzing body punches. Evidence of Bobby's game can be seen in his fight with Alan Patrick, as he turned Alan's aggression against using him well-timed counterstrikes and body-lock trip takedowns. This fight will likely come down to Drew's ability to stay disciplined, he doesn't want to fight flat but he doesn't want to abandon all defense. His winning game could be described as controlled chaos.
The question then becomes, will Drew make Bobby pay for getting overconfident in the heat of an exchange? Or will Bobby use his superior footwork to dip in and out of trouble while lighting Drew up with straight punches? Bobby has no reason to take any risk, he's won 2 of his last 3 fights and the loss was a last-minute booking against the champ Islam Makhachev. As for Drew, he's on one hell of a streak with 5 wins in his last 7 fights. One of the two losses was a 3rd round submission loss, also against Islam Makhachev. There's no shame in losing to the best if you gave it your all, with that loss comes a grand learning opportunity. Drew has won his last two fights by way of a commanding KO/TKO, so it's hard to say if he has really worked on his ground game since the submission loss. It's also hard to say if grappling will even be a factor as both these men love to strike and as previously stated will throw out their game plan in favor of war. The curveball factor that makes this matchup so enticing is Bobby's tendency to taunt his opponent. He talks a lot during his fights, it will be curious to see if that lures Drew into his own demise.
Hardcore History A: Drew has had a rough ride. You might think you can say that for most MMA fighters but Drew especially had it rough. In 2012 he landed on the exhausted promotional heal that is The Ultimate Fighter but lost in the very first round. He rebounded well, as he does, winning 6 of his next 7 bouts in other smaller promotions. Once again the UFC came calling, but this time for an official fight. Of course, it was a late-notice replacement fight and he lost that. They must have seen something in him or felt like they owed him because they gave him yet another chance, which he lost. It wasn't until 8 years into his career that Drew got his very first UFC win, over WEC and UFC veteran Jamie Varner. Going backward so we can better move forward, let's take a look at the kind of guy Drew is.
A tried and true corn-fed Nebraska boy, Drew was born in Omaha where he attended school and wrestled. He didn't have much of a father figure, that space was filled by his courageous mother who supported Drew in everything he did. She pushed for him to try modeling and acting, but he opted for fighting. She backed him with that as well. Go figure, a midwestern boy built like an ox saw a few kung-fu movies and wanted to try it out. Only he took it very seriously and started training right out of high school. That same year, at 17 years old, he took his first amateur fight and went 9-0 (of the fights actually recorded). Just a few years later he went pro and 5 years later joined the UFC. As we said, the guy is tested. Both men are very tested.
H.H. B: With an incarcerated father and his mother addicted to drugs, Bobby 'King' Green was dropped into the world of foster care from a very young age. In and out of homes for most of his youth, he learned how to fit into any environment, regardless of cultural differences. There were some trials during his growth though. In high school, he found himself playing the role of a goth kid, when that didn't work out he tried on a different hat. He and his few close friends tried on all the alternative hats. Bobby only ever wanted somewhere to fit in, but his tiny group quickly realized almost everyone was having an identity crisis. They might shock people or make them uncomfortable, but he understood that was their own personal issue and he wanted to avoid society, "because it was trying to turn us into robots".
Unusually self-aware for a young kid, Bobby was a strong role model for his little brother who struggled with life in gangs. Reality hit especially hard when his brother was shot down in their driveway while working on the car. Bobby worked tirelessly to bring his brother out of the chaos, straighten him out and show him the love he never had. His brother finally turned the corner and began rapidly improving, just as quickly, he was stolen from his family. Thankfully his uncle and cousins survived the deadly rampage, but his blood brother, his deeply loved pupil, had been taken from him in the blink of an eye. Just two months later (6 years into his pro MMA career) Bobby took a short-notice fight against Strikeforce legend Josh Thomson, it was a very close battle, but he fought hard and won in tribute to his fallen brother. Just a few months removed from that terrible tragedy, news breaks that his older brother has been shot 3 times, barely surviving shots to his shoulder, back, and hip. As if I need to reiterate this, these fighters have been through some heavy crap. Let's celebrate their journey, especially after all the strife they've endured.
*Massive credit to Yahoo News for this exceptional article written in 2014, detailing Bobby's trials and tribulations. Follow this link for more on his story: https://news.yahoo.com/how-ufc-fighter-bobby-green-has-survived-a-traumatic-life-by-being-a--chameleon-184659873.html
Drew Dober comes in at a -150 Fav, with Bobby Greene coming back at +120. The total is 2.5 rounds with the over as the chalk at -175. Speed. This will be the great equalizer in this match. Bobby Greene has such amazing twitch speed, that I actually get surprised when his opponents are able to touch him. I mean, you can’t hit what you can’t catch, and this Bobby Greene, he’s hard to catch. Don’t take anything away from Dober though. After all, he is the -150 favorite here. I think that if Dober were to get his hands on Greene throughout this contest, Dober wins easily. But will he? Can he? I just don’t know. Bobby Greene’s in and out lateral movement is like no other. He never seems to get himself in trouble. Well, that wasn’t the case against Islam, but Islam is a different animal. I like the over here. I don’t see either of these guys getting into too much trouble, and I can see this match making it to the final bell. OVER at -170