Lightweight John Makdessi has made a name for himself in recent years as a strong-jawed slugger who likes to mix in spinning techniques. Though most folks might be picking him to beat Renee Forte based on reputation alone, discounting the Brazilian’s ability to earn victory is a mistake. He’s more technical with his stand-up and slicker on the ground. If Forte is able to score a takedown or two, don’t be surprised if he’s left standing when the judges’ scorecards are read. Submission-specialist Wilson Reis has been fighting at a high level for a long time and is a name knowledgeable fans no doubt recognize from his stints in EliteXC and Bellator. Reis was recently signed to fill in against Ivan Menjivar and could surprise some people with his output in the affair. He has the skills to deal with Menjivar’s grappling and the momentum of four straight wins behind him, making for a stiff challenge so long as he doesn’t get lost in the moment and waste time getting settled in the Octagon. Granted, it’s likely a decent percentage of people are picking Francis Carmont to take out Costa Philippou based on the Frenchman’s hype. However, Philippou has the tag of a future title-contender and a recent TKO of Tim Boetsch. Regardless, don’t let Carmont’s lackluster showing against Lorenz Larkin fool you. He’s more polished than Philippou and could definitely win the bout by emulating TriStar MMA teammate Georges St-Pierre by shooting for takedowns, then controlling action from the top. No disrespect to Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is absolutely an apt adversary with excellent grappling, powerful, precise hands, and some sneaky submissions, but Pat Healy is an excellent underdog to put down some action on. His performance against Jim Miller was a thing of beauty and anyone with a firm grasp of reality knows the subsequent hit for marijuana use had zilch to do with the victory-turned-No Contest. He’s a hard-nosed grappler with a lot of heart and a granite beard. While Nurmagomedov is good, he’s untested, and that definitely can’t be said about a guy like “Bam Bam” who has beaten opponents including Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, and Carlos Condit. Any fans feeling as though certain fighters were unbeatable got a wakeup call over the summer when Anderson Silva was knocked out cold by Chris Weidman. Though Jon Jones isn’t likely to showboat a la Silva, top contender Alexander Gustafsson definitely has the making of a man who could do the unthinkable and take the belt “Bones” currently owns. Gustafsson should be in tremendous shape after losing out on an April effort due to a cut, while Jones is coming off arm and foot injuries. “The Mauler” also has the range to avoid some of the strikes Jones is able to land on less-lanky foes, not to mention a respectable kickboxing arsenal and underrated wrestling. He’s not a lock to win by any means but Gustafsson should definitely give Jones a real go in the Octagon.
As has been said countless times on this site, one of the most beautiful aspects of Mixed Martial Arts as a sport involves the inherent unpredictability of fighting. All it takes is one punch, a split-second mistake on the ground, or an untimely injury to turn an underdog into a winner or even champion.
isn’t likely to be an exception to the rule, and though it’s impossible to know exactly who will be left standing when the smoke clears on September 21, there’s no doubt a few upsets are on the horizon. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) UFC 165