Mourning loss of Hagler

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Marvelous Marvin Hagler was one of the absolute greatest middleweight boxers in history. He  ruled the division from 1973-87. A controversial 1987 split-decision loss to Sugar Ray Leonard soured the champion, for not only did he (and I) think he had won that bout, he fought a poorly executed fight after being affected by Leonard’s psychological warfare.

Hagler never received a second fight because Leonard was well aware he had little chance to win a rematch after using all he had physically, psychologically and mentally to slip past Hagler the first time.

Hagler’s reaction to Leonard’s hemming and hawing was to retire.

I made the same decision at the same time as Hagler. After decades of passionate boxing fandom, the sport’s greed, graft, avarice and self-interest finally got the best of me, and I vowed never to return to boxing.

I owe Hagler much. He gave me the final impetus to walk from a sport that became and remains a charade. After several years away from combat sports, my deep thirst for fighting returned when mixed martial arts, a sport rife with integrity and clear, unadulterated results, arose in the early 2000s to fulfill my love for fight handicapping.

RIP, Marvin Hagler.

Last week Dan Ige showed he was the more refined, polished and powerful fighter as he stopped Gavin Tucker early in their bout. We’ll take the well-earned unit and move ahead to this week’s UFC Vegas 22 card.

Insight the Octagon 2021: 7-5 + 2.95 units.

Kevin Holland -190 vs. Derek Brunson + 165, 

middleweight (185 pounds), main event

This is a great matchup between the seventh-ranked Brunson and the 10th-ranked Holland.

Holland arrives with an impressive body of work and brimming with confidence. After making a mistake and getting submitted against Brendan Allen in 2019, Holland has won five straight bouts. Decorated with a black belt in BJJ and a second-degree black belt in Kung Fu, Holland is a devastating striker who has finished four of those last five opponents via KO or TKO. Still, do not overlook his sound grappling ability.

Holland is a couple of inches taller and nine years younger than Brunson, 37, and he’ll own a 4-inch reach advantage. Surely it is Holland’s plan to keep this confrontation standing and use his arm and leg strikes to batter Brunson.

Brunson arrives as an undervalued combatant whose recent history includes a most dominating performance over highly regarded Edmen Shahbazyan. Brunson has faced a far superior level of competition than Holland, but he’ll need to deal with Holland’s speed, skill and willingness to take risks. Brunson himself is decorated with a brown belt in BJJ that supplements his NCAA Division II wrestling pedigree.

After setbacks to Jacare Souza and current champion Israel Adesanya in 2019, Brunson won three straight bouts. The Shahbazyan victory was an epic display of a game, young fighter with momentum waltzing into an absolute whuppin’. Will Brunson award another hyped young athlete his Ph.D. in MMA?

In this fight I see Holland using speed, quickness and legwork to keep Brunson outside and away from him. Fluid movement is mandatory in allowing Holland to blister the incoming Brunson with precision striking, and Holland has the ability to finish in one shot or from a barrage.

Brunson must persevere and pressure through the opening rounds, when Holland’s flash and fluidity are keenest. He must work to eliminate the dancer’s space and maul Holland into the fence and then onto the floor in an attempt to make this fight ugly, dirty and most importantly lengthy.

Holland’s movement, striking and strength are muted on the mat, while Brunson’s ground-and-pound attack may dominate while draining the energy from Holland. This tactic comes at some risk for the older Brunson, but I do see it as logical, for he has no business standing with Holland.

Holland opened -165.

Total for this fight: 1.5 Over -190.

Lean to Brunson + 165 pending weigh-ins, Over 1.5 -190 pending weigh-ins.

Grant Dawson -190 vs. Leonardo Santos + 165

lightweight (155 pounds)

This bout fascinates me more than any other this year.

Santos rarely fights but is 7-0-1 in the UFC. He is what any old-school BJJ practitioner would call the master of BJJ fighters in the UFC. His ground game is untouchable, and his striking is refined and power-based. He’s also 41.

Dawson is a stalwart wrestling-based fighter, and I’ve said many times that world-class wrestling usually is kryptonite to world-class BJJ. But on this occasion, Santos’ devastating striking will provide him a great advantage, considering he’s also 2 inches taller and will sport substantial arm- and leg-reach advantage.

Can Dawson smother the Brazilian and control him from the top, or will Santos carve up the kid on his way in and earn top position himself? Santos is in no way intimidated by Dawson’s ground acumen.

 

Parlay: Grant Dawson -190

Dawson now becomes the first leg in an open Parlay. The second leg to be filled in an upcoming card

Chiasson -200 vs. Reneau + 180 Women's Bantamweight (135lbs.)

This is going to be a closely contested bout. Reneau is experienced and tough as a three-dollar steak but she is 43 and in with a fighter in Chiasson who has a five-inch height advantage, a four-inch reach advantage and is 14 years the younger combatant. This is a bout I feel ends via decision.

Chiasson via Decision + 125

JP Buys -130 vs. Bruno Silva + 110 Flyweight (125lbs.)

This is a release made earlier this week. JP Buys is the choice here based on what I believe to be a more fundamental wrestling background. He's in his debut fighting with his spouse on the card, so he’s surely motivated. He faces a most desperate fighter in Silva who has lost his first couple UFC bouts and may be overmatched here.

Buys -130

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