You know those cartoon fights, where all you see is a dust cloud and a flurry of blurred fists? This is UFC 215. Where some of the fastest fighters to grace the cage clash, in what promises to be a maelstrom of MMA action.
Whaling on each other for the men’s flyweight crown are the imperious Demetrious Johnson and young gun prospect Ray Borg. And just below it on the card, Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko tangle over the women’s bantamweight belt. Mark Sylvester points the spotlight on these white-knuckle rides.
They say it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog that matters. This should be a slogan tattooed across flyweight kingpin Demetrious ‘Might Mouse’ Johnson’s fists.
He may weigh just 125lbs, but every ounce is packed with bone-numbing fury; neatly wrapped in an exquisite MMA skill set that’s left the best in the flyweight division crouched in the corner, gently rocking, wondering where it all went wrong.
It’s a campaign of octagon-based terror that has left him on the brink of UFC immortality. Just one win away from the bewildering 11 title defenses that will leave Anderson Silva’s 10-fight record in its wake.
Standing between DJ and his place in history is a tough-as-titanium, slippery-as-an-eel package shaped like Ray Borg. The ‘Tazmexican Devil’ is just 24 and carries only two blemishes on his 13-fight report book.
It’s probably not too big of a spoiler to say DJ is the firm favourite here
Rated as the best pound-for-pounder in UFC, with the scalps of the sport’s elite hanging on his coat rack, he is the complete package.
He’s unbeaten at flyweight, where he invades his opponent’s personal space, unleashing cluster bombs of fists, knees, and feet, before evaporating from their flailing takedown attempts like a big-hitting David Blane.
Borg has never been stopped, but neither had Henry Cejudo before DJ unleashed a blitzkrieg of knee strikes in the first round at UFC 197. With the scent of that record in his nostrils, Johnson may simply unleash hell on Borg. You’ll get him to win by stoppage at 12/5.
But even for Johnson, tagging Borg won’t be easy. The new kid at UFC’s bone-splintering top table knows going toe-to-toe with the champ is a recipe for a blinding flash of light, followed by the taste of canvas.
With Borg likely to spend a lot of the evening on his bike, trying to avoid Johnson’s bunker-busters, it may turn into a war of attrition that goes the distance. And with his ability to keep the scorecard ticking over with jarring hits and tricky takedowns, DJ’s racked up 11 decisions among his 26 wins.
It’s evens that he gets the judges nod here
While Johnson never takes opponents for granted, Borg’s underdog role may be one of his biggest weapons here. He’s gone slightly under the radar, and despite a couple of decision losses since boarding the UFC bus, he has the tools to take him to the top.
With the fire of youth in his belly, solid defense, great grappling skills and the ability to pounce on mistakes almost before they’ve happened, he can live with the hardest grafters in the cage.
Those skills could put him on the road to an upset, especially if he studies Johnson’s only defeat in UFC – at bantamweight – to Dominick Cruz. Cruz simply outfoxed DJ with tricky takedowns and surprise attacks from unusual angles. Borg has the ability to emulate that, and a decision win for Borg comes in at 14/1.
Borg could do it
The rules often get shredded in the white heat of the octagon. But he probably won’t. DJ is the real deal and his destiny has already slipped into something more comfortable and is waiting with the scented candles lit. Johnson to win by submission, 11/4. Thank you and good night.
Hopefully, you’ll have enough breath left to watch the main event, after taking in the scintillating scrap Nunes and Shevchenko have in store for us.
Nunes v Shevchenko
This is a clash of styles to make the 1970s look normal. Bantamweight champ Amanda ‘The Lioness’ Nunes is all fire and fury, while Valentina ‘The Bullet’ Shevchenko has the tactical excellence of Napoleon.
Nunes will leave her corner like Usain bolt armed with a monkey wrench, and stopping The Bullet is Plan A through to D. A win before the distance for the champ will set you back 7/2.
Plan E will be to go medieval on Shevchenko, before taking her to the floor where Nunes will put some eye-watering moves on her (remember her demolition of Miesha Tate – ouch!). Nunes to force a tap from Shevchenko is a good shout at 4/1.
But The Lioness can run out of puff, and the longer it goes, the more the odds slide slowly in Shevchenko’s favour. As Nunes pauses for breath, don’t be surprised if the Bullet strikes with a blunt instrument attached to her arm or leg. It’s a cheeky 11/2 shot and not beyond possibility.
But the bigger possibility is that Shevchenko will use her wits to avoid Nunes’ devastating raids, Nunes will take her foot off the pedal so she doesn’t end up running on fumes. It’ll bed down into an epic series of attacks and counter attacks, where Nunes will always keep her bruised and battered nose in front.
Nunes to shave it on points and retain her crown as the Octagon’s warrior queen. It’s a snip at 9/2.