Another fun night is upon us, fight fans. I personally enjoy nights with both good boxing bouts and exciting MMA fights, and that is what we have tonight.
Boxing: Berlanga V. Angulo
In boxing, we get to see two stellar super middleweights clash in Edgar Berlanga versus Alexis Angulo and—on top of that—we get a very sneaky-good UFC card as well.
Berlanga will not only look to defend his WBO super middleweight title in New York City but he will also aim to get back to older ways and do so in exciting fashion. Berlanga burst onto the scene as an undefeated junior national champion. He was knocking out anyone who got in the ring with him. In his first 16 fights, Berlanga stopped all 16 and did so without anyone getting past eight rounds. In his last three fights, The Chosen One has been unable to find that one shot to put his opponents down for the count. That could be attributed to the step up in competition, but there is only one way to find out.
Angulo is a sold vet with a legit record of 27-2. Although he is a two-time title challenger, it is hard to see the 38-year-old being that big of a challenge for the charging Berlanga. Although anything can happen in boxing, this is a classic matchup—the old vet against the up and coming bull. I see this match as a mid-to-late 90s wrestling squash match. Angulo is the Brooklyn Brawler and Berlanga is Bret Hart.
The pick: The explosive Berlanga swings hammers with both hands. I think he takes advantage of having a game opponent willing to stand and trade. Berlanga reminds everyone of his power and wins by KO.
The UFC takes its show to Singapore for a solid lineup which includes two title fights and a rematch of one of the better fights of the last few years.
The main event will feature a title clash which could signal the passing of the torch. As defending light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira looks to hold off the hungry challenger Jiri Prochazka.
Teixeira has been around for a while now. The 42-year-old Brazilian has done it all in MMA on his rise from Chuck Liddell’s favorite sparring partner to champion of the world. Glover has seen his fair share of success and failure. He busted onto the scene in May of 2012 after visa issues kept him out of the UFC for years. Teixeira immediately made waves with five straight wins that included a three-round sweep of Rampage Jackson and finishes over James are Huna and Ryan Bader. Glover failed in his first crack at the title back in 2014 when he lost a unanimous decision to the former 205-pound king, Jon Jones. Glover then ran into roadblocks by the names of Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson in his next title eliminator fights. The title dreams looked to be passing Glover by, but the old dog had one last run in him.
Teixeira never rattled or quit and went on an impressive streak which has seen him win his last six fights, including capturing that elusive title back in October of last year. Of those six wins, five have been by stoppage. This run is no fluke and the veteran still has a lot of fight let.
Prochazka has also been on a tear and is a very real threat to end Glover’s run at the top after just one fight. Prochazka, a feared striker from the Czech Republic, is fairly unknown to lost fight fans here in America. He famously turned down the UFC’s offer to join the promotion a few years ago as he wanted to wait until he felt he was ready. Jiri stated that he did not just want to be in the UFC but dominate the UFC.
Since coming to the promotion, Jiri has done just that—dominate. In his first two fights he was matched up with two former title challengers in Dominic Reyes and Volkan Oezdemir. Prochazka wasted no time to impress and starched both former number-onencontenders, ending both fights in the second round. Jiri is a big-time puncher and of his 28 wins, 25 are by knockout. Jiri, on a 12-fight win streak, has done plenty of impressive work outside of the UFC. In his last three fights before coming over, he stopped two former UFC vets in C.B. Dollaway and Fabio Maldonado and also marched through former Strikforce champ King Mo.
The pick: Jiri is very confident in his striking and his chin. He fights with his hands low and fires shots from all sorts of angles. Glover is no slouch when it comes to boxing, and will have the advantage on the ground. And although Glover is a fantastic counter puncher, his ability to take damage has deteriorated over the last few years. On his run to the title, Glover was hurt in several fights, but was able to outlast his previous foes. Jiri has shown the ability to last and not get tired. His striking and pressure picks up as the fight goes. I see Jiri being able to hurt Glover early in the fight and not let him off the hook. Prochazka by KO.
The second title fight of the night doesn’t carry as much excitement, with 125-pound queen and ruler, Valentina Shevchenko, defending her flyweight title against Brazilian Taila Santos. Valentina, who might be the best female fighter on the planet, will look for her ninth straight victory when she steps into the cage on Saturday night. She has dominated the 125-pound division much like Anderson Silva and GSP did to their respective divisions in their primes. She makes it look easy and none of these girls are even competing with her. The Bullet’s only two losses since joining the UFC are to the GOAT female Amanda Nunes. Both of those fights were at 135 pounds, however, and many people agree that Valentina won the second fight.
Santos is 19-1 and riding a four-fight winning streak headed into her title shot. Although Dana White states that this is a scary fight for Valentina and that Santos can knock out any girl she fights, I’m not buying it.
The pick: Valentina has just been too dominate in a somewhat thin division. She has shown no holes in her game and in her last few fights it has seemed as if Valentina has tried to make the fights more difficult by beating the girls at what they are supposed to be good at. She holds a stoppage win over the current 135-pound champion, Julianna Peña, and at 34 she is still in her fighting prime. Santos has yet to face the top-tier of the division and has already been set back once since joining the UFC. To me, Valentina is one of those fighters where I can’t see her losing until she actually loses. Valentina wins via whichever way she chooses.
The second biggest fight of the night is a rematch from one of the best fights of 2020.
Former strawweight champions Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Zhang Weili will look to put on another show like they did in their title fight at UFC 248 a couple years ago. Both women had to dig down deep in that initial contest that looked pretty much like a Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em robot match. Weili did just enough to earn the split decision, where the power on her shots seemed the be the difference in the fight.
Joanna, who probably landed more clean shots, got pretty banged up in the loss and has not fought since. Weili has fought twice since, losing her belt to Rose Namajunas at UFC 261 and then losing a close rematch to Rose at UFC 268. Joanna has the advantage on the feet as she is the better technical striker. Weili on the other hand has more power in her punches and tends to do more damage. After their first contest, Weili left Joanna’s face a swollen mess as Jedrzejczyk became a meme on social media. Both girls have hit a rough patch of late. Weili has lost her last two fights and Joanna has gone 2-4 since her perfect 14-0 start to her career.
The pick: I am up in the air on this fight. Though I lean towards Weili, I see this fight being much like the first, which I had Joanna winning on my score card.
I don’t know how Weili will react coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in her career. Does she fight more conservative, or does she go in and let it all go? Only time will tell.
Joanna has struggled to find her form that once made her ruler of the 115-pound division. Has the time off rejuvenated the former champion or has Joanna’s time at the top passed her by? I think these questions get answered with another entertaining fight tonight. Weili by decision.