Diggin’ Deep: Classic wrestler vs. grappler highlights prelims

Virna Jandiroba fighting Mackenzie Dern at UFC 256 | Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Dig into the prelims of UFC Vegas 29, featuring a women’s strawweight contest featuring renowned grappler Virna Jandiroba and bulldozing wrestler Kanako Murata.

Perhaps I shouldn’t give a rat’s ass about where a contest is placed on a card. Perhaps I should just be happy to see a particular fight is taking place, especially given these are preliminary contests. But what in the hell is the UFC doing making Nick Negumereanu and Aleksa Camur the featured prelim over Virna Jandiroba and Kanako Murata? Actually, why is Negumereanu and Camur the featured prelim over any contest on this card? While it’s a perfectly reasonable contest, there are few who believe either one is deserving of being on the roster at this point in their young careers. And yet, it’s the featured prelim. Maybe I wouldn’t care if there weren’t other quality contests – like Jandiroba-Murata – but there are.

So despite my rant about the ridiculousness of the featured prelim, there are actually a couple of worthwhile contests on the prelims. I guess that was a longwinded way of getting to that point.

There’s a strong case to be made Nick Negumereanu is the worst fighter on the UFC roster. The young Romanian was signed as a short notice replacement, only to have his ass handed to him in lopsided fashion by – of all people — Saparbek Safarov. To be fair to the 26-year old, he’s had two years to hone his craft in that time, so there is hope of some major improvements being made in that time. Given Negumereanu is tough, ballsy, and a decent athlete, there’s hope for him. Still, he’d have to make some major leaps before catching up to Aleksa Camur… and Camur is pretty damned low on the light heavyweight ladder himself. Though he’s built like a wrestler – thick and stocky – he prefers fighting on the outside with a preference for throwing spinning attacks. Camur has some power, but hasn’t looked comfortable in the UFC yet and has shown signs of fatigue. That gives Negumereanu hope as he’s willing to take risks, whether it’s a Hail Mary submission or a spinning attack. Given Camur has proven durable in addition to possessing a surprisingly creative grappling game, the most likely outcome has Camur resisting Negumereanu’s attempts to end the fight. In fact, I’d say Camur does that himself. Camur via TKO of RD1

Given her lack of athletic talents, nobody ever expects Virna Jandiroba to challenge for the strawweight title. However, Jandiroba’s grappling talents make it impossible to count her out in any contest that she’s in. Her top pressure is unmatched and it’s hard to name another woman who is as methodical in progressing from point to point on the mat in their grappling. However, fights start on the feet and while Jandiroba has improved her wrestling, it’s still a challenge for her to get the fight to the mat. That’s going to be a major concern against Kanako Murata, a undersized Japanese bulldozer whose goal is to grind her opponents into the mat. It’s hard to believe she won’t be willing to go to the mat with Jandiroba – one of the few in the division who would do so – but it will be completely dependent on putting Jandiroba on her back as opposed to Jandiroba getting the top position. What’s surprising is Jandiroba has proven to have strong takedown defense, a bit of a surprise for someone with such a confident ground game. The striking is a wild card. Murata is confident on the feet thanks to her strong base, but her defense is an afterthought, leaving open the possibility for Jandiroba to rack up the volume behind her competent jab. Then again, Murata may not hold anything back and could hurt Jandiroba with a clubbing blow. The contest is incredibly difficult to predict. I’ll lean towards Jandiroba’s savvy and experience allowing her to edge out the younger Murata. Jandiroba via decision

I wasn’t crazy about Matthew Semelsberger when he first touched down in the UFC, but the former collegiate football player has made me look like a fool. In his first UFC contest, he showed the ability to push a hard pace and throwing a wide variety of strikes from bell to bell, proving to have a deep gas tank. His sophomore effort demonstrated that Semelsberger has plenty of power, dropping Jason Witt with a single punch just seconds into their contest. What he hasn’t demonstrated is a decent semblance of defense, no surprise for someone as young into their career as Semelsberger. It will be tested by Khaos Williams, someone else who knows a thing or two about quick finishes. Unlike Semelsberger, Williams is far more measured in his approach, looking for the proper opening to throw his power punches. Even if he doesn’t land a kill shot, his power is often enough to throw opponents off from engaging with great frequency. To supplement his volume, Williams throws a high volume of calf kicks. Given Semelsberger’s front leg is there to be battered, I think Williams can weaken his base and get the finish down the line. Williams via KO of RD2

I’m not trying to be rude, but the truth of the matter is Roque Martinez has the worst looking body in the UFC. The native of Guam is well aware of this fact, but we all know appearances tend to be deceiving. For instance, beneath the levels of his flab, Martinez is a far better athlete than anyone would ever guess. With a surprising burst and deceptively fast hands, the stout heavyweight stands a damn good chance of catching an opponent off-guard and delivering a TKO finish. Even more encouraging, he proved he has the ability to get inside the reach of much larger opposition. That’s got to be concerning for Josh Parisian, a monstrous big man who pushes a hard pace. Parisian is always actively pursuing a Performance Bonus, looking for highlight KO’s, evidenced by his love for spinning back fists. However, while looking for that extra $50K, he does a poor job of managing his energy levels and exhausts himself in a hurry. To be fair, Parisian does continue to throw heavy leather when his gas begins emptying out, even if it’s with diminished power. Neither man is easy to put away, so I anticipate a sloppy decision being announced. Given Parisian has a 7” reach advantage, I’ll favor him to score more volume, though I wouldn’t be comfortable enough in that pick to put any money on that pick. Parisian via decision

While it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Joaquim Silva – his last appearance was in 2019 – it’s been even longer since we’ve seen Ricky Glenn, needing to go all the way back to 2018. Given the long absences for both, it’s hard to know if they’re the same fighters since we last saw them. Silva, despite his nickname of Netto BJJ, is a striker who puts everything into every kick and punch in hopes of putting a sudden end to the contest. That leaves him flagging badly down the stretch, but he does continue to throw despite his fatigue. Glenn is a volume striker, throwing a plethora of kicks from the outside with vicious elbows in close quarters. An X-factor is Glenn moving up to lightweight after missing weight badly in his last contest. However, it could prove to be a good move for him as Glenn’s body language has been indicative of someone struggling with their weight cut. Not having to cut as much weight could allow him to maximize his volume to a rate that Silva can’t overcome. With Silva’s power, there’s always a possibility he could score a heavy-handed stoppage. However, Glenn has never been stopped by strikes, leading me to believe the most likely outcome sees Glenn taking a decision. Glenn via decision

As we sit roughly halfway through 2021, Casey O’Neill has produced one of the most memorable UFC debuts of the year. It wasn’t that she produced a highlight reel finish or create a jaw-dropping moment. It was her flat out tenaciousness, getting in Shana Dobson’s face from the jump, constantly working to get the fight to the ground, and throwing punches whenever she had a moment to throw one. At 23 with just six fights under her belt, it’s hard to believe she doesn’t have a long way to go before she reaches her ceiling. That doesn’t mean there aren’t holes that can be exposed. For instance, she walked through several heavy shots from Dobson in pursuit of getting her mitts on her. It demonstrated durability, but it also showed a completely lack of defensive awareness. Fortunately for her, it doesn’t look like Lara Procopio has the power to take advantage of that. What Procopio does have is a deep gas tank and a fundamentally sound grappling game. Plus, if O’Neill chooses to clinch up with Procopio, don’t be surprised if the Brazilian is the one securing the takedown as her trips and body lock takedowns could catch O’Neill off-guard. Plus, O’Neill’s lack of defense isn’t limited to her striking. Though Procopio is better from the top position, she can nab subs off her back too. It’s very much a tossup, but given this contest is as close as it is, I’ll go with the fighter who appears more likely to make more strides in the interim. O’Neill via decision

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