Saturday November 16th 2019 at Ginasio do Ibirapuera, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Main Card: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN+
Preliminary Card: 5 p.m. ET on ESPN+
Shogun Rua vs. Paul Craig
Co-Main Event: Light Heavyweight Bout – 205lbs
Maurício “Shogun” Rua – Record: 26-11-0 / #14 Ranked LHW
Paul “BearJew” Craig – Record: 12-4-0
This fight promises to be absolute carnage for however long it lasts.
It’s a striker versus grappler matchup which often works out to be an extremely fun contest with back-and-forth encounters. I’m going to jump into this immediately and say that I really like Paul Craig in his fight, and his price is simply far too big. He may be coming in on semi-late notice, but at the heavier weight classes, where early finishes are more prevalent, that can often be a non-factor.
There’s no doubt that Shogun has the skills, but given that he’s now less than two weeks away from reaching 38, questions have to be asked about the legend’s durability. Yes, he did put on an outstanding come-from-behind victory over Tyson Pedro at the end of last year, but the memory of Anthony Smith melting him inside of two minutes is still welded into my brain. Prior to that he had a nice little 3-0 run going, but that was over two fighters with very little striking prowess and an aged “Little Nog”.
Paul Craig is in no way a top class striker, but in his last fight he proved he could hurt people on the feet and he could well do the same to Shogun. As they say, “power is the last thing to go” when in reference to aging fighters and although that is correct, speed plays a major factor too. In his loses in the UFC, Craig has suffered from facing opponents with dynamic striking, speed and big time power. Whereas in this spot, he only really has to worry about the power of Shogun.
I see Shogun coming out hard and fast looking for a winging punch to dispense of Craig. Providing Craig can keep distance, there should be good opportunity for him to either catch Shogun with something, or seek to take him down and submit him. He’s the younger and quicker man, and at +235 he’s a must play.
Pick: Paul Craig – 2u @ +235 (to Return 6.7 Units)
Pick: Paul Craig via Submission – 1u @ +700 (to Return 8 Units)
Pick: Paul Craig via KO/TKO – 0.75u @ +900 (to Return 7.5 Units)
Jan Błachowicz vs. Jacare Souza
Main Event: Light Heavyweight Bout – 205lbs
Jan Błachowicz – Record: 24-8-0 / #6 Ranked LHW
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza – Record: 26-7-0 / #8 Ranked MW
Sao Paulo’s main event is a tough one to call.
On one side of the cage we have the ever reliable Jan Blachowicz. He’s not a KO artist despite his brutal knockout of chinny Luke Rockhold in his last fight, and he’s got a BJJ black belt, yet doesn’t yield the elite-of-the-elite grappling. His cardio is fairly decent, but we’re yet to see him go the full five rounds. His only ever five round fight was cut short in the third by a Thiago Santos KO following a rash and uncharacteristic attempt to close the distance by Jan. Aside from that loss he’s only been stopped twice, one by a retirement due to leg strikes (in 2011), and the other by submission early in his career (2007).
His opponent is a perennial middleweight contender in the form of Jacare Souza. He was always big for middleweight, but following a recent 2-3 stretch he’s made the move up to 205, to try and give his career a late resurgence in a new weight class. As always, he’ll bring in his elite BJJ skills and solid striking. He’s now just one month away from eclipsing 40 years of age and despite that he’s still very durable, as we’ve seen in his last three fights against Jack Hermansson, Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastelum. He still shows great all round technical skills, but due to his age he’s now looking slower and his declining cardio often leads to sloppiness in with his striking and less effective grappling.
My pick is for this fight to go the distance at a very decent +260. Of course these guys are light heavyweights and anything can happen, but given that their ground games should be nullified by each other’s, and both guys are as tough as a $2 dollar steak, it looks to hold solid value.