This week, I’m making ‘Five Fights’ about me since I will be live in attendance at Fight Night 73 in Nashville. These fights involve the five fighters I’m most excited to see on Saturday night. 1. Ray Borg I truly believe that Ray Borg is a future flyweight champion. He just turned 22, already has two wins in the UFC, and really deserved the decision in his debut against Dustin Ortiz. His grappling ability is phenomenal, and he’s training with the same coaches that Carlos Condit started his career with, and who have produced Tim Means. The future is extremely bright for Borg in terms of wins and losses, but he has an entertaining style of grappling that few can match. Despite his age, his ability to take an opponent’s back is on par with the very best in the sport, and I expect him to find himself there against Geane Herrera quite a bit. Unfortunately there aren’t many options for Ray Borg fights online unless you go to UFC Fight Pass, but any of his bouts thus far have been a good display of his skills. 2. Michael Johnson Michael Johnson showed some promise on The Ultimate Fighter, but nothing that led me to believe he would end up a legitimate title contender in one of MMA’s best divisions. There simply seemed to be too many holes, from his cardio (which lost him the TUF Finale), to his defensive wrestling (which failed him against Myles Jury), to his submission defense (which cost him against Reza Madadi). It seems that he’s been closing those holes one-by-one however, and his pressure on offense is truly something to behold. Fighters are different from your average person in that they can deal with being punched in the face. However, even amongst fighters there are very few who can deal with the constant pressure that Johnson applies. It’s almost the MMA equivalent of Nolan Richardson’s “40 minutes of hell” Arkansas teams. 3. Glover Teixeira Light heavyweight was long one of MMA’s strongest divisions, but it has fallen on hard times of late. From Jon Jones’ dominance at 205 to his recent struggles to remain fit enough to actually compete, he first made the rest of the division seem incredibly weak, and then left those fighters to battle amongst each other for the “title.” For a fighter like Glover Teixeira, it could be a blessing however. Teixeira was outclassed by Jones and nobody had any interest in a rematch. It would be interesting to see Glover take on any of the other fighters in the top 5 though, as aside from his recent performance against Phil Davis, he has consistently been in entertaining fights. His aggressive, brawling style on the feet makes for fun exchanges there, while his submission arsenal is one of the best in the division. Against Ovince Saint Preux he has a chance to demonstrate those skills against a fighter who I consider a product of the weak division more than any tangible excellence that he’s shown.
4. Dustin Ortiz From a technical perspective, it’s hard to argue that any division puts on consistently better fights than flyweight. Dustin Ortiz is a perfect example of that. While he’s not a contender – and likely never will be – he is a very good grappler who has continually advanced his striking game and will give anybody at 125 a tough fight. Like so many other flyweights, Ortiz is prone to constant motion, entertaining scrambles, and plenty of change in position. With his last four UFC bouts all coming against highly ranked fighters, Ortiz may finally have an opponent against whom he can truly showcase his skills. Willie Gates is another entertaining 125er, but he seems outmatched with Ortiz on the ground in this one, and I’m interested to see what Ortiz can pull off when he’s finally in a position where he’s supposed to win.
5. Beneil Dariush I’ve never really been able to get a hold on Beneil Dariush in his UFC career. I bet against him in his first two UFC fights and went 1-1, and I’ve gone 1-1 in his last two UFC fights by backing him against Jim Miller and betting against him versus Daron Cruickshank. He’s impressed me at times, and disappointed in others. Michael Johnson is the type of fighter who can force opponents into poor performances, but he also has those past vulnerabilities which line up well with Dariush’s best skills. Once this man hits the mat, he is dominant, and he will beat Johnson should this go to the ground. On the feet, he is greatly improved, but it’s hard to see his striking dissuading Johnson from doing what he wants to in the standup exchanges. That means this boils down to the wrestling, and that’s still a big question mark for me when it comes to Dariush. I’m intrigued to see how this fight plays out, and how Dariush continues to progress moving forward.