Updated UFC 197 Fighter Grades

Anthony PettisJay Primetown gives his thoughts on each of the fighters who competed at UFC 197 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Jay gives his letter grades for each fighter on TheMMA-Analysis podcast which can be found on MMAOddsbreaker.com   Efrain Escudero vs. Kevin Lee Escudero: His volume and pace in the middle of the fight caused some issues for Lee. Ultimately, his ground game is what cost him the bout. He had no answers when he was taken to the ground. He’s a crafty veteran, but is nothing more than a gatekeeper at this point. Grade remains D+ Lee: Some holes were exposed in his game. When he’s blitzed on the feet he can get in trouble. Furthermore, his chin is a question mark and one has to believe that will limit his ceiling. When he works for takedowns, he’s quite good. His top control game is difficult for opponents to deal with. Not the best game plan early in the fight, but he fought smart in the end to ensure the win. Grade remains C   Clint Hester vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima Hester: He was clipped in the early exchanges and put on the ground. On bottom, he showed zero ability to defend and tapped towards the end of the first round. A really bad performance and likely to be cut after this loss. Downgraded from D+ to D Lima: Scary striking game. His leg kicks are very heavy and combines that with an excellent boxing game. In top control, he showed solid composure waiting for his opportunities to open it up against Hester. Conditioning has been his biggest issue in the past and he needs to show that’s a thing of the past before he can move up in the rankings. Grade remains C-   Cody East vs. Walt Harris East: He was getting the better of the exchanges early on in this bout. His footwork looked excellent and Harris was having a difficult time scoring. Once he got too aggressive, he didn’t protect his chin and Harris made him pay. Grade remains D+ Harris: He was having difficulty scoring in the early exchanges against a mobile opponent. He showed good resilience and ability to take some punches early in the fight. His power is certainly capable in this division and his ground and pound finish is worth noting. Upgraded from D to D+   Glaico Franca vs. James Vick Franca: He had a very good first round scoring takedowns and landing with conviction when the fight was on the feet. After the eye poke late in round one, he had trouble seeing out of his left eye and the complexion of the fight completely changed. One thing he did show was a great chin. Grade remains C- Vick: His takedown defense needs a lot of work and he does suffer at times with keeping his chin too upright, but everything else is on point. He really seems to have a strong fight IQ. He knows what he needs to do to pick up rounds and win fights. His adjustments are good and is probably the reason why he’s still undefeated. It also helps that he’s long for the weight class and has a very good jab. He deserves a step up in competition. Grade remains C+   Carla Esparza vs. Juliana Lima Esparza: Her striking is tentative and remains her clear weakness. On the ground, she’s still a buzz saw and does an excellent job controlling positions and winning rounds. The key to beating her is to stop the takedowns. If not able to do that, her opponent will be in for a long night. Grade remains A- Lima: Did well in the first round landing some strikes, but as the fight wore on she had increased difficulty in defending takedowns. She wasn’t completely out of her element and is certainly better than her 2-2 record in the Octagon indicates. I think she’s a fringe top 15 fighter and can prove that once she’s paired with similar level competition. Grade remains C+   Danny Roberts vs. Dominique Steele Roberts: This fight was closer than the line indicated. He was dropped in the first round, but other than that controlled the striking on the feet for the remainder of the bout. His takedown defense was not great in this fight as Steele managed multiple takedowns during the first two rounds. While he got the decision, he failed to show me that he’s made improvements since his last bout. Grade remains C- Steele: In the stand-up, he was outstruck by his opponent, but he did have some good moments during this fight. His offensive wrestling certainly isn’t terrible either. Overall, he didn’t do enough to win, but enough for me to warrant raising his grade. He’s not top 15 fighter, but he’ll be competitive against some decent veterans. Upgraded from D to D+   Chris Kelades vs. Sergio Pettis Kelades: His work rate is really good, but technically just isn’t a gifted fighter. No answers in the stand up and got the worse of the wrestling in this fight to lose a clear decision. Grade remains D+ Pettis: He’s starting to become a more reliable fighter and perhaps that is due to more experienced. He’s no world beater, but he has a decent all-around game and can get wins in the cage with superior skill. He’s not necessarily a tenacious, hard-nosed fighter, but he can certainly rack up some wins. Grade remains C+   Andre Fili vs. Yair Rodriguez Fili: The changes within Team Alpha Male certainly didn’t help, but this was a poor performance from Fili. He seemed a bit overwhelmed with Rodriguez in the stand up and was even taken down by the Mexican fighter. Fili landed a couple of good strikes in this fight, but clearly lost this fight from start to finish. Downgraded from C to C- Rodriguez: A stunning knockout certainly gets one noticed, but it was improvements in his wrestling that make me believe he’d be competitive now with fringe top 15 talent. Upgraded from C to C+   Rafael Natal vs. Robert Whittaker Natal: He wasn’t blown away in this fight, but we’ve certainly seen the ceiling for Natal. He’s a fringe top 15 fighter with a decent ground game, but little ability to get it there. On the feet, he’s gotten better, but lacks the pop to put opponents in danger. Grade remains C Whittaker: He dominated the striking in this fight and easily scored the decision win. If he didn’t break his hand early in the bout, he probably would have got the finish. Either way, another top 15 win for Whittaker as he continues to work his way up the rankings. Grade remains B   Edson Barboza vs. Anthony Pettis Barboza: He outstruck Pettis and earned himself the biggest win of his career. I believe his success was more due to the ineffectiveness and lack of volume of Pettis versus really taking it to his opponent. It’s a key win for Barboza as he works his way up the rankings. I still have major doubts on how he’ll fare against the aggressive fighters at the top of the division. Grade remains B+ Pettis: A stunningly poor performance from Anthony Pettis sees him drop his third straight fight in the octagon. He’s way too tentative looking for the perfect shot as opposed to throwing volume, winning rounds, and winning fights. Of all the fighters who have been UFC champions in the past few years, nobody has been more disappointing than Pettis. The last year of his career has been a total dud. Downgraded from A to B+   Henry Cejudo vs. Demetrious Johnson Cejudo: He looked good in the first couple minutes of the fight striking with Johnson and taking him to the mat; albeit briefly. Once he couldn’t hold Johnson down, he had no answers for the champion. It wasn’t long before he was stunned with a knee in the clinch and brutalized by a knee to the body resulting in the referee stepping in to stop the fight inside of one round. Perhaps it was too soon for Cejudo, but more likely he just doesn’t have the tenacity to take damage and continue to fight at a high level. Downgraded from A to A- Johnson: One of the most surprising performances I’ve seen in the Octagon. I thought this would be a tough fight for the champion, but he combined strikes on the feet and put away Cejudo with relative ease. There’s no doubt now that Johnson is right at the top of the fighting hierarchy in MMA. It’s difficult to imagine a fighter being able to beat him at 125 pounds. Grade remains A++   Jon Jones vs. Ovince St. Preux Jones: After a long layoff, it was important for Jones to get back in the cage and get in the rounds. With that said, he was too tentative and hesitant to engage on the feet. St. Preux is a fighter that Jones should of put away within a few rounds instead of letting him linger for 25 minutes. Jones won all five rounds and is now the interim champion, but that was nowhere near his best performance in the Octagon. With that said, I expect him to be a lot better against Daniel Cormier when they meet later in the year. Grade remains A++ St. Preux: He did better than most people expected. He landed some nice punches in the middle rounds prior to breaking his arm later in the fight. He certainly didn’t put Jones in much danger, but surviving 25 minutes with the pound for pound king is certainly a nice accomplishment. Grade remains B

Written by Jay Primetown

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