While the heavyweight contest doesn’t have any business being on the main card of UFC 284 – it may be the worst fight on the entire card – I have no qualms with the other two non-title fights on the main card. The two contests features Australia’s best chances for snatching gold sometime in the near future. It’s hard to believe either Jack Della Maddalena or Jimmy Crute have presented the best versions of themselves either. Of course, they’re facing respectable opponents, meaning it’s no sure thing either will have their hand raised.
As for the heavyweight contest… well, it’s a fight. Maybe someone will get their block knocked off. We’d better hope so. The other likely alternatives are a lot less appealing as It’s rare for lower-level heavyweights to put on an entertaining scrap otherwise.
Randy Brown vs. Jack Della Maddalena, Welterweight
It’s taken Brown a while to develop into the fighter that he is. Debuting in the UFC in 2016 as an unpolished 25-year-old prospect, he’s now a refined 32-year-old with 14 UFC contests under his belt. He’s also the first opponent lined up opposite of Della Maddalena who appears to have a realistic chance of upending the young Aussie’s applecart.
Della Maddalena has been a revelation thus far. Earning his way into the UFC with one of the more entertaining contests in the history of DWCS, Della Maddalena has looked better every time out since touching down in the UFC. It wasn’t a surprise when he trucked over the undersized Pete Rodriguez. Disposing of Ramazan Eveev in a half a round when it had previously been eight years since anyone put him away was a different story. Disposing of former boxer Danny Roberts with similar ease only added to the growing hype around Della Maddalena.
When Della Maddalena first appeared on DWCS, he appeared to be a solid prospect, but I didn’t hear anyone proclaiming him a future title contender. There’s a solid reason for that. Della Maddalena is a plus athlete, but not an elite athlete. He’s got plus natural power, but that isn’t elite either. His wrestling has largely been untested too, so that isn’t the aspect that has allowed him to become the hottest welterweight commodity on the up-and-up. What Della Maddalena has in his favor is an unusually natural feel for fighting. He knows when to put a light touch on his strikes and when to sit down on them. Where his opponent is going to be. What type of punch to throw. Della Maddalena fights with a maturity that defies his 26 years.
Brown’s own base is the standup as well. Owning a lanky frame, it took Brown a while before he was able to consistently attack from the outside. Brown has been able to center his attack with a jab, but he mixes in kicks and punching combinations too. However, given Della Maddalena’s feel for striking, it’s natural to wonder if he might look to envelop Della Maddalena in the clinch against the fence. Well, that’s provided Brown keeps the fight standing.
Della Maddalena’s ground game still leaves a lot of question marks. We haven’t seen much of him on the mat since getting to the UFC. In his appearance on DWCS, Della Maddalena struggled to get back to his feet. Brown’s wrestling is still questionable, but his submission game has proven to be highly underrated. Much of that can be attributed to his ability to entangle his opposition in his long limbs, something he’s even proven capable of doing on the feet.
Della Maddalena has the look of a future champion. I get that certain fighters have had a similar start to their UFC careers, only to stumble once they hit a certain level of competition. Johnny Walker comes to mind. Della Maddalena feels different. He isn’t starching fighters with one fight. He’s beating them from pillar to post before finding the finish each time. Brown is a tough and reasonable test, one fully capable of beating him. But he isn’t likely to beat him. Della Maddalena might not become a champion someday, but he isn’t hitting his ceiling here. Della Maddalena via TKO of RD2
Jimmy Crute vs. Alonzo Menifield, Light Heavyweight
I don’t want to say it’s do-or-die for Crute, but he’ll be on a three-fight losing streak if he comes up short against Menifield. To be fair to Crute, the two losses that already exist in that hypothetical streak came against some of the best in the division, including the current reigning champion, Jamahal Hill. Plus, at 26, Crute is still a babe in the division. Perhaps it isn’t really do-or-die, but there’s no doubt Crute needs this win pretty badly.
It’s not a guarantee Crute will pick up the W either. Menifield is at the point where his explosive athleticism could begin declining at any point. However, he also appears to have put things together on the mental side. It isn’t that he isn’t springing high energy attacks anymore, but he’s far more judicious when he unleashes his power. In between those attacks, Menifield has also learned how to wear down his opponents in the clinch. Perhaps most impressive, he’s figured out how to maintain that style of attack over the course of 15 minutes. Given he used to gas after one round, that’s a big deal, even if it is an even-keel pace.
All that said, Menifield isn’t as diverse as Crute. Crute has a bigger frame than Menifield and has been able to secure takedowns almost at will. Remember his contest with Anthony Smith when he was even able to take down the former title challenger despite having suffered major nerve damage in the fight? The problem is, Crute hasn’t always attempted to utilize his wrestling. Not that he’s terrible on the feet. He stands a good chance of winning a slugfest with Menifield if it comes down to the two of them trading fisticuffs. But why would Crute want to do that when the odds favor him taking the fight to the mat?
Of course, I’m insinuating getting Menifield to the mat is a given. It isn’t. Menifield’s takedown defense has proven to be rock solid. However, the caveat is who has been trying to get him to the mat. William Knight is a hell of an athlete, but not technical in the least. Devin Clark is a solid wrestler, but he’s also undersized for the division. Don’t even get me started on Vinicius Moreira. Menifield hasn’t faced anyone with the combination of technique, size, and athleticism that Crute offers. What is unanswered is how Menifield deals with it and whether Crute will even try for the takedowns.
Most of the factors point to Crute securing the win. The Aussie is the better combination puncher, wrestler, and grappler. However, Menifield is has proven capable of landing the killshot on just about anyone. Throw in that it’s fair to question Crute’s durability and it isn’t so clear cut that Crute is going to secure the win. The most likely outcome is still Crute getting his hand raised, but if you’re looking for the most sure thing, it’s that this fight doesn’t go the distance. Crute via TKO of RD2
- When he was first signed by the UFC in the summer of 2020, many looked at Parker Porter as a punchline. There were several reasons for that. He’s a below average athlete. A former light heavyweight, he has since ballooned up to the heavyweight limit. That’s despite having a frame that would be short at light heavyweight, much less heavyweight. He doesn’t have the most equalizing factor at heavyweight either: one-punch power. Despite all that, Porter has only been losing to the plus athletes of the division. Justin Tafa isn’t one of the plus athletes of the division. That shouldn’t be an automatic sentence for a loss for Tafa. The Mark Hunt protégé has power to end a fight with a single punch – or kick – and has shown a reliable amount of durability. What is likely to throw a wrench in Tafa’s success is his one-note approach. It isn’t just that Tafa has no ground game to speak of; he’s also a plodding pocket fighter without the ability to change gears on his own. If his opponent draws him into a brawl, he’s willing to throw at an increased pace. The problem is he’ll have trouble matching the pace of his opponent. Despite Porter’s appearance, the rotund veteran has a deep gas tank and pushes a pace that hard to maintain. Plus, he’s extremely difficult to move from the top position. Whether Porter can get the fight to the mat is another issue, though it should be noted Tafa hasn’t had his takedown defense seriously challenged. Regardless, I like Porter’s diversity of attack to get the job done. Porter via decision