UFC Tampa: Underrated and Overlooked

This weekend a clash with huge title implications in the 115 pound division goes down in Tampa, Florida. Former champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-3) takes on the “Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson (17-6) in the main event. Whilst marred with rumours of weight cut issues for JJ, it still looks a go for a great battle between two great veterans of the WMMA scene. This will be a great stand up war and looks set to shake up the strawweight division once again.

In co-main event action we see the returning veteran Cub Swanson (25-11) take on 5-0, 1 fight UFC veteran Kron Gracie in an interesting match up. This fight will show us where both men are. Is Kron ready for the step up in his career so early on and is Cub still a fighter worth having on the UFC roster after 4 consecutive losses.

As usual though my eyes drag me elsewhere. This week they are firmly placed on Eryk Anders (12-4) vs Gerald Meerschaert (29-11) in the opening fight of the main card. There has never been a more pertinent fight in relation to the term ‘styles make fights’ than this. Looking at the experience factor, many would say Meerschaert should have the overall advantage in this fight. As we know in MMA, experience doesn’t matter much when you face a style tailor made to break you down.

Anders is a former college footballer, who has trimmed down substantially from his days destroying people as a linebacker, to become a feared striker in the middleweight division. Anders turned professional in 2015 and joined the UFC after going 7-0, destroying Rafael Natal in his debut, getting the TKO in the first round.

Since that debut Anders has gone 3-4, however those results are misleading. 2 of the losses were at 205, and not 185, and the other 2 were split decision losses. Both were questionable losses and both his opponents in those fights Lyoto Machida and Elias Theodorou are not well known for their engaging style. It is worth mentioning his opponents at 205 were Thiago Santos and Khalil Rountree….I’ll leave that there.

You’d expect Anders to bring his usual style in this fight. Being a great southpaw stand up fighter, Eryk will come forward and look for the knockout as soon as he can. If he can’t get it, he will keep going until he can. If he can’t, he’ll go out on his shield. He has attempted takedowns in the past, but I don’t expect it to happen against Meerschaert, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. Landing his left hand missile is what he wants and he isn’t ashamed about it.

Meerschaert in contrast is a 12 year veteran of the game, making his pro debut back in 2007. He is not known for his striking ability and after so long in the sport, you would, not to be disrespectful, expect his stand up to be better. Gerald, however is a master on the ground. Out of his 5 wins in the UFC, four of these wins have been by submission, giving him a finishing rate of 80% via submission in the UFC. He is currently 5-3 in the promotion.

Those 3 losses came at the hands of Thiago Santos, Kevin Holland and Jack Hermansson and all have good but not great (barring Santos) stand up in MMA. Anders, I believe has as much if not more ability than both Holland and Hermansson in the stand up game.

Meerschaert will most certainly be looking to take this fight to the ground and impose his will on Anders due to his disadvantage standing up. The problem is while Meerschaert is great once it gets to the ground his takedown accuracy is only 43%. Anders takedown defence in contrast is 75%.

On paper, it seems like an easy pick here, but you should never count out Meerschaerts heart. In his last fight, Meerschaert was down 2 rounds going into the third against Trevin Giles, and he locked in a guillotine choke to turn the tide only 1 min 49 seconds into the round and win the fight.

That is why this fight intrigues me so much. Has Meerschaert improved his striking? Has he closed the holes in his game and learnt from his losing performances in the past? Will Anders be able to beat a veteran with tonnes of experience more than him? Will Anders be too confident? All these factors make this an interesting fight.

All that being said, I have to go with Anders to win this one. Meerschaert’s stand up is too basic and his takedowns are not good enough to beat the athleticism of Anders. Meerschaert’s kryptonite is solid strikers and people who can stuff his takedown attempts. Anders will do both. Meerschaert has had 12 years to change this part of his game and so far we haven’t seen anything different. At this point Anders is a sponge and learning with each fight that comes his way. I’ll be placing my money on a first round knockout for Anders.

 

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