Heavyweight Takes: Path to Victory at UFC Fight Island 8

The “Path to Victory” is never an easy road, especially in Mixed Martial Arts. You go through strenuous training, intense sparring sessions (unless you’re Max Holloway), and for most, an agonizing weight cut. Fighters don’t have a genie in a bottle that can grant them a victory in the octagon or the skill set of Georges St Pierre. This so called, “Path to Victory”, is earned by spending many hours in the gym, straining your eyes watching tape on your opponent, and the cliché phrase “blood, sweat and tears”. Fighters will spend countless hours breaking down training footage in order to exploit weaknesses. Now, take your time to sit back and read this as we explore the “Path to Victory” for the co-main and main event for UFC Fight Island 8 which takes place on Wednesday, January 20th 2021.

Co-Main Event – Mounir Lazzez vs Warlley Alves

Mounir “The Sniper” Lazzez

10-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC| 8 (T)KO’s | 6’1″ (185cm) | 76″ Reach

Tunisia’s Mounir Lazzez is the first born and raised Arab fighter to sign with the UFC. He put the Middle East on the map by winning his UFC debut as the +285 underdog against the highly touted Abdul Razak Alhassan. This performance was considered by many as the upset of the year for 2020.

In his debut he showed a tremendous skillset that included traditional kickboxing combos in order to set up kicks to the head and leg. He also displayed beautiful footwork, and knees and elbows. He showed awareness throughout the fight as he continued to shoot for takedowns in all three rounds. Lazzez’ awareness for takedowns was very impressive because heading into the bout, Alhassan had never been finished. His only loss came from a split decision. Lazzez picked apart Alhassan in his debut and scored takedowns which ultimately gave him a unanimous decision win.

Following his victory, ‘The Sniper’ had a scheduled bout against David Zawada. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Zawada just fought this past Saturday against Russian Ramazan Eveev on the Holloway vs Kattar card. Due to Covid-19, Lazzez was forced to withdraw from the bout, but was swiftly rebooked to fight Warlley Alves this upcoming Wednesday.

Path to Victory

Mounir Lazzez’ night out on Wednesday should consist of diverse striking, pressure fighting, and embracing the grind in the clinch against the cage. These three things will be key in ensuring a successful day in the office for The Sniper.

In previous fights, Alves showed fatigue against his opponents when they pressured him with an onslaught of attack and an aggressive pace against the cage. In his fights against James Krause and the current champ Kamaru Usman, they all relied heavily on getting Alves to the cage which resulted in him gassing. If Lazzez can utilize this tactic come fight time, Alves’ gas tank will deplete and the Brazilian will be susceptible to The Sniper’s striking.

The Tunisian has a diverse skillset when it comes to the feet. In the previously discussed fight with Alhassan, he utilized knees to the body and elbows coming from all different angles (besides 12 to 6…. obviously). After setting a high pace onslaught towards Alves, Lazzez can pick him apart with his favored knees to the body. He should also look to employ his kickboxing while he aces the gassed Alves. The gorgeous roundhouse kicks can be set up from his stiff jabs or a two to three punch combination.

Mounir Lazzez setting up finishing head kick with combination.

Originally tweeted by Caoilte de Barra (@CaoiltedeBarra) on July 14, 2020.

All in all, Mounir “The Sniper” Lazzez’ “Path to Victory” MUST consist of forward pressure, an onslaught of rough hand fighting and pummeling against the clinch. He needs to use his traditional kickboxing combos and kicks to top off his second UFC bout against the veteran Warlley Alves.

Warlley Alves

13-4 MMA, 7-4 UFC| 5 Submissions | 5’11” (183cm) | 72″ Reach

Hailing from Governor Valdedares, Minas Gerais, Brazil, Warlley Alves began his career in Brazil with local Brazilian promotions such as Jungle Fight. The promotion has produced fighters such as previous UFC middleweight title challenger Paulo Costa, current UFC lightweight contender Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira, and former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Fabricio Werdum.

After a few wins in the Jungle fight promotion, the Brazilian Alves was granted a chance to compete on the third season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 3’. He was coached by former UFC middleweight and light heavyweight title challenger, and now Bellator MMA commentator, Chael Sonnen. The Brazilian went on to win the “toughest tournament in all of sports”.

Warlley Alves has been a competitor in the UFC since 2014. He has fought the likes of current Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman, and is the only other fighter besides Usman that has a win over the infamous Colby Covington. Alves is now scheduled to fight Mounir Lazzez and here is his “Path to Victory”.

Path to Victory

GUILLOTINE! No, I am not referring to the French contraption that was used to behead people back in the late 1700’s, but the choke you learn in your first class of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Five of Alves’ thirteen wins have come by way of the choke. He was able to catch Colby Covington with the guillotine and finish him as Covington shot for repetitive takedowns. If the Tunisian decides to shoot for takedowns against Alves it may be a short night for the rising prospect.

Warlley Alves submitting Colby Covington via Guillotine choke

Originally tweeted by The MMA Bible (@TheMMABible) on December 12, 2018.

Being a veteran of the sport is a massive advantage when it comes to MMA. This aspect of the fight game has been proven to show success. For reference go back and watch Chase Hooper vs Alex Caceres or Andrei Arlovski vs Tanner Boser. These lifelong MMA fighters were able to utilize experience to earn decision victories. Alves has been in the UFC since 2014 and has the in-cage experience. As a result, this gives him the skills and knowledge to prevail and squeeze by with a decision win.

Two fights ago, Alves was able to score a third-round uppercut against fellow Brazilian Sergio Moraes to claim victory. Alves utilized damaging leg kicks in his bout against Moraes. He set them up beautifully with two to five punch combinations. Mounir Lazzez is a smart fighter when it comes to the feet. He isn’t going to allow Alves throw a leg kick without checking them. The Brazilian will need to find ways to set up kicks to the leg if he wants to land fight ending leg kicks.

To sum things up Warlley Alves’ “Path to Victory” is that he needs to utilize boxing combinations to set up leg kicks. Another key to victory will be his signature guillotine choke. It’s his favorite submission and his go to defense when it comes to defending a takedown. These points will help bring the Brazilian success come Wednesday.

Main Event – Michael Chiesa Neil vs Magny

The moment everyone is waiting for. The reason why you watch these UFC cards. The big names! You don’t watch a fight card to not hear Bruce Buffer scream “IT’S TIME!!!!”. No one in their right mind watches fights (whether its Boxing, MMA, Kickboxing, or even Bare-Knuckle Boxing) just for the prelims. If you are a true combat sports fan, whether you’re in Abu Dhabi or in the United States, you’re tuning in morning or night to watch Michael Chiesa take on Neil Magny.

Neil “The Haitian Sensation” Magny

24-7 MMA, 17-6 UFC| 6 UFC Finishes | 6’3″ (191cm) | 80″ Reach

One of the tallest, if not the tallest currently in the UFC welterweight division, the man from Dolton, Illinois stands 6’3″ tall. Magny was one of the few selected participants in The Ultimate Fighter Season 16 tournament.

During his time in TUF 16, he won two fights before falling victim to a vicious elbow that took him out of the competition. Following his loss on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, Magny was still able to compete in the UFC and has managed an impressive UFC record of 17-6.

The Illinois native has fought fighters such as former title challenger Demian Maia, former UFC Interim Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit, and former UFC Welterweight Champion Robbie Lawler. The Haitian Sensation has won the last 3 of his fights and remained undefeated in 2020. He now takes one Michael Chiesa to start the new year.

Path to Victory

Representing Elevation Fight Team in Denver, Colorado, Magny has tremendous cardio. Is that due to the high elevation, or is it just because he’s a freak of nature? The answer may not be known but his cardio will be one of the key elements towards his “Path to Victory”. Magny also can rely on his 59% takedown defense if Chiesa decides to bring the fight to the ground.

Takedown defense is going to be a great advantage for Magny because Chiesa is always looking to take the fight to the ground. He will be looking to strangle you with his patented rear naked choke. The Elevation Fight Team product must look to move his feet and cut off angles to avoid being brought to the ground. Magny’s footwork while standing will give him the opportunity to utilize his jab and keep Chiesa at range with his boxing.

In most of his fights, the Haitian loves to abuse his front hand for jabs and lead hooks to maintain distance and check his opponent’s chin. This will be an important part to keep the distance from Chiesa in order to avoid closing the distance and ultimately winning this fight.

Neil Magny landing a left jab on Anthony Rocco Martin at UFC 250.
PC: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

In short, Neil Magny’s cardio, footwork, and boxing range will give him the tools to emerge victorious. Chiesa will set a pace to put him on his back and the cardio of Magny will be able to keep up with the consistent pressure. His boxing and foot work will give him the ability to stay away from Chiesa’s onslaught of attack.

Michael “Maverick” Chiesa

16-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC| 6 UFC Submissions | 6’1″ (185cm) | 75.5″ Reach

From Spokane Valley, Washington, Michael Chiesa is one of the few fighters who match Magny in terms of size at 6’1″ (185cm) at welterweight. Just like the man who will be standing across from him come fight day, Chiesa was also on The Ultimate Fighter, but a season prior to Neil Magny fighting in the 155lb weight class. “Maverick” fought his way through the show after suffering the tragic loss of his father.

After receiving one of the worst phone calls in his life, “Maverick” was able to fight his way to become the show. After his stint on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, Chiesa gained a 10-4 record for the promotion. He has earned wins over Jim Miller, Beneil Dariush, and most recently former UFC Lightweight Champion and former UFC Welterweight Contender, Rafael Dos Anjos.

Chiesa’s fight against Dos Anjos in fact was a bout at 170lbs where he decimated the Brazilian. Chiesa decided to make the change from 155lbs to 170lbs back in 2018 when he fought Carlos Condit. Since the welterweight transformation, the Washington native has gone 3-0 in the division and looks to continue his winning streak against Neil Magny.

Path to Victory

Queue “Stranglehold” by Ted Nugent, Michael Chiesa’s song of choice when making the walk to the cage. That’s exactly what he wants to do and that’s exactly what he should do! The keys to success for this fight are to grab a hold of Magny, take him down and secure the submission victory. Of course, this is easier said than done but with Chiesa’s extensive Brazilian jiu-jitsu training. The way he manhandled RDA in his last fight, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t get Magny on his heels and start grinding on the cage.

Maverick’s slick chokes are how he prefers to win his fights. He will push the pace until you’re on your back gasping for air thinking to yourself “Should I tap?”. By that time, it’ll be too little too late.

On Wednesday morning Michael “Maverick” Chiesa will need to attempt to do what he does best. That is get you on your back, sink in a choke, and give you the decision of either tapping or falling asleep. That is his “Path to Victory”

Michael Chiesa performing a standing RNC against Beneil Dariush.
PC: Reinhold Matay/USA-Today

UFC Fight Island 8: Chiesa vs Magny will air Wednesday, January 20th, on ESPN and ESPN+ at 9am ET. Watch the fights and see who the winners are. Most importantly tune in to see if they can execute on their “Path To Victory”.

Michael Ramos

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