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Fighter’s picks: Shah Bobonis’ predictions for XFC 21 and UFC on FOX 5

With a pair of lightweight straps on the line this weekend at UFC on FOX 5 and XFC 21, MMA fans are sure to get their fill of championship drama. First up we have the XFC and the match up for the title involves Eric “It’s a wrap” Reynolds vs. “Notorious” Nick Newell.

The storyline literally could make for a Hollywood box office smash hit, cut from the cloth of Rocky or Raging Bull. You have the gritty veteran in Reynolds that is destroying high level opposition at this point in his career and the young upstart in Newell who has overcome tremendous odds to get his opportunity in the MMA spotlight.

Moving on to the UFC lightweight showdown for gold we have the champion Ben “Smooth” Henderson pitted against Nate Diaz.

Maybe I’m swayed by having personally trained with members of both of this weekend’s cards but I think there are a couple of fights that are flying under the radar that will produce as much highlight reel material as the main events.

In particular, the matchup of Jarrod Card vs. Keith Richardson on the XFC 21 card and Mike Easton vs. Raphael Assuncao on the UFC on FOX 5 card are intriguing to me.

Looking at Jarrod Card vs. Keith Richardson, this is a battle of grappling specialists that just might end up being a slug fest; or is that just my wishful thinking? Having the strength and wrestling advantage I expect Keith Richardson to look for takedowns early, most likely looking to grind out a victory over Card with a 15 minute mugging on the mat.

On the floor I don’t think it’s likely that Card gets subbed or pounded out. Card has a very unconventional, high risk style of grappling which he has proved effective over his career that Richardson will have to watch out for. However, Card can’t be content to look for sweeps and submissions off his back for the entirety of the contest as this might cost him a decision.

Look for Card to use his grappling to get to his feet safely and create scrambles after he is taken down so that Richardson expends a substantially greater amount of energy trying to keep the fight on the floor. Once both fighters start to slow down a bit and takedowns are less abundant I predict the bombs will start to fly.

In a matchup of two long time BJJ black belts I predict a K-1 style kickboxing fight with 4 ounce gloves to break out between Mike Easton and Raphael Assuncao.

How many times have you heard someone say they spent four years getting a degree that they never used in their professional life; this might be the case in this fight.

In recent fights both of these fighters have been using their wrestling in reverse to keep fights standing and incite fisticuffs. If one fighter has a slight edge in wrestling I think it is Easton, who I feel is a bit more polished in transitioning from striking to wrestling.

After very closely contested rounds of kickboxing, featuring thunderous low kicks by both parties look for Easton to steal rounds with timely takedowns in a fight between two of the best bantamweights in the world.

My picks for this weekend are: Diaz, Reynolds, Card, Easton.

I’m looking forward to all the fights this weekend on both the XFC and UFC cards but the Richardson vs. Card and Easton vs. Assuncao bouts are my sleeper picks to steal the spotlight from the title fights.

By:  Shah Bobonis

Readers can follow pro MMA fighter and XFC bantamweight Shah Bobonis (17-5) on Twitter at @shahbobonis. Currently riding a seven-fight win streak, Shah makes his home in Savannah, Ga. and fights out of Freestyle Fighting Academy.

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