UFC on ESPN 26: Makhachev vs Moisés Predictions

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UFC on ESPN 26: Makhachev vs Moisés Predictions & Results

Pintsized Background

Even if Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez hadn’t been cancelled, would UFC on ESPN 26 still have been a salvageable card? Debatable. Crying out for a bit of star power, UFC on ESPN 26 has had to make do with rising Lightweights, Islam Makhachev and Thiago Moises, to do the heavy lifting. That isn’t to say neither man will grow into elite fighters, Makhachev especially as a champion in the making, but it is a little early to headline a show. Still, with only eleven fights it will at least be a small-ish smorgasbord of meh action.

The hardest hitting thug, Lil Heathen Jeremy Stephens, meat-headed his way out of a fight with Drakkar Klose just a couple months ago | UFC on ESPN 26

UFC on ESPN 26: Main Event

Islam Makhachev (19-1) vs Thiago Moises (15-4)

Lightweight (155)

Islam Makhachev

The #9 Lightweight is a fighter that needs to get on your radar immediately. After stumbling against Adrian Martins back in 2015, Makhachev has torn through a seven-fight streak. While some to this day still criticise the loss due to the bang average skill-set that Martins’ possesses, he remains a decent puncher and caught Makhachev cleanly. An unbeaten six-year streak with notable stoppages over Gleison Tibau and Drew Dober has surely put the demons to rest for Makhachev, however.

An extremely talented wrestler, Makhachev may opt to limit his wrestling against Moises. The Brazilian is a slick grappler off the back, and while Makhachev’s dominant top game will still likely trump Moises, it creates a risk that the Dagestani needn’t take. Forcing Moises to engage in a kickboxing affair will favour Makhachev’s slicker single-shot style, while still offering the avenue to grind Moises against the cage when necessary.   

Patient on the feet, Makhachev prefers to stand at range and pick educated shots. Makhachev remains uncomfortable under pressure, evidenced by the explosive reactions that Dober drew from simple double jab feints. Moises represents a similarly patient counter striker, however, and poses nowhere near the threat to that of juicy ‘ol Dober. While Makhachev is wild with his counter left, often dropping his right hand in the process, it is powerful enough to take an opponent’s head clean off when it lands.  

Thiago Moises

Moises has hardly impressed in his last three outings. With his best performance in recent memory against Alexander Hernandez, Moises’ stock isn’t worthy of the main event spot. While Hernandez is a fun fighter, he remains overrated since his shock victory over Beneil Dariush. Bobby Green arguably beat Moises in a close decision, while Michael Johnson made Moises look silly during the first round of their fight. Still, Moises has found a way to carve out a three-fight streak and added layers to his impressive grappling game.

One of the more feared submission artists, Moises poses a threat on the mat that Makhachev so far hasn’t faced in the UFC. Despite a handful of stoppages on the feet, there isn’t much hope of Moises cracking Makhachev’s chin. Preferring to sit on the back-foot, Moises natural style plays directly into Makhachev’s patient single shot striking. Moises chopping leg kicks fired low and out of catching range, may cause the Dagestani a few problems early. Moreover, Moises torques his kicks to the head yet they are often naked and easily blocked.

Worse yet for Moises, the Brazilian owns a fairly awful jab. During the third round against a gassed Alexander Hernandez, Moises regularly tangled his feet and fell into his jab. While a late-notice Hernandez lacked the gas tank to profit, Makhachev’s dangerous counter left is primed to crack Moises’ jaw if the Brazilian opens up on the front foot.

Predicted Result: Makhachev TKO Round 4

An extremely talented wrestler, Makhachev may opt to limit his wrestling against Moises. The Brazilian is a slick grappler off the back, and while Makhachev’s dominant top game will still likely trump Moises, it creates a risk that the Dagestani needn’t take. Patient on the feet, Makhachev prefers to stand at range and pick educated shots. While Makhachev is wild with his counter left, often dropping his right hand in the process, it is primed to connect on Moises when he inevitably falls into his loose jab. Moises’ leg kicks may prove a nuisance during the early rounds, but Makhachev can always opt to grind the Brazilian against the cage before making a clean read.

Result: Makhachev def. Moises // Submission (rear-naked choke) Round 4 2:38

Winner // Method  // Round

The brain must really ring the alarm bells when you realise that Islam Makhachev has wrapped himself around your back | UFC on ESPN 26

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UFC on ESPN 26: Co-Main Event

Marion Reneau (9-7-1) vs Miesha Tate (18-7)

Women’s Bantamweight (135)

Marion Reneau

Riding a four-fight slide is never the best of starts to describing a co-main eventer. To add fuel to the fire, Reneau’s best scalp has aged like the mouldiest of cheese. After an underdog triangle choke against Sara McMann, Reneau has failed to secure a win while McMann is 1-1 and going nowhere fast. Worse yet, age has started to rear its ugly head on Reneau’s forty-four-year-old body. Drained after the first round, Reneau’s heavy early volume style leaves her chasing losing fights on wobbly legs.

Reneau owns a terrible habit of raising her chin when she throws a leg kick. Although Tate’s mild boxing won’t hit hard enough to take full advantage, it remains an open avenue to land significant damage. On a positive note, Reneau competently holds herself in the clinch. While utterly bullied last time out by Macy Chiasson, Chiasson’s huge frame caused much of the trouble. Worryingly though, Reneau is slow to react when exiting the clinch. Chiasson regularly hurt Reneau with body kicks after breaking.

Miesha Tate

After five years of retirement, Tate seems set on rising back to take back her title. It is very difficult to say what kind of Tate will be returning. For sure there will be ring rust, and although physically Tate looks in top shape, has her mental changed after such a long time away from the sport? Comebacks are often cruel in MMA, and the fact that Tate looked wary of being hit nearing the end of her first career stint raises red flags.

Still, Tate’s youth and ability to grind out rounds will prove key against a slowing OAP in Reneau. During the 50/50 exchanges, Tate’s physical supremacy will appear visibly stark. Not to mention, Tate appears to be carrying a fair bit more muscle mass than previously. While Tate struggled with Pennington’s pace back in 2016, Tate needs to bring back the body jab that found decent success. Reneau’s body has been a weak spot over the past couple of years, and a probing jab will gas an ageing Reneau earlier than usual.

Predicted Result: Tate Decision

After five years of retirement, Tate seems set on rising back to take back her title. It is very difficult to say what kind of Tate will be returning. Comebacks are often cruel in MMA, and the fact that Tate looked wary of being hit nearing the end of her first career stint raises red flags. Still, Tate’s youth and ability to grind out rounds will prove key against a slowing OAP in Reneau. Reneau’s four-fight slide, and particularly her flailing gas tank (due to her age and volume-heavy style) are cause for concern. Whatever happens, this isn’t co-main event quality.

Result: Tate def. Reneau // TKO (punches) Round 3 1:53

Winner // Method  // Round

Appearing on the scales with a career best physique, we’re left to wonder whether it is an all natural diet fuelling Miesha Tate’s return | UFC on ESPN 26

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UFC on ESPN 26: Main Card

Mateusz Gamrot (18-1) vs Jeremy Stephens (28-18)

Lightweight (155)

Mateusz Gamrot

Gamrot brought a huge backing from his KSW days to the UFC, but the Pole hasn’t exactly set the world alight. While his debut loss was debatable, Gamrot failed to unlock his wrestling that remains core to his game plan. If he can shoot on Stephens during one of his lunging barrages, Gamrot has a stellar top game that can smother the American for entire rounds. The major question mark hangs over whether Gamrot can survive the odd clean hit that Stephens will find. If so, Gamrot has to be favoured to produce a grinding, tight performance.

Gamrot’s defensive footwork leaves a lot to be desired. While the Pole does a decent job of staying outside striking range, he often backtracks in a straight line. Eating up his own space and backing himself onto the cage, Gamrot will be doing Stephens a huge favour as he creates an inescapable pocket in which Stephens’ power can thrive. Worse yet, Gamrot’s lazy level changes against Scott Holtzman were peppered with uppercuts. Although the Pole eventually secured single legs with frequency by the end of the first round, it isn’t smart to roll the dice with Stephens’ power.

Jeremy Stephens

Returning to Lightweight after struggling to make the Featherweight limit, Lil Heathen searches in need of a victory. Riding a four-fight slide, Stephens’ power and aggression enable him to remain a live wire. Stephens is the perfect gatekeeper in regards to dictating an opponent’s level of game-planning. It is not enough to be an elite athlete or technician in one area, against Stephens, an opponent needs to prove their ring generalship. Stephens’ power can crack any chin given the chance, but his consistent failure to cut off the cage means opponents can successfully stick and move. Unfortunately for some, such as Josh Emmett or Doo Ho Choi, they were dragged into phone booth wars and lost via brutal stoppages.

Stephens’ TDD is strange. Typically strong, there are a few exceptions where Lil Heathen has been utterly dominated. As Gamrot’s wrestling has been hit or miss so far in the UFC, it is a difficult call. If the fight remains standing, Stephens uses a lovely combo of a looping right hand into a body kick. The American is prone to biting hard on feints, however. Kattar, an elite striker, used minor shoulder movements that had Stephens unloading 2-3 shot counters into thin air. Gamrot doesn’t own Kattar’s chin, however, nor the slick head movement. Additionally, Stephens ended extended combinations with inside leg kicks – an excellent tactic that should be employed against Gamrot’s granite feet.

Predicted Result: Stephens Decision

A wonderfully balanced match despite Stephens’ four-fight slide. Given Stephens’ extremely hit or miss TDD, it seems foolish to back Lil Heathen, but there are too many holes in Gamrot’s striking defence for Stephens not to tag him early. While Stephens’ power is often overrated, his early aggression should bank enough rounds that he can spare a round if Gamrot finally gets his wrestling going. The Pole is a competent striker with a solid jab, but his tendency to eat heavy shots is fatal against a heavy-handed veteran.

Result: Gamrot def. Stephens // Submission (kimura) Round 1 1:05

Winner // Method  // Round

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Rodolfo Vieira (7-1) vs Dustin Stoltzfus (13-2)

Middleweight (185)

Rodolfo Vieira

Vieira very may well be a BJJ wizard, but as Anthony Hernandez proved, MMA is a multi-faceted game. While Vieira’s hype train hasn’t entirely crashed and burned yet, there have to be stark changes to Vieira’s approach if he wants a successful career. Stoltzfus is a pretty generous match-up, however, to ensure Vieira moves upwards.

Immense physicality, Vieira has the power to brute force opponents to the cage and bully them to the mat. While Safarov isn’t a stellar scalp, Vieira still man-handled his opponent for fun. Two major problems hold Vieira back. Firstly, Vieira’s gas tank is comically shallow. That isn’t to say that the grappling guru can’t fight for three rounds, but his current blitzing approach leaves him gassed during the first round. Flying out the doors is the current solution to problem number two – non-existent striking. Hands down low, wide-open chin, almost no counter-game to write about – Vieira desperately needs to add a boxing game to avoid eating unnecessary heavy shots again.

Dustin Stoltzfus

Dustin Stoltzfus is a tough, durable bugger but that’s about it. While he can handle himself on the mat, he remains at a huge disadvantage in this match-up. Of course, if Vieira gasses after a few minutes, Stoltzfus can replicate Hernandez’s submission victory. Whether Stoltzfus can survive to the later rounds, however, is up for debate.

Easily pressured against the fence, Stoltzfus is content with hitting the mat and working from his back. Unfortunately for Stoltzfus, his elbows are unlikely to deter Vieira from seeking an early submission. It’s never safe to back a fighter based on survivability alone.

Predicted Result: Vieira Submission Round 1

Vieira very may well be a BJJ wizard, but as Anthony Hernandez proved, MMA is a multi-faceted game. Immense physicality, Vieira has the power to brute force opponents to the cage and bully them to the mat. Dustin Stoltzfus is a tough, durable bugger but is content with hitting the mat and work from his back. While Stoltzfus could replicate Hernandez’s success if he survives to the later rounds, it is far too risky against the supreme submission threat Vieira poses.

Result: Vieira def. Stoltzfus // Submission (rear-naked choke) Round 3 1:54

Winner // Method  // Round

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Billy Quarantillo (15-3) vs Gabriel Benitez (22-8)

Featherweight (145)

Billy Quarantillo

An entertaining swarmer, Billy Q’s overreliance on his chin sells tickets at the expense of running vast miles on his body. An extra two inches in height will benefit him in the clinch against Benitez, a fighter who hasn’t yet proven his grappling chops. Aggression and persistency may be enough to eventually drag Benitez into an ugly war.

Quarantillo’s bread and butter on the feet is an extended lead hand to block vision and set up an overhand right. Unfortunately for Billy, he turns square on to maximise his reach and leaves his abnormally long torso open for kicks. That may prove a fatal flaw against the heavy body kicks of Gabriel Benitez. On the mat though, Quarantillo can shine. Propping opponents against the cage, Billy postures out of half guard and rains down huge elbows. Billy occasionally pays the price for hellbows, though, as position can be lost relatively softly.

Gabriel Benitez

What a b b b beast of a man. A true body destroyer, Benitez uses a ramrod jab and full-blooded kicks. Chopping up the body or the legs, when Benitez lands, sounds of gunshots reverberate around the arena. Hyperbole aside, Benitez is an incredibly fun fighter that deserves a far larger fan base. Against Quarantillo, at times a walking punching bag, Benitez will be able to showcase his stellar power striking.

Although Benitez’s against the cage is sharp, the Mexican would be advised to control the centre of the octagon. With his back against the cage, Benitez is far more easily snatched into the clinch in which the American will have a considerable advantage. Although, Benitez could always just land a nuclear knee again as he did against Justin Jaynes.

Predicted Result: Quarantillo Decision

Benitez is a hugely entertaining striker who brings the violence. A decent eye for a counter, Benitez’s greatest attribute is his hellacious body kicks. While Billy Quarantillo’s awkward pressure boxing leaves Benitez with ample opportunity to land powerful counters, he will struggle to crack the American’s chin. Benitez’s tendency to freely back himself against the cage will also enable Billy Q to snatch a clinch and create an ugly, grinding affair. Expect a back-and-forth affair, with Quarantillo’s work against the cage and on the mat just tipping the scorecards.

Result: Quarantillo def. Benitez // TKO (punches) Round 3 3:40

Winner // Method  // Round

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UFC on ESPN 26: Preliminary Card

Daniel Rodriguez (14-2) vs Preston Parsons (9-2)

Welterweight (170)

Daniel Rodriguez

Despite clocking in at thirty-four years of age, Rodriguez is constantly improving. Rodriguez’s striking defence still needs work, and his hand speed will always remain corpse-like, but one-shot knockout power is a wonderful attribute. Supremely durable, willing to wade through damage to land his shots, and a surprisingly tight TDD, Rodriguez is easy to support. As Rodriguez climbs the rankings there is little reason to doubt Rodriguez’s stopping power will follow. Using a ramrod jab, Rodriguez can consistently thwart Parson’s wild entries before setting up his powerful left counter.

Preston Parsons

UFC debutant, Preston Parsons, has a huge task ahead of himself. In a strange piece of match-making, Parsons is next on the agenda for Rodriguez despite offering less than 2020’s version Mike Perry. Still, Parsons is an emphatic wrestler who utilises high volume on the feet to create opportunities to shoot. Pushing overwhelming activity on the mat, Parsons’ will struggle to gain the advantage on the feet necessary to take Rodriguez down. Failing to assess striking distance, Parsons’ changes levels in dangerous areas and his lack of a jab leaves his boxing patternless.

Predicted Result: Rodriguez TKO Round 2

Despite clocking in at thirty-four years of age, Rodriguez is constantly improving. Supremely durable, willing to wade through damage to land his shots and a surprisingly tight TDD, Rodriguez is easy to support. Possessing a ramrod jab, Rodriguez can consistently thwart Parson’s wild entries before setting up his powerful left counter. Debutant, Preston Parsons, lacks the striking or wrestling ability to test Rodriguez. High volume is used to paper over the cracks in Parsons’ disjointed kickboxing.

Result: Rodriguez def. Parsons // TKO (punches) Round 1 3:47

Winner // Method  // Round

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Amanda Lemos (9-1-1) vs Montserrat Ruiz (10-1)

Women’s Strawweight (115)

Amanda Lemos

An athletic specimen, Lemos has ironed out her technicals since a brutal debut stoppage defeat to Leslie Smith. Restarting two divisions below at Strawweight, Lemos looks a different beast. Heavy hands at Strawweight is an easy sell for the UFC, and if Lemos can continue her warpath at 115 then she could easily be given a push by promoters. Lemos will have ample opportunity to land on Ruiz, a frantic boxer with many holes. Using front kicks to keep opponents back to the cage, Lemos patiently stalks her opponent before countering their desperate attempts to create space.

Montserrat Ruiz

While Ruiz’s shock victory over Cheyanne Buys was a meme to view, it is difficult to see how Ruiz can once again secure the W with just the headlock again. The head and arm throw seems particularly ill-equipped to take down the physical powerhouse that is Lemos. During the short periods on the feet against Buys, Ruiz was lit up with extended combinations. There won’t be many opportunities to secure the headlock against Lemos before she cracks the jaw.

Predicted Result: Lemos TKO Round 2

An athletic specimen, Lemos has ironed out her technicals since a brutal debut stoppage defeat to Leslie Smith. Restarting two divisions below at Strawweight, Lemos looks a different beast. Using front kicks to keep opponents back to the cage, Lemos patiently stalks her opponent before countering their desperate attempts to create space. While Ruiz’s shock victory over Cheyanne Buys was a meme to view, it is difficult to see how Ruiz can once again secure the W with just the headlock again.

Result: Lemos def. Ruiz // TKO (punches) Round 1 0:35

Winner // Method  // Round

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Khalid Taha (13-3) vs Sergey Morozov (16-4)

Bantamweight (135)

Khalid Taha

Khalid Taha is a big boy at Bantamweight. There’s no doubting the German always look a great size – thick, solid, tight. Unfortunately for Taha, he has experienced a chequered run in the UFC. Despite constantly switching stances and moving his upper body, Taha’s head regularly remains cemented on the centre line. This is exacerbated as Taha tends to lean into punches. While the German has so far shown a stellar chin, and 135 is a forgiving division in regards to power, getting hit cleanly isn’t the greatest method to win over the judges.

Sergey Morozov

With woeful athleticism in regards to UFC calibre, Morozov is bailed out by his well-rounded skill set. There doesn’t seem to be much pop in Morozov’s punches despite a string of knockout victories in M-1. Although he gives little away on the feet, Morozov also offers little in way of volume, and as such could easily drop a couple of boring decisions before being cut.

Predicted Result: Taha Decision

Khalid Taha is a big boy at Bantamweight. With a stellar chin and a willingness to trade in the pocket, Taha has ridden his athleticism on more than one occasion. Contrasted to the woeful physicality of Morozov, it is difficult to see how the Kazakh’s rounded skillset can get him through this. Although Morozov gives little away on the feet, he also offers little in way of volume, and could always drop a dull decision.

Result: Morozov def. Taha // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Winner // Method  // Round

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Anderson dos Santos (21-8) vs Miles Johns (11-1)

Bantamweight (135)

Anderson dos Santos

Dos Santos is a bang average fighter but that doesn’t mean he isn’t fun to watch. Flying out the blocks early, the Brazilian aims to break opponents with pressure. Flurries of strikes in the pocket and wishful submissions combine to drown opponents. Periods of inactivity are interrupted with huge overhand blitzes before clinching opponents against the cage. The formula is simple but it’s a decent style that gatekeeps the poorer prospects.

Miles Johns

Johns is a wrestle-boxer with a solid jab that lacks a ‘wow’ factor. Unless he can put together a string of victories, his style doesn’t play into a highlight reel style hype. Sure, the uppercut KO over Natividad was a beauty, but it seems to be more of a once in a blue moon shot that landed cleanly. Johns uses his lead hand well, parrying incoming damage, yet that means his jab isn’t thrown with the volume necessary to dictate rounds on the feet. Securing regular takedowns has also been an issue, evidenced by his 31% takedown average.

Predicted Result: Johns Decision

Dos Santos is a bang average fighter but that doesn’t mean he isn’t fun to watch. Flying out the blocks early, the Brazilian aims to break opponents with pressure. Periods of inactivity are interrupted with huge overhand blitzes before clinching opponents against the cage. Johns is a wrestle-boxer with a solid jab that lacks a ‘wow’ factor. While the uppercut KO over Natividad was a beauty, Johns more often fights behind his jab after failing to kickstart his wrestling.

Result: FIGHT CANCELLED (COVID)

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Francisco Figueiredo (12-3-1) vs Malcolm Gordon (12-5)

Flyweight (125)

Francisco Figueiredo

Imagine Deiveison without the knockout power, and you have a pretty decent description of Francisco. BTEC Figgy fights with considerable less risk than his brother but somehow manages to leave more holes in his defence in the process. Worse yet, Figgy’s decision victory over Jerome Rivera is ageing poorly as Rivera gets stopped every other week. Figgy is durable enough to extend this fight and eventually find an opportunity to crack Gordon’s paper chin.

Malcolm Gordon

Man, it’s sad seeing Gordon fall to two first-round stoppages. For a Flyweight with a decent track record of stoppages, Gordon’s kill or be killed style has seen him fall into obscurity. Despite his skills on the mat, Gordon hasn’t had the time to get his wrestling going and instead his chin has been lit up. Pressuring opponents head-first probably hasn’t helped Gordon’s chances of seeing the final bell.

Predicted Result: Figueiredo Decision

The worse Figgy brother should only be slightly favoured in this bout. Sharing Deiveison’s durability, but forgetting to bring the power, Francisco can make this a three-round affair. By fighting deep, Francisco will give himself the best opportunity to crack Gordon’s glass chin. Although Francisco’s relatively pillow fists will allow Gordon reprieve, and an opportunity to showcase his wrestling, Figgy is gritty enough to keep this standing.

Result: Gordon def. Figueiredo // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Winner // Method  // Round

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Rodrigo Nascimento (8-1) vs Alan Baudot (8-2)

Heavyweight (264)

Rodrigo Nascimento

Lit up by Chris Daukaus, the lumbering Brazilian was beaten to every punch. Still, Nascimento is a big lump that fights behind an honest 1-2, and wants to snake in an ugly submission after sweaty grinding. Nascimento’s steadfast commitment to countering almost everything with a powerful right hook is A+ Heavyweight quality.

Alan Baudot

Baudot remains a LHW masquerading as a HW after the UFC desperately needed a body for Tom Aspinall’s highlight reel. While Baudot wilted to early pressure, the Frenchman still managed to land a decent bit of spinning work. Backfists, lunging jabs and uppercut elbows all landed against Aspinall. The Brit’s desire to secure an early stoppage was the greatest factor behind Baudot’s minor success, however. Once Nascimento gets on top of him, the weight difference alone will prove too much.

Predicted Result: Nascimento Submission Round 1

Nascimento is your typical lumbering Heavyweight, fighting behind an honest 1-2 with the addition of snaking ugly submissions. Nascimento’s steadfast commitment to countering almost everything with a powerful right hook is A+ Heavyweight quality. Baudot is a LHW masquerading as a HW. While Baudot employs an entertaining selection of spinning attacks, once Nascimento gets on top of him, the weight difference alone will prove too much.

Result: Nascimento def. Baudot // TKO (punches) Round 2 1:29

Winner // Method  // Round

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Prediction Accuracy

UFC on ESPN 26

Winner: 7/10

Method: 5/10

Round: 3/10

2021 MMA Season

Winner: 162/271

Method: 134/271

Round: 124/271

MMA Overall

Winner: 353/575

Method: 271/575

Round: 250/575

Takeaway comments: The most blessed results considering the card quality!


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By JBrayne

Journalist focused on the niche and nasty of the combat world.

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