RFA 28: Middleweight Title Breakdown Dale De Souza August 6, 2015 Events, Previews, RFA On Friday, August 7, 2015, MMA’s premier developmental league returns to AXS TV’s Friday Night Fights with another spectacular fight lineup, this time emanating from the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis, as part of RFA 28. At the top of the bill, perennial middleweight contender Andrew Sanchez will face off against John Poppie. Poppie makes his RFA debut on the heels of three consecutive wins to face Sanchez, who last challenged for the RFA middleweight title last June against Kevin Casey. Incidentally, much like his fight with Poppie on Friday night, his bout with Casey also saw a vacant middleweight title at stake. How do both men stack up as both prepare to battle for the 185-pound title? Knockout Power Let’s get this out of the way early. Sanchez owns not only the power in his hands to knock guys out, but he also owns the distinction of having finished in four of his six pro wins by a form of knockout. He will need to be aware of Poppie’s hands and overall striking, as Poppie did force a man to quit in their corner, but barring some lack of real head and/or body movement, Sanchez knows as well as anyone what happens to men not named Casey or Dustin Jacoby when they try and throw heat with “El Dirte”. Advantage: Sanchez Cardiovascular If both men share any common ground, outside of wanting the RFA middleweight title, it would be in the fact that both men combine for a 2-1 record in pro fights that went to the judges. Granted, Sanchez should have an edge, since he also scored a decision win in his amateur career, and against opponents that don’t do so well in going the distance, he would, except that Poppie has not been beaten by the judges’ scorecards in seven fights. Veteran experience may teach plenty, but it doesn’t make someone immune to getting beaten on the cards, something which Poppie may teach Sanchez the hard way, if the former middleweight title challenger is not careful. Advantage: Poppie Grappling This one may be the one X-factor of the fight, because while both men have shown a proven ability to strike and a willingness to take a fight to its full duration when needed, both men appear at a stalemate when it comes to success in the grappling realm at the professional level because, submission prowess aside, both men are outstanding wrestlers. Poppie enjoyed a brief time as part of The Ultimate Fighter 19 due in no small part to his NCAA Division III experience, and despite being seen more for his knockouts, Sanchez carries NAIA wrestling experience with him at all times. Ultimately, whoever has the edge really depends on whether a fan would put Division III experience over NAIA national championships, but until fight time, it all remains little more than fun facts about each man. Advantage: Push The Verdict Sanchez has been to the head of the RFA middleweight title line before, and he would love to make the second time the charm, but Poppie if history taught us anything, it taught us that prospects like Poppie show up to throw down when you least expect it. Still, the kid leaves a lot of questions in the air about himself, and will be tested in his own regard against a man who will be just as hungry for the gold, if not hungrier. Provided he keeps some takedown defense in his back pocket and picks his moments to stick his power shots, Sanchez will walk out of St. Louis with some gold. Prediction: Sanchez def. Poppie by knockout. Round 3.