Category: Predictions

UFC on FOX: Poirier vs. Gaethje Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC on FOX: Poirier vs. Gaethje Punch Drunk Predictions

I’ve got family in town and have been running around for the entire 36 hours they’ve been here. The next 8 days of my life are planned down to the minute. There is little time for idle chatter, so here we go.

These are the UFC on FOX: Poirier vs. Gaethje Punch Drunk Predictions.

Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje

The big question for me in this one is “can Poirier win a big fight” and I’m still leaning towards no. He’s been a fringe contender for the last couple years across two divisions, but whenever that key fight that could carry him into the championship mix comes up, Poirier falters or something happens that causes the fight to get ruled a No Contest.

Additionally, Gaethje is the kind of guy that is going to draw Poirier away from his game plan and lure him into a brawl and that favours Gaethje, who has shown a greater ability to take punishment and return heavy fire.

I have a feeling this one doesn’t make it out of the first round, but it should be an absolute smoke show for as long as it lasts.

Prediction: Justin Gaethje

Carlos Condit vs. Alex Oliveira

Oliveira is gritty and dangerous and capable of hanging in a knock-down, drag-out scrap, but I think Condit will get back into the win column here.

As long as the former interim welterweight champion is firing on all cylinders – or at least 85% of his cylinders – he should be able to push the pace and put hands on the Brazilian “Cowboy,” who tends to trust his chin and his hands more than he tries to avoid punches and escape bad situations. Condit still has a diverse arsenal and a ton of experience, so after flubbing his comeback late last year against Neil Magny, I expect “The Natural Born Killer” to earn a victory in this one.

Prediction: Carlos Condit

Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori

I’m very tempted to pick the upset because Rob Wilkinson got Adesanya down three times and I think Vettori has a much better top game than the Australian veteran. That being said, Adesanya defended 12 more takedown attempts and was able to piece up “Razor Rob” en route to stopping him in the second and Vettori has a bad habit of stopping punches with his face.

I do think this will be a much closer fight than most seem to be envisioning – not because I’m don’t think Adesanya is a quality prospect, but because I think Vettori is much better than everyone is giving him credit for heading into this one. I truly believe we’ll learn a lot more about both athletes here and whoever ends up coming away with the win should established himself as the top prospect in the middleweight division.

Prediction: Israel Adesanya

Michelle Waterson vs. Cortney Casey

Unless Casey comes out looking to engage in a staring match like she did against Felice Herrig, I think she’s got the more active, more potent game and will end up handing Waterson her third straight loss.

Tecia Torres was able to find success in the grappling department opposite Waterson last time out and I believe Casey is a bigger, stronger athlete than Torres and boasts superior chops on the ground. Remember, she quickly tapped Randa Markos and has spent this camp working exclusively with the crew at The MMA Lab, so don’t be surprised if she looks her best in this one.

Prediction: Cortney Casey

Preliminary Card Predictions

Antonio Carlos Junior def. Tim Boetsch
Muslim Salikhov def. Ricky Rainey
Wilson Reis def. John Moraga
Krzysztof Jotko def. Brad Tavares

Gilbert Burns def. Dan Moret
Lauren Mueller def. Shana Dobson
Yushin Okami def. Dhiego Lima
Arjan Bhullar def. Adam Wieczorek
Matthew Lopez def. Alejandro Perez
Luke Sanders def. Patrick Williams

2018 Predictions Record: 64-48-0 (.571)

UFC 223: Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC 223: Punch Drunk Predictions

Here’s how you know it has been a really exhausting couple days in the MMA world:

I’m an absolute lunatic for this sport and I’m completely wiped out. I’m sure I’ll be excited to tune in on Saturday evening, but right now, at 2:30pm PT on Friday afternoon, everything that has transpired in Brooklyn and the general chaos surrounding this event over the past several days has me shaking my head and looking forward to taking my dog for a long walk somewhere where my phone can’t connect to the Internet and far, far away from my computer so that if anything else ridiculous happens, I won’t have to hear about it.

But I do want to keep this series intact, so here are my quick picks for tomorrow night.

These are the UFC 223 Punch Drunk Predictions.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta

Honestly, if Khabib doesn’t straight up maul Iaquinta, I’ll be surprised. And I’m not talking beat him in the manner that he beat Edson Barboza either – I’m thinking more like what he did to Michael Johnson where he’s telling him to quit before forcing him to tap.

Iaquinta’s tough, but he’s fought once in three years and that was against the ghost of Diego Sanchez. Do you really think he’s rolling into the Octagon on Saturday night and handing Khabib his first professional loss? Naw son; not happening.

Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov

Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

I feel really bad that this fight has been lost amidst the chaos that overtook this card because it’s a terrific matchup and I think it has the potential to be a wildly entertaining fight.

Given that she had zero issues with her weight cut this time, I’m siding with Jedrzejczyk. I picked her in the first fight and while Namajunas looked outstanding in that one, I don’t know that she can replicate it here and with the former champion appearing to have taken her focus to another level, I think the belt goes back to Jedrzejczyk and we end up with a trilogy fight later this year.

Prediction: Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Renato Moicano vs. Calvin Kattar

Kattar has impressed me in his wins over Andre Fili and Shane Burgos, but I have Moicano winning this one by the slimmest of margins in a bout that earns Fight of the Night honours.

The Brazilian’s only loss to date came against Brian Ortega in a fight he was winning until Ortega did what Ortega does and finished things in the third. As much as Kattar has the ability to flurry and finish like he did against Burgos in Boston earlier this year, I just see Moicano having success from range, avoiding too many extended exchanges in the pocket and pulling this one out on the cards.

Prediction: Renato Moicano

Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Kyle Bochniak

Zabit shines and wins this one inside the distance; simple as that.

Prediction: Zabit Magomedsharipov

Joe Lauzon vs. Chris Gruetzemacher

There are many reasons to pick against Lauzon – he’s lost two in a row, three of four, four of six and didn’t look particularly good in many of those contests – but I think this is one of those fights where the veteran guy just finds a way to get the job done.

These are the kinds of fights where veteran savvy can go a long way and while Lauzon likes to be active and put himself at risk in order to deliver an entertaining fight, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a real grappling-heavy approach from the long-time lightweight standout in this one.

Prediction: Joe Lauzon

Preliminary Card Picks

Karolina Kowalkiewicz def. Felice Herrig
Ashlee Evans-Smith def. Bec Rawlings
Evan Dunham def. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
Mike Rodriguez def. Devin Clark

2018 Prediction Record: 59-44-0 (.573)

UFC London: Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC London: Punch Drunk Predictions

Since I’m starting to include main card predictions in my What’s at Stake? column with Sporting News prior to every event, this series is basically just going to become a republishing of those picks for record-keeping purposes and the sake of continuity.

I know that might sound lazy to some – and it probably is – but if my thoughts on these matchups are already out there, why not just replicate them here rather than running through everything a second time?

So here they are.

These are the UFC London: Punch Drunk Predictions.

Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Volkov

As much as I want to see Volkov emerge as a new name to potentially challenge for the heavyweight title – or at least feature in pairings with other established, tenured veterans – I need to see him beat someone of this caliber before I’m comfortable picking him to beat someone of this caliber. Werdum is slowing down, but he’s still a tremendous talent.
Pick: Werdum
 
Jimi Manuwa vs. Jan Blachowicz
Manuwa won the first time around, but I feel like Blachowicz has made some solid adjustments of late and will fight a more tactical, effective fight this time. Plus, he lost to Manuwa in Poland, so it’s only fitting that he beat “Poster Boy” in London to return the favor.
Pick: Blachowicz
 
Tom Duquesnoy vs. Terrion Ware
Duquesnoy didn’t look great last time out and is returning to European soil. This is a showcase opportunity and a classic “get right” fight for “Fire Kid” and he should roll.
Pick: Duquesnoy
 
Leon Edwards vs. Peter Sobotta
The German is savvy and has enjoyed a nice little run of success during his second run in the UFC, but Edwards is the more athletic, more dynamic fighter of the two. He’s faced and beaten better competition and while he’ll have to be careful if and when they hit the canvas, he should be able to outwork Sobotta on the feet and pick up his fifth straight win.
Pick: Edwards
 
Preliminary Card Picks
John Phillips def. Charles Byrd
Oliver Enkamp def. Danny Roberts
Hakeem Dawodu def. Danny Henry
Magomed Ankalaev def. Paul Craig
Kajan Johnson def. Stevie Ray
Dmitriy Sosnovskiy def. Mark Godbeer
Nad Narimani def. Nasrat Haqparast
2018 Prediction Record: 59-38-0 (.591)
UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC 222: Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya Punch Drunk Predictions

How’s this for a take: this card is better now than it was before Max Holloway fell out.

Listen – I love “Blessed” and that isn’t a commentary on his skills, but his original opponent, Frankie Edgar, remained on the card in a terrific fight with Brian Ortega that serves as the co-main event and adding Cris Cyborg defending her title against Yana Kunitskaya is an intriguing main event.
As for how things shake out, let’s get to it.

Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya

I don’t think this is as “Yana’s gonna get murdered!” as most people.

She’s a well-rounded fighter with good size and had a full training camp for this date, even if the change to Cyborg only came a couple weeks ago. Plus, she trains at Jackson-Wink and was part of Holly Holm’s camp for her UFC 219 tilt with the featherweight titleholder, so she’s got coaches and teammates with some experience against Cyborg to lean on.

I still think she’s going to lose, but I don’t think she’s going to just get completely mauled.

I’m really interested in seeing how Cyborg looks jumping back into the cage this quickly because it’s going one of two ways: she’s either going to look great and start fighting more frequently – which her coach Jason Parillo has always wanted – or she’s going to look a little off and go back to fighting every four-to-six months. How she’s feeling will likely have an impact on how she approaches this fight as well.

My feeling is that she’s probably perfectly fine hustling back into the cage like this, so I envision a patient, measured performance similar to what Cyborg showed against Tonya Evinger – walk her down, touch her up and then swarm in the third when the damage starts adding up.

Prediction: Cris Cyborg

Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

Brian Ortega is an outstanding talent that has matriculated his way up the rankings, finishing literally everyone that has stood opposite him in the Octagon. He just turned 27, continues to improve and will remain a championship contender for the next several years.

But he’s losing here.

Look – Ortega is ultra-talented, but he’s facing a goddamn legend in Frankie Edgar and while I think he’ll do better than Yair Rodriguez did opposite “The Answer” at UFC 211, this one really feels like one of those “how does he beat him?” fights for Ortega.

He might be able to catch Edgar with something unexpected, but Frankie has never been finished and I just don’t see the path for him beyond that. He’s not out-striking the former lightweight champion and he’s not out-wrestling him either.

Ortega needs a finish, while Edgar can just out-hustle him for 15 minutes and win on the cards, which is how I see this playing out.

Prediction: Frankie Edgar

Sean O’Malley vs. Andre Soukhamthath

O’Malley is getting a little push here, with a main card assignment in his second UFC appearance, and I’m just not sure he’s going to be able to make good on it.

He has talent, but it’s not “jump off the page, this kid is insane” talent. He rallied to beat Terrion Ware in his debut – winning the first, dropping the second and digging deep to get the third – but if you’re rallying to beat Terrion Ware in your debut, I’m not sure you’re an elite prospect and a guy that should be getting an early push.

So yeah, I’m picking Soukhamthath here. He’s more experienced, he’s got the ability to finish in multiple ways and he has zero pressure on his shoulders heading into this one.

O’Malley likes to fight with his hands down and I think the 29-year-old Rhode Island resident makes him pay.

Prediction: Andre Soukhamthath

Stefan Struve vs. Andrei Arlovski

I’m not going to put a lot of time into this one because honestly, I think whoever lands the first clean shot is going to get their hand raised and neither guy is really in the mix at heavyweight.

As much as Arlovski is only one fight removed from a prolonged losing streak, I still think he’s going to win here because Struve still gets hit way too much for a guy that should be able to keep pretty well everyone on the end of his jab and I just don’t think the gigantic Dutchman has been that locked in on his fighting career since coming back from his heart issues.

It’s understandable, but it’s also a recipe for disaster in the cage.

Arlovski lights him up early to get a second straight win.

Prediction: Andrei Arlovski

Cat Zingano vs. Ketlen Vieira

This is the most intriguing fight on the main card to me because Zingano hasn’t fought in 18 months, but has the talent to be a force in this division, while Vieira just keeps getting better and better each time out.

I kind of want to side with the more active fighter and not roll the dice on an athlete looking to bounce back from a host of serious personal issues over the last several years, but I also remember watching Zingano roar back against Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes.

If she’s right – and she said she’s right and fired up when we spoke earlier this week – Zingano will get the job done and put herself right back in the mix for the bantamweight title.

Prediction: Cat Zingano

Preliminary Card Predictions

Mackenzie Dern def. Ashley Yoder
Beneil Dariush def. Alexander Hernandez
John Dodson def. Pedro Munhoz
C.B. Dollaway def. Hector Lombard
Zak Ottow def. Mike Pyle
Cody Stamann def. Bryan Caraway
Jordan Johnson def. Adam Milstead

2018 Prediction Record: 47-34-0 (.580)

UFC on FOX: Emmett vs. Stephens Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC on FOX: Emmett vs. Stephens Punch Drunk Predictions

So the good news – for me and anyone who chooses to follow my picks for wagering purposes (Hi Patty B!) – is that I went 8-4 with my selections for last weekend’s UFC Fight Night event in Austin, Texas, including posting a 5-1 mark on the main card.

The bad news (for only me) is that hitting at 66.6 percent (repeating) on that show still didn’t pull my yearly win percentage up above the 60 percent threshold, which shows you both (a) how detrimental a couple bad weeks can be and (b) how difficult it’s going to be for me to reach the goal I’ve set for myself of getting 70 percent of my picks right over the course of the year.

But I’m not hedging and I’m not changing my target. The goal remains the same.

Here are my picks for Saturday’s UFC on FOX fight card in Orlando.

These are the Punch Drunk Predictions.

Josh Emmett vs. Jeremy Stephens

I don’t want to discredit what Emmett did last time out when he flattened Ricardo Lamas in Winnipeg. Beating “The Bully” is no easy task and he landed a beautiful counter shot that laid him out stiff; it was a great connection and a very big win for the Team Alpha Male member.

Looking at his past results, that finish feels like a little bit of an anomaly, as Emmett has never been one to just straight up settle fools with walk-off shots like that. He’s more of a grinder who buries you with volume or chokes you out on the ground and his four fights before that – including a loss at lightweight to Desmond Green – all went the distance.

That’s the long way of me saying I need to see it again before I believe Emmett is a guy that is going to roll into the Octagon and sleep guys on a consistent basis.

Additionally, he’s fighting someone who has only been knocked out once (I was there, it was a beautiful shot) and has only been finished four times in his entire career, so the odds aren’t in his favour.

But the biggest factor in me taking Stephens here is that the 31-year-old veteran has found his rhythm and finally harnessed all the raw potential and power that has made him fun to watch throughout his career and turned it into an aggressive, but technical approach inside the cage that has produced his best two-fight stretch to date.

Stephens now uses all of his weapons effectively and dictates the terms of engagement, halting aggressive fighters with leg kicks and crashing home crisp, forceful combinations on guys that want to sit back looking to counter. He’s refined his technique and found an approach that works for him and I think he’ll continue this nice little run he’s on here.

Prediction: Jeremy Stephens

Jessica Andrade vs. Tecia Torres

Torres has been on a nice little run of late, but this is a terrible matchup for her. She is most successful when she can get into point-fighting bouts against fellow volume strikers with minimal power or use her good, but not great grappling to control things along the fence and on the ground.

It’s why I loved her fight with Michelle Waterson – it was tailor-made for Torres to do exactly what she did and felt like an easy pick.

And that’s why Andrade is such an easy pick here.

The compact Brazilian does not care about being hit and is the superior grappler of the two, so Torres is going to have to deal with a powerhouse walking her down and firing blistering combinations at her for 15 minutes.

Now, is it possible that she tries to pick and move and avoids any prolonged exchanges, eking out a victory? Maybe, but I just don’t think she’s going to be able to do enough damage to swing the fight in her favour if that’s the approach she takes.

I expect Andrade to march forward and connect with enough heavy combinations and high amplitude takedowns to win this handily on the scorecards.

Prediction: Jessica Andrade

Ovince Saint Preux vs. Ilir Latifi

I think this fight hinges on which version of Saint Preux shows up on Saturday evening in Orlando. There are times where he is too relaxed, too lackadaisical inside the Octagon and more aggressive opponents are able to put it on him, but when he’s looking to pull the trigger and moving well, OSP can be a handful.

Knowing how hyped he is to be fighting in his home state for the first time in his career, my guess is that he shows up ready to work and if that’s the case, I think he should win this one fairly easily by working on the outside, picking his spots and potentially catching Latifi with something unexpected, like the kick he blasted Corey Anderson with last time out.

Prediction: OSP

Mike Perry vs. Max Griffin

Listen – Griffin is tough and has a little pop in his hands, but this one is all about getting Perry a showcase win at home and setting him up for a bigger, more high profile pairing later this year.

Whether you like him or not, you have to admit that “Platinum” is tough and can crack and I just don’t see Griffin being able to go in there and out-work Perry over 15 minutes. Maybe I’m mistaken and he turns this into a grind, but the more likely scenario to me is these two trading shots and Perry landing something filthy that brings the fight to a sudden halt.

Then he’ll probably say something stupid on live network television.

Prediction: Mike Perry

Preliminary Card Predictions

Brian Kelleher def. Renan Barao
Sara McMann def. Marion Reneau
Angela Hill def. Maryna Moroz
Ben Saunders def. Alan Jouban
Marcin Prachnio def. Sam Alvey
Rani Yahya def. Russell Doane
Eric Shelton def. Alex Perez
Manny Bermudez def. Albert Morales

2018 Prediction Record: 41-28-0 (.594)

UFC Austin: Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC Austin: Punch Drunk Predictions

Heading into last weekend’s event in Australia, I said I wanted to bounce back from going 4-7 on the previous fight card in Belem and get back on track towards reaching my goal of getting 70% of my picks correct over the course of the year.

That kind of happened, but also kind of didn’t because while I went 6-6 – which is far better than 4-7 – my winning percentage for the year dropped for the second straight event and now sits below 60% for the 2018 campaign.

Hopefully that changes this weekend.

Here are my picks for Sunday’s fight card in Austin, Texas.

These are the Punch Drunk Predictions.

Donald Cerrone vs. Yancy Medeiros

This one feels slippery because Cerrone and Medeiros enter on veery different streaks, but also have very different reputations and track records, none of which line up right.

Do you go with the perennial contender who has lost three straight to a trio of Top 10 welterweight talents or the guy who has been an entertaining action fighter who has yet to crack the Top 10 in his career, but has rattled off three straight victories? I’m siding with Cerrone, even though his recent results make me a little nervous about how this one shakes out.

I think he hustled into the Darren Till fight too quickly and didn’t give the kid enough respect; it was a terrible matchup for him and came overseas, which puts Cerrone out of his element and he paid for it dearly in the Octagon. Medeiros, however, is the kind of guy “Cowboy” has made a career of beating – tough customers who aren’t quite elite, but are willing to trade with him in the center of the Octagon.

Cerrone seems to be rejuvenated for this one and unless that is all talk (which it could be), I think he gets the job done here.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone

Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura

Tybura could very well grind this out over three rounds, but when you’re dealing with a guy like Lewis who can end a fight in an instant, it’s hard not to pick him in a matchup like this.

If this were someone with a little more seasoning, a little more pedigree, I’d be taking them because Lewis has obvious holes in his game and flaws that you can exploit, but I just don’t think Tybura has the ability to do that for 15 minutes while simultaneously avoiding the sledgehammers that are going to be coming his way. Though I expect him to have success pinning Lewis to the fence and perhaps even getting him to the canvas, eventually he’s going to eat one of those cinder blocks Lewis calls fists and the fight will end soon after.

Prediction: Derrick Lewis

James Vick vs. Francisco Trinaldo

There is a risk that Vick rolls into this one too fired up for his own good after lobbying for a Top 10 opponent and a main event assignment for this card and settling for a date with Trinaldo in the middle of the main card, but he’s been on-point as of late and should be able to use his substantial height and reach advantage to get the job done here.

Trinaldo has been great over the last couple years, going 8-1 and turning in a bunch of stellar performances, but Vick brings a little more weaponry to the table in this one. He’s shown how potent his hands can be in striking exchanges and does a great job locking up chokes using his long arms, so while the Brazilian might be able to muscle him around at points if he gets inside, the more likely outcome is Vick picking away from the outside and catching Trinaldo with something stiff as he looks to close the distance.

Prediction: James Vick

Thiago Alves vs. Curtis Millender

Given how good Alves looked against Patrick Cote last April, it’s hard to pick against the tenured welterweight in this matchup with a UFC newcomer.

While that fight was now 10 months ago and Alves is 34, it’s not like Millender is some young kid on a tremendous run who is going to roll into the cage and out-everything him on his way to greatness. The 30-year-old LFA graduate has put together a nice little run of success, but he’s lost to the best competition he’s faced thus far in his career and I don’t think that is something that you can correct this far into things.

Alves is as polished and technical a fighter as their is in the division and he should be able to out-work Millender in every facet to get a second straight win.

Prediction: Thiago Alves

Steve Peterson vs. Brandon Davis

Honestly, I’m not sure why this fight is on the main card other than not wanting to shuffle the prelim lineup.

Davis faltered in his Octagon debut last month in Boston, coming up short against Kyle Bochniak, but if he can get back to being a more active fighter now that he’s gotten rid of the Octagon jitters, he should be able to have his way with Peterson, a regional vet who has yet to win the kind of pivotal bout that really helps him stand out in the crowd.

Prediction: Brandon Davis

Sage Northcutt vs. Thibault Gouti

This is a showcase opportunity for Northcutt and it should be fairly one-sided.

Gouti avoided going 0-4 in the UFC last time out with a first-round knockout win over Andrew Holbrook and Northcutt will need to avoid getting caught with something similar, but the 21-year-old Texan should be able to get this fight on the ground and finish it there, either with strikes or a rear naked choke.

Prediction: Sage Northcutt

Preliminary Card Predictions

Jared Gordon def. Carlos Diego Ferreira
Geoff Neal def. Brian Camozzi
Joby Sanchez def. Roberto Sanchez
Sarah Moras def. Lucie Pudilova
Alex Morono def. Josh Burkman
Oskar Piechota def. Tim Williams

2018 Prediction Record: 33-24-0 (.579)

UFC 221: Romero vs. Rockhold Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC 221: Romero vs. Rockhold Punch Drunk Predictions

So I started off the year strong and have stumbled since, culminating in a 4-7 mark last weekend in Belem.

Gross.

It’s time to reverse that trend and start putting up some quality numbers in this series.

Let’s get it.

Yoel Romero vs. Luke Rockhold – for the UFC interim middleweight title, at least for Rockhold

I thought Rockhold was going to win this fight from the day it was announced. I became more convinced of it as I started prepping for this event and checking out some of the things both guys had to say, especially how focused and confident Rockhold seems to be this time around. My opinions were cemented when Romero missed weight yesterday, turning this into one of those weird fights where only one half of the tandem can earn the title.

Romero is a tremendous athlete and it’s insane that he’s still an elite talent at his advanced age, but I think Rockhold thrashes him here. In fact, I think Rockhold rolls through this one and cements his standing as the best middleweight in the world later this year when he fights to unify the middleweight titles against Robert Whittaker later this year.

Prediction: Luke Rockhold

Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes

There is very real possibility that Hunt connects with one of those Samoan sledgehammers he calls fists and ends this one in traditional Mark Hunt fashion. That being said, I think we see Blaydes pull off the upset and collect the biggest win of his career.

Hunt’s takedown defense is very good, but is it good enough to deny Blaydes over and over and over again? I’m going to say no. I think we see Blaydes get in on takedowns and deploy the same approach Stipe Miocic did when he fought Hunt a couple years back (and Francis Ngannou a couple weeks ago). His transitions and entries have gotten better as he’s continued working with the crew at Elevation in Denver and I believe he has the potential to be a player in the heavyweight ranks down the line.

Tai Tuivasa vs. Cyril Asker

“Bam Bam” is going to bulldoze Asker here; that’s what is supposed to happen and what is most likely going to happen.

The former Rugby League player turned Mark Hunt protege has blistering power and is more athletic and nimble than he looks and that should lead to a one-sided mauling. Asker is a solid grappler and far more experienced, but this is set up for Tuivasa to shine and he should do it with style and ease.

Prediction: Tai Tuivasa

Jake Matthews vs. Li Jingliang

A couple years back, I thought Matthews was an elite prospect who would blossom into a contender by this point.

I was wrong.

“The Celtic Kid” has kind of stalled out and while the more to welterweight produced a victory last time out, Matthews hasn’t taken the next step forward in his development as of yet and that makes for a rough pairing with Jingliang here. While Matthews has faltered (or at the very least flattened out), Jingliang has continued to improve, adding powerful striking to the smothering grappling style he came into the organization with nearly four years ago.

“The Leech” has won four straight, three by stoppage, and I think he extends that run here, probably by an early stoppage.

Prediction: Li Jingliang

Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov

Pedro is another one of those guys that I’m high on, which could be the kiss of death given my recent results.

He’s a 26-year-old light heavyweight with a bunch of raw potential who is coming off his first career loss to Ilir Latifi, a sturdy, seasoned veteran. It wasn’t anything too grizzly and should serve as a massive learning experience for the Australian upstart, who earned first-round stoppage victories in each of his first two UFC appearances. Unless he gets clipped and finished, I think this will be an excellent bounce-back performance and another positive step forward in a division that is always in need of fresh, young names to track.

Prediction: Tyson Pedro

Preliminary Card Predictions

Dong Hyun Kim def. Damien Brown
Israel Adesanya def. Rob Wilkinson
Jeremey Kennedy def. Alexander Volkanovski
Ben Nguyen def. Jussier Formiga
Mizuto Hirota def. Ross Pearson
Jose Alberto Quinonez def. Teruto Ishihara
Daichi Abe def. Luke Jumeau
2018 Predictions Record: 27-18-0 (.600)
UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Anders Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Anders Punch Drunk Predictions

Since this is becoming the sole piece that I seem to write here from week-to-week (I’ll work on that, I promise), I’m going to skip the intro and get right to the goods.

Here are my picks for Saturday’s Fight Night event in Belem, Brazil.

Lyoto Machida vs. Eryk Anders

This just feels like a terrible matchup for Machida, who enters on a three-fight skid that includes getting crushed in his last fight pre-suspension and first fight post-suspension. Now he’s stepping in with an athletic, powerful emerging middleweight who actively campaigned for this exact assignment. When guys are calling you out and you’re on a three-fight losing streak, it’s usually means they think you’re easy prey and I think Anders takes full advantage of this pairing.

While he didn’t look nearly as impressive against Markus Perez as he did knocking out Rafael Natal in his promotional debut, Anders remains a promising prospect with top of the food chain potential. Machida is no longer the elusive, challenging puzzle he used to be inside the Octagon and as long as Anders keeps his chin tucked, he should be able to get inside and find a home for something sharp that puts “The Dragon” on the canvas once again.

Prediction: Eryk Anders

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira

Cachoeira has a harrowing story and a sparkling resume, but it was fashion by running through scrubs on the regional circuit and against the skilled and experienced Shevchenko, the raw, aggressive striker is going to get lit all the way up.

Shevchenko should dominate from the outset and while she’s yet to show knockout power in the UFC, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she overwhelmed Cachoeira with counters early, got her backing up and finished her with a choke. This should be the showcase opportunity Shevchenko needs to punch her ticket to a title shot against flyweight champ Nicco Montano later this year.

Prediction: Valentina Shevchenko

Michel Prazares vs. Desmond Green

Prazares is a truck at lightweight and considering that he missed weight (by a considerable margin), I have a feeling we see him put those extra pounds and that additional strength to good use in a sluggish, grind’em out performance against Green.

This should be similar to Green’s last fight against Rustam Khabilov, which he lost by unanimous decision, as he was unable to nullify the Dagestani grappler’s abilities in the clinch and couldn’t muster enough meaningful offense in space to swing things in his favor. As much as I expect Prazares to fade down the stretch, he should be able to salt away the first two rounds and coast to a win from there.

Prediction: Michel Prazares

Timothy Johnson vs. Marcelo Golm

Johnson has the kind of grappling abilities that could turn what should be a chance for Golm to shine at home in Brazil into an upset that doesn’t help anyone, like when he beat Marcin Tybura, but the more likely scenario is the unbeaten 25-year-old Brazilian stinging him with strikes and finishing him inside the distance. It will probably take more effort and energy than he was forced to expend in his debut win over Christian Colombo, but the outcome should ultimately be the same.

Prediction: Marcelo Golm

Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Marlon Vera

Vera is one of those guys that everyone roots for and wants to see succeed, but he hasn’t quite been able to put it all together as of yet. Just when you think he’s figured things out and is ready to take the next step forward in his development, the UFC drops him in against John Lineker, he gets blanked on the scorecards and you realize he’s not quite ready for prime time and may not ever get this.

This is a chance to get another read on where he stands as DSDA is a tough, durable veteran with plenty of experience under his belt and similar results in the UFC. He tends to be a little wild and run out of gas the later the fight goes, so as long as Vera keeps it clean and simple, he should be able to land from the outside and look to capitalize on any openings that are presented.

Prediction: Marlon Vera

Thiago Santos vs. Anthony Smith

You have to give Smith props for being a tough cuss who has hung around, worked his way back to the big stage and put up a trio of impressive performances, but this feels like one of those fights where you come away thinking, “Man, they really didn’t do right by him, throwing him in there like that with Santos.”

Because Thiago Santos is a bad man.

These two are going to come out swinging for the fences and while both carry home run power, Santos is the quicker of the two and mixes things up much better than Smith and I’m thinking he’ll land something filthy that shuts the lights off in a hurry.

Prediction: Thiago Santos

Preliminary Card Picks

Tim Means def. Sergio Moraes
Damir Hadzovic def. Alan Patrick
Polyana Viana def. Maia Stevenson
Joe Soto def. Iuri Alcantara
Joseph Morales def. Deiveson Figueiredo

2018 Prediction Record: 23-11-0 (.676)

 

UFC on FOX: Jacare vs. Brunson 2 Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC on FOX: Jacare vs. Brunson 2 Punch Drunk Predictions

Saturday’s event on FOX is another one of those cards everyone says it’s terrible and not worth watching, but as per usual, I beg to differ.

Look, I’m not going to try to convince you that this is some stacked event and you’re a jerk if you aren’t hyped to see Gregor Gillespie do his thing, but I will say that the main event should be compelling and competitive, the co-main will be fun and that there are a handful of intriguing up-and-comers on this show – like Gillespie – that you might want to keep an eye on.

Here’s how I see things shaking out.

These are the UFC on FOX: Jacare vs. Brunson 2 Punch Drunk Predictions.

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Derek Brunson

One thing I know for certain is that this is going to last longer than the first time these two met when Jacare iced a green Brunson in 41 seconds thanks largely to a beautiful inside right hand to the chin.

Under normal circumstances, I would probably take Souza – he has a more diverse offensive arsenal and is the savvier fighter, but he’s been off since losing to Robert Whittaker last year, had two different surgeries since then and contemplated walking away. Couple that with Brunson having serious power and I think we see the hometown boy draw level with another knockout win.

Prediction: Derek Brunson

Dennis Bermudez vs. Andre Fili

This one feel pretty straightforward to me: Bermudez by wrestling.

As much as Fili could stick on the outside and snipe with long punches and occasional kicks, I just don’t see Bermudez letting him hang out at range and trading with him. This is going to be a classic “crash forward and grind” performance from the perennial Top 10 fixture Bermudez.

Prediction: Dennis Bermudez

Gregor Gillespie vs. Jordan Rinaldi

Gillespie is a legit lightweight to watch.

I know the division is loaded and he’s 31 and he hasn’t fought anyone of real substance yet, but trust me on this one: “The Gift” is the goods.

He’s a four-time All-American and a perfect 10-0 since transitioning to mixed martial arts. His hands are still a work in progress, but he’s shown flashes there too, like when he blasted Andrew Holbrook in no time flat in his sophomore appearance in the Octagon.

This one is going to be lopsided.

Prediction: Gregor Gillespie

Drew Dober vs. Frank Camacho

Losing Ovince Saint Preux and Ilir Latifi forced this welterweight fight to get moved up to the main card and it should end up being a Fight of the Night contender as Camacho has taken home an additional $50,000 in each of his first two UFC appearances and Dober is down to scrap with anyone.

As much as Camacho’s pressure could make this interesting, Dober is the better overall talent and his technical advantages should carry him to victory. He’s quietly been very good since moving to Colorado to work with what used to be the Elevation Fight Team and should be able to make “Frank the Crank” pay no matter whether he stays outside or crashed forward.

Prediction: Drew Dober

Preliminary Card Picks

Bobby Green def. Erik Koch
Mirsad Bektic def. Godofredo Pepey
Mara Romero Borella def. Katlyn Chookagian
Randa Markos def. Juliana Lima
Justine Kish def. Ji Yeon Kim
Vinc Pichel def. Joaquim Silva
Niko Price def. George Sullivan
Cory Sandhagen def. Austin Arnett

2018 Prediction Record: 14-8-0 (.636)

UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou Punch Drunk Predictions

Before getting to the predictions for this card, I want to jump up on my soapbox for a quick minute.

There has been the usual chatter about how weak this card is beyond the two championship fights and a lot of criticism about the other three bouts that make up the main card and while none of it surprises me because it happens before pretty much every pay-per-view now, they ring particularly hollow to me this time around.

The whole “aside from the championship fights” bit never makes sense to me because those you can’t just pretend like those fights aren’t happening or act like the UFC is somehow asking you to pay for the rest of the card independently. You’re paying for the whole thing and in my opinion, those two title fights are worth the asking price on their own, making everything else that will transpire on PPV a bonus.

Secondly, I’m not buying people thinking the bantamweight fight between Thomas Almeida and Rob Font is a yawn. This time two years ago, most people had Almeida as the next big thing in the 135-pound ranks and now he’s suddenly an also-ran? And Font may not be a contender, but he’s proven himself to be an action fighter who delivers entertaining performances every time he’s in the cage. If a scrap like that doesn’t tickle your fancy, I don’t know if you should be referring to yourself as a fight fan.

Lastly, I get that Calvin Kattar and Shane Burgos aren’t big names, but they’re prospects that people who follow the UFC and cover the sport should know given that (a) Kattar rolled in and beat Andre Fili in his short notice debut (on FS1) and (b) Burgos is 3-0 in the UFC and 10-0 overall with a couple memorable moments in the Octagon to his credit.

Again, if you’re a fan of this sport or someone who gets paid to watch these events, you should know that they’re two quality emerging talents in a stacked division that is going to be front-and-center all year and that their placement on the main card is a way to introduce them to the portion of the audience that only wants to tune in to see the guys that are fighting for the shiny gold belts.

Not all cards can be monsters and if you can’t get behind an event with two terrific title fights, a Top 15 pairing and a bout between a couple solid emerging talents in a deep division, I think you’re in for a long year of hate-watching UFC events.

Thanks for listening.

Here are my picks.

These are the UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou Punch Drunk Predictions.

Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou

Man, I have been wrestling with this one for a while because like everyone else, I recognize the hellacious power Ngannou possesses and that we’ve seen Miocic get clipped a couple times in the past. If that happens here, he won’t have a chance to recover; that’s the kind of power and finishing instincts the challenger brings to the table.

That being said, I think Miocic is the craftier of the two and the more complete of the two and something tells me we’ll see him take a similar approach to the strategy he used against Mark Hunt.

Ngannou is far less powerful when his back is on the fence or the floor and my guess is Miocic will look to keep him in one of those two spots for as long as possible. If he gets him down and can keep him there – which is a big if, I know – I think the champion has the top control and effective offense to do a lot of damage. Think back to that fight with Hunt – it had me wondering if Miocic was the guy that would end up being Cain Velasquez’s greatest rival. Now I think he’s supplanted Velasquez as the best, most complete fighter in the division and I think we see him prove that once again here.

Prediction: Stipe Miocic

Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir

Oezdemir is still underrated and could be someone who is at the start of a long stay in the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division, but I’ve only seen one man defeat Daniel Cormier and since that dude isn’t the one stepping into the Octagon on Saturday night, I’m sticking with “DC” to retain his title.

Look – you can question his title reigns all you want and remind me that he’s 0-2 against Jones, but Cormier has also beaten literally everyone else that has been put in front of him and done so with relative ease. The only other person to test him was Alexander Gustafsson and while Oezdemir might be able to replicate that performance here, Cormier still rightfully came away with the win and will do the same in Boston.

Prediction: Daniel Cormier

Calvin Kattar vs. Shane Burgos

Like I said up top, this is a terrific little fight between a pair of featherweight upstarts looking to take the next step forward in a loaded weight class. Kattar has won nine straight, including his unanimous decision win over Fili at UFC 214, while Burgos is perfect through  his first 10 fights, meaning someone’s lengthy winning streak is coming to an end.

While I was really impressed with Kattar’s ability to roll in and get the better of Fili in Anaheim back in July, I’m siding with Burgos in this one because the New Yorker reminds me a little bit of featherweight champ Max Holloway in that he works behind a quality jab, throws in combinations, recognizes when he gets his opponents hurt and turns up the output accordingly.

As long as he comes out with the kind of steady offense he’s exhibited thus far in his UFC career, “Hurricane Shane” should rain on Kattar’s homecoming.

Prediction: Shane Burgos

Gian Villante vs. Francimar Barroso

Okay, if you want to be critical of any fight on the main card, I’m not going to stop you from questioning why this one made the cut. Both guys are coming off losses, they’re not Top 15 talents and it’s not like they’re faded veterans who can still trade on their names either, so yeah, if we’re doing the whole “one of these things is not like the other,” this is the one that doesn’t belong.

This is another one of those fights that Villante should win because he has more power and – in theory – a little bit of a wrestling game to fall back on if things get rough, but the Serra-Longo product and BFF of the heavyweight champion tends to take more of a “you punch me and I’ll punch you and we’ll see who falls down first” approach to things that can always make it scary to pick him.

That said, he should be able to get through Barroso.

Prediction: Gian Villante

Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font

The fact that people are suddenly not enthused about seeing Almedia compete this weekend is Exhibit 437 in the case for MMA fans being the most fickle and fair-weather fans in all of sports.

Two years ago, when he was 20-0 with 19 finishes and coming off four straight UFC victories – all of which produced a bonus – the Brazilian standout was considered one of the most can’t miss prospects in the sport. Then he loses to a guy that ends up winning the damn title seven months later (Cody Garbrandt) and a top contender on a 20-fight winning streak (Jimmie Rivera) and he becomes this dude no one cares about any more.

Watch how quickly that will change if he lights up Font and collects another savage finish, which I think he will on Saturday.

Font is a perfect lower third of the rankings resident – too good for scrubs, but not quite good enough to beat guys in the Top 10. He’s good everywhere and might be able to catch Almeida with something because he likes to hang out in the pocket and doesn’t have great defense, but given Almeida’s power, the more likely outcome in my eyes is the former up-and-coming star collecting the kind of blistering knockout that reminds everyone of his upside.

Prediction: Thomas Almeida

Preliminary Card Picks

Brandon Davis def. Kyle Bochniak
Abdul Razak Alhassan def. Sabah Homasi
Alexandre Pantoja def. Dustin Ortiz
Dan Ige def. Julio Arce
Matt Bessette def. Enrique Barzola
Islam Makhachev def. Gleison Tibau

2018 Prediction Record: 9-2-0 (.818)