Category: Predictions

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)

UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi Punch Drunk Predictions

Here we go – once more into the breach for another year for UFC fight predictions.

The 2018 campaign kicks off with a familiar theme hovering overhead as fight week issues forced not one, but two bouts to be pulled from today’s line-up in St. Louis. First it was Zak Cummings slipping in the tub and splitting his head open and then Saturday, Uriah Hall was taken to the hospital without weighing in, scrapping his co-main event assignment and delaying Vitor Belfort’s retirement fight by a couple months.

Nonetheless, this is a solid show for a Sunday afternoon after football and the main card should be exciting.

Here’s who I think will emerge victorious.

These are the Punch Drunk Predictions.

Jeremy Stephens vs. Dooho Choi

As much as Choi is super-entertaining to watch and coming off his 2016 Fight of the Year battle with Cub Swanson, this is a terrible matchup for the talented South Korean featherweight. He doesn’t move particularly well and tends to deploy an “I trust my chin” style of defense in striking exchanges, neither of which are good things when you’re facing a seasoned heavy hitter like Stephens.

While he’s yet to put together the kind of winning streak needed to climb all the way into contention, the 31-year-old Stephens is coming off one of his most complete and professional performances to date – a three-round mauling of Gilbert Melendez at UFC 215 in Edmonton. The Alliance MMA product chopped at Melendez’ lead leg and beat him to the punch in most exchanges, remaining patient throughout even though he had the former Strikeforce champ hobbling around on a bad wheel.

Stephens has only been stopped by strikes once, so while Choi has excellent power, I’m not sure he’s going to be the man to drop and finish the 26-fight UFC veteran. Look for Stephens to press forward, beat up Choi’s lead leg and snipe home big shots similar to the approach he deployed against Melendez. Because he’s got a couple extra rounds to work with, I think he’ll get the stoppage late in the fight.

Prediction: Jeremy Stephens

Paige VanZant vs. Jessica-Rose Clark

It feels like there are a lot of people who are writing off VanZant, which is odd to me because this is the time to be buying up her faded stock.

Look – I think the UFC has pushed her too quickly and spent too much time trying to convince people that she’s a contender when the results just haven’t been there, but the 23-year-old is moving up to a division where she is a much better fit physically and has shown the flashes of talent that justify her being viewed as a solid prospect. At the end of the day, her two UFC losses have come against the reigning strawweight champion and a former Invicta champ with much more experience and savvy.

Clark is a tough Aussie who has shared the cage with some familiar names, but she’s struggled against more skilled opponents and just squeaked by in her biggest wins. She’s gutsy and durable and isn’t going to be overwhelmed by suddenly being in the co-main event, however I’m not sure if she has the all-around skills to get the job done against someone like VanZant.

After a year working with Chael Sonnen’s crew in Portland, I think we see a more grappling-heavy style from VanZant, who has always been a good scrambler and opportunistic in her pursuit of submissions. Look for her to use her speed and movement to get inside, bring this to the mat and work Clark over from there, eventually finding a finish.

Prediction: Paige VanZant

Kamaru Usman vs. Emil Meek

Kamaru Usman is a different type of fighter, man.

You know the guy Colby Covington thinks he is? Kamaru Usman is that guy – a powerhouse wrestler who can also lay you out if the fight stays standing. While Covington talks all kind of junk, Usman simply puts in work and piles up wins, having collected six straight victories in the UFC and 10 consecutive wins overall heading into this one.

Meek is a dangerous brawler who showed he can go the distance in his UFC debut, but this feels like a fight where Usman shows he’s on a different level than the wild Norwegian. As much as I want to see these two stand and slug is out, I fully expect this to be a takedown heavy affair where Usman breaks Meek’s spirit before breaking him down physically and getting the stoppage.

Prediction: Kamaru Usman

Darren Elkins vs. Michael Johnson

I’m not sure what to make of this fight because on paper, Johnson is an intriguing addition to an already loaded division and has the power and hand speed to be a factor at featherweight. But he’s always been a guy with suspect Fight IQ to me and I’m not sure how much better he’s going to be dropping down in weight.

The one thing that I know for sure heading into this one is that Elkins remains criminally underrated and one of the toughest outs in the UFC. You don’t catch a beating like the one he took against Mirsad Bektic only to rally back and get a stoppage of your own in the dying seconds of the fight without having insane resolve, tons of heart and an unbreakable spirit.

Thinking about how this might play out, I keep going back to Johnson’s fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov and while Elkins isn’t the same kind of grappler as the unbeaten lightweight contender, he’s a very good wrestler and tenacious enough to eat some shots in order to get inside and take this to the floor. Plus, he’s a former lightweight as well, so it’s not like Johnson is going to be significantly bigger than him or anything.

As much as Johnson getting a win at home in St. Louis in his divisional debut would be a nice story, I think Elkins keeps his winning streak going by earning the kind of dominant victory that forces everyone to start thinking about him as a potential contender in this division the rest of the year.

Prediction: Darren Elkins

Preliminary Card Picks

James Krause def. Alex White
Matt Frevola def. Marco Polo Reyes
Irene Aldana def. Talita Bernardo
JJ Aldrich def. Danielle Taylor
Jessica Eye def. Kalindra Faria
Mads Burnell def. Mike Santiago
Kyung Ho Kang def. Guido Cannetti

 

UFC 219: Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC 219: Punch Drunk Predictions

Here we go, fight fans – it’s the last UFC event of the year and it’s a good one!

Featuring a championship main event between the most dominant female fighter of the past decade (Cris Cyborg) and a former champion who has already knocked off an icon once before (Holly Holm), UFC 219 is a terrific blend of big stakes, big names and quality preliminary card fights that should entertain.

Rather than warming you up to it any more, I’m going to assume that if you’re here reading this piece on this site, you’re already stoked and just looking to know who I think will emerge victorious, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer.

Here are my thoughts.

These are the UFC 219 Punch Drunk Predictions.

Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm for the UFC women’s featherweight title

I think there is a way for Holm to win this fight – stay outside, pick her spots, stick and move and hope Cyborg gets tired – but I just don’t see her being able to take big shots from the Brazilian standout long enough to edge out a tepid decision.

One of the things I always find interesting when we’re breaking down Cyborg fights is how someone always thinks the next opponent is the one who is going to show that her gas tank is suspect by taking her into the championship rounds and beating her once she gets tired. A big reason that hasn’t happened yet is because Cyborg is an ultra-talented fighter who pressures well and wears you down under a frequently more patient, but powerful approach. It’s hard to take someone into deep water when they’re drowning you in the shallow tides.

I believe Holm will get out of the first round and land some of the clean left hands that she hit Ronda Rousey with in their fight, but overall, I think she’s going to end up getting overwhelmed and put away just like everyone else.

Prediction: Cris Cyborg

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Edson Barboza

Let me start by saying I stand by my column earlier this week stating that Barboza is being overlooked and that feels really weird to me because he’s a tremendous fighter and a dangerous finisher facing a guy that is kind of hittable in Nurmagomedov.

He could win. He could knock “Nurmy” out and surprise a whole lot of people.

But I don’t think he’ll do it.

Between writing that piece and this piece, I went back and re-watched Nurmagomedov’s win over Michael Johnson and I sat here giggling at how goddamn dominant he is on the ground. This happened just a couple hours after I talked to the unbeaten lightweight standout for a UFC.com feature that includes lines like “wrestling and Khabib are the same” to explain his prodigious acumen on the ground and “my background is to smash opponents,” which is exactly what he did to Johnson at UFC 205.

And I think he’ll end up doing it to Barboza here as well.

Prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov

Dan Hooker vs. Marc Diakiese

The Marc Diakiese hype train was slowed a little last time out as “The Bonecrusher” dropped a sluggish decision to Drakkar Klose, but he gets a favourable bounce-back opportunity that should be contested exclusively on the feet here against Hooker, a seven-fight UFC veteran who has alternated wins and losses over that stretch and enters off a knockout finish of Ross Pearson in June.

When I say this is a “favourable bounce-back opportunity” for Diakiese, I’m not trying to throw shade at Hooker, but rather just call it like I see it and the way I see it, Diakiese is a very good prospect with excellent striking who is going to continue to improve in big chunks over the next couple years as he keeps working at American Top Team and Hooker is a middle of the pack fighter who has some weapons, has some skills, but isn’t as polished or explosive of his British opponent.

Maybe he proves me wrong and catches Diakiese with the same kind of nastiness he used to put Pearson down back in the summer, but looking at whom he’s beaten and he has gotten the better of him in the cage, I give the edge to Diakiese and I think he wins going away.

Prediction: Marc Diakiese

Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza

This is the most interesting fight on the main card to me because Calvillo is still very much a work in progress even though she’s hustled into the Top 10 this year, while Esparza is established and seasoned, but still has glaring holes in her game.

Everything about this fight comes down to who can control the action on the canvas because neither woman is particularly skilled or polished when it comes to throwing hands. Calvillo is the better scrambler, but Esparza has the more robust takedown game and has historically done a good job of working just enough to maintain top position once she gets you to the ground.

As much as I like what Calvillo has been able to do so far this year and believe she still has another level she can reach, this is one of those “you’ve got to show me you can win this fight before I can pick you to win this fight” deals for me. Dragging Joanne Calderwood to the ground and riding out dominant positions is one thing, but doing it to someone like Esparza is  completely different and until I see it happen, I’m siding with the former champion.

Prediction: Carla Esparza

Carlos Condit vs. Neil Magny

On pedigree and skill set, Condit wins this fight in a route. He’s a high output striker who is dangerous off his back as well, can pressure Magny to get inside his long jab and rough him up in the same way Lorenz Larkin roughed him up last year at UFC 202.

But here’s the thing: I was at Condit’s last fight and he got trucked.

He got trucked after coming back from a lengthy layoff where he was considering retirement and saying all the right things about having the hunger back and being ready for what Demian Maia had to offer and he still got trucked. So it’s hard for me to sit here 16 months after that – after Condit has gone away again and started working on other things and gotten another year older – and hear him saying all the right things and not be reminded of last August in Vancouver.

Magny is a competent welterweight – a very solid Top 10, Top 15 guy with a good jab, great motor and no glaring deficiencies. He’s only lost to really good fighters in the last couple years and while Condit was a really good fighter, I’m not sure he still is. I need to see it before I can believe it again, so I’m picking Magny.

Prediction: Neil Magny

Preliminary Card Predictions

Khalil Rountree def. Michal Oleksiejczuk
Rick Glenn def. Myles Jury
Marvin Vettori def. Omari Akhmedov
Matheus Nicolau def. Louis Smolka
Tim Elliott def. Mark De La Rosa

UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos Punch Drunk Predictions

As I said in my column this week for The Province, I think this weekend’s FOX event in Winnipeg is going to be an avalanche of awesomeness that sends people into the Christmas break before UFC 219 on a high.

From start to finish, this event is loaded with combustible matchups that should produce explosive results and add to what has been a really entertaining final couple months in the Octagon.

But who will leave Winter-peg with their hand raised in victory?

Here are my thoughts.

These are the UFC on FOX: Lawler vs. dos Anjos Punch Drunk Predictions.

Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos

This is such a compelling fight to me because Lawler isn’t far removed from being champion, still has tremendous takedown defense and can take apart pretty much anyone in the division in a striking battle on any given night, while dos Anjos put on a clinic against Neil Magny back in Edmonton and has the kind of pressure style with strong grappling at his disposal that could be problematic from “Brutal Bob” Lawler.

People are going to think this is weird when I say it, but I’m picking dos Anjos based on current/recent form, even though he’s 2-2 over his last four and Lawler is 3-1 with a couple successful title defenses in there. But please, hear me out.

I think the Rory MacDonald fight took a toll on Lawler the same way it did MacDonald and after another brawl with Carlos Condit, he got caught by Tyron Woodley. While he rebounded with a good win over Cowboy Cerrone, he wasn’t the same menacing force we’re used to seeing, especially when you consider how good Darren Till looked dispatching Cowboy in the first round three months later.

While dos Anjos dropped back-to-back outings to end his time at lightweight, we’e since heard the horror stories about his weight cut prior to his bout with Eddie Alvarez and going the distance with Tony Ferguson is no easy feat. After a good, not great debut at welterweight against Tarec Saffiedine, he looked scary-good opposite Magny at UFC 215.

I think the likelihood of seeing a similarly strong performance from him here is greater than the potential of Lawler putting it on him early and putting him away. I have a feeling dos Anjos shines here and makes the UFC strongly consider awarding him a title shot in the first half of 2018.

Prediction: Rafael dos Anjos

Ricardo Lamas vs. Josh Emmett

Normally, I would give this a lot of thought and break it down in detail because Emmett is tough and durable, but homeboy missed weight by a couple pounds on Friday and Lamas was already salty about having his original opponent (Jose Aldo) pulled so he could fight for the title, which is the second time that has happened to the Top 5 fixture in four years.

Lamas is out to prove that he’s deserving of another title opportunity and a second bout with Max Holloway and I think he delivers a dominant performance here.

Prediction: Ricardo Lamas

Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry

I get that Perry is slightly unhinged and completely unfiltered, which makes him an interesting interview and general curiosity, and that he carries a bunch of dynamite around in his hands, which always makes him a threat. That being said, I’m not sold on “Platinum” being anything more than a middle of the pack wild card in the welterweight division – a guy that collects some highlight reel wins and talks a bunch of nonsense, but ultimately fails to crack the Top 10.

Ponzinibbio is far from unstoppable, but he’s proven himself against quality competition and is the more seasoned, complete fighter of the two. While Perry is always capable of landing that one blow that brings the proceedings to a sudden halt, “Gente Boa” has power in his hands as well and has shown far more poise and patience in the Octagon to date.

As always, Perry will come out of the gate fast and throw smoke the entire time he’s in there, but look for Ponzinibbio to frustrate him with movement and counters until he connects with something stiff and settles things inside the distance.

Prediction: Santiago Ponzinibbio

Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov

This is the fight I have had the most trouble with because despite his advanced age and slowly diminishing skills, Teixeira a tough old cuss and capable of putting Cirkunov down with one of his patented clubbing hooks.

Youth and athleticism are on the side of the Latvian-Canadian grappler, but Teixeira is no slouch on the canvas either, so it’s not like Cirkunov can rush in, blast a double and grind out the win from top position. The usual path to beating Teixeira has been to out-work him on the feet and avoid his big punches and I’m not completely sold on Cirkunov’s ability to do that yet.

But I’m gonna roll the dice on the younger, fresher, more mobile fighter and see what happens.

Prediction: Misha Cirkunov

Preliminary Card Picks

Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier
Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart
Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando
Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts
Abel Trujillo def. John Makdessi
Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose
Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva

UFC Fresno: Punch Drunk Predictions

UFC Fresno: Punch Drunk Predictions

As per usual when it’s fight week, but not pay-per-view fight week, there have been lots of cracks about “UFC Fresno” being an actual thing and how all these Fight Night events are problematic.

As per always, I think it’s mostly a bunch of noise from people who want every show to be the best show ever and prefer to complain about just about everything rather than accepting there are five different types of UFC events.

When we’re headed into a Level 2-type show like we are this weekend in Fresno, it’s about enjoying the opportunity to see more from a few solid prospects (Hello Eryk Anders! Greetings Merab Dvalishvili!) with a couple really good fights tossed in there too.

Seriously – there are two Top 10 pairings, plus a Top 15 matchup and the return of “Hick Diaz.”

That’s a nice little Level 2 Saturday night fight card if you ask me.

Here are my thoughts on who will emerge victorious.

These are the UFC Fight Night: Swanson vs. Ortega Punch Drunk Predictions.

Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega

This is a classic “veteran vs. upstart” battle similar to the one we got in Gdansk, Poland earlier this year between Darren Till and Donald Cerrone, but while the young Scouser got the better of “Cowboy,” I think we see the veteran get the best of it in this one.

Ortega has looked pretty good throughout his five-fight UFC run and earning four straight fights by third-round stoppage is crazy and speaks to the way he’s always working to get the finish, rather than happily coasting to the cards. But in his last two bouts – wins over Clay Guida and Renato Moicano – he’s needed those finishes in order to avoid going to the cards in a close fight that could produce his first career loss.

Given the way Moicano was able to have success on the feet against him, I just don’t see how Ortega manages to survive the offensive onslaught Swanson will bring from the jump. “Killer Cub” has more power, better movement and more creativity than Moicana and while I remain high on Ortega’s overall potential, I’m still leaning towards this being the wrong matchup at the wrong time for the laid back prospect from Torrence.

Prediction: Cub Swanson

 Jason Knight vs. Gabriel Benitez

First and foremost, I love that Knight is completely down with the “Hick Diaz” moniker; it makes me feel comfortable using it knowing that he self-identifies as a hick.

Secondly, I think he rolls here and shows that he should be considered alongside guys like Ortega, Yair Rodriguez and Mirsad Bektic as one of the top twenty-something talents in the featherweight division. He had his “face a veteran” fight last time out, lost to Ricardo Lamas and pulled out a bunch of positives from that performance, all of which will help him a great deal going forward.

It won’t necessarily show here because I think he’s head-and-shoulders better than Benitez and should handle him with relative ease, but still. Knight will be a Top 10 fixture pretty soon.

Prediction: Jason Knight

Marlon Moraes vs. Aljamain Sterling

This is a terrific fight between the No. 7 and No. 8-ranked fighters in the bantamweight division and if you can’t get hyped for that, I’m not sure you can honestly identify yourself as a fight fan.

Seriously.

Moraes just collected a win over John Dodson on November 11 and jumped the opportunity to get right back in the cage when Sterling’s original opponent, Rani Yahya, was forced to the sidelines. That was a good matchup for “Aljo,” but this one isn’t so favourable.

Listen – I like Sterling, but I still haven’t seen enough from his standup to think he’s able to hang on the feet with a dangerous striker like Moraes. While the possibility is there for him to take the “Human Jansport” approach and wrestle Moraes, the former WSOF champ trains with dudes like Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez, so I’m not sure he’s going to just get completely controlled in the grappling department.

My guess is that Moraes keeps this in kicking range, beats up Sterling’s lead leg and out-strikes him over the course of 15 minutes.

Prediction: Marlon Moraes

As for the rest of the card… 

Scott Holtzman def. Darrell Horcher
Eryk Anders def. Markus Perez
Benito Lopez def. Albert Morales

Alexis Davis def. Liz Carmouche
Luke Sanders def. Andre Soukhamthath
Alex Perez def. Carls John de Tomas
Merab Dvalishvili def. Frankie Saenz

Iuri Alcantara def. Alejandro Perez
Davi Ramos def. Chris Gruetzemacher
Trevin Giles def. Antonio Braga Neto