These are my predictions for Saturday, 7/18/20, fight card which includes the flyweight belt in the main event. I will provide analysis in each fight and a break down of what we should expect.
UFC Prelims @ 5 PM/ET on ESPN/ESPN+:
Carlos Felipe (8-0) vs. Serghei Spivac (10-2): We start the night off in the heavyweight division. Serghei is considered to be a prospect in the thin heavyweight division, especially after beating Tai Tuivasa. He has been handed a couple top fighters in Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura in which he was unsuccessful. He continues to show improvement though and at 25 years of age he could have a good future in the UFC. He is a guy you will see bide his time and wait for his opportunity to get a take down as his ground game is elite and has picked up 6 of his 10 wins by way of submission. His opponent Carlos Felipe is new to the UFC. I do worry about his first appearance with octagon jitters and the fact that he hasn’t had an mma fight since May 2017. Felipe though is going to have the edge standing, once he shakes the rust and jitters. This fight is going to be a normal battle of opposite comfort levels. I think we could see a bit of a slow fight and Spivac will benefit with a late round 3 submission victory.
Davi Ramos (10-3) vs. Arman Tsarukyan (14-2): We move on to the lightweight division in what could be one of the better fights on the undercard. Both of the fighters are bound for rankings and a potential run at the title some day in the future. Davi is a veteran of the octagon who was either ranked or a win away from being ranked before he took a loss to Islam Makhachev by decision. Davi needs to improve his stand up to move forward in this division as he tends to rely on his superior ground game and submission skills to get a win. HIs opponent Arman is a more well-rounded fighter with a higher ceiling. Arman comes into this fight off an impressive win over Aubin-Mercier. Arman is only 23 years of age and has a lot of promise to get a title around his waist in the future. Tsarukyan is going to need to apply the pressure in this fight to prevent Ramos from feeling safe shooting for a takedown and if he does that he is going to probably dominate this fight. Tsarukyan will win this fight in the 2nd round via TKO and put the 10-15 ranked lightweights on notice.
Malcolm Gordon (12-3) vs. Amir Albazi (12-1): The flyweight division is next to take the spotlight with two men making their debut in the UFC. Both guys have the skills to finish a fight which is always exciting in the flyweight division. This fight most likely won’t see the inconsistent and terrible judges scorecards. This fight will simply come down to who applies the pressure in this fight and controls it. Their skill set is equally well-rounded and could set up for a slow start to the fight as they try to figure each other out. Amir has impressed me more in what I have seen of him though stopping 11 of his 12 wins. Malcolm has stopped 10 of his 12 wins but all three of his losses from due to his chin being weaker. I feel that chin will be tested in this fight and cause him to pick up his 4th loss. Amir wins this one by round 2 KO.
Brett Johns (16-2) vs. Montel Jackson (10-1): This fight in the bantamweight division should be fun for the fans at home, as both of these guys know how to put on a show. Montel Jackson will have a 4.5 inch reach advantage in this fight. Montel in rolling on a three fight win streak in the UFC. Jackson does tend to absorb as many shots as he lands which could be dangerous in this division loaded with power strikers. I believe he has the talent to develop into a star, but he needs to start applying his skills in fights early instead of picking shots. His opponent Brett Johns only losses have come to the elite of this division in Pedro Munhoz and Aljo Sterling. Johns is an interesting fighter who averages nearly 4 takedowns per fight but eats shots picking his spot for a takedown. Johns only averages 3 significant strikes per minute while eating 4.7 strikes per minute. He needs to raise his striking defense and find a way to get his takedowns without eating so many shots or he won’t be able to crack the top 10. I think this fight has dangerous moments for both but Montel Jackson survives and picks up a 29-28 decision victory.
Joe Duffy (16-4) vs. Joel Alvarez (16-2): This fight will take place in the lightweight division between a vet, Joe Duffy, and a fairly new fighter in the UFC, Alvarez. Alvarez lost his debut in a decision where he was just dominated in striking exchanges and the fight never reached the mat and bounced back with a round 2 TKO in his second fight. He is actually a very skilled submission specialist that has been showing improvement with his striking. Alvarez will hold a 4 inch reach advantage in this fight and could use that to dominate this one. Now his opponent Joe Duffy is far from a nobody as he was Conor McGregors loss pre-UFC via submission. Joe has had a rough go in the UFC of late, but don’t let that make you take him any less serious entering this one as he actually holds the advantage on the mat in this fight. I think in round one Duffy takes some shots figuring out how to close the distance but once he does he dominates the fight. Joe Duffy wins by round 3 submission.
Grant Dawson (15-1) vs. Nad Narimani (12-3): The next fight on the card is a catchweight fight at 150lbs. Nad is a solid well-rounded fighter who tends to score and go to decision but does so with a dominant performance. Nad will need to understand though that this fight will probably not make it to decision and use his offensive style striking to pick up a win early. His opponent is a true killer as Grant Dawson is a true threat to the 145LB belt or 155lb belt depending which division he decides to fight in moving forward. Grant is 4-0 since joining the UFC stopping three of those four through submission. Grant has true potential as we have seen his striking improve not tat he has needed it much. I think he will dominate this fight and pick up a round 1 submission victory via rear naked choke.
Roman Dolidze (6-0) vs. Khadis Ibragimov (8-2): The main event of the prelims takes place in the light heavyweight division. Roman is a debut fighter with an impressive resume. He isn’t only unbeaten, but he has stopped all 6 fights via 3 submissions and 3 TKO/KO’s. He makes his debut against a fighter needing a win to stay in the UFC. Khadis is entering this fight on a 0-2 run since joining the UFC with losses to Da Un Jung and Ed Herman. Khadis has never been taken down in his short UFC career, but he eats way too many strikes so far per fight to be successful in the UFC. He needs to have improved his striking defense to pick up a win this weekend. I don’t feel this is a good fight for him to look to turn things around. Roman Dolidze picks up the win in round 2 by submission after scoring a knockdown.
UFC Main Card @ 8 PM/ET on ESPN/ESPN+:
#4 Alexandre Pantoja (22-4) vs. #7 Askar Askarov (11-0-1): We start the prelims in the flyweight division between two guys looking to make a statement for a title shot. Askar is coming off a hard fought win over Tim Elliot to put him right into the top of this divisions picture. Askar trains out of the same gym as UFC welterweight Muslim Salikhov and has shown he has the grit to make a serious contender in the flyweight division. His wrestling skill set is pretty incredible and could help him defend takedowns and feel comfortable in his stand up knowing he has that to lean on. His opponent Pantoja has all the skills to be a title contender now and with a win should get that shot. Pantoja is a very skilled well-rounded fighter with the determination to finish fights. Pantoja does alot of things well, the only issue I truly believe exists in his game is his takedown defense which could be a problem in this fight. Whenit comes down to it, I believe Pantoja suffers a scare but picks up a huge win for his career with a 30-27 decision win.
Ariane Lipski (12-5) vs. Luana Carolina (6-1): The women of the flyweight division take the stage here. Luana has only fought once in the UFC so far and it was in May 2019 in which she won, but it has been a while. Luana will have to step her game up to a new level as this is easily the toughest fight of her career. She has the skill set to be successful in the UFC. She does have a big test in Lipski though who has impressed me even in losses. Lipski does have a high finish rate in her MMA career, just not in the UFC which I feel she is looking to change. Lipski will look for her moment to land a takedown and grab a submission as I believe she has a massive advantage on the mat in this fight. In the end this fight will be close start to finish, Lipski will grab a late takedown to pick up a close 29-28 split decision victory.
Marc Diakiese (14-3) vs. Rafael Fiziev (6-1): We move closer to the main event with a great fight in the lightweight division. Fiziev is a Kazakhstani born fighter with a specialty in Muay Thai and trains out of Tiger Muay Thai in Thialand. We should expect to see him utilize his kicks and get to the clinch if possible when he can land elbows and show his dangerous skill set. Fiziev though with a Muay Thai background does have a fairly big weakness on the mat which someone like Diakiese can take advantage of. Marc is a good striker but he will have to apply pressure to beat the aggressive style of Rafael. If Diakiese applies the pressure he could neutralize Fiziev’s kicks and keep the fight the way he needs it to be successful. This fight will be back and forth, but I believe Diakiese pulls away some towards the end of the fight and picks up a decision victory.
#6 Jack Hermansson (20-4) vs. #7 Kelvin Gastelum (16-5-0-1): We have arrived at the co-main event of the evening between two of the top middleweights in the UFC. This fight is even on the betting odds entering Saturday. Kelvin is coming off a pair of losses and desperately needs to turn it around this weekend. Kelvin is a great fighter that can end a fight with a simple shot as he has sneaky power. Kelvin is a overrated wrestler though, and shouldn’t feel safe in this fight on the mat as I think his wrestling is inferior to Hermansson’s. Kelvin does have one hell of a chin which could help him tire Jack if he takes a heavy shot as he is not easy to put away. Entering this fight Hermansson has one HUGE advantage and that would be in way of his 6 inch reach advantage in this fight. I believe these two men have a exciting fight picking up FOTN honors when it’s all said and done , but the X-factor 6 inch reach gives Hermansson a KO victory in round 3. This will sadly end any future title hopes of Gastelum’s at 185LBs.
#1 Deiveson Figueiredo (18-1) vs. #2 Joseph Benavidez (28-6): We have arrived at the main event of the evening which is a battle for the vacant flyweight title. This fight happened in February but due to Figueiredo being unprofessional and missing weight it was not for the title. In that fight Figueiredo KO’d Benavidez in the 2nd round. This rematch should be interesting as they both know each other well and since each fighter made weight will be for the belt for sure. Benavidez will need to find a way to close the 3 inch reach disadvantage he suffers without taking a big shot like last time. If he does successfully get inside the pocket his faster, more accurate, and non-telegraphed shots could pick him up a win. Figueiredo will just need to do what he does best, use power shots while keeping this fight at range. If that doesn’t work get the fight to the mat and use his impressive ground skill set and pick up a submission win. This fight has a lot of tense feeling around it as both of these guys deserve to be title holders in the UFC but only one can be. I love Benavidez and truly wish he could be champion, but I have Figueiredo winning this fight in the 4th round via TKO.
- Matt Koontz
Feature photo from mmamania.