I am doing fight predictions slightly different this week as some will have in-depth analysis while others will be thinner.
Prelims; @5PM/ET on ESPN/ESPN+
Nathaniel Wood (16-4) vs. John Castaneda (17-4): This is the first fight on the card and should be a great card. The reason this is one of my two prelims to watch is simply Nathaniel Wood. He is a top prospect in the UFC and his career is bright as can be. His opponent is a new comer to the UFC. John is coming in with a massive underdog status. He comes into this fight off an impressive victory in which he picked up a arm triangle choke submission in the second round. He is ranked as one of the top american bantamweights in the world that isn’t in the UFC. I do think Castaneda could be good in the UFC, but Wood is a top level striker with great ground game skills and the ability and desire to finish a fight anywhere. I believe Wood will stop him in round 2 via TKO and get himself back on track in the UFC bantamweight division.
Ramazan Emeev (18-4) vs. Niklas Stolze (12-3): We move on to the welterweight division in what should be an interesting fight. Niklas is another debut fighter to the UFC roster. Stolze is a good fighter who I truly believe belongs on the UFC roster win or loss in this fight. Niklas trains in the same gym as McGregor, Dillon Danis, and Artem Lobov. He has great coaching and can truly bring some underrated promise. His opponent Emeev has had success in the UFC and trains out of ATT. He needs to prevent being upset here if he wants to get back on track in this division after his decision loss to Anthony Rocco Martin. This fight will most likely go the distance though I believe Emeev survives this fight via 29-28 unanimous decision victory.
#13 Bethe Correia (11-4-1) vs. Pannie Kianzad (13-5): The first woman’s fight of two on the card takes place in the bantamweight division. Pannie is 1-2 in the UFC and desperately needs a win to remain employed by the top MMA organization in the world. The formula for beating Bethe is always going to be the same thing, push the pace, don’t let her get comfortable and land her kicks. If Pannie keeps Bethe backing up she will dominate this fight and pick up a much needed and crucial win. Bethe is going to need to avoid being backed down, if she pushes the pace and uses her kicks she will absolutely dominate and stop this fight early. Bethe is my pick to win here as I believe she will land some leg kicks early and stop Pannie from being able to move forward and produce much. Bethe wins this fight in round 3 via TKO following a beautiful headkick.
Tanner Boser (18-6-1) vs. Raphael Pessoa Nunes (10-1): A heavyweight brawl between two men looking to stop the other as both have a finish rate above 50%. Both fighters only loss in the UFC comes to Ciryl Gane who is a top rising UFC prospect. I think in this fight Tanner has an advantage in the striking exchanges as far as skills go while Nunes will most likely have the power advantage. The longer this fight goes I believe Boser has the advantage as his gas tank is better and would be able to pick apart Nunes more as the fight continues. Don’t be shocked though to see Nunes land a couple big staggering blows, but Boser wins this fight surviving the damage and picks up a 30-27 decision victory.
Movsar Evloev (12-0) vs. Mike Grundy (12-1): This fight is going to be an interesting one in the featherweight division. Evloev needs to keep this fight standing to use his advantage in striking to win this fight. Grundy will hold a superior advantage on his opponent if this fight goes to ground though and would probably lock up a submission shortly after the fight hits the mat. The odds makers have a fairly good favorite on Evolev in this one, but I personally have Grundy winning via 2nd round submission victory.
Tom Aspinall (7-2) vs. Jake Collier (11-4): This fight in the heavyweight division should honestly end pretty fast. Collier is coming off a 30 month layoff from the MMA world and is set to return to fight a top prospect in the heavyweight division. Aspinall is a man with a 100% finish rate and a powerful dominant fight style. I truly believe Aspinall has this fight easily under control and picks up a win in the first round within three minutes. Aspinall by 1st round TKO.
Nicolas Dalby (18-3-1-1) vs. Jesse Ronson (21-10): The welterweight division takes the spotlight here as we watch two fighters who have struggled in the UFC. We haven’t seen Ronson since 2014 inside the UFC octagon. Dalby had a successful return after a three year hiatus against Alex Oliveira last year. Both fighters will be in need of a win to keep a spot on the roster. Dalby does hold a draw against Till in his UFC career which is something that shows his abilities and potential. Ronson is coming into this fight 1-2 in his last three outside the UFC, which makes his appearance here even more surprising. I have Dalby winning this fight via decision 30-26 unanimous.
Francisco Trinaldo (25-7) vs. Jai Herbert (10-1): The main event of the prelims takes place in the lightweight division. Jai is a UFC newcomer with a high ceiling and a 90% finish rate. His one career loss comes to a UFC debut fighter fighting on the same card, Rhys McKee. Jai is incredibly talented with a very underrated ground game due to his dominant striking. Trinaldo is still a very dangerous fighter at the age of 41. Trinaldo is going to need to push the pace to avoid Jai from getting comfortable and dominating this fight. Trinaldo comes into this fight as a slight favorite due to his veteran skill-set and UFC cage experience. I believe the odds makers have this one wrong and would feel comfortable betting on Jai, Herbert wins this one in round 1 via TKO.
UFC Main Card @ 8 PM/ET on ESPN/ESPN+:
Khamzat Chimaev (7-0) vs. Rhys McKee (10-2): We start the main card off in the welterweight division. This fight has the potential for FOTN and possibly a POTN. Rhys is a good fighter who is debuting with a tough test ahead of him. Rhys is a 24 year old prospect in the welterweight division. He has a 100% finish rate with a great skill set to be dominant in the UFC. His opponent Khamzat made his debut 10 days ago with an impressive second round submission victory. Khamzat has the potential of a future champion in the UFC who might remain undefeated on the path to said belt. This fight is honestly going to be incredible as either fighter could truly pull of a great victory and move towards the rankings already as they both come in with promise. Khamzat wins this fight via 3rd round submission victory following a knockdown and taking McKee’s back.
Alex Oliveira (20-8-1, 2NC) vs. Peter Sobotta (17-5-1): This fight in the welterweight division is probably going to avoid the inconsistent and horrendous judges score cards. I believe this will be stopped as we have two fighters who love making the fans watching around the world tweet about. Sobotta will look to get Alex to the mat and land a submission. Alex is going to hope Sobotta will stand and exchange as that is his element and honestly where he just seems to have fun, which is great for the UFC. I am really excited for this fight, but I believe Alex Oliveira gets the win after being taken down a few times he gets a needed round 3 TKO after two tight rounds.
Paul Craig (12-4-1) vs. Gadhimurad Antigulov (20-6): This LHW fight just like the previous fight will most likely avoid the score card of the fairly unreliable judges. I believe both fighters will be looking for a way to get this fight to the ground as their submissions prowess is undeniable. The question is who gets this fight to the ground and do they hold the advantage on the mat. I think this one has an intersting finish, Gadhimurad I believe gets the takedown but Craig locks in the arm triangle submission from the bottom in round 2.
#7 Carla Esparza (17-6) vs. #9 Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2): Along to the strawweight division we go. Carla is rolling as of late going 3-0 of late. She is going to need to show the type of fighting that earned her the first ever strawweight title if she wants any chance of beating the uprising star Marina Rodriguez. Marina is going to look to try and take Carla off her feet and lock in a submission. Carla is a great stand-up fighter who locks in the clinch a lot and lands short close shots. If Marina can out muscle Carla she will win this fight which I believe she will do and pick up an impressive decision win.
#14 Fabricio Werdum (23-8-1) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (18-6): This fight is what the fans have been dying for, Gustafsson’s heavyweight debut and against a legend. Werdum has struggled of late and with a loss here should consider taking off the gloves and go into retirement with his head held high as one of the top heavyweights in UFC history. Werdum could welcome Gus to the UFC heavyweight division with some powerful takedowns and grind out Gus, who himself hasn’t looked great his last couple fights. I hope for Gus’ sake the new division is the change he needed and we get to see his superior striking on display and see him comfortable again in the UFC octagon. This fight will have his moments, Gustafsson is my pick to win via decision, 30-27 making a dominant heavyweight debut.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (26-11-1) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-9): The co-main event of the evening is the third time we have seen these two legends battle it out. This is Nogueira’s final fight of his legendary career and quite possibly the final fight of Shogun’s legendary career. This fight will most likely be close while Nog will look for a power KO while Shogun will look to dominate the fight with his pressure. I love both of these guys as they are a large part of the reason many of us are fans of the UFC today and the current roster looked up to as well. I think Shogun goes 3-0 in this trilogy as he is 4-1-1 in his last 6 fights as Nog has been inconsistent towards the end of his career. Shogun wins this fight via unanimous decision.
#1 Robert Whittaker (21-5) vs. #5 Darren Till (18-2-1): This welterweight main event is going to be a fun throw down for the fans. Whittaker the former champ enters this fight as the favorite which makes sense as stylistically this fight should be exactly the one he needs to get back on track. Till is going to need to utilize his kicks and chop at Whittakers legs to be able to take advantage of this fight. If he does so he has a great chance at winning this fight if it stays standing. Whittaker is going to be able to use his fast striking and look to dominate with his power. If he takes down Till this fight is 100% his as his ground and pound is the most dominant in the entire division, especially against Till whose ground game is arguably second worst in the ranked division with exception to the champion. I think this fight has moments where Till looks dominant, but Whittaker wins via 4th round TKO from elbows on top. Whittaker with this win deserves a title shot no offense to Hermannson.
- Matt Koontz
feature photo- Joe Devlin Twitter