By Matt Koontz and Eric Jacinto
UFC Fight Night Glendale: Poirier vs. Gaethje: The main event of this card is going to be incredible. A fight I personally believe is worthy of being on a PPV main card. The Co-main was originally Condit vs. Brown but Matt Brown tore his ACL and replacing him is Alex Oliviera. This card also has Waterson on it and two rising stars in the middleweight division Vettori and Adesanya squaring off. I personally love this card and can’t wait for Saturday to happen. Here is my prediction for this card!
UFC Fight Pass Prelims (3:30 PM/ET):
Luke Sanders (11-2) vs. Patrick Williams (8-5): The first fight of the night takes place in the bantamweight division and it should be a good one to kick off a loaded card. Patrick is a 2-time former state champion wrestler. Patrick went to Arizona state where he was teammates with some of the best wrestlers the UFC has seen like Cain Velasquez, Ryan Bader, CB Dollaway, and John Moraga. This guy is a powerful wrestler with great takedowns and so far, hasn’t been taken down in his career in the UFC. His last fight he was doing well with Tom Duquesnoy before he got caught and got knocked out. He needs to improve his stand-up if he wants to become a well-rounded complete mixed martial artist. His opponent Luke Sanders is a skilled well-rounded martial artist. His last two fights he faced two tough losses, but they shouldn’t discourage him as he will turn it around and become a star in this division if he keeps polishing off his skill set. Sanders has stopped 6 of his wins in the first round. Sanders is a great athlete, but his takedown defense hasn’t been good in his career in the UFC and he will needed to have worked on it hard in camp for this fight or he will find himself in trouble on the mat early and often. I think this fight will take a little bit to get going but once it does Sanders uses his great striking skills to keep Williams from being able to shoot much and will land a late KO/TKO in round 1.
Matthew Lopez (10-2) vs. Alejandro Perez (20-6-1): This will be the 2nd straight fight in the bantamweight division. Alejandro Perez is 4-0-1 in his last 5 fights. Perez has struggled of late to finish fights, but he has the ability as he has stopped 10 in the first round and 14 overall. Perez is only really known for some reason for his boxing skills and striking inside the cage, but he has 5 submission finishes in his career. I do think Perez will look to use his boxing and footwork in this fight to win by way of KO and keep his hot hand of late. His opponent Matthew Lopez is a wrestler without a lot of power and I believe he was going to pull off a win in his last fight against Assuncao but he wound up getting TKO’d in round 3. That fight was easily the biggest test of his career, but I think it will have taught him a lot and he is going to utilize his new skills and lessons in this fight. He has proven to be mentally tough in the octagon so far and believe he will handle his loss the same way outside the octagon. I like what this fight brings for the fans. I think Matthew Lopez wins this one by way of 2nd round KO and moves into the top 15.
Arjan Singh Bhullar (7-0) vs. Adam Wieczorek (9-1): This heavyweight fight will be between two guys fighting for the 2nd time in the UFC for each of them. I hate to bash fights but if they both fight the way they did in their first fights in the UFC this fight will be the least exciting one on the card. Adam, I believe could become a good fighter in the UFC as his one pro loss was to Marcin Tybura before they were both in the UFC. Adam has stopped all but one of his professional fights 5 of which by submission and 3 by KO. In his UFC debut he withstood Anthony Hamilton’s takedowns and outlasted him for the lone non-stoppage and picked up a unanimous decision. One thing I really see as a positive for Adam is that he has the skill set to fight on the mat which a lot of younger heavyweights seem to be lacking. Adam also has some pretty incredible stamina and a gas tank in the heavyweight division is a great thing to see. Now his opponent Arjan is undefeated and an Olympic wrestler for Canada. Arjan is openly confident in himself and will be coming into this fight very confident he can handle this one and make a bigger name for himself. I think Arjan will need to improve his striking skills to become a complete and well-rounded fighter in this LHW division. I believe this fight will be slower paced but it could still be a decent fight because I believe both fighters had octagon debut jitters in their last fights and could make something of this fight. I have a feeling Adam Wieczorek is going to win this fight by unanimous decision giving Arjan his first professional MMA loss.
Dhiego Lima (14-6) vs. Yushin Okami (34-11): For this fight we step into the welterweight division between two UFC veterans who have recently returned to the octagon. Yushin is making his second appearance in his second stint in the UFC. Before he left the UFC in 2013 he was part of the organization for 6 years and now has returned after 4 years away in other organizations. His return fight was at light heavyweight which he shouldn’t be fighting at and didn’t last long as he was submitted by OSP in round 1. I am excited to see his official UFC return to his natural welterweight division. Yushin if he is back to his normal self has a great cardio and sets an aggressive pace because he knows he can rely on his cardio to back him. I expect we will see him go for takedowns and take a dominant position on top and use his phenomenal ground and pound. I love watching Yushin dominate and drop heavy hands and elbows from top position when he takes his opponents down. Now his opponent Dhiego Lima is also making his 2nd fight in his 2nd stint in the UFC after losing to Jesse Taylor in TUF redemption finale. Jesse Taylor eventually had his blood work come back tainted which makes me wonder if the fight would have gone slightly differently. Lima is a well-rounded fighter with 8 stoppages under his belt 5 by way of submission and 3 by KO. His biggest weakness entering this fight is his takedown defense and he will need it because as I said if Okami gets top position and can land his shots this one won’t last long at all. Lima would be best off keeping this fight standing and avoiding this fight going to the mat unless he can get dominant position on the mat then he is a threat to submit Okami. I really think this fight could be worth the subscription fee of UFC.tv alone. I am really excited for this one. I think Yushin will use his size advantage and take this one to the mat and get his ground and pound going early. I believe Okami wins via 1st round TKO in his return to his welterweight division.
Shana Dobson (3-1) vs. Lauren Mueller (4-0): This fight in the women’s flyweight division should be a good one as Shana got herself ranked with her first fight in the UFC until Ashlee Evans-Smith broke into the rankings this week, and she will be taking on a good young flyweight Lauren Mueller. Lauren has a good striking game and has only one stoppage being a KO but it still needs some slight improvement if she wants to find her way up in this division. Mueller is a blue belt in BJJ and I believe is continuing to improve her BJJ skills and could become a dual threat in this division soon. She should have the advantage in this fight on the mat and might look for a takedown after she establishes her threat standing. Her opponent Shana is a very skilled striker and her head movement and ability to keep herself on the outside is pretty impressive. Her one career loss is to the current Flyweight champion Nicco Montano. Shana is coming off her KO/TKO win in her UFC debut and her first stoppage finish in her career. Now this fight will be fun for the fans as we get a glimpse of two women trying to get themselves into the rankings to stay. I believe Mueller will find a way to win this one and it will by way of unanimous decision.
Gilbert Burns (12-2) vs. Dan Moret (13-3): The main event of the UFC fight pass prelims is going to take place in the lightweight division. Dan Moret is making his UFC debut here and draws a really tough opponent to make a debut against. Moret is a well-rounded fighter, he has a purple belt in BJJ. Moret has seven wins by submission and only two by way of KO, he has stopped 6 fights in the first round in his professional career as he doesn’t tend to come out slow. This fight will be interesting as both fighters have great skill sets on the mat. Now Moret’s opponent is Gilbert Burns. Gilbert is a 4-time world Jiu-jitsu champion and he loves the armbar. Now his standup is underrated because of how good his takedown and ground game skills are but, he has a ton of power in his fists and can land some devastating shots on his feet to end fights. He won his last fight by KO/TKO displaying his powerful hands and striking skills. I know a lot of fans find fights that stay on the mat to be fairly boring but personally I hope this fight goes to the ground and these two put on a show for us all. I think in the end Burns has the superior skill set and the size advantage and will pick up a 2nd round submission victory.
FOX Prelims (6 PM/ET):
#14 (13) Krzysztof Jotko (19-3) vs. NR (15) Brad Tavares (16-5): We kick off the televised prelims in the middleweight division between two UFC.com ranked fighters. Brad Tavares has seemed to put things together lately as he has picked up 3 wins in a row, but I believe he needs to do more as he has let the judges decide his fate in the last three. Tavares is a tough fighter who is really hard to prevent his moving forward regardless of the damage he receives during a fight. Tavares needs to work on his gas tank a bit because he seems to fade midway through round 2 and continues to fade as the fight goes. Tavares does have the skill set though to dominate a fight and impress the fans watching and in attendance. Now his opponent Jotko is coming in on a 2-fight losing streak after getting knocked out by Uriah Hall. Jotko is an unpredictable striker with an unorthodox style. His unique striking style could surprise Tavares and make it hard for him to use his aggressive style. Jotko if he takes his opponent to the mat lands impressive hammer fists and elbows from top position. This fight could go back and fourth as either fighter can rock the other a little bit but keep coming. I am excited for this one and, I believe in the end we will see Jotko’s losing streak come to an end and pick up a 2nd round KO/TKO.
#7 (6) Wilson Reis (22-8) vs. #10 (10) John Moraga (18-6): This ranked flyweight battle will most likely go to the mat and be a great fight. John Moraga is coming in on a 2-fight win streak and his last win was very impressive. Moraga is a powerful striker with an improving stand-up between each fight we see him. I do think regardless that Moraga has the advantage in this fight on his feet we will see him use his wrestling skills and takedown abilities to get this to the mat. Once he gets the fight to the mat he will use some ground and pound to open Reis’ guard and slip in a submission. I know a few fights ago Moraga debated retiring and it made me sad to think of that, but I am glad he changed gyms and is now firing on a new cylinder. His opponent Wilson Reis is a very strong powerful fighter with a phenomenal ground game. Wilson is coming into this fight on a 2-fight losing streak, one of which is to the champion Demetrious Johnson. Reis is a black belt in BJJ who has some good ground and pound as well. Reis has some decent boxing skills but has not finished polishing them off as he has never finished a fight by KO as all 10 of his finishes have been by way of submission. This fight might be interesting if they keep this one standing, but if it goes to the mat we will see BJJ vs wrestling which lately has seemed to favor wrestling. This fight will be interesting. I have Moraga pulling off his 3rd straight win which he will get by way of unanimous decision.
Muslim Salikhov (12-2) vs. Rick Rainey (13-4): This fight will take place in the welterweight division between two knockout artists. Rick Rainey will be making his UFC debut in this fight. Rainey is coming in on a 2-fight win streak before his anticipated UFC debut. His nickname sniper is appropriate because this guy has a 77-inch reach which is huge for this weight class. This guy has the ability to land and keep himself untouched by his opponent which makes him a very dangerous opponent and he will have a full 7 inches in this fight. Rainey has stopped 6 fights in the very first round and 8 fights total of his 13. His striking abilities are impressive but with that reach it goes without saying and his clinch skills are great and if he gets in trouble he can rely on the clinch to get his head back and still do damage. Now his opponent Muslim Salikhov lost his UFC debut and is looking for a way to turn it around in this fight. Muslim has the issues of starting to show fatigue after the first round and hopefully has worked on his conditioning coming into this fight. He has stopped all 12 of his wins, all 12 have been stopped in the first round. He has picked up 10 KO’s of those 12 stoppages. His Kung-Fu skills are incredible, he is the only non-Chinese fighter to win the Wushu Sanda King’s Cup. He is a 5-time Wushu Sanda world champion and an Olympic Sanda tournament champion. This fight will be an extremely interesting fight on the feet and the striking battle will be insane. I am hoping if there is no octagon debut nerves for Rainey and this fight goes as the skill sets say it could go. This fight is hard to call because of the range difference and the unknown factor of the ability to close the distance for Muslim. I think in the end we will see the distance work and Muslim tire trying to close the distance. Rick Rainey wins his UFC debut in the 3rd round through a KO/TKO victory.
Tim Boetsch (21-11) vs. Antonio Carlos Junior (10-2, 1NC): The main event of the FOX prelims will be a battle of opposites in the middleweight division. Antonio Carlos Junior is a great fighter but his stand-up needs to improve if he wants to become a true contender in this division because he has become fairly one dimensional. His ground game is so impressive though because he is an offensive Jiu-jitsu fighter. He does have really powerful hands and the ability to drop people, but he just hasn’t figured out how to close a fight with his striking yet. I believe this fight will be a true test for him as he will be facing the true barbarian of the UFC. Tim Boetsch a true UFC vet with an aggressive pace and powerful hands will be looking to keep this fight standing and close the 5-inch reach gap between him and Antonio Carlos Junior. Boetsch is a truly powerful fighter with the ability to stop fights with one punch and he never seems to slow down no matter the damage done to him. This fight on the feet could be one-sided and, on the ground, it could be a little lopsided as well in the other direction. I believe that the 5-inch reach could be a little too much for Boetsch and Carlos Junior will get a knockdown in which he will take advantage on the mat and pick up a submission in round 3.
UFC FOX Main Card (8 PM/ET):
#8 (7) Michelle Waterson (14-6) vs. #11 (10) Courtney Casey (7-5): We start off the main card in the women’s strawweight division. Courtney Casey is a well-rounded fighter who lost her last fight to Felice Herrig. Casey has stopped all 6 of her stoppage victories in the first round, 3 by submission and 3 by KO. She is a former soccer player whose career was cut short by injury and has picked up MMA and keep improving and I believe we will see her improve even from her last fight. Courtney is so well-rounded that it won’t matter where this fight goes she will still have the ability to win against most opponents, but she will want to keep this fight away from the mat. Now her opponent Michelle Waterson, “the Karate hottie”, is also an extremely well-rounded fighter. Michelle uses her very impressive speed of her hands and her Karate skills to make opponents respect her and fear charging her. Waterson will have a 5-inch disadvantage when it comes to reach but she will use her legs to keep the distance factor to a minimum, at least she should. Now Waterson has stopped 9 of her 12 stoppages by submission and if this goes to the ground we will most likely see her lock in another one. That being said I truly think this will be a back and fourth battle between two women looking to turn around their luck. I think Waterson wins this fight using her superior skills, striking and ground game both. Waterson wins by way of 2nd round submission.
#15 (NR) Israel Adesanya (12-0) vs. Marvin Vettori (12-3-1): This fight will take place in the middleweight division and is a battle between two young prospects of this division. Marvin Vettori is the much bigger fighter in this battle and normally uses his power to wobble an opponent and then shoot for a takedown and lock in a submission. Vettori is a brown belt in BJJ and is continuing to improve. Each time I have watched him fight I have seriously been impressed and he has me very excited for his future in this division and the UFC. Vettori is going to be facing a massive disadvantage in reach and honestly striking skills alone. He will need to use his takedowns and get the fight to the mat and force his weight to tire Isreal and land a submission win once he tires Isreal. Vettori is a massive favorite on the mat for sure. That being said this fight as all fights start on the feet and if Vettori can’t get this one to the mat he will need to land a big heavy hand which he has the power to do and hope that Isreal doesn’t have a granite chin. Now his opponent is making his 2nd appearance in the UFC and is considered to be the UFC’s most exciting prospect. Isreal Adesanya has a gaping weakness on the mat but I believe greatly that he is improving his ground skills and will become a complete mixed martial artist. He is a creative fighter and throws shots from unpredictable angles. His Muay-Thai skills are incredible and his ability to finish a fight with those skills in obvious as he has stopped all 12 of his fights by KO/TKO. If this fight stays standing he will have a 6-inch reach advantage and a superior skill set. If it goes to the ground, we will see Vettori use his weight to smother and exhaust Adesanya and pick up a submission win. This fight is as simple as where does this fight go. I think we will see the reach advantage be the X-factor and keep Vettori from being able to close the distance and land the needed takedowns. I believe Israel Adesanya will win by way of 1st round KO.
#13 (12) Carlos Condit (30-11) vs. Alex Oliveira (17-4-1, 2NC): The Co-main event of the evening will take place in the welterweight division. Well this fight would steal the show from most cards but with the main event that is on this card it will be nearly impossible, but it is possible with this one. This fight will be a complete and utter war. This fight was originally Condit vs Matt Brown, but Brown tore his ACL and we got blessed and Oliveira stepped in and gave the fight fans a truly incredible fight. Condit is always ready to put on a war and willing to get bloodied, and never stop fighting regardless of the amount of damage he received. Oliveira has been in some pretty incredible brawls himself and will always be able to put on a display against his opponents as well. This fight will be a lot of back and fourth fun. I think both fighters will leave the night bloody and battered. I know he is the underdog, but I feel he is always underestimated and Oliveira will pick up the win in the 3rd round by way of submission once he knocks down Condit.
#3 (5) Dustin Poirier (22-5, 1NC) vs. #6 (6) Justin Gaethje (18-1): The main event of the night will take place in the lightweight division! I believe this is honestly the front runner for fight of the year before it even happens. These are two incredible fighters with no quit in them. Dustin is a powerful yet clinical and nearly flawless striker. Gaethje is a psycho and his striking is much more wild, and will eat 3 or 4 shots to land one and keep smiling. Neither fighter ever really seems to tire in their fights and both always march forward and land. If this fight goes to the ground at all it will be only due to a knock down which I believe we could see multiple knockdowns in this fight and see blood fly during it. If you want to know what to really expect in this one Israel Adesanya said it best, “light a match and step back”. This will be an incredible fight and I think clinical beats sloppy and a granite chin. Poirier wins this one in the 3rd round after a back and forth bloody brawl and a fight of the year candidate.
Eric Jacino's UFC on 29 Predictions:
#Division Ranking (MMA Record) NC No Contest
Preliminary Card on UFC Fight Pass (Six Fights):
Bantamweight Bout: Luke Sanders, (11-2) vs. Patrick Williams, (8-5)
Prediction: Luke Sanders via 1st Round TKO
Bantamweight Bout: Matthew Lopez, (10-2) vs. Alejandro Perez, (20-6-1)
Prediction: Alejandro Perez via Split Decision
Heavyweight Bout: Adam Wieczorek, (9-1) vs. Arjan Singh Bhullar, (7-0)
Prediction: Arjan Singh Bhullar via Unanimous Decision
Welterweight Bout: Dhiego Lima, (14-6) vs. Yushin Okami, (34-11)
Prediction: Dhiego Lima via Unanimous Decision
Women's Flyweight Bout: Shana Dobson, (3-1) vs. Lauren Mueller, (4-0)
Prediction: Lauren Mueller via Unanimous Decision
Welterweight Bout: Gilbert Burns, (12-2) vs. Dan Moret, (13-3)
Prediction: Gilbert Burns via 3rd Round TKO
Fox Prelims (Four Fights):
Middleweight Bout: #13 Krzysztof Jotko, (19-3) vs. #15 Brad Tavares, (16-5)
Prediction: Brad Tavares via 2nd Round TKO
Flyweight Bout: #6 Wilson Reis, (22-8) vs. #10 John Moraga, (18-6)
Prediction: John Moraga via Unanimous Decision
Welterweight Bout: Muslim Salikhov, (12-2) vs. Ricky Rainey, (13-4)
Prediction: Ricky Rainey via 3rd Round TKO
Middleweight Bout: Tim Boetsch, (21-11) vs. Antonio Carlos Junior, (10-2) 1 NC
Prediction: Antonio Carlos Junior via 1st Round Submission
Fox 29 Main Card (Four Fights):
Women's Strawweight Bout: #7 Michelle Waterson, (14-6) vs. #10 Cortney Casey, (7-5)
Prediction: Michelle Waterson via 3rd Round Submission
Middleweight Bout: Israel Adesanya, (12-0) vs. Marvin Vettori, (12-3-1)
Prediction: Israel Adesanya via 1st Round TKO
C0-Main Event, Welterweight Bout: #12 Carlos Condit, (30-11) vs. Alex Oliveira, (17-4-1) 2 NC
Prediction: Carlos Condit via Unanimous Decision
Main Event, Lightweight Bout: #5 Dustin Poirier, (22-5) 1 NC vs. #6 Justin Gaethje, (18-1)
Prediction: Justin Gaethje via Split Decision