After a mediocre UFC 215 card, the UFC returns a week later for a Fight Night in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Headlining the card, is a pair of middleweight contenders in former UFC Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold and former WSOF Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Champion David Branch. This will be Luke Rockhold’s first fight since losing the Middleweight title to Michael Bisping back in June of 2016. Injuries have kept out of action since and it will be interesting to see if he can shake off the rust against a formidable foe. Branch, in his second UFC stint, made a successful return defeating Krzystof Jotko via split decision at UFC 211. The victory was Branch’s eleventh straight and elevated him to this big fight against Luke Rockhold.
Anyways, let’s just get to the Predictions!
UFC Fight Night 116 Main Card On FOX Sports 1 (10 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch – Alright, so I’ve got Rockhold here. Now, Rockhold hasn’t fought in over a year and in his last fight, he lost his Middleweight title in a shocking knockout loss to Michael Bisping. Those are all factors favoring Branch, who enters this fight on an impressive eleven-fight win streak. Branch, who many hardcore fans remember, is the guy who violently got knocked out via a slam by Gerald Harris in his first UFC stint. Three fights later, Branch found himself cut by the UFC and I can’t say I would of ever predicted his success outside the UFC. He went 11-2, won both the WSOF Middleweight and Light Heavyweight belts simultaneously and even defended them multiple times. Super impressive to say the least, especially given that Branch was dubbed “boring” in his first UFC stint due to his grappling attack that led to smothering and zero attempts to finish a fight.
Anyways, despite Rockhold’s inactivity, he’s on another level than Branch. There is levels to this game and Rockhold is in the first tier, meanwhile Branch isn’t even sniffing the third tier. Rockhold’s a dynamic striker, with excellent grappling abilities and in top control, he’s a bonafide finisher. Anywhere this fight takes place will be dictated by Rockhold and I believe that he’ll finish this fight inside one. Even with the layoff and rust, Rockhold will drop Branch on the feet and then lock in a first-round submission victory!
170 lbs.: Mike Perry vs. Alex Reyes – Ouch! A short notice fight for both, but for Reyes this will be his debut. He will have to enter the octagon against a fearsome knockout artist, who has shown the ability to take a punch and keep coming forward like that of the Terminator. I commend him for signing up, but I can’t see how he pulls of the upset here. So with that, I got Perry via knockout!
185 lbs.: Hector Lombard vs. Anthony Smith – This is a solid fight, especially for the fans. I’ve been touting Anthony Smith for a bit and I feel as if he’s been underrated. He’s won two straight fights, both via knockout and his last came in the 3rd round of a fight he was losing. His durability and toughness have gotten him far, but will certainly be tested against Lombard. The aforementioned Lombard has lost three straight fights and I firmly believe his UFC career hangs in the balance here. He’s shown tremendous explosiveness and power in the first round of fights like Vitor Belfort, but as the fights goes into the later rounds, he fades.
Despite being 39 years old and clearly a decline in his abilities, I believe that Lombard will get the job done. If he mixes in some of his Judo and smothers Smith in top control, this could be a breeze. However, I’m confident on the feet too that Lombard can put away Smith. In fact, I’m predicting just that. Lombard via first-round knockout.
155 lbs.: Gregor Gillespie vs. Jason Gonzalez – Don’t know much about either, but I hear good things about Gillespie. He’s going to give up 3 inches in the reach department and will be towered over by 5 inches, so I’m intrigued to see how he handles the rarity of a 6’2 lightweight. Anyways, I’m going to make a blind prediction and side with Gillespie via TKO.
170 lbs.: Sergio Moraes vs. Kamaru Usman – It’s kind of crazy that Moraes is 6-1-1 in the UFC including a victory over Neil Magny. However, that was a younger and less skilled Magny who clearly felt the pressure in Brazil. Anyways, Usman is a future Champion in the Welterweight division and I’m certain of that. He’s got superior wrestling and his striking abilities have exponentially gotten better. I just hope he doesn’t fall in love with them, although he can in this fight. The only way Moraes can spring the upset is that if on his way to being taken down, he can transition into a submission attempt. Moreas surprisingly has power on the feet, but he’s super sloppy in his technique and it reaches an even worse state in the later rounds. So with that, I believe that Usman is going to dominate on the feet and eventually TKO Moraes.
265 lbs.: Justin Ledet vs. Zu Anyanwu – I know this dude Anyanwu is from Dana White’s Contender Series, but this is a tough fighter to debut against. Ledet is going to be 3 inches taller and have a 9 inch reach advantage, which is tremendous given his already top notch striking abilities. I foresee a knockout victory victory for Ledet.
UFC Fight Night 116 Prelims On FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Tony Martin vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier – Fun fight and I’m on the fence with this prediction, but I’ll side with Martin. While Martin looked promising earlier in his career, his ability to get himself into bad positions nearly derailed that promise. However, with three straight wins and an impressive display against Case, I believe he’s got a legit chance to make a run into cracking the rankings. As for OAM, he too has looked promising and his striking has improved to compliment his already legit grappling and ground game, but I’m not 100% percent sold yet. So with that, I’ve got Martin via decision
265 lbs.: Anthony Hamilton vs. Daniel Spitz – Now, I know Heavyweight’s crack the hardest and it leads to a higher chance of being finished. However, Hamilton has a shaky chin regardless and it’s a shame given his skill set. He’s talented, but insanely prone to being finished. And although Spitz looked terrible in his debut, I feel as if he can catch lightning in a bottle in this fight against Hamilton’s suspect chin. So with that, Spitz via TKO!
185 lbs.: Uriah Hall vs. Krzysztof Jotko – I’ve been super high on Jotko and I still am, but for some reason, I feel like Hall is finally going to show up. Hall has lost three straight fights and the last two via TKO. The once dubbed “Next Anderson Silva” is now fighting for his UFC career and it could be noted that his genuine kindness has dearly cost him. Can he finally realize that his opponents are trying to hurt him and shed his “kindness” when he enters the cage? I think so, Hall via TKO!
155 lbs.: Gilbert Burns vs. Jason Saggo – This should be an evenly contested fight, but I’m going to side with Burns. I believe that if can get top control at any point in this fight, he has the ability submit Saggo. However, I got Burns via decision.