The UFC returns to action down under, as the promotion makes it’s first visit to Perth, Australia. Originally, UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker was set to defend his title on home turf against Luke Rockhold. However, a staph infection among other illnesses sidelined the Champion. With no time table on Whittaker’s return, the UFC pitted number one contender Yoel Romero against Luke Rockhold for the Interim Middleweight title. However, Yoel Romero, who took this fight on relatively short notice, unfortunately failed to make weight. On the hand, Rockhold made weight, which allows him to capture the Interim Middleweight title. Romero will not be a Champion with a victory.
Anyways, Let’s get to the Predictions!
UFC 221 PPV Main Card (10 p.m. ET):
185 lbs.: Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero for interim Middleweight title (Only Rockhold) – This fight either goes two ways in my opinion. One, Romero comes out hunting for the early knockout. Considering he missed weight, his already iffy gas tank isn’t going to last five rounds against Rockhold. Romero needs to go after the shaky chin of Rockhold, one in which almost succumbed to David Branch. Two, Rockhold keeps distance and attacks the body at will with his patented leg kicks. The goal being to wear down Romero, eventually tripping him to the canvas and punishing him with arguably the best ground-and-pound in mixed martial arts. I mean, when Rockhold is in top control, there’s no getting up. Even worse, if you survive the round, you’re most likely gashed open.
So, either Romero knocks out Rockhold early or Rockhold drags the fighter into the later rounds and finishes Romero. While I lean Rockhold, something tells me that a Romero is going to hit that shaky chin and turn the lights out. So with that, I have Romero winning via knockout.
265 lbs.: Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes – This is a huge opportunity for Blaydes, but I think it’s too soon to fight the Mark Hunt’s of the world. I mean, Blaydes last two fights comes against the likes of Daniel Omielanczuk and Alexey Oleinik. Not exactly world beaters.
As for my prediction, I believe Mark Hunt shrugs off any takedown attempts by Blaydes and keeps this on the feet. While there, Hunt hurts Blaydes with power shots, eventually finishing him. So with that, I have Hunt winning via knockout.
265 lbs.: Cyril Asker vs. Tai Tuivasa – Like the Pedro vs. Safarov fight, this fight heavily favors Tuivasa. The Aussie comes into this bout undefeated at 8-0, with all eight wins coming via knockout. His opponent Asker has traded wins and losses, most notably getting knocked out against Walt Harris in 104 seconds and in the first round against a Light Heavyweight in Jared Cannonier. The trend of getting knocked out continues, so with that, I have Tuivasa winning via knockout.
170 lbs.: Li Jingliang vs. Jake Matthews – Odds-wise, this fight is closer than I think it should be. Matthews is a young talent, but he hasn’t quite hit his stride. His last two fights have been dreadful. First you had the Holbrook defeat, which is awful. Then he gets gifted a decision victory by the judges against Velickovic. Again, Matthews has lots of loads of potential. However, Jingliang has won four consecutive fights and he’s shown solid grappling, a granite chin and dynamite in his hands. This is a terrible fight for Matthews… So with that, I have Jingliang via knockout.
205 lbs.: Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov – This is a bounce back fight and one that heavily favors the Aussie Pedro. The only question is, will Safarov get finished in round one or two? I say second round. So with that, I have Pedro via second-round submission.
UFC 221 Prelims on FOX Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Damien Brown vs. Dong Hyun Kim – This has potential “Fight of the Night” written all over it. Both men are brawlers and I expect this one to be a war of nutrition. Brown has the edge in cardio, but it’s Kim who’s the more aggressive pressure fighter. Given this one’s in Australia, I’m going to side with the Aussie Brown. I’ll take the potentially home brewing in what I suspect to be a close fight. So with that, I have Brown winning via decision.
185 lbs.: Israel Adesanya vs. Rob Wilkinson – I’m super pumped for the debut of Adesanya. Already an accomplished kickboxer with a record of 50-5, Adesanya has transitioned into mixed martial arts with relative ease. With an 11-0 record, all 11 coming via knockout, Adesanya is going to rack up some unforgettable highlight reel knockouts in the UFC. Unfortunately for Wilkerson, who looked dreadful at the weigh-in’s, hes the sacrificial lamb to that highlight reel. So with that, i have Adesanya winning via first round knockout.
145 lbs.: Jeremy Kennedy vs. Alex Volkanovski – This is definitely an intriguing fight, one in which I expect to see a lot of wrestling and grappling. However, I believe that Volkanovski should edge this one out. He’s more of an active grappler, while Kennedy is more of the smothering type. Volkanovski is also immensely a better striker than Kennedy, which really isn’t saying much. It’s just that Kennedy is hot garbage on the feet. So with that, I have Volkanovski winning this via decision.
125 lbs.: Jussier Formiga vs. Ben Nguyen – Great fight, but I’m siding with the momentum Nguyen is riding. He’s won two straight fights, the most recent being a 49 second submission victory over Tim Elliott. Meanwhile, Formiga has traded wins and losses in his last five fights. Formiga, a perennial top five fighter for the last seven years, seemingly has never earned a UFC title shot. Each time Formiga fights in a title eliminator, he has fallen short. Not that this is a title eliminator, but it’s definitely a fight that could catapult the winner into one. Anyways, I’ve got Nguyen via decision.
UFC 221 Prelims on Fight Pass (6:30 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Mizuto Hirota vs. Ross Pearson – This is a tough fight to call. Pearson has lost four in a row, while Hirota had traded a win and loss in his last two fights. Given Pearson’s trajectory and the amount of punishment he’s endured his nine years in the UFC, I’m siding with Hirota. Pearson should easily have the edge on the feet, but it’s grappling that I think causes him to fall defeat for his fifth consecutive loss. Pearson would be wise to keep distance and pick apart Hirota with his jab, but he often gets lulled into a brawl. The exact area in which I believe will open up the takedown for Hirota. On top, Hirota is tough to deal with. So with that, I have Hirota via decision.
135 lbs.: Teruto Ishihara vs. Jose Quinonez – At one point, I thought Ishihara was a prospect to watch at Featherweight. He proved so initially, winning back to back fights via knockout. However, back-to-back losses followed. One against a .500% fighter in Artem Lobov and the other to Gray Maynard, who previously had one victory in five years.
Albeit my disappointment, I believe Ishihara wins this fight. For one, which could also be trouble given his cardio issues, he dropped down to Bantamweight. He should hold a strength advantage, which would aid a heavy wrestling attack that he’s capable of implementing. So with that, I’ve got Ishihara finally showing his Team Alpha Male based wrestling, winning via decision.
170 lbs.: Daichi Abe vs. Luke Jumeau – I wasn’t overly impressed with Jumeau in his UFC debut, nor in his second outing. On the other hand, Abe debuted against a massive and dangerous Welterweight in Hyun Gyu Lim. Although it was a relatively close fight, Abe showed in the last 20 seconds that he wanted it more, knocking down Lim to seal up the decision victory. In his second outing, I believe Abe will open up more against a less dangerous foe in Jumeau. So with that, I have Abe winning via knockout.