For the fourth consecutive week, the UFC is back in action. The promotion heads north, as they touch down in Canada’s capital, Ottawa. This will be the second time Ottawa has played host to the UFC. Headlining the event is a pair of Lightweight contenders in Al Iaquinta and Donald Cerrone. Both men are in a crowded division, with very little clarity on what awaits the winner. Perhaps a number one contenders fight against Tony Ferguson or even the “retired” Conor McGregor. However, the fight is first and its expected to be a doozy.
UFC on ESPN+ 9 Main Card (8 p.m. ET):
155 lbs.: Al Iaquinta vs. Donald Cerrone – What an awesome main event. In one corner, you got “Ragin” Al Iaquinta. The Long Island real estate agent, whom recently beat Kevin Lee in a grueling five round fight. Prior to that, he went five rounds with Khabib Nurmagomedov, ultimately losing via decision. In the other corner, you have a rejuvenated Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. Since becoming a father, Cerrone has rattled off two straight victories. Both against young hotshots whom were both favorites to win.
As for the prediction, I have Iaquinta. While Cerrone is an excellent striker and sneaky submission artist, I question his durability in a five round fight. Cerrone has said, the cut to Lightweight is extremely tough on his body and given he gone up and down weight classes, I can only imagine it taking its toll. Iaquinta is extremely durable and as well rounded as they come. Armed with relentless pressure and cardio, Iaquinta is going to put on a pace and striking volume that is going to eventually swarm Cerrone. My belief is that either in the later part of the third round or the fourth, Iaquinta’s strike totals are going to add up and he’s to win via TKO.
185 lbs.: Derek Brunson vs. Elias Theodorou – This fight either could end in devastating fashion or be a typical sloppy Theodorou fight. Given Brunson’s inconsistencies, this could very well lean toward a sloppy fight. However, I believe that Brunson needs to go back to being wild and head hunting in this particular fight. He has legit knockout power and to be honest, Theodorou doesn’t even remotely have any. Theodorou is tough as nails, but his putter patter punching and cardio are going to take a hit when he feels the power of Brunson. In my opinion, I see Brunson finishing Theodorou via TKO.
145 lbs.: Shane Burgos vs. Cub Swanson – Besides the main event, this is the best fight on the card. Two willing strikers, whom love to stand toe-to-toe and slug it out. Swanson, has lost three consecutive fights to the essentially three of the top five fighters in the division. Meanwhile, Burgos bounced back from his first professional defeat, with a submission victory over Kurt Holobaugh. In a fight I expect to take place almost entirely on the feet, I actually favor Burgos. I feel like Swanson has considerable slowed down in regards to output and durability. I believe the Doo Ho-Choi fight took a lot out of Swanson unfortunately. Burgos is younger and hungrier, throws with volume, has some pop, good submissions and despite losing by knockout, has a solid chin. All reasons why I side with Burgos via decision.
135 lbs.: Merab Dvalishvili vs. Brad Katona – This is a tough call, but I edge Katona. Even though Dvalishvili sets a tough pace and takes foes down at will, I believe Katona’s scrambling abilities will keep him upright the majority of the fight. On the feet, Katona is the cleaner striker and mixes in tons of kicks. In a close fight, I have Katona edging out the decision, perhaps via home cooking.
265 lbs.: Walt Harris vs. Sergey Spivak – For a guy as physically gifted as Harris, I’d expect better results. He’s got the size, the power and the makeup of a Heavyweight talent. Yet, he’s often hesitant to throw more volume, costing him fights in the process. From what I’ve seen about Spivak, is the complete opposite. He lacks power, but makes it up with an aggressive approach and volume striking. Spivak’s chin remains a question mark, but I prefer his style and momentum heading into this fight. So with that, I got Spivak winning via submission.
185 lbs.: Marc-Andre Barriault vs. Andrew Sanchez – This fight can go either way, but I’m leaning Sanchez. Despite cardio issues, he’s a good striker with excellent wrestling abilities. Against a knockout artist like Barriault, I expect Sanchez to avoid striking and go straight for the takedown. The hope is he doesn’t gas himself like in the past, but either way, I got Sanchez via decision.
UFC on ESPN+ 9 Prelims (5 p.m. ET):
135 lbs.: Macy Chiasson vs. Sarah Moras – This fight is going to get ugly, unless Moras can pull off a sneaky submission early. Chiasson is a big Bantamweight, and holds a sizable 4′ inch height and 5′ reach advantage in this fight. Chiasson has some legit power and has shown really strong takedown defense to start her UFC career. Given Moras is a poor striker and her only route to winning this fight taking down Chiasson, then I’d say she’s in for a rude awakening. So with that, I have Chiasson winning via TKO.
135 lbs.: Vince Morales vs. Aiemann Zahabi – Morales has too many defensive liabilities for Zahabi not to exploit. And given Zahabi got flatlined in his UFC debut, I expect him to not to play around on the feet as much. Eventually Zahabi will get this fight to the ground and lock in a fight ending submission.
170 lbs.: Nordine Taleb vs. Kyle Prepolec – Taleb should have his way with the short-notice Lightweight Prepolec. Taleb is a physically strong Welterweight, with some decent pop in his hands. Age hasn’t been kind to him though, as his chin has recently failed him. Durability issues aside, I expect a heavy dose of takedowns and grinding eventually lead to a late TKO stoppage victory for Taleb.
145 lbs.: Kyle Nelson vs. Matt Sayles – This a tough fight to call. Both men debuted against fighters that were already established. They each had moments within there debut where they shined. However, Nelson got finished in his fight whereas Sayles nearly came back and finished his foe in the third round. To be fair though, Nelson fought up a weight class. As for a prediction, I have Sayles. He’s durable, has good cardio and carries heavy hands. In a back-and-forth fight early, it’s Sayles who will land a knockout blow.
265 lbs.: Juan Adams vs. Arjan Bhullar – At first I was leaning Bhullar due to his ability to push his foes against the cage and bully them. However, his ability to score takedowns is poor. Add that with his decent striking and it’s hard not to side with a physically imposing man like Adams. Gifted with legit power and a wrestling background, Adams looks the part of a future Heavyweight contender. In this particular fight, Adams has a 5 inch height advantage and 5.5 inch reach advantage. I believe Adams can keep this fight upright, get the better of the striking exchanges and take a decision victory.
135 lbs.: Mitch Gagnon vs. Cole Smith – Gagnon would be the safe play given his experience inside the octagon. Problem is, Gagnon hasn’t fought in over two years. Normally I’d still side with experience and the fact that Gagnon is a solid grappler with a submission prowess, BUT I’m calling upset. Smith is the bigger man, with a six inch height advantage. From the little video out there, he’s a grinder? With the massive size advantage, I’m banking on him to impose his will for two of the three rounds en route to a decision victory.