The UFC is back in action, for it’s second straight week at Fight Island. Headlining the card is former Women’s Bantamweight Champion Holly Holm against rising contender Irene Aldana. Holm heads into this bout looking to win two consecutive fights, as she edged out Raquel Pennington in her last bout. As for Aldana, the Mexican scrapper storms into this fight on a two fight win streak, having most recently flat lined Ketlen Viera. The winner of this fight will be title contention, and for perhaps Aldana – next up for Amanda Nunes. Regardless, it should be a good one.
UFC on ESPN 16 Main Card on ESPN/ESPN+ (10:30 pm ET):
135 lbs.: Holly Holm vs. Irene Aldana – I’ve been back and forth with this prediction. On one hand, I believe that if Irene Aldana brings forth the volume striking she’s accustomed too – she is going edge out at least three of the five rounds. On the other hand, Holly Holm is one of the best strikers in the division. While Holm is patient, her footwork and ability to avoid strikes has been key. Throw in excellent cardio, counter-striking and being an all-around Championship quality fighter – and Holm is a tough out for anyone in the Bantamweight division.
As for my prediction, I’m going with Holm. I believe that Aldana is at her best when she can can get within range. Problem is, Holm is one of the best at keeping foes at a distance. Whether leg kicks or combinations play a role here, I believe that Holm is going to neutralize Aldana’s volume with cleaner shots and pressing her against the cage for periods of time. In the end, Holm has been through several five round fights. Experience in those Championship rounds is going to aide the former Champion to winning those later round and the fight via decision.
265 lbs.: Yorgan De Castro vs. Carlos Felipe – While Yorgan De Castro stumbled against Greg Hardy, a hurt foot could be blamed for the lack of strikes thrown after round one for the Cape Verde native. Now healthy, I expect to see an outing like that of his debut – in which he flat lined Justin Tafa. As for Carlos Felipe, the Brazilian lost a majority decision to Sergey Spivak, his first professional defeat. It was also Felipe’s first mixed martial arts fight in three years. While still young, I need to see more out of the Brazilian before I can pick him. So with that, give me De Castro to win via knockout.
135 lbs.: Germaine de Randamie vs. Julianna Pena – Until Germaine de Randamie rematched Amanda Nunes, her takedown defense was near immaculate. ‘Iron Lady’ had shrugged off thirty one of the thirty four takedown attempts, equating to 91%. However Nunes broke through, taking down de Randamie eight out of her eleven attempts. The reason I bring this up, is that I believe the only way Julianna Pena can win this fight is to take de Randamie down. Given Nunes is really the only woman that’s had success, I’m not too confident in Pena’s abilities. On the feet, de Randamie is waves better. With a kickboxing background, one in which led to an undefeated 46-0 record – there’s not many women who can better ‘Iron Lady’ on the feet. So with that, I predict that de Randamie wins via decision.
135 lbs.: Cameron Else vs. Kyler Phillips – First off, I understand that Cameron Else is probably going to deliver some fun fights inside the octagon. However, a six fight winning streak with one of the wins coming over an opponent above .500 and the most recent victory over a 3-14 opponents – doesn’t exactly scream UFC ready to me. I envision Else coming out of the gate hot, but Kyler Phillips enduring the early storm. By round two, Phillips is going to turn the tide and knock Else out.
185 lbs.: Dusko Todorovic vs. Dequan Townsend – Perhaps Dequan Townsend performs better at Middleweight, but from what he’s shown in three UFC fights – it’s hard to believe that he’s going to turnaround his misfortunes against Dusko Todorovic. The Serbian is a machine, with solid grappling and striking – which has aided him to being undefeated thus far. While Townshed is durable, I’m seeing this fight being one in which he succumbs to the power of Todorovic. So with that, give me the Serbian via TKO.
UFC on ESPN 16 ‘Prelims’ Under Card on ESPN+ (7:30 pm ET):
170 lbs.: Carlos Condit vs. Court McGee – Honestly, this is a fight that Court McGee arguably should win. He’s got the wrestling necessary to stifle Carlos Condit, as well as the striking volume to outpoint him. Throw in the fact that McGee has been finished once in sixteen UFC fights and you can throw durability into that mix. While I should just go with facts, I’m going to go on a limb and say Carlos Condit is going to return to a better form than he’s shown of late. In the end, I see Condit winning for the first time since 2015 via decision.
145 lbs.: Josh Culibao vs. Charles Jourdain – While Charles Jourdain has atrocious takedown defense, I’m confident it won’t cost him in this fight. I expect Josh Culibao to get Jourdain to the mat early, but the Canadian’s ability to pop up will negate that. On the feet, Culibao has power and leg kicks, but Jourdain offers more volume and power. In the end, I believe ‘Air’ Jourdain is going to land more often and by round three – finish Culibao via TKO.
185 lbs.: Nassourdine Imavov vs. Jordan Williams – It took three fights on Dana White’s contender series for Jordan Williams to finally crack into the UFC, but the exciting slugger has finally arrived. So has Nassourdine Imavov, who enters this fight on a five fight win streak. While both men can strike, it’s the grappling of Imavov that is going to win him this fight. If Imavov can wear down Williams and zap his power, by round three – I’m predicting that Imavov finishes Williams via TKO.
115 lbs.: Jinh Yu Frey vs. Loma Lookboonmee – At first I was on Jihn Yu Frey. She has the height and reach advantage, as well the ability to stay on the outside and pump a hard jab. However, despite those disadvantages for Loma Lookboonmee, she provides the necessary striking volume that’s going to win her this fight. Frey just isn’t active enough for me to believe she can win two of the three rounds. So with that, give me Lookboonmee to win this fight via decision.
135 lbs.: Heili Alateng vs. Casey Kenney – I consider Casey Kenney to be a legit threat at Bantamweight. I believe despite porous takedown defense, Casey’s ability to scramble himself out or into an advantageous position almost negates the weakness. Kenney’s striking could use tinkering, but his grappling, submissions, cardio and overall defense make him a tough out for any opponent. No offense to Heili Alateng, who has vastly improved from the beginning of his career to now winning his first two UFC fights – but Kenney is going to put it on him. I see either a dominant decision victory or late stoppage from the darkhorse of the division – Casey Kenney.
155 lbs.: Jessin Ayari vs. Luigi Vendramini – Both men enter this fight on long layoffs, so it’s possible a more tentative fight could be fought here. As for who I think wins, that would be Jessin Ayari. He’s got good UFC experience, having fought three tough foes in Stevie Ray, Darren Till and Jim Wallhead. On the other hand, Luigi Vendramini had a tough debut against Elizeu Zaleski – one in which he landed 4 significant strikes in two rounds. That volume simply doesn’t get it done in the UFC. So with that, give me Jessin Ayari to win via decision.