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|Preliminary Card (ESPN+ / UFC Fight Pass)|
|170 lbs.||Carlos Condit vs. Max Griffin|
Before 2020 rolled around, Carlos Condit had lost five fights in a row and was submitted in three of those defeats. With retirement in mind, Condit took nearly two years off before he entered the cage again. This time however, Condit won, for the first time in over five years. Condit followed that victory with another, marking his first win streak since 2011-2012.
Max Griffin too has caught stride of late, winning his last two fights. Before the winning streak, Griffin was 3-6, with a very controversial loss to Thiago Alves as one of those losses. Credit Griffin though, who has stopped his last two opponents, earning him a fight against the former Interim Welterweight Champion.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Max Griffin winning. My heart wants to pick Carlos Condit, but my head can’t forget that he has awful takedown defense. In fact, during the last four fights of the five fight losing streak, Condit was taken down 14 times. To go even further, it was 14 takedowns in just over 31 minutes of cage time. While Griffin has good striking, he’s shown to have solid wrestling abilities. With a takedown success rate at 51% and an average of 1.7 takedowns per minute, expect Griffin to fully exploit Condit’s known weakness. So with that, I have Griffin winning his third straight fight via decision.
|170 lbs.||Niko Price vs. Michel Pereira|
If anything, this fight has ‘Fight of the Night’ written all over it. In one corner, you have Niko Price, a borderline wildman. He seemingly lives for the violence, and very much abides by the phrase “live by the sword, die by the sword”. In fact, of Price’s 20 professional fights, only two of them have gone the full three rounds. Oddly enough, Price’s most recent fight with Donald Cerrone was a decision, his first in the UFC.
In the other corner, you have Michel Pereira. A human highlight reel, who recently has tempered himself somewhat. Whether that’s because he realized he didn’t have the cardio to go a full three rounds against better competition or that to be the cream of the crop, it’s best to not run around and throw aerial attacks every 20 seconds.
As for a prediction, I’m going with Niko Price. I realize that he’s been finished in three of his last six fights, but he’s also shown a real solid chin at times. Perhaps his defensive striking needs work, but given his style, that’s doubtful. The big reason I like Price is that he’s not going to be afraid to bring the fight to Pereira. He’s got excellent striking volume and power. His cardio and pace are hard to match, so the later this fight goes, the better it is for Price. In the end, I feel like Price stops the Brazilian – let’s say via third round TKO.
|145 lbs.||Ryan Hall vs. Ilia Topuria|
This fight is exciting and I commend the matchmaking here. Both men are ground specialists, who will absolutely delight us with their scrambling and submission attempts. The mystery in this fight is how Ryan Hall is going to look after two years away from the octagon due to a plague of injuries and lack of opponents stepping up to fight him. He’s not exactly a spring chicken either, as he’s 36 years old. Regardless, I expect the ‘Wizard’ to be locked in for his return.
Ilia Topuria has lived up to the hype thus far. In two UFC fights, he’s bested Youssef Zalal and Damon Jackson. The most recent fight against Damon Jackson was an absolute masterclass. Topuria showed off his hands, going to the body often, eventually opening up the knockout blow. If his hands continue to progress, a Featherweight contender could be upon us.
As for a prediction, it’s tough not to side with Topuria. He’s well rounded, undefeated and a stylistically tough matchup for Hall. However, I’m going with the upset here. Hall might not be the best striker, but he is excellent in keeping distance and avoiding being hit. In fact, in a little more than 47 minutes of cage time, he’s been hit with 46 significant strikes. That’s less than a strike a minute. Obviously if this fight hits the mat, I’m comfortable with Hall’s abilities. Regardless, Hall surprises on the feet and wins this fight via decision by avoiding strikes and landing leg kicks.
|185 lbs.||Driscus du Plessis vs. Trevin Giles|
This should be a good fight, as you have two surging Middleweights looking to extend their winning streaks and catapult themselves into a bigger fight. Driscus du Plessis is a former KSW and EFC Champion. du Plessis’ base is kickboxing, but make no mistake, he’s got grappling chops too. With nine of his fifteen wins coming via submission, I wouldn’t get too comfortable thinking he is going to keep the fight standing.
Trevin Giles’ UFC tenure has been streaky, as his first two fights inside the octagon ended in knockout wins. The next two fights would result in submission defeats, albeit to tough competition. Now, Giles has strung together three straight victories. Notably defeating James Krause and the previously undefeated Roman Dolidze. A fourth consecutive win at Middleweight would all but lead to a top fifteen fight.
As for a prediction, I’ve got Giles. While he may not have the kickboxing background du Plessis has, Giles is an accurate and defensively sound striker. He also mixes in timely takedowns and has vastly improved his takedown defense. The cause for concern for me about du Plessis, is that he’s too hittable. Markus Perez was pressuring and landing some good shots on the South African, well, up until the knockout blow. This time however, it’s Giles who is going to land the knockout blow, as I have him winning his fourth straight fight.