After going 6-3 last week I am now 35-18 on the year in predicting the winner of each fight. This week UFC Fight Night is in Auckland, New Zealand for the 2nd time in UFC history where heavyweight Derrick Lewis faces former heavyweight title contender Mark Hunt. This main event puts the #6 and #7 heavyweights against each other and in a weightclass where there really are only a handful of top contenders, the winner of this fight will get a chance to face one of those contenders and crack the top-5.
As usual with non-PPV fights, the prelims will not have an analysis, only my prediction with odds.
Welterweights – Kiichi Kunimoto (18-6-2) vs. Zak Ottow (14-4)
Prediction: Ottow (-350) by decision
Welterweights – Dominique Steele (14-8) vs. Luke Jumeau (11-3)
Prediction: Jumeau (+135) by decision
Flyweights – John Moraga (16-6) vs. Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-1)
Prediction: Mokhtarian (+145) by submission
Damien Brown (17-9) vs. Vinc Pichel (9-1)
Prediction: Pichel (Even) by decision
Featherweights – Alexander Volkanovski (14-1) vs. Mizuto Hirota (18-7-2)
Volkanovski made his UFC debut at the end of last year and I am excited to see him fight again. His addition to the featherweight division, with his 12 finishes in 14 wins, 9 by knockout, makes this division that much better. I don’t even know how to explain how aggressive Volkanovski is in the octagon. In his UFC debut he completed three takedowns and threw a total of 76 strikes in only two minutes. That being said, Hirota has never been finished in his 12 year career. He tends to struggle with pressure fighters, and as stated before Volkanovski is far beyond a pressure fighter.
Prediction: Volkanovski (-500) by TKO
Flyweights – Tim Elliott (14-71) vs. Ben Nguyen (17-6)
Elliott won TUF Champions for the chance to fight Demetrious Johnson for his title and for two rounds he actually was challenging Johnson. Of course that didn’t last long but it gives Elliott confidence to build on. Elliott has great power but that is not his bread and butter, he wants to use his hands to take you down. Elliott is successful on 67% of his takedowns. That is the exact opposite of Nguyen, who has never even attempted a takedown in the UFC. Nguyen is a finish or get finished kind of guy. Fourteen of his seventeen wins have been finishes and he has never lost a decision because his six losses have been finishes as well. First decision loss coming right up!
Prediction: Elliott (-230) by decision (+120)
Light Heavyweights – Ion Cutelaba (12-3) vs. Luis Henrique de Silva (13-1)
Both of these guys like to throw and do not run from their opponent. Expect a fireworks show right in the middle of the octagon. As long as Cutebala can withstand de Silva’s barrage of punches and kicks he tends to start the fight with, Cutebala will have a chance to impose his own will as well. Cutebala is a future title contender and only at 23-years-old he is well on his way in the right direction. This will be a top fight of the night and Cutebala has the chin to stand in the middle and trade blows, he will continue his rise in the UFC.
Prediction: Cutebala (-300) by TKO (-+130)
Lightweights – Dan Hooker (13-7) vs. Ross Pearson (19-13)
Both of these fighters prefer to counter-strike, which means this one could be a snooze fest. Neither fighter likes to push the fight and be the aggressor. Pearson is the more experienced fighter and can control the tempo much better than Hooker. You can take a nap during this fight.
Prediction: Pearson (+130) by decision (+180)
Middleweights – Derek Brunson (16-5) vs. Daniel Kelly (13-1)
The rise and fall of Brunson has been something to watch. He came into the UFC winning seven of his first eight fights and defeating names like Chris Leben, Lorenz Larkin, Ed Herman, Sam Alvey, and Uriah Hall. Brunson was on his way to a title fight until he ran into Robert Whitaker and Anderson Silva. Brunson didn’t adjust his fighting style to the better caliber Robert Whitaker and Whitaker just picked him apart before knocking him out. Then, against Anderson Silva he fought scared and never put any pressure on Silva and lost by decision. Now can he return to his aggressive fighting style but also fight technical and smart? He will face Kelly who is 6-1 in the UFC and is coming off a split decision win over Rashad Evans. Kelly is a very smart fighter who throws attacks at a steady pace and controls his stamina. Brunson can control the tempo of this fight to his advantage but will need to be smart about it and not chase around the octagon and get caught like he did against Whitaker.
Prediction: Brunson (-270) by TKO (+170)
Heavyweights – Derrick Lewis (18-4) vs. Mark Hunt (12-11-1)
I really hope this fight ends in the first round, which it most likely will, but both of these fighters look terrible by the time the end of the second round comes. Fighting with their hands down by their sides and throwing slow punches. Both fighters have a total of 3 decisions in their 25 career UFC fights. Neither of these guys have a great chin, and to think Hunt used to have one of the best chins in the game. Hunt is giving up five inches to Lewis and with Hunt’s quickness and chin leaving him recently I don’t feel as if he has an advantage he can use. Travis Browne showed that kicks are the way to defeat Lewis easily, but I don’t think Hunt will attempt kicks because he wouldn’t want to give Lewis an opportunity to catch him and take him down.
Prediction: Lewis (-135) by TKO (+140)