Another week, another UFC card. This time we have a big pay per view headlined by arguably the UFC's biggest star, Khabib Nurmagomedov. With a name that big, Dana delivered a pretty stacked card for us on Fight Island. Without further ado, here are my picks.
Stefan Struve vs Tai Tuivasa
I’ll be honest, I forgot these guys were in the UFC. I thought Struve retired, and Tai’s manager alluded to him not being in the UFC anymore. Yet here we are! Do I expect this fight to be entertaining? No, not at all. But I do expect Tai’s power to bring him to victory. He hasn’t looked good in his three fight losing streak but Struve not only looked bad in his last fight, he looked uninspired. That's even worse than looking bad in my eyes. Expect Tai to get the knockout victory and be disappointed that there’s no crowd for him to do a shoey celebration with.
Magomed Ankalaev vs Ion Cutelaba
This is a rematch of their fight in February. Ion’s record shows that he lost by TKO, but if you watch the fight it’s one of the worst early stoppages in UFC history. Unfortunately for Ion, I see a very similar outcome in this fight except this time the ref is going to wait for him to actually get knocked out before he stops the fight.
Alexander Volkov vs Walt Harris
Fresh off a loss to heavyweight legend Alistair Overeem, Walt Harris is looking to bounce back against Alexander Volkov. First off, I must commend the UFC and ESPN for not basing the marketing for this fight around a tragedy in Harris’s family like they did last time. Why they thought it would be a good idea to make the whole fight about the loss of his daughter and not his four-fight win streak is beyond me, but the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" probably knows what they’re doing. Now back to the fight. The odds makers have Volkov as a comfortable favorite and for good reason; great technique, good at using his size and length, solid striking, and good cardio. Which is exactly why I see Harris winning. He’s not at a size disadvantage to Volkov and has athleticism and one shot knockout power. At heavyweight, that’s all you need to end the fight.
Robert Whittakher vs Jared Cannonier
This one is a doozie. Former champ and fan favorite Robert Whittakher is going up against surging contender Jared Cannonier. Cannonier is a former heavyweight that has translated his power down to middleweight. I'm a big fan of Rob, but his downfall vs Cannonier will likely share the same story as his close fights against Yoel as well as his undoing against Israel Adesanya. Whittakher is very hittable, it’s just the nature of his fighting style. His blitz in and out style is what got him the belt. In each of his past four fights, his opponent found an opportunity to rock him, and unluckily for Robert, Cannonier hits harder than Darren Till. There’s power, there’s “fuck you power”, and then there’s “fuck you, fuck your friends, fuck your family power”. I cannot stress how hard Cannonier hits. I expect Cannonier to knock Rob out and punch in his ticket to a title fight against Israel Adesanya.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Justin Gaethje
Let’s start this off by saying it’s great to see how far Gaethje has come in his UFC career. Coming in as a WSOF champ, Gaethje was seen as a brawler with poor defense who could get picked apart after losing back to back to Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez. Since then, he’s honed his craft to become one of the best lightweights on the planet. We all feel robbed of not getting to see Khabib go up against Tony Ferguson, but after Gaethje put up one of the greatest performances and biggest beat downs on Ferguson, I’m looking forward to this matchup. I think this is going to be Khabib’s toughest fight since he got rocked by Michael Johnson. Jokes aside, people keep making a big deal of MJ's one clean shot on him because aside from one fight, Khabib has gone unopposed for his whole UFC career. Justin Gaethje has the same game plan as everyone else: avoid getting taken down and hurt Khabib very badly. No shot. Gaethje always manages to hurt his opponents and has developed incredible footwork to go along with his one punch knockout power, but he doesn’t nearly have the wrestling to stop Khabib. Look at this fight from WSOF when Gaethje went up against Brian Cobb. The guy looked like a fish out of water. I love Gaethje, but by the end of the fight he’ll have the same thousand yard stare all of Khabib’s opponents have when getting taken down. Khabib by submission.
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