UFC Fight Night 81 features an intriguing main event with current UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw facing the former champion who never lost Dominick Cruz. The co-main event gives us another exciting matchup between the old gunslinger Eddie Alvarez and the young gun Anthony Pettis. The rest of the card is filled with potentially exciting fights and Ilir Latifi. Which is reason enough to share James Lynch’s Tweet.
— James Lynch (@LynchOnSports) July 18, 2015
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz
Wolff: This one has fight geeks everywhere ready to explode upon themselves and some possibly even stealing from others to try and break it all down. The reason for all this excitement is the simple fact that these two are very technical and utilize unique skills that are at the forefront of the evolution of MMA.
The big thing that is apparent to everyone is the way they each use movement. They switch stances constantly and fluidly. They use a lot of feints, fakes and misdirection to confuse their opponents. They are also both good at mixing the different elements of the multiple disciplines.
For me, this will come down to which fighter is better prepared to exploited the other’s mistakes. We have seen them each get rocked and knocked down in their fights. It is a by-product of their footwork. It is just a matter of an opponent catching them slightly off-balance with a solid strike.
Much has been made about Cruz being more defensive-oriented while Dillashaw is more offensive and aggressive. It is one of the biggest and easiest differences in their styles.
If Cruz can master the timing, get in score and then get out effectively he will frustrate Dillashaw and take a tough decision. But, that is not how I think it will go down. Instead, I like Dillashaw to catch Cruz early in the fight much like Faber caught him in their second fight. Dillashaw has more power than Faber and I think he hurts Cruz and from there is able to control the fight until he gets the finish either late in the third round or early in the fourth.
This is a situation where Dillashaw has been studying Cruz for many years as he helped former teammates get ready for their respective fights against him. I feel like he knows Cruz’ holes a little bit better and willed be prepared to take advantage of them.
FW: Dillashaw via TKO late in the third round
Mendoza: Hand’s down, this is the hardest fight of the night to call. Despite only having one fight in the last 51 months, former WEC and UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz has been too successful during his career to really bet against. That being said, TJ Dillashaw is everything that’s wonderful about the new generation of young fighters coming into the UFC. He wrestles, he strikes, and mixes the two flawlessly together. This will be a battle of reaction time and footwork, with the victor being the fighter who can more accurately predict the others movement. If Cruz can recreate just one of the virtuoso performances he’s put on in the past, he’ll cruise (again, pun fully intended) to yet another decision win. If there is a finish in this fight, it’ll come from Tyler Jeffrey Dillashaw, as he’s without a doubt the harder striker. How he manages to deal with all the recent turmoil both in his personal life and athletic surroundings, though, is a big factor coming into this bout. Dillashaw has had to answer a lot of the same questions regarding his loyalty to Urijah Faber and Team Alpha Male, as well as the relationship he’s built with peanut butter proprietor Duane “Bang” Ludwig over the past few months. In that sense, both fighters will have to answer a lot of questions in the cage come Sunday night.
SM: Dillashaw by TKO
Reno: T.J. Dillashaw has been the man at 135 lbs since jacking the in ring style of Dominick Cruz. Dillashaw’s professional relationship with Duane “Bang” Ludwig, how you feel about the man isn’t important, has been key to getting Dillashaw where he is today. The other key has been the inactivity of the former champ, Cruz. Cruz, who never lost the belt Dillashaw currently holds, is known for his flawless footwork and his ability to cut angles like no other. And even though he doesn’t really have that “one-hitter quitter” he can still touch his opponent and score before becoming a ghost, nowhere to be found by his opponent, again and again. Dillashaw has adopted a very similar style but he harnesses the power that Cruz has lacked throughout his injury riddled career.
Admittedly, I was skeptical that this fight would ever happen. It’s been well documented that Cruz has only fought once over the past 51 months. Still though, I have a tough time picking against him due to the injuries. Having dealt with so many injuries during such a short period of time, I feel like Cruz knows his body and wouldn’t be doing this if he wasn’t ready. He’s far too smart. If Dillashaw can’t hit Cruz with something significant early, he could find himself being schooled by the master.
DR: Cruz via UD
LeBlanc: I absolutely love this fight. For the second event in a row now we’ve got a main even that could potentially shape up to be one of the better fights of the entire year. Dominick Cruz is finally back and fighting for the after starching Takeya Mizugaki in just over a minute in his last trip to the octagon. He’s trying to win back the belt he vacated after one of the worst injury stretches in UFC history.
Dillashaw’s gameplan is often praised as a reincarnation of Cruz’s which is there is such an interest in this fight. The reality, however, is that Dillashaw and Cruz are essentially completely opposite sides of the same coin. Both fighters employ a strategy that is built on a foundation of movement and footwork, but the key difference is the focus of their approach. Cruz is an out-fighter who uses his footwork to maintain distance and strike from the outside whereas Dillashaw is an offensive beast who uses angles to slip past an opponent’s defence and land on the inside. I think this is going to be the narrative of the fight, with Dillashaw looking to push the pace and Cruz spending most of the fight trying to slow him down. I think the champ is going to be the more effective fighter at implementing his gameplan, and he walks away with a clear but competitive decision.
ML: Killashaw via Dec
Anthony Pettis vs. Eddie Alvarez
Wolff: This is Anthony Pettis’ first fight back since losing his belt to Rafael dos Anjos last March. He faces a tough test in the durable Eddie Alvarez. In the loss to dos Anjos, Pettis showed a lot of toughness himself.
Pettis is looking to get back the belt he lost, and to do that he will not only need to win, but he will need to do it in spectacular fashion. Getting a finish against Alvarez would qualify as something spectacular.
This is a horrible stylistic matchup for Alvarez. He is a counterpuncher who does his best when he can sit back and catch his opponents either coming in or with his counters after they get inside. While the pattern for success against Pettis in the UFC has been to pressure him to not allow him any space to utilize his many different kicks and to score a couple of takedowns.
Alvarez has been vulnerable to leg kicks as we saw in his UFC debut against Donald Cerrone. That vulnerability opens him up to body and head kicks. That is not good against Pettis.
Alvarez has only lost once via a TKO and that came back in 2007 and he has never been KO’d. That could change in this fight.
Look for Pettis to come out in the southpaw stance and attacking Alvarez’ lead leg and right-side of his body. Pettis will either drop him with a liver kick or a head kick putting him in a position to take on the winner of dos Anjos and Conor McGregor at UFC 200.
FW: Pettis via a first KO
Mendoza: In what could have been one of the best fights of a few years ago, we finally get to see former lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis face former Bellator title holder Eddie Alvarez in a fight that has heavy implications for both men. Since signing with the UFC in 2014, Eddie Alvarez has only posted a 1-1 record, disappointing some fans with both inactivity and lack of any truly dominant performances. There was a certain aura around Alvarez both immediately before and after he signed with the UFC. How would he fare against the best of the world? Would his skill set have already expired by the time he finally did sign with Zuffa? Unfortunately, neither of those questions have really been answered. With a dominant performance this weekend, though, Alvarez could finally assert himself as one of the very best at 155 lbs. With a loss, he risks falling not just out of the top five, but out of title contention in any meaningful way. Anthony Pettis isn’t in any more of an enviable position. He hasn’t fought since dropping his belt to Rafael dos Anjos last year, and has been sidelined several months during that layoff with debilitating injuries. Pettis can’t afford to lose two in a row in the lightweight division right now, especially if he’s looking for a “red panty night” anytime in his near future.
SM: Pettis by submission
Reno: This is insane. Are you sure we don’t have to pay for this card? This fight and Dillashaw-Cruz work me up as a fan. Alvarez came into the UFC back in 2014 as an immediate threat for the lightweight strap that was held by Pettis at the time. After coming up short in a hard fought debut against ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, Alvarez came back the following summer to edge out Gilbert Melendez (who later tested positive for testosterone) putting himself right back in the proverbial mix.
If Alvarez can follow the same gameplan he’s employed throughout his career he should be just fine in this fight. He cannot give Pettis the distance he craves, the distance that allows him to pull of spectacular moves that are only even attempted in video games. Alvarez needs to make this fight dirty and he will. Expect the Boston fans to get behind the Philly kid on this night. This isn’t the Bruins versus the Flyers – it’s East Coast versus everyone.
DR: Alvarez via TKO
LeBlanc: Former UFC champ Pettis takes on former Bellator champ here in what should be a fun fight that has title implications for the winner. The winner would have been an arguable choice for the next title contender if it wasn’t for McGregor’s jump to lightweight and him deservedly skipping the line for an immediate shot at the belt.
Unless RDA’s beating of Pettis back at UFC 185 really broke his soul, I’m pretty confident in his chances here against Alvarez. Alvarez’s skillset and gameplan fits really well with Pettis’ style, with Alvarez normally electing to stay on the outside while striking. The problem with this is that Pettis excels at range. I think this fight will be closer than the odds suggest, but I see Pettis taking it without getting in to too much danger.
ML: Pettis via 3rd round Sub
Travis Browne vs. Matt Mitrione
Wolff: This a matchup between two heavyweights with some power and surprising movement. Each of them is coming off of a loss and will be looking to make a statement to stay relevant in the division. Browne is the higher ranked fighter, the favorite and would seem like the one to pick but I like Mitrione to get the upset.
Look for Mitrione to catch Browne late in the first round to hurt him. Then in the second he will finish him off via a TKO.
FW: Mitrione via a second round TKO
Mendoza: In the lone heavyweight affair of the evening, Travis “Hapa” Browne meets Matt Mitrione. Both fighters are in unique positions both divisionally and in their careers as a whole. Despite having only lost to some of the very best in the division, Mitrione has struggled to truly assert himself as a top-five prospect in the rather shallow heavyweight division. Universally regarded as one of the most athletic fighters on the entire roster, Mitrione is scary fast for a man close to 250lbs. He enjoyed a knockout (pun fully intended) 2014, pulling out three TKO victories in a year’s time, but fell short in an embarrassing performance against Ben Rothwell last summer. Travis Browne is also looking to put himself one step closer to the elusive heavyweight strap. Despite only having three total losses on his record, “Hapa” has fallen short in fights that he needed to win, most recently against former teammate Andrei Arlovski. If Browne can put the pieces together come fight night, it should be a night of easy work. Mitrione, on the other hand, will have to fight to even get past the lanky Hawaiian’s frame. If he can connect on Browne’s chin, and avoid any long kicks from the outside, he could shock the world and knock “Hapa” out.
SM: Mitrione by TKO
Reno: I honestly believed I’d be the only one out of this crew to pick Mitrione. Apparently no one believes in good ole “Hapa” anymore. And for good reason. After cementing himself as one of the top heavyweights in the world today, Browne has had a rough past couple of years dropping 2 out of his last 3. Now, losing to Fabricio Werdum and Andrei Arlovski isn’t exactly anything to be frowned upon. The way he performed against these two men though wasn’t very promising if he’s looking to become a serious contender again. On paper, a fight against “Meathead” should be slam dunk for Browne to get back to his winning ways. Knowing that the proud Hawaiian is still training with Edmond Tarverdyan though proves that he isn’t interested in improving as a fighter. Which is a shame.
DR: Mitrione via KO
LeBlanc: Another fun fight here between two heavyweight hitters with questionable defense. Browne’s strength has always been his power and ability to bite down and swing for the fences but that has also been his undoing in some recent fights. Mitrione is likely the more technical fighter in this matchup, but has had questionable fight IQ, shown in his last bout by taking down Rothwell before having ‘Big Ben’ latch on a guillotine choke to end the fight, and has had trouble historically when the fight hits the mat. I see both men electing to stand and fight it out on the feet in this matchup, so that likely won’t be an issue. With neither man having great striking defense, this will likely come down to who is able to land the first few clean shots, and I see that being ‘Meathead’ this time around.
ML: Mitrione via 1st round TKO
Ross Pearson vs Francisco Trinaldo
Wolff: This should be an exciting standup fight with Francisco Trinaldo trying to land the big shot and Ross Pearson trying to slip it and land a combination. If Trinaldo can land the big shot and hurt Pearson then he can win this fight. However, I like Pearson to avoid the big shot and land his combinations to take a UD.
FW: Pearson via UD
Mendoza: Aside from having one of the coolest sounding nicknames in the game, Massaranduba, (if you were wondering, I don’t know what it means), Francisco Trinaldo is yet another fighter that, despite having competed in the UFC since 2012, few but the hardcore fans know who he is. Ross Pearson, on the other hand, is one of the sport’s most popular Englishmen, having won “The Ultimate Fighter US vs UK” back in 2009. Opening up the main card on Fox Sports 1 this Sunday, Pearson vs. Trinaldo could be an explosive fight. But at just 7-6-1 in his last 14 UFC appearances, Pearson has struggled to find consistency in either the lightweight or featherweight divisions. Trinaldo, conversely, is currently riding a four fight winning streak, and stands at 7-3 in his overall UFC record. If Pearson can take care of the mental part of the game (he recently admitted to being an extremely slow starter) and connect with his powerful punches against “Massaranduba”, he should be able to pocket another TKO win. However, momentum seems to be on the side of the 37-year-old Brazilian Trinaldo, who should be able to control Pearson on the mat.
SM: Trinaldo by decision
Reno: Pearson, one of the few TUF winners left on the roster, has gone win-loss, win-loss, win-loss over his last six fights. Expect that trend to end when Pearson puts an end to Trinaldo’s 4-fight winning streak by putting a boxing clinic on the ultra tough Brazilian.
DR: Pearson via TKO
LeBlanc: Two lightweights just outside of the top 15 fight here in what should be an exciting fight to open up the event’s main card. This fight will likely come down to Trinaldo’s improving power compared to Pearson’s technical striking. I think this fight plays out primarily on the feet with both men having their moments in a competitive bout that more often than not meets the judges’ scorecards. I see Pearson being able to use his footwork and crisp striking to outpoint ‘Massaranduba’ and take a clear decision win.
ML: Pearson via Dec
Patrick Cote vs. Ben Saunders
Wolff: This will be an entertaining fight between two veterans in Patrick Cote and Ben Saunders. I feel that Saunders has more ways to win this fight. Look for him to hurt Cote on their feet and then getting the submission on the ground.
FW: Saunders via submission
Mendoza: Moving back down to the welterweight division, French Canadian Cote meets Ben “Killa B” Saunders in the “Fox Sports 1 Prelim-Main Event” (whatever that is) this Sunday. Long since removed from his title aspirations against Anderson Silva back in 2008, Cote has experienced somewhat of a career resurgence as of late. Coming off a Fight of the Night performance against Josh Burkman, Cote is also on a two fight winning streak, and is in fact 5-2 since re-signing with Zuffa back in 2012. Jiu jitsu ace Ben Saunders has also gone through a similar career revival. Despite having a near four-year career in the UFC from 2007 to 2010, Saunders fell on hard times and spent the next few years competing under the Bellator banner, competing in several welterweight tournaments. Now, at 32, Saunders is riding a three fight winning streak and is poised to reassert himself in the crowded 170lb division. Skilled both on and off his feet, “Killa B” will be throwing kicks, elbows, and big punches to threaten Cote standing up in the hopes he’ll shoot for a desperation takedown. If the fight ends up on the mat, it’s all Saunders. Look for a submission win by Saunders, especially if he can set up the rubber guard from his back.
SM: Saunders by submission
Reno: I expect an exciting contest between everyone’s favorite French Canadian “Predator” and “Killa B” to close out the preliminary portion of this stacked FS1 card. Look for Saunders to mix in some hellbows with his strikes on the toes leading to a submission victory that could earn him an extra $50K on the night.
DR: Saunders via submission
LeBlanc: This card has a number of fun fights that could end up being very close, and this matchup is no different with another bout between fighters just outside the top 15. Most people are picking Saunders’ volume to be the difference maker here in this fight with Saunders taking a decision over the former middleweight title challenger Cote, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. Saunders has some defensive issues both on the feet and preventing takedowns and I think Cote will exploit these deficiencies here in a close fight.
ML: Cote via Dec
Tim Boetsch vs. Ed Herman
Wolff: This fight could be an exciting action-packed one that could be a little sloppy at times. On their feet, Tim Boetsch has more power and Ed Herman is more dangerous on the ground with his submissions. Unless Boetsch catches Herman which is always possible since he is very hittable, I like Herman to take a UD.
FW: Herman via UD
Mendoza: Though not old by any true social metric, both Boetsch and Herman have a lot of miles on their 35-year-old frames. Both have faced the best of the best, and unfortunately neither have ever managed to break out of the middle of the pack in the 185lb division. That being said, no one is looking at this fight with title implications on the line; it’s just a fun fight between two experienced competitors. As a jiu jitsu black belt, and with more than twelve submission wins on his record, Herman will most likely look to get this fight to the ground, where Boetsch is at his weakest. If he can manage a takedown against “The Barbarian”, it should be a quick win for Herman. Tim Boetsch, obviously has other plans. He’ll look to use his strength and size to pin Herman against the cage and look for a few big punches. This is a close fight either way, but I’m leaning towards
SM: Boetsch by TKO
Reno: When you lock two of the meanest, soulless gingers ever to step foot inside of a cage with one another you just don’t know what to expect. Neither of these guys jobs are safe. Boetsch has lost 5 of his last 7 while Herman only come out victorious in 2 of his last 6. When you really break down these two vets it’s a tough call. I’ll go with “The Barbarian” to catch Herman late for the simple reason that he holds a hefty advantage in the facial hair game.
DR: Boetsch via TKO
LeBlanc: I don’t know if it’s just me but I feel like we’ve seen these two fight about 20 times. Boetsch and Herman have both had lengthy terms in the UFC but have never been able to keep a streak going long enough to be a threat for title contention. With both men coming in off of losses this is going to be a bout to determine who stays relevant in the division and who will drop to being a loss or two away from a potential cut. I think Boetsch is going to come in to this fight being the stronger and faster fighter and will be able to control ‘Short Fuse’ wherever the fight takes place.
ML: Boetsch via Dec
Chris Wade vs Mehdi Baghdad
Wolff: In this one, I like Mehdi Baghdad to showcase his power and get the first TKO finish over Chris Wade.
FW: Baghdad via a first round TKO
Mendoza: Continuing the trend of first-time UFC appearances, Mehdi “The Sultan” Baghdad debuts this Sunday against lightweight Chris Wade. Though undefeated in all three of his fights with the UFC, Wade has struggled to catch on with fans largely due to his decision heavy record. Baghdad, on the other hand, has only once gone the full 15 minutes in his professional career, and has finished every win on his record with a knockout or submission. If “The Sultan” can ignore the anxiety that comes with your first fight on the big stage, he might be able to put Wade away early. Octagon experience is on Wade’s side, though, and if he can keep the heavy hands of Baghdad away from his brain, he should pick up another win.
SM: Wade by decision
Reno: Looks can be deceiving. So can 3-0 UFC records. Wade has yet to impress me during his short UFC career but he could prove me and everyone else wrong tomorrow night. I just don’t see it happening. Expect Mehdi “The Sultan” Baghdad to make Cheick Kongo proud by proving that the French are not pussies.
DR: Baghdad via KO
LeBlanc: I was impressed with Baghdad’s performance on TUF 22, beating SBG protégé Artem Lobov to get in to the house, and was excited to see him get a fight in the UFC but I think Chris Wade is going to be too much too soon. Add that to the fact that Baghdad is a last minute replacement for Mairbek Taisumov and it isn’t looking great for the French striker. I had Wade losing to ‘Beckan’ but I think he controls the fight here and wins without much of an issue.
ML: Wade via 2nd round Sub
Maximo Blanco vs Luke Sanders
Wolff: Luke Sanders is making his UFC debut against the veteran Maximo Blanco. Sanders will not be phased by stepping onto the big stage. I like him to take a UD.
FW: Sanders via UD
Mendoza: The opening fight for the televised prelims this Sunday is between two relatively unknown fighters, but both are highly skilled. Luke Sanders makes his Octagon debut after having competed as a professional for five years. Undefeated, he’s most recently fought in both RFA and AXS TV Fights and has knocked out three of his previous five opponents. Maximo Blanco, on the other hand, has been competing under the Zuffa banner in both Strikeforce and the UFC since before Sanders even stepped on the mat for the first time. That experience should pay dividends in the fight for Blanco, especially given the fact he’s currently on a three fight winning streak, the second longest of his career. Blanco did struggle to make weight at his last fight in July of 2015, though, which could cause him problems this time around if he hasn’t managed to get his weight cut taken care of. Both Sanders and Blanco have more than half their career victories by way of knockout, so look for both to keep the fight standing.
SM: Blanco by decision
Reno: AXS TV fight fans know “Cool Hand” Luke Sanders well. He’s fought for both RFA and XFC and he’s delivered every single time. He’ll bring a perfect 10-0 record into his UFC debut against 7-fight UFC vet Maximo Blanco. Look for Sanders to make a statement in his debut by putting himself on the map as a legit 145 lbs contender that we’ll be talking about for years to come.
DR: Sanders via TKO
LeBlanc: Luke Sanders is taking this fight on just under two weeks’ notice and I think Maximo Blanco is going to prove to be too much for the undefeated ‘Cool Hand’ Luke. Blanco has impressed me as of late with a three fight streak ending in a first round TKO of Mike de la Torre. Similar to Chris Wade lucking out by not facing Taisumov, I think Blanco has narrowly avoided what would have been a really tough matchup with Dennis Bermudez. His streak continues here with an exciting performance finish of the UFC newcomer.
ML: Blanco via 2nd round TKO
Paul Felder vs. Daron Cruickshank
Wolff: This is many fans and pundits pick for an FOTN contender. Both Paul Felder and Daron Cruickshank are coming in on two-fight losing streaks and need a win badly. They both like to throw-down and should deliver an entertaining fight for as long as it lasts. I like Cruickshank to land a head kick to get the TKO win in the second round.
FW: Cruickshank via a second round TKO
Mendoza: This is another fight Zuffa is utilizing to try and drive more subscribers to the Fight Pass program, and for obvious reasons. In his fight against Edson Barboza, Felder threw more than 25 spinning attacks in conjunction with his Brazilian foe. Training with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in New Mexico, Felder has struggled since making it to the big show. Now, against veteran striker Cruickshank, Felder may have his biggest test to date. The Michigan native Cruickshank, on the other hand, is facing a must win situation. Despite having been in the UFC since 2012, Cruickshank is only 6-5-1 in his last 12 appearances, and is currently on a two fight losing streak, both coming by way of rear naked choke. Against Felder, he won’t have to worry about any takedowns or submission attempts; this will be a striking showcase for both men. Whoever manages to be quicker off the blocks will end up winning, but I like Cruickshank by TKO.
SM: Cruickshank via TKO
Reno: Two of the most exciting stand up guys in the sport are giving fans another reason to subscribe to UFC Fight Pass. While my head says Felder simply because Cruickshank hasn’t exactly been seen lighting the world on fire as of late, my heart says Cruickshank because he’s a Detroit guy and I rep 313 until the day I die – why ax why.
DR: Cruickshank via KO
LeBlanc: Paul Felder has quickly become one of my favourite fighters in the lightweight division whether he wins or loses. Felder showed some inexperience in his last two fights where he faced technical strikers Pearson and Barboza and although Cruickshank has also made his reputation as a striker I think the outcome will be much different here. Cruickshank often chooses big, flashy strikes rather than a safer efficient striking gameplan and I think Felder will be able to capitalize on openings and pick ‘The Detroit Superstar’ apart for a late finish.
ML: Felder via 3rd round TKO
Ilir Latifi vs. Sean O’Connell
Wolff: I like Ilir Latifi to take a tough fought UD over Sean O’Connell. Both fighters are tough but I like Latifi to take this one ride his horse on a beach afterward.
FW: Latifi via UD
Mendoza: As far as Fight Pass prelims go, this is one of the best we’ve seen thus far. While neither Latifi nor O’Connell command the biggest fan base, both have a specific following that could drive more viewers to the subscription service. In terms of actual fighting ability, both are strong, physical athletes with talent both standing and on the mat. O’Connell is the type of fighter that’s made it this far on sheer hard work and grit alone; he’s hosted radio programs and, more recently, even penned his first novel in a planned series. Latifi, on the other hand, got his golden ticket to the UFC a few years ago after a late injury forced his training partner Alexander Gustafsson out of a fight with Gegard Mousasi. Since then, he’s enjoyed a fair bit of success, having finished every win he’s picked up in the UFC. If O’Connell can dictate the pace and location of the fight, it could be an easy night for him. On the other hand, all Latifi has to do is land one big shot that could end the new authors evening early.
SM: O’Connell by decision
Reno: Former UFC on Fuel TV headliner Ilir Latifi is known for dropping sledgehammers on anyone who is brave enough to sign their John Hancock on the same piece of paper as his. Expect the Albanian Daniel Cormier to score a monster finish in Beantown tomorrow night.
DR: Latifi via TKO
LeBlanc: SLEEEEEDGEHAAAAAMMMMERRRRRR. Seriously though, I think this is Latifi’s fight to lose as long as he fights smart. O’Connell will likely be aggressive right out of the gate but I think Latifi will be able to bully ‘The Real OC’ en route to a finish some time before the third round. If the fight does go three rounds it might be a close one with O’Connell probably having the better cardio but I don’t think he makes it that long.
ML: Latifi via 2nd round TKO
Charles Rosa vs. Kyle Bochniak
Wolff: Charles Rosa gets his third opponent for this fight in Kyle Bochniak. This should be an entertaining grappling match and I like Rosa to find a submission in the second round for the win.
FW: Rosa via submission in the second round
Mendoza: Behind Demian Maia, “Tanquino” Mendes might be the highest decorated jiu jitsu fighter on the entire UFC roster right now. Coming into this fight as a late replacement, though, he’s fighting an uphill battle. Rosa has nearly three times as many fights as the BJJ ace, not to mention he’s been competing in the UFC since 2014. On top of that, Mendes is going up a weight class to meet Rosa this Sunday. Giving up a size advantage against a more seasoned fighter is never a good idea, but Mendes certainly has the skills to finish Rosa (as he’s done with literally every other opponent) if he makes a mistake and spends any time on the mat with Mendes. Win or lose, Tanquino will most likely drop back down to bantamweight after this fight, where his skill set will be of more use against the smaller 35’ers. As much as I’d like to see Mendes pull off the submission upset in his UFC debut, I’m leaning towards
SM: Rosa by decision
Reno: Rosa was originally scheduled to fight Jimy Hettes on this card. After suffering an injury Hettes was replaced by Augusto Mendes. A couple of days later, Mendes was then replaced by Bochniak, a local fighter who is very familiar to fans of CES MMA out of New England.
DR: Bochniak gives the dedicated locals who show up early to this card a treat by taking an exciting back and forth fight via SD
LeBlanc: In another late replacement due to injury, Kyle Bochniak replaces Augusto Mendes who himself was a replacement for Jimy Hettes. Bochniak is taking this fight just over a week after his last win at CES 32 with a submission win in the first round. Rosa’s been fighting at a significantly higher level as of late and will be looking to impress here in front of a hometown crowd. Both men are actually from the Boston area, so expect a fun fight for as long as it lasts.
ML: Rosa via 1st round Sub
Rob Font vs. Joey Gomez
Wolff: Look for Rob Font and Joey Gomez to get the crowd going on Sunday night. They both have KO power and will be looking for the highlight reel finish. I like Font catch Gomez at some point to get the win.
FW: Font via TKO
Mendoza: Calligraphy jokes aside, Rob Font is on a tear right now. Despite only having one UFC appearance under his belt, he’s made the most of his time on the big stage thus far by picking up a huge first round knockout over George Roop back in July of 2014. Though he’s spent a fair amount of time away from the sport, his skill set should be enough to take out promotional newcomer Joey Gomez. Despite being undefeated, Gomez is fairly inexperienced, having only competed in six professional fights before getting the call up to the UFC. His short time in the sport has been explosive, though; all his wins come by either KO or TKO, and the longest fight he’s had wasn’t even four and a half minutes long. Gomez could pull the upset, especially given Font’s inactivity as of late, but only if he can put the inevitable “Octagon Jitters” aside.
SM: Font by TKO
Reno: A couple of CES MMA guys who will likely have a lot of friends and family the crowd urging them on before the crowd starts populating inside of the TD Garden. This fight is the true definition of a pick ’em. I’ll go with the devil I’ve seen fight before in Rob Font to score a UD victory.
DR: Font via UD
LeBlanc: Font is fighting 6-0 Gomez here who is an injury replacement for Patrick Williams and should force a fun fight between two finishers. Gomez has finishes all of his 6 fights in the first round but Font is hot off of a 1st round KO of George Roop and boasts 6 first round finishes in his 11 wins. Font’s 18 month layoff makes me a little nervous but I think Gomez comes out aggressive and wakes Font up early. Once he’s warmed up I think it’s only a matter of time before he uses his power advantage to end the fight late in the first round.
ML: Font via 1st round TKO
Elvis Mutapcic vs. Francimar Barroso
Wolff: While Elvis Mutapcic is making his UFC debut he already holds three wins over UFC fighters and I like him to take a UD against Francimar Barroso.
FW: Mutapicic via UD
Mendoza: Though this Sunday will be Elvis Mutapcic’s first UFC appearance, he’s already fought several Zuffa castoffs and fared well. Aptly nicknamed “The King”, Elvis Mutapcic has never been finished in a professional fight, and has spent the better part of the last few years competing at a high level in both the World Series of Fighting and the Maximum Fighting Championship, both home to multiple former UFC athletes. Against Barroso, the more seasoned of the two, Mutapcic will be giving up a distinct size advantage; though this weekend’s fight is at 205lbs, nearly all of “The King’s” fights have taken place in the middleweight division.
SM: Expect Barroso to utilize his size and striking to overwhelm Mutapcic in his Octagon debut
Reno: WSOF/MFC alum Elvis Mutapcic may be making his octagon debut but he’s not exactly unfamiliar to fans of the sport. He will have his hands full when he takes on a hungry former Shooto champion in Barroso.
DR: Barroso via UD
LeBlanc: Mutapcic is moving up from middleweight to fill in for an injured Abdul-Kerim Edilov and I’m picking him here for a minor upset over ‘Bodao’. Mutapcic has some really nice power in his hands and enough wrestling ability to (hopefully) prevent Barroso from grinding out a slow decision win. As long as the size difference isn’t too much for him to overcome, I think ‘The King’ makes an impression in his UFC debut with a finish over the Brazilian.
ML: Mutapcic via 2nd round TKO
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