LOUIS SMOLKA (17-7) VS VINCE MORALES (10-5) - Smolka Decision ...Although Smolka will never be a big name in the company, he is an easy fighter to get behind. The Hawaiian has always shown a willingness to expand his game from fight to fight. Morales is an incredibly difficult fighter to gauge. At some points, Morales looks frightened to engage and other times he'll happily sit in the pocket and slickly counter opponents. Smolka’s consistency and pressure will force Morales into a striking war, whether he wants it or not.
ALONZO MENIFIELD (11-2) VS WILLIAM KNIGHT (10-2) - Menifield KO ...Menifield’s victory over Ed Herman was a huge statement, despite the weathered condition of Herman. For the first time in his career, Menifield proved that he control a fight. Knight has not shown a similar level of maturity. Instead, Knight relies on his raw athleticism on the feet and mat. Knightmare’s paper-thin TDD will likely be his undoing in this ugly fight ended with some G&P.
MALLORY MARTIN (7-4) VS CHEYANNE VLISMAS (6-2) - Vlismas ...There is a potential risk that Vlismas is still struggling from the effects of COVID, having been forced to pull out her fight a couple of weeks ago to recover. If Vlismas is healthy, Martin is the calibre opponent she needs to defeat comprehensively if she wants to break into the top-15. Martin’s conditioning and durability are equalled out by Vlismas’ own athleticism, while Vlismas’ crisp combinations on the feet will carry the cards.
JAKE MATTHEWS (17-5) VS JEREMIAH WELLS (9-2-1) - Matthews likely decision ...Functional defensive wrestling and a solid top game, Matthews well-rounded skillset should all but bury Wells. As long as Matthews can keep this standing, Wells’ is limited to landing first and freezing opponents. Wells could win an ugly clinching affair on the feet which Matthews could easily be coaxed into, but in a pure stand-up affair, Matthews’ sharpened boxing should cleanly out-strike Wells’ wild bursts.
BRYAN BARBERENA (15-8) VS DARIAN WEEKS (5-0) - Barberena and OVER ...Bam Bam no longer sees the strikes coming in time. An inability to defensively prepare for incoming damage leaves Barberena a risk to get behind these days. Thankfully, the unknown Weeks is unlikely to have enough to take out the weathered veteran. Despite his wrestling background, Weeks prefers to try his hand on the feet, throwing several front kicks in a fight. There is power in his left hook, but Weeks is limited to the same three-punch combinations and will struggle if Barberena drags him into extended exchanges.
ZHALGAS ZHUMAGULOV (14-5) VS MANEL KAPE (16-6) - Kape ...A big fight in terms of career trajectory for the winner, but not an ideal stylistic match-up for the fans. Both men are patient counter-punchers, with perhaps Kape offering the greater entertainment based on his athleticism and creativity. Zhumagulov is far more likely to approach every round with the same output that will see him earn rounds. The Kazakh’s chin appears unbreakable, even against Kape’s power, but I’m going to have to side with the better natural fighter even if he may simply coast to a decision loss.
MAKI PITOLO (13-8) VS DUSKO TODOROVIC (10-2) - Todorovic ITD late ...Coconut Bombz has always been an underrated wrestler/grappler, but his selling point will always remain his willingness to throw heavy leather. Todorovic’s incredible chin, in addition to Pitolo’s waning confidence during the later rounds, opens the stage for the Serb to brute force a stoppage deep into the fight.
Well I screwed up and forgot to post main wriez...
UFC on ESPN 31 - Main Card:
ALEX MORONO (20-7) VS MICKEY GALL (7-3) - Morono Decision ...Morono will forever be hampered by his mediocre physicality, but his game planning and decision making has proven key in recent fights. While Gall isn’t the shallow gas-tank grappler of his early days, newfound powerful striking isn’t enough to simply walk over Morono. Morono’s submission defense and Gall’s overrated threat on the mat will allow Morono to blunt Gall’s greatest weapons and grind out a decision.
BRENDAN ALLEN (17-4) VS CHRIS CURTIS (27-8) - Allen Decision ...Capable of setting an insane pace (although not always able to maintain it), Allen combines solid wrestling with a strong arsenal of subms. Curtis has always shown decent TDD and sub defense but he will struggle with the early ferociousness of Allen. Even if Curtis survives, he will be banking on checking Allen’s chin deep into the contest – perhaps too late with rounds already banked by the more active fighter.
CLAY GUIDA (36-21) VS LEONARDO SANTOS (18-4-1) - Santos Sub Round 1
...At forty-one years old and after a crushing knockout loss to Grant Dawson, there is a hugely worrying decline present in Santos. The Brazilian is still an exceptionally smart fighter with top-tier technicals, but a failing gas tank is a worry when facing Guida’s relentless pressure. The steadfast pursuit of takedowns is a game plan that Guida refuses to budge from, regardless of the opponent. It would seem an amateur mistake to make against the submission chops of Santos, yet the upside is Guida can control an ageing opponent for much of the round if he can avoid being choked out.
JIMMY CRUTE (12-2) VS JAMAHAL HILL (8-1) - Crute ITD ...A showdown that will be decided by who makes a major mistake first. Crute’s reckless aggression creates equal part openings for himself and his opponents. Meanwhile, Hill will have humbled himself after attempting to beat Paul Craig at his own game. If Crute immediately focuses on out-wrestling Hill, it is difficult to see Hill managing to get up off his back.
RAFAEL FIZIEV (10-1) VS BRAD RIDDELL (10-1) - Riddell ...Forget FOTN, this could be Fight of the Year. The former training partners are firm friends but they will be sure to leave formalities at the door for a three-round bloodbath. Riddell, the hugely durable, crafty counter-puncher, will have to endure Fiziev flying out of the blocks with hellfire. The major question then is whether Riddell can absorb the punishment that Fiziev will deliver in the first round? It seems weird not to back the Aussie’s incredible chin, yet he was stunned by Drew Dober in his last outing. If Riddell can ride the early storm, Fiziev hasn’t shown much ability to adapt in the later rounds when his gas tank starts to wane. The recent Bobby Green fight proves that Fiziev can lose his form around the mid-point.
ROB FONT (19-4) VS JOSE ALDO (30-7) - Font ...What an absolute treat of a fight. In what initially felt like a ‘changing of the guard’ type fight, I have consistently flip-flopped between the two. Wrestling is a key path for an Aldo victory. Font was taken down by Garbrandt 3/10 times, but the subsequent scrambles threw Font off of the pace. Aldo’s formidable top control will allow the Brazilian to bank considerable control time. In a pure striking affair, Font’s natural physical advantages may tip the scales. With the superior height and reach, in addition to underrated power, Font is primed to expose the physical decline in Aldo. If Aldo utilises chopping low kicks with the same intent that he did against Yan, it will prevent Font from using his jab to settle into a rhythm. If not, Font can use the jab like Holloway to force explosive defensive reactions and burn Aldo’s declining gas tank. Small signs of wear and tear to Aldo’s durability has me leaning towards a Font decision.