Soon I’ll have detailed write-ups on the main event between Costa Philippou and Luke Rockhold as well as the co-main event between Lorenz Larkin and Brad Tavares. For now here’s what I think of the other main card fights scheduled for Wednesday night:
135 pounds: T.J. Dillashaw vs. Mike Easton
I’ve been harsh on Mike Easton in the past but not because I think he’s a bad fighter. I just continue to wonder why Easton chooses to strike against his opponents when his grappling is better (in my humble opinion). In five fights Easton has a 263-250 significant strike ratio with just one knockdown landed; he’s been better than his collective opponents but not by much.
With that said Easton will want to stand and strike against T.J. Dillashaw because that’s his most likely path to victory. I’ve gushed about Dillashaw plenty in the past – he’s an excellent wrestler out of Team Alpha Male who has showcased a very well-rounded game for a fighter who entered The Ultimate Fighter at just 4-0.
Dillashaw stumbled a bit in his last fight, losing by decision to Raphael Assuncao even though I felt Dillashaw deserved the nod. Either way it was a disappointing performance in a fight I thought Dillashaw deserved to be the clear favorite in. What we saw is that Dillashaw’s striking was only good enough to match Assuncao… although Assuncao’s striking metrics are better than you might think.
In any case I think Dillashaw has the advantage everywhere against Easton. That’s not a knock against Easton, it just shows how highly I think of Dillashaw. If Dillashaw is smart he’ll look to take Easton down and leave no doubt who the better fighter is… but even if he engages in a striking match I think he has what it takes to end up winning by decision.
Pick: T.J. Dillashaw by decision
185 pounds: Derek Brunson vs. Yoel Romero
Romero has had a tremendous amount of hype since beginning his MMA career thanks to his status as a truly world-class wrestler and former Olympic silver medalist in freestyle wrestling. However as Chael Sonnen has pointed out, Romero wasn’t a wrestler who won matches with takedowns – and sure enough, similar to Mark Munoz, Romero’s wrestling background hasn’t translated to success in the takedown game in MMA.
What Romero has shown is great knockout power and a diversity of offensive striking techniques. Romero is a phenomenal athlete and it shows when he fights. It’s easy to see why he has so much hype behind him.
With that said Romero is taking on an FPR darling in Derek Brunson. In four UFC/Strikeforce fights and 31 minutes of action Brunson has landed nine takedowns, passed guard 12 times, and attempted three submissions, all without having any of those techniques performed against him. The result is an FPR of +1.91, 18th best in the middleweight division despite his lack of experience. He’ll have the takedown advantage against Romero.
The fear of course is that Romero will knock Brunson out – a legitimate concern given that Brunson has a knockout loss to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on his record. However I think Brunson should be able to control the action with takedowns and effective grappling in what would be an upset.
Pick: Derek Brunson by decision
125 pounds: John Moraga vs. Dustin Ortiz
My impression of Ortiz from watching him on tape is that he’s a very aggressive fighter who leaves himself in bad positions constantly. Ortiz has great conditioning and can take the fight to his opponent for three rounds, but is a poor grappler who often gives up his back.
In a pure striking match against John Moraga, Ortiz would have a very decent chance of winning, although Ortiz’s striking defense and head movement need improvement as well. Moraga is a decent striker himself but while he looked great in a TKO win over Ulysses Gomez, he was being out-pointed before submitting Chris Cariaso.
Where I favor Moraga by a significant margin is the ground game. I just can’t get past the fact that Ortiz so often either gets taken down or fails on his own takedown attempt and gives up his back. In just about every Ortiz fight I watched he would give up his back at some point and have to escape a submission hold. He won’t get away with that for long in the UFC.
Given Moraga’s history of winning by submission and Ortiz’s history of putting himself in bad positions I have to think Moraga gets the stoppage victory.
Pick: John Moraga by submission
145 pounds: Cole Miller vs. Sam Sicilia
Miller is the better overall fighter but I worry about this particular style match for him. Sicilia is a fighter who moves forward and throws bombs from the opening bell and I feel like his pressure might break the tall and lanky Miller.
Miller has never been a great striker; for his career Miller has been out-struck 533-454 in significant strikes. He also has shown very limited ability to take his opponents down, landing only five takedowns in 15 UFC fights despite having an excellent ground game.
Then again, it’s not as if Sicilia has been a terrific striker either, as he’s been out-struck 140-109. Ultimately Sicilia’s biggest enemy will be his gas tank as his style is not well suited to a three-round fight. Eventually Sicilia will become exhausted and when that happens, I have to think Miller will win the striking battle at that point or drag Sicilia to the ground and submit him.
Even so, the first round figures to be rough for Miller. I think he can weather the storm but a Sicilia first-round TKO win would not surprise me.
Pick: Cole Miller by submission