Another UFC week with two events! I have to wonder at this point how long the UFC can keep this up before too many people get burned out…
Pat Healy vs. Gleison Tibau
It’s easy to look at Healy’s age (30) and think he’s in the prime of his career. But Healy is a fighter with 49 fights on his record and 13 years as a professional. It shouldn’t be surprising that Healy is on a three-fight losing streak against the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Bobby Green, and Jorge Masvidal.
Healy is at his best when he’s able to control his opponent in the clinch and with takedowns. That’s what makes Gleison Tibau a tough opponent for him – Tibau is a dominant wrestler, a fighter who has landed 71 takedowns and yielded only five in his UFC career. At the same time, I think Healy can win a striking match if it comes down to that. Tibau is running a -0.36 significant strike deficit per minute despite his massive takedown advantage. It’s not good enough for Tibau to keep this fight standing; he needs to take Healy down to win.
I think Tibau can do it but he’s hard to trust in this situation. Tibau has the wrestling/grappling ability to control Healy and win on points, but if Healy is able to stop Tibau’s takedowns or Tibau simply chooses to make it a striking match, then I would favor Healy.
Pick: Gleison Tibau by decision
Jessamyn Duke vs. Leslie Smith
This is the battle of women who bring just about zero striking defense to the table. Duke and Smith are both tall and rangy fighters (especially Duke), but it’s more common for tall fighters in MMA to simply be bigger targets to hit, as opposed to using range to their advantage as Jon Jones does. Duke and Smith are both examples of fighters who are very easy to hit. Duke absorbed 91 significant strikes in her loss to Bethe Correia, but that’s nothing; Smith absorbed a massive 202 significant strikes in her loss to Sarah Kaufman!
Needless to say, I wasn’t very impressed with either woman. In a battle against each other, it really seems like a coin flip to me. Both like to keep the fight standing and neither has significant knockout power. Both are very easy to hit, so I would expect a very high-volume, high-pace striking match that could go either way. I will slightly favor Duke because she’s a little taller and a little rangier.
Pick: Jessamyn Duke by decision
Aljamain Sterling vs. Hugo Viana
Now that T.J. Dillashaw has fulfilled his destiny and become the UFC bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling takes over as the best prospect at 135 pounds. Sterling brings an excellent record to the table. He’s 9-0 and his early career was filled with wins against quality opponents. He has a strong skill set with good kickboxing skills, solid wrestling and good positional grappling. This is a fighter who I could easily see becoming a challenger for the title down the road.
His opponent is a fairly tough one in Hugo Viana, a striker who hits very hard for the division. The criticism I have of Sterling is that he throws too many kicks, and I could easily see Viana countering those kicks with power punches. The problem with Viana is that he’s one-dimensional and has yet to land a takedown in the UFC. Ultimately I think Sterling can keep up with Viana standing, eventually taking the fight to the ground and scoring points with ground and pound and superior grappling.
Pick: Aljamain Sterling by decision
Yosdenis Cedeno vs. Jerrod Sanders
I was able to find exactly zero video footage of Jerrod Sanders online, so I really don’t have an adequate knowledge of what he brings to the table. What I do know is that Sanders enters the UFC with a 14-1 record although his quality of competition hasn’t been as high as I would like to see. He also looks like a very muscular guy, so I’m wondering how well he’ll hold up throughout a 15 minute fight.
What I do know is that I was thoroughly unimpressed by Yosdenis Cedeno in his UFC debut loss to Ernest Chavez. Cedeno is a skilled and talented fighter with a history of simply not fighting with the activity level he needs to win on the judges’ scorecards. He landed just 26 significant strikes in his loss to Chavez. Overall I’m not optimistic about either fighter in the long run, but for this fight Sanders is the betting favorite and that’s good enough for me.
Pick: Jerrod Sanders by decision
Claudia Gadelha vs. Tina Lahdemaki
The first women’s strawweight fight in UFC history features a fighter who very well may become the UFC champion in that division: Claudia Gadelha. She is a very well-rounded fighter with crisp straight punches, excellent balance in the clinch, good takedowns and good control on the ground. Gadelha looked very impressive in her Invicta win over Ayaka Hamasaki last time out, as she out-maneuvered Hamasaki in the clinch and battered Hamasaki with strikes and submission attempts on the ground.
I think Tina Lahdemaki is in over her head here. Lahdemaki has a very solid ground game herself, but I can’t find one area where she should have the advantage over Gadelha. Lahdemaki’s striking is not well developed and her takedown game is often relegated to trying to pull her opponent down on top of her. This seems to me like a showcase fight for Gadelha, who should enter as the much better athlete and much better overall fighter.
Pick: Claudia Gadelha by TKO