Daron Cruickshank vs. Jorge Masvidal
Cruickshank has done a really nice job of working his way up the ladder in the incredibly deep UFC lightweight division. In his last fight, Cruickshank scored a big upset by knocking out Erik Koch in the first round. His reward is a fight against Jorge Masvidal, and if he wins, Cruickshank would have to be considered a fringe title contender at that point.
The problem is that I don’t think Cruickshank matches up well with Masvidal. Cruickshank is a striker who relies on kicks to keep his opponents off balance, but Masvidal is a very good points fighter who mixes takedowns with good volume striking. I think Masvidal can land more standing strikes than Cruickshank and add a few takedowns on top of it. For Cruickshank, the path to victory is to defend Masvidal’s takedowns and look to win by knockout. Since Cruickshank has a history of struggling against volume strikers, I think Masvidal is well equipped to win by decision here.
Pick: Jorge Masvidal by decision
Patrick Cummins vs. Kyle Kingsbury
Kingsbury is definitely more developed as a mixed martial artist, but Cummins’ wrestling is far better than any one skill Kingsbury brings to the table. Kingsbury’s statistical profile is not great – he rates as below average in striking, wrestling, and submissions. He’s a fighter who relies on athleticism to win, and he usually needs his opponent to have a glaring weakness. Cummins has that weakness with his striking, but he’s going to attack Kingsbury with takedowns immediately. Given Kingsbury’s poor takedown defense rate of 57 percent, I expect Cummins to succeed in getting Kingsbury to the ground and grinding out a one-sided decision win.
Pick: Patrick Cummins by decision
Tim Means vs. Hernani Perpetuo
Means is a volume striker who has no idea how to adequately defend takedowns. He also doesn’t have the threatening guard game a lot of lanky fighters use to dissuade opponents from taking them down. Fortunately for Means, he’s facing an opponent in Perpetuo who likes to stand and strike. After examining Perpetuo’s record and watching him on tape, I just don’t think he has what it takes to succeed in the UFC. He’s a striker whose striking is pretty flawed from what I’ve seen – he doesn’t have big power and makes technical mistakes like leaning forward into his punches. Perpetuo’s early career record translates to a SILVA score of 5.39 – prospects entering the UFC really want this to be 30.00 or higher. This looks like a good fight for Means to bounce back.
Pick: Tim Means by TKO
Mike de la Torre vs. Brian Ortega
De la Torre surprised a lot of people by giving Mark Bocek a very difficult fight in April. He was able to mostly stop Bocek’s takedowns and force Bocek into a grueling striking match. It was unexpected because de la Torre historically has had very poor takedown defense, and multiple career losses by submission. This time, he’s set to face Brian “T-city” Ortega. If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably from being featured by the Gracie Academy YouTube channel. As would be expected, Ortega has a very slick and attacking ground game, but his striking and wrestling are lackluster. I think Ortega has what it takes to drag de la Torre to the ground and win by submission, but I want to see improvement in other areas before I start promoting Ortega as a big-time prospect.
Pick: Brian Ortega by submission
Akbarh Arreola vs. Tiago Trator
Arreola is in the same class as fighters like Anthony Lapsley and Joe Doerksen. He’s good enough to succeed on the regional circuit, but just doesn’t have what it takes to win at the highest levels of the sport. I suspect the UFC is giving Arreola a chance so they can have a fighter ready to compete on their upcoming Mexico City card. Arreola has a pretty good submission game but his striking is poor. I expect Tiago Trator, who is a wild but somewhat effective striker, to have a lot of success as long as the fight is standing. Trator doesn’t have strong takedown defense, so it’s possible that Arreola could take him down and possibly win by submission or even on points. However, I see Trator as the better overall fighter and more likely to win due to what I think will be a big advantage in striking.
Pick: Tiago Trator by decision
Gilbert Burns vs. Andreas Stahl
Burns enters the UFC with some hype behind him, as a high-level Brazilan Jiu-Jitsu expert and a member of the Blackzilians. The hype has carried over to the betting markets, where Burns began as a narrow -130 favorite and immediately jumped to -195. After watching tape, I’m not convinced. Burns’ striking is pretty rudimentary and he strikes at a very slow pace. His submissions are obviously excellent, but it remains to be seen how well Burns will be able to apply his ground game to high-level competition. I was more impressed by Stahl, who is a more traditional wrestler/boxer type of fighter. Burns is the more hyped fighter, but I think Stahl is the better prospect, and I’m willing to pick him for the upset here.
Pick: Andreas Stahl by decision
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Juliana Lima
In the second ever UFC women’s strawweight fight, Joanna Jedrzejczyk enters at an undefeated 6-0 while Lima is 6-1. Jedrzejczyk has the better record, both from a winning percentage and quality of competition standpoint. I was also fairly impressed watching her on tape. She’s a counter striker with pretty good power and good balance in the clinch. Most recently, Jedrzejczyk took out Rosi Sexton, and while Sexton was brutally beaten multiple times in the UFC, she’s an experienced competitor. Stopping Sexton by TKO in the second round is an impressive outcome for a rising prospect. It’s enough for me to favor the Polish strawweight to earn a victory here.
Pick: Joanna Jedrzejczyk by decision
Noad Lahat vs. Steven Siler
After watching Lahat lose by KO to Godofredo Pepey and win in earlier fights, I came away not knowing what he’s particularly good at. Lahat still strikes me as a work in progress as a mixed martial artist. Now, it’s possible that Lahat can beat Steven Siler if he’s developed his takedown game, because Siler’s takedown defense is a serious liability. But I think Siler enters as the superior striker, and should have enough of a ground game to threaten sweeps, submissions, or at least get back to his feet if he gets taken down. Unless Lahat has made big improvements in his game (and that’s possible), I can’t pick him to beat Siler here.
Pick: Steven Siler by decision