As has been the trend for a while now, the UFC is shipping a lackluster lineup to an overseas fight event. This UFC Fight Pass event features a compelling heavyweight main event with Mark Hunt and Stipe Miocic, a solid middleweight fight between Brad Tavares and Robert Whittaker, and a whole bunch of fringe UFC fighters on the card behind them.
Mark Hunt vs. Stipe Miocic
These heavyweights have a reputation for being particularly durable, but I’m not sure that label applies to Hunt any longer. Hunt has been knocked down four times in the UFC now, and was most recently knocked out by interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. Hunt is also 41 years old and has a long history of taking abuse in both MMA and kickboxing. I’m really wondering how much longer Hunt can compete at a high level, although not many heavyweights can match his technical striking ability.
The good news for Hunt is that Miocic doesn’t strike with a lot of power. He trades power for volume and pace, often scoring stoppage wins due to an accumulation of strikes as opposed to a one-punch knockout. This style works because Miocic has an excellent chin, although I’m worried about the lingering effects of Miocic’s five-round war with Junior Dos Santos. Miocic doesn’t defend strikes particularly well and it’s only a matter of time before his ability to absorb strikes falls apart.
With that said, Miocic has some key advantages in a match against Hunt. He’s nine years younger, six inches taller, has a longer reach, and should be much better equipped to compete for five hard rounds. Miocic should also enter with the better takedown game, although Hunt is pretty tough to take down. Miocic’s ground and pound rates among the best in the heavyweight division, so if he can get Hunt on his back, it could result in a miserable night for the “Super Samoan.”
The reality is that most heavyweight fights don’t go the distance, and with both fighters in this main event having endured brutal wars, I think they’re both ripe to potentially get knocked out in this match. Even though Hunt certainly hits a lot harder than Miocic, I have to think he’s more likely to be the one losing by knockout, due to his advanced age and recent history of being badly hurt by strikes in the UFC.
Pick: Stipe Miocic by TKO
Brad Tavares vs. Robert Whittaker
Whittaker is a very good offensive striker who packs both volume and power, and has defended takedowns very well in the UFC. He’s a fighter on the rise but will take a step up in competition by battling Brad Tavares. Tavares has had a rough recent run in the UFC, losing to a tank named Yoel Romero and being knocked out by Tim Boetsch in a fight Tavares was winning.
The biggest advantage Whittaker has here is in knockout power, as Tavares is a guy who “can’t bust a grape.” Tavares has landed a total of 461 significant strikes in the UFC but only has a single knockdown to show for it. Tavares counters with much better striking defense and a stronger level of competition faced. Whittaker has the home advantage and takedowns are relatively even. Overall, I favor Tavares if the fight goes the distance, but I think Whittaker is more likely to win inside the distance.
Pick: Brad Tavares by decision
Sean O’Connell vs. Anthony Perosh
I miss the days when the UFC would never even think about having a fight like this on a main card. O’Connell’s striking defense is a disaster, but the same could be said of Perosh’s striking in general. Perosh’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is by far the best of either fighter’s skills, but he also enters at 42 years old and with a very questionable chin. Perosh has the potential to make O’Connell look bad, but he could also lose by knockout in the first minute.
Pick: Sean O’Connell by TKO
Jake Matthews vs. James Vick
Matthews is just 20 years old, but has looked very good with his wrestling/striking skill set in the UFC, albeit against weak competition. He’ll be facing a tougher opponent this time in James Vick, a lanky striker with tricky submissions and a questionable chin. Matthews isn’t likely to knock Vick out but should be able to land takedowns on a fairly consistent basis. I like Matthews to grind out a decision here.
Pick: Jake Matthews by decision
- Remember when Hatsu Hioki was considered a top five featherweight? All of a sudden he’s nothing more than a mid-tier fighter in the UFC. He should be good enough to beat Daniel Hooker, but he’s pricey on the betting markets at -300. Hioki by decision.
- Kyle Noke is a well-rounded fighter with good striking and submissions, but finds ways to lose. He’s far too content to play the guard game. I have his fight against the debuting Jonavin Webb as a coin flip. Noke by decision.
- Sam Alvey is widely expected to beat Australian judoka Daniel Kelly, but let’s not forget that Alvey doesn’t defend strikes or takedowns well. Alvey’s the better striker and hits a lot harder, but -400? Really? Alvey by TKO.
- Neither Bec Rawlings nor Lisa Ellis rates as an above-average strawweight, but Rawlings is younger while Ellis has a troubling history of getting taken down and losing by submission. Rawlings by submission.
- Dylan Andrews is coming off two TKO losses, one by doctor stoppage and one by knockout. This is not a good trend. Brad Scott isn’t a better fighter, but he’s ten years younger and much more likely to improve. Scott by decision.
- Alex Chambers is 36 years old, has a professional record of 4-2, and didn’t impress on TUF. Kailin Curran is 12 years younger and at least showed off a decent takedown game against Paige VanZant. Curran by decision.
- Vik Grujic didn’t impress on TUF either and is 38 years old. He’s well below average in both striking and takedowns, but his opponent is Brendan O’Reilly, who looked bad against Zhang Lipeng. The UFC really shouldn’t have fights like this. O’Reilly by decision.
- Alp Ozkilic has a good takedown game but doesn’t fight in an energy efficient manner and has porous striking defense. I know nothing about Ben Nguyen except that he’s 13-5, which isn’t really a great record to take into the UFC. Even so… Nguyen by decision.