After losing out on one of the best possible lightweight fights last week, the UFC have kindly offered up an equally exciting alternative.
In the main event of UFC on Fox 29, Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier will take on Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje in what promises to be an all-out war. Between the two fighters, 33 stoppage victories have been amassed in their careers and neither man has been in a boring fight.
Elsewhere on the main card, Carlos Condit will take on late replacement Alex Oliviera, two prospects in Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori will square off while Michelle Waterson opens up the marquee portion of the event against Cortney Casey.
The Arizona event also boasts a sizeable and entertaining preliminary card with some notable names like Brad Tavares, Yushin Okami and Wilson Reis.
Dustin Poirier (22-5, 1 NC) vs Justin Gaethje (18-1)
If this isn’t a fight of the year or doesn’t include a round of the year contender, we’ve all been had off.
Justin Gaethje knows one speed and one gameplan: unrelenting pressure. ‘The Highlight’ possesses big power and the technique to make use of it. With leg kicks in close quarters designed to remove a sturdy base and movement from his opponent, Gaethje will bludgeon away with his ‘catch-and-pitch’ double armed guard with a variety of strikes.
With his defence focused on protecting his head, Gaethje’s body is open to strikes and Eddie Alvarez used that opening to perfection en route to handing Gaethje his first loss. Unfortunately for Gaethje, Poirier is a strong user of body kicks and is as much, if not more, as a technical striker as his lightweight contemporaries.
With their wrestling and grappling abilities cancelling each other out, you can expect this fight to be a stand-up battle and both men to try and find their openings. Gaethje will no doubt look to kick out the legs of Poirier frequently and test his chin while ‘The Diamond’ will look to make this more technical and slow his opponent down.
Ultimately, however, I think over a five-round fight Poirier will come unstuck as I’m wary of his ability to eat damage in comparison to Gaethje. No matter the result though, this fight should be electric.
Pick: Justin Gaethje
Carlos Condit (30-11) vs Alex Oliviera (18-5-1, 2 NC)
With Alex Oliviera now Condit’s opponent, as opposed to Matt Brown, that switch of adversary will both provide both benefits and disadvantages for Condit.
In regards to the stand-up battle, for all of Oliviera’s power, the Brazilian is eminently hittable and Condit will be buoyed by that possibility.
While Condit is a technical striker, he has always had problems with being taken down, however. Against Neil Magny in his return bout, Magny took ‘The Natural Born Killer’ down at will and Condit offered little in the way of sound defence.
This fight will be a clash of styles but Oliveira’s advantages are weighted much heavier in his favour. With his physically imposing frame and ability to out-muscle his opponents in close, I can see ‘The Brazilian Cowboy’ coming out with the victory.
Pick: Alex Oliviera
Israel Adesanya (12-0) vs Marvin Vettori (12-3-1)
While Adesanya has been touted very highly in the build-up to this fight, Marvin Vettori certainly has the tools to hand ‘The Stylebender’ his first MMA loss.
On the feet at range, Adesanya is amongst the best in MMA with his kickboxing pedigree but Vettori is a huge middleweight and can grapple once on the mat. It wouldn’t be unthinkable in the slightest to see Vettori close the distance, muscle the slight Adesanya to the mat and hold him there.
Technically, however, I do have reservations about how Vettori can ground Adesanya and whether he can sustain a decent pace if his takedown attempts are thwarted. For that reason, I’ll pick ‘The Stylebender’ to pick his strikes and demoralise the Italian.
Pick: Israel Adesanya
Michelle Waterson (14-6) vs Cortney Casey (7-5)
Cortney Casey has seemingly been lined up for Michelle Waterson to snap her losing streak here but this will be a very tough fight for ‘The Karate Hottie’.
Casey is a tough character and has hung around with the best in the division. Waterson meanwhile is a pot-shotting striker with her kicks and is a decent submission grappler.
Much like many of the other bouts on this card, it’s very conceivable that the bigger fighter will impose themselves on their opponent but I feel Waterson’s technical advantages should allow for more opportunities to score on the judge’s scorecards.
Pick: Michelle Waterson
(Last Predictions: 3/5, Total: 27/48, 56% Success Rate)
(2017: 60% Success Rate)