UFC Fight Night 146 emanates from Wichita, Kansas this Saturday night with a heavyweight headliner that is contested between two of the divisions hardest hitters.
While there aren’t a lot of personalities on this card outside of a few select fights, this card carries a lot of seriously underrated talent.
From a talented striker battle in the co-main event down to a preliminary headliner of Anthony Rocco Martin vs. Sergio Moraes, UFC Fight Night 146 is certainly one for the hardcore MMA fan who wants to see some talented fighters look to climb the ladder.
Derrick Lewis (21-6, 1 NC) vs. Junior dos Santos (20-5)
Previewing this fight is essentially a copy and paste job from every Derrick Lewis fight that he has had in the UFC.
Lewis isn’t the most mobile fighter across the cage, isn’t the most technically savvy – although he can throw a mean head kick – and it’s clear that he is looking for that one knockout blow.
Again though, Lewis knows how to win fights in the heavyweight division. He’s won 9 of his last 11 and despite everyone knowing how he operates, he routinely gets the knockout.
Looking to solve the perplexing Lewis is Junior dos Santos who has rattled off back-to-back wins since a losing effort at regaining his heavyweight title.
The Brazilian is a canny operator and will follow a game plan to stay at distance and remain patient for his opportunities. Dos Santos still remains one of the best boxers in the division and the use of his jab, probably the sharpest tool he has at his disposal, will be a key component if he is to succeed.
The smart pick would be Dos Santos to outclass Lewis but the threat of the heavyweight lottery will loom over this bout.
It’s a cautious pick, but ill side with the former champion.
Pick: Junior dos Santos
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (20-5) vs. Curtis Millender (17-3)
What a fight this promises to be. It’s a shame one of these men has to lose as they’re talented new faces in a deep division.
Zaleski is probably the more dangerous of the pair as he packs real power and a pressuring style that is difficult to avoid.
Millender meanwhile is much more comfortable when he uses his range to dictate the tempo all the while possessing a stinging arsenal of kicks, punches and knees.
I think this fight will be won by whoever can implement their fighting style first and with Zaleski’s ability to threaten the takedown, I think the Brazilian will be able to close the distance in more ways than one.
Pick: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
Tim Means (28-10-1, 1 NC) vs. Niko Price (12-2, 1 NC)
Somewhat similar to the main event, this fight comprises of a fighter who is consistent in their quality across each round and a fighter who is capable of one moment of genius.
Tim Means has developed a steady striking style that is diverse in his techniques and he has experience on his side.
Price meanwhile is explosive in his striking ability, exemplified no more than his KO from the bottom against Randy Brown, but is more than hittable defensively.
It’s a tough pick to make, but I’ll side with the steadier fighter once more.
Pick: Tim Means
Blagoy Ivanov (16-2, 1 NC) vs. Ben Rothwell (36-10)
Both men enter this bout on the end of losses to Junior dos Santos but Rothwell’s two-year absence from competition is the big question mark surrounding this fight and it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to the ring rust.
Ivanov has a strong Sambo pedigree but he hasn’t beaten anyone in MMA at a decent level.
If Rothwell can return to his unusual but sneaky style, he should be able to emerge victorious against a largely unimpressive opponent.
Pick: Ben Rothwell
Beneil Dariush (15-4-1) vs. Drew Dober (20-8, 1 NC)
Drew Dober is on an impressive run at the moment but he’s fallen down when presented the opportunity to step up to another level.
Dariush has remained a top 20 fighter in the lightweight division throughout his UFC tenure and his KO loss to Ramsey Nijem is the only defeat in his career where he has fallen short of his expectations.
Ultimately, while Dober is a well-rounded fighter, Dariush is that big better in all aspects. He can push the pace, is a really talented ground fighter and is more than decent in his kickboxing.
Pick: Beneil Dariush
Tim Boetsch (21-12) vs. Omari Akhmedov (17-4-1)
This is an odd choice to open the main card with as this has a real chance of being a slog as a viewer.
Boetsch remains a physical presence in the cage who packs power in everything he does.
Akhmedov meanwhile is perhaps a bit more diverse in his striking ability but one who will slow considerably as the fight wears on.
I think while Boetsch is ageing, he has been in the Octagon with better fighters and managed to impose himself on those fighters. I’d expect Boetsch to control the fight either through the clinch or takedowns.
Pick: Tim Boetsch
(Last Predictions: 3/5, Total: 26/33, 79% Success Rate)
(2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58% Success Rate)