The UFC’s six week run of consecutive events comes into its back half this Saturday night as the lightweight division is set for another title eliminator.
With the #4 and #8 ranked contenders Al Iaquinta and Donald Cerrone set to battle it out over a potential five-rounds, the exciting 155 lbs bout is supported by a classic ‘Fight Night’ main card as a slew of inexperienced but promising fighters do battle against one another.
While there isn’t much in the way of star-quality at UFC Fight Night 151, fights like Macy Chiasson vs. Sarah Moras on the preliminary card and Cub Swanson vs. Shane Burgos promise to be both entertaining and intriguing affairs.
Al Iaquinta (14-4-1) vs. Donald Cerrone (35-11, 1 NC)
On paper, Iaquinta possesses the one characteristic that has proven to be Cerrone’s continued downfall in continued pressure.
With that being said, Cerrone is the more technically proficient fighter and can pull out more from his bag of tricks.
It could easily be a five-round showcase of Cerrone’s rangy strikes and combinations but Iaquinta’s recent showings and game plans have proven he can effectively nullify his opponents and impose his own boxing on his opponents.
With recent bouts against better grapplers like Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee, Iaquinta has shown solid submission defence and the ability to get back up to his feet. Add in “Ragin’ Al’s” toughness and propensity to work the body and I think Iaquinta will be able to walk Cerrone down, take away his kicks and provide a better output from in close.
Pick: Al Iaquinta
Derek Brunson (18-7) vs. Elias Theodorou (16-2)
This is a tough fight to call as Derek Brunson is just very inconsistent in how he approaches fights.
Brunson has some of the best wrestling in MMA as displayed in his fight against Yoel Romero but he’ll often abandon any pretence of taking the fight to the mat in favour of putting trust in his heavy hands.
The problem with that approach, however, has reared its head time and time again as his footwork leaves a lot to be desired when striking and his output isn’t at a high enough level to force his opponents into mistakes.
Theodorou meanwhile has never deviated from his high volume kicking game and using his footwork to stay right at the edge of his range.
This has all the makings of a routine Theodorou three-round performance where little of anything happens but I’ll warily side with Brunson to use his wrestling and dominate the fight from there.
Pick: Derek Brunson
Cub Swanson (25-10) vs. Shane Burgos (11-1)
Swanson’s current three-fight skid would indicate that his age and fight experience is catching up with him but to be fair, he has faced three of the best in the featherweight division in a row.
Burgos meanwhile has clearly been earmarked by the UFC as their new all-action fighter as the 28-year old will push the pace and bite down on his mouthpiece.
Whether Burgos will be able to best Swanson with his high volume output and power is another question however. While he is certainly a fun fighter to watch, Burgos has lost to the best fighter he has faced thus far in his career and was dropped in his last outing to Kurt Holobaugh.
It could be a case that Burgos is meeting Swanson at the right time in his career but I’m not sold on Swanson’s supposed demise just yet. If both Swanson and Burgos are to stand and trade in the middle, I fancy Swanson’s experience and know-how to get the job done.
Pick: Cub Swanson
Brad Katona (8-0) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (8-4)
Dvalishvili provides a relentless pace in his fights and Katona could be in big trouble in this bout.
While Katona has shown to be well-rounded in his short career, he has shown signs that he can slow down in fights and if Dvalishvili puts his foot to the floor, it could be a long night for Katona.
It’s a tough call as Katona could have the power and defensive wrestling needed to keep his opponent at bay but Dvalishvili’s pace is too much to overlook.
Pick: Merab Dvalishvili
Walt Harris (12-7) vs. Sergey Spivak (9-0)
Spivak is a young prospect in the heavyweight division and will be making his promotional debut on somewhat short notice.
With Harris standing across from him with a greater level of experienced opponents on his resume, I think Harris’ cleaner striking will be able to get the job done in an unspectacular showing.
Pick: Walt Harris
Marc-Andre Barriault (11-1) vs. Andrew Sanchez (10-4)
In another promotional debut, Marc-Andre Barriault makes his UFC bow here after claiming titles on the Canadian MMA circuit.
Barriault packs serious power with eight of his 11 wins coming via KO/TKO while his four other bouts have gone to split decisions.
Sanchez meanwhile has gone 2-2 since moving to the middleweight division in the UFC with both of his losses coming via KO.
In terms of narrative, you’d expect Barriault to be looking to capitalise on a potential weak chin of Sanchez but his last outing showed real signs of progress for Sanchez.
By pacing himself against a decent hitter in Markus Perez, Sanchez earned a fairly routine decision win and I’d fancy Sanchez to do the same here.
Pick: Andrew Sanchez
(Last Predictions: 2/6, Total: 46/73, 63% Success Rate)
(2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58% Success Rate)