The UFC brings two title fights to the table this Saturday, marking the start of a non-stop run of events that only comes to an end in April.
Headlined by a light heavyweight championship match-up between the undefeated Dominick Reyes and the de-facto undefeated Jon Jones, UFC 247 sees Jones look for his 11th overall successful title defence.
Meanwhile in the co-main event, Valentina Shevchenko will hope to continue her dominence in the flyweight division as she takes on #1 contender Katlyn Chookagian.
With little else to write home about in terms of important bouts, a shout out to James Krause who arrived in Houston, Texas as a coach and will now take on middleweight Trevin Giles on one days notice.
Jon Jones (25-1, 1 NC) vs. Dominick Reyes (12-0)
While Dominick Reyes has the power to hurt Jones, and potentially the boxing skills to make inroads, this fight seems one step too far, too soon for Reyes to overcome.
With sharp combinations on the feet, an ability to fight off both the front foot or the counter and seemingly durable, Reyes certainly has a path to victory. To get there however, you get the feeling he’ll have to fight a perfect gameplanor catch Jones on an off night.
Jones meanwhile is vastly experienced at the elite level (Jones has more championship fights than Reyes does professional bouts) and is arguably the best we’ve seen at adjusting his game to ensure victory.
Maybe Jones’ lacklustre performance against Thiago Santos was a precursor to his colapse but Reyes’ last two fights – a generous split decision against Volkan Oezdemir and a quick KO of a chinny Chris Weidman – have proven little in the way of readiness for the well-rounded skillset Jones possesses.
Pick: Jon Jones
Valentina Shevchenko (18-3) vs. Katlyn Chookagian (13-2)
This fight seems more like a formality with the quality Shevchenko offers compared to the rest of the flyweight division.
In Chookagian you have a fighter who is nothing new to what Shevchenko has had to deal with in the past.
Her output and power isn’t exceptional and her range isn’t either.
Add in that Shevchenko has some nice trips from the clinch whereas Chookagian’s takedown defence is around 50% and I can’t see anything other than a clear win for ‘The Bullet’.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko
Juan Adams (5-2) vs. Justin Tafa (3-1)
Neither of these heavyweights are polished fighters but Adams does seem to be further along the production line.
With the proven fact that he can go three rounds and he has some wrestling ability that he can fall back on, I think Adams should win this fight.
If Tafa were to land a bomb however, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest.
Pick: Juan Adams
Mirsad Bektic (13-2) vs. Dan Ige (12-2)
Mirsad Bektic seemingly has all the tools you need to be an elite level fighter but his durability is a big question mark at this point.
With steady striking, athleticism and a solid ground game, Bektic has proven that he can win fights in impressive fashion but he noticeably wears damage poorly.
Ige meanwhile has shown similar skills during his ascension on the UFC preliminary cards, but Bektic is by far the best fighter he has fought.
It’s a hard fight to get a gauge on but I’m not sure Ige has shown big enough power in the past or the defensive responsibilities to ensure he can dictate the fight the way in which he wants.
Pick: Mirsad Bektic
Derrick Lewis (22-7, 1 NC) vs. Ilir Latifi (14-7, 1 NC)
This is such an odd fight.
Coming off of two straight losses at 205 lbs, Latifi has moved up to heavyweight and been given the chance to fight the current #6 ranked contender.
While Latifi does have good wrestling, I think we’ll just see him tire himself out due to his questionable gas tank and then Lewis will find a punishing blow.
Pick: Derrick Lewis
(Last Predictions: 4/5, Total: 8/10, 80% Success Rate)
(Success Rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19′: 57%)