With one positive test for COVID-19, UFC on ESPN 18 has lost its main event and all of its intrigue.
Following a test returning positive for Curtis Blaydes yesterday, his proposed heavyweight title eliminator against Derrick Lewis has been scrapped and now sees Anthony Smith step up for a late notice main event for the second time during the pandemic.
Set to take on Devin Clark over five rounds, UFC on ESPN 18 is desperately lacking in important bouts or ones which remotely set the pulses racing.
Outside of a welterweight scrap between heavy-hitting welterweights Miguel Baeza and Takashi Sato, UFC on ESPN 18 is arguably the worst UFC event in recent memory on paper.
Anthony Smith (33-16) vs. Devin Clark (12-4)
I have no idea why the UFC has made this five-rounds.
From a technical standpoint, Smith is the better fighter both on the feet and on the mat but once the fight starts to swing in momentum away from him, he seemingly collapses.
Clark, fortunately, isn’t someone renowned for their finishing prowess so the chances of a fight-altering strike landing are minimal.
Clark to his credit is a good athlete and knows how to use his wrestling to control bouts but I doubt he has anything that Smith hasn’t seen before.
Ultimately, I think this contest boils down to Smith’s mindset but if he were to lose, it would undoubtedly be his worst since moving up to 205 lbs.
Pick: Anthony Smith
Miguel Baeza (9-0) vs. Takashi Sato (16-3)
A beneficiary of the late reshuffle, this promising welterweight scrap has been bumped up to a co-main event slot and stylistically it should deliver.
While Takashi Sato is a thumping counter-striker, Miguel Baeza is happy to take the driving seat and so the dichotomy of approaches should make for a great watch.
Taking Baeza’s last outing into account, it will be interesting how his defence holds up against someone who can make any lapses pay. Again, perhaps fortunately for him, Sato isn’t someone who will outwork Baeza so if the younger man can remain patient, he should make his more active fighting style count.
Pick: Miguel Baeza
Josh Parisian (13-3) vs. Parker Porter (10-6)
Parker Porter looks to be a solidly well-rounded fighter but at heavyweight, if you’re not durable, you’re going nowhere fast.
Parisian can crack and with lower-ranked heavyweight clashes, all it takes is one telling blow to bring the curtain down.
Pick: Josh Parisian
Spike Carlyle (9-2) vs. Bill Algeo (13-5)
Carlyle is aggressive and can certainly force a finish but Algeo is scrappy and the more controlled fighter out of the two.
If Carlyle doesn’t get a finish in the first round, I think Algeo will dictate this bout and simply outwork ‘Alpha Ginger’.
Pick: Bill Algeo
Ashlee Evans-Smith (6-4) vs. Norma Dumont Viana (4-1)
This looks to be a classic striker vs. grappler match-up but Viana certainly has less experience at the higher levels.
While it is a toss-up as the wrestler tends to do enough in these match-ups, I think Evans-Smith has decent-enough takedown defence to at least stall this fight out and perform better in striking exchanges.
Pick: Ashlee Evans-Smith
Jonathan Pearce (9-4) vs. Kai Kamaka (8-2)
Pearce vs. Kamaka looks to be a well-matched contest as both offer a lot of productivity in all aspects.
Pearce does look the busier on the feet while Kamaka is more inclined to shoot for a takedown.
Defensively though, Pearce absorbs a fair amount of strikes and I think his slightly more porous defence will be the difference between the two.
Pick: Kai Kamaka
(Last Predictions: 4/5, Total: 126/185, 68% Success Rate)
(Success Rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19′: 57%)