The UFC is back after a two-week break this Saturday night as two middleweight contenders square off in the main event.
With the heavy-hitting Jared Cannonier taking on the perennial top 10 ranked Kelvin Gastelum, UFC on ESPN 29 is supported by all-action fighters with a flyweight contest between Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Royval the stand-out further down the card.
Jared Cannonier (13-5) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (17-7, 1 NC)
I think for Gastelum to win this bout he’ll have to employ a wrestling-heavy gameplan but his fighting history suggests he tends to struggle when taking down bigger opponents.
Due to Cannonier’s size, it’ll be a mighty task to consistently ground ‘The Killa Gorilla’ and on the feet, Cannonier has the power and comfortability at range to make his shots count.
Gastelum’s speed and jab will always make him a tricky customer but the power in all of Cannonier’s strikes as well as Gastelum’s recent slide make me side with Cannonier here.
Pick: Jared Cannonier
Clay Guida (36-20) vs. Mark Madsen (10-0)
Guida’s in-fight activity coupled with Madsen’s 16-month break from competition could make for somewhat of an upset here.
I do think it’ll be a jump into the deep end for Madsen due to Guida’s in-your-face fighting style but the quality of Madsen’s Olympic-level grappling should allow him to dictate this fight albeit after a potentially uncertain start.
Pick: Mark Madsen
Parker Porter (11-6) vs. Chase Sherman (15-7)
Both Porter and Sherman are high-output fighters in the heavyweight division but Sherman’s higher quality of fights make me lean towards ‘The Vanilla Gorilla’.
While Porter does have the advantage of being more eager to change levels and take the fight to the mat, Sherman’s experience at the higher level should see him win out a primarily striking battle.
Pick: Chase Sherman
Trevin Jones (13-6, 1 NC) vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov (8-2)
Jones looks like he could be a solid contender at bantamweight and while Kakhramonov is a talented prospect himself, he comes into this bout on short notice.
Due to that lack of preparation, I’ll pick Jones’ well-rounded and powerful skillset to allow him to continue his ascendency at 135 lbs.
Pick: Trevin Jones
Vinc Pichel (13-2) vs. Austin Hubbard (13-5)
Hubbard is a game fighter but Pichel’s wrestling is top quality in my opinion and he’s only been beaten in that department by elite grapplers.
Thaks to Pichel’s wrestling, I believe he’ll be able to grind out a controlling performance over 15 minutes.
Pick: Vinc Pichel
Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) vs. Brandon Royval (12-5)
Brandon Royval is perhaps the most frenetic fighter in a division filled with high-paced competitors.
With an aggressive approach to submission attempts on the mat, Pantoja will need to be wary of Royval’s sprint to the finish approach and make use of his quality work on the feet.
The Brazilian should have enough to get the better of Royval on the feet, and I’ll tip him to do so, but the scrambling ability and gas tank of the younger man is something to look out for.
Pick: Alexandre Pantoja
(Last Predictions: 2/5, Total: 75/137, 55% Success Rate)
(Success Rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19′: 57%, 20′: 67%)