While UFC 271 isn’t exactly brimming with star power for the casual fan, this Saturday’s PPV is filled with compelling match-ups that should promise quality entertainment.
Headlined by a middleweight title rematch between the two standout competitors at 185 lbs, Adesanya – Whittaker II should produce interesting new game plans and looks for both men to try and overcome.
Supporting the main event is a clash between two of the heaviest hitters the UFC has to offer, a middleweight title eliminator and two quality match-ups in an absurdly stacked lightweight division.
If that wasn’t enough, the preliminary card is also stacked with intriguing contests while most importantly featuring the final outing for a true MMA pioneer in ‘The Happy Warrior’ Roxanne Modafferi.
Israel Adesanya (21-1) vs. Robert Whittaker (23-5)
In their first outing, Whittaker fought in such an uncharacteristic manner that it’s hard to see him replicate such an aggressive game plan second time out.
In this bout, you’d expect a much more patient and grappling focused approach to try and negate Adesanya’s timing with his strikes but doing that consistently against the champion will be a tough ask.
Adesanya is as technically proficient and intelligent as they come when it comes to striking and his timing and underrated power has already shown that he can hurt Whittaker with a clean blow.
Maybe Whittaker’s own impressive fight IQ will allow him to frustrate Adesanya and create openings for takedowns but the range and timing of Adesanya is such a potent threat that it’s hard not to see a second victory for ‘The Last Stylebender’.
Pick: Israel Adesanya
Derrick Lewis (26-8, 1 NC) vs. Tai Tuivasa (14-3)
I can’t see this ending in any other way than a stoppage.
Both men like to swing heavy leather and both can land the KO blow either on the front foot or on the counter.
While Tuivasa does have the edge in terms of hand speed, I do think that Lewis is the bigger hitter of the two and that may well be the decisive factor.
Despite Tuivasa’s resurgence having been a joy to watch after a real troubling spell, I do think his winning streak comes to an end here.
Pick: Derrick Lewis
Jared Cannonier (14-5) vs. Derek Brunson (23-7)
Cannonier has looked a big finishing threat at middleweight while simultaneously being a tough fighter to hold down.
If there was one man to fancy in that regard however it would be Derek Brunson.
If Cannonier can keep this standing, you’d fancy his aggression and power to be decisive but that is a big ask.
Brunson is a phenomenal wrestler and while there may be a few tetchy moments early doors, I expect Brunson to control and dictate the tempo through his grappling.
Pick: Derek Brunson
Alexander Hernandez (13-4) vs. Renato Moicano (15-4-1)
Both Hernandez and Moicano have shown glimpses of real potential during their UFC tenure’s but recent performances suggest they have lost their way somewhat.
While Hernandez has shown trouble with wrestling back momentum from fights, Moicano is seemingly becoming easier to hurt and tag on the feet.
If Moicano can start quick he may well keep Hernandez at arms length but I think Hernandez’s more physical fighting style can create openings on the feet that can score some damage.
Pick: Alexander Hernandez
Bobby Green (28-12-1) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (13-4)
Haqparast has a lot of the skills to be a solid lightweight contender but he’s struggled to put them all together at this stage of his career.
Fortunately for him he’s still young enough to find his feet but a fight with Bobby Green will be a tough ask for him to overcome.
Green is one of the slickest boxers in MMA and one of the few who can actually employ a Philly Shell defence successfully.
For Haqparast to win I think he’ll need to be grappling heavy in his approach but I can see Green dragging the younger man into a striking battle that he can handily win.
Pick: Bobby Green
(Last Predictions: 4/6, Total: 10/17, 59% Success Rate)
(Success Rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19′: 57%, 20′: 67%, 21′: 58′ )