On October 28th, UFC is returning to Sao Paulo, Brazil with Fight Night: Brunson vs Machida, or UFN 119 (but who’s counting?). It’s not a star-studded card by any means, but a solid line-up in terms of rankings and competitive matchmaking. As is usual for Brazilian UFC events, all of the main card fights feature a Brazilian taking on a foreigner. The close rankings make it a difficult card to predict, and I am not very good at fight predictions to begin with, so if you’re interested in UFC betting for the next Fight Night, use your own prognostication skills instead of taking my word for it. That disclaimer aside, here are my picks for the main card:
It’s been over two years since we saw former Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in action, and almost three since we’ve seen his hand raised in the Octagon. Machida is coming back from an 18 month suspension for a positive PED test, and was finished by Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold in back-to-back fights prior to the suspension. His opponent Derek Brunson has been going through a minor slump of his own – after winning five fights in a row, he was stopped by the now interim Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, then lost a controversial decision to the former champ Anderson Silva – but has rebounded by knocking out Daniel Kelly at UFC Fight Night 110 and is now looking to build up another win streak.
Can 39-year-old Machida make a triumphant return to action in his home country against an opponent in his physical prime? Lyoto looked like a shadow of his former self in his recent outings, and the long layoff is not likely to do him any favors. Then again, Brunson has shown a tendency to make mistakes in his fights, which could be costly against a counter-striker like Machida. After running face-first into Whittaker’s punches, Brunson looked gun-shy against Silva, giving away the decision that he could have easily won if he was more active. My guess is that he won’t be pushing the action with Machida for the same reasons he did not push it with Silva, which could cost him the fight on the scorecards and will likely make for a lackluster main event.
Prediction: Lyoto Machida by decision.
The co-main, like the main event, is also featuring a 39-year-old Brazilian fighter. However unlike his compatriot Machida, Demian Maia has been very active and is less than three months removed from his unsuccessful attempt at the UFC Welterweight title. Prior to dropping a one-sided decision to the champion Tyron Woodley, Maia won seven in a row, and if he wins at UFN 119 he will be tied with Michael Bisping for most wins in UFC history. Win or lose, he will enter a four way tie for most fights in UFC history (more on this later). Maia is taking on a young prospect in Colby Covington, a man who holds a 7-1 UFC record and has been trying to fight and talk his way into title contention. A win over Maia will likely get him into the title picture or somewhere near it, anyway. Covington specifically asked for a fight with Maia, and Demian was apparently happy to oblige. Covington is not short on confidence, and we’ve seen elite wrestlers stifle Maia before – either by smothering him with top control like Jake Shields, or avoiding the ground completely like Woodley. And while Covington is an accomplished collegiate wrestler who has been able to successfully adapt his game to MMA, I am not convinced that Covington’s submission grappling is on the level of Jake Shields, or that his overall game, power, and speed rival Tyron Woodley’s just yet. The sole loss of Colby’s professional career is via submission to Warlley Alves – a far less crafty submission expert than Maia. Though Covington certainly has a bright future in the sport, I have a feeling that Maia will present a challenge he won’t be able to overcome at this point in his career. Though after Darren Till destroyed Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFN 118, I am not very confident about this pick. A change of guard is afoot in the welterweight division.
Prediction: Demian Maia by submission (rear naked choke).
This should be a very competitive battle between two up-and-coming bantamweights with very similar records and a penchant for choking out their opponents. I’m going to pick Font based on having a slightly better rounded MMA game, but let’s just hope for a good fight, which this almost certainly should turn out to be.
Prediction: Rob Font by decision.
I mentioned earlier Demian Maia will be tied for the second place for most bouts in UFC history after UFN 119. What I failed to mention is that Jim Miller, with 27 Octagon appearances, is currently one of the four men tied for the first – so assuming Maia and Miller (and their prospective opponents) aren’t foiled by any last minute illnesses or injuries, Miller will break away from the pack and become the sole record holder. Though it seems like Miller has been around forever, he is actually only 34 years old – 5 years younger than his opponent Francisco Trinaldo. Trinaldo has not been in the UFC for quite as long as Miller, and does not have as much name recognition; however he has been a very consistent fighter holding a respectable 11-4 record in the UFC. Francisco ‘Massaranduba’ has won seven in a row prior to being stopped by Kevin Lee in his most recent bout. Miller also has a seven-win streak on his UFC resume, but his streak was ended in 2011, before Trinaldo even made his Octagon debut.
What should we expect from this match-up of two veteran gatekeepers? A fun fight, some wild grappling exchanges, and ultimately a close decision that reflects the close ranking of the fighters. I’m going with Trinaldo getting his hand raised, as Miller looked a bit shop-worn in recent years due to the wear and tear of his prolific career and his struggle with lyme disease.
Prediction: Francisco Trinaldo by decision.
A solid mid-card bout between two hard hitting middleweights who prefer to not let fights go to the judges’ scorecards. Jack Hermansson is 3-1 in UFC with brutal ground-and-pound TKOs in his last two fights, while Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos has only gone the distance twice in his 11 UFC bouts, and is also riding a two win TKO streak. Both have a submission loss to Cezar Ferreira on their records. Santos prefers to work standing, whereas Hermansson likes taking his opponents to the ground before unleashing a barrage of strikes; so the outcome of the fight largely depends on Maretta’s ability to remain vertical. Either way, someone is going to sleep before the end of round 3.
Prediction: Thiago Santos by KO (spinning kick!)
John ‘Hands of Stone’ Lineker’s fighting style reminds me of a bantamweight version of Chuck Liddell: he prefers to keep the fight standing, is very difficult to put away, hits like a jackhammer, and walks through any offense thrown at him with a single-minded goal of getting into punching range and obliterating his opponents. In the recent years he’s amassed an impressive record, going 6-1 in his last 7 fights with the only loss coming against former champion TJ Dillashaw in Lineker’s most recent bout. Marlon Vera has also shown great improvement in his recent fights, and will have a significant height and reach advantage over 5’2″ Lineker; however this is a disadvantage that Lineker has faced for his entire career and has become quite adept at dealing with it. Vera is primarily a grappler despite a recent TKO win over the fading Brad Pickett, and while he is evolving into a solid prospect, I believe that Lineker will be too much for Marlon at this point. The ‘X-factor’ in this bout is Lineker’s ability to make weight – something he has consistently struggled with during his short stint as a flyweight as well as failing to make the 136 lbs limit against Dillashaw. I hope he can beat the scale this weekend, before laying his ‘Hands of Stone’ on Vera.
Prediction: John Lineker by TKO