Let’s play two! The UFC dominates your weekend plans with UFC 189 Saturday night, and then they’re right back at it with the TUF 21 Finale on Sunday. Let’s take a look at the card.
Stephen Thompson ($10500) vs Jake Ellenberger ($8900)
There was a time when Ellenberger was a legit contender in the UFC welterweight division, but those days have passed. Ellenberger choked out Josh Koscheck in his last bout, but before that lost three straight fights. Thompson has the speed and length that will irritate Ellenberger all fight long. He’s won five of his six UFC fights, the only loss coming to Matt Brown. My prediction is that Ellenberger will survive to the final bell, but Thompson takes it on points.
Pick: Thompson by decision
Kamaru Usman ($10400) vs Hayder Hassan ($9000)
ATT’s Hayder Hassan clinched the series win for his team on TUF 21, but he’ll have a rough go of it with the Blackzilians’ Usman. Both fighters were undefeated on the show, and they wanted to fight each other. They’ll get that chance on Sunday evening, the winner getting $200k and a new Harley Davidson motorcycle. Who will earn final bragging rights? ATT won the season, but the Blackzilians’ Usman will prevail against Hassan. It might not be pretty, but his wrestling will stifle Hassan and earn him the decision win.
Pick: Usman by decision
Vicente Luque ($10000) vs Michael Graves ($9400)
Two more cast mates go at it with the Blackzilians’ Vicente Luque up against ATT’s Michael Graves. Luque lost to Hayder Hassan in the finals on the show, but he rearranged Hassan’s face in the process, and some people thought he should have been declared the winner. Luque has a shot at redemption against Graves, and he’ll make the most of it. He’ll land big strikes and produce a big knockout.
Pick: Luque by KO/TKO
Jorge Masvidal ($10800) vs Cezar Ferreira ($8600)
For my money, Jorge Masvidal is one of the most-underrated fighters in the sport. He started as a street fighter like Kimbo Slice, and has turned into a complete mixed martial artist with almost 40 professional fights to his name. Masvidal is moving back to 170, and he’ll get Cezar Ferreira in his return to the welterweight division. Ferreira has suffered knockout losses in two of his UFC fights, and two unimpressive wins in his other two. Masvidal will do what he does best: use angles, strike in volume and defend takedowns in route to a decision win.
Pick: Masvidal by decision
Michelle Waterson ($11500) vs Angela Magana ($7900)
Michelle Waterson, a.k.a. “The Karate Hottie,” has plenty of speed and skills, and that’s a lethal combination. Magana has yet to show off any world-class skills, with the exception of her mouth. Waterson is the former Invicta atomweight champion, who recently had a six-fight winning streak that included a win over Jessica Penne. Look for Waterson to take Magana’s back off a scramble and lock in a rear naked choke for her first UFC win.
Pick: Waterson by KO/TKO
Maximo Blanco ($10100) vs Mike de la Torre ($9300)
Both Blanco and de la Torre throw a lot of strikes, so this should be an entertaining scrap. de la Torre is coming off a KO win over Tiago dos Santos e Silva at UFC Fight Night 61. Blanco has yet to finish or be finished in his six UFC fights, and he’ll run that streak to seven. Blanco is the more-polished of the two fighters, and de la Torre absorbs more strikes per minute than Blanco. It will be another decision for Blanco, but the good kind — a win. But as usual, decision wins, while better than losses, aren’t the best route to victory at Draft Kings, so I’ll be staying away from this one.
Pick: Blanco by decision
Caio Magalhaes ($10300) vs Josh Samman ($9300)
Magalhaes has needed all of 81 seconds to register knockout wins in his last two bouts. This time, he’ll be the one flat on the canvas as Samman has the reach and style to take Magalhaes out. I find there is something special about Samman, and Magalhaes will find this out on Sunday evening. I love this upset pick.
Pick: Samman by KO/TKO
Russell Doane ($11200) vs Jerrod Sanders ($8200)
This is one of those fights where I believe the salaries to be right on the money (no pun intended). Doane has speed and youth on his side, and Sanders has finished in the first round of both his UFC fights. Doane is well-rounded, so how he finishes this fight is up for debate. I’ll go with submission, and I think he’ll finish early. His salary is high but he should return about 125 points for the price.
Pick: Doane by submission
Dan Miller ($9900) vs Trevor Smith ($9500)
Dan Miller is them older brother of UFC warrior Jim Miller, and the elder Miller returns to The Octagon for the first time since March of 2013. That layoff makes this a tricky fight to call. Smith is a former collegiate wrestler, but not necessarily a solid MMA wrestler. He both throws and receives a lot of strikes, and he’s had difficulty against mid- to upper-tier fighters. Both fighters are good on the ground, with the majority of their wins coming by submission. My gut says Miller by submission, but buyer beware due to his long layoff.
Pick: Miller by submission
George Sullivan ($10200) vs Dominic Waters ($9200)
Sullivan got tapped in his last fight by Tim Means, his first UFC loss after winning his first two fights. He’s about a decade into his pro career and his main asset is power — which is the last thing to go for an MMA fighter. I mention that because he’ll be fighting the much younger Waters, whose work you might have seen on TV with RFA or WSOF. He’ll make his UFC debut against Sullivan, and a crafty vet with power is not an ideal matchup for your first bout in The Octagon. He’ll make a mistake, Sullivan will pounce and end the fight with a bang.
Pick: Sullivan by KO/TKO
Darrell Montague ($9800) vs Willie Gates ($9600)
Haven’t we met before? Two former Tachi Palace champs will meet in the only flyweight fight on the card. Montague suffered the baptism by fire of his first two UFC fights, getting KO’d by John Dodson and losing by decision to Kyoji Horaguchi — two contenders in the division. Gates was rudely welcomed to the UFC by John Moraga last December, getting choked out near the end of round three. Neither fighter was able to land much in any of those fights, but Montague’s back is up against the wall — a loss to Gates would likely mean he’ll need a new employer. I think he’ll finally be able to show his best against Gates, and he’ll score a win by decision.
Pick: Montague by decision