Lyoto Machida vs. Yoel Romero is fantastic matchmaking, as we get to see one of the best strikers in MMA history against a former Olympic wrestler who’s currently riding a five-fight winning streak. It should be a tremendous main event. Plus, dynamic striker Lorenz Larkin is back, and we get to see the debut of former hockey enforcer Steve Bosse. Let’s take a look at the card.
Yoel Romero ($8900) vs Lyoto Machida ($10500)
The rumors of the demise of Lyoto Machida? I’m not buying them – yet. Romero is a good fighter and he is on the way up. But he’s not Weidman or Rockhold — which were the last two losses for Machida. Romero is always moving forward, which should play right into Machida’s counter game. Machida also has solid takedown defense and great movement, which he will need against the raging bull that is Romero. Machida isn’t done yet. He’ll take Romero into rounds four and five and land a finishing strike.
Pick: Machida by KO/TKO
Santiago Ponzinibbio ($8600) vs Lorenz Larkin ($10800)
Larkin has finally found a home at welterweight, and he’s one of the more dynamic strikers in the UFC. Ponzinibbio absorbs a lot of strikes — over four per minute — and that’s not going to keep him on his feet considering the speed and power Larkin has. Larkin will make quick work of Ponzinibbio, scoring you about 120 points in the process.
Pick: Larkin by KO/TKO
Antonio Carlos Junior ($11000) vs Eddie Gordon ($8400)
For my money, Gordon represents the best value on the card. He’s the second lowest priced fighter on the card. He desperately needs a win to save his job in the UFC. He trains under Matt Serra and Ray Longo and with Chris Weidman. Carlos Junior is a submission specialist, and Gordon has never been submitted. Pat Cummins, a wrestler like Gordon, created the blueprint to beat Carlos Junior: Pressure, takedowns and volume striking. I believe Gordon to have more power than Cummins, and I think he’ll get the stoppage from top position after some vicious ground and pound.
Pick: Gordon by KO/TKO
Thiago Santos ($10700) vs Steve Bosse ($8700)
I think it went like this: Steve Bosse had a fight, then he didn’t, then he retired, then he unretired and then something else happened — I can’t keep up. But we will finally get to see the former hockey enforcer in the UFC. The bad news: Bosse hasn’t fought in over two years, and in his last four fights, two of his wins were against fighters with losing records. The other two were against fighters over the age of 40. Santos has two wins in the UFC, both by knockout. Bosse will be his next victim.
Pick: Santos by KO/TKO
Levan Makashvili ($8700) vs Hacran Dias ($10700)
I’m staying away from this fight and here’s why: these two guys are super tough and this is more than likely headed to a decision. Dias hasn’t finished anyone in almost four years and Makashvili is going to be hard to put away. You need to find finishers to win at Draft Kings MMA, and I don’t think that will happen. Makashvili could be a sneaky value pick, and I might roll him out in one of my lineups if the salary fits. But this is mostly a non-play for me, or a hedger at best. I was impressed with Dias’ performance against Darren Elkins, especially his ability to take Elkins down, and I see him gutting out the decision win.
Pick: Dias by decision
Alex Oliveira ($10800) vs Joe Merritt ($7600)
Joe Merritt is a latecomer to this card, and his prize is Alex Oliveira. Unfortunately Merritt won’t get to choose between Oliveira and what’s behind door number three. Merritt is 6-0 with six knockouts, but his opponents have a combined record of 12-24. That doesn’t always tell the whole story, and he beat who was put in front of him, but Alex Oliveira is not the man you want to face in your UFC debut. Oliveira has good power and he’s absolutely tenacious. He’s coming off a big win against K.J. Noons, and there is no way that Merritt is anywhere near the striker that Noons is. Oliveira is going to show Merritt what a top-level fighter looks like — then he’ll knock him out.
Pick: Oliveira by KO/TKO
Lewis Gonzalez ($9000) vs Leandro Silva ($10400)
Gonzalez is another late addition to this card, and he’ll make his UFC debut. He’s headlined a WSOF card before, so he won’t be a deer in the headlights. But much like Merritt with Oliveira, Silva is a horrible matchup for Gonzalez, who is primarily a wrestler. Silva has ten submission wins and he is more than able to finish Gonzalez in that fashion. I like Silva here even if the fight remains standing. But I think Silva will eventually get Gonzalez down and choke him out.
Pick: Silva by submission
Tony Sims ($8900) vs Steve Montgomery ($10500)
Two more newcomers that were added to the card due to fighter visa issues. Montgomery is coming off a KO win against Brock Jardine, and he has also beaten UFC fighter Colton Smith. You might have seen him on “The Ultimate Fighter” this season, where he had a horrible seizure in the house. Montgomery has good power and has fought against better competition than Sims. Conventional wisdom has Montgomery knocking Sims out, and I agree.
Pick: Montgomery by KO/TKO
Danny Martinez ($10300) vs Sirwan Kakai ($9100)
Martinez has been around forever, even having a cup of coffee in the WEC back in 2008. It was great that he finally got the call to join the UFC, but he lost his first two fights to Scott Jorgensen and Chris Cariaso. Kakai dominated the regional circuit and had one fight in Titan FC, but he’s going to be biting off more than he can chew with Martinez, especially in his UFC debut. However, Kakai has yet to be finished, so I expect he will be able to make it to the final horn.
Pick: Martinez by decision