UFC Fight Night Berlin will feature the first title defense for Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who took the title from Carla Esparza in dominant fashion at UFC 185. In order to retain the belt she’ll have to defeat the always-game, always-improving Jessica Penne. And while it’s Fight Night in Berlin, it’s more of a Fight Afternoon here in the states, with the pre-lims beginning at noon in the East on UFC Fight Pass. So get those lineups in sooner rather than later. Let’s take a look at the card and break it down.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk ($11300) vs Jessica Penne ($8300)
It’s hard to pick against the champ here, as much as I like Penne. Jedrzejczyk is undefeated and put on an amazing display of skill and heart in winning the title from Carla Esparza. Penne is excellent on the ground, but getting Jedrzejczyk to the ground will be quite the chore. Wrestling is Esparza’s strength, and Jedrzejczyk defended 16 of 17 of her takedown attempts, a huge improvement from her fight with Claudinha Gadelha. I think Jedrzejcyk will take it via decision, but not sure if that will justify forking over the $11300 in salary.
Pick: Jedrzejczyk by decision
Tatsuya Kawajiri ($9100) vs Dennis Siver ($10300)
You might think this will be Takedown City for Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri, but I’m going to disagree. Siver is decent at defending takedowns, and he certainly knows that’s the bread and butter of Kawajiri’s game. Siver is also a very competent kickboxer who will keep Kawajiri at bay with his striking. I was going to predict a KO win for Siver here, but then noticed he hasn’t scored one of those since 2009. Still, I like him in a decision win here. Decisions don’t equate to wins in Draft Kings, so I’ll likely be staying away from this fight.
Pick: Siver by decision
Peter Sobotta ($10900) vs Steve Kennedy ($8500)
Battle-tested veteran fighting in front of his home crowd taking on a late replacement making his UFC debut? Please and thank you. Peter Sobotta will wrap Steve Kennedy up like a pretzel and score a submission win.
Pick: Sobotta by submission
Nick Hein ($10200) vs Lukasz Sajewski ($9200)
Lukasz Sajewsjki is a promising prospect, undefeated at 13-0 as he makes his UFC debut. Nick Hein isn’t especially skilled in any one area, but he is a pain to fight and absolutely brings it. Sajewski also hasn’t fought in over a year and Hein will be fighting in front of his home peeps. Sajewski is a decent contrarian pick if you want to take a flyer or need to fill a salary spot, but that would be the extent of how I would select him. I think Hein does more than enough to win this.
Pick: Hein by decision
Masio Fullen ($8800) vs Makwan Amirkhani ($10600)
You don’t get a much better UFC debut than the one Makwan Amirkhani had this past January. He needed all of eight seconds to land a flying knee that knocked out Andy Ogle. Interestingly enough, that was his first knoockout in 13 career fights. He’s much more accomplished on the ground, where he has scored eight wins by submission. Fullen eked out a split decision win in his UFC debut, but he won’t be able to handle the grappling that Amirkhani will have for him.
Pick: Amirkhani by submission
Mairbeck Taisumov ($10100) vs Alan Patrick ($9300)
You win in Draft Kings by picking fighters that finish their opponents. Mairbeck Taisumov is one of those fighters. He has two KOs in his last two fights, and has finished 21 of his 23 wins, which is just amazing. And while they weren’t all UFC finishes, most did come against the monsters competing over in M-1. Patrick is undefeated, but he has yet to be smothered by someone like Taisumov.
Pick: Taisumov by knockout
Alan Omer ($10400) vs Arnold Allen ($9000)
Time for the upset special of the night. Arnold Allen is an excellent prospect from England, a baby-faced assassin who is as tenacious as they come. He has it all in his arsenal: fast hands, good power from southpaw stance, solid kicks and an outstanding ground game, especially from top position. Allen will win his UFC debut with a big knockout.
Pick: Allen by knockout
Niklas Backstrom ($10500) vs Noad Lahat ($8900)
Noad Lahat is a tough, grinder-type fighter with a solid ground game, but Backstrom is the one to watch here. Yes, he’s coming off a KO loss to Mike Wilkinson, but before that he has four straight wins and finished each fight. A very tall featherweight at over six feet, Backstrom will use his reach to keep Lahat at distance and prevent solid takedown attempts. I don’t think Backstrom will finish Lahat, but he will take the next step in his development by beating Lahat.
Pick: Backstrom by decision
Scott Askham ($10700) vs Antonio dos Santos ($8700)
Antonio dos Santos was doing well in his fight with Daniel Sarafian before a dislocated finger put an end to his night. dos Santos has a solid Muay Thai game, though he seemed a bit slow on counters and also much too hittable. There were a few times in round one where he was stunned and even dropped once by a jab. Askham will have a big reach advantage and has more than enough power to put dos Santos away. Unless dos Santos made a huge improvement in his defense, he’ll get KO’d.
Pick: Askham by knockout
Piotr Hallman ($9900) vs Magomed Mustafaev ($9500)
Hallman has been very impressive in his the UFC despite having a record of 2-2. He went the distance in his two losses with both Al Iaquinta and Gleison Tibau, and scored submission wins in his other two bouts. Mustafaev is a grinder/wrestler who will be able to make this a fight, but Hallman is the more polished and skilled fighter.
Pick: Hallman by decision
Ulka Sasaki ($10800) vs Taylor Lapilus ($8600)
Lapilus is a fine prospect, but Sasaki is much further along in his development and definitely more well-rounded. While Lapilus has six submission wins, he does not want to go to the ground with Sasaki. But that is indeed where the fight will go at some point, and Sasaki will record a submission win.
Pick: Sasaki by submission