UFC Fight Night 72 features two grizzled vets trying to stay in contention, the last man to beat Conor McGregor and two lightweights trying to remain relevant. Let’s break it down.
Thales Leites ($9800) vs Michael Bisping ($9800)
Both Bisping and Leites hope for one final run at a title, and this bout is where the chaff and wheat shall separate. Bisping is just 4-4 since 2012, but he doesn’t feel as if he’s slowing down just yet, and he’ll point to his wins over Cung Le and CB Dollaway as proof. Leites is on a roll in his second UFC stint, winning five straight and back-to-back performance bonuses. And while Leites has greatly improved as a striker, can he outstrike Bisping? Doubtful. Look for the quintessential Bisping performance. He’ll outwork and outstrike Leites, defend takedowns and win the fight by unanimous decision. Will that be worth $9800 of your cap? Probably not.
Pick: Bisping by decision
Evan Dunham ($8,900) vs Ross Pearson ($10300)
Dunham started his UFC career red-hot, but he’s just 2-4 in his last six fights. The losses were all to upper-level lightweights, but Dunham looks more like gatekeeper than contender. As for Pearson, there is no secret to his game. He’s a heavy-handed striker that looks to knock people out. Dunham will find that out when he runs into a big left-hand.
Pick: Pearson by KO/TKO
Joe Duffy ($11200) vs Ivan Jorge ($8000)
Who is Joe Duffy? He’s coming off an exciting win in his UFC debut, a knockout of Jake Lindsey. Oh, and he’s the last fighter to beat Conor McGregor, choking him out in just :38 back in 2010. Duffy will starch Ivan Jorge in short order.
Pick: Duffy by KO/TKO
Cortney Casey-Sanchez ($8400) vs Joanne Calderwood ($10800)
Calderwood suffered her first loss as a pro back in April to Maryna Moroz, but shouldn’t have many problems with Casey-Sanchez, who is making her UFC debut. She’s also a replacement for Bec Rawlings, so she gets one of the top UFC strawweights on short notice. This is a huge step up in competition for Casey-Sanchez, and Calderwood will work at her feverish pace, finishing the rookie with a flurry.
Pick: Calderwood by KO/TKO
Pawel Pawlak ($8600) vs Leon Edwards ($10600)
Pawlak will try to grind out a win against Edwards, but speed and power are the perfect counter for that. Edwards knows what he’s up against, and during one of Pawlak’s attempts to get inside, Edwards will lay the leather on him and faceplant him.
Pick: Edwards by KO/TKO
Stevie Ray ($10300) vs Leonardo Mafra ($8900)
In order to be successful at Draft Kings MMA, you have to find an upset or two and get big value from some of the lower salaries on the card. It’s hard to pick against Ray after he dismantled Marcin Brandel in April. But I like Mafra to spoil the Hallmark moment of Ray fighting in front of his hometown fans. Mafra should be able to stand and bang against Ray and that’s what he does best. I think he’ll KO Ray to a chorus of loud boos.
Pick: Mafta by KO/TKO
Paddy Holohan ($10200) vs Vaughan Lee ($9000)
Six of Lee’s 10 losses have come by submission. Paddy Holohan has 11 wins, eight by submission. Sometimes picking fights is as simple as basic math. No need to overthink it here, Holohan chokes out Lee by round 2.
Pick: Holohan by submission
Ilir Laftiri ($10500) vs Hans Stringer ($8700)
Laftiri combines brute strength with solid all-around skills. He’s an excellent wrestler, and he showed he can chop down legs in his fight against Dempsey. I think we’ve yet to see the true breadth of what Laftiri can do, but we will see that Saturday. Laftiri will starch Stringer in the first round.
Pick: Laftiri by KO/TKO
Teemu Packalen ($9700) vs Mickael Lebout ($9500)
It’s a bit interesting that Packalen has a higher salary than Lebout, especially since this is his UFC debut. I thought Lebout was very solid in his UFC debut against Sergio Moraes, and he faced stiffer competition than Packalen before coming to the UFC. Both fighters are good on the ground, and this has decision written all over it. Leap into the unknown for a chance at great value or stay away? I’ll stay away, but pick Lebout to win by decision.
Pick: Lebout by decision
Paul Redmond ($9200) vs Rob Whiteford ($10000)
This one is a stay-away bout in my opinion. If Mirsad Bektic couldn’t finish Paul Redmond, it follows that Rob Whiteford won’t be able to either. This one is more than likely headed to decision, and while I’m picking Redmond in a slight upset, I don’t think either fighter is a good value play here should this go to the judges’ scorecards.
Pick: Redmond by decision
Marcus Brimage ($9400) vs Jimmie Rivera ($9800)
I’ve never been much of a Brimage fan, and the drop to 135 hasn’t propelled him to another level. He’s a journeyman going up against an excellent fighter in Rivera, who has found the power touch in his last two fights. Brimage tends to get a bit wild in his fights. When that happens here, Rivera will drop him and end Brimage’s night — and possibly his stay in the UFC.
Pick: Rivera by KO/TKO
Daniel Omielanczuk ($9900) vs Chris de la Rocha ($9300)
Chris de la Rocha has just three pro fights under his belt. He will be making his UFC debut, and doing it on just about two weeks notice. Omielanczuk is a solid grappler with decent sub skills. He’ll get de la Rocha to the mat and submit him, ruining his UFC debut.
Pick: Omielanczuk by submission