How about a little ‘Wake and Break’ with the UFC? The Octagon heads to the Netherlands for a Sunday morning special, with the main and co-main events featuring hard-hitting, veteran heavyweights. Let’s break down all the fights and get you some information to make your best lineups.
Andrei Arlovski ($9,100) vs Alistair Overeem ($10,300)
Arlovski has made the most of his second stint in the UFC, going undefeated until running into Stipe Miocic in January. His knockout of Travis Browne remains impressive, but the wins over Big Foot Silva, Brendan Schaub and Frank Mir have lost their luster. Overeem has won three straight, including KO wins over Junior Dos Santos and Stefan Struve. Both fighters have been criticized for their chins, but Overeem remains solid defensively, and he’s a different fighter now than when he made his UFC debut. He’s much more measured and strategic. Statistically, he lands more and absorbs less punishment than Arlovski, and he also will have a reach advantage. He won’t have to worry about going to the ground with Arlovski. You see where I’m going here: all signs point to Overeem winning this fight, and I think he’ll floor Arlovski early and finish him with strikes.
Pick: Overeem by KO/TKO
Stefan Struve ($9,500) vs Antonio Silva ($9,900)
I absolutely love this matchup for Struve. Silva has been a non-factor since getting busted for PEDs, going 1-4-1 in his last six bouts. Struve has had his own difficulties in dropping three of his last four, but he’s still just 28, and he will own both height and reach advantages, something that Silva usually enjoys. Struve’s last knockout was years ago against Stipe Miocic. It’s time for another one. He should be able to tee off on the lumbering Silva, and get back to his winning ways.
Pick: Struve by KO/TKO
Albert Tumenov ($10,500) vs Gunnar Nelson ($8,900)
Nelson is always in play because he has one of the very best sub games in MMA. The loss to Demian Maia looked bad, but Maia has been one of the best jiu jitsu fighters in the UFC over the last ten years. Meanwhile, Tumenov keeps winning, and not just against bottom-of-the-roster guys. His win against Alan Jouban was extremely impressive, and he followed that up with a win over Lorenz Larkin. He will push the pace and his boxing is exceptional, averaging over four significant strikes per minute. I don’t think Nelson can survive such an onslaught unless he can secure the takedowns. But I think Tumenov’s aggressiveness on the feet and his takedown defense will handle that. Tumenov continues to get better, and we’ll see that against Nelson.
Pick: Tumenov by KO/TKO
Anna Elmose ($9,400) vs Germaine de Randemie ($10,000)
de Randamie was heralded as an excellent kickboxer upon entering MMA, but she’s looked rather simple in her Strikeforce and UFC fights, at least until knocking out Larissa Pacheco over a year ago. de Randamie hails from the Netherlands, and she’s been gifted an advantageous matchup in UFC newcomer Anna Elmose. In fact, Elmose has just three pro bouts under her belt. While all three were knockout wins, her opponents have a combined record of just 8-11. This seems like a squash to me. de Randamie in front of the home crowd against a UFC #n00b who has never fought anyone of de Randamie’s caliber. Look for the “The Iron Lady” to make it two straight KO wins.
Pick: de Randamie by KO/TKO
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Nikita Krylov ($10,100) vs Francisco Barroso ($9,300)
Krylov is 4-2 in the UFC, with all four wins coming in the first round. That’s the type of fighter you should be targeting, at least in GPPs. Barroso will need to subdue Krylov on the feet somehow, either with his own standup or by getting to the ground, because Krylov is very dangerous. But he also has a good sub game, so even the ground can be problematic for Barroso. Barroso is a solid fighter, but when I form lineups, I’m looking for finishers. Krylov fits the bill, and I think he will drop Barroso.
Pick: Krylov by KO/TKO
Karolina Kowalkiewicz ($11,200) vs Heather Clark ($8,200)
Interesting matchup here in that in her debut Kowalkiewicz fought Randa Markos, a ranked fighter, and now gets unranked Heather Clark in her second UFC appearance. Clark has incredible grit. She’s been finished just once in her career, and that was due to a doctor stoppage. She hasn’t fought since 2014, but that was a win over Bec Rawlings. But a layoff of over a year at age 35 against an up-and-coming prospect with international experience in Kowalkiewicz sounds like a hill too tough to climb. I expect Clark will make it to the final horn, but Kowalkiewicz will get the win. I need a finisher for the highest-salaried fighter on the card, so I’ll be passing on this one.
Pick: Kowalkiewicz by decision
Chris Wade ($9,000) vs Rustam Khabilov ($10,400)
Brock Lesnar may be the mayor of “Suplex City,” but Khabilov has earned that title in The Octgaon. There’s not much he doesn’t do well. He has tremendous power, outstanding wrestling, great ground game, and he’s got a great chin. Wade has turned away all 11 takedown attempts against him in his UFC career, and he has a nifty ground game, too. The problem for Wade is he can be held up against the cage, and I think that could be the death knell for him in this fight. I think Khabilov will get Wade to the ground from there and lay down some serious ground and pound, working his way to a ref stoppage and the win.
Pick: Khabilov by KO/TKO
Magnus Cedenblad ($10,600) vs Garreth McClellen ($8,800)
This is as close to a lock as there is on the card. Cedenblad hasn’t fought much recently due to injuries, but he has a killer ground game and has finishes in 11 of his 13 wins. Cedenblad averages almost three takedowns per 15 minutes, and McClellen successfully defends takedowns just 23% of the time. Game, set, match — submission.
Pick: Cedenblad by submission
Jon Tuck ($8,600) vs Josh Emmett ($9,700)
Emmett is a late replacement for Nick Hein, and he scored a TKO win in his last fight against former UFC fighter Christos Giagos. This will be his UFC debut and it’s on short notice. Tuck has plenty of Octagon experience, and he’s 3-2 in the UFC. He will also have height and reach advantages on Emmett. Tuck is sneaky-quick, and very fluid in his striking, and he has an excellent ground game. Looking at Emmett’s record, all his fights have taken place in California. Going overseas to fight for the first time while making your UFC debut could prove to be too much. Tuck is a solid pro and an excellent value play here. I think he will finish Emmett within the three rounds. It could be KO or submission, with my prediction being a sub.
Pick: Tuck by submission
Reza Madadi ($9,200) vs Yan Cabral ($10,200)
Cabral gets the favorite status here. Which to me, makes Madadi another excellent value play. Both fighters are submission specialists, but Medadi will push the pace on the feet, and I’m certain he will land more than Cabral. If you think that their stellar ground games will cancel each other out, you’re left with Medadi as having the clear advantage on the feet. Look for him to take this on all the judges’ scorecards.
Pick: Medadi by decision
Kyoji Horiguchi ($10,700) vs Neil Seery ($8,700)
With the exception of his title fight against Demetrious Johnson, Horiguchi has outstruck every one of his UFC opponents. Seery is 3-2 in the UFC, and in the two losses he has been outstruck. This is just simple math. Horiguchi will do more to score, and this fight will go to a decision. But a decision win for $10,700 just isn’t worth it. You need a finisher at that price point.
Pick: Horiguchi by decision
Leon Edwards ($10,900) vs Dominic Waters ($8,500)
Waters has yet to prove he truly belongs in the UFC, and he’ll face a very dynamic striker in Leon Edwards. Waters can get takedowns, but his striking is almost non-existent. Edwards needs to chill on some of the flying knees he goes for, because when they miss he can end up on the ground and in bad positions. Of course, it might not even come to that, as Edwards is likely to put Waters away early.
Pick: Edwards by KO/TKO
Willie Gates ($9,600) vs Ulka Sasaki ($9,100)
Gates has been over-matched so far in his UFC career. He’s fought some of the more well-known flyweights in Dustin Ortiz and John Moraga, but he didn’t win either of those fights. Sasaki is slick on the ground, and the Gates fight offers him a much better matchup than his fights against Taylor Lapidus or Leandro Issa. I like Sasaki to get this to the ground sooner rather than later and choke Gates out in what can be perceived as a slight upset.
Pick: Sasaki by submission