UFC 232 is the final event of 2018 and it’s not been without a few bumps and scrapes along the way, primarily a big venue change. When you put those mishaps aside, though, you have an excellent card from top to bottom, a show truly befitting those New Year’s Eve-Eve honors.
The card features two title bouts and a veritable cornucopia of intriguing matchups to accompany them. The entire women’s featherweight roster is represented betwixt two fights, and the return of the centaur, aka Ilir Latifi, is a holiday treasure every fan can enjoy.
This stacked bout sheet is incredibly well matched, but there are some underdogs worth taking a closer look at. I’ve selected four fights I believe could end in an upset. Let’s check those out:
Ilir Latifi ($8,900) vs. Corey Anderson ($7,300)
Latifi is a powerhouse wrestler who happens to pack a serious wallop, as well. He’s only had three losses in his UFC run but can be stopped, especially with punishment to the body. Emanuel Newton and Gegard Mousasi both took him to the scorecards for wins, too. Latifi also carries an insane amount of muscle and that can be a contributor to questionable cardio. Against a durable opponent like Anderson, that can present serious issues.
Anderson will pose threats to Latifi in a couple areas, first and foremost being his size: five inches in height and six inches in reach. Anderson is also a very good wrestler, and with more technical striking and higher volume output. He’s not impossible to take down, but he definitely doesn’t make it easy. His youth and conditioning should also be a key factor in this fight, especially in the last half of it. It’s a risky choice, but I’m taking the gamble on Anderson to grind out a win.
Prediction — Corey Anderson via Decision
Walt Harris ($8,600) vs. Andrei Arlovski ($7,600)
Harris might be the younger, bigger man, but experience against world class competition isn’t in his repertoire, save one fight, a 65-second loss to Fabricio Werdum. His best win is over Cyril Asker, whose UFC record is 2-3, and like his Belarusian counterpart, he also has had some rough patches in his record.
Arlovski might be in the twilight of his career, but he’s still got power, and he’s become much more defensively sound in recent years. He’s had a bumpy road of late, but I can’t help thinking Andrei’s wealth of experience and craftiness will net him the victory. It might be nostalgia talking, but I’m thinking/hoping the “Pitbull” gets his hand raised.
Prediction — Andrei Arlovski via Decision
Uriah Hall ($8,300) vs. Bevon Lewis ($7,900)
Hall is, in the words of my good friend Eugene S. Robinson, a GICT (a guy I can’t trust). He’s got the athletic gifts in abundance; power, speed, and a durability that allows him to lose an entire fight until he manages to miraculously come back from the edge. And then there’s his fight IQ, which he just can’t same to raise the point value on.
Lewis is the latest prospect to come out of the Jackson-Wink camp and has youth and a considerable size advantage on his side. He has shown KO power over three of his opponents — most notably Alton Cunningham on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series — and has gone the distance victoriously, as well. He’s got a bright future, and I think it will kick off well and truly Saturday night.
Prediction — Bevon Lewis via (T)KO
Curtis Millender ($8,800) vs. Siyar Bahadurzada ($7,400)
Millender has enormous power in his kicks and a marked height and reach advantage coming into this fight. He’s surging right now with wins over a past-his-expiration-date Thiago Alves and a Max Griffin that’s not been able to string together a pair of wins in his UFC run. Millender is definitely talented, but we’ve yet to see him against a solid competitor until now. This is the litmus test.
Bahadurzada has been fighting for 16 years. Let that sink in a moment, especially considering he’s just 34 years old. That’s a wealth of experience, and there’s lots of daylight shining through his record, since he’s only fought once or twice a year since November 2008 and took a two-and-a-half-year hiatus from late 2013 through Spring 2016. Upon his return, he’s been matched three times, and finished all three opponents. He’s got legitimate KO power, a slick submission game and has gone the distance several times victoriously. I think he very likely could prove to be problematic for the much greener Millender, making him an excellent candidate for apple cart upsetter.
Prediction — Siyar Bahadurzada via (T)KO
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