We’re rapidly approaching the UFC’s third event of the year, second PPV, and the first card with actual title fights on it. Both the light-heavyweight and women’s flyweight belts are on the line Saturday night, but the rest of the card is a bit lackluster and seems more like a fight night card.
That’s not to say there aren’t compelling matchups on the card — there are — but when Juan Adams vs. Justin Tafa is the glue that binds the main card… Well, Houston, we have a problem! Fortunately, there is an abundance of local talent and the new “it” gym, Fortis MMA, is represented well with three fighters on the bout sheet.
I’ve selected four fights I believe have an extremely good chance of ending in an upset. Let’s take a quick dive down the rabbit hole to see which athletes have the best opportunity of playing spoiler.
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Mirsad Bektic ($8,300) vs. Dan Ige ($7,900)Mirsad Bektic is a well-rounded featherweight with real power and excellent technique. He’s got wins over some very sturdy, battle-tested fighters, but has had some problems with cardio (see Darren Elkins fight). His fight with Josh Emmett saw him completely overwhelmed when taking that step up in competition.
Dan Ige has been on a tear, racking up four wins in a row, showcasing finishing ability with several TKOs, as well as being very submission savvy. He has an excellent sense of urgency, cranking the dial to 11 when the chips are down, as seen in his last fight with Kevin Aguilar, where he went hell for leather in the final round after getting a bit of a tuning up in the second. He’s also very durable with a granite chin.
This is my early pick for Fight of the Night, and while it’s really a coin-toss, I’m confident Ige can claim the victory here.
Dan Ige via Decision
Trevin Giles ($8,500) vs. Antonio Aroyo ($7,700)Trevin Giles came into the UFC riding a win over Fortis MMA’s Ryan Spann, then managed to rack up two more wins right off the bat. That streak didn’t last, though. His next two fights would see him lose back-to-back fights, both via guillotine, thanks to very questionable fight IQ. One simply doesn’t go into a fight with the intent of grappling Gerald Meerschaert. He is excellent on his feet with solid technique, but for whatever reason, he felt like he needed to try his luck against a submission ace. And that, my friends, is what gives me pause.
Antonio Arroyo is aggressive with a penchant for finishing, both on the feet and on the ground. As a matter of fact, he’s only been the distance twice in his career. Giles may have better technical boxing, but Arroyo has power, submission chops and a nose for blood. When you combine that with his willingness to pressure and fight in the pocket, it’s hard to pick against him.
Antonio Arroyo via Submission
Domingo Pilarte ($8,200) vs. Journey Newson ($8,000)It’s hard to look at the seven-inch height advantage and six-inch reach advantage that Domingo Pilarte will carry into his fight with Journey Newson and not pick him by default. But, one must also realize the amount of torture he puts upon himself to make the bantamweight limit. He has the ability to finish but is limited on experience, an area Newson has plenty of. Newson is also an incredibly durable athlete who can take a licking and keep on kicking, as we saw in his fight against Ricardo Ramos. This is a close call, but I’m thinking Newson can wear Pilarte out and pull out the win.
Journey Newson via Decision
Andre Ewell ($8,400) vs. Jonathan Martinez ($7,800)Andre Ewell certainly doesn’t look like the same fighter that barely eked out a split decision over Renan Barao and then lost his next fight to Nathaniel Wood, thanks to adjustments in his training that translated to improvement in the octagon. He’s got a rapidly evolving striking game, but despite being able to put together great combinations, he lacks power. His cardio is solid, but against Jonathan Martinez, who seems to have rocket propellent flowing through his legs, that likely won’t be enough to stave off flying knees and powerful kicks. They both have questionable takedown defense, but Martinez has more tools to get the job done here.
Jonathan Martinez via (T)KO
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