UFC Fight Night 189: Rozenstruik vs Sakai Predictions & Results
Just when you thought Rozenstruik vs Sakai was too much to swallow, there are thirteen more fights to feast on come Saturday night. Although the match-ups themselves won’t catch much media attention, there is potential for fireworks. A surprising number of long-time company men are being rolled out on this low affair card. Santiago Ponzinibbio, Makwan Amirkhani and Tom Breese all feature, desperate to return to the win column. Still, there are a lot of fights to grind through and grind through we shall.
UFC Fight Night 189: Rozenstruik vs Sakai
Jairzinho Rozenstruik (11-1) vs Augusto Sakai (15-2-1)
It only took seven fights in the UFC but we finally have a clear image of the fighter Rozenstruik embodies. A rapid string of early knockouts to kickstart his career left many questions over Rozenstruik’s abilities. The awkward nature of the stoppages, such as knocking out Allen Crowder in nine seconds with a tame jab, further fuelled speculation. A very generous last second stoppage victory over Alistair Overeem may have papered over the cracks, but they were fully exposed last time out by Ciryl Gane. The French prospect looks to be elite already, but Rozenstruik was utterly dismantled over five rounds.
A patient kickboxer, Rozenstruik methodically fights in the octagon. Constantly waving his lead hand in front of his opponent’s face, Rozenstruik maintains control over striking distance from start to finish. Rozenstruik’s explosive bursts appear vicious, but as seen against Gane, his sloppy footwork fails his hands. While bull-rushing will succeed against the majority in the barren Heavyweight division, Gane slickly moved out of the pocket on an angle. Sakai doesn’t own that magic movement, however, and it will allow Bigi Boy to land often.
Aside from the N’Gannou fight, Rozenstruik has shown a granite chin against heavy-handed opponents. Perhaps this is integral to Rozenstruik’s game, as he takes time to make the necessary reads. Preferring to root himself in the pocket, Rozenstruik fights fire with fire. While there are times Rozenstruik will slip into counters, often Rozenstruik rides the punches before returning volume. By popping out a decent volume, Rozenstruik effectively banks on his power eventually gaining him the upper hand.
A hearty volume striker, Sakai seems to lack the physical and technical gifts to rise towards title contention. After dominating his early UFC career, Sakai hit a worrying roadblock against the corpse of Andrei Arlovski. The veteran was able to nullify Sakai’s wild exchanges by remaining composed behind a high guard. Worse yet, Sakai found his chin tagged a few times. Against Overeem, Sakai was bullied against the cage and on the mat after he slowed following a hectic first round.
Sakai is physically huge, so it is a shame that he often falls into his combinations and spoils his work. Using a beautiful teep kick, Sakai had Overeem reeling in the first minute of their fight. Sakai immediately rushed into a clinch and allowed Overeem to reset, never to use the teep again. Rather, Sakai led with a lead uppercut and pushed Overeem to the fence where the veteran was able to trip the Brazilian with ease.
Sakai has recovered for almost a year since the war with Overeem, and won’t need to worry about spending entire rounds on his back against Rozenstruik. Still, Sakai cannot afford to be drawn into 50/50 exchanges in the pocket. While Sakai’s chin could likely hold up to the test, the Brazilian needs to fall back on the earlier stick and move style that benefitted him early in his career.
Predicted Result: Rozenstruik Decision
If you don’t find yourself too excited about this one, then don’t feel ashamed. Neither man is the extreme knockout puncher they are marketed to be, at least not in regards to quality opposition. Rozenstruik’s patient kickboxing relies heavily on his durability and grit to stay in the pocket. With his feet cemented into the ground, Rozenstruik rides incoming punches before returning volume. Ciryl Gane’s stick and move style had Rozenstruik in fits as the Suriname native failed to make a read over their twenty-five-minute battle.
Sakai isn’t a slick enough striker to maintain that game plan for five rounds, but he can certainly find stretches of success with such an approach. Sakai’s lack of ground game won’t be exposed by Rozenstruik, which will allow the towering Brazilian more freedom to walk down Rozenstruik. If Sakai opts for his tried and tested strategy of simply marching Rozenstruik down, then he plays directly into Rozenstruik’s game. Instead, Sakai needs to utilise leg kicks and teep kicks that had Overeem in serious trouble during the early rounds.
Result: Rozenstruik def. Sakai // TKO (punches) Round 1 4:59
UFC Fight Night 189: Rozenstruik vs Sakai
Walt Harris (13-9) vs Marcin Tybura (21-6)
It’s hard not to root for Walt Harris considering the awful past couple of years he and his family have experienced. Harris’ fearsome one-punch knockout power and kill or be killed approach are also key components behind fan love for The Big Ticket. Reality does need to set in, however. At thirty-seven, Harris isn’t a spring chick anymore and hasn’t shown many signs of improvement between the Overeem and Volkov losses. Off his back, Harris can be easily ground out through smart positioning. If drawn out past the first round, Harris’ threat declines massively as his gas tank depletes.
There are positives in this analysis though. Harris has re-created his strength and conditioning which aims to stop his output nosediving in the later rounds. Hard leg kicks are used to keep him active in between his explosive bursts. Hand-fighting has also become an increasing part of Harris’ game. Preventing opponents from simply jabbing his face off not only reduces the damage sustained but also allows Harris to stay alert for counter opportunities.
Marcin Tybura ranks as one of my all-time least favourite fighters to watch. Epitomising the lay and pray style that relies on passively maintaining control time towards decision victories, Tybura fights are usually an immediate channel changer. Having said that, Tybura did deliver a decent smackdown over the controversial, Greg Hardy. Changing stances somewhat fluidly and firing switch kicks, it was a Tybura that has rarely been seen in the octagon.
Don’t expect Tybura’s striking foray against Hardy to last, however. The experienced Pole knew he could take the fight to the ground when he pleased, as seen by the second round. There will be no such frolics against the ridiculous power of Harris. While Tybura’s takedowns have struggled in recent fights (i.e. Rothwell), he usually has the durability to ride an early scare before finding a way to his suffocating top game.
Predicted Result: Tybura tko Round 3
It’s hard not to root for Walt Harris considering the awful past couple of years he and his family have experienced. Harris’ fearsome one-punch knockout power and kill or be killed approach are also key components behind fan love for The Big Ticket. Moreover, the recent addition of hand fighting and a renewed strength and conditioning programme aims to keep Harris active in the octagon beyond his explosive bursts. Unfortunately for Harris, a porous wrestling defence plays directly into Tybura’s strength. The Pole has been more relaxed on the feet in recent fights, but it would be foolish to attempt it against Harris. Instead, Tybura will need to ride an early wave of pressure before grounding his tiring opponent during the later rounds.
Result: Tybura def. Harris // TKO (punches) Round 1 4:06
UFC Fight Night 189: Rozenstruik vs Sakai
Roman Dolidze (8-1) vs Laureano Staropoli (9-3)
You know what, I’m gonna say it. Roman Dolidze was robbed of the decision against Trevin Giles. Dolidze’s significant work on the feet and mat should have secured him a clear decision victory. Alas, Dolidze’s performance proves he has the skill set to perform at 185. While the Georgian has struggled to secure the regular stoppages he managed on the regional circuit, it isn’t from want of trying.
Dolidze does fall off by the third round, however, his heart is undeniable. With an arsenal of submissions, Dolidze can continue to threaten nearing the final bell even if his shots have lost their pop. For such a long fighter it is a shame that Dolidze doesn’t utilise his jab but his stance switches often confuse opponents enough. If Dolidze swarms fighters to the cage more often, using his underrated grappling to weigh down on smaller opponents, his output wouldn’t dramatically fall off and he could bank easy rounds.
Staropoli has hit a bit of a rocky patch in his UFC career. Lose on Saturday night and the Argentinian probably only has one more chance to secure his future with the premier MMA organisation. The knockout artist has struggled with the jump up in quality, finding fighters are less prone to wilting under his pressure.
Despite losing to the veteran, Tim Means, last time out, Staropoli showcased an exciting display of kickboxing. Spinning elbows, check hooks, wheel kicks – Staropoli’s fluid motion is a joy to watch. Unfortunately, Means landed regularly with a stoic jab and secured enough time against the cage to snatch every round. Staropoli’s high volume stick and move will eventually bums on seats if he finds stoppages, but it also leads him onto power shots.
Predicted Result: Staropoli Decision
This has the potential to be an absolute banger between a couple of exciting kickboxers. Dolidze is a personal favourite of mine, carrying huge power and an arsenal of submissions. Dolidze’s suspect gas tank will allow Staropoli to surge ahead during the later rounds, but the Georgian remains a threat off the mat by the final bell. Staropoli desperately needs a win to stay in the UFC, but his fluid striking is a joy to watch. Constant movement around the border of the octagon, Staropoli sticks and moves with a variety of spinning attacks and reactive strikes that offer high-risk high reward.
Result: Dolidze def. Staropoli // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Santiago Ponzinibbio (27-4) vs Miguel Baeza (10-0)
After a two-year lay-off, it was sad to see Ponzinibbio crushed in a round by Jingliang Li. The Argentine had been soaring through the Welterweight top-fifteen before his hiatus, comprehensively defeating the likes of Neil Magny and Gunnar Nelson. It has been easy to write off the former boogeyman at Welterweight, especially when considering his plethora of illness and injuries. Perhaps it was just a spot of ring rust and an excellent performance on the night by Li?
The flowing lateral movement seems to have slowed in Ponz’s return. While his stalking pressure is still the gameplan, Ponz hips looked set in stone as he failed to cut off the octagon effectively against Li. While Ponz accuracy was a key aspect of his success pre-2018, his lack of volume in his return leaves question marks over his precision. Gun-shy due to the series of feints that Li was throwing or ring rust leaving him unable to fast reads? Regardless, Ponz is at his best when he is popping out strikes to compliment his excellent footwork and positioning.
Miguel Baeza is a decent fighter but he is yet to fight anyone of Ponz’s calibre. After going to war with Matt Brown over a couple of rounds, the jury is not yet out on the prospect. Baeza foolishly engaged in the clinch with Brown and was almost stopped by the trademark elbows. Eventually, Baeza’s youth and durability out-endured Brown and crushed him on the outside with speed. Silly mistakes such as against Brown won’t be so easily forgiven as he climbs the ranks, however.
Baeza’s best work appears during clean kickboxing match-ups. Fighting extremely side-on, Baeza out-works opponents with calculated single shots. A snapping right leg kick often lands on an opponent’s guard, forcing them to keep a high guard and opening their mid-rift. Baeza is far too easily backed against the cage, however, and we are yet to see how he reacts to sweltering pressure.
Predicted Result: Baeza Decision
Baeza is a very flawed fighter who should have no real chance of winning this fight, but Ponz sadly looked over the hill against Jingliang Li. While “you’re only as good as your last fight” often plays a role, it needs to be considered Ponz had also spent two years off with a plethora of illnesses and injuries. The ranked Welterweight that tore apart competitors like Neil Magny and Gunnar Nelson, was not the athlete who entered the octagon against Li. Baeza is a clean kickboxer on the outside but struggles under the pressure. Matt Brown was able to exploit holes in Baeza’s defence and decision making, but Ponz’s lack of volume in his return worryingly suggests he doesn’t have enough anymore to crush Baeza under pressure.
Result: Ponzinibbio def. Baeza // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Dusko Todovoric (10-1) vs Gregory Rodriguez (9-3)
Todovoric is a powerful athlete with a deep gas tank but is also littered with several holes in his striking defence. Plodding footwork and a lack of guard/parry emphasise his vulnerability on the feet that Punahele Soriano was able to viciously exploit. It is a shame as Todorovic has a killer finishing instinct and a sharp right hook that tend to end fights early for him.
Wrestling, as often plagues regional turned UFC fighters, has been a major issue for Todovoric. Despite owning a wicked ground and pound, the Serb has struggled to work opponents to the mat. While working on transitioning from the cage to the mat has found reasonable success, there is still a huge amount of work to be done.
After losing on the DWCS, Rodriguez has hung around the LFA before finally finding a call-up back to the UFC. A first-round machine, Rodriguez is a massive Middleweight who has had to fall back on his striking due to wrestling inefficiencies. Despite heavy-hands, Rodriguez’s success stems from his accuracy. Top position is where Rodriguez would ideally want the fight to end up, however.
Expect short combinations (one-twos, leaping lead hooks) and lots of body kicks as Rodriguez aims to slowly chip away at his advancing opponent. Despite his success on the feet, Rodriguez often fails to use his striking as a vehicle to set up the takedown. With the lack of guard that Todovoric utilises though, Rodriguez will have multiple opportunities to land cleanly.
Predicted Result: Todovoric TKO Round 3
Just three weeks after a first-round knockout over Josh Fremd in the LFA, Gregory Rodriguez takes the last-minute call-up to face Dusko Todovoric. Both men’s best work stems from top position, yet both have struggled to wrestle against more competent competition. Rodriguez falls back on his ridiculously heavy hands, employing a single-shot counter style that picks apart holes in his opponent. While Todovoric lacks any form of guard, his movement is crisp enough to slip Rodriguez explosive kicking game and punish the Brazilian’s low volume. Either man could end this early with their power, yet Todovoric has the benefit of a proper camp and stronger cage grappling.
Result: Rodrigues def. Todovoric // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Tom Breese (12-3) vs Antonio Arroyo (9-4)
Suffering from a litany of injuries and mental troubles, Breese is a far cry from the fighter back in 2016. The game seems to have progressed in six years and left the Brit behind. Despite his mammoth height and size, Breese struggles to keep the fight standing against the stronger wrestlers at 185. After appearing to effectively give up against Brendan Allen once on his back, Breese at least attempted to survive against Omari Akhmedov.
It is a shame as Breese is one of the only fighters in the UFC to have secured a knockout via a jab. His crisp jab sets the foundation for more expansive combinations, but the single punch alone was enough to sleep KB Bhullar. Moreover, if Breese ever finds himself in a preferable position on the mat, his submission game is top-notch. It is a shame then that Breese is often the man who finds himself on his back.
Arroyo is the type of fighter who favours a head kick over a jab. As a result, Arroyo not only fails to produce enough volume on the feet, but he is also extremely susceptible to the takedown. Like Breese, if found on top, Arroyo has the skillset to find submission opportunities, but that is rarely the case.
Against Deron Winn, it seemed almost every kick that Arroyo threw he ended up on the floor. There was no need either as he regularly found the target with his jab. Stupid decision making often results in Arroyo landing a couple punches, getting confident, attempting a spinning back kick then being taken down.
Predicted Result: Breese Submission Round 2
Arroyo is a ridiculously frustrating fighter because he has the athletic gifts to be a solid UFC name, but his decision making is utterly atrocious. Favouring kicks over a jab, Arroyo’s expansive strikes often result in him hitting the mat. Sure, Arroyo has proven he can get back up, but within the very next exchange he’ll make the same mistake once again and end up on his back. Breese is a shell of the fighter who was blowing up around 2015, but his jab and top-notch offensive grappling should be enough to see him through Arroyo.
UFC Fight Night 189: Rozenstruik vs Sakai
Makwan Amirkhani (16-5) vs Kamuela Kirk (11-4)
Amirkhani is truly a Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde, Although a serpent on the mat with a ferocious submission offence, the Finn has a solid two-round gas tank that is drained early with explosive kicks and flying knees. While his chin held up against a resurgent Edson Barboza, Amirkhani entered with the absolute worst game plan of fighting the Brazilian in a clean kickboxing match. If anything, it is a surprise that Amirkhani was able to reach the bell with such a strategy.
Regularly shooting himself in the foot as he climbs the rankings, Amirkhani thrives as a Featherweight gatekeeper. Opponents require solid TDD or excellent grappling defence if they expect to make it to the later rounds from when they succeed on the feet. Nate Landwehr was the perfect match-up, Kirk is a gimme.
Falling on the DWCS to Billy Quarantillo, Kirk returned to the LFA and has successfully registered a string of stoppages. A crisp striker, Kirk boxes behind his jab and remains compact in short offensive combinations. Unfortunately, Kirk is prone to walking back in a straight line, leaving him open to damage and also pushing himself back against the cage.
There is a lot to like against Kirk, and if this wasn’t a late-notice call-up then he would have a real opportunity to cause an upset. Instead, Kirk will be walked down early by Amirkhani and dumped onto the mat. From there, Kirk will be drained of whatever energy he has reserved from the weight cut.
Predicted Result: Amirkhani Submission Round 2
If it weren’t for the late-notice call-up for Kirk, he would have a genuine chance of causing an upset. The LFA faithful may have been out-endured by Billy Quarantillo in his DWCS appearance, but his compact boxing is a nightmare for Amirkhani to deal with during the later rounds. As long as Amirkhani doesn’t enter the contest as he did against Barboza, aiming to win via clean kickboxing, then the Finn should be able to get Kirk onto the mat. With depleted energy reserves after a last-minute weight cut, Amirkhani will have ample time and opportunity to find the submission.
Result: Kirk def. Amirkhani // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Montana De La Rosa (11-6-1) vs Ariane Lipski (13-6)
Women’s Flyweight (125)
Montana De La Rosa
De La Rosa is a competent wrestler/grappler who is often hampered by her size and lack of striking. Expect lots of blind shots on the hips and clutching the neck of her opponent. Once De La Rosa has secured the back, however, she can backpack her way for a full round. While De La Rosa has a strong submission game she has struggled to deploy it against the stronger athletes she has faced since TUF.
Finally crashing and burning with her hype train, Lipski is no longer being handed favourable match-ups. After failing to beat Joanne Calderwood and Molly McCann in hand-picked bouts, Lipski feasted on far more generous competition. Her atrocious takedown defence was once again highlighted against Antonina Shevchenko, however. With a lack of volume on the outside, and with no real desire to engage in 50/50 exchanges on the inside (which found her great success on the regional circuit), Lipski appears to be broken goods.
Predicted Result: De la Rosa Decision
Now that the Lipski hype train has fully crashed and burned, through the smoke, it is clear that it was her lack of TDD that shot the Queen of Violence in the foot. With no real volume on the outside, and a lack of desire to engage in the pocket (which found her success on the regional circuit), Lipski needs to rebuild outside of the UFC if she is to lose again on Saturday. De La Rosa is a competent wrestler/grappler, whose size has often been an issue, but should be more than skilled enough to snatch onto Lipski’s back for fifteen minutes.
Result: De La Rosa def. Lipski // TKO (punches) Round 2 4:27
Tanner Boser (19-7-1) vs Ilir Latifi (14-8)
Big boy Tanner Boser has taken half a year off after his decision loss to Andrei Arlovski. After building a decent streak of stoppages over Phillipe Lins and Raphael Pessoa, as well as an admirable performance against the elite Ciryl Gane, Boser is a solid competitor at 265. Moreover, Boser is one of the more aesthetically pleasing strikers to watch at Heavyweight due to his clear preference for high volume, stick and move. Unranked Heavyweights are left stupefied when their 100% power punching striking fails to land on the slick movement and speed of Boser.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the Swedish manlet in the octagon. Around a year and a half since Latifi’s decision loss to Derrick Lewis, he has finally emerged from the shadows. Sticking around at 265lbs, it remains a questionable decision for a man of 5’10” stature who wins based on his ability to out-muscle men to the mat. While the Swede carries decently heavy hands, his bread and butter remain his Greco-Roman wrestling. It wasn’t too long ago that Latifi had a string of first-round knockouts, in addition to a standing guillotine choke over the towering OSP. Latifi’s chin has run up miles over a long career in the UFC, however, and his durability will come under more intense scrutiny with the harder hitters at 265.
Predicted Result: Boser Decision
Mullet man, Tanner Boser, is an easy heavyweight to root for as a result of his high volume, stick and move style which is rare amongst 265ers. His slick movement and lightning hand speed have left the majority of unranked Heavyweight’s left bemused after they were unable to land their 100% power punch stand-up. Ilir Latifi is a tiny Heavyweight, only 5’10”, but the Swede carries heavy hands that have seen him earn a string of first-round knockout victories. Boser’s TDD will come under intense scrutiny from Latifi’s Greco-Roman wrestling, yet the Canadian should be able to prosper on the feet after an early barrage. Less technical than Volkan Oezdemir but sharper on his feet, Boser vs Latifi will end similarly as long as Boser isn’t caught in an early submission.
Result: Latifi def. Boser // Decision (split – 27-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Francisco Trinaldo (26-7) vs Muslim Salikhov (17-2)
Alright, so I knew Trinaldo was an old man, but I never realised he was quite as old as forty-two. That’s an unreal age when you consider his success in recent years. Last out with a stoppage victory over the prospect, Jai Herbert, Trinaldo technically should be on a five-fight win streak (with only the questionable Hernandez decision loss stinking up the record). Trinaldo’s physical decline was visibly noticeable against Herbert, but his smart wrestling and control from the top were able to drag the young man into deep waters. The Brazilian isn’t going to be going on a crazy Jan Blachowicz run, not at Lightweight, but we can enjoy the ride while it stays on its tracks.
Muslim Salikhov isn’t exactly a spring chick either, clocking in at thirty-six years of age. Aside from a very generous split decision victory over Elizeu Zaleski, Salikhov has otherwise looked excellent in recent years. Salikhov is a hugely creative counter-striker that focuses on spinning attacks, often finding greater success during the early rounds, before settling back into more orthodox counter boxing. Salikhov is a fighter who thrives when opponents respect his power and stay just outside of striking range. Biting down on the gumshield and putting Salikhov against the cage is the easiest method to nullify Salikhov’s space thus leaving him without his kicks.
Predicted Result: Salikhov Decision
Both Trinaldo and Salikhov are old men, but the Brazilian has shown a more visible physical decline over the past couple of years. While Trinaldo is a wily veteran, picking smart counter strikes and mixing in a grinding top game, Salikhov is an expansive counter-striker who thrives in open space where he can employ a range of spinning attacks. At forty-two, it is becoming increasingly difficult to back Trinaldo despite his ability to carry his power late into a fight. Salikhov was lucky last time out to secure a decision over Elizeu Zaleski, but his ability to maintain a striking distance favourable to himself will determine this fight.
Result: Salikhov def. Trinaldo // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alan Patrick (15-3) vs Mason Jones (10-1)
Christ, I don’t want to drone on about age, but even Alan Patrick is thirty-seven. With the UFC for eight years, it was perhaps the 2018-2020 spell of inactivity that leaves Patrick relatively unknown outside the hardcore MMA fans. A powerful wrestler, Patrick has certainly struggled in his last two fights, but both Scott Holtzman and Bobby Green are strong wrestlers themselves. While Patrick’s power is unlikely to fade with age, his lack of volume has always left him stunning opponents but never pouring on the pressure to find the stoppage. The lunging uppercut into a double leg remains a very cool if risky entry that should be applauded.
Former Cage Warriors Lightweight champ, Mason Jones, had his UFC debut spoiled by Mike Davis. Sure, Jones earned a lot of fans and credit for his performance but a loss is a loss. Striking in 50/50 exchanges with Mike Davis, showcasing his durability and gas tank, will at least have gained Jones favour with Dana White over his future in the organisation. Jones’ defence is decent on the outside, but in the pocket, the Welshman drops his hands as he thinks about his next move. It is a terrible habit that needs to be addressed or it will cause him trouble if he climbs up the rankings.
Predicted Result: Jones Decision
Mason Jones’ relentless pressure on the feet will be too much for the single-shot striking of Alan Patrick. While the Brazilian still carries power despite his thirty-seven years of age, he throws far too little to seriously threaten Jones’ rock-solid chin. Moreover, while Jones was taken down with relative ease by Mike Davis, he is a difficult fighter to keep tied down. Expect Patrick to find some success wrestling during the opening round before Jones secures the later rounds with furious volume on the feet.
NO CONTEST (accidental eye poke)
Manon Fiorot (6-1) vs Tabatha Ricci (5-0)
Women’s Flyweight (125)
Silencing the haters in her UFC debut, Manon Fiorot picked apart Victoria Leonardo with a wonderful mix of grappling and striking. Fighting out of her side-on stance, Fiorot peppered Leonardo with regular sidekicks before feinting with her lead leg into sharp one-twos. Leaving her opponent dazed and confused, Fiorot was able to wrap Leonardo against the cage and land punishing knees.
Undefeated Tabatha Ricci makes her UFC debut on Saturday night, having secured a slew of victories in the LFA. While a 5-0 record is all well and good, you only need to see that Ricci has never defeated an opponent with a winning record before question marks start raising. That isn’t to say that Ricci isn’t a strong competitor at Flyweight, but Fiorot marks a significant step-up in Ricci’s usual quality of competition. Ricci is also taking this fight on late notice, in addition to already being tiny for the weight class. Regardless of her judo and grappling expertise, Ricci is going to struggle on Saturday night.
Predicted Result: Fiorot TKO Round 3
Fiorot surprised in her UFC debut, picking apart Victoria Leonardo with a wonderful mixture of striking and clinch work. Fighting out of a side-on stance, Fiorot uses her length to pepper opponents with side kicks, before feinting with her lead leg into heavy boxing combinations. Ricci is taking this fight on short notice, which will not aid her already tiny stature for Flyweight. Moreover, digging into Ricci’s record reveals the LFA faithful has not yet earned a victory over an opponent with a winning record. Still, Ricci has an extensive background in judo and her grappling chops are certainly a viable weapon. Fiorot will be too big and too experienced on Saturday night, however.
Result: Fiorot def. Ricci // TKO (punches) Round 2 3:00
Youssef Zalal (10-4) vs Sean Woodson (7-1)
Despite many people jumping ship off the Zalal hype train, the Moroccan Devil is still a favourite of mine. Only twenty-four years old, Zalal is technically superb, yet lacks the natural athleticism to tussle with the freak prospects at Featherweight. Ilia Topuria and Seung Woo Choi proved too strong for Zalal, as he was unable to out-muscle his opponents with wrestling. Slick head movement, smart footwork, and an excellent jab all keep Zalal in the contest on the feet, but it is from top position where Zalal will be able to forge a long winning streak.
Another man who has experienced fans jumping off his hype train after hitting his first bump in the road, Sean Woodson returns after a third-round submission loss to Julian Erosa. A shock defeat to all, Woodson’s loopy angles and freakish height found great success early before Erosa eventually coaxed Woodson against the cage. Woodson gave up the centre of the octagon far too easily, a mistake that the prospect is unlikely to make again. With a mammoth 79″ reach, Woodson needs never to stop popping out his jab, while laser sharp cross never seems to miss the target. TDD still requires work, but it should prove solid enough to prevent Zalal from taking this to the mat early.
Predicted Result: Woodson Decision
In a fight pitting two men desperate to restart their hype trains, the freakish 79″ reach of Sean Woodson should prove key in the match-up. Zalal owns an excellent jab, alongside smart footwork and slick head movement, but his bread and butter remain his work from the top. Unfortunately, Zalal has failed to secure takedowns when pitted against the higher calibre freakish athletes of Featherweight (Ilia Topuria, Seung Woo Choi). Woodson will be able to nullify Zalal’s jab through reach alone, while his laser sharp cross never seems to miss the target. Respecting Erosa’s power too much, Woodson restricted his own space too easily last time out and prevented himself from throwing strikes out of unorthodox angles. It is a clear mistake to work on, and after a year out of the octagon, it is one I expect will have been amended.
Result: Woodson def. Zalal // Decision (split – 28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Claudio Puelles (9-2) vs Jordan Leavitt (8-0)
Peruvian, Claudio Puelles, is twenty-five with a 2-1 record in the UFC. I’m writing this basic fact because for whatever reason I simply cannot remember ever having seen Puelles in the octagon. Sure, Puelles has experienced a two-year lay-off, and his victories came over fighters that were immediately cut after the fight. But you’d still think I’d remember a three-fight competitor. Regardless, after reviewing the tape, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited over. A solid enough wrestler, Puelles lays and prays, only attempting the submission if it arises from an opponent’s mistake rather than any creativity.
It is always fun to see people in MMA that rely solely on one form of mixed martial arts. Despite his wiry frame, Leavitt is a terrifying submission specialist who seems destined to end the fight as soon it hits the mat. Unfortunately, Leavitt needs to take the fight to the ground. While he secured a slam knockout in his last outing, he often chooses to pull guard to maximise the time spent on the ground. Leavitt will hit a wall where he needs to build on his striking eventually, but until then, let’s have a bit of fun eh.
Predicted Result: Leavitt Submission Round 1
Jordan Leavitt is a fun fighter to follow simply because he’s gone for the old school tactic of being a killer at one form of MMA and trying to ride it as high as possible. A ludicrously terrifying submission specialist, Leavitt makes every attempt to get the fight to the mat. While Leavitt will need to employ some sort of striking as he rises the ranks, Claudio Puelles is a fighter who will be easy to coax to the mat anyway. The Peruvian has only ever beaten fighters that were immediately cut by the UFC, in addition to a two-year lay-off. Puelles is a solid enough wrestler but he will be out of his depth on the mat against Leavitt.
Result: Puelles def. Leavitt // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Rozenstruik vs Sakai
2021 MMA Season
Takeaway comments: Poor old Sakai tits.
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