UFC on ESPN 28: Hall vs Strickland Predictions

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UFC on ESPN 28: Hall vs Strickland Predictions & Results

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How sad is it to think that the past fortnight of cards have been exceptional in comparison to UFC on ESPN 28? Despite an intriguing main event, it is difficult for even the hardcore fans to get excited over Saturday night’s action. Not only do most of the fighters offer less than fan-friendly styles, but the match-ups themselves are also largely meaningless in regards to rankings. Although UFC on ESPN 28 is the sort of card to overflow with stoppages, it is a pretty sad silver lining to hype yourself up for.

If you aren't a fan of Bryan Barberena's style, are you really a fan of mixed martial arts? | UFC on ESPN 28
If you aren’t a fan of Bryan Barberena’s style, are you really a fan of mixed martial arts? | UFC on ESPN 28

UFC on ESPN 28: Main Event

Uriah Hall (17-9) vs Sean Strickland (23-3)

Middleweight (185)

Uriah Hall

Just when the Uriah Hall hype train had appeared to be fully derailed in 2016, the explosive counter puncher has compiled a 5-1 streak. At a glance, it would be simple enough to assume that Hall has finally pieced together his game. Unfortunately, underneath the surface, the flaws in Hall’s game remain ever apparent. Victories over truly weathered former champions, Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, and a turnaround knockout over the extremely limited, Bevon Lewis, don’t exactly inspire confidence.

Indicative of Hall’s failures to develop were never more plain than during the Lewis fight. Outworked for almost three rounds, Hall threw almost nothing off the front-foot despite frequent opportunities to land. Worse yet, Hall almost timed himself out of the fight waiting for the perfect counter opportunity. While five rounds against Strickland will offer more numerous opportunities to land, Saturday’s foe is not as defensively lax as Lewis. Although Hall fell apart under the pressure that Paulo Costa delivered, Strickland tends to sit at range rather than brute force into the pocket. Not only will this create the space for Hall to throw his favoured spinning kicks, but he will be to utilise his 3 1/2″ reach advantage to land his jab.

The most sure-fire path to victory for Hall would be to land the one-shot KO. Strickland isn’t the most advanced boxer, but he sets a harsh pace and aims to outwork his opponents. If Hall was unable to impose his pace against the ancient, Anderson Silva, there is little reason to believe he will opt to do so against Strickland. Instead, with confidence that Strickland lacks lights out power, Hall can bide his time to set up his powerful right hand. Although Costa found great success on the feet when Hall was pressed against the cage, the Brazilian represented a far stronger (juicier), immovable object.

Sean Strickland

A solid volume boxer, Strickland uses a varied jab to continually pressure opponents. Switching between snapping a jab from the elbow or committing behind a traditional jab, Strickland prevents fighters from landing first. Unfortunately, Strickland stands tall at the end of an opponent’s reach. While the likes of Jack Marshman and Krzysztof Jotko lack the power to punish this behaviour, Hall is primed to detonate. Strickland has never been knocked out cold before, and will likely be able to wade through a handful of hard counters, but he cannot eat Hall’s counters for five rounds.

Instead, Strickland needs to utilise his grappling and wrestling advantage. By no means a superb grappler, Strickland still showcased his physicality as he wrapped Brendan Allen against the cage when the prospect started to unload power shots. The five-round nature of the fight certainly favours Stickland’s deep gas tank. Against a slow starter like Hall, Strickland can afford to lead with his boxing before opting for a wrestling outlet. The only issue would be if Hall chops with low kicks early. Due to Strickland’s up-right stance, his lead leg remains susceptible to damage, as seen against Allen.

Whether Strickland utilises his wrestling or not, Tarzan can win a decision on the basis of volume and activity alone. While a Bevon Lewis fate will always remain lurking in the shadows, if Strickland can keep Hall’s back pressed against the fence, it nullifies the most explosive aspects of his opponent’s game. To engage in a jabbing war and trade at range would be suicide. Any other game plan heavily favours Strickland. Can he put aside his ego for a career-high scalp?

Predicted Result: Strickland Decision

Just when the Uriah Hall hype train had appeared to be fully derailed in 2016, the explosive counter puncher has compiled a 5-1 streak. Although the quality of opposition, and indeed the methods of victory, are rife for criticism – Hall remains a lethal stoppage artist. Strickland’s tendency to stand tall at striking range plays directly into Hall’s hands, who will be gifted enough space to unleash his spinning attacks. While biding his time to set up the perfect counter, Hall can pepper Strickland with a solid jab benefitting from a 3 1/2″ reach advantage.

Despite owning a snapping jab himself, Strickland would be best advised to call upon his grappling and wrestling advantage. By no means a superb grappler, Strickland’s chops were evident against Brendan Allen, wisely using the body lock to avoid the prospect’s telegraphed power shots. Even without going to grapple, Strickland can win a decision on the basis of volume and activity alone. While a Bevon Lewis fate will always remain lurking in the shadows, if Strickland can keep Hall’s back pressed against the fence, it nullifies the most explosive aspects of his opponent’s game.

Result: Strickland def. Hall // Decision (unanimous – 49-46, 50-45, 50-44)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Chris Weidman soon found out that it wasn't worth throwing a naked leg kick against Uriah Hall | UFC on ESPN 28
Chris Weidman soon found out that it wasn’t worth throwing a naked leg kick against Uriah Hall | UFC on ESPN 28

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UFC on ESPN 28: Co-Main Event

Kyung Ho Kang (17-8) vs Rani Yahya (27-10-1)

Bantamweight (135)

Kyung Ho Kang

Nearing almost two years out of the octagon, it will be interesting to see which version of Mr Perfect will appear on Saturday night. Having slowly gravitated away from his strong grappling roots, Kang was emphasising power kickboxing nearing the end of 2019. Unfortunately for Kang, his dynamism in the octagon often creates opportunities to showcase their own talents – evidenced by his propensity to win or lose via split decision. Although Yahya’s elite grappling presents a huge threat of first-round submission, the ageing Brazilian’s potency falls off hard after the first five minutes. Moreover, Kang was last submitted over a decade ago – having tightened his offensive and defensive grappling in the meantime.

Rani Yahya

While the time for Rani Yahya to climb the rankings are pretty much over, the supreme grappler still remains a treat to watch. Never the most athletic mixed martial artist during his physical prime, Yahya is effectively a one-round fighter in terms of peak threat. Of course, Yahya has secured recent submissions over Ray Rodriguez and Russell Doane outside the first-round, yet they aren’t top quality Bantamweights. Yahya’s gas tank failing against Rodriguez is not the same cause for concern as against Kang. Against a heavy-handed opponent with strong grappling himself, Yahya’s chin is at risk of being checked on Saturday.

Predicted Result: Kang Decision

If Yahya is unable to force Kang down early, there is a real risk that the ageing Brazilian is punished hard on the feet. Never the most athletic mixed martial artist during his physical prime, Yahya is effectively a one-round fighter in terms of peak threat. Of course, Yahya has secured recent submissions over Ray Rodriguez and Russell Doane outside the first-round, yet they aren’t top quality Bantamweights. While Kang is clocking nearly two years out of the octagon, Mr Perfect’s strong grappling and underrated counter-striking can trouble anyone at Bantamweight. Last submitted over a decade ago, Kang force a mean pace if he escapes the first round.

Result: 🚫 FIGHT CANCELLED (Yahya Covid-19) 🚫
Defying age, yet not his hairline, Rani Yahya continues to find success in a young mans division | UFC on ESPN 28
Defying age, yet not his hairline, Rani Yahya continues to find success in a young mans division | UFC on ESPN 28

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UFC on ESPN 28: Main Card

Gloria de Paula (5-3) vs Cheyanne Buys (5-2)

Women’s Strawweight (115)

Gloria De Paula

Failing to shower herself in glory during her debut, Cheyanne Buys devolved into the typical sore loser after losing to Montserrat Ruiz. Hopefully returning this Saturday with a counter to the head and arm throw, and a sprinkle of decorum, Buys can showcase her solid boxing. A pressure boxer who seeks to wade into the pocket and throw volume, Buys’ leaky striking defence is papered over by her heavy hands. Opponents have so far been unwilling to engage in extended exchanges in fear of Buys’ power. While the UFC will unlikely put Buys in a match-up with another wrestler for a while, Buys can work towards creating a marketable highlight reel. Without the threat of the takedown from de Paula, Buys will only have to worry about the clinch – an area she ‘coped’ with against Hilarie Rose during DWCS.

Cheyanne Buys

Well, as seen against Jinh Yu Frey, Gloria de Paula isn’t going to be taking this to the mat anytime soon. With a 2″ height and 3 1\2″ reach advantage, however, de Paula is primed to engage in the clinch. When Buys inevitably wades into the pocket with volume, de Paula will have ample opportunity to snatch a neck if she is willing to work through Buys’ power. Although de Paula occasionally uses his length well on the outside, it will be the knees and elbows from the clinch that will cause Buys’ the most trouble. Of course, even after landing hurtful blows in the clinch against Pauline Macias, de Paula was tripped to the mat with relative ease. There is nothing stopping Buys from employing her controlling top game.

Predicted Result: Buys Decision

Hopefully returning this Saturday with a counter to the head and arm throw, Buys can showcase her solid boxing and top game. A pressure boxer who seeks to wade into the pocket and throw volume, Buys’ leaky striking defence is papered over by her heavy hands. With a 2″ height and 3 1\2″ reach advantage, however, Gloria de Paula is primed to engage in the clinch. Although de Paula occasionally uses his length well on the outside, it will be the knees and elbows from the clinch that will cause Buys’ the most trouble. Unfortunately for de Paula, she is susceptible to trips and was taken down far too easily by Pauline Macias during their DWCS showdown.

Result: Buys def. de Paula // TKO (head kick and punches) Round 1 1:00

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Niklas Stolze (12-4) vs Jared Gooden (17-6)

Welterweight (170)

Niklas Stolze

German prospect, Niklas Stolze, isn’t a fighter to get too hot on just yet. A take one to give one style is only really fun to watch when the fighter owns wicked power. Still, Stolze can be marketed as an ‘honest counter-puncher’ if we are to be polite. With a clear kicking advantage, Stolze loads up on the calf while waiting for opponents to walk into boxing range. While possessing decent grappling, scrambling effectively against Ramazan Emeev, his offence on the mat has yet to be showcased against UFC calibre opposition. If Stolze was to stay busier on the back-foot, probing with his jab more regularly, he would bleed fewer rounds and force opponents to walk onto counters.

Jared Gooden

Jared Gooden is a big, big boy. A physical specimen with long limbs, Gooden is surprisingly vulnerable to eating damage. Perhaps it is Gooden’s tendency to lead with a right straight, but the American is regularly hurt in fights. Thankfully, Gooden’s lightning-fast recovery and heart ensure he continues to wade into phone booth brawls. A defensive savant, Gooden is not. Keeping his head on the centre line and hands low at range, Gooden banks on landing first in exchanges.

Predicted Result: Stolze Decision

This fight could easily boil down to Gooden aimlessly chasing Stolze all night as the German attempts to set up hard counters. While Stolze can operate behind the take one to give one style, it is only really viable when a fighter owns wicked power. If Stolze was to stay busier on the back-foot, probing with his jab more regularly, he would bleed fewer rounds and force opponents to walk onto counters. Big boi, Jared Gooden, is a powerful striker but ridiculously susceptible to being wobbled. Keeping his head on the centre line and hands low at range, Gooden banks on landing first in exchanges.

Result: Gooden def. Stolze // KO (punch) Round 1 1:08

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Ryan Benoit (10-7) vs Zarrukh Adashev (3-3)

Flyweight (125)

Ryan Benoit

A dying breed of Flyweight veteran, Benoit is an aggressive swang n banger lost in a sea of technical grapplers. Although super durable and insanely consistent every fight, Benoit often falls short due to a size disadvantage and failure to set a strong pace. The right hand into the left high kick is a beautiful combination due to the awkward angles that Benoit’s low hands create. Certainly, a fun fighter to watch regardless of his record.

Zarrukh Adashev

A small kickboxer with a stubby 65″ reach leaves pretty much everyone questioning why the UFC continues to hand Adeshev fights? In a decent last-minute experiment against Tyson Nam, Adashev failed the real test against Mudaerji Su. Adashev’s timings and creativity on the counter are perfectly fine, but unfortunately, his T-Rex arms are not suited to counter-striking the skyscrapers at Bantamweight. Adashev will have an easier time against the compact fridge that is Benoit, yet he will still struggle to earn his opponent’s respect.

Predicted Result: Benoit TKO Round 3

Super durable and insanely consistent every fight, Ryan Benoit is a fun fighter to watch regardless of his record. Often failing due to a size disadvantage, he will find no such worries against the stubby 65″ reach of Adashev. Adashev has struggled in the UFC as he failed to close the reach differential with his counter-striking. While Adashev is heavy-handed and can time a counter, Benoit’s durability and aggression are safer to back.

Result: Adeshev def. Benoit // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Bryan Barberena (15-7) vs Jason Witt (18-7)

Welterweight (170)

Bryan Barberena

One of the original blood Gods, a true Just Bleed fan, Bryan Barberena is back baby. Coasting on his incredible, Barberena’s disgustingly brutal style has already started to fall apart. Stopped late by Vincente Luque and Randy Brown, albeit after CTE-inducing amounts of punishment, Barberena is still recovering from a recent medical scare. It was only last November that Barberena needed four litres of blood drained from his stomach. As long as Barberena isn’t a changed fighter on his return, this is the perfect fight for himself. Despite a clear athletic ceiling, Barberena pushes an insane pace and volume which couple nicely with his heavy hands. The Blood God can drag Witt into an ugly war in which Barberena comes on top during extended onslaughts in the pocket.

Jason Witt

Usually, you want a wrestle-boxer to operate on crisp footwork. Unfortunately for Witt, his cumbersome footwork often leaves him fighting to an opponent’s tune. Witt has a clear advantage in the grappling department, but he will struggle to keep Barberena down. If, as is to be expected, Witt is forced to trade on the feet – he will be ground down by virtue of Barberena’s crazy durability.

Predicted Result: Barberena TKO Round 2

It has to be noted, Barberena may enter Saturday night a changed fight. It was just last November that Barberena needed four litres of blood drained from his stomach. As long as Barberena isn’t a changed fighter on his return, this is the perfect fight for himself. Despite a clear athletic ceiling, Barberena pushes an insane pace and volume which couple nicely with his heavy hands. Witt has a clear advantage in the grappling department, but he will struggle to keep Barberena down. The Blood God can drag Witt into an ugly war in which Barberena comes on top during extended onslaughts in the pocket.

Result: Witt def. Barberena // Decision (majority – 28-28, 29-28, 29-27)

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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UFC on ESPN 28: Preliminary Card

Collin Anglin (8-1) vs Melsik Baghdasaryan (5-1)

Featherweight (145)

Collin Anglin

Between the two DWCS prospects, Anglin represents the more well-rounded yet thoroughly average fighter. So far, Anglin has shown a solid chin, but it hasn’t really faced the nuclear power of Baghdasaryan. As seen against Muhammadjon Naimov last time out, Anglin will probably eat a shot in order to lock up Baghdasaryan against the cage. Although Anglin isn’t the strongest grappler, it may be enough to drag Baghdasaryan into the later rounds and strike against a hopefully tiring opponent.

Melsik Baghdasaryan

A sharp, powerful kickboxer who is immediately a threat on the feet. Flying out the blocks, Baghdasaryan walks opponents down with front kicks before launching heavy boxing combinations. Better yet, Baghdasaryan tees off on opponents against the cage with massive elbows and knees. The form and output fall off a cliff by the later rounds, as seen against Dennis Buzukja. Against Buzukja, Baghdasaryan even attempted to panic wrestle in the third round, saved only by Buzukja haven taken too much damage during the first to take advantage.

Predicted Result: Baghdasaryan TKO Round 1

Between the two DWCS prospects, Anglin represents the more well-rounded yet thoroughly average fighter. So far, Anglin has shown a solid chin, but it hasn’t really faced the nuclear power of Baghdasaryan. Although Anglin isn’t the strongest grappler, it may be enough to drag Baghdasaryan into the later rounds. While Baghdasaryan relentless first-round pace and power may prove too much for Anglin, he realistically could fall off a cliff by the later rounds.

Result: Baghdasaryan def. Anglin // TKO (head kick and punches) Round 2 1:50

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌

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Chris Gruetzemacher (14-4) vs Rafa Garcia (12-1)

Lightweight (155)

Chris Gruetzemacher

We may soon be seeing the last of ol’ Gritz sooner rather than later. A volume pressure fighter, his once stellar durability has seemingly fallen to the wayside after a crushing first-round knockout to Alexander Hernandez. Robotic on the front foot, Gruetzemacher stiffly attempted to walk down Hernandez with loopy am punches and without a guard. If Gritz can find his chin once again, he can possibly set a pace that leaves Garcia gassed in the manner that Nasrat Haqparast achieved. Unlikely though.

Rafa Garcia

Despite being called as a live body for Haqparast, Rafa Garcia impressed far more than expected. Flying out in the first round, Garcia showcased decent front-foot boxing in a horrendous stylistic match-up. Standing in the pocket with a high guard, Garcia baits opponents into testing his granite chin before firing hard counters. Although Haqparast destroyed Garcia’s body instead, the Mexican showed his heart and grit as he pulled through a rough final round. While Garcia’s grappling found him great success in Combate Americas, it is yet to be seen whether it can be carried over to the UFC Lightweight division.

Predicted Result: Garcia Submission Round 3

Despite being called as a live body for Haqparast, Rafa Garcia impressed far more than expected. Flying out in the first round, Garcia showcased decent front foot boxing in a horrendous stylistic match-up. While Garcia’s grappling found him great success in Combate Americas, it is yet to be seen whether it can be carried over to the UFC Lightweight division. What better time to pull it out the bag than against an over the hill Gruetzmacher. Once a durable pressure fighter, ol’ Gritz looked awfully stiff against Alexander Hernandez as he plodded forward with arm punches and without a guard.

Result: Gruetzemacher def. Garcia // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Danny Chavez (11-4) vs Kai Kamaka III (8-4)

Featherweight (145)

Danny Chavez

A lightning-fast kicker, Chavez often surrenders his own space with ease thus failing to create the opportunities to kick. Worse yet, Chavez can watch fights slip by as he passively waits on the back-foot for the perfect counter opportunity. Of course, Chavez works excellent scrambles against the fence which will frustrate Kamaka’s wrestling. Yet without the volume to win rounds comfortably, Chavez is banking on a hard counter landing to win the round/fight.

Kai Kamaka III

Maaan. I was really hot on Kamaka III making a stir in the UFC, but he has failed to make a Magicarp splash at Featherweight. The wrestle-boxer strings together aesthetic combinations on the inside, but it has also resulted in the Hawaiian eating a lot of damage. On the one hand, Kamaka’s patience at range leaves a prime target for one of Chavez’s mean kicks. On the other, when Kamaka presses, his aggressive volume and bodywork can outwork Chavez on the cards. That’s even without considering if Kamaka can get his wrestling firing.

Predicted Result: Kamaka III Decision

A lightning-fast kicker, Chavez tends to bank on his power landing to secure rounds or the fight. Unfortunately, Chavez also surrenders his own space while passively waiting for the perfect counter opportunity. Kamaka III hasn’t exactly made a splash in the UFC, but the wrestle-boxer has the more diverse tools to win this. While Kamaka does linger at range, leaving himself open to a Chavez kick, his aggressive volume and bodywork can outwork Chavez on the cards. That’s even without considering if Kamaka can get his wrestling firing.

Result: Draw (majority – 29-27, 28-28, 28-28)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

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Ashley Yoder (8-7) vs Jinh Yu Frey (10-6)

Women’s Strawweight (115)

Ashley Yoder

Despite a 4″ height and reach advantage, Yoder will struggle to keep herself on the feet long enough to make the most of her physical advantages. A scrapper who will continue to plug away till the final bell, there is no denying Yoder’s heart. Unfortunately, a low volume on the feet and an inability to keep opponents down have seen her drop three of her last four. Retirement beckons if Yoder drops yet enough fight.

Jinh Yu Frey

Even at thirty-six, make no mistake, the UFC will give Jihn Yu Frey a huge push if she finally manages to string together a winning streak. While Frey can be easily out-struck on the feet, the former Invicta Atomweight champion is a wonderful grinding top-specialist when she gets her wrestling going. Fighting up in weight, however, has been the greatest detriment to Frey’s wrestling. A comically low volume on the feet hasn’t helped, but Yoder will be more than happy for this to make its way to the mat.

Predicted Result: Frey Decision

Despite a 4″ height and reach advantage, Yoder will struggle to keep herself on the feet long enough to make the most of her physical advantages. Both women have a horrendous volume on the feet, yet blown-up Atomweight Frey is perhaps the weaker of the two. Still, Yoder will be more than happy for this to make its way to the mat. Predicting a lot of scrambles in a strangely messy fight with Frey just about coming out on top.

Result: Frey def. Yoder // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

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Orion Cosce (7-0) vs Phillip Rowe (7-3)

Welterweight (170)

Orion Cosce

The new Artem Lobov? Appearing on the same week of the GOAT’s retirement? The stars have aligned for a new fan favourite manlet to arise. The Team Alpha Male prospect impressed in his DWCS debut. After trading heavy shots in the first two rounds, Cosce eventually ground down Matt Dixon on the mat and landed brutal ground and pound. He does tend to just shell up in the pocket, however, and is a prime target for an uppercut through the middle.

Phillip Rowe

First things first, Rowe suffered on the scales – perhaps an issue that will plague him later in the fight. Regardless, Rowe boasts a 10″ reach advantage with solid striking and surprisingly adept wrestling. Unlike Cosce, however, Rowe tends to slow over the fight and it will prove an issue against Cosce’s relentless pressure. While it can be difficult to get inside Rowe’s length early due to the wild volume he throws, his preference for short shots on the inside means he negates one of his greatest advantages.

Predicted Result: Cosce Decision

Rowe boasts a 10″ reach advantage with solid striking and surprisingly adept wrestling. While it can be difficult to get inside Rowe’s length early due to the wild volume he throws, his preference for short shots on the inside means he negates one of his greatest advantages. Moreover, as Rowe tires over a contest, Cosce maintains a harsh pace throughout the entire contest. Artem Lobov 2.0 is at risk when he shells up in the pocket, especially to one of Rowe’s punishing uppercuts, but he should be able to wrestle his way to victory after a scary first-round.

Result: Rowe def. Cosce // TKO (punches) Round 2 4:21

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Prediction Accuracy

UFC on ESPN 28

Winner: 4/10

Method: 4/10

Round: 3/10

2021 MMA Season

Winner: 173/292

Method: 144/292

Round: 132/292

MMA Overall

Winner: 364/596

Method: 281/596

Round: 258/596

Takeaway comments: Is it time to start taking Strickland as a serious threat at Middleweight?


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