UFC on ESPN 29: Cannonier vs Gastelum Predictions

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UFC on ESPN 29: Cannonier vs Gastelum Predictions & Results

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Sigh. UFC on ESPN 29 isn’t the sort of card that can be written off entirely, but there are hugely disappointing match-ups littered throughout. The main and co-main are enticing battles, but then you have Chase Sherman vs Parker Porter in a duel between steroids and moobs. Somehow Pantoja vs Royval has been kicked down to the main card opener when it really should hold co-main event rights. It’s also nice to see the return of Roosevelt Roberts against an awkward prospect.

It's hard not to love Brandon Royval, the young man brings the heat on the feet every fight | UFC on ESPN 29
It’s hard not to love Brandon Royval, the young man brings the heat on the feet every fight | UFC on ESPN 29

UFC on ESPN 29: Main Event

Jared Cannonier (13-5) vs Kelvin Gastelum (17-7)

Middleweight (185)

Jared Cannonier

Coming into Saturday, both Cannonier and Gastelum share a loss against former champion, Robert Whittaker. Gastelum’s recent revival of his wrestling base may prove an issue, having not seen much of Cannonier’s TDD in the past. While the Killa Gorilla struggled hard against Glover Texeira, since moving to Middleweight, Cannonier’s physical size has papered over the cracks. Moreover, with increased complexity on the feet, Cannonier’s jab and low kicks have expanded his eat one to give one style. That isn’t to say that Cannonier lacks a slick counter-striking game, but he is more than willing to engage in equal trades based on his power. Whittaker, Hermansson and Branch were all unable to hold Cannonier tied down – what can Gastelum offer that the aforementioned lacked?

Cannonier’s deep gas tank, evidenced against Whittaker, will benefit him around the championship rounds. Despite being a three-round fight, Cannonier almost finished Whitaker after eating two rounds of hard punishment. Over five rounds, in a fight where Gastelum will struggle to keep Cannonier tied down for significant periods, the Killa Gorilla’s chance of landing vastly increases. Worse yet for Gastelum, Cannonier’s attritional leg kicks will limit the fridge’s movement. Till was able to keep busy and cement Gastelum to the mat with constant leg kicks. Add the 6.5-inch reach advantage and Gastelum’s tendency to exit failed clinch/wrestling engages with his hands down start to paint a devastating picture.

Kelvin Gastelum

Poor old Ian Heinisch was put under an intense pace by a renewed wrestling-focused Gastelum. Unfortunately for the tubby little fridge, his aggressive blitzes aren’t a style designed to succeed against Cannonier. Killa Gorilla’s straight shots will negate Gastelum’s hand speed, an already overrated weapon, while the power differential favours the former. Gastelum certainly has a quality chin, Adesanya and Whittaker can both attest. Yet Cannonier carries freakish power, possessing a harder one-shot than either Australasian. The Southpaw one-two isn’t looking like the unbeatable strategy it did against the corpses of Johny Hendricks, Tim Kennedy and Michael Bisping.

Gastelum also owns one of the strangest, perhaps unintentionally padded, record? It is very easy to look back and downplay match-ups after seeing an opponent’s decline – but the only active UFC fighters that Gastelum has wins over are Uriah Hall and Ian Heinisch. Cannonier does tend to give his back to get back to his feet, however. Gastelum is quick to latch onto an opponent’s back and snap up a submission, leaving a potential avenue for a strange, early Gastelum victory. At a crossroads, a win over Cannonier could fire Gastelum towards an Adesanya rematch, while a loss would leave Gastelum in purgatory with only one victory in his past six. Perhaps Gastelum’s penchant for knocking off older veterans will once again reign supreme.

Predicted Result: Cannonier Decision

Coming into Saturday, both Cannonier and Gastelum share a loss against former champion, Robert Whittaker. Gastelum’s recent revival of his wrestling base may prove an issue, having not seen much of Cannonier’s TDD in the past. Since moving to Middleweight, Cannonier’s physical size has papered over the cracks. Cannonier’s deep gas tank, terrifying one-shot knockout power and attritional leg kicks all indicate a long night for Gastelum. The fridge’s southpaw one-twos won’t be fast enough to negate Cannonier’s 6.5″ reach advantage, and after a few stuffed takedowns, will be left clueless in a similar manner to the Till fight.

Result: Cannonier def. Gastelum // Decision (unanimous – 48-47, 48-47, 48-47)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Jared, Killa Gorilla, Cannonier is not the sort of man you want stand in the pocket with | UFC on ESPN 29
Jared, Killa Gorilla, Cannonier is not the sort of man you want stand in the pocket with | UFC on ESPN 29

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UFC on ESPN 29: Co-Main Event

Clay Guida (36-20) vs Mark O. Madsen (10-0)

Lightweight (155)

Clay Guida

If it were anybody other than Clay Guida, you’d have to fully back the opponent with the clear wrestling advantage. The Olympic silver medalist has a fearsome power wrestling base, yet Guida is the archetype veteran with a never-ending gas tank and evidenced ability to mix in strikes. How a thirty-nine-year-old can maintain such insane output is up for debate, but his style continues to work despite being designed for a twenty-odd-year old. After grinding out an equal first round, Guida should start to pull ahead by the mid-point of the fight.

Mark O. Madsen

There still remain too many questions over Madsen to be confidently backed. Suffering a horrendous lead-up to the Guida fight, Madsen was plagued with family troubles, injuries and residential issues. The former Olympian doesn’t seem the fighter to be shaken by such hurdles, however, and is likely to enter Saturday night mentally sound. With a limited striking game based around ducking into overhands and pressuring opponents back with a lunging head, Guida’s janky lateral movement could frustrate Madsen. How the Dane deals with the first true veteran of his career, and if he holds a Plan B up his sleeve, is yet to be seen.

Predicted Result: Guida Decision

The Olympic silver medalist has a fearsome power wrestling base, yet Guida is the archetype veteran with a never-ending gas tank and evidenced ability to mix in strikes. Suffering a horrendous lead-up to the Guida fight, Madsen was plagued with family troubles, injuries and residential issues. The former Olympian doesn’t seem the fighter to be shaken by such hurdles, however. With a limited striking game based around ducking into overhands and pressuring opponents back with a lunging head, Guida’s janky lateral movement could frustrate Madsen. How the Dane deals with the first true veteran of his career, and if he holds a Plan B up his sleeve, is yet to be seen.

Result: Madsen def. Guida // Decision (split – 28-29, 29-28, 30-27)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Cannot wait for Clay Guida's inevitable mid-round burps in between the action | UFC on ESPN 29
Cannot wait for Clay Guida’s inevitable mid-round burps in between the action | UFC on ESPN 29

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UFC on ESPN 29: Main Card

Chase Sherman (15-7) vs Parker Porter (11-6)

Heavyweight (265)

Chase Sherman

Three-inch reach advantage, clear technical gameplans based around his movement and straight shots, and a clear speed differential mean this fight is truly Sherman’s to lose. Porter won’t be able to match Sherman’s pace on the feet, and could well be drowned in a similar fashion to Chris Daukaus’s victory. Moreover, while Sherman doesn’t own the heaviest hands, Porter’s chin isn’t designed for 265lb fights. There isn’t a need to break Porter’s chin with one shot as an extended barrage will have him covering up and forcing the referee to intervene.

Parker Porter

What the hell is this match-up? A volume striker lacking any physical gifts, Porter is a more technically sharpened Heavyweight than the usual trife, but his ceiling peaks at unranked UFC heavyweight. There is the wrestling outlet that could grind down Sherman and avoid extended periods on the feet. Unfortunately for Porter, he lacks the speed to close the distance necessary to shoot on Sherman.

Predicted Result: Sherman TKO Round 2

A volume striker lacking any physical gifts, Porter is a more technically sharpened Heavyweight than the usual trife, but his ceiling peaks at unranked UFC heavyweight. A solid enough wrestler, it is very unlikely that Porter has the speed necessary to close the distance and takedown Sherman. With a 3″ reach advantage, vastly superior movement and a furious pace, Porter’s questionable chin will be drowned under vicious early barrages.

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

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Vinc Pichel (13-2) vs Austin Hubbard (13-5)

Lightweight (155)

Vinc Pichel

Although owning one of the most successful records in the UFC, Pichel is a name that doesn’t ring many bells amongst casuals. His risk-free style, a preference to out-attrition opponents via grappling and nearing forty years old are all red flags that have stopped the UFC from pushing the old man. Able to push a hard pace throughout an entire fight, however, Pichel will be more than capable of preventing Hubbard from ever finding an in to the fight.

Austin Hubbard

A late-round fighter, Hubbard tends to sacrifice early rounds before surging near the end. It isn’t a tactical choice, Hubbard’s toughness and gas tank often see him eating everything an opponent offers before edging ahead via Homer Simpson durability. Lots of switch-hitting and hand fighting make Hubbard a fun watch, capable of pulling out surprise come from behind victories.

Predicted Result: Pichel Decision

Pichel’s risk-free style, a preference to out-attrition opponents via grappling and nearing forty years of age are all red flags that have stopped the UFC from pushing the old man. Able to push a hard pace throughout an entire fight, however, Pichel will be more than capable of preventing Hubbard from ever finding an in to the fight. Despite relying on out-enduring opponents, Hubbard employs an entertaining switch-hitting style that incorporates heavy hand-fighting and mental warfare. The holes in Hubbard’s defence are unfortunately too easily exploited though.

Result: Pichel def. Hubbard // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

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Trevin Jones (13-6) vs Saidyokub Kakhramonov (8-2)

Bantamweight (135)

Trevin Jones

Knockout power, a solid chin, a wealth of experience despite his poor record and underrated BJJ all favour the Guam native. Valiev’s first round against Jones may well be replicated a second time around. Kakhramonov loves to burst forwards with flurries of shots, while Jones patiently evades the significant strikes before landing a hard single shot counter. The counter lead hook out of the southpaw stance is often too much of a surprise for lower-level competition.

Saidyokub Kakhramonov

Short notice call-up from a green fighter who is facing an opponent with clear holes in his game. Kakhramonov’s game is based around heavy flurries in the pocket transitioning into single legs. Sure, this style rules at the regional level, yet it almost always comes undone at the UFC level. To sit in front of Trevin Jones would play into his opponent’s low volume high power striking. If Jones can be sat down on the mat early, Kakhramonov may gain confidence over the fight and secure a shock victory over a fighter who struggles to force his best attributes into a fight.

Predicted Result: Jones TKO Round 3

Knockout power, a solid chin, a wealth of experience despite his poor record and underrated BJJ all favour the Guam native. Valiev’s first round against Jones may well be replicated a second time around. Kakhramonov loves to burst forwards with flurries of shots, while Jones patiently evades the significant strikes before landing a hard single shot counter. If Jones can be sat down on the mat early, Kakhramonov may gain confidence over the fight and secure a shock victory over a fighter who struggles to force his best attributes into a fight. Most likely, Kakhramonov relies on his chin often during ugly exchanges in the pocket, with Jones’ cleaner strikes eventually making the breakthrough.

Result: Kakhramonov def. Jones // Technical Submission (guillotine choke) Round 3 4:39

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ✔️

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Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) vs Brandon Royval (12-5)

Flyweight (125)

Alexandre Pantoja

Back control man versus an aggressive scrambler who has been punished from behind by both Brandon Moreno and Tim Elliot in recent memory? If Pantoja can lock up Royval in a static position on the mat, the Brazilian can effectively prevent Royval’s wild pace and rack up rounds on the scorecards. A reactive counter-puncher, Pantoja may lack the nuance to set up traps, yet Royval will happily create his own demise. Pantoja’s leg and body kicks will pay dividends later in the fight by forcing Royval to settle into a one-note pace and removing his element of surprise. Finally, Pantoja’s notorious durability and solid jab, perhaps the strongest in the division, all point towards a rude awakening for Royval.

Brandon Royval

Brandon Royval is the fast food of MMA. Non-stop entertainment with an aggressive style on the feet and mat, but there’s always the lingering notion that it is often ugly, unrefined work. Still, Royval is a slick submission artist who has made huge strides in his striking. While not technically crisp, nor will it ever be, Royval lays down an emphatic pace and maintains relentless pressure. Kai-Kara France was overwhelmed by Royval, who benefitted from freakish recovery time and heart. If an opponent backs themself onto the cage, Royval can drown opponents in volume and creative explosive shots. Pantoja hits far harder than Kara-France, however, and if Royval wades in with the same recklessness – it may end up being a toss-up where the Brazilian’s power proves key. Coming off a huge shoulder injury sustained during the Moreno fight last time out, questions remain whether Royval is the same fighter as before.

Predicted Result: Pantoja TKO Round 3

Back control man versus an aggressive scrambler who has been punished from behind by both Brandon Moreno and Tim Elliot in recent memory? A reactive counter-puncher, Pantoja may lack the nuance to set up traps, yet Royval will happily create his own demise. If an opponent backs themself onto the cage, Royval can drown opponents in volume and creative explosive shots. Pantoja hits far harder than Kara-France, however, and if Royval wades in with the same recklessness – it may end up being a toss-up where the Brazilian’s power proves key. Moreover, Pantoja’s leg and body kicks will pay dividends later in the fight by forcing Royval to settle into a one-note pace and removing his element of surprise.

Result: Pantoja def. Royval // Submission (rear-naked choke) Round 2 1:46

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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UFC on ESPN 29: Preliminary Card

Brian Kelleher (22-12) vs Domingo Pilarte (8-2)

Bantamweight (135)

Brian Kelleher

Well, I finally got my desired Simon vs Kelleher match-up and it didn’t disappoint. Brian Kelleher will never rise high in the rankings, but he carries firepower in both hands and is more than willing to take risks to secure the W. Carrying almost the entirety of the prelims on his back, it’s a shame this is such a huge step back from Simon. Naked shots on Kelleher are punished with a viper-like guillotine, often forcing less established wrestlers to engage on the feet.

Domingo Pilarte

A towering 6’0″ frame comes with an 8″ reach advantage. Why then, does Pilarte opt for the Struve approach and fail to fully utilise his jab. A southpaw jab of 74″ at Bantamweight is freakish, and although Pilarte is a solid grappler, especially when considering his awkward frame, he desperately needs to make the most of his natural frame. Pilarte may find an early submission against an opponent who takes a while to wake up, but it is more likely that Kelleher is simply too many levels above Pilarte at this point in their respective careers.

Predicted Result: Kelleher TKO Round 2

Brian Kelleher will never rise high in the rankings, but he carries firepower in both hands and is more than willing to take risks to secure the W. A southpaw jab of 74″ at Bantamweight is freakish, and although Pilarte is a solid grappler, especially when considering his awkward frame, he desperately needs to make the most of his natural frame. Pilarte may find an early submission against an opponent who takes a while to wake up, but it is more likely that Kelleher is simply too much too soon for Pilarte.

Result: Kelleher def. Pilarte // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Bea Malecki (2-0) vs Josiane Nunes (7-1)

Women’s Bantamweight (135)

Bea Malecki

Sigh. Over three years with the UFC, Malecki has a loss in the Ultimate Fighter and two wins over deeply average opponents. The Swede is a tall Muay Thai fighter who hasn’t yet managed to tie together fluid transitions between the various facets of her game. There is still time for Malecki to grow into a force at Women’s Bantamweight, in part due to the shallow nature of the division. Malecki’s striking defence is woefully open, and if no improvements have been made, an aggressive opponent could raise questions of Malecki’s mental.

Josiane Nunes

Securing a slew of knockout victories in the domestic South American circuits, Nunes is an unknown entity. Nunes is sacrificing 7″ of height and reach. Likely overextending to land her overhands, Nunes will be open to Malecki’s ugly but competent uppercut. Regardless, Nunes is tenacious enough to be the first fighter to truly test Malecki’s chin. With such a height, reach and weight disadvantage, however, it would take the mother of all Hail Marys to see the UFC’s prospect lights be switched off.

Predicted Result: Malecki Decision

Nunes is tenacious enough to be the first fighter to truly test Malecki’s chin. Malecki has failed to set alight her career with the UFC over the past three years, and her woeful striking defence leaves her vulnerable as she climbs the rankings. With such a height, reach and weight disadvantage, however, it would take the mother of all hail marys to see the UFC’s prospect lights be switched off.

Result: Nunes def. Malecki // KO (punch) Round 1 4:54

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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William Knight (9-2) vs Fabio Cherant (7-2)

Light Heavyweight (205)

William Knight

Right, let me get this straight early. I like William Knight. A powerhouse of a man with brute force wrestling and untapped power in both hands. Unfortunately, this is the bottom of the barrel type of fight. Knight’s preferred fight is to break down opponents against the cage, eventually finding a way to top position from where he can rain down heavy shots. Off his back, there is a clear vulnerability, but Cherant’s wrestling doesn’t appear to be at a level to test it.

Fabio Cherant

Cherant didn’t have the time to prove himself against Menifeld, but losing to a Von Flue choke against such a limited fighter is a bit of a shocker. As is typical at LHW, Cherant is a fabulous athlete with a wildly limited skillset. An aggressive submission artist, Cherant has bullied domestic opponents, but his almost total inactivity on the feet is unforgivable at the UFC level.

Predicted Result: Knight TKO Round 2

Knight’s preferred fight is to break down opponents against the cage, eventually finding a way to top position from where he can rain down heavy shots. Cherant is a fabulous athlete and aggressive submission artist, yet his total inactivity on the feet is unforgivable at the UFC level. Knight’s vulnerability off his back could be exposed but Cherant’s wrestling doesn’t appear to be at a level to test it.

Result: Knight def. Cherant // KO (punches) Round 1 3:58

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Roosevelt Roberts (10-2) vs Ignacio Bahamondes (11-4)

Lightweight (155)

Roosevelt Roberts

LOVE LOVE LOVE me some Roosevelt Roberts. Roberts has struggled over the past couple of years, foolishly walking himself into a Jim Miller armbar and Kevin Croom standing guillotine. At twenty-seven, there is still time for Roberts to learn from his mistakes, but he cannot afford many more losses if he wants to continue to be considered a prospect. Despite his 6’2″ frame, Roberts has been wrapped up by the wilier opponents (Pichel/Miller) and exhibited a lack of natural strength. Perhaps an eventual jump in weight could solve that, but likewise, greater defensive awareness to avoid the clinch could paper over the cracks in the meantime.

Ignacio Bahamondes

Although I haven’t had the same time to get hyped, I am also starting to love me some Bahamondes. The Chilean is a freakish 6’3″ at Lightweight with a penchant for volume striking and fantastic probing kicks. Despite patches of success against John Makdessi, Bahmondes’ reliance upon his chin saw him lose on the scorecards based on the cleanliness of shots eaten. Worse yet, despite his awkward frame, Roberts has a clear advantage on the mat. The clinch is the battlefield between a technically sharper Roberts and a taller Bahamondes.

Predicted Result: Bahamondes Decision

Very, very, very close fight to call. Two incredibly fun prospects, with Bahamondes’ size and volume striking favoured to overwhelm the technically sharper Roberts. If Roberts is unable to find a way around Bahamondes’ size in the clinch and find a way to take this to the mat, the Chilean could well win an ugly, evenly matched affair based on gritty volume.

Result: Bahamondes def. Roberts // KO (spinning wheel kick) Round 3 4:55

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Ramiz Brahimaj (8-3) vs Sasha Palatnikov (6-3)

Lightweight (155)

Ramiz Brahimaj

It’s good to see the return of Brahimaj after his disgusting ear injury at the hands of Max Griffin. Brahimaj’s volume needs to be upped, however, needing a punch to keep active while he waits to time the perfect counter. Although patience does keep his gas tank in check, it leaves Brahimaj eating damage and dropping silly rounds.

Sasha Palatnikov

I refuse to be sold on Palatnikov offering anything other than a live body. After his first layer of striking defence has been peeled, Palatnikov is a thoroughly hittable fighter. While Palatnikov can eat his fair share of strikes, he is susceptible to being drowned when wobbled. Brahimaj is a boar of a man, and if he wobbles Palatnikov early as expected, the finish will be locked up.

Predicted Result: Brahimaj Submission Round 1

It’s good to see the return of Brahimaj after his disgusting ear injury at the hands of Max Griffin. Brahimaj’s volume needs to be upped, however, needing a punch to keep active while he waits to time the perfect counter. Not that it matters too much, Palatnikov is a thoroughly hittable fighter. While Palatnikov can eat his fair share of strikes, Brahimaj is a boar of a man, and if he wobbles Palatnikov early as expected, the finish will be locked up.

Result: Brahimaj def. Palatnikov // Technical Submission (rear-naked choke) Round 1 2:33

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

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Prediction Accuracy

UFC on ESPN 29

Winner: 6/11

Method: 4/11

Round: 5/11

2021 MMA Season

Winner: 185/314

Method: 152/314

Round: 141/314

MMA Overall

Winner: 376/618

Method: 289/618

Round: 267/618

Takeaway comments: Bahamondes needs smart match-making from now on, there’s real talent within that gigantic frame.


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