UFC on ESPN 31: Font vs Aldo Predictions

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UFC on ESPN 31: Font vs Aldo Predictions & Results

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What a cracker of a Fight Night card. This could arguably be a PPV card if we’re basing it solely on the quality of match-ups. After the terrifyingly dull Vieira vs Tate card, this Saturday’s event is the perfect medicine.

Failed to catch last weekend’s action? No worries, we have you covered:
PI’s Preview: UFC Fight Night 198: Vieira vs Tate Predictions.
PI’s Review: MAFB: UFC Fight Night 198 Review.
PI’s Scoring: MAFB Math: UFC Fight Night 198.

Unconvinced by Pintsized’s mystical predicting powers? Take a look at our prediction success last month detailed in Boxing Predictions Results: October 2021.

Any card that features Jimmy Crute is welcome in PI's eyes | UFC On ESPN 31: Predictions
Any card that features Jimmy Crute is welcome in PI’s eyes | UFC On ESPN 31: Predictions

UFC on ESPN 31: Main Event

Rob Font (19-4) vs Jose Aldo (30-7)

Bantamweight (135)

Rob Font

Rewinding the clocks a tad, we need to return to when Font was totally neutralised by Raphael Assuncao. Assuncao stood in the pocket, making minor adjustments to slip and counter Font’s straight shots, creating a puzzle that the American was unable to crack. Aldo will prove to be a nightmare to land on in the early rounds. The question will be whether Font can persevere, wait out the early potency of Aldo while banking on his incredible chin, and then start to land on an increasingly stationary target.

In a pure striking affair, Font has a huge chance of replicating Holloway’s double masterclass over Aldo. With the superior height and reach, in addition to underrated power, Font is primed to expose the physical decline in Aldo. Of course, we’ve been in a similar situation before with Renato Moicano expected to do this very job. If Aldo utilises chopping low kicks with the same intent that he did against Yan, he could throw Font off his natural striking game as he is unable to safely jab from a boxing stance. If not, Font may well dominate the jabbing war – a key tool that Font can use like Holloway in forcing Aldo to explosively react and burn his limited gas tank faster.

Jose Aldo

here has been a noticeable decline in Aldo, but his skill set has kept him thoroughly competitive. This was no more evident than against Pedro Munhoz. Aldo was able to keep pace with the new breed of high-paced, high-pressure fighters in the lower weight divisions. In a five-round fight against a heavy-handed boxer who carries his power deep into the fight, the questions still have to be rose. Aldo has been eating shots with less confidence in recent fights, absorbed career-high damage and tailed off hard in the championship rounds.

Wrestling is a key path for an Aldo victory. Font was taken down by Garbrandt 3/10 times, but the subsequent scrambles momentarily threw Font off of the pace. Aldo has the superior top control to take Garbrandt’s panic wrestling one further, and bank considerable control time. Not only could Aldo ride out extended periods of the fight to put a plaster over his flailing gas tank, but it would neutralise Font’s greatest assets on the feet. Of course, this would require Aldo to chase takedowns each round as there is little reason to believe that Font’s chin will be broken.

Predicted Result: Font Decision

What an absolute treat of a fight. In what initially felt like a ‘changing of the guard’ type fight, I have consistently flip-flopped between the two. Wrestling is a key path for an Aldo victory. Font was taken down by Garbrandt 3/10 times, but the subsequent scrambles threw Font off of the pace. Aldo’s formidable top control will allow the Brazilian to bank considerable control time.

In a pure striking affair, Font’s natural physical advantages may tip the scales. With the superior height and reach, in addition to underrated power, Font is primed to expose the physical decline in Aldo. If Aldo utilises chopping low kicks with the same intent that he did against Yan, it will prevent Font from using his jab to settle into a rhythm. If not, Font can use the jab like Holloway to force explosive defensive reactions and burn Aldo’s declining gas tank. Small signs of wear and tear to Aldo’s durability just about pushes me towards Font taking a decision.

Result: Aldo def. Font // Decision (unanimous – 50-45, 50-45, 49-46)

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

Jose Aldo recaptured some his sparkling best against a game Pedro Munhoz | UFC on ESPN 31: Predictions
Jose Aldo recaptured some his sparkling best against a game Pedro Munhoz | UFC on ESPN 31: Predictions

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UFC on ESPN 31: Co-Main Event

Rafael Fiziev (10-1) vs brad Riddell (10-1)

Lightweight (155)

Rafael Fiziev

Rafael Fiziev is a highly regarded prospect that has found pretty favourable match-ups during his time in the UFC. Icing Renato Moicano was a huge statement victory, but he is yet to face a committed, top-tier wrestler. Bobby Green is perhaps the strongest wrestler he has faced, but when has Bobby ever turned down a full-blooded striking affair?

The major issue with Fiziev appears to be a questionable gas tank. In part, this will be caused by the Kyrgyzstani’s choice to fly out of the blocks early. Starting at top gear, Fiziev attempts to blast opponents out before they can settle into the fight. Against Bobby Green who was able to keep himself alive for the second round, there was a visible change in momentum by the mid-point. That isn’t to say that Fiziev’s volume markedly drops, but opponents instead grow in confidence to close the distance and trade with Ataman. An inability to adjust combinations on the fly causes further issues too. Regardless, Fiziev is a physical specimen with a fun style – not everyone needs to be sold as the future champion.

Brad Riddell

Forget FOTN, this could be Fight of the Year. The former training partners are firm friends but they will be sure to leave formalities at the door for a three-round bloodbath. Riddell, the hugely durable, crafty counter-puncher, will have to endure Fiziev flying out of the blocks with hellfire. While you can never really tell how two former training partners will fight under the lights, both men have been extremely consistent in their UFC careers. Maybe it’s the heart speaking, but this is a certain banger of two halves.

As a fighter who takes a lax approach in the opening round to make reads on opponents, Riddell’s past experience with Fiziev should be able to speed up the process. The major question then is whether Riddell can absorb the punishment that Fiziev will deliver in the first round? It seems weird not to back the Aussie’s incredible chin, yet he was stunned by Drew Dober in his last outing. Riddell’s panic wrestling doesn’t often lead to much outside of also taking a beating on the mat as well.

Predicted Result: Riddell Decision

Forget FOTN, this could be Fight of the Year. The former training partners are firm friends but they will be sure to leave formalities at the door for a three-round bloodbath. Riddell, the hugely durable, crafty counter-puncher, will have to endure Fiziev flying out of the blocks with hellfire.

The major question then is whether Riddell can absorb the punishment that Fiziev will deliver in the first round? It seems weird not to back the Aussie’s incredible chin, yet he was stunned by Drew Dober in his last outing. If Riddell can ride the early storm, Fiziev hasn’t shown much ability to adapt in the later rounds when his gas tank starts to wane. The recent Bobby Green fight proves that Fiziev can lose his form around the mid-point.

Result: Fiziev def. Riddell // KO (spinning wheel kick) Round 3 2:20

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

Can Rafael Fiziev beat his old training partner and friend, Brad Riddell? | UFC on ESPN 31: Predictions
Can Rafael Fiziev beat his old training partner and friend, Brad Riddell? | UFC on ESPN 31: Predictions

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UFC on ESPN 31: Main Card

Jimmy Crute (12-2) vs Jamahal Hill (8-1)

Light Heavyweight (205)

Jimmy Crute

A showdown that will be decided by who makes a major mistake first. Both fighters have total confidence in their ability in any area of the fight. Crute’s reckless aggression creates equal part openings for himself and his opponents. The Aussie won’t want to be cracked by Hill, with the American’s 5″ reach posing the risk of catching Crute sleeping on the edge of striking range. Although Crute suffered a bitterly disappointing loss to Anthony Smith via leg kicks, he was still able to bite down on the gumshield and outwrestle the former title challenger for the first round.

Jamahal Hill

After a long fight layoff following a Paul Craig submission, Hill’s now recovered from his dislocated elbow and is ready to get back on track. No doubt, Hill has humbled himself after talking a big game before the Craig fight and attempting to beat the Scotsman at his own game in his guard. While Hill has the beating of Crute in terms of physical prowess on the feet, his poor decision-making will see him walking voluntarily into losses. I can already foresee Hill securing a knockdown, only to jump into Crute’s guard and find himself submitted.

Predicted Result: Crute TKO Round 2

A showdown that will be decided by who makes a major mistake first. Crute’s reckless aggression creates equal part openings for himself and his opponents. Meanwhile, Hill will have humbled himself after attempting to beat Paul Craig at his own game. If Crute immediately focuses on out-wrestling Hill, it is difficult to see Hill managing to get up off his back.

Result: Hill def. Crute // KO (punches) Round 1 0:48

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌

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Clay Guida (36-21) vs Leonardo Santos (18-4-1)

Lightweight (155)

Clay Guida

Cardio kills. Leonardo Santos is still a technical monster, but Clay Guida continues to get it done with almost no changes to the tactics that made him famous all those years ago. Somehow the thirty-nine-year-old can dig out a similar grinding performance, with just a shade of durability having been lost over time. The steadfast pursuit of takedowns is a gameplan that Guida refuses to budge from, regardless of the opponent. It would seem an amateur mistake to make against the submission chops of Santos, yet the upside is Guida can control an ageing opponent for much of the round if he can avoid being choked out.

Leonardo Santos

At forty-one years old and after a crushing knockout loss to Grant Dawson, there is a hugely worrying decline present in Santos. The Brazilian is still an exceptionally smart fighter with top-tier technicals, but a failing gas tank is a worry when facing Guida’s relentless pressure. This is the type of fight that Santos would never have lost a few years back, but it is more questionable these days. Santos’ wonderful defensive wrestling will prevent Guida from suffocating him to the cage/mat, and allow enough space and time to claim the early rounds with classy striking. It is likely that Guida runs foolhardy into takedowns after getting tuned up on the feet and walk himself onto a guillotine choke (ala Charles Oliveira or Jim Miller).

Predicted Result: Santos Submission Round 1

At forty-one years old and after a crushing knockout loss to Grant Dawson, there is a hugely worrying decline present in Santos. The Brazilian is still an exceptionally smart fighter with top-tier technicals, but a failing gas tank is a worry when facing Guida’s relentless pressure. The steadfast pursuit of takedowns is a game plan that Guida refuses to budge from, regardless of the opponent. It would seem an amateur mistake to make against the submission chops of Santos, yet the upside is Guida can control an ageing opponent for much of the round if he can avoid being choked out.

Result: Guida def. Santos // Submission (rear-naked choke) Round 2 1:21

Winner ❌ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌

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Brendan Allen (17-4) vs Chris Curtis (27-8)

Middleweight (185)

Brendan Allen

The recent transition of Brendan Allen from a submission merchant into a kickboxer has been interesting. Allen’s kicking game is fairly potent, an area that Curtis has struggled with across his career. Capable of setting an insane pace (although not always able to maintain it), Allen combines solid wrestling with a strong arsenal of submissions. Curtis has always shown decent TDD and submission defence but he will struggle with the early ferociousness of Allen. Even if Curtis survives, he will be banking on checking Allen’s chin deep into the contest – perhaps too late with rounds already banked by the more active fighter.

Chris Curtis

Curtis sets about on a rapid turnaround after his debut victory. While likely due to financial troubles, Curtis also finds himself in outstanding shape whilst riding a career-high. The crafty counter-punchers takes his time to make a read, throwing a low volume of significant strikes. Typically, this style always bites fighters on the arse unless they have deathly power. Allen will take risks on the feet, the bigger man unravelled against Sean Strickland when he couldn’t dictate the pace, but Curtis will struggle to get his back off the cage to change the momentum.

Predicted Result: Allen Decision

Capable of setting an insane pace (although not always able to maintain it), Allen combines solid wrestling with a strong arsenal of submissions. Curtis has always shown decent TDD and submission defence but he will struggle with the early ferociousness of Allen. Even if Curtis survives, he will be banking on checking Allen’s chin deep into the contest – perhaps too late with rounds already banked by the more active fighter.

Result: Curtis def. Allen // TKO (punches and knees) Round 2 1:58

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Alex Morono (20-7) vs Mickey Gall (7-3)

Welterweight (170)

Alex Morono

Morono will forever be hampered by his mediocre physicality, but his game planning and decision making has proven vastly superior to the level of competition he has faced. Ancient Donald Cerrone and David Zawada are banana skins for many at Welterweight, but Morono fought smart relentless fights. There seem to be new strings to Morono’s bow every time he enters the octagon, and I expect his experience and decision-making will prove too much for the improved Gall.

Mickey Gall

Mickey Gall isn’t the shallow gas-tank grappler anymore. At least, not after watching Mickey Gall win a 50/50 shoot-out with Jordan Williams before submitting the dazed opponent. Unfortunately, Gall will struggle to out-grapple Morono. Morono has never been submitted while Gall’s finishing skills on the mat are perhaps a little overstated (having a W over CM Punk does that to be fair).

Predicted Result: Morono Decision

Morono will forever be hampered by his mediocre physicality, but his game planning and decision making has proven key in recent fights. While Gall isn’t the shallow gas-tank grappler of his early days, newfound powerful striking isn’t enough to simply walk over Morono. Morono’s submission defence and Gall’s overrated threat on the mat will allow Morono to blunt Gall’s greatest weapons and grind out a decision.

Result: Morono def. Gall // Decision (unanimous – 30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

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UFC on ESPN 31: Preliminary Card

Maki Pitolo (13-8) vs Dusko Todorovic (10-2)

Middleweight (185)

Maki Pitolo

Coconut Bombz has always been an underrated wrestler/grappler, but his selling point will always remain his willingness to throw heavy leather. Don’t overlook Pitolo based on his record, the veteran has tons of experience against dangerous operators – Todorovic’s powerful striking isn’t anything new to Pitolo. The main issue for Pitolo is he requires landing early – if Pitolo doesn’t feel the connection and see a result, he wanes deeper into the fight. It’s a mental wall that has stopped Pitolo from climbing out of unranked obscurity.

Dusko Todorovic

Todorovic lives up to a kill or be killed mentality. Often finding himself stranded by focusing on head movement as his sole defence, the Serb creates his own problems. Leaning backwards is decent means to avoid the first layer of striking, but he leaves himself stranded and unable to counter when he hits the reverse-Michael Jackson. Thankfully, Todorovic has an incredible chin – Punahele Soriano possesses nuclear power but even he couldn’t fully switch Todo’s lights off.

Predicted Result: Todorovic TKO Round 3

Coconut Bombz has always been an underrated wrestler/grappler, but his selling point will always remain his willingness to throw heavy leather. Todorovic’s incredible chin, in addition to Pitolo’s waning confidence during the later rounds, opens the stage for the Serb to brute force a stoppage deep into the fight.

Result: Todorovic def. Pitolo // TKO (punches) Round 1 4:34

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ❌

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Zhalgas Zhumagulov (14-5) vs Manel Kape (16-6)

Flyweight (125)

Zhalgas Zhumagulov

In terms of consistency, Zhumagulov is far more likely to approach every round with the same output that will see him earn rounds over his career. As Kape far prefers to let opponents dictate the action, Zhumagulov will likely play the role of aggressor in this affair and win rounds off the back of it. The Kazakh’s chin appears unbreakable, even when considering Kape’s power.

Manel Kape

A big fight in terms of career trajectory for the winner, but not an ideal stylistic match-up for the fans. Both men are patient counter-punchers, with perhaps Kape offering the greater entertainment based on his athleticism and creativity. It hasn’t been quite the splash in the UFC that was expected of the Portuguese fighter, but he still has time to win over the fans.

Predicted Result: Kape Decision

A big fight in terms of career trajectory for the winner, but not an ideal stylistic match-up for the fans. Both men are patient counter-punchers, with perhaps Kape offering the greater entertainment based on his athleticism and creativity. Zhumagulov is far more likely to approach every round with the same output that will see him earn rounds. The Kazakh’s chin appears unbreakable, even against Kape’s power, but I’m going to have to side with the better natural fighter even if he will likely coast to a decision loss.

Result: Kape def. Zhumagulov // TKO (punches) Round 1 4:02

Winner ✔️ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Bryan Barberena (15-8) vs Darian Weeks (5-0)

Welterweight (170)

Bryan Barberena

The durable veteran has always been game for war, but recently there are clear signs of decay. Simply put, Luque broke Barberena. Barberena looked as good as he has ever had, timing fine counters, yet his athletic ceiling allowed Luque to eventually find the finish. When Jason Witt drops you multiple times in a contest, a thoroughly limited fighter with heavy-ish hands, the writing is on the wall. Bam Bam no longer sees the strikes coming in time. An inability to defensively prepare for incoming damage leaves Barberena a risk to back these days. Can Barberena still out-grit a lesser skilled opponent? Absolutely. Will it be a clear-cut performance? Sadly no longer.

Darian Weeks

Weeks is an unknown name. The 5-0 professional has a strong wrestling base, yet seems to enjoy throwing hands more on tape. Weeks throws lots of front kicks to the body and head, yet the sloppy speed will allow Barberena to easily close the distance. There is power in his left hook, but Weeks is limited to the same three-punch combinations and will struggle if Barberena drags him into extended exchanges.

Predicted Result: Barberena Decision

Bam Bam no longer sees the strikes coming in time. An inability to defensively prepare for incoming damage leaves Barberena a risk to back these days. Thankfully, the unknown Weeks is unlikely to have enough to put over the weathered veteran. Despite his wrestling background, Weeks prefers to try his hand on the feet, throwing several front kicks in a fight. There is power in his left hook, but Weeks is limited to the same three-punch combinations and will struggle if Barberena drags him into extended exchanges.

Result: Barberena def. Weeks // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

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Jake Matthews (17-5) vs Jeremiah Wells (9-2-1)

Welterweight (170)

Jake Matthews

I am going to be honest, Jake Matthews is a personal favourite of mine. It is with a heavy heart then, that it feels like the Aussie has found his level. Every time Matthews makes a small step up, he is unceremoniously dropped back down to soft bouts. When combined with his total inability to finish opponents – most clearly exhibited in a decision victory over the deceased corpse of Diego Sanchez, it has also led to almost no fanfare for The Celtic Kid. Functional defensive wrestling and a solid top game, Matthews well-rounded skillset should all but bury Wells.

Jeremiah Wells

A freak physical specimen, Wells’ looks to land first and freeze opponents. This isn’t a tactic that necessarily climbs well up the ladder. Simply put, Wells’ unravels when facing return fire, a total lack of technique evidence this. Wells could win an ugly clinching affair on the feet which Matthews could easily be coaxed into, but in a stand-up affair, Matthews’ sharpened boxing should cleanly out-strike Wells’ wild bursts.

Predicted Result: Matthews Decision

Functional defensive wrestling and a solid top game, Matthews well-rounded skillset should all but bury Wells. As long as Matthews can keep this standing, Wells’ is limited to landing first and freezing opponents. Wells could win an ugly clinching affair on the feet which Matthews could easily be coaxed into, but in a pure stand-up affair, Matthews’ sharpened boxing should cleanly out-strike Wells’ wild bursts.

Result: 🚫 FIGHT CANCELLED (Well’s cornerman COVID) 🚫

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Mallory Martin (7-4) vs Cheyanne Vlismas (6-2)

Women’s Strawweight (115)

Mallory Martin

Mallory Martin falls somewhere between being marginally tougher than Hannah Cifers but levels below Virna Jandiroba and Polyana Viana. A roster filler, Mallory Martin is the calibre of opponent that Vlismas has to defeat comprehensively if she wants to break into the top-fifteen. Martin’s conditioning and durability are equalled out by Vlismas’ own athleticism and is really riding on her top control grinding out a decision.

Cheyanne Vlismas

New name, Cheyanne Vlismas, same game, throw sloppy hands. There is a potential risk that Vlismas is still struggling from the effects of COVID, having been forced to pull out her fight a couple of weeks previous to recover. Vlismas punches hard with clean pre-determined combinations. By that I mean Vlismas isn’t the natural striker that can build combinations on the fly. At Women’s Strawweight, this really isn’t an issue until you push into the top five, however. Vlismas is a solid grappler, as long as she can stay away from the headlock (looking at you, Montserrat Ruiz).

Predicted Result: Vlismas Decision

There is a potential risk that Vlismas is still struggling from the effects of COVID, having been forced to pull out her fight a couple of weeks previous to recover. If Vlismas is healthy, Martin is the calibre of opponent that she needs to defeat comprehensively if she wants to break into the top-fifteen. Martin’s conditioning and durability are equalled out by Vlismas’ own athleticism, while Vlismas’ crisp combinations on the feet will win the judges over.

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

Winner ✔️ // Method ✔️ // Round ✔️

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Alonzo Menifield (11-2) vs William Knight (10-2)

Light Heavyweight (205)

Alonzo Menifield

Two huge juggernauts that will clash head-on. Both men strangely hold victories over Fabio Cherant, a regional fighter who perhaps lucked out in making his way onto the UFC. Menifield’s victory over Ed Herman was a huge statement, despite the weathered condition of the veteran. Menifield proved for the first time in his career that he control a fight to a decision against a crafty operator. It looked awkward and stiff at times, but Menifield’s transition away from first-round all-out action is a mature evolution.

William Knight

The Knightmare is another favourite of mine, his body type is literally a barrel of muscles. Unfortunately, a similar level of maturity cannot be seen in Knight’s career in the UFC. He is a freakishly powerful puncher, but he doesn’t set up his strikes in a coordinated manner, instead selecting strikes like a pickin’ mix. Knight’s paper-thin TDD will be his undoing in this ugly fight.

Predicted Result: Menifield TKO Round 2

Menifield’s victory over Ed Herman was a huge statement, despite the weathered condition of the veteran. For the first time in his career, Menifield proved that he control a fight. Knight has not shown a similar level of maturity. Instead, Knight relies on his raw athleticism on the feet and mat. Knightmare’s paper-thin TDD will be his undoing in this ugly fight.

Result: Knight def. Menifield // Decision (unanimous – 29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Louis Smolka (17-7) vs Vince Morales (10-5)

Bantamweight (135)

Louis Smolka

Although Smolka will never be a big name in the company, he is an easy fighter to get behind. A wonderful redemption story in overcoming troubles outside of the octagon, a receptive personality across social media and most importantly – a willingness to expand his game from fight to fight. Recently, Smolka’s penchant for body punching has been pleasing to see, a top investment against any opponent.

Vince Morales

Vince Morales is one of the most difficult fighters to predict. At some points, Morales looks like a startled deer in headlights, frightened to engage and unwilling to enter the striking range. Other times, Morales will happily sit in the pocket and slickly counter opponents. Smolka’s consistency and pressure will force Morales into a striking war, whether he wants it or not.

Predicted Result: Smolka Decision

Although Smolka will never be a big name in the company, he is an easy fighter to get behind. The Hawaiian has always shown a willingness to expand his game from fight to fight. Morales is an incredibly difficult fighter to gauge. At some points, Morales looks frightened to engage. Other times, Morales will happily sit in the pocket and slickly counter opponents. Smolka’s consistency and pressure will force Morales into a striking war, whether he wants it or not.

Result: Morales def. Smolka // KO (punches) Round 1 2:02

Winner ❌ // Method ❌ // Round ❌

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Prediction Accuracy

UFC on ESPN 31

Winner: 5/12

Method: 7/12

Round: 4/12

2021 MMA Season

Winner: 285/462

Method: 215/462

Round: 195/462

MMA Overall

Winner: 476/766

Method: 352/766

Round: 321/766

Takeaway comments: Lots of shocks on a memorable Fight Night card.


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