UFC Fight Night 103 takes place this Sunday night in Arizona and you can check out our predictions for all the fights below.
Yair Rodriguez vs. B.J. Penn
It’s a testament to how good Penn once was that I still have a slight hesitation to pick against him even today, particularly given how dreadful he performed the last time he stepped into the Octagon two and a half years ago.
Even though he’s now 38 years-old I can’t see him looking as bad as he did against Frankie Edgar, simply because there’s no chance he’ll be foolish enough to use that ludicrous tippy-toe stance again.
Still, the truth is that even if Penn goes back to his tried and tested striking style, he’s going to have problems against a creative, unpredictable and explosive striker like Rodriguez.
By his own admission, since he got back to training last year at Jackson’s MMA, Penn struggled to deal with the kind of spinning, unorthodox attacks that have become almost standard issue in the Octagon in recent years.
No doubt he’ll have at least partially adapted since then and perhaps the numerous delays in in his comeback fight will have helped with that adjustment period, but until he gets back into the Octagon we’ll not know for sure whether he can really handle the unusual angles and attacks that someone like Rodriguez presents.
That being said, Penn is still a major talent on the mat and has the kind of unusual flexibility that’s hard to train for, and Rodriguez is weakest off his back, potentially paving the way for a submission finish from the legend.
Still, in a five round fight there’s big concerns about Penn’s cardio and no such worries for the 24 year-old Rodriguez. Penn has always shown great durability, so even if Rodriguez does have his way on the feet this should probably still last a few rounds, but overall I just don’t have enough confidence in ‘The Prodigy’ to pick him here and think he’ll be stopped inside the distance by strikes.
Yair Rodriguez to win by TKO in Rd4.
Marcin Held vs. Joe Lauzon
There’s a real possibility this fight turns into a fun submission battle, with both men having won their fair share of fights on the mat in the past.
Held is a leg lock specialist, but Lauzon is such a savvy veteran that he’s going to have a hard time if that’s how he’s hoping to finish the fight, and he’ll also have to look out for the possibility that he’ll get caught in a creative submission hold himself.
Meanwhile, on the feet Lauzon doesn’t do all that well these days when fighters put him under a lot of offensive pressure, tending to just freeze and cover up, but I don’t think we’ll see too much of that in this fight as Held doesn’t really have the power to trouble him.
If there’s a finish on the floor I favor Lauzon to get it, but I think in the end it’ll be his better work on the feet that will help him take a decision victory here.
Joe Lauzon to win by decision.
Court McGee vs. Ben Saunders
It’s always fun to watch Saunders fight with his offensively-minded approach on the feet and on the mat and proven finishing instincts.
McGee is more workmanlike in his approach, a good example of a ‘jack of all trades, master of none,’ who makes up for his lack of flair with grit and durability.
Saunders is the fighter more likely to produce a stoppage victory here and I’m going to pick him to win, but with some hesitation as his vulnerability to being taken down is a real concern and could lead to McGee grinding out a victory on the scorecards.
Ben Saunders to win by TKO in Rd2.
John Moraga vs. Sergio Pettis
Sergio Pettis’ star hasn’t shone as brightly as his brother’s so far in his career, but at just 23 years-old he’s already amassed a 5-2 record in the UFC, and hopefully the best is still to come.
This will be a good test to see where he is at this staqe in his career, with Moraga being a solid fighter who’s a little down on his luck at the moment, coming off back-to-back losses.
I think this will be a close fight, with both fighters capable of testing each other wherever the fight goes, but in the end I think Pettis’ sound technical striking is a notch above his opponents and will allow him to edge out a decision victory.
Sergio Pettis to win by decision.
Prelims: (predicted winners in bold)
Drakkar Klose vs. Devin Powell
Augusto Mendes vs. Frankie Saenz
Aleksei Oleynik vs. Viktor Pesta
Tony Martin vs. Alex White
Nina Ansaroff vs. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger
Walt Harris vs. Chase Sherman
Joachim Christensen vs. Bojan Mihajlovic
Cyril Asker vs. Dmitrii Smoliakov