UFC Fight Night 86 takes place early on Sunday in Zagreb, Croatia and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Junior dos Santos vs. Ben Rothwell
Not so long ago I’d have had no hesitation in picking Dos Santos to win this one, but the last few years haven’t been kind to the former champion, who just doesn’t look like his old self anymore after brutal battles with Cain Velasquez and Stipe Miocic.
On the other hand I feel like Rothwell has been overachieving to an extent, but with the heavyweight division generally not aging gracefully, the durable ‘Big Ben’ seems to be outlasting some of his peers.
I think JDS could outbox Rothwell to victory in this fight if he has a bit more spring in his step than we’ve seen of late, but it’s just something you can’t guarantee. On the other hand, Rothwell is reliable, extremely durable and has a mixture of big power and and a somewhat awkward striking style that could put Dos Santos on the back foot more than he’d like.
So, I’m leaning slightly towards Rothwell here, though admittedly with some hesitation.
Ben Rothwell to win by TKO in Rd3.
Derrick Lewis vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
Gonzaga may be coming off a win, but it was truly terrible fight, and before that he had three losses in a row, so he would need a convincing victory here to stave off suggestions that he’s past his sell-by date.
Lewis is a fairly limited heavyweight fighter, but he has power in his hands and is the hungrier and more motivated of the two, so I like his chances if he can keep this one standing early – though the caveat is that he’s in big trouble from submissions if Gonzaga fights smart and is able to take him down.
Derrick Lewis to win by KO in Rd1.
Jan Blachowicz vs. Igor Pokrajac
The 37 year-old veteran Pokrajac returns to the UFC after picking up three wins on the regional circuit, but it remains to be seen if he can replicate that former against a higher level of opposition in the Octagon.
I’m not convinced that he can, though Blachowicz hasn’t really been inspiring confidence with his tepid performances in the cage either. He feels like the fresher fighter though and I think he’ll fight at a steady pace and outpoint Pokrajac in the striking department to win by decision.
Jan Blachowicz to win by decision.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Francis Ngannou
The UFC desparately needs new heavyweight blood, so hopefully one of the these two emerges as a genuine prospect.
Ngannou is a powerful striker, but there’s not much else to his game at this point and I so think Blaydes will be able to use his wrestling to control the fight on the mat and gradually wear him down with ground and pound for a TKO stoppage.
Curtis Blaydes to win by TKO in Rd3.
Timothy Johnson vs. Marcin Tybura
Another heavyweight bout on the main card and another newcomer in Tybura, a Polish fighter with an 13-1 record to date.
Johnson is a solid, hard-working wrestler who’ll provide a significant test for Tybura in his debut, but I favor his better all-round skills, with superior striking and submission threats to pave a path to victory here.
Marcin Tybura to win by TKO in Rd2.
Maryna Moroz vs. Cristina Stanciu
It’s hard to get too much of a read on Stanciu given the low level of competition she’s faced thus far, but the Romanian newcomer should at least bring some entertainment with her aggressive striking.
I think Moroz has the striking ability to weather the early storm and then turn the screw over the course of 15 minute of fighting though, so i’m taking her by decision.
Maryna Moroz to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
Zak Cummings vs. Nicolas Dalby
Damir Hadzovic vs. Mairbek Taisumov
Ian Entwistle vs. Alejandro Perez
Filip Pejic vs. Damian Stasiak
Lucas Martins vs. Robert Whiteford
Cyril Asker vs. Jared Cannonier
Alessio Di Chirico vs. Bojan Velickovic