The UFC fight action is coming thick and fast this week, so we’ve decided to combine our predictions for UFC Fight Night 90 on Thursday night and the TUF 23 Finale on Friday night, focusing on the four biggest match-ups to be found between the two cards.
UFC FIGHT NIGHT 90 PREDICTIONS:
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Eddie Alvarez
The first title fight of this three-night festival of fights finds UFC lightweight champion going up against former Bellator champ Eddie Alvarez.
RDA has been tremendously impressive in the past few years and has completely dismantled a string of top lightweight talents like Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz and Ben Henderson during his current winning streak.
That’s the kind of form we wouldn’t necessarily have expected from Dos Anjos a few years ago, but he’s shown excellent improvement in his all-round fight game to evolve into a complete fighter, whose excellent BJJ is now backed up by a beastly striking game, a greater physical presence, and an ability to push the pace for as long as it takes to come away with his hand raised.
In Alvarez, he’s facing one of the most hard-nosed competitors in the sport, who’s never out of a fight, even when he’s badly hurt. That natural fighting instinct and will to win, when combined with good striking skills and wrestling makes him tough to beat.
Alvarez hasn’t been breezing through opponents like RDA though, having to dig deep to come out on the right end of split decision verdicts for his past few victories, and I think that is somewhat telling.
Dos Anjos will have to be 100% focused at all times and wary of the fact that Alvarez can sometimes be at his most dangerous when he’s hurt. If he does so then I believe he’ll prove to be too much for his opponent on the feet, taking advantage of Alvarez’s shaky defense to put a hurting on him with hard kicks and punches, while applying relentless pressure.
Alvarez is tough to finish, but he’s taken a lot of damage over the years, which is bound to catch up with him eventually, and with the kind of form RDA is showing these days I think he puts him away before the championship rounds.
Rafael dos Anjos to win by TKO in Rd3.
Derrick Lewis vs. Roy Nelson
Stranger things have happened, but you’d have to imagine that the chances of these two heavyweight sluggers making it to the final bell without someone getting knocked out are fairly slim.
Lewis has been on a roll lately with three first round finishes in a row, with his size, strength, and power making up for his lack of technique.
Nelson’s recent form is poor and is bit more plodding in his approach than his opponent, but he is more technical on the feet than Lewis, has a significantly better chin, and has the better skillset overall, which will make it tough for Lewis to get him on his back and utilize his strong ground and pound ability.
With both men wielding fight-ending power in every punch, this could go either way, but while he’s past his best, I still feel Nelson’s veteran savvy and ability to absorb blows better than Lewis will help him along the way to a second round KO victory.
Roy Nelson to win by KO in Rd2.
Quick Picks: (Predicted winners in bold)
Alan Jouban vs. Belal Muhammad
Mitch Clarke vs. Joseph Duffy
Mike Pyle vs. Alberto Mina
John Makdessi vs. Mehdi Baghdad
Anthony Birchak vs. Dileno Lopes
Russell Doane vs. Pedro Munhoz
Felipe Arantes vs. Jerrod Sanders
Gilbert Burns vs. Lukasz Sajewski
Marco Beltran vs. Reginaldo Vieira
Alvaro Herrera vs. Vicente Luque
TUF 23 FINALE PREDICTIONS:
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha
What a fight this is. The first encounter between these two strawweight stars was extremely close and the punches thrown after the bell sparked a heated rivalry that’s continued to boil over on the latest season of TUF, where they served as the season coaches.
While there’s a lot of hype around Jedrzejczyk at the moment, make no mistake, Gadelha is the real deal, and on paper, this is as competitive a match-up as any we’ll see over these three nights of fights.
Jedrzejczyk just managed to claim a split decision verdict in that initial fight, and since then she’s been in top form, showcasing top-notch technical boxing with fast hands, excellent combos and a very good sense of distance and movement, together with almost impenetrable takedown defense.
Injury problems have resulted in less time for Gadelha to shine in the Octagon, with only one fight under her belt since that first bout, while JJ has had three.
Nonetheless, Gadelha remains a terrific talent – physically strong, compact and athletic, showcasing well-rounded skills including strong grappling and good striking.
Gadelha was able to take Jedrzejczyk down when they fought, so a crucial aspect of this fight will be to see how much success she has this time around.
JJ was still able to win last time out, albeit narrowly, despite those takedowns, and that bodes well for her as her ability to keep the fight on the feet has improved markedly since then. while the ground game is her biggest strength, Gadelha will make it competitive on the feet, but I do expect Jedrzejczyk to still have the edge there, and together with the great momentum and self-belief she has heading into this rematch, I’m cautiously picking her to retain her title via another close decision verdict.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk to win by decision.
Will Brooks Vs Ross Pearson
Will Brooks vacated his Bellator lightweight title to head over to the UFC and he’s quickly been drafted into a solid first test against former TUF winner Ross Pearson.
Like Eddie Alvarez before him, Brooks has the ability to make an impact in the UFC, with a good athletic base to work from together with a level of expertise in all aspects of the sport. He’s particularly strong in close at clinch range, but he’s more than capable at striking distance, and is comfortable on the mat too, enabling him to apply pressure and wear his opponents down wherever the fight goes.
Pearson has been alternating between wins and losses for some time now and relies mainly on his solid fundamental striking, with his boxing, in particular, being on point. He’s got decent takedown defense and is ok in the clinch, but in general, grappling is not his strong suit.
If this turns out to be a purely striking battle then Pearson can keep it competitive, but Brooks is more well-rounded and I’d expect him to prove it as he mixes up striking with clinch work and takedown attempts to emerge victorious on the scorecards.
Will Brooks to win by decision.
Doo Ho Choi vs. Thiago Tavares
Andrew Holbrook vs. Joaquim Silva
Gray Maynard vs. Fernando Bruno
Anthony Smith vs. Cezar Ferreira
Li Jingliang vs. Anton Zafir
John Moraga vs. Matheus Nicolau
Kevin Lee vs. Jake Matthews