UFC Fight Night 81 takes place in Boston on Sunday night and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
TJ Dillashaw vs. Dominick Cruz
Imagine what a story it would be if Cruz could come back after just one fight in four years and regain the title against one of the sport’s most talented fighters. The fact that it’s worth considering seriously is a testament to how good of a fighter Cruz really is.
In his heyday Cruz had a unique style with endless footwork, movement and angles leaving his opponents completely baffled and punching thin air. It’s a style that others appear to have been influenced by – Frankie Edgar showed glimpses of it during his lightweight title run for instance, while his opponent on Saturday night, Dillashaw has even admitted in the past that he was influenced by it.
Has the student now become the master though? I’d have to say that if he’s 100% healthy Cruz will still remain the more elusive and unpredictable with his strikes – even now nobody fights exactly like he does – but Dillashaw isn’t trying to be a mimic, he’s incorporated elements to compliment his own striking game which is more dangerous offensively than Cruz’s ever was and so I firmly believe he’s the most formidable opponent the former champion has ever faced.
That’s why this is such a daunting challenge for Cruz despite his pre-fight confidence – because while he’s spent much of the past few years sidelined with injuries, Dillashaw has been growing as a fighter, developing, refining and evolving into an elite competitor.
Dillashaw has the momentum behind him, he’s the fresher fighter and overall it just feels that this is too big of a mountain for Cruz to climb, particularly when we have no idea what kind of injuries he may be battling through to get back into the Octagon again, or how he’ll hold up if this fight goes the full five rounds. With that in mind I’ve got to take the champion to retain his title. Whatever happens though I just hope Cruz stays healthy enough to compete again this year and continue his career injury-free.
TJ Dillashaw to win by decision.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Anthony Pettis
From one injury prone fighter in Dominick Cruz we go to another in Anthony Pettis in the co-main event. While Pettis situation hasn’t been as dire as Cruz’s, his progress has undeniably been hampered by recurring injuries, and he also has the added burden of having comprehensively lost his last fight against Rafael dos Anjos.
Pettis remains a gifted striker though and he should have opportunities to showcase that here against Alvarez who’s always happy to get into a scrap. He’s very capable in that regard himself, but technically and in terms of his creativity and natural flair he’s not on the same level as his opponent, plus he has a habit of getting rocked in his fights, though in all fairness he also displays great powers of recovery.
Alvarez is fairly well rounded and is more likely to mix things up with takedowns during the fight, but Pettis has enough in his locker to deal with the level of threat his opponent presents, so I don’t expect the fight to be won or lost there.
Hopefully this will be as exciting a fight as it looks on paper and I do favor Pettis to get the victory, and while it’s possible it goes to a hard fought decision I’m taking the former champ to produce a late finish.
Anthony Pettis to win by TKO in Rd3.
Travis Browne vs. Matt Mitrione
An interesting heavyweight match-up here between the returning Browne who’s personal life overshadowed his fighting career last year and Mitrione who, like his opponent, is coming off a loss.
Mitrione’s fight game is somewhat limited, particularly on the mat, but he’s a solid fundamental boxer with good speed and movement for his size and possesses genuine KO power. Browne doesn’t have quite the same one-punch stopping ability, but he is the more versatile of the two offensively with knees, elbows and kicks all being utilized, though it’s not always the most technical work.
This one could go either way, but all the distractions in Browne’s life lately have me leaning more towards Mitrione and I believe his straight-forward punching could pick holes in Browne’s more erratic output and lead to a TKO finish in the first round.
Matt Mitrione to win by TKO in Rd1
Ross Pearson vs. Francisco Trinaldo
Trinaldo will be looking for his fifth victory in a row on Sunday night, while Pearson is hoping to piece together a more consistent run of his own after switching between wins and losses in his last four visits to the Octagon.
The Brazilian’s biggest threat comes on the ground as he’s a good grappler, but he’ll also be willing to engage on the feet too, thrusting forward with winging strikes. Pearson’s more of a compact, technical boxer, though he can add kicks in as well, and he moves well around the Octagon.
Trinaldo’s ground game is a concern here, but Pearson’s takedown defense is fairly solid and I think if he keeps this one standing he’ll be able to land more frequently and earn a win on the scorecards.
Ross Pearson to win by decision.
Patrick Cote vs. Ben Saunders
Mehdi Baghdad vs. Chris Wade
Tim Boetsch vs. Ed Herman
Maximo Blanco vs. Luke Sanders
Daron Cruickshank vs. Paul Felder
Ilir Latifi vs. Sean O’Connell
Augusto Mendes vs. Charles Rosa
Rob Font vs. Joey Gomez
Francimar Barroso Vs Elvis Mutapcic