UFC On ESPN 18 takes place this coming Saturday night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis
There’s a lot on the line in the main event as the winner of this fight could potentially put themselves in line for a heavyweight title shot against the winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou fight in 2021.
Blaydes in particular would feel that he’s done enough to get that opportunity, having already won four fights in a row, and he certainly seems to have the well-rounded skills to compete at that level.
That being said, the fact the only man to beat him so far, Ngannou has TKO’d him twice must be giving him some sleepless nights heading into this fight given that Lewis is arguably just as heavy a hitter as ‘The Predator’ is.
There’s lots of upsides for Blaydes here though as his high-level wrestling figures to give Lewis real problems and he also has far superior cardio, while his striking has developed over time.
‘The Black Beast’ is a man you can’t afford to underestimate as he’s proven time and time again that it only takes him one punch to turn a fight on it’s head, even when he’s long since run out of gas, but nonetheless I think Blaydes can use his grappling to give him few opportunities to let his hands go, and eventually TKO his energy-sapped opponent with ground and pound in the fourth round.
Pick: Curtis Blaydes wins by TKO in Rd4.
Devin Clark vs. Anthony Smith
There’s a general consensus that Smith hurried back to the Octagon too quickly after suffering a brutal TKO beating at the hands of Glover Teixeira back in May and that led to him picking up another loss against Aleksander Rakic, leaving the former title contender with just one win from his last four fights.
Now he’s back again before the year is out trying to make amends again, but this time it’s against an unranked opponent in Clark, who has only mustered a 6-4 record in the UFC, although he is coming off back-to-back victories.
Clark is a less dangerous opponent than the killers Smith’s been going up against for several years, but his wrestling, clinch work and all-round grinding approach to the fight game could still be problematic for him if he’s not firing on all cylinders.
Still, so far in his career there seems to be a ceiling that Clark has struggled to rise above and I think that even a slightly jaded version of Smith should have a big advantage in the striking department and is also crafty with submissions when required, and will go on to secure a second round TKO victory.
Pick: Anthony Smith wins by TKO in Rd2.
Josh Parisian vs. Parker Porter
Parisian has had a long and winding road to get to the UFC. He originally won a fight on the Contender Series two years ago, but then a call-up to TUF 28 led to a loss and another defeat followed on the regional circuit.
All credit to him then for paying his dues by putting together a five-fight winning streak to earn another crack at the Contender series, where a KO win in August finally secured his UFC spot.
Porter’s presence in the UFC is more questionable given that he only holds a 9-6 record and was TKO’d in the first round of his Octagon debut, so he has a lot to prove here.
Aside from having more momentum, Parisian also has a 4″ height and reach advantage to work with here in addition to being the heavier-handed striker.
Porter does pose a threat with submissions though and Parisian’s ground game is a weak point, but overall he’s just got more to offer here against the kind of caliber of opponent he’s already shown he can be successful against, so I’ll take him to emerge with a first round TKO stoppage win here.
Pick: Josh Parisian wins by TKO in Rd1.
Miguel Baeza vs. Takashi Sato
The undefeated Baeza also comes from the Contender Series and has hit the ground running by securing back-to-back TKO wins against Hector Aldana and Matt Brown.
Sato will provide another solid test of his skills though as he has an overall 16-3 record and is 2-1 in the UFC to date.
Baeza actually found himself trouble at times against Brown, but it’s to his credit that he showed the resilience to rebound and emerge victorious against the gritty veteran and that will give him confidence going into this one.
Both men are strikers and have good finishing records, with Baeza being the bigger puncher and with a size advantage too, being 4″ taller and with a 2.5″ reach advantage, while Sato has proven to be sharp on counter-attack duty.
This has the making of a really close fight and could go either way, but Baeza has shown promise in his fights to date and I think he’ll rise to the occasion here to win by TKO in the second round.
Prediction: Miguel Baeza to win by TKO in Rd2.
Bill Algeo vs. Spike Carlyle
This should be a fun fight as both fighters are likely to be gunning for each other from the opening bell.
The thickly built ‘Alpha Ginger’ Carlyle in particular will throw himself into the action wherever it goes, whether with big punches on the feet or powerful wrestling. He’s not the most technical guy, but makes up for it with his energy, enthusiasm and brute strength, though that can end up draining his gas tank considerably.
Algeo was handed a tough assignment in his UFC debut against a long-standing veteran in Ricardo Lamas, and actually had him hurt, but ultimately lost out by decision.
At 6ft tall, Algeo will tower over Carlyle by 5″ and have a 2.5″ reach advantage, but he prefers to engage at close range and generally has a pressure-based style that might be difficult to implement against this particular opponent.
I can see Carlyle being able to outmuscle Algeo here in the grappling exchanges and he’ll be a handful on the feet too, but might have to dig deep if he can’t put his opponent away before his energy reserves start to drain in the final five minutes. his earlier work should still earn him the nod from the judges though.
Pick: Spike Carlyle wins by decision
Norma Dumont vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith
Martin Day vs. Anderson dos Santos
Malcolm Gordon vs. Su Mudaerji
Nate Maness vs. Luke Sanders
Jonathan Pearce vs. Kai Kamaka
Gina Mazany vs. Rachael Ostovich