UFC 221 takes place tomorrow night in Perth, Australia and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Main Card (Pay-Per-View)
Luke Rockhold vs. Yoel Romero
The interim middleweight title is on the line when Luke Rockhold fights Yoel Romero in the main event tomorrow night in Australia.
On the feet Rockhold will be the busier of the two fighters, and his height and reach advantage here will favor his range-based approach, with kicks being a favored weapon of the former champion that he’ll look to use to keep his opponent at bay, though his punches are effective too.
Even at range Rockhold will have to be very wary of Romero’s remarkable ability to cover distance in rapid fashion despite his size, and coupled with his knockout power and a tendency to emerge from sustained periods with relatively little output with sudden bursts of hard-hitting and potentially fight-ending action, that means his opponent cannot afford to get complacent even if things appear to be going well.
Romero is an elite wrestler, but it’s not something he leans on too much and in this fight he won’t have it all his own way on the mat anyway as Rockhold excels as a grappler and has a strong record of submission finishes that could trouble the Cuban if he goes to ground.
Overall I like Rockhold to emerge with the decision win here due to his higher workrate and volume of striking, his superior cardio and his ability to cope with Romero on the mat, though it’s certainly not guaranteed that he’ll emerge with his hand raised given that Romero could finish him at any moment with a single explosive strike.
Luke Rockhold to win by decision.
Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes
At 43-years-old, Hunt still hits as hard as ever and will be looking to showcase it once again this weekend against the 26-year-old Blaydes.
There’s no doubt that Hunt is the superior striker here, so Blaydes best option will be to use his advantage in the wrestling department to stifle ‘The Super Samoan’s’ offense.
Hunt has improved his takedown defense over the years, but is still vulnerable in that regard, so Blaydes has a real chance here, but he does also like to show his versatility by engaging in striking too, and I think that will cost him here as Hunt finds a fight-ending punch within the first 10 minutes.
Mark Hunt to win by KO in Rd2.
Tai Tuivasa vs. Cyril Asker
Tuivasa is a somewhat one-dimensional striker, but it’s worked out for him so far with his heavy-handed approach leading to a flawless 6-0 professional record.
There’s no secret that Asker will be looking to bring this fight to the mat and he has the wrestling ability to do so, but he has a history of struggling against strikers in the past and I believe Tuivasa’s offense will continue that trend with a first round knockout finish.
Tai Tuivasa to win by KO in Rd1.
Jake Matthews vs. Li Jingliang
As you might expect from a 23-year-old fighter, there’s still holes in Matthews game, though he does have the makings of a well-rounded fighter once he shores up his technical deficiencies and puts all the pieces of the puzzle in place.
For now though this looks to be a challenging match-up against the in-form fighter from China, with Jingliang having embraced his punching power during his recent four-fight winning streak, leading to the kind of aggressive, offensive approach that I think will trouble Matthews and lead to a second round stoppage.
Li Jingliang to win by TKO in Rd2.
Tyson Pedro vs. Saparbek Safarov
This looks like the kind of fight that’s been booked to give the Australian fans something to cheer about in the main card opener with the hometown favorite Pedro holding a significant advantage on the mat against Safarov, who will be trying to keep the fight standing at all costs.
I think Pedro should be able to successfully take down Safarov when he comes in on the attack and once he has him on his back a submission finish shouldn’t be far away.
Tyson Pedro to win by submission in Rd1.
Prelims (FOX Sports 1) (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)
Damien Brown vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Israel Adesanya vs. Rob Wilkinson
Jeremy Kennedy vs. Alex Volkanovski
Jussier Formiga vs. Ben Nguyen
UFC Fight Pass
Ross Pearson vs. Mizuto Hirota
Teruto Ishihara vs. Jose Alberto Quinonez
Luke Jumeau vs. Daichi Abe