UFC 231 takes place tomorrow night in Toronto, Canada and you can see our predictions for all the fights below.
Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega
What a terrific match-up this is, though it’s unfortunate it’s tainted a little bit by concerns over Holloway’s mysterious ‘concussion-like symptoms’ which forced him out of their original title encounter earlier this year and has continued to leave doctor’s baffled as to the exact cause.
That makes it impossible to say for sure how it might affect him on Saturday night, but certainly in terms of his technical ability, Holloway is up their with the best of them on the feet with his combination of movement, speed, precision and timing.
Ortega’s own stand-up has been developing nicely and he’s shown that he’s got power in his hands, but while he’s likely to have made more improvements in preperation for this bout, it’s hard to see him making up that skill defecit. Ortega will be aggressive and could test Holloway’s chin to see what kind of condition it’s in, but he’s quite hittable and tends to give up rounds while seeking a finish and that could be a problem here as the Hawaiian is slick enough to simply outpoint him, landing more strikes and taking relatively few in return.
Of course Ortega is most dangerous with submissions and while he’s not a conventional takedown artist he will get into the clinch and simply pounce on submission opportunities from there, with his vice-like grip making him a nightmare to deal with if he does lock one in.
However, Holloway utilizes range extremely well, is good in the clinch and has very solid takedown defense, so while Ortega will be a serious threat from start to finish, I’m going to trust that ‘Blessed’ is in good health and is going to be able to be too much of a technician on the feet and rack up a big differential in strikes on his way to a decision victory.
Max Holloway wins by decision.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valentina Shevchenko
This might be their first meeting in MMA, but these two have fought no less than three times in the past in muay thai competition, and on each occasion it’s been Shevchenko who has emerged victorious.
Of course you also have to factor in that this all went down several years ago and since than Jedrzejczyk has enjoyed a stellar MMA career, but it’s still telling as she does rely on those fundamental striking skills – albeit more refined and enhanced – to this day, using very good takedown defense to forcing her opponents to engage with her on the feet where she can outclass them.
That won’t be the case with Shevchenko and furthermore ‘Bullet’ also has a notable size and power advantage, having even challenged for the title at bantamweight before meeting JJ in the middle at flyweight on Saturday night, and she’s a good grappler too if required.
Jedrzejczyk should be the quicker of the two and throws more volume, but Shevchenko is operating at her natural weight class now and knows her opponent well, so I expect her to have more output than we’ve seen before and land the bigger strikes to sway the judges in her favor and emerge with the 125lb title around her waist.
Valentina Shevchenko wins by decision.
Alex Oliveira vs. Gunnar Nelson
The last year and a half has played out in complete contrast for these two welterweights, with Nelson having been on the sidelines since a KO loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio 17 months ago, while Oliveira has kept busy, racking up a 3-1 record and putting in some impressive performances along the way.
There’s a bit of everything to Oliveira’s game, but he does rely a lot on his physical gifts and in the grappling realm at least that could get him into trouble against Nelson who will use superior technique to ensure he doesn’t just get outmuscled.
Oliveira might have more success on the feet as Nelson’s karate-based style is inconsistent and can leave him running out of ideas, but after such a long layoff I don’t think he’ll be looking to mess around too much here and instead will attempt to bring this fight to the mat sooner rather than later, leading to an early submission victory.
Gunnar Nelson wins by submission in Rd1.
Hakeem Dawodu vs. Kyle Bochniak
Dawodu made a big impact during his extended run in the WSOF promotion at the start of his career, but he hasn’t hit those high points in his 1-1 run in the UFC so far.
In Bochniak he finds a scrappy, fairly well-rounded opponent who has lost more than he’s won in the Octagon to date, but will make him fight for it if he wants to get another win on his record.
I’m going to take Dawodu to rise to the occasion, utilizing his explosive kickboxing abilities to get the better of Bochniak on the feet and emerge with a second round TKO victory.
Kyle Bochniak wins by TKO in Rd2.
Jimi Manuwa vs. Thiago Santos
Fireworks are surely in store in this main card opener, with Manuwa and Santos both being violent strikers who will go all out for a finish.
There’s no question that either man can put the other away here. Manuwa has demolished plenty of fighters at 205lbs with his boxing abilities and heavy hands, but at 38-years-old his chin is now vulnerable and that’s a big concern here.
Santos has also shown that he still carries plenty of knockout power now that he’s moved up to light-heavyweight and I think he’ll make good use of kicks here and eventually find a home for a strike by the second round of this back-and-forth battle that will set him on the way to a TKO victory.
Thiago Santos wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Claudia Gadelha vs. Nina Ansaroff
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye
Eryk Anders vs. Elias Theodorou
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns
Fight Pass Prelims
Devin Clark vs. Aleksandar Rakic
Brad Katona vs. Matthew Lopez
Chad Laprise vs. Dhiego Lima
Jesse Ronson vs. Diego Ferreira