UFC 265 takes place tomorrow night in Houston, Texas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights for you below.
Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane
Not willing to wait for heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou to return, the UFC opted to make an interim title fight between the man who had been expected to fight him for the belt, Lewis and the fast-rising Gane instead.
Gane has stood out from the start in the UFC’s heavyweight ranks as he’s not only very athletic for his size, but he also possesses well-rounded skills and fights intelligently and with crisp, calculating technique.
That means that instead of just charging forward looking for a big knockout blow, Gane instead uses his muay thai skills, aided by an 81″ reach, to outstrike his opponents on a technical level, while being mindful of his defensive responsibilities and distance management.
That means we’ve not seen countless highlight-reel finishes on the feet from Gane, which is the complete opposite of Lewis, who is renowned for his one-punch knockout power and remarkable ability to be just as dangerous and still cover ground in explosive fashion for his size in the closing stages of a fight, even when he looks completely exhausted.
What has really solidified his opponent’s credentials as a potential future champion however is that Gane has also shown off a solid wrestling game and has been picking up some submission wins along the way too, which could be a problem for ‘The Black Beast’ as though he’s actually survived on the mat better than you’d expect from a primarily striking based fighter, Lewis tends to rely a lot more on brute strength than technique to get out of danger.
So, while Lewis’ KO power could always end the fight at any moment, Gane’s superior all-round skill-set, his methodical approach and the fact that he’s not the type of fighter to let his guard slip, leads me to believe he’ll pick apart Lewis from range and mix in grappling if and when required to cruise to a decision victory.
Pick:Ciryl Gane wins by decision.
Jose Aldo vs. Pedro Munhoz
At 34-years-old, Both Aldo and Munhoz have had to rebound after a few losses to high-level opposition in recent times, and they managed to do so with a decision win against Marlon Vera and Jimmie Rivera respectively.
There are more similarities to the fighters than just their ages and recent records though as they also both have good power and make effective use of leg kicks. That being said, despite being considered one of the best leg kickers around, Aldo has actually stayed away from the technique at times in recent years, while Munhoz is always ready, willing and able to deliver them.
Still, while both are good strikers, former featherweight kingpin Aldo remains a cut above in terms of his technique, with his finely honed boxing ability being a major plus point, and aided by a sizeable 5″ reach advantage here, while he’s also the quicker of the two as well and is both defensively sound and crisp on the counter.
That being said, Munhoz has the edge in terms of his durability, having never been stopped in his career to date, while he is also very capable on the mat and has finished more fights via submission than via strikes over the years.
However, the catch here is that Aldo has terrific takedown defense, which will more than likely shut down that aspect of Munhoz’s game, and while it’ll be closely fought on the feet, I think Aldo’s technique, speed and fight IQ will enable him to edge out the exchanges and earn a win on the scorecards.
Pick: Jose Aldo to win by decision.
Vicente Luque vs. Michael Chiesa
Moving to welterweight has been an excellent fit for Chiesa, whose gone on a four-fight winning streak since and moved to No.5 in the rankings, while Luque is just one spot behind him after putting together three wins in a row.
For all his recent success, Chiesa remains a fighter who is very much focused on getting the fight to the mat as his striking skills are fairly limited and he’s not got much in the way of power.
On the other hand, Luque has proven to be a destructive force on the feet, with his high volume offense being punctuated by plenty of power and aggression, though he should also be given credit for the fact that he still manages to demonstrate solid technique and also has a very solid chin.
However, Chiesa has demonstrated a great ability to impose his will, with his bigger size at 170lbs further enhancing his ability to implement his stifling wrestling game, while also posing a submission threat that leaves his opponents wary of giving up their backs.
The interesting thing here though is that Luque has solid takedown defense and will actively seek for submission on the mat from his back, and given that Chiesa does have some submission losses on his record that’s something he’s going to have to be wary of.
It would be impressive if Chiesa can keep his winning run going, but I feel it was only a matter of time before his underwhelming striking game cost him in the upper reaches of this division, and I think Luque’s volume and power on the feet, together with being tricky to deal with on the mat, will enable him to get the upperhand here and find a second round TKO finish.
Pick: Vicente Luque to win by TKO in Rd2.
Tecia Torres vs. Angela Hill
These two first fought back in 2015 at a time when Hill was just three fights into her pro-career, and it was Torres who earned the unanimous decision win after she used her wrestling to grind her way to a decision win.
Fast forward to the present and Hill is now a far more experienced fighter than she was back then and is coming off a decision win against Ashley Yoder following two narrow defeats against respected opponents in Claudia Gadelha and Michelle Waterson, while Torres is coming off back-to-back victories against lesser-known opposition.
Hill has certainly improved, though her core game is still based around her high-volume muay thai striking as she looks to push the pace and apply pressure from start to finish, although on the downside she is hit in return quite often in those exchanges.
Torres is 2″ smaller and is at a 4″ reach disadvantage here, but that’s nothing new for ‘The Tiny Tornado’, who uses her speed and movement to make up for her lack of stopping power on the feet, so she won’t be outworked on the feet by Hill here.
Torres wrestling is still a key fact here though and she’s not afraid to just stall the action when she does get on top and just do enough to win rounds. Hill’s own defense has improved, but I’m not sure it’s going to be enough to change the outcome here, as Torres holds her own in the striking exchanges and gets the spells of control on the mat required to secure another win on points.
Prediction: Tecia Torres to win by decision.
Song Yadong vs. Casey Kenney
Yadong had an impressive start to his UFC run, racking up six wins in a row, but he finally came unstuck with a decision loss against Kyler Phillips last time out, while Kenney also had a solid run of 5-1 in the promotion before just losing out by split decision to Dominick Cruz in his last outing.
Yadong is a very good striker who offers up fast, dynamic offense and has good power for the weight class. Meanwhile, Kenney doesn’t have that same kind of explosiveness or power, but he remains a solid-enough striker that he can wait for the right moment to swoop in for takedowns.
Kenney’s best work is done on the mat, and while he’s not a big finisher, he is adept at controlling the action to ensure he emerges victorious on the scorecards.
Yadong’s own takedown defense and grappling will no doubt constantly be improving at Team Alpha Male, but I still feel Kenney’s more workmanlike approach could force him to focus more on defense than offense, wearing him down in the grappling exchanges and ultimately emerging with a decision victory.
Pick: Casey Kenney wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Rafael Fiziev vs. Bobby Green
Vince Morales vs. Drako Rodriguez
Ed Herman vs. Alonzo Menifield
Karolina Kowalkiewicz vs. Jessica Penne
Fight Pass Prelims
Manel Kape vs. Ode Osbourne
Miles Johns vs. Anderson dos Santos
Victoria Leonardo vs. Melissa Gatto
Johnny Munoz Jr vs. Jamey Simmons