UFC 271 takes place tomorrow night in Houston, Texas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker
Adesanya already holds a 2019 KO win over Whittaker, which saw him seize the middleweight title, and he’s remained the undisputed champ since, with three convincing defenses of the belt.
Whittaker appeared jaded and disillusioned after that loss and for a while his future seemed unclear, but he’s since reconnected with his love of the sport and has made improvements, with his jab in particular becoming a finely honed weapon of choice during his current three-fight winning streak.
While the jab is not necessarily a fight-ender by itself, it provides a great foundation for his offensive attacks and frustrates his opponents, and on top of that his defense has also improved too.
Even with those adjustments, Whittaker still faces a daunting task going up against one of the UFC’s premier technical striker in Adesanya, whose extensive high-level kickboxing background is evident in his sharp, assured and deadly accurate offense, while his high fight IQ on the feet ensures that his sense of range and ability to hit without being hit back in return is a treat to watch.
Of course it helps that Adesanya will hold a very significant 4″ in height and 6.5″ in reach over Whittaker, which will enable him to execute punches and kicks from a range that will be problematic for the former champ.
It’s an intriguing sub-plot, but nonetheless I still feel Adesanya striking mastery and movement from range will make life difficult for Whittaker to effectively close the distance and that will help him to a decision victory.
Pick: Israel Adesanya wins by decision.
Derrick Lewis vs. Tai Tuivasa
Nothing is ever guaranteed in MMA, but the odds of a finish via strikes in the co-main event are very high indeed as two of the heavyweight division’s most violent brawlers clash in the cage.
The stats speak for themselves in that regard, with Lewis now holding 21 finishes via strikes from 25 career wins, while Tuivasa has 12 out of 13 victories in the same fashion.
Tuivasa has refined his kickboxing style a bit though since a three-fight losing streak back in 2019 had him in danger of being released from the UFC, with a slightly more measured, methodical approach taking him on a four-fight winning streak since.
That being said, Tuivasa still loves to let his fists fly when the opportunity presents itself, and as hard-hitting as he can be, ‘The Black Beast’ is an even more thunderous puncher and also moves surprisingly fast for his size.
Lewis has had plenty of issues with his gas tank over the years though and does tend to favor a low-volume approach, so Tuivasa may find success if he’s willing to be patient and utilize leg kicks to chip away at his opponent from range.
However, I’m not convinced Tuivasa will be able to resist slugging it out with Lewis for long, and I don’t think that will work out well for him as Lewis lands a big knockout blow in the first round.
Pick: Derrick Lewis wins by KO in Rd1
Jared Cannonier vs. Derek Brunson
Originally a heavyweight, it’s only when Cannonier eventually dropped all the way to middleweight that he finally excelled, and has since won four of his past five fights.
Cannonier’s striking has developed nicely over the years and he’ll be the more technical of the two on the feet, with powerful kicks complimenting his hard-hitting punches.
Brunson also has big power in his hands, but he fell in love with that a bit too much a few years ago and became too reckless and sloppy in his pursuit of the finish, which led to a few TKO losses.
Since then he’s went back to the drawing board and is less carless on the feet, but more importantly has also focused on making good use of his strong wrestling ability, which has helped him compile a five-fight winning streak.
Cannonier is physically strong and has good takedown defense though, so Brunson won’t have it all his own way in that regard. Nevertheless, while I think Cannonier would fair better in a purely striking based fight, Brunson is enough of a threat on the feet to be somewhat competitive when needed, while his wrestling will help him win rounds to edge out a decision win here.
Pick: Derek Brunson wins by decision.
Kyler Phillips vs. Marcelo Rojo
after a three fight winning run to start his UFC run, Phillips lost out by majority decision to Raulian Paiva last time out, but still remains a considerable favorite to beat Rojo this weekend, who suffered a TKO loss to Charles Jourdain in his UFC debut.
A narrow defeat last time out doesn’t take away from the fact that Phillips remains a well-rounded fighter who will deliver dynamic, high-volume striking on the feet, but is also a strong wrestler too. He did perhaps push his gas tank a bit too far in that last fight though, so that’ll be a lesson learned in terms of his cardio management heading into this one.
Rojo is an extremely aggressive striker and he will look to pressure Phillips from the opening bell, but while that makes him dangerous he does tend to be all too willing to take damage in order to give it in return, and that’s a strategy that doesn’t bode well for his career longevity and his relentless offense can leave his energy reserves running low too.
I see Phillips as the better fighter all-round here and I think he’ll see his wrestling as the path of least resistance here to secure a decision victory.
Pick: Kyler Phillips wins by decision.
Bobby Green vs. Nasrat Haqparast
If you go back to 2019 Green only had one win from his last seven UFC fights, but he’s managed to turn things around nicely since and has gone 4-2 since then.
Even when he’s losing, Green still keeps things competitive, drawing on the experience of over 40 career fights to inform his solid boxing game that operates from a strong defensive shell and ability to counter effectively, while he’s also a very capable wrestler too.
The 26-year-old Haqparast is almost a decade younger than Green and has gone 5-3 during his time in the UFC so far.
His speed advantage will be evident here as he has very fast hands and will offer up rapid-fire punching combos. He had a strong finishing record via strikes on the regional circuit, but he’s often had to settle for wins on the scorecards more than flashy finishes during his UFC run, and he is well-conditioned in that regard.
I’m taking the savvy veteran in Green here as I think he will be able to effectively counter Haqparast while remaining defensively sound, and his wrestling could play a part too en-route to a closely fought decision victory.
Pick: Bobby Green wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Andrei Arlovski vs. Jared Vanderaa
Roxanne Modafferi vs. Casey O’Neill
Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell
William Knight vs. Maxim Grishin
Leomana Martinez vs. Ronnie Lawrence
Alexander Hernandez vs. Renato Moicano
Carlos Ulberg vs. Fabio Cherant
AJ Dobson vs. Jacob Malkoun
Douglas Silva de Andrade vs. Sergey Morozov
Jeremiah Wells vs. Mike Mathetha