UFC 275 takes place this coming Saturday night in Singapore and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka
Teixeira became the UFC’s light-heavyweight champion at 42-years-of-age last time out while clocking up his sixth win in a row and now takes on 29-year-old former Rizin champ Prochazka, who has quickly risen to title contention in the UFC after delivering back-to-back KO wins.
Prochazka is one of the most exciting striking talents we’ve seen in a while in the UFC’s light-heavyweight division with a formidable career record of having stopped 25 of his 28 wins via strikes. Admittedly most of that was done outside of the UFC, but thanks to his long association with Rizin he has slayed a number of notable names along the way, including the likes of C.B. Dollaway, Fabio Maldonado, Satoshi Ishii, Muhammad ‘King Mo’ Lawal and Vadim Nemkov.
It should be evident then that Prochazka is an offensive powerhouse and he’s unorthadox too, with his movement and strikes coming from all angles with a swiss-army knife array of techniques being thrown with fight-ending force. That being said, he does leave himself wide open to being hit back, sometimes even appearing to bait his opponents into hitting his exposed chin so that he can return fire. It’s a hugely risky strategy and he’s not immune to being rocked, so it’s perhaps ill-advised, but so far it’s paid off for him big-time.
In Teixeira he is facing a champion who certainly has the striking ability and power to threaten him. However, it did become evident some years ago that Teixeira’s chin is no longer what it once was and he’s also not as sharp with his striking, which led to a couple of KO losses. Teixeira deserves a huge amount of credit for turning things around however, making the most of his well-rounded skills to refocus on his very solid wrestling ability and submission prowess to spark a dream rise to the top in the twilight years of his career.
Teixeira’s gameplan here seems clear – to continue his proven strategy of using his wrestling to get the fight to the mat, where he’ll have the upper-hand and could expose weaknesses in the challengers all-round MMA game. It’ll also help tire out Prochazka, who is accustomed to getting the job done early on the feet and has never gone five-rounds before, which could hand Teixeira a big advantage in the later rounds.
So, there’s real reasons to believe that Teixeira can emerge victorious here, but nonetheless I do have serious concerns about his ability at this late stage in his career to take the big power shots that the much faster Prochazka will be throwing from unpredictable angles from the opening bell, and so I’m taking the challenger to get an early TKO finish here.
Pick: Jiri Prochazka wins by TKO in Rd1.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Taila Santos
With a four-fight winning streak under her belt, Santos becomes the latest challenger to attempt to seize the flyweight title from the dominant champion Shevchenko, who is seeking her ninth win in a row.
Shevchenko is a multi-faceted talent, fronted by her high-level, agile technical striking, that was initially forged during her time in top-flight kickboxing and muay thai competition. A big part of her success comes not only from her skill-level, but also her fight IQ and discipline, not over-exerting herself or overcommitting to strikes that could leave her exposed defensively.
Of course when you then roll in the fact that she’s also a physically strong fighter who can handle herself well in the clinch, has good wrestling and lots of five-round experience and you have a fighter that’s extremely hard to beat.
So, Santos has her work cut out for her, but she does have fairly well-rounded skills too. She also has a muay thai background and carries power in her strikes together with a 1″ height and 1.5″ reach advantage here, but technically she’s not on the same level as Shevchenko.
However, Santos’ strongest suit is her ground game and so there’s no doubts that she’s going to be doing her very best to bring that to bear, looking to bring Shevchenko down to the mat and use her submission ability to produce a big upset.
Santos can often be the physically stronger fighter, but I don’t see that being the case here and I think she’ll have difficulty in taking the champion down. Meanwhile, on the feet Shevchenko’s refined striking will enable her to gradually pick apart Santos and then look for a finish in the championship rounds, leading to a fourth round TKO.
I don’t see Santos being a pushover here, but I think she’ll have trouble taking Shevchenko down initially, and on the feet the champ will be the more skilled technician and gradually outstrike the challenger and then capitalize in the championship rounds with a TKO finish.
Pick: Valentina Shevchenko wins by TKO in Rd4.
Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
After an all-time classic clash in their first outing that saw Weili narrowly emerge with a split-decision win, these two former strawweight champions are now set to go to war again, although sadly only in a three-rounder this time.
Jedrzejczyk took a lot of damage in that fight and hasn’t been in a hurry to return since, taking over two years out before finally returning for this rematch, while Weili has since lost in back-to-back title fights against Rose Namajunas.
Weili is more muscular than Weili and carries bigger power in her striking, as shown by a solid finishing rate throughout her career. Still, while Jedrzejczyk can’t match her stopping power, she is a very slick, clinical striker who did actually outland Weili last time, but her blows weren’t as impactful and she also tends to wear damage badly, which doesn’t help her in the eyes of the judges.
This time around I’d expect Jedrzejczyk to have made some adjustments, looking to be a bit more cautious rather than being drawn into an all-out fire-fight that favors Weili.
Still, there are reasons to waver on Jedrzejczyk’s chances of success here, not least being whether her heart is really still in the fight game at 34-years-old as she seemed very content to be on the sidelines for such an extended period, enjoying her status as a big star in her native Poland. Even with the long layoff I still believe she has a natural cardio edge over Weili, but she won’t be able to make use of that as effectively in a three-round fight.
On the other hand, Weili still seems hungry for success and has been continuing to improve behind-the-scenes by further developing her wrestling game, which could add extra depth to her strategy in the rematch, although Jedrzejczyk does have good takedown defense.
As such, I’m leaning towards Weili here to use her pressure to force engagements and land the bigger shots along the way, while also mixing in the occasional takedown attempt to further disrupt Jedrzejczyk’s rhythm and help win rounds on her way to a win on the scorecards.
Pick: Zhang Weili wins by decision.
Rogerio Bontorin vs. Manel Kape
Bontorin is in real need of a win after going winless in his last four Octagon outings, while Kape comes in on a high after notching up two first round finishes via strikes.
To be fair to him, Bontorin’s been fighting better than his recent record would suggest as one of those fights was actually a win that was overturned to a no-contest due to a positive test for a banned substance later found to be due to a tainted supplement, while he mostly put up a competitive showing in his other losses.
Still, this isn’t an easy fight from which to try and break a losing streak as Kape is a hyped prospect with dynamic and deadly striking who has finished a lot of opponents impressively during his time in Rizin and now the UFC.
Kape will certainly be the dominant force on the feet with his superior technique, power and speed, but Bontorin is a tough customer who will try to apply lots of pressure as he wades into range looking to use his wrestling to get the fight to the mat, where he has a solid record of submitting opponents.
I think Kape’s explosive striking will punish Bontorin as he closes the distance though and that’ll eventually set up a TKO stoppage in the second round.
Pick: Manel Kape wins by TKO in Rd2.
Jack Della Maddalena vs. Ramazan Emeev
A product of the Contender Series, Maddelena made an instant impression in his UFC debut by notching up a first round TKO victory in style and now will try to best Emeev, who has a 5-2 UFC record, but is coming off a split decision loss.
There’s a buzz around the 25-year-old Maddalena already as he looks to be a very polished striker, primarily boxing focused with knockout power in his hands together with assured control of range and good movement.
Meanwhile, the more experienced 35-year-old Emeev is far less entertaining to watch, but nonetheless his willingness to grind opponents down from the clinch and on the mat with his wrestling has proven somewhat effective. Earlier in his career he was also having some success via submission on the mat, but that’s not come to fruition in his five year run in the UFC.
This fight is a potential banana-skin for an exciting prospect like Maddalena as there’s a real danger that Emeev could just smother him for three rounds. However, Maddalena will be able to draw on the fact that he’s the much faster, more athletic fighter here and his footwork and distance management will help limit the more plodding Emeev’s ability to work for takedowns. I’d expect Maddalena to stick-and-move early, but as the fight goes on he’ll make use of his timing and power to land more hurtful blows and find a TKO finish.
Pick: Jack Della Maddalena wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Brendan Allen vs. Jacob Malkoun
Seung Woo Choi vs. Joshua Culibao
Steve Garcia vs. Hayisaer Maheshate
Jake Matthews vs. Andre Fialho
Kang Kyung-ho vs. Danaa Batgerel
Liang Na vs. Silvana Gomez Juarez
Ramona Pascual vs. Joselyne Edwards