UFC 293 takes place in Sydney, Australia tomorrow night and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Israel Adesanya vs. Sean Strickland
Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya had a change of plans for his next title defense when his rival Dricus du Plessis backed out from their intended fight. Adesanya went on to convince the UFC to let him take on Sean Strickland instead, who is ranked No.5 in the division and is one of the few fighters left in the top 10 not to have already been beaten by the champ.
Both fighters prefer to stand and trade, but they have very different striking styles. Adesanya is a world-class kickboxer whose technical ability is matched by his high fight IQ. He has a very calculated approach, reads his opponents well and is a master of distance management, which together with a 3″ height and 4″ reach advantage here serves as a a great foundation for his quick, agile and precise offense. Despite his striking prowess his ground game is a weakness, though only Jan Blachowicz up at 205lbs has really been able to successfully use that to his advantage.
Strickland is more focused on his boxing skills and relies heavily on his excellent jab. He has an iron will and very good durability and stamina, and so while he lacks one-punch knockout power, his ability to keep the pressure on and refuse to back down has often resulted in his opponent’s wilting over time, enabling opportunities to go for a finish or win by decision.
Strickland also has wrestling ability and would be wise to use that here, but a bad knee injury in the past seems to have hampered his ability to do so, in addition to having made him more vulnerable to leg kicks.
So I think there’s a good chance this fight stays upright, and from there I just don’t think Strickland has the style, speed or power to pose much of a problem for the champ. As such I think Adesanya uses this fight as a showcase for his striking prowess before delivering a third round TKO victory
Pick: Israel Adesanya wins by TKO in Rd3.
Tai Tuivasa vs. Alexander Volkov
Tai Tuivasa was on a roll with five consecutive wins in the heavyweight division not so long ago, but his momentum was stopped by two knockout losses in a row against top contenders Sergei Pavlovich and Ciryl Gane. Now he faces Alexander Volkov, who has momentum on his side after two first-round TKO wins.
Both fighters are strikers who prefer to keep the fight on the feet. Volkov is certainly the more skilled and technical kickboxer of the two though. He also has a very significant 5″ height and 6″ reach advantage that he’ll utilize effectively with long, straight punches, push kicks and solid body kicks from a safe distance. He may not have the most devastating power, but he makes up for it with volume and combinations that can soon wear down his opponents.
While Tuivasa has kickboxing ability and does try to be a bit more methodical these days, at heart he’s still a heavy-handed brawler who will gladly get into a slug-fest. He has more speed and agility than you might expect for his bulky frame, but his willingness to eat shots while in pursuit of landing his own is a dangerous game at heavyweight, as his last two losses have shown and that compromises his durability.
I think Volkov will be able to use his superior striking skills from range to control the action here en-route to a decision win.
Pick: Alexander Volkov wins by decision.
Manel Kape vs. Felipe dos Santos
Manel Kape didn’t initially live up to expectations when he joined the UFC, suffering a couple of losses, but he’s now firing on all cylinders thanks to a three-fight winning streak and had been set to fight Kai Kara-France this weekend until his opponent suffered a concussion. As such he’s now taking on a newcomer in Felipe dos Santos instead, who is undefeated in seven professional fights.
The 22-year-old dos Santos is a young and exciting fighter who likes to throw caution to the wind and unleash strikes from all angles and is able to keep that high-octane approach going for longer than you’d expect. However, he is careless from a defensive standpoint, and while he got away with it on the regional scene, that’s likely to be more of a problem in the UFC sooner rather than later.
Kape has the skills and power to make him pay in that regard, as he is a dangerous striker who has a more patient approach and wields big power in his lightning-quick punches.
Dos Santos will likely try to make an immediate impact in his UFC debut by starting fast and furious, but I think in the process he will leave himself open to being countered by Kape, leading to a first round TKO finish.
Pick: Manel Kape wins by TKO in Rd1.
Justin Tafa vs. Austen Lane
This heavyweight bout marks the second meeting between these two fighters in the space of just a few months after their first encounter was cut short after only 29 seconds due to an accidental eyepoke that left Tafa unable to continue.
Lane is a former NFL player who switched to MMA in 2015 and has amassed a 12-3 record, mostly by knockout. He earned his UFC contract with a win on the Contender Series after previously having lost on the show to another ex-NFL star, Greg Hardy, in less than a minute. Lane is a tall and athletic fighter who likes to use his boxing skills and long kicks to keep his opponents at bay. He has a significant height and reach advantage over Tafa, but he tends to struggle when he faces pressure and sustained offense.
Tafa is a shorter and stockier fighter who relies on his power punching to finish his fights. He has a 3-3 record in the UFC, with all of his wins and losses coming by strikes in the first round. He is not very technical or defensive, but he is aggressive and is willing to trade blows at close range. He can hurt his opponents with his hooks and body shots, but he also leaves himself open to counters.
This fight could end quickly either way, but I think Tafa has a better chance of landing the decisive blow. I’ll go with Tafa to win by knockout in the first round.
Pick: Justin Tafa wins by KO in Rd1.
Tyson Pedro vs. Anton Turkalj
Tyson Pedro returned to action after a three year absence last year and racked up a couple of first round finishes via strikes over lower-level opposition, but he started this year with a unanimous decision loss. Now he squares up to Anton Turkalj, who has suffered back-to-back losses in his two UFC fights so far.
Pedro is a good athlete and benefits from a 79″ reach as he attacks on the outside with solid punches, while his kicks are another plus point and on the mat he’ll provide a submission threat too. He tends to be less potent as the rounds go on though and is the kind of fighter where his weaknesses start to come to light when he’s really being tested on the feet or on the mat by skilled opponents, and as such there’s a sense that there’s a ceiling to how far he can go in the division.
Turkalj is also a good sized light-heavyweight, but the 27-year-old isn’t as athletic as he looks and doesn’t fight as effectively from range as Pedro. Instead Turkalj is a bit more careless with his striking and likes to work from the clinch as well as being a capable wrestler too.
It’s possible Turkalj could grind out a win with clinch-work, takedowns and control on top, but overall I think there’s still a bit more up-side to Pedro and I’ll take him to win the striking battle from range to earn a decision victory.
Pick: Tyson Pedro wins by decision.
Carlos Ulberg vs. Da Un Jung
Blood Diamond vs. Charlie Radtke
Shane Young vs. Gabriel Miranda
Jamie Mullarkey vs. John Makdessi
Jack Jenkins vs. Chepe Mariscal