UFC Fight Night 188 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Rob Font vs. Cody Garbrandt
Two dangerous strikers are on show in the main event, which promises to deliver some thrilling action for as long as it lasts.
Both men’s last Octagon outings showcased what they are capable of, with Font TKO’ing Marlon Moraes, while Garbrandt KO’d Raphael Assuncao.
That was a much needed win for the former champ Garbrandt though as he’d lost his prior three fights due to TKO due to overcommitting to his offensive instincts leaving him exposed defensively.
As such Garbrandt’s durability is certainly still a cause for concern, not helped by the fact that in 2020 alone he also suffered from a staph infection, strep, kidney issues, a torn bicep and a struggle to overcome a ‘long haul’ bout of Covid.
Nevertheless, Garbrandt does remain a big problem for anyone in the division with his strong boxing game that’s aided by excellent speed, footwork and natural finishing power.
Font is also a talented boxer though, and while he may not be quite as heavy-handed as his opponent, he will enjoy a 6″ reach advantage here, and has the greater momentum, coming into this one on a three-fight winning streak. It’s also worth mentioning he’s never been finished by strikes in his 22-fight career to date, though he has been rocked at times.
I’m always wary of picking against Garbrandt as he’s still a very talented fighter, but being so prone to ailments and injuries, together with the concerns about his chin and temperament in the heat of the battle makes it hard to back him right now. So I’m going to take Font to pick his punches well as Garbrandt seeks to close the distance, leading to a third round TKO stoppage.
Pick: Rob Font wins by TKO in Rd3.
Yan Xiaonan vs. Carla Esparza
Xiaonan has so far shown all the making of being another major Chinese force in women’s MMA after racking up six wins in a row inside the Octagon, taking out some notable names along the way.
She’s now facing another one in Esparza, a former champion of the strawweight division who has worked her way back up to title contention after stringing together four wins in a row.
Esparza presents an interesting challenge in that her strong suit is clearly wrestling, which is an area we’ve yet to see Xiaonan fully tested.
Esparza has made improvements to her striking, but while her technique is a bit cleaner, she’s still not the most active or effective offensively, which could be a big issue against Xiaonan, who has a high volume approach to striking, while also being mindful of her defensive responsibilities.
This fight could well hinge on Xiaonan’s takedown defense, which so far has been solid, but will have to be particularly sharp against Esparza’s dogged attempts to take her down.
I feel Xiaonan will be well prepared though and in general her higher activity rate and more effective striking is likely to pay dividends here when the fight goes to the judges scorecards.
Pick: Yan Xiaonan wins by decision.
Justin Tafa vs. Jared Vanderaa
It has to be said that Tafa and Vanderaa’s recent records don’t really suggest that they warrant main card status here, with Tafa only having one win from three outings in the Octagon so far, while Vanderaa was TKO’d in his debut.
There’s a significant size differential in this match-up, with Vanderaa being 4″ taller in addition to having a 6″ reach advantage, but despite that he’s proven to be a bit too susceptible to eating strikes.
That’s something Tafa will relish as he has a kickboxing base and has fight-ending potential in his punches.
I do have concerns about Tafa’s ground game though, so Vanderaa would be wise to utilize his wrestling here, but I think Tafa will wade inside and land big in the opening round here to emerge with a TKO win.
Pick: Justin Tafa wins by TKO in Rd1.
Felicia Spencer vs. Norma Dumont
Spencer is talented enough that she’s been handed some big fights early in her UFC run, fighting against dominant stars Cris Cyborg and Amanda Nunes, but that means her record has ended up looking a little underwhelming, going 2-2 so far.
It’s a testament to her toughness however that she took both Cyborg and Nunes to a decision, and now she finds herself in a short notice fight with Dumont, who is also moving up to 145lbs after missing weight in her first two UFC fights.
Dumont had been KO’d by Megan Anderson in her promotional debut, but her striking looked quite sharp last time out in a unanimous decision win over Ashlee Evans-Smith.
Spencer will look to stay competitive with her taekwondo style striking on the feet, but really her best work comes on the mat, where she should have a significant wrestling advantage and also offers up a good submission threat too.
Dumont has a chance if she can keep this one upright, but I think Spencer’s ground game will be too strong, and will lead her to a decision victory.
Pick: Felicia Spencer wins by decision.
David Dvorak vs. Raulian Paiva
Riding a 15-fight winning streak, including back-to-back wins in the UFC so far, flyweight fighter Dvorak is certainly one to watch, while Paiva actually also had a strong record on the regional scene, but has only gone 2-2 in the UFC so far.
Dvorak is a well rounded fighter who has shown he can finish opponents by either strikes or submission in almost equal measure.
Paiva has good striking from range, can be crisp on the counter, but he’s not as sound defensively.
Paiva can threaten by submission too, but I think Dvorak will be the better ground fighter and should also be able to hold his own in the stand-up at times on his way to a decision victory.
Pick: David Dvorak wins by decision.
Jack Hermansson vs. Edmen Shahbayzan
Delayed by a week due to Covid-19 protocols, this fight finds Shahbayzan looking to bounce back after his 11-fight unbeaten record was ended last time out by Derek Brunson.
That fight highlighted some wrestling and cardio issues, but at just 23-years-old, Shahbayzan has time on his side.
Whether he can fix those holes in his game quickly enough to get the better of an experienced veteran like Hermansson is another story though.
It just so happens that the Swedish fighter has very good energy reserves and is very comfortable on the mat, where he offers up a big threat from both submission and effective ground-and-pound.
So, Shahbayzan will have to make the most of his very good striking, which has handed him 9 finishes from 11 career victories to date, all inside the opening round.
That suggests that Hermansson will have to survive an early storm, whether by keeping his opponent at bay with his 3.5″ reach advantage to aid him, or by looking to grapple early in the fight.
The latter option would be the safer bet, but either way I do favor Hermansson to be able to turn the screw later in the fight and I see him emerging with a second round submission victory here.
Pick: Jack Hermansson wins by submission in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Ricardo Ramos vs. Bill Algeo
Ben Rothwell vs. Chris Barnett
Claudio Silva vs. Court McGee
Bruno Silva vs. Victor Rodriguez
Rafael Alves vs. Damir Ismagulov
Yancy Medeiros vs. Damir Hadzovic
Joshua Culibao vs. Yilan Sha