UFC Fight Night 216 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights for you below.
Jared Cannonier vs. Sean Strickland
Cannonier is coming off a title challenge defeat against Israel Adesanya, but was on a five-fight unbeaten stretch prior to that, while Strickland is in a similar spot after five victories ended with a KO defeat against Alex Pereira, who has gone on to become crowned champion since then.
A stand-up battle seems on the cards here and it’ll be Cannonier who has the power advantage, having finished several fights recently by strikes thanks to his muay-thai based striking, with big punches and elbows being backed up by heavy leg kicks.
Strickland is more of a pressure fighter with solid technical boxing and a high output who will continually push the pace and try to break his opponents will.
It’s no easy task to walk down a measured, yet explosive heavy-hitter like Cannonier though, and I think Strickland will be further hampered by his vulnerability to leg kicks, leading to a third round TKO finish.
Pick: Jared Cannonier wins by TKO in Rd3.
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Damir Ismagulov
Tsarukyan is another fighter who has seen a five-fight winning streak end in his last fight via a loss to Mateusz Gamrot, while on the other hand Ismagulov’s own 5-fight unbeaten run remains intact.
This is a very high level match-up that has all the makings of an extremely competitive fight. And though the 26-year-old Tsarukyan is coming off a loss he didn’t really lose any stock as he still looked very good. He’s a well-rounded, well-conditioned athlete who is particularly adept at wrestling and grappling, even giving Islam Makhachev a tough time back in his UFC debut a few years ago.
Meanwhile, Tsarukyan is also a good striker who will mix good speed and power into his boxing combinations, while also blending in kicks too, while not taking too much damage in return.
The 31-year-old Ismagulov is actually on a 19-fight winning streak when you take into account his bouts on the regional circuit, but he’s not been very active since joining the UFC, with only two fights in the past three years.
Ismagulov is big for the division and like Tsarukyan has a multi-faceted MMA game, but he employs more of a grinding approach, keeping his opponents at bay with strikes from range combined with solid wrestling ablility, which has been effective for him, but hasn’t lit up the Octagon.
These are two fighters that are hard to beat, so it’s not easy to pick between them, but I do think Tsarukyan’s willingness to press the action more and fight with more purpose and aggression both on the feet and the mat will help him catch the eyes of the judges to win a closely fought decision.
Pick: Arman Tsarukyan wins by decision.
Amir Albazi vs. Alessandro Costa
Albazi carries a 3-0 record in the UFC into his fight with short-notice newcomer Costa, who is actually his third opponent for this card after both Alex Perez and Brandon Royval withdrew.
Costa comes in with a 12-2 record on the regional circuit and actually fought to a split-decision win on the Contender Series earlier in the year, though that wasn’t enough to earn him a contract at the time.
Costa has fairly solid boxing ability and actually won his last fight via a 12-second KO, though he’s still primarily a grappler who offers up a threat via submissions.
Albazi isn’t particularly comfortable in the striking department, but he’s proven to be very strong in terms of his wrestling and grappling ability, and already has a couple of submission finishes under his belt since joining the UFC.
Costa is a respectable enough fighter, but this is a tough match-up, especially on short notice, and I think we’ll see Albazi dominating the ground battle to earn a decision win.
Pick: Amir Albazi wins by decision.
Alex Caceres vs. Julian Erosa
Continuing the running theme of this main card, Caceres saw a five-fight winning streka end with a decision loss to Sodiq Yusuff and now fights Erosa, who has compiled a three-fight winning streak and claimed victory in 6 of his last 7 fights.
Cacares has an easily identifiable Karate based style, staying busy on the outside with his kicks and punches from range. His kicks in particular can be flashy at times, but there’s a bit more style than substance to them as he’s never really been much of a finisher on the feet, so he relies more on his volume work. He is also nimble and crafty on the mat, but while he is a significant threat via submissions he’s also been caught in just as many himself.
Erosa is also happy working from range and will have a 3″ height and 1″ reach advantage to work with here. Wherever the fight goes Erosa has proven to be a finisher, with 11 wins via strikes and 12 from submission during his 28-fight career. However, he doesn’t have the best chin and has lost four UFC fights via strikes, in addition to another TKO loss on TUF.
I don’t think Caceres is a hard enough hitter to stop Erosa though and I think it’ll be Erosa who proves to be the more effective and aggressive striker here to win out on the scorecards.
Pick: Julian Erosa wins by decision.
Drew Dober vs. Bobby Green
Dober will look for his third win of the year against Green, who was TKO’d by Islam Makhachev in February after having won two fights before that.
Dober has a very strong chin, which is just as well as he likes to wade into battle applying lots of pressure and slugging it out with his opponent at every opportunity. He’s got fairly good boxing and makes up for a lack of finesse with his output and has done well to become an even more potent finisher over time, with his last five wins all coming by way of strikes.
Green also likes a high-volume boxing-based gameplan, but he approaches it differently than Dober with much more of a counter-striking focus, while having a strong defense too.
Green is more about speed than power though, so while I can see him finding a home for his strikes I do feel like a very rugged, durable fighter like Dober may well be able to walk through some of that to land his own more impactful blows. It’s a risky strategy and I’m not sure he’ll be able to finish a wily veteran like Green, but I think the judges will favor his work and that’ll lead Dober to an entertaining decision victory.
Pick: Drew Dober to win by decision.
Michal Oleksiejczuk vs. Cody Brundage
Oleksiejczuk holds a 5-3 (+1nc) record in the UFC and is coming off a quick TKO victory over Sam Alvey as he rounds out the year with a fight against a late replacement in Brundage, who has won two UFC fights in a row within the first five minutes.
A robust boxer with big power has led Oleksiejczuk to claim first round victories in four of his five UFC victories so far. As such he continues to lean heavily on that side of his game as he looks to round out other aspects of his skill-set, with his takedown defense in particular still needing work.
Brundage is a big middleweight with a wrestling base backed up by a powerful overhand and some solid kicks, but he’s not the most technical in any particular area and I think Oleksiejczuk will make the most of his striking advantage to claim a TKO victory by the second round.
Pick: Michal Oleksiejczuk wins by TKO in Rd2
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Cheyanne Vlismas vs. Cory McKenna
Jake Matthews vs. Matthew Semelsberger
Manel Kape vs. David Dvorak
Said Nurmagomedov vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov
Bryan Battle vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov
Rafa Garcia vs. Maheshate
Sergey Morozov vs. Journey Newson