UFC Fight Night 232 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Brendan Allen vs. Paul Craig
10th ranked middleweight rides a five-fight winning streak heading into his next fight against Paul Craig, who earned a TKO victory after dropping down from light-heavyweight last time out.
At 27-years-old Allen has matured into being a well-rounded, methodical fighter. On the feet he has solid striking ability and delivers effective kicks to the legs and body. He is also durable, but could still improve upon his striking defense. He is also a capable wrestler, takes the back well and demonstrates good control, while also being a proven finisher via submissions.
At 35-years-old Craig remains a fighter whose still very much reliant on his impressive submission prowess, with his triangle choke in particular being a lethal weapon that many an opponent has succumbed to. However, other aspects of his game have been found wanting, with his lack of wrestling ability having been a real thorn in his flesh. As such he can be forced into fighting on the feet, where his lack of speed, power and fluidity can lead to him being outclassed.
In fairness, Craig actually showed signs of improved takedowns against Andre Muniz last time out, along with solid submission defense and fight-ending ground-and-pound. However, given how poor his wrestling has been in the past I’m not convinced it’s suddenly improved so much that he’ll be taking down Allen so easily. And while his win over Muniz was good, it’s also worth bearing in mind that earlier in the year Allen had actually become the first man to submit Muniz.
So I think Allen has a big advantage on the feet here, but his positional control on the mat will enable him to be competitive if he has to fight there too. His superior wrestling should ensure he just keeps the action upright though, and from there I think he can gradually wear Craig down and emerge with a 4th round TKO finish.
Pick: Brendan Allen wins by TKO In Rd4.
Michael Morales vs. Jake Matthews
15-0 in his career so far, Michael Morales looks to build on his three wins in the UFC on Saturday night when he fights Jake Matthews, who has been plying his trade in the promotion for almost a decade and has been switching between wins and losses in recent times.
Morales joined the UFC from the Contender Series and is still only 24-years-old, yet he’s already been against respectable opponents like Trevin Giles and Max Griffin in the Octagon and emerged victorious. That speaks to the UFC’s belief in what he can do, and also shows his ability to handle being under pressure. He’s big and athletic at welterweight and his 79″ reach will afford him a 6″ advantage over Matthews. He’ll make the most of with a rangey jab, powerful one-two and has good kicks too, but on the down-side he is quite hittable. Morales also has good takedown defense and can wrestle, but hasn’t been much of a submission threat so far.
The 29-year-old Matthews is a respectable all-rounder, but has never quite been able to push beyond a certain level in the UFC during his nine-year stint there so far. He has good wrestling and capable submissions, although he has been tapped out a few times as well. On the feet he’s tough and has solid fundamentals, but he can be quite cautious and as such his volume suffers.
I expect Morales to find success on the feet here with his reach, power and output while avoiding Matthews attempts to bring him down in order to earn a decision win.
Pick: Michael Morales wins by decision.
Chase Hooper vs. Jordan Leavitt
Chase Hooper has been stuck in a pattern of win-one, lose-one during his six-fight UFC run so far, while Jordan Leavitt has gone 4-2.
The 24-year-old Hooper has a size advantage here, being 4″ taller and with 3″ extra in reach over Leavitt, but he may struggle to use that effectively on the feet as he just isn’t a natural striker, suffering from bad striking defense, weak power and a lack of speed. However, the bright side is that he’s much more comfortable and co-ordinated on the mat, with his long limbs aiding his wrestling and grappling efforts to good effect.
The 28-year-old Leavitt is somewhat similar in that his striking ability has often left a lot to be desired, having a somewhat awkward, ungainly style, though there have been recent signs that he’s starting to improve. Still, he’s certainly at his best in the grappling department and with his tricky style and diverse submission arsenal he’s comfortable fighting off his back. However, his eagerness to find a finish on the mat can see him overcommit on risky attempts and he also doesn’t have the best cardio.
If they avoid going to the mat I think Leavitt’s recent improvements suggest he might have the advantage against the very hittable Hooper, but I think it’s more likely that Hooper’s wrestling enables him to get the fight to the floor, where his solid control on top will help him grind out a decision victory.
Pick: Chase Hooper wins by decision.
Payton Talbott vs. Nick Aguirre
A recent win on the Contender Series has led to Payton Talbott making his UFC debut on this card against Nick Aguirre, who lost in his first Octagon outing earlier in the year.
The undefeated 25-year-old Talbott has already marked himself out as one to watch with his impressive striking ability. His high-volume boxing style stands out, putting together potent, accurate combinations with good timing, which has led to five finishes via strikes from six pro-fights so far. His striking defense isn’t as convincing though and we’ve yet to see him really tested on the mat.
The 27-year-old Aguirre has compiled a 7-1 record overall in the sport, but there was a lot of padding there against low-level competition and he found the going much tougher in his UFC debut. He doesn’t have a whole lot to offer on the feet despite a 3.5″ reach advantage, but he is a capable grappler who will pose a threat via submissions and is a decent wrestler too.
I think Talbott’s major advantage in the striking department and better athleticism will serve him well here as he pieces up his opponent to pave the way for a third round TKO stoppage.
Pick: Payton Talbott wins by TKO in Rd3.
Luana Pinheiro vs. Amanda Ribas
A win over Michelle Waterson has taken Luana Pinheiro to 3-0 in the UFC so far and now she goes up against Amanda Ribas, who suffered a TKO loss against Maycee Barber to go 2-3 in her last five appearances.
Ribas comes back down to strawweight for this fight and will enjoy a 1″ height and 3.5″ reach advantage over Pinheiro. She is a well-rounded fighter who likes to impose her will on her opponents wherever the fight goes. She has solid muay thai striking and applies it aggressively, while she will also drive in for takedowns and has a talented submission game. However, Ribas’ eagerness to press forward can be a problem and she has been TKO’d twice in recent years, leading to concerns about her chin.
Pinheiro shares a trait with Ribas in that they both come from a judo background. She likes to use her physicality and is at her best on the mat where she can threaten with submissions. However, on the feet she’s not as active as Ribas and doesn’t carry much stopping power.
This should be somewhat competitive, but I do think Ribas has the edge both on the feet and on the mat, while Pinheiro’s striking likely isn’t potent enough to really test her chin, so I feel Ribas should emerge with a decision win here.
Pick: Amanda Ribas wins by decision.
Uros Medic vs. Myktybek Orolbai
Myktybek Orolbai will make his UFC debut on less than a week’s notice after Johnny Parsons withdrew from his fight against Uros Medic.
The 25-year-old Orolbai comes in from the LFC promotion, where a three-fight winning streak had extended his record to 11-1. Orolbai is a promising fighter who has a good wrestling base, but has actually been showing good punching power on the feet lately too. He’ll also have a 3.5″ reach advantage despite being 3″ shorter than his opponent.
The 30-year-old had some fights at lightweight, but he’s still a good-sized 170lber too. He likes to bring the fight to his opponent in the striking department and while he’s not the most technically sound his speed stands out and he has good power to go along with it.
It’s always a bit risky picking a debuting fighter who doesn’t have a full fight-camp under his belt, but I like what I’ve seen from Orolbai and so I’ll take him to make the most of his opportunity with a mix of wrestling and striking to earn a win on the scorecards.
Pick: Myktybek Orolbai wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Jonathan Pierce vs. Joanderson Brito
Uros Medic vs. Myktybek Orolbai
Christian Leroy Duncan vs. Dennis Tuiliulin
Chad Anheliger vs. Jose Johnson
Mick Parkin vs. Caio Machado
Trey Ogden vs. Nikolas Motta
Lucie Pudilova vs. Ailin Perez
Mick Parkin vs. Caio Machado
Charles Johnson vs. Rafael Estevam