UFC On ESPN 28 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Uriah Hall vs. Sean Strickland
With four wins each heading into this fight, Hall and Strickland are both riding a wave of momentum into this middleweight headliner.
This is the best run of wins Hall has had so far in his UFC career, and it’s good to see as there’s always been a lot to like about his dynamic striking that delivers deadly damage with dazzling technique, while even as he approaches 37-years-old he’s still in excellent physical condition and still has the speed to match his power.
Of course, the knock on Hall has always been the mental side of his game as in some fights he simply doesn’t show up ready for a battle and fails to utilize the weapons at his disposal.
On the other hand, Strickland doesn’t wield the same kind of power or dynamism, but a battling mentality is ingrained within him as he pushes a hard pace while implementing his high-volume boxing game, while also being able to switch things up with a respectable ground game.
Hall’s takedown defence is fairly solid though, so I think Strickland might struggle to get him to the mat. That leaves him looking to mentally break Hall on the feet with his pressure and toughness, but Hall is much more potent with his offense and is sharp on the counter, so as long as he doesn’t fail to pull the trigger, I think it may only be a matter of time before he finds an opening to catch him out with a fight-ending blow that he doesn’t see coming.
Pick: Uriah Hall wins by TKO in Rd3.
Kyung Ho Kang vs. Rani Yahya
In the co-main event we have two fighters in Kang and Yahya who have a proven record of being able to tap-out fighters via submission.
Yahya in particular is revered for his BJJ ability and is somewhat of a rarity in this day and age in that he very much specializes in that aspect of the game, while not really offering a great deal in other aspects of MMA. While that’s far from ideal, it’s to his credit that even at 36-years-old he’s still picking up wins and now holds an impressive 21 submission victories from 27 career victories.
While Kang is also very capable in that department, he’s not quite on the same level as Yayha with his grappling, but he’s the more athletic fighter here, has more to offer on the feet and will also be able to utilize a 3″ height and 6″ reach advantage.
I’m not convinced Kang’s striking will be enough to put a wily veteran like Yahya away, but if he can largely keep this one upright then I feel he’ll be able to outstrike and outwork Yahya to secure a win on the scorecards.
Prediction: Kyung Ho Kang wins by decision.
Niklas Stolze vs. Jared Gooden
Extremely short notice for this fight after Mounir Lazzez pulled out of his fight with Stolze just days ago due to VISA issues, with Gooden now stepping into his shoes instead.
It’s far from the ideal situation for Gooden as he’s already winless in his two-fight UFC run to date, and now has essentially no time to prepare for what could be a make-or-break fight for him.
There’s pressure on Stolze’s shoulders too though as he lost in his UFC debut almost a year ago. He is a capable all-rounder though, showing a nice kickboxing game from range with his kicks in particular being a good offensive weapon, while he also moves well and is not afraid to go for takedowns and utilize his grappling too.
Gooden is a powerfully built fighter who is primarily a boxing-based striker with solid power, but will also work the fight to the mat at times if the opportunity presents itself.
I could see this being a close fight, but when where Stolze edges the action wherever it takes place, and the fact that Gooden is a late replacement also adds to the feeling that it’s Stolze who will gets the decision nod here.
Pick: Niklas Stolze wins by decision.
Cheyanne Buys vs. Gloria de Paula
Buys and de Paula both enter into this fight still seeking their first UFC win after both came out on the wrong end of unanimous decision verdicts in their debuts.
Neither really shone in their first Octagon appearance and with Buys only being 5-2 in her career to date and de Paul being 5-3, it’s clear that these are still two fighters who are something of a work-in-progress.
In essence though this is a grappler vs striker match-up, with Buys having a bit more to her all-round game, but largely being focused on her wrestling, while de Paula is a muay thai fighter who will either be striking from range or trying to land from the thai clinch in close.
I think Buys should be able to find success with her takedowns here and on top she’ll be able to grind her way to a decision victory.
Pick: Cheyanne Buys wins by decision.
Ryan Benoit vs. Zarrukh Adashev
originally scheduled back in May, a botched Benoit weight cut led to the fight being postponed due to concerns for his health.
Benoit has since recovered and now attempts to overcome a two-fight losing streak, while Adashev is one of a number of main card fighters who are still in the hunt for their first ever win in the UFC.
In fact, Neither fighters career record is going to leave their opponents quaking in their boots as Benoit is just 10-7 to date, while Adashev can only muster a 3-3 run.
That being said, Benoit’s better than those numbers would suggest as he’s one of the heavier-handed flyweights with genuine finishing power, and in addition to that he’s durable and has solid wrestling.
That’s a worry for Adashev as he comes from a kickboxing background and will be eager to keep this fight upright, but at the same time, he’ll still have to be wary on the feet too as he’ll likely be haunted by the fact that was KO’d just 32 seconds into his UFC debut.
In the end I feel that Benoit’s broader skill-set and experience will enable him to mix things up and solidify a decision win here.
Pick: Ryan Benoit wins by decision.
Bryan Barberena vs. Jason Witt
Both of these main-card openers have only mustered one victory from their last three fights, though Barberena will be feeling the more confident of the two given that he did pick up a win last time out.
Barberena is an established UFC fighter, and while he’s often bounced around between wins and losses, he’s never an easy fighter to go up against due to the fact that he’s a hard-working battler on the feet with good cardio, while his wrestling and ground-and-pound can also cause his opponents problems.
On the other hand, Witt looks to use his wrestling and can work for submissions too, which is just as well as durability has been a problem for him, not least last time out when he was KO’d in just 16 seconds, together with also being stopped by TKO only 48 seconds into his UFC debut.
Witt also can’t compete with Barberena as far as cardio goes, so this seems like it’s going to be a bad night at the office for him as he gets outgunned on the feet while struggling to get his ground game going, leading to a second round TKO stoppage.
Pick: Bryan Barberena wins by TKO in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Nicco Montano vs. Wu Yanan
Collin Anglin vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan
Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Rafa Garcia
Danny Chavez vs. Kai Kamaka III
Jinh Yu Frey vs. Ashley Yoder
Ronnie Lawrence vs. Trevin Jones
Phil Rowe vs. Orion Cosce