UFC On ESPN 29 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Jared Cannonier vs. Kelvin Gastelum
Cannonier lost to former titleholder Robert Whittaker in October of last year, but in general he’s looked like he’s finally found the right division to perform at his best since dropping down to middleweight, after previously having fought at heavyweight and light-heavyweight over the years.
On other hand, 185lbs has never been the perfect fit for Gastelum, but it was forced upon him due to weight-cutting issues at welterweight. To his credit Gastelum has remained competitive at middleweight despite being rather short and stocky, and that’s largely thanks to his fast hands and movement, together with the fact he’s wielding significant power, has good durability and a solid wrestling game.
Nevertheless, with losses in four of his last five outings in the division, albeit against high-level opposition, it’s clearly a challenging place for him to operate, and again in this fight he’s going up against a physically imposing fighter in Cannonier who is going to have a 2″ height and 6″ reach advantage over him.
Cannonier is a power striker, but also an accurate one, while also landing punishing leg kicks too. There have been some signs of improvement to his defensive grappling too, but he’ll be eager not to have that tested too often here against as that could quickly become problematic.
With that in mind, Cannonier will be looking to use his size advantage and power to keep Gastelum at bay, and his leg kicks could certainly help in that regard too. An interesting wrinkle here is that Cannonier’s victories often come when he delivers a finish inside the distance, but Gastelum has never been stopped by strikes in his career and has more five round experience.
I feel Gastelum’s best chance is to make use of his wrestling, but I’m not sure that’s how the fight will play out and so I’m cautiously taking Cannonier to get the better of the striking exchanges to win by decision.
Pick: Jared Cannonier wins by decision.
Clay Guida vs. Mark O. Madsen
Guida managed to fend off father-time in his last Octagon outing as he secured a win over Michael Johnson, but the 40-year-old had lost three of his previous four fights prior to that.
His next opponent Mark Madsen is no spring-chicken himself at 36-years-old, but he’s definitely someone whose on the rise in the sport, having gone unbeaten in his 10-0 career so far, including two wins in the UFC, while he also wields serious credentials with his past as a former Olympic silver medalist.
That presents a challenge for Guida as he’s often been at his best in the past when he’s been able to dominate opponents on the mat, but he’s at risk of having the same thing done to him here.
Guida has far more MMA experience though and he is famed for his incredible cardio and the tireless pace that he pushes, so it’ll be interesting to see how Madsen copes with that as he has shown signs that his gas-tank may start to wane in the latter stages of the fight.
I’m just not sure that Guida can stop Madsen from controlling him in the first couple of rounds with his wrestling though and so I think it’s Madsen who will emerge with his hand raised on the scorecards here.
Pick: Mark Madsen wins by decision.
Chase Sherman vs. Parker Porter
Not the most glamorous heavyweight match-up here with both fighters having inconsistent records and indifferent form in the UFC to date.
Sherman has far more experience in the Octagon as he’s actually in his second stint in the promotion, but has only mustered a 3-6 UFC record to date. Nevertheless, he does deliver high-volume striking and has a solid finishing rate, although on the downside he’s also suspect defensively and gets hit too often in return.
Sherman also has the size advantage here, with 4″ in height and 3″ in reach over Porter, who is the heavier man, albeit without being in the best of shape.
Porter doesn’t have the best defensive game either and tends to eat shots in order to land something powerful of his own, though he does also carry a submission threat too.
I don’t think Porter will get Sherman down here though, and in the resulting slug-fest I think Sherman’s volume and better cardio will enable him to get the better of the action and win by strikes in the final round.
Pick: Chase Sherman wins by TKO in Rd3.
Vinc Pichel vs. Austin Hubbard
At 38-years-old, Pichel continues to put down a solid run in the UFC, having gone 6-2 overall in the promotion to date, including his current back-to-back victories, while on the other hand, his opponent Hubbard has struggled to put together a winning run, having gone 3-3 so far.
Hubbard is the younger man though at 29 and he’ll make the most of that by utilizing his solid cardio to push a solid pace wherever the fight goes. He’s a decent striker, though lacks stopping power, and is also susceptible to being taking down by good wrestlers, but on the mat his work is solid.
Pichel is something of a grinder who is still in good condition physically for his age and will throw with power on the feet, but makes his impression felt most as a physically strong wrestler who can control opponents on the mat.
Hubbard will make this competitive throughout and with his energy levels could make an impact later in the fight, but I feel Pichel will have edged out the action enough by then to still ensure he emerges victorious.
Pick: Vinc Pichel wins by decision.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. Brandon Royval
This is an exciting fight between two talented flyweights who can hold their own wherever the fight goes.
On the feet I feel the No.3 ranked Pantoja has the edge as he’s heavy-handed for the weight-class and has the higher output of the two, but Royval is also a capable striker who will enjoy a 4″ height advantage, although only an extra inch in reach.
Royval may fancy his chances better on the mat though as he’s good with submission and in the scramble too, but Pantoja’s grappling is solid too and he holds as many wins by submission as he does via strikes.
As such there’s not a whole lot to choose between these two, but I do think that particularly in the striking department it’s Pantoja whose got that extra spark to his game that will enable him to come away with another win on his record.
Pick: Alexandre Pantoja wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Austin Lingo vs. Luis Aldana
Brian Kelleher vs. Domingo Pilarte
Bea Melecki vs. Josiane Nunes
William Knight vs. Fabio Cherant
Roosevelt Roberts vs. Ignacio Bahamondes
Sasha Palatnikov vs. Ramiz Brahimaj