UFC On ESPN 3 takes place this coming Saturday night in Minneapolis and you can check out our predictions for all the fights below.
Main Card (ESPN)
Junior dos Santos vs. Francis Ngannou
Two seriously heavy-hitters collide here, but in terms of raw one-punch KO power you have to give it to the bigger, stronger Ngannou.
That being said, dos Santos is definitely the more refined, technically skilled boxer of the two and he moves well in and out of range, cuts angles and pieces together more smoothly, while Ngannou is more focused on that one big power punch.
Dos Santos also has the superior cardio here, so there’s a significant amount going in his favor, but at the same time he’s taken a lot of punishment over the years, particularly in his brutal trilogy with Cain Velasquez and his chin has become more fragile as a result, and I do think that with one big punch being all he needs to end the fight that Ngannou will still emerge victorious.
Francis Ngannou wins by KO in Rd2.
Jussier Formiga vs. Joseph Benavidez
Benavidez won the first encounter between these two by first round KO, but though he’s continued to remain a leading player in the flyweight division, he’s generally not been that big knockout power finisher.
Neither is Formiga to be fair – in fact he’s never finished a fight by strikes in his entire career, but his striking skills have improved over time.
It’s really Formiga’s submissions that are his biggest threat for a finish, but that’s unlikely here given Benavidez’s well-rounded skills and solid wrestling.
I suspect we’re heading to the scorecards on this occasion and though he’s getting older and may be starting to show signs of decline I still feel that Benavidez will end up getting the edge here with his higher volume of strikes and superior speed.
Joseph Benavidez wins by decision.
Demian Maia vs. Anthony Rocco Martin
Martin has quietly compiling a four-fight winning streak and rounding out his skill-set, but it remains to be seen if that’ll be enough to get the better of a veteran like Maia.
While striking was never Martin’s forte, he’s actually reached the stage now that he could actually give the 42-year-old Maia problems if he can keep this one standing.
That’s a big ask though as Maia will be relentless in his pursuit of the takedown. In recent times it’s been shown that elite wrestlers can shut down Maia completely by preventing him from doing so, but while Martin is certainly a capable grappler and actually pretty good as far as submissions go, I don’t believe his wrestling is quite strong enough to stop the Brazilian.
If he is able to then Maia has a tendency to gas out badly as he repeats the same takedowns over and over again without success, but if he does bring Martin down then I expect him to shut him down there for extended periods and win by decision.
Demian Maia wins by decision.
Roosevelt Roberts vs. Vinc Pichel
This will be a good test for Roberts, who has shown promise so far, with his lanky 6ft 1″ frame aiding his striking from range, clinch work and submission game.
Pichel is a tough grinder with good wrestling though and really his main fault is that he’s been injury prone and even had a three-year layoff at one stage, while he’s been out for another year heading into this fight, partly due to being the victim of a hit-and-run incident.
Now 36, that does leave a question as to whether Pichel’s best years are now behind him, but though it’ll be a tough fight against a man 11 years his junior, I think his stronger wrestling mighht just allow the underdog to grind his way to a decision victory here.
Vinc Pichel wins by decision.
Drew Dober vs. Marco Polo Reyes
All credit to Dober for carving a niche for himself in the UFC and though he lost last time out there’s been notable additions to his game over the duration of his time in the Octagon.
It’s the development of his wrestling game that could be the biggest pay-off on Saturday night as while Reyes is a dangerous striker with legitimate knockout power, he’s more limited when he’s brought to the mat.
Dober can’t match Reyes heavy-hands, but he’s not out of his depth striking and can take a punch well, but he’d do well to focus mostly on takedowns and control on top to rack up a decision win.
Drew Dober wins by decision.
Alonzo Menifield vs. Paul Craig
Craig has proven to be something of a comeback king during his tenure, pulling victory from the brink of defeat several times thanks to his opportunistic submission game.
Aside from that Craig’s a fairly plodding, unathletic fighter though and on the feet he’s going to be completely outgunned by the imposingly muscular physique and power of Menifield.
The fact that Menifield also seems to have enough grappling ability to help him keep this fight standing doesn’t bode well for Craig and I think a first round TKO stoppage may well be on the cards here.
Alonzo Menifield wins by TKO in Rd1.
Prelims (ESPN) [Predicted winners in bold]
Eryk Anders vs. Vinicius Moreira
Jared Gordon vs. Dan Moret
Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Justin Ledet
Emily Whitmire vs. Amanda Ribas
Maurice Greene vs. Junior Albini
Journey Newson vs. Ricardo Ramos