Below you’ll find our predictions for this weekend’s UFC On ESPN 31 event.
Rob Font vs. Jose Aldo
the No.4 ranked Font comes into this fight off a solid four-fight unbeaten stretch that’s seen him get the better of Sergio Pettis, Ricky Simon, Marlon Moraes and Cody Garbrandt, while former featherweight champ Aldo initially picked up a couple of losses after dropping to bantamweight, but has looked good in his last two victories over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz.
Font is a good striker whose slight height and reach advantage will aid him as he prefers to fight long and keep his opponent at bay with solid boxing fundamentals. He’s active on the outside though and has also yet to be finished by strikes in his career, and is able to hold his own on the mat too.
Aldo will also prefer to keep the fight standing, although he has been shown signs of mixing things up a bit more in recent times, which is no bad thing as he does have a good BJJ.
Like Font, Aldo’s boxing ability is an asset, and one that he’s worked hard at in recent years as he was toying with the idea of competing in the ring at one point. That being said, in recent times we’ve seen him also go back to using his powerful leg kicks that have been a big weapon for him in the past.
This should be a very competitive fight, but I do feel that Aldo has the edge technically both in terms of his offense and defense, so I believe he’ll be able to work his way into range and get the better of the exchanges, while also finding success with his kicks to secure a decision win.
Pick: Jose Aldo wins by decision.
Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev
A perfect 4-0 so far in his UFC run, Riddell now holds a 10-1 record overall, which mirrors Fiziev’s career record, though he did suffer a TKO loss in his UFC debut before rebounding with four wins in a row since.
These two are high level strikers who gained a lot of experience fighting in kickboxing and muay thai before their UFC careers blossomed, so this should be a treat.
Riddell has good boxing ability and carries power, while also demonstrating good movement to go along with it. He’s also got a good gas tank, a solid chin, and has the better ground game of the two here if he chooses to utilize it.
Fiziev is a fast starter and has impressive technique, with his kicking game in particular catching the eye as he can effortlessly throw fast yet powerful techniques that make him very dangerous, while he also deftly puts together combinations.
Fiziev’s early exertion can compromise his cardio later on in the fight though so that’s certainly a concern here. It’s issues like that which make it tempting to pick Riddell here, but I do feel that on the feet Fiziev’s faster, more dynamic offense could help him win the early rounds, which will help him edge out a decision win here.
Pick: Rafael Fiziev wins by decision.
Clay Guida vs. Leonardo Santos
Guida will turn 40 years old in a few days time, but not before he has an opportunity to bounce back from a loss as he takes on a fellow veteran in the 41-year-old Santos, who suffered a KO last time out, but was riding an eight-fight unbeaten run beforehand.
It’s unlikely Santos will have to worry about being KO’d again this time as that’s never been Guida’s strong-suit, but despite his age ‘The Carpenter’ remains a cardio machine who will seek to pressure on the feet and maul on the mat – with the latter being where he is at his best and most effective.
That’ll be tricky to do against Santos though as he’s a talented grappler with a good submission game, which just happens to have been an achilles heel for Guida over the years.
On top of that, Santos also holds a major 5″ advantage in both height and reach, which will aid him in keeping Guida at arms length on the feet, so I feel the Brazilian has a good chance to get the better of the action here and I’ll take him to find a submission finish in the second round.
Pick: Clay Guida wins by submission in Rd2.
Jim Crute vs. Jamahal Hill
Both of these fighters suffered unusual losses last time out, with leg kicks leaving Crute unable to continue after the first round of his fight, ending a two-fight winning streak, while Hill suffered an elbow dislocation against Paul Craig and was TKO’d soon afterwards, ending his unbeaten career run.
Crute may take some comfort from the fact that Hill isn’t as heavy a kicker as Anthony Smith, but nonetheless, his hands are a serious threat. Hill utilizes a high-volume approach from range and will make the most of his 5″ reach advantage here, while having real power behind his work when the opportunity presents itself.
Crute is also able to make a mark on the feet and keeps a good pace, but he has more skills at his disposal as he’s also a solid wrestler with a submission game to go along with it, which could pay dividends here, though it should be noted that generally Hill does do a nice job of finding ways to get back to his feet when taken down.
I think Hill will have a striking advantage here, but Crute should be able to keep the action relatively competitive in that regard, while using his grappling skills to help win rounds and secure a decision victory.
Pick: Jim Crute wins by decision.
Brendan Allen vs. Chris Curtis
Allen has compiled a 5-1 record in the UFC so far, while Curtis is only just getting a chance to make his impression felt, securing a first round KO over Phil Hawes in his debut just last month, which is now leading him to a quick turnaround as a short notice replacement here.
Curtis is a striker first-and-foremost and certainly carries serious power in his hands, but this is a tricky match-up for him as he’s going to have to be cautious about overcommitting to his strikes since Allen will be seeking takedown opportunities.
Allen is the more well-rounded fighter in general and has worked hard to become a more capable striker, which appears to be paying off, but there’s no doubt that his strongest asset still remains his grappling ability.
So, I think Curtis has a puncher’s chance here, but I think Allen will find success taking him down and controlling the action on top, before sinking in a second round submission finish.
Pick: Brendan Allen wins by submission in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Maki Pitolo vs. Dusko Todorovic
Manel Kape vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Jake Matthews vs. Jeremiah Wells
Cheyanne Buys vs. Mallory Martin
Alonzo Menifield vs. William Knight
Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Claudio Puelles
Azamat Murzakanov vs. Philipe Lins
Mickey Gall vs. Alex Morono
Vince Morales vs. Louis Smolka