UFC On ESPN+ 32 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and you can check out our predictions for all the fights below.
Derrick Lewis vs. Aleksei Oleinik
The main event features a fight where we have two specialists – with Lewis being the thunderous power puncher that can end anyone’s night at a moment’s notice, while Oleinik has racked up no less than 46 submission wins over the course of his long career.
Despite being best known for his KO finishes, Lewis has actually won by decision in his last two outings as he’s opted to get in better shape and focus on being a little more technical and manage his cardio better, but he’s claimed that now he’s got that under control he’ll be back looking for a big finish on Saturday night.
If the 43-year-old Oleinik can get Lewis to the mat then you have to fancy his chances of locking up a submission, though ‘The Black Beast’s’ raw strength has enabled him to power out of bad positions in the past and he’s only been tapped out once before.
I think any time Oleinik looks to close the distance he’s going to be in danger of getting caught with a clubbing blow that can switch his lights out though from the deceptively quick Lewis and as such will get KO’d within the first five minutes.
Derrick Lewis wins by KO in Rd1.
Omari Akhmedov vs. Chris Weidman
Weidman’s fall from grace since his memorable run to become a middleweight champion has been harsh, having lost five of his last six fights, and a number of them being by brutal knockout.
These were all fights against top-flight competition though, and at times he was actually competing well until he was stopped, which speaks to the fact that he’s still a skilled fighter with good boxing and a strong ground game.
Nevertheless, there’s no doubt his chin is a huge concern at this stage, although in Akhmedov he’s facing someone who is a well-rounded grinder who these days is most likely to emerge victorious on the scorecards than with a highlight-reel finish.
Akhmedov has compiled a nice winning streak of late – going undefeated in his last six UFC fights, but the level of competition hasn’t been close to Weidman’s, and while he has no glaring weaknesses, it’s hard to imagine that he would ever be able to match the success that his opponent had in his prime.
Still, just by being more dependable and durable than Weidman at this stage in his career could seal him a big name win here.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say Weidman can still get a win here though. He’s the better all-round fighter, he’ll have a 2″ height and 5″ reach advantage and after going up against a muderer’s row of top talents I think he can mix up his boxing and wrestling to edge out a win on the scorecards, but I will stress it’s not a confident pick.
Chris Weidman wins by decision.
Maki Pitolo vs. Darren Stewart
It’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top in this battle of strikers.
Despite having similar height and reach, Stewart is the naturally bigger man of the two, with Pitolo having fought at welterweight in the past, while his opponent was originally a light-heavyweight.
A physical specimen, Stewart does indeed hit hard, but all that muscle means he can fade later in the fight, while his fight record has a number of losses on it, which mostly can be chalked up to fighting guys who can beat him on the mat.
Pitolo will be the leaner and quicker of the two, and while he may not have quite the same punching power, he is still a proven finisher and will piece together nice combinations at times.
I do think Pitolo has a real chance of victory here, but when he’s not getting more than he can handle on the mat Stewart does tend to do fairly well and in a hard-hitting battle I do favor his firepower to get him a finish at some stage in the first half of the fight.
Darren Stewart wins by TKO in Rd2.
Yana Kunitskaya vs. Julija Stoliarenko
Kunitskaya may not have gotten off to a good start in the UFC after being thrown to the wolves against Cris ‘Cyborg’ for her first fight, but she’s settled in now after dropping down to bantamweight and picked up two wins and a loss.
Stoliarenko is a former TUF season 28 semi-finalist who lost in the finale and was released, but has since become Invicta FC’s bantamweight champion and now gets another chance in the Octagon as a late replacement.
Stoliarenko has a striking background, but she’s proven to be most effective on the mat with all of her nine victories to date coming by way of submission.
The level of competition she has faced hasn’t been all that great though, so I think she’ll find the going tougher against a solid opponent like Kunitskaya, who I believe will be able to largely keep this one standing and show off her striking superiority to secure a decision victory.
Yana Kunitskaya wins by decision.
Beneil Dariush vs. Scott Holtzman
A few years ago there was big concerns that Dariush’s relatively weak chin was going to hold him back after a couple of bad KO losses, but he’s since managed to go on a four-fight winning streak and together with his accomplished grappling ability he’s also been showing off some quality striking skills too.
Holtzman has good physicality and a jack-of-all-trades skill-set, but he’s not a particularly heavy-hitter. Still, even in fights he’s won, Dariush has been hurt at times, so it’s always possible Holtzman could rock him and gain the upperhand.
Overall though I just feel Dariush is clearly the better fighter in all areas and on the mat in particular he’s very slick and I think should be able to tap out Holtzman within two rounds.
Beneil Dariush wins by submission in Rd2.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Tim Means vs. Laureano Staropoli
Nasrat Haqparast vs. Alex Munoz
Andrew Sanchez vs. Wellington Turman
Gavin Tucker vs. Justin Jaynes
Youssef Zalal vs. Peter Barrett
Irwin Rivera vs. Ali Qaisi