UFC On ESPN 35 takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera
No.5 ranked bantamweight Font lost to Jose Aldo on the scorecards last time out, but had won four fights in a row prior to that, while the No.8 placed Vera also lost to Aldo a couple of years ago, but has since secured back-to-back victories.
Font has a strong boxing base and takes a high-volume approach built off of a cultured jab, while having the gas tank to ensure he can hold a high pace for the full five rounds. Font is also very durable, as proven last time out when Aldo was able to hurt but not finish him, preserving his record of having never been stopped via strikes.
Vera isn’t as technical of a striker as Font, but he is more versatile with his offense and so will implement more kicks, and he has a knack for still being a threat late in fights, such as in his last Octagon outing when he took out Frankie Edgar via KO with a third round front kick.
Meanwhile, Vera is the better grappler of the two here and will pose a significant submission threat, so while Font isn’t a fish out of water on the mat, he will be seeking to keep this fight upright when possible.
The good news for Font is that Vera isn’t going to be relentlessly pursuing takedowns and so I think this one will largely be contested on the feet and I think that will favor him as he uses his slick boxing to punish Vera for his defensive shortcomings while making the most of his cardio advantage and five round experience to win by decision.
Pick: Rob Font wins by decision.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Jake Collier
Don’t mention retirement to 43-year-old Arlovski, he’s too busy riding a three-fight winning streak and then accepting this fight on a few weeks notice against the 33-year-old Collier, who continues to bounce between wins and losses in the UFC.
Arlvoski has been shrewd with his fight strategy at this late stage in his career, abandoning thoughts of highlight-reel knockouts in favor of utilizing his technical boxing ability, speed and cardio to cautiously outstrike opponents while remaining mindful of his defense and avoid getting into firefights that could expose his chin.
It’s a style that’s worked well for Arlovski against some of the heavyweight division’s more plodding fighters, but it’ll be interesting to see how it’ll favor against Collier, who has a less-than-stellar physique to say the least, but is actually a former middleweight and still shows signs of that with his speed, movement and output, while carrying decent power too.
The closer it gets to fight night the more I’m tempted to pick Arlovski to keep his recent run going here, but I’ll stick to my original feeling that Collier will be able to do a solid job of keeping up with the veteran here and will commit more to his strikes, enabling him to edge out a close decision.
Prediction: Jake Collier to win by decision.
Andre Fili vs. Joanderson Brito
Fili has a win, a draw and a loss to show from his last three fights in the UFC, while Brito came into the promotion with some hype, but picked up a unanimous decision loss to Bill Algeo in his debut.
Fili has a long, rangey striking style on the outside and will have a 3″ height and 2″ reach advantage aiding him in that endeavour. He also has good composure and competes at a measured pace that he can comfortably maintain, while also having a capable ground game to call on when required.
Meanwhile, Brito has more of a high-octane approach and will throw everything he has into his strikes, while also exploding into takedown attempts too, and on the mat he does pose a significant threat via submissions.
Brito’s early aggression may find some success early, but Fili is such a seasoned veteran these days that I think he can weather that storm and be more consistent with his offense over the full three rounds to gain the upper-hand in the long run and emerge with a win on the scorecards.
Pick: Andre Fili wins by decision.
Darren Elkins vs. Tristan Connelly
It was a tough night at at the office last time out for Elkins, suffering a first round spinning wheel kick TKO defeat against Cub Swanson, but he had won two fights prior to that, while Connelly has gone 1-1 in his UFC run so far.
At 37 there’s inevitably signs that Elkins, aka ‘The Damage’ is now starting to have trouble absorbing the kind of blows that he would have once walked through, and that is a problem as his ability to outlast opponents is a crucial part of his game. That being said, while someone like Swanson was able to take full advantage of that, Connelly is wielding that kind of power or technical ability.
Nonetheless, the 36-year-old Connelly will still hold the striking advantage here and will be attempting to curb his own instincts to get into a heated battle in favor of using his sharper striking ability to outland Elkins and keep him at bay.
Connelly can wrestle too, but Elkins is the better of the two on the mat and while they are both veterans of the sport, it’s ‘The damage’ who holds a big experience advantage when it comes to a high-level MMA and I think he’ll bring that to bear as he gets this fight to the canvas as often as possible and grinds out a decision win.
Pick: Darren Elkins wins by decision.
Jared Gordon vs. Grant Dawson
Two fighters who have been amassing solid UFC records here, with Gordon having won a trio of fights in a row, while Dawson had strung together a five fight winning streak before picking up a draw last time out.
Dawson’s always been a powerful wrestler first and foremost and so I wouldn’t expect him to make too much of his 1″ height and 4″ reach advantage on the feet as striking isn’t his strongest suit. Instead he’ll look to utilize his offensive weapons on the mat, where he’ll dish out brutal ground-and-pound and backs that up with a proven record of submitting opponents.
Meanwhile, Gordon has a solid wrestling game of his own, at least offensively, though like his opponent his takedown defense isn’t the best and he’ll be wary of spending too much time on the mat here given his opponent’s submission ability.
So, Gordon will instead look to make the most of his striking advantage as he’s the more skilled and active of the two on the feet. He’s not the most heavy-handed of strikers though, but does have very good cardio which he’ll utilize to try and wear down his opponents over the course of a fight.
Overall I favor Dawson here as he should be able to overpower Gordon in the wrestling department and could potentially find a finish on the mat, though I’ll settle on a decision verdict.
Pick: Grant Dawson wins by decision.
Krzysztof Jotko vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Jotko holds four wins from his last five trips to the Octagon and now fights Meerschaert, who has strung together three victories via rear-naked choke in a row.
Meerschaert has always been something of a submission specialist and in fact career a highly impressive 26 finishes from that aspect of his game over his 34 career wins to date, and so getting the fight to the canvas will continue to be a high-priority for him in this fight.
That might prove to be easier said than done however as Jotko is a highly mobile, elusive target who operate a cautious striking style that will see him stick to the outside and carefully pick his moments to strike with an eye towards eeking out a decision win rather than securing a finish. It’s not a fan-friendly style, but it has been somewhat effective for him.
Meerschaert is more action-orientated in the striking department, but I suspect he lacks the technical ability to really hunt down Jotko and make him pay, and will also struggle to close the distance effectively enough to get the fight to the mat against such a mobile target, so I’ll take Jotko to do just enough to outpoint his opponent and claim a decision victory.
Pick: Krzysztof Jotko wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Natan Levy vs. Mike Breeden
Tatsuro Taira vs. Carlos Candelario
Gabriel Green vs. Yohan Lainesse
Daniel Lacerda vs. Francisco Figueiredo
Gina Mazany vs. Shanna Young
Alexandr Romanov vs. Chase Sherman