UFC On ESPN 42 takes place on Saturday night in Orlando, Florida and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland
This will be Thompson’s only fight of 2022, having lost in back-to-back bouts last year, while Holland has been far more active with three appearances already this year, picking up two victories at 170lbs followed by a defeat against Khamzat Chimaev at a 180lb catchweight.
The Chimaev fight came on ultra-short-notice and proved to be every bit as terrible a stylistic match-up for Holland as it looked on paper, as his wrestling deficiencies had already been exposed during a previous run at middleweight. As such, Holland specifically called out Thompson for his next fight since he is a fellow striker who has no interest in going to the mat.
It’s clear that Holland wasn’t just looking for an easy fight to get back into the win column however, as though Thompson is now approaching 40-years-old, he remains one of the division’s best strikers and has kept himself in very good shape. He may no longer be quite as quick as he once was, but he’s still light on his feet and agile with his karate based style, throwing head kicks effortlessly in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, the 30-year-old Holland is more of a proven finisher on the feet than Thompson and is considerably bigger, holding a 3″ height and 6″ reach advantage. He’s also fast, athletic and creative, though when it comes to pure technique and fight smarts then it’s ‘Wonderboy’ who still has the edge.
Thompson could certainly find success here by frustrating Holland with his movement and cautious point-fighting style to eek out a decision win, but I think with Holland’s reach, punching power and willingness to go on the offensive he could hurt the ageing veteran here and claim a third round TKO win.
Pick: Kevin Holland wins by TKO in Rd3.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Bryan Barberena
The last time RDA fought in the welterweight division he went 4-4, and now the former lightweight champ is back again after a recent 2-1 stint back down at 155lbs. He takes on a man in Barberena who has been cultivating a bit of a reputation as a veteran-killer of late, with his current three-fight winning streak including victories over Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler.
RDA is certainly the more technical fighter in this match-up. Always well-conditioned and well-rounded too, the 38-year-old operates at a high tempo and will mix up his striking with wrestling and grappling. He’s particularly effective on the mat, where his control and intensity can wear down opponents. It’s a testament to his ability rather than his size that he was able to be somewhat competitive at welterweight though as he’s undersized for the division, as shown in this fight where he’ll give away 4″ in height and 2″ in reach to his opponent.
While some of the 170lb division’s elite wrestlers were able to overpower RDA in the past, he won’t be concerned about Barberena in that regard as he’s much more of a striker who is never happier than when he can turn a fight into a brawl, where his pressure, high-volume striking and hard-headedness have helped him come out on top.
I’m not convinced that will work for him against RDA though. Certainly the fact that dos Anjos was KO’d last time out is a cause for concern and I do feel he’d still be better off sticking to competing at lightweight, but it’s worth noting that he was never finished in his eight fights at 170lbs. I feel he just outclasses Barberena wherever this fight goes, and with his advantage on the mat in particular I’d expect him to win on the scorecards.
Pick: Rafael dos Anjos wins by decision.
Tai Tuivasa vs. Sergei Pavlovich
There’s a strong possibility of a finish in this heavyweight clash, with Tuivasa having won five fights in a row via T(KO) leading up to being KO’d himself by Ciryl Gane in his last bout, while Pavlovich was TKO’d by Alistair Overeem back in 2018, but has since won four fights via either KO or TKO in the first round.
Despite the 29-year-old Tuivasa’s beer-swilling antics and less than svelte physique, he actually moves well for his size and though he’s best known for his thunderous power punches, he also has good hand speed and thudding low kicks. TAt heart he’s very much a brawler, and despite trying to be more patient these days it still doesn’t take much to draw him into more of a slug-fest.
The 30-year-old Pavlovich is also primarily a striker, but unlike ‘Bam Bam’ there’s more to his game than just that as he’s also a more than capable wrestler and grappler too, so it’ll be interesting to see if he looks to mix in any of those aspects of his game here.
Perhaps not as he does favor the stand-up game quite heavily these days, and it’s not hard to see why as he’s a compact, hard-hitting boxer who can put together some nice combinations, aided by having a huge 9″ reach advantage here, though on the downside he doesn’t have much of a kicking game.
When two KO specialists like this are locked in the Octagon either man could emerge with a big victory at any moment, but I think Pavlovich has a good chance of finding the mark on the feet more often and could also switch to mat work too if required, with the end result being a second round TKO victory.
Pick: Sergei Pavlovich wins by TKO in Rd2.
Matheus Nicolau vs. Matt Schnell
It always seemed strange that Nicolau was released from the UFC a few years ago despite a 3-1 record and he’s proven he deserved to stay all along in his second stint, having racked up three wins in a row at flyweight. Meanwhile, Schnell is also a good fighter, but has experienced mixed results over the past few years, going 2-2 (+1nc) in his last five fights.
Schnell was going up against a high level of opposition during that period though and is coming off a nice win over Su Madaeriji recently. That victory came via submission and that’s where the 32-year-old excels most and gets the majority of his finishes from, though he is an aggressive, active and pressure-heavy fighter on the feet too. That approach has cost him at times though and led to concerns about his chin as he has been KO’d three times in the first round during his UFC run.
The 29-year-old Nicolau is very well-rounded and though he’s not quite as active as Schnell he is more technical and has good movement and hand speed as well as a solid defense.
I expect this to be a closely fought encounter, but I think Nicolau will remain composed despite Schnell’s pressure and pace, and with a more sound defense and a sturdier chin he’ll be the one to hurt his opponent at some stage during the fight to help swing the action his way and emerge with a decision win.
Pick: Matheus Nicolau wins by decision.
Jack Hermansson vs. Roman Dolidze
After Derek Brunson withdrew from the fight, Hermansson now goes up against Dolidze on short-notice, who has won five of his six UFC fights so far.
The 34-year-old Hermansson’s own form has been decidedly more patchy, going 3-3 in his last six outings, but then again his standard of opposition has been higher, with his losses coming against two former title challengers in Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori, plus Sean Strickland.
Hermansson’s striking style may be a little unorthodox, but he operates well from range and keeps a good pace and offers up a frequent and varied selection of punches and kicks, while he’s also a very capable wrestler and is a significant finishing threat via either ground-and-pound or submissions.
Dolidze is also 34 and is a big, powerful middleweight who doesn’t have the tempo or volume of Hermansson, but he makes the most of it when he does let his strikes go with fight-ending power, including racking up two KO wins so far in 2022, though he’s also a strong and well credentialed grappler too.
I’d expect Dolidze to be a real threat in the early stages of the fight, particularly if he is able to march forward and put his opponent on the back foot. However, if Hermansson can survive that spell I think his consistency and pace over three rounds, with more active striking from range and well-versed ground game if necessary will take him to a decision victory.
Pick: Jack Hermansson wins by decision.
Eryk Anders vs. Kyle Daukaus
Also at middleweight we find Anders with his back up against the wall after just a win and a no-contest from his last five fights, while Daukaus has gone 2-3 (+1nc).
Despite appearing to have plenty of athletic potential, at 35-years-old it feels like Anders best years are behind him without making the most of it. He tends to be quite slow paced on the feet and though he certainly carries good power he doesn’t unleash it as often as he should and tends to attack in a predictable, one-dimensional style. He does also have some wrestling ability though, and that’s something he turns to quite often these days.
He might struggle to get much going in that department here though as he has to be wary of the 29-year-old Daukaus’ grappling as he thrives on scrambling and hunting for submission opportunities whenever possible, with a solid finishing record to show for it.
On the feet Daukaus doesn’t have a great deal of stopping power, but he’s still a fairly solid striker who will be a bit more active and purposeful with his output, though he may be a bit wary after being KO’d by Romand Dolidze in just 73 seconds last time out.
That was the only loss via strikes of Daukaus’ career to date though and I do think he could still get something from Anders on the feet here, while mixing in his superior grappling gives him more options on his way to victory by decision.
Pick: Kyle Daukaus Wins by decision.
Niko Price vs. Phil Rowe
Angela Hill vs. Emily Ducote
Clay Guida vs. Scott Holtzman
Michael Johnson vs. Marc Diakiese
Darren Elkins vs. Jonathan Pearce
Amanda Ribas vs. Tracy Cortez
Natan Levy vs. Genaro Valdez
Marcelo Rojo vs. Francis Marshall
Yazmin Jauregui vs. Istela Nunes