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Chris Gutierrez vs Ryan McDonald

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Gutierrez, who got submitted against monster Raoni Barcelos last time out after having some succes in the first round, meets unbeaten newcomer McDonald in what should be a good scrap.

Gutierrez has a good chin and is a decent striker. His best weapon might well be his leg kicks, which he uses to chop lead legs with precision. He also has some serviceable sweeps on the ground if taken down and is decently well rounded in general.

Ryan McDonald, despite boasting a 10-0 record is still very green and a work in progress. His striking has a lot of holes specially defensively. He has a serviceable top game when he gets his opponents down but he mostly prefers to fight on the feet. He almost got stopped last year by a journeyman after being badly hurt.

I expect Gutierrez to lit McDonald up here like a Christmas tree. His tall man defence is horrendous and he stands too straight up, both his chin and body usually exposed. To make it worse, Gutierrez is gonna chop his lead leg down all night long. A TKO due to leg kicks would not be a big surprise here. The pick here is Gutierrez to win by knockout.

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Curtis Blaydes vs Justin Willis

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In the only heavyweight matchup of the card, Blaydes and Willis meet with a top 5 spot in the divisional rankings at stake. Blaydes was taken out inside one round against N´Gannou last time while Willis outpointed Mark Hunt in a low pace fight.

Blaydes has only lost to N´Gannou during his career. He has eight knockouts in ten victories. He is one of the most well rounded men in the division, with a wrestling background, an always improving striking game and good athletic ability.

Willis has some boxing skills for a man his size, he cuts weight to make 265, and is though. Other than that, he is a fairly unimpressive fighter. He has shown some cardio issues in the past, and nothing in his resume makes me think he is going to be able to stop Blaydes from taking him down consistently.

I think Blaydes is going to utilise his wrestling here to consistently take down and grind on Willis. I do not think Willis is going to be able to stand up if taken down here, and even if he can do it he is gonna end up exhausting himself. Best chance for Willis is to hurt Blaydes bad on the feet early and never let go. In the worst case I see Blaydes being able to grind Willis along the fence and win a decision mixing his jab with control time in the clinch. I think he is goin to eventually stop Willis on the ground, probably via ground and pound, after exhausting him along the way. The pick here is Curtis Blaydes to win in round 3.

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Angela Hill vs Randa Markos

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No big breakdown needed for this two women. Both UFC veterans, it is an easy fight to break down. Hill wants the fight on the feet to work her leg kicks and striking in general, while Markos will try to take her down and establish top control to steal rounds and get the decision. Who takes it? I do not care honestly, but with both ladies going the distance in their last 5 fights, pick here is fight to go the distance as a parlay booster. I would pick Hill to win the fight on points if you put a gun to my head. I think she will be able to defend the takedowns well enough to earn a decision on the feet.

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John Makdessi vs Jesus Pinedo

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UFC veteran Makdessi meets 22 year old Pinedo in a lightweight scrap. Makdessi last was seen decisioning Pearson in a fight in which he looked pretty good compared to recent times, while Pinedo bested Powell for his first UFC victory.

Makdessi has always been a standup fighter with some refined striking skills, including a well educated jab. However, he has been knocked out two times in recent fights, and he has looked washed. In his last fight he looked better, but must be taken into account it was against a shot fighter in Ross Pearson. He has sometimes faded in fights late also.

The Young Pinedo is a wild and unorthodox fighter. He is a huge lightweight though, and pushes the pace and moves forward a lot. He is dangerous and has some pop. He has some respectable ground skills, although he does not seem to favour them. He prefers to scrap on the feet using his reach and size advantage to get his share of strikes in while pressuring.

Oddsmakers have Makdessi as huge favourite here while Pinedo stands at (+275). I like the value on Pinedo here to cause the biggest upset on the card. It would be no surprise if Makdessi picks him apart on the feet, but I think Pinedo is going to eventually hurt him. The pick here is Pinedo to win by knockout.

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Bryce Mitchell vs Bobby Moffet

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In a battle of featherweight grapplers, Moffet and Mitchell meet with hopes of climbing up the rankings. Moffet last submitted Chas Skelly in controversial fashion, while Mitchell won a majority decision against Tyler Diamond.

This is a fairly easy fight to break down. Both are grapplers at core. Moffet is bigger and I think the better grappler. He also pushes a high pace that I think will eventually get to Mitchell. I also think Moffet is the better submission artist and Mitchell got choked last year by Brad Katona in the Ultimate fighter. He also has an uncanny ability in scrambles and is comfortable in dangerous positions. I like Moffet to grind Mitchell here and eventually find a finish. The pick here is Moffet to win by submission over a fading Mitchell. D´Arce choke alert!

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Maycee Barber vs JJ Aldrich

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Nicknamed “The Future”, there are very high expectations on this twenty year old Maycee Barber. She faces a tricky opponent in JJ Aldrich this weekend, but it is a test she should pass with flying colours.

Barber last was seen obliterating Hannah Cifers, while Aldrich caused the upset against Polyana Viana. Aldrich is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Brown belt, but she is primarily a striker that likes to keep fights on the feet and try to outpoint her opposition. She is not a powerful striker though, and not very athletic. Her succes against Viana came essentially because of Viana´s inability to take her down.

Enter Barber. Honestly I am amazed at the skills this twenty year old woman has already displayed. She fights with an aggressiveness you very seldom see in women´s MMA. She forces a high pace, and her only intention is to eat you alive. She will grind you, ground you and then obliterate you, in that order. She is extremelly strong for a woman her size and a tank in the clinch. She is also powerful and although her long range striking is still a promising work in progress he is nasty with elbows on breaks and from top. She probably has the best ground and pound in all of women´s MMA.

I expect Barber to pressure Aldrich straight away and ground her as soon as possible, probably with trips from the clinch. Then she will brutalise Aldrich on the ground. The only way I see Aldrich winning here is if Barber makes an error and gets caught in an armbar from bottom. Sounds easy right? I expect Barber to make it looks easy too. The pick here is Barber to win inside the distance.

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Luis Pena vs Steven Peterson

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A former Ultimate Fighter sensation, Luis Pena enters this fight against though fight circuit veteran Peterson after dropping a questionable decision against Mike Trizano in the finals. Peterson last bested Matt Bessette in a three round war.

Pena is dropping to featherweight for this fight, but at 6´3 feet tall it is a risky move. He has failed to make weight, but fight will still go on. He will presumably have a huge size advantadge over Peterson on Saturday. Peterson has fought at bantamweight in the past.

Pena is a lanky and crisp striker, but his main strenght is his grappling. He has a decent wrestling background and his Jiu Jitsu is quite good. Peterson is a brawler. He has some grappling skills of his own, but he is primarily a forward marching fighter that will eat everything thrown his way and keep returning fire until he sucks the will out of his opponents.

A lot of people are calling the upset here. I disagree. If Peterson can keep it standing up there is a good possibility he could drag Pena and his presumably shorter gas tank into deep waters after that though weight cut, but I think the gap in skill and size is gonna be too much to overcome. I see Pena taking him down and managing to establish a dominant position from where to start working toward a finish. The pick here is Pena to win by submission.

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Jussier Formiga vs Deiveson Figueiredo

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In one of the most anticipated fights of the card, two fantastic yet very different flyweights meet, probably with a shot at the belt in play for the winner. Jussier Formiga really needs no introduction. He last outpointed Sergio Pettis convingcinly. He is 34, but still fast and has nice opportunistic striking. His strenght though has always been his fantastic grappling. He is a Jiu Jitsu ace and reminds of Demian Maia when he gets the back. If he is on your back, good luck getting off that human backpack.

Deiveson Figueiredo is taking the division by assault since he signed with the promotion. A huge flyweight with huge punching power, he overwhelmes opposition until he can hurt them and finish them on the ground. He has decent grappling and can finish fights everywhere, but he is obviously not on Formiga´s level there.

The key point in this fight is wether Formiga can take “Deus da Guerra” down or not. Deiveson has only been consistently taken down in the UFC by Jarred Brooks, who is a much better wrestler than Formiga and ended up gassing. Formiga ussually gets his takedowns by being reactive with them, which could happen here as Deiveson sometimes presses almost recklessly. I think Deiveson is gonna be too physical for Formiga to have succes with the takedowns, and even if he gets taken down I think he will get up unless he somehow gives up his back scrambling. I see Deiveson being able to pressure Formiga and eventually wear him down and finish him via strikes.

The pick here is Deiveson Figueiredo to win by knockout.

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Marlon Vera vs Frankie Saenz

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In a battle of bantamweights, ecuadorian “Chito” Vera meets veteran Frankie Saenz. Vera last finished Guido Canneti, while Saenz decisioned Enrique Briones. This is not a difficult fight to break down. Vera, 26, is 12 years younger than Saenz. He is a notoriusly slow starter, which has hurt him in the past, but he also has the uncanny ability to change fights in a split second finding ways to hurt his opponents suddenly and finishing them. He is a more dangerous striker than his number of knockouts suggests and has good submission abilities. Saenz is far from Vera as a finisher but he is the better wrestler here.

How does the fight play out? Saenz has a clear path to victory via wrestling. Vera has been taken down by all his opponents in the UFC and he could use Vera´s usual slow start to grind a decision win on the scorecards. However, I think Vera is going to eventually find an opening and finish the veteran Saenz as he has done to many opponents, even if he gets taken down repeatedly in the opening round. The pick here is Marlon Vera to win inside the distance.

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Stephen Thompson VS Anthony Pettis

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In the main event of the evening, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis jumps from lightweight to meet sensational welterweight striker Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Pettis enters this fight after being stopped by Tony Ferguson while Thompson was outpointed by Darren Till in a somewhat controversial close fight.

Once labeled a future superstar, Pettis captured the UFC lightweight title and defended it only once before being beaten from pillar to post by Rafael Dos Anjos over five rounds. Since then his career has been on the decline, losing five of the following eight. Pettis is a flashy striker that does not doubt to throw impressive techniques but at the same time has clear technical deficiencies in his striking and a lack of power in his hands. He is mostly a kicker. He is also a very good submission grappler both on top and bottom but his wrestling has always been underwhelming.

Stephen Thompson is also a striker, but with a much higher pedigree. A former kickboxing standout who captured numerous titles and went unbeaten, he is a delight to watch when he gets going. He has a dexterity no one in the UFC can match in terms of mixing distance control and timing to keep opponents at bay while throwing kicks and punches with his hands down. He almost never uses his grappling, only when opponents force him to work in the clinch. His Jiu Jitsu is basic. His only desire when he gets put on his back is to get back up.

How is this fight gonna play out? Most probably on the feet the entire time, unless somebody hurts the opponent and decides to follow up on the ground. There is no way Wonderboy is going to shoot on Pettis, and although Pettis may want to try it at some point I doubt he has the ability to put Stephen down. Much better, more athletic wrestlers have tried and failed. On the feet Thompson is the best striker between the two by far, and he will also have a size, height and reach advantage here.

How does Pettis win this fight? I think he will need to badly hurt Stephen somehow to do so an then finish him, he could also catch a sub from his back but Thompson is intelligent enought to not jump on Anthony´s guard even if he has him hurt. I think Pettis is in for a long night given all the facts. He also lacks the striking fundamentals to really trouble Stephen on the feet, while not having a decent jab and powerful hands. I think Thompson is going to outclass Pettis on the feet en route to a wide unanimous decision or a stoppage down the strecht. Pettis has a good chin but I feel Thompson will try to make a statement here and take out a smaller man that represents litte to no threat of the takedown. The pick here is Thompson to win by KO before making another run at the welterweight strap.