UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida Preview and Predictions
This Saturday night the UFC heads south to Sao Paulo, Brazil for a Fight Night card with some star power at the top and tons of Brazilian talent throughout the card. Headlined by an intriguing bout featuring former Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida in his first fight in over 2 years and rising middleweight contender Derek Brunson who has fought 6 times during Machida’s absence. The co-main event sees Demian Maia trying to bounce back from his failed attempt to take the welterweight title from Tyron Woodley against Colby Covington, a hot prospect in the division. This promises to be an action-packed night of high-quality fights. Here are my predictions for the night, which will hopefully fare better than last week’s disappointing 6-5 showing:
Marcelo Golm 1st round KO over Christian Colombo
Jarred Brooks unanimous decision over Deiveson Figueiredo
Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos 3rd round TKO over Max Griffin
Jared Gordon unanimous decision over Hacran Dias
Antonio Carlos Junior 2nd round submission over Jack Marshman
Niko Price 3rd round TKO over Vicente Luque
Main Card Analysis:
Fight 1: #5 John Lineker (29-8) vs Marlon Vera (10-3-1) (Bantamweight)
John Lineker has used the ridiculous power in his hands to ascend to the top of his second division in the UFC. After struggling with the weight cut at flyweight Lineker moved up to 135 and went on a tear right up until he ran into TJ Dillashaw. He now tries to bounce back from that loss against an opponent on the rise in Vera. Lineker mixes things up well with his powerful striking game, attacking the body, head, and legs with punches and kicks. He has very reliable takedown defense against any opponent not named Dillashaw and even has the ability to mix in some takedowns of his own. Vera is on a nice 3 fight win streak following his 1-2 start to his UFC career. Vera is a very talented grappler, possessing a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but he lacks the wrestling to consistently get the fight to the ground. He also has an ever-improving offensive striking game, although his striking defense hasn’t quite caught up to the offense. That defensive deficiency should be his downfall in this fight as I see Lineker keeping this on the feet and repeatedly finding Vera’s chin, eventually handing Vera the first the first stoppage loss of his career in a fight that’s very high on action.
Pick: Lineker by 2nd round TKO
Fight 2: #15 Thiago Santos (15-5) vs Jack Hermansson (16-3) (Middleweight)
Santos has recovered from his extremely disappointing loss to Eric Spicely with the kind of vicious knockouts we’ve come to expect from him in his last 2 fights. Santos is an incredibly powerful middleweight with the ability to stop a fight at any moment. He mixes kicks into his attack well, especially his lethal lead left kick to the body. He has shown some susceptibility to takedowns in the past. Hermansson on the other hand will want this fight on the ground as quickly as he can possibly get it there. While he uses his length well and has some striking ability, Hermansson has absolutely dominated his last two fights from top position. He took the fights down early and poured it on with ground and pound, getting first round stoppages in both fights. Although I wouldn't be shocked if Santos managed to land a powerful strike early to put away Hermansson, I think Hermansson will be able to get the takedown early on and dominate from the top en route to his third straight first round win.
Pick: Hermansson by 1st round TKO
Fight 3: Francisco Trinaldo (21-5) vs Jim Miller (28-10) (Lightweight)
Francisco Trinaldo is a very talented kickboxer who also possesses strong takedown defense. That takedown defense was not enough to stop Kevin Lee from ending his 7 fight win streak, but it’s more than enough to keep him standing against most lightweights. He surprisingly improved throughout his win streak in spite of the fact that he was 36 when it started and 38 at the end. He has a lot of power in his hands and counters very well. Jim Miller is a 9 year UFC veteran who went on a 7 fight win streak of his own at one point in his UFC career. He is a well rounded fighter, but his advantage in this fight would be on the ground. He has earned almost half of his career wins by submission, but he oftentimes struggles with his takedowns against high-level opposition. In the absence of the takedown Miller will look to turn this into a brawl as that may open up an opportunity for a reactive takedownwn or could even up the striking battle against the more technical striker. In the end, Trinaldo should be able to stop the takedowns, keep himself composed on the feet, and pick Miller apart with counters on the way to an exciting, but lopsided decision.
Pick: Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decison
Fight 4: #12 Pedro Munhoz (14-2, 1 NC) vs #13 Rob Font (14-2) (Bantamweight)
Both of these guys have been on the rise at 135 pounds, with their only losses in the UFC coming to top 5 fighters in the division. Munhoz has used his slick submissions and some improved striking to pick up 3 straight wins. Munhoz is an incredibly high-level grappler, although he isn’t the greatest offensive wrestler. He showed a growing striking arsenal in his last fight, although he didn’t show much better striking defense, taking a lot of damage from Damian Stasiak. Font is a crisp, clean striker who has shown power and finishing ability in his two wins since dropping a decision to John Lineker. He uses his jab and some kicks well to keep his opponents at long range, which will help him keep Munhoz from getting into takedown range. His takedown D has been developing and will be key in this fight. That takedown defense should be good enough to stop Munhoz from getting this fight to the ground and Font should be able to repeatedly land strikes on the feet en route to a one-sided decision win.
Pick: Font by unanimous decision
Co-main Event: #3 Demian Maia (25-7) vs #8 Colby Covington (12-1) (Welterweight)
This fight has been the toughest one for me to pick. At this point in his career we know what Demian Maia is. Luckily, after that one awful stretch during his middleweight career where he wanted to show everybody he could kickbox he lost all interest in striking. Now he takes the same approach to every game. He works his way into the clinch as quickly as possible and then works his way to the back. Once he has the back he is the most efficient finisher in the UFC. If you have Demian Maia on your back your night is essentially already over. Until recently Covington had shown similar aversion to the striking game, using his wrestling to dominate every opponent he faced. In his last two fights he has shown improved striking and even managed to hurt Dong Hyun Kim in his last fight. Covington is a very high level wrestler, absolutely smothering most of his opponents on his way up the welterweight ladder. The biggest issue I have taking Covington in this fight is his last fight with a high-level grappler. Warlley Alves managed to quickly slap a guillotine choke on Covington once they started grappling. I see this fight going one of two ways, either Maia does the same thing he’s done to most of this division and takes Covington’s back early before getting the inevitable rear-naked choke, or Covington manages to keep the fight standing and lands strike after strike on Maia. In the end I can’t bring myself to pick against Maia in a fight with anybody other than a top 3 and Covington isn’t in that top 3. Maia will score the slight upset here and keep himself near the top of the division.
Pick: Maia by 1st round submission
Main Event: #7 Derek Brunson (17-5) vs Lyoto Machida (22-7) (Middleweight)
Derek Brunson has been extremely impressive in his UFC run with his only legitimate losses coming against Robert Whitaker and Yoel Romero, who just fought each other for the interim Middleweight title. He should be on a two fight win streak right now regardless of what the judges said in the Anderson Silva fight. He has a ton of power in his hands and has a high level wrestling game to go with that power. He can get wild sometimes when he thinks he has an opponent in trouble, which would not be a good move against Machida. Lyoto Machida has been out of action for a little over 2 years due to a USADA suspension. At 39 years old after a 2 year suspension it is hard to know just how Machida has left in the tank, but at his best Machida was a very good counter striker with his awkward karate style and a very good defensive wrestler. He has taken a ton of damage in his recent fights, which could make him less able to take a punch this late in his career. I see Brunson staying patient in this fight, hurting a rusty Machida, and methodically ground and pounding his way to a win.
Pick: Brunson by 2nd round TKO