Here we are at the second UFC event of 2016. This fight could be good enough to be a pay-per-view, but they are holding off to have UFC 200 in July. Tonight we see the return of "The Dominator" Dominick Cruz in a title fight against T.J. Dillashaw, a highlight reel in the making fight between Anthony Pettis and Eddie Alvarez and a heavyweight collision between Travis Browne and Matt Mitrione.
Fox Sports 1 prelims
Maximo Blanco vs. Luke Sanders: The first fight of the night will be in the featherweight division. Maximo Blanco comes into this fight at 12-6-1 and is on a three fight win streak. Blanco has eight wins by knockout and five of them were in the first round. His opponent is Luke Sanders who is fighting for the first time in the UFC. Sanders has a professional record of 10-0 with six wins by knockout and one by submission. Five of his seven finishes were in the first round. These two fighters are going to be a good standing matchup for each other. I think that Sanders will be aggressive seeking another first round finish and Blanco will have to be equally aggressive to fend him off. I believe that Blanco will be able to put in more work and secure the TKO in the second round.
Chris Wade vs. Mehdi Baghdad: The second fight will be a lightweight matchup. Chris Wade has a professional record of 10-1 and is on a five fight win streak. Wade has three wins by submission and two of them were in the first round. He has a perfect takedown defense and with no surprise because he has multiple awards in wrestling. His opponent is Mehdi Baghdad who has a professional record of 11-2. Baghdad is walking into his first fight in the UFC and recently finished competing in The Ultimate Fighter 22. Baghdad is on a nine fight winning streak with eight of his total wins by knockout and three by submission. This fight could be very even on the ground, but I think Baghdad will have a better shot by keeping this fight standing. If Baghdad can keep this fight standing I believe that he will be able to secure the knockout in the first round.
Tim Boetsch vs. Ed Herman: The next fight will take place in the light heavyweight division. Tim Boetsch has a professional record of 18-9 and is 9-8 in the UFC. This is Tim Boetsch’s first fight in the light heavyweight division since 2011 with 11 fights at middleweight since then. Boetsch has 10 wins by knockout and three by submission with not many happening in the first round. His opponent is Ed Herman who has a record of 23-11. Herman holds 14 wins by submission and five by knockout. Also six of his 11 losses were by submission leading me to believe that he tends to compromise himself in order to hunt a submission. I think this fight will be even due to each fighter being aggressive in hunting for the finish. With that being said I will say now that I think this will go to the third round while they wear each other down. Then I believe that Herman will compromise himself again hunting for the submission and Boetsch will pull of a knockout or TKO.
Patrick Cote vs. Ben Saunders: The main event for the prelims is a fight in the welterweight division. Patrick Cote is coming into this fight at 23-9. Cote has eight wins by knockout and three by submission and he has won nine of his last 11 fights. Cote has poor grappling stats so any success on the ground happens after his opponent initiates the ground game. His opponent is Ben Saunders who has a record of 19-6-2 and is on a three fight win streak. Saunders has 10 wins by knockout and five by submission with 10 of these finishes in the first round. As good as Patrick Cote is, I see Ben Saunders coming into this fight much more aggressive. I don’t know what Cote’s game plan is, but I just don’t see anything working out too well unless he catches Saunders. I am going to give Saunders the knockout in either the first or second round.
UFC Fight Night
Ross Pearson vs. Francisco Trinaldo: The first fight of the main card will be a lightweight matchup. Ross Pearson will be coming into this fight at 20-9. Pearson has eight wins by knockout and four by submission. Pearson is an experienced martial artist with a black belt in taekwondo, a brown belt in judo and a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Pearson is matched up against the 18-4 Francisco Trinaldo. Trinaldo has won 12 of his last 15 fights and has won four straight. He has an almost even amount of finishes with six wins by knockout and five by submission with seven of his finishes in the first round. Trinaldo is also an experienced martial artist with a black belt in kickboxing and a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. This will be a hard hitting fight with many back and forth trades between these two. I think that this fight will go the distance with both fighters trying to secure the victory in any way they see available. I predict that Ross Pearson will be able to pick up the unanimous decision.
(#6) Travis Browne vs. (#14) Matt Mitrione: The next fight on the main card will be a heavyweight collision. I always start with the lower ranked fighter first so first up is the number 14 ranked Matt Mitrione. Mitrione has a professional record of 9-4. He is known for having heavy hands and will need them in order to take on his opponent tonight. Eight of his nine wins are by knockout and five of them were in the first round. His opponent is the number 6 ranked Travis Browne. Browne has a professional record of 17-3-1. He has 13 wins by knockout and two by submission with six of his wins in the first minute of the fight. Travis Browne is a heavy hitter and he hits fast. These two are going to go to war and do it quickly. If this fight goes into the third round I will be surprised. I think Travis Browne will quickly take out Matt Mitrione in the first round, but not leaving without a few scratches.
(#1) Anthony Pettis vs. (#4) Eddie Alvarez: The co-main event on this card is a lightweight matchup between two ranked fighters. The number 4 ranked Eddie Alvarez has a professional record of 26-4. Alvarez has 16 wins by knockout and five wins by submission with 13 of them in the first round. Alvarez has won 11 of his last 13 fights. His coaches note his skill in BJJ even though he does not have an official rank in the sport. His opponent is the number 1 ranked Anthony Pettis who has a professional record of 18-3. Pettis has 10 wins by knockout and five wins by submission. He has won nine of his last 11 fights and he has a third degree black belt in taekwondo. With these two the fight could go anywhere and they would still be closely matched. Pettis just looked out of it when he fought Rafael and I hope for him that he used his time off to really assess what went wrong. Pettis is listed as the favorite and I don’t want to see him lose, but I think Alvarez has more experience and he will be able to put Pettis away with a TKO in the second or third.
(C) T.J. Dillashaw vs. (#1) Dominick Cruz: Here comes the main event and it’s a bantamweight title fight. As usual I start with the lower ranked fighter, but as of now I believe these ranks should be reversed. First is the number 1 ranked Dominick Cruz who has a professional record of 20-1. The reason I say his rank should be higher is because that his one loss wasn’t while he was a champion. Cruz had to vacate the title due to multiple injuries. Now I’m not saying he should still be champion regardless of his time off, but I am saying T.J. needs to prove he is better than him. Cruz has six wins by knockout and one win by submission. Cruz is 10-0 and one of two people to have beaten Demetrious Johnson. His opponent tonight is the champ, T.J. Dillashaw. Dillashaw has a professional record of 13-2. He has six wins by knockout and three by submission. Dillashaw has won eight of his last nine and four in a row. This is going to be a very interesting matchup to watch because both fighters are noted for their unorthodox style. I haven’t seen too much of Cruz’s style, but I’ve heard it’s impossible to read, which will be a good test for Dillashaw since he can usually read his opponent. I have seen Dillashaw’s style and he prefers a more staggered stance like that of when he wrestled so he can use both hands to jab or hook as needed. Dominick Cruz will need to stay light on his feet to avoid Dillashaw, but I think he can get it done. I predict that this will go into the fourth round due to Dillashaw coming in overconfident and Cruz proving he needs to be more focused. Then I predict that Dominick Cruz will pick up the TKO in the fourth round.
UFC Fight Pass Prelims (6 PM/ET):
Francimar Barroso (17-4) vs. Elvis Mutapcic (15-3): The opening fight for the night is going to take place in the light heavyweight division. Elvis is a new comer to the UFC while Francimar is an older fighter with a few fights already under his belt. I believe as far as skill set goes the advantage goes to Elvis Mutapcic and he will win this thing in the 2nd round via RNC submission.
Rob Font (11-1) vs. Joey Gomez (6-0): This fight is going to be in the Bantamweight division. Both fighters are pretty good fighters with a future shot at being great or at least maybe crack the top 15 sometime. I like Joey Gomez just because all 6 of his wins are via KO and has not gone to a judge’s scorecard. Rob Font though is the more well-rounded complete fighter and is a slight favorite. I think this fight will be fun but Gomez will land a good clean shot in round 1 and end this thing with a 1st round KO.
Charles Rosa (10-2) vs. Kyle Bochniak (6-0): This fight in the featherweight division will be slow paced and might go all three rounds. I think Kyle could shock a lot of people with a win here but I have a feeling Rosa is going to get it figured out at some point and turn around his poor luck as of late. Rosa wins via unanimous decision.
Llir Latifi (11-4, 1 NC) vs. Sean O’ Connell (16-6): This fight in the light heavyweight division is going to be a great one that I though should have made it to the televised prelims. This fight will probably stay standing as both fighters like to stand and exchange. Granted if it goes to the mat Latifi is absolutely the favorite on the ground. This fight will be worth the watch nonetheless. I think Latifi will win this fight via unanimous decision.
Paul Felder (10-2) vs. Daron Cruickshank (16-7, 1 NC): This fight in the lightweight division is going to be a lot of fun and again should be on the televised prelims. Cruickshank is hoping to turn around a bad run as of late and will be looking to do it against a guy who could get ranked in this division. I think Felder will win this fight in the very 1st round via a KO.
UFC Prelims on Fox Sports 1 (8 PM/ET):
Maximo Blanco (12-6-1, 1 NC) vs. Luke Sanders (10-0): The opening fight on the televised prelims is going to be taking place in the featherweight division. Luke Sanders is a well-rounded fighter who is very athletic and tough. This guy has stopped 6 fights by way of KO and one more by submission. He is a normally a fighter you see in the bantamweight division but he will be making the step up here for his debut fight. Sanders finishes quick or almost not at all stopping 5 of his 7 stoppages in the first round. Now his opponent is Maximo Blanco has stopped 5 fights in the first round as well. Maximo has stopped 8 of his 12 wins though and all 8 are through knockouts. Blanco has gone 4-4 since being a part of the UFC ahead of this fight, this will be his 8th fight at featherweight, going 4-3. He has won three in a row and is rolling but again his opponent has gone 10-0 so he isn’t the hotter fighter. I think Blanco is the favorite for me because he won’t have first night jitters and be worried about an undefeated record. Blanco wins via unanimous decision.
Chris Wade (10-1) vs. Mehdi Baghdad (11-2): This fight in the lightweight division is going to be a battle of complete opposites. Mehdi will be entering his first fight in the UFC here on a 9 fight win streak. He has stopped all 11 of his professional wins before this fight 8 of which through KO and the final 3 are by submissions. He stopped 6 of those 11 in the first round. He has uses every limb as a lethal weapon, being really good with his elbows and can kick high and low out of nowhere, almost impossible to predict or see coming. Now his opponent is the opposite, Chris Wade is a wrestler entering his 4th UFC fight and during that time period has yet to be taken to the mat. Chris is on a five fight win streak. He is a slow paced fighter as he has finished only 3 of his 10 wins, all 3 by submission. Chris will need to keep his distance and get a takedown early otherwise he could be in a world of trouble. I think this fight has the automatic crowd pleaser just because it is a fight between two polar opposites, a guy who hasn’t finished a fight by KO and then a guy who hasn’t ever let a fight go to decision. Wade is the favorite entering this fight, I though am going underdog here, Mehdi Baghdad picks up his UFC debut win via 2nd round KO.
Tim Boetsch (18-9) vs. Ed Herman (23-11, 1NC): This fight in the light heavyweight division is going to get the fans on their feet, and me on mine at home as well. Ed Herman is a veteran of the Octagon just like his opponent and these two will give each other the respect they both deserve. I think this fight will be slow at first as they try to figure each other out but once they do look for Ed to try and get it to the mat fast and Boetsch to stop him via KO while standing. These two guys won’t probably ever be title contenders and maybe not even ranked again in their careers but they doesn’t mean they don’t know how to make it entertaining and provide the fans with something fun. I think that the winner of this fight will have to control it and bring his own pace to be successful. I am going to give this one to Boetsch via split decision.
Patrick Cote (23-9) vs. Ben Saunders (19-6-2): This is the main event of the Fox Sports 1 prelims and it takes place in the Welterweight division. This fight has Ben Saunders who is an extremely aggressive fighter with great jiu-jitsu skills. He is an incredibly gifted striker and I think if he wins this fight he might find himself somewhere in the rankings. He is entering this fight on a 3 fight win streak, stopping 15 of his professional fights, 10 by way of KO and the other 5 by submission. Saunders can truly fight anywhere and will be a problem for Cote and needs to be taken seriously. Now Patrick Cote has won 9 of his last 11 fights. He has finished 11 of his 23 fights, and isn’t really known as a finisher. Cote is a dangerous fighter on the mat and can really slip in a submission from almost any position while on his back or in mount. Now he is dangerous to keep standing regardless that I wouldn’t say he is the most skilled fighter on his feet, he has extremely deadly power once he lands. These two are probably the most even matchup of the night and it will be close the whole time and a real fight. I am going to take Saunders though by way of a 2nd round KO.
Main Card on Fox Sports 1 (10 PM/ET):
Ross Pearson (20-9) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (18-4): This fight is the opener of the main card and I believe it will be a boring one in the lightweight division. Two older veterans of the octagon collide here and will be looking to control the pace and will most likely show each other respect and keep their distance. These guys have finished basically only 60 of their fights which isn’t a terrible number but it shows they love to fall back on the judges especially Francisco Trinaldo. This fight will truly be whoever scores the best and controls the fight. I believe that fighter is Ross Pearson and he will win by unanimous decision.
#6 Travis Browne (17-3-1) vs. #14 Matt Mitrione (9-4): I can’t lie I love heavyweight fights more than anyone else in the world and when you throw a 6’7” freak into an octagon against a freakishly athletic former NFL player my eyes will be glued to the TV. Now it is no secret that I love Travis Browne more than Ronda Rousey does but let me keep with routine and talk about Matt Mitrione first. Matt is a heck of a fighter with honestly an insane mentality, which is kind of scary. He used to play for the New York Giants in the NFL and really I only tell you that because it is just an example of how good of an athlete he is. This guy can knock anyone out if you underestimate him and leave an opening for him to take advantage of. He is a really tough dude with quick hands and quick feet who loves to exchange. He said his favorite grappling move is standing so he can punch you. That just shows you how much this guy loves to throw and punch someone in the face. He has finished 8 of his 9 professional wins, all of them being by way of the KO which just displays how much this crazy dude loves to throw down. Now his opponent would have won fight of the night last year for his fight with Arvloski but then Lawler vs. McDonald happened. Travis Browne is a monstrous man at 6 foot 7 inches tall. Yet he is one of the lightest heavyweights in the division, weighing in around 135 normally. Browne is a really hard hitter with one shot, go to sleep power having KO’d 13 of his 17 wins. He has good all-around game though not that this stat will show it but if you watch film on him you will see it clearly, he has submitted 2 of his professional wins. This guy is looking to win this fight and show that he belongs back in the top 4 and among title talks once Miocic or Velasquez take the title from Werdum. This fight will be a lot of fun because Mitrione will be his normal crazy self and Browne will be his normal patient calm self, looking for his opening to either KO matt or take him to the mat for the win. I got Travis Browne winning this thing though with a 1st round KO 3 minutes into the fight.
#1 Anthony Pettis (18-3) vs. #4 Eddie Alvarez (26-4): ITS SHOWTIME as we are in the Co-Main event of the evening and it’s a great fight in the lightweight division. These two have traded a lot of smack talk about each other and it will all have to backed up finally by tonight. Eddie Alvarez is looking for a shot to get talked about as a title contender and beating Anthony Pettis is automatic recognition. Eddie is a strong fighter and loves to give the fans what they pay for by finishing 21 of his professional fights. He has picked up 16 wins by KO and the other 5 by way of submission. He is a boxer with great striking skills and knows how to pick anyone apart. To me he showed how lethal he can be when he made Gilbert Melendez look like a bloody mess. Eddie has some ground skills but they aren’t honestly something he can lean on especially against Anthony Pettis and he will need to keep this fight standing. His last win was impressive though as he landed three takedowns on Melendez and looked decent on the mat, he also beat a doped up Gilbert Melendez. Now his opponent tonight is someone we all know and love, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. This kid wants his belt back from Dos Anjos and he will prove he is ready for his title shot tonight if he can pull off a win. Anthony is a great fighter with a skill set that works standing and on the mat. He is also a fighter who loves to give the fans what they want as he has finished 15 of his 18 professional wins. He has done that by way of 10 KO’s and 5 submissions. He is an excellent striker with a pretty good ground game. He has really showed off his skill set against everyone we have seen him fight in the UFC except for Dos Anjos who he honestly looked unprepared for, which was a shame. He has beaten good ol’ Benson Henderson 2 times and his most recent win over him was for the title he wants back. Anthony is really well known for the Showtime kick off the cage that they showed over and over on ESPN which I will post at the bottom of our picks in case you haven’t seen it. This fight will guaranteed be an incredible fight. If it stays standing there really is no edge to either fighter but if it goes to the mat Pettis is a much better fighter and will look to finish Alvarez there. I think Pettis will win just due to the fact that he has a more complete skill set. So I will go with Pettis via a 3rd round submission victory.
(C) TJ Dillashaw (13-2) vs. #1 Dominick Cruz (20-1): and ITSSSS TIMMMMEEEEEEE!!!!!! As we go to the main event of the evening for the Bantamweight title. Dominick Cruz is back for his belt and he looks even better than before if that is physically possible. Dominick’s nickname is the Dominator and honestly that makes sense. He belongs in the category with Anderson Silva, Jon Jones, GSP, Aldo and Demetrious Johnson as the most dominant fighters in the past 10 years. The only thing I don’t enjoy about Cruz is he grinds out a lot of his wins and gets a lot of decision victories which isn’t really the most exciting way to watch a guy fight. That being said his last victory was a dominant first round TKO over Takeya Mizugaki and that was after a 3 year lay-off due to ACL injuries. He has phenomenal conditioning which is great because so will his opponent. His foot movement, change of stance, head movement, and ability to KO his opponent with one punch all make him one of the best fighters to watch. He has the most unique movements in this division and he has been tired of hearing Dillashaw being talked about as the most unique. In case you didn’t know this about Cruz he has never lost at 135 being 10-0 in this division and never lost his title. Due to injuries the UFC had to strip him of his belt because of missing 3 years of fight time. Now his opponent the young and arrogant TJ Dillashaw. Now disrespect meant with arrogant because he backs it all up no matter who he has fought. This kid is an incredible fighter and personally the only fighter in my eyes in this division that has a chance against Dominick. I mean remember he beat Renan Barao two times which was more loses then Barao had in his previous 30 fights. TJ has never been taken down in his UFC career and will be tested to keep that going as being one of the only remaining guys left in the UFC to have a perfect takedown defense. TJ has 3 wins by submission and 8 by KO meaning unlike Cruz he is a finisher of fights. He will be looking to finish Cruz tonight as his trainer and old friend Urijah Faber both think he will pick up a KO victory. TJ left Alpha Male and honestly I believe it was the best move of his career and really hope Garbrandt follows because Alpha Male doesn’t produce champions they produce wanna-be’s. Example almost all of Urijah’s loses have come in championship fights. TJ is a better fighter in his own gym, he is their main guy which means he gets the best training and he gets to train with guys of his choice. I really like TJ as a fighter a lot honestly but I love Cruz as well and that makes this fight so hard to predict. Before I started typing this I believed I was going to take Cruz but I just I have this feeling the title won’t be changing hands tonight. I am going with Dillashaw via a 4th round KO.
- Matt Koontz