UFC Fight Night 106: Belfort vs. Gastelum main card preview and predictions

It’s not often that a UFC Fight Night consists of more than two main card bouts amongst ranked fighters. So, imagine how big a deal tonight’s card is, considering the fact that each of the final five bouts pits ranked fighters against each other, with three being matchups against top ten fighters in their respective weight classes!

Each of the first four main card bouts should be fun, while the main and co-main events feature a pair of Brazilian MMA legends against hungry Americans, in what should be a memorable night. Without further ado, here are my picks for tonight’s six-fight main card slate.

 

UFC Fight Night 106 Main Card (10/9c, FS1)

Tim Means (26-7-1, 1 NC) vs. Alex Oliveira (16-3-1, 2 NC)

You know a fight card is stacked when this is the only bout to not feature a ranked fighter. That said, it’s still a big-time fight, with some history to it. These two initially faced off at UFC 207 last December. It was an odd fight at first, but only got weirder when it ended due to an illegal knee from Means. The result was a no contest, the rematch got booked for tonight, and there’s a lot of bad blood attached to this rematch.

As for the fighters themselves, Means is 6-2 with a no contest since returning to the UFC a couple years back.His first three fights since returning went the distance, but the six bouts since then have all ended via finish. He’s a finisher though, winning 18 times via knockout, as opposed to four apiece via submission and decision.

As for Oliveira, the firmer cowboy is 5-2 with a no contest in the UFC. He’s only gone the distance twice with the promotion, but his style isn’t as flashy as Means is, and he rubbed a lot of people the wrong way in his fight against Will Brooks. In that bout, he missed weight, acted classless during and after the fight, and has garnered the ire of many fans. He is a finisher though, with ten knockout and three submission wins, so that surely means something.

 

I’m not sure what to expect here. Both men have strong disdain for each other, both are finishers and both have history. They’re both in the same position in the UFC, and a win for either could get them a ranked matchup soon. I’ll pick “Dirty Bird” in what should be a very scintillating contest. Prediction: Means via tko, round 2. 

(13) Marion Reneau (7-3) vs. (9) Bethe Correia (10-2)

Face vs. heel. It’s a pro wrestling term, where the face is the likable fighter that’s easy to root for, while the heel is the “bad guy” that’s usually not likable at all. That’s the story in this fight as well. Neither woman has history with the other, but one is a “face,” while the other is a “heel.” Reneau is 39, is a gym teacher by day, and fights to raise money for her child’s college fund. She’s also very down to earth in interviews, and her style is very fan friendly. Of her seven wins, six have come via finish, including four in the first round, one of them against Jessica Andrade.

And then there’s Bethe Correia. She talks a lot, doesn’t have a very fan friendly style, has won a lot of controversial decisions, thinks extremely highly of herself, yet doesn’t understand why people don’t like her. She even made Rousey haters root for Rousey at UFC 190. Of her 12 fights, nine have gone the distance. She’s never once beaten a good UFC opponent. If Reneau loses tonight, it would be due to the fight going the distance. She’s lost a controversial decision before, but for the sake of sanity, I’ll pick Reneau via knockout. It has to be this way, it just has to! Prediction: Reneau via knockout, round 2.

(3) Jussier Formiga (19-4) vs. (8) Ray Borg (10-2) 

Next up is the first of four three top ten matchups on this main card. Formiga has black belts in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Judo, and while his 5-3 UFC record isn’t exactly great, he’s won four of his last five. A win tonight might be enough for him to either get a title eliminator bout, or even a potential title shot against the winner of next month’s Flyweight title fight.

As for Borg, he’s 5-2 in the UFC with six career submission wins, but each of his last four, and five of his seven UFC bouts have gone the distance. He’s  a good fighter, and worthy of his ranking. I just feel like Formiga’s a step higher than him. It should be a very close and interesting contest, but I see Formiga ultimately taking it in the end. Prediction: Formiga via decision or late submission. 

(5) Edson Barboza (18-4) vs. (9) Beneil Dariush  (14-2)

The next bout, top ten Lightweight matchup, is my personal main event. It pits a pair of fighters who can bring it on the feet, but is also a mild styles clash.

Barboza is one of the flashiest strikers in MMA today, as evidenced by his iconic wheel kick knockout of Terry Etim. That fight took place over five years ago, but is still widely talked about to this day. He has a black belt in Taekwondo and a black prajed in Muai Thai, which has  helped him win ten fights via knockout. He’s been in the UFC since November 2010, and has gone 12-4 inside the octagon. His only losses with the company have come against top caliber Lightweights-Donald Cerrone, Tony Ferguson and Michael Johnson, as well as a stunning loss against Jamie Varner. In his two bouts since the Ferguson loss, he’s been much more disciplined. He may have gone the distance in both bouts, but they were also some of his best wins to date, and it seems like he’s finally figured it all out.

All that said, I think Beneil Dariush is one of the most underrated fighters in the world today. Here’s a guy who can stand and strike with anyone, has black belts in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, is 8-2 in the UFC, and his only loss since 2014 came against the equally underrated Michael Chiesa. He’s win six fights via submission, has a great gas tank, and can also knock anyone out. He’s going up against someone who’s got many phyisical advantages over him, but I’m predicting Dariush to pull off the upset. I’m not too confident in that happening, since Barboza does have seven decision wins and a physical advantage here, but I will pick it to happen. Prediction: Dariush via decision or late submission. 

(6) Mauricio Rua (24-10) vs. (12) Gian Villante (15-7)

The story behind the co-main event of the evening is very simple. Shogun Rua is a legend, and he’s facing a guy who’s very hittable in Villante. Shogun has had legendary wins throughout his career, and entered the UFC with a 16-2 record. He’s won 19 fights via knockout, can still get it done in the here and there, has been in a multitude if epic wars, and will never be forgotten. That said, he’s 8-8 in the UFC, hasn’t fought more than twice in a year since 2011, and is now 35-years-old. It’s fair to say that even though he’s won two straight, he’s in the twilight of a great career.

As for Villante, there really isn’t much to say. The only reason why he’s in the co-main event of a UFC card is because he’s facing Shogun. He’s ranked, but that’s because of the current, sad state of the Light Heavyweight division. He’s a former wrestler who’s won ten times via knockout, but he’s also been knocked out three times, and is facing a guy who still packs a punch. A Villante win won’t be shocking. I’m still picking Shogun though, if only for the heart’s and nostalgia’s sake. Prediction: Rua via ko, round 1. 

(9) Vitor Belfort (25-13) vs.  (10) Kelvin Gastelum (13-2)

The main event pits a Middleweight legend at the twilight of his career, against a former TUF winner who may have found his footing at Middleweight. Vitor Belfort has had a bevy of iconic knockouts in his career, against the likes of Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson twice, Luke Rockhold, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping,  Tank Abbott, Matt Lindland, etc. In all, he’s won 18 fights via knockout, and also has three submission wins. That said, ever since TRT got banned, he’s been a shell of himself, and lost three of his last four bouts, all via knockout. Sure, they all came against greater competition than Gastelum, but still, he’s not what he once was. He’s also a few weeks away from turning 40, and it’s not hard to believe that this could be his final fight.

As for Gastelum, the TUF 17 winner has had a very mercurial UFC tenure to date. Expected by many to get trounced by tournament star Uriah Hall, Gastelum won a weird fight via split decision to win the tournament, kicking off a 5-0 start to his UFC career after winning his first five pro fights as well.  Then, he missed weight for a bout against Tyron Woodley, the second time in his UFC career where that happened, lost a split decision in a terrible fight, and all the momentum flew straight out the window. He was thereby forced to move up to Middleweight, where won his next fight via corner stoppage against Nate Marquardt, but lost his follow-up bout against fellow TUF alum Neil Magny via split decision. It was the Fight of the Night, but he still lost in what was his return to Middleweight, and he  needed a spark. Even though he won his next fight against Johny Hendricks at UFC 200, it was a dispiriting decision and he still needed a spark.

And then, Gastelum went back up to Middleweight again. As was the case in his previous Middleweight bout against Nate Marquardt, Gastelum once again won via knockout, this time against Tim Kennedy in the third round. A win tonight could make him a contender in his new weight class.

As for the fight itself, Vitor Belfort has a shot here. His goal is simple; try to land shots early, and win via quick finish. Okay, so that’s always his gameplan. It’s been successful a lot of times, and even worked a bit in his recent skid! If he can’t get the quick finish though, seeing how he’s facing someone who does well in later rounds, this one won’t go his way. Conventional wisdom points to picking Gastelum via 2nd or 3rd round finish. My head and gut feel that way too! However, for some strange reason, I can’t help but feel like Belfort will win. I don’t know if it’s because the fight’s in Brazil, or the fact that it’s Belfort’s 39th career fight, while he’s 39 years old. Or maybe, it’s because I’m not sold on Gastelum. Whatever it is, my heart believes Belfort will get one final epic knockout win. I don’t buy it, but you never know. Head/Gut pick: Gastelum via 2nd or 3rd round tko. Heart pick: Belfort via shocking 1st round ko.

 

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