UFC 221 Predictions

Yoel Romero vs Luke Rockhold

The term ‘world class’ is thrown about a lot, absolutely over used in mma but in Yoel Romero you have a world class wrestler. Represented Cuba and won medals in the Olympics, Pan American games and World Championships. Top of the bunch, doesn’t get much better and he’s also a hell of a fighter as well. He’s 40 but he’s built like a guy in his late 20s. No one was surprised when he pissed hot but they proved it was tainted supplements, oh well it is what it is. He’s got a record of 12 wins and 2 losses and is coming off a loss to champion Robert Whittaker. Failure here might be his last realistic chance of winning UFC gold.

I think Rockhold is the best middleweight in the UFC. Yes I know he got knocked out by Bisping but I see that as a fluke, Luke beats him 8 times out of 10. He also got beat by TRT Vitor but so did everyone, except Anderson Silva. As I look around the current middleweights I think he is head and shoulders above them all. He’s a huge guy with great grappling and good stand up. I don’t see any real weaknesses except maybe the cockiness but I think he must have learned his lesson.

The thing that sticks out to me is championship fight. Five rounds. Now I can see a close tentative first round and Romero using his wrestling and going for it in the second round but beyond that it’s all Rockhold. As Romero tires Rockhold will dominate and I see him winning a clear decision.

Edit: Romero misses weight and can’t win the title.

Prediction – Rockhold by decision Result – Romero by TKO

Mark Hunt vs Curtis Blaydes

Mark Hunt is a legend of combat sports. I remember when ‘The Super Samoan’ was known as ‘Motion Mark The Duster Hunt’ anyone else remember that or was that made up by that Will Vanders guy? He’s a former K-1 Grand Prix champion and probably one of the most decorated pure strikers to move successfully to MMA. Mark is 43 years old now, 5’10 265lbs with a record of 13 wins and 11 losses and 1 draw. Of those 13 wins he has 10 knockouts including a few walkway KOs, always impressive to see. When Mark first appeared in Pride back then no one could have predicted that he would be a future UFC Title contender. He had some good performances in Pride though, beating CroCop and Wanderlei and giving Fedor a good fight, still though given his rocky start in the UFC the boy has done well.

His opponent Curtis Blaydes is a relative new comer with 10 pro fights to his name. He won 8 of them with 7 by stoppage. His only loss was to Ngannou when Ngannou was on his rise. He’s a big guy at 6’4 250lbs and only 26 years old. Lots of time to improve. He’s a good wrestler and loves a bit of ground and pound.

Is this going to be striker vs grappler? Maybe but I could see Blaydes trying to test his striking skills with Hunt which probably wouldn’t be the best idea but he does have a big reach advantage and can take a punch. Hunt though can give a punch and has a legendary chin. Can Blaydes use his wrestling enough or can Hunt sneak in that uppercut in close? I always think that when Hunt is confident and motivated he can achieve anything but when he is not in the right place mentally he can struggle with anyone and with the law suit against ZUFFA still on the go on top of some of the things he was saying a while ago, I wonder where his head is.

Prediction – Blaydes by decision Result – Blaydes by decision

Tia Tuivasa vs Cyril Asker

Tuivasa is another one of those big strong Samoan Aussie boys. He 6’2 and 265lbs plus. His record is 6-0 with no one making it into round 2. Before signing for the UFC he fought 5 times in 4 years. He’ll need to be a bit more active now. He trains out of Tiger Muay Thai and has heavy hands and decent speed for a big man has been known to throw the odd body kick or knee as well.

Cyril Asker is 6’0 and 244lbs with a record of 9 wins and 3 losses. He’s a decent grappler but has been stopped in 2 of his 4 UFC fights. Still he should be a good test for the less experienced Tuivasa.

Could be an intriguing fight. Asker would be wise to take to to the ground but he can look a bit sloppy and clumsy with his punches closing the distance and Tuivasa has good movement. Tia is big and strong enough to defend mostly the takedown and clinch. The question is what happens if it makes it to round 2? Does the takedown become easier to pull off? On the ground Askern has good control and should do very well. For me though I don’t think it gets that far, Tuivasa isn’t ready for top class opponents, no where near but I think he beats Asker here.

Prediction – Tuivasa by TKO Result – Tuivasa by TKO

Jake Matthews vs Li Jingliang

I really like Jingliang. I think a lot of Asians struggle to connect with western audiences because they are so reserved by their nature and they find it hard to sell themselves but Li seems like a wild motherfucker and he has the skills as well. He 29 and 6′ and comes in with a record of 14-4. Very well rounded. Very good wrestler/grappler but recently he’s been knocking people out with his striking skills. He on a 4 fight win streak and a win here should see him get a jump up in competition next time.

Matthews kinda dodged a bullet last time out with his win over Velickovic, narrowly avoiding the dreaded 3 losses in a row, but he could use a win here to keep him in the companies good graces. Jake is still young at 23, plenty of time to improve but I’m not sure if some of that improvement will take place outside the UFC. His record is good still at 11 wins and 3 losses but 2 of those losses came in his last 3 fights. He’s a BJJ Black Belt and there is where his skill lies although his striking has improved the ground is still where he wants to be.

I’m struggling here to see any area where Matthews has a clear advantage, maybe pure submission but I think Li is big enough and good enough to avoid any danger. In fact I think size will make a big difference here, Matthews wasn’t really a big lightweight and he’s at the smaller end of the welterweights. Jake Matthews gameplan should be keep distance then opportunistic takedown but even if that happens I don’t see him being able to stay on top of Jingliang. And Jingliang sets a good pace in his fights and his striking has improved greatly. Don’t see it being a good night for the local boy. 30-27 across the board for Li Jingliang.

Prediction – Jingliang by decision Result – Matthews by decision

Tyson Pedro vs Saparbek Safarov

Another Aussie in Tyson Pedro. Tyson has big potential, he’s still young and has the tools to go far. He’s 26 years old and is 6’3 and is a good size light heavyweight. So far he’s 6 wins and 1 loss with all the wins being stoppages and his single loss being to Latifi last time out. Probably made the step up just a bit early. He’s a tall rangy guy and uses it well. Very well rounded on the feet and the ground.

Saparbek Safarov is a wild Russian. He had a perfect record before he came to the UFC but he got tooled pretty good by Gian Villante when he stepped up on short notice. Hopefully in this fight we see a more prepared fighter and he can show something better. He’s 31 years old, 6’1 with a record of 8-1. He’s a sambo guy who looks for the clinch to takedown. On the ground he has good subs but as a striker his defense is terrible. He wades in and gets hit… a lot.

If Tyson plays smart here he should be able to get a win. He has a big size advantage and like I said, Safarov has a habit of rushing in wild and being hit. Tyson should be able to do damage on the feet and he’s strong enough to hold his own if it goes to the ground. I would imagine Pedro at least wins a decision here but I think he could finish.

Prediction – Pedro by TKO Result – Pedro by submission
REST OF THE CARD

Damien Brown vs Dong Hyun Kim – Kim (Result – Kim)

Rob Wilkinson vs Israel Adesanya – Adesanya (Result – Adesanya)

Alexander Volkanovski vs Jeremy Kennedy – Volkanovski (Result – Volkanovski)

Jussier Formiga vs Ben Nguyen – Nguyen (Result – Formiga)

Ross Pearson vs Mizuto Hirota – Pearson (Result – Pearson)

Teruto Ishihara vs Jose Quinonez – Quinonez (Result – Quinonez)

Luke Jumeau vs Daichi Abe – Abe (Result – Jumeau)

Correct results 8/12

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