The UFC heads to Auckland, New Zealand for a heavyweight showdown between a UFC legend and a man pegged as the next big thing. The card may have limited name recognition outside of the main event but it should have some very entertaining scraps for fans who tune in. I’ll breakdown the best two fights on the card and offer some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the fights:
Notable Main Card Fights:
Derek Brunson (8th) vs Daniel Kelly (15th) (Middleweight 185lbs)
Preview: The middleweight division is now held hostage by the UFC and Michael Bisping’s inability to fight a legit contender. However, the instability in the division will not stop Derek Brunson and Daniel Kelly for trying to get into top half of the division at the others’ expense. Kelly will fight close to home for the first time since UFC 193, and will hope to extend his four fight win streak heading into this fight. His recent upset of Rashad Evans helped get him ranked and he will hope to capitalize on Brunson’s recent struggles as he looks for that second straight upset. Derek Brunson is immensely talented but finds himself reeling after a brutal knockout loss to Robert Whittaker and an ugly decision loss to Anderson Silva heading into his fight with Kelly. Bruson has advantages in every conceivable measurable as he is the younger, stronger, faster, and bigger fighter between the two men. He also will maintain a crazy seven-inch reach advantage against Kelly. The two advantages Kelly will have are his superior judo, and a crowd prone to cheer for the Australian giving him a bit of a hometown advantage with the judges should it go there. I expect Kelly to try to grind Brunson and lull him into an ugly fight like Anderson Silva did in his last bout. Kelly knows he does not want to trade power shots or fight at a frenetic pace where Brunson has significant advantages. Kelly will look to slow the pace down, frustrate Brunson with his judo, and avoid taking any major damage in the first half of the fight. If Kelly can get this fight to the 3rd round with the scorecards close, Brunsons’s confidence may become an issue; allowing Kelly to steal a grinder like decision. I suspect Brunson’s camp is already preparing him for a grapple or grind of a fight, and what he can do to prevent a slow pace fight that could help Kelly. I expect Brunson will attempt to blitzkrieg Kelly and see how much he truly has in the tank at 39 years old. I think if Bruson can hurt Kelly early, it may end up being a quick night of work for Brunson.
Odds: Brunson (-255) vs Kelly (+215)
Prediction: I was actually a little taken aback at how close the odds were for this fight. I anticipated Brunson being closer to a 4 to 1 favorite in this fight but I guess his recent defeats have soured the oddsmakers on him as a huge favorite. The biggest factor in handicapping this fight for me is how many ways can Daniel Kelly win? I can only come up with one: a super boring, grinder, close decision victory. Which leads me to picking Brunson as I just think he’s superior to Kelly in all facets of MMA and can win this fight in a variety of ways. His physical skills and competition in the octagon far exceeds Kelly, and unless Brunson did not prepare properly I think he runs through Kelly pretty early and easily.
(Brunson via TKO (-255)) / (Bonus Play: Under 2.5 rounds)
Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (6th) vs Mark “Super Samoan” Hunt (7th) (Heavyweight 260lbs)
Preview: Many fans and media are wondering if Derrick Lewis is for real. One could argue his dismantling of a super talented Travis Browne showed he is a legit contender. However, there are still doubters about how good Derrick Lewis actually is and Mark Hunt is determined to find the answer to that question himself. Mark Hunt is a MMA legend, who while he is past his prime by any conceivable measurement he is still an incredibly tough fight for anyone in the heavyweight division. Hunt may cringe at the thought of him becoming a gate-keeper but at this point in his career that is who he is. Top 5 heavyweights can beat him, and pretenders don’t. Hunt has always been undersized for the heavyweight division and his fight with Lewis will be no different. Hunt gives up nearly 5 inches in height and 7 inches in reach advantage. The two big questions for Hunt entering this fight are: is his chin still granite and can he still knockout top-level heavyweight fighters? If the answer is no to either of those questions, Derrick Lewis will be well on his way to a top 5 heavyweight ranking he is after in this fight. Hunt has gotten stopped in 3 of his last 6 fights, with the most violent of those losses happening in his last bout against Allstair Overeem. A man approaching his mid-40s coming off his worst knockout loss in his career leaves a lot of questions on how much he truly has left in MMA. Lewis knows he has the power to hurt anyone in the heavyweight division. The question facing Lewis is: does he have the technical skills to beat high level guys if his power alone does not overwhelm his opponent. Lewis hits incredibly hard, but he’s also easily hit himself. He generates lots of power with his punches but typically at the expense of good defense or proper hand placement against a big counter shot. He cannot afford to take a direct overhand counter-shot and think he’s going to walk out of that octagon victorious. Lewis must make Hunt respect him early with some type of power shot or risk Hunt sitting on a punch to unload on him in front of his hometown crowd. I’d anticipate a wild 1st round of this fight if both men don’t want to wait to see if their opponents power is real.
Odds: Lewis (-130) vs Hunt (+110)
Prediction: The odds on this fight are dead on in my opinion. I really see this fight as a coin-flip as both men have some serious questions entering this fight. The fight is a 5 round fight since it is a main event, but I’d be astonished if it gets past the 2nd round, let alone goes the distance. Hunt may find himself riding an emotional wave in front of his hometown crowd but I just worry his best days are now behind him, and with his last legitimate victory against a high-level heavyweight happening nearly 3 years ago (No wins over Silva and Mir do not count has high-level wins). Old and coming off a brutal knockout is enough to get me to take the young hard-hitting prospect even if he too has some big holes in his game. I think Lewis enters this fight full of confidence and ready to make a name for himself as the man who ends an MMA legend in his home country. I’ll take Lewis but I’ll be rooting for Hunt.
(Lewis via KO (-130))
Prediction Record since 2016 to Date (50-39-1) (+$585.50)
-Record & predictions based on Win vs Loss predictions only. Unless specified otherwise I use increments of $100 (for + odds predictions) & $110 (for – odds bets) as hypothetical wagers for each prediction.
-Predictions & Records are for entertainment value only