Sandwiched between the recent UFC 216 and only a few weeks until the mega card that is UFC 217, the UFC heads to Gdańsk, Poland this Saturday for a Fight Night card: Cerrone vs Till. The card will take place exclusively on UFC Fight Pass, which surprised many fans, due to fan favorite Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone headlining the card. Cerrone is one of the few non-champions with a sizable fan following for the UFC, so it’s a little surprising to see him on a non-major network or non-PPV card fighting in Europe. However, fans of Cerrone know this is his modus operandi for his entire career; if the UFC calls & asks him to fight, he’ll fight anyone, anywhere. I’ve had a great run so far in 2017 in predicting winners and outcomes. This card is light on big names but I think has a few fights that could really turn into fan friendly slugfests. I’ll breakdown the two most interesting fights on the card and offer some fight predictions to hopefully help your bank accounts. Let’s get to the fights:
Notable Preliminary Fight:
Artem “The Russian Hammer” Lobov vs Andre “Touchy” Fili (Featherweight 145lbs)
Preview: Both of these men enter this fight having name recognition for things outside of their control or for things that happened to them in the Octagon. Artem Lobov is a tough but very average UFC featherweight. However, his association with Conor McGregor as a training partner has absolutely raised his profile within the promotion despite his pedestrian record. Andre Fili is likely most known for getting knocked out by a highlight reel head kick from young UFC dynamo Yair Rodriguez. Both men will look to separate themselves from the unranked in the division, and make a case they are ready to fight & beat a ranked opponent if they can win this fight. Lobov is a stocky built fighter who relies heavily on his toughness & striking when he can bait his opponent into standing and trading with him. He will not overwhelm his opponents with raw power, but he will press the action every round he can if his opponent does not back him off. Fili is actually very talented and unlike Lobov has the power to knockout or hurt his opponents. He’ll have a huge reach advantage over Lobov of nearly 9 inches. Fili’s biggest flaw appears he can get reckless at any moment int he fight leaving him open to knockouts or submissions. I expect Fili to keep Lobov off of him with his jab and leg kicks, forcing Lobov to take some chances early in the fight. If Fili can establish a rhythm early, it could lead to some fireworks in the later rounds as Lobov gets desperate to close the distance to get his hands on his opponent.
Odds: Lobov (+136) vs Fili (-156)
Prediction: Upon first glance I thought Lobov would get the nod as the favorite due to his résumé having a few more tougher or seasoned opponents on it, even if he did not beat them. Lobov has gone the distance with Cub Swanson in a brutal back and forth fight. Swanson is a legit top-tier talent and Lobov did not seem out of his depth. However, upon closer examination you see that sometimes opponents are just tailor-made for one another, and it seems Lobov stylistically matched up extremely well with Swanson. I do not think that about his matchup with Fili. Fili is legitimately dangerous on his feet, and Lobov does not poessess the power nor the jiu-jitsu to make Fili pay if he makes a mistake. This should only embolden Fili heading into this fight, knowing that his opponent cannot really finish him. Add in the crazy reach advantage Fili will maintain and I think he’s clearly the more talented fighter and finds a way to finish Lobov late.
(Fili via TKO (-156))
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (6th) vs Darren Till (Welterweight 170lbs)
Preview: Many fans and media alike scratched their heads when Cerrone got announced to headline this card against a relatively unknown and unranked opponent. Cerrone was coming off a very tough, razor-thin loss to the eternally tough Robbie Lawler. The consensus was he’d likely face another top 5 opponent with hopes of securing a rematch against Lawler or even a title shot if he was impressive his next fight out. However, Cerrone was not ready to wait around for the UFC to figure out who he could fight with many of the other welterweights tied up with upcoming fights or injuries. The UFC asked if he’d like to fight and Cowboy said yes, so here he is in Poland. Cerrone on paper has the clear advantage when it comes to experience, major wins against top-tier opponents, and dealing with the spotlight of headlining a show. While Cerrone is coming off two consecutive losses, the losses are to some of the best the 170lbs division has to offer. He still maintains his world-class striking and extremely underrated ground game. Till has never gone 5 rounds before, nor has he beaten anyone close to Cerrone’s caliber in his young UFC career. However, once you get past the obvious points and disparity between the two men’s experience levels; you begin to notice how eerily similar their fighting styles are. Till like Cerrone takes a lot of his striking pedigree from a Muay-Thai background. Till is very smooth and slick when he releases his kicks, and does an excellent job of using pinpoint striking to hurt his opponents. Till is young and has yet to lose in his mixed-martial arts career which is important when facing such a legend like Cerrone. Till has the necessary confidence to take on one of the best fighters at 170lbs and not get overwhelmed. The one place he may have an advantage besides youth and just less mileage on his body, is his chin. Cerrone has shown he can get knocked out if he gets caught clean by an effective striker, which Till is. Till has never been out in his career, but he also has not tested his chin against someone as talented as Cerrone. I think this fight is much closer than fans & media initially thought when the fight was originally announced. I think we could see both fighters knock the other down during the fight, and it is my pick for fight of the night. I also think if Cerrone tastes the canvas during this fight, he may revert to his under utilized ground game and see how good Till is at defending submissions.
Odds: Cerrone (-150) vs Till (+135)
Prediction: I’ll be attending this fight so the American in me wants to see the Cowboy take home a win on foreign soil. However, something is really bothering me about Cerrone heading into this fight and the Vegas oddsmakers appear to think something is up to. Most top 10 fighters fighting an unranked and relatively untested opponent would typically be a 3 to 1 favorite or higher, yet this fight is close to even from a odds perspective. Cerrone will always come to fight, so you know he won’t overlook Till but you have to wonder how motivated can he be fighting an unranked guy on a Fight Pass card. I’m not sure what this does for Cerrone’s hopes of getting a rematch with Lawler or getting a title shot at 170lbs. Which leads me to my concerns; is the UFC attempting to market a young up and coming star on the back of one of their biggest fan favorites? Has Father Time and a career of taking all comers finally started to get to Cerrone? I really want to take Cerrone but I’ve learned over time when things feel too easy that its smarter to go the other way because Vegas never makes things easy. I’m not sure how he does it but I think Till pulls off a shocking upset after weathering some trouble early. I really hope I’m wrong, as a loss to an unranked opponent would likely end any chances of Cerrone ever seeing another title shot. I’ll be rooting for Cowboy cage side with my heart but my brain is telling me to take the value available on the younger & still unknown but immensely talented fighter.
(Till via Knockout (+150))
Prediction Record since 2016 to Date (60-41-1) (+$1190.50)
-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
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