It’s a big card this weekend, stacked with some great fights. It’ll be a tricky slate for sure, as there are many big favorites on the card. So let’s take a look at some fighters to target.
There are two guys I’m looking at above 9k, and they are the two highest-priced fighters. Islam Makhachev ($9600) to me is a no-brainer at $9600. Islam will overwhelm Dan Hooker with his pressure and should score well with takedowns and control time. I also think the threat of his takedowns will make him more of a threat on the feet. Islam should dominate.
Khamzat Chimaev ($9500) should dominate as well. I do give Jingliang a puncher’s chance, and I know Chimaev had the whole mess-making weight. The thing I can’t erase from my mind is how Jingliang was taken down by Neil Magny and Jake Matthews. Chimaev is different from those two, and I think it could be a long night for the Leach. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have Jingliang in a lineup or two, but I’ll have a lot of Khamzat Chimaev.
Blachowicz/Teixeira – I see this fight ending two ways. Blachowicz ends it early, or Teixeira eventually gets this fight to the ground and gets a late stoppage or decision. I give Glover a perfect shot to score the upset here, but I’ll have either guy in my lineup, as I see the winner scores well.
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos ($8600) – Zaleski dos Santos takes on submission specialist Benoit St. Denis, making his UFC debut. St. Denis is 8-0 with submission victories. The path for St. Denis is obvious, get to fight to the mat and take it to his realm. There are some things to consider here; first of all, the UFC jitters, the nerves making their first appearance in the octagon. Secondly, it’s the fact that every fight starts on the feet, where I feel Zaleski dos Santos holds a massive advantage. The Brazilian is by no means a fish out of his element when he’s on the mat either, as he’s a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I get the feeling that St. Denis is the trendy underdog pick here, and I think the Brazilian is very capable of getting an early knockout here.
Cory Sandhagen ($7400) – Say what you want about Sandhagen’s last fight, but he got screwed. I don’t think he’d be getting this shot unless the UFC thought so. So now he takes on Petr Yan for the interim bantamweight title. Yan’s resume is impressive, no question, but I think a fighter like Sandhagen can give Yan some problems. First off, the way Yan wins his fights is by pressuring his opponents and wearing them down. I do think that Sandhagen’s cardio will serve him well here, and his ability to set traps will give Yan some trouble. One key thing to keep an eye out for is the shots to the body that Sandhagen will give out. I just think that Sandhagen’s range, unorthodox striking, and movement will present some problems that Yan will have trouble adjusting to. Yan is not the perfect fighter by any means; Aljamain Sterling and Jimmy Rivera have had successful moments against the Russian. I think Sandhagen is the worst possible matchup for Yan, and it honestly wouldn’t surprise me to see a flying knee KO on Saturday.
Other dogs on my radar: Ricardo Ramos, Virna Jandiroba, Michal Oleksiejczuk