After a two-week hiatus after a giant UFC 257, the UFC returns to their weekly run of events this Saturday night with a fight card that appears to be stronger than PPV next week.
With the main title of a heavyweight title eliminator between the mammoth pair Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov, the main event is mainly supported by an exciting top-five clash between Cory Sandhagen and Frankie Edgar.
With such a strong top end, the motherboard also boasts a must-see Alexandre Pantoja vs. Manel Kape and the second meeting between top 15 lightweights Diego Ferreira and Beneil Dariush.
Alistair Overeem (47-18, 1 NC) vs. Alexander Volkov (32-8)
This has the potential for a really interesting tactical fight in 25 minutes, a rarity in the UFC heavyweight division.
With neither the toughest hitter at this stage of their careers, both men tend to rely on volume or range to improve the rest of the pack beyond their ability to take the fight to the mat if necessary.
While the durability factor may sit alongside Volkov, Overeem may be the better finisher of the two, even with Overeem’s recent shift towards a safer fighting style.
Where Volkov might find his success is if he can thwart Overeem’s downsizing and establish his range for later in the match.
Doing so, however, is a big query. While Volkov’s removal defense has improved over time, I think Overeem’s turns and control at the top should allow him to gain enough momentum and laps for him to nod here.
Select: Alistair Overeem
Cory Sandhagen (13-2) vs. Frankie Edgar (24-8-1)
This being a three-rounder as opposed to a five-rounder should benefit the older statesmen of Edgar.
With less time to work with, Edgar can easily steal rounds through his wrestling and avoid Sandhagen’s harmful strikes at the same time.
While Edgar has not used his wrestling ability for a while, Sandhagen’s loss to Aljamain Sterling shows that he can be grounded and controlled with his back on the mat.
However, Sandhagen is a big rank hitter in bantamweight and he has quite a few tools in his arsenal.
I think, with Edgar’s takedowns mainly from his famous kneecap, I think Sandhagen will keep the distance long enough to find a damaging blow to his feet.
Election: Cory Sandhagen
Michael Johnson (19-16) vs. Clay Guide (35-20)
Michael Johnson is perhaps the hardest fighter in MMA to predict.
While his speed and ability have allowed him to pick up victories over Tony Ferguson, Edson Barboza and Dustin Poirier, he loves throwing fights, which he wins just like his last three expulsions.
Guida, despite his own recent decline, is still active inside the octagon and has retained his aggressive pursuit of removal, which could easily see Johnson accept his fate.
With both so inconsistent, this can be a coin toss for who takes the initiative. While Johnson’s reaction to being taken down is a huge red flag, he has remained competitive with better resistance than Guida and he should have enough on his feet.
Select: Michael Johnson
Alexandre Pantoja (22-5) vs. Manel Kape (15-4)
Pantoja’s fighting style may well play right into the hands of a debuting Kappe.
While Kape may find some problems down the line with the encryption capability of those with flyweight, Pantoja is more than happy to get into the boxing area with his opponents and strikes while relying on his durability.
Meanwhile, Kape is happy to be aggressive in his pressure and pull counters from his opponent.
Since Pantoja is happy to take part in a firefight, I think Kappe’s explosive sharp shots will see him land the more stinging blows.
Select: Manel Kape
Cody Stamann (19-3-1) vs. Askar Askar (11-1)
Getting into a fight with Cody Stamann at short notice is a big question for Askar Askar.
While Askar has made a good statement for himself in the LFA, Stamann is a really well-rounded fighter and one who produces a lot of output, whether on his feet or with takedowns.
Select: Cody Stamann
Diego Ferreira (17-2) vs. Beneil Dariush (19-4-1)
Ferreira has come a lot as a fighter since their first meeting, but Dariush is still a big threat when it comes to controlling the fight on the mat or with power in his hands.
While Ferreira has dominated many fights with his fighter, Dariush would win their first encounter with his own jiu-jitsu pedigree.
On the legs, however, Ferreira’s improvements are where I think the battle will be won. While Dariush could stab him early, Ferreira’s urgent style could upset Dariush as the match progresses, and I think he will do just that when it enters the third and final round.
Select: Diego Ferreira
(Last predictions: 2/5, total: 8/16, 50% success rate)
(Success rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19 ′: 57%, 20 ′: 67%)