UFC 220: Miocic vs Ngannou Preliminary Predictions

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145lbs- Kyle Bochniak (7-2-0) vs Brandon Davis (8-2-0)

In the headlining bout of the undercard, Boston’s own Kyle “Crash” Bochniak takes on “Killer B” Brandon Davis in the Featherweight division. Bochniak has gone 1-2 in the UFC which includes a controversial split decision win over Enrique Barzola. Davis has won 7 fights in a row, including a solid decision victory on his Tuesday Night Contender’s debut.

Davis is 3 inches taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. He is also the younger fighter by a year.

“Crash” could easily be winless in the UFC. Bochniak was overwhelmed by the wrestling of Jeremy Kennedy, giving up 8 takedowns and struggling to do much offensively. He has been on the wrong end of the striking totals in each of his 3 UFC bouts. Davis showcased a solid striking attack built around hard punches and his ability to keep moving forward. He has a trio of knockouts, appearing to be a “death by accumulation” type striker.

Bochniak doesn’t appear to have a single outstanding skill and this could be part of the reason he has struggled at the UFC level. Beyond his low kicks, his lack of a reliable wrestling game or consistent vertical output has made winning decisions difficult. Conversely, Davis could look to his wrestling or his volume striking to secure the win here- possibly a combination of both.

With Bochniak fighting at home, he will be amped up, but Davis’s aggressive style will put him on his back foot for the duration of the fight. If “Crash” can’t find a way to short-circuit the pressure, his issues with getting outworked will continue here- my prediction is  Brandon Davis to defeat Kyle Bochniak by decision.Paragraph breaker

170lbs- Sabah Homasi (11-7-0) vs Abdul Razak Alhassan (8-1-0)

In a rematch from UFC 218, “The Punisher” Sabah Homasi looks to avenge his controversial loss to “Judo Thunder” Abdul Razak Alhassab in the Welterweight division.  Alhassan is 2-1 in the UFC including his win over Homasi which was a rebound fight after the first loss of his career. Homasi is 0-2 in the UFC, he was defeated by Tim Mean in his short notice debut.

Homasi is 2 inches taller than Alhassan, but ARA will have a 1″ reach advantage. Homasi is 3 years younger.

In their first meeting, Homasi landed 39 significant strikes compared to Alhassan’s 27. Sabah found some success with his takedowns and landed some quality strikes in close from the clinch position. Alhassan also did some damage in tight, but he was doing his best work letting go at distance with massive bombs.

While Alhassan was throwing and landing with big power, his willingness to throw everything into his offence was clearly tiring him out. His loss to Akhmedov was the result of his less than stellar TDD and Homasi may look to revisit that vulnerability. Homasi was hurt, but the fight was stopped early. Regardless, he has now been knocked out 4-times. That is concerning. Equally as concerning is Alhassan questionable ability to win a fight that goes beyond the first frame.

It would appear that Homasi could look to his wrestling to win this fight, but he seems way too willing to throw down and exchange with Alhassan on the feet. Alhassan got rocked, but his chin still appears to be better than Homasi’s and that will pay off when the leather starts to fly- my prediction is Abdul Razak Alhassan to defeat Sabah Homasi by knockout.

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125lbs- #10 Dustin Ortiz (17-7-0) vs Alexandre Pantoja (18-2-0)

In the Flyweight division, Dustin Ortiz looks to pick up back to back wins for the first time since mid-2014 when he meets TUF alumni Alexandre Pantoja. Ortiz is coming off a win over Alex Sandoval, only his 3rd win in his last 7 fights. Pantoja is 2-0 in the UFC, taking a submission win over Neil Seery and a split decision over Eric Shelton.

Both men stand 5’5″, but Pantoja will have a slight 2″ reach advantage, he is the younger fighter by 2 years.

A capable ground fighter, Pantoja has locked up 7 wins by submission- 5 by RNC. Against Shelton, it was a back and forth scramble on the mat with the Brazilian gaining the edge. Ortiz has showcased his mat skills on more than one occasion. He averages 2.67 TDs per fight and is one of the best scramblers in the division. He has struggled at times against elite grapplers that could take him down and keep him there.

The American is coming off a brutal knockout win, hurting and finishing Sandoval with an early flurry. Ortiz does the majority of his striking with the intent of closing the distance to set up his takedowns. Conversely, Pantoja offers a decent kicking game at range and will use the clinch and knees to batter his foe in close.

Pantoja is capable wherever the fight goes, but Ortiz’s ability to scramble on the mat is going to give him some issues. Both in his TUF tournament loss and his narrow win over Eric Shelton, his opponents found success putting him on the mat and grinding him down. Ortiz’s pace is going to give Pantoja issues early and help the American pull away late- my prediction is Dustin Ortiz to defeat Alexandre Pantoja by decision.

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145lbs- Dan Ige (8-1-0) vs Julio Arce (13-2-0)

After “Boston Strong” Charles Rosa withdrew from the fight, Julio Arce steps up on short notice to face fellow Tuesday Night Contender’s Series competitor Dan “Dynamite” Ige. Ige scored a 3rd round submission win on the show and has won 6 fights in a row. Arce picked up a middle frame TKO win to extend his streak to 5 straight wins dating back to a pair of losses to Brian Kelleher.

Both men are 5’7″, with Arce holding a slight 1″ reach advantage. Arce is the older man by 2 years and stepping up to take this fight with roughly 3 weeks to prep.

Ige comes into the fight having finished his opponent in 6 of his 8 wins, 4 by submission. He has a trio of opening-round finishes from earlier in his career with his only defeat coming via split decision. Arce is 6-1 on the scorecards with to go along with 3 wins by knockout and 4 submission wins.

In his last bout, Ige scored an early takedown and then after rocking his opponent, he changed levels for a single leg and subsequent ground and pound. When he was taken down he immediately threatened off his back before getting back to his feet. A former Bantamweight, Arce appeared to have issues with the size of his last opponent, who was routinely holding him on the cage. Arce started to find success when he gain separation and started landing his power strikes in succession.

If Arce can maintain distance, he has the striking ability to either work his way to a decision or score a knockout. That being said, his struggles with adversaries that like to work in close will be a major vulnerability against Ige’s wrestling-heavy approach. The short notice and lack of prep will make it more difficult for Arce to fend off the TDAs as the fight advances- my prediction is Dan Ige to defeat Julio Arce by decision.Paragraph breaker

145lbs- Matt Bessette (22-7-0) vs Enrique Barzola (14-3-1)

In the FightPass headliner, Bellator veteran Matt Bessette makes his UFC debut opposed by TUF Latin America winner Enrique Barzola in the Featherweight division. Bessette suffered a first-round knockout on the Contenders’ series, but the fight was overturned- he had won 7 in a row. Barzola is 3-1 in the UFC, with his only loss a contentious split decision defeat to Kyle Bochniak.

Bessette is 3 inches taller than Barzola, but they will share the same 70″ reach. Enrique is the younger fighter by 5 years. Bessette is replacing Allen Arnold on roughly a week’s notice.

Prior to suffering a hard knockout loss, Bessette showcased some decent short range striking. He has a tendency to rely on his head movement to avoid damage, but once he gets hit the damage starts to pile up. The Bellator vet has 7 wins by knockout. Barzola has been working on his striking, showing improved footwork and angles to go along with a strong left jab and decent kicking attack.

Landing a combined 21 takedowns over 3 UFC wins, Barzola’s wrestling has been the key to his success. His improved striking has allowed him to set up his double leg more effectively. He had some issues keeping his opponent on the mat, but he kept pressuring and continued to land takedowns. As the fight progressed, the takedowns came easier and the top control longer.

Bessette has some solid power, but if he is unable to land early his style of close-range striking puts him in the direct path of Barzola’s quick level changes. Barzola will use his movement to bait the American forward before shooting a double leg. The short notice will result in Bessette slowing down as the takedowns pile up- my prediction is Enrique Barzola to defeat Matt Bessette by decision.

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155lbs- Islam Makhachev (14-1-0) vs Gleison Tibau (41-11-0)

In the opening fight of the night, 26-fight Octagon veteran Gleison Tibau returns to action to take on Russian-born Islam Makhachev. Makhachev is 3-1 in the UFC, most recently defeating Nik Lentz and Chris Wade to rebound from the first loss of his career. Tiba has dropped back to back contests, including a DQ loss to Abel Trujillo.

Both men are 5’10”, but Tibau will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Tibau is the older fighter by 8 years.

The Brazilian has been on the shelf for 26-months which could create some ring rust issues. Equally as concerning, Tibau is known for his significant weight cut and the new weight cutting requirements could create issues when he tries to get down to the divisional limit.

Islam has leaned heavily on his ground game, securing 12 takedowns spread of his 3-UFC wins. Conversely, Tibau possesses some of the best TDD in the sport, defending 92% of his adversaries’ tries. Back in 2012, he stuffed all 13 takedown attempts by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Makhachev offers a variety of takedown techniques, but if he is unable to get Tibau off his feet- he will need to rely on his aggression and pace as the focal point of his attack. Tibau is a serviceable striker, but he is far from fleet of foot and works more measured pace.

The layoff is most likely going to impact Gleison both due to ring rust and conditioning. If he doesn’t get off to a good start and then fades, Makhachev is going to simply outwork him. Look for the Russian to push the pace and keep Tibau backtracking, even if he is unable to score any takedowns- my prediction is Islam Makhachev to defeat Glieison Tibau by decision.

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