UFC Fight Night 158: Cerrone vs Gaethje | Preliminary Predictions

UFC Fight Night 158: Cerrone vs Gaethje | Preliminary Predictions

265lbs- #15 Augusto Sakai (13-1-1) vs #14 Marcin Tybura (17-5-0)

The last fight of the undercard also features the biggest men on the card as Augusto Sakai battles Poland’s Marcin Tybura in the Heavyweight division. Sakai is riding a 4-fight winning streak with 2 wins in the UFC including a narrow split decision victory over Andrei Arlovski. Tybura is 4-4 in the UFC, falling into a 1-3 slump that includes losses to Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis.

Both fighters are 6’3″, Sakai’s reach is an inch longer. Sakai is the younger man by 6-years and should weight in 10 to 15 pounds heavier.

Sakai’s 2 UFC performances have been drastically different. In his debut, he landed 111 significant strikes prior to scoring the finish. Against Arlovski, he struggled to land with consistency and was outworked by a near 2:1 count. Sakai had some issues with the speed of Arlovski and lacked consistency in his striking once he closed the gap.

10 of his 13 wins have come by knockout, 5 after the opening round.

The Polish fighter offers above-average speed and movement for a Heavyweight which could be his key to overcome Sakai. Despite an impressive 127 striker performance against Werdum, Tybura’s output has rarely eclipsed the 50 strikes range. Against Stefan Struve and Arlovski he has found success with his takedowns, helping to augment his volume.

This will be the 6th consecutive fight in a different country for Tybura.

This bout could be violent and brief or it could turn into a sloppy grind. The speed favours Tybura, but he lacks the consistent striking output to make it count. If he can’t find a couple of takedowns, he will struggle to outpoint Sakai. Augusto is the more durable fighter and as the heavier man, he should find success holding position in the clinch. Sakai will press forward and land the more impactful offense, pulling away from Tybura in the latter stages of the bout- my prediction is August Sakai to defeat Marcin Tybura by decision.

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135lbs- Miles Johns (8-0-0) vs Cole Smith (7-0-0)

British Columbia native Cole “The Cole Train” Smith makes his second UFC appearance when he takes on the debuting Miles “Chapo” Johns in the Bantamweight division. Johns maintained his undefeated record with a decision win over Richie Santiago on the Tuesday Night Contender’s series. Smith debuted with an upset over Canadian veteran Mitch Gagnon to improve to 2-0 in 2019.

At 5’11”, Smith is 4 inches taller than his foe and he will have a 1″ reach advantage. Johns is the younger man by 5-years.

Johns showcased a strong wrestling attacking in his last fight, routinely winning the positional battles and ending on top. He has a pair of submission wins and attempted multiple chokes, but was unable to get the finish. On the feet, he has some power and isn’t afraid to trade.

He appeared to slowdown against Santiago, in the second half of the fight. He does have a solid depth of long fight experience including a 5-round split decision win in his last LFA bout.

Smith did a solid job defending the early TDAs from Gagnon and transitioned to his own successful takedown. On the feet, Smith utilized his improved striking attack including some snappy low kicks and well-timed front kicks to the body.

The Canadian demonstrated his toughness against Gagnon, getting hurt in the 3rd round and then surviving a guillotine attempt to gain the superior position and nearly score his own finish.

Cole has a lot to offer with a capable grappling attack, decent striking, size, and cardio. His cardio could be the key here if he can forces Johns to over-extend himself before the midway point of the fight. Johns’ wrestling and his ability to grind Smith out will be at the center of his attack. Look for Johns to routinely get in on the legs of Cole, leading to multiple takedowns and top control- my prediction is Miles Johns to defeat Cole Smith by decision.

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185lbs- #14 Andrew Sanchez (12-4-0) vs Marvin Vettori (13-4-1)– CANCELLED

Italy’s Marvin Vettori looks for a second consecutive win when he takes on top 15 ranked Andrew “Dirty” Sanchez in the Middleweight division. Sanchez has won back to back bouts to halt a 2-fight losing skid- he is now 4-2 in the UFC. Vettori secured a decision win over Cezar Ferreira following a narrow split decision loss to the now interim-champion Israel Adesanya.

Sanchez is an inch taller, but they will have the same reach. Vettori is the younger man by 5-years. Vettori is stepping in for Branch on with less than 2-months to prep.

This fight could come down to the success rate of Sanchez’s wrestling. Andrew has taken down 4 of his 6 opponents, amounting to 15 total takedowns. Vettori’s first UFC loss came against Antonio Carlos Junior which included 4 completions by the Brazilian.

In his last outing, Vettori shut down all 5 of Cezar Ferreira’s TDAs and landed 2 of his own.

Vettori has put up some solid striking totals and has proven durable throughout his career. His focus here will be to force Sanchez away from his primary method of attack and into a stand-up based fight.

Sanchez’s cardio is a major concern if he is forced to fight at a pace he is not comfortable with. Vettori’s pressure is a key aspect of his attack and he has shown he can keep attacking in the latter stages of a fight. Unless “El Dirte” can land takedowns and hold prolonged top position, he will struggle to match Vettori’s output- even if he doesn’t fade. Vettori will put on a repeat performance from his last fight, pouring on the offense as the American fades- my prediction is Marvin Vettori to defeat Andrew Sanchez by decision.

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135lbs- Brad Katona (9-1-0) vs Hunter Azure (7-0-0)

TUF 27 winner and Canadian Brad “Superman” Katona returns following the first loss of his career to take on Tuesday Night Contenders series graduate Hunter Azure in the Bantamweight division. Kantona started his UFC tenure 2-0 before running into Merab Dvalishvili and dropping a decision. Still undefeated, Azure is an LFA veteran and won his Contenders bout via decision.

Azure is the taller man by 2-inches, but he will have a much larger 5″ reach advantage. He is a year younger than Katona.

The Canadian is a capable striker offering solid volume and variety. Katona has some pop in his hands despite his lack of knockout numbers. Overall he has finished just 3 opponents, including the first 2 of his pro career.

The Canadian’s TDD has been an issue- he gave up 4 takedowns against Matthew Lopez and 5 more in his loss to Dvalishvili.

In his Contenders fight, Azure threw hard low and body kicks and backed them up with some heavy punching flurries. That being said, it was evident that his approach centered around closing the distance and setting up his takedowns.

Azure comes from a strong wrestling background and offers a heavy top game. He didn’t find a lot of early success looking for takedowns in his last fight, but his persistence appeared to wear on his opponent leading to completions later in the fight.

Katona is the more well-rounded fighter with a superior level of experience. For him to be successful here, he will need to overcome his defensive wrestling issues. Azure’s ability to take Katona down and keep him down will negate his shortcomings elsewhere. The Canadian has given up too many takedowns over his last 2 fights to overlook and unless the Octagon jitters get to Hunter, he will replicate Brad’s struggles- my prediction is Hunter Azure to defeat Brad Katona by decision.

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145lbs- Chas Skelly (17-3-0) vs Jordan Griffin (17-6-0)

In the Featherweight division, Chas “The Scrapper” Skelly returns to action to take on “The Native Psycho” Jordan Griffin. Skelly has lost back to back bouts, most recently falling via controversial submission to Bobby Moffett. Griffin’s 4-fight winning streak ended in his promotional debut, falling via decision to Dan Ige.

Both men are 5’11” and share a 72″ reach. Skelly is the older man by 5-years.

Griffin battled through 2 distinct phases in his debut- he was either on his back or attack on the feet. While he has 8 wins by sub, he appears to be vulnerable on the floor as Ige took him down multiple times and he has also been submitted twice.

A former NAIA wrestler, Skelly offers a strong blend of wrestling and submission skills. He has 10 wins by sub, including each of his last 3 wins.

Skelly doesn’t put up huge takedown numbers and his cardio is a concern as he will fade as the fight advances. If forced to compete on his feet, he has some pop in hands but he has also been hurt in multiple fights.

If “The Scrapper” can take Griffing down with regularity or get him down once and lock up a sub, that is his best avenue to victory here. For Jordan, he needs to turn this fight into a brawl. Force Skelly to work hard and keep the pressure on when trading. Skelly’s tendency to fade is a major concern against a fighter that keeps engaging. Chas might find some success early with his grappling, but Griffin will take over on the feet- my prediction is Jordan Griffin to defeat Chas Skelly by TKO

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135lbs- Louis Smolka (15-6-0) vs Ryan MacDonald (10-1-0)

Attempting to gain some traction as a Bantamweight, Louis Smolka takes on promotional debutant Ryan MacDonald. MacDonald lost his debut to Chris Gutierrez- the first of his career. Smolka won 4 straight fights including his re-debut in the UFC- but he fell via first-round submission to Matt Schnell last March.

Smolka is a former Flyweight and could be headed back to 125-pounds if he continues to struggle at Bantamweight. MacDonald is the taller man by 2-inches and he will also have a 3″ reach advantage. Louis is 2-years his elder.

With 7 wins by submission and 2 defeats, Smolka’s career has largely been determined on the mat. In most scenarios, if he wins the takedowns battle he wins the fight and if not, he comes up short.

Smolka can do work on the feet but it is a secondary aspect of his attack. Louis could be classified as a “suicide grappler”- a fighter that is willing to routinely accept a bad position and then try to work his way out of it.

Coming in on short notice, MacDonald struggled to find much success, landing just 15-significant strikes. He routinely allowed his opponent to lead the exchanges while looking for openings that never seemed to come.

MacDonald has 6 finishes in 10 wins, but only 1 in the first frame- his pro debut.

Smolka’s Fight IQ has been a point of concern at times, costing him winnable fights. For MacDonald, his regional level of competition was far from stellar and could be the reason for his underwhelming debut. Smolka will want this fight on the floor where he has a sizeable advantage. If he makes a mistake, Ryan could capitalize. Even if contested on the feet, MacDonald’s lack of activity will allow Louis to outwork. Smolka will draw him into a grappling exchange and eventually catch him in a transition- my prediction is Louis Smolka to defeat Ryan MacDonald by submission.

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145lbs- Kyle Prepolec (12-6-1) vs Austin Hubbard (10-3-0)

The opening contest of the card features a border clash as Canada’s Kyle Prepolec meets American Austin Hubbard in the Featherweight division. Prepolec took his debut on short notice and dropped a decision at Welterweight to Nordine Taleb. Hubbard also took a short notice debut and also went the distance unsuccessfully against Davi Ramos.

Both men are 5’10” and Hubbard will have a 1″ reach advantage. The American is the younger man by 2-years.

Despite the loss, Hubbard put up an admirable fight against an opponent that had previously finished all of his UFC wins. He landed some decent striking combinations, but simply couldn’t stay vertical enough to make it count.

Hubbard finished the first 2 fights of his pro career inside the opening round, but none since including a solid 3-1 record in 5 round fights.

Prepolec has some power and landed some decent strikes against the much larger and longer Taleb. He has knocked out 3 of his last 4 opponents. The Canadian also has some long fight experience with 7 of his last 9 fights going to the 3rd round or beyond.

While Taleb didn’t test his defensive wrestling, Prepolec has had some issues with his TDD on the regional scene. He has been submitted twice and carries a 2-4 record in decisions.

Fighting with a full camp to prep and at a more appropriate weight class, both fighters should produce better performances. Hubbard had the stronger debut performance and overall he owns a superior strength of schedule. While this fight should be primarily contested on the feet, the wrestling of Hubbard could a factor in the end. Look for both men to have their moments, with Hubbard edging Prepolec out on the feet and scoring points with timely takedowns- my prediction is Austin Hubbard to defeat Kyle Prepolec by decision.

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