The dust has barley settled, it has been just less than a week since Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz left it all in the Octagon, that battle now becomes a distant memory as the focus now shifts to Vancouver, Canada for UFC on Fox 21. Headlining the event is a welterweight war between the master of the ground game Demian Maia and the ever dangerous “Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit. A victory for either man could slingshot them into contention for a title shot against the newly crowned champion Tyron Woodley. Maia comes into the contest riding a five fight winning streak that includes two rear-naked choke victories over Neil Magny and most recently Matt Brown. Condit’s form on paper doesn’t read like that of a title contender; losing 4 of his last 6, but on closer inspection his losses have come against top opposition, including long time champion GSP, a decision loss to Johny Hendricks, a freak knee injury causing a stoppage and a loss to current champion Tyron Woodley. His latest defeat at the hands of former champion Robbie Lawler was a fight that could have easily went in Condit’s favour. Both men still have title ambitions and know this is the perfect stage to launch their names into the frame.Elsewhere on the card, Anthony Pettis is in desperate need of a victory after coming up short in his last three outings, the former lightweight champion has dropped down to featherweight and welcoming him to his new division, is number seven ranked, Charles Oliveira. The final two fights on the main card kick off with a likely Fight of the Night between UFC vets Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller and following that, the returning Paige VanZant takes on the Aussie brawler Bec Rawlings. UFC on Fox 21 seems to be a bit of a top heavy card, with the most notable contests on the main card, while the undercard is filled with lesser known fighters; nonetheless there are some fine fights to be seen here including Garreth McLellan and Alessio Di Chirico and Chad Laprise taking on Thibault Gouti. The McGregor show may have taking an intermission but the UFC spectacle never stops, be sure to be tuned in, this coming Saturday night.
As always, I will now break down all the main card fights, give my predictions and of course, put my own “Armchair Expert” title on the line.
DEMIAN MAIA vs. CARLOS CONDIT
This is one of those fights that you are probably better of flipping a coin to decide the winner. Maia has looked rejuvenated since suffering back to back losses to Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald, stringing together a 5 fight winning streak. With each victory Maia slowly crept himself back up the welterweight ladder and now finds himself on the cusp of a title shot but the man waiting for him across the Octagon has the exact same goals. Carlos Condit epitomises a Greg Jackson fighter; bite down on your gum shield and keep moving forward, “The Natural Born Killer” is one of the deadliest fighters in the welterweight division, from his 30 victories only 2 have gone the distance; 15 by KO and 13 by submission. Condit doesn’t come to fight, he comes to finish and that is what he will aim to do to Demian Maia. The Brazilian born Maia is fiercely talented on the mat; he finds submissions from out of nowhere and this is where the fight could be won or lost, if Maia is successful at getting Condit to the ground he could utilize his superior jiu-jitsu and look for the submission but my inkling is Condit will be well prepared for this threat. Condit holds a four inch reach advantage and will use his varied strikes of jabs, kicks and knees to keep Maia at bay as he looks to take him out. Condit should easily out strike Maia and he could potentially finish the fight early but I think this goes all the way to the judges’ scorecards.
Condit by decision.
ANTHONY PETTIS vs. CHARLES OLIVEIRA
Anthony “Showtime” Pettis finds himself in unfamiliar territory, three years ago he was one of the biggest draws on the roster, present day he finds himself without a belt, without a win since 2014 and now in a new weight class. Pettis is one of the most diverse strikers in the game, his kicks are stylish and punches are smooth; but since being demolished by Rafael Dos Anjos he hasn’t looked the same, that spark seemed to die and his presence began to shrink. His drop down to featherweight could turn out to be a bold move, barring any trouble with the weight cut, Pettis could reignite that spark that made him a huge star but he has no easy task on his hands taking on Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira. The 26 year old Oliveira has an equal skillset to Pettis, but his main threat is his submission game, he is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, he holds 13 submission finishes and if he fails to get the better of Pettis on the feet he will be looking to lock up the clinch or dive for the takedown. Pettis was out wrestled against RDA and Eddie Alvarez and if Oliveira manages to do the same, “Showtime” could be looking down the barrel of a fourth straight loss. Pettis is experienced enough to know the importance of a victory over a classy performance, he should box smart and look for openings and once he has learned from his previous fights, it should be a successful featherweight debut for “Showtime”.
Pettis by decision.
PAIGE VAN ZANT vs. BEC RAWLINGS
“12 Gauge” makes her return to the Octagon eight months after her submission loss to Rose Namajunes, a loss that surprised some, as PVZ was being built up as the future Ronda Rousey. Van Zant is still only 22 years of age and is still developing her game but for now she remains one of the finest Straw-weights in the division, amassing a pro record of 6 wins and 2 losses. VanZant has a good all round game, possessing a stiff jab, some great wrestling and she is tough as nails, which she will most definitely need the latter when she faces Bec Rawlings. “Rowdy” Rawlings completed her first consecutive victories since 2012, when she defeated Seo Hee Ham last March and if she were to take the scalp of PVZ it could launch her up the rankings. Rawlings is a vicious striker who isn’t afraid to get dragged into a brawl; she is happiest when she’s in her opponents face and swinging wildly. Rawlings will be looking to come out and dictate the fight; chase PVZ down and start landing shots, if she becomes successful in these exchanges, I expect VanZant will shoot for the takedown and lay on some ground and pound of her own. The takedown is the key to this fight, if VanZant can land it, it will be her fight to lose but if she fails she will need to readjust quickly, otherwise Rawlings will capitalise with a lesson in ‘Brawling 101’. As young as VanZant is, she is an extremely intelligent fighter and I think that will be what gets her the victory.
VanZant by decision.
JOE LAUZON vs. JIM MILLER
This is a rematch of the Fight of the Year winner in 2012, a fight in which both men gave it their all in a constant battle that Jim Miller won on the scorecards. Both of these men are warriors, neither man knows the meaning of the word “quit”. Fighting styles make fights, as they say and that should be demonstrated when these men face off in Canada on Saturday night. Lauzon comes into this fight on the back of an impressive TKO victory over Diego Sanchez at UFC 200, while Miller also won by TKO over Takanori Gomi that same night. For fights like these, records go out the window; these are two old school fighters that will have one of the most entertaining dust ups you will see. What makes this match so intriguing, is that they are both virtually identical everywhere; height, reach, skills, even looking good when winning but the one who impressed me most at UFC 200 and who I think will win this fight, is Joe Lauzon. I think Lauzon could pull off a surprising submission win here and set up a trilogy, that I’m sure no fan would object too.
Lauzon by submission.
Best of the Rest.
Sam Alvey vs. Kevin Casey
Alvey to win.
Enrique Barzola vs. Kyle Bochniak
Bochniak to win.
Garreth McLellan vs. Alessio Di Chirico
Di Chirico to win.
Shane Campbell vs. Felipe Silva
Campbell to win.
Chad Laprise vs. Thibault Gouti
Laprise to win.
Alex Ricci vs. Jeremy Kennedy
Kennedy to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 10 predictions in an accumulator is about 86/1.
The conservative bet: a double chance on Joe Lauzon to win by KO or submission is 6/4.
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