CURRENT RECORD: 42-26
Following quickly on the back of UFC 209, Fight Night 106 will take centre stage in Fortaleza, Brazil. Headlining this card is a middleweight clash between Brazilian warrior Vitor Belfort and the rejuvenated Kelvin Gastelum. Both these fighter’s careers are on different spectrums; Belfort is nearing the end of a lavish career, while Gastelum is again beginning to make a name for himself as a top prospect. Serving as co-main event will be another star of Brazilian MMA; as Shogun Rua takes on Gian Villante in a light-heavyweight clash. Elsewhere on the card, there are standout fights between Bethe Correia and Marion Reneau, Edson Barbosa and Beneil Dariush and Alex Oliveria takes on Tim Means in a welterweight bout. Another exciting night of fights not to be missed, so make sure to be tuned in so you don’t miss out.
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.
VITOR BELFORT vs. KELVIN GASTELUM
Vitor Belfort was, for a long time, one of the best in mixed martial arts but since the banning of TRT, “The Phenom” has become a shell of his former self. Two consecutive knockout losses have seen the once feared strikers invincibility dented, in his last four fights going 1-3, his only win coming against an ageing Dan Henderson. Belfort still has powerful hands but his chin is no longer the same, he moves slightly slower and his advancing years has led him to become a hittable target. That should suit the strong stand up of Kelvin Gastelum. “Pass” has all the skill in the world to make a charge for the title but his constant weight issues keep holding him back. He seems to have finally got that under control in his last outing and it showed in his performance as he went on to claim a TKO victory over Tim Kennedy. Gastelum has solid takedown defence and superior strength, so barring any mishaps, he should be able to finish the aging Belfort. I’m expecting an early KO win for Gastelum.
Gastelum by KO.
SHOGUN RUA vs. GIAN VILLANTE
Shogun Rua is another fighter who is entering the tail end of an illustrious career, which has seen him claim the light-heavyweight strap. Since losing his title to Jon Jones in 2011, Rua has gone 5-5, although he has showed signs of promise lately after recording back to back victories for the first time in nearly eight years. Rua is a knockout artist, recording 19 KO victories from his 24 wins and will be aiming to collect number 20, come Saturday night. Gian Villante entered the UFC in 2013 and subsequently lost his debut before bouncing back with a second round KO over Cody Donovan. Villante has an overall record of 15-7, not exactly title challenging form but he is always looking for the early finish. Villante is a decent kickboxer who times his strikes well, he won his last outing against Saparbek Safarov but this will be any even tougher task, taking on an experienced fighter in his own backyard. Despite Shoguns advancing years he still has an intelligent fight IQ, I don’t think he will get himself into any dangerous positions and should do enough to take this on the scorecards.
Rua by decision.
EDSON BARBOZA vs. BENEIL DARIUSH
Edson Barbosa has fought against the best the lightweight division has to offer, the only four blemishes on his record have come against top opposition like Tony Ferguson, Michael Johnson, “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jamie Varner. He holds notable wins over former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and most recently, Gilbert Melendez. Barbosa is a dangerous and exceptionally quick striker, his long limbs allow him to pull off some spectacular kicks and he will have a three inch advantage going into this fight. Benil Dariush comes into this fight on the back of an impressive dominant victory over Rashid Magomedov to improve his record to 14-2. The Iranian-American is a talented wrestler who inflicts most of his damage on the mat and has a knack for locking in a submission. This is one of the stand out fights on the card, it is essentially a striker versus a grappler, and where this fight takes place could be the deciding factor for the victor. This is a tough fight to call but I’m going with the threat Barbosa possess to be enough to get him the decision.
Barboza by decision.
JUSSIER FORMIGA vs. RAY BORG
This is a battle of two of the finest fighters in the 125 pound division. Both will be eager to gain an impressive victory and set up a potential date with flyweight kingpin “Mighty Mouse” Johnson. Jussier Formiga is a solid competitor whose only losses have come against the elite of the division and he owns a victory over current title challenger Wilson Reis. Formiga is extremely well rounded and knows how to control a fight; he is quick when setting up his submissions and has made eight previous opponents tap. Ray Borg could potentially be a future champion of the flyweight division, he has steadily been progressing and a win here could propel him to that next level. Borg has some explosive wrestling and works great from the top position; he made big statement when he beat Louis Smolka last time out. The one question mark over Borg’s head is his lack of high level opponents; this will no doubt be his toughest fight to date. I don’t foresee Borg getting a stoppage and the judges are too biased in Brazil so I can only see Formiga claiming the win here.
Formiga by decision.
BETHE CORREIA vs. MARION RENEAU
In late 2015 Bethe Correia took on Ronda Rousey in the midst of her might, at the time Correia was 9-0 in her mixed martial arts career. It took “Rowdy” only 34 seconds to dispatch the Brazilian and that loss had an obvious effect on Correia, as she made her return eight months later and looked sloppy as she lost to Raquel Pennington. Correia looked better last time out when beating Jessica Eye but she will need to progress again if she wants the win here. Marion Reneau has a record of 7-3 and despite being 39 years of age, she has held her own inside the Octagon and has yet to be finished. Reneau is a crisp boxer with slick combinations, she will have a four inch reach advantage so expect her to control the distance with her jab. This should become a stand up battle for these two women, Reneau is compact on the feet but I feel Correia will be able to get her back up against the cage and unleash a flurry or catch her in the clinch and lay on some leather. I’m going with Correia to get the job done.
Correia by decision.
ALEX OLIVERIA vs. TIM MEANS
This pair met at UFC 207 last year when the fight was declared a no contest due to illegal knees thrown by Means, so now they rematch this weekend. As short as their last encounter was, some telling signs showed, Means was already taking clear advantage and was possibly on course to finishing Oliveria before the fight was stopped. I picked Oliveria to win last time out because I believed he was the better all-round fighter and his stand up was superior but Means looked far more determined and dominant in their previous match up. I think if Means starts the fight the way he did last time, he could gain the victory but I’m sticking with my instinct and original pick. Oliveria to learn from last times mishaps.
Oliveria by decision.
Best of the Rest.
Francisco Trinaldo vs. Kevin Lee
Lee to win.
Sergio Moraes vs. Davi Ramos
Moraes to win.
Rani Yahya vs. Joe Soto
Yahya to win.
Michael Prazeres vs. Josh Burkman
Prazeres to win.
Rony Jason vs. Jeremy Kennedy
Jason to win.
Garreth McLellan vs. Paulo Henrique Costa
Costa to win.
Bet of the Day.
The adventurous bet: all 12 predictions in an accumulator is about 457/1.
The inbetweener bet: Gastelum, Rua, Barboza and Correia to win is 5/1.
The conservative bet: Gastelum by KO.
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