The UFC Poland card last week made for a fun Saturday afternoon here on the East Coast. I was 3-0 through the first three fights on the main card, including the Jan Blachowicz upset, but I did not expect Darren Till to come in and bully Cowboy like he did. It was an impressive performance and he’s definitely a guy to watch out for now in that welterweight division.
This weekend the UFC heads to Sao Paolo, Brazil for another Fight Night card, but this one will be in prime time here in North America. The main event is a sure to be exciting tilt between Derek Brunson and the legend, Lyoto Machida, who is coming back from a 2 year layoff. The co-main is also a huge fight and the one that I’m most looking forward to with Colby Covington taking on another Brazilian legend in Lyoto Machida. The rest of the card isn’t stacked, but I do have one other play from a fight on the undercard, which you can see below.
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Derek Brunson vs Lyoto Machida
This is a very tough fight to call because Machida has been out of action for over two years, but if he comes back near his best he will be big step up in competition for Derek Brunson. Yes, Brunson fought Anderson Silva, but Silva was nowhere near his best self and Brunson still lost that fight even though it was a controversial decision.
After the Silva loss Brunson bounced back with a quick knockout of Daniel Kelly. I believe that Brunson has the skills necessary to beat Lyoto Machida, even if Machida is at his best. Brunson just has to find a sweet spot in terms of aggressiveness between his KO loss to Robert Whittaker where he ran in with his chin up looking for another KO to add to his record. This strategy worked well against lower level fights who couldn’t handle the pressure, but against strong counter punchers like Whittaker, Silva and Machida the strategy is flawed. Brunson then overadjusted and was too tentative against Anderson Silva, really letting the veteran off the hook by not forcing him to deal with the knockout threat. Brunson seemed to be fighting for a decision, which he had never done in his career and he came up short. Kelly was another fairly easy knockout for Brunson because he didn’t have weapons to force Brunson to be tentative, but that won’t be the case with Machida, who has some great striking. That said, I do believe in Brunson’s skills and think he gets the job done against the ageing legend.
Machida has simply not impressed me of late. He knocked out CB Dolloway in 2014, but he has 3 losses in his last 4 fights and I actually think that Brunson is on the level of a Romero, Rockhold and Weidman. Add two years to Machida’s age and I just don’t see a 39 year old Machida having the quickness in his karate skills to really threaten Brunson. Look for Brunson to realize this and open up to get the KO.
Play: Brunson 1.63
Colby Covington vs Demian Maia
Tyron Woodley kind of put out the blueprint for how superior wrestlers can beat Demian Maia. I actually think that Covington is a superior fighter to Woodley, so I will be taking him in this fight, but that doesn’t mean I’m not worried. One of Woodley’s best assets is that he doesn’t care about making a fight exciting. He is completely willing to try to win a tight decision by not doing anything. Covington isn’t the same and I expect Colby to attack Maia far more than Woodley did. This could put him in compromising positions that Maia could potentially take advantage of.
That said, Covington’s teammate Jorge Masvidal was able to avoid a submission at the hands of Maia and I expect Covington to be able to do the same if he gets in a bad position in one of the rounds. Covington is a big middleweight and he’s a far better wrestler than Masvidal. I think Covington can win this fight at range doing more damage than Woodley did, while still avoiding the takedowns of Maia. I wouldn’t even be surprised if Covington took Maia down and used his top level wrestling to inflict damage from ground and pound, but this is a risky strategy.
Overall, I’m very high on Covington and even though this is a very risky and difficult matchup for him, I think he comes out with a win.
Play: Covington 1.76
Niko Price vs Vicente Luque
The one play I have outside of the big two fights is on Vicente Luque getting a win over Niko Price. Price has been on an absolute tear since joining the UFC with 3 knockout wins over Thatch, Morono and Jouban. He’s a very dangerous fighter, but he does have holes in his game and I think Luque is the fighter to expose them.
Luque is coming off a tight decision loss to Leon Edwards, but before that he was on a 4 fight winning streak in the UFC including a huge first round finish of Belal Muhammad where he imposed his will from the outset.
Luque is one of my top prospects at welterweight and I expect him to finish Price in this one. Niko Price has been hit a lot in his wins in the UFC, absorbing 3.57 strikes per minute, compared to only landing 2.40. He throws a lot of punches, misses a lot, and gets hit a lot. Luque is a very dangerous striker with first round knockouts of both Muhammad and Urbina, while also having submission ability on the ground submitting Hassan and then Herrera for his first two wins in the UFC. Luque has improved in all of his UFC wins, while Price seems to just be finding a way to get knockouts, while being somewhat outclassed.
Look for Luque to close the distance and do damage from the clinch, while also having the ability to take the fight to the mat and work for a submission if necessary.
Play: Luque 1.67