Main Card (ESPN+)
Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillashaw
The ESPN era gets underway with a superfight between the UFC’s current flyweight and bantamweight champions at 125lbs.
Dillashaw is stepping down 10lbs, but though he was already lean at bantamweight he seems to be handling his weight cut well and should enjoy a significant size advantage on fight night, having a two inch height and three inch reach advantage.
And Dillashaw will make good use of that as he works well from range with crisp hands and effective kicks, compliment by the kind of footwork and angles that will cause problems for the flyweight champion.
Cejudo’s striking game has come on nicely and he’s more aggressive and uses his natural athleticism to his advantage, showcasing speed and explosiveness. However, he’s not still not the kind of technician on the feet that’s going to allow him to comfortably contend with Dillashaw at range, and while his swift flurries could be effective inside, he’s also vulnerable defensively.
Of course Cejudo is a world-class Olympic wrestler, but Dillashaw is a very well rounded fighter whose own wrestling is soundly integrated into his MMA game and includes strong takedown defense.
Overall I think this is going to be Dillashaw’s fight. He’s the bigger fighter, will have a significant striking advantage and won’t be afraid to work on the mat if required. Cejudo is very durable though, so I think that may keep him in with a chance in the later rounds, but ultimately it’s Dillashaw who will win on the scorecards to become a double champion.
Prediction: TJ Dillashaw to win by decision – BET NOW
Allen Crowder vs. Greg Hardy
Given the negative publicity surrounding Greg Hardy due to his legal issues relating to domestic violence in the past, it’s somewhat uncomfortable to see him in the co-main event of an historic event, but clearly with his background as an NFL star this was seen as a way to draw interest from ESPN viewers who might not usually tune in to watch the UFC.
As a fighter he certainly shows a lot of promise. He’s clearly a high-level athlete who can perform on the big stage and so far he’s been running through his opponents, racking up a 3-0 record to date, with all coming by way of KO inside the first minute.
In Crowder he’s been handed the kind of opponent that he has a chance to shine against. He’ll enjoy a 4” reach advantage and also be significantly heavier than Crowder, who has been finished by strikes three times in his career to date, including a first round KO defeat in his UFC debut.
Crowder does have the experience advantage here, but he’s been out of the Octagon for over a year and I think he’s going to become a part of Hardy’s highlight reel as he racks up a first round knockout stoppage.
Prediction: Greg Hardy to win by KO in Rd1 – BET NOW
Gregor Gillespie vs. Yancy Medeiros
Gillespie heads into this fight with his undefeated 12-0 record still intact as he looks to welcome Medeiros back down to lightweight after a year layoff.
Of the two Medeiros is busier, hits harder and has the reach advantage, but defensively he has a lot of holes that can be exploited.
Gillespie isn’t likely to be looking to exchange in a stand-up war with Medeiros however as his real strength lies on the mat, and that’s another area which his opponent has struggled.
In general Medeiros has shown stout takedown defense, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to stop a dominant wrestler like Gillespie from chaining attempts until he brings him down, and on the canvas I think he’ll find himself struggling to fend off the submission attempts, leading to a second round stoppage.
Prediction: Gregor Gillespie to win by submission in Rd2 – BET NOW
Joseph Benavidez vs. Dustin Ortiz
Benavidez would be one of the fighters hit hardest if the UFC’s rumored plan to shutter the flyweight division goes ahead as he was for many years the 2nd in command at 125lbs behind Demetrious Johnson and also holds a win over current champion Henry Cejudo.
Benavidez also holds a prior unanimous decision victory over Ortiz back in 2014, so he’ll be heading into this fight confident that he can rack up another victory.
However, Benavidez is now 34 and has only fought twice in the past two years, with one of those fights ended up in a split decision loss to Sergio Pettis.
Meanwhile, the 30-year-old Ortiz has cast aside some patchy form and recently has looked better than ever, even notching up two KO victories in his past three fights.
The truth is Ortiz hasn’t been fighting nearly the same calibre of opposition as Benavidez however and I’d still expect Benavidez to have the edge on the feet and wrestling ability to edge out his opponent for a second time on the scorecards.
Prediction: Joseph Benavidez to win by decision – BET NOW
Rachael Ostovich vs. Paige VanZant
This is an important fight for PVZ, who was seen as a potential star for the UFC, but has lost three of her last four fights and has been out of the Octagon for a year due to a broken arm suffered in her last outing.
VanZant has always had good athleticism, toughness and tenacity, but her all-round technical ability hasn’t really developed as much as might have been expected and the surgeries on her arm will have hindered her ability to make serious improvements during her time out in 2018.
Still, at 24 all hope is not lost and this is a favorable match-up for her, with Ostovich having a solid submission game that should be her best route to victory, but not having a whole lot for PVZ On the feet. Ostovich’s personal problems leading into this fight will surely only have served as an unwelcome distraction that will make this encounter more challenging.
PVZ generally isn’t a hard-hitting striker in her own right, but she should be the quicker fighter, works better from range and will land the greater volume of punches and kicks on the feet, while as long as she stays on top she can grapple well enough to help claim her first win in two-and-a-half years via decision.
Prediction: Paige VanZant to win by decision – BET NOW
Karl Roberson vs. Glover Teixeira
Roberson steps in on only a week’s notice to fight Teixeira, an ageing warhorse in the 205lb ranks who at 39 is still somewhat competitive, but clearly not operating at the same level he once did.
Roberson on the other hand is 11-years his junior and still somewhat of a work in progress after making his way to the UFC via Dana White’s Contender Series, going 2-1 in the Octagon since then.
While he’s traditionally been a good striker, Teixeira has been slowing down and his chin isn’t what it once was, so he’ll need to be wary of Roberson’s kickboxing. That being said, Roberson isn’t going to be pouring on the pressure, particularly as he’s stepping up a weight-class with little time to prepare.
Teixeira still remains a good wrestler too and that seems like an avenue that would be worth exploring here as Roberson is less comfortable on the mat, and I think that will ultimately lead to a TKO stoppage via ground and pound.
Prediction: Glover Teixiera to win by TKO in Rd2 – BET NOW
(Predicted winners in bold)
Donald Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez
Joanne Calderwood vs. Ariane Lipski
Alonzo Menifield vs. Vinicius Moreira
John Lineker vs. Cory Sandhagen
Dennis Bermudez vs. Te Edwards
Belal Muhammad vs. Geoff Neal
Chance Rountree vs. Kyle Stewart