UFC Middleweight Championship: Robert Whittaker (c) (20-4) vs. Israel Adesanya (ic) (17-0)
Luke Irwin: How do you solve the puzzle that is the Style Bender, Israel Adesanya? You can’t say pressure, because all Brad Tavares, Derek Brunson, and Kelvin Gastelum are is pressure. You can’t say timing and precision, because that’s Anderson Silva to a “T”. The only kind of fighter that Adesanya hasn’t faced yet is a boxer. That’s going to be Whittaker’s key to victory, in my opinion. A simple 1-2 can do an awful lot and is still the most dangerous weapon a fighter can have when executed properly. A good jab is so uncommon in MMA, that it can completely sideline a fighter’s gameplan. That’s going to have to be Whittaker’s ace-in-the-hole. Jab, jab, jab, throw Adesanya off of his rhythm, disrupt his offense, double jab when he’s trying a spinning attack. Land enough, lure him into a straight boxing match and bank enough rounds. Whittaker via SD.
Lightweight Bout: Al Iaquinta (14-5-1) vs. Dan Hooker (18-8)
Luke: Hooker is a slick customer, but I think these guys are well-rounded enough that I think this fight is going to be won in the trenches. When it comes down to it, when the shit hits the fan, Iaquinta is down to go to the mattresses, as they say. I think this ends up into a sloppy brawl, and Iaquinta comes out on top. Iaquinta via SD.
Heavyweight Bout: Sergey Spivak (9-1) vs. Tai Tuivasa (8-2)
Luke: If Walt Harris can turn Spivak’s lights off in less than a minute, than I’m horrified by what Tuivasa can do. Tuivasa via R1 KO.
Welterweight Bout: Dhiego Lima (14-7) vs. Luke Jumeau (13-4)
Luke: Odd choice for a main card bout, but hey, gotta get those local fighters on. These are two pretty evenly-matched fighters, neither will win a title, but solid mid-carders. Jumeau can be caught in a sub if his opponent is skilled enough, and Lima was a submission ace early in his career, but abandoned it almost entirely after falling in love with his hands, and many, many grapplers do. So while the grappling win is there, Lima will try to be his older, more talented brother, and look for the knockout that won’t be there. Jumeau via UD.
Heavyweight Bout: Justin Tafa (3-0) vs. Yorgan De Castro (5-0)
Luke: The easy call is to say that they’re going to wind up these two boulders and have them swing and kick until someone is comatose. However, more often than you think, and especially in cases of fighters making their UFC debut, run-and-gun fighters get tentative under the bright lights. They don’t want to be posterized and embarrassed in front of millions of people, and they get too conservative. I think that’s what we’re going to see, here. A lesser version of Ngannou-Lewis. De Castro via UD.