A sneaky good card takes centre stage this weekend as the UFC look to end the year strong with a middleweight clash between number four ranked Jack Hermansson against short-term replacement Marvin Vettori.
Ovince Saint-Preux makes his return to the octagon too in his light heavyweight clash against Jamahal Hill in the co-main event in this eleven fight card.
Last weekend was a nightmare card in terms of picks, as we racked up a career-worst 1/10 correct picks for the night. The poor results sees our overall picks drop to 176/274 (64.23%) with 80 perfect picks (45.45%) from those too. We will look to improve that now with a strong showing on this card, starting with the prelims here.
Gian Villante (17-12) vs Jake Collier (11-5) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)
Two undersized, poorly disciplined fighters meet at heavyweight in this one as Gian Villante takes on Jake Collier. Villante went 7-8 in the light heavyweight division before piling on the pounds and moving up, where he was beaten by Maurice Greene in June by submission. Collier has alternated wins and losses since 2014 but got flattened last time out by Tom Aspinall who knocked him out in 45 seconds back in July. Both these guys are pretty mediocre when it comes to their skillsets but Villante has fought the higher calibre of fighter and was naturally the bigger man. He has the power to end Collier’s night early once again.
PICK – Gian Villante via Knockout, Round 1
Ilia Topuria (9-0) vs Damon Jackson (18-3-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun fight in the 145lbs division as the undefeated Topuria takes on the experienced Damon Jackson. Topuria came into the UFC on short-notice back in October where he put together a top drawer performance to defeat Youssef Zelal via decision, while Jackson also won his short-notice UFC debut by submitting the highly rated Mirsad Bektic in September. Topuria has the edge on the feet with his boxing and his power and is also the better wrestler of the two, although Jackson’s jiu-jitsu is incredibly efficient as as his 14 submission wins show. Topuria proved against Zelal though that he is very good at following a game plan and I believe his power and wrestling skill should see him avoid the submissions of Jackson and potentially land a heavy shot to end it before the scorecards.
PICK – Ilia Topuria via Knockout, Round 2
Jimmy Flick (15-5) vs Cody Durden (11-2-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Cody Durden saw a seven-fight win streak end with a draw in his UFC debut against Chris Gutierrez back in August and will look for a win against the mightily impressive debutant in Jimmy Flick. Flick has 13 submission wins from 15 professional wins and is currently on a three fight win streak coming from Dana White’s Contender Series in September. Durden is pretty well rounded and has a physicality edge for sure, so if he ends up in a dominant position on the ground then don’t be shocked to see him hold his own. The problem would be if Flick gets a dominant position, he fishes constantly for submissions and always always ends up finding one to end the fight. I think Flick is able to do that here with an impressive rear-naked choke in the first round, but it won’t look as easy as it sounds.
PICK – Jimmy Flick via Submission, Round 1
Matt Wiman (16-9) vs Jordan Leavitt (7-0) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Veteran Matt Wiman comes into this one looking for a first win since 2014, with two back-to-back defeats since returning from five years out. Jordan Leavitt is an undefeated prospect who earned a UFC contract with an impressive first round win on Dana White’s Contender Series in August. Wiman was slaughtered in both of his most recent fights against ground specialists in Luis Pena and Joe Solecki and now comes up against a third grappling genius who has five submission wins from seven fights. Leavitt is bigger, stronger and younger and excels exactly where Wiman has struggled most recently which spells bad news. Wiman seems to have retained his excellent submission defence but the takedowns and cardio should see him beaten pretty comfortably here.
PICK – Jordan Leavitt via Decision
Louis Smolka (16-7) vs Jose Quinonez (9-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
This was originally supposed to happen on the UFC Vegas 14 card, but was cancelled on fight day after Smolka had issues with his weight cut. I predicted it then, so I’m going to just copy that over here.
A bantamweight clash between two guys trying to find their standing in the division. Louis Smolka, who has been around forever but mainly as a flyweight, is a submission starlet who also carries power in his hands. After leaving the UFC off a four-fight skid, he returned after winning his next three and has since alternated wins and losses. He lost his most recent fight to Casey Kenney back in May when he was submitted in the first round. Jose Quinonez has an interesting record where he is 5-3 in the UFC but none of the guys he has beaten are still with the company, while his defeats have come to contenders in Alejandro Perez, Nathaniel Wood and Sean O’Malley. Overall, Quinonez has the advantage on the feet and physically is the bigger man. He’s got good wrestling chops too but Smolka is good enough on the ground to wrap up a submission if he is successful with just a single takedown attempt. It should be a back and forth fight but I believe Quinonez will be able to land more and more significantly throughout the 15 minutes for a big win.
PICK – Jose Quinonez via Decision
Gabriel Benitez (21-8) vs Justin Jaynes (16-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
An interesting bout between two very powerful fighters in the lightweight division as Gabriel Benitez looks to snap a two-fight losing streak against Justin Jaynes. Jaynes won a with a shocking 41 second KO on his return to the Octagon in June against Frank Camacho, but wasn’t so fortunate against Gavin Tucker in August when his knockdown wasn’t enough to prevent being submitted in the third round. Benitez is a super technical kickboxer who has unbelievable body kicks and a solid jiu-jitsu game. He hits in straight lines and hits hard and Jaynes tends to struggle with cardio if the first round power punches don’t quite work. Jaynes has good wrestling but uses it more in a defensive way than offensive and that should allow Benitez to dictate the range. He will use body kicks and jabs throughout and could eventually get the finish for a big win.
PICK – Gabriel Benitez via Decision