Tag Archives: Nathaniel Wood

UFC London: Blaydes vs Aspinall – Prelims predictions

The UFC returns to London’s O2 Arena for the second time this year for a stacked card, headlined by a heavyweight duel between top five big-men Curtis Blaydes and Tom Aspinall.

We’ll also see the likes of Paddy Pimblett, Molly McCann, Mason Jones, Alexander Gustafsson, Paul Craig and Muhammad Mokaev competing in an event sure to provide plenty of fireworks.

Last week at UFC Long Island we went 8/12 with three perfect picks, moving us up to 685/1032 (64.34%) with 284 perfect picks (42.77%). You can check out our full history of picks here.

We’ll look to improve on that here and after starting with the early prelims, we move on to the rest of the prelims here.


Makwan Amirkhani (17-7) vs Jonathan Pearce (12-4) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A really fun 145-pound fight up next between two great grapplers. Amirkhani snapped a three-fight losing streak last time out, submitting Mike Grundy in just 57 seconds via anaconda choke. Pearce is on a three-fight win streak KO’ing Kai Kamaka III, submitting Omar Morales (UFC 266) and then earning a decision over Christian Rodriguez most recently.

Amirkhani is a great grappler with really tight submission skills to work from, earning 12 submission wins in his career. “JSP” on the other hand is a great wrestler, but he tends to use his physicality to wear on opponents and uses his volume as a weapon to really grind on them. That means this fight goes one of two ways – a quick submission or a dominant display.

I’m leaning towards the dominant display, because Amirkhani isn’t as active from the top as he should be considering his skillset and his cardio lets him down on a regular basis. So long as Pearce doesn’t give up his back early doors, he should be able to use his activity to score points and then eventually grind his way to a wide decision of potentially even a late finish.
PICK – Jonathan Pearce via Decision

Nathaniel Wood (17-5) vs Charles Rosa (14-7) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

Finally, “The Prospect” is back in a UFC octagon! Wood suffered defeat way back at UFC 254 against Casey Kenney and has seen several fights fall out ever since. Rosa on the other hand has lost his last two, dropping decisions to Damon Jackson and then most recently TJ Brown at UFC Vegas 46.

Wood is a fine striker on the feet but he’s also got some half-decent wrestling and submission skills from the top position. Rosa meanwhile is a great striker and he has got some violent top position which opens up submission attempts, but he has never been able to sort out his God-awful takedown defence and that’s a huge problem in this match up.

His offensive wrestling isn’t good enough to take Wood down at will, and the Brit is very good at scrambling back to his feet anyway. Outside of that, Wood is the better fighter everywhere. He’s a better striker, better wrestler, more powerful and quicker. He chooses how to win this essentially barring a hail Mary submission win, so go with Wood for a W.
PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Decision



Marc Diakiese (15-5) vs Damir Hadzovic (14-6) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Another British lightweight on the card in this match up. Diakiese suffered back-to-back defeats against Rafael Fiziev and Rafael Alves, before bouncing back with a decision win over Viacheslav Borshchev most recently. Hadzovic did the same in his last fight, beating Yancy Medeiros via unanimous decision.

Diakiese is a solid kickboxer with good power and explosiveness, while his takedown defence is strong too. Hadzovic is a brawler who relies on his heavy hands big time, and hopes to encourage his opponents to be drawn into a scrap with him. Diakiese won’t do that, because he’s got the advantage everywhere this fight goes.

“Bonecrusher” is taller, has a better reach, is the better technical striker and if he really needs it he’s by far the better wrestler too. Hadzovic’s takedown defence is pretty poor and Diakiese has shown great durability throughout his career to make a one-punch KO unlikely, so expect a dominant win for Diakiese.
PICK – Marc Diakiese via Decision

Mason Jones (11-1) vs Ludovit Klein (18-4) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

An absolute barnstormer of a fight gets the featured prelim spot, just one week after the fight got put together. Jones suffered the first defeat of his career to Mike Davis at UFC Fight Island 8, before a no contest against Alan Patrick at UFC Vegas 28. He finally got back in the win column last time out though, dominating David Onama. Klein on the other hand snapped a two fight losing-streak last time out when he grabbed a split decision over Devonte Smith at UFC 272.

Jones is a really well-rounded prospect, who has controlled the distance and pace of all his fights so far and dominated most people with his relentless pressure. Klein meanwhile is a really talented striker, with incredible kicks and striking skills but his overall game tends to let him down against people who won’t have a kickboxing match with him. Jones is almost certain to pressure Klein to death and look to land combinations and knees to the body.

Klein has the ability to knock Jones out because he’s always willing to take a shot to give three back. But if Jones is capable of eating them, in the way he’s been able to against everyone else, then he will walk through them and punish Klein with his pressure. Klein’s cardio tends to let him down later in fights, so expect Jones to really put it on him and maybe even get a finish late on.
PICK – Mason Jones via Knockout, Round 3

UFC London: Volkov vs Aspinall – Early prelims predictions

After a three year absence the UFC returns to London and the O2 Arena for a huge UFC London fight card, headlined by heavyweights Alexander Volkov and Tom Aspinall.

A stacked card will see the two heavyweights competing to get title contention with a win, while we’ll also see the likes of Arnold Allen take on Dan Hooker, Paddy Pimblett makes his UK return while Jack Shore, Nathaniel Wood and Muhammad Mokaev also compete too.

In case you’re unaware, we’ve done a list of five things you must not miss from this card too.

Last time out at UFC Vegas 50 we went 11/14 with three perfect picks to move to 568/879 (64.62%) with 241 perfect picks (42.43%). You can see our full record here.

We’ll look to improve that record here, starting with the early prelims.


Muhammad Mokaev (6-0) vs Cody Durden (12-3-1) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

A super interesting card opener at flyweight between debutant prospect Mokaev and the new most-hated Durden. Mokaev is 6-0 with a stacked 23-0 amateur record making his company debut, while Durden snapped a two-fight winless streak last time out by defeating Aoriqileng before going off on a racist rant in the octagon interview.

Mokaev has earned plaudits and comparisons to Russian duo Khamzat Chimaev for his quick rise, and has solid grappling and striking skills despite being just 21-years-old. Durden is a grinding wrestler who looks to put his opponents on their back and work them over with ground-and-pound. This is a tough debut for ‘The Punisher’, but he has got some great abilities and a chance to claim victory.

Durden will push a hard pace for the first round but his history tells you he will gas. Mokaev will scramble plenty and use his excellent hand speed and kicking techniques, before using his pressure and wrestling himself to wear on Durden and earn a hype TKO win midway through the second after a tough first round.
PICK – Muhammad Mokaev via Knockout, Round 2

Nathaniel Wood (17-5) vs Vince Morales (11-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

A very fun bantamweight fight here between one of Britain’s own against a very game opponent. ‘The Prospect’ came into the UFC with really high hopes but has suffered defeat in two of his last three, dropping a decision to Casey Kenny at UFC 254 most recently. Morales steps in on short-notice for this fight on a two-fight win streak, earning a decision against Drako Rodriguez at UFC 265 and then KO’ing Louis Smolka at UFC Vegas 44.

Wood is a talented grappler with solid submission skills and nasty low kicks, which serves as a great antidote against Morales’ biggest strength which is a monster right hand. Morales has struggled against pressure fighters with good takedowns in the past and on short notice that makes this an even worse stylistic match up than it would be normally.

After a long period out, Wood should be able to use his low kicks from range and mix in takedowns and his speedy one-two to cause trouble and out-point Morales for a much-needed win.
PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Decision



Cory McKenna (6-1) vs Elise Reed (4-1) – (Strawweight/115lbs)

An interesting strawweight bout in this one between one homegrown prospect and an American with aspirations of making a name for himself. McKenna is on a four-fight win streak, going 1-0 in the UFC so far aged just 22 with a decision win over Kay Hansen at UFC Vegas 14, while Reed lost her UFC debut getting smashed by Sijara Eubanks at UFC Vegas 32.

McKenna is a good pressure fighter with great hand speed and some good wrestling skills too, mixing up all her techniques well and never losing any sharpness. Reed is a kicker who likes to strike, but she’s naturally smaller having usually competed at atomweight outside the UFC.

This seems like a fight to get McKenna on the radar of the home crowd. At just 22 she’s got a huge future ahead of her and has the edge almost everywhere in this fight if she’s able to close the distance, so I expect her to mix it up well enough to claim a decision win.
PICK – Cory McKenna via Decision

UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje – Results (Highlights)

EARLY PRELIMS

Joel Alvarez def Alexander Yavkolev via Submission (Armbar), Round 1 (3:00)

Fight starts with Alvarez throwing lots of leg kicks to stop Yavkolev’s forward motion. Yavkolev finds a moment to change levels and shoot for a takedown and falls straight into a guillotine. Alvarez squeezing tight but Yakvolev not panicking and eventually pops his head out into full guard. He starts with ground and pound, targeting the body but Alvarez attacking from the bottom with elbows to the head. Yavkolev not looking to pass and Alvarez throws up an armbar out of nowhere. Yavkolev tries to fight it but Alvarez is too good and secures the tap. Huge win for the Spaniard.

Miranda Maverick def Liana Jojua via Knockout, Round 1 (5:00)

A good start to the fight for both fighters as they start throwing early. Jojua counters Maverick’s attempted entries with solid right hands to the jaw. Maverick adapts the entry and starts landing a lot of power shots with the southpaw stance. Jojua is coming forward again now but Maverick throws a huge slicing elbow with her left arm and cuts Jojua open bad. She keeps throwing power shots and busts Jojua up bad as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Maverick.

Between rounds the referee has checked in on Jojua and deemed that she in unable to continue fighting due to the cut! It’s all over! Huge win for Miranda Maverick!

PRELIMS

Da Un Jung vs Sam Alvey – SPLIT DRAW (29-28 Alvey, 29-28 Jung, 28-28)

Slow start to this fight as Jung rushes to the centre to start but Alvey stays against the cage. Jung throwing lots of kicks and Alvey looking to counter with a big right hook but hitting air for the most part. Jung pressuring Alvey against the cage and throwing combinations down the middle, but Alvey throws a big left counter hook that wobbles Jung! Jung clinches up and recovers then breaks with a big elbow. Looks like an accidental eye poke by Jung but the referee doesn’t see it and Jung lands a big combo straight to the chin of Alvey. 10-9 Alvey but it’s a close round.

Another good round that follows the pattern of the first. Jung keeping Alvey pressed against the cage and firing off shots but Alvey is replying with heavy shots of his own. Alvey throwing nice leg kicks too to try and slow down the movement. Jung not throwing enough shots to trouble him and the fight is getting away from him at the moment. 20-18 Alvey.

What a start to the round! The two come together much like in previous rounds but then as Alvey moves in to throw, Jung lands a huge right elbow that drops him! He lands a big shot on the ground too on the follow up but Alvey gets back to his feet. Jung takes his back and throws some big shots but Alvey breaks and then lands a big uppercut of his own. Jung looks hurt as Alvey starts swinging, then Jung throws another massive elbow that connects again! Alvey is wobbling but the two fighters clinch up as Jung looks for a takedown. A minute to go, Jung is looking for a takedown to get a finish but Alvey defending well. Jung breaks from the clinch with another massive elbow and Alvey is battling to survive as the round comes to an end. 29-28 Alvey for me but a great fight.

Shavkat Rakhmonov def Alex Oliveira via Submission (Guillotine), Round 1 (4:40)

Competitive start to the round as ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira comes out and lands a big right hand right off the bat. Both fighters exchange leg kicks and jabs before Rakhmonov lands a big body shot with the knee that backs Oliviera up. A barrage of strikes and knees look like they’re hurting Oliveira but then ‘Cowboy’ throws a massive check-left hook which forces a clinch. The remainder of the round looks like it will play out against the cage but out of nowhere Rakhmonov grabs the neck and sinks in a guillotine to force the tap out! Huge debut win for Rakhmonov!

Casey Kenney def Nathaniel Wood via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x2, 30-27)

A very fast paced start to the round as both men look to establish some dominance early on. Wood throwing lots of leg kicks and jabs while Kenney is replying with a mixture of kicks and big hooks. Both guys trading fast shots and slipping out of the way too, but Kenney is landing the bigger shots as this round goes on. Kenney is landing bombs with his left hand but Wood showing he has a chin as we enter the final minute of the round. Super fun round, Kenney edges it. 10-9.

Second round and Kenney comes out more aggressive and looks a bit fresher, landing more shots as he comes forward once again. Wood is throwing more leg kicks and that is troubling Kenney’s movement, but he is still landing his left hand often. Kenney is now looking more tired than Wood, who continues to throw kicks and follow them up with a jab, left hook. Kenney starting to try and work the body, but Wood is taking it well and throwing leg kicks still. Kenney goes for a takedown but Wood defends very easily before Kenney lands a huge left hand that snaps his head back! Kenney clinches and throws a knee but Wood breaks away and lands a nice one-two. Kenney is tiring but still landing the left hand. 19-19 for me going into the final round.

Final round and Wood comes out fresher, throwing leg kicks once again. Kenney is throwing a right jab, left straight combo that is landing flush but Wood is doing well to counter with his own right hand and more leg kicks. Kenney changes levels and shoots for a takedown and ends up against the cage taking Wood’s back. Wood defending well to try not to end up on the ground but Kenney is winning this round simply through position. Wood tries to explode out but Kenney holds on, and they end up back in the same position. Wood defends brilliantly and they break with a little over 90 seconds to go. Wood throws a big elbow on the break and follows it up with a barrage of punches, but Kenney clinches and trips Wood to no avail. Another takedown attempt but Wood sprawls out and avoids superbly, then fires in another kick. Big right hand by Wood followed by a left hook stumbles Casey and the round ends with the two slugging it out. What a fight. 29-28 Wood for me.

Tai Tuivasa def Stefan Struve via Knockout, Round 1 (4:59)

Slow start to this one as Tuivasa looks to get close enough to land his heavy shots but Struve tries to keep the distance. Tuivasa moves in and Struve clinches up and uses those long limbs to control posture, as Tuivasa starts blasting body shots and trying to break away. Tuivasa does break away and then lands a nice short elbow on the break that wobbles Struve but he stays standing. Lots of leg kicks from Tuivasa now too have Struve shaking on his feet. Struve tries to clinch again but Tuivasa throws him to the ground and starts throwing bombs! He drops Struve and then throws more shots and the referee waves it off with a second to go! What a win Tai Tuivasa!

MAIN CARD

Magomed Ankalaev def Ion Cutelaba via Knockout, Round 1 (4:19)

Much slower start to this fight than their original bout, as time elapses past the previous duration with barely a strike thrown. Ankalaev having the better of all the striking exchanges in this round as he throws a straight left beautifully down the pipe but Cutelaba is stepping forward well, although he’s following Ankalaev instead of cutting him off. Cutelaba tries to spin but Ankalaev throws a straight left that drops him but he recovers. Cutelaba throws a big strike that Ankalaev counters with a right hook, left straight that knocks Cutelaba down! He follows up with huge ground and pound and knocks Cutelaba unconscious! What a knockout!

Lauren Murphy def Liliya Shakirova via Submission (Rear-Naked Choke), Round 2 (3:31)

A competitive opening round as Murphy takes the centre of the octagon and forces Shakirova against the cage. The entire round is spent circling the cage with Shakirova too far away to land any strikes, so Murphy is reading everything and landing plenty. Shakirova shoots for a takedown and gets it but Murphy gets straight back to her feet and the pattern continues. Shakirova shoots in again but Murphy fights it really well and lands some nice elbows against the cage that forces Shakirova to break away and abandon the attempt. Slow round but interesting. 10-9 Murphy for me.

A slightly quicker start as Murphy steps forward more aggressively with combinations. Shakirova still moving and bouncing around avoiding big damage but not really throwing anything herself. A clinch against the cage allows Murphy to show her physical advantage and she gets the takedown and ends up in guard, throwing elbows. Shakirova attempts to hip escape but Murphy transitions to the back and sinks in a rear-naked choke. It’s tight and Shakirova fights it but it’s too much and she taps out. Big, impressive win for Lauren Murphy!

Phil Hawes def Jacob Malkoun via Knockout, Round 1 (0:18)

Hawes comes across the octagon, backs Malkoun up against the cage and throws a HUGE right hand that drops Malkoun. Two follow up right hands knock Malkoun unconscious and that’s the end of that. Goodnight.

Alexander Volkov def Walt Harris via Knockout, Round 2 (1:15)

A fun first round between these two heavyweights as Harris starts well, using his speed advantage. Lots of jabs and inside leg kicks but Volkov backs up and uses his range well to counter. Nice right hand from Harris is met with a low left kick by Volkov that stumbles him. Volkov throws a short right-hand followed by a left that stumbles Harris and hurts him! Volkov marches to the cage and starts throwing to finish. Harris covers up then throws two big looping hooks to defend himself as the round comes to an end. 10-9 Volkov.

Harris starts the second round with a fake takedown attempt and when Volkov defends he goes up top with a big punch. Volkov steps forward again and throws some more punches that force Harris to cover up. Front kick to the body by Volkov brings a shout of pain from Harris and Volkov moves in with the big follow up punches for the end of the fight! Big win for Volkov!

Robert Whittaker def Jared Cannonier via Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)

Fight starts with a massive leg kick from Cannonier that shakes Whittaker immediately. Whittaker bouncing in and out now but every time he throws a jab Cannonier launches the leg attack. A second kick drops Whittaker but he bounces back up immediately. Whittaker’s leg is bruising already but it is Whittaker landing more with the hands. Big counter striker from Whittaker lands and wobbles Cannonier but he comes back well. Very tentative end to the round with both men respecting the striking technique of the other. Head kick by Whittaker lands but Cannonier walks through it and the round ends. 10-9 Whittaker.

A tense round once again as Cannonier continues to attack the lead leg and Whittaker throwing jabs to score points. Whittaker throws a nice right overhand that connects and then goes back to his jab. The jab is landing enough to cause a good amount of swelling around Cannonier’s right eye. Cannonier throws another leg kick but so far it’s not effecting Whittaker’s movement much. First clinch of the fight and Whittaker secures a trip and takedown but Cannonier uses the cage to bounce immediately and escape. Straight right from Whittaker down the middle lands flush as the second round comes to an end. 20-18 Whittaker.

Final round and once again Whittaker using his jab to control the distance. Nice one-two lands nicely by Whittaker as Cannonier misses with a wild right hand. Whittaker lands a one-two and follows it with a head-kick that drops Cannonier! Whittaker charges across the octagon looking for the finish and lands huge ground and pound but Cannonier survives. Whittaker moves into full guard on the ground but Cannonier explodes out and gets back to the feet. Final 30 seconds and Cannonier lands a big jab that wobbles Whittaker! He goes for the finish but Whittaker has enough about him to change levels and clinch until the buzzer. 30-27 Whittaker, what a performance!

Khabib Nurmagomedov def Justin Gaethje via Submission (Triangle Choke), Round 2 (1:34)

Super first round for the champion Khabib. The fight started slowly with both fighters feeling each other out but then Khabib turned it up a level and started stalking him around the cage. Gaethje’s leg kicks causing plenty of damage but Khabib walking through them and landing his jab. Flying knee lands for Khabib too. Gaethje lands a big left hook but Khabib eats it and keeps moving. Big takedown landed by Khabib as we enter the final minute and he passes into full mount very quickly. He attempts to transition into an armbar but time goes out on him. 10-9 Khabib.

Second round starts and Gaethje lands a big leg kick that looks like it hurts Khabib again. He continues to march forwards though and lands one-twos and jabs. A double leg attempt sees him end up on the back of Gaethje and then he instantly transitions into full mount. Khabib locks in a triangle choke from mount, falls back and forces the tap out from Justin Gaethje who goes unconscious. What a performance. What a fighter. 29-0.

UFC 254: Khabib vs Gaethje – Prelims Predictions

After a month-long stay on UFC Fight Island, the grand finale is upon us as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight championship against interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254.

A stacked card, with a six-fight main card, has been put together for the fans’ viewing pleasure and should be one of the best events we’ve seen since the pandemic started back in March.

With 12 fights scheduled to take place, I will break down each fight and give my prediction as to the winner, method of victory and round while giving my analysis on both fighters too.

Last weekend I got a very respectable 8/11 correct predictions with three perfect picks, so lets see if I can better that on this 12 fight card.

EARLY PRELIMS

Joel Alvarez (17-2) vs Alexander Yakovlev (25-10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)

Joel Alvarez makes his return to Fight Island on the card opener in this one where he takes on veteran lightweight Alexander Yakovlev. Alvarez has won 12 of his last 13 fights, including his last two in a row and has never won a fight via the judges scorecards. Yakovlev on the other hand has lost three of his last four and this will be only his fourth fight since losing to Kamaru Usman in 2016. Alvarez has stunning submission skills but his striking isn’t his strong suit, while Yakovlev is a wrestler who uses his striking to open up the takedown. The issue with that is that if he takes it to the ground, it opens him up to all of Alvarez’s submission game and that will be his downfall. Alvarez takes the neck for a guillotine submission win.
PICK – Joel Alvarez via Submission, Round 1

Liana Jojua (8-3) vs Miranda Maverick (7-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)

In the women’s flyweight division, it’s a debut for Invicta’s Miranda Maverick where she takes on Liana Jojua. Jojua is a submission artist who has five of her career wins come by armbar, including her last win over Diana Belbita on Fight Island back in July. Maverick is a strong striker and wrestler who also the majority of her career wins via submission. Jojua’s best chance of winning the fight is by getting a takedown and working her submissions, but Maverick has a huge edge when it comes to takedown defence and offence so if anyone is getting taken down in this fight it’s Jojua. With her top control and striking to set it up, I can’t see past Maverick dominating for a comfortable decision win.
PICK – Miranda Maverick via Unanimous Decision

Nathaniel Wood (17-4) vs Casey Kenney (15-2-1) – (Catchweight/140lbs)

A fight that was put together at short notice sees Brit Nathaniel Wood look to make it back-to-back wins in the UFC when he takes on highly rated Casey Kenney at a catchweight. Both fighters come into this one 4-1 in their five UFC appearances and that’s only the start of where their similarities begin. Both are solid strikers that rely on wrestling and scrambles in the octagon while they also have great cardio, hand speed and decent power in their hands. Wood is two years younger than Kenney but he has more professional bouts so he has the ever so slight experience edge. It’s a fight that will likely be decided by who can establish their wrestling game more and I believe that Kenney may have the advantage in that aspect. With that said, Wood is a natural finisher in the cage with only three decisions in his career while Kenney has gone the distance ten times. Wood has the skillset to hurt Kenney and if he does, I back him to finish it. It’s a real coin flip of a fight but I’m going to be slightly biased and go with the Brit.
PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Unanimous Decision

PRELIMS

Da Un Jung (13-2) vs Sam Alvey (33-14 1NC) – (Light Heavyweight/205lbs)

In what will be his fifth UFC bout, Sam Alvey comes into this fight on a four-fight losing streak to take on Korean power-puncher Da Un Jung. Jung is undefeated in the octagon, submitting Khadis Ibragimov before knocking out Mike Rodriguez in under a minute in his first two UFC fights. Alvey has been knocked out twice during this four-fight streak and despite being known as a power puncher himself, he has won a fight via that method just once in his last 11 bouts – stretching back to 2016. His chin looks like it’s cracking and Jung hits so hard that I think this will be the last time we see Alvey in the UFC as a fifth loss in a row will likely see him released.
PICK – Da Un Jung via Knockout, Round 2

Alex Oliveira (22-8-1) vs Shavkat Rakhmonov (12-0) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another contender for potential fight of the night in this one as ‘Cowboy’ Alex Oliveira steps up on short notice to take on undefeated Kazakhstani Shavkat Rakhmonov. Rakhmonov has 12 wins and 12 finishes, never seeing a professional fight going beyond the second round before. Alex Oliveira is a veteran of the UFC and is currently on a two-fight winning streak, defeating Peter Sobotta last time out on Fight Island via decision. Oliveira is a tricky welterweight with solid but unorthodox striking as well as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, while Rakhmonov is a very talented striker with a good top control game. This is another coin flip of a fight in all honesty. Rakhmonov’s power has seen him starch guys early on, but we’ve seen Oliveira ride out the storm before and even knock guys out himself. I’m going to go with my gut on this one and say the step-up in level of competition for Rakhmonov might be a little too much here and Oliveira can ride out a close decision win.
PICK – Alex Oliveira via Unanimous Decision

Stefan Struve (29-12) vs Tai Tuivasa (10-3) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Two heavyweights who are arguably fighting for their UFC careers in this bout as Stefan Struve looks to bounce back from a defeat to Ben Rothwell against Tai Tuivasa who is looking to snap a three-fight losing streak. Struve is a submission specialist who stands at 7 foot tall, while Tuivasa is a knockout machine who’s recently been found out in the octagon. It led to his UFC release earlier this year but he is back for a Fight Island card and looking to make the most of his second chance. Struve himself left the UFC for a retirement stint before realising he couldn’t stay away and is since 1-1 in the company. It really is a fight that is determined by where it goes. If it stays on the feet then Tuivasa has more than enough power and striking credentials to put Struve to sleep, but if it goes to the ground then Tuivasa is like a fish out of water and Struve will tap him out. As I see it going though, Tuivasa will walk forward and back Struve against the cage before crashing heavy punches in for a knockout win.
PICK – Tai Tuivasa via Knockout, Round 1

UFC Fight Island: Whittaker vs Till – Prelims Predictions

As the UFC brings to an end the first edition of Fight Island, the middleweight division is hotting up. Former champion Robert Whittaker makes his return in his first bout since losing the belt as he takes on former welterweight title contender Darren Till in the main event.

Before that though, a stacked FIFTEEN fight card will see plenty of big fights and talented fighters enter the octagon. I’ll break down the prelims here, and offer up my predictions for each fight.

Last time out for UFC Fight Island: Figueiredo vs Benavidez 2, I correctly predicted 6/10 winners on the night with just one of those completely correct (winner, round, method). I expect to do much better this time around and hope to improve on that record.

EARLY PRELIMS

Nathaniel Wood (16-4) vs John Castaneda (14-2) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

‘The Prospect’ came from Cage Warriors into the UFC and lived up to his name, with three successive submission wins before he finally fell to John Dodson in his last bout. He was originally scheduled to fight Umar Nurmagomedov, but he pulled out of the fight when his father died. Contender series fighter Castaneda didn’t earn a contract on the show despite his win but has stepped in at short notice for this bout. Wood is excellent in all realms of MMA when going forward but has a few holes defensively in the stand-up aspect, as exploited by Dodson. Castaneda is a steady striker with decent wrestling to fall back on, but realistically Wood is on another level at this point. Wood has enough power to put Castaneda down and I think he’ll use his ground game from there on to collect a submission win.
PICK – Nathaniel Wood via Submission, Round 2

Ramazan Emeev (18-4) vs Nicklas Stolze (12-3) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another fight put together at short notice, German Stolze replaces Shavkat Rakhmonov who had to withdraw two weeks ago. A very capable striker, he doesn’t quite possess the elite level that Rakhmonov has and that should make it a bit easier for Emeev to deal with. The Russian is a complete wrestler with his only intention to get the fight down and keep you floored. He is relentless in his search for a takedown and once he gets you there it’s just a waiting game for him to wear you out. All of his UFC fights so far have gone the distance, with a 3-1 record and I think extends that record to get back in the win column.
PICK – Ramazan Emeev via Unanimous Decision

PRELIMS

Bethe Correia (11-4-1) vs Pannie Kianzad (13-5) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)

After her huge upset win over Sijara Eubanks in October 2019, Bethe Correia snapped a three-fight losing streak in the UFC. She was in her prime way back in 2015 and it’s shown her recent performances. Kianzad was a TUF finalist, being beaten by Macy Chiasson before returning back home to Sweden for a win in the regional circuit. She came back to the UFC and has gone 1-1 and should be able to get a win here. She has a striking advantage over Correia, has a big height and reach advantage and then on top of that has a better output when it comes to volume. Neither fighter really has the power to end fights, as their combined 18 decision wins shows. So long as Kianzad doesn’t get sucked into a brawl with Correia, she should win this pretty comfortably in unspectacular fashion.
PICK – Pannie Kianzad via Unanimous Decision

Tanner Boser (18-6-1) vs Raphael Pessoa (10-1) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Tanner Boser completes a one-month turnaround to compete on Fight Island against Raphael Pessoa. The movement heavy Boser is a good boxer and possesses a great leg-kick, something that will cause the flat-footed Pessoa trouble in this bout. The Brazilian won his last fight via decision against Jeff Hughes but it was a low quality bout. Boser is the better striker, better mover and has more power. He could potentially land a knockout win here, similar to the combination that put down Phillipe Lins down in his last fight.
PICK – Tanner Boser via Knockout, Round 1

Movsar Evloev (12-0) vs Mike Grundy (12-1) – (Featherweight/145lbs)

A sleeper for fight of the night this one, two wrestlers who use their strikes knowing they can fall back on their grappling if necessary. Evloev is 2-0 in the UFC, beating Enrique Barzola in his last bout in a super impressive decision win. Both fighters are quite evenly matched and love a submission once they’re on the ground. Grundy will lead with power punches and level change but Evloev is arguably the slightly better wrestler between the two and should be able to deal with it. In a close fight, Evloev edges a decision win that plays out on the ground and with scrambles.
PICK – Movsar Evloev via Unanimous Decision

Tom Aspinall (7-2) vs Jake Collier (11-4) – (Heavyweight/220-265lbs)

Tom Aspinall makes a return to the UFC after an attempt to start a boxing career against Collier, who is 2-2 in the UFC having previously won one and lost one in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. Collier hasn’t fought since 2017 due to injuries and a USADA suspension and this is akin to stepping out of the frying pan and into the flame. Aspinall has genuine one-punch knockout power while he’s also an accomplished jiu-jitsu practitioner too. Mix that all in with Collier’s inactivity and natural size disadvantage, Aspinall should be able to get a win fairly quickly in this one.
PICK – Tom Aspinall via Knockout, Round 1

Nicolas Dalby (18-3-1) vs Jesse Ronson (21-10) – (Welterweight/170lbs)

Another short notice fight as Jesse Ronson steps in for his first UFC fight in six years to take on Dalby at welterweight. Dalby has previously beaten Alex Oliveira and Elizeu Zaleski while also getting a draw against Darren Till in the 170lbs division. On the other hand, Ronson is naturally a lightweight and lost two of his last three in the PFL. Technically both fighters are pretty evenly matched but Dalby has the huge size advantage and should have enough about him, especially with Ronson coming in without a full camp, to take over as the fight progresses and earn a decision win.
PICK – Nicolas Dalby via Unanimous Decision

Francisco Trinaldo* (25-7) vs Jai Herbert (10-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
*Trinaldo missed weight, fight is now a catchweight fight at 160lbs

At 41 years old, we may have seen the signs that Trinaldo’s body is giving up on him. He missed weight for this one, coming in 4lbs over the 156lbs limit and Jai Herbert is a younger fighter in his prime years. The Brit is a superb jiu-jitsu practitioner who hasn’t really had to use his grappling too much in his career, with 8 of his 9 stoppage wins coming via knockout. He has got great power in his hands and while Trinaldo has always been very well rounded, his last loss was due to the forward pressure of Alex Hernandez. Herbert certainly has more chance as the fight continues on, but I’m going to back him for the upset in this fight with a submission win.
PICK – Jai Herbert via Submission, Round 3

Main card picks to follow, do you agree with my picks so far? Let me know.