Sunday, June 26, 2022

UFC Ottawa Predictions: Iaquinta vs. Cerrone

UFC Ottawa Main Card Confidence Levels

1: Gun to the head, forced to choose 

2: Minimum confidence

3-4: A small level of confidence

5-6: Significantly clearer path to victory for one person.

7 – Strong confidence.

8-9: Extremely confident.

10 – Bulletproof confidence, barring freak occurrence

Andrew Sanchez (10-4) vs. Marc-Andre Barriault (11-1)

Marc Andre-Barriault will make his Octagon debut with a gaudy record attached to his name but a style that is a bit sloppier. Barriault’s defense has many holes to be patched, but in this fight his toughness may be enough of a patchwork to expose one of the biggest weaknesses of Sanchez: endurance. Barriault has a lot of five-round experience, and overall he may have a slight striking edge over Sanchez. So if Barriault is to be victorious in his Octagon debut, he will need to control the Octagon in rounds 2 and 3 specifically, when Sanchez will likely slow down, and to cash in on that control with constant jabs. Barriault should not count on a ground-and-pound finish as he has earned in the past, as Sanchez should have a grappling edge in this bout, but he can still potentially earn a finish on the feet late in the fight, which is when Sanchez is most vulnerable.

Andrew Sanchez is the heavier handed striker and will probably win round one, even if he doesn’t earn the finish. And while his gas tank has been a bugaboo in the past, Sanchez has shown progress with his endurance in his last fight against Markus Perez, where he went on to grind out a unanimous decision. Andrew Sanchez starts out very powerful, and I expect him to get the better of Barriault in the first round. If he is able to use his stronger clinch game or superior wrestling in general, he should be able to win at least one additional round for a decision if he is unable to get the finish.

Prediction: Andrew Sanchez

Confidence Level: 4/10

Walt Harris (11-7) vs. Serghei Spivac (9-0)

Serghei Spivac will be debuting on the main card of UFC Ottawa with an undefeated record in tow to take on UFC vet Walt Harris, who is fresh off a USADA suspension and with a chip on his shoulder after a tainted supplement overturned his victory over Andrei Arlovski to a no contest. In the case of Spivac, his record looks nice, but it’s a classic case of an untested fighter who has perhaps never truly been pushed. For instance, in Spivac’s last bout, he pummeled a man whose performance betrayed every day of his 44 years of existence, and that was the most recent bout that earned Spivac’s entry into the UFC.

Spivac will be giving up a lot of size to Harris, but he will make up for it with speed and much faster strikes. Spivac is the better boxer of the two, but I do not believe he will have the power to put away Walt Harris who usually wears a poker face whenever a strike sneaks through. If Spivac wants to be successful, he has to fight like a man free of Octagon jitters and continue bringing the attack to Walt Harris by fighting at his own pace. If it is a slow-paced fight, Walt Harris is capable of earning a KO, even if losing the fight up till that point, or edging out a close decision. Spivac does not strike me as a man who will freeze under the lights, and he will dictate the pace and out-volume the tentative Harris for a decision. He also would have the advantage if the bout were to head to the grappling department.

Prediction: Serghei Spivac

Confidence Level: 5/10

Brad Katona (8-0) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (8-4)

This is a terrific fight between two prospects in the bantamweight division. Both fighters have eight wins while Dvalishvili has four losses to Katona’s zero, but the biggest mistake anyone can make when predicting this bout is to let these records fool you. One gaze at Dvalishvili’s two UFC losses and it’s apparent that he could just as easily be 10-2 overall and undefeated in the UFC. Dvalishvili’s losses to both Ricky Simon (controversial stoppage) and Frankie Saenz (controversial decision) were trailed by dispute; meanwhile, Katona’s flawless record seems to speak for itself. But stylistically, this fight will come down to two things: whether Brad Katona’s grappling be able to withstand the challenge of Dvalishvili’s and whether Brad Katona will have a game plan centered around striking instead of grappling.

What makes Katona’s striking effective is that he is able to mix in kicks pretty well with his boxing, but throwing kicks against Dvalishvili will be dangerous, as that would leave Katona open for a potential takedown. Katona is a very solid grappler but the same could be said for Frankie Saenz and Ricky Simon, who were both taken down by Dvalishvili multiple times. Additionally, Dvalishvili also is the more powerful striker of the two, which is particularly problematic for Katona given that he often leaves himself open to big strikes. I can envision Dvalishvili landing a spinning attack (i.e. spinning back fist) to Katona and following it up with one of his driving takedowns.

Ultimately, although the two are only one year apart, Dvalishvili just has more “grown-man strength” of the two, and I expect this to translate mostly in the grappling department. Dvalishvili is the more powerful, more explosive, and more skilled in the biggest strength of both fighters: grappling, so I’m siding with him in this one.

Prediction: Merab Dvalishvili

Confidence Level: 7/10

Cub Swanson (25-10) vs. Shane Burgos (11-1)

Cub Swanson will be coming into this fight against Shane Burgos with a 23-fight experience advantage and perhaps more to lose, as Swanson will be looking to avoid dropping his fourth straight. Now while that may sound bad, Swanson’s three-fight losing streak has been to names currently in the top 5 of the division: Frankie Edgar, Renato Moicano, and Brian Ortega. In fact, the last time Swanson lost to someone who’s name does not jump out at you as a legitimate top contender was against Ricardo Lamas way back in 2012. In short, if you’re not elite, odds are Cub Swanson is going to get the job done. He’s 10-0 in his last 10 fights against fighters not named Holloway, Edgar, Moicano, and Ortega. And in the case of Shane Burgos, although his boxing offense is relatively high level and has proven effective, featuring a popping jab throughout the bout, he has also proven to be very, very hittable, far too hittable to be expected to defeat Cub Swanson.

Not only was Burgos being lit up by Calvin Kattar in their bout, but even Kurt Holobaugh was touching him up in Burgos’s most recent bout. If Kurt Holobaugh can find the success that he did against Burgos, and since Burgos continues to insist to leave his hands down and show no respect to his opponent’s boxing, I’m going to lend my confidence to the much more experienced and fundamentally sound Cub Swanson to win what should be primarily a boxing contest. Cub Swanson has expressed recently that he is interested in competing in Zuffa Boxing. This fight will be a good litmus test for himself to see where his skills as a boxer lie today.

Prediction: Cub Swanson

Confidence Level: 6/10

Derek Brunson (18-7) vs. Elias Theodorou (16-2)

The book on Derek Brunson is that he is a fighter who is completely out of control, sloppy, emotional, and reckless. Meanwhile, Elias Theodorou is an overly cautious, conservative point-fighter who infrequently engages in each bout. If you ask me, based on both reputation and on evidence, this is the most contrasting fight of the year and is a battle between two quintessential opposites. Derek Brunson has come out and said (as he has in the past) that he will fight more intelligent and patient than he has been known to in the past, but I feel that he should delay this new approach for one more fight.

The fights in which Brunson suffered the consequence for being too reckless in his offensive were against opponents who posed a high degree of risk to Brunson. Fighters like Jacare Souza, Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, and kickboxing savant Israel Adesanya. Regardless of how erratic and unsystematic Brunson fights, are we really thinking Elias Theodorou knocks Brunson out? Because that’s how he’s been losing: by getting knocked out due primarily to being overly aggressive.

Elias Theodorou does not pose that threat. With that said, what Theodorou will look to do is keep Brunson at range and point-fight  or a decision. Brunson’s wrestling background should keep the fight standing if Theodorou were to look to escape Brunson’s striking; and when standing, Theodorou lacks the speed and agility to avoid Derek Brunson for an entire round, let alone an entire fight. If Derek Brunson is in his own head too much and if the outside noise (even if justified to a very large degree) causes him to fight in a more conventional manner, that could actually be his downfall and play right into Theodorou’s point-fighting style. If the familiar reckless Brunson shows up, he will force Theodorou to fight, which would make Theodorou uncomfortable and havenless against the faster, stronger, more dangerous Brunson.

Say what you want about Derek Brunson and his style, but his style has garnered him plenty of positive results: nine UFC victories, including six knockouts and seven finishes to be precise. And this style has worked especially well against non-elite competition, which are the only variety of fighter that Brunson hast lost to in the UFC. That being said, this fight could come down to where Derek Brunson’s head is at. If he will force himself to change his style at this inopportune moment, this fight could be closer than it needs to be. If he fights an aggressive fight, whether reckless or not, then this fight should look similar to the Dan Kelly fight, where Brunson puts away a crafty and wily fighter who lacks the speed and agility to deal with Brunson’s “emotional” outbursts.

Prediction: Derek Brunson

Confidence Level: 6/10

Al Iaquinta (14-4-1) vs Donald Cerrone (35-11)

The biggest mistake anyone can make is to think they know which Donald Cerrone will show up for this fight, particularly if they assume that a less-than-optimal Cerrone will arrive. Cerrone is the winningest fighter in UFC history, so if there is anybody who factually should never be counted out, it is him. Al Iaquinta arguably has more momentum than Cerrone right now, but the truth is, both fighters will be entering the fight with momentum.

Sure, Al Iaquinta is the fresher of the two who has taken far less damage, but damage has never really been a detriment to Cerrone. Cerrone’s chin has continued to hold up throughout the years. It has not been perfect, but when you fight as many fights as he has and primarily on the feet, you can expect some major setbacks here and there. But overall, the story for Cowboy has been pretty consistent, even when the results haven’t been: slow starter who gets better as the fight progresses, lethal head kicks, strong Muay Thai style, phenomenal guard, and an overall ground game that continues to get less underrated every time we see it on display.

I’m definitely expecting a standup fight here. Al Iaquinta prefers to stand and bang, and that is not likely to change in this fight, given that the dangers of Cowboy’s ground game is now widely known. Both fighters utilize a low amount of footwork and are both very hittable yet durable fighters, so this should be a war. Now MMA math dictates that Iaquinta defeated Masvidal and Masvidal defeated Cowboy, so there you have it! Iaquinta should be your winner! But I believe that of the two, Cowboy is actually the more likely to get the finish, as his high kick still and always will be a main draw for the gunslinger. And if the fight goes the distance, I expect both fighters to bring it. Al Iaquinta showed that he can do just that in his last outing against Kevin Lee, where his performance in the championship rounds showed what Iaquinta is made of, and we have seen throughout Cerrone’s career how he surges as the battle wears on. This is one war that I do not expect to slow down or merely wear on, but to wage on fiercer, more violent, and bloodier, even if neither soldier is slain or falls. But I do expect the victor of this striking shootout will be the old gunslinger, who will make it three in a row.

Prediction: Donald Cerrone

Confidence Level: 4/10

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