UFC San Antonio Confidence Level Scale
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
Ben Rothwell (36-11) vs. Andrei Arlovski (27-18)
If the year was 2008, I would predict without much hesitation that Andrei Arlovski would be the victor of this fight, and I’d have been right. One decade and dozens of fights later, the answer looks different.
The biggest difference between today and 11 years ago is Andre Arlovski cannot look less motivated than he has looked lately. Arlovski may resemble a butch college professor, but he has been performing more like a student who procrastinates until the day before the test and does just enough to get by. Sometimes he succeeds, other times he gets the ol’ “dig deeper” etched in the margins. Arlovski has devolved into something of a heavyweight point fighter who is great at surviving, but a ghost of himself at killing. The bright side for Arlovski is that I have some questions about where Ben Rothwell is at in his career trajectory. Three years and a USADA suspension later, Ben Rothwell returned to fight Blagoy Ivanov in March, and if that Ben Rothwell shows up to San Antonio, I’m expecting a possible split decision.
Since I truly believe you cannot get any less motivated than Andrei Arlovski, and since I’m not ready to write off Ben Rothwell’s killer instinct like I am Arlovski’s, I’m going to say that Rothwell’s motivation and awkward forward pressure can win a close decision, and if there is a knockout, it’s most likely to come from Rothwell since Arlovski’s last KO/TKO was four years and 11 months ago and Ben Rothwell has only been knocked out four times in 47 professional fights.
Prediction: Ben Rothwell
Confidence Level: 3/10
Alex Hernandez (10-2) vs. Francisco Trinaldo (23-6)
Alexander Hernandez reminds me of Conor McGregor. That’s right. I said it. He has the ability to convince you of his impending success as much as any other fighter I can think of. Now that could just be me talking, but I don’t think so. I believe his confidence helped make him a favorite over Donald Cerrone two fights into his UFC career. And when he speaks about how much he has learned from his loss to Cerrone while getting super-specific on what is going to change, darn it, he’s got me again. He’s once again convinced me with his words even more than his physical gifts that this is his fight.
Alexander Hernandez’s fast starts was a gift that unraveled into a curse. In his last fight against Cerrone, he was overzealous, and lacked poise, grace, and an ability to adapt when in the Octagon with a cage general. But the way he described how he has remedied the problem has convinced me that he has grown from his loss and will now use his advantages to win this fight.
Specifically, those advantages are speed, youth by 14 years, superior offensive grappling, and stance-switching skills that will pause Trinaldo. Hernandez also has a superior ability to close the distance as well, and I expect him to also have a crucial endurance edge over Trinaldo.
Hernandez needs to watch out for getting hit with Trinaldo’s dangerous overhand right, minimize getting hit to the body, and, of course, never let his confidence budge.
Prediction: Alexander Hernandez
Confidence Level: 6/10
James Vick (13-3) vs. Dan Hooker (17-8)
Initially, this fight struck as a pick ’em, but after careful consideration, this is a confident selection.
Both fighters will be looking to bounce back here. James Vick is coming off back-to-back losses, and Dan Hooker’s last bout was the equivalent of two fights’ worth of punishment against Edson Barboza. The beating Hooker was subjected to was so severe that it’s worth wondering if he will ever be the same fighter again. Well, we will begin to get our answers to that investigation this Saturday, and I don’t believe the first sample will favor Hooker.
Dan Hooker’s length and reach (75) is a major reason for his success in the UFC. In fact, Hooker has never faced an opponent in the UFC where he did not have a reach advantage. Hooker will not have any “genetic advantages” in this fight. James Vick will have the slight one-inch reach advantage, but that advantage is a lot larger when you consider how Hooker could be out of his comfort zone against a fighter who can match his length. The closest thing Hooker came to that was against Marc Diakese in a fight where Hooker struggled much more than his other victories. The first two rounds were toss-ups before Hooker took the judges out of it with a submission victory in the third round.
Hooker will be fighting James Vick skill for skill in what I expect to be a striking display. In a standup fight, I’m going to go with the more polished, experienced boxer who has the superior movement. I do think Vick’s defense can be lackadaisical at times, but I don’t see Hooker making him pay with it via knockout. Instead, I see Hooker trying to bail himself out with a takedown when Vick is outboxing him, but I do not believe his offensive grappling is better than Vick’s defensive grappling. One thing we learned from Hooker’s last fight, though, is that he won’t go down without a fight, but I do expect him to go down, even if it’s just on the scorecards.
Prediction: James Vick
Confidence Level: 6.5/10
Greg Hardy (4-1) vs. Juan Adams (5-1)
Show me a confident pick for this fight and I’ll show you a liar. This is a very unpredictable grudge match with potentially large implications for the heavyweight division.
The reason this fight could carry such implications for the heavyweight division is because nobody really knows how fast the promotion would push Greg Hardy if he gets a couple of wins. Greg Hardy does not have the name of a Brock Lesnar by any stretch, but Lesnar still taught us that we can’t predict how fast someone will get a push to the top if he has strong name recognition and is a potential big draw, even as a monster heel. Most fans will never admit this publicly, but I believe this is the most anticipated fight on the card because of how unpredictable it is and because of the spectacular job Juan Adams has done in hyping the fight long before it was even made.
As for the fight itself, the biggest questions to me are:
- How good is Juan Adams’s chin?
- What is Greg Hardy like on his back?
- Will the fight go past the first round?
Without too much evidence either way, I believe each of the above questions will favor Adams. I believe Adams has a chin. He’s a big guy with a big head, and I’ve yet to see him rocked. Not the most thorough or technical breakdown but admittedly, it’s a hunch.
I believe that even if Hardy is decent on his back, his abilities will get worse as the fight progresses if Adams is taking him down.
Finally, if the fight goes past the first round, I expect Hardy to get weaker and Adams to get stronger, primarily based on how Hardy began to slow down in his fight against Allen Crowder. I believe if Hardy doesn’t get his way and run through Adams, he will look green, fazed, and vulnerable for Adams to outgrind in the clinch or on the mat. Something tells me that Adams will win the fight in a much more conservative fashion than his incendiary trash talk.
Greg Hardy is more athletic than Adams, has greater puncher power, and appears to have very strong takedown defense. But I believe all of this will only play a factor in the first half of the fight, specifically the first round. If Adams’ chin survives Hardy’s blitz, I believe the test will then get passed down to Hardy, and my intuition is that Adams’ more extensive toolbox and gas tank will win the fight for him.
Prediction: Juan Adams
Confidence Level: 3/10
Aleksei Oleinik (57-12-1) vs. Walt Harris (12-7)
We have a classic grappler vs. striker fight here, which is always scary for the grappler when the grappler isn’t a great takedown artist. But Oleinik doesn’t have to be Daniel Cormier here. He just needs to be good enough at taking Walt Harris down and making good use of his time if successful.
There is only one high-level grappler that sticks out to me in Walt Harris’ fight history, and it’s a fight where his opponent made short work of him. That’s the fight that I’m leaning on most for my prediction here. Fabricio Werdum made Walt Harris 0-1 against high-level grapplers, and it wasn’t at all competitive. All in all, I believe Olenik is much more experienced and consistent than Harris. Harris’ best chance is a first-round KO. He is definitely the superior striker and athlete to make that a live bet, but Oleinik has only been knocked out six times in his 70-fight MMA career and only has one TKO/KO loss in the UFC that wasn’t a doctor’s stoppage. And since all 12 of Walt Harris’ victories have been by knockout, it’s safe to say that if Oleinik can survive, he can win either by decision or, like Werdum, by dominant submission.
Prediction: Aleksei Oleinik
Confidence Level: 5/10
Rafael dos Anjos (29-11) vs. Leon Edwards (17-3)
What I’m expecting here is a technical, high-level, five-round fight. For Leon Edwards, you can expect him to rely heavily on his popping jab, throw in some good leg kicks, and employ his excellent distance control and risk/danger assessment ability. Edwards has a great fight IQ, but I suspect as Edwards faces opponents towards the top of the division like dos Anjos, his style will work against him, even if by a slim margin.
Leon Edwards is on a very impressive seven-fight winning streak, and his only loss in the past four years came to the reigning champion, Kamaru Usman. But when I look at Leon Edwards, I do not see a dominant winner, I see a dominant anti-loser. The two stoppages he’s had in his five-fight winning streak came after the money hit the over. In the case of Peter Sobotto, it came in the literal last second of the fight. The guy knows how not to get beat, but I have my doubts on if that knowledge is going to benefit him when moving up to swim with the sharks who’ve mastered how to win.
Rafael dos Anjos has had his share of ups and downs, and he is not the finisher that he used to be, but he definitely knows how to win. Leon Edwards is the type of guy who fights at and then masters the pace of his opponent, but that will be difficult to do as the level of competition increases. Both fighters have high cardio as well as high fight IQ, so you can expect a chess match. But in that chess match, I believe one fighter will have bigger moments and will chase the W more, and that is what will impress the judges enough to give Rafael dos Anjos the narrow decision, even if Leon Edwards outpoints him statistically.
I believe dos Anjos will throw slightly more volume, but Edwards will be more accurate. I think the volume combined with the bigger moments in the fight will be enough to convince the judges when it goes to the scorecards. I expect any grappling exchange between the two to result in a stalemate with slight undulations on either side and for dos Anjos’ aggression and big-fight experience to get the final say. Having said that, a split decision could definitely be right around the corner here.
Prediction: Rafael dos Anjos
Confidence Level: 2/10
Be sure to stick with MMANews.com for live coverage of UFC San Antonio, including results, highlights, and more!