Here’s how the four-fight main card at UFC Fight Night in Phoenix might play out.
Yair Rodriguez vs. BJ Penn
Former two-division champion BJ Penn comes out of retirement to face rising star Yair Rodriguez in the main event of UFC Fight Night from Phoenix.
To be completely honest, this matchup doesn’t bode well for the former champion.
Penn was once one of the best fighters on the planet but that time has come and gone as he’ll enter his matchup with Rodriguez as the older, slower and less powerful fighter. At 38 years old, Penn finds himself on a four-fight losing streak and without a win since 2010. The last time he fought, he was TKO’d by Frankie Edgar and the deterioration in his skills was evident.
Rodriguez has a huge opportunity on Sunday night. He’s taking on a well-respected legend and if he can put on a performance close to the ones that helped him amass a near perfect 9-1 record so far, he’ll make a lot of new fans in the process.
Prediction: Yair Rodriguez by third-round TKO
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Joe Lauzon vs. Marcin Held
Marcin Held lost his UFC debut to UFC veteran Diego Sanchez and looks to right the ship against another veteran in Joe Lauzon on Sunday night.
Lauzon and Held are similar fighters in the sense that they like to use their striking to set up their takedowns and submissions instead of diving at opponents’ feet all fight. Lauzon is a patient counterpuncher who also likes to press forward with combinations if he smells blood. His striking has really come a long way over the last few years.
Held on the other hand throws a mixed of heavy uppercuts and hooks to hurt his opponent and prefers to be the aggressor in the standup.
Over his last three fights, Lauzon has absorbed 229 significant strikes, so he’ll need to do a much better job of defending himself to avoid the big shots from Held. But he holds the advantage on the feet here, which should help since their grappling may cancel each other out.
Prediction: Joe Lauzon by third-round submission
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Court McGee vs. Ben Saunders
“Ultimate Fighter” winner Court McGee looks to string together victories for the first time since 2013 when he faces Ben Saunders in an exciting main card fight.
Both of these fighters are aggressive and well-rounded, so neither a stand-up war nor a grappling contest between these two would be surprising on fight night.
McGee can be smothering with his wrestling but he’ll need to be careful not to give BJJ black belt Saunders too much time to work off his back. Instead, McGee should look to win the exchanges on the feet and use his takedowns to win rounds.
For Saunders, the key will be to try to engage and dominate in the clinch and threaten submissions whenever the fight hits the canvas.
Prediction: Ben Saunders by decision
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John Moraga vs. Sergio Pettis
John Moraga and Sergio Pettis kick off the main card with a traditional striker vs. grappler matchup.
Pettis, a black belt in kickboxing under Duke Roufus, throws and lands a high volume of strikes but also likes to change levels and put his opponent on his back to score points.
Moraga doesn’t mind standing and trading with opponents, but he’s most successful when he completes takedowns and can use his All-American wrestling credentials to control fights.
It’ll be a fun, action-packed fight, but I think Pettis will be too dynamic for Moraga in this one.