The UFC once again heads to the Apex Centre in Las Vegas, Nevada for this week’s Fight Night card. Headlining the card is a barnburner between Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland and the co-main sees Gregor Gillespie return against City Kickboxing prodigy, Brad Riddell. Also on the card is a Heavyweight slugfest between Tai Tuivasa and Don’Tale Mayes. I often look to the undercard for value but this week there is very little of it, so instead I focus on the three main fights on the card which are previewed below.
Since joining the UFC from Strikeforce, Derek Brunson has been the ‘gatekeeper’ of the Middleweight division, turning away multiple prospects but falling to the elite of the division. His win over Edmen Shahbazyan proved he still has it and I am a little surprised he has come up such a large underdog here. Since losing to Jacare and Adesanya, Brunson has put together three straight wins, all against top prospects. Holland was the breakout fighter of 2020, winning five fights across the calendar year. His key to victory is to keep this on the feet and target Brunson’s body before going head hunting. In what I viewed as a ‘pick em’ fight, Brunson to win represents excellent value. I expect Brunson to control the centre of the Octagon and use his clinch game to damage Holland before repeatedly dragging the fight to the mat adding another feather in his cap.
Following the first loss of his career, Gregor Gillespie returns after a 16-month hiatus against City Kickboxing representative Brad Riddell. Riddell is 3-0 in the Octagon and only has a singular loss in his professional MMA career. I cannot wait for this fight as I have a huge opinion of both fighters. Unfortunately for Riddell, however, he is in for a rough night against Gillespie who has the tools to hang with Riddell on the feet and finish him on the mat. If you look back to before the brutal knockout to Kevin Lee, Gregor Gillespie was a fight or two away from fighting for the belt. He submitted Vinc Pichel to hand him his only loss since 2012 and then knocked out Yancy Medeiros. Gillespie is a credentialed wrestler with some slick submission skills, and I expect him to make light work of the tough Riddell on the mat. Back him to secure a submission win and have a little bit on him to do it in the opening five.
Mayes finally looked like a UFC fighter in his last fight against Roque Martinez, winning a unanimous decision. He is largely a boxer with a very upright stance, and he was able to add wrestling into his arsenal in his last fight. Tai Tuivasa really is a modern-day Mark Hunt. He has power in his hands but not much else and all he can do well is overhands and calf kicks. Calf kicks are what he will have to do to win this fight and it will likely cause Mayes all sorts of trouble. I originally wanted to tip Mayes due to the price discrepancy as Tuivasa although fun to watch has one of the most limited skillsets in MMA. Luckily for Tai, Don’Tale Mayes won’t be able to stand with him and his only route to victory is taking this fight to the ground. Considering he isn’t a wrestler that won’t be easy and will likely engage in a clinch to attempt to. When there, Tai will likely land and end the night then and there. Back Tuivasa to get the knockout win.
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