The UFC returns down under with a second visit to New Zealand.
Mark Hunt gets the opportunity of a swansong in his native New Zealand while Derrick Lewis looks to enhance his own reputation amongst the biggest men the UFC has to offer.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Hooker v Pearson:
Dan Hooker has spent much of his UFC career fighting in Australia or New Zealand. The Antipodean has fought on home soil in four of his six appearances since signing, although home court advantage hasn’t really done a lot for him as a 3-3 record demonstrates.
For the first time in his professional career Ross Pearson is booked in a fight he dares not lose. As a TUF champion, Pearson has been booked in fights that represent his standing within the company but never has he lost three on the bounce; that is normally walking paper material. Unable to achieve consecutive wins for over 4 years he alternated wins and losses until hitting this skid. It could well see the end of the popular Englishman, but as a moderate draw in the UK, and his adopted home of Australia it is likely that he’d be given a final chance at redemption. But this is the new UFC, not really the same as the old UFC.
For me, Pearson takes a competitive advantage purely in how the fight is likely to unfold. Person is notoriously difficult to finish, a feat achieved only by Al Iaquinta and Cub Swanson inside the last 7 years. By contrast, Hooker almost never wins a decision, winning only 1 of 6 fights that have gone the distance. As I think this goes the full 3 rounds I favour Pearson comfortably.
Recommendation: Ross Pearson – 2 units at +125 (5/4) @ 5Dimes
Brunson v Kelly:
Derek Brunson enters the octagon on the back of a 0-2 run, something he experienced earlier in his career. On that occasion he beat Chris Leben, incidentally in his UFC debut and compiled a run of 7-1. The lone reversal in that spell was to Interim Title Challenger, and number 1 ranked middleweight, Yoel Romero. His two most recent losses were a decisive stoppage at the hands of Robert Whittaker and a controversial loss to Anderson Silva.
At 39 Daniel Kelly is relatively unscathed for a professional fighter. Having competed in only 14 fights, with a single defeat has arguably assisted him in fighting at an age most fighters decline suddenly. At UFC 209 he achieved the biggest win of his career when on the right end of a split decision over Rashad Evans. Sadly, Evans isn’t the fighter he used to be and this should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Kelly isn’t known for being a power puncher and this is something that should play right into Brunson’s hands. Brunson has a ridiculous habit of storming across the cage with his hands down and his chin out, it was something he roped in against Silva and it almost paid dividends. If he keeps his chin down and his hands up he should comfortably have too much in the locker for an ageing Kelly.
Recommendation: Derek Brunson – 3 units at -280 (1/3) @ 5Dimes
Lewis v Hunt:
Derrick Lewis has been a man on a tear of late. Six wins on the bounce has seen him right the wrongs of losses to Shawn Jordan and Matt Mitrione. Both of those reversals came by knockout, yet Lewis has improved to such an extent that I would favour him to avenge those if rematched today. His last win over Travis Browne has pushed him to top 5 material and realistically he must only be a win or two away from a title shot; on recent form, it would be a difficult proposition to argue against.
After Dan Henderson finally laid down his gloves Mark Hunt immediately became the oldest fighter on the UFC roster. Even in an ageing Heavyweight division he is by far the elder statesman and questions must be asked of how long he can continue. He was on the end of another knockout from Alistair Overeem back in March and it may well be the ongoing litigation starting to take effect. If he loses this weekend, retirement surely beckons and he can pursue the ‘Hunt Rule’ in MMA on a full-time basis.
Mark Hunt is at an age where retirement must be a sincere consideration and it is hard to understand his motivation to fight at 43 years of age. His only wins in the last four years have been first round knockouts over the reanimated corpses of Roy Nelson, Bigfoot Silva and Frank Mir. Lewis on the other hand, is a fighter still in the ascension who has the power to end the fight when he wants.
Recommendation: Derrick Lewis – 2 units at -135 (4/5) @ 5Dimes