Perry v Reyes:
Mike Perry has been in impressive form since debuting in the UFC just over a year ago. In that time span he has accumulated three wins by stoppage, with just one loss in between. The loss was to the vastly experienced Alan Jouban in a fight that was booked a little too early. He showed great heart to come back and demolish Jake Ellenberger next time out. A win over Ellenberger isn’t enough to make you a contender but it does keep the momentum going and a bigger name is always going to add a few miles per hour to it.
If you had asked Alex Reyes on Monday whether he would have been watching this event at the weekend he may just have said yes. If you had asked him whether he was going to compete then he’d have probably just smiled at you. If you had asked him whether there was a chance he’d be co main eventing, he’d have taken your arm off. But that’s where he is on Saturday when Thiago Alves was forced out with injury. On less than a weeks’ notice Alex Reyes is in the big time and this minor league player has in his hand the golden ticket for UFC stardom.
Three days ago, this was to be a display of glorious ultraviolence between Perry and Thiago Alves, but injury has given Alex Reyes his big chance. It is an impossibly difficult chance for Reyes, but he won’t care, even stepping up a weight this is too good an opportunity to decline. Coming from Hollywood, California he will be aware that dreams can come true, except this won’t be a Rocky story, Perry is too fast, too well-rounded and too powerful. I see a Platinum finish before the midway point of the second round as the gulf in class becomes apparent.
Recommendation: Under 1.5 Rounds – 3 units at -130 (10/13) @ 5Dimes
Rockhold v Branch:
I had to double take when I realised that Luke Rockhold has been inactive now for almost 15 months. Sure, there have been injuries and a small contract dispute but considering he went into his last bout as the champion, facing a fighter he had decisively beat earlier, it was a surprise not to see him push for a rematch with Michael Bisping, closing out the trilogy along the way. Since being benched he has watched Bisping defend the belt just once, while Robert Whittaker has somehow beaten all comers to take the interim belt. Suddenly the AKA standout has gone from beating Chris Weidman to sitting behind Bisping, Whittaker and Romero, and even Weidman is breathing down his neck. Rockhold needs a win, and to do it impressively.
David Branch is one of those fighters who fought in the UFC back when it was really starting to catch fire. Brock Lesnar was the champion and a wave of new viewers were buying the PPV’s. Unfortunately for Branch he was cut from the promotion at 2-2 and sent packing to the minor leagues and WSoF where, incredibly, he reinvented himself as a Light Heavyweight while reinvigorating himself at Middleweight. Branch was a two-division champion and re-signing him to the UFC was one of easiest decisions that WME-IMG had to make. At 36 his best years may just be behind him in a division with arguably the deepest top 5.
Personally, I hold Luke Rockhold in the highest regard and think that is the best 185lb fighter in MMA. He has his flaws, sure, but he is arguably the most well-rounded fighter the division, and possibly the UFC has to offer. Against Bisping he was exposed and humbled, I don’t see him making the same mistakes again and looking past his opponent. If David Branch has a chance then he would need to be the very peak David Branch, the one who put away Yushin Okami, not the one who limped over the line against Krzysztof Jotko. Rockhold wins, comfortably, and most likely inside the distance for a statement win, Branch sadly continues his UFC tenure in the same vein as the first ended.
Recommendation: Rockhold wins inside the distance – 3 units at -155 (4/6) @ 5Dimes