Greetings from Prague, where the UFC gets set to host its first-ever event in the Czech Republic this weekend at UFC on ESPN+ 3 (trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?).
The fight card isn’t packed with MMA’s A-listers, but there are competitive fights all the way down the card.
THE MAIN EVENT
Poland’s Jan Blachowicz and Brazil’s Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos are set to face off in the light-heavyweight headliner this weekend in a battle between one of the division’s most destructive power strikers and a fighter whose ability to take punishment and keep moving forward has taken him to the best run of his UFC career.
Santos has been in the UFC for five and a half years, initially fighting as a welterweight, then a middleweight before eventually moving up to the 205-pound light-heavyweight division. Since then he’s scored two eye-catching stoppage wins and is now facing the No.4-ranked light-heavyweight in the world this weekend.
That man is Blachowicz, who has been in with some of the best in the division, and hasn’t been stopped since 2011, when he fought back in Polish promotion KSW. Blachowicz has hit a rich vein of form of late, winning four in a row, and showing improving striking and sneakily good submission skills to go along with his granite-chinned toughness.
And it’s that toughness that could see him win on Saturday night.
If Santos is able to finish Blachowicz – something that sledgehammer-handed Brit Jimi Manuwa was unable to to over two contests with the Pole – then it would be a huge statement in the division.
But I think Blachowicz’s brute strength and durability could drag this into the later rounds, where he’ll either submit a tiring Brazilian or, more likely, run out a decision winner (5/1) after the full five rounds.
To win: Evens
To win by KO/TKO: 4/1
To win by submission: 9/2
To win by decision: 5/1
To win: 8/11
To win by KO/TKO: 11/10
To win by submission: 22/1
To win by decision: 17/2
PETR YAN vs JOHN DODSON
Russian mixed martial arts has Khabib Nurmagomedov at the top of the world, but we could see another exciting Russian talent make a big step towards the top of his weight class this weekend.
Siberian bantamweight wrecker Petr Yan’s early performances in the UFC have left a lot of experts very excited about the potential for the Russian striker. And, so far, the pocket rocket has delivered the goods. On Saturday night he faces off against the most elusive man in the UFC bantamweight division, livewire former flyweight title challenger John “The Magician” Dodson in a clash that could propel him towards the top of the division.
Dodson is fast and hard to hit, but Yan has the ability to cut off the cage and land his shots on Dodson. And when he does, expect him to make them count. If he catches Dodson clean, he could claim a knockout victory (5/1) but even if he can’t land that knockout blow, his aggression should play a major factor in him earning a decision victory (4/6).
To win: 9/4
To win by KO/TKO: 15/2
To win by submission: 25/1
To win by decision: 9/2
To win: 2/7
To win by KO/TKO: 5/1
To win by submission: 12/1
To win by decision: 4/6