And this week we’re placing our hopes on an estate agent, a shampoo model and a fast-rising heavyweight with a penchant for quickfire finishes. Granted, the latter pick sounds more solid than the first two, but bear with us here…
‘RAGING AL’ CLIMBING THE LADDER
New Yorker ‘Raging’ Al Iaquinta is back in the thick of it at the top of the UFC lightweight division, and the part-time fighter, part-time real estate agent is looking to exchange contracts on a title eliminator fight by claiming victory over legend Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone on Saturday night.
We reckon he might do it, too. Iaquinta showed against Khabib Nurmagomedov when he stepped in at no notice whatsoever that he deserves to be at the sharp end of the 155lb division. And against Cerrone, who proved against Alex Hernandez that he still has it, he should have the perfect opponent to showcase his fighting abilities.
Iaquinta hasn’t had much chance to test himself against the very top names, but while he did lose out to Khabib, taking ‘The Eagle’ all five rounds and giving the Russian some trouble on the feet made his status as a top contender clear to all. And he followed up that performance with victory against another contender in Kevin Lee as he cemented the reputation.
Wins over Cerrone always mean something, and victory for Iaquinta should put him one win away from a shot at the gold. The matchup has all the qualities you’d hope to have for a possible fight of the night, and while Cerrone can’t be counted out, the smart pick is definitely ‘Raging Al’.
Iaquinta has the power to finish Cerrone (he’s 21/10 to stop ‘Cowboy’), but the 7/2 on a Iaquinta victory on the scorecards looks like the value pick.
THEODOROU’S FIGHT IQ GIVES HIM THE EDGE
The co-main event will see a shampoo model and ring card boy take on a former cheerleader in a battle between two of the manliest middleweights in the UFC – seriously.
Elias Theodorou has the most beautiful hair in MMA – possibly in all of sport – but don’t let his flowing locks and annoyingly good looks mislead you. He’s an elite martial artist and one who has mastered the art of hitting without getting hit.
‘The Spartan’ (or ‘The Mane Event’, as he sometimes prefers) isn’t a prolific finisher, but his gas tank and his fight IQ have taken him up the UFC middleweight rankings to the point that he’s on the verge of being considered a fringe contender.
Former cheerleader Brunson is one of the middleweight division’s biggest punchers, but despite a string of knockouts in the octagon, he has been found out by the division’s best.
Brunson has a big technical flaw in his game, he charges in with his chin up in the air. It’s cost him stoppage defeats against Robert Whittaker, Jacare Souza and Israel Adesanya, who outclassed and finished Brunson with embarrassing ease.
Theodorou isn’t known for finishing his opponents, however, so it’s unlikely he’ll take advantage in too spectacular a fashion. Instead, I think he’ll run the legs off Brunson picking him apart with counter strikes as he negotiates his way to a points victory.
He’s done it on many times in the past, and considering his chiselled chin has been able to survive fights against fearsome punchers like Thiago Santos, Sam Alvey and Eryk Anders – all of whom have finished opponents a weight class up, at light-heavyweight – I don’t think Brunson will catch Theodorou this weekend.
ADAMS IS OUR CHOSEN JUAN
Heavyweight Juan Adams has burst onto the heavyweight scene in the UFC with a superb record of quickfire knockouts, but it’s only really been since his public slatings of fellow UFC heavyweight newcomer Greg Hardy that people have really started to take notice of ‘The Kraken’.
But the six-foot-five heavyweight is certainly worth watching.
Five fights, five wins, five knockouts (four of them in the first round) make him a standout prospect in a division that needs fresh meat at the top of the division.
On Saturday night Adams faces Canada’s former Olympic wrestler Arjan Bhullar, who will look to take the big man off his feet and onto his back. But with a four-inch height advantage and a five-inch reach advantage, Adams will get the opportunity to land his offense before Bhullar can get close enough to take him to the mat.
Adams is a slight favourite to win, but we’re going for a finish here, with the 21/10 on another KO/TKO win looking too good to pass up.