After their historic event in Abu Dhabi last weekend, it’s UFC heads back to North America as Vancouver plays host to this weekend’s UFC Fight Night event.
It’s back on regular BT Sport (hooray!) and the main event is just about as exciting as non-pay-per-view fights get, as lightweight stars Justin Gaethje and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone prepare to throw down in Canada.
Looking down the main card line-up, it’s one that could quite conceivably produce a finish in each and every fight, and we’ve picked out our four to follow ahead of what looks like being a spectacular night.
Gaethje to add to his “highlight” reel
As I wrote earlier in the week, Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje might just have the ideal combination of skills to give reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov all he can handle.
But, before he can contemplate sharing the cage with “The Eagle”, the American needs to fight his way into an undeniable position, starting with this weekend’s main event against Cerrone.
Gaethje has outstanding wrestling, which should allow him to keep the fight standing, which is exactly where he wants it. And though Cerrone is an excellent striker himself, Gaethje packs a harder punch and brings with him the X-factor that will likely prove the difference-maker on Saturday night, his leg kicks.
Gaethke’s leg kicks are just about the best in the UFC lightweight division, and against Cerrone’s upright fighting stance, expect him to unload plenty of them in the direction of “Cowboy’s” lead leg.
A round of those should be more than enough to leave Cerrone like a sitting duck in the second, where Gaethje can then step in and unload with his power shots.
It might not take as long as that, or it could go deep into the fight, but I’m expecting Gaethje to demobilise Cerrone with kicks, then separate him from his senses with his hands for another highlight-reel stoppage.
Don’t be surprised if he has words for Conor McGregor afterwards, too. That’s a fight I’d happily pay to see…
Bet of the bout: Justin Gaethje to win by KO/TKO – 5/6
Krylov to make the jump
Ukrainian light heavyweight Nikita Krylov has long been one of the most dangerous 205-pound fighters in the world, but his decision to head back to Europe to ply his trade for Russian promotion Fight Nights Global put his career at the top of the sport on hold.
Now he’s back, he’s got a win under his belt and now he faces perennial contender Glover Teixeira in a pivotal bout for the light heavyweight division.
Teixeira looked decent in his last two outings, claiming back-to-back submission victories over solid opposition. But Krylov is a higher-level opponent and one who has a reputation for finishing fights.
Indeed, not a single fight on Nikita Krylov’s 26-6 record – win or loss – has gone to the judges’ scorecards. That’s pretty remarkable.
With Teixeira potentially more vulnerable to strikes than he used to be, Krylov has the game to walk the Brazilian onto his strikes and earn himself yet another stoppage finish.
It’s unlikely he’ll finish the BJJ black belt by submission, but a stoppage due to strikes looks like a solid value pick.
Bet of the bout: Nikita Krylov to win by KO/TKO – 12/5
Duffee to pick up where he left off
It’s been a frustrating few years for hulking American heavyweight Todd Duffee.
Despite making his octagon debut back in 2009, he’s made just five appearances in the UFC since then, and hasn’t fought since a knockout loss to former heavyweight champion Frank Mir four years ago.
But Duffee has been training constantly and sharpening his skills ahead of his octagon return, which takes place on Saturday night in Vancouver against Dana White’s Contender Series graduate Jeff Hughes.
Duffee has some serious power and will be coming into the bout with a point to prove, so a quick finish is certainly on the cards. Although Hughes only has one stoppage loss to his name, it came via KO to light heavyweight Daniel Spohn, who isn’t half as big, or as heavy-handed, as Duffee.
His inactivity has made Duffee a narrow underdog for the fight, and the 6/4 available for a KO/TKO win looks like excellent value.
Bet of the bout: Todd Duffee to win by KO/TKO – 6/4
Crute to surge into contention
Australian light heavyweight Jimmy Crute impressed everybody when he blasted his way into the UFC via Dana White’s Contender Series last year. The no-nonsense Aussie has shined even more in his two octagon appearances to date.
Crute submitted submission ace Paul Craig on his octagon debut, then knocked out knockout artist Sam Alvey in his second appearance as he showed he’s more than happy to take on his opponents at their own game and win.
Now he faces a fringe contender in the form of Canadian-Latvian Misha Cirkunov, whose wrestling and grappling is outstanding, but has also shown fallibility when it comes to his punch resistance.
That last point will be music to Crute’s ears, as the Aussie’s preference is to stand and throw leather.
Providing he can keep his back off the mat, the chances of “The Brute” continuing his undefeated run with his 11th successive win looks strong.
Bet of the bout: Jimmy Crute to win by KO/TKO – 8/5