The UFC fight train rolls on this weekend as two former lightweight championship challengers face off in front of our neighbors up north. No, I’m not talking about Winterfell, but Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. This card has several fights that promise excitement.
Lightweight Division – up to 156lbs
Al Iaquinta #4 14-4-1-0NC vs Donald Cerrone #8 35-11-0-1NC
These two fighters epitomize the “exciting fighter” profile. That’s not to say these two lightweights are not skilled or methodical, it’s to say that both have a fan-friendly style that throws caution to the wind. There’s no doubt why the UFC put these guys at the top of the card: fireworks.
The ever-busy Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is coming off two big victories, including his return to the lightweight division that came in January of this year against a rising contender, Alexander Hernandez. He finished that fight in classic “Cowboy” fashion, with a barrage of pinpoint-accurate ground strikes preceded by a huge head kick. At this point in his career (47 professional MMA fights), Cerrone has a finished skillset and uses his huge library of fighting techniques to wear down his opponents and create opportunities through constant striking. He is constantly moving forward and throwing technical strikes that set up opportunities for him to finish fights. And finish fights is what Donald Cerrone does: 27 of his 35 wins have come either by knockout or submission; only 8 of his wins have gone the distance. Cerrone is a surefire hall of famer who still has another title run in him.
Ragin’ Al Iaquinta is coming off a huge victory against formerly #4 ranked lightweight Kevin Lee. The fight was a tough, back-and-forth five-round battle of wills that saw Iaquinta outlast and outpoint Lee on all three judges’ scorecards. Prior to that he lost a five-round title challenge against Khabib Nurmagomedov in a breakout performance. Iaquinta is 7–1 in his last eight fights and looks to be hitting his prime. He uses a stalking style to try to create openings for power punches and sneaky kicks. His ground game, like Cerrone’s, is underrated, and he uses it to keep his opponents off balance or fend off wrestling scrambles.
Both men prefer this fight on its feet and both men leave something to be desired in the defense department. I see this fight staying standing for as long as it lasts.
I have Ragin’ Al Iaquinta winning by TKO (body punches) in the 4th round.
Middleweight Division – Up to 186 Lbs
Derek Brunson #9 18-7-0-0NC vs Elias Theodorou #13 16-2-0-0NC
Two fighters with their arrows pointing in opposite directions will face off in the co-main event.
Derek Brunson is coming off a very bad loss against now–interim champion Israel Adesanya and another bad loss against Ronaldo Souza. Both losses came by stoppage and really showed that Brunson is no longer a serious threat to the top of the division. When Brunson was winning against big-name fighters like Lyoto Machida, Uriah Hall and Lorenz Larkin, he would use an awkward striking style that would run his opponents into his strikes. Those wins seem like a lifetime ago, as Brunson is 2-4 since 2016. In his most recent losses, Brunson has started slow, and his chin has not held up to the power of the middleweight division.
Canadian Elias Theodorou is on a three-fight win streak and hasn’t tasted defeat since July of 2017. His competition has not been the most challenging, as he is an Ultimate Fighter winner, and the UFC usually brings them along slower than other fighters. When he has stepped up in competition, he has faltered and lost decisions to Thiago Santos and Brad Tavares. This step up in competition will be a little easier as the veteran Brunson is not the fighter he used to be. Theodorou also uses an awkward style and unusual timing to confuse his opponents and keep them guessing. He uses multiple styles of leg kicks to maintain distance and clinches when in close range. He does not take many risks when he fights and is content to win a decision.
Theodorou is fighting in front of his home crowd and is in a better point in his career than Brunson. I have Theodorou winning by decision.
The only fight I am excited about on the undercard is the undefeated hometown Houston native Juan Adams taking on Canadian Arjan Bhullar. Bhullar has a gold medal in wrestling from the 2010 Commonwealth Games and fights out of the famed American Kickboxing Academy. Adams is undefeated in his MMA career at 5-0 with all of his wins coming by stoppage. This will be a real test for both men and I can’t wait to see how it plays out.
What: UFC Fight Night 151: Iaquinta vs Cerrone
Where to watch: Preliminary Card – ESPN+; Main Card – ESPN+
When: Saturday, May 4, 2019
Time: Preliminary Card – 7:00 p.m. CST; Main Card – 9:00 p.m. CST