UFC on FOX 30: Poirier vs. Alvarez II
The UFC is bringing a loaded card with title implications in three fights comes to Calgary, Canada this Saturday. Among the long list of intriguing names fighting are former Champions Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Eddie Alvarez, and José Aldo. Fan favorites Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens and Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier grace the card, opposite Aldo and Alvarez respectively. Also, guys like Islam Makachev, Matheus Nicolau, and Olivier Aubin-Mercier are up and coming prospects on the undercard.
Featured Fighter: Gadzhimurad Antigulov #15 Light Heavyweight (20-4)
Antigulov (-115) from Dagestan, Russia is a grappling wizard who hasn’t lost a fight in 5 years. He faced top competition before entering the octagon; his last five wins have come against fighters with a combined record of 74-36. Being on a 14-fight win streak, with 2 in the UFC, Antigulov isn’t getting enough respect on the betting line. This weekend he sits as the slim favorite, currently at only -115. I’ll take those odds all day on a smart, skillful fighter with a suffocating game plan.
Why Antigulov Will Win
Antigulov has finished both his fights in the UFC by choke in the first round. He conquered the power puncher Marcos Rogério De Lima by getting the early takedown. He was able to avoid the dangerous power of De Lima by getting the fight to the ground and he opened up the avenue for the sub with excellent pressure grappling. He won his next fight in almost the exact same way, getting the early takedown and finishing it soon after with the choke.
He’s 100% on his takedown attempts so far, needing only one in each fight to ultimately get the win. He’s demonstrated great defense on the feet too, only absorbing .87 significant strikes per minute (2nd in the UFC if he was at the 5 fight minimum). Antigulov’s style is unique and thoroughly impressive, I see his confidence only being wavered by an equally great grappler or submission specialist.
Why Ion “The Hulk” Cutelaba (13-3) Won’t Win
Ion Cutelaba doesn’t have the game plan to worry Antigulov. He’s a wild brawler who’s hasty to attack and finish his opponents with his superior power. “The Hulk” from Moldova doesn’t have a plan B, and hearing his corner after re-watching his old fights, he doesn’t have the most groundbreaking coaching, to say the least. Cutelaba’s 11 first round finishes in his career aid the odds a little, but that statistic is music to Antigulov’s ears. De Lima posed a very similar challenge to what Cutelaba will bring, and Antigulov won with ease. Against Misha Cirkunov, Cutelaba didn’t have the power to get the early finish and was taken into deep water, where he gassed out and lost. Here’s Cutelaba struggling to defend the takedown against Cirkunov.
On Saturday Night, Antigulov will outsmart Cutelaba en route to either an early stoppage or a decision victory. In both cases, Antigulov will likely draw on Cutelaba’s wild style to secure a counter takedown and a suffocating tap out.
Other Enticing Fighters to Back
John Makdessi (15-6)
I like Makdessi (-200) against Ross Pearson this weekend on the undercard. Makdessi has lost to good competition recently in highlight fashion (wheel kick KO to Lando Vannata), his stock is down but he has a great matchup in Ross Pearson who is in the final moments of his career. Pearson is 1-4 in his last five fights and Makdessi will frustrate him on the feet with his third-highest signature strike rate in lightweight history (5.17 per minute).
Matheus Nicolau (13-2-1)
Nicolau battles (-185) Dustin Ortiz on the undercard Saturday at Flyweight. Nicolau has three UFC fights under his belt and has shown impressive stand up skills, thoroughly out-boxing his competition. He lands 4 significant strikes per minute and absorbs only 2.5. He’s an all-around fighter too, defending 100% of takedowns so far and securing 2 Takedown’s on average, with an impressive Japanese necktie submission to throw in.
After watching tape on Dustin Ortiz, he looks like a less impressive version of Nicolau. He has above average all around skill but nothing to write home about. Ortiz is 9-5 in the UFC and struggles with the upper echelon of competition in the division. He’s climbed back up after two wins and on Saturday, I see Nicolau knocking him back down a few pegs with his superior boxing.