Predictions! Another One For The ‘Highlight’ Reel

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pits two of its fan-friendliest sluggers against one another this Sat. evening (Sept. 14, 2019) when Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje light up Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Other names of note include former Light Heavyweight title challenger Glover Teixeira, who meets all-action Ukrainian finisher Nikita Krylov, and viral sensation Michel Pereira, who will attempt to build on his flying knee knockout of Danny Roberts against late replacement Tristan Connelly.

Our usual main card guy is suffering from a nasty moose bite, so I’m here to grace one of your many tabs yet again. Check out our UFC Vancouver “Prelims” coverage here and here, plus a spot of odds analysis right here.

Now, on to the main course.

155 lbs.: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone (36-12) vs. Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje (20-2)

It’s been interesting to follow Cerrone’s ongoing struggle with pressure fighters. His intercepting knee worked wonders against hard-charging sorts like Eddie Alvarez and Alexander Hernandez, but Darren Till and Tony Ferguson showed that it’s still possible to walk him down and nullify his offense. Provided, of course, that you’re either sufficiently boxing-savvy or willing to take heaps of punishment in the process.

Gaethje is the latter.

Cerrone will have few-if-any opportunities to stay on the front foot against the implacable Gaethje, and without that forward motion, his kicking arsenal is significantly less potent. Yes, he has the knee, but Gaethje has his equally debilitating low kicks. They’re going to wind up in one of Gaethje’s preferred close-quarters slugfests sooner or later, and even “Cowboy’s” vaunted chin can’t stand up to Gaethje’s right hand for long.

The one concern here is Cerrone’s head kick, which has proven able to fell anyone regardless of their prior durability. He can’t throw it nearly as well on the retreat, though, and even an exhausted Gaethje refuses to take a step back. Expect an absolute firefight before Gaethje uncorks one of his patented one-handed onslaughts on the fence to force the finish.

Prediction: Gaethje via first-round technical knockout

205 lbs.: Glover Teixeira (29-7) vs. Nikita “The Miner” Krylov (25-6)

This is the third time in a row that the UFC has put Teixeira against an explosive knockout artist more than a decade his junior. Both Karl Roberson and Ion Cutelaba had the aging Brazilian badly hurt in the early going, only for Teixeira to lean on his world-class grappling to turn the tide. The script seems to be clear; I’m not sure what the UFC intends to accomplish with this matchup, unless it’s to see how many comebacks Teixeira has left in him.

He’ll almost certainly need one against Krylov. “The Miner’s” return against Jan Blachowicz showed that he still retains some of his old flaws, but he’s as dangerous a finisher as they come, having never gone the distance in over 30 professional fights. He figures to be the faster of the two by a considerable margin and presents a far more versatile striking threat than Teixeira’s “throw 2-3s until one of us fall down” strategy.

Still, Krylov’s struggles with Blachowicz and Teixeira’s ability to withstand the murderous, relentless offense of Cutelaba suggest that Krylov is in for a rough night. Expect him to score an early knockdown before Teixeira’s killer jits and old-man strength carry the former title challenger to his third straight win.

Prediction: Teixeira via first-round submission

265 lbs.: Todd Duffee (9-3) vs. Jeff “Lights Out” Hughes (10-2)

It says something about how quickly this sport changes that Duffee, out since a hilariously sloppy knockout loss to Frank Mir in 2015, feels like a relic of a bygone era. Nobody he’s faced in the UFC remains with the promotion, although his knockout of Phil De Fries has admittedly aged quite well considering the big Brit’s current tear through the European circuit. This is still the UFC Heavyweight division, though, so it’s not like Evansville, Indiana’s profoundly jacked glass cannon is obsolete.

He’ll still lose, though.

Hughes, though a fair bit fluffier than Duffee, is the more well-rounded fighter and sports a significantly deeper gas tank. He’s also durable enough to stay in the pocket with Duffee for as long as necessary to crack “Duffman’s” shaky chin, meaning he’s got an avenue to victory even if he can’t get his wrestling going. Barring an early one-punch finish. things don’t look terribly rosy for Duffee.

This loss probably won’t be the end of Duffee’s Octagon dreams, though. If the promotion is willing to keep Jarjis Danho around for the purposes of feeding Greg Hardy, I’m sure Duffee can get a spot in line.

Prediction: Hughes via second-round technical knockout

170 lbs.: Michel “Demolidor” Pereira (22-9) vs. Tristan “Boondock” Connelly (13-6)

In case you’ve forgotten Pereira, here’s a refresher. If Justin Gaethje is the odds-on favorite to walk away with a “Performance of the Night” or “Fight of the Night” bonus, “Demolidor” is right behind him. The guy throws whatever off-the-wall strike that comes to mind regardless of situational appropriateness and it just keeps working.

He was going to fight Sergey Khandozhko, who has a similar appreciation for rotating at high speeds, but instead meets “Boondock” on less than a week’s notice.

I can assure you that I made a prolonged effort to scrounge up any recent MMA footage of Connelly, but all I could find was a 30-second clip of him guillotining someone and a fight locked behind a $14.99 paywall. What I do know is that he’s a submission specialist who’s never gone the distance in victory, trains out of a top-notch grappling camp in Checkmat, and is among Canada’s top-ranked Lightweights.

That last word is the kicker. Pereira is a tank of a Welterweight, regularly competing above the 170-pound limit and weighing in at 204.6 for his second-to-last bout. Even if Connelly does manage to exploit Pereira’s devil-may-care offense and secure a takedown, he’ll have all kinds of trouble keeping the explosive Brazilian on the mat.

Eric Spicely vs. Thiago Santos taught us not to overlook physically outmatched grapplers against striking specialists, but this is just too big an ask for Connelly. Pereira catches him with something ridiculous after a few good scrambles.

Prediction: Pereira via first-round knockout

185 lbs.: Uriah “Primetime” Hall (14-9) vs. Antonio “Cara de Sapato” Carlos Jr. (10-3)

Do you know the last time Hall scored a victory that wasn’t a come-from-behind knockout? Eight fights ago, when he thrashed Oluwale Bamgbose in 2015. Since then, he’s 3-4, suffering three (T)KO losses but finishing Gegard Mousasi, Krzysztof Jotko, and Bevon Lewis.

It’s not like those three wins were competitive before Hall’s dramatic finale, either. Both Mousasi and Jotko had scored 10-8 rounds against him, and Lewis was comfortably up two-nil. Hall’s been reduced from an ever-present danger to a guy who exclusively throws Hail Marys.

Carlos, on the other hand, just seems to struggle with maintaining a high pace. He’s still got world-class jiu-jitsu, solid wrestling, and natural knockout power; it’s the guys who can make him overexert himself on the ground and feet whom he perennially struggles with, and Hall is not one of those. “Primetime’s” low output and reliance on landing one game-changing shot doesn’t seem like a great combination against a superior grappler who’s traded punches with Heavyweights before.

Carlos still has the potential to be a world-class Middleweight with some adjustments. Hall may have had it at one point, but we’re four years past his last dominant performance. Carlos muscles him down and finds his way to the back to hand Hall his first-ever submission loss.

Prediction: Carlos via first-round submission

205 lbs.: Misha Cirkunov (14-5) vs. Jim “The Brute” Crute (10-0)

Not going to lie, I really didn’t expect Misha Cirkunov to be struggling this badly. I had him tabbed as a top-notch prospect in a division that, at the time, was sorely lacking in them. Instead, he’s been stopped three times in his last four fights, and though the charitable among you could chalk his instantaneous knockout losses to Volkan Oezdemir and Johnny Walker as just getting caught, there’s no excuse for a wrestling/grappling specialist getting manhandled by Glover Teixeira at this stage in the Brazilian’s career.

Still, I can’t not pick him to beat a guy who gave up takedowns to Paul Craig. Crute’s got some power and a remarkably well-rounded game, but none of that matters if Cirkunov can consistently get on top of him. And if Craig, who generally resorts to pulling guard, can do it, Cirkunov damn sure can.

If Cirkunov isn’t mentally broken or cursed to be knocked out in under a minute by every prospect he faces, the stylistic matchup is entirely in his favor. He downs and taps Crute without too much trouble.

Prediction: Cirkunov by first-round submission

Remember, MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 158 event this Saturday (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” at 5 p.m. ET and continuing on with the 8 p.m. ET main card.

To see more on UFC Fight Night 158: “Cowboy vs. Gaethje” and all the other fine UFC offerings on ESPN+, check out our comprehensive event archive right here.

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