The barrage of UFC events continues from Germany this Saturday. While lacking the star power of the previous two events, this card has a wide range of mostly European talent. The main event is headlined by a heavyweight tilt between top 10 heavyweights Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski. The rest of the main card is rounded out by veterans Alexander Gustafsson, Jan Blachowicz, Ryan Bader and Ilir Latifi.
Josh Barnett vs. Andrei Arlovski (Heavyweight)
Both men are coming off big losses to big names but Barnett’s is the one that stands out. Arlovski may have been knocked out by Alistair Overeem during their fight in the Netherlands but being KO’ed by Overeem is something many men have experienced before. What is shocking is that Josh Barnett, the master catch wrestler and BJJ black belt, was caught and choked out by Ben Rothwell. While Rothwell is a tough test for any fighter, it may be a sign that the game is starting to pass Barnett by. Arlovski is a high end athlete who still possesses the quick hand speed and powerful boxing that made him a threat for the last fifteen years. Some may question his chin but when you’re being punched by heavyweights, someone is bound to fall. Barnett has nearly twenty years of MMA experience under his belt and has always been a threat should the fight hit the ground. Arlovski’s last two losses came to precision strikers which is a description that does not fit Barnett. Arlovski should be able to keep the fight standing with his strong takedown defense and will be able to outstrike Barnett on the feet. Should Barnett manage to drag Arlovski down to his domain, I could see him getting a submission following some dominating top control. I just can’t see it being Barnett’s night so I’ll stick with this prediction.PREDICTION: Arlovski via 1st round KO.
Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jan Blachowicz (Light Heavyweight)
Few fighters find themselves stuck in divisional limbo like Alexander Gustafsson. Good enough to demolish anyone at 205 except for the top 3, he has questioned his own staying power if he can never win a title. Now he returns against another tough European talent in need of his own win. Blachowicz was a dangerous mainstay in his native Poland before coming to the UFC where he has gained mixed results. He earned wins over Ilir Latifi and Igor Pokrajac and fell short against Jimi Manuwa and Corey Anderson. Blachowicz is no slouch in the cage but this is Gustafsson’s fight to lose. Blachowicz doesn’t possess the brutal KO power that Anthony Johnson used against the Swede and he isn’t anywhere near the wrestler that Daniel Cormier is. I expect Blachowicz may hold his own for a round before he falls to Gustafsson’s powerful kickboxing and clinch game. PREDICTION: Gustaffson by 2nd round TKO.
Ryan Bader vs. Ilir Latifi (Light Heavyweight)
Ryan Bader looks to return from a devastating KO loss to Anthony Johnson but he isn’t getting an easy test against the imposing ilir Latifi. Bader has always been a capable wrestle-boxer but hasn’t ever been able to put it all together against the top 5 in the division. Latifi has only ever lost to two fighters in his UFC career, a freak knockout against Jan Blachowicz and a crazy short notice fight against Gegard Mousasi. Latifi is a powerful wrestler himself and possesses destructive knockout power. Latifi will try to stuff any takedown Bader throws his way and keep the fight standing. Bader has learned over his career not to stand and trade with power punchers, meaning that he will take Latifi down as soon as possible. Once Bader gains top control, he is a force and will use his strength to wear down his opponent with ground and pound. I’m pulling for Latifi but I don’t think he is at Bader’s level quite yet. Expect Bader to pull a repeat performance of his fight with Rafael Cavalcante. PREDICTION: Bader with the unanimous decision.
Nick Hein vs. Tae Hyun Bang (Lightweight)
Hein is a talent fighting in his native Germany for the second time in the UFC. Bang is an action fighter coming from South Korea that has put on some entertaining brawls but has struggled to win against the next step up in competition. Hein has a solid all-around game but doesn’t excel in any discipline with most of his wins coming by decision. Bang is a striker who can knock out his opponents but tends to get outworked if they can survive his initial barrage. Look for Bang to try to make it a dogfight but Hein will keep his composure and take Bang into deep waters. PREDICTION: Hein by decision.
(Matthew Peterson is an MMATorch contributor who has been a fan of MMA since he first watched UFC 100. He currently resides with his wife in St. Cloud, Minn. He believes that Chris Lytle was God’s gift to fight fans and Cowboy Cerrone comes in at a close second. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mattpete1088.)