UFC FIGHT NIGHT PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview and Predictions of New Zealand event including Derrick Lewis vs. Mark Hunt

By Michael Grocke, MMATorch contributor

The UFC continues their tour overseas with a stop at the Vector Arena in Auckland, New Zealand for UFC Fight Night 110. The main event takes place in the heavyweight division as #6 ranked Derrick Lewis takes on #9 ranked Mark Hunt (MMATorch rankings) in what should be a hard-hitting, fun fight. The co-main event pits Derek Brunson, who sits just outside the top 10 in MMATorch’s rankings, against Daniel Kelly.

The six-fight main card also includes New Zealand’s own Dan Hooker taking on Ross Pearson, Henrique da Silva vs. Ion Cutelaba, the #9 ranked flyweight Tim Elliott taking on Ben Nguyen and Alexander Volkanovski vs. Mizuto Hirota.

The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 6:00 p.m. CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 p.m. CT for the prelims. Keep it on FS1 for the main card starting at 9 p.m. CT.

Main Card

Derrick Lewis #6 (18-4, 1 NC) vs. Mark Hunt #9 (12-11-1, 1 NC) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.

Current Odds: Lewis -140; Hunt +110

Mark Hunt is 1-1 with one no contest over his last three fights. If you go back further to his last six fights he’s 2-3, 1 NC. The three losses came against three of the top five heavyweights including Fabricio Werdum, Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem. The two wins were against much easier competition in Antonio Silva and Frank Mir. The one no-contest was a fight he originally lost to Brock Lesnar at UFC 200 but was later changed after Lesnar failed drug tests for banned substances.

Hunt has since taken legal action against the UFC and Brock Lesnar over the defeat. He is accusing the UFC, Dana White and Lesnar of fraud, racketeering, battery, and civil conspiracy and has even gone as far as accusing them of knowing about the failed tests prior to the fight. One has to wonder if any of this will have any effect on Hunt in future fights.

Derrick Lewis comes into Saturday night’s bout riding a six fight winning streak. His most recent win came at UFC Fight Night 105 where he finished Travis Browne in the second round. Lewis is a finisher with sixteen KO/TKOs and one submission in eighteen pro career wins. A win here will put him one step closer to a title fight.

We all know what we’re going to get with these two. Both fighters are going to throw heavy hands looking for a knockout, which should make for an entertaining fight. While both are dangerous on the feet, Mark Hunt is the more technical, superior striker. He’s also an excellent counter-puncher which could be the difference in this fight. Lewis tends to put everything he has in his punches which leaves him open for the counter-strike and if Hunt lands flush he’ll sleep Lewis.

Derrick’s win streak might look good on paper, but if you really analyze it you have to ask yourself, who has he really beaten that was all that impressive? Don’t get me wrong, five KO/TKOs in six wins is impressive, but the opponents themselves are not very impressive. That said, he comes into this fight holding the advantage on the ground. If Lewis was smart he would avoid getting into a firefight with Hunt and utilize the takedown. Hunt has below average takedown defense and struggles to get back to his feet once he is taken down. Lewis has terrific ground and pound which like Hunt’s counter striking, can be the difference for Lewis. The question is, will Lewis come in with this type of game plan?

This is a very difficult fight to predict and one I will not be betting on. Hunt has the advantage if the fight is fought strictly on the feet. Lewis has the advantage with take downs and ground and pound. Hunt’s chin is nowhere near what it used to be, but he can also end the fight with one punch. I’m a bit concerned with where Hunt’s head is at this point in time too. Will the pending lawsuit have any effect on him?

Pick: Lewis by TKO

Derek Brunson (16-5) vs. Daniel Kelly (13-1) – Middleweight 185 lbs.

Current Odds: Brunson -265; Kelly +215

Derek Brunson began his UFC career going 7-1, but has lost his last two fights. First, he was stopped in the first round by Robert Whitaker at UFC Fight Night 101 and most recently he dropped a unanimous decision to Anderson Silva at UFC 208 in a fight most media and fans thought he won. Brunson will go for the finish whenever the opportunity presents itself as his twelve wins by KO/TKO and submission suggests.

After losing to Sam Alvey in forty-nine seconds at UFC Fight Night 65, Dan Kelly has rattled off four straight wins. None were bigger than his most recent fight which took place at UFC 209 where he beat Rashad Evans by split decision. Fighting out of the Resilience Training Centre, the Australian born Kelly will look to continue climbing the middleweight ladder by taking out another big name in Derek Brunson.

As a former All-American wrestler, Derek Brunson has never been submitted and should have success should the fight go to the ground. Brunson is also faster, younger, and more powerful. He will also have a seven inch reach advantage. While Brunson has struggled with the top fighters in the division, he has handled the lesser fighters with relative ease.

Dan Kelly opened eyes with his split decision victory over Rashad Evans. The thirty-nine year old, four time Judo Olympian still has a ton of fight left in him. Unfortunately for Kelly, I think pulling out a win here is just too tall a task for him. Brunson is the better athlete with better overall skills. While I think Kelly will struggle here, this won’t be the last we see of him.

Pick: Brunson by decision 

Ross Pearson (21-13, 1 NC) vs. Dan Hooker (14-7) – Lightweight 155 lbs.

Current Odds: Hooker -150; Pearson +120

Longtime UFC veteran Ross Pearson makes the walk for the 32nd time as a professional fighter. He enters his fight against Dan Hooker looking to break a three fight losing streak. The losses came against some excellent fighters including Will Brooks, Jorge Masvidal and most recently Steven Ray. All three fights went to the judge’s scorecards, as has Pearson’s previous seven fights.

With a career record of 14-7 as a pro, Dan Hooker is only .500 under the UFC banner. He’s 3-3 while alternating between wins and losses. His most recent fight occurred at UFC Fight Night 101 where he dropped a unanimous decision to Jason Knight.

This is another tough fight to call. Ross Pearson is as tough as they come and who has been in some wars inside the cage. Both fighters are in desperate need of a win. They are a combined 3-7 over their last ten. Pearson has been known to get lured into brawls instead of sticking to his game plan. He’s a decent wrestler but you’d never know it due to his propensity to engage in firefights. I’ll back Hooker here with the hopes that the hometown crowd will be the difference.

For betting purposes, I think there is some value in looking at the rounds total over in this one.

Pick: Hooker by decision 

Henrique da Silva (12-2) vs. Ion Cutelaba (12-3, 1 NC) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.

Current Odds: Cutelaba -300; da Silva +240

After an impressive seven fight winning streak on the regional circuit Ion Cutelaba signed with the UFC. The twenty-three year old has gotten off to a slow start going just 1-2 so far. Misha Cirkunov greeted Cutelaba to the UFC by subbing him at UFC Fight Night 89. Cutelaba bounced back with a win over Jonathan Wilson at UFC Fight Night 96, but then lost a decision to Jared Cannonier most recently at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 24.

After starting his career with twelve straight wins, Henrique da Silva has now lost his last two fights. First he was subbed by Paul Craig at UFC on FOX 22, and then he dropped a decision to Jordan Johnson at UFC on FOX 23. Another loss here will put him at 1-3 in the UFC so this is a big fight for the Brazilian.

This should be a fun fight. Cutelaba is an aggressive fighter who works at a fast pace and likes to pressure his opponents. He doesn’t have the best striking technique so he does get hit a lot which is a bit of a concern; but he has an excellent chin. Cutelaba also has a very solid ground game and this is where I think he will have the most success. Da Silva’s take down defense is below average so I see Cutelaba working in take downs and controlling da Silva on the ground.

While both fighters have questionable cardio, da Silva’s is downright awful. I think Henrique will have some success early in the fight and he might even be able to pull off the upset, but as long as Cutelaba can get out of the first round it’s his fight to lose.

Pick: Cutelaba by TKO

Tim Elliott #9 (15-7-1) vs. Ben Nguyen (16-6) – Flyweight 125 lbs.

Current Odds: Elliott -210; Nguyen +165

Tim Elliott steps in for the injured Joseph Benavidez to take on Ben Nguyen. Elliott went on a three fight winning streak earning him a title shot against Demetrious Johnson at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale. He put up a good fight but ultimately the champion and best pound-for-pound fighter in the world walked out of the octagon with title in hand, winning by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-45). Elliott got back in the win column in his most recent fight when he won a unanimous decision against Louis Smolka at UFC on FOX 24.

Ben Nguyen is 3-1 since coming to the UFC. After suffering his first loss against Louis Smolka at UFC Fight Night 91, Nguyen got back in the win column by beating Geane Herrera by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 101. Nguyen is a finisher with twelve of his fifteen wins coming via stoppage. However, he has been finished in each of his six losses.

This is your classic clash of styles. I expect Nguyen to try to keep the fight standing where he has the advantage in striking. The problem is that’s going to be a tough task against Elliott. The Season 24 Ultimate Fighter winner has excellent wrestling and will look for the take down early and often. I don’t expect this to be the most exciting fight, but it’s a fight I expect Elliott to win by controlling the fight on the ground.

This is a spot I might consider laying the odds and perhaps the rounds total over.

Pick: Elliott by decision

Alexander Volcanovski (14-1) vs. Mizuto Hirota (19-7-2)

Current Odds: Volkanovski -475; Hirota +350

Fighting primarily in his native country of Australia, Alexander Volcanovski will be making his second walk under the UFC banner. He won his promotional debut by finishing Yusuke Kasuya at UFC Fight Night 101, which was also held in Australia. Fighting out of Freestyle Fighting Gym, Volcanovski boasts twelve finishes in fourteen wins.

Thirty-six year old Mizuto Hirota comes into Saturday’s fight riding a four fight win streak, with one draw. After going 0-2 in the UFC back in 2013, Hirota returned to his native Japan and rattled off three straight wins fighting for Deep. This will be his fourth attempt at getting his first win under the UFC umbrella.

At almost a 5-1 favorite, those odds are still not high enough. I don’t expect Volkanovski to have any problems getting past Hirota here.

Pick: Volcanovski by TKO

Prelims Quick Look

Pichel -105 over Brown -125

Steele -170 over Jumeau +140

Mokhtarian + 135 over Moraga -165

Ottow -335 over Kunimoto +265

Aldrich -210 over Jeon +165

Kim -130 over Gouti ev

Enjoy the fights!

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