UFC FIGHT NIGHT PRIMER: Ecochard’s preview of New Zealand card including Derrick Lewis vs. Mark Hunt heavyweight clash

By Mathew Ecochard, MMATorch contributor

UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Hunt Primer – Matthew Ecochard

Returning to New Zealand, the UFC is bringing along their favorite fighter in Mark Hunt, taking on the surging Derrick Lewis. A mix of ranked fighters, hometown favorites and newcomers fill this card up to create something interesting. This is the biggest test for Derrick Lewis is a battle with a fellow head hunter, but one he will need to pass to move up the ranks at heavyweight. The following are previews and predictions for the entirety of the card.

UFC Fight Pass Prelims (7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST) 

Dong Hyun Kim (14-8-3) vs. Thibault Gouti (11-3) – Lightweight Bout

Dong Hyun Kim kept his UFC career alive with a win over Brendan O’Reilly last time out, but he likely still needs to win here to keep his spot on the roster. Thibault Gouti is win-less in three appearances in the UFC and is somehow getting one last chance here against Kim. Both men are good on the ground, but Kim hits harder on the feet. Going 1-1 at 155 lbs, Kim looks to have the higher upside here and should be able to outwork Gouti on the feet. Kim gets the TKO before the final bell.

Prediction: Dong Hyun Kim via TKO Round 3

JJ Aldrich (4-2) vs. Chan-Mi Jeon (5-0) – Women’s Strawweight Bout

This bout got fairly interesting as short notice replacement Chan-Mi Jeon is only 19 years old and is 5-0 with four first round finishes to her credit already. Jeon looks to have a strong Muay Thai background and will love to oblige Aldrich with a striking affair. JJ Aldrich is a black belt in Taekwondo, but struggles a little bit in other areas of the sport. This fight should be fun as both will look to finish, Aldrich has yet to be knocked out, but I see Jeon showing up sharp and upsetting Aldrich.

Prediction: Chan-Mi Jeon via TKO Round 1

Fox Sports 1 Prelims (8 PM EST / 5 PM PST)

Kiichi Kunimoto (18-6-2, 1NC) vs. Zak Ottow (14-4) – Welterweight Bout

Returning after more than a full year away, Kiichi Kunimoto takes on the tough Zak Ottow. Kunimoto likes to submit his foes, but has been submitted twice himself. Ottow has a similar style, with 10 finishes by submission and being finished once himself that way. Ottow is slightly larger than Kunimoto in size, but this will be such a close fight stylistically. Ottow will outwork Kunimoto though on route to a decision victory, this fight could  be exciting, but it will likely be a slow paced grinding bout.

Prediction: Zak Ottow via Unanimous Decision

(#11) John Moraga (16-6) vs. Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-1) – Flyweight Bout

John Moraga has achieved gatekeeper status for the flyweight division, beating names like Justin Scoggins and Willie Gates but losing to Sergio Pettis and Mateus Nicolau. He has really good submission skills, but lacks high level striking and he can be taken down fairly easily. Moraga is welcoming Ashkan Mokhtarian and if he loses there is a real possibility that he will be cut. Mokhtarian is has finished 12 of his 13 wins and his only loss was in 2014. If Mokhtarian keeps this on the feet he will likely control the bout. Although he has 6 knockouts I doubt he could finish Moraga who’s only TKO is due to a doctor stopping it and that was against John Dodson.

Prediction: Ashkan Moktarian via Unanimous Decision

Luke Jumeau (11-3) vs. Dominique Steele (14-8) – Welterweight Bout

If Dominique Steele comes out with a loss here, that will be 1-4 and likely it for his UFC hopes. Steele has some good striking and loves to get into a gritty fight, but his cardio doesn’t seem to hold up and the pace gets to be too much for him. Luke Jumeau is making his UFC debut riding a six fight win streak, losing last in 2013. A good guillotine and RNC are his two submission weapons, but Jumeau has really started to let his hands go in recent fights winning three of his last four via TKO. Whether it be a knockout or a decision, either way the newcomer should have the fire to keep his dreams alive with a win and that comes at the cost of Steel’s.

Prediction: Luke Jumeau via Unanimous Decision

Damien Brown (17-9) vs. Vinc Pichel (9-1) – Lightweight Bout

Both Damien Brown and Vinc Pichel are in similar positions, losing their first bouts in the UFC then winning two in a row. Damien Brown is a kickboxer, he is strong on the ground, but can also be submitted. Vinc Pichel is a heavy hitter with a lot of range. The biggest thing hurting Pichel is himself right now, although he is 9-1 he hasn’t fought in over three years at this point. Ring rust is not always a thing, but it will likely play a role here and hurt the chances of Pichel coming into this bout. Brown is the more decorated ground fighter and that is where it’ll end.

Prediction: Damien Brown via Submission Round 2

Fox Sports 1 Main Card (10 PM EST / 7 PM PST)

Alexander Volkanovski (14-1) vs. Mizuto Hirota (19-7-2) – Featherweight Bout

The striking of Alexander Volkanovski has carried him through his career with nine of his fourteen wins coming from knockout. Mizuto Hirota is also one who loves to go for the knockout with 10 of his 18 also being a knockout. Volkanovski has been knocked out once but Hirota never has. While Volkanovski may be fine on the feet, he will likely have a bigger advantage on the ground and should try to at least mix in some takedowns. Volkanovski’s disadvantages physically could hinder him, but he will get in close with his striking and outpace Hirota.

Prediction: Alexander Volkanovski via Unanimous Decision

(#8) Tim Elliott (15-7-1) vs. (#12) Ben Nguyen (16-6) – Flyweight Bout

Excellent matchmaking here with the excellent Tim Elliott takes on Ben Nguyen. Both of these men have an exciting style, but this is definitely a grappler vs striker fight. Elliot returned to the UFC on “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, winning that tournament and getting a chance at Demetrious Johnson and while he came up short he put up a valiant effort. He rebounded and soundly beat Louis Smolka via decision. Ben Nguyen is getting a really big chance here against Elliott to make an impression on the UFC brass. Nguyen lost to Smolka, but has won all three other bouts he has had in the UFC. Nguyen will have issues keeping this fight standing and he will get taken down with little hope of getting up. His takedown defense is good, but not good enough to stop Elliot’s relentless game.

Prediction: Tim Elliot via Unanimous Decision

Ion Cutelaba (12-3) vs. Henrique da Silva (12-2) – Light Heavyweight Bout

Ion Cutelaba and Henrique da Silva are both heavy handed strikers looking to go to war with each other. Neither fighter has ever been knocked out, but both have definitely been rocked before. Cutelaba has lost to Misha Cirkunov and Jared Cannonier while Silva has lost to Paul Craig and Jordan Johnson back to back. While both men would love to stand and trade, Cutelaba should have more weapons at his disposal in the clinch and with takedowns. If it leaves the first round, Cutelaba is certain to win as the only way I see Silva taking it is a first round KO.

Prediction: Ion Cutelaba via Unanimous Decision

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

While he is a staple in the UFC, Ross Pearson is on a terrible streak and if he doesn’t get a win here a cut wouldn’t be surprising. Going 1-4 in his last five and currently on a three fight losing streak. Pearson is always competitive as he can strike with the best and is a competent grappler. Dan Hooker has alternated wins and losses since he joined the UFC. If he doesn’t get the finish, Hooker loses by decision more often than not. Two of his loses are against high level prospects in Yair Rodriguez and Jason Knight. Ross Pearson is not a prospect but is a savvy veteran. Pearson is a tough man to finish and Hooker will try his best, but Pearson keeps it on the feet and outworks the young Hooker in a close fight for a decision to stay in the UFC.

Prediction: Ross Pearson via Split Decision

(#8) Derek Brunson (16-5) vs. (#15) Daniel Kelly (13-1) – Middleweight Bout

For the first time since 2012 Derek Brunson is on a two fight losing streak. The Anderson Silva fight should have gone his way, but the judges gave Silva the win because of some of the bigger strikes landed in the rounds. Striking has become Brunson’s go to, although he can always fall back on his wrestling which got him his wins from his career beginnings through Strikeforce. Brunson has never really faced a Judo practitioner quite like Daniel Kelly though. Kelly needs to be careful and not fall into the rush of Brunson because he was knocked out easily against Sam Alvey and Brunson likely hits just as hard. If Kelly gets in close and uses his Judo he can definitely win this bout by controlling and tiring out Brunson. The strength of Brunson on the feet will keep him ahead though and I see him coming out fast and fierce for a first round finish.

Prediction: Derek Brunson via TKO Round 1

(#6) Derrick Lewis (18-4, 1NC) vs. (#7) Mark Hunt (12-11-1, 1NC) – Heavyweight Main Event (5 Rounds)

What a main event this will be with two monsters going at it. The “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt taking on “The Black Beast” Derrick Lewis in what should be a stand up war. I imagine the first round being slightly tentative with both men being cautious of the other man’s power then all chains come loose and these two will go at it. Derrick Lewis is currently riding a six fight win streak with five of those coming from (T)KO. Mark Hunt is 2-1, 1NC in his last four, but win-less in his last two most recently getting knocked out by Overeem with a massive knee in the third round of a fight he was winning. Let’s see what each fighter has to offer coming into this bout.

Lewis brings in massive knockout power and an even scarier ground and pound game. He does get hurt during fights, but he can survive and come back through it and finish in devastating. He works hard and continues to improve and be hard on himself in bouts where he doesn’t perform as well as he thinks he should be. Lewis needs to get Hunt to the ground. While he may land very well on the feet and have a good chance there, he has an even better chance if the bout gets to the ground. Lewis’s ground game is almost impossible to escape because of his size and power.

If Hunt gets taken down the fight might be over right then and there. He needs to do everything in his power to keep the fight in boxing distance. Normally I would suggest use his kicks because they are so thunderous, but maybe just keep them as low as possible. Hunt will be the shorter fighter with less reach so keeping the fight at distance will be hard when he might just get picked apart. The only thing Hunt has going for him is his power and he needs to put it on display early and often to make Lewis respect it even more. Mark Hunt may just be my favorite fighter with everything he represents and his current legal battle with the UFC, but I just don’t see many ways he will win unless he catches Lewis early.

Prediction: Derrick Lewis via TKO Round 2

NOW CHECK OUT ANOTHER PREVIEW OF THIS EVENT: UFC FIGHT NIGHT PREVIEW: Grocke’s Preview and Predictions of New Zealand event including Derrick Lewis vs. Mark Hunt

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