UFC FIGHT NIGHT 120: Harris’s preview & predictions for the Poirier vs. Pettis headlined main card

BY JOHN HARRIS, MMATorch Contributor

Last Saturday we got to witness the comeback of the of the best MMA fighter of all time, Georges St-Pierre and one of the best all-around events in UFC history. UFC 217 gave us for the first time in UFC history 3 title changes. Not only did St-Pierre submit Michael Bisping to capture the middleweight championship, we also saw T.J. Dillashaw regain the bantamweight championship and Rose Namajunas score a huge upset victory to win the strawweight championship.

This Saturday may not have any titles on the line but UFC Fight Night 120 from Norfolk, Virginia may provide just as much excitement. The card is stacked with a big main event in the lightweight division, tons of house hold names and young fighters ready to move up the ladder. Let’s take a look at what’s to come at UFC Fight Night 120 and make a few predictions.

 

Main Card

Dustin Poirier vs. Anthony Pettis

 The main event of the evening could be an instant classic as Dustin Poirier takes on former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Both men are good strikers with different styles. Poirier is a brawler with very good boxing. Poirier has also found better success at 155 lbs. since his return to the weight class in 2015. Since then he’s gone 5-1 with one no contest. The no contest came in his most recent bout when former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez landed illegal knees to the head of the downed Poirier during their UFC 211 bout.

Pettis is 2-3 since losing his UFC lightweight championship.  Pettis should have never moved away from the 155 lb. division. He suffered a few tough losses before the move to 145 but it’s clear now that physically he is a better fit at 155. Pettis has quick hands to go along with powerful kicks from all different angles. Pettis has been known for his flashy striking style but he also has a very underrated submission game which he showed in title fights against Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez.

This fight could really go either way. Poirier has the power to knockout anyone in the division, but I look for Pettis to use his superior footwork to keep Poirier at distance and score enough points to pull out the win.

The Pick: Anthony Pettis by Unanimous Decision

Matt Brown vs. Diego Sanchez

This was in my Top 10 must see fights for the last quarter of 2017 and I think it will live up to the hype. This will be Matt Brown’s final MMA fight and father time is also creeping up on Diego Sanchez so make sure not to miss this one.

Both men are straight forward brawlers who love to throw hands early and often.  Neither man has found consistent success in the later part of their careers as Brown has lost 5 of his last 6 while Sanchez is 3-3.  Brown is a little more battle tested against better competition in the 170 lb. weight class so I think he will be able to take whatever Sanchez will throw at him in the first two rounds, then be able to get him to the ground and finish him off to end his career in the octagon with a win.

The Pick: Matt Brown by 3rd Round TKO

Junior Albini vs Andrei Arlovski

This is a must win fight for Andrei Arlovski if he wants to stay in the UFC. He returned to the UFC in 2014 and rolled off four straight wins, but now Arlovski is in a downward spiral with five straight losses. Things will not get any easier for the former champion as he now faces a young and hungry Junior Albini.

The Brazilian native Albini holds a 14-2 record and is ready to make a name for himself in his second career UFC fight. Albini is a pretty well rounded fighter who typically comes in weighing right around the 265 lb. heavyweight limit.  He is much quicker and more athletic than he looks and will want to keep moving to avoid the power of Arlovski.

On the other hand, Arlovski will be looking to turn this into a brawl and land some big shot to finish off the less experienced fighter. I just do not see Arlovski being able to do that and will most likely get picked apart over time. The once top heavyweight in the world is unfortunately just past his prime and doesn’t have the chin or cardio to win a three round fight anymore.

The Pick: Junior Albini by Unanimous Decision

Nate Marquardt vs Cezar Ferreira

Once a fixture at the top of the UFC middlewight division, Nate Marquardt is now just a shell of the fighter we saw challenge Anderson Silva. But that can be expected for a fighter closing in on 40 years old with 53 career MMA fights. Marquardt will be looking to end his two fight losing streak against Ultimate Fighter Brazil winner, Cezar Ferreira.

Marquardt has been known over his career as a good boxer with above average grappling. He will need to turn back the clock in this one against Ferreira. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt is very dangerous if he can get his opponent to the ground. Ferreira is not very good on his feet just yet but does have some power that Marquardt will have to keep in the back of his mind. Marquardt will need to pressure Ferreira and look for a knockout. I look for Ferreira to whether the early storm and be able to impose his will on the smaller Marquardt for the rest of the fight.

The Pick: Cezar Ferreira by Unanimous Decision

Raphael Assuncao vs Matthew Lopez

This is another fight featuring a long time UFC veteran against a relative newcomer. Raphael Assuncao has been with the UFC since 2011. As a bantamweight he is 9-1 with his only loss coming to current champion T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 200.  However, Assuncao does have a win over Dillashaw in their first encounter showing that he can compete with the elite of the bantamweight division.

Matthew Lopez is not nearly as experienced as most 30 year olds in the UFC. He has a 10-1 record and has won 2 out of 3 under the UFC banner. Lopez will need to turn this fight into a wrestling match and get Assuncao to the ground. Look for Lopez to change levels often in his striking, try to back Assuncao against the cage and look for a take down.

That will be easier said than done. Assuncao is a well-rounded fighter who is one of the best counter strikers in the UFC. He always seems to take advantage of his opponent’s mistakes and makes them pay with hard combinations. Lopez will have a bright future in the UFC, but I do not see this being his night.  Assuncao is just a little too polished for Lopez at this point in his career.

 The Pick: Raphael Assuncao by 2nd Round TKO

 Clay Guida vs. Joe Lauzon

This card is stacked with fights that could steal the show and this one between Clay Guida vs. Joe Lauzon is among those.  These two have been with the UFC since 2006 and both men have been in some classic battles. I find it very fitting they are finally crossing paths. While being a part of some exciting fights of the years neither man has been able to break through in to the title scene for any weight class they have fought in.

Guida is an aggressive wrestler with near endless cardio. Lauzon has good standup to go along with excellent submissions from his back. I expect Guida to get some take downs, but Lauzon’s ground game will be able to keep him out of trouble. Lauzon should be able to pick Guida apart standing and win this fight.

The Pick: Joe Lauzon by Unanimous Decision

Last week’s predictions: 3-2


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