The Ultimate Fighting Championship travels north of the border to the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Canada for UFC Fight Night 151. The main event takes place in the loaded UFC lightweight division where Al Iaquinta takes on longtime UFC veteran and fan favorite Donald Cerrone.
After dropping a unanimous decision to Leon Edwards at UFC Singapore, Donald Cerrone has strung together two consecutive wins. He submitted Mike Perry via armbar in the first round at UFC Denver, and then took out one of the top prospects in the division, Alexander Hernandez. “Cowboy” dominated Hernandez until finally stopping him in the second round at UFC Brooklyn. The UFC made the fight to showcase Hernandez, but Cerrone proved he’s not done yet. At thirty-six years of age, Cerrone will make the walk for the forty-eighth time. In thirty-five career wins, only eight made it to the judge’s scorecards.
Al Iaquinta was riding a five-fight win streak until he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov by unanimous decision at UFC 223. He bounced back with a win over Kevin Lee via unanimous decision at UFC on FOX 31. Iaquinta has some impressive wins including Lee twice, Diego Sanchez, Jorge Masvidal and Joe Lauzon. Iaquinta will make the walk for the thirteenth time for the promotion when he steps into the cage opposite Cerrrone. Fighting out of the Serra-Longo Fight Team, Iaquinta has eight finishes in fourteen career victories.
The co-main takes place in the UFC middleweight division where Elias Theodorou goes up against Derek Brunson. Elias Theodorou enters his fight against Derek Brunson riding a modest three-fight win streak. His most recent victory occurred at UFC 231 where he beat Eryk Anders by split decision. The other two wins include Trevor Smith at UFC Liverpool and Dan Kelly at UFC Fight Night 121. Both victories were via unanimous decision. The thirty year old Canadian born fighter has won via decision nine times in sixteen career victories.
Derek Brunson is on a two-fight skid as he heads into battle with Theodorou. His most recent loss was at UFC 230 where he got stopped by Israel Adesanya in the very first round. Prior to that he was again finished in the first round this time by Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza at UFC on FOX 27. At thirty-five years of age, this will be the American’s twenty-sixth professional fight. Of his eighteen victories only four made it to decision.
Also on the main card thirty-five year old Cub Swanson takes on Shane Burgos. Swanson has dropped three fights in a row as he looks to remain relevant in the UFC’s featherweight division. Shane Burgos was undefeated until getting stopped by Calvin Kattar at UFC 220. The twenty-eight year old bounced back in his most recent fight with a submission win over Kurt Holobaugh at UFC 230.
The six-fight main card also includes undefeated Brad Katona taking on Merab Dvalishvili, heavyweights Walt Harris vs. the debuting Sergey Spivak and Andrew Sanchez goes up against Marc-Andre Barriault in the opener.
The prelims will air on ESPN beginning at 4 PM (CST) with the main card streaming on ESPN+ starting at 7 PM (CST).
Note: The predictions in this column do not necessarily mean that I will be betting them. I have changed my mind in the past and gone the other way after conducting more research. For all of my official bets follow me on Twitter @MichaelGrocke.
Al Iaquinta (14-4-1) vs. Donald Cerrone (35-11, 1 NC) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Iaquinta -125; Cerrone -105
Pick: Iaquinta by (T)KO.
If this fight plays out entirely on the feet I can see Iaquinta getting the finish, most likely in the later rounds. I think Al is the better boxer and the more durable fighter at this stage in their careers. The odds have come down a bit to -125 which I feel provides good value on Iaquinta.
Derek Brunson (18-7) vs. Elias Theodorou (16-2) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Theodorou-115; Brunson -115
Pick: Theodorou by decision.
My initial thought was to pass on this fight. If Brunson doesn’t get a finish in the first round, I think Theodorou’s motor and activity will earn him a decision win. Theodorou’s style makes it difficult to find the range and I think he’ll be able to avoid Brunson’s power.
Cub Swanson (25-10) vs. Shane Burgos (11-1) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Burgos -170; Swanson +150
Pick: Swanson by decision.
Although Cub is 0-3 in his last three, they were against the best featherweights in the world. The question is, at thirty-five years of age is he no longer able to compete with the upper echelon of the division? Burgos’s resume is nowhere close that of Swanson’s, but is he ready to handle the experience and grit of Cub? It seems to me the UFC thinks he is, but I’m not sold on him just yet.
Brad Katona (8-0) vs. Merab Dvalishvili (8-4) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Dvalishvili -135; Katone +115
Pick: Katone by decision.
Katone opened as the betting favorite, but a surge of early money on Dvalishvili quickly forced oddsmakers to flip the odds. I don’t agree with the line move. Dvalishvili is 1-2 in the UFC. The win was against Terrion Ware whom is no longer in the UFC. I’ll back the hotter prospect at plus money.
Walt Harris (11-7, 1 NC) vs. Sergey Spivak (8-0) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Harris -170; Spivak +150
Pick: Harris by (T)KO.
The number on this fight has ticked up just a bit in Harris’ favor. While I expect Harris to get the win, I have a hard time betting him regardless of the odds. I’ll pass.
Marc-Andre Barriault (11-1) vs. Andrew Sanchez (10-4) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Sanchez -165; Barriault +145
Pick: Sanchez by decision.
This is a tough fight to predict, but I’ll back the fighter with the UFC experience.
Macy Chiasson (4-0) vs. Sarah Moras (5-4) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Chiasson -700; Moras +500
Pick: Chiasson by (T)KO.
I think it’s going to be a rough night for Sarah Moras. Perhaps use Chiasson in a parlay.
Aiemann Zahabi (7-1) vs. Vince Morales (8-3) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Zahabi -160; Morales +140
Pick: Zahabi by decision.
The odds have remained flat for this one. I like Zahabi here despite the long layoff.
Nordine Taleb (14-6) vs. Kyle Prepolec (12-5) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Taleb -400; Prepolec +300
Pick: Taleb by (T)KO.
Taleb should get his hand raised, but at that price, no thanks. In fact I think there’s some value in backing Prepolec here even though he is taking the fight on very short notice.
Kyle Nelson (12-2) vs. Matt Sayles (7-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Sayles -235; Nelson +195
Pick: Sayles by decision.
Two fighters with little UFC experience. Sayles will be the smaller fighter, but I think he gets his hand raised. The odds on this fight surprise me, I don’t think Sayles should be more than a 2-1 favorite so there is value backing Nelson.
Arjan Singh Bhullar (8-1) vs. Juan Adams (5-0) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Adams -125; Bhullar +105
Pick: Adams by (T)KO.
This is only Adams sixth professional fight. Granted he’s finished all five opponents, but the inexperience worries me. Bhullar isn’t impressive by any means, but he has the experience. I like Adams’ size though and I think he’ll use it to his advantage here.
Mitch Gagnon (12-4) vs. Cole Smith (6-0) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Gagnon -125; Smith +105
Pick: Smith by decision. Mitch Gagnon last fought in December of 2016 and has lost his last two fights in the promotion. I typically fade fighters with long periods of inactivity, but I’m also hesitant to back debuting fighters so this one is tough to call. Neither fighter is impressive, but I think Smith continues his unbeaten streak here.
So many of these fights can go either way, it makes for a difficult card to handicap. My recommendation would be to tread lightly unless you see more advantages one way or the other in these fights than I do. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter with your best bets.
Enjoy the fights!