This weekend will witness the UFC travel to Paris for the first time for its latest Fight Night event, and it promises to be a big one.
Overall, this should be a wildly entertaining card complete with a very raucous crowd, making it a must-see event.
Here are the predicted outcomes for UFC Fight Night: Ciryl Gane vs. Tai Tuivasa.
#1. UFC heavyweight division: Ciryl Gane vs. Tai Tuivasa
Given that this is the UFC’s first ever show in Paris, it makes sense to see France’s biggest MMA star, former interim heavyweight champ Ciryl Gane in the headline bout.
However, it’s almost surprising that rather than give him an easy bounce-back fight following his loss in January to Francis Ngannou – the first of his MMA career – ‘Bon Gamin’ has instead been matched with Tai Tuivasa, who sits just two spots below him in the rankings.
So can Gane send the French crowd home happy with a big win, or will ‘Bam Bam’ pull off an upset and celebrate in his trademark fashion – with the infamous ‘Shoey’?
On one hand, it’s impossible to write Tuivasa off. Right now, he’s on the best run of his UFC career, having won his last five bouts via either KO or TKO. More to the point, he hasn’t been snacking on scrubs, with his most recent win coming over former two-time title challenger Derrick Lewis.
However, it’s safe to say that ‘Bam Bam’ also hasn’t run through any of those recent opponents, save for the overmatched Harry Hunsucker. Both Lewis and Greg Hardy appeared to have him badly hurt, but like his idol Mark Hunt, he was able to weather the storm to hit back even harder.
To be fair, labeling Tuivasa an unskilled brawler would be hugely unfair. He’s actually a pretty solid technical striker who fires heavy punches from the pocket, and he also possesses hidden athleticism, allowing him to surprise his foes with his speed and explosiveness.
Outside of a penchant for getting hit, the native of Australia has one other major weakness – his ground game has looked terrible at times, particularly in his losses to Junior Dos Santos and Sergey Spivak. However, it’s been so long since he’s been seen on the mat in the octagon that he may have improved.
So how does he match with ‘Bon Gamin’? Gane has not put on quite so many exciting fights as Tuivasa, but that’s because he’s a far more technical striker who rarely gets hit at all. He possesses violent power, but he’s also content to pick a foe apart from range.
We saw examples of this in his bouts with Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Both men were vaunted strikers, but neither could really lay a glove on the Frenchman, instead falling victim to a steady diet of jabs, low kicks and shots to the body.
Essentially, then, this fight should come down to a key question – whether Gane can pick Tuivasa apart without falling victim to a big haymaker. The likelihood is that he’ll be able to do it, but the risk is that if he hurts ‘Bam Bam’ and goes for the kill, he could leave himself open.
With that said, ‘Bon Gamin’ is a classy enough striker not to take any silly risks, and assuming he doesn’t get too aggressive due to the fans being heavily behind him, he should win this bout comfortably.
The Pick: Gane via second round TKO
#2. UFC middleweight division: Robert Whittaker vs. Marvin Vettori
Whittaker, essentially, is in one of the most awkward spots possible on the entire roster in that he’s stuck in a holding pattern. Two losses to champion Israel Adesanya mean he’s unlikely to gain another title shot any time soon, but he’s clearly the second-best fighter at 185lbs, proving it by beating the likes of Darren Till and Jared Cannonier.
Vettori will be hoping to usurp that spot as his own, of course. Like Whittaker, ‘The Italian Dream’ also has two losses to Adesanya, but outside of that, he’s beaten six opponents, including Paulo Costa, Jack Hermansson and Kevin Holland.
So how will this fight go? Despite Vettori having a solid ground game, it feels likely that it’ll take place on the feet. Whittaker has excellent takedown defense. Also, 'The Reaper' should be able to shrug off the Italian’s clinch attempts if Vettori looks to channel his inner Randy Couture and wall-and-stall. Whittaker has clearly better striking than Vettori and utilizes his legs well.
It's hard to look past Whittaker in terms of picking a winner. ‘The Reaper’ has heavy hands, a phenomenal grasp of timing and range, and great defense too.
The only fighters to ever outstrike him, realistically, were Adesanya and Stephen Thompson, and the Australian made the same mistake in both of those fights in terms and got overzealous. Even if Whittaker decides to be reckless, Vettori simply doesn’t have the sniper-like style needed to actually take him out.
With that considered, expect this fight to look a lot like Whittaker’s wins over Cannonier.
The Pick: Whittaker via unanimous decision
#3. UFC Fight Night: The Main Card
In a middleweight bout, Italy’s Alessio di Chirico takes on Roman Kopylov. This is an odd main card bout given Di Chirico is 1-3 in his last four, while Kopylov has never won in the octagon, but hopefully it’ll be fun.
To be fair to Di Chirico, even in his losses he’s never been outclassed, and he does have a pair of excellent knockout wins to his name over Oluwale Bamgbose and Joaquin Buckley. Kopylov, on the other hand, simply hasn’t shown that kind of explosiveness thus far. Therefore, the pick is Di Chirico via knockout.
At lightweight, John Makdessi faces Nasrat Haqparast. Given that he’s now 37 years old and is into his second decade with the UFC, it’s a surprise that Makdessi is still competing. ‘The Bull’ remains the same fighter he’s always been – a skilled striker who can frustrate fans due to his somewhat safety-first style.
Haqparast is far more aggressive, and while he’s lost his last two bouts, at 27, he’s reaching his athletic prime and there’s no shame in losing to Bobby Green or Dan Hooker. With Makdessi not having fought for a year, it’s hard to imagine him having much success here, so Haqparast is likely to bully him in the clinch for a decision.
Finally, Nathaniel Wood battles Charles Jourdain in a featherweight bout. This one should be exciting. Jourdain isn’t the best fighter at 145lbs, but he’s aggressive to a fault and his last bout, a loss to Shane Burgos, was wild. ‘Air’ is more of a striker than a grappler, but he’s skilled in all areas.
Wood is perhaps less aggressive, but he’s also arguably more skilled from a technical standpoint, and if he can get an opponent hurt, he’s a highly dangerous finisher. If ‘The Prospect’ can avoid letting Jourdain drag him into a brawl, then, this might be his fight to lose. The pick is Wood via submission.
#4. UFC Fight Night: The Prelims
Picks in bold
UFC lightweight division: Benoit St-Denis vs. Gabriel Miranda
UFC middleweight division: Nassourdine Imavov vs. Joaquin Buckley
UFC middleweight division: Dustin Stoltzfus vs. Abusupiyan Magomedov
UFC lightweight division: Fares Ziam vs. Michal Figlak
UFC featherweight division: Ricardo Ramos vs. Danny Henry
UFC bantamweight division: Khalid Taha vs. Cristian Quinonez
UFC featherweight division: William Gomis vs. Jarno Errens
UFC featherweight division: Ailin Perez vs. Stephanie Egger