To go along with a fun Main Event, we have a solid main card that should bring the excitement.
Cynthia Calvillo vs Marina Rodriguez
As a co-main event, we have an excellent piece of strawweight matchmaking between Calvillo and Rodriguez. It has certainly been an up and down road for Calvillo, who came in and got recognition for being the first fighter in over ten years to compete on back to back pay per views. Her tricky submission game, combined with functional if not particularly effective striking has been enough to get her a 5-1 UFC record, a loss to Carla Esparza being the only blemish.
She will take on Brazil’s Marina Rodriguez, who has done an exceptional job in her own right of exceeding expectations. After going to a draw with Randa Markos in her UFC debut, Rodriguez has used her excellent Muay Thai skills to get clear wins over Jessica Aguilar and Tecia Torres. There are still questions about her takedown defense against someone who can match her physically, but it remains to be seen if Calvillo tests her in that area.
Calvillo has to be favored here IMO. She could certainly take the wrong approach and just walk into a beating in the clinch for three rounds, but given that she is big for the division in her own right and more often than not, knows to play to her strengths, she is my pick to get her submission game going and get the win via second-round submission.
Ben Rothwell vs Stefan Struve
MMA retirements really do never last forever, do they? When Struve retired, it seemed like the right time. He had spent the last year engaged in a three-fight losing streak ,in which he never looked terrible, but just unmotivated. So when he retired after a nice comeback win in February over Marcos Rogerio De Lima, it felt like the right time to walk away. Still, here he is again, and against no easy out in fellow veteran Ben Rothwell.
For Rothwell, he seems to be in the midst of his own run towards the end of his career. At one time, through zombie-like mental and physical toughness, and some tricky submissions, Rothwell had managed to reach the top five of the heavyweight division. A clear one-sided loss to Junior Dos Santos put a stop to his run back in 2016, and after injuries and a failed drug test, Rothwell was out of sight and out of mind for the next 3 years. His return hasn’t gone to plan either. After a close decision loss to Blagoy Ivanov, another one-sided loss to Andrei Arlovski has sealed the deal on Rothwell being at gatekeeper status at this point of his career, however, he should provide fun fights until the end.
I can’t help but feel this is a horrible idea for Struve. He has never been the fastest heavyweight in the division, but he has also had a shaky chin, which should be his downfall here. Even though Rothwell is coming off of two losses where he took a lot of damage, I still favor him in a striking match here. He should be able to pressure here at will, and his toughness should see him through anything that comes back his way. Maybe, if Struve was more reliable on being able to use his reach, he could play matador here and keep Rothwell away for 15 minutes, but that’s hard to rely on. So, The pick is for Rothwell to march down Struve, land something hard, and score an emphatic first-round knockout.
Yana Kunitskaya vs Aspen Ladd
How quickly one’s fortunes can change in MMA. Before her main event spot against Germaine De Randamie, Aspen Ladd was one of the brightest prospects in the sport, a terrifying weight cut situation and 16 seconds later, Ladd needs to rebuild to regain that traction. Ladd got by on relentless pressure, a particularly vicious top game, and of course, always barely making weight for each fight that happened. Until the De Randamie fight, it all worked. But now it’s time to re-assess, change things up and get back in the W column, and Kunitskaya is a deceptively tricky out.
Flying quietly under the radar, it’s important to note how far Kunitskaya has gotten so far in her UFC career. After getting the unenviable late notice call to fight Cris Cyborg, “Foxy” has settled in nicely back at 135 pounds. She has the typical jack of all trades, master of none style, but it has worked more often than not in her MMA career, helping her win rounds, and win fights. She has used that style to earn two solid victories over Lina Lansberg and Marion Reneau, which are great additions to her resume, and she will look to build upon that streak here against Ladd.
Even with the De Randamie result fresh in my mind, this is still Ladd’s fight to lose in my opinion. While Kunitskaya could play matador and win a slow decision, the Reneau fight showed that she does have trouble with pressure and someone who lets their hands go, as the final round of that fight was her getting busted up badly, and that style describes Ladd to a tee. Unless the weight cut completely shatters her durability, Ladd should be able to walk through the offense of Yana, secure the takedown, and pour on the damage with her top game. The pick is Ladd via third-round stoppage.
Cody Stamman Vs Song Yadong
The UFC might have something here with Yadong. Coming in at just age 19, Song was a relative unknown and has entertained every step of the way. From his submission win over Bharat Khandare in his debut to ruthless knockouts of Felipe Arantes and Alejandro Perez. Still just 21 years old, Yadong is on the cusp of the top of the division, but Stamman is not an easy test.
Michigan’s Stamman has done quite nicely for himself in the UFC so far. With his game built behind solid striking and a strong wrestling base, Stamman has gone 4 – 1 in the UFC, with wins over the aforementioned Perez, Bryan Caraway and Tom Duquesnoy, a setback to Aljamain Sterling being the only blemish. This opportunity here against Yadong gives Stamman a chance to stop the hype train and continue his own run to the top.
This is a solid test for Yadong, but I have to favor him here. Stamman’s wrestling could be trouble, but the dynamic offense of Yadong should be able to stifle that area for Stamman. And on the feet, Yadong should hit the harder, faster shots and be able to win exchanges. Stamman is durable, so this probably doesn’t end in a finish, so the pick is Yadong via decision.
Rob Font vs Ricky Simon
Opening up the main card, we have what should be a banger between Rob Font and Ricky Simon. Boston’s Font has been must-see TV so far in his UFC career, even if he as of now has yet to make it past one of the elites of the division. Font’s bread and butter of his game is his striking attack, excellent boxing and a solid pressure game, backed with some knockout power has Font a constant knockout threat throughout the fight. However, there have been obvious issues. When faced with relentless pressure fighters, like John Lineker and Pedro Munhoz, Font has been the one willing to take a back step, and he is less effective on the back foot than when he can pressure freely. He will try to finally get past that style against Washington’s Simon.
There is no better way to describe Simon than he is a pressure fighter. When he is able to pressure, he is absolutely relentless with his grinding wrestling approach and deceptively competent striking. However, his pressure also comes at the lack of defence, which ran him right into a shocking knockout loss to Urijah Faber back in July. The question after that result is, will there be a pivot for Simon’s style coming? Where he takes his foot off the gas a bit, to not repeat the same mistake? Only time will tell.
There are a lot of potential unknowns in this fight on paper, but it still figures to be a fight Simon should win. As previously stated, Font will cede pressure to relentless pressure fighters, and that is Simon to a tee. He could just run right into Font’s fists, but except for the Faber fight, his chin has been rock solid. It’s not the most confident pick, considering the potential unknowns coming in, but the pick is for Simon to keep the aggression on and grind out a tough decision.
Overall, this is gonna be a fun card that should bring the excitement all around.
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