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UFC Fight Night 118 predictions, preview, and analysis

UFC's Jon Jones Open Workout Photo by Steve Snowden/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to UFC Fight Pass tomorrow (Sat., Oct. 21, 2017) with the UFC Fight Night 118 mixed martial arts (MMA) event featuring a welterweight main event between Donald Cerrone and Darren Till, who battle for a spot in the 170-pound title chase.

In the UFC Fight Night 118 co-main event, held inside Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, former women’s strawweight No. 1 contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz collides with rough-and-tumble 125-pound standout Jodie Esquibel.

Before we break down the four-fight main card, let’s take a look at what Patty Stumberg had to say about the UFC Fight Night 118 preliminary match ups by clicking here and here. Odds and best bets for tomorrow’s big shebang can be found here.

Let’s get this over with.

170 lbs.: Donald Cerrone (32-9, 1 NC) vs. Darren Till (15-0-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Donald Cerrone jumped out to four straight wins after abandoning his post at 155 pounds but more impressively, he finished all four of those fights. At the time, there were some questions as to whether or not those wins were assisted by matchmaking; meaning, none of his victims were ranked in the division top 10. In fact, the closest competitor was Alex Oliveira, currently seated at No. 14.

Then came two opponents in the top five and well, honeymoon’s over.

Cerrone was destroyed by “Gamebred” veteran Jorge Masvidal, then went down on points against a returning Robbie Lawler, who was coming off a knockout loss to Tyron Woodley, as well as a one-year layoff. It was a close fight, but an important one when we talk about the future of “Cowboy.”

As it was in the lightweight division, Cerrone is only as good as his mental preparation allows him to be. He’s certainly got the chops in both the striking and grappling departments and I don’t think I’ve ever seen him tire. I still believe he was better than Rafael dos Anjos, but like he did against Nate Diaz, he just seemed to short circuit and hand over the win.

A similar outcome would not surprise me.

Till does not have as many fights as Cerrone, that’s true, but 16 -- the same as former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez — isn’t exactly newbie status, either. The biggest knock on the Liverpool native is his quality of competition. But that’s an issue we must take up with the matchmaker, not the fighter, as Till can only play the cards he’s dealt.

So far, he’s been aces.

A striker by trade, Till will enjoy a marginal reach advantage (one inch) and both fighters stand just a shade over six feet. Though it’s his first main event, Till has seen a fourth round in his career, courtesy of a technical knockout win over Laerte Costa e Silva in May 2015. While his last three fights have seen the cards, Till does have 11 finishes in 15 wins.

All of that sounds great, but it doesn’t explain why he’s going to beat Cerrone.

“Cowboy” needs to be able to operate at his pace at a distance he’s comfortable with. Fighters who can disrupt that rhythm and move forward instead of backwards, like the aforementioned Masvidal, find early success. In addition, the Jackson-Wink standout is a notoriously slow starter, which gets him into all sorts of trouble against aggressive strikers.

Till is younger, less weary, and hungry. I expect him to control the center of the Octagon, strike with measured (and only mildly reckless) abandon, and make Cerrone pay for all those “I don't know who the fuck he is” comments.

Final prediction: Till def. Cerrone by technical knockout

115 lbs.: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-2) vs. Jodie Esquibel (6-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: Karolina Kowalkiewicz, at one time, was the second-best strawweight in the world. Now, she’s probably the fourth-best, thanks to Jessica Andrade’s bloody beatdown of Claudia Gadelha (and some MMA math) at UFC Fight Night 117 back in September.

The Pole is here because ... well, she lives here. I've never been dazzled by her gleam but that doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s a talented and somewhat rugged striker with good instincts. Hurting her cause is a lack of finishes, having not earned a stoppage in either UFC or Invicta.

I wish there was something more compelling to say but this is a Fight Pass card and we’re not exactly dealing with Conor McGregor. Kowalkiewicz is a tough fighter and the crowd will be in her corner.

Jodie Esquibel will look tiny on fight night because she is. The 5’1” Invicta import is a puffed up atomweight but won’t surrender much in terms of reach (one inch). She’s a longtime student at Jackson-Wink MMA and has been the main training partner for teammate (and UFC strawweight) Michelle Waterson. I don’t expect her stand up to be on the same level as her opponent, nor do I anticipate her newfound ground game to be a factor.

Esquibel has only competed twice over the last three years and split a pair of decisions between Alexa Grasso (loss) and DeAnna Bennett (win). While I don’t think she’ll be rattled by Octagon jitters, since this will be her UFC coming out party, she hasn’t come close to fighting anyone near the level of competition of Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha, or even Rose Namajunas. Kowalkiewicz has faced all three. She’s more experienced, has crisper striking, and will undoubtedly be energized by the hometown crowd.

Final prediction: Kowalkiewicz def. Esquibel by unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Jan Blachowicz (19-7) vs. Devin “Brown Bear” Clark (8-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Jan Blachowicz joined UFC in late 2014 and was expected to become an instant contender for the light heavyweight strap. For good reason, as the Polish puncher brought with him a 17-3 record along with a bevy of finishes. His Octagon debut had Ilir Latifi going down in a heap and then ... well, it all fell apart.

Since nailing “The Sledgehammer,” Blachowicz has been mired in a dreadful 1-4 slump. Losing to a top contender like Alexander Gustafsson is forgivable, but coming up short against Patrick Cummins is not, at least when trying to make a case for the division rankings, which no longer include Blachowicz.

He’s a tough, well-rounded fighter with the crowd on his side but at age 34, I think we’ve seen everything we’re going to see.

Devin Clark may not have the credentials of his fight night opponent, but like so many other fighters on this card, he comes from a strong camp at Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The 29-year-old “Brown Bear” is no spring chicken himself, but he does bring back-to-back wins into this contest and a 3-1 mark inside the Octagon. The competition hasn’t been anything to write him about, but again, he can only work with the tools he’s given.

I mean that figuratively, of course.

Clark was a standout collegiate wrestler and presents a difficult test for Blachowicz. That said, he also gives up two inches in height and three inches in reach, which may have him shooting for the single sooner, rather than later. That’s one of the sacrifices Clark was forced to make when he moved up from middleweight and against an experienced striker, it’s certainly a red flag. I wish there was something other than a knockout loss to Alex Nicholson that stood out on Clark’s record. Blachowicz may be stuck in a rut, but unless he’s completely shot, he’s still the more accomplished fighter. I believe this is his fight to lose.

Final prediction: Blachowicz def. Clark by technical knockout

185 lbs.: Oskar “Imadlo” Piechota (9-0-1) vs. Jonathan “Johnny Bravo” Wilson (7-2)

Nostradumbass predicts: It’s not often we get a UFC newcomer added to the main card, even on Fight Pass, but in this case it’s warranted. Oskar Piechota is one of the most promising young(ish) middleweights in all of Europe and has already completed two fights — with two violent finishes — in 2017.

In fact, he’s ended all nine wins by way of knockout or submission.

Aside from his formidable stand up, Piechota is a black belt under Robert Drysdale and holds multiple medals from Worlds. His nickname in English means “vise” (think vise grip”) because of his ability to lock down submission holds. In short, Jonathan Wilson has his work cut out for him.

“Johnny Bravo” is counting on a drop to middleweight to cure what ails him. His last two appearances ended in disaster, starting with a technical knockout loss to Henrique da Silva and finishing with a unanimous decision defeat to Ion Cutelaba. That record stands in stark contrast to his 6-0 stint on the regional circuit, in addition to his undefeated run as an amateur.

Where is the fighter who stiffened Chris Dempsey?

If he shows up tomorrow in Gdansk, which happens to be Piechota’s backyard, then we have ourselves a fight. But I’m just not convinced that Wilson will have the complete skill set needed to thwart his Polish foe. A first round finish would not surprise me.

Final prediction: Piechota def. Wilson by submission

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 118 fight card tomorrow (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, followed by the main card start time of 3 p.m. ET, also on Fight Pass.

For much more on UFC Fight Night 118 click here.

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