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X-Factor! Some UFC Fight Night 158 main card predictions

UFC Fight Night Weigh-in Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

This Saturday (Sept. 14, 2019), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for UFC Fight Night 158. Headlined by a must-watch Lightweight war between Justin Gaethje and Donald Cerrone, the ESPN+-streamed main card as a whole should prove to be a very exciting night of fights. It’s one of the more interesting recent “Fight Night” events, so let’s go to it and analyze some main card fights!

Remember: Later in the week, Jesse Holland will be back to preview and predict the biggest fights of the night.

Heavyweight: Todd Duffee vs. Jeff Hughes

Best Win for Duffee? Anthony Hamilton For Hughes? Maurice Greene
Current Streak: Both men have lost their most recent bouts
X-Factor: Duffee’s massive layoff
How these two match up: Heavyweight weirdness is certainly on its way!

In 12 years as a professional fighter, Todd Duffee has fought a total of 12 times. At one point, the 33-year-old had a lot of hype around him, but Duffee is something of a glass cannon inside the cage — each of those 12 bouts has ended by knockout ... for better or worse. The silver lining, at least, is that Duffee remains just 33 years old, which is plenty young at Heavyweight and could mean Duffee could develop a more technical approach.

Ohio’s Jeff Hughes is a very midwest-style Heavyweight and training partner of Stipe Miocic. He’s tough, pushes a reasonably high-pace, and attacks opponents with a strong mix of punches and takedowns.

This is really a match of opposites. Duffee is possibly the least consistent man on the roster, competing rarely and often attempting to simply overwhelm foes with athleticism. Hughes, alternatively, does not have the athleticism of his foe, but his consistent approach has served him well in wearing out foes and slowly taking over fights.

This fight is likely decided in the opening two minutes. If Duffee connects early, Hughes is probably going down, though Duffee does leave himself open to be countered as well. Outside of those opening two minutes, Hughes’ smarter approach should see him land the better shots and perhaps even score a takedown or two.

It’s a coin flip, but I’ll side with the man who’s been actively fighting.

Prediction: Hughes via knockout

Welterweight: Michel Pereira vs. Tristan Connelly

Best Win for Pereira? Danny Roberts For Connelly? Joey Pierotti
Current Streak: Pereira has won three straight (including his UFC debut), while Connelly rides a four-fight win streak into his UFC debut
X-Factor: Pereira’s love of weird techniques
How these two match up: This will be fun.

Earlier in the year, Pereira won a fight against an outmatched foe that became a viral video, as the Brazilian jumped off the cage and flipped around en route to victory. It was enough for UFC to sign “Demolidor,” who exceeded expectations in his debut with a flying knee and follow up punch KO to prove himself more than a meme.

Connelly stepped up to take this bout on short-notice, and the Canadian usually competes at 155 lbs. Credit to “Boondock,” however, as the nine year pro has won eight of his previous nine bouts and finished each victory. He’s a strong grappler and a solid pick up for UFC.

Unfortunately, this reads like a really bad match up.

It’s difficult to succeed as a grappler when faced with a significant size disadvantage. Connelly is moving up a weight class, and Pereira is a gigantic Welterweight — that’s a bad combination for the Canadian even before the short-notice factor. Connelly does have a chance, as Pereira is known to fatigue himself with all the acrobatics. However, the more likely result is that one of those funky moves crashes into Connelly’s jaw before that happens.

Prediction: Pereira via knockout

Middleweight: Uriah Hall vs. Antonio Carlos Junior

Best Win for Hall? Gegard Mousasi For Carlos Junior? Tim Boetsch
Current Streak: Hall won his last bout, whereas Carlos Junior came up short
X-Factor: Hall’s general inconsistency
How these two match up: This is very much a striker vs. grappler match up, but it’s made more interesting by the habits of both men.

At this point, the strengths and weaknesses of Uriah Hall are rather well-known. The 35-year-old hits insanely hard and has some undoubtedly great technique. His jab is lightning quick, and some of the kicks he fires could probably chop down a tree. At the same time, Hall’s footwork often fails him, as he backs himself into the fence commonly, dropping his hands in the process.

Carlos Junior fits in the classic mold of Middleweight Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter with all the standard pros and cons. He’s better than most of his peers at securing takedowns and dominating from top position, and even his kickboxing is coming along at a decent pace. However, the ubiquitous flaw of Middleweight Brazilian jiu-jitsu guys is cardio, and gassing out in the middle of the fight has twice cost “Shoeface” the victory at 185 pounds.

Seemingly, the style match up favors Hall. In general, getting wrestled and controlled has not been the reason for his defeats — his takedown defense is good! Plus, while his cardio is not necessarily a major asset, Hall maintains a pace over 15 minutes far better than his opponent.

Hall very well could sprawl-and-brawl his way to a great victory.

At the same time, Carlos Junior knows how he wins fights. He’s going to pressure Hall, and Hall’s back is likely to hit the cage. From that position, I expect the Brazilian to find a way to drag his foe to the mat, as he’s really crafty with his mix of wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Back in 2015, Hall lost an ugly split-decision to a Middleweight jiu-jitsu archetype in Rafael Natal, and I suppose that bout is really my expectation for this one.

Prediction: Carlos Junior via decision

Light Heavyweight: Misha Cirkunov vs. Jim Crute

Best Win for Cirkunov? Nikita Krylov For Crute? Sam Alvey
Current Streak: Cirkunov last came up short to Johnny Walker, whereas Crute has won 10 straight bouts (two in UFC)
X-Factor: Crute’s youth
How these two match up: Rather similarly.

Cirkunov appeared to be the next big thing at 205 pounds when he scored four-straight stoppage victories to begin his UFC career, but he’s since been knocked out three times in four fights. Despite those losses, Cirkunov is actually a pretty decent kickboxer, those his forte remains takedowns and top position strangulation.

At 23 years of age, Australia’s Jimmy Crute is an excellent prospect. “The Brute” is already fairly well-rounded, though like his opponent, he does prefer to wrestle his way into top position and looking to submit from that point.

This is a real test and major step up for Crute. In two bouts in UFC, he’s been faced with middling competition and handled them as he was supposed to, scoring dominant finishes. For perhaps the first time in his career, Crute is unlikely to have the wrestling/grappling advantage in this match up, but he does seem to have an avenue to victory in the kickboxing realm.

Sticking to a strict kickboxing game plan is a tall task for a young fighter. In all likelihood, Crute will grapple with Cirkunov even if the striking is going well — it’s where he’s most comfortable, and even seasoned fighters revert back to their comfort zones when given the option.

If Crute decides to grapple and actually manages to out-wrestle Cirkunov, he’s already prepared for Top 10 competition. It still seems too early for that though, as Crute may be taking on just a bit too much, too soon.

Prediction: Cirkunov via submission

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 158 fight card this weekend, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will stream on ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 158: “Gaethje vs. Cerrone” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2019: 40-15

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