Tomorrow night (Weds., May 13, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., for UFC Jacksonville. While UFC 249 and Saturday’s event snagged most of the high-profile bouts from the scrap heap of canceled cards, this should make for a fun event! For me at least, it was a particularly difficult main card to pick, so let’s dig into it.
Remember: Later in the week, Jesse Holland will be back to preview and predict the biggest fights of the night.
Lightweight: Alexander Hernandez vs. Drew Dober
Best Win for Hernandez? Beneil Dariush For Dober? Nasrat Haqparast
Current Streak: If judges were competent, Hernandez would be riding a two-fight losing streak. Instead, he won his last bout. Dober, meanwhile, his picked up two straight wins.
X-Factor: Dober’s defense wrestling
How these two match up: There’s potential for both a brawl and boredom.
Hernandez was briefly a hot prospect, the talk of the town who emerged from the regional scene to melt Dariush and out-wrestle Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Then, he talked some smack to “Cowboy” and paid for it, and his bounce back fight against Francisco Trinaldo was abysmal.
The 27-year-old is still a strong athlete with quality wrestling and power.
Drew Dober, meanwhile, was probably expected to washout of UFC. Instead, slow and steady improvements have carried him a long way, as Dober has now won five of his last six bouts. He’s a striker first and foremost, and in the last couple years, he’s really found his power.
This is a frustrating fight. On one hand, Dober has improved a ton and should have a considerable advantage on the feet. Alternatively, Hernandez looked kind of lost last time out, as he completely shifted his kickboxing style away from what he was actually good at!
Unfortunately, Dober’s record vs. grinding wrestlers is pretty poor. Hernandez has the option to make this a grinding wrestling match. Will he? That’s hard to say confidently, but it’s difficult to pick against him when such a clear path to victory is present.
Prediction: Hernandez via decision
Bantamweight: Ricky Simon vs. Ray Borg
Best Win for Simon? Rani Yahya For Borg? Jussier Formiga
Current Streak: Simon lost his last two bouts, whereas Borg has won two straight
X-Factor: Borg’s masterful takedown chaining
How these two match up: Wherever this fight goes, it should prove to be pretty action packed.
Simon is a whirlwind of offense. He likes to swarm opponents with big flurries and hide takedowns behind them, a style largely made possible by impressive athleticism. Simon can be trusted to fight hard for the full 15 minutes.
Borg is a pretty incredible wrestler and grappler, able to beautifully take the back from any number of positions. Though it was once something of a liability, Borg’s kickboxing is now quite solid as well. There’s a reason he fought for Flyweight gold — Borg is an extremely skilled fighter.
Unfortunately, Borg is also 5’4” and has missed weight at Flyweight three times. Somehow, he even missed at Bantamweight once! As we once saw with Johnny Hendricks moving up to Middleweight, size matters quite a bit.
If Simon were a natural Flyweight, I’d expect Borg to out-wrestle him ... but he isn’t. Borg is still relatively unproven at 135 pounds, and he’s about to run into some seriously powerful hips. If the takedowns fail, Borg has to strike with a more powerful and comfortable puncher.
Prediction: Simon via decision
Middleweight: Karl Roberson vs. Marvin Vettori
Best Win for Roberson? Darren Stewart For Vettori? Cezar Ferreira
Current Streak: Both men have won two straight bouts.
X-Factor: Roberson’s inconsistent grappling
How these two match up: Once more, we should have a fun scrap on our hands!
Karl Roberson is a man with serious skill, an ultra sharp kickboxer with knockout power. It’s been much more difficult to get a read on his grappling abilities, however, as he’s both won and lost two bouts via submission.
Despite his eight submission wins, Italy’s Vettori has largely been a straightforward slugger inside the Octagon. He’s a testament to the value of toughness and conditioning, as he frequently pulls away in the second half of fights — even against the likes of Israel Adesanya!
That’s what makes this bout so tricky. Roberson’s counter punches are likely to find a home in the first round, and that man has some dynamite in his fists. However, Vettori has proven that his head carries many of the same qualities as a cinder block. What happens when Vettori absorbs some brutal punches and is still there to push the pace in the second and third round?
It’s tough, and there’s a real chance the second round is the decider. In this case, however, I’ll side with finesse over durability as the deciding factor.
Prediction: Roberson via decision
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Jacksonville fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.
For much more on tomorrow night’s Jacksonville event click here.