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X-Factor! Some UFC on ESPN 13 main card predictions

This Wednesday (July 15, 2020), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will make its second trip to “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates, for UFC on ESPN 13. Fight Island’s second event may not be able to hold a candle to UFC 251, but the Featherweight main event between boxer Calvin Kattar and ground specialist Dan Ige guaranteed action. Outside of that bout, there are several action fights that will likely prove worth-watching, so let’s analyze some main card fights!

We’ll be back tomorrow to preview and predict the biggest fights of the mid-week mixed martial arts (MMA) special.

Flyweight: Tim Elliott vs. Ryan Benoit

Best Win for Elliott? Jonavin Webb For Benoit? Sergio Pettis
Current Streak: Elliott has lost three straight, while Benoit came up short last time out
X-Factor: Elliott has looked a bit shot in recent fights
How these two match up: Somehow, a Flyweight fight is booked as the co-main event? Shocking!

Elliott is a long-time 125-pound veteran, a whirlwind of constant takedowns, calf kicks and funky combinations. He’s tough as nails and a great grinder, but the one-time title challenger also has a proven issue when it comes to managing his gas tank and staying defensively sound.

Benoit does not fit the usual Flyweight mold. He’s not overly technical in any one area, nor does he throw at a particularly high volume. “Baby Face” does swing for the fences, however, and every once in a while, he connects big.

Stylistically, this is a layup for Elliott. Benoit has been taken down by far inferior wrestlers, and he’s never shown the ground expertise required to scramble with Elliott for any period of time. Elliott should be able to ground him and latch onto the neck, similar to how he won several of his The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) bouts.

Elliott’s recent performances have been worryingly iffy though. Against Royval, all was going well, Elliott was getting the fight he wanted, then ... he gassed and fell into a submission almost instantly.

In short, if Elliott has anything left to offer at UFC level, he should win. If not, Benoit is going to end his UFC stretch violently.

Prediction: Elliott via submission

Featherweight: Jimmie Rivera vs. Cody Stamann

Best Win for Rivera? Urijah Faber For Stamann? Bryan Caraway
Current Streak: Rivera has lost two straight bouts, while Stamann is unbeaten in his last three
X-Factor: this bout was booked within the last week!
How these two match up: Two wrestle-boxers with Karate backgrounds collide!

At one point, Rivera was just a single win away from a Bantamweight title shot. He’s since struggled in recent fights, but Rivera remains one of his division’s best counter boxers with a deadening low kick and ironclad takedown defense.

Stamann has been steadily climbing the ranks at 135 pounds — this fight may be at Featherweight, but both men routinely make the Bantamweight limit in non-pandemic times — on the strength of his excellent wrestling and fluid striking. He really mixes it together so well, as Stamann can time takedowns from his back foot or while leading, and he ties combinations of punches, body shots and kicks together beautifully.

Rivera has been out for a while, which does make his short-notice return a bit worrying. However, a pretty huge part of Stamann’s success relies on his ability to threaten opponents with his takedown attempts. Since even the best wrestlers tend to bounce off Rivera’s hips as if they ran into a brick wall, that aspect of his game is unlikely to work well.

If Stamann is unable to force Rivera to respect his wrestling threat, he’s stuck in a kickboxing match with a man I view as the more powerful, sharper puncher. There’s still a chance he can simply throw more than Rivera (similar to Aljamain Sterling’s victory over “El Terror”), but I’ll trust Rivera’s sharp counter left hook to find a home often enough to sway the judges.

Prediction: Rivera via decision

Women’s Flyweight: Molly McMann vs. Taila Santos

Best Win for McMann? Ariane Lipski For Santos? Estefani Almeida
Current Streak: McMann has won three straight, while Santos lost her UFC debut last time out
X-Factor: McMann has fought better competition
How these two match up: There’s a decent chance at a real scrap here.

McMann debuted in UFC as a fighter-to-watch, but her initial performance exposed her grappling inexperience. In the three bouts since, however, McMann has been able to show-off her boxing skill and improved wrestling, which has proven a solid combination!

I’ll be honest, it’s tough to get a full read on Santos’ skill set. Her debut was a fairly low-volume affair with lots of clinch work and slow grappling. Meanwhile, most of her regional fights came against foes with very little experience, so forgive me if I’m not overly impressed with a head kick stoppage over 0-0 Gisele Pereira.

McMann may not be a perfect fighter, but does she have to be at women’s Flyweight? More importantly, “Meatball” has figured out how to effectively mix her head movement, combinations and takedowns together. I still wouldn’t trust her against a dedicated top control specialist, but it doesn’t seem like Santos’ game is quite that refined.

Prediction: McMann via decision

Welterweight: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Mounir Lazzez

Best Win for Alhassan? Niko Price For Lazzez? Christophe Van Dijk
Current Streak: Alhassan has won three straight via knockout, while Lazzez has won his last two bouts prior to this UFC call up
X-Factor: Alhassan’s punching power
How these two match up: Someone’s getting knocked out.

Alhassan has 10 wins, and each of them came via knockout. “Judo Thunder” is very clearly a sprawl-and-brawl fighter, one who relies on immense physicality to both stop the shot and then brutalize his opponent with overhands. Lazzez’s knockout percentage isn’t too shabby either, as all but one of his victories came via strikes. He may not be quite as powerful as Alhassan, but Lazzez is the more varied offensive threat, making better use of knees and kicks.

Alhassan has vulnerabilities to his game. He’s all power, and if that early knockout doesn’t land, Omari Akhmedov showed that his style will exhaust him. There’s a chance Lazzez can outlast Alhassan and rally with his own heavy shots.

Unfortunately for the newcomer, it’s hard to go against the very proven power of “Judo Thunder.” After all, Nike Price was also a more varied knockout threat with the durability to overcome Alhassan late ... and he only lasted 43 seconds.

Prediction: Alhassan via knockout

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 13 fight card this week, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN/ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 13: “Kattar vs. Ige” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2020: 22-8

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