UFC 221 Preview and Tips
The Octagon is back on Australian soil, this Sunday the 11th of February UFC 221 is set to take place for the very first time in Perth. As the Interim, middleweight championship is up for grabs.
Current champion Robert Whittaker is out indefinitely due to injury, therefore the division will continue rolling on. With GSP vacating the belt, the stage is set for a massive showdown, with the winner due to face Whittaker later on in the year. Yoel “The Soldier of God” Romero is set to battle top middleweight contender and former champion Luke Rockhold, in a match-up fans have yet to see. In the co-main event, local favourite Mark Hunt takes on up and coming Curtis Blaydes. With both men at different stages in their careers, the winner in this bout places himself firmly into the Heavyweight division’s top 5.
With Aussie fighters rounding out most of the card, the local fans should be in for a real treat and a victory on the main card of a UFC PPV, will promote any fighter up the top their division, which in-turn helps the growth of MMA in Australia. As always, the Wolf breaks down the main card, providing fight previews, betting tips and the “Main Card Multi.”
Tyson Pedro vs Saparbek Safarov
The first bout on the main card sees Sydney local Tyson Pedro take on Russian Saparbek Safarov, in a light heavyweight clash that promises fireworks. Coming off the 1st loss of his career, now 6-1 Pedro is looking to bounce back in a big way. Training in only his 3rd fight as a full-time professional fighter, Pedro has shown promise in his young MMA career. Boasting a well-rounded skillset, Tyson started his UFC career off strong, with 2 first round finishes of Khalil Rountree and Paul Craig. These performances showcased the athletic ability of Pedro, as he dominated both men before quickly finishing them off. Though his first jump up in competition against Latifi did not go to plan, the Aussie looks hungry to return to winning ways and continue his rise up the light heavyweight rankings.
His opponent Safarov, has only competed once in the UFC before and seems to be favourable matchup for the Aussie. Holding a professional record of 8-1 and also coming off the only loss of his career, Saparbek will be looking to upset the Aussie fighter. Being a native of Dagestan, you can be reassured that Safarov will be looking to get this fight to the ground and avoid Pedro’s dangerous striking range. Pedro’s previous bout showed he can be susceptible to a strong grappler and will need to improve his takedown defence if he is to come out on top of this one. As long as Pedro comes into this bout composed and well trained, the Aussie should come out victorious possessing more versatility and a proven record of finishing ability.
Best: Pedro WIN ($1.35)
Value: Under 1.5 rounds ($1.85)
Tai Tuavasa vs Cyril Asker
At UFC Fight Night Sydney back in November of last year, the MMA world and heavyweight division was introduced in a big way to Sydney talent Tai Tuivasa. After dominating most of the first round Tuivasa finished Coulter with a devastating flying knee, putting the UFCs Heavyweight division on notice. With a perfect professional record of 6-0, Tuivasa’s made a habit of getting his opponent out of their quick. A training partner of Mark Hunt and brother-in-law of Tyson Pedro, the devastating Aussie will be looking to mow through Asker and continue his rise in the division.
His Opponent Cyril Asker, is a veteran of 4 UFC fights and much like Tuivasa is known for his exciting and aggressive fight style. His finishes of Yapzung Hu and Dmitry Smoiakov are prime examples of the power and pressure Asker possesses. The fans will be cheering loud in this one, look for both men to come out hard, whoever is the more accurate in the 1st two minutes, will win the fight. The Wolf likes the local in this one, with the unders looking good for fight time.
Best: Under 1.5 rounds ($1.48)
Value: Tuivasa KO/TKO Round 1 ($2.10)
Jake Matthews vs Li Jingliang
The third bout on the main card pits Victorian resident Jake “The Celtic Kid” Matthews against Li Jingliang, with victory for either men guaranteeing a future top 15 opponent. Jake Matthews has produced a mixed bag so far in his UFC career, with a 5-3 record and 11-3 overall in MMA. After starting out his career as a Welterweight, the Aussie moved down to lightweight once he stepped foot in the octagon. After back-to-back losses he has now returned back to the 170 pound division and got off to a great start with a decision victory over Bojan Velickovic back in November. Matthews showed his composure in this fight, countering his overly aggressive opponent and scoring takedowns at key moments. He will have to do much of the same in this bout, with Liang finishing 4 of his last 6 opponents by KO.
Chinese fighter LI Jingliang matches Matthews with 8 fights in the UFC and has slowly risen in the welterweight rankings. Coming off back-to-back post fight bonuses, Li will be looking to beat the Aussie Matthews, by using his size and power advantage This bout provides a very interesting stylistic matchup, with the Aussie the slight betting underdog. The local crowd will need to get behind their man in this one, as Matthews will look to get the biggest victory of his career on the biggest stage. Unfortunately, the Wolf believes the size advantage will be too much for Matthews, And believes Jingliang will extend his win streak to 5.
Best: Jingliang WIN ($1.57)
Value: Jingliang by Decision ($3.25)
Mark Hunt vs Curtis Blaydes
The co-main event of the evening is an exciting bout in the heavyweight division, combat sports legend Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt is set to do battle against division prospect Curtis Blaydes. Both men are coming off massive stoppage victories and the winner of this cements himself as a top 5 heavyweight.
Mark Hunt has competed in nearly 70 combat fights in his career and one thing you can guarantee is every time he steps into the octagon, the fans are going to see an exciting fight. Hunt throws his strikes with ill intent and is always looking for the finish. His fights against Roy Nelson, Antonio Silva and Stefan Struve are just a handful of examples of Hunt laying it all out in the octagon and doing whatever it takes to win. The Super Samoan does not just deliver the power but can take the biggest of shots also. A prime Mark Hunt absorbed several head kicks from Mirko Cro Cop, who at the time was knocking every out with it. His battles with Junior Dos Santos and Stipe Miocic are examples of how much damage needs to be delivered, before you can get the big man out of there. Even with all those wars his chin has remained relatively intact and is still as tough as ever.
His opponent, Curtis Blaydes is still a relatively green fighter with only 10 pro fights, currently sitting at 8-1-1. An All American wrestler at Northern Illinois U, Blaydes has matured into a complete martial artist and has progressively improved his striking with each bout. His most recent, dominant TKO of Oliynik is a prime example of the improvements Blaydes has made; he will be looking to use this with his wrestling to win the fight. Hunt has shown a susceptibility to be been taken down and controlled throughout his career, Blaydes will be attempting to do much of the same. Whenever Hunt is written off in a fight, he tends to bounce back and in a big way. Fighting in his home country and knowing he doesn’t have many bouts left in career, could spur the veteran along. The Wolf expects Hunt to put up a great showing and survive the allotted 15 minutes, but the versatility of Blaydes should be too much. As long as he avoids the big shot, Blaydes by UD.
Best: Over 1.5 rounds ($1.58)
Value: Blaydes by Decision ($3.40)
Yoel Romero vs Luke Rockhold
The main event of the evening is a bout set for the Interim Middleweight Championship; top ranked contenders Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold do battle for the chance to fight Aussie Robert Whittaker, to unify the belts later this year. Romero is coming off a close loss to Whittaker last July, whereas Rockhold finished David Branch back in September for his last outing.
The “Soldier of God” Yoel Romero has swept across the UFC fan base with his aggressive fight style and highlight reel finishes. A Cuban Olympic wrestler, who won a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Games, will be looking to bounce back from his 2nd MMA loss with a big showing against Rockhold.
Possessing an MMA record of 12-2, Romero has been devastating in every showing so far, his knockouts of Weidman, Machida, Brunson and Kennedy were nothing short of spectacular. Romero will be looking to end Rockhold’s night with a big shot or devastating ground and pound.
Luke Rockhold has been a top contender and Champion for most of his career. A very well rounded fighter, he has shown an ability to end the fight on the ground or standing and is a bad matchup for nearly everyone he meets.
His performances against Bisping, Machida and Souza are a great display of the fighting ability he posseses proving the well rounded fighter is still the most effective in MMA. His career culminated with a spectacular 4th round TKO of Chris Weidman to win the title and fans can expect a hungry and ready to fight Rockhold come Feb 11.
Either men have multiple ways to win this fight and are truly the two most talented fighters in the division. The betting favourite Rockhold gets the nod for the Wolf, but Romero will prove value with an early finish. Rockhold has shown a tendency to be vulnerable early, therefore he needs to counter the more aggressive Cuban and implement his game plan as the fight goes on.
Best: Rockhold WIN ($1.70)
Value: Rockhold by Submission ($4.25)