UFC Jacksonville predictions

UFC Jacksonville predictions

The UFC is making up for lost time.

Less than four days removed from UFC 249 — the event that marked the promotion’s return to action amid the COVID-19 pandemic — we are already primed for another 11-fight lineup. Wednesday’s card couldn’t possibly match the name value of Saturday’s all-star occasion, but it is not without its title implications, curiosities, and sleeper Fight of the Night candidates.

Having already had their shot at Jon Jones, it’s a stretch to call the UFC Jacksonville main event between Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira a No. 1 contender’s bout. However, both need a win to stay within reach of a second shot at the light heavyweight title. Smith got himself back on track last June with an impressive submission of Alexander Gustafsson, while Teixeira recently beat Nikita Krylov to win his third straight fight. Both respected fight finishers, a highlight-reel performance on Wednesday will go a long way towards strengthening the winner’s case to challenge Jones again.

The co-main event features another man who has faced Jones in a championship fight, longtime light heavyweight contender Ovince Saint Preux. Looking to stay busy, “OSP” makes the move up to heavyweight to face Ben Rothwell. Having dealt with fighters dabbling in his division before, Rothwell theorized that maybe the 205ers think “heavyweights suck.” Rothwell can help to squash any of that talk with a win over Saint Preux.

In other main card action, lightweights Alexander Hernandez and Drew Dober look to make the leap to the next tier in the lightweight rankings, Ricky Simon aims to stop a two-fight skid when he meets Ray Borg in a bantamweight bout, and middleweights Karl Roberson and Marvin Vettori both hunt for a third straight win.

What: UFC Jacksonville

Where: VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.

When: Wednesday, May 13. The entire event will air on ESPN+, with the six-fight preliminaries starting at 6 p.m. ET, and the five-fight main card starting at 9 p.m. ET.

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Anthony Smith vs. Glover Teixeira

Expect nothing less than a finish when these two march across the cage at one another.

While they’re certain to show each other a lot of respect given their combined experience and ability to end fights in a variety of ways, Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira are not going to play it safe. Smith’s last seven wins have come inside the distance and Teixeira is tied with Jon Jones, Chuck Liddell, and Ovince Saint Preux for the most finishes in UFC light heavyweight history. Something has got to give and when it does, it could be ugly.

In situations like this, one can always point to the adage of “Father Time being undefeated” and in that case it favors Smith, who at 31 is nine years Teixeira’s junior. Both have a ton of mileage on them, with Smith entering pro fight No. 48 and Teixeira soon to celebrate the 17th anniversary of his pro debut, but that difference in actual age and MMA age is enough for me to think that it’s Smith who will outlast Teixeira.

One of Smith’s strengths is his ability to push the pace and I don’t know if Teixeira can keep up with him at this stage of his career. The Brazilian vet remains an outstanding boxer, with some of the best hands at 205 pounds, and Smith will have to vary his attacks to avoid early damage that could prematurely drain his gas tank. True, Smith can take a licking, he just shouldn’t test his luck against the accurate and powerful Teixeira.

Still, expect Smith to get in Teixeira’s face at some point and stay there, mucking the bout up and wearing Teixeira down. When Teixeira’s defenses are compromised in the third, that’s when Smith will strike and put him away.

Pick: Smith

Ben Rothwell vs. Ovince Saint Preux

First off, let’s take a moment to appreciate that fact that of the six heavyweights booked for Wednesday’s card, light heavyweight transplant Ovince Saint Preux came in heavier than three of them, including former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski and 2018 PFL champion Philipe Lins.

As neat as that factoid is, “OSP” still weighed in nearly 25 pounds lighter than his opponent Ben Rothwell and that difference is going to be a significant factor in this matchup. So much of Saint Preux’s offense is based around sneaky submissions, including his signature “Von Preux” choke, but you can’t play around on the ground with a big boy like Rothwell. You end up underneath him, you’re going to get smashed.

Saint Preux isn’t exactly a takedown artist either and if he gets caught in a wall-and-stall battle with Rothwell, that will tire him out more than anything. That leaves him having to strike with “Big Ben,” which could steer this fight into entertaining and unpredictable territory. In that case, it’s the power advantage of Rothwell that will see him through.

Rothwell by knockout.

Pick: Rothwell

Alexander Hernandez vs. Drew Dober

A lot of folks are looking forward to this one and for good reason. It presents a great clash of styles between two bouncy lightweights with cardio for days.

Drew Dober is the more effective striker of the two. A traditional southpaw, Dober has pop in both hands, but it’s that hammer left that has been the killer in his last two outings. He’s going to want to close the distance as soon as possible so he can start piecing up Alexander Hernandez. On the other side, Hernandez’s athleticism allows him to attack from unorthodox angles and if he mixes in kicks and takedown attempts, it will help him stifle the aggressive Dober.

I’d like to see Hernandez utilize his wrestling more as he did in his shutout decision win over Olivier Aubin-Mercier. Dober has solid takedown defense, but Hernandez has to at least keep him guessing. Matching Dober punch for punch is a bad idea.

As bright a future as Hernandez has, Dober is more advanced right now and he’ll take this one on the scorecards. Hopefully both fighters can enjoy a Fight of the Night bonus later.

Pick: Dober

Ricky Simon vs. Ray Borg

This should be a bounce-back performance for Ricky Simon. The 27-year-old has shown flashes of being a top-10 fighter, but defensive lapses and overall inconsistency have cost him. If he falls into Ray Borg’s game, his reversal of fortunes will be complete and this could be the last time we see Simon in the octagon for the foreseeable future.

Borg is a wrestler through-and-through and a scrambler of the highest order. If he can get his hooks into Simon, he’s going to wrangle him around the cage and frustrate him for three rounds. Simon has shown a willingness to wrestle as well, which could lead to fun exchanges on the ground.

On the feet, Simon has a big edge with his fast hands and six-inch reach advantage. Keep in mind that Simon is a healthy-sized bantamweight while Borg is only in this division because making 125 pounds became an impossibility for him at some point. It’s great that he’s walking around at a more manageable weight, but he’s always going to have problems facing an opponent with Simon’s measurements.

A healthy diet of sprawling and brawling will result in a Simon victory. I still hate that he lost the mullet though.

Pick: Simon

Preliminaries

Philipe Lins def. Andrei Arlovski

Michael Johnson def. Thiago Moises

Sarah Moras def. Sijara Eubanks

Gabriel Benitez def. Omar Morales

Hunter Azure def. Brian Kelleher

Ike Villanueva def. Chase Sherman

Marvin Vettori vs. Karl Roberson has been canceled.

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