UFC Fight Night: Font vs. Aldo

This week’s UFC card features 15 bouts, headlined by a five round main event in the bantamweight division between Rob Font and Jose Aldo.

The action gets started at 7pm EST and airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+.

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Rob Font (-145) vs. Jose Aldo (+125)

In the main event, Rob Font and Jose Aldo will face off in a pivotal bout in the bantamweight division and the winner could be in line for a title shot.  This will be Font’s second consecutive five round main event.  Earlier this year, Font defeated Cody Garbrandt by unanimous decision.  Font has won four in a row and is 9-3 overall in the UFC.  He has six finishes in the Octagon, five by knockout.

Font is a strong striker and throws with good volume. Font has good technical boxing and possesses a great jab. He has knockout power, but he’s not an absolutely devastating puncher. He’s a solid grappler, but it’s not a big part of his game typically.

After a long career at featherweight, Aldo surprisingly made the drop to bantamweight.  He lost his divisional debut by split decision to Marlon Moraes, but he was still able to earn a shot at the vacant title against Petr Yan.  Aldo looked good early, but was finished late with ground and pound by Yan.  Since then Aldo has won two straight by unanimous decision over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz.  Aldo is 12-6 overall in the UFC with eight wins by decision and four by knockout.

Aldo is a strong striker as well with powerful kicks and strong boxing. He loves to work the body, something not enough fighters focus on. Aldo also has strong grappling skills, but he rarely uses them.

This is a fantastic main event between two great strikers. Aldo is the more powerful and explosive of the two, while Font has the volume edge and the better cardio, which should be a major factor considering this fight is five rounds. Aldo landed a career high in significant strikes against Munhoz so the volume potential is there, but Font is a far different fighter than Munhoz. As good as Aldo has looked at bantamweight, the weight cut has to be rough and negatively affect his late fight cardio, especially in the potential championship rounds. We just saw Font fight strong in those championship rounds against Garbrandt so I would expect Font to be the fresher and more effective striker late in this fight. Aldo will keep this competitive early, but without a finish, Font takes over down the stretch.

PREDICTION: Font by decision

Rafael Fiziev (-125) vs. Brad Riddell (+105)

In the co-main event, skilled strikers Brad Riddell and Rafael Fiziev will do battle.  Riddell is undefeated in four fights since joining the UFC, three by unanimous decision and one by split.  Most recently, he outlasted Drew Dober in a classic war.

Riddell is a strong kick-boxer and is a striking coach at City Kickboxing with the likes of Alexander Volkanovski, Israel Adesanya and Dan Hooker. Riddell is a technical striker with good power and has underrated wrestling skill. He’s landed a take-down in every one of his UFC fights.

Since getting knocked out in the first round in his UFC debut by Magomed Mustafaev, Fiziev has won four straight.  Most recently he defeated Bobby Green by unanimous decision.  Fiziev has three wins by unanimous decision and a beautiful first round knockout of Renato Moicano.

Fiziev is a Muay Thai striker with especially strong body kicks.  Fiziev is an explosive striker, but all that explosiveness saps his cardio later in fights as he slowed down in the third round against both Diakiese and Green.

This fight is a striker’s delight and I’m very excited to see how it plays out. Fiziev is the more powerful and explosive of the two, but Riddell has the stronger cardio. Riddell is also more likely to try and wrestle, but Fiziev hasn’t surrendered a take-down in the UFC. It’s a toss up, but Riddell will be the fresher fighter in the latter portion of this fight and edge out the win.

PREDICTION: Riddell by decision

Leonardo Santos (-195) vs. Clay Guida (+165)

Leonardo Santos will be looking to bounce back from his first loss in 12 years and his first inside the Octagon after he was knocked out cold with one second left against Grant Dawson.  Santos is 7-1-1 in the UFC with four finishes, two by submission and two by knockout.

Santos is solid on the feet with a powerful right hand and strong low kicks.  He is not a great wrestler so he’ll use judo throws or trip take-downs to get the fight to the mat. Santos is 41 years old now and his cardio is a big issue later in fights.

Clay Guida is coming off a close split decision loss to Mark O. Madsen and has now lost four of his last six fights.  Overall, Guida is 16-15 in the UFC with ten wins by decision.  He’s been finished eight times, six times by submission.

Guida is a strong wrestler, but his biggest weapon is his relentless cardio. He is not a great striker so he uses a lot of movement and throws looping punches, but he doesn’t have much power. Submission defense is also an obvious concern as he’s been submitted ten times throughout his career.

Santos is the far more skilled fighter in this matchup and would be a much larger favorite if not for his poor cardio. When Santos is fresh early, Guida is going to be in a lot of trouble. Santos doesn’t throw a ton of volume, but he hits hard and he’s more technical than Guida. If he hurts Guida, he should be able to pounce on a submission. If the fights get extended, maybe Guida could grind on Santos, but Santos has very strong take-down defense. I’ll go with Santos to get the finish, but this could get dicey the longer the fight goes.

PREDICTION: Santos by first round submission

Jimmy Crute (-165) vs. Jamahal Hill (+145)

Jimmy Crute is coming off a disappointing first round doctor stoppage loss to Anthony Smith, after suffering a leg injury.  Prior to that, Crute had won four of five, all by finish.  In six fights inside the Octagon, five have ended in the first round. 

Crute is a strong wrestler and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. He has solid striking skills and has good power. Win or lose, his fights typically end early so his cardio could be a concern.

Jamahal Hill is also coming off a disappointing first round loss, suffering an arm injury at the hands of Paul Craig.  Hill is officially 2-1 in the UFC after a first round knockout of Klidson Abreu was overturned to a no contest.  He’s 8-1 overall with four wins by knockout and four by decision. 

Hill is a great striker with power, but he has questionable take-down defense, although he does do a good job of working back to his feet. Hill also has strong cardio.

This is a great fight between top light heavyweight prospects coming off disappointing losses. Crute has a distinct edge in grappling, while Hill is the more dangerous striker. Crute should have no problems getting this fight to the mat early and Hill will be in big trouble on the ground with Crute on top of him. However, if Hill can work his way back to his feet, there’s a good chance Crute might gas and be ripe for the picking in striking exchanges. It’s not a confident pick, but I’m picking the superior grappler Crute to get it done early.

PREDICTION: Crute by first round submission

Brendan Allen (-365) vs. Chris Curtis (+280)

After his first two opponents had to withdraw, Brendan Allen will take on short notice replacement Chris Curtis.  Allen has won two in a row and five of six joining the UFC.  Most recently, he defeated Punahale Soriano by unanimous decision.  Allen has picked up three finishes, two by submission.

Allen is a strong submission grappler, but he isn’t the best wrestler. He’s improved as a striker under the tutelage of Henri Hooft at Sanford MMA as we saw in his win over Soriano.

Curtis made an impressive UFC debut, just a month ago, knocking out Phil Hawes in the first round at UFC 268.  Curtis has an interesting story to his career. He’s a long time veteran of the sport and finally got his big opportunity to compete for the million dollar prize in PFL during their 2019 season. Curtis lost a decision to Magomed Magomedkerimov and decided to hang up his gloves. Only Magomedkerimov was injured and unable to compete in the second tournament fight of the night. Curtis was deemed the alternate and with another crack at million dollars, faced Ray Cooper III later that night and was knocked out in the second round. Curtis’ retirement was short lived and since then has rattled off five straight wins, four by knockout. Curtis is 27-8 overall with 16 finishes, 13 by knockout. Six of his eight losses have come by decision.

Curtis has spent most of his career at welterweight, but he has had no problem taking short notice fights at middleweight in the UFC. Curtis is a strong boxer and he has tremendous cardio, while his biggest weaknesses would be his take-down defense, defensive grappling and lack of size at this weight class.

Curtis again comes in as a heavy underdog and he is definitely live here. Allen is going to be the much bigger fighter and should have no problem controlling Curtis in the clinch if he chooses to do so. However, Allen might just decide to show off his new and improved striking game, which would play right into Curtis’ strengths. Another little wrinkle is Allen’s last loss came to Sean Strickland, a chief sparring partner of Curtis so that’s something worth noting. In the end, I’m going to side with Allen because he has more paths to victory, especially in the grappling department.

PREDICTION: Allen by decision

Bryan Barbarena (-120) vs. Darian Weeks (+100)

Bryan Barbarena was originally scheduled to face Matt Brown this weekend, but after Brown tested positive for COVID-19, he’ll now face UFC newcomer Darian Weeks on just a few days notice.

Barbarena is coming off a majority decision loss to Jason Witt and has lost three of his last four fights. His lone win in that stretch is over Anthony Ivey. Barbarena is 6-6 in the UFC with four finishes, three by knockout. He’s been knocked out twice with four decision losses.

Barbarena is an aggressive striker, but his take-down defense is poor and he had major back surgery before the Ivey fight. Barbarena was never an elite fighter, but it’s clear his skills have diminished and he’s taken beatings in three of his last four fights.

Weeks is undefeated at 5-0 and was supposed to compete on the Contender Series earlier this year. He has five finishes, three by knockout. Weeks is obviously inexperienced, but he looks talented. His wrestling looks like his biggest strength and he’s a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

At this point, it’s hard to pick Barbarena against anyone. Barbarena is a tough veteran and maybe it’s too much, too soon for Weeks but I’m going to roll the dice and pick Weeks to score the upset.

PREDICTION: Weeks by decision

Dusko Todorovic (-155) vs. Maki Pitolo (+135)

After a successful UFC debut where he finished Dequan Townsend in the second round with ground and pound, Dusko Todorovic has lost two straight.  He was knocked out in the first round by Punahale Soriano and then dropped a unanimous decision to Gregory Rodrigues.  Todorovic is 10-2 overall with nine finishes, six by knockout.

Todorovic is an active striker, especially in the clinch, but he is very poor defensively as we saw in his loss to Soriano.

Maki Pitolo has lost three in a row and four of five since joining the UFC.  Most recently, he was submitted in the third round against Julian Marquez in a fight he was well on his way to winning.  His lone win in the UFC is a second round ground and pound stoppage of Charles Byrd.  Pitolo is 13-8 overall with ten finishes, seven by knockout.  He’s been finished six times, four times by submission.

Pitolo is a strong and powerful boxer, but his overall skill set isn’t great. He has decent wrestling, but his cardio is poor and he’s displayed poor fight IQ.

This fight could look a lot like the Soriano fight for Todorovic as Pitolo has the ability to hurt Todorovic the way Soriano did, just throwing big bombs against Todorovic’s poor striking defense. However, if Pitolo can’t load those early bombs or finish Todorovic he could gas out and Todorovic does have the superior cardio. I might regret this pick, but I’m going with Pitolo to get the early knockout.

PREDICTION: Pitolo by first round knockout

Jake Matthews (-180) vs. Jeremiah Wells (+155)

Jake Matthews had a three fight winning streak snapped in his last fight after he was submitted in the third round by Sean Brady.  Matthews is 6-2 since moving up to welterweight and 10-5 overall in the UFC.  He has five finishes, four by submission.  Matthews has been finished in four of his five losses, three times by submission.

Matthews’ biggest strength is his grappling. He is a decent wrestler and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. His striking is decent as well, but he just doesn’t throw a ton.

Jeremiah Wells made a splash in his UFC debut, stepping up on short notice and knocking out Warlley Alves in the second round.  Wells is 9-2-1 overall with seven finishes, four by knockout. 

Wells is an explosive fighter as we saw in his debut against Alves. He’s going to explode for take-downs and wing big bombs on the feet, but if he can’t be successful with either of those two things, he’s likely to do nothing at all.

Matthews had a ton of potential coming off his stint on “The Ultimate Fighter” and very well may still have that potential, but right now we have a pretty good read on him. He’ll beat weak competition, but he’ll struggle with the Sean Brady’s or Kevin Lee’s of the world. I don’t think Wells is necessarily weak competition, but he’s on the level of guys that Matthews has beaten. Outside of Wells mauling Matthews early, Matthews should have the better technical skills everywhere to get this done.

PREDICTION: Matthews by decision

Manel Kape (-275) vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov (+220)

Manel Kape scored his first UFC win in impressive fashion, finishing Ode Osbourne in the first round with a flying knee.  Prior to that, Kape had lost his first two fights inside the Octagon, a unanimous decision loss in his UFC debut to Alexandre Pantoja and a split decision to Matheus Nicolau.  Kape is 16-6 overall with 15 finishes, 10 by knockout.  Four of his six losses are by decision.

Kape is unorthodox and explosive, but he’s a low volume striker. He has decent wrestling skills.

Zhalgas Zhumagulov also picked up his first UFC win in his last fight with a nasty first round guillotine choke over Jerome Rivera.  He dropped a debatable unanimous decision to Raulian Paiva in his UFC debut and then lost a unanimous decision to Amir Albazi.  Zhumagulov is 14-5 overall with eight finishes, six by knockout.   Prior to joining the UFC, Zhumagulov scored wins over UFC veterans Ali Bagautinov, Tyson Nam and a controversial win over Tagir Ulanbekov.

Zhumagulov is a solid striker, but is low volume just like Kape. He also has decent wrestling skills.

This is not one of the fights I’m looking forward to on the card as Kape and Zhumagulov are both low volume strikers. Kape is the more explosive of the two, but he’s also the more reckless. Zhumagulov could capitalize on that recklessness with well-timed take-downs. It’s a coin flip and again I’m going to roll the dice on the underdog.

PREDICTION: Zhumagulov by decision

Cheyanne Vlismas (-190) vs. Mallory Martin (+160)

Cheyanne Vlismas, formerly Cheyanne Buys, is coming off an impressive first round finish of Gloria de Paula.  She was supposed to fight Loma Lookboonmee two weeks ago, but had to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19.  After earning her UFC contract on the Contender Series with a unanimous decision over Hilarie Rose, Vlismas lost her UFC debut by unanimous decision to Montserrat Ruiz.  Vlismas is 6-2 overall with four wins by decision and two by knockout.

Vlismas is a well-rounded fighter. She has solid striking and wrestling skills. Her biggest weakness could be her defensive grappling after we saw her fail over and over again defending the head and arm throw against Ruiz.

Mallory Martin has lost two of three since joining the UFC, most recently being submitted in the first round by Polyana Viana.  Martin was also submitted in her UFC debut by Virna Jandiroba, but bounced back, submitting Hannah Cifers in the second round.  Martin is 7-4 overall with four finishes. 

Martin’s biggest strength will be her wrestling and cardio. Her striking isn’t great and she was getting beat up by Cifers which is a big concern.

The big factor in this fight is how badly was Vlismas affected by COVID-19. It was just two weeks ago that she got sick and she’s gone on record saying that her breathing has been affected. If I knew she was completely healthy, I’d be much more confident in picking her, but that’s a big if. Cardio is not a concern for me with Martin who trains at elevation in Colorado. If Vlismas was as badly affected as she let on, Martin seems like the safer pick.

PREDICTION: Martin by decision

Alonzo Menifield (-150) vs. William Knight (+130)

Alonzo Menifield is coming off a unanimous decision over Ed Herman and has now won two in a row.  Menifield is 4-2 in the UFC with three finishes, all in the first round.  He’s 11-2 overall with ten finishes, seven by knockout.

Menifield is a powerful fighter and extremely dangerous early, but there were concerns about his cardio if the early finishes didn’t come. Menifield was able to silence his doubters against Herman, but Herman is glacially slow and at the very tail end of his career.

William Knight is coming off a first round knockout of Fabio Cherant and has won two of three since joining the UFC.  Knight is 10-2 overall with nine finishes, eight by knockout.

Knight is powerful just like Menifield and a tough resilient fighter. We’ve seen Knight be put in bad positions early on multiple occasions, but he’s been able to survive and turn the tide in his favor. It’s a good quality to have, but not something you want to bank on.

I believe Menifield is more skilled than Knight, especially as a striker. Also, Menifield’s cardio might be better than we thought. If it isn’t, Knight could pull off another performance where he’s losing early and overwhelms Menifield late. Menifield showed me enough against Herman that he can fight for three rounds and that’s enough for me to pick him here.

PREDICTION: Menifield by decision

Claudio Puelles (-115) vs. Chris Gruetzmacher (-105)

Chris Gruetzemacher was almost knocked out in the first minute in his last fight against Rafa Garcia, but he weathered the early storm and scored the unanimous decision victory.  Gruetzemacher is 3-3 in the UFC and has been finished in all three losses, twice by submission.

Plain and simple, Gruetzmacher is just a tough, gritty fighter. He’s not very technical, but he’s going to push a strong pace and try to outlast you with superior cardio. He lands a high volume of strikes, but he also absorbs a high amount of strikes. He’s been hurt or knocked out on multiple occasions and he doesn’t have the greatest take-down defense.

Since losing his UFC debut, Claudio Puelles has won three straight, most recently defeating Jordan Leavitt by unanimous decision.  Puelles is 10-2 overall with seven finishes, five by submission.

Puelles hadn’t fought in nearly two years before out-grappling Leavitt. He looked much better than before, but Leavitt also looked bad. Real bad, so it’s hard to gauge just how much improvements Puelles really made.

Gruetzmacher has the edge in volume and toughness, while Puelles should have some decent success getting Gruetzmacher to the mat. If Puelles can hold Gruetzmacher down, he should get the win, but if he can’t Gruetzmacher will drown him in volume. The pick is Gruetzmacher.

PREDICTION: Gruetzmacher by decision

Azamat Murzakanov (-220) vs. Jared Vanderaa (+180)

Azamat Murzakanov was originally set to make his UFC debut against Philipe Lins at light heavyweight, but now he’ll face short notice replacement Jared Vanderaa in a heavyweight bout.  Murzakanov earned his UFC contract on the latest season of the Contender Series with a first round knockout of Matheus Scheffel.  Murzakanov is 10-0 with eight finishes, seven by knockout.

Murzakanov’s biggest strength is his wrestling. Once he gets you down, he’s looking to unload ground and pound and isn’t much of a submission threat.

Vanderaa has lost two of three since joining the UFC, getting finished in the second round with ground and pound in both of his losses.  His lone win is a unanimous decision over Justin Tafa.  Vanderaa earned his UFC contract with a first round ground and pound stoppage of Harry Hunsucker on the Contender Series.  Vanderaa is 12-6 overall with ten finishes, seven by knockout.  He’s been finished in four of his six losses.

Vanderaa is going to have a six inch height and nine inch reach advantage over Murzakanov and likely outweigh him by 30-40 pounds. He’s a big legit heavyweight, while Murzakanov is a light heavyweight. However, Vanderaa isn’t very good and has clear weaknesses that Murzakanov can exploit. Vanderaa has proven he can push a good pace and throw with volume, but he has poor take-down defense and defensive grappling off his back. Murzakanov either gets some early take-downs and ground and pounds his way to victory inside two rounds or Vanderaa keeps the fight standing and out-volumes Murzakanov. The pick is Murzakanov.

PREDICTION: Murzakanov by second round knockout

Alex Morono (-225) vs. Mickey Gall (+185)

Alex Morono has won two straight and three of his last four fights, most recently defeating David Zawada by unanimous decision.  Morono is 8-4 in the UFC with six wins by decision.  Three of his four losses are by decision.

Morono is a solid gatekeeper in the welterweight division. He isn’t the most athletic fighter, but he’s skilled. He’s a high volume striker, but his wrestling isn’t great and he’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.

After starting his UFC career with three straight wins, Mickey Gall is 3-3 in his last six fights, but he is coming off a first round submission win over Jordan Williams.  Five of Gall’s six wins inside the Octagon have come by submission, four in the first round.

Gall is a dangerous fighter early. He has power in his strikes and he’ll look to take your back and hunt for the rear-naked choke if he can get you down. However, he’s not a great wrestler and he has poor cardio. He pushes hard for the early finish and if he doesn’t get it he’s in trouble.

Gall’s best chance to win this fight is early. Morono has been fairly durable, but he’s also been hurt badly by Khaos Williams and Niko Price. Outside of an early finish by Gall, this is Morono’s fight to lose. Morono most likely wins by decision, but if Gall gasses terribly again, a late finish could be in the cards.

PREDICTION: Morono by decision

Louis Smolka (-145) vs. Vince Morales (+125)

Kicking off the night is a bantamweight bout between Louis Smolka and Vince Morales.  Smolka is 3-2 since returning to the UFC with three finishes, two by knockout.  He’s been submitted in the first round in both of his losses.  Smolka is 8-7 overall in the UFC with six finishes, four by knockout.  He’s been submitted three times and lost four fights by decision.

Smolka is a decent striker. He throws good volume, but absorbs a decent amount as well. He’s a decent wrestler and a strong grappler in top control.

Morales snapped a two fight losing streak in his last fight with a unanimous decision over Drako Rodriguez.  Morales is 2-3 in the UFC and 10-5 overall.  He has seven wins by finish, five by knockout.  Three of his five losses are by finish, two by submission.

Morales is mainly a boxer, but he doesn’t have much power. Overall, Morales is pretty limited as he doesn’t look to wrestle or have a diverse striking attack.

Smolka is the more skilled fighter, especially as a grappler. Morales could definitely out-strike Smolka, but Smolka should be looking for take-downs and should have some success. If Smolka can get on top, he should be able to dominate Morales and work his way to a dominant position where he can look to finish.

PREDICTION: Smolka by second round submission

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