The UFC juggernaut chugs along this Saturday night as another top-heavy fight card is delivered by the promotion.
Headlined by a high-ranking middleweight clash between Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland, UFC on ESPN 21 has little in way of quality support outside of two lightweight clashes, one the co-main event and a preliminary bout between Leonardo Santos and Grant Dawson.
Derek Brunson (21-7) vs. Kevin Holland (21-5)
While both fighters are pretty well-rounded offensively, where this fight plays out will likely be the decisive factor.
Despite Kevin Holland’s ability to fight off of his back, his takedown defence is porous and takedowns are Brunson’s bread and butter. With a level of control that has seen him dominate Yoel Romero on the mat for the majority of their contest, Brunson’s grappling is criminally underrated in certain sections.
Conversely, while Brunson certainly packs a punch on the feet, Holland’s own power and confidence in his wild approach have been a staple in his record-breaking 2020.
I do think that the longer this fight goes, the more it should sway in Brunson’s favour and that’s what I’m leaning towards here. Holland’s durability and fight-ending ability will certainly keep him as a live dog in this fight on the feet but with Darren Stewart having success in the clinch and grappling against ‘Trailblazer’, I believe Brunson’s greater skill in that area will allow him to pick up the win here.
Pick: Derek Brunson
Gregor Gillespie (13-1) vs. Brad Riddell (9-1)
This is a big test for Brad Riddell and how far he can go in the UFC.
While his striking is technically sublime due to his kickboxing background, this is the first time he’ll face a wrestler with excellent credentials like Gregor Gillespie.
Add in Gillespie’s work rate to secure those takedowns and I think it could be a long night for Riddell.
Pick: Gregor Gillespie
Cheyanne Buys (5-1) vs. Montserrat Ruiz (9-1)
Montserrat Ruiz has shown herself to be a threat if she can get her grappling into the fight but I think Cheyanne Buys’ work rate and intelligence will get her the victory here.
Holding the advantage physically and with an ability to be mobile offensively, I think Buys will be able to deter Ruiz’s hunt for the takedown and take control on the feet.
Pick: Cheyanne Buys
Adrian Yanez (12-3) vs. Gustavo Lopez (12-5)
Both Yanez and Lopez fight on the front foot and this should be a really exciting contest.
Yanez is more than happy to swing in the pocket but his reliance on his fight-ending power has seen him tend to struggle the longer fights wear on.
Lopez meanwhile is perhaps more well-rounded in his offence and that ability to take the fight to the mat could help him pick up rounds on the judges’ scorecards.
It’s a tough fight to pick as they could easily just fight in a phonebox off the bat but Lopez’s takedowns make me tentatively side with him.
Pick: Gustavo Lopez
Song Kenan (16-5) vs. Max Griffin (16-8)
Both Song and Griffin can hit hard with their boxing but like a lot of fights on this main card, one fighter is that little bit more nuanced in their overall game.
With Griffin being more of a jack-of-all-trades type of fighter, his durability and athleticism to boot make me side with him here.
Song no doubt has the ability to best Griffin as he has struggled for consistency in his UFC career but I do think Griffin has that little bit more than Song.
Pick: Max Griffin
Tai Tuivasa (11-3) vs. Harry Hunsucker (7-3)
Much like every heavyweight contest, there’s always a puncher’s chance but with Hunsucker taking the fight on short notice, this is Tuivasa’s fight to lose.
Pick: Tai Tuivasa
(Last Predictions: 1/4, Total: 22/46, 48% Success Rate)
(Success Rate: 2016: 61%, ’17: 60%, ’18: 58%, 19′: 57%, 20′: 67%)