One of the most interesting facts about the UFC Fort Lauderdale card is the fighter that will likely be under the biggest microscope might very well be the worst fighter on the card. No, it isn’t CM Punk, as it appears that experiment is over… we can only hope. No, it’s an experiment that disgusts much of the MMA world in a completely different way. When the UFC signed CM Punk, few believed he had the physical skills to compete, which was proven in his two contests. No one doubted whether Greg Hardy had the physical tools. In fact, he may very well be the best pure athlete on the card. No, it’s his history of domestic abuse that turns off many viewers.
The main card begins on ESPN+ at 9:00 PM ET/6:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Greg Hardy (3-1) vs. Dmitry Smolyakov (9-2), Heavyweight
What everyone chooses to remember with Hardy was how he gassed HARD in his UFC debut against Allen Crowder, leading to the former NFL All-Pro to go into survival mode before delivering an illegal knee that got him DQ’d. What people shouldn’t forget was Hardy’s three KO’s that all came in under a minute in his first three MMA contests. Fighters tend to learn a lot from their first losses. Sorry to say to many readers, but don’t expect a repeat of Hardy’s idiotic performance against Crowder. Keep in mind, Hardy trains at ATT. It isn’t like he’s at a poor camp.
Smolyakov has good power himself and has some wrestling in his background too, but he’s also a fraction of the athlete Hardy is, lacking the explosion and limberness of his opponent. That doesn’t mean the idea of him landing a killshot is impossible, but have you seen Hardy’s speed? Smolyakov has only left the first round once in his career, leading me to feel most confident in picking this contest to stay in the opening frame. Regardless – and I apologize to many of you who are disappointed to read this – I expect Hardy to secure his first UFC win. Hardy via TKO of RD1
Mike Perry (12-4) vs. Alex Oliveira (20-6-1, 2 NC), Welterweight
I’ve seen a lot of buzz from MMA fans for this contest, enough that I believe this is the most anticipated contest of the card for those in the know. Perry, despite his reputation as the ultimate dude-bro meathead, is not a stupid fighter. He knows what he does well and sticks to that. What he does is stay in his opponent’s face, trying to induce them to throw so he can counter with his massive power shots. The approach doesn’t work for everyone, but Perry’s extreme durability has allowed him to find a decent amount of success with it… and develop into someone fans want to watch
Oliveira is more inconsistent in his performance, showing the ability to dominate a contest only to instantly have the tables turned on him and vice versa. Many of you are thinking that’s common in MMA, but it seems to happen in every Oliveira contest, not just every now and then. His elite athleticism allows him to physically dominate, but his willingness to just let the fight come to him is what also allows things to turn on him. Oliveira isn’t as durable as Perry, though he does have a significant edge in grappling and we’ve seen Perry get caught in subs before. Nonetheless, I’m going out on a limb and saying Oliveira eventually gets caught by Perry’s power in a back-and-forth affair. Perry via TKO of RD2
Glover Teixeira (28-7) vs. Ion Cutelaba (14-3), Light Heavyweight
Nobody believes the 39-year old Teixeira is about to climb back into contention. He’s weathered too many beatdowns and has noticeably slowed – literally – to hang with the best anymore. However, he still has power and one of the better top games at 205. He can still win fights, particularly against those who struggle with wrestling. That doesn’t describe Cutelaba. The Moldovan is an aggressive takedown artist in his own right with KO power too. It’s hard to predict this one as neither has the best takedown defense, but I’m going with youth on this one as Teixeira’s chin and energy levels don’t encourage much confidence. He fades late and Cutelaba capitalizes. Cutelaba via TKO of RD3
And the rest….
- I love a John Lineker contest as much as anyone, but this is some very curious matchmaking, pitting the proven KO artist against Cory Sandhagen as the latter is just three fights into his UFC career with wins over marginal competition. Lineker’s penchant for the KO makes him one of the most feared bantamweights on the roster. Sandhagen’s aggressive approach seems to be tailor-made for Lineker to find the finish. Regardless, it should be fun while it lasts. Lineker via TKO of RD1
- Roosevelt Roberts and Thomas Gifford feels more like a main event on an LFA card, though that isn’t the insult many may initially think it is. All I mean to say is Gifford is the gritty regional vet who tends to be the final test for youthful prospects like Roberts. Gifford owns an impressive submission game, but I favor Roberts’ athleticism and creativity to pick him up the W. Roberts via Decision