By Matt White
The UFC returns down under with a second visit to New Zealand. In the main event, Mark Hunt gets the opportunity of a swansong in his native New Zealand. He fights Derrick Lewis, who looks to enhance his own reputation among the biggest men the UFC has to offer.
As always, I’ll be giving you my picks for the best of the card and 5Dimes will be providing the odds.
Hooker v Pearson:
Dan Hooker has spent much of his UFC career fighting in Australia or New Zealand. The Antipodean has fought on home soil in four of his six appearances since signing, yet home court advantage hasn’t really done a lot for him, as a 3-3 record demonstrates.
For the first time in his professional career, Ross Pearson is entering a fight he can’t afford to lose. As a TUF champion, Pearson has been booked in fights that represent his standing within the company but never has he lost three on the bounce; that is normally walking paper material. Unable to achieve consecutive wins for over four years, he alternated wins and losses until hitting this skid. It could well see the end of the popular Englishman, but, as a moderate draw in the UK and his adopted home of Australia, it is likely he’ll be given a final shot at redemption. Then again, this is the new UFC, not the old UFC.
For me, Pearson has a competitive advantage here. He is notoriously difficult to finish, a feat achieved only by Al Iaquinta and Cub Swanson inside the last seven years, while Hooker almost never wins a decision, winning only one of six fights that have gone the distance. As I think this goes the full three rounds, I favour Pearson comfortably.
Recommendation: Ross Pearson – 2 units at +125 (5/4) @ 5Dimes
Brunson v Kelly:
Derek Brunson enters the Octagon on the back of a 0-2 run, something he experienced earlier in his career. On that occasion he beat Chris Leben, incidentally in his UFC debut, and compiled a run of 7-1. The lone reversal in that spell was to interim title challenger and number one-ranked middleweight Yoel Romero. His two most recent losses were a decisive stoppage at the hands of Robert Whittaker and a controversial one to Anderson Silva.
At 39, Daniel Kelly is relatively unscathed for a professional fighter; competing in only 14 fights has arguably assisted him in fighting at an age most fighters suddenly decline. At UFC 209, he achieved the biggest win of his career when on the right end of a split-decision over Rashad Evans. Sadly, though, Evans isn’t the fighter he used to be and this should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Kelly isn’t known for being a power puncher and this is something that should play right into Brunson’s hands. Brunson has a ridiculous habit of storming across the cage with his hands down and his chin out. But, if he keeps his chin down and his hands up, he should have too much in the locker for an ageing Kelly.
Recommendation: Derek Brunson – 3 units at -280 (1/3) @ 5Dimes
Lewis v Hunt:
Derrick Lewis has been a man on a tear of late. Six wins on the bounce have seen him right the wrongs of losses to Shawn Jordan and Matt Mitrione. Both of those reversals came by knockout, yet Lewis has improved to such an extent that I would favour him to avenge those if rematched today. His last win over Travis Browne has pushed him towards the top five and realistically he must only be a win or two away from a title shot.
After Dan Henderson finally called it a day, Mark Hunt immediately became the oldest fighter on the UFC roster; even in an ageing heavyweight division he is by far the elder statesman and questions must be asked of how long he can continue. He was on the end of another knockout from Alistair Overeem back in March and it may well be the ongoing litigation starting to take effect. If he loses this weekend, retirement surely beckons and he can pursue the ‘Hunt Rule’ in MMA on a full-time basis.
It is hard to understand Hunt’s motivation to keeping fighting at 43 years of age. His only wins in the last four years have been first round knockouts of Roy Nelson, ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and Frank Mir. Lewis, on the other hand, is a fighter still in the ascension, a fighter who has the power to end this one when he wants.
Recommendation: Derrick Lewis – 2 units at -135 (4/5) @ 5Dimes