UFC on Fox 29 - Arizona Breakdown
Dustin Poirier vs Justin Gaethje
On the back of the chaotic UFC 223 where a plethora of top lightweights gobbled up the spotlight, the UFC are showing just how stacked the division is with two more elite contenders, Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, taking centre stage.
The winner of this fight would be in line for a title shot but may have to wait to see if the bitter and escalating love triangle of Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson ever resolves itself.
Compared to his fellow top lightweight contenders, Poirier has risen up the ranks rather unassumingly, but the UFC veteran has proven he has all the weapons to compete at that championship level.
Gaethje, however, has only recently burst onto the UFC scene as the unbeaten WSOF (World Series of Fighting) champion and extended his run to 18-0 on his UFC debut, putting on one of the fights of the year with Michael Johnson. However, his unbeaten streak was dramatically snapped in his second UFC fight with Eddie Alvarez. Another typical slobber knocker of a battle ended with his first knockout loss so it will be interesting to see how he bounces back in his home state of Arizona.
These two assassins are going to throw down which is predictable from Gaethje’s standpoint. Poirier, however, has many levels to his game and has matured into a composed and extremely well-rounded fighter but he certainly has the fortitude to stand toe-to-toe with the infamous slugger.
This will be an enthralling scrap on the feet and their striking accuracy will be pivotal in dismantling their way to a win. Which way it goes will be a coin toss, Poirier has the technique and reach advantage but you can never sleep on Gaethje’s power and frankly, his lunacy. No matter how much damage he absorbs, he will keep marching into danger in search of that finish.
These strengths of Gaethje have given him a great deal of success but it could also be his undoing in the UFC. You cannot afford to be reckless against elite fighters and poise and technique will be crucial for Poirier to negate the aggression of Gaethje but if the fight turns into a brawl you have to back the hometown boy.
Winner: Poirier via Decision
Carlos Condit vs Alex Oliveira
Carlos Condit has been deprived of an epic clash with a fellow fan-favourite and veteran after Matt Brown suffered a knee injury only two weeks out. Fortunately, Alex Oliveira has stepped up to fill the void.
Condit is desperate for a win. He has lost his last three and six of his eight fights and in the majority of these he came up agonisingly short against the very best of the welterweight division. Amongst these defeats were five-round wars with the likes of Georges St Pierre, Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
He needs to rejuvenate the confidence that made him a decorated legend of the sport as he is taking on a very dangerous striker and natural finisher who although is coming off a TKO loss, endured a war and ‘Fight of the Night’ with Yancy Medeiros.
On paper, this fight produces fireworks and is likely to stay on the feet. We should fully expect Oliveira to threaten on the feet and be wary of the counter but Condit has to put his form behind him to display the incredible combinations and movement that has enabled him to dismantle some of the best fighters in the world.
We saw glimpses of this in his last fight with Neil Magny and if he builds on that performance he should walk away with the win.
Winner: Condit via Decision
Israel Adesanya vs Marvin Vettori
These two young guns are very exciting prospects looking to make a dent in the stacked middleweight division and both arrive at the cage with serious pedigree.
Flying the flag for Italy, Marvin Vettori has displayed a very well-rounded skillset already in his young career and has only lost once in his last nine fights, getting better and better as he matures among the best fighters in the world.
However, his potential and expectancy is eclipsed by Israel Adesanya who although is only 28, is unbeaten in 12 fights with an accomplished kickboxing career and record of 50-5. He has transitioned these skills effortlessly into MMA with an astonishing 100% knockout record.
Adesanya won his debut UFC fight against Rob Wilkinson but Vettori will be his biggest test so far in his career. The Italian can strike but his superior grappling will be the biggest threat.
Vettori will be foolish to attempt to trade with the accomplished kickboxer who not only possesses a different level of striking but also boasts a significant reach advantage which he uses to full damaging effect.
You have to expect Vettori to attempt to close all the distance and keep him pinned to the mat in search for a submission and really test his takedown defence. However, ‘The Last Sylebender’ is on absolute tear and is fuelling his confidence with every knockout victory. You have to back him to add another spectacular knockout to his glowing resume.
Winner: Adesanya via KO/TKO
Michelle Waterson vs Cortney Casey
These talented women have struggled to find consistency in the strawweight division which continues to become more and more competitive.
Michelle Waterson has lost her last two fights although these were against Tecia Torres and the current champion, Rose Namajunas. She has all the ability to bounce back from these performances and is one of the most skilled fighters in the division which we have seen glimpses of over the likes of Angela Magana and Paige VanZant but we know she has more to offer.
Cortney Casey does not have a flattering record but with seven UFC fights, she has been competing in the pool of sharks for the majority of her fighting career and like Waterson, she is very talented with more to offer.
So, this promises to be a compelling fight, with both desperate to bounce back from close decision losses.
Waterson has a strong foundation of karate but she has displayed an equally strong ground game since the beginning of her MMA career with nine submission wins.
Casey is no slouch on the ground but as Waterson has enjoyed a lot of success with her wrestling, Casey she may look to utilize her significant reach advantage to keep the distance and get the better of the striking exchanges. This fight could take place anywhere and could go either way but Waterson has more tools to dictate the fight.
Winner: Waterson via Decision