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UFC Fight Night 86 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

There are two important heavyweight fights on this card. The main event winner could likely contend for a title. The co-main event will push a contender further into the spotlight. Beyond that, there's not much to this card.

What: UFC Fight Night: Rothwell vs. JDS

Where: Arena Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia

When: Sunday, UFC Fight Pass has three fights starting at 10:30 a.m. ET; FOX Sports 1 has rest of card starting at 12 p.m. ET with the main card at 2 p.m. ET.

Ben Rothwell vs. Junior dos Santos

Like the co-main event, this is a tough call. JDS still has power, but not enough ability to take a shot. Rothwell can deliver a big punch and take one, but lacks the finesse striking to win outside of a brawl. Really, this is about what sort of JDS is left and which one shows up. Even with better movement and power of his own, all it takes is one shot from a heavy striker like Rothwell to change the fight. That makes picking JDS too speculative for me.

Pick: Rothwell

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Derrick Lewis

This is like the main event in the sense that it's a bit of a pick 'em fight. Gonzaga's ground game is phenomenal, but his shot is hasty and he can't take a punch like he used to. Lewis can deliver a massive punch and his takedown defense is ever improving, but is terribly susceptible on the ground. Obviously if Lewis lands a shot it's over, but it's hard to know how much one can bank on that. Here again, I have no real idea what will happen, but I lean towards Gonzaga.

Pick: Gonzaga

Francis Ngannou vs. Curtis Blaydes

I really have no earthly idea what's about to happen here. Both have heavy hands, both have reasonably cut their teeth on regional circuits. Ngannou showed big power, but terrible cardio. Blaydes may or may not have enough to deal with this. I legitimately don't know enough to take what I'm about to 'predict' in any serious way. Blaydes has respectable takedown ability and heavy enough hands. I suspect that's enough.

Pick: Blaydes

Timothy Johnson vs. Marcin Tybura

In many ways, Johnson doesn't look the part, but Tybura is less than convincing. His takedowns lack any kind of authority, his finishes have virtually no finesse and while he's proactive on offense, Johnson - 'should' being the operative word here - more than enough to control where this fight takes place and ride out a decision.


Igor Pokrajac vs. Jan Błachowicz

Since getting bounced from the UFC, Pokrajac has been on a win streak, but Błachowicz should be able to box him up while offering a legitimate takedown threat.

Pick: Błachowicz

Maryna Moroz vs. Cristina Stanciu

These two fighters are not entirely dissimilar. Both keep their hands low in favor of being able to launch into offense wherever they find themselves. Stanciu seems to be the harder striker, but even less refined than Moroz, so I'll nod toward the UFC veteran on that account. Stanciu can win, but she keeps her hands low and tries to finish with really unpolished technique. Hard to say with any certainty, but I suspect that stops here.

Pick: Moroz

From the preliminary undercard:

Nicolas Dalby def. Zak Cummings
Ian Entwistle def. Alejandro Pérez
Mairbek Taisumov def. Damir Hadzović
Damian Stasiak def. Filip Pejic
Lucas Martins def. Robert Whiteford
Jared Cannonier def. Cyril Asker
Bojan Velickovic def. Alessio Di Chirico

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