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UFC Fight Night 106 predictions

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UFC 206 Photos Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Well, UFC Fight Night 106 is here, and on paper, it should be a great night of fights, probably better than the last two UFC pay-per-views. This card is headlined by an interesting middleweight match-up with between former UFC champion Vitor Belfort and former top welterweight Kelvin Gastelum. UFC Fight Night 106 also features important bouts for the lightweight and flyweight divisions in Edson Barboza vs. Beneil Dariush, and Jussier Formiga vs. Ray Borg. Additionally, MMA legend Mauricio Rua and brawler Gian Villante meet in a light heavyweight bout.

What: UFC Fight Night 106

Where: Centro de Formação Olímpica do Nordeste, Fortaleza, Brazil.

When: The two-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 7 p.m ET, the four-fight Fox Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the six-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET also on Fox Sports 1.

Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Will Vitor Belfort get back on track and put an end to his two-fight skid? Or will Kelvin Gastelum continue his sudden run through the top 10 of the middleweight division?

The matchmaking for this middleweight bout is one we’ve seen often this year, pitting an older fighter with a big name — who is likely close to retirement — against a young, skilled competitor looking to build his stardom and achieve brand-name status within the promotion.

Despite Belfort saying he’s at his best at 39 years of age, the Brazilian has shown signs of deterioration in his three most recent defeats. Regardless, I still believe that Belfort has fight left in him, and I’m confident he can be successful fighting opposition outside the top 10 of the division. In his last bout against Gegard Mousasi, a top-five fighter in his prime, Belfort proved he can still remain competitive, as he put up a fight on the feet, avoided a few early grappling attempts, and also took some solid shots from Mousasi. “The Phenom” might not be as good as he once was, but he still possesses good striking technique with significant speed and power to pose a threat to most middleweights. However, on the ground, it’s a different story. Belfort has been finished every time he’s been taken down in his past three defeats, and it seems the age decay has mainly affected his ground work.

Belfort’s inability to properly defend himself on the ground is what makes Gastelum the favorite in this bout. Gastelum is not only a crafty boxer, but also a skilled wrestler who has no problem taking down heavier opposition. At middleweight, Gastelum has put behind him the only obstacle that has stopped him from achieving his true potential – making weight.

I see this being a competitive bout for the first few minutes of the fight, but Gastelum’s combination of boxing and wrestling should wear on the former champion the longer the bout goes. If it wasn’t for Gastelum’s durability and incredible chin, I’d give Belfort somewhat of a chance in this bout.

Pick: Gastelum

Mauricio Rua vs. Gian Villante

UFC Fight Night 106 is filled with tough fights to predict, and this is one of them.

It seems that “Shogun” Rua is slightly favored to win the bout. The general consensus is that Rua’s striking skills, craftiness, and experience should top Gian Villante, who’s failed to keep consistency throughout his UFC career. Although on a two-fight win streak, Rua hasn’t looked great in a long time. Rua’s dangerous striking game and chin have faded in recent years. Today, “Shogun” is nothing more than a tough fighter with decent striking skills, big power on his hands, and an enormous amount of experience. These solid attributes are only a reflection of the grand fighter Rua once was, and they should keep him competitive against the bottom of the top 10 of today’s light heavyweight division.

Villante, ranked 12th in the division, is a tough brawler who has the knockout power to put away “Shogun.” I find Villante’s striking style to be favorable against Rua’s muay thai, as Villante uses many straight punches that can land quicker than Rua’s powerful hooks. I see this being a stand-up battle where Villante should have the advantage. However, my biggest reservation is that Villante could let the moment get to him, as he’s fighting “Shogun” in Brazil for his first UFC co-main event slot. Tough call, but I’ll go with Villante. If the American manages to keep composed, I can see his powerful striking putting away Rua.

Pick: Villante

Edson Barboza vs. Beneil Dariush

Here’s an important fight for the lightweight rankings. Edson Barboza is ranked in the top five of the division, while Beneil Dariush is a few spots away at No. 9.

Barboza has really turned things around in the past year. The Brazilian always lingered around the top 15 of the division and had trouble breaking into the higher echelon of the 155-pound rankings. But recently, Barboza delivered a wild, competitive fight against Tony Ferguson, arguably the top contender in the division, and was able to outpoint former UFC champion Anthony Pettis and former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez. Barboza is a quick, lethal striker who is always moving, keeping busy with a high output of punches, kicks, knees and elbows.

On the other hand, Dariush has proven to be a well-rounded fighter with a very advanced ground game. Dariush might not be as battle-tested as his opponent, but he definitely has less wear. The 27-year-old fighter is a good boxer with decent power and high-level jiu-jitsu. Dariush possesses more tools and ways to win than Barboza, as he can be both a threat on the ground and on the feet.

As much as I respect Dariush’s grappling, I can’t ignore Barboza’s insane takedown defense. I think Barboza will do what he does best and keep the fight on the feet where he should have a technique and speed advantage. It’s worth noting that Barboza’s chin has been suspect in the past, but I do believe he’s improved at avoiding damage in this past year. I think there is a chance of Barboza getting caught by Dariush, but not a high one, especially over the course of 15 minutes, not 25.

Pick: Barboza

Jussier Formiga vs. Ray Borg

I’m very excited for this fight, and I feel like it’s flying under the radar.

Jussier Formiga is very good in every area of the fight game. The Brazilian flyweight has quick, technical boxing with good footwork. He’s also a extremely talented on the ground, as he has a solid top game, a crafty guard, and an excellent back take. Formiga is also a good athlete with a good amount of experience fighting elite competition. The only fighters the 31-year-old Formiga has lost to in his UFC career have all been title challengers.

Meanwhile, Ray Borg is eight years younger than Formiga. The 23-year-old fighter might be young but has a decent amount of experience, having a record of 10-2 as a professional fighter and being 4-2 in the UFC. Borg has the movement and athleticism of a long-time wrestler, he’s lightning quick with everything he does and powerful as well. The American has solid striking and a dominant ground game with dangerous submissions.

I expect great scrambles and grappling exchanges from the two fighters. Part of me thinks Borg’s youth, pace and athleticism might overwhelm Formiga, but the other finds Formiga too seasoned and crafty to lose this one. I think we’ll see a competitive bout in both the striking and grappling areas, but with Formiga just being one short step ahead.

Pick: Formiga

Bethe Correia vs. Marion Reneau

I think this is one of the easier fights to pick out of the main card. Marion Reneau has shown some technical kickboxing in the octagon with solid striking power. She has also proven to be a decent grappler with a dangerous guard, as seen in her triangle-choke win against Jessica Andrade. Meanwhile, Correia doesn’t really have any holes in her game, but I also find her to not have any big strengths either. Correia is well-rounded, and will fight wherever the fight goes.

I see Reneau keeping the fight standing and landing the better shots to outpoint the Brazilian.

Pick: Reneau

Alex Oliveira vs. Tim Means

Leading up to their first bout at UFC 207, which ended in a no-contest due to two illegal knees from Means, I thought the fight would be a fairly even contest with Means coming out on top. And that’s almost exactly how the bout was playing out until it was called off by the referee. At UFC 207, Means proved to have better grappling than Oliveira, seemed to get the best out of the striking exchanges, and came off as the grittier and tougher fighter. Now, fighting each other again three months later, I think we’ll see the same type of fight play out.

I see Means slightly outpointing Oliveira on the feet, doing damage in the clinch, and countering any offensive grappling moves Oliveira attempts.

Pick: Means


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