UFC on ESPN ‘Till vs Whittaker’ Prelims Predictions

By Christopher Carpenter

            We’re coming off of a thrilling weekend of fights and heading straight into the last “fight island” event of the month. This card is truly stacked from top to bottom so let’s get right into the first half of the card.

Nathaniel Wood vs John Castañeda

            Starting off the night, we have a bantamweight bout between Nathaniel Wood and newcomer John Castañeda. Wood is four fights into the UFC and has won three of those fights and his one loss is to the veteran Josh Dodson. His opponent, Castañeda, fought on the contender series three years ago but was not rewarded a contract, though now he is finally getting his opportunity. Both of these fighters are well rounded and comfortable in the standup and on the ground. Wood has an impressive striking output at 4.3 significant strikes per minute and 8 career knockouts. Castañeda is also an impressive striker with 6 career knockouts and a solid grappler with 6 career submissions. When it comes to experience, Wood has been fighting impressive competition for years now fighting in Cage Warriors, Bellator, and the UFC. For that reason, I believe that he has the advantage and will outlast Castañeda till the final bell.

My pick: Nathaniel Wood by Decision

Ramazan Emeev vs Niklas Stolze

            Next up we have a welterweight bout between Ramazan Emeev and the debuting Niklas Stolze. In Emeev’s four UFC bouts, all of them have gone to the judges’ scorecards, so it will be interesting to see if this fight will be the same. Stolze is on a four-fight win streak and of those past 4 fights 3 of them have been finishes. The majority of Stolze’s victories have been by way of submission, so his game plan for this fight is likely to take the fight to the ground. However, in Emeev’s four UFC fights, his takedown defense has been a more than solid 80%. This could be a problem for Stolze if is getting out struck on the feet and is unable to take the fight to the ground. For that reason, I believe that Emeev has more tools than Stolze to secure the victory.

My pick: Emeev by decision

Bethe Correia vs Pannie Kianzad

            For the first women’s fight of the night, we have a bantamweight bout between Bethe Correia vs Pannie Kianzad. The odds for this fight are relatively close with Pannie Kianzad as a -130 favorite. The reason why these odds are so close is that these fighters are statically very close on paper. Both fighters have a similar striking output (Correia at 4.47 Significant strikes per minute and Kianzad at 4.03) and striking defenses (Correia 60% and Kianzad 58%). Both women are also skilled on the ground so it will be interesting to see how this one will play out. Correia has more experience in the UFC so I believe that she will have the slight advantage in this fight, even though Vegas has her as a slight underdog.

My pick: Correia by decision

Tanner Boser vs Raphael Pessoa

            Next up we have a bout in the heavyweight division between two prospects in the Canadian Tanner Boser and the Brazilian Raphael Pessoa. If it feels like you’ve heard Tanner Boser’s name before- It’s because you have- he’s coming off of a KO victory of the former PFL champion, and he’s stepping back in the octagon again only a month later. Boser looked very sharp in his last performance showcasing solid footwork, leg kicks, and of course knockout power. Recently both of these fighters have mainly had striking matches and I don’t see that changing for this fight. In Raphael Pessoa’s last fight, he was able to out strike his opponent and secure a decision victory. While he was able to outs trike his opponent, the volume at which he did so was not considerably high. I think that the speed that Boser moves at could be a potential issue for Pessoa and possibly leave him open for a knockout blow.

My pick: Boser by TKO

Mike Grundy vs Movsar Evloev        

Moving on, we have a fight in the featherweight division between two serious prospects, Mike Grundy and Movsar Evloev. Both of these fighters are relatively new to the UFC, but they have serious potential as Evloev has an undefeated professional record and Grundy only has one loss. In Evloev’s two UFC bouts his strategy has been to work some striking and then work his opponent to the cage and take the fight to the ground and dominate.  It obviously has worked very well for him so far and if he can keep Grundy on the cage it’s likely that he will grind out the victory. In Grundy’s UFC debut he showcased a similar strategy of striking and then working the opponent against the cage, so I expect this fight to be interesting. If you’re a better, Grundy is a 2 to 1 underdog and that’s an interesting line to me. But because Evloev has looked consistent throughout his career and fights in the UFC I think he’s the favorite in this fight.

My pick: Evloev by submission

Tom Aspinall vs Jake Collier

            The sixth fight of this huge card is a heavyweight bout between the debuting Tom Aspinall and the veteran Jake Collier. A prospective heavyweight hailing out of Liverpool, England, Aspinall is an exciting fighter with five of his seven career wins coming by way of knockout. His opponent, Jake Collier, is 3-3 in the UFC having been in the promotion since 2014. However, he has not fought since in three years so it’s very possible that he could be affected by ring rust in this bout. This is also Collier’s first fight in the heavyweight division, as he normally fights at 205, but is making the jump for this card. With Aspinall’s knockout power, and Collier’s inactivity and adjustment to a new weight class that this fight favors Aspinall.

My pick: Aspinall by KO

Nicolas Dalby vs Jesse Ronson

            Closing out my picks we have two fighters who have both been in and out of the UFC, Nicolas Dalby and Jesse Ronson. Both of these fighters have fought some of the best of the UFC early on in their careers as Dalby has fought Darren Till and Ronson fought Kevin Lee. Since Dalby was cut from the UFC, he has really turned his career around and is currently on a four-fight winning streak. Ronson on the other hand has had some struggles and lost 2 of his last 3 fights. Dalby is a volume-based striker with moderate grappling skills that he can use when necessary. Ronson has a similar striking style but has showed less adequate grappling in his UFC bouts. Given this information and Dalby’s recent performances, I believe that he will be able to out strike Ronson on the feet and if the fight goes to the ground, he also will have the advantage.

My Pick: Dalby by decision

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