The UFC will return to Houston this weekend with another Pay-Per-View card, with an Interim Heavyweight title prominently featured in the main event.
This card will kick off the month of August for the world’s premier MMA organization, and they’re bringing a stacked card to play with. Though it took a rough hit last week with the co-main event falling out, there is still no shortage of stellar fights.
In the main event, heavyweight strikers Ciryl Gane and Derrick Lewis collide for interim gold, while Jose Aldo and Pedro Munhoz duke it out all the way down at Bantamweight.
Derrick Lewis vs. Ciryl Gane (HW)
Following his title shot defeat to Daniel Cormier and a subsequent loss to JDS, Derrick Lewis (24-7, 15-5 UFC) scored two decision victories, showing considerable improvements in his grappling and cardio. From there, “The Black Beast” went on to finish Alexey Oleinik in the second round to tie the all-time KO record, then brutally knock out Derrick Lewis to take the record. Lewis is one of the few fighters on the UFC roster who cuts to the 266-pound limit and is shown through his style. He hits incredibly hard and while he is a slower fighter without much of a ground game, he can end the fight with one good shot. Just ask Alexander Volkov, who was destroying him until the very last minute of their fight.
Ciryl Gane (8-0, 5-0 UFC) has quickly surged through the UFC rankings after just becoming a pro MMA fighter three years ago. After joining the UFC in 2019, he tore through three straight opponents in five months, but then suffered forced inactivity due to injury and COVID-19. His lone bout of 2020 rocketed him towards contention as he scored a second round knockout over the aforementioned Dos Santos. Gane was most recently seen as the main event for UFC Vegas 20, where he defeated Jairzinho Rozenstruik by decision. “Bon Gamin” is an elite striker with quite a bit of skill on the mat as well. He brings in a professional kickboxing and Muay Thai background and has remarkable speed and technique for the Heavyweight division. His clean Muay Thai offensive is devastating, as he utilizes all eight striking points, attacks the head and body, and works in expert combinations. He has proved he has all the requisite champion-level skills as well, having gone the distance successfully to prove his gas tank while showing sneaky submission skills over Raphael Pessoa and Don’Tale Mayes.
Despite this interim belt being entirely unnecessary, at least we are getting one hell of a scrap out of it. Gane has been nothing but impressive to this point, displaying technical striking, expert footwork, and a high fight IQ. He takes home nearly every advantage on paper, with the superior technique on the floor and the mat along with better cardio. However, Lewis brings in the knockout threat he always has, with the ability to close the show with just one punch at any moment of the fight. Though Lewis will have his usual puncher’s chance, :the technical acumen and cardio of Gane are more than enough to carry him to a decision, along with grappling in his back pocket.
My Pick: Ciryl Gane via Decision
Jose Aldo vs. Pedro Munhoz (BW)
Featherweight GOAT and King of Rio Jose Aldo (29-7, 11-6 UFC) was last seen finally getting back in the win column with a decision victory over Marlon Vera. Prior to that, he was riding three straight losses, two of those coming in his new home of Bantamweight. That said, that was to the best of the best in Marlon Moraes and current champ Petr Yan, and he showed himself well in both losses. Aldo utilizes great fundamental Muay Thai boxing, with great counter reads and great speed. His dangerous leg kicking game, demonstrated recently against Yan, still remains a danger for anyone looking to come into the cage. Aldo presents fantastic combos along with ferocious body striking and power, making him a dangerous contender at all times on the feet. His ironclad takedown defense gives him the ability to control where the fight takes place, and that is often on the feet.
Pedro Munhoz (19-5, 9-5 UFC) came out victorious with a knockout over Cody Garbrandt in their one-round brawl to lose a decision against current champ Aljamain Sterling. His first main event showing against Frankie Edgar was a back and forth war that saw Edgar snag a narrow nod on the scorecards, though many found it controversial. Munhoz has gone under the radar for most people with his quiet and respectful personality, which MMA fans quickly get bored of (looking at you, Conor). Despite that, Munhoz is an incredibly entertaining fighter with power and world-class jiu-jitsu. “The Young Punisher” loves to pressure forward into a brawl, utilizing his fair share of leg kicks. Although coming in with a jiu-jitsu base, his kickboxing is something only increasing in technique and power, and Munhoz always comes forward with a never-ending volume.
This is such a fun stylistic match, but one that Aldo has all the tools to secure victory in, even considering his current form. His legendary takedown defense makes Munhoz’s ground offense not as much of a threat, if he can stay away from Munhoz’s guillotine. With this fight stuck on the feet, Aldo has the superior technique to keep him ahead. His horrific body shots and leg kicks match up well with the always aggressive Munhoz, who is not one to flee the pocket. Munhoz’s chin is granite, so expect these two to sling it out to a decision, where Aldo gets his hand raised on volume.
My Pick: Jose Aldo vía Decision
Vicente Luque vs. Michael Chiesa (WW)
Long seen as the dark horse of the Welterweight division, Vicente Luque (20-7-1, 13-2 UFC) made a strong statement in his last fight with a first round submission over former champion Tyron Woodley. With nineteen stoppages, Luque is as well-rounded as they come with aggressive yet technical Muay Thai and expert jiu-jitsu, where he has seven subs in various forms of arm chokes. Luque is a powerful striker when pressing forward but prefers to pick up his guard and take a few shots while looking for a heavy counter when he is on the back foot. He fights behind his jab and mixes up his shots well with leg kicks and body shots, mixing in his grappling when the opportunity presents itself. Luque has shown time and time again that he has the chin and power to out brawl his opponents, but also has the technique and grappling to make him an all-out threat.
The move up to Welterweight looks amazing for Michael Chiesa (17-4, 10-4 UFC), who has rattled off four straight wins in the division. He looks stronger, faster, and not as deprived at the new weight class. His last fight saw him dominate fellow ground expert Neil Magny for five rounds. “Maverick” is a jiu-jitsu master and has eleven wins by submission, over some elites such as Jim Miller, Al Iaquinta, and many others. He has numerous submissions from both top position and off his back, and is particularly adept at reversing position on the mat. Chiesa’s striking has never been elite, but he hasn’t needed it because of his high-level ground game.
This is a great test for both fighters, who need one big statement to really make their case to be in the title picture. Luque presents a more well-rounded style, but a style that is all offense with numerous finishing threats. Chiesa brings a much more singular approach, with a. more technical gameplay than his Brazilian counterpart. Chiesa makes every fight into a grappling battle at some point, but Luque has the skills, being a BJJ black belt as well, to skillfully regain his footing, as well as many dangerous submissions on the back. While I give Chiesa a slight edge on the feet, I favor Luque by a wide margin striking. Though Chiesa has a very real chance to ride out top position, I like Luque to use his defensive grappling and striking advantage to take home another knockout.
My Pick: Vicente Luque via Knockout
Tecia Torres vs. Angela Hill II (SW)
After finding herself on the chopping block after four straight losses, Tecia Torres (12-5, 8-5 UFC) got back on the win track with two victories. Few have been present in the UFC women’s divisions as long as Torres, coming in with the inception of the division. Though she found herself on an awful skid, three of those losses came to former/future champions and she presented herself with her usual speed and explosiveness. She does not have much power or submission potential, but is a hard fighter to pass on your way to the top. Her last fight against Sam Hughes saw “The Tiny Tornado” score her first knockout victory with a first round doctor stoppage.
You really have to give it up for Angela Hill (13-9, 7-7 UFC) and her activity, securing the record for most fights within a calendar year in 2020. She just brutalized Ashley Yoder to a decision in March, more than doubling her opponent’s output and showing improved wrestling. Her record is deceptive, as Hill is, without question, one of the elites in the division, particularly when it comes to striking. “Overkill” is a Muay Thai striker who backs up her punches with a relentless pace and a surprising pop to her strikes. Hill had poor success in her early Octagon career, due in part to her lackluster grappling defense. Her game is best when she can dictate the striking exchanges and mix it up with all eight striking points, wearing her opponent out the longer the fight goes with her ferocious output.
The first meeting between these two fighters came all the way back in 2015 at UFC 188, where Torres won a unanimous decision. This fight was Hill’s first pro loss and just her third fight, so she is undoubtedly coming in with several advantages. Torres has made improvements of her own in that time, and she largely dominated their first meeting with top control. Though Hill’s takedown defense has certainly improved in the time since their first meeting, it still remains the chief weakness in her game. That is a weakness Torres will certainly be able to exploit, with the explosive striking to find success on the feet as well.
My Pick: Tecia Torres via Decision
Yadong Song vs. Casey Kenney (BW)
Team Alpha Male’s Song Yadong (16-5-1, 5-1-1 UFC) was piecing guys up at Featherweight before dropping to Bantamweight to take on Vince Morales. He picked up two wins at Bantamweight since over Marlon Vera and Alejandro Perez, sandwiching a draw with Cody Stamann. His last fight saw his first UFC loss, where Kyler Phillips won a decision following their wild battle. Yadong is a slick and aggressive striker, and he brings in the leg kicks, wild spin kicks, and brute power to back that up. On top of that, “Kung Fu Monkey” is the Chinese BJJ champion, bringing in 3 submission victories. With this kid’s style (keep in mind he’s only 23 years old), it very surprising that 6 of his victories have gone to decision because he really has POWER.
Casey Kenney (15-3-1, 5-2 UFC) made his way to the UFC with a short notice fight against Ray Borg and was placed as a massive underdog. He was able to find a split decision win, although incredibly controversial. Kenney took that win by throwing a massive volume of shots, as well as getting his own wrestling game going against the ground specialist in Ray Borg. He has gone 4-2 since, last losing a decision to Dominick Cruz. He has well put together combos, but not much power, instead relying on points to get a decision win. Kenney has an especially well-rounded style, with wrestling and technical, high-volume striking in his arsenal.
This is a fantastic main card opener, as it will undoubtedly be a wild brawl. Yadong brings a frightening and dangerous pace, with a worrisome power at this weight class. While Kenney brings in his own wrestling advantage, Yadong has quick hip movement and a knack for quickly wrapping up defensive submissions. This fight is close in pretty much every regard, but I lean Yadong with his strike differential and explosiveness. Expect him to take home the win by mixing up top position and dynamic striking for a close decision.
My Pick: Yadong Song via Decision
the main card kicks off at 10 PM EST only on PPV, with the rest of the event simulcast on ESPN and ESPN+.
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