The UFC held a memorable card last weekend, with Giga Chikadze taking home a highlight reel finish over Edson Barboza.
We will get back to action this weekend with a Fight Night card entitled UFC Vegas 36. Though the card was originally set to take place in London, we still have a number of rising European prospects on the card. In the main event, Derek Brunson will fight Darren Till in a clash of styles that will produce a new threat to the Middleweight crown.
Derek Brunson vs. Darren Till (MW)
Despite coming in at 38 years of age, Derek Brunson (22-7, 12-5 UFC) has shown himself to be a revitalized fighter since joining Sanford MMA, scoring four straight wins, including a TKO over Edmen Shabazyan. He been kicking it at Middleweight for FOREVER now and was actually the headliner for the first UFC event I saw live. He has elite wrestling and striking with some real power behind it, too, finishing seven of his UFC opponents in the first round. The biggest issue, time and time again, for Brunson has just been his pacing. Instead of using his elite wrestling and striking technique, he often will throw himself into a brawl chasing the finish. However, his recent evolution has displayed a more patient Derek, one who does not charge into the pocket face first and instead exploits his wrestling pedigree, explosiveness, and raw power without sacrificing his defense. His current win streak, also including decision victories over Kevin Holland and Ian Heinisch, showed a more developed and patient Brunson that provides much more of a high-level threat.
After losing his undefeated record in an attempt at Welterweight gold and a subsequent KO defeat to Jorge Masvidal, Darren Till (18-3-1, 6-3-1 UFC) made his long-awaited move to 185 pounds and emerged victorious, although narrowly, over Kelvin Gastelum. Unfortunately, Robert Whittaker won out a decision win in a Fight of the Night battle. “The Gorilla” is a stalking Muay Thai boxer, who works with his pressure and looming jab to open up his power opportunities. Till is most dangerous when allowed to crowd his opponent up against the cage and use his feints to expose their openings, which he attacks with his power left. Till has had struggles of being caught in the pocket, as well as a relatively low level of output, but shores up when he is able to keep the fight at his pace. He has not seen victory since 2019, and has not stepped into the cage since last July.
This matchup likely dictates the next top contender for the title after Robert Whittaker, and it is a fantastic stylistic clash. Derek Brunson has looked like a revitalized fighter since his shift to Sanford MMA, with an increased focus upon his high level wrestling pedigree. Meanwhile, Till is still yet to find the standout performance he hoped for in his move to Middleweight, though he does hold the technical advantage when striking. With that being said, Brunson still lands at a higher clip on the feet, though his striking defense is still a concern. The X-factor in this matchup is the wrestling threat of Brunson, as he is the highest level wrestler Till has faced to date besides Woodley, and that performance is not indicative of success for Till. In short, Brunson rides out top position for a ground and pound finish or decision win.
My Pick: Derek Brunson via Decision
Tom Aspinall vs. Sergey Spivak (HW)
Tom Aspinall (10-2, 3-0 UFC) came though with his UFC debut in spades, knocking out Jake Collier less than a minute into their bout, then pounding out Alan Baudot in under a minute in his sophomore appearance. The Brit has finished all of his wins with six by way of knockout, in addition to all his wins coming in the first round. He has professional boxing experience and training with Tyson Fury, along with a BJJ black belt to bolster his resume as well. Aspinall has impressed me with his composure inside the cage, as well as quick movement for his hulking 6’5″ frame. Even on the mat, the Brit often holds the edge in technique with dangerous submissions off of his back. His last bout against former champion Andrei Arlovski saw Aspinall dominate on the feet before submitting Arlovski in the second round, just the second such defeat of Arlovski’s 50+ fight career.
Sergey Spivak (13-2, 4-2 UFC) is now on a three fight win streak with wins over Alexey Oleynik, Carlos Felipe and Jared Vanderaa, finishing Vanderaa with ground and pound. Before that, Spivak was 1-2, with losses to Walt Harris and Marcin Tybura sandwiching a submission win over Tai Tuivasa. Prior to joining the UFC, Spivak had never seen a decision or the third round for that matter, and his offensive threat is clear when watching his fights. “Polar Bear” has five knockouts and six submissions, most threatening when he is in top control. Spivak uses great trips as well as his pure strength to average more than three takedowns per fight, with the submission threat and powerful ground and pound to quickly finish it there. When striking, he is limited with his weapons, but has nice boxing combos and mixes in powerful kicks. However, his striking defense remains a concern, though he looked more impressive in his last outing with a decision win over Oleynik.
This is a matchup of prospects of sorts, though Aspinall certainly has higher expectations. On the feet, this match is basically a wash for Aspinall, with a high level boxing g pedigree, and the speed and one-shot power to back it up. Spivak has a very real threat with his aggressive wrestling attack, and he is violent from top position. That being said, Aspinall has an underrated grappling game, as he demonstrated in his last bout with Arlovski. I expect Aspinall to score another early knockout to propel himself into the top ten.
My Pick: Tom Aspinall via Knockout
Alex Morono vs. David Zawada (WW)
My Pick: David Zawada via Decision
Modestas Bukauskas vs. Khalil Rountree (LHW)
My Pick: Modestas Bukauskas via Decision
Paddy Pimblett vs. Luigi Vendramini (FTW)
My Pick: Paddy Pimblett via Submission
The card gets going with an early start time of 1:30 PM EST, with the main card starting off at 4 PM!
Categories: UFC Predictions