UFC 254 Best Of The Rest: Fights To Look Out For!
Before the Co-Main and Main Event fights take place, there are a few more fights you should look out for on Saturday. The first one we will look at is the fight that will kick off the main card, and the second fight is the headliner on the prelims!
Light Heavyweight Matchup (205): Magomed Ankalaev (13-1-0) vs Ion Cuțelaba (15-5-0, 1NC)
This matchup has the potential to be the most exciting fight on Saturday... for as long as it lasts. This fight will kick off the Main Card and it will be the second time Ankalaev and Cuțelaba face each other after the first fight ended in controversy in February 2020 where the ref stopped the fight when Cuțelaba was playing possum on the feet. We may need Mario 'Fight To The Death' Yamasaki to ref this fight to make sure this fight plays out. They have been scheduled to fight 3 times after their first fight, but all of them were postponed due to complications with COVID. Now, they're finally set to square off on Saturday barring any last minute obstacles. Cuțelaba is a head hunter and has a KO/TKO finish rate of 79% while landing a high rate of 5.24 significant strikes per minute. But, he absorbs approximately 3.21 strikes per minute and tends to keep his hands low to encourage a war. Cuțelaba will undoubtably come out hard in this fight and look for the finish early, but he'll have to be cautious because Ankalaev was landing some big shots on him in the first fight before it was called.
Ankalaev also likes to finish his fights by KO/TKO as he has a 62% KO/TKO finish rate in his victories. He's a more composed fighter and in this matchup he will look to dissect Cuțelaba with a mixture of kicks and punches. Ankalaev is a 'Master of Sport' in Russia in Combat Sambo, so he's no stranger to grappling exchanges and inflicting damage in the clinch as well. He's only lost once in his career and it was to Paul Craig when he got submitted with 1 second left in a fight that he was winning. Overall, he's the better fighter than Cuțelaba in every aspect of the game and the only way I see him losing is if he's goated into a war and gets tagged and put to sleep. Ankalaev is a very technical and disciplined fighter, so I don't see him falling into Cuțelaba's mind games and traps he likes to use inside the octagon. With that being said, I'm going to go with Ankalaev in this fight with a calculated KO/TKO to finally end this long awaited rematch/rivalry.
Prediction: Ankalaev (-310)
Bulldogs Risky Pick: Ankalaev by KO/TKO (-130)
Heavyweight Matchup: Stefan Struve (33-12-0) vs Tai Tuivasa (10-3-0)
This heavyweight fight will conclude the Prelims and it features 2 polarizing figures in the heavyweight division. 'The Skyscraper' Struve stands at 7 feet tall and has been fighting in the UFC since 2009! You would think Struve is getting up in age, but he's only 32 years old and has 45 professional fights to his name already. However, he's 1-4 in his last 5 fights and has evident durability issues inside the octagon. His last fight was in December 2019 against Ben Rothwell and he lost by KO in the second round. Now, he's facing another power puncher and Struve is KO prone with 8 KO/TKO losses in his career. But, if this fight goes to the ground, Struve will have a major advantage because of his long limbs and he has 18 submission wins in his career.
On the other side of the octagon, we have 'Bam Bam' Tuivasa fighting for his UFC career and will be desperate to pick up the win. He's 0-3 in his last 3 fights, but has faced solid competition with his opponents being Junior Dos Santos, Blagoy Ivanov, and Sergey Spivak.
Tuivasa was looking like a promising star when he entered the UFC with a 6-0 record in his MMA career, and after when he won his first 3 fights inside the octagon. However, his recent skid has humbled him and now he claims that he's made the necessary adjustments to get his UFC career back on track. In this fight, he will be giving up 9.5 inches of reach to Struve, so he will look to get on the inside and land some bombs to put him away. But, Tuivasa will have to avoid being taken down in this fight or it will be over quick with a Struve submission. According to the UFC stats, Tuivasa has a high 90% KO/TKO finish rate and this is why I'm predicting that he will end Struve with a KO/TKO in this fight. I just hope that Tuivasa can do his famous 'shoey' after his victory on Fight Island.
Prediction: Tuivasa (-125)
Bulldogs Risky Pick: Tuivasa by KO/TKO (+135)