Fight Picks – UFC Fight Night 55 and 56

ufcsydney_bispingrockhold

After just one event in the last month, the UFC returns this weekend with two cards from either side of the world. UFC Fight Night 55: Rockhold vs. Bisping goes down on Friday night at the Allphones Arena in Sydney, Australia before UFC Fight Night 56: Shogun vs. St. Preux will be held at the Ginásio Municipal Tancredo Neves in Uberlândia, Brazil on Saturday.  Check out my picks for both events as well as my bonus predictions and bet of the week.

Luke Rockhold vs. Michael Bisping

Following over a year of back and forth, Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold will be equally happy to put it all to bed on Friday night. After referring to himself as “the unofficial Strikeforce champion” following a sparring session with the American, Bisping sparked the flame which lit the tinder in this heated rivalry. Rockhold subsequently called out the Brit before Bisping returned the favour which led to Joe Silva eventually agreeing to make the match.

After both losing to the TRT enhanced Vitor Belfort in 2013, Bisping and Rockhold have bounced back with wins recently. Bisping has gone 2-1 since then, easily taking out Alan Belcher and Cung Le but losing to Tim Kennedy in a fight coming off of a nasty eye injury where he didn’t look himself. Rockhold has also won two fights since Belfort took him out, getting impressive wins over Costa Philippou and Tim Boetsch.

Rockhold is clearly the more athletically gifted of the two. The AKA student is a talented wrestler with effective jiu-jitsu who attacks the body and head with power kicks and punches; all of which he will try to mix together against Bisping. The Englishman, on the other hand, has a mostly kickboxing orientated attack but has hugely underrated wrestling and wont be easily taken down. Despite Rockhold promising a first round KO, I expect this fight to be very close. Rockhold will be looking for the finish early but Bisping isn’t as easy out and will be looking to take the fight to the later rounds. If he survives the early exchanges, I see Bisping’s output as a huge factor in this fight. He will try to outwork, outpace and outlast Rockhold. I think he can do it.

Pick – Bisping via decision

Mauricio Rua vs. Ovince Saint Preux

After Jimi Manuwa was forced to pull out of his fight in the Brazilian main event on Saturday night, OSP was taken from the co-main event and put in against Shogun Rua to headline. After going four fights unbeaten in the UFC following his move from the now defunct Strikeforce, Ovince Saint Preux picked up his first loss last time out against Ryan Bader. Rua is exponentially more experienced at a higher lever but has dropped three of his last four fights, the last of which was a knockout at the hands of Dan Henderson.

Shogun is an old-school muay Thai fighter who will look to take his opponent out on the feet. OSP isn’t afraid to strike either but will have no problem using his wrestling if needed. There really isn’t much in this fight because of both man’s career trajectory. I see OSP being the more physical able to compete over five rounds while Rua will wilt. If Saint Preux looks for the takedown he will more than likely be able to get it at will.

Pick – OSP via decision

Al Iaquinta vs. Ross Pearson

After putting three superb wins together in a row, Al Iaquinta had a setback loss to Mitch Gagnon earlier this year before bouncing back well against Rodrigo Damm. Now, the New Yorker is being thrown straight back into the lightweight mix against Ross Pearson. The Englishman has had an up and down few years himself. An unsuccessful drop to featherweight saw Pearson bounce back to lightweight well before a no-contest against Melvin Guillard and a robbery loss to Diego Sanchez derailed his momentum.

This fight seems very evenly matched. Pearson is a tight power boxer who loves to stand toe-to-toe and exchange. Iaquinta won’t mind that and will meet him in the centre of the cage while also using his grappling to mix things up. This really is a pick ’em fight but I’m going with the underdog Iaquinta to use his speed and pick up the decision win.

Pick – Iaquinta via decision

John Lineker vs. Ian McCall

Out of the 20+ bouts in the UFC over the weekend, this is the most meaningful. Whoever emerges victorious in Saturday night will almost certainly be next in line to fight Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight title. McCall, who has fought Johnson twice in the UFC already going 0-1-1, has got going late in the UFC after being a long-time number 1 ranked flyweight before the division was introduced at the big show. It took the American four fights inside the Octagon to register his first win while the second came immediately after. Lineker similarly started slow, losing his debut to Louis Gaudinot before firing back to winnings ways against Yasuhiro Urushitani and getting knockouts in four of his next five outings after that.

Brazil’s Lineker is appropriately nicknamed “hands of stone”. He is undoubtedly the heaviest puncher at 125 lbs and throws wild, powerful shots with an early stoppage foremost on his mind. McCall is the polar opposite. The American is all about speed striking, movement and avoidance of his opponents most vigorous shots. McCall, some might say, is the antidote to sleeping poison in Lineker’s hands. I only see this fight going one way and that’s Lineker getting frustrated and McCall getting the decision win.

Pick – McCall via decision

SHORT PICKS

Clint Hester vs. Robert Whittaker – Hester via KO
Walt Harris vs. Soa Palelei – Palelei via KO
Jake Matthews vs. Vagner Rocha – Matthews via decision
Guto Inocente vs. Anthony Perosh – Inocente via KO
Sam Alvey vs. Dylan Andrews – Alvey via decision
Louis Smolka vs. Richie Vaculik – Smolka via decision
Chris Clements vs. Vik Grujic – Clements via decision
Daniel Kelly vs. Luke Zachrich – Zachrich via submission
Marcus Brimage vs. Jumabieke Tuerxun – Brimage via decision

Warlley Alves vs. Alan Jouban – Alves via submission
Leon Edwards vs. Claudio Silva – Edwards via decision
Nina Ansaroff vs. Juliana Lima – Nina via decision
Diego Rivas vs. Rodolfo Rubio – Rivas via decision
Caio Magalhaes vs. Trevor Smith – Caio via submission
Dhiego Lima vs. Jorge Oliveira – Lima via KO
Charlie Brenneman vs. Leandro Silva – Silva via KO
Thomas Almeida vs. Tim Gorman – Almeida via submission
Colby Covington vs. Wagner Silva – Covington via decision

BONUS PICKS

Fight of the night – Rockhold vs. Bisping, McCall vs. Lineker.

Performance of the night – Palelei, Hester, Magalhaes, Lima.

BET OF THE WEEK

For the bet this week I’m going for a 5/1 treble of Alvey, Palelei and Inocente while Palelei to win via KO at evens is also worth a punt.

Lead MMA writer and analyst for SevereMMA. Co-host of the SevereMMA podcast, out every Tuesday. Economics and Mathematics graduate from UCC. Previously of hov-mma and fightbooth. As heard on 2FM, Red FM, Today FM and more. Follow me on twitter for updates @SeanSheehanBA and on Facebook Facebook.com/seansheehanmma