The octagon is in Halifax, Nova Scotia on Sunday night, with Canadian MMA fans treated to a lackluster card. Headlining the card we have Derrick Lewis and Travis Browne in a heavyweight fight, while the co-main event features Hector Lombard welcoming Johny Hendricks to middleweight. Three of the four fighters in the main and co-main event are on losing streaks and neither fight can be considered especially relevant at the top of the division. Despite this the card has some intriguing and fun fights so let’s take a look.
Lewis has been on a great run recently, with five wins in a row, four of them by brutal stoppage. Lewis is a giant of a man, who usually has to cut weight just to make the heavyweight limit and he packs a lot of power into his strikes, but can also move with surprising quickness when he explodes into his strikes. This makes him an incredibly dangerous fighter at heavyweight. While he is not a very technical grappler, he manages to get by using his brute strength and he has been steadily improving each time he fights.
His last outing, against Shamil Abdurakhimov was his first main event and it was a rather disappointing fight with not a lot of action until Lewis eventually got the finish after four rounds. Browne will represent a very different stylistic match-up for Lewis and it will be interesting to see how he fares.
Browne has had a very up and down time in the UFC to date, but with more downs recently. After stopping Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett in 2013 he looked like he was going to be a top contender for years to come, but he has lost four of his six fights since then and often looked rudderless in the cage. He seems to not have any clear plan and he has not made use of his array of skills.
Browne has some of the best movement in the heavyweight division, he is capable of sticking and moving from the outside, using quick kicks and punches. He uses his height as leverage in the clinch and can do serious damage from there too, such as the elbows he used to knockout Josh Barnett when Barnett was trying to take him down against the clinch.
While neither man is a standout grappler, the fight could easily be decided on the ground. Both men have thunderous power in their ground and pound while also having very leaky defence in that area.
I think Browne certainly has the skills to beat Lewis if he can stick to a game plan and execute it over the course of the fight but he just has not shown that ability consistently enough over the past few years. I think Lewis will eventually get his hands on him and the power will be too much.
In the co-main event Johny Hendricks takes on Hector Lombard in a fight featuring two fighters who have been declining over recent years and really need a win here. Hendricks looked set to be at the top of the welterweight division for years to come when he lost a split decision to George St. Pierre, who then walked away from the sport, but it all fell apart. After two close fights with Robbie Lawler and then a victory over Matt Brown, Hendricks body seemed to fail him and making weight at welterweight became impossible. He has now lost three fights in a row, missing weight in two of them and this will be his middleweight debut.
Hendricks is still a brilliant wrestler, he has powerful takedowns and his tenacious with his attempts, once he latches on he doesn’t let go until he gets his man to the mat. He has one punch knockout power in his fists too, although we haven’t seen that for a while.
Lombard is a decorated Cuban judoka with freakish strength, but he has never been able to put it all together in the UFC. When he came to the UFC as Bellator champion he was already in his mid-thirties and while his grappling prowess and devastating punching power have lead to some success in the UFC, he has never lived up to his potential. Now 39 years of age and coming off two stoppage defeats, the end is nigh for Lombard.
It will be fascinating to see how the grappling turns out here between the wrestler and the judoka, I foresee it being largely a stalemate but Lombard will have the advantage in brute strength. Hendricks is the more active striker with more tools and that should be enough.
Elsewhere on the main card Paul Felder meets a fellow striker, Alessandro Ricci in what should be a very fun fight. Ricci is a skilled Muay Thai fighter but it should be a showcase for Felder, despite taking the fight on short notice.
On the preliminary portion of the card, Carla Esparza continues her comeback after losing her UFC strawweight title in devastating fashion. She is set to fight Randa Markos. Markos has not developed the way she should as a fighter and I expect Esparza to out grapple her and fight a top contender next, if she can stay fight.
The card also features the UFC debut of Aiemann Zahabi, who is the brother of the highly regarded head coach of Tristar MMA, Firas Zahabi. He has all the hallmarks of a Tristar fighter, well rounded skills and excellent conditioning and could be a prospect to look out for in the future.
Derrick Lewis vs. Travis Browne – Lewis with a late stoppage
Johny Hendricks vs. Hector Lombard – Hendricks to win by virtue of being the more active fighter
Sam Sicilia vs. Gavin Tucker – Tucker
Elias Theodorou vs. Cezar Ferreira – Ferreira
Alessandro Ricci vs. Paul Felder – Felder
Sara McMann vs. Gina Mazany – McMann
Nordine Taleb vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio – Ponzinibbio
Carla Esparza vs. Randa Markos – Esparza
Aiemann Zahabi vs. Reginaldo Vieira – Zahabi
Jack Marshman vs. Thiago Santos – Marshman the puncher, should be able to close the distance on the kick heavy Santos
Gerald Meerschaert vs. Ryan Janes – Meerschaert
Jack Marshman and Derrick Lewis double 7/2
Early Prelims – 11:30pm Fight Pass
Prelims – Midnight BT Sport
Main Card – 2am BT Sport