The UFC closed out 2018 with a terrific UFC 232 card that saw Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes each win in dominant fashion. I was on both Jon and Nunes in my picks article, and also had Chiesa with the win, but I did lose my Zingano pick due to that freak toe poke in the eye.
The UFC only has one card in January and it’s a big one with the UFC making a splash in their first card on ESPN+. I’ll be honest, I thought this card was the second weekend of January, so I wrote this article very early. The fight card is actually the third weekend in January, so MMA fans will be itching for the card given the hiatus to start the month.
T.J. Dillashaw is looking to become the latest champ-champ in the UFC as he drops down to 125 pounds to take on Henry Cejudo. This card also features Greg Hardy, Paige VanZant, Glover Teixeira, Donald cerrone, John Lineker and more big names. This is the type of card that could have easily been a PPV.
Henry Cejudo vs TJ Dillashaw
I like Dillashaw in this fight. As long as his weight cut goes smoothly he should be the bigger and better fighter. I have T.J. near the top of my pound for pound list of UFC fighters and I think he will be able to match Cejudo’s wrestling, while being the better fighter on the feet.
Dillashaw may have to grind out a longer victory in this fight than his two quick KO’s of Cody Garbrandt, but that’s not been a problem for him in his UFC career.
Play: Dillashaw 1.53
Gregor Gillespie vs Yancy Medeiros
I’m expecting big things from Gillespie this year. This is a guy who could be a future champ and I would love to see him fight higher level opponents this year. Medeiros is a bigger name than he’s fought before, but I’m not high on Yancy and I think Gillespie will make light work of the Hawaiian.
Play: Gillespie 1.19
Paige VanZant vs Rachael Ostovich
VanZant needs a win after two straight losses and this is the perfect spot for her to get back in the win column. Paige is a good fighter when is easily the more athletic fighter in the cage. She’s not a very strong fighter technically, but she is naturally athletic and has great tenacity. This is enough to get her wins over the non-top-10 type of fighters in the UFC.
Ostovich is only 4-4 in her career and she hasn’t beaten anyone notable. VanZant will be the far superior athlete and that should allow her to find a way to grind out a win in this fight.
Play: VanZant 1.59
Glover Teixeira vs Ion Cutelaba
I’m not convinced Teixeira is over the hill, which is what these odds suggest. Yes, Teixeira is 2-3 in his last 5 fights, but those losses have come to the elite of the light heavyweight division with losses to Anthony Johnson, Gustafsson and most recently Corey Anderson, who is in line for a title shot.
This is a huge step up in competition for Cutelaba and he has not fared well in his past steps up in competition against Cirkunov and Cannonier.
I love Teixeira at these + money odds as the far more experienced and skilled fighter. If he can avoid a KO he should win this fight.
Play: Teixeira 2.65
Donald Cerrone vs Alex Hernandez
Cerrone was overlooked in his last fight with Mike Perry. I took him there and I’m taking him again. This is a much tougher opponent in Alex Hernandez, but Cerrone seems to have recommitted himself to making a title run and is dropping back down to lightweight for this fight.
Cerrone was too small at welterweight and the reason he lost to guys like Edwards and Till mostly had to do with size. No that he’s back at his proper weight class he can let his skill show through. Let’s not forget that at lightweight this guy has only ever lost to the very elite. He went on a 8 fight winning streak at lightweight taking out some of the best fighters in the division including Barboza, Alvarez, Henderson and more.
At lightweight I still think Cerrone should be the favourite against anyone outside of the top 5. Hernandez has looked good in his wins over Dariush and Aubin-Mercier, but this is still a step up in competition so I’ll take the + odds on Cerrone here.
Play: Cerrone 2.65
Cory Sandhagen vs John Lineker
I think Cory Sandhagen is the perfect style of fighter to beat Lineker. He fights a lot like Dominick Cruz or T.J. Dillashaw. This focus on footwork and getting in and out is the recipe to beat a shorter power puncher like Lineker.
This is a massive step up in competition for Sandhagen, but I’ve been extremely impressed with his two UFC fights and although it could be too early, I do think he has the ability to get the best of Lineker in this fight.
Play: Sandhagen 2.62