Last weekends UFC 231 event in Toronto was a blast. The atmosphere in the arena was great and the main event was edge of your seat action with Holloway showing why he’s the featherweight champion for 20 minutes. I also did well with my bets thanks to having the vast majority of my action on Holloway.
This week, the UFC heads to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the final UFC on Fox card before the broadcast partner switches to ESPN in the new year. Kevin Lee and Al Iaquinta are headlining the event in a rematch of their 2014 fight, which was won by Iaquinta. Overall, it’s a solid card with some other notable fighters such as Dan Hooker, Edson Barboza, Sergio Pettis, Charles Oliveira and Jim Miller.
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Al Iaquinta vs Kevin Lee
I’m expecting Kevin Lee to get revenge from his UFC debut loss to Iaquinta back in 2014, and cruise to victory in this fight.
In the first fight, Lee lost a close decision to Iaquinta, but Lee was still a very green fighter, having only been fighting MMA for two years and taking a huge jump in competition to fight Iaquinta in his UFC debut. Iaquinta had already came through The Ultimate Fighter house, losing in the finals to Michael Chiesa, and following that up with two UFC victories. Iaquinta was a clear 2-1 favourite over Lee heading into their fight and he did what he was supposed to do by getting a win over a less experienced opponent.
Fast forward 4 years and Kevin Lee has drastically improved his game, while I don’t think the same can be said for Iaquinta. Lee has gone 10-2 in the UFC since that loss to Al, while fighting the top guys in the lightweight division. Iaquinta has gone just 5-2 and he’s really picked his spots against aging opponents, while having some disputes with the UFC. Al’s best win in that time frame was over Jorge Masvidal, but it was a very controversial decision with 13 of 15 MMA media members giving the win to Masvidal according to MMADecisions.com. The other wins over Rodrigo Damm, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon and Diego Sanchez are absolutely nothing to be proud of. Iaquinta seems to take a lot of pride in going 5 rounds with Khabib, but let’s not forget that Khabib also had no time to prepare for Al, and looked like he was toying with him at times in that fight.
Overall, I’m simply not impressed with Iaquinta’s UFC career. I think he’s picked his spots and been smart about fighting over the hill opponents to keep himself in the rankings. Kevin Lee has improved a tremendous amount in the last 4 years and I don’t think he will have any trouble running through Al in this one. There is always the chance Iaquinta catches Lee with a big punch, but I don’t think that’s likely.
Play: Lee 1.33 @ SportsInteraction.com
Dan Hooker vs Edson Barboza
I’m expecting Barboza to bounce back with a big win over Dan Hooker in this fight. Barboza has loss to Khabib and Lee in his last two outings, and his style simply doesn’t match up well against wrestlers. A striker like Hooker is much more in the wheel house for a guy like Barboza.
Hooker has some impressive wins over Diakese, Jim Miler and Gilbert Burns in his last three fights, but Barboza is a big step up in the striking department.
Hooker has looked very solid on the feet, but Barboza is one of the best to ever do it from range. I think this will be a close fight, but I have to give the edge to Barboza to bounce back with a win in this one.
Play: Barboza 2.00
Charles Oliveira vs Jim Miller
Miller looked solid against Alex White in his last fight to get back in the win column after four losses in a row. That said, those four losses were against some of the best fighters in the lightweight division, and he actually looked decent against guys like Poirier, Pettis and Trinaldo, who are elite fighters in the division. The most recent loss was a knee KO at the hands of Hooker, but that was a strike that would knock out anyone. I think Miller still has some gas left in the tank after overcoming his battle with lyme disease, and I think Oliveira is the perfect opponent for a guy like Miller.
Oliveira is coming off of two nice wins over Guida and Giagos, but this is still a guy who gets caught an awful lot. He has all of the skills, but his decision making in the cage is suspect to say the least. Oliveira is just 4-4 in his last 8 fights including a weird neck injury against Holloway, two guillotine choke submissions at the hands of Anthony Pettis and Ricardo Lamas, and a TKO from Paul Felder. Oliveira’s last 5 wins have all been via submission.
Jim Miller has terrific jiu jitsu and I find it difficult to believe he will be submitted early in this fight. That gives Miller 15 minute to capitalize on a mistake from Oliveira and win via submission himself, or grind out a 15 minute decision victory.
I see more paths to victory for Miller in this one, so I think he’s a great underdog play.
Play: Miller 3.50