By Nick Catlin
Kevin Lee vs. Gregor Gillespie
Winner: Kevin Lee
Kevin Lee is highly regarded in the MMA world. After his controversial win over Michael Chiesa on June 25, 2017, Lee got an interim title shot against Tony Fergurson and fell short. Three more fights passed against true contenders at both lightweight and a short stint in welterweight. Lee is back at lightweight and, with a new camp, he has joined TriStar, the home of one of the UFC’s greatest champions Georges St-Pierre.
This fight is hard to call, Gregor Gillespie is undefeated, and throughout his career of 13 fights, he’s submitted five opponents and finished six others via knockout. But, the talent level he has been exposed to in the UFC doesn’t compare to Lee’s thus far. I see Lee winning this fight via unanimous decision after 15 hard minutes with an undefeated fighter to get his name back into the picture at 155.
Derrick Lewis vs. Blagoy Ivanov
Winner: Blagoy Ivanov
After earning the heavyweight title shot against Daniel Cormier in Nov. 2018, Derrick Lewis lost to Junior Dos Santos by knockout and dropped himself even farther out of the title picture. For the 34-year-old heavyweight who has dealt with severe back pain along with being on a losing streak, this may be the beginning of the end for Lewis.
For Blagoy Ivanov, he defeated Tai Tuivasa and Ben Rothwell in his last two bouts and is looking to beat one of the most well-known heavyweights on the UFC roster on the biggest card of the year.
Ivanov defeated both Tuivasa and Rothwell via unanimous decision and in this bout, his oxygen tank will be the deciding factor. Lewis’ lack of cardio has altered his ability to fight the toughest in the division effectively.
Stephen Thompson vs. Vicente Luque
Winner: Stephen Thompson
Stephen Thompson specializes in one specific skill set: kickboxing. This skillset granted him not one, but two title fights against the former welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley. Though he came up short in the contests, he has shown his ability to grow in other facets of his game as well, specifically the ground game. Since the last title fight with Woodley in Mar. 2017, his race back to the title has not gone ideal. With a victory over Jorge Masvidal, he lost to both Darren Till and Anthony Pettis. To me, these fights were all much closer than they seem, he was dominating Pettis prior to an off-the-cage punch that ended the fight and the Till fight was extremely close and seemed to favor the hometown fighter in Till.
Vicente Luque was a big part of TUF 21 and finally shown his true potential as of late, on a six-fight winning streak, Luque has thrown his name into the large hat that makes up the stacked 170-pound division.
The technicality of Thompson will be too much for Luque to handle, the stand-up difference between the two is worlds apart, but the ground matchup makes it more interesting, but Luque is a stand-up fighter primarily and that will be his downfall in this fight as he will lose via unanimous decision Saturday night.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Darren Till
Winner: Kelvin Gastelum
Kelvin Gastelum’s last fight was an absolute war against newly-crowned middleweight champion Israel Adesanya. Gastelum has since taken time off recovering from the April slugfest and back to compete again for a shot at Adesanya. The wrestling background gives him a nice base to defeat Till in this bout as well, along with having the stand-up to stand-and-bang with UFC legends such as Michael Bisping, Chris Weidman, and Tyron Woodley.
For Darren Till, the story has been intriguing. The 26-year-old fighting pride of Liverpool, England has a career of incredible memories for UFC fans all across the globe. However, being granted a title shot against Woodley at welterweight felt too soon, and that is the first half of the two-fight losing streak he’s suffered. Till has now moved up to 185 and on a huge stage, Madison Square Garden to face a title contender.
When we see fighters change divisions and face great talent right away, it usually doesn’t work out well for a while. Just recently with Weidman at light heavyweight. The list goes on with fighters being thrown killers at weight classes they aren’t adjusted to quite yet and I see the same results as history has shown.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz
Winner: Nate Diaz
This is probably the most interesting main event in the history of the UFC. Masvidal has recently become mainstream with incredible performances again Ben Askren and also Till overseas. Nate Diaz is another weird situation as well, took the fight with Conor McGregor on short notice, beat him, lost the rematch then disappearing until fighting Anthony Pettis at 170, then calling out Masvidal for their uniquely-created belt.
Looking at these fighters, I see Diaz pulling this fight out by decision, he is one of if not the best-conditoned fighters in the world. If Masvidal doesn’t catch Diaz with some powerful shots within the first two rounds, this fight will begin to drastically change in favor of Diaz who will take over and dominate from the third round on.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org