While you won’t find anyone complaining about the main event of UFC Ottawa – it’s rare either Al Iaquinta or Donald Cerrone are in a boring fight – it’s been difficult to find much praise for the card outside of that. Nonetheless, there is a couple of fights that look as though they could provide viewers with aesthetic pleasure… and perhaps some sort of an impact in the rankings.
The main card of UFC Ottawa on ESPN+ begins at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Derek Brunson (18-7) vs. Elias Theodorou (16-2), Middleweight
It’s a unique pairing as Brunson hasn’t won by decision since August 2014 while Theodorou hasn’t avoided the judges since March 2015. If we were to know in advance how long this contest were to last, it would appear to be easy to predict the winner.
At 35, it seems unlikely Brunson will climb beyond his status as a gatekeeper to the top ten. Despite his advancing age, he has retained his athleticism very well. He still has great explosion with excellent power. His seven first round finishes in the UFC are all great evidence of that. However, he also still has poor defense, resulting in him being finished three times in the first round himself, all in his last six contests. There is a possibility Brunson might be able to return to his roots and grind away on his opponent – he was formerly known as the Blanket for a reason – but his wrestling has been dormant for so long, it’s difficult to count on that.
Theodorou has undergone a metamorphosis of his own, transforming from a high-energy grinder into an outside point fighter. It has soured some on him as most of his contests consist of him pot-shotting opponents while spending the rest of the time circling away from their attempted assault. The Canadian has proven to be durable too, never being finished in any way in his career. However, he was hurt several times by Eryk Anders in their contest several times in their contest in December. I’ve gone back and forth in my head on this one, but I’ll favor Brunson’s athletic advantage to be the difference and be the first to put away the Invicta ring boy. Brunson via TKO of RD1
Cub Swanson (25-10) vs. Shane Burgos (11-1), Featherweight
A pillar of the featherweight division since its integration into the UFC in 2010, there are whispers Swanson is at or near the end of the line, coming into this contest on a three-fight losing streak. However, there are others who believe the talk is premature as the names Swanson fell to – Brian Ortega, Frankie Edgar, and Renato Moicano – are amongst the elite in the shark tank that is the featherweight division. Swanson may not be an elite featherweight any more, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a top notch gatekeeper.
Burgos is the upstart looking to make a name for himself at the expense of Swanson. Burgos failed a similar test against Calvin Kattar last year, though he appeared to let the fight come to him more in his most recent appearance against Kurt Holobaugh. Nonetheless, Burgos is getting a massive step up in competition that will almost certainly be the biggest test of his career. Burgos has a sharp counter hook, a nice jab, and a slick submission game. Will it be enough?
Despite the losing streak, nothing in those contests indicated that Swanson is no longer capable of biting down on his mouthpiece and trading fisticuffs. In his prime, there were few who could top Swanson in that scenario. There may be a few more now that Swanson is a bit older and a bit more shopworn, but it’s still a low number. It won’t be long before Burgos is the superior fighter over Swanson, but that day isn’t here yet. Swanson grits his way through another hard fight. Swanson via TKO of RD2
And the rest….
- There are mixed opinions on recent TUF winner Brad Katona. Some think he has a bright future. Others think he won’t be more than a UFC also-ran. The SBG Ireland product will be tested by relentless takedown artist, Merab Dvalishvili. Katona struggled to keep Matthew Lopez off him in his last contest, yet still managed to outpoint him. Lopez is a better athlete than Dvalishvili, so I’d imagine he can use his well-rounded approach to outpoint Dvalishvili too. Katona via decision
- It appears unlikely Walt Harris will fulfill the promise it appears his physical skills indicate he has, but he’s still turned himself into a dangerous heavyweight… provided the fight remains standing. His opponent, newcomer Sergei Spivak, will try to take him down, having secured more than half of his wins via submission. However, Spivak’s striking is a work in progress to say the least. Harris likely blasts him with a KO blow before the time limit comes around. Harris via KO of RD2
- Former TUF winner Andrew Sanchez welcomes French Canadian Marc-Andre Barriault to the Octagon. Barriault looks like he could be a fun action fighter, but he struggles to keep decent wrestlers from smothering him. Sanchez is better than decent as a wrestler. Sanchez has exhausted his gas tank early in the past, but appears to have learned to push a consistent pace he can maintain for 15 minutes. If he has, it should be a clear-cut win for him. If he hasn’t Barriault will probably score a late finish. Sanchez via decision