That’s right, boys and girls, I didn’t win the Powerball this week, so that means you all get another edition of the Downes Side. My tax bracket may never be in the 1%, but I’d like to think that I have the top 1% of predictions articles written by a retired fighter on UFC.com.
Speaking of upper echelon, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to Boston for a UFC Fight Night that Warren Buffet would categorize as a “must buy,” even if it is free on FOX Sports 1. Live from the TD Garden, TJ Dillashaw defends his bantamweight belt against former champion Dominick Cruz. In the co-main event, lightweights Eddie Alvarez and Anthony Pettis fight to see who remains at the top of the 155-pound ladder. Put down your copy of Yachts International, it’s fight time!
ROSS PEARSON vs. FRANCISCO TRINALDO
We open the main card in the lightweight division with Ross Pearson and Francisco Trinaldo. A 17-fight veteran in the UFC, Pearson has alternated wins and losses in his last six appearances. Last time out, he narrowly edged Paul Felder by split decision. A jiu-jitsu black belt with a lot of power in his hands, Trinaldo has won his last four fights, including a first-round KO over Chad Laprise.
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Trinaldo has the far better submission game, but this fight should play out like a kickboxing fight. Trinaldo has tremendous KO power, but Pearson has gotten much better at defending and reading his range. Much like my friend Joe from college, he also knows when to cut off engagements. He’s intelligent about knowing when to reset and doesn’t find himself overextended. Trinaldo is certainly dangerous, but Pearson jabs and counters his way to a decision win.
TRAVIS BROWNE vs. MATT MITRIONE
Next we move to heavyweight for Travis Browne and Matt Mitrione. Once on the verge of a title shot, Browne has dropped two of his last three and needs a win here to stay relevant in the division. He’s light on his feet, but his 13 career knockouts show he can sit down and hurt you when he wants to. For man who started his career as the most hated person in The Ultimate Fighter Season 10 house, Mitrione has done well for himself, but the 37 year old ex-NFL player had his three-fight win streak ended by a first round guillotine courtesy of Ben Rothwell back in June.
Outside of that ugly takedown attempt against Rothwell, Mitrione has shown a lot of improvement over the last couple years. He’s finally finding a rhythm to his striking and his defense has gotten much better, too. Browne has range and moves well on his feet, but he’s not explosive. He also has a lot of defensive gaps and defends significant strikes at a 43.32% rate. As long as Mitrione doesn’t dive for a double leg against the fence and wind up getting elbowed, he consistently beats Browne to the punch for the first-round TKO.
ANTHONY PETTIS vs. EDDIE ALVAREZ
We shift back to lightweight for Anthony Pettis and Eddie Alvarez. One of the most exciting fighters in the UFC today, “Showtime” looks to rebound from losing the title to Rafael dos Anjos back in March. Pettis may have striking as sharp as his eyebrows, but he actually has more career submission wins than knockouts. The expectations were high for Eddie Alvarez when he signed to the UFC. After losing his debut to Donald Cerrone and squeaking out a decision against Gilbert Melendez, Alvarez could make a big statement by beating the former champ.
It’s always hard for me to pick against Anthony Pettis. We were former training partners, and I remember how there were some days where he looked untouchable. Then again, he did break my nose...
If you look at the dos Anjos or Melendez fights, pressure is the way to beat Anthony Pettis. When you take a striker and smother them, it limits their weapons. Alvarez isn’t normally a pressure fighter, but you have to assume he’ll do that here. The problem is, he doesn’t have the same effectiveness as an RDA or Melendez. Alvarez looks for a takedown, leaves his neck open and Pettis wins by second-round guillotine.
TJ DILLASHAW vs. DOMINICK CRUZ
Time for the main event! Only two fights removed from a loss to Raphael Assuncao, TJ Dillashaw was a huge underdog when he fought Renan Barao at UFC 173. After beating Barao twice and finishing Joe Soto, many have already put Dillashaw up on the same pedestal where Barao once stood. If there’s anyone who’s good at knocking someone down a peg, it’s Dominick Cruz. With his words or his footwork, Cruz is relentless, but “The Dominator” is fighting for the first time since his September 2014 win over Takeya Mizugaki.
People like to draw the similarities between these two fighters and their styles. Yes, they utilize unique footwork, but they’re both very different fighters. The big knock against Cruz is that he doesn’t finish fights, but 1) he showed a new aggression against Mizugaki and 2) he defends strikes at over 76%. I think Cruz allows Dillashaw to be the aggressor and come forward. He’ll set a trap and use it to take the champ down. It will be an extremely close fight, but Cruz takes back his belt by decision.
That wraps up another upscale edition of the Downes Side. Follow me on Twitter @dannyboydownes. Also, don’t forget to leave your own predictions, depictions, frictions or favorite rich guy on the page here. For me it’s a tossup between Scrooge McDuck or Smaug.