It’s wild that there are only three cards left this year because, honestly, it doesn’t feel like all that long ago that it was January and we were kicking off the year with a pair of entertaining fight cards capped by impressive main event efforts.
This weekend’s card is an outstanding collection of competitive fights between athletes spanning the full spectrum in terms of where they stand in their careers and divisions. Capped by a compelling main event that raises tons of questions, Saturday’s return to Orlando should turn “Amway Center” into the happiest place on Earth for fight fans this weekend.
Here’s a closer look at what’s on tap, as well as some of our staff’s best free picks…
Welterweight (170 lbs): Stephen Thompson vs. Kevin Holland
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (16-6-1) is likely a bit more polished in his kickboxing and has more impressive wins on his resume, but he’s almost 40 and has just two victories in the last four years (against Geoff Neal and Vicente Luque).
Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland (23-8) poses a different challenge than those two because he is much longer and faster, while Neal and Luque are plodders who slowly circled Thompson while trying to land with their heavy hands as he picked them apart at range. Holland has a massive six-inch reach advantage on Wonderboy, and he’s comfortable throwing kicks and fighting at distance.
Holland also has more knockout power than Wonderboy, which means he might also be able to catch Thompson when he keeps his hands low (a technique he uses to hide the delivery of his strikes). We are going with the line movement and backing the younger fighter.
Flyweight (125 lbs): Matheus Nicolau vs. Matt Schnell
Matheus Nicolau (18-2-1) may not have spectacular technique, but he gets the job done and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. We see him taking the fight to the ground, getting the better of the overall exchanges, and landing the harder shots as he dictates the pace. Matt “Danger” Schnell (16-7) is a much better finisher, so Nicolau needs to be mindful of his desperate bursts.
There are more routes for Nicolau to take toward victory. Schnell really only has grit and strikes to get him through, and that type of style won’t work well when his striking game can be neutralized with efficient grappling and repeated submission attempts.
There’s little doubt this could be entertaining, potentially the Fight of the Night (FOTN), but we expect the highly efficient Matheus Nicolau to come out on top.
Prediction: Matheus Nicolau by DEC (+136) at MyBookie
Middleweight (185 lbs): Jack Hermansson vs. Roman Dolidze
This is a classic case of consistency vs. danger. Hermansson is the more consistent round winner of the two. His jab is effective, and his stand-up style may be a touch awkward, but he does well to control the flow of fights nevertheless. His wrestling is always a threat, and Hermansson never slows down.
Dolidze isn’t quite as good at winning minute-to-minute exchanges. He’s prone to dropping his activity or sacrificing position for submission attempts on the canvas. However, he’s also shredding knees and knocking people out quickly, and we cannot really say the same for Hermansson.
Fortunately for the Swede, he’s durable and knows his way around a leglock too. Even if Dolidze starts strong, the chances of Hermansson jabbing him up or finding top position and shifting momentum are rather strong.
Welterweight (170 lbs): Niko Price vs. Philip Rowe
Niko “The Hybrid” Price (15-5) opened around even odds with most sportsbooks, even as an underdog in places, and bettors swarmed all over that to bump him up to his current -135 status. There’s a reason for this… Philip “The Fresh Prince” Rowe (9-3) has seen him struggle with limited fighters before swarming his way to comeback stoppage wins in each of his three fights with the company, a tactic not likely to pay dividends against someone as experienced and powerful as Price.
While he’s had his struggles, “The Hybrid” has almost exclusively fought a higher class of Welterweight than Rowe, and the way he stood up to heavy hitters like Vicente Luque and Michel Pereira in recent efforts suggests that Rowe won’t easily find the finish. In short, bank on Price getting the victory in this one.
Prediction: Niko Price ML (-135) at BetOnline