MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main card for UFC on ESPN 35.
UFC on ESPN 35 takes place Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The main card airs on ESPN and streams on ESPN+ following prelims on ESPN2/ESPN+.
Last event’s results: 3-1
Overall picks for UFC main cards in 2022: 38-14
Welcome to MMAJunkie’s Quick Picks and Prognostications, where I’ll be giving brief, fight-day breakdowns for UFC main cards.
With that in mind, I hope these write-ups don’t come off as curt or dismissive, as my goal here is to offer quick picks and analysis in a digestible format. All odds listed are provided by Tipico Sportsbook.
If you’d like more detailed analysis from me, then feel free to check out my weekly show, The Protect Ya’ Neck Podcast.
So, without further ado…
Matchup: Krzysztof Jotko(-190) vs. Gerald Meershcaert (+175)
Summary: Kicking off the main card on ESPN is an interesting middleweight matchup between Krzysztof Jotko and Gerald Meerschaert.
Perhaps it’s because he perpetually looks somewhere between a bong rip and a nap, but Meerschaert – despite being an incredibly intelligent and skilled fighter – seems to get consistently disrespected by the betting public.
Jotko’s point-scoring style is probably the logic behind the line movement, but the Polish fighter has an inherent propensity to fight within close margins (as the smaller octagon does his footwork no favors).
Add in Jotko’s tendency to flag late in fights, and I suspect that Meerschaert’s slow and steady persistence produces a guillotine finish in the final frame.
Matchup: Darren Elkins (-175) vs. Tristan Connelly (+135)
Summary: In a stylistic clash that could spell frustration for casual viewers, Darren Elkins is set to do battle with Tristan Connelly.
I like both of these fighters but I suspect that their grappling bases give way to a lot of wrestling exchanges along the fence. And in a fight that seems destined to go to a decision, it’s hard not to side with the better wrestler who has more experience.
Unless judges are unfairly swayed by the early bloodshed that Elkins’ scar tissue tends to guarantee, then I suspect that the American’s cage wrestling and more damaging striking will win the day via the scorecards.
Matchup: Jared Gordon (+150) vs. Grant Dawson (-200)
Summary: In a pairing of polar opposites in regards to their fight paths, Jared Gordon will welcome Grant Dawson in a semi-impromptu affair.
Originally slated to face Rafael Alves, Gordon will now have to shift game plans and tactics to tailor to a strong back-taking threat like Dawson. Luckily for Gordon, he’s already faced and beaten more accoladed and experienced versions of Dawson, as I suspect his scrambling acumen and ability to endure hard knocks serve him well here.
Between Dawson being amid a big camp change (going from his longtime home of Glory MMA to American Top Team) and his propensity to wrestle himself into exhaustion (almost shooting straight into head kicks and knees at times), I can’t help but side with Gordon to survive the early positional scares and possibly force a stoppage in the third round.
Matchup: Andre Fili (-240) vs. Joanderson Brito (+180)
Summary: Although I don’t quite understand the logic behind this booking, Andre Fili versus Joanderson Brito should be fun for as long as it lasts.
Brito is definitely fuel for action-friendly affairs given the aggressive nature of his big swings and slams. That said, Fili’s scrambling ability and overall fighting experience will be a big ask for the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt.
Fili may have to survive some early scares in the first frame, but I ultimately see the American’s improved lead-hand work paying off with a check hook knockout in the second round.
Matchup: Andrei Arlovski (-135) vs. Jake Collier (+105)
Summary: In what seems to be a quiet theme of heavyweight co-main events, Andrei Arlovski finds himself facing former middleweight, Jake Collier.
Even though Collier’s fighting style brings a lot of the athletic attributes to the heavyweight division that you’d associate with lighter weight classes, I don’t know if I like his chances against an actual heavyweight athlete like Arlovski.
Arlovski may have a ton of miles on him, but he’s proven that he can still competently counter and keep pace with the current generation of UFC heavyweights for three rounds.
Collier’s volume could make this closer than it should be from a scoring perspective, but I suspect that Arlovski’s counters and bodywork mute his American counterpart’s efforts, as I smell a surprisingly-abrupt stoppage win for the former UFC champ in the first round.
Matchup: Rob Font (-130) vs. Marlon Vera (+102)
Summary: As stated in my in-depth breakdown, the main event on ESPN should feature its fair share of momentum swings.
Even though I see Rob Font’s stellar jab and bodywork getting him off to a great start in this fight, I suspect that he’ll have to walk a fine line if he means to stay in front of Marlon Vera for five rounds.
Vera may not have as good of defense or footwork as Font, but the Ecuadorian fighter is continually improving and incredibly difficult to dissuade. Factor that in with the fighting surface of the smaller octagon, and I suspect that Vera’s durability and pressure will force some bad decisions out of Font en route to snatching up a submission win.
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