It’s fight week and for the first time ever UFC visits Perth, Australia, for UFC 221. What looks like a card of solid fights, this event has the potential of being one of the better events of the year. Here is the main card breakdown.
(Light Heavyweight) Tyson Pedro vs Saparbek Safarov: We start off the main card with an interesting match up. Safarov has a lot of ring rust as he hasn’t fought in over a year. He was meant to fight Marcos Rogerio De Lima back in September but De Lima had a potential USADA violation. It’s hard to tell how the Russian will do as he’s only had one fight in UFC since signing, and 8 win previous to that. He lost to Gian Villante by TKO in the second round. His opponent Pedro will have the home support. Like Safarov, he also lost his last bout which for both men was their first loss in their careers. Both like to finish with Pedro taking it to the ground while Safarov prefers to knock people out. Both need a win and both have a lot to prove.
(Welterweight) Jake Matthews vs Li Jingliang: Two young seasoned all rounded fighters next. Jake Matthews is a regular on UFC events down under. At only 23 years old, he has 8 fights with the promotion and a professional record totalling 11 – 3 – 0. He picked up a decision over Bojan Velickovic to end a 2 fight losing streak in his last bout. Jingliang on the other hand is on a 4 fight win streak 3 of which have come from KO. He will be fighting against the home support for Matthews but this has the potential to be fight of the night.
(Heavyweight) Tai Tuivasa vs Cyril Asker: Tyson Pedro’s mate and brother in law is up next. Tuivasa had an impressive UFC debut picking up first round KO over Rashad Coulter with also earned him performance of the night. the former AFC heavyweight champion is a on record of 6 – 0 with all 6 wins coming from KO. Asker has more MMA experience than the Australian. He is more of an all rounder and is on a current record 9 – 3 – 0. I can’t see this one going to the judges.
(Heavyweight) Mark Hunt vs Curtis Blaydes: 2 knockout artists go head to head. Who knows how many more fights Mark Hunt has left in him, But he’s playing it smart and getting as many big pay days before the New Zealander hangs it up. According to him, he’ll probably fight until the death. Curtis Blaydes however is coming into his peak, a staggering 17 years younger than his opponent, he’s knocked out his fair share of fighter’s. He doesn’t have the extensive striking experience of Hunt. he’s only been knocked out once and that was by Francis Ngannou in his UFC debut but before that and since then he remains undefeated. This could go either way but it will most likely end with a KO.
(Main Event) (Interim Middleweight Championship) Yoel Romero vs Luke Rockhold: Originally this was meant to be a Middleweight unification bout between champion GSP and interim champ Robert Whittaker. GSP vacated the belt due to health reasons and Whittaker was promoted to champ. He was then expected to face former champion Rockhold but pulled out and was replaced by Romero making it an interim bout.
The quest for middleweight gold continues for Romero and at 40 years of age the clock is always ticking. It was 18 years ago on the other side of Australia when Romero picked up Olympic silver, Let’s hope he can pick up gold this time around. Coming off a loss to now champion Whittaker at International Fight Week last July, he will look to right that wrong. However that won’t be easy when you face former champion Rockhold. Losing his belt in his first title defense against Michael Bisping, he’s coming off a submission win over David Branch, Rockhold has very good BJJ but Romero is one of the best wrestlers in the sport. Romero favours a KO. Another fight that could go either way.