The UFC heads to Sydney for the fifth time this Saturday (November 19th) with Fight Night 121. The headliner was intended to be a heavyweight clash between Sydney-based Kiwi Mark Hunt and Marcin Tybura, but Hunt was pulled from the card after he penned an article detailing the toll a long career of fighting has had on his body and, most worryingly, his brain.
But even without Hunt, the Australian crowd still has a host of fighters to rally behind. Like most Fight Nights that lack household names, the main card is lined with hometown fighters — Bec Rawlings, Jessy Rose-Clark, Tim Means, Jake Matthews, Dan Kelly, and more!
While the majority of Australian UFC fans are anxiously awaiting a middleweight unification bout between their interim champ Robert Whitaker and new titleholder Georges St. Pierre (plus a rumored return of Conor McGregor), we’ll all have to settle for Fight Night 121’s hot Aussie action this weekend. No vested interest in any of the fights? You can change that with a small wager. Wink wink.
It looks like former heavyweight champ Fabrício Werdum (22-7-1) will face another little-known heavyweight this weekend. His next opponent, Marcin Tybura (16-2), is a former M-1 champ but has yet to make much of an impact in the UFC. He lost his debut fight against 15th-ranked Tim Johnson, but has since won his last three. His win most recent win, against Andrei Arlovski in June, bumped him to eighth in the official heavyweight rankings.
At 32 years old, Tybura is considered a decent prospect in the sleepy heavyweight division. The aging division is in desperate need of fresh blood, and a win against the number two contender could potentially earn Tybura a title shot. However, from what we’ve seen from him so far, he’s not ready to roll with the best.
At 40 years old, Fabrício Werdum should be at the tail-end of his career. But at the rate he’s fighting, you wouldn’t know it. This will be the former champ’s third fight this year, just a month after his one-sided rumble against Walt Harris. Werdum submitted Harris with ease in the first round, proving that he is still one of the very best in the division.
Tybura is a talented striker and a competent grappler, but it’s nothing compared to what we’ve seen from Werdum. Despite his age, Werdum is still a huge threat against any heavyweight and, if he wins this weekend, deserves another shot at the title. Tybura has never gone five rounds and has never fought a fighter even remotely close to Werdum’s calibre. I’m expecting another straight-forward win for Vai Cavalo.
Pick: Fabrício Werdum (-350)
Jake Matthews (10-3) was a promising up-and-comer in the lightweight division before enduring back-to-back losses in 2016. Now, a year after his loss to the lowly Andrew Holbrook, Matthews returns to the octagon to fight in Sydney. It seems the UFC is saving the 23-year-old for whenever they travel to Australia. Of his seven fights in the UFC, five took place in Australia and one in New Zealand. He’s young and marketable but he lacks the talent to succeed against the best of the UFC.
Bojan Veličković (15-5-1) has only won two of his five fights since joining the UFC. His fighting style is a crafty combination of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai, which makes him a dynamic fighter both on his feet and on the mat. His recent loss to Darren Till, a rising star in the welterweight division, showed just how large the gap is between the top ten and Veličković, but he’s still a formidable opponent against the lower-tier fighters.
The majority of wins for both Matthews and Veličković have come via submission. Veličković has fought at either welterweight or middleweight throughout his career, whereas Matthews has only fought at lightweight in the UFC. With the fight likely to go to ground, size could be the difference-maker in this match-up. Matthews may not be equipped to handle the pressure at 170 pounds, and that could determine his fate in this evenly-matched fight.
Pick: Bojan Veličković (+125)
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