The Octagon returns down under as Marvel Stadium plays host to UFC 243 in what will be the biggest event in Aussie MMA history.
Al Iaquinta ($2.15) vs Dan Hooker ($1.70)
A fight that should be fireworks from the start, previous Lightweight title challenger Al Iaquinta will have his hands full against Kiwi prospect, Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker. Both fighters here are no stranger to coming out and swinging leather, but it’s their combined toughness which should make for an extremely entertaining matchup.
Although having lost two of his last three fights, Iaquinta has definitely impressed of late. He took lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov to a decision, won as an overwhelming underdog against Kevin Lee, and then again went five rounds with Donald Cerrone. He even possesses a split decision win against Jorge Masvidal from back in 2015. Iaquinta is known for his style of coming forward and throwing bombs. That being said, it’s not all just haymakers and wild punches. Even though he is more than willing to brawl, he has a very strong boxing game and has finished seven of his 14 wins by KO/TKO.
Dan Hooker is looking better with each fight that passes. His striking skills just keep improving, using his extremely long reach to catch opponents from the outside with looping overhands and/or step-in knees, that have brought at least two opponents undone. Most recently in July, he took care of James Vick in half a round when ducking under and coming up with a huge left hook which put Vick down for the count. When he’s not knocking his opponents out, he’s usually peppering away with brutal leg and body kicks.
The Wolf is really looking forward to this fight. Although comfortably taken care of by Edson Barboza in this fight, Hooker to an exorbitant amount of punishment along the way, before finally succumbing to a sickening liver punch. Almost every other fighter would have given up long before that strike, so hats off to Hooker. For this reason (and Iaquinta sharing a similar level of toughness), The Wolf predicts this fight will go to the judges. Given the character of both fighters in this bout, they will happily come out swinging but if it’s not over early, then fatigue might kick in and we could coast to the judges scorecards. The multi anchor for the day.
Robert Whittaker ($1.85) vs Israel Adesanya ($1.95)
Arguably the biggest MMA bout to ever take place on Australian soil, Robert Whittaker takes on the Nigerian-born Kiwi Israel Adesanya in a UFC Middleweight Title unification matchup. This fight is sure to be aesthetically pleasing even for the most casual of MMA fans, as both fighters possess a striking-heavy style, although in very different ways.
Since making the step up to 185lbs, Whittaker has gone on a tear. Disposing of a who’s who of the division in devastating fashion. His combination of calculated punches and kicks, thrown in with an outstanding wrestling base has seen him rise through the ranks and become the No.1 man in the division. Above all, Whittaker possesses an extremely high fight IQ. He knows when to keep the fight standing, has no problem increasing output when he smells blood, but will also happily take the fight to the ground if required.
Israel Adesanya has taken the Middleweight division by storm. Since his arrival, his flashy style of spinning attacks and laser-accurate strikes have seen him declared “the next big thing” in the UFC. He utilises his long reach (both arms and legs) to keep his opponents at bay with a variety of jabs and low kicks, but in the blink of an eye he can explode with a flurry of strikes which have brought forth the demise of many (if not, all) of his rivals.
This fight really could go one of many ways. Each fighter has the knockout power to put an end to proceedings early on but The Wolf’s gets the feeling this might be a slightly slower fight than expected (at least in the early stages). There is going to be a great deal of respect from both fighters in the others striking abilities, so don’t be surprised if the first round or two is spent feeling each other out. When it’s all said and done, the edge has to go to Whittaker. He has the experience and toughness to get him through even the most troubling of situations (as witnessed in his two fights against Yoel Romero) and as the fight wears on, he will start to increase his striking output and really start to pour the pressure on. In addition to that, the one weakness we have seen in Adesanya’s game is his ground skills. Although his takedown defence has come leaps and bounds since his UFC debut, Whittaker is an extremely underrated wrestler and should he get top control on Israel, he is likely to inflict a lot of punishment. The Wolf’s tipping Whittaker to get the job done on Sunday and blow the proverbial roof off Marvel Stadium.
Tai Tuivasa ($1.26) vs Sergey Spivak ($3.85)
The Pride of Western Sydney, Tai Tuivasa will be looking to get back on top after back-to-back, and he finds himself up against a relative unknown in Sergey Spivak.
A man who walks into the Octagon to the soothing sounds of Daryl Braithwaite and does a ‘shoey’ post-fight (win lose or draw), it’s hard not to love Tuivasa. A larger than life character who is as charismatic as he is scary, he’s quickly turned into a fan favourite in the UFC due to his willingness to throw every strike with maximum power. He burst into the UFC with three quick wins on the trot, knocking out both Rashad Coulter and Cyril Asker in devastating fashion, but then found himself outclassed by ex-Heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, and outworked by Blagoy Ivanov. This is a significant step back in class for “Bam Bam” but he will have to be careful here, as a 3rd loss could spell trouble for him long term.
Unfortunately, not a great deal is known about Spivak. Although possessing an impressive 9-1 record to date, all but one of his fights have been in the Ukraine, Moldova or Kazakhstan. What we do know is that Spivak seems well versed enough on the ground, with five of his nine wins coming by way of submission. This is clearly where he will hold the key to this fight, as Tuivasa’s ground game has shown to be average at the best of times. In his lone Octagon appearance, Spivak was knocked out in 50 seconds by Walt Harris, having not landed a single strike in the fight.
This really is Tuivasa’s fight to lose. The UFC have clearly thrown him a ‘gimme’ in the hopes of securing a home-town victory and getting him back on track. He will have to be wary of Spivak’s ground game, but Tuivasa has shown decent takedown defence in the past. Assuming he can avoid the worst case scenario of working off his back, Tuivasa should be able to make quick work of Spivak here, before consuming his post-fight refreshments from the nearest pair of Nikes he can get his hands on.
Whittaker to win, Tuivasa by KO, Iaquinta v Hooker To Go The Distance, Matthews to win – $5.87