UFC Fight Night Preview
Woodley v Burns
May 27, 2020
The UFC returns to our screens this week following a two-week break. After the successful events aired out of Jacksonville, the UFC has returned to its spiritual home in Las Vegas Saturday night.
Before we preview the main and co-main events of this week’s cards it is worth mentioning some upcoming fights to look out for.
It is being widely reported that Conor McGregor will take on Justin Gaethje next – this is a really exciting match up, and one which could produce fireworks both in the cage and through the build-up.
Boxing fans may be familiar with the name Dilian Whyte, the British heavyweight fighter. It is also being suggested that he is set to face off against the UFC’s Francis Ngannou in what would be an exciting cross-code bout.
On to Saturday's action...
The UFC Apex
Rather than broadcast from an empty arena - as was the case in Florida - this week’s fights will be aired from the UFC Apex. The state of the art facility is situated directly next door to the UFC Headquarters and has already hosted a number of live events.
Viewers of ESPN+ may have seen the recent ‘Contenders’ series which took place at the UFC Apex.
One thing to note regarding the UFC Apex facilities is that the Octagon itself is significantly smaller than the standard ring used in bouts.
Measuring 25ft as opposed to the standard 30ft ring, there is a real difference in size, and this could have a huge impact on the outcome of the scheduled bouts.
It is estimated that in the smaller ring which has been used for some lower-profile UFC events in the past, fighters throw 20% more punches. This has in turn led to a significantly higher proportion of stoppages when compared to the larger, traditional 30ft cage.
Definitely something to consider when assessing fights this weekend.
Blagoy Ivanov v Augusto Sakai
The co-main sees two of the heavyweight division’s contenders face off. Books have this as basically a pick 'em.
Two experienced MMA artists meeting, with very different skill sets, should lead to an intriguing bout.
Ivanov has not fought in the UFC for long. Having signed in 2018 after a stellar Bellator career, he has a 2-2 record in the UFC.
The Bulgarian has faced off against some of the division’s biggest names in that time but has experienced losses to both Junior Dos Santos and Derrick Lewis. The latter being a closely contested split decision at UFC 244.
He has shown himself to possess an excellent all-round skill set and is very difficult to stop. The 33-year old’s overall MMA record reads 18-3, highlighting just how tough he is.
Not only has Ivanov shown that he has power in his punches, but he is also a highly skilled wrestler and Sambo artist. In this smaller ring, he may well look to utilize these skills.
His opponent and the favorite for the bout, is 4 years younger, has an 11cm height advantage as well as an 11 cm reach advantage.
His stats show a 14-1 career record, but it can be argued that many of these wins have not come at as high a level of those of Ivanov.
Although undefeated in the UFC, Sakai has not been overly impressive since joining. He is not afraid to shoot for a takedown, and has a solid striking game – but this week it could be his relative inexperience that counts against him.
Our Pick - Ivanov v Sakai
In what could be a scrappy but exciting fight, we think Blagoy Ivanov possesses the tools to get the job done over the younger man this weekend.
It is worth siding with the Bulgarian, with a small interest in a stoppage win.
Tyrone Woodley v Gilbert Burns
Woodley, an ex-Welterweight Champion, has not been seen in the UFC’s Octagon since UFC 235. That night his fight against Kamuru Usman was the co-main event on the card. This bout came well over a year ago, in March 2019.
Contrastingly, Burns was last seen in action at the recent UFC Brasilia event – staged just over 2 months ago – just before the Covid-19 enforced shutdown of global sport.
The fact that Burns has been in action so recently is likely to play a major role in the outcome of this bout.
Woodley was a dominant Welterweight Champion, defending the belt on numerous occasions against the very best of the division, including two wins over Stephen Thompson and wins over Darren Till and Damien Maia.
However, his latest loss to Usman was a one-sided domination – with the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ seemingly making easy work of the champ.
UFC fans will be interested to see how Woodley responds to such a beating. Will he be able to bounce back?
His opponent this week Gilbert Burns, is on an impressive win streak, winning his last five straight, and 7 of his last 8.
The Brazilian-born American normally shoots for takedowns, looking to impose himself on opponents whilst on the mat. However, with Woodley possessing arguably the best takedown defense in the UFC it would be crazy for Burns to implement such a game plan this weekend.
Instead, look for Burns to keep this fight on the feet and for him to try and utilize his impressive striking skills.
Although Burns will come into this bout with a 1-inch height advantage, Woodley holds a near 3-inch reach advantage over the Brazilian. As such Burns may look to keep his distance, before attempting to wear Woodley down with his sharp jab.
This could become technical and may not lead to the fireworks many expect. With Woodley being an incredible wrestler himself, he may well look to take Burns down and get to work on the mat.
There are so many unknowns coming into this bout. It must be remembered that Woodley has been away from the game for 14 months and has suffered numerous injuries over that period.
Burns is the younger man by 5 years, is riding a hot hand of late, and is tough enough to mix it with the ex-champ.
Our Pick - Burns v Woodley
Although he is the underdog we believe Burns has an excellent chance. Our suggestion is to back Burns to win this bout and do so by way of the judges.
This fight should go the distance but could become quite scrappy by the end, especially given Woodley’s long layoff.
Take Burns to win by unanimous decision.