Emrick reviews the final UFC fight of the year

UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Strickland

December 17, 2022

Emrick’s UFC Fighter Pick Record (289-158-3) 

Main Event Record (21-15-1)

Lock of the Week (10-2)

Dawg of the Week (9-11)

Prelim Predictions:

BW: Sergey Morozov (18-5) vs. Journey Newson (10-3, 1 NC)

  • Pick: Sergey Morozov

FLY: #9 David Dvorak (20-4) vs. #12 Manel Kape (17-6) 

  • Pick: Manel Kape

WW: Bryan Battle (9-1) vs. Rinat Fakhretdinov (19-1)

  • Pick: Bryan Battle

LW: Rafa Garcia (14-3) vs. Maheshate (9-1)

  • Pick: Rafa Garcia

BW: #15 Said Nurmagomedov (16-2) vs. Saidyokub Kakhramonov (10-2)

  • Pick: Saidyokub Kakhramonov

WW: Jake Matthews (18-5) vs. Matthew Semelsberger (10-4)

  • Pick: Jake Matthews *Lock of the Week*

WSTRAW: Cheyanne Vlismas (7-2) vs. Cory McKenna (7-2)

  • Pick: Cheyanne Vlismas

Main Card Predictions:

MW: Cody Brundage (8-2) vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk (17-5, 1 NC)

  • Pick: Michal Oleksiejczuk (-280)
  • Quick Reasoning: Keeping it short and sweet this week, so let’s not get too into the weeds with the stats here. Brundage has had low-grade opponents, lost to Nick Maximov, and has been very hittable by his opponents such as Dalcha Lungiambula. Michal has fought somewhat respectably against the more difficult competition, such as Dustin Jacoby, Jimmy Crute, and Khalil Rountree in his UFC tenure. While he doesn’t have a big-name win – and neither does Brundage – the battle-tested experience and high output from Michal should secure him the win here. 

LW: Drew Dober (25-11, 1 NC) vs. Bobby Green (29-13-1)

  • Pick: Drew Dober (-160)
  • Quick Reasoning: So we know Dober – and his uncrackable chin – will not get finished in this one, at least by TKO. Both are solid strikers and have high potential to be a fight of the night, but I think Dober’s longevity is there more than Green’s at this point. After all the punishment both guys have taken the past few years, it feels like one of them has to break at some point. Green has the greater volume on the feet, but Dober’s power is much better and he’ll be able to push through most of the punches he absorbs. I like Dober here and I think he’ll get this done via UD for another crack at a ranked opponent, but I wouldn’t blame you if you chose Bobby Green with a full camp here. 

FW: Alex Caceres (19-13, 1 NC) vs. Julian Erosa (28-10)

  • Pick: Alex Caceres (+145) *Dawg of the Week*
  • Quick Reasoning: Erosa is rolling right now! Two of his past three wins have come against very game opponents in Hakeem Dawodu and Charles Jourdain. However, Erosa has my big red flag: he absorbs more strikes per minute than he dishes out. Partnering this with the fact Caceres is very technical, defends well, and has an 11-year experience in the UFC, then I feel like Caceres has a lot swinging his way. He had a tough matchup with Sodiq Yusuff in his last bout, but the statistics throughout the fight were fairly even and Yusuff is a rising contender within their division. Maybe I’m still doubting Erosa, but I believe Caceres chips away at his opponent for three rounds Saturday night. 

FLY: #8 Amir Albazi (15-1) vs. Alessandro Costa (11-2)

  • Pick: Amir Albazi (-450)
  • Quick Reasoning: Nearly my lock of the week, Albazi has looked so good lately. This is too much for Costa coming in straight from DWCS, even though he is a solid opponent. It’s just a very weird matchup as your official UFC debut against the #8 ranked flyweight. Albazi is good on the ground – like very good – and there’s a very good chance it gets there. If it becomes an intense striking affair, the pendulum could swing back and forth due to Albazi’s weaker striking defense. However, I think Albazi by submission in the first two rounds is highly likely. This is a weird matchup, but enough said. 

LW: #9 Arman Tsarukyan (18-3) vs. #12 Damir Ismagulov (24-1)

  • Pick: Arman Tsarukyan (-200)
  • Quick Reasoning: I may be a little biased, but I believed Tsarukyan beat Gamrot in a highly contested main event earlier this year. On the flip side, even though I picked him to win, I’m not too sure Ismagulov beat Guram Kutateladze in his last bout. I absolutely love this fight though and wish it was the main event instead of Cannonier/Strickland. As a purely stand-up battle, I’d lean slightly toward Ismagulov. In this event, though, I see Tsarukyan landing at least one or two takedowns even with Ismagulov’s 90% takedown defense. We also saw Ismagulov slow down in the later rounds after starting slowly against Guram, whereas Tsarukyan is coming off a high-pace five-round fight that displayed solid cardio. Both have nearly a 2:1 striking differential, but the separator can be the level of competition for Arman. He’s fought Gamrot, gave Islam one of his toughest fights to date, and bludgeoned a common opponent in Joel Alvarez to an early finish. Averaging nearly three takedowns per 15 minutes, absorbing less than two strikes per minute, and boasting the 7th largest striking differential in lightweight history, I think Armand is well-rounded enough to take this win home. On the flip side, Ismagulov has the 4th lowest bottom position time in lightweight history, so the ground game of Arman is going to be our x-factor come fight night. 

MW: #3 Jared Cannonier (15-6) vs. #7 Sean Strickland (25-4)

  • Pick: Jared Cannonier (-115)
  • Quick Reasoning: Cannonier and Strickland did not look too great in their last matchups. Yes, they were fighting the current or soon-to-be MW champion at the time, but let’s try and look past those fights. There are essentially two realistic outcomes in this fight – barring a silly injury or spontaneous moment of walking into submission like Jack Hermansson – which are Cannonier TKO or Strickland decision. So, what will reign supreme, damage or volume? I’m siding with damage here for Jared Cannonier. He may end up walking into some jabs against Sean, but we know the fight IQ of Strickland is lacking and he will put himself in harm’s way to “be a man” against Cannonier. Jared has finishes across MW, LHW, and HW in the UFC and his power is real. It may not be to the level and technique of Alex Pereira, but it’s still more dangerous than Hermansson or Uriah Hall. Jared was also the only MW besides Pereira to land 90 or more significant strikes against Adesanya since 2020. Cannonier knows he could’ve unleashed more on Adesanya, but he was hesitant due to the kickboxing pedigree of the former champ. I believe Cannonier knows he can handle the striking power of Strickland much better than Adesanya, which is why he should be more willing to exchange in this fight. As long as Cannonier can keep this fight standing and pressure Strickland, I think he’ll secure at least one knockdown and potentially get Sean out of this fight in the first three rounds. I’m banking on the desperation of Cannonier to prove he belongs at the top of the division still, redeeming a so-so performance in his last title bout. I say this a lot, but this might be one of the toughest fights to predict due to a clash in volume and power. I’m giving Cannonier the benefit of the doubt here, but try and find a site that offers Cannonier TKO or Strickland by a decision as a betting line. 

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