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UFC Fight Night 133: Dos Santos vs. Ivanov Prediction

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

Can We Still Trust Junior

There’s no question Junior dos Santos is one of the best heavyweights to ever compete in MMA. His power, athleticism and boxing-centric style have caused problems for countless world-class opponents. However, with an enormous amount of mileage on his body at age 34 - are Junior’s best days behind him? Against Dutch kickboxer, Alistair Overeem, he looked like a shell of himself and was finished violently after failing to establish any meaningful offense.

 

Despite this horrendous performance, he came back and put on a boxing clinic a few months later against the dangerous but lumbering heavyweight, Ben Rothwell. In this bout, the discrepancy in boxing technique and footwork was blatant. Rothwell pursued Junior for 25 minutes but was consistently picked off and outstruck by the cleaner technician.

 

If the Junior dos Santos that fought Ben Rothwell shows up this weekend, it would appear to be a favorable matchup for him.

A New Face at Heavyweight

While Blagoi Ivanov is most famous for defeating the legendary Fedor Emelianenko in a combat sambo match, the immensely tough Bulgarian has carved out a successful career in MMA. After dispatching all opponents outside of the UFC except for the excellent Alexander Volkov, it’s intriguing to see how effective Ivanov will be against a higher caliber of opposition.

 

Ivanov does not have the striking finesse of Junior dos Santos, but when you have big power and a titanium chin - you don’t need to be the cleanest technician. Ivanov is a bit of a headhunter and primarily throws single shots to demolish his opponents. His footwork is also limited.

 

Although Ivanov has plenty of submissions in his arsenal, it seems doubtful he will be able to take Junior dos Santos to the mat - since the Brazilian is renowned for his excellent counter-wrestling.

Exploiting the Experience Gap

Junior dos Santos has been fighting the world’s best heavyweights for years, whereas Ivanov’s best wins are Josh Copeland and Shawn Jordan - two fighters that were cut from the UFC. Against Copeland, Ivanov ate plenty of shots, and he’d be wise to tighten his defense against a heavy hitter like Junior. Given the gap in height and reach, that might be a difficult task.

 

Ivanov’s best advantage is his durability. You could hit him with a sledgehammer and he wouldn’t blink. On the other hand, Junior dos Santos has some bad knockout losses in the past few years - especially against current UFC champion, Stipe Miocic.

 

While Ivanov has a puncher’s chance, I feel that Junior’s footwork and shot selection will be too advanced for the shorter Bulgarian to deal with. As he did against Ben Rothwell, I believe Junior sticks and moves for five rounds to earn a clear decision victory.

 

Pick: Junior dos Santos -170

 

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