-285 Nick Hein (13-2-0 1NC) vs. +245 Tae Hyun Bang (18-9)
Nick Hein: Police officer, Judo champion, and cable TV actor Nick Hein, also fights professionally in his spare time. Recently Hein has focused mainly on his fighting career and the results have shown. Hein’s most recent victory over Shooto standout Yusuke Kasuya advanced his UFC record to 3-1.
You would never know from watching Hein’s UFC bouts that he is a Judo national champion, all of his bouts have been predominantly kickboxing matches. Hein is an entertainer and wants to give the fans a show, but once he starts to get into the upper echelons of the division he will have to start utilizing his Judo background to compete with the elite fighters.
Tae Hyun Bang: Korean Top Team product Tae Hyun Bang is 2-2 in the UFC and 18-9 overall, but many of his nine losses have come to top tier talent like Takanori Gomi, Jorge Masvidal and Maribek Taisumov. Most recently Bang picked up a split decision over Leo Kuntz.
Bang does in fact like to bang, he has been a wrestler since the age of 12, but rarely looks to take fights to the floor. His biggest attributes are his heart, toughness, and power, a combination of skills that earned him fight of the night and performance of the night bonuses at UFC 174 against Kajan Johnson.
The Fight: Bang’s style plays right into Hein’s strengths in this match up. Bang presses forward with his hands unusually low and Hein prefers to stay on the outside, circle and pick his opponents apart with one-two combos. Hein has expressed his desire to get his first finish in the UFC, but the finish will be unlikely in this one given that Bang has never been knocked out in his 27 professional bouts. Hein Unanimous Decision
-220 #4 Ryan Bader (21-5) vs.+185 #12 Ilir Latifi (13-4-0 1 NC)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Ryan Bader: “Darth” Bader will be looking to rebound from his heartbreaking first round knockout loss to Rumble Johnson this past January. Bader had put together a five fight win streak and would have received a shot at Cormier’s title if he could have got by Johnson, but it was not to be that night in Jersey.
Time is running thin on 33 year old Bader’s title aspirations. 33 is not that old, but Bader’s twenties were spent going to war with some of the sport’s best. He will need to prove that he still belongs in the title picture after the embarrassing Rumble fight and this match up could be just the statement he needs to get right back in there with the divisions elite.
Ilir Latifi: Albanian Swede Ilir Latifi has fought his way into the light heavyweight top 15 for the first time by winning three in a row including a decision victory over ultra tough Serra-Longo fighter Gian Villante in his last outing. #12 Latifi is being catapulted right to the top of the division to challenge for a potential top 5 spot.
This will be a huge opportunity for Latifi and will represent his most difficult test by far to date. Latifi has the one punch power to end anyone’s night early and has been a strong enough wrestler to dictate where his fights play out. Latifi is also 33, so he does not have time to just look good in this fight, if his intentions are to fight for a title he needs the win this one and show he is ready for the next level.
The Fight: Bader’s chin did not hold up too well in his last outing and Latifi will do every thing in his power to test it in this fight. Latifi’s one punch power is legit, however he does not have the punching technique of a Johnson or Teixeira. Bader will fight a smart fight avoiding Latifi’s looping hooks and scoring take downs when needed to pick up the win. Bader Unanimous Decision
-675 #2 Alexander Gustafsson (16-4) vs. +500 Jan Blachowicz (19-5)
Light Heavyweight (205)
Alexander Gustafsson: If the casual fan were to look at Gustafsson’s record and see that he has lost three of his last four fights, they might be confused as to why he would still be ranked #2 in his division. However Gustafsson’s record does paint a clear picture of his most recent fights. He could have very easily won two of those fights against Jones and Cormier and did in many pundit’s opinions. Excluding the Rumble knockout he has made clear that his #2 ranking is well deserved.
Although the Cormier vs Johnson match up has not been announced, it is all but a forgone conclusion, with Gustafsson in line to take on the winner. If he really wanted solidify his number one contender status, a fight with Glover Teixeira would do just that. This is of course assuming two things, Gustafsson wins here and we do not see Jon Jones compete anytime soon.
Jan Blachowicz: Polish kickboxer Jan Blachowicz’s UFC debut could not have gone any better. Blachowicz blasted the heavily favored Ilir Latifi to the body with a kick that rendered him unable to continue in the first round. His next two did not go as well, he lost back to back fights to Jimi Manua and Corey Anderson, but followed that up with a rebound win over Igor Pokajac this past April.
Blachowicz is getting an unprecedented opportunity, ranked no where near the top 15 and 2-2 in his UFC matches, he is fighting the #2 ranked fighter in his division. Joe Silva must have seen something in these fighters styles that he thinks will make for fireworks.
The Fight: This should amount to little more than a fight to stay busy for “The Mauler”. His technique and execution are on a whole other level from Blachowicz, however Blachowicz has spent some time training with Gustafsson at Alliance, so he may be prepared for the challenge. Their history should keep Blachowicz conscious for a little longer but it ultimately will not end well for him. Gustafsson TKO 2nd
+130 #6 Andrei Arlovski (25-12-0 1 NC) vs._150 #9 Josh Barnett (34-8)
Andrei Arlovski: “The Pitbull’s” fairy-tale resurgence has been brought to a halt in his last two fights. Arovski was riding a six fight win streak before being knocked out in the first by Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem. Granted his two losses are to two of the best in the division, so lets not jumps back on the “Arlovski’s a has been” bandwagon just yet.
Holding the #6 ranking, Arlovski is still in the hunt for the title and his kill or be killed style is a crowd pleasing one that should assure him a roster spot until he decides it’s time to hang them up.
Josh Barnett: “The Warmaster” was surprised by Big Ben Rothwell his last fight when the enormous heavyweight submitted Barnett with the rarely seen go-go choke. Barnett has had intermittent success since rejoining the UFC in 2013 going 2-2, but refusing to take easy fights.
Branett’s a crafty veteran and what he lacks in athleticism, he makes up for in violent submission holds. The Legendary catchwresler has utilized a smart fighting style that does not see him take too much punishment on the feet and applying pain inducing submission holds that leave opponents begging for mercy
The Fight: Arlovski is clearly going to be searching for the knockout, a feat very few have been able to accomplish against the elusive Barnett. I see Barnett doing what takes to pull this one out, with defensive striking and a ton of clicnhing against the the fence. Barnett will come away victorious in this must win fight for the two heavyweight legends.Barnett Unanimous Decision