UFC Fight Night 55 .. Who’s Winning, Who’s Not
The UFC returns to Sydney for its fourth show featuring the long-awaited fight between heated rivals, Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping. The winner will move within striking distance of the UFC Middleweight Champion, Chris Weidman, who will be in attendance to back teammate, Al Iaquinta in his co-main event scrap with top-15 British striker, Ross Pearson. Hometown hero and dangerous slugger, Robert Whittaker is set to make his middleweight debut against the streaking Clint Hester and finally, Soa “The Hulk” Palelei is looking to “Hulk Smash” his way past the returning Golden Gloves boxer, Walt Harris.
Luke Rockhold (-450) vs Michael Bisping (+350)
Middleweight Bout (185 lbs)
Why Michael Bisping will win
Love him or hate him, “The Count” is perhaps the best British fighter and one of the best boxers to grace the octagon. He’s long been criticized for his lack of punching power but 15 of his 25 wins have come via T/KO including his last one over Cung Le. Bisping also has underrated takedown defense and cardio to go for days. He’s also a brilliant tactician and can frustrate any opponent with his strong octagon awareness and versatility. Bisping is getting long in the tooth (35 years old) and knows his window is growing tinier each fight. He could come into this fight as the best Bisping with more dogged determination not only to win but to make a statement.
Why Luke Rockhold will win
The former Strikeforce Middleweight champion is one big win away from a title shot (or a rematch with Vitor Belfort as he’s long campaigned for) and history has shown fighters who beat Bisping generally get a shot. Rockhold’s main background is in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu where he holds black belt in and has won most his fights via submission (six of 12 wins) but his huge size and underrated striking and clinch game has yielded him four different T/Kos with his latest coming via a liver kick. Rockhold has many weapons to end a fight and his natural ill will towards Bisping should only give him extra ammunition.
Michael Bisping is outmatched in this fight. On paper, Rockhold is just the bigger, younger and more versatile fighter hence being the huge favourite. Bisping can never be counted out as he is the better and more polished striker. The heart wants the British bad boy to win and finally get his title shot but whether the fight goes to the ground or stays standing, Rockhold will either out-point Bisping or finish him at some point.
Luke Rockhold def. Michael Bisping via Unanimous Decision
Ross Pearson (-155) vs Al Iaquinta (+135)
Lightweight Bout (155 lbs)
Why Al Iaquinta will win
The New Yorker out of the Serra-Longo Fight team has won four of his last five fights in the octagon, his last one via his first UFC stoppage. Iaquinta is a wrestler with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt under the aforementioned Serra. Iaquinta is a versatile fighter whose main strength lies on the ground but has most his finishes by way of striking. Not the most pristine striker, Iaquinta has big power and a decent chin to give even the better striker a run for his money.
Why Ross Pearson will win
Barring his “robbery” against Diego Sanchez, Ross Pearson has not lost since moving back to lightweight late in 2012. Pearson is a speedy and exacting thai boxer with a black belt in Taekwondo and a brown belt in Judo. Perhaps his most underrated asset is his takedown defense having defended close to 80% since his UFC debut way back in 2009. Pearson also is one of the better game planners and hardest workers in MMA and that always goes a long way.
Ranking-wise, Ross Pearson is taking a step down in competition after putting away Gray Maynard emphatically. Iaquinta is the heavier-handed fighter and the better grappler but the fight should stay standing with Pearson’s good takedown defense and Iaquinta’s proneness to being submitted (all three of his losses are via submission). Perhaps the biggest difference is Pearson’s speedier hands and more technical striking game as he should pick Iaquinta apart and provided he avoids a huge punch from the American, he should win handily.
Ross Pearson def. Al Iaquinta via Unanimous Decision
Clint Hester (-175) vs Robert Whittaker (+155)
Middleweight Bout (185 lbs)
Why Robert Whittaker will win
The “Reaper” is set to make his middleweight debut on home soil where he has only dropped one contest. The TUF: Smashes winner has a background in Karate, Hapkido and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and has won 10 of his 12 victories by way of T/KO or submission (five each). Whittaker can end the fight anywhere but he’s best at standing where he has vicious one-punch KO power.
Why Clint Hester will win
Hester has won his last seven fights including all four of his UFC contest; “Headbussa” has been quite on a roll and combines an all-around MMA game starting with his boxing background and wrestling. His greatest asset is his size and athleticism. He is usually the bigger, stronger and quicker fighter and has used this to remedy some of his mistakes in the octagon.
Whittaker has the home turf advantage and usually performs better in this time zone but Hester is just a much bigger, more athletic fighter. Hester has a three-inch reach advantage and his top-game wrestling control may just stifle Whittaker’s BJJ ground game. Can never count out a crisp powerful striker like Whittaker but Hester is smart enough to avoid the big punch or two and should use his reach and size to frustrate the Reaper to a close decision.
Clint Hester def. Robert Whittaker via Split Decision
Soa Palelei (-165) vs Walt Harris (+145)
Heavyweight Bout (265 lbs)
Why Walt Harris will win
On paper, Walt Harris is the superior striker. The former Golden Gloves boxer has all his wins come via KO, all in the first round, six of seven in under two minutes! Harris is 0-2 in the UFC however but is coming off a KO win over former Bellator fighter, D.J. Linderman. Harris has a deadly combo of striking precision and KO power. He can take out any heavyweight standing.
Why Soa Palelei will win
Size and brute strength. The “Hulk” is a bruising Tongan who cuts down to make 265 and has used that and his heavy hands to finish 17 of his 21 wins via T/KO. He does the most damage using his size to pin down his opponents and unload some vicious ground and pound. His fights usually don’t end well for his opponents. Hurt and unconscious.
Palelei is coming off a loss where he was outwrestled and controlled by Jared Rosholt (who also beat Harris by decision). That seems to be the key at beating the Tongan, is to survive his huge shots and tire him out as he can be controlled but unlikely finished. Harris can finish anyone on foot but if and when the fight hits the ground, it’ll be rough night for the former boxer.
Soa Palelei def. Walt Harris via TKO (Round 2)