Tyler Monahan previews this weekend’s UFC fight card at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi and shares his predictions and picks.
Another week of epic fights is upon us as the UFC gears up for Fight Night 174. Back at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi this is the UFC’s fourth event since moving to Fight Island during the coronavirus pandemic.
So far fans have been blessed with some great fights at the venue, Fight Night 174 is sure to be no different. Many of the fighters stepping into the octagon have tons of experience as the average age of the top four fights is 34.75 years old. None of these fighters are exactly new to the game.
Location: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Date and Time: Saturday, July 25 at 8:00 PM ET
TV Channel: Prelims on ESPN starting at 5:00 PM ET; Main Card on ESPN+ starting at 8:00 PM ET
Carla Esparza vs Marina Rodriguez
In a matchup of two strawweight contenders both Carla Esparza and Marina Rodriguez look to make a statement and build on their already impressive resumés. Esparza is riding high after a split decision win over one of the more recognizable names in the UFC, Michelle Waterson in May. Her three wins in a row put her on pace to potentially challenge for a title with a few more victories.
On the other side of the octagon is Marina Rodriguez who has yet to suffer a loss in her MMA career. Since entering the UFC she is 2-0-2, most recently fighting to a draw with Cynthia Calvillo all the way back in December. Esparza and Rodriguez have very different styles. Esparza tries to take the fight to the ground and win by controlling the pace while Rodriguez loves to stand up and overpower her opponents with nasty kicks to the midsection and quick jabs.
Neither of these two like to finish fights early, as shown by their UFC records. Carla Esparza has gone the full three rounds in eight of her last nine fights (keeping her opponents on the ground is a big reason for this). Marina Rodriguez seemed to have some knockout power earlier in her career but since her move to the UFC she has gone the distance in all four of her fights. Expect this one to go the full three rounds.
Fabricio Werdum vs Alexander Gustafsson
One of the most beloved fighters in the UFC makes his return from retirement on Fight Island this Saturday. Alexander Gustafsson has been a part of some of the most memorable fights in UFC history against the likes of Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, his retirement didn’t feel like the end of his story and that proved to be right when he announced his return to the octagon to fight Fabricio Werdum in a heavyweight showdown.
Moving up from the light heavyweight division seems like the right move for Gustafsson as he doesn’t have to worry about cutting weight, his power punches will transition well to whatever weight class he goes to. Fabricio Werdum comes into this fight as a sizeable underdog at +270 and it is easy to see why. He has looked overmatched in each of his last two fights against Aleksie Oleinik and Alexander Volkov, only fighting in those two losses over a two year span.
The time off seems to have done Gustafsson some good, he looks to be in great shape both physically and mentally. At 33 years old he looks to prove that he still has some gas left in the tank against an opponent in Werdum who looks to be over the hill. The added weight is sure to give his already heavy punches some extra pop which is why I don’t believe this fight lasts long.
Darren Till vs Robert Whittaker
In the main event of Fight Night 174 two heavy hitters in the middleweight division face off with a chance to prove they deserve a title fight in the near future. Robert Whittaker comes in to this one looking to get back on the right track after losing the middleweight title to Israel Adesanya in October.
Whittaker relies on his quick but heavy hands to wear down opponents, that’s what scored him wins in back to back fights against Yoel Romero in both 2017 and 2018. He is no slouch on the ground either but he is way more effective on his feet.
On the other side is Darren Till who last fought in November, beating Kelvin Gastelum by split decision. Just like Whittaker, Till also relies on his stand up brawling to win fights. This could end up being a good old fashioned slobber knocker if both men stick to what got them here.
Robert Whittaker is already the top rated contender for the middleweight title, he never received a rematch against Adesanya after losing so a win against Till would make a title fight almost a lock.
Darren Till is the fifth rated middleweight and a win against Whittaker would put him near the front of the line to challenge Adesanya for his title after returning from an unsuccessful stint in the welterweight division. The quicker hands of Robert Whittaker is what I believe will be the difference maker, if both men stay on their feet Whittaker has what it takes to put Till down with just a few quick combos.
FoxBet is offering an odds boost for the main event of UFC Fight Night 174. Robert Whittaker winning before the end of the fifth round has been boosted from +200 to +275 so as long as the match doesn’t go to a decision and Whittaker wins you could be in for a nice payday.