Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will end its seven-year run on the FOX network with the UFC on FOX 31: “Lee vs. Iaquinta 2” mixed martial arts (MMA) fight card, taking place this Sat. night (Dec. 15, 2018) inside Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Sorry to all the financial planners out there but Fiserv is a terrible name and I hate it.
UFC on FOX 31 will be headlined by the lightweight rematch pitting top lightweight contender Kevin Lee opposite 155-pound slugger Al Iaquinta. In the Milwaukee co-main event, lightweight striking sensation Edson Barboza, apparently too cool for a nickname, trades leather with dangerous Dan “The Hangman” Hooker.
Before we take a closer look at those two fights, see what resident fighter and top MMA analyst, Andrew Richardson, had to say about the rest of the main card match ups in his “X-Factor” preview right here. Looking for a breakdown of the UFC Milwaukee “Prelims” bouts? Patrick Stumberg has those locked down here and here.
UFC on FOX 31 odds and betting lines can be found here.
155 lbs.: Kevin “Motown Phenom” Lee (17-3) vs. “Ragin’” Al Iaquinta (13-4-1)
Lee has won six of his last seven and was right there with Ferguson until getting caught in a submission. His rebound fight against Edson Barboza proved he’s not going anywhere and at age 26, he’s still in his fighting prime. You can even argue that the best is yet to come from one of the most athletic fighters in the division. His last five wins have all come by way of knockout or submission.
It appears Iaquinta is serious about his career again, though it wasn’t that long ago when he was telling promotion president Dana White to “shut the fuck up” and begging UFC to cut him. I know the “stick to real estate” jokes are plentiful after he got jabbed to death by Khabib Nurmagomedov, but prior to his short-notice “Eagle” showdown, “Ragin’ Al” won five straight with four knockouts.
Lee is fast and built like a shredded running back, but where is his stopping power? In 17 wins, “Motown Phenom” has just two knockouts and one of those came by way of doctor’s stoppage. I also question his level of competition. Hey, wins are wins, I get that, but his only victory over a lightweight currently ranked in the Top 10 is Barboza. And I have a real problem with his view of drunken Jersey Boys because they are actually from Long Island.
Iaquinta didn’t fight at all in 2016 and competed just once in 2017. He’s aways been something of a maniac (just ask the hotel staff), but his disgruntlement has cost him prime years of his fighting career. I believe he’s taking this fight seriously, but I also believe “Ragin’ Al” hasn’t evolved since the last time he fought Lee. I agree that Nurmagomedov doesn’t get enough credit for his striking, but Iaquinta was still looking pretty silly at UFC 223.
Lee is practically boiled alive in his attempts to make the lightweight mark.
Iaquinta needs to work on his Twitter game.
Lee, fighting orthodox, is 26 years-old and stands 5’9” with a 77” reach. He holds just two knockout wins against eight submission victories. “Motown Phenom” has been defeated by knockout (1), submission (1), and decision (1). Iaquinta, 31, is 5’9” with a 70” reach and also stands orthodox. He’s scored seven knockouts and just one submission win against three losses by submission and one by decision. The betting lines have Lee as the favorite (-350) and Iaquinta (+290) as the underdog.
Iaquinta was a collegiate wrestler, just like Lee, so “Motown Phenom” won’t have his usual bag of tricks to rely on. But MMA wrestling is more than just takedowns. Good wrestlers use it for control and to stop the attack of power punchers while also frustrating their opponents. I’m sure anyone paying attention knows how easily it is to frustrate “Ragin’ Al” and that is Lee’s path to victory.
I expect this fight to be decided by the better athlete, not the better fighter. Iaquinta has power and has already proved he can box, but his style becomes predictable and there isn’t much diversity in his offense. I think Lee outworks him across most of their five rounds and to be honest, I’m not sure it will even be that difficult. Mentally, I believe Iaquinta checked out a long time ago and is never coming back.
Prediction: Lee def Iaquinta by unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Edson Barboza (19-6) vs. Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (17-7)
Barboza is, and always was, one of the division’s flashiest strikers and has the kind of highlight reel that up-and-coming fighters dream of. His legs are so deadly that he’s finished three opponents by way of leg kick. Prior to his MMA career, the Brazilian was 25-3 in Muay Thai with 22 knockouts and 17 first-round finishes. When the action stays on the feet, Barboza is about as exciting as they come.
Hooker may have looked avenger on paper, thanks largely in part to his 3-3 record to open his UFC career, but “The Hangman” is one of the most ruthless finishers in any weight class, ending 16 of his 17 bouts by way of unbridled violence. You can thank his move up to the lightweight division for that and Hooker is in the prime of his career, showcasing his ability to win fights wherever they go.
It’s almost 2019 and Barboza still cannot defend the takedown or work from guard, evidenced by the near-death experiences against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee. The former is forgivable considering “The Eagle” is the best in the world, but the Brazilian is simply unable to beat top-five fighters, previously losing to Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone, among others.
There isn’t much to say about Hooker after his jump up to 155 pounds, the guy is a fucking killer. I guess the only knock on his vaunted streak is that it came against the cream of the crap. Ross Pearson hasn’t been relevant since 2008, Marc Diakiese dropped three in a row, and Jim Miller has more miles on his tires than my sister’s ‘72 Buick. Gilbert Burns, meanwhile, isn’t even ranked in the Top 15.
Barboza absorbed 138 significant strikes to the head in his loss to Lee.
Hooker wants to make a name for himself by beating up brain-dead opponents.
Barboza, fighting orthodox, is 32 years-old and stands 5’11” with a 75” reach. He’s finished 11 opponents by way of knockout and locked up just one submission. The Brazilian has been defeated by knockout (2), submission (2), and decision (2). Hooker, 28, is a switch-stance fighter who stands 6’0” and holds a 75” reach. He has just one decision win against nine knockouts and seven submissions. “The Hangman” has been defeated five times by decision and submitted twice. The odds have Barboza a slight underdog at +100 against the favored Hooker at -120.
If you’re going to be a one-dimensional fighter and expect to compete for a division title — or at least be in the running — then you need to be a suffocating wrestler. See Askren, Ben. Stand-up attacks are so much easier to neutralize and let’s face it, Barboza is not that hard to figure out. He’s going to try to kick you and expect the same in return, like when Frank Dux out-kicked Paco in Bloodsport.
That’s not going to cut it against Hooker, who doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being such a cerebral fighter. He doesn’t score finishes because he’s winging punches or grabbing limbs out of desperation, he knows when to adjust, how to be fluid, and when to go for the kill. This fight will be no different and as much as it pains me to say this, Barboza is likely shot after his last two lopsided losses.
Prediction: Hooker def. Barboza by technical knockout
There you have it.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 31 fight card on Saturday (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.
For much more on UFC on FOX 31 click here.