UFC on Fox 31 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2018

UFC on Fox 31 Predictions: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    The Fox era is nearing its end, and the UFC is sending it off with a bang. Milwaukee's Fiserv Forum plays host to UFC on Fox 31 and the lightweight rematch between Kevin Lee and Al Iaquinta.

    Iaquinta won a decision in their first meeting, but it was so long ago that little can be taken from it and applied to the rematch. It's a fresh matchup between two contenders who have developed new skills in every facet.

    In the co-main event, lightweight fireworks are set to be lit when Dan Hooker meets Edson Barboza.

    The Bleacher Report crew of Matthew Ryder, Scott Harris, Steven Rondina and Nathan McCarter are back again for another round of picks. We are breaking down the four-fight main card and offering insight into each bout along the way.

    Ready for lightweight fisticuffs with a side of bantamweight action? So are we.

    Here are the B/R staff picks for UFC on Fox 31.

Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira

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    Matthew Ryder

    Guaranteed action to get the final night of Fox fights rocking. Two exciting, fearless grapplers who are lethal finishers on the ground and totally able on the feet. I suspect Oliveira has the edge there, and that's probably destined to decide this, but I'll be damned if I'm picking against the resurgent old dog Miller.

    Miller, unanimous decision

              

    Scott Harris

    It's borderline illegal to root against Miller. He embodies the battle-hardened veteran in the cage, the affable everyman outside of it. With eight years between then and now, it's hard to glean much from the original match between these two. Oliveira is now 29 and no longer green. Miller is 35 and no longer in his prime. Miller's ground game is too good to get submitted, but Oliveira will control the action and do more damage.

    Oliveira, unanimous decision

             

    Steven Rondina

    Miller's September win over Alex White isn't enough to convince me of some sort of career turnaround. He'll struggle to deal with the younger, stronger and equally crafty Oliveira and walk away with a decision loss.

    Oliveira, unanimous decision

                  

    Nathan McCarter

    If Oliveira was more consistent, I'd feel more confident. Even still, I'll take Do Bronx. And I'll take him by submission. Miller's ground game is exceptional, but it is not infallible. However, in order to get the submission, Oliveira will need to hurt him standing. I think his long limbs will be able to allow him to do just that. Miller takes a big shot, tries to grapple while groggy and gets choked.

    Oliveira, submission, Rd. 1

Rob Font vs. Sergio Pettis

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    Ryder

    Pettis' bantamweight run is remembered less favorably than it should be. He was 3-1 there in the UFC before dropping back to 125, and with a bit more size and experience he should dispose of Font.

    Pettis, unanimous decision

               

    Harris

    Pettis has had an up-and-down UFC career. We'll see how he does back at bantamweight, where he lands after fleeing a flyweight division whose future in the UFC is in doubt. The hard-hitting Font is a chilly welcome. His conservative style makes him hard to finish, but Pettis could fall prey to his striking if he's not sufficiently able to return fire.

    Font, TKO, Rd. 2

              

    Rondina

    Font has exclusively lost to the cream of the 135-pound crop. Pettis might have the skills to be among that lot, but he definitely doesn't have the size and that should be a difference-maker. Look for him to land something heavy and turn that into a finish, whether it comes standing or on the ground.

    Font, TKO, Rd. 3

              

    McCarter

    I'm with Scott and Steven on this one. I just cannot seem to buy into Pettis. A return to bantamweight against a stronger group of fighters? He'll need to make me a believer because I'll land firmly in the doubters' camp until proved otherwise.

    Font, unanimous decision

Edson Barboza vs. Dan Hooker

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    Ryder

    Hooker is on the come-up in a big way, consistently growing by leaps and bounds every time we see him. He was overdoing it with the cut to 145 pounds, but as a lightweight he's bigger and stronger while maintaining some of the speed and quickness he had at featherweight.

    All that said, this is too much, too soon for him. Barboza has lost a couple in a row against the elite at 155. I think he's going to run Hooker ragged and secure a stoppage.

    Barboza, TKO, Rd. 1

                

    Harris

    Oh, this is a fun one. Hooker, who trains with Israel Adesanya and others in New Zealand, is a berserker at lightweight, with speed and power to burn. This one will stay on the feet. If Hooker can survive those deadly leg kicks, he'll notch this biggest win of his career.

    Hooker, TKO, Rd. 3

              

    Rondina

    Hooker is obviously good, but I just haven't seen the body of work necessary to pick him over a top-10 mainstay like Barboza. Unless he's quietly a better wrestler than what we've seen, I'm expecting him to get outpointed at range and potentially knocked out in the second half of the fight.

    Barboza, TKO, Rd. 2

                 

    McCarter

    Hooker is exceptionally fun to watch, and he will make this a fun bout to watch as well. I just don't think it'll be all that competitive. This is the kind of matchup where Barboza usually excels. Hooker doesn't have the grappling credentials of a Kevin Lee. Strong leg kicks, takedown defense and high output leads to a stunning finish.

    Barboza, TKO, Rd. 2

Kevin Lee vs. Al Iaquinta

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    Ryder

    Raging Al is a gift to MMA outside of the cage, but Lee might be our next big gift inside of it. He is brash and cocky, but he has the tools to back it up, and age is on his side as he grows into the complete fighter he'll be in his prime. I think he wears Iaquinta down and scores a sub late in the game.

    Lee, submission, Rd. 5

                

    Harris

    Both of these guys are more memorable on the mic. As effective as it is, Lee's power-wrestling game doesn't always mean fireworks. As admirable as his stand against UFC pay may be, Iaquinta is now a part-time competitor. Even on his best day, he wouldn't have the strength or skill to keep himself off his back against Lee.

    Lee, unanimous decision

               

    Rondina

    Iaquinta is a fringe top-10 caliber lightweight while Lee is a bona fide elite. Granted, Raging Al packs enough of a punch to potentially steal this one, but I'm expecting Lee to best him in the wrestling department en route to a fairly straightforward win.

    Lee, unanimous decision

                 

    McCarter

    I'm going against my better judgment here. I agree with what has been stated already regarding Lee's advantages, but I am taking Iaquinta. Why? Perhaps a gut feeling? I don't know, but he is a finisher. He has more pop in his punches and a killer instinct to capitalize when needed on the mat.

    At some point, he will catch Lee. Will it be with a strike or with a submission? I'm not sure, but Iaquinta snatches a win out of nowhere on Saturday. Let's go with Lee tapping out just to enter in a complete pick.

    Iaquinta, submission, Rd. 3