UFC on ESPN 6: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2019

UFC on ESPN 6: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Picks

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    A superb athlete with a beautifully vicious skill set, unbeaten light heavyweight contender Dominick Reyes might be the UFC's next big thing. But If the 29-year-old American is to continue his meteoric rise through the UFC's 205-pound rankings, he absolutely needs to be able to handle himself against the likes of former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. While always a dangerous competitor, the 35-years-old Weidman has lost four of his last five fights and is moving up to the light heavyweight division for the first time in his career.

    In the co-main event, featherweight contenders Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens will settle the score just one month after an unintentional eye-poke halted the action just 15 seconds into their first bout. That ending caused even more friction between the pair than already existed, and the winner of this fight should play prominently into the future of the 145-pound division.

    But who will be the big winners in Boston this weekend?

    The B/R crew of Scott Harris, Kelsey McCarson and Jonathan Snowden has assembled to answer that question. We're here to sort through which of the fighters from the UFC on ESPN 6 main card will have their hands raised to the sky after their fights on Friday night.

Deron Winn vs. Darren Stewart

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    Todd Lussier/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    Deron Winn hasn't been that amazing as a pro despite the golden halo conferred by his Daniel Cormier association. Can he win this fight? Yes. Should he win it? Yes even more. But here's predicting the mild upset. Winn will want a knockout, and the British sharpshooter Darren Stewart will give it to him, even if not in the way Winn and his team imagined.

    Stewart, TKO, Rd. 1

         

    Kelsey McCarson

    I love fights like this between one guy who very obviously wants to take things down to the mat (Winn) and another guy who just as surely would rather stay on his feet all night. Winn's wrestling game is so much stronger than Stewart's, though, that I don't see him doing anything but shooting for takedowns for the majority of the fight. His mauling of the taekwondo practitioner will give him the edge in a fun back-and-forth battle.

    Winn, unanimous decision

         

    Jonathan Snowden

    This is a fight Winn, a Cormier protege, is meant to (excuse the pun) win. Stewart is a British striker made for a powerful wrestler. Winn, it just so happens, is a former All-American who should be able to put just about anyone in the world on the mat at 185 pounds.

    Look for that in this fight. And then look for it again. And again. And again.

    Winn, unanimous decision

Maycee Barber vs. Gillian Robertson

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    Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    The UFC seems to want to push Maycee Barber, who is 2-0 with two TKOs in her UFC career to date. Gillian Robertson is a step up, but Barber's nasty ground-and-pound will avail itself for another nice W.

    Barber, TKO, Rd. 2

         

    Kelsey McCarson

    Everybody loves 21-year-old unbeaten fighters like Barber until they run into someone too strong or too experienced for them to handle. Barber is explosive, but it remains to be seen whether she can deal with someone with as strong a ground game as Robertson. A win by Barber really puts her in line for some really big fights, though, and I think her youth and tenacity will prevail late.

    Barber, TKO, Rd. 3

         

    Jonathan Snowden

    Barber has the look of a future champion—but that future is on the distant horizon. Right now, she's working out the kinks, a luxury few UFC fighters are given. Robertson is a ground specialist, which should allow Barber a chance to showcase her improving striking. She has power and athleticism. These are the kinds of fights that will help her add to her craft.

    Barber, TKO, Rd. 3

Joe Lauzon vs. Jonathan Pearce

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    Chris Unger/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    He may no longer be in his prime, but I've seen Joe Lauzon's spidery jiu-jitsu win him more battles than his brawling instinct ever did. He's a smart guy, and he knows his donnybrooking days are behind him.

    Lauzon, submission, Rd. 1

         

    Kelsey McCarson

    Lauzon is 35 years old and has competed in 42 fights. How much does he have left in the tank? He'll have a huge edge in experience, but eventually a fighter like Lauzon just doesn't have enough left to score wins anymore. Jonathan Pearce won his contract via Dana White's Contender Series. If he hopes to enjoy a long career in the UFC, he'll have to prove it by beating up guys like Lauzon. Something tells me he scores the stoppage after getting tested early by Lauzon's grappling.

    Pearce, TKO, Rd. 2

         

    Jonathan Snowden

    It feels like yesterday that a babyface Lauzon emerged from obscurity to wack poor Jens Pulver right on the chin. Now it's Lauzon who's the chinny old man, a fighter waiting for someone to force him to give up on a dream that should have rightfully been dashed years ago.

    Maybe this will be the wake-up call he finally answers?

    Pearce, KO, Rd. 1

Greg Hardy vs. Ben Sosoli

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Scott Harris

    What are we supposed to say? Greg Hardy, the alleged woman beater and blackballed NFL Pro Bowler, is a huge favorite because the UFC is feeding him beatable opponents. ESPN is along for the ride on this, by the way.

    Hardy, KO, Rd. 1

         

    Kelsey McCarson

    The UFC likes Hardy because of his athletic ability and the fact that he can knock out his opponents with just about anything he throws. That seems to be his only real strategy so far in his young MMA career, but he did pick up a decent win in his last fight over Juan Adams. Ben Sosoli is probably more technically sound than Hardy, but the huge gap between the two in athleticism means the fight probably won't last very long.

    Hardy, TKO, Rd. 1

         

    Jonathan Snowden

    I refuse to care about Hardy's MMA career until forced to. This isn't an opponent forcing me to pay attention. It's another glorified squash match against another "Iron" Mike Sharpe impersonator. Call me when he's facing someone who more closely resembles "Iron" Mike Tyson.

    Hardy, TKO, Rd. 2

Yair Rodríguez vs. Jeremy Stephens

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    Josh Hedges/Getty Images

    Scott Harris

    Imagine what this card could look like without this reconstituted fight to set it up. These aren't good cards always, you know? But this is an insane grudge match with two great competitors. My thought now is what it was originally, and it's related to baseball: Jeremy Stephens hits home runs only, while Yair Rodriguez hits to all fields. Speaking of which, go Nats!

    Rodriguez, unanimous decision

         

    Kelsey McCarson

    Rodriguez-Stephens is just as intriguing a matchup as it was before the first time they fought last month, except this time it will probably go longer than just 15 seconds. Rodriguez uses an unorthodox style that usually gives him the edge over his opponents. Stephens comes forward relentlessly and probably has a slight edge when it comes to wrestling. This one could go either way, but I like the younger, longer and more adaptable Rodriguez to take the best of the action.

    Rodriguez, unanimous decision

         

    Jonathan Snowden

    It wasn't too long ago that Rodriguez was jamming his finger into Stephens' eye, fans were throwing garbage at the cage and all heck was breaking loose in Mexico. Here's hoping that we get an actual fight this time around. Prior to the last bout between the two, it was all smiles and performative shows of respect. Now we've got ourselves an honest-to-goodness fight. Like a fight fight, a meet-you-outside-at-the-basketball-courts-after-school fight. I'm into it.

    Rodriguez, decision

Dominick Reyes vs. Chris Weidman

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Scott Harris

    Chris Weidman once was held up as a kind of prototype for the power of wrestle-boxing. As great as he was in his prime, this is not his prime. He will "put over" the young and multitalented Dominick Reyes in this main event. In particular, Reyes will be quicker and sharper on the feet.

    Reyes, unanimous decision

         

    Kelsey McCarson

    Reyes is exactly what the UFC so desperately needs right now: an unbeaten and athletic fighter in the light heavyweight division who might realistically challenge Jon Jones for the title in the near future. Weidman has lost four of his last five fights and is moving up to light heavyweight from middleweight at age 35. Reyes will overwhelm him from the opening bell and finish him during the second stanza.

    Reyes, TKO, Rd. 2

         

    Jonathan Snowden

    Age and injury have derailed Weidman's once-promising MMA future. As it stands now, his brief title reign and two weird victories over Anderson Silva will remain his career highlights. Not bad as such things go—but not nearly enough to assure an entry into the Hall of Fame. Now Weidman finds himself up a weight class against a fighter with his own championship ambitions. When in doubt, go young and go big.

    Reyes, TKO, Rd. 2