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Guide to UFC on ESPN 28: Hall vs. Strickland


Getting prepared for UFC on ESPN 28 this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event.


UFC on ESPN 28

Date: July 31, 2021

Location: UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Card

Start Time: 9:00 p.m. ET, 6:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Middleweights: Uriah Hall vs. Sean Strickland

Overall Records: Hall 17-9, Strickland 23-3

UFC Records: Hall 10-7, Strickland 10-3

Last Fight: Hall def. Weidman–R1 TKO–UFC 261 (4/24/21), Strickland def. Jotko–UDec–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21)

Last Five Fights: Hall 4-1, Strickland 4-1

Rankings: Hall #8, Strickland #11

Betting Odds: Hall +180, Strickland -225

Preview: The main event is a middleweight bout between two men looking to break into that upper echelon of the division while continuing their win streaks as Hall takes on Strickland. Hall comes in riding a four-fight win streak. When we last saw him, he was stoic in his reaction to Chris Weidman breaking his leg in their fight, but it was a win regardless. His win streak has also seen him score wins over Anderson Silva, Antonio Carlos Junior and Bevon Lewis. Hall has scored 14 finishes in his 17 wins, with 13 coming by knockout. Strickland is also coming into this having won four consecutive fights. He is coming off a decision over Krzysztof Jotko in May, and has also scored wins over Brendan Allen, Jack Marshman and Nordine Taleb during his streak. 14 of Strickland’s 23 wins have come by stoppage.

This is going to be an interesting bout, but, at the same time, it could lead to a boring fight as the styles of both men likely negate a ton of offense. Hall is a talented striker who is going to enjoy a three-inch reach advantage, and he’s accurate when he gets going. He has become a more patient striker over the past few years, not taking as big of risks as he used to, but also remaining as dangerous as ever. Strickland is a very solid striker who has shown lots of improvement in his most recent fights. He’s very composed on his feet, and knows whether to apply pressure or fight at range. He also tends to talk trash a lot during the fight to try and get in the heads of opponents, and there’s no doubt he’ll try to do that against Hall. Strickland does land over five significant strikes per minute, but only at a 39% accuracy rate, though he has very good striking defense.

Hall is going to mix his strikes and look for some flashy kicks, and Strickland has a strong chin that could withstand some hard blows. Strickland may try and take it down, but Hall has some underrated takedown defense. This fight could feature either a highlight-reel knockout, or it could be a boring decision. Strickland is the favorite, and there is some value in Hall as the underdog. I lean towards favoring Hall in this one, as, while his win streak hasn’t seen him beat any top-ten opponents, his confidence in himself and his coaches will be enough to garner him the win.

Bantamweights: Kyung Ho Kang vs. Rani Yahya

Overall Records: Kang 17-8 1 NC, Yahya 27-10-1 1 NC

UFC Records: Kang 6-2 1 NC, Yahya 12-4-1 1 NC

Last Fight: Kang def. Pingyuan–SpDec–UFC On ESPN+ 23 (12/21/19), Yahya def. Rodriguez–R2 SUB–UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Kang 4-1, Yahya 3-1-1

Betting Odds: Kang -135, Yahya +110

Preview: A pair of bantamweights who are on the fringe of being ranked square off here as Kang and Yahya both look for another UFC victory. Kang comes into this fight riding a three-fight win streak, and having won six of his last seven overall. He hasn’t fought since December 2019 due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, but he’ll be looking for his 19th career win here. Yahya comes into this fight looking for his second straight win after submitting Ray Rodriguez in March. It was the 21st submission win for Yahya in his career, and he looks to start another win streak here, and perhaps get his first knockout win along the way.

This is going to be a grapplers’ delight battle. While Yahya’s 21 submission wins really stands out, Kang has eleven submission wins of his own. Kang is a very good wrestler, which may give Yahya some troubles as Yahya is very transparent with his takedown attempts. He only scores on 33% of his attempts, but he has scored 38 takedowns during his UFC career. Kang has strong takedown defense, defending 71% of takedowns attempted on him, and he constantly forces scrambles, which keeps grappling-heavy opponents like Yahya out of rhythm. If Yahya is able to get on the top, his top control is pressure heavy and he is always looking for chokes.

Kang is the better fighter on the feet, and, as noted, Yahya has never finished anyone by strikes, and he doesn’t have tons of power on his feet. Kang is also going to have a six-inch reach advantage. This one will be interesting, and I expect some fun grappling, but I tend to favor Kang as Yahya due to his scrambling and wrestling ability, as well as his versatility on the feet.

Women’s Strawweights: Cheyanne Buys vs. Gloria de Paula

Overall Records: Buys 5-2, de Paula 5-3

UFC Records: Buys 0-1, de Paula 0-1

Last Fight: Conejo def. Buys–UDec–UFC On ESPN 21 (3/20/21), Frey def. de Paula–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Buys 4-1, de Paula 3-2

Betting Odds: Buys -165, de Paula +140

Preview: A pair of strawweight women looking to rebound from tough losses in their respective UFC debuts battle here as Buys takes on De Paula. Buys is coming in looking to bounce back from a decision loss to Montserrat Conejo in March. Prior to that, she had won four straight. De Paula is looking to rebound from a decision loss to Jinh Yu Frey in March as well. Prior to that, she had won four of her previous five fights. Buys will be looking for her second career finish, while de Paula will be looking for her fourth career stoppage win. It’s a surprise this fight is on the main card, as it screams prelim bout due to the inexperience of both women.

Buys was known for her good kickboxing skills and decent wrestling, but she was constantly taken down by Conejo in her debut. De Paula has some decent striking skills as well, but she also struggled with the wrestling in her debut, as Frey took her down a couple of times, and she was also taken down a couple of times during her Contender Series bout. On the feet, Buys lands more significant strikes per minute, while the accuracy and striking defense of both women are fairly even. This is a tough one to pick on paper, but I think the upside for Buys is better, and I see her scoring the win in this one.

Welterweights: Niklas Stolze vs. Jared Gooden

Overall Records: Stolze 12-4, Gooden 17-6

UFC Records: Stolze 0-1, Gooden 0-2

Last Fight: Emeev def. Stolze–UDec–UFC On ESPN 14 (7/25/20), Nurmagomedov def. Gooden–UDec–UFC 260 (3/27/21)

Last Five Fights: Stolze 4-1, Gooden 3-2

Betting Odds: Stolze -200, Gooden +165

Preview: A short-notice welterweight bout takes place here as Stolze and Gooden meet in a fight that wasn’t even on the card until Tuesday. Stolze was slated to fight Mounir Lazzez in this fight, but visa issues forced Lazzez out, and Gooden steps in on just a few days’ notice. Both men are searching for their first UFC win. Stolze has been eager to fight, as he’s been out more than a year, and is looking to rebound from a loss to Ramazan Emeev that ended a four-fight win streak. Gooden has started his UFC run 0–2, with losses to Alan Jouban and Abubakar Nurmagomedov. Gooden comes into this fight with 14 finishes in his 18 career wins, while Stolze has a 75% finishing rate.

It’s going to be tough for Gooden to be in prime fighting shape, as while he’s been training, he hasn’t had the benefit of putting himself through the grueling rigors of a full, or even partial, training camp, and his four days of preparation are likely weigh-cut related. Stolze is very good on the feet, as he switches stances fluidly, and he tends to not get hit often. Gooden has gotten hit often during his UFC bouts, eating over seven significant strikes per minute. Stolze is also a good grappler, with five career wins by submission. Neither has had to show much in the way of wrestling during their UFC bouts, but Stolze should have the edge there. Stolze should be the clear favorite in this one, as he’ll be the one prepared to fight coming off a full camp, and he should be the one with his hand raised on Saturday.

Flyweights: Ryan Benoit vs. Zarrukh Adashev

Overall Records: Benoit 10-7, Adashev 3-3

UFC Records: Benoit 3-5, Adashev 0-2

Last Fight: Elliott def. Benoit–UDec–UFC On ESPN 13 (7/15/20), Mudaerji def. Adashev–UDec–UFC On ESPN 20 (1/20/21)

Last Five Fights: Benoit 2-3, Adashev 3-2

Betting Odds: Benoit -140, Adashev +115

Preview: A flyweight bout between two guys who could be fighting for their position on UFC’s roster sees Benoit and Adashev squaring off. Benoit fights for the first time since July, when he suffered a decision loss to Tim Elliott. It was his second straight defeat, and Benoit has never really been able to get momentum going in UFC, as he’s never been on a win streak and has just three wins in eight UFC fights. He does have a 90% finish rate, including a finish of Sergio Pettis in his career. Adashev is looking for his first UFC win in his third Octagon appearance, and is looking to get above the .500 mark in his career. Adashev was finished in his UFC debut by Tyson Nam, then dropped a decision to Su Mudaerji in his last fight. He’s got lots of kickboxing experience, but this will be only his seventh MMA fight, and two of his three wins have been by stoppage. Adashev has been disappointing during his UFC tenure, though the same could be said for Benoit.

Many thought Adashev would take the division by storm with his solid striking, but he just hasn’t shown whether his kickboxing skills will follow him over to the MMA side. We know he’ll want to keep the fight standing, and Benoit will happily oblige him there. Benoit does have some power in his hands, but Adashev is likely to be the one to push the pace, especially now that he’s taking on an opponent who is more his size. Benoit could be the one to threaten with takedowns, though he isn’t all that great in that department. This one likely stays on the feet and will come down to who can land better. Both are in must-win territory, and this one could be exciting as they’ll leave it all in the Octagon. It really could go either way, though, if I had to pick, I lean slightly towards Benoit, just because he is more proven at this point

Welterweights: Bryan Barberena vs. Jason Witt

Overall Records: Barberena 15-7, Witt 18-7

UFC Records: Barberena 6-5, Witt 1-2

Last Fight: Barberena def. Ivy–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20), Semelsberger def. Witt–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Barberena 2-3, Witt 3-2

Betting Odds: Barberena -275, Witt +220

Preview: A welterweight slugfest opens the main card when Barberena looks to start a win streak while Witt looks to avoid a losing streak. Barberena is fighting for the first time since September, looking to score his second straight win. He was supposed to fight in November, but had to have an emergency laparotomy due to internal bleeding, and he’s been sidelined ever since. He’s got twelve wins by finish, with ten by knockout. Witt is looking to bounce back from a 16-second knockout loss to Matthew Semelsberger in March. Witt is 1–2 inside the octagon, with both of his losses coming in less than a minute. Witt does have eleven stoppage wins in his career.

This is your classic striker against grappler battle, as Barberena is going to want to keep it on the feet and Witt is going to want it on the ground. Witt has the questionable chin, and Barberena is a very hard puncher who is also very durable. Barberena is also decent on the ground, though he was dominated on the mat during a couple of his losses, namely to Colby Covington and Leon Edwards. Now, Witt is nowhere near the caliber of either of those two, but he’s going to need to use his wrestling and top control to keep it off the feet, where he’ll be behind. Witt does have eight submission wins, but I also find it hard to believe he’s going to avoid being hit on the feet, and his own durability is a big question mark. I like Barberena to get the win here, with the question being if he can get a first-minute finish or not.


Preliminary Card

Start Time: 6:00 p.m. ET, 3:00 p.m. PT

Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+

Women’s Bantamweights: Nicco Montano vs. Wu Yanan

Overall Records: Montano 4-3, Yanan 10-4

UFC Records: Montano 1-1, Yanan 1-3

Last Fight: Pena def. Montano–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 13 (7/13/19), Edwards def. Yanan–UDec–UFC On ABC 1 (1/16/21)

Last Five Fights: Montano 3-2, Yanan 2-3

Betting Odds: Montano -275, Yanan +210

Preview: The first-ever UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion looks to get her career restarted and back on track when Montano battles Yanan in a bantamweight bout. Montano, who won the inaugural UFC Women’s Flyweight Championship, returns to action for the first time in two years after a litany of issues kept her sidelined. She won the 125-lbs. title over Roxanne Modafferi in December 2017, but ended up forfeiting the title after weight issues. She moved up to bantamweight, but lost her division debut to Julianna Pena in July 2019. Since then, she’s had five scheduled fights fall apart, but now she returns looking to get back into the win column. Yanan is also looking to get back into the win column. She started her career 10–1, with the lone loss to Yana Kunitskaya, which earned her a UFC contract. However, she’s gone just 1–3 with the promotion, and enters on a two-fight losing skid after a loss to Joselyne Edwards in January.

It’ll be interesting to see if ring rust is going to play a factor for Montano. Judging by her social media, she looks in good shape, and she’s switched camps to working almost full-time in Las Vegas with some sound training partners and coaches, so she should be well prepared for this one. When she fought Pena, she was actually out-wrestling Pena early on, and she should have the clear edge in the wrestling and on the mat here, as Yanan can be planted on the bottom and held there. Yanan is aggressive on her feet, but Montano has landed more strikes per minute than Yanan has. I just don’t see the striking of Yanan being enough to keep Montano from working in the wrestling, and I see Montano taking Yanan down enough to win on the scorecards. Hopefully with a win, Montano can stay active, which would be a good thing to see.

Featherweights: Collin Anglin vs. Melsik Baghdasaryan

Overall Records: Anglin 8-1, Baghdasaryan 5-1

UFC Records: Anglin 0-0, Baghdasaryan 0-0

Last Fight: Anglin def. Naimov–UDec–Dana White’s Contender Series 33 (9/15/20), Baghdasaryan def. Buzukja–UDec–Dana White’s Contender Series 31 (9/1/20)

Last Five Fights: Anglin 5-0, Baghdasaryan 5-0

Betting Odds: Anglin +115, Baghdasaryan -140

Preview: A battle of debuting fighters coming off the Contender Series takes place in the featherweight division as Anglin and Baghdasaryan look to impress in their debuts. Anglin is coming off an impressive decision win during his fight on the Contender Series in September, which earned him a contract. It also extended his win streak to seven straight, and he’s scored five of his eight career wins by finish. Baghdasaryan was also victorious during his fight on the Contender Series in September, winning a decision and running his win streak to five straight. However, he didn’t earn a contract immediately after the show, but they ended up signing him anyway in March. Baghdasaryan has scored four of his five wins by knockout, with all of them coming in 32 seconds or less.

Baghdasaryan is the more dangerous fighter on the feet in terms of power and aggression, but a big deficiency for him is he tends to slow down and falter if he can’t get the quick finish. Anglin is plenty durable, and he may let Baghdasaryan attack early and wear himself out. Anglin knows how to weather a storm, and his defense on the feet is good as well. He’ll likely try to let Baghdasaryan wear himself down, and then work on taking Baghdasaryan down. Anglin has some good takedowns, but Baghdasaryan has some good takedown defense. In a short fight, I favor Baghdasaryan, and, in a long fight, I favor Anglin. This is close on the betting odds and really could go either way, and it has a good shot at being one of the best fights on the card. I’m going with Anglin, as he has slightly more experience.

Lightweights: Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Rafa Garcia

Overall Records: Gruetzemacher 14-4, Garcia 12-1

UFC Records: Gruetzemacher 2-3, Garcia 0-1

Last Fight: Hernandez def. Gruetzemacher–R1 KO–UFC On ESPN+ 39 (10/31/20), Haqparast def. Garcia–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Gruetzemacher 2-3, Garcia 4-1

Betting Odds: Gruetzemacher +250, Garcia -300

Preview: A pair of lightweights do battle here as Gruetzemacher and Garcia both look to rebound from a loss in their previous bouts. Gruetzemacher was a cast member of season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter, and, while he didn’t make it to the finals, he still debuted at the TUF 22 finale, scoring a win and moving to 13–1 in his career. However, he has since lost three of four fights, and after a knockout loss to Alexander Hernandez in October, he could be fighting for his UFC future. Garcia will be making his second walk to the octagon on Saturday. He made his debut on short notice in March on the heels of a perfect 12–0 record. However, his debut didn’t go his way as he dropped a decision to Nasrat Haqparast. Garcia has scored nine of his twelve wins by stoppage, with eight wins coming by submission.

If this fight were a year ago, I’d favor Gruetzemacher on the feet. However, Hernandez made him look bad standing, and now there are questions about Gruetzemacher’s durability. Garcia is now the better fighter on the feet, and he is definitely the more durable fighter, and hits harder of the two. Gruetzemacher may try and work in some wrestling, but he’s also never gotten a takedown in his five UFC bouts. This one will play out on the feet, and while Gruetzemacher has traditionally landed more significant strikes per minute, they power and aggression of Garcia is going to be the difference here. I see Garcia getting the stoppage and handing Gruetzemacher his walking papers from UFC.

Featherweights: Danny Chavez vs. Kai Kamaka

Overall Records: Chavez 11-4, Kamaka 8-4

UFC Records: Chavez 1-1, Kamaka 1-2

Last Fight: Gordon def. Chavez–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 43 (2/20/21), Brown def. Kamaka–SpDec–UFC On ESPN 23 (5/1/21)

Last Five Fights: Chavez 4-1, Kamaka 3-2

Betting Odds: Chavez -105, Kamaka -115

Preview: A featherweight match-up that features a short-notice replacement sees Chavez take on Kamaka in what could be a fun match-up. Chavez was originally slated to welcome Doo Ho Choi back to action, but Choi was forced out due to injury, and Kamaka is stepping in on about twelve days’ notice. Chavez is looking to rebound from a loss in his last fight, as he dropped a decision to Jared Gordon in February. He had won four straight prior to the loss, which included a win over TJ Brown in his UFC debut. Kamaka is looking to bounce back from a disappointing split decision loss, coincidentally to Brown, in May in a fight that every media member scored for Kamaka. It was a fight he should’ve won, but instead he’s now lost two straight and finds himself with his back against the wall in a must-win situation.

This has the potential to be fun. Both men like to utilize the calf kick, and Chavez is the harder puncher of the two. Kamaka is an aggressive wrestler, and he could look at the gameplan that Gordon utilized in his win over Chavez. Kamaka both lands more and gets hit more in terms of significant strikes per minute, but he also has the better striking defense and is far more accurate. Chavez does have the power to end the fight, but Kamaka also moves well on the feet. Kamaka being the better grappler should help him, as he’ll be able to change levels and work better in the clinch. Kamaka is the more durable fighter, and I see his wrestling ability being the key difference maker in winning a decision.

Women’s Strawweights: Jinh Yu Frey vs. Ashley Yoder

Overall Records: Frey 10-6, Yoder 8-7

UFC Records: Frey 1-2, Yoder 3-6

Last Fight: Frey def. de Paula–UDec–UFC On ESPN+ 45 (3/13/21), Hill def. Yoder–UDec–UFC On ESPN +45 (3/13/21)

Last Five Fights: Frey 2-3, Yoder 2-3

Betting Odds: Frey +125, Yoder -150

Preview: A pair of strawweights looking to climb up the ladder square off here as Frey looks to build some momentum while Yoder looks to bounce back. Frey is coming into this fight off her first UFC win, scoring a decision win over Gloria de Paula in March. It ended her two-fight losing skid that started her UFC career. The former Invicta FC Atomweight Champion is looking to score her first finish since December 2014. Yoder was a cast member of season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter, but wasn’t signed coming off the show. She won after her stint on the show in the Invicta FC promotion, moving to 5–1, earning her a UFC short-notice call, and she’s been on the roster ever since. She’s had ups-and-downs, going just 3–6 during her stint, and is looking to bounce back from a decision loss to Angela Hill in March.

Yoder is going to have a four-inch height and reach advantage, and she’s going to need to use it to neutralize the grappling of Frey. Yoder tends to be the more active fighter of the two on the feet based on past history, and she mixes her strikes well. It took Frey some time to look comfortable inside the octagon, and Yoder is going to be the most-experienced UFC opponent Frey has faced. If Yoder can keep it on the feet, she might do enough to out-point Frey, though Frey’s left hand could be a difference maker. A grappling battle should be far in Frey’s favor, and Yoder tends to be willing to grapple with her opponents. This is a tough one to pick as it really could go either way. Frey finally looked comfortable at 115 lbs. last time, but she’ll still give up some size to Yoder, which could play a difference. I see Yoder squeaking out a close decision win.

Bantamweights: Ronnie Lawrence vs. Trevin Jones

Overall Records: Lawrence 7-1, Jones 13-6 1 NC

UFC Records: Lawrence 1-0, Jones 1-0 1 NC

Last Fight: Lawrence def. Cachero–R3 TKO–UFC On ESPN+ 44 (2/27/21), Jones def. Bautista–R2 TKO–UFC 259 (3/6/21)

Last Five Fights: Lawrence 4-1, Jones 3-1 1 NC

Betting Odds: Lawrence -155, Jones +130

Preview: A pair of bantamweight prospects square off here as Lawrence and Jones both search for their second UFC victory in this one. Lawrence will be looking to extend his four-fight win streak, which includes a dominant finish win over Vince Cachero in February in his UFC debut. Lawrence has scored four of his seven career wins by knockout. Jones will be making his third UFC appearance. He scored a major upset over Timur Valiev in his debut, only for it to be overturned after failing a drug test for marijuana. He got his first official UFC win in his last fight, as he knocked out Mario Bautista in the second round at UFC 259 in March. He’ll be looking for his eighth finish win in this bout.

Lawrence has shown some incredible wrestling during his two fights inside the octagon, one on the Contender Series and one in UFC. On the Contender Series, he took down his opponent twelve times, while in his UFC debut, he took Cachero down eight times. Jones has to know the takedown is going to be coming. Lawrence is also quick on his feet and has good range, so Jones is going to need to be ready to stay active on his feet. Jones has the better power on the feet of the two. Lawrence does like to land the calf kick, which leaves his chin open for counters, and Jones has some vicious counters. We know Lawrence is going to lean on his wrestling, but it is good enough that it will be able to guide him past Jones. Jones has to hope to find the one-hitter quitter, otherwise Lawrence is going to use his speed to make it a long night for Jones.

Welterweights: Phil Rowe vs. Orion Cosce

Overall Records: Rowe 7-3, Cosce 7-0

UFC Records: Rowe 0-1, Cosce 0-0

Last Fight: Green def. Rowe–SpDec–UFC 258 (2/13/21), Cosce def. Dixon–R3 TKO–Dana White’s Contender Series 29 (8/18/20)

Last Five Fights: Rowe  4-1, Cosce 5-0

Betting Odds: Rowe +130, Cosce -160

Preview: Two welterweight alumni of the Contender Series square off in the opening bout of the card as Rowe looks for his first UFC win against the debuting Cosce. Rowe earned his UFC contract on the show way back in August 2019, when he knocked out Leon Shahbazyan to run his win streak to seven. He didn’t debut until February, where he dropped a decision to Gabe Green. Rowe is looking to get into the win column and keep his perfect 100% finish rate in tact. Cosce makes his UFC debut riding a perfect 7–0 record. He earned a contract on the Contender Series with a TKO win over Matt Dixon in August, but an injury knocked him out of his planned debut. He finally returns to action here, and, like Rowe, he’ll be looking to keep his perfect 100% finish rate in tact while remaining undefeated.

Rowe is going to have a huge nine-inch reach advantage, as well as a four-inch height advantage, in this one, and he will use his physical ability to keep Cosce from unleashing an offensive attack. Rowe is not a heavy pressure fighter, though his reach is big enough that it allows him to show some extra power, and he could take it down, where he has four career submission wins. Rowe has spent some time in grappling matches trying to improve, and if his grappling has improved, it will be tough for Cosce to win. Cosce is going to need to get inside the reach and find the chin of Rowe. His six knockout wins show that he has power, but it is just a matter of finding Rowe’s chin. However, Rowe has a good gas tank, and his grappling is going to be the difference maker in this one. I like Rowe to get the night started off with a win.

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