Preview: UFC on ESPN 31 Prelims

Todorovic vs. Pitolo

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s return to the UFC Apex in Las Vegas this Saturday features nine prelims that do not offer much in terms of immediate stakes but should provide some fun action. The featured UFC on ESPN 31 prelim sees middleweights Maki Pitolo and Dusko Todorovic square off in a bout that revolves entirely around the potential for violence. Their showdown is supported by a fascinating flyweight affair between Manel Kape and Zhalgas Zhumagulov in which each man looks for the first winning streak of his UFC career. Meanwhile, Jake Matthews is back in action against Jeremiah Wells, and the best fight of the batch might be second from the bottom, as Alex Morono takes on Mickey Gall in a confrontation that seems guaranteed to bring some excitement. Add in some light heavyweight beef with Alonzo Menifield-William Knight and some other interesting prospects like Cheyanne Vlismas, and there is enough to like here.

Now to the preview for the UFC on ESPN 31 prelims:


NR | Dusko Todorovic (10-2, 1-2 UFC) vs. NR | Maki Pitolo (13-8, 1-4 UFC)

ODDS: Todorovic (-155), Pitolo (+135)

Exciting middleweights look to break their respective losing streaks in this pairing. Pitolo has been a frustrating fighter to watch. The Hawaiian has lost four of his five UFC bouts thus far, but a majority of them have been winnable up until the point that “Coconut Bombz” wound up losing. After a debut loss to Callan Potter that mostly just proved Pitolo should not cut down to welterweight, he has flashed a lot of tools as a middleweight. He has some thudding power to his striking, and he has been willing to back it up with a solid wrestling game when necessary. However, Pitolo has consistently been undone by his lapses in defense. He is hittable in general, and pursuing his grappling has twice wound up with his getting submitted. After a wrestling-heavy loss to Julian Marquez that saw Pitolo continually offer up submission opportunities until “The Cuban Missile Crisis” finally finished one, the Hawaiian looks to snap a three-fight losing streak against Todorovic. Serbia’s Todorovic came to the UFC with a well-rounded game that figured to serve him well, but despite a win over Michel Pereira on the regional scene, “Thunder” has struggled with the physicality of his opponents inside the Octagon. Todorovic’s loss to Punahele Soriano in January was particularly worrisome, as he accomplished little before being repeatedly blasted in a first-round knockout. It was at least a positive that Todorovic managed to survive three rounds with Gregory Rodrigues to reaffirm his durability in June, but that loss also confirmed that he needs a physical advantage in order for everything to fully click. He looks to have one here, and even if that turns out to not be the case, Todorovic remains the more reliable fighter over 15 minutes. While Todorovic has been outgunned, he has not consistently handed opportunities to his opponents in the manner that Pitolo has since joining the roster. This will not be a clean fight, but both men are hittable enough that it should be entertaining. The pick is Todorovic via decision.

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