The main card of UFC Fight Night 73 features a middleweight contest between two fighters that have a combined 7-2 record inside the octagon, Derek Brunson and Sam Alvey. Brunson is coming off an absolute thrashing of Ed Herman In January, while Alvey enters this fight on the heels of consecutive knockout victories over Dylan Andrews, Cezar Ferreira and Daniel Kelly. Derek Brunson (13-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC, -450 favorite) Brunson is a plus athlete that has a strong background in wrestling and even cheerleading. You don’t often see fighters with a cheerleading background, but Brunson credits cheerleading with developing much of his core strength. Derek wrestled in college for the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where he was a three-time All-American. He immediately transitioned to mixed martial arts after college, ultimately turning pro in 2010. After a 6-0 start to his professional career, Brunson signed a contract with Strikeforce in 2011. His run in Strikeforce was solid, as his only loss in his four-fight run with the promotion was to former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. When Strikeforce folded up shop, Brunson was brought over to the UFC and he has continued to shine. He has compiled a 4-1 record in the promotion, with his only loss coming to top contender Yoel Romero. Brunson has continued to evolve his game under the tutelage of Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn and Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico as well as at his home base in Carolina. His ability to transition from grappling to striking is improving rapidly, which is one of the top requirements that is necessary in order to be an elite fighter. Fighting out of a southpaw stance, Brunson has a really nice head kick with his rear leg and also throws straight punches with some decent power behind them. However, wrestling is the meat and potatoes of his game. The former wrestler has a great double leg and also runs the pipe nicely when he attempts a single-leg takedown. One area where he could use some improvement is his top game. Brunson is not the greatest guard passer or much of an offensive submission threat, but he is good at staying heavy on top and keeping his opponent on the mat. Sam Alvey (26-6-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC, +360 underdog) Alvey first entered the UFC scene as a competitor on season 16 of The Ultimate Fighter, which just so happened to be the worst season of the show ever. Sam was likely not given a UFC contract after the show because the season was a disaster, which was not Sam’s fault at all. After the show Sam signed a contract with the Maximum Fighting Championship (MFC) promotion, which is based in Canada. Although he lost his MFC debut fight against Elvis Mutapcic, he rebounded nicely by compiling an impressive four fight win streak that included three knockout victories and the MFC crown. Those wins earned him a UFC contract in 2014. Although he lost his UFC debut to Tom Watson by unanimous decision, he bounced back by rattling off three straight knockout wins. He now looks to earn his fourth straight win inside the Octagon with a victory over Brunson on Saturday night. Alvey is primarily a brawler. He does not mind taking a punch if he is able to land one of his own because he believes so much in his power and ability to take punishment. He has the power to end any middleweight’s night early, which is evident by his 17 career knockout victories. However, Sam also has a few weaknesses that he needs to improve upon. He tends to stand there and stare at his opponent instead of throwing strikes. Further, he has little to no ground game, though his takedown defense is mediocre. His submission defense is pretty solid, as he has only been tapped out once in his 32 career fights, but his offensive submission game is nonexistent. To put it bluntly, if Alvey is unable to land a knockout blow his chances of winning are quite low. Thoughts This is a matchup between a big, strong, and athletic fighter that is fairly well-rounded against a fighter that is primarily a power puncher that usually only wins by knockout. I like Brunson to pull this one out fairly easily, as he should be able to set his takedowns up with his strikes and either grind out Alvey over the course of three rounds or find a submission at some point. Prediction Derek Brunson defeats Sam Alvey by unanimous decision.