Timur Valiev and Trevor Wells will do battle in the first bantamweight bout on The Ultimate Fighter 31.
Roosevelt Roberts set the tone for The Ultimate Fighter 31 with an incredible finish over Roufusport's, Nate Jennerman. With Roberts moving on in the lightweight tournament, the attention now shifts to Timur Valiev and Trevor Wells in the bantamweight division.
Valiev and Wells will square off in the first bantamweight fight of the season and this fight will likely not disappoint. Both fighters like to meet in the middle and exchange heavy shots. If there isn't a finish early in the fight, fans will be in store for an exciting, grueling bout.
The theme of veteran vs. prospect is represented perfectly in this fight. Valiev is the more battle-tested fighter at 18-3, but Wells comes into TUF 31 with an 8-3 professional record after an extensive amateur career.
Timur Valiev should have the edge against Trevor Wells
Before this season started, Valiev should have been on everyone's list to win the whole thing. Despite some mental errors in the UFC, his experience and style are suited for some of the toughest fights. He showed this against Raoni Barcelos in 2021 and Chris Gutierrez earlier in his career.
Valiev's biggest lapse came against Trevin Jones. Even though the fight was deemed a no-contest due to Jones testing positive for marijuana, Valiev was chasing the finish and got caught. If Wells can use his grinding style to keep Valiev in the pocket and land some of his big hooks, he should have a chance to finish the fight late or steal a decision.
Looking at Valiev's fight against Jack Shore, he started great but lost the grinding battle as the fight went on. One judge even scored the fight 29-27, with the other two scoring it 29-28. Wells showed good cardio and striking combinations against Cristian Barraza, but his entries and level changes left something to be desired. Valiev will not only have better reads than his previous opponents, but the power and level changing will be in full force.
While there is a path to victory for Wells, it's hard to see Valiev losing this fight. He has the striking to go with his sambo-style wrestling and should be able to take some of Wells' heaviest combinations. Wells has just two finishes via strikes in his eight career wins and, as the fight goes on, it's hard to envision him outscoring Valiev over three rounds.
Prediction: Timur Valiev via unanimous decision.
The Ultimate Fighter 31 airs exclusively on Tuesdays on ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your live results and highlights.