TUF 31 episode 3: Austin Hubbard vs. Aaron McKenzie preview and prediction

UFC Fight Night: Hubbard v Bush
UFC Fight Night: Hubbard v Bush / Handout/GettyImages

TUF 31 has been all about the veterans so far, but the next lightweight bout could be exactly what Team McGregor needs to change the tide.

TUF 31 has been dominated by Team Chandler and the UFC veterans so far. Both Roosevelt Roberts and Cody Gibson came away with decisive finishes in their preliminary bouts and are primed to make a splash in the next round. It seems Timur Valiev and Trevor Wells will do battle next week after Wells suffered a cold sore, but the lightweight bout between Austin Hubbard and Aaron McKenzie is next on the docket.

The experience advantage is playing its part so far this season. Roberts and Gibson had significant edges against their opponents, which proved to be a deciding factor in their fights. Aside from the skill, their confidence was oozing. Will Hubbard approach his fight with a similar outlook, or will the older McKenzie showcase his veteran prowess instead?

34-year-old McKenzie might be a rookie among TUF ranks, but he is far from it in terms of MMA experience. Now 11-2-1, McKenzie has an amateur career dating back to 2012 and has already competed for Bellator. After submitting Sean Clements in his debut, he ended up going 1-1 after a close split decision loss to Chris Gonzalez. Since then, McKenzie joined the Legacy Fighting Alliance and went 4-0 while winning the LFA lightweight title in 2021, culminating in his opportunity with the UFC.

Similarly, Hubbard also claimed the LFA lightweight title back in 2018 before his seven-fight stint with the UFC. He went 3-4, but his losses have aged fairly well. Davi Ramos in his debut, followed by Mark Madsen, Joe Solecki, and Vinc Pichel are all respectable losses for the now 31-year-old. Despite being younger, Hubbard's advantage in UFC experience will certainly add some confidence, but there are still paths to victory for both fighters.

There is a lot to like about the Austin Hubbard and Aaron McKenzie matchup

Two fights stand out when analyzing both fighters. For Hubbard, the Solecki fight was a humbling one. Prior to their bout, Hubbard had only been finished once via submission back in 2016. His durability should not be questioned, especially after three rounds with Vinc Pichel. On top of that, training and being good friends with Curtis Blaydes will also help your wrestling ability. However, position is everything and, once Solecki was able to hop on Hubbard's back, it was impossible for him to find a way out.

For McKenzie, his LFA title fight against Lucas Clay was a grueling split-decision win. There were moments when he had to dig deep, and he did. His performance in the final round showed that he has the cardio and durability for five rounds. Training with Rafael Lovato Jr., McKenzie in top position on the ground could mean big trouble for Hubbard, who seems to do his best work from a distance on the feet. Hubbard's 63 percent takedown defense in seven UFC fights could come into play if he can't finish this fight.

Both fighters are extremely durable. McKenzie has never been finished and Hubbard has only been submitted twice in 21 fights. While Hubbard could have some edge in the striking and wrestling department, the BJJ and pressure from McKenzie could be a problem. McKenzie will also have the reach advantage, which Hubbard will need to work around if he hopes to be successful on the feet. If there is a fight on TUF 31 for Team McGregor to make a comeback, it's probably this one. It's hard to see Hubbard losing this bout with his experience and fighting style, but the edge is going to the underrated fighter with a solid path to victory.

Prediction: Aaron McKenzie via unanimous decision

Next. Michael Chandler net worth. dark

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.

Be sure to visit the FanSided MMA Instagram page and YouTube channel to discuss this and more content with fans of combat sports.