Kamikaze Overdrive Prelim Prediction Archives

 

145lbs- Katsunori Kikuno (23-7-2) vs Diego Brandao (23-10-0)

The final preliminary bout of the event will feature Featherweight combatants as Katsunori Kikuno battles TUF champion Diego ‘DB’ Brandao. Brandao is coming off a win over Jimy Hettes which ended a 2-fight losing streak- he is now 5-3 inside the Octagon. Kikuno has alternated wins and losses through his first 4 UFC bouts, earning victories over Sam Sicilia and Quin Mulhern.

Diego is 6 years younger than his Japanese counterpart. Kikuno is 1″ taller, but Brandao will have a 2″ reach advantage.

A BJJ Black bet, Brandao has recorded 10 of his 19 wins by knockout along with 5 submissions. Kikuno is a Black belt in both Judo and Kyokushin Karate with 15 of his 23 wins coming inside the distance (12 knockouts and 3 subs).

With an unorthodox style, Kikuno has had mixed results in the UFC. He carries his hands low and moves forward with limited head movement. He has been knocked out twice as a result. Look for him to lead with his right hand and counter with it as well. His best techniques come from his kicking arsenal. Against Sicilia, he brutalized Sam’s legs with blistering low kicks to the inside and outside. He will also target the body with his self-labeled Crescent moon kick.

An under-utilized aspect of his attack is his grappling. If he does look for a takedown it will most likely come from the clinch. All three of his sub wins have come by RNC.

The biggest knock on Brando has been his cardio. When he is able to dictate and maintain a comfortable pace he can put in a strong 3 rounds, but if not he will fade quickly. He is dangerous both on the feet and on the mat. His right hand packs a solid punch and he augments his boxing with a hard kicking game. Higher risk maneuvers are also an option, but can lead to a dangerous expenditure of energy.

Diego had success on the mat against another Judo based fighter in Hettes, landing takedowns and doing damage from top position.

Kikuno is fighting at home, which is a major advantage and the travel could further complicate the cardio of the Brazilian. That being said, Katsunori’s porous striking defense will give ‘DB’ plenty of opportunities to do damage. Kikuno doesn’t carry the type of pace that will exhaust Diego and Bradao should find enough success early to win the opening two rounds if he is unable to garner a finish. Brandao’s speed and explosive striking will exploit the hands down approach of his opponent, and he could also find moderate success with his grapping game, but my prediction is Diego Brandao to defeat Katsunori Kikuno by TKO.

170lbs- Keita Nakamura (14-3-2) vs Li Jingliang (10-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, China’s Li ‘The Leetch’ Jinliang takes on Japan’s Keita ‘K-Taro’ Nakamura. Jingliang stopped Dhiego Lima in just 85 seconds to run his UFC record to 2-1 after dropping a tough battle with Nordine Taleb. Nakamura has won 4 straight bouts and has been beaten just once in his last 11 fights, but is 0-3 inside the Octagon dating back to 2006-2008.

Kiichi Kunimoto was originally pencilled in to face Jinglaing, but pulled out and Nakamura took the fight with roughly one month to prep.

Jingliang is 1″ taller than his opponent and 4 years younger.

The ‘Leech’ is an aggressive grinding fighter with 5 of his 10 wins coming by submission, 4 by guillotine. He has averaged just 1.91 TDs @ 28% completion rate, while defending 58% of his opponents tries. He likes to push the pace on the feet and keep moving forward, but as a result he takes as much damages as he deals. His willingness to take a shot to land one has made it difficult for him to distance himself in fights that required the judges. He is 3-3 in decisions, with his last two full length fights ending with a split.

Li showed improved striking against Lima, routinely landing an uppercut before dropping Dhiego with a flurry along the cage.

Nakamura has a sizeable experience advantage with 26 more pro bouts. He is a technically sound grappler with a background in both BJJ and Judo. He has won 16 times by submission compared to just 1 loss. RNCs have accounted for 14 of those submission wins and ironically his only submission loss. His striking is serviceable and over a lengthy career he has proven quite durable getting finished just twice.

Keita has finished 3 of his last 4 opponents in the opening round, most recently capturing the DEEP Welterweight title in late July.

This is a battle pitting youth and aggression against experience and technique. Li needs to make this fight a gritty brawl to drag Nakamura out of his comfort zone and potentially tax his compromised cardio. For Nakamura, getting the fight to the mat where he will have a technical edge is the key to his success. Look for the seasoned vet to use the constant forward push of Li against him by changing levels for takedowns, while using his Judo in the clinch to control his foe. Jinliang’s issues with close decisions won’t bode well for him fighting on enemy soil, but look for Keita to capitalize on a positional mistake on the mat before the final bell- my prediction is Keita Nakamura to defeat Li Jingliang by submission.

155lbs- Nick Hein (12-2-0 1NC) vs Yusuke Kasuya (9-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, ‘Sergeant’ Nick Hein meets UFC debutant Yusuke ‘Young Guns’ Kasuya. Hein is 2-1 in the UFC, with a tough loss to James Vick stuck between his successful outings. Kasuya is undefeated over his last 4, winning fights in various organizations including PXZ and Legend FC.

The native of Japan is taller than his German counterpart by an inch and will have a 2″ reach advantage as well. Hein is 5 years older than his opponent.

Hein is a Judo Black belt, winning 4 times by submission and boasting a 100% TDD. He sets up his takedowns with his striking- punch, body lock, and then throw. He will work trips from the clinch and can shoot from the outside. He is physically very strong and uses tight body control on the mat while landing some decent GNP.

Despite his grappling skills, he has relied heavily on this striking. He throws hard, utilizing a jab and following with powerful hooks. His left hand is his weapon of choice and he will both initiate and counter with it.

Kasuya has won 8 times by submission, 7 times in the first round, and 4 times by RNC. He has a pretty opportunistic grappling game. In his last bout he quickly took his opponent’s back while standing and followed shortly with the fight ending RNC. His takedown game is a little hit and miss and against a strong Judo player like Hein it could be non-existent.

His striking is decent but he gets hit with a high frequency and as was in serious trouble in his last fight before getting the sub.

Hein doesn’t offer an overly complex attack and would probably benefit from incorporating more of his ground game. When these two are exchanging, the German’s aggression and power should be the difference. His willingness to push the pace and come forward will give him a distinct advantage over a fighter who freezes up under pressure. Hein dictates where this fight takes place and does damage either on the mat or standing- my prediction is Nick Hein to defeat Yusuke Kasuya by TKO.

155lbs- Naoyuki Kotani (33-12-7 2NC) vs Kajan Johnson  (20-12-1)

In the Lightweight division, Naoyuki Kotani welcomes ‘Rajan’ Kajan Johnson to the land of the rising sun. Kotani is in the midst of his second UFC run and is still looking for his first win with a pair of losses to Norman Parke and Yan Cabral dropping him to 0-4. Johnson evened his UFC record at 1-1 with a decision win over Zhang Lipeng- he is 8-2 over his last 10 fights.

Last seeing action in October 2014, Kotani has been on the shelf for 11 months. The Canadian is 2″ taller and will have a marked 9″ reach advantage. He is 3 years younger than his opponent.

Both men have a significant amount of pro experience, with Kotani holding the edge at 52 total fights to 33 for Kajan.

Kotani has a grappling heavy win total, with 25 of 33 wins coming by some form of tap out. He has 11 armbar wins and 27 first round finishes overall. He cut his teeth primarily under the ZST banner, an organization that doesn’t allow strikes once the action hits the mat. His striking is centered around setting up his grappling game, throwing a quick combo and ducking under for a TDA. He also has had some success in close, scoring a body lock TD on Cabral.

He offers a decent right hand and will counter as well, scoring 5 wins by knockout, while being stopped 6 times in same fashion.

A product of the Tri-Star camp, Johnson has decent finishing numbers. He has tapped 11 opponents and added 4 more wins by knockout. He does a pretty good job of melding his grapping and striking together. Working towards the clinch for a takedown or forcing his opponent to carry his weight his large part of his attack. Once he hits the mat he is aggressive, but sometimes to a fault- giving up position for a sub opportunity.

Johnson has been finished several times. His chin is a major area of concern with 5 losses by knockout, not including his devastating TUF: Nations stoppage versus Chad Larise. He has also been subbed 3 times, but 2 of those losses were due to strikes.

Kotani has yet to find success against UFC caliber opposition and is coming off of a lengthy layoff. He is fighting at home and has a lot experience to draw upon. Johnson got his first UFC win last time out, but it came against a fighter near the bottom of the division. He relies heavily on his ground attack which brings him into the wheel house of Naoyuki and when they are exchanging Kajan chin is a big target. Kotani got off to strong starts in each of his last 2 fights, but faded. That won’t be the case here. An entertaining back and forth on the mat eventually leads to Kajan getting put in some bad positions, so my prediction is Naoyuki Kotani to defeat Kajan Johnson by submission.

170lbs- Shinsho Anzai (8-2-0) vs Roger Zapata (4-1-0)

In the opening fight of the night, TUF 19 semi-finalist Roger ‘Viva’ Zapata makes his official UFC debut against the hard-hitting Shinsho ‘Animal’ Anzai. Zapata has won 4 straight bout since losing his pro debut back in 2011. Anzai, a native of Saitama, took his first UFC fight on short notice and was knocked out by Alberto Mina, ending his 6 fight winning streak.

Both men have endured prolonged breaks since their last action. Anzai has been on the shelf for roughly 13 months since his debut and Zapata’s last fight was 26 months ago (not including his TUF time).

Zapata is 4″ taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage, along with being a year older than Anzai. Anzai had formerly competed as Middleweight before dropping down for his debut and Zapata fought as at 185 on the show.

‘Viva’ won by TKO to enter the tournament and took an incredibly controversial decision in the first round after the bout was initially ruled a draw. He was then tapped by Dhiego Lima in the frame one of the semis.

‘Animal’ comes from a wrestling background, competing collegiately at Meiji University. He is sound both offensively and defensively but his primary form of attack is his striking. He possess some chopping leg kicks and massive power in his hands. He has scored knockouts in 6 of his 8 wins, all in the first round. In his debut he showed that he can trend toward the entertaining but undisciplined style of striking.

Shinsho is coming off the first stoppage loss of his career, where he tried to walk through the attacks of his hurt and exhausted opponent before getting cracked with a nasty uppercut.

Zapata is at a bit of an experience disadvantage in both quantity and quality. His 4 pro wins have come over opponents with a combined 16-28 record. He has 3 wins via knockout, in addition to his TUF qualifying bout. While he is a scrappy fighter he appears to have a considerable difficulty against grappling oriented opponents. He was thoroughly dominated on the mat by Ian Stephens in the quarter-finals and was quickly subbed by Lima in the semis.

The decision win over Stephens was very controversial as Zapata was controlled and out positioned on the mat for the majority of the fight and lost a point in the final round before being awarded the decision.

There are a number of significant x-factors that are going to play a roll in this fight. Zapata has been on the shelf for a prolonged period of time and is making his debut. He could suffer from some ring rust and octagon jitters, but he could also make a sizeable leap in skill. Anzai is also coming in off a longer break, but he is fighting at home and benefiting from having a full camp to prep along with his experience advantage. He will also be making his second cut to 170 pounds which should aid him. Anzai’s punching power will carry him in the exchanges, but look for him to use his wrestling to exploit Zapata’s shortcomings and do damage from top position. Both men are scrappy and this should be an entertaining battle, my prediction is Shinsho Anzai to defeat Roger Zapata by TKO.

155lbs- Ross Pearson (19-9-0 1NC) vs Paul Felder (10-1-0)

In the headlining bout of the undercard, the UK’s own Ross ‘The Real Deal’ Pearson returns to action against the ‘Irish Dragon’ Paul Felder. Pearson has alternated wins and losses over his last 5, most recently getting smothered by Evan Dunham in Scotland. Felder is coming off a tough loss to Edson Barboza after earning back to back wins over Danny Castillo and Jason Saggo to start his UFC career.

Pearson is 5 months younger than Felder, but has a sizeable experience advantage with 27 pro bouts to just 11. He is also making his 17th UFC appearance. Felder is 3″ taller and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

A BJJ Blue belt and Black belt in Karate, Felder has won 7 times by knockout including his brutal stoppage of Danny Castillo at UFC 182. He averages 3.53 SLpM, implementing a strong kicking game at range and looking to counter as his opponent comes forward.

Of the 47 strikes he landed against Barboza, 16 were leg strikes.

With each of his last 4 wins coming by knockout, Pearson has shown continued improvement in his striking. He is a capable counter striker, but also found success in his fight with Edson Barboza pushing the pace and being the aggressor. He has a solid boxing game, highlighted by a hard leaping left hook. His chin is an area of vulnerability with 3 official losses by knockout, he was also knocked out by Melvin Guillard with an illegal knee, and has been hurt on a couple of other occasions.

While Pearson’s TDD currently sits at a respectable 76%, he was badly outwrestled by Dunham, giving up 5 takedowns.

Felder is coming off an impressive performance where he held his own with one of the best strikers in the division. It was also the first loss of his career, which can serve as a rallying point for a young fighter and often lead to a very good follow-up performance. Pearson is a good striker, but his reliance on countering won’t hold up against a more diverse striker and his chin is too unreliable for him to consistently push the action against Felder’s power. Despite Pearson’s veteran savvy he will eventually get tagged during an exchange, so my prediction is  Paul Felder to defeat Ross Pearson by knockout.

135lbs- #12 Francisco Rivera (11-4-0 1NC) vs John Lineker (25-7-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Francisco ‘Cisco’ Rivera battles fellow knockout artist and former Flyweight John ‘Hands of Stone’ Lineker. Rivera is coming off an abrupt knockout of Alex Caceres after suffering back to back losses to Urijah Faber and Takeya Mizugaki. Lineker has won back to back fights, most recently defeating Ian McCall- he has only lost once in his last 7 fights.

Lineker failed to make weight in 4 of his 8 UFC appearances and has been forced to move up to Bantamweight. He will be a marked 5″ shorter than Rivera along with a having a 3″ reach deficit. Lineker is 9 years younger.

Rivera comes in with knockouts accounting for 8 of his 11 wins, including 3 in the UFC. He averages 3.95 SLpM while giving up 2.88. He tosses a brutal right hand, hard uppercut, and mixes in stiff low kicks. He has been knocked out once while fighting at Featherweight. He did get hurt by both Mizugaki and Edwin Figueroa during early exchanges.

Rivera is 0-2 in fights ended by submission, but has used his wrestling at times- landing a trio of takedowns against Mizugaki.

With equally as dangerous knockout power, the Brazilian has iced 12 opponents- knocking out 4 in the Octagon. He is a high volume striker at 5.43 connections per minute, but gives up just over 4 strikes per minute. Lineker throws primarily hard hooks and will change levels with vicious body shots. Against McCall he was having trouble early reacting to Ian’s fake, but eventually started sitting down on his punches and countering as he came forward.

McCall was out pointing him early on, but Lineker started to pull away based on the impact of his strikes. His counter-wrestling has cost him at times with 8 takedowns given up over his last 3 fights.

Lineker is significantly undersized, which is concerning considering his size was an advantage at Flyweight. Moving up division will be less draining on his body and should afford him a speed advantage. His power should still translate to 135 and his chin is solid, but his lack of variety in his striking and the distance he will need to cover will limit his striking success. Rivera has looked sharp of late and his long range weapons should serve to keep Lineker on the outside. He should also clinch and attempt to wrestle with Lineker to wear him down. Lineker is too predictable and too hittable, which is a major concern against bigger opponents- so my prediction is Francisco Rivera to defeat John Lineker by decision.

135lbs- #13 Jessica Andrade (13-4-0) vs Raquel Pennington (5-6-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, Jessica Andrade steps in to rematch Raquel ‘Rocky’ Pennington. Pennington is coming off a split decision loss to recently announced title challenger Holly Holm- she is 2-2 inside the Octagon. Andrade most recently earned a clear decision victory over Sarah Moras, picking up her 4th win in her last 5 fights.

Pennington was initially scheduled to face Leslie Smith, than Liz Carmouche, and after both pulled out Andrade stepped to battle ‘Rocky’ for a second time. She defeating Raquel by split decision at UFC 171 just over a year ago.

The Brazilian is taking this fight on just over 2 week’s notice.

‘Rocky’ is 6″ taller and will have a 5″ reach advantage. Andrade is 3 years younger.

In their first meeting, Andrade started extremely strong landing a couple of judo based takedowns and bull rushing Pennington with high volume striking barrages. ‘Rocky’ turned the action in her favour in the second half, stuffing TDA’s and implementing a more technically sound striking attack. She finished very strong with a couple of her own takedowns and blasting Andrade along the cage.

It is interesting to note that Pennington attempted a couple of tight but unsuccessful subs. In bouts after their first meeting, Raquel pulled off an impressive bulldog choke of Ashlee Evans-Smith and Andrade got tapped by Marion Reneau.

Andrade dominated her last opponent, but slowed down late- similar to the end of the Pennington fight. With a shorter camp her endurance may be an issue even earlier this time.

Raquel appeared to find a lot of success in the second half shutting down TDAs and ultimately out-landed Andrade 82-66. She will use what she learned in the first fight to better defend against her opponent’s attack and counter with her own. Andrade will start out strong, but fade making it harder to deal with the size and reach of her opponent. Look for Pennington to use footwork at range and the clinch with knees in close to diffuse Andrade’s aggression. As the fight progresses, the American will find more success on the mat as well, beating up her exhausted opponent. Contrary to my prediction for the first fight, my prediction is Raquel Pennington to defeat Jessica Andrade by TKO.

145lbs- Clay Collard (14-6-0 1NC) vs Tiago Trator (19-5-2 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, Clay ‘Cassius’ Collard meets Brazil’s Tiago Trator. Collard is 1-2 in the UFC with a win over Alex White bookended by losses to Max Holloway and Gabriel Benitez. Trator failed to follow up on a successful UFC debut, lasting just 3 minutes with Mike de la Torre before getting knocked out.

Andre Fili was originally paired with Collard, but shortly after the fight was booked he pulled out and was replaced by Trator.

The American will have a 2″ height advantage along with a 3″ longer reach. He is 6 years younger than Trator who made his Featherweight debut in his last appearance.

Collard is a boxing based fighter with 8 wins by knockout. He earned the win over White by edging him out in significant strikes landed at 60-58. He does have one-punch power, relying more on volume to do his damage. He’s aggressive, but at times his attack is a bit disjointed. His kicking game is a secondary aspect of his striking, but he will finish his combos with a quick and often ineffectual low kick.

Despite his reliance on his striking, Clay’s defensive game is suspect. He has only been knocked out once, by Holloway, but he frequently holds his hands low and his chin high while giving up an average of 5.53 SLpM.

Coming off the first knockout loss of his career it will be interesting to see how Trator responds. He has a nice variety of wins, with 7 knockouts, 6 subs, and a 6-1 record on the scorecards. He has a +1.28 striking exchange rate, offering a nice variety of kicks. A hard low kick and range determining front kick highlight his attack. Against Arreola, he kept the pressure on for the duration of the fight and had success with hard combos and clinch work.

The former Jungle Fights champion will load up on strikes and can let his defense slide which ultimately lead to his downfall last time out. He has been submitted 3 times.

Collard is aggressive and will look to employ a high output in your face approach. His connection rate is a little below where it needs to be for that style and he takes too much damage to be really effective. Trator is more diverse and his power kicking game will be an key aspect of his attack. It will both slow down Collard and keep him out of boxing range. Trator could find success on the mat, but his clinch work will be a more useful secondary aspect of his offense. Look for Trator to blast Collard with hard body kicks and be the more active and impactful striker- my prediction is Tiago Trator to defeat Clay Collard by decision.[/Body]

185lbs- Joe Riggs (40-15-0 1NC) vs Ron Stallings (13-7-0 1NC)

In the Middleweight division, Joe ‘Diesel’ Riggs takes on fellow Strikeforce alumni Ron ‘the Choir Boy’ Stallings. Riggs is 0-2 since returning to the UFC, falling to Ben Saunders and Patrick Cote. Stallings took home a decision win over Justin Jones in his last fight after falling to Uriah Hall in a short notice debut.

Riggs was forced to withdraw from a bout in early August with Hall due to an injury, before getting tabbed for this fight. Stallings is 2″ taller and will have a 5″ reach advantage.

Riggs is moving up to Middleweight after competing at Welterweight in his 2 return bouts.

Stallings is a BJJ Brown belt and prior to his last fight he had spit his 12 wins evenly between submissions and knockouts. He comes from a striking background and showcased a dangerous left leg kick- hurting Jones to the body and targeting his head a couple of times. His combinations are smooth and as long he was able to maintain separation he was getting the better of the action. He has been stopped 3 times via knockout along with 1 sub.

His defensive wrestling is suspect. Jones took him down twice and routinely pinned him on the cage.

A battled tested veteran, Riggs has 57 pro bouts- ending 20 by knockout and 16 more by submission. He is a BJJ Brown belt and comes from a wrestling background. His boxing is decent, but against Cote he used it primarily to set up his grappling attack. Riggs would land a quick 1-2 and change levels for a takedown. He also had success holding Cote on the cage and dropping for a TDA from the clinch. On the mat he is a capable  grappler and has a strong back mount.

The durability of Riggs is concerning with 13 losses coming inside the distance- 6 by knockout and 7 by sub. Although, moving up to Middleweight and not having to drain his body as much may help him deal with that factor.

If Stallings can keep Riggs on the outside he will out point him and potentially stop him. Conversely, he had a considerable amount of trouble maintaining separation against Jones who was fighting for just the 4th time as a pro. Jones routinely clamped Stallings on the cage and took him down, where Ron waited for the ref to help get him vertical again. Riggs is pretty crafty on the mat and if he gets Stallings’s back he is more than capable of taking the round or submitting him. Once Riggs gets on the inside of Stallings’s striking he should be able to utilize his wrestling in dominant fashion. The lack of a big weight cut should help rejuvenate ‘Diesel’ and give him a slight speed advantage- my prediction is Joe Riggs to defeat Ron Stallings by submission.

155lbs- Joaquim Silva (7-0-0) vs Nazareno Malegarie (28-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, a pair of TUF Brazil 4 combatants collide as Joaquim ‘Netto BJJ’ Silva fights Nazareno ‘El Tigre’ Malegarie of Argentina. Silva has yet to taste defeat in his professional career finishing all of his opponents. Malegarie is riding a 6 fight winning streak, his last loss coming against Rad Martinez in his final of 4 Bellator bouts.

This bout is an unofficial bronze medal fight for the Lightweight bracket of TUF Brazil 4 as both men fell in the semi-finals. Silva lost to the eventual tournament winner Glaico Franca.

The Argentinian has a sizeable experience advantage in both quantity and quality. He has a 31 pro bouts compared to just 7 for Silva. Malegarie went 1-3 in Bellator going the distance with Daniel Strauss, Marlon Sandro, and the aforementioned Martinez. Silva’s last 3 opponents have a combined 16-19 record with 12 of these wins attributed to one fighter.

Malegarie is a 2nd degree BJJ Black belt and comes from a Judo background as well. He has won 17 times by submission including multiple wins by guillotine and arm triangle choke. He also has 8 wins by knockout and 18 total first round finishes.

It is worth noting that while Nazareno competed as a Lightweight on the show, he has also competed as low as Bantamweight.

As a professional, Silva has never gone beyond the opening round.  He has record a quartet of wins by knockout and 3 more by submission. His most recent bout lasted just 6 seconds and his 2 most recent subs came by armbar. ‘Netto BJJ’ won by 3rd round TKO and decision in his first 2 TUF bouts, but dropped from the tournament with a first round submission loss.

This is a bit of a difficult fight to handicap. Malegarie has a significant edge in experience and appears to be the more accomplished fighter. At 29 years of age and this far into his career he is for the most part a finished product. Silva is little younger, but is still quite early in his career and could show a sizeable leap in capabilities since his last appearance. Conversely, having finished all of his opponents in quick fights and now facing an adversary that has never been finished in 31 career bouts is a scenario that does not favour him. Malegarie should find success dragging Silva to the mat, wearing him down and chaining submissions together until something sticks- my prediction is Nazareno Malegarie to defeat Joaquim Silva by submission.

155lbs- Sam Stout (21-11-1) vs Frankie Perez (9-2-0)

In the headlining act of the undercard, Canadian veteran Sam ‘Hands of Stone’ Stout faces off with promotional sophomore Frankie Perez in the Lightweight division. Stout has lost 2 in a row and 3 of his last 4- his only win during his current slump came against Cody McKenzie. Perez made an unsuccessful short notice debut falling to Johnny Case- he is 1-2 in his last 3 with a pre-UFC loss to Chris Wade back in early 2014.

Perez is 2″ taller than Stout and will have a 3″ reach advantage. The New Jersey native is 5 years younger.

Sammy comes into this fight in a must win situation. He is taking a step down in competition and it would appear that the vaunted granite chin that has been a staple of his UFC career has been cracked. Stout averages 4.18 SLpM with 9 wins by knockout. He has worked recently to incorporate more wrestling into his attack with mixed results.

With just 1 KO in his last 16 fights, Stout has been forced to rely heavily on his volume and durability to earn victories.

Perez took his debut on short notice and came up short against a pretty talented prospect. His win totals are submission heavy, with 3 of his 5 tap outs coming by RNC. His wrestling is decent and if he gets put on his back he has a pretty offensive guard. He showcased a serviceable striking game, highlighted by his kicking attack.

Stout will have home field advantage, along with a massive edge in experience. Conversely, that experience has come with a cost as the impact of going to war so often is clearly taking its toll. Perez is bigger and younger. His wrestling gives him an edge over Stout and takes away the secondary offense of the Canuck. Sammy’s chin has become a major point of contention and while Perez has just a single knockout, he could do some damage standing. Stout has snuck out some close decision, which is a concern in Canada. Look for Perez to put together a much better effort with a full camp, land some takedowns, and control the action on the mat- my prediction is Frankie Perez to defeat Sam Stout by decision.

135lbs- Yves Jabouin (20-9-0) vs Felipe Arantes (16-7-1 2NC)

In the Bantamweight division, Yves ‘Tiger’ Jabouin fights Brazil’s Felipe Arantes. Jabouin lost his last fight via 1st round knockout loss against rising prospect Thomas Almeida and has alternated wins and losses over his last 6 fights. Arantes is also coming off a defeat, falling to Andre Fili at UFC 179.

The Brazilian is 1″ taller than his counterpart, but will have a more distinctive 5″ reach advantage. He is also 8 years younger than the WEC alumni. Arantes is making his first cut to 135 pounds, Yves last fought at Featherweight in 2011.

A Black belt in Muay Thai, Arantes builds the majority of his attack around his striking technique. He has recorded 7 wins by knockout, but just 1 in the UFC, and averages 2.67 SLpM. His offensive output has been a point of inconsistency, getting out-landed in each of his last 3 fights.

His defensive grappling has been a point of contention as well, with a pair of losses by submission and 16 TDs given up over just 7 fights.

A 30-fight veteran, Jabouin is also a striking oriented fighter. He averages 3.12 SLpM, but carries a minute +0.13 striking exchange rate. He offers a decent variety of striking techniques, incorporating some higher risk spinning techniques into his arsenal. He has started to incorporate more wrestling into his attack, most notably landing 5 takedowns in his win over Mike Easton.

Finishes have accounted for 8 of 10 losses for ‘Tiger’, including 5 knockouts- 4 of which coming in his last 5 defeats.

Arantes is making the trip out of Brazil for the first time in his 7 fight UFC career, but he did take several bouts in the States prior to entering the Octagon. He is also cutting down to a new division which can create further complications. Under normal circumstances, moving to a lighter division isn’t always a positive venture, but with Jabouin at the end of his career the normal disparities should be muted. Both men could look to take their opponent to the mat, but this fight should ultimately be decided on the feet. Arantes doesn’t have massive power, but Yves’s chin is just too suspect to trust. Arantes eventually clips Jabouin during an exchange and swarms for the finish, my prediction is Felipe Arantes to defeat Yves Jabouin by TKO.

205lbs- Marcos Rogerio de Lima (13-3-1) vs Nikita Krylov (18-4-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Marcos Rogerio de Lima throws down with Ukrainian Nikita ‘Al Capone’ Krylov. de Lima is 2-0 in the UFC with a pair of lightning quick wins by knockout- most recently dispatching Igor Pokrajac. Krylov is riding a 2 fight winning streak with wins over Cody Donovan and Stanislav Nedkov- he is 3-2 inside the Octagon.

Krylov is 2″ taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage, he is 7 years younger than his foe.

Both fighters have a pension for early finishes. All 18 of Nikita’s victories have come inside the opening frame, with 6 lasting less than 60 seconds. de Lima has recorded 9 first round finishes, with 8 of those wins coming by way of knockout.

The Brazilian is a clear-cut knockout artist. He has recorded 10 wins by knockout and 1 of his submission wins came due to punches. He is a Muay Thai striker that throws everything with power. His cardio is a bit of a question mark as he is winless in his last 3 fights to go beyond the first round.

He advanced to the semi-finals on his season of TUF Brazil winning by submission and two round decision.

Krylov is equally as aggressive, but has a much more diversified record. He has recorded 11 wins by knockout and 8 wins by submission- 2 TKOs and 1 sub in the UFC. He has a background in Kyokushin karate and utilizes a strong kicking game. He can do damage in the clinch and is crafty on the mat.

The Ukrainian is incredibly reckless and despite his dangerous submission game, he lacks a strong wrestling skill set to consistently put his opponent on the floor.

The only way that this fight requires the judges is if both men exhaust themselves in pursuit of the finish and can barely hold their arms up for the final 10 minutes. If Krylov can take de Lima down or tie him up in the clinch he could lock up a submission. Conversely, he is incredibly hittable and de Lima is the type of fighter that only needs one opportunity to shut his opponent off. The Brazilian basher can generate a lot of power in a small amount of space and his lower stature and physical strength should aid him in fending off Kyrlov’s closing pressure. Once the action gets heated look for de Lima to connect and send Nikita back pedalling before swarming him for the finish- my prediction is Marcos Rogerio de Lima to defeat Nikita Krylov by TKO.

125lbs- Chris Kelades (8-2-0) vs Chris Beal (10-1-0)

In the Flyweight division, Chris ‘The Greek Assassin’ Kelades faces Chris ‘The Real Deal’ Beal. Beal is coming off the first loss of his career, dropping a decision to Neil Seery- he is now 2-1 in th UFC. Kelades couldn’t follow up on his upset of Paddy Holohan, falling via sub to Ray Borg in his next fight.

Beal is making his second appearance at Flyweight. He will have a slight 1″ reach advantage, while both men will stand 5’7″.

The American has gone the distance in 8 of his 11 fights, winning 7. His cardio appeared to be his undoing against Seery, which could be attributed to the first-time cut to 125 pounds. He has a decent, but not overwhelming striking game. His other 3 wins came by knockout, including a flashy flying knee in his promotional debut.

He has augmented his striking with a decent takedown game in his last 2 fights, landing a combined 5 TDs on just 8 attempts.

Kelades is a BJJ Purple belt and relies heavily on his grappling game. His takedowns are a little hit or miss, but once he gets on top of his opponent he is pretty solid. He was badly outclassed by Borg on the floor and struggled early with Holohan before Paddy gassed. His striking is a secondary aspect of his offense, but he did crack Holohan with a pretty solid left hand that started his comeback. He has a lot of holes, both offensively and defensively in his stand-up, but uses his aggression to make up for it.

The Canadian landed a pair of takedowns against Holohan, but has given up 8 completions in just two fights.

Beal is the far more dynamic fighter and should have a better showing in his second attempt at cutting to 125 pounds. Kelades could easily be 0-2 if Holohan had not gassed. If he can take Beal down with consistency that is his key to victory, especially if Beal’s endurance issues remain a factor. ‘The Real Deal’ will need to keep this fight vertical and disengage whenever Kelades attempts to tie him up. Look for Beal to use his jab and speed to maintain separation and pot shot Kelades for a full 3 rounds, possibly gaining some top control time when Kelades gets despearate to grapple- my prediction is Chris Beal to defeat Chris Kelades by decision.

155lbs- Shane Campbell (11-2-0) vs Elias Silverio (11-1-0)

At 155 pounds, Shane ‘Shaolin’ Campbell makes his second Octagon appearance opposite Elias ‘Xuxu’ Silverio. Campbell dropped his short notice debut to John Makdessi, ending his 3 fight winning a streak. Silverio is coming off the first loss of his career, suffering a knockout against Rashid Magomedov- he had won 3 straight to start his UFC run.

Campbell is 1″ taller, but his Brazilian counterpart will have a slight 2″ reach advantage.

The Canuck comes from a kickboxing background where he went 62-9 with 13 knockouts. He has 5 MMA knockouts, including his eye catching body kick/ Hadouken stoppage at WSOF 18. He appears to have found his finishing touch with his last 3 wins all coming by (T)KO after only 2 in his first 6 wins as a pro. Prior to getting stopped by Makdessi, Campebell was busting up his lead leg and bloodied his nose with some slick combinations. He even forced the vaunted striker to look for a takedown.

Of the 25 strikes landed by Campabell against Makdessi, 13 were leg strikes.

Silverio, the former Jungle Fights Welterweight champion, is coming off the first loss of his career which can be a point of revitalization. He struggled at times with the range striking of his opponent, replying with singles, but routinely getting cracked with hard counters. His pre-fight focus was on implementing a grappling based attack but he failed to land a single takedown. He has just a single submission win, but landed 4 TDs in his win over Isaac Vallie-Flagg.

He is currently averaging just 1.52 TDs per fight, but at a respectable 85% completion rate.

Silverio’s inability to drag his last opponent to the mat, or even attempt a takedown is concerning. He will need to do a better job of implementing a multi-faceted attack against Campbell to take him out of his comfort zone. ‘Shaolin’ didn’t get a full camp for his debut, but he got off to an impressive start. If this fight stays vertical he should be able to replicate the issues that Silverio had against Magomedov. The movement of Campbell and his persistent work rate coupled with the damage inflicted by his leg kick heavy assault will takes its toll on the Brazilian. Silverio will get drawn into a striking battle and that favours his opponent, so my prediction is Shane Campbell to defeat Elias Silverio by decision.

205lbs- Misha Cirkunov (9-2-0) vs Daniel Jolly (5-0-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Latvian born Canadian Misha Cirkuno takes on undefeated and fellow UFC debutant Daniel ‘The Werewolf of Texas’ Jolly. Cirkunov has won 4 in a row including a knockout of former UFC talent Rodney Wallace. Still undefeated, Jolly’s current streak includes a pair of 1st round stoppages under the Legacy FC banner and a 5 round victory in his last outing.

Cirkunov is a big LHW, standing 6’3″ with a very muscular frame. He will be 2″ taller than Jolly and is 3 years younger. Jolly has been on the shelf since May 2014, a near 15 month layoff.

The big Latvian builds his attack around a variety of grappling disciplines. He has a background in both Judo and wrestling, along with training BJJ for several years. He won Gold in the 2007 ADCC North American trials. He has 3 wins by knockout, 4 by sub, and 2 on the scorecards. His 2 losses have come by sub. He is exceptionally strong in the clinch with throws and takedowns, and once he gets his opponent to the mat he can do damage with heavy GNP or lock up a sub. At times, he will give up position for submission, but more than often he is too much for his opponent on the mat.

His striking is still a work in progress, but the power he can generate is noteworthy as he hurt Wallace with a big punch and then finished him with a hard head kick.

Jolly is primarily a wrestler. In his 5 round win over Josh Foster he leaned heavily on his ability to take Foster down and grind on top of him. Even when he found success with his striking he would change levels for a TD shortly after. He has a pair of knockouts and an RNC finish all in the first round, bookended by decisions in his last fight and pro debut. He has some pop in his hands, but his reliance on throwing primarily power shots and a lack of fluid technique can be draining in longer fights.

Jolly doesn’t have any noteworthy names on his record despite fighting twice for Legacy, but Foster did represent a slight escalation in opposition.

Foster is undefeated, coming off a significant layoff, and has just 5 pro bouts. Those conditions could be a recipe for him to falter on the big stage or potentially show up significantly improved beyond his previous efforts. Cirkunov is more battle tested in both quality and quantity of opponent. He has also lost twice which can be solid building blocks for a young fighter. The Latvian ‘s Judo should give him an edge in the clinch and his top position prowess will put Jolly at a deficit once they hit the mat. Jolly was exhausted in his last fight despite controlling the action on the floor. If he is put on the defensive early by his hulking opponent that scenario could be repeated. Both guys will come out aggressive and throwing hard leather, but once they hit the mat it will be all Cirkunov- my prediction is Misha Cirkunov to defeat Daniel Jolly by submission.

170lbs- #6 Demian Maia (20-6-0) vs #12 Neil Magny (15-4-0)

In the headlining fight of the undercard, former Middleweight title challenger Demian Maia faces the surging Neil Magny in the Welterweight division. Maia is coming off a hard fought win over Ryan LaFlare and has won 5 of his last 7. Magny is riding a 7 fight winning streak- scoring an massive TKO victory over Hyun Gyu Lim at UFC Fight Night 66.

Magny is 10 years younger than his opponent and will have a marked 8″ reach advantage while standing 2″ taller.

Fighting for the 3rd time in Rio, Magny will be familiar with the hostile Brazilian atmosphere- he defeated William Macario by TKO and was submitted by Sergio Moraes in 2013. He is long rangy fighter, who has drastically improved his distance striking while averaging 3.92 SLpM. He has stopped 4 of his last 5 opponents-3 by knockout.

He is a BJJ Brown belt and has a 71% TDD, but he has been submitted twice and has been taken down 13 times in his last 8 fights.

A 4th degree BJJ Black belt, submissions have accounted for 9 of Maia’s 20 wins- but only 1 of his last 9 victories. Despite the lack of subs, he has completed 23 takedowns over 7 fights. He has taken down every opponent he has faced. Against LaFlare he showcased his smothering top control game with 1 completion per round resulting in a prolonged positional advantage.

Maia has improved his striking, but is still at a disadvantage against Magny. A bigger area of concern is his endurance. Against Rory MacDonald, he gassed after just a single round- despite winning the round. In his last fight he was tired, but his technical superiority carried him through the 5 round win.

The momentum lies squarely with Magny and he appears to be getting stronger with each fight. Conversely, his defensive wrestling still is a point of vulnerability. He has been taken down in 8 of 10 UFC bouts, and Maia will only needs one opportunity to take complete control of the round. If Magny can force him to work exceptionally hard for early takedowns, Maia could tire and struggle to get on the inside of his range striking. Maia’s top game will be too much for his opponent, who has struggled with less capable ground fighters. The Brazilian utilizes his grappling to control the first two rounds and holds on in the third, so my prediction is Demian Maia to defeat Neil Magny by decision.

205lbs- #10 Rafael Cavalcante (12-5-0 1NC) vs #14 Patrick Cummins (7-2-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, former Strikeforce champion Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante squares off with Patrick ‘Durkin’ Cummins. Cavalcante has dropped 2 of 3 fights in the UFC, sandwiching a knockout of Igor Pokrajac with losses to Ryan Bader and Thiago Silva. Cummins’s ill-fated UFC debut against Daniel Cormier was followed by a trio of wins and than a knockout loss versus OSP.

Cummins is 1″ taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage. Feijao has been out of action for just over 13 months. Cummins is fighting in Brazil for the 2nd time in his career after defeating Antonio Carlos Junior last December.

Recording all 12 of his wins by knockout, 7 in the 1st round- ‘Feijao’ is a devastating Muay Thai striker. He throws hard combinations and can work at range or in close with his Thai clinch/ devastating knee combination. In his last fight, the Brazilian struggled to maintain separation against Bader and was routinely taken down. This brought out a bigger issues that has plagued him through out his career- questionable cardio.

He has lost 3 times by knockout and is 1-2 in his last 3 fights to go beyond the opening round.

With a ridiculous 6.18 TDs averaged per fight, including 10 completions against Kyle Kingsbury, Cummins relies heavily on his wrestling pedigree. He is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler. He lacks any semblance of a capable striking attack, but the constant threat of being taken down keeps his opponents from exploiting his shortcoming.

Cummins has been knocked out twice. He was having success against OSP, before getting clipped with a counter uppercut.

This fight is relatively cut and dry. If Cummins can take Cavalcante down with regularity- he wins. If ‘Feijao’ can revitalize his TDD and keep this fight standing this fight won’t even be close. Bader laid the blueprint for beating Rafael, shoot, make him work, and as he slows down the takedowns will come easier. Ryan did a good job of disguising his shot with strikes and Cummins will need to avoid shoot in recklessly. Cummins’s physicality and draining top game will be too much for a fighter known for his poor endurance and who also happens to be returning after a lengthy layoff- my prediction is Patrick Cummins to defeat Rafael Cavalcante by decision.

170lbs- Warlley Alves (9-0-0) vs Nordine Taleb (10-2-0)

TUF Brazil winner Warlley Alves fights Canada’s Nordine ‘The Machine ‘ Taleb in the Welterweight division. Taleb is undefeated through the first 3 fights of his Octagon career- most recently beating Chris Clements. Alves has yet to taste defeat, but he is coming off a controversial win over Alan Jouban.

Taleb is 2” taller and will have the same length reach advantage. Both men competed as Middleweights on their seasons of TUF. Alves is 10 years younger.

Alves is an aggressive forward motion fighter. He has won 4 times by submission as a pro- 2 by his signature guillotine. On the show he finished 2 of his 3 opponents, adding another guillotine choke. He blitzed Jouban early, hurting and nearly finishing him both via strikes and a tight sub attempt.

In the Jouban fight he slowed down tremendously after the initial flurry. He is 3-0 by decision and his cardio looked good in his debut, which might suggest he gassed against Jouban after pushing too hard to finish him early.

The Canadian has leaned heavily on his wrestling, completing 12 takedowns in just 3 fights at an impressive 85% completion rate. He has used a strong top game to mute the offensive output of his adversaries, limiting them to just 1.42 SpM. He did have some issues with the aggression of Li Jingliang, but demoed an effective pressure striking game by cutting off the cage versus Clements.

Competing on 2 different seasons of TUF, he lost both of his fights. He struggled with the pace of his opponents and slowed down as the fights progressed.

There are questions about how Alves’s cardio will hold up in a physically demanding fight. If Nordine is to capitalize on this problem he must cut of the cage and seamlessly incorporate his takedowns without pause. That could be difficult because Alves is not one to take a backward step. Warlley will make the appropriate adjustments after his last fight and his superior speed and power while fighting at home will be the difference- my prediction is Warlley Alves to defeat Nordine Taleb by submission.

135lbs- #13 Iuri Alcantara (31-6-0 1NC) vs Leandro Issa (13-4-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Iuri ‘Marajo’ Alcantara squares off with fellow Brazilian Leandro ‘Brodinho’ Issa. Issa has won back to back fights after falling to Russell Doane in his Octagon debut. Alcantara is coming of a troubling upset defeat to Frankie Saenz ending his 3 fight winning streak.

Alcantara is 2″ taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Issa is the younger man by 3 years.

Issa is a 3rd degree BJJ Black belt winning 9 times by submission. Both of his UFC wins are by tapout and he had surprising success out maneuvering Ulka Sasaki on the floor. His takedown percentage isn’t strong at just 28% and he has had to rely on his opponents to initiate the grappling exchanges. With a pair of knockout losses and a relatively pedestrian striking arsenal there is room for improvement when he is standing. He has been rocked in a couple of his fight and his striking exchange rate sits at almost even.

Doane slept him via triangle choke for the second submission defeat of his career.

‘Marajo’ has impressive finishing numbers by both submission (12) and knockout (13). He limits his opponents to less than 2 strikes per minute, but would benefit more from an increase in output. He has a bomb of a right hand, his kicking game is solid, and he will work in some knees as well.

The biggest knock on Alcantara has been his defensive wrestling. On top he is dangerous, but he has given up 16 takedowns in his last 5 fights. From his back he will look for subs, but against Saenz and Faber he was stifled.

If Issa can drag this fight to the mat with regularity he can replicate the issues that have plagued Alcantara in his recent losses. On the feet, its an entirely different fight. Issa struggled with the output of Jumabieke Tuerxun and was hurt in that fight and by Doane. Alcantara is much more dangerous. It is hard to look past his recent difficulties on the ground, but he will rebound here after a lackluster performance against Saenz- my prediction is Iuri Alcantara defeats Leandro Issa by TKO.

185lbs- Vitor Miranda (11-4-0) vs Clint Hester (11-4-0)

In the Middleweight division, Vitor ‘Lex Luthor’ Miranda takes on Clint ‘Headbussa’ Hester. After dropping the TUF Brazil final and his debut, Miranda rebounded with a 1st round knockout of Jake Collier. Hester started his UFC run with 4 straight wins, but was knocked out by Robert Whittaker in his last fight.

Hester is 1″ taller and 7 years younger. Miranda competed as a Heavyweight on his season of TUF.

Both men are striking based fighters- Miranda is a kickboxer and Hester comes from a boxing background. Each man has won 7 times by knockout. Hester is 4-3 in fights not ended by knockout and Miranda 3-4.

Miranda has a solid kicking game and took out Collier with a perfectly time head kick. He has recorded 6 of his 7 pro (T)KOs inside the first 5 minutes and won all 3 of TUF bouts via TKO. As a pro kickboxer he went 24-8 with 18 wins by knockout.

Hester has incorporated some wrestling into his offense and is a BJJ Purple belt, but averaging 3.78 SLpM his hands are his primary weapon. Only 3 of his knockouts have come inside he first 5 minutes. As a pro boxer he compiled a record of 3-3-1, winning and losing each twice by KO.

The American was soundly out-landed in his last bout and tends to open up too much when attacking. The accurate and more diverse striking of Miranda should be able to exploit the openings in Hester’s defense. ‘Headbussa’ might be best suited to use his wrestling to take advantage of the questionable defensive wrestling of his opponent. Miranda needs to uses his kicks to prevent Hester from getting into boxing range. Clint has a tendency to slow down in fights and if Vitor can maintain his volume and diversity it will carry well with the judges if they are needed. Home field advantage comes into play and Miranda increasingly gets the better of the exchanges as the fights plays out- my prediction is Vitor Miranda to defeat Clint Hester by TKO.

135lbs- Hugo Viana (8-3-0) vs Guido Cannetti (6-3-0)

The opening bout of the card takes place in the Bantamweight division and features Brazil’s Hugo ‘Wolverine’ Viana fighting Argentinian Guido ‘Ninja’ Cannetti. Viana fell to 3-2 in the UFC after a 3rd round TKO loss to Aljamain Sterling, he has just 1 win in his last 3 fights. Cannetti lost his debut to fellow TUF Latin America competitor Henry Briones, ending his 4 fight winning streak.

Cannetti will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. ‘Wolverine’ is 3 years younger. Viana has been on the shelf for just over a year.

A Black belt in Taekwondo and BJJ Brown belt, Viana has required the judges in all by 1 of his 8 victories. He averages 3.67 SLpM. He will lead with a left jab, sometimes doubling it up and following behind with a hard right hand. He will mix in a hard front kick to the body and can cover distance quickly when striking. He tends to be a little wild with his attack, unloading with flurries that can leave him open to be countered.

His 2 losses came against the current Bantamweight champion and a prospect on the rise in the aforementioned Sterling.

Juxtaposed to his opponent, Cannetti has yet to go to the scorecards. He has split his 6 wins evenly between submissions and knockouts. ‘Ninja’ is an aggressive striker- throwing a hard front kick along with a number of other strong kicking techniques. He is very aggressive, with even less concern for his defense than Viana. He will over-extend himself when attacking and frequently leaves his head unprotected, ultimately costing him the fight against Briones.

His debut marked the first time he has fought beyond the opening 5 minutes. He has been submitted twice.

Cannetti is an emotional fighter and could struggle under the pressure of fighting in hostile territory. His lack of deep fight experience does not bode well either, especially considering Viana is 7-0 in decisions. If he does survive the early action, look for him to slow down sometime in round 2. Viana throws hard and should be able to connect with regularity, countering Guido after he gets his timing down. Cannetti’s early aggression will open him up to take damage and in a longer fight he will be equally as vulnerable once he slows down- my prediction is Hugo Viana to defeat Guido Cannetti by TKO.

205lbs- #15 Gian Villante (13-5-0) vs Tom Lawlor (9-5-0 1NC)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Gian Villante takes on ‘Filthy’ Tom Lawlor to headline the undercard portion of the event. Villante has pieced together a 2 fight winning streak and is 3-1 in his last 4 fights. Lawlor has alternated wins and losses over 6 fights, most recently submitting Michael Kuiper.

Lawlor last fought in early 2013, a near 28 month layoff.

A former Heavyweight, Villante is 3″ taller than his adversary and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Lawlor is returning to the Light Heavyweight division where competed on the Ultimate Fighter and successfully won his debut, he went 4-4 as a Middleweight.

Villante’s UFC run has mirrored a similar path to his Strikeforce career where he started slow before putting some wins together. He is a big athletic fighter with knockout power (8 of 13 wins) and workable wrestling. His undoing has been his cardio and trouble with his opponents simply being busier when exchanging.

He averages 3.92 SLpM and 5.91 SApM.

An NCWA All-American wrestler and BJJ Purple belt, Lawlor is a scrappy fighter that mixes his takedowns and a brawling based striking attack. He averages just under 3 takedowns per fight, but completes only 31% of his attempts. He struggled with the much larger Francis Carmont, landing just 2 of 8 attempts and was routinely stuck in the clinch position for long periods of time.

Lawlor has won 4 times by submission, 3 by his signature guillotine choke.

The trendy pick around the MMA prediction world is to back Lawlor. Villante does leave a lot to be desired; despite his physical gifts. If Lawlor can push the pace and find some success with his wrestling he could take a decision. The impact from his layoff could be significant and prevent him from getting off to a strong start. The size and physicality of Villante could also create issues, specifically with Tom’s wrestling. Villante’s leg kicks will take away his movement, he will be the more impactful striker, and find some success with his own wrestling- my prediction is Gian Villante to defeat Tom Lawlor by decision.  

155lbs- Jim Miller (24-6-0 1NC) vs Danny Castillo (17-8-0)

In the Lightweight division, former top 15 ranked Jim Miller takes on Team Alpha Male’s Danny ‘Last Call’ Castillo. Miller has lost 2 in a row for the first time in his career, falling to Donald Cerrone and Beneil Dariush- he had lost just 2 in his previous 14 fights. Danny has also lost 2 in a row and 3 of his last 4, he is now 7-5 inside the Octagon.

Castillo will have a slight 1″ reach advantage and is 4 years older than Miller.

TAM’s Castillo is a BJJ Black belt and former NAIA wrestler. He averages 3.22 TDs at a 40% completion rate, while defending 68%. He has a smothering top game, with a 5-1 record when completing 2 or more takedowns- but he is just 2-4 with 1 takedown or less.

He has developed a serviceable secondary striking attack, highlighted by a heavy right hand. He knocked out Charlie Brenneman and dropped both Edson Barboza and Michael Johnson.

Also coming from a strong grappling pedigree, Miller holds a BJJ Black belt and is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler. He has 13 wins by submission, 6 in the UFC including tapping Charles Oliveira and BJJ Black belt Fabricio Camoes.

Miller has defended just 43% of his opponents’ TDAs and was taken down 5 times by Pat Healy, 7 by Benson Henderson, and twice in his last fight against Dariush.

If this fight is contested on the feet, Miller appears to be the more diversified striker, but Castillo carries a little more power. On the mat, Jim has had issues with getting taken down or relinquishing position for a submission attempt. His guard is active, but if he can’t lock something up he is losing the fight on his back. He has struggled of late with opponents that offer a heavy top game and that is what Castillo brings. Danny has been submitted twice, but both early in his career. Look for Danny to fend off the early sub attempts, control the action on the mat, and take over once Miller starts to slow down- my prediction is Danny Castillo to defeat Jim Miller by decision.

170lbs- Kenny Robertson (15-3-0) vs Ben Saunders (18-6-2)

In the Welterweight division, Kenny Robertson battles Ben ‘Killa B’ Saunders. Robertson has won 3 in a row and 4 of his last 5 fights- most recently knocking out Sultan Aliev. Saunders is riding a 2 fight winning streak and has lost just once in his last 6 fights- falling to the former Bellator Welterweight champion Douglas Lima.

Saunders is 4″ taller that Robertson and will have a 3″ reach advantage.

Robertson is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler with a pretty savvy submission game. He has tapped 6 opponents, including 2 in the UFC. Against Ildemar Alcantara, he landed a trio of takedowns and spent the majority of the fight in top position. His striking is still a work in progress, but he certainly showed his power in his last fight.

During his first stint in the UFC his 2 defeats came against top level wrestlers who were able to get the better of the takedown game.

With a 7-3 run in Bellator, Saunders appeared to turn his career around after a 1-3 stretch in the UFC sent him packing. He has a dangerous clinch game, landing brutal knees and elbows in close. He has won 9 times by knockout compared to a trio of losses. On the mat he has an exceptional submission repertoire, highlighted by an active guard which produced the first Omoplata win in UFC history.

A Black belt in BJJ, he is 6-0 in fights ending via submission. Unfortunately, he lacks a solid takedown game, relying on his opposition to put him on his back.

Saunders should have the advantage on the feet, but Robertson has made recent improvements and with 3 knockout losses Ben is far from invulnerable. The key to this fight should be the ground game. Ben has struggled with opponents that can routinely plant him on the mat. While he is incredibly dangerous off his back, if his opponent can neutralize his submission game it is a losing position for ‘Killa B’. Robertson is a good wrestler and a well-versed grappler. He should find increasing success with his top game, neutralize Ben on the mat, and wear him down as the fight progresses. Saunders has multiple avenues to win this fight, but Robertson gets the nod with a more positionally sound game plan- my prediction is Kenny Robertson to defeat Ben Saunders by decision.

135lbs- #6 Eddie Wineland (21-10-1) vs #12 Bryan Caraway (19-8-0)

In the Bantamweight division, former WEC champion Eddie Wineland returns to the cage to face ‘Kid Lightning’ Bryan Caraway. Wineland is coming off a knockout loss to Johnny Eduardo, but has won 3 of his last 5 fights. Caraway’s 2 fight winning streak ended against Raphael Assuncao, he had won 5 of his previous 6 outings.

Wineland last fought in May 2014, a 14 month layoff between fights. Caraway is 1″ taller, but the former champion will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

This matchup offers the prototypical grappler versus striker pairing. Wineland has won 11 times by knockout, while 17 of Caraway’s 19 wins have come by way of submission. Conversely, Eddie has lost 4 times by submission compared to Caraway’s 1 knockout defeat in his pro debut.

‘Kid Lightning’ averages 3.35 TDs at a 41% completion rate. He has landed 2 or more takedowns in 7 straight fights, including 2 on 8 tries against Assuncao. He comes from a wrestling background, authoring most of his TDAs either in the clinch or with a quick double leg from the outside.

Wineland has not given up a takedown in his last 6 fights and he stopped 9 of 11 TDAs from Urijah Faber.

His ability stay vertical allows him to utilize his unorthodox striking technique. He has a tendency to hang his hands low, but his quick footwork  and head movement makes him difficult to hit. He works his angles, moving in and out, and relying mainly on his boxing for the majority of his offense.

Caraway’s top game is smothering and when he can establish consistent top control he wins. In his last 2 defeats he has struggled to keep up on the feet, getting outlanded 142-76. Wineland has had a lot of success shutting down grapplers and getting the better of them on the feet. His footwork will make him difficult for Caraway to close on and his counter wrestling will keep him vertical when he does. Wineland gets the better of the striking exchanges, gets up if taken down, and my prediction is Eddie Wineland to defeat Bryan Caraway by decision. 

155lbs- Daron Cruickshank (16-6-0 1NC) vs James Krause (21-7-0)

In the Lightweight division, Daron ‘The Detroit Superstar’ Cruickshank squares off with James ‘The James Krause’ Krause. Cruickshank is coming off a loss to Beneil Dariush, he had only been defeated once in his previous 5 fights. Krause is currently riding a 2 fight losing streak after a split decision loss to Valmir Lazaro, he is now 2-3 in the UFC.

Krause will have a noteworthy 6″ height advantage, but just 1″ of reach.

A 2nd degree Taekwondo Black belt and NCAA D-3 wrestler, Cruickshank has won 9 times by knockout- 3 in the UFC. He has a solid kicking repertoire and compliments it with his wrestling. He landed 6 takedowns in his win over Anthony Njokuani.

His SApM and SLpM is almost even and Cruickshank’s struggles with forward pressure often give his opponent the advantage of appearing aggressive.

Krause’s big win total is derived from his grappling game. He submitted Sam Stout in his debut, the 13th of his career. He is a BJJ Brown belt and has an active guard, but his counter wrestling is a point of issue. He gave up multiple takedowns to both Stout and Masvidal and while he subbed Stout, spending too much time on his back cost him against Masvidal.

He is also a kick first fighter and similar to Cruickshank gets hit almost as much and he hits his opponents.

Both guys throw flashy kicking techniques, but based on the knockout numbers Cruickshank appears to have the more impactful strikes. Krause doesn’t implement the type of the forward pressure that has given Daron difficulties in the past, preferring to work at range. Conversely, look for Cruickshank to incorporate his wrestling and keep Krause planted on the mat for large durations of the bout. Krause could snatch a sub off his back, but if can’t he is losing the fight based on position- my prediction is Daron Cruickshank to defeat James Krause by decision.

155lbs- Ramsey Nijem (10-4-0) vs Andrew Holbrook (9-0-0)

In the Lightweight division, Ultimate Fighter Finalist Ramsey Nijem takes on late notice injury replacement Andrew Holbrook. Nijem was last seen on the wrong end of a TKO defeat against Carlos Diego Ferreira, halting his 2 fight winning streak. Holbrook has yet to taste defeat, most recently beating former WSOF employee Ramico Blackmon.

Holbrook is replacing Erik Koch on roughly 1 month’s notice, he last fought in late March. Both men stand 5’11”, but Ramsey will have a 4″ reach advantage and is 2 years younger. He last fought 11 months ago.

Prior to facing Blackmon, Holbrook’s previous 3 opponents were a combined 21-23.

Nijem is a flawed fighter. He has been knocked out 3 times and submissions have accounted for his other 2 losses. He leaves his chin elevated and exposed and becomes more defensively flawed the more aggressive he gets. What he does well is wrestle and work from top position. He has a smothering top game and can offer submissions should the situation present itself.

He averages 5.17 TDs at a 57% completion rate.

Hoolbrook is a submission fighter, with all 9 of his wins coming via tap out. Included in this list are a pair of submissions due to strikes, but he also has a trio of guillotine wins, and appears to prefer some form of choke. He has a pretty crafty ground game and was threating with various subs until the finish against Blackmon. His wrestling at this level is a bit of an unknown as the majority of the grappling exchanges were initiated by his opponent.

He does have a little boxing experience, but his striking is a work in progress and far from his central focus.

Coming in on short notice to make his debut and making a significant step up in competition all at the same time is difficult. Additionally, Holbrook has gone beyond the first round just once in his 9 pro bouts- so a longer fight is certainly not to his advantage. Nijem’s wrestling first approach will give Holbrook opportunities to grapple, but as the fight progresses the newcomer will slow significantly. Nijem does have some defensive holes, but the window for them to be capitalized on closes quickly after the first 5 minutes. Nijem grinds down his foe with a heavy top game, landing ground and pound until an opening to finish materializes- my prediction is Ramsey Nijem to defeat Andrew Holbrook by submission.

155lbs- Jessamyn Duke (3-2-0 1NC) vs Elizabeth Phillips (4-3-0)

The second fight of the night features Jessamyn ‘The Gun’ Duke taking on Elizabeth Phillips. Duke has lost back to back fights against Leslie Smith and title challenger Bethe Correia. Phillips fell to Valerie Letourneau in her debut and than lost a contentious split decision to Milana Dudieva in her next fight.

This will mark the second time these two have met. Duke submitted Phillips in the second round of a 2012 amateur bout under the RFA banner.

Duke is 5″ taller and will have a marked 8″ reach advantage. Both girls have been on the shelf for a prolonged period of time; Duke just over 12 months and Phillips 11.

Duke has had difficulty utilizing her above average length. In each of her last two fights, her opponents were able to routinely close the distance and either be the busier striker or the more impactful. She is also a BJJ Purple belt, earning a single sub as a pro along with 4 as an amateur.

Back to back split decision losses has been tough for Phillips- she slowed down tremendously in her short notice debut and was robbed on the scorecards in her second fight. She is well rounded, with solid top game and heavy handed submission arsenal.

She landed a strong right hand in her debut, visibly damaging her opponent’s eye and used her counter wrestling to routinely work to top position against Dudieva.

Duke has shown some signs of working her jab to keep her opponent on the outside. If she can keep Phillips on the outside, that is her key to victory. Elizabeth is aggressive and throws hard. She did have issues with Dudieva taking her down from the clinch, but Duke’s height could make it difficult for her to get low enough to score the takedown. Phillips cardio holding up over the duration of the bout is crucial, but my prediction is Elizabeth Phillips to defeat Jessamyn Duke by TKO.

170lbs- Zak Cummings (17-4-0) vs Dominique Steele (13-5-0)

To get the card started, Zak Cummings takes on promotional newcomer Dominique Steele. Cummings lost for the first time in the UFC last July against Gunnar Nelson, ending a 4 fight winning streak. Steele has won 2 in a row and 7 of his last 8.

Steele is filling in on 2 weeks notice for the withdrawn Antonio Braga Neto. By bell time, just 6 weeks will have elapsed since his last fight. Cummings has been out of action for just over a year, losing to Nelson last July.

Cummings will be 2″ taller and have a 1″ reach advantage. Steele is 4 years younger. Cummings has had issues making the cut to Welterweight, formerly competing as a Middleweight and Light Heavyweight. He came in 8 pounds over for his 2014 bout with Alberto Mina. Mina withdrew.

The newcomer is a physically strong fighter. He will wrestle, but his success is based more in strength than technique. He has serviceable boxing, but tends to attack in straight lines and uses minimal footwork. His overall game is diminished by his lack of speed and as a result he is quite hittable and can be taken down.

Steele has had short stints in both Bellator and Strikeforce. He lost a 2012 decision to WSOF Middleweight champion David Branch.

Cummings’s method of operation centers around his ground game. He is a solid wrestler and BJJ Brown belt. 9 of his 17 wins have come by submission, including tapping Benny Alloway via D’Arce choke in his Octagon debut. He defeated BJJ ace Yan Cabral, defending his submission attempts and eventually taking control of the action on the mat.

His striking is serviceable, but it is mainly built around setting up his ground game.

Steele is the better athlete and Cummings’s weight cutting issues are a concern. It would appear that he has got it under control in his last 2 fights, but the year long layoff could recreate some issues. If Steele can stay vertical he could win a striking battle, but he has had issues with his defensive wrestling. Cummings is the vastly superior ground fighter and will be able to take Steele down and keep him down. Look for Cummings to break him down with his heavy top game and start searching for submissions once he establishes full control- my prediction is Zak Cummings to defeat Dominique Steele by submission.

125lbs- Paddy Holohan (11-1-1) vs Vaughan Lee (14-10-1)

Headlining the preliminary fights, Ireland’s Paddy Holohan prepares for war in a border battle against England’s Vaughan Lee. Holohan rebounded from the 1st loss of his career with a decision win over Shane Howell- he is 2-1 in the UFC. Lee has alternated wins and losses since his 2011 UFC debut, most recently falling to Yuri Alcantara by knockout in just 25 seconds.

Lee is making his Flyweight debut, cutting to 125 pounds for the 1st time in his career. Despite the divisional change, Holohan will be the taller man by 4″ and have a 3″ reach advantage. He is also 6 years younger.

The ground game has been the primary source of Holohan’s success. A BJJ Purple belt, he owns 8 wins by submission, including tapping Josh Sampo in is debut. With 4 wins by RNC, he knows how to use his above average reach to lock up chokes.

He averages 2.72 TDs @ 54%.

The Brit brings with him some discouraging numbers. Of his 10 losses, he has been knocked out 3 times and submitted on 6 occasions. Nonetheless, he does own a pretty solid striking repertoire averaging 3.9 SLpM and he is also a capable ground fighter.

Lee’s UFC losses have been against elite talent including TJ. Dillashaw, Raphael Assuncao, Yuri Alcantara, and recent Flyweight title challenger Chris Cariaso.

Clearly the submission numbers on both sides favour Holohan, if he is able to get in a position to use them. Lee has had success defending TDAs against top level Bantamweights (72% TDD) and Holohan’s height should make the level change more difficult. Lee is the superior striker- possessing good boxing, a nice array of kicks, and solid footwork. While the weight cut is concerning, he appears to be physically more suited for the Flyweight division. Lee’s speed, footwork, and solid TDD will prevent Paddy from utilizing his grappling game while he gets the better of the striking exchanges, so my prediction is Vaughan Lee to defeat Patrick Holohan by decision.

205lbs- Ilir Latifi (10-4-0 1NC) vs Hans Stringer (22-6-3)

European Light Heavyweights square off when Sweden’s Ilir ‘The Sledgehammer’ Latifi takes on the Netherland’s Hans Stringer. Latifi is coming off a TKO loss to Jan Blachowicz leveling his UFC record at 2-2. Stringer made back to back appearance in Brazil to start his Octagon run, falling to 1-1 after a TKO loss to Fabio Maldonado.

The Dutch fighter will stand 6’3″, 5″ taller then Latifi, but they will have an identical reach. Stringer is 4 years younger.

Latifi comes from a wrestling background and has a decent submission game accounting for a quartet of wins. He subbed Cyrille Diabate via Ninja Choke. His top game is built around thunderous GnP creating openings for his submission, if he can’t bring the stoppage via damage.

He is a training partner of top ranked LHW Alexander Gustafsson.

With a 77% finishing rate over 22 wins (9 knockouts and 8 submissions), Stringer knows how to finish and can do so in multiple ways. The majority of his wins have come on the mat and he was able to score a trio of takedowns against Fabio before gassing out.

Stringer has had cardio issues in both his UFC bouts, costing him the fight against Maldonado. Dealing with the heat in Brazil can be tough, but he has shown similar issues pre-UFC and 4 of his 7 losses have come after the opening round.

This bout could go one of 2 ways. Either it is a constant struggle for both men to establish their wrestling game or it turns into a sloppy kickboxing battle. Latifi’s hulking frame and lower center of gravity will make it harder for Stringer to change levels and take him down. Additionally, the impact of trying to grapple a physically strong opponent will expose Stringer’s cardio problems. Latifi uses his strength and power to break down his foe, attacking with a sub or GNP once he begins to tire- my prediction is Ilir Latifi to defeat Hans Stringer by TKO.

155lbs- Mickael Lebout (13-4-1 1NC) vs Teemu Packalen (7-0-0)

In the Lightweight division, Mickael ‘Ragnar’ Lebout of France meets Finland’s Teemu Packalen. Lebout dropped his UFC debut to Sergio Moraes, ending his 6 fight winning streak. Packalen has yet to taste defeat through his first 7 pro bouts, ending all 7 fights inside the distance.

Packalen is replacing Jake Matthews who withdrew due to injury. Lebout has traditionally fought at Welterweight, where he debuted, but is moving to Lightweight for this bout. The Fin took the fight on 9 days notice. He is 2″ taller then Lebout, but will give up 1″ of reach.

With 5 wins coming by submission, and all 5 wins coming by different techniques- Packalen’s focus will be on dragging this fight to the mat. His striking is fairly basic, throwing mainly single strikes. On the mat he has a strong transitions game and maintain a good top control while in pursuit of a submission. He has finished all but 2 of his wins inside the opening round and never gone beyond the second frame.

His last 3 opponents have a combined 30-25 record.

The Frenchman has a similar submission heavy win total with 6 of his 13 wins coming by tapout. Armbars have accounted for 50% of those wins. His striking is serviceable, but he seems to get drawn into primarily grappling based fights. He was taken down twice on 3 attempts by Moraes and has some questionable TDD overall.

With Packalen making his debut on short notice and LeBout cutting down to Lightweight for the first time both fighters have potentially performance complicating issues they need to overcome. ‘Ragnar’ should have a slight edge on the feet, unless cutting to 155 puts him at a severe speed disadvantage. What this fight should come down to is the grappling exchanges. Packalen is pretty good on the ground and even though Lebout is tough to submit- if he is on his back defending, he is losing the fight. Look for some closely contested vertical battles, with the Fin landing some crucial ground control time- my prediction is Teemu Packalen to defeat Mickael Lebout by decision.

145lbs- Rob Whiteford (11-2-0) vs Paul Redmond (10-5-0)

Host Scotland will be represented by Rob ‘The Hammer’ Whiteford when he takes on Ireland’s Paul ‘Redser’ Redmond in the Featherweight division. Whiteford earned an upset win over Daniel Pineda in last fight after dropping his short notice debut to Jimy Hettes. Redmond also took his debut on short notice and lost a wide decision to surging prospect Mirsad Bektic.

Whiteford hasn’t seen action in almost 18 months. Redmond will be 1″ taller and have a 1″ reach advantage. He is also 3 years younger.

‘Redser’ is a pressure based striker, working his boxing while constantly coming forward. He has 5 wins by knockout and primarily relies on his boxing. He also has a 4 pack of submission wins, interestingly enough 3 have come by toe hold. In his debut he spent the majority of the fight on his back taking damage against a superior ground fighter.

Prior to his debut, all 4 of his losses had come by stoppage; 3 submissions and 1 TKO.

A Judo practitioner, Whiteford showed his capable ground skills in his last fight landing 5 takedowns and holding lengthy top control. He has just a single submission win via punches, and overall his record would suggest he is primarily a striker with 5 wins coming by knockout. He keeps his striking simple, throwing a stout 1-2 and working in his leg kicks.

This should materialize as a pretty scrappy fight. Both guys are willing to push forward and trade on the feet. Redmond’s aggressive style could give him a slight edge if he can command the center of the cage. Conversely, his forward motion will walk him directly into the level changes and takedowns of his opponent. The Scot was quite successful shutting down the crafty grappling game of Pineda and should have similar success here. The layoff is a concern, but he will be fighting at home which should give him an added edge- my prediction is Robert Whiteford to defeat Paul Redmond by decision.

135lbs- Marcus Brimage (7-4-0) vs Jimmie Rivera (16-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Marcus ‘The Bama Beast’ Brimage takes on late injury replacement Jimmie ‘El Terror’ Rivera. Brimage is coming off a loss to Cody Garbrandt to even his Bantamweight record at 1-1- he has just a single win in his last 4 fights. Rivera has won an impressive 15 straight fights, winning bouts in Bellator, WSOF, and ROC where he was the Bantamweight champion.

River is replacing Ian Entwistle on roughly 2 weeks notice. Both fighters are 5’4″, but Brimage will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. Rivera is 4 years his junior.

The UFC newcomer has a decision heavy win total, earning 11 of 16 wins on the scorecards. ‘El Terror’ works a crisp striking attack, sitting in the pocket and landing quick combinations. He will mix in some decent leg kicks, target the body, and counter when at distance.

Rivera had a good High school wrestling career and works pretty well from top position.

Brimage’s success largely hinges on his striking. He has won 3 times by knockout, but has lost a pair of fights to Conor McGregor and Cody Garbrandt by knockout. Against Russell Doane he showcased a strong kicking game, landing 16 of 20 leg strikes thrown and visibly injuring his foe’s leg.

Rivera should have the speed advantage and he is the more diversified striker. His ability to switch gears and work his wrestling will serve to keep Brimage focused on defending 2 separate fronts. Brimage’s power carried over well in his Bantamweight debut, but against more capable strikers like Garbrandt and Rivera he will be hard-pressed to land with consistency. Rivera will be too fast for Brimage, getting the better of the striking exchanges and scoring a takedown when appropriate- my prediction is Jimmie Rivera to defeat Marcus Brimage by decision.

265lbs- Daniel Omielanczuk (16-5-1 1NC) vs Chris De La Rocha (3-0-0)

To get the morning’s action started, Daniel Omielanczuk meets UFC newcomer and promotional debutant Chris De La Rocha in the Heavyweight division. Omielanczuk is in a 2 fight losing slump after winning his debut, he has been beaten by Jared Rosholt and Anthony Hamilton. De La Rocha is coming off a knockout win over Bellator and WSOF veteran DJ Linderman.

Konstantin Erokhin was initially slated to face Omielanczuk until he withdrew and De Le Rocha stepped in with about 3 weeks to prepare.

The American is 3″ taller and will have a 6″ reach advantage. He should be the slightly heavier fighter, but is 3 years older than his opponent.

De La Rocha’s MMA game is pretty raw, but he is a solid athlete and willing to engage. Against Linderman, he stood in pocket and exchanged heavy leather, eventually landing the finishing blow. Normally, he builds most of his success around his ground game. His wrestling is a work in progress, but his size and ability to do damage or attack with submissions makes him a constant threat on from top position.

With a considerable experience advantage, Omielanczuk is a far more finished product. He has 9 wins by submission, but his recent struggles have been primarily on the mat. He has given up a combined 6 takedowns over his last 2 fights and even had issues on the floor in his debut win.

He has just a pair of knockout, but will throws some decent kicks and isn’t afraid to stand and trade.

Omielanczuk could be facing the end of his UFC run with another loss. His cardio has been a major question mark and his inability to get off his back once being planted there is equally as concerning. De La Rocha’s size and athleticism could give Omielanczuk a lot of issues. His willingness to throw hands will push Omielanczuk and potentially create opportunities for De La Rocha to take the fight to the mat. This won’t be a pretty fight and backing a fighter with minimal experience on short notice is a massive risk, but my prediction is Chris De La Rocha to defeat Daniel Omielanczuk by TKO.

135lbs- Scott Jorgensen (15-10-0) vs Manny Gamburyan (17-9-0)

In a bout promoted to the main card, Scott Jorgensen makes his return to the Bantamweight division when he takes on Manvel ‘the Anvil’ Gamburyan. Jorgensen is coming off a loss to Wilson Reis capping a 1-3 run at Flyweight- he is 2-6 in his last 8 fights. Gamburyan earned a submission win over Cody Gibson in his 135 pound debut, improving his record to 3-1-0 1NC over his last 5 fights.

Jorgensen, a former WEC Bantamweight title challenger is returning to the division for the first time since mid-2013. Gamburyan is fighting for the second time at 135 pounds.

They both stand 5’5″, but Manny will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

A 3rd Dan Black belt in Judo and BJJ Purple belt, Gamburyan is 7-1 in fights ending by submission. His signature sub is the guillotine choke, accounting for 4 of his wins. He lands 3.23 takedowns per fight at a 38% completion rate while defending 70% of his opponent’s tries.

Scotty is also a grappling based fighter- an NCAA Division 1 wrestler and BJJ Purple belt. He has landed 20 takedowns in his last 4 wins, but he has struggled of late to find success with his wrestling conceding the takedown battle by a count of 12-2 over his last 4 defeats.

Jorgensen could experience a bit of physical boost not having to cut down to 125 pounds, but his durability is still a major question mark. He has been rocked several times of late and his submission defense appears to be lacking. Manny has the ability to make him tap and while he isn’t an overly technical striker he still throws hard enough to inflict damage. Look for Manny to shutdown Scotty’s wrestling, score a few takedowns of his own, and do some damage with his striking- my prediction is Manny Gamburyan to defeat Scott Jorgensen by submission.

145lbs- Sam Sicilia (14-5-0) vs Yaotzin Meza (20-10-0 1NC)

The fight that will headline the prelims features Sam Sicilia taking on Yaotzin Meza in the Featherweight division. Meza took a decision win over Damian Stasiak for his second UFC win, he is now 2-2-0 1NC in the UFC. Sicilia has been alternating wins and losses over his last 6 fights, most recently knocking out Akira Corassani.

Meza will stand 1″ taller, but he will have a marked 7″ reach advantage. Sicilia is 5 years younger.

The former TUF contestant is known for his power punching based attack. He has won 8 times by knockout, including 3 of his 4 UFC wins. He has averaged 3.13 SLpM compared to a concerning 3.62 SApM. He has shown improvements of late getting the better of the exchanges in 4 of his last 5 fights.

Meza’s success has been the product of his grappling skills. He has 7 wins by submission, 1 in the UFC, and earned his win over Stasiak largely on takedowns and ground control. His durability is a bit of a question mark as he has been stopped in 6 of his 9 losses- 3 subs and 3 TKO/KOs.

With 3 of Sicilia’s 5 losses coming by submission, Meza’s focus should be on putting him on the mat. Unfortunately, the MMA Lab member has had limited success with his takedowns landing just 1.37 per fight at a 38% completion. He largely relies on his adversary to engage him in close and then try to turn the grappling exchange in his favour. Sam’s TDD is respectable at 60% and his striking heavy focus should aid him here. Look for Sam to sprawl and brawl his way to victory, backing up Meza with his power and eventually landing a big shot- my prediction is Sam Sicilia to defeat Yaotzin Meza by TKO.

135lbs- #13 Jessica Andrade (12-4-0) vs Sarah Moras (4-2-0)

Women’s Bantamweights collide as Jessica Andrade takes on Canadian Sarah Moras. Andrade is coming off an upset loss to main card competitor Marion Reneau, ending a 3 fight winning streak. Moras made a successful UFC debut besting Alexis Dufresne by decision and also owns a 2012 TKO stoppage of Julianna Pena.

The Canadian hasn’t fought in a year plus a week, making for a long layoff following her debut. She will stand 6″ taller and have a 5″ reach advantage over Andrade.

Andrade is a bulldog, carrying a torrid striking pace of 6.76 SLpM. He owns 4 wins by knockout and blasted Rosi Sexton pillar to post on route to a decision win. She is equally as dangerous on the mat with 6 wins by sub, 5 by her signature guillotine.

Moras, a TUF 18 semi-finalist, gain some significant experience on the show beyond the 6 pro bouts on her record. A grappling first fighter, despite owning just a single submission win, she also tapped Peggy Moran in the TUF quarter-finals. She won her debut primarily on her work from her back, as her opponent routinely took her down but did nothing from the top.

Moras appears to have some issues with her defensive wrestling. She was routinely taking down by Dufresne who was extremely exhausted and she has struggled in other fights in similar fashion. Andrade should have the advantage on the feet with her aggressive high output attack forcing Sarah to routinely backup. Moras’s size could be a factor, but it could also work against her with Andrade able to establish a lower base in pursuit of the takedown. Andrade made a mistake her last fight and should motivated to return to the win column, so my prediction is Jessica Andrade to defeat Sarah Moras by submission.

135lbs- Rani Yahya (20-8-0 1NC) vs Masanori Kanehara (24-11-5)

In the Bantamweight division, Rani Yahya squares off with Sengoku veteran Masanori Kanehara. Yahya ended a 2 fight saga with Johnny Bedford, following up a No Contest with a 2nd round submission win- he has won 4 of his last 6 fights. Kanehara debuted with a win over Alex Caceres and baring a disqualification loss he could be riding an 8 fight winning streak.

Both fighters are returning to action after roughly 10 months on the shelf. This will be the Brazilian’s 3rd fight back at 135 pounds, he went 4-2 as a UFC Featherweight.

Kanehara presents a well rounded attack. A BJJ Black belt with 10 wins by submission, he has also recorded 8 wins by knockout. Demoing his striking power in his debut, he tagged and backed up Caceres on a couple of occasions. He has amassed a significant number of knockout (4) and submissions (3) losses over his career which is bit concerning.

More of a specialist, Yahya’s focus will be on grappling. He is a talent ground fighter with 16 of his 20 wins coming by way of submissions. A 2nd degree BJJ Black belt, the Brazilian utilizes a wide variety of arm and choke based submissions. At 2.88 takedowns per fight, 1 completion is often enough to setup a submission or establish lengthy top control.

This fight really comes down to whether or not Yahya can take Kanehara down and keep him down. Against Bedford, as soon as he was able to tie up he started working towards an advantageous position. Even if he can’t score a takedown, is ability to pull guard and than sweep makes him a constant threat. Kanehara should get the better of the striking, but is tendency to stand very upright will make him an easy target for Rani to shoot on. The East to West travel factor for Kanehara is a concern, as so is his 3 submission losses, so my prediction is Rani Yahya to defeat Masanori Kanehara by submission.

170lbs- Igor Araujo (25-7-0 1NC) vs Sean Strickland (15-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, Igor Araujo takes on Sean ‘Tarzan’ Strickland. Araujo fell to George Sullivan in his most recent outing, the first loss of his UFC career and ending his 6 fight winning streak as well. Strickland is also coming off a loss, the first of his career, dropping his UFC record to 2-1.

The Brazilian will hold a slight 1″ reach advantage, both men stand 6’1″, and Strickland is 11 years younger. ‘Tarzan’ will be competing at 170 pounds for the second time in his career.

His takedown numbers have not been good (1.18 @ 18%), but Araujo is a BJJ Black belt with 17 of 25 wins coming by submission- 7 by armbar. With minimal takedown success, he has made up for it by using his opponents’ willingness to grapple and then orchestrating sweeps and counters.

Strickland is well-rounded and an overall solid athlete. He is a competent grappler with a quartet of submissions, but he would be best served to avoid the mat game at all costs. The biggest knock on Strickland has been his lack of activity in his last 2 fights, where he was primarily stuck on the outside and allowed his opponent to be busier.

There are several x-factors at play in this fight. At 34 years old and with 33 fights, Araujo is in the twilight of his career. He is also returning after 10 months on the shelf and there are some questions about his chin with 3 losses by knockout. Strickland is fighting for the second time at Welterweight so he should be more acclimatized to the weightclass and required cut. He is also coming off the first loss of his career, which can revitalize a fighter by forcing them to address potential issues. Strickland can not allow Araujo to drag him into a grappling bout. Look for the American to use his jab and movement to maintain distance and eventually open up as Igor becomes more desperate to get the fight to the floor- my prediction is Sean Strickland to defeat Igor Araujo by TKO.

185lbs- Kevin Casey (9-3-0) vs Ildemar Alcantara (21-7-0)

Fight #2 of the prelims takes place in the Middleweight division as ‘King’ Kevin Casey returns to action against Ildemar ‘Marajó’ Alcantara. Casey is coming off a win turned ‘No Contest’ over Bubba Bush that temporarily extended his winning streak to 4 in a row. Alcantara was last seen earning a split decision win over Richardson Moreira, improving his UFC record to 4-2.

Casey has been out of action for just over a year after failing a drug test and being suspended as a result.

Alcantara is 3″ taller and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. He is fighting for the second time at Middleweight after fighting 4 times at 170 pounds.

A BJJ Black belt, Casey’s success largely hinges on his ground game. He has a trio of submission wins and a couple top position TKOs. He also picked up a RNC victory in his only TUF 17 win. He is 3-3 in fights ending via knockout.

Alcantara melds together a pretty well-rounded attack. He has recorded 10 wins by knockout along with 6 submission wins. He is also a BJJ Black belt, averaging 2.36 takedowns at a 68% completion rate.

Casey has just a single win after the 1st round, which happened back in 2008. His gas tanked is pretty questionable and coming off a year long layoff it most likely won’t be any better. Alcantara’s defensive wrestling has been pretty decent and he has yet to be submitted over 28 fights. On the feet, he will have a marked advantage. Casey could catch a quick submission, but even if he is able to control the early action on the mat all indications are that he will fade as the fight progresses. Alcantara will be cautious early on, force Casey to work hard for his takedowns, and wear him out in the process- my prediction is Ildemar Alcantara to defeat Kevin Casey by TKO.

170lbs- Andrew Craig (9-3-0) vs Lyman Good (18-3-0 1NC)

In the opening bout of the night, Andrew Craig takes on UFC debutant and former Bellator champion Lyman Good. Craig has lost back to back bouts and has just a single UFC win in his last 4 fights. Good has won 4 of his last 5, including a submission win over Nah-Shon Burrell- the only blemish during his current run is a 2014 No Contest.

Good is replacing the injured Edgar Garcia with roughly 3 weeks to prep. He last fought just 2 months ago.

Craig is returning after a 13 month layoff and is making his Welterweight debut. He will have a 1″ height advantage and 3″ reach advantage.

Finishing his Bellator run with an 8-3 record, Good has a solid record with 8 wins by knockout and 3 submission. He has some kickboxing experience and is a capable ground fighter. Competing at 185 pounds on TUF 19, he lost in the elimination round. His defeat was largely the result his struggles to defend against his opponent’s wrestling.

Craig doesn’t appear to have any one dominant skillset. He has 3 wins by knockout compared to just a single submission and a 5-2 record in decisions. With a -0.23 striking exchange rate, he has had trouble keeping pace with opponents on the feet and has only found minimal success on the mat. He is a BJJ Brown belt.

Good is debuting on short notice and Craig is cutting down a division after a 13 month layoff. Both can be difficult scenarios. With Good a veteran fighter that has recently fought, he should be impacted less. Craig has had issues with fighters putting him on his back and keeping him there. He has also struggled at times with more dynamic strikers. Good has the skills to replicate those struggles. Craig needs to turn this bout into a brawl, but concerns with how is body will respond at the new weight could prevent that. Good remains busier on the feet and holds some key top control time- my prediction is Lyman Good to defeat Andrew Craig by decision.

135lbs- Russell Doane (14-4-0) vs Jerrod Sanders (14-3-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Russell Doane makes his 4th UFC appearance when he meets Jerrod Sanders. Doane is coming off a controversial loss to Yuri Alcantara, ending his 3 fight winning streak. Sanders has gone 0-2 in the UFC, falling via 39 second submission to Pedro Munhoz in his last appearance.

Sanders will stand 1″ taller with a 2″ reach advantage. Doane is 7 years younger.

This bout will be Sanders 2nd cut to 135 pounds, but his first fight at 135 pounds was so short there are still a lot of questions regarding how the cut will impact him.

Doane has finishes in 11 of his 14 wins; 6 by knockout and 5 by submission including an impressive technical sub over BJJ Black belt Leandro Issa in his debut.

This bout will most likely come down whether or not Sanders can take Doane down with consistency. Doane has been taken down 6 times over 3 UFC fights, but has defended 62% of his opponents’ attempts. He is a good scrambler and has a pretty decent counter wrestling game. Doane will make Sanders work for his takedowns and tire him out in the process. Look for Doane to get the better of the striking and have more success with his own ground game as the fight progressed, my prediction is Russell Doane to defeat Jerrod Sanders by submission.

125lbs- Darrell Montague (13-4-0) vs Willie Gates (11-5-0)

Both men enter the cage in search of their 1st UFC victory as Darrell ‘The Mongoose’ Montague battles Willie Gates in the Flyweight division. Montague has lost to a pair of title challengers in Kyoji Horiguchi and John Dodson- he had won 4 straight prior to entering the UFC. Gates took his debut on short notice and lost in the 3rd round by sub to another former title challenger in John Moraga- he had won 5 straight.

Gates is a big Flyweight and will be 4″ taller then Montague with a 5″ reach advantage.

Montague is a wrestle-boxer type fighter. He has a decent striking repertoire with 5 wins by knockout, but he has struggled in his 2 UFC bouts to implement his wrestling game. His chin is a bit of question mark with 2 knockouts on record and he was badly hurt by Horiguchi.

Gates entered the UFC with 5 straight 1st round finishes, 3 by sub and a pair of knockouts. He showcased fast hands in his debut and offers a varied striking attack. He does have issues on the mat, getting subbed 3 times and his defensive wrestling appears to be a weak point.

The size certainly favours Gates, but it has been speed that has given Montague problems. He will be the faster fighter here and should also be more technically sound. Montague moves well and his leg kicks will aid him in dealing with the reach. The biggest key to his success will be his wrestling. Gates had no answer for Moraga on the mat and Montague showed excellent timing catching Horiguchi coming forward for a takedown. If Gates can land flush he could score the knockout, but my prediction is Darrel Montague to defeat Willie Gates by submission.

185lbs- Josh Samman (11-2-0) vs Caio Magalhaes (9-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Josh Samman takes on Brazil’s Caio ‘Hellboy’ Magalhaes. Samman has won 3 in a row, including both his UFC fights- most recently KOing Eddie Gordon. Magalhaes’s last 2 wins have taken just 75 second and with back to back knockouts of Trevor Smith and Luke Zachrich- he is 4-1 inside the Octagon.

Samman will stand 2” taller with a sizeable 6” reach advantage.

A BJJ Black belt, ‘Hellboy’ has split his 9 wins evenly between knockouts, subs, and decisions. He has landed just 15% of his TDAs and his SLpM and SApM currently sit event at 2.56.

Samman made his return to action after a 20 month layoff due to a nasty hamstring injury. He is a BJJ Brown belt, but has won 7 fights by knockout compared to just 3 by submission. He picked up a pair of knockouts and a submission on his TUF 17 run.

Magalhaes has been the beneficiary of a couple fortunate scenarios- where he was being beaten and than his adversary self-imploded. He throws primarily stiff power strikes and while it has worked recently, that style doesn’t hold up well over a longer fight. Samman is the superior athlete, the more technically capable striker, and he will be more comfortable without the long layoff. Samman needs to survive the early onslaught, but as the fight progresses Magalhaes will fade and Josh will find increasing success capitalizing on his adversary’s defensive striking issues, so my prediction is Josh Samman to defeat Caio Magalhaes by knockout.

185lbs- Dan Miller (14-7-0) vs Trevor Smith (12-6-0)

The first of 2 Middleweight bouts on the card, Dan Miller returns to the division to take on Strikeforce alumni Trevor ‘Hot Sauce’ Smith. Miller has just 3 wins in his last 9 fights and went 1-1 as a Welterweight losing his last fight to Jordan Mein via TKO. Smith is coming off a KO loss to fellow undercarder Caio Magalhaes and is 2-3 since making the jump from the Hexagon.

Miller has been out of action for 28 months and has only fought twice since mid 2011. Smith is 3” taller and will have a 1” reach advantage.

A BJJ Black belt, Miller has won 9 times by submission. Unfortunately, he has lost the takedown battle in 6 of his last 9 fights- averaging 1.86 TDs for his career. He is 5-7 in fights that don’t involve a sub and is 1-5 in his last 6 fights to go to decision.

‘Hot Sauce’ shares a similar profile; solid grappler, NCAA D-1 wrestler, 9 wins by submission, 3-5 when unable to tap his foe. He showed in the Herman fight he is capable of trading on the feet, but with 4 losses by knockout he is at risk when opting to stand and trade.

For the most part, Smith’s chin has been his undoing- but Miller really hasn’t shown he has the ability to capitalize on it. Additionally, the 28 month layoff is a major concern, even more so when considering that Smith has fought 5 times in that span. Smith should be the busier fighter on the feet and his size and wrestling will give him the edge in takedowns and top control, so my prediction is Trevor Smith to defeat Dan Miller by decision.

145lbs-Maximo Blanco (11-6-1 1NC) vs Mike De La Torre (13-4-0 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, Maximo ‘Maxi’ Blanco battles Mike ‘El Cucuy’ De La Torre. Blanco has won back to back fights over Dan Hooker and Andy Ogle to improve his overall UFC record to 3-3. De La Torre is fresh off his 1st UFC victory, knocking out Tiago Trator- he lost his debut to Mark Bocek and was submitted by Brian Ortega which was overturned to a No Contest.

‘El CuCuy’ will have a 3″ height advantage, while they will have an identical 71″ reach. Blanco is 3 years older.

Averaging 4.08 SLpM, Blanco is a dangerous striker with 7 wins by knockout. He also has a strong wrestling background landing 10 takedowns over his last 5 bouts and defending 63% of his adversaries’ TDAs.

Despite 6 wins by tapout and holding a BJJ Blue belt, De La Torre has had some issues on the floor. He has been tapped out 3 times (unofficially 4 with the Ortega NC) and was taken down 3 times by Bocek and failed to create the adequate separation.

The American is a strong striker with 6 wins by knockout and would be best served by keeping this fight standing. Blanco will be more than willing to engage him on the feet, throwing a lot of unorthodox techniques with significant power. He does tend to get a little wild at times which could create openings to take damage, but it can also make his onslaught difficult to endure. Ultimately, De La Torre has had difficulty with strong wrestlers and Blanco should be able to replicate these issues. By establishing his takedowns, Blanco will also stunt the output of his opponent on the feet, so my prediction is Maximo Blanco to defeat Mike De La Torre by decision.

170lbs- George Sullivan (16-4-0) vs Dominic Waters (9-2-0)

To get the evening’s action started, George ‘The Silencer’ Sullivan returns to the cage against short notice replacement Dominic ‘Sho Nuff’ Waters. Sullivan lost for the 1st time in the UFC, falling via submission to Tim Means which ended his 8 fight winning streak. Waters has won 3 in a row, including bouts under the WSOF and RFA banners.

Sullivan is replacing Marcio Alexandre Jr on just over a week’s notice. He last fought in late March and has already fought twice in 2015.

Waters has a well-rounded record; 3 KO/TKOs, 2 subs, and 4 decisions. He has a decent grappling game, but will most likely rely on his striking in this bout. He is a lanky fighter, but doesn’t use his reach well mostly wading forward behind his combos. His defensive guard appears to have a few holes in it.

‘The Silencer’ is a brute, employing a no-nonsense power striking approach that has resulted in 11 wins by knockout. He has averaged 3.95 SLpM, but struggled to find his range against the talented Means. His power translates well to top position, where he will drop some heavy leather, but he lacks a competent submission game.

The short notice debut is tough to get passed because it provides very minimal prep/camp time for a young fighter to get ready for the biggest fight of his life. Water’s lack of a range game will most likely be his undoing. Sullivan’s ability to come forward throw heavy leather and maintain a pretty steady pace will be difficult for Waters to survive. The newcomer will hold his own early, but the damage will pile up and the debut/short notice factor will take its toll, so my prediction is George Sullivan to defeat Dominic Waters by TKO.

170lbs- #5 Matt Brown (21-13-0) vs Tim Means (24-6-1)

At the top of the undercard in the Welterweight division, Matt ‘The Immortal’ Brown battles Tim ‘The Dirty Bird’ Means. Brown has dropped back to back fights against elite competition; losing to Robbie Lawler prior to winning the title and Johnny Hendricks after he dropped the strap. Means has won 4 in a row since dropping his UFC re-debut, submitting George Sullivan in his most recent outing.

Standing 6’2”, Means is 2” taller than Brown, but they will share the same reach. Tim is 3 years younger than Brown.

Means has recorded 16 of his 24 victories by knockout and Brown has knocked out 12 opponents, scoring TKOs/KOs in 6 of his last 7 wins.

Brown has never been knocked out and Means’s only knockout defeat came due to injury early in his career.

Both men have strong Muay Thai arsenals, and do a lot of their damage at close range and in the clinch. Means will land devastating elbows and knees, but Brown’s clinch game could be that much more dangerous. While Brown utilizes similar techniques, his pace and volume make his clinch assault hard to endure.

At range, Means offers a variety of techniques including a stiff push kick and nice stepping knee. Similar to his clinch work, Brown relies on his other-worldly pace to heighten the significance of his attack.

Both men have been hurt while exchanging. Means was dropped by Neil Magny and rocked by Márcio Alexandre, while Brown has shown a vulnerability to body shots getting hurt by both Jordan Mein and Erick Silva.

A BJJ Brown belt, ‘The Immortal’ has a love/hate relationship with his ground game. He has won 5 times by tapout and has an affinity for the D’Arce choke. He has also been submitted 9 times, none since late 2011. His top position striking game is also a crucial aspect of his ground game and has produced several TKO wins.

Brown landed 7 combined takedowns against Lawler and Erick Silva.

From a technical standpoint, Means appears to have the edge. He needs to target the body and attempt to wound Brown in a similar fashion to his previous opponents. When not blitzing, Means likes to work at a measured pace- something Brown will not allow him to do. Brown’s ultra-aggressive style will keep Tim backpedalling and put a significant strain on his cardio. Brown would also be best served by using his wrestling. Means has been taken down 16 times in his 3 UFC losses compared to just once in 6 wins. The body shot will be a constant area of concern for Brown, but look for him to brawl the kickboxer and simply overwhelm him with his pace and volume, so my prediction is Matt Brown to defeat Tim Means by decision

170lbs- Mike Swick (15-5-0) vs Alex Garcia (12-2-0)

The second Welterweight bout on the card features the returning Mike ‘Quick’ Swick battling dangerous prospect on the rise Alex ‘The Dominican Nightmare’ Garcia. Swick was last seen on the wrong end of a knockout against the surging Matt Brown. Garcia started his UFC run 2-0, but came up short against the streaking Neil Magny last August.

Both fighters have taken prolong breaks since their last appearance. Garcia has been on the shelf for roughly 11 months since the Magny fight. Swick hasn’t seen action in 31 months and has only fought twice since early 2010.

Swick will have 4” reach and height advantages. Garcia is 8 years younger.

A product of the Tri-Star Gym in Montreal, Garcia is a bruising fighter with 10 of his 12 wins coming inside the distance and split evenly between knockouts and submissions (4 by RNC). He pairs strong wrestling with a damaging power striking game both when exchanging and from top position.

The last two men to defeat Garcia, Magny and Seth Baczynski, both held significant length advantages standing 6’3”.

Swick, 8 wins by knockout, has recently focussed his time on growing his gym in Thailand.

He averages 2.49 SLpM compared to 2.37 SApM. He has suffered a pair of knockouts to the aforementioned Brown and Chris Leben. The TUF 1 alumni builds the majority of his attack around his Muay Thai and can do damage both at range and in the clinch.

He has a serviceable ground game that has produced 3 submission win, but he has had some concerning issues in recent fights on the mat- nearly getting submitted in both.

Swick hinted at a return to Middleweight, as the cut to 170 pounds appears to be getting harder. If his cardio does hold up he could exploit some issues Garcia has had in longer fights. ‘The Dominican Nightmare’ is a physical monster, but his height and reach deficits are a bit concerning. Fortunately, Swick doesn’t appear to have the tools to keep him on the outside and his deteriorating chin may only need 1 flush connection. Garcia will land takedowns at will and do damage with strikes or threaten with sub attempts. It is usually harder for older fighters to return after a significant layoff and this should be the case here, so my prediction is Alex Garcia to defeat Mike Swick by knockout.

170lbs- Cathal Pendred (17-3-1) vs John Howard (7-4-0)

In the first of 5 Welterweight fights on the card, John ‘Doomsday’ Howard goes head to head with Ireland’s Cathal Pendred. Howard is coming off a first round knockout against Lorenz Larkin and has lost 3 in a row. Pendred is 4-0 in his UFC run, most recently defeating Augusto Montano.

Howard was originally scheduled to face Brandon Thatch who moved up the card to face Gunnar Nelson. Pendred takes this fight with about 3 weeks to prepare and only a month after fight at UFC 188.

Howard will be at a physical deficit, standing 6” shorter than his opponent whol will also have a 4” reach advantage over ‘Doomsday’.

Averaging 3.36 takedowns per fight, Pendred’s wrestling is the key to his success. He has landed 4 takedowns in each of his last 2 fights, and uses his top position time to break his opponent down with a steady stream of GnP.

A BJJ Blue belt, Cathal has just a single submission win, but has scored multiple TKO stoppages on the floor.

With 9 wins by knockout, Howard has fight stopping power in his hands and augments it with thudding leg kicks. He has averaged just 1.99 SLpM compared to 2.95 SApM. These numbers are indicative of his tendency to allow his opponent to be the busier fighter, going through long period of inactivity before attacking in bursts of offense.

He has an underrated ground game, holding a BJJ Purple belt with 6 wins by submission and has put some respectable takedown numbers against lesser opposition.

Pendred is returning with minimal prep time, which could complicate his performance. His overall fight game leaves a lot to be desired, but his size, aggressive pace, and wrestling based attack should replicate the issues that Howard has struggled with in the past. Cathal is hittable, especially from the right side, and with Howard’s short stature he could find a home for an overhand right or left. Look for Cathal to outwork Howard and land timely takedowns to control large portions of the fight on the mat, so my prediction is Cathal Pendred to defeat John Howard by decision.

135lbs- Cody Garbrandt (6-0-0) vs Henry Briones (19-4-1)

In the Bantamweight division, Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt takes on Mexico’s Henry Briones. Garbrandt debuted with an impressive 3rd round knockout of Marcus Brimage to maintain his perfect record. Briones was also victorious in his first UFC showing with a guillotine submission of fellow TUF Latin American competitor Guido Cannetti.

Team Alpha Male’s Garbrandt is 11 years younger than Briones and while the fighters are the same height, Birones will have a 5” reach advantage.

Briones will have a sizeable edge in experience with 21 professional fights to just 6 for Cody. Henry has previously faced a handful of current or former UFC roster members including Bobby Green, Mike de la Torre, and Alex Soto- losing all 3.

The American comes from an amateur boxing background where he accrued a 32-1 record. He has won all 6 of his pro MMA bout by knockout along with 3 as an amateur. He stopped Brimage in the final 10 seconds of the fight, but had won 4 of his first 5 bouts before the end of round 1.

He boasts a clean striking style, offering a hard left hook and frequently mixing in a solid uppercut. He chains his combinations together well and will mix in a variety of kicking techniques.

Birones, training out of the Alliance Training Center, has a much more diversified record with 8 wins by knockout, 6 by sub, and he is 2-3 on the scorecards. He has 11 first round stoppages. In his debut, he was getting beaten on the feet and was hurt quite badly to the body before rallying to earn a shocking knockdown and follow up submission win.

He has a tendency to hang his lands low and try to counter, but at the same time leaves himself open to take damage. He was KO in brutal fashion via upkick in the opening round of his season of TUF.

Despite having more knockouts than submissions, Birones will most likely try and take this fight to the mat. He had success on the floor in his debut and was losing the majority of the exchanges on the feet. Taking down a Team Alpha Male member could be easier said than done. Garbrandt came in quite confident in his debut and backed it up with an impressive striking display. His speed and technical acumen will simply be too much for Birrones, and his ability to counter as his opponent comes forward will make closing the distance dangerous. ‘No Love’ exploits the holes in his opponent’s defensive front and does so in devastating fashion, so my prediction is Cody Garbrandt to defeat Henry Birones by knockout.

125lbs- Neil Seery (15-10-0) vs Louis Smolka (8-1-0)

A pair of Flyweights cap off Fight Pass action as Hawaii’s Louis ‘Da Last Samurai’ Smolka squares off with Neil ‘2Tap’ Seery. Smolka is coming off an impressive knockout of Richie Vaculik, which came on the heels of his first career loss- he is now 2-1 in the UFC. Seery shares an identical record in the UFC, but he is currently riding a 2 fight winning streak after upsetting Chris Beal.

The American is 5” taller than Seery and will also have a 5” reach advantage. Smolka is 12 years younger than his counterpart.

‘2Tap’ has a sizeable edge in fight experience at 25 pro bouts to just 9 for Smolka.

A Brown belt in Judo, Smolka is a crafty ground fighter. He has won 4 times by submission, including a pair of RNC. His length does make him difficult to deal with on the mat, but he lacks a strong takedown game as his height makes for a difficult level change.

He normally relies on his opponents to take the fight to the mat, completing just 15% of his attempts while losing the TD battle 13-2 over 3 fights. Once on the floor, he is quiet adept at countering and working into a better position.

The Irishman’s striking is his forte with 6 wins by knockout while averaging 3.62 SLpM. He keeps his boxing simple but effective, using minimal wind up and delivering crisp short strikes. He throws hard leg kicks and will target the body as well. His only TKO loss is due to injury.

Seery is a BJJ Purple belt, but is 5-5 in fights ended by submission.

If Smolka can get this fight to the mat he could potentially submit Seery. His lack of a strong takedown game and reliance on his opponent’s wrestling doesn’t bode well against a fighter that will be looking primarily to strike. Seery should recognize the risk of going to the mat and similar to the Harris fight he will disengage and separate. Smolka has had issues with quicker more technically sound strikers and his inability to use his reach effectively makes him very hittable (4.91 SApM). Seery needs to be mindful when in close, but his superior boxing will be too much for Smolka who will become more discouraged the longer they remain vertical- my prediction is Neil Seery to defeat Louis Smolka by decision.

155lbs- Yosdenis Cedeno (10-4-0) vs Cody Pfister (11-4-1)

To open the night’s action Cuba’s Yosdenis ‘Pink Panther’ Cedeno takes on UFC sophomore Cody ‘The Pfist’ Pfister. Cedeno is 1-2 in the UFC and is coming off a competitive decision loss to TUF Nations winner Chad Laprise. Pfister saw his 8 fight unbeaten streak ended with a second round submission against James Moontasri.

The American will stand 2” taller and have a 4” reach advantage. Pfister is also 5 years younger than his foe.

Cedeno is 7-0 in fights ending by knockout, compared to 3-3 when going the distance. He is a Black belt in Karate and implements an unorthodox striking style with a lot of movement while throwing a variety of striking techniques.

He has defended just 33% of his opponents’ TDAs, getting taken down 4 times by Laprise and twice by Ernest Chavez.

‘The Pfist’ has a more dispersed record, winning 4 times by knockout, 3 subs, and 4 decision wins. He has been tapped out 3 times as a pro along with losing by sub in his TUF qualifying bout. That shouldn’t be an issue against Cedeno who has zero wins by sub.

Pfister has fought 5 rounds on 3 occasions, winning all 3.

Cody is still a developing fighter, working to improve his striking game. His strongest attributes are his ability to absorb punishment and a scrappy wrestling game. Against Moontasri, he took some massive shots, but continued to push forward in pursuit of the takedown.

The striking advantage should lie with the Cuban, but issues on the ground could nullify that edge. Against Laprise, he was constantly backpedalling and fighting off cage. Pfister is aggressive and will carry a strong pace, and while he had issues with the dynamic striking of his last foe, his ability to pressure Cedeno should pay dividends. Cody will need to be wary of getting tagged as he comes forward, but his scrappy wrestling and constant pressure will expose the questionable cardio and poor ground skills of his foe- my prediction is Cody Pfister to defeat Yosdenis Cedeno by decision.

170lbs- Alex Oliveira (11-2-1 1NC) vs Joe Merritt (6-0-0)

At the top of the undercard, Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira looks to build on his recent success when he takes on UFC neophyte Joe Merritt. Oliveira is fresh off a submission victory over KJ Noons- his 6th win in his last 8 fights. Merritt enters the Octagon undefeated through his first 6 pro bouts, in addition to a pair of wins as an amateur.

Merritt is debuting at Welterweight after fighting as a Middleweight for most of his career. There are some questions regarding the calibre of his competition. Prior to his last opponent, the first 5 adversaries of his pro career have a combined 7-27 record.

The Brazilian will be fighting just 1 month after tapping Noons at UFN 67.

Oliveira has won 8 times by knockout- 7 in the 1st round. All 6 of the newcomer’s wins are by KO or TKO, plus both his amateur bouts. 5 of those wins came inside the first 5 minutes.

Oliveira surprised many with his submission win over Noons and he could look for more of that here. Merritt’s numbers suggest he is primarily a striker, doing his best work from range. ‘Cowboy’ may opt to seek an early takedown to throw Merritt of his game plan. If they do remain vertical, Oliveira’s Muay Thai based attack will be a lot for Joe to handle. Merritt isn’t going to overwhelm Alex with his output and that should leave plenty of room for Oliveira to unload with his own offense. Both are competing on short notice, but this should favour Oliveira considering his previous experience. Joe is facing a variety of difficult scenarios before even considering the quality of his opponent and all things considered it will be too much for him to overcome- my prediction is Alex Oliveira to defeat Joe Merritt by TKO.

170lbs- Leandro Silva (17-2-1 1NC) vs Lewis Gonzalez (10-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, Leandro ‘Buscape’ Silva makes UFC appearance #4 when he fights WSOF veteran Lewis ‘Lethal’ Gonzalez. Silva is coming off a win turned No Contest due to a mistake on the part of the referee- he is now 1-1-0 1NC inside the Octagon. Gonzalez most recently defeated Justin Buchholz after suffering the 1st loss of his pro career.

Gonzales fought 3 times under the WSOF banner earning wins over Buchholz and Antonio McKee, while falling to Luis Palomino by knockout.

The Brazilian has 10 wins by sub, including tapping Charlie Brenneman for his first UFC win. He has averaged 2.5 takedowns at a 36% completion rate, while defending 53%.

He has 6 wins by RNC.

‘Lethal’ struggled early with the grappling of McKee, getting taken down and back mounted in the first round. He was able to turn the fight in his favour once his opponent tired. He had similar issues with Buchholz as well, fending off some close sub attempts.

5 of his 10 wins as a professional have come by tapout.

Silva’s lack of striking volume is concerning, but he uses a nice jab and hard leg kicks as the basis for his striking. Gonzales is hittable and can be backed up on the feet. His takedown game is solid and he sets it up nicely with his striking. Gonzalez’s questionable TDD suggests that Silva should be able to put him on his back. Silva has had issues with slowing down in the second half of his fights, but not cutting to 170 pounds should help him to stay fresh. Leandro Silva lands some key takedowns and edges out Gonzales on the feet, so my prediction is Leandro Silva to defeat Lewis Gonzalez by decision.

170lbs- Steve Montgomery (8-2-0) vs Tony Sims (9-2-0)

A pair of UFC newcomers hit the cage in the Welterweight division, as Steve ‘The Creepy Weasel’ Montgomery meets Tony ‘2.0’ Sims. Sims has won 9 of his last 10, with his only defeat in that span coming against Drew Dober. Montgomery is riding a 5 fight winning streak, most recently defeating UFC castoff Brock Jardine.

Montgomery represented ATT on the current season of TUF and also took part in the only season of Bellator’s Fight Master. Sims has been on the shelf for roughly 14 months and will be moving up a division from his usual Lightweight home.

A towering 6’4″, Montgomery will have both a 5″ height and reach advantage.

Sims comes from a boxing background and has legit punching power, registering 7 of 9 wins by knockout. He also has a decent wrestling background and has won twice by sub.

‘The Creepy Weasel’ has stopped 7 of his 8 victims inside the distance- 5 knockouts and 2 subs. He floored Jardine with a brutal knee strike early in round 2, and has finished 4 opponents after the opening round.

The ATT product does his best work in the clinch and should try to employ his grinding style to take away the boxing of Sims. His above average height gives him leverage in close, but it also leaves him open to power punches coming over the top and he doesn’t use his reach that well. He was knocked out on ‘Fight Master’ in this fashion and Jardine was cracking him with some hard overhand shots. Sims is at a significant size disadvantage, but his foot and hand speed should give Montgomery issues. If Montgomery can maintain constant control of ‘2.0’ he could grind him down, but my prediction is Tony Sims to defeat Steve Montgomery by TKO.

135lbs- Danny Martinez (17-6-0) vs Sirwan Kakai (11-2-0)

In the opening bout of the night, Danny ‘The Gremlin’ Martinez takes on the first of 5 debuting fighters on the card when he meets Sweden’s Sirwan ‘Zohan’ Kakai. Martinez is 0-2 under the UFC banner with losses to Chris Cariaso and Scott Jorgensen. After suffering the 2nd loss of his pro career Kakai has rebounded with a pair of third round finishes.

Martinez has fought at 125 pounds in his 2 UFC fights, but will stand 1″ taller and have a 1″ reach advantage. ‘Zohan’ is 4 years younger.

‘The Gremlin’ is the prototypical wrestle-boxer. He has 8 wins by knockout and his weapon of choice is a winging left hook. At times he can be quite predictable with his striking, but he did hurt Jorgensen in the middle frame.

He landed 5 takedowns against Cariaso and most often will shoot after backing his opponent up with a striking barrage.

Like Martinez, Kakai also failed in his bid to enter the TUF 18 house. He has stoppages in 10 of 11 wins- 4 coming in each of the 1st round and 3rd rounds. He does his best work at range and throws some hard leg kicks. He was a bit of a slow starter in his last bout against Joseph Barajas and that could be an issues versus the aggressive Martinez.

Kakai was taken down several times by Barajas as well and didn’t seem to have an answer for his wrestling.

The American has a rather predictable approach, but can Kakai capitalize on it? Martinez is the better wrestler and his high output attack could score points early against a slow starter. Conversely, Danny will tire and Kakai has shown the ability to rally late either for a stoppage or 29-28 on the cards. The Swede needs to survive the early attack, but the poor cardio and predictable/ basic attack of Martinez will make him far less successful as the fight progresses, so my prediction is Sirwan Kakai to defeat Danny Martinez by Decision.

145lbs- Makwan Mirkhani (11-2-0) vs Masio Fullen (10-4-0)

The headlining contest of the Undercard will feature the return of ‘Mr. Finland’ Makwan Amirkhani when he takes on TUF Latin American alumni Masio ‘Lobo’ Fullen. Mirkhani won via exciting, but controversial stoppage in his debut- landing a flying knee on Andy Ogle that prematurely brought the referee in for the stoppage. Fullen took a split decision over Alex Torres at UFC 184- he has now won 3 in a row.

Fullen is replacing fellow TUF alumni Diego Rivas, who was pulled from this fight shortly after it was announced.

‘Mr. Finland’ offers a nice variety of submission techniques, winning 8 of his 11 fights via tapout. His last 2 victories inside the distance came via D’arce choke and he also has a pair of wins by heel hook on his resume.

Mexico’s Fullen has earned 50% of his wins by submission, but has only accomplished the feat once in his last 8 fights. He struggled early against Torres getting cracked and nearly finished on a couple of occasions before the opening 5 minutes had elapsed.

It is really hard to get much of a handle on Makwan’s skillset based on his UFC debut. Similarly, a few of Masio’s TUF teammates are coming off impressive performances in their sophomore outings- an indication of a significant leap in capabilities following their time on the show. He might possibly experience something similar. All things considered, the chin of Fullen is a major question mark. He was knocked out on the show, has 1 TKO loss as a pro, and Torres had him in some serious trouble. Additionally, Fullen was taken down twice by Torres and will be up against a much stronger grappler in Amirkhani. Fullen could make some massive improvements from what he has shown, but his opponent has multiple avenues to victory- my prediction is Makwan Amirkhani to defeat Masio Fullen by submission.

155lbs- Mairbek Taisumov (23-5-0) vs Alan Patrick (12-0-0)

In the Lightweight division, Mairbek ‘Beckan’ Taisumov of Russia battles Brazil’s Alan ‘Nuguette’ Patrick. Taisumov has won 2 in a row and is currently 3-1 inside the Octagon. Patrick is still undefeated and has a pair of UFC wins, most recently taking a controversial decision over John Makdessi.

Patrick has been on the shelf since early 2014, a 17 month layoff. Taisumov has competed 3 times since the Brazilian’s last appearance.

Taisumov is 5 years younger then Patrick, but Alan will have a slight 1″ reach advantage along with standing 2″ taller.

There are a number of scenarios that favour Mairbek in this matchup. He has a sizeable experience advantage, he has been far more active of late, and Patrick is travelling overseas after fighting at home for all but 1 of his pro bouts. Patrick tends to be a little wild with his striking and his wrestling doesn’t appear good enough to trouble Taisumov (2 for 11 on TDAs vs Makdessi). Mairbek did struggle with the grappling attack of Michel Prazeres, but Patrick’s ground attack is not on that level. Beckan’s technically superior striking skills will allow him to capitalize on the defensive lapses of his opponent while his wrestling will dictate where the fight takes place. My prediction is Mairbek Taisumov to defeat Alan Patrick by TKO.

145lbs- Alan Omer (18-4-0) vs Arnold Allen (9-1-0)

In the Featherweight division, Alan Omer faces extremely late injury replacement and UFC debutant Arnold Allen. Omer’s own debut was unsuccessful, falling to Jim Alers by split decision. Allen has won back to back fights after suffering the first loss of his career.

Allen took this fight on just 6 days notice, replacing Mike Wilkinson. Omer has been on the shelf for 14 months, while the Brit has fought 4 times since Omer last saw action.

With less than a week’s notice to cut weight, it could create an issue for Allen, but all reports indicate that he doesn’t cut a lot of weight normally.

Despite the loss, Omer out-landed Alers in his debut 58-36 and showed some of the pop that has earned him his 6 knockout wins. He is also a capable grappler, chaining submissions together. He has won 4 times by Triangle choke and once by Omaplata.

The book on Allen is that he is a fairly simplistic striker, with his main focus centered on closing the distance and setting up his grappling. He does his best work in the clinch, controlling and breaking down his foe. He has 5 wins by knockout, 2 by sub, and is 2-1 on the scorecards.

Allen is young and the significantly late notice is going to be a hard obstacle to overcome- but at his age he might not know that. His size could be an issue as well. Omer should be the physically larger man, making his strikes more impactful and giving him the edge in the grappling department. Omer did have some trouble with Alers on the floor and that could be Allen’s best shot to take home the win. Allen will hold his own early, but the lack of prep time catches up to him and Omer lands something significant- my prediction is Alan Omer to defeat Arnold Allen by knockout.

145lbs- Niklas Backstrom (8-1-0 1NC) vs Noad Lahat (8-1-0)

Featherweights face off when Sweden’s Niklas Backstrom meets AKA trained Noad ‘Neo’ Lahat of Israel. Backstrom fell to 1-1 in the UFC after an upset loss by knockout to Mike Wilkinson. Conversely, Lahat improved his Octagon record to 1-1 with a dominant decision win over Steven Siler.

The Swede will have some sizeable physical advantages standing 4″ taller then Lahat along with a 5″ reach advantage. He is also 5 years younger. ‘Neo’ has also been on the shelf for 11 months.

Their records are almost identical, short of 1 slight difference. Backtrom has won 4 times by knockout and twice each by submission and decision. Lahat has a quartet of submission wins to go along with 2 victories by knockout and 2 more on the scorecards. Both men lost by knockout in their only professional defeat.

Despite Niklas’s record- both men are grappling oriented fighters.

Lahat is a talented top position player and offers a variety of takedown techniques to put himself in the position. If he can consistently take Backstrom off his feet and keep him there that is his key to success. But, Backstrom is crafty on the mat and should be able to counter Lahat’s attempts to ground him. If the fight remains on the feet, the Swede will have the advantage. His length and diversified kicking attack will keep Noad on the outside making him cover more distance in search of TDAs while taking damage in the process. Lahat’s striking is serviceable, but there are several gaps and he took a few good shots from Siler and was KOed by Godofredo Pepey. This bout could be an interesting back and forth and my prediction is Niklas Backstrom to defeat Noad Lahat by TKO.

185lbs- Scott Askham (12-1-0) vs Antonio dos Santos (6-2-0)

In the Middleweight division, UFC sophomores Scott Askham and Antonio ‘Junior Alpha’ dos Santos will square off. Askham lost his UFC debut to Magnus Cedenblad- his first loss as a professional. dos Santos also came up short in his debut, losing via injury TKO to Daniel Sarafian after dislocating his finger.

The Brit is 4″ taller than his Brazilian counterpart and will have a 3″ reach advantage.

Both men are proven finishers. Askham has stopped opponents in 9 of his 12 victories- 7 by knockout and a pair by submission. ‘Junior Alpha’ has only gone to the judges in 1 of his 6 wins- earning 4 wins by TKO/KO along with a single a submission.

‘Junior Alpha’ was looking good against Sarafian before suffering the injury. He employs a powerful Muay Thai based attack- built around hard left kicks and stiff combinations. Conversely, Askham spent almost his entire debut on his back, short of one well timed push kick that dropped his opponent in the middle frame. He can work effectively from distance, employing a decent kicking arsenal- but his clinch work his most effective. Askham is quite adept at breaking down his opponent from the clinch position and he should have a leverage advantage here. He will also change levels for a few TDAs from in close and that should serve to wear ADS down even more, so my prediction is Scott Askham to defeat Antonio dos Santos by decision.

155lbs- Piotr Hallmann (15-3-0) vs Magomed Mustafaev (11-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Russian finisher Magomed Mustafaev makes his UFC debut across the cage Piotr Hallmann. Hallmann is coming off an unsuccessful FOTN performance against Gleison Tibau and subsequent 9 month suspension for failing a drug test- he is 2-2 in the UFC. Mustafaev has won 10 consecutive fights including a pair of 1st round finishes in a one-night tournament back in September.

Hallmann is just 1″ taller then his foe, but he will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage.

Both fighters boast significant finishing rates. Of his 15 wins, Hallmann has stopped 14 split evening between submissions and knockouts. Mustafaev has never been to the scorecards, winning 7 times by knockout and 4 by sub. He has 7 first round finishes compared to 8 for the Polish fighter.

Mustafaev formerly fought at Welterweight and will be cutting to Lightweight for his UFC debut.

Hallmann has been a tough out, even in his defeats. He has solid wrestling, decent striking, and is incredibly durable. Mustafaev is well rounded as well, with a good striking game, solid wrestling, and dangerous grappling attack. He has proven vulnerable against wrestlers in the past though and Hallmann landed a combined 9 takedowns over his first 3 UFC bouts. Piotr will needs to be mindful early, but look for him to grind Mustafaev with a constant attack on the feet, supplemented by takedowns. The durability of Hallmann will not bode well for a fighter cutting down a weight class and who normally finishes his opponents inside the first half, my prediction is Piotr Hallmann to defeat Magomed Mustafaev by decision.

135lbs- Taylor Lapilus (9-1-0) vs Ulka Sasaki (18-2-2)

The first fight of the night is a Bantamweight bout between France’s Taylor ‘Double Impact’ Lapilus and Ulka Sasaki of Japan. Lapilus won his 4th straight fight in his debut, defeating Rocky Lee by decision. Sasaki’s 12 fight undefeated run came to an end in his second Octagon bout with a 2nd round submission loss to Leandro Issa.

Lapilus debuted as a Featherweight, but will be making his first cut to 135 pounds. Sasaki will stand 3″ taller, but Lapilus will have a 2″ reach advantage.

Both men have significant submission win totals. With a background in Judo, Ulka has earned 9 of his 18 wins by sub- 8 by RNC. ‘Double Impact’ has secured 6 of his 7 wins via tapout.

The Frenchman looked good in his debut, stuffing takedowns and out-striking his opponent. But, Ulka represents a significant step up in competition. If this fight is contested on the feet, Lapilus is capable of holding his own- but that most likely won’t be the case. Ulka will clinch and drag his adversary to the mat at the first opportunity he gets. His top game and specifically his ability to quickly transition to his opponent’s back will be the keys to his success. Lapilus cut his teeth against lower level competition and under rules that did not allow for ground based strikes- that will show up here. Ulka utilizes his judo to set up his submission game- my prediction is Ulka Sasaki to defeat Taylor Lapilus by submission.

125lbs- #8 Henry Cejudo (8-0-0) vs #13 Chico Camus (15-5-0)

In the headlining act of the undercard, Henry ‘The Messenger’ Cejudo takes on Chico ‘The King’ Camus in a battle that could produce a future title challenger. Cejudo makes his 3rd UFC appearance, owning wins over Dustin Kimura and Chris Cariaso. Camus enters the Octagon for the 7th time, currently holding a record of 3-2-0 with 1 No Contest and is coming off a big win over Brad Pickett.

Cejudo is fighting for just the 2nd time as a Flyweight after successfully making weight for the Cariaso fight. He has had issues with making the Flyweight limit that include withdrawing from his original debut after struggling to make weight. Camus is also competing at 125 pounds for the second time.

‘The King’ is 2″ taller and will have a slight 2″ reach advantage. Cejudo is 2 years younger.

On the surface, this bout offers the prototypical wrestler versus striker stylistic clash. Cejudo won Gold at both the 2008 Beijing Olympic games and the 2007  Pan-Am games in Freestyle wrestling. Camus, who recently returned to the RusfusSport MMA Academy,  builds the majority of his offense around his boxing game.

The past Olympian landed 6 takedowns on just 7 attempts in his last fight.

Camus has defended 52% of his opponent’s TDAs, giving up 11 takedowns over 6 fights.

Cejudo has the ability to dominate this fight on the mat with his wrestling. Conversely, Camus has struggled with grappling orient opposition- losing to Chris Holdsworth on the ground, getting submitted by Dustin Kimura, and winning a controversial decision versus Kyung Ho Kang where he spent long durations of the fight on his back. If Cejudo elects to forego his wrestling advantage it will allow Camus to incorporate his strongest attribute, but Henry has already shown himself to be a capable striker. Cejudo will utilize a similar game plan to the Cariaso fight; molding his striking and wrestling together for a more diversified attack. Camus is game off his back and will remain active, but Cejduo will be positionally superior- my prediction is Henry Cejudo to defeat Chico Camus by decision.

155lbs- Efrain Escudero (24-9-0) vs Drew Dober (15-6-0 1NC)

In the Lightweight division, TUF Champion and third time is a charm hopeful Efrain Escudero takes on the always scrappy Drew Dober. Dober subbed Jamie Varner for his first UFC win and lost his follow-up fight via faux-submission which was eventually overturned. Escudero defeated Rodrigo De Lima, his  first UFC win since UFC 114- he is 4-6 inside the Octagon.

Dober will once again fight in enemy territory. He fought Leandro Silva in Brazil, Varner in his home town of Phoenix, and Nick Nein in Germany. He should be accustom to the hostility that will be thrown his way.

Escudero is a BJJ Blue belt and former junior collegiate wrestler. He has 12 wins by submission, but is 0-5 in fights where he loses the takedown battle. Dober has 9 wins by sub and is a BJJ Purple belt.

Dober also comes from a Muay Thai background.

Despite their submission laden win totals, neither man has demonstrated an affinity for a heavy takedown attack. Dober has yet too land a takedown and Efrain averages just under 1.3 per fight.

This will be a closely contested fight. On the feet, Dober appears to be the more impactful striker and works at a higher pace. His Muay Thai skills should make him the more diversified striker as well. If the fight does hit the floor, Escudero’s wrestling could give him the edge, but he has struggled at times against lesser ground fighters. The cardio of Efrain is also a bit of a concern as he tends to slow down in more demanding fights. Fighting at home will give Escudero a boost, but Dober will keep the pressure on early and pull away later in the bout- my prediction is Drew Dober to defeat Efrain Escudero by decision. 

135lbs- Alejandro Perez (16-5-0) vs Patrick Williams (7-4-0)

In the Bantamweight division, TUF Latin America winner Alejandro Perez makes his second UFC appearance against fellow promotional sophomore Patrick Williams. Perez has won 2 in a row and 5 of his last 6. Williams dropped his debut to Chris Beal, ending his 2 fight winning streak.

Williams has been on the shelf for an extended period of time, last competing 14 months ago at UFC 172.

Perez was one of the more experienced fighters on his edition of the Ultimate Fighter and he has 10 more fights then his opponent on this night.

The American comes from a wrestling background and landed a pair of takedowns in his debut. He has 4 wins by knockout, but has also been KOed twice along with 1 submission loss. His striking is quite unorthodox. Against Beal, he would launch himself across the cage, attacking while running at his opponent.

With 6 wins by knockout and 5 more by submission- Perez is a proven finisher. Statistically, his TUF winning performance wasn’t an overwhelming victory. He was outlanded 48-45 and lost the takedown battle 3-1.

He was the beneficiary of his opponent receiving a 2 point deduction for a blatant head butt.

Perez struggled with the ground game of Jose Quinonez, and the collegiate wrestling background of Williams should magnify those issues. Williams’s chin and unorthodox striking style are concerning, especially if his use of excessive movement diminishes his cardio. Perez has home field advantage, but facing an American wrestler for the first time can be difficult, my prediction is Patrick Williams to defeat Alejandro Perez by decision.

155lbs- Francisco Trevino (12-0-0) vs Johnny Case (20-4-0)

In the Lightweight division oft-injured Francisco Trevino takes on Alliance MMA’s Johnny ‘Hollywood’ Case. Case has won 10 straight, including both of his UFC fights, most recently stopping Frankie Perez with strikes. Trevino debuted with an upset win over Rene Forte to maintain his undefeated record.

Multiple injuries have kept Trevino on the shelf since UFC 171, a near 15 month layoff. This fight was initially tab to take place at UFC 182 until Trevino withdrew.

Case is 1″ taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage, along with being 8 years younger.

‘Hollywood’ has finished his opponents in 18 of his 20 wins- 12 by knockout and 6 by submission. Trevino has divided  his 12 wins evenly between knockouts, subs and decisions.

Case has 12 first round finishes, compared to just 6 for Trevino. Frank has gone the distance in 4 of his last 5 fights.

There are a lot of positives favouring Case in this fight. He is younger, bigger, more active, and he comes from a much better camp. His striking game is solid and is wrestling is really starting to round out. Whether on the feet or the floor he is capable of putting a stamp on his opponent. Trevino struggled early in his debut against Forte and really didn’t take control until his opponent slowed significantly. He is scrappy and a willing combatant, but he is simply outgunned here. Case will either piece him up on the feet or take him down for some nasty ground and pound, either way my prediction is Johnny Case to defeat Francisco Trevino by TKO.

170lbs- Augusto Montano (14-1-0) vs Cathal Pendred (16-3-1)

The much maligned Cathal Pendred heads into enemy territory to battle local favourite Augusto ‘Dodger’ Montano in the Welterweight division. Montano is fresh off a debut victory over Chris Heathery at UFC 180, he has won 6 in a row since his 2011 decision loss to Sam Alvey. Pendred is undefeated in 11 straight, including 3 wins in the UFC- he is coming off a controversial defeat of Sean Spencer.

Both men are huge Welterweights, standing 6’1″. Pendred will have a 2″ reach advantage and is 3 years younger than his opponent.

‘Dodger’ has a 100% finishing rate, knocking out 10 opponents and submitting 5. He has 10 wins in the first round. Conversely, Pendred has gone to the judges 9 times, with just a single win by submission and 6 knockouts.

His last 2 UFC victories both came on the scorecards.

Aggression is the key to Montano’s offense. He connected on some solid knees to finish Heatherly, but throughout the round he continually came forward and didn’t give his adversary a chance to settle in. He does tend to be a little loose with his technique and over a longer fight his pace could be difficult to maintain.

Durability and takedowns have been the key to the Irishman’s success. Pendred has been hurt in both his wins over Spencer and Mike King. Despite his early struggles, he rallied back and earned the victories largely on his grappling skills.

Through 3 fights Cathal has successfully landed 8 takedowns, completing just 25% of his attempts.

Knockouts have accounted for the biggest win totals for both men, but their method of stopping their foe is quite different. While Montano gets the majority of his stoppages during vertical exchanges, Pendred’s focuses more on dragging his opponent to the mat and overwhelming them from top position. Montano was put on his back by Heatherly and didn’t seem overly comfortable from the position. Pendred’s wrestling should consistently replicate those issues. If Cathal can grind down Augusto and force the fight into rounds 2 and 3, Montano’s lack of experience beyond the first round suggests his cardio won’t hold up. Pendred is incredibly vulnerable from the right side and the threat of a knockout is real at least early on. Look for him to shoot early and often forcing Montano out of his comfort zone and negating his power. Cathal won’t be gifted a decision against a local, but his positional superiority will weigh heavy with the judges or lead to a late stoppage- my prediction is Cathal Pendred to defeat Augusto Montano by TKO.

145lbs- Gabriel Benitez (17-5-0) vs Clay Collard (14-5-0 1NC)

One of the more experienced members of the TUF: Latin American crew, Mexico’s Gabriel ‘Moggly’ Benitez squares off with Clay ‘Cassius’ Collard in the Featherweight division. Benitez defeated Humberto Brown by submission in his official debut, extending his current winning streak to 3. Collard unsuccessfully battled Max Holloway in his short notice debut, but rebounded with a decision win over Alex White.

Collard stands 3″ taller then Benitez and will have will have a 2″ reach advantage. He is the younger fighter by 5 years.

With finishes in 15 of his 17 wins, ‘Moggly’ isn’t one for involving the judges. He has recorded 6 wins by form of knockout and 9 more by submission. He has 9 first round stoppages.

Collard is an action fighter who constantly moves forward. He has averaged 4.52 SLpM through 2 fights and has recorded 8 wins by knockout. What he lacks in technical refinement, he makes up for in volume and tenacity.

He has lost twice by submission.

Benitez spent the majority of his debut on his back attacking with submissions, eventually locking up the fight ending hold. He scored zero takedowns and relied entirely on his opponent to take the fight to the mat. Collard’s focus won’t be on takedowns, but instead on a high output striking assault. His aggressive style could create openings for Benitez to counter grapple, but more than likely he will be on the defensive too much to threaten consistently. Look for Collard to keep pushing forward and wear his opponent out, gaining some top control time as Benitez gives up position while looking for a submission- my prediction is Clay Collard to defeat Gabriel Benitez by TKO.

170lbs- Andrew Todhunter (7-0-0) vs Albert Tumenov (15-2-0)

In the opening bout of the fight, injury replacement Andrew ‘The Sniper’ Todhunter makes his debut against dangerous Russian knockout artist Albert ‘Einstein’ Tumenov. Todhunter is undefeated through the first 7 fights of his career finishing all of wins including a pair in Legacy FC. Tumenov is riding a 3 fight winning streak after an unsuccessful debut.

Todhunter is taking this fight on roughly 10 days notice, filling in for Hector Urbina. He normally competes as a Middleweight and last fought 9 months ago. Cutting to 170 pounds on short notice could be severely inhibiting on his performance, especially when you consider he is fighting at altitude.

Both men carry significant finishing rates, but in very different ways. Tumenov has won by knockout in 10 of 15 fights. While, all 7 of Todhunter’s victories have come via submission, plus 4 of 7 amateur bouts. 6 of his combined Pro/Am wins are by rear-naked choke.

They have a combined 14 first round finishes; Tumenov 9 and Todhunter 5.

‘Einstein’ is an incredibly dangerous striker with searing power, especially in his left hand. He also posses a brutal head kick that earned him the win over Matt Dwyer. Todhunter is improving his boxing skills, but the central aspect of his offense is his chain wrestling. He has a good top game; working his ground and pound in sequence with his submission attempts. If he can drag Tumenov to the mat, that will nullify the striking threat and create a similar scenario to the one that cost the Russian his debut. All things considered, this is a massive step up for Todhunter along with being an extremely short notice debut and at a lower weightclass then what he is use to- my prediction is Albert Tumenov to defeat Andrew Todhunter by TKO.

265lbs- Derrick Lewis (12-3-0 1NC) vs. Shawn Jordan (17-6-0)

The big men headline the preliminary portion of the card as Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis squares off with Shawn ‘The Savage’ Jordan. Lewis returned to the win column with a TKO stoppage of Ruan Potts after suffering his first UFC loss. Jordan has won back to back fights, most recently stopping Jared Cannonier- he is now 5-3 inside the Octagon.

This fight is a rematch of a 2010 battle that Jordan won by decision. It was Lewis’s 2nd career fight, while Jordan was fighting professionally for the 9th time. There has been some discussion online about some post-fight antics in their initial meeting that could lead to some bad blood heading into installment #2.

Both have common opponents; both defeated Jack May by TKO, but suffered 1st round knockout losses to Matt Mitrione.

Physically, Lewis is 3″ taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage.

Wins and losses have come primarily by knockout for both fighters. Jordan has 13 wins by knockout, 4 losses, and 7 of his last 8 fights have ended by either TKO or KO. Lewis is 11-1 in fights ending by knockout, scoring knockouts in all 3 UFC wins plus a pre-Octagon victory over fellow UFC fighter Jared Rosholt.

Jordan has 3 wins by submission.

Lewis’s stoppages have come mainly from top position. When he postures up he can generate a lot of power and once he starts to unload his heavy handed barrages are difficult to survive.

Jordan should be the better striker. He will need to overcome Lewis’s reach, but his speed and varied striking game should allow him to do so. Jordan’s chin and subsequent 4 losses by knockout does raise a great deal of concern- Lewis may only need to connect once to send him into a tailspin.

Along with being the quicker and more adept striker, Jordan will have the wrestling advantage preventing Lewis from gaining his coveted top position. Shawn could also turn the tables on the ‘Black Beast’ who was put on his back by Potts and didn’t appear too comfortable. If they stay standing, Mitrione caught Lewis moving forward when he knocked him out, something that Jordan had success with against Cannonier. Finally, Jordan’s cardio is superior and if this fight drags into the second half Lewis should begin to slow down significantly. At heavyweight one punch can change the course of the fight, but my prediction is Shawn Jordan to defeat Derrick Lewis by knockout.

170lbs- Omari Akhmedov (14-2-0) vs. Brian Ebersole (51-16-1 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, Russia’s Omari Akhmedov takes on Brian ‘Bad Boy’ Ebersole. Akhmedov comes in with a 2-1 record inside the Octagon, with his only loss coming against Gunnar Nelson. Ebersole is fighting for the 8th time in the UFC, he is coming off a win over John Howard after having dropped back to back fights.

Alan Jouban was initially pegged to face Ebersole, but an injury pulled him from the card and Akhmedov stepped in with roughly 2 months to prepare.

They have an identical reach and height, but Omari appears to be the more muscular fighter. He is also 7 years younger.

Both men come from grappling oriented backgrounds. Ebersole is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler. He has recorded 20 wins by submission and averaged 1.78 TDs at a 23% completion rate. Akhmedov holds the rank of International Master in Combat Sambo and has a background in Freestyle wrestling. He is coming off a 5 takedown performance against Mats Nilsson.

Submissions have accounted for a large portion of both men’s defeats. Ebersole has been tapped 9 times, most coming very early in his career. Omari’s 2 professional losses are both by sub.

This bout offers a stark clash in styles. Akhmedov is an aggressive straight forward power based fighter compared to Ebersole who is more unorthodox and reliant on his veteran savvy.

Ebersole struggled tremendously against Rick Story who outmuscled him and got the better of the wrestling. Howard had a lot of success on the floor in round 2 as well. Akhmedov should find similar success. The big concern with the Russian is his gas tank, if he fades after the opening round Ebersole could outwork him  and steal the fight. When on the feet, Ebersole will play matador but the forward pressure and more impactful striking of Omari will give him the edge. Akhmedov will land key takedowns and eat up big portions of the fight in top position, so my prediction is Omari Akhmedov to defeat Brian Ebersole by decision.   

155lbs- Christos Giagos (11-3-0) vs. Chris Wade (9-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Christos ‘The Spartan’ Giagos takes on Long Island MMA’s Chris Wade. Wade has won both his UFC bouts and has won 4 in a row since his only career loss at WSOF 2. Giagos rebounded from his debut defeat against Gilbert Burns by submitting Jorge de Oliveira inside the first round.

Physically they match up quite evenly; Giagos will have a slight 1″ reach advantage and is 3 years younger than Wade.

Giagos captured both the RFA and TPF Lightweight titles prior to joining the UFC. Wade won and defended the ROC 155 pound strap in his 2 final pre-UFC outings.

Wade has won 3 times by submission and is 6-1 in fights that go the distance. He has landed 5 takedowns over his 2 bouts, only needing 1 completion in his debut to lock up a submission. He comes from a wresting background and is a BJJ Blue belt.

Giagos picked up the third submission of his career last time out. Unfortunately, subs have account for all 3 of his career losses. In his win over Oliveira, he showed good timing on his takedowns changing levels quickly and advancing his position almost as soon as the fight hit the floor.

With 6 wins by knockout, Giagos would probably be best served by keeping this fight standing. Wade’s striking is serviceable, but he is strongest on the mat. His technique of choice his the head and arm throw. Christos did not fair well against Gilbert Burns getting badly out classed on the floor, offering little from his back. Wade should be able to reproduce those struggles, establishing strong top control while working towards a finish- my prediction is Chris Wade to defeat Christo Giagos by submission.

155lbs- Justin Edwards (9-4-0) vs. Joe Proctor (10-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, Justin ‘Fast Eddy’ Edwards fights fellow TUF alumni Joe Proctor. Proctor is coming off a submission loss to Yancy Medeiros and is 3-2 in the UFC. Edwards dropped his divisional debut to Ramsey Nijem is now a dismal 2-4 in the promotion.

Edwards is returning to the cage for the first time in approximately 17 months.

Both guys have had mediocre runs on the big stage and this fight could very well be the loser’s last call in the promotion.

Edwards is a BJJ Brown belt with 6 wins coming by submission, including a 2012 technical submission of Josh Neer. He caught Neer and 4 other victims via guillotine- his finishing move of choice. Edwards landed 7 takedowns in his debut, but just 2 in his last 5 fights. He doesn’t offer a strong wrestling game, usually relying on his opponent to engage on the mat.

He has just a single win by knockout, his first pro bout. He currently carries a negative striking exchange rate of -0.74.

Training under Joe Lauzon, Proctor has won 4 times by tapout. He will also focus his attack on his opponent’s neck-winning twice by guillotine. Proctor has yet to land a takedown in the UFC, but he is aggressive once the fight hits the mat and will attack subs in the clinch position.

Both of his stoppage wins in the UFC have come by knockout. His counter game is workable and he keeps his striking simple and compact. If he gets in close he will look for the Thai clinch and deliver some knee strikes.

Neither man has a big time wrestling game that will allow them to control the action on the mat. Proctor’s counter striking should serve as a nice foil for the aggression of Edwards. Joe’s more compact striking attack will allow him to land first when Edwards engages with his wide looping hooks. Proctor will need to initiate the attack as well to keep ‘Fast Eddy’ from being the constant aggressor, but my prediction is Joe Proctor to defeat Justin Edwards by knockout.

185lbs- Ricardo Abreu (5-1-0) vs. Jake Collier (8-2-0)

Middleweights Ricardo ‘Demente’ Abreu and Jake Collier battle in the 2nd fight of the night. Abreu debuted with a submission win over Wagner Silva Gomes in the middle frame. Collier wasn’t as fortunate, falling by 1st round knockout to Vitor Miranda in the final moments of the opening round.

Daniel Sarafian was the original opponent for Abreu, but he was forced to withdraw and Collier stepped in on roughly 1 month’s notice.

The American is 4″ taller then Abreu and will have a marked 5″ reach advantage.

Abreu has finished all 5 of his opponents- 3 by knockout and 2 by submission. His debut opponent lasted until the 2nd round, but he had previously stopped all of his adversaries early in the opening frame.

61 second had been his longest fight.

The Brazilian is a very strong grappler, but appears to being favouring his striking game of late. He has power and aggression, which he uses to makeup for his lack of technical refinement. His ability to wade forward and sling heavy leather can be overwhelming, but it could also lead to a significant cardio drop if the fight lingers into the second half.

Collier has stopped his opposition in 7 of his 8 wins; 4 by knockout and 3 by sub. He has a serviceable ground game and decent stand up. His two defeats both came inside the first round- 1 each by submission and knockout.

There are some significant defensive gaps in the armour of the Brazilian. If Collier can use his reach and keep him on the outside he could outpoint him on route to victory. Unfortunately, Abreu’s raw aggression will negate the reach advantage and put Collier on the defensive. Being the second best grappler in this fight, wont do Jake any favours as he losses a key aspect of his offensive attack. Neither guy has a tonne of experience beyond the first frame, so an early stoppage is a real possibility. Abreu is the better ground fighter and his brawling style will be too much for Collier, so my prediction is Ricardo Abreu to defeat Jake Collier by submission.

135lbs- Leonardo Morales (4-1-0) vs. Jose Quinonez (4-2-0)

In a battle of TUF: Latin American finalist Featherweight runner up Leonardo Morales makes his 135 pound debut when he takes on Bantamweight Silver medalist Jose Quinonez. Morales lost to Yair Rodriquez in his tournament final. Quinonez was bested by Alejandro Perez, costing him the TUF title in a rematch from their 2013 meeting.

Morales is making his divisional debut, but he will have a slight 1″ reach deficit. Morales is 2 years younger.

Both guys are relatively inexperienced and are coming off the same length layoff. Morales has split his 4 wins between knockout and submission. Quinonez has 2 first round knockouts on his record.

In an interesting side note- Quinonez opted to delivered a blatantly intentional headbutt to Perez that cost him 2 points in the final round of the fight.

Morales has a strong striking game, but Quinonez can hold his own despite not being as technically gifted. The x-factor in this fight is the ground game of Jose. If he can take Morales down with regularity it will take his striking skill out of the equation. Morales was taken down a couple of times in his last fight and he doesn’t appeared to have much of a ground game. It is hard to predict the impact of the weight cut on Morales. It can also be difficult to see what improvements both men have made since we last saw them. Based on what we do know, Quinonez keeps it close on the feet and lands some crucial takedowns and subsequent top control- my prediction is Jose Quinonez to defeat Leonardo Morales by decision.

145lbs- Rony Jason (15-5-0) vs Damon Jackson (9-1-0)

In the featured bout of the undercard, TUF Brazil winner Rony Jason rolls out the welcome mat for UFC sophomore Damon ‘The Leech’ Jackson. Jason fights for the 7th time in the UFC, all in Brazil, he has lost 2 of his last 3 with his only win in that span coming over Steven Siler. Jackson debuted on short notice as a Lightweight and suffered the first loss of his career against Yancy Medeiros.

The Brazilian returns to action after an elongated hiatus; he will have last fought a year less a day when he finally enters the cage to face Jackson. ‘The Leech’ has been on the shelf for almost 9 months since making his debut.

Jackson is 4″ taller then Jason, but Rony will have a slight 2″ reach advantage. The American is also 4 years younger.

Both are grappling first fighters. Jason is a BJJ Black belt and Judo Orange belt with 8 wins by submission- 1 in the UFC. He relies mainly on trips and clinch based takedowns to setup his mat game.

Jackson is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ purple belt with subs accounting for 7 of his 9 wins. He submitted Leonard Garcia in his final pre-UFC fight to win the Legacy FC Featherweight title, but was tapped by Medeiros in his debut.

On the feet, Jason has power, but the technical advantage should lie with Jackson. Rony tends to be a little wild, using limited to no set up and throwing mainly singles. Conversely, Jackson melds his striking together with his grappling quite nicely. He will attack, force his opponent to defend, and change levels for a takedown. Taking Jason down will score some significant points, but the attempted TDAs will also force Rony to have more then one defensive focus and as a result leave openings that can be exploited. Jason has seemed content to strike and at times forgoes his grappling abilities- this ultimately cost him his last fight. Picking against a Brazilian in Brazil is a risky proposition, but by prediction is Damon Jackson to defeat Rony Jason by decision, potentially split.

125lbs- #4 Jussier Formiga (17-3-0) vs #11 Wilson Reis (19-5-0)

In a battle of top 15 ranked Flyweights, Jussier Formiga looks for his 3rd straight UFC win when he takes on fellow Brazilian Wilson Reis. Reis has also won 2 in a row and has just a single loss in his last 8 fights. Formiga is 8-2 in his last 10 with his defeats coming against top ranked John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez.

Both men are BJJ Black belts with grappling heavy offensive attacks.

Reis is 9-0 in fights ended by submission and Formiga an equally as impressive 8-0. Reis has sub victories over Scott Jorgensen and a very early career tapout of Zach Makovsky. Jussier also subbed Scotty, and owns a ground based decision win over Makovsky.

The similarities don’t end there; both men have been knocked out twice and have yet to win by KO or TKO. Formiga is 9-1 in decisions, while Wilson is 10-3.

This pairing presents the potential for some spectacular grappling exchanges. Formiga has an excellent back mount and is a good scrambler. Though Reis’s takedown game looks to be superior; he scored a trio of completions against the much larger Yuri Alcantara and has landed 17 over 4 fights. Formiga landed 4 against Chris Cariaso, but has completed just 33% of his overall tries.

Against Makovsky, Jussier’s success on the mat was the product of his counter grappling. Makovsky routinely initiated with his wrestling and Jussier countered into a superior position. Against Benavidez and Dodson he failed to offer any real takedown threat and was equally as ineffective on the feet. Reis landed a stiff body kick that hurt Jorgensen prior to submitting him, and overall he should have the better striking game here. He will land the more impactful strikes and either defend or counter Jussier’s attempts to take him down. Neither man has great cardio so the bout could be won or lost in the first 2 frames, but my prediction is Wilson Reis to defeat Jussier Formiga by decision.

170lbs- Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (14-4-0) vs Nicolas Dalby (13-0-0)

The Welterweight division plays host to a pair of new roster members as Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos takes on Denmark’s Nicolas ‘Sharpshooter’ Dalby. dos Santos is riding a 4 fight winning streak and has just a single loss in his last 7 fights. Dalby is undefeated and has won his last 2 fights under the Cage Warriors banner.

This bout features a pair of regional champions from highly touted promotions. Dalby recently won and defended his Cage Warriors 170 pound title, while Elizeu pulled off the same feat as the Jungle Fight champion.

Sporting very different records, the Brazilian has won 11 times by knockout compared to just 2 submissions and a single decision win. ‘Sharpshooter’ has 4 knockouts, 3 submissions, and 6 wins on the judge’s cards accounting for his 13 victoriess.

dos Santos has finished 8 opponents in the first round compared to just 3 for the Dane.

Dalby pairs a karate based striking style with a serviceable wrestling game. Conversely, as his record suggests dos Santos packs significant power and is a capable counter striker.

Both fighters are debuting, but Dalby will be doing so in enemy territory. He appears to be the more technically sound striker and his ability to change levels gives him a nice secondary offensive option. Elizeu does tend to get a little wild when engaging, but Dalby is bit on the hittable side and with the power of dos Santos that can be disastrous. The Brazilian lands something early and swarms for the kill, my prediction is Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos to defeat Nicolas Danby by knockout.  

145lbs- Lucas Martins (15-2-0) vs Mirsad Bektic (9-0-0)

In the Featherweight division, Lucas ‘Mineiro’ Martins returns to action against rising prospect Mirsad Bektic. Bektic has yet to taste defeat, including a pair of wins in the UFC over Chas Skelly and Paul Redmond. Martins is coming off a loss to Darren Elkins, it ended a 3 fight winning streak- he is now 3-2 inside the Octagon.

Martins is replacing the injured Renato Carneiro who was initially scheduled to fight Bektic. Martins will have had roughly 1 month to prep for the fight, he fought Elkins 7 months ago.

The Brazilian will stand 4″ taller than his adversary and have a 2″ reach advantage.

Bektic, a member of American Top Team, has been impressive in his first two appearances. His success has been the product of a wrestling heavy attack, highlighted by a heavy top game and overwhelming work rate.

He has a pair of wins by submission and melds together a good grappling game with brutal ground and pound.

A product of the famed Chute Boxe Academy, Martins is an aggressive striking based fighter. He has earned 10 of his 15 wins by knockout including UFC stoppages of Alex White and Jeremy Larsen.

Martins has averaged 3.40 SLpM, but given up a concerning 4.16 SApM.

The Brazilian did an admirable job fending off the wrestling heavy attack of Darren Elkins, stopping 13 of 14 TDAs. Unfortunately, he was unable to create much separation and as a result his striking game was rendered ineffective. If he can’t keep Bektic at range he will be hard pressed to find much offensive success. Bektic will exploit the defensive lapses in the striking game of ‘Mineiro’ and punish him on with furious GnP, so my prediction is Mirsad Bektic to defeat Lucas Martins by TKO.

115lbs- #13 Juliana Lima (7-2-0) vs Ericka Almeida (7-0-0)

In the ever expanding Women’s Strawweight division, Juliana Lima makes her 3rd promotional appearance when she takes on Octagon neophyte Ericka Almeida. Lima is 1-1, debuting with a loss to now champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk before besting Nina Ansaroff. Almeida enters the UFC undefeated having finished all of her opponents including her last 2 under the Jungle Fight banner.

Almeida is stepping in to replace Jessica Penne who was pulled from the card and move to UFC Fight Night 69 to challenge for the title. Almeida is the current Jungle Fight Strawweight champion.

The newcomer is making her debut on a quick turn around. She last fought on April 11th, just 6 weeks prior to her debut.

Lima has gone to decision in 7 of her 9 fights, winning 5. Her other 2 victories came by knockout. Almeida has finished all of her opponents, 6 by submission, with only 1 fight lasting beyond the first round.

Almeida has finished all her opponents in timely fashion, but her last 3 adversaries are a combined 5-3 with 4 of those wins coming from 1 fighter.

While Ericka’s competition hasn’t been overly impressive, she is still a pretty competent grappler. If given the opportunity she could finish Lima. Lima showed a sound wrestling game against another pretty capable grappler in Ansaroff, defending her sub attempts, and capitalizing on the positional advantage that she gained as a result. The striking exchanges should be relatively close, with Lima frequently reverting back to her wrestling when needed. The guard play of Almeida will be worth watching, but unless a sub materializes she will be in tough. When a fighter that is accustom to quick finishes takes a step up in competition and is unable to seal the deal early on it can be a difficult scenario to overcome, so my prediction is Juliana Lima to defeat Ericka Almeida by decision.

170lbs- Luiz Dutra (11-3-1) vs Tom Breese (7-0-0)

To open up the 3rd Brazilian event of the year, TUF Brazil alumni Luiz Dutra squares off with promotional debutant Tom ‘Fearless’ Breese. Dutra was defeated in his debut via DQ for elbow strikes to the back of his opponent’s head- he had won 4 in row. Breese enters the UFC undefeated with his last 3 wins all coming by way of submission.

Dutra hasn’t seen action in 16 months since making his debut. Breese fought 6 months ago, his only appearance since late 2012.

A member of Firas Zahabi’s Tristar Gym, Breese has finished all 7 of his professional opponents- 6 by submission. 4 of those submission wins came inside the first round and all under the BAMMA banner where he fought 6 times.

He has won 4 times by Rear-Naked choke.

Dutra has split his 6 finishes evenly between subs and knockouts. He is an aggressive striker, willing to push the pace and engage, but his style of wild engagement can leave openings for his opponent to exploit.

The Brazilian should have the advantage on the feet, but his over aggressive nature will create openings for Breese to clinch up and drag him to the mat. Once Breese is able to close the distance he will control Dutra in close and eventually drag him to the floor where he will start to look for submission opportunities. Breese enters enemy territory for his debut, which is tough, but the layoff won’t do Dutra any favours- my prediction is Tom Breese to defeat Luiz Dutra by submission.

125lbs- #1 John Dodson (17-6-0) vs #9 Zach Makovsky (19-5-0)

The feature fight of the preliminary portion of the event will take place in the Flyweight division as former title challenger John ‘The Magician’ Dodson returns to action against former Bellator Bantamweight champion Zach ‘Fun Size’ Makovsky. Dodson has earned back to back wins since his unsuccessful title challenge, most recently beating John Moraga by TKO. Makovsky is 3-1 in the UFC with wins over Scott Jorgensen, Josh Sampo, and Tim Elliott in his most recent appearance.

Dodson is returning after a lengthy injury induced layoff of almost a year. He will give up 1” of height to his opponent, but hold a modest 2” reach advantage.

Makovsky and Dodson’s success appears to hinge largely on their respective wrestling abilities. For Makovsky, his focus is offensive as he needs to consistently land takedowns while Dodson’s approach is primarily defensive in order to implement his striking based attack.

‘Fun Size’ has landed 17 takedowns in his 3 UFC wins compared to just 1 in his loss to Formiga. He has also been submitted 3 times. Dodson has defended all 13 TDAs in his 4 Flyweight victories, while giving up 5 on 15 tries against the champion.

Makovsky is a capable striker, but the combination of Dodson’s speed, technique and power will give him a distinct advantage. Makovsky has just a single win by knockout and with Dodson having been hit just 27 times over his last 3 wins it is hard to see a scenario where the former Bellator champ succeeds on the feet.

Dodson has recorded 8 wins by knockout.

The injury layoff is concerning, but Dodson is a stylistic nightmare for Makovsky. His ability to defend takedowns will negate the most crucial aspect of Zach’s offensive attack. As Makovsky becomes more desperate to drag his opponent to the floor it will only further amplify advantage that Dodson has on the feet. Dodson’s lethal combination of speed and power, along with a sound defensive front will be too much for his foe, so my prediction is John Dodson to defeat Zach Makovsky by knockout.

170lbs- #8 Dong Hyun Kim (19-3-1 1NC) vs Josh Burkman (28-11-0)

In the Welterweight division, the ‘Stun Gun’ Dong Hyun Kim takes on reborn UFC vet Josh ‘The People’s Warrior’ Burkman. Burkman pulled a tough draw for his Octagon return, dropping a decision to Hector Lombard which was later overturned to a No Contest- he was 8-3 prior to his re-debut. Kim had his 4 fight winning streak halted by a violent 1st round knockout at the hands of Tyron Woodley.

‘Stun Gun’ is 3” taller than Burkman and will have a 2” reach advantage.

A Judo and BJJ Black belt, Kim has moved away from his grappling based attack for a more exciting, but reckless striking oriented game plan. His aggressive reincarnation scored back to back knockouts, but was also the direct result of 61 second defeat at the hands of Woodley.

Kim landed 6 takedowns in his last 2 decision victory compared to just 2 over his last 3 fights.

Burkman has finished his opponents in 4 of his last 5 victories- 2 each by knockout and submission. He has compiled 17 finishes as a pro (7 KO/TKOs & 10 subs). With a growing reputation for his durability, Burkman was unable to solve the mammoth Cuban, but managed to avoid being finished. He has a solid striking repertoire and dangerous grappling game that is highlighted by a crushing guillotine choke.

Burkman has been submitted 6 times, but Kim has just a single submission win.

Which DHK will show up? If the conservative, grappling based fighter enters the cage he has the ability to grind Burkman into the floor leading to a decision win. If the wild and reckless hurricane of destruction answers the bell- it’s a different story. Considering his last 3 performance, it would appear the latter is the more likely scenario of the two. Burkman should have the cardio advantage and his ability to withstand damage will keep him around after the initial blitz has ended. Burkman is a capable finisher and will exploit a defensively vulnerable adversary who will experience a massive slowdown somewhere in the middle frame- so my prediction Josh Burkman to defeat Dong Hyun Kim by Decision.

185lbs- Uriah Hall (11-4-0) vs Rafael Natal (19-6-1)

In the Middleweight division, TUF finalist Uriah ‘Prime Time’ Hall takes on 12-fight UFC veteran Rafael ‘Sapo’ Natal. Hall has rebounded nicely from his early struggles; winning a trio of fights including a TKO stoppage of his most recent opponent Ron Stallings. Natal is currently riding a 2 fight winning streak, defeating Tom Watson and Chris Camozzi both by decision.

Hall is 2 years younger than Natal and will have a 3″ reach advantage.

A BJJ Black belt, Natal has earned 8 of his 19 wins by submission while averaging 2.87 TDs at a 38% completion rate. Conversely, Hall is a striking based fighter boasting a Black belt in Kyokushin Karate. 6 of his 10 wins have come by knockout, including 2 of his last 3.

Natal is 3-4 in fights ending by knockout, losing by KO to both Tim Kennedy and Andrew Craig. Hall is 3-4 in decisions.

The Brazilian’s striking looked much improved in his win over ‘Kong’ Watson, but it was the return of a constant takedown threat that was crucial to his success. If he can take Hall down with regularity, it will create some trepidation in the knockout artist. Unfortunately, it is hard to looked past the 4 knockout losses on the record of ‘Sapo’, especially considering Hall’s incredibly diverse and dangerous striking repertoire. The fight will be close early on, but look for Hall to exploit an adversary with below average cardio and subsequent defensive striking lapses- my prediction is Urijah Hall to defeat Rafael Natal by TKO.

115lbs- #4 Rose Namajunas (3-2-0) vs Nina Ansaroff (6-4-0)

Strawweight tournament finalist Rose Namajunas makes her first appearance after her unsuccessful title shot when she meets Nina Ansaroff. Namajunas has lost back to back fights on her official record, but picked up 3 impressive wins on her season of the Ultimate Fighter between those losses. Ansaroff entered the promotion on a 5 fight winning streak, but came up short in a close decision loss to Juliana Lima.

Despite their small number of fights, both girls have experience that is better than their records indicate. Rose has her aforementioned run on the show culminating with her bout with former champ Carla Esparza. She also fought top ranked opponent Tecia Torre pre-TUF. Along with her debut fight, Nina battled Esparza to a split decision loss and she also faced Invicta Flyweight champion Barb Honchak.

Both girls carry respectable combat accreditation. Ansaroff is Taekwondo Black belt and BJJ Purple belt, while Namajunas is also a Black belt in Taekwondo, a Black belt in Karate, and a BJJ Blue belt.

This bout has bonus money written all over it.

On the mat, both girls will chain submission attempts together, but Nina tends to be a little reckless and routinely give up position. Additionally, she doesn’t have the strong wrestling game that has given Rose trouble in the past. On the feet, both throw a nice variety of techniques, but Ansaroff frequently forgoes a consistent output in exchange for flashier spinning techniques. Conversely, Rose’s higher output will position her as the aggressor and keep her adversary backpedaling instead of engaging. Namajunas needs to avoid the post title fight letdown, but look for her capitalize on her opponent’s mistakes- my prediction is Rose Namajunas to defeat Nina Ansaroff by submission.

170lbs-Mike Pyle (26-10-1) vs Colby Covington (7-0-0)

In the Welterweight division, long time UFC veteran Mike ‘Quicksand’ Pyle takes on injury replacement Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington of American Top Team. Pyle has lost 2 of his last 3 after an impressive run of 4 straight wins over the likes of Rick Story and Josh Neer. Covington is making his third UFC appearance after back to back wins to get his Octagon career started.

Covington is replacing the injured Sean Spencer on roughly 3 weeks notice.

The long-time vet will hold a significant experience advantage over his opponent in both quantity and quality of opposition faced. Pyle has 37 pro fights compared to just 7 for Covington, who is 13 years younger than ‘Quicksand’.

The ATT product is making a massive step up in competition considering his first 2 Octagon adversaries have a combined record of 5-4.

Both fighters have won the bulk of their fights by submission. Pyle a BJJ Brown belt has won 16 times by submission, while Covington has locked up subs in 5 of his 7 triumphs.

4 of Pyle’s last 5 wins have come by knockout, pushing his career total to 6. He has also been knocked out 5 times, along with 4 losses by submission.

Pyle has firmly established himself as a top level gatekeeper with his last 4 losses coming against top level competition. His chin is a bit of a concern, but Covington has yet to record an official win by knockout with his debut recorded as a submission due to strikes. Pyle is a seasoned grappler with an aggressive guard. If he can take his opponent’s grappling skills out of the equation, he should have the advantage on the feet. Covington didn’t look that comfortable exchanging with his last 2 opponent’s and Pyle has shown himself to be increasingly dangerous both at range and in the clinch. Covington is making a significant step up in competition and doing it on short notice, so my prediction is Mike Pyle to defeat Colby Covington by decision.

155lbs- Islam Makhachev (11-0-0) vs Leo Kuntz (17-1-1)

In the Lightweight division, Islam Makhachev takes on fellow UFC debutant Leo ‘The Lion’ Kuntz. Makhachev has yet to taste defeat, winning his last 4 fights all under the M-1 banner. Kuntz is riding an impressive 15 fight unbeaten streak that has included stoppages in 3 of his last 4.

The American will have a 5″ reach advantage, but is 8 years younger than his opponent.

Kuntz has been on the shelf for 17 months, which included a previously scheduled UFC debut against Yosdenis Cedeno getting scrapped. The ATT member did make an appearance on the 16th season of TUF, where he was knocked out by Sam Alvey.

Another Dagestani import, Islam is a training partner of top ranked Lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. He is an International Master of Combat Sambo with 5 wins by submission and an overall strong takedown game.

Kuntz has 12 wins inside the distance, 7 by knockout and 5 by submission.

There isn’t any recent footage of Kuntz available and that makes for a difficult prediction. He does come from a good camp, but his lack of activity is extremely concerning. Makhachev grappling is very strong, he has a nice variety of takedown techniques, and he has improved his top position play. He can finish, but he is also capable of dominating with his grappling skills for a full 3 rounds. On the feet, he does tend to throw wide looping punches and Kuntz could capitalize on that, but he will need to remain vertical to do so. Kuntz is a bit of a wildcard here, but Makhachev’s grappling game carries him to victory so my prediction is Islam Makhachev to defeat Leo Kuntz by submission.

125lbs- Justin Scoggins (9-2-0) vs Josh Sampo (11-4-0)

To open the card, Justin ‘Tank’ Scoggins looks to rebound from a pair of defeats when he takes on Josh ‘The Gremlin’ Sampo who has also lost back to back fights. Scoggins started his UFC career with 2 wins, but has since seen his Octagon record fall to 2-2 after a come from behind loss to John Moraga. Sampo’s 2 fight skid includes a decision loss to fellow undercard participant Zach Makovsky and an upset submission defeat to Paddy Holohan.

Scoggins is 8 years younger than his opponent and will have a 3″ reach advantage.

A former CFA Flyweight champion, Sampo is a BJJ Purple belt with 6 wins by submission. Unfortunately, his last 2 losses have come as a result of him getting out grappled. He was taken down by 5 times by Makovsky and quickly submitted in his last bout after getting stunned on the feet.

Scoggins has compiled an impressive finishing rate, knocking out 6 opponents and submitting 1 while going the distance just twice. He has a strong striking repertoire and augments with a very good wrestling game.

Sampo’s struggles on the mat against superior ground fighters should continue here against Scoggins. With an excellent single leg, look for Justin to time his opponent’s forward push and change levels. Once on top he will need to defend against Sampo’s aggressive guard, but his positional advantage will negate whatever his foe throws at him. If the fight remains standing, look for Scoggins to get the better of his opponent with a superior work rate and strong variety of kicking techniques. Scoggins made a mistake in his last fight and he needs to mindful not to fall into a similar trap, but my prediction is Justin Scoggins to defeat Josh Sampo by TKO.

155lbs- Tae Hyun Bang (17-8-0) vs Jon Tuck (8-2-0)

Headlining the undercard, ‘The Super Natural’ Tae Hyun Bang of South Korea takes on TUF alumni Jon ‘The Super Saiyan’ Tuck of Guam. Bang obliterated Kajan Johnon with a 3rd round knockout to even his UFC record at 1-1. Tuck is coming off a loss to Kevin Lee by decision, he is now 2-2 inside the Octagon.

Tuck will stand 2″ taller then Bang, along with a slight 2″ reach advantage.

Bang’s knockout of Johnson was the 9th of his career, he is also 8-6 in decisions with a pair of submission losses. Tuck has finished 7 of his 8 opponents- 3 KO/TKO and 4 by submission. He is 1-2 on the judges’ scorecards.

Both men currently holds negative striking exchange rates; a moderate -0.07 for Bang and a much more concerning -1.12 for Tuck.

Tuck has a more diverse striking attacking and offers a pretty decent ground game compared to his foe. Bang has been taken down 9 times in 2 UFC fights and appears overmatched once he is on the canvas. Tuck will replicate these problems. Bang has knockout power, but sometimes relies too much on countering and subsequently allows his opponent to outwork him. Additionally, his kicking game is very limited compared to Tuck’s. If Jon gasses, which is a possibility, it will create openings for Bang to get back in the fight, but Tuck’s advantage on the mat and superior work rate will be he difference- my prediction is Jon Tuck to defeat Tae Hyun Bang by decision.

155lbs- Zhang Lipeng (9-8-1) vs Kajan Johnson (19-12-1)

In the Lightweight division, TUF China champion Zhang Lipeng takes on TUF Nations semi-finalist ‘Rajin’ Kajan Johnson. Lipeng was victorious in the TUF tournament finals and his sophomore appearance, before falling to Chris Wade back in January. Johnson came up short in his promotional debut falling via crushing 3rd round knockout to fellow UFN 66 undercard participant Tae Hyun Bang.

Lipeng’s second UFC win came by decision over Australian Brendan O’Reilly, who Kajan Johnson defeated via submission in the opening round of his season of TUF.

Neither man has an outstanding overall record, but Johnson has gone 13-3-1 over his last 17. 11 of his wins have come by submission and 4 each by decision and knockout. He has accrued some concerning defeat totals; losing by submission 3 and 4 times by knockout- not including his devastating loss to Chad Laprise on the show.

Lipeng is a BJJ Blue belt, but a concerning 3-5 in fights ending by submission and just 3-3 in decisions.

Johnson’s chin/jaw is a massive vulnerability, but Zhang doesn’t appear to have the ability to exploit it. Johnson’s striking is decent and the lack of a knockout threat from his opponent should allow him to open up more. Lipeng is aggressive on the mat, but frequently relinquishes position for potential submission opportunities. Johnson, despite his trio of defeats by sub, is pretty good on the mat and will scramble his way to a superior position if Lipeng tries to take him down. Johnson control the striking exchanges and takes advantage of Lipeng as he becomes more desperate to get the fight to the mat- my prediction is Kajan Johnson to defeat Zhang Lipeng by submission.

170lbs- Li Jingliang (9-3-0) vs Dhiego Lima (11-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, TUF finalist Dhiego Lima takes on former Legend FC 170 pound champion Li Jingliang. Lima currently sits at 1-2 inside the Octagon and is coming off a quick first round defeat by knockout at the hands of Tim Means. Jingliang debuted with a split decision win over David Michaud, before losing his second outing against Nordine Taleb.

Lima will stand 2″ taller and have a sizeable 4″ reach advantage over his adversary.

Both fighters have built their biggest win totals with this submission skills. Jingliang is 5-0 in fights ended by submission- with 4 wins coming by guillotine. Similarly, Lima has won 4 times by submission as a pro, along with 2 tap outs during his stint on the Ultimate Fighter.

While both men have had their greatest success on the mat, this fight could well be decided with their striking. Lima is the more technical striker, but with 2 knockout losses in his last 3 fights his chin is a bit of a question mark. Jingliang is incredibly scrappy and does a nice job of pushing the pace. His aggression could pose a serious problem for Lima who has had trouble with aggressive strikers and isn’t the same fighter when he is forced to routinely backpedal. Lima has a tendency to get off to a bit of slow start and that will cost him here as Li attacks with high volume barrages that keep Dhiego on the defensive, my prediction is Li Jingliang to defeat Dhiego Lima by decision.

135lbs- Ning Guangyou (5-2-1) vs Royston Wee (4-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, TUF China winner Ning ‘Smasher’ Guangyou takes on Singapore representative Royston Wee. Wee is undefeated in the UFC with wins over Dave Galera and Yao Zhikui, both by decision. Guangyou has won 2 in a row including his UFC debut, the aforementioned TUF China tournament final.

Wee is 3″ taller then his opponent and will have a 3″ reach advantage, along with being 5 years younger. Guangyou won the Featherweight TUF tournament, but is cutting down to 135 for this fight.

With 8 pro bouts compared to 4 for Wee, Guangyou has a larger experience base and he also has the most accomplished opponent on his resume- losing by sub to Kyung Ho Kang back in 2009. The experience gained on a successful TUF run also provides some valuable cage time for ‘Smasher’.

Wee was an alternate on the first season of TUF China, but never got the call to compete.

Takedowns have been the key to Royston’s success so far, with 9 completions in 30 minutes of action. Both of his pre-UFC wins came by first round submission. Outside of his ground game, Wee is fairly limited and his last opponent showed that if you can defend his TDA’s he isn’t the same fighter. Ning comes from a Greco Roman background and is pretty strong both offensively and defensively. He is also the superior striker, packing some power in his strikes. Look for the TUF winner to have made noticeable improvements since his last appearance, stuff Wee’s takedowns, and land some big strikes against a backpedalling opponent- my prediction is Ning Guangyou to defeat Royston Wee by TKO.

125lbs- Roldan Sangcha-an (4-1-0) vs Jon Delos Reyes (7-4-0)

The second of two Flyweight bouts to kick off the undercard will feature UFC sophomore Roldan ‘The Executioner’ Sangcha-an battling ‘The Heat’ Jon Delos Reyes. Sangcha-an was unsuccessful in his promotional first showing, falling by decision to Richie Vaculik- the first loss of his pro career. Delos Reyes is 0-2 in the UFC, losing by submission to Dustin Kimura as a Bantamweight and then by first round knockout to Kyoji Horiguchi.

The American brings a 100% finishing rate in his wins, recording 3 wins by knockout and 4 by submission. Sangcha-an has also finished all 4 of his wins, splitting them evenly between knockouts and submission.

The Filipino fighter has been on the shelf for 11 months since making his debut.

This contest should be high on action, but short on fight time. Sangcha-an showed signs of a decent grappling game in his debut, but lost the fight on the mat with Vaculik. Delos Reyes could be best suited to look for takedowns and work his grappling game. On the feet, the American tends to leave some undesirable openings as a result of his aggressive style- this is where Roldan will capitalize. Look for ‘the Executioner’ to be the more impactful striker, highlighted by some strong kicking techniques- my prediction is Roldan Sangcha-an to defeat Jon Delos Reyes by knockout.

125lbs- Nolan Ticman (4-2-0) vs Yao Zhikui (1-3-0)

UFN 66’s early morning start will be lead off by a Flyweight fight between a pair of promotional sophomores with Nolan Ticman fighting Yao Zhikui. Ticman lost his debut to Frankie Saenz and has now dropped 2 of his last 3. Zhikui, a TUF China participant, was also unsuccessful in his first foray into the UFC with a controversial split decision loss to Royston Wee.

Both men debuted at 135 pounds, Ticman appears to be the larger man with a 1″ height advantage and a 5″ edge in reach.

With each fighter last competing last August, they have each been on the shelf for roughly 10 months.

Neither is overly high on experience, but considering Ticman debuted against an opponent who pulled off a massive upset of Yuri Alcantara in his next fight- he has the advantage in quality of opposition faced.

There is a lot of uncertainty heading into this fight- the long layoffs, lack of overall experience, and the divisional drop for both men all raise red flags. Ticman’s debut came after a near 2 year layoff, so there should be an increased comfort level this time around. He is also training out of a surging camp that is home to Lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos and the steadily rising Beneil Dariush. Ticman is a former collegiate wrestler which will allow him to dictate where the fight takes place, especially considering how much Yao struggled with the takedowns of Royston Wee- my prediction is Nolan Ticman to defeat Yao Zhikui by submission.

ufn 65 PRELIMS SLIDER

145lbs- Hatsu Hioki (27-8-2) vs Dan Hooker (12-5-0)

In the featured bout of the undercard, New Zealand’s Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker squares off with Japanese star Hatsu Hioki. Hooker fell to 1-1 in the UFC with an entertaining, but ultimately losing effort against Maximo Blanco. Hioki lost his last fight via surprising submission to Charles Oliveira- he has just a single win over his previous 5 bouts.

Hooker will have just a 1″ height advantage, but a far more significant 5″ of reach. Dan is also 7 years younger than his foe, but Hioki does have 20 more pro fights.

A BJJ Black belt, Hioki has secured 12 wins by submission, but none in the UFC. His loss to Oliveira was the first and only submission loss of his career. He has averaged 2.49 takedowns at a 59% completion rate. Hooker’s submission defense was his key to victory in his debut, but he has been tapped twice- both via RNC. He was also taken down 3 times in his loss to Blanco.

Hooker is a striker by trade despite his 50/50 split of his 10 finishes between submissions and knockouts. He uses his length well and has some power. Hioki striking isn’t the focal point of his attack, but he is still quite capble when exchanging. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the length deficit that usually favours him.

The East to West travel factor appears to have been an issue for Hioki. When fighting state-side in the UFC he is 1-3. When competing in locales closer to his home base, he has put on much stronger performances with a 2-1 record- he was arguably winning the Oliveira fight prior to getting caught.

This fight will almost certainly come down to the ground attack of Hioki and how successful it is. In his 3 wins he has won the takedown battle by a count of 8-2, but has struggled defensively in his losses with a 8 TDs for and 8 against. He has a strong top game and a nice variety of takedown options to get the fight to the floor. Hooker has had difficulty both in the UFC and in earlier fights where his opponents were able to put him on his back with consistency. The threat of being taken down will also make Hooker far less productive on the feet, taking away his biggest weapon. Hooker is a dismal 1-3 in fights that go the distance and 1-5 when he can’t finish his opponent while Hioki has been stopped just once in 37 fights- my prediction is Hatsu Hioki to defeat Dan Hooker by decision.

170lbs- Kyle Noke (20-7-1) vs Jonavin Webb (8-0-0)

In the Welterweight division, TUF Nations Team Australia coach Kyle Noke welcomes injury replacement and current CFFC 170 pound champion Jonavin ‘Spyder’ Webb to the Octagon. Noke’s last fight was a loss to opposing TUF coach Patrick Cote, he has just a single win in his last 4 fights. Webb, currently undefeated, is coming off of 64 second submission win in which he retained his newly acquired Welterweight title.

Webb is replacing the injured Andreas Stahl on just over a month’s notice after he was forced to withdraw due to injury. Noke is returning to action after having sat on the shelf for almost 13 months.

The Aussie will stand 4″ taller then his opponent, but Jonavin is 9 years younger than Noke.

The UFC neophyte comes from a grappling background, training in both BJJ and wrestling. He has secured 4 of his 8 wins by submission- 2 by RNC. Noke, a product of the Jackson-Winklejohn camp is 8-2 in fights ending by submission including tapping Chris Camozzi via RNC at UFC 127.

Holes in the defensive wrestling of Noke were exposed in the Cote fight. He was taken down multiple times and spent prolonged amounts of the fight on his back against a fighter who has averaged 0.83 takedowns at a 23% completion rate over his UFC tenure.

On the feet, Noke has 7 wins by knockout and 2 in the UFC. He has put up respectable numbers with +1.53 striking exchange rate. He has either landed more or an equal number of significant strikes compared to his opponent in each of his 7 UFC appearances.

Noke should have the advantage on the feet against a fighter still working to round out his striking game. Unfortunately, he has struggled of late to employ his vertical assault with enough consistency and impact to gain the respect of his opponents. If he can’t outwork his foe on the feet by a wide margin, any takedowns that he concedes will loom large.

The UFC vet has been around since 2010, but he has just a single bout since late 2012 and other than his win over Charlie Brenneman, he has struggled against next level opposition. Comparatively, ‘Spyder’ has yet to hit double digits in pro experience, he is making his debut on a month’s notice, and he struggled through his first real encounter with an increase in competition against Lyman Good before the fight was ruled a No Contest. All things consider, Noke has appeared too vulnerable against lesser grapplers and unless Webb freezes under the lights if the big stage he will exploits those issues, so my prediction is Jonavin Webb to defat Kyle Noke by decision.

185lbs- Dan Kelly (9-0-0) vs Sam Alvey (25-6-0 1NC)

In the Middleweight division, American Sam Alvey fights Australian’s own Dan Kelly. Kelly has won back to back UFC bouts to remain undefeated- most recently vanquishing Patrick Walsh. Alvey is also riding a 2 fight winning streak after improving his Octagon mark to 2-1 by knocking out the heavily favoured Cezar Ferreira.

This is Alvey’s second trip to the land down under, defeating fellow UFN 65 undercarder Dylan Andrews by knockout at UFC Fight Night 55.

The Aussie will be at a physical deficit, with a 5” reach disadvantage along with standing 2” shorter then Alvey.

Both men have accumulated respectable finishing rates. Kelly owns 5 wins by submission and a pair of knockouts in 9 total fights. Alvey has a much more striking centric record earning 16 of his 25 wins by knockout compared to just 2 submissions and a 7-5 record in fights going the distance.

Kelly is a 4th dan Black belt in Judo and a BJJ Purple belt. He competed in 4 Summer Olympics in Judo, most recently in 2012.

Kelly will want to close the distance and either clinch or drag Alvey to the floor where he can attack from top position. Conversely, Alvey’s focus will be to keep his foe at boxing range. He isn’t a high output striker and is lacking in diversity, but he does offer a pretty solid counter striking game to augment his power. The Aussie tends to leave his chin exposed when under attack and as was the case against Ferreira, Alvey may only need one flush connection to bring the fight to an abrupt halt. Kelly lacks the technical striking acumen to spend too long on the feet and the length disadvantage will force him to close the distance leaving himself exposed to counters, so my prediction is Sam Alvey to defeat Dan Kelly by knockout.

115lbs- Bec Rawlings (5-4-0) vs Lisa Ellis (15-9-0)

In the Strawweight division, 24-fight veteran Lisa Ellis battles fellow TUF 20 ‘Rowdy’ Bec Rawlings. Ellis has lost 4 of her last 5, including her promotional debut against Felice Herrig. Rawlings also had an unsuccessful start to her UFC run; falling to Heather Jo Clarke- she has just 1 win in her last 4 contests.

Along with having home field advantage, Rawlings will stand 2” taller than Ellis and have an accompanying 2” reach advantage.

The edge in total experience lies with Ellis, who has 15 more fights than Bec. The American also has the superior resume of opposition faced, having fought top ranked Strawweight Jessica Aguilar twice (1-1), along with Jessica Penne, Megumi Fujii, and Herrig.

Rawlings fought and lost to Carla Esparza in the inaugural Invicta FC Strawweight title fight.

A seasoned grappler, Ellis has won 11 times by submission, including her 2006 RNC victory over Aguilar. Unfortunately, she has also been tapped 6 times- accounting for 67% of her losses. Rawlings has a trio of submission wins.

Rawlings should have the advantage on the feet, working decent combinations and hard low kicks. Unfortunately, her last 3 losses have been a product of her inability to fend off her opponent’s ground attack. She was taken down several times by Clarke, had her back taken, and routinely lost position in scrambles. She had similar issues against Carla Esparza, Mizuki Inoue, and in her only fight on TUF against Tecia Torres. Ellis is a good grappler and should be able to recreate these ground woes. It has been suggested that since her bloody war with Penne she has lost some of her mental toughness, but her top position play will make her the front runner for the vast majority of this match- so my prediction is Lisa Ellis to defeat Bec Rawlings by decision.

185lbs- Dylan Andrews (18-7-0 1NC) vs Bradley Scott (10-3-0)

In the Middleweight division, a pair of TUF alumni go head to head as Dylan ‘The Villan’ Andrews takes on Bradley ‘Bear’ Scott. Andrews has lost back to back fights, both by knockout- he is now 2-2 in the UFC. Scott hasn’t faired much better of late, with just 1 win in his last 3 fights- a 2013 sub over Michael Kuiper.

By fight time, Scott will have been on the shelf for 14 months plus a day.

A member of the Ultimate Fighter 17 cast, Andrews made it all the way to the semi-finals before falling to the much hyped Uriah Hall.

Andrews has accumulated a respectable 12 wins by knockout, including his first 2 UFC showings. He has been knocked out 3 times and is a concerning 3-3 in contests ended by submission.

The Aussie has averaged 3.31 takedowns per fight at a 50% completion rate.

Scott has finished all 9 of his victories- 5 by knockout and 4 by submission. He is coming off a controversial decision against Claudio Silva. He appeared to land the more impactful strikes, but was taken down 3 times and couldn’t do enough to convince his hometown judges he had done enough.

Andrews has under-performed at times, despite evidence of a well-rounded striking/ wrestling attack- he stumbled out of the gates against Papy Abedi and got off to a bit of a slow start in his debut win.

Like a couple other fights on this card, the loser of this bout could be out of work after the weekend. Andrews appears to have more facets to his game, he also has the experience advantage, he has been more active of late, and is fighting at home. His high rate of getting finished is concerning, especially against a fighter who had finished all of his 9 wins. Unfortunately for the Brit, there is just too much for him to overcome here with Andrews getting the better of the striking exchanges, and working in his wrestling when needed- my prediction is Dylan Andrews to defeat Bradley Scott by knockout.

115lbs- Alex Chambers (4-2-0) vs Kailin Curran (3-1-0)

In the first of two Women’s Strawweight bouts on the undercard, Alex ‘Astro Girl’ Chambers takes on fellow promotional sophomore Kailin Curran. Chambers made her debut last December and was defeated by fellow TUF cast mate Aisling Daly. Curran debuted a month earlier, but was also unsuccessful against the fast rising Page VanZant.

Chambers, a former Atomweight, will face some physical deficits as Curran is an inch taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Curran is also 13 years younger then her Australian counterpart.

A 3rd Dan Black belt in Karate and BJJ Purple belt, Chambers has some decent combat accreditations. Curran comes from a wrestling background and has been training as a kickboxer since 2006.

All 3 of Curran’s wins have come by decision, but did pick up 2 subs and 2 TKO victories as an amateur. Chambers has earned 3 stoppages (2 TKOs & 1 sub) in her 4 wins. Conversely, she has been submitted in both of her pro losses and her only TUF bout- failing to escape the opening round in any of the bouts.

‘Astro Girl’ has only fought beyond of the first round once in her career, with her last 5 fights finding their conclusion before the end the opening stanza.

While both girls are competent when striking, their primary inclination will be to close the distance and take their opponent to the mat. Chambers has shown herself to be a pretty tricking grappler, earning a nice win via RNC in her only Invicta appearance. Unfortunately, after scoring a takedown against Daly she lost position, spent the majority of the fight on her back, and was eventually submitted. Curran took PVZ down 5 times and was fairly successful on the mat until the pace of her foe did her in. She has a strong clinch based takedown game and she will keep Chambers there once she gets her on her back. The Aussie’s age, lack of experience beyond the first round, and troubled sub defense are three significant red flags, so my prediction is Kailin Curran to defeat Alex Chambers by decision.

170lbs- Vik Grujic (7-5-0) vs Brendan O’Reilly (5-1-1)

In the Welterweight division, TUF Nation’s Team Australia representatives faceoff as Vik Grujic meets Brendan O’Reilly. Grujic has sandwiched his only UFC win, over fellow Aussie Chris Indich, between a pair of losses- he is 2-4 in his last 6. O’Reilly debuted unsuccessfully with a decision loss to Lipeng Zhang.

Grujic defeated Luke Harris in the first round of the TUF tournament, but fell to Sheldon Westcott in the semis. O’Reilly was defeated via submission in the first round by Kajan Johnson.

O’Reilly has been on the shelf for the better part of 9 months and will be making his Welterweight debut after first competing at 155 pounds. He will be giving up 4″ of height and 4″ of reach, but he is 10 years younger then Vik.

Prior to entering the TUF house O’Reilly had gone undefeated, but his last 3 wins came over opponents with a combined 8-15 record. He has a single win by knockout along with 2 subs and 2 decision wins.

Grujic scored a TKO over Indich, the second of his career. He also has 3 submission wins.

The loser of this fight is most likely out of a job. Grujic has shown some power and has been competitive in his fights, while O’Reilly struggled in his first appearance at a lighter weight class against an inexperienced opponent. Grujic should be able to carry the majority of the action with superior striking, takedowns, and an overall physical advantage- my prediction is Vik Grujic to defeat Brendan O’Reilly by decision.

125lbs- Alp Ozkilic (9-3-0) vs Ben Nguyen (13-5-0)

In the 125 pound division, Alp Ozkilic makes his fourth Octagon appearance when he welcomes promotional newcomer Ben Nguyen to the UFC. Ozkilic is 1-2 since making his debut, defeating Darren Uyenoyama. but falling in back to back bouts to Louis Smolka and John Lineker. Nguyen is riding a 7 fight winning streak, which includes his viral video win over Julian Rabaud- check it out if you want a good laugh.

While he might be debuting, Nguyen has faced some next level competition, albeit unsuccessfully. A pair 2009 losses to Erik Perez and Alexis Vila, both by second round knockout, are the most noteworthy names on his resume.

Nguyen is making his divisional debut, cutting down from 135 pounds.

An NJCAA All-American wrestler, Ozkilic has averaged 4.35 takedowns per fight at a 61% completion rate. In his debut, he utilized a strong top game on route to a decision victory, the sixth of his career. He landed an impressive 9 takedowns on 14 attempts in a losing effort against Smolka.

Nguyen has 8 wins by knockout, 3 inside the first 5 minutes. He is am aggressive striker, who can do damage both at ranges and in the clinch with hard knees to the head and body. He does have a tendency to run into his strikes which will leave openings for Alp to change levels for takedowns.

He has also been knocked out 4 times.

Despite being a relative unknown, Nguyen has some decent experience and has been fairly active since starting his career. What this fight will come down to is Alp’s superior wrestling. He should be able to land takedowns at will and keep Ben planted on the mat for long durations of this bout. Alp has made improvements in his striking and held is own early against Lineker, so getting stuck on the feet isn’t as big of a liability as it once was. With Nguyen making both his promotional and divisional debuts he is faced with some staunch obstacles before taking into account the skill set of his adversary, so my prediction is Alp Ozkilic to defeat Ben Nguyen by decision.

205lbs- Quinton Jackson (35-11-0) vs #13 Fabio Maldonado (22-7-0)

In the recently re-instated UFC 186 main event, former divisional champion Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson battles the double tough Fabio Maldonado. ‘Rampage’ is returning to the promotion riding a 3 fight winning streak comprised under the Bellator banner, he had lost 3 straight in the UFC prior to leaving. Maldonado has won 4 of his last 5, with his only defeat coming as a Heavyweight against Stipe Miocic.

This bout was recently put on hold by a legal injunction brought forth by Jackson’s former employer, Bellator. Less then 5 days before UFC 186, the injunction was lifted and the bout back on.

Both men carry significant knockout totals into the cage. Jackson has won 16 times by KO or TKO, including 2 of his last 3 appearances. Not to be out done, Fabio has recorded 13 wins by knockout, most recently stopping Hans Stringer.

Quinton has the edge in overall power, while Maldonado’s knockouts have come primarily on the basis of his volume and ability to wear down his opposition. The Brazilian averages 5.92 SLpM compared to Jackson’s 3.10. The former Champion does have a sizeable defensive advantage, taking damage at a rate almost 1.5 strikes per minute less then his adversary.

This is an ideal matchup for both men, as they will both be looking to throw hands from the onset. Maldonado has feasted on opponents that have struggled to match his pace and subsequently faded. While Rampage isn’t known for putting up lofty numbers, his power and superior defensive game will serve as a nice counter. Additionally, Jackson could use his wrestling and Fabio’s paltry takedown defense will give him ample opportunities to do so. There is the question mark about Rampage prep with the fight being on, off, and on again, but my prediction is Rampage Jackson to defeat Fabio Maldonado by knockout.

170lbs- Patrick Cote (21-9-0) vs Joe Riggs (40-15-0)

In the headlining act of the undercard, Patrick ‘The Predator’ Cote takes on Joe ‘Diesel’ Riggs. Cote is coming off a decision loss to Stephen Thompson, he had won 2 in a row including his first 2 fights as a Welterweight. Riggs’s return was short lived, suffering a neck injury and resulting TKO loss to Ben Saunders, he had strung together 6 consecutive wins prior to his re-debut.

‘Diesel’ will have a 1″ height advantage, but the Canadian will hold a slight reach advantage. Riggs will be making his 57th pro appearance and has compiled an impressive finishing rate, submitting 16 opponents and knockout out an another 20. But the toll of lengthy career appears to be taking its toll as 13 of his 15 losses have come by stoppage- including 6 knockouts.

Bellator’s “Fight Master” reality show provided Riggs with an opportunity to revive his career, battling his way through 4 rounds before defeating Mike Bronzoulis in the finals.

Cote has power, but hasn’t finished an opponent in the UFC since his 2008 knockout of Drew McFedries. His chin is arguably the more important aspect of his striking game. He has been knocked out just once and it came due to an injury in his Middleweight title fight.

Riggs has had his recent success against lower level competition, but really hasn’t beaten anyone noteworthy since his 2009 win over Phil Baroni. That says a lot. He has a workable wrestling game and is a capable submission fighter, which is an area that Cote has struggled with before. If Riggs can find success on the mat, that could be his key to victory. His boxing is his strongest asset, but that avenue will leave his questionable chin exposed to Cote’s power. Riggs’s lack of durability is what will ultimately decide this bout as Cote takes the best that Joe can offer and eventually lands something significant- my prediction is Patrick Cote to defeat Joe Riggs by TKO.

135lbs- #3 Alexis Davis (16-6-0) vs #5 Sarah Kaufman (17-2-0 1NC)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman fights former UFC title challenger Alexis Davis in a trilogy bout between the two Canadians. Davis most recently fell to divisional champion Ronda Rousey, ending an impressive 5 fight winning streak. Kaufman has lost just once in her last 7 fights, also to Rousey- she is 5-1-0 1NC during that span.

Kaufman is 2-0 against Davis. She won their first encounter via 3rd round TKO back 2007, Alexis’s pro debut. Their rematch took place under the Strikeforce banner in early 2012, where Kaufman earned an entertaining decision victory.

Despite the loss, Davis actually out landed Kaufman by a total of 213 to 157 strikes, but Kaufman was the more impactful striker. Kaufman has 10 wins by knockout, compared to just 2 for Davis- who has also been defeated 3 times by some form of TKO or KO.

Davis is the more diverse fighter, implementing an attack that couples together her grappling and striking skills, while Kaufman relies almost entirely on her stand up. Kaufman is a BJJ Brown belt, but her grappling focus is defensive. She had stopped 85% of her opponent’s TDAs and has never been taken down more than twice in a fight.

Davis averages 4.98 SLpM compared to a ridiculous 7.10 for the former Strikeforce champ.

Kaufman will bring some well deserved confidence into the cage having bested her opponent twice already, while Davis could suffer from a post-title fight letdown. Additionally, Alexis’s near even striking exchange rate is concerning, especially when compared to Sarah’s lofty output numbers and power advantage. Davis hasn’t consistently generated significant offensive totals, and if she can’t produce the required output it will cost her against Kaufman who landed 202 strikes in her last fight and has eclipsed the 100 strike mark in 8 of 10 UFC/Strikeforce bouts. Kaufman has excellent TDD, and her volume and power will be the determining factor- my prediction is Sarah Kaufman to defeat Alexis Davis by decision.

155lbs- Chad Laprise (10-0-0) vs Bryan Barberena (10-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, TUF Nations winner Chad ‘The Disciple’ Laprise looks to remain undefeated when he takes on Bryan ‘Bam Bam’ Barberena. Laprise is 2-0 inside the Octagon, most recently beating Yosdenis Cedeno by decision. Barberena is making his sophomore appearance after successfully upsetting Joe Ellenberger in his inaugural UFC bout.

Barberena will stand 2″ taller then his opponent and have a 1″ reach advantage. The Canadian has recorded 4 wins by knockout, but none more earth shattering then his TUF semi-finals win where he obliterated the jaw of fellow Canuck Kajan Johnson. He also has 4 wins by decision. Barberena has won 8 of his 10 victories by knockout- 3 inside the first 5 minutes.

Laprise showed a nice wrinkle in his attack against Cedeno, landing a quartet of takedowns and holding the position for long durations afterward. Barberena is an action fighter and more then willing to exchange on the feet, he is strong in the clinch and is a real knockout threat. Chad is the more technically sound striker both offensively and defensively. He keeps his chin tucked, hands up, and cuts off the cage very well. His striking isn’t flashy, but still effective. Laprise will also find success with his takedowns, offering an auxiliary form of attack. ‘Bam Bam’ is simply too willing to take a shot to land one and this will cost him on the scorecards, so my prediction is Chad Laprise to defeat Bryan Barberena by decision.

155lbs- Olivier Aubin-Mercier (6-1-0) vs David Michaud (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, TUF Nations’ Finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier takes on American-born David Michaud. OAM makes his third Octagon appearance on the heels of a second round submission win over Jake Lindsey. Michaud also earned his first UFC win in his last fight, defeating Garett Whiteley by decision.

The Canadian has earned all 5 of his wins by submission, 4 by RNC. Michaud has split his 6 finishes evenly between knockouts and submission, along with a 2-1 record in decisions.

Michaud does come from a respectable wrestling background, but found himself on the wrong end of his debut, where he was taken down a couple of times and outworked by his opponent. Conversely, Aubin-Mercier was able to get a couple of takedowns in his first fight, but still lost the contest primarily because of his lack of consistency with his grappling.

Both men made their first appearances in the UFC competing at Welterweight. Both men are ground centric fighters, but it might behove Michaud to implement his wrestling defensively and keep this fight vertical. He is scrappy on the feet, and while Aubin-Mercier is still capable in the striking department, it is not his forte. The Montreal native is a very strong grappler both technically and physically. The majority of his offense is centered around setting up his grappling, and if he is able to put the wrestler on his back it will take him out of his comfort zone. If Michaud can stuff the early TDAs it will discourage his opponent, but look for OAM to smoother him along the cage, drag the fight to the mat, and eventually set up a submission opportunity- my prediction is Olivier Aubin-Mericier to defeat David Michaud by submission.

170lbs-Nordine Taleb (10-2-0) vs Chris Clements (12-5-0)

Canadian Welterweights collide as Nordine ‘The Machine’ Taleb battles injury replacement Chris ‘The Menace’ Clements. Taleb has won the first 2 fights of his UFC career, both by decision. Clements makes his 5th Octagon appearance, sporting a 2-1-0 1NC record with a win over Vik Grujic in his last outing.

Clements took this fight on roughly 1 month’s notice after Taleb’s previous opponent Claudio Silva withdrew due to injury. Physically, ‘The Machine’ will have a 4″ reach advantage along with standing 3″ taller the Clements.

11 of Clements’s 12 wins have come via knockout- 6 in the 1st round. Unfortunately, he is 1-5 in bouts where he is unable to knock out his adversary. Taleb has split his 10 wins evenly between knockouts and decisions.

‘The Machine’ has leaned heavily on his wrestling in his first 2 UFC bouts, landing 6 takedowns at a completion rate of 75%.

Clements has legit power, but the numbers suggest that if he can’t knock his opponent out he is hard-pressed to get the win. Taleb is the more technically sound striker, but opting to spend time on the feet with Clements would be dangerous and forgo the opportunity to exploit the London native’s biggest weakness. Clements has been taken down 11 times over 4 fights and has been submitted in 3 of his 5 losses. Nordine’s wrestling game and top position offense should be more then enough to exploit these shortcomings and limit the potential for Clements to do damage on the feet. Clements is a finish or get finished type of fighter, so my prediction is Nordine Taleb to defeat Chris Clements by TKO.

115lbs- Jessica Rakoczy (1-4-0) vs Valerie Letourneau (6-3-0)

The second of two Women’s Strawweight bouts to open the card, TUF finalist Jessica Rakoczy makes her second UFC appearance against fellow promotional sophomore Valerie ‘Trouble’ Letourneau. Rakoczy was defeated by Julianna Pena in the TUF tournament finals, she was coming off the first pro win of her career in her final pre-UFC bout. Letourneau won her first fight, beating Elizabeth Phillips by split decision- it was her 5th win in her last 6 fights.

Both girls are making their divisional debuts, cutting down from 135 pounds to the 115 pound limit. Rakoczy hasn’t competed in roughly 17 months, this is Letourneau’s first fight in 10 months.

Both girls took part in the TUF 18 season. As mentioned, Rakoczy made it to the finals which included a 2nd round TKO of veteran Roxanne Modafferi. Letourneau failed to make it into the house, falling to Modafferi by submission. A former pro boxer, Rakoczy boasts an impressive 33-3-0 1NC record with 12 knockouts.

This is a tough fight to predict for a couple of reasons. The first is the lengthy layoff and lack of experience on Rakoczy’s part. She looked good on the show and comes from a great boxing background, but her age and inactivity is concerning. More importantly, both girls are cutting to 115 pounds and have never fought that low before. The weigh-ins will tell a lot, but on fight day the winner of this bout could be decided by who is more physically capable of performing. Both girls are strikers and Letourneau hasn’t shown a strong grappling game that will threaten Jessica, who is serviceable defensively. This bout should be contested primarily on the feet and that should favour the former Pro boxer. Look for Rakoczy to utilize a stiff jab, hard left hook, as well as targeting the body- my prediction is Jessica Rakoczy to defeat Valerie Letourneau by decision.

115lbs- #10 Aisling Daly (15-5-0) vs #6 Randa Markos (4-3-0)

To get the card started, Canadian and TUF tournament semi-finalist Randa ‘The Quiet Storm’ Markos takes on Ireland’s Aisling Daly. Markos lost an entertaining fight versus Jessica Penne in her debut, dropping her to 1-2 in her last 3 fights. Daly defeated Alex Chambers in her first appearance, her second consecutive victory.

This contest was a bit of a late add to the card, with Daly’s bout at the Fight Night 64 card getting scrapped she was moved to Montreal to face Markos. Failing to make weight in her debut, it will be interesting to see if the elongated training camp impacts Daly.

Daly will have a significant experience advantage over Markos, with 20 pro fights to just 6 for her counterpart. Additionally, Aisling has faced vastly superior opposition, including a win over Jessica Eye.

Both girls have an affinity for submissions. Daly a BJJ Brown belt, has won 8 times by tap out- 5 by armbar. 3 of Randa’s 4 pro wins have come by submission, plus a victory over Felice Herrig on the show- all by armbar.

Neither girl is an elite level striker, but both are more then willing to slug it out. That being said, there is a good chance that this fight is going to be decided on the mat. Daly is a dangerous grappler, but she routinely gives up position for submission and that will be a mistake against a solid top position player like Markos. Daly spent sometime on her back against Angela Magna and was out positioned on the floor by Penne for the majority of their fight. This bout should provide some entertaining back and forth exchanges, with Markos getting the better of the positional game and doing more with it- my prediction is Randa Markos to defeat Aisling Daly by decision.

155lbs- #13 Jim Miller (24-5-0 1NC) vs Beneil Dariush (10-1-0)

In the featured undercard bout, perennial top contender Jim Miller fights at home when he meets the fast surging Beneil Dariush. Miller is coming off a knockout loss to Donald Cerrone, his only official defeat over his last 5. Dariush improved his Octagon record to 4-1 with his 3rd straight win when he submitted Daron Cruickshank at UFC 185.

Miller was originally penciled in to face Paul Felder, but after he withdrew to pursue other opportunities Dariush stepped in on a couple of week’s notice and will be competing just over a month removed from his last fight.

Both men carry a variety of combat accreditations into the cage. Miller is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler along with holding Black belts in BJJ and Tae Kwon Do. Dariush is a BJJ Black belt and also holds a Black belt in Muay Thai.

Miller is 13-1 in fights ending by submission. Dariush is 6-0 with 3 wins coming in the UFC.

A number of x-factors appear to favour Miller. He is fighting at home and has had a full training camp to prepare and reach his physical peak. Subsequently, Dariush will be dealing with a very quick turnaround and short camp to prepare for the most difficult opponent of his career. Miller will also carry a certain level of desperation into the cage considering he is facing an unranked opponent that could cost him his spot in the division’s ranks.

Beneil’s striking has greatly improved under the tutelage of Rafal Cordeiro. He might look to emulate Donald Cerrone, utilizing body kicks to both hurt Miller and create openings to target his chin. He did a lot of his damage to Cruickshank by targeting the body. Miller should still have the advantage on the feet, offering a more refined and aggressive striking attack. Dariush struggled in the early exchanges against Tony Martin who was the aggressor and kept Beneil backtracking for the majority of the round. It wasn’t until Martin slowed and Dariush got his hands on him that he took over. Miller is more then capable of carrying a full paced attack for the duration and his grappling game should be able to neutralize Dariush’s attack. Dariush’s short prep time will start to show up as the fight drags on and Miller pushes the pace, so my prediction is Jim Miller to defeat Beneil Dariush by decision.

205lbs- #8 Ovince St. Preux (17-6-0) vs #15 Patrick Cummins (7-1-0)

Light Heavyweight bout #2 is a battle of two top 15 ranked fighters as Ovince St. Preux takes on the ever-improving Patrick ‘Durkin’ Cummins. OSP has lost just once in his last 7 fights, dropping a decision to Ryan Bader, but most recently smashing former divisional Champion Shogun Rua by TKO in just 34 seconds. Cummins rebounded nicely from a difficult debut, winning a trifecta of fights including his last win coming via decision against TUF Brazil winner Antonio Carlos Junior.

St. Preux is just 1″ taller then Cummins, but he will have a 4″ reach advantage.

OSP has a sizeable edge in experience. He has fought more times as a professional 23-8 and overall has faced a more impressive ledger of adversaries. That being said, as of right now ‘Durkin’ has the most noteworthy name on his list in Daniel Cormier, regardless of what actually transpired inside the cage.

A former NCAA Division-1 wrestler, Cummins has averaged 6.58 takedowns per fight at a rate slightly higher then 50%. Over his current 3 fight winning streak, he has landed a sizeable 17 takedowns. OSP has defended 66% of his opponents’ TDAs, but his only 2 defeats in recent memory have hinged on gaps in his defensive wrestling where he was stung for 13 takedowns and a considerable amount of time spent on his back.

OSP has the more well developed MMA arsenal, but Cummins has the greater standalone skill in his wrestling. His combination of raw physical strength and technique make it very difficult for his adversaries to remain vertical. If Saint Preux can keep this fight standing he could exploit his advantage in striking, but in his bout with Bader his striking technique seemed hampered by his concern for getting taken down. Additionally, his cardio will take a hit if he is forced to spend a lot of time grappling Cummins, making him even more susceptible as the fight progresses. It is certainly not out of the question that OSP could take this one, but he has appeared too vulnerable to the type of attack that Cummins has to offer, so my prediction is Patrick Cummins to defeat Ovince St. Preux by decision.

205lbs- Corey Anderson (6-0-0) vs Gian Villante (12-5-0)

The first of two Light Heavyweight battles on the card features former Strikeforce competitor Gian Villante taking on TUF Light Heavyweight tournament winner Corey Anderson. Villante is coming off a split decision win versus Sean O’Connell, evening his UFC record at 2-2 which also includes a TKO stoppage of Cody Donovan. Anderson has yet to taste defeat, winning both of his UFC bouts- the TUF final TKO over Matt Van Buren and his follow-up appearance against Justin Jones.

This bout was originally slated to take place at UFC 181, but an injury to Villante scrapped it. The aforementioned Jones took his place. Both men stand 6’3″, but Anderson will have a 3″ reach advantage.

Villante has a significant experience advantage in both quantity and quality. He has 17 pro bouts to Anderson’s 5 and has been competing at a high level much longer dating back to his 3-2 run in Strikeforce.

Anderson is a former NCAA Division 3 wrestler and Villante holds a BJJ Blue belt and wrestled at Hofstra University alongside Chris Weidman.

From a statistical approach, Villante’s striking is extremely concerning. While he has talent and power, his negative striking exchange rate (-1.83) is indicative of his struggles. He routinely allows his foe to attack first and at times appears to be stuck in neutral. He could easily be 1-3 or worse yet 0-4 in the UFC had he not knocked out Donovan or got the judge’s nod in a very close fight last time out.

Conversely, Anderson has shown himself to be extremely aggressive and almost unwilling to take a backwards step. What he may lack in technique, he makes up for in his ability to overwhelm his opponent. He will also have the wrestling advantage, which will make it difficult for Gian to use his wrestling as an alternative attack if the vertical exchanges are not going as planned. Villante has simply not executed at level even comparable to his expectations and while Anderson is still green he will be able to dictate the course of this contest no matter where it takes place, so my prediction is Corey Anderson to defeat Gian Villante by decision.

135lbs- #6 Takeya Mizugaki (20-8-2) vs Aljamain Sterling (10-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, WEC veteran Takeya Mizugaki looks to rebound when he meets fast rising Aljamain ‘The Funk Master’ Sterling. Mizugaki shared the cage with and was defeated by the former champion Dominick Cruz- it ended his 5 fight winning streak. Sterling has yet to taste defeat as a pro which includes his 2 UFC bouts- he most recently scored a TKO win over Hugo Viana.

Mizugaki is replacing the injured Manny Gamburyan who was Sterling initial opponent. The WEC vet’s 5 fight winning streak followed a run of alternating wins and losses that lasted 4 years and 11 fights.

While Sterling is starting his accent up the ranks, Takeya is battled tested at the highest level having faced a number of WEC and UFC champions throughout his career. Unfortunately he is 0-4 against the likes of Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres, and Brian Bowles.

A BJJ Purple belt, Sterling has amassed 4 wins by submission and completed 7 takedowns through 2 UFC bouts at a 77% completion rate. Mizugaki is 1-1 in fights ended by submission, completing 1.68 TDs per fight at a 60% completion rate while defending 67% of attempts.

Mizugaki is a test for pretty much anyone outside of the elite of the division. On the negative side, he is very hittable, getting tagged at a rate almost equal to his output and as a result his fights tend to be much closer then they should be. While his defensive wrestling is sound, he is still taken down a lot; giving up 12 takedowns in his last 5 fights. Sterling showed a diverse wrestling game against Viana, setting up his level change with strikes and working a single leg with a trip when needed. In a fight closely contested standing, takedowns and top time will be a massive advantage for Sterling. This bout could be a close back and forth affair, but look for continued improvements from Sterling who trains alongside the Middleweight champion as he gets the better of the action with his wrestling and speed- my prediction is Aljamain Sterling to defeat Takeya Mizugaki by decision.

170lbs- George Sullivan (16-3-0 1NC) vs Tim Means (23-6-1)

Welterweights George ‘The Silencer’ Sullivan and Tim ‘The Dirty Bird’ Mean meet in a bout destined for violence. Means has won 3 in a row after dropping his UFC re-debut, he is now a collective 5-3 inside the Octagon. The unheralded Sullivan has orchestrated consecutive upsets of Mike Rhodes and Igor Araujo and extended his current winning streak to an impressive 8 straight.

‘The Dirty Bird’ is taking this fight on roughly one month’s notice, replacing the fallen Kenny Robertson.

Of their combined 39 wins, 27 have come by either KO or TKO; Means 16 and Sullivan 11. Means has knocked out 14 opponents inside the first frame and Sullivan 5.

Through 2 UFC bouts, Sullivan has averaged 4.62 SLpM, resulting in a positive striking exchange rate of exactly 2 strikes per minute. Over a much greater sample size, 8 fights, Means has had an average output rate of 3.97 strikes per minutes while giving up 2.58 to his opposition.

This fight should be contested primarily on the feet. Neither man has hefty submission totals, and while Sullivan landed a trio of TDs in his last 2 fights they don’t appear to be his primary focus. Means’s greatest struggles have been with ground based opposition; his 3 fight losing streak was highlighted by 16 takedowns against compared to just 1 over his 5 wins. When Tim can focus solely on his striking he is far more effective and that should be the case here. Sullivan hits hard, is physically strong, and quite durable but Means is the more diverse and technically sound striker. His Muay Thai attack, both at range and in close will generate the more impactful offense and while Sullivan may stick around- Means will widen the gap in the second half as he slows down. A stoppage is possible and while George has been defying the odds of late, my prediction is Tim Means to defeat George Sullivan by decision.

145lbs- Diego Brandao (22-10-0) vs Jimy Hettes (11-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, Diego Brandao faces Jimy Hettes in a fight crucial to the future of both fighters. Brandao has dropped back to back fights to Conor McGregor and Dustin Porier- he had won 3 straight prior to his recent struggles. Hettes is coming off a loss to Dennis Bermudez and is just 1-2 in his last 3 fights with his only win coming over Robert Whiteford.

This bout was initially scheduled to take place on the UFC 183 undercard back in late January, but was pulled after Hettes passed out back stage.

Hettes will stand just 2″ taller then Brandao, but will have a 7″ reach advantage.

A Judo and BJJ Brown belt, Hettes has secured 10 of his 11 career wins by submission- 4 by RNC. He has averaged 5.39 TDs per fight, but has landed just 5 takedowns in his last 3 outings compared to 16 in the 2 bouts prior.

Not to be outdone, Brandao has won 5 times by sub, with 2 coming inside the Octagon. He is a BJJ Black belt, averaging 3.13 TDs at a 68% completion rate. More importantly, he has defended 81% of his opponents’ tries and has never been taken down more then once in a UFC bout.

Hettes’s 2 defeats have been largely centered around is inability to take his opponent down. Brandao will be the superior striker, both in technique and power. He has 9 KO/TKOs compared to zero for Hettes. Brandao is difficult to take down, but if Hettes is able to survive the early stages of the fight he could take advantage of a fighter known for having a questionable gas tank. Unfortunately, Hettes doesn’t exactly have world-class conditioning either. Bradao’s defensive wrestling will keep this fight vertical and force Hettes to make due without his strongest attribute. Hettes took a lot of punishment in the Bermudez fight before relenting and Brandao will most likely pace himself to avoid gassing out, so my prediction is Diego Brandao to defeat Jimy Hettes by decision.

185lbs- Eddie Gordon (8-2-0) vs Chris Dempsey (10-2-0)

The curtain jerker features TUF Middleweight tournament winner Eddie ‘Truck’ Gordon making his third UFC appearance when he battles promotional sophomore Chris Dempsey. Most recently, Gordon was defeated by Josh Samman in crushing fashion via second round head kick. Dempsey debuted as a Light Heavyweight on short notice and was stopped by Ilir Latifi- ending his 7 fight winning streak.

Gordon will stand 2″ taller then his opponent and hold a noteworthy 5″ reach advantage.

The Serra-Longo Fight Team member has won 3 times by knockout, including his debut stoppage of Dhiego Lima. He is also 3-1 in fights that go the distance. Dempsey’s biggest win total are his 5 decision victories. He has a pair of knockouts and 3 submission wins as well.

Dempsey finished 4 straight opponents prior to getting the late notice call to the Octagon.

Gordon is coming off the first knockout of his career which can impact a fighter’s follow-up performance(s), but he appears to be the more physically gifted fighter. His wrestling and striking power should be the most dominant aspect of this clash. Dempsey didn’t react well when under fire against Latifi and he had shown similar issues in previous fights when taking punishment. The aggression and heavy hands of ‘Truck’ will replicate these issue and keep Chris on the defensive for however long this bout lasts. Gordon’s conditioning and willingness to empty the tank early on could create an opening for Dempsey in a longer fight, but my prediction is Eddie Gordon to defeat Chris Dempsey by TKO.

170lbs- Seth Baczynski (18-10-0) vs Leon Edwards (8-2-0)

In the headlining act of the undercard, Seth ‘The Polish Pistola’ Baczynski fights UFC sophomore Leon Edwards. Baczynski has lost 2 in a row and 4 of his last 5- he is 5-5 in the UFC. Edwards lost his debut in controversial fashion, ending a 6 fight winning streak- his only other loss came via DQ.

Baczynski will have a 3″ height advantage, but their reach is identical.

‘The Polish Pistola’ will hold a sizeable experience advantage over the Brit with 31 fights to just 10. It would appear that the tough mileage of those 31 bouts is piling up as Baczynski has been knocked out 3 times and submitted 5 times. He has been KOed in 2 of his last 3 fights.

Edwards’s counter wrestling was an area of question heading into his debut and he was taken down 3 times in the fight. Baczynski has shown an ability to win on the basis of his wrestling, most notably beating Neil Magny on the strength of 3 takedowns.

The Brit has his debut under his belt and the experience of fighting in Brazil will aid him as he heads into enemy territory once again. He has a pretty solid striking game and is more than capable of attacking the questionable chin of his opponent. Where he will struggle is with his Seth’s wrestling. Edwards’s last opponent had a pretty poor takedown game, but still put him on his back several times. Baczynski should be able to replicate similar if not better numbers. His striking and movement looked much improved against Thiago Alves and that should help him to both score on the feet and create takedown opportunities. The ever present threat of knockout will be there, but Baczynski uses his wrestling to grind this one out, so my prediction is Seth Baczynski to defeat Leon Edwards by decision.

185lbs- Bartosz Fabinski (11-2-0) vs Garreth McLellan (12-2-70

In the Middleweight division, Bartosz Fabinski takes on fellow UFC neophyte Garreth ‘Solider Boy’ McLellan of South Africa. Fabinski has won 4 in a row and 7 of his last 8. McLellan enters the UFC riding a 6 fight winning a streak dating back to early 2012.

McLellan was initially tabbed to face Krzysztof Jotko, but Jotko was forced to withdraw from the bout and was replaced by fellow countryman Fabinski- a natural Welterweight.

Fabinski comes from a Judo background, earning 8 of his 11 wins by knockout. Conversely, ‘Solider Boy’ has 9 submissions on record compared to just 2 wins by knockout.

The second South African to grace the Octagon, McLellan is out to prove that his country’s regional scene is on the rise. His success hinges on his ability to put his opponent on his back as he isn’t an overwhelming striker. His method of choice is to land takedowns comes from the clinch/ body lock position with trips. With Fabinski coming from a Judo background, he should be more then capable of defending McLellan’s TDAs. Further, Fabinski should be able to counter the attempts and secure top position where he is fairly strong. When exchanging, the power and aggression of the Pole will pay dividends and keep Garreth backing up. There is a good chance that their respective ground skills negate one and other and this fight remains on the feet, either way my prediction is Bartosz Fabinski to defeat Garreth McLellan by TKO.

170lbs- Sergio Moraes (8-3-0) vs Mickael Lebout (13-3-1 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, BJJ Ace Sergio ‘The Panther’ Moraes takes on injury replacement and debuting Mickael Lebout of France. Moraes is riding a 2 fight winning streak, defeating the streaking Neil Magny in his last fight. Lebout hasn’t tasted defeat since early 2011, winning 6 consecutive to earn the call to the big show.

Lebout, who has previously fought at Lightweight, is replacing Gasan Umalatov, who was orignally replacing Peter Sobotta. Moraes hasn’t fought since the summer of 2013- roughly 20 months ago.

A BJJ Black belt, Moraes has won 7 times by submission- tapping both Magny and Renee Forte. He also earned a pair of submission wins to get himself into the TUF Brazil tournament semi-finals. 6 of Lebout’s 7 finishes have come by sub- 5 in the first round.

Lebout should have the striking advantage; he is a quantity over quality striker, but the defensive lapses in Moraes’s game are exploitable. Remaining in a position to use that advantage will be difficult as his takedown defense is not strong. Moraes will have a sizeable advantage on the mat and while the Frenchman has never been submitted, he is facing the best BJJ practitioner of his career. Lebout’s numbers do not suggest he has the power to threaten the Brazilian on the feet and at times he is too reliant on being the better grappler (that won’t be the case here), so my prediction is Serio Moraes to defeat Mickael Lebout by submission.

145lbs- Damian Stasiak (8-2-o) vs Yaotzin Meza (20-9-0 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, the debuting Damian Stasiak squares off with MMA Lab product Yaotzin Meza. Meza is coming off a loss to Sergio Pettis and is winless is 2 after a lose turned No Contest to Chico Camus one fight earlier. Stasiak has earned 5 straight wins, 4 coming by way of submission.

Meza has the far more diverse record, having won 5 times by knockout, 7 by sub, and 8 more by decisions. He has also split his 9 losses evenly between each category. Stasiak has finished 6 of 8 victims, 5 by submission. He is 2-2 in bouts that go the distance.

After debuting as a Featherweight, Meza fought 3 times at 135 pounds, but will be moving back up for this fight. His only win came at the expense of John Albert- who nearly submitted Meza, gassed, and was in turned tapped out. A theme in Albert’s UFC run.

Stasiak comes from a Karate background and while it is not as apparent in his stance compared to others there are still elements there. He will be the superior striker, employing a decentring kicking arsenal and primarily relying on a counter striking game. Meza is pretty basic on the feet and doesn’t have an overwhelming wrestling game to put him in a position to use his ground skills. Stasiak needs to be mindful of presenting Meza with an opportunity to make something happen, but my prediction is Damian Stasiak to defeat Yaotzin Meza by submission.

265lbs- Daniel Omielanczuk (16-4-1 1NC) vs Anthony Hamilton (13-4-0)

In the Heavyweight division, 6-year pro and native of Poland Daniel Omielańczuk battles Anthony ‘Freight Train’ Hamilton. Hamilton is 1-2 in the UFC and is coming off a loss to Todd Duffee via 33 second knockout. Omielanczuk bestd Nador Guelmino in his promotional debut, but lost his sophomore appearance to Jared Rosholt by decision.

The American will stand 5″ taller then his Polish counterpart and holds a slight 2″ reach advantage.

Both men have noteworthy finishing totals. Hamilton has won 7 times by knockout, along with a single submission. He is a BJJ Brown belt. Omielanczuk refers to himself as a striker, but he has earn 9 victories by submission to complement his 5 knockout wins. He has never been finishes, compared to Hamilton who has lost twice each by sub and knockout.

The Pole is 5-4 in decisions and slowed down significantly in both of his UFC fights. Hamilton is 5-0 on the judges’ cards.

Omielanczuk has power and offers a kick heavy arsenal, which will present a major threat to a fighter that has been knocked out in 2 of his 3 UFC showings. Conversely, his defensive wrestling and grappling appear to be exploitable weaknesses. He spent the majority of the second frame of his debut on his back and was grounded with relative ease by Rosholt. Hamilton showed a strong takedown game against Ruan Potts, timing his forward push, changing levels and planting him on the mat. He is the larger man and should be able to keep Daniel on the mat serving to both score points and wear him out. Hamilton has to be careful early on, but the key to this fight will be his takedowns- my prediction is Anthony Hamilton to defeat Daniel Omielanczuk by decision.

115lbs- Izabela Badurek (5-2-0) vs Alexandra Albu (5-0-0)

In the Strawweight division, Poland’s Izabela Badurek battles Alexandra ‘Stitch’ Albu of Russia. Badurek has won 3 in a row- all in the first round. Albu’s record is a bit of a mystery, some sites have her listed at 5-0 while others show her with just one victorious pro bout- the only fight listed on Sherdog is a first round TKO victory in 2013.

All 5 of Badurek’s wins have come via submission- 3 by armbar. Izabela is relatively untested as she has yet to face an opponent with more then 3 total bouts. She is a BJJ Blue belt, Judo Brown belt, and has a background in Karate.

Albu was set to debut in late 2013 against Julie Kedzie, but was forced to withdraw. She trains out of the Red Furry Fight Team alongside Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Both girls have fought formerly at higher weightclass, with Badurek competing as high as 145 pounds. There are some questions surrounding her ability to make the Strawweight limit.

This is a very difficult fight to predict. Both girls are making their debuts and are relatively inexperienced. Additionally, each will be dealing with cutting to an unfamiliar weight and Albu hasn’t fought since mid 2013. It is worth noting that Aleksandra is the favourite based on the line. The training footage shows Albu to be a decent striker and that is an area that Badurek has appeared vulnerable. If Izabela can drag this fight to the mat look for her to start chaining submissions together, which will be her best opportunity to win. She is 0-2 in fights that have gone outside the first round and the concerns surrounding her weight could further limit her window for victory. The 2 year gap for the Russian could create some ring rust, but it will afford her an opportunity for improvement, so my prediction is Aleksandra Albu to defeat Izabela Badurek by TKO.

155lbs- Marcin Bandel (13-3-0) vs Stevie Ray (16-5-0)

At Lightweight Marcin ‘Bomba’ Bandel prepares to defend his home soil against Scotland’s Stevie ‘Braveheart’ Ray. Bandel’s 12 fight winning streak was snapped in his debut where he was quickly dispatched by Mairbek Taisumov in just 61 seconds. Ray makes his debut on the heels of back to back wins over Curt Warburton- he is 7-2 in his last 9 fights.

Bandel was initially paired with Jason Saggo who was forced to withdraw after he ruptured his Achilles Tendon.

Both men have heavy submission totals, Bandel more so than Ray. The Pole has earn 12 of his 13 wins by submission- 6 by heel hook. Ray has 8 subs and split his other 8 wins evenly between knockouts and decisions.

Bandel is a specialist and that more often then not results in one of two finishes. Either ‘Bomba’ locks up a submission or takes some sizeable punishment in pursuit of the finish. The latter was the case in his debut. Ray is taking the bout on very short notice and has been submitted 3 times. Bandel offers a very difficult submission front to defend against, he will target legs and not discriminate to target an arm if his opponent gives him the chance. Look for Bandel to push forward from the onset and keep attacking limbs until something sticks, so my prediction is Marcin Bandel to defeat Stevie Ray by submission.

145lbs- Taylor Lapilus (8-1-0) vs Rocky Lee (3-0-0)

The first UFC fight to take place on Polish soil will take place in the Bantamweight division between a pair of debuting combatants as Taylor ‘Double Impact’ Lapilus meets Taiwan’s Rocky Lee. Lee is undefeated through the first 3 fights of his pro career with 2 wins by first round submission. Lapilus is riding a 3 fight winning streak after suffering the first defeat of his career.

Ring rust could be a factor for both men. Lee hasn’t competed since the summer of 2013- a near 20 month layoff. Lee was a contestant on TUF China, falling in the semi-finals of the Featherweight bracket. Lapilus has been on the shelf for 11 months, but had been initially tabbed to face Denis Siver as a short notice injury replacement prior to being pulled from the card.

‘Double Impact’ has won 6 of 8 fights by submission, but it is worth noting that that majority of his fights took place in France where ground strikes are illegal.

On TUF, Lee won his first bout by submission- he also debut as a pro with back to back to subs. He was violently knocked out in the semis by the eventual tournament winner.

The Frenchman has the experience advantage, but the conditions under which he acquired that experience lesson (no GNP) are concerning. Both guys have won the majority of their fights by submission, but I anticipate that this bout will be decided on the feet. Lapilus has a decent striking base; his footwork is solid and his technique sound. His downfall has been his defensive wrestling, but Lee simply doesn’t appear to possess the type of skills that will trouble him. There has been a significant layoff for Rocky which could produce a jump in ability, but my prediction is Taylor Lapilus to defeat Rocky Lee by decision.

135lbs- #9 Liz Carmouche (8-5-0) vs Lauren Murphy (8-1-0)

In the headlining bout of the undercard, former title challenger Liz Carmouche takes on former Invicta FC champion Lauren Murphy. Carmouche has lost 2 in a row and 3 of her last 4, with her only win coming over Jessica Andrade. Murphy’s debut was unsuccessful, dropping a decision to Sara McMann- the first loss of her career.

Both girls have an identical 6-0 record in fights ended by knockout. Murphy won the first 5 fights of her career by TKO, needing no more then 2 rounds in any of her wins. In similar fashion, Carmouche scored 4 TKOs and 1 submission in her first 6 fights.

Along with fighting for the title, Carmouche has a pretty sizeable advantage in quality of opposition. She has faced several of the top fighters in the division- Meisha Tate, Sarah Kaufmann, and Alexis Davis. She also nearly won the Strikeforce title against Marloes Coenen. Murphy has defeated a few of the more recognizable names in the Invicta Bantamweight division, but McMann remains her highest ranked opponent.

This fight will come down to how affective Carmouche’s wrestling is. Murphy is a BJJ Blue belt, but had significant trouble staying off her back in her debut- getting taken down 5 times. She was facing an elite level wrestler, but this vulnerability has shown up in other bouts. While she worked hard to remain active off her back and some felt she did more damage than her top positioned opponent, she still lost the fight because of position.

Carmouche is also a BJJ Blue belt and averages 2.75 takedowns at a 50% completion rate. She had a lot of success with her wrestling against Tate, landing 5 takedowns and doing some damage from top position. Her victory over Jessica Andrade was primarily based on her top position success, but her loss versus Davis had a lot to do with her inability to score takedowns.

Murphy is going to struggle to take Carmouche down, if she can that will be a massive coupe. She does have a decent top game, but her key to victory here is her striking game. She needs to stick and move, attack Carmouche’s legs and simply be the busier fighter. Conversely, Carmouche will look to bully her on the wall and mat, while her power will be her biggest asset when they are exchanging on the feet. This should be an entertaining scrap and the fighter with more dimensions to her game should get the nod, so my prediction is Liz Carmouche to defeat Lauren Murphy by decision.

155lbs- Gray Maynard (12-5-1 1NC) vs Alexander Yakovlev (21-6-1)

In the Lightweight division, former title challenger Gray ‘The Bully’ Maynard battles ‘The Thunder of the North’ Alexander Yakovlev. Maynard has lost 3 straight and has just 1 win since his back to back title fights with Frankie Edgar. Yakovlev has yet to pick up a UFC win through 2 tries, his last win came against UFC vet and current Bellator fighter Paul Daley.

The Russian is making his first cut to 155 pounds after competing solely at Welterweight. He will stand 3″ taller then Maynard along holding with a 4″ reach advantage.

Maynard is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and a BJJ Blue belt. Not to be out done, Yakovlev holds Master of Sports accreditations in various disciplines including Sambo and Freestyle Wrestling.

Gray recently made the jump to Power MMA and showed improvement in his boxing, landing some decent combinations throughout round 1 against Ross Pearson. He was able to work in his wrestling, landing a couple of takedowns and bullying Pearson along the cage. Unfortunately, the issue that continues to plague Maynard showed up in the middle frame when he was stunned and then shortly thereafter knocked out. It would appear that his chin has taken a drastic turn for the worse.

He has been knocked out 4 times, including in each of his 3 straight losses to TJ Grant, Nate Diaz, and the aforementioned Pearson.

With a even split of his 16 finishes between knockout and submission, Yakovlev brings a well-rounded skill set into the cage. He has not finished an opponent since 2011, a span 0f 7 fights. In his last fight, he deployed a solid straight left, sometimes alternating with a looping hook. He will also work in a hard inside leg kick.

He hasn’t mounted a significant offensive attack inside the Octagon, with the majority of his striking offense neutralized by his opponent’s grappling game. Yakovlev is a more then capable grappler, but spent prolonged periods of time pinned on the cage and the mat in those contests.

Maynard’s chin is a significant liability, even more so because after getting tagged he tends to freeze up and leave himself open to the follow up attack. His losses have come against top level opposition- a former champion, a title challenger, a #1 contender, and a TUF champ. Yakovlev is far from that. Maynard thrives when he is able to crush his opponent into the cage and work his wrestling in combination with his short range boxing. Alexander was neutralized by Nico Musoke on the wall and while he is the larger man, Gray is still very physically strong and the more adept wrestler. Gray’s chin has become cause for an automatic fade, but look for him to have success with his boxing and return to his roots with a solid wrestling performance- my prediction is Gray Maynard to defeat Alexander Yakovlev by decision.

265lbs- Shamil Abdurakhimov (15-2-0) vs Timothy Johnson (8-1-0)

In the Heavyweight division, 2 UFC neophytes go to war as Russia’s Shamil Abdurakhimov takes on Timothy Johnson. Abdurakhimov has won 3 in a row after dropping a 2011 bout to via submission to Tony Lopez. Johnson is riding a 7 fight winning streak, which includes wins over Travis Wiuff and Kevin Asplund.

Both men are 6’3″, but Johnson appears to be the heavier of the two, with some reports having him upwards to 30 pounds heavier then his opponent.

Abdurakhimov has a moderate experience advantage and holds wins over some noteworthy opponents including former M-1 champion Kenny Garner, Bellator vet Neil Grove, Theirry Sokoudjou, and Jeff Monson.

Coming from a wrestling background, Johnson brings a clinch and takedown heavy approach into the cage. The majority of his wins have come from top position, securing either a submission (4) or landing strikes until his opponent relents. On the negative, he is slow of foot and relies heavily on his strength to put his opponent on his back. If he can’t complete his initial TDA, he tends to get stuck in an energy draining clinch.

The Russian is far from an elite level striker, but his combination of aggression and toughness have carried him a long way. He has secured 7 if his 15 wins by knockout, including his win over Sokoudjou. He throws primarily in singles instead of stringing his punches together and will switch gears to counter when necessary.

Abdurakhimov is the more battled tested of the two and should be better prepared to deal with the environment surrounding a debut on the big stage. Johnson’s lack of refinement and one dimensional attack will cost him, especially as the bout drags on. Shamil has the superior conditioning and is 4-1 when fights go the distance, compared to Johnson who is accustom to putting his opponent away relatively quickly. Look for Abdurakhimov to defend a few early takedowns attempts, discouraging his opponent and eventually take over the fight as Johnson slows down- my prediction is Shamil Abdurakhimov to defeat Tim Johnson by TKO.

185lbs- Ron Stallings (12-7-0 1NC) vs Justin Jones (3-1-0)

The first of a 4-pack of preliminary bouts will feature a pair of men who served as injury replacements in their debuts as Ron Stallings meets Justin Jones. Stallings lost via TKO to Uriah Hall as the result of a doctor stoppage- he has now lost 2 in a row. Jones went the distance with TUF winner Corey Anderson, but came up short for the first time in his career.

Jones made his debut at Light Heavyweight, but will stand 3″ shorter then Stallings. Jones will have a 3″ reach advantage.

The Strikeforce vet has a sizeable experience edge in total fights at 20 to 4, but Jones was a perfect 4-0 as an amateur before turning pro. 3 of Jones 7 Pro/Am wins came via guillotine, along with a 1 RNC. Stallings has split his 12 wins evenly between submission and knockouts. He has been defeated 3 times by knockout.

In a contrast of styles, Jones likes to sit down on his punches and generate as much power as possible. His footwork and set up are lacking, but his ability to do damage is significant. Conversely, Stallings comes from a Taekwondo background and offers a high volume striking attack. With 3 knockout losses on record, Stallings’s chin and ability to endure punishment is a bit of a question mark. His footwork is a little suspect and as a result he is very hittable which was exemplified in the Hall fight.

Jones offers a top game similar to his striking attack- based primarily in his power. While he will focus on doing damage, should the opportunity present itself he is more then capable of locking up a submission. Stalling’s submission game is respectable, but his lack of movement allows his opponents to close the distance and gain a positional advantage in the clinch and on the mat. He is a decent scrambler, but too frequently finds himself trying to work out of a negative position.

Jones throws hard and his willingness to sit in the pocket and exchange should pay dividends against an opponent devoid of a strong defensive game with a vulnerable chin. His power takedowns should serve well against Stallings’s below average TDD and will offer an alternative avenue of engagement to keep Stallings on the defensive. Jones is still very green, but he should be able to power his way through his opponent here, so my prediction is Justin Jones to defeat Ron Stallings by TKO.

155lbs- Francisco Trinaldo (15-4-0) vs Akbarh Arreola (23-8-1)

The featured bout of the undercard plays host to UFC Brazil card mainstay Francisco ‘Massaranduba’ Trinaldo when he battles Akbarh ‘El Caballero’ Arreola. Trinaldo most recently beat Leandro Silva to improve his UFC record to 5-3. Arreola earned in his first UFC win and in the process retired long time veteran Yves Edwards, catching him with a submission- he is 1-1 with the promotion.

Arreola will stand 2″ taller then his opponent and they share the same reach, but Trinaldo is widely considered one of the largest fighters in the division.

The Brazilian has evenly split his 15 wins between knockouts, submissions, and decisions. He has been submitted twice. 17 wins by submission is the big total for ‘El Caballero’, compared to just 5 wins by knockout. Conversely, 5 of his 8 defeats were the result of some form of knockout.

‘El Cabellero’ utilizes a variety of kicking techniques, landing some hard body and high kicks on Edwards. His boxing looked improved versus Yves as well, using good footwork to setup a well timed uppercut to drop his opponent. Defensively, he is hittable, averaging 3.97 SApM. When under fire he will back straight and allow his adversary to bring the fight to him, a mistake against a brawling power puncher like Trinaldo.

Trinaldo throws hard, trending a little on the wild wide. He will vary his attacks between kicks and punches, but tends to look for the knockout too frequently. His inability to carry his performance deep into fights when pushed is a major concern, especially if he can’t gain early dominance.

On the mat, Akbarh has a big edge in total submission wins and has never been submitted. He landed 3 takedowns in his 2 UFC bouts and nicely transitioned from full mount to the fight ending armbar versus Edwards. Trinaldo trains his BJJ under Sergio Moraes, but is a pure top position player. He has struggled at time when pinned on his back. He was outwrestled by both Gleison Tibau and Michael Chiesa, submitted by Piotr Hallmann, and had his hands full with Leandro Silva.

Trinaldo will have home field advantage, but is cardio issues are concerning. Arreola’s aggressive striking attack and willingness to target the body will tax the conditioning of Francisco, slowing him down as the contest progresses. Look for the Mexican battler to find success early with his higher volume striking and score some key takedowns, so my prediction is Akbarh Arreola to defeat Francisco Trinaldo by Decision.

145lbs- Kevin Souza (15-3-0) vs Katsunori Kikuno (23-6-2)

In the Featherweight division, Kevin Souza battles long time DEEP veteran Katsunori Kikuno. Souza is 2-0 in the UFC with wins over Felipe Arantes and a 2014 TKO of Mark Eddiva. Kikuno has earned wins over Quinn Mulhern and Sam Sicilia with a KO loss to Tony Ferguson at UFC 173 sandwiched in between.

Souza (13) and Kikuno (12) have a combined 25 knockouts accounting for 87% of Souza’s wins and 52% of Katsunori’s.

Kikuno is a Kyokushin Karate and Judo Black belt.

The Brazilian will stand 4″ taller than his adversary along with a sizeable 8″ reach advantage. Kikuno had formerly fought at Lightweight so battling against larger opposition isn’t that unfamiliar to him.

While this bout should largely be contested on the feet, look for Kikuno to be the more likely of the two to incorporate his grappling skills. He has 3 wins by submissions and scored a nice takedown prior to tapping out Sam Sicilia. Souza was taken down 3 times by Arantes.

On the feet, both fighters have unique and contrasting styles. Souza uses a wide base, working from distance, and incorporating a lot of movement. Kikuno stands more upright and plods forward with a static stance. Both men have a tendency to hang theirs hands lower then normal, but Souza does a far better job of keeping his chin tucked.

Souza is more aggressive, implementing a hard right hand and following it with a quick left hook. He will also go to the body with a straight right, but doesn’t use a tonne of kicking techniques and fails at times to work his attacks in combination. Kikuno prefers to counter strike, trying to catch his opponent in a flurry as they engage. He does have a good kicking game; targeting his foe’s lead leg and their body with a hard crescent moon kick. Previous opponents have had some success targeting the legs of the Brazilian.

By holding his hands so low, Kikuno defense suffers, but it also can make it difficult for his opponent to read and react to his own punches as they come from unusual angles.

Souza’s movement, speed, and length will make it difficult for his adversary to land with consistency and his power and technique will give him the offensive edge. He still needs to be mindful of getting caught when he does attack, as his style of striking leaves him open at times. If Kikuno can close the distance he could find success with his Judo, but controlling his larger opponent in the clinch will be tough. Katsunori had a tonne of trouble with the elongated striking of Tony Ferguson and that should be replicated here by Souza, so my prediction is Kevin Souza to defeat Katsunori Kikuno by TKO.

155lbs- Leandro Silva (17-2-1) vs Drew Dober (15-6-0)

In the Lightweight division, Leandro Silva battles the always durable Drew Dober. Silva comes into the fight off a first round submission win over Charlie Brenneman, it was his first UFC win after a pair of decision losses. Dober also earn his first triumph inside the Octagon by tapping the now retired Jamie Varner, he is 1-2 in the UFC.

Dober is fighting his third straight bout in enemy territory. He took on Nick Hein in Germany prior to meeting Varner in his home state of Arizona. While these fights do provide him with some experience dealing with a hostile environment, the atmosphere in Brazil is on another level.

Both fighters debuted at Welterweight, before cutting down to a division more appropriate for their size. Silva will stand 2″ taller and have a 2″ reach advantage. It is noteworthy that Silva appeared to be the larger man compared to Francisco Trinaldo, who is a very big for the division.

While both men consider themselves to be striking based, their win totals would suggest otherwise. Dober has won 9 times by submission compared to just a pair of knockouts. 10 of Silva’s 17 wins have come by tapout. It is worth noting that Dober has won 3 times by submission due to strikes.

The rear-naked choke appears to be the submission of choice for both men- Dober 4 and Silva 6.

Dober comes from a Muay Thai background and has showcased his willingness to engage and subsequent durability. He has a decent kicking game, targeting the his opponent’s legs and body with hard strikes. He will stick in the pocket landing quick combinations with decent pop and isn’t afraid to take shot to give one.

He has struggled defensively, averaging 4.99 SApM and has a tendency to show a lot of facial damage when the fists start to fly.

The Brazilian uses an up-right stance, jabs with left, loads up his right hand, and will throw a hard inside leg kick. He doesn’t throw with a tonne of volume, which probably cost him versus Trinaldo.

Dober’s aggressive style can work to his advantage, but his willingness to eat punches and wear the damage is a bigger concern. He is 4-5 in decisions. Silva uses a nice reactive takedown, timing his opponent’s forward pressure and putting them on their back with a double leg. This should serve to stunt some of Dober’s offense and give Silva a positional advantage. Leandro’s lack of activity at times is concerning, but look for him to score with grappling in similar fashion to the Trinaldo fight, possibly threaten from back mount, and get a little help from the judges if it goes that far. This could be an entertaining scrap and my prediction is Leandro Silva to defeat Drew Dober by decision.


155lbs- Leonardo Mafra (11-2-0) vs Cain Carrizosa (6-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Leonardo ‘Macarrao’ Mafra battles UFC sophomore Cain ‘The Insane’ Carrizosa. Mafra returned to the UFC in a losing effort, falling by submission to Rick Story- he is now 0-2 inside the Octagon. Carrizosa’s debut lasted just 72 seconds, suffering a submission loss to Chris Wade- the first defeat of his career.

Mafra is making his divisional debut after competing at Welterweight the majority of his career and at Middleweight on TUF Brazil, but he will be the smaller man. Cain will have a sizeable 4″ reach advantage in addition to standing 2″ taller then his opponent.

A product of the famed Chute Boxe Academy, Mafra has recorded 8 wins by knockout. 6 in the first round, including a 2011 TKO victory over Santiago Ponzinibbio. He employs hard leg kicks and can work his punches in combination, but will degenerate to wild swinging haymakers in the heat of the battle.

Mafra’s aggressive style does play heavy on his conditioning, as he appears to start to slow down after just a single round.

Carrizosa, 1-0 under the Bellator banner, has an evenly split his 6 wins between knockouts, submissions, and decisions.  The strongest aspect of his arsenal is his grappling game, despite the outcome of his debut. He is capable of attacking from top or bottom, threatening with sweeps if he does get taken down. His striking is still a work in progress and will be tested by his opponent’s aggression. His best option will be to bait Cain in and try to catch him during a wild exchange.

The outcome of this fight could really hinge on the weight cut of the Brazilian. If shedding the extra pounds increase his cardio, that will make him far more effective, but it could also result in him slowing down much quicker. The speed and pace at Lightweight could also be concerning. Mafra does have the experience advantage and will have the crowd behind, along with the superior striking repertoire. Look for him to impede the movement of his opponent with hard and frequent leg kicks and eventually catch him in a flurry, so my prediction is Leonardo Mafra to defeat Cain Carrizosa by TKO.

155lbs- Jorge de Oliveira (7-1-0) vs Christos Giagos (10-3-0)

The second bout of the evening takes place in the Lightweight division as Jorge ‘Blade’ de Oliveira battles Greece’s Christos ‘The Sparta’ Giagos. de Oliveira lost his short notice UFC debut, falling to TUF finalist Dhiego Lima- it was the first loss of his pro career. Giagos is also making his second appearance, he was bettered via submission by UFN 62 main carder Gilbert Burns.

Giagos’s debut took place at UFC 179, also in Rio De Janeiro, so he does bring some familiarly with him into this bout that should help prepare him for the volatile environment.

‘Blade’ comes from a Boxing and Kickboxing background and not surprisingly he has won 5 times by knockout- all in the first round. He is technically sound with his combinations, but frequently will forgo the more efficient techniques to attempt more flashy and normally less effective attacks. He struggled to showcase his striking in his debut because he spent the majority of the fight on the defensive.

He was taken down 6 times by Lima and overall lacks a strong grappling game- offensively or defensively. He has been able to survive outside the UFC due to a lack of top level competition. His 7 pre-UFC opponents hold a combined record of 21-27.

Primarily a boxer, ‘The Spartan’ will target the body and mixes his stand-up with his wrestling and scrambling skills. His ability to pressure and land with consistency will allow him to keep up with a more accomplished striker like his opponent represents. He has 6 wins by knockout.

The key to Giagos’s success will be his ground game. He has a decent wrestling base and has won twice by submission- over TUF alumni Sevak Magakian and Chris Tickle. He sets up his takedowns with his strikes and remains active with his top position striking.

Giagos should find success with his top game and it will also serve to stunt de Oliveira’s aggression when exchanging on the feet. ‘Blade’ looked severely overmatched on the mat and even with the short notice debut and stepping up a division, it is hard to see him making the needed improvements this time around. Giagos needs to be careful when exchanging, but my prediction is Christos Giagos to defeat Jorge de Oliveira by submission. 

125lbs- Bentley Syler (5-0-0) vs Fredy Serrano (1-0-0)

Opening the night’s festivities, Bentley Syler and Fredy Serrano square off in the Flyweight division. Serrano has just a single pro bout, but competed on the first season of TUF: Latin American- falling in the first round to tournament winner Alejandro Perez. Syler also competed on the show, failing to advance beyond round 1 after a TKO defeat to finalist José Alberto Quinonez.

Both men took a step up on TUF: Latin America to compete at Bantamweight, but will be returning to Flyweight.

Colombia’s Serrano competed at the 2008 Olympics in the Freestyle wrestling, advancing to the round of 16. He also won a Bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American games.

Syler, a native of Bolivia, has a solid experience advantage at 5 fights to 1. He has only gone the distance once, with his 4 finishes being split evenly between knockouts and submissions. The first 3 finishes of his career came inside the opening frame.

Clearly, Serrano comes from a high level combat background and its worth noting that he signed a significant deal with RFA prior to entering the TUF house so they clearly saw something in him. There are a lot of question marks surrounding both competitors, but it can be assumed that Serrano’s elite level wrestling experience will help him to deal with his debut. Syler didn’t fair well in his TUF bout and has yet to face anyone of the pedigree of his opponent. Look for Serrano to implement his wrestling and couple it with an serviceable striking repertoire to get the better of Syler in both key realms, so my prediction is Fredy Serrano to defeat Bentley Syler by decision.

155lbs- Ross Pearson (18-8-0 1NC) vs Sam Stout (21-10-1)

In the featured preliminary bout, long time UFC veterans Ross ‘The Real Deal’ Pearson takes on Sam ‘Hands of Stone’ Stout. Pearson is coming off a second round knockout defeat against Al Iaquinta- he is 8-5-0 1NC in the UFC. Stout has alternated wins and losses over his last 7 fights, most recently suffering the first knockout of his career to KJ Noons- he is 9-9 inside the Octagon.

The Canadian has been on the shelf for roughly 11 months, fighting just once in 2014 after competing 3 times in each of 2013 and 2012.

Both men have solid finishing rates, Pearson has won 11 times inside the distance (5 knockouts and 6 submissions)- 4 in the UFC. 10 of Stout’s 20 wins have come before the bell- 9 by knockout along with just a single submission. His 2011 knockout of Yves Edwards was his only UFC win not to go to the judge’s.

Stout is coming off the first knockout loss of his career, but Pearson has been knocked out 3 times and was dropped just prior to getting submitted by Cole Miller back 2010.

Based on the numbers; Stout 4.20 SLpM and Pearson 3.99 SLpM versus a combined average of 1.65 takedowns per fight- this bout is going to be decided standing.

Sammy is the more likely to attempt a takedown and even if unsuccessful it will offer something else for Pearson to worry about.

Stout appears to be the more aggressive striker, sometimes almost to a fault. He leads with a jab and will finishes his combinations with a low kick. He has had issues before with being too predictable and not mixing up his attacks enough when things aren’t working.

The Brit tends to counter strike as his predominant source of his offense. He has had success with this style, but it also opens the doors for his opponent to engage first and give the perception of cage control and aggression. Diego. While Stout tends to throw strikes down the middle, Pearson uses more hooks and tries to strike around his opponent’s guard.

Pearson has had trouble with competent strikers who can carry a slightly more active pace. That being said, Stout’s lack of diversity will allow Pearson to find consistent success with his counter striking. Sammy hasn’t shown the big power, excluding the Yves win, to really threaten Ross’s chin. Pearson has made recent improvements in his overall attack, while Stout seems to have a taken a step backwards, so my prediction is Ross Pearson to defeat Sam Stout by decision.

185lbs- Elias Theodorou (10-0-0) vs Roger Narvaez (7-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Canada’s Elias ‘The Spartan’ Theodorou takes on Texas native Roger ‘Silverback’ Narvaez. Theodorou defeated Sheldon Westcott to capture the TUF Nations’ Middleweight mantle and followed that win with a decision victory over Bruno Santos. Narvaez lost via TKO to Pat Cummins at Light Heavyweight in his debut, but bettered Luke Barnatt by split decision in his second appearance.

The American will stand 2″ taller then his opponent will have a 4″ reach advantage.

Narvaez holds Black belts in both BJJ and Taekwondo. To the contrary, he has just 2 wins by submission and uses a striking attack primarily based in Muay Thai. He is 3-1 in fights ended by knockout. He does a decent job of alternating his attacks between kicks and punches, but throws mainly single strikes instead of combinations. Against Barnatt, he was sitting on the outside and allowing his opponent to control the center which can be troublesome against a pressure based fighter.

He was the more accurate fighter, landing more strikes than his opponent by a count of 48-34 and scoring a knockdown in the third round with a head kick.

‘The Spartan’ has won 4 times by knockout and has shown a pretty diverse striking attack in his UFC bouts. He employs good footwork, head movement, and angles to both set up his offense and defend his opponent’s attack. He is a capable counter striker, but is at his best when he goes on the offensive. He chains his attacks together; throwing punches at distance, moving into the clinch for some brutal knee strikes, and then finishing with a takedown.

Theodorou throws a nice array of kicks to all areas of the body and is dangerous both at distance and close range.

Both men are capable of competing anywhere this fight goes. Narvaez carries the greater accreditations, but Theodorou’s pace, volume, and superior cardio will be far more significant factors. Elias has had some trouble with getting taken down, but he has shown himself to be calm under pressure while working himself out of some bad position. Look for both men to exchange strikes and takedown attempts, but Elias’s physicality and ability to string his strikes together will put his opponent on the defensive and eventually wear him down. The ‘Silverback’ is fighting at home where he has spent his entirety career less 1 fight, but my prediction is Elias Theodorou to defeat Roger Narvaez by TKO.

155lbs- Daron Cruickshank (16-5-0 1NC) vs Beneil Dariush (9-1-0)

‘The Detroit Superstar’ Daron Cruickshank meets Beneil Dariush in the Lightweight division. Cruickshank has just 1 loss in his last 5 bouts, with a trio of wins and his most recent outing ending via No Contest. Dariush is 3-1 as a member of the UFC and is currently on a 2 fight winning streak having beaten Tony Martin and Carlos Ferreira.

Dariush is 2″ taller then Cruickshank, they have the same 72″ reach.

A 2nd degree Taekwondo Black belt, Cruickshank has incredible leg dexterity. He offers a wide variety of kicks, attacking all zones of the body. His ability to disguise and throw obscure techniques makes his arsenal very hard to defend against. He has some pop in his hands as well, flooring Jorge Masvidal in the early stages of their bout. Against KJ Noons, he was able to counter Noons every time he attempted to move forward into the pocket and engage.

‘The Detroit Superstar’ has won 9 times by knockout, including 3 kick related stoppages inside the Octagon.

A BJJ Black belt, Dariush has earned 5 of his 9 wins by submission- 2 in the UFC. Averaging 2.52 takedowns at a 50% completion rate. Dariush might not be the most athletically gifted, but he is technically sound. His top game is strong and his ability to transition to either a dominant position or a submission attempt is impressive.

His striking is improving, but appears to be the weak point of his game. He appeared to tighten up his defense in last outing, but he has been TKOed by Ramsey Nijem and is out-landed by an average of 0.6 SpM.

A training partner of Rafael dos Anjos, Dariush will have the benefit of training alongside and peaking with an elite level fighter.

Dariush is a very good grappler and Cruickshank has been out maneuvered on the mat before, specifically in the Masvidal and Martins fights. If Beneil can score takedowns with consistency, that is his key to victory. Unfortunately, a former Collegiate wrestler with a 71% TDD will be difficult to take off his feet routinely. While Dariush’s kicking game is the best aspect of his striking attack, it pales in comparison to what Cruickshank offers. Daron’s kicks will expose the holes in his foe’s defensive front and his ability to counter Dariush as he comes forward will be impactful as well. In Dariush’s last 2 wins he took advantage of opponents that slowed down, that won’t be the case here- my prediction is Daron Cruickshank to defeat Beneil Dariush by knockout.

265lbs- Jared Rosholt (11-2-0) vs Josh Copeland (9-1-0)

In the Heavyweight division, Jared ‘The Big Show’ Rosholt takes on UFC sophomore Josh ‘Cuddly Bear’ Copeland. Rosholt’s 3 fight UFC winning streak, that included a win over Soa Palelei was abruptly halted by a 1st round knockout defeat against Oleksiy Oliynyk. Copeland’s debut brought his first career loss, he dropped a decision to Ruslan Magomedov.

Rosholt is 1″ taller than his adversary, but their height and weight are identical.

Copeland has finished his opposition in 7 of his 9 wins- 3 by knockout and 4 by submission. While the numbers would suggest otherwise, he is primarily a striking based fighter. He relies heavily on his hands, incorporating a limited kicking game. He was badly out-landed in his debut by a count of 65-20. What he lacks in technique he makes up for in athleticism and toughness. He is fairly light on his feet and took some big shots against Magomedov without relenting.

All 7 of his stoppage wins have come inside the first frame.

A former NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler, Rosholt builds the majority of his attack around his wrestling. He hasn’t put up staggering takedown numbers since arriving in the UFC averaging just 1.55 TDs at a 45% completion rate. While the totals might be low, his ability to keep his opponent grounded once scoring the takedown is the key to his success. Rosholt is a grinder and remains active from top position looking to break his opponent down.

The wrestler has won 3 times by knockout and 2 of his 3 submission wins have been the result of strikes.

It is fairly evident where each man wants this fight to play out. Rosholt has been known for having a sturdy chin, but a second knockout loss on his resume may be an indication otherwise. His striking is serviceable, but nothing special and if he can’t take Copeland down he will be at risk of a 3rd knockout loss. Copeland’s predictability as a striker and tendency to throw himself off balance when attacking will leave himself vulnerable to getting taken down frequently. As the fight progresses and fatigue sets in, Copeland landing that big strike will become less and less likely, so my prediction is Jared Rosholt to defeat Josh Copeland by decision.

125lbs-Sergio Pettis (12-1-0) vs Ryan Benoit (7-3-0)

In the Flyweight division, Sergio ‘The Phenom’ Pettis makes his divisional debut across the cage from Ryan ‘Baby Face’ Benoit. Pettis is 3-1 in the UFC, competing entirely at Bantamweight. Benoit made his organizational debut at The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale, losing by submission to Josh Sampo.

Benoit could suffer from a little ring rust having sat on the shelf for just short of 16 months. He had been fairly active prior to the break with 3 fights in each of 2013 and 2012. Pettis has spent time competing at both 135 and 125 pounds outside of the UFC and after initially appearing set on being a UFC Bantamweight he appears to be dropping to try and take advantage of the smaller Flyweight roster.

A 2nd degree Black belt in Taekwondo, Pettis boasts a pretty strong striking repertoire with a nice array of kicks. He has averaged 4.39 SLpM compared to just 2.9 produced by his opponents. He has yet to earn a UFC knockout and has just 3 as a pro, but against less sizeable opponents his power should prove more effective.

Pettis’s defensive wrestling has been a bit of a weak point- he has defended 66% of his opponents’ attempts, but has been taken down 8 times in 4 fights.

‘Baby Face’ has earned all 7 of his wins inside the distance- 5 before the end of the first round. In his debut, he was out-struck by his opponent 65-24 in a bout contested predominantly on the mat. He didn’t get a chance to showcase much of his striking, but he did pull off a couple of reversals prior to getting submitted.

Benoit went 4-0 under the Legacy FC banner, including a 62 second knockout over 2-fight UFC alumni Joseph Sandoval.

Pettis has been a little underwhelming at times, but he carries some high expectations with him because of who he is related to. He has a very good striking game and is dangerous on the mat, but as mentioned he needs to continue to tidy up his defensive wrestling. Benoit is scrappy, but his cardio prevents him from carrying his performance effectively beyond the opening frame. He is 2-3 in fights lasting longer than a single round. Benoit doesn’t have the wrestling game to trouble Pettis and he won’t be able to match him on the feet, especially as he slows down. If the fight hits the floor look for Pettis to be aggressive and keep Benoit from mounting much offense, so my prediction is Sergio Pettis to defeat Ryan Benoit by submission.

155lbs- Jake Lindsey (9-2-0) vs Joseph Duffy (12-1-0)

In second fight of the evening, the debuting Joseph ‘Irish Joe’ Duffy battles Jake ‘The Librarian’ Lindsey. Duffy has won 2 in a row since suffering the first loss of his professional career. Lindsey has struggled through his first 2 UFC outings, falling to Jon Tuck and Olivier Aubin-Mercier both inside the distance.

Duffy owns a number of solid regional wins, but also has first round submission victories over Norman Parke and Conor McGregor. The next Featherweight title challenger lasted all of 38 seconds with ‘Irish Joe’.

Lindsey has won 4 times by knockout and 3 more by submission. His final 3 pre-UFC bouts all ended inside the first round with Lindsey winning by knockout in each. He has decent power from the outside, but does some of his best work at short range. Attacking from the clinch is an option, but he is also quite dangerous on the break where he will pull back and unload heavy barrages.

Defensive grappling appears to be a liability of Lindsey’s as he has been taken down 5 times in 2 fights, submitted by his last opponent, and thoroughly out-maneuvered prior to the stoppage in his debut.

Duffy is a multi-faceted fighter. Despite his submission heavy win total (8 of 12), he comes from a strong striking background. After his first MMA defeat, he transitioned to boxing and went 7-0 before returning to MMA. Not surprisingly he relies mainly on his hands. He has good footwork and changes levels with his strikes. He carries his hands down, but so far has been able to get away with this approach. His offensive output and ability to avoid a high percentage of his opponent’s attacks makes him a difficult fighter to score against.

On the mat, he has a slick transition game and good killer instinct. He has won 4 times by RNC. His takedown game isn’t flashy, but still functional and based on Lindsey’s struggles on the floor he should find success here.

Lindsey has not looked good since entering the Octagon and he is now faced with arguably the most well rounded and dangerous opponent he has faced to date. Duffy will have the advantage on the feet, but look for him to incorporate his grappling skills into his attack when the opportunity presents itself. ‘Irish Joe’ may be making his debut, but that shouldn’t impact his performance- my prediction is Joseph Duffy to defeat Jake Lindsey by submission.

135lbs- Larissa Pacheco (10-1-0) vs #15 Germaine de Randamie (4-3-0)

In opening bout of the night, Women’s Bantamweights Larissa Pacheco and Germaine ‘The Iron Lady’ de Randamie square off. Pacheco’s undefeated run was halted in her short notice debut via submission by Jessica Andrade. de Randamie is coming off a loss by TKO against Amanda Nunes, she had previously won her inaugural UFC bout at the expense of the now retired Julie Kedzie. de

Randamie will stand 2″ taller than her opponent along with a 3″ reach advantage. She hasn’t fought since November 2013, a 16 month layoff from active competition.

An incredibly accomplished Muay Thai kickboxer, the focus of ‘The Iron Lady’ will be on keeping the action vertical and working her striking attack. She has just a single win by knockout in MMA, but of her 46 Muay Thai wins (zero losses) she record 30 knockouts. She throws a nice array of strikes, mixing up her kicks and punches while carrying a +0.84 striking exchange rate through 5 recorded bouts (2 UFC + 3 in Strikeforce).

Not surprisingly, her biggest area of vulnerability is on the mat. Her 2 stoppage defeats, 1 by TKO and the other by submission, both were a product of her still developing defensive grappling game.

The Brazilian came into the UFC with a lot of hype, but took her debut on short notice and it appeared to be too much, too soon. She has won 4 times by knockout and 6 by submission. On the feet, she is aggressive and throws with dangerous power. On the downside, she attacks with an open guard and leaves her chin up and exposed.

She has won by a variety of submission techniques and would be best suited to employ a strategy based on her grappling skills. While she can get the job done once the fight hits the mat, she lacks a strong wrestling game and relies on outmuscling her foe.

de Randamie has shown workable TDD and forced a strong Nunes to work very hard to take her down. Her last 4 submission wins came over opponents with a combined 7-6 record.

The Dutch striker is vastly superior on the feet from a technical standpoint, but needs to avoid being too complacent and allowing her opponent to outwork her. If Pacheco can maintain constant pressure she could neutralize the abilities of Germaine, but her defensive holes are too significant for a talented striker not to exploit. de Randamie will do enough defensively to keep the fight standing and out point her opponent on the feet, so my prediction is Germaine de Randamie to defeat Larissa Pacheco by decision.

185lbs- #13 Mark Munoz (13-5-0) vs Roan Carneiro (19-9-0)

The final preliminary bout of the night will take place in the Middleweight division and feature Mark Munoz battling the returning Roan Carneiro. Munoz has lost 2 in a row and 3 of his last 4- falling to the current Middleweight champion, a former Light Heavyweight champion, and a former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champ. Carneiro went 2-3 in his first UFC run, but is currently riding a 5 fight winning streak that included winning the BattleGrounds MMA 5: 8-man 1 Night Tournament.

A natural Welterweight, Roan is moving up a division to facilitate his promotional return- albeit not on short notice. He will be an inch shorter then his opponent, but hold a 2″ reach advantage.

Munoz, a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ Black belt, builds the majority of his offense around his ground game. He is lacking as a real submission threat with his only win coming due to strikes. Where he does excel is with his thunderous ground and pound. If he is able to gain a positional advantage look or him to deliver significant punishment as was the case in his wins over Tim Boetsch and Chris Leben

He averages 2.49 takedowns at a very low completion rate of 24%. In his last 3 wins he has recorded 13 TDs compared to 0 in his last 3 defeats. In those 3 victories he out landed his opposition 152-67.

The Brazilian is a BJJ Black belt as well, securing 9 of 19 wins by submission. Prior to the Battleground Tournament, he had won back to back fights by submission and added a third straight in the opening round. He has also been submitted 4 times.

If Carneiro is going to emerge victorious, he will need to find some success on the feet. Munoz has been knocked out 3 times and has struggled with more technically refined strikers. The Brazilian’s record in fights ended by knockout is 2-2, so he may be just as vulnerable.

Munoz hasn’t been able to crack the upper echelon of the division, but he has had success against just about everyone else. His ability to out maneuver Demian Maia and pummel Leben and Boetsch on the floor suggests he should have similar success here. The physicality of Munoz against a fighter who naturally competes 15 pounds lighter and had significant trouble on the floor during his first UFC run will be the ultimate factors, so my prediction is Mark Munoz to defeat Roan Carneiro by decision.

135lbs- Roman Salazar (9-3-0) vs Kid Yamamoto (18-6-0 1NC)

In the Bantamweight division, Roman ‘El Gallito’ Salazar takes on Japanese legend Norifumi ‘Kid’ Yamamoto. Salazar debuted on incredibly short notice and lost via submission to Mitch Gagnon, he had won 4 in a row. Yamamoto was last seen getting submitted by Vaughan Lee at UFC 144, he is 0-3 in the UFC and has just 1 win in his last 6 appearances.

Salazar will stand 3″ taller then Yamamoto along with having a slight 1″ reach advantage. Roman is 11 years Norifumi’s junior.

‘Kid’ last competed almost 3 years to the date of UFC 184. He withdrew from a UFC 165 bout due to injury. Less then a month after UFC 184 he will turn 38 . At 0-3 inside the Octagon, it is clear that his career hinges on his success in this fight and even with a win he would be best suited to walk away on a high note.

A relative unknown, Salazar will have the benefit of a full camp for his sophomore showing with the promotion. He trains along side fellow UFC competitors Henry Cejudo and the recently triumphant Frankie Saenz.

The Japanese star has won 13 times by knockout, but is just .500 (5-5) in fights not ending via knockout. ‘El Gallito’ earned back to back first round submission wins prior to joining the UFC. He has split his 6 victories inside the distance evenly between knockouts and submissions, along with 2 wins by decision and 1 by DQ.

Yamamoto’s style is well-known. He will be looking to use his counter-wrestling to keep his back off the mat and work his power striking in an attempt to separate his opponent from his consciousness. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had much success implementing this approach- he has been soundly out grappled and struggle to mount much offense when was able to remain on his feet.

Salazar can operate both on the mat and the floor, neither to an overwhelming extent, but against lesser competition he has got the job done. Other then Gagnon, the only other opponent of name that he has faced was Anthony Birchak. A 2012 TKO defeat. His last 4 vanquished foes have a combined record of 22-19.

Logic would suggest that Salazar should have a better performance this time around. He gets a full camp to prepare, his debut is behind him, and he isn’t facing an opponent at the peak of his career. Conversely, ‘Kid’ is 3 years older then the last time we saw him, 37 (almost 38) is very old for the lighter divisions, and he will have a significant amount ring rust to overcome.

Yamamoto has lost the last 4 fights to go beyond the first round and hasn’t won anything lasting longer than then 5 minutes since 2007. That info would suggest that his window to be victorious quickly begins to close after the fight starts. Coupled with the potential for a faltering chin (as shown when he was rubber legged by Lee) things do not look all that great for the former elite level fighter. Clearly, Yamamoto is being given an optimal opportunity to win against a lower level adversary. That being said, with Salazar training alongside some very talented wrestlers look for him to show improved wrestling, survive the early flurries, and grind out a win- my prediction is Roman Salazar to defeat Norifumi Yamamoto by decision.

170lbs- Dhiego Lima (11-2-0) vs Tim Means (22-6-1)

At 170 pounds, TUF runner-up Dhiego Lima makes his third UFC appearance when he takes on Tim “The Dirty Bird” Means. Means has lost just once in his last 5 fights and is 2-1 since returning to the promotion as a Welterweight. Lima was quickly dispatched of by Eddie Gordon in the TUF tournament finals, but rebounded in his last appearance to pick up his 4th win in his 5 fights.

Both men stand 6′ 2″ and will have an identical 75″ reach. Means’s first stint with the company was contested as a Lightweight, while Lima competed on the reality show at 185 pounds.

Means has finished 15 opponents by knockout, but is 7-6-1 when involved in any other fight outcome. Lima won twice by submission on the Ultimate Fighter and has submitted 4 opponents in his pro career. He also has won 3 times by knockout. He is 3-1 in fights that go the distance.

‘The Dirty Bird’ has primarily relied on his striking in his UFC tenure, averaging 3.82 strikes per minute. He mixes up his attack between range striking and a devastating clinch game. He effectively keeps pressure on his adversary by cutting off the cage and forcing them to back pedal. In his last bout, he had a lot of success landing knees and other close range strikes after establishing body control. He nearly finished the fight with a well timed knee strike that the referee deem illegal.

Means has appeared susceptible to the takedown, giving up 16 in his 3 UFC losses compared to just 1 in his 4 wins.

Dhiego has serviceable wrestling and will chain his sub attempts together. He landed 6 takedowns against Jorge de Oliveira, a fighter who was clearly overmatched on the mat. He was able to move to mount several times and did damage with his GNP. If the vertical exchanges begin to go south look for Lima to change levels and try to take the fight to the ground.

He’s a good striker; he will go to the body, throws a nice leaping left hook, along with hard leg kicks. He doesn’t have big power, which will make it difficult for him to earn Means’s respect on the feet.If his opponent can put him under pressure he tends to give ground and shell up. This approach leaves him open to take a lot of damage, which cost him in the TUF finals.

If Lima can replicate Means’s past struggles on that mat that is his most likely path to victory. Means did show that he is capable of quickly getting back to his feet in the Magny fight, but he will expose his back in the process. The pressure and power of Means will give him the advantage on the feet and keep Dhiego on his back foot for the majority of the fight. Look for Tim to land the more impactful strikes and do some damage at close range. Means has to work quickly to get back to his feet if taken down and consistently be the busier striker when exchanging- my prediction is Tim Means to defeat Dhiego Lima by decision.

265lbs- Derrick Lewis (11-3-0 1NC) vs Ruan Potts (8-3-0)

In the Heavyweight division, Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis battles South Africa’s Ruan ‘Fangzz’ Potts. Lewis started his UFC career with back to back first round knockout wins, but fell via the same fate to Matt Mitrione in his last appearance. Potts has gone 0-2 in his first two UFC appearances, losing by ground based TKO to Anthony Hamilton and Soa Palelei.

Lewis will stand 1″ taller and have a slightly more significant 4″ reach advantage.

Potts carries a knockout heavy win total, defeating 10 of his 11 opponents by knockout. Conversely, Potts has evenly split his 8 victories between TKO/KO and submissions. Neither man has been victorious in 3 combined fights to go the distance. The aforementioned UFC knockouts account for the rest of their defeats.

Through 11 minutes and 37 seconds, Potts has posted a paltry 0.86 strikes landed per minute compared to 5.6 strikes per minute landed by his opposition. Lewis’s numbers are fare more impressive, connecting at a rate of 3.39 strikes per 60 seconds- 1.29 more then he gets hit.

Their ground numbers don’t stack up much better either, with Potts getting planted on his back 6 times and offering next to nothing off his back from an offensive or defensive perspective.

Stats aside, Potts has looked overmatched in his 2 appearances and his ability to hold onto a job hinges merely on the lack of depth in the division.

Lewis’s power and aggression have been on full display and what he lacks in technical ability, he makes up for in his capacity to overwhelm his foe. Potts may try to weather the early storm, but Lewis has won by knockout 6 times beyond the first round including his pre-UFC win over Jared Rosholt. Coming off the first knockout defeat of his career could slow down ‘The Black Beast’, but it is more likely that he returns to his barnstorming ways. Pott’s lack of movement and willingness to allow his opponent to engage will make him a stationary and hittable target whether on the feet or the mat, so my prediction Derrick Lewis to defeat Ruan Potts by knockout.

155lbs- James Krause (21-6-0) vs Valmir Lazaro (12-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, WEC alumni James Krause takes on Nova Uniao product Valmir Lazaro. Krause began his UFC run with an impressive upset submission win of Sam Stout, but has since lost 2 of 3. Lazaro made his debut last August, falling via decision to James Vick.

Krause is 2″ taller then his opponent, but they have an identical reach.

The Brazilian has won 9 times by knockout, including 3 straight prior to his debut. In contrast, Krause has a hefty 13-2 record in fights ended by submission. He also has 6 wins by knockout, but is just 2-3 in fights that go the distance.

Lazar0 comes from an excellent camp and has the numbers that would suggest a dangerous striking game. In his debut, he landed some decent leg kicks and demoed above average head movement. On the negative side, he struggled with the length of his opponent, failed to sit down on his punches minimizing their impact, and routinely over extended on his strikes throwing himself off balance in awkward fashion.

Against Vick, Lazaro averaged 6.07 SLPM, but gave up 5.13.

Krause has an almost 2-1 overall experience advantage, will be making his fifth UFC appearance, and has fought for a variety of higher level organizations.

The American builds the majority of his striking attack around his kicking arsenal. He will throw a wide variety of leg techniques, targeting up and down the body. Look for him to attack Larzaro’s legs and body, before trying to catch him off guard with a well disguised head kick. He maintains a decent output level and can keep his opponent on the outside with a jab-like push kick.

A High School wrestler and BJJ Brown belt, Krause hasn’t put up huge takedowns numbers. He did attempt a few TDs versus Jorge Masvidal, but usually looks to capitalize on his opponent’s takedowns- attacking off his back with subs and sweeps. Valmir completed a few takedowns versus Vick, but failed to hold the position for very long and was swept at least once.

Valmir was making his debut, so his comfort level and resulting performance should be improved. If he can establish his power and consistently land with both his legs and hands he will be the more impactful striker. That will be tough, as Krause should be able to keep him on the outside with his kicking game and take advantage of his aggressive forward push by changing levels for a takedown. If Lazaro does try to switch things up with his grappling, Krause will quickly counter into the superior position. This is a step back in competition for Krause who has been facing ranked fighters and UFC vets. For Valmir, Krause shares a lot of similarities with his last opponent and has a significantly greater amount of experience to draw upon, so my prediction is James Krause to defeat Valimr Lazaro by submission.

145lbs- Masio Fullen (9-4-0) vs Alex Torres (2-1-0)

In the Featherweight division, Masio ‘Lobo’ Fullen battles fellow cast mate Alexander ‘Rolo’ Torres. Fullen won his last 2 pre-TUF bouts, but is just 3-3 over his most recent 6 fights. Torres is coming off his second straight win after faltering in his pro MMA debut.

Representing Mexico, Fullen fell in the opening round of the TUF tournament via headkick knock. Torres, a Colombian, appeared on his way to victory before getting caught in an armbar by UFN 56 participant Rodolfo Rubio.

‘Lobo’ will have a significant experience advantage with 13 pro fights to just 3 for Torres. Additionally, Torres hasn’t fought (excluding the show) in almost 16 months, while Fullen hasn’t competed in roughly 11 months.

Torres predicates the majority of his attack off his wrestling. He has decent timing on his shot, and can change levels quickly. He lacks a really strong offensive top game, not producing a tonne of damage. He is still very raw, making some positional miscues but overall he is pretty decent in a scramble.

Fullen will want to utilize his striking and force Torres out of his comfort zone. Although he has more submissions (5) then knockouts (3). His ability to keep Torres guessing with fakes and faints will make it harder for the Columbian to time his shot, but he can’t let the threat of a takedown stunt his offensive output.

Both men are making their official UFC debuts after significant layoffs, which can be tough. The break since TUF could lead to a serious ability leap for both. Of the two, Torres probably has the greater room to grow considering how early he is in his pro career. Fullen is the more well-rounded fighter, but he seemed hesitant to engage his opponent on the show and that will create opening for Torres to take him down- so my prediction is Alexander Torres to defeat Masio Fullen by decision.

135lbs- #10 Jessica Andrade (12-3-0) vs. Marion Reneau  (5-1-0)

Topping off the undercard, Jessica Andrade looks for her 4th consecutive UFC triumph when she battles promotional sophomore Marion Reneau. Andrade dropped her debut to former title challenger Liz Carmouche, but has since ripped off 3 straight wins including a split decision win over Raquel Pennington at UFC 171. Reneau added to her current winning streak, now standing at 4, with a decision defeat of heavily favoured Alexis Dufresne.

Reaneau’s win over Dufresne came a little over a month ago at UFC 182. She will stand 5″ taller and have a 6″ reach advantage over Andrade.

Both in quantity and quality, Andrade will have a significant experience advantage with 15 pro bouts compared to just 6 for her opponent and a 4-1 edge in UFC appearances. She has also faced vastly superior competition.

Reneau had finished 3 straight opponents prior to her debut, including a 10 second KO in late 2012. She wasn’t able to put the stamp on Dufresne, but it was clearly smeared across the battered face of Alexis that she was getting the worst of the exchanges. She out landed her heavily favoured opponent 85-28, utilizing a steady diet of straight crisp punches that kept Dufresne backing up.

3 of her 5 wins have come by knockout- 2 inside the first 90 seconds and the third coming in the early stages of the final frame.

While Reneau uses a boxing centric approach, Andrade is a little more diverse. She has won 4 times by knockout and 6 more by submission. Her signature move on the floor is her guillotine choke, which she won her last fight with and has accounted for all but one of her submission wins. She landed 3 takedowns against Pennington and has landed at least on in each of her fights. On the feet she is a high volume striker averaging more then 6 SLpM, but she also takes a great deal of damage giving up 5.2 SApM. She will work in some kicks, but throws primarily high volume barrages of hard hooks.

She blasted away at Rosi Sexton, unable to finish the tough Brit, but landed a monstrous 206 significant strikes.

Reneau looked very sharp against Dufresne, but considering her opponent had struggled to make weight and was basically a walking punching bag after gassing so hard very early in the fight it takes a little steam off of her win. Marion would be most suited to use her length to keep Andrade on the outside, but she fights hunched over which will diminish her height and reach advantages significantly. Andrade had no problem closing the distance against the rangier Pennington and found success unloading at close range and then transition to her grappling game. Pace and diversity will be the keys to her success here, so my prediction is Jessica Andrade to defeat Marion Reneau by Decision.

170lbs- Matt Dwyer (7-2-0) vs. William Macario  (8-2-0)

In the Welterweight division, towering Canadian Matt Dwyer makes his sophomore appearance when he takes on TUF Brazil finalist William ‘Patolino’ Macario. Dwyer was rendered unconscious in brutal fashion in his debut, losing to Albert Tumenov and ending a 5 fight winning streak. Macario has lost 2 of 3 since debuting in the UFC, he took an impressive win over Bobby Voelker sandwiched between losses to Leonardo Santos and Neil Magny.

The Canadian will stand 5″ taller then his Brazilian counterpart, but will have just a slight 1″ reach advantage.

Both fighters are relatively inexperienced with just 9 pro bouts each. All 7 of Dwyers wins have come via knockout, while 5 of Patolino’s 7 wins are of the TKO/KO variety.

As the numbers suggest, both men do the majority of their work on the feet. While it wouldn’t be totally out of the question to see a takedown or two, it will serve only as a supplementary aspect of the fight.

Dwyer is incredibly tall for the division, but he doesn’t use his length that effectively. He does his best work at close range, relying heavily on a brawling based assault to get the job done. Unfortunately, his defensive striking is incredibly weak. He was quickly dispatched by Tumenov with a brutal head kick and one fight prior he was rocked several times by DaMarques Johnson before rallying to win the bout.

Both of Dwyer’s losses have come via knockout.

Macario’s striking style is vastly different then his opponent’s. He landed 133 significant strikes versus Voelker, utilizing a calculated and controlled pressure-based attack. He effectively mixed up his distance striking with a strong close range attack of elbows and knees. On the flipside, against Magny he was too passive and struggled to find his range, eventually getting finished in the final round.

Dwyer has power, but he is far too reckless and his chin isn’t great. While Macario had trouble covering the distance against Magny, Dwyer will openly welcome him to move forward. If Dwyer can endure the early exchanges his brawling style could slow the Brazilian down, but I expect a comparable performance to the Voelker fight from Macario, so my prediction is William Macario to defeat  Matt Dwyer by TKO.

145lbs- Mike de La Torre (12-5-0) vs. Tiago Trator  (19-4-2 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, Mike ‘El Cucuy’ de La Torre battles Team Nogueira’s Tiago Trator. The American is winless through 2 UFC appearances; dropping a close split decision debut to Mark Bocek and then losing via submission to Brian Ortega which was turned a No Contest. Trator’s first appearance was a much more successful one- he defeated Akbarh Arreola by decision for his 10th straight win.

de la Torre debuted as a Lightweight, but dropped to Featherweight for his follow-up bout and has spent some time at 135 pounds. Trator has consistently fought at 155 pounds, but will be making his first appearance as a Featherweight.

Trator has an almost even split of wins (7 TKO/KOs, 6 Subs, and 6 Decisions). Against Arreola he primarily used a striking based attack; throwing a good mix of hard body and leg kicks from range and attacking from the clinch once the gap closed. He did a nice job of keeping the pressure on his opponent, never going too long between connections. He has shown a tendency to brawl in his other fights, but remained composed and as  a result got the better of the exchanges with Arreola.

Leg strikes accounted for over 50% of his offense, 34 of 62 significant strikes.

Stepping in on short notice, de la Torre left his now retired Canadian counterpart bloody- but not defeat. A product of the MMA Lab, El Cucuy has won 5 times by knockout and 6 by submission. His striking was on display against Bocek; he landed several good shots including a hard left hand and sneaky uppercut. On the contrary, he was badly rocked early in the first by a right hand and was routinely dropping his left and leaving his chin open which could spell disaster against a better striker.

de la Torre has been submitted 3 times, (unofficially 4 with the Ortega NC), but he willingly engaged Bocek on the mat landing 1 takedown defending 10 of his opponent’s 13 tries. He may look to work his grappling game against Trator who has been tapped 3 times and was taken down twice in his last fight.

4 of Trator’s final 9 pre-UFC wins came via submission so de la Torre still has to be mindful if they do go to the mat.

Trator appeared to have a little more polish to his striking game, but de la Torre is very scrappy and will willingly engage. If de la Torre can find success with his ground game, he will take some of the jump out of his foe’s attack, but it will be the volume and power of Trator that carries the day. Trator is cutting down to a new division, but if his power translates well it will make his striking attack that much more effective. Getting rocked by Bocek is concerning considering that Trator is a much more dangerous striker, so my prediction is Tiago Trator to defeat Mike de la Torre by TKO.

170lbs- Wendell Oliveira (24-8-0) vs. T.J. Waldburger  (16-9-0)

In the Welterweight division, TUF Brazil 3 contestant Wendell Oliveira takes on 8-fight UFC veteran T.J. Waldburger. Oliveira debuted on short notice and dropped a brief but entertaining bout to main carder Santiago Ponzinibbio via knockout- he had won 7 in a row. Waldburger is enduring a difficult slump having lost 2 in a row and 3 of his last 4- he is 4-4 inside the Octagon.

The American last competed at UFC 170 exactly one year ago from when UFN 61 will take place, Oliveira is returning after a far more moderate 5 month layoff.

Both guys have significant finishing rates. T.J. has submitted his opponent in 13 of his 16 wins- 3 of 4 UFC wins. Oliveira has won by KO/TKO 11 times along with 3 submissions. Conversely, both men have been on the end of abrupt finishes quite frequently. Waldburger’s chin is notoriously exploitable with 7 of 9 losses coming by way of knockout. Oliveira has been knocked out 3 times, but also suffered a quartet of submission defeats.

The number of times that T.J. has been knocked out is very concerning, not just from the perspective of a pro fighter, but simply as a healthy functioning human being.

Oliveira is a Muay Thai based striker and throws with significant power. If he is able to connect, even partially, it could send his opponent tumbling to the mat. Although, he lacks fluid footwork and as a result frequently gets tied up in the clinch. His tendency to sit back and counter will also afford Waldburger the opportunity to engage with his grappling.

T.J. is a very aggressive chain submission fighter. Once he is able to establish control (sometimes before), he immediately starts looking for submissions. His ability to flow between attempts is difficult to defend against and can overwhelm his adversary. His 4 UFC losses have come against opponents that were experienced grapplers; 2 NCAA D-1 wrestlers, a Sambo Master, and a BJJ Brown belt/ experienced MMA vet. They were all able to shutdown T.J.’s grappling advances as a result. Conversely, Oliveira will struggle to create separation and most likely will end up on the mat. Even if Waldburger is unable to score the early sub, his muscle bound opponent will wear down on account of the grappling heavy exchanges- making him far less effective on the feet and more vulnerable on the mat, so my prediction is T.J. Waldburger to defeat Wendell Oliveira by Submission.

135lbs- Cody Gibson (12-5-0) vs. Douglas Silva (22-1-0 1NC)

In the Bantamweight division, Cody Gibson tries to rebound from a disappointing defeat when he takes on promotional newcomer Douglas Silva. Gibson was defeated by Manvel Gamburyan via submission in a fight where he was ahead on the scorecards- he is 1-2 in the UFC. Silva saw his 22 fight undefeated run to start his pro career come to an end via decision in his debut against Zubaira Tukhugov.

Gibson will be 3″ taller then his adversary along with holding a 3″ reach advantage.

On the regional scene, Silva has won 18 times by knockout- 9 times in the first round, including a 25 second win in his final pre-UFC win. He may have one-punch power, but he appeared stiff and struggled to land with consistency, connecting on just 27 of 97 strikes attempted. His best weapon was his leg kicks and they accounted for 10 his 27 connections.

Defensively, he took a lot of damage and appeared to be rocked at the end of the first. As the fight progressed, his hands dropped and he put his back on the cage when under attack making him even more hittable.

Gibson is 3-3 in fights ended by submission, but his opponent has just a single win by sub, occurring 7 years ago- so that shouldn’t be an issue.

The American was winning the striking exchanges with ease against Gamburyan, prior to getting caught in a tight guillotine. He has recorded 5 wins by knockout, including a 38 second knockout of Johnny Bedford. He stopped Bedford with a hard right hand and tagged Gamburyan with one that sent him tumbling to the canvas. Gibson uses his length well and throws a nice variety, packing solid power but relying on a ‘Diaz-like’ approach to boxing to avoid wearing himself out.

Cody is a BJJ Blue belt and took Judo-based Gamburyan down once and talented wrestler Aljamain Sterling down 4 times. He could look to augment his striking attack with takedowns against Silva who was put on his back 3 times on 6 tries in his debut.

Silva was fighting on short notice last time out and he could have experienced some Octagon jitters. That being said, his minimal striking variety and lack of fluidity was evident despite his heavy knockout loaded win totals. Gibson’s speed, length, and style of striking will give him a significant edge on the feet. Look for the American to work in some wrestling where needed, but he will do the most damage on the feet- so my prediction is Cody Gibson to defeat Douglas Silva by TKO.

155lbs- Ivan Jorge (25-4-0) vs. Josh Shockley (11-3-0)

Raising the curtain on the night’s action, Ivan ‘Batman’ Jorge battles American Josh Shockley. Jorge is 1-1 in the UFC, dropping a decision to Rodrigo Damm after a late notice debut victory over Keith Wisniewski. Shockley’s first UFC bout was a 1st round TKO loss to Jason Saggo, ending his 2 fight winning streak.

Shockley will stand 4″ taller then Jorge, the reach is identical.

A 4-bout Jungle Fights veteran, Jorge has submitted 13 of his opponents- 7 by RNC. He hasn’t shown a strong wrestling game through 2 UFC fights; failing to land a takedown on 9 tries versus Damm and completing just 2 of 10 attempts against Wisniewski. He is a physically strong fighter and nearly locked up a D’Arce choke against Damm. If he can establish some consistent top control that will be a massive key to his success versus Shockley.

7 of Shockley’s 14 fights have ended via submission; 5 wins and 2 defeats. Adding to his pair of sub losses, his debut defeat via TKO also came on the mat. Shockley has decent wrestling and did attack Saggo off his back, but he was largely out-maneuvered on the floor and eventually lost the fight there. Similar to Jorge, top position will be key to his success, but as a wrestler he can’t afford to spend any time on his back.

Neither man is an overly strong striker. If their grappling chops cancel each other out, we could see a sloppy kickboxing bout develop. Jorge does have some thudding leg kicks and will come forward firing hard leather. The majority of Shockley’s striking is focussed on setting up his ground game.

Jorge is 9-2 in fights that go the distance which indicates that he doesn’t need a finish to earn the victory and can be successful in longer fights. Jorge will use his strength to bully Shockley in clinch, land the more impactful strikes, and get the better of the action on the floor, so my prediction is Ivan Jorge to defeat Josh Shockley by decision.

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145lbs- #8 Nik Lentz (27-6-2 1NC) vs Levan Makashvili (6-1-0)

Headlining the preliminary portion of the event, Nik Lentz takes on late notice injury replacement and UFC debutant Levan Makashvili. Lentz has won 4 of his last 5 fights, with his only loss in that span coming against top ranked Chad Mendes. Makashvili won a decision over Alexandre Bezerra in his last fight, just 4 months after losing for the first time in his pro career- also to Alexandre Bezerra.

Makashvili is replacing the injured Thiago Tavares on roughly 2 weeks notice.

Lentz has proven himself to be a difficult out for anyone in the division after going the distance with Mendes. A former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ Purple belt, he brings a ground heavy assault. Grinding his opponents down and overwhelming them with a smothering top game.

Lentz averages 4.02 TDs per fight- he has completed 22 takedowns in his 4 Featherweight victories.

The promotional newcomer is a noteworthy prospect. He brings a pretty sturdy wrestling game and above average striking repertoire with power. He has split his 6 recorded wins evenly between knockouts and decisions. The biggest knock on Levan is a lack of output at times from distance, that shortcoming played a role in his only pro defeat.

Makashvili is a well-rounded prospect, but Lentz is an incredibly difficult opponent to debut against- especially on short notice. If Levan can thwart the early TDAs of his opponent he could win the fight on the feet, but no one has been able to do that against Lentz at Featherweight other then Chad Mendes. This fight will be competitive and closer then the odds suggest, but my prediction is Nik Lentz to defeat Levan Makashvili by decision.

155lbs- Efrain Escudero (23-9-0) vs Rodrigo de Lima (8-2-1)

In the Lightweight division, Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero battles divisional debutant Rodrigo de Lima. Efrain suffered just his second defeat in his last 6 fights when he feel to Leonardo Silva- unfortunately he has now lost 4 straight inside the Octagon. de Lima’s 3 fight winning streak was halted by Neil Magny- ‘Monstro’ looked strong in the first round, but was finished via strikes in the second frame.

The Brazilian, the former Jungle Fight’s Welterweight champion, will be making his first appearance as a Lightweight. He will stand 2″ shorter then Efrain, but hold a sizeable 5″ reach advantage.

‘Monstro’ is a submission based fighter. He has subbed 6 of his 8 vanquished opponents- 4 by RNC. He doesn’t have a great wrestling game, relying more on his physical power to bully his opponents to the floor. Against Magny, he countered an early TDA by the American- moving from his back to top position, mounting, and eventually taking his foe’s back. He held the position and while Magny survived the round, he was clearly in a bad position for the duration of the round.

de Lima can also land some solid GNP, especially if he is able to flatten out his opponent after taking their back.

Escudero is no slouch on the mat either, winning 12 times by sub Unfortunately, he is 0-5 in UFC fights where he is taken down at least one time. In his 5 losses he has lost the TD battle 11-0, conversely in his 3 UFC victories he won the TD exchange 8-0. Escudero’s clear path to victory here will be to keep this fight on the feet and exploit the technique deficiencies of his adversary.

Escudero averages 2.39 SLpM, but in his losses he has failed to mount enough offense to counter his opponent’s TD totals getting out landed by a combined total of 177 to 145.

If Escudero can keep this fight standing he has to remain active, but avoid being too aggressive that Rodrigo can catch him for a TD. de Lima’s striking is very rough, but he still throws power and his best weapons are his kicks. Still, Efrain’s striking output seems to be limited out of a fear of being taken down and that will prevent him from building any momentum on the feet. The weight cut and elevation issues are concerning for ‘Monstro’ who appeared to slow down a little in his debut, but he is 3-0-1 in fights that last into the third round. Efrain will succumb to the grappling heavy onslaught of his opponent much like has before, so my prediction is Rodrigo de Lima to defeat Efrain Escudero by submission.

145lbs- Chas Skelly (13-1-0) vs Jim Alers (13-1-0)

In the Featherweight division, Chas ‘The Scrapper’ Skelly takes on Jim ‘The Beast’ Alers. Skelly has won back to back fights over Sean Soriano and Tom Niinimaki after dropping his UFC debut. Alers was successful in his initial UFC fracas, besting fellow debutant Alan Omer by split decision.

Skelly will stand 2″ taller then Alers, but Jim will hold a slight 1″ reach advantage. Alers has been on the shelf for roughly 10 months.

‘The Beast’ is a physical specimen and brings a submission heavy win total into the cage with him. Of his 13 wins, 9 have come by sub and he has demonstrated a variety of finishing techniques. His focus on finishing will lead him to relinquish position for submission, which against Skelly is incredibly concerning.

Alers landed 2 of 5 TDAs in his debut and defended 2 of his adversary’s 3 tries.

An NAIA All-American, Skelly builds his attack off of his wrestling base. He has amassed 7 wins by tapout, primarily focusing on choke holds- he defeated Niinimaki by RNC. His victory over Soriano was based primarily on his ability to take Soriano down (4 TDs) and keep him on his back. Skelly has a smothering top game and is equally as stifling when he takes his opponent’s back.

Skelly lost the takedown battle in his debut defeat, getting put on his back 4 times- he was returning after a near year layoff.

Neither guy is an outstanding striker. Alers has the power edge and can do some significant damage, but he tends to be a little open with his guard. Skelly is a tad stiff on the feet, but tries to keep things simple and compact to minimize damage and set up his wrestling.

Alers needs to force Skelly to work hard for takedowns and compete primarily on the feet. Additionally, if he can put the wrestler on his back that will be a significant advantage. Fighting at altitude should favour Skelly who relies less on his physical gifts and more on technique, Alers appeared to tire in the second half against Omer. The long layoff won’t help either. Skelly could experience some tough moments early, but look for him to grind down Alers with his constant pursuit of the takedown, work his top game, and eventually set up a submission- so my prediction is Chas Skelly to defeat Jim Alers by submission. 

 125lbs- #10 Zach Makovsky (18-5-0) vs #11 Tim Elliott (10-5-1)

In the Flyweight division, former Bellator Bantamweight champion Zach ‘Fun Size’ Makovsky meets Tim Elliott. Makovsky is coming off a loss to Jussier Formiga, bookending a quartet of victories the followed his exit from Bellator. Elliot has fallen to 2-3 inside the Octagon after dropping back to back bouts to a pair of title challengers in Joseph Benavidez and Ali Bagautinov.

Elliott is 3″ taller then ‘Fun Size’ and will have an equally as big reach advantage.

Makovsky is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ purple belt. He has 6 wins by submission, but has also been subbed in 3 of his 5 loses. To date he has averaged 4 takedowns a fight, including a 6 completion effort in his debut against Scott Jorgensen. Over his career, Makovsky’s success has hinged on his ability to get the better of the grappling exchange.

Against Formiga, Makovsky gave up a pair of takedowns and routinely lost the grappling exchanges even after initiating with a TDA.

Elliott also comes from a wrestling background, but he has a slightly more diverse finishing total with a trio of knockouts and 4 submissions. He blends together his ground attack (4.21 TDs @ 56%) and a high pace striking assault (4.60 SLpM). He doesn’t pack a tonne of power, but he pushes the pace and looks to overwhelm his adversary with his output, both on the feet and from top position.

Makovsky doesn’t get a lot of credit for his striking, but he keeps things simple and effective. Elliott throws a lot of volumes, but as was the case against Bagautinov, if he can’t physically impose himself on his opponent his attack is far less impactful. Makovsky is the more skilled grappler and should be able to fend off and counter the TDAs of Elliott leading to a positional advantage on the mat. This bout should be full of entertaining exchanges and could be close on the card, but my prediction is Zach Makovsky to defeat Tim Elliott by decision.

155lbs- James Moontasri (7-2-0) vs Cody Pfister (11-3-1)

Kick starting the night’s action, James ‘Moonwalker’ Moontasri enters the Octagon for a second time when he takes on the debuting and short notice injury replacement Cody ‘the Pfist’ Pfister. Moontasri lost a split decision to Joe Ellenberger in his debut, ending a 3 fight winning streak. Pfister is riding a 4 fight winning streak as part of 8 fight unbeaten run.

Pfister is taking the place of Jake Lindsey with a little over 2 weeks to prepare. Moontasri took his first fight and short notice and should benefit from having a full camphor fight #2.

Neither man has a dominant win total. Pfister has won 4 times by KO/TKO, with 3 subs, and 3 decisions. ‘Moonwalker’ has similar totals- 3 knockouts, 2 subs, and 2 decisions. Pfister has seen 9 of his 15 fights end inside the first frame, winning 7 while dropping fights to Tim Means and Derek Campos both by tapout. Moontasri’s lone first round ending came via a 56 second submission win back in 2011.

Not a tonne of footage exists of the newcomer. He did fail to qualify for the Ultimate Fighter, getting submitted by Vinc Pichel. He is scrappy with a workable top game and some basic striking- but the lack of recent footage makes a proper analysis difficult.

Moontasri looked solid in his debut, rocking Ellenberger and working some respectable counter wrestling. He faltered in the second half, but the lack of proper preparation time most likely played a role. He appears to have the superior striking game and has simply fought at a higher level against better competition then his opponent.

There is a sizeable amount of unknown surrounding one half of this pairing, which is difficult. Pfister’s lack of top level competition and small camp size along with the debut and short notice factors are all tremendous red flags. Moontasri looked decent in his first showing and should be more comfortable this time around, so my prediction is James Moontasri to defeat Cody Pfister by knockout.   

135lbs- #2 Miesha Tate (15-5-0) vs #3 Sara McMann (8-1-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, two former title challengers collide as Miesha ‘Cupcake’ Tate fights Olympic Silver Medalist Sara McMann. Tate has won 2 fights in row, winning decisions over Rin Nakai and Liz Carmouche. McMann earned a controversial decision over former Invicta Bantamweight champion Lauren Murphy in her last outing.

Tate’s unsuccessful battles with Ronda Rousey have been well documented and it appears she has started to rebuild. McMann lasted all of 66 seconds with the champ. Her win over Murphy was her first bout since the loss and the title fight hangover could have impacted her performance.

Both will stand 5’6″ tall, but McMann will have a slight 2″ reach advantage.

McMann clearly comes from the more decorated wrestling background, but Tate has a significant experience advantage when it comes to employing her ground skills in MMA. McMann has averaged 6.34 TDs at a remarkable 75% rate while defending 100% of her opponent’s tries. Tate lands a more modest 2.73 TDs @ 36%, with a 54% TDD.

Tate has 6 submission wins to her name.

Tate is the more capable striker and she will need to exploit that to the utmost. McMann is still very reliant on her wrestling, looking to spend a minimal amount of time exchanging. More importantly, McMann’s success will hinge on her striking volume from top position.

She struggled to mount much offense in her last fight and it nearly negated her wrestling advantage.

For Miesha, some questions have arose regarding her Fight IQ, as she has made some questionable in-cage decisions of late. She has been taken down 8 times in her last 2 fights, so the takedown should be there for Sara. Tate can operate off her back, but McMann will stifle her submission game with a strong base. Look for Sara to be more active from the top, as she takes Tate down with regularity. She appeared to be a little underwhelmed in her first fight after the title loss, but that won’t be the case here against a much higher profile opponent- my prediction is Sarah McMann to defeat Miesha Tate by decision.

185lbs- Ed Herman (23-10-0 1NC) vs Derek Brunson (12-3-0)

In the Middleweight division, Ed ‘Short Fuse’ Herman makes his 17th promotional appearance when he battles former Strikeforce competitor Derek Brunson. Herman has alternated wins and loses over his last 4 fights, most recently beating Rafael Natal by decision. Brunson returned to the win column by defeating Lorenz Larkin at UFC 177- he is now 3-1 since joining the UFC.

This bout was originally slated to take place at UFC on FOX 13 on December 13th, 2014, but was scrapped at the last minute when Derek Brunson was stricken with a stomach virus. As a result of the rescheduling Herman hasn’t fought for 8 months, while Brunson has been out of action for a more moderate 5 months.

‘Short Fuse’ will stand 1″ taller then his opponent, but it will be Brunson holding a 4″ reach advantage.

Both men come from strong grappling backgrounds. Herman is a BJJ Brown belt and has won 13 times by submission. A former NCAA Division 2 wrestler, Brunson has averaged just over 4 takedowns per fight at a 41% completion rate, along with defending 100% of his opponent’s TDAs. He has won 4 times by submission.

Herman has been through a number of grueling battles, and while he isn’t the most athletically gifted he has made due. Unfortunately, he will be at a significant speed disadvantage against Brunson which will both hinder his success on the feet and prevent him from gaining an advantageous position on the mat. Brunson is slowly tightening up his defensive striking holes, but ‘Short Fuse’ doesn’t have the power to capitalize on them. Brunson will control the majority of the action with his wrestling against an opponent who can operate off his back, but has give up 11 takedowns in his last 4 non-winning efforts- my prediction is Derek Brunson to defeat Ed Herman by decision.

125lbs- #3 Ian McCall (13-4-1) vs #6 John Lineker (24-7-0)

This bout was originally scheduled to be the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 56 last November. The bout was cancelled when McCall fell ill on the day of the weigh-ins. As a result, the breakdown and prediction originally included in the UFN 56 Episode of the show has been ‘re-broadcast’ as part of the latest episode of the Prediction Podcast. Found here.

185lbs- Rafael Natal (18-6-1) vs Tom Watson (17-7-0)

In the Middleweight division, 11-fight UFC veteran Rafael Natal takes on former BAMMA Middleweight champion Tom ‘Kong’ Watson. Natal is coming off a win, albeit disputable, over Chris Camozzi, ending a 2 fight losing streak. Watson earned his second UFC win taking a decision over Sam Alvey, he had dropped back to back fights to Nick Catone and Thales Leites.

‘Kong’ will stand 1″ taller then the Brazilian, but Natal will have a 4″ reach advantage.

Natal comes in with a record of 8-0 in fights ended by submission, in comparison Watson has an identical record in fights ending in KO/TKO. Conversely, Watson has lost twice by submission, along with several decision defeats based on being out grappled. Just as concerning, Natal has been knocked out 4 times, twice in the UFC.

The Brit gave up 5 takedowns in each of his first 4 UFC fights. His opponents did have to make a combined 38 attempts to land the 20 successful TDs. Watson has been using a much lower stance to help fend off his grappling heavy adversaries and has also proven difficult to keep on his back after being taken down.

Natal’s grappling numbers haven’t been overwhelming of late. He has completed just 4 of his last 23 TDAs, with only 1 submission win in his last 12 fights. He has had difficulty with conditioning, which has compromised his performance in longer bouts. In his last 3 fights to go the distance he has completed only 2 of 17 attempts after the conclusion of the opening round.

Watson has a clear liability against grappling heavy adversaries, but he has showed continued improvement defensively. Natal has relied more on his striking in recent bouts and even if he does look to take ‘Kong’ down, his cardio will prevent him from doing so from bell to bell. Watson’s kickboxing arsenal will give him the edge on the feet, and his pension for attacking his opponent’s base with low kicks will further slow Natal down. The Brit will also do some damage in the clinch with knees and elbows. Watson will need to ward off the early attack, but my prediction is Tom Watson to defeat Rafael Natal by TKO.

145lbs- Diego Brandao (22-10-0) vs Jimy Hettes (11-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, Diego Brandao faces Jimy Hettes in a fight crucial to the future of both fighters. Brandao has dropped back to back fights to Conor McGregor and Dustin Porier- he had won 3 straight prior to his recent struggles. Hettes is coming off a loss to Dennis Bermudez and is just 1-2 in his last 3 fights with his only win coming over Robert Whiteford.

Hettes will stand just 2″ taller then Brandao, but will have a 7″ reach advantage.

A Judo and BJJ Brown belt, Hettes has secured 10 of his 11 career wins by submission- 4 by RNC. He has averaged 5.39 TDs per fight, but has landed just 5 takedowns in his last 3 outings compared to 16 in the 2 bouts prior.

Not to be outdone, Brandao has won 5 times by sub, with 2 coming inside the Octagon. He is a BJJ Black belt, averaging 3.13 TDs at a 68% completion rate. More importantly, he has defended 81% of his opponents’ tries and has never been taken down more then once in a UFC bout.

Hettes’s 2 defeats have been largely centered around is inability to take his opponent down. Brandao will be the superior striker, both in technique and power. He has 9 KO/TKOs compared to zero for Hettes. Brandao is difficult to take down, but if Hettes is able to survive the early stages of the fight he could take advantage of a fighter known for having a questionable gas tank. Unfortunately, Hettes doesn’t exactly have world-class conditioning either. Bradao’s defensive wrestling will keep this fight vertical and force Hettes to make due without his strongest attribute. Hettes took a lot of punishment in the Bermudez fight before relenting and Brandao will most likely pace himself to avoid gassing out, so my prediction is Diego Brandao to defeat Jimy Hettes by decision.

185lbs- Richardson Moreira (7-3-0) vs Ildemar Alcantara (20-7-0)

In the Middleweight division, Ildemar Alcantara battles countryman Richardson ‘Rick Monstro’ Moreira. Alcantara has just a single win in his last 3 fights after starting his UFC run with 2 wins. Moreira’s Octagon career last all of 20 seconds before he was knocked out by Marcos de Lima- he had one back bouts prior to his debut.

Alcantara is moving up from Welterweight for this bout, but he did make his debut as a Light Heavyweight so he is accustom to fighting at heavier weight classes. Moreira competed as a Heavyweight on the show and in his debut, so he will also be making his divisional debut at 185 as well.

While both men stand 6’2″, Ildemar will have a 6″ reach advantage.

Alcantara will also hold a sizeable experience advantage with 27 fights compared to Moreira’s 9. He has an even more noteworthy edge in total UFC experience having spent 67:39 inside the Octagon compared to just 00:20 for his foe.

‘Rick Monstro’ has been primarily a first round finisher, with just a single win coming outside of the first round. Both of his TUF Brazil 3 tournament wins also came in the opening round. He has won 5 times by sub (4 by leg based attack). Alcantara, a BJJ Black belt, is 6-0 in fight ending by submission. He also has 10 win by knockout.

Moreira’s his last 2 wins came over opponents with a combined 3-10 record.

‘Monstro’ has some skills on the ground, but will also give up position in pursuit of a submission. On the feet, he is incredibly wild, taking a lot of damage in the process and he will often gas out after the initial attack. Ildemar will need to be mindful of the early flurry, but look for him to use a well timed stepping knee and punches aided by his reach to hurt Moreira as he closes the distance. Alcantara should benefit from not draining himself to cut to Welterweight, so my prediction is Ildemar Alcantara to defeat Richradson Moreira by TKO.

185lbs- Thiago Santos (9-3-0) vs Andy Enz (8-2-0)

In the Middleweight division, Andy Enz remains in search of his inaugural UFC win when he battles Brazilian striker Thiago Santos. Santos is 1-2 in the UFC with a upset win over Ronny Markes sandwiched between losses to Cezar Ferreira and Uriah Hall. Enz has lost both UFC appearances, dropping his debut to Clint Hester and sophomore appearance versus Marcelo Guimaraes.

The aforementioned Hall is an unofficial common opponent of both men. Santos lost to him at UFC 175 by decision, while Enz was bested by the TUF Finalist in a tournament qualifier bout- which Hall also won by decision.

The American has proven himself to be quite durable. Over his two Octagon fights he has been soundly punished, getting hit a combined 159times by his adversaries. He was badly out landed 78-42 by a grappling first fighter in Guimaraes. Unfortunately, durability isn’t solely enough to build a successful career on.

5 of Enz’s 7 wins have come by submission-including wins by North-South Choke and Brabo Choke in his last 2 pre-UFC fights.

Santos is primarily a striker, based in Muay Thai and Capoeira. He has accrued 5 wins by knockout, including a brutal body kick stoppage of Markes in early 2014. To date, he averages just over 3 strikes per minute, outlanding Hall by a count 48-42.

Enz has yet to show his grappling skills inside the Octagon, but he may need to return to his base versus Santos. Santos is the superior striker, in technique, power, and variety. For Enz, getting beaten by Guimaraes on the feet is incredibly underwhelming. Andy has a tendency to leave his hands low and is a little slow to retract them after throwing a punch. This will leave him vulnerable to well-timed counters from Santos. Look for the Brazilian to infringe upon the movement of Enz with a battering assault of low kicks. Enz will need to make this fight a gritty one if he is to emerge victorious, but his flat footed style will make him a very hittable target- my prediction is Thaigo Santos to defeat Andy Enz by decision.

170lbs- NICO MUSOKE (13-3-0 1NC) vs ALBERT TUMENOV (14-2-0)

Headlining the undercard portion of the event Sweden’s own Nico Musoke battles Russian knockout machine Albert Tumenov. Musoke is 3-1 inside the Octagon, most recently besting Alexander Yakovlev- with his only UFC loss coming via decision against Kelvin Gastelum. Tumenov rebounded nicely from his UFC debut defeat versus Ildemar Alcantara, falling both Matt Dwyer and Anthony Lapsley by KO in a combined 4:59.

As mentioned above; Musoke is coming off a win over Alexander Yakovlev a countryman and training partner of Tumenov in Fairfield, New Jersey. This could offer Tumenov some extra insight into the Swede’s in-cage capabilities.

Tumenov is a kickboxing based fighter, with all 10 of his wins inside the distance coming by knockout. He boasts a devastating right hand, a nasty leaping left hook, and a brutal left high kick which separated his last opponent from his consciousness. While he is dangerous in bursts, at times he lets his offensive output drop between flurries.

Musoke has a much more well-rounded record with 4 wins by knockout and 5 by submission. He has consistently showed his grappling skills in the UFC; he completed a nice sub off his back versus Alessio Sakara, took both Gastelum and BJJ Black belt Viscarde Andrade down multiple times, and beat a highly accomplished Sambo fighter in Yakovlev with a clinch heavy attack.

The Swede is a capable striker as well, using a diversified attack. He did have some issues with the pressure of Gastelum on the feet and despite having never been knocked out, he was rocked in each of his first 2 Octagon bouts.

The Russian has looked like an absolute killer in his last 2 fights, but his wins came over lower level opposition. Musoke is the more welled-rounded fighter and will most likely look to implement a grappling based attack. He showed nice timing on his takedowns, catching Gastelum coming forward with a quick level change- much the same way Ildemar Alcantara took Albert down. Musoke works at a much higher striking rate and coupled with successful takedowns and/or a strong clinch game he will be ahead on the scorecards. Tumenov is 2-2 in his last 4 bouts to go beyond the 1st round and while he is a constant threat to land that one hitter quitter, my prediction is Nico Musoke to defeat Albert Tumenov by decision.

170lbs- KENNY ROBERTSON (14-3-0) vs SULTAN ALIEV (13-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, the suddenly surging Kenny Robertson takes on former Bellator tournament semi-finalist and UFC debutant Sultan Aliev. Robertson has won 2 in a row and 3 of his last 4 with his only loss a close decision to Sean Pierson. Aliev has won 4 in a row since his exit from Bellator, where he fell in the Season 8 Middleweight tournament semi-finals to eventual tournament winner Doug Marshall by controversial split decision.

This bout offers a pairing of grappling disciplines with Robertson an NCAA D-1 wrestler and Sultan an accomplished International Master of Sambo.

Aliev has recently made the move to Welterweight and by all indications this is his first bout at his new weight.

The Illinois veteran has embraced the submission game, winning 6 times by tapout- 2 in the UFC. He works a grinding wrestling game, and immediately starts looking for subs after taking his opponent down. He has had more success of late on the mat, but he started 0-2 in the UFC where he lost the combined takedown battle 8-0.

He has averaged 1.63 takedowns at a 25% completion rate through 6 UFC bouts.

Aliev’s grappling prowess has not translated into a successful submission game, instead he has focused his attack more on doing damage from top position. All 10 of his finishes have come by way of knockout or TKO- 7 inside the first 5 minutes.

On the feet neither man is overly gifted, but Robertson appears to have the greater liability. He has only been knocked out once (2011 vs Mike Pierce), but when he attacks he leaves his head exposed and is quite hittable. He also shows defensives holes when closing the distance looking for an entry for a takedown. Aliev utilizes a much more concise attack, countering and engaging with shorter straighter punches.

Moving down from Middleweight, Aliev should be the slightly larger and stronger fighter which will help him in the clinch. The Russian presents a very difficult front to attack and will make it hard for Robertson to consistently close the distance. Even if Kenny gets inside,  Aliev’s grappling skills will make it hard for the American to take him down. Robertson has struggled in the past against competent grapplers and Aliev will replicate those issues. Look for Sultan to get the better of the exchanges on the feet, defend Robertson’s TDAs, and then do damage from top position- so my prediction is Sultan Aliev to defeat Keny Robertson by decision.

145lbs- ANDY OGLE (9-5-0) vs MAKWAN AMIRKHANI (10-2-0)

In the UFC’s Featherweight division, TUF alumni Andy ‘The Little Axe’ Ogle throws down with debuting Finish based fighter Makwan Amirkhani. The Brit has hit a bit of a rough patch with 3 consecutive defeats and 4 in his last 5. Amirkhani has suffered defeat just once in his last 9 fights- 6 of those wins have come via submission.

Ogle’s career inside the Octagon could be coming to a conclusion as his record draws dangerously close to even. He has proven himself scrappy, but has lacked consistency in his in cage performance.

The Iranian born Fin has earned 8 of his 10 wins by submission. He has demonstrated a nice array of submission finishing skills over his career, amassing multiple victories by Brabo choke, Heel Hook, RNC, and Triangle choke.

Ogle has shown a particular vulnerability to grappling based opposition. Charles Oliveira was the second man to submit ‘The Little Axe’ and other opponents like Cole Miller earned victories largely on their ability to out maneuver Ogle on the mat.

The Brit has recently made the move to train at Team Alpha Male, which should help him to improve his defensive grappling issues.

Amirkhani’s striking is very basic, but he has been able to make it work. Ogle is far from an elite level striker, but he should have an advantage on the feet. The key for Andy will be to shutdown the aggressive grappling attack of his opponent. Makwan routinely gives up position on the mat in pursuit of submissions and Ogle has had success capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes when they get too aggressive. Andy can’t afford to spend this fight working off his back, but a superior striking attack and workable counter grappling game will be the keys to his success, so my prediction is Andy Ogle to defeat Makwan Amirkhani by decision.


205lbs- NIKITA KRYLOV (17-4-0) vs STANISLAV NEDKOV (12-1-0 1NC)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Bulgarian brute Stanislav ‘Stucky’ Nedkov takes on Ukrainian born Nikita ‘Al Capone’ Krylov. Krylov will try to build upon a first round TKO win over Cody Donovan- he is now 2-2 in the UFC. Nedkov is moving back up from Middleweight, where he suffered the first official loss of his career at the hands of Tom Watson- he is 1-1-0 1NC in the UFC.

Last fighting in early 2013, Nedkov hasn’t seen action for 2 years less a month and as a result ring rust could be an issue.

Krylov will stand 4” taller than his opponent and have a 6” reach advantage. He is also 11 years younger than the Bulgarian.

With a BJJ Black belt and strong wrestling background, Nedkov uses his ground skills more to set up his top control and GNP- but he has 4 wins by sub. Krylov is a very capable grappler as well, winning 10 times by tap out while holding a Master of Sports in Submission fighting. He is pretty craft off his back and will be active if he is taken down.

‘Stucky’ has gone the distance just twice and Krylov has never required the judges’ help- so there is a very good chance that this fight won’t go the distances.

Nedkov’s striking game is limited to a heavy right hand that he routinely deploys with a large looping hooks. While ‘Al Capone’ is far from a technical savant, he is more diverse with both his boxing and incorporation of kicks. Additionally, Stanislav has a limited window to win as his conditioning takes a sharp downward turn usually by the end of the first round. While Nikita’s aggressive pace does leave him open to his opponent’s power, it also will wear down Nedkov fairly quickly. The long layoff will keep Nedkov from getting off to a good start and Krylov will overwhelm him as he slows down. Watch for Krylov to land a high kick against his shorter opponent, so my prediction is Nikita Krylov to defeat Stanislav Nedkov by TKO.

155lbs- MAIRBEK TAISUMOV (22-5-0) vs ANTHONY CHRISTODOULOU (12-4-0)

Greek-born Anthony Christodoulou makes his promotional debut when he battles Russia’s Mairbek Taisumov in the Lightweight division. Christodoulou has won 6 fights in a row after a decision defeat in 2012 to Yosdenis Cedeno. Taisumov’s 4 fight winning streak was ended in his second UFC outing, but he rebounded with a 1st round TKO of Marcin Bandel.

Christodoulou is taking the place Yan Cabral and heading into the bout with just under a month to prepare. He has recently made the cut to Featherweight and will most likely return there after his debut.

The UFC debutant has evenly split his wins (12) between knockouts, subs, and decisions- but he appears to be a ground centric fighter. The majority of his assault is focused on closing the distance. While he doesn’t have a strong wrestling game, he frequently relies on his foe to drag the fight to the mat before he begins looking to set up sweeps and counters.

Taisumov struggled with the grappling heavy attack of Michel Prazeres, giving up a trio of takedowns and spending large portions of the fight on his back.

The Tiger Muay Thai product has a more well-rounded attack and his win totals (11 knockouts & 10 subs) exemplify that. He is a concerning 1-3 in fights that go the distance, partially because his work rate tends to dip at times during longer bouts.

If Christodoulou can take Taisumov down he could replicate his past struggles, but that is a big ‘if’. Taisumov is a strong wrestler with a vastly superior striking game, highlighted by hard leg kicks. His strong base will keep the action where he wants it and more importantly where his opponent does not. Mairibek lights him up on the feet and exploits his opponent’s vastly under-developed striking game, so my prediction is Mairbek Taisumov to defeat Anthony Christodoulou by TKO. 

145lbs- MIRSAD BEKTIC (8-0-0) vs PAUL REDMOND (10-4-0)

In the Featherweight division, Mirsad Bektic makes his second UFC appearance across the cage from the debuting Paul Redmond. Bektic defeated Chas Skelly in his first UFC fracas and is still undefeated through 8 fights. Redmond is in the midst of a modest 2 fight winning streak, but has lost just one time in his last 8.

Alan Omer’s departure due to injury opened the door for Redmond to sign on to fight Bektic. He will have a little less then 2 weeks to prepare for the fight. Injuries have kept Bektic on the shelf for 10 months after pulling out of a fight with Max Holloway.

An American Top Team member, Bektic is a highly touted prospect. He has finished 4 of his opponents by some form of knockout and added 2 more submissions. He has a strong wrestling game, heavy top control, and vicious ground and pound. He couples the damage he can do from the top with a pretty solid submission game.

He landed 2 takedowns against a very talented wrestler in Skelly and defended all 4 of his TDAs.

Redmond has a pressure based striking game that has improved significantly over his last handful of fights. He augments his striking with a very tricky submission game that has produced 4 of his last 6 wins. 3 of those 4 submission have come by way of toe hold.

2 weeks notice is a pretty small amount of time to prepare for your first UFC bout, especially when you are facing the best opponent of your career. If Redmond can keep Mirsad backing up with his pressure striking and be opportunistic on the the mat, he could pull off the upset. That being said, Bektic’s top game will be too much for Redmond, and the combination of power and technical superiority on the feet will overwhelm the promotional neophyte- my prediction is Mirsad Bektic to defeat Paul Redmond by TKO. 

265lbs- VIKTOR PESTA (9-1-0) vs KONSTANTIN EROKHIN (9-1-0)

In the Heavyweight division, Czech Republic representative Viktor Pesta battles highly touted Russia prospect Konstantin Erokhin. Pesta suffered the first defeat of his pro career in his debut, dropping a 3 round to decision to another Russian- Ruslan Magomedov. Erokhin started his career with a loss, but has since reamed off 9 straight wins including triumphs or Brett Rogers, Thierry Sokoudjou, and Dave Huckaba.

Pesta will be the much larger fighter standing 4″ taller then his opponent and will most likely be 10-15 pounds heavier on fight day.

8 of Erokhin’s 9 victories have come by brutal first round knockout. He stopped Huckaba in just 97 seconds and needed a combined 57 seconds to finish off his 2 foes before Huckaba. He is a power striker, capable of both initiating the attack and counter striking should his opponent get too aggressive.

Brett Rogers was his only victory to occur beyond the first round.

Pesta’s path to victory will be on the mat. He has just 3 wins by submission, but has also accrued multiple TKO stoppages from top position. He has a heavy top game, utilizing his size effectively, and he has implemented the crucifix position to end multiple fights via TKO.

Pesta struggled to drag his debut adversary to the floor, landing just 1 takedown on 9 attempts.

The outcome of this fight will be decided by where it takes place. Pesta showcased a solid chin against Magomedov, but his defensive striking leaves a lot to be desired. His willingness to charge forward to clinch will leave him wide open to a well-timed counter strike. Conversely, the Russian has never been put on his back. He has ended his fights so quickly that his opponent’s haven’t had time to consistently test his TDD. He has had to fend off a few tries, but if Pesta can take him down he will be in a great position to expose the biggest question mark in Erokhin’s game. Ultimately, the Russian is simply too dangerous on the feet and Pesta’s defensive lapse will generate multiple opportunities for him to land, so my prediction is Konstantin Erokhin to defeat Viktor Pesta by Knockout.   

125lbs- NEIL SEERY (14-10-0) vs CHRIS BEAL (10-0-0)

To open up the card, Flyweights Neil ‘2Tap’ Seery and divisional debutant Chris ‘The Real Deal’ Beal will square off. Seery is coming off his first UFC victory, avenging a 2010 loss to the recently retired Phil Harris. Beal has yet to taste defeat in his young career, earning a pair of UFC wins over Patrick Williams and Tateki Matsuda both at Bantamweight.

Cutting to 125 pounds for the first time, Beal could lose a little bit of the speed advantage he had at Bantamweight and Seery currently holds a 0.64 SLpM edge which suggests he works at a slightly higher pace. While they will stand at the same height, Beal will have a sizeable 5.5” reach advantage.

Beal is still relatively early in his MMA career with just 10 pro bouts compared to 24 for the Irishman. Both have fought twice inside the Octagon, but Beal also gained some solid experience on the Ultimate Fighter.

The American has won 3 times by knockout, including his highlight reel jumping knee KO in his debut. Seery has won 6 times by knockout, with his only TKO defeat coming due to a knee injury.

With Beal moving down to Flyweight there is always the concern of a bad cut, but that is tough to predict. Seery isn’t the most fleet of foot, so there shouldn’t be as big of a speed discrepancy for Beal in his new division. The American’s reach and more diversified striking attack should give him an edge on the feet over the primarily boxing based attack of Seery. Additionally, Beal has shown a workable wrestling game landing 3 takedowns in his last bout, while Seery has been put on his back 6 times in 2 fights and has lost 5 times by submission. Seery is 8-8 in fights where he doesn’t win by knockout and while Beal does have some defensive lapses when exchanging, he is simply the more well-rounded fighter so my prediction is Chris Beal to defeat Neil Seery by Decision. 

185lbs- Uriah Hall (9-4-0) vs Ron Stallings (12-6-0 1NC)

With less than a week to go before the cage door closes, Ron Stalling signs on to make his UFC debut as an injury replacement for Louis Taylor, who was filling in for the injured Costa Philippou- all were schedule to face Uriah Hall. Hall has won back to back fights since losing his first 2 Octagon bouts. Stalling is coming off a 5 round defeat against multi-time TUF competitor Tim Williams, but did win his 3 fights leading up to that bout.

Stallings does have some recognizeable names on his resume. He bested Mike Massenzio by first round TKO, in late 2012 and lost his pro debut to Phillipe Nover. He lost his only Strikeforce appearance via Split Decision to Adlan Amagov in the summer of 2011.

Hall has been anything but consistent in his current run. After looking like a world beater in the TUF house he was upset in the finals an lost a lackluster sophomore appearance. Back to back wins have got things back on track, but a third new opponent could be a difficult adjustment for him to make.

Stylistically, this could turn out to be a decent fight. Stallings is a capable striker and will willingly engage Hall at range. He works in high volume and could give Uriah some trouble if he can maintain his pace. Hall is the more technically refine striker and has the advantage of a full camp on his side. Stallings could make this closer then most expect, but my prediction is Uriah Hall to defeat Ron Stallings by TKO.

170lbs- Cathal Pendred (15-3-1) vs Sean Spencer (12-3-0)

In the Preliminary headliner, Ireland’s Cathal Pendred battles the unheralded Sean Spencer in a Welterweight matchup. Pendred has won both of his UFC bouts and is currently riding a 10 fight unbeaten streak. Spencer has fought 5 times inside the UFC cage, winning 3 of those bouts- most recently toppling Paulo Thiago.

Both men made their promotional debuts at Middleweight; Pendred earned a second round win submission over Mike King and Spencer fell by 3rd round submission to long time UFC vet Rafael Natal. It was Cathal’s first career win by sub and Spencer’s 2nd time losing by submission.

Pendred has recorded 6 career wins by knockout and is 8-0 on the judges’ scorecards. Spencer has recorded just a pair of knockouts victories, but is 8-1 in fights that go the distance.

Comparing their respective work on the feet, Pendred currently carries a negative striking exchange rate of -0.43 strikes per minute. Conversely, Spencer has outlanded his opposition by 0.64 SpM over a 5 fight sample size. Head to head, the American holds a 1.07 strike exchange advantage over his counterpart. Math.

The former TUF competitor has the more varied attacking, blending his aggressive striking assault with a serviceable takedown and top control oriented attack. Unfortunately, his brawling nature results in frequent defensive lapses and is crushing on his cardio. Conversely, Spencer is much more boxing oriented and his style allows him to carry his pace much deeper into the fight without a big cardio drop. His counter wrestling will need to be on point, which it has been in recent bouts fending stopping 24 of 25 attempts in his last 3 wins. Spencer’s more technical striking style will help him to get the better of the vertical exchanges and his solid TDD will force Cathal to work very hard to take him down and wear him out in the process. He will need to weather the first round storm, but my prediction is Sean Spencer to defeat Cathal Pendred by decision.

170lbs- John Howard (22-10-0) vs Lorenz Larkin (14-4-0 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, John Howard tries to snap his current 2 fight winning streak when he tangles with divisional newcomer Lorenz Larkin. Howard’s current 2 fight slump consists of losses to Brian Ebersole and Ryan LaFlare, he is 2-2 since returning to the UFC. Larkin hasn’t faired much better, falling in 3 straight outings to Derek Brunson, Costa Philippou, and Brad Tavares.

Larkin fought as a Light Heavyweight prior to cutting to Middleweight and this fight will mark his first time cutting to 170 pounds. He has said in the media that he feels great at his new weight, but gym time is not the same as actual fight time. This is a variable that will be difficult to anticipate.

It is interesting to note that Larkin owns a 2012 decision win over new Welterweight champ Robbie Lawler back in Strikeforce- while fighting at Middleweight.

Both fighters are predominately striking based with Larkin winning 8 times by knockout and Howard 9. The Strikeforce alum averages almost a full strike more per minute then his opponent. Even more concerning for Howard, he routinely allows his adversaries to be the busier fighter, getting outlanded by a significant 0.85 SpM.

Howard has the ability to mix in some wrestling to diversify his attack, but Larkin’s TDD is respectable and against smaller opponent’s he should be able to hold up. ‘Doomsday’ tends to attack in bursts with long periods of inactivity in between. This allowed Ebersole to outpoint him simply by being more active and the same should hold true for Larkin. Even more so, as Larkin’s assault should be more impactful than Ebersole’s. Lorenz is the more technically proficient striker compared to Howard and this will become more evident as the fight wears on. Howard fighting at home in Boston and Larkin debuting in a new division are both potential factors, but my prediction is Lorenz Larkin to defeat John Howard by decision.

155lbs- Zhang Lipeng (9-7-1) vs Chris Wade (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, TUF China winner Zhang Lipeng tries to extend his current winning streak when he takes on UFC sophomore Chris Wade. Wade debuted with a quick submission win over fellow debutant Cain Carrizosa and has now won 3 in a row. Lipeng has also won 3 straight fights, with 2 of those victories coming inside the Octagon- he most recently defeated Brendan O’Reilly.

At 5’10”, Wade will stand 3″ taller then Lipeng, but will have a slight 1″ reach deficit.

Wade has a fairly well rounded skillset, despite what his record would suggest. He has yet to record a single knockout victory, but he is a competent kickboxer. His 3 wins by sub are evidence of a strong grappling game, which is accompanied by a solid wrestling attack.

For Lipeng, the big number that stands out is the 5 losses by submission. His grappling attack is his key to success, which is all the more concerning. He is an aggressive ground fighter, but routinely makes positional mistakes in pursuit of orchestrating a potential submission finish.

With Lipeng training in China, the detrimental impact of travel from East to West could be a major factor in this fight as he takes his first UFC bout outside of his home country.

Wade will have the definitive striking advantage from a technical standpoint and his counter wrestling will deter Lipeng from taking him down. If the fight does hit the mat, the American should be more then capable of outmaneuvering his foe and taking advantage of his frequent positional miscues, leading to an eventual sub opportunity- so my prediction is Chris Wade to defeat Lipeng Zhang by submission.

 125lbs- Patrick Holohan (10-1-1) vs Shane Howell (13-8-0)

Flyweights take the stage as Ireland’s Patrick Holohan does battle with Shane Howell. Howell lost a short notice debut bout against the talent Ray Borg, he is 9-2 over his last 11. Holohan failed to build on his successful initial Octagon appearance, dropping a decision to 5 day injury replacement Chris Kelades- the first defeat of his career.

Howell made his debut after more then 2 years on the shelf from active competition. Similarly, Holohan’s debut came after almost 2 years on the shelf.

Both men have weighty submission totals; the Irishman has accrued 8 of his 10 wins by tap out and Howell 7 of 13. Howell bested Tim Elliott by sub back in 2009. Holohan subbed Josh Sampo in his debut.

On the feet, Holohan should hold a slight technical advantage. Both men lack real refinement in their skills, but Howell’s attack tends to dissolve into a disconnected barrage of looping hooks and uppercuts. Paddy doesn’t have a tonne of power by the numbers, but dropping Sampo denotes he is more dangerous then most expect. Howell should put together a better effort then in his debut, considering the lengthy layoff and short notice, but 5 submission losses is a lot to overlook. Holohan will drag this fight to the floor and most likely attempt to move to back control where he has won 4 times by RNC and Howell has lost 4 of his 5 subs (potentially all 5) by the same method. Holohan will be looking to rebound from the first loss of his career, so my prediction is Patrick Holohan to defeat Shane Howell by submission.

155lbs- Johnny Case (19-4-0) vs Frankie Perez (9-1-0)

In the UFC’s Lightweight division, Johnny Case makes his second promotional appearance when he meets late notice replacement and debuting Frankie Perez. Case earned a 1st round submission win over Kazuki Tokudome in his debut and has won 9 straight since a loss to WSOF’s Rick Glenn. Perez is coming off a rebound win at WSOF 13, after dropping the first fight of his career to fellow UFN 59 undercarder Chris Wade.

Case was initially paired with Paul Felder, who bolted for greener pastures against Danny Castillo at UFC 182. Felder’s place was filled by the oft-injured Francisco Trevino, who pulled out due to injury, and Perez was the benefactor.

5 of Perez’s 6 finishes have come by submission- 3 by RNC. Case has 6 submission wins to his name, but accompanies that with 11 victories by some form of knockout. Case holds a sizeable experience advantage of 23 fights to just 10 for the Ricardo Almeida Jiu-Jitsu product.

Case combined his finishing skills to earn the win over Tokudome; rocking him with a combination and locking up a standing guillotine to finish. His striking accuracy was a bit of a concern as he landed just 13 of 73 strikes- a 17% striking accuracy.

He did lose the first round, spending most of the 5 minutes on his back- a issue that has plagued him against ground oriented opposition. He has lost twice by submission.

Perez is coming in on just a few weeks notice, which is very tough. He is also making his debut and that is also tough. He needs to make this a brawl, press the action, and mix in his ground game whenever possible. Unfortunately, fighting that style of fight will be difficult to maintain over 3 rounds with a short camp. Case didn’t look that good from range or off his back, but he was making his debut and fighting overseas- both performance inhibiting factors. Perez is a solid grappler, but he doesn’t have the power wrestling to trouble Case and lacks a little technical refinement in his stand-up, so my prediction is Johnny Case to defeat Frankie Perez by decision.

145lbs- Charles Rosa (9-1-0) vs Sean Soriano (8-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, ATT’s Charles Rosa takes on Blackzilian trained Sean Soriano. Rosa debuted against UFN 59 main eventer Dennis Siver and suffered the first loss of his career after 9 straight wins. Soriano’s undefeated run ended when he signed with the UFC- dropping a pair of fights to Tatsuya Kawajiri by sub and Chas Skelly by decision.

Rosa has won 6 times by submission and demonstrated a pretty solid grappling game, taking Siver down and attempting a number of submissions. 3 of his 6 sub wins have come by armbar and he picked up a 2013 win by Peruvian necktie.

Despite an even split of finishes (3 knockouts and 3 subs), Soriano would prefer a striking based fight. He has a strong kicking arsenal and decent combinations with respectable pop in his hands. His success, or lack thereof, in his first 2 UFC bouts has been directly proportionate to his ability to stay off his back.

Neither man has shown their best in their combined 3 Octagon appearances and they could be fighting for their spot on the roster. Soriano needs to keep this fight standing and work his striking attack, but Rosa is far from lost on the feet. He offers a unique karate-based front with a variety of kicks that can be difficult to both attack and defend against. Rosa’s grappling game will add an additional aspect to his attack that his opponent won’t be able to match. Soriano has been overmatched on the mat in each of his last 2 bouts and Rosa’s style of chaining submissions together will be too much for him to overcome, so my prediction is Charles Rosa to defeat Sean Soriano by submission.

205lbs- Matt Van Buren (7-3-0) vs Sean O’Connell (15-6-0)

The second of 2 bouts to be shown on Fight Pass will feature a Light Heavyweight clash between TUF tournament finalist Matt Van Buren and Sean O’Connell. Van Buren dropped the TUF finals to Corey Anderson and has just a single win in his last 4 bouts. O’Connell has lost back to back fights since joining the UFC- a decision to Gian Villante preceded by a first round knockout defeat against Ryan Jimmo.

Van Buren will have a 4″ height and 3″ reach advantage over O’Connell.

Landing a marked 153 strikes against Villante, O’Connell showed he can carry a strong pace for a full 3 rounds. He is 5-1 in decisions.

With an overall edge of 21 fights to just 10, O’Connell has a sizeable experience advantage over Van Buren. Matty does have his TUF experience and a 4 fight stint in Bellator to draw upon, but O’Connell has fought the superior competition with a victory over Marvin Eastman, to go along with his losses to Villante and Jimmo.

This should be an entertaining, albeit sloppy scrap. Both guys prefer to stand and bang, and while it wouldn’t be surprising to see some time spent on the mat- the outcome will be decided with their hands. O’Connell has been stopped 3 times via strikes, but he has also scored 7 wins by knockout. Comparatively, Van Buren is a dismal 2-2 in bouts ended via KO/TKO. He was also rocked a couple of times in his TUF bout with  Daniel Spohn before rallying to win. Both men have a tendency to let their hands drop and while Van Buren has the height/length advantage, he frequently keeps his chin up which will leave him vulnerable to a strong left hand from O’Connell. Look for O’Connell to keep Van Buren back pedalling and eventually land something significant, so my prediction is Sean O’Connell to defeat Mat Van Buren by TKO.

125lbs- Tateki Matsuda (10-6-0) vs Joby Sanchez (6-1-0)

To open Sunday’s festivities, Joby Sanchez welcomes divisional newcomer Tateki Matsuda to the Flyweight division. Matsuda fell via decision to Chris Beal in his short notice debut, ending his 2 fight winning streak. Sanchez also took his debut as an injury replacement, losing to Wilson Reis via decision- the first loss of his career.

Matsuda is making his first cut to 125 pounds and will stand 1″ taller then his opponent, but it will be Sanchez that holds a 3″ reach advantage. Besides the potential for a bad cut impacting Tateki’s performance, an additional concern is the speed factor. Sanchez is pretty quick and should have a decent speed advantage over his foe.

Sanchez, a Jackson-Winklejohn product, has split his 6 wins evenly between knockouts and submissions. Matsuda has won 4 times by knockout, along with 5 wins on the scorecards, and just a single submission. He is a concerning 5-5 in decisions.

Matsuda could try and take Sanchez down, but Joby has solid TDD and his footwork will make it hard for Takeki to get a hold of him. Sanchez is the more diversified striker with a solid kicking game to compliment a decent boxing arsenal. Tateki is far from an easy out on the feet, with a variety of tools of his own, but his speed disadvantage and a below average defensive game will be his ultimate undoing. While he most likely won’t earn the finish, Sanchez will keep a pace that Matsuda will struggle to match as the fight drags on, so my prediction is Joby Sanchez to defeat Tateki Matsuda by decision.

155lbs- Danny Castillo (17-7-0) vs Paul Felder (9-0-0)

In the headlining act of the undercard, Team Alpha Male’s Danny Castillo meets UFC sophomore and injury replacement Paul Felder. Castillo is coming of a split decision loss and is now 7-4 inside the Octagon. Felder continued his undefeated run with a split decision win over Jason Saggo in his inaugural appearance.

Rustam Khabilov was Castillo original opponent, but was forced to pull out after Visa issues kept from competing.

Felder comes from a striking background with a Taekwondo black belt and 6 of his 9 wins coming by knockout. He averaged 3.4 strikes per minute his debut, while liming his opponent to just 1.93.

A BJJ Black belt and NAIA wrestler, Castillo leans heavily on his ground game landing 3.34 takedowns per fight at a 41% completion rate. His high watermark for takedowns in the UFC is 6 completions- going 6 for 8 versus Tim Means and 6 for 18 against Anthony Njokuani. He won both fights.

The outcome of this fight will hinge largely on where it takes place. Felder is a capable and creative striker, relying heavily on his kicking arsenal from range and hard knee and elbow strikes in close. While Castillo has power and is capable of handling himself on the feet, Felder is the superior technician. Unfortunately for Felder, his abilities on the feet are a non-factor if he is routinely planted on his back. He was taken down 6 times in his debut and Castillo has feasted on opponents with counter wrestling. Castillo has been stopped twice and needs to be careful when exchanging with Felder, but he should be more then capable of implementing a wrestling heavy attack and subsequent smothering top game. Coupled with the late notice, this bout is a stylistic nightmare for Felder- so my prediction Danny Castillo to defeat Paul Felder by decision.

135lbs- Marcus Brimage (7-3-0) vs Cody Garbrandt (5-0-0)

At 135 pounds, Marcus Brimage makes his 3rd divisional appearences and welcomes promotional newcomer Cody Garbrandt to the UFC. After a contestable decision loss in his Bantamweight debut, Brimage picked up a highlight reel head kick knockout of Jumabieke Tuerxun in his most recent bout. Garbrandt has yet to taste defeat in his young career, dispatching Charles Stanford in just 97 seconds.

Garbrandt, who recently made the move to Team Alpha Male, has finished all but 1 of his adversaries inside the first frame. The lone bout to reach round 2 ended just 32 seconds after it started. All of his pro wins have come by knockout.

Brimage has won 3 times by knockout, including the stoppage in his last bout. While he struggled to show threatening power at Featherweight, the drop to 135 pounds should make his striking more impactful and lead to an increase in his knockout numbers.

The TAM member is a well rounded competitor. He comes from an amateur boxing background and was an all-state wrestler at Ohio State.

Garbrandt is an interesting prospect training out of a top level camp with a multi-faceted combat background. He has just 5 total fights and is making a decent step up in competition against an opponent that will be fighting for the 7th time in the UFC. Brimage has a solid striking game and commendable counter wrestling, but Garbrandt may simply have too much to offer. Garbrandt has a pretty decent kicking arsenal to compliment his boxing and if he can integrate his wrestling into his attack as he has done in the past he will keep Brimage on the defensive. Octagon jitters could get the better of the newcomer, but my prediction is Cody Garbrandt to defeat Marcus Brimage by TKO.

265lbs- Shawn Jordan (16-6-0) vs Jared Cannonier (7-0-0)

In the Heavyweight division, Shawn Jordan battles the undefeated and debuting Jared Cannonier. Jordan most recently ended a 2 fight losing slump with a third round TKO victory over the towering Jack May. Cannonier earned a 5 round split decision win over well-known journeyman Tony Lopez in his last bout.

Both men buck the trend of the typical heavyweight’s physical attributes. At 6’0″ tall, Jordan will stand 1″ taller than the 5’11” Cannonier. Jordan should also have a 10-15 pound weight advantage.

Jordan’s career has hinged on his ability to deliver/ avoid the knockout. He has secured 12 of his 16 victories by some form of TKO/KO, including the aforementioned win over May along with stoppages of Pat Barry, Mike Russow, and Oli Thompson. He has also been on the opposite end of the scenario 4 times, with his last 2 losses coming inside the first round via KO against Matt Mitrione and Gabriel Gonzaga.

The UFC debutant has gone the distance just once, while splitting is other 6 wins evenly between submission and knockout. There isn’t a tonne of footage available, but most reports indicates that he has decent power and combines it with speed and athleticism.

Jordan has averaged 3.05 SLpM- a decent clip for a Heavyweight, but he is also giving up 3.18 SApM which is very concerning in a division full of heavy hitters.

Coming from an athletic background like Jordan does, he has failed to progress beyond the skill set that he initially showed. He has serviceable wrestling and is willing to trade, but his inability to put away Jack May prior to the third round and the amount of damage he took in the process is concerning. Cannonier should have a speed advantage and if he can utilize it to land first, that will be difficult for Jordan to overcome. He also appears to have a serviceable grappling game, which should keep Jordan from routinely taking him down. The Heavyweight division can be a crap shoot, which is further magnified by the lack of knowledge surrounding Cannonier and the questionable chin of Jordan. Cannonier’s level of competition is a bit suspect, but taking a hard fought decision versus Tony Lopez is a starting point. Even in his two wins prior to the slump, Jordan needed an apparent eye poke to beat Barry and had to wait for Mike Russow to gas out, this feels more like an instinct pick, but my prediction is Jared Cannonier to defeat Shawn Jordan by KO.

115lbs- Tecia Torres (4-0-0) vs Angela Magana (11-6-0)

Two-time tournament loser and #3 ranked Tecia Torres makes her fifth pro appearance opposite the polarizing #12 ranked tournament competitor Angela Magana. Despite her struggles on the show, Torres is still undefeated as a pro with wins over fellow UFC roster members Rose Namajunas, Paige VanZant, and Felice Herrig. Magana had lost 2 consecutive bouts prior to entering the house, including a 2012 loss to current Bantamweight Jessica Eye.

With an experience edge of 17-4, Magana has fought several noteworthy opponents including losses to the aforementioned Eye and Jessica Penne, a win over Invicta FC Flyweight champ Barb Honchak, and 1-2 record in a 3 fight series with WSOF Strawweight champ Jessica Aguilar between 2007 and 2009.

Torres hasn't finished an opponent since her second appearance as an amateur back in 2011. After back to back wins inside the distance to start her amateur career, Torres has gone to decision in 12 straight fights ranging from her time pre-pro, on TUF, and her 4 fight career in Invicta. She is a highly accredited fighter with Black belts in Karate and Taekwondo along with a BJJ Blue belt.

Torres's lack of finishing touch is not an indication of her aggression level once the bell rings. Her pace and ability to maintain that work rate from start to finish makes her a handful for her opponents. She struggled with the wrestling of both Randa Markos and Carla Esparza in her two tournament losses, but that shouldn't be the case against Magana.

Angela lives and dies with the submission game; winning 6 times by tapout, but also dropping 4 of her 6 defeats in the same fashion. She was also stopped by Aisling Daly in the third frame of a back and forth bout in her only TUF appearance. Torres will simply carry two heavy a pace for Magana to match. Torres blasted VanZant with big flurries as she came forward and continued the assault in the clinch. She will find similar, if not greater success here.

Torres is still young in her career and developing, while Magana appears to have leveled off at this point. Look for Torres to have made the greater strides since her time on the show and build on an already superior skill set. Magana stays competitive early, but she is 1-4 in her last 5 fights that go beyond the opening round, so my prediction is Tecia Torres to defeat Angela Magana by TKO.

115lbs- Joanne Calderwood (8-0-0) vs Seo Hee Ham (15-5-0)

Tournament quarter-finalist and the #2 ranked competitor on the show Joanne Calderwood welcomes the only non-TUF competitor on the undercard Seo Hee Ham to the Octagon. Calderwood is undefeated including 4 wins in Invicta FC cage, she most recently defeated Katja Kankaanpaa by decision. Ham is currently riding a 6 fight winning streak, defending the DEEP Jewels 106 pound title via second round armbar.

Calderwood fell via submission to Rose Namajunas in the quarter-finals after defeating Emily Kagan viain the opening round.

Training out of South Korea, Ham will be making her first appearance in North American having spent her entire career competing in her home country or in Japan. She will be the smaller fighter, standing 4" shorter then her opponent.

Both girls come from striking backgrounds- Jo Jo based in Muay Thai and Seo Hee a kickboxer with a 7-3 record as a pro. Ham doesn't appear to carry the power that her Scotish counterpart can generate. The Korean has yet to win a single fight by knockout, with all but 2 of her victories ending on the judges' scorecards- including several 2 round decisions.  Conversely, Calderwood has ended 4 of her 8 wins by knockout- 3 in the first round.

Calderwood underachieved on the show, looking a little underwhelming even in victory, so she will be out to re-establish her position within the division. Size will play a role here as Seo Hee is clearly the smaller competitor seemingly more suited to compete at Atomweight. Calderwood's size should allow her to dictate where this fight takes place and her power combined with her vicious Muay Thai technique will be too much for a very game yet outgunned Ham. There could be some action on the mat, but my prediction is Joanne Calderwood to defeat Seo Hee Ham by knockout.

115lbs- Bec Rawlings (5-3-0) vs Heather Jo Clark (6-4-0)

Former Invicta Strawweight title challenger Bec Rawlings will face fellow Team Melendez member Heather Jo Clark. Rawlings has dropped 2 of her last 3 fights including a loss in the inaugural Invicta title fight bout against Carla Esparza. Clark snapped a 2 fight losing streak in her last bout earning a decision over Hannah Cifers.

Both girls failed to advance beyond the opening round of the tournament- Bec fell to the #3 ranked Tecia Torres after Justin Kish was forced to withdraw due to injury. Heather was defeated by arch-rival Felice Herrig- also by decision. It was the second time Clark lost to Herrig dating back to their first meeting in 2013.

Each fighter got off to solid starts to their pro careers. After losing their debuts, they each proceeded to win 4 in a row. Since their strong starts, Bec has gone 1-2 and Heather 2-3.

Clark is a BJJ Purple belt, with 3 wins by submission- 2 by rear-naked choke. Rawlings has also scored a trio of submission wins, with her last coming at Invicta FC 5 over Jasminka Cive. Both girls have shown they can win fights on the mat, but both have also had some difficulties despite neither having lost via sub. Rawlings struggled with Esparza on the floor and most recently in her loss to Mizuki Inoue. In similar fashion, Clark got off to a great start threatening with a sub early against Herrig in both meetins, but had the tables turned on her and spent large portions of each fight on her back.

Neither girl has big knockout numbers, but are still capable strikers. Rawlings appears to have the slightly sharper technique, but Clark is fairly competent as well. With the layoff following the conclusion of the show it is hard to determine what imrpovements, if any each has made. Clark talked frequently on the show about fighting injured, which could have hampered her performance. This should be a fairly close fight and is difficult to predict as a result. Clark seems to be slightly stronger on the mat and Rawlings struggles of late have come on the floor, so my prediction is Heather Jo Clark to defeat Bec Rawlings by decision.

115lbs- Aisling Daly (14-5-0) vs Alex Chambers (4-1-0)

Ireland's own Aisling Daly, ranked 5th in the tournament, battles 10th ranked Alex Chambers of Australia. Daly ended a 3 fight losing slump at Cage Warriors 63 with a second submission win over Karla Benitez. Chambers rebounded from the first loss of her career with back to backs including a first round submission win in her only Invicta appearance.

Daly has a massive experience advantage with 19 career fights to just 5 for Chambers. The Aussie came late to the fight game, not turning pro until mid-2010 when Daly had already won 9 of her first 10 fights. Daly has spent most of her career at 125 pounds.

Chambers is a BJJ Purple belt and Karate Black belt. She has picked up a pair of first round knockouts and one opening frame submission. Daly, a BJJ Brown belt, has won 7 times by tapout along with 5 knockouts.

Aisling got off to a rough start in her first tournament bout, struggling with the aggressive ground attack of Angela Magana. She turned that bout around, but once against had a significant struggle with Jessica Penne on the mat. She has a strong submission game, but seemed a little over matched at times. Chambers is crafty on ground, scoring a very smooth back take and eventual rear-naked choke in her last win. She should also benefit from a speed advantage over Aisling, countering Daly's very unorthodox striking style. Chambers has a quick kicking arsenal, and will target all areas of her opponent with minimal wind up. She is relatively new to the fight game and could very well make some significant improvements post-show. Daly has a subpar 2-4 record in fights that go the distance and will struggle with the speed and kicking game of her opponent- my prediction is Alex Chambers to defeat Aisling Daly by decision.

115lbs- Emily Kagan (3-1-0) vs Angela Hill (1-0-0)

Raising the curtain on the Strawweight dominated event are two of the most inexperienced and the lowest ranked members of the cast as Emily Kagan squares off with Angela Hill. Kagan, ranked #15, took a split decision win in her last Invicta appearance 1 fight prior she was submitted by Rose Namajunas. Hill has just a single pro bout, which she won by second KO.

Kagan went the distance in her only TUF appearance with #2 ranked Jo Jo Calderwood. Hill was submitted in first round by the former Invicta champ and #1 seed Carla Esparza.

Hill comes from a Muay Thai background and has some experience competing in that discipline. With just 1 pro bout against an opponent currently carrying a 4-5 record, the UFC scouting team must of seen something in her to give her a spot on the show over other more experienced options.

Kagan's focus here should be similar to what Esparza did to Hill on the show- ground attack. Kagan can wrestle and is a Black belt in Japanese Jujitsu training out of the Jackson-Winkeljohn camp. Kagan can compete on the feet, leaning on a hard straight left and pairing of hard push and inside leg kicks- but she by doing this she keeps Hill in her area of familiarity. Hill can strike and finished her lone pro opponent with a second round knee, but she struggled to mount much offense against Esparza who was a stylistic nightmare. Hill is green both in overall experience and quality of experience as Kagan's 2 fights in Invicta, including a grueling bout with Namajunas give her the better base to build upon. Once Kagan is on top she will be difficult to shuck off and Hill's offensive output will be stunned for fear of being taken down, so my prediction is Emily Kagan to defeat Angela Hill by decision.

 

125lbs- #5 John Moraga (15-3-0) vs Willie Gates (11-4-0)

In the undercard main event, former title challenger John Moraga battles late notice injury replacement Willie Gates in the Flyweight division. Moraga is coming off a submission win over Justin Scoggins and has alternated wins and losses over his last 4- he is 4-2 in the UFC. Gates picked up an impressive first round win over Alpha Male's Hector Sandoval to capture the Tachi Palace fights Flyweight crown- he has won 5 in a row.

Gates is replacing the injured Jussier Formiga and will be fighting for the sixth time in 2014. Prior to Sandoval is four other 2014 opponents have a dismal  combined record of 1-26.

An above averaged sized Flyweight, Gates will stand close to 4" taller then his opponent.

Moraga is a flawed fighter and was on route to losing his last bout before snatching the submission, but it is pretty evident that he has fought at a much higher level then Gates. Willie has a decent record on paper with 4 wins by submission and 4 more by knockout, but again his level of competition is lacking. Moraga's boxing is his best asset and he should benefit from not facing a lightning quick opponent like Demetrious Johnson or John Dodson. If Gates can bring his size to bear he could grind down Moraga, but look for the former title challenger to edge out an opponent dealing with a significant step up in competition along with the infamous UFC jitters- my prediction is John Moraga to defeat Willie Gates by decision.

115lbs- Claudia Gadelha (12-0-0) vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk (7-0-0)

In a bout that could determine the first title challenger for the new Strawweight champion, unrequited Invicta FC #1 contender Claudia Gadelha battles fellow promotional sophomore Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Gadelha debuted win a decision win over Tina Lähdemäki, extending her undefeated run to 12 straight. Also remaining undefeated, Jedrzejczyk built on her devasting knockout of Rosi Sexton with a decision victory over Julianna Lima.

Gadelha earned an Invicta title shot with a win over Ayaka Hamasaki in mid-2013, but her inability to make weight multiple times in a short time frame prevented her from entering the title tournament.

Jedrzejczyk will stand 2" taller then her opponent along with having a slight 2" reach advantage.

A BJJ Black belt, Gadelha has a solid submission game which has earned her 6 of 12 wins by tapout and she couples it with a strong wrestling acumen. JJ had a lot of success in her debut shucking off 13 of Lima's 14 TDAs, but struggled at times to create separation. If the Brazilian is able to get her hands on her Polish opponent, it will be difficult for Joanna to remain vertical. If she can stay upright she is a nasty striker, with brutal combinations building off of her Muay Thai background. 4 of Claudia's last 5 wins have either come by decision or third round stoppage which suggests she won't have a drop off in performance. Jedrzejczyk's talents will be nullified by the ground heavy attack of her opponent, so my prediction is Claudia Gadelha to defeat Joanna Jedrzejczyk by submission.

170lbs- Joe Riggs (28-9-0) vs Ben Saunders (17-6-2)

In the Welterweight division, a throwback fight of sorts as Ben 'Kill B' Saunders battles the returning Joe 'Diesel' Riggs. Prior to earning an Omoplata submission win over Chris Heatherly, Saunders last fought inside the Octagon in mid 2010- he is 5-3 in the UFC. Riggs has won 6 in a row, but hasn't competed for the ZUFFA owned promotion since late 2006- he is 4-3 in the UFC.

'Diesel' was set to re-debut at UFC Fight Night 51, but was forced to withdraw after suffering a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Both men spent time competing under the Bellator banner. Saunders went 7-3, which included 2 tournament final appearances where he fell on both occasions to Douglas Lima.  Riggs was victorious in the only season of 'Fight Master' defeating Mike Bronzoulis in the finals, subsequently leveling his promotional record at 1-1.

With 36 of his 40 wins ending before the judges are required, Riggs can finish. Unfortunately, he can also be finished. Riggs has had a long career and the miles have piled up as he has lost 5 times by knockout and 7 more by submission. Back to back knockout losses to Jordan Mein and Bryan Baker followed by a submission lose to Kendal Grove comprised his last losing streak. Saunders has been knocked out 3 times, but against pretty stiff competition in Douglas Lima twice and a prime Mike Swick. Saunder's devastating clinch game and ability to bombard opponents with vicious knees and elbows will simply be too much for Riggs. If Joe elects to take Ben to the mat, Saunders is incredibly dangerous off his back and will make it an unrewarding position- my prediction is Ben Saunders to defeat Joe Riggs by TKO.

155lbs- Jamie Varner (21-10-1 2NC) vs Drew Dober (14-6-0)

In the Lightweight division, former WEC title holder Jamie 'C-4' Varner looks to end a 3 fight losing streak when he fights Drew Dober. Dober as gone winless in his first 2 forays into the Octagon, most recently dropping a decision to Nick Hein. Varner is coming off an injury TKO loss to James Krause, one fight prior he was knocked out by Abel Trujillo after winning the majority of the action before the fateful blow. Varner is 3-5 in the UFC.

Varner has finished 18 of his 21 wins- 7 by knockout and 11 by submission. Dober has a respectable finishing rate as well, albeit against lower level competition. He has won twice by knockout along with 8 submissions. Dober has been finished just once, by knockout. Conversely, Varner has been submitted 4 times along with 2 knockout defeats- bothing coming in his last 2 fights.

Varner will have a slight 2" reach advantage over Dober.

Varner appeared to rekindle his career when he TKOed Edson Barboza, but he has struggled to consistently find the win column since. He hasn't looked bad, in defeat, but they are losses nonetheless. Dober represents a significant step down in competition for Jamie, but if he doesn't earn the victory it could be the end of the line. Varner has significant power in his hands and he is the superior boxing technician. He should be able to dictate where this fight takes place and outmaneuver Dober on the mat if the fight does go there. Dober is tough, but Varner's ability to cover distance and generate significant power will eventually put him down, so my prediction is Jamie Varner to defeat Drew Dober by knockout.

185lbs- Ed Herman (22-9-0 1NC) vs Derek Brunson (12-3-0)

In the Middleweight division, Ed 'Short Fuse' Herman makes his 17th promotional appearance when he battles former Strikeforce competitor Derek Brunson. Herman has alternated wins and losses over his last 4, most recently beating Rafael Natal by decision. Brunson returned to the win column by defeating Lorenz Larkin at UFC 177- he is now 3-1 since joining the UFC.

'Short Fuse' will stand 1" taller then his opponent, but it will be Brunson holding a 4" reach advantage.

Both men come from a strong grappling base. Herman is a BJJ Brown belt and has won 13 times by submission. A former NCAA Division 2 wrestler, Brunson has averaged just over 4 takedowns per fight at a 41% completion rate, along with defending 100% of his opponent's TDAs. He has won 4 times by submission.

Herman has been through a number of grueling battles, and while he isn't the most athletically gifted he has made due. Unfortunately, he will be at a significant speed disadvantage against Brunson which will both hinder his success on the feet and prevent him from gaining an advantageous position on the mat. Brunson is slowly tightening up his defensive striking holes, but 'Short Fuse' doesn't have the power to capitalize on them. Brunson will control the majority of the action with his wrestling against an opponent who can operate off his back, but has give up 11 takedowns in his last 4 non-winning efforts- my prediction is Derek Brunson to defeat Ed Herman by decision.

155lbs- Joe Ellenberger (15-1-0) vs Bryan Barberena (9-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, Joe Ellenberger makes his second UFC appearance when he tangles with promotional debutant Bryan Barberena. Ellenberger took a bit of a controversial decision over James Moontasari in his debut, he has now won 3 straight. Barberena has won 6 straight, including 3 straight inside the distance.

Barberena was temporarily scheduled in as one of multiple potential opponents for Ellenberger for his debut, but was forced o withdraw due to injury.

The UFC jitters and ring rust could have been a factor in Ellenberger's debut as he had been on the shelf for nearly 2 years heading into the fight. Barberena hasn't fought in almost 10 months, so along with his own case of Octagon shock he could be dealing with some ring rust as well.

With 7 of his 9 wins coming by knockout, Barberena has power. He has a Muay Thai base and can operate from range, but he appears to be at his best from the clinch. Ellenberger has yet to be knocked out, but he came close against Moontasari. Bryan's willingness to close the distance should provide Ellenberger, who will be the superior wrestler, ample opportunities to shoot for takedowns. Joe's 3 TDs and top control were key in turning his debut in his favour and that should play a significant role in this fight. Ellenberger should look more comfortable in his second appearance with a more appropriate layoff between bouts, so my prediction is Joe Ellenberger to defeat Bryan Barberena by decision.

155lbs- David Michaud (7-1-o) vs Garett Whiteley (8-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, Garett Whiteley takes his third shot at winning his first UFC bout when he takes on UFC sophomore David Michaud. Whiteley has lost back to back fights since joining the promotion, the first losses of his career. Michaud dropped a split decision to Jingliang Li in his debut- ending his undefeated run.

Whitely will stand 3" taller then his counter part, but their reach is identical.

Both men have shown the ability to both end bouts on the mat and on the feet. Whitely has won 4 times by knockout including his last 2 pre-UFC wins, along with 3 submissions. Michaud has split his 6 finishes evenly between sub and knockout.

Michaud seemed a bit undersized at Welterweight and elected to make the move to Lightweight, which should help him to match up physically in the lighter weight class.

Despite his debut defeat, Michaud did have success in the middle frame and totaled 3 takedowns along with a couple of sub attempts. He is a decent wrestling and will most likely rely on that against Whiteley. Whiteley's defensive wrestling appears to be a major point of concern most notably getting taken down 8 times on 12 attempts by Vinc Pichel on route to a decision defeat. If Whiteley can use his length to keep Michaud on the outside he could work his way to a decision or catch a knockout, but look for the wrestler to get on the inside and take this fight to the mat with regularity- my prediction is David Michaud to defeat Garett Whiteley by submission.

135lbs- Henry Cejudo (6-0-0) vs Dustin Kimura (12-2-0)

A battle of Bantamweights features the debut of Olympic Gold medalist Henry Cejudo when he takes on Dustin Kimura. Cejudo is yet to taste defeat as a pro, most recently earning a pair of decision wins under the Legacy FC banner. Kimura has alternated wins and losses through his first 4 Octagon outings- wins over Chico Camus and Jon Delos Reyes by submission and losses to George Roop and Mitch Gagnon.

Cejudo won Olympic Gold at the 2008 Beijing games in Freestyle wrestling. He has attempted to compete as a Flyweight, but after back to back catchweight bouts and a botched weight cut thwarting his original debut against Scotty Jorgensen he has made the "decision" to move to 135 pounds.

Physically, Kimura will boast a pair of significant advantages standing 3" taller with a 7" reach advantage.

The Hawaii native has seen his success hinge largely on his submission game; 8 of his 11 wins have come via tapout. He hasn't had a tonne of success with his wrestling, landing just 42% of his attempts at just under 1.5 completions per fight. He has mainly relied on his opponents to take the fight to the mat and then looked to sweep or attack of his back. That will be a mistake against this calibre of an opponent. Cejudo is a little undersized for the division and is making his debut, but having competed at such a high level in wrestling should help him to overcome these issues. Cejudo utilizes a wide variety of takedown techniques and should have no problem putting Kimura on his back and stifling whatever offense he attempts, so my prediction is Henry Cejudo to defeat Dustin Kimura by decision.

135lbs- Anthony Birchak (11-1-0) vs Ian Entwistle (8-2-0)

To open the night's festivities former MFC Bantamweight champion Anthony Birchak makes his debut across from UFC sophomore Ian Entwistle. Birchak has won 5 consecutives bouts after suffering the only defeat of his career. Entwistle saw his 4 fight winning streak ended in Australian when he was knocked out by Daniel Hooker while competing at Featherweight.

Birchak was scheduled to make his debut at UFC 177 opposite Joe Soto, who was bumped into the main event after Renan Barao was forced to withdraw. As a result he has not fought in almost 14 months so ring rust could be a potential factor.

Each man has secured 6 wins by submission. Entwistle is known for attack legs with 2 of his last 3 submission victories coming by Heel hook. His commitment to the move left him exposed and ultimately cost him his debut appearance. Birchak seems more focussed on chokes, winning all but one his tapout victories by this manner.

Expect this bout to be decided on the floor.

Entiwstle's unwillingness to relinquish an identifiably lost position against Hooker brings into question his Fight IQ. His rabid commitment to submission way before position will cost him dearly against a strong wrestling like Birchak. The Brit could possibly snatch a limb and bring about the finish, but as the fight progress look for the more patient fighter to win out. Birchak is aggressive in his own right and sometimes that will get him in trouble, but look for him to withstand the early onslaught and then smother his opponent with heavy pressure and continuous ground and pound. All of Entwistle's wins have come inside the first round, which suggests he has a limited window of opportunity to get the job done here before Birchak takes control of the fight, so my prediction is Anthony Birchak to defeat Ian Entwistle by submission.

UFC 181 prelims

135lbs- #3 Urijah Faber (37-7-0) vs #11 Francisco Rivera (10-3-0 1NC)

In the Preliminary headliner, for WEC champ and multiple time title challenger 'The California Kid' Urijah Faber faces fellow top 15 ranked Bantamweight Francisco' Cisco' Rivera. Faber has won 5 of his last 6 fights, with his only loss in that span coming against then champion Renan Barao. Rivera is looking to rebound after suffering his first loss in 7 bouts, he dropped a decision to Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 173.

Faber has won his last 14 bouts not involving a title, but is 0-6 with the gold on the line including his WEC 36 loss to Mike Brown that cost him the promotion's Featherweight title.

With 7 of his 10 wins coming by way of knockout, it is pretty evident where 'Cisco' wants this fight to take place. He possess some of the best power in the division, while averaging 4.06 strikes per minute and giving up 2.90. A +1.16 striking exchange rate. He has a bomb of a right hand and throws stiff combinations. He has been KOed once, at Featherweight by Erik Koch, but he was also stunned early on during an exchange with Mizugaki.

Easily the best fighter not to wear divisional gold, Faber is more the capable of competing on both the feet and the mat. He boast an unorthodox striking style that has produced 7 knockouts. He should have a speed advantage over Cisco, which will make his attack further effective. Faber's ground game is usually at the hear of his success and that should be the case here. He is an exceptional wrestler and his staying power once he establishes top control is crushing. A former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ Brown belt, he is 18-0 in fights ended by submission. Faber's back mount could be the most lethal of all, resulting in 9 wins by rear naked-choke.

Faber owns submission wins over numerous noteworthy adversaries including Raphael Assuncao, Michael McDonald, and Takeya Mizugaki.

Cisco has to keep this fight vertical and that might not even be enough. Faber has been knocked out 3 times, but his speed will make it difficult for Rivera to land with consistency. Faber's endgame will be to put this fight on the floor and bust Rivera up with relentless ground and pound until a submission presents itself- so my prediction is Urijah Faber to defeat Francisco Rivera by submission.

185lbs- Eddie Gordon (8-1-0) vs Josh Samman (10-3-0)

In the Middleweight division, Eddie 'Truck' Gordon makes his first post-TUF appearance when he battles TUF 17 alumni Josh Samman. Gordon has won 2 in a row including his TUF 19 tournament final win over fellow Team Edgar member Dhiego Lima. Samman was defeated in the semi-finals by eventual tournament winner Kelvin Gastelum, but debuted with a win over Kevin Casey by second round TKO.

Samman hasn't seen action since his debut in mid-2013, he has withdrawn from a pair of fights and is returning after almost 20 months on the shelf.

A friend and teammate of the Middleweight champ, Gordon throws heavy leather and has won 3 times by knockout as a pro, but failed to avoid the judges in any of his 3 tournament bouts prior to the finals. His boxing is his primary weapon and he stopped Lima by cutting off the cage and unloading with a barrage of violent punches. While he clearly has power, he frequently throws too many single strikes and loads up on his techniques making them easy to anticipate. As a result, he was having trouble closing the distance against Mike King in quarters and his striking success was limited as a result.

'Truck's' cardio is also a bit of a question mark as his power based style appears to be very taxing, despite 3 wins on the judges' cards.

Samman didn't have the success on the show that Gordon did, getting upset in the semis by a fighter that is now on the verge of cracking the Welterweight Top 5. He has a slight experience advantage with 12 fights to Eddies's 8. A BJJ purple belt, he has amassed 3 wins by submission in addition to tapping out his quarter-finals opponent. His big win total comes in the knockout column at 6, plus 2 on the show. At distance he moves forward quickly with long straight punches in sequence and will also land leg kicks from the outside. His clinch work is solid, he finished Kevin Casey with a series of knees from the Thai plumb.

The key to Samman's success is that he never stops working. Whether on the feet or on the floor, he is constantly pushing the pace and looking to attack.

On the mat, Josh did struggle at times on the show and in his debut, but Gordon doesn't appear to have the type of wrestling game that will trouble him. Conversely, Samman should be able to put Gordon on his back. Eddie was taken down several times by both Mike King and Cathal Pendred and didn't offer much from the bottom. If Samman can continue this trend, especially if he moves to back control he will score significant points with the judges and possibly earn a finish.

Samman has been very  inactive so ring rust could be a factor, but outside of blasting Lima (a natural Welterweight) in the finals Gordon simply has not impressed. He struggled to mount much offense early in his fights with King and Pendred, not getting it going until both opponents started to slow down. That won't be the case here. Look for Samman to be the more diverse striker and land some key takedowns, especially as the fight drags on- so my prediction is Josh Samman to defeat Eddie Gordon by TKO.

205lbs- Corey Anderson (5-0-0) vs Justin Jones (3-0-0)

The first of two TUF 19 tournament winners, Light Heavyweight winner Corey Anderson makes his first post-TUF foray into the Octagon when he takes on the debuting Justin Jones. Anderson is undefeated through the first 5 fights of his career, stopping Matt Van Buren in his debut. Jones has won all of his pro bouts, most recently taking a victory by knockout at RFA 15.

Jones represents the third opponent change for Anderson. Gian Villante was the original booking and he was replaced briefly by Jonathan Wilson, before Jones got the call.

There isn't a tonne of information available on Jones, so here is what we do know. He is debuting on very short notice and moving up a division from where he traditionally competes at. He does have a trio of stoppages- 2 subs and 1 knockout, but that is it for pro experience. Not only does he have just the 3 pro fights, he made the jump from amateur status earlier this year so he is pretty green. He appears to center his attack around two specific areas- takedowns and power strikes. Against a powerful wrestler like Anderson, Jones is going to be hard pressed to implement his wrestling game. As a result, his most likely avenue to victory is with his hands- if he can stay off his back.

The big issue with his striking is that he doesn't use a tonne of footwork, sitting down and winging wild punches that will allow Anderson to change levels for quick TDAs.

A natural Light Heavyweight, Anderson will have a size advantage over his opponent, including 4 inches of height. Anderson is a wrestler first and foremost and it carried him to the TUF title. All 3 of his wins as a pro have come via TKO inside the first round. On the show, he ground out 3 decision victories all on the basis of his wrestling- including a victory over All-American wrestler and Bellator tournament finalist Kelly Anundson.

Anderson's striking is the most undeveloped aspect of his game and if he can't take Jones down he will be at a point of vulnerability. Conversely, with Jones being a wrestler he most likely won't be very comfortable working off his back and that is a scenario that Anderson will be looking for from the opening bell. There are simply too many obstacles for Jones to overcome and stylistically his strongest asset will be neutralized by a superior wrestler, so my prediction is Corey Anderson to defeat Justin Jones by TKO.


135lbs- Raquel Pennington (4-5-0) vs Ashlee Evans-Smith (3-0-0)

In the Women's Bantamweight division, TUF alumni Raquel 'Rocky'  Pennington meets late injury replacement and debutant Ashlee Evans-Smith. Pennington has gone 1-1 since her time on the reality show, most recently falling to Jessica Andrade. Evans-Smith is yet to taste defeat in her young professional career, earning a win in her only WSOF appearance and upsetting the controversial Fallon Fox one fight prior.

Evans-Smith is replacing the highly touted Holly Holm who was set to make her promotional debut. The change in opponent with just one month's notice will most likely force Pennington to reformat her approach with Holm being a talented boxer and Evans-Smith coming from a wrestling background.

'Rocky' has demoed an improving striking game. She has averaged 5.4 strikes landed per minute while giving up north of 3.5 to her opponents in 2 UFC contests. She does her best work at range, landing combinations and mixing in her leg strikes. Her only win by knockout came over Kim Couture in her pro debut. While Pennington's output numbers would suggest otherwise, she has had some issues with pulling the trigger, appearing hesitant to engage- especially early in fights.

She will need to keep busy with her jab to keep Evans-Smith at distance and out of wrestling range.

In her win over Fallon Fox, AES effectively exchanged with an opponent who has recorded a trio of first round knockouts in just 5 wins. While Pennington likes to maintain a little distance, Evans-Smith works very well at phone booth range and closer. Her primary weapon of choice in tight are her elbows, but she will also utilize short punches and knees. Ashlee does a good job transitioning between close range striking to her wrestling game, which will most likely be her mode of operation here.

A successful High school wrestler, Smith has a strong top game and is very adept at cutting through her adversary's guard. Her last 2 wins have both come by ground based TKO. Against Fox, she was able to counter any attempt by Fallon to take the bout to the ground and once there she routinely bounced from one dominant position to another. Eventually she moved from side control to full mount for the finish. In her most recent bout she scored a third round stoppage from the crucifix position with a series of undefended elbow strikes.

Pennington has struggled with aggressive ground based opponents in her career. She was badly outclassed by Cat Zingano on the mat, falling by submission and she was taken down several times by Andrade in her last fight.

'Rocky' has struggled with pressure fighters, whether it be on the mat or in the clinch. Her cardio has also been a bit of an issue in grueling bouts, where she has slowed down as the fight advanced. The late notice and debut could be difficult for Evans-Smith and if she gets stuck on the outside she will be forced to rely on her poorest of weapons; her range striking. Raquel as the advantage in experience in both total fights and Octagon/ TUF time, but that won't be enough against a fighter built to exploit her weaknesses, so my prediction is Ashlee Evans-Smith to defeat Raquel Pennington by TKO (probably late).

135lbs- Sergio Pettis (11-1-0) vs Matt Hobar (9-2-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Sergio 'the Phenom' Pettis makes his fourth Octagon appearance against former Legacy 135 pound champ Matt 'the Crowbar' Hobar. Pettis was submitted by Alex Caceres in his second UFC bout, sandwiched between a pair of decision wins. Hobar's debut was brief and unsuccessful, but he rebounded nicely in his most recent outing against Aaron Phillips.

Physically, Hobar will stand 4" taller and have a 1" reach advantage over his counterpart.

The pressure on Pettis, based on both his in capabilities and championship kin, is mounting. He has a solid striking game, blending together his Taekwondo and Kickboxing backgrounds. He has a trio of wins by knockout and has outlanded his opponents by just over a strike per minute. On the mat, Pettis is a capable of submission fighter. He is active off his back and pretty decent in a scramble. A BJJ purple belt, he has 3 wins by submission compared to just a single defeat.

Over his 3 UFC bouts, Pettis has defended 60% of his opponents' TDAs, but has still be put on his back 6 times.

Hobar's approach is much more straight forward. He was a pretty successful High school wrestler and he has parlayed those skills into his primary weapon inside the cage. He prefers the single leg takedown- utilizing a swift level change, locking onto his opponent's leg, and quickly running the pipe to complete the attempt. He completed an impressive 6 of 9 tries against Phillips and remained fairly active from top position.  He has 4 submission wins, 3 by RNC.

Pettis is the flashier striker, but he lacks the power to keep Hobar at bay. The 'Crowbar' is capable of holding his own on the feet using solid technique- hands up, chin down, and he avoids being a stationary target. He has 2 TKO losses on his resume, the first by injury and the second a legit stoppage in his UFC debut.

Hobar is the bigger man and his top game combined with an apparent defensive wrestling deficiency on Pettis's part will be the theme of this bout. Hobar has to remain vigilant even in top position as Pettis will be active off his back- my prediction is Matt Hobar to defeat Sergio Pettis by decision.

145lbs- Alex White (10-1-0) vs Clay Collard (13-5-0 1NC)

Raising the curtain will be a Bantamweight slugfest between Alex 'the Spartan' White and UFC sophomore 'Cassius' Clay Collard. White exploded into the UFC with a short notice knockout of Estevan Payan, but was most recently stopped by Lucas Martins in a 3 round war. Collard took his debut opportunity on very short notice, suffering a 3 round TKO defeat against the talented Max Holloway.

Both men possess significant finishing rates. White has won 4 times by knockout along with 5 subs compared to just a single decision victory. Collard has ended 10 of his 13 wins inside the distance with 8 knockouts and a pair of submissions, requiring the judges just 3 times.

White is the more refined striker, but his technique still leaves a lot to be desired. He is a Southpaw, which is to his advantage and he seems to implement a higher volume of kicks in his attack. Look for him to routinely throw a push kick to create space when Collard begins to close he distance. White is very aggressive with his hands, walking down his opponent with strikes. Against Payan, he scored the finish in this manner, but was routinely getting tagged by Martins when he tried to engage.

Prior to getting finished by the Brazilian, White was cracked and hurt several times, mainly because he has a tendency to leave his chin up and allow his hands to drop. The Spartan showed incredible toughness, but eventually succumb to his follies.

Collard is much more of a brawler, but he does come from an amateur boxing background. Like White, he is also very aggressive and continually moves forward. He will attempt a lot of spinning attacks, with moderate success. Despite the end result, his chin held up quite well against Holloway. He gave up an average of 9 strikes per minute against Max, but was still dropping his hands and inviting his opponent to attack. Collard is young and confident, but will need to reconsider his brash approach at this level of competition.

On the mat, White should have the advantage with 5 submission wins and a BJJ Blue belt to his credit compared to a Cassius who has been submitted (2) as many times as he has submitted opponents (2). While there is some potential that this bout could go to the floor, it should be decided on the feet.

Both men are tough and have solid cardio along with some questionable defense. Those traits should make for a fun fight. Collard will benefit from a full training camp, but look for his counterpart to make significant improvements coming off the first loss of his career. White looks like he hits harder and Clay's lack of continuity in his volume striking makes him less effective then he should be. White lands something big and continues to unload until Collard relents, so my prediction is Alex White to defeat Clay Collard by TKO.

265lbs- Ruslan Magomedov (12-1-0) vs Josh Copeland (9-0-0)

Headlining the undercard is a Heavyweight throw down between Russian striker Ruslan 'Leopard' Magomedov and Josh 'Cuddly Bear' Copeland. Magomedov made a successful UFC debut defeating Viktor Pesta by decision to extend his winning streak to 7 straight. Copeland has yet to taste defeat through the first 9 fights of his career.

Copeland will be giving up 4 inches of height to his opponent, but they should both weigh in roughly in the mid to low 240s.

Making the jump from the regionals to the big show on the heels of an RFA title victory, Cuddly Bear has shown a diverse finishing ability with 3 wins by knockout and a quartet by submission. One of his submission wins did come by way of punches. Copeland is primarily a striker despite his multiple submissions. He relies primarily on his boxing, implementing hard straight punches when exchanging. He will also push his foe into the wall and work his dirty boxing. On the break look for Copeland to step back and unleash a quick 1-2 looking to catch his unsuspecting opponent off guard. He was getting tagged early on in his bout with Jan Jorgenson and will need to focus a little more on his defensive game when facing next level opposition.

Copeland handed the aforementioned Jorgenson his firs career loss and his last 3 opponents are a combined 19-5, but he has faced a few very low level opponents along the way and will easily be facing his stiffest test in Magomedov.

In comparison, the Russian has fought and defeated former UFC champions Tim Sylvia and Ricco Rodriguez along with Bellator vet Mike Hayes.

A kickboxer, Magomedov employs a nice mix of punches and kicking attacks. He throws a push kick down the middle and a hard body kick. Against Pesta, he landed a beautiful lead leg head kick that is hard to see coming and subsequently hard to defend against. He has decent combinations and while he wasn't as active in his debut, look for him to up the tempo in his second outing. Ruslan was dropped a couple of times early by Pesta, and he will need to be mindful when Copeland starts to unload.

'Leopard' has won just 4 times by knockout which is a little low for a striking based heavyweight. Subsequently, he is 6-0 in fights ending on the scorecards and has shown the ability to fight a full 3 rounds without much of a drop in performance.  At Heavyweight that can be a serious weapon, something the champion has used on numerous occasions.

Copeland has fought several 'heavyweights' in his career, but Magomedov will be the biggest opponent he has ever squared off with. The Russian's ability to fight at range and offer a far more diverse striking attack will be key to the outcome of this fight. If Copeland can land a big shot he could turn the action in his favour, but with 7 of his 9 fights ending inside the first round he is going to struggle to keep up with a fighter known for competing deep into bouts, so my prediction is Ruslan Magomedov to defeat Josh Copeland by decision.

185lbs- Luke Barnatt (8-1-0) vs Roger Narvaez (6-1-0)

In the Middleweight division Luke 'Bigslow' Barnatt faces off with Roger 'The Silverback' Narvaez. Barnatt is coming off the first defeat of his career, dropping a close split decision to Sean Strickland- he is now 3-1 in the UFC. Narvaez is also looking to rebound for his inaugural defeat, as he was bested by Patrick Cummings in his short notice Light Heavyweight debut.

'The Silverback' stands an above Middleweight average of 6 3", but will be the short man by 3 inches. Narvaez will have a slight 2" reach advantage.

Narvaez's striking is fairly basic and he frequently leaves his chin up and exposed when under attack. His game plan is centered around closing the gap and establishing body control and from there dragging his opponent to the ground. He has a solid top game and will most certainly be looking to establish positional control over Barnatt and force him to work off his back.

The Brit has some serious power as he showed in his stoppage win over Mats Nilsson and the damage done prior to submitting Andrew Craig. He isn't overly fleet of foot, but he manages distance well a dispatches a punishing right hand. His kicking game respectable and his knee strikes, if timed properly, can be devastating.

Through 4 UFC bouts Barnatt has averaged 5.79 strikes landed per minute.

He is not impossible to take down, but Barnatt has proven himself difficult to take off his feet and he is capable of attacking of his back. If Narvaez hasn't cleaned up his wrestling he is going to hard-pressed to properly position himself to implement his grappling game. Barnatt will keep Roger backpedalling with his lofty work rate and punish him any time he attempts to close the distance, threatening with knees when Narvaez looks to changes levels- my prediction is Luke Barnatt to defeat Roger Narvaez by knockout.      

155lbs- James Vick (6-0-0) vs Nick Hein (11-1-0 1NC)

The second of two Lightweight fights on the undercard, James Vick makes his 3rd UFC appearance when he faces Germany's top ranked Lightweight, 'Sergeant' Nick Hein. Vick has yet to taste defeat, debuting with a submission win over Ramsey Nijem and following it up with a decision victory in his second appearance. Hein debuted in victorious fashion decisioning Drew Dober, he has now won 5 in a row.

Physically, Vick will have a 9" height and 10" reach advantage. He also implements a greater volume of kicks in his game which will further widen the gap between fighters.

Hein is a Judo Black belt and his grappling pedigree showed in his debut. He sets up his takedowns seamlessly with his striking- punch, body lock, and then throw. He landed a quick outside trip from the clinch and also showed a nice level change for a wrestling style shot. He is physically very strong and uses tight body control on the mat while landing some decent GnP. He has won 4 times by submission.

Vick has 3 submission wins, but will struggle to mount much offense against the superior grappler. The American was taken down 3 times in his last bout and showed minimal resistance, focusing more on attacking and then getting up off his back. He did catch Nijem with a nasty guillotine during an early grappling exchange.

The Texas native will instead want to keep this bout at distance and use his physical gifts. Vick doesn't always maximize his advantages though. He does throw a lot of kicking techniques and a nice stepping knee, but he also closes the distance to engage as well. He will attempt a few flashier moves- jumping knees and superman punches.  He has a tendency to run into his attacks and leaves his chin exposed in the process. When his aggression gets the better of him he will over extends himself and comes forward with wide open combinations that are counterable with both strikes and takedowns.

He does have a good right hand and disguises his kicks- sometimes going to the body and then switching it up to target the head.

The German is a power striker. He throws short, crisp hooks, mixing in a jab. His left hook is his weapon of choice and he will both initiate and counter with it. He doesn't throw a lot of kicks, relying mainly on his boxing. If Vick stays at distance, Hein will need to find a way to get in range, which could prove difficult.

Vick is still raw with just 6 pro bouts, and it showed in his last fight when he let his defensive focus slide. He is very hittable and the way he runs into his strikes will allow Heins to counter. Hein's should also find success with his takedowns and as long as he doesn't get too active on top he should be able to hold position. Hein is fighting outside of Germany for the first time, but he will remain technical and lands key takedowns so my prediction is Nick Hein to defeat James Vick by decision.

 

155lbs- Yves Edwards (42-21-1 1NC) vs Akbarh Arreola (22-8-1)

In the Lightweight division, long time UFC veteran Yves Edwards returns to action when he takes on promotional sophomore Akbarh Arreola. Edwards has struggled since his 2012 knockout of Jeremy Stephens with 3 losses and a defeat turned No Contest since. Arreola dropped a decision to fellow debutant Tiago Trator, he had won 3 in a row.

There is a good chance that the judges won't be required for this matchup, as these two have combined for 9 losses by knockout- Edwards 4 and Arreola 5. Edwards holds a significant edge in knockout wins at 16 to just 5 for Arreola. It is also worth considering Edwards has fought a significantly larger number of fights, with KOs occurring in just 6% of his bouts compared to 16% for his counterpart.

Yves has won 17 times by sub, but has also been submitted 5 times and Arreola has 16 of his 22 wins by the same method.

Edwards is the far superior technician. He started extremely strong against Piotr Hallmann, landing several strong body kicks that had Hallmann taking some deep breaths in the middle frame. He showed excellent lateral movement, attacking from a variety of angles, and landing solid combos which included some nice elbow strikes. He also has a good countering game that lead to the knockout of Stephens.

‘El Cabellero’ uses a variety of kicking techniques, including a hard push kick attempting to catch his opponent moving forward. He lacks a lot of technical refinement in his striking, winging wild looping punches without much setup. Consequently he is very hittable, often backing straight up when under pressure and as previously mentioned he has been stopped several times.

He was able to keep the striking exchanges close early on in his debut, but struggled to keep up in second half and was outlanded 88-30.

Edwards is far past his prime and his cardio really cost him in his last fight after a strong start. Keep in mind though, that he fought in Albuquerque at an elevation roughly 1000 feet above where this fight will occur. He is also fighting at home and will be desperate for a win to save his job.

Arreola has now faced several opponents who have competed at this level and has just a single win to show for it (Gabe Ruediger 2007), at this stage of his career it is hard to believe that he can turn that corner against UFC calibre opponents. Yves has pitfalls that are exploitable, but he is simply the better fighter here and taking a step down in competition from his recent bouts, so my prediction is Yves Edwards to defeat Akbarh Arreola by knockout.

115lbs- Paige VanZant (3-1-0) vs Kailin Curran (3-0--0)

In the Women's Strawweight division, Paige Van Zant makes her promotional debut across the cage from fellow debutant Kailin Curran. VanZant won her last fight after suffering the inaugural defeat of her young career. Curran is yet to suffer that first career lose as a pro, winning all 3 of her fights.

VantZant was scheduled to take part in the latest edition of the Ultimate Fighter, where the first ever UFC Strawweight champion will be crowned. Unfortunately, due to her age she was deemed ineligible to compete and removed from the competition.

Comparing resumes, Curran's 3 pro wins have come over fighters with a combined record of 8-13. VanZant has faced easily the highest rated adversary in her lone Invicta FC bout when she lost to Tecia Torres. Her trio of victories were over opponents with a current combined record of 6-6, but when Paige fought them they were all making their professional debuts.

Curran appears to possess the more developed technique. She can work from range, throwing a nice volume of kicks- front and body. Her boxing in a serviceable and she mixes in a hard stepping knee at close range. Her grappling focus is mainly defensive, using a strong under hook to ward off TDAs. She will also look to push her foe into the wall to land some short range strikes in close.

VanZant's focus is on closing the distance and establishing positional control, either on the wall or cage. She can do work from top position and will look for submissions. Her RNC of Courtney Himes was preceded by a swift back take. She struggled to gain any form of control over Tecia Torres, getting hurt several times while tying to close the distance and then taken down once they did tie up.

Paige has been on the shelf for 19 months, which can create ring rust, but also allows time for development. Her game is predicated on her ability to score takedowns and Curran has had success shutting down similarly focussed opponents. Curan's striking is superior and should keep her ahead on the scorecards, so my prediction is Kailin Curran to defeat Paige VanZant by decision.

145lbs- Juan Puig (11-3-0) vs Dooho Choi (11-1-0)

The curtain jerker takes place in the Featherweight division as Juan 'Fenix' Puig makes his second appearance when he takes on the debuting Dooho 'Korean Superboy' Choi. Puig's 6 fight winning streak came to an end in his UFC debut, as he was KOed by Adriano Martins. Choi has won 9 straight bouts since suffering the only setback of his career.

Choi has been out of action for 17 month. Prior to the break he accumulated an impressive 6-1 record under the DEEP banner.

Based on the numbers, it is fairly evident where each man will want this fight to take place.

Puig has secured 7 of his 11 wins by submission,  including both of his triumphs under the Jungle Fight banner. He builds his attack around taking his opponent to the mat, but he was unable to even threaten with a TDA in his debut before being separated from his consciousness. He will utilize both single and double leg techniques, often setting his shot up with strikes.  He works well from cross side position, preferring to step over his opponent's head to secure the position. He likes to attack arms, winning multiple fights with arm based submissions.

While Puig wants the fight on the mat, the 'Korean Superboy' needs to keep the action standing. 5 straight adversaries have fallen via knockout and 8 in total. He utilizes lots of faints and fakes to bait his opponent into opening up. Deployment of a hefty right cross, with good timing, serves as a solid counter as his opponent comes forward. The left jab is also a weapon of choice along with various kicks, usually to the body and legs. He has a strong chin, although it is tested too frequently, and a solid defensive wrestling game to fend of potential TDAs.

Choi will change up his attack and use takedowns and if he can get on top his ground and pound is thunderous.

'Fenix' was quickly subdued in his debut by a talented striker. He faces another one here. If the Mexico native is going to emerge victorious he has to limit the striking exchanges, but Choi has the skills to counter that approach. Puig will struggle to take the fight to the mat as Choi keeps it standing and lands thunderous strikes, countering when Puig tries to push forward, and finishing him when the opportunity presents itself. The elongated layoff is a bit of a concern, but my prediction is Dooho Choi to defeat Jaun Puig by TKO.

135lbs- #6 Jessica Eye (10-2-0 1NC) vs #13 Leslie Smith (7-5-1)

Easily the highest ranking bout on the undercard, Women's Bantamweights Jessica 'Evil' Eye and Leslie 'The Peacemaker' Smith meet up with eyes on moving into the divisional top 5. Eye is coming off a split decision loss to recent title contender Alexis Davis, she has yet to earn an official win in the UFC after her debut win was overturned to a No Contest. Smith dropped her short notice debut, but rallied back with an impressive first round finish of Jessamyn Duke in her follow-up appearance.

Both ladies have gone to war with former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman. Eye won a controversial split decision that was eventually overturned. Smith met the Canadian striker first in Invicta FC and then again in her Octagon debut- losing both.

This bout will be won and lost on the feet. Smith holds the edge in total knockouts at 4-2, but Eye is an impressive 7-1 in bouts that reach the scorecards compared to Smith who is just 3-5.

'The Peacemaker' is the more diverse striker, throwing a nice variety of leg strikes to compliment her boxing. Her close range striking is strong as well. She was able to overwhelm and finish Duke along the wall with a high volume barrage. Over her first 2 UFC appearances, Smith has averaged over 6.5 strikes per minute, but has given up a massive 12.53.

Eye landed a combined 162 strikes over her first 2 fights in the Octagon. She relies heavily on her boxing and showed excellent head movement and very quick hand speed. Her success against Kaufman came because she routinely beat her to punch during the exchanges. Against Smith, she needs to exploit her speed advantage to routinely land and evade the returning fire.

Smith dropped Kaufman with a head kick in her their first meeting, but over 6 rounds she struggled to keep up with the volume of her Canadian counterpart. Eye should be able to replicate that scenario, but needs to avoid the power of Smith who is capable of changing the course of the bout with one big shot- my prediction is Jessica Eye to defeat Leslie Smith by decision.

135lbs- Alejandro Perez (14-5-0) vs Jose Alberto Quinonez (3-1-0)

In the Bantamweight final of the inaugural TUF Latin America, a dominant run by Team Mexico will be capped off when Alejandro 'El Diablito' Perez and Jose Alberto 'El Teco' Quinonez collide for the second time in their career. Perez won 4 of his last 5 fights prior to entering the TUF house. Quinonez suffered the first defeat of his career in his final TUF tune-up bout, he had won 3 straight to being his pro run.

This is a rematch of a bout that took place just over a year ago with Quinonez taking a decision victory. It was a pretty decent scrap, with 'El Teco' scoring a couple of knockdowns and either defending or countering the majority of the grappling exchanges.

To reach the finals, Perez earned a decision win in the quarters and a brisk first round knockout in the semis. Both fights appeared to be going against him. He was routinely grounded by first round opponent, but took the decision. He was getting outworked in the early exchanges in the semis before catching his opponent coming forward with a well timed counter.

Quinonez was much more dominant in his trek to the final. He overwhelmed his first opponent with a high volume onslaught leading to the finish and carried a frantic pace for the duration of his three round semi-final leading to a decision win.

Perez has the serious experience advantage at 19-4, but Quinonez was simply more impressive on the show. Perez seemed hesitant to engage his opponents, potentially looking to counter strike. It did work for him in the semis, but if he is unable to land that big fight changing strike he will come up short on the scorecards. Quinonez carries a vary high pace, can work from distance and close range, and melds his takedowns with his striking effectively. Since their first meeting Quinonez has doubled his total fight experience and that should show up in the rematch- my prediction is Jose Alberto Quinonez to defeat Alejandro Perez by knockout.

145lbs- Leonardo Morales (4-0-0) vs Yair Rodriguez (3-1-0)

The Featherweight tournament final of the TUF Latin American season will feature the only non-Mexican fighter to advance to the finals as Nicaraguan Leonard 'Chimmy' Morales squares off with Yair 'Pantera' Rodriguez. Morales has yet to face defeat, ending all of his fights inside the distance. Rodriguez rebounded from the first loss of his career with a 13 second knockout victory.

In the first two rounds of the tournament, Morales scored a second round knockout and semi-final decision win over his Mexican counterparts. Pantera won both his fights via submission, winning his semi-final fight with a submission due to strikes.

Both men are very inexperienced with just 4 fights apiece. Unlike the other TUF final, there will be a clear cut fan favourite in Rodriguez.

Even though Rodriguez used submissions in his accent to the top, it was his striking that was quite impressive. He throws a nice variety of kicking techniques. He will also mix in a well timed flying knee, which produced his final pre-TUF victory. He is equally capable of working his counter game as he is of storming his foe with an overwhelming, but pretty accurate barrage of kicks, knees, and punches. He as taken down a couple of times, but showed he is capable of attacking and ultimately winning off his back.

Morales has alternated his 4 wins between knockouts and submissions, but one of his subs came due to punches. Not as uncommon against lower level competition. He showed a kick first approach in quarter finals, eventually landing going high for the finish. In his second performance, the exchanges were pretty close and he seemed to struggle a bit with allow his adversary to routinely land first.

Both men are very young in age and MMA experience, this can make it tough to gauge how they will respond under the pressure of the big lights. Rodriguez striking and controlled aggression should keep Morales on his back foot and stunt his kicking game- my prediction is Yair Rodriguez to defeat Leonardo Morales by knockout.

170lbs- Augusto Montano (13-1-0) vs Chris Heatherly (8-2-0 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, Augusto 'Dodger' Montano makes his UFC debut against promotional sophomore Chris 'Stump' Heatherly. Montano has won 4 in a row after suffering the only defeat of his career to current UFC Middleweight Sam Alvey. Heatherly was defeated in his UFC debut by Ben Saunders, relenting to the rarely successfully executed Omoplata.

A long time veteran of the Mexican regional circuit, Montano did earn a win in his only Jungle Fight appearance back in 2010. He has not competed since August 2013- a near 15 month layoff.

Heatherly will stand 6" shorter then his adversary.

'Stump' comes from a wrestling background and has combined that with a workable submission game to earn 4 of 8 wins by tapout. He has also been submitted in both of his losses. The American offers a variety of takedowns techniques, but will sacrifice position to chase submission and doesn't possess devastating ground and pound. He has a decent striking game, but should focus his attack of his wrestling.

Montano has a 100% finishing rate (8 KOs 5 Subs). His primary weapon of attack is his boxing, offering a limited distance striking game. He has good head movement and footwork, but can overcommit to his strikes leaving room for his opponent to counter. He has serious power and will be looking to draw Heatherly into close range to batter him with heavy leather.

Montano will be the clear fan favourite and having spent the majority of his career fighting at this elevation he should have a distinct advantage as the bout progresses. Unless Heatherly can score the early finish, look for him to slow down fairly quickly. The length advantage possessed by 'Dodger' will also aid him during the striking exchanges- my prediction is Augusto Montano to defeat Chris Heatherly by TKO.

170lbs- Edgar Garcia (14-3-0) vs Hector Urbina (16-8-0)

In the Welterweight division, returning UFC and former WEC veteran Edgar Garcia takes on TUF 19 competitor Hector Urbina. Garcia has won 4 in a row and 7 of his last 8. Urbina won his final pre-TUF bout which ended a 2 fight losing skid.

Garcia won his only WEC bout, but after making the jump to the UFC he went 0-2 which included a controversial split decision loss to Brad Blackburn. Urbina was successful in his TUF eliminator bout, but fell to Cathal Pendred in the quarter-finals.

Urbina went 1-1 fighting under the Bellator banner.

Both men are fairly similar in their approach; heavy handed (KOs- Urbina 9 & Garcia 7) with a wrestling background to supplement their striking game. Urbina had success against Pendred early in the fight, but eventually found himself on the defensive getting badly out wrestled. Garcia should be able to exploit his defensive wrestling issues and score some key takedowns. If the fight is contested primarily on the feet, Urbina's chin is a major question mark as he has been defeated 5 times by knockout. Hector trends to the more wild side when striking which will create openings for the slightly more refined Garcia to test his chin.

Garcia's experience in the UFC, WEC, and Bellator should help him to settle in quickly against a fighter making his official debut after more then a year out of action. Garcia's counter wrestling puts him in a superior position on the mat and eventually he finds the mark either from top position or during an exchange on the feet- my prediction is Edgar Garcia to defeat Hector Urbina by knockout.

135lbs- Enrique Briones (13-4-0) vs Guido Cannetti (5-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Team Velasquez member Enrique Briones fights Argentina's outspoken Guido Cannetti. Cannetti entered the house riding a 4 fight winning streak, with his only loss coming in 2010 against the now retired Cristiano Marcello. Briones is coming off a draw in his Legacy FC debut, he had won 6 straight beforehand.

Cannetti lost twice in the tournament; a close decision which was impacted by a point reduction due to an illegal kick and then he was granted a second chance in the semis, but lost again- this time by knockout. Briones was bounced in the opening round by Marlon Vera, who Cannetti subbed in for in the semis. Briones was winning the fight prior to getting knocked out with a vicious up-kick.

Briones has faced a trio of UFC vets including Mike de la Torre, Alex Soto, and most notably Bobby Green. Losing all 3 fights. Cannetti fought the aforementioned Marcello and defeated 3-time WEC vet Raphael Dias.

Cannetti is incredibly aggressive, showing very little thought to the defensive aspects of his game. In a similar fashion to Ramsey Nijem, he rushes forward, chin up, and arms swinging looking to connect. That cost him in his second TUF opportunity. If he can't catch Briones in a bull rush, he uses a lot of single strikes and frequently throws himself off balance when doing so. This should create plenty of opportunities for Briones to counter strike and/or land takedowns. He does hold his hands a little low so he will need to avoid backing straight up, but he should find success especially if he is able to hold top position from which he remains active with GnP and the pursuit of sub opportunities. Briones is fighting at home, has more experience, and is simply the more capable fighter, so my prediction is Enrique Briones to defeat Guido Cannetti by knockout.

145lbs- Gabriel Benitez (16-5-0) vs Humberto Brown (4-4-0)

In the Featherweight division, Gabriel 'Moggly' Benitez fights for the 21st time as a professional facing Humberto Brown who will be making just his 9th appearance. Benitez has won 2 in a row and 12 of his last 14 fights. Brown is coming off a defeat, but had won his 2 fights prior to the loss.

Benitez advanced out of the quarter-finals with a submission win over recent UFC debutant and victor Diego Rivas. He then fell in the semis to Leonardo Morales by 3 round decision. Brown wasn't nearly as fortunate in his only TUF appearance, ending his tournament on the wrong end of a submission to tourney finalist Yair Rodríguez.

Both men have their biggest win totals coming by way of submission- Brown 3 of 4 wins and Benitez 8 of 16. Brown focussed most of his attention in his quarter final bout on taking his opponent to the mat. After an unsuccessful opening round, he worked his way into top position in the second frame only to be promptly submitted. He has also been tapped in 3 of his 4 defeats. Conversely, 'Moggly' looked much better on the mat in his first tournament bout and has throughout his career.

The Mexican fighter has a significant experience advantage along with fighting at home and while both men have had time to make significant stride all indications are that Benitez is the better man on the mat and pretty much anywhere else this fight could take place. Whether from top or bottom position look for Benitez to start sub hunting as soon as possible, so my prediction is Gabriel Benitez to defeat Humberto Brown by submission.

135lbs- Marco Beltran (5-4-0) vs Marlon Vera (6-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Marco Beltran welcomes Marlon Vera of Equardor as they both make their UFC proper debuts. Beltran lost 3 straight fights prior to entering the house- all inside the distance. Vera rebounded from the first defeat of his career with a first round submission win.

Beltran was victorious in his opening round bout- winning a 2 round decision. His success ended there though, as he fell in the semis also on the scorecards. Vera was also triumphant in the quarters with a knockout win, but a skin infection forced him from the competition.

Losing 3 straight fights, all inside the distance is incredibly underwhelming when looking at Beltran. His 2 wins prior to the 3 fight skid came over fighters with a combined 0-4 record. In comparison, Vera's last 3 foes have a combined record of 43-29. Numbers aren't everything, but it still provides a pretty good indications of what level a fighter is competing at.

Vera appears to be the more refined fighter. He has won 4 times by submission and will most likely be looking to take Beltran to the floor. Beltran will most likely bring a similar approach, but struggle to take the more sturdy opponent off his feet. If the bout stays on the feet, Vera keeps things simple and packs a pretty decent punch so he should have the edge there. Beltran will have the crowd, but Vera will control the fight- my prediction is Marlon Vera to defeat Marco Beltran by submission.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Jake Matthews (8-0-0) vs Vagner Rocha (11-3-0)

Headlining the undercard, Australian prospect Jake Matthews squares off with the returning Vagner Rocha. Matthews won his promotional debut against Dashon Johnson and has yet to taste defeat. Rocha went 1-2 during his first UFC run, but won 4 straight on the regional circuit to earn the return engagement.

During his time away from the Octagon, Rocha captured both the ISKA and Fight Time Lightweight titles, defending the later on two occasions.

Matthews is one of the youngest fighters currently employed by the UFC and arguably the most promising talent coming out of his country. He debuted with a third round submission win and has split his finishes evenly with 3 knockouts and 3 submissions. He won his final pre-UFC fight via decision. In his debut, he landed 4 of 11 of takedowns and controlled the majority of the action in the clinch and on the floor. He has a solid transition game and can attack off his back, as he showed finishing Johnson with a triangle. He did lose by submission on TUF Nations and was clearly overmatched by a superior grappler.

Having competed on the Aussie regional circuit his opposition is a bit of a question mark. Additionally, his first UFC victory came over a natural Featherweight, who's previous 5 opponents had a combined 14-40 record, and Johnson has been submitted in both of his UFC fights.

A 2nd degree BJJ Black belt, Rocha has won 8 times by submission. He has excellent transitions and is more then capable of countering out of bad position if taken down. He has never won by kimura, but uses the armlock as a counter. His opponent is forced to defend and when he does so, Vagner either transitions to top position or back control where he appears to be the strongest. He has won 3 times by rear naked-choke and if he can't lock it in he will then slide to the side where he can work for an armbar which has also produced 3 victories.

Rocha doesn't have a great wrestling game, but was able to take Cody McKenzie down twice and landed a couple of takedowns against JP Reese a former Strikeforce competitor when they met in mid-2013.

This fight will probably be won and lost on the floor, but there could be some time spent on the feet. Matthews should have the advantage in the striking department, but the Brazilian has made strides. Look for Jake to push the attack, throwing hard combos and kicks while Rocha tries to counter with swiping right and left hooks, along with a well timed uppercut.

Matthews seems to be bent on working his grappling game, which was his undoing on TUF and will be here as well. Rocha is more technically refined and even if Matthews gains the early upper hand, look for the Brazilian to counter and scramble in to a dominant position. Once Rocha takes an opponent's back he is very difficult to dislodge. Rocha is being sent forth to help build up the young Aussie, but the lesser known Brazilian offers a much stiffer test then anyone that Jake has faced to date so my prediction is Vagner Rocha to defeat Jake Matthews by decision.

205lbs- Anthony Perosh (14-8-0) vs Guto Inocente (6-3-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Guto Inocente makes his second promotional appearance when be battles grappling ace Anthony Perosh. Perosh is currently partaking in his second run with the company, and is 4-5 in the UFC but has won 4 of his last 6. Inocente debuted as a Heavyweight and was stopped in the first round by Derrick Lewis, he was 1-0 fighting under the Strikeforce banner.

Perosh has been on the shelf for almost year, last competing in December 2013. This year will be the first time he has fought less then twice in a year since 2007.

In addition to fighting at home, the Aussie has a significant experience advantage to draw up. Inocente has fought just 9 times as a pro, compared to 22 outings for Perosh. Perosh has also fought much better competition including Ryan Bader, Mirko Cro Cop, and Ryan Jimmo. Inocente did defeat TUF Brazil 3 Finalist Vitor Miranda by TKO in 2010.

This fight will be decided by who can keep it in their realm of dominance.

Perosh is a 3rd degree Black belt with 9 of 14 wins coming by decision. He has a pretty strong top game and has earned 2 submission wins and a top position TKO victory in 3 of his 4 UFC triumphs. If Perosh is able to get on top he is hard to shuck off, but he lacks a serviceable wrestling game averaging just 2.04 TDs at a 21% completion rate. This can make it difficult for him to close the distance and then drag his opponent to the floor. Inocente is a BJJ Purple belt and has never been submitted, but his defensive grappling will need to be on point.

Perosh is 3-1 in fights where he is able to complete at least 1 takedown.

On the feet, Perosh centers his attack on closing the distance in pursuit of the takedown. He did score a shocking standing knockout of Vinny Magalhaes in his most recent victory, but he has been knocked out 5 times in his career- 3 in the UFC. His success directly correlates with minimizing the amount of time spent on the feet. Inocente comes from a kickboxing background having competed in multiple tournaments prior to making the transition to MMA. 3 of his 6 wins have come by knockout and he boasts a hard kicking game and decent power in his hands.

Inocente is relatively unproven and has a bit of a cardio issue, but he is talented. Perosh is 42 and coming off a lengthy break, if he can't get this fight to the mat Inocente is going to blast him with heavy leg kicks and hard leather. Guto should have the defensive grappling skills and physical capabilities to keep this fight where he wants it to play out, so my prediction is Guto Inocente to defeat Anthony Perosh by knockout.

185lbs- Dylan Andrews (18-6-0 1NC) vs Sam Alvey (23-6-0 1NC)

In the Middleweight division Aussie and TUF alumni Dylan Andrews returns to action when he battles UFC sophomore Sam Alvey. Andrews saw his 6 fight winning streak ended due to injury based TKO at the hands of Clint Hester, he is now 2-1 in the UFC. Alvey made an unsuccessful debut, dropping a 3 round decision to Tom Watson- he had won 4 in a row.

Andrews and Alvey have a combined 26 wins by knockout (Alvey 14 & Andrews 12). Alvey has never been knocked out, while Andrew has been stopped twice.

The Aussie has been out of action for nearly 11 months, so ring rust could be an issue but Alvey will have to contend with fighting on foreign soil in a different time zone which can be equally as difficult.

Andrews appears to be the more diverse fighter. While his numbers are knockout loaded, he has demoed some serviceable wrestling skills which will aid him during this bout. He mixes up his combinations between kicks and punches effectively and can be a very opportunistic striker.

Conversely, Alvey's attack is exactly what his win totals would suggest- striking oriented. He struggled early to settle in against Watson getting badly out landed 61-30 over the first 2 rounds, not finding much success until his opponent began to slow down. Alvey has a tendency to throw a lot of single strikes and be too passive when initially engaging which allows his opponent to initiate and land first. He also uses a minimal kicking game which further limits his attack.

Andrews has been a bit injury prone, but look for him to be the busier fighter landing more frequent, especially early on. Alvey does have power which the Aussie will need to be wary of, but he will have his wrestling to fall back on if the striking exchanges begin to go south, so my prediction is Dylan Andrews to defeat Sam Alvey by decision.

125lbs- Richie Vaculik (10-3-0) vs Louis Smolka (7-1-0)

Richie Vaculik takes on late injury replacement Louis Smolka who is stepping in for Neil Serry in a Flyweight battle. Smolka is 1-1 inside the Octagon and is coming off a split decision defeat to recent title challenger Chris Cariaso. Vaculik lost his first foray into the 8-sided cage, but took home a unanimous decision win over Roldan Sangcha-an in his second fight.

Smolka will stand 3" taller then Vaculik, but Vas will have a slight 1" reach advantage.

This bout should be contested for the most part on the floor. Smolka is a Judo Black belt with 4 of his 7 wins coming by submission. He hasn't put up big takedown numbers, relying more on his opponent to take the fight to the floor and then attack off his back while looking to reverse the position. His long limbs make him difficult to control on the mat, but Chris Cariaso did have some success attacking with submission from the top.

The Aussie has won 6 times by submission and is a BJJ Purple belt. 5 of those 6 wins have come by rear-naked choke. His takedown numbers have been far superior to Smolka's, landing 3.04 at a below average completion rate of 26%. He landed 4 takedowns in his last fight and was close to ending the bout by RNC early on. There were a few back and forth moments on the mat where he found himself in some tough positions, despite his opponent's lack of overall experience. He will need to be strong on top if he is able to gain the position.

On the feet, both guys can handle themselves. Smolka does some of his best work from short range, using the clinch to set up knee and elbow strikes. Vas should look to take a page from Cariaso's book, using speed and quick combinations to do damage, moving in and out of range as often as possible.

Smolka taking this fight on short notice is a red flag, especially considering he is fighting on foreign soil. He did have a lot of success on the mat with Cariaso, but took too much damage on the feet. Vaculik shouldn't have much if any of a striking advantage here and Smolka's ability to turn takedowns given up into offensive opportunities, as was the case against a very good wrestling in Alp Ozkilic, will be the deciding factor. This fight should produce some awesome exchanges on the mat, my prediction is Louis Smolka to defeat Richie Vaculik by decision.

170lbs- Vik Grujic (7-4-0) vs Chris Clements (11-5-0 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, TUF Nations alumni Vik Grujic will once again represent Australia when he takes on Canadian knockout artist Chris Clements. This is Grujic's third time fighting inside the Octagon, he most recently defeated former TUF teammate Chris Indich. Clements will be making his fourth appearance, he took home a win in his debut but has come up short in each of his last 2 fights.

The Canadian is coming off a significant break between bouts, last fighting in September of 2013.

Clements has an experience advantage in both quantity and quality of fights. Chris has 7 more pro bouts then his counterpart, but he has also faced better competition inside the Octagon along with several UFC vets like John Alessio and Rich Clementi prior to making his promotional debut.

The focal point of most of Clement's opponents has been his defensive grappling. He has been bested 3 times by submission, not including a 2012 defeat turned No Contest against Matt Riddle. Grujic has won 3 times by submission, but all 3 came in his first 4 professional bouts with the last coming in mid 2010. He has yet to really showcase a strong grappling game attempting only 4 takedowns and landing just 1 through his first 2 UFC bouts. If he can't take this fight to the mat he will be forced to contend with Clements on the feet.

Clements has secured 10 of his 11 wins by knockout and is a bit of an unorthodox striker using a variety of spinning attacks. He has average 3.67 SLpM, while limiting his opponents to just 2.36 per minute. He is coming off a knockout defeat against Stephen Thompson, but Thompson represents a level of striking far beyond what he should be presented with here.

Grujic did score a knockout victory in his last fight, but he was facing a TUF opponent coming from a similar regional background with minimal next level experience. Clements has been on the shelf for a prolonged period of time and is relatively one-dimensional, but all but one of his defeats have come against UFC level opposition and Grujic isn't there yet. Vik struggled during the striking exchanges against Nordine Taleb and routinely left himself open to be countered. The heavy handed and unorthodox attack of Clements should give Grujic a difficult time, so my prediction is Chris Clements to defeat Vik Grujic by TKO.

185lbs- Luke Zachrich (14-3-0) vs Dan Kelly (6-0-0)

In the Middleweight division, Luke Zachrich gets another opportunity inside the Octagon when he takes on the debuting Dan Kelly. Kelly has yet to officially taste defeat, but was submitted in his only TUF Nations appearance. Zachrich stumbled out of the starting gates in his debut, but appeared to right the ship with a decision win in his most recent outing.

Kelly is undefeated, but has competed solely on the Australian regional scene which leaves a lot of question marks regarding his level of competition.

In his sophomore appearance, Zachrich out landed his opponent soundly and did so with a solid variety of strikes. He threw several solid body shot, but what made him most effective was his ability to move his head off line and limit his foes success when returning fire. He also snapped off some hard leg kicks, but would benefit from attempting a few more. Kelly is a developing kickboxer and can do some damage early on, but he tends to lose some of his technique as the fight progresses resulting in a further diminished defensive front.

The Aussie is a highly accredited Judoka and not surprisingly his forte comes at close range when he can get his hands on his opponent. He has some decent throws and can work well from top position. His ground and pound can get the job done and he has won 4 times by submissions. Unfortunately, he lacks a solid wrestling game needed to help close the distance and opponents with good defensive grappling are capable of shutting him down.

If Kelly can't get this fight to the mat he will be exposed on the feet as Zachrich opens up with a far more diverse attack. The American has workable wrestling and has good enough BJJ to defend and possibly mount some offense if the fight hits the mat. As the action progresses, look for Kelly to take chances trying to initiate grappling exchanges and his opponent will capitalize on the subsequent openings, so my prediction is Luke Zachrich to defeat Dan Kelly by TKO.

135lbs- Jumabieke Tuerxun (17-2-0) vs Marcus Brimage (6-3-0)

The first fight of the weekend takes place in the Bantamweight division featuring Jumabieke Tuerxun battling Marcus Brimage. Brimage just dropped a contestable decision to Russell Doane and has lost back to back fights. In similar fashion, Tuerxun has lost consecutive fights, the first two defeats of his career, both in the UFC.

Brimage made his divisional debut against Doane and although he showed no ill-effects he should be even more comfortable with his body's ability to perform at 135 pounds.

Tuerxun controlled the majority of the action with his striking against Leandro Issa, even coming close to ending the bout following a hard knock down. The stats tell a different story though, as he was out landed almost 2-1 and struggled through a similar scenario in his debut where he lost via decision with a final strike count of 141-33. The problem appears to lie in his ability to connect with regularity as he currently holds a dismal 27% striking accuracy.

Brimage lands at significantly higher rate of 4.29 strikes per minute and while he has just 2 wins by knockout he packs a significant punch. His power should be further aided now that he is fighting at a more appropriate weight class for his size. He also demoed some hard leg kicks against Doane, landing 16 during the fight and clearly staggering his opponent whenever they connected.

The American will have a 4" reach advantage and fights from the southpaw stance which can create some serious problems for his opposition.

Brimage's difficulties have come as a result of his grappling defense, but he has made some improvements and Tyerxun doesn't appear to have a good enough ground attack to exploit those issues. Brimage will land more frequently and the more impactful strikes, eventually connecting on something significant, so my prediction is Marcus Brimage to defeat Jumabieke Tuerxun by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

145lbs- Diego Rivas (5-0-0) vs Rudolfo Rubio (12-6-0)

Topping the Brazilian undercard, TUF: Latin American competitors faceoff as Chile's Diego Rivas meets Rudolfo Rubio of Mexico. Rivas has yet to taste defeat through his first 5 bouts, while Rubio's final pre-TUF bout snapped his 4 fight winning streak.

On the show, Rivas was a member of Team Werdum and lost by submission in the opening round of the tournament. Rubio of Team Velasquez was also submitted, but in the quarterfinals after earning a TKO win in the first round.

Both men are relatively inexperienced, but in total fights the edge lies with Ruibio at 18-5. The edge also lies with Rubio in quality of recent opponents. His last 3 adversaries have a combined record of 26-12, Rivas's last 3 foes have a collected win-loss total of 5-9.

The predominant number for both men is their submission count. Rubio has won 9 times by tapout, and Rivas has submitted his way to victory in 3 of his 5 fights. Neither man is an elite level grappler, not even close. The question is who get this fight in a position to work their ground game and if not who keeps busier on the feet?

In Rubio's final pre-TUF fight he struggled to mount much offense, bouncing around the cage and getting taken down a couple of times. Conversely, Rivas was able to routinely take his opponent down, landing big slams and hold top position on multiple occasions.

It is hard to get a good feel for fighters coming out of TUF when they cone from such lesser developed regional circuits. This fight could go one of two ways; either they take it the floor as they both normally are inclined to do, or they keep it standing as is often the case when two grappling focused fighters face off.

Rivas appears to the more refined fighter despite his lack of pro experience. Rubio throws a lot of wild techniques and seems to have more defensive lapses both on the floor and feet that his opponent will be able to capitalize on. Rubio's tendency to overextend when attacking will allow Rivas to either land counter strikes or change levels for takedowns. Either way Rivas lands the better strikes or holds the greater positional advantage so my prediction is Diego Riva to defeat Rodolfo Rubio by decision.

170lbs- Dhiego Lima (9-2-0) vs Jorge Oliveira (7-0-0)

In the Welterweight division, TUF finalist Dhiego Lima battles short notice replacement Jorge Oliveira. Lima was defeated in the TUF Middleweight tournament finals by Eddie Gordon, he had won 3 straight before his debut. Oliveira has yet to taste defeat in his career, winning his last 3 by knockout.

Oliveira is stepping in on just 6 days notice replacing Paweł Pawlak who was forced to withdraw due to injury. Oliveira last fought in late 2013, a near year layoff.

Lima had a respectable run on the show, especially considering he is a natural Welterweight. After a decision win to gain entry into the house, Lima submitted the double tough Tim Williams in the quarters and then tapped out Hector Urbina in the semis. He has recorded 3 wins by knockout and 4 more wins by submission. He's a good striker, will go to the body, throws a nice leaping left hook, which he will also counter with, and subsidies his attack with hard leg kicks.

He is a different fighter when he is able to come forward and push the pace. If his opponent can back him up and put him under pressure he shells up, and will change levels for TDA. If he is unable to change levels he leaves himself open to take a lot of damage, which cost him in the TUF finals.

From the limit footage and reports available on Oliveira he is a striking based fighter coming from a Muay Thai background. He has won 5 times by knockout and finished all of his opponents inside the first frame. He has good footwork and decent combinations, but has a tendency to forgo practical technique for more lavish but far less effect strikes in pursuit of the knockout. He lacks a good wrestling game, but has won twice by submission if he can get in position to use his grappling.

Oliveira is a natural Lightweight moving up to fight at Welterweight on short notice.

Dhiego should have a distinct advantage on that mat. He has serviceable wrestling and will chain his subs attempts together. He has won 4 times by submission in addition to 2 more wins by tapout on the show. If the vertical exchanges begin to go south look for Lima to change levels and take the fight to the ground.

Dhiego is facing a new opponent with minimal time to prepare and he has a tendency to slow down in more demanding bouts. For Oliveira, there is just too much to overcome prior to the fight even starting. He is making his debut, fighting on just 6 days notice, stepping up far beyond his previous level of competition, moving up a weightclass, and coming off a near year layoff which was proceed by a 2 year break between his second last bout. Dhiego can't afford to take his opponent lightly, but my prediction is Dhiego Lima to defeat Jorge Oliveira by submission.

185lbs- Trevor Smith (12-5-0) vs Caio Magalhaes (8-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Trevor Smith heads into enemy territory to take on Brazilian Caio Magalhaes. Smith is fresh off a decision win over the recently retired Tor Troeng and sits at 2-2 in the UFC. Magalhaes is a surprising 3-1 since joining the company in 2012, winning 3 straight bouts including a 44 second knockout of Luke Zachrich.

Smith fought 4 times under the Strikeforce banner, finishing with a record of 2-2, dropping his Middleweight debut to Tim Kennedy in the promotion's final show.

Neither man is known for their striking prowess. Smith has been knocked out 3 times, but showed he could hold his own in a scrap exchanging at close range with Ed Herman. He will throw a hard low kick and stiff short range hooks with some pop behind them. Magalhaes surprised many with his first round knockout of Zachrich. He is a very stiff striker, averaging 2.36 strikes per minute while giving up 2.54. He lost his debut by decision after getting badly outworked on the feet by a count of 81-27.

The grappling encounters will pit BJJ against wrestling. Caio is a BJJ Black belt and Smith a former NCAA wrestler.

Smith has the upper hand in total MMA submissions by a count of 9-3, including a 2012 win via guillotine over BJJ Black belt Alexandre Moreno. Both is his Strikeforce wins came by tapout as well. He has a smothering top game, maintaining close body control while working towards potential sub opportunities. He dominated Troeng from top position routinely taking him down and had respectable success against Tim Kennedy as well scoring a trio of takedowns.

If Magalhaes can get on top he can go to work, but his wrestling game is severely lacking. Over his last 4 fights he has averaged just 1.17 TDs at a disparaging 15% completion rate. He landed just 2 of 15 attempts in his debut defeat and failed to do much once getting the fight to the mat. Defensively, he has been taken down several times- 3 by Nick Ring and twice by Vemola. He wasn't able to do much against Ring until an injury slowed the Canadian, and Vemola was thrashing on from top position before gassing out.

Magalhaes is going to struggle to take Smith down and keep him there and while Smith has been KOed 3 times, Caio will be lucky to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Smith has had some past cardio issues, but held up well against Herman and even better against Troeng. The American will get the better of the striking exchanges and spend the majority of the ground exchanges in to position so my prediction is Trevor Smith to defeat Caio Magalhaes by decision.

135lbs- Thomas Almeida (17-0-0) vs Tim Gorman (9-3-0)

In the Bantamweight division, newly signed Thomas Almeida squares off with one-time TUF contestant Tim Gorman. Almeida has yet to taste defeat, including posting a 2-0 record under the Legacy FC banner. Gorman debuted with a decision defeat against Mitch Gagnon, he had won 3 in a row.

Almeida captured the Legacy FC Bantamweight title and has defeated some solid regional competition with his last 3 adversaries combining for a 20-8 record.

Gorman is a wrestler and not surprisingly centers the majority of his attack around putting his opponent on their back and orchestrating his offense from top position. He prefers to use the single leg takedown and if he can't score on his initial try he will grind his opponent into the cage wall. Timmy put Gagnon on his back a couple times, but failed to mount much offense as he was forced to fend off multiple sub attempts.

The American appears to lack a serious submission game with just a single win by sub coming due to strikes. He has won 6 times by TKO.

Almeida is a bruising Muay Thai striker and wants this fight on the feet. He has won 13 times by knockout-11 inside the first 5 minutes. He has good movement, keeps his hands up, and is patient- establishing his opponent's timing to best setup his own attacks. He throws a nice variety of strikes including a stiff left jab, straight right combo along with a hard kicking attack. He bested formerly undefeated Ciao Machado with a beautiful combination; targeting the head first and ending with a low kick, while the liver punch in between felled his opponent. At close range his clinch game is solid, landing brutal knees, elbows, and he will also pull back for a quick liver punch. The Brazilian knows how to finish and unload at the most opportune time, but he was getting outworked early in his Legacy debut while attempting to gauge his opponent. If he can't finish, dropping the opening round due to inactivity could be costly.

Almeida has a 100% finishing rate having stopped all his opponents inside the distance, 13 by knockout and 4 by submission.

Gorman wants this fight on the floor, he was getting lit up on the feet by Gagnon including getting tagged with several hard body shots. All of the Brazilian's submission wins came early in his career and he hasn't faced an American wrestler before so there are still questions regarding his defensive grappling skills and ability to remain vertical. If Gorman can't score the takedown he will be in for a long or possibly short night and he represents a big test for the young striker, but my prediction Thomas Almeida to defeat Tim Gorman by TKO.

170lbs- Wagner Silva (3-1-0) vs Colby Covington (6-0-0)

In the Welterweight division, a pair of UFC sophomores meet up when Wagner Silva faces Colby Covington. Covington has yet to taste defeat, debuting with a first round submission due to strikes victory over Anying Wang. Silva was less fortunate, suffering a second round submission loss via RNC to Ricardo Abreu in his first go around.

Silva debuted as a Middleweight where he has spent all of his short professional career, but he will be making his first cut to 170 pounds for this fight.

The American is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and certainly showcased those skills in his debut. After dumping his opponent on his backside he held a heavy top control while doing significant damage with his GnP and threatening with submissions. The fight was eventually halted after a series of brutal elbows and then undefended follow up strikes brought about the end. 4 of his 6 wins have come by submission including 2 arm-triangle chokes which is a move indicative of a top position player.

Covington will have to overcome a size disadvantage with Silva standing a full 3" taller then him. Their reach is identical.

The Brazilin is even more inexperienced then his American counterpart, with just 4 pro bouts to Colby's 6. He did compete on the third installment of TUF Brazil which can provide some valuable experience. He is BJJ player with 2 of his 3 wins coming by sub. On the show he won his way into the house by tapout and followed that up with a decision win in the quarter-finals before falling to the eventual winner in the semis. Wagner failed to showcase any of his grappling skills in his debut and was getting routinely blasted on the feet despite his opponent's lack of technical focus. Against a skilled wrestler he could be equally as hard-pressed to utilize those skills.

Covington's takedowns and strong top position should be enough to dictate the pace gainst a fighter with minimal experience. If the fight is contested on the feet it could be much closer, but look for the wrestler's top position control and subsequent strikes to be the deciding factor. Fighting in Brazil can be difficult, especially for a young fighter but he has already notched a win in China against a local which should provide him with some experience to draw upon, so my prediction is Colby Covington to defeat Wagner Silva by TKO.

155lbs- Leandro Silva (16-2-1) vs Charlie Brenneman (19-7-0)

Opening the Brazilian card, Leandro Silva takes his third shot at his first UFC win when he meets 10 fight UFC veteran Charlie Brenneman. Silva has sandwiched 5 wins outside of the promotion between 2 UFC defeats, most recently dropping a decision to Francisco Trinaldo. Brenneman had similar success beyond the Octagon with 4 straight wins, but lost 2 prior to being cut and 2 since returning- he is 4-6 in the UFC.

Brenneman dropped to Lightweight and won 4 fights on the regional scene, winning 3 by submission.

This bout pairs 2 fighters who primarily focus their attack on scoring takedowns and grinding out their opponents on the mat. Brenneman, a former wrestler and BJJ Blue belt, has averaged 3.89 takedowns at a 42% completion rate. In his 4 UFC wins he won a lopsided takedown battle by a count of 16-2, with his high watermark a 6 TD effort against Jason High. Conversely, in his 6 defeats he has landed just 4 takedowns. He has a very strong top game and remains active once achieving the position.

Brenneman is difficult to takedown defending 80% of his opponents' tries. Notable wrestlers like Rick Story, Danny Castillo, and Welterweight champion Johnny Hendricks have combined for just 2 TDs on 8 attempts.

The Brazilian has a submission heavy win total, with 9 of his 16 wins coming by tapout. He appears to favour the single leg variety of takedowns, but with mixed results landing 4 of 8 attempts against Trinaldo, but going 0 for 6 versus Ildemar Alcantara . While he did score several key takedowns and was close with a RNC attempt, his lack of top position activity against Trinaldo diminished the significance of his positional advantage.

On the feet, Silva uses good head movement and faints to set up his striking. He has quick hands; throwing a spearing straight right and following up with a left hand- he will also attack the body. He will work his kicks in combination with his boxing and will attempt the odd capoeira technique. Brenneman would prefer to avoid trading with his opponent as he had more downfalls then successes.

Brenneman has been finished in 6 of his 7 defeats- 4 by knockout and 2 by submission.

Brenneman's recent struggles are hard to overlook, especially considering his chin has become such an extreme liability. Silva has never faced an American wrestler before which can be a difficult first fight, especially considering how hard Brenneman is to take down and how much Silva relies on his grappling. If Silva can avoid getting put on his back he could test his opponent's chin, but with just 1 knockout in 19 fights that seems unlikely. Not impossible though. Brenneman won the first round against a very good wrestler in Danny Castillo and looked good until getting caught. Even if he can't land takedowns initially, he will force Silva to work hard and take over the fight as he tires, so my prediction is Charlie Brenneman to defeat Leandro Silva by decision.

Prelim Predictions

170lbs- William Macario (8-1-0) vs Neil Magny (12-4-0)

Capping off the undercard will be TUF 16 semi-finalist Neil Magny when he takes on TUF Brazil 2 finalist William "Patolino" Macario. Magny has hit a hot streak of late ripping off a quartet of victories after a 1-2 start to his UFC career. In his last outing, Macario earned his first UFC 'W' by defeating Strikforce vet Bobby Voelker, he is now 1-1 inside the Octagon.

Magny will have a 6" reach advantage to go along with standing 4 inches taller.

Macario has 5 wins by knockout and while he didn't end Voelker's night early, he put on a clinic hurting him on a couple of occasions. He routinely landed a nice short right hand with some low kicks and followed up by swarming Bobby on the cage with knees, elbows, and well placed body shots. He use good head movement, effectively moving out of the way of the majority of his foe's attacks. Overall, he was economical and quite accurate with his striking, outlanding Voelker 133-72 with a 63% accuracy rate.

The American doesn't have the big knockout totals of his opponent, but has compiled some pretty solid striking exchange numbers. In 7 UFC bouts he has landed an average of 3.17 strikes per minute, while giving up just 1.54. Over his last 2 fights he limited his opponents to a combined 10 significant strikes landed, while connecting on 69 of his own. His high watermark was a 105 strike performance against Gasan Umalatov. He uses a long left jab, often doubling it up to maximize his reach advantage.

While Magny may offer less in the power department, if he can keep Macario on the outside with his jab and movement it will take away some of the power behind his strikes.

Both fighters are capable of doing work on the mat, but Magny has had some issues defensively. Over 7 UFC fights, he has been taken down 14 times. He was submitted by Sergio Moraes and dropped a decision to Seth Baczynski where he spent a lot of time on his back. Macario was submitted in his debut, but landed 3 takedowns on just 6 attempts against Voelker using solid timing catching him coming forward with a quick level change.

Magny needs to keep this fight at distance, maintain a high volume and push Macario in an effort to tax his cardio. Magny beat Alex Garcia, but had Alex not injured his knee and landed at a slightly higher rate on the feet the result could have been different. Macario will have success landing the more impactful shots, especially along the cage. If he can land a few well timed takedowns it will further add to his success, so my prediction is William Macario to defeat Neil Magny by decision.

155lbs- Yan Cabral (11-1-0) vs Naoyuki Kotani (33-11-7)

In the Lightweight division, Yan Cabral makes his 3rd trip to the Octagon when he meets long time ZST veteran Naoyuki Kotani. Cabral debuted with a win over Danny Mitchell, but lost his sophomore appearance against Zak Cummings. Kotani returned to the UFC after a 7 year and 21 fight stretch away from the promotion- his 13 fight winning streak was ended by Norman Parke.

Cabral's undefeated run came to an end in his last fight, which can often lead to a rejuvenation for a fighter as they are forced to address shortcomings or other issues that seem minimal while still undefeated.

The Japanese import has faced multiple UFC caliber opponents, both in the promotion and outside- Yves Edwards, Dennis Siver, Thiago Tavares, Jorge Masvidal, Rich Clementi, Marcus Aurelio, Roger Huerta and the aforementioned Parke. Unfortunately, for Naoyuki he lost all 8 of those matchups which brings into question his ability to find success at this level.

Both men carry submission heavy win totals. Cabral has secure 10 of his 11 wins by tapout, while Kotani 25 off 33. 50% of Cabral's wins have come by Arm-Triangle choke which would suggest an affinity for working from top position. Although he does have a solid sweep and reversal arsenal if put on his back. Kotani has 12 arm based submission wins on his resume, along with a few less common holds like an Achilles lock and a Leg scissor choke. His only submission defeat came via Reverse Full Nelson.

Kotani has far more MMA experience, but Cabral is the far more accomplished grappler. It is also worth noting that Kotani fought 25 times under the ZST banner, an organization that doesn't permit striking while on the mat and is contested inside a cage. His inexperience in these two areas can weigh heavy in grappling based bouts in the UFC.

Cabral's undoing against Cummings was the wrestler's ability to mute Yan's offense with a heavy top game, but that won't be the case with Kotani. Naoyuki was taken down twice by Parke and going back to his first UFC run he struggled with the ground game of Thiago Tavares giving up 4 TDs on only 6 attempts. This fight should contain some entertaining back and forth exchanges on the mat, with Cabral rebounding front of his home crowd after his first career loss- my prediction is Yan Cabral to defeat Naoyuki Kotani by submission.

125lbs- #15 Scott Jorgensen (15-9-0) vs Wilson Reis (18-5-0)

In the Flyweight division, former WEC Bantamweight title challenger Scott Jorgensen faces Bellator alumni Wilson Reis. Jorgensen snapped a 3 fight losing streak with a win over Danny Martinez, he has won 2 of his last 7. Reis made a successful Flyweight debut, defeating Joby Sanchez by decision- he has won 6 of his last 7.

While many battles between grappling reliant competitors often result in striking heavy exchanges, this one will most likely be decided on the ground.

Both fighters come from grappling backgrounds. Jorgensen is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler averaging 2.73 takedowns at a 46% completion rate. Reis is a BJJ Black belt with 8 wins coming by way of submission, including 3 of his last 4 fights prior to signing on with the UFC. Reis has also compile some impressive takedown numbers, averaging 5.33 takedowns per fight completing nearly 60% of his tries.

In each of Scotty's last 6 defeats, he has lost the takedown battle by a lopsided margin of 18-4. Conversely, he has put up an impressive 20-0 total in his last 5 victories. His success clearly hinges on his ability to get the better of the grappling exchanges.

Reis's ability to routinely takedown and out grapple the likes Yuri Alcantara and Ivan Menjivar indicates that he should be able to find similar success against Jorgensen. Even after cutting to 125 pound, Jorgensen was badly out grappled by Zach Makovsky and submitted by Jussier Formiga (head-butt noted). He has been submitted 3 times in his career.

Jorgensen may be best served to keep this fight standing as Reis has been knocked out twice and has some clear defensive liabilities. Remaining vertical against Reis will be easier said then done and the end result will be Jorgensen spending too much time on his back, so my prediction is Wilson Reis to defeat Scott Jorgensen by decision.

145lbs- Felipe Arantes (16-5-1 2NC) vs Andre Fili (13-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, Sao Paulo native Felipe Arantes fights Alpha Male team member Andre Fili in his first fight outside of the USA. Arantes fights for the 7th time inside the Octagon most recently having defeated Maximo Blanco- he is 3-2-1 in the UFC. Fili is coming off just his second career loss, submitting to Max Holloway at UFC 172.

With 7 wins by knockout each, both men are capable of ending this contest inside the distance. Conversely, both men have excellent chins with the only knockout between the two coming due to a knee injury suffered by the American.

Arantes is a Muay Thai based striker and pairs his kicking arsenal together with his hands pretty consistently. Arantes has yet to score a standing knockout in the UFC, but has instead used his variety effectively. Fili is more boxing oriented and while he will throw kicks, his hands are the key to his success. He had a lot of success early landing power strikes against Holloway and was also being the busier fighter early on out landing him 31-17 in the first frame.

The Brazilian struggled with power boxing style of Kevin Souza, allowing Souza to routinely land first. Statistically, Andre holds a wide advantage in strikes landed at 5.07 compared to just 2.81 for Arantes. Defensively, Felipe does a better job limiting his opponent's landing rate, but his near even strikes for versus strikes against numbers are concerning.

While this bout will spend a lot of time on the feet, the deciding action will come on the mat or for Arantes sake not on the mat.

The Brazilian has appeared vulnerable at times to being put on his back. He has defended only 45% of attempted takedowns, with Blanco scoring 3 times on 6 attempts and Yuri Alcantara going a perfect 6 for 6. While he is capable of attacking off his back he hasn't scored a submission win since late 2010. Fili has demoed excellent timing on his takedowns, anticipating his opponent's attack and changing levels to take them off their feet. Using this approach he was able to take Holloway down 3 times predominately with a single leg.

This should be an entertaining back and forth battle. Fili's higher striking volume and more aggressive style should give him an edge during the vertical exchanges and his ability to land well timed takedowns and hold key top control minutes will help him seal the deal. If Arantes can keep this fight standing he could steal a decision, but that has been one of his biggest struggles so my prediction is Andre Fili to defeat Felipe Arantes by decision.

155lbs- Gilbert Burns (8-0-0) vs Christos Giagos (10-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, Gilbert Burns makes his sophomore appearance when he battles the debuting Christos Giagos. Burns is undefeated through his first 8 fights after a decision win over Andreas Stahl in his debut. Giagos has won 4 in a row including wins over TUF Alumni Dakota Cochrane and Sevak Magakian.

Burns debuted as a 170 pounder after stating that the cut to Lightweight was difficult for him, even though he was successful he made the decision to move to 155. If the cut does well the size/ strength disadvantage he faced at Welterweight should turn in his favour as a Lightweight.

The Brazilian is a highly regarded BJJ Black belt with a number of first place finishes at various grappling competitions. His fight with Stahl was his first to go the distance, with all others ending inside the first round- 4 submissions and 3 knockouts. While he had moderate success in his debut with his grappling, but landing just 2 of 10 takedowns, his striking proved enough to get the job done.

Burns is far from a refined strikers, but his aggression and decent variety of techniques makes his stand-up workable. Against Stahl he was able to land strikes both in the clinch and at range, but the overall goal was still to drag the fight to the ground.

Giagos has 6 wins by knockout and just a pair of submission victories, but he appears to orient his attack around taking his opponent to the ground. In his fights with Cochrane and Chris Tickle he routinely shot in, but lost position, was mounted a couple of times, and was put in some tough situations. Based purely on position, he lost the first frame versus Tickle but was able to rally eventually submit him in round 2. He has a pretty decent reactionary sprawl, but his it is his offensive game that will get him in some trouble.

Both of his defeats, including a 2013 loss to Poppies Martinez, have come by submission.

The RFA vet did land an impressive flying knee knockout against Dakota Cocrhane, but his striking game doesn't look that impressive that he will gain an advantage if he can keep this fight standing. Burns should find more success looking for takedowns against a lighter weight opponent Giagos's willingness to engage on the mat will cost him, so my prediction is Gilbert Burns to defeat Christo Giagos by submission.

155lbs- Fabricio Camoes (14-8-1) vs Tony Martin (8-2-0)

Getting the night going will be a Lightweight contest featuring Brazilian Fabricio Camoes taking on ATT product Tony Martin. Martin has dropped back to back fights since joining the promotion. Camoes earned his first UFC win in early 2012 in his second stint with the company, he is now 1-3-1 inside the Octagon.

Camoes is a 3rd degree BJJ Black belt, but submissions have accounted for 4 of his 8 losses. He has been submitted by Jim Miller, Kurt Pellegrino, and Gleison Tibau- his first defeat by sub came due to injury. Less surprisingly, he has won 7 times by submission, including his only UFC win coming via rear naked-choke.

Martin should be the superior wrestler and has accumulated 75% (6 of 8) of his wins by sub. While he has got off to strong starts in both of his UFC bouts, he has faltered down the stretch. A limb wrenching armbar attempt early in his debut fight almost had him in the winner's circle, but his inability to finish and subsequent slowdown sealed the decision defeat.

In similar, fashion Martin got off to a strong start against 179 main carder Beneil Dariush, outworking him on the feet, but before the first round concluded he tired, became vulnerable to being taken down, and was submitted in round 2.

Martin is the superior wrestler, will have a striking advantage, and is overall the more gifted athlete. His ability to get off to a strong start is essential to his success in a hostile environment, but his poor cardio will be his undoing. The atmosphere will get the better of the American and he will eventually succumb to the grappling of his opponent, so my prediction is Fabricio Camoes to defeat Tony Martin by submission.

Prelim Predictions

185lbs- Magnus Cedenblad (12-4-0) vs Scott Askham (12-0-0)

Headlining the preliminary portion of the card, Magnus Cedenblad will try to bring his fellow countrymen and women to their feet when he takes on the debuting Scott Askham. Cedenblad has won back to back UFC fights, improving his Octagon record to 2-1. Askham has yet to taste defeat in his career, most recently stopping Max Nunes under the BAMMA banner.

Askham has made his career on his ability to absorb what his opponent has to offer and then methodically break them down. He is a lanky Middleweight, but does some of his best work from the clinch. Landing short range elbows, punches, knees he can generate a lot of damage with limited space. He has recorded 7 wins by knockout. The Brit is also capable of changing gears and taking the fight to the mat, often molding his striking and grappling together quite effectively.

Cedenblad appears to have found his submission stride, winning via Guillotine choke in each of his last 2 fights after being on the wrong end of 3 of the first 6 submission result he was apart of. He showed a good takedown game, repeatedly putting Krzysztof Jotko on his back, eventually finishing the fight from top position. Magnus has 6 wins by knockout, but several have come on the mat and that is where he will look to put this fight.

This contest should be decided at close range and on the mat. While Cedenblad's submission wins have been impressive, Askham's ability to do damage in close will make it tough for him to set up his grappling game. All 4 of the Swede's defeats have come inside the distance (3 subs and 1 KO) which brings into question his durability when not setting the pace, so my prediction is Scott Askham to defeat Magnus Cedenblad by TKO.

170lbs- Nico Musoke (12-3-0 1NC) vs Alexander Yakovlev (21-5-1)

In the Welterweight division, Nico Musoke battles UFC sophomore Alexander Yakovlev. Musoke has fought 3 times in the UFC, winning his fist 2 bouts over Alessio Sakara and Viscardi Andrade. Yakovlev stepped up on short notice to challenge Demian Maia in his only Octagon appearence and dropped a 3 round decision.

Yakovlev has 8 wins by knockout and 8 more by submission. He implements a kick heavy attack, frequently localizing his assault on his opponent's lead leg. He also landed some decent fluries against Maia, but spent the majority of the fight on his back. He has a pretty solid grappling game and showed some glimpses of it in his debut, but look for him to have more success against Musoke.

Nico is equally as well rounded- 4 knockouts and 5 submission. He demoed his submission capabilities when he caught Alessio Sakara with a nasty armbar in his debut. He has averaged 2.26 takedowns at a 41% completion rate and had a lot of success early taking Kelvin Gastelum down. Musoke's striking is more the serviceable, but he has a bit of a questionable chin that saw him get badly rocked in each of his first 2 Octagon bouts. His undoing against Gastelum also came on the feet as he was unable to stem the onslaught of strikes and while he did not break he was clearly wearing down.

If Musoke can consistently take Yakovlev down he could replicate the shortcomings of the Brazilian's debut. Unfortunately, Nico is not on the same level as Demian Maia on the mat. Look for this to be a back and forth battle, with Musoke's less then stellar chin eventually costing him during an exchange, so my prediction is Alexander Yakovlev to defeat Nico Musoke by knockout.

145lbs- Dennis Siver (22-9-0) vs Charles Rosa (9-0-0)

In the Featherweight division a plethora external circumstances have resulted in Dennis Siver taking on UFC debutant Charles Rosa. Siver has been out of action for roughly 9 months follow a suspension, he is 2-1-0 1NC since cutting to Featherweight. Rosa is currently undefeated through his first 9 pro bouts.

Rosa is taking this fight on roughly a weeks notice, which is a taller order against a veteran like Siver. The American trains out of ATT, but has faced less then stellar competition with his last 5 opponents 38-51. He is a first round finisher, with just 1 of his 9 victories (3 KOs & 6 Subs) occurring outside the first frame.

Siver may not be elite level at Featherweight, but he offers a stiff challenge to the majority of the division. He presents a well rounded offensive attack, merging together his karate based striking assault and improving wrestling/ sambo based ground game.

Rosa's lack of long term experience will prevent him from capitalizing on Siver's pension for slowing down in the later stages. Siver will keep Rosa on the outside with his kicking game and then take him down when he tries to close the distance, so my prediction is Dennis Siver to defeat Charles Rosa by TKO.

170lbs- Cathal Pendred (14-3-1) vs Gasan Umalatov (15-3-1)

In the Welterweight division, Cathal Pendred makes his second appearance, first at 170 pounds when he takes on Russian Gasan Umalatov. Pendred is undefeated over his last nine (8-0-1), defeating Mike King in his debut. Umalatov rebounded from a disappointing debut performance by defeating the faltering Paulo Thiago.

The Russian has won 7 times by submission, but has struggled to find much success since signing on with Zuffa. He has landed just 3 of 15 attempts and lost the majority of the horizontal exchanges versus Magny. His striking carried him against Thiago, connecting on the more impactful strikes, but landing far less frequently then the Brazilian and overall has been on the wrong end of the striking totals through his first 2 UFC bouts: 153 to 84.

Pendred suffered through a pretty tough first frame, getting dropped and nearly finished on a couple different occasions. He has 6 wins by knockout and just 1 submission, relying heavily on his top game and ground and pound to do the majority of his damage. He is a little to hittable, but has proven equally as durable. His striking is still a work in progress, but his focus here should he his ground game.

A win over Paulo Thiago doesn't carry the weight that it use to. Pendred is a little reckless, but his aggressive style will keep Umalatov on the defensive and most likely on his back for long durations of this bout, so my prediction is Cathal Pendred to defeat Gasan Umalatov by decision.

185lbs- Tor Troeng (16-6-1) vs Krzysztof Jotko (14-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Sweden's own Tor Troeng fights Poland based competitor Krzysztof Jotko. Troeng has lost 2 in a row falling to Rafael Natal and Trevor Smith after a successful UFC debut. Jotko succumbed to a second round guillotine by Magnus Cedenblad, an unsuccessful follow up to his decision win over Bruno Santos.

The Swede has proven himself to be boom or bust on the mat; earning 6 submission wins, but also suffering two losses by tapout and getting out-positioned on the floor in his last 2 UFC appearances. Tor's work was admirable against Natal, trading counter and reversals, but against a much more positionally sound opponent he spent too much time on his back. He grappling will most likely he put front and center against Jotko.

Jotko has won 8 times by decision and took home his debut performance largely based on his ability to neutralize his opponent's attempts to drag the fight to the mat. He works well from the clinch and can do some damage from the outside. Unfortunately, his second appearance was dictate by his inability to defend his opponents TDAs, getting taken down 3 times on 5 attempts- eventually leading to the submission.

Troeng has spent time training out of Alliance alongside Magnus Cedenblad, who will be able to provide some valuable insight into what Jotko brings to the table. Tor will get the better the majority of the exchanges exploiting the defensive grappling issues Jotko showed in his last fight, so my prediction is Tor Troeng to defeat Krzysztof Jotko by decision.

155lbs- Mairbek Taisumov (21-5-0) vs Marcin Bandel (13-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, Mairbek Taisumov battles the debuting Marcin Bandel. Taisumov's 4 fight winning streak ended with a decision loss to Michel Prazeres, he is now 1-1 in the UFC. Bandel has won 12 fights in a row after starting his pro career 1-2.

A product of Tiger Muay Thai, Taisumov's finishing rate (9 knockouts and 10 subs) is an indication of well balanced skillset. He has a solid striking repertoire and capable wrestling game, which he utilized in his debut landing hard combinations and 5 takedowns. Unfortunately, he struggled in his follow up performance routinely getting put on his back and out positioned by his opponent.

A Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu product and native of Poland, Bandel is a submission specialist. 12 of his 13 wins have come by tapout, 6 by Heel Hook, and all inside the first 5 minutes. Bandel centers his attack around tying up with his opponent and then jumping at the first opportunity to slap on a submission. In a similar style to Rousimar Palhares, Marcin will dive on a leg, but if he is unable to finish the hold he will transition to an armlock or other submission- chaining them together until something sticks.

The more avenues to victory a fighter has the more successful they will be. If Bandel can't slap on an early submission, he will be at a sever disadvantage if he is forced to bang it out on the feet. Conversely, the defensive struggles of Mairbek in his last fight are a massive concern. This might be a bit of a risk, but Bandel will drag Taisumov to the mat and start chaining subs together until he his pay dirt, so my prediction is Marcin Bandel to defeat Mairbek Taisumov by submission.

145lbs- Zubaira Tukhugov (16-3-0) vs Ernest Chavez (8-1-0)

The first of 23 total UFC bouts to take place on this day will take place in the Featherweight division and feature Zubaira Tukuhugov's throwing down with Ernest Chavez. Tukhugov was victorious in his debut and has won 7 fights in a row. Chavez fell to Elias Silverio in his second UFC appearance, failing to follow up on his own successful first Octagon fight.

Chavez hasn't been that impressive so far in his UFC run. He struggled early on with the speed and more diversified striking skills of Yosdenis Cedeno, only taking control of the bout once his opponent started to slow down. In fight #2 he was outlanded, hurt, and eventually submitted by a more diversified fighter. He will be making his first cut to 145 and even if the cut goes well, he already appeared at a speed disadvantage fighting at 155 and could further struggle at a lighter weightclass.

With 10 wins by decision, Tukhugov isn't exactly known for his finishing skills, but he put a significant amount of accumulated damage on his opponent in his debut. He landed a nice variety of strikes, targeting the body on several occasions, and accompanying his attack with a trio of completed takedowns. The Russian has been out of action since early 2014, roughly 8 months so ring rust could be a factor.

Similar to Chavez's last 2 adversaries, Tukhugov will be quicker and the more diverse striker. If Chavez can slow him down and control him he could nullify those advantages, but that will be easier said then done for a fighter lacking high level wrestling skills. At 10-1 in decisions, Zubaira appears more then capable of going the distance. Look for the Russian to out-quick Chavez and routinely beat him to the punch, so my prediction is Zubaira Tukhugov to defeat Ernest Chavez by decision.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Daron Cruickshank (15-5-0) vs Anthony Njokuani (16-8-0 1NC)

Headlining the UFN 54 undercard, Daron Cruickshank squares off with WEC alumni Anthony Njokuani. Cruickshank's 2 fight winning streak came to an end via decision at the hands of Jorge Masvidal. Njokuani returned after a year long layoff, losing to Vinc Pichel- he has alternated wins and losses over his last 9 fights.

Both fighters are striking based; Cruickshank comes from a Taekwondo background and has 9 wins by knockout. Njokuani has also won 9 times by knockout and bases his striking style in Muay Thai. Statistically, Njokuani outlands his counterpart by 1.12 strikes per minute and also holds a near half strike per minute defensive edge.

The last 3 men to defeat Cruickshank; Adriano Martins, Jorge Masvidal, and John Makdessi are all strong strikers. He has a tendency to allow his opponents to control the striking exchanges and routinely land first which will cost him against Njokuani.

Daron could opt to use his wrestling, something that Njokuani struggled with in his last bout (8 TDs), but he rarely seems interested in working his ground game (1.18 TDs @ 46%), so my prediction is Anthony Njokuani to defeat Daron Cruickshank by decision.

155lbs- Olivier Aubin-Mercier (5-1-0) vs Jake Lindsey (9-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Olivier Aubin-Mercier welcome Jake Lindsey to his home country in each of their sophomore appearences. OAM makes his first post TUF appearance after a decision loss to Chad Laprise in the finals. Lindsey suffered an odd submission loss via heel strikes in his debut fight against John Tuck.

Lindsey struggled tremendously with the ground game of Tuck who took him down 3 times on 5 tries, and routinely out positioned him on the mat. Conversely, Olivier road his dominant grappling skills to the finals of the TUF tournament while competing against larger men as a Welterweight. He had won all 4 of his pro bouts prior to fighting in the UFC by rear-naked choke.

Lindsey will need to keep this fight standing and force his opponent to utilize his striking arsenal, but that will be easier said then done. Aubin-Mercier looked strong at 170 pounds and that should translate well to Lightweight, so my prediction is Olivier Aubin-Mercier to defeat Jake Lindsey by submission.

155lbs- Jason Saggo (10-1-0) vs Paul Felder (8-0-0)

In the Lightweight division Jason Saggo takes on debuting Paul Felder. Saggo put the stamp on his debut, TKOing Josh Shockley inside the first round- he has won 5 in a row. Felder is undefeated as a professional, earning recent wins over TUF alumni Julian Lane and Marc Stevens.

The 'Irish Dragon' has ended 6 of his 8 wins via knockout. Despite his 75% knockout rate, he has only finished 2 of those 6 fights inside the opening frame. He relies heavily on his kicking, using a wide variety of techniques from spinning attacks to the more traditional. His hands aren't that impressive at distance, but he can do some serious damage in the clinch. His biggest liability appears to be on the mat where he is still fairly raw.

Similar to his opponent, Saggo prefers a kick first approach. He may not implement as many techniques as Felder but he can still make it work for him at distance. He has just 2 wins by knockout, but packs more power then that total would suggest. Shockley can attest to that. Where Saggo will have the greatest advantages is on the ground. He has secured 8 wins by submission, 5 by rear-naked choke. He should be able to out-position his opponent once the fight hits the ground leading to multiple opportunities to end the fight.

If the American can keep this fight standing he could win over the judge's with a slightly more flashy offense. Unfortunately, Felder's pension for a kick heavy assault will give Saggo plenty of opportunities to drag the fight to the mat, so my prediction is Jason Saggo to defeat Paul Felder by submission.

125lbs- Patrick Holohan (10-0-1) vs Chris Kelades (7-1-0)

In the Flyweight division, Patrick Holohan makes his second UFC appearance when he takes on promotional debutant Chris Kelades. Holohan pulled off an upset in his debut, submitting Josh Sampo to remain undefeated. Kelades suffered the first loss of his career at the hands of fellow Canadian Flyweight Malcom Gordon while fighting under the Bellator banner, but rebounded in his last outing to get back in the win column.

This fight was originally scheduled to pit Holohan against Louis Gaudinot, but Gaudinot was forced to withdraw in the weeks leading up to the fight and was replaced by Nova Scotia's own Kelades.

Holohan will be taking his second fight in 3 months, after a series of injuries forced him to sit on the shelf for almost 2 years prior to his debut. While Holohan didn't show any signs of Octagon jitters, he should feel more comfortable entering the cage for the second time with a much shorter layoff.

Kelades's striking isn't overly devastating, his kicking game is average and while he can pack some power in his punches- it is not always the case. He doesn't have a strong wrestling game, but he is good in a scramble and has won 3 times by submission. He is purely submission over position, often giving up an advantageous spot to try and end the fight.

The Irishman surprised many when he floored Sampo prior to submitting him. He has a submission heavy record, 8 of 10 wins, and while his wrestling isn't his strong suit his ability to counter and set up submission is. He is a lanky 125er and as a result is able to give his opponent's fits on the mat. Look for him to chain submissions together, while landing some decent GnP to soften his opponent up.

Kelades will clearly be the fan favourite, but his lack of big fight experience and prep time are too much to look past. Holohan is the superior striker and an opportunistic grappler that should be able to capitalize on any and all mistakes made by the Canadian, so my prediction is Patrick Holohan to defeat Chris Kelades by submission.

170lbs- Albert Tumenov (13-2-0) vs Matt Dwyer (7-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, Albert Tumenov meets Canadian debutant Matt Dwyer in a fight that has bonus money written all over it. Tumenov has split his first 2 UFC outings, dropping a split decision in his debut followed by a brutal first round knockout of Anthony Lapsley. Dwyer has won 5 in a row, picking up wins over Shonie Carter and DaMarques Johnson both by TKO.

With a combined 16 of 20 wins (Tumenov 9 and Dwyer 7) coming by way of knockout there is very limit potential for this fight to go to the scorecards.

At 6'4", Dwyer is an incredibly tall Welterweight and will stand 5" taller then Tumenov. Unfortunately, he lacks a strong technical game from the outside and relies solely on a brawling based assault to get the job done. In his bout with Johnson he eventually scored the TKO, but prior to the finish he was dropped several times and was getting tagged with some big shots. Defensively, he has some major holes in his game especially when the strikes come from the left side.

Tumenov has a bomb of a left hand and can also use it to counter. He caught his last opponent with a well timed counter left- swiftly separating him from his consciousness. He also had Ildemar Alcantara in serious trouble early on, landing big shots at will. His ability to cover distance when striking makes him difficult to defend against and his offense is further aided by his kicking arsenal.

This fight most likely won't require the judges to get involved, it might not even see the completion of the first five minutes. Dwyer isn't afraid to throw down, but he is way to hittable to engage Tumenov in such a manner. DaMarques Johnson dropped the Canuck several times, Tumenov should as well- so my prediction is Albert Tumenov to defeat Matt Dwyer by knockout.

135lbs- Jerrod Sanders (14-2-0) vs Pedro Munhoz (11-1-0)

In the opening fight of the night, Jerrod Sanders cuts down 2 divisions to face Pedro Munhoz. Sanders lost his debut performance on short notice as a Lightweight to Yosdenis Cedeno. Munhoz is 1-1 in the UFC, knocking out Matt Hobar after dropping a decision to Raphael Assuncao.

Sanders's success hinges on his ability to take his opponent down and consistently establish his top position grappling game. That will be difficult against Munhoz who is a BJJ Black belt and very dangerous grappler in his own right with 6 wins by submission.

Munhoz is the superior striker and despite just 2 knockouts, he demoed how dangerous he can be in his last appearance. Look for him to routinely land the more impactful strikes, including a nasty front kick to the body. The cut is also a major concern for Sanders, who is a fairly muscular and could struggle in a physically demanding fight creating openings for Munoz as the bout progresses, so my prediction is Pedro Munhoz to defeat Jerrod Sanders by submission.

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- #12 Dominick Cruz (19-1-0) vs #6 Takeya Mizugaki (20-7-2)

Headlining the undercard portion of the event, Dominick Cruz makes his long awaited return to action when he takes on the fast rising and fellow WEC veteran Takeya Mizugaki. Cruz was last seen defending his Bantamweight title against current Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and has won 10 fights in a row. Mizugaki is riding a 5 fight winning streak, with a 7-2 record since moving over to the UFC.

Cruz won the WEC title back in 2010 and successfully defended his WEC/UFC belt against the likes of Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, and the aforementioned 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson. Unfortunately, due to multiple injuries and nearly 3 years of inactivity Cruz was forced to relinquish his belt.

Mizugaki has collected 14 of his 20 pro wins by decision. He does the majority of his work at short range and in the clinch. He utilizes a tight boxing based attack, landing crisp combinations and while he will throw some kicks, they tend to be sparse. He doesn't have a tonne of power, with just 5 knockouts and his last coming 7 fights ago over Cole Escovedo. To have success against Cruz he will need to find away to draw him into his range and/or potentially put his back on the cage.

Takeya has a slight edge in SLpM over the former champion, but Cruz gets hit 1.2 strikes per minute less then Mizugaki.

Cruz's striking style is well documented. He uses a tonne of movement- footwork and head movement, and supplements it with a high volume output while avoiding 76% of his oppositions' landing attempts. He has just 6 knockouts, but his ability to land and avoid strikes so consistently is equally, if not more effective then the ability to end a fight with one strike.

The big question for Cruz is whether or not his myriad of injuries and time away has caused him to miss a step and will prevent him from operating as he previously did.

Cruz should have a significant wrestling advantage, but Mizugaki is no push over. The American is a BJJ Blue belt and has averaged 3.79% at a 55% completion rate. He has put together some impressive takedown numbers against high level competition; Urijah Faber 4, Joseph Benavidez 12 over 2 fights, and 10 against Demetrious Johnson.

Mizugaki has above average wrestling, but offensively can't match Cruz (89% TDD). Takeya has successfully defended nearly 70% of his opponents' tries but was taken down 3 times by Francisco Rivera, 5 times by Erik Perez, and twice by Bryan Caraway. If Cruz is on, he should be able to replicate and surpass those numbers.

Mizugaki is a stiff challenge for anyone, lets alone someone coming off a 3 year absence. If Cruz is to contend for his title in the future, he will need to be on point here. Mizugaki's striking style relies on his ability to keep his opponent at arm's length, that won't be easy here. The striking totals will favour Dominick and he will be further augment his offense with his wrestling. Both guys are decision machines, but Mizugaki is known for losing close ones, while Cruz is 12-0 on the judges scorecards- so my prediction is Dominick Cruz to defeat Takeya Mizugaki by decision.

155lbs- #13 Jorge Masvidal (27-8-0) vs James Krause (21-5-0)

In the Lightweight division, former Strikeforce title challenger Jorge Masvidal squares off with WEC veteran James Krause. 'Gamebred' Masvidal has won 2 in a row and 7 of his last 9 with a 4-1 UFC record to date. Since returning to the ZUFFA fold Krause has earned wins in 2 of his 3 Octagon appearances.

Krause is coming off a pair of unfortunate finishes; a series of questionably low kicks by Bobby Green lead to a TKO defeat and was then followed by a victory due to injury when Jamie Varner broke his ankle and was unable to continue.

On the mat, Krause is a talented submission fighter. A BJJ Brown belt, with 13 wins by submission compared to just a pair of defeats. His long limbs allow him to attack with a variety of holds and make him difficult to control on the mat. He is very capable at orchestrating sweeps and reversals from his back, but averages just 1.39 TDs per fight relying on his opponent to initiate the ground game.

At UFC 161, Krause tapped Sam Stout via guillotine with just 13 seconds left in the fight.

Masivdal is just 2-2 in fights ended by tapout, but his wrestling has been a key component to his success. He lands 2.68 takedowns per fight at a very respectable 66% completion rate. He most recently defeated Daron Cruickshank with a wrestling heavy assault and put up significant TD numbers against both Tim Means (6) and KJ Noons (7). He has a solid single leg and excellent top control. Defensively, he is equally as sound thwarting 79% of his opponent's tries, including 8 of 10 attempts by Russian wrestling machine Rustam Khabilov.

The Strikeforce vet is equally as capable on the feet. He has recorded 10 wins by knockout and boasts one of the most technically sound kickboxing repertoires in the division. He builds the majority of his offense off of a sharp jab and supplements his hands with a solid arsenal of kicks and the occasional jumping knee strike. He averages 3.85 strikes per minute, just over 1.2 more per minute then he gives up.

Masvidal has landed more significant strikes then his adversary in each of his UFC and Strikeforce fights with the exception of his title fight with Gilbert Melendez.

Krause's most effective weapon of attack is his kicking game. He will throw a variety of kicks, targeting all areas of the body and has a very nice high kick that he effectively disguises just prior to landing. He averages just over 4 strikes per minute, but isn't nearly as defensively sound as Masivdal giving up just under 3.5 to his opponents. He effectively outlanded talented striker Sam Stout 110 to 81, connecting on the majority of his strikes from distance.

Both men are well rounded, but Masvidal should have the advantage with his superior wrestling both offensively and defensively. He will need to be careful when exchanging as he has been hurt in a number of fights and Krause's tricky kicking attack can be hard to anticipate. Look for Masvidal keep the exchanges at boxing range and score significant takedowns and top control, so my prediction is Jorge Masvidal to defeat James Krause by decision.

170lbs- Patrick Cote (21-8-0) vs Stephen Thompson (9-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, former Middleweight title challenger Patrick Cotes battles talented Kickboxing stylist Stephen Thompson. Cote has won 3 in a row, including his first 2 bouts at 170 pounds. Thompson is also riding a 3 fight winning streak and is 4-1 in the UFC.

The two combatants have combined for 13 career knockouts, including 5 inside the Octagon.

Both fighters have shown improved grappling capabilities of late. Cote is a BJJ Black belt and landed a trio of takedowns with solid top control in his most recent win over Kyle Noke. His American counterpart is a BJJ Blue belt and after getting badly out wrestled by Matt Brown, he turned the tables on his next 2 opponents using a smothering clinch based attack and a combined 4 takedowns to augment his striking.

While this fight could spend some time on the floor, it will most likely be determined with strikes.

Cote built his reputation on his knockout power and cement reinforced chin. His attack is primarily centered around his boxing, but he will mix in leg strikes where appropriate. Statistically, Cote averages 2.49 SLpM while getting hit at a rate of 2.9 SApM. These numbers reinforce his willingness to take a punch to land one, but a career of hit or be hit could be catching up to him.

Alessio Sakara clearly had Cote hurt prior to landing a series of illegal blows and Bobby Voelker appeared to stun the Canadian as well.

'Wonderboy' is a 5th degree Black belt in Kempo Karate and Black belt in Kickboxing. He will attempt a wide variety of unorthodox kicking techniques and uses a Karate style stance that can present a difficult front to attack. He showcased the power in his hands stopping Robert Whittaker in his most recent outing and overall is a very skilled striker.

Augmenting his talented kicking arsenal is his ability to judge distance; landing strikes and then slipping just out of his opponent's range. Thompson lands an average of 1.78 striker more per minute then his opponents.

Cote needs to turn this bout into a brawl and mimic Matt Brown's approach to overcoming Thompson's technical onslaught. The 'Predator' had some difficulty with the more diverse striking attack of Cung Le, struggling to get in range and subsequently find continued landing success. Thompson will keep Patrick on the outside with his kicking game and avoid the majority of Cote's big shots, before landing his own- so my prediction is Stephen Thompson to defeat Patrick Cote by knockout.

170lbs- John Howard (22-9-0) vs Brian Ebersole (50-16-1 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, John 'Doomsday' Howard takes on Brian 'Bad boy' Ebersole. Howard's 4 fight winning streak was ended by Ryan LaFlare in his last fight. Ebersole ended a long layoff with an unsuccessful effort against Rick Story, he is now 4-2 in the UFC.

Ebersole has amassed an impressive amount of experience with 68 total fights, finishing 34 of his 50 wins inside the distance- 14 knockouts and 20 submissions.

The enigmatic Ebersole possesses one of the oddest and most unorthodox in-cage personas in the promotion. From his cartwheel kicks to his thigh punches to the humourous headshakes, opponents have to find a way to remain focused and execute. Ebersole has big knockout numbers, but the majority of his stoppages have come through accumulation, like his UFC 133 victory over Dennis Hallman. He utilizes a solid jab and works well within the clinch with knees and elbow strikes. He isn't a high volume striker, but does a decent job of limiting his opponent's offense.

While Ebersole normally limits his opponent's to less then 2 strikes per minute, Rick Story blasted through his defensive front and outlanded him 71-42.

Coming from a kickboxing background, Howard should have advantages in both power and technique. He has 9 wins by knockout, including UFC stoppages of Daniel Roberts and the above mentioned Hallman. He employs a far more technical approach when compared to his counterpart. 'Doomsday' throws heavy combinations, but sometimes opting to employ less effective single strikes. One of the keys to his success against Ebersole could be his leg kicks. Rick Story landed a series of heavy leg strikes and clearly had Ebersole hurting, something that Howard could benefit tremendously from.

On the mat, Ebersole is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler. He has double digit submission wins and while he has been on the wrong end of 9 tapouts he has proven himself tough to submit inside the Octagon. He put up some decent takedown numbers early in his UFC run, but has struggled to implement his wrestling lately landing just 1 of 22 attempts over his last 2 appearances. He should look to follow in the footsteps of Ryan LaFlare and ground Howard as soon as possible.

Howard is a BJJ Purple belt, with a 6-1 record in fights ended by submission. He has had mixed results with his wrestling; using a takedown heavy performance in his win over Siyar Bahadurzada, but spending a lot of time on his back against Ryan LaFlare. Howard's successes certainly doesn't hinge on his wrestling, but he is far more effective when he can be multi-dimensional.

Ebersole appeared to really struggle with the power of Story, who landed both more strikes and more impactful strikes. Howard will replicate that success and capitalize on the ring rust that will impact an opponent who has been sitting out for the last 10 months and has fought just twice since mid 2012. Howard can't overlook Ebersole, but my prediction is John Howard to defeat Brian Ebersole by decision.

155lbs- Jon Tuck (8-1-0) vs Kevin Lee (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, 3 fight UFC vet Jon Tuck battles Kevin Lee who will be making his third trip to the Octagon. Tuck improved 2-1 in the UFC after stopping Jake Lindsey midway through round 3. Lee squared his Octagon mark at 1-1 picking up a hard fought split decision triumph over Jesse Ronson.

Despite identical records of 8-1, Lee has split his wins evenly between submissions and decisions. Tuck has finished all his opponents but 1 with 3 knockouts and 4 submissions.

This bout has the making of an entertaining scrap and could very well be decided by who can survive the early actions and take control of the fight. Tuck has traditionally had conditioning issues, noticeably slowing down early in fights. Lee battled through a pretty grueling back and forth with Al Iaquinta and with a record of 4-1 on the scorecards it probably can be determined that he will have the superior conditioning.

Lee uses a more boxing oriented stance, leading with a snappy left jab. While he has yet to record a win by knockout, he does pack some decent pop in his strikes, including a head kicks which he threw a couple of times in his debut. He effectively outlanded the striking based Ronson 66-51, putting up his best landing total in the final round.

Tuck does have power but needs to improve his ability to deploy it. He has decent leg kicks, but he tends to get a little sloppy which in turn impacts his cardio and makes him an easier target to hit. Through his first UFC 3 bouts he has been absorbed roughly .5 more strikes per minute then he dishes out. Even when fresh, he seems more insistent on winging big single strikes with minimal, if any, set up.

A BJJ Brown belt, Tuck is a talented grappler but really has shown much in the wrestling department landing just over 1 takedown per fight at a 50% completion rate. He did score a trio of takedowns in his last fight, but had spent more time on his back through his first 2. Lee showed a pretty decent wrestling game against Ronson, landing 4 takedowns. He showed excellent timing against Iaquinta, anticipating a forthcoming combination, changing levels, and putting Al on his back. From there he transitioned quickly t0o his back and nearly finished with an RNC. He also survived a couple of close sub attempts and moved into a dominant position.

This fight should be a real back and forth war and the cardio advantage and more technical striking game of Lee should play a major role. Lee needs to avoid taking early damage, but as the fight drags on he will pull away both in volume landed and takedowns scored, so my prediction is Kevin Lee to defeat Jon Tuck by decision.

135lbs- Manny Gamburyan (16-10-0) vs Cody Gibson (12-4-0)

The opening fight of the evening pits former WEC title challenger Manny Gamburyan against rising prospect Cody Gibson. Gamburyan is coming off a decision defeat against Nik Lentz and 2-3-0 1NC since returning to the UFC. Gibson dropped his debut against Aljamain Sterling, but rebounded with an abrupt knockout of Johnny Bedford.

Gamburyan will be making his Bantamweight debut after fighting as high as Welterweight. Despite moving down a division, he will still give up 5" of height to his opponent.

Gibson’s wrestling looked good against Sterling, landing 4 takedowns. He also has 3 submission wins, including a nasty guillotine choke of former WEC competitor Chad George. Conversely, Cody was taken down 3 times by Sterling and spent too much time on his back costing him the fight.

A Third dan Black belt in Judo, Gamburyan has relied heavily on his grappling for success. With a 71% TDD, he has proven difficult to put on his back. He has scored 19 takedowns over his last 6 bouts- including 5 against Cole Miller. Manny has 6 wins by sub, none since 2008, opting to focus more on positional control and top position damage. He had success taking Dennis Siver down and the cut to 135 could give him a further physical edge and enhance his ability to control his adversaries.

On the feet, Gibson will have a length advantage as well the superior technique. Manny has some power, KOing Mike Brown at WEC 48 but he is rather simplistic with his attack winging big overhand punches. On average, Gamburyan gets outstruck by his opponents by .44 strikes per minute. Cody's quick finish of Bedford was impressive and showed how dangerous he can be on the feet. He will need to remain focussed though, as he tends to leave some defensive gaps when he gets too aggressive and a veteran like Manny could capitalize on them.

This is really a do or die fight for Gamburyan, cutting down a division at this stage in a fighter's career is a desperate move. He has always been known for his strength and if the cut goes well, it will be further magnified at Bantamweight. Gibson has to pick his spots, keep this fight at range and pick Manny apart. Unfortunately, he more often then not will get dragged into grappling exchanges which will be tough to win here. Look for Manny to use his short stature to establish a lower base and routinely put Cody on the mat especially as he comes forward and control the action from top position, so my prediction is Manny Gamburyan to defeat Cody Gibson by decision. >Prelim Predictions

135lbs- #10 Alex Caceres (10-6-0 1NC) vs Masanori Kanehara (23-11-5)

Headlining the preliminary portion of the card, Alex Caceres welcomes promotional newcomer Masanori Kanehara to the cage. Caceres saw his 5 fight undefeated streak come to an end at the hands of Urijah Faber, he is now 5-2-0 1NC since cutting to 135 pounds. Kanehara is also coming off a loss, losing vs disqualification ending his 6 fight winning streak that saw him finish all of his opponents.

This bout was originally scheduled to take place between the above mentioned Faber and famed Japanese knockout artist Kid Yamamoto. Injuries have dictated otherwise.

Kanehara has strung together a solid career fighting mainly in Japan. He captured the Sengoku Featherweight title in 2009 and holds wins over current UFC fighters Chan Sung Jung, Kid Yamamoto and Naoyuki Kotani and former ZUFFA employee Michihiro Omigawa, along with a decision loss to Hatsu Hioki.

The rapid development of Caceres has been impressive. He has been submitted 5 times, but has shown vast improvement in his grappling game- scoring submission wins over Damacio Page and Sergio Pettis and getting the better of Roland Delorme and Kyung-Ho Kang on the mat. His long limbs allow him to attempt subs and orchestrate transitions and reversals. He was dominated on the floor for the most part by Faber, but handle himself much better then many expected.

Kanehara is a BJJ Brown belt with a 9-3 record in fights ended by submission. He defeated the Korean Zombie on the basis of his top game and ability to thwart anything that KZ offered him from the bottom. He has just a pair of submission wins in his last 19 fights, which may suggest he has gotten away from his ground game. As mentioned above, Caceres was grounded by Faber and Kanehara could find similar success if he can control Bruce Leeroy from the bottom. Easier said then done.

On the feet, Kanehara has a solid counter striking game. He will flash a quick left jab, and a variety of kicks, but he seems at his best when he can slip his head off center and catch his attacking opponent with a sharp 1-2 counter. He has 9 wins by knockout, including 4 straight all in the first round- most recently dispatching Joe Pearson in just 21 seconds.

For Caceres, he is far more unorthodox. He will attempt a variety of spinning techniques with varied success. Against Faber, he landed a beautiful lead uppercut, left hook combo and he does a good job of utilizing his length. Along with his reach, Alex's volume is one of his key weapons. He lands at a rate of 3.82 SLpM, while giving up an even 2. While he may lack a serious knockout punch, his ability to routinely outwork opponents- he has outlanded all but one of his BW adversaries (Faber), can be as effective.

Caceres comes in as a heavy favourite, something that he traditionally is not- so there could be some added pressure. He will also be fighting in a hostile environment which is difficult. His cardio and work rate will be the key. On the feet, he has to be the busier fighter and if he does get taken down he has to be offensive. Alex appears to be hitting his stride and while Kanehara is far from an easy win, my prediction is Alex Caceres to defeat Masanori Kanehara by decision.

145lbs-Katsunori Kikuno (22-6-2) vs Sam Sicilia (13-4-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Sam Sicilia makes his 7th UFC appearance when he takes on Katsunori Kikuno who will be making his divisional debut. Sicilia is coming off a decision win over Aaron Phillips that evened his UFC record at 3-3. Kikuno lost for the first time by knockout in his career at the hands of Tony Ferguson, ending his 6 fight winning streak.

Kikuno has fought his entire career at Lightweight, but will be cutting down to 145 pounds for the first time in this bout.

Sicilia is coming off a decision win where his wrestling proved to be the deciding factor. He landed 5 takedowns and controlled the majority of the action from top position. He may be hard-pressed to find similar success against Kikuno who is a Judo Black belt and demoed solid TDD in his promotional debut against former Welterweight Quinn Mulhern.

While we could see some ground action, their combined 19 knockout wins suggest this fight will most likely be decided on the feet.

Sicilia's power isn't quite as devastating as it is sometimes presented as. He does have a couple of UFC stoppages, but over some questionable chins. For the most part he is a head hunter, looking to land a fight altering strike from start to finish. He will try to stay technical, but in an almost Leonard Garcia-esque regression he ultimately gets drawn into a brawl as the contest progresses. He will swing wide looping hooks and frequently overextends himself creating opportunities for his adversary to return fire.

The American on average lands 2.87 strikes per minute, while getting tagged at rate of 3.52 per minute. His chin has also started to show some cracks, getting TKOed by Rony Jason, hurt by Maximo Blanco, and dropped by Cole Miller prior to the submission finish.

Despite a very questionable performance, Kikuno is a good striker and has proven it against top level opposition. In 2009, he went toe to toe with Eddie Alvarez and was getting the better of the exchanges prior to the submission finish. Katsunori has a good kicking game, and can really do some serious damage. He has good timing and will look to slip his opponent's attacks and counter with one of his own which can be quite effective against an aggressive adversary. He will need to crank up his output, but his short straight punches should foil the wide looping attacks of Sicilia.

Against Ferguson, he implemented an odd defensive style that left a lot to be desired and eventually lead to the knockout. He held an open guard, seemingly wanting to lure his foe to engage and then work off their missed attacks. As Tony was able to land with consistency and power, it didn't work out too well and hopefully he will make the appropriate adjustments.

Sicilia struggled with the kicking game of Phillips in his last appearance and had to rely on his wrestling- that won't be an option here. The combination of his questionable chin, wild striking style, and below average cardio (which will be further affected by the time change from fighting in Japan) are a lot to try and overlook. Look for Kikuno to return to his kick heavy arsenal, incorporate some grappling, land counters, and take control of the fight as Sicilia slows down, appropriately my prediction is Katsunori Kikuno to defeat Sam Sicilia by TKO.

170lbs- Hyun Gyu Lim (12-4-1) vs Takenori Sato (17-9-7)

In the Welterweight division, Hyun Gyu Lim enters the Octagon for the fourth time when he battles UFC sophomore Takenori Sato. Lim fell to 2-1 in the promotion after a spirited but unsuccessful decision loss against Tarec Saffiedine. Sato took his debut on short notice and was quickly dispatched by Erik Silva in just 52 seconds.

Lim has been on the sidelines since early January and Sato's debut took place on Feburary 15th so both men could be dealing with a little ring rust.

Physically, Lim will be the much larger fighter compared to Sato. Standing 6'2", 'Ace' will be 4" taller then his opponent and also have a massive 7" reach advantage. Unfortunately, with Lim being so massive he cuts a lot of weight to make Welterweight. He pulled out of his original debut due to the cut being too hard and has shown signs of conditioning issues as well.

Sato comes from a Judo background and has a solid submission arsenal with 6 wins by tapout. Lim has had trouble with grapplers, with submissions accounting for 2 of his 4 career losses. He has an 81% TDD over his 3 UFC bouts, but was taken down twice by Marcelo Guimaraes and once by Saffiedine. If Sato can take him down with regularity that will both mitigate his Lim's striking capabilities further diminish his questionable cardio.

On the feet, the advantage shifts significantly in the favour of the Korean. He has scored knockouts in 9 of his 12 wins, including each of his first 2 UFC bouts. He is incredibly aggressive, which can create some defensive lapses which were exploited by Saffiedine. Unfortunately for Sato, while his striking is serviceable he is going to struggle to handle Lim on the feet. Lim packs significant power in his strikes and can deliver it in a wide array of methods. He leads with a stiff jab, throws a hard left hook, and will work an upper cut. He a decent array of kicks and brutal knee strikes which he used to put down by Pascal Krauss and Guimaraes.

Lim continually pushes the pace, walking his opponents down and has an excellent chin which allows him to take a punch to land one. Conversely, Sato has been knocked out in 6 of his 9 losses and his debut stoppage against Silva certainly brings into question his durability.

Lim still has some significant holes in his game, but his size, power, aggression, and striking capabilities make him a tough opponent to deal with. Sato didn't have a good showing in his debut and Lim should be able to recreate the defensive striking issues that have plagued him throughout his career, so my prediction is Hyun-Gyu Lim to defeat Takenori Sato by knockout.

135lbs- Michinori Tanaka (10-0-0) vs Kyung Ho Kang (12-7-0 1NC)

In the Bantamweight division, Michinori Tanaka makes his second appearance inside the Octagon when he battles slightly more experience Octagon warrior Kyung Ho Kang. Tanaka won his debut over Roland Delorme in a dominant decision and has yet to face defeat in his pro career. Kang finally earned his first UFC win submitting Shunichi Shimizu, he had previously been on the wrong end of two close and controversial bouts.

This bout will pit a pair of champions head to head as Tanaka was the PXC Bantamweight champion when he left the organization and Kang captured the inaugural Road FC 135 pound title.

On the feet both fighters are talented and can more then hold their own. Kang has a decent kicking arsenal and has a pretty solid uppercut, but for the most part his striking is centered on setting up his grappling game. Tanaka operates in a pretty similar fashion. He uses lots of lateral movement, integrating hard low kicks and a heavy right hand, but doesn't throw a tonne of volume.

The deciding action of this battle will take place on the ground.

Both fighters come from grappling backgrounds- Tanaka is a 2nd degree Judo Black belt and Kang also comes from a Judo background, along with carrying a BJJ Blue belt. The Korean has collected 9 of his 12 wins by submission, while his Japanese counterpart has evenly split his 10 wins between decisions and submissions.

As expected Michinori has a solid clinch game and will use his Judo throws to take the fight horizontal. He was mounted early by Delorme but quickly reversed the position. On top, he uses tight body on body control, works in some GnP, and can do damage with minimal space. He has solid transitions and effectively rolls with his opponent to avoid losing position. If he does give up some form of positional control he quickly counters his way back to the superior position.

Kang uses a variety of takedowns techniques; changing levels to shoot for a double or single leg, suplexs, and judo throws from the clinch. On the ground he maintains heavy top controls and constantly works to advances his position, slicing through his opponent’s guard and moving either to mount or cross side position. He will drop some ground and pound to create openings, but his main focus is on setting up submission opportunities. Kang showed an improved focus on landing strikes and busting up his last opponent, which eventually broke him down and lead to the submission finish.

Physically, Kang is the much larger man, but he has had cardio issues that appeared to cost him in each of his first 2 UFC fights. He slowed down in his fight with Alex Caceres which was full of transitional battles and also tired against Chico Camus who forced him to work hard to maintain top control. Tanaka should be able to recreate some of those issues if he is forced to work off his back, along with scoring his own top position control. Kang is a dismal 1-4 in decisions, while Tanaka is 5-0 when going the distance suggesting that the later is more capable of outworking an opponent he can't finish, so my prediction is Michinori Tanaka to defeat Kyung Ho Kang by decision.

155lbs- Kazuki Tokudome (12-5-1) vs Johnny Case (18-4-0)

In the Lightweight division Johnny Case takes his first step onto the biggest fight stage on the planet when he battles Kazuki Tokudome. Case is currently riding an 8 fight winning streak, while Tokudome's 3 fight winning streak turned into a 2 fight slump with back to back decision defeats.

Case was one of many opponents schedules to face Joe Ellenburger in his debut, but was forced to withdraw. Subsequently, he hasn't see action for the better part of 11 months.

The American comes from an solid amateur wrestling background, but really struggled with the takedown game of his most recent opponent, EJ Brooks. He was routinely taken down and offered very little off his back. He is 5-2 in fights ended by submission, but his difficulty with a less accomplished MMA ground fighters suggest he will struggle against opponents at the next level.

Tokudome is a BJJ Purple belt and Judo Black belt. He has secured just 3 of his wins by submission, focusing his ground attack on position control. In his debut, he effectively nullified the grappling game of BJJ Black belt Cristiano Marcello landing just a pair of takedowns, but following it up with prolong periods of solid top control. If Tokudome can posture up, he will drop some solid ground and pound, but he needs to focus on remaining active to avoid a ref stand up costing him position.

Through his first 3 UFC performances, Kazuki has landed a combined 6 takedowns while giving up only 4 on 18 tries.

The biggest area of concern for Tokudome is his striking defense and subsequent chin issues. He is willing to trade, but has a tendency to back straight up when under attack and raises his chin in the process creating a very vulnerable target. As a result, he has been KOed twice prior to signing with ZUFFA and has endured some tense moments against both Marcello and Yui Chul Nam in his last bout.

Case does have 11 wins by knockout, which would suggest he is more then capable of exploiting this defensive lapse from his opponent. He has done the majority of his damage against lower level competition and against Brooks he showcased a solid kicking game from range but seemed tentative to close the distance or let his hands go for fear of getting taken down.

Tokudome's defensive striking issues always create an area of concern, but his willingness to implement a grappling first attack based on his strong Judo skills will give him the advantage over Case, so my prediction is Kazuki Tokudome to defeat Johnny Case by decision.

145lbs- Maximo Blanco (10-6-1 1NC) vs Dan Hooker (12-4-0)

To raise the curtain on UFN 52, Featherweights Maximo Blanco and promotional debutant Dan Hooker collide. Blanco snapped a 2 fight losing skid with his win over Andy Ogle, he is 2-3 in the UFC. Hooker made a successful start to his UFC run with a first round stoppage of Ian Entwistle, he has won 6 in a row.

The New Zealand native will have a significant length advantage over Blanco, standing 4" taller and holding a 4.5" reach advantage. Maximo did formerly compete at Lightweight so facing larger opponents isn't that out of the ordinary.

Hooker has finished 10 of his 11 victories, with an even split between submission and knockouts. While his record would suggest otherwise, he is primarily a striking based fighter. He has shown some ability on the mat, but it came against lower level competition. He uses his reach well, keeping his opponent on the outside. He posses a quick left jab and accompanies it with some workable kicking techniques.

In his debut, he fended off an early leg log attempt from his adversary and capitalized on his opponent's unwillingness to abandon the hold, eventually ending the fight with a series of vicious undefended elbows strikes.

With 7 wins by knockout, Blanco is a dangerous striker. He has averaged 3.07 SLpM while limiting his opposition to just 2.25. He should hold a marked speed advantage over his adversary and will attempt some unorthodox techniques that can be difficult to defend. Case in point, he opened his bout against Ogle by nearly knocking him out by launching himself across the cage at the Brit. Blanco, hits incredibly hard, attacking in overwhelming barrages, but he tends to get a little wild which can create openings and cost him in the cardio department.

As mentioned Hooker does have 5 submission wins and 2 of Maximo's defeats have come by the same method. That being said, Maximo's wrestling should give him a significant edge on the mat. He has landed 7 takedowns over his last 4 bouts, and can do some significant damage from top position if he is allowed to posture up. In previous fights, Hooker has been taken down by less accomplished wrestlers that will cost him against Blanco.

With Maxi there is always the threat of a major mental lapse costing him a point or two on the scorecards or even the entire bout via DQ. Unfortunately, we can't really anticipate that. Blanco will present the more well rounded attack, and his power and wrestling skills will be the driving force of the fight, so my prediction is Maximo Blanco to defeat Dan Hooker by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

 

145lbs- Godofredo Pepey (11-3-0) vs Dashon Johnson (9-1-0)

Capping off the undercard portion of the show, Ultimate Fighter Brazil finalist Godofredo Pepey squares off with UFC sophomore Dashon Johnson. Johnson was submitted in his debut by Jake Matthews, while Pepey ended a 2 fight skid with a beautiful flying knee knockout of Noad Lahat.

This will be the second consecutive bout that Johnson will fight on enemy soil. He debuted fighting as a Lightweight against the Aussie Matthews on the New Zealand card.

The American comes from a boxing background, and has some decent power having compiled 5 of his 9 wins by knockout. He will flash a sharp jab and while he may get a little over aggressive in pursuit of the finish, more often then not he gets where he wants to go. All 5 of his knockouts have come inside the opening 3 minutes of the fight. He struggled to showcase much of his striking in his debut, as Matthews kept the pressure on him, but what he did show wasn't that overwhelmingly impressive.

On the ground, he has a trio of submission wins and drops some heavy ground and pound. He was vastly overmatched both physically and technically by Matthews- eventually getting submitted. He did attempt an early guillotine choke, but was never close to finishing it and relinquished positional control in process.

Johnson was undefeated outside of the UFC, but his difficulty of schedule is a major point of concern. Johnson's last 5 opponents are a combined 14-40 and the best record of the bunch belongs to Brady Harrison at 12-12.

Despite his run to the finals of the inaugural TUF Brazil, Pepey has failed to impress amassing a 2-4 UFC mark which includes a very controversial decision win over Milton Vieira.

A BJJ Black belt, Pepey wants this fight on the ground. He doesn't have overwhelming numbers with just 0.4 TDs per fight at an 11% completion rate. He has relies mainly on his opponent to take the fight to the floor and then works from guard. He is very good at pulling off sweeps from his back, but needs to be careful as both Felipe Arantes and Sam Sicilia scored GNP stoppages when on top. Godofredo is very aggressive on the mat, attacking with a variety of submissions and constantly looking to advance his position.

Despite his impressive finish against Lahat, his striking still leaves a lot to be desired from a technical standpoint. He over extends himself when striking, raises his chin, and swings wildly while carelessly moving forward. If he can avoid taking too much damage the pressure and aggression that he presents can be unsettling for his adversary and win some points on the scorecards with the judges.

Pepey is far from a refined fighter, but he has faced vastly superior competition and will be fighting at home. Dashon has looked like a world beater, but against incredibly poor opposition. His only opponent with a partially palatable record pushed him to a split decision. The American had almost nothing to offer in the grappling department in his debut and while he was fighting a larger man it still didn't look good. Pepey's chin and defensive lapse are major concerns, but he should be able to overwhelm his opponent and offer him some difficult scenarios on the floor, so my prediction is Godofredo Pepey to defeat Dashon Johnson by submission.

 

 

170lbs- Igor Araujo (25-6-0 1NC) vs George Sullivan (15-3-0 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, Igor Araujo puts his perfect 2-0 UFC record on the line when he meets fellow undefeated (1-0) Octagon combatant George Sullivan. Araujo defeated Ildemar Alcantara in his debut and followed it up with another victory over Danny Mitchell- he has won 6 in a row. Sullivan has won 7 straight fights including his upset of Mike Rhodes in his promotional debut.

In a stark contrast, Araujo has compiled 17 of his 25 wins by submission while Sullivan has ended 10 of his 15 victories by knockout. Based purely on numbers it is not hard to see where each men will be looking to keep this fight.

Despite their lopsided win totals, they have both shown capabilities in the other's realm of preference. Sullivan landed a couple of takedowns against Rhodes in his debut. While Araujo is 1-2 in fights ended by knockout, but did score with some decent strikes against Alcantara. He routinely connected on a quick left, straight right combo and mixed in some kicks as well.

Sullivan landed just over 4 strikes per minute in his debut. He throws a pretty stiff right hand and accompanies his boxing with a variety of kicking techniques. He did absorb around 3.5 strikes per minute against Rhodes, which is a number he will want to bring down in the future. He does pack some decent horsepower in his strikes, but he is a little rigid when attacking. He seems to force his techniques always looking to land with power and this can be severely draining on his cardio.

Araujo hasn't displayed a strong wrestling game in the UFC, but has still manage to spend large portion of each of his two fights on the floor. He is more then willing to pull guard, even against a pretty strong grappler like Alcantara. He will look for sweeps and reversals or attack with submissions from his guard. Against Alcantara he countered an attempted Ninja choke into top position and showed the diversity of his submission game attempting both an Omoplata and Gogoplata. His top game is equally as solid. He is an aggressive guard passer, using his ground and pound to chip away while looking to set up submission opportunities.

Sullivan can crack, but he has to keep this fight in a position to utilize his striking. He struggled to create separation when Rhodes would clinch up with him and routinely gave up his back to help him escape which would be a mistake against a seasoned grappler like Araujo. The lack of a quality wrestling game for the Brazilian creates an opening for Sullivan if he can maintain his distance, but the superior skillset will win out so my prediction is Igor Araujo to defeat George Sullivan by submission.

 

155lbs- Francisco Trinaldo (14-4-0) vs Leandro Silva (11-1-1)

In the Lightweight division, Francisco Trinaldo meets fellow countryman Leandro Silva in 1 of 2 Brazil versus Brazil battles on the card. Trinaldo has fallen to 4-3 in the UFC with just one win in his last 3 appearances. Silva was defeated for the first time in career during his only UFC appearance, he has since won 5 in a row.

Silva lost his debut to Ildemar Alcantara (a former Light Heavyweight), taking the bout on short notice and at a weightclass above where he normally competes. Since parting ways with the promotion he has defeat some decent competition, who combined for a record of 32-16 (that record is even more impressive considering Silva accounts for almost a third of their total defeats).

Easily one of the largest men competing at 155 pound, Trinaldo got his start on the Ultimate Fighter fighting as a Middleweight. Competing at Lightweight gives the Brazilian a clear physical advantage over most of the division (maybe not Gleison Tibau), but the unfortunate drawback has been his compromised cardio. He has slowed down in a couple of his fights, but most notably gassed against Piotr Hallmann and was subsequently submitted.

All four of Trinaldo's defeats have come after the conclusion of the opening round, but he is 8-4 in fights that last longer than 5 minutes. Silva has picked up 6 finishes beyond the opening frame and is 6-1 when the judges get involved.

The returning Silva has a submission heavy win total, with 9 of his 16 wins coming by tapout. He appears to favour the single leg variety of takedowns, but was unable to find success against the much larger Alcantara. While Trinaldo boasts a respectable 60% TDD, he has struggled against the likes of Michael Chiesa and the previously mentioned Tibau where he was taken down a combined 7 times and offered limited offense off his back.

Offensively, 'Massaranduba' has averaged just over 1 TD per fight, but has some heavy ground and pound and picked up a pair of arm-triangle submissions over CJ Keith and Mike Rio early in 2013. He trains under talented BJJ player Sergio Moraes and currently holds a BJJ Brown belt.

On the feet Trinaldo packs a wallop, but again his ability to carry his performance deep into fights isn't good. He has recorded 5 wins by knockout, including one in his UFC debut. He also scored a knock down against Tibau and bent Hallmann over with a swift kick to the body. He can do damage with his striking and if he connects it can be fight altering, but he tends to be a little wild when attacking.

Despite recording just one win by knockout, Silva showcased some pretty decent striking chops against Alcantara. He used lots of head movement and faints to deal with pressure. He has quick hands; throwing a spearing straight right and following up with a left hand- he will also attack the body. He will work his kicks in combination with his boxing and will attempt the odd capoeira technique.

His lack of knockout power is concerning, but he was the busier fighter against Alcantara outlanding him 63-56 and he will have to be against Trinaldo as well.

Silva should have a speed advantage along with superior technique on the feet. He will need to play the role of the matador at least early on and force his opponent to exhaust himself when striking and potentially looking for the takedown. Trinaldo's gas tank is a major concern and he could struggle to keep up with the variety of attacks that Silva offers, so my prediction is Leandro Silva to defeat Francisco Trinaldo by decision.

 

170lbs- Paulo Thiago (15-7-0) vs Sean Spencer (11-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, Paulo Thiago attempts to end his current losing streak when he takes on the scrappy Sean Spencer. Thiago has lost 2 in a row and is just 2-6 over his last 8 appearances. Spencer is 2-2 in the UFC and is coming off of an exciting, but ultimately disappointing bout with Alex Garcia.

Thiago began his UFC career 3-1, but has struggled since. He did win his first 2 UFC bouts fought in Brazil, but has dropped his last two appearances when fighting on home soil.

The outcome of this contest will largely hinge on the Brazilian's ability to bring his grappling skills to bear. He is a Black Belt in both Judo and BJJ and has earned 8 of his 15 wins by submission. In victory, he has succeeded in implementing his grappling attack- scoring a combined 10 takedowns and an impressive submission win over Mike Swick. Unfortunately, he has lost the takedown battle by a combined 11-4 over his 7 losses and hasn't pulled off a submission in 4 years.

Spencer has been taken down several times in his UFC run. He gave up 4 takedowns in his debut against Middleweight Rafael Natal before being submitted and was taken down 8 times by the aforementioned Garcia. He is 2-2 in fights ended by submission. He has also had some success against grappling oriented fighters, stuffing a combined 17 of 18 attempts in his 2 UFC wins. Even when Garcia was able to take him down Spencer was able to get back up quickly nullifying the impact of the takedown.

If Thiago is unable to grapple with consistency he is forced to rely solely on his striking which renders him a far less effective fighter.

Sean relies primarily on his boxing, but did work some decent body kicks into his last fight. He keeps his hands up, chin tucked, attacking from a variety of angles, and augments his attack with solid footwork. He has just a pair of knockouts, but showed decent pop rocking Garcia with a big right hand and follow up head kick.

Spencer has averaged an impressive 4.79 SLpM compared to just 1.64 for his opponent. He should also have the technical advantage over Thiago who's attacks tend to be populated by wide looping hooks. He has topped the century mark in strikes landed in both of his wins and will look for more of the same here.

While Spencer has struggled with talented ground fighters, it is hard to consider Paulo in that category based on recent performances. Spencer did pick up a win in Brazil over Yuri Villefort which is a good experience to build upon, as was his fight with Natal. Spencer's TDD will need to be on point early, but he should be able to defend the majority of what Thiago attempts, tire him out in the process, and carve him up with his striking- my prediction is Sean Spencer to defeat Paulo Thiago by decision.

 

135lbs- Rani Yahya (19-8-0 1NC) vs Johnny Bedford (19-12-1 1NC)

In the Bantamweight division, ‘Brutal’ Johnny Bedford and Rani Yahya revisit their UFN 39 encounter that ended in a No Contest. Bedford has hit a bit of skid of late getting submitted by Bryan Caraway, followed by the No Contest, and then a abrupt knockout loss to underdog Cody Gibson. Prior to his meeting with Bedford, Yahya was out grappled by the debuting Tom Niinimaki in a decision loss.

In their first meeting, Bedford appeared to score a quick knockout, but it was ruled a No Contest (much to his disbelief) after it was determined that the finish came as a result of an inadvertent head-butt.

On the feet, Bedford has 7 wins by knockout, including brutal finishes of Marcos Vinicius and Louis Gaudinot. He averages 5.21 strikes per minute, while getting hit at a rate of just 1.74 per minute, but those numbers have been drastically inflated by the one-sided beatings rendered in his aforementioned knockout wins. Against a more competent opponent in Caraway the tables were turned as Johnny was out-landed 125-59. Against the Brazilian, Bedford should have a marked advantage on the feet.

Yahya has shown improvements in what he can do standing, but his attack is primarily focussed on getting the fight to the floor. While Yahya won’t want to spend much time on the feet, look for Bedford to be far less aggressive coming forward as was the case against Caraway for fear of getting taken down.

Yahya is a second degree BBJ Black belt with 15 of 19 wins coming by submission, while Bedford has been submitted in 9 of his 11 defeats. Johnny is a more then competent grappler; he is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ Brown belt with 8 submission wins of his own. But, he has struggled against opponents who aggressively push a grappling heavy attack. He was taken down 3 times by Caraway prior to the end and has also been submitted by the likes of Daniel Pineda and Dustin Neace twice.

The cardio of Rani is a bit of a concern as he has struggled later in fights, which could create an opening for Bedford to look for a finish. The first fight lasted just 39 seconds, but look for Yahya to have success here getting in on the legs and dragging Bedford to the mat with consistency. Bedford’s defensive difficulties are too much to overlook so my prediction is Rani Yahya to defeat Johnny Bedford by submission.

 

Prelim Predictions

 

155lbs- Al Iaquinta (8-3-1) vs Rodrigo Damm (12-7-0)

Topping off the 4-fight preliminary card is a Lightweight pairing of Al Iaquinta and Rodrigo Damm. Iaquinta was upset in his last fight by Mitch Clarke, ending his 3 fight winning streak. Damm's 2 fight winning streak was also halted in his last fight when he was defeated by Rashid Magomedov.

The first scenario that stands out here is the grappling credentials of Damm and the apparent submission defense issues of Iaquinta. Al has been submitted in all 3 of his defeats- most recently getting caught with an impressive d'arce choke off his back by Clarke. Damm is a BJJ Black belt and former member of the Brazilian National Wrestling team. He has won 6 times by submission, including his promotional debut. Unfortunately, Damm has drifted away from his grappling base in favour of a more striking centric attack.

He has averaged just 0.61 TDs per fight at a 23% completion rate. Even more telling, he has won by submission just one time in his last 13 fights spanning back to mid 2007.

Al has had success from top position, busting up his opponent with strong ground and pound, but considering the grappling acumen of Damm he will need to be careful even after scoring a knock down.

If the fight does remain standing it will favour Iaquinta. Al has demoed a good striking repertoire. He averages 4.37 SLpM. and while he does give up north of 3 to his opposition, the power behind his techniques routinely give him the edge. He will work in some decent kicks, but his boxing is his primary weapon of choice. Throwing hard combos augmented by solid footwork, Iaquinata will also have the speed advantage over Damm.

Rodrigo has been stopped 3 times and appears to be vulnerable to a well timed overhand right. He tries to build his attack around his counter strikes, but tends to wait too much on his opponents and can get outlanded as a result. His biggest weapons are his right hand and some hard leg kicks, but again he needs to throw more strikes to increase his effectiveness.

In Damm's last fight he was facing a dangerous striker and his clear path to victory was his ground game. Unfortunately, he failed to land a single takedown on just 4 attempts and appeared far more willing to stand and trade. That should be the case here as well. Iaquinta is simply the more talented striker with better volume, variety, speed, and power. Al has pretty solid TDD (80%) and he should be able to shutdown any attempt the Damm does throw at him while outclassing him on the feet, so my prediction is Al Iaquinta to defeat Rodrigo Damm by decision.

 

 

185lbs- Rafael Natal (17-6-1) vs Chris Camozzi (19-8-0)

In the Middleweight division a pair of long time UFC vets square off as Rafael Natal makes his 11th UFC appearance against Chris Camozzi who will enter the Octagon for the 10th time. Natal has dropped back to back bouts to Tim Kennedy and Ed Herman, prior to that he had won 3 in a row. Camozzi is currently enduring a 3 fight losing skid that was preceded by 4 straight wins.

This battle pairs up a grappling specialist in Natal who is a BJJ Black belt and 8-0 in fights ended by submission, with the durable Chris Camozzi who doesn't appear to have any one dominant skillset but has found success through his ability to outwork and wear down opponents.

Both men have noteworthy totals in the loss column; Natal has suffered a quartet of knockouts while Camozzi has been submitted 4 times.

Natal lives and dies with his grappling game. He landed a combined 10 takedowns in his wins over Michael Kuiper and Sean Spencer and 5 more in the first two rounds of his draw with Jesse Bongfeldt. He also defeated Tor Troeng in a back and forth ground war largely on his ability to out position Tor. He showed good timing on an early takedown against Ed Herman, but finished the fight just 1 for 6 and was defeated. He has a good submission game, but has just 1 win via tapout in his last 11 fights.

Natal has just 5 total takedowns in his 4 UFC losses, but has completed 16 during the 6 fights where he was not defeated(5-0-1).

Camozzi is a BJJ Brown belt, but is 6-4 in fights ended by submission- suffering UFC subs to Jacare Souza and Kyle Noke. He has yet to land a takedown inside the Octagon, while defending 55% of his opponents's attempts. Camozzi has been taken down a combined 9 times in 5 defeats, but also gave up 8 TDs in his 6 Octagon wins. He does a decent job shutting down his opponent's wrestling, but against Bruno Santos he made a few mistakes which lead directly to takedowns and Camozzi spending significant time on his back. He will need to avoid those issues against Natal.

On the feet, Camozzi has just 5 wins by knockout, but he has never been stopped. He averages 3.84 SLpM, a full 1 strike more per minute then Natal. While Natal does a better job limiting his opponent's landing success, his durability is a major question mark. The Brazilian has been knocked out several times and was getting busted up in the second half of his bout with Ed Herman.

The American will have the better cardio, but will need to thwart the early TDA's. Outside of some leg kicks Natal seemed very focussed on putting Herman on his back and lacked the volume to keep up on the feet. He also struggled with the physicality and brawling nature of 'Short Fuse', something that Camozzi who is the larger man should be able to use as well. The takedowns that Camozzi gave up versus Santos were largely the result of miss-timed knee strikes and the raw power of his opponent, not Natal's forte. Sapo may have success early, but as he slows down look for Camozzi to pile up the damage, so my prediction is Chris Camozzi to defeat Rafael Natal by TKO.

 

 

135lbs- Tateki Matsuda (10-5-0) vs Chris Beal (9-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Chris Beal makes his second UFC appearance when he welcomes Octagon debutant and fellow TUF alumni Tateki Matsuda to the cage. Beal is undefeated and is coming off a spectacular knockout win over Patrick Williams in his debut. Matsuda has won back to back bouts and 4 of his last 6.

Matsuda is stepping up on roughly a week's notice to take fight after Dustin Kimura was forced to withdraw. Tateki will be Beal's third scheduled opponent as he was previously paired up with Rob Font prior to Kimura stepping in.

Both men employ a predominantly striking based attack, focusing specifically on their boxing. Beal has scored 3 wins by knockout along with 6 wins on the scorecards. Matsuda has earned a 4-pack of knockouts, along with 5 decisions, and single submission win coming in his last appearance.

Of the two, Matsuda is the more likely to try and drag this fight to the ground. He scored a couple of nice takedowns in his win over Matt Doherty and maneuvered him into the crucifix position to mount some undefended GNP. Beal was taken down a couple of times by Williams, but did manage to get back to his feet with limit damage. He was also submitted by Chris Holdsworth on TUF, but Matsuda's ground game isn't on that level.

On the feet, Tateki has solid form and can counter strike, showing a pretty quick counter right hand. He has decent
variety, attacking with uppercuts, hooks, and a spearing straight right. He will attack with a low kick, but doesn't deliver it with much power and overall his kicking game is lacking. He has a pretty solid chin and can take a punch, but he appears very hittable as he isn't that quickest and he tends to let his defense slip when he gets into exchanges.

Matsuda's cardio isn't great and he is 5-4 in decision suggesting he has trouble doing enough over a full 15 minutes to convince the judges he was the better fighter.

Landing one of the nicest flying knee knockouts inside the Octagon, Beal made a great first impression. He should have a speed advantage in this bout and while he tends to key on his boxing as well, he appear to be the more diverse fighter throwing more knees and kicks than his counterpart. He did get a little wild in his debut, and got tagged a couple of times but the combination of some debut jitters and the extremely unorthodox striking style of his opponent could account for his defensive lapses.

Matsuda will be making his debut on a week's notice which isn't easy. His willingness to stand and bang will cost him here as Beal should land more frequently and the more impactful strikes. If Matsuda can take him down that would be a huge positive, but look for the short notice to limit his cardio and subsequently his ability to out grapple Beal for prolonged periods of time. Matsuda is a tough out, but my prediction is Chris Beal to defeat Tateki Matsuda by knockout.

 

145lbs- Sean Soriano (8-1-0) vs Chas Skelly (12-1-0)

Lifitng the curtain on the evening's festivities will be Featherweights Sean Soriano and Chas Skelly. Soriano suffered the first loss of his career in his debut against Tatsuya Kawajiri. Skelly evened his UFC record at 1-1 with his first round submission victory over Tom Niinimaki at UFN 49.

Soriano has sat out for roughly 8 months, after he withdrew from his second scheduled UFC appearances last April. So ring rust could be a factor. Conversely, Skelly is stepping in to replace the injured Andre Fili only 2 weeks after defeating Niinimaki.

The majority of Soriano's debut was spent fending off a myriad of takedown attempts by Kawajiri and in the end he stuffed 9 of 12. He was ultimately submitted, but considering he took that fight on short notice and was debuting against a very accomplished wrestler, his ability to shuck off Kawajiri as frequently as he did was impressive. He does have 3 wins by submission and has shown the ability to wrestle in his pre-UFC run, but against Skelly his focus should be on his defensive game.

Soriano had been training his wrestling under Olympic Gold and Silver medalist Kenny Monday before Monday was let go by the Blackzilians.

Skelly was an NAIA All-American wrestler out of Oklahoma State. 7 of his 12 victories have come by way of submission, including a pretty tight rear-naked choke finish Niinimaki. He prefers to operate from top position, smothering his opponent, and he has a solid transition game. In his last win he was able to out-maneuver his foe, fend off an early submission attempt, and eventually negotiate his way to back control. His focus here should be on taking Soriano down and establishing positional dominance to avoid letting his adversary back to his feet.

The biggest issue for Skelly appears when his wrestling/ grappling game is nullified. He went 0-4 in his debut fight and wasn't able to do enough with his striking to pick up the win.

If this fight remains on the feet, Skelly is serviceable but will be severely outgunned. Soriano has just 3 wins by knockout but he packs significant power behind his strikes. He throws very quick and impactful kicks along with dangerous knee strikes both from the clinch and at range. His boxing is clean and crisp, landing solid strikes in succession and is set up with solid footwork and good hand positioning.

The key to this fight will be whether or not Skelly can put Soriano on his back with consistency or at least enough to seal off a submission. Soriano's first career loss should serve as a learning experience and he has had a lot of time to improve on his defensive wrestling during the break. The 2 week turn around for Skelly should have him loose, but a lack of prep time for a tough opponent is a concern. Soriano showed impressive defensive work against Kawajiri and will meld that here with his superior striking game, so my prediction is Sean Soriano to defeat Chas Skelly by decision.

 

Prelim Predictions

 

185lbs- Lorenz Larkin (14-3-0 1NC) vs Derek Brunson (11-3-0)

Toping the list of the five fight undercard portion of the show, a pair of former Strikeforce competitors go head to head as Lorenz Larkin fights Derek Brunson. Larkin has dropped 2 in a row and 3 of 4 since making the jump. Brunson lost his last fight in comeback fashion to Yoel Romero, ending his 2 fight winning streak.

This bout was originally scheduled for UFC 176, so both men have had slightly elongated camps in preparation. Brunson has been out of action since January 15th, a 7 month layoff, Larkin fought on the same card and has fought once since back in May.

While Brunson has improved his striking, he is still a wrestler at his core and would be better served to take Larkin down. Conversely, Larkin comes from a kickboxing background and will build his offensive and defensive strategies around keeping this fight vertical. Larking averages 3.09 SLpM while limiting his opponents to a shade over 2.5. He has 8 wins by knockout, but none since a 2011 stoppage of Scott Lighty in his Strikeforce debut. He throws a variety of kicking techniques, his hands are solid, and he will mix in some knees and elbows.

Two points of concern for Lorenz are his chin and his willingness to pull the trigger. Against Brad Tavares, Larkin routinely let him land first and seemed hesitant to engage at times. When he did open up later in the fight he was clearly the better striker. He is also coming off a knockout loss, unofficially the second of his career (Mo Lawal KO turned NC), and he was also wobbled early in the Robbie Lawler fight.

Brunson throws a left jab and step in power right hand combo, which he tends to telegraph a little. He does have some power with 4 wins by knockout, but has also been stopped twice. His kicking game is serviceable, throwing multiple low kicks and he cracked Yoel Romero with a thudding head kick. His success against Romero came mainly on his ability to outwork Yoel, landing more strikes and taking advantages of Romero's relaxed defensive style. Brunson will need to be wary of Larkin's quick straight right as he stands in the Southpaw stance which can leave him open to strikes from that side.

A 3-time Division 3 All-American, Brunson has averaged 4.01 TDs per fight at a completion rate of 4.01. He impressed many by taking down a Olympic Silver medalist in Romero 3 times on just 5 attempts, even mounting him at one point. He will almost certainly be looking to take Larkin off his feet, but that could be easier said then down. Lorenz has shown excellent balance, stuffing 79% of his opponents' attempts, and while he is far from perfect defensively he will force Brunson to work hard to secure a takedown.

Both men are flawed, Brunson's defensive striking and cardio and Larkin's chin and mental lapses have cost them. Larkin will be fighting for his UFC career here and desperation should serve to motivate him. Brunson could be dealing with some ring rust after a longer then normal break. Brunson looked much improved versus Romero and his ability to push the pace will make it difficult for Larkin to settle in. In addition, the constant threat of the takedown will inhibit his kicking arsenal, so my prediction is Derek Brunson to defeat Lorenz Larkin by decision.

 

 

125lbs- Scott Jorgensen (15-9-0) vs Henry Cejudo (6-0-0)

In the Flyweight division, long time UFC and WEC veteran Scott Jorgensen battles UFC newcomer and Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo. Jorgensen is coming off a must needed win over Danny Martinez, he had previously lost 3 in a row and 5 of 6. Cejudo has yet to taste defeat in his young MMA career, earning his last 2 wins under the Legacy FC banner.

Since making the transition to MMA, Cejudo hasn't lost but has faced some questionable competition. His last 2 opponents combine for a respectable record of 10-6, but going back just 2 fights earlier he faced a pair of adversaries who currently sit with just 4 wins and 21 total losses. Conversely, Scott Jorgensen has faced elite competition at both 125 and 135 pounds.

Cejudo won a Gold medal at the 2008 Bejing Olympics in Freestyle wrestling, he also captured Gold at the 2007 PAN AM games. Scotty was an NCAA Division 1 wrestler and 3-time PAC 10 champion. In most fights Jorgensen's wrestling credentials are more then enough to give him the edge, that won't be the case here.

The WEC alumni is a BJJ Pruple belt, averages 2.43 takedowns at a 46% completion rate and is coming off impressive 10 takedown performance. He has defended a respectable 59% of his opponent's tries over his career, but it has been his defensive game that has been his undoing of late. He has been submitted in 2 of his last 3 losses and gave up a total of 10 takedowns against Urijah Faber and Zach Makovsky while landing just 2 of his own.

Cejudo has a very good takedown game, using a variety of techniques including a very deceptive body lock/ trip combination. He has a solid top game, controlling his opponent while looking to advance his position. His ground and pound is good and he has just a single submission win that came via punches. While he has yet to face anyone of Jorgensen's caliber, Scotty's recent struggles with less accomplished wrestlers suggests that the Olympian will be the superior ground fighter.

On the feet, Scotty has scored a pair of wins by knockout and while he has only been knocked out once his chin appears to be failing. Eddie Wineland was the only one to finish him but both Makovsky and Danny Martinez were able to hurt him. He also suffered a knockout down via head butt against Jussier Formiga. Cejudo is still working on his striking, but is very quick, throws solid high and body kicks, and will land some nasty elbows in close.

Jorgensen is step up from anything that Cejudo has faced in his career, but he is catching Scotty at the right time. Jorgensen has looked like a shell of his former self and has struggled mightily since cutting to Flyweight. Cejudo will be the better wrestler which will take away Scotty's greatest asset and Jorgensen is vulnerable on the feet, so my prediction is Henry Cejudo to defeat Scott Jorgensen by knockout.

 

 

265lbs- Ruan Potts (8-2-0) vs Anthony Hamilton (12-3-0)

In the Heavyweight division a pair of 0-1 UFC combatants collide as Ruan Potts fights Anthony Hamilton. Potts's debut lasted just 140 seconds before he was separated from his consciousness by Soa Palelei. Hamilton didn't fair any better at 138 seconds- with his night ending via submission against Alexey Oleinik.

As is frequently the case, there are some sizeable physical advantages in this fight, favouring the American. Hamilton will stand 3" taller then his opponent with a 10-15 pound weight advantage as well.

In the win column, Hamilton has won 6 of his 12 fights by either KO or TKO. He also has 5 decisions and just a single submission win. Potts has been career finisher, ending all 8 of his wins inside the distance- an even split between knockouts and submissions. Potts has 6 first round finishes, only going beyond the first frame 3 times. He has fought and lost a 5 round decision. Hamilton has 4 first frame victories, but is 8-0 in fights that go beyond the opening 5 minutes including a 5 round decision victory over TUF alumni Darrill Schoonover.

Hamilton comes from a collegiate wrestling background and relies on a variety of takedown techniques from the clinch. He has heavy ground and pound, but his top game isn’t as smothering as his size would suggest. He had some difficulty maintaining control over the much smaller Smealinho Rama, who was able to push Hamilton off of him from full mount position.

Potts is a grappling based fighter. He will pull guard when attempting to get the fight on the floor. He will also use judo style trips and throws after establish control over his opponent. On the mat, he will work to advance beyond the guard, while landing some decent GNP and looking for sub opportunities. He did get stopped on the mat by Soa and had some difficulties earlier in his career in a fight where he took a lot of damage from that position before rallying for the win.

When Ruan is forced to remain on the feet he isn't overally fleet of foot, tending to plod forward when engaging. He will throw kicks, but for the most part is not very smooth and a little awkward. 'Freight Train' trains out of Jackson-Winklejohns and has been developing his striking skills alongside fellow UFC heavy Travis Browne. He didn't get to showcase much of his striking in his debut, but his head kick knockout to capture the MFC title was impressive and he does have some decent kicking techniques. He can also do damage in close with short range punches and elbow strikes.

Overall, Hamilton has faced better competition, especially considering that prior to his Octagon debut Potts had fought his entire career in the still developing South African MMA scene. He is also training out of a much better camp. His cardio isn't great, but it would appear to better and he should be able to use his wrestling and size to dictate the flow of the fight. Neither had a great first showing, but Hamilton gets things going here so my prediction is Anthony Hamilton to defeat Ruan Potts by TKO.

 

135lbs- Joe Soto (15-2-0) vs Anthony Birchak (11-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division former Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Soto makes his UFC debut against fellow newcomer Anthony Birchak. Soto is currently riding a 6 fight winning streak and Birchak has defeated his last 5 adversaries.

This bout is a battle of champions as Soto is the current holder of the Tachi Palace Fights Bantamweight title and Birchak was the Maximum Fight Championships title holder before his exit from the promotion.

Both men are ground based fighter and have combined 14 submission wins. Each fighter comes from a Collegiate wrestling back and has transitioned those skills to very good ground game. There is always the possibility in a bout this like this that their respective ground games could cancel each other out and lead to a primarily striking based fight.

Birchak likes to pursue the single leg with aggression, quickly latching on and turning the corner. On the mat he doesn't waste much time advancing his position while dropping some solid GNP. He will also chain submission attempts together and simply wore out current UFC Flyweight Ryan Benoit with his smothering top game. His aggression does create opening and has cost him his positional advantage, but he is also an excellent scrambler and more then capable of regaining a dominant position.

The Bellator vet mixes his techniques up a little better between single and double leg attacks. He has a quick shot and does a good job of timing his opponent's forward push before making a level change. He has a strong transition game and relies on his ability to outwork opponents leading to either a win by tapout or decision. Soto showed good defensive wrestling shutting down the grappling game of Wilson Reis when they met in Bellator, but he was submitted by former UFC fighter Eddie Yagin back in 2011.

If this fight is determined on the feet both men are far from perfect. Birchak has a tendency to be a little over aggressive, much like with his grappling, and that can leave openings in his defense. He likes to push the pace on the feet, batter his opponent especially at close range and he will lock up a Thai clinch to land knee strikes. Soto will have to be careful in tight as he likes to cover up when under attack, ride out the storm, and then reset. This would allow Birchak to further unload, especially with his knees fro the clinch.

Both guys are good on the ground, but Birchak's aggression should be the deciding factor no matter where this fight plays out. He will need to be careful not to lose position against a seasoned vet like Soto, but look or him to carry a higher work rate and do more damage as a result so my prediction is Anthony Birchak to defeat Joe Soto by decision.

 

 

155lbs- Chris Wade (7-1-0) vs Cain Carrizosa (6-0-0)

To open the night two more UFC debutants square off as Chris Wade takes on Cain Carrizosa. Wade has won back to back fights after a loss to Ozzy Dugulubgov at WSOF 2. Carrizosa is undefeated through his first 6 pro bouts finishing each of his last 2 foes inside the distance- one by submission and one by knockout.

Neither fighter has broached the double digit mark in total fights and the impact of a UFC debut can be difficult on even the most seasoned veteran.

Wade has yet to score a win via knockout, with 2 submission and 5 decisions on record. He is a competent kickboxer and can work from range but as his record would indicate doesn't offer a tonne of power. He was a D-III All-American wrestling and has a pretty solid positional game once he is able to drag his opponent to the mat. He doesn't do anything too flashy from top position and could benefit from increasing his activity.

There isn't much recent footage of Carrizosa's game, so it is hard to anticipate what he will bring to the cage. He is aggressive on the feet, but lacks significant technical refinement. The majority of his stand-up is centered around closing the distance and setting up his grappling game. He is also quite aggressive on the mat, staying active with his transition game, but it can cost him positional control.

If Carrizosa's aggression can overwhelm Wade that will be his ticket to success, but Wade's focus on positional control will weigh heavily with the judges especially if he can stifle Cain's grappling attack. The lack of footage on Cain brings into question his development, but Wade has fought better competition and trains alongside the likes of Dennis Bermudez and Ryan LaFlare who are both currently hitting their stride in a big way, so my prediction is Chris Wade to defeat Cain Carrizosa by decision.

 

Prelim Predictions

 

170lbs- Wang Sai (7-5-1) vs Danny Mitchell (14-5-1)

Headlining the undercard portion of the early show, TUF China Finalist Wang Sai battles British submission specialist Danny Mitchell in the Welterweight division. Sai lost his debut in the tournament finals and has alternated wins and losses over his last 7 bouts. Mitchell dropped his UFC debut against Igor Araujo, previously he had won 5 of 6 with his only loss during that span coming against Kendall Grove.

This fight will be Sai's first fight outside the parameters of the TUF tournament and will pit him against a more experienced foe both in quality and quantity of competition. For Mitchell, he does hold wins over former UFC employee Besam Yousef and current roster member Nico Musoke. He has also faced and lost to the aforementioned Araujo, Grove, and Gunnar Nelson, along with a 2011 draw versus Cathal Pendred.

Mitchell is a very unorthodox grappler. He has secured 9 of his 14 wins by submission and is more then willing to pull guard to set up his attack. His win over Musoke was the product of a continuous pursuit of submissions that simply overwhelmed his opponent until he could no longer defend and succumb to an armbar. Sai's undoing in his first UFC fight was his defensive grappling. He was taken down 4 times and spent the majority of the action on the defensive. While he did have some success executing a couple reversals and outlanded his opponent overall, he was clearly undone by a lesser grappler then he will be pitted with here.

Mitchell will want to avoid routinely giving up position by pulling guard, but his ability to chain submissions together will simply be too much for his opponent, so my prediction is Danny Mitchell to defeat Wang Sai by submission.

 

 

170lbs- Alberto Mina (10-0-0) vs Shinsho Anzai (8-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, a pair of UFC newcomers square off as Alberto Mina meets Shinsho Anzai. Mina is undefeated through the first 10 fights of his career, while Anzai has won 6 in a row.

Mina is a both a BJJ and Judo black belt with 6 of 10 wins by submission. He has a smooth, but aggressive transition game with all 6 of his submission victories coming inside the first round. Mina also scored an impressive first round stoppage of Glenn Sparv in his final pre-UFC tune-up fight and has 4 wins by knockout on record. Conversely, Anzai has won 6 times by knockout along with a pair of decision wins. Despite his lack of submission finishes, he has a decent wrestling base and competed in the 2013 ADCCs.

Anzai formerly competed at Middleweight and will be making his Welterweight debut in this bout. While he is cutting down from a heavier weightclass, he will be giving up 5" of height to Mina. He is also competing on just 2 weeks notice after replacing the injured Sheldon Westcott which is another major concern. For Mina, he is coming of a significant break having sat out since last September, so their is a real possibility for some ring rust.

Mina has only gone beyond the first round twice and having never tasted defeat there is a bit of a question mark regarding how he will deal with adversity if he is unable to put his opponent away early. Anzai's defensive wrestling will do enough to prevent Mina from using his grappling and put himself in a position to land heavy leather so my prediction is Shinsho Anzai to defeat Alberto Mina by TKO.

 

 

135lbs- Roland Delorme (9-3-0 1NC) vs Yuta Sasaki (17-1-2)

In the Featherweight division, Canadian Roland Delorme looks to snap a mini 2 fight losing streak when he welcomes Yuta Sasaki to the Octagon for the first time. Delorme has dropped back to back bouts to Alex Caceres and Michinori Tanaka- both by decision. Sasaki has failed to win just one fight in his last 11- a 2012 draw against Manabu Inoue.

Delorme is a BJJ Brown belt and Judo Black belt. He has won 6 of his 9 fights by submission, including wins over Josh Ferguson and Nick Denis to start his Octagon run. He has averaged 2.55 takedowns at 34% completion rate. Unfortunately, his undoing has been his defensive wrestling. Overall, he has stopped just 33% of his opponent's tries and has been severely out grappled in each of his last 2 fights. Sasaki's submission numbers are solid with 8 wins by tapout, including 3 of his last 4 victories. 7 of his 8 wins have come via rear-naked choke, which is a solid indication of a dangerous back mount. He has also secured multiple grappling based decisions, demoing solid top control while competing under the Shooto banner.

On the feet, Delorme doesn't get a lot of credit for his striking capabilities, employing short crisp strikes and using a mainly simple but effective arsenal. He hurt Denis prior to submitting him and landed some decent shots against Caceres. Unfortunately, his inability to keep fights standing have made it difficult for him to utilize his striking game.

There is limit footage of Sasaki available, but his resume is strong and he appears to fit the mold of the type of fighter that Delorme has struggled with in recent outings. When Delorme is unable to put his opponent away he is 1-3 and has shown signs of tiring when forced to continually defend on the mat. Fighting overseas in a significantly different time zone will further compromise Roland's physical capabilities, so my prediction is Yuta Sasaki to defeat Roland Delorme by decision.

 

135lbs- Royston Wee (3-0-0) vs Zhuikui Yao (1-2-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Royston Wee makes his second UFC appearance against TUF China alumni Zhuikui Yao. Wee took a 3 round decision from Dave Galera in his first promotional outing, while Yao advanced to the semi-finals of his TUF tournament but no further.

Both men are extremely inexperienced, but Wee does have the valuable first Octagon appearance under his belt and Yao's time on the show is also solid. So it is not as bad as it looks on paper.

This fight should be dictated by who can control their opponent on the mat. Wee took a pair of first round submissions to start his career and won his debut on the basis of a strong ground attack. He completed 6 of 7 takedowns and held a stout top position for the majority of the fight, fending off his opponent's attacks from guard. Yao's only pro win was a 37 second arm triangle, but he struggled tremendously in his TUF China semi-final bout with the grappling attack of his adversary. While that bout took place at a heavier weight class it still offered some insight into the potential shortcomings of the Chinese fighter.

There is always the potential for an extreme improvement on Yao's behalf with the layoff between his time on the Ultimate Fighter and his official debut. Yao will have home field advantage, but making his UFC debut in just his third pro fight will be tough and all indications are Wee should have the grappling advantage so my prediction is Royston Wee to defeat Zhuikui Yao by decision.

 

135lbs- Elizabeth Phillips (4-2-0) vs Milana Dudieva (10-3-0)

The earliest fight on the early card will pit a pair of Bantamweight women head to head as Elizabeth Phillips makes her second UFC appearance against promotional debutant Milana Dudieva. Phillips dropped her debut fight to Valerie Letourneau as a late notice injury replacement for Dudieva. Dudieva has won back to back bouts after going 0-2 in all of 2013.

Both fighters build their respective attacks off of their grappling games, but are vastly different in how they find success. Phillips's is a top position grinder, looking to put her opponent on the mat, hold her there, and break her down with pressure and GnP. Conversely, Dudieva is more of a risk taker and will routinely give up position in pursuit of a submission opportunity. She has 6 wins by tapout, but if she is unable to secure the hold her opponents have had success taking advantage of the positional deficit she puts herself in. Both of her recent losses followed this pattern; a submission defeat against Jessica Andrade and a decision loss to Pannie Kianzad where she attempted subs but couldn't get anything to stick and was subsequently force to defend off her back. She has been submitted twice.

On the feet, neither girl is overly flashy. Dudieva likes to counter and keep her attacks simple and sometimes a little to sparse. Philips showed some decent pop, swelling up the eye of Letourneau, but much like her opponent isn't going to overwhelm anyone with her striking technique.

Phillips's cardio looked a little weak in her debut, but she was taking the fight on short notice. Similarly, Dudieva has also appeared to slow down in longer bouts and she is also making her debut which can further complicate matters. Phillips should be the more physical of the two ladies and if she can survive the early submission attempts her grinding wrestling game should put her at a positional advantage during large portions of the fight so my prediction is Elizabeth Phillips to defeat Milana Dudieva by decision.

 

Prelim Predictions

 

170lbs- Neil Magny (11-4-0) vs Alex Garcia (12-1-0)

Headlining the UFN 49 preliminary card, Neil Magny takes on Alex Garcia in the Welterweight division. Garcia is 2-0 in the UFC and has won 6 in a row overall. Magny has picked up a trio of victories after ending a 2 fight losing skid, he is 4-2 inside the Octagon.

Physically, Magny will stand 6" taller then Garcia and have a sizeable 9" reach advantage.

Garcia is a physical powerhouse. He has a vicious top game and can do some significant damage on the feet as was the case in his promotional debut against Ben Wall. Garcia has split his 10 finishes evenly between submissions and knockouts. So not only can he pound you out, he is more then capable of tapping his opponents as well. Against Sean Spencer he landed 8 takedowns and will look to do the same against Magny. Neil has been submitted twice and didn't offer much off back in his decision loss against Seth Baczynski.

Magny does have a 72% TDD and has proven difficult to takedown at times using a wide base and strong underhooks to thwart of his foes' TDAs. Magny's offensive wrestling could also come into effect here, but most likely not until later in the fight if Garcia starts to tire out.

The successful utilization of Magny's aforementioned length advantage will be essential to his success. He has really amped up his ability to work from distance and keep his opponents on the outside in recent bouts. He throws nice long strikes, and posses a decent kicking game. His strikes landed to strikes absorbed ratio is fantastic as he connects on almost 1.5 more strikers per minute then his opposition is able to land. If he is unable to keep Garcia on the outside he could find it difficult to maintain those numbers. But, when Garcia is closing the distance he will have to be careful not to get clipped with well timed counters or caught with a reactionary takedown attempt.

If Garcia can establish top control with regularity this is his fight to win, but the massive reach advantage, improved distance striking, and questionable cardio of the Dominican Republic native will make this difficult. 9 of Garcia's 12 wins have come inside the first 5 minutes and he is known to fade in longer fight. If Magny can survive the early onslaught he should find a lot of success picking apart his opponent as he slows down and possibly even put Alex on his back a couple of key times, so my prediction is Neil Magny to defeat Alex Garcia by decision.

 

 

155lbs- Beneil Dariush (7-1-0) vs Tony Martin (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Tony Martin makes his second Octagon appearance when he battles Beneil Dariush who will enter the cage for the third time. Martin suffered the first loss of his pro career in his debut when he lost a decision to Rashid Magomedov, while Dariush is also coming his first career setback- a first round knockout at the hands of Ramsey Nijem.

Martin has a variety of submissions in his arsenal, but he appears to prefer to attack the arms. His most recent win came by Keylock and he also has two tapouts via Kimura on his record. Adding to that theory, He nearly broke Magomedov's arm with a nasty armbar, but was unable to finish. With 6 of 8 wins by submission, he is an active top game player with a tight body on body approach and he can also attack off his back if the situation calls for it.

A Kings MMA product, Dariush has decent grappling skills of his own. He has 4 wins by submission, including his first round rear naked choke victory over Charlie Brenneman. He was able to quickly jump on Brenneman and swiftly secure the submission- his second win y RNC. While Dariush is more then capable on the mat, he will struggle to get the much larger and more physically gifted Martin into a position where he can use those skills.

Martin did fade in his debut, which could be attributed to some Octagon jitters. He does have a pair of decision wins and a third round submission victory that would suggest he is capable of carrying a strong performance beyond the opening frame. Look for Martin to be far more comfortable the second time around and while this fight could spend some time on the feet, it will most likely be decided on the mat. Martin will use his size and smothering top game to control his opponent and set up possible submission opportunities, so my prediction is Tony Martin to defeat Beneil Dariush by submission.

 

135lbs- Aaron Phillips (8-1-0) vs Matt Hobar (8-2-0)

In the Bantamweight division, a pair of UFC sophomores clash as Aaron Phillips faces Matt Hobar. Hobar failed to escape the first round of his debut against Pedro Munhoz, while Phillips lost a 3 round decisions to Sam Sicilia.

Phillips made his debut as a Featherweight, but will be making his 135 pound debut in this contest.

This fight should stack up as the typical striker versus grappler matchup. Phillips comes from a Taekwondo background, while Hobar builds his attack off his wrestling game. Interestingly enough, both fighters lost their last bouts in the same manner that their opponent in this fight will be looking to replicate.

Hobar has a solid wrestling game, good top control, and has secured a quartet of wins by submission. Phillips is a BJJ Blue belt, training under Tim Creuder and also works alongside a very good ground fighter in Dustin Poirier. He was taken down 5 times by Sicilia and despite a few sub attempts and reversals- he was positionally outdone by his foe. If Hobar can land takedowns with regularity it will nullify his opponent's striking game and score points with the judges.

For Phillips, he has scored knockouts in 3 of his 5 wins. He also picked up a first round knock down against Sicilia and landed several nice kicks to the body and worked in some stiff knee strikes. His hands are solid as well and overall he is a pretty diversified striker. In Hobar's debut he was stunned early by his opponent, then hurt by a couple stiff jabs, and eventually finished by on the mat.

Phillips made some positional mistakes against Sicilia that negated any success he was able to find on the mat. He can't afford to repeat such mistakes here. A second UFC fight should create a rise in comfort level and cutting down to 135 will help him in the physical matchup. His footwork and kicking skills will allow him to maintain distance against Hobar and outland him as he tries to close the gap, so my prediction is Aaron Phillips to defeat Matt Hobar by knockout.

 

 

170lbs- Ben Saunders (16-6-2) vs Chris Heatherly (8-1-0 1NC)

Ben Saunders makes his return to the UFC's Welterweight division when he battles promotional newcomer Chris Heatherly. Saunders is coming off a knockout loss against Douglas Lima and prior to that he was a staple of Bellator's 170 pound division compiling a 7-3 record. Heatherly has won 3 of his last 4 with the only non-victory in that run a No Contest against Chidi Njokunai.

Saunders hasn't competed in almost a year and some are questioning his chin after the third knockout loss of his career. To put things in perspective 2 of the 3 stoppages came against an incredibly dangerous and thunderous striker in the aforementioned Douglas Lima. Fortunately for Saunders, he isn't faced with such a opponent in his Octagon return.

The UFC newcomer comes from a wrestling background and has 4 wins by submission. His top position grappling is his forte and he will be looking to take Saunders down and grind his way to victory. If 'Stump' is able to take Saunders of his feet he will need to be very careful of the aggressive submission game of 'Killa B' who is a BJJ Black belt with 5 wins by submission.

Standing, the advantage should shift to the UFC and Bellator vet. He will stand 7" taller then his opponent, which should equate to a significant length advantage. Saunders will do some damage from distance and if/when Heatherly tries to close the gap he will then be confronted with an incredibly dangerous clinch game. Saunders can do a lot o damage in close with his knees and elbows. He has 8 wins by knockout, including a vicious knee strike stoppage of the then concrete chined Marcus Davis.

Heatherly's overall MMA game is pretty undeveloped and despite his experience against the likes of Alex Garcia and Dakota Cochrane, he will be in over his head against Saunders. Heatherly's only saving grace will be his wrestling and that will require picture perfect top control for the full duration of the bout. Saunders is the more well rounded and accomplished fighter, so my prediction is Ben Saunders to defeat Chris Heatherly by TKO.

 

 

125lbs- Wilson Reis (17-5-0) vs Joby Sanchez (6-0-0)

In the Flyweight division, Wilson Reis makes his divisional debut against injury replacement and promotional debutant Joby Sanchez. Reis's 5 fight winning streak was snapped in a competitive battle with Yuri Alcantara, while Sanchez is undefeated through his first 6 pro bouts.

Sanchez is filling in for the injured Tim Elliott, filling in on just a couple weeks notice.

Reis is a talented grappler, with submissions accounting for 8 of his 17 wins. His ability to control and out grapple two excellent mat technicians in Ivan Menjivar and Yuri Alcantara is a testament to just how good he is on the mat. He landed 4 of 6 takedowns against Menjivar, but even more impressive was his ability to out position and get the better of Alcantara. His striking is serviceable, but his attack is almost entirely centered around putting his opponent's back on the mat.

A Jackson/ WinkleJohn product, Sanchez is a striking based fighter, but has split his 6 victories evenly between knockouts and submissions. His most recent and most high profile victory came over former WEC and UFC fighter Antonio Banuelos. He put a steady beating on Banuelos for a round and a half resulting in his corner eventually calling a stop to the fight. He has some pop in his right hand, will mix in his elbow strikes, and can land a nice stepping knee.

For Sanchez to be successful, he will need to keep Reis vertical and look to test a chin that has been cracked twice- by Bellator's Bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas and top Featherweight contender Patricio Freire.

The cut to 125 pounds is a bit of a concern for Reis, because his cardio wasn't that great to start with. He isn't a huge fighter to start with standing just 5'4" which should help him when getting down to the divisional limit. If Sanchez can keep this fight standing he could score a knockout, but the men that stopped Reis previously were considerably larger and presumably packed a larger punch then Joby. Sanchez is relatively inexperience and is making his debut on short notice against a fighter who will simply be too much for him on the mat so my prediction is Wilson Reis to defeat Joby Sanchez by submission.

 

145lbs- Max Holloway (9-3-0) vs Clay Collard (13-4-0 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, Max Holloway shifts his attention away from Mirsad Bektic following his injury and now prepares for his 9th UFC fight when he meets promotional newcomer Clay Collard. Holloway has won back to back bouts, while Collard is riding a 3 fight winning streak.

Holloway is an exceptionally talented striker with a variety of weapons at his disposal. He utilizes his length exceptionally well and has excellent distance management. He has very good timing on his counters and will go to the body with a variety of strikes including a nasty turning side kick. Additionally, he is a high volume striker and is able to maintain his pace from bell to bell. He has just 3 wins by knockout, but has shown improving power in recent outings.

Collard has won 8 times by knockout and is more of a brawler then a technician. In his first meeting with former UFC fighter Justin Buchholz, he hurt his opponent several times and had him on the edge of defeat before getting stunned with a head kick and submitted in the final round. He has good power, but his willingness to relentlessly engage leaves him open to counters and can overtax his cardio in longer fights.

The UFC newcomer doesn't appear to possess a good enough wrestling skill set to threaten Holloway which has been his undoing in pervious fights. He has also been submitted twice which is an area that Max could look to exploit as he tries to further establish his own grappling game.

Unless Collard is able to land a big strike early, Holloway's more refined striking repertoire, movement, and ability to manage distance will negate anything that Clay can offer him on the feet. Holloway pick him apart as he comes forward, wear Collard out as he tries to chase him down, and attack the body with significant success, so my prediction is Max Hollaway to defeat Clay Collard by TKO.

 

Prelim Predictions

 

125lbs- #6 Jussier Formiga (16-3-0) vs #9 Zach Makovsky (18-4-0)

 

Headlining the preliminary segment of the card, top 10 ranked Jussier Formiga and Zach Makovsky face off in a pivotal bout that could determine a future title contender. Formiga has alternated wins and losses over his first four UFC bouts, defeating current title challenger Chris Cariaso and Scott Jorgensen. Makovsky has won his first two Octagon showings, taking decisions over Jorgensen and Josh Sampo.

 

Makovsky is a former Bellator Bantamweight champion, defeating Ed West in the finals of the Season 3 Tournament to capture the title. After 2 non-title wins, he lost his first fight with the belt on the line against current champion Eduardo Dantas. He is 4-0 since cutting to 125 pounds.

 

Both men are ground specialists- Formiga a BJJ Black belt and Makovsky a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler.

 

Formiga has won 8 times by submission with zero defeats. He has a dangerous back mount, demonstrated by his 6 wins by rear naked choke, including the aforementioned Jorgensen. He has also racked up several ground based decision wins and is 8-1 when the fight goes the distance. His other UFC triumph included 4 takedowns and several prolonged periods of control on the mat where he used a slick transition game and solid top control.

 

Unfortunately, when Jussier is unable to find consistent success with his grappling he is far less effective. He was unable to even attempt a takedown against Joseph Benavidez and went 0 for 5 against John Dodson, getting knocked out in both. After a strong first round by the Brazilian, Ian McCall was also able to mute his ground game accounting for his other career defeat.

 

'Fun Size' hasn't been quite as dominant with his submission game, currently holding a 6-3 record in fights ended by submission. He was submitted by Jussier's campmate Eduardo Dantas and current UFC roster member Wilson Reis- both at Bantamweight. Where he really strives is in his ability to dominate his opponent positionally and grind out decision wins. He is 11-1 in fights that go the distance. His takedown game is incredibly strong, with 11 completions in his first 2 UFC bouts against 2 good wrestlers. His transition game is equally as good, as he works to advance his position quickly after the fight hits the mat. Watch for him to move into side control during his takedowns, making him even harder to defend against.

 

He is equally difficult to takedown, defending 4 of Jorgensen's 5 TDA's. He is also quite capable of orchestrating sweeps off his back and usually comes out of a scramble with the superior position. That being said, he doesn't want to spend too much time attempting to counter or sweep Formiga.

 

On the feet, neither man has exceptional numbers. Jussier is devoid of a win by knockout and as already mention has been put down twice. Makovsky has yet to be knocked out and earned his only stoppage win over Chad Robichaux at Bellator 41.

 

Training out of Nova Uniao, Jussier has been making strides with his striking. Improving his distance work, including a decent kicking game- but the end goal is still to close the distance and drag his opponent to the mat. For Makovsky, his technical striking is solid. He landed several hard shots against Jorgensen, some of which appeared to stun him. He mixes up his attacks well between his kicks and punches, including a slick superman punch kick combination.

 

This is Makovsky's biggest challenge since cutting to 125 pounds. Although, short of a mistake (or errant head-butt) his counter wrestling should be more then enough to keep Jussier away from his greatest strength. If that is the case, Formiga's ability to win is greatly diminished. Zach will land the better quality and more frequent strikes and could try to incorporate his ground attack later in the bout if Jussier appears to be slowing down, so my prediction is Zach Makovsky to defeat Jussier Formiga by decision.

 

135lbs- #4 Sara McMann (7-1-0) vs Lauren Murphy (8-0-0)

 

In the Women's Bantamweight division, former title challenger Sara McMann welcomes UFC debutant and the undefeated Lauren Murphy to the Octagon. McMann suffered the first loss of her career against divisional Champion Ronda Rousey and is 1-1 in the UFC. Murphy is coming off an impressive 3-0 run under the Invicta FC banner.

 

Both women are coming off title fights; Lauren Murphy captured the Invicta FC Bantamweight title by defeating Miriam Nakamoto and McMann dropped her aforementioned meeting with Rousey. McMann will need to avoid the post-title fight letdown that has the potential to negatively impact her performance.

 

Murphy has collected some pretty decent wins, decisioning both Sarah D'Alelio and Kaitlin Young and scoring an injury-based TKO win over Nakamoto. When she won the title she appeared to be picking up steam in the second half of the fight, but wasn't having that much success early on and was most likely behind on the scorecards.

 

With a mix of Boxing and BJJ, Murphy is durable and very gritty fighter. She uses a lot of movement on the feet, looking to stick and move, land and get out. She has won 6 times by knockout, including a blood smeared TKO victory in Legacy FC, where she battered her opponent with vicious elbows prior to the finish. She does her best work from top position, landing strikes and looking for possible submission opportunities, but she could be hard-pressed to put McMann in that position.

 

McMann's pedigree is well known. Her countless wrestling and grappling accolades, highlighted by her 2004 Olympic Silver Medal in Freestyle wrestling is the groundwork that she builds her MMA game upon.

 

She quickly tore through her first UFC opponent, landing a pair of takedowns and eventually working her way into the crucifix position for a series of unanswered strikes. She has landed 28 takedowns over her last 5 bouts at an 80% completion rate. Not only are her takedowns difficult to defend, she is equally has hard to shake off once she establishes top position. She has solid top control and has an improving submission game to further augment her ground effectiveness.

 

On the feet, McMann has been working to round out her game, but her title fight loss could have potentially exposed a weakness. Rousey landed a pretty stiff knee to the body that sent her crumbling to the mat and much like a fading chin, a 'glass' body can be difficult to overcome. One stoppage is far from an indication of a major vulnerability, but it creates a target. Murphy isn't a dynamic striker, but look for her to launch a series of strikes to Sara's midsection and try to revisit that potential area of concern.

 

Murphy is durable and not an easy out, but her success seems predicated on her ability to out grapple her opponent. That won't be easy against an Olympic caliber wrestler. She had trouble taking Nakamoto down, and she will here as well. Look for McMann to dominate with a wrestling based attack, so my prediction is Sara McMann to defeat Lauren Murphy by decision.

 

 

185lbs- T0m Watson (16-7-0) vs Sam Alvey (23-5-0 1NC)

 

In the Middleweight division, Tom 'Kong' Watson battles UFC debutant Sam 'Smilin' Alvey. Watson has lost 2 in a row and 3 of his 4 Octagon appearances. Alvey has won 4 in a row and 6 of his last 7. This is a battle of 2 former Middleweight champions, as Alvey recently captured the MFC title and Watson won and successfully defended the BAMMA strap on multiple occasions prior to joining the UFC. Alvey was a member of Team Carwin, on the Ultimate Fighter, competing as a Welterweight. Unfortunately, the cut was too much for him and he failed to make it beyond the first round once entering the house. With a combined 22 knockouts (Alvey 14 & Watson 8), both men know how to finish. Conversely, despite their pension for a career built on standing and banging, neither man has suffered a knockout defeat. In fact, both men have incredibly similar records with a minimal number of fights ending by submission and almost identical records when the fights go to the scorecards (Alvey 7-4 & Watson 7-5). 'Kong' is the more diverse striker utilizing a kickboxing based attack, compared to Alvey who is more of a boxer. Watson landed some decent leg strikes against Nick Catone and implemented a strong clinch based attack against Stanislav Nedkov. Watson landed vicious knees and elbows to the head and hard body shots in shutting down Nedkov and could look to implement a similar approach against Alvey, who has had problems with getting pinned on the cage. Alvey, while mainly a boxer still mixes up his strikes effectively. He leads with a strong jap, frequently doubling and tripling it up. He does a decent job of stringing his combinations together, building off his jab. He has a bomb of a right hand that he used to floor former UFC competitor Jay Silva with. He will integrates knee strikes into his attack and is known for walking down his adversaries with overwhelming heavy leathered blitzes. He can also be an effective counter striker, showing good timing and the ability to catch his opponent as they close the distance. Neither man is a dominant grappler and has had some trouble with those who are. Watson has been taken down a discouraging 5 times in each of his 4 UFC bouts and is 1-2 in contests ended by submission. Alvey is 2-1 following the same outcome, with his last win via tapout coming over 4 years ago. He has been training out of Team QUEST alongside some talented grapplers and is dangerous if can obtain top position, dropping some heavy ground and pound. Both men should benefit from facing a striking based opponent, but of the two Alvey is the more likely to try and pull Watson to the mat which will score him some points. Watson's striking game is solid, but the combination of the aggression and power that Alvey can bring to bear, along with a solid countering game will make it difficult for the Brit to land with regularity. Watson also has a tendency to slowdown in longer fights and Alvey has gone 4-1 in his last 5, with 3 bouts going beyond the third round. Neither man has lost by knockout and there is always a first time for everything, but my prediction is Sam Alvey to defeat Tom Watson by decision.

 

 

135lbs- Nolan Ticman (4-1-0) vs Frankie Saenz (8-2-0)

 

Opening the night's events, Nolan Ticman and Frankie Saenz both get their first taste of UFC action when they collide in a bout thrown together on relatively short notice. Ticman picked up a win in his last appearance, after suffering the first defeat of his career. Saenz is currently riding a 4 fight winning streak after suffering back to back defeats.

 

Neither man has an exceptional amount of experience, with the edge in pro bouts lying with Saenz at 10-5. Ticman will also be returning to action after a considerable layoff, having missed a little less then 2 years of action. Saenz has fought 3 times in the same span.

 

Saenz is a natural Flyweight and is moving up to 135 pounds most likely do to the extremely late notice. Win, lose, or draw he will most likely make his next appearance at 125 pounds.

 

Both fighters come from wrestling backgrounds and have fairly evenly spread win totals. Ticman has 2 submission wins to go along with single victories by both knockout and decision. Saenz has three notches in both the knockout and decision columns, along with 2 sub wins of his own.

 

Saenz has serviceable striking, but for the most part his focus is on closing the distance and setting up his takedowns. Conversely, he will also use his shot to set up his strikes, forcing his opponent to react and then changing gears to land a few quick strikes.

 

Ticman appears to have a little more pop in his punches and a better kicking game. Despite his wrestling background, he seems more focussed on keeping the fight vertical then Saenz. He is far from a polished striker, but keep in mind the most recent footage of him came roughly 22 months ago, so there has been significant time for improvement.

 

This is a difficult fight to predict as their are so many factor involved; the short notice and UFC debuts for both men, Ticman's layoff leading to both a potential undocumented skill advancement and/or ring rust, and Saenz moving up to 135 pounds. Ticman is fighting out of a much better camp with several top level UFC fighters which should help him to prepare for this fight. Saenz has fought better competition, but Ticman appears to be the better athlete and if the break has lead to refinement in his skill that would be significant advantage. This fight has EPU (Early Prelim Upset) written all over it- the first fight of the fight, two debuting fighters with limited experience, and a significant amount of unknown, so my prediction is Nolan Ticman to defeat Frankie Saenz by decision.

 

Prelim Predictions

 

 

155lbs- Daron Cruickshank (15-4-0) vs #14 Jorge Masvidal (26-8-0)

Headlining the preliminary bouts, Jorge 'Gamebred' Masvidal squares of with the "Detroit Superstar" Daron Cruickshank. Masvidal most recently defeated Pat Healy and is 6-2 in his last 8 bouts. Cruickshank is riding a 2 fight winning streak with back to back 0utstanding head kicks knockouts over Erik Koch and Mike Rio- he is 9-2 in his last 11 fights.

Masvidal and Cruickshank are primarily striking based fighters with a combined 19 knockouts. Masvidal is a talented boxer with sharp combinations built off a stiff lead jab to both the head and body, excellent footwork, and quick head movement. Jorge will work his kicking game in combination with his hands, and likes to slip in the odd jumping knee strike.

The former TUF competitor comes from a diverse striking background. Cruickshank is a Taekwondo black belt and offers a wide of variety of kicking techniques. All 3 of his UFC knockouts have come as a result of a head kick. He does a good job setting up his kicks with his hands, flashing quick combinations and following behind with a leg strike. Masvidal will need to focus his defense on limiting Daron's kicking game as he was dropped by spinning back kick from Rustam Khabilov that ultimately cost him the round and the fight.

While the Michigan native is a talented striker, he tends to give up ground both after attacking and when under attack. In previous fights against Yves Edwards and John Makdessi Cruickshank spent large portions of the fight back pedalling and relinquishing ground which is not a favourable position in the eyes of the judges.

This match could also spend some time on the mat. Cruickshank is a former Collegiate wrestler, but it has been Jorge that has been the more effective wrestler in recent bouts. Masvidal utilized a dominant ground game against Tim Means, landing 6 takedowns and earlier in his career he earned a shot at the Strikeforce title with a similar game plan against KJ Noons. Daron has averaged just over 1 takedown per fight compared to Masvidal's 2.76 per bout at a 68% completion rate.

Neither fighter has massive submission numbers, but Jorge did tap out Michael Chiesa and Cruickshank's last defeat came via straight arm bar versus Adriano Martins.

The last 2 fights that didn't end inside the distance saw Cruickshank get out landed by both of his opponents resulting in a loss and a narrow split decision win. Masvidal's stand-up isn't as flashy, but it is a bit more technically sound. His skillset in combination with Cruickshank's willingness to give ground and allow his opponent to frequently land first will give Jorge the edge on the feet. Cruickshank may look to his wrestling to change the pace of the fight, but Gamebred has excellent takedown defense and should be able to land a couple key takedowns of his own. As long as Jorge can avoid a potential game changing kick from his opponent he should be control the majority of the action, so my prediction is Jorge Masvidal to defeat Daron Cruickshank by decision.

205lbs- Kyle Kingsbury (11-5-0 1NC) vs Patrick Cummins (5-1-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Kyle 'Kingsbu' Kingsbury returns to action to face former c0-main eventer Patrick 'Durkin' Cummins. Cummins is 1-1 in the UFC and is coming off a TKO victory over Roger Narvaez. Kingsbury was last seen riding a 3 fight losing streak that was preceded by a 4-1 start to his Octagon career.

September 2012 was the last time that Kingsbury was seen in action, approximately 22 months ago. Ring rust could definitely be a factor for the AKA member.

Physically, Kingsbury will have a 2" height advantage and 3" reach advantage.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and Daniel Cormier training partner, Cummins's approach usually hinges on his ability to take his opponent to the mat. He had moderate success in his win over Narvaez landing 3 of 5 takedown attempts. He struggled with his entries, shooting from too far out and then getting shrugged off. Where he did find success was with his reactionary shot, catching his opponent coming forward and changing levels. On the mat, he dropped some decent GnP, posturing up to land with more power and eventually forcing his opponent to cover up.

'Kingsbu' comes from an athletic background, playing College Football, but he has struggled with wrestling based opponents. Against the likes of Jared Hamman and Fabio Maldonado he was able to implement a ground based attack, but when faced with superior wrestlers like Tom Lawlor and Stephan Bonnar he was routinely put on his back with relative ease. He gave up a combined 11 takedowns in those 2 fights and had next to nothing off his back. If he is able to see the takedowns coming he has a good sprawl that he will utilize to shut them down.

Neither man is overly gifted on the feet, but the edge would have to go to Kingsbury. He throws a decent straight jab and can do some damage with his Thai clinch/ knee combination. At the same time he has been knocked out twice and has been the target of some absolutely brutal striking based assaults. Cummins landed some decent strikes in the early stages of his fight with Daniel Cormier. He has some good kicks and was landing a quick jab. His stand-up didn't look quite as good in his last bout though, getting tagged with some shots and his footwork appeared a little disoriented.

What this fight will come down to is Kingsbury's ability to keep this fight vertical and so far against anyone with decent wrestling credential he has struggled. The potential for significant amount of ring rust and some already questionable cardio will further complicate issues. If he can land early he could take control of the bout, but Cummins's wrestling should carry the day, so my prediction is Patrick Cummins Kyle Kingsbury by decision.

170lbs- Tim Means (20-6-1) vs Hernani Perpetuo (17-4-0 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, Tim 'The Dirty Bird' Means attempts to get his UFC record back to even when he tangles with UFC sophomore Hernani Perpetuo. Means returned on short notice and promptly dropped a decision to Neil Magny, his third straight UFC defeat. Perpetuo's 7 fight winning streak was definitively snapped in his debut by Jordan Mein.

Perpetuo trains out of the famed Brazilian fight camp Nova Uniao along side Jose Aldo and Renan Barao. He is a multi-time kickboxing champion and has recorded 7 wins by knockout. He landed a few quality shots against Mein, but for the most part was struggling to find his range connecting on only 26 of his 99 strikes thrown. In his pre-UFC footage he gives the initial impression of a calculated striker, picking his spots to attack, but once the pace picks up he trends towards a much wilder and less refined approach.

The American is 15-1 in fights ended by a knockout. He dispatched Justin Salas in just over 60 seconds in his promotional debut and in his time outside the UFC he owns knockout wins over Pete Spratt and UFC on Fox 12 main carder Bobby Green. Means has an excellent clinch game, using his above average height to control his opponent and deliver debilitating knees and elbows. His distance striking is very good, with hard leg kicks and slick combinations. In 5 UFC bouts he has averaged 3.6 SLpM compared to 2.24 strikes absorbed.

Recently, the undoing of both men has been their defensive wrestling. Perpetuo was taken down 4 times on 4 tries in his debut and spent large portions of the bout on his back. He displayed a mainly defensive guard, but had trouble controlling the posture of his opponent and took some damage as a result.

Means has been put on his back 16 times in his last 3 UFC fights and not surprisingly lost all 3 contests. He was able to do some damage against Jorge Masvidal off his back, drawing blood with some slashing elbows. He normally does a decent job of punishing his opponents with strikes when they do shoot in and makes them work hard to finish their attempt.

Means would appear to be the more likely of the two to incorporate a ground based attack, but this fight will most likely be decided on the feet.

Both men should be in for a better performance this time out, as Means took his fight on short notice and Hernani was debuting. Perpetuo's struggle with distance against Jordan Mein does not bode well for him against the rangier Means. As previously mentioned, the key to beating Means has been takedowns as demoed by his last 3 UFC foes. Those were his only 3 losses over his last 15, which includes 9 wins by knockout. The Brazilian doesn't have the wrestling game to maintain the trend, so my prediction is Tim Means to defeat Hernani Perpetuo by TKO.

145lbs- Mike De La Torre (12-4-0) vs Brian Ortega (8-0-0)

In the Featherweight division, Mike de la Torre makes his second promotional appearance when he welcomes new arrival Brian Ortega to the UFC. De la Torre's 3 fight winning streak ended in his debut against Mark Bocek, while Ortega has yet to taste defeat in his young career.

De La Torre took his debut on short notice and at Lightweight, performing well despite the less then welcoming conditions. Ortega hasn't fought since the start of 2014 after his debut bout with Diego Brandao was cancelled when Brandao got hurt to close to the fight to rebook an opponent.

Ortega holds both the RFA and RTC Featherweight title belts, successfully defending the latter once.

Taking a look at the numbers, submissions have accounted for 3 of de la Torre's 4 defeats. He has also earned 6 wins by submission, so he is far from a complete liability on the mat. He did a pretty admirable job rejecting the majority of Bocek's advances when attempting to get the fight to the mat. He displayed strong hips and is a pretty decent scrambler. His struggles to create separation from Bocek are also a major concern, especially considering how tired and busted up the Canadian was.

The other piece of the puzzle is the grappling game of Ortega. He is a BJJ Black belt training out of Black House MMA. Of his 8 career wins, 4 have come via submission. 3 of those wins have been the result of a Triangle choke, including his win over Thomas Guimond. Against Guimond, he did a great job of chaining his attempts together, attacking with a variety of holds, before eventually locking up the triangle for the finish. He can work from both top and bottom position, and while spending too much time on your back isn't always great, he can clearly make it work to his advantage.

This fight should be decided on the mat, but de la Torre demoed some serviceable striking skills. If he can keep it standing that might be the key to his success. He was able to land a nice jab and mixed in a quick uppercut. His timing was on and he was more then willing to stand and trade. Unfortunately, he also got tagged a couple of times by a less then elite level striker. For Ortega there is limited footage of striking game available, partially because of how dominant he has been on the mat.

MDLT's defensive wrestling looked decent in his debut against a fighter known for having a smothering ground game. If he can replicate that success he could very well walk away with a win here. Unfortunately, Bocek was coming off a fairly lengthy layoff and could have been suffering from a bit of ring rust. Ortega is an aggressive grappler and should have the wrestling attack capable of putting his opponent on the mat, where he can bring his submission game to bear, so my prediction is Brian Ortega to defeat Mike de la Torre by submission.

155lbs- Akbarh Arreola (22-7-1) vs Tiago Trator (18-4-2 1NC)

In the Lightweight division, Mexico's Akbarh Arreola makes his promotional debut when he battles Brazilian Tiago Trator. Arreola has won 3 in a row, all via submission, prior to getting the call to the big show. Trator is currently riding a 9 fight winning streak including 7 straight wins in the Jungle Fight promotion.

Arreola has fought several fighters with ties to the UFC including Mac Danzig, Antonio McKee, Ronys Torres, Juan Manuel Puig, and Gabe Ruediger. His only win coming over Ruediger via submission back in 2007. He also was bounced from his TUF 15 opportunity by Myles Jury via decision.

Both fighters have fairly high finishing rates. Arreola has scored 21 of his 22 wins inside the distance- 5 knockouts and 16 submission wins. Trator has a bit more of a even spread of victories, submitting 6 adversaries and knocking out 7 more. Conversely, both men have seen defeats pile up in particular areas. Arreola has been knocked out in 5 of his 7 defeats, while Trator has lost by submission in 3 of his 4 losses.

'El Cabellero' is an aggressive and unorthodox striker. He will use a variety of kicking techniques, including a hard push kick attempting to catch his opponent moving forward. He lacks a lot of technical refinement in his striking, winging wild looping punches without really setting anything up. Consequently he is very hittable, often backing straight up when under pressure and as previously mentioned he has been stopped several times.

The South American combatant is far from refined in his own striking attack. He will mix his kicks and punches up a little more effectively, landing a solid inside leg kick. His Thai clinch and subsequent knee strikes could be his most damaging weapon and will most likely make an appearance against Arreola if he elects to come in close. Trator can easily be drawn into a wild slugfest and sometimes bares a resemblance to Erik Silva when the action gets heated.

Tiago has yet to be stopped, which suggest his chin is the more likely of the two to hold up- but that isn't always the case.

On the mat, Akbarh has a big edge in total submission wins and has never been submitted. Like Trator on the feet, Akbarh should look to take advantage of his opponent's greatest area of vulnerability which appears to be his submission defense. While Arreola is a finisher he has also struggled at times when put on his back, getting neutralized on the floor for the duration of his bout with Ronys Torres. Trator hasn't been submitted since 2011 (12 fights), but he will need to be careful even from top position if the fight goes to the mat as his opponent will attack off his back.

This fight will most likely be an entertaining scrap- high on excitement and low and technical execution. Arreola has struggled in almost all of his opportunities against next level competitions, and while Trator hasn't fought at this level either- 7 wins under the Jungle Fight banner and capturing their LW title is nothing to dismiss. Tiago's aggressive and often overwhelming striking attack should be able to replicate the type of conditions that have bested Arreola in the past, so my prediction is Tiago Trator to defeat Akbarh Arreola by TKO.

145lbs- Steven Siler (23-12-0) vs Noad Lahat (7-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, 'Super' Steven Siler battles Noad 'Neo' Lahat. Siler has lost 2 in a row, most recently suffering a controversial knockout defeat against Rony Jason. Interestingly enough, the man Jason defeated in the finals of their TUF Brazil season- Godofredo Pepey, ended Lahat's undefeated run with a first round flying knee knockout.

Lahat may have entered the UFC undefeated, but the AKA product had faced some less then stellar competition with his last 4 wins coming over fighters with a combined record of 31-56. He also had several large periods of inactivity between fights.

With a very aggressive and in your face style, Siler has earned finishes in 16 of his 23 wins. His last win was an abrupt first round finish of Mike Brown and he also earned a Guillotine based submission win over Joey Gambino. He can work from distance, but Siler does some of his best work in close- utilizing a strong clinch game to control his opponent and land knees and elbows. He averages 3.38 strikes, while giving up just over 3.

He doesn't have overwhelmingly strong wrestling numbers, but he has 13 wins by submission and averages almost 2 sub attempts per fight. If he can get on top he can do damage or at the very least hold the position and score with the judges. Conversely, Dennis Bermudez and Darren Elkins had success controlling Siler on the mat with 6 TDs each.

Siler struggled early in his career, losing 9 times inside the distance (4 knockouts & 5 submissions). Until his last bout, he appeared to have those problems under control going 7 straight contests without getting finished.

Lahat's debut was memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Despite not being known for his technical striking abilities, Pepey highlight realed Neo with a brutally accurate flying knee that left him slumped against the cage wall. Lahat has serviceable striking, but does nothing too overwhelming. He will flash a head kick and likes to throw a flurry and close the distance behind it. He appears relatively easy to hit and tends to leave his chin exposed when attacking.

He has 4 wins by submission and is an above average grappler which might be his key to victory versus Siler. In his final pre-UFC bout he put on a grappling clinic using a variety of takedown methods to plant his opponent on the mat. He showed sound positional control, riding his adversary, routinely taking away his base, all the while peppering him with strikes. While he won the fight, his lack of urgency and inability to do significant damage despite his dominance is a bit of a concern- especially at the UFC level.

Lahat is better then his debut indicated, but his lack of high level competition isn't a positive in the face of a gritty and hardnosed opponent like Siler. In recent defeats, Siler has struggled with power wrestling based attacks and while Lahat is a good technician, he doesn't possess the brute grinding power that has troubled the TUF alumni. Neo will struggle to fend off the aggressive advances of Siler and will eventually be overwhelmed either on the wall or the floor, so my prediction is Steven Siler to defeat Noad Lahat by submission.

170lbs- Andreas Stahl (9-0-0) vs Gilbert Burns (7-0-0)

In the Welterweight division, Andreas Stahl make his first UFC appearance against fellow UFC debutant Gilbert Burns who is filling in for an injured Viscardi Andrade. Both men enter this bout having yet to taste defeat; Stahl has finished his last 2 opponents, while Burns hasn't gone the distance in his 7 pro bouts.

The Brazilian is a highly regarded and incredibly accomplished BJJ competitor. He trains alongside many current UFC competitors in the Blackzilian camp out of Florida.

Stahl will have just a slight height advantage, but Burns has traditionally competed as a Lightweight until recently when he felt the cut to 155 pounds was simply too draining. This could create an interesting dynamic as Burns tangles with a larger man than what he has previously.

Burns has won multiple BJJ Gold medals at various World Champions. He is incredibly gifted on the mat having secured 4 of his 7 wins by submission and has drawn comparisons to the likes of Demian Maia and Jacare Souza. Of his 4 submissions, 2 have come by armbar and 2 more by rear naked choke. Based on Burns's capabilities he is clearly comfortable fighting off his back, but should he failed to secure a submission that is a difficult position to win a fight from. That hasn't been a problem so far, but Stahl will look to change that.

The Swede hasn't displayed the consistent finishing capabilities of his counterpart throughout his career, but he appears to have found his stride of late. Stahl comes from a Greco-Roman wrestling base and captured a gold medal at the Swedish wrestling championships prior to staring his MMA career. He has recorded multiple ground oriented decision wins and just a single submission- tapping out Abusupiyan Magomedov via rear-naked choke.

If this fight stays on the feet, Stahl has some pretty serviceable striking. He has recorded 3 wins by knockout- 2 coming in the second round. Burns's striking is his second best attribute, but with 3 KOs of his own including a devastating opening round of stoppage of Paulo Gonçalves he is still dangerous.

There is limited footage available of both fighters, but still enough information to analyze how this contest could play out. Although Stahl comes from a wrestling background, he may be best served by using his defensive skills to keep this fight off the mat and take away Burns's greatest attribute. Considering that the Swede has always fought at WW he could hold a physical advantage, but technique will often trump size. Burns is a highly ranked BJJ player, entering the Octagon with significant expectations. Stahl is a solid prospect, unfortunately his greatest strength plays directly into a grappling buzzsaw, so my prediction is Gilbert Burns to defeat Andreas Stahl by submission.

115lbs- Juliana Lima (6-1-0) vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk (6-0-0)

In the burgeoning UFC Strawweight division, undefeated Polish striker Joanna Jedrzejczyk makes her promotional debut against 1-fight Invicta FC veteran Juliana Lima. Lima rebounded from the first loss of her pro career with a win by TKO last October. Jedrzejczyk's last victory came over former UFC fighter and the newly retired Rosi Sexton by KO.

Jedrzejczyk has competed at 125 pounds but the opportunity to sign with the UFC has her moving to Strawweight to make both her divisional and promotional debuts.

This bout will be a tale of two conflicting game plans. Lima will be focussed almost entirely on getting this fight to the canvas and attacking with her grappling. Conversely, Jedrzejczyk has all intentions of remaining vertical and unloading with her Muay Thai based striking arsenal.

The Brazilian has faced some lower level competition in recent bouts and as a result looked fairly dominant. Two of her last 3 wins have come over debuting fighters and those three opponents have combined for a record of 3-7. As mentioned above, Juliana will want to drag her opponent to the ground by any means possible. When on top she has some pretty decent ground and pound and can do some damage from the guard. If she can stack up her opponent she will either look to drop strikes or swings her legs to the side and pass into side control. She did have some difficulty fending off the takedowns of her opponent in her only Invicta bout, but can and will attack off her back.

Expect to see Lima try to land strikes to set up her takedowns or change levels when under attack in an effort to catch her opponent coming forward.

If the Polish striker can be put on her back her striking game will be muted and her lack of experience may show, but that is easier said that done. She is physically quite strong, sprawling out, putting weight on the head and back of her opponent, and then landing some punches once she feels she is out of danger. Her clinch game is solid and simply put, her opponent is going to have a difficult time taking her down or even maintaining any semblance of control in close.

Jedrzejczyk is a vicious striker with hard leg kicks and a bomb of a right hand. She will change levels to attack the body and strings her combinations together well, often finishing with a hard low kick. Even when she opted to limit her kicking game against the takedown focused Sexton she was still incredibly effective. She dropped Rosi several times with her right hand and eventually stopped her, something that Jessica Andrade was unable to do.

Conversely, the Brazilian's striking is fairly simplistic. Her leg kicks are hard, but open her up to contenders and her punching if limited. Against Katja Kankaanpaa she took some pretty could strikes to the chin and when she does get tagged she looks almost immediately to take the fight to the floor.

With two debuting fighters, with limited experience, and one cutting to 115 for the first time it can be difficult to gauged how each will perform under the big lights. Lima already has an Invicta bout under her belt, but it was a loss and Jedrzejczyk's stoppage of Sexton under the Cage Warriors banner was far more impressive. Sexton was entirely unable to take Jedrzejczyk off her feet and Lima lacks the wrestling chops needed to bring her top game into play. The manner in which the Brazilian shrinks when tagged on the feet isn't encouraging either. The weight cut is a bit of a concern, but look for Jedrzejczyk to use lateral movement and strong hips to discourage the TDAs and land a primarily boxing based attack with relative consistency and power, so my prediction is Joanna Jedrzejczyk to defeat Juliana Lima by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

205lbs- Ilir Latifi (9-3-0 1NC) vs Chris Dempsey (10-1-0)

In the Preliminary headliner, Light Heavyweights Chris Dempsey and Ilir Latifi collide. Latifi is coming off his first UFC ‘W’ with a submission win over the now retired Cyrille Diabate. Chris Dempsey has won 8 in row with his last 4 all ending inside the distance- 2 knockouts and 2 submissions.

The UFC debutant Dempsey is taking this fight on short notice as Tom Lawlor was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury. Similar to Lawlor, Dempsey will be moving up from Middleweight to compete at 205lbs.

The Pennsylvania native is a 2-time Division 2 All-American wrestler. He relies heavily on his mat skills and is still working to round out his stand-up. On the feet he wings wild punches while moving forward looking to change levels and shoot. He prefers a front headlock position and will attempt submission from the position. His top control is decent and he is good in a scramble.

Training alongside Alex Gustafsson, the Swedish Lafiti will certainly be making strides to improve his stand-up . He still does his best striking from close range, landing short powerful punches, but he will most certainly be looking to get this fight to the mat. He will have a size and physical strength advantage over his opponent and the combination of heavy ground and pound and a respectable submission game (4 of 8 wins by tapout) will make him a massive threat on the floor.

Dempsey is still quite green. He has shown signs of struggling when under pressure on the feet and he has been taken down a couple of times against lesser competition. Furthermore, he is making his debut on short notice in a foreign country, in a heavier weightclass, against the toughest opponent of his career. These are all significant hurdles to overcome.

Two of Latifi’s 3 losses have come against top level competition in Gegard Mousasi and Bellator champion Emanuel Newton, which are far from a knock on his skills. His physical advantages and experience will simply make him too much for his young opponent who will struggle to deal with him both in close on the feet and from his back, so my prediction is Ilir Latifi to defeat Chris Dempsey by submission.

125lbs- Neil Serry (13-10-0) vs Phil Harris (22-12-0 1NC)

In the Flyweight division, Neil Seery makes his second Octagon appearance when he battles the returning Phil Harris in a rematch from their 2010 meeting. Seery debuted with a competitive loss against Brad Pickett, while Harris had his most recent UFC defeat overturned after his opponent was tested for a banned substance.

When the two met at BAMMA 3, Harris took home a unanimous decision victory. Since that meeting Harris has won 3 of his 6 fights, while Seery has gone 6-2.

Seery represented himself well in his short notice debut against one of the division’s best. He showcased improved boxing, an average connection rate of 3.13 strikes per minute, and a stout chin. He is 6-1 in fights ended by knockout, and while he appears to be more of a striking based fighter he is a BJJ Purple belt with submissions accounting for 5 of his last 9 wins.

Harris is a Judo Black belt, with 13 wins by submission. He has struggled to implement a grappling based attack since joining the UFC, averaging just 1.62 takedowns at a 50% completion rate over 4 fights. His debut accounted for 2 of his completions, but they need to be put into perspective considering his opponent appeared willing to allow the fight to go to the mat and eventually submitted Phil off his back.

The Brit wants to fight this contest in the clinch and on the mat as Seery has been submitted 5 times and was taken down on multiple occasions by Pickett. Conversely, Seery will be looking to exploit the questionable chin of his adversary (5 of 11 losses by knockout). Even on the floor, Harris will need to be wary has he has been submitted 5 times (unofficially 6 including the No Contest).

Harris will have confidence having defeated Neil once already, but the Irishman will be buoyed by the crowd and the benefit of a full training camp. It would appear that ‘2Tap’ Seery has made the more significant strides since their initial encounter, so my prediction is Neil Seery to defeat Phil Harris by TKO.

185lbs- Cathal Pendred (13-2-0) vs Mike King (5-0-0)

In the Middleweight division, another native of Ireland will bring the crowd to their feet as Cathal Pendred fights fellow TUF 19 alumni Mike 'Lion' King. Both Pendred and King were bounced from the tournament by eventual winner Eddie Gordon. King is undefeated through his first 5 fights as a pro and Pendred has won 4 in a row, undefeated in his last 8.

Pendred entered the TUF house with high expectations but came up short in the semi-finals. Mike King put on an excellent performance in the Elimination round and had he been successful in his quarterfinal bout this meeting with Cathal would have taken place on the reality show.

As a result of the show both men have seen significant time pass since their last pro bouts.

The Cage Warriors' Welterweight champion, Pendred is just that- a natural 170 pounder and most likely will be returning to that division after this bout. Conversely, King is a massive Middleweight, having formerly competed as high as Heavyweight. King comes from an athletic background having come close to a career in the NFL.

On the feet, Pendred has recorded 6 wins by knockout. He is aggressive, pushing forward while winging wild punches and looking to tie up. He will flash the odd Capoeira kick, but rarely connects. In tight he throws hard elbows and knees, sometimes changing levels to look for a takedown once his opponent covers up. Defensively, he leaves a lot to be desired. He often overextends himself when punching and is quite hittable- notably vulnerable to both right hooks and head kicks. He was rocked early in the first round of his quarter-final bout, and as he slows down he further drops his hands from an already low position and becomes far less active.

King is the lesser experienced fighter, but tries to make up for it with aggression and physicality. He has recorded just a single win by knockout, but packs some decent power in his right hand. He can also do some significant damage in close; locking up a Thai clinch and landing vicious knees. He works at a very high output rate, but appeared to slow down a little on the show, which could have been the result of making weight multiple times for such a large man. He went toe to toe with Nordine Taleb getting clipped early with a big shot and was holding his own versus Eddie Gordon before a bad eye poke slowed him down.

The mat could very well be where this bout is decided. Despite having never recorded a submission win, Cathal is more then willing to go to the floor. As mentioned he likes to change levels out of the clinch for a double leg attempt. He had some success on the show using his wrestling, but also spend some time on his back- especially after he tired. In his final pre-TUF bout he dispatched Che Mills with a predominantly top game based striking attack. His takedown attempts against larger men on the show appeared to tax his cardio and cost him in the later rounds.

Mike King has 4 wins by submission, but only 2 that didn't come as the result of strikes. He has decent wrestling and utilized it to defeat Nordine Taleb. He has a heavy top game and can generate a lot of power when he starts to land. He landed a powerful body lock takedown against Gordon and utilized a perfectly executed whizzer in his final pre-TUF bout- shucking of his opponent's TDA and countering into top position. If King looks to utilize his top game against Pendred he could really wear down and bust up his opponent, but he appeared reluctant to rely on his ground skills and it cost him versus Gordon.

The physical size and strength of King is going to be a lot for the Irishman to overcome. Pendred's striking defense is a major liability and while King is far from refined on the feet he should be able to exploit it. Cathal's pension for jumping into his strikes will leave him open to both counter strikes and takedowns. King should look to use a more wrestling oriented attack as well grinding his opponent in the cage wall from the clinch position. The crowd will be hot for their fellow countryman and after an entertaining opening round look for King to impose his will on his opponent, so my prediction is Mike King to defeat Cathal Pendred by TKO.

185lbs- Tor Troeng (16-5-1) vs Trevor Smith (11-5-0)

In the Middleweight division, Sweden’s consensus #1 185 pounder Tor Troeng squares off with Strikeforce veteran Trevor ‘Hot Sauce’ Smith. Troeng is coming off of a decision defeat against Rafael Natal, while Smith was quickly dispatched in just 45 seconds by Thales Leites.

While Smith lost to Leites via knockout in less than a minute, Tor only faired moderately better in his in 2010 meeting with Thales, losing by submission midway through round 2 in his native Sweden.

On the feet, Smith showed he can crack and isn’t afraid to exchange in his fight with Ed Herman. Unfortunately for the American he has just a single knockout win compared to 3 defeats, exhibiting a lack of finishing power and a questionable chin. Troeng’s numbers are far more impressive with a 6-0 record in fights ended by knockout, but he did get stunned on a couple of occasions by Natal. Troeng would appear to have the superior skill set, power, and stronger chin if this fight does stay standing, but it will most likely be decided on the floor.

Both men are grappling based competitors. Smith has won 9 times by submissions, accounting for all but 2 of his wins. The Swedes’ numbers aren’t quite as lopsided, with 6 of 16 victories coming by submission, but they have accounted for 5 of his last 7 wins. Both men have also suffered submission bases setbacks; Smith was subbed by Tim Kennedy and Tor by Leites and the always dangerous Mamed Khalidov in his 4 pro bouts.

Smith is a smothering type of grappler. When he can get his opponent to the floor he does a good job of tying up their legs, advancing his position, and looking for submission opportunities. He has won 5 times by guillotine, making his opponent’s neck and ever present target. He will need to be careful when attempting his preferred maneuver as Natal attempted it a couple of times against Troeng, who patiently defended and then reversed to top position.

For Troeng he has demonstrated a solid submission game. He submitted Adam Cella in his promotional debut via rear-naked choke- a hold that has accounted for 50% of his wins. His back and forth battle with Natal saw Tor represent himself very well against a talent BJJ Black belt. His top position and transition game is solid and as already mentioned he is capable of orchestrating sweeps off his back. He is good in a scramble, frequently landing in the superior position and overall has shown good poise and a willingness to attack against high level grapplers like Natal and Leites.

Arguably the most influential factor of this fight will be Smith’s cardio, or lack thereof. He is a former Light Heavyweight and a big Middleweight so he is forced to make a large cut to fight at 185. He has slowed down in a number of bouts, including his fight with Brian Houston where he was primarily attacking and fighting at his own pace. Against Tim Kennedy he was having success early on, but couldn’t maintain his pace and faded late. Troeng’s aggressive style of grappling will no doubt bring upon a similar result.

The grappling exchanges could be very interesting, early on, but as the fight progresses the Swede will take over. On the feet, Troeng should have the advantage as well. Smith’s window for victory closes as every second ticks by, so my prediction is Tor Troeng to defeat Trevor Smith by submission.

205lbs- Cody Donovan (8-4-0) vs Nikita Krylov (16-4-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Nikita Krylov faces off with Cody Donovan. Kyrlov is coming off an unsuccessful 205 pound debut against Ovince St. Preux and is now 1-2 in the UFC. Donovan has lost 2 in a row after a successful promotional debut.

Both men are known for their finishing ability with just a single win by decision between the two of them and 25 of their combined 32 bouts ending inside the opening frame.

Donovan has had some serious ups and down inside the cage. He got dropped twice by Nick Penner before scoring the KO- all inside the first round. He out struck Gian Villante and then got knocked out in round 2. Finally, he got KOed by OSP from the guard position- not a good thing. What can be taken from this is that the American has skills, but his chin (4 losses by knockout) and his striking defense (4.29 SApM) are significant downfalls. When looking to clinch or simply attack, he has a tendency to rush forward recklessly and frequently gets cracked with big shots when doing so.

The Ukrainian born Krylov has a lot of fight experience (20 fights), but he has garnered it in just a little over 2 years. During that time he has put together some impressive and abrupt finishes, but against some questionable competition.

Nikita has a pretty decent submission game, having tapped out 10 opponents. He will attack from his back, isn’t afraid to attempt a leg lock, and has won by a variety of holds. He has also been submitted 3 times, most recently getting caught by OSP with the rarely used Von Flue choke.

On the feet, he has 6 wins by knockout and comes from a karate background. His kicking arsenal is surprisingly diverse and he works his knee strikes well from close range. His head kick knockout of Walt Harris was perfectly landed and setup well with a series of preceding body kicks.

The American has some decent striking skills and is capable on the mat, but his chin and porous striking defense are difficult to overlook against an aggressive opponent like Krylov. Look for the Ukrainian to land kicks from the outside and try to swarm and overwhelm his adversary in close, so my prediction is Nikita Krylov to defeat Cody Donovan by knockout.

125lbs- Patrick Holohan (9-0-1) vs Josh Sampo (11-3-0)

To open the day's festivities, Ireland's own Patrick Holohan makes his promotional debut in the Flyweight division when he meets 2 fight UFC veteran Josh Sampo. Holohan is getting the call while riding a 4 fight winning streak with just a draw breaking up his perfect record. Sampo is coming off a loss against former Bellator Bantamweight champion and potential future title challenger Zach Makovsky.

Paddy Holohan currently trains out of SBG Ireland alongside fellow UFN 46 competitors Cathal Pendred and headliner Conor McGregor. He has been out of action for a little over 2 years and failed in his attempt to earn a spot on the Ultimate Fighter.

The Irishman has competed previously at 135 pounds, including winning the Cage Contender Bantamweight Grand Prix. Standing 5'9", he is long and lean and more suited to compete as a Flyweight. He is a grappler, with 7 of his 9 wins by submission. He is aggressive on the mat and isn't afraid to work from his back with an active guard. Leg locks are an option, but his submissions of choice are the Triangle and Rear-naked choke- with 3 wins by each.

Paddy has shown impressive durability, most recently surviving a nasty straight knee bar before rallying to earn his own submission win, but he has yet to face anyone of Sampo wrestling capabilities.

The American is an NAIA 3-time All-American wrestler. Sampo has won 6 times by submission including his UFC debut over Ryan Benoit. He has good takedowns, changing levels quickly and looking to float over into cross-side position as soon as he hits the mat. He has an aggressive passing game and mixes it well with his ground and pound. He did lose position a couple of times versus Benoit, but presents a strong defensive front nonetheless. He also got second best on the mat against Makovsky, but so would most of the division.

On the feet, Sampo is simply superior. He is a strong boxer and throws some decent kicks. He scored an early knockdown against Benoit, and because of his strong wrestling base he isn't afraid to be aggressive when attacking. Holohan holds the edge in wins by knockout at 1-0, stopping Damien Rooney with a body kick that included Holohan's knee connecting with his opponent's chin. He is a little wild when engaging and lacks the power or effective jab to keep the shorter Sampo from closing the distance.

Sampo's wrestling will be deciding factor in this fight. It will allow him to dictate where the bout takes place and prevent Holohan from getting in a comfortable position if the fight does hit the mat. Paddy will attack off his back, but he will struggle to mount any real threat in the face of the heavy ground and pound and strong positional game he is faced with. Sampo's physical strength will only further widen the gap in this fight, but Holohan is still a tough out, so my prediction is Josh Sampo to defeat Patrick Holohan by decision.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Gleison Tibau (37-10-0) vs Pat Healy (31-18-0 1NC)

Headlining the undercard portion of the prelims, two long time veterans of the division collide when Gleison Tibau goes head to head with Pat Healy. Tibau will be making his 22nd UFC appearance and has won 2 of his last 3 fights. Healy has struggled since returning to the Octagon losing 3 straight after his debut win over Jim Miller was overturn due to a positive test for marijuana.

Both men are on the upper scale of size for the division. Tibau has long been considered the biggest fighter competing at Lightweight, making a hefty weight cut to make the divisional limit. Healy is a former Welterweight and stands 2" taller then Tibau. He is known for using his size and grinding style to overwhelm his opponents.

Both fighters are grappling based. Tibau is a BJJ Black belt, 12-1 in fights ended by submission, and averages 4.37 takedowns at 55% completion rate. Comparatively, Healy was a collegiate wrestler, 15-6 in fights ended by submission, and averages 3.31 takedowns per fight at a 38% completion rate.

Tibau is more of a power grappler, shooting for big takedowns and then maintaining top position for prolonged periods of time. He will do some damage with his top position strikes while looking for a possible submission, but he is more then willing to remain in guard. Healy is more of a grinder, dragging his opponent to the mat, riding with them as they roll and continually landing shots. His pressure breaks down his adversary leading to sub opportunities based on pure exhaustion.

There is a possibility that their grappling games cancel each other out and the fight is contested on the feet. Tibau does have some of the best TDD in the business, shutting down 91% of his opponent's tries. Healy only stops 58%. Gleison's success will be contingent upon his conditioning.

On the feet neither man is dynamic, but they are certainly serviceable. Tibau has made strides in his boxing, and Healy's aggression is what makes him effective. Healy gets the edge in strikes landed per minute at 2.49 to 1.86. 'Bam Bam' has had trouble of late dealing with the speed of Jorge Masvidal and Bobby Green- something that won't be as big of an issue against Tibau. Gleison is coming off a brutal knockout loss against Michael Johnson and was also hurt on the feet by both Jamie Varner and Francisco Trinaldo.

The cardio of the long time Octagon vet usually makes or breaks his performances. When is he able to keep a pace that he is comfortable with he fairs much better then when his opponent pushes him. Evan Dunham forced Gleison to work very hard in the opening frame and he noticeably slowed in rounds 2 and 3. Khabib Nurmagomedov was unable to take Tibau off his feet, but continually pushed him into the cage, kept him on the defensive, and taxed his cardio. Even in victory, Tibau was barely able to make it through the final stages of his fight with Varner out of pure exhaustion.

Healy will work to implement a similar style to Tibau's past opponents. He might not find success with his wrestling, but like Khabib he will force him to work at a higher rate then he is comfortable with when defending. Tibau's lack of speed will make it difficult for him to evade Pat's forward push and Pat should also find success with his boxing in close. As Tibau slows down in rounds 2 and 3 he will become more susceptible. Look for Healy to turn this bout into a gritty brawl, so my prediction is Pat Healy to defeat Gleison Tibau by decision.

135lbs- Jessamyn Duke (3-1-0 1NC) vs Leslie Smith (6-5-1)

In the Women's Bantamweight division, Jessamyn Duke enters the Octagon for the third time when she faces off with 6 fight Invicta FC veteran and UFC sophomore Leslie Smith. Smith's UFC debut was a second loss to former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman. Duke is 1-1 since the end of her season of the Ultimate Fighter, most recently losing to Bethe Correia.

Duke will have advantages in both height- 2 inches and reach- 5 inches.

Duke comes from a Muay Thai background. She utilized an effective Thai clinch in her debut, landing elbows and sticking knees into the mid-section of her opponent. She leads with a solid jab and throws a decent 1-2, switching things up to target the body frequently. Despite her Muay Thai training, she hasn't shown a strong kicking game. When she throws her kicking techniques they can be effective, but her volume is lacking.

'The Peacemaker' is an aggressive striker. Similar to Duke she will look to lock up the Thai clinch in close and land knee strikes. She had a lot of success pinning Raquel Pennington on the cage and simply outworking her. Smith trains along side the Diaz brothers and carries similar traits. She has excellent cardio, works at a high volume, and continually moves forward landing punches in bunches. She does an excellent job keeping the pressure on her opponent and even when she isn't engaging she works her faints and fakes to force her opponent to react and potentially create openings to attack.

Smith has 3 wins by knockout and showed noteworthy power when she dropped Sarah Kaufman with a head kick in the second round of their Invicta FC 5 meeting.

There is potential for this fight to go to the mat. Duke is a BJJ Purple belt and has shown the benefit of training along side Ronda Rousey landing a couple of Judo style throws in her last fight. She locked up some early submission attempts against Peggy Morgan, but was unable to finish. Smith has yet to pick up a submission win, but has shown solid grappling which isn't a surprise training out of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jistsu. She will dive on a leg if the opportunity presents itself and is very active from top position with her striking. She picked up a TKO win over Kaitlin Young after trapping her in a crucifix and landing a series of unanswered strikes.

Smith's Invicta FC Flyweight title fight loss against Barb Honchak came largely on her inability to defend the champions takedowns.

Smith has an experience advantage both in total fights (12-5) and in quality of opponent faced. She gained significant experience going toe to toe with Sarah Kaufman for 6 full rounds and that should show up here. Duke's time on TUF can't be discredit nor can her time spent with the Champ, but she is still green. She struggled with Bethe Correia's pressure striking and Smith will carry an even greater work rate. Duke may try to implement a grappling based attack, but Smith will keep her backing up and shut her down, so my prediction is Leslie Smith to defeat Jessamyn Duke by decision.

135lbs- Hugo Viana (8-2-0) vs Aljamain Sterling (9-0-0)

In Bantamweight division, Hugo Viana meets UFC sophomore Aljamain Sterling. Viana is coming off a win over Junior Hernandez and has won 3 of his 4 UFC outings. Sterling debuted with a successful decision win over Cody Gibson and has won 9 straight to start his career.

Sterling has drawn comparison to current Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones based on his willingness to attempt a variety of unorthodox techniques. Similar to Jones he will have a reach advantage over his opponent, although not quite as significant at just 4 inches.

The American is a 2-time Division 3 All-American wrestler and has transitioned those skills into a pretty solid MMA grappling game. He has secured 4 of his 9 wins by submission- all via rear naked choke. In his debut, he demoed a few different takedown techniques and had success with his transitions and top control. Sterling will look to capitalize on Viana's style of leaping into his strikes by changing levels to shoot for a takedown when he come forward.

With a stout 77% takedown defense, 'Wolverine' has had success shutting down his opponent's wrestling. To date, he has stopped 7 of 9 TDAs including 2 of 3 tries by Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. TJ did have some success taking Hugo's back, but Wolverine was able to shake loose from the position. He employs a wider based stance along with attacking from a slightly further distance then the average fighter- both of which help him to defend against his opponent's shot.

On the feet, Viana showed his power in his only career knockout when he stopped Reuben Duran with a series of big over hand rights that sent his opponent tumbling to the mat. As mentioned above he employs an unorthodox striking style. He can cover distances quickly, but tends to wing punches wildly with little attention to defense. When he lands he can be effective, but his 39% striking accuracy and single knockout win suggests that he does a lot of swinging and missing. He throws some kicks, but he relies heavily on his hands and can become predictable with his attacks.

Sterling has just a single knockout, but attempts a far greater variety of strikes then Viana. He mixes in his kicks along with some more higher risk spinning techniques. His reach advantage should help him to deal with Viana's ability to cover distance and look for Sterling to recognize patterns in Hugo's striking cadence and capitalize if his opponent fails to make adjustments.

Viana is 7-0 in decision, but his last win came as a result of his opponent reluctance to engage through the first 2 rounds. Once Hernandez started to attack he had Viana backing up and in some trouble. Sterling is the more diverse fighter both on the feet and on the floor and as a result will out-point his opponent if they do go to the scorecards. Viana may have some success early defending takedowns, but as he slows down due to his energy expending style Sterling will put him on his back more frequently. A submission, especially later in the fight is a possibility, but my prediction is Aljamain Sterling to defeat Hugo Viana by decision.

155lbs-Yosdenis Cedeno (9-3-0) vs Jerrod Sanders (14-1-0)

In the Lightweight division Yosdenis Cedeno makes his second attempt at capturing his first UFC win when he battles promotional debutant Jerrod Sanders. Cedeno entered the cage last February and had his 6 fight winning streak snapped via split decision. Sanders brings a 12 fight winning streak to the UFC that has includes 5 submission victories.

Sanders is taking this fight on short notice and moving up a division. He was originally schedule to compete at the most recent World Series of Fighting event, but was released from his contract to take this oppurtunity.

With a solid finishing rate, Cedeno has stopped his opponents in 6 of his 9 wins- all via some form of knockout. He is incredibly quick and utilizes a lot of movement. He boasts a diverse kicking arsenal and can land some significant power behind his strikes. He routinely switches stances and likes to build off a stiff jab. He got off to a strong start against Ernest Chavez, clearly holding the striking edge, but the combination of his constant movement and the grappling portion of the fight appeared to tax his cardio and take some of the bounce out of his step.

Sanders has compiled 6 wins by submission- winning 3 times by Brabo choke. He also has several ground based decision victories. He is a good wrestler with a strong shot and heavy top control. He will work to advance his position and try to set up the submission, but isn't against simply holding the position and doing damage from the guard. In his only WSOF matchup he employed a 100% ground centric attack , utilizing a strong single leg leading to a decision win.

While Cedeno's striking looked dangerous in his debut, he appeared to be a novice on the mat. In his pre-UFC footage he used a strong sprawl and serviceable grappling skills, but that was no where to be found against Chavez. Despite being only a purple belt, Chavez took Cedeno down with ease, holding the position, and then advancing at will. The Cuban's defensive issues both cost him his cardio and crucial points on the scorecards.

The combination of speed and power makes Yosdenis a threat at all times on the feet. Conversely, if Sanders can establish his wrestling game it will both slow down Cedeno's aggression and tire him out making his stand-up far less effective. Sanders is taking this fight on short notice and moving up a division which are concerns, but Cedeno's defensive liabilities are more significant so my prediction is Jerrod Sanders o defeat Yosdenis Cedeno by decision.

115lbs- Claudia Gadelha (11-0-0) vs Tina Lahdemaki (5-0-0)

A trio of firsts; the first fight of the night, the first loss for one of these fighters, and the most significant of all- the first Women's Strawweight bout in the UFC. To open the card, one fight Invicta veteran Claudia Gadelha squares off with Finish product Tina Lahdemaki.

Gadelha won her first and only Invicta appearance over Ayaka Hamasaki to claim the #1 contender spot for the promotions 115 pound title. Unfortunately and fortunately for Gadelha, the UFC absorbed the division before she could challenge for the crown. The Brazilian was ruled out of TUF 20 because she couldn't make the weight multiple times over a short period of time. Fortunately, once the division's new champion is crowned Dana and company will be looking for a new contender and Gadelha's Invicta status will certainly help her stake a claim.

The Brazilian hasn't fought in just over a year, while her counterpart's last appearance came 9 months ago.

Lahdemaki has just 5 pro bouts, but also went undefeated through 6 fights as an amateur including 4 finishes. She has spent the majority of her career on the developing regional scene in Finland, earning back to back submission wins prior to getting the call. She is a grappler by trade, focusing her striking on closing the distance and initiating a body clinch. After dragging her opponent to the ground she maintains an active pace, working to advance her position, and rolling with her opponent as they attempt to defend.

Tina is capable of pulling off submissions from both top and bottom position, catching Stephanie Page with an armbar off her back.

Gadelha is also a grappling based fighter. 6 of her 11 wins have come by submission. She executes most of her takedowns from the clinch, and powers her opponents to the floor with her raw physical strength. She has an incredibly heavy top game, with good passing skills, and has won 5 times by arm bar. Her GnP is brutal, landing just a single shot against Ayaka Hamasaki forcing her to turtle up for the eventual TKO finish.

On the feet, Claudia attacks in heavy leathered barrages, landing 4 and 5 punch flurries. She sits down on her punches and transitions well between striking and grappling. Her speed, power, and ferocity should give her the advantage if she elects to keep it standing.

Lahdemaki will be in tough to work her ground game which has been the key to her success. Hamasaki is a well trained Judo player and had nothing for Gadelha in the grappling department. Claudia is simply too powerful, too skilled, and has fought at too high a level for Lahdemaki. Look for the UFC to promote Gadelha as the first title contender once the show concludes, so my prediction is Claudia Gadelha to defeat Tina Lahdemaki by submission.

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- #2 Urijah Faber (30-7-0) vs #12 Alex Caceres (10-5-0 1NC)

Headlining the undercard will be the #2 ranked Bantamweight in the promotion Urijah Faber taking on #12 ranked Alex Caceres. Faber's most recent bout was another title fight defeat- his second versus Renan Barao. Caceres is coming off an upset win over highly touted prospect Sergio Pettis and is undefeated over his last 5 bouts with a win turned No Contest sandwiched in the middle.

Faber has won 9 straight WEC/UFC non-title bouts since dropping the WEC Featherweight title in late 2008. Consequently, he has 0-5 in title fights during the same span.

Caceres will have a 4" height and 4" reach advantage over his Alpha Male opponent. He will also hold a sizeable statistical advantage on the feet. Averaging 4.03 SLpM, Caceres lands just over 1.3 strikes more then Faber per minute. Bruce Leeroy also does a slightly better job limiting his opponents offensive output. He has some decent long range weaponry and mixes in a variety of kicking techniques. He did appear to have some difficulty with the more impactful striking of Sergio Pettis and was rocked early on by Roland Delorme.

Similar to Caceres's recent opponents, Faber will have the advantage in striking power. Urijah has recorded 7 wins by knockout, but none since 2006. He is a creative striker that can throw a variety of techniques and uses his speed extremely well. Where he has struggled was against faster opponents like Jose Aldo and Renan Barao who were able to anticipate and avoid the majority of his attacks. For Caceres to be successful against Faber, he will need to use his reach and keep Faber on the outside.

Most likely, this fight will be won and lost on the mat. Faber is a talented grappler- a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and BJJ Brown belt. He has secured 17 of his 30 wins by submission, including 7 of his last 9 wins. He holds impressive submission wins over a number of noteworthy opponents including Raphael Assuncao, Michael McDonald, and Takeya Mizugaki. When he isn't able to finish on the mat, his top game is still dominant and smothering as was the case against Iuri Alcantara.

For Caceres, he has fought several ground based opponents with varied success. He is 5-4 in fights ending with a submission, including his RNC victory over Sergio Pettis. While he has been far more successful on the mat since cutting to Bantamweight, he has never faced anyone of Faber's grappling caliber at any point of his career.

Faber represents a massive step up in competition for Alex, and pretty much anyone not named Dominick, Renan, or potentially TJ (the book is still out on that one). Faber will simply be too much for Caceres wherever this fight takes place, especially on the ground. True to Alpha Male nature, Urijah has a powerful squeeze when he gets a hold of his opponent's neck and that show up here, so my prediction is Urijah Faber to defeat Alex Caceres by submission (most likely RNC).

170lbs- Kenny Robertson (13-3-0) vs Ildemar Alcantara (20-6-0)

In the Welterweight division, Kenny Robertson looks for consecutive wins for the first time since 2010 when he meets Ildemar Alcantara. Robertson is 2-2 since returning to the UFC, submitting Thiago Perpétuo in his last appearance. Alcantara has compiled a 3-1 record since signing on with the promotion including a pair of upset victories over Wagner Prado and Albert Tumenov.

Alcantara successfully debuted as a Light Heavyweight before cutting to 170 pounds. He will have both a 4" height and 4" reach advantage over Robertson.

Both men have grappling based backgrounds. Robertson is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and Alcantara a BJJ Black belt. Coincidently, they have identical 6-0 records in fights ending by submission. Ildemar pulled off a kneebar submission in his debut and Kenny has 2 impressive submission wins in his last 3 fights- catching Perpetuo in a well executed RNC and tapping Brock Jardine via modified kneebar.

The Brazilian has displayed a very solid wrestling game, landing 12 takedowns over 4 fights at a 75% completion rate. Just as impressively, he has defended 85% of his opponents attempts including 5 of 6 tries by well-versed grappler Igor Araujo. Robertson's numbers haven't been nearly as impressive; completing just 21% of his attempts while averaging just over 1 completion per fight. He recorded a paltry 1 for 12 effort in combined fights against Aaron Simpson and Sean Pierson.

Robertson's struggles, combined with Alcantara's success both offensively and defensively indicates Ildemar should have the upper hand in the grappling department. If not, at the very least their skills should cancel out and as a result this bout will be decided on the feet.

Both men have enough knockouts, Robertson 6 and Alcantara 10, to suggest they are each capable of ending this fight on the feet if they are able to land flush.

Robertson works well from the Thai clinch, but will struggle to control his much taller opponent well enough to land any significant offense. He did stop Lucio Linhares with a well timed spinning backfist and nearly finished Sean Pierson in the final frame, but his striking does leave a lot to be desired. He has large moments of inactivity and has a few defensive lapses. Alcantara strings together smooth combinations and works well at range. His leg kicks are solid and can do significant damage with a well timed stepping knee.

Robertson's 2 UFC wins have come inside the first 3 minutes of the opening round. After that he has struggled to outwork his opponents and is 1-2 in decisions. Ildemar's superior striking skills will carry the action on the feet and he should be able to find success against Robertson on the mat who has been out-grappled in the past. A finish isn't that out of the question, but my prediction is Ildemar Alcantara to defeat Kenny Robertson by decision.

185lbs- Chris Camozzi (19-7-0) vs Bruno Santos (13-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Chris Camozzi faces off with former Bellator competitor Bruno Santos. Camozzi has lost 2 in a row since compiling a 4 fight winning streak. Santos made his UFC debut in his last fight, dropping a lackluster performance against fellow debutant Krzysztof Jotko.

Physically, Camozzi is a larger Middleweight standing 6'3". He will have a 6" height advantage and a 3.5" reach advantage over his Brazilian counterpart.

Comparing records, neither man is known for their finishing skills. Camozzi has gone the distance 11 times- winning 8, 4 in the UFC. Even more noteworthy, Santos has gone the distance an unheard of 12 times in 15 fights. He is 11-1 with the judges involved, which is a respectable record, but his one defeat came in his UFC debut and was hardly a good performance to build an Octagon run on.

Both men are grinders. Camozzi works well from close range using his leverage to control his opponent while landing short range blows. He busted up Nick Catone with his short range arsenal, opening up a cut that lead to a doctor stoppage TKO. He can work at distance, utilizing a spearing jab and some decent kicks- but he isn't overly fleet of foot and has been lit up by faster and more dynamic strikers like Lorenz Larkin.

Camozzi has averaged 3.97 SLpM to date in his UFC career, while giving up just a shade over 3.

Fortunately for the American, Santos doesn't offer anything close to a technically sound striking game. His offerings from the outside are limited. He is stiff when he does attack and tends to throw his strikes in singles, instead of setting them up. Camozzi should be able to read and react, avoiding or deflecting most of his offense. If Bruno does connect he has some power, despite just a single knockout win. Although, Camozzi has never been knocked out.

If Santos intends to take this fight home he will need to do so on the mat. He has just a single submission win, but he is capable on the floor of controlling his opponent from top position and muting whatever offense they can offer. He did land only 1 takedown in his debut on 12 attempts which isn't exactly an encouraging ratio. Especially for a fighter that needs to have success on the mat to win fights.

Offensively, Camozzi hasn't shown much of a grappling game without a single completed takedown in his 10 octagon bouts. He is a BJJ brown belt and has won 6 times by submission, but he most likely won't be submitting his way to victory on this night. Conversely, he has lost 4 times by sub- most recently to Jacare Souza. His TDA% ranks in at 58% and he has been taken down 13 times over his 2 UFC runs. He has managed to get back up relatively quickly when put on the floor and he is 3-1 in fights here he has given up more then one takedown.

Santos could dominate this fight from top position if he can get it there with consistency, but his takedown game was underwhelming at best in his debut. Camozzi should be able to land the more effective blows- timing and catching Santos with counters as he comes forward attempting to engage. Chris thrives in ugly grinding bouts like this would has the potential to be and should be able to pull away later in the fight as his opponent slows down, so my prediction is Chris Camozzi to defeat Bruno Santos by decision.

135lbs-George Roop (15-11-1) vs Rob Font (10-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, George Roop welcomes UFC newcomer Rob Font to the Octagon. Roop has won 3 of his last 4 since making his return to the 135. Font joins the promotion riding a 9 fight winning streak including a win over Bellator's Saul Almedia, with his only pro loss coming against another Bellator standout Desmond Green.

For a Bantamweight, Roop stands a towering 6'1" and will have a 5" height advantage over his opponent. While Font's reach isn't available, Roop's height alone should equate to a decent length advantage.

Font recently captured the CES Featherweight title, but will be cutting down to 135 for the first time in his career.

The newcomer brings with him a fairly balanced resume with 3 wins by knockout, 3 by submission, and 4 going the distance. He has found his finishing touch of late with 2 knockouts and a Brabo choke submission accounting for 3 of his last 4 victories. Font has a decent striking attack. He throws solid combinations and carries respectable power in his right hand that ended Tristan Johnson's night last April. The big focus for Rob will be whether he can close the distance and test Roop's questionable chin.

Roop has been KOed 3 times in his career- all in the UFC. Most recently he was shutdown by the hard hitting Francisco Rivera. George has a tendency to raise his chin up when under attack, especially after the initial strike lands. When Roop isn't plummeting to the floor, he has demoed a pretty respectable striking game. He stopped former WEC Champ Brian Bowles and has greatly improved his distance management. His kicking game is solid, including a snapping front kick that he will utilize frequently and he outlands his opponents on average by 1.22 strikes per minute.

On the floor, Font has 3 submission wins but his grappling game is more of a secondary attack and not something he will pursue as his initial engagement. Roop is a good grappler and he has been working to incorporate those skills more readily in his attack. He has landed 5 takedowns over his last 4 bouts and going back a few fights earlier he handled himself well on the mat against the talented Hatsu Hioki. Roop should have the advantage on the floor over Font and would benefit from a continued effort to vary his attack.

Roop has been submitted 4 times, but none since leaving the Lightweight division.

Roop's focus here needs to be on maintaining a high work rate, using movement, holding a distance that he is comfortable with, and mixing in his grappling when appropriate. 3 of his last 4 losses have come by knockout and while Font has some power, he is going to struggle to get in range to land it. With Font making his debut and dropping down to a new weight class to face a very lanky opponent he has a lot to deal with. Roop needs to mind his chin, but my prediction is George Roop to defeat Rob Font by decision.

185lbs- Luke Zachrich (13-3-0) vs Guilherme Vasconcelos (3-1-0)

In he Middleweight division, Luke Zachrich takes his second shot at his first UFC win when he battles TUF Brazil's Guilherme Vasconcelos. Zachrich stumbled in his debut, getting knocked out my Caio Magalhaes inside the first 60 seconds of the bout. The Brazilian won his qualifier bout to enter the house, but fell in the quarter-finals. Vasconcelos had won 2 straight prior to getting the call to the reality show.

Zachrich holds a significant experience advantage over his opponent, totalling 16 fights to just 4. He also has his UFC debut under his belt, albeit a short one. For 'Bomba', his time spent on the Ultimate Fighter may not show on his record but it certainly was a valuable experience that he should grow from.

Bomba is an accomplished BBJ competitor and has secured 2 of his 3 wins by submissions, with his third coming by top position ground and pound TKO. He has a good transition game, working to advance his position in pursuit of a submission. His back take and eventual rear naked choke of Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos was impressive and a testament to his skills. As mention above, he isn't solely about submitting his opponent and will open up with some pretty decent GnP when necessary.

Zachrich has won by submission in 7 of his 13 fights, but he will have to be careful when/ if this fight hits the mat against such an accomplished ground fighter. He appears to target his adversaries arms when looking for a submission, with a quartet of armbar submissions and 2 via keylock. He has also been submitted twice, including a first round loss to Eric Schambari under the Bellator banner. Zachrich should have the slight edge in wrestling, but if he does get put on his back he will be at a deficit.

On the feet, the American keeps it simple. He has 4 wins by some form of knockout and mixes up his punches and kicks fairly regularly. Unfortunately, a knockout loss to the likes of Ciao Magalhaes doesn't instill a lot of confidence in a fighter's ability to compete on the feet. Vasconcelos will stand and trade, relying predominantly on his boxing. He isn't overly refined, but his aggression can help him to make up for a lack of technical ability.

Zachrich has the experience advantage, but his debut was incredibly underwhelming. Additionally, all indications are he will be the second best grappler in the cage which doesn't bode well considering how he has won the majority of his fights. Bomba wasn't that impressive on the reality show and with just 4 pro fights it seems a bit odd that he got the call to the big show. The brass must see something in Guilherme to give him this opportunity and quite frankly Zachrich didn't show much in his debut against a low level opponent, so my prediction is Guilherme Vasconcelos to defeat Luke Zachrich by submission.

185lbs- Kevin Casey (5-3-0) vs Bubba Bush (8-2-0)

To get the night started, Kevin Casey makes a quick return to the promotion when he battles UFC first-timer Bubba Bush. Casey has won 3 in a row since being cut from the UFC in his initial run. Bush is riding a 4 fight winning streak, with his only loss in his last 7 coming by DQ.

This bout represents a clash of champions as Casey is the current RFA 185 pound champion and Bush holds the same title for the Legacy FC promotion.

Both fighters are ground based competitors. Casey is a Rickson Gracie trained Black belt with 3 of his 8 wins by submission, plus one to gain entry into the Ultimate Fighter house. Bush also has 3 submission wins and multiple ground based decision and TKO victories.

This fight will play out in one of two ways. Either it will be contested in both fighter's area of strength or their abilities on the mat will cancel each other out resulting in a sloppy kickboxing bout.

Casey nearly caught Josh Samman in a triangle in his only UFC bout and stopped former Zuffa employee Eddie Mendez with brutal top position elbows at RFA 12. He has shown signs of his skills on the floor against more capable competition, but his biggest drawback has been a well below average gas tank. On TUF he lost a fight on the stool and is 2-3 in fights that go beyond the first round. If he is unable to put his opponent away early, his ability to perform takes a massive drop off.

Bush has pretty a good ground game of his own, but has yet to test it against top level competition. He is aggressive with his takedowns and has a hefty top game. His transitions are solid and he can do damage with his GnP. There isn't a lot of footage that exist of him spending much time on his back, which could be a key aspect of this fight if Casey is able to put him there.

What this fight comes down to is Casey's cardio. He has the skills to end the fight early, but he is too unreliable and if Bubba is simply able to survive the opening round he should be able to take control of the fight. Unlike the former TUFer, Bubba has 4 wins beyond the second round and battle current UFC fighter Andrew Craig deep into 5th round of their 2011 meeting. Again, if Casey can lock something up early he could end it, but n0 matter where this fight is contested my prediction is Bubba Bush to defeat Kevin Casey by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Jake Matthews (7-0-0) vs Dashon Johnson (9-0-0)

In the undercard headliner, TUF Nations competitor Jake Mathews makes his official UFC debut when he battles fellow newcomer Dashon Johnson. Both men are undefeated, Johnson through his first 9 and Mathews through 7.

Mathews was eliminated on the show by the eventual tournament runner-up Olivier Aubin-Mercier.

Both fighters are making divisional changes. Johnson has spent some time at 155, but has fought several times at 145 pounds and appears to be physically more suited for the Featherweight division. For Jake, he has fought the majority of his career as a Welterweight, but will be making his first attempt at 155 pounds. The Aussie will have a 3" height advantage and should be the physically larger man.

At just 19, Mathews is very young, but shows promise. He is capable of both fighting on the floor and the feet. He is a BJJ Purple belt, with an aggressive ground game. He was clearly over-matched by Aubin-Mercier, but in his submission win over Dean Purdon he flashed a variety of submission holds before eventually finishing the fight. He is aggressive on the feet, but will want to limit the exchanges with his opponent.

Johnson comes from a boxing background. 5 of his 8 wins have come by knockout and he has some serious power. He will flash a sharp jab and while he may get a little over aggressive in pursuit of the finish, more often then not he gets where he wants to go. He will need to utilize his speed and footwork against a larger opponent looking to close the gap. On the ground, he has a trio of submission wins and drops some heavy ground and pound. Unfortunately, just like with Mathews, the competition he has faced and succeeded against is a bit of question mark.

The size disparity is a major advantage for the Aussie, as is the experience he gained competing and training on the Ultimate Fighter. Additionally, he is young and falls perfectly into the mold of a TUF fighter who has spent some time away and put some work in following the show. The break should lead to a significant improvement to his in-cage capabilities. He will have the edge on the mat which will be further magnified by his size. Toss in the advantage of fighting at home against a fighter's who's body will not have adjusted to the time change coming from the United States and my prediction is Jake Mathews to defeat Dashon Johnson by submission.

125lbs- Richie Vaculik (9-3-0) vs Roldan Sangcha-an (4-0-0)

In the Flyweight division Richie 'Vas' Vaculik looks for UFC win #1 in his second try when he welcomes Roldan Sangcha-an to the land down under. Vaculik was dismissed in the first frame of his debut, but had won 5 fights prior to the defeat. Sangcha-an has yet to taste defeat through the first 4 outings of his pro career.

Sangcha-an has finished all 4 of his adversaries inside the distance- 2 by submission and 2 by knockout.

Vas has the experience edge with 3 times the pro fights. Additionally, he has his UFC debut under the his belt and should be the crowd favourite fighting so close to home. Of his 9 wins, all are finishes- 3 knockouts and 6 submissions. 7 wins coming inside the first round. He is a scrappy fighter that can hold his own on the feet, but will most likely look to take this fight to the floor as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Sangcha-an is a Sanshou based fighter, training out of Lakay MMA in the Philippines. He throws a wide variety of kicking techniques. He stopped Aslan Toktarbaev with a brutal head kick after surviving a close submission attempt. He is a little wild with his attacks, but can generate a significant amount of power. He isn't afraid to go to the floor either and works his grappling and striking together in succession. He has a tendency to look for back mount more often then not, but can get overzealous and give up the position.

Vaculik's ground game is going to be the difference here. Sangcha-an's 4 combined opponents have a total of 6 submission wins in 30+ fights, so he has yet to face anyone as capable on the floor as Vas. Sangcha-an is incredibly ferocious and has shown the raw skill that over time could be molded into something significant. If he can keep this fight standing he has a much better chance of winning, but look for Vaculik to either score a offensive takedown or capitalize on an early mistake allowing him to turn a exchange into an offensive oppurtunity. This is a step up for Sangcha-an and adversity can be a difficult thing to overcome for an inexperienced and undefeated fighter, so my prediction is Richie Vaculik to defeat Roldan Sangcha-an by submission.

170lbs- Chris Indich (5-2-0) vs Vik Grujic (6-4-0)

In the Welterweight division a pair of Team Australia teammates from TUF Nations battle it out as Chris Indich meets Vik Grujic. Both men debuted with defeats, Indich lost to fellow Aussie Richard Walsh. Grujic dropped a decision to Canadian Nordine Taleb.

Grujic debuted at Middleweight where he has spent the majority of his career, but will be cutting to 170 pounds for this contest. Indich is remaining at WW for a second fight, but Kenny Florian noted in his debut that he was probably more suited to make the cut to Lightweight.

This is a must win for both men considering neither faired that well on their season of TUF and both where soundly defeated in their first attempts, most likely the loser will be shown the door. While Indich is far from a young prospect, at 37 Vik will most likely not a second chance at the big leagues- short of a injury replacement opportunity in a future Australian based show.

Both men have limited pro experience and it showed in their debuts as they were simply outclassed. Grujic made too many mistakes against Taleb and Indich was unable to deal with the speed of Walsh. Neither fighter has overwhelming numbers, Indich has 2 wins by sub and 2 wins by knockout. Grujic has just single knockout and 3 submissions on record. Of the two, he was the only one to pull off a win on TUF shutting down his Canadian opponent via first round brutal elbow strike based stoppage.

Some fights are hard to get read for and this is one of them. There are few interesting aspects though that appear to provide an edge here. Grujic is 37, which means physically he is on the downward side of his career. He is making the cut to 170 which is a full 15 pounds from where he normally fight and that can be tough for anyone, especially a 37 year old. He has just one win in his last 4 pro fights and it came over a fighter with an 0-1 record at the time. Finally, in his debut he routinely overextended and telegraphed his attacks allowing his opponent to continually counter and capitalize. When your offensive attempts are turned against you that is never a positive. Indich showed durability in his debut and appears to have a little more positive on his side, so my prediction is Chris Indich to defeat Vik Grujic by decision.

170lbs- Neil Magny (10-4-0) vs Rodrigo de Lima (8-1-1)

In the Welterweight division the streaking Neal Magny puts his 2 fight winning streak on the line against promotional debutant Rodrigo de Lima. Magny has picked up back to back upset wins and is 3-2 inside the Octagon. de Lima has rolled through 3 straight all by first round submission.

Magny will hold a significant size advantage over his opponent, with a 6" height advantage and what we can assume as a pretty lengthy reach advantage.

This fight will come down to one key aspect; can de Lima get this fight to the ground and keep it there. The Brazilian has scored 6 of his 8 wins by submission. 4 of those victories have come by rear naked choke, so if the fight hits the floor Magny will need to be very wary of giving up his back.

Defensively, Magny has been strong but not perfect. He has defended 61% of his opponents' takedown attempts, but was submitted by elite level BJJ Black belt Sergio Moraes. Against Moraes, Magny made a minor miscalculation which lead to the fight hitting the floor and the eventual submission. He has been tapped out twice and also suffered a decision defeat against Seth Baczynski based on Seth's superior ground game. His offensive wrestling has shown signs of improvement over his last 2 fights, but he needs to focus on his defensive work to be successful.

All indications are that Magny will be the technically superior striker and his length will further complicate things for de Lima. Magny's reach will force the Brazilian to shoot from the outside and should give him a little extra time to sprawl his way out of any takedown attempt. Magny's TDD has to be on-point and the time difference could impact one or both men, but my prediction is Neil Magny to defeat Rodrigo de Lima by decision.

205lbs- Gian Villante (11-5-0) vs Sean O'Connell (15-5-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division former Strikeforce standout Gian Villante meets UFC sophomore Sean O'Connell. Most recently, Villante fell to 1-2 in 3 UFC appearances after a disappointing effort versus Fabio Maldonado. O'Connell failed to make it out of the first frame in his debut, getting knocked out by Ryan Jimmo and ending his 6 fight winning streak.

Villante dropped his first 2 Strikeforce appearances before finding his stride and finishing with a trio of victories.

The native of New York has not looked good of late, even in victory, struggling to put together a complete effort. Since signing on with Strikeforce he has been soundly out-landed by the opposition in 5 of 8 fights, winning just one of them. He will need to avoid a similar outing against O'Connell if he plans to get back in the win column.

The one time MFC combatant, O'Connell is a gritty fighter with 7 of his 15 wins coming via knockout. He held is own in the early going against Jimmo before overzealously running into a stiff right hand that ended the bout. He landed a few decent shots, bloodied up Jimmo's face, and had some success working his opponent against the cage.

The knockout against Jimmo was O'Connell's third which is a major concern. His other 2 losses have come by submission with brings into question his defensive grappling as well. Jimmo did score a takedown versus Sean and they should be there as well for Villante if he elects to go that route. The biggest concern for Gian is getting outworked, but he will be the more technically gifted fighter both on the feet and floor. The cardio issues were brought on by the extreme heat of Brazil in his last fight won't impact his performance either. If Villante intends to stay in the big leagues this is a fight he has to win, so my prediction is Gian Villante to defeat Sean O'Connell by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Colton Smith (6-3-0) v Carlos Diego Ferreira (9-0-0)

In the preliminary headliner, TUF champion Colton Smith looks for his first post-TUF victory when he welcomes UFC debutant Carlos Diego Ferreira to the Octagon. Smith has lost 2 straight and 3 of his last 4. Ferreira has gone undefeated through his first 9 fights, including a win over former WEC and UFC fighter Carlo Prater.

Smith is facing a must win situation. He has lost to a pair of fellow TUF winners, one by submission and the other by TKO.

Colton is working to improve his striking, but his forte remains the grappling game. He is a BBJ Brown belt and showcased his smothering ground game against Mike Ricci when he won the Ultimate Fighter Tournament Final. Unfortunately, as effective as he was in that fight, he was equally as ineffective in his last 2 bouts when he was unable to utilize his ground game.

Ferreira is a talented BJJ player and has won 5 times by submission. He is always a threat to lock up a submission and this will make the floor a very uninviting place for Smith to consider. Since transitioning to the Legacy FC, Carlos has failed to finished any of his 3 opponents which isn't that out of the ordinary for a fighter taking that next step up in competition.

On the feet Ferreira is far from refined, but should have enough to get the better of the action. He throws a few different kicking techniques and his aggressive brawling style will keep Smith from settling in. Colton has made some strides, but he doesn't possess the acumen to expose the holes in his opponent's defensive game.

Ferreira is still in the development process, but he is the more talented fighter both on the feet and the mat. Smith is a tough kid despite his recent pair of losses inside the distance. Unfortunately, being tough doesn't make up for a lack of overall skill. Smith was the winner of one of the weakest editions of the Ultimate Fighter in recent memory and that fact has become very apparent since his move onto the regular roster. Ferreira is debuting, but he should do more then enough to outwork and outpoint his opponent, so my prediction is Carlos Diego Ferreira to defeat Colton Smith by decision.

135lbs- Johnny Bedford (19-11-1 1NC) vs Cody Gibson (11-4-0)

In he Bantamweight division, Johnny Bedford lands back inside the cage to face injury replacement and second time UFC competitor Cody Gibson. Bedford was slated to rematch Rani Yahya from their No Contest ruling from earlier this year, but he will have to wait for that opportunity. For Gibson, his 6 fight winning streak came to an end in his debut against fellow first-timer Aljamain Sterling.

Bedford has struggled with consistency, fighting just once a year since 2011. He is winless in his last 2 fights, with his most recent fight ending in controversy, with a knockout via head butt rightfully ruled a no contest.

Johnny is at his best when he can bully his opponent, utilize his wrestling, and control his opponent while dropping heavy leather from top position. He is a BJJ Brown belt and former NCAA Division 1 wrestler. He has averaged 2.25 takedowns at a respectable 62% completion rate. While his ground game has been the key to his success; 5 takedowns in his 2 UFC wins, it has also been his downfall. He gave up 3 takedowns in his submission loss to Bryan Caraway and has now been submitted 9 times over his 10 losses.

Gibson's wrestling looked solid in his first appearance, scoring 4 takedowns against a pretty solid wrestler. He also has 3 submission wins, including a nasty guillotine choke of former WEC competitor Chad George. Unfortunately, Cody did give up 3 takedowns and spent too much time on his back against Sterling which ultimately cost him the fight. If he is too find success here he will need to either win or at the very least nullify the grappling battle.

On the feet, both men bring a lot to the table. Gibson throws a nice variety of techniques, but needs to avoid getting wild. When he losses focus he opens himself up to taking as much or more damage then he dishes out. Bedford has averaged over 5 strikes landed per minute, which is a very high work rate. Even more impressive, he has limited his opponents to just 1.68. These numbers are a little inflated based on his win versus Louis Gaudinot, but hey are still indicative of his high volume style.

Bedford needs to start stringing some wins together if he plans to grab any traction in the division. A loss here to a prospect like Gibson would be a massive setback. Wins over Gaudinot and Marcos Vinicius are not that convincing and a lack luster performance against Bryan Caraway and a 2010 loss to Edwin Figueroa are concerning. Gibson is young and talented. He made his UFC debut on short notice against a highly regarded prospect and more then held his own. Bedford has the tools to win this fight, but my prediction is Cody Gibson to defeat Johnny Bedford by submission.

185lbs- Marcelo Guimaraes (8-1-1) vs Andy Enz (8-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Marcelo Guimaraes returns to the Octagon when he faces former TUF competitor Andy Enz. Guimaraes was last seen getting knocked out by Gyu Hyun Lim, he is 1-1 in the UFC. Enz dropped his official debut to UFN 43 main carder Clint Hester by unanimous decision.

Guimaraes has gone roughly 15 months between bouts, Enz's break has been slightly more conventional at just 5 months. Marcelo will also be bumping up a division after competing at Welterweight in his first 2 performances.

Marcelo is a BJJ Black belt, but has secured just 2 submission wins in 10 pro bouts. Despite his high level grappling credentials he has yet to bring those skills to bear inside the Octagon with only 2 successful TDAs on 29 attempts. Even when he did land, his top control time was extremely limited.

While the Brazilian's submission numbers are much lower then expected, Enz has scored submission wins in 5 of his 7 victories. He has won by a variety of holds- both Brabo and North-south chokes, as well as a Keylock, but he will be hardpressed to sub his way to victory against Guimaraes.

What Enz did showcase in his debut was durability. He took some extremely big shots from the heavy handed Hester in the opening round and while he bent, he never broke. Even after getting knocked down and in the face of a dangerous striking based opponent he rallied back and landed some decent strikes of his own. If this fight is contested on the feet, Guimaraes can throw with some power, but he is relatively stiff and predictable. Andy possess the more fluid striking game, which should aid him in both landing success and conservation of energy.

If Guimaraes can get this fight to the floor he has the ability to either submit or smother his way to a victory. But, so far he has struggled to land takedowns and is now moving up a division to face larger opponents while coming off a lengthy layoff making ring rust a possible factor. Not exactly a recipe for success Enz was taken down a couple of times by Hester, but look for him to gut it out early and get the better of his opponent on the feet as the fight progresses, so my prediction is Andy Enz to defeat Marcelo Guimaraes by decision.

125lbs- Shane Howell (13-7-0) vs Ray Borg (6-1-0)

In the Flyweight division, Shane Howell steps up on short notice as an injury replacement to face Ray Borg. Howell has won 6 consecutives fights to earn the call up to the big leagues. Borg's undefeated record took its first blemish in his promotional debut, dropping a back and forth split decision to Dustin Ortiz.

Howell is filling in for the injured Ryan Benoit and will be making his first pro appearance since a mid 2012 TKO victory over Jimmy Van Horn under the KOTC banner. Howell has been on the shelf for roughly 28 months.

Borg debuted in a spirited affair against Dustin Ortiz, where the fight saw plenty of action both on the floor and the feet. 'The Tazmexican Devil' landed 5 of his 8 TDAs, while giving up 2 on 4 attempts by Ortiz. Borg is a pretty solid grappler, with 4 of his 6 wins coming by submission- all by rear naked choke. It would be safe to say that Howell will want to limit the amount of time Ray spends on his back.

Howell has 7 wins by submission, including a 2009 tapout of fellow UFC 125er Tim Elliot and a Brabo choke triumphant in his only Bellator appearance. However, he has to be careful if the fight does hit the floor, as he has been submitted 4 times overall and 3 of his last 5 losses have come by sub.

If the fight doesn't hit the ground Borg should still have the advantage over Howell. In the limit footage available of the UFC newcomer, his striking appears to be wild and unrefined. With a significant amount of time passing between appearances there is the possibility that Shane has cleaned up his technique, but that will remain an unknown until the bell rings. Borg lost to Ortiz based on his stand-up attack, regardless his hands are decent and he isn't afraid to go outside the box with higher risk maneuvers like a nasty jumping knee strike.

Discounting all of the in-cage abilities of both men there is enough working against Howell prior to entering the cage to pick against him. The massive layoff, the short notice call, and the UFC debut factor are all significant obstacles for Shane to overcome- 1 or even 2 would be disconcerting, but 3 is simply too much. Borg gets this fight to the floor and works his ground game, so my prediction is Ray Borg to defeat Shane Howell by submission.

265lbs- Oleksiy Oliynyk (48-9-1) vs Anthony Hamilton (12-2-0)

The UFC's attempt to expand the Heavyweight division continues, with the debut of 2 new fighters. Oleksiy Oliynyk makes his first showing riding a 9 fight winning streak with his last 3 victories coming over Mirko Cro Cop, Dion Staring, and Jeff Monson. Anthony Hamilton has defeated his last 6 opponents, including a pair of wins in MFC where he most recently dispatched Darrill Schoonover to retain the promotions 265 pound title.

The Ukrainian fighter has a wealth of experience, competing 58 times since his pro debut in 1997. He has fought for M-1, KSW, and appeared twice for Bellator- winning a Heavyweight quarter final bout before being bounced in the semis by Neil Grove. Hamilton is far from a rookie with 14 fights of his own spread out over 4 years.

Physically this will be an interesting fight. Hamilton is a very big heavyweight that has to cut to make 265, while Oliynik will tip the scale around the 230 mark. The American will also stand 4-5 inches taller then his opponent. In fact, the Ukrainian has spent time fighting at both 205 and 185 and has fought the likes of the now retired Chael Sonnen and UFC Welterweight Adlan Amagov.

Oliynyk has a 39-2 record in fights ended by submission, most recently tapping out the aforementioned Cro Cop by surprising neck crank and Jeff Monson by RNC. He is a 4th degree BBJ Black belt and International Master of Combat Sambo. He has a wealth of maneuvers to draw upon; winning several times by Ezekiel choke along with a variety of more conventional holds. It is not much of a stretch to suggest that Oleksiy will be looking to drag Hamilton to the floor and start working his submission game as soon as possible. That could be easier said then done.

Hamilton comes from a collegiate wrestling background. He doesn't have a clean outside shot, but he will work a variety of takedown techniques from in close once he establishes control in the clinch. He can do damage from top position with some solid ground and pound, but his top game isn't that dominant despite his size. He had some difficulty maintaining control over the much smaller Smealinho Rama, who was able to push Hamilton off of him from full mount position. Even in his win over Schoonover, he struggled to hold top control after taking the fight to the floor.

On the feet, the M-1 vet is far from an elite level striker. He has 4 knockout wins, but has also been KOed on 4 occasions. He tends to throw wide ranging hooks and plods forward with limited footwork, making him a very hittable target. Hamilton has been working his stand-up along side Jon Jones and Travis Browne at Jackson-Winklejohns, but still has room for improvement. His head kick knockout to capture the MFC title was impressive and he does have some decent kicking techniques. Similar to his wrestling, he does his best work at close range and will be looking to get in tight before unloading.

The size differential favours Hamilton significantly. The skill (on the floor) and experience trends in Oliynyk's direction. One area of concern for the American is his cardio. He was slowing down tremendously in the first round when he fought Rama and 6 of his last 8 fights have ended inside the first round. Conversely, he is coming off of a 5 round decision victory, so his cardio is probably better then what he showed versus Rama. Oliynyk is going to struggle to get this fight to the floor against a much larger wrestling based opponent. He has been knocked out 4 times and Hamilton is capable of adding a fifth, so my prediction is Anthony Hamilton to defeat Oleksiy Oliynyk by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

170lbs- Daniel Sarafian (9-4-0) vs Kiichi Kunimoto (16-5-2 1NC)

Capping off the undercard portion of the card, Daniel Sarafian makes his Welterweight debut when he meets Kiichi Kunimoto. Sarafian has fought 3 times in the UFC securing just 1 win and is coming off a loss to Cezar Ferreira back in November. Kunimoto, won his debut in less then impressive fashion via DQ after taking a series of illegal blows that rendered him incapable of continuing.

Sarafian is taking his first fight at 170 pounds, a division that many observers have felt was more suitable to his physical makeup.

The TUF Brazil finalist is a BJJ Black belt with 7 of his 8 wins coming by submission, including his UFC win over Eddie Mendez. While the numbers would indicate that his best chance for victory is on the floor, he has averaged less then a half a takedown per fight. Consideration should be given considering 2 of his fights, both losses, came against massive Middleweights in CB Dollaway and Cezar Ferreira- both good ground fighters in their own right. With Dan cutting down to face smaller or at least more appropriate sized opposition he should find more success brining his ground game to bear.

A Pancrase veteran, Kunimoto has secured submissions in 50% of his victories- 8 of 16. He uses a variety of techniques on the floor, with 3 wins coming by way of arm triangle. In his final pre-UFC appearance he submitted former Zuffa employee Edward Faaloloto by arm bar. Unfortunately, the footage of the Japanese fighter is limited and his debut performance offered a limited view of his capabilities.

One area that does stand out for 'Strasser' is his lack of high level competition. His recent success, which included capturing the Heat Welterweight title, has come against a series of opponents with less then impressive resumes. The aforementioned Faaloloto saw his record drop to a dismal 2-5 after facing Kiichi and considering that win came over a natural Lightweight further infringes upon its significance.

The biggest concern with the Brazilian is the cut to 170 pounds. If the cut goes well, Sarafian is the physically stronger fighter and all indications are he is the more technically gifted. Look for the fight to hit the floor early, with Kunimoto struggling to contend with the former Middleweight's aggressive attack, so my prediction is Daniel Sarafian to defeat Kiichi Kunimoto by submission.

135lbs- Yves Jabouin (19-9-0) vs #8 Mike Easton (13-4-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Yves Jabouin makes his 8th UFC appearance when he takes on 6 fight Octagon vet Mike Easton. Easton has dropped a trio of bouts after starting his Octagon run with 3 straight wins. Jabouin has lost 2 of his last 3 after having his own 3 fight winning streak snapped.

While both men have struggled of late, they have been paired with elite level competition. Both have lost to Brad Pickett, while Jabouin also suffered a set back against recent title challenger Eddie Wineland and Easton was defeated by top ranked Raphael Assuncao and the new Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw.

Easton is a physical specimen and thrives when he is able to inflict his power through both his striking and grappling. He is a BJJ Black belt, with just 2 wins by submission while averaging less then a takedown per fight. Easton attempted to diversify his attack beyond his striking when he scored multiple takedowns against Brad Pickett. He could look to implement a similar approach against Yves as Jabouin has been submitted 3 times in his career and had some difficult with Dustin Pague on the floor.

While Jabouin isn't known for his grappling prowess, he has utilized his wrestling in the past. He completed 4 takedowns over his first 2 contests at Bantamweight and showed serviceable top control against Wael Watson.

Defensively both men have good TDD numbers which suggest they each might struggle to find success with their grappling. Of the two it would appear that 'The Hulk' would be the more likely to score some key takedowns during the fight.

On the feet, Jabouin has won 11 times by knockout. He is a technically sounds striker, capable of mixing in a variety of spinning techniques to augment his more traditional striking attacks. He has a tendency to lay back and counter strike, attempting to time his opponent as they come forward. He averages just under 3 successful strikes per minute, while absorbing slightly less from his opponent. The big knockout on 'Tiger' are his 4 losses by knockout. He has been knocked out in each of his last 2 losses, with all 4 of his career knockouts coming against dangerous strikers.

After debuting with a stoppage victory, Easton has yet to put another opponent down and had only done it 3 times prior. Despite a lower finishing rate, he does have power in his hands and supplements it with some very hard leg kicks. He is a Taekwondo Black belt, which is an indication of where his kicking game comes from. Easton is at his best when he comes forward and forces his opponent to continually take a backward step. In his first 3 fights he was able to implement this aggressive approach, but more recently his opponents have succeeded in both countering and forcing Mike to move backwards.

Yves is the more diversified striker, but his chin is a major concern. Additionally, His willingness to give ground while striking will play directly into Easton's wheelhouse of pressing the action and moving forward. With Mike landing just under a strike more per minute this too will favour the American on the scorecards. Look for Easton to outwork Yves on the feet and land some crucial takedowns couple with some key top control time, so my prediction is Mike Easton to defeat Yves Jabouin by decision.

135lbs- Valerie Letourneau (5-3-0) vs Elizabeth Phillips (4-1-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division Valerie Letourneau makes her promotional debut on home soil when she fights fellow UFC debutant Elizabeth Phillips. Letourneau has won 4 of her last 5 overall, while Phillips is riding a 4 fight winning streak after dropping her pro debut.

Both fighters are entering the Octagon on incredibly short notice. This bout was originally scheduled to feature Germaine de Ramndamie taking on newcomer Milana Dudieva , unfortunately injuries felled them both.

Despite neither fighter breaking into double digits for total experience, both have some upper level experience. Letourneau fought and lost to both Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis early in her career. She then took a run at qualifying for the first Ultimate Fighter season involving Women, but fell short in the qualifying rounds losing via submission to Roxanne Modafferi. Phillips was TKOed by multi-fight Invicta veteran Miriam Nakamoto in her debut and dropped a submission loss as an amateur to Jessamyn Duke.

The American has been the more active fighter of late, fighting twice in each of 2014 and 2013. Conversely, Valerie experienced a bit of down time sitting out for almost 2 years after her 2012 loss to Claudia Gadelha before returning to win this past May in victorious fashion. She also missed 2 years of action between 2009 and 2011.

With both girls debuting and doing so on short notice that creates a lot of uncertainty. Letourneau is fighting at home which is a positive, but a recent TUF loss to Roxanne Moddafferi is a bit concerning. Additionally her relative inactivity over the last few years is also a red flag against an opponent who has been consistently active since she began her amateur career. There is some, but limit footage of both, but my prediction is Elizabeth Phillips to defeat Valerie Letourneau by decision.

155lbs- Kajan Johnson (19-10-1) vs Tae Hyun Bang (16-8-0)

In the Lightweight division, TUF Nations cast member and British Columbia native 'Ragin' Kajan Johnson makes his official UFC debut across the cage from Korean Top Team member Tae Hyun Bang. Johnson advanced threw the opening round of the TUF tournament but was stopped in the semi-finals by eventual TUF champ Chad Laprise. Bang debuted last January and suffered a decision defeat against Maribek Taisumov.

The Canadian has not fought since late 2011, but has won 7 of his last 8.

Johnson holds a slight edge in overall professional bouts at 30-24, but Bang has the more impressive resume. He has fought both Jorge Masvidal and Takanori Gomi, in addition to having already made his UFC debut- unfortunately he lost all 3.

Bang has accrued an even split of wins by knockout and decision, 16 in total. He is a striker by trade, relying primarily on his boxing to do the damage. He carries a heavy left hand which is his most dangerous weapon. While he can go on the offensive, he trends towards the counter striking side of the game. While he has scored several win with this method, he has a tendency to be too passive while looking to counter and allow his opponent to simply outwork him, this has been defeated 6 times by decisions.

Johnson record includes several stoppage defeats; 3 by knockout and 3 more by submission. He was also the recipient of one of the nastiest KOs in TUF history that resulted in a broken jaw. On the positive side, Johnson is equally as capable of pulling of a finish with 15 of his 19 wins ending inside the distance (4 KO/TKOs & 11 submissions). Just should his durability his only TUF victory, fending off the early attack of his opponent, transitioning to a leg lock, and then eventually taking the back for the RNC finish. Johnson may look to exploit the grappling defense of his opponent, who has been submitted twice and was taken down several times by Taisumov.

On the feet, Johnson is aggressive and utilizes a fair bit of movement. He likes to pair up his punches and will frequently look to finish with a low kick. He is also more then willing to go high with his kicks in an attempt to catch his opponent off guard. He should be the faster of the 2 men, along with the more diverse and aggressive striker. The big issue is his ability to take a big shot, especially considering that he is taking his first fight after the jaw injury. While aggression can be an effective weapon, being too aggressive and carless can walk a fighter directly into a knockout.

If Bang can catch Kajan moving forward the combination of his forward momentum, previous knockout history, and Bang's power suggest the fight could come to a screeching halt. Bang looked very tentative in his debut and if the Korean can't land a fight changing/ending blow he is going to struggle to match the output of his opponent who should be buoyed by the home crowd. Johnson is coming out of the TUF house which frequently leads to fighters taking the next step in their development and he has had significant time away from the cage to further hone those skills. UFC jitters and ring rust could be a factor, but my prediction is Kajan Johnson to defeat Tae Hyun Bang by decision.

155lbs- Jason Saggo (9-1-0) vs Josh Shockley (11-2-0)

A pair of UFC debutants meet up in the Lightweight division as Canadian Jason Saggo welcomes American Josh Shockley to the Great White North. Saggo has won 4 in a row and his only defeat came against fellow UFC member Jesse Ronson. Shockley has won back to back bouts and 5 of his last 6.

Shockley had a brief run in the Bellator cage; losing his debut on short notice to Tony Imada, before picking up back to back wins, and then dropping his final BFC bout by submission.

The American should have the experience advantage taking into account his Bellator experience, which included a win over former TUF competitor Shamar Bailey. He also defeated another TUF alumni and former WEC competitor Micah Miller after leaving BFC. Both wins came by decision.

Saggo comes from a both a BJJ and Muay Thai backgrounds, but with submissions accounting for 8 of his 9 wins its not hard to see the importance of his grappling game to his overall success. His transition game is good and his back mount is strong with 4 wins coming by rear-naked choke. His loss to Jesse Ronson came on the basis of his inability to get the fight to the floor with consistency which brings his wrestling skills into question, especially against next level competition. If he is forced to stand, his boxing is his weak point. At range he throws a variety of kicks and can also do damage from the clinch if he is able to establish control.

Shockley has won 5 times by submission and is a very opportunistic grappler, capitalizing on his adversaries mistakes and quickly cinching up a finish. All 5 of his submission wins have come inside the first round, including a 35 second tapout of Eric Moon to earn his first Bellator win. He is also dangerous off his back, exemplified by his arm bar submission of Vener Galiev after getting knocked down by punches. He trains his striking alongside Eddie Wineland, but seems a bit stiff overall and doesn't possess the weapons of his Canadian opponent.

Taking everything previously mentioned into consideration, both men have been out of action for nearly a year and the majority of available footage is older than that. That leaves a lot of time for improvement in all facets of the game for both men. Based on what is available, Saggo appears to be the stronger grappler and the more talented striker because on his kicking and clinch game. Saggo will also be the crowd favourite which could help him to deal with the first fight jitters. Shockley is more experienced, but Saggo appears to offer the more well rounded skill set, so my prediction is Jason Saggo to defeat Josh Shockley by decision.

135lbs- Roland Delorme (9-2-0 1NC) vs Michinori Tanaka (9-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Canadian born Roland Delorme makes his sixth UFC appearance when he rolls out the red carpet for PXC and Shooto graduate Michinori Tanaka. The last time Delorme saw action was in a split decision defeat against Alex Caceres, he was undefeated through his first 4 UFC fights (3-0-0 1NC). Tanaka is undefeated through 9 pro bouts, including a 4-0 run under the PXC banner.

Tanaka won and then successfully defended the PXC Bantamweight title in his last 2 bouts.

This fight is most likely going to be decided on ground, but will see some action standing. Delorme has showed on more then one occasion that he can stand and trade with success. He struggled with the accuracy of Alex Caceres, but his power was holding up quite nicely. He uses short straight punches and stunned Nick Denis prior to eventual submission finish. Tanaka prefers to grapple, but will let his hands go when the situation calls for it and will throw a few different kicking techniques as well.

Tanaka is a 2nd degree Judo Black belt and has spent time honing his skills at the Alpha Male camp.

The majority of Tanaka's vertical game is centered around disguising his shot. He changes levels very quickly and covers a surprising amount of distance. Look for him grab onto a single, rapidly turn the corner, and then utilize a trip while snapping his opponent to the floor. He has won 5 times by submission, along with several ground based decision victories. He has a very strong top game and is able to maintain the position through continually transitioning and rolling with his opponent as they look to work out off the mat.

Delorme is a BJJ Brown belt and a Judo Black belt. He has secured 6 of his 9 pro wins by submission, including 2 in the UFC. He average 3.02 takedowns per fight at a 32% completion rate. He is an aggressive grinding style grappler that breaks down his opponent with an active top game. He isn’t the type to sit in guard and hold on, looking to pass and then set up a submission opportunity. This style did cost him in his last fight, where his lack of focus on positional controlled allowed his opponent to sweep and reverses him several times.

Against Caceres, Delorme went back and forth on the mat and ultimately got the lesser the grappling exchanges- although it was close. Delorme routinely lost top position and struggled to regain control. Against Tanaka he will find it difficult to take him off his feet and will have an even greater struggle getting off his back when put there so my prediction is Michinori Tanaka to defeat Roland Delorme by decision.

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- Yaotzin Meza (19-9-0) vs Sergio Pettis (10-1-0)

In the preliminary card main event, Yaotzin Meza and Sergio Pettis meet up in the Bantamweight division. Meza is coming off a defeat to Chico Camus and is 1-2 since joining the UFC. Pettis is coming off the first loss of his career, falling his Octagon mark to an even 1-1.

Meza will stand 3" taller then Sergio, but will have a 1" reach advantage.

As previously mentioned, Pettis is coming off the first loss of his career. He is a young fighter (20) and it has been stated time and time again that you really don't reach your full potential until you have tasted your first defeat. Unfortunately, for some fighters their inability to deal with that first blemish can lead to a significant setback.

Both men are competent submission fighters. While the numbers favour Meza, 7 submission wins to just 3 for Pettis, based on in ring action it would appear that Sergio is the more dangerous grappler. The knock on Pettis is his TDD. He was put on his back 4 times by Will Campuzano and had similar trouble in his pre-UFC run. If Meza can put Pettis on his back he will score some points with top control and considering Sergio is coming off a submission loss there is potential for that too. Even when on top, Yaotzin will need to be very careful as Pettis is incredibly active and dangerous off his back. He is also quite good in a scramble situation.

On the feet, Sergio will be superior fighter by a wide margin. He isn't quite as dynamic as his brother, but he still employs a nice variety of kicks and has pretty could snap in his punches. He has 3 wins by knockout and is a 2nd degree Black belt in Taekwondo. Additionally, he trains under Duke Roufus who is known for the development of many talented strikers.

Meza has 5 wins all by TKO, but he has also been finished 3 times by the same method. Additionally, he has been defeated by submission 3 times and narrowly escaped a fourth time when he fought John Albert in his Bantamweight debut. Pettis has finished his adversary in 6 of his 10 wins and is coming off his first career loss so he should be extremely motivated to get back in the win column, so my prediction is Sergio Pettis to defeat Yaotzin Meza by TKO.

170lbs- Bobby Voelker (24-11-0) vs Lance Benoist (6-2-0)

In the Welterweight division, Bobby Voelker makes his fourth UFC appearance when he fights the returning Lance Benoist. Voelker has gone winless through his first 3 Octagon fights, most recently dropping a decision to William Macario. Benoist debuted with a victory over Matt Riddle but has dropped back to back fights since.

Benoist hasn't fought since September 2012, with over 20 months elapsing between fights.

The former Strikeforce competitor has a massive edge in experience with 35 pro bouts to just 8 for Benoist. Benoist does have an extensive amateur career competing in 17 bouts before turning pro.

The biggest number for either man is Voelker's knockout totals. He has finished 15 fights by either KO or TKO, including back to back stoppages of Roger Bowling in their 3 fight series in Strikeforce. Voelker predominantly relies on his boxing and durability, but he currently harbours a very dangerous striking exchange rate. Bobby lands a little over 4.5 strikes per minute, but gets hit at a rate of almost 2 strikes more per minute. Bobby has been knocked out 3 times, most recently by Robbie Lawler which is nothing to scoff at. He also took a significant amount of damage in his last fight getting hurt and badly busted open by a more active and accurate striker.

Benoist has just a single pro knockout, but he is still a respectable striker. On averages he outlands his opponents by a strike per minute and implements a kick heavy attack. He did get stunned by a couple of short counter punches from Sean Pierson which will be an area of concern against a powerful guy like Voelker. A key point of interest in this fight will be that Benoist is striking from a southpaw stance. In his last fight, he faced a fellow southpaw which appeared to create some difficulties for him during the exchanges, but he should be able to use it to his advantage against Voelker.

On the floor, both men have submission capabilities. Voelker is 4-1 in fights ended by submission and Benoist is 4-0. Lance is a BJJ purple belt and used his wrestling fairly effectively against the much bigger Seth Baczynski landing 4 takedowns. Voelker hasn't consistently shown his grappling prowess but he did land several takedowns against Patrick Cote while doing some noteworthy damage from top position. Benoist appears to be the more dangerous off his back, but that is a position he will want to avoid. While both men have the ability to take this fight to the floor, it should be decided on the feet.

A couple of interesting x-factors to take into consideration- Benoist is just 26 years old and while he has been out of action for a considerable amount of time which can create ring rust, it also opens up the possibility for significant development to take place. Additionally, Lance's last 2 defeats came in 2012, the same year he tragically lost his twin brother in car accident. It would be easy to understand that an individual going through such an ordeal may lack focus elsewhere in his life. While an event like that is something that he will never forget, with more then 2 years having passed Lance is most likely in a better place mentally to prepare for his combat career.

Voelker hits hard and has the experience edge, but Benoist is the more diverse striker and should be able to use his kicks to keep Bobby out of effective boxing range. This fight could really go either way, but the younger, still developing fighter is little bit more appealing so my prediction is Lance Benoist to defeat Bobby Voelker by decision.

125lbs- #15 Scott Jorgensen (14-8-0) vs Danny Martinez (17-5-0)

In the Flyweight division Scott Jorgensen will try for a third time to secure his first win at 125 pounds when he meets UFC sophomore Danny Martinez. Martinez took his UFC debut on short notice and lost via decision to Chris Cariaso. Jorgensen has dropped 3 in a row and 5 of his last 6.

Despite Jorgensen's recent struggles, he has been paired with and lost to top level competition including Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, and Renan Barao.

The 'Gremlin' applies a pretty basic and often predictable game plan. He had some success with his wrestling against Cariaso; landing 5 takedowns on 14 attempts. The majority of his tries came along the cage, after backing his foe to the wall Martinez will change levels and try to connects his hands. Despite 5 completions, Martinez wasn't able to control enough of the action to take the decision. He will need to be wary of exposing his neck to Jorgensen when shooting as Scotty will look for the choke.

Prior to shooting in, Danny's attack of preference centers around winging big overhand punches, with a steady diet of left hands. While he does have 8 knockouts, his continued reliance on a less then technical approach makes it easier for fighters at this level of competition to anticipate his attack and avoid the majority of his volume. Additionally, by loading up on his punches it can result in a drop off in performance as he tires.

Scotty Jorgensen is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and BJJ Purple belt. He is 5-3 in fights ended by submission, which both shows his ability to finish on the floor, but also a higher level of vulnerability. That might be a bit of an overstatement as 2 of his submission losses have come against Urijah Faber and Jussier Formiga following a head butt that knocked him down. Regardless of his past struggles, he should be the superior wrestler both offensively and defensively allowing him to dictate where this fight takes place.

On the feet, Scott is far from an elite striker and has just 2 knockout wins. He averages 3.62 strikes per minute and is fairly active on the feet. He is far more effective when he throws in combination and appear to be getting back to that versus Formiga prior to the finish. He made mention of returning to train with Kit Cope after feeling he had regressed with his stand-up. He will need to continue this to find success versus Martinez.

Jorgensen should be able to anticipate and avoid the predictable striking of Martinez. Short of getting caught with a big shot, Jorgensen will control the action early with his wrestling and superior striking game and then take control as his opponent slows in the higher altitude. Scotty has a massive experience advantage against an opponent that has struggled every time he has been paired with next level competition and he should come out motivated to save his job so my prediction is Scott Jorgensen to defeat Danny Martinez by decision.

155lbs- Jon Tuck (7-1-0) vs Jake Lindsey (9-0-0)

In the Lightweight division, Ultimate Fighter alumni and 2 fight UFC veteran Jon Tuck meets debuting and short notice injury replacement Jake Lindsey. Tuck debuted inside the Octagon with a win, but fell via decision to Norman Parke in his second showing. Lindsey has won 9 straight to start his pro career in addition to a 4-0 record on the amateur circuit.

Lindsey has had about a month to prepare for his UFC debut after Tuck's original opponent, Yosdenis Cedeno, was forced to pull out with an injury.

Both fighters have less then double digit pro experience, but Tuck has the edge in overall quality. He has competed twice in the UFC and fought and lost to eventual TUF finalist Al Iaquinta in his only reality show fight. Lindsey has fought a decent mix of young fighters and career journeymen so far, but this will be the highest caliber opponent of his brief career.

Tuck is a BJJ Brown belt and tested grappling competitor. 3 of his first 4 wins came by submission, all by rear naked choke, but the last came back in 2009. He hasn't shown a commitment to his grappling skills since entering the Octagon, attempting 1 unsuccessful TDA over 30 minutes of cage time. Lindsey has won 6 times via submission, a even split between his pro and amateur careers. He has a decent takedown and transition game, but has yet to be test against someone of Tuck's capability.

On the feet, Tuck has power but needs to improve his ability to deploy it. He throws hard and will work in some decent leg kicks, but he tends to get a little sloppy which in turn impacts his cardio. He slowed down noticeably against Norman Parke and became very hittable. He would benefit from stringing his punches together in sequence, but seems more insistent on winging big singles with minimal, if any, set up.

The 'Librarian' has 4 knockout wins, including 3 straight first round finishes leading up to this fight. He throws hard from the outside, but does some of his best work at short range. He will tie up and look to land big shots in the clinch, but he is also quite dangerous on the break where he will pull back and land hard and heavy barrages of strikes.

Tuck has the experience advantage, but his willingness to forgo his greatest strength and an apparent conditioning issue raise some major concerns. Lindsey is still developing, but he has the tools to push and outwork his opponent. This fight is a candidate for a FOTN bonus and my prediction is Jake Lindsey to defeat Jon Tuck by Decision.

205lbs- Patrick Cummins (4-1-0) vs Roger Narvaez (6-0-0)

The event gets started in the Light Heavyweight division as Patrick Cummins makes his second Octagon appearance when he welcomes UFC debutant Roger Narvaez to the cage. Cummins suffered his first career loss against top ranked Daniel Cormier in his short notice debut. Narvaez is undefeated through his first 6 with his most recent victory coming under the Legacy FC banner.

Narvaez will be stepping up to take this fight on short notice after Francimar Barroso was forced to withdraw. Narvaez traditionally fights as a Middleweight and will most likely return to 185 pounds should he get a second Octagon opportunity.

Cummins's debut was short and painful, getting stopped after just 79 seconds by Cormier. 'Durkin' wasn't expected to win the fight despite the UFC's attempt to build up their last second replacement as a legitimate threat to 'DC'. What Cummins does bring to the table is a NCAA D-1 wrestling pedigree and 4 first round finishes- 2 by TKO and 2 by sub. The majority of his wins have come after he established top position which is most likely what he will be focusing on here.

The newcomer, has yet to taste defeat. Narvaez has won 4 times inside the first round as a pro and took 3 more submission wins and a TKO all inside the first 5 as an amateur. Similar to Cummins, Roger bases his success off of his ability to gain top position prior to looking for the finish. His most recent victory was the first to go to the judges in his only Legacy FC appearance.

The 'Silveback' ran into a bit of controversy in his 2012 win over Aaron Glynn. He transitioned from a kimura to a rear naked choke to finish the fight, but was slow in relinquishing the hold prompting the official to (Rousimar Palhares style) forcibly attempt to remove the hold and his upset opponent to confront him after it was eventually released.

Despite standing an inch taller then Cummins, Narvaez will be the smaller man. Cummins comes from a superior wrestling background which should allow him to dictate where the fight takes place. Considering how important the ground game is for both men that doesn't bode well for Narvaez. Cummins also has the benefits of his UFC debut experience under the bright lights of a PPV and a full camp to prepare, his opponent has neither. Patty C isn't the world-beater that he was originally promoted as, but he should have the superior skill-set here so my prediction is Patrick Cummins to defeat Roger Narvaez by TKO.

 

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Nick Hein (10-1-0 1NC) vs Drew Dober (14-5-0)

This is a classic grappler versus striker pairing, although the numbers wouldn't exactly suggest it. Nick Hein comes from a Judo background and has secured 4 wins by submission. Conversely, Drew Dober has won 8 times by submission but is a more kickboxing oriented fighter. Dober showed a lot of moxie in his debut, taking a fight at Welterweight and hanging tough despite getting beaten pretty much start to finish. He should fair much better at his natural weight class. What this fight comes down to for the German is can he close the gap, limit the damage, and put Dober on his back. If he can do that with consistency he could grind out a decision, but his top control will need to be on point as Dober is probably the most capable grappler he has faced to date. On the feet, Hein isn't that strong and Dober should be able to capitalize on it. Dober's striking is simply better then Hein and that should be quite evident from the opening bell. Despite being the superior striker, Drew will need to avoid getting too aggressive as he could open up opportunities for Hein to score a takedown. Hein is fighting at home which is a positive, but he is making his debut and cutting to 155 pounds for what appears to be the first time which are both difficult tasks. Dober is the best fighter that Hein has faced and it will show up, so my prediction is Drew Dober to defeat Nick Hein by TKO.

185lbs- Magnus Cedenblad (11-4-0) vs Krzysztof Jotko (14-0-0)

Magnus Cedenblad has had an early submission opportunities in each of his first 2 UFC fights, one he finished and one he did not. The Swede is coming off of a 9 month layoff after submitting long time veteran Jared Hamman, but he was facing an even longer break heading into that fight. Krzysztof Jokto didn't grab a tonne of attention with his debut win, but what he did do was execute a pretty solid game plan and come away with a win. Jotko is a well rounded fighter, but hasn't shown a tonne of finishing ability with just 2 knockouts and 4 submission through 14 fights. Conversely, Cedenblad has 10 finishes (6 knockout and 4 submissions) over just 11 wins. Jotko appears to be the more technically gifted fighter, both on the feet and on the floor. He has decent hands and can work the kicking game effectively. He can also do damage at short range with elbows and knees. Defensively he did a decent job shutting his last opponent's grappling attack down and he should be able to stop Cedenblad as well. He will need to be cautious if he elects to look for a takedown as Magnus is quite opportunistic with his submission game, but my prediction is Krzysztof Jotko to defeat Magnus Cedenblad.

135lbs- Vaughan Lee (14-9-1) vs #7 Iuri Alcantara (29-5-0 1NC)

Vaughan Lee is coming off of a pretty impressive performance, but against a less then impressive adversary in Nam Phan. This time around, he will be facing a multi-faceted opponent in Alcantara who is simply better then Lee in all of the Brit's strongest areas. Alcantrara is a big Bantamweight with serious power and dangerous submission skills. His cardio is the biggest concern, but not enough of one to pick against him. Alcantara will either land something big on the feet and follow Lee to the floor or look for a early takedown, either way my prediction is Iuri Alcantara to defeat Vaughan Lee by submission.

170lbs- Peter Sobotta (13-4-1) vs Pawel Pawlak (10-0-0)

Peter Sobotta gets a second shot in the UFC after 3 straight losses sent him packing the first time around. He has gone 5-0-1 since getting cut. Interestingly enough, all 5 of his wins have come by first round rear naked choke, with 3 of those triumphs taking place on the same night. Pawel Pawlak is undefeated with 6 wins by knockout and 3 more by submission. He is a measured striker who throws a lot of single strikes. This might not be the best strategy against Sobotta who struggled with pressured based fighters in his first UFC run. Sobotta throws a variety of kicks and should be able to deploy them against a fighter like Pawlak that is willing to stand at distance. On the floor, the German is a BJJ Brown belt with 9 submission wins. He lacks the wrestling to consistently capitalize on his submission capabilities, at least at the UFC level, but if Pawlak elects to take it to the ground the German has the skills to turn the position in his favour. Pawlak is making his debut and that can be tough. He is also making a jump in competition and has yet to taste defeat which can be a bit of a concern. Sobotta has Octagon experience and will be fighting at home, but he hasn't fought in nearly a year and a half. If Pawlak showed more aggression then he would be the better pick, but look for Sobotta to land his kicks with regularity and get the better of the action on the mat. It is hard backing a fighter that is 0-3 in the UFC, but my prediction is Peter Sobotta to defeat Pawel Pawlak by submission.

145lbs- Andy Ogle (9-4-0) vs Maximo Blanco (9-6-1 1NC)

Neither man has been lighting the world on fire of late with a combined record of 2-7. Regardless of their recent difficulties, Maximo Blanco has a tonne of talent but seems to be lacking something between the ears. He has power in his hand, decent striking chops, and can wrestle. Unfortunately, if he fails to put his opponent away early his cardio falters and he struggles late. His only win since joining the UFC came against an equally as reckless Sam Sicilia. Ogle is a tough kid who has run into a pair of very dangerous grapplers in Cole Miller and Charles Oliveira in his last 2 outings. His ground game is solid and is striking is serviceable, he will need to be cautious early and then he should be able to take control of the fight after weathering the early storm. Blanco is simply too inconsistent to back here, so my prediction is Andy Ogle to defeat Maximo Blanco by decision.

265lbs- Viktor Pesta (9-0-0) v Ruslan Magomedov (11-1-0)

Another Russian makes the jump to the UFC in Ruslan Magomedov. Fresh off a win over former UFC champ Tim Sylvia, the Russian certainly has the edge in quality of competition faced with wins over big Tim and another former UFC champ in Ricco Rodriguez. Viktor Pesta's resume lacks big name talent and he will be making a massive step up in competition for this fight. Both men are debuting, so Octagon shock could play a role, but Magomedov's aforementioned experience advantage and relatively calm demeanour should put him in a better place then Pesta. Viktor is aggressive, he has finished 6 of his wins inside the first round and will most likely come out looking to make it 7. Magomedov is the more polished fighter both on the feet and the mat, but at Heavyweight all of that can go away with one big shot. Ruslan will need to avoid the early onslaught, but once Pesta starts to slow down from the adrenaline dump it will be all Magomedov- so my prediction is Ruslan Magomedov to defeat Viktor Pesta by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Rodrigo Damm (12-6-0) vs Rashid Magomedov (16-1-0)

Rodrigo Damm has carved out a commendable start to his UFC career with a 3-1 record which includes a victory in his return to the Lightweight division. Rashid Magomedov extended his current streak with a triumphant first UFC showing, coming back to win the final 2 rounds after a nasty submission scare in the opening frame. It is interesting to note that Damm is just one fight removed from fighting at 145 pounds, while Magmomedov's final pre-UFC bout was contested at 170 pounds. Damm is a BJJ Black belt with half of his wins coming by some form of submission. Unfortunately, he appears set on implementing a game plan contingent on anything but a ground based attack. He has power in his hands and pretty decent leg kicks, but his willingness to stand plays directly into the hands of his opponent. Magomedov has serious power with 8 knockout wins and the technique to deploy that power with regularity. He prefers to counter strike, but won't hesitate to engage when given the opportunity. He has fast hands, quick kicks, and locates his punches effectively. Damm tends to overextend himself a little when striking and this will create ample opportunity for the Russian to attack. Even if Rodrigo opts to employ his grappling, Rashid is a world class Sambo competitor and is more then capable on the floor, so my prediction is Rashid Magomedov to defeat Rodrigo Damm by TKO.

155lbs- Elias Silverio (10-0-0) vs Ernest Chavez (8-0-0)

After a rough start in his debut, Ernest Chavez pulled it together and took home a decision win to remain undefeated. The comeback was spurred on by his wrestling and solid top control. He is a fighter that doesn't really come off as being a super talented. He is durable, with decent wrestling and he has some pop in his strikes. Conversely, Elias Silverio has been very impressive in his 2 fight run. He debuted with a win at Welterweight and then was dominant in his 155 pound debut. He has, power, commendable striking skill, and strong wrestling. With a 30% finishing rate many may dismiss his skill, but his ability to put it on his opponent start to finish is still quite impressive. Chavez is tough, but he is simply outgunned here. Silverio is quicker and more technical both standing and on the floor. Ernest should have enough to stick around, but he will be on the defensive for the majority of the fight, so my prediction is Elias Silverio to defeat Ernest Chavez by decision.

170lbs- Paulo Thiago (15-6-0) vs Gasan Umalatov (14-3-1)

Paulo Thiago has hit a pretty rough stretch in his UFC career after an admirable start. He may be fighting for his career. He is a skilled grappler, a BJJ Black belt, with 8 wins by submission and he needs to utilize those skills to be successful. He has landed 8 takedowns in his last 2 wins. Umalatov struggled in his debut and has now lost 2 of his last 3. His grappling is his strong suit with 7 wins by submission and he works the majority of his takedowns from the clinch position. Neither man is an elite striker, Paulo has power, but this fight should be won and lost on the floor. While Umalatov has proven himself capable on the mat, this is a step up in caliber of grappler. This bout should produce something interesting back and forth on the mat with Thiago getting the better of the exchanges along with being aided by a boisterous home crowd, so my prediction is Paulo Thiago to defeat Gasan Umalatov by decision.

145lbs- Kevin Souza (14-3-0) vs Mark Eddiva (6-0-0)

Kevin's Souza 7 fight knockout streak was snapped in his promotional debut, but he still took home a pretty impressive win via 3 round decision against established UFC roster member Felipe Arantes. Souza, as his 12 knockouts would suggest, is a dangerous striker. He has a bomb of a right hand and will target the body to create openings when looking for the knockout. He uses his length well- stocking his opponent and cutting off the cage, but he tends to rely a little too much on his boxing while holding his hands a little low. Mark Eddiva turned some heads with an equally as successful debut. He combined sharp Muay Thai and surprising wrestling skills on route to a decision win. He deployed crisp accurate striking, mixing up his hand and leg techniques effectively while limiting his opponents landing frequency. He will need to be equally as diverse against Souza and use his speed to navigate through the reach of the big Brazilian. Eddiva could also look to take this fight to the ground, as the Brazilian has been submitted in all 3 of his defeats and was taken down 3 times by Arantes. If Eddiva can't score with his wrestling early and often look for the length, power, and pressure of Souza to dictate the pace of the fight. Souza's forward pressure should shut down the kicking game of Eddiva and his powerful boxing game will frequently find the mark, so my prediction is Kevin Souza to defeat Mark Eddiva by TKO.

135lbs- Pedro Munhoz (10-1-0) vs Matt Hobar (8-1-0)

Pedro Munhoz ran into a Bantamweight buzzsaw in the #1 ranked Raphael Assuncao in his debut, he fought admirably but it was too much, too soon. Hobar is making his debut with his only loss on record coming via injury. He has just a single win by knockout and 4 submission wins. His wrestling is solid, but his striking leaves it a little to be desired and that will cost him here. Conversely, Munhoz is a far more diverse competitor. He may only have 1 knockout, but he still a dangerous striker and throws a nasty front body kick that should come into play here. His 6 submission wins back up what he is capable of doing on the floor and should take Hobar's wrestling, his biggest weapon, out of the equation. Munhoz will put together a far better performance in his second UFC appearance with an enhanced comfort level, a full camp, and an opponent more suited for the current stage of his career- my prediction is Pedro Munhoz to defeat Matt Hobar by submission.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Michael Chiesa (10-1-0) vs Francisco Trinaldo (14-3-0)

Ending the night's free fight line-up, Lightweights Michael Chiesa and Brazilian behemoth Francisco Trinaldo square off in a pivotal Lightweight showdown. Most recently, Chiesa returned to glory with a second round submission win over fellow TUF champ Colton Smith- he was coming off of the first loss of his career. Trinaldo also rebound from defeat in his most recent outing with a split decision win over Jesse Ronson.

This pairing offers up a pretty significant clash in physical compositions. Chiesa is long and lean. At 6 1", he will stand a full 5 inches taller then his opponent and will have approximately a 6" reach advantage. While he will be at length deficit, Francisco makes up for it with his physical power. He is a physically imposing man and is a handful for anyone attempting to match him in the horsepower category, unless you are Gleison Tibau.

One of the drawbacks to Massaranduba's massive muscles is the impact on his gas tank. In the most recent example, he got off to a great start against Piotr Hallmann, but gassed in the second frame and was unable to fend off the fight ending submission attempt. Chiesa isn't exactly a cardio horse either, with just 2 fights going the distance, he has also shown signs of slowing down under more demanding circumstances.

Chiesa wants to put this fight in a position where he can use his submission grappling. He is a BJJ Purple belt with 8 of his 10 wins coming by way of submission- 3 in the UFC. He averages 2.78 takedowns at a 33% completion rate. He has never completed more then 2 takedowns in a UFC bout and his wrestling is far from top level. What he lacks in wrestling ability, he makes up for in shear willingness to attack. Against the physically strong Anton Kuivanen, he struggled early to implement his grappling skills, but eventually took advantage of a mistake and turned into a victory. He may have to be opportunistic here as well as Trinaldo could present similar challenges.

The Brazilian trains his BJJ under a world-class instructor in Sergio Moraes. He has picked up a pair of UFC submission wins and is a handful from top position with brutal ground and pound. His guard game is serviceable, but he will want to avoid testing it out against here. While he should find success from top position, the key to this fight will be his defensive work. He was taken down 5 times by Tibau, but outside of that he has stopped 9 of 12 takedowns. His low stature and raw power will make him tough for Chiesa to drag to the floor and he is known for punishing opponents with heavy shots on prolonged attempts.

On the feet, Chiesa is improving his striking- especially his length. He is on the short end of the SLpM comparison with Trinaldo out-striking him 3.01 to 1.67. Trinaldo is far from a high paced striker, but he has some serious thump in his shots and if he can get inside of Chiesa on the feet look for him to do some serious damage.

The Brazilian appears to be focussing on a strike first mentality, which could actually aid him here. While the popular opinion is that a Trinaldo's lack cardio will decided the fight, which it could, look for him to limit the grappling exchanges, land the more impact shots, and keep Chiesa out of his comfort zone, so my prediction is Francico Trinaldo to defeat Michael Chiesa by decision.

155lbs- Tony Ferguson (15-3-0) vs Katsunori Kikuno (22-5-2)

In the Lightweight division, Tony Ferguson meets Japanese standout Katsunori Kikuno. Ferguson made a successful return to action with a first round submission of Mike Rio. Kikuno debuted with a 3 round decision win over Quinn Mullhern and he has won 6 in a row overall.

Ferguson is the one of three Ultimate Fighter winners on the card and has gone 4-1 in the UFC.

This fight could very well be decided on the feet, but some ground action is certainly not out of the question. Tony is an accomplished NCAA D-2 wrestling standout and is coming off a impressive submission win- the fourth of his career. While he hasn't relied heavily on his wrestling skills, he has shown himself capable of implementing them when needed.

Kikuno is a Judo Black belt and is 2-1 in fights ended by submission. He relies mainly on his counter-grappling skills to remain vertical and did a decent job controlling Quinn Mullhern when the American routinely pulled guard. His low stature and Judo background should aid him if Ferguson tries to take this fight to the ground, but don't expect Tony to pull guard if he is unsuccessful.

Both men have big power- Katsunori has won 12 times by knockout, including his most recent 3 KOs that lasted a combined 104 seconds. El Cucuy has scored some form of knockout in 8 of his 14 victories. He obliterated Ramsey Nijem in the tournament finals and broke the jaw of Aaron Riley leading to a doctor stoppage at UFC 135. The big question is, who is more likely to deploy their power with success?

The TUF champ will have a 9.5" reach advantage. In addition to his reach, Tony strikes very long- he gets excellent extension on his punches and covers distances extremely well when attacking. He averages 4 strike per minute and while his opponents land a little over 3.4 blows, the power quotient is often the deciding factor.

For Kikuno, he fights very flat footed and holds his hands in a position that limits his ability to throw volume strikes. Instead, he looks for that one big shot to either end the fight or at least turn it in his favour. He has 12 knockouts which would suggest he has this capability, but this approach might not be the most conducive to success at this level of competition.

Ferguson is the far more diverse striker, he engages at a much higher rate, and if all else fails he has the ability to at least threaten with his wrestling to change the pace of the fight. Kikuno is going to try and time Tony and then land a big shot, but this approach will prove incredibly ineffective against an opponent with both power and a high landing frequency. Mullhern was outworking Katsunori on the feet, but he lacked the impact to make it show up- that won't be the case here; so my prediction is Tony Ferguson to defeat Katsunori Kikuno by knockout.

135lbs- Chris Holdsworth (6-0-0) vs Chico Camus (14-4-0)

At 135 pounds, Ultimate Fighter champion Chris Holdsworth make his first foray into the main roster when he battles 4 fight UFC vet Chico Camus. Camus has won back to back fights and 3 of 4 since making his debut back in mid 2012. Holdsworth was triumphant in his debut winning TUF with a second round submission over Davey Grant.

Holdsworth hasn't competed in just under 6 months and was originally preparing for Kung Ho Kang before he was forced to withdraw with an injury.

The Alpha male product is an top level grappler and his totals reflect that. He has secured all 5 of his pro wins by submission, 3 of which by rear naked choke. He also blasted his way throw the TUF tournament with a trio of submission wins. Chris is very aggressive on the mat with a lethal back mount and his above average length makes him difficult to control on the floor. Versus Grant, he needed just a single completion to eventually finish the fight.

All of Chris's TUF wins came inside the first round and he has never gone beyond the midway mark of any of his pro contests.

Camus has above average wrestling, but he will need to be on point defensively against Holdsworth, His TDD has been a bit of a question mark over his 4 fights, getting put on his back 5 times and defending only 37% of his opponent's attempts. Conversely, he has had a lot of success picking up wins over grappling based opponent, only once getting bested on the mat. He has shown an impressive ability to counter on the floor and turn bad positions in offensive opportunities.

Against Holdsworth he will want to avoid the mat altogether. In spite of his bad TDD%, he may have success holding Holdsworth upward based on couple of factors. Camus is quick and his movement will make it difficult for Chris to get his hands on him. Additionally, the 5" height advantage of the Alpha Male member will force him to make a much more drastic level change when shooting. This should allow Camus to recognize the shoot and defend against it.

On the feet, Holdsworth's striking gets overshadowed by his grappling skills. He is more then serviceable with his stand up, but Camus should be the better striker. Camus throws hard and has pretty solid technique. He relies mainly on his boxing, but will work in the odd kick.

Despite his pedigree, Holdsworth has just 5 pro fights and is coming in off of a bit of a layoff. Adding to this, Camus is a much different opponent then the one that Chris was originally preparing for. There is a tonne of evidence supporting a Holdsworth victory, but Camus has fought a number of grappling based opponents and come out on top. Chico has to be at his best, but the confidence he will have based on prior success will show up. Holdsworth struggles early to land takedowns and Camus carries the fight with his superior striking, so my prediction is Chico Camus to defeat Chris Holdsworth by decision.

155lbs- Al Iaquinta (8-2-1) vs Mitch Clarke (10-2-0)

In the second of 5 Lightweight bouts on the card, Al Iaquinta puts his 3 fight winning streak on the line against Canadian Mitch Clarke. Al has defeated Ryan Couture, Piotr Hallmann, and Kevin Lee during his current run. Clarke revitalized his UFC career after back to back defeats, by picking up a solid win over John Maguire in his most recent appearence.

Clarke has won 6 times by submission, but his decision over Maguire showcased an improved striking game. He peppered the Brit's lead leg and finished the fight with a lopsided 41-15 striking total. He did struggle at times with his defensive grappling, which has been an issue so far in his UFC run. Clarke has been taken down 7 times in 3 fights (3 times by Maguire), which is a concern especially when facing a fighter like Iaquinta that mixes up his wrestling and striking so effectively.

The New York native has landed an average of 4.65 strikes and has been steadily improving from one fight to the next. He hits hard, despite just 3 knockouts to date and his variety is good. The biggest knockout on Al's striking has been his defensive work. He has given up almost 3.5 strikes per minute and while Mitch Clarke is far from elite level striker, he showed against Maguire that he can throw volume.

Al has been submitted in both of his losses, which is certainly a concern against a man with 60% of his wins coming by the same method. Unfortunately, unless the Canadian shows better wrestling then he has recently, he is going to struggle to put himself in a position to exploit those numbers. Al is the better striker and should have the advantage with his wrestling allowing him to dictate where this fight takes place, so my prediction is Al Iaquinta to defeat Mitch Clarke by TKO.

155lbs- Anthony Njokuani (17-7-0) vs Vinc Pichel (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division Anthony Njokuani meets Vinc Pichel in the Fight Pass preliminary headliner. Pichel is coming off of a win and is 1-1 inside the Octagon. Njokuani has alternated wins and losses over his last 8 fights, most recently scoring a knockout win over Roger Bowling.

Njokuani has been out of action since April 2013, a 13 month layoff, which could raise the possibility of ring rust.

Both fighters are predominately striking based, at least based on the numbers. Njokuani carries a sharp Muay Thai centered attack. His combinations are tight and he mixes in punches and kicking techniques effectively. He has won 9 times by knockout and averages 4.40 SLpM while limiting his opponents to a respectable 2.19 SApM. Pichel has good KO totals as well, collecting 7 of his 8 wins by knockout. He has power, but has yet to display that capability since signing on with the UFC. He tends to be a little basic with his attacks, throwing a 1-2 and then attempting to clinch if he fails to land.

While his win totals wouldn't suggest it, Vinc's best bet for victory here would be focus on his ground game. He scored 8 takedowns in his last fight and the last 2 men to beat Njokuani combined for a total 12 successful completions. If he can put his adversary on the floor early and often it will both score points and potentially slow his opponent down when they do exchange.

Putting the Nigerian born striker on his back is much easier said then done. He has a defended 58% of his opponent's tries and has faced far better wrestlers then what Pichel brings to the table. As a result the majority of the action will take place on the feet and Njokuani is simply the more dangerous striker with superior power, volume, and technique so my prediction is Anthony Njokuani to defeat Vinc Pichel by knockout.

145lbs- Sam Sicilia (12-4-0) vs Aaron Phillips (5-0-0)

In the Featherweight division TUF alumni Sam Sicilia welcomes late injury replacement Aaron Phillips to the UFC. Sicilia has lost 3 of his last 4, while Phillips is undefeated through his first 5 pro bouts.

Sicilia hits hard, but is a below par technician with an equally as questionable chin. On average he absorbs 1.35 more strikes per minute then he lands, which is never a good ratio unless you are Roy Nelson. Phillips is a Muay Thai based striker with knockouts accounting for 3 of his 5 wins. He has a solid kicking arsenal and should have a bit of a length advantage on Sicilia. If he can keep it standing he should be able to outland his opponent, especially if he can time and counter the big swings.

Sicilia may look to use his wrestling as Phillips has shown some questionable TDD, but Sam is far from an elite level wrestler with just 3 takedowns in 5 fights. If Sam can get on top he will throw down some serious GnP that could bring about the end of the fight. But, Sicilia struggled with the more technical striking of Cole Miller and if Phillips can establish a comfortable range with his kicking game it will make it harder for Sam to get inside when looking to shoot.

Sam represents a pretty sizeable step up in competition for Phillips, who is taking this fight on short notice, but that may actually work in the newcomers favour. Phillips will have next to no pressure on him, while Sicilia is facing the end of his UFC run with a loss here and that will show up, so my prediction is Aaron Phillips to defeat Sam Sicilia by TKO.

170lbs- David Michaud (7-0-0) vs Li Jingliang (8-2-0)

The card kicks off in the Welterweight division, with a pair of debuting combatants. David Michaud has won 7 consecutive bouts to start his pro career and had a brief stint on the Ultimate Fighter. Jingliang has won back to back fights and 5 of his last 6.

Michaud is replacing the injured Danny Mitchell who was originally set to face Jingliang.

The growth of Chinese MMA continues with Jingliang, a 7 fight Legend FC veteran. He has secured a total of 5 win by submission- 4 by Guillotine choke. It is not for a lack of effort his, but his wrestling is far from elite level. Fortunately for Li, Michaud doesn't possess a top rank ground game either. They are both serviceable on the mat, but far from dominant.

On the feet the edge turns towards the American. He has a trio of knockout wins and shows slightly more refinement in his overall game. If this fight does play out on the feet he needs to be careful not to get outworked as his defensive game is a little suspect, which could generate opportunities for his opponent to find success.

Both fighters are making their debuts and Michaud is doing it on short notice, but he does have a little UFC experience to fall back on based on his time spent on the reality show. Michaud should be the better ground fighter and his striking will give him just enough of an edge over Li to convince the judges that he is the better fighter, so my prediction is David Michaud to defeat Li Jingliang by decision.

Prelim Predictions

185lbs- Ed Herman (21-9-0 1NC) vs Rafael Natal (17-5-1)

Capping off the undercard is a Middleweight showdown between Ed 'Short Fuse' Herman and Brazilian Rafael Natal. Herman has lost 2 of his last 3, including a decision defeat at the hands of Thales Leites. Natal had his 3 fight winning streak halted last November by Tim Kennedy.

Both fighters are BBJ Black belts with their biggest win totals not surprisingly coming by submission. Herman has won 13 times by sub, including 4 times in the UFC. He averages 3.08 takedowns at a 52% completion rate. Unfortunately, he has struggled in recent times to find success with his wrestling. Over his last 4 fights he has been taken down 9 times compared to just 3 successful completion of his own. Over that span he has gone 1-2-0 1NC, with his lone win coming by split decision.

Despite recent difficulties, Herman has defended a respectable 65% of the total takedowns attempted against him. Comparatively, Natal's TDD has been far superior, albeit over a smaller sample size. He has defended 78% of his adversaries' tries.

Natal doesn't have the lofty submission totals of Herman, but with an 8-0 record in fights ending by tapout his dominance on the mat is clear. He completes just over 2.5 takedowns per fight at a 40% completion rate. His UFC career high for completions came back in early 2012 with 6 against Michal Kuiper. His last win was a back and forth affair, both on the feet and floor against Tor Troeng. Herman has been submitted 6 times and struggled with strong top game players like Leites and Jake Shields which suggests that Natal will have his own opportunities to score on the floor.

If the fight remains standing, Natal's knockout totals are concerning. Raf has been shutoff 4 times, including brutal knockouts against Andrew Craig and Tim Kennedy. Herman is far from a traditional flame thrower, but he can still crack. Herman has 5 knockouts, including a 48 second stoppage of Tim Credeur. He traded shots in an entertaining bout with Trevor Smith and if he can draw Natal into a similar close range battle he could land a fight changing blow.

While the knockouts are concerning, Natal is the more capable striker. He should have a speed advantage and is the more diverse striker throwing a wider variety of techniques. He will have a 2" reach advantage and in combination with his speed and kicking arsenal this should allow him to maintain enough separation to limit Herman's effectiveness.

The toll of a long and grinding career appears to be taking hold of Ed's in cage performance. He has slowed down significantly and as a result his ability to find success in any facet of the game has severely diminished. The chin of Natal is a major concern, but Herman's recent struggles with solid grapplers and his inferior striking skill set will spell his demise, so my prediction is Rafael Natal to defeat Ed Herman by decision.

125lbs- Kyoji Horiguchi (12-1-0) vs #15 Darrell Montague (13-3-0)

In the Flyweight division, former Tachi Palace Fights 125 pound champion Darrell Montague makes his second UFC appearance when he welcomes Kyoji Horiguchi down from Bantamweight. The former Shooto champion made a successful UFC debut with a second round knockout of Dustin Pauge, while Montague failed to escape the opening round against John Dodson.

Horiguchi is making his Flyweight debut after spending the majority of his career at Bantamweight, but he did compete at 132 pounds under the Shooto banner.

A training partner of the legendary Kid Yamamoto, Horiguchi has drawn many comparisons to Kid. He packs impressive power in his hands, with 8 of his 12 wins coming by knockout. His second round stoppage of Dustin Pauge was built off of a blistering overhand right. Prior to the finishing sequence, he threw a short inside leg kick, followed it with a straight right hand, and capped the combo with a stinging left hook. He uses a lot of movement and maintains a low stance to help him generate power and provide a solid based from which to defend TDAs.

Montague is a wrestler boxer with an even split between knockouts and submissions. He has decent hands, but he has been knocked out twice in his career. Both men that stopped him- Dodson and Robbie Peralta, are bona fide flamethrowers, but so is Horiguchi. Montague was holding his own on the feet with Dodson, but his speed and ability to cover distance eventually lead to the TUF champ landing the fight ending blow.

While Montague is more then capable of competing on the feet, he would be better served by taking this fight to the floor. He is at his best when he is able to work his striking in conjunction with his wrestling skills. He has 5 submission wins and Horiguchi has proven vulnerable to a ground based attack. He struggled in his debut, spending the majority of the first round on the defensive and his only career loss came against Masakatsu Ueda based almost entirely on his inability to get up off the mat.

This fight will come down to Hiroguchi's defensive grappling versus Montague's chin. Hiroguchi is cutting to 125 pounds for the first time in his career, but he was undersized at Bantamweight, so he will most likely have limited difficulty with the cut. If it goes well his power should translate dangerously to his new division and make him a threat to anyone he can land on. The speed could be an issue, but Montague appears very hittable and has had difficulty in the past with fighters that use good movement, so my prediction is Kyoji Horiguchi to defeat Darrell Montague by KO.

135lbs- #4 Eddie Wineland (21-9-1) vs Johnny Eduardo (26-9-0)

In the Bantamweight division, former title challenger Eddie Wineland welcomes Johnny Eduardo back to the Octagon following a significant layoff from competition. Eduardo is 1-1 in the UFC; dropping his debut to Raphael Assuncao and then rebounding with a win over Jeff Curran. Wineland is coming off of a win over Yves Jabouin after his title fight defeat against Renan Barao.

A Nova Uniao product, Eduardo has been out almost 2 years to the day heading into this fight. He will turn 36 years old in August.

Both fighters are predominantly stand-up based fighters, but are far from novices on the floor. Eduardo has 13 wins by submission, including 5 by RNC. Unfortunately, his greatest vulnerability also comes on the floor where he has been submitted 7 times. He is a BJJ Purple belt.

The America has averaged less then a half takedown per fight over his 13 fight WEC/UFC run. Additionally, Eddie is 5-4 in fights ending by submission and has gone just under 6 years since his last submission victory. Conversely, he shoulders a 80% TDD and as a result the chances of this fight going to floor are minimal.

The one way it could hit the mat is via a knockdown which is far more likely. Both men pack some decent power, with the statistical edge backing Wineland with 11 knockouts to Eduardo's 6. Johnny is a strong Muay Thai practitioner and throws hard kicks and strings his combinations together with relative fluidity. He has put up some decent numbers in his 2 fights, but was arguably stunted on the feet by the threat of getting taken down. Against Assuncao he attempted to focus more on his counter striking and as a result routinely allowed his opponent to land first.

Eduardo was struggling with the overhand right of Assuncao, who was able to routinely land it despite being considered the inferior striker.

The former WEC champion is arguably one of the most unorthodox strikers in the division. Wineland relies mainly on his hands to do his work. He holds notable recent knockouts over the aforementioned Jabouin and the double tough Scott Jorgensen. He carries his hands low, attacks from a variety of angles, and uses quick footwork and head movement to get in and out with his shots. His striking exchange numbers are dangerously close, but he relies on the power factor to make his strikes far more impactful.

Eddie has to be careful with his style when facing a talented striker. He got caught by Renan Barao with a big shot that ended his night, but despite sharing the same camp, Eduardo doesn't share the same skill-set. Eddie hits harder and presents a difficult front for a more traditional striker to engage. Especially if Johnny electss to be focus on his counter striking. Eduardo has never been knocked out, but the combination of a lengthy layoff and being on the wrong side of 30 is a major concern. Look for Wineland to limit Eduardo's landing frequency, while continually connecting with his hammer of a right hand, so my prediction is Eddie Wineland to defeat Johnny Eduardo by TKO.

170lbs- Yan Cabral (11-0-0) vs Zak Cummings (16-3-0)

In the 170 pound division, a pair of TUF alumni collide as TUF Brazil's Yan Cabral meets Zak Cummings. Cabral made a successful debut, earning a 3 round decision over British grappling specialist David Mitchell. Cummings took home a submission win in first UFC foray, but had his second appearance scrapped before even entering the cage.

A former Middle and Light Heavyweight, Cummings weighed in 8 pounds over the Welterweight limit for his UFC TUF China finale bout with Alberto Mina. Mina subsequently declined to follow through on the fight against his oversized opponent and as a result Cummings hasn't seen action in almost 9 months.

As in the case in several parings on this card, these competitors build their attack off of their grappling skills. Cummings comes from a wrestling background and is a BJJ Brown belt with 9 of 16 wins coming by submission. Cabral, an accomplished BJJ Black belt, has secured 10 submission wins in 11 pro appearances.

Cummings has strong top control and will aggressively look to advance his position in pursuit of a submission. He did struggle working off of his back against Dylan Andrews on TUF, which can be expected for a wrestling based fighter. He will shoot both a single or double leg, and has shown the ability to float over into side control immediately off a completed TDA. Against a strong top game player like Cabral he will need to avoid spending prolonged periods of time on his back.

Tim Kennedy ended Zak's only Strikeforce appearance midway through round 2 with a north-south choke. This defeat accounts for the entirety of Cummings's submission losses.

The Brazilian grappling ace landed 4 of his 6 takedowns in his debut and maintained relatively consistent top control against a crafty and very unorthodox grappler in his debut. He did have a little difficulty controlling Mitchell, but for the most part it was a dominant performance. Cabral has an affinity for finishing fights with an arm triangle, having accomplished the feat in half of his submission victories.

On the feet, both men carry serviceable striking skills, but this fight will be decided on the ground. If Cummings has a difficult weight cut he will struggle to maintain a pace that can lead to victory against such a talented opponent. As he tires he will become more vulnerable to the takedown and Yan's top game pressure. Cummings is a solid veteran and a strong grappler, but not on the level of Cabral, so my prediction is Yan Cabral to defeat Zak Cummings by decision.

145lbs- Manny Gamburyan (16-9-0) vs #9 Nik Lentz (26-6-2 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, former WEC title challenger Manny Gamburyan battles former Lightweight Nik Lentz. Manny's 2 fight winning streak was temporarily snapped by Dennis Siver, but the fight has since be overturned. Unfortunately for Lentz, his 3 fight winning streak came to an end in a valiant effort against top ranked and newly crowned title challenger Chad Mendes.

Both fighters come from grappling backgrounds- Manny is a 3rd Dan Black Belt in Judo and Lentz is a BJJ Purple belt and NCAA Division 1 wrestler. Their grappling stats backup their commitment to their ground games. Lentz holds the slight edge in takedowns per fight at 4.02 to 3.49. Both men rank in the mid 30% range in completion rate and Manny holds the edge with a TDD of 68% compared to just 44%.

Gamburyan is 3-6 in fights where he lands 2 or few takedowns. Lentz is 7-0-1 when landing 4 or more takedowns.

While both men may look to implement their grappling games, it could end in a wash on the floor as is the frequently the case when 2 high level grapplers are paired up. If it does play out in that manner, the advantage should shift to the American. While Lentz is far from an elite level striker, his pace, durability, and aggressive style make him a handful for most on the feet. He averages 3.13 strikes per minute, almost 1 better then his opponent.

Gamburyan on average gets out-landed by his opponents, as has been the case in 5 of his last 6 fights. For the most part Manny's biggest threat on the feet comes from his power. Unfortunately, with only 2 wins by knockout he lacks the numbers to suggest that he is a real threat should the fight remain vertical. If he can't find a way to do enough damage on his uber tough opponent, who has only between TKOed by doctor stoppage, he will be in tough to keep up.

The wrestler will hold a 3" height and slight reach advantage, which will aid him both in the striking exchanges and on the mat. Lentz's will find just enough success with his wrestling, both offensively and defensively and outwork Manny on the feet with his aggression and pace, so my prediction is Nik Lentz to defeat Manny Gamburyan by decision.

155lbs- Justin Salas (11-5-0) vs Ben Wall (7-1-1)

In the Lightweight division, TUF Smashes competitor Ben Wall makes his second Octagon appearance against 4 fight UFC veteran Justin Salas. Salas has alternated wins and losses and is coming off a quick submission loss to Thiago Tavares. Wall stepped up on short notice in his debut was and quickly dispatched by Alex Garcia.

Wall made his debut fight at 170 pounds and will make his return to his more familiar home at Lightweight for his second go around with the company.

Both fighters are heavily reliant on the mat game. Salas is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and has 3 submission victories to his credit. In his 2 victories he has landed a combined 7 takedowns, while landing none in his 2 defeats. Wall has shown a serviceable ground game as well with 2 wins coming by way of submission, albeit very early in his career and against low level regional talent. Wall is feisty on the mat, but Salas will be better both offensively and defensively, which this will most likely translates to long durations of time spent by Wall with his back on the mat.

Salas’s power and ability to vary his attack should give him the upper hand on the feet. Wall has yet to score a knockout win and while his striking skills have carried to him to victory this will be a step up from what he has faced pre-UFC. Salas throws a variety of techniques and by continually changing his cadence he makes it hard for his opponent to anticipate and defend his attacks. He has power and while he most likely doesn't pack the punch of Alex Garcia, he should still be able to outwork Wall during the exchanges.

Both men will be fighting for their jobs in the very deep and competitive 155 pound division. Salas has faced better competition and is simply better in all facets of the game. All of Salas's losses have come inside the distance, 2 knockouts and 3 submissions, while Wall hasn't stopped an opponent since 210, so my prediction is Justin Salas to defeat Ben Wall by decision.

170lbs- Anthony Lapsley (25-6-0 2NC) vs Albert Tumenov (12-2-0)

Leading off for UFC Fight Night 40 will be a Welterweight bout between highly touted Russian knockout artist Albert Tumenov and well travelled veteran Anthony Lapsley. Tumeov had his 8 fight winning streak ended in his promotional debut. Lapsley had strung together 5 straight wins before making his own unsuccessful UFC first showing, losing to Jason High.

Unlike many fights on this card, this matchup provides a nice clash of styles. Lapsley has collected 15 of his 23 wins by submission and will no doubt be looking to drag this fight to the floor as soon as possible. For Tumenov, he is a knockout machine. 8 of his 12 victories have come by KO/TKO and as expected he will be focussed on keeping this fight standing. Both men are capable of competing in the others realm, but the danger that exists should make it incredibly unappealing.

The Russian has a devastating left hand and can be aggressive with his strikes or choose to sit back and counter. He has a tendency to hold is hands a little on the low side, but the combination of his technique and speed have allowed him to get away with it thus far. In his debut he dropped Ildemar Alcantara early with some big shots and followed it up with some solid ground and pound.

Unfortunately, 2 major concerns were brought to the forefront. With 7 of his 12 pervious fights ending inside the first round there were some concerns about his conditioning and they showed up. He slowed tremendously in rounds 2 and 3 which cost him the fight. Coupled with his over aggressive forward push creating openings for his opponent to change levels and complete takedowns Tumenov spent large portions of the fight on his back. A hard place from which to score a knockout.

Lapsley comes from a wrestling back and is a solid BJJ player. His submission skills, which have accounted for 6 of his last 9 wins, will need to be on point. He struggled in his debut, facing a fighter with a superior ground game, but his ability to counter and steal round 2 and simply avoid getting submitted by High is a testament to his capabilities.

The American has been submitted 4 times in his career, but his submission defense will most likely not be an issue against a fighter yet to secure a single win by submission. What Anthony will need to watch out for his the heavy ground and pound that Tumenov can throw down if he scores an early takedown.

A veteran fighter, with serviceable striking, Lapsley will need to avoid the early barrage that is almost certainly coming from his opponent. He has yet to be stopped on the feet, but Tumenov has the capability to change that. If he can get through the first round look for Lapsley to slow down the pace of the fight with his wrestling and bring Tumenov's conditioning issues front and center. Both fighters have the ability to win this fight but the window for the Russian will close as the fight progresses, so my prediction is Anthony Lapsley to defeat Albert Tumenov by decision.

Prelim Predictions

125lbs- #2 Joseph Benavidez (19-4-0) vs #8 Tim Elliott (10-4-1)

Headlining the Preliminary portion of the event will be former Flyweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez when he takes on one of the tallest members of the division in Tim Elliott. Benavidez is coming off of a brutal knockout defeat in his second bid to capture the divisional title. Elliott's 2 fight winning streak was brought to an end at the hands of newly named title challenger Ali Bagautinov.

Benavidez finds himself in a difficult scenario after suffering his second and far more definitive defeat against the reining Flyweight champion. He may attempt to hold onto his top 125 pound position in the event the champ falls or he may consider a return to 135 pounds in an attempt to contend there. Either way he needs to avoid a letdown against Elliott.

The long time Alpha Male member, Benavidez has made strides in his striking, but the reality is his progression has been oversold by the promotion in the build-up for his title rematch. There are improvements and the power has always been a factor- 6 wins by knockout, but against the likes of 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson he will always get second best. Fortunately, he isn't facing a striker on DJ's level.

Elliott has just 3 wins via knockout. He is more known for his work rate and unorthodox style. He has averaged 4.65 strikes per minute, while giving up 3.12 in 4 UFC fights. In his short notice debut, Timothy tried to use a varied and awkward approach to throw off the speed and power based striking attack of John Dodson. He had some success, but not enough to win the fight. He implemented something similar against Bagautinov, but failed to land with enough regularity to take the decision. He will most likely implement this style once again against Benavidez to avoid his power game, unfortunately he has yet to secure a win with this method.

On the floor, Benavidez comes from one of the best wrestling camps in the business- Team Alpha Male. He hasn't put up huge numbers on the mat, but he is still dangerous. With 8 wins by submission, including 3 by Guillotine, if Joe gets your neck or arm the fight is over. He has a solid top game and can do damage with his top position strikes. Whether he looks to attack or defend he should be the superior grappler in this contest.

Elliott's numbers look much more impressive, 3.75 TDs @ 52%, but it has been a tale of two types of opponents. Against lesser adversaries he landed 13 of 20 TDAs, but against Dodson and Bagautinov he went 2-9 and had much less success holding them down. Benavidez's profile fits more with the latter group then the former and this doesn't bode well for Tim.

Benavidez could be in for a letdown considering he is coming off the first knockout loss of his career and is now stuck in a position that will most likely prevent him from fighting for the title in the foreseeable future. He will need to be on top of his game as Elliott will present an abnormal front and won't be intimidated by Joe. Benavidez will shutdown the grappling game of Elliott and in similar fashion to Bagautinov, he will land the more impactful strikes start to finish. Elliott's higher work rate is concerning, especially if Joe fades, but my prediction is Joseph Benavidez to defeat Tim Elliott by decision.

155lbs- Takanori Gomi (34-9-0 1NC) vs Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-4-1)

In the Lightweight division, Pride legend Takanori Gomi returns to action when he meets Strikeforce veteran Isaac Vallie-Flagg. Gomi is coming off a controversial split decision loss that halted a 2 fight winning streak and Vallie-Flagg saw his 12 fight unbeaten streak fall in one-sided fashion at UFC Fight Night 35.

Gomi is returning to the cage for the first time since March 3rd, 2013- a near 13 month layoff.

The Fireball kid is known for his power that he traditionally carries in a brutal right hook, but he can also deploy it with his left. He has won 13 times by knockout, including twice in the UFC. Early in is Octagon run he struggled with the more technical striking of his opponents, especially the jab heavy arsenal of Kenny Florian. More recently, he has found success using a pawing jab of his own and mixing his power strikes up with combinations. He also has a solid kicking game, mainly focusing on his opponents legs and utilizing a solid inside leg strike.

His defensive improvements were on display against Diego, as Gomi outlanded him 81-68 and did a good job of stifling his usual aggression with a composed defensive front.

A former Strikeforce competitor, Vallie-Flagg is an aggressive and unorthodox striker. His power numbers aren't overwhelming with just 5 knockouts in 19 fights, but he find success through aggression and a high output. He likes to implement a lot of knee and leg strikes, along with a Thai clinch for close range attacks. He utilizes a push kick like a jab to set distance. He did have some trouble with the more technically based striking of JZ Cavalcante, but had a lot of success landing shots around the defensive guard of Edwards. In his last fight he was simply overmatched by a superior striker start to finish.

Neither man has significant grappling numbers, in fact submissions account for the majority of each man's defeats- Gomi-6 and Vallie-Flagg-3. Each man has matched their submission defeat totals in the win column, but nothing to speak of in recent appearances. V-F has shown a vulnerability to a wrestling based attacks. He was taken down 7 times in his last 3 outings and Elias Silverio did a lot of damage once he put him on his back.

Gomi hasn't shown much offensive wrestling in the UFC, focusing more on his defensive work, but with V-F's noticeable shortcomings he could try to change gears and look for takedown opportunities.

Gomi did an excellent job of backing Sanchez off and making it hard for him to come forward through the continuous use of pawing jab. If the American is unable to push the pace his offensive attack becomes far less effective. The layoff and East to West travel are concerns for Gomi, but my prediction is Takanori Gomi to defeat Isaac Vallie-Flagg by decision.

135lbs- #14 Jessamyn Duke (3-0-0 1NC) vs #12 Bethe Correia (7-0-0)

In the Women's Bantamweight division, TUF competitor Jessamyn Duke makes her second UFC appearance when she meets fellow Octagon sophomore Bethe Correia. Duke debuted with a 3 round decision win over fellow cast mate Peggy Morgan. Correia pulled off the upset in his first fight, narrowly edging out long time veteran Julie Kedzie via split decision.

Neither fighter has a massive amount of experience, but Correia gets a slight edge with 7 fights to Duke's 4. The Brazilian is also coming off a win over the most noteworthy opponent that either lady has faced to date. For Jessamyn, she certainly gained a wealth of experience training in the TUF house along side 2 of the biggest talents that the division has to offer.

Physically, Duke will have some considerable advantages. Standing 5 11", the American will have 6" of height on her opponent and a 9" reach advantage.

In her debut, Duke demoed a decently crafted striking repertoire. She relies mainly on her boxing, but will mix in a few kicks and should try to include more in the future. She throws in combination, working her punches around the guard of her opponent and despite just a single knockout win, she clearly was doing damage with her onslaught.

The most effective aspect of Duke's striking assault was her volume. She drastically outlanded Morgan by a count of 201-45.

Bethe's output wasn't nearly as lofty in her first go around, but she appeared to have more power then Duke. She had a lot of success leaping in and landing heavy shots against a well versed striker in Kedzie. She throws a quick front kick to the body and should use it to help deal with the reach of Duke. Under the tutelage of the Pitbull Brothers its not surprising that she is a capable striker, but her forte is on the mat.

A BJJ Blue belt, Correia is a solid top position grappler. She has yet to score a submission win her career, as she is more inclined to focus on positional control and GNP. She scored on just one her takedown attempts versus Kedzie, but look for her to focus more on her grappling skills versus Duke. Jessamyn is also a BJJ Blue belt and has had more success with her submissions, scoring one as a pro, 2 as an amateur, and one more on the show.

Duke's biggest difficulties in her debut came in the third round when she initiated a very rudimentary headlock and ultimately pulled Morgan into back mount, where she was able to do the most damage of the fight. Duke's lack of experience nearly cost her the fight, but against Correia a mistake like that will most certainly create bigger issues.

The length advantage that Duke has will have presents a difficult front for Correia to attack as long as this fight remains vertical. When Bethe gets on the inside, look for her to either establish control of Duke's body or box her up at close range where the long arms of the American are far less useful. Correia will also find success shooting in on the long legs of her opponent, dragging her to the ground, and maintaining top control. Bethe is traditionally a slow starter, so she will need get it going early to avoid falling behind on the cards, but my prediction is Bethe Crorreia to defeat Jessamyn Duke by decision.

155lbs- Danny Castillo (16-6-0) vs Charlie Brenneman (19-6-0)

In the Lightweight division, Team Alpha Male member Danny Castillo makes his 10th UFC appearance when he meets Charlie Brenneman who will also be entering the Octagon for the 10th time. Castillo has won 5 of his last 7, but is coming off a lost to Edson Barboza. Brenneman returned to the promotion, but fell via submission ending his 4 fight winning streak outside of the UFC.

Both fighters are wrestling based competitors with similar ground stats. Brenneman averages 3.77 takedowns at a 42% completion rate. He is an aggressive grinding top player that simply tries to outwork his opponents. He uses speed and changes levels quickly to set up his shot. If he fails on his on first attempt he will keep driving and look to land his second or third try. His high watermark was a 6 takedown performance against Jason High, followed closely by 5 completions in his upset win over Rick Story.

Brenneman is also a BJJ Blue belt and has upped his submission game with 5 wins via submission and 3 in his last 4 wins.

Not to be outdone, 'Last Call' has equally as good takedown stats. He completes 3.55 takedowns at 44%. He is also a strong top position player and probably holds a slight edge over Brenneman with his ability to do damage via GnP. Over his last 6 wins he has scored a combined 25 takedowns, using a more power based takedown game. One of his most impressive victories was a 3 round ground based thrashing of dangerous submission artist Paul Sass. A BJJ Brown belt, Castillo is 4-2 in fights ended by submission.

As frequently is the case, a pairing of wrestler like this one could result in a striking based battle with their wrestling skills cancelling each other out. Considering that both men rank in with a very respectable 71% TDD, it only adds to this possibility.

On the feet, the advantage should swing in the favour of Castillo. While neither man is an elite level striker, Castillo has shown the ability to do more damage while standing. He scored knockdowns of both Edson Barboza and Michael Johnson, catching them with short but powerful strikes during early exchanges. Conversely, Brenneman has had trouble when he has been forced to stand with opponents getting knocked out by Kyle Noke, Johnny Hendricks, and Anthony Johnson. He was also dropped by Beneil Dariush in his last fight.

Brenneman has shown improvements since cutting to 155 , but Castillo is a handful on the ground and will enjoy not facing an elite level striker when they exchange on the feet. Don't be surprised if Castillo finds some success with his wrestling, but my prediction is Danny Castillo to defeat Charlie Brenneman by TKO.

135lbs- Chris Beal (8-0-0) vs Patrick Williams (7-3-0)

The card opens up with a pair of fresh out of the box fighter in the Bantamweight division with Chris Beal taking on Patrick Williams. Beal is undefeated through his first 8 pro showings, with 6 consecutive wins under the BAMMA banner propelling him to his chance at the big time. Williams has won 2 in a row and 4 of his last 5, with all 4 wins coming inside the distance.

Beal is a former TUF competitor and Williams comes from a wrestling background cutting his teeth at Arizona State University, the same program that produced the UFC's Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.

Both when will be debuting and kicking the card off which brings added pressure. Beal has had a slight taste of the UFC, so he could be a little bit more prepared to deal with the experience. Chris has gone to the cards 6 times along with 2 knockouts in his 8 wins. He is primarily a boxing based fighter, which is a bit concerning considering his ratio of knockouts to decisions. As expected he doesn't throw a lot of kicks and he stands a little taller then then seen in the traditional MMA stance. His ground game is limited, as his primary focus is on getting the fight back to a standing position.

Beal's takedown defense will most certainly be tested against Williams. The ASU alumni has a little more diversity in his record. With 4 wins by knockout, 2 submissions, and just one win going the distance. He is primarily a finisher with 3 wins comings inside the first 2:30. He is aggressive on the feet, using a lot of movement, and throwing far more kicks then his counterpart will offer. He should also have a speed advantage along with what can be interpreted by the numbers as an edge in power. He does tend to be a little too sure of himself at times, relaxing in situations where he is still at risk and that could cost him against a sharp boxer.

Beal is undefeated, younger, and has a little more bright light experience based on his time on the show and his 6 fight BAMMA run. Unfortunately, his one dimensional boxing centric style leaves his vulnerable to a fighter that offers more variety on the feet and a wrestling game that should force Beal to his back on multiple occasions. Beal's hands are solid, but he needs to diversify and Williams simply has more to offer, so my prediction is Patrick Williams to defeat Chris Beal by TKO.

 

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- #5 Rafael dos Anjos (20-6-0) vs #7 Khabib Nurmagomedov (21-0-0)

Headlining the undercard portion of the event; two top ranked Lightweights square off with major title shot implications on the line. Rafael dos Anjos has won 5 in a row dating back to his 2011 loss to tough veteran Gleison Tibau. Khabib Nurmagomedov has yet to taste defeat over his 21 fight career which has included 5 wins inside the Octagon.

The winner of this fight takes a massive step in the direction of a title shot, but for some reason it has been book under a Women's Bantamweight bout between two non-contenders and a lower ranked Lightweight bout that includes a fighter that RDA just handily beat. A shot to gain massive exposure for a future contender on a major Fox card has been missed.

Both men are well rounded and on the mat they are each highly ranked competitors in their respective disciplines- Nurmagomedov- Sambo and dos Anjos- BJJ. In addition, Khabib is also a Judo Black belt.

Dos Anjos has 8 wins by submission. He averages 2.52 takedowns at 36% and while those numbers don't jump off the page, the Brazilian has recently made noteworthy strides in his wrestling. He has landed a combined 12 takedowns over his last 4 fights including 4 against a very good wrestling in Mark Bocek. He has an active top game which he used to neutralize the very offensive guard of Donald Cerrone and control long durations on the action on the mat. Defensively he is sounded, maintaining a 74% TDD, but he is far from perfect as Evan Dunham, Gleison Tibau, and Clay Guida were all able to find decent success with their wrestling.

The Russian has put up impressive takedown numbers so far in the UFC, including complete domination against the physically strong Abel Trujillo and a very good wrestler in Pat Healy. Khabib carries a relentless pace and even when he is unable to complete his takedowns he continues to come forward and outwork his opponent as was the case against Tibau. Nurmagomedov has a number of takedown techniques and 8 submissions once he gets the fight to the ground. His transitions are solid and he is more then capable of sweeping or reversing his opponent i