Kamikaze Overdrive Prelim Prediction Archives

265lbs- #11 Alexander Volkov (27-6-0) vs Roy Nelson (22-13-0)

In the headlining fight of the undercard, former Bellator Heavyweight champion Alexander “Drago” Volkov takes on fan favourite “Big Country” Roy Nelson. Nelson is coming off a KO win over Antonio Silva and has won 2 of 3 with his only loss a controversial split decision against Derrick Lewis. Volkov extended his current winning streak to 3 with a successful, but contestable split decision win over Tim Johnson.

At 6’7″, Volkov will tower over Nelson by 7 inches to go along with an 8″ reach advantage. The big Russian is also the younger man by 12-years.

“Drago” started strong against Johnson, backing him up with some early flurries before getting cracked with a hard uppercut that sent him tumbling to the floor in the opening round. Despite his height, Volkov doesn’t always maximize his advantages by utilizing a lowered stance. His primary weapons are a straight right hand/ left hook combo while lunging forward in to maximize the impact. Round and straight kicks to the body will also be key weapons and look for Alexander to attempt a stepping knee. He has had issues in the past with fighters that impose and clinch and takedown-heavy attacks.

The cardio of Volkov could be a concern as he slowed down in the 2nd half of his debut, with his attack devolving to single strikes between prolonged periods of inactivity.

A seeming mainstay of the Top 15, Nelson has slipped out of the rankings despite his win over “Bigfoot”. “Big Country” has recorded 14 wins by knockout. He throws a bomb of a right hand, pawing with his left before stepping into fire with power. In order to maintain his striking range, Roy relies on head movement, a tucked chin, and the ability to absorbed a lot of damage. In recent fights, he hasn’t been nearly as successful with his power deployment. Against Jake Rosholt, he effectively cut off the cage but failed to find the mark with the finishing blow. Nelson is 3-11 in decisions and just 3-9 inside the UFC in fights that last beyond the first frame.

Nelson has shown a greater willingness to mix in his wrestling in recent fights. Roy scored 4-takedowns against Josh Barnett and put Lewis on the floor 7-times.

Despite possessing the required physical attributes, Volkov’s style and cardio make him increasingly susceptible to getting hit as the fight advances. Nelson’s recent focus on wrestling will prove useful against Volkov’s questionable TDD. Roy’s recent strategy alteration could easily have him on a 3-fight winning streak- all wins beyond round 1. Nelson will find success closing the gap to either set up his big right hand or score takedowns which could lead to a future stoppage- my prediction is Roy Nelson to defeat Alexander Volkov by knockout.

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135lbs- Patrick Williams (8-4-0) vs Tom Duquesnoy (14-1-0)

France’s Tom “Fire Kid” Duquesnoy makes his long-awaited UFC debut when he takes on Patrick “The Animal” Williams in the Bantamweight division. Williams made quick work of Alejandro Perez, submitting him in just 23-second to pick up his first UFC win. Duquesnoy is undefeated over his last 11 fights with 10 wins and a NC mixed in dating back to his 2013 defeat to Makwan Amirkhani.

Williams is an inch taller, but will have a sizeable 5″ reach advantage. Duquesnoy is the younger fighter by 12-years. Williams hasn’t fought in 22-months.

“The Animal” comes from a wrestling background, but outside of a pair of completions in his debut, he has had little time to showcase what he can do on the floor. Against Perez, he rushed forward and crack Alejandro with a big right hand before locking up a power choke guillotine for the win. While the fight was brief, he still appeared to use a similar striking style to his debut. Williams will launch himself across the cage to engage before retreating again. This style is quite taxing and leaves him open to counter strikes.

Williams won the opening round of his debut before getting cracked with a brutal flying knee for the finish- the 2nd knockout loss of his career.

Dominating the European scene, Duquesnoy has finished 7 opponents by knockout and 4 by submission to go along with a perfect 3-0 record on the scorecards. His mat game is solid with decent wrestling and a Combat Sambo background to build around. From the clinch, “Fire Kid” will attack with hard knees and elbows and brings a lot of pressure when doing so. At distance, he will land hard kicks to all areas of his opponent’s body before stepping into punching range to attack with hard and quick combos. He is very aggressive which does open him up to taking some damage, but he continues to make improvements from one fight to the next to finalize an already dangerous arsenal.

The Paris-born fighter captured both the BAMMA Bantamweight and Featherweight titles during his run with the promotion.

Williams doesn’t have a lot of experience and has been out of action for a long time. Additionally, at 35, he is getting up there for the lighter weight-classes and probably won’t show much development beyond his current skill set. Duquesnoy is debuting which can be difficult, but he is already a well-prepared fighter. Williams will test his wrestling, but his vulnerability on the feet will cost him here- my prediction is Tom Duquesnoy to defeat Patrick William by knockout.

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155lbs- Bobby Green (23-7-0) vs Rashid Magomedov (19-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, Bobby “King” Green returns to action to face off with Russia’s Rashid Magomedov. Green is currently enduring a 2-fight losing streak with losses to Edson Barboza and Dustin Poirier- he had won 12 straight fights prior to his current slump. Magomedov had a similar streak snap in a decision defeat to Beneil Dariush.

Green returned after a 19-month layoff in his last fight. He is the taller man by an inch and will have a similar sized reach advantage. Bobby is also the younger man by 2-years.

To say the least, Magomedov is coming off an underwhelming performance. Known primarily as a striker, Magomedov has finished 9 opponents by knockout. He likes to work in the pocket, relying on good head movement to slip his opponent’s attacks before returning fire. While remaining calculated in his approach has helped him to limit his mistakes, a lack of activity put him behind on the scorecards against Dariush. Magomedov throws a hard right hand, will attack the body and can work in some devastating kicks. Most of his opponents have used a grappling-heavy attack in an attempt to take Rashid’s striking out of the equation.

Magomedov had out-landed every opponent on the feet prior to the Dariush loss. His UFC best 91 significant strikes came in his knockout win over Elias Silverio.

Despite’s Green’s striking heavy style, each of his last 2 defeats came on the feet. He is coming off just his second loss by knockout, with the last transpiring back in 2010. Green’s uses an unorthodox style; hanging his hands low and taunting his opponents. Bobby will press forward with erratic movement to throw off his opponent before attacking with a front kick to the body and quick punches.  “King” Bobby is also a capable wrestler and has scored some crucial takedowns when presented with the opportunity.

Over Green’s last 5 wins he has landed better than 50 significant when the fight went beyond the opening round. Over his last 2 losses, he averaged just 33 strikes per fight.

This fight should be contested on the feet, unless Green finds a way to break through the Russian’s TDD. Magomedov’s technique and power should be the difference maker. Green has struggled against capable strikers who are not swayed by his antics and continue to press the action. Magomedov will look to rebound from his last performance and will simply be the more active and impactful striker- my prediction is Rashid Magomedov to defeat Bobby Green by Decision.

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125lbs- #12 Louis Smolka (11-3-0) vs #9 Tim Elliott (14-7-1)

Unexpected and unsuccessful title challenger, Tim Elliott looks to start the rebuild when he takes on Hawaiian Louis “Da Last Samurai” Smolka in the Flyweight division. Smolka is coming off back to back losses to Ray Borg and Brandon Moreno that ended his 4-fight winning streak. Elliott held his own, but came up short against Johnson over 5-rounds- he had won 3 in a row outside of the Octagon.

At 5’9″, Smolka is 2 inches taller than Elliott and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Louis is the younger man by 5-years.

Smolka’s success and failure in the UFC has largely come on the mat. In his debut, he gave up 9 takedowns, but used a crafty grappling game to get the better of the ground exchanges. He had similar success against Paddy Holohan and has completed 10 takedowns over his last 4 fights. Conversely, he was submitted by Moreno and spent the majority of the Borg fight on his back. Louis has a tendency to sacrifice position for submission, often putting himself in tough spots before working to get to the superior position.

On the feet, Smolka can hold his own, but works at a slightly below average striking rate. He did score an impressive standing side kick knockout of Richie Vas back in 2014.

Similar to his opponent, a lot of what Elliott has accomplished has come on the mat. While he has just a single submission win over his last 10 fights, the key to his success has been his takedowns. Averaging 3.31 TDs per fight at a 60% completion rate, Elliott has taken down each of his last 6 opponents at least once. That streak includes 4 against the Champion, 3 against Joseph Benavidez, and a pair in his loss to Ali Bagautinov. While he has come up short in all of those fights, his success against top-level competition is noteworthy.

Tim’s striking output has been a bit hit or miss. He put up a UFC personal-best of 116 strikes against Louis Gaudinot, but has failed to eclipse the 50-strike mark since.

This fight should be decided on the mat. Smolka’s wins have come over opponents that he has been able to get the better of on the mat based on either technique or endurance. That won’t be the case here. While the vertical exchanges should be fairly even, Elliott will find success routinely taking Smolka down and holding the superior position- my prediction is Tim Elliott to defeat Louis Smolka by decision.

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135lbs- #8 Aljamain Sterling (12-2-0) vs Augusto Mendes (6-1-0)

Capping off the FightPass prelims, “The Funk Master” Aljamain Sterling takes on talented BJJ Black belt Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes in the Bantamweight division. Sterling has lost back to back fights to Bryan Caraway and Raphael Assuncao- the first 2 defeats of his career. Mendes lost a short notice debut to Cody Garbrandt, but rallied to pull off an upset of Frankie Saenz at UFC Fight Night 103.

Sterling is an inch taller, but will have a substantial 6″ reach advantage. “The Funk Master” is the younger man by 6 years.

A highly touted grappler, Mendes’s prowess on the mat is reflected in his 4 submission wins. Whether top or bottom position, Mendes is willing to attack as soon as the action hits the floor. On the ground, he has a solid mount, works in good ground and pound, and is constantly looking to advance position. Against Saenz, he found success scoring takedowns, but was unable to hold control. The majority of his shots came on the heels of striking exchanges. “Tanquinho” would strike and then catch his foe off balance with a bodylock/ trip combo.

Augusto has some pop in his hands and hurt Sanez a couple of times. He deploys the majority of his offense in short bursts that carry him into the clinch where he will attack with uppercuts and short punches.

Sterling is battling through a tough stretch in his career, where he has had moments of success but not enough to leap over top level opponents. During his 4-fight UFC winning streak, he completed 12 takedowns compared to just 1 over his last 2 outings. An NCAA D3 wrestler and BJJ Purple belt, Aljamain has recorded 6-wins by sub. On the feet, Sterling is a counter striker. When initiating the attack he relies heavily on his kicking attack- throwing round and straight kicks up and down his opponent. Despite landing more significant strikes, Sterling’s counter/ kick-heavy approach made it difficult to separate himself from Assuncao during the vertical exchanges.

All 6 of Sterling’s submission wins have come by choke, including 4 guillotines and an impressive arm-triangle submission off his back against Takeya Mizugaki.

Sterling’s recent struggles have been a product of his inability to use his ground game and Mendes is too dangerous to take down with consistency. On the feet, Mendes has power and will press the action while Sterling’s reliance on kicks limits his effectiveness. In a close fight, Mendes will find some success taking Sterling down or out scrambling him if Aljamain initiates a ground exchange. Don’t be surprised to see this fight end in a split, but the punching volume and forward pressure of Mendes helps him to edge it out- my prediction is Augusto Mendes to defeat Aljamain Sterling by decision.

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205lbs- Devin Clark (7-1-0) vs Jake Collier (10-3-0)

Jumping up a division, Jake “The Prototype” Collier makes his UFC Light Heavyweight debut when he takes on Devin “Brown Bear” Clark. Clark defeated Josh Stansbury by decision last December after an unsuccessful debut where he was knocked out by Alex Nicholson. Collier stopped Alberto Uda in his last fight to even his UFC record at 2-2- he has alternated wins and losses over his last 4.

At 6’3″, Collier is 3 inches taller than Clark and will have a 3″ reach advantage. Clark is the younger man by 2 years.

Collier is a gritty fighter with a willingness to stand and trade. He builds the majority of his offense around a stiff left jab followed by a right hand, hard leg kicks, and a good front kick. He strikes long, getting good extension on his punches, but he tends to leave his head exposed when throwing wide swinging hooks. Against Uda, he took some damage but ultimately overwhelmed him with his pace and aggression.

Collier has had big moments even in defeat; dominating the opening round on the mat in his debut and hurting Dongi Yang during an early exchange.

In similar fashion, Clark looked good early against Nicholson before getting knocked out. An athletic fighter with good speed and power, “Brown Bear” picked up a trio of knockouts outside of the UFC. Everything he throws has decent pop behind it and he will attack from both the outside and in close. He was routinely beating Stansbury to the punch and added to his success on the feet with some solid control time along the cage and on the mat. Defensively, Clark was able to power out of some bad spots and forced Stansbury to work hard in pursuit of the takedown.

Clark is a product of the “Dana White: Lookin’ For a Fight” reality show and went 3-0 under the RFA banner prior to making the jump to the UFC.

Collier is tough, but he takes a lot of damage in pursuit of the finish. That approach will work against an opponent he can routinely get the better of, but Clark is too quick and hits too hard. Devon will beat Collier to punch and do more damage when he connects. If Clark needs to, he will find success taking Collier down and/or using his lower stature to control him on the cage- my prediction is Devon Clark to defeat Jake Collier by TKO.

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185lbs- Anthony Smith (26-12-0) vs Andrew Sanchez (10-2-0)

TUF 23 Light Heavyweight winner Andrew “El Dirte” Sanchez makes UFC appearance #3 when he takes on “Lionheart” Anthony Smith in the Middleweight division. Smith is coming off an impressive come-from-behind victory over Elvis Mutapcic, becoming the first man to stop him- Anthony is 2-1 in the UFC. Sanchez got the better of Trevor Smith in his last fight to stretch his winning streak to 4 consecutive wins- 3 in the UFC.

Separated by just a few months, Smith is 3 inches taller than Sanchez and will have a 3″ reach advantage.

Smith is a dangerous fighter and showed just how capable a finisher he is against Mutapcic. The knockout was the 12th of his career, to go along with 11 submission wins. “Lionheart” has accrued 13 opening round finishes. Smith is at his best when he can overwhelm his opponent with pressure and volume. If he can trap his foe along the cage, Smith will blast away with short strikes and cutting elbows. Smith’s TDD has been a point of vulnerability. While he can attack and finish off his back, he gave up 6 takedowns against Cezar Ferreira and spent some time on his back against Elvis.

Of his 12 career defeats, 11 have come by finish- with 6 losses by knockout and 5 by submission. He has gone the distance just 3-times in his career.

“El Dirte” demonstrated the depth of his wrestling game in his debut, planting his foe on the floor 6-times. Against Trevor Smith, Sanchez showcased his striking. He landed 74 significant strikes, slipping in and out of range to land short combinations. Remaining calm and composed under fire, Sanchez augments his boxing with a decent kicking game- attacking up and down his adversary. The defensive aspects of his game are strong as well, proving himself difficult to take down and hard to hit on the feet with consistency.

As a member of Team Claudia, Sanchez won a pair of decisions with a semi-final KO of Eric Spicely sandwiched in the middle.

Smith has a lot of experience and is coming off of a big win, but his TDD, questionable cardio, and high rate of getting finished are all working against him here. Sanchez has shown he has the ability to deal with pressure effectively. “El Dirte” will weather the storm on the feet with movement and then change levels for a well-timed takedown. Spending too much time on his back will result in Smith breaking down in the latter half of the match- my prediction is Andrew Sanchez to defeat Anthony Smith by TKO.

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170lbs- Zak Cummings (20-5-0) vs Nathan Coy (15-6-0)

In the Welterweight division, Zak Cummings continues his push for a spot in the Top 15 when he takes on fellow Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Nathan “Soulforce” Coy. Coy saved his spot on the roster with an upset win over Jonavin Webb to even his Octagon record at 1-1. Cummings submitted Alexander Yakovlev last November and has compiled a solid 5-2 record in the promotion.

Cummings is 2 inches taller, but will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. Zak is the younger man by 6 years. He missed weight by almost 2 pounds in his last fight.

Coming from a wrestling background, Zak has combined a good takedown game with a strong submission arsenal. He has submitted 9 opponents, with the majority coming by some form of choke. Cummings does some of his best work from side control when looking for chokes. If he is unable to secure the takedown, look for the Texas-native to use his dirty boxing along the cage. At range, Cummings is a capable counter striker. With a solid chin, he remains calm under pressure and keeps his strikes short and compact. Zak will lead with a right jab and packs some decent power in his left hand.

Despite his record, Cummings currently carries a -0.46 striking exchange rate.

A former All-American wrestler, Coy is 8-2 in fights that go the distance. Conversely, he has been finished in 4 of his 6 losses. Coy picked up a trio of takedowns against Webb leading to the decision victory. In his debut, after scoring his initial takedown, Coy was quickly caught in a submission and forced to tap. The cardio and durability of “Soulforce” has been a major point of concern. He has a tendency to breakdown in more demanding fights and has slowed in bouts even when finding early success with his wrestling.

Coy hasn’t fought in almost 14-months and has fought just twice since early 2014, not including his time spent on the Ultimate Fighter 21.

Both men share a lot of similarities, but Cummings in simply in better place right now. He is younger, bigger, and has been more active against better competition. Cummings should get the better of the striking exchanges and will be difficult for Coy to takedown with consistency or at all. Zak will make this fight gritty and eventually overwhelm Coy either from top position or with his close range striking- my prediction is Zak Cummings to defeat Nathan Coy by TKO.

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135lbs- #13 Ashlee Evans-Smith (5-1-0) vs Ketlen Vieira (7-0-0)

The opening fight of the night takes place in the Women’s Bantamweight division featuring the ranked Ashlee Evans-Smith putting her spot in the Top 15 on the line against promotional sophomore Ketlen Vieira. Evans-Smith has won back to back fights with a narrow split decision win over Marion Reneau and a TKO stoppage of Veronica Macedo. Still undefeated, Vieira took home a split decision victory over Kelly Faszholz at UFC Fight Night 96 in Brazil.

Both ladies are 5’8″, but it is Vieira with a slight 1″ reach. The Brazilian is the younger fighter by 4-years.

Vieira came into the UFC with a record devoid of decent competition. Her final 4 pre-Octagon opponents are a combined 6-7. She has finished her opponent in 5 of her 7 wins- 3 by knockout. The Brazilian began her career with 5 consecutive stoppage wins. Ketlen executed a beautiful farside trip/ judo throw combination to put Faszholz on her back early in the fight. She completed 4 takedowns overall and score some solid top position. Where Vieira struggled was when she was under fire and was trying to counter strike. Prior to joining the UFC, the majority of Vieira’s vertical offense came in the form of single strikes or brawling flurries.

Vieira is a BJJ Brown belt and Judo Black belt.

Building on her wrestling base, Evans-Smith has a BJJ Blue belt and is coming off of her best UFC performance. AES took down Macedo just twice but absolutely wore her out on the floor prior to getting the stoppage. Ashlee has finished 3 of her 5 wins by TKO. Evans-Smith is strong in the clinch, using strong head position and body control to neutralize her opponent before landing short punches and knees. Once she gets her opponent to the mat, she will start looking to advance her position in pursuit of the finish. Against Macedo, AES used her position to limit her foe’s ability to defend while landing big GNP.

All 3 of AES’s finishes have come in the 3rd round. An indication her grinding nature and ability to break her opponent down over a longer fight.

While Ashlee’s striking is still a work in progress, she will do a decent enough job with her forward pressure to back Vieira up. Ketlen struggled with the pressure of her last opponent and she doesn’t pose enough of a threat on the feet to back AES up. Evans-Smith will drive forward and bully Vieira in the clinch, eventually dragging the fight to the mat. While Vieira’s Judo background will help her hold up early, her lack of long fight experience will cost her against the grinding pressure of the American- my prediction is Ashlee-Evans Smith to defeat Ketlen Vieira by TKO

145lbs- MYLES JURY (15-2-0) vs MIKE DE LA TORRE (14-6-0 1NC)

In the headlining bout, former Lightweight standout Myles “Fury” Jury makes his 2nd appearence at 145 pounds when he takes on Mike “El Cucuy” De La Torre. Jury has lost back to back fights, including a submission defeat to Charles Oliveira in his divisional debut. De La Torre is coming off a submission loss to Godofredo Pepey and has gone 2-3-0 with a No Contest since signing on with the UFC.

Jury hasn’t fought since December 2015, a near 16-month break from action. De La Torre is an inch taller, but Jury will have a slight 2″ reach advantage. Jury is the younger man by 2 years.

An equal oppurtunity finisher, De La Torre has split his 12 stoppage wins evenly between knockouts and submissions. In addition to his 2-1 record on the cards, De La Torre has only picked up 2 victories beyond the opening frame. On the feet, he has some solid pop in his hands. He stopped Thiago Trator with a series of hard punches before landing a brutal left hook and GNP for the finish. While De La Torre averages 3.5 significant strikes per minute, he gets hit 0.74 more per minute and has landed more strikes than his opponent in just 1 of his fights.

De La Torre’s aggressive pursuit of the finish opens him up to getting stopped himself- he has been subbed 4-times and knocked out once.

Jury’s divisional debut was brief, getting dragged into a grappling exchange and then submitted. It was the first time he has ever been finished. A BJJ Black belt, Jury has had a lot of success on the mat. He completed 4 takedowns in his win over Mike Ricci and 3 in each of his fights against Michael Johnson and Diego Sanchez. On the feet, Jury is technically sound and focuses on maintaining a strong defensive front. By limiting the effectivness of his opponent’s striking offense, it further magnifies the output that Jury puts forth. Look for Jury to utilize a lot of lateral movement, a strong jab, and kicks to maintain separation.

Jury took part in 2 different TUF seasons. On the first episode of TUF 13 he tore his ACL and was unable to compete. In the TUF 15 tournament, he lost via split decision to Al Iaquinta in the first round.

Jury’s layoff is certainly concerning, especially if De La Torre gets off to a quick start. That being said, De La Torre is a sizeable stepback in competition and is going to struggle to deal with the strong defensive front of Myles on the feet and Jury’s wrestling/ submission game. While he could win on the feet, Jury will return to his grappling heavy ways as a counter to the aggression of his adversary- my prediciotn is Myles Jury to defeat Mike De La Torre by submission.

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170lbs- #11 KAMARU USMAN (9-1-0) vs SEAN STRICKLAND (18-1-0)

In a battle of rising Welterweight prospects, Top-15 ranked “Nigerian Nightmare” Kamaru Usman takes on Sean “Tarzan” Strickland. After an unsuccessful debut in the division, Strickland has now won 3 consecutive fights including a split decision upset over Tom Breese at UFC 199. Usman improved to 4-0 with a mauling of dangerous Brazilian Warlley Alves last November.

Both men have a 76″ reach, but Strickland has a slight 1″ height advantage. Sean is the younger man by 4-years.

“Tarzan” offers an educated left jab, constantly snapping it out into the face of his foe. Strickland will also use his left to disrupt his opponent’s timing by grabbing their lead hand. In addition to the jab, Sean utilizes a quick right side strike and an arsenal of kicks. Averaging 76 strikes per fight over his last 3 outings, he has shown a noteworthy uptick his output. While working at a decent pace, Sean won’t overwhelm his opponent and maintains a strong defensive front.

Strickland is capable of fighting on the mat with 4 submision wins and a decent takedown game. He did have some issues with the wrestling of Alex Garcia and spent some time on his back in that fight.

An NCAA Division 2 wrestler, Usman has competed 18 takedowns over 4-fights, but landed just a single shot on 2 attempts in his last bout. In the Leon Edwards fight, Usman struggled early but was persistant with his TDAs and eventually took over the fight. Against Alves, he used his pressure to back Warlley up to the cage before attacking on the feet. He has power, a solid chin, and has shown improvements in his striking.

While Usman’s striking remains the secondary aspect of his attack, the threat of the takedown gets his opponents to heistate on the feet and also wears them down which makes Usman’s offense more effective.

Strickland tends to be too passive. His lack of aggression will allow Usman to move forward both in pursuit of the takedown and when striking. While Strickland’s jab could dissuade Kamaru’s forward pressure, Sean tends to back up in straight lines which opens him up even more. Usman will compile more points as the more active striker, through clinch control, and with well-timed takedowns- my prediction is Kamaru Usman to defeat Sean Strickland by decision.

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145lbs- SHANE BURGOS (8-0-0) vs CHARLES ROSA (11-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, promotional sophomore Shane “Hurricane” Burgos puts his perfect record on the line against “Boston Strong” Charles Rosa. Rosa took home a win over Kyle Bochniak early in 2016 and has alternated wins and losses over his last 5 outings. Burgos picked up a short-notice victory in his debut, defeating Thiago Trator by decsion.

Burgos is 2 inches taller than Rosa and will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. Rosa is the older man by 5 years and hasn’t competed in almost 17-months.

A BJJ Black belt, Rosa has submitted 7 opponents, including tapping out Sean Soriano for his first UFC win.  He has a variety of submission wins on his record including various chokes and armbars. Aggressive on the mat, Rosa will attack from both top and bottom position. “Boston Strong” has put up some pretty impressive takedown numbers including 5 compeltions against Yair Rodriguez and 13 over 4 UFC fights. When standing, Rosa will switch stances and relies heavily on his kicking techniques. Look for him to attack with his front leg to keep his opponent at bay.

In the win over Bochniak, Rosa landed a UFC-personal best 92-signifcant strikes. It was the first time in the UFC that Rosa landed more strikes than his opponent.

Despite taking his debut on short notice, Burgos put together an impressive performance. He rocked Trator on multiple occassions and came close to finishing him. “Hurricane” posses fast hands and power from both sides. He can be an effective counter striker, pressuring his foe before slipping off to the side to land a counter left hook. On the negative side, if Shane relies too much on his counter striking, his opponent can outwork him. Defensively, Burgos stopped 11 of 12 TDAs from the Brazilian, demonstrating strong hips to stifle his foe’s shot.

Burgos’s debut was the first time he had ever fought a full 15-minutes. He had pr evioulsy picked up 5 opening round wins and 2 in the middle round.

Rosa’s agrression can overwhelm a lot of opponents, but Burgos’s calm counter-based attack will welcome it. Rosa is quite hittable and the combination of Burgos’s speed and power will make him pay. “Boston Strong” faded against Rodriguez and the long layoff wont help in this fight, my prediction is Shane Burgos to defeat Charles Rosa by decision.

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205lbs- #12 PATRICK CUMMINS (8-4-0) vs JAN BLACHOWICZ (19-6-0)

In the Lightweight division, Patrick “Durkin” Cummins returns to action against former KSW Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz. Cummins last fought at UFC 198, suffering a round 1 knockout loss against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira- he is 1-3 over his last 4 fights. Blachowicz has struggled through a similar 1-3 slump, with losses to Alexander Gustafsson, Corey Anderson, and Jimi Manuwa during that span.

Both men are 6’2″, but Jan will have a slight 2″ reach advantage and is the younger man by 3 years.

The Nogueira loss ended a 6-fight streak for Cummins where he had completed at least 1 takedown per fight. He completed 8 against Rafael Feijao, eventually scoring the TKO finish. Conversely, he floored Glover Texeira on 4 occassions, but ultimately got finished on the feet. His top game is strong, but Cummins’s lack of a capable striking game and questionable durability puts him at a sizeable deficet when standing.

All 4 of Cummins’s defeats have come via knockout, including a brutal KO stoppage against OSP.

Blachowicz was holding his own early against Gustafsson before the Big Swede opted to take him down. Jan gave up 4 takedowns to Gus and Corey Anderson put up similar numbers one loss earlier. Blachowicz has 5 wins by knockout including his body kick stoppage of Ilir Latifi. His overall output has been a little mit or miss, but he did fall just short of the century mark in significant strikes in his most recent win.

Blachowicz has just a single stoppage victory dating back to early 2011.

This fight will come down to how Blachowicz fairs in striking exchanges between Cummins’s TDAs. Cummins will most likely score multiple takedowns, but even with limited oppurtunities his opponents have found a lot of success on the feet. Blachowicz will spend some time on the defensive, but eventually he will put Cummins down either with one shot or through the accumulation of damage- my prediction is Jan Blachowicz to defeat Patrick Cummins by TKO.

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155lbs- GREGOR GILLESPIE (8-0-0) vs ANDREW HOLBROOK (12-1-0)

Headlining the FightPass undercard, former ROC Lightweight champion Gregor “The Gift” Gillespie takes on Andrew Holbrook. Holbrook is coming off a contensious split decision win over Jake Matthews to reboud from the first loss of his career. Gillespie defeated Glaico Franca by decision in his UFC debut last September.

Holbrook is the taller man by 2 inches, but will give up an inch of reach.

An top level collegiate wreslter, Gillespie completed 5 takedowns on 19 attempts in his debut. “The Gift” got cracked early by Franca and failed on his early shots, but eventually got the fight to the mat. Gregor was relentless on his shot, driving his opponent into the cage while attempting to connect his hands. On the feet, Gillespie’s striking is basic, but he has some power. If he opts to use his hands to set up his shot, he signicanlty improves his chances of putting his foe on the floor.

Gregor’s reliance on his wrestling nearly cost him his final pre-UFC  fight. Despite struggling to find consistent success with his takedowns, he was unwilling to deviate from his game plan. He won by split-decision.

A slick grappler and submission fighter, Holbrook has tapped out his opponent in 9 of his 12 wins. While 2-0 in decisions, both of his wins were questionable split decisions. In those fights, Andrew completed just 2 takedowns compared to 9 given up. Holbrook is aggressive on the mat and will attack off his back if taken down, making him hard to control. Against Matthews, Holbrook used a lot of pressure early and and kept his opponent backing up while landing some decent strikes.

Holbrook was rocked by Ramsey Nijem in his debut and KOed by Joaquim Silva in just 34-seconds.

This fight is going to hit the mat. The question is, who will get the better of the action. Gillespie’s is a strong wrestler, but Holbrook’s active guard could lead him to scoring on the floor despite fighting off his back. Gillespie has enough power to back Holbrook up and his counter wrestling will allow him to move forward unabated- my prediciton is Gregor Gillespie to defeat Andrew Holbrook by decision.

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155lbs- JOSH EMMETT (11-0-0) vs DESMOND GREEN (19-5-0)

Josh Emmett will once against put his undefeated record on the line when he takes on former Bellator competitor Desmond “The Predator” Green in the Lightweight division. Emmett is 2-0 in the UFC, holding wins over Jon Tuck and Scott Holtzman. Green has won 4 straight fights, including back to back victories in Titan FC where he once held the Featherweight title.

Green is 4 inches taller with a 4″ reach advantage and is 4 years younger than Emmett. Green has competed as low as Featherweight and recently fought as high as 170-pounds. He had some issues making weight as a Featherweight and has made a permanent move to the Lightweight division.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Green’s focus is closing the distance and dragging his opponent to the mat. He hits strong reactive takedowns, effectively timing his opponent’s forward push and changing levels. If force to compete on the feet, his striking is serviceable, but inconsistent at best. Despite no longer draining his body to get to 145 pound and a 13-3 record in decisions, he faded considerably in the 2nd half of his last contest.

Green fell short in the 2014 Bellator Featherweight tournament finals against Daniel Weichel. He compiled a record of 3-2 in the promotion.

Training out of one of the best wrestling camps in MMA, Team Alpha Male, Emmett completed 8 takedowns in his last fight. Despite Holtzman’s solid TDD, Emmett did a good job of adjusting and driving forward to complete his shots. If he can get his hands locked, look for him to elevate and slam his foe to the floor. On the feet, Josh boasts a heavy right hand and throws the majority of his offense with power. Working behind a left jab, he is pretty quick on his feet and through 2 UFC outings has averaged 4.7 strikes per minute.

Despite picking up 3 stoppages over his last 6 wins, Emmett has fought in 18 of a potential 20 scheduled rounds.

If this bout is contested mainly on the feet, Emmett should have the advantage as the more active and impactful striker. If Green does opt to wrestle, the lower stature, physical strength, and counter wrestlng of Emmett will force Dez to work hard to earn compeltions leading to a slowdown later in the fight. Emmett will get the better of the striking exhanges and pull away as the fight progresses- my prediction is Josh Emmett to defeat Desmond Green by decision
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135lbs- KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN (8-1-0) vs IRENE ALDANA (7-3-0)

Both fighters look to rebound from defeat, as Katlyn Chookagian takes on Mexico’s Irene Aldana in the Women’s Bantamweight division. Chookagian made a successful debut against Lauren Murphy, but suffered the first loss of her career via split decision upset against Liz Carmouche. Aldana entered the Octagon following a 4-1 run under the Invicta banner, but dropped a decision to Leslie Smith last December.

Both women are 5’9″ and have an identical 68″ reach. Chookagian is 9-months younger than Irene.

A striking-centric fighter, Chookagian has recorded just a pair of knockouts, but is 5-1 on the scorecards. In her debut, she used constant lateral movement and active combination striking to routinely get the better of the exchanges. She cuts good angles and when attacking and will also throw a solid counter left hook. Katlyn adds in a hard stepping knee to the body when appropriate. She has had issues getting stuck along the cage and allowing her opponent to control her in the clinch.

While Chookagian is in constant motion, she lacks an overwhelming connection rate landing just 45 of 139 strike attempts in her debut.

Aldana has secured all 7 of her career wins by stoppage, 5 by knockout. She is a perfect 7-0 in fights ending inside the opening round, while struggling to an 0-3 mark after the first 5-minutes. She has been knocked out twice. Irene is a powerful puncher with excellent striking fundamentals. She has good head movement and footwork, utilizing her reach well. Look for her to work behind a hard left jab with blistering hand speed. Not surprisingly, she is far more effective when moving forward. Smith dropped her with a right hand and was able to back her up with volume during key moments of their fight.

Despite Aldana’s struggles beyond the opening round, she landed an impressive 108 significant strikes against Smith. Smith connected on 169.

Aldana will have a sizeable advantage in both power and output in this contest. Chookagian will struggle to back Irene up, failing to land with enough impact or frequency to get her respect. The speed and ferocity of Aldana will keep Chookagian on the defensive for the majority of the fight. If Chookagian can keep it close early, she could pull away late, but my prediction is Irene Aldana to defeat Katlyn Chookgian by TKO.
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125lbs- JENEL LAUSA (7-2-0) vs MAGOMED BIBULATOV (13-0-0)

To open up the card, the undefeated and debuting Magomed “Gladiator” Bibulatov takes on promotional sophomore Jenel “The Demolition Man” Lausa. Lausa won his debut via decision over Yao Zhikui and is riding a 5-fight winning streak. Bibulatov made a quick stop in WSOF to capture their Flyweight title before winning 3 more contests back in Russia prior to signing with the UFC.

Both men are 5’5″, but Lausa will have a 3″ reach advantage. The Russian is the younger man by 21 days.

In his debut, Lausa did an effective job of shutting down his opponent’s wrestling. While he stopped 5 of 6 TDAs, he has had issues outside of the UFC when pressed by an effective ground fighter. Coming from a boxing background, Lausa has a better than expected ground game, but he wants to keep this fight standing. Working behind a quick jab, Jenel will attack with quick combos highlighted by a weighty left hook. He dropped Yao with a big head kick, but was unable to finish him.

In early 2016, Lausa won the PXC Flyweight strap via split decision in his final bout outside of the UFC.

Finally making the move to the UFC, Bibulatov is a highly regarded Flyweight prospect. He has finished 7 opponents, 5 by submission. On the scorecards, “Gladiator” is a perfect 6-0. He picked up a trio of submissions to start his pro career, but just 2 over his last 10 fights. He is a strong takedown artist, with great timing and a variety of techniques to put his opponent on the floor with. Once on top, he is difficult to shake off and will look for the finish. On the feet, Magomed is aggressive, but can get a little wild at times. The Russian will unload with a large variety of different techniques, especially focusing on his kicking game.

Bibulatov is a Combat Sambo practioner and formerly competed at 135-pounds where he still found success dominating with his ground attack against larger adversaries.

If Lausa can replicate the success from his debut and keep Bibulatov striking, he could out point him with volume. That being said, Magomed is simply too good on the mat and should find success taking Jenel down and keeping him there. Lausa has had issues on the floor before and is probably facing the best ground fighter of his career, so my prediciton is Magomed Bibulatov to defeat Jenel Lausa by submission.

155lbs- Joe Duffy (15-2-0) vs Reza Madadi (14-4-0)

Headlining the Undercard, “Irish” Joe Duffy makes his 5th UFC walk when he meets the hardnosed Reza “Mad Dog” Madadi. Madadi scored a TKO win over Yan Cabral in his last fight and has alternated wins and losses dating back to his UFC debut. Duffy rallied from his loss to Dustin Poirier to quickly submit Canadian Mitch Clarke, improving his Octagon mark to 3-1.

Madadi is an inch taller, but will give up an inch of reach. Duffy is the younger man by 10 years.

Coming from a wrestling background, Madadi is a grinder. He had a lot of early success with his wrestling, landing a combined 10 takedowns over his first 3 UFC fights. Since that strong start, he has picked up just a pair of completions on 14 attempts. A BJJ Purple belt, Madadi has 8 wins by submission. If “Mad Dog” is unable to get the fight to the mat, he will work over his opponent along the cage, maintaining tight body control accompanied by short strikes. The distance striking technique that Reza employs isn’t overly flashy. A well-placed uppercut led to the Cabral stoppage, but he is most effective when he can drag his opponent into a wild brawl and rely on his durability.

After upsetting Michael Johnson in early 2013, Madadi was released by the UFC and inactive for over 2 years due to burglary conviction in Sweden.

“Irish” Joe made short work of his last opponent, taking just 25-seconds to pick up his 9th career submission win. Duffy blends together a slick grappling attack and savvy boxing game. Showcasing his well-rounded skills, he floored Clarke with a right hook before locking in an RNC for the tap. He is a Taekwondo Black belt and BJJ Purple belt. On the feet, Joe leads with a sharp left jab and follows with a very accurate and hard straight right. Look for him to work in a decent kicking repertoire as well. In victory, he has yet to see the second round in the UFC and has finished 14 opponents in the first frame.

Joe is just 2-2 outside of the opening round, including his loss to Dustin Poirier where he was badly out-wrestled.

Duffy is a talented fighter, but his defensive wrestling was badly exposed against Poirier. Additionally, his quality of opposition hasn’t been great in the UFC with his wins coming over 3 fighters with a combined record of 4-9. Madadi isn’t pretty, but he is durable and is a strong wrestler. Look for Reza to return to his wrestling roots, ground Duffy to take away his striking advantage, and grind Joe down on the floor and cage- my prediction is Reza Madadi to defeat Joe Duffy by decision.

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205lbs- Darren Stewart (7-0-0 1NC) vs Francimar Barroso (18-5-0 1NC)

In a rematch dating back to last November, Darren “The Dentist” Stewart battles Francimar Barroso in the Light Heavyweight division. At UFN 100, Stewart was initially named the victor over Barroso by TKO, but the result was overturned by the Brazilian commission. Barroso is 3-2 in the UFC including wins over Ryan Jimmo and Elvis Mutapcic.  Stewart was a perfect 2-0 in 2016 before making his promotional debut.

The Brazilian will have an inch reach advantage and is 3 inches taller. Stewart is the younger man by 10-years and appeared to be a little undersized against Barroso, admitting that he intends to move to Middleweight after the rematch.

In their first encounter, Stewart used a clinch heavy attack to keep Francimar on the cage. During a transition, Stewart’s head appeared to partially connect with Barosso’s jaw/cheek. The blow didn’t appear to be significant, but the Brazilian’s focus was entirely on the injury and he was quickly finished via strikes on the mat.

Barosso’s been a bit of an odd fighter. His cardio isn’t great, but he tends to be a bit of a grinder. Averaging less that 3 significant strikes per minute and under 2 completed takedowns per fight- he isn’t going to overwhelm his opponent with his offensive output. He struggled with the pressure of Nikita Krylov before eventually getting finished. The Nova Uniao product is a decent kicker and has some pop in his hands, but most of what he offers comes in the form of single strikes. He is at his best when he can maintain a pace that he is comfortable with and doesn’t allow his opponent to control the action.

A Black belt in both BJJ and Kickboxing, Barosso has recorded 8 wins by knockout and 4 by submission, but no stoppages in the UFC.

“The Dentist” has gone on record saying that this fight is personal. Stewart is clearly upset with the result change and he also felt Francimar took the easy way out and could have defended himself. The Brit has record 5 wins by knockout, all in the opening round. Stewart will look for takedowns and once on the mat, he will unload a flurry of GNP. His clinch game is also effective, using knees to the body and head to bust up his foe. Stewart likes to carry a furious pace, but he was clearly tired after the first round of his final Cage Warrior’s fight. However, his early pressure at exhausted his opponent who eventually caved to his attack.

Stewart landed 21 strikes compared to Barosso’s 8 and picked up a single takedown on 2 attempts in just 94-seconds of action.

Stewart is the smaller man with significantly less experience. Conversely, he doesn’t cut nearly as much weight as Barosso, who is fighting outside of Brazil for just the 3rd time since 2012. Stewart is capable of employing a similar high paced clinch-based attack, that Krylov beat Barosso with. Barosso’s cardio is pretty poor and if Stewart wears him down early he will eventually find takedowns and unload with his GNP. Stewart’s speed and aggression put Barosso on the defensive until he can’t defend anymore- my prediction is Darren Stewart to defeat Francimar Barroso by TKO.

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265lbs- #12 Daniel Omielanczuk (19-6-1 1NC) vs #14 Timothy Johnson (10-3-0)

A pair of Top 15 ranked Heavyweights collide as Poland’s Daniel Omielanczuk takes on Minnesota-born Timothy Johnson. Omielanczuk is coming off of a submission loss to Stefan Struve, the first time he has been finished in his career- he had won 4 fights in a row prior to the defeat. Johnson dropped a contestable split decision to Alexander Volkov last time out which evened his UFC record at 2-2.

At 6’3″, Johnson will have a 3″ height and reach advantage over Omielanczuk. Tim usually touches the Heavyweight limit and should come in 15-20 pounds heavier than his opponent. He is also the younger man by 3-years.

A former NCAA Division 2 wrestler, Johnson looks to break his opponent down with constant pressure both in the clinch and on the mat. Tim landed his UFC-best 3 completions in his narrow loss to Jared Rosholt and he has completed a takedown in all but 1 of his UFC outings. Johnson isn’t going to overwhelm his opponent with his completion numbers, but he will make the most out of his opportunities once he hits the mat. When on the feet, Tim utilizes the clinch to control his foe and land strikes. At distance, Johnson is deceptively quick and can connect with decent power.

This is Johnson’s 3rd consecutive fight in Europe. He fought Volkov in Northern Ireland and defeated Marcin Tybura in Zagreb, Croatia.

One of Omielanczuk’s most noteworthy’s assets is his durability. Unfortunately, the Polish fighter’s stats aren’t strong. He carries an almost even striking exchange rate, averages less than a takedown per fight, and has given up at least 1 completion in 4 of his last 6 contests. His losses to Anthony Hamilton and Jared Rosholt were largely based on his inability to get vertical. When he is standing, Rosholt has some decent pop in his hands and offers a serviceable kicking game. At close range, against less capable grapplers, look for  Omielanczuk to have success in the clinch and on the mat.

Omielanczuk is 7-5 in decisions, including a 2-2 record in the UFC. Additionally, he is 3-0 in fights that last more than a round, but are finished before the judges get involved.

The struggles of Omielanczuk on the mat are well documented. In the 4-fights where his opponent pursued the takedown, he gave up a combined 12 completions and won just one of those fights when his opponent gassed. Johnson will use his size and wrestling background to neutralize Daniel on the cage and the mat, breaking him down with pressure and strikes- my prediction is Timothy Johnson to defeat Daniel Omielanczuk by decision.Paragraph breaker

155lbs- Marc Diakiese (11-0-0) vs Teemu Packalen (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, England and Finland go head to head as Marc “Bonecrusher” Diakiese takes on Teemu Packalen. Diakiese has maintained his perfect record through his first 2 UFC contests, most recently picking up a decision win over Frankie Perez. Packalen is 1-1 inside the Octagon after taking down Thibault Gouti in just 24-seconds.

At 6’1″, Teemu is 3 inches taller than his opponent but will give up an inch of reach. Diakiese is the younger man by 6-years and Packalen is closing in on a 13-month layoff.

Packalen has put away his adversary in all 8 of his wins, 6 by submission, and 6 in the opening round. In his last fight, he landed an early uppercut that sent his opponent to the floor before locking up an RNC to seal the deal. Of his 2 career wins to last beyond the opening frame, the longest hit the 2:37 mark of round 2. In his debut, he started strong, taking his opponent down and attacking on the mat. Unfortunately, he faded and lost a decision. He took the fight on short notice. Packalen has a decent takedown game, but he will also pull guard and attack off his back. Not surprisingly, his aggressive style will lead him to giving up position for submission. Regardless, he is a capable and opportunistic ground fighter.

When Teemu starts to tire, he will fall to his back and attempt to entice his opponent to engage him. This can put him at a positional deficit if they can maintain top position.

An impressive physical specimen, Diakiese is a dynamic striker and has finished 5 opponents by knockout- 4 in the opening round. He is also a perfect 5-0 on the scorecards, including his last win. The Brit throws hard combinations, mixes in stiff leg kicks, and can counter strike. “Bonecrusher” showcased his offensive wrestling against Perez, but it is his defensive game that is a bit of a concern. Perez took him down midway through round 2 and kept him on his back until the bell. In the early moments of his bout with Lukas Sajewski, Marc gave up a pair of takedowns and lost the round on the floor. He was able to survive the early deficit and once his opponent began to slow down, Diakiese put him away.

Looking to get on the fast track Diakiese is fighting for the 3rd time in the last 6-months.

Compared to Packalen, the Brit is the far more dangerous striker and vastly superior athlete. That being said, he tends to force some of his grappling techniques and his TDD has also been suspect when tested. Teemu is dangerous on the mat and the threat of the TD will keep Diakiese from opening up on the feet. Packalen will shoot early and capitalize on the aggression of Diakiese, forcing him into some bad spots on the floor, my prediction is Teemu Packalen to defeat Marc Diakiese by decision.

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185lbs- Tom Breese (10-1-0) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-2-0)

Looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow countryman Michael Bisping, Tom Breese heads to the Middleweight division to take on “The Holy War Angel” Oluwale Bamgbose. After suffering a knockout loss in his debut against Uriah Hall, Bamgbose finished Daniel Sarafian via knockout in just 60-seconds before dropping a one-sided decision to Cezar Ferreira. Breese is coming off the first loss of his pro career, losing a narrow split decision to Sean Strickland at UFC 199- he is 3-1 in the UFC.

Breese has elected to stop making the draining cut to Welterweight and will use his bout to launch his run at 185-pounds. A physical anomaly, Breese will be 4 inches taller than his opponent, but Bamgbose will have a sizeable 5″ reach advantage. The Brit is the younger man by 4-years.

Prior to his last bout, Oluwale had never fought beyond the opening round. Finishing all 6 of his pro wins by knockout, with the longest fight falling just short of the 3:30 mark. He took out Sarafian with a brutal head kick and follow-up ground and pound. Bamgbose can generate a lot of power in his kicks and even when they are blocked they can still do damage. Light on his feet, “The Holy War Angel” will utilize a variety of fakes and feints to set up his strikes. While he struggled to generate much offense against Ferreira, he will launch himself into his techniques to increase their power.

Bamgbose’s ground game has been a major concern. He was quickly finished on the floor by Hall and offered almost no resistance off his back in his last contest.

Not to be outdone, Breese has stopped his opponent in 9 of his 10 wins. He has finished 6 in the opening round, with 4 of his 6 submission wins coming via RNC. Despite his pre-UFC success on the floor, he has yet to complete a takedown inside the Octagon. With fast hands, Breese leads with a stiff right jab and follows with a hard straight left. The Brit augments his boxing with a decent kicking attack. Against Cathal Pendred, he landed a counter left to stun him before dropping Cathal with a hard body kick. Breese does a good job of maintaining pressure and if his opponent elects to close the distance, Tom offers some vicious knees in the clinch.

Breese’s loss to Strickland hinged largely on his inability to maintain a striking advantage in the second half of the fight. After a +6 in significant strikes in round 1, he was a combined -17 over the final 2 frames.

Oluwale is unorthodox and has power which makes him dangerous. He may only need 1 strike to end this fight. Breese offers a more diverse and consistent striking repertoire and he could revisit his grappling game to exploit his opponent’s clear vulnerability. Bamgbose’s style isn’t meant to hold up over a longer fight and Breese has never been finished- my prediction is Tom Breese to defeat Oluwale Bamgbose by TKO.

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170lbs- Leon Edwards (12-3-0) vs Vicente Luque (11-5-1)

Two of the Welterweight division’s prospects on the rise square off as Leon “Rocky” Edwards meets Vicente “Silent Assassin” Luque. Edwards is coming off of an upset submission win over Albert Tumenov and is 4-2 with the promotion. Luque hasn’t tasted defeat since his unsuccessful Octagon debut, he is coming off of a 79-second KO of Belal Muhammad and has stopped his opponent in all 4 of his UFC wins.

Edwards is an inch taller, but will give up an inch of reach. Both men are 25-years old.

The Brit is coming off just the 3rd submission win of his career. Edwards scored a couple of early takedowns, including a well-executed bodylock/ trip combo. Once on the mat, Leon controlled the majority of the action from top position. The finish came after “Rocky” took his back during a scramble. Conversely, Edwards struggled with the wrestling attack of Kamaru Usman, giving up 6 takedowns. Known more for his striking, Leon has some decent pop in his hands, but doesn’t work at an overwhelming pace. Against Tumenov, He was tossing out a jab, but spent the majority of the vertical exchanges on the defensive with his back to the cage.

With the exception of the opening round knockout of Seth Baczynski, Edwards has fought into the 3rd round in 7 of his last 8 contests.

A Blackzilian stable member, Luque has been on an impressive role with only 1 of his last 4 opponents making it out of the opening round. The majority of his submission wins have come via some form of choke. In his last submission victory, he piled up the takedowns and top position strikes to soften up his opponent before locking in the 2nd round choke. The “Silent Assassin” took out Hector Urbina with a slick combo ending with a devastating right hand. He finished Muhammad with a stiff left. A strong kicking arsenal rounds out the striking attack of the Brazilian.

Luque is 1-5-1 in fights that last to the 3rd round, but 10-0 when the action reaches its conclusion before the end of the 2nd round.

Edward’s submission of Tumenov was impressive, but he was struggling during the striking exchanges. Against Luque, he won’t be able to fall back on his grappling if he is having issues on the feet. Edwards’s technical skills will keep him in the fight, but Luque hits too hard and is too dangerous on the mat for Leon to stay out of danger. Luque will take the Brit down, bust him up with some GNP, and eventually start looking for a choke- my prediction is Vicente Luque to defeat Leon Edwards by submission.

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135lbs- Ian Entwistle (9-3-0) vs Brett Johns (13-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Ian Entwistle puts his UFC career on the line against Welsh-born Brett “The Pikey” Johns. Entwistle is 1-2 inside the Octagon, submitting Anthony Birchak between TKO losses to Dan Hooker and Alejandro Perez. Johns has yet to suffer a loss as a pro, including a successful debut victory over Kwan Ho Kwak.

Johns is only 2 inches taller than Entwistle, but will have a massive 7″ reach advantage. Johns is the younger man by 6-years.

Outside of an early career win by DQ, all of Entwistle’s pro victories have come by submission. He is known as a leg lock specialist, with 3 of his last 4 wins coming by heel hook. All of his fights, including both of his losses, have ended inside the first frame. Ian will recklessly dive for his opponent’s lower half, looking to lace up a leg and go to work. If he can’t get the tap, he puts himself in danger of absorbing a lot of damage. Not surprisingly, he will pull guard and look to sweep his opponent or elevate them enough to attack a leg. Entwisle hasn’t shown any real focus on striking, constantly pursuing the ground attack.

After a failed sub attempt early against Perez, the Brit claimed that Perez’s legs were greased. The referee found nothing to validate his claim.

In stark contrast to his opponent, Johns has gone the distance 7 times, winning all of them. Over his final 4 fights outside of the Octagon, 3 bouts went a full 5-rounds. “The Pikey” landed an impressive 11 of his 15 takedown attempts in his debut. Once on top, he will maintain tight body control and land short strikes. Johns is a Judo Black belt and BJJ Purple belt. On the feet, he offers decent striking attack. In the middle round, Johns hurt Kwak with a hard uppercut, landed good short punches, and mixed in a flying knee.

Despite his experience in longer fights, Johns appeared to be slowing down after the opening round of his debut and needed his wrestling to seal the final frame. The adrenaline drop associated with a first UFC fight could have played a role.

Not surprisingly, this fight will come down to the early sub attempts of Entwistle. If he can lock something up he could seal the deal. If he can’t, Johns is going to smash him from top position. Johns is a capable grappler and pretty sound defensively. Entwistle will throw a lot at him, but Johns will stay defensive, create separation, and wait until he is in full control before he starts to unload- my prediction is Brett Johns to defeat Ian Entwistle by TKO.

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185lbs- Bradley Scott (11-4-0) vs Scott Askham (14-3-0)

In the Middleweight division, Bradley “Bear” Scott looks to return to the win column when he takes on fellow countryman Scott Askham. Scott has alternated wins and losses over his last 6 fights, most recently losing to Krzysztof Jotko. Askham has put together a similar run over his last 6-fights and is coming off an upset loss to Jack Hermansson.

Askham is 2 inches taller than Scott, but it will be Scott with a slight 1″ reach advantage. Scott, a former Welterweight, is a year younger and is returning to action after just over a year on the shelf.

It has been a stark contrast of outcomes for Askham since coming to the UFC. Both of his UFC wins were first round KOs, pushing his career total to 9 wins by knockout. All 3 of his UFC defeats have been on the scorecards, dropping his record in decisions to 3-3. Scott is a striker by trade, offering a strong kicking arsenal. In his loss to Magnus Cedenblad, Askham dropped him with a front kick to the face. Statistically, the Brit has struggled to match his opponents’ output. Hermansson badly out landed him by a count of 88-37, pulling away in rounds 2 and 3 when Askham faded.

Over Askham’s 3 UFC defeats, he has given up a trio of takedowns and spent a lot of time fighting with his back on the cage.

Despite taking a loss on the cards, Scott had a respectable showing against Jotko. He has split his 10 wins evenly between knockout and submissions while struggling to an 0-3 mark on the scorecards. Bradley has been finished just once. Utilizing a lot of pressure against Jotko, Scott was moving forward heavy on his front leg looking to land his right hand. The constant aggression of Scott makes him easier to hit and he was dropped twice prior to submitting Dylan Andrews.

Despite his submission success, Scott hasn’t put up big takedown numbers- landing just 2 at a 15% completion rate.

Askham has power, but his stoppages came over a pair of fighters with a combined 7 losses by knockout. His inability to match his opponent’s pace when he can’t finish doesn’t bode well for him against a pressure-based attack like Scott brings. Scott needs to stay in Askham’s face and use his forward aggression to take away the kicks of Askham while maintaining his own output- my prediction is Bradley Scott to defeat Scott Askham by decision.
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135lbs- Lina Lansberg (6-1-0) vs Lucie Pudilova (6-1-0)

In the opening fight of the night, Lina “Elbow Queen” Lansberg returns from her encounter with the most dangerous woman on the planet to make her second UFC appearance in a rematch with the debuting Lucie “Bullett” Pudilova in the Bantamweight division. Lansberg is coming off her first career defeat, lasting into the middle round with Cris Cyborg before succumbing to a mass accumulation of damage. Pudilova has won 3 in a row dating back to a 2015 meeting with Lansberg- Lina won the fight by decision.

Pudilova is an inch taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. She is 12 years younger than Lina. Pudilova is replacing Veronica Macedo on short notice.

Their first encounter was fairly underwhelming. Lansberg kept Pudilova pinned on the cage for the duration of the fight, with Lucie unable to create any separation. While Lina was holding position and landing some knees, the referee stepped in on 6 different occasions to force a break. At range, Pudilova didn’t have a lot to offer and was quickly clamped down on. Rinse and repeat.

Since their first encounter, the Czech fighter has picked up a pair of submission wins and a 5-round split decision triumph. But has she improved enough to change the outcome of this fight? Whether she has improved or not, making her debut on short notice is going to be difficult. Against Cyborg, Lansberg showed how tough she is. She hung in there and forced the former Invicta champ to the midway point of the fight despite taking a lot of damage. Lansberg has no reason to deviate from her previous clinch heavy gameplan and the minimal prep that Lucie has could make it difficult for her to hold up for an entire 3-rounds. Lansberg will wade through Lucie’s jab, control the clinch position, but this time around look for her to have more success with elbows and knees- my prediction is Lina Lansberg to defeat Lucie Pudilova by TKO.

155lbs- #11 Francisco Trinaldo (21-4-0) vs Kevin Lee (14-2-0)

Headlining the prelims, top 15 ranked Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo meets “The Motown Phenom” Kevin Lee in the Lightweight division. Trinaldo is on a tear, winning 7 consecutive bouts; defeating the likes of Paul Felder, Ross Pearson, and Chad Laprise. Lee is on a 3-fight winning streak and has won 7 of his last 8 fights- submitting Magomed Mustafaev in last contest.

Both men stand 5’9″, but Lee will have a massive 7″ reach advantage. The American is also 14-years younger than his opponent.

Trinaldo is coming off the 7th knockout finish of his career. He has added 5 submission wins and is a solid 9-2 when fights go the distance. Francisco has been submitted twice. Lee has finished his foe in 3 of his last 4 wins. For his career, he has stopped 7 opponents- 6 by submission. He is 7-1 in decisions, losing on the scorecards in his debut against Al Iaquinta.

The improved striking repertoire has been at the heart of Trinaldo’s current surge. He put up a personal best 117-significant strikes in his win over Yancy Mederios and got the better of Felder on the feet prior to the doctor stoppage. “Massaranduba” has power in his right hand and a strong left jab. He will attack the body while throwing hard low kicks at distance and knees in close. Against the rangy Yancy Mederios, the Brazilian utilized a clinch heavy attack to control him against the cage and set up his short range strikes. Over his last 3 wins, Francisco has landed at least 1 takedown per fight.

Melding together a strong wrestling game and sound striking attack, Lee offers a diversified offensive front. Despite his above average reach, Lee only lands +0.62 strikes per minute more than he gives up. “The Motown Phenom” works behind a long jab and good footwork to set up his offense. In his last fight, Lee set a personal Octagon best with 7 takedowns. Shooting on his opponent from the onset of the fight, he utilized his takedowns to stop his adversary’s forward pressure. Once on the mat, Lee’s transition game was impressive, constantly advancing and eventually sinking in the final choke.

Lee appears to have the cardio and speed advantages and Trinaldo has the edge in power. Francisco is fighting at home which is an added bonus. There have been some questions about Lee’s chin, but Trinaldo was also hurt in the Mederios fight. Lee has struggled with aggressive strikers and can be hit. Look for Trinaldo to stuff takedowns and get the better of the striking exchanges, especially at close range and in the clinch- my prediction is Francisco Trinaldo to defeat Kevin Lee by decision.

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170lbs- Sergio Moraes (11-3-1) vs Davi Ramos (6-1-0)

Undefeated over his last 6 outings, Sergio “Panther” Moraes welcomes short-notice injury replacement Davi Ramos to the UFC’s Welterweight division. During Moraes’s current run he has recorded wins over Neil Magny, Omari Akhmedov, and he won a split decision over Zak Ottow in his most recent fight. Ramos has picked up back to back wins after suffering the first defeat of his career, a unanimous decision loss to David Rickels in his only Bellator appearance.

Ramos is taking this bout with less than 2-weeks to prepare. He is listed as a Lightweight and will give up 4 inches of height to Moraes. Sergio is the older man by 4 years.

A vaunted BJJ Black belt, Moraes has won 7 of his 11 wins by submission- 3 by RNC. The BJJ ace hasn’t won via tap out since his 2013 victory over Magny, picking up his only career win by knockout to go along with a 2-0-1 mark in decisions. Overall, Sergio is 3-1-1 when the judges get involved. Another top level BJJ Black belt, Ramos also carries a submission heavy record. He has won 4-times by sub compared to single wins by knockout and decision.

A long time staple in the grappling word, Ramos is elite on the mat. A one and done stint under the RFA banner produced an impressive RNC finish. After getting the fight to the floor, he effortlessly transitioned to his opponent’s back and sank in the fight ending choke. Davi has picked up similar victories, only needing 1 opportunity on the floor to snatch an arm or neck to force the tap. On the feet, he tends to lunge into his techniques which limits their effectiveness. His kicks appear to be his best striking technique.

Moraes has the ability to finish his adversary with just a single opportunity on the mat. That being said, he has moved away from his ground game of late- completing just 1 takedown over his last 3 bouts. During that span, he won a split decision, went to a draw, and had to score a late knockout to avoid a loss on the scorecards. Against Ottow, Sergio landed a nice single leg/trip takedown followed by suffocating top control to win the opening round. Morae’s striking is developing and he has undervalued power, but he is still a little on the wild side. Over his last 3 fights, he has been on the wrong side of the striking totals.

If this bout hits the mat, the exchanges will be fantastic. Unfortunately, their ground skills could negate each other leading to a striking-based fight. The debut, short notice, and jump in division are all negative factors for Ramos. Moraes will find slightly more success with his striking and if Ramos slows down, Sergio could capitalize with some crucial top time- my prediction is Sergio Moraes to defeat Davi Ramos by decision.

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135lbs- #14 Rani Yahya (23-8-0 1NC) vs Joe Soto (17-5-0)

After finally entering the Top 15, Rani Yahya will look to continue his climb to the top of the Bantamweight division when he takes on former title challenger Joe “One Bad Mofo” Soto. Yahya has won 4 consecutive fights dating back to a No Contest against Johnny Bedford- he most recently defeated Michinori Tanaka last September. After an 0-3 start to his UFC run, Soto has rallied to win a pair of bouts by submission- tapping out Marco Beltran and Chirs Beal.

Both men are 5’6″, but Rani will have a 2″ reach advantage. Soto is the younger man by 2-years.

An elite level BJJ Black Belt, Yahya was recorded 17-wins by submission- 3 in the UFC. The Brazilian is 6-5 on the scorecards but has won 4 of his last 5 fights to go the distance. His only loss during that span came via split decision. Rani has never won a fight by knockout but has lost 2- the last coming in 2009. Soto has a slightly more diversified record, but has still relied on his grappling skills to secure the majority of his wins. Submissions have accounted for 10 of his 17 wins- 4 by RNC. Joe has been subbed just once and is 2-1 in decisions. Unlike Yahya, Soto has picked up 5 wins by knockout compared to a trio of losses by the same method.

Soto would be best served to rely on his striking game and avoid getting dragged into a grappling contest with Yahya. That might be easier said than done. Joe has scored a takedown in each of his last 3-fights and has a crafty transition game. Conversely, he was taken down on 3 occasions by Michinori Tanaka and twice by TJ Dillashaw. Against Tanaka, he was routinely engaging Michinori on the mat and chaining submissions together, but getting the worst of the positional battle. If Joe can stay vertical, he has put up some decent striking totals including 71 significant strikes in the Tanaka bout.

The Brazilian has worked at improving his striking, it remains a secondary aspect of his offense. While Yani only completes 37% of his TDAs, he has put up impressive takedown numbers during his current 4-fight winning streak. He completed 7 takedowns against Tanaka and 17 over his last 4 wins. Rani’s continued pursuit of the takedown is partially the reason for his low completion rate, but once he is able to clamp down his foe he is difficult to shake off. With a smothering top game and constant threat of a submission, Yayha’s pressure can be overwhelming. On the negative side, his cardio is a bit of a concern and has been known to fail him late in fights.

If Soto can score on the feet and force Yahya to work off his back when they do hit the mat, he could scoop up a decision. Unfortunately, Yahya’s unassuming physical strength and overwhelming top game will be too much for Joe to overcome. Fighting in Brazil will make it difficult for Soto to gain an edge with the judges and Yahya’s cardio is normally good enough to secure the opening 2 rounds before he fades- my prediction is Rani Yahya to defeat Joe Soto by decision.

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155lbs- Michel Prazeres (21-2-0) vs Joshua Burkman (29-14-0 1NC)

In the Lightweight division, Michel “Tractor” Prazeres takes on former Welterweight Joshua “The People’s Warrior” Burkman. Prazeres is coming off of an upset win over Gilbert Burns and has won 3 consecutive fights overall. Burkman could be facing the end of his UFC run as he has lost 2 in a row and 4 of his last 5 fights.

A former Welterweight, Burkman is 4 inches taller than Prazeres and will have a 5″ reach advantage. Prazeres is 1 year younger than Burkman.

The Brazilian has gone the distance in each of his 7 UFC appearances, winning 5. He is 12-2 overall on the scorecards with 8 submission wins and a single victory by knockout. Prazeres has never been finished. Burkman has a more spread out record; winning 7-times by knockout to go along with 10 submission victories and an 11-6 record on the scorecards. Josh has been stopped 8-times, 7 by submission.

Despite not utilizing his submission skills inside the Octagon, Prazeres has still had a lot of success on the floor. Averaging just over 4 completions per fight, he picked up 5 takedowns against Burns and has hit the 7 completion mark on 2 separation occasions. The top control time was limited against Gilbert, but he was still scoring by taking him off his feet. Defensively, Michel demoed a strong sprawl to shut down Burns’s TDAs. On the feet, it is power over finesse. Prazeres will throws hard hooks in succession and was cracking Burns when he moved forward to engage. The Physical makeup of the Brazilian has created some issues. He struggled with the length of Kevin Lee and his cardio is a bit of a question mark in longer, more demanding fights.

A long-time veteran, Burkman maintains a calm demeanor in the cage. At times, Josh can hold back a bit too much and allow his opponent to outwork him. At the other end of the spectrum, he can quickly switch gears and unload with heavy-handed flurries. Josh likes to open fights with a kick-heavy attack, usually attacking his opponent’s body and legs. He has a decent right hand, sneaky left hook, and will target the body with a jab. Burkman has good TDD, defending 74% of his opponent’s attempts. Offensively, he has picked up 7 takedowns over his last 3 fights.

Neither man is an overwhelming striker, but Prazeres appears to have tightened up his striking to go along with his thudding power. Look for the Brazilian to have success bullying Burkman in the clinch, scoring a couple key takedowns, and getting the better of the striking exchanges. Burkman’s lack of consistent activity has made it difficult for him to win decisions, it won’t get any easier in Brazil- my prediction is Michel Prazeres to defeat Joshua Burkman by decision.Paragraph breaker

145lbs- Rony Jason (15-6-0 1NC) vs Jeremy Kennedy (9-0-0)

In the Featherweight division, Rony Jason looks to snap out of a 3-fight winless slump when he takes on undefeated Canadian Jeremy “JBC” Kennedy. Kennedy defeated Alex Ricci in his debut and finished 2016 with a 2-0 record. Jason lost a decision to Dennis Bermudez in his first bout after having his submission win over Damon Jackson overturned- his last official victory came back in 2014 over Steven Siler.

Kennedy debuted as a 155er, but will be returning to Featherweight for this fight. He stands 4 inches taller than Jason with a 1″ reach advantage. The Canadian is the younger man by 8 years.

The Brazilian has 8 wins by submission and has finished his opponent in all but 1 of his 14 wins. Jason is 11-1 in fights ending inside the opening round and 2-5 in bouts that go beyond the first 5-minutes. Rony has been finished 3-times, twice by knockout. Kennedy has 5 career finishes (3 knockouts, 2 subs), with just 2 ending in the opening frame. He is 4-0 on the scorecards.

Kennedy defeated Ricci with a clinch and takedown centric gameplan. “JBC” completed 5 takedowns on 14 attempts, struggling at times to get Ricci to the floor. The majority of his success came when he punched his way into the clinch, forced his opponent to cover up, and then went for a takedown. Despite his grappling-heavy attack, he has spent a lot of time working in Thailand to help round out his striking skills. He didn’t trade at distance for very long, opting to maintain close quarters and routinely reverting back to his clinch game.

As the numbers suggest, Jason is aggressive wherever the action takes place. On the feet, he offers a variety of techniques. Look for him to throw spinning attacks and jumping knees. The majority of his more conventional offense comes from the right side. Jason lacks overwhelming takedown numbers, averaging less than a completion per fight. Instead, he will rely on his opponent to initiate the grappling exchange before going on the attack once they hit the floor. Jason has a very active guard, continually rolling his hips and looking to attack with a triangle or armbar. Unfortunately, if Rony is unable to catch something early, his output tends to wane later in the fight.

If Kennedy can survive the early onslaught and drag this fight into the second half, it is his bout to win. That being said, the atmosphere and pressure of fighting in Brazil is a lot for a young fighter. It will be even more difficult considering how heavily he relies on his grappling game. Eventually, Kennedy will get drawn into the clinch and when the fight hits the mat Jason will go to work against his over-zealous opponent- my prediction is Rony Jason to defeat Jeremy Kennedy by submission.

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185lbs- Garreth McLellan (13-5-0) vs Paulo Borrachinha (8-0-0)

To kick off the night’s festivities, South Africa’s Garreth “Soldier Boy” McLellan takes on the debuting Paulo Borrachinha in the Middleweight division. McLellan went the distance in a split decision loss to Alessio Di Chirico and is 1-3 inside the Octagon. Borrachinha, yet to taste defeat, went 2-0 in 2016, with his last 3 opponents combining for a solid 31-7 record.

Both men are 6’1″ and share a 72″ reach. The Brazilian is the younger man by 9-years.

A BJJ Blue belt, McLellan has snapped up 9 wins by submission. His only UFC win came via TKO with just 2-seconds left in the final round- it was the 3rd knockout victory of his career. “Soldier Boy” is 1-2 on the scorecards. Borrachinha has never gone beyond the opening round, with his longest fight ending when his opponent failed to answer the bell for round 2. He has finished 7 foes by knockout and 1 by submission.

McLellan’s run in the UFC has many questioning why he is still with the promotion. What success he has had came on the strength of his wrestling. He averages 1.18 takedowns per fight at a 23% completion rate. The only UFC win on his resume was the result of a pair of takedowns and top position strikes. Against Di Chirico, he attempted 8 takedowns and landed 2. At distance, most of his offense comes in the form of single-note strikes. The best techniques he has to offer are his kicks.

As indicated by the numbers, Borrachinha has some decent pop in his hands. He moves well, throws a solid 1-2, will dig to the body, and mixes in some hard kicks. A long, spearing left jab is usually following by a hard right hand and he will unload with fairly accurate multi-punch combos. His pursuit of the finish does leave him open to absorbing damage, but so far that has not been an issue. During his time on TUF Brazil 3 he earned a 2nd round submission win before falling in the quarter-finals by decision. If given the opportunity, Paulo can finish on the mat via sub or heavy GNP.

The biggest question surrounding Borrachinha is his cardio. If McLellan can drag him beyond the opening round, we could see the Brazilian slowdown. The key to the fight is Borrachinha’s superior striking and good enough counter wrestling to remain vertical. The combination of speed, power, and diversity will be too much for “Solider Boy” to handle, my prediction is Paulo Borrachinha to defeat Garreth McLellan by TKO.

265lbs- Marcin Tybura (14-2-0) vs Luis Henrique (10-2-0 1NC)

Originally scheduled to take place at UFC 208, Heavyweights Marcin “Tybur” Tybura and Luis “KLB” Henrique go head to head to close out the UFC 209 preliminary card. Tybura leveled his UFC record at 1-1 when he knocked out Viktor Pesta last Summer- he dropped a competitive decision to Tim Johnson in his debut. Henrique rallied from his knockout loss to Francis Ngannou by defeating both Dmitry Smoliakov and Christian Colombo by submission.

The Polish fighter is an inch taller, but will have a 4″ reach advantage. Marcin should come in 5-6 pound heavier than his foe, who formerly fought at Light Heavyweight. The Brazilian is 8-years younger than his opponent.

Tybura has split his 12 finishes equally between knockouts and submissions. His only loss inside the distance was the result of a doctor stoppage due to a cut. Marcin is 2-1 on the scorecards, but a more impressive 5-2 when his fights go beyond the first 5-minutes. Henrique has been knocked out twice; by the aforementioned Ngannou and by current UFC Welterweight Sultan Aliev. He is 3-0 on the scorecards and has finished 7 opponents- 4 by submission. Luis has stopped 4 fights after the opening round.

Tybura’s knockout of Pesta was impressive and indicative of his improved focus on striking while working at Alliance MMA. Look for his to throw a lot of kicks and a decent right hand. Against Johnson, he had a slight edge in significant strikes at 48-45. Johnson found success grinding Marcin into the cage, but was unable to get his wrestling game going against the former M-1 champ. The clinch and takedown game are a crucial part of the attack of “Tybur”. He likes to control his opponent along the wall before changing levels for a takedown and going to work on the floor with a smothering top game.

Over his last 2 fights, “KLB” has shown himself capable of grinding down his opponent, dragging them into the second half of the bout, and then putting them away. Moving forward behind hard punches, Henrique will either set up a body lock takedown or double leg against the cage. Against Colombo, he went 6 for 6 on his takedown attempts. Once on the mat, the Brazilian offers decent GNP and a serviceable sub game. When striking at distance, Henrique can be a little wild and will expose his chin when under attack.

Henrique has feasted on fighters that have tired quickly, but he also appeared to slow a little against Colombo. Tybura is the technically superior striker and should be the more effective fighter in space. While Henrique is at his best in the clinch, he isn’t on Johnson’s level and Marcin will find success turning the position in his favour. Tybura will get the better of the grappling battle, land the superior strikes, and take over the fight when Henrqiue has tired himself out in his unsuccessful bid for takedowns- my prediction is Marcin Tybura to defeat Luis Henrique by decision.

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145lbs- #13 Mirsad Bektic (11-0-0) vs #14 Darren Elkins (22-5-0)

In a battle between a blue-chip prospect and a hard-nosed veteran, Mirsad Bektic takes on the newly tattooed Darren “The Damage” Elkins in the Featherweight division. Still undefeated, Bektic picked up his only win of 2016 at UFC 204 when he submitted Russell Doane- he is 4-0 inside the Octagon. Elkins has won 3 in a row and 4 of his last 5, most recently defeating Godofredo Pepey by decision last July.

Elkins is 2 inches taller than his opponent and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. With 16 more pro bout, Elkins is the older man by 7 years.

After finishing each of his last 2 opponents, Bektic has won by knockout on 5 occasions to go along with a trio of tap outs- stopping 5 fights in the first frame. Elkins has gone the distance in exactly half of his fights, winning all but 2. His last stoppage win came in 2013, the 7th knockout of his career to go along with a pair of defeats. Darren is 3-1 in fights ending via submission.

“The Damage” has completed 19-takedowns over his last 3 appearances and is a top position nightmare. Elkins has sound positional control and once he has establishes his top game, look for him to unload with a steady barrage of ground and pound. Equally as crucial to his success is his cardio. The ability to keep pushing and grinding down his adversary over the duration of the bout makes up for what Elkins lacks in pure athleticism.

Not to be outdone, Bektic has put up some pretty solid ground numbers of his own. Averaging 4.14 takedowns per fight, he took Doane down on 4 occasions in just over 4-minutes. The American Top Team product, melds together a relentless pace, heavy ground strikes, and a capable submission acumen. His striking is the secondary aspect of his offense, but his opponent’s focus on defending the takedown can open up opportunities on the feet.

Elkins isn’t nearly the same fighter when he is unable to land takedowns and he has struggled when opponents have targeted his defensive wrestling. Even if the wrestling is a wash, Mirsad should have the edge in striking. Elkins will hang around, but struggle to match the ferocity of his opponent while spending too much time on his back- my prediction is Mirsad Bektic to defeat Darren Elkins by decision.

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135lbs- #15 Iuri Alcantara (33-7-0 1NC) vs Luke Sanders (11-0-0)

Brazilian Iuri “Marajo” Alcantara looks to hold onto his Top 15 spot in the Bantamweight rankings when he takes on promotional sophomore “Cool Hand” Luke Sanders. Alcantara made quick work of Brad Pickett at UFC 204, but he has alternated wins and losses over his last 5 fights. Sanders retained his perfect record with an opening round submission win against Maximo Blanco in his debut- it was his only fight of 2016.

A former Featherweight, Alcantara is 3 inches taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Sanders, who debuted at Featherweight, is 5-years younger than the Brazilian and is returning after a 13-month layoff.

An equal opportunity finisher, “Marajo” has stopped 27 opponents- 14 by knockout. Prior to finishing Pickett, he had gone the distance in 4-straight fights and is 7-5 in decisions. At a sizeable experience deficit, Sanders has finished 6 opponents by knockout, 2 by submission, and is a perfect 3-0 on the scorecards. He has just 2 opening round wins over his last 7 outings after stopping each of his first 4 adversaries in round 1 to begin his pro career.

Maintaining an active pace, Sanders effectively strikes in the gaps between exchanges. He will land short strikes off the break of the clinch and look to stick his opponent with quick punches after they conclude their attack. “Cool Hand” Luke had success countering Blanco when he came forward. He relies heavily on his overhand left and adds in stiff low kicks and knee strikes both at range and on the inside. The submission finish came after he dropped Blanco with a left hand. Sanders will go to his wrestling if needed, but it isn’t the centerpiece of his attack.

As his record indicates, Alcantara is dangerous anywhere the fight takes place. He obliterated Vaughan Lee with a left hand and blasted Pickett with a spinning back elbow before getting the tap. When working on the outside, “Marajo” throws hard kicks to the body and legs, occasionally targeting the head. He will also launch sharp knees to his foe’s midsection and chin. Iuri can sit back and counter striker, but he needs to avoid getting outworked, especially if he slows in the second half. Defensively, he has given up 15 takedowns in his last 4 losses compared to 9 over his 11 UFC wins- including 6 against Russell Doane.

Sanders’s pace and cardio are the keys to his success here, but Alcantara is the more diversified and impactful striker. Sanders lacks the strong wrestling game to take Alcantara down and he relies too much on his left hand which makes him predictable at times. The combination of Alcantara’s reach, kicking offense, and counter striking will make it difficult for Sanders to routinely land. Like Luke, Iuri is a Southpaw which could make Sanders’s striking a little less effective- my predition is Iuri Alcantara to defeat Luke Sanders by TKO.

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265lbs- Mark Godbeer (11-3-0) vs Daniel Spitz (5-0-0)

The first televised fight of the night goes down in the Heavyweight division as Mark “The Hand of” Godbeer tries to rebound from an unsuccessful debut when he meets newcomer Daniel Spitz. Undefeated, Spitz picked up a trio of victories in 2016 including a decision win over UFC-vet Wesley “Cabbage” Correira. Godbeer fell by submission to Justin Ledet in his debut, stopping his 3-fight winning streak that dated back to a Bellator 102 loss to Cheick Kongo.

At 6’7″ and 245 pounds, Spitz is lanky addition to the division. He is 3 inches taller than Godbeer and will be roughly 5 pounds heavier. Spitz is the younger man by 7-years, but he is replacing Todd Duffee on roughly 3 week’s notice.

Spitz is coming off of a 6-second TKO win due to injury that followed the first decision win of his career. He has been outside the opening round just once, winning by submission in each of his first 3-pro fights. Godbeer has never gone the distance, winning 9-times by knockout and twice by submission. He is coming off of the first submission defeat of his career to go along with a pair of knockout defeats.

The level of competition that Spitz has been dealing with hasn’t been that strong. The win over “Cabbage” does show that he can go a full 3 rounds, which is a major positive for a Heavyweight. In the clinch, Spitz throws hard knees and was able to keep Correira pinned on the wall before separating to unload with his hands. At distance, Daniel will use fakes and feints to draw out his opponent’s attack and work behind a jab and front kick to the body. He doesn’t appear to have a strong wrestling game, despite his trio of wins by submission.

In his only Bellator appearance, Godbeer struggled with the clinch attack of Kongo and eventually succumbed. Against Ledet, he spent the majority of the bout in defensive mode prior to getting subbed. The former BAMMA champ blends together his boxing and kicking attack. He seems to find his greatest success when he attacks the body with kicks or ends a quick 1-2 with a hard low kick. The biggest knocks on the Brit have been his cardio and grappling defense.

Godbeer has to avoid gifting Spitz a superior grappling position or spending too much time in the clinch. He should be the superior striker and all indications are he is the quicker man. The lack of quality experience and short notice debut put Spitz in a tough spot- my prediction is Mark Godbeer to defeat Daniel Spitz by TKO.Paragraph breaker

205lbs- Tyson Pedro (5-0-0) vs Paul Craig (9-0-0)

Headlining the Fightpass Prelims, a pair of promotional sophomore’s square off in the Light Heavyweight division as Tyson Pedro takes on “Bearjew” Paul Craig. Pedro submitted Khalil Rountree in his debut last November to remain undefeated. Craig picked up a submission win over Henrique da Silva in December to also hold onto his perfect mark.

Both men are 6’3″. Pedro will have a 3″ reach advantage and is the younger man by 4-years.

Leaning heavily on their grappling skills, Craig has subbed 8 of his 9 opponents and Pedro has done the same in all but 1 of his 5 victories. Craig caught da Silva with a armbar, but his submission of choice appears to be the triangle choke. His UFC debut was just the 2nd time he had fought beyond the opening round. Pedro has never seen anything after the round 1, surpassing the 4-minute mark for the first time in his debut. He has a trio of RNC victories on his record.

Pedro absorbed a monstrous shot from Rountree early, but survived and immediately scored a bodylock takedown. A second completion and subsequent back take lead to the RNC finish. Utilizing a smothering top game, Pedro will capitalize on his opponent’s attempt to get vertical and further advance position in pursuit of a finish. Tyson offers some serviceable takedown skills and can trade on the feet. He is fighting outside of Austrailian for the first time in his career, which could be a complicating factor.

Despite picking up the win off of his back, Craig held his own early on the feet and in the clinch against da Silva. He landed some decent kicks and knees in close before a well-timed entry for a takedown. Later he looked to set up his shot behind a flurry of punches. While he did have some good top control time, his willingness to give up position for submission is concerning. Fatigue appeared to be setting in round 2, before he pulled guard and masterfully snared the triangle for the tap.

Each fighter is limited in overall cage time, especially beyond the 5-minute mark, but the edge should lie with Craig based on quality and quantity of experience. The travel factor and significant time change could further hinder Pedro if this bout does cross over into the middle frame and beyond. Craig will get the better of the wrestling and if taken down he will be dangerous off his back, potentially capitalizing if Pedro tires in a longer fight- my prediction is Paul Craig to defeat Tyson Pedro by submission.

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115lbs- Amanda Cooper (2-2-0) vs Cynthia Calvillo (3-0-0)

In the Women’s Strawweight division, TUF runner-up Amanda “ABC” Cooper looks to build on her first UFC win when she takes on the debuting Cynthia Calvillo. Calvillo has yet to taste defeat, making her pro debut in 2016 and already picking up a win this year. Cooper dropped the TUF finals via submission to Tatiana Suarez, but rallied to defeat Anna Elmose by decision next time out.

Calvillo is an inch taller and will have an inch reach advantage. Cooper is the younger girl by 4-years.

During her time on the show, Cooper picked up a pair of submission wins to go a long with a decision victory. As a pro, she earned a RNC debut victory and finished all her amateur wins inside the distance. Both of her pro defeats came by tap out. Calvillo has a pair of TKO victories, both outside the opening round, to go along with a decision win.

Training out of Team Alpha Male, Calvillo showcased strong defensive wrestling in her last fight stuffing her opponent’s attempts to take her down. When she is taken off of her vertical base, she has good core strength that allows her to counter into the superior position. Once on the mat, she quickly locked up a body triangle to secure back control. She melds together a good transition game with strikes and the constant threat of a submission. To support her wrestling Cynthia will set up her shot with punches, but her vertical offense is still a little stiff.

In the TUF Finals, Cooper came out looking to trade on the feet, but was quickly taken down. She came close on an armbar, but ended up getting subbed only minutes later. In her second UFC fight she survived a knockdown to pick up a win on the scorecards. She is a serviceable striker, but doesn’t have a tonne of power to back it up. On the mat, “ABC” had mixed results against Elmose. After getting knocked down she spent some time on her back, but later in the fight Cooper picked up a pair of crucial takedowns. Throughout the contest, Amanda benefited from the lack of output from her opponent.

Considering the camp she comes from and the issues that Cooper has had on the mat, Calvillo will most likely come out with a wrestling-centric attack. Cooper has the striking edge, but it won’t count for much if she can’t stay vertical long enough to make an impact. Cooper will simply spend too much time on her back against a strong top position fighter- my prediction is Cynthia Calvillo to defeat Amanda Cooper by decision.

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135lbs- Albert Morales (6-1-1) vs Andre Soukhamthath (11-3-0)

After a co-main event spot in his last outing, Albert “The Warrior” Morales opens the card against the debuting Andre “The Asian Sensation” Soukhamthath in the Bantamweight division. Morales remained winless in the UFC after a 2nd round TKO loss to Thomas Almeida, he fought to a draw with Alejandro Perez in his debut. Soukhamthath has won a trio of fights including a perfect 2-0 run in 2016- most recently avenging an earlier loss to Kin Moy with a 2nd round TKO.

Morales is the younger man by 3-years. Both men are 5’9″ and have a 72″ reach.

“The Warrior” has finished his opponent in all but 1 of his victories; stopping a pair by knockout to go along with a trio of submission wins. Morales is coming off his first defeat as a pro. Soukhamthath is a dismal 1-3 on the scorecards, but has a solid finishing rate. Of his 11 wins, he has 7 knockouts and 3 submission wins. Despite his high rate of finish, Andre has picked up just 3 opening round stoppages.

A former member of the Blackzilians, Soukhamthath is a willing combatant on the feet. With some pop in his hands, he will lead with a quick jab and follow with his more dangerous offerings. He likes to sit in the pocket, just avoiding his opponent’s strikes, before returning fire. An offense-first fighter, he does have a tendency to be a little lax with his defense and will take damage as a result. His wrestling attack is focussed more on staying vertical and has been tested heavily in recent fights.

An aggressive striker, Morales is at his best when he is walking down his foe with heavy-handed flurries. Augmenting his boxing with hard low kicks, Morales would benefit from an increased implementation of a jab. He will leave himself open at times and isn’t nearly the same fighter when being pushed backward. However, Morales did find some success slipping and ripping counters against Almeida. Later in the opening round, Albert showcased a quick back take and opportunistic grappling game.

Morales tends to sling his punches with limited setup which will limit his effectiveness. Soukhamthath’s willingness to sit in the pocket and trade will keep Morales from consistently backing him up. The UFC neophyte has shown the ability to weather the initial storm and then take the fight over in the 2nd half- my prediction is Andre Soukhamthath to defeat Albert Morales by knockout.

170lbs- Nordine Taleb (11-3-0) vs Santiago Ponzinibbio (24-3-0)

Capping off the undercard, Nordine “The Machine” Taleb battles Argentina’s Santiago “Gente Boa” Ponzinibbio. Taleb turned his UFC career around with a 4-1 run after a pair of unsuccessful stints on the reality show- he is coming off of a TKO victory over Erick Silva. Ponzinibbio has rattled off 3 consecutive wins, most recently defeating Zak Cummings by decision.

Taleb is an inch taller and will have an inch reach advantage, but he has been out of action for almost a full year. “Gente Boa” is the younger man by 5-years.

Having stopped 3 of his last 5 wins by knockout, Ponzinibbio has pushed his overall career total to 13 TKO/KOs. He has added in 6 submissions and a solid 4-1 record on the scorecards. Of the 19 finishes, 14 have come in the opening round. Ponzinibbio was knocked out by Lorenz Larkin- he has been stopped with strikes twice. Nordine’s KO of Silva was his first since 2012- he has finished 6 opponents with strikes. Taleb is 6-1 on the scorecards and has been finished twice- once each by submission and knockout.

Taleb is coming off a knockout, but his forte has been his takedown game. He has picked up 13 takedowns over his 4-UFC wins, including his UFC-best 6 completions in a fight back in 2015. He is a BJJ Brown belt, but his focus has been more on controlling from top position instead of looking for a finish.  Warlley Alves stuffed both of his TDAs before locking up a guillotine for the tap. Nordine has some pop in his hands, but lacks a consistent output to dominate a fight without having success on the floor.

The Argentinian has power in his hands and has rounded out the technical aspect of his striking attack in recent fights. Ponzinibbio sits down on his strikes and lands long hard punches. He will also mix in a decent kicking game. At 4.15 SLpM, he does some of his best work when he can pin his opponent along the cage and unload with barrages. His TDD has improved, but it has been a point of vulnerability- he has given up 2 or more takedowns on 3 separate occasions.

There is an avenue to victory for Taleb if he can land takedowns with consistency and break down Santiago with his position control. Unfortunately, the improvements in the TDD of Ponzinibbio along with his superior striking attack and aggressive forward pressure are going to shut down Nordine’s wrestling. Taleb will hold his own on the feet, but the power and speed of Ponzinibbio will simply be too much for him to match- my prediction is Santiago Ponzinibbio to defeat Nordine Taleb by decision.

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115lbs- #3 Carla Esparza (12-3-0) vs Randa Markos (6-5-0)

Dating back to their time in the Ultimate Fighter house, Carla “Cookie Monster” Esparza and Randa “Quiet Storm” Esparza renew hostilities in the Strawweight division. Esparza returned to action at UFC 197 to defeat Juliana Lima by decision in her first fight since dropping the title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Markos was submitted by Cortney Casey at UFC 202 and has alternated wins and losses over her last 8 fights.

At just 5’4″, Markos is still 3 inches taller than the former Champion. Both girls have a 63″ reach and Esparza is the younger woman by 2-years.

Esparza has recorded a trio of wins by knockout, 4 wins by submission, and 4 by decision. Carla has gone the distance in 3 of her last 6 wins, with her last stoppage coming via submission over Rose Namajunas when she captured the UFC title. Markos has never had a fight end via knockout and is coming off the first submission defeat of her career. She as a trio of submission wins to along with tapping out Felice Herrig during the TUF tournament. She is 3-3 on the scorecards, including a split decision loss to Jessica Penne.

Esparza comes from a strong wrestling background and is coming off of 5-takedown performance against Lima. She put up similar numbers against Namajunas. She has good timing on her double leg, catching her opponent coming forward and driving them to the mat. She has solid top position control, breaking down her foe with pressure and strikes. Conversely, Jedrzejcyk’s stout TDD shutdown Esparza’s wrestling in a complete wipe out of a fight.

Not to be outdone on the floor, Markos is a BJJ Purple belt and has completed at least 1 takedown in each of her UFC bouts. She ran into trouble against Casey after losing position resulting in the submission loss. She gave up 4 takedowns to Penne, but did a decent job of scrambling out of tough spots. When standing, the majority of her offense comes from the right side. She’s got some pop, but can be a little too one-dimensional with her hands.

This fight will come down to whether or not Esparza can take Markos down with regularity. Randa’s striking is too predictable and she is too offensively focus with her grappling which will create opportunities for Esparza to get on top and stay there. Esparza will hold her own on the feet until she elects to change levels and ground Markos- my prediction is Carla Esparza to defeat Randa Markos by decision.

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135lbs- Aiemann Zahabi (6-0-0) vs Reginaldo Vieira (14-4-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Quebec’s Aiemann Zahabi makes his promotional debut across the cage from TUF Brazil 4 tournament winner Reginaldo Vieira. Vieira is coming off of a submission loss to Marco Beltran last July- he is 1-1 inside the Octagon. Zahabi fought just once in 2016, securing a victory via TKO due to injury- his last 3 foes are a combined 13-14 overall.

The Canadian is an inch taller than his opponent, but he will have a 4″ reach advantage. Zahabi is also the younger man by 5-years.

Vieira is coming off the third submission loss of his career to go along with a knockout defeat back in 2013. He has 9 submission wins on his record and is 3-0 on the scorecards. His patented guillotine choke has accounted for 6 of his 9 victories. Zahabi has split his 6 wins evenly between submissions and knockouts. He has never fought beyond the opening round, with his longest fight lasting just 4:40. After starting his career with a trio of submission wins, 1 due to punches, he has since finished each of his last 3 opponents by knockout.

Training out of Tristar, the younger brother of Zahabi is short on quality experience and prolonged cage time. He offers a measured striking game with some decent pop and serviceable kicking game. Look for him to utilize feints to draw out his opponent’s attacks and then counter. In tight, Aiemann will throw hard knees or change levels for a takedown. Has had demoed decent hips to counter his opponent’s shot and once on top he is solid.

As the numbers would indicate, Vieira relies heavily on his mat game. He picked up a trio of takedowns against Beltran before getting finished. On the feet, he is a willing combatant and has some pop in his hands, but he throws primarily wide-ranging hooks. When not storming forward behind his punches, Reginaldo can get a little complacent on the outside. A tendency to muscle his techniques can result in a slowdown and he clearly was wearing down prior to getting finished last time out.

Despite the lack of overall experience, Zahabi comes from a strong camp and will be well prepared. His more refined striking technique will counter the wild aggression of the Brazilian and his counter wrestling will take Vieira’s grappling out of the equation- my prediction is Aiemann Zahabi to defeat Reginaldo Vieira by TKO.

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185lbs- Jack Marshman (21-5-0) vs Thiago Santos (13-5-0)

Welsh-born Jack “Hammer” Marshman takes on Brazil’s Thiago “Marreta” Santos in the Middleweight division. Marshman made a successful UFC debut, scoring a TKO victory over Magnus Cedenblad to extend his current winning streak to 7-straight fights. Santos has dropped back to back contests after an upset submission loss to Eric Wisely.

Both men are 6’0″ tall, Santos will have a 3″ reach advantage. Marshman is 5-years younger.

The knockout of Cedenblad was the 13th of Marshman’s career to go along with 5 wins by submission and a 3-2 record on the scorecards. He has finished 10 opponents in the opening round while suffering a trio of knockouts himself. Santos has recorded 4 knockouts in the UFC and 8 overall. He is 4-1 in decisions including his upset win over Elias Theodorou.

A scrappy striker, Marshman landed a hard left hook that dropped Cedenblad early. When forced to fight on the outside, he struggled to land with regularity but once he moved forward he was able to find a home for his left hook behind an ineffectual right side strike. While he has some power, Marshman has a tendency to throw stiff arm punches that routinely come up short.

Santos’s boxing technique isn’t the most technical and when put under pressure he will open up defensively. Hower, the kicking repertoire of the Brazilian is lethal. “Marreta” will target up and down the body, forcing his opponent to defend one area before targeting another. When fighting Thiago needs to be either all the way out or all the way in. Once on the inside and locked in the clinch, look for Thiago to let go with brutal elbows and knee strikes.

Both men have power and both have been knocked out in previous fights. Santos is the more refined striker based on his kicking technique and should have a speed advantage. Look for him to keep Marshman on the outside, landing hard kicks and then jamming Jack up in the clinch when he tries to close the gap- my prediction is Thiago Santos to defeat Jack Marshman by knockout.

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185lbs- Gerald Meerschaert (25-8-0) vs Ryan Janes (9-1-0)

The first of 4 Middleweight bouts on the card will also serve to open the evening’s festivities as Canada’s own Ryan Janes takes on Gerald “The Machine” Meerschaert in both fighter’s sophomore appearance. Meerschaert defeated Joe Gigliotti to extend his current winning streak to 6 consecutive bouts dating back to a 2014 defeat against Sam Alvey. Janes finally got into the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 102, defeating Keith Berish by decision for his 8th consecutive win.

At 6’3″, Janes is the taller man by 2 inches, but he will give up an inch to Meerschaert, who is younger than the Canadian by 8-years.

Janes picked up just his second career decision win in his debut, to improve to 2-1 when going the distance. He has finished 8 of his 10 wins- 7 by submission, with 6 of those coming via rear-naked choke. Holding a sizeable 23-fight edge in experience, Meerschaert has submitted 18 opponents. The Rufusport product has secured the majority of his submission wins by some form of choke. He has also been subbed 7-times, with his last coming in 2013. He has 5 wins knockout.

Despite making his debut on short notice, Meerschaert looked calm and composed. He slid in and out of range landing a quick jab, hooks, and quick kicks. He is considered a thinking man’s fighter, making adjustments on the fly. On the mat, Gerald demoed good scrambling skills and attacked off his back when Gigliotti took him down. The finish came when Meerschaert converted a well controlled back mount into a tight anaconda choke.

Janes relied on his reach and forward pressure, punctuated by a left jab against Berish. He was absorbing some big punches, but benefited from a lack of consistent activity from his opponent who focused on impact over work rate. The lack of a strong wrestling attack makes it difficult for Janes to bring his grappling skills to bear with consistency. He is dangerous on the floor, but if he is unable to put Meerschaert on his back he becomes a one-dimensional fighter.

Meerschaert has the superior wrestling attack which will give him a positional advantage on the mat or allow him to keep the fight vertical to avoid the grappling of Janes. On the feet, Janes is too defensively lax and doesn’t have the type of power needed to back his foe up. Meerschaert will get the better of the striking exchanges and hold the edge on the mat with top positional control- my prediction is Gerald Meerschaert to defeat Ryan Janes by decision.

170lbs- RANDY BROWN (9-1-0) vs BELAL MUHAMMAD (10-2-0)

In the headlining bout of the undercard, Randy “Rude Boy” Brown battles it out with injury replacement Belal “Remember the Name” Muhammad in the Welterweight division. Brown has won back to back fights to improve to 3-1 inside the Octagon- he was last seen scoring a TKO victory over Brian Camozzi. Muhammad is coming off a knockout loss to Vicente Luque to go along with a decision defeat in his debut against Alan Jouban- he scored a late TKO victory against Augusto Montano in his only Octagon win.

At 6’3″, Brown is 4 inches taller than Muhammad and will have a 6″ reach advantage. Randy is also the younger man by 2-years. Belal is replacing George Sullivan on roughly 2-weeks’ notice.

In victory, Brown has finished just short of 90% of his opponents- 5 by knockout and 3 by submission. His debut victory over Matt Dwyer was his first and only fight to go the full 3-rounds. His lone defeat was a 2nd round submission to Randy Graves in his UFC sophomore appearance. The first loss of Muhammad’s career came via in his short-notice debut against Alan Jouban, dropping him to 6-1 on the scorecards. Belal has finished 4 opponents by knockout to go along with his KO defeat in his last fight.

Last time out, Brown demonstrated his continued improvements on the feet. “Rude Boy” has decent pop in his hands, but against Camozzi he was utilizing his reach to keep him at the end of his strikes while still doing damage. His above average height will also allow him to attack on the inside, landing big knees in the clinch. He will engage on the mat and has shown serviceable wrestling and submission skills. Muhammad has decent TDD and will go offensive with his ground game if given the opportunity. He possesses a tight boxing game, but not a tonne of power. He eventually put down Montano through the accumulation of damage. The biggest defensive concern is his chin. Prior to getting knocked out by Luque, he had been rocked multiple times by Jouban.

Stepping in on short notice isn’t easy, but Belal is going to be motivated to put on a strong performance after his last bout. Brown has the power to replicate the knockout, but he is going to struggle with the more technical striking of Muhammad. Look for the former Titan FC champ to mix in a couple well-timed takedowns to go along with a superior work rate on the feet- my prediction is Belal Muhammad to defeat Randy Brown by decision.

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125lbs- #5 WILSON REIS (21-6-0) vs ULKA SASAKI (19-3-2)

Formerly tied to a Flyweight title shot, Wilson Reis takes on sophomore 125-pounder Ulka Sasaki. Reis has won back to back fights over Dustin Ortiz and Hector Sandoval, he was originally expected to fight for the title before Demetrious Johnson withdrew from the fight and was replaced by Sandoval. Sasaki made his divisional debut with a submission win over Willie Gates, he had dropped back to back fights prior to the victory.

Both men formerly fought at Bantamweight, but Sasaki is considerably taller at 5’10” compared to Reis at 5’4″. Not surprisingly, Ulka has a 6″ reach advantage. The Japanese-born fighter is the younger man by 4-years.

Sasaki has tapped out 10 opponents- 9 by rear-naked choke. He is 7-1 on the scorecards, having suffered both of his UFC losses via stoppage. Reis’s record is similar, with a perfect 10-0 record in fights ending by submission and he is 11-4 on the scorecards. Reis was KOed twice in Bellator, losing to Eduardo Dantas and Patricio Freire.

A creative grappler, Ulka will look to clinch and drag his opponent to the ground or create a scramble opportunity where he can work to his opponent’s back. At 135, he got into trouble focusing too heavily on offense- eventually leading to a pair of defeats. Reis is also a ground-based fighter, but his focus in recent fights has been on positional control. Against Ortiz, he scored 9 takedowns and shut down his active scramble game. His striking is improving, but he has been knocked down on multiple occasions to go along with his knockout defeats.

While Sasaki is a capable grappler, he is going to struggle against the superior technique and overall control of Reis. Once Reis gets on top, he is difficult to shake off and if Ulka tries to go offensive, Wilson will capitalize- my prediction is Wilson Reis to defeat Ulka Sasaki by submission.

 

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155lbs- NIK LENTZ (29-7-2 1NC) vs ISLAM MAKHACHEV (13-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Nik “The Carny” Lentz battles it out with Russian Islam Makhachev. Lentz is 2-0 since returning to Lightweight, defeating both Danny Castillo and Michael McBride- stopping the latter in the second round by TKO. Makhachev was knocked out by Adriano Martins in his second UFC appearance, but got back on track with a hard-fought decision victory over Chris Wade.

Islam is 2 inches taller than his opponent and will have a 2″ reach advantage. He is also younger than Lentz by 7-years.

At 37 pro fights, 17 in the UFC, Lentz has a wealth of pro experience. Overall, he has gone 10-3 in decisions, while adding another 10 wins by submission and the McBride victory pushed his knockout total to 7. He has been finished 4-times, split evenly between subs and knockouts. Makhachev sports a similarly proportioned record with 5 decision victories, 6 wins by sub, and 2 wins by knockout. He has finished just 4 foes in the first round and his only defeat was the aforementioned loss to Martins.

Lentz has averaged 4.05 takedowns per fight over his UFC run, including 8 over his last 2 fights. Not to be outdone, Makhachev has put up similar numbers, but over a smaller sample size. He has completed a combined 7 takedowns over his 2 Octagon wins. Both men are strong top position fighters, but Islam showcased a solid bottom game against Wade. He locked up a tight triangle off his back and did a decent job in the scrambles. Lentz’s TDD has been far from impenetrable, giving up 32 takedowns over his last 13 fights. On the feet, Lentz opts for a pressure-based attack while Makhachev let’s go with wide-ranging power strikes.

Lentz has made a career out of grinding out opponents, but he has struggled when taking on other capable ground fighters. “The Carny” doesn’t offer the pace he use to, especially standing. The constant flow of offense coming from Makhachev will serve to put Lentz in some uncomfortable positions and wear him down. This fight should offer some fantastic ground exchanges, but the Russian will get the better of them- my prediction is Islam Makhachev to defeat Nik Lentz by decision.

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125lbs- #6 IAN MCCALL (13-5-1) vs JARRED BROOKS (12-0-0)

In the Flyweight division, former top ranked contender “Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall finally returns to action when he meets Jarred “The Monkey God” Brooks. McCall’s last fight was a loss to John Lineker at UFC 183, he had picked up back to back wins prior to the setback. Brooks is undefeated, including a perfect 5-0 run in 2016.

McCall is 2 inches taller than his opponent, but will give up 3 inches of reach. Brooks is the younger man by 9 years and has fought 5-times since “Uncle Creepy” last saw action. Brooks is replacing Neil Seery on 2 weeks’ notice.

McCall has gone the distance in 10 of his 11 fights with a record of 6-4-1. He has finished 7 opponents, 4 by knockout, but none since entering the Octagon. Brooks is a perfect 5-0 on the scorecards with 5 submission victories and a pair of knockouts. He has finished 5 opponents in the opening round and 3 of his 5 subs came by RNC.

Brooks is an aggressive striker and carries a steady pace. In his last victory, he overwhelmed his opponent with a constant flow of offense until he got the stoppage. He’s got solid pops in his hands and comes from a collegiate wrestling background. A strong athlete, his aggression can get the better of him at times, rushing forward behind his wide strikes with minimal focus on defense. The layoff could affect McCall, but when at his best he combines a solid striking game and good wrestling. His footwork and speed make him difficult to both attack and defend against, but Lineker did find success slowing Ian down with power strikes.

One one side you have a short notice debut from a relatively green, but talented prospect. On the other side, a long time vet is getting back into the cage after over a year off and has recently expressed doubt regarding his future in the sport. Brooks’s is going to struggle to maintain his offensive pace, both due to the short notice and the step up in competition. McCall shakes off the rust, puts up a strong defensive front, and takes over the fight in rounds 2 and 3- my prediction is Ian McCall to defeat Jarred Brooks by decision.

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265lbs- MARCIN TYBURA (14-2-0)) vs JUSTIN WILLIS (4-1-0)

Headlining the FightPass prelims, Marcin “Tybur” Tybura takes on short notice injury replacement Justin Willis in the Heavyweight division. Tybura KOed Viktor Pesta for his first UFC win after dropping a decision to Tim Johnson in his debut. Willis lost his professional debut, but he has rattled off 4 straight victories including a WSOF 31 win.

Tybura is 2 inches taller than Willis, but he will weigh in roughly 15-pounds heavier and have a reach advantage of 3 inches. Willis will have less than a week to prepare for his debut after Luis Henrique was forced to withdraw.

Willis has been a pro since 2012 and has a trio of knockout victories on his record along with a single defeat. He has gone the distance just once, winning a unanimous decision. Tybura has split his 12 finishes equally between knockouts and submissions. His only stoppage defeat was the result of a doctor stoppage due to a cut. Marcin is 2-1 on the scorecards.

The AKA-trained Willis used a clinch heavy attack in his win at WSOF 31. He will shoot for takedowns, looking to drive through his opponent’s hips with a big power double. His last 3 opponents have a combined 28-17 record. Tyrbura’s knockout of Pesta was impressive and indicative of his improved focus on striking while working at Alliance MMA. His clinch and takedown game are still a crucial part of his attack, controlling his opponent along the wall before changing levels for a takedown and going to work on the floor. He is 5-2 in fights that go beyond the opening round.

There isn’t a lot of quality of footage of Willis in action. He is a big man and moves well, but that won’t be enough to overcome Tybura. Marcin will showcase his improving striking and use his clinch attack to break Willis down. A short notice bout for an under experienced and debuting heavyweight is a difficult scenario to overcome- my prediction is Marcin Tybura to defeat Just Willis by TKO.

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170lbs- RYAN LAFLARE (12-1-0) vs ROAN CARNEIRO (21-10-0))

In the Welterweight division, Roan “Jucao” Carneiro heads into enemy territory to take on  New York-born Ryan LaFlare. LaFlare rebounded from the first loss of his career to pick up a decision victory over Mike Pierce. Carneiro had won 6 in a row prior to a loss Derek Brunson, he returned to the win column with a split decision win over Kenny Robertson last September.

The American is 2 inches taller, but they share the same 74″ reach. LaFlare is the younger man by 5-years, but he has been on the shelf for roughly 14-months.

Since making the jump to the UFC, LaFlare has required the judges in all 6 of his fights, winning 5. Prior to his current run of decisions, he finished 7 opponents- 4 by knockout. A BJJ Black belt, Carneiro has recorded 10 wins by submission, but has also been submitted on 4 occasions. He is 9-3 on the scorecards and has been knocked out 3-times compared to 2 wins by the same method.

Roan is coming off a win where he was able to edge out his opponent in both vertical output and takedowns. However, he had some issues with holding top position once they hit the mat and routinely let his foe push forward on the feet. Carneiro benefited from his opponent’s lack of overall output. While he is capable grappler, his striking comes in single strikes and his punches tend to be wide and lacking in accuracy. LaFlare’s success has hinged largely on his wrestling, completing 19 takedowns over his first 4 UFC fights. Demian Maia put him on the mat several times, but his TDD held up well against Mike Pierce. LaFlare’s striking is still a work in progress, but he did show improvements in his defeat of Pierce.

Neither man has fantastic cardio, but LaFlare is the better overall fighter. His takedown defense and top control will shut down the grappling game of Carneiro. When on the feet, his superior activity level and sharper striking technique will carry the action- my prediction is Ryan LaFlare to defeat Roan Carneiro by decision.
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145lbs- RICK GLENN (18-3-1) vs PHILLIPE NOVER (12-7-1)

Kicking off the card, Brooklyn-native Phillipe “The Filipino Assassin” Nover takes on former WSOF Featherweight champion Rick “The Gladiator” Glenn. Nover won a split decision over Yui Chul Nam in his return to the Octagon, but has since dropped back to back bout most recently losing to Renan Barao. Glenn made his debut on short notice at 115-pounds, falling to Evan Dunham via decision- he had won 3 consecutive fights.

At 6’0″, Glenn is 3 inches taller than his opponent, but will give up 2 inches of reach. He is also the younger man by 5-years.

Glenn has finished 15 of his 18 wins, 10 by knockout. He picked up all 6 of his first round victories and all 5 of his submission wins during his first 7 pro victories. Since that span, he has gone 11-2-1, without a single opening round stoppage. A BJJ Black belt, Nover has picked up 5 wins by submission- 3 by RNC. He has just a single knockout victory on his record and is a dismal 5-6 on the scorecards, including a 1-2 mark in split decisions.

Nover showcased an improved wrestling attack in his re-debut, completing 6 of 12 takedowns. He did give up a pair of completions in that fight and has given up 6 over his last 3 contests.  Where he has struggled has been in the volume department. Against Nam he landed just 12 significant strikes and has been out-landed 114 to 71. Similarly, Glenn struggled with the output and takedowns of Dunham. He has some pop in his left hand and does a decent job of maintaining pressure. His TDD has been a concern in the past, but mainly against very strong wrestlers.

Nover is fighting at home, but his lack of output on the feet is a major issue and his below average cardio prevents him from carrying a steeper pace. Similarly, he won’t be able to consistently land takedowns over a full 15-minutes. Glenn will find success on the feet, landing with more regularity and impact. Nover’s record in decisions indicates his struggle with winning a fight when he is unable to get the finish, my prediction is Rick Glenn to defeat Phillipe Nover by decision.

265lbs- Adam Milstead (8-1-0) vs Curtis Blaydes (6-1-0)

In the headlining act of the prelims, Adam “The Prototype” Milstead makes his sophomore appearance for the promotion opposing Curtiz “Razor” Blaydes. Blaydes picked up a win over Cody East via second-round TKO, he lost his debut versus Francis Ngannou after the doctor stopped the fight between rounds. Milstead defeated  Chris de la Rocha last May and has won 8 consecutive outings.

Blaydes pushes the limits of the division at 6’4″ and 265 pounds. He is an inch taller than Milstead and should weigh in 20-25 pounds more. Blaydes will also have a 4″ reach advantage and is the younger man by 4-years.

Milstead has never gone the distance as a pro. He has finished 6 opponents by knockout and 2 by submission- 5 in the opening round. His only defeat came in his pro debut back in 2011. In similar fashion, Blaydes has finished all 6 of his wins by TKO to go along with the TKO defeat against Ngannou. He began his career with back to back first round stoppage wins, but has gone to the 2nd round or beyond in each of his last 5 bouts.

Coming from a wrestling background, Blaydes dominated East on the mat. He landed 5 takedowns, powering through East with massive double leg shots. Once on top, he landed a sizeable amount of damage to eventually bring about the finish. His striking is still a work in progress. Ngannou was able to defend most of Blaydes’s TDAs and force him trade on the feet. He didn’t go down against the monstrous punches from Ngannou, but defensively he is quite hittable. Milstead is a striker by trade, putting together big punching sequences. He moves into the pocket and willingly exchanges. Despite throwing with power, the majority of his wins have come by TKO through the accumulation of damage.

The key to this fight will be the TDD of Milstead. He is the superior striker, but he will need to stay vertical to capitalize on it. Blaydes’s MMA wrestling looked much improved in his last fight and Milstead’s style of close range punching and reach deficit will open him up to level changes. Look for Blaydes to ground him with regularity and unload from top position, my prediction is Curtis Blaydes to defeat Adam Milstead by decision.

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145lbs- Chas Skelly (16-2-0) vs Chris Gruetzemacher (13-1-0)

In the Featherweight division, “The Scrapper” Chas Skelly is riding an impressive 5-1 run as he takes on Chris “Gritz” Gruetzemacher. Skelly took just 19-seconds to submit Maximo Blanco after a UFC 196 upset loss to Darren Elkins. Gruetzemacher went 2-1 in the house and won his debut at the TUF 22 Finale to improve his current winning streak to 12 in a row.

Gruetzemacher debut at Lightweight, but is returning to 145-pounds. He is 3 inches shorter than his opponent and will give up the same length reach. “Gritz” is closing in on a 14-month layoff.

Both men have put up strong, but polar opposite finishing totals. Gruetzemacher has won a 6-pack of fights by knockout to go along with a perfect 4-0 record on the scorecards. He has a trio of submission wins- his only career loss was a 26-second tap out in his second pro bout. Skelly has submitted 9 opponents, including 3 inside the Octagon. He is 4-2 on the scorecards.

Gruetzemacher’s style might not be flashy, but he makes it work. In his debut, he landed 104 significant strikes. He will sit at close range, and trade short punches with some decent pop. He bloodied the face of his foe, but also took a fair bit of damage with his opponent falling just short of the century mark as well. Skelly will be more than willing to oblige him in a firefight. His striking is still a work in progress, but he can crack and take a punch. The Texas native’s forte comes on the mat. He has a solid wrestling game and works it in conjunction with an aggressive grappling attack. From top position, Skelly is overwhelming and he is active off his back if taken down.

Skelly’s undoing against Elkins was his cardio. If Gruetzemacher can push him early, he could take over the fight in the second half. Skelly will hold his own on the feet, but more importantly he will get the better of the action on the floor- my prediction is Chas Skelly to defeat Chris Gruetzemacher by submission.

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135lbs- Ricardo Ramos (9-1-0) vs Michinori Tanaka (11-2-0)

Former PXC Bantamweight Champion Michinori Tanaka looks to get back in the win column when he welcomes the debuting Ricardo Ramos to the UFC. Tanaka lost a decision to the underrated Rani Yahya to drop his UFC record to 2-2. Ramos rebounded from the first loss of his career to submit his last opponent- he went 2-1 under the Legacy banner.

The Brazilian is 5-years younger than his opponent and will be 4 inches taller. Ramos is a product of Dana White’s “Lookin’ for a Fight” series.

Tanaka has gone the distance in 6 consecutive fights, winning 4. He went 1-1 in split decisions during that span as well. Overall, he is 6-2 on the cards and has 5 submission wins- 3 coming after the opening round. He has never been tapped out. Ramos has leaned heavily on his submission game, accounting for 6 of his 9 victories. Of his 8 stoppages, 6 have come inside the opening frame. His only loss came by submission to a RNC. Ricardo’s lone decision win came back in 2013 in his third pro fight.

Ramos’s last non-submission victory was the product of a well-timed knee to his opponent’s chin, but his primary focus is his grappling. Once on the floor, he will chain transitions and submissions together at a feverish pace. His only defeat came because he focused too much on offense, despite his opponent’s superior position. A Judo Black belt, Tanaka is a strong grappler both technically and physically. He simply got outworked by Yahya, who scored 7 takedowns. Michinori won the TD battle 9-2 over his first 3 UFC bouts. If taken down, he is a solid scrambler and is difficult to control on the mat. His striking isn’t overwhelming, relying on a lot of lateral movement and single strikes from the outside.

Ramos’s record and aggressive submission over position style isn’t meant to hold up over a drawn out fight. Tanaka has never been submitted and if Ramos goes for the early kill and misses, he will be at a massive deficit for the rest of the bout. Tanaka will capitalize on the early aggression of his foe, gain the superior position, and then look for his own finish- my prediction is Michinori Tanaka to defeat Ricardo Ramos by submission.Paragraph breaker

115lbs- #6 Tecia Torres (7-1-0) vs Bec Rawlings (7-5-0)

In the Strawweight division, Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres takes on Australia’s “Rowdy” Bec Rawlings in a rematch from their season of the Ultimate Fighter. Torres is coming off the first loss of her career, dropping a decision to Rose Namajunas- she is 3-1 in the UFC. Rawlings was knocked out by Paige VanZant in her last fight and is 3-4 over her last 7 fights.

At 5’6″, Rawlings is 5 inches taller than Torres and will have a 4″ reach advantage.

Tecia has been a decisions machine throughout her career, going the distance in all 8 of her career fights. All 3 of her TUF bouts, including her victory over Rawlings, went to the cards. Since making the jump to Invicta and then the UFC, Rawlings has picked up a pair of submission wins. However, she has gone 1-3 on the scorecards during that time. Over her career, she has submitted 4 opponents to go along with a 1-2 record in fights ending by knockout.up

Torres is a volume based striker, looking to outwork her opponent over the duration of the fight. She averages 4.43 strikes landed per minute and has outstruck her foe in all 4 of her UFC bouts. She landed her UFC-best 96-strikes in her debut and got the better of Rose by a count of 61-46. Rawlings has put up some decent offensive stats at 4.77 SLpM and has some decent pop in her hands. Unfortunately, she has struggled defensively at times, including a 92-strike performance by Seo Hee. Rawlings has also had some issues giving up takedowns at key moments in fights.

In their first meeting, Rawlings struggled to match the speed, output, and cardio of Torres. Tecia’s kick-heavy attack will help her to deal with the reach of Rawlings if she tries to stay on the outside. Torres appears to be the more improved fighter since their last encounter and will build on her success from their last fight- my prediction is Tecia Torres to defeat Bec Rawlings by Decision.

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170lbs- Alex Morono (13-3-0) vs Niko Price (9-0-0)

The headlining bout to be showcased on FightPass will feature Alex “The Great White” Morono and Niko “The Hybrid” Price. Morono is 2-0 in the UFC after a short notice win over Kyle Noke and December victory over James Moontasri- he has won 7 in a row. Price leaped into the UFC on short notice and promptly submitted Brandon Thatch to remain undefeated.

Once again, Price is stepping in on short notice. Replacing Sheldon Westcott, Niko has just under 2 weeks to prep. Price in an inch taller and a year older than his opponent.

Price earned just the second submission win of his career when he tapped Thatch. He has 6 wins by knockout and a single decision victory. “The Hybrid” has only gone beyond the first round on 2 occasions. Morono offers more diversified finishing totals with 4 knockouts and 5 submission victories. He is 3-2 on the scorecards, including a pair of split decision defeats, with his only other setback coming via knockout. He has 8 first round wins and is 5-2 in the third round, with nothing in between.

“The Great White” is physically unassuming and employs an awkward stance in the cage. Morono proved his durability against Moontasri, getting cracked early with a number of body kicks, but continuing to move forward. Alex found success once he got on the inside, connecting on a barrage of wild strikes and eventually outlanding his foe by more than 2-1. While not an issue in his last fight, he has had problems against fighters that focus on taking him down. Price has shown himself to be a functional brawler, overwhelming opponents with high-paced barrages. In his debut, he successfully exploited the biggest weakness of his opponent; getting the fight to the floor and scoring the submission win.

Price should be the more aggressive fighter on the feet, backing up the kick-heavy and wide swinging arsenal of his foe. That being said, the key difference here will be his takedowns. Niko will augment his striking with level changes that will keep Morono hesitating. Once on the mat, look for Price to do some damage and look for a potential submission, but my prediction is Niko Price to defeat Alex Morono by decision.

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205lbs- Daniel Jolly (5-1-0) vs Khalil Rountree (4-2-0)

Opening the card, the hard-hitting Khalil “The War Horse” Rountree takes on Daniel “The Werewolf of Texas” Jolly in the Light Heavyweight division. Jolly lost his debut to Misha Cirkunov by first round TKO, the first loss of his pro career. Rountree is 0-2 inside the Octagon, most recently suffering a submission loss to Tyson Pedro.

Both men are 6’1″, Jolly does have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Rountree is the younger man by 6-years. Jolly will be fighting at home, but is returning after a 17-month hiatus.

Rountree has a pair of early first round knockouts to go along with a TKO finish in his only TUF win. He is 2-1 on the scorecards. Jolly also has a couple of quick first round knockouts to go along with a submission win. He has gone the distance twice in his career, including a 5-round victory in his final pre-UFC contest.

Jolly’s offense was muted for the most part by Cirkunov, but in his pre-UFC footage, he demoed a serviceable wrestling game. A BJJ Purple belt, Jolly has a decent reactive double leg and uses tight body pressure once on top. That will be his key to success against Rountree. Roundtree throws everything with power. He landed an absolute bomb of a left hand in Pedro, but as soon as Tyson got his hands on him Khalil was in trouble. Khalil has struggled tremendously to keep vertical. Once on the mat, he doesn’t have a lot to offer. The combination of fending off takedowns and mainly throwing power strikes will drain his cardio as the fight progresses.

If Rountree can land, he can finish anyone. That being said, it has proven too difficult for him to remain vertical. Jolly faced a pretty tall order in his debut, but look for him to utilize his mat skills to ground Roundtree for the duration of the fight. My prediction is Daniel Jolly to defeat Khalil Rountree by decision.

185lbs- Nate Marquardt (38-16-2) vs Sam Alvey (28-9-0 1NC)

Headlining the undercard, former Strikeforce Welterweight champion Nate “The Great” Marquardt attempts to build on his recent resurgence at the expense of devastating power puncher “Smile’n” Sam Alvey. Marquardt is coming off of an upset victory over Tamdan McCrory to go along with a KO stoppage of CB Dollaway 2 fights earlier- he is 2-1 in recent action. Alvey has won a trio of fights, including a decision win over Alex Nicholson and a TKO of Kevin Casey.

At 6’2″, Sam is 2 inches taller than Nate and will have a 1″ reach advantage. Nate is making his 54th pro appearance compared to Alvey’s 39th. Marquart is the older man by 7 years.

Alvey’s record is indicative of his approach to fighting. He has won 18 times by knockout compared to an 11-8 record in fights where he doesn’t finish his foe with his hands. Most notably he is 8-6 on the scorecards. Marquardt’s record in decisions currently sits below .500 at 8-9 and he has been finished 7-times, 5 by knockout. He has finished his opponent in each of his last 4 wins, stopping 27 overall (11 by knockout, 16 by submission).

Marquardt’s ability to take a punch is clearly compromised. He has been finished in 4 of his last 6 defeats. Alvey has face melting power, but his willingness to solely rely on that power to win fights can leave him short if the contest goes the distance. Elias Theodorou was able to avoid Sam’s heavy hands and outwork him for a 3 round decision win. Can Nate do the same? Marquardt is a decent striker and dangerous grappler, but his aggressive striking style puts him right in the firing range of Alvey’s counter striking skills.

If Nate can keep Sam guessing he could outwork him, but avoiding getting cracked over 3-rounds is going to be tough. It is finish or be finished for “The Great” and Alvey has the vastly superior chin- my prediction is Sam Alvey to defeat Nate Marquardt by knockout.

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135lbs- #4 Raphael Assuncao (23-5-0) vs #7 Aljamain Sterling (12-1-0)

In arguably the most significant fight of the undercard, a pair of Bantamweight contenders look to get back on track as Raphael Assuncao meets “The Funk Master” Aljamain Sterling. Sterling is coming off of the first loss of his career, dropping a decision to the underrated Bryan Caraway- he is 4-1 in the UFC. Assuncao had won 6 consecutive bouts prior to UFC 200, where he lost a decision to former champion TJ Dillashaw.

The younger man by 7-years, Sterling is 2 inches taller and will have a 5″ reach advantage. Assuncao had been shelved for almost a year and a half prior to the Dillashaw fight. It has been 8-months since Sterling last competed.

Sterling’s last wins were a pair of impressive submission victories, running his career total to 6. A late finish of Hugo Viana back in 2o14 doubled his knockout totals and he is a solid 4-1 on the cards. Aljamain has finished just 3 of his 8 stoppages in the opening round. A BJJ Black belt, Assuncao has accumulated 10 wins by tap out, but nothing of that nature since 2013. He is 10-3 on the cards to go along with a trio of knockouts. He has been finished once each by knockout and submission- the latter to the now-retired Urijah Faber.

“The Funk Master” has enjoyed the majority of his success on the basis of his wrestling and ability to out-grapple his opponents once on the floor. In addition to his 2 submission wins in the Octagon, he has landed a combined 13 takedowns over 5 fights. However, the Caraway fight demonstrated his shortcomings if he is unable to maintain superiority on the floor. Raphael is incredibly difficult to take off his feet and has never been put down more than twice in any 1 fight. He stuffed 70% of TJ’s combined TDAs and 77% overall. Raphael is equally as defensively stout when striking, limiting Dillashaw to his lowest striking totals by far. The Brazilian is a capable counter striker, but will also initiate attacks behind crisp straight punches and thudding low kicks.

Sterling is coming off his first career defeat, which can be a motivating factor. Conversely, Assuncao is coming off of a loss in a rematch from a fight that he had won- it will be interesting to see how he reacts. Raphael should benefit from the more traditional layoff. The Brazilian fends off the early takedowns, scores a few of his own, and chews Sterling up on the feet for the duration – my prediction is Raphael Assuncao to defeat Aljamain Sterling by decision.

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170lbs- Bobby Nash (8-1-0) vs Li Jingliang (11-4-0)

In the Welterweight division, “The Leech” Li Jingliang gets a new opponent on short notice when he takes on the debuting Bobby Nash. Li scored an opening round KO of Anton Zafir in his last bout and has alternated wins and losses over his last 5 contests. Nash fought twice in 2016, winning both fights, including a KO of former UFC fighter Lewis Gonzalez- he has been victorious in his last 6 outings.

Both men are 6’0″, but Nash will have a 3″ reach advantage. The American is the younger man by 2-years and is replacing Yancy Medeiros on roughly 1-month’s notice.

The last 2 wins recorded by “The Leech” both came by knockout, pushing his career total to 3. He has compiled a 5-1 record in fights ending by submissions- winning 4 by guillotine. On the cards, he is a .500 fighter at 3-3. Nash has stopped his foe in 7 of his 8 wins, 4 by knockout. Beyond his 1-1 record on the cards from early in his career, Nash has never gone beyond the second round.

Nash has some pop in his hands, exemplified in his knockout of Gonzalez. The majority of his offense comes in single strikes, without anything overly flashy. Jingliang has shown some improvement in his striking, augmented by his aggressive forward pressure. However, his UFC knockouts have come over opponents’ with questionable chins. The key to this fight will be the wrestling exchanges. Nash used a pretty effective sprawl to ward off Gonzalez’s shot, but he was routinely allowing his foe to get in on his hips. In an earlier fight, he was stalled out in the clinch and taken down multiple times before catching a guillotine off his back.

The grinding nature of Li is difficult to overcome under normal conditions. On short notice and at a higher altitude, Nash, who normally ends bouts early, is going to struggle to hold up in a longer contest. Bobby needs an early finish, but Li will find success breaking him down in the clinch and on the mat- my prediction is Li Jingliang to defeat Bobby Nash by decision.

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205lbs- Luis Henrique da Silva (12-1-0) vs Jordan Johnson (6-0-0)

Luis Henrique “Frankenstein” da Silva looks for a quick rebound as he gets back in the cage to take on UFC neophyte Jordan Johnson. da Silva started his UFC run with a pair of finishes, but was submitted by Paul Craig last December. Undefeated, Johnson went 3-0 in 2016, defeating a trio of adversaries with a combined 21-6 record.

da Silva is an inch taller, but will give up 3 inches of reach. Luis has an almost 2-1 experience advantage.

The Brazilian is coming off his first defeat, after knocking out 11 of his first 13 opponents- 8 in the opening frame. Jordan secured 4 wins by submission, including his most recent tap out coming in the 3rd round. He has just a single TKO victory on his record, but score a sub via punches. His last bout was a 5-round decision victory.

As his record would indicate, Johnson’s focus is on grounding his opponent. He relies mainly on close range trips and throws to get the job done, but will also change levels and drive through his opponent’s hips. Once on the top, he works to overwhelm his foe with strikes and transitions- leading to a possible submission opportunity. “Frankenstein” found himself on the defensive once he hit the mat against Craig. He struggled to keep up with the aggressive grappling offensive of his foe both from top and bottom position. If he can keep the fight standing, he clearly has finishing power. That being said, da Silva is wild and takes a lot of damage. Johnson will exchange, but throws mainly big overhand strikes- often ducking under to shoot.

da Silva has struggled against opponents looking to grapple with him. His cardio was a major issue in his last fight and will be even more of a vulnerability here. Johnson’s recent bouts have shown he can carry his pace without a major drop off and his aggressive grappling attack will wear his da Silva down- my prediction is Jordan Johnson to defeat Henrique da Silva by submission.

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185lbs- Eric Spicely (9-2-0) vs Alessio Di Chirico (10-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Eric “The Dream Catcher” Spicely battles it out with the Italian Alessio Di Chirico. Di Chirico is coming off of a split decision win over Garreth McLellan. Spicely shocked many with his upset win over Top 15 ranked Thiago Santos after suffering a submission loss to Sam Alvey.

The younger man by 3-years, Di Chirico is an inch shorter but will have an inch reach advantage.

The American comes into the fight with a 78% finishing rate over his 9 wins, submitting 5 opponents. Of his 7 stoppages, all but 2 came in the opening round compared to a 2-0 record on the scorecards. His lone defeat came via the aforementioned sub. Alessio has split his 8 wins inside the distance evenly between submissions and knockouts. After his last fight, he is 2-1 in decisions, going the distance in each of his last 3 outings.

This pairing presents a distinct clash of styles. Spicely will look to clinch and drag his foe to the mat as soon as possible. Di Chirico has shown a willingness to compete on the floor, but he would be best served to keep this fight standing. He will have to find a way to maintain enough separation to consistently win the striking battles. His tendency to throw single strikes has allowed his opponents to close the gap with regularity. He has given up just a trio of TDs over his 2 fights, but he was also swept almost immediately after scoring an early completion in his debut. “The Dream Catcher” has limited experience beyond the opening round, which could play a factor in the thin air in Denver. It could also hurt Di Chirico if he forced to expend too much energy defending the early grappling onslaught.

Look for Spicely to back Di Chirico into the cage, take him down with regularity, and start chaining submissions together until something sticks- my prediction is Eric Spicely to defeat Alessio Di Chirico by submission.

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205lbs- Marcos Rogerio de Lima (14-5-1) vs Jeremy Kimball (14-5-0)

Stepping onto the big stage with limited time to prepare, Jeremy Kimball makes his UFC debut against knockout artist Marcos Rogerio de Lima in the Light Heavyweight division. de Lima has alternated wins and losses over his last 4 fights, most recently submitting to an arm triangle choke from Gadzhimurad Antigulov- he is 3-2 in the UFC. Kimball went 3-0 in 2016, including a win over Matt Van Buren- he has several noteworthy names on his record including Keith Berry, Chidi Njokuani, Drew McFedries, and Chris Camozzi- losing to the latter.

Kimball is stepping in on a week’s notice. He is the younger man by 6-years, but will give up an inch of height and appears to have come in under the 205-pound mark on several occasions. He has also missed weight, while looking like he could cut down a division if he wanted to.

The Brazilian is a berzerker, scoring 10 wins by knockout- 8 in the first frame. He also has a trio of submission wins to go along with a pair of losses via tap out. He is just 1-1-1 on the cards, winning his only decision back in 2010 over Paulo Filho. Kimball has recorded 10 wins by knockout and 1 submission victory. All 5 of his losses were via submission and he is 3-0 in decisions. He went 1-1 under the Bellator banner.

Physically, Kimball is fairly unassuming and as mentioned above, probably could cut down to Middleweight or even further. He offers a decent kicking arsenal- nothing flashy, but functional. He is a willing striker and moves pretty well. In his fight with Camozzi, he was simply overwhelmed and submitted- which has been his Achilles heel throughout his career. It would appear that only 1 of Lima’s 2 major vulnerabilities are in play here. It doesn’t appear that Kimball has the skill set to exploit Rogerio on the mat, but fighting in Denver, the cardio factor could be an issue in a longer bout. The altitude could also compromise Jeremy, considering the lack of a legit camp with the short notice.

This contest most likely won’t be going the full 15-minutes, regardless of who gets their hand raised. de Lima’s has an underrated submission game to go along with his punching prowess and should run over Kimball on the basis of one or the other- maybe a combo of the 2, my prediction is Marocs Rogerio de Lima to defeat Jeremy Kimball by submission.

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125lbs- Alexandre Pantoja (16-2-0) vs Eric Shelton (10-2-0)

A pair of debuting Flyweight prospects and TUF 24 tournament semi-finalists collide as Alex Pantoja meets Eric “Showtime” Shelton. Shelton is coming off of a 4-fight winning streak and won his opening 2 bouts before falling to Tim Elliott in the semi-finals. Pantoja, ranked #1 in the tournament, was defeated by Hiromasa Ogikubo in the semis but has won 9 consecutive fights overall.

Shelton, who was ranked 15th on the show, is an inch taller along with having an inch reach advantage over Pantoja. The American is also the younger man by a year.

A Nova Uniao product, Alexandre has a nice spread of wins with 12 finishes split evenly down the middle and a 4-2 record on the cards. He has picked up stoppages in all 3 rounds and suffered his last pro defeat back in 2010 to top-ranked contender Jussier Formiga. Shelton’s record in 15-minutes fights is marginally less successful at 3-2, including a 5-round split decision loss in his last defeat. He has finished 7 opponents overall, 5 by sub. On the show, both men won their first bout by submission, took their second by decision, and lost their last by decision.

On the feet, the Brazilian relies on a steady flow of right jabs and kicks to carry his offense. Pantoja will also target the body with both techniques, but struggled in his TUF loss to produce enough offense to carry the action. He does some of his best work in the clinch. With a little more diversified attack, Shelton moves well behind a combination left jabs, straight rights, and the occasional uppercut. He uses a lot of fakes to disguise his offense. If dragged into a brawl, his technique will slip. Pantoja will shoot for takedowns in pursuit of gaining superior position, but if taken down he has an active guard both looking to attack and return to a vertical base. Unfortunately, he lost the ground battle in final TUF fight, spending too much time on the defensive. Shelton will also look for takedowns, but also showed a good sprawl and decent submission defense against Elliott.

While the pre-TUF experience factor clearly favours Pantoja, the American has the greater room for growth which can be a big factor coming off of the show. Look for Shelton to make Pantoja work hard on the early TDAs and be less affected by the altitude as the fight progresses. Shelton simply outworks him on the feet and holds the more consequential top position- my prediction is Eric Shelton to defeat Alexandre Pantoja by decision.

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155lbs- Jason Gonzalez (10-3-0) vs JC Cottrell (17-3-0)

To open the card, Jason Gonzalez makes his second walk to the Octagon when he takes on fellow promotional sophomore “Superstar” JC Cottrell. Gonzalez lasted a little under 2-minutes in his debut against Drew Dober- he had previously won 6 consecutive bouts. Cottrell went the distance in his debut, but still lost to Michel Prazeres- he was also riding a 6-fight winning streak.

At 6’2″, Gonzalez is 5 inches taller than his opponent and will have a 3″ reach advantage. He is the younger man by a year.

Gonzalez has yet to go the distance in any career fight. He owns 6-wins by submission, including a 2012 RNC win over UFC veteran Christos Giagos. He has suffered a pair of knockout defeats along with a 2012 submission loss. While Cottrell is 4-1 on the scorecards, he has also submitted 11 foes- most by some form of choke. He has tapped once and is 2-2 in fights ending by knockout.

One of the biggest red flags surrounding Gonzalez is his lack of long fight experience. Beyond his 2011 debut, he hasn’t fought passed the middle round in any of his last 12-bouts. This concern is further magnified by the elevation factor that comes with fighting in Denver. Conversely, JC has gone 3 or more rounds on 8 different occasions, including a pair of 4-rounders and a 5-round win in 2014. Gonzalez’s TDD didn’t look overly strong on the regional scene and Cottrell is a decent enough wrestler to put him on his back with regularity. This should give JC ample opportunity to wear his opponent down and take the striking skills of Gonzalez out of the equation.

Both men are very early in their respective UFC careers and neither one of their debuts were of the conventional nature. These factors make it difficult to determine how they will perform this time around. The numbers indicate that Cottrell has more avenues to victory and a greater window in which to get the job done- my prediction is JC Cottrell to defeat Jason Gonzalez by submission.

125lbs- #8 John Moraga (16-5-0) vs #15 Sergio Pettis (14-2-0)

Getting the bump up to the main card, Flyweights John Moraga and Sergio Pettis look to continue their push to the top of the division in a crucial bout for both sides. Moraga was last seen dropping a split decision to Matheus Nicolau for his second consecutive loss- he had picked up back to back submission wins prior to his recent downturn. Pettis has rallied from his 2015 upset loss to Ryan Benoit, defeating both Chris Cariaso and Chris Kelades by decision.

Both men are 5’6″, but Pettis will have a 3″ reach advantage. Sergio is the younger man by 9-years.

Pettis is 5-2 in the UFC with both of his defeats coming via stoppage when he was most likely ahead with the judges. He is a perfect 8-0 on the cards with his 6 finishes split evenly between submissions and knockouts. Sergio has yet to finish an opponent inside the Octagon. Moraga’s last 2 wins pushed his submission total to 8. He has lost his last 2 decisions, with his last 15-minute win coming by split decision. Moraga won his debut by TKO.

Despite climbing the ladder very quickly in his UFC career, Moraga has just a single win on his record over a fighter currently residing on the UFC’s Flyweight roster. Offensively, John has been out-landed on the feet in 6 of the last 8 fights. He has a decent boxing attack, but too often he allows his opponent to strike first. While coming from a wrestling background, the former challenger’s wrestling game hasn’t served him well of late. He has averaged just over 0.5 completions per fight, giving up 23 takedowns compared to just 4 of his own.

On average, Sergio’s offensive output is superior to that of Moraga by a ratio of almost 2-1. He throws slick combinations, augmented by a decent kicking attack. He doesn’t have a tonne of pop in his strikes, but his speed allows him to routinely beat his opponent to the punch. The offensive wrestling of Pettis has also taken a notable upturn in recent contests. He has completed 6-takedowns over his last 3 bouts, including a trio of completions against Chris Cariaso. His defense has also improved as well, but if he gets taken down he is active off his back with submissions and sweeps.

While Moraga has faced the superior level of competition, Pettis is building some decent momentum of late. Moraga might be best served to use his wrestling and put Sergio on his back for the duration of the bout. Conversely, Moraga’s struggle with staying vertical and Sergio’s recent wrestling success could see the opposite scenario materialize. Pettis’s work rate and willingness to push forward combined with a couple of takedowns will give him the edge over the full 15-minutes, my prediction is Sergio Pettis to defeat John Moraga by decision.

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265lbs- Aleksei Oleinik (50-10-1) vs Viktor Pesta (10-3-0)

In a battle of European Heavyweights, Viktor Pesta of the Czech Republic meets the Ukraine’s Aleksei “The Boa Constrictor” Oleinik. Pesta has lost back to back fights after a second round KO loss against Marcin Tybura. Oleinik returned from a prolonged layoff and lost a decision to Daniel Omielanczuk to end his 11-fight winning streak.

Pesta is an inch taller, but will give up 3 inches of reach with both men weighing around the 240 mark. Pesta is the younger man by 13-years.

The Czech grinder has been knocked out in back to back fights after showing a decent chin in his debut decision defeat. He is 3-1 on the cards to go along with 4 wins by knockout and a trio of submission wins. Oleinik has a massive experience advantage with 61 total fights. A Master of Sport in Combat Sambo and BJJ Black belt, he has recorded 41-wins by submission- most by some form of choke.

Pesta has relied heavily on his takedowns over his UFC run. Over his first 3 contests, he completed 10 takedowns, including 5 in his loss to Derrick Lewis. Viktor will either shoot in from the outside or clinch up and change levels to pull out his opponent’s base. Once on the mat, he utilizes a smothering top game to control his opponent while doing damage. Pesta’s striking is a secondary aspect of his attack. His volume is lacking and his tendency to lunged forward when engaging leaves him open to counters.

The layoff certainly could have played a role in his last performance, but pushing 40 and with bad knees, Oleinik’s issues could have been more than just the prolonged break. That being said, he got off to a strong start and spent the majority of the opening frame dominating the grappling exchanges. Everything that Aleksei does is heavy, not pretty, but heavy. He grinds opponents down, constantly looking to advance position and setup sub opportunities. He has won multiple fights via the unorthodox scare-hold headlock sub. On the feet, he slings heavy leather at close range while looking to close the distance.

Pesta is the younger man, but he appears to have less tools in the tool bag than his foe. His striking lacks the ferocity of Oleinik’s offerings both in power and volume. This will force him to rely heavily on his primary weapon and by taking Oleinik down, it plays directly into his submission-heavy attack. Oleinik struggled in the second half of his last fight, but against a much more experienced opponent who was able to find some success on the feet. That won’t be the case here. Look for Pesta to struggle with the aggression of the veteran and eventually wind up on his back where his submission defense will be put to the test- my prediction is Aleksei Oleinik to defeat Viktor Pesta by submission.

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155lbs- Tony Martin (10-3-0) vs Alex White (11-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, Tony Martin looks to build on his most recent UFC victory when he takes on Alex “The Spartan” White. White is coming off a win over Artem Lobov to even his Octagon ledger at 2-2. Martin most recently defeated Felipe Oliveiri to improve to 2-1 over his last 3 fights- he earned a submission win over Fabricio Camoes at UFC 179.

White hasn’t fought in just over 11-months, while Martin has been on the shelf for nearly a year. Both men are 6’0″, but Martin will have a 2″ reach advantage. White has previously competed at Featherweight prior to this contest, moving up to take this fight on 1-month’s notice.

“The Spartan” owns the more diversified record, with 9 finishes- 5 by submission. He is 2-1 on the scorecards with 5 first round finishes. Martin’s record is more indicative of a specialist. Of his 10 wins, 8 have come by submission- showcasing a variety of holds. Tony has been subbed twice, both in the UFC, and is 2-1 in decisions. Both men arrived in the promotion undefeated.

White showcased his power in his debut, stopping a veteran fighter cold in under 2-minutes. Alex throws a solid right hand, cracking Artem on a couple of occasions. He is willing to stand and trade, but defensively he is quite hittable. Lobov was having success early, catching him in the pocket and Lucas Martins KOed him in the final round of a good scrap. White needs to avoid pushing forward behind his punches without moving his head. He did pick up a trio of takedowns in his last fight, but hasn’t shown his previously successful submission skills.

While adding to his submission totals, Martin demoed improved striking in his last bout. He continuously landed a strong right hand and pressured his foe. Martin did end up on the wrong end of the striking totals at 80-67, absorbing nearly 30 low kicks over 15 minutes. A BJJ Brown belt, White’s strength is his submission game. He has a physically overwhelming top position presence and while he has landed at least 1 takedown in 4 of 5 fights- he completes just 21% of his attempts. The big knock on Tony has been his cardio. After getting off to strong starts in multiple fights he has faded badly and either been finished or simply outworked.

White is moving up a division on short notice, but with a month to prepare he may actually benefit from the jump. He will want to keep this contest vertical as much as possible, especially early. Alex can put up some decent striking totals and is the superior offensive striker. If Martin can take him down, he should be able to overwhelm the former 145er. The big question is, without an early finish- how will Tony’s cardio hold up. White could be rendered defensive early on, but Martin’s lack of a strong wrestling attack is going to cost him. Martin might win the opening round, but he will start to slow and White will get the better of the striking exchanges in rounds 2 and 3- my prediction is Alex White to defeat Tony Martin by decision.

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155lbs- Devin Powell (8-1-0) vs Drakkar Klose (6-0-1)

In a battle of debuting prospects, Devin Powell goes toe to toe with MMA Lab product Drakkar Klose in the Lightweight division. Powell has torn through 6 consecutive opponents, including his only WSOF appearance. Klose has yet to taste defeat, with his only non-victorious effort coming in the form of a split-draw in early 2016.

At 6’0″ even, Powell is 3 inches taller than Klose but they will share a 70″ reach. Klose is just 8-days older than his opponent.

After scoring 4 TKO victories over his first 5 bouts, Klose has gone the distance in each of his last 2 outings to improve his record to 2-0-1 on the scorecards. Drakkar has recorded a pair of opening round stoppages to go along with 2 more in the middle frame. Powell’s only loss came on the cards back in 2013. All 5 of Powell’s finishes, 3 by tap out, have gone down in round 1. He is 3-1 in decisions.

Powell enters the UFC as a product of the Dana White talent search series. Most reports regarding the newcomer are not overly complimentary. His last 4 opponents have accounted for a combined record of 33-31. In his last fight, he wobbled his adversary with a high kick before locking up a standing guillotine for the tap. All indications are that he is a kick-first fighter that is willing to trade on the feet. His forward aggression can transition to a takedown attempt, but he is more apt to look for a submission instead of grinding up the clock from top position.

Klose’s offense is built around his punching power. He throws decent combinations, set up by a strong jab. In an attempt to draw out his opponent’s attack, he will work some head fakes and look to counter strike. There isn’t much tape of Drakkar on the mat, but in one of his recent wins he dropped his foe with a hard right hand and scored the finished with heavy knees to his opponent’s side. In recent action, Klose has seen a rise in average fight time which usually comes with an increase in competition. He is also stepping into this contest on 3-week’s notice as a late injury replacement.

There is a lot of unknown surrounding this fight; with both men making their debuts, the short notice factor for Klose, and the overall limited amount of experience on both sides. Klose appears to be the more gifted fighter both technically and athletically. Powell’s reliance on a kick first offense with a low-level wrestling attack to back it up will make it hard for him to handle the output of a more conventional striker like Klose. There is no telling how either man will perform under these circumstances, but my prediction is Drakkar Klose to defeat Devin Powell by TKO.

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115lbs- Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-3-0) vs Nina Ansaroff (6-5-0)

Headlining the Fight Pass undercard, a pair of Top 15 hopefuls collide in the Women’s Strawweight division as Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger fights Nina “The Strina” Ansaroff. JJL is 0-2 in the UFC with losses to Randa Markos and Tecia Torres. Ansaroff boasts a similar Octagon record, dropping decisions to Juliana Lima and Justine Kish.

Jones-Lybarger is 2 inches taller than her adversary, but will give up an inch of reach.

With just a single finish on her record, Jones-Lybarger is no stranger to the judge’s scorecards. She is 5-3 in decisions. Ansaroff has picked up a 4-pack of knockouts to go along with a 1-1 record in fights ending by submission. “The Strina” is a dismal 1-4 on the cards.

Lybarger is a willing combatant in the striking department. She sits down on her strikes and will trade in the pocket. The short notice of her debut made it hard for her to match the pace of Torres, but she landed 79 significant strikes against Markos over 3-rounds. JJL throws a long left jab and will sling a hook from the right side. As her record indicates, she doesn’t have a lot of power which makes it difficult for her to back her foe up when exchanging. Jocelyn tends to dip her head when attacking which opens her up to counters.

Against a dangerous striker in Kish, Ansaroff held her own. She landed quick combos with decent pop and augmented her hands with a snappy push kick to the body. Nina turned the aggression of Kish against her, countering as she pushed forward. In the second round, she appeared to hurt Justine with a hard combination and a high kick in the aftermath. She landed just a single takedown, but routinely looked to tie up Kish in the clinch when they closed. If the opportunity presents itself, look for Ansaroff to jump on a submission opportunity.

With both girls willing to exchange in the pocket, this fight has a lot of potential. Both girls throw with decent volumes, but the power edge lies with Nina. Her accuracy was impressive against Kish and her counter striking will serve her well against over-extensions of JJL. The kicking attack will also be a key weapon for Ansaroff. Nina could also opt to look for a takedown, but she needs to avoid giving up position in pursuit of a sub. Jones-Lybarger’s willingness to absorb punishment to stay in range is going to cost her here, my prediction is Nina Ansaroff to defeat Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger by TKO.

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265lbs- Walt Harris (8-5-0) vs Chase Sherman (9-2-0)

In the Heavyweight division, Walt “The Big Ticket” Harris takes on Chase “The Vanilla Gorilla” Sherman. In an unsuccessful debut, Sherman lost a decision to rising prospect Justin Ledet. Harris is 1-4 inside the Octagon after losing a narrow split decision to Shamil Adburakhimov.

At 6’5″, Harris is an inch taller than his opponent, but will give up an inch of reach. Sherman is the younger many by 6-years and both fighters should weigh in around 250 pounds.

Harris has been a knockout or bust fighter, earning all 8 of his wins via KO or TKO. He has been knocked out twice and has an 0-3 record on the scorecards. Despite the split decision outcome in his last fight, he is a dismal 0-4 when forced to fight beyond round 1. Sherman is coming off just the second loss of his pro career. He dropped a 2014 TKO defeat to Alex Nicholson. Chase’s debut was his first bout to last longer than 5-minutes, including 6-wins before the 2-minute mark. All 9 of his wins have come by knockout.

“Big Ticket” appears to have all the tools to be a force, but inside the Octagon he simply has not performed. He did finish Cody East with a big right hand, in a bout where he was probably losing the first round. Averaging 2.36 SLpM and carrying a -0.81 striking exchange rate, Walt has had issues with getting outworked. He has some pop in his hands and will pair his punches together, but he often defaults to single strikes between periods of inactivity. Harris’s his kicking attack is a little stiff, but he still throws with power.

Sherman’s strikings trends toward the stiff side. His raw athletic ability helped him to overcome his technical shortcomings on the regional level. Against Ledet, the superior striker routinely beat Chase to the punch and fed the Mississippi-native a steady diet of jabs. Sherman did land some chopping low kicks, connecting 26-times to his foe’s lower half- almost 50% of his offense. While his chin held up, he got cracked with a 100+ striking onslaught. His defense is porous and he leaves his chin up and his head on the center line.

Harris’s hasn’t faired well in the UFC, but he has added a depth of experience that Sherman has yet to gain. Sherman’s level of comfort should improve for his second bout, but that might not lead to a better outcome. Harris is the quicker fighter and will have the edge in overall striking capability. The frequency at which Sherman got hit by Ledet is concerning especially if Harris is able to land at a similar rate. Harris will beat Sherman to the punch and eventually land something of significance, my prediction is Walt Harris to defeat Chase Sherman by TKO.

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205lbs- Bojan Mihajlovic (10-4-0) vs Joachim Christensen (13-4-0)

The second fight of the undercard pits Denmark against Serbia in the Light Heavyweight division as Joachim Christensen meets Bojan Mihajlovic. Christensen made an unsuccessful first UFC showing last October, losing to Luis Henrique da Silva by submission- he had won 5 consecutive fights. Mihajlovic debuted in the Heavyweight division, lasting just 94-seconds with Francis Ngannou to snap his 10-fight win streak.

Bojan will be debuting as a Light Heavyweight, he weighed 228-pounds for his last fight. He will give up 4 inches of height and 3 inches of reach to Christensen who is the older combatant by 2-years.

With nothing in between, Mihajlovic has 6 wins and a pair of defeats in the opening round and a 4-2 record on the scorecards. Both of his submission victories came early in his career, helping him to rebound from an 0-3 start. Christensen is coming off the first loss inside the distance after compiling 4 wins by knockout and 5 more by submission. He is 4-3 when the judges get involved.

Looking a little soft and certainly undersized in his debut, moving to 205 is a smart move for Mihajlovic. However, the question still remains; how does the cut impact his performance? While not landing much against Ngannou, he showed his movement and speed sticking on the outside for most of the fight. Traditionally, he likes to kick from range before closing the gap to put his opponent on the floor.

Christensen put together a decent effort and even dropped da Silva prior to tapping out. The Dane has faith in his chin and ate some big shots from the Brazilian. Joachim will work quick combinations, attacking with volume and willingly eating strikes while moving forward. Look for him to attack with power from the right side and mix in some hard low kicks. Once he clinches, trips takedowns are his preferred method to put his opponent on the floor.

The Serbian is no stranger to going deep in fights, but he appears to lack the volume to match Christensen over a 3-round contest. The pressure-based striking onslaught of Joachim will serve to shut down the kick-heavy attack of his opponent. Unable to out-point his adversary, the solid chin of Christensen will make it difficult for Mihajlovic to score the finish. Christensen will continue to move forward and test the effects of the first-time weightcut, my prediction is Joachim Christensen to defeat Bojan Mihajlovic by TKO.

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265lbs- Dmitrii Smoliakov (8-1-0) vs Cyril Asker (7-2-0)

Opening the night’s action, Heavyweight Cyril “Silverback” Asker battles Russian-born Dmitrii Smoliakov. Asker is coming off a debut defeat at the hands of Jared Cannonier- he had won 5 consecutive bouts to get the call to the big show. Smoliakov also fell in his debut, losing via submission to Luis Henrique for the first loss of his pro career.

Smoliakov is 2 inches taller than his opponent and should weigh-in roughly 5-pounds heavier. They share an identical 74″ reach and Asker is the younger man by 2-years.

The big Russian’s finishing rate on the regional scene has been impressive, stopping all 8 of his wins inside the opening round. Smoliakov has split his wins evenly between knockouts and submission, including a 4-pack before the 60-second mark. Asker’s last trio of bouts have all ended in the first frame, with a 2-1 record, including a TKO victory over Octagon alumni Ruan Potts. The native of France has picked up 3 of his 5 finishes by knockout and is 2-0 on the scorecards. To go along with his knockout loss in his debut, his other defeat came via submission.

Smoliakov showed the signs of a fighter taking a step up in competition after having blasted through all of his previous competition. After slowing down in the second half of round 1, he put up little resistance in the second round and was easily submitted. Against Asker, he will need to find more success with his striking and potentially look to incorporate some takedowns whenever possible.

While the fight lasted just over half a round and didn’t end in his favour, Asker did show indications of a decent striking game. He landed a couple of power strikes, but predominantly paired together his punches in short effective combinations. After a failed takedown attempt, the speed of Cannonier gave the Frenchman trouble- leading to the knockout.

Asker is coming off the first knockout defeat of his career, but it came against an opponent who’s stock is rising every day. Outside of stuffing a few early takedowns, Smoliakov simply didn’t look good. His less than adequate cardio isn’t going to hold up at this level, where he simply won’t be able to smash his way through every opponent. Dmitrii’s single note punching was coming up too short to place much faith in his ability to score the early knockout. Asker needs to work his combinations and press his foe into the cage, forcing him to carry his weight. Once the action starts to move towards round 2, the Russian will experience another slowdown rendering him defenseless- my prediction is Cyril Asker to defeat Dmitrii Smoliakov by TKO/

170lbs- #6 JOHNY HENDRICKS (17-5-0) vs #8 NEIL MAGNY (18-6-0)

In the headlining fight of the UFC 207 prelims, former Welterweight champion Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks takes on Neil Magny in a battle of Top 10 Welterweights. Hendricks has lost back to back fights and has just a pair of wins over his last 5 contests- holding victories over Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler during that span. Magny just had his 3-fight winning streak snapped in a loss to Lorenz Larkin- he had picked up wins over the likes of Hector Lombard and Kelvin Gastelum.

In the headlining fight of the UFC 207 prelims, former Welterweight champion Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks takes on Neil Magny in a battle of Top 10 Welterweights. Hendricks has lost back to back fights and has just a pair of wins over his last 5 contests- holding victories over Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler during that span. Magny just had his 3-fight winning streak snapped in a loss to Lorenz Larkin- he had picked up wins over the likes of Hector Lombard and Kelvin Gastelum.

At 6’3″, Magny is 6 inches taller than his foe and will have a lengthy 11″ reach advantage. Magny is the younger man by 4-years.

Hendricks has struggled in recent fights to find the form that led him to the title in 2014. A former elite level NCAA D1 wrestler, Hendricks is capable of winning a fight solely on the basis of his wrestling. Over his last 3 wins, he completed 23 takedowns- 12 against Carlos Condit. Hendricks has fight-stopping power in hands, recording 8 wins by knockout- none since UFC 154 in 2012. While the knockouts have dried up, “Bigg Rigg” worked to up his volume through combination striking. He landed 269 strikes over 2-fights against Lawler. All that considered, Johny simply has failed to execute in his recent defeats. Most notably, he seemed completely at a loss dealing with the distance against Stephen Thompson and struggled to match the output of Gastelum.

Hendricks has battled through some tough weight cuts and some people have made correlations between the arrival of USADA and Johny’s career downturn.

Magny is coming off of just the second defeat in his last 12 fights. During his climbed out of a 1-2 start to his UFC career, he showed a pair of noteworthy improvements. The ability to use his reach and keep his foe on the outside became central to his success. His strikes absorbed per minute has increased over recent contests, but still sits at a respectable 2.08. He set a career high for offensive output at 148 significant connections against Lombard, but he was in serious trouble early in that fight. Prior to the Larkin knockout, Magny was hurt by both Hector and Hyun Gyu Lim. The offensive wrestling has also been a point of improvement for Magny as well. He scored a combined 10 takedowns in his decision wins over Erick Silva and Kelvin Gastelum.

At UFC 202, Magny was scheduled to face Dong Hyun Kim before Kim was removed from the card and replaced by Larkin.

Hendricks has been losing to elite level competition, but he is clearly not on the same level as he was just a couple years ago. Magny’s reach is going to be the key to his success here. By keeping Johny at the end of his punches he will both limit the potential for Hendricks to land strikes and make it difficult for Johny to shoot for takedowns. For Hendricks, he would be best served to rely on his wrestling to put Magny on his back and keep him there. Johny has put a lot of pressure on himself to win this fight if he intends to continue his career, but his recent struggles with distance management and volume will continue here- my prediction is Neil Magny to defeat Johny Hendricks by decision.

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170lbs- #9 DONG HYUN KIM (21-3-1 1NC) vs #12 TAREC SAFFIEDINE (16-5-0)

Getting the push to the main card, former Strikeforce Welterweight champion Tarec “Sponge” Saffiedine makes his third appearance of 2016 when he takes on the “Stun Gun” Dong Hyun Kim. Kim has won back to back fights, finishing both Josh Burkman and Dominic Waters to improve to 6-1 over his last 7 bouts. Saffiedine is looking to rebound from a defeat at the hands of Rick Story, the loss dropped him to 2-2 inside the Octagon.

Kim is 4 inches taller than his foe and will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. Tarec is the younger man by 5-years.

The last man to wear the Strikeforce Welterweight strap, has struggled to find his footing in the UFC. Against Story, Saffiedine fought with a bad cut on his leg and spent the majority of the bout on the defensive. He does his best work at range, chopping away at his opponent’s leg with brutal low kicks. He will also throw round and straight kicks to the body along with targeting his foe’s head. A calculated striker, Tarec switches stances and is patient when looking for openings. In his debut, he landed over 100 significant strikes, but hasn’t come close to that level of output since. Defensively, his TDD is very good. While he has defended 87% of his opponents’ TDAs, he routinely got stuck on the wall in his last fight and was unable to create separation.

The biggest knock on “Sponge” is his lack of power. Despite a striking-centric attack, he has just a single win by knockout. This can create issues against aggressive strikers that he can’t dissuade from constantly pushing forward.

South Korea’s Kim is a Black belt in Judo and a BJJ Purple belt. After building a reputation as a grinder, Kim has recently upped the tempo of his game and finished his opponent in each of his last 4 bouts. Dong is far from a high volume striker, but he is aggressive- constantly moving forward to engage and he has undervalued power. Kim has woven together his full-blast striking attack with his heavy clinch game. Against Burkman he habitually stifled Josh on the cage, grinding him into the wall and eventually submitting him on the mat. Dong’s uptick in aggression can leave him open to getting hit and Tyron Woodley violently knocked him out in just 61-seconds back in 2014.

Kim has landed at least 1 takedown in each of 11 UFC victories. However, through his first 7 wins he averaged 3.14 completions per fight compared to just a single takedown per bout over his last 4 wins.

This fight offers a compelling contrast of styles; Kim wants to compete at close range and Saffiedine needs to maintain separation to be effective. As mentioned above, Tarec doesn’t have the type of power to back his opponent up. But, if the Belgium fighter can endure the opening round and force Kim to over-exert himself; the Korean has been known to gas. Kim’s strong forward pressure will limit the success of Saffiedine’s biggest weapon- his kicking arsenal. Unless Kim completely exhausts himself in round 1, he will be able to back his foe up and frequently control the position along the wall for at least 2 stanzas. Tarec’s tendency to pick his spots at range will limit his effectiveness when he does have space- my prediction is Dong Hyun Kim to defeat Tarec Saffiedine by decision.

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185lbs- ANTONIO CARLOS JUNIOR (7-2-0 1NC) vs MARVIN VETTORI (11-2-0)

In the Middleweight division, TUF Brazil Heavyweight winner “Shoe face” Antonio Carlos Junior makes his seventh UFC appearance when he takes on promotional sophomore Marvin Vettori of Italy. Vettori subbed Alberto Uda in his debut after submitting another Brazilian in Igor Araujo in his final pre-UFC bout. Junior got back in the win column in his most recent outing, just 1 fight removed from his upset defeat at the hands of the growing legend that is Dan Kelly.

The Brazilian is 2 inches taller and will have a marked 5″ reach advantage. Vettori is younger by 3-years.

Vettori recently made the move to King’s MMA to help round out his game. The former Venator champion has submitted 8 opponents along with a pair of knockouts and a single submission win. Both of his defeats have come on the scorecards. In his last bout, Vettori countered an early takedown from Uda into a completed takedown of his own. He held top control for the majority of the round before skillfully transitioning to a guillotine for the tap. In pre-UFC footage, he has shown a willingness to give up position for submission with mixed results.

His striking is still a work in progress. Vettori does his best work in close range, specifically from the clinch where he will also look to drag his adversary to the mat.

A highly regarded BJJ Black belt, “Shoe face” has finished 5 of his 6 wins by submission- 2 in the UFC. Both of his octagon taps game in the third round. Interestingly enough, it was is cardio that failed him in his loss to Kelly. ACJ got off to a strong start, but as the fight progressed, Kelly was able to turn the action in his favour before garnering the stoppage in the final frame. Junior is coming off his UFC personal best 7 takedowns, pushing his total to 19 over 5 official contests. Once on the mat, Antonio is a strong top position player and is difficult to get out from under. He has also demonstrated a sound back mount, subbing Eddie Gordon by RNC.

On the feet, the Brazilian has some power, but his striking is the secondary aspect of his game.

Both men do their best work on the mat, but Carlos Junior is simply better. Patrick Cummings showed that he can be taken down, but Vettori doesn’t have that strong a wrestling game. “Shoe face” will find success putting Vettori on his back and holding the superior position. Vettori’s willingness to attack on the mat will create openings for Antonio to advance position and set up submission opportunities- my prediction is Antonio Carlos Junior to defeat Marvin Vettori by submission.
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170lbs- MIKE PYLE (27-12-1) vs ALEX GARCIA (13-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, long-time UFC veteran Mike “Quicksand” Pyle meets Tri-Star trained Alex “Dominican Nightmare” Garcia. Pyle is just 2-4 over his last 6-fights, most recently suffering a second round knockout defeat against Alberto Mina. Garcia is also coming off a stoppage defeat, losing by TKO to Sean Strickland and falling to 3-2 in the UFC.

At 6’0″ tall, Pyle is 3 inches taller than his foe and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Garcia is the younger man by 12 years.

With 17 fights inside the Octagon, Pyle has a wealth of experience to draw upon. Over his entire career, he has finished 16 opponents by submission, 7 by knockout and is 4-2 on the scorecards. The stoppage defeats have also started to pile up, with 6 losses by knockout and 4 by sub- 5 of his last 6 UFC losses have come by knockout. Pyle has vastly improved his striking, which led to a career resurgence. He does decent work from the clinch, landing hard elbows, knees, and short punches. Conversely, his chin is a clear point of vulnerability that heavy handed opponents continue to exploit.

Despite his lofty submission totals, “Quicksand” has not won by sub since 2010, 14-fights ago.

Of Garcia’s 13 career wins, 10 have come by stoppage, but only 1 in the UFC. Since making his promotional debut, Alex has experienced a notable increase in fight time. Prior to making the jump, he had stopped 8 of his 10 wins inside the opening round. In the UFC, he has just a single first round finish over 5 outings. Garcia hits hard on the feet and couples his power striking attack with a workable wrestling game. He has completed 19-takedowns over his last 4-bouts. When on the feet, Alex has power in his hands, throwing a hefty right hand and unloading the majority of his offense in single strikes.

Garcia’s cardio is a major concern. He has been known to fade, and was finished by Strickland late in the bout.

As mentioned above, Pyle has had issues early with power strikers and Garcia has struggled to maintain his pace in longer bouts. Both have pathways to victory, but “Quicksand” will have to survive early to take advantage of his foe’s susceptibility. If Alex opts to take Pyle down, he needs to be mindful of Pyle’s aggressive guard. That being said, Pyle’s chin is simply too vulnerable to overlook against a power puncher like the “Dominican Nightmare”. Garcia hits too hard and may only need to land once to finish his foe- my prediction is Alex Garcia to defeat Mike Pyle by knockout.

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170lbs- ALEX OLIVEIRA (15-3-1 1NC vs TIM MEANS (26-7-1)

With the changes to the card, just 1 fight remains on the Fight Pass portion of the prelims and it will feature Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira taking on “The Dirty Bird” Tim Means at 170-pounds. Oliveira has won back to back fights, including defeating former Bellator Lightweight champion Will Brooks in his last match. Means is an impressive 6-1 over his last 7 bouts, defeating Sabah Homasi at UFC 202 in his most recent venture to the Octagon.

Both men formerly fought at Lightweight. Means is 3 inches taller, but will give up an inch of reach to his foe. The Brazilian is the younger man by 4-years.

“The Dirty Bird” is known for his lethal Muay Thai striking arsenal, recording 18-wins by knockout. Means offers a variety of strikings tools and is dangerous both at range and in close. On the outside, he will use his right hand to disrupt the timing of his foe with a jab or by constantly pushing it forward. Tim finished John Howard with a left hand and he can counter strike as well. His kicking game is solid, chopping away at his opponent’s legs or throwing a push kick to the midsection. In the clinch, Means will unleash knees to the body and brutal slashing elbows to the head.

Means has a solid TDD at 63%, but has been taken down 5-times in his last 2 fights and has surrendered 17-takedowns over his 4 UFC losses.

Oliveira is coming off the biggest win of his career, but it was severely tainted by his inability to make weight. “Cowboy” took Brooks down 4-times and has leaned heavily on his mat game with 14-takedowns over his 5 UFC victories. He scores the majority of his completions from the clinch, working on his foe along the cage before changing levels. Once on the mat, he can either maintain control in the guard or opt to advance in pursuit of a submission. The latter, has cost him position in previous fights. Alex’s striking is decent, but he will get a little wild and overextend himself when trading. He has 10 wins by knockout.

Oliveira has limited his last 2 opponents to a combined 28 significant strikes over 28:30 of cage time.

This fight will most likely come down to how successful Oliveira is at implementing his takedown game. If he can put Means on his back with regularity, it will both score points and negate the striking repertoire of the American. As mentioned above, Oliveira scores the majority of his takedowns from the clinch which is an area where Means is very effective at doing damage from. Look for Tim to attack his opponent once they engage in close quarters, making the clinch position unfavourable for the Brazilian. This will discourage Oliveira from closing the distance and subsequently force him to trade at range with a superior striker. If taken down, Means need to remain active and get vertical quickly, but my prediction is Tim Means to defeat Alex Oliveira by TKO
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170lbs- BRANDON THATCH (11-4-0) vs NIKO PRICE (8-0-0)

Originally scheduled to open the card, Brandon “Rukus” Thatch and the debuting Niko “The Hybrid” Price get moved to the televised prelims for their Welterweight scrap. Thatch has lost a trio of bouts, all by submission, since starting his UFC run with back to back TKO finishes. Price debuts undefeated with a 2-0 record in 2016- he is coming off the first 3-round fight of his career.

Price is replacing Sabah Homasi on roughly 2-week’s notice. Thatch is 2 inches taller than Price, but the UFC newcomer is the younger man by 4-years.

Price has gone the distance just once in his career compared to 6 wins by knockout and a submission win in his first pro bout. The quality footage of Niko is hard to locate. He appears to be a scrapper, willing to stand in the pocket and trade. In one of his more recent wins, he unloaded a high volume barrage that both hurt and exhausted his opponent who was still standing when the fight was called. “The Hybrid” will change levels for a takedown periodically, but that is a secondary aspect of his offense.

Price has competed entirely under the Fight Time Promotion with his last 3 foes compiling a combined 21-15 record.

A fourth consecutive loss of any nature will almost certainly spell the end of the line for Thatch. He showed a lot of promise early, adding career knockouts 7 and 8 to his win total to start his UFC career. Thatch offers a dangerous Muay Thai attack. “Rukus” does a decent job of using his reach and will attack with a variety of weapons. To further magnify his reach advantage, Thatch cuts off the cage well and limits his opponent’s room to move. On the inside, he can do a lot of damage from the clinch by controlling his foe’s head and landing knees and elbows. During his current skid, Thatch’s defensive grappling has been a major focal point. His opponents have both found success taking him down and keeping him down before getting the finish.

Gunnar Nelson scored a knockdown before submitting Brandon, but over his last 4 fights he has given up 7 completed takedowns.

Price would be smart to focus his attack on exploiting the clear area of weakness in Thatch’s game. While he has shown glimpses of a ground game, it would be a clear deviation from what has made him successful in recent fights. Price is aggressive on the feet, which should open him up to counters against a longer and more technically sound striker like Thatch. Price’s first-round finish heavy record won’t hold up well on short notice against a sizable step up in competition. Thatch’s back is against the wall, but he comes through- my prediction is Brandon Thatch to defeat Niko Price by TKO.

205lbs- Luis Henrique da Silva (13-0-0) vs Paul Craig (8-0-0)

Headlining the FOX undercard, “Frankenstein” Luis Henrique da Silva takes on Paul “Bearjew” Craig in the Light Heavyweight division. Da Silva is 2-0 in the UFC after submitting Joachim Christensen at UFC Fight Night 96. Craig is an undefeated heavyweight out of Scotland, making his first appearance of 2016 after a 4-0 run in 2015.

Both men are 6’3″ and have a 76″ reach. The Brazilian is the younger man by a year.

Da Silva has stopped his opponent in all 13 of his pro bouts, with 11 wins by knockout- 8 in the opening round. He has had some issues getting off to a strong start in fights. He was lagging behind Jonathan Wilson in the debut, before Wilson tired and da Silva turned the contest in his favour. At distance, da Silva will wade forward behind a left jab and wide-ranging punches. The looping nature of his strikes leaves him open to counter strikes down the center. He is willing to eat strikes while engaging, but he was dropped by both Christensen and Jonathan Wilson.

Da Silva did score a nice sub on the mat, but he spent some time on his back in both fights and in his final regional bout against Ildemar Alcantara.

The Scotish submission artist picked up the BAMMA Light Heavyweight strap in his most recent outing. Craig has finished 7 of his 8 wins by tap out, including his title fight victory. He caught his opponent with a well-executed triangle choke to lock up the opening round sub. Only 1 of his fights has gone beyond the first round and it only lasted an additional 48-seconds. On the feet, the “Bearjew” throws some decent kicks from the right side to the body and head. The majority of his vertical output is focussed on closing the gap to set up his grappling attack.

Craig’s wrestling isn’t all that strong. He is decent in a scramble, but got put in some bad spots on the mat in his second to last fight.

The big Brazilian is all offense, willingly pushing forward to attempt to overrun his opponent with his relentless pressure. He can be taken down, but Craig’s lack of a consistent wrestling attack doesn’t offer a major threat. If Luis can defend the TDAs and without big power strikes coming back his way, “Frankenstein” should be able to engage at will. The Scot has been off for 13-months and is making his debut. Craig will find it difficult to stem the tide of offense and if the fight advances beyond round 1 his lack of experience in longer bouts will show- my prediction is Luis Henrique da Silva to defeat Paul Craig by TKO.Paragraph breaker

145lbs- Cole Miller (21-10-0 1NC) vs Mizuto Hirota (18-7-2)

In another bout reschedule from the UFC: Manilla card, long time UFC vet Cole “Magrinho” Miller takes on Mizuto “Pugnus” Hirota in the Featherweight division. Miller has lost back to back fights sandwiched around a No Contest against Jim Alers. Hirota is coming off a draw with Teruto Ishihara and is undefeated over his last 4-bouts.

A former Lightweight, Miller is 6 inches taller than his foe and will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage. Cole is the younger man by 3-years.

“Magrinho” has recently voiced his opinion on the UFC’s handling of the Manilla card and how it affected him personally. Based on his comments, Miller appears very dishearted with his current status in the company to the point where he is questioning his future in fighting. He hardly sounds like a motivated fighter. Inside the cage, the majority of Miller’s victories have come via submission, 15 of 21. A BJJ Black belt, he has won 4-times by Rear-naked choke, but he has a variety of techniques on his record. Cole’s long limbs make him hard to control on the floor and he has an active guard. On the feet, Miller will pump out a jab and can throw a pretty solid straight right.

Arguably Cole’s biggest shortfall is his lack of wrestling. While he has improved in recent fights, he has struggled to take his foes down with regularity.

Mizuto is returning to action after roughly 17-months on the shelf. A striker by trade, he has finished 10 opponents by knockout compared to a 7-6 record on the scorecards. The only fight ending via submission was his infamous defeat at the hands of Shinya Aoki. Hirota is a talented boxer, jabbing his way into the pocket where he will then attack with combinations. In his contestable decision loss to Rodrigo Damm, he out-landed the Brazilian by a count of 102 to 76. Prior to his most recent bout, Hirota had given up 11 takedowns over a 3-fight span in the UFC and Strikeforce.

Hirota won a pair of decisions during his run to the “Road to the UFC: Japan” tournament finals.

Miller’s mental state could be the biggest factor in this fight. He put forth a lackluster effort against Alex Caceres, getting beaten up on the feet and failing to make an impact on the mat until late in the bout. Miller struggles to win fights when he is unable find some success on the floor. For Hirota, giving up takedowns has been a key element of his struggles in North American competition. If he is able to stay vertical, his volume striking will usually carry him to victory. In this conest, Miller”s height will make for a difficult level change and he will struggle to put Mizuto on the mat, while getting out-worked on the feet- my prediction is Mizuto Hirota to defeat Cole Miller by decision.

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170lbs- Bryan Barberena (12-3-0) vs Colby Covington (10-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, Bryan “Bam Bam” Barberena looks to continue his current hot streak at the expense of Colby “Chaos” Covington. Covington has won back to back fights since suffering the first loss of his career to Warlley Alves, he is 5-1 in the UFC. Barberena is coming off an upset win over Alves in Brazil, he is 3-1 in the promotion.

They share the same 72″ reach, but Barberena is 1″ taller than Colby and 1 year younger.

Covington is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler has completed 21 takedowns over just 6 UFC fights. He is coming off his personal best 6-completions inside the Octagon. “Chaos” is a strong wrestler, either shooting from distance or bullying his foe into the cage before changing levels. Once on top, he has a smothering top-game, with the cardio needed to control and grind down his foe for the entire 3-rounds. His ability to break down his foe from top position had lead to multiple stoppage victories.

Covington is still developing as a striker, focusing mainly on closing the distance to set up his mat game.

Barberena continually defies the odds, picking up a couple of upsets including his wins over Alves and Sage Northcutt. “Bam Bam” is a gritty fighter who is willing to engage his opponent and outwork them over the duration of the fight. He has a tendency to be a bit of a slow starter, dropping the first game in multiple fights. Against Chad Laprise, he had success shutting down the striking of the Canadian with his clinch work.  At range, he throws hard straight punches and has stopped 8 opponents by knockout.

Barberena gave up a trio of takedowns in his debut and spent some time on his back in the Northcutt fight.

Baberena is a discouraging and exhaustive fighter to deal with, but so is Covington. “Bam Bam” likes to stay in his opponent’s face, which opens him up to getting taken down. Colby’s wrestling heavy attack is going to put “Bam Bam” on his back and keep him there. Covington won’t slow down, like many of Barberena’s opponents have in the past- my prediction is Colby Covington to defeat Bryan Barberena

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170lbs- James Moontasri (9-4-0) vs Alex Morono (12-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, James “Moonwalker” Montasri squares off with Alex Morono. Moontasri lost a unanimous decision to Alex Oliveira last July and is 2-3 in the UFC. Moron took a short notice bout against Kyle Noke and pulled off the upset, winning by split decision at UFC 195.

Morono is an inch taller and will have a 1″ reach advantage over Moontasri.

Moontasri is a Black belt in both Taekwondo and Muay Thai as well as a BJJ Purple belt. He has good dexterity in his legs, offering a dangerous arsenal of kicking techniques. He will also throw hard knee strikes to the body or head if his foe changes levels for a TDA. ‘Moonwalker’ hurt Joe Ellenberger with a well-timed uppercut and dropped Anton Zafir with a spinning back fist. James can also sit back and counter.  When attempting to defend TDAs, James will use a wide base against the cage to help remain vertical. Oliveria nullified Moontasri’s offense by keeping him pinned on the wall between takedown attempts.

Moontasri has been taken down in 4 of his 5 UFC contests- giving up 6 over his 3 defeats.

Morono has finished his opponent in his 9 of his 12 victories- 4 by knockout and 5 by submission. He has made quick work of 8 foes finishing them before the 5-minute mark. The win over Noke improved his record on the scorecards to an even 2-2. Building on an amateur kickboxing background, the striking component of Alex’s MMA game is his best asset. He KOed Valdir Araujo with a solid left hand and pairs his boxing with a serviceable kicking repertoire. His stance is a little unorthodox, standing very upright with an awkward cadence.

Despite getting the win, Morono gave up the only takedown of the fight and was out-landed by Noke 59-43.

This bout had been scheduled for the canceled Manilla card, so both men have had prolonged camps to prep for one and other. Morono doesn’t have the wrestling attack that has troubled “Moonwalker” in previous defeats, which will force him to compete on the feet. Moontasri is the more capable striker, but he can’t afford to lay back and allow Morono to outwork him. Moontasri will benefit from the lack of a takedown threat and routinely get the better of the striking exchanges- my prediction is James Moontasri to defeat Alex Morono by TKO/

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155lbs- Josh Emmett (10-0-0) vs Scott Holtzman (9-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Josh Emmett of Team Alpha Male takes on Scott “Hot Sauce” Holtzman. Emmett edged out a close split decision in his debut over Jon Tuck to remain undefeated. Holtzman rebounded from the first loss of his career to defeat Cody Pfister by decision, improving his UFC mark to 2-1.

Holtzman is 3 inches taller than his opponent, but will give up an inch of reach.

Training alongside Benson Henderson, Holtzman has picked up a trio of knockout victories, 2 submissions, and is 4-1 on the scorecards. He has just a pair of first round stoppages. “Hot Sauce” is an aggressive striker, chambering a hard right hand and mixing in an uppercut. Look for him to work in some kicks and he will also attempt the odd spinning technique. Against Drew Dober, he struggled to remain vertical, giving up 5 takedowns. Over 14 and half rounds in the Octagon he has completed 6 takedowns of his own.

Against Pfister, he stuffed 8 of 9 TDAs, which allowed him to stay vertical and get the better of the striking exchanges by a count of 53-28.

Emmett has stopped 5 opponents; 3 by some form of knockout and 2 by submission. He has decent pop in hands, working a quick left jab and hard right hand. Josh isn’t an overwhelming striker when it comes to volume, using lateral movement and feints to limit his opponent’s offense before stepping forward to engage in the pocket. If he opts to rely too much on his power and less on technique, it can result in a bit of a slow down in longer fights. While he went 0 for 2 in his debut, he has a powerful takedown game consisting of big slams when he can get his hands locked together.

Emmett took his debut fight on short notice, stepping in with less than a week to prep for the bout.

In his debut, Emmett took advantage of the inactivity of his opponent to routinely get the better of the exchanges. Holtzman will be much more aggressive and push the pace. In pre-UFC footage, Emmett had some issues dealing with the aggression of his foe- constantly backing up before launching himself forward to attack. Unless he is able to routinely get the better of the exchanges, his constant backward motion won’t sit well with the judges. Holtzman pairs together his strikes well and has some decent pop in his hands while moving forward. Emmett could opt to use his wrestling to slow down Holtzman, but my prediction is Scott Hotlzman to defeat Josh Emmett by decision.

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135lbs- Leslie Smith (8-7-1) vs Irene Aldana (7-2-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith battles UFC debutant Irene “Robles” Aldana. Smith is coming off of her UFC 198 TKO loss to Cyborg, she has just 2 wins over her 5 Octagon outings. Aldana has picked up back to back wins since her unsuccessful bid for the Invicta Bantamweight strap against Tonya Evinger.

Both girls are 5’9″, but Aldana will have a 2″ reach advantage. She is 6 years younger than Smith.

Smith has 4 knockouts on her record, including a 1st round TKO victory over Jessamyn Duke. Leslie is an aggressive pressure based striker, sitting in the pocket and unloading with a high paced barrage of punches. She can work from both distance and in the clinch. “The Peacemaker” has averaged 5.14 SLpM, including 79 strikes in her short-notice debut against Sarah Kaufman. Defensively, she has struggled- giving up an average of just over 8 strikes per minute. While Smith’s volume is her greatest asset, she has struggled against harder hitting opponents.

Smith is a BJJ Blue belt under Cesar Gracie, but has yet to record a submission win.

Fighting out of Guadalajara, Aldana has finished her opponent in all 7 of her pro wins- 5 by knockout. Both of her submission wins came by RNC.  “Robles” has some serious pop in her right hand and has never fought beyond the opening round in victory. She will work behind a left jab, sometimes leading with a left hook. Following her left side strike, Irene will crack her adversary with a hard right hand that has felled multiple opponents. She has good head movement and will slip her head of line and rip counters when her opponent pushes forward. If she can close the distance and force her foe to the cage, Aldana’s will unload with short punches to the head and body.

She holds stoppage wins over TUF alumni Jessamyn Duke and Peggy Morgan.

In defeat, Aldana’s undoing has been her TDD. Smith is not a legit takedown threat and will willingly trade with Irene. While Leslie will have the advantage in volume, she gets hit way too much and Aldana hits too hard. Smith’s constant forward pressure will keep in her Aldana’s firing range where she can both initiate offense and counter. If Smith can drag this fight into the second half, she could overwhelm Aldana if she slows down, but my prediction is Irene Aldana to defeat Leslie Smith by TKO.

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135lbs- #13 Eddie Wineland (22-11-1) vs #14 Takeya Mizugaki (21-10-2)

Former WEC champ Eddie Wineland looks to build on the momentum of his recent victory when he takes on fellow WEC alumni Takeya Mizugaki. Mizugaki has just a single win over his last 4 bouts after a 48-second knockout against Cody Garbrandt. Wineland is coming off an upset win via TKO over Frankie Saenz, he is 2-2 over his last 4 outings.

Both men are 5’7″, Wineland will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. The American is the younger man by a year.

Wineland appeared to suffer from some cage corrosion in his loss to Bryan Caraway, returning to form in his win over Saenz. Eddie relies on two key aspects of his striking attack; his unorthodox movement and knockout power. His power is mainly deployed with a straight right hand or periodically via uppercut. The erratic movement of Wineland makes him hard to time, but he tends to hang his hands low which can open him up to taking damage.

With a solid 85% TDD, Wineland has given up just a single takedown over his last 8 contests.

Recording 15 of his 21 wins by decision, Mizugaki melds together a decent boxing game and timely wrestling. He had finished just 5 opponents by knockout. Takeya averages 3.36 SLpM, while giving up 3.27. His willingness to sit in the pocket and trade can make it difficult to distance himself in a close fight. The Kanagawa-native is coming off his third career knockout defeat and has been finished in each of his last 3 defeats.

Mizugaki has relied on his takedowns in close fights, landing 14 over his last 8 wins compared to just 2 over his last 6 defeats.

Mizugaki will be forced to rely mainly on his striking, as he will be hard pressed to take Wineland off his feet. Takeya’s aggressive pocket punching could be his avenue to victory or open him up to defeat. His chin is a major question mark and by pressing the action he will eventually be touched by the piston-like right hand of Wineland- my prediction is Eddie Wineland to defeat Takeya Mizugaki by knockout.

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125lbs- Hector Sandoval (12-3-0) vs Fredy Serrano (3-1-0)

In the Flyweight division, Team Alpha Male product Hector “Kid Alex” Sandoval gets his second crack at picking up his first UFC win when he takes on former Olympian Fredy “El Profe” Serrano. Serrano is coming off of a split-decision loss to Chris Benoit, the first defeat of his pro career. Sandoval took a short-notice call to get into the UFC, but lasted just 90-seconds in a submission loss to Wilson Reis.

At 5’3″, Serrano is an inch taller than Sandoval and will have a 1″ reach advantage. Hector is the younger man by 7-years.

“El Profe” has leaned heavily on his wrestling, completing 8-takedowns over 7-rounds of UFC action. Fredy has completed just 33% of his takedown attempts, while defending 100% of his opponents’. While his striking is still a work in progress, he will mix in some decent kicking techniques. The main issue with Serrano’s offense is his lack of integration between striking and wrestling. In his debut, he showcased his power by scoring a violent KO via uppercut. He deployed the majority of his offense in single strikes.

Against Benoit, he suffered an early knockdown and slowed down as the fight progressed. He was unable to keep his foe on the mat and couldn’t match his output on the feet.

Sandoval has finished 5 opponents; 3 by knockout and 2 by submission- 3 in the opening round. Hector is a perfect 7-0 on the scorecards. He comes from a high school wrestling background. He relies on power over technique, utilizing big slams to drive his opponent to the floor. On the feet, he has som pop in his hands and delivers it with big hooks. With good hand speed, he will blitz his adversary and unload with high volume flurries to the head and body. Traditionally the smaller fighter, “Kid Alex” will use his speed and an aggressive forward push to help him cover the required distance.

All 3 of Hector’s losses have occurred before the 2-minute mark, losing by submission twice.

Serrano doesn’t have the MMA mileage on his body, but at 37 he came to the sport late which is further magnified by fighting in a lighter weight class. Serrano’s lack of cohesion between his wrestling and striking makes him easier to defend against. Sandoval might have to fend off some early TDAs, but his experience and speed will pay dividends as the fight advances. Hector will simply be the busier fighter and once the takedowns of Serrano start to fade, Sandoval will pull away- my prediction is Hector Sandoval to defeat Fredy Serrano by decision.

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170lbs- Bojan Velickovic (14-3-1) vs Sultan Aliev (13-2-0)

To open the 22nd installment of the UFC on FOX series, Bojan “Serbian Steele” Velickovic takes on Sultan Aliev in the Welterweight division. Aliev dropped his promotional debut by knockout to Kenny Robertson- he had won 4 in a row. Velickovic remained undefeated in the UFC after fighting to a draw with Adam Graves.

The Serbian fighter is an inch taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 4-years.

Despite the fight ending in a draw, Velickovic put together another solid performance in his last fight. He comes from a Muay Thai background, but has recorded 8 wins by submission. Defensively, he has given up 5 takedowns over 2-fights, but he has proven difficult to control once on the mat and capable of attacking off of his back. On the feet, he throws hard leg kicks and decent combinations. While he chewed up the legs of Alessio Di Chirico, he did get out-landed in that fight 65-45.

Velickovic captured the RFA Welterweight champion before making the jump to the UFC.

A former Middleweight, Aliev is returning to action after a 23-month layoff. He is coming off the first knockout loss of his career, while recording 10 KO or TKO wins of his own. Of his 10 stoppage wins, 7 have come inside the opening round. A Master of Combat Sambo, Aliev has focussed the majority of his time spent on the mat on doing damage rather than looking for submission opportunities.

Fighting under the Bellator banner, Sultan went 1-1. He lost a contestable decision to Doug Marshall in the Middleweight tournament semi-finals back in 2013.

The key to success for Aliev will be to outwork his opponent with a combination of takedowns and more consistent striking. That could prove difficult for a fighter that has been out of action for almost 2-years. He is also making just his second attempt at 170-pounds and has fought beyond the 7-minute mark of a fight just twice since 2012. Velickovic will need to endure the early attack. Once the fight advances beyond the opening round and Aliev begins to slow down,  Bojan will be the more impactful striker, highlighted by his kicking attack- my prediction is Bojan Velickovic to defeat Sultan Aliev by decision.

205lbs- #8 NIKITA KRYLOV (21-4-0) vs #13 MISHA CIRKUNOV (12-2-0)
Headlining the undercard is a massive fight in the Light Heavyweight division as Nikita “The Miner” Krylov of the Ukraine takes on Latvian born and Canadian raised Misha Cirkunov. Krylov is 6-2 in the UFC and is currently riding a 5-fight winning streak with victories over Ed Herman and Francimar Barosso in his last 2 outings. Cirkunov is undefeated inside the Octagon, with a trio of wins all inside the distance.

Both men are 6’3″ and have a 77″ reach. Nikita is the younger man by 5 year.

Krylov is aggressive and will look for the finish from the onset of the bout. He has never gone the distance in his career, finishing 8 foes by knockout and 13 by submission. The Ukrainian has averaged 6.94 SLpM, including his UFC-best 60 significant strikes in just over a round against Herman. While he likes to set a pace that will overwhelm his opponent, his reckless attack also opens him up to getting hit and taken down.

Cirkunov has shown a much more calculated approach, along with an improved striking attack. Once he is able to get on the inside, his clinch work is the key to his success. The Big Canadian has completed 6 takedowns in the UFC, finishing all of his fights on the mat. When not in the clinch, Misha will change levels with a reactionary takedown to catch his opponent coming forward. Once on the mat, he does a good job controlling the position while landing strikes to either lead to a TKO or open up a submission opportunity.

The aggression of Krylov could result in him catching Cirkunov with a fight ending strike, but it will also expose him defensively. Unless Nikita can keep his foe on the outside with his kicks, Cirkunov is going to close the distance. Krylov can be taken down and if Cirkunov gets on top, his heavy top game is going to feast on the positional advantage- my prediction is Mish Cirkunov to defeat Nikita Krylov by submission.

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155lbs- OLIVIER AUBIN-MERCIER (9-2-0) vs DREW DOBER (17-7-0)

The penultimate fight of the undercard features Canadain Lightweight and TUF Nations finalist Olivier Aubin-Mercier going toe to toe with Drew Dober. OAM submitted his last opponent and has a 4-1 record since his TUF tournament finals falter. Dober has won back to back fights since a flash submission loss to Efrain Escudero- he is 3-3 with a No Contest in the UFC.

Physically quite similar, the Canadian is an inch taller and a year older- they share an identical 70″ reach.

The outcome of this fight will come down to whether or not OAM is able to routinely put Dober on the mat. Olivier has 14 completed takedowns over his 4 UFC victories compared to 3 in his pair of defeats. All but 1 of his 7 wins have come by submission. Dober has decent takedown defense, stuffing 66% of his opponents’ TDAs. He has also improved his offensive wrestling, but he should put his entire focus on his counter wrestling. While Aubin-Mercier’s striking has improved, Dober will have the edge on the feet. Once OAM close the distance, he is incredibly difficult to separate from. Against Dober, Olivier should find continued success intiating the clinch and either pinning him there or dragging him to the mat. Once he is able to establish his takedown game, it will further dimish the output a more defensive-minded Dober- my prediction is Olivier Aubin-Mercier to defeat Drew Dober by decision.

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115lbs- #9 VALERIE LETOURNEAU (8-5-0) vs VIVIANE PEREIRA (11-0-0)

Returning to the Strawweight division Valerie “Trouble” Letourneau looks to rebound when she takes on the debuting Viviane Pereira. Letourneau has lost back to back fights to Joanna Jedrzejczyk Joanne Calderwood. Pereira is undefeated, starting her pro career back in 2013.

The Canadian is a full decade younger than her opponent, but she will have 5″ reach advantage and is 6 inches taller than her opponent.

Pereira is stepping in on 6-weeks notice to make her debut. She has some decent pop in her hands and is willing to stand and trade. She has knocked out 4 opponents- 2 in the first round. Her pre-UFC competition hasn’t been that strong, with her last 3 opponents holding a combined 12-9 record, including a pair of .500 fighters. Throughout her career, Letourneau’s defeats have come against top-level competition. She offers a high volume striking attack, eclipsing the century mark twice, including against the divisional champion. While her numbers aren’t overwhelming, she has shown that she can take her opponent to the mat when needed. Pereira is taking a big step up in competition and while she is a willing combatant, her physical disadvantages are going to make it difficult for her to get into deployment range. Letourneau will keep the Brazilian on the outside, using her jab and kicking arsenal to simply outland her foe- my prediction is Valerie Letourneau to defeat Viviane Pereira by decision

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135lbs- MITCH GAGNON (12-3-0) vs MATTHEW LOPEZ (8-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Ontario-born Mitch Gagnon returns to action against promotional sophomore Matthew Lopez. Lopez’s lost his debut to Rani Yahya via submission, it was the first loss of his pro career. Gagnon was last seen getting submitted by Renan Barao, he had won 4 consecutive fights prior to the defeat.

Gagnon has been on the shelf since 2014. He is 3 years older than his opponent and he is the shorter man by 2 inches with a 4″ reach disadvantage.

Lopez struggled with the mat game of Yahya, spending the majority of the fight on the defensive, before gassing, and getting submitted. Of his 8 career wins, 7 came in the opening round- 4 by submission. He has a decent wrestling attack and some pop in his hands. If the fight hits the floor, he likes to go for choke based submissions. Gagnon is coming off a sizeable layoff, but his only UFC defeats have come against top-level competition. His ground attack has been the focal point of his UFC success, with 4-takedowns a trio of submission over his 4 victorious appearances. On the feet, he is a powerful striker, doing most of damage at close range. Neither fighter has a solid gas tank, but Gagnon did show in the Tim Gorman fight he can go a full 3-rounds successfully. Gagnon will break Lopez down the clinch and on the mat, wearing him out with his physicality- my prediction is Mitch Gagnon to defeat Matt Lopez by submission.

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155lbs- JOHN MAKDESSI (14-5-0) vs LANDO VANNATA (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, John ‘The Bull” Makdessi meets “Groovy” Lando Vannata in the Fight Pass headliner. Makdessi is coming off a split decision win over Mehdi Baghdad to snap a 2-fight losing streak. Vannata is coming off a herculean effort in his short notice debut loss to Tony Ferguson, where he nearly upset the top contender.

Lando is an inch taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage. The Canadian is the older man by 7 years.

Makdessi has been plagued by his inability to distance himself in close fights. He has out-landed his opponent in 8 consecutive contest, including a trio of bouts in which he was defeated. The Canadian’s attack lacks a strong offensive grappling component, focusing almost entirely on remaining vertical. Vannata showcased good head movement and decent power, hurting Ferguson on a couple of occasions. He has 4 wins by submission on his record- 2 by RNC. Lando capitalized on the aggressive style of Ferguson, but Makdessi will put forth a much more technically sound defensive front. Building the majority of his offense around his jab, look for Makdessi to land the more impactful strikes while limiting the offense of his opponent- my prediction isJohn Makdessi to defeat Lando Vannata by decision.

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155lbs- JASON SAGGO (12-2-0) vs RUSTAM KHABILOV (20-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, Canadian Jason Saggo battles former Top 15 ranked Rustam “Tiger” Khabilov. Saggo is 3-1 in the UFC and is coming off of a split decision win over Leandro Silva. Khabilov has won a trio of fights since a pair of defeats to Benson Henderson and Adriano Martins- he is also coming off a win over Leandro Silva.

Saggo is the taller man by 3 inches, but will give up 2 inches of reach.

Similar to the first fight of the night, this contest should be decided on the mat. Both Saggo and Khabilov thrive on their ability to put their foe on the floor and keep them there. If forced to compete on the feet, neither man is an overwhelming striker, but the edge should lie with Khabilov. He is the slightly more active striker and hits harder. The Canadian had issues with the physical strength of Paul Felder and Rustam will put him at a similar deficit. Khabilov lands the more impactful strikes and score a couple of key takedowns- my prediction is Rustam Khabilov to defeat Jason Saggo by decision.

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125lbs- #7 ZACH MAKOVSKY (19-7-0) vs #10 DUSTIN ORTIZ (15-6-0)

To open the card, Zach “Fun Size” Makovsky takes on Dustin Ortiz in the Flyweight division. Makovsky has just a single win over his last 4-fights, defeating Tim Elliott while dropping fights to John Dodson, Jussier Formiga, and Joseph Benavidez. Ortiz has experienced similar struggles with a 1-3 record over his last 4 with losses to Formiga and Benavidez as well.

Ortiz is an inch taller and will have a 1″ reach advantage. Ortiz is 5 years younger.

Both men have failed to defeat the elite of the division, but put up competitive efforts nonetheless. Ortiz is a BJJ Brown belt and Makovsky a Purple belt and former NCAA Division 1 wrestler. They have both leaned heavily on their ground games and will look to do so here. Makovsky took Benavidez down 4-times and has completed 22 takedowns over 6 bouts. Oritz has struggled with opponents that have aggressively pursue the takedown, getting out landed 12-3 over his last 3-defeats. Makovsky will find success putting him on the floor and out scrambling him- my prediction is Zach Makovsky to defeat Dustin Ortiz by decision.

 
115lbs- Justine Kish (5-0-0) vs Ashley Yoder (4-1-0)

In the Strawweight division, Justine Kish makes her second walk to the Octagon to face the short-notice debutant, Ashely Yoder. Yoder bowed out in the TUF 23 quarter-finals, but returned to action with a submission win over Amber Brown in her Invicta debut. Kish took a unanimous decision win over Nina Ansaroff in her long-awaited UFC debut at UFC 195.

Yoder is 2 inches taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage. Yoder last fought on November 18th.

Kish is going to want to keep this fight vertical and utilize her Muay Thai striking. She hits hard, throws a wide variety of techniques, and constantly moves forward. Yoder’s focus will most likely be on getting the fight to the ground. She will shoot for takedowns, but isn’t against pulling guard and attacking off her back. Kish’s constant forward pressure could open her up to a quick level change, but she has very good TDD and is difficult to keep down. If Justine grabs top position, she can do damage with heavy ground and pound. Kish is going to keep Yoder backing up and under attack for the duration of the fight, taking advantage of Yoder’s desperation attempts to get the fight to the floor- my prediction is Justine Kish to defeat Ashley Yoder by decision.

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170lbs- Randy Brown (8-1-0) vs Brian Camozzi (7-2-0)

In the Welterweight division, “Rude Boy” Randy Brown looks to improve to 3-1 inside the Octagon when he takes on the debuting Brian “The Mantis” Camozzi. Camozzi recently claimed the vacant RFA Welterweight strap and has won 5-consecutive bouts dating back to 2014. Brown submitted Erick Montano in September to rebound from the first loss of his career, suffered at the hands of Michael Graves.

At 6’3″, Brown is just an inch taller than his foe and will have a slight 2″ reach advantage. Camozzi is the younger man by a year, he is replacing Charlie Ward with a month to prepare for the fight.

Both men are tall for the division, but Brown seems focused on negating his reach and opting to continually clinch up with his opponents. Despite having a striking advantage against Montano, he was initiating the grappling exchanges and lost the second round as a result. Camozzi is a threat on the mat and can be pretty active on the feet, including a nasty set of knee strikes from the clinch. Camozzi does a better job of integrating the various aspects of his attack and will eventually capitalize on a mistake made by Brown on the mat- my prediction is Brian Camozzi to defeat Randy Brown by submission.

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185lbs- Joe Gigliotti (7-1-0) vs Gerald Meerschaert (24-8-0)

The third and final Middleweight contest on the card features promotional sophomore Joe “Capo” Gigliotti squaring off with Gerald “The Machine” Meerschaert. Gigliotti dropped his first UFC fight to fellow undercarder Trevor Smith, he won 7-straight fights to begin his UFC run. Meerschaert has won 5 straight fights dating back to a 2014 decision loss to Sam Alvey.

Meerschaert is 2 inches taller and will have a 3 inch reach advantage. He has a 24-fight experience advantage and is the older man by 6 years. This bout was originally scheduled to feature Josh Samman (RIP) and Oluwale Bamgbose. Gigliotti replaced Samman and in mid-November Meerschaert took Bamgbose’s spot.

Fighting out of Rufusport, Meerschaert is finally getting the call to the big show after 32 fights. He has 17 wins by submission, but has also been submitted 7-times. Gigliotti offers a physically bruising style, closing the distance to unload with heavy punches or changing levels for a takedown. Gigliotti will be undersized here and is taking on an experienced fighter that has never been knocked out. Similar to Gigliotti’s last fight, look for Meerschaert to use technique to overcome Joe’s physical strength, capitalizing on Gigliotti’s aggression- my prediction is Gerald Meerschaert to defeat Joe Gigliotti by submission.

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185lbs- Andrew Sanchez (9-2-0) vs Trevor Smith (14-6-0)

In the Middleweight division, Andrew “El Dirte” Sanchez takes on Trevor “Hot Sauce” Smith. Smith has won back to back fights over Joe Gigliotti and Dan Miller- he is 4-3 in the UFC. Sanchez was victorious in his debut, winning the finals of the TUF 23 tournament to extend his winning streak to 3 in a row.

Smith is 6’3″ and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Sanchez is 7 years younger. Sanchez is coming back down to Middleweight after competing at 205 pounds on the show. Smith is a former Light Heavyweight.

Both men come from a grappling background, smothering their opponents with a strong top position pressure. Smith’s quality of opposition is vastly superior to what Sanchez has faced and “El Dirte” lost to the most noteworthy opponents on his record. The chin of Smith is a bit of a concern and Sanchez is a decent threat on the feet, but he will have to stay vertical in order to deploy his offense. “Hot Sauce” routinely drags Sanchez to the mat, breaks him down,  and keeps him there- my prediction is Trevor Smith to defeat Andrew Sanchez by decision.Paragraph breaker

145lbs- Tiago Trator (20-5-2 1NC) vs Shane Burgos (7-0-0)

Brazilian Tiago Trator looks for his third UFC victory when he takes on UFC neophyte Shane “Hurricane” Burgos” in the Featherweight division. Trator took a split decision win over Clay Collard, one fight removed from his first defeat since 2011. Burgos has fought just once in 2016, winning via first round KO in January.

The American is 2 inches taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage.

Burgos is coming in on 2-week’s notice to make his debut and he hasn’t fought more than once a year since 2014. A Tiger Shulman Product, he has finished all 7 of his wins inside the distance, but against a questionable level of competition. Trator is coming off a hard fought split decision win. He has used a varied attack in the UFC, combining decent distance striking, a clinch attack, and serviceable wrestling. He has been submitted 3-times in his career and his UFC defeat came by knockout. Burgos is coming in on short notice and is on the wrong end of the experience equation. If he can’t score the early stoppage, he is going to struggle to keep up with the diversity of Trator- my prediction is Tiago Trator to defeat Shane Burgos by decision.

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155lbs- Frankie Perez (10-2-0) vs Marc Diakiese (10-0-0)

In the Lightweight division, the unretired Frankie Perez battles it out with England’s “Bonecrusher” Marc Diakiese. Perez lost his UFC debut to Johnny Case, but rebounded to finish Sam Stout via KO before walking away from the sport for just over a year. Diakiese knocked out Lukas Sajewski in his debut- the fifth knockout win over his career.

Perez is an inch taller, but they share the same reach. Diakiese is the younger man by 4-years.

Diakiese showcased a dynamic striking attack in his debut; working slick combinations, hard leg techniques, and countered his foe when they came forward. He did spend the majority of the opening round on his back, which is an area that opponents have focused their attack on. Perez stopped Stout, for the just the second knockout of his career. He has 5 submission wins. Perez’s best avenue for victory here will be to take Diakiese down and keep him there. Perez will struggle to put Marc on his back with regularity and the Brit’s speed and power will be too much for him- my prediction is Marc Diakiese to defeat Frankie Perez by TKO.Paragraph breaker

185lbs- Keith Berish (5-0-0 1NC) vs Ryan Janes (8-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Keith “Sha Bang Bang” Berish finally gets his second opportunity in UFC when he fights Canadian Ryan Janes. Janes was scheduled to debut earlier this year until his opponent was removed from the fight by USADA, he has won 7 straight contests. Berish made his Octagon debut back in 2014 as a Light Heavyweight and was subbed by Ryan Drysdale, it has since been overturned to a No Contest.

Janes is a tall Middleweight at 6’3″, standing 3 inches taller than his foe and he will have a 3″ reach advantage.

Neither man has been very active of late; Janes last competed 19-months ago and Berrish has not seen the cage in well over 2-years. The Canadian carries a submission heavy win total and while he has managed to continue his finishing streak, there has a been a noticeable increase in cage time over his recent bouts. Berish comes from a wrestling back and shown the ability to compete both on the feet and the ground. The difference here should be the striking of Berish. Keith utilizes a Muay Thai styled attack and when forced to stand, Janes is hittable- my prediction is Keith Berish to defeat Ryan Janes by TKO.

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115lbs- #15 Juliana Lima (8-3-0) vs JJ Aldrich (4-1-0)

To open the card, Top 15 ranked Strawweight Juliana “Ju Thai” Lima welcomes late-notice replacement JJ Aldrich. Similar to Ashley Yoder, Aldrich is coming off a November victory under the Invicta banner and has won 3 straight fights. Lima dropped a decision to former champion Carla Esparza and is now 2-2 in the UFC.

Both girls are 5’5″, but Aldrich will have a 1″ reach advantage.

Aldrich was submitted in the quarter-finals by eventual TUF 23 winner Tatiana Suarez. She is a BJJ Brown belt and Taekwondo Black Belt, relying mainly on her striking inside the cage. She moves well and keeps her technique sound and crisp. Lima combines a solid ground game and a Muay Thai striking attack. She isn’t a high volume striker and has leaned more on her mat game in her UFC wins. That will be her key to success here. On TUF, Aldrich struggled to fend off the takedowns of her foe once Suarez got her hands on her. Lima is strong and will use that strength to routinely put JJ on the floor and keep her there- my prediction is Juliana Lima to defeat JJ Aldrich by decision.

145lbs- Gray Maynard (13-6-1 1NC) vs Ryan Hall (5-1-0)

In the headlining fight of the prelims, former Lightweight title challenger Gray “The Bully” Maynard takes on TUF 22 winner Adam “The Wizard” Hall. Hall is coming off his TUF tournament finals win over Artem Lobov- he has won 5 straight bouts since a defeat in his pro debut. Maynard debuted at Featherweight in his last bout, earning a decision win over Fernando Bruno- he is just 2-5 over his last 7 fights.

Hall is an inch taller and will have inch reach advantage over the former challenger. Maynard is the older man by 6 years.

Maynard made his Lightweight title run on the strength of a strong top position wrestling attack and an improving boxing game. After coming so close to the title, Gray’s career took a downward turn along with his ability to absorb a punch. He was knocked out in 4-consecutive defeats. In his Featherweight debut, his chin held up against a lesser striker and he was able to convert 3 takedowns and a prolonged amount of top control into a decision win.

Hall’s run in his TUF tournament was cut short, but he got a second chance in the finals and cashed in. He is a specialist, relying heavily on his grappling game. He has a pair of submission as a pro along with a couple of ground-based TKO victories. Hall lacks a strong takedown game, relying heavily on his ability to dive on a leg and pull his foe into a grappling exchange. Hall also offers an aggressive guard from which he will attack with sub or look to set up a sweep.

For the second consecutive fight, Maynard is facing an opponent that is not a significant knockout threat. That doesn’t mean his questionable chin won’t gave in on itself if Hall cracks him on the button. Hall has been out of action for a year, so ring rust could be a factor. There is also potential to see him make a leap in his wrestling skills. That being said, Maynard isn’t going to be easy to take down. If Hall opts to pull guard, look for Gray to shut down his offense with a heavy top game. Maynard gets the better of the striking exchanges and crushes Hall’s attempt to grapple with him- my prediction is Gray Maynard to defeat Ryan Hall by decision.

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135lbs- Rob Font (12-2-0) vs Matt Schnell (9-2-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Rob Font meets late notice replacement Matt “Danger” Schnell. Font is coming off just the second loss of his pro career and first in the UFC after falling via decision to John Lineker- he is 2-1 in the promotion. Schnell bowed out to eventual TUF 24 tournament winner Tim Elliott in the 2nd round of the bracket, but he has won 6 consecutive bouts as a pro.

Schnell is moving up from Flyweight to take this fight and is replacing Alejandro Perez with roughly 1-week to prep. Both men are 5’8″ and Schnell will have a slight 1″ reach advantage, despite being the smaller framed fighter.

Font is a striker by trade, packing some power in his right hand and finishing 5 opponents by knockout. He throws solid combinations and will attack the body with punches. Rob will also mix in some kicking techniques when appropriate. Against Lineker, he struggled to let his hands go and spent the majority of the fight on the defensive against the aggressive Brazilian.

Securing 5-wins by submission, including a crafty armbar to snatch the Interim-Legacy FC Flyweight belt, Schnell is a dangerous ground fighter. He used his mat skills to tap his foe in the first round of the TUF tourney, before having the tables turned on him via guillotine choke against Elliott. Over his last 8-fights, he has not fought beyond the 2nd round- including 6 first round victories.

The newcomer is taking a massive step up in competition by facing Font. In addition to making his debut on short notice, he is facing an experienced fighter in a weight class he has never competed at. Look for Font to routinely shuck off the attempts of Schnell to get the fight to the mat and potentially grab the superior position as Matt gets more desperate. When on the feet, Font’s power and combination striking will be too much for his foe- my prediction is Rob Font to defeat Matt Schnell by TKO.

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115lbs- Kailin Curran (4-3-0) vs Jamie Moyle (3-1-0)

In the Women’s Strawweight division, Kailin Curran looks to snap out of her current slump when she meets the debuting Jamie Moyle. Moyle is coming off a decision loss under the Invicta banner where she has spent her entire career- winning 3 of 4. Curran has struggled to a 1-3 record inside the Octagon, her only victory came via submission over Emily Kagan in late 2015.

Curran is 3 inches taller than Moyle, but they will share a 65″ reach. Kailin is the younger fighter by 2-years.

Despite having some decent moments, Curran could be facing her walking papers. She held her own against Paige VanZant before gassing out and was beating Alex Chambers when she got subbed in the final round. Kailin is at her best when she is advancing and attacking in barrages. She offers both a capable takedown game and decent volume striking attack.

A TUF 23 competitor, Moyle advanced through the elimination round before falling to eventual tournament finalist Amanda Cooper. The majority of her pro and amateur bouts, including an amateur fight with Tecia Torres, have gone the distance. She did show some decent takedowns skills and the ability to work off her back on the show. She submitted her only TUF victim via RNC. She’s got some pop in her hands and is willing to exchange.

Curran has yet to see the scorecards in the UFC. She is aggressive and likes to push the pace, but this also opens her up to take damage and potentially wear down in a longer fight. Moyle can wrestle and puts her punches together fairly well. Kailin was having a lot of trouble with the combined striking and wrestling attack of Kagan prior to her slowing down and then getting submitted. Look for Moyle to push Curran backward, make her fight off her back foot and then change levels for a takedown when Curran tries to move forward- my prediction is Jamie Moyle to defeat Kailin Curran by submission.

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185lbs- Devin Clark (6-1-0) vs Joshua Stansbury (8-3-0)

In the Middleweight division, Devin “Brown Bear” Clark takes on Josh “The Sandman” Stansbury. Clark’s UFC debuted was the first loss of his pro career, suffering a first-round knockout to Alex Nicholson. Stansbury took a majority decision at the TUF 23 Finale after a 2-1 run during the show that saw him lose to finalist Khalil Rountree.

Both fighters have formerly competed at 205-pounds. Clark, who is replacing Jake Collier, cut down to Middleweight for his debut, Stansbury is making his first trip to 185 in the UFC. Stansbury is 2 inches taller, but will give up an inch of reach.

Clark had a strong start to his UFC debut, getting the better of the striking exchanges and landing a single takedown. He was stopped via strikes with just 3-second left in the round. For his career, he has finished a trio of opponents by knockout along with a single submission win- 2 in the opening round. He is 2-0 on the scorecards, both fights coming under the RFA banner.

Leaning more on his grappling game, Stansbury has submitted 5 opponents- 4 by guillotine. He began his pro career 0-2, losing both fights via submission. All 6 of his pro stoppages have come in round 1. As the first pick of Team Joanna, he won his elimination round fight via submission and followed with an opening round decision loss. Stansbury showed marked improvement in his striking between his time spent on the shot and his debut.

There are several scenarios in play for this fight. Clark is coming off of his first career loss and is making his second cut to a new division. Both of those scenarios tend to have a positive effect on a fighter’s performance. Stansbury is making his first non-TUF-related appearance which usually sees a fighter make a leap in skill, but he is making his first attempt at making the Middleweight limit. Ultimately, Stansbury is the more diverse fighter. Clark appears to have the edge in power, but Josh’s volume will be the key to his success when exchanging. Additionally, Stansbury will use his clinch and grappling game to grind Clark down- my prediction is Josh Stansbury to defeat Devin Clark by submission.

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185lbs- Elvis Mutapcic (15-4-1) vs Anthony Smith (25-12-0)

In the Middleweight division, Elvis “The King” Mutapcic takes on Anthony “Lionheart” Smith. Mutapcic remained winless in the UFC after a draw with Kevin Casey, he had an unsuccessful debut fighting as a Light Heavyweight versus Francimar Barosso. Smith picked up a win in his inaugural Octagon bout, but was unable to build on that success in decision defeat against Cezar Ferreira last July.

At 6’4″, “Lionheart” is the taller man by 4 inches and will have a sizeable 5″ reach advantage. He is 2 years younger than Mutapcic.

Smith’s aggression and ability to finish his opponent has been at the center of his success. He has gone the distance just twice in his career, including his first 2 UFC bouts- he is 2-1 on the cards. Smith is an equal opportunity stopper with 22 wins split evenly between submissions and knockouts- 13 in round 1. Conversely, he has finished 11-times in his career- 6 by knockout.

Mutapcic’s record on the cards isn’t strong either at 3-4, but he has never been finished. The most significant flaw in his game has been his sub-par takedown defense. While he has given up just 3 takedowns in 2 Octagon outings, they have come at key times in close fights.

Mutapcic is durable, but he will need to overcome the early attack from Smith. When Smith attacks, he closes the distance which will negate his reach advantage and pull him into Mutapcic’s range. Once Smith’s initial onslaught has subsided, he will start to slow down and Mutapcic will be able to take over the fight. Mutapcic’s crisp boxing technique and ability to carry his output deeper into the fight will be his key to success- my prediction is Elvis Mutapcic to defeat Anthony Smith by decision.

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155lbs- Dong Hyun Kim (13-8-3) vs Brendan O’Reilly (6-2-0 1NC)

In the Lightweight division, Brendan “The Badger” O’Reilly of Australia takes on “Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim. Kim is 0-2 since coming to the UFC, suffering through a pair of third round knockout defeats to Dominique Steele and Polo Reyes. O’Reilly defeated Vik Grujic in his sophomore appearance, but has sandwiched that win between a pair of defeats- most recently getting stopped by Alan Jouban last March.

Kim is 3 inches taller than his foe and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. O’Reilly is cutting back down to Lightweight after a 2-fight stint at 170 pounds.

O’Reilly is 3-1 on the scorecards along with a single win by knockout and a pair of submission wins. He is coming off of the first stoppage defeat of his career. The majority of Brendan’s success in his sole UFC win came on the strength of his mat game. Working primarily from the clinch, the Aussie took his opponent down 6-times. Conversely, he gave up a pair of takedowns in his debut defeat.

Kim has shown a willingness to seek the finish in his career, stopping 11 of his 13 wins. He has a sizeable experience advantage over O’Reilly with 24 pro bouts to just 9. Against Reyes, he went to war landing 83-significant strikes, but he gave up 135 prior to getting stopped mid-way through the final round.

The TUF alum’s success hinges largely on his takedown game. He authors the majority of his completions via the clinch, a position Kim is comfortable in as well. Kim has demonstrated a pretty stout grappling game in his pre-UFC action and has 6 career subs. If this fight is contested on the feet, the action should favour Dong. Even in his win over Grujic, O’Reilly was on the wrong end of the striking totals. Kim’s output and durability will be difficult for O’Reilly to overcome. Look for Kim to pile up the damage and even find some success in the takedown department- my prediction is Dong Hyun Kim to defeat Brendan O’Reilly by TKO.

185lbs- Dan Kelly (11-1-0) vs Chris Camozzi (24-11-0)

Headlining the undercard, former Olympian and TUF contestant Dan Kelly takes on Chris Camozzi in the Middleweight division. Kelly’s unsuccessful TUF run has evolved into an impressive 4-1 UFC career, including his most recent win over Antonio Carlos Junior. Camozzi had won 3-fights in a row and 5 of 6 before running into a submission loss against Thales Leites.

Camozzi is 2 inches taller than Kelly and will have a 6″ reach advantage. The American is 9 years younger than his opponent.

Kelly’s only career loss came via knockout to the nuclear-handed Sam Alvey. He has 5 submission wins to go along with a trio of knockouts and a 3-0 record on the scorecards. The more traveled Camozzi, is a near .500 fighter in bouts decided by a submission (7-6), with 3 of his last 6 defeats coming by tap out. Camozzi is known for his durability and has never been stopped compared to 7 knockout wins. He is 10-5 in decisions, with his last 2 defeats on the cards ending in split decisions.

Camozzi is not the most fleet of foot, but his recent success has been built around his ability to out-grind his opponents. He throws a long spearing jab, along with offering a decent mix of kicks and punches at range, and will close the distance to do damage in the clinch. His takedown defense has been an area of vulnerability, with 16 takedowns given up over his last 7 defeats. Kelly comes from a Judo background and does his best work on the mat. Once he gets on top, he has a solid base and can do damage with his GNP or look for a submission finish. Dan landed 5 completions in his win over Steve Montgomery, but has struggled to repeat that success. His striking skills are pretty limited, but if he can close the distance he does have some pop in his hands.

If this bout is contested on the feet, Camozzi wins. If Kelly can drag the action to the floor that is his best avenue for victory. Camozzi’s has made some questionable in cage decisions in previous bouts, creating opportunities for his opponent to take him down. Chris’s long jab and superior reach should help to keep Kelly from getting in a position to look for a takedown. Kelly simply won’t be able to match Camozzi on the feet and won’t be able to drag him to the floor with enough consistency to win the fight, my prediciton is Chris Camozzi to defeat Dan Kelly by decision.

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155lbs- Damien Brown (16-9-0) vs Jon Tuck (9-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, Damien “Beatdown” Brown looks for his second consecutive UFC win when he meets Guam’s Jon “Super Saiyan” Tuck. Tuck has alternated wins and losses over his last 6 fights, having never won consecutive bouts inside the Octagon. Brown scored a stoppage win of Cesar Arzamendia in his last appearance after an unsuccessful debut against Alan Patrick.

Tuck is an inch taller and will have a sizeable 5″ reach advantage.

With 8 of his 9 wins coming inside the distance, 5 by sub, Tuck has a solid finishing rate. He has a pair of submission wins in the UFC, but has lost all 3 of his fights to go the distance. Brown has a slightly better record on the cards at 5-4, but he has been finished 5 times- 4 by submission. His most recent victory upped his knockout totals to 3, to go along with his 8 submission victories.

While Brown’s record is respectable, his level of competition has been a significant contributor to his success. Arzamendia is the most noteworthy name on his record, but Cesar has gained a reputation for his porous striking defense and even worse ability to take a punch. Brown dropped him early with a well-placed right and finished him shortly after with a couple more connections from the same side. Traditionally, Tuck has struggled to maintain his output from bell to bell- fading in the later rounds. In his last fight, he appeared to get stronger; increasing is output in both rounds 2 and 3. The TUF alumni does have some pop in his hands and he has shown signs of a serviceable wrestling game to go along with his BJJ Black belt.

The quantity of experience favours the Aussie, but the quality of experience is clearly in Tuck’s corner. Brown isn’t an overwhelming striker and Jon should have advantages in both speed and diversity. Additionally, Tuck’s superior wrestling and grappling attacks will result in some key top control time and potentially lead to a fight-ending submission opportunity. Tuck doesn’t have a great record in decisions, but Brown is 1-4 in his last 5 fights to go the distance. Tuck outclasses him on the feet and eventually capitalizes on a mistake once they hit the mat- my prediction is Jon Tuck to defeat Damien Brown by submission.Paragraph breaker

170lbs- Rich Walsh (9-5-0) vs Jonathan Meunier (7-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, “Filthy” Rich Walsh takes on Canada’s Jonathan Meunier. Walsh has just a single win over his last 4-fights after dropping a contestable decision to Viscarde Andrade- his only victory during this stretch came over Steve Kennedy. Meunier is coming off the first loss of his career, dropping a short-notice submission loss to Colby Covington.

The Canadian is 3 inches taller than Walsh and will have a 2″ reach advantage.

Walsh has lost a pair of decisions during his UFC run along with the first stoppage defeat of his career since a submission defeat against Robert Whittaker back in 2009. He has 4 wins by knockout and a 4-2 record on the scorecards. Meunier has yet to go the distance in his career, finishing 7 opponents- 5 by some form of knockout.

Walsh is a hardnosed fighter, but he has struggled to find his identity on the big stage. He used a takedown-heavy attack in his debut victory, but has struggled to stay off his back since. He found success overcoming his foe’s TDs in his second win, using a high volume striking attack. Walsh does his best work in close, working on the cage. At range, he has developed a pretty decent jab to build his attack behind. Meunier comes from a kickboxing background, but has relied on his top position strikes in the majority of his fights. When standing, he offers a decent kicking attacking, but he is a little inactive at times between techniques.

Meunier’s debut was pretty lackluster, but Covington was too much too soon for the Canadian. Walsh is a more appropriate opponent for this stage in his career. Walsh is aggressive and showed in the Kennedy win, that he can pile up damage at a pretty consistent rate. Meunier’s tentative style could allow “Filthy” Rich to press the action and repeat that type of a performance. Meunier should look to counter that pressure with level changes and exploit Walsh’s questionable TDD. Both fighters have a path to victory in this contest. Meunier doesn’t have a lot of experience in longer fights and Walsh is fighting at home and is the more experienced fighter both in quantity and quality- my prediction is Richard Walsh to defeat Jonathan Meunier

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135lbs- Ben Nguyen (15-6-0) vs Geane Herrera (9-2-0)

Both men are looking to rebound, as Ben “Ten” Nguyen takes on Geane “La Pulga” Herrera in the Bantamweight division. Herrera lost his debut to Ray Borg, followed by a short notice stoppage win over Joby Sanchez- he lost via decision to former title challenger Ali Bagautinov in his last fight. Nguyen started his UFC run with back to back victories, knocking out Alp Ozkilic and subbing Ryan Benoit before getting overwhelmed and finished by Louis Smolka.

Both men are 5’5″, but Herrera will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 2-years.

While not the norm for the division, each fighter has showcased legit finishing ability both in and outside the Octagon. Nguyen has recorded 10 victories by knockout in addition 4 submission win. Ben “Ten” has also been knocked out on 5 different occasions along with a single submission defeat. Herrera has tapped out 5 opponents while scoring his last 2 victories by TKO. His 2 UFC losses have followed a similar vein, with his opponents landing a combined 8-takedowns.

In spite of his loftier submission totals, Herrera is a dangerous striker. Geane sits down on his punches to maximize their impact and will also counter strike. Against Sanchez, he was unable to match his output, but he was clearly doing more damage when he landed. “La Pulga” is a strong clinch fighter as well, muscling around his opponent while landing knees and elbows. Nguyen will attack his opponent’s base with hard low kicks and offers a pretty slick combination striking attack. He is willing to take a shot to land one which is concerning with his growing number of stoppage defeats. Ben has 10 first round wins compared to all 5 of his defeats coming after the opening frame- 4 in the second round.

Despite their similarities in finishing capabilities, there is a key difference between these two combatants. Nguyen has a tendency to be an aggressive starter, eat punches, and if he can’t get the early finish he frequently gets finished as the fight progresses into the latter half. For Herrera, he has had issues generating enough offense to match his opponent’s output from bell to bell, despite hanging in for the full 15-minutes. Ultimately this fight comes down to who can absorb the other fighter’s best shot and stay in the fight. Ngyuen was routinely getting cracked with a counter left hook from Ozkilic and while Alp didn’t put him down- Herrera also throws a heavy left-side counter. Conversely, Geane has never been finished and he ate some massive strikes from Bagautinov and kept moving forward. This fight should be non-stop action, but eventually Herrera cracks Nguyen during an exchange- my prediciton is Geane Herrera to defeat Ben Nguyen by TKO.

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145lbs- Dan Hooker (14-6-0) vs Jason Knight (17-2-0)

Headlining the Fight Pass portion of the prelims, Dan “Hangman” Hooker meets Jason “The Kid” Knight in the Featherweight division. Hooker is coming off of a submission win over Mark Eddiva, to move back above the .500 mark in the UFC at 3-2. Knight lost his short-notice UFC debut to Tatsuya Kawajiri, but picked up a big win over Jim Alers via split decision in his follow-up appearance.

At 6’0″, Hooker is 2 inches taller than his foe and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Knight is the younger man by 2 years.

Hooker showed his impressive finishing skills in his last fight and has stopped his opponent in 12 of his 13 wins. Conversely, Knight has gone the distance in both of his UFC fights and 4 of his 5 career decisions have come in his last 5 bouts.

Both men are aggressive action fighters, willing to exchange. Despite Hooker’s above average height and reach, he does his best work on the inside with short punches and elbows. Subsequently, he opens himself up to taking damage when moving forward; averaging 5 SApM compared to 3.53 SApM. Knight is also willing to sit at close range and trade. “The Kid” showcased an educated left jab against Alers, often doubling up before firing out a straight right.

Hooker has had issues with his defensive wrestling. Prior to his last bout, he had given up 7 takedowns over 3 fights. Knight executed a well-timed level change and is very aggressive on the mat both from top and bottom position.

The New Zealand-native is 1-4 on the scorecards and 4-6 in fights that go beyond the opening round. His willingness to absorb damage doesn’t sit well with the judges and makes it difficult for him to match his opponent’s output. Look for Knight to routinely pop Hooker with his jab while peppering away with low kicks. Timely takedowns will supplement the superior output of the American, my prediction is Jason Knight to defeat Dan Hooker by decision.Paragraph breaker

135lbs- Marlon Vera (7-3-1) vs Ning Guangyou (6-3-1)

In the Bantamweight division, Ecuador’s Marlon “Chito” Vera takes on TUF China winner Ning “Smasher” Guangyou. Vera dropped a bloody decision to Davey Grant earlier in the year, failing to capitalize on his submission win over Roman Salazar 1 fight earlier. Guangyou started his UFC run with back to back wins, but last November he lost an uneventful contest to Marco Beltran via decision.

Vera is 4 inches taller and will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. He is also 11-years younger than his opponent.

A BJJ Black Belt, Vera has 5 wins by submission- 3 by Triangle choke. “Chito” is aggressive on the mat and will routinely compromise his position in pursuit of the finish. Coming from a Grecco-Roman wrestling background, Ning is also willing to go to the mat- completing 57% of his TDAs. Against Beltran, he failed to put him on the floor,  but landed 4 over his first pair of Octagon appearances.

On the feet, the TUF China Champ throws a weighty left hand, but struggled to find his range in his last outing. If he can close the distance, “Smasher” will unload with short range hooks, but producing a consistent flow of offense has been an issue in previous fights. Vera moves well, mixing together his hand and leg techniques. He will also attempt higher riskier maneuvers, like a flying knee, because he is not afraid to spend time on his back if his opponent counters with a takedown.

To beat Vera, Guangyou’s best path to victory is to ground him on the mat and keep him there. Unfortunately, because of his lack of top position activity, he routinely gets stood up by the referee. Additionally, Vera’s aggressive guard will both make the ground an undesirable option and serve to wear down Ning as the fight progresses. When standing, Vera’s long reach will allow him to routinely catch Ning on the outside and make it difficult for the Chinese fighter to find the mark with his own strikes. Vera might spend some time on his back, but he will chain his submissions together until something sticks- my prediction is Marlon Vera to defeat Ning Guangyou by submission.

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125lbs- Yao Zhikui (2-4-0) vs Jenel Lausa (6-2-0)

To open the card Yao “The Conquerer” Zhikui takes on the debuting Jenel Lausa in the Flyweight division. Zhikui is coming off of an unfortunate TKO loss due to injury against Freddy Serrano- he is just 1-2 inside the Octagon. Lausa is making his promotional debut on the strength of 4 consecutive wins dating back to his last defeat in 2013.

Both men are 5’5″. Yao is 3 years younger than his foe, but he has not competed is just under a year.

Zhikui suffered an arm injury in his last fight to add to a pair of controversial split decisions during his UFC stint. His only other pro win came by submission. He picked up an opening round KO during the TUF China quarter-finals before losing via decision in the semis. Lausa has divided his 6-wins evenly between knockouts, subs, and decisions. Both of his submission victories came via guillotine.

The Chinese fighter comes from a wrestling background, but has yet to showcase those skills with just 1 completed takedown over 31-minutes of cage time. He throws hard strikes, but is fairly linear in his approach. Against Ticman, he routinely pushed forward to engage, but struggled to connect with regularity. With a background in boxing, Lausa throws decent combinations and has decent footwork. He will look for his own takedowns, but he has had some issues staying vertical when pressed by an aggressive wrestler. As mentioned above, he will attack his opponent’s neck if they shoot in.

Zhikui’s striking is still a work in progress, but unless he can draw his foe into a close range brawl he is going to be on the wrong end of the exchanges. Lausa should look to employ a stick and move approach; landing his combinations and then forcing Yao to chase him down in order to return fire. Yao’s preferred plan would see him plant Jenel on the canvas and keep him there. Ultimately, he might find some success with his wrestling, but his lack of setup on his shot will limit his completion rate. Zhikui is too willing to take damage when exchanging, which will allow Lausa to score points and pile up damage- my prediction is Jenel Lausa to defeat Yao Zhikui by TKO.

125lbs-#5 Ian McCall (13-5-1) vs Neil Seery (16-12-0)

Headlining the undercard, former top-ranked Flyweight “Uncle Creepy” Ian McCall takes on Neil “2Tap” Seery, who will be retiring from MMA following this contest. McCall is coming off of a decision loss to John Lineker that ended a 2-fight winning streak. Seery lost to fellow undercarder Kyoji Horiguchi last May- he is 3-3 inside the Octagon.

McCall is the younger man by 5-years, but he hasn’t seen action in almost 22-months. They share an identical 64″ reach, but the American is the younger man by a year.

Seery has represented himself well since entering the cage as a short notice replacement. The Irishman offers a sound boxing-based attack and underrated submission game. He has split his 12 finishes evenly between knockouts and subs. While, he can finish on the mat- his TDD has been a major vulnerability in the UFC. Over his 6-fight UFC career, he has been taken down in every fight and given up a total 23 completions.

McCall has struggled to stay active due to injury and more recently his opponent’s inability to survive fight week. At his best, McCall offers a very good striking attack based on speed and movement. He is also a capable wrestler both offensively and defensively. When striking, he does a good job of staying just out of range of his opponent’s offense before changing levels and driving in for a quick takedown.

If McCall sticks to an appropriate gameplan and ring rust is not a factor, he will find success wrestling Seery to the floor and outpointing him on the feet- my prediction is Ian McCall to defeat Neil Serry by decision.

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185lbs-Magnus Cedenblad (14-4-0) vs Jack Marshman (20-5-0)

In the Middleweight division, Sweden’s Magnus “Jycken” Cedenblad takes on the debuting Jack “Hammer” Marshman. Cedenblad has won 4 straight bouts dating back to an unsuccessful UFC debut in 2012. Marshman enters the UFC on a 6-fight winning streak, including a victory over Che Mills- he has also fought and lost to Scott Askham and Tom Watson earlier in his career.

At 6’5″, Cedenblad is 5 inches taller than his opponent. Marshman is the younger man by 5 years.

Marshman has finished 12 of his opponents by knockout. He is an aggressive striker, that thrives when he can force his adversary to stand and trade with him. While he can be effective when exchanging at close range, Jack “Hammer” lacks  a real technical approach to his offense. He throws primarily arm punches or leaps into his strikes when walking his opponent down.

Cedenblad is coming off his first non-ground based win in the UFC- stopping his foe with a headkick. He has just 5 submission wins, but 2 have come in the UFC along with a takedown-heavy decision win over Scott Askham. Magnus does the majority of his work in the clinch and in top position.

If Marshman is to prevail, he will have to find a way to consistently get on the inside the of the reach of his opponent. Look for the big Sweden to use his reach and kicking attack to keep his opponent out of punching range and then counter Marshman’s forward pressure with clinch work and takedowns- my prediction is Magnus Cedenblad to defeat Jack Marshman by submission.

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125lbs-#4 Kyoji Horiguchi (17-2-0) vs #8 Ali Bagautinov (14-4-0)

In a high profile Flyweight bout between a pair of former title challengers, Kyoji Horiguchi takes on Russia’s Ali “Puncher” Bagautinov. Horiguchi has won back to back bouts since his title fight loss- defeating Neil Serry and Chico Camus. Most recently, Bagautinov lost to Demetrious Johnson and then fell to Joseph Benavidez before defeating Geane Herrera- all by decision.

Horiguchi is 1″ taller and will have a 1″ reach advantage. He is the younger man by 5-years.

Bagautinov’s attack has hinged heavily on his wrestling with 17 takedowns over 6-fights. In losing efforts, he took Johnson down twice, but went 0 for 5 against Benavidez. He likes to utilize a reactive takedown and catch his opponent coming forward. If forced to rely on his striking repertoire, he is capable on the feet and has power- but he tends to be too passive waiting for his foe to move into his range.

Horiguchi is a lightning fast striker with power and a decent work rate. His movement makes him very difficult to both attack and defend against. Ali is going to struggle to locate his opponent long enough to engage him.

The in and out offense of Horiguchi, combined with a speed advantage and more diverse attack will dominate the action on the feet and prevent it from hitting the mat. Unless Ali can ground his foe for large portions of each round, he won’t be able to keep up with Kyoji’s output- my prediction is Kyoji Horiguchi to defeat Ali Bagautinov by decision.

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155lbs- Kevin Lee (13-2-0) vs Magomed Mustafaev (13-1-0)

A pair of Lightweights battling to crack the Top 15 collide as “The Motown Phenom” Kevin Lee throws down with Magomed Mustafaev. Lee has rallied nicely from his upset loss to Leonardo Santos, picking up back to back wins- most recently stopping Jake Matthews last July. Mustafaev has yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon with TKO victories over Piotr Hallmann and Joe Proctor.

Lee is just an inch taller than Mustafaev, but the American will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. Lee is the younger man by 4 years.

The Russian has never seen the scorecards, finishing all 14 of his wins- 10 by knockout. He throws everything with fight ending power- slamming home hard leg and body kicks, knees strikes, and heavy punches. He battered Proctor to the body before landing a series of knee strikes to grab the finish. The longest fight of his career was his UFC debut that lasted to the 3:24 marked on the middle round. His defensive wrestling has been a point of concern in the past. He was taken down on multiple occasions in pre-UFC action and Hallmann had success putting him on his backside on a couple of occasions.

Lee has melded together a technically sound striking attack and solid wrestling game. He works the majority of his offense behind a long jab backed up by solid footwork and quick hands. On the mat, he has averaged 2.81 takedowns per fight. Lee needs to use his jab to keep his foe on the outside and change levels when he moves forward. That being, Lee got knocked out by Santos and was hit with several big shots from Efrain Escudero. Both fighters landed strikes either through or overtop of Lee’s guard.

Against an aggressive striker, Lee’s defense is beatable and Mustafaev might only need 1 big punch to change the complexion of the fight. Magomed pressures Lee, works past his jab, and gets up from his takedowns to land the fight ending blow- my prediction is Magomed Mustafaev to defeat Kevin Lee by TKO.

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115lbs- Anna Elmose (3-1-0) vs Amanda Cooper (2-2-0)

In the Women’s Strawweight division, Anna “Panda” Elmose meets Amanda “ABC” Cooper. Elmose suffered the first loss of her career in her debut, falling victim to the much bigger and more experienced Germaine De Randamie- she had picked up a trio of knockouts leading up to the fight. Cooper advanced to the finals TUF 23 before losing via submission to Tatiana Suarez.

Elmose is debuting at 115 pounds after spending her short career at Bantamweight. Both girls are 5’3″, but Elmose will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. She is the older fighter by 5 years.

Both girls rank fairly low in the experience category, but Cooper did have a solid run on TUF and Elmose has a pretty decent combat background outside of MMA. Neither girl has seen the 3rd round in victory or defeat; all of Elmose’s fights have ended via knockout and Cooper’s contests have all been finished via submission. Cooper is a willing combatant wherever the action takes place, but she could very well be outgunned on the feet.

Elmose can crack and throws power strikes both at range and in the clinch. Facing more appropriately sized opposition should increase the impact of her offense. Conversely, her explosive style and lack of long fight experience brings into question her cardio. Cutting to a lighter weight class should help to improve that issue, but it could also make it worse.

Cooper could experience a noteworthy leap in capabilities following the show, but Elmose simply hits too hard- my prediction is Anna Elmose to defeat Amanda Cooper by TKO.

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265lbs- Justin Ledet (7-0-0 1NC) vs Mark Godbeer (11-2-0)

In the Heavyweight division, Justin “El Blanco” Ledet squares off with the debuting Mark “The Hand of” Godbeer. Ledet took a decision win in his debut over Chase Sherman at UFC Fight Night 92. Godbeer was 1 and done in Bellator, falling to Cheick Kongo by TKO- he has won 3 in a row under the BAMMA banner.

Both men are 6’4″ and should weigh-in around the 240-pound mark. Ledet will have a 1″ reach advantage and is 5-years younger.

Godbeer has stopping power, finishing 9 of his 11 wins by knockout. His other 2 victories are both via guillotine and he has never fought beyond the second round. His cardio didn’t look that good against Kongo, as he appeared very tired to start round 2. Both of his losses have been by 2nd round TKO.

Ledet comes from a boxing background where he had a decent run. He utilized a strong jab in his debut and kept his opponent on the outside for the majority of the fight. In this fight, he should be the superior striker and his speed advantage will add to his superiority on the feet. Just as importantly, his relaxed style of striking will allow him to carry his pace and technique deeper into the fight. Ledet has also shown finishing skills on the mat with 4 submission wins.

Godbeer is dangerous, but his window of opportunity starts to close quickly after the opening round- my prediction is Justin Ledet to defeat Mark Godbeer by TKO.Paragraph breaker

170lbs- Zak Cummings (19-5-0) vs Alexander Yakovlev (23-7-1)

In the Welterweight division, Zak Cummings returns to action to face Russia’s Alexander Yakovlev. Cummings lost a decision to Santiago Ponzinibbio in his last fight, ending a 2-fight winning streak and dropping his UFC record to 4-2. Yakovlev fell to Kamaru Usman via decision in his last UFC bout, also snapping a 2-fight winning streak

The Russian is 3 inches taller than Cummings, but the American will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

Yakovlev isn’t a high volume striker and has just a single knockout since 2011. He has had issues with fighters that have clinched with him and looked to work their grappling attack. For his career, he has been subbed 3-times and in the UFC, he is 1-2 when he gives up a takedown. He has relinquished 9 completions over 5-fights.

If Cummings opts to go to his grappling attack, he will find success both in the clinch and in top position. When standing, Cummings can counter strike or get on the inside and let his hands go.

Cummings has to be careful exchanging at distance with Yakovlev, but he simply has more tools to rely on in this fight- my prediction is Zak Cummings to defeat Alexander Yakovlev by decision.

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135lbs-#15 Marion Reneau (6-3-0) vs Milana Dudieva (11-4-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, Marion Reneau looks to hang onto her top 15 ranking when she meets the returning Milana Dudieva. Reneau has lost back to back fights, including a controversial split decision to Ashlee Evans-Smith. Dudieva won her own controversial split decision in her debut against Elizabeth Phillips, but lost to Julianna Pena via TKO in her sophomore appearance.

Reneau is 3 inches taller and will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage. Dudieva is 12 years younger than her opponent, but she has been out of action for roughly 19-months after taking time off to have a baby.

The layoff could be a major inhibitor for Dudieva, who isn’t known for her cardio at the best of times. She has slowed down in fights before and is 2-2 when forced beyond the opening round, including the controversial Phillips win. She can get a little wild on the feet and while she has decent submission numbers- her submission over position approach can be costly.

Reneau should find success utilizing a tighter striking style, with more impactful and crisp strikes. If Milana attacks on the mat and doesn’t get the quick sub, she will most likely find herself at a positional deficient. Marion is a BJJ Black belt and has a submission win over Jessica Andrade, who subbed Dudieva back in 2013.

The action should be intense early, but as the fight advances, Reneau’s more impactful offense, size, and better conditioning will pay dividends against a tired opponent- my prediction is Marion Reneau to defeat Milana Dudieva by TKO.

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135lbs- Brett Johns (12-0-0) vs Kwan Ho Kwak (9-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, a pair of UFC debutants square off as Brett “The Pikey” Johns takes on South Korea’s Kwan Ho Kwak. Johns has gone 2-0 since moving to Titan FC- he defeated both Anthony Gutierez and Wael Watson. Kwak is also coming to the promotion with a win over a former UFC fighter; he bested Alp Ozkilic via decision last May.

Johns is the taller man by 2 inches and he is younger than his foe by 3 years.

Fighting out of Wales, Johns is the former Titan FC Bantamweight champ. He did submit Watson, but he has as many decision wins (6) as he does finishes (2 knockouts and 4 subs). A Black belt in Judo, he is a patient fighter. He presents a strong defensive front at range before closing the gap to unload with short strikes and hard leg kicks. He can pick up some decent reactive takedowns and will maintain tight top control while landing some short elbows and punches from the top.

Kwan Ho is a dynamic striker. He is quick, throws clean technique, and is defensively sound. The early part of his career was spent facing lower level comp and since taking a step up he has gone to the 3rd round or beyond in 4 consecutive bouts. While Kwak is a natural talent, he tends to throw in single strikes and his cardio isn’t that great. Once he starts to tire, he becomes far more hittable and less active offensively.

Kwak is the better athlete and the more dynamic fighter. That being said, his TDD isn’t great and his lack of setup on his strikes opens him up to level changes. Once Johns start to incorporate his takedowns into the fight- the Korean Top Team member should start to slow down. Additionally, Kwak didn’t react well to getting kicked in the legs by Ozkilic, which served to throw off his rhythm. Johns has been out of the cage for over a year which is concerning, but he has all the tools to exploit the vulnerabilities of his opponent- my prediction is Brett Johns to defeat Kwan Ho Kwak by decision.

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170lbs- Charlie Ward (3-1-0) vs Abdul Razak Alhassan (6-0-0)

In the Welterweight division, Charlie Ward of Team SBG Ireland debuts across the cage from fellow UFC first-timer Abdul Razak Alhassan. Ward is 3-1 as a pro- he lost his debut fight via knockout but has gone undefeated since including his infamous defeat of Joao Carvalho. Alhassan has fought for Bellator and Legacy FC and was scheduled to face Dakota Cochrane in Bellator prior to making the switch to the UFC.

All indications are that Ward formerly fought at 185 pounds prior to making the move to the Octagon.

Alhassan has finished every opponent he has faced inside the opening round- all by KO or TKO. Even more impressively, no fight has gone beyond the 90-second mark. Abdul sits down on his punches and throws hard. His last 3 opponents are a combined 30-24, so while he hasn’t faced top level opposition- they have been experienced. With a record full of short fights, there are a lot of questions about Alhassan. How good is his cardio? Can he wrestle? Can he take a punch? He has yet to be really tested in any of these areas.

Ward’s defeat of Carvalho and Joao’s subsequent death is incredibly unfortunate. It can’t be easy for a fighter to move on from a situation like that. In the cage, he doesn’t have a lot of experience himself and neither does his recent competition. The only opponent of consequence that he has faced finished him in his debut. It isn’t hard to see that the connection between Ward and the current UFC Featherweight and Lightweight champion has played a large role in his entry into the promotion. Ward is a willing combatant on the feet and will mix in some wrestling when needed. He has gone the distance twice in victory.

Alhassan appears to be the more refined fighter, but the lack of prolonged cage time is concerning. His experience in Bellator and Legacy should help him to prepare for the big stage better than Ward, who will also be dealing with cutting down from his traditional fight weight of 185 pounds. Adbul moves well, throws hard leg kicks, and has noteworthy power in his hands. If Ward can drag this fight into the second half, he could take over- but my prediction is Abdul Razak Alhassan to defeat Charlie Ward by TKO

185lbs- Cezar Ferreira (11-5-0) vs Jack Hermansson (14-2-0)

In the headlining fight of the prelims, TUF Brazil winner Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira takes on Jack “The Joker” Hermansson in the Middleweight division. Ferreira is coming off of back to back wins over Anthony Smith and Oluwale Bamgbose after dropping a pair of fights by knockout. Hermansson picked up an upset win over Scott Askham in his promotional debut- he has 9 straight fights.

Both men are 6’1″, but Ferreira will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Hermansson is 3-years younger than his opponent.

Ferreira’s inability to take a punch has been a major concern throughout his UFC tenure. Each of his last 4 losses have come by knockout, all clean KOs. “Mutante” has a tendency to leave his head up and chin exposed when engaging. In an attempt to avoid being exposed to fight ending trauma, Cezar has leaned on his ground skills. Against a pair of capable finishers, the Brazilian completed 9 takedowns and held prolonged periods of top control leading to the scorecards. A decent wrestler and legit submission threat, makes Ferreira’s new reliance on his ground game the perfect foil to his paper thin chin.

“The Joker” put together an impressive performance in his debut; landing 88-significant strikes while doing damage and exhausting his opponent. Hermansson has a strong striking game, utilizing a snappy jab and a lot of movement to get the better of his opponent at distance. Against Askham, he routinely used the clinch position to tie up the Brit and land short strikes and hard knees. Hermansson has picked up 8 wins by knockout. The Swede has show a willingness to go to the mat, but he should probably focus on remaining vertical in this fight.

Ferreira will almost certainly come out looking for a quick level change and takedown. Neither one his last opponents had any answer for his ability to close the distance and shoot. Hermansson’s movement and distance management should serve to shut down the shot of Ferreira. The Swede needs to fight this contest either all the way in or all the way out. Once he gets in too close for his foe to bowl him over, Jack will find success unloading with his short range arsenal- my prediction is Jack Hermansson to defeat Cezar Ferreira by knockout/

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205lbs- Marcos Rogerio de Lima (14-4-1) vs Gadzhimurad Antigulov (18-4-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Marcos Rogerio de Lima welcomes another Russian fighter to the Octagon when he takes on Gadzhimurad  Antigulov. de Lima scored an opening round submission win over Clint Hester in his last fight, he is now 3-1 in the UFC. Antigulov hasn’t lost a fight since 2013, winning 12 consecutive fights in a row.

The Brazilian is 2 inches taller than his foe and is 2-years younger. Antigulov has fought at Middleweight and usually comes up short of hitting the 205 maximum.

A native of Sao Paulo, de Lima has yet to fight beyond the conclusion of the opening round in his 4-fight UFC run. A Muay Thai based striker, he throws everything with bad intentions. His aggression can serve to overwhelm his opponent, but it also appears to limit his ability to carry a consistent pace deep into fights. He is winless over his last 3-fights to last longer than 5-minutes. Rogerio will work his attack in the clinch, landing heavy knees and short elbows. Each of his first 2 UFC opponents were finished with short range attacks. He also has an underrated submission game once he hits the mat.

Not to be outdone, Antigulov also carries a finish heavy record- going the distance just once in his career. Of his 17-finishes, 14 have come by submission- including several choke based attacks. Gadzhimurad throws stiff single strikes, looking to close the gap and clinch up with his opponent. Once on the inside he will chip away at his opponent with short knees and elbows. If he can drag the fight to the ground, he is a solid top position player with guard passing ability, heavy GnP, and a strong submission arsenal.

There is a real chance the judges won’t be required here. de Lima hits hard, but his offense comes with diminishing returns. Antigulov has only gone to the 3rd round on one occasion and he has been finished in all 4 of his defeats. Rogerio made a mistake against Krylov going for a couple of ill-fated submission attempts and giving up position. He needs to avoid that here. When Antigulov looks to advance, de Lima will unload with power strikes and continue his assault once they get inside. The Brazilian can generate a lot of power in short distance and will attack off the break when he creates a little distance- my prediction is Marcos Rogerio de Lima to defeat Gadzhimurad Antigulov by TKO.

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135lbs- #13 Johnny Eduardo (27-10-0) vs Manny Gamburyan (18-10-0 1NC)

In the Bantamweight division, Top 15 ranked Johnny Eduardo takes on former WEC Featherweight title challenger Manny “The Anvil” Gamburyan. Eduardo is coming off of a loss to Aljamain Sterling, which followed his upset win over Eddie Wineland back in 2014. Gamburyan fell to 2-1 as a Bantamweight after an abrupt opening round defeat against John Dodson.

Eduardo is 2 inches taller than Manny and will have a 4″ reach advantage. “The Anvil” is the younger man by 3 years.

Fighting out of Nova Uniao, Eduardo has finished 20 opponents- 13 by submission. He is 7-2 on the scorecards. The Brazilian has struggled to remain active of late and will be competing after sitting on the shelf for roughly 11-months. Despite his submission numbers and holding a Purple belt in BJJ- Eduardo is at his best on the feet. He throws fluid combinations with decent power. Prior to the Wineland win, he stuffed both of Jeff Curran’s TDAs and landed a respectable 51-significant strikes on route to the decision win.

A Judo Black belt, Gamburyan has averaged 3.37 TDs at a 35% completion rate. He has landed 25-takedowns over his last 6 wins compared to just 5 over his last 5 defeats. With 7 wins by submission, Gamburyan is dangerous on the mat- most notably attacking his opponent’s neck with his signature guillotine. Manny has some pop in his hands, but wings wide-ranging hooks when attacking. His vertical output currently sits below what his opponents land on average per fight, making his ground game crucial to his attack.

Manny needs to get on the inside with regularity and take Eduardo down. That is going to be easier said than done against the dangerous and far more rangy striker. Sterling used his striking to set up his shots, which is something that Gamburyan won’t be able to rely on. Manny’s questionable chin and poor striking exchange rate makes the time spent on the feet a major liability. Eduardo keeps him on the outside, forces him to get desperate, and eventually catches him coming in with a counter- my prediction is Johnny Eduardo to defeat Manny Gamburyan by TKO

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265lbs- Luis Henrique (9-2-0 1NC) vs Christian Colombo (8-1-1)

In the Heavyweight division, Luis “KLB” Henrique makes the walk to the Octagon for the 3rd time when he takes on Christian “Godzilla” Colombo. Henrique fell to Francis Ngannou in his debut, but score a stoppage win over Dmitry Smoliakov in his next fight. Colombo debuted in a gritty performance, ending the fight with a draw against Jarjis Danho.

At 6’5″ Colombo is 3 inches taller than his foe and will have a 6″ reach advantage. Colombo should weigh roughly 20-pounds heavier than the Brazilian, but he is the younger man by 13-years.

In Colombo’s debut he landed 76-significant strikes, but was unable to put his opponent away. He has finished 6 opponents- all by knockout. Throughout the Danho fight, the big Dane had issues creating separation, with his opponent routinely getting on the inside of the Colombo’s reach. Despite the evident exhaustion of his foe, a finish did not materialize and the draw resulted when Colombo was deducted a point due to an illegal knee.

Henrique held his own early against Ngannou, scoring a key takedown with some decent top position control. He survived the early on slaught of his last opponent before locking in a second round rear-naked choke for the finish. “KLB” is pretty decent on the mat and if he can’t drag his foe to the ground, he will pin them on the wall where he can land short strikes. Henrique does leave his chin exposed when exchanging and has been knocked out twice.

The Brazilian is undersized in all areas in this fight, but he appears to be the more skilled fighter. He also has some decent experience beyond the opening round, which should give him the edge in a longer fight. Colombo had a lot of difficulty creating separation along the cage when Danho looked to put him there and “KLB” should have similar success. Once in the clinch, Henrique will take Colombo down and start working him over for the eventual mat finish. Luis has to be mindful of getting tagged when exchanging, but my prediction is Luis Henrique to defeat Christian Colombo by submission.

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135lbs- Pedro Munhoz (12-2-0 1NC) vs Justin Scoggins (11-2-0)

Justin “Tank” Scoggins moves up a division to compete at Bantamweight when he takes on “The Young Punisher” Pedro Munhoz. Munhoz is coming off a win over Russell Doane that ended a 2-fight winless skid consisting of a split decision loss to the surging Jimmie Rivera and a Win turned No Contest one fight prior. Scoggins bested Ray Borg in his last fight and has won back to back contests to improve to 4-2 in the UFC.

As mentioned, Scoggins is moving up to 135 pounds after he failed to make weight for his bout with Ian McCall and pulled out as a result. He is an inch taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Justin is also the younger man by 4-years.

The American offers a multi-faceted attack consisting of a karate-based striking arsenal and sound wrestling game. Scoggins throws a variety of leg techniques to both maintain distance and do damage. He will also snap out a straight left followed by a hard fight hand. On the mat, Justis has completed 21-takedowns over 6 bouts. He did get caught via guillotine by John Moraga and lost the majority of the scrambles in his narrow defeat versus Dustin Ortiz.

“The Young Punisher” is a dangerous finisher. He packs sizeable power in his hands, but he is even more dangerous on the mat. Munhoz is capable of locking up his signature guillotine choke with minimal opportunity to do so. Against Jerrod Sanders, he sprawled to defend his opponents shot, defended with a takedown, and immediately jumped on his foe’s neck for the tap. Against Doane, he was under fire early on the feet, but clinch and baited his foe into exposing his neck to get the tap. Munhoz has some decent pop in his hands and throws some hard leg kicks as well.

Scoggins has all the skills to keep Munhoz on the outside and avoid his power strikes and submission game. The size advantage lost from moving up a division should be replaced by being the faster fighter and not having to drain himself as much to make the weight. Where Scoggins will have issues is when he looks to implement his wrestling. He has a tendency to leave his head exposed when shooting and Munhoz will capitalize. Look for Pedro to push the pace and close in on Scoggins behind his strikes. When Scoggins feels the pressure he will counter with a level change and jump in to his opponent’s wheelhouse- my prediction is Pedro Munhoz to defeat Justin Scoggins by submission.

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205lbs- Francimar Barroso (18-5-0) vs Darren Stewart (7-0-0)

In the Lightweight division, Francimar Barroso battles the debuting Darren “The Dentist” Stewart. Barroso’s Octagon record fell to 3-2 with a second round submission loss to Nikita Krylov, he had picked up back to back wins over Elvis Mutapcic and Ryan Jimmo. Stewart has yet to taste defeat in his professional career including a pair of wins in 2016.

Barosso is 3 inches taller, but 10 years older than his British counterpart.

Barroso has finished his opponents in 14 of 18 wins, 8 by knockout. He has been knocked out on 3 occasions. The Nova Uniao product throws a lot single strikes, winging overhand punches. He is a decent kicker, but would benefit from an uptick in his output. On the mat, he has scored takedowns in all but 1 of his UFC fights- completing 8 in total. While he tends to be a grinder, his endurance is below average and he will start to slow down in the middle frame.

While many of his neighbors will have fought earlier in the day, Stewart makes the trip to South American for his first Octagon foray. He is a relatively new pro, debuting in 2014. He has 5 knockout wins on his record, 4 coming in the opening round. His last 3 adversaries amount to a 20-17 combined record. While he hits hard, the Brit tends to move forward behind his strikes and get locked up in the clinch. He has struggled through a couple recent bouts- getting hurt during a few exchanges and appearing exhausted before the midway mark of the fight. In order to combat these shortcomings, he has relied on his wrestling to ground his opponent and the action to a halt.

Stewart has talent and natural gifts, but he is still working to round them into a complete game. If he can crack Francimar early, he certainly could finish the fight. If he is unable to scoop up the early stoppage, look for the Brazilian to slow the action down, work his clinch game, and put the Brit on the mat. Neither man has great cardio, but the bigger more experienced fighter competing at home should have the edge here- my prediction is Francimar Barosso to defeat Darren Stewart by decision.

145lbs- #2 FRANKIE EDGAR (19-5-1) vs #7 JEREMY STEPHENS (25-12-0)

In the headlining fight of the undercard, former Lightweight champion and Featherweight title challenger Frankie “The Answer” Edgar squares off with “Lil’ Heathen” Jeremy Stephens. Edgar is coming off a tough interim title fight loss to Jose Aldo at UFC 200- he had won 5-fights in a row prior to the setback. Stephens picked up a victory over former Bantamweight champion Renan Barao in his last fight, he is 2-3 over his last 5 fights with his other victory in that span coming over Dennis Bermudez.

At 5’8″, Stephens is 2 inches taller than Edgar and will have a 3″ reach advantage. “Lil’ Heathen” is also the younger man by 5-years.

Frankie is a perfect 5-0 at Featherweight, outside of his 2-fight series with Aldo. He is known for his overwhelming striking pace, unending cardio, and heart. Edgar averages 3.49 SLpM, including 79 or more strikes in each of his last 5-fights to go beyond the first frame. The New Jersey-native will use a lot of lateral movement to set up his offense and showed his knockout power in is win over Chad Mendes. On the mat, Frankie will augment his vertical offense with a strong wrestling attack and active top game.

Edgar is making his first appearance on a UFC undercard since 2007.

Known for his face crushing power, Stephens has recorded 16 wins by knockout- 6 in the UFC. Jeremy has a bomb of a right hand, but offers other weapons as well. He knocked out Bermudez with a flying knee and KOed Rony Jason with a brutal head kick. While he can stop an opponent with one strike, he has a tendency to head hunt which makes his attack far less effective. Stephens has had issues with more technical strikers that avoided blindly exchanging with him. He has a near even striking exchange rate and as a result, he is 6-8 in fights that go to the scorecards.

Stephens has given up at least 1 takedown in each of his last 4 fights, surrendering 6 completions over that span.

Edgar can be hurt and while he has shown the ability to rally- Stephens has the type of power that isn’t to be trifled with. That being said, Edgar’s style is tailored-made to give Jeremy fits. Stephens has had issues with opponents that throw a lot of faints, struggling to find his own rhythm and let his hands go. If he can’t knock Edgar out, Stephens wont be able to match his output. The wrestling of Edgar will further add to the former champions attack and serve to nullify the biggest weapon of his opponent. Frankie could be facing a post-title fight ledtown and can be a bit of a slow starter, so he will need to get it cranked up quickly with just 3-rounds to work with- but my prediction is Frankie Edgar to defeat Jeremy Stephens by Decision.

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155lbs- #1 KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV (23-0) vs #6 MICHAEL JOHNSON (18-10)

In a bout that could potentially impact the future of the UFC 205 main event victor, “The Eagle” Khabib Nurmagomedov returns to action to take on Michael “The Menace” Johnson in the Lightweight division. Nurmagomedov is a perfect 7-0 inside the Octagon, including wins over the likes of Rafael Dos Anjos and Gleison Tibau. Johnson is coming off an impressive knockout of Dustin Poirier to return to the win column after a pair of losses to Nate Diaz and Beneil Dariush.

Nurmagomedov fought 7-months ago, but prior to that fight, he was out of action for almost exactly 2 years. Johnson will have a 3″ reach advantage, but they are both 5’10”. Khabib is the younger man by 2 years.

Johnson’s resurgence and rise to contention has hinged largely on his improved striking game. He has sound footwork, good hand speed, and showcased his power in the Poirier fight. He has 8-wins by knockout and averages 3.94 SLpM. He has surpassed the 100 strike plateau on 2 occasions. In addition to his improved striking, his counter wrestling has also seen marked advances. During his early 4-3 run in the UFC, he relinquished a total of 11 takedowns and was submitted twice. Most notably, Myles Jury was able to bury “The Menace” under a pile of top position. Over his last 7 fights, winning 5, MJ has not been takedown once on 17 combined attempts. He defended all 7 TDAs in the contentious Dariush loss, but was less willing to commit on his strikes for fear of getting taken down.

Johnson has a 2-6 record in fights ending by submission.

A dominant ground fighter, Nurmagomedov comes from a variety of grappling backgrounds including wrestling, sambo, and judo. He has put up some impressive takedown stats, including 6 completions against the former Lightweight champ in Dos Anjos and an astronomical 21-completions against Abel Trujillo- a UFC record. Once he gets in on his opponent’s hips, he is very difficult to defend against- elevating his adversary and driving them to the floor. His top game is equally as impressive, with smothering control. On the feet, he is an unorthodox striker. He leaps into his punches, often leading with an uppercut and then changing levels to shoot for a takedown. When under attack, he will back up with his chin raised high, but it has yet to cost him in the UFC.

Nurmagomedov landed 75-significant strikes in his most recent win, with the majority coming from top position.

Johnson has to stay vertical to win this fight- that isn’t an earth shattering revelation. Johnson’s speed and footwork are his keys to avoiding the shot of Nurmagomedov. If he can stick and move, he could either outpoint the Russian or pick up the knockout. That will be easier said than done. Khabib’s ability to press forward and change levels is going to keep Johnson working on his backfoot. If MJ does opt to press the action, “The Eagle” will simply change levels and counter with a shot. Once on top, look for the Russian to exhaust Johnson with his pace. As he starts to slow down the takedowns will come easier. Nurmagomedov needs to be mindful early when exchanging on the feet, but my prediction is Khabib Nurmagomedov to defeat Michael Johnson by decision.

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170lbs- VICENTE LUQUE (10-5-1) vs BELAL MUHAMMAD (10-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, “The Silent Assassin” Vicente Luque meets Belal “Remember the Name” Muhammad. Luque has won 3 consecutive bouts dating back to a decision defeat in his debut. Muhammad also lost his debut, falling to Alan Jouban by decision before returning to the win column with a TKO victory over Augusto Montano in September.

Luque is replacing Lyman Good on roughly 2-weeks notice. Both men are 5’11”, but Luque will have a 3″ reach advantage. Vicente is the younger man by 3 years.

Luque has finished his opponent in all 3 of his UFC win, fighting beyond the opening round just once. The Brazilian melds together a dangerous grappling attack and capable Muay Thai arsenal. Against Alvaro Herrera, he completed a 4-pack of takedowns and held prolonged top control with ground and pound eventually leading to the submission finish. The majority of his wins on the floor have come via choke, including sleeping Hayder Hassan with an anaconda choke. “The Silent Assassin” obliterated Hector Urbina with a vicious right hand that followed a smooth combination. He augments his hand techniques with a strong kicking attack.

Luque went 1-1 during his time on the Ultimate Fighter, avenging his TUF loss to Hassan in his first UFC win.

Building his offense around a sound striking attack, Muhammad has good hand speed, employs a lot of faints, and builds his attack behind a stiff jab. He has averaged 4.88 SLpM over his 2 UFC bouts. His punches are tight and crisp, and he will work in a decent variety of kicks as well. Defensively, he was hurt on multiple occasions by Jouban has given up some lofty striking totals in both of his fights. His offensive wrestling has been surprisingly good, with 5 completions. Known more for his defense, he shut down the constant TDAs of Steve Carl in his final pre-UFC fight.

Muhammad captured the Titan FC Welterweight title in his round 4 TKO victory over Carl.

Both fighters are well-rounded, capable of fighting on the mat or the feet. While the power edge might lie with Luque, the output of Muhammad will play a bigger role over a full 15-minutes. Luque has a tendency to leave his head on the center line when attacking, which will allow Belal to land with regularity. Similarily, Luque is the better finisher on the mat, but he is going to struggle to put himself in a position to use his grappling skills. Muhammad is tough to takedown and could exploit the TDD of Luque that cost him 7 completions in his unsuccessful debut. If Luque can finish the fight early, he will avoid the output advantage of Muhammad and any issues that come along with taking the fight on short notice. Instead, look for Muhammad to keep things close early and pull away from a fighter that is 1-5-1 in bouts that last to the 3rd round- my prediction is Belal Muhammad to defeat Vincente Luque by decision

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155lbs- JIM MILLER (27-8-0 1NC) vs THIAGO ALVES (26-10-0)

In the Lightweight division, Thiago “Pitbull” Alves makes his long awaited Lightweight debut against New Jersey’s own Jim Miller. Miller is coming off of a controversial split-decision win over Joe Lauzon to pick up a second consecutive victory. Alves lost via brutal TKO to Carlos Condit after earning a pair of wins over Jordan Mein and Seth Baczynski.

Alves has spent his career fighting at Welterweight and even had issues making weight earlier in his career. He hasn’t fought in 17-months. Alves is an inch taller, but will give up an inch of reach- they are the same age.

Thiago is a nasty Muay Thai striker. He has serious power in his hands, but his low kicks are arguably the most impactful aspect of his offensive attack. Thiago’s ability to turn his hips over and drive his kicks into his opponent’s leg can be a game changer. In his comeback win over Mein, he stopped the Canadian with a thudding kick to the midsection. Alves attacks with respectable volume at 3.67 SLpM and has shown improved cardio and the ability to maintain his pace in recent fights. The Brazilian has used his wrestling offensively in the past, but would be better served by focusing on remaining vertical against Miller.

Alves has always appeared undersized at Welterweight and has had issues dealing with longer opponents.

Miller is a dangerous submission fighter, but lacks the consistent wrestling attack to put himself in a position to use those skills. Miller averages just 1.6 takedowns per fight and has lost the takedown battle by a count of 14-6 over his last 10 fights. Jimmy has 13 submission wins, but relies heavily on his opponents’ willingness to engage him on the mat. He tends to be a bit of a kamikaze grappler, giving up position to jump on a submission. On the feet, he offers a decent striking arsenal and landed some hard shots against Lauzon. Miller’s best offensive numbers came in his 2-wins over Joe where he amassed a total of 171 combined strikes.

Miller is the only UFC fighter to have competed at UFC 100, 200, and now the landmark 205 event. Alves fought at 100 and now 205.

This fight could very well be decided by the weight cut of Alves and how well he is able to perform as a result. Thiago’s superior striking, both in technique and impact is going to be too much for Miller to overcome. Once Alves begins to unload on Jim’s legs and take away his base, both his movement while striking and his ability to shoot will be compromised. Even if undamaged, the wrestling of Miller is going to struggle against Alves’s defense that should benefit from not facing the larger men at 170 pounds. Miller is a tough out, but he will simply be exposed to too much damage if Alves keeps the action on the feet- my prediction is Thiago Alves to defeat Jim Miller by TKO.

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185lbs- #14 RAFAEL NATAL (21-7-1) vs TIM BOETSCH (19-10-0)

In the Middleweight division, Rafael “Sapo” Natal tries to get back in the win column against Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch. Natal dropped a decision to Robert Whittaker, ending a 4-fight winning streak dating back to late 2014. Boetsch snapped a 3-fight skid with a TKO victory over Josh Samman (may he rest in peace), but he is just 3-6 over his last 9-fights.

Both men are 6’0″ tall, but Natal will have a 2″ reach advantage. The Brazilian is a year younger than his opponent.

Boetsch has scored knockouts in 3 of his last 5 wins, with the remaining 2 triumphs coming by split decision. Tim has noteworthy power with 9 wins by knockout, but his stoppage defeats have also started to pile up. He has been finished 7-times in his career. “The Barbarian” offers a decent kicking arsenal at distance and a hard right hand over the top. In close, Tim can do a lot of damage with his clinch punches- highlighted by a heavy uppercut. Adding to his striking offense, Tim is a serviceable wrestler. He stopped Samman on the mat and has given up just a single takedown over his last 6 fights.

Boetsch has a pair of impressive comeback victories on his resume- stopping both Yushin Okami and Brad Tavares after falling behind on the scorecards.

A BJJ Black belt, Natal has 8 wins by sub- but none over his last 9-fights. His recent success was spurred on my his ground skills; completing 15 takedowns during his 4-fight winning streak. The Brazilian relies on a reactive double leg takedown, catching his opponent as they come forward. Once on top, he is good at maintaining prolonged periods of top control. With the exception of a left jab, he deploys his hands in wide looping strikes. Rafael’s best offense comes in the form of hard leg kicks. He badly damaged the legs of Whittaker with a constant barrage of low kicks.

Rafael is 3-2 over his last 5 fights to go the distance, but 2 of those 3 victories came via split decision.

Natal’s grappling skills are the key to his success, but if he is unable to bring them into play- he isn’t nearly as effective a fighter. The combination of Rafael’s willingness to stand and trade and the counter wrestling of Boetsch will limit the time spent on the mat. Consequently, the physical toll of battling Boetsch in the clinch will slow Natal down. Boetsch throws with a lot of power and surprising accuracy, especially with his right hand. His aggressive forward push will shut down the kicking offense of “Sapo”. The repetitive nature of Natal when striking and tendency to get wild and sling wide-ranging hooks will open him up to the power strikes of his American counterpart. Natal has been knocked out multiple times and Boetsch hits too hard for him to routinely absorb punishment- my prediction is Tim Boetsch to defeat Rafael Natal by TKO

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135lbs-#9 LIZ CARMOUCHE (9-5-0) vs #14 KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN (8-0-0)

The first UFC fight to take place in New York City will feature former title challenger Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche taking on UFC sophomore Katlyn Chookagian in the Women’s Bantamweight division. Carmouche is coming off of a win over Lauren Murphy that came after back to back losses to Alexis Davis and Miesha Tate. Chookagian is still undefeated after her debut, where she also picked up a win over the aforementioned Murphy.

Chookagian is 3 inches taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. She is also the younger fighter by 4-years. Carmouche has not fought in 19-months.

Carmouche is returning after a long layoff with her spot in the top 10 on the line. She is a ground fighter when at her best. Over her UFC and Strikeforce career, she has averaged 2.65 takedowns per fight at a 45% completion rate. She picked up a UFC personal best 5 completions against Tate and has landed 11 TDs over her last 4-fights. A BJJ purple belt, she has just a pair of submissions, but came very close to finishing Ronda Rousey via rear-naked choke. Liz has 6 wins by knockout, including a top-position based TKO over Jessica Andrade.

Carmouche continues to pick up the historical accolades; adding the first UFC fight in New York City to being the first openly lesbian fighter on the roster and partaking in the first women’s fight inside the Octagon.

Despite recording just a pair of wins by knockout, Chookagian is a striker by trade. Her final pre-UFC fight ended via 45-second knockout. She throws an effective counter left hook and will mix in a well timed stepping knee to the body. She routinely got the better of Murphy during the exchanges, utilizing her footwork to stay out of range and offering strong combination boxing. Speed and accuracy are the high notes of her offensive attack. Not a strong wrestler, Katlyn does have a submission history worth mentioning. Her only pro win by tap out came via armbar, but as an amateur she secured 4 submission wins- all by armbar. She is a BJJ Brown belt.

Chookagian had fought her entire career at 125 prior to debuting in the UFC.

This fight will be decided by distance. Chookagian did an excellent job of sticking on the outer ridge of the cage and peppering away at Murphy as she came forward. Carmouche isn’t a strong distance striker and if she can’t close the gap she is going to get out-worked from start to finish. Conversely, on the inside Carmouche is exceptionally heavy. Her ability to score takedowns along the cage and maintain top position is her key to success. Katlyn had issues in pre-UFC bouts getting stalled out in the clinch and once Murphy took her down in round 2, she was unable to get off of her back. Murphy chased Chookagian too much, failing to cut off the cage and commit to her wrestling game. Look for Carmouche to close that distance with more urgency, grind her foe into the wall and eventually take her down from the clinch. Carmouche will need to shake off the ring rust early, but my prediction is Liz Carmouche to defeat Katlyn Chookagian by decision.

135lbs- Erik Perez (16-6-0) vs Felipe Arantes (18-7-1)

In the headlining fight, Mexico’s own Erik “Goyito” Perez meets Brazilian-born Felipe Arantes in the Bantamweight division. Perez is 2-0 since returning from a 2014 loss to Bryan Caraway- he defeated Francisco Rivera at UFC 201. Arantes has also won back to back fights since a loss in 2014, he has yet to taste defeat since cutting to 135 pounds.

Both men are 5’8″, but Arantes will have a sizable 5″ reach advantage.

The Rivera victory was a crazy affair, where Perez looked to maintain a more technical approach early but eventually got drawn into a wild brawl. “Goyito” has shown signs of improved footwork and a technical striking attack, but it has also lead to some issues getting stuck on the outside and struggling to land his offense. Perez can also work on the mat, landing a pair of takedowns against Rivera and earning 7 career wins by submission.

Upon entering the UFC, Arantes was known for his striking ability, picking up 7 career wins by knockout. In his recent victories, he has showcased his submission skills- tapping both of his opponents sine moving to 135 pounds. The big concern with Arantes has been his takedown defense. Each of his last 2 opponents took him down and controlled top position for a while before getting caught. He has given up 19 takedowns over his 9 UFC fights.

Perez is fighting at home which will have him fired up. He should have the edge in striking output, as long as he can find success getting inside Felipe’s reach. Arantes’s striking is sound, but he will need to outpace Perez on the feet by an overwhelming margin if he can grab a finish. Perez has a decent wrestling game and solid top control. If he is able to score takedowns and fend off the early sub attempts, the positional advantage will weigh heavy with the judges. As the fight progresses, look for both men to tire and get sweaty- making that sub even harder to catch for Arantes. Perez continues to show development in his striking and makes Arantes pay for the time he spends on his back- my prediction is Erik Perez to defeat Felipe Arantes by decision.

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140lbs- Marco Beltran (8-4-0) vs Joe Soto (16-5-0)

At a catchweight of 140 pounds, Joe “One Bad Mofo” Soto steps in on short notice to take on Marco “Psycho” Beltran. Soto is coming off a submission win over Chris Beal for his first career UFC win after an 0-3 start to his UFC run. Beltran had lost 3 straight fights prior to taking part in the first season of Latin American TUF- he is a perfect 3-0 in the UFC after picking up another win last July.

Soto is replacing Guido Canetti with just 4-days to prep. Beltran is the taller man by 2 inches and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Despite having the edge in both quality and quantity of experience, Soto is a year young than his foe.

Beltran picked up a come-from-behind victory in his last fight. Prior to getting the finish, he spent a lot of the action on his back or backing up during the striking exchanges. He did land some good knee strikes and hurt his adversary with a couple of hard up-kicks. Beltran likes to rely on his reach and distance management to keep his opponent on the outside, unable to land strikes or takedowns. When pushed, Marco will engage his foe on the feet- but it opens him to taking some damage.

Soto struggled early against Beal, finding it hard to close the distance against the speed and combination striking of his foe. Joe ate some big strikes from Beal as a result of his willingness to sit in the pocket and trade punches. With a trio of knockout losses, his chin is far from iron-clad and he tends to shell up when under fire. Eventually, he was able to break Beal down and get the fight to the floor. On the mat, Soto is incredibly crafty and has 9 wins by submission.

Soto’s wrestling has been ineffectual at best in the UFC, including landing just 1 of his 7 TDAs against Beal. On the flipside, he needed just one opportunity on the mat to take over the fight. Beltran is going to look to keep Soto out of range and land strikes where Joe can’t touch him. Soto is going to press forward in an effort to close that gap, which could result in him eating a fight-ending blow. If Soto avoids getting knocked out on his way in, he will take Beltran down where the American’s grappling skills will be difficult for Beltran to fend off. The incredibly short notice is concerning, but the veteran fighter will be too much for his opponent- my prediction is Joe Soto to defeat Marco Beltran by submission.

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170lbs- Erick Montano (8-4-0) vs Max Griffin (12-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, Erick “Perry” Montano takes on Max “Pain” Griffin. Griffin is coming off of a debut loss to Colby Covington, ending the 2-fight winning streak that got him to the UFC. Montano was successful in his bid to capture the TUF Latin America title, but he suffered a submission setback to Randy Brown in his follow-up performance.

Griffin in an inch shorter than his adversary, but he will have a 3″ reach advantage.

With 6 wins by knockout, Griffin has some decent pop in his hands. Unfortunately, he was unable to showcase that skill set in his debut as he spent the majority of the bout on the mat before getting finished in the final round. His defensive wrestling was also an issue in one of his final pre-UFC, where he was able to rally and score a late knockout. Max “Pain” has 5 first round wins, 4 inside the opening minute.

Montano is a fighter that lives and dies on the mat. He has 4 wins by submission, but lacks a strong wrestling game to take his opponent to the mat with consistency. His lack of wrestling forces him to create scramble scenarios and take chances to try and get the fight to the floor. This has resulted in all 4 of his pro defeats coming by submission, including his loss to Brown where he dove in for an early third round takedown and got caught in a choke.

Griffin does have a clear vulnerability on the mat, but can Montano exploit it? Brown engaged “Perry” in the clinch and on the ground which opened the door for the TUF Latin America winner to find some success with his best skill. Max will not oblige him in that realm. The American is the superior striker and appears to be the quicker fighter as well. His athleticism will allow him to avoid Montano’s attempts to tie up and force the fight to play out on the feet. Griffin’s superior striking arsenal and power will be the difference maker- my prediction is Max Griffin to defeat Erick Montano by knockout.

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135lbs- Enrique Briones (19-5-1) vs Douglas Silva de Andrade (23-1-0 1NC)

In the first of two Bantamweight bouts on the undercard, Enrique Briones battles Brazilian Douglas Silva de Andrade. Briones was last seen going the distance with future title challenger Cody Garbrandt- he is 1-1 in the UFC. de Andrade rebounded from the first loss of his pro career with an upset decision win over Cody Gibson UFC Fight Night 61.

Both men have been out of action for a prolonged period of time. Briones has been on the shelf for just over 16-months and de Andrade hasn’t seen action for the better part of a 20-month span. The Mexican fighter is an inch taller and will have an inch reach advantage- he is 5 years older than his opponent. With both men returning to action after more than a year off, there is

With both men returning to action after more than a year off, there is sizeable degree of uncertainty surrounding this fight. Additionally, de Andrade has spent almost his entire career competing at home in Brazil, so fighting on foreign soil for the first time could further complicate the matter. He is also fighting at 135-pounds for just the second time in his career. The Brazilian has big knockout numbers, but his quality of opposition has played a role in his success. In his last fight, he threw a lot of single strikes between prolonged periods of inactivity. He did score a knockdown, but his lack of consistent offensive is concerning.

Briones is far from an overwhelming volume striker either, but he too has big finishing numbers- 8 knockouts and 6 submission wins. The ground attack of Enrique could be a key advantage, as de Andrade was taken down multiple times in his debut defeat. He isn’t afraid to trade on the feet, knocking out his foe in his debut and landing some decent strikes against Garbrandt. He also absorbed some big shots in both of his UFC outings and has never been knocked out. If Andrade is unable to score the finish, he doesn’t possess the type of offensive output conducive to winning decisions without having some big moments. Look for Briones to be the slightly more active fighter on the feet and mix in a couple of key takedowns. Fighting at home will also help Enrique

If Andrade is unable to score the finish, he doesn’t possess the type of offensive output conducive to winning a decision without having some big moments. Look for Briones to be the slightly more active fighter on the feet and mix in a couple of key takedowns. Fighting at home will also help Enrique, especially in the second half once the altitude begins to impact de Andrade and he starts to slow down- my prediction is Henry Briones to defeat Douglas Silva de Andrade by decision

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185lbs- Sam Alvey (28-8-0 1NC) vs Alex Nicholson (7-2-0)

In the headlining fight of the UFC Fight Pass portion of the card, “Smile’n” Sam Alvey makes his fourth UFC appearance of the year when he meets Alex “The Spartan” Nicholson in the Middleweight. Alvey has won back to back fights over Kevin Casey and Eric Spicely after a 2-fight skid to start 2016. Nicholson debuted unsuccessfully at Light Heavyweight, but defeated Devin Clark in his 185-pound debut last July.

Nicholson is 2 inches taller and will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. Alvey is 4-years older than his opponent and has 37-career bouts compared to just 9 for Nicholson.

Alvey has finished all 5 of his UFC wins, 4 by knockout, and 4 inside the first 5 minutes. He has stopped 21 opponents overall compared to a 7-6 record in decisions. “Smile’n” Sam is a quality over quantity striker, picking his spots and relying on his seismic power to shut the fight down when he does land. He has been out-struck on multiple occasions, but still emerged victorious. This style also attributes to his poor record in decisions.

Nicholson isn’t afraid to engage and showcased his power in his last fight. He as recorded 6 of his 7 wins by knockout. While he did finish Clark, he was nearly knocked out himself running forward into a well-timed counter. “The Spartan” is a big of an unorthodox striker and as a result, he can leave himself open to taking damage.

Alvey took a bit to find the finish against Casey and he was unable to overcome the strategy based attack of Elias Theodorou. Nicholson has never been knocked out, but his willingness to engage will open him up to Alvey’s power- my prediction is Sam Alvey to defeat Alex Nicholson by KO

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155lbs- Marco Polo Reyes (7-3-0) vs Jason Novelli (11-2-0 1NC)

In the Lightweight division, “El Toro” Marco Polo Reyes meets Jason “Flipside” Novelli. Reyes scored a knockout of Dong Hyun Kim in an entertaining back and forth scrap at UFC 199 to improve to 2-0 inside the Octagon. Novelli had an unsuccessful debut, suffering a 2nd round knockout loss to David Teymur.

Novelli is an inch taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Reyes is the younger man by 5 years.

Reyes has stopped his foe in all 6 of his wins- 5 by knockout.He is an aggressive brawler, willing to sit down and trade with minimal focus on defense. Against Kim, he absorbed a significant amount of damage prior to getting the finish.

Novelli has 9 finishes (6 submissions) compared to a pair of victories on the scorecards. He has a decent striking arsenal, building his attack around his kicking arsenal and counter striking skills. Looking to measure and counter his foe, he does have a tendency to sit back and let his opponent dictate the pace. This can leave “Flipside” vulnerable against more aggressive opponents that are willing to push the pace.

While Novelli does have a submission heavy record, he has struggled in recent fights to find success with his ground game. That should force him to exchange with Reyes, who will use his aggression and power to get the better of the action on the feet. Look for Reyes to drag Novelli out of his comfort zone and into a firefight- my prediction is Marco Polo Reyes to defeat Jason Novelli by TKO

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145lbs- Enrique Barzola (11-3-1) vs Chris Avilla (5-3-0)

Opening the night of fights, TUF Latin American winner Enrique “El Fuerte” Barzola takes on Gracie Fight Team member Chris Avila. Avila lost a decision to Artem Lobov in his UFC debut at UFC 202. Barzola took his first fight after being crowned TUF champ, losing a contestable split decision to Kyle Bochniak.

Avila is 3 inches taller than his Peruvian counterpart and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Avila is 4-years younger.

The American has picked up a trio of knockout wins, but has struggled when taking a step up in competition. Avilla leads with a snapping left jab and can work a volume striking attack similar to his Stockton-based training partners. Against Lobov and in his previous defeats, he has struggled against aggressive forward pressure. Avila isn’t nearly as effective when moving backward and struggles to change the flow of the fight once his opponent has him backing up.

Barzola showcased a wrestling heavy attack during his time on the Ultimate Fighter and in his final’s victory. He landed 5-takedowns, and has a strong top position game. Against Bochniak, he opted to change his approach and focus on his striking. Utilizing improved footwork and a solid lead jab, Enqirue got the better of the striking totals at 55-41 but lost the decision.

This fight should come down to Barzola’s ability to force Avila to fight off his back foot. Whether striking or looking to shoot for a takedown, Enrique will find success dictating the pace of the fight and rendering his opponent defensive for the duration- my prediction is Enrique Barzola to defeat Chris Avilla by decision.

145lbs- Mirsad Bektic (10-0-0) vs Russell Doane (14-6-0)

In a fight plagued by injury, Mirsad Bektic opens the UFC 204 PPV against late notice injury replacement Russell Doane in the Featherweight division. Doane has lost 3-consecutive bouts after back to back wins to start his Octagon career. Bektic debuted in the UFC undefeated and has yet to taste defeat wit a trio of UFC victories- most recently stopping Lucas Martins.

Doane steps in with less than a week to prep, this bout was originally scheduled to feature British standout, Arnold Allen. While they are very similar in height and reach, Doane is moving up from Bantamweight to take this fight. Bektic is the younger man by 5-years.

Bektic has struggled to remain active since coming to the UFC. He debuted in 2014, but has only fought 3-times and comes into this fight off of a 17-month layoff. The Bosnia-born fighter has been an absolute monster on the mat- combining a strong takedown game an unrelenting work rate once he hits the floor. Doane is a capable fighter on the mat, but at times he makes poor decisions that put him in some bad spots. Against Jerrod Sanders, he was routinely getting out-positioned and once put on his back he struggled to mount much offense. Doane has been taken down at least once in each of his UFC appearances and has given up 10-takedowns overall. He has been subbed 3-times during his career. Against a natural Featherweight, Doane is going to struggle with the heavy top game that Mirsad presents. Doane would be best suited to keep this fight standing, but that will prove too difficult- Bektic grounds him early and unloads with a barrage of strikes until the referee pulls him off- my prediction is Mirsad Bektic to defeat Russell Doane by TKO

135lbs- BRAD PICKETT (26-11-0) vs IURI ALCANTARA (32-7-0 1NC)

Capping off the undercard, a pair formerly Top 15 ranked fighters go head to head as the UK’s Brad “One Punch” Pickett throws down with Iuri “Marajo” Alcantara in the Bantamweight division. Pickett is coming off of a controversial split-decision win over Francisco Rivera that ended a 3-fight losing skid. Alcantara suffered a hard-fought loss to the fast rising Jimmie Rivera in his last outing- he has alternated wins and losses over his last 4 fights.

At 5’9″, Alcantara is 3 inches taller than his opponent and will have a 3″ reach advantage. The Brazilian, who formerly competed at 145-pounds is 2-years younger than Pickett- who had a recent and unsuccessful run in the Flyweight division.

Pickett is coming off a fight where many felt he was gifted a decision in front of his hometown. The numbers support that logic, with Rivera landing 69 significant strikes compared to just 39 for “One Punch”.  Statistically, Pickett gets hit 1.36 times more per minute than he hits his opponents and he has been out-landed in 8 of his last 9 fights. This is largely due to the fact that the Brit is willing to take a punch to land and he has confidence in his chin. That being said, Alcantara should have the edge in power with 14-career knockouts. Iuri’s output is far from overwhelming and unless “Marajo” is able to score the knockout, he is going to struggle to match Pickett’s output on the feet. Additionally, the Brazilian has had issues with his TDD and the Brit has scored 15 takedowns over his last 5 victories. Alcantara is dangerous off his back, but just like his striking output- it is a detrimental position if he can’t get the finish. The activity rate of Pickett on the feet combined with a couple of crucial takedowns, especially as Alcantara slows down in the second half of the fight, will be the difference- my prediction is Brad Pickett to defeat Iuri Alcantara by decision.

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135lbs- IAN ENTWISTLE (9-3-0) vs ROB FONT (12-2-0)

In the second of 3 Bantamweight bouts on the card, England’s Ian “The Locksmith” Entwistle takes on Team Sityodtong product Rob Font. Entwistle is coming off a TKO loss to Alejandro Perez last April, to drop his Octagon record to 1-2. Font’s 11-fight winning streak came to an abrupt halt at the heavy hands of John Lineker- Font dropped a decision to the Brazilian at UFC 198.

This will be Entwistle’s third bout at 135 pounds, dating back to his submission victory over Anthony Birchak. Font is 3 inches taller and will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage. The American is the younger man by a year.

This fight will most likely be decided in the opening 2-3 minutes, possibly sooner. Entwistle is known for his aggressive leg lock oriented grappling attack- 8 of his 9 wins have come by first-round submission. The Brit has never seen the second round. He is the definition of a submission over position fighter and Font will need to be defensively strong early. When Entwistle attacks, he either forces the tap out or puts himself in a position to take a lot of damage and ultimately get finished. While this fight will almost certainly be decided on the floor, if Font can maintain separation he will have a marked advantage on the feet based on his technical skill and large reach. Font has demonstrated good composure under pressure and strong defensive front that will force the Brit to take some risks to get to the mat. After Font defends the early submission tries, he should be in control from top position. Entwistle won’t divert from his traditional game plan and Font has the power to make him pay for it- my prediction is Rob Font to defeat Ian Entwistle by TKO.

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135lbs- DAVEY GRANT (10-2-0) vs DAMIAN STASIAK (10-2-0)

Making his second appearance of 2016, “Dangerous” Davey Grant faces off with Poland’s Damian “Webster” Stasiak” in the Bantamweight division. After Grant TUF tournament finals loss to Chris Holdsworth he was finally able to return to action last February with a decision win over Marlon Vera. Stasiak is also coming off of his inaugural UFC victory, submitting Filip Pejic and suffering a wide decision loss to Yaotzin Meza.

The Brit is 3 inches taller, but will give up an inch of reach. Stasiak is 5-years younger.

It is hard to believe that Grant debuted back in 2013 and didn’t fight again until earlier this year. He carries a submission heavy record, tapping out 8 of his 10 victims- 7 by either rear-naked choke or guillotine. Stasiak picked up his sixth career submission win in his last fight, the fifth time he has won by RNC. Both men are capable ground fighters, but both have also lost fights on the mat. Grant was subbed by Holdsworth at the TUF Finale and “Webster” gave up a couple of takedowns against Meza and spent the majority of the fight on his back. Meza routinely out-scrambled Damian to gain the better position throughout the contest. Both men are capable of competing on the feet, but Grant does a better job of melding the different aspects of his offense together. Davey has some pop in his hands and can pile up the damage, landing 72-significant strikes against Vera. While Stasiak comes from a karate background and offers a decent kicking arsenal, he isn’t nearly as active and attacks mainly with single strikes. The aggressive forward pressure that “Dangerous” Davey puts forth should shut down the kicking arsenal of Stasiak. Once Grant closes the gap, he will find success changing levels and dragging Stasiak to the mat. Grant’s transitional grappling game and strong top control will be too much for Stasiak to deal with. The Pole has never been finished, but he is 2-3 on the scorecards- my prediction is Davey Grant to defeat Damian Stasiak by decision

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170lbs- LEON EDWARDS (11-3-0) vs #14 ALBERT TUMENOV (17-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, British fighter Leon “Rocky” Edwards takes on Russia’s Albert “Einstein” Tumenov to open the televised prelims. Edwards is coming off a win over Dom Waters, to help him to rebound from a tough loss to Kamaru Usman- he is 3-2 in the UFC. Last May, Tumenov was upset by Icelandic grappling machine Gunnar Nelson for the first stoppage loss of his career ending his 5-fight winning streak.

Tumenov is 1″ taller and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

Edwards biggest downfall during his UFC stint has been his takedown defense. Opponents have found success putting “Rocky” on his back with regularity, including 10 completions given up over his last 2 -fights. Similarily, Tumenov has given up multiple takedowns in each of his defeats. Both fighters should benefit from facing an opponent that won’t be looking for an early takedown. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to see either man attempt to drag the fight to the mat at some point, but this contest should be decided on the feet. While Tumenov (11) has more than double Edward’s number of wins by knockout (5), Leon’s power can not be ignored- as shown in the 8-second stoppage of Seth Baczynski. Additionally, Edwards is a southpaw which can create some issues for his opponent. Statistically, Tumenov has a vastly superior work rate,  landing just over 2 strikes more per minute than Edwards. “Einstein” has also compiled these numbers against better competition. Edwards has a decent kicking arsenal, but he throws a lot of single strikes. The Russian will also cut his output back when he is looking to counter strike, but he is far more aggressive overall. When faced with other striking-based opposition, the impact of Tumenov’s techniques have been the difference maker- especially his kicks. Look for him to a land the more devastating strikes and to do it more often- my prediction is Albert Tumenov to defeat Leon Edwards by knockout

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170lbs- DANNY ROBERTS (13-1-0) vs MIKE PERRY (8-0-0)

The final fight on Fight Pass prelims, Danny “Hot Chocolate” Roberts puts his perfect UFC record on the line against “Platinum” Mike Perry. Roberts has defeated Nathan Coy and Dominique Steele during his UFC career and has won 7 straight fights. Perry picked up a shocking upset win by knockout over Hyun Gyu Lim at UFC 202 in his UFC debut to remain undefeated.

Roberts is 3 inches taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage as well. The American is the younger man by 4-years.

Perry began his UFC tenure in controversial fashion, with some of the pre and post fight antics surrounding his victory overshadowing a crushing knockout win. All 8 of his wins have ended via KO or TKO- 6 in round 1. He scored multiple knockdowns against Lim before getting the stoppage. Perry throws a lot of single strikes when attacking, using a jab and some hard low kicks when not looking for the kill. Roberts is a much more technically sound striker, throwing his offense behind an active jab and clearly drawing upon his boxing background when attacking. He has 5 knockouts on his record, but his strength lies in his combination striking and ability to pile up damage on his foe. While Perry exploited the major defensive liabilities in Lim’s game, Roberts’s defense is much strong. Perry could opt to use his wrestling to put “Hot Chocolate” on his back, but Danny is a decent grappler and subbed Coy once taken down. Perry relies too much on landing big shots which will create openings for Roberts to use his reach and routinely land the quicker strikes. Danny drags Perry into the second half of the contest and pulls away against a diminished opponent- my prediction is Dany Roberts to defeat Mike Perry by decision.

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155lbs- LEONARDO SANTOS (15-4-1) vs ADRIANO MARTINS (28-7-0)

In an all-Brazilian affair, TUF Brazil 2 winner Leonardo Santos meets former Jungle Fights Lightweight champion, Adriano Martins. Martins has won 3 in row, including back to back wins over a pair of highly touted Russian fighters- most recently KOing Islam Makhachev. Santos is also riding a 3-fight winning streak, with an upset knockout of Kevin Lee in his last fight- he is undefeated over his last 10-bouts.

Santos is 2 inches taller and will have a similar reach advantage. Martins is the younger man by 2-years, but he has been on the shelf for just over 12-months. Santos hasn’t competed since last December.

Santos has consistently toppled the apple cart during his UFC run, picking up multiple upsets along the way. He is a very good grappler with 9 wins by submission- 2 in the UFC. He has also showcased an improved striking repertoire, most notably stopping Lee in round 1. The biggest hole in his attack has been his wrestling game. Leonardo has struggled to drag his foes to the mat with consistency, completing just 26% of his TDAs. Martins on the other hand as a solid wrestling game, both offensively and defensively in addition to being a capable grappler. The Jungle Fights vet is also a big lightweight that won’t be easily out-muscled. He successfully shut down the wrestling advances of Rustam Khabilov and took him down 3-times. Adriano should be able to keep this fight standing, where he is the superior fighter. Martins has impressive power and very good timing on his strikes. If his opponent gets too aggressive, he is a capable counter striker. Santos will hold his own early, but look for Martins to land better quality shots while shutting down his opponent’s attempts to get the fight to the floor. Either with a single shot or the accumulation of strikes, Martins will find the finish- my prediction is Adriano Martins to defeat Leonardo Santos by TKO

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155lbs- LUKASZ SAJEWSKI (13-2-0) vs MARC DIAKIESE (9-0-0)

Opening the card, Poland’s Lukasz “Wookie” Sajewski welcomes Marc “Bonecrusher” Diakiese to the UFC. Sajewski is winless inside the Octagon, with losses to Nick Hein and Gilbert Burns in his most recent outing. Diakiese is still undefeated, including a 5-0 run under the BAMMA banner starting back in 2014.

Diakiese is 2 inches taller than Sajewski and will have a 2″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 3 years. Sajewski stepped in on roughly a weeks notice to replace the injured Reza Madadi.

“Bonecrusher” is coming off a pair brutal opening minute knockouts against decent regional competition. He is a dangerous striker, packing sizeable power in his right-hand with good speed to help deliver it. The former BAMMA champion will also work in some thudding kicks throughout his attack. Over his recent fights , he has shown signs of an improving defensive game. Sajewski showed his own noticeable improvements in his striking during the early action against Burns, but he got clipped during an exchange and was submitted shortly after. “Wookie” will most likely look to use his clinch and wrestling attack to try and slowdown his adversary. He has 7-wins by sub- 4 by armbar. With a full camp to prep, Lukasz could give the young Brit some trouble, especially if he can drag him into the later stages of the fight. Diakiese will fend off the early a clinch offense of his foe and eventually find a home for his big right hand- my prediction is Marc Diakiese to defeat Lukasz Sajewski by TKO.

205lbs- Luis Henrique da Silva (11-0-0) vs Joachim Christensen (13-3-0)

In the final fight of the prelims, Luis “Frankenstein” Henrique da Silva takes on Denmark’s Joachim Christensen. Henrique da Silva rallied to stop Jonathan Wilson in his debut to remain undefeated with 6 wins since the start of 2015. Christensen enters the UFC on a 5-fight winning streak, most recently defeating former Strikeforce competitor Anthony Ruiz by submission.

Both men are 6’3″, but Christensen is considerably older than his opponent at 38 years old.

“Frankenstein” has finished his foe in all 12 of his fights, with 11 wins by knockout. Henrique stopped 8 of his first 9 fights in the opening prior to taking a step up in competition against Octagon veteran Ildemar Alcantara in his final pre-UFC fight. Both against Alcantara and Wilson, “Frankenstein” was getting the worse of the striking exchanges prior to scoring comeback stoppages. Against Wilson, Henrique was out-landed 42-32 in the opening round and suffered a knockdown in round 2. The fight turned for the better once Wilson started to fatigue. While the finish came on the mat, the TDD of the big Brazilian didn’t appear to be that strong as Wilson took him down with ease. So did Alcantara. Luis will attack off his back, but it is not his position of choice. His best offense comes at close range- using the clinch to control his opponent while landing uppercuts and knees. At distance, he constantly moves forward behind single strikes, willingly eating shots to do damage. He throws some hard low and body kicks, but they aren’t enough to match the damage he takes when trading.

Prior to facing Alcantara, Henrique fought a pair of fighters making their pro debuts.

The Dane is certainly making his UFC debut late in his career. Christensen turned pro back in 2007, but put together the longest winning streak of his career to gain entry into the big show. He has never been stopped and has an evenly distributed record with 4 knockouts, 5 submissions and 4-3 record on the scorecards. He submitted Ruiz with an armbar after scoring a couple of takedowns and landing some big strikes from top position. Ruiz was taken down with a couple of bodylock takedowns, including a nicely executed trip. Christensen is aggressive on the feet, walking forward behind high volume combos. He has some pop in his hands, but his technique isn’t all that crisp- especially once the fists start to fly. He does throw a decent 1-2 down the middle with good hand speed. Joachim’s ability to walk forward behind his strikes, eat punches, and do damage can overwhelm an opponent that is unable to mitigate the onslaught.

Christensen is coming off a pair of back to back 1st round wins, but he had gone to the scorecards in 6 consecutive bouts prior to that- winning 4.

Henrique relies heavily on his ability to absorb damage and wait for his opponent to either get tired or succumb to the damage that he is able to deal out. Maybe a combination of both. The question remains; what happens when is opponent doesn’t go away? Christensen has proven difficult to finish over his 16-career bouts and has a decent record in longer fights. Henrique has never gone beyond round 2 and appeared to be slowing down against Wilson, but with Wilson gassing harder it wasn’t as noticeable. The poor striking defense and below average TDD of Henrique will result in a high accumulation of offense for Christensen. The possibility of Octagon jitters could impact the Dane, but he is a veteran fighter that should be prepared for the biggest fight of his career. Christensen lands the better quality strikes early and continues to pour it on as the fight advances- my prediction is Joachim Christensen to defeat Luis Henrique da Silva by decision

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145lbs- #12 Hacran Dias (23-4-1) vs Andre Fili (15-4-0)

In another installment of Nova Uniao versus Team Alpha Male, Hacran “Barnabe” Dias faces Andre “Touchy” Fili in the Bantamweight division. Dias is coming off of a setback to Cub Swanson, snapping his 2-fight winning streak that consisted of victories over Darren Elkins and Levan Makashvili. Fili suffered a monstrous knockout loss against Yair Rodriguez, he is 3-3 in the UFC having alternated wins and losses since his debut.

Fili is 3 inches taller and will have a 5″ reach advantage. Andre is also 6 years younger- he is replacing Brian Ortega on 3-weeks notice.

Dias is coming off the first UFC fight in which he did not complete at least 1 takedown, failing on his only attempt. Over his first 5 bouts, he completed an impressive 16 takedowns- including a UFC personal-best 5 in his wins over Darren Elkins and Iuri Alcantara. Breaking the numbers down further, “Barnabe” is a perfect 3-0 when landing more takedowns than his opponent (13-3), but 0-3 when he is unable to win the takedown battle (3-6) Dias is a BJJ Black belt with 9 career submission wins- his last occurred in 2011 just before his UFC 147 debut. He is a position over submission grappler, opting to hold top position instead of looking for a potentially risky submission. His striking is decent, but there simply isn’t enough consistency with his output. He throws hard leg kicks, bearing a resemblance to training partner Jose Aldo, but he isn’t nearly as smooth on the feet. Swanson landed 83 significant strikes compared to just 55 for Dias, who was waiting on his opponent too much. Cub also hurt Hacran on multiple occasions. At his best, the Brazilian uses his striking to set up his takedowns.

Dias’s 55 strikes against Swanson was the most he has ever landed in the UFC, surpassing the 40 connections he made against Nik Lentz- also a loss.

Fili’s knockout of Gabriel Benitez was devastating, but the loss to Rodriguez was equally as devastating. That has been the trend for Fili in the UFC- he has picked up a pair of stoppage victories, but has also been stopped in all 3 of his losses. Fili  has some pop in his hands with 9 knockouts and averages 3.5 strikes landed per minute. He stopped Benitez with a right high kick. Fili will also throw hard leg and body kicks, hard knee strikes, and he builds the majority of his offense behind a left jab. He does tend to attack in straight lines which can make him hittable. Fighting out of TAM, his wrestling was showcased early in his UFC tenure with 9 takedowns over 3 fights- he has landed just 2 in his last 3 appearances. Andre has struggled to hold top control when he does take his foe down and he has lost position on multiple occasions once hitting the mat.

Fili is 1-1 when facing Brazilian opponents inside the Octagon, competing both times in Brazil- winning a split decision over Felipe Arantes.

Dias’s decision not to wrestle Swanson detracted from his offensive attack and most likely cost him a winnable fight. One fight earlier, he opted for a similar approach- leaning heavily on his striking and only looking for takedowns very late in each round. He won a narrow split decision. Hacran’s strikes will often fall short and Fili’s reach advantage and long strikes will further diminish his landing frequency. Fili has to avoid getting too aggressive and countered with takedowns. Look for him to land more frequently and connect on the better quality strikes while dictating the pace. This should be a close fight, but the recent tendency of the judges to favour aggressive strikers over ineffective takedowns favours the American- my prediction is Andre Fili to defeat Hacran Dias by decision

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265lbs- Shamil Abdurakhimov (16-3-0) vs Walt Harris (8-4-0)

Both men are looking to build upon their first UFC victories as Heavyweights Shamil “Abrek” Abdurakhimov meets “The Big Ticket” Walt Harris. Harris knocked out fellow undercarder Cody East at UFC 197, he had lost his first 3 UFC bouts. Abdurakhimov was finished by Tim Jonson in his Octagon debut, but rebounded with a resounding decision victory over Anthony Hamilton.

Harris is a massive man at 6’5″ and 250 pounds. He will be 2 inches taller and have roughly 15 pounds on his Russian opponent. He is also the younger man by 2 years.

On the regional circuit, Harris was a smashing machine. He finished all 7 of his wins by knockout, including his 1-fight stint outside of the UFC back in 2014- where he finished DJ Linderman via KO at Titan FC 28. Walt also picked up a 75-second knockout victory over the aforementioned Hamilton back in 2012.”The Big Ticket” finally showcased his knockout potential inside the Octagon when he finished East last April. Harris floored Cody with a perfectly placed left hand and finished him off on the mat. Harris has struggled at times to let his hands go, most notably in his loss to Soa Palelei. He was able to deny the early takedown attempts, but failed to make an impact on the feet before getting finished. Harris is 0-2 on the scorecards and has been stopped via strikes twice. All 8 of Walt’s wins have come in the opening round, with 6 occurring before the 120-second mark. Conversely, 3 of his 4 losses came after the first 5-minutes. In his debut, he started strong, but he faded under the constant forward pressure of his opponent.

Prior to entering the realm of MMA, Harris played college basketball and even received some tryout offers from the NBA, but he elected to pursue a career in fighting.

Russia’s Abdurakhimov has a more well-rounded record with 7 wins by knockout, 4 by submission, and 2 on the scorecards. He has yet to land a takedown in the UFC, but has successfully defended 5 of his opponents’ combined 6 attempts. Johnson quickly finished him on the floor, but he normally is a solid scrambler and hard to keep down. All 4 of his submission wins came via arm-based attacks. Shamil has accreditations in both Kickboxing and Wushu Sanda. He landed 62 significant strikes in his win over Hamilton, rocking him early with a right hand. He throws a hard straight right and right uppercut along with a left jab. His kicking game is decent and he will throw a turning side kick and both spinning elbows and backfists. Abdurakhimov moves well for a heavyweight and can strike while moving backward. If his opponent tries to clinch up, look for Shamil to land a series of hard short-range uppercuts while controlling their head. Despite not getting the knockout, Shamil maintains a consistent output throughout the Hamilton win, landing a greater volume of strikes in each round.

Shamil is 8-2 in fights that go beyond the opening round, including a pair of third round knockouts. He is the only person to defeat Hamilton outside of round 1.

Harris showed that he can finish anyone if he can hit them flush. That being said, he was probably losing the round against East. At this level, relying solely on knocking out your opponent with a below average striking rate and poor cardio isn’t a recipe for success. Shamil offers a greater striking variety and more refined technique. His speed and counter striking ability will make it difficult for Harris to press the action without taking some damage. If Walt can’t land something significant early, he is going to struggle to keep up with Abdurakhimov as the fight progress and he slows down. Additionally, in both of Harris’s knockout losses it didn’t take a lot for him to go down. Look for Abdurakhimov to stay light on his feet and routinely beat Walt to the punch, while limiting his opponent’s offensive success- my prediction is Shamil Abdurakhimov to defeat Walt Harris by decision

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170lbs- Keita Nakamura (32-7-2 1NC) vs Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (15-5-0)

Brazil takes on Japan in the Welterweight division, as Keita “K-Taro” Nakamura battles Elizeu “Capoeira” Zaleski do Santos. Nakamura is 2-1 since returning to the Octagon, picking up a pair of signature rear-naked choke submissions over Li Jingliang and Kyle Noke. Zaleski dropped a split decision to Nicolas Dalby in his debut, but rebounded to stop Omari Akhmedov in the 3rd round of their bout last April.

Both men are 5’11” and share a 73″ reach. Nakamura is the older man by 2-years, but has 22 more pro bouts.

The Brazilian is coming off of his 12th professional knockout, stopping Akhmedov with a prolonged series of knees and uppercuts along the cage. Zaleski was most likely behind on the scorecards entering the final frame. He has a tendency to be a bit of a slow starter. Against Dalby, he found his greatest striking success in rounds 2 and 3. In the opening round, he was taken down 3-times on just 3 attempts and had similar issues against Akhmedov. Despite landing more strikes than his opponent in each of his fights, he could easily be 0-2 based on his suspect counter-wrestling. In total, he has given up 9 takedowns in the UFC. Once on his back, he will attack with submissions and use them to return to a vertical base. When he can stay vertical, he has power in his hands and augments his boxing with a workable kicking arsenal. Look for him to attack with hard low kicks and mix in some Capoeira-based techniques as well. In his last fight, he struggled to commit to his strikes until the threat of getting taken down disappeared.

The former Jungle Fights Welterweight champion has a pair of submission wins and 2 losses- all 4 fights ending via RNC.

“K-Taro” also has a dominant win total, with 18 victories coming by submission- 15 by rear-naked choke. Keita has 6 wins by knockout and is 8-5 on the scorecards. He also has required a couple of come-from-behind efforts to secure recent victories. He picked up a late sub over Jingliang in a bout that might not have gone his way on the cards. Noke hurt Nakamura during their first striking exchange and was dictating the pace before the flash submission ended the fight. Over his last 2 fights, he has completed 5 takedowns. Keita has good top control, but is a solid scrambler and will attempt to work to his opponent’s back to set up his sub game. On the feet, he maintains decent forward pressure and has a solid chin. He had some issues getting past the kicking attack of Noke and is hittable at 3.74 SApM. Once he gains boxing range, he throws short crisp combinations. He dropped Li with a short left hook and was hurting Noke with his hands prior to clipping him with a knee.

Nakamura went 0-3 during his first UFC run, dropping a trio of decisions including a questionable split to Brock Larson in his final fight.

Zaleski is the bigger hitter and has the greater striker arsenal to draw upon. Nakamura’s willingness to absorb damage while closing the distance brings him into the line of fire, but he has only been stopped via strikes once over 42 fights. If “Capoeira” is going to exploit his advantage on the feet, he has to stay vertical which has been a massive liability. The Brazilian’s porous takedown defense and Nakamura’s strong top game suggests that this fight is going to spend a lot of time on the mat. Look for Keita to close the distance and once he puts Zaleski down, he will keep him down. If they do return to the feet, the threat of getting put on the mat again will keep Zaleski from letting his hands go, allowing Keita to outwork him on the feet. Nakamura scores an early takedown and once his adversary attempts to get back to a vertical base, “K-Taro” will capitalize- my prediction is Keita Nakamura to defeat Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos by submission

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185lbs- Nate Marquardt (37-16-2) vs Tamdan McCrory (14-4-0)

Headlining the Fight Pass prelims, former Middleweight title challenger and Strikeforce Welterweight champion Nate “The Great” Marquardt fights the “Barn Cat” Tamdan McCrory. Marquardt lost by knockout to Thiago Santos at UFC 198- he is just 2-6 over hist last 8.  McCrory had won 4 straight fights since returning to active duty, including his UFC return bout against Josh Samman- but he was quickly dispatched by Krzystof Jotko by knockout in his last fight.

At 6’4″, McCrory is 4 inches taller than Marquart and will have the same length reach advantage. Nate is the older man by 7 years. Both men have spent time at Welterweight, but are clearly better suited to fight at 185 pounds.

At his best, Nate melds together a capable striking attack and dangerous submission game. Unfortunately, as his recent record would indicate, he has been far from his best in his current form. Nate is an opportunistic grappler, with 16 wins by sub- most recently catching James Te-Huna with an armbar. That win came in 2014, prior to that he went 13-fights between subs. As Nate showed against CB Dollaway, he still packs some power if he can land flush. He cracked CB with a crisp right hand as he moved forward. Prior to landing the finishing blow, Nate looked a little tentative during the exchanges. He averages just 2.73 strikes per minute. Marquardt has had issues letting his hands go, often allowing his opponent to outwork him on the feet. Adding to his striking issues, Nate’s chin is a growing vulnerability. With 5 losses by KO or TKO on his record, knockouts have accounted for 4 of his last 5 defeats.

In 2012, Nate won the vacant Strikeforce Welterweight title with an impressive knockout of current UFC champ Tyron Woodley.

McCory tore through his 2-fight stint in Bellator, including a 21-second KO of Brennan Ward. He has finished 8 opponents by knockout and 5 by submission. Against Samman, he wore him out on the mat with transitions and scrambling prior to getting the sub. Josh was having some success early controlling top position, but when he started to slow down- the “Barn Cat” took over. McCrory does have some issues giving up position for submission. He needs to be careful against a skilled ground fighter like Marquardt who can catch a submission very quickly. Tamdan has been subbed twice. On the feet, he throws primarily straight punches and does a decent job of using his reach. He KOed Ward with a well-placed uppercut. While McCory is coming off a knockout loss, it is the first of his career and his chin has held up well in previous fights.

McCory alternated wins and losses over the first 6 fights of his UFC run and has continued that pattern 6-years later upon his return.

Nate’s time competing at the elite level of MMA is clearly at an end. He could easily have been cut on multiple occasions during his current skid. McCrory has reinvented himself as a legit as a Middleweight and is headed in opposite direction, even with the recent setback. McCrory’s length and aggression is going to make it hard for Nate to cope on the feet and Marquardt doesn’t have the consistent takedown game to counter with his wrestling. The former Strikeforce champ has the ability to catch his opponent both on the feet or the mat, but those scenarios are nothing more than a puncher’s chance. By allowing McCrory to press the action on the feet, Nate will either succumb to the accumulation of damage or get cracked with something significant and go down- my prediction is Tamdan McCrory to defeat Nate Marquardt by TKO

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205lbs- Jonathan Wilson (7-1-0) vs Ion Cutelaba (11-2-0 1NC)

In the Light Heavyweight division, “Johnny Bravo” Jonathan Wilson takes on Moldova’s Ion Cutelaba. Cutelaba debuted with a gutsy, but ultimately unsuccessful effort against Misha Cirkunov last June- he lost by submission. Wilson made quick work of Nathan Dempsey in his 50-second debut, but fell via strikes to Luis Henrique da Silva in his follow-up appearance.

The American in an inch taller than his opponent, but they share the same 75″ reach. Cutelaba is 6 years younger.

With a record built on finishing, Cutelaba has yet to the require the judges in any of his bouts- finishing 9 fights by some form of knockout and 2 by submission. He has finished 10 of his 11 wins inside the opening round- 9 inside the first 90 seconds of action. Ion is a willing striker, sitting in the pocket and attacking with a barrage of punches. Leading with a left jab or left hook, Ion will follow behind with a wide overhand right. He did attempt a spinning back elbow against Cirkunov, but most of his offense was of the more traditional fare. Cutelaba took an early top position in his debut, but couldn’t hold it. In pre-UFC footage, he showed a serviceable takedown game and an affinity for the rarely executed Omaplata. Both of his submission wins came on via this method.

Cutelaba’s level of regional competition leading up to his UFC arrival wasn’t that strong. His last 4 opponents combine for a record of 36-53.

The same could be said about Wilson, who competed under the Gladiator Challenge Banner. Prior to coming to the UFC, his final 4 regional circuit foes combined for a current record of 5-12, with a single opponent accounting for 12 of the 17 fights. Wilson is coming off of his first loss as a professional. Including his debut, “Johnny Bravo” has recorded 6 wins by knockout- 5 in the opening round. He has been outside of round 1 just twice- scoring a decision victory and along with the 2nd round loss in his last fight. Jonathan stopped Dempsey with a right hand and landed several lefts when he floored da Silva. He tends to lead with his left, throwing primarily singles, but when he does double up his punches looked for him to follow with an uppercut. After the initial exchanges against da Silva, his output appeared to drop off, his techniques were laboured, and he was routinely backtracking while under fire.

Against the Brazilian, Wilson landed a sound reactive takedown in the middle frame, but lost position. Shortly after, he scored a knockdown and took top position again, but he was abruptly swept and finished via strikes.

Wilson’s struggles in his last fight appeared to be a product of his low level of competition. When he was unable to finish his opponent quickly and was faced some adversity for the first time in the cage, he had limited pushback. Conversely, Cutelaba maintained his output and pace despite facing a vastly superior opponent to his previous competition. He was eventually finished, but he put forth a much better effort. Both men are strikers with stopping power, that can change gears to incorporate their wrestling attack. While Ion has shown a vulnerability to takedowns, he is also a decent scrambler. His key to success in this contest will be longevity. Look for Ion’s movement and speed to help him avoid the power of Wilson early and as the fight progresses, the Moldovan should find success landing with greater regularity- my prediction is Ion Cutelaba to defeat Jonathan Wilson by knockoutParagraph breaker

265lbs- Cody East (12-2-0) vs Curtis Blaydes (5-1-0)

A pair of Heavyweights who were unsuccessful in their respective debuts look for UFC victory #1, as Cody “The Freight Train” East takes on Curtis “Razor” Blaydes. East had won 9 consecutive fights and got off to a good start in his debut before getting knocked out by Walt Harris late in the opening round. Blaydes suffered his first pro loss with a 2-round doctor stoppage TKO against the surging Francis Ngannou.

Both men are less than 30-years old, which is rare for the Heavyweight division. Blaydes is just 25 and East is 28. Curtis is an inch taller than East, but he will have a 6″ reach advantage and could be up to 20-pounds heavier. East has an experience advantage with 8 more pro bouts under his belt.

East has finished 8 fights by knockout, all in the opening round. He also has a trio of submission wins, 1 due to strikes. His only fight not to end inside the allotted time was a 5-round decision win. A standout wrestler in Highschool, he appears focussed on keeping his fights standing. Look for East to employ short range boxing combinations, with some pretty decent pop. Cody will also toss out a snapping front kick to the body with regularity. He varies his speed when attacking and will engage his opponent when they are looking to reset after exchanging. Against Harris, he was having success early landing strikes and appeared to hurt him during a flurry along the cage. Shortly after, East got caught with a flush left-hand square on the chin that led to the eventual finish. He has been knocked out twice, accounting for both of his pro losses.

On the regional circuit, East held both the Legacy FC and King of the Cage championships.

With an equally as impressive finishing rate, Blaydes has won by knockout in all 5 of his pro wins. “Razor” comes from an NJCAA wrestling background and builds the majority of his attack around his ground game. When looking for the takedown, Curtis will drive through his opponent’s hips with a power double and if needed elevate them for a big slam. He will also attempt a suplex when given the opportunity. He was having some issues getting low on his shots against Ngannou, but he was still able to take him down combing a single leg with a trip. Blaydes has a heavy top game where he can both control his opponent and generate a lot of power. On the feet, he is still a work in progress. Leading with a left jab, he opts to shoot a double leg behind it instead of following with power strikes. He landed some stiff low kicks to the lead leg of Ngannou which could have some impact if thrown more often. Defensively, he took some sizeable damage, getting hurt a couple of times, and suffering through a badly swollen eye.

Blaydes took his UFC debut on short notice, with roughly 3 weeks to prepare. He replaced Bojan Mihajlovic, who fought Ngannou 1 fight later and was stopped in the opening round.

This fight will be won by who can keep the action in their realm of dominance. Blaydes wants this fight on the mat and East will most likely try to keep the action vertical. Both are capable of competing in the other realm, but they will be second best if they do so. Blaydes ate some huge strikes in his debut and didn’t go down. It is hard to see East packing enough power to put Curtis down with one punch. More likely, “The Freight Train” is going to need to pile up a lot of damage in order to score the finish. To do that, he will need to stay on his feet. Blaydes moves pretty quick for a big man and does a decent job of setting up his shot with his jab. His reach advantage should allow him to keep East out of striking range, before looking for the takedown. The front kick that East relies on will also open him up for takedowns. Once on top, Curtis’s size advantage should pay dividends when trying to control East. Cody’s chin might not be quite as reliable and at Heavyweight that can far outway the skill set of a fighter- my prediction is Curtis Blaydes to defeat Cody East by knockout

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135lbs- Kelly Faszholz (3-1-0) vs Ketlen Vieira (6-0-0)

The UFN 96 curtain jerker features a pair of Female Bantamweights as Kelly Faszholz makes her UFC sophomore appearance against the debuting Ketlen “Fenomeno” Vieira. Faszholz lost a spirited debut fight against Lauren Murphy, suffering TKO defeat with just 5-seconds left in the fight. Vieira is still undefeated as a pro, most recently handing Estefani Almeida the first defeat of her career.

Both girls stand 5’8″ and Vieira is the younger fighter by 6 years.

While Faszholz didn’t get her hand raised in her short-notice debut, she turned some head with her effort and picked up a Fight of the Night bonus for her troubles. Statistically, she landed 76-significant strikes and stopped all by 1 of her opponent’s takedown attempts. Delving deeper into the numbers, Kelly actually got the better of the opening 2 rounds- landing more overall strikes for a combined edge of 70-57. The majority of her opponent’s success came in round 3, when the effects of the short notice took hold on Faszholz. The first 3 wins of her career all ended by submission, 2 by RNC. She is a BJJ Purple belt. Kelly likes to attack at close range, using her clinch striking and attempting to work her way to her opponent’s back or take them to the mat.

Faszholz was temporarily linked to a fight with Valentina Schevchenko in Legacy FC before getting the call to the UFC.

Vieira has a slight advantage in fight experience, but not in quality of opposition. Her last opponent represents the best fighter she has faced with a 3-1 record. Ketlen’s previous 3 opponents are a combined 1-6 with, with 2 fighters having made just a single pro appearance. The Brazilian stopped the first 5 fighter she faced, 3 by submission. With a step up in competition in her last fight, she went the distance for the first time in her career. She is a BJJ Brown belt and Judo Black belt.  “Fenomeno” offers a decent initial strike, but once the action picks up her attack will degenerate to a wild swinging brawl. To date, this style has worked for her against lesser competition. She does tend to leave her head on the center line and exposed when throwing hands, but it has yet to cost her.

There isn’t a tonne of footage available of Vieira’s ground skills. In her last submission win, she dumped her opponent to the mat with a rudimentary single leg and quickly secured her foe’s back with little resistance.

Faszholz has her UFC debut under her belt and is coming off the first loss of her career- both scenarios should lead to a better performance in her next fight. She also has the luxury of a full camp this time around. Vieira has yet to taste defeat and has been beating up on MMA neophytes for the majority of her career. Hitting the competition wall when entering the UFC can be difficult for a young fighter. Kelly’s TDD looked good against a solid wrestler, so she should be able to keep Vieira off the mat. This should force the fight to be contested on the feet, where the wild swinging style of the Brazilian will be difficult to maintain for the entirety of the fight. Her fight history suggests she is used to finish her opponent’s early, which won’t bode well for her if she gets dragged in the second half of this fight. The action should be heated early, but look for the American to start to pile up the offense and wear her opponent down- my prediction is Kelly Faszholz to defeat Ketlen Vieira by TKO

155lbs- Gilbert Burns (12-1-0) vs Michel Prazeres (20-1-0)

In the undercard headliner, Gilbert “Durinho” Burns battles fellow-Brazilian Michel “Tractor” Prazeres in the Lightweight division. Burns rebounded from the first pro loss of his career, with an impressive opening round submission of Lukasz Sajewski- he is 4-1 in the UFC. Prazeres has picked up back to back wins over JC Cottrell and Valmir Lazaro- Michel is 4-2 in the Octagon.

“Durinho” is 4 inches taller than his opponent and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Burns is also the younger man by 5-years.

In his most recent appearance, Prazeres equaled his UFC-best 7 completed takedowns. Over the entirety of his Octagon career, he has landed 24 completions. Not surprisingly, during his 4 victories, he completed 18 takedowns and gave up just 1. In his pair of setbacks, he was able to complete 6 attempts but was also taken down just as frequently. Prazeres has 8 wins by submission, with his last tap out coming in 2012 under the Jungle Fights banner. He has fought to 7 consecutive decisions and has an 11-2 record on the scorecards. Michel is a hulking specimen and uses his strength to drive his opponent to the floor and keep them there. Conversely, it is his physical mass that prevents him from consistently maintaining his offensive output deep into fights. Most notably, Prazeres started strong against Kevin Lee, but exhausted himself and lost the fight on the cards. When he is forced to rely on his striking he isn’t nearly as effective. He does have some pop in his hands, specifically coming from the left side, but he has struggled to get into striking range against more talented strikers.

“Tractor” has been out-landed on the feet in 4 of his 6 UFC fights, including the Lee fight where he was badly outstruck in the final round by a count of 31-7.

A member of the Blackzillians, Burns has gone the distance in victory just once in his career. A BJJ Black belt, submissions have accounted for 8 of his 12 victories- 3 in the UFC. Including his third round, come from behind victory over Alex Oliveira, Burns has won 6-times by armbar. Juxtaposed to his UFN 95 opponent, Burns doesn’t have lofty takedown numbers. He has yet to complete more than 2 takedowns in a fight. Burns has shown himself to be far more capable of finishing is opponent after they hit the floor for the first time. That being said, in his win over Oliveira and his loss to Rashid Magomedov he largely struggled to implement his ground attack and was far less effective as a result. Burns has shown improvements in his striking, landing a hard uppercut and hurting Sajewski with an overhand right early in the fight before blitzing him with another right hand and sequence of kicks before locking up an armbar.

On the regional scene, Burns finished 8 consecutive fights in the opening round, but since entering the Octagon he has gone to the third round in 3 of 5 fights.

There is a legitimate chance that the grappling skills possessed by either man could cancel each other out and result in this fight being contested almost entirely on the feet. If that isn’t the case, Prazeres has been taken down on multiple occasions and isn’t as strong when forced to fight off of his back. Addtionally his lack of good conditioning will make him more suseptible to Burn’s grappling advances as the fight goes deeper. When on the feet, look for the length and speed of Gilbert to play a big role in his success. He will routinely beat Prazeres to the punch and keep him at the end of his strikes. This will in turn limit Michel’s ability to connect with regularity. Unless Prazeres is unable to defend due to exhaustion, he should be able to avoid the submission- but my prediction is Gilbert Burns to defeat Michel Prazeres by Decision.

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135lbs- Rani Yahya (22-8-0 1NC) vs Michinori Tanaka (11-1-0)

Japan’s Michinori Tanaka ventures to Brazil to take on Brasilia native Rani Yahya in the Bantamweight division. Tanaka took a split decision over Joe Soto following a split decision loss to Kyung Ho Kang- the first of his career. Yahya submitted Matthew Lopez to extend his winning streak to 3 straight wins, he is 6-1 over his last 7 fights with a No Contest.

Rani has dabbled between Bantamweight and Featherweight. He is an inch taller than his opponent, but they have an identical 67″ reach. Tanaka is the younger man by 6 years.

The Brazilian has built a reputation as a smothering top position fighter. A BJJ Black belt, Yahya averages 3 takedowns per fight at a 34% completion rate. Against Mizuto Hirota, he tallied his UFC personal-best 5 completions and over his last 3 wins he has landed 10 of his 23 attempts. Rani’s dogged pursuit of the takedown is the major reason his completion percentage hovers well below 50%. If his opponent is able to stuff his initial shot, he will continue chaining TDAs together until he gets the fight to the mat or he pulls guard. He has recorded 17-wins by sub, utilizing a wide variety of chokes throughout his career. Yahya’s striking has made strides, but it is almost 100% focussed on setting up his shot.

The biggest drawback to his grind-heavy style is Yahya’s less that stellar cardio. Routinely, Rani will get off to a strong start, but fade in the second half of the action and hold on for a close decision win. He is 5-5 on the scorecards.

A former PXC Bantamweight champion, Tanaka has finished 5 foes by submission. He has a pair of rear-naked choke wins on his record, including a 2012 pre-UFC victory over Russell Doane. With 9 takedowns spread evenly over his 3 Octagon appearances, Tanaka has leaned heavily on his mat skills. A Judo Black belt, he has given up 2 TDs on only 4 attempts. The majority of his takedown attempts will come in the form of either a body lock or a single leg attempt combined with a trip. Once on top, he is an aggressive guard passer and can do damage with short punches and elbows. He is also a strong scrambler, but did have issues holding top position in his split decision loss to Kang. On the feet, he isn’t an overwhelming striker, using a lot of lateral movement to set up a decent kicking attack and snappy right hand.

After his split decision loss to Kang, Tanaka was awarded a FOTN bonus but was forced to forfeit the cash and was suspended 9-months after testing positive for a banned substance.

This fight will be decided by Yahya’s ground game and specifically his ability to hold top position. Rani isn’t nearly as dangerous when forced to fight off of his back. Tanaka has been able to take everyone down he has faced, but against Kang he routinely lost position and had his back taken for the majority of the opening round. He may opt to employ a grappling attack early or he might elect to use his Judo in reverse to keep the fight standing. When Yahya attempts to drag Tanaka to the mat, it won’t be easy. Holding top position against Michinori won’t be any easier and will serve to tax the already precarious cardio of Rani. Once Yahya starts to slow down, look for Tanaka to find more success on the feet and potentially take Rani down where he will hold prolonged periods of top control. Yayha might win the opening frame, but he won’t do enough to take the decision- my prediction is Michinori Tanaka to defeat Rani Yahya by decision.

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125lbs- #3 Jussier Formiga (18-4-0) vs #12 Dustin Ortiz (15-5-0)

In a clash of ranked Flyweights, Nova Uniao member Jussier Formiga welcomes Roufusport’s Dustin Ortiz to his homeland. Ortiz is coming off a loss to Wilson Reis and has alternated wins and losses dating back to his back to back wins over Justin Scoggins and Ray Borg. Formiga fell to Henry Cejudo by split decision last November, ending his 3-fight winning streak in the process.

Both men are 5’5″, the Brazilian will have a slight 2″ reach advantage, but Ortiz is the younger man by 3 years.

Formiga once again came up short in his bid to earn a shot at the Flyweight title. He is 0-3 in title eliminator bouts, with losses to Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, and the aforementioned Cejudo. Jussier is a world class BJJ Black belt with an incredibly dangerous back mount. He has 6-wins by rear-naked choke including his only UFC sub coming over Scott Jorgensen. Formiga landed 4 takedowns in each of his wins over Wilson Reis and Chris Cariaso. In his defeat of Zach Makovsky, Jussier had a lot of success countering his wrestling and scrambling his way to a superior position. When he initiates the grappling attack, Formiga will work takedowns from the clinch or shoot from the outside. He will start immediately working to his foe’s back once on the ground. Formiga has shown improvements in his striking; firing out a right jab and following with a straight left or overhand right. He dropped Reis with a big strike from the right side, but doesn’t possess a lot of power. In that fight, he also found success landing counter strikes and kept Reis from moving forward as a result.

Jussier’s cardio is a bit of a question mark. He lost the final round against Chris Cariaso simply due to exhaustion and was slowing down late against Reis.

Ortiz is coming off of a loss where he was unable to overcome the takedown-heavy offense of his opponent. Reis put him on his back 9-times. Dustin was 2-0 in previous fights where his opponent completed more takedowns than he did. A BJJ Brown belt and former High School wrestler, Ortiz  began his career with 4 submission wins but hasn’t added to that total since. He has 6 wins by knockout and is 5-5 on the scorecards. Don’t expect Ortiz to be accepting of a position once put on the mat, he is a solid scrambler and will force his adversary to work hard to hold a superior position. While he isn’t a huge submission threat, he absolutely wore out Willie Gates with his GNP from top position and eventually forced the referee to step in and call the fight. On the feet, Dustin does a decent job of remaining active- averaging 3.45 SLpM. Ortiz likes to paw with his left jab and fire a straight right. He will also through a hard back leg round kick to the body.

Over his 14 fights, Ortiz hasn’t had a contest end before the third round- including 5 stoppages in the final frame.

Formiga has made sizeable strides to become a more well-rounded fighter and has improved his striking to the point that he should no longer be considered a non-factor on the feet. Even with the improvements, over his last 2 fights he has landed just 46 significant strikes. With those type of numbers, he still leans heavily on his mat game to put forth his best performance. Ortiz has had issues with getting taken down, but he is difficult to keep grounded and makes his opponent work to maintain control. Formiga doesn’t have the powerful wrestling of Reis, who was able to ground Ortiz. This should allow Dustin to defend and get back to his feet if taken down. On the feet, the volume, speed, and power of the American will give him a sizeable edge. As the fight progresses, Ortiz should find greater success in all areas as Jussier begins to slow down. Winning a decision in Brazil isn’t easy for an outsider, but Ortiz avoids getting trapped on the mat and lands the better quality strikes- my prediction is Dustin Ortiz to defeat Jussier Formiga by decision

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170lbs- Erick Silva (18-7-0 1NC) vs Luan Chagas (14-1-1)

In the Welterweight division, the once hyped Erick “Indio” Silva looks to get back on track against fellow Brazilian  Luan “Tarzan” Chagas. Silva has lost back to back fights and is 6-6 inside the Octagon after a thunderous knockout loss to Nordine Taleb. Chagas took a short-notice debut against Sergio Moraes, ending the bout in a draw to extend his undefeated streak to 10 straight bouts.

Both men at 6’0″ taller, but Chagas will have an inch reach advantage and is 9 years younger than Silva. This fight is the product of 2 other contests on the card falling through and the UFC opting to pair up Chagas and Silva in the aftermath.

The biggest takeaway from his debut, is that Chagas needs to be more economical with his energy. He was coming in on short notice and has finished the majority of his fights early, but he was attempting a lot of cardio-draining wheels kicks with minimal return. With a 100% finish rate over his 14 wins, Luan has score 6 knockouts and 8 submissions- 4 by RNC. He is a BJJ and Karate Black belt. The best vertical offense that “Tarzan” puts form are his kicks. On multiple occassions, he spammed low and front body kicks to Moraes and dropped him with a left high kick. He will also mix in short combinations while moving forward to close the distance. Also coming from a Muay Thai background, look for Chagas to use the Thai plumb to set up his knee strikes. When looking to take the fight down, he will look for a single leg or clinch based takedown. On the mat, he has a dangerous guard and solid back take. His grappling defense was tested against Moraes fending off a tight guillotine choke and a couple bad positions on the floor.

Chagas took his debut on roughly 2-week’s notice last May, replacing Kamaru Usman.

Silva entered the UFC with a thunderous knockout and has showcased his finishing skills with 15 stoppages- including 6 in the Octagon. Both a BJJ and Judo Black belt, “Indio” has 11 submission wins. All 6 of his UFC triumphs have come inside the first round, while he is 0-5 after round 1. Silva is a creatively devastating striker, throwing a variety kicking techniques , hard knees, and he has decent boxing. Similar to his opponent, Erick is known to attempt higher risk maneuvers which can both be taxing on his cardio and result in loss of position if he doesn’t connect. On the mat, Silva can be difficult to handle and is an opportunistic grappler. In addition to his cardio concerns, 3 of Silva’s last 4 defeats have come by knockout. Both Taleb and Dong Hyun Kim knocked him unconscious. Taleb caught a kick and launched a thumping counter right hand that dropped Silva to the mat. Earlier in the fight Erick had faked a glove touch followed by an immediate punch to his unsuspecting opponent.

Silva is known for his wild brawling style, but in the Taleb fight he was more conservative. He has recently made the move to King’s MMA, which could be tied to the deviation from his traditional style of fighting.

Not only is Silva’s cardio a constant concern and his durability a more recent issue, since the implementation of more stringent drug testing has come to pass- Silva hasn’t looked like the same fighter. Maybe it is just a coincidence? Silva is still a dangerous fighter, but with limitations. He hasn’t recorded a win since 2010 in a fight that lasted longer than 5 minutes. His new controlled style might help to improve his cardio issues, but it could also make him less effective. Chagas works at a more consistent pace and while he slowed in his last fight, the combination of Silva’s questionable cardio and a full camp to prep for Luan should give him the edge in a longer fight. If they hit the mat, Chagas will be able to defend against the attack of Silva and eventually work to a superior position. Both on the feet and on the mat, as the fight advances “Tarzan” will gain a decided advantage. Silva will most likely revert back to his aggressive brawling style, which will kill his cardio and open him up to taking damage- my prediciton is Luan Chagas to defeat Erick Silva by TKO

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155lbs- Alan Patrick (13-1-0) vs Stevie Ray (19-5-0)

Closing out the UFC Fight Pass portion of the undercard, Alan “Nuguette” Patrick squares off with Scotland’s Stevie “Braveheart” Ray in the Lightweight division. Ray is riding a 5-fight winning streak including 3 wins inside the Octagon, most recently defeating Mickael LeBout by decision. Patrick is 3-1 in the UFC, rebounding from his first career defeat with a wide decision win over Damien Brown.

Patrick is an inch taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Ray is the younger man by 7 years and is returning after an 11-month layoff.

A member of the Dinky Ninja Fight Team, Ray has also spent some time rounding out his game in Montreal at the Tri-Star Gym. “Braveheart” has recorded 6 wins by knockout, including landing a well-timed counter right hand that eventually lead to the finish of Leandro Mafra. A southpaw, Ray utilizes a short right jab to stop his opponent’s forward motion and then fires a hard straight left. He will paw with his right hand to gauge the distance. The Scot is light on his feet, with good footwork, and he will mix in some decent kicks up and down his foe. With 8 wins by submission, Ray is a BJJ Purple belt and can finish on the mat. He has also been tapped out 4-times, but just once over his last 12 fights.

Ray has held both the BAMMA and Cage Warriors Lightweight titles. He lost his BAMMA title to UFC vet Curt Warburton, but defeated him to capture the Cage Warriors title and then defended the title against Warburton in his next fight.

After a 2-1 stint fighting on the road, Patrick returns to Brazil where he is 11-0 in his career including his UFC debut. Alan is also a perfect 7-0 on the scorecards, along with 4 knockouts and pair of submission wins. Both subs came early in his career, but he is coming off a win that largely centered around his ground game with 5 completions on 7 TDAs. Patrick is a strong individual and relies heavily on his physical attributes. When looking to take his opponent down, Patrick drives forward aggressively trying to bowl them over. At times, he will toss out a flurry of strikes before changing levels. “Nuguette” has some pop in his hands, but is very wild on the feet. His unorthodox striking style consists of spinning attacks, wide looping punches, and periodic capoeira kicks. The Brazilian telegraphs his strikes and leaves himself open to counters by jumping into his attacks, often leading with his head. Mairbek Taisumov knocked him out, clipping him with a head kick followed by GNP after a failed takedown attempt.

Patrick won a controversial decision win over John Makdessi. He picked up a pair of short-lived takedowns, but was out-landed 61-40 in significant strikes.

Patrick constantly pushes forward, no matter if he is looking for a takedown or to strike. His aggressive and unusual style can be difficult to deal with and if he can avoid taking damage, the forward pressure can weigh heavy with the judges. Ray needs to avoid getting put on his back, but Patrick’s tendency to telegraph his shot should help him to see the attempt coming. Stevie is the more technically sound striker and has a sizeable edge in output, but he will need to find away to dissuade his foe’s pressure. Ray’s lateral movement should serve to defuse the momentum of Patrick and is counter striking will make him pay for leaving too many openings in his defense- my prediction is Stevie Ray to defeat Alan Patrick by knockout.

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170lbs- Vicente Luque (9-5-1) vs Hector Urbina (25-9-0)

In the Welterweight division, American Top Team stablemate Hector “El Toro” Urbina takes on rival Blackzillians product Vicente “Silent Assassin” Luque. Luque has picked up back to back submission wins after a decision defeat to Michael Graves in his debut. Urbina was victorious in his first Octagon foray at UFC 180, but fell via decision in his sophomore appearance.

Both men stand 5’11”, but it will be Luque with a slight 2″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 4-years.

A BJJ Brown belt, Luque has showcased his submission skills throughout his career. Of his 9 victories, 5 have come by submission in addition to submitting Nathan Coy during his stint on the Ultimate Fighter. The majority of his victories have come by some form of choke, including a trio of wins by D’Arce choke. Vicente picked up 4 takedowns and landed some decent GNP prior to submitting his last opponent. The “Silent Assassin” found his greatest success scoring takedowns along the cage, pushing his opponent back before pulling out his hips and dragging him to the floor. Luque’s striking is sound with a 3-pack of knockout wins. He throws hard leg and body kicks, along with a snappy left hand.

Luque avenged his TUF decision loss to Hayder Hassan in late 2015, submitting Hassan in the first round.

Mexico’s Urbina has a finish-heavy record, stopping his opponent in 14 of his 17 wins- 9 by knockout. Conversely, his stoppage losses have also accumulated with 5 knockout defeats and a pair of submissions on his record. Hector’s TDD has been a major point of contention during his time with the UFC. After spending a lot of time on his back during his TUF loss to Cathal Pendred, he gave up combined 8 takedowns in just under 4 rounds of Octagon action. He eventually worked his way to an advantageous position against Edgar Garcia and forced the tap, but he was thoroughly outclassed by Bartosz Fabinski on the floor. “El Toro” will attack off his back, but he is too willing to let his opponent hold top position. While he has some pop in his hands, he tends to throw a lot of his techniques with minimal setup. Even more concerning, he tends to leave his head exposed by holding his hands low when attacking.

Urbina is 11-6-1 in fights that end inside the first frame and 4-3 when he is forced to fight longer than 5-minutes.

Urbina is a capable finisher, but his growing number of stoppage defeats are incredibly concerning. Luque showcased a strong takedown game in his last fight and should be able to put Hector on the mat at will. In his last fight, even when Urbina was able to scramble off of his back he opted to continue to engage his opponent at close range and continued to get taken down as a result. When standing, the speed and crisper technique of Luque will cut through the porous striking defence of his opponent. Luque needs to be mindful early of the power of his foe, but as the fight progresses “El Toro” will slow down. Luque most likely won’t deviate from his grappling skills, putting Urbina on the mat and eventually locking up a choke during a scramble- my prediction is Vicente Luque to defeat Hector Urbina by submission.

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155lbs- Glaico Franca (14-4-0) vs Gregor Gillespie (7-0-0)

To jump start the Brazilian card, Glaico “Nego” Franca makes his third walk to the Octagon to face the debuting Gregor “The Gift” Gillespie in the Lightweight division. Gillespie has yet to taste defeat, winning all 7 of his pro bouts under the Ring of Combat banner. Franca won the TUF Brazil 4 Lightweight tournament final in his debut, but lost a decision to James Vick in his sophomore fight.

Franca is 3 inches taller and will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. The Brazilian is also 5-years younger and is replacing Joaquim Silva on roughly 2 week’s notice.

The debuting Gillespie comes from an elite level wrestling background. He is a multi-time NCAA Division 1 wrestler and won a wrestling championship in 2007. His transition to MMA saw him finish the first 6 men he faced; all inside the opening round- split evenly between submission and knockouts. Not surprisingly, takedowns fuel the offensive engine of “The Gift”. From the onset of the fight, the former ROC champion looks to shoot on either a single or a double leg and put his opponent on the mat. Gillespie has excellent drive on his shot, but limited setup. Once on the mat, he is an aggressive guard passer. Gillespie will work to break through his adversary’s guard, land strikes, and attempt top position chokes. In his final pre-UFC bout, he struggled to land takedowns with consistency and lost position on the mat on multiple occasions. It was his only fight to go outside the first round and he clearly slowed down in the second half. Gregor won by split decision.

Gillespie started his pro career just 2 years ago, but he has faced decent competition in that span including his last 3 opponents carry a combined record of 23-16.

The TUF Brazil winner has finished 12 of his 13 wins, divided evenly between knockouts and submissions. On route to capturing the tournament title, he picked up a trio of subs on the show before tapping Fernando Bruno at the finale. He is a Luta Livre Purple belt and has a background in Judo. Glaico has 8 opening round stoppages and is 5-4 in fights that go beyond the opening round. “Nego” has shown a competent takedown game, landing 4 completions in each of his Octagon bouts. He will attempt the majority of his tries along the cage via body lock, but he also hit a solid reactive double leg against Vick. He is a capable scrambler and can work his way to superior position. On the feet, his striking is still a work in progress. Against Vick, he was landing some hard leg kicks and a decent straight right- but the volume was lacking. In both of his fights, he slowed down in the second half, but was still able to finish Bruno and remained competitive against Vick.

During his TUF run, he submitted Joaquim Silva- Gillespie’s original opponent for this fight.

There is no reason to believe that Gillespie will deviate from his wrestling-heavy gameplan, which means Franca will simply need to put up a strong defensive front to take home the victory. Easier said than done. The American’s last fight showed that he is either unwilling or not capable of adapting his offense when needed. When his opponent was defending the takedowns, he still shot. When he was getting reversed on the mat- he still shot. Franca’s size and grappling skill will make it tough for the one-dimensional Gregor to constantly put him on his back. If he does get taken down, “Nego” will scramble to a better position and force Gillespie to work hard to hold control. Gillespie’s is inexperienced, debuting in Brazil, and has minimal cage time spent outside of the first round. Look for a sizeable drop-off in the effectiveness of his wrestling as the fight progresses. If they are forced to compete on the feet, Franca should have a slight advantage. Gillespie won’t react well to being put on his back and will eventually make a mistake trying to get out of a bad spot- my prediction is Glaico Franca to defeat Gregor Gillespie by submission

145lbs- Gabriel Benitez (18-6-0) vs Sam Sicilia (15-6-0)

Capping off the prelims, Gabriel “Moggly” Benitez meets Sam Sicilia in the Featherweight division. Benitez is coming off of a brutal knockout loss to Andre Fili, he had won back to back fights to start his UFC career. Sicilia is also returning from a knockout defea; suffering a KO against Doo Ho Choi- Sam was riding a 2-fight winning streak prior to the loss.

Both fighters are 5’8″, but Benitez will have a 4″ reach advantage.

Mexico’s Benitez showcased his submission prowess in his initial UFC showing, picking up a third-round guillotine choke. The win was his 9th by sub and 15th finish overall. Gabriel is 3-2 on the scorecards and has been finished 3-times, twice by sub. As the numbers indicate, he is a capable submission fighter. Where he struggles is with defending takedowns. Collard put him down 6-times, despite being tired, and his other opponents also had success planting him on the mat. While Benitez is adept at scrambling back to his feet, giving up too many takedowns can be hard to overcome without a finish. On the feet, he throws hard leg kick with the periodic body blast. Gabe’s jab isn’t consistent, opting more to fire out a counter straight left.

An early favourite to win the TUF Latin America Featherweight tournament, Benitez earned an opening round submission before bowing out in the semi-finals.

Building an early reputation as a heavy-handed brawler, Sicilia has picked up a trio of UFC knockouts to run his pro total to 8. Sam has some decent pop in his right hand and while he has made efforts to become more technical with his output, he is still willing to throw caution to the wind and let his hands go. He carries a -0.59 striking exchange rate. To help diversify his offense, Sam has integrated a wrestling attack into his fights when possible. He landed 5 completions in his win over Aaron Phillips and routinely out-positioned Yaotzin Meza on the ground. Sam completes 45% of his takedown attempts while defending 45% of his opponents’. He has been subbed 3-times in his career, twice in the UFC.

Sicilia earned an elimination round KO on the TUF: Live season before dropping a split decision in the round of 16.

Benitez’s leg kick are going to be his key to success. If he can routinely blast Sam’s lower half, he will take away both his ability to step into his punches and shoot for takedowns. In order to do that, Gabe needs to stay on his feet. His TDD has been suspect and Sicilia has shown the ability to recognize and exploit an opponent’s vulnerable defense. While Benitez can attack off his back, the longer the fight goes the harder it will be to catch a sub and the more damage he will be exposed to. Sam’s powerful striking bursts could also create issues for his foe, who appeared to shell up under fire from Fili. Benitez has the tools to threaten Sicilia, but he will struggle to deploy them with consistency- my prediction is Sam Sicilia to defeat Gabriel Benitez by decision.

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170lbs- Augusto Montano (15-2-0) vs Belal Muhammad (9-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, Mexico’s Augusto “Dodger” Montano meets Belal “Remember the Name” Muhammad. Montano lost a decision at UFC 188 to Cathal Pendred to drop his Octagon record to 1-1. Muhammad debuted on short notice and lost an entertaining decision to Alan Jouban.

Augusto hasn’t competed in 15-months, he is 2 inches taller than Montano and will have a 1″ reach advantage. Muhammad is 4 years younger than his foe.

Muhammad is coming off the first loss of his pro career, he had previously been 6-0 on the scorecards. Belal builds the majority of is offense around his striking; mixing together a strong boxing attack and serviceable kicking offense. He has good hand speed, will fire a stiff jab, and uses faints to set up his strikes. Muhammad doesn’t have a tonne of power. The majority of his success is centered on both his volume and ability to limit the impact of his opponent’s striking. Against Jouban he averaged 5.13 strikes per minute. He presents a sound defensive front, not over-extending on his attacks to avoid getting countered, but he was hurt on multiple occasions by Jouban.

Belal picked up a pair of takedowns against Jouban, but traditionally he uses his wrestling skills defensively. In his final pre-UFC fight, he found success shutting down the wrestling attack of Steve Carl.

Mexico’s Montano has 100% finishing rate. He has 10 wins by knockout and 5 more by submission- his most recent sub came as the result of punches. “Dodger” picked up his debut victory using aggressive forward pressure, eventually earning the TKO with a brutal sequence of knees along the cage. The win was his 13th opening round stoppage. He is 2-2 in his last 4-bouts to run beyond the 5-minute mark, but 0-2 on the scorecards. Montano is an offense first fighter, swinging wildly in pursuit of the finish. This can leave him open defensively. Against Pendred, he struggled to mount much offense landing just 21-significant strikes, never hitting double digits in an individual round.

Montano has been taken down 5 times over his 4-rounds of UFC action. He gave up 4 against Pendred, which could have been a contributor to his stunted vertical output.

Montano is the vastly superior finisher, but his lack of long fight experience and prolonged layoff suggests he has a limited window in which to win this fight. He is going to come out looking to brawl the boxer and catch Belal during an exchange. Muhammad’s more technical striking approach should limit his opportunities to do so and against Jouban he showed he has a solid chin that can take a punch/kick. Additionally, Augusto’s TDD has been an issue through his first two fights and Muhammad can go offensive with his wrestling skills. Montano is dangerous early, but Belal has the skills to get through the opening round while landing a higher volume of strikes along with a couple timely takedowns- my prediction is Belal Muhammad to defeat August Montano by decision

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185lbs- Antonio Carlos Junior (6-2-0 1NC) vs Leonardo Augusto Leleco (11-2-0)

In the Middleweight division, Antonio “Shoeface” Carlos Junior looks to rebound when he takes on fellow Brazilian Leonardo Leleco. Carlos Junior got knocked out in his last fight by Dan Kelly, he is 2-2 in the UFC with a No Contest. Leleco fell in his debut to Anthony Smith by decision, ending his 7-fight undefeated streak.

Junior is an inch taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. He is the younger man by 8 years.

“Shoeface” is a top level BJJ Black belt with 4 of his 5 wins coming by submission. He has landed 12 takedowns during his UFC run, including 5 during his TUF Brazil finals victory. Junior is a strong top position player, remaining active while looking for submission opportunities. Early in his fight with Kelly, he was dominant on the mat. After setting up a takedown with his strikes, he moved to back mount and locked in a suffocating body triangle. He controlled the rest of the round and went for a late armbar, only to run out of time. Carlos Junior began strong in round 2, but was starting to get sloppy and rushed his techniques. Kelly turned the fight in his favour and finished the Brazilian with ground and pound. The surprising turn of events brings into question the cardio and durability of Antonio.

Junior showcased some decent kicks, but his striking still remains a secondary aspect of his offense.

Leleco has finished 9 of his 11 victories- 6 by submission. While he has shown the ability to finish on the mat, he appears to lack a strong wrestling attack. In pre-UFC action he struggled to take his opponent down early, but he remained persistent and after his opponent started to slow the completions came earlier. The Brazilian has had issues with getting off to a good start, but he has shown that he can rally late in fights. Against Smith, he was getting banged up early and controlled on the mat, but managed to push back and had Smith in some trouble late. The striking component of Leleco is pretty rough. He throws a lot of awkward single strikes, holding his hands low, and his chin high. While he does have some pop in his hands, he struggles to connect with consistency and his output can disappear at times.

Similar to his opponent, Leleco has dabbled in different weight classes and has fought opponents from both Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight.

Leleco lacks a lot of technical refinement. Defensively, he stands tall which both leaves his chin open and makes it easier for his opponent to take him down. If Carlos Junior can put him on the mat, he should have no issue both controlling the position and setting up potential finishing scenarios. Carlos Junior doesn’t traditionally get as wild as his foe during striking exchanges, so if the fight remains on the feet he should have an advantage. Leleco’s ability to survive early and then rally late is worth noting considering how Carlos Junior’s last fight played out. Look for Antonio to score the early takedown and eventually set up a sub for the finish, my prediction is Antonio Carlos Junior to defeat Leonardo Leleco by submission

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135lbs- Jose Quinonez (5-2-0) vs Joey Gomez (6-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, TUF Latin America finalist Jose “El Teco” Quinonez battles Joey “The KO King” Gomez. Quinonez picked up his first UFC win, submitting Leonardo Morales to level his Octagon record at 1-1. Gomez suffered the first setback of his pro career in his initial Octagon showing last January, he was knocked out in the second round by Rob Font.

Gomez is 2 inches taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Jose is the younger man by 4-years, but he hasn’t competed in 15-months.

Prior to his promotional debut, Gomez had never gone beyond the opening frame as a pro. All 6 of his wins have come by knockout, 5 before the 2-minute mark. As his numbers indicate, he is primarily a striker. His hands are quick, working a left jab and hard straight right hand. He will also mix in an uppercut and some low kicks. In his debut, he looked a little tight and was coming up short on his punches. He started to find his rhythm in round 2, but got knocked out before he could have much success. When Font shot for a TD, Gomez showed good balance and got back to his feet quickly. Look for him to land hard elbows to the side of the head if his opponent sticks with a prolonged takedown attempt.

Joey made his debut on relatively short notice, but he was also taking a decent step up in competition. Prior to his final fight outside of the UFC, his last 2 opponents both had records sitting around .500.

Quinonez was unable to corral the TUF Latin America Bantamweight title, but he made quick work of Morales who was the Featherweight finalist from the same season. He has a pair of knockouts to go along with his submission win over Morales. In that fight, he came out looking to get the fight to the ground via a bodylock takedown. Once he was able to incorporate a trip into his TDA, he took his foe down and eventually worked his way to back mount for the RNC finish. Jose landed a trio of takedowns in his TUF tournament defeat and stopped Bentley Syler with his GNP in the quarter-finals. On the feet, he uses a lot of movement and has shown technical improvements since making the move to train at Alliance MMA. He is still working to complete his striking repertoire, but he does a good job of remaining active and pushing the pace.

Quinonez defeated Marco Beltran in the TUF tournament semi-finals by unanimous decision.

Gomez was debuting and fighting on short notice, which could very well have attributed to his underwhelming performance against Font. For a fighter with a boxing background he offered limited volume and spent the majority of the fight on the defensive. He has power, but his lack of experience in fights that go beyond the opening round is a major concern. Additionally, Gomez didn’t react well to get getting tagged by Font, which is a product of his one-sided success. Quinonez carries a more consistent pace and his constant pursuit of the takedown will wear on a fighter. Even if Joey is able to fend off the early TDAs, his cardio will begin to fade as the fight advances and Jose will eventual put him on his back. Gomez should look better than he did in his debut, but look for an improved Quinonez after having spent more time working at Alliance MMA. Jose stays active early, forces Gomez to take some chances, and eventually puts him on the mat- my prediction is Jose Quinonez to defeat Joey Gomez by submission.

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170lbs- Erick Montano (8-3-0) vs Randy Brown (7-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, TUF Latin American 2 winner Erick “Perry” Montano meets “Lookin’ for a Fight” beneficiary Randy “Rude Boy” Brown.  Brown is coming off his first career loss, falling via submission to Michael Graves after defeating Matt Dwyer in his UFC debut. Montano was victorious in the TUF tournament finals against Enrique Marin to extend his current winning streak to 3-fights and he is 5-1 over his last 6 bouts.

At 6’3″, Brown is 3 inches taller than Montano and he will have a 5″ reach advantage. Brown is the younger man by 5 years.

Montano won a close split decision in the TUF finals. He edged out his opponent 49-27 in the striking department and picked up a pair of takedowns compared to his foe’s single completion. Montano has 2 knockout victories along with 4 submission wins- all of his subs came via rear-naked choke. On the reality show, he earned an opening round TKO due to injury and then his signature RNC submission in the semis. Prior to his UFC debut, “Perry” held a record of 1-2 in fights that go beyond the first round. He is far from an overwhelming striker, tossing out big punches at range and mixing in workable left kicks to the body and head. Montano will look to close the distance behind his strikes and clinch. His ground game is the strongest aspect of his attack, but he has had mixed results. All 3 of his pro defeats have come by submission and in both of the TUF finals and preceding bouts his opponents had success orchestrating switches and sweeps to put Montano on his back.

The most noteworthy name on Montano’s record, prior to his debut, was a 2009 submission loss to the infamous Warmachine.

Brown is coming off the first loss of pro career. He has finished 4 opponents by knockout along with a pair of submission wins. His debut decision win was the first time he required the scorecards. Over his short career, he has demonstrated the ability to score knockouts in a variety of ways, using knees in the clinch, punches at range, or heavy GNP from top position. While he is a long fighter, “Rude Boy” is still working to improve his distance management. He has had some decent success on the mat, executing a perfect throw against Dwyer and nearly locking up a D’arce choke in the immediate aftermath. Against Graves, he was put on the defensive early, fending off early TDAs along the cage. Brown will use a wide base when pinned along the cage and couple it with elbows to the head against a prolonged takedown attempt. He was eventually put on the mat by Graves after throwing a kick. Randy attempted both a triangle and armbar once on the mat, but eventually succumbed to a rear-naked choke from his opponent.

Brown was the former Ring of Combat Welterweight champion, winning and then defending the title over the span of 3-fights in 2015.

This fight will come down to Montano’s ability to gain a superior position on the mat. Brown was taken down by Graves, but not without difficulty. Moreover, Montano isn’t nearly the wrestler that Graves is and Brown has shown enough skills on the mat that he can capitalize on the floor if Erick makes a mistake. Brown will have a big advantage on the feet with his power, skill, and reach all superior to his adversary. If Montano can’t get this fight to the floor, he is going to struggle to match “Rude Boy” on the feet. Brown defends the early TDAs and as his confidence builds, he will begin to open up on the feet- my prediction is Randy Brown to defeat Erick Montano by TKO

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135lbs- Alejandro Perez (18-6-0) vs Albert Morales (6-0-0)

To open the card, TUF Latin America Bantamweight winner Alejandro “El Diablito” Perez welcomes Albert “The Warrior” Morales to the Octagon. Perez has won back fights after finishing Ian Entwistle last April- he is 3-1 in the UFC. Morales enters the UFC undefeated, including a 3-0 run in 2016 and a 2-fight stint in Bellator to begin his career.

Morales is replacing Manny Gamburyan on a couple of week’s notice. He is 3 inches taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Morales is just 2 years younger than Perez, but Alejandro has 18 more pro fights.

Despite turning pro in January of 2015, Morales has already fought for WSOF, RFA, BAMMA, and the aforementioned Bellator.  He has finished all but 1 of his opponents, with a pair of knockouts and 3 submissions. He went the distance in his lone WSOF outing. Morales’s amateur career consists of a 4-fight run through 2014 that ended with a pair of decisions- a split decision win and a loss on the cards before turning pro. He is a BJJ Purple belt and showed good ground skills in his last submission win. Albert cut through his opponent’s guard with relative ease and landed some hard GNP before locking in the fight ending triangle choke. On the feet, he is aggressive with a snappy left jab. His combination striking isn’t strong as he looks more to overwhelm his foe with wild flurries.

The quality of opposition faced by “The Warrior” picked up in his final pre-UFC outing, but his 3 prior opponents hold a combined record of 6-10.

Perez stumbled out of the post-TUF gate with an abrupt submission loss lasting just 23 seconds at UFC 188. He is a battle-tested fighter, stopping 8 by T/KO and 5 more by submission. He is 4-2 on the scorecards and he has been submitted 3-times. Against Entwistle, Perez did an excellent job of remaining calm under pressure, defending the leg lock attempts, and eventually moving into top position to finish the fight. His TDD looked much improved 1 fight earlier, using a strong underhook to lift Scott Jorgensen when he shot in and springing back to his feet quickly when he did get taken down. “El Diablito” also showcased his leg kicks in that fight, hurting and eventually taking out Jorgensen on the basis of the damage done to his lower half. Perez uses a lot of movement to set up his offense, working laterally to avoid his opponent’s forward pressure before unloading with his combination strikes.

Perez won a quarter-final decision over Freddy Serrano followed by a semi-final knockout of Guido Cannetti to reach the TUF finals.

Morales can be best described as a raw talent. He is very capable, but it is hard to gauge how much of his success is a product of his level of competition. He has some pop in his hands and is capable on the mat, but he hasn’t faced much adversity throughout his career. Perez has shown himself capable of enduring a submission onslaught and then taking control of the fight. Training at AKA, Alejandro has made sizeable strides in his TDD. His ability thwart Morales’s takedowns will take away a key component of Morales’s offense. Perez’s movement will negate the aggressive bursts of his foe and his more accurate combination striking will allow him to win the majority of the exchanges. Perez endures the early push and breaks his opponent down with a more consistent attack, widening the gap as the fight progresses- my prediction is Alejandro Perez to defeat Albert Morales by TKO

135lbs- #10 JESSICA EYE (11-5-0) vs #11 BETHE CORREIA (9-2-0)

Finishing off the UFC 203 preliminary card will be a Women’s Bantamweight bout between Top 15 ranked fighters Bethe “Pitbull” Correia and Jessica “Evil” Eye. Eye most recently dropped a decision to Sara McMann and has lost 3 in a row and 4 of 5. Correia suffered the first defeat of her pro career against former divisional champion Ronda Rousey and then lost her follow-up bout to surging Raquel Pennington.

The former title challenger will give up an inch of height and 2 inches of reach to her opponent. Eye is the younger fighter by 3 years.

Eye has a decision heavy-record, going to the scorecards 11-times in her career, winning 7-times. Jessica doesn’t have a tonne of power, but her best performance came in her Doctor stoppage TKO over Leslie Smith. She came out aggressive, using her footwork to move into firing range and then good head movement to avoid her opponent in close. She routinely slipped her head off line and then cracked Smith with a solid right hand. The right can also come as a counter. “Evil” Eye will pump her left jab and finish her combos with quick low kicks. She is primarily a high volume striker, averaging 3.53 SLpM. While her stats aren’t overwhelming, her output in fights against ground-based opponents have served to lower her average. Eye has had issues defending her opponent’s TDA’s and struggled once she was put on her back. After her foe is able to establish the threat of a takedown, Eye’s vertical output drops off noticeably.

In Eye’s 2-fights devoid of a completed takedown by her opponent, she connected on 145-significant strikes. In her 4 UFC losses, totaling 8 TDs- she landed just 143 strikes. An average drop off of  almost 37-strikes per fight.

The Brazilian also has a decision heavy record, currently holding a 7-1 mark in fights that reach the scorecards. Correia’s loss to Pennington was a split decision. She began her UFC run with a trio of wins leading to a title shot, but compared to Eye, Bethe’s quality of opposition hasn’t been as strong. She offers a high volume striking output, landing her UFC best 91-significant strikes against Jessamyn Duke. Outside of the Rousey loss, Bethe has never landed less than 65 strikes in a UFC fight. Against Duke, she found success backing Jessamyn to the cage and unloading with barrages. Bethe stopped Shayna Baszler in similar fashion. She likes to close the distance behind her strikes and then dirty box on the inside, landing short hooks and uppercuts. She will also mix in knees and elbows. At distance, Correia lacks hand speed. She will throw some decent low kicks and toss out a short left hand followed by a longer straight right.

A BJJ Purple belt, she has yet to record a submission win and has landed just a single takedown on 5 attempts inside the Octagon.

This bout will be mainly contested on the feet. At close range, both girls will let their hands go. Correia tends to be more of a brawler, which can leave her open to getting hit on the inside- but her barrages can also be difficult to deal with. Eye will oblige her in close, but she would be best suited to main a little distance. Jessica’s superior footwork and head movement will allow her to get in, strike, and slip out of range. Additionally, Eye’s jab and lateral movement will prevent Correia from closing the distance without taking damage. The lack of a wrestling threat from Bethe removes the biggest issue that Eye has had during her UFC losses. It will also make it easier for Jessica to sit down on her strikes, throw more frequently, and use more kicks. Eye puts together a comparable performance to her fight against Smith- my prediction is Jessica Eye to defeat Bethe Correia by decision.

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155lbs- NIK LENTZ (28-7-2 1NC) vs MICHAEL MCBRIDE (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Nik “The Carny” Lentz takes on late notice replacement Michael McBride. Lentz comes in off of a split decision victory over Danny Castillo, he has alternated wins and losses over his last 5 fights. McBride debuts in the Octagon on the strength of a 4-fight winning streak dating back to his 2013 loss to Emmanuel Sanchez.

McBride is replacing Mairbek Taisumov on roughly 2-weeks notice. At 6’1″, he is 5 inches taller than Lentz and will have a sizeable 8″ reach advantage. McBride is just 2 years younger, but will be at a significant experience disadvantage with just 9 pro bouts compared to 36 for Lentz.

Lentz has well-established himself as an effective top position wrestler. He averages 3.87 takedowns per fight, with a high-watermark of 10 completions in his win over Diego Nunes. He is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and a BJJ Purple belt. Lentz is 10-3 in decisions, with 10 wins by submission and 6 more by knockout. While he did complete a trio of takedowns against Castillo, his wrestling attack was far more effect as a Featherweight; landing 30 takedowns over 10 Lightweight bouts compared to 24 completions over just 6 bouts at 145-pounds. Lentz does a decent job of breaking down his opponent from top position and he is also willing to attack from the clinch. Nik has been subbed twice in his career, most recently tapping to a guillotine at the hands of crafty ground fighter Charles Oliveira.

“The Carny” has made noticeable strides in his striking and will push the pace on the feet with a decent short range arsenal.

McBride enters the UFC off of a 10-month layoff. Outside of Bellator’s Sanchez, his record lacks any real quality opposition and there isn’t any footage of him available since 2014. All 8 of his pro wins have come by submission, including 3 by rear-nake choke. In his only Bellator appearance, he gave up an early takedown and spent the first half of the fight on his back. He was eventually able to work his way back to his feet, complete his own shot, move to mount, and eventually work his way to the choke position. The majority of his finishes are reliant on having the superior position, with little evidence of an active and dangerous guard. There isn’t a lot of footage of his striking available, but based on his record he will be looking to take this fight to the mat when possible.

McBride will have a length advantage over Lentz, but he is a large Lightweight and making 155 pounds on short notice could significantly drain his body.

Lentz is a battled-tested veteran who is a handful for just about anyone in the division. His wrestling heavy attack can be a lot to deal with especially for a fighter that is debuting on short notice with less then 10-fights of total cage experience. Additionally, Lentz is not easy to take down and his lower stature is going to make it difficult for McBride to make an effective level change. With Michael’s reliance on top position submissions, if he can’t take Lentz down his submission game will be a non-factor. The late notice factor is further compromised by McBride’s limit activity over the last 2-years and his minimal experience in fights lasting beyond the opening round. Lentz will find success with his wrestling both offensively and defensively, controlling where the fight takes place and outworking his opponent- my prediction is Nik Lentz to defeat Michael McBride by TKO

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185lbs- BRAD TAVARES (13-4-0) vs CAIO MAGALHAES (9-2-0)

In the Middleweight division, Brad Tavares returns to action when he takes on Brazil’s Caio “Hellboy” Magalhaes. Tavares’s only win over his last 4-fights came against Nate Marquardt- during that span he has lost to Tim Boetsch, Yoel Romero, and Robert Whittaker. Magalhaes won 4 consecutive fights after an unsuccessful debut, but his winning streak came to a crashing halt against Josh Samman via submission.

Both fighters are returning to action off of prolonged layoffs. Tavares hasn’t fought in close to 16-months and Caio hasn’t made the walk in 14-months. Physically, they are near identical. Both men are 6’1″, Tavares will have a slight 1″ reach advantage, and is exactly 1 week older than Magalhaes.

“Hellboy” has fought over half of his 11-fight career inside the Octagon. A BJJ Black belt, he has a trio of submission victories, but he is coming off his first defeat via tap out. His wrestling numbers aren’t strong. After completing a trio of TDs over his first 2 UFC outings, he hasn’t landed one since. The Brazilian completes just 15% of his attempts. A decent top position player, he struggles working off his back and looked overmatched on the floor by Samman prior to tapping out. On the feet, he does have some power, but isn’t a fluid striker. Magalhaes likes to close the distance behind his punches and hammer away in close. His stoppage win over Trevor Smith was marred by several illegal blows to the back of Smith’s head. Similar to his takedown numbers, his striking output is underwhelming at 2.46 SLpM versus 2.67 SApM.

After getting submitted by Samman, Magalhaes spit blood in the faces of both Josh and John McCarthy. He was suspended for 6-months.

Tavares has been knocked out in each of his last 2 defeats. This certainly creates some concern about his ability to take a punch. He was clearly outclassing Boetsch before getting knocked out. Prior to his current slump he was developing and melding together a strong kickboxing attack and serviceable wrestling game. Employing a stiff kicking arsenal, he will batter his adversary’s legs along with attacking the body and head. He will use both the traditional round kick and mix in a switch kick as well. With his hands, he likes to lead with either a left jab or hook. He will vary his attack between single strikes and combinations, sometimes finishing with a low kick. If his opponent opts to press the action, look for Brad to slide back and throw a short counter right hook. Tavares has defended 74% of his opponent’s takedown attempts and has shown that he can go offensive with his own shot.

Tavares has completed 13 takedowns over his 8 UFC wins while giving up 10 over his 4 UFC losses. In his decision setback against Yoel Romero he was taken down 7-times.

With both men coming off prolonged layoffs it adds an element of unknown to how they will perform. Tavares appears to be the more likely fighter to have used the break to develop his game further. Magalhaes still offers a similar skill set to what he brought to his debut back in 2012. That being said the chin of Tavares is a major concern. Both of his knockouts came against heavy hitters, but the issue is that while he may be the more talented fighter- it won’t matter if he can’t take a punch. The American carries the superior work rate, with better technique, and variety. His cardio will also give him an advantage if the fight advances beyond the mid-way mark. Magalhaes has some power and will probably look to drag Brad into a wild exchange to give him the best chance to land. If he can get on top, Caio has the ability to both do damage and/or setup a submission- but against anyone less than the elite Tavares has been successful at stopping their takedowns. The thumping power of “Hellboy” will be a concern, but Tavares should have the edge everywhere else- my prediction is Brad Tavares to defeat Caio Magalhaes by Decision.

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170lbs- YANCY MEDEIROS (12-4-0 1NC) vs SEAN SPENCER (12-5-0)

In the Fight Pass headliner, Sean Spencer takes on Yancy Medeiros in the Welterweight division. Spencer is coming off a loss to Mike Pyle and has just a single victory over his last 4 Octagon appearances. Medeiros dropped an entertaining bout with Francisco Trinaldo at UFC 198 after winning a controversial split decision victory over John Makdessi.

Medeiros is moving up to Welterweight after competing as a Lightweight in the UFC. He had fought at 185-pounds earlier in his career. Both men are 5’10”, share a 75″ reach, and are the same age.

Spencer is returning after first knockout loss of his career. He is primarily a high volume striker, averaging 4.32 SLpM- including 105 significant strikes in his win over Drew Dober. Offensively, he builds his attack off of a spearing left jab. Sean will double it up to help close distance and then fire a hard right hand behind it. He possesses good footwork and head movement, and while he doesn’t use a lot of kicks he will target the body with his punches. Spencer doesn’t have a tonne of power, but he has hurt opponents during exchanges. At 4.08 SApM, he gets hit a lot and has given up 60+ significant strikes on 5 different occasions. Pyle hurt with him a short right hand and eventually overwhelmed him in the final round.

Spencer has solid TDD (68%), but has given up 17-takedowns over his 4 UFC bouts compared to just 1 in his trio of victories.

Like his opponent, Mederios does the majority of his work on the feet. That being said, he does a have a pair of UFC submission wins. Yancy lacks a legit wrestling threat, having yet to complete a takedown over 8 UFC outings. With 6 wins by knockout, not including his overturned victory against Yves Edwards- Yancy has decent pop in his strikes. He is a long striker, firing out a left jab and hard right hand. He will also target the body and hurt Joe Proctor with a perfectly time turning side kick. Mederios augments his boxing with a decent kicking repertoire- highlighted by a hard front kick to the body. Yancy was violently knocked out by Dustin Poirier and Trinaldo hurt him on multiple occasions. He appears to be vulnerable to the body if his opponent can connect with power.

Yancy currently carries a -0.95 striking exchange rate, getting tagged 5.05 times per minute. He is coming off of his 2 best offensive outputs with a combined 131 significant strikes landed, but he also gave up an astounding 231 connections over the same 2 bouts.

The Hawaii-born Mederios returned to his homeland to train for his last fight, but has spent a lot of time working with the Diaz brothers. He should benefit from not having to cut down to Lightweight, but he will lose out on the size and length advantages he enjoyed against smaller opposition. Spencer’s success has largely hinged on his defensive wrestling. While he is able to get up, if his opponent takes him down with regularity he struggles to make up for it with his vertical offense. The lack of a legit wrestling threat from his opponent should allow him to open up on the feet. The power edge lies with Mederios, but the volume favours Spencer. Yancy gets hit a lot and has issues getting his hands back in defensive position after attacking- this makes him vulnerable against a quicker striker. Spencer needs to avoid giving up the big moments, but he will find success routinely beating Mederios to the punch- my prediction is Sean Spencer to defeat Yancy Mederios by decision.

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205lbs- CB DOLLAWAY (16-9-0) vs FRANCIMAR BARROSO (18-5-0)

“The Doberman” CB Dollaway moves to the Light Heavyweight division to take on Brazil’s Francimar “Bodao” Barroso. Dollaway is winless in his last 3 bouts, suffering knockout losses to Nate Marquardt and Lyoto Machida with a decision defeat against Middleweight champion Michael Bisping sandwiched in the middle. Barroso’s 2-fight winning streak was snapped by Nikita Krylov- he is 3-2 in the UFC.

Despite moving up from the Middleweight division, CB will be an inch taller than his opponent and will have a 1″ reach advantage. The American is 3-years younger.

A product of Nova Uniao, Barroso has finished 14 opponents (8 T/KOs and 4 submissions)- none in the UFC. He is 4-1 on the scorecards, despite lacking strong offensive stats. The Brazilian averages just 2.82 SLpM compared to 2.85 SApM, while completing less than 2 takedowns per fight at an 18% completion rate. He will deploy a decent body kick, but throws primarily single strikes and tends to let his opponent control the pace of the fight. At short range, Francimar will clinch up and grind his opponent into the cage. When he does try to take his opponent to the mat it usually comes via body lock and trip combinations. His top control time has been a key to his victories, but he is far more focussed on maintaining control over doing damage.  He expended a lot of energy trying to put Krylov on the mat and eventually spent some time on his back. He attacked from his guard, but had minimal success.

Similar to his offensive stats, his lack of strong cardio runs counterintuitive to his success in decisions. He has slowed down in longer fights and his offense and technique will suffer as a result.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and BJJ Purple belt, the ground game has been a key aspect of CB’s success. During a 5-fight stretch, where he compiled a 4-1 record (he should have been 5-0), he completed 12 takedowns. Dollaway has a solid top game and is a submission threat if the opportunity presents itself. Along with an increased wrestling presence, Dollaway also showed sizeable improvement in his striking. He finished Cezar Ferreira with a well-timed counter right hand and mixes in a nice check left hook. He will also work in his kicking game to help diversify his offense. Look for CB to throw hard kicks to the legs and body. Against Marquardt, he found success early landing hard kicks to the body and then closing the gap to throw heavy flurries along the cage. Where he ran into trouble was in middle frame when he rushed forward looking to attack and got knocked out. Dollaway has been knocked out 4-times in his career.

During Dollaway’s TUF 7 tournament run he was submitted in the semi-finals by Amir Sadollah and then after the other finalist withdrew, CB was again subbed by Sadollah in the finals.

Dollaway won’t have the size advantage he enjoyed at Middleweight, but he should have a slight speed edge and cutting less weight could improve his durability. Barroso can be a frustrating fighter. He lacks the type of work rate to clearly outwork his opponent, but he has a tendency to lull his opponent into a similar low output daze. Dollaway is the more technically sound striker and his wrestling should allow him to nullify Barosso’s takedown attempts and possibly complete his own. Francimar likes to load up on his strikes, which can make him easier to defend against. It can also test the chin and overall durability of Dollaway, which has been one of his downfalls. The American will out work Barroso, landing both the cleaner and more frequent strikes. As Francimar starts to slow down, Dollaway should find success with his wrestling and score crucial takedowns to help solidify the fight- my prediction is CB Dollaway to defeat Francimar Barroso by decision.
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155lbs- DREW DOBER (16-7-0 1NC) vs JASON GONZALEZ (10-2-0)

In the first fight of the night, Drew Dober welcomes Jason Gonzalez to the Octagon in the Lightweight division. Dober defeated Scott Holtzman at UFC 195 for his second UFC victory. Gonzalez has won 6 straight bouts, including a 4-0 run under the Gladiator Challenge banner.

Gonzalez is 6 inches taller, will have a 6″ reach advantage along with being 2-years younger than Dober. He is stepping in on roughly 1-months notice to replace Erik Koch.

A durable fighter, Dober has been finished just twice in his 24-fight career. Despite coming from a striking background, Drew is a BJJ Purple belt and has 9 wins by submission on his record. He subbed Jamie Varner in late 2014 via RNC, but 3 of his submission wins came due to strikes. Dober showed a considerable deviation to his traditional game plan versus Holtzman by landing 5 takedowns- he completed zero through his previous 5 UFC bouts. Drew took his adversary from the clinch and shoot from the outside. On the feet, he has averaged 3.12 SLpM, compared to 4.02 SApM. He will willingly stand in the pocket and trade, but he lacks legit knockout power. He is an even 5-5 on the scorecards which indicates that he has traditionally struggled to separate himself from his adversary when he can’t get the finish. His inclusion of takedowns against Holtzman shows his willingness to add more tools to help pick up points in a close fight.

Dober was scheduled to face Islam Makhachev in April, but after the weigh-ins Makhachev was pulled from the fight for a potential anti-doping violation.

Gonzalez brings a record with a 100% finishing rate on both sides of the ledger. His 10-career victories consist of 6 knockouts and 4 submissions. Jason has also lost once each by tap and knockout. He has 6 opening round victories, fighting beyond the first frame just once in his last 7-fights. During footage from earlier in his career, Gonzalez came out aggressive with hard combinations, mixing in knees to the body when his foe tried to clinch up, and eventually locking up a triangle off his back for the win. He unsuccessfully attempted a similar sub in the opening round of the TUF tourney, adding in some hard elbows off of his back. On the feet, he will throw a hard high kick, mix in some leg kicks, and he finished his adversary with a with knee to the body. His punches are long and pack some heat, sharing some baseline similarities to Tony Ferguson. The undoing of his TUF run came when his TDD faltered and he spent large portions of the fight on his back.

Jason competed on the 22nd season of the Ultimate Fighter representing the USA for Team Urijah Faber. He gained entry to the house with an opening round knockout, but fell in the elimination round viadecisionn.

Gonzalez has had issues with his TDD in the past and that could be an area that Dober looks to exploit. Jason is active off his back, but if he can’t get the finish he is losing the position. While Dober’s wrestling looked good in his last fight, he is going to need to find a way past the offense of his opponent without getting dragged into a slugfest. Dober will have a sizeable reach and length disadvantage to overcome when standing with Gonzalez. With a stout chin, he is more than willing to eat a punch to land one, and carries a -0.9 striking exchange rate as a result. Look for Gonzalez to come out aggressive, but if he isn’t able to get the finish he will start to fade. It’s a close fight early, but Dober holds his own on the feet and controls top position at key moments in the fight- my prediction is Drew Dober to defeat Jason Gonzalez by decision.

170lbs- Jessin Ayari (15-3-0) vs Jim Wallhead (29-9-0)

In the Welterweight division, Jessin “Abacus” Ayari meets fellow UFC debutant and injury replacement “Judo” Jim Wallhead. Germany’s Ayari has won 6 consecutive fights, most recently earning a unanimous decision win over former Octagon resident Mickael Lebout. Wallhead has rattled off 4-straight wins dating back to a 2014 KO loss to Danny Roberts.

After Emil Weber Meeks removed himself from the card, Wallhead stepped in with over a month to prep for the fight. Ayari is 2 inches taller and will have 3″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 8-years.

Ayari enters the Octagon with a record consisting of 11 finishes out of his 15 wins. Of those 11 wins, 8 have come via submission- 7 in the first round. He has some pop in his hands, leading with a jab between unloading with hard barrages or stand alone single strikes. From the clinch, he does a decent job of slipping in elbows and knees. His wrestling is serviceable, but not overwhelming. A long-time vet of the UK MMA scene, Wallhead has a lot of experience and diverse record. Jim went 1-2 under the Bellator banner and has faced a number of current or former UFC competitors. A Judo Black belt, he has stopped 11 by knockout and 10 by submission, along with a 7-4 record on the scorecards. He has been finished on 5 occasions.

Wallhead is coming as an injury replacement, but he will have had close to 6-weeks to prepare for the fight. He is the more experienced fighter both in quality and quantity of bouts. While Ayari appears dangerous in spurts, he has a tendency to let his opponent dictate the pace of the fight. Lebout was able to move forward and land at will, with most of Ayari’s offense coming in response to the inital attack. Additionally, the German has been knocked out twice and submitted once while competing on the regional scene. Wallhead’s offense flows more consistently, which will allow him to control the pace of the fight and force his foe to fight off of his back foot. Look for the veteran to dictate the pace and take advantage of the gaps in offense that Ayari presents, before eventually landing a big combination or overwhelming him in close- my prediction is Jim Wallhead to defeat Jessin Ayari by TKO

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170lbs- Peter Sobotta (15-5-1) vs Nicolas Dalby (14-1-1)

In the Welterweight division, Polish-born German Peter Sobotta fights Denmark’s Nicolas “Sharpshooter’ Dalby. Sobotta had won 7 consecutive fights before getting finished by Kyle Noke in Australia. Dalby is looking to rally after suffering the first loss of his pro career, a decision defeat against Zak Cummings- he is 1-1-1 in the UFC.

Sobotta is an inch taller and will have the same length reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 3 years.

After a 0-3 run during his first UFC tenure, Sobotta returned to the promotion on the strength of a much more well-rounded offensive attack. In addition to a displaying an improved kickboxing arsenal, Peter picked up 5 takedowns over his 2 UFC wins. He has 10 wins by submission, including 7 by rear-naked choke. Dalby is equally as well-rounded, utilizing a karate-based striking style with a decent takedown game. He picked up 6 completions in his debut and scored a pair in his exciting draw against Darren Till. The Dane landed a UFC personal best 84-significant strikes against Till, but struggled early in the fight to find his rhythm and has had issues with his defensive striking.

The key to Sobotta’s resurgence has been his wrestling, but Dalby is not an easy fighter to take off his feet. The Danish fighter has defended 7 of the 8 TDAs from his 3 opponents. Conversely, Dalby’s offensive wrestling could come in handy against Sobotta who had issues staying vertical in his initial UFC run. On the feet, both fighters are willing to trade, but Dalby should be the more diverse striker. Sobotta isn’t an overwhelmingly active striker and lacks the type of power that Dalby’s previous opponent’s offered. Look for Dalby to use his kicking arsenal to key his foe on the outside. Sobotta is at his best when he can incorporate all aspects of his offensive attack, but Dalby will shutdown his wrestling and outwork him on the feet- my prediction is Nicolas Dalby to defeat Peter Sobotta by decision.

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135lbs- #13 Ashlee Evans-Smith (4-1-0) vs Veronica Macedo (5-0-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, Ashlee Evans-Smith makes her 3rd trip to the Octagon when she takes on injury replacement Veronica Macedo. AES picked up a controversial decision victory over Marion Reneau last February to even her UFC record at 1-1. Macedo is still undefeated in her young career, including her most recent win in July coming by submission.

Macedo is replacing Germain De Randamie on roughly 2 week’s notice. She is the younger fighter by 8 years, but will give up 4 inches of height.

Despite already having 5-pro fights, the Venezuelan-born Macedo turned pro in March of this year.  She fought twice in March, and then once each in April, May, and July. Not unexpectedly, her level of competition has been relatively low in experience and overall quality- her last 3 foes have a combined record of 5-9. She has a single knockout to go along with her submission win and 3-0 record on the scorecards. Evans-Smith comes from a wrestling background and has scored a pair of takedowns over her 2 UFC fights. If she can’t put her opponent on the mat look for her to use the cage to control her opponent and break them down in the clinch.

AES has had an up and down run in the UFC. She arguably won the opening round against Raquel Pennington before getting subbed right before the bell. She followed that up with a competitive fight, that saw her get rocked and nearly submitted but still earn the decision. Known more for her wrestling, Ashlee showed noticeable improvements in her striking against Reneau. She will most likely return to her roots against Macedo. Veronica had a lot of trouble defending her opponent’s takedowns in her last fight and spent most of the bout on her back. She eventually caught a heel hook for the tap, but against a more experienced foe she will be hard pressed to pull that off. With minimal experience as a pro, debuting on short notice, and a size disadvantage- Macedo is facing a number of significant obstacles. AES will use her wrestling to ground Macedo and break her down with strikes from top position, my prediction is Ashlee Evans-Smith to defeat Veronica Macedo by TKO.

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135lbs- Taylor Lapilus (10-2-0) vs Leandro Issa (13-5-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Taylor “Double Impact” Lapilus takes on BJJ Black belt Leandro “Brodinho” Issa. Lapilus is coming off of a tough loss to Erik Perez after upsetting Ulka Sasaki in his second UFC appearance. Issa lost a decision to Iuri Alcantara to fall to 2-2 inside the Octagon, which includes a submission win over Sasaki.

Issa hasn’t competed since August of 2015, a 13-month layoff. “Brodinho” is the taller man by an inch, but the French fighter will have a sizeable 4″ reach advantage. Lapilus is younger by 9-years.

Both men started strong in their last fights, but were unable to maintain their early success. Lapilus effectively stayed on the outside against Perez and landed quality strikes, but once ‘”Goyito” was able to get on the inside and score takedowns the fight changed drastically. Conversely, Issa found early success putting Alcantara on the ground, but once fatigue started to set in he got busted up on the feet.

Not surprisingly, the key to this fight will be whether or not Issa can drag Lapilus to the floor with regularity. The Brazilian is 9-2 in fights ending by submission, but a dismal 4-3 in bouts ending via any other method. His takedown numbers are below average, but when he can’t score a clean completion he has found success creating scramble scenarios and working to top position. Lapilus has 6 career wins by submission and has shown a willingness to engage his opponent on the floor. Once Perez took him down, he had almost not answer off of his back. Lapilus will have a clear striking advantage, but the threat of the takedown will stunt his offensive output. Look for the Brazilian to close the distance and put “Double Impact” on the ground, resulting in prolonged periods of top control. While Issa is known to slow down, Lapilus will as well- making it harder for him to catch-up on the scorecards after a slow start. Both men will have their moments, but Issa finds the greatest success with his transitions and top control- my prediction is Leandro Issa to defeat Taylor Lapilus by decision

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265lbs- Jarjis Danho (6-1-0 1NC) vs Christian Colombo (8-1-0)

In the Heavyweight division, “Man Mountain” Jarjis Danho looks to improve upon his disappointing debut when he meets Danish Debutant Christian “Godzilla” Colombo. Danho’s suffered the first loss of his career via technical decision against Daniel Omielanczuk. Colombo has finished 6-straight fights since his only professional setback in 2012 versus Viktor Pesta.

Colombo will stand 2 inches taller than Danho at 6’5″. Both men should come in close to the Heavyweight limit. Danho is 2 years younger.

“Godzilla” has fought just once since 2013, suffering through an injury-related layoff. He is coming off a victory over an 0-1 opponent, but prior to his break from competition his last two wins came against a pair of well-travelled regional vets with a combined 29-17 record. Danho has won all 6 of his pro victories inside the distance; 4 by knockout and 2 more by submission due to strikes. In his debut, he got off to a strong started but faded badly before relying on a late low blow to bring about the premature end of the fight.

Quality footage of Colombo is far and few between, with the last legit tape of his pro-MMA career coming from his 2012 loss to Pesta. Having fought just once since 2013 isn’t a positive for a fighter at his age or stage of his MMA career. Danho looked far from impressive in his debut, but he was facing a pretty stout UFC vet with a lot of experience. This fight could get very ugly if it gets beyond the midway mark of the second round. If Colombo can keep his foe on the outside he can utilize his kickboxing to pick Jarjis apart. More likely, look for Danho to bully his opponent into the cage and then put him on the mat. Whether in the clinch or on the floor, ‘Man Mountain’ will unload with an avalanche of fight-ending strikes- my prediction is Jarjis Danho to defeat Christian Colombo by TKO.

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185lbs- Scott Askham (14-2-0) vs Jack Hermansson (13-2-0)

The debuting Swedish Middleweight Jack ‘”Joker” Hermansson will battle UK-born Scott Askham. Askham has alternated wins and losses during his 4-fight UFC career, most recently defeating Chris Dempsey by knockout. Hermansson has won 8 consecutive fights, including wins over UFC castoff Karlos Vemola and former Bellator fighter Norman Paraisy.

At 6’3″, Askham is 2 inches taller than his opponent and they share a 75″ reach.

In stopping Dempsey, the Brit picked up his ninth career win by knockout- 8th in the opening round. Both of his UFC wins came in the first round and both came via close strange striking barrages. Hermansson also has 8 knockout wins, with 5 coming after the opening round. He has also picked up a quartet of submission wins. “Joker” went 0-2 in Bellator.

Despite picking up a pair of wins, Askham has spent very little time as the front runner in any of his fights. He has struggled tremendously with opponents that focus their attack on clinch and takedown based offense. Hermansson is capable of putting his opponent on their backside, but that appears to be a secondary aspect of his game. Where he does his best work is at distance. Jack employs a lot of movement, working in and out of range behind a long left jab. He effectively draws out his opponent’s attacks while setting up his own constant flow of offense. Askham has knockout power, but he is far from a fluid striker. He would be best served by turning this fight into a brawl and trying to catch his opponent when trading. Hermansson’s movement and ability to maintain his pace for a full 3-rounds will be the difference here. Askham’s lack of consistent output won’t hold up well over a 15-minute fight as he struggles to match his opponent’s volume, my prediction is Jack Hermansson to defeat Scott Askham by decision

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155lbs- Rustam Khabilov (19-3-0) vs Leandro Silva (19-3-1 1NC)

In 1 of only 3 bouts on the prelims not to feature a debuting fighter, formerly Top 15 ranked Lightweight Rustam “Tiger” Khabilov meets Brazil’s Leandro “Buscape” Silva. Khabilov has picked up back to back wins over Norman Parke and Chris Wade to put his 2-fight losing skid behind him. Silva is coming off of a split decision loss to Jason Saggo, he had been undefeated in his previous 4 outings.

Silva is the taller man by an inch, but the Russian will have the 1″ reach advantage and is the younger man by a year. Silva is replacing Reza Madadi who pulled out of the fight in late July.

This fight will offer a matchup of ground disciplines as Khabilov is an International Master of Sports in Sambo and Silva a BJJ Black belt. Both fighters have leaned heavily on their ground games during their respective UFC stints. Khabilov has averaged 4.81 completions per fight at a 52% accuracy rate. He has scored 6 takedowns in each of his last 2 wins and completed another 6 in his loss to Benson Henderson. Silva’s numbers aren’t quite as impressive with his UFC-best 4 takedowns on 8 attempts coming in his loss to Francisco Trinaldo. He has recorded 10 wins by submission- 6 by rear-naked choke.

Both fighters are known as serviceable strikers that have shown intermittent signs of impressive technique, but they struggle to maintain a consistent output. If the action is contested mainly on the feet, Silva is the slightly more active striker, but the power edge lies with the Russian. That being said, this contest will most likely be won and lost on the mat. Khabilov will shoot from the outside or drag his foe to the ground from the clinch. He routinely out scrambled and over-powered Wade on the floor and the American appeared to be slowing down late in the fight as a result. Silva’s gas tank has been a concern, with his offense fading in the later rounds. Rustam is the superior wrestler both offensively and defensively. He will find success both putting Silva on the mat and defending his TDAs. With Silva on the short end of the ground fighting, he won’t offer enough vertical output to make up the difference. It might not be pretty, but Khabilov will get the better of the key grappling exchanges and pull away as his opponent starts to slowdown, my prediction is Rustam Khabilov to defeat Leandro Silva by decision.

185lbs- Sam Alvey (27-8-0 1NC) vs Kevin Casey (9-4-1 2NC)

In the undercard headliner, ‘Smile’n’ Sam Alvey makes his third appearance in as many months against ‘King’ Kevin Casey. Casey is coming off of a draw against Elvis Mutapcic and is 1-1-1 with a pair of No Contests over his last 5 fights. Alvey snapped a 2-fight losing skid with his win over Eric Spicely, all 4 of his UFC wins have come by opening round finish.

Alvey is 3 inches taller and 5-years younger than Casey, but Casey will have a 2″ reach advantage.

A BJJ Black belt, Casey is a ground specialist. The majority of his wins are centered around his ability to drag his opponent to the mat and keep them there. He picked up a pair of takedowns against Mutapcic and found success countering to top position in his only official Octagon victory over Ildemar Alcantara. All 3 of his submission wins have come via rear-naked choke. He is a physically strong fighter and will both smother his opponent from top position and can do damage when is he able to posture up and land strikes. Against Mutapcic, he started strong landing an early takedown and controlling the position. He had similar success in the middle round, but was starting to slow down and slowed further as the fight progressed. The defining aspect of Casey’s career has been his cardio. Despite his ability to dominate on the mat, his cardio makes it difficult for him to score takedowns and maintain his output over a full 15-minutes. ‘King’ Casey has had some success on the feet, mainly built around the pop in his punches. He cracked Alcantara a couple of times and was able to back him off with his power, which is usually deployed in single strikes.

Casey fought is last fight just a day after the death of his father-in-law Muhammad Ali.

Similar to his opponent, Alvey is a specialist. While not nearly as one-dimensional as Casey, Alvey has recorded 17 of his 27 wins by knockout. He is coming off of his third career submission win, but he is just 10-7 in fights not ending by knockout. Alvey has face melting power, capable of ending a fight with one-punch. Arguably his most impressive victory came over Cezar Ferreira, where Alvey waited out his foe’s attack before unloading with just 4 total strikes to render the Brazilian unconscious. He has put together similar performances where he stopped his foe with a minimal amount of offense, but when he is unable to score the knockout it is difficult for Alvey to win a decision. Most recently, Elias Theodorou used a gameplan built around movement and remaining elusive to avoid getting tagged with Alvey’s fight-ending power. A Team Quest product, Alvey has shown good TDD defending 87% of his opponents’ takedown attempts. While Sam isn’t one to go offensive with his wrestling, if he does get on top he can do a lot of damage with his GNP.

Wisely attempted to drag Alvey to the mat, but Sam did an excellent job of remaining vertical and eventually locked up a standing guillotine choke for the finish.

Alvey represents a terrible stylistic matchup for Casey. Unless Casey is able to finish Alvey early, he isn’t going to be able to take him down and keep him down for the entire fight without his cardio faltering. Alvey’s TDD is good enough to trouble Casey and force him to work hard to gain that coveted top position. Even if Casey scores an early completion or 2, Alvey will make him work on the mat and tire him out in the process. Either after Casey slows down or during an early exchange, Alvey is going to have plenty of opportunities to attack his opponent on the feet. Casey is way too reliant on closing the distance to set up his grappling to stick to the outside and avoid Sam’s power. Sam Alvey does what he does well and that blasts his foe during an early exchange, my prediction is Sam Alvey to defeat Kevin Casey by knockout

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145lbs- Enrique Barzola (12-2-1) vs Kyle Bochniak (6-1-0)

In the Featherweight division, TUF Latin America winner Enrique ‘El Fuerte’ Barzola of Peru fights Kyle ‘Crash’ Bochniak. Barzola defeated Horacio Gutierrez in the TUF tournament final and is 4-1 over his last 5 fights. Bochniak took a short notice opportunity to get into the UFC, but lost to Aaron Rosa as a Lightweight- the first defeat of his career.

It is also worth noting that Barzola won the Lightweight TUF bracket. Both fighters are 5’7″ and share an identical 70″ reach. The Peruvian is the younger man by 2 years.

‘Crash’ put up a valiant effort in his extremely short notice debut against Aaron Rosa, in Rosa’s hometown no less. Bochniak entered the UFC on the strength of back to back opening round finishes- a knockout and a technical submission by rear-naked choke. He started his pro career in similar fashion and has diced up his 6 career victories evenly between knockouts, submissions, and decisions. Against Rosa, he came out aggressive on the feet. Bochniak was landing hard right hands and showed good timing; slipping out of range and then back inside to attack. Kyle did find the mark a couple of times in round 1, with a pair of knockdowns. He also mixed in some low kicks and knees on the inside. It appeared that Rosa was able to pick up on Bochniak’s reliance on his right and got better at avoiding them in the second half of the fight. For a debuting fighter, he moved very well and looked relaxed in the early going, but started to slow down as the fight progressed and the damage piled up.

Bochniak got taken down a couple of times, but battled his way back up and even scored his own takedown during round 2.

Barzola represented Team Escudero during his run to the Latin America 2 Ultimate Fighter title. He has a sizeable experience advantage over his foe, with twice as many pro fights on his resume. He has split his 11-career wins evenly between submissions and knockouts, with a 3-2 record on the scorecards. Prior to his UFC debut, the most noteworthy name on his resume was a 2014 decision loss to fellow UFC competitor Fernando Bruno. Enrique has just two opening round finishes on his record, with 5 of his stoppage coming in the middle frame. He utilized a takedown-heavy attack to get the nod over Gutierrez, landing 5 of his 9 takedowns. Early on he appeared to have trouble with the footwork of his opponent, struggling to close the distance and shoot. Once he got a hold of his foe, he grabbed onto a single but expended a lot of energy attempting to muscle him to the floor. Later in the fight he found more success, including a nice reactive TD when Gutierrez threw a kick. On top, he keeps his hips heavy and postures up to land decent ground and pound. If the opportunity presents itself to pass the guard he will, but he is content to sit on the inside and do damage. He scored a top position stoppage on the show with a brutal body punch forcing his foe to tap out.

Barzola didn’t showcase a lot of his striking in his debut. He was swinging a big overhand right while ducking forward, but most of his vertical offense was centered around closing the distance.

This fight will hinge on whether or not Barzola can get the fight to the floor with consistency. Bochniak showed solid TDD against Rosa and wasn’t easy to keep down. If he can repeat that success against Enrique, it will force the TUF winner out of his comfort zone. Bochniak’s striking is still developing, but he showed signs of a solid base to build upon. His timing and movement will make it tough for his foe to close the distance and shoot on him. Additionally, when Barzola tries to rush forward, look for Kyle to counter with a stiff straight right. Bochniak took a difficult assignment in his debut, but for this fight he is in his proper weight class and taking on a more appropriate opponent for this point in his career. Bochniak sticks to the outside, stuff the TDAs, and gets the better of the striking exchanges- my prediction is Kyle Bochniak to defeat Enrique Barzola by decision.

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155lbs- Shane Campbell (12-5-0) vs Felipe Silva (7-0-0)

In the Lightweight division, Shane ‘Shaolin’ Campbell battles Brazilian-born Felipe Silva. Campbell has lost 2 in a row and is 1-3 in the UFC, he is coming off a second-round submission loss to Erik Koch. Silva is making his debut following a first-round TKO win over former UFC competitor Anton Kuivanen earlier this year.

Both men are 6’0″ tall. The Canadian is the younger man by 3 years, but has 10 more pro fights.

The Brazilian makes his debut on the strength of his biggest career win. Still undefeated, Silva has finished 5 opponents by knockout along with a single submission win. He has stopped 6 opponents in the opening round, with his only fight to go outside of round 1 ending on the scorecards. Felipe is a Muay Thai striker by trade. He will work on the outside with kicks as his strongest weapon. The majority of his punches are hooks. He seems to have trouble finding his range with his hands, frequently coming up short when he attacks. Once he does close the distance, his clinch game is solid. Look for him to land hard knees and short elbows on the inside. He doesn’t appear to have much of an offensive wrestling game, but in his only submission win he snatched up a quick triangle before transitioning to an armbar to finish after getting taken down.

Prior to his win over Kuivaven, Silva’s last 3 opponents’ currently combined for a record of 11-16.

Campbell had a strong start against John Makdessi and a good finish against James Krause, but he was unable to win either fight. The Canadian has a decent edge in experience, both quality and quantity. His record also shows a more well-rounded skill set than what his opponent offers. While Campbell is a striker first, his only UFC victory was anchored in his grappling abilities. Despite Elias Silverio initiating the early grappling exchanges, Campbell landed a couple of takedowns and worked to top position when Silverio did take him down. The TDD of ‘Shaolin’ has been impressive and he is a decent scrambler. On the feet, Shane carries a solid pace both at distance and on the inside. He found a lot of success attacking the lead leg of Makdessi and was doing damage with his combos. His clinch attack can be equally as effective, with a bevy of short punches, elbows, kick and knees coming from close range.

Despite losing the decision, Campbell badly out-landed Krause connecting on 82 significant strikes, including 46 to 16 over the last 2 rounds.

Silva is making a sizeable step up in competition, but as an undefeated fighter he has a certain level of confidence and momentum coming into his debut. Conversely, Campbell has struggled to put together a complete effort beyond the Silverio fight. Campbell should benefit from the lack of a grappling threat that Felipe presents. If anything, the Canadian might look to take Silva down and force him to fight outside of his comfort zone. When they are standing, look for the superior punching combinations of Campbell to give him the edge. On the inside, the constant pressure and volume of  Campbell will also play a big role. The lack of long fight experience for the Brazilian could also show up as his opponent ups the tempo if the fight moves into rounds 2 and 3. Campbell has more weapons and will outwork his opponent in all areas- my prediction is Shane Campbell to defeat Felipe Silva by TKO

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155lbs- Chad Laprise (11-2-0) vs Thibault Gouti (11-2-0)

In the newly assigned UFC Fight Pass prelim headliner, TUF Nations winner Chad ‘The Disciple’ Laprise squares off with France’s Thibault Gouti in the Lightweight division. Laprise is trying to snap a 2-fight losing skid after a contestable split-decision loss to Ross Pearson. Gouti is currently enduring a similar slump after getting submitted by the man Laprise defeated in the TUF final- Olivier Aubin-Mercier.

Both fighters are 5’10”, but Gouti will have a slight 1″ reach advantage and is a year younger.

The Canadian’s defeat at the hands of Pearson saw Laprise outland his opponent by a count of 72-58. Laprise offers a lofty 4.4 SLpM, including a UFC personal best of 84 in his win over Bryan Barberena. A BJJ Purple belt, Laprise has just a single submission win on his record compared to 4 knockouts and a 5-1 record on the scorecards. During his TUF run, Chad violently knocked Canadian Teammate Kajan Johnson, breaking his jaw in the process. ‘The Disciple’ demonstrates strong technical striking acumen. He maintains forward pressure with good footwork and mixing up his strikes effectively. Laprise will set up his offense off of a hard left jab, doubling it up, and augments his boxing with a decent kicking game highlighted by a hard right head kick. Defensively, Laprise does get hit a lot- 3.59 SApM. Pearson found success landing hard kicks to Chad’s lead leg and Barberena came on strong late in the fight with his clinch attack.

Laprise has shown signs of a competent wrestling attack. He completed 4 of his 7  takedowns in his 2014 win over Yosdenis Cedeno.

Potentially facing his walking papers with another loss, Gouti is in need of a strong performance. With 9 finishes (3KO/6sub) over 11 victories, Thibault has only fought beyond the second round twice in his career. Both of those fights occurred over his last 3 appearances. He has been finished twice by RNC. Gouti comes from a boxing background, despite his submission-heavy totals. Most of his success on the mat is a product of the lower quality of opposition he faced on the regional scene. A crisp striker, he works behind his jab with decent hand speed and power. The majority of his kicking offense comes in the form of low kicks, but he will forgo that aspect of his game in favour of his boxing. Gouti does have a tendency to freeze up when under attack and OAM found success landing multi-punch combos. He was rocked with a hard uppercut in his debut prior to getting submitted.

The Frenchman gave up a trio of takedowns before getting subbed by OAM and seems to have some issue when his opponent continuously drives forward on his shot.

Both fighters have some nice pop in their hands and both have proven vulnerable during striking exchanges. The difference should be that Laprise has more tools to work with when engaging. The Canadian does a much better job of integrating his kicks consistently throughout his attack. Additionally, his lateral movement will make it difficult for Gouti to push forward behind his strikes and continuously land. Laprise should have the better wrestling both offensively and defensively, allowing him to dictate where the fight takes place. ‘The Disciple’ pairs his punches up, threatens with the high kick, and eventually puts his foe down, my prediction is Chad Laprise to defeat Thibault Gouti by TKO

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185lbs- Garreth McLellan (13-4-0) vs Alessio Di Chirico (9-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, ‘Soldier Boy’ Garreth McLellan of South Africa meets Italy’s Alessio ‘Manzo’ Di Chircio. McLellan is 1-2 in the UFC after a second round TKO loss to Magnus Cedenblad- he defeated Bubba Bush in his lone UFC victory. Di Chircio is coming off of his first pro loss, falling to Bojan Velickovic by decision in his UFC debut.

Alessio is the younger man by 7 years and will have a slight 2″ reach advantage. McLellan is 1″ taller at 6’1″.

The South African enters the fight off of his 2nd career loss by knockout. He has also been subbed once and is 1-1 on the scorecards. A ground-based fighter, McLellan has 9 wins by submission with 7 of those victories coming by either rear-naked or guillotine choke. His success in the UFC has largely hinged on his mat game. In his only win, he landed a pair of takedowns and eventually overwhelmed his foe with his top position strikes. Conversely, he was put on his back 10-times in his debut loss and was forced on the defensive for almost the entire bout. When he does land takedowns they usually are in the clinch position. The majority of his striking offense comes in the form of kicks, which was the case early against Cedenblad. Throwing most of his strikes naked and attacking in straight lines makes the South African’s offense easier to time, avoid, and/or counter. Cedenblad hurt him early on with a straight left counter and landed a hard head kick before finishing McLellan with a barrage along the cage.

Prior to entering the UFC, McLellan fought exclusively in South Africa, including a 13-1 run under the EFC Africa banner.

Despite the defeat, Di Chirico made a good showing of himself in his inaugural UFC outing. He got the better of the volume, with 65 total strikes landed compared to 45 for his foe and he scored a pair takedowns while giving up just 1. The Italian has stopped his foe in 8 of his 9 victories, split evenly between subs and knockouts. He began his career with 5 consecutive opening round stoppages, but has seen a rise in fight time in the second stage of his career with a pair of 2nd round finishes and a trio of fights lasting into the final frame. The 26-year old made noticeable improvements in his footwork heading into his debut, appearing more mobile than in previous fights. His combination striking is still a work in progress, as he tends to rely a lot on his single strikes. He uses a nice overhand right, either stepping in or drifting off to the left while landing. Alessio will also target the body with his right hand. From the left side, he will work a counter left hook- but he needs to avoid being too reliant on his counter striking. ‘Manzo’ throws some decent kicks, attacking the legs and body. He does have a tendency to throw his strikes a little wide, especially when he doesn’t use his jab to set them up.

The pair of takedowns he did land in his debut didn’t result in any significant top control time, but he has leaned heavily on his mat game during his pre-UFC success.

McLellan hasn’t been that impressive during his UFC run, even in victory. Against Bush, ‘Solider Boy’ was put on his back multiple times and didn’t start to find success until the American slowed down tremendously. His offense is extremely single-minded; takedowns or relatively ineffective kicks at distance. Conversely, Di Chirico is showing signs of a developing fighter rounding out his offensive weaponry. With a young fighter coming off his first loss, it should push Alessio to continue to make improvements. At distance, Di Chirico will land more frequently with his hands and find success countering his opponent’s kicking game. The Italian should be able to avoid or defend against any attempts to get the fight to the mat and exploit the subpar TDD of his foe if he elects to go that route. It didn’t take a lot of damage to get McLellan out of his last fight and he didn’t respond well to getting hit- my prediction is Alessio Di Chirico to defeat Garreth McLellan by TKO.

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185lbs- Ryan Janes (8-1-0) vs Adam Hunter (7-1-0)

In the second double Canadian billing on the card, Ryan Janes of Victoria, British Columbia takes on New Brunswick’s Adam ‘Warhammer’ Hunter in a cross country Middleweight war. Janes has won 7-fights in a row dating back to his first career loss in 2009. Hunter picked up a victory over UFC veteran Nathan Dempsey in his final pre-Octagon bout, he has also won 7-consecutive fights since suffering his first pro loss.

At 6’3″, Janes is the taller man by 2 inches. Hunter is 2 years his junior and has been more active with 2 fights in 2016 compared to Janes who hasn’t competed in over 13-months.

‘Warhammer’ has finished his opponent in all 7 of his professional wins; knocking out 6 after earning the first win of his pro career on the mat via rear-nake choke. Hunter started his MMA run 0-1 after getting tapped out in the final minute of the opening round of a 2010 fight. The Maritimer has gone outside of the first frame on just 1 occasion, earning an early 3rd round TKO back in April. In his win over Dempsey, Adam fended off a front choke/ headlock attempt before landing a couple of hard leg kicks, a left jab, and then going high with a head kick to close the show. Hunter is aggressive and willing to eat some punches while working his way into range to put his opponent away. In his penultimate regional fight, he bullied his foe into the cage and used his dirty boxing to bust them up. Hunter mixed in some knees in close and kicks at range, and while he appeared to slow a bit as the fight progressed he was still active. The bout was eventually stopped following a hard uppercut that sent Hunter’s foe tumbling to the canvas.

Not only has Hunter been finishing opponents in the opening round, he has stopped 4 adversaries inside the first 65-seconds.

Janes brings with him an equally as finish-heavy record, with 7 of 8 wins coming by submission. A BJJ Purple belt, he has 6 rear-naked choke victories on his record and is 1-1 on the scorecards. Janes is the current Battlefield Fight League Middleweight champion, most recently defeating his opponent by via submission in the 4th round. Ryan picked up a trio of opening round stoppages early in is career, but over his last 5-fights he has taken much longer to finish his opponents. His title defense was anything but easy as the challenger found success defending his takedowns and getting the better of the exchanges on the feet. Janes’s TDAs came mainly from the clinch, using body locks and trips, but they were infrequent at best. The finish materialized after Jane hurt his foe with a hard knee to the body that forced him to turtle up and expose his back to the RNC finish.

Janes picked up a submission victory over David Perron at WSOF Canada 2 and then repeated the feat with a 2nd round RNC win over Perron at Battlefield Fight League 35 less than a year later.

In addition to both men entering the UFC as older, but still developing fighters- the lack of quality fight footage (especially for Janes) makes this a hard, but not impossible prediction. Simply based on their records, Janes is going to want to take this fight to the mat and his average fight length suggests he is better equipped to partake in a longer bout. For Hunter, he has big stopping power and will come out aggressive as he is accustom to ending his fights early. The recent lack of activity for Janes is concerning. Additionally, he was losing his last fight for 3 rounds and was getting hit hard by opponent prior to getting the finish. Being able to survive a beating like he did is a testament to his durability, but absorbing power strikes is rarely a long-term positive. He was rocked by his foe and his tall stance and porous striking defense will leave him exposed against Hunter’s power. Janes’s reliance on clinch takedowns is going to force him to close the distance, carrying him into the danger zone against Hunter who can do damage both on the outside and in close. Janes’s will struggle to drag his opponent to the mat, forcing him to trade on the feet against a more dangerous striker- my prediction is Adam Hunter to defeat Ryan Janes by TKO.
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155lbs- Alex Ricci (10-3-0) vs Jeremy Kennedy (8-0-0)

In an all-Canadian Lightweight bout, the debuting Jeremy ‘JBC’ Kennedy meets injury replacement Alex Ricci. Kennedy is coming off a pair of victories on the scorecards, ending a streak of 5 consecutive finishes. Ricci has won back to back fights after falling to recent UFC signee Darrell Horcher- his other pro losses have come against Ryan Healy and Jesse Ronson.

Ricci is replacing Josh Emmett on just over a week’s notice, he had been preparing for a fight in September. Kennedy normally competes at 145 pounds, he is 1″ taller than Ricci and 10-years younger.

Ricci enters the Octagon over 4-years removed from his last finish. He is 5-3 on the scorecards, with his other 5 victories coming by way of knockout. Alex is a striking-based fighter and has an extensive combat background in Muay Thai. Not surprisingly, his MMA offense is centered around his ability to stay vertical and let his hands go. He moves well in the cage, throwing hard kicks to the legs, body, and head. In addition to the kicking game, he has a strong right hook and can do damage in the clinch. Conversely, Healy found success driving him into the wall and using his dirty boxing to take the decision. Ricci isn’t a high output striker and has struggled at times to let his techniques flow. Alex has a bit of a reputation for being frustratingly inconsistent and fighting down to the level of his opposition.

Ricci has fought just twice since the start of 2015 and was scheduled to take part in the ill-fated Global Warriors FC 3 card earlier this summer.

Similar to Ricci, Kennedy has fought just once in each of the last 2 years. He has finished 5 opponents (3 knockouts/2 subs) and is 3-0 on the scorecards. Fighting out of Surrey, British Columbia he will be the clear fan favourite. While his record is devoid of any big name opposition, his last 3 opponents have a combined 22-9 record which suggests he has faced reasonably capable regional competition. The book on Kennedy is that he will be looking to get this fight to the mat. He will aggressively chase the takedown and once on the floor start working his submission game. Jeremy will shoot from the outside, but appears to prefer working trips from the clinch. ‘JBC’ also comes from a kickboxing background.  He is a capable counter striker, but if he does initiate the attack, it will come behind an active left jab and a right hook with some decent pop.

Kennedy put together an impressive run as an amateur prior to turning pro. He compiled a 6-1 record which included a pair of 5-round decision wins.

Without a lot of Canadian content on the card and the recent departure of one of the biggest Canadian MMA stars to Bellator, the UFC is looking for more talent coming from north of the border. Kennedy is a solid prospect, but despite having close to the same number of fights- Ricci is a much more complete veteran fighter. Alex’s issues with underperforming are certainly a concern, but with the short notice call up and underdog status he has every reason to come into this fight loose. Ricci’s size and Muay Thai skills should help him to deal with the clinch based takedowns of his opponent. Look for the more aggressive style of Kennedy to falter under the bright lights against a tough to finish fighter like Ricci. The Ontario-native should find success early with his striking, but once his adversary starts to slow down the gap will widen- my prediction is Alex Ricci to defeat Jeremy Kennedy by decision.

135lbs- #8 Cody Garbrandt (9-0-0) vs #11 Takeya Mizugaki (21-9-2)

In the headlining act of the prelims, surging ‘No Love’ Cody Garbrandt takes on battle tested veteran Takeya Mizugaki in the Bantamweight division. Garbrandt is still undefeated after a definitive victory over fellow prospect Thomas Almeida, he’s is 4-0 inside the Octagon. Mizugaki is coming off of a decision win over George Roop after suffering back to back losses to Aljamain Sterling and Dominick Cruz.

The American is an inch taller, but will give up 3 inches of reach. Cody is the younger man by 8-years.

Mizugaki has fought the best of the best during his MMA run and has proven to be a tough out for just about anyone in the division. He presents a crisp boxing attacked coupled with decent wrestling. Over his combined UFC/WEC career, he has averaged 3.35 significant strikes per minute. Takeya has just 5 knockout wins, but he has some pop in hands. He showed that power when he dropped Francisco Rivera during an early exchange of their fight. He throws nice short hooks and will move into close range, where he will also attack in the clinch. The 32-year old has been knocked out twice in his career, but has a pretty decent chin. The bigger concern is his willingness to absorb strikes. Getting hit almost as often as he hits his opponent, Mizugaki has trouble distancing over 15-minutes himself based solely on his striking. While his wrestling numbers aren’t overwhelming, he is capable of landing key completions. During his recent 5-fight winning streak, Mizugaki completed 9 takedowns. Look for him to score the majority of his attempts in the clinch along the cage. His defensive numbers can be a little misleading as well. While he has defended 70% of his opponents TDAs, over his last 6 fights prior to the Roop victory he gave up 15 takedowns.

Over his long career, Mizugaki has fought 4 different UFC/WEC champions- losing all 4 contests.

Coming off a massive victory over another highly touted prospect, Garbrandt has his sights set on a shot at the Bantamweight title. Cody added to his growing list of knockouts, having stopped 8 of his 9 opponents- 6 in the first round. He comes from an amateur boxing background; showcasing quick hands and decent head movement. He has power from both sides, rocking Almeida with a left hook and finishing him with a crushing right hand shortly afterward. He will pump out a jab and mix in an uppercut, opting to use it as a counter strike if his opponent gets too aggressive. Cody will throw some kicks to augment his boxing, attacking both the legs and head of his foe. He does have a tendency to open up when pursuing and will get hit with some big strikes as a result. Despite training out of a strong wrestling camp in Team Alpha Male, Garbrandt primarily uses his wrestling defensively. He did land 4 takedowns on 7 attempts during his first 2 UFC bouts, but his mat game is a secondary aspect of his offense.

After totaling a little over 18-minutes of cage time over his first 5 pro contests, Garbrandt fell just 10 seconds short a full 6-rounds of action in his first 2 UFC appearances.

Garbrandt has made it very apparent that he feels he will be facing Dominick Cruz in the not too distance future. While he has looked impressive since entering the Octagon, Mizugaki represents a very stiff challenge not to be taken lightly. That being said, it would appear that what Mizugaki does well, Cody does better. Garbrandt has the power advantage and should be the quicker fighter. Mizugaki’s tendency to sit in the pocket and exchange will make it difficult for him to win the striking battles as Cody darts in and out, landing more often and more powerful strikes. The stout TDD of ‘No Love’ will stop Mizugaki from landing key takedowns that he has relied on in the previous close fights. Look for Garbrandt to sit just out range before moving in to land quick combos and big single strikes. Once Takeya starts to push forward to get into his range Cody will find success with his counter strikes and wrestling- my prediction is Cody Garbrandt to defeat Takeya Mizugaki by decision

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135lbs- #8 Raquel Pennington (7-5-0) vs Elizabeth Phillips (5-3-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, top 10 ranked Raquel ‘Rocky’ Pennington makes her seventh UFC appearance when she takes on the hardnosed Elizabeth Phillips. Pennington is coming off of a decision win over Bethe Correia adding to a pair of submission victories against Jessica Andrade and Ashlee Evans-Smith to improve to 3-1 in her last 4 fights. Phillips snapped a 2-fight losing skid by defeating Jessamyn Duke, one fight prior she lost a controversial decision to Milana Dudieva.

Phillips has been on the shelf for over 13-months and has fought just twice over the last 2 years. Pennington in an inch taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage along with being the younger fighter by 2 years.

After a pair of close decision losses, Phillips left no doubt against Duke getting the better of the striking exchanges by a total of 49 to 36 and controlling the majority of the action on the mat over the opening 2 rounds. That being said, a late rally from Jessamyn nearly stole the fight. Phillips came out very tired in the final frame and endured a steady diet of clinch and ground strikes accompanied by multiple submission attempts including a close armbar cut short by the bell. Phillips has decent power, finishing a pair of opponents early in her career. She found success on the feet damaging Valarie Letourneau’s eye, but was unable to match her pace. She is an aggressive striker and packs some decent power in her right hand. Against Duke, she was landing from the right side with regularity, but when she threw more than just single strikes it came in the form of far less accurate flailing flurries. Elizabeth seems to have issues managing her energy, and her aggressive style makes it difficult for her to maintain her pace for the entire fight. Offensively, she has decent takedowns and can do a lot of damage from top position. But her defensive work is a point of vulnerability. She had issues getting put on his back and Duke attacked with a number of submission attempts and sweeps.

The victory over Duke avenged an amateur loss by submission earlier in Phillips career to the former Ultimate Fighter competitor.

Pennington carries an incredibly deceptive record, considering the quality of opposition she has faced. Over her combined UFC and Invicta career, she took on a trio of opponents who have fought for the UFC strap, including pushing former Champion Holly Holm to a split decision. At 4.31 SLpM, Pennington works hard to maintain a steady striking output, connecting on 75+ strikes on 3 separate occasions. In addition to her volume, Pennington uses strong footwork while landing a stiff left jab and long straight right. ‘Rocky’ found a lot of success when closing the distance against Holm and applying pressure. She is very effective at moving into range to attack and then drifting to the outside to avoid her opponent’s offense. Once on the inside, Raquel will clinch up and land short knees and elbows on the inside. The Colorado native isn’t an overwhelming wrestler, but she has developed a strong grappling game. In addition to tapping out Evans-Smith and Andrade, she scored a TUF tournament submission of current Invicta Bantamweight champion Tonya Evinger.

Pennington has landed 7 takedowns inside the Octagon at a 35% completion rate compared to 9 given up, with a 65% TDD.

The layoff and relative inactivity for Phillips is concerning, but it could also lead to improvements for a fighter still early in her MMA career. Phillips has power and will engage both on the feet and the mat, but she struggles to maintain her pace as the fight progresses. Conversely, Pennington is much more consistent in her offensive attack and has shown the ability to get stronger in longer fights. ‘Rocky’ is the more technical striker, but needs to avoid getting drawn into wild exchanges against an opponent that has some decent pop in her hands. Look for Pennington to routinely avoid the majority of Phillips offense, slipping out of range after the initial entanglement. The lack of success that Phillips will have at distance, will force her to close the gap and look for takedowns. Raquel will counter with her clinch to control and bust up Phillips along the cage. As the fight progresses, Pennington will find her way to top position against an exhausted opponent and capitalize on her defensive lapses- my prediction is Raquel Pennington to defeat Elizabeth Phillips by submission.

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145lbs- Artem Lobov (12-12-1 1NC) vs Chris Avila (5-2-0)

In a precursor to the main event, Conor McGregor training partner Artem ‘The Russian Hammer’ Lobov will faceoff with Cesar Gracie Fight Team member Chris Avila in the Featherweight division. Lobov could be fighting for his roster spot after back to back defeats to start his UFC run. Avila has won 3 in a row and 5 of his last 6 after falling in his professional debut.

Avila is an inch taller, but will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage. Lobov is the older man by 7-years and has 18 more pro bouts.

After getting bounced in his initial TUF fight, Lobov got a second chance and his knockout power carried him to the tournament finals. Unfortunately, the Russian-born Irishman’s success ended there. Despite his trio of knockouts on the show, he has just 4 strike-based stoppages over his 25 pro fights. He is a very unorthodox striker, utilizing a vertical stance and routinely hanging his hands. Pawing with his right hand, he throws a hard straight left and uppercut, he will target the body, and periodically attacks with leg kicks. When Lobov found success on the show, he was able to move forward, maintain constant pressure, and attack once his opponent’s back was pinned on the cage. Against White, he was badly out-landed with just 23-significant strikes compared to 78 from his foe. In his debut, Lobov’s output was almost non-existent as he spent the majority of the fight fending off the grappling attack of his foe.

Clearly a product of his style, Lobov is 5-9 in decisions, with a 1-5-1 record in his last 7 fights to go to the scorecards.

Avila comes into the UFC with a limited pro record. He did make a single appearance under the WSOF banner, dropping a decision. His record is devoid of any big name competition, with his last 3 wins coming over a trio of fighters with a combined 9-8 record. Avila has 3 wins by knockout, a single submission victory, and 1-2 record on the scorecards. Watching Avila fight, there appears to be snippets of the Diaz striking style incorporated into his game. When he isn’t leading the exchanges, he has some decent counter striking, but he is far more effective when he attacks first. The California native has had issues in previous fights against aggressive pressure striker, allowing them to dictate the pace and back him up. His wrestling attack is a little under-developed with his takedowns coming as the result of power over technique.

Avila has just a single opening round finish, with the rest of his stoppage wins coming early in the middle frame.

There should be a certain level of tension and hostility surrounding this fight, as both will want to get the night off to a strong start for their team heading into the main event. Lobov has looked underwhelming at best in each of his UFC outings. It is hard not to argue that his association with the Featherweight champion has probably kept him employed. Similarily, Avila’s connection to the Diaz Brothers played a big role in his call-up to the UFC as he hasn’t been that impressive on regional circuit. Lobov has a sizeable experience advantage and that should show up here. Artem thrives when he can be the aggressor and push his opponent backward. Despite the sizeable reach advantage, look for Artem to walk through the strikes of Avila, punish him at close range, and eventually overwhelm him- my prediction is Artem Lobov to defeat Chris Avila by knockout


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115lbs- #13 Randa Markos (6-4-0) vs Cortney Casey (5-3-0)

In the Women’s Strawweight division, Canada’s Randa ‘Quiet Storm’ Markos squares off with ‘Cast Iron’ Cortney Casey. Markos improved to 2-2 in the UFC, with a strong decision win over Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger- she also holds a victory over Aisling Daly. Casey is coming off of her first Octagon victory, obliterating Cristina Stanciu after falling to Seo Hee Ham and Jo Jo Calderwood both by decision.

At 5’7″, Casey is 3 inches taller than her Canadian counterpart and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Casey is also the younger fighter by 2 years.

Casey’s win over Stanciu was her third victory to come by TKO adding to a pair of submission wins, all inside the opening round. Conversely, she is 0-3 in fights to go beyond the first 5-minutes. Cortney has shown herself to be a very fast starter, but she has struggled to maintain her output as her fights progress. In her opening rounds against Ham and Calderwood, she compiled a total of 61-significant strikes compared to 26 landed by her opponents. In rounds 2 and 3, she dropped to an average of just 18.5 connections per round while her foes increased their average output to a lofty 33.75 strikes per 5-minutes. Despite the noteworthy statistical disparities, Casey has shown marked improvement in her technique. She has decent power, mixes in her kicks, and throws straight punches while backing down her opponent. Against Stanciu, she landed several hard right hands as the centerpiece of multi-punch combos. After the early exchanges, Casey secured a pair of well-executed trip takedowns and move directly to mount. She finished her foe with hard elbows after the second completion. ‘Cast Iron’ gave up a trio of takedowns on just 4 attempts against Calderwood in her debut.

Despite dropping her first 2 trips to the Octagon, Casey was rewarded with Fight of the Night bonuses in each fight.

Markos has leaned heavily on her ground game both in and outside the Octagon. All 3 of her finishes have come by submission in addition to tapping Felice Herrig on the Ultimate Fighter. She has completed at least 1 takedown in each of her 4 UFC bouts, while defending 50% of her opponents’ tries. In her last fight, Markos got put on her back late in round 1, but attacked with a leg lock and eventually swept to top position to land some solid ground and pound. In her loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, she struggled to find consistency with her grappling- completing just a single takedown on 9 attempts. When she did get her to the mat, Randa found success moving to her back and controlled the position well. Look for Markos to walk her opponent down and if she doesn’t shoot for a takedown, she is quite capable of working her dirty boxing in the clinch. ‘Quiet Storm’ has been rounding out her striking repertoire. Prior to her last fight, she appeared to rely too much on throwing her power right hand. The frequency and lack of variety resulted in her becoming predictable. Against Lybarger, she utilized a strong left jab to set up her right power, but as the fight progressed she reverted back to power over technique.

Markos did miss weight in her last bout and has appeared to slow down in more demanding fights, but was still willing to push forward and engage.

This should be a gritty fight with the real possibility of earning some post-fight bonus money. Markos has a tendency to eat strikes in an attempt to maintain constant pressure and wear down her opponent in the process. Casey has decent power and could find success landing early as the Canadian willingly engages her at close range. Markos needs to remain technical and diverse in this fight. Set up her strikes with her jab, but also keep the threat of the takedown a constant in the mind of Casey. Cortney has some issue with her TDD and even if she is able to defend the early attempts, it will take a toll on her cardio. Look for a closely contested opening round, but Markos will push forward and engage Casey along the cage and put her on the mat. As the fight moves into the second half, Randa should start to land the higher quantity on the feet and score more consistently with her grappling- my prediction is Randa Markos to defeat Cortney Casey by decision.

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170lbs- #7 Neil Magny (18-5-0) vs Lorenz Larkin (17-5-0 1NC)

In the Fight Pass main event, Neil Magny puts his Top 10 spot on the line against Strikeforce alumni Lorenz ‘The Monsoon’ Larkin in the Welterweight division. Magny is coming off a huge win over Hector Lombard and has suffered just a single defeat over his last 11 fights. Larkin rebounded from his first loss at 170-pounds with a split decision win over Jorge Masvidal- he is now 3-1 as a Welterweight.

Magny is 4 inches taller than Larkin and will have an impressive 8″ reach advantage. Magny is 1 year younger than Lorenz, who is replacing Dong Hyun Kim on just over 1-month’s notice.

Rising from the ashes of one of the worst TUF season of all time, Magny has gone from the brink of unemployment to the cusp of a title shot. During his current surge, Neil has shown massive improvements in his striking attack. He uses his length defensively, limiting his opponents to just 1.93 SLpM. Magny’s last fight against Lombard did inflate that number; Neil gave up 60 strikes against- the most during his UFC run. He also landed an Octagon personal-best 148 significant connections in just under 11-minutes against Lombard. While Magny has put up a solid defensive front, some big shots have slipped through. Lombard nearly finished him and Hyun Gyu Lim also had him in serious trouble early in their fight. Offensively, look for him to attack with long straight punches on the outside before closing the distance to land knees and short elbows in the clinch. In addition to his improved striking, Magny has upped his wrestling capability. In his wins over Erick Silva and Kelvin Gastelum, he landed a combined 10 takedowns. He has a solid top game, controlling his opponent while landing strikes in transition. Magny does have 3 submission losses on his record, including a pair against elite grapplers in Demian Maia and Sergio Moraes.

During his TUF tournament run, Magny won his first 3 bouts before getting knocked out in the semi-finals by Mike Ricci. He defeated fellow semi-finalist Jon Manley in an unofficial TUF Bronze medal bout that earned him a UFC roster spot.

Since cutting to Welterweight, Larkin has looked impressive. He stopped both John Howard and Santiago Ponzinibbio, pushing his knockout total to 10. A dangerous kickboxing based-striker, Lorenz will use a left jab to set up a hard right hook or lead with a hook from the left side. He offers a wide-variety of kicking techniques; utilizing a stiff push kick and hard low kicks along with a number of bigger offensive weapons. In his fights with Ponzinibbio and Albert Tumenov, Larkin landed some brutal leg kicks that clearly compromised the movement of his opponents. Larkin is a bit of a slow started, but once he kicks it into gear he is very fast when closing the distance and engaging. He does jump into his strikes to magnify their impact, but it also opens him up to counter strikes. That being said, he is so fast it is hard to time him. He did suffer a knockout at Middleweight and has been buzzed on a couple of occasions when his opponent is able to cut off the cage and blitz him. Grapplers have attempted to drag Lorenz to the mat with mixed results. Defending 77% of his opponent’s takedowns, Larkin has been put on the mat 9-times over 9 UFC fights.

After cutting to Middleweight, Larkin began his run with a decision win over former Welterweight champ Robbie Lawler, but went just 2-4 in the division before making the cut to his current weight class.

This is a fantastic fight, with the winner picking up a lot of momentum heading forward. It is an interesting juxtaposition, as despite his reach Magny will most likely do most of his work on the inside and Larkin will be looking to stay on the outside where he can unload with his kicks. Magny is the far more diverse fighter. He can strike, he can work in the clinch, and he can wrestle. Larkin will need to use his speed and kicking game to nullify Magny’s multi-faceted attack. As Mangy looks to push forward, he will move into Larkin’s kicking range. Once Larkin starts to batter the long legs of his opponent, Magny’s ability to move around the cage will be severely compromised. The hand speed of Larkin will also give Neil trouble and that will become more prominent as the fight progresses- my prediction is Lorenz Larking to defeat Neil Magny by TKO

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170lbs- Colby Covington (9-1-0) vs Max Griffin (12-2-0)

In the first of 6 Welterweight bouts on the card, Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington meets promotional newcomer Max ‘Pain’ Griffin. Covington recovered from the first loss of his career, submitting Jonathan Meunier just over 2 months ago in Ottawa. Griffin  has won back to back fights heading into his debut, most recently stopping UFC vet David Mitchell in just 43-seconds.

Griffin is just an inch taller than Covington, but he will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage. Covington is the younger man by 3 years.

Max ‘Pain’ debuts having finished his foe in each of his last 4 wins. Griffin has recorded 6 wins by knockout and 2 by sub, ending 5 of those fights in the opening round. It is worth noting that he is 4-2 in decisions, with 4 of his last 5 fights to go the distance ending in a split decision- winning 2. He has some sizeable pop in his hands and all indications are that he has cleaned up his striking. He is willing to go to the mat, but his reliance on strength over technique can result in Griffin getting out positioned. In his recent fight against Randall Wallace, he had mixed results on the ground; holding some top position time but also giving up his back on multiple occasions.

Griffin is the former WFC Welterweight champion, with a solid 6-1 record in that organization.

Covington returned to the cage after getting submitted by Warlley Alves, and equaled his UFC best of 5 takedowns prior to submitting his adversary. In total, the former NCAA Division 1 wrestler has completed 15 takedowns over just 5 fights. He relies heavily on his ground attack, which led to his loss against Alves. Nonetheless, Covington is a strong wrestler, either shooting from distance or bullying his foe into the cage and before changing levels. Once on top, he has a smothering top-game, with the cardio needed to control and grind down his foe for the entire 3-rounds. Covington is still developing his striking attack, but his first order of attack is to close the gap and wrestle.

Despite having a bit of a reputation as a grinding decision inclined fighter, Covington has finished his opponent in 3 of his 4 UFC wins.

Griffin has a puncher’s chance. Covington has had issues against fighters that are able to put their strikes together and back him down. In order to do that, he needs to remain vertical which will be easier said than done. Even with the improvements made by Max, he tends to degenerate to a brawler when he opens up. If he can’t hurt Covington with an early onslaught, look for Covington to change levels and drag Griffin to the mat. When Wallace had Max on the floor he really struggled and was close to being finished. Covington is relentless with his wrestling and even if he can’t finish Griffin, look for him to wear him down and diminish the threat of his foe’s striking- my prediction is Colby Covington to defeat Max Griffin by submission.
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185lbs- Alberto Uda (9-1-0) vs Marvin Vettori (10-2-0)

In the opening fight of the night, Brazil’s Alberto Uda makes UFC appearance #2 when he battles it out with promotional newcomer Marvin Vettori in the Middleweight division. Vettori has won 5 consecutive fights, most recently defeating former Octagon combatant Igor Araujo by submission. Uda dropped his debut fight against Jake Collier by 2nd round knockout, handing him the first loss of his career.

At 6’3″, Uda is 3 inches taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage. Vettori is the younger man by 9 years and normally competes at Welterweight, but will be moving up to 185-pounds for his debut.

The former Venator champion is coming off a massive victory, tapping out a legit BJJ Black belt with 17 submission wins to his name. Vettori has stopped 4 of his last 5 opponents and has gone the distance just once in his 10 victories including 7 wins by submission. All of his wins inside the distance have come in the opening round. Vettori rocked Araujo early with a jumping knee and after a brief altercation on the floor, was able to get the submission. At distance, he isn’t the most fluid striker, but his recent transition to King’s MMA could help to improve that element of his attack. He does his best work at close range, attacking in the clinch and working well from top position. He can do some damage with his dirty boxing and top position strikes, but he is more inclined to look for submission opportunities. While he has had a lot of success finishing on the mat, he will relinquish a superior position while looking for the finish.

Having finished all but 1 of his 10 wins early in the fight, there are questions about his cardio. In his last defeat, he won the opening round but noticeably slowed in the middle frame and lost the decision. He is 1-2 in fights that go beyond the round 1.

In similar fashion, Uda does his best work when fighting in a phone booth. The Brazilian routinely went to the Thai clinch in his debut, and landed hard knees to the head of his foe- stunning Collier and breaking his nose in the opening round. Alberto stopped UFC alumni Thiago Perpetuo with knees in the clinch in his final pre-UFC appearance. When defending takedowns, he does a decent job of stuffing the initial shot and drawing his foe into the clinch where he can go on the offensive. He doesn’t offer much of a distance striking game, routinely moving forward behind his initial strikes to set up his clinch attack. Uda has split his 8 finishes evenly between submissions and knockouts, finishing 4 in the first round. On the mat, he has decent submission game and can work off his back. Despite the strong start, Uda looked a little fatigued in the second round and went down quickly after being battered to the body with a turning side-kick.

Uda finished 3 of his first 4 career fights by submission, but has relied more on his Muay Thai background in his recent victories.

With both men preferring to operate on the inside it shouldn’t take long for either fighter to settle into his comfort zone. Uda is coming off his first career loss, which should help him to refocus and improve upon his return to the cage. He also has his debut under his belt. For Vettori, he is taking a step up in competition while moving up in weight for his first UFC fight. Those can be some difficult scenarios to overcome. The Italian appears to be the more capable athlete, but he will need to get off to a strong start to find success. With almost all of his wins coming in the opening round, if Marvin is unable to finish his foe he could experience a drop-off in performance in rounds 2 and 3. Look for the Brazilian to use his height to gain leverage over his opponent in the clinch, landing hard knees and getting the better of the battle for position. If they go to the ground, Vettori’s submission over position approach could lead to a finish or provide Uda with essential top control time. Uda’s Thai clinch will be the difference in this fight. It will both set up his offense and prevent Vettori from landing his own. If the fight goes beyond the opening round, look for Alberto to control the action with greater ease and continue to unload with brutal knees against a diminished foe- my prediction is Alberto Uda to defeat Marvin Vettori by TKO

170lbs-Court McGee (18-5-0) vs Dominique Steele (14-7-0)

In the headlining act of the prelims, Court ‘the Crusher’ McGee takes on Dominique ‘Non-Stop Action-Packed’ Steele in the 170-pound division. McGee is coming off a loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio and is now 3-2 since cutting down to Welterweight. Steele dropped a close decision to Danny Roberts after scoring his first UFC victory via violent slam- he is 1-2 inside the Octagon.

McGee, a former Middleweight, is an inch taller and will have the same length reach advantage. Steele is the younger man by 4 years.

Representing his nickname to the fullest extent, Steele is an aggression and dangerous action fighter. He has finished 4 opponents by knockout and 3 more by submission. Steele does his best work on the cage where he can use his strength to control his opponent, wear them down, and set up his power strikes. Against Roberts, he routinely resorted to driving him into the wall, using underhooks and head positioning to hold is foe in place. Once in tight, he will unload with short punches, elbows, and knees or change levels for a takedown attempt. If not from the clinch, look for him to shoot from the outside and drive his opponent across the cage- either latching onto a single or double leg followed by a big slam. He does tend to rely more on his power over technique on his takedowns. On top, he can do damage and is capable of finishing the fight. When striking, he has power and has hurt his opponent early in each of his last 2 fights. He will throw a hard straight right,infrequently deploying a 2 punch combo, but most often relying on single strikes which can restrict his volume. Dominique will mix in some knees once he gets in close, sometimes firing one off after a failed takedown attempt. Steele’s cardio is an area of concern, especially with his physical style of fighting. He slowed down noticeably in the second half of the Roberts fight. Still effective in bursts, his offense trails off and he becomes far more defensively vulnerable.

Steele has been knocked out 4-times in his career, including his UFC debut against Zak Cummings. Of those 4 defeats, 3 have come by clean KO.

Ultimate Fighter winner Court McGee has developed a reputation for his top level pace and cardio. ‘The Crusher’ averages 5.5 SLpM and simply wears opponents out over the duration of the fight. McGee is 7-4 in fights that go the distance, with 6 stoppage victories coming in the second round or later. He holds a BJJ Purple belt and Black belt in Karate. Court is coming off his first knockout loss, where he was stunned early and finished by the heavy-handed Ponzinibbio. McGee is willing to take a punch to land one, looking to draw his opponent into a higher-paced fight. Despite his last result, he has a decent chin. He chambers his punches well, keeping his hands up and ready to unload with quick combos. Leading with a spearing left jab, he will throw a straight right hand behind it and mixes in low kicks and quick switch kicks that will go to the body or head. He sets up his attacks with a lot of footwork and lateral movement. McGee also has a workable wrestling game. His numbers are a little low at 2.09 takedowns at a 27% completion rate, but he often uses the shot to create a second area of defensive focus for his opponent or to simply set up his strikes. McGee is 6-1 in fights where he lands at least 1 takedown and 0-3 when he does not. Defensively, he has stopped 68% of his opponent’s shots.

Court landed 108 strikes in his final Middleweight fight- a decision loss and followed it up with 166 significant connections in his 170-pound debut against Josh Neer. He won by decision.

This fight has a pair of high percentage scenarios. Steele has legit stopping powering and his bruising style could serve to hurt and overwhelm Court inside the opening 5-minutes. Or, McGee weathers the early the storm, shuts down the linear attack of Steele with lateral movement, and outworks him with high volume combos and takedowns. Once Steele slows down, the exchanges will become far more one-sided leading to either a second half stoppage or wide decision win for McGee. The questionable chin of Steele also needs to be taken into consideration, with all 4 of his knockouts occurring in the opening round. McGee might also have some issues coming off his first knockout loss. Steele is going to have trouble tracking down his quicker opponent to land his big single power strikes. If he is able to clinch up, Dom has to make it count and hurt Court. Chasing down and holding McGee along the cage will be a draining endevour over a prolonged period of time. Steele’s window of opportunity to win this fight is limited and Court has more avenues to victory and more tools to accomplish it. McGee survives early, picks up the pace, and outworks Steel for the duration- my prediction is Court McGee to defeat Dominique Steele by decision.

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265lbs-Viktor Pesta (10-2-0) vs Marcin Tybura (13-2-0)

In the Heavyweight division, Poland’s Marcin ‘Tybur’ Tybura goes head to head with Czech-born Viktor Pesta. Pesta is coming off of a loss to Derrick Lewis to drop his UFC record to 1-2 with his only win coming over Konstantin Erokhin. Tybura is also coming off a defeat, falling to Tim Johnson in his UFC debut- he is 1-2 over his last 3 fights.

Both men are 6’3″, Tybura will have a minimal 1″ reach advantage and should weigh roughly 10 pounds than Pesta. Marcin is 5 years older than his Czech counterpart.

Tybura compiled a 7-1 record fighting under the M-1 Global banner and picked up their Heavyweight strap. The Pole is a BJJ Brown belt, finishing 6 of his wins by submission including a trio of RNC finishes. He also has 5 wins by knockout with a 4-2 record in fights that go beyond the first round. Marcin is a takedown-oriented fighter, but went just 1 for 3 against Johnson. A lot of his success comes in the clinch where he will look to use body locks and trips. ‘Tybur’ will also shoot on a single leg. He showed a nice level change against Johnson on his only completion and moved directly to the back. Although he was unable to hold the position, Tybura has a decent top game capable of doing damage from the guard or advancing towards sub opportunities. On the feet, he can work his dirty boxing in close. At distance, he employed a lot of kicks against Johnson.  Targeting the body with both round and front kicks, Marcin will also use those techniques to attack his opponent’s head. His hands are serviceable, throwing a left jab and hard straight right. He would benefit tremendously by increasing his striking output.

In preparation for his debut, Tybura made the move to train alongside other UFC fighters in Daniel Omielanczuk and Jan Blachowicz.

Pesta has also recently switched camps, working out of Alliance MMA. Similar to Tybura, Viktor will be looking to close the gap and either enter into the clinch or change levels for a takedown. Against Derrick Lewis, he utilized a nice combination of body locks and trips to take Lewis down. If he can’t score on his initial attempt, look for him to duck down and pull out his opponent’s base. When shooting from the outside, he needs to a do a better job of lowering his level and getting his hips below his opponent’s. He has a smothering top game and likes to utilize the crucifix position to break down his foe. While he can be a controlling top position fighter, Lewis was able to get vertical on multiple occasions. Pesta’s striking is still developing. He has averaged just 1.67 SLpM compared to 2.55 SApM. He tends to attack in bursts, lunging forward throwing wild punches. If he can connect, he can certainly hurt his opponent, but it also leaves him open defensively. Ruslan Magomedov and Erokhin landed some hard shots that appeared to hurt Pesta. While he showcased a solid chin, at Heavyweight he needs to limit the amount of damage he endures. Returning to the clinch, the Thi plumb is a technique that the Czech likes to employ. He landed hard knees against Magomedov and dropped him early.

Pesta had just a single 3-round fight in first 7 pro bouts, but over his last 5 outings he has gone to the third frame on 4 occasions- losing 2 and having a split decision loss overturned. He appeared to slow down after the opening round of his first 2 bouts, and was thoroughly exhausted late in round 2 before being finished in the final round by Lewis.

Both men have similar records and similar stylistic approaches. This fight could come down to a battle for position on the wall. Tybura is the slightly heavier fighter which will help him in the clinch. While the action could prove to be a stalemate early along the cage, there are two key aspects that favour Tybura. While not flashy, he showed a more technical striking repertoire that his foe. His jab will serve as a nice disruption when Pesta looks to close the distance and his kicking game will help him to attack Pesta when on the outside. Moreover, the body kicks of Tybura will serve to zap the cardio of his opponent. Marcin appears to also have an edge in endurance. He got stronger in the final round against Johnson and his reliance on technique (both striking and grappling) will help him to conserve his energy over a longer fight. If Pesta can get on the inside and clinch up, he could find success early and even win the opening round- but as the fight progresses he will slow down and the more technically sound Tybura will take over. Pesta is coming off his first TKO defeat and the combination of his below average striking defense and poor conditioning will be his undoing here- my prediction is Marcin Tybura to defeat Vikto Pesta by TKO

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155lbs-David Teymur (4-1-0) vs Jason Novelli (11-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Sweden’s David Teymur welcomes promotional newcomer Jason ‘Flipside’ Novelli to the Octagon. Teymur built on a decent run on the Ultimate Fighter for Team McGregor by knocking out Martin Svensson in his official debut. Novelli fought to a split decision draw with former UFC fighter Yosdenis Cedeno at Titan FC 38 and has gone undefeated over 5 fights since losing to Ben Fodor in his only career loss.

Novelli is 4 inches taller than Teymur and will have a sizeable 4″ reach advantage. The newcomer is 10 years older than his foe and has 8 more pro fights.

‘Flipside’ enters the Octagon on the strength of 3 knockouts and 6 submission wins along with a pair of triumphs on the scorecards. Novelli has finished 4 opponents in the opening round and all of his submissions have come by either RNC of Guillotine. Despite his submission totals, he builds the majority of his initial attack around his striking. He comes from a boxing background, but presents more of Muay Thai approach in the cage. Jason likes to feel out his opponent early, setting his range, and countering when pressed upon. While he can be effective as a counter puncher, Cedeno found success a the busier fighter early and potentially stole the round as a result. Novelli likes to lead with his kicks and utilizes a wide variety of kicking techniques, targeting all areas of the body. When he does lead the exchange with his hands he pumps out a solid left jab and hard straight right. He has good hand speed and accuracy along with solid defense. Although, Cedeno was able to push forward behind flurries and cracked Novelli a couple of times. Look for Jason to check leg kicks and fire back quick counters. When looking to take the fight to the mat, he sets up his takedowns well and uses his long limbs to control his foe on the mat. He has had issues with getting out-scrambled at times and was submitted in his only career loss.

Novelli fought 3-times in Titan FC, finishing with a 2-0-1 record against opponents totaling a record of 34-18-1. He has already competed twice in 2016.

Teymur, a multi-time Swedish National Muay Thai champion, is short on pro-MMA experience but fought 3-times on TUF and has a strong combat background outside of MMA. He has knocked out 3 consecutive opponents, stopping Svensson with a well-timed uppercut early in the middle frame. Teymur possesses brutal knee strikes, deploying them in the clinch and at range. He will throw them quickly, with accuracy and power, and often sticks them in during striking transitions. In addition to his knees, he has excellent leg dexterity and attacks with a variety of kicks. David will also catch his opponent’s kicks and then return fire. His combinations are strong with a stiff right jab and left hook. His attacks do tend to carry him into the clinch, where he can continue his assault but it also opens him up to being taken down. During his run on TUF, he was put on his back on multiple occasions. His mat game is still developing and while he has scored a couple of takedowns in recent action, he also made some positional mistakes in his final TUF bout that proved to be costly.

Teymur likes to feel his opponent out early on, but showed a much more aggressive approach in his official debut. When he was eliminated from the TUF tournament, he got dropped early in the bout and struggled to regain his form over the rest of the fight.

Both fighters have a similar striking skill set. They both like to sit back early and get a feel for their opponents, throw a lot of kicks, and both are strong defensively. Beyond that initial skill comparison, there are several other scenarios that favour the American. While it would appear that Teymur has the edge in power, Novelli is the far longer fighter. He will be able to fight Teymur at a distance where the Swede can’t touch him. This will force Teymur to move forward to land and expose himself to the counters and ground skills of Novelli. The secondary wrestling and submission skills of the newcomer provide him with a solid alternative when looking to attack. Teymur has proven vulnerable to being taken down and if Novelli can establish his ground skills it should slow Teymur down when engaging. Finally, the experience advantage of ‘Flipside’ is also noteworthy. He has more total fights and cage time, which will show up in a longer more demanding fight, especially when Teymur is more accustomed to quick finishes. Teymur certainly has the skills to win the fight, but look for Novelli to do more, especially on the mat- my prediction is Jason Novelli to defeat David Teymur by decision.

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145lbs-Teruto Ishihara (9-2-2) vs Horacio Gutierrez (2-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, Teruto ‘Yashabo’ Ishihara meets Horacio ‘The Punisher’ Gutierrez. Ishihara fought to a draw with Mizuto Hirota in the Road to the UFC tournament final and then knocked out Julian Erosa in his follow-up appearance. Gutierrez lost the TUF Latin America 2 tournament final to Enrique Barzola and has now lost back to back fights as a pro.

Gutierrez competed at 155 pounds on TUF and is 3 inches taller than his foe, but he will give up an inch of reach. Ishihara is a year younger, but he has more than twice the pro experience of his foe.

Mexico’s Gutierrez comes from a striking background, with experience competing in Muay Thai. Horacio is also a BJJ Blue belt. Both of his pro wins came inside the opening round picking up a TKO and RNC submission win. During his time on TUF and his only UFC appearance, he leaned heavily on his striking attack and showcased some solid skills. Guitierrez packs significant power in his left hand and doesn’t need a lot of space to deploy it. He likes to finish his combination with a check hook from the left side and dropped Polo Reyes with it in his semi-final win. His combinations are sharp and accurate. He follows his left with a hard straight right, and he will mix in a counter uppercut if his foe pushes forward too aggressively. Horacio will also fire out spinning back fists and elbows, hard knees in the clinch, and thumping low kicks. He did appear to have some trouble managing the aggressive striking attack of Reyes early, but used his footwork and counter striking to work around him. His biggest hole appears to be on the mat. He was taken down several times in his quarter-final bout and Barzola scored 5 takedowns and held prolong top position.

It is interesting to note that Gutierrez has openly talked about his pre-fight anxiety issues and his fear of fighting.

Helping to carry the torch for the next wave of JMMA, Ishihara has a knockout-heavy record with 7 of his 8 wins coming by KO or TKO. He toppled Erosa in his sophomore appearance, landing a crushing left hand and ensuing ground and pound to end the fight. The southpaw deploys a steady diet from the left side, including the ability to counter with the left while moving backward. He landed it several times against Hirota, dropping him on a couple of occasions. He uses a lot of erratic movement and broken rhythm to throw off his opponent. When darting in to land his left, he slips his head off to the right side which makes him hard to hit but also opens him up to his opponent’s own left hand. Teruto will attack his opponent’s body and leg with hard kicks as well. He does tend to be a little loose with his defensive technique and will take risks when attacking. As the fight progresses, ‘Yashabo’ will slow down and his hands will start to drop. Hirota found success landing his strikes in round 2 and 3 while backing Ishihara up. After a 2 round decision in his pro debut, Teruto went beyond the opening round just once in 7 fights- losing a 2-round decision. Over his last 4 fights, he is 2-1-1, with all 4 bouts lasting more than 5-minutes.

Known as a bit of a rebel, Ishihara has started both of his UFC fights with a faux glove touch followed by an immediate body kick.

This fight will be won and lost in the striking exchanges. Gutierrez doesn’t have a lot of MMA experience, but his run on TUF and kickboxing background add more depth than his record suggests. Ishihara’s speed and power are impressive and difficult to deal with. Conversely, his use of erratic movement and questionable defense make him hittable and tax his cardio as the fight progresses. Horacio chambers his punches well and should find a regular home for his counter left hook and uppercut as his foe darts in and out. The heavy low kicks will also serve to take some of the bounce out of Ishihara’s offense. If the fight goes beyond the opening round, look Ishihara to slow down while Gutierrez starts piling up the strikes- my prediction is Horacio Gutierrez to defeat Teruto Ishihara by TKO.

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145lbs-#5 Cub Swanson (22-7-0) vs #14 Tatsuya Kawajiri (35-9-2)

The featured online contest takes place in the Featherweight division and is the only meeting of ranked fighters as Cub Swanson battles it out with Tatsuya ‘Crusher’ Kawajiri. Swanson is coming off a win over Hacran Dias to snap a 2-fight losing skid- he is 7-3 inside the Octagon. Kawajiri came up short against Dennis Bermudez, halting his 2-fight winning streak and reducing his Octagon mark to 3-2.

The younger man by 5 years, Swanson will have a 1″ reach advantage along with standing an inch taller.

Swanson continues to hover around the top end of the division, picking up key wins just when it seems he is headed downward. Cub, a Black belt in both Judo and BJJ has finished 15 opponents; 8 by knockout and 7 by submission. He is 7-1 on the scorecards, with 5 of his 6 remaining losses coming by sub. Swanson offers a capable but unorthodox striking attack. He will show flashes of a technically sound boxing attacked melded together with Capoeira-based kickings and other high-risk offensive maneuvers. Swanson holds his hands low which can open him up defensively, but also creates different angles when punching. Leading with a long left jab, he can cover a lot of distance and will also attack the body. Swanson will engage with a quick uppercut and batter his opponent with low kicks, usually firing singles instead of combinations. Fleet of foot, Cub likes to either sit in the pocket and rely on his quickness to slip his opponent’s offense or dart in from distance, attack, and retreat. He hurt Dias on 2 separate occasions with a left hook and high kick. Swanson can operate on the ground, but he has also had his greatest difficulties on the mat. Along with his myriad of submission losses, Cub has given up 18-takedowns over his 10 UFC fights, avoiding the mat is just 3 of those bouts. Against Edgar, Swanson stuffed the early attempts but as the fight continued and Frankie continued to the pressure the completions came easier.

Cub averages 3.35 SLpM compared to 3.03 SApM, a narrow disparity for a fighter that relies heavily on his striking.

Long regarded as one of the best wrestlers in the lighter divisions, Kawajiri’s pursuit of takedown is at the forefront of his offense. Tatsuya has secured 15 takedowns over his 5 UFC contests. Breaking those number down further, ‘Crusher’ landed 13 takedowns over his 3 UFC wins compared to just 2 in his 2 losses. With a high percentage of his wins occurring on the mat, Kawajiri has 12 wins by TKO, 10 by submission, and 12 on the scorecards. In his win over Dennis Siver, he struggled early to land completions. Siver was able to fend off the initial single leg attempts, but once Kawajiri switched to a double leg and buried his foe into the cage he was able to get the fight to the mat. On top, he has a smothering top game. He does a good job of wrapping up his foe, landing strikes, and working towards sub opportunities. Tatsuya has been subbed 3-times, but showed good defense in multiple instances when his opponent attacked off their back. But, his persistent takedown push does leave his neck exposed to chokes and Bermudez had success attacking with elbows after stopping his shot. Kawajiri has also slowed down later in more demanding fights. Kawajiri’s striking is a mix of single strikes and more high risk/ lower reward offerings. Not surprisingly, he will throw strikes in an effort to close the distance.

Kawajiri had gone 5-0 to start his run at Featherweight, but has since managed just a pair of wins over his last 4 fights.

The outcome of this fight should come down to the success of Kawajiri’s takedowns. Swanson has struggled in fights when he is pressured and forced on the defensive. Max Holloway used a pressure striking attacking to back Swanson up and Edgar wrestled his way to victory with takedowns and a heavy top game. In Swanson’s last fight, Dias shot just once and opted for a more striking based attack- which suited Swanson’s style just fine. That won’t be the case here. Kawajiri has averaged almost 7 TDAs per fight and isn’t the type to be dissuaded if his opponent is able to stuff his initial shot. Once on the mat, Cub has struggled off his back if he can’t get vertical quickly. Swanson will need to make his time off the mat and out the clinch count by letting his hands go. He has the power to hurt and finish Kawajiri and while he will be the much faster fighter, his higher risk kicking attacks will open him up for takedowns. Kawajiri will shoot early and while Cub might find some success defending, eventually he will wind up on his back and spend a large portion of the fight there- my prediction is Tatsuya Kawajiri to defeat Cub Swanson by decision.

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265lbs-Chase Sherman (9-1-0) vs Justin Ledet (6-0-0 1NC)

To open the event, a pair of new Heavyweights throwdown as Chase ‘Vanilla Gorilla’ Sherman meets Justin Ledet. Sherman has won 4 in a row, most recently defeating former UFC competitor Jack May via injury TKO- his only pro loss came against current UFC Light Middleweight Alex Nicholson. Ledet is coming off of a No Contest due to an eye poke after winning the first 6 fights of his career.

Both men stand 6’4″, but Ledet who formerly fought at 205 pounds will have a 3″ reach advantage. Sherman is a year younger and should weigh-in roughly 10 pounds heavier. It is worth noting that Ledet has fought twice in 2016, but prior to that he had not competed since 2012.

Sherman comes to the UFC training under former Middleweight Alan Belcher. Devoid of a pre-MMA combat background, Chase was a former Division 2 NCAA football player and is a good athlete. All 10 of his fights have ended by knockout, 9 in his favour. Sherman has never seen action beyond the opening round, ending 5 fights before the 65-second mark. Skill-wise, he is a bit of a stiff striker, but is showing improvements. He likes to work in the pocket, trading with his opponent. He will throw some decent low kicks, but likes to engage behind his hands; tossing out a left jab and power straight right or right hook. He has stopped multiple opponents with one punch from the right side. Chase does leave himself open to be hit, with his head stuck on the center line. May was finding some success early landing kicks. Sherman will rely on his natural gifts when attacking, using his speed to get the better in the exchanges. On the inside, he will dirty box or transition to bodylock and trip takedowns. Similar to his striking, look for him to lean heavily on his quickness and strength when putting opponents on the mat. On top, he has some good pop in his ground and pound, but he has yet to show himself as a legit submission threat.

The May fight was the first real test that Sherman has faced since losing to Nicholson, prior to that fight his last 3 opponents were a combined 2-8.

Ledet is also coming into the Octagon with a bit of a shallow record when it comes to quality names, but his opponents had a decent level of regional experience with a total record of 22-15 for the last 3 men he defeated. Ledet walked away from MMA in 2012 and transitioned to boxing where he compiled a 5-0 record with a pair of knockouts. The quality of opposition he faced in the ring is a little underwhelming with a record of 13-27-1 spread over 5 fighters. There isn’t a tonne of good MMA footage available of Justin since to his return to MMA. Never requiring the judges, Ledet has finished all 6 of his MMA wins- 4 by submission and 2 by knockout. He does have a pair of 3rd round finishes, with everything else done in round 1. Back in 2012, he demoed a boxing based attack highlighted by left jab, right hook, and uppercuts. He showed good speed at range and moved into the clinch to land hard knees. He did have some issues with his TDD, getting dumped on the mat on a couple of occasions. In more recent footage in the boxing ring, he offered similar striking weapons- but his output and speed didn’t appear to be the same as his former Light Heavyweight form.

As mentioned above, Ledet is a former Light Heavyweight and bulked up during his move to boxing. Since returning to MMA, he has had less than 3:30 of cage time as a Heavyweight.

The Heavyweight division by itself can be a bit of crap shoot with one-punch turning a heavy favourite into a drooling pile of mush. Compared to his opponent, Sherman is the more well-rounded fighter, better athlete, and natural heavyweight. He has also fought his entire 10-fight career since Ledet took his 2012 layoff, so the activity level favours him as well. Ledet’s submission skills are certainly something worth considering, but he doesn’t appear to have the wrestling to set up his grappling game against higher-level competition. What Ledet has in his corner is a single, more refined skill set in his boxing. That being said, his move to Heavyweight, bulking up close to 30 pounds in the process, could diminish his speed and endurance levels. His striking skills can and will take a direct hit if the weight gain has proved too much. Ledet should have the edge when exchanging, but look for Sherman to use his speed and size to close the gap and push Ledet into the cage to set up takedowns and his dirty boxing. Once Chase starts to mix up his attack it will take his foe out of his comfort zone and a slowdown for Ledet shouldn’t be far behind. It is hard not to believe that Belcher won’t have his fighter prepped to use his wrestling to take the boxer off his feet, my prediction is Chase Sherman to defeat Justin Ledet by TKO.

205lbs- #11 Nikita Krylov (20-4-0) vs Ed Herman (24-11-0 1NC)

Headlining the undercard, Top 15 ranked Ukrainian Nikita ‘The Miner’ Krylov fights 18-fight UFC veteran Ed ‘Short Fuse’ Herman. Krylov has won 4 consecutive fights, including victories over Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Francimar Barroso. Herman has alternated wins and losses over his last 6-fights, most recently defeating Tim Boetsch in his return to the Light Heavyweight division.

Krylov debuted as a Heavyweight, but has found a home at 205 while Herman spent almost his entire career in the UFC fighting as a Middleweight prior to his last contest. Krylov is 2 inches taller than Herman and 12 years younger, but they will share an identical 77″ reach.

‘Short Fuse’ is looking to revitalize his career as a Light Heavyweight after picking up his first stoppage victory since 2012. For his career, Herman has submitted 13 opponents and knocked out 6. A BJJ Black belt, he has picked up 8 of his wins by armbar, but hasn’t submitted an opponent since UFC 143. Ed has average 2.5 takedowns at a 50% completion rate, but is 0-4 in his last 4 fights where he lost the takedown battle. At 67%, his TDD is decent, but Thales Leites, Jacare Souza, and Jake Shields combined for 8 takedowns against Ed. On the feet, Herman isn’t overly quick and tends to plod forward behind single strikes. He is durable, but over his last few fights he has been hurt on multiple occasions and was knocked out by Derek Brunson. Brunson took him out with a couple of left hands and both Boetsch and Trevor Smith backed him up with a hard right. Herman does his best work in close quarters. He will launch hard uppercuts in succession on the inside, stopping Tim Credeur in just 48 seconds. Look for Ed to mix in short elbows and knee strikes as well. He put away Tim Boetsch after locking up a Thai plumb and landing a couple of violent knees to the head. At the same time, opponents have had success backing Herman into the cage and holding him there. Leites was able to control him on the wall prior to taking him down and Smith was landing hard knees and decent dirty boxing.

Herman has been submitted 6-times in his career, getting tapped out by the likes of Jacare Souza and Demian Maia.

Not one for long drawn out fights, Krylov is coming off of his second career outing to go beyond the first round and first win in a fight of that length. He has dispatched 20 opponents overall- 7 by knockout and 13 by submission. Nikita is very aggressive on the floor, blending together a whirlwind of top position strikes and a reckless submission game. He is also good in a scramble, but can leave himself open to taking damage or possible sub attempts. Both Cody Donovan and de Lima threaten with close subs, but Krylov showed good poise, waiting them out, and moving into a superior position. Multiple opponents have succeeded in taking him down, but Krylov is very good at pulling off reversals from his back to move to top position. On the feet, he has a background in Kyokushin Karate and throws a lot of kicks. Krylov rocked Heavyweight Walt Harris with a head kick and throws his leg techniques very quickly. Look for him to use hard low kicks and push kicks to the body and face as well.  He likes to lead with his kicking techniques and close the distance behind them with punches. At 6.27 SLpM he carries a hefty pace. With a lot of confidence in his chin, he is willing to take a shot to land one and tends to blitz forward in straight lines. Krylov will maintain his pace on the inside; attacking with knees and elbows before pulling back to throw short punches. Just like at range, he is willing to absorb strikes in order to push the pace and overwhelm his foe.

Krylov is a Master of Sport in Karate, hand-to-hand combat, and submission fighting.

With Herman moving up from Middleweight he will be at a size disadvantage in most of his fights, including this one. ‘Short Fuse’ has largely moved away from the submission and wrestling aspects of his offense as his first attack option. Krylov will be the faster fighter at distance and his kicking attack will allow him to tag Herman before Ed can hit him. Despite a marked advantage on the outside, Nikita’s forward momentum will carry him into the clinch where this fight will most likely be won and lost. Herman’s reliance on his close range fighting will help him to hang on the inside with Krylov, but it will also allow the big Ukranian to move effortlessly into one of his strongest positions. Herman is more than capable of capitalizing on a grappling mistake or possibly hurting Nikita, but his lack the speed, pace, and overall durability will make it difficult for him to get the better of the action outside of capitalizing on a mistake. Nikita swarms Herman along the cage and eventually cracks him with something big leading directly to a stoppage or subsequent submission finish- my prediction is Nikita Krylov to defeat Ed Herman by submission.

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170lbs- Ross Pearson (21-11-0 1NC) vs Jorge Masvidal (29-11-0)

In the Welterweight division, Ross ‘The Real Deal’ Pearson steps in on short notice to face fellow injury replacement Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal. This bout was originally scheduled to feature Claudio Silva taking on Siyar Bahadurzada. Pearson is coming off of a decision loss to Will Brooks and has alternated wins and losses over his last 9 fights.  Masvidal is in need of a win having lost a trio of split decisions to Benson Henderson, Al Iaquinta, and most recently Lorenz Larkin over his last 4 outings.

Masvidal has been prepping for this bout for just over a month, while Ross took the fight with roughly 2 weeks to prepare- just 3 weeks removed from his last fight. Pearson normally competes at Lightweight and Masvidal has only recently moved up from 155-pound division. Masvidal is 3 inches taller and will have a 5″ reach advantage.

‘Gamebred’ has a wealth of MMA experience with 40-career bouts including a fight with Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce title. He has finished 11 opponents by knockout, 2 by submission, and is 16-8 on the scorecards. Masvidal has struggled of late in close fights and has taken some criticism for being too tentative and not showing the needed aggression to distance himself from his opponent. Additionally, Masvidal has been hurt in multiple fights- including getting dropped by Michael Chiesa, Daron Cruickshank, and Rustam Khabilov. At his best, Jorge is seamless in his integration of his different skills. He has a sound boxing game, averaging 3.86 strikes landed per minute. He builds the majority of his offense off of a left jab and throws slick combinations when in the pocket. Look for him to target the body as well both with his punches and kicks. Defensively, he puts up a strong front and will routinely slide out of range- but sometimes he is too lax when avoiding and can take damage as a result. Despite having just 2 submission wins, he has a very sound ground game. He completed 6-takedowns in his win over Tim Means and has collected 14 completions over his UFC run. With equally as strong TDD, he has stopped 81% of his opponent’s attempts.

Over his last 3 defeats, he out-landed his opponents by a combined 208 to 185 significant strikes and nearly finished Iaquinta in the opening round.

The Brit is a Black belt in Taekwondo, Brown belt in Judo, and BJJ Blue belt- but is primarily a striker. Similar to his opponent, Pearson has been involved in some dicey outcomes on the scorecards. After dropping a controversial split decision to Diego Sanchez, Pearson has picked up a pair of victories on split cards and is now 7-6 when going the distance. Ross has solid boxing skills with decent power resulting in 7 wins by knockout. He has good footwork and head movement, deploying a leaping left hook and hard right hand which he will throw in succession. Look for him to work over his foe’s body, and follow his body shots with a rising left hook that he used to knockout Sam Stout. Pearson will also sit back and counter strike, which can be an effective weapon against an aggressive opponent. It can also allow his foe to dictate the pace of the fight and earn points in the eyes of the judges. At 3.61 SLpM, Pearson narrowly lands more than his opponents per fight with 3.34 SApM. Ross has been knocked out 3-times and hurt in a couple other bouts which makes his chin a potential point of vulnerability.

Ross has had issues giving up takedowns. He has defended 76% of his opponents attempts, but Evan Dunham found a lot of success putting him on his back and ‘The Real Deal’ has lost his last 3 fights where he has given up at least 1 completion.

Pearson has struggled to create separation in the striking totals in recent bouts. He has been on the wrong end of the significant strikes totals in 5 of his last 7 fights. In the other 2 contests, he landed just 2 more significant strikes than his opponent. Those are hard numbers to overlook against a fighter like Masvidal, who does a better job of limiting his foe’s offense and can augment his striking with takedowns. Masvidal is the longer fighter and should have a slight speed advantage as well when exchanging. His wrestling will both score points when he shoots and keep Pearson from continuously moving forward when attacking. ‘Gamebred’ will most likely look for well-timed takedowns to help him secure rounds. Pearson is looking for a quick turn around and is coming off a grueling fight against Brooks. The move up to 170 will make the cut much easier to make, but the lack of preparation time for a skilled fighter like Masvidal is a tough tradeoff. Pearson simply does not have enough weapons to match Masvidal’s arsenal- my prediction is Jorge Masvidal to defeat Ross Pearson by decision.

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265lbs- Anthony Hamilton (14-5-0) vs Damian Grabowski (20-3-0)

In the Heavyweight division, Anthony ‘Freight Train’ Hamilton squares off with promotional sophomore Damian ‘The Polish Pitbull’ Grabowski. Hamilton is coming off a loss to Shamil Abdurakhimov to drop his UFC record to 2-3. Grabowski debuted in the UFC with a TKO defeat at the hands of Derrick Lewis, he is 7-2 over his last 9 fights.

At 6’5″, Hamilton is 4 inches taller and will weigh roughly 20 to 25 pounds more than his Polish counterpart , but he will have just a 1″ reach advantage.

Grabowski, the former M-1 Heavyweight champion, is a BJJ Brown belt with 11 wins by submission. Damian does the majority of his work in close quarters with his opponent either in the clinch or on the mat. He has finished 10 foes in the opening round. The ‘Polish Pitbull’ possesses a decent shot, but will also work takedowns after tying up. In his win in M-1 over Kenny Garner, he struggled to hold top control after completing an early takedown and was relegated to the clinch game. He is a good dirty boxer, but at times he appears too passive and will concede position allowing his opponent to control him. Garner routinely pushed him into the wall and landed hard body strikes, with Grabowski relying on the ref to break them up. Against Lewis, the Polish fighter attempted to put him on his back, but was countered and got smashed on the bottom. Similarly, he was subbed by Marcin Tybura where he showed very little resistance on the mat prior to the finish. His distance striking isn’t all that strong, looking mainly to close the gap behind his punches and then clinch. When he does push forward, he tends to attack in straight lines, making him predictable at times.

He entered the UFC off of  sizeable layoff, having last competed 15-months prior to his Octagon debut. He fought 3-times for Bellator with a 2-1 record, losing to Cole Konrad in the Season 3 Heavyweight tournament semi-finals.

‘Freight Train’ returns to the Octagon after suffering the first loss of his career outside of the opening round, he is now 10-1 in fights lasting more than 5 minutes. A former NJCAA All-American wrestler and BJJ Brown belt, Hamilton’s 2 UFC wins have come on the strength of his takedowns. He landed a combined 8-takedowns on 10 attempts over the 2 fights. On the mat, he will land hard strikes, targeting the body effectively and earning a stoppage of Ruan Potts with body shots. Against Omeilanczuk, he bowled him over early behind a flurry of punches and effectively used his forearm to crush down on his foe’s face between hard elbows. If he is able to maintain posture, Hamilton can do a lot of damage with his GNP. Anthony will also rely heavily on his clinch attack. Look for Hamilton to control the head, push his opponent into the cage, and either change levels or strike. In the clinch, he will attack with short uppercuts, body punches, and knees to the body. At 83% his TDD is strong, using his size and weight to break down the posture of his adversary. His last opponent did a nice job of shutting down his clinch entries with circular movement and short punches in tight.

Hamilton isn’t overly comfortable striking at range, ducking forward when punching while trying to close the gap. He has been rocked in multiple fights and stopped twice by knockout.

This contest will most likely come down to a battle for position. Both guys like to work on the mat and along the cage, which should grind this fight to a halt with the aggressor securing position and looking to hold on to it. Hamilton is the much larger man which will pay dividends when they tie up. His ability to wear on his opponent is crucial and Grabowski’s willingness to let his foe dictate position will allow the American to land his clinch strikes with regularity. Damian doesn’t appear to have the striking capabilities to consistently attack Hamilton without getting jammed up on the inside. Both men will have their moments, but the larger more active Hamilton holds the superior position longer and lands more strikes once there- my prediction is Anthony Hamilton to defeat Damian Grabowski by decision.

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125lbs- #7 Wilson Reis (20-6-0) vs Hector Sandoval (12-2-0)

Originally scheduled to face Divisional Champion Demetrious Johnson in the co-main event, Wilson Reis remains on the card to take on UFC debutant Hector ‘Kid Alex’ Sandoval. Reis is coming off a dominant win over Dustin Ortiz and is 8-2 over his last 10 fights. Sandoval has won 4 in a row since his loss to Willie Gates in late 2014.

Reis is 2 inches taller and 1 year older than Sandoval. Hector has had roughly 2 weeks to prepare after stepping in to replace Sean Santella, who was originally been pegged to replace Johnson.

A Team Alpha Male product, Sandoval has been on the cusp of making the jump to the UFC for a while now. His only 2 career losses have come against former UFC competitors Ulysses Gomez and the aforementioned Gates. He has finished 5 opponents; 3 by knockout and 2 by submission- 3 in the opening round. Hector is a perfect 7-0 on the scorecards. The former Tachi Palace Fights champion comes from a high school wrestling background. He relies on power over technique, utilizing big slams to put his opponent on the mat. Against larger opponents, Sandoval has struggled to find his takedowns which can be tied to his reliance on power. Despite his camp’s notoriety for submission wins, ‘Kid Alex’ doesn’t have the totals to suggest he is a threat in that area. On the feet, he has som pop in his hands and delivers it with big hooks. With good hand speed, he will blitz his adversary and unload with high volume flurries to the head and body. He stopped his last opponent with a hard right hand and a few minor follow-up strikes. To make up for his short stature he is forced to push forward aggressively which can open him up to reactive takedowns.

Despite being considered a fighter to watch on the regional circuit, he doesn’t have a victory over a recognizable name with his last 4 opponents are a combined for a record of 25-17.

A BJJ Black belt, Reis has put up some impressive wrestling numbers landing 4.97 takedowns at a 42% completion rate. He landed 9 TDs in his win over Ortiz, pushing his Flyweight takedown total to 19 over just 4 fights. A physically strong fighter, he is difficult to deal with in the clinch. Against Ortiz, he was constantly sliding his leg into the feet of his foe to create trip opportunities. He will also shoot double and single legs from the outside and can quickly transition to back mount after taking his foe down. Even when Ortiz initiated a grappling exchange, Wilson’s strength and technical skill resulted in the superior position. He has also improved his striking, showing much more fluidity in his craft. The improvement in his stand-up skills has resulted in better cardio and pace as he no longer forces his strikes. His chin is still an area of vulnerability. Reis has been knocked out twice, both at higher weight classes, but he has been hurt in multiple fights in the UFC.

Reis has won 9-times by submission, with 6 of those victories coming by rear-naked choke.

Reis is taking a sizeable step back in competition and is dealing with a much different opponent, but he was determined to remain on the card. Reis is also fighting a high risk/ low reward type fight with almost 100% certainty that he loses this fight that his title shot will be gone. Reis is pretty big for the division and as already mentioned, Sandoval is a little on the small size. Hector will need to find a way to overcome those issues both when grappling and when trying to get in range to land his strikes. If he can keep the fight standing, his speed and power could give Reis issues and potentially lead to a knockout. Reis has taken down his opponent in all but 1 of his UFC fights. The Brazilian offers a nice variety of takedown techniques and Sandoval’s need to close distance to engage will give Wilson ample opportunity to shoot or set up a trip takedown from the clinch. Once on the mat, the wrestler will struggle fending off the superior grappler of his foe- my prediction is Wilson Reis to defeat Hector Sandoval by submission.

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170lbs- Michael Graves (6-0-0) vs Bojan Velickovic (14-3-0)

In the Fight Pass headliner, Michael Graves puts his undefeated record on the line against Bojan ‘Serbian Steele’ Velickovic. Graves came off the Ultimate Fighter and picked up 2 consecutive victories over Vincente Luque and Randy Brown. Velickovic bested Alessio Di Chirico by decision in his promotional debut and has won 5 fights in a row dating back to his loss to former TUF competitor Gilbert Smith.

Bojan is 2 inches taller and will have a sizeable 5″ reach advantage. He made his UFC debut at 185 pounds, but is moving down to Welterweight where he is more accustomed to competing. Graves is 3 years younger and has 11 fewer pro bouts, but his time on the Ultimate Fighter and 2 UFC bouts gives him the edge in quality of experience.

The owner a finish heavy record, 11 of 14 victories inside the distance, Velickovic put together a complete performance in his debut. The former RFA Welterweight champ has 8 wins by sub, despite coming from a Muay Thai background. At distance, he offers a decent straight left and will pop out a right jab, but often deploys them separately. His best range weapons are his kicks. Bojan chewed up Di Chirico’s lead leg with hard inside low kicks along with targeting the body with straight and round kicks. In victory, he was outlanded on the feet 65-45 and isn’t known for his volume striking. As the numbers indicate, he is hittable, despite showcasing decent footwork and lateral movement.  Velickovic can also do decent work from the clinch. Closing the distance behind his strikes, once inside he will pepper away at his foe with short punches and hard knees. On the floor, his top game is solid and he is a decent scrambler. He has a good power double and scored a nice takedown in his debut, but was unable to hold top position. He has had issues with more technically skilled wrestlers and was put on his back once by Di Chirico. After the completion, ‘Serbian Steele’ quickly attacked with a kimura, swept to top position, and came close to the finish before the round ended.

Velickovic trains out of an excellent camp at Team Elevation alongside the likes of TJ Dillashaw, Matt Brown, and Clay Guida.

Representing American Top Team, Graves went 1-1 during his time on the Ultimate Fighter. As a pro, he has finished 5 of his 6 opponents, including 2 by RNC. He subbed Brown from back mount with a well-paced attack of hammer fists that eventually opened his foe’s neck up for the choke. His lone TUF win also came by RNC. Over his first 2 UFC outings, he has completed 9 takedowns at a 52% completion rate. Michael offers a wide variety of takedown techniques. At distance, he will shoot on a single or double leg and can cover distance quickly before finishing with a big slam. If his opponent settles in the pocket to strikes, Graves will make a quick level change. From the clinch, he will look for trips and body lock options or even execute a lateral drop- all set up with his dirty boxing. Graves will quickly float over into half guard or side control after hitting his takedowns. If shot on, look for a sprawl and front headlock to shutdown his adversaries momentum and force them to carry his weight. When striking he employs a decent right hook and will target his opponent’s leg with hard kicks. The majority of his offense is built around setting up his wrestling.

Graves is a persistent and durable fighter. Brown defended multiple takedown attempts, but Graves continued to push and eventually wore him down. He also found himself in a tough spot against Luque, but defended the Brazilian’s signature submission and worked to top position.

The cut to 170 pounds should help Velickovic when looking to out-muscle his opponents, but against Graves that might not be the best approach. Bojan will have a sizeable length advantage and will need to utilize his reach and movement to maintain distance and avoid the takedown attempts. Conversely, when Graves can get in under his opponent’s base and elevate them it is very difficult to defend his TDAs. The variety of takedown techniques that Graves offers will make it difficult for Bojan to settle in. The Serbia’s lack of volume at distance will also make it hard for him to win rounds if he spends too much time on his back. Additionally, his reliance on kicks as his primary weapon will open up opportunities for the wrestler to shoot. Look for Velickovic to be cautious early as Graves looks to close the distance, limiting his offensive output. Once Graves gets on the inside, he should find success in the clinch with short strikes and eventually put his foe on the mat with consistency- my prediction is Michael Graves to defeat Bojan Velickovic by decision.

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125lbs- Ryan Benoit (8-4-0) vs Fredy Serrano (3-0-0)

Fight #2 of the night, Ryan ‘Baby Face’ Benoit meets Colombia’s Fredy ‘El Profe’ Serrano in the Flyweight division. Serrano is 2-0 in the UFC after picking up an injury related win over Yao Zhikui and knockout of Bentley Syler in his debut. Benoit was unable to capitalize on his upset win over Sergio Pettis, falling via submission to Ben Nguyen- he has alternated wins and losses over his last 6 fights.

This bout was originally scheduled to feature Ray Borg, but he was forced to withdraw and Benoit stepped in on just over 1 week’s notice. Benoit is 2 inches taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage over Serrano. The American is also 10 years younger but has a sizeable advantage in MMA experience with 9 more pro bouts.

Serrano comes from a Freestyle wrestling background which includes both Olympic experience and a Pan Am Bronze medal. His takedown game has been a bit hit and miss in his Octagon run. He struggled to find much success in his only TUF fight and went 2 for 8 in his debut win. When he was able to take Syler down, he demoed a pretty solid level change into a double leg and exploded through his opponent’s hips. Against Yao, he hit a reactive slam after getting backed up with punches that lead to the fight ending arm injury. As a relative newcomer to MMA, Serrano is still working on integrating his different skills, often telegraphing his transitions between striking and wrestling. He does pack some power in his hands and scored a violent uppercut KO against Syler. His right hand is his primary weapon of choice, mixed in with a left hook and low kicks. Fredy throws the majority of his offense in single shots. ‘El Profe’ tends to be a little flat-footed at times, but has shown the ability to attempt higher risk kicking attacks. In both of his fights, he has shown signs of struggling with opponents that can string combinations together and maintain forward pressure.

Serrano lost to eventual Bantamweight tournament winner Alejandro Perez in the quarter-finals of the inaugural season of the Ultimate fighter.

Benoit really hasn’t had a complete performance in the UFC. His only win came on the heels of a one-sided opening round before he shocked everyone by knocking out the highly touted Pettis. Benoit has finished all 8 of his wins, 7 by knockout compared to a pair of submission losses in the UFC and an 0-2 record on the scorecards. Ryan has split his stoppages evenly between first and second round wins. An aggressive fighter, Benoit is both equally capable and vulnerable on the feet and on the mat. He will switch his stances, flashing out a variety of techniques including a stiff straight left, hard right hook, right jab, and uppercut along with some decent body kicks. He dropped Pettis with a straight right, left hook combination. When he has struggled, it has been with the combination striking of his opponents. Pettis was landing at will with multi-strike offerings and Nguyen landed a hard sequence of strikes that sent Benoit to the mat prior to getting the submission. Similar to his stand-up, his ground game has been a mix of good and bad. He scored a nice takedown in the Pettis fight, ducking under a kick and against Sampo he was able to orchestrate a couple of sweeps off his back to move into a dominant position. Once on top, he is incredibly active and will open up with his ground and pound. He has also shown decent TDD when his opponent doesn’t disguise his shot attempt with strikes. Benoit has given up a trio of takedowns and his aggressive striking can open him up to counter level changes. His aggression off his back can be beneficial, but it can also result in the absorbtion of sizeable damage.

Benoit’s cardio is a bit of an issue. If pushed he can begin to slow down as early as the end of the opening round.

The incredibly short notice for Benoit is certainly concerning, especially when coupled with his previous issues with endurance. For Serrano, he is till very new to the MMA game and his 3rd career fight did very little to add to his depth of experience. At 36, Fredy is also getting up there in age and fighters age quicker the lighter the division. While he doesn’t have the road miles, it is still a young man’s game. Both fighters have power, but Benoit’s combinations and willingness to engage should create issues for his foe. When Serrano has been faced with forward pressure he has struggled, but his opponents simply haven’t been able to push him with enough consistency to make it count. Benoit will need to avoid walking into takedowns, but his power and pressure will carry the fight. Despite his flaws, the American represents a sizeable step up in competition for Serrano, my prediction is Ryan Benoit to defeat Freddy Serrano by TKO.

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Cesar Arzamendia (7-3-0) vs Damien Brown (15-9-0)

Starting the night off in the Lightweight division, Cezar ‘Goku’ Arzamendia takes on Aussie Damien ‘Beatdown’ Brown. Arzamendia dropped his debut to Marco Polo Reyes following a semi-final appearance on the 2nd season of TUF: Latin America. Brown stepped in on short notice to face Allan Patrick and lost a one-sided decision to end his 5-fight winning streak.

Arzamendia is the younger fighter by 7 years and will have a 1″ height and 3″ reach advantage.

Coming from a Muay Thai background, Arzamendia competed at various levels with success. He has just a single win by knockout on his record along with 4 submission victories and a 2-0 mark on the scorecards. He has lost once each by submission and knockout- both in the first round. He also has 4 first round victories. Arzamendia is very aggressive and has a number of different tools at hid disposal. At distance, he will lead with a long spearing left jab and sometimes combine it with a straight right. Leading with a left hook is also an option and Cesar tagged Reyes with a hard overhand right as well. His kicking game is decent; with sharp low kicks, a push kick to the body, and right high kick. On the inside, he will look to land knees and won’t hesitate to go to the Thai plumb to further the impact of his knees to his opponent’s head and body. The Paraguian landed a well executed inside leg trip on Reyes and showed improvement in his wrestling with a pair of strong double leg completions. Remaining aggressive on the floor, he will quickly work to advance position and open up with GNP or look for a sub. Defensively, he had mixed results. When he is able to time his opponent’s shot he has a nice sprawl and good balance, but his constant forward push can get him put on his back before he has time to defend.

His durability and cardio are both concerns. He appeared to be slowing a bit against Reyes before getting knocked out with a short right hand and on the show he tapped after getting hit with a hard body shot while lying on his back.

Brown got into the UFC as a short notice replacement and struggled to find much success in his debut. ‘Beatdown’ has secured 8 wins by submission, with multiple victories by RNC or guillotine choke. He has found a lot of success on the Aussie circuit using a wrestling heavy offense, utilizing a traditional double leg or bodylock/trip combos. If he is unable to score on his initial shot, he does a decent job of driving through his opponnet. Against Patrick, he spent the majority of the fight on the defensive. While he was willing to attack off his back with armbars and kimuras, Patrick defended and held the dominant position for the majority of the fight. Submissions have accounted for 4 of his 9 losses. He is a low output striker, with  the majority of his offense set around closing the distance. Additionally, he is overly fleet of foot, further diminishing the effectivness of his striking attack.

 

Damien hasn’t had a lot of success when taking a step up in competition, going 0-3 under the Cage Warriors banner and winning just 1 of 6 fights over a stretch in 2013 through 2014. His last 3 pre-UFC opponents have a combined 6-6 record.

This fight has all the potential to be an ugly brawl if it is not over quickly. Arzamendia should have the striking edge when vertical, banking on a speed advantage and far greater variety of weapons. Brown won’t be looking to deviate from his normal approach and should come out looking to put Cesar on his back early and often. Cesar has shown decent TDD in the past, but Brown’s dogged persuance of the mat game will push his defense to the limit. Brown appears to have the edge in both cardio and durability. With just 1 knockout loss coming early in his career, Brown should be able to wade through his foe’s offense to establish his wrestling attack. The presistant push of the Aussie will wear down his foe, who hasn’t gone outside of the opening round since 2012. When Arzamendia was put on his back on TUF he struggled to deal with his opponent’s top pressure and Brown should be able to replicate that. The recent stoppage defeats suffered by ‘Goku’ aren’t encouraging either- my prediction is Damien Brown to defeat Cesar Arzamendia by TKO

135lbs- #12 Frankie Saenz (11-3-0) vs #15 Eddie Wineland (21-11-1)

In the undercard cake topper, unheralded Frankie Saenz takes on former WEC champ and UFC title challenger Eddie Wineland in a Bantamweight scrap. Saenz won a trio of bouts to start his UFC career, including an upset of Iuri Alcantara- he is coming off a loss to Urijah Faber. Wineland is just 1-3 over his last 4 fights, knocking out Yves Jabouin during that run- but losing to Johnny Eduardo and Bryan Caraway in his last 2 appearances.

Wineland has been out of action for almost a year and has fought just twice since early 2014. Eddie is an inch taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 4 years.

Primarily a striker, Wineland’s success comes down to 3 specific factors; punching power, unorthodox movement, and takedown defense. Wineland has knocked out 11 opponents, including 4 of his last 5 wins. He relies heavily on his footwork and head movement to both avoid his opponent’s offense and set up his own. Eddie holds his hands incredibly low to invite an attack, slips or absorbs the assault, and then fires a counter strike. He packs some decent pop in his right hand, setting it up with a quick jab and he will punch to the body as well. Look for him to slip in a stiff uppercut if his opponent tries to change levels. Eddie has had issues with opponents that throw a lot of kicks keeping him out of range. Additionally, he isn’t nearly as effective when forced backward. Both Eduardo and Caraway were able to keep Wineland on his back foot, shutting down his attacks and limiting his counter strikes. In the Caraway fight, Wineland stopped the takedowns attempts, but he was getting hit without returning fire. Wineland’s style is effective only when he is able to consistently land strikes after inviting his opponent to exchange. The loss to Eduardo was his second legit knockout alongside his title fight defeat and he was coming off his second broken jaw heading into the Caraway bout.

Wineland’s takedown defense has been exceptional, stopping 85% of his opponents’ attempts including 35 of 37 tries over his UFC career.

NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Saenz put up sizeable takedown numbers over his first 2 UFC showings. He completed 8 of his 13 attempts, including 3 of 4 in his win over Alcantara. Over his last 2 fights, he has landed just 1 of 9 shots and has been taken down 5 times. He has shown a tendency to shoot a reactive takedown after getting hit, with mixed results. Frankie is far more effective when he sets up his shot with his hands. He had a lot of trouble getting in on the hips of Sirwan Kakai and holding him on the mat once he did take him down. On the feet, he employs a lot of movement before engaging, but attacks in straight lines. He has shown signs of a technical striking game, but more often than not he will unload wild strikes. Saenz’s strikes frequently come in the form of wide sweeping hooks that he will over commit on and throw himself off balance with. Kakai did a nice job landing counter strikes as Frankie came in. Faber and Alcantara both hurt him, with Urijah nearly finishing him after landing a big head kick.

Frankie does some of his best work in close, landing short elbows and punches in the clinch. If he can control his foe’s head, he will pull back and land hard knees to the body.

Wineland certainly didn’t look himself in his last fight, but between the layoff and the lack of credit that Caraway gets- the former WEC champ’s demise might be slightly overexaggerated. Saenz is scrappy and durable, but his lack of wrestling success over his last 2 fights has resulted in a loss and a narrow split decision win. Eddie has rock solid takedown defense that has shut down elite level wrestlers. If this fight turns into a striking-centric contest, Saenz can win by being the busier fighter. Conversely, his straight forward aggression will struggle against the erratic movement of Wineland and expose Frankie to getting countered. Wineland has some serious power, but he has to remain active. Look for him slip in a stiff uppercut when Saenz changes levels and use his reach and longer punches to hit his adversary before he gets hit. Wineland will stuff the takedowns and be the more impactful striker, possibly even hurting the durable Saenz- my prediction is Eddie Wineland to defeat Frankie Saenz by decision.

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145lbs- #12 Darren Elkins (20-5-0) vs Godofredo Pepey (13-3-0)

In the Featherweight division, Darren ‘The Damage’ Elkins puts his spot in the Top 15 on the line when he tangles with Brazilian Godofredo ‘Pepey’ Castro. Elkins has won back to back fights, with hard-fought decision victories over Chas Skelly and Robert Whiteford. Pepey has won a trio of fights by stoppage to revitalize his UFC career, most recently submitting Andre Fili in Brazil.

Pepey hasn’t competed in 16-months heading into this bout. Elkins is 3 inches taller than Godofredo, but will give up 2 inches of reach and is 3 years older than his opponent.

Elkins is a grinding wrestler, averaging 2.79 takedowns at a 34% completion rate with 14 takedowns over his last 2 wins. His wrestling weighs heavy in his success with 23 completions in his last 6 victories compared to just 2 TDs over his 4 UFC defeats. Darren is known for his continuous work ethic that he uses to push and break his foe with. He had a lot of success grinding Skelly into the wall, using head positioning to control him while landing knees and short punches. Once on top, he employs a smothering pressure attack, riding his opponent and unloading a continuous flow of strikes. He has been submitted just once in his career and demoed good defense on the mat, shutting down multiple leg lock attempts from Skelly. His striking is still a work in progress. He will come forward throwing a left jab, straight right combination. He will also mix in a left hook and uppercut as he gets tighter to his opponent. Chas was having success landing some decent shots during the early exchanges and Elkins was KOed by Chad Mendes back in 2013.

‘The Damage’ made the jump to Team Alpha Male prior to his win over Whiteford, a camp known for their strong wrestling acumen.

While Elkins is known of for his grinding decision wins, Castro is a flashy finisher. The Brazilian has ended 10 of his 12 victories inside the first 5-minutes, 8 by submission. A BJJ Black belt, ‘Pepey’ does some of his best work off of his back. He has an incredibly active guard and isn’t afraid to go to his back in pursuit of the finish. Against Dashon Johnson, he slapped on a triangle/armbar combination shortly after Johnson scored his first and only takedown of the fight. In his win over Fili, Godofredo jumped guard while clinched up along the cage and climbed his way up his foe before locking in the triangle for the eventual finish. ‘Pepey’ will also threaten with a kimura off his back before executing an Oompah sweep into full mount. His long limbs make him a constant threat on the mat no matter the position. He has also lost a pair of fights off of his back, getting stopped via ground and pound while looking for sub opportunities. On the feet, ‘Pepey’ is equally as aggressive winging big overhand strikes, often throwing himself off balance when he misses. His best techniques are a long-ranging uppercut and the flying knee that he KOed Lahat with.

During his run to the finals of the TUF Brazil tournament, Godofredo earned submission wins in the elimination round and semi-finals, with a 2-round decision in the quarter-finals.

With contrasting styles, this bout is going to have an early clash that is most likely going to decide who leaves with the win. Pepey’s aggressive submission game and willingness to go to his back will test the submission defense of Elkins, but it will also put the fight in the position where Darren wins the majority of his fights. When the fighters are still dry, Godofredo will have his best opportunity to lock up a submission. Elkins will need to emulate Sam Sicilia, who used posture and heavy GNP to break down the guard play of Pepey. If Elkins is able to get beyond the opening round, his pace and physicality should wear down a fighter with just a trio of fights that have gone outside of the first frame. On the feet, the more compact striking of Elkins should give him the advantage, but Pepey is capable of doing damage if he connects as Elkins comes forward. Elkins will survive the early onslaught and potentially use his wrestling in reverse to keep ‘Pepey’ off the mat until he has started to slow down- my prediction is Darren Elkins to defeat Godofredo Pepey by Decision

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170lbs- Kamaru Usman (7-1-0) vs Alexander Yakovlev (23-6-1)

In the third of 3 Welterweight fights on the card, TUF 21 winner Kamaru  ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ Usman squares off with Russia’s Alexander ‘Thunder of the North’ Yakovlev. Usman is 2-0 in the UFC and has won 6 consecutive fights. Yakovlev has picked up back to hack wins, including a stoppage of George Sullivan in his most recent outing- he had dropped his first 2 trips to the Octagon.

Yakovlev had a one and done experiment at Lightweight against Gray Maynard, but returned to 170 pounds for his last fight. At 6’3″, he is 3 inches taller than Usman, but will give up 2 inches of reach. The American is 3 years younger and is stepping in to replace Ryan Laflare with well over a month to prep for the fight.

Usman has put together an impressive pair of performances, landing 6 takedowns in each of his 2 wins. In his debut victory, the fight lasted just over 6 minutes. Kamaru used a constant avalanche of clinch fighting and takedowns to break down his opponent and eventually set up the arm triangle finish. He will throw a variety of takedown techniques at his opponent; changing levels from the clinch or shooting from the outside for a single or double leg. In his win over Leon Edwards, he struggled at first to complete his shots, but was eventually able to elevate his opponent and take away his base. Once on top, he has strong control and continuously peppers away with hard punches. His striking is still a work in progress, but he does a good job of landing short punches and elbows in the clinch. At range, he will fake takedowns to set up his punches. He will throw a decent straight right hand and follow it up with a wide sweeping hook. Usman has shown noticeable improvements on the feet and appeared much more comfortable during the exchanges in his last fight.

Prior to the TUF finals, Kamaru picked up decisions wins over Steve Carl and Michael Graves.

The Russian is coming off his first stoppage victory since late 2011, after taking out Sullivan with a well-timed straight right hand. Yakovlev has 9 wins by knockout and 8 more by submission with a 6-3 record on the scorecards. He has a Master of Sport in both Sambo and Freestyle wrestling.  On the feet, Yakovlev definitely has some pop in his hands. He throws a strong left hook, quick uppercut, and he will target the body with a hard jab. His footwork is solid, but he has shown a willingness to sit down in pocket and trade. At 2.29 SLpM, his output hasn’t been overwhelming as he spent a lot of time fending off takedown and clinch attacks from his opponents. Demian Maia was able to ground him on multiple occasions and Musoke stalled him out in the clinch along the cage. Even when he was able to gain separation, he seemed a little hesitant to let his hands go for fear of getting clamped down on by Nico.

Of his 8 submission wins, 6 have come by rear-naked choke.

Usman is a talented fighter that is getting better with every appearance. His ability to battle through early adversity and work around the stout TDD of  Edwards without getting discouraged was a clear sign of his development. If Alexander can land something significant like he did against Sullivan he is certainly capable of turning this fight in his favour. That being said, Usman presents the same issues he has struggled with in previous bouts. Yakovlev’s inability to work out of the clinch position will mute his offense and give Kamaru ample opportunities to set up his takedowns. Usman will control the fight from top position, land a continual stream of GNP, and find increasing success on the feet as the Russian slows down due to the grappling exchanges- my prediction is Kamaru Usman to defeat Alexander Yakovlev by decision

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155lbs- Michel Prazeres (19-2-0) vs J.C. Cottrell (17-3-0)

Late injury replacement J.C. ‘Superstar’ Cottrell steps in to replace Tony Martin against Brazilian Michel ‘Tractor’ Prazeres in the Lightweight division. Prazeres is coming off of a split-decision win over Valmir Lazaro to improve his Octagon record to 3-2. Cottrell has won 6 consecutive fights dating back to a 2013 TKO loss under the KOTC banner, which is his only loss over his last 4 fights.

Cottrell took the fight with a little less than 2 weeks to prep for his debut, but his last bout was just a month earlier on June 24th. Cottrell is 3 inches taller, will have a 4″ reach advantage, and is 8 years younger than his Brazilian counterpart.

J.C. debuts in the UFC bringing a record that has a decent amount of experience on the regional level. Of his 17 pro wins, 11 have come by submission and 2 by knockout. He has 2-0 record on the scorecards, but he has been finished in all 3 of his defeats. During his current streak he has picked up a 3-pack of opening round submission wins. Cottrell moves well and keeps his hands up when engaging. He’ll pick away at his opponent with a hard inside leg kick and periodically targets the body. His primary weapon of choice is decent left hook that he will launch himself into when looking to cover distance. Defensively, he has a tendency to lift his chin when striking. His last opponent had success attacking his legs with kicks and had Cottrell in some trouble. In response to adversity, J.C. will shoot a strong double and power his opponent to the mat. He has an active top game, looking for submission opportunities, but he will give up position if he feels he has a shot to lock up an attack.

He hasn’t faced anyone of name recognition on the regional scene, but his last 3 opponents have a decent level experience with a combined record of 36-45.

The cardio of Prazeres has been the most telling aspect of his UFC run. His muscular build and tendency to push his strike makes it difficult for him to maintain his pace for a full 3-rounds without some degree of performance dropoff. Against Kevin Lee, he started strong and found early success with his grappling, but as he began to slow down the takedowns became less frequent and Lee started to have more success with his offense. In his win over Jesse Ronson, ‘Tractor’ scored 6 takedowns over the opening 2 rounds and did enough early to grab a narrow split decision win. Not surprisingly, the majority of his success is built around his takedown game. Over his 5 UFC contests, he has completed 17 takedowns. In his upset win over Mairbek Taisumov, he was able to routinely drive through and score big takedowns followed by prolonged periods of top control. On the feet, Michel has some pop in his hands. He throws a big  left hook, but has trouble covering distance when attacking without opening himself up. He isn’t afraid to sit down and exchange at close range, but it can also prove an exhaustive endeavor that takes him out of his comfort zone.

Prazeres debuted at Welterweight against Paulo Thiago and held his own against the larger opponent. He was able to take Thiago down multiple times, but couldn’t match his output.

As is the case with most Prazeres fights, the outcome of this contest will be decided by how much offense he can unload before he starts to slow down. His ability to put Cottrell on his back will be crucial. The American’s offense-first approach will open him up for counters. When he looks to attack up with his hands, Prazeres will find success changing levels and putting him on his back. The big Brazilian’s top game is smothering and he should have no issues fending off potential submission attempts. With Cottrell coming in on short notice, his ability to push Michel early and still capitalize on a late slowdown won’t be there. Prazeres controls Cottrell on the mat and grinds him out for the duration- my prediction is Michel Prazeres to defeat J.C. Cottrell by decision.

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170lbs- Alex Oliveira (13-3-1 1NC) vs James Moontasri (9-3-0)

Headlining the Fight Pass prelims, Alex ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira makes his second appearance of 2016 when he takes on James ‘Moonwalker’ Moontasri in the Welterweight division. Oliveira is coming off of a submission loss to Donald Cerrone, he had won a trio of fights since his heartbreaking debut defeat to Gilbert Burns. Moontasri beat Anton Zafir to continue his 5-fight stretch of alternating wins and losses.

Both fighters have spent time at Lightweight, but it would appear they will both be moving forward as 170 pounders. The Brazilian is 1″ taller and will have a 5″ reach advantage.

Holding a nice variety of combat accreditation, Moontasri is a Black belt in both Taekwondo and Muay Thai as well as a BJJ Purple belt. He has shown incredible dexterity in his legs, offering a dangerous arsenal of kicking techniques. He will also throw hard knee strikes to the body or head of a shooting opponent. ‘Moonwalker’ hurt Joe Ellenberger with a well-timed uppercut and dropped Zafir with a spinning backfist. Moontasri likes to sit back and counter and does a decent job of striking between attacks when his foe is recovering from a failed shot attempt. His high-risk maneuvers do open him up to getting taken down. When looking to defend TDAs, James will use a wide base against the cage. He has had good success with his technique, but his reliance on the wall to stay vertical allows his opponent to take the center of the cage and keep him backing up. He has been taken down in a 3 of his 4 UFC bouts, with Lee earning the submission win and Ellenberger using his top position to edge out the decision.

Moontasri failed to make weight in his final pre-UFC fight and in his bout with Cody Pfister. He attributed his slowdown against Ellenberger to the impact of cutting weight and hopes that move to Welterweight will alleviate some of those issues.

Despite coming from a striking background, ‘Cowboy’ scored a combined 8 takedowns in his wins overs KJ Noons and Joe Merritt. Against Noons, he quickly locked up the RNC, but despite several attempts he couldn’t finish Merritt in a similar manner. He put himself in some tough spots when Merritt was able to counter to the superior position. Oliveira likes to use a clinch-based attack; driving his shoulder into his foe, controlling the position, and changing levels for a takedown. His wrestling technique isn’t great, often struggling to complete his takedowns simply by not getting low enough on his shot. He had issues against Hallmann, getting put on his back and relying on a ref stand up to return to his feet. At distance, he has power- KOing Hallmann with a violent right hand. Alex has a tendency to overextend on his punches and his defense has a lot of holes as a result. His reach advantage and constant pressure help him to overcome these shortcomings.

Oliveira has finished 9 opponents in the opening round, but was finished himself inside the first 5 minutes for the first time by Cerrone.

A lot of Oliveira’s offense comes along the cage, where Moontasri is strong defensively. That being said, Moontasri’s willingness to back himself up to the wall helps Oliveira to get the fight to his favoured position. If James can defend the initial push, look for him to counter and capitalize on the Brazilian’s mistakes as he works harder to get the fight to the mat. Moontasri’s knee strikes in close will serve to punish prolonged takedown attempts. At range, Oliveira leaves a lot of openings that the more refined striking attack of ‘Moonwalker’ will be able to exploit. Jame’s footwork will also help him to avoid his foe’s constant forward pressure, setting up counters as ‘Cowboy’ moves in. The Brazilian’s sloppy technique and question cardio will be his undoing as he gets out scrambled on the mat and takes ome big strikes on the feet, my prediction is James Moontasri to defeat Alex Oliveira by decision.

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170lbs- Hector Urbina (25-9-0) vs George Sullivan (17-5-0)

In the Welterweight division, Hector ‘El Toro’ Urbina battles it out with George ‘The Silencer’ Sullivan. Sullivan is coming off a knockout loss to Alexander Yakovlev, dropping his Octagon record to 3-2. Urbina has just a pair of wins over his last 5 fights, losing to Bartosz Fabinski via decision in his most recent outing.

The fighters have the same 73″ reach, Sullivan is 1″ taller and 6 years older than Hector.

Sullivan is coming off his first career loss by knockout and has been finished in 2 of his last 3 outings. Nonetheless, he is a physically imposing fighter with 11 wins by KO or TKO, including a 2014 finish of Igor Araujo. He builds the majority of his offense off of his left jab, following with hard 2 punch combinations and quick low kicks. In the clinch, he uses his forearm to frame and create room to throw short knees and elbows. George has averaged 3.82 SLpM compared to 2.45 SApM. He landed his UFC-best 61 significant strikes in his debut decision victory. A BJJ Brown belt, Sullivan has given up 13-takedowns over just 5 fights compared to 5 of his own completions. He has been working to improve his wrestling, but his aggressive forward push while striking opens him up for takedowns. Against Igor Araujo, he found success over-powering the Brazilian in scrambles and working his way to top position. If he can posture up, look for him to unload with some sizeable ground and pound.

Sullivan has been submitted 3-times in his career, but one came as the result of an eye injury early in his career.

‘El Toro’ has only seen the scorecards 5-times in his career while picking up 14 wins and 7 defeats inside the distance. Urbina has compiled 13 first round finishes, including his UFC debut submission win over Edgar Garcia. He has 9 wins by knockout and 5 by tap out. The mat has been the key focal point during his UFC run. On TUF,  Cathal Pendred scored multiple takedowns on route to a decision win over Urbina and Fabinski followed a similar game plan; landing 6 of his 11 TDAs. Even Garcia had success early picking up takedowns before getting caught in a power guillotine on a prolonged shot attempt. Urbina has an aggressive guard and will look for subs of his back, but he has a tendency to get stuck on the bottom for too long. When he had chances to separate and disengage against his last foe he opted to go for subs and gave up the opportunity to gain a positional advantage. On the feet, he doesn’t do a great job of setting up his offense. He will throw a lot of naked knees and kicks, with his hands low and head up. He has been finished by knockout 5-times.

Urbina has competed as high as Light Heavyweight and fought as a Middleweight during his time on the Ultimate Fighter.

Urbina’s TDD has been a significant liability in his defense. He has had almost no answer for the wrestling of his opponents and if Sullivan is able to duplicate those issues, he should have no issue grinding out the fight. George’s own grappling has been a bit hit or miss at times, giving up his own fair share of takedowns. The difference has been his ability to work to a better of position and/or get back to his feet. Once on top, Sullivan can do some significant damage with his GNP and make Hector pay for his inability to stay vertical. On the feet, look for the thumping strikes of Sullivan to pay dividends against the porous defense and questionable chin of the Mexican fighter. George has to be careful early both shooting for a takedown and during the scrambles on the mat, but once he starts to unload he should find success breaking Urbina down on the mat or the feet- my prediction is George Sullivan to defeat Hector Urbina by TKO.

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145lbs- Jim Alers (13-2-0 1NC) vs Jason Knight (16-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, Jim ‘The Beast’ Alers looks for his first UFC win since early 2014 when he fights UFC sophomore Jason ‘The Kid’ Knight. Alers is coming off of a No Contest due to an eye poke suffered by Cole Miller, prior to that fight he was knocked out by Chas Skelly. Knight took a short-notice debut against Tatsu Kawajiri, losing by decision and ending his 8-fight winning streak in the process.

Knight is 3 inches taller than Alers and is 6 years younger.

‘The Beast’ smashed through the competition prior to entering the Octagon, finishing 7 of his 8 opponents following his first career loss. Overall, he has stopped 8 by submission and 2 via strikes. He continued his winning streak in the UFC with a split-decision win in his debut. Alers has seen a noticeable increase in fight time, with 7 first round finishes in his first 8 career bouts giving way to 8 consecutive bouts going to the second round or beyond, including a pair of decision wins. He has some pop in his hands, but he also gets hit a lot. Skelly was able to repeatedly land his right hand and eventually knocked him out. A BJJ Black belt, Alers is more known for his ground capabilities. He hasn’t showcased much of his offensive ground skills in the UFC, landing just 3 takedowns. Against Skelly, he attempted an early leg lock but wasn’t able to offer much more on the mat and opted to strike for the majority of the fight. In his win over Alan Omer, he held some decent top position time, but let his head rest low in his opponent’s guard which is a concerning position against a fighter as crafty on the mat as Knight is.

In 2010, Alers won the Abu Dhabi East Coast Trials as a purple belt.

Knight took his debut fight on short notice against a hard-nosed veteran that very few people were willing to face. He has 9 wins by submission, offering a wide variety of holds to get the job done. ‘The Kid’ showed himself to be quite comfortable fighting off of his back against a crushing top position player like Kawajiri. He likes to utilize the rubber guard to both neutralize his opponent and set up his own submission attempts. Kawajiri scored an early takedown and Knight immediately moved from rubber guard to a tight triangle attack with complimentary elbows. Tatsuya was able to survive, but it was a little touch and go early on. In his last pre-UFC appearance, Knight was routinely getting taken down and taking some damage off his back before catching a triangle choke to end the fight. He isn’t an overly technical striker, winging big punches. He will sit down and trade and Knight’s willingness to fight off his back allows him to push forward aggressively. His offense over defense approach, both on the mat and standing, opens him up to getting hit with some significant strikes.

Knight has picked up 8 opening round finishes, but he also has a trio of submission outside of the first round including scoring a tap with less than 30 seconds remaining in the fight.

The striking defense of Alers is certainly concerning. He has been knocked out twice and even in his fight with Omer, he was rocked during an exchange. If Knight can drag him into a brawl, he could certainly land something noteworthy. He could also force Alers into shooting for a takedown to counter the striking attack. Knight’s aggressive guard game is impressive and put Kawajiri in some tough spots. Alers is a very capable grappler, but his focus on offense from top position will leave him open to getting caught. Additionally, Jim seems to slow down as the fight progresses and Knight’s pace and consistent attack will certainly test his cardio. If Alers gets sloppy when shooting, Knight will capitalize. Alers tends to move straight back when under attack, which will open him up to getting hit or taken down. Whether by hurting Alers on the feet or simply attacking on the mat and wearing him down, Knight will eventually lock up a sub- my prediction is Jason Knight to defeat Jim Alers by submission

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265lbs- Luis Henrique (8-2-0 1NC) vs Dmitry Smolyakov (8-0-0)

The first to enter the cage on Saturday night will be Heavyweights Luis ‘KLB’ Henrique and UFC newcomer Dmitry Smolyakov. Henrique lost his debut to Francis Ngannou by crushing knockout to halt his 6-fight winning streak. Smolyakov has yet to taste defeat as a pro, picking up his last 2 career wins within just 7 days of each other.

Both men are 6’2″ and will have an identical 74″ reach. Henrique is 11 years younger, but will give up about 10 pounds to his foe. The Brazilian might come in lighter than his previous fight as he has traditionally fought at 205 pounds.

Smolyakov has been on an impressive run prior to joining the biggest MMA organization in the world. He has fought 8-times and finished all 8 of those opponents inside the opening round. His wins have been split evenly between submissions and knockouts. Not only has Dmitry been putting the opposition away in the first round, he has stopped 4 opponents before the 60-second mark. He comes from both a Freestyle and Grecco-Roman wrestling background. When looking for takedowns he will shoot a power double from distance or overpower his foe with a body lock attempt from the clinch. He is still rounding out his grappling game, but against lower level competition he has been able to finish a couple of top position submissions. When striking he tends to plod forward behind a jab and has serious power in his hands. Once he unloads on his opponent and hurts them, he knows how to finish. His lack of long fights and thick build certainly brings into question his cardio if he is unable to close the deal in his normal fashion.

The Russian bruiser’s level of competition is certainly questionable. He has faced low-level and inexperienced regional talent with his last 4 opponents combining for an 11-9 record- 7 of those wins are attributed to 1 fighter.

Henrique also comes from a wrestling background, has trained in Judo, and is a BJJ Brown belt. His grappling chops helped him pick up the opening round in his debut. Against Ngannou, he scooped up an early kick and put the big Frenchman on his back. Luis was able to hold him there and pass into side control, but the ref bailed out his opponent with an unconventional stand-up.  In his final pre-UFC fight, he overwhelmed his adversary on the mat, setting up a D’arce choke before moving to a Keylock for the finish. He will use strikes to set up both his double leg and clinch entry, where he is content to hold his opponent on the cage and chip away.  If shot on, look for ‘KLB’ to sprawl and latch onto his foe’s head to control the position. Henrique’s head positioning while standing at range gets him hit a lot. Ngannou was really loading up on his strikes and eventually knocked Henrique cold with a brutal uppercut. While the Brazilian isn’t afraid to exchange, his defensive liabilities make it an undesirable option compared to his grappling skills.

Henrique weighed in around 240 pounds for his debut, which is significantly heavier than his normal fighting weight. He noticeably slowed down in the second round and could look to come in a little lighter for this fight to avoid a similar scenario.

Smolyakov has been an absolute berserker, but there are some clear red flags surrounding him. In addition to this fight being his debut, he is taking a sizeable step up in competition and has no experience beyond the opening round. For a fighter that has met limited resistance in his career, the first time he faces adversity inside the cage can be difficult to overcome. If Henrique can get this fight beyond the opening round, the Russian could slow down significantly. Additionally, he has faced smaller sized Heavyweights so even Henrique will seem like a step up physically. Henrique’s chin and porous striking defense will give Dmitry an opportunity to score the knockout, but the Brazilian will look to counter his aggressive striking with clinch fighting and TDAs. Look for ‘KLB’ to shoot early on Smolyakov and stifle his striking along the cage and on the floor, taking control of the fight once the Russian starts to slow down- my prediction is Luis Henrique to defeat Dmitry Smolyakov by submission.

135lbs-#13 Lauren Murphy (9-2-0) vs Katlyn Chookagian (7-0-0)

In the UFN 91 preliminary headliner, former Invicta FC champ ‘Lucky’ Lauren Murphy meets UFC newcomer Katlyn Chookagian in the Women’s Bantamweight division. Murphy picked up her first UFC victory, stopping Kelly Faszholz with just 5-seconds left in the fight, she dropped back to back bouts to start her UFC career. Chookagian is already 2-0 in 2016, with a 5-round decision win in January and a 45-second KO in March- she also scored a KO victory at WSOF 13 in just her 2nd pro fight.

Chookagian is an inch taller than Murphy and 5-years younger, but she has spent her entire career competing at 125-pounds.

Murphy is coming off one of the bloodier WMMA bouts that has taken place inside the Octagon. After a slow start, she battered her opponent with a strong right hand, short strikes in the clinch, and eventually finished her on the floor. Lauren does an excellent job of piling up damage and maintains constant pressure on her foe. She has picked up 7 wins by TKO. Against Liz Carmouche, she found success both in the clinch and on the floor, a testament to her strength. Chookagian is a capable striker with a well-timed stepping knee and sneaky counter left hook. She uses a lot of lateral movement, but isn’t know for her vertical output. While she doesn’t appear to have a strong wrestling game, she is an opportunistic grappler and has decent GNP. Katlyn will pull guard and has shown an affinity for submission over position. Chookagian does have a tendency to get jammed up in the clinch, with previous opponents finding success backing her to the cage and holding her there. She has also had issues with being a bit of a slow starter. Murphy landed a UFC personal best 95-significant strikes in her last fight, she was getting cracked with some decent shots early- but she never stops moving forward. Her size and strength advantage over a naturally smaller foe should pay dividends when she clinches and looks for takedowns. Murphy needs to find her striking range early, but as the better wrestler she won’t have to worry about getting put on her back. Look for ‘Lucky’ Lauren to put a lot of pressure on her foe, control her in the clinch, and do damage from top position- my prediction is Lauren Murphy to defeat Katlyn Chookagian by decision.

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185lbs-Sam Alvey (25-8-0 1NC) vs Eric Spicely (8-0-0)

In the Middleweight division, ‘Smile’n’ Sam Alvey returns to action against the debuting Eric ‘Dream Catcher’ Spicely. Alvey has lost back to back fights to Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou- evening his UFC record at 3-3. Spicely enters the UFC with an undefeated record, but came up short on the most recent season of TUF- falling in the semis.

At 6’2″, Alvey is 1″ taller than Spicely and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Sam will also have a marked edge in overall experience with 35 pro bouts to just 8 for his adversary and he is fighting less than a month removed from his loss to Theodorou. Spicely fought in TUF Light Heavyweight bracket as a member of Team Claudia.

This fight represents a pair of polar opposite specialists. Alvey has massive power in his hands, stopping 17 opponents by knockout. Look for Sam to use his opponent’s aggression against them; pumping out the right jab before firing his piston-like straight right. While Alvey is more than willing to sit back and let the action come to him, Spicely is far more focussed on forward pressure. A BJJ Brown belt, Spicely has gone the distance just twice in his career. The UFC newcomer is an aggressive grappling-based fighter, looking to shoot on a single or clinch from the onset of the fight. On the mat, he will chain submissions together until something sticks. He is dangerous from both top and bottom, but will relinquish position in pursuit of the finish. Alvey has excellent counter wrestling, training out of Team Quest and has been taken down just twice in the UFC. By forcing Eric to stand with him, it takes Spicely out of his comfort zone and into the line of fire. If Spicely makes a mistake when attacking and ends up on bottom, Alvey has serious top position stopping power. Either on the feet or from top position, Alvey will eventually connect- my prediction is Same Alvey to defeat Eric Spicely by knockout.

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115lbs-Cortney Casey (4-3-0) vs Cristina Stanciu (5-1-0)

In the Women’s Strawweight division, ‘Cast Iron’ Cortney Casey makes her third Octagon walk opposing Romania’s Cristina ‘Barbie’ Stanciu. Stanciu dropped her debut to Maryna Moroz by decision, the first loss of her career. Casey debuted against Joanne Calderwood on short-notice and then face Seo Hee Ham in her next appearance- she lost both by decision.

Casey is 4 inches taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage. Stanciu is the younger girl by 7 years.

Both girls are aggressive and more than willing to stand and trade. There is a massive question mark surrounding both girls’ 3-round cardio. Casey is now 0-3 in fights that go beyond the 1st frame. She started strong against Ham, but faded and was outworked in rounds 2 and 3. Stanciu had a noticeable drop off after a high-paced opening round against Moroz and she has just gone outside of the first round one-time prior her debut. Casey’s striking looked improved in her last fight; slinging straight punches and hard kicks to the legs and head. Unfortunately, after the opening round most of her offense disappeared and she became much more hittable. Stanciu should have an advantage on the mat, an area that Jo Jo exploited against Casey. Look for Cristina to use her speed advantage to get the better of the exchanges and the jump at the first chance to get the fight to the mat. If the bout does go into rounds 2 and 3, Stanciu should still be the quicker and more technical fighter even as both girls slow. Stanciu hurts Casey on the feet and starts looking for a finish once they hit the floor, my prediction is Cristina Stanciu to defeat Cortney Casey by submission.

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155lbs-Scott Holtzman (8-1-0) vs Cody Pfister (12-5-1)

In the Lightweight division, Scott ‘Hot Sauce’ Holtzman takes on ‘The Pfist’ Cody Pfister. Holtzman is coming off his first career loss, dropping a tough decision to Drew Dober at UFC 195- he is 1-1 in the UFC. Pfister fell via submission to Sage Northcutt in his 3rd UFC outing, he is 1-2 inside the Octagon.

Pfister is an inch taller than Holtzman and will have a 4″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 7 years.

Holtzman, training out of the MMA Lab, will be looking to rebound from his first career defeat which can lead to a step forward in skill. Against Dober, he struggled to fend off the takedown-heavy assault of his opponent. Scott spent a lot of time on his back and working in the clinch, which negated his power striking attack and wore him out. Pfister comes from a wrestling background and will look to implement a similar approach. He shoots a nice low double, can switch to a single, and has a smothering top game. While his striking attack is still a work in progress, he will use his reach to pump a jab out and he sets up his level change with his hands. Pfister smothered Yosdenis Cedeno with 5 takedowns on 7 attempts and had success early putting Northcutt on his back until the ref stood them up. Holtzman will land early with his striking, but ‘The Pfist’ will turn this bout into a dog fight; push the pace, grind on Holtzman in the clinch, and complete his takedowns- my prediction is Cody Pfister to defeat Scott Holtzman by decision.

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135lbs-Rani Yahya (21-8-0 1NC) vs Matthew Lopez (8-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, WEC alumni Rani Yahya welcomes UFC neophyte Matthew Lopez to the Octagon. Yahya took a contentious split-decision win over Masanori Kanehara to build on his grudge-fueled submission win over Johnny Bedford- he has just 1 loss in his last 7 outings. Lopez already has a victory in 2016 to round out a perfect 5-0 record under the RFA banner.

The fighters will have the same 67″ reach, but Lopez will be the slightly taller man by an inch. He is 3 years Rani’s junior. The Brazilian will be returning to action for the first time in almost a year.

The unassuming Yahya is a grappling specialist, winning 17-times by a variety of submission techniques. On the mat, he is a smothering fighter that does an excellent job of neutralizing his opponent by tying up their limbs and advancing his position. Focusing mainly on control, he doesn’t offer a tonne of ground strikes and his vertical output is centered mainly on setting up his level change. Lopez, while far less experienced, is the more well-rounded fighter. He comes from a solid wrestling background and has some pretty good pop on his strikes. He has only gone beyond the opening round once, ending 4 of his 7 wins by submission- most recently picking up a tap due to strikes. Lopez is aggressive in pursuit of the sub, jumping on his opponent’s neck at the first opportunity. Yahya’s cardio isn’t great, devoting a lot of his energy to gaining and holding top position as he isn’t nearly as effective off of his back. Lopez appears way too willing to engage on the mat, which will play directly into the strength of the Brazilian. In his most recent bout, Lopez was put on the grappling defensive before taking advantage of a mistake from his opponent to get the finish. The smothering style of Rani will be a lot to deal with if the fight last to the later rounds considering Matthew is used to being done before the 5-minute mark. Yahya will put the wrestler on his back and set up his sub opportunities when Lopez attempts to work out of a bad spot- my prediction is Rani Yahya to defeat Matthew Lopez by submission.

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185lbs-Devin Clark (6-0-0) vs Alex Nicholson (6-2-0)

To open the Sioux Fall showdown, former Light Heavyweights collide at 185 pounds as Devin ‘Brown Bear’ Clark debuts against promotional sophomore Alex ‘The Spartan’Nicolson. Nicholson dropped his UFC inauguration in violent fashion via jaw-crushing submission to Misha Cirkunov. Another RFA graduate and product of Dana’s ‘Lookin’ for a Fight’, Clark went 4-0 in the promotion which including winning their Light Heavyweight title.

Both men are making their first cut to 185 pounds. Nicholson is the taller man by 4 inches and will have a 4″ reach advantage.

With both fighters making their divisional debuts, it creates a level of uncertainty surrounding their performances and how their bodies’ will adjust. Adding to the intangibles, Clark is debuting and Nicholson is just 1 fight into his UFC run with both men still early in their respective career. Nicholson is the larger man, but Clark appears to be the better athlete. Devin’s striking is a little crisper and his takedowns are decent, but he relies on his strength a little too much. Nicholson is pretty durable and took some big shots from Cirkunov and didn’t go down. If he can drag Clark into a brawl, he could begin to slow down. Clark tends to be very aggressive at times, sprinting instead of pacing himself. Combining that style with an unfamiliar weight cut and promotional debut can lead to drop off in performance after the first few minutes of action. Look for Nicholson to weather the early storm, use his reach to force Clark to work hard to close the distance, and start to take over the fight as Devin slows down- my prediction is Alex Nicholson to defeat Devin Clark by TKO

205lbs- Daniel Cormier (17-1-0) vs Anderson Silva (33-7-0)

After the disastrous Jon Jones announcement, Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier was left without an opponent. While several notable fighters offered to face ‘DC’, former Middleweight King Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva stepped up on 3-days notice to take on ‘DC’ in a non-title fight. Cormier has won back to back fights over Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson, rebounding from his title fight defeat to Jones. Silva is winless over his last 4 fights after having his lone victory in that span wiped out for a failed drug test- he last fought and lost to Michael Bisping in February.

Silva is 3 inches taller than Cormier and will have a 5″ reach advantage. ‘The Spider’ is 4-years older than Cormier.

Silva returns to action following gallbladder surgery that cost him his UFC 198 bout with Uriah Hall. In addition to taking this fight on incredibly short notice, he has also openly stated that he hasn’t train much since his surgery. That statement needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as Anderson had previously been campaigning for a UFC 200 return before the card was officially finalized. Silva is an elite and enigmatic fighter. He possesses lethal Muay Thai skills and an underrated grappling game. His striking attack is based largely on speed, timing, and the ability to force his opponent to hesitate. Anderson likes to open his fights by gauging the distance and cadence of his opponent before engaging. Unfortunately, what made Silva so effective is also playing a role in his recent struggles. As Silva gets older he has lost a step and as a result, an offense and defense that hinges so heavily on timing isn’t quite as effective. Bisping had success outworking Silva and capitalizing on Anderson’s willingness to sit back and counter. Even after Anderson hurt the Brit badly, he lacked the consistent output to capitalize. There is also the issue of his defensive wrestling. Dan Henderson laid the ground work that was followed by Chael Sonnen, and then incorporated into Chris Weidman’s victories over Silva. While Anderson can do damage in the clinch and attack off his back, wrestlers have a clear avenue for success.

Over his last 10-rounds of competition, Silva has landed 183 significant strikes- but he has also given up a career-worst 77 and 108 strikes against Nick Diaz and Bisping respectively.

Cormier will have to overcome the length advantages presented by his new opponent, but they are not nearly as significant as what his previous foe presented. Cormier’s wrestling and short range fighting have been at the forefront of his offensive attack. Coming from an elite wrestling background, ‘DC’ has taken down each of his last 4 opponents, picking up 8 takedown in that span. While the significance of his completion against Jones was minimal, he wore out ‘Rumble’ Johnson on the mat and absolutely manhandled former Middleweight Dan Henderson prior to submitting both. Cormier uses his lower stature to get below his opponent’s base and elevate them before driving them to the mat. Once on top, he is hard to shake off. In close range, Cormier will use the collar tie to control his opponent and land short punches. He cracked Gustafsson on multiple occasions with successive uppercuts in close. ‘DC’ will also change levels in the clinch after striking to look for a takedown. When on the outside, Cormier isn’t nearly as effective. As a Heavyweight, he utilized a speed advantage to cover distance and land strikes. Both Gustafsson and Jones were able to limit his success when he wasn’t attacking at phone-booth range by forcing him to pursue as they moved away.

Cormier landed a career best 140 strikes in his defense against Gustafsson. Jones has been the only fighter to get the better of Daniel on the feet, landing 34 more strikes than the former Olympian.

For Anderson, the circumstances surrounding this fight are anything but ideal. On the other side of the cage, Cormier has his own issues to deal with. The champ has been faced with an up and down rollercoaster of emotions. After months of preparation for a fight that would define his career, Cormier had that taken away from him and he may never get that opportunity again. If ‘DC’ never gets the chance to overcome Jones, his career will forever carry a massive ‘what if’. By beating Johnson, Gus, and even Anderson, it shows that he is elite- but the Jones loss will hang over him. In the cage, Silva’s counter striking is his key to success. He has to time and hit Cormier as he closes the distance- use Cormier’s momentum against him. When Cormier continues to move forward, Anderson needs to circle away and reset. For Cormier, he needs to lockdown Silva in the clinch, but not linger too long in the position to allow Silva to attack. Once on the inside, ‘DC’ has to change levels quickly and put Anderson on his back. Cormier is too proud a man to not come to fight, but will his head be in the game? Look for Anderson to use his speed and keep Cormier on the outside with kicks and long strikes. His ability to counter will make Daniel pay as he attempts to get on the inside. Once in the clinch, Silva will land knees and elbows and back Cormier off. While ‘DC’ has shown a stout chin in prior fights, Silva’s accuracy and timing will be the difference, Anderson Silva to defeat Daniel Cormier by TKO.

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 cat vs pena

135lbs- #3 CAT ZINGANO (9-1-0) vs #5 JULIANNA PENA (8-2-0)

In the headlining fight of the undercard the next contender for the Women’s Bantamweight title could be crowned as former challenger Cat ‘Alpha’ Zingano meets ‘The Venezuelan Vixen’ Julianna Pena. Zingano’s last fight was a 14-second loss to Ronda Rousey at UFC 184 for the title. Pena has won 3 consecutive bouts including her TUF 18 tournament finals win- she is coming off a victory over Jessica Eye.

Both girls have endured significant periods of inactivity. Pena missed all of 2014 before returning for a pair of fights last year. Cat hasn’t fought in 17-months since the Rousey loss and had an 18-month layoff earlier in her UFC career. Both girls are 5’6″, while Pena will have a slight 1″ reach advantage and is 7 years younger.

Pena has been dominant in her rise up the ranks. She picked up a pair of opening round TKO stoppages in her first 2 UFC wins, significantly shutting down her opponents with her aggressive forward pressure and top game. In a pair of one-side fights, Pena landed a combined 70 significant strikes to just 4. Her primary objective is to bully her opponent in the clinch, put them on the mat, and pound away from top position. Against Eye, Pena came out aggressively looking to close the distance behind her punches and clinch up. Before she could get on the inside she ate some big shots. Pena’s striking is still a work in progress. She will swing wild punches while leaving her head exposed and guard open. Once she got on the inside against Eye, she struggled to control the position, but was eventually able to the get the fight to the mat. Julianna will use a body lock or underhooks to control her opponent and then work a trip to complete the takedown. Pena’s constant pursuit of closing the distance did cost her as well, with Eye capitalizing on a mistake to control the majority of round 2 from top position.

Pena needed 3 wins to get to the TUF finals, including submissions of Shayna Baszler and Sarah Moras- who defeated Pena in 2012.

Resiliency has been the key to the run of Zigano and it will be put to the test again. ‘Alpha’ has been a bit of a slow starter in her UFC run. Both Miesha Tate and Amanda Nunes were getting the better of the early action against Cat and had her in some tough spots. In both scenarios, Zingano was able to rally and finish both girls. Unfortunately, her title fight played out in a manner that prevented her from coming back from her early deficit. Cat comes from a wrestling background and is a BJJ Purple belt. Despite her ground fighting pedigree, she gave up 4 takedowns over her 2 wins and spent a prolonged amount of time on her back. She has an active gaurd, but she will forgo defense and eat big shots while looking for subs or sweeps. From top position, she can do a lot of damage with short punches and elbows and will jump on a sub attempt if given the chance. Equally as devastating from the clinch; Cat smashed Tate with brutal knees leading to the finish. Her striking is decent, but similar to her grappling, her defense suffers in the wake of her constant pursuit of the attack.

Zingano has stopped 8 of her 9 wins, but only 2 in the opening round compared to the remaining 6 transpiring after the midway mark of round 2.

Zingano is facing a couple of tough scenarios prior to stepping into the cage. The layoff is significant by itself, but she is also coming back after a title fight loss which can be an incredibly difficult scenario to overcome. That being said, the current champion and UFC 200 title challenger are both fighters she has defeated which can serve as a motivator to get back into contention. She is also coming off the first loss of her career, which can also push a fighter to improve. Pena is still a work in progress and it showed against Eye. While she got her hand raised, she wasn’t nearly as dominant as she had been against lower level opposition. Pena struggled to land takedowns, gave up position, and left a lot of openings on the feet. While Zigano has proven susceptible to being put on her back, she has the grappling chops to exploit the lapses that Pena presents. Additionally, look for Cat to find a lot of success in the clinch. Pena had trouble controlling Eye on the wall and if Zingano can open up with short range strikes and knees she will do a lot of damage. Cat will need to weather the early storm, but she will pounce on the first mistake made by Julianna and take control of the fight- my prediction is Cat Zingano to defeat Julianna Pena by TKO.

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hendricks vs gastelum

170lbs- #6 JOHNY HENDRICKS (17-4-0 vs #12 KELVIN GASTELUM (12-2-0)

In a marquee Welterweight showdown, former Welterweight champion Johny ‘Big Rigg’ Hendricks takes on TUF 17 tournament winner Kelvin Gastelum. Hendricks is coming off a disappointing defeat against top-ranked Stephen Thompson, he has alternated wins and losses over his last 6 fights. Gastelum dropped a closely contested bout against Neil Magny, he has now lost 2 of his last 3- both by split decision.

Both men are 5’9″, but Gastelum will have a slight 2″ reach advantage and is 8 years younger.

Kelvin is taking his second fight back at Welterweight after a temporary exile to the 185-pound division for weight cutting issues. After an improbable run to the TUF tournament title, Gastelum has compiled a 6-2 Octagon record. Overall, he has finished 8 opponents split evenly between knockouts and submissions. At distance, he throws a decent body kick and will also attack with hard inside leg kicks. He will paw with his right hand and fire a straight left or hook. Kelvin was getting hit with some big shots against Magny mainly because he was moving straight back when under attack. Gastelum does his best work in close, pushing forward behind his punches and continuing to attack once on the inside. Magny did find success in close attacking and then dropping for a single leg. Once on the mat, Gastelum lost the majority of the scrambles and was getting badly out positioned. He was taken down 6 times and has been put on his back 11 times overall.

Kelvin’s gas tank can be both an asset and a liability. Gastelum can push a pace that is difficult to match, but he has also had issues with his endurance when pushed or if impacted by a poor weight cut.

Hendricks’s ascension to the championship was swift, but he could be a loss away from being a non-factor in the title scene. ‘Big Rigg’ has significant power, recording 8 wins by knockout, but his last came at UFC 154 back in 2012. Despite his lack of recent knockouts, Johnny has developed a much more technical striking attack. He will throw slick multi-punch combinations in the pocket and batter his opponent with chopping leg kicks. In his 2 fight series with Robbie Lawler, he landed a combined 269 strikes and connected on 85 significant blows against GSP. Against Thompson, Hendricks seemed befuddled with the distance and varied striking attack. Johny’s other big weapon is his wrestling. An elite NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Hendricks has averaged 4.36 takedowns at a 47% completion rate. Prior to the Thompson defeat, he had completed 30 takedowns over 5-fights. Once Hendricks is able to change levels and get underneath his opponent’s base his TDAs are very difficult to stop. On top, he is a grinder and will pound away with GNP, but he has also had issues with inactivity once he begins to tire. He gets a lot of his takedowns along the cage, elevating his opponent for a big slam.

Johny’s weight cutting issues and questionable cardio are also well documented and most likely cost him his title against Lawler.

These two fighters share a lot of similarities, but Hendricks has fought the superior competition and comes from the better combat background. If Kelvin can return to form with his cardio and pressure Johny from the onset of the fight, he could wear him down and distance himself in the second half of the fight. For Hendricks, most of his glaring cardio issues have come in 5-round fights. Gastelum has struggled defensively against fighters looking to take him down. Magny took him down multiple times and Kelvin did not look comfortable off of his back. If Hendricks is able to establish his wrestling, he will be able to grind out the majority of the time in top position. On the feet, Gastelum doesn’t set up his strikes enough and fights at a range where he can be hit with regularity. Hendricks has too much power and pairs his techniques together too well for Kelvin to sit and trade with him. Look for Johny to shoot early and force Gastelum to focus on defending the shot, this will create openings for Hendricks’s to attack on the feet- my prediction is Johnny Hendricks to defeat Kelvin Gastelum by knockout.

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assuncao vs dillashaw

135lbs- #1 TJ DILLASHAW (12-3-0) vs #3 RAPHAEL ASSUNCAO (23-4-0)

Former Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao will battle it out in a rematch from their 2013 bout in which the Brazilian took a narrow split decision. TJ is coming off his title fight loss against Dominick Cruz, ending his 4-fight winning streak. Assuncao last defeated Bryan Caraway and has won 7 consecutive bouts to remain undefeated as a Bantamweight.

TJ is an inch taller and will have a 1″ reach advantage. The Brazilian is 4-years younger and has not competed in 21-months.

Assuncao has been on an impressive run since cutting to 135 pounds, but his lack of recent activity has made him a non-factor in the title picture. Not surprisingly, the grappling game of Raphael has played a big role in his success. A BJJ black belt, with 10 wins by sub- over his last 4 fights he has landed 8 takedowns and scored 11 completions since cutting to Bantamweight. That said, his takedown stats aren’t overwhelming and he tends to generate a lot of his top position time from scrambles. In the Dillashaw fight, he was shutout attempting to get the fight to the ground going 0 for 6 while TJ landed a pair of his shots. Dillashaw also took Assuncao’s back and came close on a couple of RNC attempts. On the feet, the Brazilian is a reactive striker looking to sit back and counter. He has some pop in his hands and throws with surprising volume. He has landed 175 strikes over his last 2 appearances. After a bit of a slow start, he bloodied Dillashaw’s nose and found his best success when he sat down on his punches and traded in the pocket.

Assuncao has landed more strikes than his adversary in 9 straight fights dating back to his final WEC appearance.

Despite the loss, Dillashaw really grew after the Assuncao fight. He rapidly developed as a striker, integrating improved footwork and fluid movement into his attack. He attacks from a variety of angles and will switch stances. Tossing out a lead uppercut, he builds his offense around a stiff right jab and hook. Dillashaw will go high with a well-disguised head kick and will also chop away at his opponent’s legs. TJ has power, stopping 6 fights by knockout, but it is his volume that makes him most effective. He simply wore out Renan Barao in their two meetings and has eclipsed the 100 significant strikes plateau in 5 straight bouts. Against Cruz, he landed 109 significant strikes. Cruz has not given up that much offense in any 2 fights combined over his UFC/WEC career. Despite his movement, Dillashaw does have a tendency to attack in linear patterns- stopping his motion to come forward. Assuncao had his most success on the feet when he forced TJ to exchange at close range, but TJ has drastically overhauled his style. Dillashaw is also a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and has sound offensive and defensive wrestling to compliment his striking attack.

Dillashaw’s growth as a striker has resulted in a drop off in takedowns, landing just 3 over his last 4 fights compared to 12 over the 6 bouts prior. His defense is still there, defending 86% of his opponents’ attempts.

A lot has transpired since these two fighters met in a very closely contested decision. While Assuncao has struggled to remain active, TJ has improved significantly and done it against better competition. TJ slowed down in rounds 2 and 3, which really opened the door for Assuncao to do damage with his strikes. Raphael’s willingness to sit back and try to counter his opponent will not bode well against the movement of Dillashaw. In doing this, he relinquishes the center of the cage, backs up, and lets his foe dictate the pace.While he will find success landing some offense, he lacks the power to overcome the constant forward pressure and volume that Dillashaw will throw at him. The lack of success that Assuncao had with his takedowns last time out will continue here. The improved movement of Dillashaw will make it hard for Assuncao to close the distance. While TJ could suffer from the effects of a post-title fight letdown, the layoff for the Brazilian won’t do him any favours either. Dillashaw will shuck off early TDAs and land with power, picking up the pace as the fight progress and Assuncao slows down- my prediction is TJ Dillashaw to defeat Raphael Assuncao by TKO.


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northcutt vs Marin

155lbs- SAGE NORTHCUTT (7-1-0) vs ENRIQUE MARIN (9-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, ‘Super’ Sage Northcutt looks to rebound when he takes on TUF Latin America 2 Finalist Enrique ‘Wasabi’ Marin. Northcutt picked up back to back wins to start his UFC career, but was quickly dethroned from the ranks of the undefeated by Bryan Barberena last January. Marin’s 6-fight winning streak was ended in the TUF tournament finals via split decision against Erick Montano at UFN 78.

Northcutt is 10-years younger than Marin and will stand 2 inches taller, but Marin will have a 3″ reach advantage. Marin fought in the Welterweight bracket, but is moving down to 155-pounds for this fight.

‘Super’ Sage stormed onto the UFC scene after getting noticed by Dana White on his latest Fight show. All 7 of his pro wins have come inside the distance, 4 by knockout and 3 by submission. Northcutt has finished 4 opponents in the opening round, 3 inside the first 60 seconds. In his loss to Barberena, he moved up a weight class to fight at 170 pounds after ‘Bam Bam’ stepped in as a late notice replacement. Sage has various combat accreditations, including a Black Belt in Taekwondo and BJJ purple belt. He is very quick, using good footwork and distance management. Look for him to utilize a variety of kicking techniques and rapid straight punching combos. He landed a solid right hand early that stumbled Barberena and tagged him several times. But every time Sage closed the gap to follow-up,  Bryan would jam him up in the clinch. His takedown game is decent, setting up his level change with his strikes. From top position his ground and pound is vicious, hammering away with big elbows. Conversely, his defensive grappling has been a glaring vulnerability. Cody Pfister took him down early and Sage had to rely on a ref stand-up to get back to his feet. While Barberena grabbed top position in the second round, eventually picking up the submission win.

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding Sage’s training and preparation. He has worked with various camps and competitors, but there are constant reports about the negative influence of his father on his camp.

Fighting out of Spain, Marin has been a self-built man, training himself when at home. Since his time on the Ultimate Fighter, he has joined King’s MMA to work alongside the growing stable of elite fighters in their camp. All 5 of Marin’s career finishes have come by submission along with his TUF semi-final win, but he has also been submitted twice. ‘Wasabi’ is 2-1 on the scorecards after dropping his debut. He struggled to match the output of his opponent, especially in the second half where he maintained good pressure but didn’t let his hands go. Training out King’s MMA, look for a noticeable improvement in his combination striking for this fight. He will throw a solid straight right, left hook combo and a sneaky uppercut, augmenting his hands with some decent low kicks. As his record suggests, he is a serviceable grappler, but his wrestling has been a defensive concern. Montano was able to pick up a pair of key takedowns to help him score crucial points. Prior to his debut, Enrique had only gone to the 3rd round twice in his career and his output noticeably dropped off in the second half of the fight.

Prior to entering the TUF House, Marin spent his career competing in Europe against lower level and relatively inexperienced regional competition with his last 4 foes holding a combined record of 12-14.

A lot of the shine rubbed off of Northcutt based on his last performance. He looked good early, started to fade, and then tapped quickly to a submission that was still in its infancy. Prior to the loss, Pfister helped to show signs of a defensive grappling weakness in Sage’s game. While Marin is a capable ground fighter, he hasn’t shown the wrestling needed to put Northcutt on his back. Sage has a pretty stout top game and can do a lot of damage from the position, so pulling guard would be a less than desirable option for the Spaniard. On the feet, Northcutt offers a much more diversified arsenal and has the marked power advantage. He should also be able to dictate the range as the faster and more fluid striker. Marin represents a step back in quality of competition for Sage, who should come out motivated to get back in the win column after a disappointing loss. Northcutt will dominate the exchanges on the feet and force Marin to make desperate attempts to get the fight to the mat where Northcutt will gain a superior position, my prediction is Sage Northcutt to defeat Enrique Marin by TKO.

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Sanchez vs Lauzon

155lbs- DIEGO SANCHEZ (28-8-0) vs JOE LAUZON (24-12-0)

Headlining the Fight Pass prelims, Diego ‘The Nightmare’ Sanchez battles Massachusetts-native Joe ‘J-Lau’ Lauzon in the Lightweight division. Sanchez picked up a much-needed win over Jim Miller at UFC 196, but he has just 3 wins over his last 7 fights. Lauzon is coming off a tough loss to Evan Dunham, he had won 3 of his last 4 bouts prior to the setback.

Both fighters are 5’10”, but Sanchez will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Lauzon is the younger man by 3 years.

The owner of 12 UFC Fight bonuses, Lauzon is known for his exciting style. A BJJ Brown belt, ‘J-Lau’ has a submission heavy win total- recording 18 of his 25 wins by tap out. He has a wide variety of fight ending techniques on his resume, but his last submission victory came back in 2012 over Jamie Varner. Lauzon’s wrestling numbers are respectable with 2.34 takedowns per fight at a 41% completion rate. Once on the ground, Joe is very active in pursuit of the submission and will attack off his back as well. His ability to get the fight to the mat is essential to his success. Lauzon is 0-6 in last 6 bouts when he is unable to complete a takedown- including his decision loss to Dunham. On the feet, Joe is capable of holding his own, but he has also struggled tremendously with technically sound strikers that can carry a consistent pace. Lauzon is 2-5 when his opponent eclipses the 50 significant strikes horizon and in those 2 victories he required 5 takedowns to counter-balance the vertical exchanges.

Joe has been finished 7-times in his career and is 1-4 on the scorecards which could be partially attributed to -2.47 striking exchange rate.

The TUF 1 Middleweight tournament winner and owner of 7 bonus cheques, Sanchez has bounced around between multiple weight classes, but appears best suited for 155 pounds. Diego is an aggressive fighter with a strong gas tank and impressive durability. He likes to utilize constant pressure in an attempt to break his adversary over 3-rounds. Diego will lead with an uppercut and change levels to target the body. Most notably in the Guida and Melendez bouts, he has shown he is more than willing to step into the pocket and exchange violent flurries. Where he has struggled has been against fighters that maintained a disciplined front to counter his forward push. Sanchez can be quite predictable when attacking in straight lines. His ground game is solid and he found a lot of success taking Jim Miller down and controlling top position. With a solid double leg, Diego will drive through his opponent’s hips and has picked up 7 takedowns over his last 5 wins. Once he was able to posture up against Miller, he landed some decent ground and pound.

Sanchez has been out-landed in 8 consecutive appearances, but in his 4 victories the average differential has been -17 significant strikes compared to a -34 difference in his 4 defeats. He is able to overcome the deficit in his wins with his aggression.

Lauzon’s finishing abilities are impressive, but is inability to carry his pace from bell to bell without a drop off in performance has been his undoing. Sanchez has been finished just once in his career and it was due to a cut- he is not easy to put away. If Joe can work his way into a position to lock up a sub, he can finish anyone- but getting there against Deigo will be tough. Additionally, Sanchez will get stronger as the fight progresses and the impact of his pace will take a lot out of Joe. Sanchez has decent counter wrestling and Lauzon will struggle to land his all-important takedowns. Sanchez’s size and strength in top position both shut down the grappling of Miller and appeared to wear Jim down. If Joe can’t score an early finish and his takedowns aren’t there, he won’t be able to put up the needed striking totals to overcome Sanchez on the feet. As Diego picks up the pace, Joe will slow down and find it harder to fend off the forward pressure and takedowns of ‘The Nightmare’- my prediction is Diego Sanchez to defeat Joe Lauzon by decision.

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Mousasi vs Santos

185lbs- #8 GEGARD MOUSASI (38-6-2) vs #15 THIAGO SANTOS (13-3-0)

The second fight on the undercard features former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi squaring off with Brazil’s Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos in the Middleweight division. Mousasi is coming off of a decision victory over Thales Leites and has lost just once over his last 4 outings. Santos has surged into the rankings, winning 4 consecutive fights including a knockout of Nate Marquardt and an upset decision over Elias Theodorou.

Santos is replacing the injured Derek Brunson with a couple of weeks to prep for the bout. Mousasi is 2 inches taller, but they share an identical 76″ reach. The Strikeforce alumni is 1 year younger.

Santos has been on an absolute tear of late, winning a trio of fights by knockout to push his career total to 8. His most dangerous offense comes in the form of kicks; taking out Steve Bosse with a vicious head kick and stopping his first 2 UFC wins with kicks to the body. He does an excellent job of setting up his leg techniques by attacking up and down the body and forcing his opponent to defend all areas. His left leg produces the majority of his stopping power and he will switch stance to attack from the left side, which can telegraph his offense. In his win over Theodorou, ‘Marreta’ successfully defended the Canadian’s TDAs and busted him up with knees and elbows from the clinch. Thiago has averaged 3.76 SLpM compared to just 2.15 SApM. Santos effectively cut off the cage and stopped Marquardt with his hands, landing several big lefts- but his boxing is a secondary aspect of his offensive attack. His punching technique isn’t nearly as crisp as his kicks and when under attack he will lift his chin and open his guard.

Santos is a BJJ purple belt, but was submitted in his UFC debut. He has defended 85% of his foes’ TDAs, giving up just 2 takedowns over 7-fights.

Drawing on a wealth of experience, 46 career fights, Mousasi has finished 19 opponents by knockout and 12 more by submission. His 2015 loss to Uriah Hall was shocking to say the least, with Gegard dominating the opening round on the mat before suffering the first knockout loss of his career in the second round. A BJJ Black belt, Mousasi has shown himself capable of using his ground skills to win fights. He took decisions wins over both Costa Philippou and Ovince St. Preux on the strength of 4 takedowns and prolonged top control. Known more for his striking, Mousasi can be equally devastating as frustrating. He has finishing power, but will also work a distance management approach that nullifies his opponent’s offense and averages just 1.18 SApM. Leading with a long left jab, Mousasi will routinely fire it out to maintain distance and then come with a power right hook. He has been too complacent at times and would benefit from an increase in pace and throwing more combinations.

Mousasi is coming off a career-best 81 significant strikes landed and over his last 2 victories he has out-landed his opponents by a count of 137 to 26.

While this fight could very well be decided on the feet, Mousasi’s recent fight history suggests otherwise. Against a pair of striking oriented fighters in Hall and Philippou, Gegard came out looking for takedowns from the onset. He has good top pressure, solid submission defense, and knows how to finish on the floor. By taking Santos down, he will negate the biggest weapon in the Brazilian’s arsenal.  Santos’s TDD has been decent, but Mousasi’s grappling will put it to the test. On the feet, Thiago tends to be a bit of a slow starter. He was hesitant to engage Hall and let Elias put a lot of strikes together early. Against the power threat and stout defensive front of Mousasi, Santos can’t afford to get behind early. Thiago’s kicking offense is dangerous, but short of a knockout, he won’t be able to offer enough offense to keep up. Look for Mousasi to keep Thiago on the outside with his jab, counter strike when he attempts to move forward, and score some key takedowns and top control time- my prediction is Gegard Mousasi to defeat Thiago Santos by decision.

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Miller vs Gomi
155lbs- JIM MILLER (25-8-0 1NC) vs TAKANORI GOMI (35-11-0 1NC)

To raise the curtain on the monumental UFC 200 pay-per-view event, long-time Lightweight contender Jim Miller takes on Japanese star ‘The Fireball Kid’ Takanori Gomi. Gomi is coming off back to back losses to Joe Lauzon and Myles Jury- his last win came at UFC 172. Miller has also struggled recently, with his only victory in his last 5-bouts coming over Danny Castillo- he has lost 2 in a row.

Miller is an inch taller and will have a 1″ reach advantage over Gomi. The New Jersey native is the younger man by 5 years. Gomi last competed a year ago, on the same card as Miller- Jim has fought twice since Takanori last entered the cage.

One of 3 fighters on the card to have competed at UFC 100, Miller is closing in on the end of his career. He has fought top level competition throughout his UFC run, but has struggled in recent outings. Against Diego Sanchez, Miller couldn’t match the strength of Sanchez on the mat and was unable to keep up with his cardio late in the fight. At his best, Miller is a crafty submission fighter, recording 13 wins by submission- 6 in the UFC. An opportunistic grappler, Miller isn’t afraid to dive on a limb or neck in pursuit of a finish. This can result in a negative gain and positional loss if he is unable to lock up the sub. He has a decent striking game, highlighted by well-placed low kicks- primarily targeting the inside leg to compromise his adversary’s balance. Miller is a capable counter striker as well and found success tagging  Diego with quick counters as he came forward.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Miller has either won or tied the takedown battle in each of his last 7 wins, but has given up 11 takedowns over his last 4 losses and defeat turned NC versus Pat Healy.

The vaunted power of Gomi has resulted in 13-career knockout wins, but just 2 during his UFC tenure. Conversely, he is coming off back to back TKO defeats- the first of his career. Gomi is an unorthodox striker, pawing with his jab and loading up his power right hand. He will also attack the body with a hard left hook to liver. Gomi is a decent counter striker as well and can punch while moving backward. He doesn’t utilize a tonne of kicks in his offense.  The JMMA star commits everything on his punches which creates power, but he loses some accuracy and can put himself off balance. He has had trouble with more technical strikers and his cardio will begin to falter as the fight advances. Wrestling hasn’t played a big role in Gomi’s offense. He has defended 65% of his opponents’ TDAs- Gomi has given up at least 1 takedown in 6 of his last 8 fights.

Gomi has been submitted 6-times in his career, 3 times in the UFC, and both his TKO losses came on the mat.

Both fighters are veterans and at this point in their careers they are set in their ways. Gomi will be looking to land with power and score the knockout. While Miller is durable, but he has recently been knocked out for the first time in his career. Gomi’s unorthodox style and big wind up will create openings for Miller to land counter strikes. Jim’s leg kicks should also help to keep Gomi from closing the distance with regularity. When Takanori loads up and throws his big right hand, Miller will also have the opportunity to change levels for a takedown. Jim will have a sizeable advantage on the mat, but will need to avoid giving up position. If the fight does reach the second half, look for Miller to be the better-conditioned fighter and find more success both on the feet and the mat. Miller will eventually get the fight to the mat and exploit the most significant weakness of his opponent- my prediction is Jim Miller to defeat Takanori Gomi by submission.

170lbs- Mike Pyle (27-11-1) vs Alberto Mina (12-0-0)

In the headlining fight of the UFN 90 prelims, long-time UFC veteran Mike ‘Quicksand’ Pyle battles Alberto ‘Solider of God’ Mina in the Welterweight division. Pyle is coming off a stoppage victory over Sean Spencer, ending a 2-fight losing skid. Mina remained undefeated with a controversial victory over Yoshihiro Akiyama improving to 2-0 in the UFC.

At 77 inches, Mina will have an 3″ reach advantage over Pyle despite standing an identical 6′ tall. Mina is 7 years younger.

A BJJ Black belt, Mina has relied heavily on his grappling game for his success. Submissions have accounted for 6 of his wins, including a trio by armbar. He has also shown decent power in his hands knocking out 5 opponents including a 1st round TKO victory in his promotional debut. The Brazilian has gone outside of the opening round just 3-times.

Mina has landed just 2 of his 17 TDAs over his 2 UFC bouts.

Pyle, a 16-fight UFC veteran, earned his 7th career win via TKO when he finished Spencer. Of his last 6 wins, 5 have come by knockout. Pyle is capable of exchanging at distance, but does his best work at close range in the clinch. Look for him to land short punches, elbows, and knees with his opponent backed against the cage or change levels for a takedown.

Over his last 2 victories, Pyle compiled 131 total strikes including a UFC-personal best 75 against Spencer.

Mina has an impressive finishing rate, but his lack of experience in longer fights is evident in his poor cardio. He was slowing down late in the opening round of his debut before getting the knockout and he was clearly tired against Akiyama. His poor cardio also impacts his technique, as he begins to slow the quality of both his striking and grappling skills take a significant hit. Pyle has been finished 9-times, 5 by knockout. That being said, the majority of his losses have come against top-level competition. Pyle will need to endure the early onslaught and capitalize on Mina as he begins to slow down. Pyle has the skills to prevent Mina from dragging him to the mat and he will get the better of the exchanges while standing. ‘Quicksand’ will find success at distance against his less refined opponent, before overwhelming Mina with his hard-hitting clinch my prediction is Mike Pyle to defeat Alberto Mina by TKO.

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155lbs- John Makdessi (12-5-0) vs Mehdi Baghdad (11-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, Canadian John ‘The Bull’ Makdessi returns to action against France’s Mehdi ‘The Sultan’ Baghdad. Makdessi has just a single win over his last 4 fights, most recently falling to Yancy Medeiros by split-decision. Baghdad debuted on short notice against Chris Wade and lost via opening round submission- ending his 7-fight winning streak.

Mehdi is 5 inches taller and will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage.

Makdessi is a striker, holding black belts in both Karate and Taekwondo. He has recorded 9 wins by knockout, stopping 3 in the UFC. The Canadian implements a largely kicking based attack, utilizing a lot of spinning and front leg kicking techniques. He will also fire out a spearing left jab and hard left hook. John’s offense is almost entirely devoid of a grappling component- completing zero takedowns inside the Octagon.

‘The Bull’ has out-landed his opponent in 7 straight fights, including a pair of controversial decisions losses where he won the striking battle by a combined 175-120 total.

Coming from a Muay Thai background, Baghdad has a 100% finishing rate- knocking out his opponent in 8 of his 11 wins. Mehdi mixes up his strikes well and will sit down on his strikes allowing him to generate decent power as a result. Conversely, he tends to be a little too stationary when engaging and lacks consistency in his offensive output.

Baghdad defeated Artem Lobov via decision in his opening TUF 22 bout, before bowing out to Julian Erosa in the next round.

This fight will be primarily contested on the feet, but Baghdad has shown a recent inclination to his submission game with a trio of tap outs in his last 6 wins. Makdessi should be the more active striker and will consistently find a home for his power strikes against a foe willing to sit in the pocket and trade. Mehdi tends to throw wide strikes and the more straight forward offense of the Canadain will serve as a nice counter. Despite the reach advantage of Baghdad, look for him to routinely get tagged as he comes forward. Makdessi has had issues distancing himself in close fights, but look for his volume and power to be the difference makers here- my prediction is John Makdessi to defeat Mehdi Bagdad by decision.

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135lbs- Anthony Birchak (12-3-0) vs Dileno Lopes (19-2-0)

Coming off his first career loss by knockout Anthony Birchak squares off with Brazilian Dileno Lopes in the Bantamweight division. Birchak was KOed by Thomas Almeida, dropping his UFC record to a precarious 1-2- with his lone victory coming via knockout over Joe Soto. Lopes is also coming off a loss, dropping a decision to Reginaldo Vieira in his TUF tournament finals to end his 5-fight winning streak.

Birchak is 3 inches taller and will have a sizeable 4″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 4 years.

The American is an incredibly aggressive fighter, which can be both overwhelming for his opponent or open Birchak up to getting countered. He has finished all but 2 of his 12 wins, ending 6 in the opening round. Anthony has also been finished in all 3 of his losses- all in the opening round. He is incredibly aggressive, moving forward behind his punches to increase the impact. Birchak is a former NCAA Division 2 wrestler. On the mat, look for him to land heavy GnP, but his willingness to give up position for submission is concerning.

Birchak is a perfect 6-0 in fights that go beyond the opening round.

Lopes went for it early in the tournament finals, attempting multiple submissions and slugging it out with his foe. Unfortunately, he was unable to maintain his pace, slowed, and drop the decision. He has a finish heavy record, going the distance just twice in victory compared to 16 finishes- 12 by sub. Dileno has recorded 9 wins by his signature guillotine choke. He has some pop in his hands, but tends to be a little stiff and his output wanes in longer fights.

Lopes picked up a pair of tournament wins on route to the TUF Brazil 4 finals; subbing Bruno Silva in the quarter-finals and taking a decision over Matheus Nicolau in the semis.

Birchak used a tonne of forward pressure against Almeida and was having success landing punches and backing him up. He should implement a similar attack against Lopes, which will serve to dimish the Brazilian’s cardio if Anthony is unable to finish him early. The aggression of Anthony will be further augmented by his reach and height advantages. Lopes will struggle to counter Birchak simply because he won’t be able to reach him. Birchak needs to mind his neck if he elects to shoot on Lopes, but once on the mat his size advantage should pay dividends. Birchak’s aggression can put him at a defensive deficit, but against an undersized opponent it should prove too much for Lopes to deal with- my prediction is Anthony Birchak to defeat Dileno Lopes by TKO.

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135lbs- Russell Doane (14-5-0) vs Pedro Munhoz (11-2-0 1NC)

In the Bantamweight division, a pair of fighters looking to get back in the win column collide as former Tachi Palace Fights champ Russell Doane takes on former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Pedro ‘The Young Punisher’ Munhoz. Doane has lost back to back fights to Iuri Alcantara and Jerrod Sanders after starting his UFC run 2-0. Munhoz was 2-1 after a win over Sanders before the result was ruled a No Contest for a failed drug test- he dropped a split decision to Jimmie Rivera in his return.

Doane is the slightly taller fighter, but he will have a sizeable reach advantage at 6 inches. Doane has been on the shelf for a year after pulling out of his last fight with an injury.

Ring rust seemed to get the better of Munhoz in his return against Rivera, but he still had his moments. Pedro was unable to match the output of his opponent, but did hurt him during an exchange. He is a legit double threat, with dangerous submission skills and a capable striking offense. He is a BJJ Black belt with 6 wins by sub, 3 coming by guillotine- with a 4th getting washed out with the No Contest. On the feet, he throws hard kicks to all areas of the body and has some pop in his hands.

Munhoz made his UFC debut on short notice and dropped a decision against top-ranked Raphael Assuncao.

A BJJ Blue belt, Doane is a capable grappler. He has a 6-pack of sub wins including an impressive debut choke out of BJJ Black belt Leandro Issa. Takedowns have been a key aspect of his offense, landing 10 over his last 3 fights. Conversely, he has given up 9 takedowns during his UFC run and while he is a capable scrambler, his willingness to grapple with his opponents has got him in trouble. Before signing with the UFC, Doane was subbed by Michinori Tanaka because he continued to engage Tanaka on the mat and he had similar issues getting out-positioned in the Sanders loss.

Doane has been on the wrong end of the striking totals in each of his last 3 fights, failing to surpass 25 significant strikes mark in any of those bouts.

In Pedro’s 2 UFC losses, the keys to his opponent’s success have been volume striking and limiting the ground exchanges. Neither of which are strong aspects of Doane’s game. Munhoz is not an easy guy to take down and is still dangerous even from his back. Look for Pedro to find success with his own takedowns, threaten with submissions, or at the very least nullify Doane’s attempts to get the fight to the mat. If Doane is unable to put Munhoz down with regularity and hold the position, he will struggle to match the output or impact of the Brazilian during the vertical exchanges. Doane is simply too willing to engage on the mat at all costs where Pedro is most dangerous- my prediction is Pedro Munhoz to defeat Russell Doan by submission.

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135lbs- Felipe Arantes (17-7-1 2NC) vs Jerrod Sanders (15-3-0)

In 1 of 4 Bantamweight fights on the card, Felipe Arantes takes his second bout in the division when he fights Jerrod ‘J-Reazie’ Sanders. Arantes submitted Yves Jabouin in his divisional debut last August to improve to 4-3-1 inside the Octagon. Sanders earned his first UFC win over fellow under carder Russell Doane after going winless over his first pair of UFC showings.

Arantes formerly competed at Featherweight and Sanders debuted in the UFC at 155 pounds. Both men are 5’8″, but Felipe will have a slight 1″ reach advantage along with being 9 years younger than his foe.

Arantes spent the majority of the Jabouin fight on his back; giving up a pair of takedowns before snatching up Yves’s arm in the final minute of the round. He is a BJJ Brown belt with 5 submission wins, with his last win by tap out prior to Yves coming back in 2010. His striking has been at the forefront of his offense and he is 7-0 in fights ended by knockout. Felipe does a decent job of varying his attack, but his output numbers aren’t strong at 2.59 SLpM compared to 2.41 SApM.

Arantes is a dismal 5-5 in fights that go the distance and has been out-struck in his last 4 outings along with giving up 18 takedowns over 8 UFC bouts.

Sanders defeated Doane by avoiding the striking exchanges, getting the fight to the mat, and working his way to the superior position. He is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and BJJ Blue belt. He has 6 wins by submission, including 3 by D’Arce choke. His takedown game wasn’t overly impressive, taking desperation shots every time Russell attacked. If he was unable to complete the shot, he turtled up and waited until Doane made a mistake to gain either top position or back mount. In similar fashion, against Pedro Munhoz he attempted to hit a reactive TD after a striking exchange and got caught in a guillotine.

Sanders has been finished in both of his career losses, excluding the submission defeat against Munhoz that was overturned.

Arantes has had trouble defending his opponents’ takedowns, but he has shown himself to be pretty decent in a scramble and will attack off his back. The key to beating Sanders is to disengage whenever he attempts to grapple. Doane was having a lot of success with his striking, but once they hit the mat it was a different story. The way Sanders reacts to getting hit isn’t encouraging and if he is unable to score takedowns with consistency, he will be severely out-gunned on the feet. Arantes will force Jerrod to work hard on the ground, wear him down, and find more success avoiding the mat game- potentially scoring his own takedowns later in the fight. Arantes will either hurt Sanders with strikes either during the vertical exchanges or from top position- my prediction is Felipe Arantes to defeat Jarrod Sanders by TKO

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155lbs- Gilbert Burns (10-1-0) vs Lukasz Sajewski (13-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Gilbert ‘Durinho’ Burns looks to rebound from his first career loss when he takes on promotional sophomore Lukasz ‘Wookie’ Sajewski. Sajewski is also coming off his first career defeat, dropping his UFC debut to Nick Hein. Burns fell to Russian prospect Rashid Magomedov via decision is his last fight after winning a trio of bouts inside the Octagon.

The Brazilian is 2 inches taller than his foe, but they have an identical 71″ reach. Sajewski is 4 years younger, but has been on the shelf for 13-months.

Sajewski’s struggled to match the output of his foe in his debut and dropped a lackluster decision. He is a gritty fighter with a pretty decent finishing rate. Lukasz has stopped his opponent in 9 of his 13 victories, 7 by submission- 4 by armbar. Against Hein, he attempted to use pressure to cut off the cage but attacked in straight lines and didn’t let his hands when he was in range. When attacking, he has a tendency to overextend and can put himself off balance as a result.

‘Wookie’ has only gone to the 3rd round twice, compared to 7 opening round finishes.

Known for his grappling skills, Burns’s last 2 wins both came by sub bringing his career total to 7 wins. Conversely, he struggled to employ his ground skills in his fights with Magomedov and Alex Oliveira- snatching victory from defeat in the final moments against Oliveira. He has landed 7 takedowns over 4 fights, but couldn’t keep Magomedov on the mat and got lit up on the feet.

Burns has serviceable striking, but its primary purpose is to help him close the distance. He has struggled when his opponent brings pressure and he can’t create separation or counter with a takedown.

Both men have sizeable submission numbers, but Sajewski would be better off trying to keep this fight standing. That being said, the predictable nature of his offense and tendency to over-extend on his strikes will create openings for Burns to time his forward push and change levels for a takedown. While Gilbert struggled with the dangerous repertoire of Magomedov, Lukas doesn’t pose the type of offense that will prevent the Brazilian from engaging and closing the distance. Whether Burns drags his opponent to the mat on his own or catches a reactive takedown, he will eventually put Sajewski on the floor and go to work- my prediction is Gilbert Burns to defeat Lukasz Sajewski by submission.

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135lbs- Marco Beltran (7-4-0) vs Reginaldo Vieira (14-3-0)

The second pairing on the prelims features another battle of TUF tournament competitors as Marco ‘Psycho’ Beltran from TUF Latin American meets TUF Brazil 4 winner Reginaldo Vieira in the Bantamweight division. Beltran has won back to back fights to start his UFC career, most recently defeating Guangyou Ning by decision. Vieira took a win on the scorecards over fellow UFN 90 competitor Dileno Lopes last August to win his season of the TUF tourney and extend his current streak to 3 straight wins.

Mexico’s Beltran is 1″ taller than Reginaldo, but he will have a sizeable 4″ reach advantage. Marco is also the younger man by 4 years.

Beltran’s most recent win was lackluster at best. He utilized his length, primarily in the form of kicks, to keep his opponent out of range. Marco employed good footwork, but the majority of his offense came in the form of single strikes and he benefited tremendously from the lack of output from his foe. ‘Psycho’ had finished all 5 of his pro victories, prior to his back to back decisions inside the Octagon. He has also been finished in all 3 of his losses, twice by sub. In his debut fight, he spent the majority of the action on the mat defending his foe’s submission attempts, but manage to hold top position and slightly out-land his foe.

Prior to entering the TUF house, Beltran was enduring a 3-fight losing streak.

Vieira has submitted his opponent in 9 of his 14 career wins compared to a trio of decision victories. He has also been finished in all 3 of his losses, dropping a pair of pre-UFC encounters with Rony Jason and Pedro Munhoz. During his tenure on the show, he picked up an opening round decision win followed by a submission of Bruno Korea in the semis. Reginaldo isn’t a technically gifted striker, but does throw with decent power and will mix up his offense between punches and kicks. He likes to close the distance behind his strikes, clinch, and look to put his foe on the mat. He has 6 wins by Guillotine, not including his last second sub of Korea.

Against Lopes, the pair traded guillotine attempts early, with neither man securing the win. Once Lopes began to slow down, Vieira outworked him on the feet and the mat.

This bout could very well be decided by distance management. Beltran’s reach has been a key component of his success, keeping his opponents out of range. Conversely, Vieira does his best work on the inside; landing big strikes and setting up his grappling attack. He has a deadly squeeze and will almost certainly target Marco’s neck once they engage in close. Marlon Vera had success attacking Beltran on the mat and once Ning got him to the floor, Marco had to be saved by a questionable ref stand up. That doesn’t bode well against a strong grappler. Vieira’s gas tank is a bit of a question mark, but his aggression on the feet and submission attack should keep Beltran on the defensive for the majority of the exchanges- my prediction is Reginaldo Vieira defeat Marco Beltran by submission.

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170lbs- Vicente Luque (8-5-1) vs Alvaro Herrera (9-3-0)

In the opening fight of the night, Brazil’s Vicente Luque takes on Mexico’s Alvaro Herrera. Herrera debuted with a 30 second knockout of Veron Ramos at UFN 78 for his fifth win over his last 6 fights. Luque is 1-1 in the UFC, rebounding from a tough debut loss to submit TUF 21 fan favourite Hayder Hassan in a rematch from their bout on the reality show.

Herrera is 1″ taller, but will give up an inch of reach to his opponent.

As a pro, Vicente has finished 4 opponents by sub and 3 more by knockout. His last 3 submission victories have all come by anaconda choke and he has ended 6 fights in the opening round. Against Hasan, Luque cut off the cage effectively, backing him up with low kicks until he was able to roll Hayder into the finishing choke. In his loss to Adam Graves, he struggled to remain vertical giving up 7 takedowns on just 10 attempts. He did have a slight edge in significant strikes landed.

Vicente represented the Blackzillians during his time on the Ultimate Fighter, submitting veteran Nathan Coy and then dropping a split decision to Hasan.

After a tentative start in his 30-second debut, Herrera landed a thunderous right uppercut followed by a second power strike from the right side to floor his former TUF teammate. He has finished all of his pro wins, including 5 knockouts- never going past the middle round. On the show, he scored some early ground control, but lost the position and struggled to gain much traction during the ensuring striking or grappling exchanges.

During his run on the second season of TUF Latin America, Herrera represented Team Escudero and failed to advance beyond the quarter-finals- losing by decision.

Herrera’s has been finished in all 3 of his defeats and a record full of short fights goes hand in hand with the apparent cardio issues he had in the second half of his TUF loss. His tendency to give up ground and allow his opponent to control the center of the cage will be ideal for Luque, who has shown himself at his best when he is setting the pace. Alvaro has some power, but he doesn’t set up his strikes well and he is fairly inconsistent with his output. Look for Luque to control the action, back Herrera up to the cage, and eventually drag the fight to the mat where he can start looking for chokes- my prediction is Vicente Luque to defeat Alvaro Herrera by submission.

 

155lbs- Joaquim Silva (8-0-0) vs Andrew Holbrook (11-0-0)

In a battle of undefeated Lightweights, TUF Brazil 4’s Joaquim ‘Netto BJJ’ Silva throws down with Indiana-native Andrew Holbrook. Silva picked up a win in the informal TUF Bronze medal bout against fellow semi-finalist Nazareno Malegarie at UFC 191. Holbrook defeated Ramsey Nijem via controversial decision in his promotional debut.

The American is 3 inches taller and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage, but he has not competed in almost a year. Silva is the younger many by 3 years.

Silva took a unanimous decision win to open his TUF tournament, but was submitted by the eventual competition winner Glaico Franca in the semis. Franca scored an early takedown, smothered Silva, and eventually locked up the RNC after moving to back mount. A BJJ black belt with a Muay Thai background, ‘Netto BJJ’ has recorded 4 wins by knockout, 3 by sub, along with his debut decision win. He had never gone beyond the first round prior to his last fight. He throws a hard right hand, good leg kicks, and a sneaky stepping knee. Against Malegarie, he was on the wrong end of the striking total at 58-49, but he was landing the more impactful strikes.

Silva won his final pre-TUF bout with an impresive 6-second TKO victory, his second win inside the first 60-seconds of a fight.

With a similar finish heavy record, Holbrook came to the UFC with 9 wins by submission and a single TKO victory- 9 of 10 in the 1st round. He is a submission over position grappler and against Nijem he attempted multiple unsuccessful subs that resulted in a supeior positon for Ramsey. His takedown game isn’t strong, relying mainly on his opponent to put the fight on the mat. His other option is to close the distance and try to initiate a scramble. If he gets put on his back he will attack with both subs and strikes. On the feet, his striking game consists mainly of wide ranging hooks intended to help him close the distance. Nijem was hitting him with regularity and hurt him on a couple of occassions.

Holbrook gave up 6 takedowns and was out landed 29-20, along with getting rocked with some big punches, but his activty on the mat proved enough to steal the decison in his debut.

Silva is capable of competing on the feet and the mat, but he would be best served by preventing his foe from getting to the ground in any form. Holbrooks is aggressive to a fault, but if Joaquim gives him an oppurunity on the floor he can finish. The American appeared to be slowing down against Nijem which could be attributed to his history of quick fights. There is also some concern regarding his level of pre-UFC competition. Holbrook has been out of action for a while, but unless he has improved his wrestling he is going to struggle to get this fight to the floor. Silva’s is a vastly superior striker and will find success on the feet both initiating the exchanges and countering as Holbrooks comes forward- my prediction is Joaquim Silva to defeat Anthony Holbrook by TKO.

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145lbs- Gray Maynard (12-6-1 1NC) vs Fernando Bruno (16-3-0)

Gray ‘The Bully’ Maynard looks to rejuvenate his faltering UFC career with a cut to Featherweight when he meets TUF Brazil finalist Fernando Bruno. Bruno was submitted by Glaico Franco in the tournament finals, ending his 4-fight winning streak. Maynard has struggled tremendously since his run to a title shot, he has lost 4 in a row and 5 of 6 with his only win in that span coming by split decision over Clay Guida.

Bruno competed at Lightweight during his time on TUF, but was clearly undersized while Maynard was considered a big Lightweight. Gray will be 3 inches taller than his opponent and 3 years old, but they share the same 70″ reach.

Maynard came incredibly close to capturing the Lightweight title, but was unable to render the finishing blow. Since his title fight draw, ‘The Bully’ has been knocked out 4-times, accounting for all but 1 of his 5 of his career losses. At his best, Maynard employs a boxing-based attack with decent power in his hands despite having just a pair of knockout wins on his record. A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Gray will also work his wrestling, scoring takedowns and beating up his opponent from top position. Including his draw with Edgar, he landed 31 takedowns in his 10-fight run to the title opportunity, during his current slump he has completed just 6 in 6-fights.

Maynard is an impressive 9-1-1 on the scorecards, but he is coming off his first decision defeat.

With a background in BJJ and Judo, Bruno is a grappling specialist. He has 8 wins by submissions compared to zero knockouts. He is 7-2 on the scorecards. In the TUF tournament finals, Bruno spent the majority of the bout attempting to drag the fight to the mat with limited success. He struggled with the size of his opponent and routinely got out positioned on the floor. He worked the majority of his TDA’s along the cage. When not attempting to grappling, Fernando will wing wide-ranging and sloppy punches. The majority of his offense is bent on closing the gap. The toll of grappling with a larger opponent exhausted Bruno and lead to the late submission defeat.

Bruno picked up a pair of decision wins in this first 2 tournament bouts as a member of Team Nogueira on TUF Brazil 4.

Gray hasn’t competed in a little over 15-months and is making his divisional debut. His chin is clearly a major concern and the cut in weight is an attempt to get away from the power of the 155ers. The change could serve to further compromise his already diminished durability. Conversely, it could magnify his size and strength advantages and clean up some lingering cardio issues. Bruno is an ideal opponent for Maynard, but if Gray can’t get the win here it will most likely be the end of his UFC run. Bruno lacks a threatening striking game and he is going to struggle to put the wrestler on his back. Short of Gray getting cracked in a wild exchange or completely gassing out due to the weight cut, this is his fight to win. Maynard will get the better of the striking exchanges, grind Bruno into the cage, and score some decent top position control- my prediction is Gray Maynard to defeat Fernando Bruno by decision

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125lbs- #6 John Moraga (16-4-0) vs Matheus Nicolau (11-2-1)

In significant fight for both men, former title challenger John Moraga welcomes Brazil’s Matheus Nicolau to the Flyweight division. Moraga dropped a tough decision to Joseph Benavidez at UFC 187, ending his 2-fight winning streak. Nicolau debuted in the promotion with a victory at UFC 190 over Bruno Rodrigues- he has won 4 in a row and 9 of 10.

Nicolau debuted at Bantamweight and competed on TUF Brazil 3 at 135 pounds. Both men are 5’6″ and share an identical 66″ reach- Matheus is the younger man by 9 years.

Moraga’s early UFC success translated to a title shot, but he is 3-3 since his successful start which includes a controversial decision victory and a come from behind submission win. A collegiate wrestler, Moraga hasn’t put up big takedown numbers with just 4 completions compared to 23 TDs given up.  The majority of his wins have come by submission, mainly chokes, including catching a guillotine of Justin Scoggins and RNC of Willie Gates. Moraga relies mainly on his boxing, but his output has been a major concern. He currently carries a -0.35 striking exchange rate and tends to rely heavily on his counter-striking ability.

Moraga has been on the wrong end of the striking exchange totals in 5 of his last 7 fights.

Nicolau picked up a win over eventual tournament winner Reginaldo Vieira in the TUF quarter-finals, but dropped a decision in the semis. A BJJ Black belt, Matheus has split his 8 finishes evenly between knockouts and submission. His Japanese Necktie choke out of Rodrigues was impressive and his first victory by tap out since 2012. He is a pretty decent striker, working his attacks in combination- highlighted by a thumping left hook and nice straight right. Matheus’s movement is decent, but he can be a little too inactive between combinations. He does a nice job of keeping his chin tucked and right hand cocked and ready to unload.

The Brazilian is coming down from 135 and seems more physically suited to compete at Flyweight. Moraga hasn’t been that impressive of late, but considering he has fought the best 3 fighters in the division (Johnson, Benavidez, and Dodson) during his last 6 outings- this bout represents a step back in competition. Moraga’s lack of a consistent offensive output is a major concern. He tends to let his opponent lead the exchanges and is too willing to sit back and rely on his counter striking. Additionally, for a wrestler he has had issues with his TDD and spending too much time on his back. Look for Nicolau to string together combinations and outwork Moraga on the feet while defending and possibly scoring a couple of his own takedowns. Moraga will struggle to match his opponent’s attack over the course of the fight if he is unable to pick up the finish, my prediction is Matheus Nicolau to defeat John Moraga by decision.

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185lbs- Cezar Ferreira (10-5-0) vs Anthony Smith (25-11-0)

In the Middleweight division, Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith looks to continue his winning ways when he takes on Brazil’s Cezar ‘Mutante’ Ferreira. Smith picked up his first UFC victory on short notice and extended his winning streak to 8 fights, including TKO wins over Josh Neer and Brock Jardine. Ferreira returned to the 185 pounds division and the win column in his last bout with a decision victory over Oluwale Bamgbose- he had dropped 2 in a row and 3 of 4.

Smith had been set to face Scott Askam, but the Brit pulled out and was replaced by Ferreira is late April. Both big 185ers, Smith is 3 inches taller at 6’4″, but his Brazilian counterpart will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Smith is 3 years younger.

Ferreira started strong in the UFC with a trio of wins, but has since struggled to find success with regularity. He is a capable wrestler with a decent submission game, but his willingness to strike has been his undoing. He striking output isn’t strong and while the stats would suggest otherwise, he has some major gaps in his defensive front. ‘Mutante’ has been knocked out in 4 of 5 losses, including a trio of KOs in the UFC. In his last fight, he used his wrestling to negate the dangerous power of his adversary and keep the majority of the fight on the mat.

In all 3 of his UFC losses, he was finding success early with pressure and backing his opponent up before walking into the knockout punch. Sam Alvey landed almost no strikes prior to scoring the stoppage.

Smith has gone the distance just twice in victory, including his last fight. He has split his 22 finishes evenly between submissions and knockouts. During his current streak, he picked up a trio of first round TKO wins prior to returning to the UFC. Smith uses his length well, moving forward and attacking his foe with a steady stream of offense. In his last fight, he did an excellent job of cutting off the cage and battering his foe along the wall where he had nowhere to move. On the mat, Smith can do damage from top position with his strikes and has an active guard from his back.

‘Lionheart’ has also had issues with getting finished and has never gone the distance in defeat with 6 losses by knockout and 5 by submission.

Both fighters have durability issues, but Smith has put together an impressive run and has not been finished since last 2013. Ferreira’s chin is a major concern, but he showed in his last fight that he is capable of employing a gameplan that can alleviate that risk. If he is able to take Smith down at will, he could very well grind out another decision win. Smith brings a lot of pressure, but needs to be careful when closing the distance not to get countered with a takedown. Smith will put Cezar’s back on the wall, limiting his ability to shoot, and land big strikes in close to batter his already shaky chin- my prediction is Anthony Smith to defeat Cezar Ferreira by knockout.

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155lbs- Jake Matthews (11-1-0) vs Kevin Lee (12-2-0)

A pair of Lightweight prospects collide, as Jake ‘The Celtic Kid’ Matthews and Kevin ‘the Motown Phenom’ Lee go head to head. Matthews has picked up a pair of wins since his first pro defeat and has improved his Octagon record to a respectable 4-1. Lee dropped his debut, but proceeded to win 5 of his next 6 fights- most recently defeating Efrain Escudero.

Lee is replacing Stevie Ray, getting the call with over a month to prep for the bout. The American will have a noteworthy 5″ reach advantage, while both men will stand 5’9″. Matthews is 2 years younger.

A well-rounded fighter, Lee has done a nice job of mixing up his striking and wrestling attacks. Over the course of 7 UFC bouts, he has averaged 3.77 SLpM and 15 completed takedowns. He has never finished an opponent via knockout, with 5 submission wins and a 7-1 record on the scorecards. In Lee’s most recent outing, he showed continued improvement in his striking with fluid footwork and a nice jab from both sides. He has some snap in his kicks to both the body and head, and he throws a solid right hook as well. Against Leanardo Santos, he got hurt with a right hand while pushing forward leading to the eventual TKO and Escudero had some success landing some decent strikes that appeared to hurt Kevin.

Lee has defended 70% of his opponents’ TDA’s and when he has been taken down, he does an excellent job of getting back to his feet quickly.

A young fighter still rounding out his attack, Matthews has impressed against experienced competition. All of his UFC wins have come on the mat, picking up a trio of submissions and a doctor stoppage TKO based on damage done from top position. Of his 5 submission victories, 4 have come via rear-naked choke. A BJJ Brown belt, his takedowns numbers are respectable with 7 completions over roughly 8 rounds of actions. The Aussie’s striking is still a work in progress. He throws a nice right hand and a hard body kick which turned the Johnny Case fight in his favour. He does have a tendency to rush forward when attacking and he will telegraph his attacks by stopping his motion to engage.

Matthews was submitted by James Vick in his only pro loss and lost his TUF Nations quarter-final fight to Olivier Aubin-Mercier which was largely contested on the mat.

Matthews is going to need to take Lee down with consistency and keep him planted on the mat. That is easier said than done. Lee has good balance, does a nice job of sliding his hips back on shot attempts, and if he is taken down he gets back up quickly. Matthews has power in his strikes and can bring pressure, but the lateral movement and quickness of Lee is going to negate the telegraphed bulls rush that Jake employs. The reach advantage and strong jab of the American will serve to keep Matthews out of comfortable striking range. Against Case, Matthews was getting desperate on his early TDAs and got put on his back on a couple of occasions which isn’t ideal against a good wrestler like Lee. Lee can’t afford to have a letdown in the second half of the fight or allow Jake to routinely get on the inside, but he should land the cleaner strikes and keep his foe from achieving his ideal top position advantage- my prediction is Kevin Lee to defeat Jake Matthews by decision.

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170lbs- Li Jingliang (10-4-0) vs Anton Zafir (7-2-0)

To kick start a big Friday night of fights, former Legends FC Welterweight champion ‘The Leech’ Li Jingliang meets Aussie Anton ‘The Professor’ Zafir in the 170-pound division. Jingliang is coming off a come from behind defeat against Keita Nakamura, he is 2-2 in the Octagon with a KO win over Dhiego Lima. Zafir took a short notice fight to get into the UFC, but lost via opening round stoppage against James Moontasari to end his 5-fight winning streak.

Li is 1″ taller, but will be at a slight 1″ reach deficit.

The ‘Leech’ is an aggressive grinder, picking up stoppages in 7 of his 10 wins- 5 by sub.  His knockout win over Lima came along the cage, closing the gap and dropping him with a hard right hand. Against Nakamura, he spent the opening round on his back, but once they returned to the feet Li delivered a steady diet of left jabs and right hooks. He will also change levels and attack the body. A BJJ Brown belt, he has incorporated some takedowns into his offense- he completed a pair of TDs in each of his first 2 UFC bouts.

Jingliang has had issues distancing himself in decisions, currently holding a 3-3 record with a pair of split decisions in his last 2 trips to the scorecards.

The majority of Zafir’s offense is built around his takedown game. He found som early success and put Moontasri on the mat, moving quickly into half guard. He held the position for a short period of time before they returned to their feet. His quality of opposition and their lack of a strong wrestling background has played a role in his success on the regional circuit. At the UFC level, against better wrestlers, he will be hard-pressed to score takedowns with consistency. Of his 7 wins, 6 have come inside the distance- split evenly between knockouts and submissions.

Against Moontasari, Zafir didn’t showcase a tonne of striking. He tends to use wide hooks to help him close the distance to set up his wrestling.

Zafir comes from a small camp operated out of his own gym which brings into question his quality of training. As previously mentioned, Anton relies heavily on his wrestling and without consistent completions against Li, he will be forced out of his comfort zone. Jingliang has accounted for himself quite well in grinding fights and found success scoring takedowns against better wrestlers that Anton. Look for his aggressive forward pressure and short range boxing to keep Zafir on his back foot for the majority of the bout. Zafir has been knocked out in both of his defeats and didn’t react well to getting cracked by Moontasri, Li will replicate those issues- my prediction is Li Jingliang to defeat Anton Zafir by TKO.

155lbs- Jason Saggo (11-2-0) vs Leandro Silva (19-2-1 1NC)

Capping off the Canadian undercard, Toronto’s Jason Saggo throws down with Brazilian Leandro ‘Buscape’ Silva in the Lightweight division. Saggo is coming off a dominant stoppage win over Justin Salas to improve to 2-1 in the UFC. Silva has won back to back fights after besting Efrain Escudero and is now 3-2-0 with a No Contest inside the Octagon.

Saggo is 2 inches taller, but Silva will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

Saggo has finished his opponent in all 11 of his wins- 8 by submission and 3 by knockout. He has 6 first round finishes, including both of his UFC wins- but his other 5 stoppages all came after the midway mark of the second round. The Canuck has 5 wins by rear-naked choke. At 4.9 takedowns per fight and a 42% completion rate, Saggo has relied heavily on his ground game. He is a persistent wrestler, closing the gap and chaining TDAs together until he puts his opponent on the canvas. Against both Salas and Josh Shockely he simply overwhelmed them with his pace and GNP until the ref was forced to stop the fight. His striking is serviceable, relying mainly on his kicking game at distance, before closing the gap.

In his split decision loss to Paul Felder, Saggo landed 6 takedowns, but was unable to hold the position and lost the majority of the striking exchanges.

A BJJ Black belt, Silva also carries a high submission win total. Of his 19 victories, 10 have come by tap out compared to 8 decisions and 1 knockout. His only legit UFC stoppage was a 2014 RNC victory over Charlie Brenneman- his sixth win by that technique. Similar to his opponent, ‘Buscape’ will look to put his adversary on the mat as frequently as possible; he landed a UFC personal-best 4 completions in a questionable decision loss to Francisco Trinaldo. Leandro has a solid level change, catching his opponent coming forward and then driving through with a double leg. On top, he will look for submissions and land strikes, but he is equally as willing to simply focus on positional control. His lack of activity can result in unfortunate stand-ups. While Silva has shown signs of being a capable striker; his lack of volume and cohesion in his assault makes him far less effective.

Silva has been taken down 10-times in 6 UFC fights.

The Brazilian’s lack of offensive volume is concerning. On the mat and especially on the feet, he simply won’t let his hands go and this allows his opponent to outwork him. Cardio could also play a role as the fight progresses, as he has appears to slow down in the second half of his fights. The biggest factor in this contest will be takedowns and who gets them. Silva is probably the stronger man, but Saggo is the more technically gifted. Leandro has been taken down several times during his UFC run, but has found success working out of bad spots. If Jason is able to establish his takedown game, it will prove difficult and exhausting for Silva to continuously fend off his top position pressure. Additionally, Leandro’s lack of consistency on the feet will make it hard for him to land enough strikes to overcome the time spent on his back- my prediction is Jason Saggo to defeat Leandro Silva by decision.Paragraph breaker

205lbs- Misha Cirkunov (11-2-0) vs Ion Cutelaba (11-1-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Latvia-born Canadian Misha Cirkunov makes UFC showing #3 when he squares off with Moldova’s Ion Cutelaba. Cirkunov is 2-0 in the UFC, finishing both of his foes to extend his current winning streak to 6 in a row. Cutelaba has won 7-consecutive fights, including perfect 3-0 run in both 2014 and 2015.

Misha is the taller man by 2 inches and will have a 2″ reach advantage as well. The UFC newcomer is 6 years younger.

Ion enters the Octagon with all 11 of his win coming inside the distance. Cutelaba has stopped all but 1 of his opponents in the opening round, with the lone deviant lasting to the 29 second mark of round 2. Of those 11 wins, 9 have come inside the first 90 seconds of the fight. He has 9 wins by knockout and 2 wins by submission. Cutelaba is aggressive, moving forward behind a decent striking repertoire. Look for him to sit in the pocket and box his foe, willingly trading shot for shot. He will also change levels for a TD, but is equally as susceptible to being taken down based on his commitment to punching. Once on the mat, he will try to scramble his way to a superior position. Watch out for his affinity for Omaplatas, which he has won twice by.

His level of competition hasn’t been that strong, he is coming off a win over a 20-15 foe, but his 3 previous wins are over opponents with a combined 16-37 record.

Not to be outdone, Cirkunov has stopped his foe in 9 of his 11 wins- 4 by knockout and 5 by submission. The big-man has relied heavily on his ground attack, recording 6 takedowns in just over 2 rounds of work. He was a standout in Judo and wrestling prior to entering MMA and has focused heavily on his BJJ as well. On the feet he has power, but is still a work in progress and could get himself clipped during an exchange. His clinch attack is by far the most dominant aspect of his game. Misha can both do damage from the position or drag his opponent to the mat with a body lock/ trip combo. He also landed a couple of nice reactionary shots in his last bout, ducking under his opponent’s strikes. Once on the mat, he does an excellent job of overwhelming his foe with heavy strikes while working to advance his position. Upon achieving said position, he will either start working for a sub or unloading with fight stopping power.

Cirkunov is pretty quick for a big man, but he looked a little stiff in his last fight which had some speculating about a possible injury.

Cutelaba has been dominant outside of one fight which came against the best fighter on his record. There are always concerns about a young fighter moving up in quality competition without having faced much adversity. That is certainly the case with Ion. If he is unable to finish his foe quickly it can create both physical and mental challenges. His best chance for success here is to keep the fight standing, but his aggression opens him up for takedowns. Look for Cirkunov to put Ion on his back early, control the position and advance as Cutelaba attempts to scramble off his back. Once the Canadian import starts to unload the finish won’t be too far behind- my prediction is Misha Cirkunov to defeat Ion Cutelaba by TKO.

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185lbs- Tamdan McCrory (14-3-0) vs Krzysztof Jotko (17-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, the rejuvenated Tamdan ‘The Barn Cat’ McCrory takes on Poland’s Krzysztof Jotko. McCrory returned to the UFC with an impressive victory over Josh Samman to improve to a perfect 3-0 since moving to 185 pounds. Jotko is a spectacular 4-1 inside the Octagon, including 3 consecutive wins dating back to 2014.

A towering man, at 6’4″ McCrory is 3 inches taller than Jotko and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Jotko is 3 years Tamdan’s junior.

‘The Barn Cat’ has an impeccable finishing rate, having stopped his adversary in 13 of his 14 victories- 8 by knockout and 5 by submission. He is a BJJ Brown belt with a trio of triangle submission victories, including the 3rd round tap out of Samman. McCrory has 7 first round stoppages, putting away Bellators’s Brennan Ward via knockout in just 21-seconds. A physically imposing fighter, the former Welterweight simply wore down Samman with his constant attack both on the feet and the on the ground. The biggest knock on Tamdan is his willingness to give up position over submission. He is willing to work from his back with an exhaustive pace, but against a strong top position player that could be costly.

McCrory went 3-3 during his first run in the UFC at 170 pounds, opting to retire, but returned to active duty in 2014 with Bellator.

Jotko is coming off of a hard-fought victory, picking up the tempo in rounds 2 and 3 to take the decision after a close opening frame. Jotko isn’t a high volume striker, averaging a little less than 3 strikes per minute, but he does an excellent job limiting his opposition to just 1.59 SApM. He landed a UFC personal best 74-strikes in his win over Tor Treong, but needed only 17 connections in a grinding decision victory in his debut. Jotko has gone the distance 11-times, winning all of them. His last finish was a 2012 submission victory. He did an excellent job of mixing up his strikes against Brad Scott, working decent low kicks and landing hard punches. In the final round, Krzysztof showcased his improved wrestling landing a pair of takedowns to cement the round.

His only career loss came via submission in a bout where he struggled to match the aggression and grappling ability of Magnus Cedenblad.

Jotko has shown continued improvements from one fight to the next. His offensive output has increased along with the presence of his wrestling game. The same can be said for McCrory, who has melded together a physically overwhelming pressure-based attack with surprisingly technical skills. Jotko struggled with the close range attack of Cedenblad, who was able to put him on the back and overwhelm him eventually leading to the submission. While Jotko has picked up the pace, he still isn’t an overwhelming striker and benefits tremendously from his ability to avoid his foe’s offense. That won’t be the case with Tamdan. Look for the American to push the pace on the feet, landing hard straight punches, and dragging the fight to the mat where he will outmanoeuvre Jotko using both his size and skill- my prediction is Tamdan McCrory to defeat Krzysztof Jotko by submission

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135lbs- Chris Beal (10-2-0) vs Joe Soto (15-5-0)

Chris ‘The Real Deal’ Beal returns to the Bantamweight division against former title challenger Joe ‘One Bad Mofo’ Soto. Soto is winless over his 3-fight UFC tenure, falling in a split-decision to Michinori Tanaka at UFC 195. Beal is currently enduring a 2-fight skid, dropping a pair of fights at Flyweight after back to back wins at 135 pounds to being his UFC career.

Beal is an inch taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Soto is 2 years younger.

‘The Real Deal’ struggled at Flyweight, opening each fight strong, but fading in the rounds 2 and 3. In the combined opening 2 rounds of those defeats, Beal out-struck his opponents 32-19 and landed 2 of 3 TDAs. In rounds 2 and 3, he was on the wrong end of the combined striking totals of 87 to 54 with an even 2-2 takedown count. Beal is a capable striker, but throws primarily single strikes and will try to sit back and counter. This often leads to his opponent initiating the attack and dictating the pace. Beal will also work his ground attack into the fight, but has had mixed results.

His debut flying knee knockout of Patrick Williams was just his 3rd stoppage victory. Beal is 7-2 in decisions.

Excluding his 97-second knockout loss last summer, Soto has been competitive in his other 2 defeats. He is a well-traveled fighter with 5 wins by knockout and 8 wins by submission with a 2-1 record on the scorecards. He has been stopped in 4 of his 5 losses- 3 by knockout. On the mat, Soto is a strong grappler. His takedown game has yet to show up in the UFC, but once on the floor he is incredibly active. With an aggressive guard, he chained subs together against Tanaka and even offered a couple very tight chokes. On the feet, Soto will lead with a left jab followed by a hard right and leaping left hook. He will try to roll with his opponent’s punches and shell up under pressure. This can result in Soto absorbing more damage then necessary.

Soto has averaged 3.44 SLpM, roughly 0.5 strikes more per 60-seconds than Beal lands. He is coming off of a 71 significant strike performance in his last fight.

The the loser of this fight will most likely be out of a job after the weekend. Neither man has found much success distancing themselves in close fights and both are coming off of split decision losses. Beal’s inability to maintain his pace in recent defeats could be attributed to the cut to 125 pounds, but even in his win over Matsuda at Bantamweight, he struggled to maintain a consistent output. Soto should have a cardio advantage and his willingness to exchange will help him to dictate the action on the feet. Look for Beal to attempt to change gears and take Soto down, only to be put on the defensive immediately. Beal will get desperate and will eventually make a mistake leading to a dominant position for Joe on the mat- my prediction is Joe Soto to defeat Chris Beal by submission

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185lbs- Elias Theodorou (11-1-0) vs Sam Alvey (25-7-0 1NC)

Headlining the Fight Pass preliminary card, TUF Nations winner and Ontario-native, Elias ‘Spartan’ Theodorou goes head to head with ‘Smile’n’ Sam Alvey. Theodorou is returning to action after the first pro loss of his career, dropping a tough decision to the dangerous Thiago Santos- he is 3-1 in the UFC. Alvey is also coming off a loss, getting knocked out by Derek Brunson to end his 3-fight winning streak.

Alvey is an inch taller than his Canadian counterpart and they have an identical 75″ reach. Sam is the younger man by 2 years, but has been on the shelf for 10-months.

Sam Alvey is one of the hardest hitters in the division, capable of putting his opponent away with one punch. Of his 26 wins, 17 have come via knockout, including all 3 of his UFC triumphs. He has stopped 12 opponents in the opening round, including a 49-second pasting of Aussie Dan Kelly. Alvey has dynamite in both hands and has shown that by simply landing 1-punch he can change the complexion of a fight. He relies heavily on his power above all else. Over his 3 UFC wins, he has landed a combined 18 significant strikes. Both Dylan Andrews and Cezar Ferreria were getting the better of the action before Alvey struck back. Against Tom Watson, Sam was unable to stop the Brit and couldn’t catch up on the scorecards after his slow start.

Alvey is coming off the first knockout loss of his career, Brunson took advantage of his early complacency and blasted along the cage until the ref stopped the fight.

Theodorou’s UFC wins have been much more conventional, with a pair of TKO stoppages and a decision victory. Overall, he is 4-1 on the scorecards with 5 TKO/KO victories and 2 submissions. Elias has solid stats; currently holding a respectable +1.76 striking exchange rate which includes keeping his foes under 2 strikes landed per minute. He has completed 9 takedowns over 4 fights. The Canadian offers a decent striking repertoire; mixing up a power overhand right, hard left hook, and serviceable low kicks. He does tend to telegraph his strikes at time, often tossing out single strikes with limited setup. His grappling is solid, closing the distance and wearing on opponents in the clinch and on the mat. Pace and pressure are the keys to his success.

Against Santos, he started strong and landed the bulk of his quality offense in the opening round but faltered with his TDAs and slowed down as the damage accumulated.

Alvey’s ability to stop an opponent with one punch at any point in a fight can completely nullify any physical or technical advantages his opponent might have. Theodorou is the better fighter, but can he avoid the power for an entire 3 rounds? He will need to use his distance striking to keep Sam out of boxing range and when Alvey comes forward, Elias has to get tight body on body pressure and/or shoot for a takedown. Sam’s 3 UFC knockouts came over opponents with a combined 8 knockout losses and he is a concerning 7-5 in decisions. ‘Spartan’ is coming off his first loss which should serve to refocus him and lead to improvements- Elias avoids the power of Alvey and outworks him bell to bell- my prediction is Elias Theodorou to defeat Sam Alvey by decision.

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115lbs- #14 Randa Markos (5-4-0) vs Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-2-0)

In the Women’s Strawweight division, TUF semi-finalist Randa ‘Quiet Storm’ Markos fights promotional sophomore Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger. Markos is 1-2 in the UFC with her only win coming over Aisling Daly. Jones-Lybarger debuted with a loss to Tecia Torres.

JJL is 3 inches taller, but won’t have a reach advantage as both girls are measured at 63 inches.

Randa is a BJJ Purple belt, locking up a trio of submission victories, in addition to tapping Felice Herrig during the TUF Title tournament. All 3 of her pro wins have come via arm lock. She has landed at least one takedown in each of her UFC fights. In her loss against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, she struggled to find her rhythm, but did have her best moments of the fight when she was able to take Karolina’s back and threaten from the position. Markos has been working to round out her striking, but relies heavily on her right hand. Randa keeps her primary weapon cocked and ready to unload, which can make her offense a little predictable at times. She will also pump her left jab, doubling it up when needed.

Markos averages just 2.38 SLpM compared to 2.92 SApM. She landed a personal best 55-strikes in her split decision loss to Jessica Penne.

Jones-Lybarger made the jump from RFA on just 2 weeks notice to take on the top ranked Torres at UFC 194. She went 4-0 under the Resurrection banner. She is a BJJ Blue belt, but has just a single submission win compared to 5 on the scorecards. Her lack of a strong wrestling game most likely plays a role in her lack of submission victories.Against Torres, JJL struggled to match her pace. She was soundly out-worked by a count of 77-29- holding her own in the opening round but fading in rounds 2 and 3.  Jocelyn sits down on her strikes and can generate some decent pop when she lets her hands go. She does some of her best work in the pocket and can also attack from the clinch.

Jocelyn got the call to the UFC after defeating former Bellator champion Zoila Frausto to capture the vacant RFA Strawweight title.

Both girls are action fighters willing to stand and trade. Jocelyn uses a lot of pressure, but failed to let her hands go consistently against Torres despite cutting off the cage effectively. Markos is more than willing to engage and packs some decent pop when she does. JJL had her greatest success when she closed the gap entirely and pinned Torres on the cage. Markos scores the majority of her takedowns from this position, utilizing body control and trips. Her shorter stature will allow her to gain leverage on her foe. Once on top, look for Markos to control the position, do damage, and look for sub opportunities. In the end, Markos will land the more impactful strikes and hold key top position time in a grinding fight- my prediction is Randa Markos to defeat Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger by decision.

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170lbs- Jonathan Meunier (7-0-0) vs Colby Covington (8-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, short notice replacement Jonathan Meunier steps up to take on Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington. Convington is coming off the first pro loss of his career, suffering a submission defeat to Warlley Alves- he is 3-1 in the UFC. Meunier has already fought twice in 2016, with his last bout occurring just 1-month ago.

Meunier is replacing Alex Garcia on less then 2 week’s notice. He is very tall for the division at 6’3″, 4 inches taller that Colby and he will have a 3″ reach advantage.

Covington is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler, with submissions accounting for 5 of his 8 victories. He has averaged 4.32 TDs at a 38% completion rate, including an impressive 5 completions in his 2nd UFC bout. As the numbers would suggest, his wrestling is the key to his success. It also was his undoing against Alves as he got caught digging too deep for a takedown and choked out. Colby likes to setup his shot with a couple of quick strikes before changing levels. If he can’t score on the initial shot, he will work the clinch along the cage, do some dirty boxing, and drop for another TDA. His striking is still a work in progress. He has shown a decent body kick, but has struggled with the aggression of his opponents. When under pressure he will shoot almost immediately.

Colby has yet to stop an opponent by TKO or KO, but he does have a submission due to strikes on his record.

The Quebec City born Meunier has a background in Kickboxing and Taekwondo. He has stopped all 7 of his opponents; 5 by TKO and a pair by submission. Just a single opponent has escaped the opening round, with most of his stoppages coming in the final 2 minutes of round 1. Despite his background and length, the majority of his wins have come on the mat. He has a decent top position game, taking his opponent down and creating space with his long limbs and upper body. Once he is able to establish posture, he will hammer down big punches and elbows. In his last fight he was getting hurt on the feet before catching a nice double leg takedown and eventually working his way to the RNC finish.

His striking is a little simple at times, with most of his offense built around closing the gap for the clinch or a takedown attempt.

Meunier is taking a decent step up in competition and is doing so on short notice- those are tough scenarios to overcome. This fight should be a battle for top control as both men thrive in that position. Additionally, neither one is that strong on the feet so if their ground skills nullify one and other look for this fight to devolve into a sloppy striking affair. Covington is the more accomplished wrestler and  is much more experienced in longer fights. If he can drag the Canadian into round 2, Meunier should start to slow down. The above average height of Meunier will allow Covington to routinely get under his hips and complete his takedowns. Short fights and short notice are not a good combo against a grinding wrestler who will put Meunier in uncomfortable positions- my prediction is Colby Convington to defeat Jonathan Meunier by decision.

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125lbs- #10 Ali Bagautinov (13-4-0) vs Geane Herrera (9-1-0)

To raise the curtain, former title challenger Ali ‘Puncher’ Bagautinov puts his spot in the rankings on the line against hard hitting Geane ‘La Pulga’ Herrera. Bagautinov has dropped back to back fights against the Champion and top ranked Joseph Benevidez. Herrera defeated Joby Sanchez to level his UFC record at 1-1 after his debut loss to Ray Borg.

Herrera is 1″ taller and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 5 years. Ali was coming off of a 16-month layoff prior to his last match.

The Russian contender has an extensive grappling background- including Sambo, Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. He opened his UFC run with 10 takedowns over 3 fights, including 6 in his victory over the now-Bantamweight John Lineker. Bagautinov landed 2 of 12 attempts against Demetrious Johnson. His shot often centers around his ability to time and catch his foe moving forward. Finishes have accounted for 9 of his wins, 5 by knockout,  while he has never been finished. He is 4-4 in decisions. He keeps his striking simple, throwing hard straight punches.

At times he can be a little too passive with his striking, allowing his opponent to outwork him on the feet. He has landed more quality strikes just twice in his 5 fights.

Herrera turned heads in his win over Sanchez, blasting his foe with power strikes before eventually finishing him in the middle round. The primary weapon of choice was a power left hook. It served to both counter Joby as he moved forward and dropped him leading to the finish. Geane did have issues chasing his foe instead of cutting off the cage. He opted for a more flat footed approach, which made him less mobile, but more powerful. The volume favoured Sanchez (55-40), but the damage on Joby’s face indicated the brutalizing impact of Herrera’s strikes. ‘La Pulga’ has finished 5 of his 6 stoppages in the first round. He has 5 submission wins compared to victories by knockout.

In his debut, he spent the majority of the fight on his back. Borg took him down 3-times and attempted multiple submissions.

‘Puncher’ has faced the best the division has to offer and while he went 0-2, he acquitted himself well. Herrera’s knockout of Sanchez was impressive, but it came under circumstances that were less than ideal. He was getting out- and chasing his opponent for the majority of the fight. Without the accumulated damage and eventual knockout, that style is going to lose more than it wins. Bagautinov is accurate and has power, using lateral movement to diffuse his foe’s forward pressure. When Herrera moves forward, Ali will level change and put him on his back. The lack of experience in longer fights won’t bode well for the American against a durable fighter like Ali- my prediction is Ali Bagautinov to defeat Geane Herrera by decision.

 
145lbs- #12 Brian Ortega (10-0-0) vs Clay Guida (32-13-0)

Headlining the Undercard is a Featherweight bout featuring former Lightweight contender Clay ‘The Carpenter’ Guida taking on undefeated Brian ‘T-City’ Ortega. Guida is coming off a submission loss to Thiago Tavares and has alternated wins and losses over his last 7 bouts. Oretga’s debut win was ruled a No Contest after he failed his drug test, he has since scored a TKO win over Thiago Tavares and a submission victory over Diego Brandao.

Guida is 10 years older than Ortega and has a sizeable experience advantage with 37 more pro bouts. Ortega is 1″ taller, but will give up 1″ of reach.

At this point in his career, the book on Guida is pretty straight forward. He relies heavily on his takedowns, grinding top game, and cardio to win fights. His striking is centered around closing the distance to set up his shot and he utilizes a lot of movement to frustrate his opponent into making mistakes. Earlier in his career, he was an incredibly durable fighter with sound submission defense- that isn’t the case anymore. Clay’s last 3 losses have all come inside the distance and he has been submitted 9 times over his career. Of those 9 subs, 7 came via some form of choke. Guida’s aggressive style has given way to a much more conservative and equally as frustrating approach. He has found success grinding out top position wins against sound grapplers, like Hatsu Hioki. Conversely, against Tavares, Guida got tapped almost immediately after shooting for his first takedown attempt.

Guida landed 20 takedowns over his last 5 wins, compared to only 3 in his last 5 defeats.

Ortega has impressed in his UFC run, stopping a pair of talented UFC vets in his last 2 fights- both in the 3rd round. ‘T-City’ is a BJJ Black belt, with 5 wins by submission, 4 by decision, and his only knockout win coming against the aforementioned Tavares. Ortega has given up 8 takedowns in his 2 UFC wins which has played a big role in his success. Ortega has a very aggressive guard, attacking with submissions and looking for counters as soon as he hits the mat. Against Tavares, he attempted an arm triangle almost immediately after the Brazilian shot. He offered a similar attack against Brandao, showcasing the dexterity in his hips. Look for Brian to use strikes, especially elbows, off his back to create space to attack with subs. The Brandao finish came in the third round when Ortega attacked his neck while standing and then rolled to a triangle once Brandao attempted to finish.

Ortega has improved his striking significantly. He doesn’t have big power, but he throws a nice left jab/ straight right combo and will mix in kicks, spinning attacks, and other higher risk maneuvers.

This fight will most likely play out in 1 of 2 scenarios. Either Guida scores his takedowns and grinds his way to a decision or Ortega catches him in a submission. There is a 3rd possible scenario that could be a combination of the 2; with Guida landing takedowns, but Ortega outworking him off his back with strikes and sub attempts to earn an unconventional decision win. When Clay shoots for takedowns he usually leaves his neck exposed as he drives forward- Tavares capitalized on this opening. If Clay doesn’t score on his initial shot, he will continue driving forward, but in doing so his head/neck are left defenseless. Ortega only needs 1 opportunity to make it count. Ortega’s striking is improving which will keep Clay from getting comfortable on the feet and once he shoots Ortega will go to work- my prediction is Brian Ortega to defeat Clay Guida by submission.

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155lbs- #10 Beneil Dariush (12-2-0) vs James Vick (9-0-0)

In a fight that has been totally overhauled due to injuries, Beneil Dariush takes on James Vick, replacing a fight that was originally scheduled to be contested between Evan Dunham and Leonardo Silva. Dariush is coming off of a loss to Michael Chiesa just a few weeks ago, it ended his 5-fight winning streak. Vick is still undefeated after a dominant decision win at UFC 197- he is 5-0 inside the Octagon.

Vick has had roughly 5-weeks to prep for the bout, and Dariush got the call 4-weeks from fight night. Vick is 5 inches taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Dariush is the younger man by 2 years.

Dariush is a BJJ Black belt with 6 wins by sub, but he is coming off his first career submission defeat. Beneil doesn’t have overwhelming takedown numbers with just 1.83 TDs at a 34% completion rate. Conversely, Vick has defended 60% of his opponents’ TDAs, but he has struggled at times to remain vertical. Over his 5-fight UFC run, he has given up 10 completions, including 4 in his last bout. His long limbs make him difficult to control on the mat and he is an adept scrambler when it comes to working his way back to a vertical base. Vick has 4 wins by submission, including back to back guillotines. If Dariush does take him down, he has a suffocating top game and while he will work for a submission he doesn’t do so at the expense of his positional control. Chiesa was able to tap him out after scoring a takedown and jumping to back mount as Beneil attempted to get back to his feet.

Both me have shown sizeable improvements in their striking attacks. Vick demoed a slick boxing game, where he paired his punches together effectively, attacked from different angles and broke his opponent down with his constant ; Beneil continues to show a strong a kicking game. Against Daron Cruickshank he blasted him to the body with several big kicks and he was busting up Chiesa’s lead leg with hard low kicks. Dariush landed several hard rights, working his boxing in combination with his kicks. Vick does have the edge in striking output and is coming off of an impressive 94 strike performance. He stands a little tall when engaging which makes him vulnerable to over-hand strikes and a potential takedown.

Dariush simply failed to recognize the severity of the position he was in against Chiesa until it was too late. Stepping in on short notice for this fight represents his willingness to make amends for his mistake. Vick gives up too many takedowns and against a grappler the caliber of Dariush he can’t afford to rely on his ability to get back to his feet every time. Dariush should have no problem closing the distance and utilizing his low stature to get in on the hips of Vick and take him to the mat. Once on the ground, Darisuh will control the action and prevent him from returning to a vertical base with his heavy top game. When they are on the feet, look for Dariush to attack Vick’s legs, which will serve to take away his movement as the fight advances. Vick’s forward pressure will be stunted by Dariush’s abilty to change levels for takedown attempts. Postional control will be the difference in this fight and Dariush will have the edge in that category- my prediciton is Beneil Darisuh to defeat James Vick by decision.

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115lbs- #6 Jessica Penne (12-4-0) vs Jessica Andrade (13-5-0)

In the Women’s Strawweight division, recent title challenger Jessica Penne returns to action to take on divisional debutante Jessica Andrade. Penne is coming off her title fight loss to Joanna Jedrzejczyk, that followed a split decision win over Randa Markos in her UFC debut. Andrade dropped her rematch with Raquel Pennington, but had won 4 of 6 inside the Octagon prior to the defeat.

Despite Andrade cutting down 2 division, Penne is 4 inches taller and will have a 5″ reach advantage. Penne is returning after nearly a year out of action and is 8 years older than her opponent.

On the feet, Andrade is an absolute berserker. She likes to come forward with high volume and heavy leathered barrages consisting mainly of hooks. She will target both the chin and body of her opponent. Pennington found some success utilizing shorter combinations to counter the forward pressure, which is something that Penne should look to employ. Penne tends to be much more calculated with her striking, picking her spots, and attacking with single strikes. She is badly out-gunned by the Brazilian in the volume category, by an average of 2.76 SLpM. The loss to Joanna certainly skews the striking stats, but even against Markos, Penne landed just 39 strikes compared to 55 for the Canadian. Additionally, Penne appeared to struggle at times with the pressure and volume of Markos, covering up and waiting for the onslaught to subside.

On the mat, Penne is a BJJ Black belt with 7 of her 12 wins coming by sub- 4 by RNC. Against Markos, she landed 4 takedowns, but went 0 for 11 in her title fight loss. She is technically sound on the floor, capable of sweeps and scrambling to a superior position. Similar to her stand-up, Andrade is very aggressive on the ground. Look for her to use a single leg slam to power her opponent to the floor, usually shooting after forcing the action up against cage. She does have a tendency to sit a little low her in foe’s guard which can create openings for potential submission attacks. Andrade has been subbed twice and was TKOed on the mat by Liz Carmouche. Her signature submission is the guillotine which has accounted for 5 of her victories.

Penne is coming off of a title fight loss, which isn’t easy- especially considering how one-sided the fight was. The layoff could also create issues early against a fast-starting opponent. Andrade is making her divisional debut and cutting down 20 pounds to do so. If the weight cut goes well, look for Andrade to be a force at 115 pounds. She is a very physical fighter, who hits hard and looks to overwhelm her opponents with her strength and power- that should be easier against smaller opposition. It was clear that battling with larger opponents took its toll on the Brazilian and wore her out. Additionally, making 115 pounds should help to clean-up some of her conditioning issues. Look for Andrade to find success exchanging with Penne, landing the harder shots and doing so more frequently. She will also find success putting her American counterpart on the mat and keeping her there- my prediction is Jessica Andrade to defeat Jessica Penne by decision.


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145lbs- Cole Miller (21-9-0 1NC) vs Alex Caceres (11-8-0 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, 18-UFC fight veteran Cole ‘Magrinho’ Miller takes on Alex ‘Bruce Leeroy’ Caceres in a bout that was originally scheduled to take place between BJ Penn and Dennis Siver. Miller is coming off of a No Contest against Jim Alers- he has won 2 of his last 3 fights. Caceres ended his 3-fight losing skid with a dominant decision win over Masio Fullen.

Miller is 3 inches taller and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Caceres, is the younger man by 4 years. Both Miller and Caceres have fought at different weight classes inside the Octagon; Miller last fought at 155 pounds back in 2011 and ‘Bruce Leeroy competed at 135 pounds just over 1 year ago.

Both fighters are talented grapplers; Miller a BJJ Black belt with a perfect 15-0 record in fights ended by submission. Caceres has 5 submission wins, including a pair inside the Octagon. Conversely, ‘Bruce Leeroy’ has struggled when he isn’t able to overwhelm his foe on the mat. He has been subbed 5-times, including 3 losses via RNC in the UFC. Miller has a 4-pack of rear-naked choke wins. Neither man has overwhelming takedown numbers, relying heavily on their adversary to initiate the ground exchanges. Once on the mat, they are both capable scramblers and possess active guards where they will look to work to a superior position.

If their respective grappling games nullify each other, Caceres holds a slight edge in striking volume, while Miller gets the nod in power. Caceres will throw a variety of strikes, mixing in some unorthodox techniques. Miller has been working to improve his distance control, pumping out his jab and utilizing a long straight right hand. While he has just 3 pro wins by knockout, ‘Magrinho’ dropped Sam Sicilia and Ross Pearson prior to tying up the submission.

Caceres has had just over a week to prep for this fight, which doesn’t bode well for him if it turns into a grueling affair. Look for Miller to land the more impactful strikes on the feet and force Caceres into risky takedown attempts. Once the grappling exchanges are initiated, Cole will work himself to the superior position and start chaining submission attempts together. If Miller can’t gain the finish in the opening 2 rounds, he does have a tendency to slow down, but he should be ahead on the scorecards at that point- my prediction is Cole Miller to defeat Alex Caceres by submission.

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170lbs- Sean Strickland (17-1-0) vs Tom Breese (10-0-0)

Headlining the Fight Pass preliminary card will be a battle between Welterweight prospects, as Sean ‘Tarzan’ Strickland takes on England’s Tom ‘The Octopus’ Breese. Strickland is 4-1 in the UFC and has won back to back fights over Alex Garcia and Igor Araujo since losing his Welterweight debut. Breese has yet to taste defeat, including  a 3-0 start to his Octagon run- he is coming off of the first decision win of his career.

At 6’3″, Breese is 2 inches taller than Strickland, but the American will have a 3″ reach advantage.

‘Tarzan has stopped 8 opponents by knockout, including his third round finish of Alex Garcia. A BJJ Brown belt, he has 4 submission wins- all by RNC. Of his 12 finishes, 9 have come in the opening round. Over his last 2 outings, Strickland has shown a noteworthy uptick in his offensive output with 155 significant strikes landed compared to just 112 in his first 3 UFC fights. He will switch stances and throws a stiff jab, that he dropped Garcia with prior to finishing him. Sean augments his boxing with front and low kicks. At times, his passivity and tall stance can lead to him getting cracked with some big shots, but he has a strong chin. On the mat, Strickland is active with both his top position strikes and guard passing/ submission game. He had a lot of success on the floor against Araujo, and busted up Garcia with hard punches and elbows.

Strickland is good in a scramble and if he gets put on his back, he does a good job of shutting down his opponent’s top game.

Prior to the Keita Nakamura decision, Breese had finished all 9 of his wins- 6 in the first round. He has 6 submission wins on his record, 4 by RNC. He has very fast hands, firing out a strong right jab and sharp straight left. He hurt Pendred with a counter left and put him down with a had front kick to the body. He does a decent job of cutting off the cage and stalking his opponent. He can also be effective from the clinch, delivering hard knees to the body. His grappling can be both a key aspect of his offense or an area of vulnerability. Nakamura had a lot of success taking him down, landing a trio of completions. Breese used a leg lock to threaten and eventually counter to top position, but he exposed his back when doing so. From top position he will unload with hard elbows and solid GNP.

Tom is a Tri-Star product, training alongside Rory MacDonald and Strickland’s most recent opponent; Alex Garcia. There should be some level of familiarity for Breese, considering his camp has prepped for Strickland before.

Both men are multi-faceted and capable of competing on the feet and on the ground. Strickland’s striking output has been on the rise, but he needs to avoid sitting back and allowing his foe to engage first. For Breese, in one of his final pre-UFC bouts he had issues with giving up takedowns. Nakamura was able to expose his TDD as well, but failed to hold the superior position. Look for Strickland to keep the fight close on the feet and then land key takedowns which will both score points and slow down the Brit’s offense. Strickland likes to work from half guard, to better control his opponent and he has a very quick back take if Breese gives up the position- my prediction is Sean Strickland to defeat Tom Breese by submission.

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205lbs- Jonathan Wilson (7-0-0) vs Luiz Henrique da Silva (10-0-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Jonathan ‘Johnny Bravo’ Wilson makes his second UFC appearance, taking on fellow undefeated fighter Luis Henrique ‘Frankenstein’ Da Silva of Brazil. Wilson stopped Chris Dempsey in just 50 seconds in his debut, his only fight of 2015 after a perfect 4-0 run in 2014. Da Silva scored a TKO win over UFC veteran Ildemar Alcantara in his final pre-UFC bout earlier this year to build on his 4-0 record in 2015.

At 6’3″, Da Silva is 1″ taller than Wilson and 2 years younger.

Both men have impressive finishing rates. Wilson has won by knockout in 6 of his 7 victories compared to just a single decision win. He has finished 5 opponents in the first round, including 4 before the 2-minute mark. Prior to the Dempsey fight, ‘Johnny Bravo’ fought 4-times under the Gladiator Challenge banner against opponents with a combined record of 5-11. He also went 7-0 as an amateur fighter, knocking out 6 of his 7 foes. ‘Frankenstein’ has 10 wins by knockout and a single submission victory which came due to strikes. Da Silva has ended 8 fights in the opening round and never fought past round 2. His win over Alcantara is easily the biggest victory of his career. Prior to the stoppage of Ildemar, his last 4 adversaries have a combined record of 15-13, with 10 wins attributed to just 1 fighter.

Prior to stopping Alcantara, Da Silva was getting boxed up on the feet and taken down at will. He eventually landed a fight changing right hand and scored the stoppage shortly afterward, but he was clearly losing the fight. His cardio also looked less than impressive as he was breathing heavy early in the action. Wilson didn’t get to showcase much in his debut win. He moved fairly well for a big man, and dropped Dempsey with a clean left hand through his guard.

Despite being on the wrong end of the majority of the action against Alcantara, Da Silva showed that he can take a decent shot. Wilson will certainly test that. Wilson should be the more athletic fighter and will have the speed advantage. He tends to throw a lot of single strikes, but pack significant power when he do so. He hasn’t showcased a lot of his wrestling, but with the ease at which Alcantara took Da Silva down, Wilson should be able to do so as well. Once on top, the American can generate a lot of power. Both fighters are you and developing, but Wilson appears to have more upside- my prediction is Jonathan Wilson to defeat Luis Henrique Da Silva by TKO.


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185lbs- Elvis Mutapcic (15-4-0) vs Kevin Casey (9-4-0 2NC)

In the Middleweight division, Elvis ‘The King’ Mutapcic takes on fellow royalty ‘King’ Kevin Casey. Casey is coming off of a loss to Rafael Natal, his first official defeat over his last 7-fights. Mutapcic made his promotional debut on short notice at Light Heavyweight and dropped a decision to Francimar Barosso, he had won 2 in a row and is 7-2 over his last 9 fights.

Mutapcic is 1″ taller, but Casey will have a 5″ reach advantage. Elvis is the younger man by 5 years.

On the feet, Mutapcic is a capable striker. He cuts decent angles and mixes up his offense nicely. Against Barroso, he struggled to land strikes with consistency. He has 5 wins by knockout. Casey is far from a technical wizard on the feet, throwing mainly power strikes with the purpose of setting up his clinch and takedown entries. Casey did drop Bubba Bush during an exchange prior to scoring the TKO stoppage on the mat. For Mutapcic to win this fight, he will need to be the more active striker. Mixing up his offense and moving his feet to avoid Casey getting in on his hips.

A BJJ Black belt, Casey has a trio of wins by submission, along with a couple of decision and TKO victories on the mat. He has excellent top control, smothering his opponent and breaking them down with short strikes. His guard passing is sound and he will jump on a submission attempt should he be given the opportunity. ‘King’ Kevin also has a capable guard. He nearly caught Josh Samman with a triangle and was able to counter and put Alcantara on his back despite the Brazilian holding full mount early in that fight. Mutapcic gave up just a single takedown in his debut loss, but he has struggled at time with his opponent’s wrestling. Jesse Taylor had a lot of success grinding him out on the mat at WSOF 7. Once Barosso took him down, Elvis offered very little from his guard. He has 7 wins by sub, but 2 came via strikes.

This bout will almost certainly be won by the fighter that can dictate where the action takes place. Casey will want the majority of the fight to transpire on the mat, while Mutapcic will be focussed on remaining vertical. Elvis’s counter wrestling is a major point of concern. If Casey can establish his takedowns, it will serve to both score points when on the mat and create hesitation in Mutapcic when he does have the chance to strike. Elvis isn’t a high volume striker and is at a deficit in the reach category, so he is going to struggle to keep Casey from pushing forward. Additionally, he doesn’t offer the type of pressure and volume that will test the questionable endurance of Kevin and slow him down in the later rounds. Casey will find success closing the gap and getting in on the hips of Mutapcic. Once on the mat, Casey’s heavy top game will keep Elvis stuck on his back for prolonged durations of the fight. The biggest concern is that Casey will slow down in the second half, leading to a potential stoppage, but my prediction is Kevin Casey to defeat Elvis Mutapcic by decision/
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155lbs- Polo Reyes (6-3-0) vs Dong Hyun Kim (13-7-3)

The opening fight of the night takes place in the Lightweight division as a pair of promotional sophomores meet when Mexico’s Polo ‘El Toro’ Reyes takes on ‘Maestro’ Dong Hyun Kim. Polo defeated fellow TUF Latin American 2 semi-finalist Cesar Arzamendia at UFN 78 in his UFC debut. Kim stepped in on very short notice to face Dominique Steele at Welterweight and suffered just his second loss over his last 9 fights.

Kim is returning to a more appropriate 155 pounds for this bout. He is 4 years younger than his foe, but he has a sizeable experience advantage with 23 pro bouts to just 7 for ‘El Toro’. Both men are 5’11” and Reyes will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

During his time on the reality show, Reyes scored a 2nd round TKO victory in the elimination portion of the tournament before getting knocked out in the semi-finals. As a pro, he has 4 wins by knockout and 1 by submission. He stopped Arzamendia for just his 2nd opening round finish. Both of his losses came via submission. Kim has a slightly more diversified record- winning 6-times by KO/TKO, along with 5 submission wins and a 2-4 record on the scorecards. He has been submitted twice and Steele was the first to knock him out. ‘Maestro’ has 8 opening round wins.

Both men are willing to stand in the pocket and trade. Reyes does a good job of sitting down on his punches and letting his hands go. At the same time, he pays almost no attention to defense, allowing his opponent to land at will. This resulted in his knockout loss on the show and a couple of other occasions where he was hurt. Kim took a similar approach against Steele, trading heavy leather against the much bigger man. While it was a big slam that was his undoing, Kim showed a decent chin when getting blasted with some big shots. If this degenerates into a slugfest, it could go either way. The difference maker should be the grappling of Kim. He has a pretty decent clinch game, where he will look for bodylock/trip takedowns. Prior to getting the finish in his debut, Reyes was taken down multiple times and struggled to offer much resistance. Look for Kim to jam Reyes’s forward pressure with his clinch attack and routinely drag him to the floor where he will break him down with strikes and/or set up a submission- my prediction is Dong Hyun Kim to defeat Polo Reyes by submission.

135lbs- #6 Sara McMann (8-3-0) vs #7 Jessica Eye (11-4-0 1NC)

In the Headling fight of the prelims, former title challenger and Olympic Silver Medalist Sara McMann takes on Jessica ‘Evil’ Eye in the Women’s Bantamweight division. McMann has just a single win in her last 4, falling to the next title contender Amanda Nunes, former champion Ronda Rousey, and current champion Miesha Tate. Eye has an identical record over her last 4 with losses to Tate, former title challenger Alexis Davis, and rising contender Juliana Pena.

Both girls are 5’6″ with a 66″ reach, but Eye is 6 years younger than McMann.

Eye is a high volume striker, averaging 4.18 strikes landed per minute, but she has landed more strikes than her opponent just once in her 5-fight UFC run. She put up an impressive 82 strikes in 6:30 of action against Leslie Smith, earning the Doctor stoppage TKO victory. It was just the third knockout win of her career compared to 7 wins by decision. She lacks significant stopping power, relying more on her speed and ability to outwork her foe. She used her hand speed to get the better of Kaufman, but struggled with the Canadian’s power. ‘Evil’ Eye throws a nice jab, has good footwork, and works volume in close range. She found success countering Tate and making her hesitate, routinely landing a counter right hand. Eye doesn’t throw a lot of kicks, which is to her benefit against McMann’s wrestling. Eye’s biggest area of vulnerability has been her counter wrestling. In her three losses, Pena, Davis, and Tate all found success taking Eye down and Jessica offered very little off of her back. Once Tate established her wrestling, Eye’s output drop significantly for fear of being taken down.

Eye formerly competed at 125 pounds, but moved to Bantamweight for her UFC debut. She has struggled at times with the size of her foes, but has stated she has no interested in moving back to the Flyweight if the UFC starts the division.

McMann is a decorated wrestler and not surprisingly her success in MMA has hinged on her ability to take her opponent down. Prior to joining the UFC, she picked up a 4-pack of victories where she compiled 26 takedowns. Continuing that trend, in her 2 UFC wins she landed a combined 7 takedowns and finished Sheila Gaff on the floor with elbows from the crucifix position. By comparison, she completed just a single takedown on 4 attempts during her 3 losses. Once on top she has strong positional control, but as was the case against Lauren Murphy- she needs to be more active with her GNP. On the feet, her striking is very much a work in progress. She did show signs of improvement against Tate, hurting her during an early exchange, but couldn’t build on it. Rousey was able to finish her with a well-placed knee to the mid-section and Nunes did some serious damage prior to getting the submission finish.

Against Murphy, Sara landed 5 takedowns but was badly outworked from the bottom and nearly lost a split decision.

This fight is very much a striker versus grappler showdown. Of the two, McMann is more likely to hold her own on the feet than Eye is to get the better of Sara on the floor. If McMann is to have any success while vertical, she still needs to establish the threat of her takedowns to slow Eye’s forward pressure. If Eye wants to remain upright, she needs to use her footwork, keep active, and anticipate the shot and get her hips back. That is going to be easier said than done. Eye lacks the type of power needed to back Sara off and keep her from pursuing the takedown. Once Sara gets her hands on Eye, she should have no problem taking her down and keeping her down. Both girls have struggled with elite level competition, but McMann possesses the needed skill set to replicate the issues that Eye has had during her current skid- my prediction is Sara McMann to defeat Jessica Eye by Decision.

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155lbs- Abel Trujillo (14-6-0 1NC) vs Jordan Rinaldi (12-4-0)

The vicious Abel ‘Killa’ Trujillo takes on short-notice replacement Jordan ‘All Day’ Rinaldi in the Lightweight division. Rinaldi has picked up 5-straight wins including a submission of UFC vet Clay Harvison- he has lost to the likes of James Moontasri and Brian Ortega, but does hold a win over Dennis Bermudez early in his career. Trujillo is coming off of a win over Tony Sims and has just one official loss in his last 5-fights after the Gleison Tibau loss was overturned.

Rinaldi is replacing Carlos Diego Ferreira on a little less than 2-weeks’ notice. He is 2 inches taller than Trujillo and will have a 1″ reach advantage.

Trujillo is a berzerker, combining a relentless pace with brutal finishing power. He has stopped 5 foes by knockout and 4 more by submission. Abel submitted Tony Sims via guillotine and knocked out both Jamie Varner and Roger Bowling. Trujillo is a former NAIA wrestler and can do some serious damage on the mat generating massive power from top position. He has averaged 2.41 takedowns per fight, completing just over 1 of every 2 attempts. He landed 5 takedowns in his win over Roger Bowling and scored a pair in the early action against Ferguson. His defensive work on the mat is a major concern as he has lost a number of fights against superior ground fighters- including 3 submission losses and an overturned defeat against Tibau.

His aggressive style has been successfully overwhelming against some adversaries, but it has also cost him. After the early exchanges against Ferguson, he slowed noticeably prior to getting finished.

The UFC debutant has a submission heavy win total, winning 7-times by tap out compared to a single knockout victory and 4 decision wins. He has just 4 opening round stoppages. When looking to put his foe on the ground he will shoot a strong power double and has decent top control. He has a tendency to shoot from distance, which can catch his opponent off guard, but against higher level opposition it can also make his shot easier to defend. His striking is decent, working together a solid 1-2 with kicks and strikes to the body. He will remain active when attacking, but tends to let his chin rise up and got knocked out cold with a well-timed uppercut from Moontasri.

Rinaldi faltered in his bid to join the TUF Live season, submitting to Joe Proctor in the qualifying round.

There are 2 key areas where Trujillo has struggled that Rinaldi could capitalize on. If Rinaldi can work his ground game and drag Trujillo to the ground with consistency, it will open the door for him to capitalize on Abel as he slows down later in the fight. That being said, the two-week notice and debut factor could compromise the physical capabilities of Rinaldi that have helped him to succeed in longer fights. Trujillo’s physically imposing style can be a lot to handle and while top level grapplers/wrestlers have had success fending off his takedowns and taking him down- ‘All Day’ is not there.When Rinaldi shoots unsuccessfully, look for Trujillo to turn the position in his favour with hard elbows and knees along the cage. On the feet, Abel should find similar success inflicting damage- my prediction is Abel Trujillo to defeat Jordan Rinaldi by TKO.

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185lbs- Jake Collier (9-2-0) vs Alberto Uda (9-0-0)

In the Middleweight division, Jake ‘The Prototype’ Collier’s spot on the roster is on the line when he fights promotional neophyte Alberto Uda. Uda is undefeated and is coming off of a win over former Octagon competitor Thiago Perpetuo. Collier lost by TKO to Dong Yi Yang following a split decision win over Ricardo Abreu- he is 1-2 inside the Octagon.

Both men are 6’3″ and Collier is 4 years younger. The Brazilian is replacing Keith Berish on roughly 2-months’ notice.

Collier dominated the early action against Vitor Miranda, but got cracked with a brutal right high kick in the final seconds of the first round leading to the stoppage. He showed all around improvements in his second fight, getting the better of the striking exchanges and limiting his foe’s success on the floor. He builds the majority of his offense off a strong left jab followed by a heavy right hand, hard leg and body kicks, and a stiff front kick. He strikes long, getting good extension on his punches, but he tends to leave his head exposed when throwing wide swinging hooks. Jake dropped Yang with a well-timed right hand, but struggled to land with consistency during the majority of the exchanges. While he looks to push a hefty pace, he tends to be a little awkward and disjointed in his attack.

Collier comes from a wrestling background and controlled the action early against Miranda on the floor, nearly submitting him. He had mixed results attempting to take Yang down and when he went for a pair of subs in round 2 he was unable to finish and got smashed with GNP leading to the stoppage.

Uda has only gone the distance once in his career, compared to 4 opening round finishes. He has split his finishes evenly between knockouts and submission, with 3 of his last 4 victories coming via TKO. He comes from a Muay Thai background and boasts a very strong clinch attack. He took out Perpetuo with a couple of hard knees from the Thai plumb and does his best work at short range letting go with elbows and quick punches. The Brazilian’s distance striking isn’t quite as complete, throwing a decent 1-2 and serviceable kicks up and down the body. When defending TDAs, he’s pretty good at remaining vertical and sucking his opponent into the clinch where he can transition to offense. His top game isn’t anything to write home about, but he is quite capable of attacking off his back. Alberto possesses a strong guard and submitted capable submission fighter Thiago Rela with a slick triangle-armbar combination.

Uda has face a pretty good level of regional opposition with his last 3 opponents holding a combined 31-17 mark. He picked up an early career victory over UFC vet Rick ‘Monstro’.

This might not be the prettiest of fights, but it should be entertaining for however long it lasts. Collier doesn’t excel in any one specific area and for the most part he is a willing combatant wherever the fight transpires. His readiness to wrestling and lack of a dominant takedown game is going to get him in trouble. As he closes the distance looking to take Uda down, the Brazilian will jam him up with his clinch game and then start to unload with short range strikes. If they do hit the mat with Jake on top, the aggressive guard play of Alberto will prevent him from settling in and dissuade him from future TDAs. The pair of knockout losses that Collier has suffered in the UFC suggest he won’t be ablet to withstand Uda’s attack once he starts to connect- my prediction Alberto Uda to defeat Jake Collier by TKO.

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155lbs- Erik Koch (14-4-0) vs Shane Campbell (12-4-0)

In the Lightweight division, Erik ‘New Breed’ Koch returns to action after a prolonged layoff to meet tough Canadian ‘Shaolin’ Shane Campbell. Koch is coming off TKO loss to Daron Cruickshank which came after a win over Rafaello Oliveira- he is 1-3 in his last 4 fights. Campbell dropped a hard-fought decision to James Krause moving his Octagon record to 1-2.

Koch has been out of action for a little over 24 months while Campbell has fought 5-times in that span. The Canadian is 2 inches taller and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Koch is the younger man by a year.

‘Shaolin’ comes from a kickboxing background where he went 62-9 with 13 knockouts. He has 5 knockouts in his MMA career, including his eye-catching body kick/ Hadouken stoppage at WSOF 18. Prior to his decision win over Elias Silverio, he had recorded his last 3 wins by knockout. Campbell has averaged 4.33 SLpM, including a UFC-high 82 significant strikes against Krause. Against Makdessi, Campbell was busting up his lead leg and bloodied his nose with some slick combinations. He is very adept at landing strikes in between his opponent’s offense, attacking in transition and piling up significant volume. Shane can work both at distance and in close with short punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Despite his striking background, he has a decent grappling game. His TDD is strong, and he is quite adept at scrambling and/or countering his way out of a bad spots.

Campbell is a BJJ Purple belt with a pair of submission wins. He survived an early sub attempt from Krause and has landed 4 takedowns over his last 2 fights.

Koch is also BJJ Purple belt and Tae Kwon Do Black belt. He has finished 4 wins by knockout and 7 by submission, including a brutal KO finish of current Bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao. Koch offers a nice kicking variety in his attack and has decent pop in his hands. From a volume standpoint, he isn’t an overwhelming fighter averaging 2.38 SLpM compared to 2.34 SApM. He has been out-landed in 3 of his last 4 fights by a count of 110 to 52. On the mat, he is a capable grappler, but he has had issues with both creating separation in the clinch and defending takedowns. Jonathan Brookins smothered him along the cage and Poirier and Lamas both had success taking him down. His chin is also a point of concern, with a pair of knockout losses to Cruickshank and Ricardo Lamas, along with a getting knocked down by Dustin Poirier.

Since a pair of title fights with Jose Aldo were called off, Koch has gone 1-3 and struggled to find the success that lead him to getting paired with the champion.

Koch has been on the shelf for a long time which can be an issue, especially in the opening round. His lack of striking volume and questionable chin are two considerable vulnerabilities against a capable pressure striker like Campbell. If Koch is unable to drag him to the ground with consistency, he is going to struggle to keep up on the feet. Look for Campbell to simply out work his American counterpart at distance and on the inside along with potentially finding some success with his own takedowns as the impact of the striking piles up- my prediction is Shane Campbell to defeat Erik Koch by TKO

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135lbs- #4 Aljamain Sterling (12-0-0) vs #8 Bryan Caraway (20-8-0)

In the Bantamweight division, ‘The Funk Master’ Aljamain Sterling makes his first appearance since signing his new contract when he takes on ‘Mr. Tate’ Bryan ‘Kid Lightning’ Caraway. Sterling is still undefeated with impressive wins over Johnny Eduardo, Takeya Mizugaki, and Hugo Viana. Caraway defeated former WEC champion Eddie Wineland in his last fight and is 6-2 over his last 8 outings.

Caraway, who hasn’t fought in 10-months, is an inch taller than Sterling, but will be at a 3″ reach disadvantage. Sterling is the younger man by 5 years.

A grappling specialist, Caraway has recorded 17 wins by submission. He has a lethal back mount, with 11 wins coming by rear-naked choke. ‘Kid Lightning’ has been submitted twice, both losses occurred at a heavier weight class, but he is a dismal 3-5 in bouts not ending in a submission and has dropped 4 of his last 6 decisions. Over his UFC/WEC career, he has averaged 2.8 takedowns per fight at a 33% completion rate while defending 81% of his opponents’ TDAs. Over his 4 UFC victories, he has dominated the takedown battle by a count of 11-2 compared to a much closer 4-2 total (still favouring BC) in his 2 defeats. Caraway has a suffocating top game, taking opponents down and working them over on the floor until they give up a submission or he grinds out a decision. He augments his ground attack with a decent striking repertoire, leading with his right hand and throwing primarily hooks and short punches in the clinch.

Against Wineland, Caraway went 0-12 on his takedowns but out-struck Eddie by a count of 61-52. Conversely, he had been out-struck by a count of 142-76 in his 2 previous fights where he struggled to implement his wrestling.

Sterling enters the fight with his focus on a potential shot at the title in the not too distance future. A former NCAA Division 3 wrestler, Aljamain has finished 9 opponents and 6 of his last 7. He has just a pair of opening round stoppages in his last 10 outings. ‘The Funk Master’ is a measured fighter, gauging his opponent and breaking them down methodically before looking for a finish. Limiting his opponents to a minute 0.99 SLpM, Sterling currently carries a +2.25 striking exchange rate. Sterling offers an ever expanding striking arsenal. Look for his to use long strikes; mixing between straight punches and variety of kicks. Against Eduardo, he mitigated the damage absorbed at distance until he was able to get on the inside and put him on the mat. Once on the floor, he nullified the Brazilian’s offense, cut through his guard quickly, and eventually locked up the power guillotine in round 2.

Sterling was taken down 4 times on just 6 attempts in his debut against Cody Gibson. Since the Gibson fight, his last 3 opponents have focussed very little on putting Sterling on his backside.

Caraway continues to struggle to gain recognition, despite his success. Even though he was able to beat Wineland without a takedown, he is still a specialist that relies heavily on his takedown game to separate him from the opposition. Sterling hasn’t had to deal with a grappling-centric fighter like Caraway, but he possesses the type of distance striking and clinch game to shut him out in the takedown department. Whether Sterling is able to bring his own ground game to the forefront or simply keep the fight vertical- he is the superior striker. Similar to with his takedown game, Caraway will have limited success closing the gap when striking to land with consistency. Sterling will work on the outside, picking Bryan apart, and when Caraway starts to get a little reckless trying to close the distance Sterling will change levels and put him on his back- my prediction is Aljamain Sterling to defeat Bryan Caraway by decision.Paragraph breaker

265lbs- Chris De La Rocha (4-1-0) vs Adam Milstead (7-1-0)

To kick off the night’s action, a pair of Heavyweights collide as UFC sophomore Chri s De La Rocha takes on promotional newcomer Adam ‘The Prototype’ Milstead. De La Rocha is coming off his first pro loss in his UFC debut, lasting just 48 seconds against Daniel Omielanczuk. Milstead lost his pro debut back in 2011, but has picked up 7-straight wins since, with his last 3 victims totalling a 34-35 combined record.

Both men stand 6’3″, but De La Rocha will have a 3″ reach advantage and should be close to 10 pounds heavier. Milstead is the younger man by 8 years.

Milstead is a well-built heavyweight, that his compiled a decent regional record on route to getting the call to the UFC. Of his 7 wins, 5 came via knockout along with a pair of submissions. He has fought outside of the opening round just twice, with 4 wins ending before the 120-second mark. The debut loss he suffered was by 1st round KO. Milstead is a striker, working a power boxing attack. His best work comes in the pocket where he will willingly sit down and sling heavy leather. He can work at distance, but his primary inclination is to close the distance when attacking. In one of his last pre-UFC bouts, he did a good job of cutting off the cage and battering his opponent with combinations. He finished the fight with a big straight right hand, that he will set up with his left hook.

‘The Prototype’ isn’t an overwhelming wrestler, but he will look for a takedown if the situation presents itself.

De La Rocha is still relatively new to MMA despite his age. His UFC debut didn’t do much to up his depth of experience. He was wobbled after getting plugged with an opening short left hand and struggled to regain his composure. Chris was eventually finished by a right hook. Against DJ Linderman, he stood in pocket and exchanged heavy leather, eventually knocking him out.  Normally, his focus is to put his opponent on the mat and look for a combination of ground and pound and submissions. He has a pair of sub wins on his record, finishing all 4 of his victories- 3 in the opening round. His wrestling is a work in progress, as he relies heavily on is ability to out-muscle and force his foe to the mat.

De La Rocha took his debut fight on short notice, replacing Konstantin Erokhin on just over 2 weeks notice.

The knockout loss suffered by De La Rocha made him just the 3rd the man that Omielanczuk finished with strikes in 25-fights. It wasn’t an overly powerful punch that hurt him and as a result, it brings into the question the durability of the Washington native. Milstead is the more refined fighter and should be good enough defensively to fend off the takedown attempts of his foe, forcing him to exchange. Milstead’s speed and more refined punching attack will be too much for De La Rocha to handle once the leather starts to let loose. When Heavyweight starts to exchange, it only takes one big connection to turn the fight on its head, Milstead is the more likely to land that strike- my prediction is Adam Milstead to defeat Chris De La Rocha by TKO

170lbs- #6 Demian Maia (22-6-0) vs #8 Matt Brown (22-13-0)

In the featured fight of the undercard, title hopefuls Demian Maia and Matt ‘The Immortal’ Brown look to continue their quests for UFC gold in the Welterweight division. Maia is riding a 4-fight winning streak, most recently defeating Neil Magny and Gunnar Nelson. Brown resurrected his career with an impressive 7-fight run, only to drop back to back fights against the elite of the division- he is coming off of a win over Tim Means.

Maia is 1″ taller, but will give up 5 inches of reach to Brown. The American is 4 years younger.

Maia a BJJ Black belt, but there are Black belts and then there is Demian Maia. He is elite on the mat with 10 wins by submission and 7 in the UFC. Arguably one of his most impressive wins on the ground didn’t end via tap out, but instead a dominant decision win over highly regarded Gunnar Nelson. Nelson was unable to fend off the Brazilian on the ground, getting taken down and badly out-positioned for the almost the entire fight. Maia has a quartet of RNC victories in addition to his gruesome neck crank sub of Rick Story. He has an excellent back mount and will look to advance to the position as soon as the opportunity presents itself. His takedown game has drastically improved- he has completed 27 takedowns in 9 Welterweight bouts.

Maia has been working to improve his striking, but his recommitment to his ground game has been at the heart of his career resurgence.

Brown has also enjoyed a resurgence with an impressive run to the cusp of title contention. A Muay Thai based fighter, Brown uses his pace and aggression to break down his opposition. ‘The Immortal’ has 12 wins by KO or TKO, including a run of 6 straight knockouts against he likes of Erick Silva, Jordan Mein, and Mike Pyle. Brown averages 3.84 SLpM and does some of his best work in the clinch landing hard knees and elbows. His durability serves to magnify his aggression as he has never been knocked out. He has proven vulnerable to body shots, but has yet to be stopped. Matt showed off his grappling chops by submitting Tim Mean in his last fight. He used 5 takedowns in each of his wins over Erik Silva and Stephen Thompson, but gave up 9 in his loss to Johnny Hendricks.

Brown’s submission defense was at the forefront his early struggles. Matt has been subbed 9-times in his career, but his last took place in 2011- 10 fights ago.

There are two clear directions that this fight could go. Brown keeps pressing forward and overwhelms/ exhausts Maia with his pressure and volume leading to a TKO victory. Or, Maia catches Brown moving forward with a well-timed takedown to start each round and plants him there for the duration, leading to either a decision or submission win. Brown’s offense revolves around him closing the distance working toward the clinch. Against Hendricks, this got Matt routinely taken down. Maia will have similar success. Once on top, Demian will smother Brown and eventually work his way into a submission opportunity- my prediction is Demian Maia to defeat Matt Brown by submission.

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170lbs- WARLLEY ALVES (11-0-0) vs Bryan Barberena (11-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, TUF: Brazil 3 winner Warlley Alves takes on ‘Bam Bam’ Bryan Barberena. Barberena is fresh off his victory over Sage Northcutt to improve his record to 2-1 inside the Octagon. Alves is still undefeated after taking out fellow prospect Colby Covington at UFC 194- he also holds victories over Nordine Taleb and Alan Jouban.

‘Bam Bam’ made his first 2 UFC appearances at Lightweight before making the jump to Welterweight as a late notice replacement. He is 1″ taller than Alves and they will share an identical 72″ reach. Alves is 2 years younger.

The American picked up the biggest win of his career by dispatching the highly touted Northcutt. It was the second submission win for the BJJ Blue belt. Barberena is an action fighter, pushing an aggressive high volume pace. Bryan stopped Joe Ellenberger in his UFC debut for the 8th knockout win of his career. Despite finishing 1o of his 11 victories, only 3 took place in the opening round compared to 6 coming after the midway mark. Averaging 5.01 SLpM, Barberena breaks his opponent’s down with his constant pressure and ability to absorbed punishment. Against Chad Laprise, he was getting lit up early on, but Laprise began to slow down and ‘Bam Bam’ started to climb back into the fight. He can do damage at range, but is arguably most effective on the side and working in the clinch.

One area of concern has been his takedown and grappling defense. He has been submitted just once in his career, early on, but Joe Ellenberger found success taking him down multiple times despite appearing fatigued.

Alves showcased his dangerous submission skills against Covington, snatching up a guillotine on an TDA for this sixth career tap out. All 3 of his UFC subs were the result of his vaunted guillotine choke, he also used the move to win his TUF semi-final. In addition to his submission grappling, he has a decent wrestling attack, completing 5 takedowns in his first 3 UFC fights. Look for him to time and catch his foe’s kick attempts to convert them to takedowns. The Brazilian is an aggressive fighter both on the mat and the feet. He will throw sharp body and low kicks, a hard left hook, and he has stopping power in his right hand. He doesn’t have overwhelming striking numbers, surpassing the 20 significant strikes mark just once, in his controversial win over Jouban.

Against Jouban, Alves came out strong and hurt Alan during an early exchange. In his haste to finish the fight, he spent a great deal of energy and fatigued. Jouban was able to rebound and climb back into the bout, but lost a decision despite carrying a lot of the action.

Fighting against a true Welterweight, Barberena loses the physical advantages he enjoyed against the 155ers. Against Alves, he will need to rely on his cardio and durability. If he can force Alves to work hard early it should pay dividends in the second half of the fight where a decision win or potential stoppage could be realized. While the volume comparison favours ‘Bam Bam’, the power edge lies distinctly with Alves. Larpise had a lot of success landing big shots against Barberena and Alves’s power might be too much to endure. If Warlley opts to take the fight to the mat, he should find success there as well. The Brazilian has the ability to either grind out a decision win or set up a possible submission. Look for the TUF champ to force Barberena into scramble mode when he tries to drag him to the mat and attack his neck in the process- my prediction is Warlley Alves to defeat Bryan Barberena by submission.

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185lbs- Thiago Santos (12-3-0) vs Nate Marquardt (37-15-2)

In the Middleweight division Thiago ‘Marreta’ Santos takes on former title challenger Nate ‘The Great’ Marquardt. Santos upset Elias Theodorou to extend his winning streak to 3 straight. Marquardt had just 1 win over his last 5 fights before knocking out of CB Dollaway last December.

Both men are 6’0″ tall, but the Brazilian will have a slight 2″ reach advantage. He is the younger man by 5 years.

‘Marreta’ has a lethal kicking arsenal. He KOed Steve Bosse with a violent head kick and used equally as devastating body kicks to fell both Ronny Markes and Andy Enz. Thiago has recorded 7 of his 12 wins by knockout. In addition to rendering the finishing blow with his legs, Santos will also use his kicks to set up his strikes. Look for him to target the legs or body to eventually create openings for a head strike. Against Elias, he utilized another aspect of his Muay Thai skills, breaking down the Canadian with knees in the clinch. In his 2 fights that went the distance, he demoed a pretty consistent striking offense, landing 96 total strikes compared to 70 given up.

While his kicking attack and clinch game are the strongest aspects of his offense, Thiago’s hands are still a work in progress and are use more to set up the rest of his attack.

Marquardt has fought the best of the best and had success. He is closing in on the end of his career, but he has shown that he still has something left in the tank. After a trio of losses in 2013, he rallied to submit James Te-Huna. In similar fashion, he KOed Dollaway after dropping back to back bouts in 2015. Nate is a BJJ Black belt, recording 16 wins by submission. The Te Huna sub was his first since his 2008 victory over Jeremy Horn at UFC 81. He also packs some serious power in his strikes, utilizing a variety of techniques. He took out CB with a brutal right hand and stopped Tyron Woodley with a perfectly executed standing elbow strike. Where ‘The Great’ has struggled has been with his offensive output and subsequent defensive issues. Nate struggles to pull the trigger, allowing his opponent to initiate the exchanges and be the more active fighter. His chin has also begun to fail him of late with knockouts accounting for 3 of his last 4 defeats.

In his last 2 losses, he was soundly out-landed 109-48 and going back further to his final Strikeforce appearance- Nate gave up 116 significant strikes over 5 rounds.

In order to leave Brazil with the victory, Marquardt needs to get this fight to the mat and utilize his submission skills. While he is a capable striker, the aforementioned deficiencies in his game mixed with the dangers presented by Santos make the striking exchanges too risky. Santos is a BJJ purple belt, but hasn’t shown a tonne on the mat and was submitted in his promotional debut. Conversely, his takedown defense has been very strong. Theodorou brought a grappling-centric attack against Santos, attempting 13 takedowns and completing just 1. Marquardt capitalized on a poor decision by Dollaway and landed a well-timed counter for the KO, he won’t be as fortunate here. Look for ‘Marreta’ to sit at range and blast away with his kicks, varying his targets and piling up the damage. Whether it be with a single concussive blow or the accumulation of damage, Marquardt will eventually succumb- my prediction is Thiago Santos to defeat Nate Marquardt by knockout.

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135lbs- #12 John Lineker (26-7-0) vs Rob Font (12-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Brazilian knockout artist John ‘Hands of Stone’ Lineker meets the streaking Team Sityodtong product Rob Font. Lineker has won 3 in a row including a knockout of Francisco Rivera in his UFC Bantamweight debut. Font returned after a lengthy layoff to win his 3rd straight fight by knockout and extend his winning streak to 12 consecutive victories.

Linker is giving up 5 inches of height and an additional 4 inches of reach. He is the younger man by 3 years.

Linker has absolute soul stealing power in his hands, recording 12 wins by knockout including 4 in the UFC. His whirlwind slugfest with Rivera demoed both his fight stopping power and impressive chin. He has never been knocked out and Rivera, who is known for his power, cracked him with some big shots. The Brazilian has averaged 5.62 SLpM, including a 133 strike effort against Alp Ozkilic. Lineker is equally as dangerous when targeting his opponent’s body, ripping hard hooks on the inside. Moving back up a weight class has increased the speed factor for Lineker and based on the Rivera fight, his power still translates quite well against larger men. He is at his best when he can draw his foe into a slugfest. McCall found success early, staying out of range and not sitting in the pocket- Lineker landed just 3 strikes in the opening frame. Lineker does have a tendency to sit flat footed and wade forward predictably.

Defending 67% of his opponent’s TDAs, the only fighter that has found consistent success taking him down was Ali Baugotinov who scored 6 takedowns on 12 attempts.

Font has impressed in his 2 UFC outing, stopping both opponents. He has recorded 5 wins by knockout, 3 by submission and is a solid 4-1 on the scorecards. Rob has 6 first round finishes. He stopped George Roop with a hard right hand and put Joey Gomez down with a quick combination. He was lighting up Gomez with a consistent striking attacking, highlighted by a straight right, left hook combination. He tagged Gomez a couple of times and appeared to hurt him early in the middle round, but instead of rushing in for the kill he remained calculated and let the knockout develop naturally. Defensively, Font did an excellent job of attacking and slipping out of range of his opponent’s strikes. On the mat, his ground game hasn’t seen a lot of action. He did score an early takedown against Gomez and landed a few strikes in transition.

Prior to his last fight, he had missed 18-months of action due to injury.

Linker has the power to stop anyone, but he is going to need to find a way to close the distance. Rivera obliged him from the start of the fight and threw hands with no regard for defense or his physical advantages. Font appears to be a much more calculated fighter. He will exchange, but he does a good job of throwing long strikes and then sliding out of range. He is going to force Lineker to have to constantly move forward to close the gap, which will leave him open to getting countered or possibly taken down. Lineker lost the opening round against McCall because ‘Uncle Creepy’  stayed on the outside and made him chase, Font will do the same. Look for Font to stick and move, attack and disengage. As Lineker gets more desperate to engage, he will become even more hittable from the outside. Font avoids the slugfest and outpoints Lineker, potentially even landing a key takedown as the fight progresses- my prediction is Rob Font to defeat John Lineker by decision.

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205lbs- #10 Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (21-7-0) vs #11 Patrick Cummins (8-3-0)

Headlining the Fightpass portion of the event, Pride veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira takes on Patrick ‘Durkin’ Cummins in the Light Heayweight division. Nogueira is coming off a loss to Shogun Rua at UFC 190- he is 2-4 over his last 6 outings. Cummins is also coming off of a defeat, falling to Glover Teixeira via TKO, the second knockout loss of his last 3 fights.

Nogueira is 4-years older than the American,  they are both 6’2″ and Cummins will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

The Brazilian legend comes from a boxing background and is a BJJ Black belt. Nog’s 12 finishes are split evenly between subs and knockouts. 4 of his last 5 stoppage victories have been of the knockout variety. In the loss to Shogun, Antonio found success early catching Shogun with a short counter left hand that appeared to hurt him. He was unable to finish Rua in the ensuing assault. Nog has been KOed twice in his career. While Nogueira is a very capable BJJ player, his TDD has been his undoing during is recent struggles. Rua used his takedowns to take control of rounds 2 and 3, while Phil Davis, Ryan Bader, and Jason Brilz combined for 12 TDs in a pair Nog losses and a close split decision win. While he is willing to attack off of his back, his inability to get back to his feet makes the position a losing one.

Little Nog has struggled with activity in recent years, fighting once a year dating back to 2013 and missing all of 2012.

Cummins offense is predictable, but still difficult to stop. He is a former NCAA Division-1 wrestler and has completed 30 takedowns over his last 6 fights at a 53% completion rate. From top position, he simply wears opponents out. ‘Durkin’ stopped Feijao with his top position pressure and constant ground and pound to the point where the Brazilian could not longer defend himself. Equally as impressive, Cummins beat Antonio Carlos Jr , a talented BJJ player, on the mat- defending sub attempts and holding the superior position. His striking game is still a work in progress, which makes him vulnerable on the feet. Additionally, he has had some issues setting up his takedowns. Against some opponents he was simply able to overwhelm and force them to the mat, but against higher level opposition he becomes open to counters as he moves forward.

Cummins is quite hittable, as Feijao was able to do a lot of damage despite spending a great deal of time on his back. OSP KOed him with a well-timed counter and Glover simply piled up the damage until Patrick could take no more.

Nogueira has stated that his key to victory will be his boxing. He has to keep this fight vertical and do as much damage as he possibly can. Even if he can’t stop Cummins, the damage should make his wrestling far less effective. Glover was able to get up, do damage and kept repeating the process until the TDAs stopped coming. For Cummins, he recognizes his short comings and as a result, he has remained committed to his wrestling. The ease that Shogun took Little Nog down with suggests that the American should find similar success. Cummins has also fought 3-times in Brazil already, winning twice, so the hostile atmosphere won’t be unfamiliar. Little Nog lacks the pop and volume to do enough with hands while on standing and Cummins will focus on controlling the position once on the mat to avoid letting Nog up- my prediction is Patrick Cummins to defeat Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by decision.

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155lbs- Francisco Trinaldo (19-4-0) vs YANCY MEDEIROS (12-3-0 1NC)

Popular Brazilian Francisco ‘Massaranduba’ Trinaldo looks to continue his surge when he takes on scrappy Hawaiian Yancy Medeiros. Trinaldo has 5 consecutive bouts, including victories over Ross Pearson, Chad Laprise, and Norman Parke. Medeiros took home a controversial split decision over John Makdessi at UFC 194 to improve to 3-1 in his last 4 outings.

Medeiros is 1″ taller but he will have a marked 5″ reach advantage. Yancy is also the younger man by 9 years.

The Brazilian enters the cage during the best run of his career. Trinaldo stopped Laprise for his sixth knockout win and first since his 2012 UFC debut. An improving grappler and BJJ Brown belt, he has submitted 5 opponents and is 8-2 on the scorecards having won 4 straight decisions. In his last 2 decision victories, Trinaldo has seen a noteworthy uptick in his offensive output out-landing Pearson and Parke by a combined 117 to 53. He has transitioned from a wild berserker to a more calculated striker. He still has power in his right hand, but will pump his jab, attack the body, while using hard low kicks at distance and knees in close. His forward pressure shuts down his foe’s output and his cardio has improved significantly to allow to him to maintain his pace for a full 3 rounds.

‘Massaranduba’ relied on his takedowns in his win over Akbarh Arreola, but has been put on his back 10-times during his current 5 fight winning streak.

The owner of 9 finishes, Medeiros has stopped 6 by knockout and 3 more by submission. Prior to the Makdessi fight, his last 2 victories both came by tap out. Medeiros doesn’t have a great takedown game and has never actually completing a TD in the UFC, relying heavily on his striking. Yancy is a long striker, utilizing his reach through his left jab followed by a hard right hand. He will attack the body with his hands and a hard turning side kick that he hurt Joe Proctor with. His low kicks are used more to gauge distance then they are to do damage. Defensively, Yancy gives up 4.26 SApM and has been tagged with some big shots, most notably in the Dustin Poirier fight.

Medeiros’s striking totals haven’t been that impressive. He had never landed more than 30 significant strikes in a fight prior to the Makdessi bout where he was on the wrong end of a 114-80 striking total.

Medeiros needs to utilize his reach and keep Trinaldo on the outiside, unable to unload with his power. That could be easier said than done. Trinaldo’s pressure-based attack is going to keep Medeiros backtracking for the duration of the fight. In addition to being the more active striker, ‘Massaranduba’ will be more impactful as well. In the grappling exchanges, Francisco will dictate if the fight hits the mat or not, shutting down anything that Yancy has to offer and scoring his own takedowns when needed. Yancy lacks the impactful offensive attack to get the respect of his foe and is simply too hittable. Look for Trinaldo to either tag him upstairs or hurt him to the body- my prediction is Francisco Trinaldo to defeat Yancy Medeiros by TKO.

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170lbs- Sergio Moraes (10-3-0) vs Luan Chagas (14-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, Sergio ‘Panther’ Moraes takes on late injury replacement Luan ‘Tarzan’ Chagas. Moraes has won 4 in a row, most recently scoring a come from behind TKO victory over Omari Akhmedov. Chagas has won 9 consecutive bouts, including a perfect 4-0 run in 2015.

Chagas will have a 3″ reach advantage and is 11 years younger. He is taking the fight on roughly 2 week’s notice, replacing Kamaru Usman.

The newcomer enters the fight with a 100% finishing rate, knocking out 6 opponents and submitting 8 more. Chagas has 4 wins by RNC and has stopped 10 opponents in the opening round. ‘Tarzan has built his career against respectable regional competition, with his last 3 wins coming over opponents with a combined record of 50-29. He is a BJJ and Karate Black belt. Based on the tape available, Luan is a decent grappler, but lacks a strong wrestling skill set. Once on the mat, he is dangerous and has an excellent back take as he demonstrated in his last win. On the feet, his kicking offense is workable, but overall he is pretty clunky striker.

Chagas has just one fight on record that lasted into the third round.

One of the most talented grapplers on the roster, Moraes has a pair of UFC submission wins- including choking out the top ranked Neil Magny. Moraes has submitted 7 opponents, 6 via some form of choke. Statistically, his takedowns numbers1 are below average. ‘Panther’ averages just 1.79 takedowns at a 36% completion rate, collecting a UFC-high 4 completions in his win over Renee Forte. Moraes is the type of grappler that only needs one opportunity to lock up a submission, so his low TD totals are nearly as concerning as they are for a wrestling-based fighter. Sergio is coming off the first knockout of his career, stopping Akhmedov in the final round of a fight where he was behind on the scorecards. Despite the knockout, Moraes is a willing but unrefined striker.

Moraes filled in for Daniel Sarafian in the TUF Brazil finals, dropping a decision to Cezar Ferreira.

The late notice for Chagas is tough to look past. Both men are capable ground fighters, but Moraes is on another level. Arguably the biggest concern for the UFC vet is that he will forgo his ground skills and opt for a more fan-friendly striking based attack. That will level the playing field and turn this contest into a sloppy kickboxing bout. That being said, Chagas’s reliance on the ground game might force him to engage Moraes on the mat. Sergio has a full camp to prep, has faced superior quality opposition, and is the better ground fighter- all significant advantages. For a fighter that is use to finishing his opponents quickly, the short notice will only further hamper his efforts in a longer fight, if it gets there- my prediction is Sergio Moraes to defeat Luan Chagas by submission/

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145lbs- Renato Carneiro (9-0-1) vs Zubaira Tukhugov (18-3-0)

To open the card, Renato ‘Moicano’ Carneiro makes his sophomore aappearance against Russia’s Zubaira Tukhugov. Carneiro has yet to taste defeat, submitting Tom Niinimaki in his debut back in late 2014. Tukhugov has won 9 fights in a row, including an impressive trio of victories to start his UFC run.

The Brazilian is 3 inches taller and will have a 4″ reach advantage. Tukhugov is 2 years younger. Renato has been out of action for the better part of 17-months.

Carneiro has recorded all 5 of his finishes by submission- all by rear-naked choke, but just 1 in the first round. He is a 4-0-1 on the scorecards, including a 2011 victory over former UFC competitor Iliarde Santos. Despite a record devoid of knockouts, Carneiro is a decent striker. He isn’t going to overwhelm his foe with volume, instead sitting on the outside and picking his spots to engage. Against Niinimaki, he attacked with a nice variety of kicks, working up and down the body. His boxing is built around left jab and hooks- frequently used as counters. Prior to locking up the submission, he hurt Niinimaki with a well-timed counter strike.

Carneiro was scheduled to face Mirsad Bektic in early 2015, but Renato was forced to withdraw due to injury.

Tukhugov stopped Ernest Chavez via TKO in his second UFC appearance, it was the sixth time he won by knockout. He is just 1-1 in fights ending by submission, but an impressive 11-1 on the scorecards. Offensively, the Russian has been consistent, but not overwhelming. Landing 3 takedowns in his debut, he has relied more on his striking in his last 2 fights. In the 1-round stoppage of Chavez he landed 40 strikes, but compiled only 56 over the other 6 rounds of his UFC career. His kicking arsenal is decent, but he relies primarily on his hands. Look for him both sit at range and throw single strikes or push forward aggressively behind a barrage of strikes.

This will be the second trip to Brazil for Zubaira, he defeated Douglas Silva de Andrade back in 2014.

This fight has a lot of potential, as both fighters are talented prospects with a lot of upside. Carneiro’s layoff is certainly concerning, but fighting at home will help him to find his stride quickly. Tukhugov is the more impactful striker, but he will need to find a way to get inside his foe’s reach consistently. The kicking attack of ‘Moicano’ will further add to that reach. When Zubaira does try to close the gap, look for Renato to change levels and take him down. This fight has the makings of a close one; the grappling of Carneiro along with home field advantage and a slightly more active striking game will play a big role- my prediction is Renato Carneiro to defeat Zubaira Tukhugov by decision.

155lbs- Rustam Khabilov (18-3-0) vs Chris Wade (11-1-0)

The headlining act of the undercard, Russia’s Rustam ‘Tiger’ Khabilov takes on New York native Chris Wade. Wade is a perfect 4-0 in the UFC, submitting Mehdi Bagdad in his most recent appearance. Khabilov snapped a 2-fight losing skid with a win over Norman Parke, he also owns wins over Jorge Masvidal and Yancy Medeiros.

Wade is 2 inches taller than his foe, but Rustam will have the slight 3″ reach advantage.

Khabilov is an International Master of Sport in both hand to hand combat and Sambo. The impressive series of suplexes leading to the knockout of Vinc Pichel in his debut win was a demonstration of both his power and grappling skills. Rustam has averaged 4.54 takedowns per fight at a respectable 54% completion rate. The Russian put Parke on his backside 6 times on just 9 attempts and had similar numbers against Benson Henderson- completing 6 of 10 TDAs. He is 9-2 on the scorecards, along with 5 wins by knockout and 4 by submission. While his takedown number are strong, his striking totals are not. He has averaged just 1.77 SLpM, with his UFC-best 33 significant strikes coming against Parke. In his lackluster defeat against Adriano Martins, he struggled to mount much offense anywhere; he was o-4 on TDAs and connected on just 18 total strikes.

Despite finishing almost 50% of his wins, Khabilov is not known for his quick finishes. He has fought into the third round or longer in 8 of his last 11 fights.

Wade is coming off the fourth submission victory of his career, utilizing either a guillotine or rear-naked choke to get the job done. He is an impressive 7-1 in decisions. A BJJ Blue belt and former NCAA Division-3 wrestler, he has averaged 4.54 takedowns per fight at a 48% accuracy rate. Over his last 7 rounds of competition he has completed 10 takedowns. Wade can shoot from the outside, but can also work from the clinch with trips and throws. In his debut, He only needed 1 successful try to set up the fight-ending submission. A serviceable stiker, Wade averages 2.35 SLpM compared to 1.60 SApM. The American comes from a kickboxing background and will work his kicking arsenal from the outside. He does a decent job of limiting his opponent’s ability to return fire, but would benefit from an uptick in his offensive tempo.

Wade captured the Ring of Combat Lightweight title back in 2014 and successfully defended it against now retired UFC fighter Frankie Perez later that year prior to making the move to the Octagon.

Both men lean heavily on their takedown games to be at the forefront of their offense. Against Martins, Rustam gave up a trio of TDs and landed none of his own. Henderson, Parke and Jorge Masvidal also found some success trying to wrestle the Russia. While Wade has faced lesser competition, he could find a degree of success with his wrestling and considering Khabilov’s underwhelming striking output- a couple of key completions would be huge in a close fight. In the absence of successful completions on either side, this fight could very well come down to who can remain active enough on the feet and outwork their opponent. Khabilov has power, especially in his right hand, but the majority of his offense focuses on setting up his wrestling. Wade is the busier striker and does a a good job chipping away at his opponent with kicks. He has also shown signs of opening up, landing a well-placed elbow strike at range against Christos Giagos. Wade will outpoint Rustam on the feet, defend his takedowns, and potentially land something of his own- my prediction is Chris Wade to defeat Rustam Khabilov by decisionParagraph breaker

185lbs- Magnus Cedenblad (13-4-0) vs Garreth McLellan (13-3-0)

Swedish Middleweight Magnus ‘Jycken’ Cedenblad meets South Africa’s Garreth ‘Soldier Boy’ McLellan. Cedenblad has won 3 straight fights after dropping his debut back in 2012, decisioning Scott Askam in his last bout. McLellan is coming off his first UFC victory, stopping Bubba Bush with just 2 seconds left in the fight last October.

Cedenblad has been out for 18-months and has fought just 4-times since debuting in 2012. The big Swede is 4 inches taller and will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage.

‘Jycken’ got off to a rough start in the UFC, dropping his third career fight by submission. He has since turned things around with a trio of victories including a hard-fought submission victory over Krzysztof Jotko- the only loss of Jotko’s career. He has finished 11 opponents, 6 by knockout and 5 more by submission. Cedenblad has recorded 8 first round wins, including his 57-second choke out of Jared Hamman. Takedowns have played a big role in his success, with 6 completions on just 11 attempts over his last 2 fights. He does a lot of damage both in the clinch and on the mat, neutralizing his opponents with his long limbs. As was the case against Hamman, he jumped on a sub opportunity quickly, but against Scott Askham he used his top position control to bag a decision.

His striking totals are concerning, especially if he can’t consistently score with his takedowns. He has averaged just 1.69 strikes landed per fight, only eclipsing the 20-strike mark once.

McLellan is a ground-centric fighter with 9 of his 13  victories coming by sub- 5 by rear-naked choke. The majority of his takedowns come from the clinch position via body lock/ trip combinations. From top position, he can do damage with his strikes and finished an exhausted Bush with his GNP. His striking was non-existent in his debut, landing just 13 total strikes and the majority of his offense came on the mat against Bush. When he does generate vertical offense it is mainly via his kicking game or with punches meant to create clinch opportunities. In his debut loss, he struggled tremendously with Fabinski’s grappling, getting put on his back 10 times on  just 11 tries.

Against Bush, his TDD struggled early with the American landing a pair of takedowns in the opening round, but as the fight progressed McLellan was able to turn the grappling exchanges in his favour.

The Swede has been out of action for a long period of time and hasn’t been very active during his 4-year UFC run. Despite the break, Magnus has faced and defeated vastly superior competition compared to his foe. Additionally, he is the much larger man, which should aid him in bullying McLellan along the cage and on the mat. When McLellan fought Fabinski, he didn’t offer a tonne of offense off of his back and his willingness to concede the position increased as the fight progressed. Cedenblad’s attack centers almost entirely on the area that has been his opponent’s greatest weakness. Don’t expect to see him deviate from what got him here. Magnus will take McLellan down, wear on him, and eventually work towards a sub- my pre