Kamikaze Overdrive Prelim Prediction Archives

Prelim Predictions

170lbs- William Macario (8-1-0) vs Neil Magny (12-4-0)

Capping off the undercard will be TUF 16 semi-finalist Neil Magny when he takes on TUF Brazil 2 finalist William “Patolino” Macario. Magny has hit a hot streak of late ripping off a quartet of victories after a 1-2 start to his UFC career. In his last outing, Macario earned his first UFC ‘W’ by defeating Strikforce vet Bobby Voelker, he is now 1-1 inside the Octagon.

Magny will have a 6″ reach advantage to go along with standing 4 inches taller.

Macario has 5 wins by knockout and while he didn’t end Voelker’s night early, he put on a clinic hurting him on a couple of occasions. He routinely landed a nice short right hand with some low kicks and followed up by swarming Bobby on the cage with knees, elbows, and well placed body shots. He use good head movement, effectively moving out of the way of the majority of his foe’s attacks. Overall, he was economical and quite accurate with his striking, outlanding Voelker 133-72 with a 63% accuracy rate.

The American doesn’t have the big knockout totals of his opponent, but has compiled some pretty solid striking exchange numbers. In 7 UFC bouts he has landed an average of 3.17 strikes per minute, while giving up just 1.54. Over his last 2 fights he limited his opponents to a combined 10 significant strikes landed, while connecting on 69 of his own. His high watermark was a 105 strike performance against Gasan Umalatov. He uses a long left jab, often doubling it up to maximize his reach advantage.

While Magny may offer less in the power department, if he can keep Macario on the outside with his jab and movement it will take away some of the power behind his strikes.

Both fighters are capable of doing work on the mat, but Magny has had some issues defensively. Over 7 UFC fights, he has been taken down 14 times. He was submitted by Sergio Moraes and dropped a decision to Seth Baczynski where he spent a lot of time on his back. Macario was submitted in his debut, but landed 3 takedowns on just 6 attempts against Voelker using solid timing catching him coming forward with a quick level change.

Magny needs to keep this fight at distance, maintain a high volume and push Macario in an effort to tax his cardio. Magny beat Alex Garcia, but had Alex not injured his knee and landed at a slightly higher rate on the feet the result could have been different. Macario will have success landing the more impactful shots, especially along the cage. If he can land a few well timed takedowns it will further add to his success, so my prediction is William Macario to defeat Neil Magny by decision.

155lbs- Yan Cabral (11-1-0) vs Naoyuki Kotani (33-11-7)

In the Lightweight division, Yan Cabral makes his 3rd trip to the Octagon when he meets long time ZST veteran Naoyuki Kotani. Cabral debuted with a win over Danny Mitchell, but lost his sophomore appearance against Zak Cummings. Kotani returned to the UFC after a 7 year and 21 fight stretch away from the promotion- his 13 fight winning streak was ended by Norman Parke.

Cabral’s undefeated run came to an end in his last fight, which can often lead to a rejuvenation for a fighter as they are forced to address shortcomings or other issues that seem minimal while still undefeated.

The Japanese import has faced multiple UFC caliber opponents, both in the promotion and outside- Yves Edwards, Dennis Siver, Thiago Tavares, Jorge Masvidal, Rich Clementi, Marcus Aurelio, Roger Huerta and the aforementioned Parke. Unfortunately, for Naoyuki he lost all 8 of those matchups which brings into question his ability to find success at this level.

Both men carry submission heavy win totals. Cabral has secure 10 of his 11 wins by tapout, while Kotani 25 off 33. 50% of Cabral’s wins have come by Arm-Triangle choke which would suggest an affinity for working from top position. Although he does have a solid sweep and reversal arsenal if put on his back. Kotani has 12 arm based submission wins on his resume, along with a few less common holds like an Achilles lock and a Leg scissor choke. His only submission defeat came via Reverse Full Nelson.

Kotani has far more MMA experience, but Cabral is the far more accomplished grappler. It is also worth noting that Kotani fought 25 times under the ZST banner, an organization that doesn’t permit striking while on the mat and is contested inside a cage. His inexperience in these two areas can weigh heavy in grappling based bouts in the UFC.

Cabral’s undoing against Cummings was the wrestler’s ability to mute Yan’s offense with a heavy top game, but that won’t be the case with Kotani. Naoyuki was taken down twice by Parke and going back to his first UFC run he struggled with the ground game of Thiago Tavares giving up 4 TDs on only 6 attempts. This fight should contain some entertaining back and forth exchanges on the mat, with Cabral rebounding front of his home crowd after his first career loss- my prediction is Yan Cabral to defeat Naoyuki Kotani by submission.

125lbs- #15 Scott Jorgensen (15-9-0) vs Wilson Reis (18-5-0)

In the Flyweight division, former WEC Bantamweight title challenger Scott Jorgensen faces Bellator alumni Wilson Reis. Jorgensen snapped a 3 fight losing streak with a win over Danny Martinez, he has won 2 of his last 7. Reis made a successful Flyweight debut, defeating Joby Sanchez by decision- he has won 6 of his last 7.

While many battles between grappling reliant competitors often result in striking heavy exchanges, this one will most likely be decided on the ground.

Both fighters come from grappling backgrounds. Jorgensen is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler averaging 2.73 takedowns at a 46% completion rate. Reis is a BJJ Black belt with 8 wins coming by way of submission, including 3 of his last 4 fights prior to signing on with the UFC. Reis has also compile some impressive takedown numbers, averaging 5.33 takedowns per fight completing nearly 60% of his tries.

In each of Scotty’s last 6 defeats, he has lost the takedown battle by a lopsided margin of 18-4. Conversely, he has put up an impressive 20-0 total in his last 5 victories. His success clearly hinges on his ability to get the better of the grappling exchanges.

Reis’s ability to routinely takedown and out grapple the likes Yuri Alcantara and Ivan Menjivar indicates that he should be able to find similar success against Jorgensen. Even after cutting to 125 pound, Jorgensen was badly out grappled by Zach Makovsky and submitted by Jussier Formiga (head-butt noted). He has been submitted 3 times in his career.

Jorgensen may be best served to keep this fight standing as Reis has been knocked out twice and has some clear defensive liabilities. Remaining vertical against Reis will be easier said then done and the end result will be Jorgensen spending too much time on his back, so my prediction is Wilson Reis to defeat Scott Jorgensen by decision.

145lbs- Felipe Arantes (16-5-1 2NC) vs Andre Fili (13-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, Sao Paulo native Felipe Arantes fights Alpha Male team member Andre Fili in his first fight outside of the USA. Arantes fights for the 7th time inside the Octagon most recently having defeated Maximo Blanco- he is 3-2-1 in the UFC. Fili is coming off just his second career loss, submitting to Max Holloway at UFC 172.

With 7 wins by knockout each, both men are capable of ending this contest inside the distance. Conversely, both men have excellent chins with the only knockout between the two coming due to a knee injury suffered by the American.

Arantes is a Muay Thai based striker and pairs his kicking arsenal together with his hands pretty consistently. Arantes has yet to score a standing knockout in the UFC, but has instead used his variety effectively. Fili is more boxing oriented and while he will throw kicks, his hands are the key to his success. He had a lot of success early landing power strikes against Holloway and was also being the busier fighter early on out landing him 31-17 in the first frame.

The Brazilian struggled with power boxing style of Kevin Souza, allowing Souza to routinely land first. Statistically, Andre holds a wide advantage in strikes landed at 5.07 compared to just 2.81 for Arantes. Defensively, Felipe does a better job limiting his opponent’s landing rate, but his near even strikes for versus strikes against numbers are concerning.

While this bout will spend a lot of time on the feet, the deciding action will come on the mat or for Arantes sake not on the mat.

The Brazilian has appeared vulnerable at times to being put on his back. He has defended only 45% of attempted takedowns, with Blanco scoring 3 times on 6 attempts and Yuri Alcantara going a perfect 6 for 6. While he is capable of attacking off his back he hasn’t scored a submission win since late 2010. Fili has demoed excellent timing on his takedowns, anticipating his opponent’s attack and changing levels to take them off their feet. Using this approach he was able to take Holloway down 3 times predominately with a single leg.

This should be an entertaining back and forth battle. Fili’s higher striking volume and more aggressive style should give him an edge during the vertical exchanges and his ability to land well timed takedowns and hold key top control minutes will help him seal the deal. If Arantes can keep this fight standing he could steal a decision, but that has been one of his biggest struggles so my prediction is Andre Fili to defeat Felipe Arantes by decision.

155lbs- Gilbert Burns (8-0-0) vs Christos Giagos (10-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, Gilbert Burns makes his sophomore appearance when he battles the debuting Christos Giagos. Burns is undefeated through his first 8 fights after a decision win over Andreas Stahl in his debut. Giagos has won 4 in a row including wins over TUF Alumni Dakota Cochrane and Sevak Magakian.

Burns debuted as a 170 pounder after stating that the cut to Lightweight was difficult for him, even though he was successful he made the decision to move to 155. If the cut does well the size/ strength disadvantage he faced at Welterweight should turn in his favour as a Lightweight.

The Brazilian is a highly regarded BJJ Black belt with a number of first place finishes at various grappling competitions. His fight with Stahl was his first to go the distance, with all others ending inside the first round- 4 submissions and 3 knockouts. While he had moderate success in his debut with his grappling, but landing just 2 of 10 takedowns, his striking proved enough to get the job done.

Burns is far from a refined strikers, but his aggression and decent variety of techniques makes his stand-up workable. Against Stahl he was able to land strikes both in the clinch and at range, but the overall goal was still to drag the fight to the ground.

Giagos has 6 wins by knockout and just a pair of submission victories, but he appears to orient his attack around taking his opponent to the ground. In his fights with Cochrane and Chris Tickle he routinely shot in, but lost position, was mounted a couple of times, and was put in some tough situations. Based purely on position, he lost the first frame versus Tickle but was able to rally eventually submit him in round 2. He has a pretty decent reactionary sprawl, but his it is his offensive game that will get him in some trouble.

Both of his defeats, including a 2013 loss to Poppies Martinez, have come by submission.

The RFA vet did land an impressive flying knee knockout against Dakota Cocrhane, but his striking game doesn’t look that impressive that he will gain an advantage if he can keep this fight standing. Burns should find more success looking for takedowns against a lighter weight opponent Giagos’s willingness to engage on the mat will cost him, so my prediction is Gilbert Burns to defeat Christo Giagos by submission.

155lbs- Fabricio Camoes (14-8-1) vs Tony Martin (8-2-0)

Getting the night going will be a Lightweight contest featuring Brazilian Fabricio Camoes taking on ATT product Tony Martin. Martin has dropped back to back fights since joining the promotion. Camoes earned his first UFC win in early 2012 in his second stint with the company, he is now 1-3-1 inside the Octagon.

Camoes is a 3rd degree BJJ Black belt, but submissions have accounted for 4 of his 8 losses. He has been submitted by Jim Miller, Kurt Pellegrino, and Gleison Tibau- his first defeat by sub came due to injury. Less surprisingly, he has won 7 times by submission, including his only UFC win coming via rear naked-choke.

Martin should be the superior wrestler and has accumulated 75% (6 of 8) of his wins by sub. While he has got off to strong starts in both of his UFC bouts, he has faltered down the stretch. A limb wrenching armbar attempt early in his debut fight almost had him in the winner’s circle, but his inability to finish and subsequent slowdown sealed the decision defeat.

In similar, fashion Martin got off to a strong start against 179 main carder Beneil Dariush, outworking him on the feet, but before the first round concluded he tired, became vulnerable to being taken down, and was submitted in round 2.

Martin is the superior wrestler, will have a striking advantage, and is overall the more gifted athlete. His ability to get off to a strong start is essential to his success in a hostile environment, but his poor cardio will be his undoing. The atmosphere will get the better of the American and he will eventually succumb to the grappling of his opponent, so my prediction is Fabricio Camoes to defeat Tony Martin by submission.

Prelim Predictions

185lbs- Magnus Cedenblad (12-4-0) vs Scott Askham (12-0-0)

Headlining the preliminary portion of the card, Magnus Cedenblad will try to bring his fellow countrymen and women to their feet when he takes on the debuting Scott Askham. Cedenblad has won back to back UFC fights, improving his Octagon record to 2-1. Askham has yet to taste defeat in his career, most recently stopping Max Nunes under the BAMMA banner.

Askham has made his career on his ability to absorb what his opponent has to offer and then methodically break them down. He is a lanky Middleweight, but does some of his best work from the clinch. Landing short range elbows, punches, knees he can generate a lot of damage with limited space. He has recorded 7 wins by knockout. The Brit is also capable of changing gears and taking the fight to the mat, often molding his striking and grappling together quite effectively.

Cedenblad appears to have found his submission stride, winning via Guillotine choke in each of his last 2 fights after being on the wrong end of 3 of the first 6 submission result he was apart of. He showed a good takedown game, repeatedly putting Krzysztof Jotko on his back, eventually finishing the fight from top position. Magnus has 6 wins by knockout, but several have come on the mat and that is where he will look to put this fight.

This contest should be decided at close range and on the mat. While Cedenblad’s submission wins have been impressive, Askham’s ability to do damage in close will make it tough for him to set up his grappling game. All 4 of the Swede’s defeats have come inside the distance (3 subs and 1 KO) which brings into question his durability when not setting the pace, so my prediction is Scott Askham to defeat Magnus Cedenblad by TKO.

170lbs- Nico Musoke (12-3-0 1NC) vs Alexander Yakovlev (21-5-1)

In the Welterweight division, Nico Musoke battles UFC sophomore Alexander Yakovlev. Musoke has fought 3 times in the UFC, winning his fist 2 bouts over Alessio Sakara and Viscardi Andrade. Yakovlev stepped up on short notice to challenge Demian Maia in his only Octagon appearence and dropped a 3 round decision.

Yakovlev has 8 wins by knockout and 8 more by submission. He implements a kick heavy attack, frequently localizing his assault on his opponent’s lead leg. He also landed some decent fluries against Maia, but spent the majority of the fight on his back. He has a pretty solid grappling game and showed some glimpses of it in his debut, but look for him to have more success against Musoke.

Nico is equally as well rounded- 4 knockouts and 5 submission. He demoed his submission capabilities when he caught Alessio Sakara with a nasty armbar in his debut. He has averaged 2.26 takedowns at a 41% completion rate and had a lot of success early taking Kelvin Gastelum down. Musoke’s striking is more the serviceable, but he has a bit of a questionable chin that saw him get badly rocked in each of his first 2 Octagon bouts. His undoing against Gastelum also came on the feet as he was unable to stem the onslaught of strikes and while he did not break he was clearly wearing down.

If Musoke can consistently take Yakovlev down he could replicate the shortcomings of the Brazilian’s debut. Unfortunately, Nico is not on the same level as Demian Maia on the mat. Look for this to be a back and forth battle, with Musoke’s less then stellar chin eventually costing him during an exchange, so my prediction is Alexander Yakovlev to defeat Nico Musoke by knockout.

145lbs- Dennis Siver (22-9-0) vs Charles Rosa (9-0-0)

In the Featherweight division a plethora external circumstances have resulted in Dennis Siver taking on UFC debutant Charles Rosa. Siver has been out of action for roughly 9 months follow a suspension, he is 2-1-0 1NC since cutting to Featherweight. Rosa is currently undefeated through his first 9 pro bouts.

Rosa is taking this fight on roughly a weeks notice, which is a taller order against a veteran like Siver. The American trains out of ATT, but has faced less then stellar competition with his last 5 opponents 38-51. He is a first round finisher, with just 1 of his 9 victories (3 KOs & 6 Subs) occurring outside the first frame.

Siver may not be elite level at Featherweight, but he offers a stiff challenge to the majority of the division. He presents a well rounded offensive attack, merging together his karate based striking assault and improving wrestling/ sambo based ground game.

Rosa’s lack of long term experience will prevent him from capitalizing on Siver’s pension for slowing down in the later stages. Siver will keep Rosa on the outside with his kicking game and then take him down when he tries to close the distance, so my prediction is Dennis Siver to defeat Charles Rosa by TKO.

170lbs- Cathal Pendred (14-3-1) vs Gasan Umalatov (15-3-1)

In the Welterweight division, Cathal Pendred makes his second appearance, first at 170 pounds when he takes on Russian Gasan Umalatov. Pendred is undefeated over his last nine (8-0-1), defeating Mike King in his debut. Umalatov rebounded from a disappointing debut performance by defeating the faltering Paulo Thiago.

The Russian has won 7 times by submission, but has struggled to find much success since signing on with Zuffa. He has landed just 3 of 15 attempts and lost the majority of the horizontal exchanges versus Magny. His striking carried him against Thiago, connecting on the more impactful strikes, but landing far less frequently then the Brazilian and overall has been on the wrong end of the striking totals through his first 2 UFC bouts: 153 to 84.

Pendred suffered through a pretty tough first frame, getting dropped and nearly finished on a couple different occasions. He has 6 wins by knockout and just 1 submission, relying heavily on his top game and ground and pound to do the majority of his damage. He is a little to hittable, but has proven equally as durable. His striking is still a work in progress, but his focus here should he his ground game.

A win over Paulo Thiago doesn’t carry the weight that it use to. Pendred is a little reckless, but his aggressive style will keep Umalatov on the defensive and most likely on his back for long durations of this bout, so my prediction is Cathal Pendred to defeat Gasan Umalatov by decision.

185lbs- Tor Troeng (16-6-1) vs Krzysztof Jotko (14-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Sweden’s own Tor Troeng fights Poland based competitor Krzysztof Jotko. Troeng has lost 2 in a row falling to Rafael Natal and Trevor Smith after a successful UFC debut. Jotko succumbed to a second round guillotine by Magnus Cedenblad, an unsuccessful follow up to his decision win over Bruno Santos.

The Swede has proven himself to be boom or bust on the mat; earning 6 submission wins, but also suffering two losses by tapout and getting out-positioned on the floor in his last 2 UFC appearances. Tor’s work was admirable against Natal, trading counter and reversals, but against a much more positionally sound opponent he spent too much time on his back. He grappling will most likely he put front and center against Jotko.

Jotko has won 8 times by decision and took home his debut performance largely based on his ability to neutralize his opponent’s attempts to drag the fight to the mat. He works well from the clinch and can do some damage from the outside. Unfortunately, his second appearance was dictate by his inability to defend his opponents TDAs, getting taken down 3 times on 5 attempts- eventually leading to the submission.

Troeng has spent time training out of Alliance alongside Magnus Cedenblad, who will be able to provide some valuable insight into what Jotko brings to the table. Tor will get the better the majority of the exchanges exploiting the defensive grappling issues Jotko showed in his last fight, so my prediction is Tor Troeng to defeat Krzysztof Jotko by decision.

155lbs- Mairbek Taisumov (21-5-0) vs Marcin Bandel (13-2-0)

In the Lightweight division, Mairbek Taisumov battles the debuting Marcin Bandel. Taisumov’s 4 fight winning streak ended with a decision loss to Michel Prazeres, he is now 1-1 in the UFC. Bandel has won 12 fights in a row after starting his pro career 1-2.

A product of Tiger Muay Thai, Taisumov’s finishing rate (9 knockouts and 10 subs) is an indication of well balanced skillset. He has a solid striking repertoire and capable wrestling game, which he utilized in his debut landing hard combinations and 5 takedowns. Unfortunately, he struggled in his follow up performance routinely getting put on his back and out positioned by his opponent.

A Drysdale Jiu-Jitsu product and native of Poland, Bandel is a submission specialist. 12 of his 13 wins have come by tapout, 6 by Heel Hook, and all inside the first 5 minutes. Bandel centers his attack around tying up with his opponent and then jumping at the first opportunity to slap on a submission. In a similar style to Rousimar Palhares, Marcin will dive on a leg, but if he is unable to finish the hold he will transition to an armlock or other submission- chaining them together until something sticks.

The more avenues to victory a fighter has the more successful they will be. If Bandel can’t slap on an early submission, he will be at a sever disadvantage if he is forced to bang it out on the feet. Conversely, the defensive struggles of Mairbek in his last fight are a massive concern. This might be a bit of a risk, but Bandel will drag Taisumov to the mat and start chaining subs together until he his pay dirt, so my prediction is Marcin Bandel to defeat Mairbek Taisumov by submission.

145lbs- Zubaira Tukhugov (16-3-0) vs Ernest Chavez (8-1-0)

The first of 23 total UFC bouts to take place on this day will take place in the Featherweight division and feature Zubaira Tukuhugov’s throwing down with Ernest Chavez. Tukhugov was victorious in his debut and has won 7 fights in a row. Chavez fell to Elias Silverio in his second UFC appearance, failing to follow up on his own successful first Octagon fight.

Chavez hasn’t been that impressive so far in his UFC run. He struggled early on with the speed and more diversified striking skills of Yosdenis Cedeno, only taking control of the bout once his opponent started to slow down. In fight #2 he was outlanded, hurt, and eventually submitted by a more diversified fighter. He will be making his first cut to 145 and even if the cut goes well, he already appeared at a speed disadvantage fighting at 155 and could further struggle at a lighter weightclass.

With 10 wins by decision, Tukhugov isn’t exactly known for his finishing skills, but he put a significant amount of accumulated damage on his opponent in his debut. He landed a nice variety of strikes, targeting the body on several occasions, and accompanying his attack with a trio of completed takedowns. The Russian has been out of action since early 2014, roughly 8 months so ring rust could be a factor.

Similar to Chavez’s last 2 adversaries, Tukhugov will be quicker and the more diverse striker. If Chavez can slow him down and control him he could nullify those advantages, but that will be easier said then done for a fighter lacking high level wrestling skills. At 10-1 in decisions, Zubaira appears more then capable of going the distance. Look for the Russian to out-quick Chavez and routinely beat him to the punch, so my prediction is Zubaira Tukhugov to defeat Ernest Chavez by decision.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Daron Cruickshank (15-5-0) vs Anthony Njokuani (16-8-0 1NC)

Headlining the UFN 54 undercard, Daron Cruickshank squares off with WEC alumni Anthony Njokuani. Cruickshank’s 2 fight winning streak came to an end via decision at the hands of Jorge Masvidal. Njokuani returned after a year long layoff, losing to Vinc Pichel- he has alternated wins and losses over his last 9 fights.

Both fighters are striking based; Cruickshank comes from a Taekwondo background and has 9 wins by knockout. Njokuani has also won 9 times by knockout and bases his striking style in Muay Thai. Statistically, Njokuani outlands his counterpart by 1.12 strikes per minute and also holds a near half strike per minute defensive edge.

The last 3 men to defeat Cruickshank; Adriano Martins, Jorge Masvidal, and John Makdessi are all strong strikers. He has a tendency to allow his opponents to control the striking exchanges and routinely land first which will cost him against Njokuani.

Daron could opt to use his wrestling, something that Njokuani struggled with in his last bout (8 TDs), but he rarely seems interested in working his ground game (1.18 TDs @ 46%), so my prediction is Anthony Njokuani to defeat Daron Cruickshank by decision.

155lbs- Olivier Aubin-Mercier (5-1-0) vs Jake Lindsey (9-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Olivier Aubin-Mercier welcome Jake Lindsey to his home country in each of their sophomore appearences. OAM makes his first post TUF appearance after a decision loss to Chad Laprise in the finals. Lindsey suffered an odd submission loss via heel strikes in his debut fight against John Tuck.

Lindsey struggled tremendously with the ground game of Tuck who took him down 3 times on 5 tries, and routinely out positioned him on the mat. Conversely, Olivier road his dominant grappling skills to the finals of the TUF tournament while competing against larger men as a Welterweight. He had won all 4 of his pro bouts prior to fighting in the UFC by rear-naked choke.

Lindsey will need to keep this fight standing and force his opponent to utilize his striking arsenal, but that will be easier said then done. Aubin-Mercier looked strong at 170 pounds and that should translate well to Lightweight, so my prediction is Olivier Aubin-Mercier to defeat Jake Lindsey by submission.

155lbs- Jason Saggo (10-1-0) vs Paul Felder (8-0-0)

In the Lightweight division Jason Saggo takes on debuting Paul Felder. Saggo put the stamp on his debut, TKOing Josh Shockley inside the first round- he has won 5 in a row. Felder is undefeated as a professional, earning recent wins over TUF alumni Julian Lane and Marc Stevens.

The ‘Irish Dragon’ has ended 6 of his 8 wins via knockout. Despite his 75% knockout rate, he has only finished 2 of those 6 fights inside the opening frame. He relies heavily on his kicking, using a wide variety of techniques from spinning attacks to the more traditional. His hands aren’t that impressive at distance, but he can do some serious damage in the clinch. His biggest liability appears to be on the mat where he is still fairly raw.

Similar to his opponent, Saggo prefers a kick first approach. He may not implement as many techniques as Felder but he can still make it work for him at distance. He has just 2 wins by knockout, but packs more power then that total would suggest. Shockley can attest to that. Where Saggo will have the greatest advantages is on the ground. He has secured 8 wins by submission, 5 by rear-naked choke. He should be able to out-position his opponent once the fight hits the ground leading to multiple opportunities to end the fight.

If the American can keep this fight standing he could win over the judge’s with a slightly more flashy offense. Unfortunately, Felder’s pension for a kick heavy assault will give Saggo plenty of opportunities to drag the fight to the mat, so my prediction is Jason Saggo to defeat Paul Felder by submission.

125lbs- Patrick Holohan (10-0-1) vs Chris Kelades (7-1-0)

In the Flyweight division, Patrick Holohan makes his second UFC appearance when he takes on promotional debutant Chris Kelades. Holohan pulled off an upset in his debut, submitting Josh Sampo to remain undefeated. Kelades suffered the first loss of his career at the hands of fellow Canadian Flyweight Malcom Gordon while fighting under the Bellator banner, but rebounded in his last outing to get back in the win column.

This fight was originally scheduled to pit Holohan against Louis Gaudinot, but Gaudinot was forced to withdraw in the weeks leading up to the fight and was replaced by Nova Scotia’s own Kelades.

Holohan will be taking his second fight in 3 months, after a series of injuries forced him to sit on the shelf for almost 2 years prior to his debut. While Holohan didn’t show any signs of Octagon jitters, he should feel more comfortable entering the cage for the second time with a much shorter layoff.

Kelades’s striking isn’t overly devastating, his kicking game is average and while he can pack some power in his punches- it is not always the case. He doesn’t have a strong wrestling game, but he is good in a scramble and has won 3 times by submission. He is purely submission over position, often giving up an advantageous spot to try and end the fight.

The Irishman surprised many when he floored Sampo prior to submitting him. He has a submission heavy record, 8 of 10 wins, and while his wrestling isn’t his strong suit his ability to counter and set up submission is. He is a lanky 125er and as a result is able to give his opponent’s fits on the mat. Look for him to chain submissions together, while landing some decent GnP to soften his opponent up.

Kelades will clearly be the fan favourite, but his lack of big fight experience and prep time are too much to look past. Holohan is the superior striker and an opportunistic grappler that should be able to capitalize on any and all mistakes made by the Canadian, so my prediction is Patrick Holohan to defeat Chris Kelades by submission.

170lbs- Albert Tumenov (13-2-0) vs Matt Dwyer (7-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, Albert Tumenov meets Canadian debutant Matt Dwyer in a fight that has bonus money written all over it. Tumenov has split his first 2 UFC outings, dropping a split decision in his debut followed by a brutal first round knockout of Anthony Lapsley. Dwyer has won 5 in a row, picking up wins over Shonie Carter and DaMarques Johnson both by TKO.

With a combined 16 of 20 wins (Tumenov 9 and Dwyer 7) coming by way of knockout there is very limit potential for this fight to go to the scorecards.

At 6’4″, Dwyer is an incredibly tall Welterweight and will stand 5″ taller then Tumenov. Unfortunately, he lacks a strong technical game from the outside and relies solely on a brawling based assault to get the job done. In his bout with Johnson he eventually scored the TKO, but prior to the finish he was dropped several times and was getting tagged with some big shots. Defensively, he has some major holes in his game especially when the strikes come from the left side.

Tumenov has a bomb of a left hand and can also use it to counter. He caught his last opponent with a well timed counter left- swiftly separating him from his consciousness. He also had Ildemar Alcantara in serious trouble early on, landing big shots at will. His ability to cover distance when striking makes him difficult to defend against and his offense is further aided by his kicking arsenal.

This fight most likely won’t require the judges to get involved, it might not even see the completion of the first five minutes. Dwyer isn’t afraid to throw down, but he is way to hittable to engage Tumenov in such a manner. DaMarques Johnson dropped the Canuck several times, Tumenov should as well- so my prediction is Albert Tumenov to defeat Matt Dwyer by knockout.

135lbs- Jerrod Sanders (14-2-0) vs Pedro Munhoz (11-1-0)

In the opening fight of the night, Jerrod Sanders cuts down 2 divisions to face Pedro Munhoz. Sanders lost his debut performance on short notice as a Lightweight to Yosdenis Cedeno. Munhoz is 1-1 in the UFC, knocking out Matt Hobar after dropping a decision to Raphael Assuncao.

Sanders’s success hinges on his ability to take his opponent down and consistently establish his top position grappling game. That will be difficult against Munhoz who is a BJJ Black belt and very dangerous grappler in his own right with 6 wins by submission.

Munhoz is the superior striker and despite just 2 knockouts, he demoed how dangerous he can be in his last appearance. Look for him to routinely land the more impactful strikes, including a nasty front kick to the body. The cut is also a major concern for Sanders, who is a fairly muscular and could struggle in a physically demanding fight creating openings for Munoz as the bout progresses, so my prediction is Pedro Munhoz to defeat Jerrod Sanders by submission.

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- #12 Dominick Cruz (19-1-0) vs #6 Takeya Mizugaki (20-7-2)

Headlining the undercard portion of the event, Dominick Cruz makes his long awaited return to action when he takes on the fast rising and fellow WEC veteran Takeya Mizugaki. Cruz was last seen defending his Bantamweight title against current Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and has won 10 fights in a row. Mizugaki is riding a 5 fight winning streak, with a 7-2 record since moving over to the UFC.

Cruz won the WEC title back in 2010 and successfully defended his WEC/UFC belt against the likes of Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, and the aforementioned ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson. Unfortunately, due to multiple injuries and nearly 3 years of inactivity Cruz was forced to relinquish his belt.

Mizugaki has collected 14 of his 20 pro wins by decision. He does the majority of his work at short range and in the clinch. He utilizes a tight boxing based attack, landing crisp combinations and while he will throw some kicks, they tend to be sparse. He doesn’t have a tonne of power, with just 5 knockouts and his last coming 7 fights ago over Cole Escovedo. To have success against Cruz he will need to find away to draw him into his range and/or potentially put his back on the cage.

Takeya has a slight edge in SLpM over the former champion, but Cruz gets hit 1.2 strikes per minute less then Mizugaki.

Cruz’s striking style is well documented. He uses a tonne of movement- footwork and head movement, and supplements it with a high volume output while avoiding 76% of his oppositions’ landing attempts. He has just 6 knockouts, but his ability to land and avoid strikes so consistently is equally, if not more effective then the ability to end a fight with one strike.

The big question for Cruz is whether or not his myriad of injuries and time away has caused him to miss a step and will prevent him from operating as he previously did.

Cruz should have a significant wrestling advantage, but Mizugaki is no push over. The American is a BJJ Blue belt and has averaged 3.79% at a 55% completion rate. He has put together some impressive takedown numbers against high level competition; Urijah Faber 4, Joseph Benavidez 12 over 2 fights, and 10 against Demetrious Johnson.

Mizugaki has above average wrestling, but offensively can’t match Cruz (89% TDD). Takeya has successfully defended nearly 70% of his opponents’ tries but was taken down 3 times by Francisco Rivera, 5 times by Erik Perez, and twice by Bryan Caraway. If Cruz is on, he should be able to replicate and surpass those numbers.

Mizugaki is a stiff challenge for anyone, lets alone someone coming off a 3 year absence. If Cruz is to contend for his title in the future, he will need to be on point here. Mizugaki’s striking style relies on his ability to keep his opponent at arm’s length, that won’t be easy here. The striking totals will favour Dominick and he will be further augment his offense with his wrestling. Both guys are decision machines, but Mizugaki is known for losing close ones, while Cruz is 12-0 on the judges scorecards- so my prediction is Dominick Cruz to defeat Takeya Mizugaki by decision.

155lbs- #13 Jorge Masvidal (27-8-0) vs James Krause (21-5-0)

In the Lightweight division, former Strikeforce title challenger Jorge Masvidal squares off with WEC veteran James Krause. ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal has won 2 in a row and 7 of his last 9 with a 4-1 UFC record to date. Since returning to the ZUFFA fold Krause has earned wins in 2 of his 3 Octagon appearances.

Krause is coming off a pair of unfortunate finishes; a series of questionably low kicks by Bobby Green lead to a TKO defeat and was then followed by a victory due to injury when Jamie Varner broke his ankle and was unable to continue.

On the mat, Krause is a talented submission fighter. A BJJ Brown belt, with 13 wins by submission compared to just a pair of defeats. His long limbs allow him to attack with a variety of holds and make him difficult to control on the mat. He is very capable at orchestrating sweeps and reversals from his back, but averages just 1.39 TDs per fight relying on his opponent to initiate the ground game.

At UFC 161, Krause tapped Sam Stout via guillotine with just 13 seconds left in the fight.

Masivdal is just 2-2 in fights ended by tapout, but his wrestling has been a key component to his success. He lands 2.68 takedowns per fight at a very respectable 66% completion rate. He most recently defeated Daron Cruickshank with a wrestling heavy assault and put up significant TD numbers against both Tim Means (6) and KJ Noons (7). He has a solid single leg and excellent top control. Defensively, he is equally as sound thwarting 79% of his opponent’s tries, including 8 of 10 attempts by Russian wrestling machine Rustam Khabilov.

The Strikeforce vet is equally as capable on the feet. He has recorded 10 wins by knockout and boasts one of the most technically sound kickboxing repertoires in the division. He builds the majority of his offense off of a sharp jab and supplements his hands with a solid arsenal of kicks and the occasional jumping knee strike. He averages 3.85 strikes per minute, just over 1.2 more per minute then he gives up.

Masvidal has landed more significant strikes then his adversary in each of his UFC and Strikeforce fights with the exception of his title fight with Gilbert Melendez.

Krause’s most effective weapon of attack is his kicking game. He will throw a variety of kicks, targeting all areas of the body and has a very nice high kick that he effectively disguises just prior to landing. He averages just over 4 strikes per minute, but isn’t nearly as defensively sound as Masivdal giving up just under 3.5 to his opponents. He effectively outlanded talented striker Sam Stout 110 to 81, connecting on the majority of his strikes from distance.

Both men are well rounded, but Masvidal should have the advantage with his superior wrestling both offensively and defensively. He will need to be careful when exchanging as he has been hurt in a number of fights and Krause’s tricky kicking attack can be hard to anticipate. Look for Masvidal keep the exchanges at boxing range and score significant takedowns and top control, so my prediction is Jorge Masvidal to defeat James Krause by decision.

170lbs- Patrick Cote (21-8-0) vs Stephen Thompson (9-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, former Middleweight title challenger Patrick Cotes battles talented Kickboxing stylist Stephen Thompson. Cote has won 3 in a row, including his first 2 bouts at 170 pounds. Thompson is also riding a 3 fight winning streak and is 4-1 in the UFC.

The two combatants have combined for 13 career knockouts, including 5 inside the Octagon.

Both fighters have shown improved grappling capabilities of late. Cote is a BJJ Black belt and landed a trio of takedowns with solid top control in his most recent win over Kyle Noke. His American counterpart is a BJJ Blue belt and after getting badly out wrestled by Matt Brown, he turned the tables on his next 2 opponents using a smothering clinch based attack and a combined 4 takedowns to augment his striking.

While this fight could spend some time on the floor, it will most likely be determined with strikes.

Cote built his reputation on his knockout power and cement reinforced chin. His attack is primarily centered around his boxing, but he will mix in leg strikes where appropriate. Statistically, Cote averages 2.49 SLpM while getting hit at a rate of 2.9 SApM. These numbers reinforce his willingness to take a punch to land one, but a career of hit or be hit could be catching up to him.

Alessio Sakara clearly had Cote hurt prior to landing a series of illegal blows and Bobby Voelker appeared to stun the Canadian as well.

‘Wonderboy’ is a 5th degree Black belt in Kempo Karate and Black belt in Kickboxing. He will attempt a wide variety of unorthodox kicking techniques and uses a Karate style stance that can present a difficult front to attack. He showcased the power in his hands stopping Robert Whittaker in his most recent outing and overall is a very skilled striker.

Augmenting his talented kicking arsenal is his ability to judge distance; landing strikes and then slipping just out of his opponent’s range. Thompson lands an average of 1.78 striker more per minute then his opponents.

Cote needs to turn this bout into a brawl and mimic Matt Brown’s approach to overcoming Thompson’s technical onslaught. The ‘Predator’ had some difficulty with the more diverse striking attack of Cung Le, struggling to get in range and subsequently find continued landing success. Thompson will keep Patrick on the outside with his kicking game and avoid the majority of Cote’s big shots, before landing his own- so my prediction is Stephen Thompson to defeat Patrick Cote by knockout.

170lbs- John Howard (22-9-0) vs Brian Ebersole (50-16-1 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, John ‘Doomsday’ Howard takes on Brian ‘Bad boy’ Ebersole. Howard’s 4 fight winning streak was ended by Ryan LaFlare in his last fight. Ebersole ended a long layoff with an unsuccessful effort against Rick Story, he is now 4-2 in the UFC.

Ebersole has amassed an impressive amount of experience with 68 total fights, finishing 34 of his 50 wins inside the distance- 14 knockouts and 20 submissions.

The enigmatic Ebersole possesses one of the oddest and most unorthodox in-cage personas in the promotion. From his cartwheel kicks to his thigh punches to the humourous headshakes, opponents have to find a way to remain focused and execute. Ebersole has big knockout numbers, but the majority of his stoppages have come through accumulation, like his UFC 133 victory over Dennis Hallman. He utilizes a solid jab and works well within the clinch with knees and elbow strikes. He isn’t a high volume striker, but does a decent job of limiting his opponent’s offense.

While Ebersole normally limits his opponent’s to less then 2 strikes per minute, Rick Story blasted through his defensive front and outlanded him 71-42.

Coming from a kickboxing background, Howard should have advantages in both power and technique. He has 9 wins by knockout, including UFC stoppages of Daniel Roberts and the above mentioned Hallman. He employs a far more technical approach when compared to his counterpart. ‘Doomsday’ throws heavy combinations, but sometimes opting to employ less effective single strikes. One of the keys to his success against Ebersole could be his leg kicks. Rick Story landed a series of heavy leg strikes and clearly had Ebersole hurting, something that Howard could benefit tremendously from.

On the mat, Ebersole is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler. He has double digit submission wins and while he has been on the wrong end of 9 tapouts he has proven himself tough to submit inside the Octagon. He put up some decent takedown numbers early in his UFC run, but has struggled to implement his wrestling lately landing just 1 of 22 attempts over his last 2 appearances. He should look to follow in the footsteps of Ryan LaFlare and ground Howard as soon as possible.

Howard is a BJJ Purple belt, with a 6-1 record in fights ended by submission. He has had mixed results with his wrestling; using a takedown heavy performance in his win over Siyar Bahadurzada, but spending a lot of time on his back against Ryan LaFlare. Howard’s successes certainly doesn’t hinge on his wrestling, but he is far more effective when he can be multi-dimensional.

Ebersole appeared to really struggle with the power of Story, who landed both more strikes and more impactful strikes. Howard will replicate that success and capitalize on the ring rust that will impact an opponent who has been sitting out for the last 10 months and has fought just twice since mid 2012. Howard can’t overlook Ebersole, but my prediction is John Howard to defeat Brian Ebersole by decision.

155lbs- Jon Tuck (8-1-0) vs Kevin Lee (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, 3 fight UFC vet Jon Tuck battles Kevin Lee who will be making his third trip to the Octagon. Tuck improved 2-1 in the UFC after stopping Jake Lindsey midway through round 3. Lee squared his Octagon mark at 1-1 picking up a hard fought split decision triumph over Jesse Ronson.

Despite identical records of 8-1, Lee has split his wins evenly between submissions and decisions. Tuck has finished all his opponents but 1 with 3 knockouts and 4 submissions.

This bout has the making of an entertaining scrap and could very well be decided by who can survive the early actions and take control of the fight. Tuck has traditionally had conditioning issues, noticeably slowing down early in fights. Lee battled through a pretty grueling back and forth with Al Iaquinta and with a record of 4-1 on the scorecards it probably can be determined that he will have the superior conditioning.

Lee uses a more boxing oriented stance, leading with a snappy left jab. While he has yet to record a win by knockout, he does pack some decent pop in his strikes, including a head kicks which he threw a couple of times in his debut. He effectively outlanded the striking based Ronson 66-51, putting up his best landing total in the final round.

Tuck does have power but needs to improve his ability to deploy it. He has decent leg kicks, but he tends to get a little sloppy which in turn impacts his cardio and makes him an easier target to hit. Through his first UFC 3 bouts he has been absorbed roughly .5 more strikes per minute then he dishes out. Even when fresh, he seems more insistent on winging big single strikes with minimal, if any, set up.

A BJJ Brown belt, Tuck is a talented grappler but really has shown much in the wrestling department landing just over 1 takedown per fight at a 50% completion rate. He did score a trio of takedowns in his last fight, but had spent more time on his back through his first 2. Lee showed a pretty decent wrestling game against Ronson, landing 4 takedowns. He showed excellent timing against Iaquinta, anticipating a forthcoming combination, changing levels, and putting Al on his back. From there he transitioned quickly t0o his back and nearly finished with an RNC. He also survived a couple of close sub attempts and moved into a dominant position.

This fight should be a real back and forth war and the cardio advantage and more technical striking game of Lee should play a major role. Lee needs to avoid taking early damage, but as the fight drags on he will pull away both in volume landed and takedowns scored, so my prediction is Kevin Lee to defeat Jon Tuck by decision.

135lbs- Manny Gamburyan (16-10-0) vs Cody Gibson (12-4-0)

The opening fight of the evening pits former WEC title challenger Manny Gamburyan against rising prospect Cody Gibson. Gamburyan is coming off a decision defeat against Nik Lentz and 2-3-0 1NC since returning to the UFC. Gibson dropped his debut against Aljamain Sterling, but rebounded with an abrupt knockout of Johnny Bedford.

Gamburyan will be making his Bantamweight debut after fighting as high as Welterweight. Despite moving down a division, he will still give up 5″ of height to his opponent.

Gibson’s wrestling looked good against Sterling, landing 4 takedowns. He also has 3 submission wins, including a nasty guillotine choke of former WEC competitor Chad George. Conversely, Cody was taken down 3 times by Sterling and spent too much time on his back costing him the fight.

A Third dan Black belt in Judo, Gamburyan has relied heavily on his grappling for success. With a 71% TDD, he has proven difficult to put on his back. He has scored 19 takedowns over his last 6 bouts- including 5 against Cole Miller. Manny has 6 wins by sub, none since 2008, opting to focus more on positional control and top position damage. He had success taking Dennis Siver down and the cut to 135 could give him a further physical edge and enhance his ability to control his adversaries.

On the feet, Gibson will have a length advantage as well the superior technique. Manny has some power, KOing Mike Brown at WEC 48 but he is rather simplistic with his attack winging big overhand punches. On average, Gamburyan gets outstruck by his opponents by .44 strikes per minute. Cody’s quick finish of Bedford was impressive and showed how dangerous he can be on the feet. He will need to remain focussed though, as he tends to leave some defensive gaps when he gets too aggressive and a veteran like Manny could capitalize on them.

This is really a do or die fight for Gamburyan, cutting down a division at this stage in a fighter’s career is a desperate move. He has always been known for his strength and if the cut goes well, it will be further magnified at Bantamweight. Gibson has to pick his spots, keep this fight at range and pick Manny apart. Unfortunately, he more often then not will get dragged into grappling exchanges which will be tough to win here. Look for Manny to use his short stature to establish a lower base and routinely put Cody on the mat especially as he comes forward and control the action from top position, so my prediction is Manny Gamburyan to defeat Cody Gibson by decision. >Prelim Predictions

135lbs- #10 Alex Caceres (10-6-0 1NC) vs Masanori Kanehara (23-11-5)

Headlining the preliminary portion of the card, Alex Caceres welcomes promotional newcomer Masanori Kanehara to the cage. Caceres saw his 5 fight undefeated streak come to an end at the hands of Urijah Faber, he is now 5-2-0 1NC since cutting to 135 pounds. Kanehara is also coming off a loss, losing vs disqualification ending his 6 fight winning streak that saw him finish all of his opponents.

This bout was originally scheduled to take place between the above mentioned Faber and famed Japanese knockout artist Kid Yamamoto. Injuries have dictated otherwise.

Kanehara has strung together a solid career fighting mainly in Japan. He captured the Sengoku Featherweight title in 2009 and holds wins over current UFC fighters Chan Sung Jung, Kid Yamamoto and Naoyuki Kotani and former ZUFFA employee Michihiro Omigawa, along with a decision loss to Hatsu Hioki.

The rapid development of Caceres has been impressive. He has been submitted 5 times, but has shown vast improvement in his grappling game- scoring submission wins over Damacio Page and Sergio Pettis and getting the better of Roland Delorme and Kyung-Ho Kang on the mat. His long limbs allow him to attempt subs and orchestrate transitions and reversals. He was dominated on the floor for the most part by Faber, but handle himself much better then many expected.

Kanehara is a BJJ Brown belt with a 9-3 record in fights ended by submission. He defeated the Korean Zombie on the basis of his top game and ability to thwart anything that KZ offered him from the bottom. He has just a pair of submission wins in his last 19 fights, which may suggest he has gotten away from his ground game. As mentioned above, Caceres was grounded by Faber and Kanehara could find similar success if he can control Bruce Leeroy from the bottom. Easier said then done.

On the feet, Kanehara has a solid counter striking game. He will flash a quick left jab, and a variety of kicks, but he seems at his best when he can slip his head off center and catch his attacking opponent with a sharp 1-2 counter. He has 9 wins by knockout, including 4 straight all in the first round- most recently dispatching Joe Pearson in just 21 seconds.

For Caceres, he is far more unorthodox. He will attempt a variety of spinning techniques with varied success. Against Faber, he landed a beautiful lead uppercut, left hook combo and he does a good job of utilizing his length. Along with his reach, Alex’s volume is one of his key weapons. He lands at a rate of 3.82 SLpM, while giving up an even 2. While he may lack a serious knockout punch, his ability to routinely outwork opponents- he has outlanded all but one of his BW adversaries (Faber), can be as effective.

Caceres comes in as a heavy favourite, something that he traditionally is not- so there could be some added pressure. He will also be fighting in a hostile environment which is difficult. His cardio and work rate will be the key. On the feet, he has to be the busier fighter and if he does get taken down he has to be offensive. Alex appears to be hitting his stride and while Kanehara is far from an easy win, my prediction is Alex Caceres to defeat Masanori Kanehara by decision.

145lbs-Katsunori Kikuno (22-6-2) vs Sam Sicilia (13-4-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Sam Sicilia makes his 7th UFC appearance when he takes on Katsunori Kikuno who will be making his divisional debut. Sicilia is coming off a decision win over Aaron Phillips that evened his UFC record at 3-3. Kikuno lost for the first time by knockout in his career at the hands of Tony Ferguson, ending his 6 fight winning streak.

Kikuno has fought his entire career at Lightweight, but will be cutting down to 145 pounds for the first time in this bout.

Sicilia is coming off a decision win where his wrestling proved to be the deciding factor. He landed 5 takedowns and controlled the majority of the action from top position. He may be hard-pressed to find similar success against Kikuno who is a Judo Black belt and demoed solid TDD in his promotional debut against former Welterweight Quinn Mulhern.

While we could see some ground action, their combined 19 knockout wins suggest this fight will most likely be decided on the feet.

Sicilia’s power isn’t quite as devastating as it is sometimes presented as. He does have a couple of UFC stoppages, but over some questionable chins. For the most part he is a head hunter, looking to land a fight altering strike from start to finish. He will try to stay technical, but in an almost Leonard Garcia-esque regression he ultimately gets drawn into a brawl as the contest progresses. He will swing wide looping hooks and frequently overextends himself creating opportunities for his adversary to return fire.

The American on average lands 2.87 strikes per minute, while getting tagged at rate of 3.52 per minute. His chin has also started to show some cracks, getting TKOed by Rony Jason, hurt by Maximo Blanco, and dropped by Cole Miller prior to the submission finish.

Despite a very questionable performance, Kikuno is a good striker and has proven it against top level opposition. In 2009, he went toe to toe with Eddie Alvarez and was getting the better of the exchanges prior to the submission finish. Katsunori has a good kicking game, and can really do some serious damage. He has good timing and will look to slip his opponent’s attacks and counter with one of his own which can be quite effective against an aggressive adversary. He will need to crank up his output, but his short straight punches should foil the wide looping attacks of Sicilia.

Against Ferguson, he implemented an odd defensive style that left a lot to be desired and eventually lead to the knockout. He held an open guard, seemingly wanting to lure his foe to engage and then work off their missed attacks. As Tony was able to land with consistency and power, it didn’t work out too well and hopefully he will make the appropriate adjustments.

Sicilia struggled with the kicking game of Phillips in his last appearance and had to rely on his wrestling- that won’t be an option here. The combination of his questionable chin, wild striking style, and below average cardio (which will be further affected by the time change from fighting in Japan) are a lot to try and overlook. Look for Kikuno to return to his kick heavy arsenal, incorporate some grappling, land counters, and take control of the fight as Sicilia slows down, appropriately my prediction is Katsunori Kikuno to defeat Sam Sicilia by TKO.

170lbs- Hyun Gyu Lim (12-4-1) vs Takenori Sato (17-9-7)

In the Welterweight division, Hyun Gyu Lim enters the Octagon for the fourth time when he battles UFC sophomore Takenori Sato. Lim fell to 2-1 in the promotion after a spirited but unsuccessful decision loss against Tarec Saffiedine. Sato took his debut on short notice and was quickly dispatched by Erik Silva in just 52 seconds.

Lim has been on the sidelines since early January and Sato’s debut took place on Feburary 15th so both men could be dealing with a little ring rust.

Physically, Lim will be the much larger fighter compared to Sato. Standing 6’2″, ‘Ace’ will be 4″ taller then his opponent and also have a massive 7″ reach advantage. Unfortunately, with Lim being so massive he cuts a lot of weight to make Welterweight. He pulled out of his original debut due to the cut being too hard and has shown signs of conditioning issues as well.

Sato comes from a Judo background and has a solid submission arsenal with 6 wins by tapout. Lim has had trouble with grapplers, with submissions accounting for 2 of his 4 career losses. He has an 81% TDD over his 3 UFC bouts, but was taken down twice by Marcelo Guimaraes and once by Saffiedine. If Sato can take him down with regularity that will both mitigate his Lim’s striking capabilities further diminish his questionable cardio.

On the feet, the advantage shifts significantly in the favour of the Korean. He has scored knockouts in 9 of his 12 wins, including each of his first 2 UFC bouts. He is incredibly aggressive, which can create some defensive lapses which were exploited by Saffiedine. Unfortunately for Sato, while his striking is serviceable he is going to struggle to handle Lim on the feet. Lim packs significant power in his strikes and can deliver it in a wide array of methods. He leads with a stiff jab, throws a hard left hook, and will work an upper cut. He a decent array of kicks and brutal knee strikes which he used to put down by Pascal Krauss and Guimaraes.

Lim continually pushes the pace, walking his opponents down and has an excellent chin which allows him to take a punch to land one. Conversely, Sato has been knocked out in 6 of his 9 losses and his debut stoppage against Silva certainly brings into question his durability.

Lim still has some significant holes in his game, but his size, power, aggression, and striking capabilities make him a tough opponent to deal with. Sato didn’t have a good showing in his debut and Lim should be able to recreate the defensive striking issues that have plagued him throughout his career, so my prediction is Hyun-Gyu Lim to defeat Takenori Sato by knockout.

135lbs- Michinori Tanaka (10-0-0) vs Kyung Ho Kang (12-7-0 1NC)

In the Bantamweight division, Michinori Tanaka makes his second appearance inside the Octagon when he battles slightly more experience Octagon warrior Kyung Ho Kang. Tanaka won his debut over Roland Delorme in a dominant decision and has yet to face defeat in his pro career. Kang finally earned his first UFC win submitting Shunichi Shimizu, he had previously been on the wrong end of two close and controversial bouts.

This bout will pit a pair of champions head to head as Tanaka was the PXC Bantamweight champion when he left the organization and Kang captured the inaugural Road FC 135 pound title.

On the feet both fighters are talented and can more then hold their own. Kang has a decent kicking arsenal and has a pretty solid uppercut, but for the most part his striking is centered on setting up his grappling game. Tanaka operates in a pretty similar fashion. He uses lots of lateral movement, integrating hard low kicks and a heavy right hand, but doesn’t throw a tonne of volume.

The deciding action of this battle will take place on the ground.

Both fighters come from grappling backgrounds- Tanaka is a 2nd degree Judo Black belt and Kang also comes from a Judo background, along with carrying a BJJ Blue belt. The Korean has collected 9 of his 12 wins by submission, while his Japanese counterpart has evenly split his 10 wins between decisions and submissions.

As expected Michinori has a solid clinch game and will use his Judo throws to take the fight horizontal. He was mounted early by Delorme but quickly reversed the position. On top, he uses tight body on body control, works in some GnP, and can do damage with minimal space. He has solid transitions and effectively rolls with his opponent to avoid losing position. If he does give up some form of positional control he quickly counters his way back to the superior position.

Kang uses a variety of takedowns techniques; changing levels to shoot for a double or single leg, suplexs, and judo throws from the clinch. On the ground he maintains heavy top controls and constantly works to advances his position, slicing through his opponent’s guard and moving either to mount or cross side position. He will drop some ground and pound to create openings, but his main focus is on setting up submission opportunities. Kang showed an improved focus on landing strikes and busting up his last opponent, which eventually broke him down and lead to the submission finish.

Physically, Kang is the much larger man, but he has had cardio issues that appeared to cost him in each of his first 2 UFC fights. He slowed down in his fight with Alex Caceres which was full of transitional battles and also tired against Chico Camus who forced him to work hard to maintain top control. Tanaka should be able to recreate some of those issues if he is forced to work off his back, along with scoring his own top position control. Kang is a dismal 1-4 in decisions, while Tanaka is 5-0 when going the distance suggesting that the later is more capable of outworking an opponent he can’t finish, so my prediction is Michinori Tanaka to defeat Kyung Ho Kang by decision.

155lbs- Kazuki Tokudome (12-5-1) vs Johnny Case (18-4-0)

In the Lightweight division Johnny Case takes his first step onto the biggest fight stage on the planet when he battles Kazuki Tokudome. Case is currently riding an 8 fight winning streak, while Tokudome’s 3 fight winning streak turned into a 2 fight slump with back to back decision defeats.

Case was one of many opponents schedules to face Joe Ellenburger in his debut, but was forced to withdraw. Subsequently, he hasn’t see action for the better part of 11 months.

The American comes from an solid amateur wrestling background, but really struggled with the takedown game of his most recent opponent, EJ Brooks. He was routinely taken down and offered very little off his back. He is 5-2 in fights ended by submission, but his difficulty with a less accomplished MMA ground fighters suggest he will struggle against opponents at the next level.

Tokudome is a BJJ Purple belt and Judo Black belt. He has secured just 3 of his wins by submission, focusing his ground attack on position control. In his debut, he effectively nullified the grappling game of BJJ Black belt Cristiano Marcello landing just a pair of takedowns, but following it up with prolong periods of solid top control. If Tokudome can posture up, he will drop some solid ground and pound, but he needs to focus on remaining active to avoid a ref stand up costing him position.

Through his first 3 UFC performances, Kazuki has landed a combined 6 takedowns while giving up only 4 on 18 tries.

The biggest area of concern for Tokudome is his striking defense and subsequent chin issues. He is willing to trade, but has a tendency to back straight up when under attack and raises his chin in the process creating a very vulnerable target. As a result, he has been KOed twice prior to signing with ZUFFA and has endured some tense moments against both Marcello and Yui Chul Nam in his last bout.

Case does have 11 wins by knockout, which would suggest he is more then capable of exploiting this defensive lapse from his opponent. He has done the majority of his damage against lower level competition and against Brooks he showcased a solid kicking game from range but seemed tentative to close the distance or let his hands go for fear of getting taken down.

Tokudome’s defensive striking issues always create an area of concern, but his willingness to implement a grappling first attack based on his strong Judo skills will give him the advantage over Case, so my prediction is Kazuki Tokudome to defeat Johnny Case by decision.

145lbs- Maximo Blanco (10-6-1 1NC) vs Dan Hooker (12-4-0)

To raise the curtain on UFN 52, Featherweights Maximo Blanco and promotional debutant Dan Hooker collide. Blanco snapped a 2 fight losing skid with his win over Andy Ogle, he is 2-3 in the UFC. Hooker made a successful start to his UFC run with a first round stoppage of Ian Entwistle, he has won 6 in a row.

The New Zealand native will have a significant length advantage over Blanco, standing 4″ taller and holding a 4.5″ reach advantage. Maximo did formerly compete at Lightweight so facing larger opponents isn’t that out of the ordinary.

Hooker has finished 10 of his 11 victories, with an even split between submission and knockouts. While his record would suggest otherwise, he is primarily a striking based fighter. He has shown some ability on the mat, but it came against lower level competition. He uses his reach well, keeping his opponent on the outside. He posses a quick left jab and accompanies it with some workable kicking techniques.

In his debut, he fended off an early leg log attempt from his adversary and capitalized on his opponent’s unwillingness to abandon the hold, eventually ending the fight with a series of vicious undefended elbows strikes.

With 7 wins by knockout, Blanco is a dangerous striker. He has averaged 3.07 SLpM while limiting his opposition to just 2.25. He should hold a marked speed advantage over his adversary and will attempt some unorthodox techniques that can be difficult to defend. Case in point, he opened his bout against Ogle by nearly knocking him out by launching himself across the cage at the Brit. Blanco, hits incredibly hard, attacking in overwhelming barrages, but he tends to get a little wild which can create openings and cost him in the cardio department.

As mentioned Hooker does have 5 submission wins and 2 of Maximo’s defeats have come by the same method. That being said, Maximo’s wrestling should give him a significant edge on the mat. He has landed 7 takedowns over his last 4 bouts, and can do some significant damage from top position if he is allowed to posture up. In previous fights, Hooker has been taken down by less accomplished wrestlers that will cost him against Blanco.

With Maxi there is always the threat of a major mental lapse costing him a point or two on the scorecards or even the entire bout via DQ. Unfortunately, we can’t really anticipate that. Blanco will present the more well rounded attack, and his power and wrestling skills will be the driving force of the fight, so my prediction is Maximo Blanco to defeat Dan Hooker by TKO.

Prelim Predictions


145lbs- Godofredo Pepey (11-3-0) vs Dashon Johnson (9-1-0)

Capping off the undercard portion of the show, Ultimate Fighter Brazil finalist Godofredo Pepey squares off with UFC sophomore Dashon Johnson. Johnson was submitted in his debut by Jake Matthews, while Pepey ended a 2 fight skid with a beautiful flying knee knockout of Noad Lahat.

This will be the second consecutive bout that Johnson will fight on enemy soil. He debuted fighting as a Lightweight against the Aussie Matthews on the New Zealand card.

The American comes from a boxing background, and has some decent power having compiled 5 of his 9 wins by knockout. He will flash a sharp jab and while he may get a little over aggressive in pursuit of the finish, more often then not he gets where he wants to go. All 5 of his knockouts have come inside the opening 3 minutes of the fight. He struggled to showcase much of his striking in his debut, as Matthews kept the pressure on him, but what he did show wasn’t that overwhelmingly impressive.

On the ground, he has a trio of submission wins and drops some heavy ground and pound. He was vastly overmatched both physically and technically by Matthews- eventually getting submitted. He did attempt an early guillotine choke, but was never close to finishing it and relinquished positional control in process.

Johnson was undefeated outside of the UFC, but his difficulty of schedule is a major point of concern. Johnson’s last 5 opponents are a combined 14-40 and the best record of the bunch belongs to Brady Harrison at 12-12.

Despite his run to the finals of the inaugural TUF Brazil, Pepey has failed to impress amassing a 2-4 UFC mark which includes a very controversial decision win over Milton Vieira.

A BJJ Black belt, Pepey wants this fight on the ground. He doesn’t have overwhelming numbers with just 0.4 TDs per fight at an 11% completion rate. He has relies mainly on his opponent to take the fight to the floor and then works from guard. He is very good at pulling off sweeps from his back, but needs to be careful as both Felipe Arantes and Sam Sicilia scored GNP stoppages when on top. Godofredo is very aggressive on the mat, attacking with a variety of submissions and constantly looking to advance his position.

Despite his impressive finish against Lahat, his striking still leaves a lot to be desired from a technical standpoint. He over extends himself when striking, raises his chin, and swings wildly while carelessly moving forward. If he can avoid taking too much damage the pressure and aggression that he presents can be unsettling for his adversary and win some points on the scorecards with the judges.

Pepey is far from a refined fighter, but he has faced vastly superior competition and will be fighting at home. Dashon has looked like a world beater, but against incredibly poor opposition. His only opponent with a partially palatable record pushed him to a split decision. The American had almost nothing to offer in the grappling department in his debut and while he was fighting a larger man it still didn’t look good. Pepey’s chin and defensive lapse are major concerns, but he should be able to overwhelm his opponent and offer him some difficult scenarios on the floor, so my prediction is Godofredo Pepey to defeat Dashon Johnson by submission.

170lbs- Igor Araujo (25-6-0 1NC) vs George Sullivan (15-3-0 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, Igor Araujo puts his perfect 2-0 UFC record on the line when he meets fellow undefeated (1-0) Octagon combatant George Sullivan. Araujo defeated Ildemar Alcantara in his debut and followed it up with another victory over Danny Mitchell- he has won 6 in a row. Sullivan has won 7 straight fights including his upset of Mike Rhodes in his promotional debut.

In a stark contrast, Araujo has compiled 17 of his 25 wins by submission while Sullivan has ended 10 of his 15 victories by knockout. Based purely on numbers it is not hard to see where each men will be looking to keep this fight.

Despite their lopsided win totals, they have both shown capabilities in the other’s realm of preference. Sullivan landed a couple of takedowns against Rhodes in his debut. While Araujo is 1-2 in fights ended by knockout, but did score with some decent strikes against Alcantara. He routinely connected on a quick left, straight right combo and mixed in some kicks as well.

Sullivan landed just over 4 strikes per minute in his debut. He throws a pretty stiff right hand and accompanies his boxing with a variety of kicking techniques. He did absorb around 3.5 strikes per minute against Rhodes, which is a number he will want to bring down in the future. He does pack some decent horsepower in his strikes, but he is a little rigid when attacking. He seems to force his techniques always looking to land with power and this can be severely draining on his cardio.

Araujo hasn’t displayed a strong wrestling game in the UFC, but has still manage to spend large portion of each of his two fights on the floor. He is more then willing to pull guard, even against a pretty strong grappler like Alcantara. He will look for sweeps and reversals or attack with submissions from his guard. Against Alcantara he countered an attempted Ninja choke into top position and showed the diversity of his submission game attempting both an Omoplata and Gogoplata. His top game is equally as solid. He is an aggressive guard passer, using his ground and pound to chip away while looking to set up submission opportunities.

Sullivan can crack, but he has to keep this fight in a position to utilize his striking. He struggled to create separation when Rhodes would clinch up with him and routinely gave up his back to help him escape which would be a mistake against a seasoned grappler like Araujo. The lack of a quality wrestling game for the Brazilian creates an opening for Sullivan if he can maintain his distance, but the superior skillset will win out so my prediction is Igor Araujo to defeat George Sullivan by submission.

155lbs- Francisco Trinaldo (14-4-0) vs Leandro Silva (11-1-1)

In the Lightweight division, Francisco Trinaldo meets fellow countryman Leandro Silva in 1 of 2 Brazil versus Brazil battles on the card. Trinaldo has fallen to 4-3 in the UFC with just one win in his last 3 appearances. Silva was defeated for the first time in career during his only UFC appearance, he has since won 5 in a row.

Silva lost his debut to Ildemar Alcantara (a former Light Heavyweight), taking the bout on short notice and at a weightclass above where he normally competes. Since parting ways with the promotion he has defeat some decent competition, who combined for a record of 32-16 (that record is even more impressive considering Silva accounts for almost a third of their total defeats).

Easily one of the largest men competing at 155 pound, Trinaldo got his start on the Ultimate Fighter fighting as a Middleweight. Competing at Lightweight gives the Brazilian a clear physical advantage over most of the division (maybe not Gleison Tibau), but the unfortunate drawback has been his compromised cardio. He has slowed down in a couple of his fights, but most notably gassed against Piotr Hallmann and was subsequently submitted.

All four of Trinaldo’s defeats have come after the conclusion of the opening round, but he is 8-4 in fights that last longer than 5 minutes. Silva has picked up 6 finishes beyond the opening frame and is 6-1 when the judges get involved.

The returning Silva has a submission heavy win total, with 9 of his 16 wins coming by tapout. He appears to favour the single leg variety of takedowns, but was unable to find success against the much larger Alcantara. While Trinaldo boasts a respectable 60% TDD, he has struggled against the likes of Michael Chiesa and the previously mentioned Tibau where he was taken down a combined 7 times and offered limited offense off his back.

Offensively, ‘Massaranduba’ has averaged just over 1 TD per fight, but has some heavy ground and pound and picked up a pair of arm-triangle submissions over CJ Keith and Mike Rio early in 2013. He trains under talented BJJ player Sergio Moraes and currently holds a BJJ Brown belt.

On the feet Trinaldo packs a wallop, but again his ability to carry his performance deep into fights isn’t good. He has recorded 5 wins by knockout, including one in his UFC debut. He also scored a knock down against Tibau and bent Hallmann over with a swift kick to the body. He can do damage with his striking and if he connects it can be fight altering, but he tends to be a little wild when attacking.

Despite recording just one win by knockout, Silva showcased some pretty decent striking chops against Alcantara. He used lots of head movement and faints to deal with pressure. He has quick hands; throwing a spearing straight right and following up with a left hand- he will also attack the body. He will work his kicks in combination with his boxing and will attempt the odd capoeira technique.

His lack of knockout power is concerning, but he was the busier fighter against Alcantara outlanding him 63-56 and he will have to be against Trinaldo as well.

Silva should have a speed advantage along with superior technique on the feet. He will need to play the role of the matador at least early on and force his opponent to exhaust himself when striking and potentially looking for the takedown. Trinaldo’s gas tank is a major concern and he could struggle to keep up with the variety of attacks that Silva offers, so my prediction is Leandro Silva to defeat Francisco Trinaldo by decision.

170lbs- Paulo Thiago (15-7-0) vs Sean Spencer (11-3-0)

In the Welterweight division, Paulo Thiago attempts to end his current losing streak when he takes on the scrappy Sean Spencer. Thiago has lost 2 in a row and is just 2-6 over his last 8 appearances. Spencer is 2-2 in the UFC and is coming off of an exciting, but ultimately disappointing bout with Alex Garcia.

Thiago began his UFC career 3-1, but has struggled since. He did win his first 2 UFC bouts fought in Brazil, but has dropped his last two appearances when fighting on home soil.

The outcome of this contest will largely hinge on the Brazilian’s ability to bring his grappling skills to bear. He is a Black Belt in both Judo and BJJ and has earned 8 of his 15 wins by submission. In victory, he has succeeded in implementing his grappling attack- scoring a combined 10 takedowns and an impressive submission win over Mike Swick. Unfortunately, he has lost the takedown battle by a combined 11-4 over his 7 losses and hasn’t pulled off a submission in 4 years.

Spencer has been taken down several times in his UFC run. He gave up 4 takedowns in his debut against Middleweight Rafael Natal before being submitted and was taken down 8 times by the aforementioned Garcia. He is 2-2 in fights ended by submission. He has also had some success against grappling oriented fighters, stuffing a combined 17 of 18 attempts in his 2 UFC wins. Even when Garcia was able to take him down Spencer was able to get back up quickly nullifying the impact of the takedown.

If Thiago is unable to grapple with consistency he is forced to rely solely on his striking which renders him a far less effective fighter.

Sean relies primarily on his boxing, but did work some decent body kicks into his last fight. He keeps his hands up, chin tucked, attacking from a variety of angles, and augments his attack with solid footwork. He has just a pair of knockouts, but showed decent pop rocking Garcia with a big right hand and follow up head kick.

Spencer has averaged an impressive 4.79 SLpM compared to just 1.64 for his opponent. He should also have the technical advantage over Thiago who’s attacks tend to be populated by wide looping hooks. He has topped the century mark in strikes landed in both of his wins and will look for more of the same here.

While Spencer has struggled with talented ground fighters, it is hard to consider Paulo in that category based on recent performances. Spencer did pick up a win in Brazil over Yuri Villefort which is a good experience to build upon, as was his fight with Natal. Spencer’s TDD will need to be on point early, but he should be able to defend the majority of what Thiago attempts, tire him out in the process, and carve him up with his striking- my prediction is Sean Spencer to defeat Paulo Thiago by decision.

135lbs- Rani Yahya (19-8-0 1NC) vs Johnny Bedford (19-12-1 1NC)

In the Bantamweight division, ‘Brutal’ Johnny Bedford and Rani Yahya revisit their UFN 39 encounter that ended in a No Contest. Bedford has hit a bit of skid of late getting submitted by Bryan Caraway, followed by the No Contest, and then a abrupt knockout loss to underdog Cody Gibson. Prior to his meeting with Bedford, Yahya was out grappled by the debuting Tom Niinimaki in a decision loss.

In their first meeting, Bedford appeared to score a quick knockout, but it was ruled a No Contest (much to his disbelief) after it was determined that the finish came as a result of an inadvertent head-butt.

On the feet, Bedford has 7 wins by knockout, including brutal finishes of Marcos Vinicius and Louis Gaudinot. He averages 5.21 strikes per minute, while getting hit at a rate of just 1.74 per minute, but those numbers have been drastically inflated by the one-sided beatings rendered in his aforementioned knockout wins. Against a more competent opponent in Caraway the tables were turned as Johnny was out-landed 125-59. Against the Brazilian, Bedford should have a marked advantage on the feet.

Yahya has shown improvements in what he can do standing, but his attack is primarily focussed on getting the fight to the floor. While Yahya won’t want to spend much time on the feet, look for Bedford to be far less aggressive coming forward as was the case against Caraway for fear of getting taken down.

Yahya is a second degree BBJ Black belt with 15 of 19 wins coming by submission, while Bedford has been submitted in 9 of his 11 defeats. Johnny is a more then competent grappler; he is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ Brown belt with 8 submission wins of his own. But, he has struggled against opponents who aggressively push a grappling heavy attack. He was taken down 3 times by Caraway prior to the end and has also been submitted by the likes of Daniel Pineda and Dustin Neace twice.

The cardio of Rani is a bit of a concern as he has struggled later in fights, which could create an opening for Bedford to look for a finish. The first fight lasted just 39 seconds, but look for Yahya to have success here getting in on the legs and dragging Bedford to the mat with consistency. Bedford’s defensive difficulties are too much to overlook so my prediction is Rani Yahya to defeat Johnny Bedford by submission.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Al Iaquinta (8-3-1) vs Rodrigo Damm (12-7-0)

Topping off the 4-fight preliminary card is a Lightweight pairing of Al Iaquinta and Rodrigo Damm. Iaquinta was upset in his last fight by Mitch Clarke, ending his 3 fight winning streak. Damm’s 2 fight winning streak was also halted in his last fight when he was defeated by Rashid Magomedov.

The first scenario that stands out here is the grappling credentials of Damm and the apparent submission defense issues of Iaquinta. Al has been submitted in all 3 of his defeats- most recently getting caught with an impressive d’arce choke off his back by Clarke. Damm is a BJJ Black belt and former member of the Brazilian National Wrestling team. He has won 6 times by submission, including his promotional debut. Unfortunately, Damm has drifted away from his grappling base in favour of a more striking centric attack.

He has averaged just 0.61 TDs per fight at a 23% completion rate. Even more telling, he has won by submission just one time in his last 13 fights spanning back to mid 2007.

Al has had success from top position, busting up his opponent with strong ground and pound, but considering the grappling acumen of Damm he will need to be careful even after scoring a knock down.

If the fight does remain standing it will favour Iaquinta. Al has demoed a good striking repertoire. He averages 4.37 SLpM. and while he does give up north of 3 to his opposition, the power behind his techniques routinely give him the edge. He will work in some decent kicks, but his boxing is his primary weapon of choice. Throwing hard combos augmented by solid footwork, Iaquinata will also have the speed advantage over Damm.

Rodrigo has been stopped 3 times and appears to be vulnerable to a well timed overhand right. He tries to build his attack around his counter strikes, but tends to wait too much on his opponents and can get outlanded as a result. His biggest weapons are his right hand and some hard leg kicks, but again he needs to throw more strikes to increase his effectiveness.

In Damm’s last fight he was facing a dangerous striker and his clear path to victory was his ground game. Unfortunately, he failed to land a single takedown on just 4 attempts and appeared far more willing to stand and trade. That should be the case here as well. Iaquinta is simply the more talented striker with better volume, variety, speed, and power. Al has pretty solid TDD (80%) and he should be able to shutdown any attempt the Damm does throw at him while outclassing him on the feet, so my prediction is Al Iaquinta to defeat Rodrigo Damm by decision.

185lbs- Rafael Natal (17-6-1) vs Chris Camozzi (19-8-0)

In the Middleweight division a pair of long time UFC vets square off as Rafael Natal makes his 11th UFC appearance against Chris Camozzi who will enter the Octagon for the 10th time. Natal has dropped back to back bouts to Tim Kennedy and Ed Herman, prior to that he had won 3 in a row. Camozzi is currently enduring a 3 fight losing skid that was preceded by 4 straight wins.

This battle pairs up a grappling specialist in Natal who is a BJJ Black belt and 8-0 in fights ended by submission, with the durable Chris Camozzi who doesn’t appear to have any one dominant skillset but has found success through his ability to outwork and wear down opponents.

Both men have noteworthy totals in the loss column; Natal has suffered a quartet of knockouts while Camozzi has been submitted 4 times.

Natal lives and dies with his grappling game. He landed a combined 10 takedowns in his wins over Michael Kuiper and Sean Spencer and 5 more in the first two rounds of his draw with Jesse Bongfeldt. He also defeated Tor Troeng in a back and forth ground war largely on his ability to out position Tor. He showed good timing on an early takedown against Ed Herman, but finished the fight just 1 for 6 and was defeated. He has a good submission game, but has just 1 win via tapout in his last 11 fights.

Natal has just 5 total takedowns in his 4 UFC losses, but has completed 16 during the 6 fights where he was not defeated(5-0-1).

Camozzi is a BJJ Brown belt, but is 6-4 in fights ended by submission- suffering UFC subs to Jacare Souza and Kyle Noke. He has yet to land a takedown inside the Octagon, while defending 55% of his opponents’s attempts. Camozzi has been taken down a combined 9 times in 5 defeats, but also gave up 8 TDs in his 6 Octagon wins. He does a decent job shutting down his opponent’s wrestling, but against Bruno Santos he made a few mistakes which lead directly to takedowns and Camozzi spending significant time on his back. He will need to avoid those issues against Natal.

On the feet, Camozzi has just 5 wins by knockout, but he has never been stopped. He averages 3.84 SLpM, a full 1 strike more per minute then Natal. While Natal does a better job limiting his opponent’s landing success, his durability is a major question mark. The Brazilian has been knocked out several times and was getting busted up in the second half of his bout with Ed Herman.

The American will have the better cardio, but will need to thwart the early TDA’s. Outside of some leg kicks Natal seemed very focussed on putting Herman on his back and lacked the volume to keep up on the feet. He also struggled with the physicality and brawling nature of ‘Short Fuse’, something that Camozzi who is the larger man should be able to use as well. The takedowns that Camozzi gave up versus Santos were largely the result of miss-timed knee strikes and the raw power of his opponent, not Natal’s forte. Sapo may have success early, but as he slows down look for Camozzi to pile up the damage, so my prediction is Chris Camozzi to defeat Rafael Natal by TKO.

135lbs- Tateki Matsuda (10-5-0) vs Chris Beal (9-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Chris Beal makes his second UFC appearance when he welcomes Octagon debutant and fellow TUF alumni Tateki Matsuda to the cage. Beal is undefeated and is coming off a spectacular knockout win over Patrick Williams in his debut. Matsuda has won back to back bouts and 4 of his last 6.

Matsuda is stepping up on roughly a week’s notice to take fight after Dustin Kimura was forced to withdraw. Tateki will be Beal’s third scheduled opponent as he was previously paired up with Rob Font prior to Kimura stepping in.

Both men employ a predominantly striking based attack, focusing specifically on their boxing. Beal has scored 3 wins by knockout along with 6 wins on the scorecards. Matsuda has earned a 4-pack of knockouts, along with 5 decisions, and single submission win coming in his last appearance.

Of the two, Matsuda is the more likely to try and drag this fight to the ground. He scored a couple of nice takedowns in his win over Matt Doherty and maneuvered him into the crucifix position to mount some undefended GNP. Beal was taken down a couple of times by Williams, but did manage to get back to his feet with limit damage. He was also submitted by Chris Holdsworth on TUF, but Matsuda’s ground game isn’t on that level.

On the feet, Tateki has solid form and can counter strike, showing a pretty quick counter right hand. He has decent
variety, attacking with uppercuts, hooks, and a spearing straight right. He will attack with a low kick, but doesn’t deliver it with much power and overall his kicking game is lacking. He has a pretty solid chin and can take a punch, but he appears very hittable as he isn’t that quickest and he tends to let his defense slip when he gets into exchanges.

Matsuda’s cardio isn’t great and he is 5-4 in decision suggesting he has trouble doing enough over a full 15 minutes to convince the judges he was the better fighter.

Landing one of the nicest flying knee knockouts inside the Octagon, Beal made a great first impression. He should have a speed advantage in this bout and while he tends to key on his boxing as well, he appear to be the more diverse fighter throwing more knees and kicks than his counterpart. He did get a little wild in his debut, and got tagged a couple of times but the combination of some debut jitters and the extremely unorthodox striking style of his opponent could account for his defensive lapses.

Matsuda will be making his debut on a week’s notice which isn’t easy. His willingness to stand and bang will cost him here as Beal should land more frequently and the more impactful strikes. If Matsuda can take him down that would be a huge positive, but look for the short notice to limit his cardio and subsequently his ability to out grapple Beal for prolonged periods of time. Matsuda is a tough out, but my prediction is Chris Beal to defeat Tateki Matsuda by knockout.

145lbs- Sean Soriano (8-1-0) vs Chas Skelly (12-1-0)

Lifitng the curtain on the evening’s festivities will be Featherweights Sean Soriano and Chas Skelly. Soriano suffered the first loss of his career in his debut against Tatsuya Kawajiri. Skelly evened his UFC record at 1-1 with his first round submission victory over Tom Niinimaki at UFN 49.

Soriano has sat out for roughly 8 months, after he withdrew from his second scheduled UFC appearances last April. So ring rust could be a factor. Conversely, Skelly is stepping in to replace the injured Andre Fili only 2 weeks after defeating Niinimaki.

The majority of Soriano’s debut was spent fending off a myriad of takedown attempts by Kawajiri and in the end he stuffed 9 of 12. He was ultimately submitted, but considering he took that fight on short notice and was debuting against a very accomplished wrestler, his ability to shuck off Kawajiri as frequently as he did was impressive. He does have 3 wins by submission and has shown the ability to wrestle in his pre-UFC run, but against Skelly his focus should be on his defensive game.

Soriano had been training his wrestling under Olympic Gold and Silver medalist Kenny Monday before Monday was let go by the Blackzilians.

Skelly was an NAIA All-American wrestler out of Oklahoma State. 7 of his 12 victories have come by way of submission, including a pretty tight rear-naked choke finish Niinimaki. He prefers to operate from top position, smothering his opponent, and he has a solid transition game. In his last win he was able to out-maneuver his foe, fend off an early submission attempt, and eventually negotiate his way to back control. His focus here should be on taking Soriano down and establishing positional dominance to avoid letting his adversary back to his feet.

The biggest issue for Skelly appears when his wrestling/ grappling game is nullified. He went 0-4 in his debut fight and wasn’t able to do enough with his striking to pick up the win.

If this fight remains on the feet, Skelly is serviceable but will be severely outgunned. Soriano has just 3 wins by knockout but he packs significant power behind his strikes. He throws very quick and impactful kicks along with dangerous knee strikes both from the clinch and at range. His boxing is clean and crisp, landing solid strikes in succession and is set up with solid footwork and good hand positioning.

The key to this fight will be whether or not Skelly can put Soriano on his back with consistency or at least enough to seal off a submission. Soriano’s first career loss should serve as a learning experience and he has had a lot of time to improve on his defensive wrestling during the break. The 2 week turn around for Skelly should have him loose, but a lack of prep time for a tough opponent is a concern. Soriano showed impressive defensive work against Kawajiri and will meld that here with his superior striking game, so my prediction is Sean Soriano to defeat Chas Skelly by decision.

Prelim Predictions

185lbs- Lorenz Larkin (14-3-0 1NC) vs Derek Brunson (11-3-0)

Toping the list of the five fight undercard portion of the show, a pair of former Strikeforce competitors go head to head as Lorenz Larkin fights Derek Brunson. Larkin has dropped 2 in a row and 3 of 4 since making the jump. Brunson lost his last fight in comeback fashion to Yoel Romero, ending his 2 fight winning streak.

This bout was originally scheduled for UFC 176, so both men have had slightly elongated camps in preparation. Brunson has been out of action since January 15th, a 7 month layoff, Larkin fought on the same card and has fought once since back in May.

While Brunson has improved his striking, he is still a wrestler at his core and would be better served to take Larkin down. Conversely, Larkin comes from a kickboxing background and will build his offensive and defensive strategies around keeping this fight vertical. Larking averages 3.09 SLpM while limiting his opponents to a shade over 2.5. He has 8 wins by knockout, but none since a 2011 stoppage of Scott Lighty in his Strikeforce debut. He throws a variety of kicking techniques, his hands are solid, and he will mix in some knees and elbows.

Two points of concern for Lorenz are his chin and his willingness to pull the trigger. Against Brad Tavares, Larkin routinely let him land first and seemed hesitant to engage at times. When he did open up later in the fight he was clearly the better striker. He is also coming off a knockout loss, unofficially the second of his career (Mo Lawal KO turned NC), and he was also wobbled early in the Robbie Lawler fight.

Brunson throws a left jab and step in power right hand combo, which he tends to telegraph a little. He does have some power with 4 wins by knockout, but has also been stopped twice. His kicking game is serviceable, throwing multiple low kicks and he cracked Yoel Romero with a thudding head kick. His success against Romero came mainly on his ability to outwork Yoel, landing more strikes and taking advantages of Romero’s relaxed defensive style. Brunson will need to be wary of Larkin’s quick straight right as he stands in the Southpaw stance which can leave him open to strikes from that side.

A 3-time Division 3 All-American, Brunson has averaged 4.01 TDs per fight at a completion rate of 4.01. He impressed many by taking down a Olympic Silver medalist in Romero 3 times on just 5 attempts, even mounting him at one point. He will almost certainly be looking to take Larkin off his feet, but that could be easier said then down. Lorenz has shown excellent balance, stuffing 79% of his opponents’ attempts, and while he is far from perfect defensively he will force Brunson to work hard to secure a takedown.

Both men are flawed, Brunson’s defensive striking and cardio and Larkin’s chin and mental lapses have cost them. Larkin will be fighting for his UFC career here and desperation should serve to motivate him. Brunson could be dealing with some ring rust after a longer then normal break. Brunson looked much improved versus Romero and his ability to push the pace will make it difficult for Larkin to settle in. In addition, the constant threat of the takedown will inhibit his kicking arsenal, so my prediction is Derek Brunson to defeat Lorenz Larkin by decision.

125lbs- Scott Jorgensen (15-9-0) vs Henry Cejudo (6-0-0)

In the Flyweight division, long time UFC and WEC veteran Scott Jorgensen battles UFC newcomer and Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo. Jorgensen is coming off a must needed win over Danny Martinez, he had previously lost 3 in a row and 5 of 6. Cejudo has yet to taste defeat in his young MMA career, earning his last 2 wins under the Legacy FC banner.

Since making the transition to MMA, Cejudo hasn’t lost but has faced some questionable competition. His last 2 opponents combine for a respectable record of 10-6, but going back just 2 fights earlier he faced a pair of adversaries who currently sit with just 4 wins and 21 total losses. Conversely, Scott Jorgensen has faced elite competition at both 125 and 135 pounds.

Cejudo won a Gold medal at the 2008 Bejing Olympics in Freestyle wrestling, he also captured Gold at the 2007 PAN AM games. Scotty was an NCAA Division 1 wrestler and 3-time PAC 10 champion. In most fights Jorgensen’s wrestling credentials are more then enough to give him the edge, that won’t be the case here.

The WEC alumni is a BJJ Pruple belt, averages 2.43 takedowns at a 46% completion rate and is coming off impressive 10 takedown performance. He has defended a respectable 59% of his opponent’s tries over his career, but it has been his defensive game that has been his undoing of late. He has been submitted in 2 of his last 3 losses and gave up a total of 10 takedowns against Urijah Faber and Zach Makovsky while landing just 2 of his own.

Cejudo has a very good takedown game, using a variety of techniques including a very deceptive body lock/ trip combination. He has a solid top game, controlling his opponent while looking to advance his position. His ground and pound is good and he has just a single submission win that came via punches. While he has yet to face anyone of Jorgensen’s caliber, Scotty’s recent struggles with less accomplished wrestlers suggests that the Olympian will be the superior ground fighter.

On the feet, Scotty has scored a pair of wins by knockout and while he has only been knocked out once his chin appears to be failing. Eddie Wineland was the only one to finish him but both Makovsky and Danny Martinez were able to hurt him. He also suffered a knockout down via head butt against Jussier Formiga. Cejudo is still working on his striking, but is very quick, throws solid high and body kicks, and will land some nasty elbows in close.

Jorgensen is step up from anything that Cejudo has faced in his career, but he is catching Scotty at the right time. Jorgensen has looked like a shell of his former self and has struggled mightily since cutting to Flyweight. Cejudo will be the better wrestler which will take away Scotty’s greatest asset and Jorgensen is vulnerable on the feet, so my prediction is Henry Cejudo to defeat Scott Jorgensen by knockout.

265lbs- Ruan Potts (8-2-0) vs Anthony Hamilton (12-3-0)

In the Heavyweight division a pair of 0-1 UFC combatants collide as Ruan Potts fights Anthony Hamilton. Potts’s debut lasted just 140 seconds before he was separated from his consciousness by Soa Palelei. Hamilton didn’t fair any better at 138 seconds- with his night ending via submission against Alexey Oleinik.

As is frequently the case, there are some sizeable physical advantages in this fight, favouring the American. Hamilton will stand 3″ taller then his opponent with a 10-15 pound weight advantage as well.

In the win column, Hamilton has won 6 of his 12 fights by either KO or TKO. He also has 5 decisions and just a single submission win. Potts has been career finisher, ending all 8 of his wins inside the distance- an even split between knockouts and submissions. Potts has 6 first round finishes, only going beyond the first frame 3 times. He has fought and lost a 5 round decision. Hamilton has 4 first frame victories, but is 8-0 in fights that go beyond the opening 5 minutes including a 5 round decision victory over TUF alumni Darrill Schoonover.

Hamilton comes from a collegiate wrestling background and relies on a variety of takedown techniques from the clinch. He has heavy ground and pound, but his top game isn’t as smothering as his size would suggest. He had some difficulty maintaining control over the much smaller Smealinho Rama, who was able to push Hamilton off of him from full mount position.

Potts is a grappling based fighter. He will pull guard when attempting to get the fight on the floor. He will also use judo style trips and throws after establish control over his opponent. On the mat, he will work to advance beyond the guard, while landing some decent GNP and looking for sub opportunities. He did get stopped on the mat by Soa and had some difficulties earlier in his career in a fight where he took a lot of damage from that position before rallying for the win.

When Ruan is forced to remain on the feet he isn’t overally fleet of foot, tending to plod forward when engaging. He will throw kicks, but for the most part is not very smooth and a little awkward. ‘Freight Train’ trains out of Jackson-Winklejohns and has been developing his striking skills alongside fellow UFC heavy Travis Browne. He didn’t get to showcase much of his striking in his debut, but his head kick knockout to capture the MFC title was impressive and he does have some decent kicking techniques. He can also do damage in close with short range punches and elbow strikes.

Overall, Hamilton has faced better competition, especially considering that prior to his Octagon debut Potts had fought his entire career in the still developing South African MMA scene. He is also training out of a much better camp. His cardio isn’t great, but it would appear to better and he should be able to use his wrestling and size to dictate the flow of the fight. Neither had a great first showing, but Hamilton gets things going here so my prediction is Anthony Hamilton to defeat Ruan Potts by TKO.

135lbs- Joe Soto (15-2-0) vs Anthony Birchak (11-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division former Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Soto makes his UFC debut against fellow newcomer Anthony Birchak. Soto is currently riding a 6 fight winning streak and Birchak has defeated his last 5 adversaries.

This bout is a battle of champions as Soto is the current holder of the Tachi Palace Fights Bantamweight title and Birchak was the Maximum Fight Championships title holder before his exit from the promotion.

Both men are ground based fighter and have combined 14 submission wins. Each fighter comes from a Collegiate wrestling back and has transitioned those skills to very good ground game. There is always the possibility in a bout this like this that their respective ground games could cancel each other out and lead to a primarily striking based fight.

Birchak likes to pursue the single leg with aggression, quickly latching on and turning the corner. On the mat he doesn’t waste much time advancing his position while dropping some solid GNP. He will also chain submission attempts together and simply wore out current UFC Flyweight Ryan Benoit with his smothering top game. His aggression does create opening and has cost him his positional advantage, but he is also an excellent scrambler and more then capable of regaining a dominant position.

The Bellator vet mixes his techniques up a little better between single and double leg attacks. He has a quick shot and does a good job of timing his opponent’s forward push before making a level change. He has a strong transition game and relies on his ability to outwork opponents leading to either a win by tapout or decision. Soto showed good defensive wrestling shutting down the grappling game of Wilson Reis when they met in Bellator, but he was submitted by former UFC fighter Eddie Yagin back in 2011.

If this fight is determined on the feet both men are far from perfect. Birchak has a tendency to be a little over aggressive, much like with his grappling, and that can leave openings in his defense. He likes to push the pace on the feet, batter his opponent especially at close range and he will lock up a Thai clinch to land knee strikes. Soto will have to be careful in tight as he likes to cover up when under attack, ride out the storm, and then reset. This would allow Birchak to further unload, especially with his knees fro the clinch.

Both guys are good on the ground, but Birchak’s aggression should be the deciding factor no matter where this fight plays out. He will need to be careful not to lose position against a seasoned vet like Soto, but look or him to carry a higher work rate and do more damage as a result so my prediction is Anthony Birchak to defeat Joe Soto by decision.

155lbs- Chris Wade (7-1-0) vs Cain Carrizosa (6-0-0)

To open the night two more UFC debutants square off as Chris Wade takes on Cain Carrizosa. Wade has won back to back fights after a loss to Ozzy Dugulubgov at WSOF 2. Carrizosa is undefeated through his first 6 pro bouts finishing each of his last 2 foes inside the distance- one by submission and one by knockout.

Neither fighter has broached the double digit mark in total fights and the impact of a UFC debut can be difficult on even the most seasoned veteran.

Wade has yet to score a win via knockout, with 2 submission and 5 decisions on record. He is a competent kickboxer and can work from range but as his record would indicate doesn’t offer a tonne of power. He was a D-III All-American wrestling and has a pretty solid positional game once he is able to drag his opponent to the mat. He doesn’t do anything too flashy from top position and could benefit from increasing his activity.

There isn’t much recent footage of Carrizosa’s game, so it is hard to anticipate what he will bring to the cage. He is aggressive on the feet, but lacks significant technical refinement. The majority of his stand-up is centered around closing the distance and setting up his grappling game. He is also quite aggressive on the mat, staying active with his transition game, but it can cost him positional control.

If Carrizosa’s aggression can overwhelm Wade that will be his ticket to success, but Wade’s focus on positional control will weigh heavily with the judges especially if he can stifle Cain’s grappling attack. The lack of footage on Cain brings into question his development, but Wade has fought better competition and trains alongside the likes of Dennis Bermudez and Ryan LaFlare who are both currently hitting their stride in a big way, so my prediction is Chris Wade to defeat Cain Carrizosa by decision.

Prelim Predictions

170lbs- Wang Sai (7-5-1) vs Danny Mitchell (14-5-1)

Headlining the undercard portion of the early show, TUF China Finalist Wang Sai battles British submission specialist Danny Mitchell in the Welterweight division. Sai lost his debut in the tournament finals and has alternated wins and losses over his last 7 bouts. Mitchell dropped his UFC debut against Igor Araujo, previously he had won 5 of 6 with his only loss during that span coming against Kendall Grove.

This fight will be Sai’s first fight outside the parameters of the TUF tournament and will pit him against a more experienced foe both in quality and quantity of competition. For Mitchell, he does hold wins over former UFC employee Besam Yousef and current roster member Nico Musoke. He has also faced and lost to the aforementioned Araujo, Grove, and Gunnar Nelson, along with a 2011 draw versus Cathal Pendred.

Mitchell is a very unorthodox grappler. He has secured 9 of his 14 wins by submission and is more then willing to pull guard to set up his attack. His win over Musoke was the product of a continuous pursuit of submissions that simply overwhelmed his opponent until he could no longer defend and succumb to an armbar. Sai’s undoing in his first UFC fight was his defensive grappling. He was taken down 4 times and spent the majority of the action on the defensive. While he did have some success executing a couple reversals and outlanded his opponent overall, he was clearly undone by a lesser grappler then he will be pitted with here.

Mitchell will want to avoid routinely giving up position by pulling guard, but his ability to chain submissions together will simply be too much for his opponent, so my prediction is Danny Mitchell to defeat Wang Sai by submission.

170lbs- Alberto Mina (10-0-0) vs Shinsho Anzai (8-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, a pair of UFC newcomers square off as Alberto Mina meets Shinsho Anzai. Mina is undefeated through the first 10 fights of his career, while Anzai has won 6 in a row.

Mina is a both a BJJ and Judo black belt with 6 of 10 wins by submission. He has a smooth, but aggressive transition game with all 6 of his submission victories coming inside the first round. Mina also scored an impressive first round stoppage of Glenn Sparv in his final pre-UFC tune-up fight and has 4 wins by knockout on record. Conversely, Anzai has won 6 times by knockout along with a pair of decision wins. Despite his lack of submission finishes, he has a decent wrestling base and competed in the 2013 ADCCs.

Anzai formerly competed at Middleweight and will be making his Welterweight debut in this bout. While he is cutting down from a heavier weightclass, he will be giving up 5″ of height to Mina. He is also competing on just 2 weeks notice after replacing the injured Sheldon Westcott which is another major concern. For Mina, he is coming of a significant break having sat out since last September, so their is a real possibility for some ring rust.

Mina has only gone beyond the first round twice and having never tasted defeat there is a bit of a question mark regarding how he will deal with adversity if he is unable to put his opponent away early. Anzai’s defensive wrestling will do enough to prevent Mina from using his grappling and put himself in a position to land heavy leather so my prediction is Shinsho Anzai to defeat Alberto Mina by TKO.

135lbs- Roland Delorme (9-3-0 1NC) vs Yuta Sasaki (17-1-2)

In the Featherweight division, Canadian Roland Delorme looks to snap a mini 2 fight losing streak when he welcomes Yuta Sasaki to the Octagon for the first time. Delorme has dropped back to back bouts to Alex Caceres and Michinori Tanaka- both by decision. Sasaki has failed to win just one fight in his last 11- a 2012 draw against Manabu Inoue.

Delorme is a BJJ Brown belt and Judo Black belt. He has won 6 of his 9 fights by submission, including wins over Josh Ferguson and Nick Denis to start his Octagon run. He has averaged 2.55 takedowns at 34% completion rate. Unfortunately, his undoing has been his defensive wrestling. Overall, he has stopped just 33% of his opponent’s tries and has been severely out grappled in each of his last 2 fights. Sasaki’s submission numbers are solid with 8 wins by tapout, including 3 of his last 4 victories. 7 of his 8 wins have come via rear-naked choke, which is a solid indication of a dangerous back mount. He has also secured multiple grappling based decisions, demoing solid top control while competing under the Shooto banner.

On the feet, Delorme doesn’t get a lot of credit for his striking capabilities, employing short crisp strikes and using a mainly simple but effective arsenal. He hurt Denis prior to submitting him and landed some decent shots against Caceres. Unfortunately, his inability to keep fights standing have made it difficult for him to utilize his striking game.

There is limit footage of Sasaki available, but his resume is strong and he appears to fit the mold of the type of fighter that Delorme has struggled with in recent outings. When Delorme is unable to put his opponent away he is 1-3 and has shown signs of tiring when forced to continually defend on the mat. Fighting overseas in a significantly different time zone will further compromise Roland’s physical capabilities, so my prediction is Yuta Sasaki to defeat Roland Delorme by decision.

135lbs- Royston Wee (3-0-0) vs Zhuikui Yao (1-2-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Royston Wee makes his second UFC appearance against TUF China alumni Zhuikui Yao. Wee took a 3 round decision from Dave Galera in his first promotional outing, while Yao advanced to the semi-finals of his TUF tournament but no further.

Both men are extremely inexperienced, but Wee does have the valuable first Octagon appearance under his belt and Yao’s time on the show is also solid. So it is not as bad as it looks on paper.

This fight should be dictated by who can control their opponent on the mat. Wee took a pair of first round submissions to start his career and won his debut on the basis of a strong ground attack. He completed 6 of 7 takedowns and held a stout top position for the majority of the fight, fending off his opponent’s attacks from guard. Yao’s only pro win was a 37 second arm triangle, but he struggled tremendously in his TUF China semi-final bout with the grappling attack of his adversary. While that bout took place at a heavier weight class it still offered some insight into the potential shortcomings of the Chinese fighter.

There is always the potential for an extreme improvement on Yao’s behalf with the layoff between his time on the Ultimate Fighter and his official debut. Yao will have home field advantage, but making his UFC debut in just his third pro fight will be tough and all indications are Wee should have the grappling advantage so my prediction is Royston Wee to defeat Zhuikui Yao by decision.

135lbs- Elizabeth Phillips (4-2-0) vs Milana Dudieva (10-3-0)

The earliest fight on the early card will pit a pair of Bantamweight women head to head as Elizabeth Phillips makes her second UFC appearance against promotional debutant Milana Dudieva. Phillips dropped her debut fight to Valerie Letourneau as a late notice injury replacement for Dudieva. Dudieva has won back to back bouts after going 0-2 in all of 2013.

Both fighters build their respective attacks off of their grappling games, but are vastly different in how they find success. Phillips’s is a top position grinder, looking to put her opponent on the mat, hold her there, and break her down with pressure and GnP. Conversely, Dudieva is more of a risk taker and will routinely give up position in pursuit of a submission opportunity. She has 6 wins by tapout, but if she is unable to secure the hold her opponents have had success taking advantage of the positional deficit she puts herself in. Both of her recent losses followed this pattern; a submission defeat against Jessica Andrade and a decision loss to Pannie Kianzad where she attempted subs but couldn’t get anything to stick and was subsequently force to defend off her back. She has been submitted twice.

On the feet, neither girl is overly flashy. Dudieva likes to counter and keep her attacks simple and sometimes a little to sparse. Philips showed some decent pop, swelling up the eye of Letourneau, but much like her opponent isn’t going to overwhelm anyone with her striking technique.

Phillips’s cardio looked a little weak in her debut, but she was taking the fight on short notice. Similarly, Dudieva has also appeared to slow down in longer bouts and she is also making her debut which can further complicate matters. Phillips should be the more physical of the two ladies and if she can survive the early submission attempts her grinding wrestling game should put her at a positional advantage during large portions of the fight so my prediction is Elizabeth Phillips to defeat Milana Dudieva by decision.

Prelim Predictions

170lbs- Neil Magny (11-4-0) vs Alex Garcia (12-1-0)

Headlining the UFN 49 preliminary card, Neil Magny takes on Alex Garcia in the Welterweight division. Garcia is 2-0 in the UFC and has won 6 in a row overall. Magny has picked up a trio of victories after ending a 2 fight losing skid, he is 4-2 inside the Octagon.

Physically, Magny will stand 6″ taller then Garcia and have a sizeable 9″ reach advantage.

Garcia is a physical powerhouse. He has a vicious top game and can do some significant damage on the feet as was the case in his promotional debut against Ben Wall. Garcia has split his 10 finishes evenly between submissions and knockouts. So not only can he pound you out, he is more then capable of tapping his opponents as well. Against Sean Spencer he landed 8 takedowns and will look to do the same against Magny. Neil has been submitted twice and didn’t offer much off back in his decision loss against Seth Baczynski.

Magny does have a 72% TDD and has proven difficult to takedown at times using a wide base and strong underhooks to thwart of his foes’ TDAs. Magny’s offensive wrestling could also come into effect here, but most likely not until later in the fight if Garcia starts to tire out.

The successful utilization of Magny’s aforementioned length advantage will be essential to his success. He has really amped up his ability to work from distance and keep his opponents on the outside in recent bouts. He throws nice long strikes, and posses a decent kicking game. His strikes landed to strikes absorbed ratio is fantastic as he connects on almost 1.5 more strikers per minute then his opposition is able to land. If he is unable to keep Garcia on the outside he could find it difficult to maintain those numbers. But, when Garcia is closing the distance he will have to be careful not to get clipped with well timed counters or caught with a reactionary takedown attempt.

If Garcia can establish top control with regularity this is his fight to win, but the massive reach advantage, improved distance striking, and questionable cardio of the Dominican Republic native will make this difficult. 9 of Garcia’s 12 wins have come inside the first 5 minutes and he is known to fade in longer fight. If Magny can survive the early onslaught he should find a lot of success picking apart his opponent as he slows down and possibly even put Alex on his back a couple of key times, so my prediction is Neil Magny to defeat Alex Garcia by decision.

155lbs- Beneil Dariush (7-1-0) vs Tony Martin (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, Tony Martin makes his second Octagon appearance when he battles Beneil Dariush who will enter the cage for the third time. Martin suffered the first loss of his pro career in his debut when he lost a decision to Rashid Magomedov, while Dariush is also coming his first career setback- a first round knockout at the hands of Ramsey Nijem.

Martin has a variety of submissions in his arsenal, but he appears to prefer to attack the arms. His most recent win came by Keylock and he also has two tapouts via Kimura on his record. Adding to that theory, He nearly broke Magomedov’s arm with a nasty armbar, but was unable to finish. With 6 of 8 wins by submission, he is an active top game player with a tight body on body approach and he can also attack off his back if the situation calls for it.

A Kings MMA product, Dariush has decent grappling skills of his own. He has 4 wins by submission, including his first round rear naked choke victory over Charlie Brenneman. He was able to quickly jump on Brenneman and swiftly secure the submission- his second win y RNC. While Dariush is more then capable on the mat, he will struggle to get the much larger and more physically gifted Martin into a position where he can use those skills.

Martin did fade in his debut, which could be attributed to some Octagon jitters. He does have a pair of decision wins and a third round submission victory that would suggest he is capable of carrying a strong performance beyond the opening frame. Look for Martin to be far more comfortable the second time around and while this fight could spend some time on the feet, it will most likely be decided on the mat. Martin will use his size and smothering top game to control his opponent and set up possible submission opportunities, so my prediction is Tony Martin to defeat Beneil Dariush by submission.

135lbs- Aaron Phillips (8-1-0) vs Matt Hobar (8-2-0)

In the Bantamweight division, a pair of UFC sophomores clash as Aaron Phillips faces Matt Hobar. Hobar failed to escape the first round of his debut against Pedro Munhoz, while Phillips lost a 3 round decisions to Sam Sicilia.

Phillips made his debut as a Featherweight, but will be making his 135 pound debut in this contest.

This fight should stack up as the typical striker versus grappler matchup. Phillips comes from a Taekwondo background, while Hobar builds his attack off his wrestling game. Interestingly enough, both fighters lost their last bouts in the same manner that their opponent in this fight will be looking to replicate.

Hobar has a solid wrestling game, good top control, and has secured a quartet of wins by submission. Phillips is a BJJ Blue belt, training under Tim Creuder and also works alongside a very good ground fighter in Dustin Poirier. He was taken down 5 times by Sicilia and despite a few sub attempts and reversals- he was positionally outdone by his foe. If Hobar can land takedowns with regularity it will nullify his opponent’s striking game and score points with the judges.

For Phillips, he has scored knockouts in 3 of his 5 wins. He also picked up a first round knock down against Sicilia and landed several nice kicks to the body and worked in some stiff knee strikes. His hands are solid as well and overall he is a pretty diversified striker. In Hobar’s debut he was stunned early by his opponent, then hurt by a couple stiff jabs, and eventually finished by on the mat.

Phillips made some positional mistakes against Sicilia that negated any success he was able to find on the mat. He can’t afford to repeat such mistakes here. A second UFC fight should create a rise in comfort level and cutting down to 135 will help him in the physical matchup. His footwork and kicking skills will allow him to maintain distance against Hobar and outland him as he tries to close the gap, so my prediction is Aaron Phillips to defeat Matt Hobar by knockout.

170lbs- Ben Saunders (16-6-2) vs Chris Heatherly (8-1-0 1NC)

Ben Saunders makes his return to the UFC’s Welterweight division when he battles promotional newcomer Chris Heatherly. Saunders is coming off a knockout loss against Douglas Lima and prior to that he was a staple of Bellator’s 170 pound division compiling a 7-3 record. Heatherly has won 3 of his last 4 with the only non-victory in that run a No Contest against Chidi Njokunai.

Saunders hasn’t competed in almost a year and some are questioning his chin after the third knockout loss of his career. To put things in perspective 2 of the 3 stoppages came against an incredibly dangerous and thunderous striker in the aforementioned Douglas Lima. Fortunately for Saunders, he isn’t faced with such a opponent in his Octagon return.

The UFC newcomer comes from a wrestling background and has 4 wins by submission. His top position grappling is his forte and he will be looking to take Saunders down and grind his way to victory. If ‘Stump’ is able to take Saunders of his feet he will need to be very careful of the aggressive submission game of ‘Killa B’ who is a BJJ Black belt with 5 wins by submission.

Standing, the advantage should shift to the UFC and Bellator vet. He will stand 7″ taller then his opponent, which should equate to a significant length advantage. Saunders will do some damage from distance and if/when Heatherly tries to close the gap he will then be confronted with an incredibly dangerous clinch game. Saunders can do a lot o damage in close with his knees and elbows. He has 8 wins by knockout, including a vicious knee strike stoppage of the then concrete chined Marcus Davis.

Heatherly’s overall MMA game is pretty undeveloped and despite his experience against the likes of Alex Garcia and Dakota Cochrane, he will be in over his head against Saunders. Heatherly’s only saving grace will be his wrestling and that will require picture perfect top control for the full duration of the bout. Saunders is the more well rounded and accomplished fighter, so my prediction is Ben Saunders to defeat Chris Heatherly by TKO.

125lbs- Wilson Reis (17-5-0) vs Joby Sanchez (6-0-0)

In the Flyweight division, Wilson Reis makes his divisional debut against injury replacement and promotional debutant Joby Sanchez. Reis’s 5 fight winning streak was snapped in a competitive battle with Yuri Alcantara, while Sanchez is undefeated through his first 6 pro bouts.

Sanchez is filling in for the injured Tim Elliott, filling in on just a couple weeks notice.

Reis is a talented grappler, with submissions accounting for 8 of his 17 wins. His ability to control and out grapple two excellent mat technicians in Ivan Menjivar and Yuri Alcantara is a testament to just how good he is on the mat. He landed 4 of 6 takedowns against Menjivar, but even more impressive was his ability to out position and get the better of Alcantara. His striking is serviceable, but his attack is almost entirely centered around putting his opponent’s back on the mat.

A Jackson/ WinkleJohn product, Sanchez is a striking based fighter, but has split his 6 victories evenly between knockouts and submissions. His most recent and most high profile victory came over former WEC and UFC fighter Antonio Banuelos. He put a steady beating on Banuelos for a round and a half resulting in his corner eventually calling a stop to the fight. He has some pop in his right hand, will mix in his elbow strikes, and can land a nice stepping knee.

For Sanchez to be successful, he will need to keep Reis vertical and look to test a chin that has been cracked twice- by Bellator’s Bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas and top Featherweight contender Patricio Freire.

The cut to 125 pounds is a bit of a concern for Reis, because his cardio wasn’t that great to start with. He isn’t a huge fighter to start with standing just 5’4″ which should help him when getting down to the divisional limit. If Sanchez can keep this fight standing he could score a knockout, but the men that stopped Reis previously were considerably larger and presumably packed a larger punch then Joby. Sanchez is relatively inexperience and is making his debut on short notice against a fighter who will simply be too much for him on the mat so my prediction is Wilson Reis to defeat Joby Sanchez by submission.

145lbs- Max Holloway (9-3-0) vs Clay Collard (13-4-0 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, Max Holloway shifts his attention away from Mirsad Bektic following his injury and now prepares for his 9th UFC fight when he meets promotional newcomer Clay Collard. Holloway has won back to back bouts, while Collard is riding a 3 fight winning streak.

Holloway is an exceptionally talented striker with a variety of weapons at his disposal. He utilizes his length exceptionally well and has excellent distance management. He has very good timing on his counters and will go to the body with a variety of strikes including a nasty turning side kick. Additionally, he is a high volume striker and is able to maintain his pace from bell to bell. He has just 3 wins by knockout, but has shown improving power in recent outings.

Collard has won 8 times by knockout and is more of a brawler then a technician. In his first meeting with former UFC fighter Justin Buchholz, he hurt his opponent several times and had him on the edge of defeat before getting stunned with a head kick and submitted in the final round. He has good power, but his willingness to relentlessly engage leaves him open to counters and can overtax his cardio in longer fights.

The UFC newcomer doesn’t appear to possess a good enough wrestling skill set to threaten Holloway which has been his undoing in pervious fights. He has also been submitted twice which is an area that Max could look to exploit as he tries to further establish his own grappling game.

Unless Collard is able to land a big strike early, Holloway’s more refined striking repertoire, movement, and ability to manage distance will negate anything that Clay can offer him on the feet. Holloway pick him apart as he comes forward, wear Collard out as he tries to chase him down, and attack the body with significant success, so my prediction is Max Hollaway to defeat Clay Collard by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

125lbs- #6 Jussier Formiga (16-3-0) vs #9 Zach Makovsky (18-4-0)

Headlining the preliminary segment of the card, top 10 ranked Jussier Formiga and Zach Makovsky face off in a pivotal bout that could determine a future title contender. Formiga has alternated wins and losses over his first four UFC bouts, defeating current title challenger Chris Cariaso and Scott Jorgensen. Makovsky has won his first two Octagon showings, taking decisions over Jorgensen and Josh Sampo.

Makovsky is a former Bellator Bantamweight champion, defeating Ed West in the finals of the Season 3 Tournament to capture the title. After 2 non-title wins, he lost his first fight with the belt on the line against current champion Eduardo Dantas. He is 4-0 since cutting to 125 pounds.

Both men are ground specialists- Formiga a BJJ Black belt and Makovsky a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler.

Formiga has won 8 times by submission with zero defeats. He has a dangerous back mount, demonstrated by his 6 wins by rear naked choke, including the aforementioned Jorgensen. He has also racked up several ground based decision wins and is 8-1 when the fight goes the distance. His other UFC triumph included 4 takedowns and several prolonged periods of control on the mat where he used a slick transition game and solid top control.

Unfortunately, when Jussier is unable to find consistent success with his grappling he is far less effective. He was unable to even attempt a takedown against Joseph Benavidez and went 0 for 5 against John Dodson, getting knocked out in both. After a strong first round by the Brazilian, Ian McCall was also able to mute his ground game accounting for his other career defeat.

‘Fun Size’ hasn’t been quite as dominant with his submission game, currently holding a 6-3 record in fights ended by submission. He was submitted by Jussier’s campmate Eduardo Dantas and current UFC roster member Wilson Reis- both at Bantamweight. Where he really strives is in his ability to dominate his opponent positionally and grind out decision wins. He is 11-1 in fights that go the distance. His takedown game is incredibly strong, with 11 completions in his first 2 UFC bouts against 2 good wrestlers. His transition game is equally as good, as he works to advance his position quickly after the fight hits the mat. Watch for him to move into side control during his takedowns, making him even harder to defend against.

He is equally difficult to takedown, defending 4 of Jorgensen’s 5 TDA’s. He is also quite capable of orchestrating sweeps off his back and usually comes out of a scramble with the superior position. That being said, he doesn’t want to spend too much time attempting to counter or sweep Formiga.

On the feet, neither man has exceptional numbers. Jussier is devoid of a win by knockout and as already mention has been put down twice. Makovsky has yet to be knocked out and earned his only stoppage win over Chad Robichaux at Bellator 41.

Training out of Nova Uniao, Jussier has been making strides with his striking. Improving his distance work, including a decent kicking game- but the end goal is still to close the distance and drag his opponent to the mat. For Makovsky, his technical striking is solid. He landed several hard shots against Jorgensen, some of which appeared to stun him. He mixes up his attacks well between his kicks and punches, including a slick superman punch kick combination.

This is Makovsky’s biggest challenge since cutting to 125 pounds. Although, short of a mistake (or errant head-butt) his counter wrestling should be more then enough to keep Jussier away from his greatest strength. If that is the case, Formiga’s ability to win is greatly diminished. Zach will land the better quality and more frequent strikes and could try to incorporate his ground attack later in the bout if Jussier appears to be slowing down, so my prediction is Zach Makovsky to defeat Jussier Formiga by decision.

135lbs- #4 Sara McMann (7-1-0) vs Lauren Murphy (8-0-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, former title challenger Sara McMann welcomes UFC debutant and the undefeated Lauren Murphy to the Octagon. McMann suffered the first loss of her career against divisional Champion Ronda Rousey and is 1-1 in the UFC. Murphy is coming off an impressive 3-0 run under the Invicta FC banner.

Both women are coming off title fights; Lauren Murphy captured the Invicta FC Bantamweight title by defeating Miriam Nakamoto and McMann dropped her aforementioned meeting with Rousey. McMann will need to avoid the post-title fight letdown that has the potential to negatively impact her performance.

Murphy has collected some pretty decent wins, decisioning both Sarah D’Alelio and Kaitlin Young and scoring an injury-based TKO win over Nakamoto. When she won the title she appeared to be picking up steam in the second half of the fight, but wasn’t having that much success early on and was most likely behind on the scorecards.

With a mix of Boxing and BJJ, Murphy is durable and very gritty fighter. She uses a lot of movement on the feet, looking to stick and move, land and get out. She has won 6 times by knockout, including a blood smeared TKO victory in Legacy FC, where she battered her opponent with vicious elbows prior to the finish. She does her best work from top position, landing strikes and looking for possible submission opportunities, but she could be hard-pressed to put McMann in that position.

McMann’s pedigree is well known. Her countless wrestling and grappling accolades, highlighted by her 2004 Olympic Silver Medal in Freestyle wrestling is the groundwork that she builds her MMA game upon.

She quickly tore through her first UFC opponent, landing a pair of takedowns and eventually working her way into the crucifix position for a series of unanswered strikes. She has landed 28 takedowns over her last 5 bouts at an 80% completion rate. Not only are her takedowns difficult to defend, she is equally has hard to shake off once she establishes top position. She has solid top control and has an improving submission game to further augment her ground effectiveness.

On the feet, McMann has been working to round out her game, but her title fight loss could have potentially exposed a weakness. Rousey landed a pretty stiff knee to the body that sent her crumbling to the mat and much like a fading chin, a ‘glass’ body can be difficult to overcome. One stoppage is far from an indication of a major vulnerability, but it creates a target. Murphy isn’t a dynamic striker, but look for her to launch a series of strikes to Sara’s midsection and try to revisit that potential area of concern.

Murphy is durable and not an easy out, but her success seems predicated on her ability to out grapple her opponent. That won’t be easy against an Olympic caliber wrestler. She had trouble taking Nakamoto down, and she will here as well. Look for McMann to dominate with a wrestling based attack, so my prediction is Sara McMann to defeat Lauren Murphy by decision.

185lbs- T0m Watson (16-7-0) vs Sam Alvey (23-5-0 1NC)

In the Middleweight division, Tom ‘Kong’ Watson battles UFC debutant Sam ‘Smilin’ Alvey. Watson has lost 2 in a row and 3 of his 4 Octagon appearances. Alvey has won 4 in a row and 6 of his last 7. This is a battle of 2 former Middleweight champions, as Alvey recently captured the MFC title and Watson won and successfully defended the BAMMA strap on multiple occasions prior to joining the UFC. Alvey was a member of Team Carwin, on the Ultimate Fighter, competing as a Welterweight. Unfortunately, the cut was too much for him and he failed to make it beyond the first round once entering the house. With a combined 22 knockouts (Alvey 14 & Watson 8), both men know how to finish. Conversely, despite their pension for a career built on standing and banging, neither man has suffered a knockout defeat. In fact, both men have incredibly similar records with a minimal number of fights ending by submission and almost identical records when the fights go to the scorecards (Alvey 7-4 & Watson 7-5). ‘Kong’ is the more diverse striker utilizing a kickboxing based attack, compared to Alvey who is more of a boxer. Watson landed some decent leg strikes against Nick Catone and implemented a strong clinch based attack against Stanislav Nedkov. Watson landed vicious knees and elbows to the head and hard body shots in shutting down Nedkov and could look to implement a similar approach against Alvey, who has had problems with getting pinned on the cage. Alvey, while mainly a boxer still mixes up his strikes effectively. He leads with a strong jap, frequently doubling and tripling it up. He does a decent job of stringing his combinations together, building off his jab. He has a bomb of a right hand that he used to floor former UFC competitor Jay Silva with. He will integrates knee strikes into his attack and is known for walking down his adversaries with overwhelming heavy leathered blitzes. He can also be an effective counter striker, showing good timing and the ability to catch his opponent as they close the distance. Neither man is a dominant grappler and has had some trouble with those who are. Watson has been taken down a discouraging 5 times in each of his 4 UFC bouts and is 1-2 in contests ended by submission. Alvey is 2-1 following the same outcome, with his last win via tapout coming over 4 years ago. He has been training out of Team QUEST alongside some talented grapplers and is dangerous if can obtain top position, dropping some heavy ground and pound. Both men should benefit from facing a striking based opponent, but of the two Alvey is the more likely to try and pull Watson to the mat which will score him some points. Watson’s striking game is solid, but the combination of the aggression and power that Alvey can bring to bear, along with a solid countering game will make it difficult for the Brit to land with regularity. Watson also has a tendency to slowdown in longer fights and Alvey has gone 4-1 in his last 5, with 3 bouts going beyond the third round. Neither man has lost by knockout and there is always a first time for everything, but my prediction is Sam Alvey to defeat Tom Watson by decision.

135lbs- Nolan Ticman (4-1-0) vs Frankie Saenz (8-2-0)

Opening the night’s events, Nolan Ticman and Frankie Saenz both get their first taste of UFC action when they collide in a bout thrown together on relatively short notice. Ticman picked up a win in his last appearance, after suffering the first defeat of his career. Saenz is currently riding a 4 fight winning streak after suffering back to back defeats.

Neither man has an exceptional amount of experience, with the edge in pro bouts lying with Saenz at 10-5. Ticman will also be returning to action after a considerable layoff, having missed a little less then 2 years of action. Saenz has fought 3 times in the same span.

Saenz is a natural Flyweight and is moving up to 135 pounds most likely do to the extremely late notice. Win, lose, or draw he will most likely make his next appearance at 125 pounds.

Both fighters come from wrestling backgrounds and have fairly evenly spread win totals. Ticman has 2 submission wins to go along with single victories by both knockout and decision. Saenz has three notches in both the knockout and decision columns, along with 2 sub wins of his own.

Saenz has serviceable striking, but for the most part his focus is on closing the distance and setting up his takedowns. Conversely, he will also use his shot to set up his strikes, forcing his opponent to react and then changing gears to land a few quick strikes.

Ticman appears to have a little more pop in his punches and a better kicking game. Despite his wrestling background, he seems more focussed on keeping the fight vertical then Saenz. He is far from a polished striker, but keep in mind the most recent footage of him came roughly 22 months ago, so there has been significant time for improvement.

This is a difficult fight to predict as their are so many factor involved; the short notice and UFC debuts for both men, Ticman’s layoff leading to both a potential undocumented skill advancement and/or ring rust, and Saenz moving up to 135 pounds. Ticman is fighting out of a much better camp with several top level UFC fighters which should help him to prepare for this fight. Saenz has fought better competition, but Ticman appears to be the better athlete and if the break has lead to refinement in his skill that would be significant advantage. This fight has EPU (Early Prelim Upset) written all over it- the first fight of the fight, two debuting fighters with limited experience, and a significant amount of unknown, so my prediction is Nolan Ticman to defeat Frankie Saenz by decision.

Prelim Predictions


155lbs- Daron Cruickshank (15-4-0) vs #14 Jorge Masvidal (26-8-0)

Headlining the preliminary bouts, Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal squares of with the “Detroit Superstar” Daron Cruickshank. Masvidal most recently defeated Pat Healy and is 6-2 in his last 8 bouts. Cruickshank is riding a 2 fight winning streak with back to back 0utstanding head kicks knockouts over Erik Koch and Mike Rio- he is 9-2 in his last 11 fights.

Masvidal and Cruickshank are primarily striking based fighters with a combined 19 knockouts. Masvidal is a talented boxer with sharp combinations built off a stiff lead jab to both the head and body, excellent footwork, and quick head movement. Jorge will work his kicking game in combination with his hands, and likes to slip in the odd jumping knee strike.

The former TUF competitor comes from a diverse striking background. Cruickshank is a Taekwondo black belt and offers a wide of variety of kicking techniques. All 3 of his UFC knockouts have come as a result of a head kick. He does a good job setting up his kicks with his hands, flashing quick combinations and following behind with a leg strike. Masvidal will need to focus his defense on limiting Daron’s kicking game as he was dropped by spinning back kick from Rustam Khabilov that ultimately cost him the round and the fight.

While the Michigan native is a talented striker, he tends to give up ground both after attacking and when under attack. In previous fights against Yves Edwards and John Makdessi Cruickshank spent large portions of the fight back pedalling and relinquishing ground which is not a favourable position in the eyes of the judges.

This match could also spend some time on the mat. Cruickshank is a former Collegiate wrestler, but it has been Jorge that has been the more effective wrestler in recent bouts. Masvidal utilized a dominant ground game against Tim Means, landing 6 takedowns and earlier in his career he earned a shot at the Strikeforce title with a similar game plan against KJ Noons. Daron has averaged just over 1 takedown per fight compared to Masvidal’s 2.76 per bout at a 68% completion rate.

Neither fighter has massive submission numbers, but Jorge did tap out Michael Chiesa and Cruickshank’s last defeat came via straight arm bar versus Adriano Martins.

The last 2 fights that didn’t end inside the distance saw Cruickshank get out landed by both of his opponents resulting in a loss and a narrow split decision win. Masvidal’s stand-up isn’t as flashy, but it is a bit more technically sound. His skillset in combination with Cruickshank’s willingness to give ground and allow his opponent to frequently land first will give Jorge the edge on the feet. Cruickshank may look to his wrestling to change the pace of the fight, but Gamebred has excellent takedown defense and should be able to land a couple key takedowns of his own. As long as Jorge can avoid a potential game changing kick from his opponent he should be control the majority of the action, so my prediction is Jorge Masvidal to defeat Daron Cruickshank by decision.

205lbs- Kyle Kingsbury (11-5-0 1NC) vs Patrick Cummins (5-1-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Kyle ‘Kingsbu’ Kingsbury returns to action to face former c0-main eventer Patrick ‘Durkin’ Cummins. Cummins is 1-1 in the UFC and is coming off a TKO victory over Roger Narvaez. Kingsbury was last seen riding a 3 fight losing streak that was preceded by a 4-1 start to his Octagon career.

September 2012 was the last time that Kingsbury was seen in action, approximately 22 months ago. Ring rust could definitely be a factor for the AKA member.

Physically, Kingsbury will have a 2″ height advantage and 3″ reach advantage.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and Daniel Cormier training partner, Cummins’s approach usually hinges on his ability to take his opponent to the mat. He had moderate success in his win over Narvaez landing 3 of 5 takedown attempts. He struggled with his entries, shooting from too far out and then getting shrugged off. Where he did find success was with his reactionary shot, catching his opponent coming forward and changing levels. On the mat, he dropped some decent GnP, posturing up to land with more power and eventually forcing his opponent to cover up.

‘Kingsbu’ comes from an athletic background, playing College Football, but he has struggled with wrestling based opponents. Against the likes of Jared Hamman and Fabio Maldonado he was able to implement a ground based attack, but when faced with superior wrestlers like Tom Lawlor and Stephan Bonnar he was routinely put on his back with relative ease. He gave up a combined 11 takedowns in those 2 fights and had next to nothing off his back. If he is able to see the takedowns coming he has a good sprawl that he will utilize to shut them down.

Neither man is overly gifted on the feet, but the edge would have to go to Kingsbury. He throws a decent straight jab and can do some damage with his Thai clinch/ knee combination. At the same time he has been knocked out twice and has been the target of some absolutely brutal striking based assaults. Cummins landed some decent strikes in the early stages of his fight with Daniel Cormier. He has some good kicks and was landing a quick jab. His stand-up didn’t look quite as good in his last bout though, getting tagged with some shots and his footwork appeared a little disoriented.

What this fight will come down to is Kingsbury’s ability to keep this fight vertical and so far against anyone with decent wrestling credential he has struggled. The potential for significant amount of ring rust and some already questionable cardio will further complicate issues. If he can land early he could take control of the bout, but Cummins’s wrestling should carry the day, so my prediction is Patrick Cummins Kyle Kingsbury by decision.

170lbs- Tim Means (20-6-1) vs Hernani Perpetuo (17-4-0 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, Tim ‘The Dirty Bird’ Means attempts to get his UFC record back to even when he tangles with UFC sophomore Hernani Perpetuo. Means returned on short notice and promptly dropped a decision to Neil Magny, his third straight UFC defeat. Perpetuo’s 7 fight winning streak was definitively snapped in his debut by Jordan Mein.

Perpetuo trains out of the famed Brazilian fight camp Nova Uniao along side Jose Aldo and Renan Barao. He is a multi-time kickboxing champion and has recorded 7 wins by knockout. He landed a few quality shots against Mein, but for the most part was struggling to find his range connecting on only 26 of his 99 strikes thrown. In his pre-UFC footage he gives the initial impression of a calculated striker, picking his spots to attack, but once the pace picks up he trends towards a much wilder and less refined approach.

The American is 15-1 in fights ended by a knockout. He dispatched Justin Salas in just over 60 seconds in his promotional debut and in his time outside the UFC he owns knockout wins over Pete Spratt and UFC on Fox 12 main carder Bobby Green. Means has an excellent clinch game, using his above average height to control his opponent and deliver debilitating knees and elbows. His distance striking is very good, with hard leg kicks and slick combinations. In 5 UFC bouts he has averaged 3.6 SLpM compared to 2.24 strikes absorbed.

Recently, the undoing of both men has been their defensive wrestling. Perpetuo was taken down 4 times on 4 tries in his debut and spent large portions of the bout on his back. He displayed a mainly defensive guard, but had trouble controlling the posture of his opponent and took some damage as a result.

Means has been put on his back 16 times in his last 3 UFC fights and not surprisingly lost all 3 contests. He was able to do some damage against Jorge Masvidal off his back, drawing blood with some slashing elbows. He normally does a decent job of punishing his opponents with strikes when they do shoot in and makes them work hard to finish their attempt.

Means would appear to be the more likely of the two to incorporate a ground based attack, but this fight will most likely be decided on the feet.

Both men should be in for a better performance this time out, as Means took his fight on short notice and Hernani was debuting. Perpetuo’s struggle with distance against Jordan Mein does not bode well for him against the rangier Means. As previously mentioned, the key to beating Means has been takedowns as demoed by his last 3 UFC foes. Those were his only 3 losses over his last 15, which includes 9 wins by knockout. The Brazilian doesn’t have the wrestling game to maintain the trend, so my prediction is Tim Means to defeat Hernani Perpetuo by TKO.

145lbs- Mike De La Torre (12-4-0) vs Brian Ortega (8-0-0)

In the Featherweight division, Mike de la Torre makes his second promotional appearance when he welcomes new arrival Brian Ortega to the UFC. De la Torre’s 3 fight winning streak ended in his debut against Mark Bocek, while Ortega has yet to taste defeat in his young career.

De La Torre took his debut on short notice and at Lightweight, performing well despite the less then welcoming conditions. Ortega hasn’t fought since the start of 2014 after his debut bout with Diego Brandao was cancelled when Brandao got hurt to close to the fight to rebook an opponent.

Ortega holds both the RFA and RTC Featherweight title belts, successfully defending the latter once.

Taking a look at the numbers, submissions have accounted for 3 of de la Torre’s 4 defeats. He has also earned 6 wins by submission, so he is far from a complete liability on the mat. He did a pretty admirable job rejecting the majority of Bocek’s advances when attempting to get the fight to the mat. He displayed strong hips and is a pretty decent scrambler. His struggles to create separation from Bocek are also a major concern, especially considering how tired and busted up the Canadian was.

The other piece of the puzzle is the grappling game of Ortega. He is a BJJ Black belt training out of Black House MMA. Of his 8 career wins, 4 have come via submission. 3 of those wins have been the result of a Triangle choke, including his win over Thomas Guimond. Against Guimond, he did a great job of chaining his attempts together, attacking with a variety of holds, before eventually locking up the triangle for the finish. He can work from both top and bottom position, and while spending too much time on your back isn’t always great, he can clearly make it work to his advantage.

This fight should be decided on the mat, but de la Torre demoed some serviceable striking skills. If he can keep it standing that might be the key to his success. He was able to land a nice jab and mixed in a quick uppercut. His timing was on and he was more then willing to stand and trade. Unfortunately, he also got tagged a couple of times by a less then elite level striker. For Ortega there is limited footage of striking game available, partially because of how dominant he has been on the mat.

MDLT’s defensive wrestling looked decent in his debut against a fighter known for having a smothering ground game. If he can replicate that success he could very well walk away with a win here. Unfortunately, Bocek was coming off a fairly lengthy layoff and could have been suffering from a bit of ring rust. Ortega is an aggressive grappler and should have the wrestling attack capable of putting his opponent on the mat, where he can bring his submission game to bear, so my prediction is Brian Ortega to defeat Mike de la Torre by submission.

155lbs- Akbarh Arreola (22-7-1) vs Tiago Trator (18-4-2 1NC)

In the Lightweight division, Mexico’s Akbarh Arreola makes his promotional debut when he battles Brazilian Tiago Trator. Arreola has won 3 in a row, all via submission, prior to getting the call to the big show. Trator is currently riding a 9 fight winning streak including 7 straight wins in the Jungle Fight promotion.

Arreola has fought several fighters with ties to the UFC including Mac Danzig, Antonio McKee, Ronys Torres, Juan Manuel Puig, and Gabe Ruediger. His only win coming over Ruediger via submission back in 2007. He also was bounced from his TUF 15 opportunity by Myles Jury via decision.

Both fighters have fairly high finishing rates. Arreola has scored 21 of his 22 wins inside the distance- 5 knockouts and 16 submission wins. Trator has a bit more of a even spread of victories, submitting 6 adversaries and knocking out 7 more. Conversely, both men have seen defeats pile up in particular areas. Arreola has been knocked out in 5 of his 7 defeats, while Trator has lost by submission in 3 of his 4 losses.

‘El Cabellero’ is an aggressive and unorthodox striker. He will use a variety of kicking techniques, including a hard push kick attempting to catch his opponent moving forward. He lacks a lot of technical refinement in his striking, winging wild looping punches without really setting anything up. Consequently he is very hittable, often backing straight up when under pressure and as previously mentioned he has been stopped several times.

The South American combatant is far from refined in his own striking attack. He will mix his kicks and punches up a little more effectively, landing a solid inside leg kick. His Thai clinch and subsequent knee strikes could be his most damaging weapon and will most likely make an appearance against Arreola if he elects to come in close. Trator can easily be drawn into a wild slugfest and sometimes bares a resemblance to Erik Silva when the action gets heated.

Tiago has yet to be stopped, which suggest his chin is the more likely of the two to hold up- but that isn’t always the case.

On the mat, Akbarh has a big edge in total submission wins and has never been submitted. Like Trator on the feet, Akbarh should look to take advantage of his opponent’s greatest area of vulnerability which appears to be his submission defense. While Arreola is a finisher he has also struggled at times when put on his back, getting neutralized on the floor for the duration of his bout with Ronys Torres. Trator hasn’t been submitted since 2011 (12 fights), but he will need to be careful even from top position if the fight goes to the mat as his opponent will attack off his back.

This fight will most likely be an entertaining scrap- high on excitement and low and technical execution. Arreola has struggled in almost all of his opportunities against next level competitions, and while Trator hasn’t fought at this level either- 7 wins under the Jungle Fight banner and capturing their LW title is nothing to dismiss. Tiago’s aggressive and often overwhelming striking attack should be able to replicate the type of conditions that have bested Arreola in the past, so my prediction is Tiago Trator to defeat Akbarh Arreola by TKO.

145lbs- Steven Siler (23-12-0) vs Noad Lahat (7-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, ‘Super’ Steven Siler battles Noad ‘Neo’ Lahat. Siler has lost 2 in a row, most recently suffering a controversial knockout defeat against Rony Jason. Interestingly enough, the man Jason defeated in the finals of their TUF Brazil season- Godofredo Pepey, ended Lahat’s undefeated run with a first round flying knee knockout.

Lahat may have entered the UFC undefeated, but the AKA product had faced some less then stellar competition with his last 4 wins coming over fighters with a combined record of 31-56. He also had several large periods of inactivity between fights.

With a very aggressive and in your face style, Siler has earned finishes in 16 of his 23 wins. His last win was an abrupt first round finish of Mike Brown and he also earned a Guillotine based submission win over Joey Gambino. He can work from distance, but Siler does some of his best work in close- utilizing a strong clinch game to control his opponent and land knees and elbows. He averages 3.38 strikes, while giving up just over 3.

He doesn’t have overwhelmingly strong wrestling numbers, but he has 13 wins by submission and averages almost 2 sub attempts per fight. If he can get on top he can do damage or at the very least hold the position and score with the judges. Conversely, Dennis Bermudez and Darren Elkins had success controlling Siler on the mat with 6 TDs each.

Siler struggled early in his career, losing 9 times inside the distance (4 knockouts & 5 submissions). Until his last bout, he appeared to have those problems under control going 7 straight contests without getting finished.

Lahat’s debut was memorable for all of the wrong reasons. Despite not being known for his technical striking abilities, Pepey highlight realed Neo with a brutally accurate flying knee that left him slumped against the cage wall. Lahat has serviceable striking, but does nothing too overwhelming. He will flash a head kick and likes to throw a flurry and close the distance behind it. He appears relatively easy to hit and tends to leave his chin exposed when attacking.

He has 4 wins by submission and is an above average grappler which might be his key to victory versus Siler. In his final pre-UFC bout he put on a grappling clinic using a variety of takedown methods to plant his opponent on the mat. He showed sound positional control, riding his adversary, routinely taking away his base, all the while peppering him with strikes. While he won the fight, his lack of urgency and inability to do significant damage despite his dominance is a bit of a concern- especially at the UFC level.

Lahat is better then his debut indicated, but his lack of high level competition isn’t a positive in the face of a gritty and hardnosed opponent like Siler. In recent defeats, Siler has struggled with power wrestling based attacks and while Lahat is a good technician, he doesn’t possess the brute grinding power that has troubled the TUF alumni. Neo will struggle to fend off the aggressive advances of Siler and will eventually be overwhelmed either on the wall or the floor, so my prediction is Steven Siler to defeat Noad Lahat by submission.

170lbs- Andreas Stahl (9-0-0) vs Gilbert Burns (7-0-0)

In the Welterweight division, Andreas Stahl make his first UFC appearance against fellow UFC debutant Gilbert Burns who is filling in for an injured Viscardi Andrade. Both men enter this bout having yet to taste defeat; Stahl has finished his last 2 opponents, while Burns hasn’t gone the distance in his 7 pro bouts.

The Brazilian is a highly regarded and incredibly accomplished BJJ competitor. He trains alongside many current UFC competitors in the Blackzilian camp out of Florida.

Stahl will have just a slight height advantage, but Burns has traditionally competed as a Lightweight until recently when he felt the cut to 155 pounds was simply too draining. This could create an interesting dynamic as Burns tangles with a larger man than what he has previously.

Burns has won multiple BJJ Gold medals at various World Champions. He is incredibly gifted on the mat having secured 4 of his 7 wins by submission and has drawn comparisons to the likes of Demian Maia and Jacare Souza. Of his 4 submissions, 2 have come by armbar and 2 more by rear naked choke. Based on Burns’s capabilities he is clearly comfortable fighting off his back, but should he failed to secure a submission that is a difficult position to win a fight from. That hasn’t been a problem so far, but Stahl will look to change that.

The Swede hasn’t displayed the consistent finishing capabilities of his counterpart throughout his career, but he appears to have found his stride of late. Stahl comes from a Greco-Roman wrestling base and captured a gold medal at the Swedish wrestling championships prior to staring his MMA career. He has recorded multiple ground oriented decision wins and just a single submission- tapping out Abusupiyan Magomedov via rear-naked choke.

If this fight stays on the feet, Stahl has some pretty serviceable striking. He has recorded 3 wins by knockout- 2 coming in the second round. Burns’s striking is his second best attribute, but with 3 KOs of his own including a devastating opening round of stoppage of Paulo Gonçalves he is still dangerous.

There is limited footage available of both fighters, but still enough information to analyze how this contest could play out. Although Stahl comes from a wrestling background, he may be best served by using his defensive skills to keep this fight off the mat and take away Burns’s greatest attribute. Considering that the Swede has always fought at WW he could hold a physical advantage, but technique will often trump size. Burns is a highly ranked BJJ player, entering the Octagon with significant expectations. Stahl is a solid prospect, unfortunately his greatest strength plays directly into a grappling buzzsaw, so my prediction is Gilbert Burns to defeat Andreas Stahl by submission.

115lbs- Juliana Lima (6-1-0) vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk (6-0-0)

In the burgeoning UFC Strawweight division, undefeated Polish striker Joanna Jedrzejczyk makes her promotional debut against 1-fight Invicta FC veteran Juliana Lima. Lima rebounded from the first loss of her pro career with a win by TKO last October. Jedrzejczyk’s last victory came over former UFC fighter and the newly retired Rosi Sexton by KO.

Jedrzejczyk has competed at 125 pounds but the opportunity to sign with the UFC has her moving to Strawweight to make both her divisional and promotional debuts.

This bout will be a tale of two conflicting game plans. Lima will be focussed almost entirely on getting this fight to the canvas and attacking with her grappling. Conversely, Jedrzejczyk has all intentions of remaining vertical and unloading with her Muay Thai based striking arsenal.

The Brazilian has faced some lower level competition in recent bouts and as a result looked fairly dominant. Two of her last 3 wins have come over debuting fighters and those three opponents have combined for a record of 3-7. As mentioned above, Juliana will want to drag her opponent to the ground by any means possible. When on top she has some pretty decent ground and pound and can do some damage from the guard. If she can stack up her opponent she will either look to drop strikes or swings her legs to the side and pass into side control. She did have some difficulty fending off the takedowns of her opponent in her only Invicta bout, but can and will attack off her back.

Expect to see Lima try to land strikes to set up her takedowns or change levels when under attack in an effort to catch her opponent coming forward.

If the Polish striker can be put on her back her striking game will be muted and her lack of experience may show, but that is easier said that done. She is physically quite strong, sprawling out, putting weight on the head and back of her opponent, and then landing some punches once she feels she is out of danger. Her clinch game is solid and simply put, her opponent is going to have a difficult time taking her down or even maintaining any semblance of control in close.

Jedrzejczyk is a vicious striker with hard leg kicks and a bomb of a right hand. She will change levels to attack the body and strings her combinations together well, often finishing with a hard low kick. Even when she opted to limit her kicking game against the takedown focused Sexton she was still incredibly effective. She dropped Rosi several times with her right hand and eventually stopped her, something that Jessica Andrade was unable to do.

Conversely, the Brazilian’s striking is fairly simplistic. Her leg kicks are hard, but open her up to contenders and her punching if limited. Against Katja Kankaanpaa she took some pretty could strikes to the chin and when she does get tagged she looks almost immediately to take the fight to the floor.

With two debuting fighters, with limited experience, and one cutting to 115 for the first time it can be difficult to gauged how each will perform under the big lights. Lima already has an Invicta bout under her belt, but it was a loss and Jedrzejczyk’s stoppage of Sexton under the Cage Warriors banner was far more impressive. Sexton was entirely unable to take Jedrzejczyk off her feet and Lima lacks the wrestling chops needed to bring her top game into play. The manner in which the Brazilian shrinks when tagged on the feet isn’t encouraging either. The weight cut is a bit of a concern, but look for Jedrzejczyk to use lateral movement and strong hips to discourage the TDAs and land a primarily boxing based attack with relative consistency and power, so my prediction is Joanna Jedrzejczyk to defeat Juliana Lima by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

205lbs- Ilir Latifi (9-3-0 1NC) vs Chris Dempsey (10-1-0)

In the Preliminary headliner, Light Heavyweights Chris Dempsey and Ilir Latifi collide. Latifi is coming off his first UFC ‘W’ with a submission win over the now retired Cyrille Diabate. Chris Dempsey has won 8 in row with his last 4 all ending inside the distance- 2 knockouts and 2 submissions.

The UFC debutant Dempsey is taking this fight on short notice as Tom Lawlor was forced to withdraw from the bout due to injury. Similar to Lawlor, Dempsey will be moving up from Middleweight to compete at 205lbs.

The Pennsylvania native is a 2-time Division 2 All-American wrestler. He relies heavily on his mat skills and is still working to round out his stand-up. On the feet he wings wild punches while moving forward looking to change levels and shoot. He prefers a front headlock position and will attempt submission from the position. His top control is decent and he is good in a scramble.

Training alongside Alex Gustafsson, the Swedish Lafiti will certainly be making strides to improve his stand-up . He still does his best striking from close range, landing short powerful punches, but he will most certainly be looking to get this fight to the mat. He will have a size and physical strength advantage over his opponent and the combination of heavy ground and pound and a respectable submission game (4 of 8 wins by tapout) will make him a massive threat on the floor.

Dempsey is still quite green. He has shown signs of struggling when under pressure on the feet and he has been taken down a couple of times against lesser competition. Furthermore, he is making his debut on short notice in a foreign country, in a heavier weightclass, against the toughest opponent of his career. These are all significant hurdles to overcome.

Two of Latifi’s 3 losses have come against top level competition in Gegard Mousasi and Bellator champion Emanuel Newton, which are far from a knock on his skills. His physical advantages and experience will simply make him too much for his young opponent who will struggle to deal with him both in close on the feet and from his back, so my prediction is Ilir Latifi to defeat Chris Dempsey by submission.

125lbs- Neil Serry (13-10-0) vs Phil Harris (22-12-0 1NC)

In the Flyweight division, Neil Seery makes his second Octagon appearance when he battles the returning Phil Harris in a rematch from their 2010 meeting. Seery debuted with a competitive loss against Brad Pickett, while Harris had his most recent UFC defeat overturned after his opponent was tested for a banned substance.

When the two met at BAMMA 3, Harris took home a unanimous decision victory. Since that meeting Harris has won 3 of his 6 fights, while Seery has gone 6-2.

Seery represented himself well in his short notice debut against one of the division’s best. He showcased improved boxing, an average connection rate of 3.13 strikes per minute, and a stout chin. He is 6-1 in fights ended by knockout, and while he appears to be more of a striking based fighter he is a BJJ Purple belt with submissions accounting for 5 of his last 9 wins.

Harris is a Judo Black belt, with 13 wins by submission. He has struggled to implement a grappling based attack since joining the UFC, averaging just 1.62 takedowns at a 50% completion rate over 4 fights. His debut accounted for 2 of his completions, but they need to be put into perspective considering his opponent appeared willing to allow the fight to go to the mat and eventually submitted Phil off his back.

The Brit wants to fight this contest in the clinch and on the mat as Seery has been submitted 5 times and was taken down on multiple occasions by Pickett. Conversely, Seery will be looking to exploit the questionable chin of his adversary (5 of 11 losses by knockout). Even on the floor, Harris will need to be wary has he has been submitted 5 times (unofficially 6 including the No Contest).

Harris will have confidence having defeated Neil once already, but the Irishman will be buoyed by the crowd and the benefit of a full training camp. It would appear that ‘2Tap’ Seery has made the more significant strides since their initial encounter, so my prediction is Neil Seery to defeat Phil Harris by TKO.

185lbs- Cathal Pendred (13-2-0) vs Mike King (5-0-0)

In the Middleweight division, another native of Ireland will bring the crowd to their feet as Cathal Pendred fights fellow TUF 19 alumni Mike ‘Lion’ King. Both Pendred and King were bounced from the tournament by eventual winner Eddie Gordon. King is undefeated through his first 5 fights as a pro and Pendred has won 4 in a row, undefeated in his last 8.

Pendred entered the TUF house with high expectations but came up short in the semi-finals. Mike King put on an excellent performance in the Elimination round and had he been successful in his quarterfinal bout this meeting with Cathal would have taken place on the reality show.

As a result of the show both men have seen significant time pass since their last pro bouts.

The Cage Warriors’ Welterweight champion, Pendred is just that- a natural 170 pounder and most likely will be returning to that division after this bout. Conversely, King is a massive Middleweight, having formerly competed as high as Heavyweight. King comes from an athletic background having come close to a career in the NFL.

On the feet, Pendred has recorded 6 wins by knockout. He is aggressive, pushing forward while winging wild punches and looking to tie up. He will flash the odd Capoeira kick, but rarely connects. In tight he throws hard elbows and knees, sometimes changing levels to look for a takedown once his opponent covers up. Defensively, he leaves a lot to be desired. He often overextends himself when punching and is quite hittable- notably vulnerable to both right hooks and head kicks. He was rocked early in the first round of his quarter-final bout, and as he slows down he further drops his hands from an already low position and becomes far less active.

King is the lesser experienced fighter, but tries to make up for it with aggression and physicality. He has recorded just a single win by knockout, but packs some decent power in his right hand. He can also do some significant damage in close; locking up a Thai clinch and landing vicious knees. He works at a very high output rate, but appeared to slow down a little on the show, which could have been the result of making weight multiple times for such a large man. He went toe to toe with Nordine Taleb getting clipped early with a big shot and was holding his own versus Eddie Gordon before a bad eye poke slowed him down.

The mat could very well be where this bout is decided. Despite having never recorded a submission win, Cathal is more then willing to go to the floor. As mentioned he likes to change levels out of the clinch for a double leg attempt. He had some success on the show using his wrestling, but also spend some time on his back- especially after he tired. In his final pre-TUF bout he dispatched Che Mills with a predominantly top game based striking attack. His takedown attempts against larger men on the show appeared to tax his cardio and cost him in the later rounds.

Mike King has 4 wins by submission, but only 2 that didn’t come as the result of strikes. He has decent wrestling and utilized it to defeat Nordine Taleb. He has a heavy top game and can generate a lot of power when he starts to land. He landed a powerful body lock takedown against Gordon and utilized a perfectly executed whizzer in his final pre-TUF bout- shucking of his opponent’s TDA and countering into top position. If King looks to utilize his top game against Pendred he could really wear down and bust up his opponent, but he appeared reluctant to rely on his ground skills and it cost him versus Gordon.

The physical size and strength of King is going to be a lot for the Irishman to overcome. Pendred’s striking defense is a major liability and while King is far from refined on the feet he should be able to exploit it. Cathal’s pension for jumping into his strikes will leave him open to both counter strikes and takedowns. King should look to use a more wrestling oriented attack as well grinding his opponent in the cage wall from the clinch position. The crowd will be hot for their fellow countryman and after an entertaining opening round look for King to impose his will on his opponent, so my prediction is Mike King to defeat Cathal Pendred by TKO.

185lbs- Tor Troeng (16-5-1) vs Trevor Smith (11-5-0)

In the Middleweight division, Sweden’s consensus #1 185 pounder Tor Troeng squares off with Strikeforce veteran Trevor ‘Hot Sauce’ Smith. Troeng is coming off of a decision defeat against Rafael Natal, while Smith was quickly dispatched in just 45 seconds by Thales Leites.

While Smith lost to Leites via knockout in less than a minute, Tor only faired moderately better in his in 2010 meeting with Thales, losing by submission midway through round 2 in his native Sweden.

On the feet, Smith showed he can crack and isn’t afraid to exchange in his fight with Ed Herman. Unfortunately for the American he has just a single knockout win compared to 3 defeats, exhibiting a lack of finishing power and a questionable chin. Troeng’s numbers are far more impressive with a 6-0 record in fights ended by knockout, but he did get stunned on a couple of occasions by Natal. Troeng would appear to have the superior skill set, power, and stronger chin if this fight does stay standing, but it will most likely be decided on the floor.

Both men are grappling based competitors. Smith has won 9 times by submissions, accounting for all but 2 of his wins. The Swedes’ numbers aren’t quite as lopsided, with 6 of 16 victories coming by submission, but they have accounted for 5 of his last 7 wins. Both men have also suffered submission bases setbacks; Smith was subbed by Tim Kennedy and Tor by Leites and the always dangerous Mamed Khalidov in his 4 pro bouts.

Smith is a smothering type of grappler. When he can get his opponent to the floor he does a good job of tying up their legs, advancing his position, and looking for submission opportunities. He has won 5 times by guillotine, making his opponent’s neck and ever present target. He will need to be careful when attempting his preferred maneuver as Natal attempted it a couple of times against Troeng, who patiently defended and then reversed to top position.

For Troeng he has demonstrated a solid submission game. He submitted Adam Cella in his promotional debut via rear-naked choke- a hold that has accounted for 50% of his wins. His back and forth battle with Natal saw Tor represent himself very well against a talent BJJ Black belt. His top position and transition game is solid and as already mentioned he is capable of orchestrating sweeps off his back. He is good in a scramble, frequently landing in the superior position and overall has shown good poise and a willingness to attack against high level grapplers like Natal and Leites.

Arguably the most influential factor of this fight will be Smith’s cardio, or lack thereof. He is a former Light Heavyweight and a big Middleweight so he is forced to make a large cut to fight at 185. He has slowed down in a number of bouts, including his fight with Brian Houston where he was primarily attacking and fighting at his own pace. Against Tim Kennedy he was having success early on, but couldn’t maintain his pace and faded late. Troeng’s aggressive style of grappling will no doubt bring upon a similar result.

The grappling exchanges could be very interesting, early on, but as the fight progresses the Swede will take over. On the feet, Troeng should have the advantage as well. Smith’s window for victory closes as every second ticks by, so my prediction is Tor Troeng to defeat Trevor Smith by submission.

205lbs- Cody Donovan (8-4-0) vs Nikita Krylov (16-4-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Nikita Krylov faces off with Cody Donovan. Kyrlov is coming off an unsuccessful 205 pound debut against Ovince St. Preux and is now 1-2 in the UFC. Donovan has lost 2 in a row after a successful promotional debut.

Both men are known for their finishing ability with just a single win by decision between the two of them and 25 of their combined 32 bouts ending inside the opening frame.

Donovan has had some serious ups and down inside the cage. He got dropped twice by Nick Penner before scoring the KO- all inside the first round. He out struck Gian Villante and then got knocked out in round 2. Finally, he got KOed by OSP from the guard position- not a good thing. What can be taken from this is that the American has skills, but his chin (4 losses by knockout) and his striking defense (4.29 SApM) are significant downfalls. When looking to clinch or simply attack, he has a tendency to rush forward recklessly and frequently gets cracked with big shots when doing so.

The Ukrainian born Krylov has a lot of fight experience (20 fights), but he has garnered it in just a little over 2 years. During that time he has put together some impressive and abrupt finishes, but against some questionable competition.

Nikita has a pretty decent submission game, having tapped out 10 opponents. He will attack from his back, isn’t afraid to attempt a leg lock, and has won by a variety of holds. He has also been submitted 3 times, most recently getting caught by OSP with the rarely used Von Flue choke.

On the feet, he has 6 wins by knockout and comes from a karate background. His kicking arsenal is surprisingly diverse and he works his knee strikes well from close range. His head kick knockout of Walt Harris was perfectly landed and setup well with a series of preceding body kicks.

The American has some decent striking skills and is capable on the mat, but his chin and porous striking defense are difficult to overlook against an aggressive opponent like Krylov. Look for the Ukrainian to land kicks from the outside and try to swarm and overwhelm his adversary in close, so my prediction is Nikita Krylov to defeat Cody Donovan by knockout.

125lbs- Patrick Holohan (9-0-1) vs Josh Sampo (11-3-0)

To open the day’s festivities, Ireland’s own Patrick Holohan makes his promotional debut in the Flyweight division when he meets 2 fight UFC veteran Josh Sampo. Holohan is getting the call while riding a 4 fight winning streak with just a draw breaking up his perfect record. Sampo is coming off a loss against former Bellator Bantamweight champion and potential future title challenger Zach Makovsky.

Paddy Holohan currently trains out of SBG Ireland alongside fellow UFN 46 competitors Cathal Pendred and headliner Conor McGregor. He has been out of action for a little over 2 years and failed in his attempt to earn a spot on the Ultimate Fighter.

The Irishman has competed previously at 135 pounds, including winning the Cage Contender Bantamweight Grand Prix. Standing 5’9″, he is long and lean and more suited to compete as a Flyweight. He is a grappler, with 7 of his 9 wins by submission. He is aggressive on the mat and isn’t afraid to work from his back with an active guard. Leg locks are an option, but his submissions of choice are the Triangle and Rear-naked choke- with 3 wins by each.

Paddy has shown impressive durability, most recently surviving a nasty straight knee bar before rallying to earn his own submission win, but he has yet to face anyone of Sampo wrestling capabilities.

The American is an NAIA 3-time All-American wrestler. Sampo has won 6 times by submission including his UFC debut over Ryan Benoit. He has good takedowns, changing levels quickly and looking to float over into cross-side position as soon as he hits the mat. He has an aggressive passing game and mixes it well with his ground and pound. He did lose position a couple of times versus Benoit, but presents a strong defensive front nonetheless. He also got second best on the mat against Makovsky, but so would most of the division.

On the feet, Sampo is simply superior. He is a strong boxer and throws some decent kicks. He scored an early knockdown against Benoit, and because of his strong wrestling base he isn’t afraid to be aggressive when attacking. Holohan holds the edge in wins by knockout at 1-0, stopping Damien Rooney with a body kick that included Holohan’s knee connecting with his opponent’s chin. He is a little wild when engaging and lacks the power or effective jab to keep the shorter Sampo from closing the distance.

Sampo’s wrestling will be deciding factor in this fight. It will allow him to dictate where the bout takes place and prevent Holohan from getting in a comfortable position if the fight does hit the mat. Paddy will attack off his back, but he will struggle to mount any real threat in the face of the heavy ground and pound and strong positional game he is faced with. Sampo’s physical strength will only further widen the gap in this fight, but Holohan is still a tough out, so my prediction is Josh Sampo to defeat Patrick Holohan by decision.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Gleison Tibau (37-10-0) vs Pat Healy (31-18-0 1NC)

Headlining the undercard portion of the prelims, two long time veterans of the division collide when Gleison Tibau goes head to head with Pat Healy. Tibau will be making his 22nd UFC appearance and has won 2 of his last 3 fights. Healy has struggled since returning to the Octagon losing 3 straight after his debut win over Jim Miller was overturn due to a positive test for marijuana.

Both men are on the upper scale of size for the division. Tibau has long been considered the biggest fighter competing at Lightweight, making a hefty weight cut to make the divisional limit. Healy is a former Welterweight and stands 2″ taller then Tibau. He is known for using his size and grinding style to overwhelm his opponents.

Both fighters are grappling based. Tibau is a BJJ Black belt, 12-1 in fights ended by submission, and averages 4.37 takedowns at 55% completion rate. Comparatively, Healy was a collegiate wrestler, 15-6 in fights ended by submission, and averages 3.31 takedowns per fight at a 38% completion rate.

Tibau is more of a power grappler, shooting for big takedowns and then maintaining top position for prolonged periods of time. He will do some damage with his top position strikes while looking for a possible submission, but he is more then willing to remain in guard. Healy is more of a grinder, dragging his opponent to the mat, riding with them as they roll and continually landing shots. His pressure breaks down his adversary leading to sub opportunities based on pure exhaustion.

There is a possibility that their grappling games cancel each other out and the fight is contested on the feet. Tibau does have some of the best TDD in the business, shutting down 91% of his opponent’s tries. Healy only stops 58%. Gleison’s success will be contingent upon his conditioning.

On the feet neither man is dynamic, but they are certainly serviceable. Tibau has made strides in his boxing, and Healy’s aggression is what makes him effective. Healy gets the edge in strikes landed per minute at 2.49 to 1.86. ‘Bam Bam’ has had trouble of late dealing with the speed of Jorge Masvidal and Bobby Green- something that won’t be as big of an issue against Tibau. Gleison is coming off a brutal knockout loss against Michael Johnson and was also hurt on the feet by both Jamie Varner and Francisco Trinaldo.

The cardio of the long time Octagon vet usually makes or breaks his performances. When is he able to keep a pace that he is comfortable with he fairs much better then when his opponent pushes him. Evan Dunham forced Gleison to work very hard in the opening frame and he noticeably slowed in rounds 2 and 3. Khabib Nurmagomedov was unable to take Tibau off his feet, but continually pushed him into the cage, kept him on the defensive, and taxed his cardio. Even in victory, Tibau was barely able to make it through the final stages of his fight with Varner out of pure exhaustion.

Healy will work to implement a similar style to Tibau’s past opponents. He might not find success with his wrestling, but like Khabib he will force him to work at a higher rate then he is comfortable with when defending. Tibau’s lack of speed will make it difficult for him to evade Pat’s forward push and Pat should also find success with his boxing in close. As Tibau slows down in rounds 2 and 3 he will become more susceptible. Look for Healy to turn this bout into a gritty brawl, so my prediction is Pat Healy to defeat Gleison Tibau by decision.

135lbs- Jessamyn Duke (3-1-0 1NC) vs Leslie Smith (6-5-1)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, Jessamyn Duke enters the Octagon for the third time when she faces off with 6 fight Invicta FC veteran and UFC sophomore Leslie Smith. Smith’s UFC debut was a second loss to former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman. Duke is 1-1 since the end of her season of the Ultimate Fighter, most recently losing to Bethe Correia.

Duke will have advantages in both height- 2 inches and reach- 5 inches.

Duke comes from a Muay Thai background. She utilized an effective Thai clinch in her debut, landing elbows and sticking knees into the mid-section of her opponent. She leads with a solid jab and throws a decent 1-2, switching things up to target the body frequently. Despite her Muay Thai training, she hasn’t shown a strong kicking game. When she throws her kicking techniques they can be effective, but her volume is lacking.

‘The Peacemaker’ is an aggressive striker. Similar to Duke she will look to lock up the Thai clinch in close and land knee strikes. She had a lot of success pinning Raquel Pennington on the cage and simply outworking her. Smith trains along side the Diaz brothers and carries similar traits. She has excellent cardio, works at a high volume, and continually moves forward landing punches in bunches. She does an excellent job keeping the pressure on her opponent and even when she isn’t engaging she works her faints and fakes to force her opponent to react and potentially create openings to attack.

Smith has 3 wins by knockout and showed noteworthy power when she dropped Sarah Kaufman with a head kick in the second round of their Invicta FC 5 meeting.

There is potential for this fight to go to the mat. Duke is a BJJ Purple belt and has shown the benefit of training along side Ronda Rousey landing a couple of Judo style throws in her last fight. She locked up some early submission attempts against Peggy Morgan, but was unable to finish. Smith has yet to pick up a submission win, but has shown solid grappling which isn’t a surprise training out of Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jistsu. She will dive on a leg if the opportunity presents itself and is very active from top position with her striking. She picked up a TKO win over Kaitlin Young after trapping her in a crucifix and landing a series of unanswered strikes.

Smith’s Invicta FC Flyweight title fight loss against Barb Honchak came largely on her inability to defend the champions takedowns.

Smith has an experience advantage both in total fights (12-5) and in quality of opponent faced. She gained significant experience going toe to toe with Sarah Kaufman for 6 full rounds and that should show up here. Duke’s time on TUF can’t be discredit nor can her time spent with the Champ, but she is still green. She struggled with Bethe Correia’s pressure striking and Smith will carry an even greater work rate. Duke may try to implement a grappling based attack, but Smith will keep her backing up and shut her down, so my prediction is Leslie Smith to defeat Jessamyn Duke by decision.

135lbs- Hugo Viana (8-2-0) vs Aljamain Sterling (9-0-0)

In Bantamweight division, Hugo Viana meets UFC sophomore Aljamain Sterling. Viana is coming off a win over Junior Hernandez and has won 3 of his 4 UFC outings. Sterling debuted with a successful decision win over Cody Gibson and has won 9 straight to start his career.

Sterling has drawn comparison to current Light Heavyweight champion Jon Jones based on his willingness to attempt a variety of unorthodox techniques. Similar to Jones he will have a reach advantage over his opponent, although not quite as significant at just 4 inches.

The American is a 2-time Division 3 All-American wrestler and has transitioned those skills into a pretty solid MMA grappling game. He has secured 4 of his 9 wins by submission- all via rear naked choke. In his debut, he demoed a few different takedown techniques and had success with his transitions and top control. Sterling will look to capitalize on Viana’s style of leaping into his strikes by changing levels to shoot for a takedown when he come forward.

With a stout 77% takedown defense, ‘Wolverine’ has had success shutting down his opponent’s wrestling. To date, he has stopped 7 of 9 TDAs including 2 of 3 tries by Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. TJ did have some success taking Hugo’s back, but Wolverine was able to shake loose from the position. He employs a wider based stance along with attacking from a slightly further distance then the average fighter- both of which help him to defend against his opponent’s shot.

On the feet, Viana showed his power in his only career knockout when he stopped Reuben Duran with a series of big over hand rights that sent his opponent tumbling to the mat. As mentioned above he employs an unorthodox striking style. He can cover distances quickly, but tends to wing punches wildly with little attention to defense. When he lands he can be effective, but his 39% striking accuracy and single knockout win suggests that he does a lot of swinging and missing. He throws some kicks, but he relies heavily on his hands and can become predictable with his attacks.

Sterling has just a single knockout, but attempts a far greater variety of strikes then Viana. He mixes in his kicks along with some more higher risk spinning techniques. His reach advantage should help him to deal with Viana’s ability to cover distance and look for Sterling to recognize patterns in Hugo’s striking cadence and capitalize if his opponent fails to make adjustments.

Viana is 7-0 in decision, but his last win came as a result of his opponent reluctance to engage through the first 2 rounds. Once Hernandez started to attack he had Viana backing up and in some trouble. Sterling is the more diverse fighter both on the feet and on the floor and as a result will out-point his opponent if they do go to the scorecards. Viana may have some success early defending takedowns, but as he slows down due to his energy expending style Sterling will put him on his back more frequently. A submission, especially later in the fight is a possibility, but my prediction is Aljamain Sterling to defeat Hugo Viana by decision.

155lbs-Yosdenis Cedeno (9-3-0) vs Jerrod Sanders (14-1-0)

In the Lightweight division Yosdenis Cedeno makes his second attempt at capturing his first UFC win when he battles promotional debutant Jerrod Sanders. Cedeno entered the cage last February and had his 6 fight winning streak snapped via split decision. Sanders brings a 12 fight winning streak to the UFC that has includes 5 submission victories.

Sanders is taking this fight on short notice and moving up a division. He was originally schedule to compete at the most recent World Series of Fighting event, but was released from his contract to take this oppurtunity.

With a solid finishing rate, Cedeno has stopped his opponents in 6 of his 9 wins- all via some form of knockout. He is incredibly quick and utilizes a lot of movement. He boasts a diverse kicking arsenal and can land some significant power behind his strikes. He routinely switches stances and likes to build off a stiff jab. He got off to a strong start against Ernest Chavez, clearly holding the striking edge, but the combination of his constant movement and the grappling portion of the fight appeared to tax his cardio and take some of the bounce out of his step.

Sanders has compiled 6 wins by submission- winning 3 times by Brabo choke. He also has several ground based decision victories. He is a good wrestler with a strong shot and heavy top control. He will work to advance his position and try to set up the submission, but isn’t against simply holding the position and doing damage from the guard. In his only WSOF matchup he employed a 100% ground centric attack , utilizing a strong single leg leading to a decision win.

While Cedeno’s striking looked dangerous in his debut, he appeared to be a novice on the mat. In his pre-UFC footage he used a strong sprawl and serviceable grappling skills, but that was no where to be found against Chavez. Despite being only a purple belt, Chavez took Cedeno down with ease, holding the position, and then advancing at will. The Cuban’s defensive issues both cost him his cardio and crucial points on the scorecards.

The combination of speed and power makes Yosdenis a threat at all times on the feet. Conversely, if Sanders can establish his wrestling game it will both slow down Cedeno’s aggression and tire him out making his stand-up far less effective. Sanders is taking this fight on short notice and moving up a division which are concerns, but Cedeno’s defensive liabilities are more significant so my prediction is Jerrod Sanders o defeat Yosdenis Cedeno by decision.

115lbs- Claudia Gadelha (11-0-0) vs Tina Lahdemaki (5-0-0)

A trio of firsts; the first fight of the night, the first loss for one of these fighters, and the most significant of all- the first Women’s Strawweight bout in the UFC. To open the card, one fight Invicta veteran Claudia Gadelha squares off with Finish product Tina Lahdemaki.

Gadelha won her first and only Invicta appearance over Ayaka Hamasaki to claim the #1 contender spot for the promotions 115 pound title. Unfortunately and fortunately for Gadelha, the UFC absorbed the division before she could challenge for the crown. The Brazilian was ruled out of TUF 20 because she couldn’t make the weight multiple times over a short period of time. Fortunately, once the division’s new champion is crowned Dana and company will be looking for a new contender and Gadelha’s Invicta status will certainly help her stake a claim.

The Brazilian hasn’t fought in just over a year, while her counterpart’s last appearance came 9 months ago.

Lahdemaki has just 5 pro bouts, but also went undefeated through 6 fights as an amateur including 4 finishes. She has spent the majority of her career on the developing regional scene in Finland, earning back to back submission wins prior to getting the call. She is a grappler by trade, focusing her striking on closing the distance and initiating a body clinch. After dragging her opponent to the ground she maintains an active pace, working to advance her position, and rolling with her opponent as they attempt to defend.

Tina is capable of pulling off submissions from both top and bottom position, catching Stephanie Page with an armbar off her back.

Gadelha is also a grappling based fighter. 6 of her 11 wins have come by submission. She executes most of her takedowns from the clinch, and powers her opponents to the floor with her raw physical strength. She has an incredibly heavy top game, with good passing skills, and has won 5 times by arm bar. Her GnP is brutal, landing just a single shot against Ayaka Hamasaki forcing her to turtle up for the eventual TKO finish.

On the feet, Claudia attacks in heavy leathered barrages, landing 4 and 5 punch flurries. She sits down on her punches and transitions well between striking and grappling. Her speed, power, and ferocity should give her the advantage if she elects to keep it standing.

Lahdemaki will be in tough to work her ground game which has been the key to her success. Hamasaki is a well trained Judo player and had nothing for Gadelha in the grappling department. Claudia is simply too powerful, too skilled, and has fought at too high a level for Lahdemaki. Look for the UFC to promote Gadelha as the first title contender once the show concludes, so my prediction is Claudia Gadelha to defeat Tina Lahdemaki by submission.

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- #2 Urijah Faber (30-7-0) vs #12 Alex Caceres (10-5-0 1NC)

Headlining the undercard will be the #2 ranked Bantamweight in the promotion Urijah Faber taking on #12 ranked Alex Caceres. Faber’s most recent bout was another title fight defeat- his second versus Renan Barao. Caceres is coming off an upset win over highly touted prospect Sergio Pettis and is undefeated over his last 5 bouts with a win turned No Contest sandwiched in the middle.

Faber has won 9 straight WEC/UFC non-title bouts since dropping the WEC Featherweight title in late 2008. Consequently, he has 0-5 in title fights during the same span.

Caceres will have a 4″ height and 4″ reach advantage over his Alpha Male opponent. He will also hold a sizeable statistical advantage on the feet. Averaging 4.03 SLpM, Caceres lands just over 1.3 strikes more then Faber per minute. Bruce Leeroy also does a slightly better job limiting his opponents offensive output. He has some decent long range weaponry and mixes in a variety of kicking techniques. He did appear to have some difficulty with the more impactful striking of Sergio Pettis and was rocked early on by Roland Delorme.

Similar to Caceres’s recent opponents, Faber will have the advantage in striking power. Urijah has recorded 7 wins by knockout, but none since 2006. He is a creative striker that can throw a variety of techniques and uses his speed extremely well. Where he has struggled was against faster opponents like Jose Aldo and Renan Barao who were able to anticipate and avoid the majority of his attacks. For Caceres to be successful against Faber, he will need to use his reach and keep Faber on the outside.

Most likely, this fight will be won and lost on the mat. Faber is a talented grappler- a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and BJJ Brown belt. He has secured 17 of his 30 wins by submission, including 7 of his last 9 wins. He holds impressive submission wins over a number of noteworthy opponents including Raphael Assuncao, Michael McDonald, and Takeya Mizugaki. When he isn’t able to finish on the mat, his top game is still dominant and smothering as was the case against Iuri Alcantara.

For Caceres, he has fought several ground based opponents with varied success. He is 5-4 in fights ending with a submission, including his RNC victory over Sergio Pettis. While he has been far more successful on the mat since cutting to Bantamweight, he has never faced anyone of Faber’s grappling caliber at any point of his career.

Faber represents a massive step up in competition for Alex, and pretty much anyone not named Dominick, Renan, or potentially TJ (the book is still out on that one). Faber will simply be too much for Caceres wherever this fight takes place, especially on the ground. True to Alpha Male nature, Urijah has a powerful squeeze when he gets a hold of his opponent’s neck and that show up here, so my prediction is Urijah Faber to defeat Alex Caceres by submission (most likely RNC).

170lbs- Kenny Robertson (13-3-0) vs Ildemar Alcantara (20-6-0)

In the Welterweight division, Kenny Robertson looks for consecutive wins for the first time since 2010 when he meets Ildemar Alcantara. Robertson is 2-2 since returning to the UFC, submitting Thiago Perpétuo in his last appearance. Alcantara has compiled a 3-1 record since signing on with the promotion including a pair of upset victories over Wagner Prado and Albert Tumenov.

Alcantara successfully debuted as a Light Heavyweight before cutting to 170 pounds. He will have both a 4″ height and 4″ reach advantage over Robertson.

Both men have grappling based backgrounds. Robertson is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and Alcantara a BJJ Black belt. Coincidently, they have identical 6-0 records in fights ending by submission. Ildemar pulled off a kneebar submission in his debut and Kenny has 2 impressive submission wins in his last 3 fights- catching Perpetuo in a well executed RNC and tapping Brock Jardine via modified kneebar.

The Brazilian has displayed a very solid wrestling game, landing 12 takedowns over 4 fights at a 75% completion rate. Just as impressively, he has defended 85% of his opponents attempts including 5 of 6 tries by well-versed grappler Igor Araujo. Robertson’s numbers haven’t been nearly as impressive; completing just 21% of his attempts while averaging just over 1 completion per fight. He recorded a paltry 1 for 12 effort in combined fights against Aaron Simpson and Sean Pierson.

Robertson’s struggles, combined with Alcantara’s success both offensively and defensively indicates Ildemar should have the upper hand in the grappling department. If not, at the very least their skills should cancel out and as a result this bout will be decided on the feet.

Both men have enough knockouts, Robertson 6 and Alcantara 10, to suggest they are each capable of ending this fight on the feet if they are able to land flush.

Robertson works well from the Thai clinch, but will struggle to control his much taller opponent well enough to land any significant offense. He did stop Lucio Linhares with a well timed spinning backfist and nearly finished Sean Pierson in the final frame, but his striking does leave a lot to be desired. He has large moments of inactivity and has a few defensive lapses. Alcantara strings together smooth combinations and works well at range. His leg kicks are solid and can do significant damage with a well timed stepping knee.

Robertson’s 2 UFC wins have come inside the first 3 minutes of the opening round. After that he has struggled to outwork his opponents and is 1-2 in decisions. Ildemar’s superior striking skills will carry the action on the feet and he should be able to find success against Robertson on the mat who has been out-grappled in the past. A finish isn’t that out of the question, but my prediction is Ildemar Alcantara to defeat Kenny Robertson by decision.

185lbs- Chris Camozzi (19-7-0) vs Bruno Santos (13-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Chris Camozzi faces off with former Bellator competitor Bruno Santos. Camozzi has lost 2 in a row since compiling a 4 fight winning streak. Santos made his UFC debut in his last fight, dropping a lackluster performance against fellow debutant Krzysztof Jotko.

Physically, Camozzi is a larger Middleweight standing 6’3″. He will have a 6″ height advantage and a 3.5″ reach advantage over his Brazilian counterpart.

Comparing records, neither man is known for their finishing skills. Camozzi has gone the distance 11 times- winning 8, 4 in the UFC. Even more noteworthy, Santos has gone the distance an unheard of 12 times in 15 fights. He is 11-1 with the judges involved, which is a respectable record, but his one defeat came in his UFC debut and was hardly a good performance to build an Octagon run on.

Both men are grinders. Camozzi works well from close range using his leverage to control his opponent while landing short range blows. He busted up Nick Catone with his short range arsenal, opening up a cut that lead to a doctor stoppage TKO. He can work at distance, utilizing a spearing jab and some decent kicks- but he isn’t overly fleet of foot and has been lit up by faster and more dynamic strikers like Lorenz Larkin.

Camozzi has averaged 3.97 SLpM to date in his UFC career, while giving up just a shade over 3.

Fortunately for the American, Santos doesn’t offer anything close to a technically sound striking game. His offerings from the outside are limited. He is stiff when he does attack and tends to throw his strikes in singles, instead of setting them up. Camozzi should be able to read and react, avoiding or deflecting most of his offense. If Bruno does connect he has some power, despite just a single knockout win. Although, Camozzi has never been knocked out.

If Santos intends to take this fight home he will need to do so on the mat. He has just a single submission win, but he is capable on the floor of controlling his opponent from top position and muting whatever offense they can offer. He did land only 1 takedown in his debut on 12 attempts which isn’t exactly an encouraging ratio. Especially for a fighter that needs to have success on the mat to win fights.

Offensively, Camozzi hasn’t shown much of a grappling game without a single completed takedown in his 10 octagon bouts. He is a BJJ brown belt and has won 6 times by submission, but he most likely won’t be submitting his way to victory on this night. Conversely, he has lost 4 times by sub- most recently to Jacare Souza. His TDA% ranks in at 58% and he has been taken down 13 times over his 2 UFC runs. He has managed to get back up relatively quickly when put on the floor and he is 3-1 in fights here he has given up more then one takedown.

Santos could dominate this fight from top position if he can get it there with consistency, but his takedown game was underwhelming at best in his debut. Camozzi should be able to land the more effective blows- timing and catching Santos with counters as he comes forward attempting to engage. Chris thrives in ugly grinding bouts like this would has the potential to be and should be able to pull away later in the fight as his opponent slows down, so my prediction is Chris Camozzi to defeat Bruno Santos by decision.

135lbs-George Roop (15-11-1) vs Rob Font (10-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, George Roop welcomes UFC newcomer Rob Font to the Octagon. Roop has won 3 of his last 4 since making his return to the 135. Font joins the promotion riding a 9 fight winning streak including a win over Bellator’s Saul Almedia, with his only pro loss coming against another Bellator standout Desmond Green.

For a Bantamweight, Roop stands a towering 6’1″ and will have a 5″ height advantage over his opponent. While Font’s reach isn’t available, Roop’s height alone should equate to a decent length advantage.

Font recently captured the CES Featherweight title, but will be cutting down to 135 for the first time in his career.

The newcomer brings with him a fairly balanced resume with 3 wins by knockout, 3 by submission, and 4 going the distance. He has found his finishing touch of late with 2 knockouts and a Brabo choke submission accounting for 3 of his last 4 victories. Font has a decent striking attack. He throws solid combinations and carries respectable power in his right hand that ended Tristan Johnson’s night last April. The big focus for Rob will be whether he can close the distance and test Roop’s questionable chin.

Roop has been KOed 3 times in his career- all in the UFC. Most recently he was shutdown by the hard hitting Francisco Rivera. George has a tendency to raise his chin up when under attack, especially after the initial strike lands. When Roop isn’t plummeting to the floor, he has demoed a pretty respectable striking game. He stopped former WEC Champ Brian Bowles and has greatly improved his distance management. His kicking game is solid, including a snapping front kick that he will utilize frequently and he outlands his opponents on average by 1.22 strikes per minute.

On the floor, Font has 3 submission wins but his grappling game is more of a secondary attack and not something he will pursue as his initial engagement. Roop is a good grappler and he has been working to incorporate those skills more readily in his attack. He has landed 5 takedowns over his last 4 bouts and going back a few fights earlier he handled himself well on the mat against the talented Hatsu Hioki. Roop should have the advantage on the floor over Font and would benefit from a continued effort to vary his attack.

Roop has been submitted 4 times, but none since leaving the Lightweight division.

Roop’s focus here needs to be on maintaining a high work rate, using movement, holding a distance that he is comfortable with, and mixing in his grappling when appropriate. 3 of his last 4 losses have come by knockout and while Font has some power, he is going to struggle to get in range to land it. With Font making his debut and dropping down to a new weight class to face a very lanky opponent he has a lot to deal with. Roop needs to mind his chin, but my prediction is George Roop to defeat Rob Font by decision.

185lbs- Luke Zachrich (13-3-0) vs Guilherme Vasconcelos (3-1-0)

In he Middleweight division, Luke Zachrich takes his second shot at his first UFC win when he battles TUF Brazil’s Guilherme Vasconcelos. Zachrich stumbled in his debut, getting knocked out my Caio Magalhaes inside the first 60 seconds of the bout. The Brazilian won his qualifier bout to enter the house, but fell in the quarter-finals. Vasconcelos had won 2 straight prior to getting the call to the reality show.

Zachrich holds a significant experience advantage over his opponent, totalling 16 fights to just 4. He also has his UFC debut under his belt, albeit a short one. For ‘Bomba’, his time spent on the Ultimate Fighter may not show on his record but it certainly was a valuable experience that he should grow from.

Bomba is an accomplished BBJ competitor and has secured 2 of his 3 wins by submissions, with his third coming by top position ground and pound TKO. He has a good transition game, working to advance his position in pursuit of a submission. His back take and eventual rear naked choke of Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos was impressive and a testament to his skills. As mention above, he isn’t solely about submitting his opponent and will open up with some pretty decent GnP when necessary.

Zachrich has won by submission in 7 of his 13 fights, but he will have to be careful when/ if this fight hits the mat against such an accomplished ground fighter. He appears to target his adversaries arms when looking for a submission, with a quartet of armbar submissions and 2 via keylock. He has also been submitted twice, including a first round loss to Eric Schambari under the Bellator banner. Zachrich should have the slight edge in wrestling, but if he does get put on his back he will be at a deficit.

On the feet, the American keeps it simple. He has 4 wins by some form of knockout and mixes up his punches and kicks fairly regularly. Unfortunately, a knockout loss to the likes of Ciao Magalhaes doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in a fighter’s ability to compete on the feet. Vasconcelos will stand and trade, relying predominantly on his boxing. He isn’t overly refined, but his aggression can help him to make up for a lack of technical ability.

Zachrich has the experience advantage, but his debut was incredibly underwhelming. Additionally, all indications are he will be the second best grappler in the cage which doesn’t bode well considering how he has won the majority of his fights. Bomba wasn’t that impressive on the reality show and with just 4 pro fights it seems a bit odd that he got the call to the big show. The brass must see something in Guilherme to give him this opportunity and quite frankly Zachrich didn’t show much in his debut against a low level opponent, so my prediction is Guilherme Vasconcelos to defeat Luke Zachrich by submission.

185lbs- Kevin Casey (5-3-0) vs Bubba Bush (8-2-0)

To get the night started, Kevin Casey makes a quick return to the promotion when he battles UFC first-timer Bubba Bush. Casey has won 3 in a row since being cut from the UFC in his initial run. Bush is riding a 4 fight winning streak, with his only loss in his last 7 coming by DQ.

This bout represents a clash of champions as Casey is the current RFA 185 pound champion and Bush holds the same title for the Legacy FC promotion.

Both fighters are ground based competitors. Casey is a Rickson Gracie trained Black belt with 3 of his 8 wins by submission, plus one to gain entry into the Ultimate Fighter house. Bush also has 3 submission wins and multiple ground based decision and TKO victories.

This fight will play out in one of two ways. Either it will be contested in both fighter’s area of strength or their abilities on the mat will cancel each other out resulting in a sloppy kickboxing bout.

Casey nearly caught Josh Samman in a triangle in his only UFC bout and stopped former Zuffa employee Eddie Mendez with brutal top position elbows at RFA 12. He has shown signs of his skills on the floor against more capable competition, but his biggest drawback has been a well below average gas tank. On TUF he lost a fight on the stool and is 2-3 in fights that go beyond the first round. If he is unable to put his opponent away early, his ability to perform takes a massive drop off.

Bush has pretty a good ground game of his own, but has yet to test it against top level competition. He is aggressive with his takedowns and has a hefty top game. His transitions are solid and he can do damage with his GnP. There isn’t a lot of footage that exist of him spending much time on his back, which could be a key aspect of this fight if Casey is able to put him there.

What this fight comes down to is Casey’s cardio. He has the skills to end the fight early, but he is too unreliable and if Bubba is simply able to survive the opening round he should be able to take control of the fight. Unlike the former TUFer, Bubba has 4 wins beyond the second round and battle current UFC fighter Andrew Craig deep into 5th round of their 2011 meeting. Again, if Casey can lock something up early he could end it, but n0 matter where this fight is contested my prediction is Bubba Bush to defeat Kevin Casey by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Jake Matthews (7-0-0) vs Dashon Johnson (9-0-0)

In the undercard headliner, TUF Nations competitor Jake Mathews makes his official UFC debut when he battles fellow newcomer Dashon Johnson. Both men are undefeated, Johnson through his first 9 and Mathews through 7.

Mathews was eliminated on the show by the eventual tournament runner-up Olivier Aubin-Mercier.

Both fighters are making divisional changes. Johnson has spent some time at 155, but has fought several times at 145 pounds and appears to be physically more suited for the Featherweight division. For Jake, he has fought the majority of his career as a Welterweight, but will be making his first attempt at 155 pounds. The Aussie will have a 3″ height advantage and should be the physically larger man.

At just 19, Mathews is very young, but shows promise. He is capable of both fighting on the floor and the feet. He is a BJJ Purple belt, with an aggressive ground game. He was clearly over-matched by Aubin-Mercier, but in his submission win over Dean Purdon he flashed a variety of submission holds before eventually finishing the fight. He is aggressive on the feet, but will want to limit the exchanges with his opponent.

Johnson comes from a boxing background. 5 of his 8 wins have come by knockout and he has some serious power. He will flash a sharp jab and while he may get a little over aggressive in pursuit of the finish, more often then not he gets where he wants to go. He will need to utilize his speed and footwork against a larger opponent looking to close the gap. On the ground, he has a trio of submission wins and drops some heavy ground and pound. Unfortunately, just like with Mathews, the competition he has faced and succeeded against is a bit of question mark.

The size disparity is a major advantage for the Aussie, as is the experience he gained competing and training on the Ultimate Fighter. Additionally, he is young and falls perfectly into the mold of a TUF fighter who has spent some time away and put some work in following the show. The break should lead to a significant improvement to his in-cage capabilities. He will have the edge on the mat which will be further magnified by his size. Toss in the advantage of fighting at home against a fighter’s who’s body will not have adjusted to the time change coming from the United States and my prediction is Jake Mathews to defeat Dashon Johnson by submission.

125lbs- Richie Vaculik (9-3-0) vs Roldan Sangcha-an (4-0-0)

In the Flyweight division Richie ‘Vas’ Vaculik looks for UFC win #1 in his second try when he welcomes Roldan Sangcha-an to the land down under. Vaculik was dismissed in the first frame of his debut, but had won 5 fights prior to the defeat. Sangcha-an has yet to taste defeat through the first 4 outings of his pro career.

Sangcha-an has finished all 4 of his adversaries inside the distance- 2 by submission and 2 by knockout.

Vas has the experience edge with 3 times the pro fights. Additionally, he has his UFC debut under the his belt and should be the crowd favourite fighting so close to home. Of his 9 wins, all are finishes- 3 knockouts and 6 submissions. 7 wins coming inside the first round. He is a scrappy fighter that can hold his own on the feet, but will most likely look to take this fight to the floor as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Sangcha-an is a Sanshou based fighter, training out of Lakay MMA in the Philippines. He throws a wide variety of kicking techniques. He stopped Aslan Toktarbaev with a brutal head kick after surviving a close submission attempt. He is a little wild with his attacks, but can generate a significant amount of power. He isn’t afraid to go to the floor either and works his grappling and striking together in succession. He has a tendency to look for back mount more often then not, but can get overzealous and give up the position.

Vaculik’s ground game is going to be the difference here. Sangcha-an’s 4 combined opponents have a total of 6 submission wins in 30+ fights, so he has yet to face anyone as capable on the floor as Vas. Sangcha-an is incredibly ferocious and has shown the raw skill that over time could be molded into something significant. If he can keep this fight standing he has a much better chance of winning, but look for Vaculik to either score a offensive takedown or capitalize on an early mistake allowing him to turn a exchange into an offensive oppurtunity. This is a step up for Sangcha-an and adversity can be a difficult thing to overcome for an inexperienced and undefeated fighter, so my prediction is Richie Vaculik to defeat Roldan Sangcha-an by submission.

170lbs- Chris Indich (5-2-0) vs Vik Grujic (6-4-0)

In the Welterweight division a pair of Team Australia teammates from TUF Nations battle it out as Chris Indich meets Vik Grujic. Both men debuted with defeats, Indich lost to fellow Aussie Richard Walsh. Grujic dropped a decision to Canadian Nordine Taleb.

Grujic debuted at Middleweight where he has spent the majority of his career, but will be cutting to 170 pounds for this contest. Indich is remaining at WW for a second fight, but Kenny Florian noted in his debut that he was probably more suited to make the cut to Lightweight.

This is a must win for both men considering neither faired that well on their season of TUF and both where soundly defeated in their first attempts, most likely the loser will be shown the door. While Indich is far from a young prospect, at 37 Vik will most likely not a second chance at the big leagues- short of a injury replacement opportunity in a future Australian based show.

Both men have limited pro experience and it showed in their debuts as they were simply outclassed. Grujic made too many mistakes against Taleb and Indich was unable to deal with the speed of Walsh. Neither fighter has overwhelming numbers, Indich has 2 wins by sub and 2 wins by knockout. Grujic has just single knockout and 3 submissions on record. Of the two, he was the only one to pull off a win on TUF shutting down his Canadian opponent via first round brutal elbow strike based stoppage.

Some fights are hard to get read for and this is one of them. There are few interesting aspects though that appear to provide an edge here. Grujic is 37, which means physically he is on the downward side of his career. He is making the cut to 170 which is a full 15 pounds from where he normally fight and that can be tough for anyone, especially a 37 year old. He has just one win in his last 4 pro fights and it came over a fighter with an 0-1 record at the time. Finally, in his debut he routinely overextended and telegraphed his attacks allowing his opponent to continually counter and capitalize. When your offensive attempts are turned against you that is never a positive. Indich showed durability in his debut and appears to have a little more positive on his side, so my prediction is Chris Indich to defeat Vik Grujic by decision.

170lbs- Neil Magny (10-4-0) vs Rodrigo de Lima (8-1-1)

In the Welterweight division the streaking Neal Magny puts his 2 fight winning streak on the line against promotional debutant Rodrigo de Lima. Magny has picked up back to back upset wins and is 3-2 inside the Octagon. de Lima has rolled through 3 straight all by first round submission.

Magny will hold a significant size advantage over his opponent, with a 6″ height advantage and what we can assume as a pretty lengthy reach advantage.

This fight will come down to one key aspect; can de Lima get this fight to the ground and keep it there. The Brazilian has scored 6 of his 8 wins by submission. 4 of those victories have come by rear naked choke, so if the fight hits the floor Magny will need to be very wary of giving up his back.

Defensively, Magny has been strong but not perfect. He has defended 61% of his opponents’ takedown attempts, but was submitted by elite level BJJ Black belt Sergio Moraes. Against Moraes, Magny made a minor miscalculation which lead to the fight hitting the floor and the eventual submission. He has been tapped out twice and also suffered a decision defeat against Seth Baczynski based on Seth’s superior ground game. His offensive wrestling has shown signs of improvement over his last 2 fights, but he needs to focus on his defensive work to be successful.

All indications are that Magny will be the technically superior striker and his length will further complicate things for de Lima. Magny’s reach will force the Brazilian to shoot from the outside and should give him a little extra time to sprawl his way out of any takedown attempt. Magny’s TDD has to be on-point and the time difference could impact one or both men, but my prediction is Neil Magny to defeat Rodrigo de Lima by decision.

205lbs- Gian Villante (11-5-0) vs Sean O’Connell (15-5-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division former Strikeforce standout Gian Villante meets UFC sophomore Sean O’Connell. Most recently, Villante fell to 1-2 in 3 UFC appearances after a disappointing effort versus Fabio Maldonado. O’Connell failed to make it out of the first frame in his debut, getting knocked out by Ryan Jimmo and ending his 6 fight winning streak.

Villante dropped his first 2 Strikeforce appearances before finding his stride and finishing with a trio of victories.

The native of New York has not looked good of late, even in victory, struggling to put together a complete effort. Since signing on with Strikeforce he has been soundly out-landed by the opposition in 5 of 8 fights, winning just one of them. He will need to avoid a similar outing against O’Connell if he plans to get back in the win column.

The one time MFC combatant, O’Connell is a gritty fighter with 7 of his 15 wins coming via knockout. He held is own in the early going against Jimmo before overzealously running into a stiff right hand that ended the bout. He landed a few decent shots, bloodied up Jimmo’s face, and had some success working his opponent against the cage.

The knockout against Jimmo was O’Connell’s third which is a major concern. His other 2 losses have come by submission with brings into question his defensive grappling as well. Jimmo did score a takedown versus Sean and they should be there as well for Villante if he elects to go that route. The biggest concern for Gian is getting outworked, but he will be the more technically gifted fighter both on the feet and floor. The cardio issues were brought on by the extreme heat of Brazil in his last fight won’t impact his performance either. If Villante intends to stay in the big leagues this is a fight he has to win, so my prediction is Gian Villante to defeat Sean O’Connell by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Colton Smith (6-3-0) v Carlos Diego Ferreira (9-0-0)

In the preliminary headliner, TUF champion Colton Smith looks for his first post-TUF victory when he welcomes UFC debutant Carlos Diego Ferreira to the Octagon. Smith has lost 2 straight and 3 of his last 4. Ferreira has gone undefeated through his first 9 fights, including a win over former WEC and UFC fighter Carlo Prater.

Smith is facing a must win situation. He has lost to a pair of fellow TUF winners, one by submission and the other by TKO.

Colton is working to improve his striking, but his forte remains the grappling game. He is a BBJ Brown belt and showcased his smothering ground game against Mike Ricci when he won the Ultimate Fighter Tournament Final. Unfortunately, as effective as he was in that fight, he was equally as ineffective in his last 2 bouts when he was unable to utilize his ground game.

Ferreira is a talented BJJ player and has won 5 times by submission. He is always a threat to lock up a submission and this will make the floor a very uninviting place for Smith to consider. Since transitioning to the Legacy FC, Carlos has failed to finished any of his 3 opponents which isn’t that out of the ordinary for a fighter taking that next step up in competition.

On the feet Ferreira is far from refined, but should have enough to get the better of the action. He throws a few different kicking techniques and his aggressive brawling style will keep Smith from settling in. Colton has made some strides, but he doesn’t possess the acumen to expose the holes in his opponent’s defensive game.

Ferreira is still in the development process, but he is the more talented fighter both on the feet and the mat. Smith is a tough kid despite his recent pair of losses inside the distance. Unfortunately, being tough doesn’t make up for a lack of overall skill. Smith was the winner of one of the weakest editions of the Ultimate Fighter in recent memory and that fact has become very apparent since his move onto the regular roster. Ferreira is debuting, but he should do more then enough to outwork and outpoint his opponent, so my prediction is Carlos Diego Ferreira to defeat Colton Smith by decision.

135lbs- Johnny Bedford (19-11-1 1NC) vs Cody Gibson (11-4-0)

In he Bantamweight division, Johnny Bedford lands back inside the cage to face injury replacement and second time UFC competitor Cody Gibson. Bedford was slated to rematch Rani Yahya from their No Contest ruling from earlier this year, but he will have to wait for that opportunity. For Gibson, his 6 fight winning streak came to an end in his debut against fellow first-timer Aljamain Sterling.

Bedford has struggled with consistency, fighting just once a year since 2011. He is winless in his last 2 fights, with his most recent fight ending in controversy, with a knockout via head butt rightfully ruled a no contest.

Johnny is at his best when he can bully his opponent, utilize his wrestling, and control his opponent while dropping heavy leather from top position. He is a BJJ Brown belt and former NCAA Division 1 wrestler. He has averaged 2.25 takedowns at a respectable 62% completion rate. While his ground game has been the key to his success; 5 takedowns in his 2 UFC wins, it has also been his downfall. He gave up 3 takedowns in his submission loss to Bryan Caraway and has now been submitted 9 times over his 10 losses.

Gibson’s wrestling looked solid in his first appearance, scoring 4 takedowns against a pretty solid wrestler. He also has 3 submission wins, including a nasty guillotine choke of former WEC competitor Chad George. Unfortunately, Cody did give up 3 takedowns and spent too much time on his back against Sterling which ultimately cost him the fight. If he is too find success here he will need to either win or at the very least nullify the grappling battle.

On the feet, both men bring a lot to the table. Gibson throws a nice variety of techniques, but needs to avoid getting wild. When he losses focus he opens himself up to taking as much or more damage then he dishes out. Bedford has averaged over 5 strikes landed per minute, which is a very high work rate. Even more impressive, he has limited his opponents to just 1.68. These numbers are a little inflated based on his win versus Louis Gaudinot, but hey are still indicative of his high volume style.

Bedford needs to start stringing some wins together if he plans to grab any traction in the division. A loss here to a prospect like Gibson would be a massive setback. Wins over Gaudinot and Marcos Vinicius are not that convincing and a lack luster performance against Bryan Caraway and a 2010 loss to Edwin Figueroa are concerning. Gibson is young and talented. He made his UFC debut on short notice against a highly regarded prospect and more then held his own. Bedford has the tools to win this fight, but my prediction is Cody Gibson to defeat Johnny Bedford by submission.

185lbs- Marcelo Guimaraes (8-1-1) vs Andy Enz (8-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, Marcelo Guimaraes returns to the Octagon when he faces former TUF competitor Andy Enz. Guimaraes was last seen getting knocked out by Gyu Hyun Lim, he is 1-1 in the UFC. Enz dropped his official debut to UFN 43 main carder Clint Hester by unanimous decision.

Guimaraes has gone roughly 15 months between bouts, Enz’s break has been slightly more conventional at just 5 months. Marcelo will also be bumping up a division after competing at Welterweight in his first 2 performances.

Marcelo is a BJJ Black belt, but has secured just 2 submission wins in 10 pro bouts. Despite his high level grappling credentials he has yet to bring those skills to bear inside the Octagon with only 2 successful TDAs on 29 attempts. Even when he did land, his top control time was extremely limited.

While the Brazilian’s submission numbers are much lower then expected, Enz has scored submission wins in 5 of his 7 victories. He has won by a variety of holds- both Brabo and North-south chokes, as well as a Keylock, but he will be hardpressed to sub his way to victory against Guimaraes.

What Enz did showcase in his debut was durability. He took some extremely big shots from the heavy handed Hester in the opening round and while he bent, he never broke. Even after getting knocked down and in the face of a dangerous striking based opponent he rallied back and landed some decent strikes of his own. If this fight is contested on the feet, Guimaraes can throw with some power, but he is relatively stiff and predictable. Andy possess the more fluid striking game, which should aid him in both landing success and conservation of energy.

If Guimaraes can get this fight to the floor he has the ability to either submit or smother his way to a victory. But, so far he has struggled to land takedowns and is now moving up a division to face larger opponents while coming off a lengthy layoff making ring rust a possible factor. Not exactly a recipe for success Enz was taken down a couple of times by Hester, but look for him to gut it out early and get the better of his opponent on the feet as the fight progresses, so my prediction is Andy Enz to defeat Marcelo Guimaraes by decision.

125lbs- Shane Howell (13-7-0) vs Ray Borg (6-1-0)

In the Flyweight division, Shane Howell steps up on short notice as an injury replacement to face Ray Borg. Howell has won 6 consecutives fights to earn the call up to the big leagues. Borg’s undefeated record took its first blemish in his promotional debut, dropping a back and forth split decision to Dustin Ortiz.

Howell is filling in for the injured Ryan Benoit and will be making his first pro appearance since a mid 2012 TKO victory over Jimmy Van Horn under the KOTC banner. Howell has been on the shelf for roughly 28 months.

Borg debuted in a spirited affair against Dustin Ortiz, where the fight saw plenty of action both on the floor and the feet. ‘The Tazmexican Devil’ landed 5 of his 8 TDAs, while giving up 2 on 4 attempts by Ortiz. Borg is a pretty solid grappler, with 4 of his 6 wins coming by submission- all by rear naked choke. It would be safe to say that Howell will want to limit the amount of time Ray spends on his back.

Howell has 7 wins by submission, including a 2009 tapout of fellow UFC 125er Tim Elliot and a Brabo choke triumphant in his only Bellator appearance. However, he has to be careful if the fight does hit the floor, as he has been submitted 4 times overall and 3 of his last 5 losses have come by sub.

If the fight doesn’t hit the ground Borg should still have the advantage over Howell. In the limit footage available of the UFC newcomer, his striking appears to be wild and unrefined. With a significant amount of time passing between appearances there is the possibility that Shane has cleaned up his technique, but that will remain an unknown until the bell rings. Borg lost to Ortiz based on his stand-up attack, regardless his hands are decent and he isn’t afraid to go outside the box with higher risk maneuvers like a nasty jumping knee strike.

Discounting all of the in-cage abilities of both men there is enough working against Howell prior to entering the cage to pick against him. The massive layoff, the short notice call, and the UFC debut factor are all significant obstacles for Shane to overcome- 1 or even 2 would be disconcerting, but 3 is simply too much. Borg gets this fight to the floor and works his ground game, so my prediction is Ray Borg to defeat Shane Howell by submission.

265lbs- Oleksiy Oliynyk (48-9-1) vs Anthony Hamilton (12-2-0)

The UFC’s attempt to expand the Heavyweight division continues, with the debut of 2 new fighters. Oleksiy Oliynyk makes his first showing riding a 9 fight winning streak with his last 3 victories coming over Mirko Cro Cop, Dion Staring, and Jeff Monson. Anthony Hamilton has defeated his last 6 opponents, including a pair of wins in MFC where he most recently dispatched Darrill Schoonover to retain the promotions 265 pound title.

The Ukrainian fighter has a wealth of experience, competing 58 times since his pro debut in 1997. He has fought for M-1, KSW, and appeared twice for Bellator- winning a Heavyweight quarter final bout before being bounced in the semis by Neil Grove. Hamilton is far from a rookie with 14 fights of his own spread out over 4 years.

Physically this will be an interesting fight. Hamilton is a very big heavyweight that has to cut to make 265, while Oliynik will tip the scale around the 230 mark. The American will also stand 4-5 inches taller then his opponent. In fact, the Ukrainian has spent time fighting at both 205 and 185 and has fought the likes of the now retired Chael Sonnen and UFC Welterweight Adlan Amagov.

Oliynyk has a 39-2 record in fights ended by submission, most recently tapping out the aforementioned Cro Cop by surprising neck crank and Jeff Monson by RNC. He is a 4th degree BBJ Black belt and International Master of Combat Sambo. He has a wealth of maneuvers to draw upon; winning several times by Ezekiel choke along with a variety of more conventional holds. It is not much of a stretch to suggest that Oleksiy will be looking to drag Hamilton to the floor and start working his submission game as soon as possible. That could be easier said then done.

Hamilton comes from a collegiate wrestling background. He doesn’t have a clean outside shot, but he will work a variety of takedown techniques from in close once he establishes control in the clinch. He can do damage from top position with some solid ground and pound, but his top game isn’t that dominant despite his size. He had some difficulty maintaining control over the much smaller Smealinho Rama, who was able to push Hamilton off of him from full mount position. Even in his win over Schoonover, he struggled to hold top control after taking the fight to the floor.

On the feet, the M-1 vet is far from an elite level striker. He has 4 knockout wins, but has also been KOed on 4 occasions. He tends to throw wide ranging hooks and plods forward with limited footwork, making him a very hittable target. Hamilton has been working his stand-up along side Jon Jones and Travis Browne at Jackson-Winklejohns, but still has room for improvement. His head kick knockout to capture the MFC title was impressive and he does have some decent kicking techniques. Similar to his wrestling, he does his best work at close range and will be looking to get in tight before unloading.

The size differential favours Hamilton significantly. The skill (on the floor) and experience trends in Oliynyk’s direction. One area of concern for the American is his cardio. He was slowing down tremendously in the first round when he fought Rama and 6 of his last 8 fights have ended inside the first round. Conversely, he is coming off of a 5 round decision victory, so his cardio is probably better then what he showed versus Rama. Oliynyk is going to struggle to get this fight to the floor against a much larger wrestling based opponent. He has been knocked out 4 times and Hamilton is capable of adding a fifth, so my prediction is Anthony Hamilton to defeat Oleksiy Oliynyk by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

170lbs- Daniel Sarafian (9-4-0) vs Kiichi Kunimoto (16-5-2 1NC)

Capping off the undercard portion of the card, Daniel Sarafian makes his Welterweight debut when he meets Kiichi Kunimoto. Sarafian has fought 3 times in the UFC securing just 1 win and is coming off a loss to Cezar Ferreira back in November. Kunimoto, won his debut in less then impressive fashion via DQ after taking a series of illegal blows that rendered him incapable of continuing.

Sarafian is taking his first fight at 170 pounds, a division that many observers have felt was more suitable to his physical makeup.

The TUF Brazil finalist is a BJJ Black belt with 7 of his 8 wins coming by submission, including his UFC win over Eddie Mendez. While the numbers would indicate that his best chance for victory is on the floor, he has averaged less then a half a takedown per fight. Consideration should be given considering 2 of his fights, both losses, came against massive Middleweights in CB Dollaway and Cezar Ferreira- both good ground fighters in their own right. With Dan cutting down to face smaller or at least more appropriate sized opposition he should find more success brining his ground game to bear.

A Pancrase veteran, Kunimoto has secured submissions in 50% of his victories- 8 of 16. He uses a variety of techniques on the floor, with 3 wins coming by way of arm triangle. In his final pre-UFC appearance he submitted former Zuffa employee Edward Faaloloto by arm bar. Unfortunately, the footage of the Japanese fighter is limited and his debut performance offered a limited view of his capabilities.

One area that does stand out for ‘Strasser’ is his lack of high level competition. His recent success, which included capturing the Heat Welterweight title, has come against a series of opponents with less then impressive resumes. The aforementioned Faaloloto saw his record drop to a dismal 2-5 after facing Kiichi and considering that win came over a natural Lightweight further infringes upon its significance.

The biggest concern with the Brazilian is the cut to 170 pounds. If the cut goes well, Sarafian is the physically stronger fighter and all indications are he is the more technically gifted. Look for the fight to hit the floor early, with Kunimoto struggling to contend with the former Middleweight’s aggressive attack, so my prediction is Daniel Sarafian to defeat Kiichi Kunimoto by submission.

135lbs- Yves Jabouin (19-9-0) vs #8 Mike Easton (13-4-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Yves Jabouin makes his 8th UFC appearance when he takes on 6 fight Octagon vet Mike Easton. Easton has dropped a trio of bouts after starting his Octagon run with 3 straight wins. Jabouin has lost 2 of his last 3 after having his own 3 fight winning streak snapped.

While both men have struggled of late, they have been paired with elite level competition. Both have lost to Brad Pickett, while Jabouin also suffered a set back against recent title challenger Eddie Wineland and Easton was defeated by top ranked Raphael Assuncao and the new Bantamweight Champion TJ Dillashaw.

Easton is a physical specimen and thrives when he is able to inflict his power through both his striking and grappling. He is a BJJ Black belt, with just 2 wins by submission while averaging less then a takedown per fight. Easton attempted to diversify his attack beyond his striking when he scored multiple takedowns against Brad Pickett. He could look to implement a similar approach against Yves as Jabouin has been submitted 3 times in his career and had some difficult with Dustin Pague on the floor.

While Jabouin isn’t known for his grappling prowess, he has utilized his wrestling in the past. He completed 4 takedowns over his first 2 contests at Bantamweight and showed serviceable top control against Wael Watson.

Defensively both men have good TDD numbers which suggest they each might struggle to find success with their grappling. Of the two it would appear that ‘The Hulk’ would be the more likely to score some key takedowns during the fight.

On the feet, Jabouin has won 11 times by knockout. He is a technically sounds striker, capable of mixing in a variety of spinning techniques to augment his more traditional striking attacks. He has a tendency to lay back and counter strike, attempting to time his opponent as they come forward. He averages just under 3 successful strikes per minute, while absorbing slightly less from his opponent. The big knockout on ‘Tiger’ are his 4 losses by knockout. He has been knocked out in each of his last 2 losses, with all 4 of his career knockouts coming against dangerous strikers.

After debuting with a stoppage victory, Easton has yet to put another opponent down and had only done it 3 times prior. Despite a lower finishing rate, he does have power in his hands and supplements it with some very hard leg kicks. He is a Taekwondo Black belt, which is an indication of where his kicking game comes from. Easton is at his best when he comes forward and forces his opponent to continually take a backward step. In his first 3 fights he was able to implement this aggressive approach, but more recently his opponents have succeeded in both countering and forcing Mike to move backwards.

Yves is the more diversified striker, but his chin is a major concern. Additionally, His willingness to give ground while striking will play directly into Easton’s wheelhouse of pressing the action and moving forward. With Mike landing just under a strike more per minute this too will favour the American on the scorecards. Look for Easton to outwork Yves on the feet and land some crucial takedowns couple with some key top control time, so my prediction is Mike Easton to defeat Yves Jabouin by decision.

135lbs- Valerie Letourneau (5-3-0) vs Elizabeth Phillips (4-1-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division Valerie Letourneau makes her promotional debut on home soil when she fights fellow UFC debutant Elizabeth Phillips. Letourneau has won 4 of her last 5 overall, while Phillips is riding a 4 fight winning streak after dropping her pro debut.

Both fighters are entering the Octagon on incredibly short notice. This bout was originally scheduled to feature Germaine de Ramndamie taking on newcomer Milana Dudieva , unfortunately injuries felled them both.

Despite neither fighter breaking into double digits for total experience, both have some upper level experience. Letourneau fought and lost to both Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis early in her career. She then took a run at qualifying for the first Ultimate Fighter season involving Women, but fell short in the qualifying rounds losing via submission to Roxanne Modafferi. Phillips was TKOed by multi-fight Invicta veteran Miriam Nakamoto in her debut and dropped a submission loss as an amateur to Jessamyn Duke.

The American has been the more active fighter of late, fighting twice in each of 2014 and 2013. Conversely, Valerie experienced a bit of down time sitting out for almost 2 years after her 2012 loss to Claudia Gadelha before returning to win this past May in victorious fashion. She also missed 2 years of action between 2009 and 2011.

With both girls debuting and doing so on short notice that creates a lot of uncertainty. Letourneau is fighting at home which is a positive, but a recent TUF loss to Roxanne Moddafferi is a bit concerning. Additionally her relative inactivity over the last few years is also a red flag against an opponent who has been consistently active since she began her amateur career. There is some, but limit footage of both, but my prediction is Elizabeth Phillips to defeat Valerie Letourneau by decision.

155lbs- Kajan Johnson (19-10-1) vs Tae Hyun Bang (16-8-0)

In the Lightweight division, TUF Nations cast member and British Columbia native ‘Ragin’ Kajan Johnson makes his official UFC debut across the cage from Korean Top Team member Tae Hyun Bang. Johnson advanced threw the opening round of the TUF tournament but was stopped in the semi-finals by eventual TUF champ Chad Laprise. Bang debuted last January and suffered a decision defeat against Maribek Taisumov.

The Canadian has not fought since late 2011, but has won 7 of his last 8.

Johnson holds a slight edge in overall professional bouts at 30-24, but Bang has the more impressive resume. He has fought both Jorge Masvidal and Takanori Gomi, in addition to having already made his UFC debut- unfortunately he lost all 3.

Bang has accrued an even split of wins by knockout and decision, 16 in total. He is a striker by trade, relying primarily on his boxing to do the damage. He carries a heavy left hand which is his most dangerous weapon. While he can go on the offensive, he trends towards the counter striking side of the game. While he has scored several win with this method, he has a tendency to be too passive while looking to counter and allow his opponent to simply outwork him, this has been defeated 6 times by decisions.

Johnson record includes several stoppage defeats; 3 by knockout and 3 more by submission. He was also the recipient of one of the nastiest KOs in TUF history that resulted in a broken jaw. On the positive side, Johnson is equally as capable of pulling of a finish with 15 of his 19 wins ending inside the distance (4 KO/TKOs & 11 submissions). Just should his durability his only TUF victory, fending off the early attack of his opponent, transitioning to a leg lock, and then eventually taking the back for the RNC finish. Johnson may look to exploit the grappling defense of his opponent, who has been submitted twice and was taken down several times by Taisumov.

On the feet, Johnson is aggressive and utilizes a fair bit of movement. He likes to pair up his punches and will frequently look to finish with a low kick. He is also more then willing to go high with his kicks in an attempt to catch his opponent off guard. He should be the faster of the 2 men, along with the more diverse and aggressive striker. The big issue is his ability to take a big shot, especially considering that he is taking his first fight after the jaw injury. While aggression can be an effective weapon, being too aggressive and carless can walk a fighter directly into a knockout.

If Bang can catch Kajan moving forward the combination of his forward momentum, previous knockout history, and Bang’s power suggest the fight could come to a screeching halt. Bang looked very tentative in his debut and if the Korean can’t land a fight changing/ending blow he is going to struggle to match the output of his opponent who should be buoyed by the home crowd. Johnson is coming out of the TUF house which frequently leads to fighters taking the next step in their development and he has had significant time away from the cage to further hone those skills. UFC jitters and ring rust could be a factor, but my prediction is Kajan Johnson to defeat Tae Hyun Bang by decision.

155lbs- Jason Saggo (9-1-0) vs Josh Shockley (11-2-0)

A pair of UFC debutants meet up in the Lightweight division as Canadian Jason Saggo welcomes American Josh Shockley to the Great White North. Saggo has won 4 in a row and his only defeat came against fellow UFC member Jesse Ronson. Shockley has won back to back bouts and 5 of his last 6.

Shockley had a brief run in the Bellator cage; losing his debut on short notice to Tony Imada, before picking up back to back wins, and then dropping his final BFC bout by submission.

The American should have the experience advantage taking into account his Bellator experience, which included a win over former TUF competitor Shamar Bailey. He also defeated another TUF alumni and former WEC competitor Micah Miller after leaving BFC. Both wins came by decision.

Saggo comes from a both a BJJ and Muay Thai backgrounds, but with submissions accounting for 8 of his 9 wins its not hard to see the importance of his grappling game to his overall success. His transition game is good and his back mount is strong with 4 wins coming by rear-naked choke. His loss to Jesse Ronson came on the basis of his inability to get the fight to the floor with consistency which brings his wrestling skills into question, especially against next level competition. If he is forced to stand, his boxing is his weak point. At range he throws a variety of kicks and can also do damage from the clinch if he is able to establish control.

Shockley has won 5 times by submission and is a very opportunistic grappler, capitalizing on his adversaries mistakes and quickly cinching up a finish. All 5 of his submission wins have come inside the first round, including a 35 second tapout of Eric Moon to earn his first Bellator win. He is also dangerous off his back, exemplified by his arm bar submission of Vener Galiev after getting knocked down by punches. He trains his striking alongside Eddie Wineland, but seems a bit stiff overall and doesn’t possess the weapons of his Canadian opponent.

Taking everything previously mentioned into consideration, both men have been out of action for nearly a year and the majority of available footage is older than that. That leaves a lot of time for improvement in all facets of the game for both men. Based on what is available, Saggo appears to be the stronger grappler and the more talented striker because on his kicking and clinch game. Saggo will also be the crowd favourite which could help him to deal with the first fight jitters. Shockley is more experienced, but Saggo appears to offer the more well rounded skill set, so my prediction is Jason Saggo to defeat Josh Shockley by decision.

135lbs- Roland Delorme (9-2-0 1NC) vs Michinori Tanaka (9-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, Canadian born Roland Delorme makes his sixth UFC appearance when he rolls out the red carpet for PXC and Shooto graduate Michinori Tanaka. The last time Delorme saw action was in a split decision defeat against Alex Caceres, he was undefeated through his first 4 UFC fights (3-0-0 1NC). Tanaka is undefeated through 9 pro bouts, including a 4-0 run under the PXC banner.

Tanaka won and then successfully defended the PXC Bantamweight title in his last 2 bouts.

This fight is most likely going to be decided on ground, but will see some action standing. Delorme has showed on more then one occasion that he can stand and trade with success. He struggled with the accuracy of Alex Caceres, but his power was holding up quite nicely. He uses short straight punches and stunned Nick Denis prior to eventual submission finish. Tanaka prefers to grapple, but will let his hands go when the situation calls for it and will throw a few different kicking techniques as well.

Tanaka is a 2nd degree Judo Black belt and has spent time honing his skills at the Alpha Male camp.

The majority of Tanaka’s vertical game is centered around disguising his shot. He changes levels very quickly and covers a surprising amount of distance. Look for him grab onto a single, rapidly turn the corner, and then utilize a trip while snapping his opponent to the floor. He has won 5 times by submission, along with several ground based decision victories. He has a very strong top game and is able to maintain the position through continually transitioning and rolling with his opponent as they look to work out off the mat.

Delorme is a BJJ Brown belt and a Judo Black belt. He has secured 6 of his 9 pro wins by submission, including 2 in the UFC. He average 3.02 takedowns per fight at a 32% completion rate. He is an aggressive grinding style grappler that breaks down his opponent with an active top game. He isn’t the type to sit in guard and hold on, looking to pass and then set up a submission opportunity. This style did cost him in his last fight, where his lack of focus on positional controlled allowed his opponent to sweep and reverses him several times.

Against Caceres, Delorme went back and forth on the mat and ultimately got the lesser the grappling exchanges- although it was close. Delorme routinely lost top position and struggled to regain control. Against Tanaka he will find it difficult to take him off his feet and will have an even greater struggle getting off his back when put there so my prediction is Michinori Tanaka to defeat Roland Delorme by decision.

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- Yaotzin Meza (19-9-0) vs Sergio Pettis (10-1-0)

In the preliminary card main event, Yaotzin Meza and Sergio Pettis meet up in the Bantamweight division. Meza is coming off a defeat to Chico Camus and is 1-2 since joining the UFC. Pettis is coming off the first loss of his career, falling his Octagon mark to an even 1-1.

Meza will stand 3″ taller then Sergio, but will have a 1″ reach advantage.

As previously mentioned, Pettis is coming off the first loss of his career. He is a young fighter (20) and it has been stated time and time again that you really don’t reach your full potential until you have tasted your first defeat. Unfortunately, for some fighters their inability to deal with that first blemish can lead to a significant setback.

Both men are competent submission fighters. While the numbers favour Meza, 7 submission wins to just 3 for Pettis, based on in ring action it would appear that Sergio is the more dangerous grappler. The knock on Pettis is his TDD. He was put on his back 4 times by Will Campuzano and had similar trouble in his pre-UFC run. If Meza can put Pettis on his back he will score some points with top control and considering Sergio is coming off a submission loss there is potential for that too. Even when on top, Yaotzin will need to be very careful as Pettis is incredibly active and dangerous off his back. He is also quite good in a scramble situation.

On the feet, Sergio will be superior fighter by a wide margin. He isn’t quite as dynamic as his brother, but he still employs a nice variety of kicks and has pretty could snap in his punches. He has 3 wins by knockout and is a 2nd degree Black belt in Taekwondo. Additionally, he trains under Duke Roufus who is known for the development of many talented strikers.

Meza has 5 wins all by TKO, but he has also been finished 3 times by the same method. Additionally, he has been defeated by submission 3 times and narrowly escaped a fourth time when he fought John Albert in his Bantamweight debut. Pettis has finished his adversary in 6 of his 10 wins and is coming off his first career loss so he should be extremely motivated to get back in the win column, so my prediction is Sergio Pettis to defeat Yaotzin Meza by TKO.

170lbs- Bobby Voelker (24-11-0) vs Lance Benoist (6-2-0)

In the Welterweight division, Bobby Voelker makes his fourth UFC appearance when he fights the returning Lance Benoist. Voelker has gone winless through his first 3 Octagon fights, most recently dropping a decision to William Macario. Benoist debuted with a victory over Matt Riddle but has dropped back to back fights since.

Benoist hasn’t fought since September 2012, with over 20 months elapsing between fights.

The former Strikeforce competitor has a massive edge in experience with 35 pro bouts to just 8 for Benoist. Benoist does have an extensive amateur career competing in 17 bouts before turning pro.

The biggest number for either man is Voelker’s knockout totals. He has finished 15 fights by either KO or TKO, including back to back stoppages of Roger Bowling in their 3 fight series in Strikeforce. Voelker predominantly relies on his boxing and durability, but he currently harbours a very dangerous striking exchange rate. Bobby lands a little over 4.5 strikes per minute, but gets hit at a rate of almost 2 strikes more per minute. Bobby has been knocked out 3 times, most recently by Robbie Lawler which is nothing to scoff at. He also took a significant amount of damage in his last fight getting hurt and badly busted open by a more active and accurate striker.

Benoist has just a single pro knockout, but he is still a respectable striker. On averages he outlands his opponents by a strike per minute and implements a kick heavy attack. He did get stunned by a couple of short counter punches from Sean Pierson which will be an area of concern against a powerful guy like Voelker. A key point of interest in this fight will be that Benoist is striking from a southpaw stance. In his last fight, he faced a fellow southpaw which appeared to create some difficulties for him during the exchanges, but he should be able to use it to his advantage against Voelker.

On the floor, both men have submission capabilities. Voelker is 4-1 in fights ended by submission and Benoist is 4-0. Lance is a BJJ purple belt and used his wrestling fairly effectively against the much bigger Seth Baczynski landing 4 takedowns. Voelker hasn’t consistently shown his grappling prowess but he did land several takedowns against Patrick Cote while doing some noteworthy damage from top position. Benoist appears to be the more dangerous off his back, but that is a position he will want to avoid. While both men have the ability to take this fight to the floor, it should be decided on the feet.

A couple of interesting x-factors to take into consideration- Benoist is just 26 years old and while he has been out of action for a considerable amount of time which can create ring rust, it also opens up the possibility for significant development to take place. Additionally, Lance’s last 2 defeats came in 2012, the same year he tragically lost his twin brother in car accident. It would be easy to understand that an individual going through such an ordeal may lack focus elsewhere in his life. While an event like that is something that he will never forget, with more then 2 years having passed Lance is most likely in a better place mentally to prepare for his combat career.

Voelker hits hard and has the experience edge, but Benoist is the more diverse striker and should be able to use his kicks to keep Bobby out of effective boxing range. This fight could really go either way, but the younger, still developing fighter is little bit more appealing so my prediction is Lance Benoist to defeat Bobby Voelker by decision.

125lbs- #15 Scott Jorgensen (14-8-0) vs Danny Martinez (17-5-0)

In the Flyweight division Scott Jorgensen will try for a third time to secure his first win at 125 pounds when he meets UFC sophomore Danny Martinez. Martinez took his UFC debut on short notice and lost via decision to Chris Cariaso. Jorgensen has dropped 3 in a row and 5 of his last 6.

Despite Jorgensen’s recent struggles, he has been paired with and lost to top level competition including Dominick Cruz, Urijah Faber, and Renan Barao.

The ‘Gremlin’ applies a pretty basic and often predictable game plan. He had some success with his wrestling against Cariaso; landing 5 takedowns on 14 attempts. The majority of his tries came along the cage, after backing his foe to the wall Martinez will change levels and try to connects his hands. Despite 5 completions, Martinez wasn’t able to control enough of the action to take the decision. He will need to be wary of exposing his neck to Jorgensen when shooting as Scotty will look for the choke.

Prior to shooting in, Danny’s attack of preference centers around winging big overhand punches, with a steady diet of left hands. While he does have 8 knockouts, his continued reliance on a less then technical approach makes it easier for fighters at this level of competition to anticipate his attack and avoid the majority of his volume. Additionally, by loading up on his punches it can result in a drop off in performance as he tires.

Scotty Jorgensen is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and BJJ Purple belt. He is 5-3 in fights ended by submission, which both shows his ability to finish on the floor, but also a higher level of vulnerability. That might be a bit of an overstatement as 2 of his submission losses have come against Urijah Faber and Jussier Formiga following a head butt that knocked him down. Regardless of his past struggles, he should be the superior wrestler both offensively and defensively allowing him to dictate where this fight takes place.

On the feet, Scott is far from an elite striker and has just 2 knockout wins. He averages 3.62 strikes per minute and is fairly active on the feet. He is far more effective when he throws in combination and appear to be getting back to that versus Formiga prior to the finish. He made mention of returning to train with Kit Cope after feeling he had regressed with his stand-up. He will need to continue this to find success versus Martinez.

Jorgensen should be able to anticipate and avoid the predictable striking of Martinez. Short of getting caught with a big shot, Jorgensen will control the action early with his wrestling and superior striking game and then take control as his opponent slows in the higher altitude. Scotty has a massive experience advantage against an opponent that has struggled every time he has been paired with next level competition and he should come out motivated to save his job so my prediction is Scott Jorgensen to defeat Danny Martinez by decision.

155lbs- Jon Tuck (7-1-0) vs Jake Lindsey (9-0-0)

In the Lightweight division, Ultimate Fighter alumni and 2 fight UFC veteran Jon Tuck meets debuting and short notice injury replacement Jake Lindsey. Tuck debuted inside the Octagon with a win, but fell via decision to Norman Parke in his second showing. Lindsey has won 9 straight to start his pro career in addition to a 4-0 record on the amateur circuit.

Lindsey has had about a month to prepare for his UFC debut after Tuck’s original opponent, Yosdenis Cedeno, was forced to pull out with an injury.

Both fighters have less then double digit pro experience, but Tuck has the edge in overall quality. He has competed twice in the UFC and fought and lost to eventual TUF finalist Al Iaquinta in his only reality show fight. Lindsey has fought a decent mix of young fighters and career journeymen so far, but this will be the highest caliber opponent of his brief career.

Tuck is a BJJ Brown belt and tested grappling competitor. 3 of his first 4 wins came by submission, all by rear naked choke, but the last came back in 2009. He hasn’t shown a commitment to his grappling skills since entering the Octagon, attempting 1 unsuccessful TDA over 30 minutes of cage time. Lindsey has won 6 times via submission, a even split between his pro and amateur careers. He has a decent takedown and transition game, but has yet to be test against someone of Tuck’s capability.

On the feet, Tuck has power but needs to improve his ability to deploy it. He throws hard and will work in some decent leg kicks, but he tends to get a little sloppy which in turn impacts his cardio. He slowed down noticeably against Norman Parke and became very hittable. He would benefit from stringing his punches together in sequence, but seems more insistent on winging big singles with minimal, if any, set up.

The ‘Librarian’ has 4 knockout wins, including 3 straight first round finishes leading up to this fight. He throws hard from the outside, but does some of his best work at short range. He will tie up and look to land big shots in the clinch, but he is also quite dangerous on the break where he will pull back and land hard and heavy barrages of strikes.

Tuck has the experience advantage, but his willingness to forgo his greatest strength and an apparent conditioning issue raise some major concerns. Lindsey is still developing, but he has the tools to push and outwork his opponent. This fight is a candidate for a FOTN bonus and my prediction is Jake Lindsey to defeat Jon Tuck by Decision.

205lbs- Patrick Cummins (4-1-0) vs Roger Narvaez (6-0-0)

The event gets started in the Light Heavyweight division as Patrick Cummins makes his second Octagon appearance when he welcomes UFC debutant Roger Narvaez to the cage. Cummins suffered his first career loss against top ranked Daniel Cormier in his short notice debut. Narvaez is undefeated through his first 6 with his most recent victory coming under the Legacy FC banner.

Narvaez will be stepping up to take this fight on short notice after Francimar Barroso was forced to withdraw. Narvaez traditionally fights as a Middleweight and will most likely return to 185 pounds should he get a second Octagon opportunity.

Cummins’s debut was short and painful, getting stopped after just 79 seconds by Cormier. ‘Durkin’ wasn’t expected to win the fight despite the UFC’s attempt to build up their last second replacement as a legitimate threat to ‘DC’. What Cummins does bring to the table is a NCAA D-1 wrestling pedigree and 4 first round finishes- 2 by TKO and 2 by sub. The majority of his wins have come after he established top position which is most likely what he will be focusing on here.

The newcomer, has yet to taste defeat. Narvaez has won 4 times inside the first round as a pro and took 3 more submission wins and a TKO all inside the first 5 as an amateur. Similar to Cummins, Roger bases his success off of his ability to gain top position prior to looking for the finish. His most recent victory was the first to go to the judges in his only Legacy FC appearance.

The ‘Silveback’ ran into a bit of controversy in his 2012 win over Aaron Glynn. He transitioned from a kimura to a rear naked choke to finish the fight, but was slow in relinquishing the hold prompting the official to (Rousimar Palhares style) forcibly attempt to remove the hold and his upset opponent to confront him after it was eventually released.

Despite standing an inch taller then Cummins, Narvaez will be the smaller man. Cummins comes from a superior wrestling background which should allow him to dictate where the fight takes place. Considering how important the ground game is for both men that doesn’t bode well for Narvaez. Cummins also has the benefits of his UFC debut experience under the bright lights of a PPV and a full camp to prepare, his opponent has neither. Patty C isn’t the world-beater that he was originally promoted as, but he should have the superior skill-set here so my prediction is Patrick Cummins to defeat Roger Narvaez by TKO.

 

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Nick Hein (10-1-0 1NC) vs Drew Dober (14-5-0)

This is a classic grappler versus striker pairing, although the numbers wouldn’t exactly suggest it. Nick Hein comes from a Judo background and has secured 4 wins by submission. Conversely, Drew Dober has won 8 times by submission but is a more kickboxing oriented fighter. Dober showed a lot of moxie in his debut, taking a fight at Welterweight and hanging tough despite getting beaten pretty much start to finish. He should fair much better at his natural weight class. What this fight comes down to for the German is can he close the gap, limit the damage, and put Dober on his back. If he can do that with consistency he could grind out a decision, but his top control will need to be on point as Dober is probably the most capable grappler he has faced to date. On the feet, Hein isn’t that strong and Dober should be able to capitalize on it. Dober’s striking is simply better then Hein and that should be quite evident from the opening bell. Despite being the superior striker, Drew will need to avoid getting too aggressive as he could open up opportunities for Hein to score a takedown. Hein is fighting at home which is a positive, but he is making his debut and cutting to 155 pounds for what appears to be the first time which are both difficult tasks. Dober is the best fighter that Hein has faced and it will show up, so my prediction is Drew Dober to defeat Nick Hein by TKO.

185lbs- Magnus Cedenblad (11-4-0) vs Krzysztof Jotko (14-0-0)

Magnus Cedenblad has had an early submission opportunities in each of his first 2 UFC fights, one he finished and one he did not. The Swede is coming off of a 9 month layoff after submitting long time veteran Jared Hamman, but he was facing an even longer break heading into that fight. Krzysztof Jokto didn’t grab a tonne of attention with his debut win, but what he did do was execute a pretty solid game plan and come away with a win. Jotko is a well rounded fighter, but hasn’t shown a tonne of finishing ability with just 2 knockouts and 4 submission through 14 fights. Conversely, Cedenblad has 10 finishes (6 knockout and 4 submissions) over just 11 wins. Jotko appears to be the more technically gifted fighter, both on the feet and on the floor. He has decent hands and can work the kicking game effectively. He can also do damage at short range with elbows and knees. Defensively he did a decent job shutting his last opponent’s grappling attack down and he should be able to stop Cedenblad as well. He will need to be cautious if he elects to look for a takedown as Magnus is quite opportunistic with his submission game, but my prediction is Krzysztof Jotko to defeat Magnus Cedenblad.

135lbs- Vaughan Lee (14-9-1) vs #7 Iuri Alcantara (29-5-0 1NC)

Vaughan Lee is coming off of a pretty impressive performance, but against a less then impressive adversary in Nam Phan. This time around, he will be facing a multi-faceted opponent in Alcantara who is simply better then Lee in all of the Brit’s strongest areas. Alcantrara is a big Bantamweight with serious power and dangerous submission skills. His cardio is the biggest concern, but not enough of one to pick against him. Alcantara will either land something big on the feet and follow Lee to the floor or look for a early takedown, either way my prediction is Iuri Alcantara to defeat Vaughan Lee by submission.

170lbs- Peter Sobotta (13-4-1) vs Pawel Pawlak (10-0-0)

Peter Sobotta gets a second shot in the UFC after 3 straight losses sent him packing the first time around. He has gone 5-0-1 since getting cut. Interestingly enough, all 5 of his wins have come by first round rear naked choke, with 3 of those triumphs taking place on the same night. Pawel Pawlak is undefeated with 6 wins by knockout and 3 more by submission. He is a measured striker who throws a lot of single strikes. This might not be the best strategy against Sobotta who struggled with pressured based fighters in his first UFC run. Sobotta throws a variety of kicks and should be able to deploy them against a fighter like Pawlak that is willing to stand at distance. On the floor, the German is a BJJ Brown belt with 9 submission wins. He lacks the wrestling to consistently capitalize on his submission capabilities, at least at the UFC level, but if Pawlak elects to take it to the ground the German has the skills to turn the position in his favour. Pawlak is making his debut and that can be tough. He is also making a jump in competition and has yet to taste defeat which can be a bit of a concern. Sobotta has Octagon experience and will be fighting at home, but he hasn’t fought in nearly a year and a half. If Pawlak showed more aggression then he would be the better pick, but look for Sobotta to land his kicks with regularity and get the better of the action on the mat. It is hard backing a fighter that is 0-3 in the UFC, but my prediction is Peter Sobotta to defeat Pawel Pawlak by submission.

145lbs- Andy Ogle (9-4-0) vs Maximo Blanco (9-6-1 1NC)

Neither man has been lighting the world on fire of late with a combined record of 2-7. Regardless of their recent difficulties, Maximo Blanco has a tonne of talent but seems to be lacking something between the ears. He has power in his hand, decent striking chops, and can wrestle. Unfortunately, if he fails to put his opponent away early his cardio falters and he struggles late. His only win since joining the UFC came against an equally as reckless Sam Sicilia. Ogle is a tough kid who has run into a pair of very dangerous grapplers in Cole Miller and Charles Oliveira in his last 2 outings. His ground game is solid and is striking is serviceable, he will need to be cautious early and then he should be able to take control of the fight after weathering the early storm. Blanco is simply too inconsistent to back here, so my prediction is Andy Ogle to defeat Maximo Blanco by decision.

265lbs- Viktor Pesta (9-0-0) v Ruslan Magomedov (11-1-0)

Another Russian makes the jump to the UFC in Ruslan Magomedov. Fresh off a win over former UFC champ Tim Sylvia, the Russian certainly has the edge in quality of competition faced with wins over big Tim and another former UFC champ in Ricco Rodriguez. Viktor Pesta’s resume lacks big name talent and he will be making a massive step up in competition for this fight. Both men are debuting, so Octagon shock could play a role, but Magomedov’s aforementioned experience advantage and relatively calm demeanour should put him in a better place then Pesta. Viktor is aggressive, he has finished 6 of his wins inside the first round and will most likely come out looking to make it 7. Magomedov is the more polished fighter both on the feet and the mat, but at Heavyweight all of that can go away with one big shot. Ruslan will need to avoid the early onslaught, but once Pesta starts to slow down from the adrenaline dump it will be all Magomedov- so my prediction is Ruslan Magomedov to defeat Viktor Pesta by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Rodrigo Damm (12-6-0) vs Rashid Magomedov (16-1-0)

Rodrigo Damm has carved out a commendable start to his UFC career with a 3-1 record which includes a victory in his return to the Lightweight division. Rashid Magomedov extended his current streak with a triumphant first UFC showing, coming back to win the final 2 rounds after a nasty submission scare in the opening frame. It is interesting to note that Damm is just one fight removed from fighting at 145 pounds, while Magmomedov’s final pre-UFC bout was contested at 170 pounds. Damm is a BJJ Black belt with half of his wins coming by some form of submission. Unfortunately, he appears set on implementing a game plan contingent on anything but a ground based attack. He has power in his hands and pretty decent leg kicks, but his willingness to stand plays directly into the hands of his opponent. Magomedov has serious power with 8 knockout wins and the technique to deploy that power with regularity. He prefers to counter strike, but won’t hesitate to engage when given the opportunity. He has fast hands, quick kicks, and locates his punches effectively. Damm tends to overextend himself a little when striking and this will create ample opportunity for the Russian to attack. Even if Rodrigo opts to employ his grappling, Rashid is a world class Sambo competitor and is more then capable on the floor, so my prediction is Rashid Magomedov to defeat Rodrigo Damm by TKO.

155lbs- Elias Silverio (10-0-0) vs Ernest Chavez (8-0-0)

After a rough start in his debut, Ernest Chavez pulled it together and took home a decision win to remain undefeated. The comeback was spurred on by his wrestling and solid top control. He is a fighter that doesn’t really come off as being a super talented. He is durable, with decent wrestling and he has some pop in his strikes. Conversely, Elias Silverio has been very impressive in his 2 fight run. He debuted with a win at Welterweight and then was dominant in his 155 pound debut. He has, power, commendable striking skill, and strong wrestling. With a 30% finishing rate many may dismiss his skill, but his ability to put it on his opponent start to finish is still quite impressive. Chavez is tough, but he is simply outgunned here. Silverio is quicker and more technical both standing and on the floor. Ernest should have enough to stick around, but he will be on the defensive for the majority of the fight, so my prediction is Elias Silverio to defeat Ernest Chavez by decision.

170lbs- Paulo Thiago (15-6-0) vs Gasan Umalatov (14-3-1)

Paulo Thiago has hit a pretty rough stretch in his UFC career after an admirable start. He may be fighting for his career. He is a skilled grappler, a BJJ Black belt, with 8 wins by submission and he needs to utilize those skills to be successful. He has landed 8 takedowns in his last 2 wins. Umalatov struggled in his debut and has now lost 2 of his last 3. His grappling is his strong suit with 7 wins by submission and he works the majority of his takedowns from the clinch position. Neither man is an elite striker, Paulo has power, but this fight should be won and lost on the floor. While Umalatov has proven himself capable on the mat, this is a step up in caliber of grappler. This bout should produce something interesting back and forth on the mat with Thiago getting the better of the exchanges along with being aided by a boisterous home crowd, so my prediction is Paulo Thiago to defeat Gasan Umalatov by decision.

145lbs- Kevin Souza (14-3-0) vs Mark Eddiva (6-0-0)

Kevin’s Souza 7 fight knockout streak was snapped in his promotional debut, but he still took home a pretty impressive win via 3 round decision against established UFC roster member Felipe Arantes. Souza, as his 12 knockouts would suggest, is a dangerous striker. He has a bomb of a right hand and will target the body to create openings when looking for the knockout. He uses his length well- stocking his opponent and cutting off the cage, but he tends to rely a little too much on his boxing while holding his hands a little low. Mark Eddiva turned some heads with an equally as successful debut. He combined sharp Muay Thai and surprising wrestling skills on route to a decision win. He deployed crisp accurate striking, mixing up his hand and leg techniques effectively while limiting his opponents landing frequency. He will need to be equally as diverse against Souza and use his speed to navigate through the reach of the big Brazilian. Eddiva could also look to take this fight to the ground, as the Brazilian has been submitted in all 3 of his defeats and was taken down 3 times by Arantes. If Eddiva can’t score with his wrestling early and often look for the length, power, and pressure of Souza to dictate the pace of the fight. Souza’s forward pressure should shut down the kicking game of Eddiva and his powerful boxing game will frequently find the mark, so my prediction is Kevin Souza to defeat Mark Eddiva by TKO.

135lbs- Pedro Munhoz (10-1-0) vs Matt Hobar (8-1-0)

Pedro Munhoz ran into a Bantamweight buzzsaw in the #1 ranked Raphael Assuncao in his debut, he fought admirably but it was too much, too soon. Hobar is making his debut with his only loss on record coming via injury. He has just a single win by knockout and 4 submission wins. His wrestling is solid, but his striking leaves it a little to be desired and that will cost him here. Conversely, Munhoz is a far more diverse competitor. He may only have 1 knockout, but he still a dangerous striker and throws a nasty front body kick that should come into play here. His 6 submission wins back up what he is capable of doing on the floor and should take Hobar’s wrestling, his biggest weapon, out of the equation. Munhoz will put together a far better performance in his second UFC appearance with an enhanced comfort level, a full camp, and an opponent more suited for the current stage of his career- my prediction is Pedro Munhoz to defeat Matt Hobar by submission.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Michael Chiesa (10-1-0) vs Francisco Trinaldo (14-3-0)

Ending the night’s free fight line-up, Lightweights Michael Chiesa and Brazilian behemoth Francisco Trinaldo square off in a pivotal Lightweight showdown. Most recently, Chiesa returned to glory with a second round submission win over fellow TUF champ Colton Smith- he was coming off of the first loss of his career. Trinaldo also rebound from defeat in his most recent outing with a split decision win over Jesse Ronson.

This pairing offers up a pretty significant clash in physical compositions. Chiesa is long and lean. At 6 1″, he will stand a full 5 inches taller then his opponent and will have approximately a 6″ reach advantage. While he will be at length deficit, Francisco makes up for it with his physical power. He is a physically imposing man and is a handful for anyone attempting to match him in the horsepower category, unless you are Gleison Tibau.

One of the drawbacks to Massaranduba’s massive muscles is the impact on his gas tank. In the most recent example, he got off to a great start against Piotr Hallmann, but gassed in the second frame and was unable to fend off the fight ending submission attempt. Chiesa isn’t exactly a cardio horse either, with just 2 fights going the distance, he has also shown signs of slowing down under more demanding circumstances.

Chiesa wants to put this fight in a position where he can use his submission grappling. He is a BJJ Purple belt with 8 of his 10 wins coming by way of submission- 3 in the UFC. He averages 2.78 takedowns at a 33% completion rate. He has never completed more then 2 takedowns in a UFC bout and his wrestling is far from top level. What he lacks in wrestling ability, he makes up for in shear willingness to attack. Against the physically strong Anton Kuivanen, he struggled early to implement his grappling skills, but eventually took advantage of a mistake and turned into a victory. He may have to be opportunistic here as well as Trinaldo could present similar challenges.

The Brazilian trains his BJJ under a world-class instructor in Sergio Moraes. He has picked up a pair of UFC submission wins and is a handful from top position with brutal ground and pound. His guard game is serviceable, but he will want to avoid testing it out against here. While he should find success from top position, the key to this fight will be his defensive work. He was taken down 5 times by Tibau, but outside of that he has stopped 9 of 12 takedowns. His low stature and raw power will make him tough for Chiesa to drag to the floor and he is known for punishing opponents with heavy shots on prolonged attempts.

On the feet, Chiesa is improving his striking- especially his length. He is on the short end of the SLpM comparison with Trinaldo out-striking him 3.01 to 1.67. Trinaldo is far from a high paced striker, but he has some serious thump in his shots and if he can get inside of Chiesa on the feet look for him to do some serious damage.

The Brazilian appears to be focussing on a strike first mentality, which could actually aid him here. While the popular opinion is that a Trinaldo’s lack cardio will decided the fight, which it could, look for him to limit the grappling exchanges, land the more impact shots, and keep Chiesa out of his comfort zone, so my prediction is Francico Trinaldo to defeat Michael Chiesa by decision.

155lbs- Tony Ferguson (15-3-0) vs Katsunori Kikuno (22-5-2)

In the Lightweight division, Tony Ferguson meets Japanese standout Katsunori Kikuno. Ferguson made a successful return to action with a first round submission of Mike Rio. Kikuno debuted with a 3 round decision win over Quinn Mullhern and he has won 6 in a row overall.

Ferguson is the one of three Ultimate Fighter winners on the card and has gone 4-1 in the UFC.

This fight could very well be decided on the feet, but some ground action is certainly not out of the question. Tony is an accomplished NCAA D-2 wrestling standout and is coming off a impressive submission win- the fourth of his career. While he hasn’t relied heavily on his wrestling skills, he has shown himself capable of implementing them when needed.

Kikuno is a Judo Black belt and is 2-1 in fights ended by submission. He relies mainly on his counter-grappling skills to remain vertical and did a decent job controlling Quinn Mullhern when the American routinely pulled guard. His low stature and Judo background should aid him if Ferguson tries to take this fight to the ground, but don’t expect Tony to pull guard if he is unsuccessful.

Both men have big power- Katsunori has won 12 times by knockout, including his most recent 3 KOs that lasted a combined 104 seconds. El Cucuy has scored some form of knockout in 8 of his 14 victories. He obliterated Ramsey Nijem in the tournament finals and broke the jaw of Aaron Riley leading to a doctor stoppage at UFC 135. The big question is, who is more likely to deploy their power with success?

The TUF champ will have a 9.5″ reach advantage. In addition to his reach, Tony strikes very long- he gets excellent extension on his punches and covers distances extremely well when attacking. He averages 4 strike per minute and while his opponents land a little over 3.4 blows, the power quotient is often the deciding factor.

For Kikuno, he fights very flat footed and holds his hands in a position that limits his ability to throw volume strikes. Instead, he looks for that one big shot to either end the fight or at least turn it in his favour. He has 12 knockouts which would suggest he has this capability, but this approach might not be the most conducive to success at this level of competition.

Ferguson is the far more diverse striker, he engages at a much higher rate, and if all else fails he has the ability to at least threaten with his wrestling to change the pace of the fight. Kikuno is going to try and time Tony and then land a big shot, but this approach will prove incredibly ineffective against an opponent with both power and a high landing frequency. Mullhern was outworking Katsunori on the feet, but he lacked the impact to make it show up- that won’t be the case here; so my prediction is Tony Ferguson to defeat Katsunori Kikuno by knockout.

135lbs- Chris Holdsworth (6-0-0) vs Chico Camus (14-4-0)

At 135 pounds, Ultimate Fighter champion Chris Holdsworth make his first foray into the main roster when he battles 4 fight UFC vet Chico Camus. Camus has won back to back fights and 3 of 4 since making his debut back in mid 2012. Holdsworth was triumphant in his debut winning TUF with a second round submission over Davey Grant.

Holdsworth hasn’t competed in just under 6 months and was originally preparing for Kung Ho Kang before he was forced to withdraw with an injury.

The Alpha male product is an top level grappler and his totals reflect that. He has secured all 5 of his pro wins by submission, 3 of which by rear naked choke. He also blasted his way throw the TUF tournament with a trio of submission wins. Chris is very aggressive on the mat with a lethal back mount and his above average length makes him difficult to control on the floor. Versus Grant, he needed just a single completion to eventually finish the fight.

All of Chris’s TUF wins came inside the first round and he has never gone beyond the midway mark of any of his pro contests.

Camus has above average wrestling, but he will need to be on point defensively against Holdsworth, His TDD has been a bit of a question mark over his 4 fights, getting put on his back 5 times and defending only 37% of his opponent’s attempts. Conversely, he has had a lot of success picking up wins over grappling based opponent, only once getting bested on the mat. He has shown an impressive ability to counter on the floor and turn bad positions in offensive opportunities.

Against Holdsworth he will want to avoid the mat altogether. In spite of his bad TDD%, he may have success holding Holdsworth upward based on couple of factors. Camus is quick and his movement will make it difficult for Chris to get his hands on him. Additionally, the 5″ height advantage of the Alpha Male member will force him to make a much more drastic level change when shooting. This should allow Camus to recognize the shoot and defend against it.

On the feet, Holdsworth’s striking gets overshadowed by his grappling skills. He is more then serviceable with his stand up, but Camus should be the better striker. Camus throws hard and has pretty solid technique. He relies mainly on his boxing, but will work in the odd kick.

Despite his pedigree, Holdsworth has just 5 pro fights and is coming in off of a bit of a layoff. Adding to this, Camus is a much different opponent then the one that Chris was originally preparing for. There is a tonne of evidence supporting a Holdsworth victory, but Camus has fought a number of grappling based opponents and come out on top. Chico has to be at his best, but the confidence he will have based on prior success will show up. Holdsworth struggles early to land takedowns and Camus carries the fight with his superior striking, so my prediction is Chico Camus to defeat Chris Holdsworth by decision.

155lbs- Al Iaquinta (8-2-1) vs Mitch Clarke (10-2-0)

In the second of 5 Lightweight bouts on the card, Al Iaquinta puts his 3 fight winning streak on the line against Canadian Mitch Clarke. Al has defeated Ryan Couture, Piotr Hallmann, and Kevin Lee during his current run. Clarke revitalized his UFC career after back to back defeats, by picking up a solid win over John Maguire in his most recent appearence.

Clarke has won 6 times by submission, but his decision over Maguire showcased an improved striking game. He peppered the Brit’s lead leg and finished the fight with a lopsided 41-15 striking total. He did struggle at times with his defensive grappling, which has been an issue so far in his UFC run. Clarke has been taken down 7 times in 3 fights (3 times by Maguire), which is a concern especially when facing a fighter like Iaquinta that mixes up his wrestling and striking so effectively.

The New York native has landed an average of 4.65 strikes and has been steadily improving from one fight to the next. He hits hard, despite just 3 knockouts to date and his variety is good. The biggest knockout on Al’s striking has been his defensive work. He has given up almost 3.5 strikes per minute and while Mitch Clarke is far from elite level striker, he showed against Maguire that he can throw volume.

Al has been submitted in both of his losses, which is certainly a concern against a man with 60% of his wins coming by the same method. Unfortunately, unless the Canadian shows better wrestling then he has recently, he is going to struggle to put himself in a position to exploit those numbers. Al is the better striker and should have the advantage with his wrestling allowing him to dictate where this fight takes place, so my prediction is Al Iaquinta to defeat Mitch Clarke by TKO.

155lbs- Anthony Njokuani (17-7-0) vs Vinc Pichel (8-1-0)

In the Lightweight division Anthony Njokuani meets Vinc Pichel in the Fight Pass preliminary headliner. Pichel is coming off of a win and is 1-1 inside the Octagon. Njokuani has alternated wins and losses over his last 8 fights, most recently scoring a knockout win over Roger Bowling.

Njokuani has been out of action since April 2013, a 13 month layoff, which could raise the possibility of ring rust.

Both fighters are predominately striking based, at least based on the numbers. Njokuani carries a sharp Muay Thai centered attack. His combinations are tight and he mixes in punches and kicking techniques effectively. He has won 9 times by knockout and averages 4.40 SLpM while limiting his opponents to a respectable 2.19 SApM. Pichel has good KO totals as well, collecting 7 of his 8 wins by knockout. He has power, but has yet to display that capability since signing on with the UFC. He tends to be a little basic with his attacks, throwing a 1-2 and then attempting to clinch if he fails to land.

While his win totals wouldn’t suggest it, Vinc’s best bet for victory here would be focus on his ground game. He scored 8 takedowns in his last fight and the last 2 men to beat Njokuani combined for a total 12 successful completions. If he can put his adversary on the floor early and often it will both score points and potentially slow his opponent down when they do exchange.

Putting the Nigerian born striker on his back is much easier said then done. He has a defended 58% of his opponent’s tries and has faced far better wrestlers then what Pichel brings to the table. As a result the majority of the action will take place on the feet and Njokuani is simply the more dangerous striker with superior power, volume, and technique so my prediction is Anthony Njokuani to defeat Vinc Pichel by knockout.

145lbs- Sam Sicilia (12-4-0) vs Aaron Phillips (5-0-0)

In the Featherweight division TUF alumni Sam Sicilia welcomes late injury replacement Aaron Phillips to the UFC. Sicilia has lost 3 of his last 4, while Phillips is undefeated through his first 5 pro bouts.

Sicilia hits hard, but is a below par technician with an equally as questionable chin. On average he absorbs 1.35 more strikes per minute then he lands, which is never a good ratio unless you are Roy Nelson. Phillips is a Muay Thai based striker with knockouts accounting for 3 of his 5 wins. He has a solid kicking arsenal and should have a bit of a length advantage on Sicilia. If he can keep it standing he should be able to outland his opponent, especially if he can time and counter the big swings.

Sicilia may look to use his wrestling as Phillips has shown some questionable TDD, but Sam is far from an elite level wrestler with just 3 takedowns in 5 fights. If Sam can get on top he will throw down some serious GnP that could bring about the end of the fight. But, Sicilia struggled with the more technical striking of Cole Miller and if Phillips can establish a comfortable range with his kicking game it will make it harder for Sam to get inside when looking to shoot.

Sam represents a pretty sizeable step up in competition for Phillips, who is taking this fight on short notice, but that may actually work in the newcomers favour. Phillips will have next to no pressure on him, while Sicilia is facing the end of his UFC run with a loss here and that will show up, so my prediction is Aaron Phillips to defeat Sam Sicilia by TKO.

170lbs- David Michaud (7-0-0) vs Li Jingliang (8-2-0)

The card kicks off in the Welterweight division, with a pair of debuting combatants. David Michaud has won 7 consecutive bouts to start his pro career and had a brief stint on the Ultimate Fighter. Jingliang has won back to back fights and 5 of his last 6.

Michaud is replacing the injured Danny Mitchell who was originally set to face Jingliang.

The growth of Chinese MMA continues with Jingliang, a 7 fight Legend FC veteran. He has secured a total of 5 win by submission- 4 by Guillotine choke. It is not for a lack of effort his, but his wrestling is far from elite level. Fortunately for Li, Michaud doesn’t possess a top rank ground game either. They are both serviceable on the mat, but far from dominant.

On the feet the edge turns towards the American. He has a trio of knockout wins and shows slightly more refinement in his overall game. If this fight does play out on the feet he needs to be careful not to get outworked as his defensive game is a little suspect, which could generate opportunities for his opponent to find success.

Both fighters are making their debuts and Michaud is doing it on short notice, but he does have a little UFC experience to fall back on based on his time spent on the reality show. Michaud should be the better ground fighter and his striking will give him just enough of an edge over Li to convince the judges that he is the better fighter, so my prediction is David Michaud to defeat Li Jingliang by decision.

Prelim Predictions

185lbs- Ed Herman (21-9-0 1NC) vs Rafael Natal (17-5-1)

Capping off the undercard is a Middleweight showdown between Ed ‘Short Fuse’ Herman and Brazilian Rafael Natal. Herman has lost 2 of his last 3, including a decision defeat at the hands of Thales Leites. Natal had his 3 fight winning streak halted last November by Tim Kennedy.

Both fighters are BBJ Black belts with their biggest win totals not surprisingly coming by submission. Herman has won 13 times by sub, including 4 times in the UFC. He averages 3.08 takedowns at a 52% completion rate. Unfortunately, he has struggled in recent times to find success with his wrestling. Over his last 4 fights he has been taken down 9 times compared to just 3 successful completion of his own. Over that span he has gone 1-2-0 1NC, with his lone win coming by split decision.

Despite recent difficulties, Herman has defended a respectable 65% of the total takedowns attempted against him. Comparatively, Natal’s TDD has been far superior, albeit over a smaller sample size. He has defended 78% of his adversaries’ tries.

Natal doesn’t have the lofty submission totals of Herman, but with an 8-0 record in fights ending by tapout his dominance on the mat is clear. He completes just over 2.5 takedowns per fight at a 40% completion rate. His UFC career high for completions came back in early 2012 with 6 against Michal Kuiper. His last win was a back and forth affair, both on the feet and floor against Tor Troeng. Herman has been submitted 6 times and struggled with strong top game players like Leites and Jake Shields which suggests that Natal will have his own opportunities to score on the floor.

If the fight remains standing, Natal’s knockout totals are concerning. Raf has been shutoff 4 times, including brutal knockouts against Andrew Craig and Tim Kennedy. Herman is far from a traditional flame thrower, but he can still crack. Herman has 5 knockouts, including a 48 second stoppage of Tim Credeur. He traded shots in an entertaining bout with Trevor Smith and if he can draw Natal into a similar close range battle he could land a fight changing blow.

While the knockouts are concerning, Natal is the more capable striker. He should have a speed advantage and is the more diverse striker throwing a wider variety of techniques. He will have a 2″ reach advantage and in combination with his speed and kicking arsenal this should allow him to maintain enough separation to limit Herman’s effectiveness.

The toll of a long and grinding career appears to be taking hold of Ed’s in cage performance. He has slowed down significantly and as a result his ability to find success in any facet of the game has severely diminished. The chin of Natal is a major concern, but Herman’s recent struggles with solid grapplers and his inferior striking skill set will spell his demise, so my prediction is Rafael Natal to defeat Ed Herman by decision.

125lbs- Kyoji Horiguchi (12-1-0) vs #15 Darrell Montague (13-3-0)

In the Flyweight division, former Tachi Palace Fights 125 pound champion Darrell Montague makes his second UFC appearance when he welcomes Kyoji Horiguchi down from Bantamweight. The former Shooto champion made a successful UFC debut with a second round knockout of Dustin Pauge, while Montague failed to escape the opening round against John Dodson.

Horiguchi is making his Flyweight debut after spending the majority of his career at Bantamweight, but he did compete at 132 pounds under the Shooto banner.

A training partner of the legendary Kid Yamamoto, Horiguchi has drawn many comparisons to Kid. He packs impressive power in his hands, with 8 of his 12 wins coming by knockout. His second round stoppage of Dustin Pauge was built off of a blistering overhand right. Prior to the finishing sequence, he threw a short inside leg kick, followed it with a straight right hand, and capped the combo with a stinging left hook. He uses a lot of movement and maintains a low stance to help him generate power and provide a solid based from which to defend TDAs.

Montague is a wrestler boxer with an even split between knockouts and submissions. He has decent hands, but he has been knocked out twice in his career. Both men that stopped him- Dodson and Robbie Peralta, are bona fide flamethrowers, but so is Horiguchi. Montague was holding his own on the feet with Dodson, but his speed and ability to cover distance eventually lead to the TUF champ landing the fight ending blow.

While Montague is more then capable of competing on the feet, he would be better served by taking this fight to the floor. He is at his best when he is able to work his striking in conjunction with his wrestling skills. He has 5 submission wins and Horiguchi has proven vulnerable to a ground based attack. He struggled in his debut, spending the majority of the first round on the defensive and his only career loss came against Masakatsu Ueda based almost entirely on his inability to get up off the mat.

This fight will come down to Hiroguchi’s defensive grappling versus Montague’s chin. Hiroguchi is cutting to 125 pounds for the first time in his career, but he was undersized at Bantamweight, so he will most likely have limited difficulty with the cut. If it goes well his power should translate dangerously to his new division and make him a threat to anyone he can land on. The speed could be an issue, but Montague appears very hittable and has had difficulty in the past with fighters that use good movement, so my prediction is Kyoji Horiguchi to defeat Darrell Montague by KO.

135lbs- #4 Eddie Wineland (21-9-1) vs Johnny Eduardo (26-9-0)

In the Bantamweight division, former title challenger Eddie Wineland welcomes Johnny Eduardo back to the Octagon following a significant layoff from competition. Eduardo is 1-1 in the UFC; dropping his debut to Raphael Assuncao and then rebounding with a win over Jeff Curran. Wineland is coming off of a win over Yves Jabouin after his title fight defeat against Renan Barao.

A Nova Uniao product, Eduardo has been out almost 2 years to the day heading into this fight. He will turn 36 years old in August.

Both fighters are predominantly stand-up based fighters, but are far from novices on the floor. Eduardo has 13 wins by submission, including 5 by RNC. Unfortunately, his greatest vulnerability also comes on the floor where he has been submitted 7 times. He is a BJJ Purple belt.

The America has averaged less then a half takedown per fight over his 13 fight WEC/UFC run. Additionally, Eddie is 5-4 in fights ending by submission and has gone just under 6 years since his last submission victory. Conversely, he shoulders a 80% TDD and as a result the chances of this fight going to floor are minimal.

The one way it could hit the mat is via a knockdown which is far more likely. Both men pack some decent power, with the statistical edge backing Wineland with 11 knockouts to Eduardo’s 6. Johnny is a strong Muay Thai practitioner and throws hard kicks and strings his combinations together with relative fluidity. He has put up some decent numbers in his 2 fights, but was arguably stunted on the feet by the threat of getting taken down. Against Assuncao he attempted to focus more on his counter striking and as a result routinely allowed his opponent to land first.

Eduardo was struggling with the overhand right of Assuncao, who was able to routinely land it despite being considered the inferior striker.

The former WEC champion is arguably one of the most unorthodox strikers in the division. Wineland relies mainly on his hands to do his work. He holds notable recent knockouts over the aforementioned Jabouin and the double tough Scott Jorgensen. He carries his hands low, attacks from a variety of angles, and uses quick footwork and head movement to get in and out with his shots. His striking exchange numbers are dangerously close, but he relies on the power factor to make his strikes far more impactful.

Eddie has to be careful with his style when facing a talented striker. He got caught by Renan Barao with a big shot that ended his night, but despite sharing the same camp, Eduardo doesn’t share the same skill-set. Eddie hits harder and presents a difficult front for a more traditional striker to engage. Especially if Johnny electss to be focus on his counter striking. Eduardo has never been knocked out, but the combination of a lengthy layoff and being on the wrong side of 30 is a major concern. Look for Wineland to limit Eduardo’s landing frequency, while continually connecting with his hammer of a right hand, so my prediction is Eddie Wineland to defeat Johnny Eduardo by TKO.

170lbs- Yan Cabral (11-0-0) vs Zak Cummings (16-3-0)

In the 170 pound division, a pair of TUF alumni collide as TUF Brazil’s Yan Cabral meets Zak Cummings. Cabral made a successful debut, earning a 3 round decision over British grappling specialist David Mitchell. Cummings took home a submission win in first UFC foray, but had his second appearance scrapped before even entering the cage.

A former Middle and Light Heavyweight, Cummings weighed in 8 pounds over the Welterweight limit for his UFC TUF China finale bout with Alberto Mina. Mina subsequently declined to follow through on the fight against his oversized opponent and as a result Cummings hasn’t seen action in almost 9 months.

As in the case in several parings on this card, these competitors build their attack off of their grappling skills. Cummings comes from a wrestling background and is a BJJ Brown belt with 9 of 16 wins coming by submission. Cabral, an accomplished BJJ Black belt, has secured 10 submission wins in 11 pro appearances.

Cummings has strong top control and will aggressively look to advance his position in pursuit of a submission. He did struggle working off of his back against Dylan Andrews on TUF, which can be expected for a wrestling based fighter. He will shoot both a single or double leg, and has shown the ability to float over into side control immediately off a completed TDA. Against a strong top game player like Cabral he will need to avoid spending prolonged periods of time on his back.

Tim Kennedy ended Zak’s only Strikeforce appearance midway through round 2 with a north-south choke. This defeat accounts for the entirety of Cummings’s submission losses.

The Brazilian grappling ace landed 4 of his 6 takedowns in his debut and maintained relatively consistent top control against a crafty and very unorthodox grappler in his debut. He did have a little difficulty controlling Mitchell, but for the most part it was a dominant performance. Cabral has an affinity for finishing fights with an arm triangle, having accomplished the feat in half of his submission victories.

On the feet, both men carry serviceable striking skills, but this fight will be decided on the ground. If Cummings has a difficult weight cut he will struggle to maintain a pace that can lead to victory against such a talented opponent. As he tires he will become more vulnerable to the takedown and Yan’s top game pressure. Cummings is a solid veteran and a strong grappler, but not on the level of Cabral, so my prediction is Yan Cabral to defeat Zak Cummings by decision.

145lbs- Manny Gamburyan (16-9-0) vs #9 Nik Lentz (26-6-2 1NC)

In the Featherweight division, former WEC title challenger Manny Gamburyan battles former Lightweight Nik Lentz. Manny’s 2 fight winning streak was temporarily snapped by Dennis Siver, but the fight has since be overturned. Unfortunately for Lentz, his 3 fight winning streak came to an end in a valiant effort against top ranked and newly crowned title challenger Chad Mendes.

Both fighters come from grappling backgrounds- Manny is a 3rd Dan Black Belt in Judo and Lentz is a BJJ Purple belt and NCAA Division 1 wrestler. Their grappling stats backup their commitment to their ground games. Lentz holds the slight edge in takedowns per fight at 4.02 to 3.49. Both men rank in the mid 30% range in completion rate and Manny holds the edge with a TDD of 68% compared to just 44%.

Gamburyan is 3-6 in fights where he lands 2 or few takedowns. Lentz is 7-0-1 when landing 4 or more takedowns.

While both men may look to implement their grappling games, it could end in a wash on the floor as is the frequently the case when 2 high level grapplers are paired up. If it does play out in that manner, the advantage should shift to the American. While Lentz is far from an elite level striker, his pace, durability, and aggressive style make him a handful for most on the feet. He averages 3.13 strikes per minute, almost 1 better then his opponent.

Gamburyan on average gets out-landed by his opponents, as has been the case in 5 of his last 6 fights. For the most part Manny’s biggest threat on the feet comes from his power. Unfortunately, with only 2 wins by knockout he lacks the numbers to suggest that he is a real threat should the fight remain vertical. If he can’t find a way to do enough damage on his uber tough opponent, who has only between TKOed by doctor stoppage, he will be in tough to keep up.

The wrestler will hold a 3″ height and slight reach advantage, which will aid him both in the striking exchanges and on the mat. Lentz’s will find just enough success with his wrestling, both offensively and defensively and outwork Manny on the feet with his aggression and pace, so my prediction is Nik Lentz to defeat Manny Gamburyan by decision.

155lbs- Justin Salas (11-5-0) vs Ben Wall (7-1-1)

In the Lightweight division, TUF Smashes competitor Ben Wall makes his second Octagon appearance against 4 fight UFC veteran Justin Salas. Salas has alternated wins and losses and is coming off a quick submission loss to Thiago Tavares. Wall stepped up on short notice in his debut was and quickly dispatched by Alex Garcia.

Wall made his debut fight at 170 pounds and will make his return to his more familiar home at Lightweight for his second go around with the company.

Both fighters are heavily reliant on the mat game. Salas is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and has 3 submission victories to his credit. In his 2 victories he has landed a combined 7 takedowns, while landing none in his 2 defeats. Wall has shown a serviceable ground game as well with 2 wins coming by way of submission, albeit very early in his career and against low level regional talent. Wall is feisty on the mat, but Salas will be better both offensively and defensively, which this will most likely translates to long durations of time spent by Wall with his back on the mat.

Salas’s power and ability to vary his attack should give him the upper hand on the feet. Wall has yet to score a knockout win and while his striking skills have carried to him to victory this will be a step up from what he has faced pre-UFC. Salas throws a variety of techniques and by continually changing his cadence he makes it hard for his opponent to anticipate and defend his attacks. He has power and while he most likely doesn’t pack the punch of Alex Garcia, he should still be able to outwork Wall during the exchanges.

Both men will be fighting for their jobs in the very deep and competitive 155 pound division. Salas has faced better competition and is simply better in all facets of the game. All of Salas’s losses have come inside the distance, 2 knockouts and 3 submissions, while Wall hasn’t stopped an opponent since 210, so my prediction is Justin Salas to defeat Ben Wall by decision.

170lbs- Anthony Lapsley (25-6-0 2NC) vs Albert Tumenov (12-2-0)

Leading off for UFC Fight Night 40 will be a Welterweight bout between highly touted Russian knockout artist Albert Tumenov and well travelled veteran Anthony Lapsley. Tumeov had his 8 fight winning streak ended in his promotional debut. Lapsley had strung together 5 straight wins before making his own unsuccessful UFC first showing, losing to Jason High.

Unlike many fights on this card, this matchup provides a nice clash of styles. Lapsley has collected 15 of his 23 wins by submission and will no doubt be looking to drag this fight to the floor as soon as possible. For Tumenov, he is a knockout machine. 8 of his 12 victories have come by KO/TKO and as expected he will be focussed on keeping this fight standing. Both men are capable of competing in the others realm, but the danger that exists should make it incredibly unappealing.

The Russian has a devastating left hand and can be aggressive with his strikes or choose to sit back and counter. He has a tendency to hold is hands a little on the low side, but the combination of his technique and speed have allowed him to get away with it thus far. In his debut he dropped Ildemar Alcantara early with some big shots and followed it up with some solid ground and pound.

Unfortunately, 2 major concerns were brought to the forefront. With 7 of his 12 pervious fights ending inside the first round there were some concerns about his conditioning and they showed up. He slowed tremendously in rounds 2 and 3 which cost him the fight. Coupled with his over aggressive forward push creating openings for his opponent to change levels and complete takedowns Tumenov spent large portions of the fight on his back. A hard place from which to score a knockout.

Lapsley comes from a wrestling back and is a solid BJJ player. His submission skills, which have accounted for 6 of his last 9 wins, will need to be on point. He struggled in his debut, facing a fighter with a superior ground game, but his ability to counter and steal round 2 and simply avoid getting submitted by High is a testament to his capabilities.

The American has been submitted 4 times in his career, but his submission defense will most likely not be an issue against a fighter yet to secure a single win by submission. What Anthony will need to watch out for his the heavy ground and pound that Tumenov can throw down if he scores an early takedown.

A veteran fighter, with serviceable striking, Lapsley will need to avoid the early barrage that is almost certainly coming from his opponent. He has yet to be stopped on the feet, but Tumenov has the capability to change that. If he can get through the first round look for Lapsley to slow down the pace of the fight with his wrestling and bring Tumenov’s conditioning issues front and center. Both fighters have the ability to win this fight but the window for the Russian will close as the fight progresses, so my prediction is Anthony Lapsley to defeat Albert Tumenov by decision.

Prelim Predictions

125lbs- #2 Joseph Benavidez (19-4-0) vs #8 Tim Elliott (10-4-1)

Headlining the Preliminary portion of the event will be former Flyweight title challenger Joseph Benavidez when he takes on one of the tallest members of the division in Tim Elliott. Benavidez is coming off of a brutal knockout defeat in his second bid to capture the divisional title. Elliott’s 2 fight winning streak was brought to an end at the hands of newly named title challenger Ali Bagautinov.

Benavidez finds himself in a difficult scenario after suffering his second and far more definitive defeat against the reining Flyweight champion. He may attempt to hold onto his top 125 pound position in the event the champ falls or he may consider a return to 135 pounds in an attempt to contend there. Either way he needs to avoid a letdown against Elliott.

The long time Alpha Male member, Benavidez has made strides in his striking, but the reality is his progression has been oversold by the promotion in the build-up for his title rematch. There are improvements and the power has always been a factor- 6 wins by knockout, but against the likes of ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson he will always get second best. Fortunately, he isn’t facing a striker on DJ’s level.

Elliott has just 3 wins via knockout. He is more known for his work rate and unorthodox style. He has averaged 4.65 strikes per minute, while giving up 3.12 in 4 UFC fights. In his short notice debut, Timothy tried to use a varied and awkward approach to throw off the speed and power based striking attack of John Dodson. He had some success, but not enough to win the fight. He implemented something similar against Bagautinov, but failed to land with enough regularity to take the decision. He will most likely implement this style once again against Benavidez to avoid his power game, unfortunately he has yet to secure a win with this method.

On the floor, Benavidez comes from one of the best wrestling camps in the business- Team Alpha Male. He hasn’t put up huge numbers on the mat, but he is still dangerous. With 8 wins by submission, including 3 by Guillotine, if Joe gets your neck or arm the fight is over. He has a solid top game and can do damage with his top position strikes. Whether he looks to attack or defend he should be the superior grappler in this contest.

Elliott’s numbers look much more impressive, 3.75 TDs @ 52%, but it has been a tale of two types of opponents. Against lesser adversaries he landed 13 of 20 TDAs, but against Dodson and Bagautinov he went 2-9 and had much less success holding them down. Benavidez’s profile fits more with the latter group then the former and this doesn’t bode well for Tim.

Benavidez could be in for a letdown considering he is coming off the first knockout loss of his career and is now stuck in a position that will most likely prevent him from fighting for the title in the foreseeable future. He will need to be on top of his game as Elliott will present an abnormal front and won’t be intimidated by Joe. Benavidez will shutdown the grappling game of Elliott and in similar fashion to Bagautinov, he will land the more impactful strikes start to finish. Elliott’s higher work rate is concerning, especially if Joe fades, but my prediction is Joseph Benavidez to defeat Tim Elliott by decision.

155lbs- Takanori Gomi (34-9-0 1NC) vs Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-4-1)

In the Lightweight division, Pride legend Takanori Gomi returns to action when he meets Strikeforce veteran Isaac Vallie-Flagg. Gomi is coming off a controversial split decision loss that halted a 2 fight winning streak and Vallie-Flagg saw his 12 fight unbeaten streak fall in one-sided fashion at UFC Fight Night 35.

Gomi is returning to the cage for the first time since March 3rd, 2013- a near 13 month layoff.

The Fireball kid is known for his power that he traditionally carries in a brutal right hook, but he can also deploy it with his left. He has won 13 times by knockout, including twice in the UFC. Early in is Octagon run he struggled with the more technical striking of his opponents, especially the jab heavy arsenal of Kenny Florian. More recently, he has found success using a pawing jab of his own and mixing his power strikes up with combinations. He also has a solid kicking game, mainly focusing on his opponents legs and utilizing a solid inside leg strike.

His defensive improvements were on display against Diego, as Gomi outlanded him 81-68 and did a good job of stifling his usual aggression with a composed defensive front.

A former Strikeforce competitor, Vallie-Flagg is an aggressive and unorthodox striker. His power numbers aren’t overwhelming with just 5 knockouts in 19 fights, but he find success through aggression and a high output. He likes to implement a lot of knee and leg strikes, along with a Thai clinch for close range attacks. He utilizes a push kick like a jab to set distance. He did have some trouble with the more technically based striking of JZ Cavalcante, but had a lot of success landing shots around the defensive guard of Edwards. In his last fight he was simply overmatched by a superior striker start to finish.

Neither man has significant grappling numbers, in fact submissions account for the majority of each man’s defeats- Gomi-6 and Vallie-Flagg-3. Each man has matched their submission defeat totals in the win column, but nothing to speak of in recent appearances. V-F has shown a vulnerability to a wrestling based attacks. He was taken down 7 times in his last 3 outings and Elias Silverio did a lot of damage once he put him on his back.

Gomi hasn’t shown much offensive wrestling in the UFC, focusing more on his defensive work, but with V-F’s noticeable shortcomings he could try to change gears and look for takedown opportunities.

Gomi did an excellent job of backing Sanchez off and making it hard for him to come forward through the continuous use of pawing jab. If the American is unable to push the pace his offensive attack becomes far less effective. The layoff and East to West travel are concerns for Gomi, but my prediction is Takanori Gomi to defeat Isaac Vallie-Flagg by decision.

135lbs- #14 Jessamyn Duke (3-0-0 1NC) vs #12 Bethe Correia (7-0-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, TUF competitor Jessamyn Duke makes her second UFC appearance when she meets fellow Octagon sophomore Bethe Correia. Duke debuted with a 3 round decision win over fellow cast mate Peggy Morgan. Correia pulled off the upset in his first fight, narrowly edging out long time veteran Julie Kedzie via split decision.

Neither fighter has a massive amount of experience, but Correia gets a slight edge with 7 fights to Duke’s 4. The Brazilian is also coming off a win over the most noteworthy opponent that either lady has faced to date. For Jessamyn, she certainly gained a wealth of experience training in the TUF house along side 2 of the biggest talents that the division has to offer.

Physically, Duke will have some considerable advantages. Standing 5 11″, the American will have 6″ of height on her opponent and a 9″ reach advantage.

In her debut, Duke demoed a decently crafted striking repertoire. She relies mainly on her boxing, but will mix in a few kicks and should try to include more in the future. She throws in combination, working her punches around the guard of her opponent and despite just a single knockout win, she clearly was doing damage with her onslaught.

The most effective aspect of Duke’s striking assault was her volume. She drastically outlanded Morgan by a count of 201-45.

Bethe’s output wasn’t nearly as lofty in her first go around, but she appeared to have more power then Duke. She had a lot of success leaping in and landing heavy shots against a well versed striker in Kedzie. She throws a quick front kick to the body and should use it to help deal with the reach of Duke. Under the tutelage of the Pitbull Brothers its not surprising that she is a capable striker, but her forte is on the mat.

A BJJ Blue belt, Correia is a solid top position grappler. She has yet to score a submission win her career, as she is more inclined to focus on positional control and GNP. She scored on just one her takedown attempts versus Kedzie, but look for her to focus more on her grappling skills versus Duke. Jessamyn is also a BJJ Blue belt and has had more success with her submissions, scoring one as a pro, 2 as an amateur, and one more on the show.

Duke’s biggest difficulties in her debut came in the third round when she initiated a very rudimentary headlock and ultimately pulled Morgan into back mount, where she was able to do the most damage of the fight. Duke’s lack of experience nearly cost her the fight, but against Correia a mistake like that will most certainly create bigger issues.

The length advantage that Duke has will have presents a difficult front for Correia to attack as long as this fight remains vertical. When Bethe gets on the inside, look for her to either establish control of Duke’s body or box her up at close range where the long arms of the American are far less useful. Correia will also find success shooting in on the long legs of her opponent, dragging her to the ground, and maintaining top control. Bethe is traditionally a slow starter, so she will need get it going early to avoid falling behind on the cards, but my prediction is Bethe Crorreia to defeat Jessamyn Duke by decision.

155lbs- Danny Castillo (16-6-0) vs Charlie Brenneman (19-6-0)

In the Lightweight division, Team Alpha Male member Danny Castillo makes his 10th UFC appearance when he meets Charlie Brenneman who will also be entering the Octagon for the 10th time. Castillo has won 5 of his last 7, but is coming off a lost to Edson Barboza. Brenneman returned to the promotion, but fell via submission ending his 4 fight winning streak outside of the UFC.

Both fighters are wrestling based competitors with similar ground stats. Brenneman averages 3.77 takedowns at a 42% completion rate. He is an aggressive grinding top player that simply tries to outwork his opponents. He uses speed and changes levels quickly to set up his shot. If he fails on his on first attempt he will keep driving and look to land his second or third try. His high watermark was a 6 takedown performance against Jason High, followed closely by 5 completions in his upset win over Rick Story.

Brenneman is also a BJJ Blue belt and has upped his submission game with 5 wins via submission and 3 in his last 4 wins.

Not to be outdone, ‘Last Call’ has equally as good takedown stats. He completes 3.55 takedowns at 44%. He is also a strong top position player and probably holds a slight edge over Brenneman with his ability to do damage via GnP. Over his last 6 wins he has scored a combined 25 takedowns, using a more power based takedown game. One of his most impressive victories was a 3 round ground based thrashing of dangerous submission artist Paul Sass. A BJJ Brown belt, Castillo is 4-2 in fights ended by submission.

As frequently is the case, a pairing of wrestler like this one could result in a striking based battle with their wrestling skills cancelling each other out. Considering that both men rank in with a very respectable 71% TDD, it only adds to this possibility.

On the feet, the advantage should swing in the favour of Castillo. While neither man is an elite level striker, Castillo has shown the ability to do more damage while standing. He scored knockdowns of both Edson Barboza and Michael Johnson, catching them with short but powerful strikes during early exchanges. Conversely, Brenneman has had trouble when he has been forced to stand with opponents getting knocked out by Kyle Noke, Johnny Hendricks, and Anthony Johnson. He was also dropped by Beneil Dariush in his last fight.

Brenneman has shown improvements since cutting to 155 , but Castillo is a handful on the ground and will enjoy not facing an elite level striker when they exchange on the feet. Don’t be surprised if Castillo finds some success with his wrestling, but my prediction is Danny Castillo to defeat Charlie Brenneman by TKO.

135lbs- Chris Beal (8-0-0) vs Patrick Williams (7-3-0)

The card opens up with a pair of fresh out of the box fighter in the Bantamweight division with Chris Beal taking on Patrick Williams. Beal is undefeated through his first 8 pro showings, with 6 consecutive wins under the BAMMA banner propelling him to his chance at the big time. Williams has won 2 in a row and 4 of his last 5, with all 4 wins coming inside the distance.

Beal is a former TUF competitor and Williams comes from a wrestling background cutting his teeth at Arizona State University, the same program that produced the UFC’s Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.

Both when will be debuting and kicking the card off which brings added pressure. Beal has had a slight taste of the UFC, so he could be a little bit more prepared to deal with the experience. Chris has gone to the cards 6 times along with 2 knockouts in his 8 wins. He is primarily a boxing based fighter, which is a bit concerning considering his ratio of knockouts to decisions. As expected he doesn’t throw a lot of kicks and he stands a little taller then then seen in the traditional MMA stance. His ground game is limited, as his primary focus is on getting the fight back to a standing position.

Beal’s takedown defense will most certainly be tested against Williams. The ASU alumni has a little more diversity in his record. With 4 wins by knockout, 2 submissions, and just one win going the distance. He is primarily a finisher with 3 wins comings inside the first 2:30. He is aggressive on the feet, using a lot of movement, and throwing far more kicks then his counterpart will offer. He should also have a speed advantage along with what can be interpreted by the numbers as an edge in power. He does tend to be a little too sure of himself at times, relaxing in situations where he is still at risk and that could cost him against a sharp boxer.

Beal is undefeated, younger, and has a little more bright light experience based on his time on the show and his 6 fight BAMMA run. Unfortunately, his one dimensional boxing centric style leaves his vulnerable to a fighter that offers more variety on the feet and a wrestling game that should force Beal to his back on multiple occasions. Beal’s hands are solid, but he needs to diversify and Williams simply has more to offer, so my prediction is Patrick Williams to defeat Chris Beal by TKO.

 

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- #5 Rafael dos Anjos (20-6-0) vs #7 Khabib Nurmagomedov (21-0-0)

Headlining the undercard portion of the event; two top ranked Lightweights square off with major title shot implications on the line. Rafael dos Anjos has won 5 in a row dating back to his 2011 loss to tough veteran Gleison Tibau. Khabib Nurmagomedov has yet to taste defeat over his 21 fight career which has included 5 wins inside the Octagon.

The winner of this fight takes a massive step in the direction of a title shot, but for some reason it has been book under a Women’s Bantamweight bout between two non-contenders and a lower ranked Lightweight bout that includes a fighter that RDA just handily beat. A shot to gain massive exposure for a future contender on a major Fox card has been missed.

Both men are well rounded and on the mat they are each highly ranked competitors in their respective disciplines- Nurmagomedov- Sambo and dos Anjos- BJJ. In addition, Khabib is also a Judo Black belt.

Dos Anjos has 8 wins by submission. He averages 2.52 takedowns at 36% and while those numbers don’t jump off the page, the Brazilian has recently made noteworthy strides in his wrestling. He has landed a combined 12 takedowns over his last 4 fights including 4 against a very good wrestling in Mark Bocek. He has an active top game which he used to neutralize the very offensive guard of Donald Cerrone and control long durations on the action on the mat. Defensively he is sounded, maintaining a 74% TDD, but he is far from perfect as Evan Dunham, Gleison Tibau, and Clay Guida were all able to find decent success with their wrestling.

The Russian has put up impressive takedown numbers so far in the UFC, including complete domination against the physically strong Abel Trujillo and a very good wrestler in Pat Healy. Khabib carries a relentless pace and even when he is unable to complete his takedowns he continues to come forward and outwork his opponent as was the case against Tibau. Nurmagomedov has a number of takedown techniques and 8 submissions once he gets the fight to the ground. His transitions are solid and he is more then capable of sweeping or reversing his opponent if he gets taken down. His TDD % ranks slightly above RDA,s at 82% with Tibau landing a single attempt.

On the feet, Khabib is very unorthodox but it has proven effective so far. He is pretty quick and throws a variety of strikes, including a long ranging uppercut. He has power with 7 knockouts, including his stoppage of Thiago Tavares. He has done a decent job shutting down his opponent’s offensive, outlanding them on average by about 1 strike per minute. He does have a tendency to raise his chin when under attack, but his speed and ability to quickly backtrack have limited his opponents’ ability to exploit that hole.

One of the biggest component’s of his recent success, dos Anjos has really tightened up his striking. He has a Muay Thai base and deceptive power despite his lack of standing finishes. He one-punch KOed George Sotiropoulos, rocked Kamal Shalrous prior to the submission, and sent Donald Cerrone tumbling to the mat with a big overhand right. He has good kicks and slick combinations, but his SLpM versus SApM is a little too close for an elite fighter. He was also KOed by Jeremy Stephens so his chin has faltered at least once.

This is going to be a good fight, but the key will be the pace and wrestling of Nurmagomedov. RDA attempted to counter strike against Evan Dunham, partially because he was forced to by the aggression of the American and it nearly cost him the fight. Look for Khabib to push the pace on the feet and score some key takedowns while shutting down the majority of RDA’a attempts. There is the possibility of a big shot landing that ends the bout early, but my prediction is Khabib Nurmagomedov to defeat Rafael Dos Anjos by decision.

170lbs- Thiago Alves (24-8-0) vs Seth Baczynski (18-8-0)

In the Welterweight division, Thiago Alves makes his long awaited return to action against the physically imposing Seth Baczynski. When we last saw Thiago he let a decision win slip out of his hands with late fight blunder that lead to a Martin Kampmann submission. Baczynski snapped a 2 fight winning streak in his last outing with a win over Neil Magny.

Alves has been out of action since March 2012, totalling over 2 years out of action with a variety of injuries.

Standing 6’3, Baczynski will have a 6” height advantage over his counterpart, along with 5” of reach.

Seth’s size is always a noteworthy element of his fights, but he has yet to learn how to exploit it in a similar manner to the lanky Light Heavyweight champion. Seth suffered a brutal knockout against the much smaller, but quicker Brian Melancon. He is a serviceable striker, but on average he lands at a rate almost equal to the amount he gives up.

The Brazilian, is a technically gifted Muay Thai striker with significant power. He has 11 knockouts, including 7 in the UFC. He throws hard combinations and will attempt a flying knee with regular success, but arguably his best technique are his leg kicks. Alves generates a considerable amount of power with his low kicks and can significantly damage his opponent with just a few flush connections.

Excluding the fluke loss to Kampmann, the last 3 men to beat Alves leaned hard on their wrestling. GSP, Jon Fitch, and Rick Story scored a combined 23 takedowns versus ‘Pitbull’. Unfortunately, Seth’s wrestling game doesn’t produce numbers even close to that range. He averages 0.93 TDs at a 19% completion rate, with his most recent outing producing his UFC high of 3 completions.

Alves does have a 63% TDD and his significantly lower stature will force his opponent into a difficult level change on a TDA.

Alves’s cardio and weight cutting issues, along with the 2 year shelf time are all major concerns, but he is simply the better figther. His technique and speed will allow him land early and often, especially with his low kicks. Seth has been knocked out twice his career, so his chin is there to be tested. Don’t be surprised to see Alves complete a takedown or 2, but my prediction is Thiago Alves to defeat Seth Baczynski by TKO.

155lbs- Jorge Masvidal (25-8-0) vs Pay Healy (31-17-0 1NC)

In the Lightweight division, Pat Healy meets fellow Strikeforce alumni Jorge Masvidal. Healy’s rise to prominence has been halted with a 2 fight mini-slump, while Masvidal also suffered a setback after compiling 3 consecutive wins.

Healy’s approach to winning a fight is pretty straight forward- grind. He is a physically large and imposing wrestler that keeps coming forward and looks to break his opponent down with his aggression and heavy top game. Unfortunately the speed of Bobby Green and superior wrestling skills of Khabib Nurmagomedov proved too much for ‘Bam Bam’ to overcome and rendered him ineffective.

A far more diverse fighter; Masvidal can wrestle and he can strike. He will be the superior striker, but the key to his success will be his defensive grappling. He ranks in with an impressive 81% TDD and had a lot of success shutting down the takedowns of Rustam Khabilov, stopping him on 8 of 10 attempts.

Healy couldn’t get in range against Green to put his wrestling game in motion, landing only a pair of his 9 TDAs, and that is what Masvidal will look to replicate with his footwork. Additionally, Masvidal has an excellent jab and will deploy it to keep Healy stuck on the outside.

If Jorge does keep this fight on feet, he still needs to maintain a superior work rate to prevent Healy’s constant forward motion from dictating the pace of the bout. Healy will most likely land a takedown or two, but don’t be surprised if Masvidal scores one of his own in addition to getting the better of the striking exchanges, so my prediction is Jorge Masvidal to defeat Pat Healy by decision.

145lbs- Estevan Payan (14-5-0 1NC) vs Alex White (9-0-0)

In the Featherweight division, Estevan ‘El Terrible’ Payan continues his pursuit of his first UFC win when he faces brand new ZUFFA employee Alex ‘The Spartan’ White. Payan has lost back to back fights since signing on with the promotion, after going undefeated over an 8 fight run. White has yet to taste defeat in his young career through 9 appearances.

White is replacing veteran Mike Brown, who was stepping up to take the spot of the injured Sean Soriano. So White, is a replacement for a replacement.

There are a myriad of unknown and x-factors surrounding ‘The Spartan’. First, how will the short notice impact him? Secondly, will UFC jitters or Octagon shock play a role? Finally, is he ready for this level of competition as this is a massive step up for a fighter from a relatively unknown camp where he appears to be the most accomplished member?

Some fighters can be greatly impacted by 1 or all of these factors and others not. Considering he doesn’t have a single UFC veteran in his camp to provide any insight into this upcoming experience he could get a little overwhelmed with the moment.

In the cage, White is a serviceable striker; he has power and mixes in a nice variety of strikes. He will periodically raise his chin during an exchange and can over extend himself when he ups his aggression level, but when he remains composed he can have success. He lacks a serviceable wrestling game, but is pretty solid on the mat. He has a very offensive guard game and can pull of submission from his back, but at time is too willing to give up the position.

2-0 in Strikeforce, Payan is a solid vet and an excellent test for a young fighter. He has decent striking skills he has knockout power and is 3-0 in fights ended by submission. He struggled with the wrestling of Jeremy Stephens and spent the majority of the fight on his back, but did a decent job from top position in his last outing.

Payan’s chin is a bit of a question mark, with 3 losses by knockout. White could catch him with a shot, but there are simply too many obstacles for White to overcome and no indication as to whether he is ready for this level of competition. Payan is fighting for his job and it will show, so my prediction is Estevan Payan to defeat Alex White by decision.

185lbs- Caio Magalhaes (7-2-0) vs Luke Zachrich (13-2-0)

In the Middleweight division Caio Magalhaes meets UFC newcomer and former TUF competitor Luke Zachrich. Magalhaes has won back to back fights and is 2-1 in the UFC. Zachrich has reeled off 3 straight wins after faltering in his only Bellator appearance.

Magalhaes is a BJJ black belt with a trio of submission wins, including one inside the Octagon. If he can get the fight to the ground he has a pretty solid top game, but his wrestling is still very much a work in progress. He has averaged just 1.19 takedowns at an abysmal 16% completion rate. His ground based wins over Nick Ring and Karlos Vemola were both the product Magalhaes’s opponents enduring collapses later in the fight that allowed him to take control of a bout that he was losing. In his debut, his opponent fought a much more consistent fight and defended 13 of 15 TDA’s rendering Caio’s ground game ineffective.

Zachrich is taking this fight on short notice and as previously mentioned will be making his promotional debut. He will have a significant edge in total fight experience of 15-8 which could help him to deal with some of the pre-fight jitters.

He has 4 knockout and 7 submission wins, along with a pair of victories coming on the judges scorecards. He has a pretty solid ground game, despite the 2 submission losses. If he does get on top he has decent BJJ skills and can do damage with his GnP. While he might not want to engage Caio on the mat, he should be good enough with his defensive wrestling to keep the Brazilian vertical.

The TUF alumni should have a decent advantage on the feet as Magalhaes is a fairly basic striker and averages less then 2 strikes per minute. Zachrich will throw a nice mix of punches and kicks, but he keeps things fairly simple which should help him to avoid mistakes leading to Magalhaes getting the fight to the ground in a dominant position.

Zachrich is the more complete fighter, but Magalhaes is still dangerous on the mat. As previously mentioned, the Brazilian has been the benefactor of his last 2 opponents faltering (injury and fatigue), which allowed him to win those fights despite not looking that great. In his debut he couldn’t get the fight to the ground with any regularity and lost as a result. Zachrich has to be on top of his game and while he is the debuting fighter he simply brings more to the cage, so my prediction is Luke Zachrich to defeat Caio Magalhaes by decision.

170lbs- Jordan Mein (27-9-0) vs Hernani Perpetuo (17-3-0 1NC)

In the Welterweight division, Canadian Jordan Mein welcomes UFC debutant Hernani Perpetuo to the Octagon. Mein is coming off an entertaining, but disappointing defeat at the hands of top contender Matt Brown. Perpetuo has won 7 in a row and is undefeated over his last 9 appearances.

One of many bouts impacted by injury- Perpetuo is filling in for fellow countryman Santiago Ponzinibbio on relatively short notice.

Hernani trains out of one of the most prominent Brazilian based camps in Nova Uniao, so to say the least he will have been training with UFC caliber opposition in preparation for his first showing. He is a striking based fighter with 7 wins by way of knockout. He will initially appear as a calculated striker, but once he engages he tends to open up and throw wild looping strikes. If he can draw his opponent into brawl he has the ability to land a fighting ending shot, but that could be difficult against someone as disciplined as Mein.

Mein has been on the shelf for a year, so ring rust could be a factor- but he will have the UFC experience advantage which should help him as the fight plays out.

Mein is a multi-faceted fighter with a solid submission game and an even better striking component. He has 15 wins by knockout and employs a very measured but violent approach. He averages 4.24 strikes landed per minute, including a 92 strike effort against Tyler Stinson in his final Strikeforce appearance. His combinations are smooth, he throws a variety of techniques, and he knows when and how to up the tempo to maximize his effectiveness.

The Canadian is young, but has a tonne of high quality experience and that shows up here. His striking technique will carry the day against an aggressive, but very wild swinging opponent. Hernani has a tendency to lower his head when unloading with a barrage, which will leave him vulnerable to well placed uppercut. Mein has to be mindful to not get outwork, but look for him to gauge his opponent early and then start to open up as the fight progresses, so my prediction is Jordan Mein to defeat Hernani Perpetuo by TKO.

125lbs- #13 Dustin Ortiz (12-3-0) vs Ray Borg (6-0-0)

In the Flyweight division, Dustin Ortiz make his third UFC appearance against promotional debutant Ray Borg. Undefeated, Borg has yet to lose through his first 6 fights including a win under the Legacy FC banner last time out. Ortiz is coming off a controversial defeat and is 1-1 since entering the Octagon last November.

Borg is stepping up on short notice in replacement of Alp Ozkilic who was originally scheduled to face Ortiz at UFC Fight Night 39.

There is limited MMA footage of Borg available. From what can be seen, it appears to be multi-faceted and capable of competing both on the feet and the ground. He has 4 submission wins which is a reflection of his solid grappling skills, which can be seen in a number of grappling videos posted online. He is an aggressive striker and will attempt high risk maneuvers like a jumping knee strike. Unfortunately, with the limit recent footage, it is hard to get a solid gauge of his current acumen, but he at the very least seems to have a good base to build on.

Ortiz has shown incredible durability and heart in his 2 performance. He survived a tough start in his debut and rallied to finish a Brazilian in Brazil and then followed that performance with a back and forth effort against a former title challenger. He has very good wrestling and solid power. He got second best of the striking exchanges with Moraga, which cost him the fight, but he still landed some decent shots and demoed some crisp hands

The one-time Strikeforce employee does his best work on the ground and controlled the majority of the action against a well-versed NCAA wrestler. He is good in a scramble and his transitions and reversal game is solid. He was able to turn a number of dicey scenarios into advantageous position simply by outworking his opponent.

While Borg is an aggressive grappler and capable of pulling off a submission, Ortiz has yet to be submitted and has shown solid defense fending off multiple attempts in his 2 UFC fights. Ortiz might not be as flashy on the feet, but he has skills and his ability to counter an opponent’s hard forward pressure with a quick level change and either single or double leg can greatly change the complexion of a fight. Borg is young and has faced some decent competition, but he is debuting with limit prep time and Ortiz’s durability and grinding style can present some major problems for a young a fighter, so my prediction is Dustin Ortiz to defeat Ray Borg by decision.

145lbs- Mirsad Bektic (7-0-0) vs Chas Skelly (11-0-0)

In the Featherweight division, recently signed prospects square off as Mirsad Beketic meets Chas Skelly. Both are undefeated, with Skelly most recently taking a decision win on the undercard of Bellator 96 and Bektic earning an abrupt TKO stoppage at VFC 41.

Skelly is a former NAIA All-American wrestler out of Oklahoma State and trains along side Welterweight champion Johnny Hendricks. He has a great wrestling based and couples it with a technically sound submission game. While he doesn’t do a lot of damage with his top position striking, he can use it to effectively create openings for passing and submission attempts. He has very good top controls and will smother his opponent while working to advance his position in pursuit of a possible finish.

With a 3-0 record under the Bellator banner, which includes his second of 2 submission wins over UFC talent Daniel Pineda, Kelly has big fight experience. Sadly, he has had issues staying healthy- missing two full years of action between 2010-2012 and fighting just once in 2013, almost 10 months ago.

While he also centers a lot of his attacks on takedowns, Bektic is the polar opposite of Skelly once he gets on top. The American Top Team member is much more physical and can generate a tonne of power once he establishes top position. His overwhelming ground and pound, highlight by his brutal elbow strikes, have lead to his last 2 fights ending via quick TKO. Mirsad is far from just a brute as he ties his physical game in with a variety of takedowns and refined technical grappling skills, but his bread and butter remains his top position striking.

On the feet, the edge lies with Bektic. He is the far more athletic of the two and will have a distinct speed advantage. He has a background in Karate and demoes excellent footwork as a result. His clinch work is solid and not surprisingly he is able to generate a lot of power in close. Skelly is at best awkward on the feet and predicates the majority of his stand up game on closing the distance in search of a takedown. If Skelly is unable to get this fight to the mat it could be a very long or more appropriately short night.

Skelly’s resume is a little more impressive and his wrestling background is excellent. Unfortunately, his inactivity, lack of a strong striking arsenal, and physical disadvantages will cause him difficulty especially if he can’t get this fight to the mat quickly. Bektic is the shorter fighter, which will force Skelly to make a difficult level change to set up his takedowns, and his success will be further compromised by Bektic’s physical power and quickness. Skelly is a very good grappler, but my prediction is Mirsad Bektic to win by TKO.

265lbs- Derrick Lewis (9-2-0 1NC) vs Jack May (7-0-0)

UFC on FOX 11 gets started in the Heavyweight division as promotional newcomers Derrick Lewis and Jack May square off. Lewis has won 3 in a row and is undefeated over his last 6 appearances. May has yet to lose and is coming off of back to back TKO victories to end 2013 and kick start 2014 (the 2014 win was by head kick- see what I did there).

Lewis has some next level experience as he is the only man to have defeated fellow UFC heavy Jared Rosholt which came by knockout, he also stopped Bellator competitor Ryan Martinez, and his 2 defeats came against rising prospect Tony Johnson and the hard hitting Shawn Jordan.

Physically, May stands a daunting 6’8 and will have a 5″ height advantage while both should weigh-in around the 255-260 pound range.

May trains under the tutelage of Josh Barnett at CSW, but is predominantly a striker. He has some K-1 experience and carries that over into his MMA attack. With 6 wins by knockout he pairs his punches together with regularity and his above average height makes him a constant threat to throw a fight ending head kick or something equally as vicious to the body.

The big man’s grappling skills have yet to produce a submission, but they have resulted in some solid takedown defense that has prevented his adversaries from putting him on the mat.

As previously mentioned Lewis has faced better competition then his counterpart and stopping Jared Rosholt to capture the Legacy FC title is no small feat. Lewis isn’t nearly as polished as May, but he has equally as impressive power with 8 of 9 wins coming by TKO/KO. He is more a brawler then a technician and he will need to employ this approach as a counter to May’s more calculated arsenal.

Lewis has just a single submission, so him taking the fight to the ground is a possibility, but it will most likely be for some GnP. He is 0-2 in fights that go the distance, but those losses came against Jordan and Johnson which is more of a testament to his toughness then anything else.

The defining aspect of this bout will be the durability and chin of May. His gas tank is a major question mark, which isn’t a surprise considering he has only gone beyond the 3 minute mark of the first round once. In a K-1 bout he gassed out very quickly despite a plodding pace and was sent tumbling to the mat shortly thereafter. Lewis has fought a number of times deep into fights and owns 2 third round stoppages and 4 in the second frame. All indications are he can carry his compete level beyond the first 5, but the same can not be said for May.

Lewis has been out for a year, but he has more experience and at a higher level which should make up for the layoff. May could quite possibly win the opening frame, but look for Lewis to battle back as his opponent slows down and watch for his over hand right against the taller man, so my prediction is Derrick Lewis to defeat Jack May by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

**Sam Stout vs KJ Noons will be included in the PODCAST

135lbs- Sarah Kaufman (16-2-0 1NC) vs Leslie Smith (6-4-1)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, former Strikeforce Champion Sarah Kaufman gets a blanks slate in the UFC when she squares off for the second time with late injury replacement Leslie Smith. Kaufman’s controversial debut decision defeat against Jessica Eye was overturned to a No Contest, while Smith is coming off of a decision loss for the Invicta Flyweight title.

Smith and Kaufman fought just over a year ago in Kaufman’s Invicta debut. Kaufman took a decision, but was knocked down by a head kick in the second round.

In their first meeting Kaufman carried the majority of the action, landing hard and accurate combinations and mixing in few uncharacteristic takedowns. Smith had her most success with her kicks, including the one that sent Sarah tumbling to the mat, but she could mat the volume.

The first time they squared off, Kaufman was making her return to action after almost a year and debuting in new organization. This time, it will be Smith making her debut and doing it on just over a week’s notice.

Smith is a scrappy competitor and willingly traded with Kaufman, but outside of the knock down she didn’t do enough to win. Kaufman might look to incorporate more takedowns to take away the kicking game, but rematches often ended early, so my prediction is Sarah Kaufman to defeat Leslie Smith by TKO.

205lbs- Ryan Jimmo (18-3-0) vs Sean O’Connell (15-4-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Ryan Jimmo heads home to battle late injury replacement Sean O’Connell. Jimmo is coming off an injury TKO loss to Jimi Manuwa, dropping his Octagon record to 2-2. O’Connell has won 6 in a row including a 2012 decision win over notable Marvin Eastman.

Jimmo was originally pencilled in to face Steve Bosse, who has unfortunately retired after pulling out of the fight. O’Connell will be stepping in on very short notice, with his last fight coming back in mid-January. He was prepping for a fight in May under the MFC banner.

The Canadian comes from a Karate background and it can be seen in his stance and movement. He throws a variety of kicks along with decent combinations and has 7 wins coming by way of knockout. Despite his earth shattering debut, Jimmo has built a reputation on being a point fighter.

O’Connell does have 7 wins by knockout which suggest he has some power, but in the limit footage that does exist he doesn’t appear to do anything overly flashy. In fact, he appears more focussed on throwing a quick combo and then pushing forward to tie his opponent up. He does have 3 submission wins, with his most recent coming back in early 2010.

While he is taking this fight on short notice, the American should be in shape considering he was preparing for a bout in just a few weeks. That being said, he is still preparing to fight in the biggest organization in the world against the toughest opponent of his career. This can have a significant impact on a fighters performance. Additionally, Jimmo’s style can present a unique and difficult front to attack which will give O’Connell fits. The UFC newcomer has been knocked out twice and Jimmo does have power so my prediction is Ryan Jimmo to defeat Sean O’Connell by knockout.

135lbs- George Roop (14-11-1) vs Dustin Kimura (12-1-0)

In the Bantamweight division, George Roop battles prospect on the rise- Dustin Kimura. Roop has won 2 of his last 3 since cutting to 135 pounds, but is coming off of a knockout against Francisco Rivera. Kimura picked up a win in his last outing, after suffering the first defeat of his young career.

Physically, as is almost always the case with Roop at 135, George will have a length advantage. He will stand 6” taller and have a 4” reach advantage.

Kimura has won 8 of his 11 victories by submission, including his debut against Chico Camus. He also has 2 knockout wins, giving him a 91% finishing rate. Conversely, Roop has been stopped in 7 of his 10 career defeats- 3 knockouts and 4 submissions. He also has an even split of subs and knockouts totalling 8 wins highlighted by the upset knockout of Brian Bowles.

Kimura is a good grappler, with mediocre wrestling. In 3 UFC appearances, he has unsuccessfully attempted 1 takedown, while getting put on his back once in each fight. Despite these disproportionate numbers, he has 2 UFC subs on the books.

Roop is no slouch on the mat, but all of his submission wins came early in his career. He also hasn’t been submitted since his 2009 loss to George Sotiropoulos while fighting at Lightweight. George has a solid top game when he elects to use his, highlight most recently by his ground and pound.

On the feet, Kimura is still working to round out his striking game. While Dustin has shown signs of serviceable striking, Roop should have the advantage here. George’s skill set is far undervalued. He builds his combinations off of a stiff jab, throws a variety of kicks, and has more power than many give him credit for. Augmenting his skill, is the previously mentioned length advantage.

Roop averages 3.43 SLpM, while giving up 2.41. Kimura’s first 3 UFC outings have produced an almost 2-1 negative exchange rate. Roop’s chin is an issue. He has been knocked out 3 times, but all by (as Nick Diaz would say) big hitters- Mark Hominick, Cub Swanson, and most recently Francisco Rivera. Unfortunately, Kimura has yet to show the type of power to exploit Roop’s chin.

Kimura’s lack of a competent wrestling game and still developing striking skills, combined with Roop’s size and striking game will be too much for the Hawaiian to overcome, so my prediction is George Roop to defeat Dustin Kimura by decision.

155lbs- Mark Bocek (11-5-0) vs Mike De La Torre (12-3-0)

In the Lightweight division, Mark Bocek makes his return to the cage after a long layoff and will do so against late injury replacement Mike De La Torre. Bocek hasn’t fought since late 2012 where he lost to Rafael Dos Anjos. De La Torre has won 3 in a row, including a victory over former Strikeforce talent James Terry.

De La Torre is replacing Evan Dunham on roughly a weeks notice. He had recently moved down to Featherweight, but has fought several times at 155 pounds.

The American brings a nice mix of finishing ability with 5 knockouts and 6 submissions. He is an aggressive striker, primarily relying on his hands with a limited kicking game. He will also throw in some knee strikes and close range elbows when the opportunity presents itself. He is equally as aggressive with his wrestling game and will pursue the takedown. He has secured 3 of his last 4 wins by submission and has strong back mount with 50% of his submission wins coming by rear naked choke.

All 3 of De La Torre’s defeats have come by submission, which is a major red flag when facing a ground specialist like Mark Bocek.

A Black belt in Kempo Karate, Bocek’s striking is serviceable. He would never be considered a knockout threat with just a single TKO victory coming as the result of an injury. He is durable with just one stoppage loss, at the hands of former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. All in all, his stand-up is centered around closing the distance and helping him to set up his ground game.

Bocek is a BJJ Black belt, with some of the best grappling in the division. He averages 3.72 takedowns at 39%, and has put up some pretty impressive numbers including a combined 13 takedowns against top grapplers like Nik Lentz, Jim Miller, and Ben Henderson. Bocek’s preferred technique is to back his opponent into the cage, change levels and look for the double leg. Once he has his hands connected his opponent is almost always going to the floor. Bocek has an excellent top game and can hang with the best of the best. He has 7 submission wins, highlight by his top mount triangle against fellow Black belt Dustin Hazelett. If he can’t get the submission he is more then capable of grinding out a top control decision as was the case in his last two wins against Lentz and John Alessio.

The Canadian’s layoff is a major red flag, at almost a year and a half there will be some ring rust. Taking the short notice and debut factors into account for De La Torre, he too will have a lot to deal with before that cage door closes. If De La Torre can keep this fight standing he should have an advantage, but he has suspect takedown defense, he has been submitted 3 times, and has never faced a grappler on this level- and this is simply too much to overlook. Bocek will need to get this fight in his realm early to keep his opponent from settling in, so my prediction is Mark Bocek to defeat Mike De La Torre by submission.

185lbs- Nordine Taleb (8-2-0 1NC) vs Vik Grujic (6-2-0)

In the Middleweight division, Nordine Taleb makes his official UFC debut when he meets fellow debutant and TUF Nations cast member Vik Grujic. Taleb had his 7 fight winning streak snapped in his last pro appearance, while Grujic was 1-2 before entering the TUF house.

Nordine was defeated in his only TUF fight by decision, while Grujic was victorious in the quarter-finals with a brutal TKO victory, but advanced no further following a submission loss in the semis.

It is worth noting that Taleb will participate in the next season of TUF as well, which will be debuting after the conclusion of this card. Prior to his TUF appearance he had not fought professionally since September 2012.

Both men are relatively young in MMA years- with Taleb holding a slight edge in total fights at 11-8. The Canuck also has a trio of fights under the Bellator banner and has faced better competition including Marius Zaromskis and Pete Sell which should give him a further experience advantage over his counterpart.

Nordine has the ability to go to the mat and can work his top game, but he is a striker first. He has good power with 5 knockouts and throws at a pretty decent rate. He mixes in a variety of techniques, relying on long straight punches, a high volume of kicks, and hard knee strikes when in close. His clinch fighting was his attack of choice in his only TUF appearance, battering his opponent with knees to the body and head.

The Aussie demonstrated his power as well in his TUF victory, catching his opponent on the feet and finishing him on the mat with some brutal elbow strikes. To date, he has just a single knockout win and prefers to try and put his opponents on their back. In the limit footage of his pre-TUF career he has shown some serviceable wrestling and top position grappling skills, but the level of competition has to be brought into question.

The hometown favourite has had some trouble on the mat and could be vulnerable if Grujic can get him there, but that could be easier said then done. Taleb has a strong sprawl and is pretty effective at quickly establishing his underhooks to gain control over the position as his opponent looks to come forward.

The cardio of Taleb looked a little off on the show, especially for a guy that can work at a relatively high v0lume, but that could have been the product of tough weight-cut that comes with the jam packed TUF schedule. Look for Nordine to build off the home crowd, defend the takedowns, and outland his opponent both in quantity and quality of strikes, so my prediction is Nordine Taleb to defeat Vik Grujic by TKO.

170lbs- Richard Walsh (7-1-0) vs Chris Indich (6-1-0)

In the Welterweight division it is Richard Walsh taking on fellow Aussie and TUF teammate Chris Indich. Chris has won 3 in a row prior to entering the house and Walsh was riding a 5 fight winning streak before the UFC came calling.

Walsh was one of the few Aussies to make it out of the opening round, but was submitted in the semi-finals. Indich suffered a first round decision loss to eventual tournament finalist Chard Laprise.

As is the case with many TUF combatants, each man has limited pro experience with a combined 14 total fights mainly competing on the local circuit. Walsh’s lone defeat came at the hands of TUF smashes winner and fellow UFC roster member Robert Whittaker, which could give him a slight edge in quality of opponent faced.

Both men have finishing capabilities, especially on the feet, but the edge should lie with Walsch. He showed calculated striking in his two TUF appearances and with 5 knockouts prior to entering the house he clearly has power. He scored an impressive stoppage via knee strikes over Callan Porter in one of his final pre-TUF outings. Conversely, Indich didn’t show anything that special in his time on the show. He struggled to keep up with Chad Laprise while attacking mainly in short bursts that had limited effectiveness.

There is always the potential for fighters to make significant improvements between their time on the show and the finale, but that is an intangible that is hard to account for. Based on what has been shown, Walsh looked to be the most complete fighter from Team Australia. He seemed to be getting the better of his semi-final opponent Olivier Aubi-Mercier before a mistake lead to the submission. In the end, Walsh will be the more technical and physically strong fighter, so my prediction is Richard Walsh to defeat Chris Indich by TKO.

135lbs- Mitch Gagnon (10-2-0) vs Tim Gorman (9-2-0)

To start off the night’s festivities Canadian Bantamweight Mitch Gagnon carries his 2 fight winning streak into the cage against TUF alumni and UFC debutant Tim Gorman. Gagnon is 2-1 inside the Octagon, with 2 straight wins after coming up short in an entertaining first appearance. Timmy Gorman has won 3 in a row and 6 of his last 7 prior to making the jump to the UFC.

Gorman had a brief stint on the 18th season of the Ultimate Fighter. He won his qualifying bout and was picked by Team Tate, but was forced to withdraw from the competition with an injury. He has not competed professionally since late 2012.

Gorman has 6 knockouts, including 4 inside the first 60 seconds of the fight. He throws hard, but his best position to finish an opponent is on the mat. He can generate a lot of power with his ground and pound from top position and is hard to buck off once he establishes the position. In his TUF qualification bout he shot almost immediately and took his unsuspecting opponent down, took control of the position, and eventually finished the fight from back mount with strikes.

Albeit unsuccessful, Gorman has faced a couple of opponent with big league experience. He was submitted by LC Davis and lost a split decision to Bellator vet Jared Downing.

Gagnon is a physical powerhouse. He is incredibly muscular and generates immense power both in his striking and grappling techniques. He busted Bryan Caraway up early in their meeting with his short range striking and ground and pound. Even more impressively, he squeezed the consciousness out of formerly undefeated Dustin Kimura with a guillotine.

With 10 submissions, the Canadian is a finisher, but the big knock on him his is cardio and longevity. He has gone beyond the first round just 3 times, but only managed to win once. He gassed hard in his debut, which could have been the product of some debut jitters and/or an adrenaline dump getting the best of him, but he needs to prove otherwise before he can shake that label.

Gorman has struggled with next level competition and unless he has made massive strides in his time away from live action, he will struggle to get Gagnon in position to do damage. Gagnon has to be conscious of not overextending himself early and faltering late, but my prediction is Mitch Gagnon to defeat Tim Gorman by submission.

Prelim Predictions

265lbs- Jared Rosholt (9-1-0) vs Daniel Omielanczuk (16-3-1 1NC)

Headlining the preliminary portion of the card will be a pair of heavies as Jared Rosholt makes his sophomore appearance when he takes on Daniel Omielanczuk who will also be stepping into Octagon for the second time. Rosholt has won 5 in a row, while Omielanczuk is riding a 12 fight winning streak.

Rosholt, a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler carries with him 9 wins divided evenly between submission, knockouts, and decisions. Conversely, Omielanczuk holds a very submission heavy record with 9 tapouts compared to 5 decisions and just 2 knockouts.

Neither man put together a dominant performance in their respective debuts. Rosholt struggled with the speed of his opponent, but eventually took over when he slowed down. Omielanczuk split the opening 2 rounds with his foe before scoring a third round knockout.

This will be the European’s first encounter with an American trained wrestler, which can be a difficult task. He did go to the ground once with Nandor Guelmino and while attempting a submission got swept and spent some time on his back. If a physically larger wrestler puts him on the floor he will struggle to get out of the position which will cost him significantly if this fight goes the distance.

Rosholt’s wrestling looked mediocre at best in his debut, attempting just 2 takedowns and completing one, but a lot of that should be attributed to the speed of his opponent which won’t be the case here. He has a solid top game and should be more then capable of putting his opponent on his backside with a power double from the outside or a single leg from in close.

On the feet Omielanczuk threw some solid kicking techniques and showed he has more pop in his hands then his knockout total would suggest. He also took a fair amount of damage and was out landed by his opponent 75-57 which is something he will need to tighten up in his second appearance.

The American is far from flashy, but he landed some decent hand techniques along with a few kicks against Harris. He thrives more on the combination of his ability to keep coming forward and his durability. He has been knocked out once and was dropped by Harris, but he endured and eventually turned things in his favour in spite of the early damage.

Both men get a pass on their last performances simply because they were debuting and they each found a way to win despite some difficulties. If Omielanczuk’s cardio is an issue the grinding attack of a wrestler will exploit it. Even if its not, look for Rosholt to put his opponent on the cage and his back early and often, grinding his way to a victory. So my prediction is Jared Rosholt to defeat Daniel Omielanczuk by decision.

135lbs- Rani Yahya (19-8-0) vs Johnny Bedford (19-11-1)

In the Bantamweight division, ‘Brutal’ Johnny Bedford tries to get back in the win column when he faces Rani Yahya. Both men had their 3 fight winning streaks snapped in their most recent outings- Bedford was submitted by Bryan Caraway and Yahya was out grappled by the debuting Tom Niinimakki.

Bedford has competed just once a year over the last 3 years due a variety of injuries. Rani has fought 6 times in the same time frame.

On the feet, the advantage should belong to Bedford. He has 7 wins by knockout, including brutal finishes of Marcos Vinicius and Louis Gaudinot. He averages 5.08 strikes per minute, while giving up just 1.62, but those numbers have been drastically inflated by the one-sided beatings rendered in his aforementioned knockout wins. Against a more competent opponent in Caraway the tables were turned as Johnny was out-landed 125-59.

Yahya has shown improvements in what he can do standing, but his attack is primarily focussed on getting the fight to the floor. While Yahya won’t want to spend much time on the feet, look for Bedford to be far less aggressive coming forward as was the case against Caraway for fear of getting taken down.

Yahya is a second degree BBJ Black belt with 15 of 19 wins coming by submission. Conversely, Bedford has been submitted in 9 of his 10 defeats. Johnny is a more then competent grappler; he is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ Brown belt with 8 submission wins. But, he has struggled against opponents who aggressively push a grappling heavy attack. He was taken down 3 times by Caraway prior to the end and has also been submitted by the likes of Daniel Pineda and Dustin Neace twice.

The inability of Bedford to defend the takedowns of Caraway is a major concern against Yahya, who can smother opponents and completely overwhelm them with his top game. Additionally, the Brazilian is returning to Bantamweight after a 4-2 run at Featherweight, so the physical side of things won’t be as stacked against him. The cardio of Rani is a bit of a concern as he has struggled later in fights, which could create an opening for Bedford to look for a finish. Unfortunately, Bedford’s defensive difficulties are too much to overlook so my prediction is Rani Yahya to defeat Johnny Bedford by submission.

185lbs- Thales Leites (22-4-0) vs Trevor Smith (11-0-0)

In the Middleweight division, Thales Leites faces multi-fight Strikeforce veteran Trevor Smith. Leites has made a successful return to the UFC, earning a pair of wins inside the Octagon to extend his current winning streak to 5 in a row. Smith completed his run in Strikeforce with a 2-2 record and is coming off his first UFC win after dropping his debut.

Both fighter are grappling based competitors; Smith has won 9 times by submission and Leites 13 times. Each man has also been submitted once- Smith by Tim Kennedy and Leites by Matt Horwich. Thales has since returned the favour and tapped Horwich.

Leites’s grappling game has been dominant since returning, completing a total of 8 takedowns. His top game and transitions are equally as impressive and his ability to dominate even very respectable grapplers like Ed Herman is a testament to how good he is on the mat.

Smith has shown very good submission skills as well, with a pair of Strikforce subs and a guillotine based win over BJJ Black belt Alexandre Moreno. He top game can be equally as controlling and his takedowns are solid despite what the numbers would indicate- 1.36 TDs @ 21%.

Unfortunately for Smith, he has struggled with opponents with solid floor games- Ed Herman was able pick up the ‘W’ while landing a trio of takedowns and the aforementioned submission win by Tim Kennedy also comes to mind. That will most likely be the case again with Leites has he is the more accredited grappler, and badly outclassed the same Ed Herman that Smith struggled with.

Standing, Leites has shown improved striking skills and while gritty and willing to trade, ‘Hot Sauce’ will most likely get second best during the exchanges. He does have some snap to his punches, hurting Herman a couple of times, but the combination of Leites’s speed and takedowns will limit Smith’s scoring opportunities.

Leites’s cardio is far from elite and he will slow down as the fight drags on. In spite of the drop off, it has yet to cost him and he was still able to find success late against ‘Short Fuse’. Additionally, Smith’s conditioning isn’t that strong either and if the fight does go deep he won’t be in a position to overwhelm his opponent as a result.

Leities will get the better of Smith on the feet and more importantly on the mat. Smith is good enough to avoid the submission, but will most likely spend the entire fight on the defensive, so my prediction is Thales Leites to defeat Trevor Smith by decision.

185lbs- Chris Camozzi (19-7-0) vs Andrew Craig (9-2-0)

In he Middleweight division, 10-fight UFC veteran Chris Camozzi faces Andrew Craig. Camozzi has dropped back to back bouts after compiling a 4 fight winning streak. Craig is also coming off a defeat and has won 3 times in 5 UFC appearances.

On the mat, both men are BJJ Brown belts. Camozzi has submitted his way to victory 6 times, with submission defeats accounting for 4 of his 7 career losses. Craig is 1-1 in fights ending by tapout, with his most react setback coming via rear naked choke. Neither man has exceptional offensive grappling stats; Camozzi has yet to land a takedown in a UFC fight, while Craig has averaged 0.73 TDs @ 43% through 5 fights.

Defensively, they are a little more solid. Camozzi has stopped 59% of takedown attempts and Craig 75%. This fight could go to the ground, but the odds are the horizontal action will be limited.

With a combined 8 knockouts, both men have potential to shut their opponent down on the feet. Craig’s striking was at its best against Leben, landing several big shots and hurt his veteran opponent several times. Unfortunately, his follow up performance was far from encouraging as he was sent tumbling to the mat twice before eventually submitted. He throw decent combinations and will attack with some decent leg kicks, but he needs to work on rounding out his defense. He has given up on average 2.95 strikes per minute, while landing just 2.72.

Camozzi’s totals are a little better; with a with 0.81 positive strike exchange. He does his best work in close, when he can control his opponent and bust them up with his short range weaponry. He can trade at distance, but he is far less effective on the outside.

In fact, Chris’s biggest difficulties have come against faster opponents. He isn’t the most fleet of foot fighter, and opponents like Nick Ring and Nick Catone have given him some trouble with their quickness. He managed to emerge victorious in both fights, but it took a late cut to beat Catone in a fight that Chris was arguably losing. He also came up short against Lorenz Larkin who’s speed and striking technique were just too much for him to overcome.

Camozzi is a grinder and he is durable. That makes him dangerous to an opponent that has conditioning issues, which isn’t the case with Craig. Andrew’s recent series of knock downs is a concern, but Camozzi isn’t known for his one punch power. While he could catch him it is unlikely and with his lack of offensive wrestling success he most likely won’t be submitting him either. That restricts Camozzi to taking home a decision and he is 8-3 in fights going the distance. Unfortunately, the speed of Craig will make it tough for Camozzi to land with regularity and look for Craig to come out motivated after suffering the most significant loss of his career. This could be a close bout, but Craig will do just a little more, so my prediction is Andrew Craig to defeat Chris Camozzi by decision.

145lbs- Alan Omer (18-3-0) vs Jim Alers (12-1-0)

To kick start the undercard, debuting fighters Alan Omer and Jim Alers will collides. Omer has won 4 in a row, 3 inside the distance. Alers is riding an 8 fight winning streak after suffering the first and only loss of his career.

Omer has a slightly more diverse record with 6 KO/TKOs, 10 submissions, and 2 decision wins. Alers is a little more submission heavy with subs accounting for 9 of his 12 victories, in addition to 2 knockouts and 1 decision win.

Alers capture and defended the Cage Warrior’s Featherweight strap on multiple occasions.

Both men can crack. Alers appears to be the slightly more comfortable and despite his lack of knockouts has scored multiple knock downs in his Cage Warrior’s run. He does have a tendency to wade forward with wild swing hooks. If they connect they can and have done damage, but the technique also leaves him wide open to be countered.

Omer looks a little stiff with his striking, but he can still throw heat. He has the superior knockout numbers and is coming off of a pretty impressive first round knockout just a 1:03 into the fight against Dennis Tomzek.

While this fight could end on the feet, it will most likely be decided on the ground. As previously mentioned, both have won the majority of their fights via submission. Alers has good wrestling and when on top can be a dangerous fighter. He has a nice lateral drop, which can he executes with perfect technique. He is a BJJ Brown belt and has a variety of submission techniques in his arsenal; he has won by North-South choke, Brabo choke, and a number of more traditional holds.

Where he lacks in his defensive grappling. His aggressive attack leaves him open to being countered and he will give up position while looking for a submission. He is yet to lose by submission, but he will need to avoid taking unnecessary risks fighting at this level of competition.

Omer is a strong grappler in his own right. He has quick hips and chains submission attempts together well. His Triangle choke sub of Rouven Kurath was an impressive display, as he quickly lock in the sub, turned it into a modified arm bar and forced his opponent to relent. He is also quite capable of exotic submissions, with his most recent triumph coming via Omaplata.

The BAMMA vet has a nice defensive sprawl and has shown good overall takedown defense, with the ability to quickly turn defense into offense.

With two young fighters opening the card with their first forays into the Octagon it adds a significant element of the unknown. Alers bring with him a little more hype, but the wholes in his defensive grappling is a concern, especially against a talented submission fighter. If Omer can catch Alers coming forward with a counter he could end it on the feet, but my prediction is Alan Omer to defeat Jim Alers by submission.

Prelim Predictions

145lbs- Diego Brandao (22-9-0) vs Will Chope (19-6-0)

In the Featherweight division, the ridiculously tall 145er Will Chope makes his sophomoric appearance inside the world famous Octagon. Opposing ‘The Kill’ will face the always violent Diego ‘Ceara’ Brandao. Chope’s debut was unsuccessful, getting stopped midway through the second frame by Max Holloway. Brandao’s last appearance wasn’t much better when his 3 fight winning streak has halted in the final moments of the first round by Dustin Poirier.

Chope will have a 9″ height and 12″ reach advantage on his Brazilian counterpart.

The uber elevated Chope has won the majority of his bouts by submission and posted 7 consecutive wins inside the distance (6 subs & 1 TKO) prior to making the jump to the big show. His back mount is arguably his strongest horizontal position, with 8 of his 12 tapouts coming by rear-naked choke. If he can get his adversary to the floor his top game is decent and bolstered by his incredible size. At the same time, his wrestling is below average and his 6’4″ frame will prove counter productive as its forces him to make exceptionally difficult level changes. His inability to get his hips below his opponent’s on his TDAs will make it very difficult to take Brandao down.

Chope went 0-5 when attempting to take Holloway down.

Diego is a BJJ Black belt and has demoed a very strong grappling game of his own. He has just 5 submission wins, but 2 came over top level comp in Diego Brandao and Pablo Garza. He averages 3.35 takedowns per fight at an impressive 76% completion rate. More importantly he has shutdown 86% of his foes TDAs, Pineda went 0 for 8, Joey Gambino 0-4, and Darren Elkins finished 1 for 6.

The Greg Jackson product has been submitted once and did lose the final 2 rounds against Darren Elkins off his back.

On the feet, Chope has a decent clinch and can do damage with his knees and elbows. His combinations and range fighting leaves a lot to be desired. Despite his length, he struggles to keep his opponent on the outside and his lack of speed and footwork make it difficult for him to find much success when he isn’t close enough to get his hands on his opponent. Brandao has 9 knockouts and will have advantages in speed, technique, and variety. He throws a number of spinning techniques and possesses a dangerous flying knee, although the target could be out of reach on this occasion.

Brandao has been knocked out 5 times, accounting for 9 of his losses. His exchange rate is a bit of a question mark, with his opposition landing at a rate just over 1 strike per minute greater then what Diego produces. With the size of Chope and the violent manner in which Brandao comes forward, if Diego gets clipped he could go down. A possible scenario, but relatively unlikely.

Ceara’s cardio is garbage and that issue isn’t going away anytime soon. If he can fight at a controlled pace he has the ability to go a full 3 and win, but he needs to be careful not to overextend himself early as was the case against Elkins. Chope’s lack of speed will make him very hittable, especially to the body and he has been finished in all 6 of his fights (3 subs & 3 TKO/KOs). Look for Brandao to land early, put Chope on the mat and work his top game, so my prediction is Diego Brandao to defeat Will Chop by submission (possibly an arm-triangle).

N.B. I anticipate that the UFC has hand picked Chope as an opponent that can produce an exciting finish for Brandao and toss the crowd into a frenzy prior to the main card. Short of the cardio issues, everything else favours the local fighter by a pretty sizeable margin.

185lbs- Ronny Markes (14-2-0) vs Thiago Santos (8-2-0)

In the Middleweight division, a pair of countrymen collide when Ronny Markes fights Thiago Santos. Markes’s 3-o start to his UFC career came to a crashing halt with a 3rd round knockout loss at the heavy hands of Yoel Romero. Santos barely got comfortable during his debut before he was submitted by co-main eventer Cezar Ferreira.

Santos was a competitor on the second installment of the Ultimate Fighter Brazil, where he competed at Welterweight and was ousted in the elimination round by eventual finalist William Macario.

Physically, Santos will have a 1″ reach advantage, but Markes will be slightly taller and appears to have the thicker physique.

At its base this is a traditional pairing of a grappling based fighter and a striker. Markes is a BJJ black belt with 4 submission wins and an average of 3.18 takedowns per fight. Conversely, Santos is a Muay Thai striker with knockouts in 4 of his 7 wins.

Markes won his first 3 fights in the Octagon on account of his grappling dominance. He outworked a pair of pretty talented wrestlers in Karlos Vemola (at Light Heavyweight) and Aaron Simpson, landing a combined 8 takedowns. He also picked up a pair of TDs against Olympic wrestler Yoel Romero, before the previously mentioned end result. Markes tends to focus on position over submission. He isn’t the most aggressive top game player, which has earned him some criticism, but it has got the job done in 3 of 4 outings.

Ronny trains out of the Nova Uniao camp in Brazil, whose members have gained a reputation for their offensive and defensive wrestling.

With a foundation in Muay Thai, Santos has 4 knockout wins and arguably none more impressive then his final pre-UFC appearance where he landed a beautiful 1-2 and finished with a perfectly placed head kick. He brings a similar style to Edson Barboza, without the horsepower, standing up on the balls of his feet and landing crisp combinations and decent leg kicks.

For Santos to be effective he will need to keep this fight standing, which will be difficult. In both his qualifier and elimination round fights on TUF he spent large portions of each contest on his back. Against Macario, not only did he struggle to defend the takedowns, his striking was clearly thrown off by the threat of being taken off his feet. He was hesitant to engage and when he did throw he didn’t sit down on his strikes and that will most likely be the case against Markes.

Markes isn’t the most refined striker, but he is able to do enough to be effective and set-up his grappling. Markes is strong in the clinch and stronger on the floor. He is a former Light Heavyweight and that will show up against a man who formerly fought at 170 pounds, especially when he is on his back. Markes’s cardio has been a bit of an issue, but he should be able to do enough nonetheless, so my prediction is Ronny Markes to defeat Thiago Santos by decision.

125lbs- Jussier Formiga (15-3-0) vs Scott Jorgensen (14-7-0)

In the Flyweight division we have a battle of former top contenders in desperate need of a ‘W’ as Jussier Formiga meets Scott Jorgensen. Formiga has gone 1-2 since signing on with the promotion dropping fights to top ranked Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson. Jorgensen was upset in his divisional debut by Zach Makovsky last December and is 1-4 in his last 5.

The Brazilian will have both a 1″ height and reach advantage over his opponent, despite Scotty recently coming down from a heavier weight class.

Formiga is a BJJ Black belt out of the vaunted Nova Uniao camp. 7 of his 15 wins have come by submission, along with multiple ground based decisions, including his sole Octagon triumph over Chris Cariaso. Jussier has a smothering top game and does a good job of maintaining complete control over his opponent while looking for sub opportunities.

Operating out of Boise State University, Scotty was an NCAA D-1 wrestler and multi-time PAC-10 champion. He also holds a Purple belt in BJJ, collecting 5 submissions along the way. He picked up a pair of tapouts in the WEC and then repeated the feat in the UFC against John Albert in his last victory. He has respectable numbers, averaging 2.24 takedowns at a completion rate of 42%. Scotty has successfully defended 57% of his opponents’ tries.

Jorgensen has been submitted twice; most recently by Uriah Faber via RNC.

The overarching question for this fight is can Formiga get Scotty on the floor? He was dominant against Cariaso, but put up a goose egg in a little under 3 rounds of combined action across from Benavidez (0 for 0) and Dodson (0 for 5). Scotty is a solid wrestler and holds wins over capable grapplers in Jeff Curran, Brad Pickett, and Takeya Mizugaki but he has also struggled at times when faced with a ground oriented opponent. As mentioned Faber tapped him, Dominick Cruz took him down 6 times, and in his divisional debut he was outwrestled by Makovsky to the tune of 6 TDs to 1.

The Brazilian’s 3 career defeats have all come against American trained wrestlers; the previously mentioned pair and his 2011 loss to Ian McCall. If Formiga’s grappling is nullified he is far less of a threat and his 2 recent knockout defeats would suggest a level of vulnerability on the feet. Jorgensen is far from a top level striker, but he is improving and should be the more proficient in this coupling. Scotty’s recent struggles have come against well-rounded fighters who combine their grappling with a successful striking arsenal, something he won’t have to worry about in Brazil.

Jorgensen will be making his second appearance at 125 pounds which should raise his comfort level and allow him to push the pace. Formiga struggled tremendously in the final frame against Cariaso as he was badly gassed and simply holding on, which will be a problem against a well condition opponent like Jorgensen. Look for Scotty to defend the TDAs early while getting the better of the striking exchanges and slowly take control of the fight as the threat of getting put on the floor lessons, so my prediction is Scott Jorgensen to defeat Jussier Formiga by TKO.

170lbs- Thiago Perpetuo (9-3-1) vs Kenny Robertson (12-2-0)

In the Welterweight division, Thiago Perpetuo looks for his second win since his time on TUF Brazil when he faces 1-3 UFC vet Kenny Robertson. The Brazilian is coming off a short, exciting, and in the end disappointing sophomore appearance where he was knocked out by Omari Akhmedov. Robertson lost in controversial fashion in his last outing, nearly finishing Sean Pierson before losing a decision.

Robertson has been out of action for over 9 months. Perpetuo will be making his first cut to 170 pounds after two UFC Middleweight bouts.

Robertson is an NCAA D-1 wrestler, but he has had difficulty employing those skills inside the Octagon. Over 4 bouts he has averaged just 0.78 takedowns per fight, at a meager 15% completion rate. His unique submission of Brock Jardine was a glimpse into what he is capable of on the mat, but the 6 takedowns he gave up against Aaron Simpson and the inability to take Sean Pierson off his feet have been the norm.

Perpetuo has just a single submission, but he has above average grappling and his GNP is formidable. He has scored a takedowns in each of his appearances and defended 4 of the 5 attempts by Akhmedov. While his grappling isn’t a central part of his attack, he does a good job using it to augment his striking arsenal. If he is to be successful in front of the home crowd, his defensive game will have to be on point as Robertson will be looking to score on the floor early and often.

On the feet, Robertson is fairly pedestrian. He plods forward attacking with relatively ineffective combinations and gives up almost as many strikes as he lands. He struggled to find much success early against another fighter not known for his striking acumen in Pierson. He did throw a pretty tight spinning back fist that partially connected, the same technique that he scored a knockout win over Lucio Linhares in his brief stop outside the UFC after his first time being cut.

The Brazilian will have the advantage on the feet. 7 of his 9 wins have come via knockout and he nearly stopped his last opponent after catching him with a big shot. He can throw calculated combinations as was the case in his debut or open up and let the fists fly with reckless results. Robertson has been knocked out before, and he appears very hittable which is a going to be a point of concern against the hard hitting Brazilian.

If the weight cut doesn’t go well for Perpetuo he could slow early, especially if Kenny is able to use his wrestling to grind on him. If the cut goes well, the Brazilian will be the bigger and stronger man and that will show up during the striking and grappling exchanges. Outside of the submission over Jardine and the late charge against an exhaust Pierson, Robertson hasn’t shown much and that will continue here. Perpetuo should be able to shutdown Kenny’s wrestling and land the better shots on the feet, so my prediction is Thiago Perpetuo to defeat Kenny Robertson by TKO.

145lbs- Godofredo Pepey (10-3-0) vs Noad Lahat (7-0-0)

In the Bantamweight division, TUF tournament finalist Godofredo Pepey faces desperate times in his fifth entry into the 8-sided cage when he meets debutant Noad Lahat. Pepey has lost 3 of 4 since his time on TUF with his only win a controversial decision over Milton Vieira. Lahat is undefeated and is coming off of a one-sided judge’s decision over well travelled veteran Shad Smith.

With 8 of 9 wins coming inside the distance, Godofredo has a great finishing rate. 6 of those 8 victories are of the submission variety, along with 2 knockouts. Unfortunately, with the exception of his time on TUF Brazil, he hasn’t put an opponent away since mid-2011.

Fighting out of the American Kickboxing Academy, Lahat has a pair of knockouts and 4 submissions on record. He has had some larger periods of inactivity, fighting just once in 2010 and 2011, missing all of 2012, and then just on more time in the summer of 2013.

With Black belts in both Muay Thai and BJJ, Pepey has top level credentials, but with the exception of a few glimmers he has yet to demonstrate skills reflective of those honours. His best moments have come from bottom position, where he has pulled off a couple of impressive sweeps. The knock on Pepey’s has been his willingness to pull guard, which he has done in almost all of his fights. He has an aggressive guard, but his last two opponents have been able to shutdown his ground game and then render Godofredo unconscious with strikes from the top.

Lahat has some decent takedown defense and has more then enough top game offense to reproduce Pepey’s previous opponent’s top punishment. The key for Noad will be shutting down’s Pepey’s offensive guard and avoiding getting swept to his back. Training out of AKA, ‘Neo’ should have been exposed to enough ground work to be ready to deal with anything that Pepey can throw at him.

On the feet, the Brazilian is wild. He comes forward winging wild shots and raises his chin in the process. Back to back knockout defeats, while on the mat, raise major questions about his chin. Additionally, getting tagged at a rate higher then he is able to dish out is never a good trade off. Lahat’s striking is pretty solid and he is much more technically sound then his opponent. He keeps his strikes tighter and doesn’t overextend himself. With holes in Pepey’s striking defense big enough to drive a truck through Lahat should have no problem landing with consistency.

Pepey has experience, but he should arguably be 0-4 in the UFC. He will have the Brazilian crowd behind him and Lahat will be dealing with a hostile crowd and the first fight jitters which will be tough on. The debutant has to get off to a good start and stifle his opponent’s early offense and then take control of the fight, so my prediction is Noad Lahat to defeat Godofredo Pepey by TKO.

205lbs- Francimar Barroso (16-3-0) vs Hans Stringer (21-5-3)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Nova Uniao camp member Francimar Barroso meets 1-fight WSOF veteran Hans Stringer. Barroso debuted with a decision nod over fellow countryman Ednaldo Oliveira, he has won 13 of his last 14. Stringer’s 4 fight winning streak came to and end with a draw in his last appearance, but with 4 wins and 2 draws he is undefeated in his last 6.

Stringer started his current streak with a 2 round draw against current Bellator Light Heavyweight champion Atilla Vegh.

Both men have shown diverse finishing skills. Barroso carries with him 8 knockouts, 6 submissions, and a 2-0 record when going to the judges. Equally as diverse; Stringer has won by knockout 9 times, submission 8, but is only 4-3 on the cards.

Stringer’s primary objective will be to drag Francimar to the mat. The majority of his wins have come from his takedowns and ground control. His striking is center around closing the distance where he can either shoot or clinch and try to pull his foe downward. In his 2011 battle with Vegh, he had varied success with his ground attack. He was able to get the fight to the ground briefly, but did little from the position and spent most of the time struggling to overcome his opponent’s strong hips and heavy sprawl.

Barroso showed good TDD in his debut and comes from a camp known for their wrestling, both offensive and defensive. He landed a pair of takedowns and was able to score points from top position. He is a BJJ Black belt and offers a two pronged answer for Stringer’s grappling attack; he is going to be hard to take down and if he is taken off his feet he can be handful to fend off with an offensive guard.

On the feet, the Brazilian should be the better of the two. He has been knocked out three times, but he should be able to keep distance and get the better of the exchanges. He landed some decent punches in his debut and showed the Nova Uniao trade mark leg kicking arsenal which will be one of his primary weapons in this engagement. He battered his opponent’s lower half and if he is able to unload in similar fashion he will take a lot of the spring and takedown ability out of Hans’s game.

Barroso didn’t look like a world beater in his debut, but he took it on very short notice and was facing an extremely tall opponent which presented a difficult front to attack. He will have a full camp to prep for Stringer and he has the TDD to shutdown his opponent’s strongest weapon which will greatly inhibit Stringer’s ability to score. Look for the ref to call for quick separations when the Brazilian crowd gets restless during prolonged attempts by Stringer to score takedowns and then hard leg kicks and superior striking from the outside by Francimar, so my prediction is Francimar Barroso to defeat Hans Stringer by decision.

Prelim Predictions

170lbs- Kelvin Gastelum (8-0-0) vs #14 Rick Story (16-7-0)

Headlining the undercard portion of UFC 171, TUF Champion Kelvin Gastelum battles #14 ranked Rick Story in the Welterweight division. Gastelum is undefeated, including a quick submission finish of Brian Melancon in his 170 pound debut. Story as alternated wins and losses over his last six, most recently defeating veteran Brian Ebersole and he is 9-5 in the UFC.

Physically, Gastelum and Story are build very similar. Story will stand 1″ taller, while Kelvin will have a slight “0.5 reach advantage. Kelvin will be making his second appearance at 170 after spending the majority of his career (TUF included) at 185 pounds.

Story has a significant advantage in both quality of experience and quantity. He has 23 pro bouts and has entered the Octagon 14 times, having faced some of the elite of the division. Prior to UFC 167, Story was the only man to defeat UFC 171 headliner Johny Hendricks (one of my upset specials). Gastelum has just 7 pro fights, but did go 4-0 on the show which is a great experience for a young fighter.

Both men come from wrestling backgrounds and Gastelum is a BJJ Purple belt. 3 of his 7 wins have come by submissions and he added two more on TUF over current roster members Josh Samman and Bubba McDaniels. He demonstrated a solid double leg, scoring on 3 of 6 attempts versus Uriah Hall and he was able to put Melancon on his back with relative ease. He is an aggressive top game player who is not content to sit in his opponent’s guard. He can generate sizeable power and will feverishly pursue submission opportunities.

Story averages 3.13 takedowns per fight at a 53% completion rate and set a career high of 5 against Brock Jardine.

Story has just 3 wins by submission, with his last coming in 2009 over Brian Foster at UFC 103. Much like Gastelum, he is an aggressive wrestler, looking to put his opponent on the mat and overwhelm them with power and pressure. He holds multiple ground based stoppages, including his UFC 117 destruction of Dustin Hazelett and more recently shutting down Quinn Mulhern at UFC 158.

While Story is an excellent top game player, he has proven susceptible when put on the defensive. Demian Maia submitted Rick, and Martin Kampmann, Charlie Brenneman, and John Hathaway had success putting him on his back. His loss to Mike Pyle saw him dominate with his wrestling early, but struggle to fend off the crafty veteran’s own grapping attack and drop a split decision. Rick Story is 1-4 in fights where he doesn’t win the takedown battle. He boasts a 63% TDD, but has been taken down 25 times in 14 Octagon appearances, including 5 fights where he has been taken down 3 or more times.

On the feet, Story is all forward motion. He presses hard on his opponent, landing brutal 2 and 3 punch combos, primarily throwing hooks with serious horsepower. He frequently changes levels to target his opponent’s body and showed an improved kicking game in his last bout where he badly damaged Ebersole’s lead leg. He averages an impressive 3.51 SLpM and gives up just 1.88 strikes per minute.

Gastelum has 3 wins by knockout and showcased fluid striking against Melancon. He landed several big shots before his opponent was sent tumbling to the canvas. On paper, he was outmatched against Uriah Hall, but quickly overcame Hall’s technical proficiency with aggression and tenacity.

Cardio could be a major factor in this fight. Gastelum has shown he can fight at a high pace from bell to bell without much drop off, but Story has begun to show cracks in his conditioning. He slowed badly against Pyle which cost him the fight and his commitment to only throwing power shots start to finish isn’t the greatest approach to energy conservation.

Story has made a career out of beating up lower level competition. He does have noteworthy wins over Hendricks and Thiago Alves, but he hasn’t beaten a relevant opponent since mid-2011. In fact, 6 of the 9 men he has defeated are no longer employed by the promotion. The majority of his wins have come when he is able to bully and overwhelm his adversary with his physicality. Conversely, when his opponent is able to push back his ability to win is greatly diminished. Additionally, his defensive trouble on the mat is a concern. Gastelum is still green, but has shown a tonne of improvement and has most likely made more strides in his 7 months between fights. He will be able to match and possibly surpass the physical approach of Story and score multiple key takedowns. Look for a back and forth war early and then the cardio and quickness of Gastelum to take over, so my prediction is Kelvin Gastelum to defeat Rick Story by decision.

135lbs- #13 Raquel Pennington (4-3-0) vs #9 Jessica Andrade (10-3-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, Raquel ‘Rocky’ Pennington battles dangerous Brazilian Jessica Andrade. Pennington made her official debut a successful one with a win over veteran Roxanne Mondafferi after a decent run on TUF and she went 1-2 under the Invicta FC banner. Andrade dropped her UFC debut, but rebounded with a violently dominant decision over Rosi Sexton.

The Brazilian has the edge in overall experience at 13-7 and she will be stepping inside the Octagon for the third time compared to just twice for Pennington. Raquel does have the advantage of having taken part on the reality show where she finished with a 2-1 record that included a solid win over long time WMMA veteran Tonya Evinger.

Despite their relative inexperience, both ladies have had a brush with the elite of the division. Andrade debuted against former title challenger Liz Carmouche and Pennington battle future title challenger Cat Zingano in her second last Invicta appearance.

Physically, ‘Rocky’ will stand 5″ taller and hold a 5.5″ reach advantage over Andrade.

Andrade comes in on the heels of the absolute destruction of the aforementioned Sexton. She battered the Brit with Wanderlei Silva like barrages, landing short range hooks that kept her opponent bloody and backpedalling all night. She was unable to finish her opponent, although many felt the fight could have been stopped at multiple points throughout. Jessica has 4 wins by knockout and showcased the type of power and aggression that will help her to build on that number as her career progresses.

Andrade has been stopped twice by TKO, most recently by Liz Carmouche in her Octagon debut.

Pennington has just a single knockout win, which came over the floundering Kim Couture back in Raquel’s pro debut. She has showcased improving boxing skills including a decent jab, and landed some good combinations last time out. She noticeably stunned Modafferi with a couple of strikes, but was unable to finish the bout. She will need to utilize her sizeable length advantage against Andrade and keep her on the outside to limit the success of her close range arsenal.

The ground game could have a massive impact on the outcome of this fight. Pennington was submitted by Zingano and struggled to create any semblance of separation leading up to it. She showed improved defensive grappling on the show and shutdown the majority of what her last opponent had to offer.

Andrade is a strong BJJ player with 5 wins by submission. Her ground and pound can be devastating and her guillotine has produced 4 of her 5 wins. She was outclassed by Carmouche on the floor, but did score a strong takedown and threaten with a tight guillotine to close out the opening round. If Andrade can get this fight to the mat she should have a sizeable advantage.

The size of Pennington is a concern, especially if she is able to work her jab and keep Jessica on the outside. A bigger concern is that Pennington is by nature a slow starter and Andrade an incredibly fast one. Rocky was getting outworked by Modafferi in the early going and if she allows that to happen here she might not be around to mount a comeback. If Pennington can’t keep Jessica from coming forward and then combine that with the potential of getting put on her back the outlook doesn’t look promising. Andrade has to be careful not to leave herself open during a wild barrage and get clipped by the larger woman, but my prediction is Jessica Andrade to defeat Raquel Pennington by submission.

145lbs- #12 Dennis Bermudez (13-3-0) vs Jimy Hettes (11-1-0)

In the Featherweight division, Dennis Bermudez battles Jimy Hettes in a meeting of top prospects. Bermudez has been on a tear since dropping the finals of the TUF tournament, winning 5 consecutive fights. Hettes has won 3 of his last 4 including a successful return after more then a year out of action.

Both fighters come from grappling backgrounds. Bermudez is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and Hettes holds Brown belts in both Judo and BJJ. Both are known from incorporating their ground skills into their attacks, but Hette’s ability to win this fight will hinge on his grappling success, while Bermudez’s will not.

Hettes has secured 10 of his 11 wins by submission and his one decision win was a dominant ground based assault against Nam Phan where he scored on 11 of his 20 TDAs. He has submission wins over Alex Caceres and fellow UFC 171 competitor Robert Whiteford. Jimy averages 6.93 takedowns at 50% and has decent takedowns skills primarily relying on throws and trips from the clinch position. His transitions on the mat are excellent, as he showcased against both Alex Caceres and Nam Phan.

The only hiccup on Hettes’s ledger was his surprising upset defeat against Marcus Brimage where he completed just 2 of 9 TDAs, failed to gain any semblance of control over his adversaries body, and spent the majority of the fight losing the striking exchanges.

Bermudez has a glaring 3 submissions accounting for all of his defeats. His debut defeat against Diego Brandao came out of nowhere after Dennis let his guard down attempting to finish a battered opponent. The loss was his third in a row.He has shown improved submission defense of late, warding off multiple attempts, including 3 by the submission savvy Siler.

Bermudez averages 4.31 takedowns at 50%. His high watermark was an impressive 8 completions against Pablo Garza. He landed 4 against Max Holloway and 6 in his most recent outing against Steven Siler. Bermudez is active on the mat, with a high pace barrage of GnP and he will attempt submissions despite just a pair of successful finishes.

While both men are dangerous on the mat, Bermudez should hold a distinct advantage on the feet. He has more power then his 3 knockout wins would suggest and lands at a rate of 4.59 SLpM. He dropped Brandao and badly hurt Matt Grice several times, coming close to finishing the fight. Bermudez did have some issues with the distance against the lanky Max Holloway and Hettes will have a 3″ height advantage and 5″ reach advantage, but not the striking acumen required to recreate these problems.

Hettes’s striking is still a work in progress. He likes to try and catch his adversary with short punches as they come forward, but he doesn’t have much pop and if his adversary lands first that usually takes all the steam out of what he has to offer. Whether through an attempt to showcase his striking or simply an inability to get in a comfortable grappling range, Jimy elected to stand with Marcus Brimage. He was tagged with several big shots and while he was never finished, it drastically diminished his ability to do much of anything for the rest of the session.

Hettes’s grappling has looked strong, but his first two wins came over a pair of opponents that have given up a combined 43 takedowns in just 17 fights (2.5 TDs per fight) and have since moved down to Bantamweight. Bermudez is a strong wrestler both offensively and defensively with an 89% TDD. The risk is always there that Bermudez gets reckless and either gives up position or gets rocked (as he always seems to do in fights) and a subsequent submission opportunity arises. More likely, Bermudez lands big shots and outworks Hettes while keeping the fight vertical or at least away from the submission skills of ‘the Kid’, so my prediction Dennis Bermudez to defeat Jimy Hettes by decision.

170lbs- Sean Spencer (11-2-0) vs Alex Garcia (11-1-0)

In the Welterweight division, Sean Spencer battles highly regarded prospect Alex Garcia. Spencer has won back to back fights since losing his debut, while Garcia was triumphant in dominant fashion during his first foray into the Octagon.

Garcia defeated Ben Wall in just 43 seconds via KO in his UFC debut.

The Dominican Republic’s Garcia is known for his fast starts. Of his 11 wins, 9 have come inside the first round, with 3 of those ending inside the first minute. He has a even split of stoppages; 5 by KO/TKO and 5 by submission, along with just a single decision victory.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, 7 of Spencer’s 11 wins have gone to the scorecards. He scored a pair of knockout wins in his first 2 pro fights and added 2 submission wins later in his career including tapping out Joe Daily in his lone Bellator appearance. He has won both of his Octagon appearances via decision after getting tapped out for the second time in his career during his promotional debut.

Both men are competent strikers, Garcia should have the power advantage, while Spencer could have a slight edge on the technical side of things. Spencer primarily uses a boxing based attack, but has been making an effort to incorporate more kicks. Garcia threw a variety of techniques in his debut, including a nasty uppercut that lead to the end of the bout and he flashed a quick front kick which will help him to keep Spencer on the outside.

Garcia’s explosive style and speed will also aid him during the exchanges, but he will need to be cautious to not overexert himself early as Spencer is more then capable of fighting bell to bell without a drop off in performance. The American has tallied 209 successful strikes over his last 2 fights.

The key difference in this bout is the grappling game. Both of Spencer’s defeats have come via submissions and while he has defended 79% of his opponents attempts, he has still be taken down 5 times in his UFC run. The undersized Drew Dober went 0-11, but the much more adept Rafael Natal landed 4 of 6 attempts and kept him on the mat for large portions of the fight.

As previously mentioned, Garcia has 5 submissions and trains out of a strong grappling oriented camp in the Quebec based Tri-Star gym. His back mount is lethal with 4 of his 5 subs coming by RNC. In his only career loss he showed impressive wrestling skills, violently slamming the massive Seth Baczynski to the mat in the opening seconds of the fight and then controlling him for the remainder of the round.

Both men have a lot to offer on the feet and can each win this fight depending on how it plays out. The difference will be the added advantage gained by Garcia through his ground game. Either through his ability to put Spencer on his back or simply the threat of the takedown keeping Spencer from getting comfortable on his feet, Gracia will have a massive advantage based on his grappling skills. Garcia’s long list of quick finishes is a concern if this fight goes deep, but my prediction is Alex Garcia to defeat Sean Spencer by submission.

155lbs- Renee Forte (8-3-0) vs Francisco Trevino (11-0-0)

In the Lightweight division Renee Forte meets the debuting Francisco Trevino. Forte has dropped 2 of his 3 UFC appearances with both defeats coming inside the distance. Trevino has begun his career with 11 straight wins and is coming off a November 2013 decision win under the Legacy Fighting Championship banner.

While this fight will be contested in the Lightweight division, both men have experience competing in much higher weight classes. Forte debuted at Middleweight and then proceeded to cut 2 divisions for his next fight. Trevino has competed at both 185 and 170 during his progression to this point.

Trevino will have a 3″ height advantage over his Brazilian counterpart.

While undefeated, Trevino hasn’t faced that spectacular of competition. His last 5 opponents carry a combined 22-22 record with only won sitting more then a single fight above the .500 mark. The American has 4 wins by knockout and 4 more by submission, but has gone the distance in 3 of his last 4 outings.

Frank’s striking is serviceable, but he doesn’t do anything flashy and his work rate is a little below average. His defensive grappling could be his undoing as he had some serious trouble with the ground attack of Joseph Daily, getting his back taken on a few different occasions. If he can’t maintain a vertical base against Forte he could be in for a very long or short night depending on how thing play out.

Forte will have a significant experience advantage having competed on the Ultimate Fighter and enter the Octagon 3 times. His upset win over Terry Etim showcased that he is far more then a grappler. He blitzed Etim with several heavy handed shots and noticeably hurt the Brit. His knockout loss against John Makdessi was the second time he had been stopped, which does bring some questions about his chin into the equation. His ground game is decent, despite just 2 submission wins and should provide him with an avenue to victory in this meeting.

Trevino has finishing capabilities as previously noted, but he has yet to face anyone with the skill level that he will experience in the UFC. Forte is far from a elite level, but he has faced better competition overall and should posses the superior skill set with his grappling, so my prediction is Renee Forte to defeat Francisco Trevino by decision.

125lbs- Will Campuzano (13-5-0) v Justin Scoggins (8-0-0)

In the Flyweight division Justin Scoggins makes his first appearance of 2014 when he meets 3 fight ZUFFA (UFC/WEC) veteran Will Campuzano. Scoggins debuted in impressive fashion stopping Richie Vaculik in the final moments of the opening stanza, while Campuzano lost a back and forth affair against Sergio Pettis.

Six of Scoggins 8 wins have come by knockout, while Campuzano has 6 KO/TKOs along with 3 submission wins. Campuzano’s only WEC win came over Coty Wheeler at WEC 46 via decision.

While each man is willing to compete on the floor, they are both striking based fighters. Scoggins offers a karate based attack, opting for a Machida-like sideways stance. He will flash a variety of kicking techniques, throws decent combinations, and will also mix in a few elbows. He attacks at a feverish pace, as exemplified in his debut where he was relentless in his assault of his opponent. Scoggins has good footwork and changes up his stance frequently which can present a difficult front to attack.

Campuzano has power, with 6 knockings, including 2 since cutting down to Flyweight. He can attack from the outside but despite being a lankier fighter he doesn’t possess a noteworthy range game. He is far more effective when he can get on the inside and land his 1-2’s, but in the process he brings himself into striking range for his opponent. Additionally, his work rate is a bit of a concern as he has been outlanded in all of his UFC/WEC defeats including an almost 2-1 margin against Sergio Pettis. Against Pettis he also struggled to find a comfort zone against a more technical and diverse striker.

A record of 3-2 in fights ended by submission isn’t that strong, but Campuzano is a BJJ Brown belt and landed 4 takedowns against Pettis. His top control isn’t crushing, but he is decent in a scramble and can turn a bad situation into a good one as a result. He has had some trouble with his defensive grappling, giving up a pair of TDs to Pettis and 7 to Nick Pace.

Scoggins transitions between his striking and his wrestling seamlessly, striking and changing levels quickly to set up his takedowns. While he has just a single submission win, he can finish on the mat with his GnP as was the case in his debut. He has a decent takedown game, which gets overshadowed by his striking. Scoogins may look to utilize his wrestling to change gears against Campuzano, but he will need to be careful not to give up position in the process.

Campuzano’s slowed in his last fight which could have been a combination of things, but he has had cardio issues in other fights. Scoggins will carry a high pace, and along with his striking diversity, power, and wrestling he has a number of advantages. Campuzano has the experience edge and has gone 5-0 at Flyweight since making the cut, but my prediction is Justin Scoggins to defeat Will Campuzano by decision.

185lbs- Bubba McDaniel (21-7-0) vs Sean Strickland (13-0-0)

In the Middleweight division, KOTC veteran Sean Strickland meets TUF alumni Robert ‘Bubba’ McDaniel. Strickland is undefeated through the first 13 pro bouts, while Bubba has gone 1-1 in the UFC and is coming off an uneventful decision loss versus Brad Tavares.

Strickland is taking this bout as an injury replacement for Tor Troeng, stepping up to the UFC on just a few weeks notice. ‘Tarzan’ last fought 8 months ago and was preparing for a bout with UFC veteran Tomasz Drwal before getting the call to the big show. McDaniel is coming off an almost identical 8 month break from action.

Bubba didn’t fair that well on the Ultimate fighter, getting shutout even after being awarded a second chance with a wildcard spot. He is primarily a grappler, with 16 of his 21 wins by submission. He has good top control and uses his size effectively. He is also capable of pulling off sweeps from bottom and can attack off his back. He successfully took down Tavares in the third round with a solid double leg and he is pretty hard to shutdown once he connects his hands.

While McDaniel is solid on the mat, he has been submitted 4 times as a pro and once on the show by now Welterweight Kelvin Gastelum. He is also far less effective as a fighter when he faces an opponent that can stifle his grappling attack. Tavares was able to use distance and solid defensive grappling to mute the offense of Bubba for the opening 2 rounds.

Strickland should be the better striker with 7 of his 13 wins by knockout, including 5 of his last 7 wins. He throws hard straight combinations and is willing to stand and trade with his opponent. As his career has progressed, he has become a little more measured with his attack, but can still be drawn into wild exchanges which will leave him open to getting taken down.

A 4-2 record in fights ended by knockout isn’t exactly a confidence builder and neither was McDaniel’s striking performance in his last appearance. His stand-up is fairly simplistic, but training alongside Jon Jones under the tutelage of Mike Winklejohn should produce some improvements, especially with the 8 month layoff. Regardless, he will need to limit the exchanges in favour of his ground based attack.

Coming into this fight Strickland was preparing for a fighter with a vastly different skill-set then the man he will face now. Additionally, he is taking the bout on short notice against an opponent with significantly more experience. Strickland looks like a promising prospect, but considering he has faced limited adversity and has never been forced to defend against a talented grappler on this level that is a major concern. Additionally, McDaniel’s struggles on TUF have impacted the perception of the fighter, but it should be noted as a bigger Middleweight Bubba’s performance was hampered by the struggles of making weight on such short notice, so my prediction is Bubba McDaniel to defeat Sean Strickland by submission.

145lbs- Daniel Pineda (18-10-0) vs Rob Whiteford (10-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, 6-fight UFC veteran Daniel Pineda meets Scotland’s Robert Whiteford. Pineda won back to back fights to start his UFC run, but has since dropped 3 of his last 4. Whiteford was submitted in his promotional debut by Jimy Hettes.

After taking his inaugural appearance on just a week’s notice, Whiteford put up a valiant effort but eventually succumb to a superior submission specialist. With a full camp to prepare, it should be expected that Whiteford puts together a stronger sophomoric appearance.

The Scot has a Judo base, but has just a single submission win go along with his most recent triangle choke loss. He had a few moments against Hettes, but was quickly tossed to his back and control for the duration of the bout. Pineda has won the majority of his fights by submission, 12 of 18, including all 3 of his UFC victories over Pat Schilling, Mackens Semerzier, and Just Lawrence. He has never landed more then 2 takedowns per fight, but is equally as dangerous from top or bottom. He gave strong wrestler Mike Thomas Brown all he could handle on the floor threatening with submissions and executing multiple reversals.

The UFC vet has won via a variety of submission techniques, but he is far from infallible on the floor. He has 6 submission defeats and he is coming off a fight in which he was taken down 8 times on 10 attempts by Diego Brandao.

On the feet, both men have similar records. Pineda is 6-1 in fights ended by knockout and Whiteford 5-1. Whiteford lost via doc stoppage in his first appearance as a professional, while Pineda was stopped in the Summer of 2012 by Canadian Antonio Carvalho. ‘The Pit’ hasn’t recorded a win by knockout since his final pre-UFC tune-up when he won by spinning backfist at Legacy Fighting Championships 9. Whiteford didn’t get to showcase much of his striking skills in his debut, but he is serviceable on the feet.

Pineda can get wild which has cost him against next level competition (Brandao, Brown, Carvalho), but he has appeared dominant in his appearances against lower level opponents. Whiteford would appear to belong to the latter group, but Pineda still needs to be careful not to underestimate him. Pineda will need to find success shooting from the outside or authoring various sweeps and reversals if Whiteford engages him on mat. Pineda has the power to score the knockout, but my prediction is Daniel Pineda to defeat Robert Whiteford by submission.

 

Prelim Predictions

205lbs- Cyrille Diabate (20-9-3) vs. Ilir Latifi (8-3-0 1NC)

Headlining the preliminary portion of the of the card, dangerous French striker Cyrille Diabate takes on hulking Swedish wrestler Ilir Latifi. Diabate is coming off a loss against headlining Jimi Manuwa and is 4-3 in the UFC. Latifi lost his promotional debut to former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi.

Diabate last fought a little less then 13 months ago, while Latifi has been out of action since April 2013, a near 11 month layoff.

This is a classical striker versus grappler matchup. Diabate is a former K-1 kickboxer with a 28-8-2 record and 8 MMA knockouts. Ilir is a member of the Swedish National wrestling team and won a number of fights on the basis of his ability to ground his opponent. What this fight will come down to is who can trend the action in the direction of their strength. If the most significant action takes place on the mat then Latifi wins and if Cyrille keeps it standing he will get his hand raised.

It is worth noting that Latifi has been preparing for this bout alongside headliner Alex Gustafsson so he will have been working with one of the division’s elites at his highest point of preparation. Gus also beat Diabate in late 2010 so he will be able to provide some added insight for his stablemate’s upcoming opponent.

Diabate has some solid striking skills, but is far from perfect. He stopped Chad Griggs with a well timed cross, catching him coming forward. He also owns a 133 second obliteration of Luiz Cane. His kicking game is an ever present threat and his knees are equally as dangerous. In fact, he has developed a habit of repeatedly flashing a potential knee strike to keep prospective grapplers at bay.

Diabate averages a significant 4.27 SLpM while limiting his opponents to just 1.87.

Cyrille has been stopped twice via knockout, but only one of the legitimate variety. He was stomped out by Shogun in Pride and lost via injury TKO in his last appearance. While he has limited his opponents’ landing capacity and knockouts, he has had some issues when his opposition is able to get on the inside and brawl with him.

Latifi isn’t a strong technical striker. He will have to deal with a massive length disadvantage with 8″ of height and 7.5″ of extra reach for Cyrille. He had a tonne of trouble finding much offense against Gegard Mousasi, getting stuck at the end of his jab and landing mainly single shots. Diabate doesn’t have Mousasi’s jab, but he has the skills to hurt his opponent when he tries to close the distance. Latifi likes to attack in explosive bursts, moving forward and winging heavy leather. While he can be effective on the inside, especially with Diabate’s chin, he has to avoid complacency and getting outworked.

The key to the Swedes’ success without a doubt is his wrestling. He was unable to take Mousasi down and that showed, but he is a powerful grappler and has a quick shot mainly of the single leg variety. Diabate has been submitted 4 times, twice in the UFC. He has a TDD of 55%, but has been vulnerable to takedown focussed opponent. Anthony Perosh was able to drag him to the mat twice before submitting him and undersized Tom DeBlass was controlling the first half of the fight with a pair of takedowns and some solid top control before gassing. Diabate has been taken down 11 times in his last 6 appearances. If Latifi can put Diabate on his back he should be able to grind him out and hold the position with heavy GnP.

Diabate is talking retirement and at 40 years old it might be time. He will be motivated to win his potential final fight, but so will Latifi as his UFC career is most likely on the line. If Latifi’s chin can hold up he should be able to put Diabate on his back and keep him here, which will severely slow him down for the rest of the fight. He didn’t look great in his debut, but it was on extremely short notice and the impact of a massive weight cut and facing a elite level fighter like Mousasi was clearly evident. The Swede can’t get stuck on the outside again and he knows that, so my prediction is Ilir Latifi to defeat Cyrille Diabate by decision.

185lbs- Luke Barnatt (7-0-0) vs. Mats Nilsson (11-2-1)

In the division formerly marshalled by the ‘Spider’, TUF alumni Luke Barnatt enters the Octagon for the third time when he welcomes Sweden’s Mats Nilsson to the UFC. Nilsson has won 2 in a row and 7 of his last 8 with a win over TUF finalist Tommy Speer and his only loss in that stretch coming at the hands of Tor Troeng. Barnatt is undefeated through his first 7 fights, most recently upsetting Andrew Craig.

‘Bigslow’ as Barnatt is affectionately known, surprised many with his performance against Andrew Craig. He held up early under the attack of the streaking Craig, landed some solid shots of his own, and 2 false walk away knockouts later he submitted Craig. At 6’6 he is a giant Middleweight and while he has yet to learn how to properly exploit that length, he is learning. He has some decent long range weaponry that can do damage, but he is more then willing and sometimes unable to prevent his opponent from engaging with him at close distance. Collin Hart had a lot of success landing in close with strikes, continually working his way inside against the better and bigger striker.

Barnatt has a pair of knockouts on his pro resume and defeated Gilbert Smith on the reality show by knockout. He also has a trio of submission wins, including a first round RNC in his only BAMMA appearance in mid-2012.

Nilsson brings a pretty decent set of grappling credentials into his first appearance. He is a BJJ Brown belt and Judo Black belt. Of his 11 wins, 5 have come by submission, including an arm triangle submission win over Tommy Speer. Against Speer, he was able to drag him to the mat, control him, and eventually tap him out from the mounted position. Not an easy feat. Nilsson’s prerogative against ‘Bigslow’ will be to get in tight, grab hold, and put him on the floor. While Nilsson is good on the ground and decent in the clinch the combination of Luke’s physical strength, size, and a lack of a solid serviceable striking game on Mats’s part will make it hard to get in a position to use his ground skills.

Nilsson’s striking isn’t strong, but for the most part he has been able to mask it by exploiting the insufficient grappling defense of his opponents. He does have a pair of knockouts, most recently catching Denniston Sutherland on the feet and putting him away, but he will be facing a much better striker then anything he has seen in the past.

The biggest concern with Nilsson, in addition to his below average striking which he can accommodate for with his ground skills, is the manner in which he responds to getting hit. On multiple occasions he has been caught with strikes from his opponent and almost froze in place. No one likes getting hit in the face, but the manner in which a fighter is able to deal with it will have a massive impact on their career (see: Brock Lesnar).

Barnatt has power and should have increasing confidence after his last win. He will most likely spend sometime on his back, but as the fight progresses the striking exchanges will drastically slant the action in his favour. Look for Barnatt to land with power as Nilsson tries to come forward and then clean up after his opponent back pedals under so my prediction is Luke Barnatt to defeat Mats Nilsson by TKO.

185lbs- Bradley Scott (10-2-0) vs. Claudio da Silva (9-1-0)

In the Middleweight division, TUF Smashes finalist, Bradley Scott makes his third UFC appearance when he meets debuting Claudio da Silva. Scott moved up to Middleweight in his last bout and emerged with a first round submission win. The Brazilian has won 9 straight since losing his pro debut, most recently defeating 0-2 UFC castoff Xavier Foupa-Pokam.

The Brazilian made a brief stop in the India based ‘Super Fight League’ and took home a controversial decision from the aforementioned ‘Dr. X’. He demonstrate a relentless pursuit of the takedown, mainly relying on a single leg technique and the inability of his opponent to maintain his balance. He did enough with his grappling to win, but from a technical standpoint it wasn’t a pretty performance. He did do a decent job of setting up his TDAs with strikes, but some of his success should be tied to his opponent’s short comings.

Three of Claudio’s submission wins came in a one night tournament back in 2010. His adversaries on that night currently hold a combined record of 34-47, with a combined 16 submission losses.

Scott surprised many with his submission win over talented Judo player Michael Kuiper, successfully moving up a division to get his hand raised. He was able to control Kuiper in the clinch and quickly returned to his feet after getting taken down. He has 4 submission wins and has implemented ground based attacks with success multiple times in his career. On the feet, he demoed decent combinations, landing several solid strikes against Kuiper. In his debut, he held his own against a good striker in Robert Whittaker; just getting edged out in the final striking tally 89-82. He has respectable power with 5 knockouts and should have the technical edge over his counterpart.

With the exception of his last fight, Claudio has faced average to below average regional competition and his skillset reflects that. If he can drag this fight to the ground early he could pull of the submission win, but his cardio issues and Scott’s propensity for physically grueling fights will ultimately slow him down and render his grappling skills ineffective. Scott will be the bigger man and have a significant advantage on the feet and it shows up early and often in front of the home crowd, so my prediction is Brad Scott to defeat Claudio de Silva by TKO.

135lbs- David Grant (8-2-0) vs. Roland Delorme (9-2-0 1NC)

In the UFC’s Bantamweight division, Ultimate Fighter finalist Davey Grant meets fellow TUF alumni Roland Delorme. Grant saw his 8 fight winning streak snapped in his promotional debut. Delorme is fresh off his first official UFC setback (his first loss was ruled a No Contest) and has compiled a 3-1-0 1NC record in the promotion.

Delorme is a BJJ Brown belt and a Judo Black belt. He has secured 6 of his 9 pro wins by submission, including 2 in the UFC. He average 3.02 takedowns per fight at a 32% completion rate. He is an aggressive grinding style grappler that breaks down his opponent with an active top game. He isn’t the type to sit in guard and hold on, looking to pass and then set up a submission opportunity. This style did cost him in his last fight, where his lack of focus on positional controlled allowed his opponent to sweep and reverses him several times.

Not to be out done, 7 of Grant’s 8 wins have come by submission. Four of those wins were of the rear-naked choke variety, while the remaining 3 came via guillotine. He also added a pair of TUF tournament victories to the body count, both by submission. He didn’t get a chance to showcase his grappling skills his debut either through an unwillingness to engage another talented ground fighter or because he felt he had an advantage on the feet. The end result was that when the action eventually went to the floor Grant was submitted for the second time in his career.

On the feet, both fighters are durable and a little undervalued. Delorme has showed on more then one occasion that he can stand and trade with success. He was struggling with the accuracy of Alex Caceres, but his power was holding up quite nicely. He tries to relegate himself to short straight punches and did hurt Nick Denis with a short strike leading to the eventual submission finish. Grant traded hands with Chris Holdsworth in the finale, taking some damage but also dishing out some of his own. He showed himself more then capable of hanging on the feet.

This bout has potential and should be very entertaining. Delorme is the more battled tested fighter, having faced better competition, while Grant’s 8 wins have come over opposition with a combined 46-126 record and submissions accounting for 92 of those losses. Grant will be fighting at home, but it is hard to overlook the depth (or lack thereof) of his previous competition as he makes his first non-TUF appearance. Grant seemed hesitant to go to the floor with Holdsworth and was outclassed and against an aggressive grappler like Delorme those problems should continue. Delorme’s cardio is a bit of an issue, especially if the fight is a contested at a high pace from the start, but my prediction is Roland Delorme to defeat Davey Grant by submission.

170lbs- Igor Araujo (24-6-0 1NC) vs. Danny Mitchell (14-4-1)

In the Welterweight division, 1-0 UFC sophomore Igor Araujo returns to action with a now 5 fight winning streak still intact after an upset oriented debut win over Ildemar Alcantara. Danny Mitchell will be making his first foray into the 8-sided cage, currently enjoying 2 fight winning streak with only one defeat in his last 6 appearances.

Mitchell holds wins over current UFC employee Nico Musoke and the recently departed Besam Yousef. He has also suffered stoppages against fellow UFC FN 37 combatant Gunnar Nelson and long time UFCer Kendall Grove.

Both men bring submission heavy resumes into this clash. Araujo is a talented BJJ practitioner with 17 of his 24 wins by submission. Mitchell has secured 9 of his 14 wins by the same method. Despite their similarities in method of victory, Igor and Danny are two vastly different fighters inside the cage, especially in the grappling department.

Both men have serviceable striking, but far from top level. Araujo caught the slick striking Alcantara off guard on a couple of occasions, walking him down while landing a few powerful punches. He looks a little stiff, but the distraction created by the threat of his ground game increases his success on the feet. Mitchell’s striking is for the most part oriented around setting up his ground game. He can strike at range, but prefers to close the distance and clinch. He will lock up the Thai plumb for some knees to the head and body, but again his main focus are his submissions.

While the Brazilian is far more traditional with his approach to the ground game, Mitchell is more willing to take risks to hopefully hit something spectacular. Danny likes to jump guard on a standing opponent and try to climb his way into a triangle position against his unsuspecting opponent. He does have a win via flying triangle, along with a ‘Twister’ based tapout from early 2013. He has good cardio and if he can’t hit his initial sub, he continues to work and break his opponent down with his pace until something else pops up. His 2010 Armbar win over Musoke was a product of his ravenous aggression eventually materializing in a position his opponent was unable to defend.

Igor doesn’t have anything as exotic on his list of accomplishments as the Brit does, but he has a number of solid submission wins nonetheless. He showed in his debut, against a very strong grappler, that he is dangerous both on top and bottom. He was taken down early by Alcantara, but quickly swept his way to top position and went on the offensive. He made a strong showing based on his positional control, he did attempt a few submissions, but his focus was on doing damage without giving up position.

Araujo looked like a solid vet, showing no signs of nerves in his debut. That should carry over in his second appearance. Mitchell is always a threat to land something, but against a well-versed grappler like Araujo he will be in tough to catch him off guard. Additionally, Danny’s willingness to give up position in favour to attack submission will cost him should he be able to get in a position to attack. Look for Araujo to either control the majority of the action on the mat from the superior position or reverse whatever Mitchell is able to get going. The superior grappler will eventually gain a strong enough advantage to finish, so my prediction is Igor Araujo to defeat Danny Mitchell by submission.

125lbs- Phil Harris (22-11-0 1NC) vs. #11 Louis Gaudinot (6-3-0)

In a division begging for new title challengers, Phil Harris steps in front of his home crowd looking to return to the .500 mark inside the Octagon. Harris is coming off of a quick first round stoppage defeat against John Lineker. Louis Gaudinot has dropped 2 of his last 3 fights since making the jump from the reality show and is equally as in need of a win.

Gaudinot last fought in August 2013, a 6 month break between fights. He has fought just once a year since debuting in 2011.

Despite just one year of age separating the two combatants, their careers have taken drastically different routes. Gaudinot has fought just 9 times and has been relatively inactive since signing on with the UFC. He started his pro career in 2009 and fought 4 times, but has never come even close to that level of activity since. Harris entered the cage for the first time back in 2003 and has fought a total of 33 times. Regardless of where they started, they are now both 1-2 inside the Octagon and fighting for relevancy in the division.

Harris has a massive experience advantage, but the impact of a long career appears to be taking its tolls. Of his 11 career defeats, 10 have come inside the distance with an even split between submissions and knockouts. He is a Black belt in Judo and showed his grappling skills landing a pair of takedowns against Darren Uyenoyama and a single completions against Ulysses Gomez. He did ultimately get submitted by Uyenoyama, but up until that point he faired admirably on the mat with a pretty talented grappler. He is solid in the clinch and is capable of executing throws and trips in order to get the fight to the mat.

Gaudinot has split his 6 wins evenly between knockouts, submissions, and decisions He rallied to defeat John Lineker in an entertaining bout; sleeping the Brazilian via guillotine after a blistering first round contested on the feet. Gaudinot strikes at a furious pace, but has struggled of late to keep his vertical base. He likes to wade forward and throw his hands and can sneak in some solid leg kicks. His stats are missleading, but a still product of his recent difficulties. He landed and absorbed a tonne versus Lineker, but his bouts with Bedford and Elliot were incredibly one sided. His SLpM comes in at 2.69 while his SApM currently sits at 7.97.

In his 3 UFC appearances, Gaudinot has been out landed by each of his opponents’ 82-6, 96-65, and 116-28.

Harris has been hot and cold, he has shown flashes of serviceable striking, but was clearly overmatched with the power of Lineker. He did a decent job of shutting down the attack of Gomez, but Gomez has appeared a shell of his former self. Gaudinot has been equally as inconsistent appearing extremely outgunned against the much larger Johnny Bedford and the uber aggressive Elliot, while pulling out a win over Lineker after losing the opening frame.

The striking defense of Gaudinot has been an issue and while Harris is not an elite level striker, he was landing some decent shots against Lineker prior to the end. Even more of a concern is the 17% TDD and 10 takedowns that Louis has given up in his 2 defeats. Harris isn’t given the credit he deserves for his grappling skills and 13 submissions is nothing to be sneezed at. Look for him to exploit the defensive grappling issues of Gaudinot and put him on his back to gain some valuable points in what could be a close fight. Harris’s submission and knockout numbers are a concern, but both men will have their moments with Harris’s grappling getting him the edge, so my prediction is Phil Harris to defeat Louis Gaudinot by decision.

UFC Fight Night China Predictions

*There will be no episode of Kamikaze Overdrive MMA predictions or Bet Pack for this event.

170lbs- #11 Dong Hyun Kim (18-2-1 1NC) vs. John Hathaway (17-1-0)

In the main event of the evening, Dong Hyun Kim puts his 3 fight winning streak on the line when he meets British fighter John Hathaway. Kim is coming off a surprising knockout win over Erick Silva, while Hathaway has won a trio of fights himself after suffering the first defeat of his career, most recently defeating John Maguire.

Hathaway’s win over Maguire came back in late September 2012, he has been out of action for 16 months.

Physically, these are two of the larger Welterweights and stack up almost identically with one and other. Kim will hold an almost non-existent 0.5” reach advantage.

Despite having decent pre-UFC knockout numbers, Kim 5 and Hathaway 4, both won their debuts via stoppage and until Kim trounced Silva neither had done it again since. What they have excelled at is outclassing their opponents bell to bell leading to the judge’s call in their favour.

Hathaway is 8-1 in decisions, while Kim is a perfect 10-0.

The key to Hathaway’s success has been his improving grappling game. He has recorded a total of 20 takedowns over his 7 UFC wins, including 14 in his first 3 outings. He completes slightly below 1 of every 2 TDAs and once he gets the fight to the floor he has good top control. He hasn’t shown the killer instinct of some, but his ability to neutralize his adversary can be just as effective.

Kim offers a similar method to victory. He is a 4th dan Judo Black Belt averaging 3.27 takedowns at a 48% completion rate. He recently won dominant ground based decisions over Siyar Bahadurzada and BJJ black belt Paulo Thiago. He has scored a takedown in every UFC appearance but one. While he only has a single win by submission, his top game is smothering and he remains active enough to avoid getting stood up.

Kim has a very stout 81% TDD, never having lost a takedown battle in his Zuffa career. Hathaway’s has a respectable 61%, but when he has faced top level grapplers he has struggled. Mike Pyle dominated him on the mat with 5 takedowns in his only loss; Rick Story was a perfect 4 for 4, and even far from elite Kris McCray took him down 3 times.

Both guys are capable on the feet, but all indications are this bout will be contested on the floor. The combination of ring rust and the travel issue will be a lot for Hathaway and facing arguably the best grappler of his career won’t help either. Kim has to avoid getting drawn into a wild exchange and gassing out, but he should find success early and often with his ground skills so my prediction is Dong Hyun Kim to defeat John Hathaway by decision.

265lbs- Matt Mitrione (6-3-0) vs. Shawn Jordan (15-5-0)

In the Heavyweight division, TUF alumni Matt Mitrione has won just once in his last 4 fights including a technical submission loss against Brendan Schaub. Conversely, Shawn Jordan has won 4 of his last 6, but was put to sleep by a well timed counter in his most recent engagement versus big Gabriel Gonzaga.

As in the case in the Heavyweight division, there is a significant size disparity. Mitrione will have a 3″ height advantage, 5.5 inches of reach, along with a few pounds on Jordan.

Both men are former football players and have carried their athleticism into the cage. They both prefer to strike, but of the two Jordan would be the more likely to take the fight to the ground. He has a trio of submission wins, including a keylock submission over Lavar Johnson in his second Strikeforce appearance. Excluding the Johnson win he hasn’t used his wrestling to dominate a fight with his only other multi-takedown effort a TKO stoppage of a gassed Mike Russow.

Mitrione has had some questions raised about his grappling game. His movement and speed make it difficult for his opponent to close the distance when looking to take him down, but when they do get inside they have had success putting him on his back. In any fight going beyond the 3 minute mark (6 of 9 bouts) he has been taken down 11 times, with the most recent takedown resulting in Matt being put two sleep with a d’arce choke. If Jordan can close the gap he could find success on the mat against ‘Meathead’

On the feet, Mitrione has won 5 times by knockout, with a decision win over Joey Beltran accounting for his sixth win. Jordan has 11 knockouts, including 3 in the UFC over Pat Barry, Mike Russow, and Oli Thompson.

Both men are above average in the speed department for Heavyweights. Matt has quick feet, moving side to side and in and out trying to keep his opponents off balance while setting up his own attacks. His combinations are improving and he has hard leg kicks that can really take a lot out of his adversary’s movement. Jordan uses his speed to cover distance and catch his opponent of guard when he attacks. Jordan has power in hands and can overwhelm an opponent with a flurry if he gets the opportunity to unload.

Jordan’s defensive striking is a concern, getting tagged at a rate slightly above what he is able to dish out. He has also been knocked out in 3 of his 5 losses.

Both men have knockout potential. Jordan has he edge on the mat if he can get it there and then keep Matt on his back long enough to either set up a submission or take it to a decision. Jordan comes from the same camp, Jackson’s Submission Fighting, as Brendan Schaub who just submitted Mittrione so he should be well versed in what it takes to beat Mitrione. Additionally, it was evident in the Jordan/ Johnson Strikeforce bout that Jordan’s game plan centered around exploiting his opponent’s weakness on the mat.

Mitrione is more then capable of winning this bout with his speed and reach advantage, but he struggled to keep the much smaller and slower Roy Nelson on the outside before eventually getting knocked out. The combination of Jordan’s power, quickness, and wrestling should continue Matt’s struggles against next level opposition, so my prediction is Shawn Jordan to defeat Matt Mitrione by submission.

135lbs- Nam Phan (18-13-0) vs. Vaughan Lee (13-9-1)

In the Bantamweight division, Nam Phan makes his sophomore appearance in his new divisional home when meets 5 fight UFC veteran Vaughan Lee. Phan is just 4-8 over his last 12 bouts, with back to back losses heading into this fight. Lee has alternated wins and losses since joining the UFC and is coming off a submission loss to top ranked Raphael Assuncao.

Phan has solid grappling credentials, holding Black belts in both Judo and BJJ, but he has yet to secure a submission win in his UFC career. He has focussed so little on his grappling game that he has scored just a single takedown, while getting taken down 23 times by Octagon oppoisiton.

Phan is 5-0 in fights ended by submissions, but has been badly dominated on the mat by Jimy Hetes, Dennis Siver, and Mike Brown.

The Brit has won the majority of his fights by submission, 7 of 13, including his 2012 armbar upset over heavily favoured Kid Yamamoto (I picked that upset). Unfortunately, submissions have also accounted for 2/3’s of his defeats, getting tapped 6 times, twice in the UFC. Lee’s takedown numbers are more respectable then Phan’s, but still not that great. He did land 4 attempts in his debut fight versus Chris Cariaso and successfully defended all but one of the 15 attempts made by Motonobu Tezuka.

While this fight will see some time spent on the cage floor, it will most likely be decided on the feet.

Lee has a decent kicking arsenal and showed some good pop in his hands, hurting Yamamoto with a few short shots. Statistically, Lee has some troubling numbers. He has connected at a rate of just 1.94 strikes per minute, while allowing his opposition to land at a rate of 2.21. Anytime a fighter averages less then 2 strikes per minute, their defensive work must be impeccable and while the Brits is far from horrid its not good enough under these circumstances.

Nam has 7 wins by knockout, along with 3 defeats. He isn’t a one punch knockout fighter, relying on volume. He lands at an impressive rate of 4.81 strikes per minute. He throws decent combinations, working his way in with head movement, and changes levels throwing a nasty left hook to the body. He has topped the 100 strikes mark on 4 different occasions, but he also absorbs a boat load of output from his opponent getting tagged at an astronomical rate of 6.16 SApM. Nam has to find a balance between offense and defense, especially when facing an opponent like Lee who’s totals normally don’t compare to his own.

Phan will have a 4″ reach advantage over Lee, something that he is normally not accustomed to.

Phan has fought just once at 135 pounds and it was an intense affair where he appeared to get stronger as the fight progressed. He was also fighting a veteran and high ranking opponent in Takeya Mizugaki. Physically, he should be more acclimatized to his new weightclass the second time around. If Lee can get this fight to the mat in top position he could control Phan, but Nam showed improved TDD and facing similar sized opposition should help him with his defensive grappling. Lee has a tendency to try and counter or pick his spots, which will be difficult against an opponent that keeps coming forward with combinations. Phan will outwork Lee early and take complete control of the fight as the Brit fades in the second half, so my prediction is Nam Phan to defeat Vaughan Lee by decision.

 

145lbs- Hatsu Hioki (26-7-2) vs. Ivan Menjivar (25-11-0)

In the Featherweight division, Hatsu Hioki faces the potential end of his UFC career having lost 3 in a row after back to back wins to start his Octagon run. Ivan Menjivar returns to the 145 pounds for the first time since mid-2010 when he fought in his final pre-WEC bout. Menjvar has lost 2 in a row and 3 of his last 4.

Physically, Ivan will be undersized and that had to be part of his reasoning for moving to 135. Hioki will have 5″ of height and a significant 9″ reach advantage which will play a key role both on the feet and on the mat.

The Japanese star is a BJJ Black belt owning a career total of 12 submission wins, but has yet to record on inside the Octagon. He has averaged 2 takedowns per fight at 55% with a decent wrestling game highlight by his trip takedowns. He successfully landed 8 completions in his first 3 outings, but has struggled to mount his offensive game with just a single TD over his last 2 fights.

Hioki has an incredibly offensive guard and will chain sub attempts together. His long limbs allow him to attack with a variety of submissions and he is very good with his sweeps and reversals as well. The biggest struggle he has dealt with in the UFC has been strong top game wrestlers like Ricardo Lamas, Daron Elkins, and Clay Guida. While he did attack, he simply spent too long on his back.

No slouch on the mat in his own right, Menjivar is a BJJ Brown belt with a 10-2 record in fights ended by tapout. Unfortunately his grappling stats are pretty sub par, but he does have a pair of Octagon submissions and a throwback calf slicer win over current Lightweight Joe Lauzon. Menjivar has struggle defensively against grappling orient opponents. He lost a decision to Wilson Reis based on his inability to stay vertical and has given up at least 1 takedown in 5 of his last 8 fights, losing 3 of the 5.

Ivan does have the edge in knockouts at 9-4, but he has just 1 knockout in his last 18 fights. Additionally, Hioki has an excellent chin and should be able to stay out of range based on his distance management and reach. Hatsu has a nice compliment of range weapons including a long lead jab and number of different kicks including a well disguised head kick to keep Menjivar on the outside. While Mejivar likes to throw a variety of flashy techniques the volume is simply not there and he gets hit almost as much as he hits which is never a good thing.

Hioki was able to take down Ricardo Lamas 4 times which is no easy feat and he showed in the Palaszewski fight that he can dominate a round with his top game. With his grappling alone he should be able to take Menjivar to the floor at will, but he should be further aided by Ivan having to close the distance when looking to land his strikes. Menjivar struggled with Reis on top and should fair no better against the much larger Hioki. Hioki looked his best when he fought in Japan and the time difference between Macau and Tokyo is just an hour so he should be the more acclimated of the 2 fighters, so my prediction is Hatsu Hioki to defeat Ivan Menjivar by submission.

155lbs- Kazuki Tokudome (12-4-1) vs. Yui Chul Nam (17-4-1)

In the Lightweight division, Kazuki Tokudome of Japan welcomes debuting Korean knockout artist ‘The Korean Bulldozer” Yui Chul Nam to the UFC. Tokudome started his Octagon journey with a win, but suffered a setback in his most recent performance while Nam has won 4 in a row and 7 of his last 8.

‘The Korean Bulldozer’ carries 8 knockouts into his inaugural bout, but just 1 in his last 4. He is far from a polished striker, throwing caution to the wind and unloading with violent and wild offerings. He varies his attacks between moments of calculated gauging of his opponent, before making an abrupt change and attacking. In his 2011 TKO of Rob Hill, the pair exchanges on the feet for large duration of the fight, with both men landing knockdowns before Hill eventually relented in the second frame.

Nam is 8-3 in decision, which suggests that he is capable of winning full round fights, but his wild style has and will tax his gas tank and cause him to slow down in longer fights. He has 6 first round finishes.

Tokudome looked solid in his debut, out dueling BJJ Black Belt Cristiano Marcello and winning the fight predominantly on the floor. While he wasn’t overly aggressive on the mat, he held his own and used positional control to seal the deal. The concern in that bout came early, when the wild swimming Brazilian landed several hard punches and clearly hurt Kazuki. He momentarily wilted against the cage, but recovered for the eventual win. He has a tendency to move straight back when under attack and raise his chin up in the process.

The former Pancrase competitor has been stopped twice, including a brutal 2010 head kick knockout under the KSW banner.

Nam has been taken down and based on his ability to push the pace and throw heat, Tokudome needs to get this fight to the floor frequently and for long periods of time. Dozer’s has shown serviceable grappling skills of his own, with a base in Judo and if he can turn the tide on his opponent or at least offer some stout defensive work he can keep the knockout in play. Tokudome’s history of a questionable chin and poor defensive tendencies leave him vulnerable against a fighter that will push the pace and look to overwhelm him from the onset of the fight. The grappling game, or lack there of could decide this fight, but my prediction is Yui Chul Nam to defeat Kazuki Tokudome by knockout.

170lbs- Zak Cummings (16-3-0) vs. Alberto Mina (10-0-0)- Cancelled

In the Welterweight division, Zak Cummings makes his sophomore appearance inside the Octagon after a successful first round submission win in his debut. Undefeated Alberto Mina will enter the Octagon for the first time with 10 wins to start his pro career, all inside the distance.

Physically Cummings will be the taller man with a 4″ height advantage and has fought at both Middleweight and Light Heavyweight.

Mina is a both a BJJ and Judo black belt with 6 of 10 wins by submission. He has a smooth, but aggressive transition game with all of his submission victories coming inside the first round. Cummings is also a grappling based fighter. He is a BJJ Brown belt, owning 9 submission wins of his own.

Cummings debuted in both Bellator and the UFC with d’arce choke submission victories. He lost via RNC to Tim Kennedy in his only Strikeforce appearance.

If this fight stays standing both men are more then capable of handling with serviceable striking games and the ability to end the bout on the feet. Each man has a 4-pack of TKO/KO victories to their name. Mina scored an impressive first round stoppage of Glenn Sparv in his final pre-UFC tune-up fight.

Cummings has faced far better competition and is making his second appearance at 170 pounds in the UFC, so his body should be better adjusted. For Mina, he is making his debut which is tough and is taking a step up in quality of competition. The x-factor will be Cummings’s ability to deal with the time adjustment. There is approximately 14 hours difference between where he normally trains and where the event will take place, which can greatly impact a fighter’s performance.

Cummings has had some trouble with aggressive grapplers. He was submitted by Tim Kennedy and lost position versus Dylan Andrew in his TUF tournament defeat offering very little off his back. Conversely a debuting and undefeated fighter like Mina can raise cause for concern when moving to this level of competition for the first time, and for the most part he hasn’t fought anyone at this level. Cummings will have a size advantage and his experience should help him to grind this one out, additionally the combo of Octagon jitters and a lack of experience beyond the first round will compromise Mina’s abilities as the fight progresses so my prediction is Zak Cummings to defeat Alberto Mina by decision.

 

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- #3 Alexis Davis (15-5-0) vs. #6 Jessica Eye (11-1-0)

In the undercard main event, #3 ranked Alexis Davis takes her perfect 2-0 UFC record into the line of fire when she meets sixth ranked Jessica ‘Evil’ Eye. Eye took a controversial split decision over Sarah Kaufman in her debut that has since been overturned, while Davis has Octagon wins over Rosi Sexton and former title challenger Liz Carmouche.

Much like Eye versus Kaufman and not so ironically Davis versus Kaufman, this meeting has the potential for fireworks. While neither fighter has big knockout numbers (2 each), both ladies are not adverse to throwing their hands and leaving everything in the cage. While their stats are drawn from a small sample size, both have averaged over 4 strikes landed per minute in their short Octagon careers.

Davis is a fan of close distance scrapping, settling in and trading with her opponent at a feverish pace. She will lock up the Thai plumb and throw short punches and knees, which could be an effective attack against Eye as Kaufman had a fair bit of success when she was able to control Jessica in close. Davis also has some decent long range weaponry. She will throw a nice straight right hand and will mix in a standing elbow strike at range. Her leg kicks, specifically her inside leg kicks, were incredibly effective against Liz Carmouche and will serve a duel purpose both to attack Eye when she is at distance and to slow her movement down.

Eye opened some…eyes in her debut, with her striking success against a dangerous striker. Her movement was excellent, popping in and out of range. Her hand speed was fantastic, and her combinations crisp. She routinely landed a sharp left jab when Kaufman tried to come forward and landed some decent shots on the break whenever they disengaged. Eye did some surface damage, but unfortunately never really hurt her with any one shot.

The former Bellator competitor did get rocked a couple times in the final frame and it was partially the result of her tendency to back straight up and raise her chin. Kaufman repeatedly found her mark with a solid right hand, doing more and more damage as the fight progressed. Eye also showed a limited kicking game, which could be an issues against a more kickboxing based striker in Davis.

If the fight hits the ground the Canadian should have the advantage. She is a BJJ Black belt with 7 wins by submission and is dangerous on top or bottom. She has good entry on her takedowns and if she gives up position during the early transactions she is more then capable of working her way into a better position. Eye has just a single submission victory and her only loss was by RNC. While she is far from unprepared to fight on the mat, she will get second best here.

The looming suspension hovering over Eye’s head could serve as a distraction. Even before it was overturned, her win was seen as quite controversial as she faded a little down the stretch, and clearly lost the third frame. Eye’s speed advantage was key in her debut, but it won’t be as prominent here. Additionally, look for Davis to mix up her attack with kicks, clinch fighting, and the constant threat of the takedown. Eye needs to stay to the outside and keep Davis chasing, but she won’t find the same success she did against Kaufman, so my prediction is Alexis Davis to defeat Jessica Eye by decision.

135lbs- #3 Raphael Assuncao (20-4-0) vs. Pedro Munhoz (10-0-0)

In another bout altered by injury, #3 ranked Bantamweight Raphael Assuncao changes gears in prep for a fight with debuting Pedro Munhoz, after veteran Francisco Rivera was forced to withdraw from the contest. Assuncao has won 5 in a row since cutting to 135, while Munhoz is undefeated through the first 10 fights of his career.

Assuncao comes into this fight with a lot on the line. He is creeping towards a potential shot at the title, after a series of impressive performance over top competition. All of that could quickly disappear with a lose to a dangerous prospect on the rise.

A BJJ Black belt, Assuncao is a well established veteran with a dangerous submission game accounting for 10 of his of his 21 wins, with a number of ground based decision victories as well. He averages 1.68 takedowns at a 33% completion rate, which isn’t exceedingly impressive, but in most fights he only needs one opportunity on the floor to end it. A more prominent stat is his takedown defense, where he defends 76% of his opposition’s attempts. In fact , he has been taken down just 5 times over 11 fights and his ability to prevent Munhoz from taking the fight to the mat will be key to his victory.

With 6 of his 10 wins coming by submission, Munhoz is a dangerous ground fighter. He is a BJJ Black belt and a Judo Brown belt. He has a solid single leg based takedown game, attacking with a variety of submission attempts. Arguably the most dangerous aspect of his floor skills is his quickness and ability to execute once the action goes horizontal. He has just a single win by leg based submission, but he will look for leg attacks and sweeps if his opponent leaves an opening.

3 of Munhoz last 4 submission wins have come by Guillotine choke.

While Assuncao did submit Vaughan Lee, for the most part he has found his stride on the basis of an improved striking game. At Bantamweight, he has edged out his opposition in significant strikes landed by an average of 18.2 strikes per fight. He will attack with a variety of techniques, but he is most successful because he remains composed and doesn’t overextend himself when attacking. He put on a countering clinic against Mike East0n, punishing him every time he came forward and showed his power when he finished Issei Tamura.

Munhoz has just a single knockout win and it came via retirement against an opponent with just 3 pro bouts, but he is not to be underestimated. He throws a solid right hand and will spam front kicks to the body. His style of body kicks aren’t a typical kicking technique, but they can be difficult to anticipate and will do damage against an unsuspecting opponent.

What this fight comes down to is Assuncao has simply faced better competition. He is far more battled tested having executed against some of the best in the world. Munhoz’s ground game has yet to collide with someone on par or better then him which will show up here. Assuncao still needs to execute, but he will either get the better of Munhoz on the mat or defensively negate it all together. On the feet he will out work him and land better quality shots. Munhoz is a dangerous task for Assuncao, but my prediction is Raphael Assuncao to defeat Pedro Munhoz by decision.

135lbs- Cody Gibson (11-3-0) vs. Aljamain Sterling (8-0-0)

In a contest completely overhauled by injury, a pair of fresh out of the pack Bantamweight collide as Cody Gibson carries a 6 fight winning streak into his meeting with the undefeated Aljamain Sterling. This bout was originally pegged to feature Lucas Martins and Bryan Caraway, but the latter withdrew and was replaced by Sterling, shortly thereafter Martins was scratched as well.

Both fighters are taking this bout on relatively short notice and will be appearing for the first time in a major promotion. Although Gibson should have an experience advantage; with 6 more fights, along with appearances in Titan FC and 7 fights under the Tachi Palace Fights banner.

Gibson has faced multiple opponents with upper level experience, including wins over Wael Watson and Chad George, and 3rd round submission defeat against Ulysses Gomez.

Sterling is a product of the Serra-Longo fight team and will have gained valuable experience training along side a variety of talented fighters including the UFC Middleweight champion.

A former Division III All-American wrestler, Sterling has a solid grappling based attack. He sets up his takedowns with strikes before changing levels for a double leg. He if can get his hands connected he has the power to pickup and drive his opponent into the mat and showed immense power by slamming his way out of a triangle attempt in one of his final pre-UFC appearances. He is aggressive on the mat, remaining active in pursuit of either a submission or ground and pound stoppage.

With a trio of submission wins, including a first round tapout of the WEC veteran Chad George, Cody is far from out of his depth on the mat. He is a good wrestler in his own right, with a nice sprawl that he will need to rely on to keep this fight vertical. If it does go to the ground he is good in the scrambles and more often then not can turn a mat exchange in his favour. He did struggle in the early going against George, surviving a very tight d’arce choke, after getting mounted, which is something he can’t afford versus Sterling.

On the feet both guys do have decent arsenals. Gibson is light on his feet and uses a decent amount of movement. He will flash a jab, and mix in an uppercut, body shots, and a hard stepping knee. He will get a little wild if he losses focus and defensive striking is a bit of a concern. He drops his hands at the end of his attacks and doesn’t use a tonne of head movement which can leave room for his opponent to counter.

Sterling has a respectable kicking arsenal and like Gibson will use a lot of movement. He should be the faster of the two fighters and his ability to set his takedowns up with his striking will most certainly keep Gibson from settling into a comfort zone on the feet.

Both guys show a lot of promise, but there are still a few holes in Gibson striking game and while he is the more experienced of the two fighters, he will struggle to fend off the heavy wrestling attack of Sterling. Look for Sterling to edge out Gibson on the feet based on his speed and land takedowns at will, while control the majority of the action on the mat, so my prediction is Aljamain Sterling to defeat Cody Gibson by submission

125lbs- #10 Zach Makovsky (16-4-0) vs. Josh Sampo (11-2-0)

In the growing Flyweight division a pair of UFC sophomores tangle looking to improve upon impressive promotional debuts. Former Bellator Bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky pulled off a sizeable upset when he took home a unanimous decision victory over former WEC title challenger Scott Jorgensen. Josh Sampo won his inaugural appearance in the second round with a submission over fellow UFC debutant Ryan Benoit.

In addition to his triumphant debut, Sampo holds wins over notables in Alexis Villa and Antonio Banuelos, submitting Villa in the fifth round of their title fight.

Makovsky is a perfect 3-0 since cutting down to Flyweight.

Zach is an NCAA D-1 wrestler. He has excellent takedowns and his ability to float over into side control during the process really sets up his top game. He is active from top position and has secured 6 wins by submission, including 2 during his time with Bellator. He showed a very good ground game against a strong wrestler in Jorgensen, taking the fight to him in a spirited back and forth affair. He has good transitions on top and on more then one occasion swept himself into a dominant position, including taking Scotty’s back in the final minutes of the fight.

Makovsky has been submitted on 3 occasions, with his most recent costing him the Bellator title against Eduardo Dantas.

Sampo has a solid ground game as well, with 5 of his 10 wins coming by sub. He has good takedowns, changing levels quickly and looking to float over into cross-side position as soon as he hits the mat. He is an aggressive guard passer, and got the better of the majority of the exchanges versus Benoit, eventually finishing with a submission. There were a couple of occasions where he got too aggressive and allowed his opponent to sweep into top position, even getting his back taken prior to finishing the fight, which is a concern versus Makovsky.

On the feet, Makovsky has just a single win by knockout, but he showed some solid technique in his win over Jorgensen. His striking was on point, mixing in a nice variety of kicks and punches, including a kick/ superman punch combo. He hurt Jorgensen on a couple of occasions, including landing a stiff straight left late in the first round, but remained focus and technical instead of simply chasing the knockout.

For Sampo, he has yet to record a win by KO or TKO, but he did pick up an early knocked down versus Benoit. His striking is simple but effective with a boxing base. He throws a decent 1-2 and caught Benoit with several stinging right hands. He will also go to the body with a hefty body kick and maintains a decent work rate when standing.

These two fighters matchup very well and share a number of similar traits which should translate to a decent scrap. Both men took their debuts on short notice, so they should put together even better performances this time around. Sampo did give up position a couple of times to Benoit and if that trend continues he will struggle to take it back versus Makovsky. The striking exchanges could be close, by Makovsky should get the better of the positional battles on the mat, so my prediction is Zach Makovsky to defeat Josh Sampo by decision.

155lbs- Rafaello Oliveira (15-6-0) vs. Erik Koch (13-3-0)

On the heals of back to back decisive defeats at Featherweight Erik Koch returns to the Lightweight division with an even 2-2 mark at 145. Rafaello Oliveira has just a single win over his last 4 fights and could be fighting for his UFC career with a promotional record of 2-5.

Oliveira is a BJJ Black belt, with 4 wins by submission. His success in the cage hinges on his ability to execute his ground attack. In his 5 UFC defeats he has landed a total of 4 takedowns, all coming in his UFC debut against Nik Lentz. Lentz was able to match him shot for shot and was clearly the more active fighter taking the decision. In the remaining 4 losses he was completely shutout and either lost the striking exchanges (Barboza, Edwards, Winner) or found himself dominated on the mat by a superior ground fighter (Tibau). In his two wins, he thoroughly dominated with his grappling landing a total of 10 takedowns and then controlling the action with a heavy top game.

Erik Koch has defended 79% of his opponents TDAs over his UFC/WEC career, but those numbers can be a little deceiving. In his fights with Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, and Dustin Poirier he gave up 10 takedowns on 23 attempts. Additionally, while he did have his moments, he spent large portions of each of those bouts defending off of his back and struggle to get out of the position. His percentage is inflated from his bout with Jonathan Brookins where he was able to defend 19 of 20 TDAs, but spent most of the fight pinned along the cage.

In comparison, both men have struggled with the fight style that their opponent presents to them in this fight. The question is who can execute?

Koch will have the advantage on the feet. Technically speaking he is the better striker, but he can’t afford to overestimate what Oliveira is capable of. Look for Koch to land a variety of kicks and sling decent combinations together, while Oliveira attempts to overwhelm him with pressure and a brawling approach similar to what he did against Yves Edwards. Oliveira has worked diligently to improve his striking and despite getting his lead leg obliterated by Barboza, he had some success with his hands.

Koch has routinely struggled with pressure. Brookins was able to continually pin him on the cage, Ricardo Lamas overwhelmed him with his wrestling, and Dustin Poirier simply out worked him. Erik tends to stand directly in front of his opponent and is a little flat footed when doing so. He also backs straight up when under pressure which will allow his Oliveira to close, clinch, and possibly take him down. Rafaello has to be aggressive and stifle the striking offense of Koch, who doesn’t have a high output to start with, and control him on the wall and the cage. Koch has made claims that the weight cut has negatively impacted his performance at 145, but moving up isn’t always the answer, so my prediction is Rafaello Oliveira to defeat Erik Koch by decision.

155lbs- Ernest Chavez (6-0-0) vs. Yosdenis Cedeno (9-2-0)

Ernest Chavez makes his UFC debut having started his career with 6 straight win, most recently picking up a pair of wins under the BAMMA banner. Yosdenis Cedeno will join Chavez in making his debut, he is currently riding a 6 fight winning streak with his last defeat coming against TUF champ Jonathan Brookins back in early 2010.

Cedeno’s 2 career defeats have come against the aforementioned Brookins via decision and current Bellator employee Derek Campos in the summer of 2009.

Chavez started his career winning 3 of his 4 bouts via decision, with a first round TKO victory coming in his second win. Taking a slight step up in competition has brought out the best in ‘EJ’ has he has found his knockout touch, finishing each of his last 2 opponents inside the distance.

Demonstrating far more consistent finishing skills, Cedeno has finished 6 of his 9 wins via knockout, including 3 on his current winning streak.

Chavez takes more of a brawling approach, plodding forward looking to do damage through accumulation or simply outworking his opponent on route to a decision. Ernest isn’t a pretty of striker, mainly tossing wide ranging hooks that leave him open to counters down the middle.

In addition to holding the better finishing rate, Cedeno is far more diverse striker. He has a pretty solid arsenal of kicks, ranging from heavy leg kicks to more flashy spinning techniques. He will slip in a jumping knee at the opportune moment and overall has excellent timing on his striking attacks.

While neither man has recorded a submission win, Cedeno has shown some decent wrestling skills both offensively and defensively. Chavez can be put on his back, but his opponents have been forced to work extremely hard to get him there and he is pretty adept at springing back to his feet.

A distinct speed advantage will so be evident in favour of the Cuban. Yosdenis appears to be the superior athlete and should be able to out quick Chavez during the exchanges. In the brief footage available, Chavez appeared to struggle against a faster and more technically sound opponent, not really finding success until his opponent started to slow down. Simply put, Cedeno is faster, offers a far greater variety of striking techniques, and has the edge in knockout power, so my prediction is Yosdenis Cedeno to defeat Ernest Chavez by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Cristiano Marcello (13-5-0) vs. Joe Proctor (8-2-0)

Fellow Ultimate Fighter season 15 competitors Cristiano Marcello and Joe Proctor will headline the preliminary portion of the card. Marcello is 1-2 inside the Octagon, with a controversial win over Reza Madadi. Joe Proctor is an even 1-1 with a knockout of Jeremy Larsen, followed by a decision defeat against Ramsey Nijem.

Proctor hasn’t fought since December 2012, roughly a 14 month layoff. Marcello has been inactive for 11 months.

Marcello appears to be suffering from a similar misguided mentality as fellow talented ground fighter Jorge Gurgel. He is the former Chute Boxe Academy BJJ coach and a fourth degree Black belt. Of his 13 wins, 9 have come by submission, but since joining the UFC he has shown next to no interest in implementing a grappling based attack. Cristiano has scored exactly 1 takedown over his 3 UFC bouts, opting instead to focus more on his striking. While there is no denying Marcello is a well versed grappler, he has hardly looked the part. Not only has he not gone on the offensive with his grappling, when he has been put on his back, as he was in his last outing, he been completely stifled.

Working along side Joe Lauzon, Proctor will have had his fair share of grappling prep. He does have 4 wins by submission, in addition to a pair of subs on the show, but the last time we saw Proctor he struggle to fend off his opponent’s ground attack. Nijem scored 5 takedowns on 10 attempts and won the fight because he held the majority of the dominant positions on the floor. While Proctor had his moments, including a couple of choke attempts, his difficulties on the mat could be a point of focus that Marcello looks to exploit.

While there is a possibility Marcello tries to jump start his UFC career with a return to his roots, the raging crowd and a longing to throw down will most likely lead to the opposite outcome.

The Brazilian willingly tossed leather with Sam Sicilia before he was render unconscious. Prior to that he was knocked out unofficially by Justin Lawrence on the reality show and in his pre-UFC time his last defeat was by TKO. Marcello does have some pop in his hands, but his technique leaves a lot to be desired. He throws with reckless abandon and telegraphs the majority of his strikes. He routinely runs forward when attacking, swinging inaccurate and dangerously indefensible ‘punches’. He was able to find some success against Reza Madadi, but Reza is far from an elite level striker in his own right.

While Marcello is game, his lack of defense or at the very least a well crafted offensive attack leaves him far too vulnerable and is taxing on his already questionable cardio. Proctor is a young fighter that has been out of the cage for a year and while ring rust could have an impact, he should show some significant improvements. He did score a win by knockout in his debut and rocked Nijem with a well timed counter, so the potential is there. Proctor simply needs to keep his attack simple, maintain some semblance of defense, and the openings will present themselves. Unless Joe gets caught with something crazy or Marcello gets this fight the mat in top position, Proctor is simply the better fighter no matter what country they are fighting in, so my prediction is Joe Proctor to defeat Cristiano Marcello by TKO.

155lbs- Ivan Jorge (25-3-0) vs. Rodrigo Damm (9-5-0)

In a battle of Brazilians, Rodrigo Damm returns to the Lightweight division following a split decision victory over Mizuto Hirota. Opposing Damm will be Ivan Jorge, who is also coming off a win after a victorious debut in the Welterweight division.

Jorge is a BJJ Black belt, with almost all of his wins coming by either submission or grappling based decision. He has respectable takedowns and solid transitions. While he is capable of pulling of a number of different techniques, the rear naked choke appears to be his finisher of choice. He struggled with the size of his first UFC opponent, landing just a pair of takedowns on 10 attempts, but ultimately controlled the majority of the action along the cage.

Damm is a 3rd Degree BJJ Black belt and was a member of the Brazilian National wrestling team. He has secured a 6-pack of submission wins, most recently scoring an RNC in his promotional debut at UFC 147. While Damm is a talented ground fighter and will mix in his grappling skills as was the case against Mizuto Hirota where he landed a pair of takedowns, his success frequently hinges on his striking abilities.

As is the case with wrestlers, when talented BJJ players collide they will often forgo their grappling offense in favour of a striking based approach which could be the case here.

For Damm, he does have a pair of knockout wins, but he packs a far more dangerous punch then those numbers would suggest. Of his 2 knockouts, one came over talented striker Jorge Masvidal and he rocked Hirota on a couple of occasions. He held his own against Antonio Carvalho in a fight mainly contested on the feet, regularly landing a solid 1-2 and finishing with an over hand right. He can also do damage with his leg kicks when he chooses to implement them. He did have success waiting and then countering Hirota, but he needs to find a happy medium with this approach as continually allowing your opponent to land first can sway the judges against a fighter.

Jorge is far from a refined striker. He is a little stiff in his delivery and will telegraph his strikes. His raw physical strength makes him a threat if he is able to connect and 3 of Damm’s 6 defeats have come by way of knockout. At distance, Jorge landed some hard leg kicks versus Keith Wisniewski and while they weren’t pretty, he should look to replicate the success that Antonio Carvalho had by targeting the legs of Damm.

Ivan Jorge has been knocked out in 2 of his 3 losses.

The size issue is the x-factor. Jorge is a big 155er, which comes with both the good and the bad. If he can close the distance and either land strikes or tie up then the size/ strength aspect will be to his advantage. If he slows down from the impact of cutting to 155 pound with such a stout frame, he will struggle to score key points late in the fight. For Damm he is coming up from 145 and will be the smaller man, but he should also be the quicker fighter. This should aid him in the striking exchanges and he is far from unaccustomed to competing at this weight having faced the likes of Gilbert Melendez and the aforementioned Masvidal.

Jorge has to gain an advantage in the grappling exchanges to win this fight, as Damm should be the superior striker. Look for Damm to out-quick ‘Batman’ and land the better shots, while defending early TDAs and countering against the technically inferior opponent, therefore my prediction is Rodrigo Damm to defeat Ivan Jorge by decision.

155lbs- Francisco Trinaldo (13-3-0) vs. Jesse Ronson (13-3-0)

Francisco Trinaldo’s modest 2 winning streak came to an end with an upset defeat against Piotr Hallmann in his last outing. Jesse Ronson will be making his second UFC appearance after a split decision defeat against Michel Prazeres at UFC 165.

Ronson comes from kickboxing background, with 6 wins by knockout, training out of the same camp that has produced the likes of Mark Hominick and Sam Stout. He struggled to find success early in his debut, landing just 14 strikes over the first 10 minutes, before finding his groove in the third frame winning the stand-up battle by a count of 27-14. Ronson has good leg kicks and will also target the body with his punches which will be an effective weapon if he can land with regularity. He has to pull the trigger first and frequently to gain the respect of his opponent, which is something he didn’t do against Prazeres.

Trinaldo’s striking is improving, and his focus here will be on power over technique. He throws a big over hand right and can do damage with his kicking game. He nearly scored a knockout of Glieson Tibau after catching with his right hand and did some damage to Hallmann with a nasty body kick. While Trinaldo is more then capable of holding his own on the feet, he would be best served to take this fight to the ground.

Working his BJJ under fellow UFC competitor and talented ground fighter Sergio Moraes, ‘Massaranduba’ is a combination of physicality and improving technical skill on the mat. He has secured 5 wins by submission, including a pair of arm triangle chokes inside the Octagon and his ground and pound can be fight ending. His wrestling is decent, averaging 1.57 takedowns per fight. He should have a significant advantage on the mat against the Canadian.

Ronson struggled to fend off the grappling attack of Prazeres, giving up 7 takedowns on 15 attempts. He was badly outclassed in the first 2 frames of the bout, defending, but offering no offensive answers to his opponent’s onslaught. He had previously had success fending off grappling based opponents with a well executed sprawl and brawl approach. The biggest concern for Jesse is his commitment to a kickboxing oriented stance, where he stands very tall and subsequently allows his opponent ample opportunities to successfully shoot for takedowns. If Ronson is unable to correct this issues, he will find himself spending a great deal of this fight working off his back.

The conditioning of Trinaldo is a concern that clearly cost him in his appearance. If he is unable to finish Ronson early he may need to hold off a late rally. If Ronson can keep this fight standing he could outclass the Brazilian on the feet, but all indications are the Trinaldo’s grappling will neutralize the striking of the Canadian. Trinaldo will be motivated to return to the win column in front of his countrymen and the blueprint for success against Ronson was laid out just one fight prior, so my prediction is Francisco Trinaldo to defeat Jesse Ronson by submission.

135lbs- #9 Yuri Alcantara (27-5-0 1NC) vs. Wilson Reis (17-4-0)

Yuri Alcantara is coming off a tough decision defeat versus Urijah Faber, his first career loss at Bantamweight. Conversely Wilson Reis has won 5 in a row including his UFC debut against Ivan Menjivar. Reis finished his run under the Bellator banner with 5-4 record.

Both men are BJJ Black belts, with a combined 20 wins by submissions (Alcantara-12 Reis-8). For Reis his wrestling isn’t the greatest, but he had success landing 4 of 6 takedowns against Menjivar. He didn’t do much from top position and in past fights he has made several positional mistakes in pursuit of the finish, which will cost him against a fighter like Alcantara. Yuri did struggle with the wrestling of Faber and Hacran Dias at Featherweight, but he is a dangerous guard player and should be more then capable of defending Reis’s attempts to get the fight to the mat.

On the feet the advantage swings significantly in Alcantara’s favour. Reis likes to wing wild power punches that can be dangerous if they land, but his accuracy is below average. Adding to his technical deficiencies will be a 6″ reach disadvantage. His chin is also a question mark with a pair of knockout losses. Alcantara’s sole TKO defeat was the result of an injury and he has 12 knockout wins as proof of his power including stoppages of Iliarde Santos and Ricardo Lamas. Look for Alcantara to throw a variety of traditional techniques including a well-timed stepping knee, along with some more high risk maneuvers.

Alcantara will either be too dangerous on the mat or prevent Reis from gaining top position, forcing him to exchange which will be a recipe for disaster, so my prediction is Yuri Alcantara to defeat Wilson Reis by knockout.

145lbs- Felipe Arantes (15-5-1 2NC) vs. Maximo Blanco (9-5-1 1NC)

After a defeat in his UFC debut, Felipe Arantes had gone 2-0-1, but lack luster performance against former Jungle Fight champion Kevin Souza quickly brought that run to a close. Maximo Blanco has put together a far less impressive series of fights, with just a single win in 4 contests under the combined UFC/ Strikeforce banner.

‘Maxi’ is coming off 25 second defeat via DQ in his last showing, his second DQ defeat to date.

Both fighters are primarily strikers, but this bout could see some floor time. Blanco comes from a wrestling background and did have success scoring a pair of takedowns in his win over Sam Sicilia. He has some pretty solid ground skills when he elects to take the fight to the floor, but he is 0-2 in fights ended by submission. Arantes is a BJJ Purple belt with 4 wins by sub, along with 2 losses. He has stuffed 6 of the last 8 TDAs directed his way and landed 3 of his own versus Souza, but Yuri Alcantara dominated Felipe on the basis of 6 completions and a strong top game.

Either through Blanco’s unwillingness or Arantes’s TDD, this fight will most likely stay vertical for the majority of the action.

Both combatants boast heavy hands and stout beards with identical 7-0 records in fights involving a knockout. Blanco is an aggressive striker, with an early onslaught capable of putting away any unprepared foe. He owns 4 first round stoppages, including 3 inside the first 90 seconds. Blanco throws heat and can do damage with a variety of weapons, but he hasn’t scored a knockout since 2010. Arantes is a Mauy Thai Brown belt averaging 2.86 SLpM, while giving up 2.28 SApM. He is the far more calculated striker, looking to land combinations while slipping in counters. He has solid footwork and can do damage with his leg kicks, but he failed to pull the trigger against Souza and can’t afford a similar performance versus Blanco.

Arantes has had some trouble getting started in fights, which is a considerable concern against a quick starter like Maxi. If Felipe can avoid the early rush of Blanco he should be able to turn the exchanges in his favour, especially as the Venezuelan starts to slow down. Blanco is a skilled fighter, but he is too inconsistent and his lack of mental focus is hard to overlook, so my prediction is Felipe Arantes to defeat Maximo Blanco by decision or DQ, but most likely decision.

170lbs- Ildemar Alcantara (19-6-0) vs. Albert Tumenov (12-1-0)

Another in the growing roster of Russian born fighters will enter the Octagon as Albert Tumenov puts his 9 fight winning streak on the line. Opposing Tumenov will be Brazilian Ildemar Alcantara whose 9 fight winning streak ended in his third and most recent UFC appearance.

Tumenov carries with him 8 wins by knockout, including 6 consecutive stoppages leading up to his Octagon debut. He is coming off of an impressive 1 round destruction of former M-1 title holder Yasubey Enomoto. The Nalchik native is a talented striker with a heavy leathered arsenal. He has a devastating left hand and can be aggressive with his strikes or hold back and slip in counters if his opponent chooses to push the pace. He has a tendency to hold is hands a little on the low side, but the combination of his technique and speed have allowed him to get away with it thus far.

The Russian will be standing 2″ shorter then his hometown counterpart, but will most likely make up for it with his speed.

On the feet, watch for Ildemar to snap off smooth combinations, mixing in kicks and an excellent stepping knee strike. He is an offensive minded striker, but he has shown the capacity to use counters. He struggled to find his groove in his decision defeat against Igor Araujo, getting badly out-landed 128-33. Alcantara also had some issues with the speed of the much smaller Leandro Silva, with Silva holding a slight edge at 63-56 in strikes landed despite suffering the defeat.

Alcantara might be best suited to try and take this fight to the floor. He is a BJJ Black belt with 6 wins by submission. He has averaged 3.19 takedowns at an 89% completion rate, while putting up 3 successful attempts in each of his last 2 bouts. With his size advantage and grappling pedigree a fight where he can establish consistent top control would swing the action significantly in his favour.

In the fight game speed kills and when you can combine that with a superior striking arsenal like Tumenov packs it can lead to some devastating results. Alcantara has been knocked out twice, which is a concern against a proven finisher, but he should be good enough to take this fight the distance despite getting out worked on the feet. Tumenov has a lot of promise, but will need to overcome Octagon jitters and the pressure of fighting in enemy territory, nonetheless my prediction is Albert Tumenov to defeat Ildemar Alcantara by decision.

145lbs- Douglas de Silva (22-0-0 1NC) vs. Zubaira Tukhugov (15-3-0)

Moving from the main card to the opening bout of the night with the loss of Thiago Tavares, Zubaira Tukhugov rides a 6 fight winning streak into his promotional debut. Stepping up on short notice, is undefeated Douglas de Silva who has yet to face defeat in his 23 fight career.

Of de Silva’s 22 wins, an impressive 18 have come by knockout, 1 by submission and the remaining 3 wins by decision. The majority of the Russian’s victories have are in the form of decisions, 9, with 5 knockout victories, and a single submission. On the opposite side of the ledger, Tukhugov has a notch in each of the 3 loss columns.

Tukhugov should be the larger man standing 3″ taller and formerly fighting at lightweight.

Of the two, de Silva appears to be a little more aggressive striker. He likes to walk down his opponent and both unload with his own attack while nullifying their arsenal with his pressure. He throws a pretty accurate right hand and even though he is a pressure based striker, he can change gears quickly with his counter striking game. When attacking, he will need to avoid over extending on his strikes, and subsequently creating openings for his adversary to return fire.

Tukhugov is far from a novice on the feet. He has pretty tight hands of his own and will push the pace when the situation calls for it. His 9 decision wins bring into question his finishing instincts, but he is coming off a pretty impressive spinning back kick KO is his final pre-UFC engagement. He will open with a left hook, but similar to his opponent, he can be guilty over extending himself when attacking.

While the Russian is the bigger man, he will most likely struggle with the speed of de Silva. If he can’t keep the pace on the feet he could be forced to try and take the fight to the ground. He does have a background in Sambo and may be forced to grind his opponent into the cage or mat if the striking is trending away from him.

The continual trend of upsets in the early preliminary fights could come into play here, with de Silva a slight dog. Some consideration should be given to the fact that this fight is in Brazil and the crowd will be hot early, potentially swinging the momentum in favour of the local. Speed and finishing power favours de Silva, but an undefeated fighter with so many finishes could be in tough against a durable opponent. There are a lot of x-factors involved in this contest, including the late notice that de Silva is fighting on, but my prediction is Douglas de Silva to defeat Zubair Tuhugov by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- John Makdessi (12-2-0) vs. Alan Patrick (11-0-0)

Talented Canadian striker John ‘The Bull’ Makdessi has rebounded from the first 2 defeats of his career with a trio of victory most recently stopping Renne Forte at UFC 165. Undefeated Brazilian prospect Alan Patrick debuted inside the Octagon with a first round TKO victory over Garrett Whiteley.

Makdessi has gone 5-2 in the UFC including a pair of impressive knockout wins. He is an unorthodox striker drawing from both is Karate and Taekwondo backgrounds. He averages 4.62 SLpM and put up decent striking totals in his wins over Daron Cruickshank-88 and Sammy Stout-84. He throws a variety of kicking techniques, including various front leg kicks that can be hard for an opponent to anticipate. Arguably one of his most important weapons is his jab which he used to effectively minimize the striking success of Stout.

With his fourth career knockout coming in his promotional debut, Patrick showed he has power on the feet. His striking style is trending towards the wild side, but he did land a nice Capoeira kick on Whiteley. He’s not a big volume thrower, looking instead for big shots or to punch and then close the distance. Patrick was lowering hands which allowed Whiteley to land some decent counter strikes. In the end, the Brazilian landed an unexpected short hook that lead to the eventual GnP finish.

Despite the numbers suggesting otherwise, Patrick would be best served by getting this fight to the ground. He has just the two submission wins, but he is an aggressive grappler. He changes levels quickly and is solid when he is on top. He has a decent transition game, quickly advancing his position and unloading with heavy handed barrages from full mount which are difficult to defend. He is also quite good in a scramble which could play a factor in this fight if he isn’t able to take Makdessi down cleanly.

Makdessi was submitted by Dennis Hallman in his first career defeat and could be in trouble if Patrick can put him on his back. With the Canadian being the smaller of the two fighters he will need to prevent his adversary from closing the distance and tying up with. With an above average 88% takedown defense, Makdessi has been successful warding off 15 of 17 takedowns thrown his way.

Contributing to Makdessi’s successful TDD is his distance management. The ability to pin his opponents at the end of his jab and varied kicking game forces them to attempt takedowns from a greater distances and as a direct result lessons their potential for success. With more time to read and react, ‘The Bull’ is able to play the role Matador by quickly sidestepping the shot.

Patrick is making a significant step up in competition and is fighting for the first time away from home. If he can find a way to close the distance he puts himself in a position to succeed, but based on shots he was eating in his debut and overall lack of technical refinement he is going to be in for a rough ride on the feet. Makdessi’s striking game is far superior and will be the most impactful aspect of the fight, so my prediction is John Makdessi to defeat Alan Patrick by TKO.

125lbs- #9 Chris Cariaso (15-5-0) vs. Danny Martinez (17-4-0)

Eight fight UFC veteran Chris ‘Kamikaze’ Cariaso will attempt to build off his first stoppage in the promotion and try to improve his 5-3 Octagon mark. Opposing Cariaso will be 1 fight WEC vet and top ranked Flyweight prospect Danny Martinez. Martinez has won 4 consecutive bouts.

Martinez will be on Octagon jitters alert in addition to the possibility of a little cage corrosion as he hasn’t competed in over 13 months. He does have some top level experience having faced Joseph Benavidez, Jussier Formiga, and the now retired Mark Hominick.

Cariaso is Muay Thai based striker, with a kick first mentality. He builds the majority of his attacks around his left body and high kicks. He can generate a lot of power with his kicking game, but is most effective when he abandons spamming kicks in favour of working them in combination with his hands. His ability to cover distance with his kicking techniques and altered path of exit after landing a combination makes him a difficult fighter to hit with consistency.

‘Kamikaze’ averages 3.3 SLpM, while limiting his opposition to a respectable 1.8 SApM and has out landed his adversaries in 11 of 12 fights over his UFC/WEC/Strikeforce career by an average differential of 20.8 strikes per fight.

Martinez has compiled 8 wins by knockout, including 2 of his last 3 triumphs. He is a boxer-wrestler by trade, focussing on taking his opponent to the mat whenever possible. In his WEC debut opposite Benavidez, he shot for an unsuccessful takedown off the opening bell, and struggled throughout the contest landing just one successful attempt. He had difficulties on floor against Jussier Formiga as well, spending the majority of the action on the mat on the defensive. Against lesser competition, Danny has had had success with his ground game, scoring big takedowns and slams, while maintaining top control from which he could do some decent damage.

Despite his wresting centered attack, Martinez is only 5-4 in fights that go the distance, compared to ‘Kamikaze’s’ much more impressive 10-2 mark.

Cariaso’s takedown defense is a solid 60%, a stat compiled against generally larger opponents while fighting at Bantamweight. Conversely, Cariaso has been taken down 6 times on 12 attempts in his last 2 appearances. Excluding the Jussier Fomriga fight, Chris is usually difficult to control with an active guard and ability to scramble to a better position. Martinez should be able to find success with his wrestling, but the significance of it will be limited by Cariaso’s strong defensive game.

If Martinez is forced to stand and trade he does have decent knockout numbers, but he isn’t an overly gifted striker. He tends to load up on his strikes and throw singles instead of combinations. Against higher level opposition, this style is commonly ineffective as opponents are able to easily read and react. In addition to a lack of volume, ‘The Gremlin’ leads almost exclusively with his left hand and then follows it up with another left, and then another. He throws his left far too much, leading to an increased level of predictability. Complicating the matter, continual reliance on a left side strike will create exploitable openings via left body and high kicks, which a veteran like Cariaso will willingly deploy.

Cariaso lacks consistency at times, but he has fought against an impressive number of quality opponents and is generally a tough out for most. Martinez’s layoff is a concern and as is his lack of success against next level opposition. If the debutant had a better striking game to rely on he might be able to pull this off even with a lack of wrestling success, but my prediction is Chris Cariaso to defeat Danny Martinez by decision.

185lbs- Nick Catone (9-4-0) vs. Tom Watson (16-6-0)

Nick Catone is making his return to the Middleweight division after a brief stop at Welterweight that was ended by a cancelled fight due to severe dehydration. Catone is 3-4 inside the Octagon. Tom Watson has got his UFC career off to a slow start with a 1-2 record, preceded by 4 straight wins to get him into the promotion.

In its most basic form, this bout is the traditional striker versus grappler pairing. Tom Watson is a kickboxer, having won 8 times by knockout, including his solitary UFC victory over Stanislav Nedkov. Catone is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and has added a BJJ Brown belt to his credentials under the tutelage of Ricardo Almeida.

Watson has put up some decent offensive numbers during his brief stint in the UFC. Averaging 3.88 SLpM at a 52% accuracy rate. Unfortunately, he has struggled to match his success on the defensive side of the game, getting touched at a clip of 4.36 SApM. ‘Kong’ throws some solid kicking techniques and his hands are decent, but for a fighter who primarily relies on his striking he has come up short on the feet in both of his UFC defeats losing the exchanges 83-65 and 51-33. He did do a nice job of busting Nedkov up in the clinch and should look to try something similar against Catone if he can’t maintain separation.

The New Jersey native is far from helpless on the feet. While his striking numbers aren’t overwhelming, he keeps his striking concentrated and crisp; avoiding anything to flashy in an effort to remain effective. He throws a decent left hand, can slip in counter strikes, and will go high with his kicks.

Catone’s only knockout defeat came against Chris Camozzi due to a cut and doctor stoppage. He was arguably up 2 rounds to none entering the third frame. While Catone should be able to hold his own on the feet, his best moments will come on the floor.

Over his 7 fight UFC career, Catone has averaged 3.44 takedowns per cage entry at a success rate of 44%. He has scored at least one takedown in each of his appearances, including a high watermark of 4 in his debut. Catone landed a trio of TDs in his decision win over Costa Philippou and 3 more in a close split decision loss against Mark Munoz.

He favours the single leg attempt, effectively running the pipe if his initial shot is thwarted. He can do some significant damage from top position with his ground and pound, highlighted by some nasty elbow strikes.

Unfortunately for ‘Kong’ his greatest weak point is his defensive grappling. He has been submitted twice and lost multiple decisions based on his opponent’s grappling centric attack, including his 2 UFC defeats and his 2010 MFC loss to Jesse Taylor. While he has shown the ability to get back up, continually losing the positional battle and having his offensive striking stunted by fear of being taken down significantly compromises his ability to win a fight.

The Brit has been taken down 5 times per fight in each UFC showing, defending only 12 of 27 attempted takedowns. That is a hard statistic to overlook. Catone has held his own with higher level fighters with better grappling credentials then Watson. If Tom can land early he could change the complexion of this bout, but Catone’ wrestling will carry the day. Watson has survived multiple sub attempts so far in the UFC, but surviving his simply not enough, so my prediction is Nick Catone to defeat Tom Watson by decision.

155lbs- Al Iaquinta (7-2-1) vs. Kevin Lee (6-0-0)

Ultimate Fighter Finalist Al Iaquinta is currently riding a 2 fight winning streak after dropping the TUF tournament final via submission to Michael Chiesa. Kevin Lee will debuting in the UFC after tearing through the first 6 opponents he has faced in his career, including 3 stoppage wins in 2013.

With only 6 fights, Lee is still very early in his MMA career and is relatively untested. He has knocked off some decent regional competition, and does hold a win over JP Reese a 1-time Strikeforce participant and 3-0 former Bellator competitor. Along with the impact of making a UFC debut, Lee has yet to face defeat which can create some significant issues when a fighter meets an opponent that doesn’t relent as easily as his previous foes.

Iaquinta put together a gritty performance against a very game Piotr Hallmann in his last appearance. The New York native completed his second consecutive 80+ strikes effort, landing 85 against Hallmann after 80 versus Ryan Couture one fight prior. Al has decent power in his hand with 3 wins by knockout. Working out of the Serra-Longo camp he has made significant strides to improve the technical aspect of his stand up.

Iaquinta connects on an impressive 5.28 strikes per minute, but should try to tighten up his defensive work as his opponents are averaging just south of 4 strikes per 60 seconds. Lee’s striking is still a work in progress, but he is aggressive and can do damage especially if he can control his opponent in the clinch to set up knee and elbow strikes.

Lee is primarily a grappler with his last 3 wins all coming by way of submission. He focuses the majority of his attack on taking his opponent down and then working to maintain the position by remaining active. He shouldn’t deviate from his strategy for this bout. Iaquinta has appeared susceptible on the mat. He has been submitted twice in his career and was taken down 3 times by Hallmann. While he was able to scramble back to his feet, if Hallmann could have maintain any form of prolonged controlled it could have drastically changed the outcome of the fight.

For Al to stay vertical he needs to use his movement when engaging on the feet, but he has a tendency to stand directly in front of his opponent. This should create frequent opportunities for Lee to attempt to take him down. As previously mentioned, Al had success getting up against Hallmann which lessoned the impact of the takedowns. That won’t be the case here. While Lee’s grappling centric assault makes him appear to be a little one dimensional, a heavy focus on takedowns will be exactly what he needs to pull off the upset, so my prediction is Kevin Lee to defeat Al Iaquinta by decision.

185lbs- Clint Hester (9-3-0) vs. Andy Enz (8-0-0)

Capping off the online portion of the prelims, Clint Hester tries to extend his UFC run to a perfect 3-0 after back to back wins against fellow TUF alumni. Opposing Hester will be unsuccessful TUF qualifier Andy Enz. Enz is undefeated as a pro, but fell to Uriah Hall in his bid to earn a spot on the reality show.

Hester comes from a boxing background where he compiled a record of 13-3 as an amateur. He has won 7 of 9 fights via knockout, including an impressive stoppage of Bristol Marunde in his official UFC debut. Including the injury stoppage of Dylan Andrews, Hester has won 4 straight by knockout. His combinations and hand speed are good and he is putting in the work to adapt his boxing mechanics to a more MMA orientated style. His footwork leaves a little bit to be desired, but he will undoubtedly still be the better striker here.

By the numbers, Enz is a submission fighter with 5 wins coming by way of submission. He offers a nice variety of techniques, with his 2 most recent wins coming via North-South and Brabo chokes. He is a scrappy fighter and is far from a refined technician. He showcased his grit and determination in his defeat against Hall, taking some significant damage against the superior striker while in pursuit of the takedown. While he failed to do enough to win, he did manage to put Hall on his back a couple of times.

Hester is pretty green on the floor. He has been submitted twice and his grappling has been the focal point of his first 2 UFC opponents. Marunde and Andrews combined for 5 takedowns on 13 attempts. While Enz has won the majority of his fights via submission, his competition has been low level and he doesn’t offer anything more then either of Hester’s first 2 Octagon opponents.

Enz was willing to take the best Hall could dish out, but simply absorbing punishment without putting together much of an answer in that fight or this one will not take you very far. Hester needs to avoid spending too much time on his back and simply let his hands go against an opponent that should be there to hit all fight, so my prediction is Clint Hester to defeat Andy Enz by TKO.

155lbs- Tony Martin (7-0-0) vs. Rashid Magomedov (15-1-0)

A pair of debuting fighters hit the cage for the second fight of the night in the UFC’s Lightweight division. Tony Martin has started his career undefeated through 8, while the Russian-born fighter has reeled off 8 wins in a row after suffering the first defeat of his pro career.

With both men debuting there is the always concerning potential for octagon jitters to inhibit one or both men’s performances. Martin has far less experience to draw upon competing just 8 times as a pro, while Magomedov has hit the cage 17 times, including a 9-1 run under the M-1 banner.

Rashid hasn’t competed since November 2012, a near 14 month layoff, so ring rust could also play a factor.

With 6 of 8 wins by submission, Martin should be expected to try and get this fight to the ground in the early going. He has a variety of submissions in his arsenal, but he appears to prefer to attack the arms with his most recent win coming by way of Keylock and two tapouts via Kimura also on record. He is an active top game player, with a tight body on body approach, but he can also operate off his back if the situation calls for it.

Martin defeated former TUF standout Phillipe Nover, winning a bout contested predominantly on the floor. He survived a couple of close sub attempts, but won the majority of the positional battles.

The former M-1 Welterweight champion will be cutting down to compete at 155 pounds in his debut, so despite Miller being the taller fighter this shouldn’t equate to that much of a disadvantage for the Russian based on past experiences.

Magomedov has won 8 times by knockout, along with 7 decision wins. He has fast hands and a decent kicking arsenal. He tends to favour the counter striking aspect of the game. The combination of his speed, power, and technique should give him a distinct advantage on the feet.

Martin could be forced to rely on his striking, as he may find it difficult to orchestrate his grappling based attack. The Russian is a National Master of Sports in Combat Sambo. He has just a single submission win, but his defensive game is solid. He has had some difficulties defending early TDA’s, but his ability to adjust his defense is noteworthy. He holds wins over Bellator competitor Frodo Khasbulaev and current UFC fighter Igor Araujo, who have a combined 29 wins by submission.

Rashid has shown good submission defense and the ability to out-scramble his opponent, but arguably the best part of his grappling is his transition from defense to offense. He has defeated a number of opponents that have attempted to attack him on the ground, by defending their TDA’s and then taking advantage of the position to do damage. Prior to claiming the M-1title, he TKOed Rafal Moks after successfully warding off a heel hook attempt and then dropping some devastating GnP.

Martin is an aggressive grappler and the layoff for Magomedov is a concern. If Martin can get this fight to the ground early he could find some success, but Magomedov has fought better competition bringing a similar game plan and won. This fight could be close early, but Rashid tends to get stronger as his fights progress, so my prediction is Rashid Magomedov to defeat Tony Martin by decision.

170lbs- Neil Magny (8-4-0) vs. Gasan Umalatov (14-2-1)

Gasan Umalatov debuts in the UFC on the heels of 8 wins in his last 9 appearances. Neil Magny has dropped back to back bouts, after a successful UFC debut win over fellow TUF cast member Jon Manley.

A training partner of fellow UFC 169 combatant Ali Bagautinov and Bellator Heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov, Umalatov has won 7 bouts by submission, including 5 times in his last 8 wins. He is a clinch fighter, looking to close the distance behind his strikes and change levels. He primarily orchestrates his takedowns from the body lock position, working in combination with a trip to complete the attempt.

‘Cobra’ has won fights using a variety of submission techniques, including 3 via rear-naked choke.

Magny is an above average Welterweight in height at 6’3” and will be aided by an 81” reach. He is predominately a striker, but can operate on the floor should the situation call for it. Neil’s best techniques are his long range weapons. He averages 3.1 SLpM and can pack a decent pop, leading with a long jab and following with a crisp straight right.

While Magny will be the lengthier of the two fighters, Gasan will be cutting down from Middleweight and should be more then accustom to dealing with bigger opponents.

While the 3 fight UFC vet has defended 80% of his adversaries TDAs, the grappling exchanges have been his undoing in his last 2 bouts. He was submitted by talented BJJ Black belt Sergio Moraes, and was then outworked by Seth Baczynski, giving up a trio of takedowns and struggling to defend himself in the clinch. Baczynski was able to outmuscled Neil along the wall, and while Magny did enough to defend in most scenarios, his offensive output was stunted as a result.

If he can stay on the outside, Magny’s height and reach can be an asset, but against an opponent chiefly fixed on establishing the clinch and dragging the fight to the mat it can be a positional disadvantage. Magny does throw some sharp knees in close, but lifting his foot off the mat could create an opening to be taken down.

If this fight remains on the feet, Umalatov is a serviceable striker but he needs to take Magny to the mat. As mentioned, Magny can hold his own defensively, but if he unable to keep his back off the cage and/or remain vertical it won’t be enough for him to win the fight. Umalatov is a wildcard, debuting and cutting down a division, but he has the skill set to replicate Magny’s past difficulties so my prediction is Gasan Umalatov to defeat Neil Magny by decision.

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- Alex Caceres (9-5-0 1NC) vs. Sergio Pettis (10-0-0)

Sergio Pettis enters the Octagon for his sophomore appearance on the heels of his successful debut fight against Will Campuzano. Alex Caceres will make his 9th UFC appearance, including a 4-1-0 1NC mark since cutting down to Bantamweight.

Pettis showed all the makings of a talented prospect in his inaugural showing. He demonstrated a dangerous striking arsenal, highlight by a comprehensive kicking game. He hurt Campuzano several times, landing hard blows to the body and legs. He had the composure of a battle tested vet, resisting the urge to engage his adversary recklessly, maintaining composure, even after visibly hurting his opponent.

What Caceres lacks in power, he makes up for in volume. ‘Bruce Leeroy’ averages 4.1 SLpM while limiting his opponents to just 1.8 strikes absorbed. He is an above average sized 135er, normally carrying a length advantage over his opponent, as he will here with 4” of both reach and height on his opponent. He throws a wide variety of techniques, landing 59% of his attacks while engaging in a manner that allows him to conserve energy and maintain his pace for a full 15 minutes.

While both fighters are more than capable of competing on the feet, the grappling exchanges should prove even more entertaining and ultimately decided the fight.

The Ultimate Fighter alumni isn’t known for his wrestling, but his ability to reverse and transition into a advantageous position is impressive. He had a lot of success countering against heavy top game players Roland Delorme Kung Ho Kang. His long limbs provide a difficult task for his opponent to deal with during grappling exchanges, highlighted by his triangle choke victory over Damacio Page.

Pettis has a solid submission game of his own, winning 3 times by tapout. He attempted multiple d’arce chokes in his debut and is a constant threat to attack off his back. Caceres has been submitted 4 times in and his long arms, if left undefended, will be a target when the fight hits the floor. The major concern for Pettis is his takedown defense. He had been taken down on multiple occasions in pre-UFC bouts and Campuzano had a lot of success landing 4 takedowns.

Sergio has yet to face an opponent who could fully capitalize on this flaw but it is something that he will need to address as he climbs the talent ladder.

Pettis looked good in his debut, but it was a much closer fight then many anticipated it to be and his opponent was competing on very short notice. Caceres will exploit his length advantage, limiting the effectiveness of Pettis by keeping him at the end of his strikes. When this fight hits the ground, look for Alex to work his way into a better position and score significant points with the judges. Size will be a factor, as Caceres is a former 145er and Pettis fought the majority of his career at 125 pounds. This will be a close back and forth bout, but ‘Bruce Leeroy’ will do enough on the feet and the floor, so my prediction is Alex Caceres to defeat Sergio Pettis by decision.

135lbs- #4 Eddie Wineland (20-9-1) vs. Yves Jabouin (19-8-0)

Former WEC title holder Eddie Wineland fell short in his bid to capture UFC gold in his second round knockout against the now official Bantamweight champion Renan Barao. The loss snapped his 2 fight winning streak. Jabouin has won 4 of his 5 bouts since moving to Bantamweight, but his latest victory was a disputable decision.

Both fighters at their base are strikers. Wineland’s forte is boxing, while Jabouin is a little flashier using a variety of spinning techniques. Jabouin holds a slight edge in total knockout at 11-10, but there is a significant difference in the quality of opponent that each man has put away.

Wineland holds stoppage wins over recognizable names like Scott Jorgensen, Ken Stone, Will Campuzano, and Antonio Banuelos. He also hurt Brad Pickett with a couple of big shots early in his eventual split decision win. While Yves scored all 11 of his KO/TKOs against lower level opposition prior to signing on with the WEC and is without a knockout since late 2008 (9 fights).

Both men have also suffered multiple knockout defeats. Wineland loss via injury TKO early in his career, but is coming off of his first real knockout at the hands of the Champ. Jabouin has lost 3 times by knockout; Brad Pickett stopped him in his only defeat at 135 pounds, Hominick TKOed Yves at 145 pounds in the WEC, and Sammy Stout took home a 155 pound knockout pre-UFC.

Statistically, Eddie holds a slight edge in strikes landed per minute, but he also gets hit at a higher rate than Jabouin.

Neither man is a conventional striker. Wineland tends to hold his hands low and his head up, but his speed, footwork, and head movement allow him to get away with it. Yves uses a number of spinning attacks but tends to telegraph his attempts, especially as he gets tired.

Of the two, Jabouin would be the more likely to attempt to take the fight to the mat with 1.41 takedowns per fight, but Eddies’s stout 81% TDD should prevent that from happening.

Yves also holds a respectable 77% TDD which should minimize the possibility of Eddie scoring an early takedown.

Wineland is the better striker and while he gets hit at a concerning rate, his significant advantage in power and superior chin should hold up over the duration of the bout. At this point in their careers both men could be labelled as gatekeepers, but Eddie is simply the better fighter, so my prediction is Eddie Wineland to defeat Yves Jabouin by knockout.

135lbs- Chico Camus (13-4-0) vs. Yaotzin Meza (19-8-0)

Meza took his UFC debut on short notice as a favour for the promotion and got starched by top contender Chad Mendes. He was rewarded with a second opportunity and won a back and forth battle against John Albert at 135 pounds. Camus has gone 2-1 in the UFC, sandwiching a submission defeat between 2 victories, the latter of the controversial variety.

Stylistically, Meza would be best suited to get this fight to the ground, preferably in top position. He has 7 wins by submission and showed decent grappling capabilities in his last appearance. Camus has been submitted just once, but he has shown a level vulnerability on the mat. Dustin Pague put him in some tough positions, Kyung Ho Kang dominated Chico with his top game, and Kimura choked him out. Camus has had success when he was able to establish top position, but the greater advantage for him should come on the feet.

While Meza holds a slight edge in fights won by knockout, 5-4, Camus appears to have the better striking mechanics. His attack is primarily centered around his boxing skills, but he will work some kicks into the equation. He has power and his hand speed should give him an advantage during the exchanges. Meza will have the length advantage with 3″ of height and 5″ of reach in his favour, but Camus will counter that with his aforementioned quickness.

Camus’s struggles with ground based opposition is a bit concerning, but he has proven himself to be difficult to control on his back and he should be the better wrestler. He gave a solid top player in Kang all he could handle and should find similar success if Meza scores an early takedown. Yaotzin has been knocked out 3 times in his career, including twice over his past 4 bout which suggests that Camus will have opportunities to score on the feet. While Meza did win his debut via submission, he struggled early with the aggressive grappling attack of his opponent, which suggest that Camus could find some success on the mat he elects to exploit it. Camus has taken part in a couple of back and forth affairs, but he should hold a distinct advantage in this bout, so my prediction is Chico Camus to defeat Yaotzin Meza by TKO.

135lbs- Junior Hernandez (14-5-0) vs. Hugo Viana (7-2-0)

Junior Hernandez’s UFC debut lasted all of 70 seconds, with the majority of it spent on the defensive and the end result a submission defeat. Hugo Viana didn’t fair that much better in his most recent outing, albeit against much better competition, suffering a first round stoppage against the quick climbing TJ Dillashaw.

Ring rust could be an issue, as Viana has been out of action for over 9 moths after a couple of scheduled bouts were scrapped.

Hernandez comes from a boxing background, where he accrued a 10-5 amateur background. He has a 4-pack of wins by knockout, with decent head and foot movement, and will attack with high volume output. His undoing against Martins was his willingness to blindly exchange with his opponent, even encouraging him to attack moments before crashing to the canvas. He needs to avoid a similar sequence against Viana and try to use short crisp techniques to exploits ‘Wolverine’s’ tendency to throw looping overhand bombs.

In spite of his impressive one round demolition of Reuben Duran, which included 3 violent knock downs, Viana had previously never score a stoppage win of any nature. His striking style is far from textbook, but he showed versus Duran and in a few brief moments against Dillashaw that if he can land he can do damage. Making up for his lack of refined technique is his speed and ability to cover distance. Viana will sit just outside of his opponent’s comfortable striking range, and then burst forward to land some hard leather before retreating. He is also a Taekwondo Black belt and has decent leg kicks which can slow his opponent and further increase his speed advantage.

With 5 wins by submission Hernandez has finishing skills on the mat, but he may be better off keeping this fight vertical. Viana has never scored a professional win by submission, but he is a BJJ purple belt. He showed above average defensive skills fending off Dillashaw’s attempts to take control of the fight on the mat. At the very least, Hugo should be more then capable of keeping Hernandez from landing a round stealing takedown and force him to try and win the fight solely with his striking.

Viana is still raw, but the physical tools are there. The 9+ months away from the cage is a concern, but that time could have been used to work on some of the aforementioned shortcomings. Hernandez’s best route to victory is on the feet, but he will struggle with the speed of his opponent. If Hugo can establish his ground game it will further diminish Junior’s aggressive forward push on the feet, so my prediction is Hugo Viana to defeat Junior Hernandez by decision.

155lbs- Daron Cruickshank (13-4-0) vs. Mike Rio (9-3-0)

This is a battle of Ultimate Fighter: Live competitors who are both in need of a win. Since transitioning to the big show, Rio has gone 1-2, while Cruickshank has performed moderately better with a mark of 3-2.

Rio could very well be fighting for his career coming off of back to back first round submission losses.

Both guys come from wrestling backgrounds, Rio was an NAIA wrestling champion and Cruickshank an NCAA D-III competitor. Rio averages 3.91 takedowns at a completion rate of 31%. He landed 4 in his debut and scored an early completion against Francisco Trinaldo. Cruickshank showed his wrestling game in his first Octagon appearance completing 4 of 5 TDAs, but has gone 0 for 6 since. Rio has attempted 16 takedowns in roughly 4 rounds of action and would be the more likely of the two to try and take this fight to the mat which will be crucial to his success.

Cruickshank has defended 71% of his opponents takedown attempts in 5 UFC appearances.

If the fight remains standing Cruickshank should hold a significant advantage. He has 7 wins by knockout, compared to just 4 for Rio and has displayed a vastly superior striking arsenal. Coming from a Taekwondo background, Cruickshank throws a variety of kicking techniques and accompanies that with a decent set of hands. Rio has never been knocked out, but he was getting tagged with several right hands from a relatively simplistic striker in John Cofer.

In Rio’s pre-UFC defeat against Efrain Escudero, his wrestling game was neutralized and he struggled to mount much offense anywhere else. Cruickshank has had some issues with backtracking and allowing his opponent to push forward uncontested, but Rio doesn’t have the striking chops to capitalize on this. As long as Daron’s defensive grappling holds up and he avoids spending too much time on his back he will get the better of the striking exchanges, so my prediction is Daron Cruickshank to defeat Mike Rio by decision.

170lbs- George Sullivan (14-3-0 1NC) vs. Mike Rhodes (6-1-0)

Limited quality footage exists of Mike Rhodes in action, and even less is available for Mr. Sullivan. What was obtainable, was Rhode’s MMA debut, which he won by decision, and his first round submission loss to Brandon Thatch. For Sullivan, a brief clip of his knockout win over Julian Lane and his 2012 first round victory over Greg Soto were all that could be found.

Sullivan has fought professionally 17 times, ending the night for his opponent 10 times by knockout, along with 4 decision wins. 2 of his 3 defeats have come via submission, including a 2006 defeat against Ultimate Fighter alumni Marc Stevens. He has one punch knockout power, rubber-legging Soto with a crisped well timed right hand. He also demonstrated decent TDD, fending off a few early attempts from Soto to drag the fight to the mat.

Sullivan trains under former UFC and Bellator fighter Kurt Pellegrino at Pellegrino MMA.

Working out of the Rufussport camp, Rhodes has been on the radar as a prospect to watch since turning pro back in late 2012. He started his career with 4 straight wins, before stepping up on extremely short notice, 2 days to be exact, to face UFC bound Brandon Thatch. ‘Rukus’ made short work of Rhodes, but the mere fact that he took the fight with next to no prep is a testament to the young man’s confidence.

‘Biggie’ has won three times by knockout, once by submission, and twice by decision. He has a decent striking repertoire, frequently flashing a stiff kick to the body. His distance management is decent, and he has good foot speed. With no film on Rhodes’s recent performances, its hard to make a valid case for his current striking capabilities, but training with Duke Roufus it can be assumed that he will bring an above average striking repertoire to the cage.

With just a single submission win in 27 combined fights (amateur included), its hard to gauge each man’s respective capabilities on the ground. ‘Biggie’ did show decent hips in his debut, reversing a takedown attempt into full mount, but this bout should be one and lost on the feet.

Making predictions like this one is difficult, so its important not to over analyse the information that is available. Sullivan has an advantage in pro bouts, but he has lost to some average competition. Rhodes is still early in his development, but considering the elite fighters he trains with or at the very least is exposed to on a daily basis including; Anthony and Sergio Pettis, Erik Koch, and Ben Askren, he should be the more prepared fighter. Both men are debuting, but Rhodes has the more upside and there must be a reason that Sullivan has taken nearly 8 years to get the call to the big show, so my prediction is Mike Rhodes to defeat George Sullivan by knockout.

265lbs- Walt Harris (6-2-0) vs. Nikita Krylov (15-3-0)

Both fighters are coming off unsuccessful UFC debuts. Harris started strong but slowed just enough to allow his opponent to steal the final 2 rounds. Krylov was stopped in a less the stellar contest where he was dominated early, rallied, and then gassed hard (so did his opponent) leading to the end.

Krylov has a significant advantage in quantity of contests, with 18 compared to Walt’s 7. He began his career in 2012 and has been by far the more active of the 2 fighters, considering Harris turned pro a year earlier in 2011.

There is a very real possibility that this fight will not be going the distance, with both men known for the finishing capabilities. The American has won all 5 of his fights by knockout, with his longest victory lasting just 1:54. Krylov has shown a little more diversity in his fights, closing out a total of 10 contests by submission and 5 by knockout.

Nikita’s UFC debut was his first fight to ever advance beyond the opening 5 minutes.

Harris will hold a moderate size advantage; standing 2″ taller with a 3.5″ reach advantage, and overall he appears to be the physically larger man weighing in roughly 5-10 pounds more then his adversary.

The Ukrainian showed glimpses of his grappling capabilities in his debut, offering up a few sub attempts. Against Harris he will most likely focus his attack on getting this fight to the mat to set up his submission game. Walt was taken down in the third round and offered little off his back, which isn’t surprising considering his lack of in cage experience in the position. If Nikita can score an early takedown it will greatly change the complexion of this bout.

Harris should be the faster of the two men, along with being the better athlete. His distance management and ability to punish Jared Rosholt with his hands, while staying out of the wrestler’s range was impressive. He landed some decent combos and dropped Rosholt in the opening round. He should have the striking advantage against Krylov, but will need to use his movement to keep his opponent from closing the distance to set up his grappling attack.

Neither man is a cardio horse and the UFC debut factor most likely played a role in their first showings, but it would appear that Harris should have an edge if this fight goes deep. Most likely it will not. What this fight should come down to is the speed of the American. He should be the considerably faster fighter, which will allow him to land his combinations along with defending any attempt by his opponent to drag the fight to the mat, so my prediction is Walt Harris to defeat Nikita Krylov by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Ramsey Nijem (8-4-0) vs. Justin Edwards (9-3-0)

Headlining the undercard, a pair of Ultimate Fighter Season 13 alumni go head to head in Ramsey Nijem and Justin Edwards. Since their time on the show, Ramsey has gone 3-3 while Edwards is 2-3 while competing as a Welterweight.

‘Fast Eddy’ will be making his 155 pound debut, dropping down to a division that appears to be much more suitable for his physical frame. The drop in divisions does bring some concern. Edwards was undersized at WW, but found most of his success through his speed and ability to out hustle his opposition. That may be difficult against smaller, but faster Lightweights. Additionally, if the weight cut doesn’t go well there is the real potential that he under preforms as the result of gassing out or pacing himself to avoid gassing out.

Both fighters are in need of a lot of improvement with their stand-up skills. Ramsey is aggressive, but defensively leaves a lot to be desired. He has been flat out KOed twice in his career, most recently by Myle Jury. Jury was able to identify an opening, and eventually stuck a well placed counter strike on Nijem’s chin. Not only does Nijem leave gapping holes in his defensive guard, he also tends to leave his chin up in the air which makes him even more vulnerable during exchanges.

In similar fashion, Edwards is aggressive on the feet, but for the most part his stand-up is centered around helping him to close the distance. He averages a 2.52 SLpM, but takes damage at a slightly higher rate of 3.02 SApM. He likes to mix in a turning side kick, but other then that doesn’t do anything flashy and only has a single knockout on record.

On the floor is where this fight will most likely be won and lost.

Edwards is a BJJ Brown belt with 6 of 8 wins by submission. His go to move is the guillotine, using it in 5 of his 6 submission wins, including his signature victory over Josh Neer. He averages 2.86 TDs at just a 24% completion rate, while defending a paltry 27% of his opponents’ attempts.

Nijem is a wrestler, averaging 5.53 takedowns at 53%. He has secured a pair of submission wins in his pro career along with a couple during his time on the show. He is good in scrambles and smothering from top position, but is far from perfect. He held his own in a back and forth mat battle versus Myles Jury, got the better of Joe Proctor, but was quickly submitted by James Vick after attempting a takedown. He will make some positional mistakes on the mat, but his greatest success has come on the floor.

Edwards has struggled at times on the mat. He will threatened with submission attempts, but as was the case against John Maguire he spends too much time on his back looking up. Nijem needs to be careful early based on the submission capabilities of his opponent, but once the fight progresses (5 of 6 of Edwards sub wins have come inside the first 2 minutes), that threat will diminish. Edwards doesn’t have the striking skills to exploit Nijem’s pitfalls and this pairing should produce some entertaining ground exchanges with Ramsey getting the better of them, so my prediction is Ramsey Nijem to defeat Justin Edwards by decision.

155lbs- Isaac Vallie-Flagg (14-3-1) vs. Elias Silverio (9-0-0)

Vallie-Flagg is returning to action after a near year long layoff. Prior to the break, he picked up back to back wins over solid veteran opponents in JZ Cavalcante and Yves Edwards. Silverio made his promotional debut with a successful decision victory to extend his undefeated record to 9-0.

Vallie-Flagg’s record indicates that he can win a fight in a variety of ways; 5 knockouts, 3 subs, and 6 decisions. Conversely, Silverio’s resume is devoid of a submission win (3 KOs, 6 decisions) which should suit the America just fine as all 3 of his defeats have come via tapout.

Vallie-Flagg is a technical brawler, using a wide variety of attacks. He likes to implement a lot of knee and leg strikes, locking up a Thai clinch if the opportunity should arise and slamming knees and elbows into his opponent’s body and head. He utilizes a push kick like a jab to set distance. He did have some trouble with the more technically based striking of Cavalcante, but had a lot of success landing shots around the defensive guard of Edwards.

He has a decent chin, but stands a little too straight up and down with his chin exposed and periodically will allow his opponent to land several strikes in exchange to land just one of his own.

The Brazilian is a Muay Thai striker, and also throws a wide variety of techniques. He possesses a diverse kicking game, utilizing a push kick, head kick, body kick, and also throwing some attacks with his lead leg. His hands are solid, and while he lacked the killer instinct in his debut, his 27 second knockout at Jungle Fights 46 was impressive and would indicate otherwise.

While he showed flashes of his ability in his debut, the threat of a takedown against a top level BJJ player certainly slowed Elias’s forward momentum, along with the possible jitters from a short notice UFC debut.

Neither man is considered a top level ground fighter, but as previously mention, it would appear that IVF is most vulnerable on the mat. All of his defeats have come by submission and he has spent some time on his back in each of his last 3 contest with less then impressive defensive work. Edwards found a lot of success taking the fight to the floor, gaining full mount and eventually taking Isaac’s back, Cavalcante also had some success before he tired.

While Silverio’s ground game isn’t a key component of his attack, he has shown the ability to use a takedown or two to help him on route to a victory and his defensive work looked sound in his debut. Based on the American’s previous struggles, it would not be a surprise to see Elias look to his grappling at some point in the bout.

Size could play a major roll in this fight. Elias made his debut at Welterweight and his record indicates he has spent his entire career at 170, but he will be cutting to 155 for this fight. The first weight cut factor is a major concern, but if it goes well he should have a significant size and strength advantage over his opponent.

Vallie-Flagg will look to counter with his pace and aggression. He averages 4.64 SLpM and has noticeably worn down his last 3 foes by continually moving forward.

This has the potential to be a very close fight, as is usually the case with IVF who has emerged unscathed from 3 straight split decisions. Both men are an identical 6-0 in fights that have gone to the scorecards. While Vallie-Flagg could very well with this fight with his aggression and volume, the impact of a larger and arguably more technical striker should come into effect as this contest progresses. Look for Silverio to use his kicks to keep his adversary on the outside, then catch him with counters as he comes forward, and possibly change levels for a key takedown or two. Vallie-Flagg is a tough out, but his defensive issues both on the feet and the mat will cost him here, so my prediction is Elias Silverio to defeat Isaac Vallie-Flagg by decision, possibly a split.

185lbs- Trevor Smith (10-4-0) vs. Brian Houston (4-10-0)

Smith was a relative unknown coming into the UFC, but he put together a gritty performance, albeit in defeat via decision, in his debut against Ed Herman. Conversely, Houston’s debut lasted less then a minute after getting caught with a headkick by Derek Brunson that lead to the a rear-naked choke finish.

Smith has just 14 pro fights, but he will hold a significant experience advantage over his foe both in quality and quantity. Along with his first Octagon appearance, he competed under the Strikeforce banner four times, finishing with a record of 2-2 dropping fights to Tim Kennedy and Light Heavyweight Gian Villante. Houston’s 48 second curtain jerker, was preceded by a quartet of victories on the regional scene, with 3 ending inside the first 2 minutes all via knockout.

‘B-Hue’ went 2-1 as an amateur all under the VFC banner.

Smith is a grinding fighter with solid submission capabilities. He has won 9 times by tapout, including putting BJJ Black belt Alexandre Moreno to sleep in his Middleweight debut. He averages 1.49 takedowns at 25%, including a 3 takedown performance versus Tim Kennedy in his final Strikeforce performance. Smith can work off his back, but is better from top position and is more then capable of sweeping his way out trouble when required. Offensively, look for ‘Hot Sauce’ to establish control over his opponent with a constricting top control, before he starts chaining submissions together.

Houston has yet to face a grappler on Smith’s level, but he has shown signs of a decent defensive wrestling game. He has a strong sprawl and the ability to transition defense to offense by capitalizing on his opponent when they fail to complete their takedown attempt. If Houston can establish top position he has decent ground and pound, generating a lot of power over just a short distance.

On the feet, Houston throws some hard leather, but lacks deep fight experience to put much confidence in his striking game beyond a quick knockout. For Smith, despite his heavily slanted submission totals he can crack. He doesn’t do anything flashy, but he landed some significant shots on Herman, doing a lot of damage in close with short hooks and uppercuts. He also has a decent chin, with just one controversial TKO stoppage, under referee Kim Winslow.

The key for Smith will be surviving the early onslaught and dragging this fight into the deep waters. He doesn’t have the best cardio, but this is his fourth fight since cutting down from 205 and his body should be fully adjusted to performing at this new weight. While Houston has limited experience in longer fights and could struggle to keep up as the contest progresses. Smith’s striking should be good enough to keep him out of trouble, but most likely he will drag the fight to the mat and take advantage of his opponent’s defensive deficits, so my prediction is Trevor Smith to defeat Brian Houston by submission.

125lbs- Alptekin Ozkilic (9-1-0) vs. Louis Smolka (6-0-0)

Smolka will be hoping into the world famous Octagon for the very first time, despite turning pro less then 2 years ago. In that span he has compiled an impressive 6-0 record, including 4 wins under the PXC banner that ended with Louis capturing the promotion’s Flyweight title last November.

Opposing the UFC rookie, Ozkilic makes a quick turn around following his own promotional debut which took place on December 14th. The wrestling based fighter took his debut on short notice, emerged with the victory, and will now attempt to further himself in the new division with a second triumph.

This will be the second time in his career that Alp has taken a fight with roughly a month between bouts, winning on the first occasion in just 49 seconds via rear-naked choke.

Smolka comes out of the Hawaiian 808 Top Team camp, training along side recent UFC debutant and victor, Russell Doane. He has demonstrated an affinity for submission fighting, with 4 of his 6 wins coming by way of tapout. He will aggressively pursue the sub, attempting a wide variety of holds including his preferred method of submission; the d’arce choke. While Louis has frequently attempted to lock up this submission, he has yet to secure a victory with it.

In addition to a lack of a strong wrestling game, Smolka is also prone to giving up position to attempt a submission. Fortunately, that has yet to cost him in his pro career, but it could when competing at this level.

Ozkilic is a former Turkish National Greco Roman wrestling champ. Which indicates beyond the obvious, that he is a sound technical wrestler, but that he is also physically very strong. He went 3 for 3 against a very adept grappler in Darren Uyenoyama, demonstrating a solid trip takedown and heavy top control. Defensively, he stuff 8 of 10 TDAs and deflected everything his crafty guarding playing adversary attempted.

On the feet, Smolka doesn’t use his length well. He will throw some kicks, but he does his best work in close with the Thai plumb and other short range weaponry, while at the same time allowing his opponent to get in range to attack. For Alp, he is still working on his stand-up game. He did land some decent shots on Uyenoyama and violently rendered Antonio Banuelos unconscious with a stiff shot just 30 seconds in their fight. Alp showed improved timing on his techniques in his debut, but will need to be careful not to eat a big shot on his way inside.

The height of Smolka will be an issue. While it does allow him to set up potential submission opportunities, it will make it difficult for him to change levels effectively against an already difficult fighter to take down. The struggle for Louis to overcome the low center of gravity of his shorter opponent will most likely lead to him being either unsuccessful getting the fight to the mat or having to pull guard. Neither of which will benefit the newcomer. Alp was able to successfully defend against Uyenoyama on the mat while doing damage and the same will be true here. Look for Alp to land some decent shots on the feet, but really take control of the fight when it hits the ground while his opponent struggles to maintain control of him from the bottom position, so my prediction is Alp Ozkilic to defeat Louis Smolka by decision.

155lbs- Vinc Pichel (7-1-0) vs. Garett Whiteley (8-1-0)

Pichel and Whitely are a pair of fighters touting 0-1 records in their Octagon careers, but one will almost certainly break the goose egg and secure their first UFC victory. The other will most likely see their first run with the promotion come to an end.

From an experience standpoint, they have identical records at 7-1, so they have about the same pro cage time. Whitely did go 4-0 as an amateur, but Pichel went 3-1 on the Ultimate Figther: Live season. Additionally, that experience in the house and working with that level of coaching has to have an impact on a fighter, which gives Vinc a slight edge in overall experience.

Pichel last fought in December 2012, so he will be returning after a near 13 month layoff. Prior to that his last fight was in the Summer of 2011. Ring rust could be a factor in his performance.

Whiteley is a BJJ Blue belt and trains under the tutelage of former UFC standout Chris Lytle. He has shown decent diversity in his ability to win fights, with 4 knockouts and 3 submissions as a pro, along with 2 more subs, a knockout, and a decision as an amateur. Conversely, Pichel has won all 7 of his bouts by KO or TKO, along with 2 subs on the reality show.

Diversity is what this fight will come down to. While the former TUF competitor clearly has knockout power, his technique is simple and predictable. His kicking game is minimal, with the majority of his attack done via his hands, throwing a 1-2 while pushing forward. If he doesn’t land a big shot during his initial barrage he will either clinch, or more likely drop down for a takedown. While he will willingly attempt to take the fight to the mat, he made several positional errors during his TUF fights that cost him and in most situations he was simply outclassed on the floor.

For Whitely, he has decent hands and was attempting to time and counter his opponent as he came in. He also landed a couple decent low kicks. He likes to attack off the break, landing a nice uppercut. He will work the knees in close, which is something that Pichel will need to watch for when he changes levels for a takedown. Garett attempted just one unsuccessful takedown in his last fight, but has shown some serviceable grappling skills in his pre-UFC time.

Neither man made a good showing in their inaugural fights, failing to make it out of the first frame. Pichel has been away from the cage for a long time, which could lead to a significant improvement upon his return, but could also create some ring rust. It is hard to bank on that, considering he really didn’t show that much in his TUF performances that was all that impressive despite his semi-final run. Whiteley, took his debut in Brazil which is a tough, but character building experience. Look for him to put together a better performance in a more friendly and comfortable second appearance against a fighter coming off a long layoff, so my prediction is Garett Whiteley to defeat Vinc Pichel by TKO.

155lbs- Charlie Brenneman (19-5-0) vs. Beneil Dariush (6-0-0)

In a bout that has seen its original two combatants scratched (Amagov vs High), and a weightclass change from Welterweight to Lightweight, Charlie Brenneman steps in on short notice and returns to the UFC to welcome promotional newcomer Beneil Dariush.

The intangibles of this bout should favour the Spaniard. Despite the short notice, Brenneman has been there and done that, having fought 8 times in the UFC. Additionally, this is far from the shortest prep he has had for an opponent, with his upset win over Rick Story coming a little more then 24 hours after being promoted into the fight after Story’s original foe withdrew. For Dariush, he is making his debut which is tough and he has just 6 pro fights worth of experience against lower level competition to draw upon.

Brenneman went 4-3 as a Welterweight in the Octagon, but since being cut he has transitioned to 155 pounds, successfully winning 4 straight. He was an averaged sized Welterweight, but with the cut to 155 appearing to be successful, the size and strength advantage gained should further magnify his wrestling skills.

Brenneman averaged 3.86 TDs at 43% over 7 UFC bouts, along with a 71% TDD.

Dariush has finished 5 of his 6 opponents (3 subs 2 KOs). He is a grappling based fighter, with a background in BJJ. In his first round victory over Trace Gray, he endured the early onslaught of GnP from top position, remained calmed, and eventually locked in a fight ending armbar. He has an active guard, which will be a key to his success against a wrestler like Brenneman.

On the feet, Dariush’s best weapon is the Thai clinch and knees. In his last outing, he locked up the plumb, devastated his opponent with knees to the head and finished him on the break with a quick left hand.

Brenneman isn’t an overly gifted strikers, but what he lacks in skill he makes up for by outworking his opponent.

What this fight will come down to is hustle. Look for Brenneman to outwork Dariush, scoring key takedowns and fending off his opponent’s early submission attempts off his back. As Brenneman’s size and strength begins to impact the fight, Dariush will wear down, and become far less effective on the floor. Brenneman has submitted 3 of his 4 opponents since cutting to 155, but he will focus on positional control over submission here, so my prediction is Charlie Brenneman to defeat Beneil Dariush by decision.

Prelim Predictions

*Preliminary bouts; Max Holloway vs Will Chope and Quinn Mulhern vs Katsunori Kikuno will be included on the latest episode of Kamikaze Overdrive MMA Predictions.

135lbs- Royston Wee (2-0-0) vs. Dave Galera (5-0-0)

Royston Wee will be making his UFC debut in only his third professional fight which is pressure enough, but considering he is doing so at home as the first fighter from his country to grace the octagon further magnifies that pressure.

Wee is undefeated in 2 career bouts, ending both via submission inside the first 2 minutes.

Galera has more then double the pro fights of Wee, at 5, but of even greater importance he holds a significant edge in quality of opponents faced. While Galera doesn’t have a single recognizable name on his resume as far as top level experience is considered, he as at the very least faced opposition with professional wins. For example, he holds a TKO victory over Reydon Romero (7-4), comparatively Wee’s 2 wins have come over adversaries with a combine 0-3 record.

Both men are primarily grappling based. In Wee’s 2 contests, he has initiated the ground game almost immediately. He moves forward quickly, looking to tie up and then drag the fight to the mat. He will work a body lock takedown and does a good job of reading and reacting with his opponents movements to maintain position. Again, while his grappling game has looked good its hard to get a true feeling for what he is capable of based on who he has been doing it against.

The 5’11” Galera will be the lankier fighter and that should aid him when the fight hits the mat. While Wee will look to score an early takedown, Galera will be more then willing to pull guard. All 3 of his wins have come off his back, with a triangle choke and a pair of armbars. He has an aggressive guard game and fast hips which allows him to quickly transition from defense to offense. Against Keiff Magnusan, he maintained a high guard and constantly threatened off his back, until he eventually locked in a triangle. He had similar success in his second meeting with Piayas Guzman, where he went to his back and very quickly rolled his hips into a successful armbar. If he can’t connect on a submission, he will look to use a sub attempt to sweep to top position.

Neither man has showcased much striking in their short careers, but based on their respective track records this fight won’t be vertical long.

Wee has yet to face any real opposition or adversity in his career. He is coming off a near 25 month layoff since his last fight and that is a considerable break when taking into account he has a total of 2:49 seconds of actual cage time. Since Wee’s last fight, Galera has fought 4 times most recently going to the third round which will be an important experience if this fight goes deep. Galera is far from a harden veteran, and the impact of the Octagon debut is a wildcard, but he has more experience to draw upon, he has been the more active fighter, and stylistically he should be the more effective attacking off his back against a untested opponent, so my prediction is Dave Galera to defeat Royston Wee by submission.

155lbs- Mairbek Taisumov (19-4-0) vs. Tae Hyun Bang (16-7-0)

In the Lightweight division, M-1 veteran Mairbek Taisumov debuts against Tae Hyun Bang of South Korea. 19 of Taisumov’s 20 victories have come inside the distance (10 knockouts and 9 submissions), while Bang has split his wins down the middle with 8 knockouts and 8 decision wins.

Bang has the edge in quality of opponents faced, with a pair of 2008 defeats against current UFC rostered fighters in Jorge Masvidal and Takanori Gomi. Unfortunately, he was forced to take time away from his MMA career to fulfill a military commitment; competing twice in 2010 and then not again until mid 2013.

Taisumov is a well rounded fighter, with his striking based in Muay Thai. He has heavy hands, and an equally as powerful kicking game. His knee and elbow strikes from the clinch are also a key component to his attack. He possesses a good shot, with a quick level change and will also work the body lock takedown from in close. On the mat he can generate some heavy strikes from top position, and constantly looks for submission opportunities.

Getting a good read on Bang could be difficult with such a run of inactivity since 2008. Additionally, his 2 wins over his last 5 fights have come over opponents with records of 3-5 and 1-1, which is far from elite level competition. What he has showcased is knockout power and a solid chin. He took some good shots from Gomi and stood his ground. He can generate a lot of power with his right hand, laying waste to Kazunori Yokota with a shot right during an early exchange.

The knock on Bang is that while he may be capable of throwing heat seeking missiles, he doesn’t throw a high enough volume of strikes to consistently beat opponents when the fight goes the distance. He has a tendency to wait on his opponents to engage before returning fire and this is reflected in his 8-5 record in decisions.

Taisumov should be more then capable of dictating the pace of the fight on the feet, but look for him to mix in his wrestling with effectiveness as well, scoring some significant top control time and potentially setting up a submission, so my prediction is Maribek Taisumov to defeat Tae Hyun Bang by submission.

135lbs- Dustin Kimura (11-1-0) vs. Jon Delos Reyes (7-2-0)

It is widely believed that a fighter reaches a new level in their career once they have suffered their first defeat. While Ronda Rousey has verbalized several times that she has no intention of testing this theory, Dustin Kimura will see if it holds true. Kimura is coming off the first defeat of his career, where he was choked unconscious late in the opening round by Mitch Gagnon.

Delos Reyes has won 4 consecutive bouts all inside the distance (2 subs and 2 TKOs), after rebounding from a defeat against fellow UFC FN 34 debutant Russell Doane. ‘The Heat’ is coming off a near 16 month layoff, which will most likely add the impact of ‘cage corrosion’ onto the infamous ‘Octagon Jitters’ that he will need to overcome to keep his current streak intact.

The UFC newcomer is an aggressive grappler, most recently attacking and catching Troy Bantiag with a well executed armbar. He is a good scrambler and will attack submissions from any angle, but his 2010 defeat against Doane is concerning. After an early exchange on the mat that saw JDR attempt a kimura, he lost position and was submitted via RNC. Doane was able to finish with zero body control, having yet to sink in the hooks before Delos Reyes relented to the choke. While it was just JDR’s fifth pro bout, it certainly brings into question his defensive grappling capabilities and mental toughness.

In his last bout, Kimura showed improved striking catching Gagnon with a solid body shot that hurt the hefty Canadian. He has a solid submission game as demonstrated in his debut, eventually rotating to the back of Chico Camus for the finish, giving him 7 subs, 3 by rear-naked choke.

Kimura is a strong grappler and if his striking continues to improve he will shed the specialist moniker as he becomes a greater threat in all facets of the game. His wrestling is a still a work in progress, but he represents a significant step up in competition for a fighter coming off a lengthy layoff, so my prediction is Dustin Kimura to defeat Jon Delos Reyes by submission.

135lbs- Leandro Issa (11-3-0) vs. Russell Doane (12-3-0)

Doane comes into this bout off the biggest win of his career, defeating former UFC fighter Jared Papazian to captures the interim-Tachi Palace Fights Bantamweight title. More impressively then just upsetting Papazian, he won the fight via TKO, something that the hard hitting Mike Easton was unable to do when he fought Papazian.

Issa is coming off of rebound win from his ONE FC title fight defeat, where he was KOed by underdog Soo Chul Kim. Issa was winning the bout prior to the second round stoppage. He had previously defeated Kim in his promotional debut.

Leaondro finished his run in ONE FC run with a record of 3-1.

Issa is a BJJ Black belt with 7 wins by submission and his most recent victory over Yusup Saadulaev was a decision win based on ground control. The Brazilian has a very good top game and will work a strong body lock takedown. He has good transitions and is a decent scrambler if the initial transaction doesn’t go his way.

The American would be best served by keeping this fight standing, but that could be easier said then done. Doane has significant power. He has 6 wins by knockout including the aforementioned Papazian. He has pop in both of his hands, and can really throw with his right. The issue with Doane is that he is over committed to being a grappler.

Russell has been submitted twice in his career and his November 2012 defeat versus Michinori Tanaka is a perfect example of his commitment to grappling costing him the fight. Tanaka dominated the bout from top position, but a lot of it came down to Doane’s continued willingness to engage on the mat instead of defending and separating against a superior grappler. When Tanaka would shoot in, Doane would look for a submission, get drawn to the mat, and never recover. Even in his wins over Papazian and Dutro he continued to push his grappling game, despite finding success with his hands.

Issa’s striking is serviceable, he throws a nice 1-2 and his legs kicks are decent. He has been knocked out twice in his career and with Doane’s power that is a concern. Even if Doane focusses on his stand-up, Issa is more then capable of getting this fight to the mat and Doan’e willingness to grapple will cost him here, so my prediction is Leandro Issa to defeat Russell Doane by submission.

Prelim Predictions

185lbs- Chris Leben (22-10-0) vs. Uriah Hall (8-4-0)

Whether he was overvalued based on TUF hype or he has just failed to meet expectations, Uriah Hall needs to put a solid performance together resulting in a win or else it will be the end of the line as far as his UFC career is concerned. Leben could also be facing the final curtain call, but under much different circumstances. The Crippler will be making his 22nd appearance inside the Octagon, with a record of 12-9, and fights against a laundry list of recognizable names including UFC 168 headliner Anderson Silva.

This is a brawler versus boxer style matchup. Leben is a heavy handed brawler, with brutal knockout power, a granite like chin, and a “zombie mode” that allows him to remain dangerous deep into fights despite enduring a significant amount of damage. He has no qualms about standing and trading with his adversary, taking a shot to land his own.

Leben owns notable knockout wins over Wanderlei Silva, Aaron Simpson, Alessio Sakara, and Mike Swick who he stopped to win the inaugural WEC Middleweight title.

Conversely, Hall is a technically gifted kickboxer, with a wide variety of striking techniques and excellent hand and foot speed that allows him to land when is opponent is least prepared to defend. He has won 4 times by knockout in his 11 fight career and gained significant notoriety for his a spectacular head kick knockout on the UFC reality show, eventually scoring 3 stoppages before losing in the finals.

Hall has struggled to find his comfort zone in his 2 UFC appearances. Despite flashes of success in his debut, he was outworked by the underrated Kelvin Gastelum and dropped a split decision. He go off to a decent start against John Howard, but faded and again was outworked by a busier opponent, finishing behind in the overall strikes landed total; 92-59.

Whether a mental block or some other restrictive issue, Hall needs to find a way to let his hands go and showcase his talent.

If Leben is going to succeed in this bout he will need to be aggressive, walk down Hall, and land repeatedly with big power. This could either result in a knockout or at the very least a reluctant to engage Hall backing off and allowing Leben to earn the judge’s nod. Unfortunately, while he is still dangerous, Leben is a shell of his former self. His vaunted chin appears ready to crack, as Andrew Craig was able to send him tumbling to a near finish late in their fight. Chris took a lot of damage in that bout, and was clearly struggling with the speed and greater technique of his opponent while attempting to press forward and engage.

Uriah Hall should be able to duplicate that scenario.

Hall is an effective counter striker and will benefit from Leben’s willingness to press the action while mainly throwing bombs with little set up to disguise his attacks. Hall will use a sharp jab to keep Chris on the outside, while slipping strikes in between Leben’s attacks as he plods forward. Both men are up against a tremendous amount of pressure, but Hall is simply the more refined fighter and short of a puncher’s chance he should dominate this fight, so my prediction is Uriah Hall to defeat Chris Leben by knockout.

155lbs- Gleison Tibau (36-9-0) vs. Michael Johnson (14-8-0)

Michael Johnson is currently residing in a “yeah…but” phase as far as predicting his fights are concerned. His striking has looked very good of late, yeah…but his defensive wrestling and guard game are horrid (see Johnson v. Jury and Johnson v. Madadi). He showed he can shutdown a pretty decent grappler in the Lauzon fight (Lauzon 0-4 on TDAs), yeah…but Lauzon fought like a timid and disinterested school child. See what I mean.

Johnson averages 3.54 SLpM and has made marked improves since signing on with the Blackzilians. He boxed up Lauzon like few could predict, outlanding him 119-28. His footwork is decent, he’s quick, throws solid combinations, and he has decent power in his hands with 6 knockouts including 2 in the UFC.

On the other side of the Octagon, 37 fight veteran and perennial Lightweight measuring stick Gleison Tibau has been making a great deal of strides to improve his boxing. He doesn’t do anything flashy and only has 3 knockout wins, but he is more then capable of holding his own under most circumstances. He is going to have to deal with a significant speed disadvantage, which can be an issue especially if and when he starts to slow down in the later stages of the fight.

Gleison’s split decision loss against Evan Dunham was a perfect example of this problem, as Tibau began to tire Dunham pulled away- outlanding the Brazilian 28-9 in the middle frame and 45-15 in the final round after a close first. Johnson is more then capable of reproducing a similar outcome and while his gas tank is far from perfect, he has showed the ability to fight a solid 15 minute bout on more then one occasion (Lauzon and Ferguson, that’s 2).

While Tibau will slow in more grueling bouts, his size is more often then not a major asset. As arguably the biggest Lightweight in town, when he combines his size and strength with a solid grappling attack that can be more then enough to put his opponent at a disadvantage too great to overcome.

Tibau is a BJJ Black belt, with 12 wins by submission, 13 wins by decision (many coming as the result of his grappling), and he averages 4.49 takedowns at a 57% clip. He also has some of the best TDD in the business shutting down 92% of his opponent’s attempts.

Johnson’s TDD ranks it at 76%, which is key if he is to win this fight, but as previously mentioned he has struggled tremendously off his back. If Myles Jury (3), Jonathan Brookins (3), and Reza Madadi (4) can put Mike on the mat with regularity, so can the big Brazilian.

Johnson has also seen submissions account for 6 of his 8 career defeats- and he has arguably never faced as good a grappler as Tibau.

Tibau has scored 23 takedowns over his last 9 fights, with Khabib Nurmagomedov the only fighter to keep him under 2, so he should have no problem putting Johnson down with regularity. If Tibau isn’t able to submit his way to victory early in the fight, he should have 2 rounds in the bag before Johnson is able to take advantage of a possible late slowdown and steal a single frame, which won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Johnson was suppose to get submitted by Joe Lauzon, yeah but he didn’t…yeah but my prediction is still Gleison Tibau to defeat Michael Johnson by submission.

145lbs- #7 Dennis Siver (21-9-0) vs. Manny Gamburyan (15-8-0)

This bout will most likely be decided by who can force their opponent to compete outside of their realm of dominance. If Siver can keep this fight standing and unload with his kickboxing based assault, he wins. If Manny can keep Siver pinned along the wall and planted on the mat, he wins.

Manny averages 3.55 takedowns per fight at a success rate of 32%. He completed 5 takedowns in his win over Cole Miller and 6 against Michihiro Omigawa. Under the Zuffa banner, Manny is 4-0 when landing 3 or more takedowns, but the drawback on a heavy reliance on a dominant grappling assault is evident as he is 3-6 in his UFC/WEC career when completing 2 or fewer attempts.

Manny is a Black belt in Judo, with 6 wins by submission, but he has struggled of late to mount much offense from top position. He was almost completely nullified by Miller’s guard game and his inability to do anything on the mat versus Nunes or Tyson Griffin made any grappling success he did have a non-factor against his opponent’s far more diverse striking attack.

Siver is a BJJ Purple belt and also has a Sambo background. He has 9 wins by submission- 2 in the UFC. He has gone offensive with his grappling in recent fights, most notably blasting Nam Phan on the mat from bell to bell.

He has been submitted on 5 occasions, which would suggest he is better off keeping this fight on the feet.

Siver boasts a stout takedown defense of 69%. He has only be taken down more then twice in a fight once in his 16 fight UFC career, with most of that time spent competing at Lightweight against larger men. He has displayed an excellent center of balance, effectively shutting down his opponent’s attempts even after they have secured a firm hold of one of his legs.

On the feet, Siver throws a variety of techniques, including his vaunted turning side kick. He attempts a lot front leg kicking techniques which he disguises well with limited wind up, making it difficult for his opponent to anticipate and defend against.

Gamburyan is a heavy handed striker, scoring a knockout win over former WEC 145 pound champ Mike Brown, but he lacks the diversity to keep up with Siver in a kickboxing battle. Although, Siver has been KOed twice and was clearly hurt before getting submitted by Donald Cerrone. If Manny can catch him in an exchange he has the ability to put him down.

Siver’s cardio is far from elite, but if he can set the pace by maintaining a comfortable distance from Gamburyan and chipping away at him with his superior striking arsenal his conditioning should be a non-issue. This might will play out similar to Gamburyan versus Nunes, where Manny chased the takedowns and clinch position all fight, but was relatively unsuccessful while getting outworked on the feet, so my prediction is Dennis Siver to defeat Manny Gamburyan by decision.

170lbs- John Howard (21-8-0) vs. Siyar Bahadurzada (21-5-1)

With a combined 20 knockouts, Howard and Bahadurzada can both throw big leather. Siyar destroyed Paulo Thiago in his UFC debut and has scored 9 first round knockouts in his career. Howard has a pair of UFC KOs, including a brutal stoppage in the final moments of a fight he was losing against Dennis Hallman.

Howard is a Muay Thai striker, but most often he forgoes technique for a good ole fire fight- ‘I hit you and you hit me and we will see who comes out on top at the end’. While he has had some success with this style, ‘Doomsday’ has been TKOed twice in his career, most recently by Jake Ellenberger due to a doctor stoppage. He has also lost a couple of fights against opponents that were just more refined strikers in Matt Brown and Thiago Alves.

Siyar is known for his striking abilities as well. He has lethal one punch knockout ability and if Howard opts to trade shot for shot there is a very good chances that this fight will not be going the distance. While Siyar has proven on multiple occasions that he can dominate a striking based fight, it has also been shown that he is vulnerable to a ground based assault.

Siyar is coming off a disappointing outing where he was badly outclassed on the ground by Judo specialist Dong Hyun Kim. Kim needed just 3 takedowns, 1 per round, to dominate the action. Bahadurzada’s resistance clearly diminished as the contest dragged on with Kim needing 3 attempts in the first, 2 in the second, and just single successful shot in the final round to get the job done.

Bahadurzada has also lost a pair of fights by submission to notable opponents in Jorge Santiago and Kazu0 Misaki.

Howard is a BJJ Purple belt, with 6 wins by submissions, while completing 3.16 takedowns per fight at a rate of 58%. His name isn’t synonymous with wrestling, but he has put up some decent numbers. He landed a pair of takedowns against Uriah Hall, 5 in the Matt Brown fight, and a total of 15 in his first 4 UFC appearances. In his time after his initial release from the UFC she showed a greater commitment to his grappling game and it was ultimately the deciding factor in his win over Hall.

If this fight is spent primarily on the feet, it could really go either way. Howard’s leg kicks are heavy and can slow down an opponent in fine fashion, but Siyar’s quick hands and knockout power are a great counter balance to the kicks. The deciding factor is going to be Howard’s takedowns. Siyar defensive grappling has been his undoing and he isn’t nearly as effective when the threat of the takedown is there. Howard has to be mindful of taking a big shot, but he should be more then prepare to grind this fight out on the mat, so my prediction is John Howard to defeat Siyar Bahadurzada by decision.

170lbs- William Macario (7-1-0-) vs. Bobby Voelker (24-10-0)

Voelker is a routinely slow starter, but despite that tendency, he had won 3 straight fights prior to his UFC debut. Against Cote, he fell behind early but rallied late including a lopsided 71-11 striking total in the third frame. In the end, it was a questionable decision that he lost, but his follow up defeat against Robbie Lawler was much more decisive as he struggled to find a foothold early and was taken out of action before he could rally late.

Macario, a TUF tournament finalist, is a much faster starter with 5 of his 6 wins coming inside the first round- 4 knockouts and 1 submission. While Voelker appears to get stronger as fights progress, Macario’s cardio is his Achilles heal. He won the opening round of the TUF final, but he was clearly exhausted early in the second frame and succumb to an eventual submission finish. This is the product of a fighter with limited experience, both overall and in fights that go beyond the opening frame. Additionally, William has a fairly muscled physique which can create some cardio problems as well.

The Brazilian has brutal finishing power, with 5 pro knockouts and 3 more on the Ultimate Fighter. He has decent wrestling and his ground and pound can be fight ending. Voelker’s numbers are just as impressive and span a far longer career with 15 of his 24 career wins coming via knockout. Voelker holds a pair of knockout wins over Roger Bowling and one early in his career over former UFCer Kyle Bradley. Bobby also appeared to hurt the iron-chinned Cote during one of their back and forth exchanges.

Voelker has showcased a sturdy chin, but he has been stopped on a trio of occasions.

If Voelker gets off to a slow start and Macario doesn’t fade or is able to get two rounds in the bag, it could be tough for Bobby to catch up. Although Voelker’s stopping power gives him the ability to end a fight at any point, as was the case in his last 2 meetings with Bowling. In Macario’s debut, he was winning the first round and facing a far less physical and well rounded opponent, and he still gassed. The impact of trading shots with the heavy handed, grappling savvy, and experienced veteran should lead to a similar slow down, so my prediction is Bobby Voelker to defeat William Macario by TKO.

145lbs- Robbie Peralta (16-4-0 1NC) vs. Estevan Payan (14-4-0 1NC)

Peralta comes into this bout off of a decision defeat and a follow-up suspension for testing positive for marijuana use. Prior to that setback he had gone undefeated in 10 consecutive bouts, with 5 knockout wins along with a pair of submissions.

Peralta has serious power and the striking capabilities to hang with any fighter in the division. He averages 4.78 strikes per minute and while he takes damage at a near 3.5 SApM pace, his ability to land better quality shots shows up in the end result. Accompanying his hands, he has a strong kicking game, most notably blasting Mike Lullo with a series of brutal low kicks and scoring a knockdown with a well time front leg side kick.

His loss to Akira Corassani was the product of a smart game plan focussed on movement and angles, that prevent Robbie from finding his range.

Payan has won 4 of his last 5 fights by knockout, including his final Strikeforce appearance against Mike Bravo. He has quick hands and decent combinations, relying heavily on his counter striking ability. In his Strikeforce debut, he scored a dominant striking based win over Alonzo Martinez out landing him 118-47.

His UFC debut was a rough one, after catching Jeremy Stephens early with a decent shot, he was thoroughly dominated in a bloody one-sided battle. It was his UFC and divisional debut which is worth noting as that could have impacted his performance, and he was facing a pretty stalwart UFC veteran as well.

This fight will most likely be decided on the feet and that should favour Peralta. Robbie has the power edge and Payan’s lack of footwork tendency to wait on his opponent while looking to counter should give him plenty of opportunities to land that power. Look for Robbie’s leg kicks to play a significant role as well if this fight goes the deep. Payan showed great reciliency in his debut, but he has been knocked out twice in his career so my prediction is Robbie Peralta to defeat Estevan Payan by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

170lbs- Court McGee (16-3-0) vs. Ryan LaFlare (9-0-0)

LaFlare is attempting to make up for lost time; after missing all of 2011 and 2012 he is stepping up to take this bout on short notice, giving him his 4th appearance (third in the UFC) in 2013. For McGee, 2013 has been the year of the Welterweight. He transferred from 185 down to 170 to start the year off and with a win here will finish 2013 with a perfect 3-0 record.

Both men are aggressive, high output fighters. McGee averages an altitudinous 5.93 strikes per minute, putting up some weighty numbers like 198 strikes versus Josh Neer and 146 vs Nick Ring. He throws a variety of techniques, and while he doesn’t have one punch knockout power, his ability to break his opponent down and beat them up is just as impactful.

LaFlare’s 2 fight UFC stint has produced some decent numbers as well. He has averaged 3.73 strikes per 60 seconds, while just as impressively limiting his opponent to 1.13 SApM. The majority of LaFlare’s work has been done from top position, which has aided both of his offensive output and defensive intake.

Court has the edge in SLpM and LaFlare’s sample size is small, but he holds the edge in total takedowns landed. In just 2 fights the New Yorker has completed 11 of 18 attempts. His shot is quick and heavy. Once he gets on top he will advance his position aggressively, while looking for a submission opportunity. His wrestling attack has be the crux of his success so far inside the Octagon.

LaFlare is a BJJ Purple belt with 3 of 9 wins by submission.

McGee has taken home 7 wins via submission, including his first 2 UFC outings. He averages just 1.89 takedowns at 28%. After a 5 takedown debut, he has never landed more then 2 in a fight, but his ability to mix his wrestling in at the appropriate moment in a close fight is key to his success. He has an 83% TDD%, stopping 10 0f 12 TDAs thrown his way.

Two of McGee’s biggest weapons, in addition to his overwhelming striking volume, are his chin and conditioning. He has never been KOed, despite a high SApM number, and his ability to set such a high pace is incredible. McGee keeps coming forward and landing, while his opponent starts to slow down and that is going to be the key to this fight.

LaFlare has slowed down in each of his bouts, despite controlling the majority of the action. Additionally he is making a quick turn around which should have a further negative impact on a his cardio.

The fight will be close early, and LaFlare may even win the opening round. The key will be the second half of the second round. When LaFlare starts to slow down and his wrestling becomes far less effective look for McGee to amp it up with his striking and start to walk him down. As the damage begins to mount, McGee will pull away on the scorecards, stealing the second and taking a definitive third round. If Court’s grappling D holds up early and he can shut down LaFlare’s attempts to put him on his back he will mount his assault even earlier then expected and overwhelm him with his stand-up attack, so my prediction is Court McGee to defeat Ryan LaFlare by decision.

155lbs- Danny Castillo (16-5-0) vs. Edson Barboza (12-1-0)

In the quintessential striker versus grappler confrontation, Edson Barboza meets Danny Castillo in a Lightweight bout. Barboza has won back to back bouts since having some of the shine knocked off his golden boy status by a Jamie Varner knockout. Castillo has also won back to back fights, rebounding from a devastating 2nd round knockout loss at the hands of Michael Johnson.

Barboza is a Taekwondo Black belt and a vicious Muay Thai striker. He as 8 wins by knockout, including one pre-UFC bout and his UFC debut both ending via damage inflicted by leg kicks. He arguably owns one of the greatest MMA knockout highlights of all time in his spinning Wheel-kick stoppage of Terry Etim. His leg kicks are bone crushing and can quickly change the complexion of a bout with just 1 or 2 flush connections.

Castillo is a wrestler, with a BJJ Brown belt, training out of Alpha Male. He has 4 wins by submissions and multiple decision wins based on his ability to control his opponent with his wrestling. Most recently he used his top game to dominate submission specialist Paul Sass and scored 6 takedowns on route to defeating Tim Means.

Castillo is a pressure based grappler, constantly pushing forward to control and overwhelm his opponent, while averaging 3.78 takedowns at a 47% completion rate.

Barboza’s only defeat came at the hands of a wrestler who was able to walk the Brazilian down, land heavy leather and keep doing so as he took the fight to the mat and finished it. Ross Pearson also had success pressuring Barboza on the feet with his aggressive striking.

While Castillo does have a pressure based wrestling game, he doesn’t have the striking capabilities to hold his own on the feet while attempting to close the distance. Barboza is a BJJ Black belt and has been very difficult to take down and if ‘Last Call’ can’t blast through his defensive work, he is going to get lit up offensively.

Castillo does hold wins over strikers like Tim Means and Anthony Njokuani, but he struggled to keep Njokuani on his backside in the split decision win and Tim Means had a lot of success busting Castillo up after he shored up his grappling defense.

Barboza might suffer an early takedown, but his reach and distance management; along with his defensive grappling will be more than enough to keep Castillo out of his comfort zone and at the blunt of his razor sharp striking skills. Look for Barboza to land some early leg kicks, greatly diminishing Castillo’s wrestling ability, so my prediction is Edson Barboza to defeat Danny Castillo by TKO.

155lbs- Bobby Green (21-5-0) vs. Pat Healy (31-16-0 1NC)

In another bout impacted by injury, Bobby Green steps up on short notice to replace the injured Jamie Varner and take on fellow Strikeforce alumni Pat ‘Bam Bam’ Healy. Healy was most recently unceremoniously dispatched by Khabib Nurmagomedov, ending his 7 fight unbeaten streak, while Green took home a controversial win over James Krause which extended his current run to 6 consecutive wins.

Healy is a grinder. He has a solid top game wrestling attack, averaging 3.44 takedowns at 47%. He has put up some pretty significant numbers, scoring 5 TDs vs Jim Miller, 4 versus Mizuto Hirota, and 4 in his Lightweight debut against Josh Thomson. He might not have the prettiest attack, but his aggression and ability to breakdown his opponent can be a lethal combination.

Physically he is a large 155er, having cut down from 170, he is most often the larger man in the cage and will be against Green standing 2″ taller.

Green should have the striking edge. Healy’s striking is serviceable, but he has had trouble in the past with speedier opponents, like Maximo Blanco and Caros Fodor who were able to blitz him with quick combos that hurt Bam Bam early in each of their fights. Green is well rounded on the feet, landing quick combos, while mixing in some solid leg and body kicks. He has 8 wins by knockout, which is a clear indication of the pop he has in his hands. His technique is a little unorthodox which can present a unexpected front for his opponent to attack, but he has a tendency to stand a little too upright creating openings for a wrestler to shoot successfully.

King Green is a BJJ Blue belt with 9 wins by submission. He earned an impressive come from behind triumph via RNC against Jacob Volkmann in his UFC debut, he tapped out Daron Cruickshank in his pre-Strikeforce days, and also score 2 subs while in the now defunct promotion. All of that considered, he did have a lot of trouble fending off the aggressive wrestling of Volkmann prior to the former UFCer gassing hard. Volkmann landed 4 takedowns in less then 3 rounds, and was able to control Bobby from top position while he was still fresh.

Green has been submitted twice is career, by Dan Lauzon and David Mitchell, albeit both came over 3 years ago.

Healy can grind out a win, but he can also finish. He has 15 wins by submission, 16 if you count putting Jim Miller to sleep before testing positive for a banned substance and having it overturned. Submitting Miller is no easy feet, he also has submission wins over Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, and most notably Carlos Condit. Seven of Pat’s submission wins have come in the second half of his fights, which is indicative of his style of breaking his opponent down and then going for a submission when they are less likely to be able to defend.

Position before submission, and then submission after exhaustion.

Healy has picked up a number of wins over rising prospects based on his experience and wrestling. Green is a talented fighter, pension for low kicks aside, but he still appears vulnerable to being taken down. If he can keep this fight standing he as an excellent chance at out working Healy, but unless his defensive wrestling has improved significantly or his offensive work is able to reproduce a Russian like effort, my prediction is Pat Healy to defeat Bobby Green by submission.

125lbs- Scott Jorgensen (14-7-0) vs. Zach Makovsky (16-4-0)

Jorgensen is making his Flyweight debut after a run at 135 pounds that saw him unsuccessfully challenge for the WEC Bantamweight title, win back to back fights to start his UFC career, but struggle through his last 4 outings with a 1-3 record. During that span his 3 defeats came against 2 former WEC Champs (Wineland and Faber) and current Interim-Bantamweight champion Renan Barao. That is a hard schedule no matter who you are.

Makovsky is the former Bellator Bantamweight champion, the first to hold the title, but he was thrown on the scrap heap after back to back losses. He has since cut to Flyweight, a more appropriate division for his physical build, and he has won back to back fights.

The former Bellator champ is taking this fight on relatively short notice, as the third opponent that Scotty has been paired with.

Both men come from a wrestling background. Each are former NCAA Division 1 competitors and Makovsky also had some success competing at the World championships in 2009 and 2010.

Zach has some excellent takedowns and his ability to float over into side control during the process really sets up his top game. He is active from top position and has secured 6 wins by submission, including 2 during his time with Bellator. He has also been submitted on 3 occasions, with his most recent costing him the Bellator title.

The biggest downfall for ‘Fun Size’ comes into play when he is unable to implement his wrestling game. Either by being forced to work off his back or remain on his feet, he is not nearly the same quality fighter without his offensive top game in play.

Jorgensen is a solid wrestler and if the cut from 135 goes well he should have a slight size advantage. Over his last 12 fights he has lost only to the elite of the Bantamweight division picking up some notable wins over tough competition. He landed 5 takedowns against Jeff Curran, 4 versus Brad Pickett, and 3 against Takeya Mizugaki. He even took Dominick Cruz down twice and Urijah Faber down once which is noteworthy. He has been able to defend just over 50% of his opponents’ TDAs with Cruz and Faber the only fighters to score multiple takedowns against Scotty over his last 10 fights.

Jorgensen’s striking is decent and getting better. He should have the edge in the grappling department, allowing him either to control the majority of the positions or keep the fight standing if he wishes too. Makovsky appears to be more reliant on the success of his wrestling which will cost him here as Scotty should be able to shut down his offensive game, so my prediction is Scott Jorgensen to defeat Zach Makovsky by decision.

155lbs- Abel Trujillo (10-5-0 1NC) vs. Roger Bowling (11-4-0 1NC)

In a rematch from their UFC Fight Night 27 bout back in August, Trujillo and Bowling square off to finalize what was playing out as a pretty entertaining Lightweight battle. My original prediction was Trujillo to take the first contest, focusing on his physicality and Bowlings’s questionable conditioning, with Trujillo earning either a late stoppage or decision win.

The first fight ended with a questionable knee to the head of a downed opponent, delivered by Trujillo at the end of the second frame. By my account, Roger Bowling was most likely ahead 2 rounds to none.

Bowling held a clear wrestling advantage landing 4 of 5 takedown attempts and attempting a trio of submissions, including a tight guillotine late in the first round. Trujillo landed just a single attempt. Bowling was able to take advantage of Trujillo continually moving backward in a straight line making his takedowns even more effective. His wrestling success was unexpected based on Abel’s ability to thwart talented wrestler Marcus LeVesseur.

On the feet, both men threw heavy leather and while Abel did have an edge it total strikes landed at 57-47, it appeared that Bowling was landing the better quality shots, often catching Trujillo with a stiff jab as he came forward. Trujillo had his best success with his left hook, but he was also doing a lot of swinging and missing. Additionally, he was leaving his chin exposed which never manifested into a knockout, but the potential was there.

Bowling’s cardio is still a concern and while he did slow down a little versus Trujillo there are indications from this two Lightweight bouts that making the cut to 155 has improved his conditioning from his time at 170, allowing him to fight more effectively longer into fights. Trujillo has the ability to land and finish Bowling as we saw at the end of round 2, but if he doesn’t deliver that knockout blow he will struggle to keep up with Bowling. Look for Bowling to further exploit his wrestling advantage, take Trujillo down, and drop some big shots and/or look for submissions, so my prediction is Roger Bowling to defeat Abel Turjillo by decision.

155lbs- Sam Stout (20-9-1) vs. Cody McKenzie (14-3-0)

Stout is coming off of an entertaining but ultimately unsuccessful bout with James Krause. After a back and forth contest Stout found himself caught in a tight guillotine late in third round and was forced to submit to his opponent’s hold. Cody McKenzie enters this contest with 12 of 14 wins coming by way of submission, 11 by guillotine, including 2 in the UFC. Cody is still working to improve almost all facets of his fight game, but when given the opportunity to attack his opponent’s neck, he knows how to finish.

Sam Stout has now been submitted 3 times in his 29 fight career, twice in the UFC, with Kenny Florian doing the honours back in 2006.

Cody showed significant improvements in both his striking and wrestling in his last fight. He outlanded his striking based opponent 84-30, completed 5 of 13 TDAs, and controlled the majority of the action on the mat. It was arguably his best performance to date, but it was at Featherweight and it was against Leonard Garcia.

For this bout McKenzie will be returning to the Lightweight division, where he is 1-2 in the UFC.

Stout has struggled of late, but he should have a significant advantage on the feet in this bout. He averages 4.23 strikes per minute and while his defensive striking allows his opponents to land at a rate comparable to his, McKenzie simply doesn’t have the skill to keep up. To nullify this edge Cody will almost certainly look to take Sammy down, but Stout boasts a stout TDD% of 76%, and even when he does get put on his backside he is difficult to keep down.

Stout has been attempting to work more offensive grappling into his fights, landing 7 takedowns over his last 4 bouts, but he would be smart to avoid that course of action as an ill timed attempt could create an opening for Cody to lock on one of his patented guillotines. If Sammy opts to keep this fight standing and is able to successfully thwart Cody’s TDAs he will land his strikes in greater numbers and with greater impact. MacKenzie is known for having a ‘glass body’ getting stopped by Nam Phan on TUF and then by Chad Mendes both with body shots and Sam Stout is known for having a nasty liver shot that he will deploy frequently, so my prediction is Sam Stout to defeat Cody McKenzie by TKO.

125lbs- Darren Uyenoyama (8-4-0-) vs. Alptekin Ozkilic (8-1-0)

Kick starting the card will be a Flyweight bout featuring another debuting entrant in the ever expanding 125 pound division. Alptekin Ozkilic debuts opposite 3 fight UFC veteran Darren Uyenoyama. Uyenoyama is coming off a defeat versus event headliner and title challenger Joseph Benavidez, while Alp has won 3 straight and is stepping up on short notice to replace the injured John Moraga.

Uyenoyama is a top level BJJ practitioner, with 4 of his 8 wins by submission. He also scored a ground based victory (an upset I called, one of my biggest by the odds anyway) over Kid Yamamoto where he landed multiple takedowns and used positional control on the mat to take the decision. He averages just 0.91 takedowns per fight, relying on his opponents to send the contest to the floor. Each of his last 2 opponents; Phil Harris and Benavidez scored a pair of TDs, while he landed none.

Ozkilic is a talented wrestler. He was a successful Greco Roman competitor in Turkey and transition that into a 2 time All-American run state-side. He has decent takedowns and a strong top game. He has just a single win my submission, but multiple decision victories based on his wrestling. His only defeat came against UFC 135er Chico Camus by decision. Despite the loss he was able to score a couple of takedowns and find some success with his wrestling, but lost the majority of the striking exchanges.

Alp has just a single knockout win, but it was his most recent victory. He stopped former UFC and WEC competitor Antonio Banuelos with a perfectly timed counter left hook and some follow up shots only 30 seconds in the fight.

Uyenoyama is improving his striking, but it is still a work in progress as was shown in his last outing. Alp’s striking isn’t elite level, but he should have the edge based both on his technique and power.

Uyenoyama has a solid offensive guard. He caught Phil Harris several times and eventually put him away after being taken down. Ozkilic though will be the physically stronger and slightly larger man, and his solid wrestling technique should give him a top position advantage if he elects to take the fight horizontal. Defensively, he will be able to shut down Darren’s attempt to get the fight to the ground and either keep it standing or force him to pull guard.

Backing a debuting fighter can be a difficult choice, especially on short notice, but Ozkilic is the more well rounded competitor and has the skills to shut his opponent down wherever this fight plays out so my prediction is Alp Ozkilic to defeat Darren Uyenoyama by decision.

 

Prelim Predictions

135lbs- Julie Kedzie (16-12-0) vs. Beth Correia (6-0-0)

Kedzie is a veteran of the WMMA scene, with 28 total fights and including a number of battles with some of the best fighters in the business. Conversely, Correia has only competed 6 times professionally, and while she hasn’t faced any recognizable names, she is coming off a win over Erica Paes who is the only person to have vanquished the female buzzsaw known as Cristiane Justino.

Kedzie has been submitted 7 times in her career, most recently by Meisha Tate in a fight that Julie had dominated for the majority of the contest. She has a black belt in Taekwondo and has shown a vastly improved striking game, significantly battering Tate in their final Strikeforce appearance. She isn’t known for her stopping ability, with the majority of her wins coming via decision, but she nearly finished Miesha on a couple of different occasions, including landing a devastating head kick.

Correia is undefeated, with minimal experience. She is taking a massive step up in competition and doing it on fairly short notice. She has gone the distance in 5 of her 6 wins, with a single knockout rounding out her win total. Her striking is serviceable and she is fairly quick, but a little undersized. Her offensive grappling skills don’t appear to be a massive threat. Despite defeating the aforementioned Paes, everytime that fight hit the mat, Bethe was on the defensive.

Correia is seizing this opportunity to compete at the highest level of WMMA, but her lack of experience and short notice coupled with the impact of making her debut will be significant detractors from her performance. Kedzie has already competed once inside the Octagon and should be better prepared in her sophomore showing. Julie will be the better striker and unless Correia manifests a strong grappling game that has been otherwise devoid in her career to date, Kedzie should be able to avoid the submission issues that have plagued her so much in the past, so my prediction is Julie Kedzie to defeat Bethe Correia by decision.

135lbs- #10 Takeya Mizugaki (18-7-2) vs. Nam Phan (18-12-0)

Phan is making his UFC Bantamweight debut and physically, its is a smart move. He has either been undersized or unable to match his Featherweight opponent’s physical strength. He has a massive opportunity, taking on the #10 ranked Mizugaki in his divisional debut, where a win would gain him significant traction within the division.

Phan has good striking. His offensive skills are technically sound, his combination smooth, and his willingness to strafe the body with blistering hooks can be fight changing. He has 7 wins by knockout, none in the UFC, but if his technique isn’t diminished by the physical impact of cutting to 135 he should gain some power against his smaller foes.

His defensive striking is where the problem lies. While he lands at a more then respectable 4.32 strikes per minute, he gets tagged at an even greater rate of 5.48.

Mizugaki doesn’t overwhelm his opponent with his volume, nor is his defense amongst the elite landing and getting hit at roughly the same clip of 2.9 strikes per minute. While these numbers can produce some close fights, he has been getting the better of his opponents in most of his recent outings. His range striking is good, but he is even more effective at close range landing with short punches and elbows, stopping Cole Escovedo from in close.

Phan is a BJJ Black belt, but his grappling defense, like his striking defense, has been a major drawback. He has never been submitted, and his TDD is a solid 60%, but he has been he has been taken down at least once in 4 of his 6 UFC bouts. Jimy Hettes ran a clinic, completing 11 takedowns and Dennis Siver only landed 2 of 4 attempts but control the majority of the fight from top position. Phan has been working out of Alpha Male to shore up these issues, but has yet to show much improvement.

Mizugaki is 1-1 in fights ended by submissions. He averages 1.72 TDs at 74%, with a high watermark of 4 against both Reuben Duran and more recently Jeff Hougland. Much like with his striking, he does some of his best grappling in tight, working his takes from the clinch position.

Mizugaki is a solid veteran that has fought some of the best in the world and he is finally getting the respect he deserves. Phan has some decent attributes and the cut to 135 could serve him well, but his defensive striking and/or grappling issues will be just too much for him to overcome, so my prediction is Takeya Mizugaki to defeat Nam Phan by decision.

185lbs- Nick Ring (13-2-0) vs. Ciao Magalhaes (6-1-0)

Ring hasn’t competed in close to 9 month and he is 1-2 in his last 3 fights, since starting his career 12-0. He is attempting to work his way through the first minor slump of his career, which can be a difficult process, but an important one for a formerly undefeated fighter.

Ring is a BJJ Brown belt and Muay Thai Black belt. He has 6 wins by submission and is 5-2 in fights that go the distance. His striking is solid, landing at a rate of 3.83 strikes per minute. Ring has a decent kicking arsenal and good hand speed. While he does take damage at a rate of 3.75 strikes per minute, he should have a significant advantage on the feet, making this a non-factor.

Magalhaes is a grappler from the word go and his striking attack is centered almost entirely on setting up his ground attack. His striking stats are below average and if he is unable to get this fight to the ground and maintain the position, as was the case against Buddy Roberts (2-15 on TDAs), he will struggle to keep up with Ring’s output on the feet.

Ring’s TDD ranks in at 47%, with 2 significant fights standing out. Riki Fukuda score a half dozen takedowns and Tim Boetsch landed 4 in Ring’s first career defeat. In his bout with Court McGee he was much more successful, defending all 4 attempts and he should find similar success here against a talented Jiu-Jitsu player, but below average wrestler.

Ring is pretty solid on the mat himself, and Karlos Vemola did have success busting Magalhaes up on the ground until he gassed, but the Canadian would be best served to keep this fight on the feet. Ring has been known to slow down later in bouts, but the Brazilian won’t push the type of pace that will generate this type of letdown. Ring will control the action on the feet, while defending a multitude of takedown attempts, so my prediction is Nick Ring to defeat Caio Magalhaes by decision.

125lbs- Richie Vaculik (9-1-0) vs. Justin Scoggins (5-0-0)

The 125 pound division continues to grow with 2 more entries making their promotional debuts. Vaculik was a contestant on TUF Smashes, fighting well above his weight class and while he had limited success on the show he did gain some valuable experience. ‘Vas’ is 9 years older then Scoggins, but he only has 3 more pro fights and both men for the most part are still relatively early in their respective careers.

Vaculik is fighting at home which is a major advantage, with Scoggins making the trip down under. Conversely, the fight will be held during ‘American’ prime time which should favour Scoggins considering his ‘body clock’ would be geared to competing at that time of day more then his opponent who would normally still be working his way through his fight day routine.

Vaculik is entering this contest following a considerable layoff, not competing since April 2012, so ring rust could also be a factor.

Scoggins has an impressive finishing rate with 5 of 7 wins by knockout and one by submission, leaving just a single victory to the scorecards. He packs significant power, using a similar sideway karate style stance to that of Lyoto Machida or Conor MacGregor, which allows him to throw a variety of hand and kicking techniques. He uses everything in his arsenal, including a number of front leg kicking techniques, slashing elbows, and more traditional attacks.

Vaculik is a strong finisher as well with all of his W’s coming inside the distance; 3 knockouts and 6 submissions. He is a decent grappler and should look to try and get on the inside of his opponents strikes and pursue the takedown. If he can get the fight to the mat and control the position it will nullify the his opponent’s more diverse and hard hitting striking arsenal.

The Aussie will be a stiff test for the young fighter and he has the tools to pull this one out under the ideal circumstance, but Scoogins hits too hard and has shown strong enough defensive wrestling to keep this fight standing. The American might even consider going offensive with his grappling attack, but most likely he stands and trades with far more lethal results, so my prediction is Justin Scoggins to defeat Richie Vaculik by knockout.

185lbs- Bruno Santos (13-0-0) vs. Krysztof Jotko (13-0-0)

A former Bellator Tournament semi-finalist, Bruno Santos makes his Zuffa debut, after a near 20 month layoff. He had advanced to the Bellator tournament semi-finals, before an injury scrap his bout and eventually his run with the promotion.

Santos is undefeated, with 11 of his 13 wins having come by way of decision. He is a grinder from both the clinch and top position. While he has shown signs of a submission game throughout his career, his finishing ability has not manifested in the end result of his fights. His striking is stiff and fairly basic. He is a physically strong fighter and if he connects he can do damage. His leg kicks are heavy, but he rarely strings combinations together, opting instead to throw a lot of single strikes that are either deflected or simply not as effective because of a lack of accompanying techniques. He will sit back and counter, which could get him into trouble against an opponent like Jotko who will string together 3 and 4 techniques with greater impact then the subsequent counter that Bruno will attempt.

Jotko isn’t a known finisher either, but he has put up slightly better numbers then his Brazilian counterpart. With 7 of his 13 wins going the distance, he has sprinkled in a quartet of knockouts and 2 submission wins. He is going to have a length advantage on Santos which he will need to capitalize on to keep him at distance and avoid getting taken down. If he can keep this fight standing he should have the technical striking edge. The Polish fighter is a more natural striker, stringing his combinations together and attacking at a higher volume. He will do damage from the clinch with knees and elbows and his range weapons can be equally as effective.

The key for Jotko will be to either defend the TDAs or make the mat a dangerous place for Santos to go by attacking with submissions and sweeps. When Santos fought Santana, not only was he unwilling to engage in anything significant on the ground, he also appeared hesitant to push the action on the feet for fear of being taken down. Anything that Krzysztof can do to further diminish his opponent’s already simplistic striking attack would be a significant gain.

If Santos can use his lower stature to control the clinch and set up his takedowns with regularity, he will be in control of the fight. He should have the grappling advantage, but the key will be getting in a position to use it.

He is coming off a lengthy layoff and physically he is rather heavily muscled individual which can create some conditioning issues. That suggestion flies in the face of his 11 wins via decision, which would suggest he can go the distance with no problem, but such significant layoff from active competition can lead to a drop off in performance upon a fighter’s return.

Jotko has to win or at the very least earn a stalemate in the grappling exchange, which should set him up to take control of the fight with his striking. Santos has been away for a while and may have made significant strides to round out his game, but that has yet to be seen. This might not be the most pretty of bouts, but Jotko will do just enough with his striking to get the better of his contest, so my prediction is Krzysztof Jotko to defeat Bruno Santos by decision.

170lbs- Ben Wall (6-0-1) vs Alex Garcia (10-1-0)

Wall is stepping up to take this fight on relatively short notice and he will also be moving up a weight class to compete at Welterweight, instead of his more traditional 155 pound home. He was a competitor on the Ultimate Fighter: Smashes season, representing Australia, but was unable to advance to any point of significance.

Garcia is an impressive prospect training out of Tri-Star, a gym known for their ability to churn out well coached and stylistically sound fighters. Alex has finished 9 of his 10 wins, (4 knockouts and 5 submissions), with his lone loss coming to current UFC Welterweight big man Seth Baczynski back in 2011.

‘The Dominican Nightmare’ is a strong wrestler, with a solid power double leg. His top game control and ability to deliver punishment is sound. His submission game has been improving significantly with 4 of his last 5 wins coming via rear-naked choke. On the feet he should have an edge in the striking and his wrestling should allow him to dictate where this fight takes place.

Wall is far from unskilled and he carries with him an undefeated record, but a record with next to no top level experience. 5 of his 7 wins have gone the distance and for the most part he is still working to round out his fight game. His greatest chance for victory here would be to endure the early onslaught and attempt to take control against a fighter who has only competed in the third round twice and who has some questionable cardio.

It is commendable how Ben stepped up, but he is overmatched and undersized. Garcia has the vastly superior skill set and while slightly shorter he is still the physically larger man. Look for Garcia to use his wrestling early to put Wall on his back, soften him up with some ground and pound before looking for a potential submission opportunity. Some times it pay to pick by the numbers, so my prediction is Alex Garcia to defeat Ben Wall by submissions, possibly an RNC.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- #10 Donald Cerrone (20-6-0 1NC) vs. Evan Dunham (14-4-0)

What have they done recently?

Cerrone- coming off a defeat against Rafael dos Anjos

Dunham- coming off a defeat against Rafael dos Anjos

Key Victories

Cerrone- Melvin Guillard- KO, Jeremy Stephens- Dec, K.J. Noons- Dec, Jamie Varner- Dec

Dunham- Gleison Tibau- Split Dec, Nik Lentz- TKO, Tyson Griffin- Split Dec, Efrain Escudero- Sub

Key Defeats

Cerrone- Ben Henderson x 2- Dec & Sub, Rafael dos Anjos- Dec, Anthony Pettis- TKO, Nate Diaz- Dec

Dunham- TJ Grant- Dec, Rafael dos Anjos- Dec, Melvin Guillard- TKO, Sean Sherk- Split Dec

Physical Comparison

Cerrone- 2″ height and 3″ reach advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Cerrone- Muay Thai, submissions (13 subs), SLpM (3.84), Sub/15 mins (2.02)

Dunham- Durability, SLpM (5.12), BJJ Black belt, striking

Big 4 Weaknesses

Cerrone- SApM (3.68), cardio, point scoring (5-4 in decisions), mental focus

Dunham- SApM (3.66), visible damage, 7 month layoff, point scoring (5-3 in decisions)

Key(s) to Victory

Cerrone- ‘Cowboy’ has to keep this fight at a distance, sticking Dunham on the end of his kicks and jab. When Dunham does come forward, Donald needs to counter with his stepping knee strike and/or circle away to diffuse his pressure based attack. Fighting at his pace is imperative.

Dunham- Evan needs to be aggressive and push the pace. Walk down Cerrone with his strikes, and prevent him from setting up his offense, while landing a high volume of his own offensive techniques. Dunham should have the cardio edge and needs to exploit it in the second half, by wearing down Cerrone early. Any success with his wrestling that he can find is a massive gain.

Key(s) to Defeat

Cerrone- He can’t let Dunham land at will, not only will it score points and do damage, it will take away too much from Cowboy’s cardio.

Dunham- He can’t make this a Muay Thai fight. Standing at range will give Cerrone too much of an advantage and force Dunham out of his comfort zone.

Prediction

Cerrone has already made it clear that he is heading to Featherweight, regardless of the outcome of this contest. He has had multiple opportunities to rise to the rank of #1 contender, but each time he came up short. Just as consistently, when Cerrone would drop a big fight, he would rebound with a win and has never lost back to back fights in his career.
 
Both men are high output strikers, but while the numbers are similar, the scenarios are vastly different. Dunham is the type of fighter that keeps moving forward and trading. He isn’t deterred by when his opponent attacks, willingly returning fire. Conversely, Cerrone’s high offensive numbers are generated in his dominant wins (Stephens and Noons), while his lofty strikes absorbed totals come from his defeats (Diaz & dos Anjos).
 
Cerrone is much more of a front runner. When he is able to keep his opponent back tracking and giving ground, he wins. When his adversary stands and bangs, and either holds their ground or push Cerrone backwards he isn’t nearly as effective. Dunham clearly fits the second category.
 
Cerrone has good grappling, but not on the level that should trouble Dunham. Evans is a BJJ Black belt and his strong top control wrestling is more than enough to limit Cerrone off his back, similar to what RDA was able to do.
 
If Cerrone can keep this fight at range and utilize his blistering Muay Thai he has a significant advantage, but Dunham’s aggression will be hard to turn away. Cerrone struggles against fighters with this type of profile and Dunham will arguably be the most aggressive fighter that ‘Cowboy’ has faced yet, so my prediction is Evan Dunham to defeat Donald Cerrone by decision.

185lbs- Thales Leites (21-4-0) vs. Ed Herman (21-7-0 1NC)

What have they done recently?

Leites- 4 fight winning streak.

Herman- snapped a 2 fight losing streak in his last appearance.

Key Victories

Leites-

Herman- Kyle Noke- Sub, David Loiseau- Dec, Glover Teixeira- Dec, Tim Credeur- Dec

Key Defeats

Leites-

Herman- Ronaldo Souza- Sub, Alan Belcher- Split Dec, Demian Maia- Sub, Aaron Simpson- TKO

Physical Comparison

Leites- 3″ reach advantage

Herman- 1″ height advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Leites- BJJ Black belt, submissions (13 subs), takedowns (2.75 @ 31%), striking

Herman- experience (31 fights), BJJ Black belt, submissions (13 wins), clinch fighting

Big 4 Weaknesses

Leites- cardio, knockout power (2 KOs in 25 fights), SLpM (1.96), SApM (2.8)

Herman- fight IQ, submission defense (6 losses), speed, wear and tear

Key(s) to Victory

Leites- Thales needs to drag this fight to the ground, put Herman on his back and start chaining his submissions together. Even if he can’t tap him out, he can still control the action and take a decision.

Herman- ‘Shot Fuse’ needs to brawl with Leites early on, land shots and range and then when his opponent closes distance he can do damage there too with his short range arsenal. If he can take one of the first two rounds, his opponent’s cardio could cost him in round 3.

Key(s) to Defeat

Leites- He has to avoid getting tagged with big shots at short range and allowing Herman to dictate the pace of the fight.

Herman- He can spend too much time on his back against a grappler on Leites’s level.

Prediction

A battle of ground based UFC veterans. Leites returned to the promotion with a win and Herman returned to the win column in an entertaining bout last time out.
 
Leites brings a 13-1 record in fights ended by submission, getting tapped out by Matt Horwich, but returning the favour just 3 fights later. He has solid takedown techniques, good top controls, and slick transitions. In his UFC career he has completed 2.75 TDs @ 31%, while averaging 1.79 sub attempts per 15 minutes.
 
Herman has also won 13 times by submission, 3 times in the UFC. He boasts significantly better completion numbers then Leites, landing 3.44 takedowns at a rate of 53%. He averages 1.66 sub attempts per fight, while successfully defending TDA’s at a rate of 66%.
 
While the Brazilian has only been submitted once, Herman has been tapped out on 6 occasions, including twice in the UFC and once in his brief Strikeforce appearance. He has struggled against strong grappling based opponents in his career. He was thoroughly controlled on the mat in the defeat turned no contest against Jake Shields. Showing either an inability or an unwillingness to disengage and separate to avoid getting taken down.
 
On the feet Herman has power, and is a scrappy close range fighter. He had a lot of success blasting away at Trevor Smith at close range, but also took some significant damage. Leites’s stand-rup is more technical and he controlled the action on the feet against Tom Watson, but he lacks the dangerous knockout power that Herman brings to the table.
 
The wear and tear of a long, grinding UFC career appears to be catching up with Ed, as his ability to take a punch is diminishing and overall his foot speed is lacking and he wasn’t that fast to start with.
 
Leites should be able to replicate the success of past grapplers like Jacare Souza and Jake Shields by taking Herman down and either controlling the position or submitting him. Leites cardio is an issue, but he should be far enough ahead on the scorecards by the third round and Herman isn’t known for his cardio either, so my prediction is Thales Leites to defeat Ed Herman by submission.

170lbs- Brian Ebersole (50-15-1 1NC) vs. Rick Story (15-7-0)

What have they done recently?

Ebersole- 11 fight winning streak snapped in last appearence

Story- 2-2 in last 4 fights

Key Victories

Ebersole- Chris Lytle- Dec, TJ Waldburger- Dec, Dennis Hallman- TKO, Claude Patrick- Split Dec

Story- Jake Ellenberger- Dec, Johny Hendricks- Dec, Thiago Alves- Dec

Key Defeats

Ebersole- James Head- Split Dec, Hector Lombard- Dec, Kyle Noke- Dec, Ed Herman- Sub

Story- Mike Pyle- Split Dec, John Hathaway- Dec, Martin Kampmann- Dec, Demian Maia- Sub

Physical Comparison

Ebersole- 2″ height and 2″ reach advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Ebersole- NCAA D-1 wrestler, submission defense, unorthodox style, TDD (73%)

Story- power/ strength, NAIA wrestler, takedowns (3.24 @ 59%), SLpM 3.39

Big 4 Weaknesses

Ebersole- 16 month layoff, SLpM (2.18), TD % (28%), speed

Story- defensive grappling, reliance on wrestling (7-1 with TD edge & 1-4 without), inconsistency, point scoring (8-6 in decisions)

Key(s) to Victory

Ebersole- Brain needs to be elusive, use his movement and unorthodox style to keep Story from closing the distance. When they are in tight, he has to do damage and if they do go to the ground he can’t afford to spend too much time on his back. If he can score takedowns and put Story on his back that will be a huge advantage.

Story- Rick has to be aggressive, land big shots, and keep the pressure on Ebersole. The more he can cut off the cage and either beat him up along the wall or on the mat the more effective he will be.

Key(s) to Defeat

Ebersole- He can’t afford to spend too much time on his back or allow Story to land with power from any position.

Story- He slowed down against Pyle, so his cardio could be an issues and cost him in a tight fight. He has to have the wrestling advantage as well or he will be hard pressed to leave victorious.

Prediction

Both fighters are wrestling based, but take significantly different approaches. Ebersole uses a much more varied approach, with an unorthodox striking style and solid defensive and offensive wrestling. Conversely, Story is a power based fighter, with a focus on aggressive wrestling and a hard close range striking attack.
 
Both men have decent takedown numbers, with Story holding the edge in both total completions and completion rate. Ebersole does get the better of the defensive stats, with a TDD% of 73% to 59%. The wrestling advantage has been key to the success of Story. He is 7-1 when he completes more takedowns, with his lone defeat coming in his last appearance.
 
If Ebersole can put Story on his back with regularity, he would gain a massive advantage, as Story has had trouble working from that position in many of his defeats.
 
On the feet, Brian’s style can give many fighters difficulty, simply because his unorthodox approach is a hard front to attack. Story shouldn’t have as big an issue with based on aggressive, high volume approach. He outlands Ebersole at an average of 3.39 to 2.18 and his aggressive forward push should limit Ebersole’s ability to set up his attacks. While Ebersole does have knockout potential, Story gets the nod in overall power strikes.
 
Ebersole has been out of action for well over a year and while he does have a tonne of experience to draw upon, it is very easy to get behind on the scorecards against an aggressive fighter like Story. Rick is in desperation mode, again, after allowing a win slip through his fingers against Mike Pyle. Story’s power and work rate will carry the flow of the contest, so my prediction is Rick Story to defeat Brian Ebersole by decision.

135lbs- Edwin Figueroa (9-3-0) vs. Erik Perez (13-5-0)

What have they done recently?

Figueroa- back to back losses.

Perez- 8 fight winning streak snapped in last bout.

Key Victories

Figueroa- Johnny Bedford- TKO, Jason Reinhardt- TKO, Alex Caceres- Split Dec

Perez- Paul McVeigh- Dec, John Albert- Sub, Ken Stone- KO, Byron Bloodworth- TKO

Key Defeats

Figueroa- Roland Delorme- Dec, Michael McDonald- Dec, Francisco Rivera- TKO

Perez- Takeya Mizugaki- Split Dec

Physical Comparison

Figueroa- 1″ reach advantage

Perez- 1″ height advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Figueroa- knockout power (6 KOs), Muay Thai, combinations, aggression

Perez- knockout power (4 KOs, 2 UFC), SLpM (4.44), striking variety, submissions (7 subs)

Big 4 Weaknesses

Figueroa- SLpM (2.91) vs SApM (2.99), cardio, wild striking, grappling defense

Perez- point scoring ability (2-4 in decisions), wild striking, octagon time (avg. 5:51), cardio

Key(s) to Victory

Figueroa- Edwin needs to be aggressive, but at the same time fight smart to avoid gassing out and/or getting clipped with a big shot from Perez. Perez is a little bit wild with his striking and if Edwin can capitalize on that he has the ability to put him away. Defending the TDA’s is crucial.

Perez- He has to work his grappling attack. His striking is solid and he has good power, but he has a greater advantage in the clinch and on the mat. If he can put Figueroa on his back it will set up submission opportunities and at the least score points with the judges.

Key(s) to Defeat

Figueroa- He can’t afford to spend too much time with his back on the mat or the cage.

Perez- If he trades wildly with Figueroa he increases the likelihood of getting knocked out tenfold.

Prediction

A nice pairing of two aggressive strikers, willing to exchange with little concern for their own well-being. That being said, both fighters have recently lost bouts as a result of this approach. Figueroa got off to a good start, but tired and was eventually finished by Francisco Rivera, while Perez was unable to maintain his pace for a full 3 rounds against Takeya Mizugaki and lost a split decision.
 
Of the two, Perez is the more likely to change his approach. He has a solid grappling game, with the majority of his wins coming via submission and he showed good takedowns skills against Mizugaki completing five attempts. Conversely, Figueroa has struggled with strong grapplers, getting taken down 6 times by Roland Delorme, 5 by Michael McDonald, and winning a controversial decision against Alex Caceres where he was clearly out grappled.
 
With Perez training out of Greg Jackson’s camp it would be very unlikely that they don’t create a game plan focused on exploiting his opponent’s most significant weakness.
 
If the fight were to remain on the feet, they both have power, but Perez operates at a considerably higher work rate out landing Figueroa 4.44 to 2.91. ‘Goyito’ is coming off of a tough decision loss where he was unable to put his opponent away, but that should serve as a learning experience for the young fighter.
 
The combination of a superior grappling game and higher SLpM average gives Perez a significant advantage in a fight that goes the distance. He has never been KOed in his career, and although Figueroa has good power, it is still an unlikely scenario. So my prediction is Erik Perez to defeat Edwin Figueroa by TKO.

170lbs- Jason High (18-4-0) vs. Anthony Lapsley (22-5-0 2NC)

What have they done recently?

High- rebounded from UFC debut defeat in his last fight.

Lapsley- 4 straight wins.

Key Victories

High- James Head- Sub, Quinn Mulhern- Dec, Nate Moore- Sub, Jordan Mein- Dec

Lapsley- Tyler Stinson- Sub, Brent Weedman- TKO, Mike Stumpf- Dec

Key Defeats

High- Erick Silva- Sub, Charlie Brenneman- Dec, Marius Žaromskis- KO, Jay Hieron- KO

Lapsley- Jay Hieron- Sub, Mike Guymon- Sub, Drew Fickett- Sub, Carlo Prater- Dec

Physical Comparison

High- 0.5″ reach advantage

Big 4 Strengths

High- BJJ Purple belt, submissions (8 subs), speed, takedowns

Lapsley- grappling, submissions (15 subs), Bellator experience

Big 4 Weaknesses

High- size, chin (2 KOs), inconsistency

Lapsley- 10 month layoff, submission defense (4 subs), UFC debut, striking

Key(s) to Victory

High- ‘The Kansas City Bandit’ could opt to keep this fight standing and take advantage of his super striking skills, while keeping Lapsley away from his greatest strength. He could also look for a takedowns and work his grappling attack against a fighter with multiple submissions defeats.

Lapsley- Anthony has to find a way to get this fight to the ground, then he needs to work to maintain top control, and finally he has avoid getting submitted from the bottom. If he can do all of that, he has an excellent chance to take home the win.

Key(s) to Defeat

High- If he gets careless with his defensive grappling and allows Lapsley to continually gain a positional advantage he will be in trouble.

Lapsley- If he can can’t get the fight to the ground on his terms it will be a tall order for him to leave the cage with a win.

Prediction

Lapsley comes into this bout with some decent next level experience. He has a pair of fights under the Bellator banner, with a 1-1 record. He also has faced multiple name opponents, with 7 adversaries that have spent time in either the UFC, Strikeforce, or the aforementioned Bellator. His record in those contests is a slightly below par, 3-4, with submissions accounting for 3 of those 4 losses.
 
High comes in off his first UFC victory, where he earned his 8 career submission, fourth by guillotine. He has solid wrestling, good takedowns, and his top control is good. His submission game is the key to his success, and overall he just a more refined version of his UFC 167 opponent.
 
High’s striking is decent. He has been KOed twice, both in brutal fashion, but he does a good job of keeping his hands up and his chin tucked. He doesn’t try to do too much with his stand up, and he knows how to switch gears quickly when he wants to take the fight to the ground. He should have an advantage over Lapsley’s, who’s striking is serviceable, but nothing to write home about.
 
Lapsley has won the majority of his fights via submission, but almost every occasions that he has faced a higher level grappling oriented opponent (Hieron, Guymon, and Fickett) he has been submitted. If High keeps it standing, he should be able to out strike his opponent and force him to make a desperate attempt to get the fight to the ground, creating an opening for a guillotine attempted. If High elects to pursue the takedown and go offensive with his grappling attack, he should have no problem executing, so my prediction is Jason High to defeat Anthony Lapsley by submission.

135lbs- Sergio Pettis (9-0-0-) vs. Will Campuzano (13-4-0)

What have they done recently?

Pettis- 9 straight wins to start his pro career.

Campuzano- 5 fight winning streak.

Key Victories

Pettis- James Porter- Sub, Dillard Pegg- KO

Campuzano- Coty Wheeler- Sub, Bryan Goldsby- Sub, Hideo Tokoro- Split Dec

Key Defeats

Pettis- None

Campuzano- Eddie Wineland- TKO, Chris Cariaso- Dec, Damacio Page- Sub

Physical Comparison

Campuzano- 3″ height and 1″ reach advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Pettis- striking, kicking arsenal, speed, active guard

Campuzano- UFC/ WEC experience (5 fights), counter striking, knockout power (6 KOs), scrambles

Big 4 Weaknesses

Pettis- inexperience (9 fights), UFC debut, TDD, expectations

Campuzano- short notice, submission defense (2 subs), reckless, lack of range striking

Key(s) to Victory

Pettis- Sergio should try to work his kicks and really try to hamper the movement of Campuzano. If he can push the pace, his opponent is known for getting a little wild which should create some openings. If he gets taken down he needs to be aggressive with his guard and either attack or try to reverse the position.

Campuzano- Will needs to be aggressive and push forward to shut down the kicking game of Pettis. When Sergio comes forward to cut the distance, Will should move back and look to land counters. He would benefit from attempting to exploit his opponent’s questionable TDD, and be ready to defend and scramble to hold top position.

Key(s) to Defeat

Pettis- Sergio can’t get grounded in this fight and rely simply on throwing up submission attempts. Even if he is attacking, unless he catches one he is losing the fight.

Campuzano- He can’t allow Pettis to set the pace of the fight. If they do go to the ground, if he can’t stop the reversals and sweep attempts he will be in for a long night.

Prediction

The pressure of sharing a name with the former WEC and current UFC Lightweight champion is lofty. There are a lot of expectations on Sergio, adding to the already difficult debut ahead of him. Additionally, he is dealing with a very late opponent change to further complicate the matter.
 
Campuzano has been plying his trade outside of the UFC in recent fights, but he does have 5 contests under the Zuffa banner. While he did go 1-4 during that time, he was faced with some stiff competition including top ranked fighters Eddie Wineland and Chris Cariaso.
 
Both men have fought the majority of their recent contests at 125 pounds, but Campuzano will be the larger fighter with an edge in height and reach. This will create some problems for Pettis who likes to operate at distance with his kicking arsenal. Additionally, Campuzano’s aggressive style will keep Sergio moving backwards and limit the effectiveness of his kicking game.
 
When Pettis does want to attack, he will need to close the distance before engaging. Will demonstrated against Cariaso, he is a competent counter striker and will employ this tool when the situation calls for it.
 
Neither man boasts a strong power double or threatening wrestling attack, but they are both competent once the fight hits the mat. Pettis has an excellent guard game which has lead him to multiple submission wins. Campuzano is exceptionally strong during scrambles, more often then not navigating his way into the superior position. If the fight does go to the ground, it should provide an entertaining sequence of transitions and attacks. If Will can avoid the submission, he should be able to hold the better position on the floor.
 
Pettis has the hype and he has certainly looked the part in the cage, but the competition he has faced is far from top level. Campuzano has the edge in experience, he is the bigger man, and while he is taking this fight on short notice, the lack of pressure on him heading into this bout should be evident. Campuzano’s aggressive and gritty style will do just enough to out point Pettis, so my prediction is Will Campuzano to defeat Serio Pettis by decision.

205lbs- Cody Donovan (8-3-0) vs. Gian Villante (10-4-0)

What have they done recently?

Donovan- 4 fight winning streak snapped in UFC sophomore appearence

Villante- 3 fight winning streak snapped in UFC debut

Key Victories

Donovan- Nick Penner- TKO

Villante- Keith Berry- Dec, Trevor Smith- TKO, Derrick Mehmen- Dec

Key Defeats

Donovan- Ovince St. Preux- KO

Villante- Ovince St. Preux- Dec, Chad Griggs- TKO, Lorenz Larkin- Dec

Physical Comparison

Villante- 0.5″ reach advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Donovan- BJJ black belt, clinch fighting, altitude training, knockout power (4 wins)

Villante- wrestling, BJJ Blue Belt, KO power (6 wins), TDD (78%)

Big 4 Weaknesses

Donovan- chin (3 KOs & 2 KD vs Penner), striking defense when closing distance, inexperience (11 fights), inexperience in long fights (10 of 11 ending inside 2nd round)

Villante- cardio, late notice replacement, chin (2 KOs), SLpM (2.25) vs SApM (2.67)

Key(s) to Victory

Donovan- Cody has to use his strikes to disguise his attempt to close the distance. He needs to get inside, pin Villante on the wall and either beat him up in the clinch or take him down where he can do damage from top position or possibly set up a submission attempt.

Villante- Gian needs to use movement, his jab, and leg kicks to keep Donovan on the outside. When he does try and close the distance he should try and counter with strikes and catch him coming forward. If they do tie up he needs to establish his underhooks, control and position and then create separation. Defending the TDA’s are key.

Key(s) to Defeat

Donovan- He can’t afford to stand and trade with Villante. An inability to involve his grappling will cost him.

Villante- His cardio can’t become an issues and it will be if he spends to much time either in the clinch or on his back.

Prediction

Villante isn’t new to getting off to a slow start after debuting in Strikeforce with back to back losses, but he found his stride and ripped off 3 straight wins. He didn’t look great in his UFC debut, but it was clear that he was feeling the effects of ‘Octagon shock’ and he will come into this fight much more prepared for the atmosphere.
 
The Strikeforce vet should have the striking advantage based on his kicking arsenal, power, and overall variety. Cody does have a 4-pack of knockouts, but he has also been KOed 3 times in only 11 pro fights, so he needs to get this fight into the clinch and preferably to the ground as soon as possible. He does his best work from the clinch and was able to take OSP off his feet from the position, but was immediately reversed leading to the stoppage.
 
The key to this fight will be Donovan’s ability to close distance. He tries to punch his way into the clinch, but he leaves himself open to counters when attempting this and this resulted in a pair of knockdowns against Nick Penner. Villante is an excellent athlete and he should be able to use his movement to keep Donovan chasing, while battering Cody’s legs with kicks which will eventually slow him down.
 
Donovan’s chin is a major issue, and Gian does have stopping power with 6 of 10 wins by KO. Villante’s wrestling, both offensive and defensive, should be improving training alongside of Chris Weidman and this will allow him to dictate where this fight takes place. So my prediction is Gian Villante to defeat Cody Donovan by knockout.
 

 

Prelim Predictions

145lbs- Godofredo Pepey (10-2-0) vs. Sam Sicilia (11-3-0)

What have they done recently?

Pepey- coming off a loss, 1-2 in the UFC

Sicilia-back to back losses

Key Victories

Pepey- Milton Vieira- Split Dec

Sicilia- Cristiano Marcello- KO

Key Defeats

Pepey- Rony Jason-Dec, Felipe Arantes- TKO

Sicilia- Rony Jason- TKO, Maximo Blanco- Dec

Physical Comparison

Pepey- 7″ reach advantage

Sicilia- 1″ height

Big 4 Strengths

Pepey- BJJ Black belt, submissions (6 subs), grappling, sweeps and reversals

Sicilia- Knockout Power (6 KOs, 1 UFC), SLpM (3.05), fast starter (8 first round wins), good chin (within reason)

Big 4 Weaknesses

Pepey- inexperience, striking technique, cardio, over aggression

Sicilia- Holds hands low, predictable striker, cardio, SApM (4.26)

Key(s) to Victory

Pepey- Godofredo has to use his long reach and a sharp jab to prevent Sicilia from getting inside and swinging with his big bombs. When Sicilia does push forward, Godofredo needs to counter by changing levels and taking the fight to the ground. Pulling guard and operating a sit up or Kimura based sweep is an option, but he needs to be weary of a similar outcome to his last fight if he can’t get into a good position quickly.

Sicilia- Sammy has to pressure Pepey and force him into wild striking exchanges that will take his focus off grappling get him emotionally invested in the fight. Pepey’s striking defense isn’t great and he leaves his chin out on the table when he swings, perfect for a homerun hitter like Sam. If he does go to the mat in top position, start dropping bombs before Pepey can get situated.

Key(s) to Defeat

Pepey- He doesn’t want to exchange too much with Sicilia on the feet or it will lead to a massive KO or at least some significant damage being done.

Sicilia- He can’t spend too much time on the mat with Pepey, especially on his back or with his back mounted because he will either get submitted or worn out.

Prediction

This is a battle of two fighters that certainly bring energy and a willingness to compete into the cage, but also have significant drawbacks to their respective styles. Sicilia hits hard, with 6 knockouts, but he tends to over extend himself by winging big punches. He is attempting to modify his approach and use more jabs and less powerful strikes to set up his attack, but in the heat of the moment he seems to revert back to the basics. Pepey’s striking isn’t anything to write home about, and he doesn’t have the type of power to make up for it. He is aggressive, which can be an asset, but it also creates openings for his opponent to counter and when under attack he tends to leave his chin exposed. He will have a massive reach advantage of 7 inches in this bout to aid him when trading with Sicilia, but he will still need to gain his respect to keep him on the outside.

Of the two fighters, Godofredo’s grappling is the most refined skillset. He is a BJJ black belt with 6 wins by submission. He is nasty on the ground and arguably his best technique is his Kimura based sweep. Pepey has no problem pulling guard and then orchestrating a sweep from the bottom, even executing it against fellow black belt Milton Vieira. Sicilia has decent wrestling, but he struggled defending on the mat against Maximo Blanco and if he can’t defend against Pepey on the floor it will take his power out of the equation. If Pepey gets clipped with a big shot from Sammy he is going out, but his grappling attack should be good enough to limit the exchanges, so my prediction is Godofredo Pepey to defeat Sam Sicilia by submission.

185lbs- Omari Akhmedov (11-0-0) vs. Thiago Perpetuo (9-2-1)

What have they done recently?

Akhmedov-

Perpetuo- 5 straight wins, including UFC debut

Key Victories

Akhmedov- Fabricio Nascimento- Sub

Perpetuo- Leonardo Mafra- TKO

Key Defeats

Akhmedov- None

Perpetuo- Danilo Pereira- Sub

Physical Comparison

Akhmedov- 2″ height advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Akhmedov- knockout power (5 KOs), submissions (4 subs), active guard, aggression

Perpetuo- knockout power (7 KOs), ground and pound, TUF experience, calculated striking

Big 4 Weaknesses

Akhmedov- fighting in Brazil, UFC debut, takedown defense, elite level experience

Perpetuo- 17 month layoff, elite level experience, inexperience (11 fights),

Key(s) to Victory

Akhmedov- Omari, as do most foreigners, has to get the crowd out of the fight early. If he can be aggressive with his striking it will keep his opponent backing up which will partially shutdown his offense and set up Omari’s attacks.

Perpetuo- He needs to manage his striking effectively. Look for opening in his opponent’s attack and the capitalize. After landing some shots on the feet, if should change gears and look for takedowns and follow up with some ground and pound.

Key(s) to Defeat

Akhmedov- He can’t allow Perpetuo to spend too much time on top of, nor can he afford to consistency land second during the exchanges.

Perpetuo- If he gets overwhelmed with the striking of his opponent and/or tries to be too refined with his striking and lets his volume slip he might land the better shot but the volume will be a problem.

Prediction

Akhmedov debuts in a similar fashion to his fellow Russia combatant Azamat Gashimov, a fighter with a decent record, but against questionable competition and with a lot of uncertainty about what he will bring to the cage. Gleaned from the information and footage available, Akmedov has decent power on the feet, but does his best work on the ground. He has 4 wins by submission and aggressively looks for sub opportunities once he is on the floor. The biggest concern for the Russia is his questionable TDD. While he might be willing to work off his back, if he is unable to connect on a submission attempt, based on position alone he is losing the fight. Perpetuo has heavy ground and pound, highlight by a deceptive slashing elbow strike that he demoed in his debut. If he can defend himself from the top, that will lead to some key dominant positions. On the feet, Thiago is calculated and measures his opponent before attacking. He withheld from engaging his last adversary in prolonged wild exchanges, opting to avoid and then counter. He should be the more refined of the two strikers and as long as he doesn’t get outworked the exchanges should be in his favour.

Akhemedov has never gone more than two rounds and he has never tasted defeat, which are two concerning points. Perpetuo has been out of action for a while, which could lead to some ring rust but also leaves room for improvements. It is hard picking in favour of a fighter who a) has limit experience against next level competition and b) seems to have so much trouble remaining vertical, so my prediction is Thiago Perpetuo to defeat Omari Akhmedov by TKO.

155lbs- Justin Salas (11-4-0) vs. Thiago Tavares (21-5-1)

What have they done recently?

Salas- 7 wins in his last 8 fights, 2-1 in the UFC

Tavares- 2-1 in his last 3 fights

Key Victories

Salas- Aaron Riley- Split Dec, Anton Kuivanen- Dec, Rob Emerson- Dec, Joe Ellenberger- Dec

Tavares- Sam Stout- Dec, Spencer Fisher- TKO, Manny Gamburyan- Dec, Michihiro Omigawa- Dec

Key Defeats

Salas- Tim Means- TKO

Tavares- Khabib Nurmagomedov- KO, Shane Roller- KO, Matt Wiman- KO, Tyson Griffin- Dec

Physical Comparison

Salas- 1″ height advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Salas- NCAA D-1 wrestler, KO power (3 wins), SLpM (3.5), varied pace/ angle changes

Tavares- BJJ Black belt, submission (11 wins), takedowns (3.33 @ 38%), UFC experience (13 fights)

Big 4 Weaknesses

Salas- UFC inexperience (3 fights), chin (2 KOs), submission defense (2 losses), defensive guard

Tavares- 11 month layoff, chin (3 KOs), SLpM (1.87) vs SApM (2.34), reliance on grappling

Key(s) to Victory

Salas- Justin has to use his wrestling in reverse early to stuff the TDAs, keep his striking varied both in attack and pace, and then as Tavares starts to slow down he can consider looking for takedowns of his own. Tavares has a questionable chin and if Salas can land flush, he could either finish the fight or really back Tavares off for future exchanges.

Tavares- Thiago needs to find a way to get this fight to the ground and attack with his BBJ. While on the feet he can’t allow Salas to dictate the pace and would benefit from landing frequent leg kicks to slow down his opponent.

Key(s) to Defeat

Salas- A wrestler forced to frequently work off his back is often a recipe for disaster.

Tavares- An inability to find some grappling success and the subsequent striking exchanges greatly diminish his ability to win the fight.

Prediction

Tavares has an advantage in both experience and quality of opponents faced. He is coming off a near year long layoff which could lead to some ring rust, but competing at home in Brazil should help him gain momentum, as it does for most local fighters. Salas is coming off the biggest win of his career, in a gritty battle against a hard hitting veteran. He was fighting for the first time in over a year, which could have impacted his performance, but he still looked pretty strong. Both fighters have grappling backgrounds; Tavares a BJJ black belt and Salas an NCAA D-1 wrestler. Of the two, Tavares seems far for reliant on his ground game. He is 11-0 in fights ended by submission and 7-2 when he wins the takedown battle, but he is 0-3-1 in fights where he either comes up short or ties in total takedowns. For Salas, he has yet to be taken down in his short UFC career, but he has never faced a grappler on Thiago’s level. Additionally, he has been submitted twice, but early in his career. He will need to be strong defensively with his wrestling, especially early on. On the feet, Salas should have an advantage. While Thiago has improved his striking, Salas’s power and ability to vary his attack should give him an upper hand. Salas throws a variety of techniques and by continually changing his cadence he makes it hard for his opponent to anticipate and defend his attacks.

Salas will be tested both by his opponent and the ruckus environment. He needs to keep this fight standing early to take Thiago out of his comfort zone and build his own momentum. Early grappling exchanges will be key, but in the end Tavares’s chin isn’t that great and Salas has some surprising power along with the superior striking repertoire, so my prediction is Justin Salas to defeat Thiago Tavares by TKO.

155lbs- Daron Cruickshank (13-3-0) vs. Adriano Martins (24-6-0)

What have they done recently?

Cruickshank- 7 wins in his last 8, 3-1 in the UFC

Martins- 5 straight wins

Key Victories

Cruickshank- Yves Edwards- Split Dec, Henry Martinez- KO, Chris Tickle- Dec, Mike Ricci- Dec

Martins- Jorge Gurgel- Dec, Ronys Torres- Dec, Luis Santos- Split Dec, Jimmy Donahue- TKO

Key Defeats

Cruickshank- Bobby Green- Sub, Luis Palomino- KO, John Makdessi- Dec

Martins- Gleison Tibau- Dec, Francisco Trinaldo- Dec, Ronys Torres- TKO, Keita Nakamura- Split Dec

Physical Comparison

Martins- 2″ height advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Cruickshank- knockout power (7 wins), Black belt in Taekwondo, NCAA D-3 wrestler, striking variety

Martins- knockout power (11 KOs), experience (30 fights), counter striking, distance management

Big 4 Weaknesses

Cruickshank- SApM (3.23), counter striking defense, inability to dictate the pace, fighting Brazil

Martins- UFC debut, 10 month layoff, cardio, defensive hand positioning

Key(s) to Victory

Cruickshank- Daron needs to be aggressive, keeping moving forward and throw a variety of techniques. He has a vast arsenal of kicks to call upon which are important and the more he can mix his wrestling in the better off he will be.

Martins- He has to set a pace he is comfortable with. When Cruickshank attacks, he needs to either counter or slide just out of range. When Adriano elects to become offensive, Crucickshank is known to do a lot of backpedalling and the more Martins can move forward the more effective he will be.

Key(s) to Defeat

Cruickshank- Allowing his opponent to land first and with great frequency. A decisive win in Brazil is a must.

Martins- If lets Cruickshank get comfortable early and start pushing the pace, it will both score points with the judges and tax his cardio.

Prediction

Daron Cruickshank is a talented striker, but there has been an ever concerning theme developing in his last 2 fights. It cost him against John Makdessi and came so close against Yves Edwards. Daron has a great arsenal of kicks and fast hands, with power, but he has become too willing to relinquish ground when under pressure. During most of the exchanges he allows his opponent to engage first, before attempting to return fire, and then backtracking. The stats reinforce this scenario, with his opponents connecting at a slightly higher rate than he is able to match. Martins is a smooth striker, with very good power and is coming of a successful Strikeforce debut where he floored Jorge Gurgel on multiple occasions. He is has decent counter striking capabilities, hard kicks, and should find consistent success in most scenarios.

Cruickshank has a strong kicking game, but it is not nearly as effective when he is forced/ willingly backtracking. Martins just needs to keep the exchanges close along with appearing as the aggressor for most of the fight, fighting at home will helps as well, so my prediction is Adriano Martins to defeat Daron Cruickshank by decision.

125lbs- Jose Maria (33-4-0 2NC) vs. Dustin Ortiz (11-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Maria- 16 fight winning streak snapped in UFC debut

Ortiz- 3 fight winning streak

Key Victories

Maria- Milton Cesar- Sub, Luciano Bulldog- Sub, Leo Jacare- TKO

Ortiz- Mike French- Dec, Justin Pennington- Sub, Thiago Veiga- Dec, Matt Horning- TKO

Key Defeats

Maria- John Lineker- TKO, Jussier Formiga- Sub

Ortiz- Ian McCall- Dec

Physical Comparison

Maria- 1″ height advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Maria- experience (39 fights), knockout power (15 KOs), submission (13 subs), grappling

Ortiz- knockout power (4 KOs), submissions (4 subs), wrestling, striking

Big 4 Weaknesses

Maria- elite level experience, submission defense (3 subs), SApM (3.64)

Ortiz- 11 month layoff, UFC debut, fighting in Brazil, elite level experience

Key(s) to Victory

Maria- Jose needs start aggressive, get the crowd into the fight early and keep Ortiz from getting comfortable. Keep his striking varied and try to put Ortiz on his back.

Ortiz- Dustin needs to get off to a good start and dictate where the fight takes place with his wrestling. If he can put Maria on his back early it will slow his opponent down along with building his own confidence. If Ortiz can drag this fight into the second half he should have an advantage against an opponent who is more accustom to short fights.

Key(s) to Defeat

Maria- If he can’t handle the wrestling of Ortiz it will make it very difficult for him to land with his striking or work his BJJ.

Ortiz- The effect of a long layoff, a volatile crowd, and a UFC debut can be a lot for a young fighter to overcome and could put him in a hole he can’t work his way out of.

Prediction

There are a number of unknowns surrounding this fight. Ortiz is making his debut in the UFC, he is doing it after a near year out of action, and fighting in Brazil is a tall order for an outsider. Maria is far from a UFC veteran with just a single appearance under his belt, but he does have close to 40 pro bouts. The big question with him is the quality of opponent that he has been defeating. He has faced and lost to two current UFC Flyweights, while the majority of his wins have come against the inexperienced and unknown. His numbers suggest that he is capable of scoring both a submission or a knockout win, and he did stun Lineker during one of the early exchanges. Ortiz is a boxer-wrestler style fighter, and he does have experience battling in both Strikeforce and Tachi Palace Fights where he fought Ian McCall. He has decent hands, but to maximize his success he needs to work his wrestling, which he was unable to do against McCall. Maria is comfortable fighting off of his back, but he can’t afford to spend too long with the wrestler on top of him.

It is difficult to get a feel for this type of fight with both guys coming from vastly different backgrounds and with minimal in common as far as opponents are concern. What is evident is the upward battle that Ortiz will face based on the surrounding scenarios heading into this contest, so my prediction is Jose Maria to defeat Dustin Ortiz by knockout.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Bobby Green (20-5-0) vs. James Krause (20-4-0)

What have they done recently?

Green- 5 fight winning streak including UFC debut

Krause- 8 fight winning streak, including his UFC debut

Key Victories

Green- Daron Cruickshank- Sub, Jacob Volkman- Sub, Matt Ricehouse- Dec, Charles Bennett- KO

Krause- Sam Stout- Sub, Anthony Smith- Sub, Michael Johnson- Sub, Toby Imada- Dec

Key Defeats

Green- Gesias Cavalcante- Split Dec, Tim Means- TKO, David Mitchell- Sub, Dan Lauzon- Sub

Krause- Donald Cerrone- Sub, Ricardo Lamas- Dec, Toby Imada- Sub, Clay French- Split Dec

Physical Comparison

Krause- 4″ height and 2″ reach advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Green- knockout power (7 KOs), striking, BJJ Blue belt, speed

Krause- submissions (13 wins), sweeps/ reversals, distance management, variety of kicks (head)

Big 4 Weaknesses

Green- grappling defense, 10 month layoff, SLpM (1.55), reach/ distance

Krause- takedown defense, submission defense (2 subs), SApM (3.49), point scoring (2-2 in decisions)

Key(s) to Victory

Green- Bobby needs to get on the side, land combinations and keep Krause backing up. If he takes the fight to the ground, positional control is a must to avoid getting swept.

Krause- James needs to use his long jab and kicks to keep Green on the outside. Mix up his attacks to keep him guessing and makes attempts to take Green down to both score point and draw his attention away from the striking exchanges.

Key(s) to Defeat

Green- Bobby can’t trade with Krause at distance and he can’t allow James to get caught up in Jame’s long limbs and capable submission skills on the mat.

Krause- Krause ha to remain active and prevent Green from outworking him.

Prediction

This is a great matchup of two talented prospects, coming off of impressive upsets in their respective UFC debuts, but it is a shame that one of them has to lose. Green has a little bit of an unorthodox striking style, slipping punches and landing with decent power. He has a strong body kick, and does a decent job of moving in and out of range when his opponent returns fire. With 7 wins by knockout, he has big league stopping power. Krause has the more diverse repertoire, with a variety of kicking techniques ranging from the traditional to the more unorthodox. He is tall Lightweight and really knows how to use his reach, snapping of a sharp jab followed by long ranging combinations. His head movement and footwork are solid and he is a difficult fighter to hit. On the mat, Krause is dangerous, both fighters have good submission numbers, but the combination of Krause’s offensive skills and the ability to sweep/reverse his way from a bad position in a good one is fight changing. Green is decent on the mat, but he has been tapped out twice and was in a number of bad positions against Jacob Volkman, not really turning the tide until his opponent gassed.

Green rallied against a fading opponent in his debut, while Krause was ahead for most of the bout, hurting early and then submitting a very durable Sammy Stout- no small feat. Krause will limit the damage Green does on the feet, utilizing a heavy kick attack, before tying him up on the mat, so my prediction is James Krause to defeat Bobby Green by submission.

135lbs- Francisco Rivera (9-2-0 1NC) vs. George Roop (14-10-1)

What have they done recently?

Rivera- undefeated in his last 5, 4-0-0 1NC

Roop- 2 fight winning streak

Key Victories

Rivera-

Roop- Brian Bowles- TKO, Chan-Sung Jung- KO, Josh Grispi- TKO, Reuben Duran- Dec

Key Defeats

Rivera-

Roop- Cub Swanson- KO, Hatsu Hioki- Spli Dec, Mark Hominick- KO, Eddie Winlenad- Dec

Physical Comparison

Roop- 4″ height and 2″ reach advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Rivera- knockout power (6 KOs) Muay Thai, SLpM (4.6), physical strength

Roop- height/ reach, submissions (4 wins), SLpM (3.45, kicking arsenal

Big 4 Weaknesses

Rivera- 10 month layoff, SApM (3.06), defensive grappling, offensive grappling

Roop- cut to 135, chin (2 KOs), submission defense (4 subs), striking defense

Key(s) to Victory

Rivera- River needs to pressure Roop to nullify his kicking game and land with power. Roop holds his head up which exposes his chin, and Rivera has the power to capitalize on this once he is able to get on the side. When Roop opens up to attack, well-timed counters will be a great answer for Rivera, especially if he can time Roops low kick and answer with a big overhand right.

Roop- George needs to use his length, highlight by a stiff jab and heavy front kick, to keep Rivera on the outside. By keeping his opponent at an uncomfortable range he will limit both the quantity of strikes landed and their impact. If Roop can mix in a few takedowns he will gain a further advantage and the longer the fight goes the more it favours him based on conditioning.

Keys(s) to Defeat

Rivera- If Roop successfully attacks with a grappling based assault this will put Rivera down on the scorecards, tax his cardio, and potentially set submission opportunities.

Roop- He can’t stand and trade with Rivera at close range, the combination of his power and George’s chin will be fight ending.

Prediction

With back to back wins Roop has resurrected his career, but the glaring holes in his striking defense still exist and nearly cost him in his last bout. He is a tall fighter, which naturally makes his chin an easier target to attack. He tends to leave his head up and chin pointed outwards, which is a major issue against powerful strikers- Mark Hominick and Cub Swanson have already capitalized on this flaw. Rivera has devastating power and sharp Muay Thai technique to deliver it with. He has unofficially (No contest vs Delorme), scored a pair of UFC knockouts and multiple knockdowns. He lands a high volume of strikes and is capable of pursuing the attack as well as countering. Roop has some power and a respectable kicking arsenal, but his reach, which is a key element in protecting his chin, won’t be as big a factor against Rivera who manages distance very well.

If Roop can switch gears and threaten with his takedowns that would be a significant positive for him, but he seems content on trading with his opponents and that will cost him here. Rivera’s cardio is an issue and Roop still isn’t getting the respect he deserves, but my prediction is Francisco Rivera to defeat George Roop by TKO.

145lbs- Dennis Bermudez (12-3-0) vs. Steven Siler (23-10-0)

What have they done recently?

Bermudez- 4 fight winning streak

Siler- 2 fight winning streak

Key Victories

Bermudez- Max Holloway- Split Dec, Pablo Garza- Dec, Tommy Hayden- Sub, Matt Grice Split Dec

Siler- Mike Brown- TKO, Cole Miller- Dec, Kurt Holobaugh- Dec, Joey Gambino- Sub, Josh Clopton- Dec

Key Defeats

Bermudez- Drew Fickett- Sub, Diego Brandao- Sub

Siler- Darren Elkins- Dec, Cole Escovedo- Sub, Chad Mendes- Dec

Physical Comparison

Siler- 5″ height and 4″ reach advantages

Big 4 Strengths

Bermudez- NCAA Division 1 wrestler, takedowns (3.85 @ 47%), durability, SLpM (5.04)

Siler- submissions (13), SLpM (3.71), clinch game, height/ reach

Big 4 Weaknesses

Bermudez- SApM (3.83), over aggression, submission defense (3 losses), distance management

Siler- submission defence (5 losses), chin (4 KO losses), SApM (3.27), wrestlers (Elkins 6 of 7 TDs)

Key(s) to Victory

Bermudez- Dennis has to close the distance, avoid getting tagged in the process, and do damage at close range before dragging the fight to the ground where he can land some big shots and/or go for a submission.

Siler- ‘Super’ Steve needs to use his reach and punish Bermudez on the outside, if and when Bermudez’s tries to close the distance Siler can look for his Thai clinch to control and damage Bermudez with knees and elbows. When Bermudez tries for a takedown, Steven should counter with a submission (guillotine) to back him off, and if the fight does go to the ground he needs to be offensive with his sub attempts.

Key(s) to Defeat

Bermudez- If his wrestling is nullified by the distance and defense of his opponent he will have trouble scoring point, similarly his striking will be far less impactful based on the same scenario.

Siler- He can’t afford to spend too much time on his back, even if he is offensive, fighting off of his back is viewed as losing the fight.

Prediction

Despite competing in the same weight class, these two fighters have vastly different physical compositions. Siler is long and lean, with a good reach, while Bermudez is compact with explosive power. Bermudez struggled in his last fight with the rangy striking attack of Max Holloway, who kept Dennis on the outside limiting both his striking and wrestling success. Whenever Dennis would get on the inside, he was either thwarted with a quick submission attempt or solid defensive work. Siler has nasty sub skills of his own, including 6 wins by guillotine, and he is equally as strong in the clinch position. If he can keep Bermudez on the outside with his reach and threaten with his close range weapons he should be able to reproduce Bermudez’s previous difficulties.

A bastion of both fighters’ in-cage competition is excitement; they are aggressive and proven finishers with a combined 32 of 47 contests ending before the scorecards. While Siler has suffered more defeats via finish then his counterpart, Bermudez regularly get hurts in his bouts, before rallying back for the win. The law of averages would suggest that eventually one of these scenarios will result in defeat and Siler’s ability to finish could be the key. Bermudez has the tools to win this fight, but his ability to get in a position to use them is going to be a problem, so my prediction is Steven Siler to defeat Dennis Bermudez by submission.

135lbs- Amanda Nunes (8-3-0) vs. Germaine de Randamie (4-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Nunes- victorious in UFC debut

de Randamie- back to back wins, including her UFC debut

Key Victories

Nunes- Sheila Gaff- TKO, Julia Budd- KO, Raquel Pa’aluhi- Sub

de Randamie- Julie Kedzie- Split Dec, Hiroko Yamanaka- Dec, Stephanie Webber- KO

Key Defeats

Nunes- Alexis Davis- TKO, Sarah D’Alelio- Dec

de Randamie- Julia Budd- Dec, Vanessa Porto- Sub

Physical Comparison

de Randamie- 4″ height and 2″ reach advantages

Big 4 Strengths

Nunes- knockout power (7 KOs), BJJ & Judo Brown belts, aggression, GnP

de Randamie- Muay Thai Champion, knockout power, SApM (1.3), clinch work

Big 4 Weaknesses

Nunes- inexperience (11 fights), SApM (5,47), over aggression, cardio

de Randamie- inexperience (6 fights), grappling defense, grappling offense, SLpM (2.21)

Key(s) to Victory

Nunes- Amanda has to pressure her opponent and keep her backing up to shutdown her kicking game. When she gets in close she has to land high volume and heavy handed barrages and/or change levels for a takedown. On the mat, be aggressive and look to exploit her opponent’s shortcomings.

de Randamie- Germaine needs to use her kicks and long range combination, leading with a sharp jab, when fighting at distance. When Nunes closes the distance, Germaine needs to tie up and establish her modified Thai clinch from which she can control her opponent and land some sharp knees to the body.

Key(s) to Defeat

Nunes- She can’t afford to trade at distance with her opponent who will have a reach and technical advantage.

de Randamie- If she can’t defend the TDAs, she will either drop a decision or some form of stoppage.

Prediction

De Randamie is a World class Muay Thai striker, and as long as she can keep her opponent exchanging on the feet she is in a good position to win the fight. Training out of AKA she will be working diligently to improve her grappling defense, but live competition is an entirely different animal. Nunes has just a single win via submission, but she is a BJJ and Judo Brown belt, so she is a well trained grappler. She showed vastly improved technique in her UFC debut, grounding her opponent, passing her guard, and eventually pounding her out. If she can get this fight to the ground it is her’s to win. On the feet she is heavy handed, with real world knockout power, and she is aggressive. She throws high volume barrages and moves forward, which will serve to shutdown a more technically based opponent.

If Nunes gets wild she could get clipped with a counter strike, but look for de Randamie’ striking attack to be far less effective on account of the takedown threat. Nunes needs to brawl the boxer which could lead to a knockout, and if not then she will transition to a grappling based attack. Nunes is a handful from top position, especially from full mount with her ground and pound, and de Randamie is still learning how to defend off of her back, so my prediction is Amanda Nunes to defeat Germaine de Randamie by TKO.

185lbs- Chris Camozzi (19-6-0) vs. Lorenz Larkin (13-1-0 1NC)

What have they done recently?

Camozzi- 4 fight winning streak snapped in last appearence

Larkin- lost UFC debut

Key Victories

Camozzi- Nick Ring- Split Dec, Luiz Cane- Dec, Nick Catone- TKO, Dongi Yang- Split Dec

Larkin- Scott Lighty- TKO, Gian Villante- Dec, Robbie Lawler- Dec

Key Defeats

Camozzi- Ronaldo Souza- Sub, Francis Carmont- Dec, Kyle Noke- Sub, Jesse Taylor- Dec

Larkin- Francis Carmont- Dec, Mo Lawal*- No Contest

Physical Comparison

Camozzi-4″ height and 3″ reach advantages

Big 4 Strengths

Camozzi- durability, size, SLpM 3.93, clinch fighting, BJJ Purple belt

Larkin- kickboxing, knockout power (8 KOs), SLpM (3.14), SApM (1.99), speed

Big 4 Weaknesses

Camozzi- submission defense (4 losses), SApM (3.18), speed, takedowns (0% @ 0.00)

Larkin- grappling defense, size, offensive grappling,

Key(s) to Victory

Camozzi- Chris needs to turn this fight into a brawl. Pressure Larkin to keep him moving backwards to limit his kicks and use his size to control him on the cage.

Larkin- Lorenz has to maintain separation, using his foot speed and kicks to set a comfortable distance. He should have a decided speed and technical striking advantages that he must exploit.

Key(s) to Defeat

Camozzi- Camozzi can’t afford to allow Lorenz to tee off at range, especially with his leg kicks.

Larkin- He can’t let Camozzi cut of the cage and push his back into the wall.

Prediction

Camozzi is a durable and gritty fighter, but he lacks a technical refinement in both his striking and grappling games that will prevent him from reaching that next level of competition. Conversely, Larkin is a talented and hard hitting striker that is dangerous if allowed to land with regularity. His biggest issue has been his grappling defense, but he demonstrated excellent TDD against Francis Carmont, and Camozzi hasn’t shown the type of grappling skills to be considered a real threat. Camozzi had a lot of trouble keeping up with the speed of Nick Ring during the exchanges and that issue should be revisited and magnified based on the capabilities of Larkin.

Unless Camozzi can bring his size to bear on his opponent through a grappling heavy assault, he won’t be able to match him on the feet. Look for Larkin to string together devastating combinations, while further slowing down his opponent’s speed with continual leg kicks, so my prediction is Lorenz Larkin to defeat Chris Camozzi by TKO.

155lbs- Yves Edwards (42-20-1) vs. Yancy Medeiros (9-1-0)

What have they done recently?

Edwards- 1-3 in his last 4 fights

Medeiros- suffered first loss of his career in his UFC debut

Key Victories

Edwards- Josh Thomson- KO, Jeremy Stephens- KO, Rafaello Oliveira- TKO, Cody McKenzie- Sub

Medeiros- Raul Castillo- Dec, Gareth Joseph- KO

Key Defeats

Edwards- Isaac Vallie-Flagg- Split Dec, Sam Stout- KO, Jorge Masvidal- KO, K.J. Noons- KO

Medeiros- Rustam Khabilov- TKO (injury)

Physical Comparison

Medeiros- 1″ height & 4″ reach advantages

Big 4 Strengths

Edwards- experience (63 fights), knockout power (16 wins), submissions (17 wins), TDD (71%)

Medeiros- knockout power (6 KOs), striking, size (cutting from MW to LW), Strikeforce/ UFC debut experience

Big 4 Weaknesses

Edwards- chin (4 KOs), submission defense (4 subs), cardio,technical strikers (Stout, Noons, Ludwig, Masvidal, Hominick)

Medeiros- 8 month layoff, inexperience (10 fights), elite level inexperience, offensive grappling

Key(s) to Victory

Edwards- Yves needs to dictate the pace of the fight, mix up his forward pressure and counter striking, and working to include some grappling would add another dimension to his attack.

Medeiros- Yancy has to pressure Edwards, be aggressive with his striking and move forward trying to land big bombs. If he can clinch up and grind Edwards along the cage that could generate some cardio issues.

Key(s) to Defeat

Edwards- Yves can’t allow his opponent to dictate the pace or land with big power.

Medeiros- He can’t let Yves get off first during the exchanges.

Prediction

This is a pairing of two fighters at the polar ends of the spectrum; Yves has fought just about everyone, while Yancy is just getting started. The most prominent scenario in most of Edward’s fights is his ability to take a punch and whether his opponent can exploit it or not. Edwards has been KOed 4 times in his career, which is a lot, but considering he has fought 63 times its not as significant as many make it out to be. He is good striker, with a dangerous left high kick and solid countering skills. Medeiros has knockout power, 6 of 9 wins by KO, including his last Strikeforce appearance. While his debut ended quickly due to injury, he was showing some good techniques and movement on the feet, including landing a well disguised sharp right hand. Additionally, he was able to counter and scramble with a very good Sambo practitioner on the mat, partially defending an attempted suplex by interlacing his leg with his opponent’s. What he showed here, combined with his previous success is an indication of pretty decent set of skills for a young fighter, but will it be enough to beat Yves?

The aggression that Yancy brought his debut should way heavily with the judges against Yves, who has a tendency to sit back and try to counter. Additionally, his 4″ reach advantage will aid him during the exchanges and considering this will be his second cut to 155 he should be more prepared physically. Edwards has a lot of tools and tonne of experience, but his chin, potential cardio issues, and complacency are a major concern against a younger and hungrier fighter, so my prediction is Yancy Medeiros to defeat Yves Edwards by TKO.

170lbs- Seth Baczynski (17-8-0) vs. Neil Magny (8-3-0)

What have they done recently?

Baczynski- back to back losses

Magny- 2 fight winning streak snapped in last bout

Key Victories

Baczynski- Matt Brown- Sub, Lance Benoist- Split Dec, Simeon Thoresen- KO, Clay Harvison- Sub

Magny- Jon Manley- Dec

Key Defeats

Baczynski- Brian Melancon- KO, Mike Pierce- Dec, Brad Tavares- Dec, Roger Bowling- KO

Magny- Seriog Moraes- Sub

Physical Comparison

Magny- 6″ reach advantage

Big 4 Strengths

Baczynski- KO power (6 wins), submission (10 wins), Thai clinch, UFC experience (7 fights)

Magny- SLpM (3.29), long range striking weapons, clinch fighting, BJJ Purple belt

Big 4 Weaknesses

Baczynski- takedowns (0.45 @ 13%), TDD ( 9 TDs in last 2 losses), submission defence (5 losses), chin (2 KOs)

Magny- inexperience (10 fights), submission defense (2 subs), Fight IQ, elite level inexperience

Key(s) to Victory

Baczynski- Seth has to make this a physical grinding fight, get on the inside, bust up Magny with some dirty boxing, and drag this fight to the ground where he can start looking for submission or landing some ground and pound.

Magny- Neil will have the reach advantage, which his opponent won’t be use too. Long range combinations and leg kicks will do damage and the fewer strikes he can limit his opponent to will greatly impact the outcome of the fight.

Key(s) to Defeat

Baczynski- He can’t get stuck at the end of his opponent’s reach, his chin is a major question mark coming off of his last fight and he can’t allow it to become an issue here.

Magny- His submission defense is a major question mark and if he spends too much time on his back he will either drop a decision or get finished.

Prediction

This is a battle of big men at 170 pounds. Baczynski is normally the taller man inside the cage, but standing equal at 6’3″, Magny will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage. Seth has had some trouble maximizing his reach, most notably getting blasted out of consciousness by Brian Melancon. Conversely, Magny is quite effective at using his long range weapons, including a sharp jab, to keep opponents at bay while doing damage. This factor should be further magnified by Bacynski’s lack of experience dealing with this scenario. Statistically, Magny does a much better job of outlanding his opponent, while Seth exchanges at a rate of almost 1 to 1. These numbers magnified over a 15 minute fight significantly favour Magny. In close, both men can do damage from the clinch position, but their respective capabilities could lead to a stalemate when they tie up.

Seth has better submission numbers and would benefit from getting this fight to the ground in top position, but he has poor takedown numbers and Magny showed excellent TDD in his UFC debut. Additionally, Magny is a BJJ purple belt and should be able to do enough defensively to limit the damage done from the position if he were to be taken down. Magny’s striking skills and volume, along with the cardio advantage gained from training at altitude will be the deciding factors in this fight, so my prediction is Neil Magny to defeat Seth Baczynski by decision.

185lbs- Derek Brunson (10-2-0) vs. Brian Houston (4-0-0)

What have they done recently?

Brunson- snapped 2 fight losing streak in UFC debut

Houston- 4 straight wins to start pro career

Key Victories

Brunson- Chris Leben- Dec, Lumumba Sayers- Sub, Nate James- Dec

Houston- Jett Jones- TKO

Key Defeats

Brunson- Ronaldo Souza- KO, Kendall Grove- Split Dec

Houston- None

Physical Comparison

Equal

Strengths

Brunson- NCAA D-2 wrestler, takedowns (2.69 @41%), top control, knockout power (4 KOs)

Houston- knockout power (3 of 4 wins), top game, physical strength,

Weaknesses

Brunson- inexperience (12 fights), striking defense, cardio, SLpM (1.61), striking

Houston- inexperience (4 fights), UFC debut, lack of adversity faced, only one fight beyond the first round

Key(s) to Victory

Brunson- Derek needs to use his wrestling, plant Houston on his back and grind him into the mat- leading to either a late finish or decision win.

Houston- Brian has to be aggressive with his striking, land with big power and try burry Brunson under avalanche of GnP once the fight goes to the mat. Sprawl and Brawl.

Key(s) to Defeat

Brunson- He can’t afford to stand and bang with Houston.

Houston- Too much time on his back will cost him his cardio and eventually the fight.

Prediction

Unless this fight ends early, it most likely won’t be pretty. Brunson is a grinding wrestler type, with a green striking attack. He is coming off a successful debut, that was a win, but still a poor performance. If he can use his wrestling skills to ground Houston he should have no problem grinding out a decision win, but he needs to avoid trading with him. Houston is taking this bout on short notice and even more interestingly making his Octagon debut in only his 5th pro bout. There are a lot of questions regarding how he got the call; with no big wins on his short fight resume, no discernible fighter affiliations, and nothing that really stands out in his fight game. He has decent grappling skills, big power, and for the most part looks to either sprawl and brawl or, defend the takedown and move into a dominant position on the mat. He has recorded 3 knockouts, 2 inside the first minute and the third coming before the 2 minute mark. These numbers are impressive, but consideration needs to be given to the lower level of opposition he has been doing it against.

Brunson hasn’t been that impressive in his short career, but he has advantages in experience and quality of opponent faced. Conversely, the “UFC’s powers that be” must see something in Houston to give him this shot, even if on the opening fight of the fight. Brunson does leave openings in his striking that can be exploited by a power striker and Houston is a decent athlete that knows how to use a sprawl to keep the fight standing. There isn’t a tonne to go on here, but look for Houston to defend the early takedowns and unload on his opponent with fight ending power, so my prediction is Brian Houston to defeat Derek Brunson by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Piotr Hallmann (14-1-0) vs. Al Iaquinta (6-2-1)

What have they done recently?

Hallmann- 10 fight winning streak

Iaquinta- snapped a 2 fight losing streak in last fight

Key Victories

Hallmann- Francisco Trinaldo- Sub

Iaquinta- Ryan Couture- Dec, TUF Wins- Jon Tuck- Dec, Myles Jury- Split Dec, Andy Ogle- TKO, Vinc Pichel- Dec

Key Defeats

Hallmann- Christian Eckerlin- TKO

Iaquinta- Michael Chiesa- Sub, Pat Audinwood- Sub

Physical Comparison

Hallmann- Christian Eckerlin- TKO

Iaquinta- Pat Audinwood- Sub, Michael Chiesa- Sub

Strengths

Hallmann- durability, well rounded attack, submissions (7 subs), grappling game, striking, kickboxing background, knockout power (6 KOs), UFC debut experience

Iaquinta- BJJ Purple belt, wrestling, TUF experience, UFC debut experience, knockout power (3 KOs), improving striking, wrestling, Serra-Longo training camp

Weaknesses

Hallmann- short notice replacement, UFC experience, inexperience vs American wrestlers

Iaquinta- short notice replacement, inexperience (9 fights), opponent change, short training camp, submission defense (2 losses)

Key(s) to Victory

Hallmann- Piotr has to keep constant pressure on his opponent to limit his ability to set up his strikes. He needs to work his combinations, avoid the big shots of Iaquinta, while slipping his own in between. He is strong in the clinch and on the mat as well and the more he can incorporate that into his attack the more effective he will be.

Iaquinta- Al has to find a balance between power shots and technique. The more he sets up his power attack the higher his landing frequency will be. Changing level for takedowns and working his ground game with further diversify his attack and score some significant points.

Key(s) to Defeat

Hallmann- He can’t let Iaquinta’s power shots a) land with frequency or b) go unanswered. Additionally, if he can’t stuff the TDAs he won’t win this fight.

Iaquinta- He has to avoid head hunting and throwing just big bombs. If he commits himself to just looking for the knockout he will get outworked.

Physical Comparison

Hallmann- 2″ reach advantage

Prediction

This fight was originally scheduled as Anthony Njokuani versus Paul Taylor, but a series of injuries has produced the current pairing of prospects. As a result both fighters have had a limited training camp for this fight, but a quick turnaround from their previous engagements, so they should both be ready.

Hallmann is a gritty and durable fighter, capable of competing both on the feet and the mat. His ability to endure the early damage inflicted to his body by the behemoth Francisco Trinaldo, rally and submit the Brazilian, in Brazil, says a lot about his character. He has a kickboxing background, with knockout power (7 KOs), but he also has 6 submission wins. He has decent takedown defense and handle himself quite well on the mat against Trinaldo. On the feet, he doesn’t throw a lot of big shots, but he keeps pressing forward with a constant attack that can be hard to deflect and counter against.

Iaquinta comes from a wrestling background, but he has showed continued improvement in his striking. He has significant pop and won his last fight on the combined basis of volume and power. He does tend to wing some big shots and if they do come up short, there is room for his opponent to counter attack. His wrestling is sound, and if successful he has some nasty ground and pound. He has been submitted twice in his young career, which is a concern if he falters on the mat and gives up position.

Traditionally, European fighters have struggled against strong American based wrestlers, but Hallmann’s performance against Trinaldo suggests that he will do just fine. Look for Piotr to push the pace and continually move forward making it hard for Iaquinta to set up his power shots. The durability and grinding style of the veteran will be taxing on his opponent it will help him to score some decisive points late in the fight, so my prediction is Piotr Hallmann to defeat Al Iaquinta by decision. Possibly a split.

185lbs- Luke Barnatt (6-0-0) vs. Andrew Craig (9-1-0)

What have they done recently?

Barnatt- 6 wins to start his career

Craig- rebounded to earn win after first defeat of career

Key Victories

Barnatt- C0llin Hart- Dec

Craig- Chris Leben- Split Dec, Kyle Noke- Dec, Rafael Natal- KO

Key Defeats

Barnatt- None

Craig- Ronny Markes- Dec

Physical Comparison

Barnatt- 5″ height and 1″ reach advantage

Strengths

Barnatt-UFC debut, striking, knees, height/ reach, knockout power (KOs: 2 pro win, 1 amateur, 1 TUF)

Craig- durability, knockout power (3 of 8 wins), kicking game, BJJ Brown belt, TDD (77%), more diverse striking, cardio

Weaknesses

Barnatt- lack of speed, awkwardness, TDD, experience, cardio, defensive grappling

Craig- SApM vs SLpM (2.61 vs 2.62), striking defense (37%), inexperience (9 fights), grappling defense (7 TDs in 3 fights)

Key(s) to Victory

Barnatt- He needs to keep Craig on the outside with sharp jabs and long range combinations. Knee strikes will be crucial to countering any potential level changes by Craig. When Craig closes the distance he will need to circle away and reset before attacking.

Craig- Andrew has to fight this bout in a phone booth, getting inside the long range striking weapons of Barnatt and landing his power shots. The more time he spends in the clinch and potentially on the mat the more effective he will be. The harder he pushes the pace the quicker his opponent’s cardio will diminishes.

Keys(s) to Defeat

Barnatt- He can’t allow Craig grind him out, spending too much time in close will eliminate almost all of this long range weapons from the equation.

Craig- Spending the entire fight at the end of Barnatt’s combinations will make winning this fight difficult.

Prediction

Barnatt is taking a major step up in competition considering this is only his second UFC bout and sixth pro fight overall. Conversely, Craig has faced and beaten some decent competition in his 4 fight UFC career and showed significant improvement with his striking against Chris Leben,

Craig has a decent kicking arsenal and as mentioned above his hands are improving, but the reach and height advantage of Barnatt will create some difficulties if he can’t get inside. Barnatt’s striking is sharp, but his short range striking defense and grappling game are his weak links. Additionally, Collin Hart had a lot of success breaking him down with his aggressive attack, connecting frequently with short range combinations, a similar style to what Craig can be expected to employ.

Craig has an underrated power game, finishing Rafael Natal with a head kick and nearly ending Chris Leben’s night with a barrage of punches early in the third round. Barnatt allowed Collin Hart to connected on 104 strikes and if he is unable to curb the forward pressure of Craig, he will find himself on the wrong end of a knockout or at the very least a decision defeat. Craig has shown a lot of his ground game so far, but he is a BJJ Brown belt and with gain a serious advantage if he can threaten with his grappling game, so my prediction is Andrew Craig to defeat Luke Barnatt by TKO.

135lbs- Jessica Andrade (9-3-0) vs. #10 Rosi Sexton (13-3-0)

What have they done recently?

Andrade- 2 fight winning streak snapped in debut

Sexton- 3 fight winning streak snapped in UFC debut

Key Victories

Andrade- Duda Yankovich- Sub, Milana Dudieva- Sub

Sexton- Carina Damm- Sub, Roxanne Modafferi- Dec, Aisling Daly- Dec

Key Defeats

Andrade- Jennifer Maia- Dec, Liz Carmouche- TKO

Sexton- Alexis Davis- Dec, Zoila Frausto Gurgel- KO, Gina Carano- KO

Physical Comparison

Sexton- 1″ height and 2″ reach advantages

Strengths

Andrade- strength, aggressive, style, knockout power (4 KOs), submissions (5 subs), guillotine, UFC debut experience

Sexton- BJJ Brown belt, Taekwondo Black belt, submissions (7 subs), submission defense, durability, elite level experience, fighting at home

Weaknesses

Andrade- chin (2 KOs), inexperience (12 fights), grappling defense, wild striking

Sexton- chin (2 KOs), age (36), wild striking

Key(s) to Victory

Andrade- Jessica has to make this fight a brawl. She needs to draw Sexton into wild exchanges and look to land with power. If and when the fighters tie up, she needs to focus first on positional control to avoid getting sweep or reversed.

Sexton- Rosi needs to try and employ a grinding grappling based attack. Close the distance with her opponent, push her into the cage and either do damage there or drag the fight to the ground where she can drop some serious ground and pound.

Key(s) to Defeat

Andrade- She can’t spend too much time, if any, fighting off of her back.

Sexton- If she can’t work her offensive grappling game, she losses one of her biggest assets, making this fight much more difficult to win.

Prediction

Both women started off their UFC runs on the wrong end of bouts with experienced, top ranked contenders. Despite the losses, they each had their moments of success and will try to build on that in their second appearance. They are both grappling based fighters, with Sexton claiming 7 wins by submission and Andrade 5. Rosi does hold the superior grappling credentials, boasting a BJJ Brown belt.

Neither girl is known for their striking prowess, but Andrade does have a quartet of knockout wins, compared to only 2 for her adversary. They have both shown a willingness to stand and trade, but with limit success. The Brit does hold a Taekwondo Black belt which suggests she could have a decent arsenal of kicks to call upon, but they weren’t on display in her debut. Both girls have also been knocked out twice. Rosi suffered a brutal KO in her final Bellator appearance and Jessica was stopped by Liz Carmouche in her Octagon debut. While this fight could breakdown into some wild exchanges, the crucial moments of this contest will most likely take place on the ground.

Andrade was able to take Carmouche down once and she showed a nasty guillotine that she is willing threaten with should her opponent be careless with their neck. If she can get on top she has decent ground and pound and knows how to finish. But, she has struggled against strong grapplers who were able to control her on the mat and prevent her from getting her offense rolling. Prior to Carmouche’s success, Jennifer Maia dominated Andrade on the mat and against the cage with tight body control and a variety of submission attempts. If Jessica can’t find success early, she appears to wilt under the pressure of her opponent.

Sexton is a crafty grappler, with a grinding clinch attack and decent top game. Her ground and pound can be devastating and as previously mentioned she is more than capable of a submission win. Defensively, she has never been submitted despite being caught in a number of tight holds. This is an indication of her veteran savvy and ability to survive difficult situations. Against Davis she was out gunned on the ground, but did manage to reverse a couple of positions and even took the Canadian down. If she can reproduce the type of ground attack that Carmouche brought to bear on Andrade she will most likely find similar success.

Andrade is young and still developing her skills, while Sexton is far more battle tested against better competition. Andrade’s past struggles on the mat will be her undoing as Sexton will break her down along the wall and on the mat. Look for Andrade to attempt a guillotine submission, potentially early in the fight. Rosi will successfully defend and then benefit from the resulting positional advantage gained, allowing her to get off to a strong start and carry it through to the end, so my prediction is Rosi Sexton to defeat Jessica Andrade by decision.

145lbs- Cole Miller (19-8-0) vs. Andy Ogle (9-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Miller- 1-3 in his last 4 fights

Ogle- coming off a win, 1-1 in the UFC

Key Victories

Miller- Jorge Gurgel- Sub, Ross Pearson- Sub, Bart Palaszewski- Sub, Dan Lauzon- Sub

Ogle- Josh Grispi- Dec

Key Defeats

Miller- Jeremy Stephens-TKO, Manvel Gamburyan- Dec, Steven Siler- Dec, Matt Wiman- Dec

Ogle- Akira Corassani- Split Dec

Physical Comparison

Miller- 5″ height and 7″ reach advantages

Strengths

Miller- BJJ black belt, submissions (14 subs), aggressive/ offensive guard, subs/ 15 min (2.46), clinch fighting, finishing ability (17 of 19 wins), SLpM (3.38), experience (27 fights), UFC experience (14 fights), Featherweight experience (4 fights), reach/ height advantages

Ogle- durability, grappling, takedowns, transitions, submissions (3 subs), point scoring (4-1 in decisions), SLpM (2.37), SApM (1.73), cardio, fighting at home

Weaknesses

Miller- cut to 145, poor use of reach when striking, takedowns (0.59 @ 29%), SApM (3.95), point scoring (2-6 in decisions)

Ogle- inexperience (11 fights), UFC experience (2 fights), 10 month layoff, reliance on grappling

Key(s) to Victory

Miller- Cole needs to use his reach via a sharp jab and his front kick to keep Ogle on the outside. When Ogle does close the distance, Miller needs to take this fight to the ground and be aggressive both from top and bottom position. He can also do some significant damage from the clinch position, prior to going to the mat.

Ogle- He has to be aggressive on the feet, getting inside of the reach of Miller and attacking with heavy handed high volume combinations. If he does take the fight to the ground, he needs to focus on position over submission to avoid losing the advantage he gained with the takedown

Key(s) to Defeat

Miller- If he can’t find a way to make his grappling a factor in this fight, he will lose his biggest weapon. He has also struggle to make his reach a factor in prior bouts, allowing opponents to get inside and outwork him.

Ogle- His grappling attack could prove to be a detriment, as Miller should be the better ground fighter. If the mat becomes a danger zone for Ogle, he becomes a one-dimensional fighter and far less effective.

Prediction

Miller’s back is against the wall with a 1-3 record at Featherweight, but there have been signs of the veteran turning things around. After starting 0-2, he subbed Bart Palaszewski and lost a controversial decision to former title challenger Manny Gamburyan. In the Gamburyan fight, he showed an improved striking attack, using a sharp jab along with continually threatening with a front kick to limit Manny to just 23 strikes on 62 attempts. He has a tremendous length advantage in most fights, but until now he hasn’t shown the ability to exploit it.

Ogle is a gritty fighter, but he doesn’t throw the high volume style striking attacks that has given Miller difficulties in the past. If Ogle is unable to find a way inside the reach of Miller and then do damage while he is there, he is going to struggle to do enough to win the striking exchanges.

Ogle beat Josh Grispi on the combined basis of his offensive and defensive grappling work. He fended off the early sub attempts and transitioned into top mount where he was able to control the position. His grinding top game was too much for Grispi, who wavered under the pressure and was unable to mount much offensively for the duration of the bout. He had success on the mat in his debut as well, neutralizing his opponent with some strong positional wrestling.

Miller is a nasty ground fighter, with 14 of his 19 wins coming by submission, including 6 in the UFC. His back mount is lethal and he has an aggressively offensive guard. The knock on Cole is his lack of an effective takedown game. He averages well under a takedown per fight at a 29% completion rate. He has never completed more than a single takedown in his Octagon career, often relying on his opponent dragging the fight to the ground. He is good in scrambles and is an advantageous grappler, but he would be far more successful if he improved his ability get the fight to the mat on his terms. Although, in this bout that might not be as big an issue as Ogle has appeared to be a more than willing grappling partner in previous outings.

Miller has a significant experience advantage and if the signs of an improved ability to use his reach continue to manifest, he should be the better fighter. Look for Miller to keep Ogle out of range on the feet and then bust him up in the clinch when they tie up. Miller look better with his TDAs against Gamburyan and Manny is quite strong defensively. Cole will find success incorporating his grappling attack against Ogle and my prediction is Cole Miller to defeat Andy Ogle by submission.

145lbs- Jimy Hettes (10-1-0) vs. Robert Whiteford (10-1-0)

What have they done recently?

Hettes- lost first fight of his career in last appearence

Whiteford- 10 fight winning streak

Key Victories

Hettes- Alex Caceres- Sub, Nam Phan- Dec

Whiteford- Paul Reed- Sub, Martin Svensson- TKO

Key Defeats

Hettes- Marcus Brimage- Dec

Whiteford- Bobby McVitie- TKO

Physical Comparison

Whiteford- 1″ height advantage

Strengths

Hettes- Judo Brown belt, BJJ Purple belt, submission (9 subs), takedowns (7.07 @ 47%), ground and pound

Whiteford- knockout power (5 KOs), point scoring (4-0 in decisions), no pressure

Weaknesses

Hettes- 13 month layoff, reliance on grappling attack, rudimentary striking

Whiteford- 1 week notice, UFC debut, elite level inexperience, grappling defense

Key(s) to Victory

Hettes- Jimy has to get back to his grappling ways, score takedowns, grind Whiteford out on the mat and now allow him to gain any momentum on the feet.

Whiteford- He has to stick and move, landing shots and then getting out reach to avoid getting put on his back.

Key(s) to Defeat

Hettes- He wasn’t able to get his last opponent on the mat with any consistency, his striking alone will not win him a fight.

Whiteford- He can’t allow Hettes to close the gap and put his hands on him. Grounded = Defeat.

Prediction

Like Whiteford’s preparation time for this bout, this prediction is going to be short. Whiteford stepped up on a weeks notice to take this fight and will most likely get another opportunity because of it. His biggest advantage is the absence of expectations and pressure. He isn’t seen as a threat to Hettes based on his lack of top level experience and his short notice and as a result, everyone is picking him to finish second best. This should allow Robbie to go full board and be aggressive and loose.

Hettes on the other hands has a pile of expectations coming into this fight. He was formerly undefeated, starting 2-0 in the UFC, but lost a tonne of momentum with his major upset defeat against Marcus Brimage. He has now been out of action for over a year and based on the details coming into this bout, he is expected to dominate pillar to post and nothing less would be acceptable.

Whiteford, has serviceable striking with some power, but unless Hettes goes all Muhammad Ali on us, this fight is headed to the mat. Whiteford will use some takedowns of his own, but he has never faced a grappler on Jimy’s level and this will force him into a defensive shell for the majority of the fight. Hettes has good takedowns, excellent transitions and a good sub game. From top position he has decent ground and pound as well and exhaust his opponents with his pressure.

Hettes didn’t do much for his profile in his last fight and he needs a command performance this time out. Whiteford has the opportunity to make a huge splash but he will be up against it for however long this bout lasts, so my prediction is Jimy Hettes to defeat Robert Whiteford by submission.

185lbs- Michael Kuiper (12-2-0) vs. Brad Scott (9-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Kuiper- 1-2 in the UFC

Scott- lost UFC debut/ TUF Smashes finals

Key Victories

Kuiper- Jared Hamman- TKO

Scott- Mok Rahman- TKO

Key Defeats

Kuiper- Rafael Natal- Dec, Tom Lawlor- Sub

Scott- Robert Whittaker- Dec

Physical Comparison

Kuiper- 1″ reach advantage

Scott- 2″ height advantage

Strengths

Kuiper- Judo black belt, BJJ Purple belt, TDD (77%), takedowns (2.12 @ 80%), SLpM (3.53), improving striking, knockout power (7 KOs), finishing skills (11 of 12 wins)

Scott- striking, knockout power (5 KOs), SLpM (3.67), durability, TUF experience, speed

Weaknesses

Kuiper- overconfidence, SApM (3.67), point scoring (1-1 in decisions), defensive striking

Scott- 11 month layoff, moving up to Middleweight, UFC experience (1 fight), experience (10 fights), SApM (5.53)

Key(s) to Victory

Kuiper- Michael needs to use his superior grappling skills to dictate the flow of this bout. His striking is improving, but the talent gap is far greater in the grappling department. If he can control Scott along the cage he should be able to do some damage and if/when he drags it to the ground he will be total control.

Scott- He could have a possible speed advantage and he needs to use it along with some range striking. If he can keep on the outer fringes of the striking range and pepper away at Kuiper he can outpoint him or even hurt him leading to the finish.

Key(s) to Defeat

Kuiper- He needs to avoid getting overconfident and making mistakes, prior to knocking out Hamman he was getting tagged with some big shots and he walked right into the Lawlor guillotine in a fight he was winning.

Scott- He can let Kuiper’s grappling and size become a factor in this fight, he has to keep separation.

Prediction

Scott looked good in his debut, not great, but he did some damage with his hands, he was able to score a couple of takedowns, and he took his opponent’s back once. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for him to secure the win. He has decent striking, with some pop behind it, but he isn’t the type of striker that will overwhelm an opponent with his technique. Kuiper should have the advantage in the power department, and when he starts to unload he can do a lot of damage. One of his drawbacks, is his defensive focus. When he opens up with his attack and starts to press the action he tends to get hit a little more then he should, which could be Scott’s opportunity to capitalize.

In close, Kuiper will be dominant. He showed excellent hips against a good wrestler in Tom Lawlor, shutting down multiple TDAs and turning defense into offense by putting Lawlor on his back 3 times in the opening round. His TDD alone should be a significant factor, removing any possibility of Scott scoring a round stealing takedown. Kuiper’s clinch work should take Scott’s striking out of equation and allow him to do his own damage from in close. The mere threat of a takedown, should also keep Scott from pressing the action and limit him on the feet. If the fight does hit the ground, look for the Dutch fighter to advance his position quickly and start dropping some bombs, either leading to a stoppage or sub opportunity.

Kuiper is the more well rounded fighter and has the superior skill set. Additionally, he has face better competition then Scott, and the Brit is coming off a near year long layoff in addition to moving up a division. Short of Scott significantly developing his skills in the past 12 months, he will be in tough, so my prediction is Michael Kuiper to defeat Bradley Scott by TKO.

Prelim Predictions

185lbs- #10 Tim Boetsch (16-6-0) vs. CB Dollaway (14-5-0)

What have they done recently?

Boetsch- back to back defeats

Dollaway- back to back victories

Key Victories

Boetsch- Hector Lombard- Split Dec, Yushin Okami- KO, Nick Ring- Dec, Kendall Grove- Dec

Dollaway- Daniel Sarafian- Split Dec, Jason Miller- Dec, Goran Reljić- Dec, Jesse Taylor- Sub

Key Defeats

Boetsch- Mark Muñoz- Dec, Constantinos Philippou- TKO, Phil Davis- Sub, Matt Hamill- TKO

Dollaway- Jared Hamman- TKO, Mark Munoz- KO, Tom Lawlor- Sub, Amir Sadollah- Sub

Physical Comparison

Dollaway- 2″ height and 2″ reach advantage

Strengths

Boetsch- Collegiate wrestler, knockout power (7 KOs), striking, physical strength, takedowns (2.01 @ 36%), top game, ground and pound, durabilit

Dollaway- NCAA D-1 wrestler, BJJ Blue belt, takedowns (4.17 @ 56%), subs/15 mins ( 1.63), TDD (85%), UFC experience (11 fights), SApM (1.91)

Weaknesses

Boetsch- defensive wrestling, lack of speed, cardio

Dollaway- 9 month layoff, short notice replacement, chin (2 KOs), lack of speed, cardio,

Key(s) to Victory

Boetsch- At distance, Tim should use his front leg push kick to keep Dollaway backing up and then push forward aggressively with heavy handed 3 & 4 punch combos. In close he should use his physical power to both control and damage Dollaway in the clinch and potentially drag him to the mat, landing big shots the entire time he is in tight.

Dollaway- CB has to score with his range striking, kicks and long straight punches, and then counter Boetsch as he comes forward by dropping levels and shooting for takedowns. If he can put Boetsch on his back, that is where he appears to be most vulnerable and this could win the fight for CB.

Key(s) to Defeat

Boetsch- He can’t allow Dollaway to outwrestle him early or it will cost him in conditioning and on the scorecards late.

Dollaway- He has to prevent Boetsch from outmuscling him in the clinch and on the mat.

Prediction

Boetsch and Dollaway both come from wrestling backgrounds and are above average sized Middleweights. Dollaway is going to have a couple inches of reach and height on Boetsch and comes from the more impressive wrestling background, but it is Boetsch that has had the bigger impact on the division. Although, Tim is riding a 2 fight losing streak, while CB has won back to back bouts and adding Boetsch’s name to his resume would make some significant waves for the former TUF finalist.

Both fighters would benefit tremendously from establishing a wrestling advantage. Dollaway has used takedown heavy performances successfully in past fights, including a recent victory over Jason Miller (4) and earlier wins over Jay Silva (6) and Goran Reljic (5). Boetsch too has put up some respectable numbers, landing 7 takedowns against Kendall Grove and 4 versus Nick Ring.

There is always the possibility that their respective wrestling skills could cancel each other out, which would favour Boetsch. Tim has struggled in fights when he was been put on his back, losing his last 3 contests (Davis, Philippou, and Munoz) from this position. Conversely, CB is not nearly as effective when he is forced to rely solely on his striking. In his last 5 wins he has completed a total of 15 takedowns, while landing only 5 over the same number of defeats.

Boetsch has the more refined striking arsenal and has shown himself more adept at putting an opponent away with his hands. His kicks should prove a significant factor during the exchanges and his clinch work will also have a major impact on the outcome of this fight. CB’s striking is improving, but he appeared tentative against Daniel Sarafian and had he not scored with a solid counter strike late in round two, he most likely would have lost the decision. Another area of concern for the ‘Doberman’ is his chin. He has been knocked out twice in his career and has been rocked in each of his last two bouts. If Boetsch connects with a big shot or is able to land consecutive short range blows it should be enough to put Dollaway out of action.

If Dollaway can score with his wrestling consistently he could grind out a win, but Boetsch should be more then capable of defending and either attacking with his own wrestling or unloading an assault on the feet, so my prediction is Tim Boetsch to defeat CB Dollaway by TKO.

170lbs- Hector Lombard (32-4-1 1NC) vs. Nate Marquardt (35-12-2)

What have they done recently?

Lombard- 1-2 since signing with the UFC

Marquardt- back to back defeats

Key Victories

Lombard- Rousimar Palhares- KO, Alexander Shlemenko- Dec, James Te-Huna- Sub, Brian Ebersole- Sub

Marquardt- Tyron Woodley- KO, Rousimar Palhares- TKO, Demian Maia- KO, Martin Kampmann- TKO

Key Defeats

Lombard- Gegard Mousasi- Dec, Tim Boetsch- Split Dec, Yushin Okami- Split Dec, Akihiro Gono- Dec

Marquardt- Jake Ellenberger- KO, Tarec Saffiedine- Dec, Chael Sonnen- Dec, Anderson Silva- TKO

Physical Comparison

Marquardt- 3″ reach and 3″ height advantages

Strengths

Lombard- 4th dan Judo Black belt, BJJ Black belt, Olympic Judoka, submission (7 wins), TDD (75%), knockout power (18 wins), durability (0 finishes),

Marquardt- 2nd degree BJJ Black belt, submissions (15 wins), takedowns (2.34 @ 59%), subs/ 15 mins (1.21), TDD (73%), knockout power (8 wins), striking, striking variety, SLpM (2.83) vs SApM (1.94), experience (46 fights), UFC experience (15 fights), reach/ height, speed

Weaknesses

Lombard- Welterweight debut, cardio, inconsistency, height/ reach, SApM (2.7) vs SLpM (2.26), defensive range striking, foot speed

Marquardt- chin (2 KOS), point scoring (8-8 in decisions), striking defense, elite level success, Fight IQ,

Key(s) to Victory

Lombard- Hector has to cut off the cage and pressure Marquardt forcing him to move backwards. He can either tie up and do damage from the clinch with short punches or fight at boxing range with Marquardt’s back to the cage limiting his mobility. For variety he could attempt to take Marquardt down to do more damage from top position.

Marquardt- Nate has to use speed and range striking to keep Lombard from closing the gap. It will serve to take Lombard’s power out of the equation along with impacting his cardio. The more movement the better. If he can chop away at Lombard’s legs that will help to slow him down even quicker. He needs to set up his boxing with jabs and faints to keep his opponent from timing him and countering as he moves forward.

Keys(s) to Defeat

Lombard- If the cut to 170 takes too much out of him he will slow down quickly and become an easy target. Additionally, he has failed to pull the trigger in past fights allowing his opponents to outland him

Marquardt- He has to avoid his desire to close the gap and attack. His chin is a major question mark and if Lombard can catch him with a flurry he won’t be able to hold up.

Prediction

Both fighters have decorated grappling backgrounds and are more than capable of scoring a knockout win. Another commonality between Nate and Hector is their lack of realized potential. Both men are former champions from other organizations, but they have failed to meet the expectations heaped upon them inside the Octagon. As a result, there is a significant amount of pressure heading this fight as the loser could be let go.

Lombard will also be making his first cut to Welterweight, which can be difficult for a heavily muscled fighter. Even in this fight he will have a decent reach and height disadvantage, but the bigger concern is his conditioning. His cardio wasn’t great at 185 and getting down to 170 could further diminish his physical capabilities. Taking his age into account, 35, it may prove difficult for Lombard to maintain a high output over a prolonged fight. Early reports are that he is struggling to get down to 171 pounds and will come into this fight off of a difficult cut. Marquardt on the other hand is making his fourth appearance at 170 and should be more the acclimatized to the weight cut.

Nate has the more diverse striking game and while he has power, Lombard has never been KOed and short of gassing out, he won’t be stopped here either. Nate on the other hand is coming off a nasty knockout at the hands of Jake Ellenberger and has been rocked in each of his last 3 appearances. His chin is a major question mark that could cost him against Lombard. Conversely, Lombard’s big issues on the feet will be his aforementioned cardio and the speed/ pace of the Welterweight division. Lombard has some issues with rangier opponents that were able to stay on the outside of his attack and if Marquardt is able to use his foot speed advantage he could limit Hector’s ability to close and land.

This bout could spend some time on the ground, but the deciding moments will be contested vertically. Short of knocking out Rousimar Palhares, Lombard has struggled to find consistent success on the feet and Nate should be able to avoid his power by using lateral movement and a strong kicking attack. Nate’s chin is a major concern, but so too is the impact of the cut for Lombard and as this fight drags on his ability to score the knockout will diminish significantly. Marquardt has to be cautious early, especially when he closes the distance, but my prediction is Nate Marquardt to defeat Hector Lombard by decision.

135lbs- Jessica Eye (10-1-0) vs. #2 Sarah Kaufman (16-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Eye- 7 fight winning streak

Kaufman- wins in 4 of her last 5 fights

Key Victories

Eye- Zoila Frausto Gurgel- Sub, Carina Damm- Dec, Anita Rodriguez- Dec

Kaufman- Alexis Davis x2- Dec & TKO, Liz Carmouche- Dec, Miesha Tate- Dec, Roxanne Modafferi- TKO

Key Defeats

Eye- Aisling Daly- Dec

Kaufman- Marloes Coenen- Sub, Ronda Rousey- Sub

Physical Comparison

Eye- 1″ height advantage

Kaufman- 2.5″ reach advantage

Strengths

Eye- striking skills, boxing, durability, point scoring (7-0 in decisions), cardio, Bellator experience (3 fights)

Kaufman- striking, knockout power (10 KOs), chin (0 KOs), SLpM (6.39), footwork, head movement, striking defense (61%), clinch fighting, TDD (84%), Strikeforce experience (8 fights)

Weaknesses

Eye- UFC debut, moving up from Flyweight, finishing ability (3 in 10 fights), striking predictability

Kaufman- UFC debut, submission defense (2 losses), SApM (4.02), offensive grappling

Key(s) to Victory

Eye- Jessica has to use her speed to avoid the big shots of her opponent, making her swing and miss, while landing with consistency. If she can threaten with some takedown attempts it will keep Kaufman’s aggression in check.

Kaufman- Sarah is the bigger fighter and need to use her size and power to bully Eye. She can strike from distance and land high volume combinations or work from in close and bust Eye up with dirty boxing.

Key(s) to Defeat

Eye- She can’t afford to trade shot for shot with the bigger, stronger opponent.

Kaufman- She has to make her punches count and not allow Eye to be the faster and more efficient striker.

Prediction

Stylistically, this is an excellent pairing. Both women are known for their striking capabilities and are more than willing to throw caution to the wind and trade with a willing opponent. Kaufman, the former Strikeforce champion, is a high volume striker. Making her even more effective is her accuracy and remarkable knockout power (10 of 16 wins by KO). She can attack from both the inside and at close range. She will use a half collar tie to control her opponent in close, while landing a series of short punches, seamlessly mixing in nasty level trajectory elbow strikes as well. The biggest concern with Kaufman is that a career of taking high levels of punishment could be catching up to her. She was victorious in her Invicta FC debut, but was badly dropped in the second frame by a head kick. She has never been KOed, but her last fight could be an indication of what is to come.

Eye is a former Bellator competitor and mainly fought at 125. She is moving up to Bantamweight, because of the opportunity to compete in the UFC and she has also said that making Flyweight is becoming harder. Despite just a single loss on her record, the biggest red flag is her lack of knockout wins, 2 of 10 victories. For a striking based fighter, she isn’t known for her finishing ability and it won’t get any easier facing larger opponents at Bantamweight. She throws a nice left jab, overhand right combination and the majority of her punches are crisp and clean. On the negative side she tends to become predictable with her attacks continually attempting the same techniques leaving her open for counters.

Neither girl is known for their mat game, but Eye did pull off an impressive standing arm triangle choke of Zoila Gurgel. Kaufman does have a decent top game with her ground and pound, but she isn’t known for her wrestling skills averaging 0.28 takedowns per fight. She has excellent takedown defense, shutting down the wrestling of Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche. Conversely, her 2 career defeats have both come by submission, but based on both fighters’ profiles this fight won’t spend much time on the mat.

Kaufman has never lost a striking based fight. The combination of her accuracy, power, and high volume barrages make it hard for her opponent to match, leaving the knockout as the best route to victory over Kaufman on the feet. Eye is a decent striker, but she hasn’t shown real knockout power and moving up to face a hard hitting opponent who is the physically larger fighter will be tough, so my prediction is Sarah Kaufman to defeat Jessica Eye by Decision.

155lbs- K.J. Noons (10-6-0) vs. George Sotiropoulos (14-5-0)

What have they done recently?

Noons- lost his UFC debut, 1-5 in his last 6 fights

Sotiropoulos- 3 fight losing streak

Key Victories

Noons- Nick Diaz- TKO, Yves Edwards- TKO, Jorge Gurgel- TKO, Billy Evangelista- Dec

Sotiropoulos- Joe Lauzon- Sub, Kurt Pellegrino- Dec, Joe Stevenson- Dec, Kyle Noke- Dec

Key Defeats

Noons- Donald Cerrone- Dec, Josh Thomson- Dec, Jorge Masvidal- Dec, Nick Diaz- Dec

Sotiropoulos- Ross Pearson- TKO, Rafael dos Anjos- KO, Dennis Siver- Dec, Shinya Aoki- DQ

Physical Comparison

Sotiropoulos- 1″ reach advantage

Strengths

Noons- pro boxing background (11-2-0), knockout power (8 KOs), chin (1 KO), SLpM (3.82), striking defence (65%), TDD (70%), Strikeforce experience (7 fights)

Sotiropoulos- BJJ Black belt, grappling, submissions (8 subs), takedowns (2.53 @ 34%), subs/15 min (1.89), point scoring (5-2 in decisions), amateur boxing background, UFC experience (10 fights)

Weaknesses

Noons- defensive grappling, point scoring (3-5 in decisions), striking diversity, SApM (3.83), offensive grappling (0.1 TDs @ 20%)

Sotiropoulos- chin (2 KOs), age (37), speed, cardio, 10 month layoff, reliance on grappling

Key(s) to Victory

Noons- KJ has to stuff the TDAs and then land his combinations with power. His foot and hand speed should give him a significant advantage over Sotiropoulos, potentially leading to a knockout.

Sotiropoulos- George has to get this fight to the ground to both set up his submission opportunities and negate Noon’s boxing skills. Even if he can’t submit Noons, if he can consistently score TDs and hold the position he will take a decision win.

Key(s) to Defeat

Noons- If he can’t stuff the TDs he will be in trouble. If KJ stands still and tries to pot shot his opponent this will provide Sotiropoulos with plenty of opportunities to look for TDs.

Sotiropoulos- He can’t trade with KJ for prolonged periods of time, his chin is a major question mark and even if he avoids getting KOed, he wont be able to keep up without consistent success with his ground game.

Prediction

Noons needs to keep this fight vertical and G-Sots has to gets things horizontal as soon as possible. Typical grappler versus striker scenario. KJ is primarily a boxer and when he is on, he is good. His combinations are smooth and he has power. What he lacks is a significant kicking arsenal, but in this fight that won’t be that big of loss considering he should try to limit his kicks to avoid getting taken down. Sotiropoulos does have an amateur boxing background, but his lack of speed, chin issues, and second best technique will prevent him from trading with Noons with success and should encourage him to shoot.

If G-Sots can get this fight to the ground he is capable of a submission or grinding out a decision win. Noons has only been submitted once, 11 years ago in his second pro fight, so if the Aussie is going to win on the mat it will need to be with consistently successful takedowns and positional control. That being said, Noons is a difficult fighter to take down and then keep down. Although, it is not an impossible feet, as Donald Cerrone, Josh Thomson, and Jorge Masvidal combined for 15 takedowns on 30 attempts. Sotiropoulos has also been struggling in recent fights to get his opponents on the mat, with a combined 1-19 mark against Dennis Siver and Ross Pearson.

Noons has had success against grappling based opponents, stuffing takedowns and using superior striking. Conversely, G-Sots has had issues with superior strikers that were able to limit his grappling game. Noons should be able to maintain this pattern, using movement, a good sprawl and strong jab to keep Sotiropoulos at bay while blasting him with big combinations, so my prediction is KJ Noons to defeat George Sotiropoulos by knockout.

170lbs- Adlan Amagov (12-2-1) vs. T.J. Waldburger (16-7-0)

What have they done recently?

Amagov- back to back wins including UFC debut

Waldburger- winner in 3 of his last 4 fights

Key Victories

Amagov- Anthony Smith- KO, Keith Berry- TKO, Chris Spång- Dec,

Waldburger- Nick Catone- Sub, Jake Hecht- Sub, David Mitchell- Dec, Pat Healy- Dec,

Key Defeats

Amagov- Robbie Lawler- TKO, Alexey Oleinik- Sub

Waldburger- Brian Ebersole- Dec, Johny Hendricks- TKO, Ricardo Funch- TKO, Josh Neer- TKO

Physical Comparison

Amagov- 3″ height and 1″ reach advantage

Strengths

Amagov- knockout power (7 KOs), unorthodox striking technique, kicking attack, SApM (0.43), striking defense (81%), National Master of Sports in Sambo, takedowns (3.84 @ 60%), point scoring ability (5-0 decisions)

Waldburger- BJJ Brown belt, aggressive grappling attack, submissions (13 subs), takedowns (4.24 TDs @ 63%), subs/15 min (6.36), offensive guard, chain submission attempts, UFC experience (6 fights), improving striking, counter left hand

Weaknesses

Amagov- wild striking, UFC inexperience, SLpM (1.74), questionable chin (KO loss vs Lawler)

Waldburger- 10 month layoff, chin (5 KOs), SLpM (1.84), reliance on submissions (3-7 when no sub), durability

Key(s) to Victory

Amagov- Adlan needs to defend the TDAs and attack with power and test Waldburger’s chin. He has a variety of striking techniques that will make it difficult for Waldburger to defend against and could lead to a big shot landing for the KO. If the fight does go to the mat he has to focus on his positioning before attacking, to avoid getting caught in a sub.

Waldburger- TJ has to be aggressive with his grappling attack and keep Amagov moving backwards. If TJ can get the fight to the ground in a dominant position he needs to start chaining his submissions together.

Key(s) to Defeat

Amagov- If this fight hit the mat early he will be at risk of getting caught in a submission and he has to be careful not to let his wild striking generate openings for Waldburger to drag him to the ground.

Waldburger- He can’t afford to let Amagov open up with his strikes on the feet, and if the fight goes to the mat he has to be on top or very aggressive off his back or else the GnP from a bigger man will take a significant toll.

Prediction

Waldburger doesn’t get enough credit for how dangerous his submission game. 3 of his 4 UFC wins have come by tapout and he is the type of fighter that only needs a single opportunity to finish the fight with a tap, snap, or nap. His meeting with Brian Ebersole was the exception to the rule, as he was unable to put the savvy veteran away despite locking up multiple attempts (4) throughout the fight. Amagov is a sound grappler with a Sambo background and that will be key in defending the takedowns and submission attempts of the American. If Waldburger can get a shot at a submission early while both fighters are dry and fresh, he could finish, but the combination of size and skill of Amagov is going to make this a difficult task.

The striking exchanges could be the key to how this fight plays out. Amagov has significant knockout power and an obscure striking style that gives his opponents fits trying to anticipate and defend his attacks. He throws a wide variety of leg strikes and his hands are decent as well. The 2 biggest concerns with his striking are; a) he doesn’t throw enough, averaging under 2 strikes per minute and b) he tends to get wild or overextend himself when attacking. If he makes a mistake on the feet it could lead to a dominant position on the ground for Waldburger. TJ’s chin is a huge issue, with 5 knockouts and if Amagov connects it is unlikely that he will be able to endure it. Additionally, he showed in the Ebersole fight that he isn’t the most durable fight struggling to deal with the ground and pound in the later stages of the fight. TJ striking is serviceable, and he has a counter left that has landed effectively in multiple fights. If he can push forward and keep his opponent backing up he will greatly increase the effectiveness of his attack.

TJ is a dangerous submission fighter, but his 3-7 record in fights not ending by submission along with his losing knockout totals are both major red flags. He can’t afford to stand and trade with Amagov as his chance for victory takes a significant downturn in that scenario. The Russian’s Sambo skills should be good enough to prevent Waldburger from getting the submission early and to keep this fight where Amagov wants it, so my prediction is Adlan Amagov to defeat TJ Waldburger by TKO.

155lbs- Tony Ferguson (14-3-0) vs. Mike Rio (9-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Ferguson- 6 fight winning streak snapped in last fight

Rio- 3 fight winning streak snapped in last fight

Key Victories

Ferguson- Yves Edwards- Dec, Ramsey Nijem- KO, Aaron Riley- TKO, Brock Jardine- TKO

Rio- John Cofer- Sub

Key Defeats

Ferguson- Michael Johnson- Dec, Karen Darabedyan- Dec

Rio- Efrain Escudero- Dec, Francisco Trinaldo- Sub

Physical Comparison

Ferguson- 1″ height and 6″ reach advantages

Strengths

Ferguson- knockout power (8 wins), striking, chin (0 KOs), SLpM (4.06), striking defense (69%), NCAA Div-2 wrestler, takedowns (1.16 @ 60%), TDD (100%), reach advantage

Rio- wrestling, NAIA wrestling champ, finishing ability (8 of 9 wins), submissions (4 subs), knockout power (4 KOs), takedowns (4.33 @ 36%),

Weaknesses

Ferguson- 17 month layoff, SApM (3.47), point scoring (2-2 in decisions), pressure

Rio- striking defense, reach disadvantage, SLpM (2.02) vs SApM (2.08), TDD (0%), defensive guard

Key(s) to Victory

Ferguson- Tony needs to stuff the TDAs and be aggressive with his striking. He has significant power, but he needs to set it up and as long as he doesn’t head hunt he will either score a dominant decision win over pick up a knockout.

Rio- Mike has to put pressure on Ferguson to keep him moving backwards and prevent him from setting up his strikes. The more he can make his wrestling a factor and put Ferguson on his back the better off he will be.

Key(s) to Defeat

Ferguson- If Tony doesn’t pull the trigger and hesitates under fire he wont be nearly as effective.

Rio- Exchanging with Ferguson, especially at distance will result in ‘Wolverine’ getting the worst of most of the transactions.

Prediction

Ferguson is coming off a significant layoff, which could bring about a little bit of ring rust. Additionally, he is coming off a one sided upset in which he was beaten primarily in the striking domain, the strongest aspect of his arsenal. This loss was his first since 2009 and for a young fighter that should prove as motivation to improve. Considering the time away from action, Ferguson should show some significant advances in his game.

On the feet, Ferguson should have a significant advantage in both power and skill. While Rio does have a handful of knockout victories on his resume, he has shown some sever deficiencies in his striking defence. He was getting tagged with several big left hands by John Coffer, far from a refined striker in his own right, and was arguably losing that fight until it hit the mat. Ferguson’s use of angles and 6″ reach advantage, along with his sharp jab and long reaching straights and uppercuts will give Rio all he can handle on the feet.

If Rio can get this fight to the ground, that will be his best path to victory. He completed 4 takedowns in his debut fight and manage to take Francisco Trinaldo off his feet once as well. He has 4 wins by sub, one in the UFC, and he comes from a respectable wrestling background. If he is unable to submit Ferguson, at least completing takedowns will serve to score with the judges and limit the striking exchanges. Tony is a former Collegiate wrestler as well, but doesn’t rely that heavily on his ground game. He did score a pair of takedowns against Ramsey Nijem, but he focusses more on using his wrestling in reverse to defend his opponent’s attempts. While Rio is a decent wrestler, his striking deficiencies and reach disadvantage will make it difficult for him to close the distance, making it easier for Ferguson to defend his shot.

Tony has the striking advantage and at the very least the wrestling skills of each man should cancel each other out. Without his wrestling to fall back on, Rio is not nearly as effective, as was the case in his pre-UFC defeat at the hands of Efrain Escudero. Ferguson’s striking advantages combined with the glaring holes in the defense of Rio will be the defining features of this fight, so my prediction is Tony Ferguson to defeat Mike Rio by TKO.

135lbs- Kyogi Horiguchi (11-1-0) vs. Dustin Pague (11-9-0)

What have they done recently?

Horiguchi- 5 fight winning streak

Pague- 3 straight defeats

Key Victories

Horiguchi- Ian Loveland- Dec, Shintaro Ishiwatari- TKO,

Pague- Jared Papazian- Sub,

Key Defeats

Horiguchi- Masakatsu Ueda- Dec

Pague- Yves Jabouin- Split Dec, Chico Camus- Dec, Ken Stone- Split, John Albert- TKO

Physical Comparison

Pague- 4″ height advantage

Strengths

Horiguchi- knockout power (8 KOs), boxing, combinations, chin (0 KOs), Kid Yamamoto training partner,

Pague- Submissions 8 wins, subs/15 min (2.73), transition, offensive guard, height/ reach advantage, improving striking, striking accuracy (53%)

Weaknesses

Horiguchi- UFC debut, East to West travel, grappling defense, reach/ height disadvantage

Pague- durability/ chin (3 losses by KO), takedowns (0.91 @ 38%), SApM (2.89), point scoring (0-4 in decisions)

Key(s) to Victory

Horiguchi- Kyoji needs to keep this fight standing and get inside the range of Pauge, landing with both power and regularity. He should have a technical advantage and he has the power to put his opponent away if he can land a clean shot.

Pague- On the feet Dustin has to use a jab and kicks to keep his opponent on the outside and quickly close the distance and drag the fight to the mat. On the ground he needs to be aggressive whether on top or bottom, chaining his submission attempts together leading to either a finish or an exhausted opponent.

Key(s) to Defeat

Horiguchi- He can’t afford to spent much time on the mat with Pauge. He has a tendency to leap into his strikes and this could create ample opportunities for the fight to hit the ground.

Pague- Dustin has been knocked out 3 times and if he stands to long here it could quickly become 4.

Prediction

Kid Yamamoto 2.0 is being thrown around as descriptor for Horiguchi. He is a striking based fighter, with significant knockout power, and he is a sparring partner of the legendary Japanese knockout artist so the comparison makes sense. The similarity that Kyogi will be trying to avoid is Kid’s Octagon success, or lack thereof.

Horiguchi has one punch knockout power, with KOs or TKOs accounting for 7 of his 11 wins. His striking is smooth, and mixes up his punches and kicks well. He will have a significant reach and height disadvantage to overcome and that could present some difficulties. Pague is a serviceable striker, but his 3 knockout defeats and questionable durability makes standing with Horiguchi an unfavourable scenario. Where he can turn these exchanges in his favour is with his reach. If he can keep his opponent on the outside, it will force Horiguchi to come forward when attacking. Horiguchi has a tendency to leap into his strikes when attacking from the outside and this will open up opportunities for Pague to counter with takedowns and get this fight to the ground.

Pague has submitted his way to victory 8 times in his career and he has shown some significant grappling skill in his UFC career. His long limbs afford him plenty of opportunities to be aggressive both on top and off of his back and that is what he will need to do in this fight. Kyogi’s only career defeat came as the result of getting out grappled and despite out striking former UFC fighter Ian Loveland, he struggled through a number of tough situations on the mat and in the clinch position. The combination of Pague’s size and skill will make the ground an unfavourable locale for the UFC debutant.

Additionally, the impact on Horiguchi of making his UFC debut and travelling from East to West must be considered. These factors can both significantly impede a fighter’s performance. Additionally, suggestions have been made that Kyogi should be moving to Flyweight because of his size. If Pague can get this fight to the ground he has the ability to smoother his opponent and taxes his potentially already compromised conditioning with his chain submission game. Pague has struggle of late, but he has the experience advantage and his grappling game will be the deciding factor so my prediction is Dustin Pague to defeat Kyogi Horiguchi by decision.

145lbs- Andre Fili (12-1-0) vs. Jeremy Larsen (8-4-0 1NC)

What have they done recently?

Fili- 8 fight winning streak

Larsen- back to back losses

Key Victories

Fili- Adrian Diaz- TKO, Enoch Wilson- Dec

Larsen- Jeff Fletcher- Dec, Sammy Ciurdar- Dec

Key Defeats

Fili- Derrick Burnsed- TKO

Larsen- Efrain Escudero- Sub, Joe Proctor- TKO, Lucas Martins- KO

Physical Comparison

Even

Strengths

Fili- wrestling, takedowns, reversals/sweeps, training camp (Alpha Male), knockout power (6 KOs)

Larsen- toughness, takedowns (2.46 @ 29%), SLpM (5.33), overhand right

Weaknesses

Fili- 2 weeks notice, UFC debut, elite level inexperience, striking defense

Larsen- 1st cut to 145lbs, chin (2 KOs), technical striking, 3rd opponent change, SApM (4.02), cardio

Key(s) to Victory

Fili- Andre has to be the more calculated fighter and capitalize on the openings created by Larsen when he attacks. On the mat he will have the advantage from the top position and he is capable of pulling off a sweep from his back. On the feet, there plenty of openings to capitalize on with Larsen, Andre just has to be patient.

Larsen- Jeremy is cutting to 145 for the first time so he needs to be cautious and not over extend himself physically. Although he is most effective when he pushes the pace and brawls, so he will need to find a comfortable balance.

Key(s) to Defeat

Fili- If the effects of the short notice and Octagon jitters overwhelm him, he could get overwhelmed by his opponent’s pressure.

Larsen- When he attacks he creates openings for his opponent to counter which will lead to big punches finding their mark or successful takedown attempts.

Prediction

There are a few unknown elements clouding over this fight. First, Fili is taking this fight on short notice, 2 weeks to be exact, which is tough. On the same wave length, Larsen is enduring his third opponent change (Matt Grice and Charles Oliveira were his first two dance partners) which can be equally as difficult to prepare for.

Larsen is also making his first cut to 145 pounds which can inhibit a fighter’s performance. He wasn’t huge at 155, but generally speaking fighters moving to a new division will often fight more cautiously to see how their body responds when pushed after a new and unfamiliar weight cut. The debut factor for Fili is also in play, but he comes from a good camp with lots of UFC talented in house that should be able to prepare him for the experience.

All of the outside factors aside, Fili appears to be the more refined fighter. He has good wrestling and his sweeps and reversals off his back are unsuspectingly effective. This should allow him to dictate the pace of the fight and where it plays out. Larsen did have some success putting Lucas Martins on his back in his last fight, but it was minimal and Fili should be the stronger fighter both offensively and defensively in the grappling exchanges.

On the feet Larsen is most effective in a fire fight, but at the same time that type of approach leaves him vulnerable to counters. He has been KOed each of his last two appearances, most recently my Martins who scored with a perfectly time counter strike while moving backwards. If Larsen can overwhelm Fili early, he could break his conditioning, or lack thereof as a result of the short training camp. Fili would be better suited to keep Larsen on the outside with jabs and leg kicks, and then change levels for a shot whenever Larsen comes forward recklessly.

This fight has the potential to be a sloppy gas-fest, especially in the second half if it gets that far. The overarching short camp and debut issues are concerning for Fili, but Larsen has his own aforementioned complication, not including the pressure of his job being on the line, so my prediction us Andre Fili to defeat Jeremy Larsen by decision.

Prelim Predictions

145lbs- Rodrigo Damm (11-6-0) vs. Hacran Dias (21-2-1)

What have they done recently?

Damm- coming off 2nd win in his last 5 fights.

Dias- 9 fight winning streak snapped in last fight.

Key Victories

Damm- Jorge Masvidal- TKO, Mizuto Hirota- Split Dec, Anistavio Medeiros- Sub

Dias- Yuri Alcantara- Dec, Willamy Freire- Dec

Key Defeats

Damm- Gilbert Melendez- KO, Maximo Blanco- TKO, Antonio Carvalho- Split Dec, Justin Wilcox- TKO

Dias- Nik Lentz- Dec

Physical Comparison

Damm- 2″ reach advantage

Dias- 1″ height advantage

Strengths

Damm- 3rd Degree BJJ Black Belt, member of the Brazilian National Wrestling team, submissions (6 wins), overhand right, 1-2 combos, counter striking, leg kicks, SLpM (3.32), 2″ reach advantage, big fight experience

Dias- BJJ, submissions (9 of 21 wins), wrestling, takedowns (3 @ 46%), heavy top game, 78% TDD, point scoring (9-2 in decisions), Nova Uniao, cardio

Weaknesses

Damm- chin (3 losses by KO), SApM (4.5), too much focus on striking

Dias- lack of experience with wrestlers (Lentz 4 TDs), SLpM (1.97) vs SApM (2.03), subs/15 min (0.5)

Key(s) to Victory

Damm- Rodrigo has to mix up his attack between striking and grappling. His leg kicks, powerful overhand right, and counter striking will be his weapons of choice on the feet and the more successful he is with his wrestling the more effective his overall attack will be.

Dias- Hacran has to take advantage of Damm when his striking starts to get wild and land the more accurate strikes. If he can work his wrestling to score takedowns and maintain top position that will severely limit his opponent’s ability to score.

Key(s) to Defeat

Damm- If he elects to focus too much on his striking and limit his grappling game, he will be a much more one dimensional and predictable.

Dias- He can’t get be too aggressive, either on the feet or the mat. If he leaves opening with is striking he will get countered and if he tries for submissions before securing his position, he will lose the position.

Prediction

Damm is a strong grappler with foundations in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling, but appears to have strayed away from those strengths in favour of his striking. He found success with his counters against Mizuto Hirota, but came up short standing with the more technical Antonio Carvalho. Dias isn’t known for his striking, but he has shown a more refined skillset then Damm and training alongside Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, the improvements in Dias standup is noticeable. Damm was able to counter Hirota’s attacks because he held his hands low, Dias won’t leave those types of openings. Additionally, Damm found success with a powerful, but wild overhand right, but Dias tighter defensive approach should limit his success.

As mentioned previously, Damm is well versed on the mat, but hasn’t been using those skills nearly as much as he should be. Dias is also a strong grappler, but he won’t shy away from implementing those attributes. He dominated BJJ Black belt Yuri Alcantara on the mat in his debut, and gave a very strong wrestler in Nik Lentz fits, nearly completing a third round arm triangle. Dais will be the more likely of the two fighters to try and take the fight to the ground and while Damm is defensively sound enough to avoid getting submitted, Hacran should score some significant points with his grappling attack both in the clinch and on top. Dias will be more aggressive with his grappling along with having a more accurate and diverse striking game and superior cardio, so my prediction is Hacran Dias to defeat Rodrigo Damm by decision.

170lbs- Igor Araujo (23-6-0) vs. Ildemar Alcantara (19-5-0)

What have they done recently?

Araugo- 4 fight winning streak

Alcantara- 9 straight wins, 2-0 in the UFC

Key Victories

Araugo- Nic Herron-Webb- Dec, Loutina Uriel- Sub, Hans Stringer- Sub

Alcantara- Wagner Prado- Sub, Leandro Silva- Dec, Antonio Mendes- Dec

Key Defeats

Araugo- Jim Wallhead- TKO, Rashid Magomedov- Dec

Alcantara- Fabio Maldonado- Dec, Geronimo dos Santos- TKO, Marcelo Guimaraes- Dec,

Physical Comparison

Alcantara- 1″ height advantage

Strengths

Araugo- TUF experience, fight experience (30 fights), submission (17 subs)

Alcantara- BJJ Black belt, takedowns (3.31 @ 83%), TDD (100%), subs/ 15 minutes (1.99), knockout power (10 KOs), submissions (6 sub), size (fought at MW & LHW), striking, knee strikes

Weaknesses

Araugo- one dimensional skill set, elite level experience, chin (2 KOs), UFC debut

Alcantara- chin (2 losses by KO), SLpM (2.52) vs SApM (3.44), striking accuracy (36%)

Key(s) to Victory

Araugo- Igor has to be aggressive with his attack and focus on dragging this fight to the ground. After getting on top, he needs to remain active and take advantage of any and all dominant positions he finds himself in.

Alcantara- Ildemar has skills both on the mat and on the feet, but he should focus on exploiting the greatest talent gap and keep this fight vertical. He needs to pin Araugo on the outside with his jab and then when he comes forward looking for a takedown counter. If he can time a level change from Araugo he could finish him with a well placed knee. If the fight does go to the mat he needs to make his size a factor.

Keys(s) to Defeat

Araugo- The inability to get the fight to the ground will force him to rely on his striking or pulling guard, neither of which offers much potential for victory.

Alcantara- He was a little too passive in his last fight and getting outworked by his opponent will create issues on the scorecards and potentially open up some opportunities for Araugo to capitalize on.

Prediction

Igor is making his official debut after participating in arguably the worst season of the Ultimate Fighter to date. Of all the competitors who took part, only a few were signed on and the winner (Colton Smith) is all that remains employed until now. Making a debut is tough for a fighter, but he will have the advantage of doing it at home which should help. Additionally, he is making a decent step up in competition and over his 30 fight career he has not faired well when taking it to the next level. Alcantara debut at 170 in his last fight, with a poorer then expected performance against a natural 155er. He is 2-0 in the UFC, but his last fight raised some serious questions, after an impressive promotion debut. Although, Alcantara should be given some leniency as most fighters are a little cautious in there first performance at a new weight class and he was cutting down two divisions.

Inside the cage, Araujo is primarily a submission fighter with 17 of his 23 wins coming by tapout. He does a decent job of setting up his takedowns with his strikes, changing levels quickly to catch his opponent unprepared to defend. If he can get on top he clearly has finishing capabilities or the very least he could grind out a decision win. This could be a difficult task, as his opponent is a BJJ Black belt with a decent grappling repertoire of his own. Alcantara should be able to defend the takedowns with a heavy sprawl and keep this fight vertical to exploit what should be a significant striking advantage. He has shutdown all 7 TDAs in his first 2 fights and if he can find similar success early it will prove quite discouraging for his opponent who relies so heavily on his ground game. On the feet, watch for Ildemar to snap off smooth combinations, mixing in kicks and a excellent stepping knee strike. He is an offensive minded striker, but he has shown the capacity to use counters and a well placed knee as Araujo changes levels could prove fight ending as his opponent has been knocked out twice in previous fights. Ildemar is making his third UFC appearance and he should be the more comfortable fighter along with possessing the more well-rounded skillset, so my prediction is Ildemar Alcantara to defeat Igor Araujo by TKO.

170lbs- Yan Cabral (10-0-0) vs. David Mitchell (12-3-0)

What have they done recently?

Mitchell- 1-3 in his last 4 fights

Cabral- 10-0 to start his career

Key Victories

Mitchell- War Machine- Split Dec, Bobby Green- Sub, Simeon Thoresen- Dec

Cabral- Kazushi Sakuraba- Sub

Key Defeats

Mitchell- TJ Waldburger- Dec, Paulo Thiago- Dec, Mike Peirce- TKO

Cabral- None

Physical Comparison

Mitchell- 1″ height advantage

Strengths

Mitchell- wrestling, submissions (9 of 12 wins), size, subs/ 15 mins (2.27), top game, TD% (60%), clinch fighting

Cabral- BJJ Black belt, TUF experience, grappling, submissions (10 subs + 2 TUF subs), takedowns (3 for 3 vs Sakuraba), top game, Nova Uniao, improving Muay Thai

Weaknesses

Mitchell- striking offense, striking defense, defensive grappling, TDD (28%), TDs/ 15 mins (0.85), cardio

Cabral- 25 month layoff, UFC debut, cardio, defensive striking

Key(s) to Victory

Mitchell- David’s strength is his grappling, but he needs to focus on keep this fight standing. He should try to bust Cabral up with short range shots from the clinch and grind on him against the cage using his above average size. If he can put pressure on his opponent, the combination of that and the debut jitters could be enough to gas out Cabral and then he could consider taking the fight to the ground

Cabral- He needs to keep his game plan simple. He needs to first look for takedowns and then follow it up with positional control to avoid getting reversed, and then start sub hunting. Mitchell is a solid grappler so he needs to be mindful of his defense from the top and to not leave any potential openings.

Key(s) to Defeat

Mitchell- He can’t afford to spend much or in all reality any time on his back. It will lead to either a decision or submission defeat.

Cabral- If his cardio fails him from the combo of facing a larger opponent and making his debut he could slow down early enough that Mitchell could steal the last 2 rounds and take the fight.

Prediction

A battle of two grappling based fighters, whether it be wrestlers or BJJ practitioners, often can result in a sloppy kickboxing battle. If that is the case, both guys do have holes in their striking games, but the edge should go to Cabral. Mitchell did show improved clinch based striking against Mike Pierce. He landed several hard shots from in tight and proved much more difficult to put away then many anticipated. For Cabral he is a Muay Thai stylist and is working to tighten up his game. Considering some of the fighters he trains with, Jose Aldo and Renan Barao included, he should find his stride on the feet sooner rather then later. Overall, Mitchell’s lack of foot speed and stiff technique will make it hard for him to keep up on the feet.

While this fight will spend some time on the feet, it most likely won’t be a lot. With a combined 19 of 22 pro fights ending via submission, it should be expected that both men will look to their strongest attributes to try and secure the win. Cabral has all 10 pro wins by tapout and both TUF victories followed suit. He has a dominant top game, with slick transitions, and the ability to set up submissions far before his opponent is prepared to defend them. With 5 wins by arm-triangle choke, he is lethal once he establishes top position and is also quite capable off of his back. Mitchell is a strong grappler as well, but not nearly on the level of Cabral. He has lost a pair of grappling based decisions to TJ Waldburger and Paulo Thiago getting taken down a combined 12 times. If he can’t find a way to fend off Cabral TDAs it will be another long night in Brazil for the American. Cabral has been out of action for a long time, but he was impressive on the show prior to getting injured. He is the superior grappler and should dominate start to finish. Mitchell has never been submitted and should be able to do just enough defensively to keep it that way, so my prediction is Yan Cabral to defeat David Mitchell by decision.

125lbs- #8 Chris Cariaso (14-5-0) vs. Iliarde Santos (27-8-1 1NC)

What have they done recently?

Cariaso- back to back losses

Santos- back to back losses

Key Victories

Cariaso- Takeya Mizugaki- Dec, Vaughan Lee- Split Dec, Will Campuzano- Dec

Santos- Maycon Silvan- Dec, Alan Barros- TKO, Leandro Higo- Dec

Key Defeats

Cariaso- Renan Barão- Sub, Michael McDonald- Split Dec, John Moraga- Sub, Jussier Formiga- Dec

Santos- Ian McCall- Dec, John Lineker- Split Dec, Yuri Alcantara- KO

Physical Comparison

Santos- 2″ height and 2.5″ reach advanrtage

Strengths

Cariaso- kickboxing, kicking game, counter striking, TDD (60%), durability, top level experience, SLpM (3.15), SApM (1.74), UFC/ WEC experience (9 fights), underrated ground game

Santos- takedowns, TDD (80%), strength, knockout power (12 wins), submissions (6 wins), experience (37 fights), fighting in Brazil, elite level experience (McCall, Lineker, Alcantara), size advantage

Weaknesses

Cariaso- submission defence (2 of 4 losses), size, lack of finishing ability, fighting in Brazil

Santos- conditioning (heavily muscled), wild striker, SApM (6.34), striking defense, chin (3 KOs)

Key(s) to Victory

Cariaso- ‘Kamikaze’ has to be first with his kicking game to keep Santos out of range. The more distance that Santos is forced to cover the less accurate he is likely to be which will create openings for Cariaso to counter and it will also take a toll of the Brazilian’s gas tank. If Santos takes the fight to the ground Chris has to be aggressive with his guard and get back to his feet as soon as possible.

Santos- Iliarde has to land with power and be aggressive to keep his opponent from setting up his attacks. If Santos can mix in some takedowns it will severely limit his opponents kicking game and score some significant points.

Key(s) to Defeat

Cariaso- He can’t allow Santos to be the busier striker, nor can he afford to give up too many takedowns followed by a prolonged period of time spent on his back.

Santos- He struggled with the kicking range of Ian McCall and if he can’t overcome a similar attack versus Cariaso, he will be hard pressed to land his big shots.

Prediction

Santos is coming off a fight where he was outclassed on the feet. He is a Muay Thai based striker, but his kicking attack was minimal, while McCall was landing his leg strikes at will. Santos might have been erring on the side of caution against a wrestler, but he will be faced here with a similar kicking arsenal against Cariaso and he needs to find a way to deal with it. Cariaso is a kick first fighter, blasting his opponent up and down the body. He has an edge of almost a half strike landed per minute over Santos and total strikes absorbed per 60 seconds favour him by just over 4.5. Santos has better knockout numbers, but unless he can land with regularity and power he will struggle to stop an opponent who has only been knocked out once.

Cariaso did struggle with the ground attack of Jussier Formiga in his last defeat and he has been submitted twice, so Santos may be inclined to try to take the fight to the floor. He has six submission victories and has shown the capacity to do damage from top position in fights prior to his UFC career. Cariaso has a decent defensive and offensive guard, but if Santos can maintain top position and remain active that should be enough to score some significant points. For Cariaso, in addition to outright defending the takedown attempts, if he can establish his kicking range as mentioned above this will force Santos to shoot from a greater distance and subsequently make the attempts easier to identify and thwart. It is hard to pick against a Brazilian at home, but Cariaso has faced the better competition and should be able to do just enough with his striking to take a close fight, so my prediction is Chris Cariaso to defeat Iliarde Santos by decision.

155lbs- Alan Patrick (10-0-0) vs. Garett Whiteley (7-0-0)

What have they done recently?

Patrick- 10 wins to begin his pro career

Whiteley- 7 wins to being his pro career

Key Victories

Patrick- Murilo Rosa Filho- TKO

Whiteley- Jason Gilliam- TKO

Key Defeats

Patrick- None

Whiteley- None

Physical Comparison

Whiteley- 1″ height advantage

Strengths

Patrick- fighting at home, aggressive, grappling, top control, transitions, GnP, athleticism, Jungle Fight & Bitetti Combat experience

Whiteley- BJJ Blue belt, striking, finishing ability, knockout power (4 KOs), submissions (3 subs)

Weaknesses

Patrick- UFC debut, inexperience (10 fights), lack of adversity (undefeated), raw skill set, wild

Whiteley- UFC debut, inexperience (7 fights), fighting in Brazil, elite level inexperience

Key(s) to Victory

Patrick- He needs to be aggressive and look to overwhelm Whiteley with his pressure, building off of the momentum from the crowd. If he can get this fight to the ground he should look to a dominant position and then unload with a barrage of ground and pound.

Whiteley- He has to get off to a good start to overcome Octagon jitters and the impact of fighting in enemy territory. He should be the better striker and would be best suited to try and counter strike against Patrick who will leave openings with his wild approach.

Key(s) to Defeat

Patrick- He is still quite wild and if he gets too amped up from the pro-Brazilian atmosphere he will either leave an opening that his opponent will be able to capitalize on or simply gas himself out.

Whiteley- Similar to his opponent, Whiteley can not afford to get overwhelmed by the moment. If he can defend the TDAs of his opponent it could be a very long or potential very short night defending off his back.

Prediction

With two young and inexperienced fighters making their debuts head to head, this is a tough prediction with a number of unknown elements potentially playing a role. In addition to the potential for the dreaded Octagon shock, we need to consider the atmosphere of the fight. With the bout taking place in Brazil the crowd will be pumped up, even for the first fight of the night and it could result in one or both fighters being thrown off their game. Additionally, neither fighter has fought at this level before and without a single common opponent or anything even remotely close enough to draw comparison it is hard to judge how they stack up. Most signs point to Patrick as the one that should have the advantage when all of these factors are laid out on the table. He has the slight edge in experience with 3 more fights, has fought in the higher level organizations (Jungle fights and Bitetti Combat), winning a title in the latter, and he is fighting at home but these factors aren’t enough to base a prediction on.

Whitely trains under Chris Lytle and is a proven finisher with four knockouts and 3 submissions on his record. He is a BJJ blue belt and has shown himself quite capable on the mat with his top game and ground and pound. His striking is solid and he has the ability to hurt his opponent when he lands flush. Technically speaking, he is the more advanced fighter with Patrick still working to refine his skills. While still raw, Patrick is also capable of putting opponents way in multiple ways. He is aggressive with his wrestling, changing levels quickly to shoot and he is solid when he is on top. He has a decent transition game, quickly advancing his position and unloading with heavy handed barrages from full mount which are difficult to defend. He is also quite good in a scramble which could play a factor in this fight early on when both guys are still fresh and fighting for position. Whiteley is more refined, but Patrick is a solid athlete and is quite physically strong and should be the more battle tested fighter. Brazil is an unforgiving place for a veteran fighter, let alone a young debuting prospect and Patrick’s aggressive style will put the American on his heels early so my prediction is Alan Patrick to defeat Garett Whiteley by TKO.

 

Prelim Predictions

155lbs- Myles Jury (12-0-0) vs. Mike Ricci (9-3-0)

What have they done recently?

Jury- undefeated, 3 straight wins to start UFC career

Ricci- won UFC Lightweight debut, UFC record 1-1

Key Victories

Jury- Michael Johnson- Dec, Chris Saunders- Sub, Ramsey Nijem- KO

Ricci- Jordan Mein- Dec, Jesse Ronson- TKO, Colin Fletcher- Dec

Key Defeats

Jury- None

Ricci- Pat Curran- KO, Daron Cruickshank- Dec, Colton Smith- Dec

Physical Comparison

Ricci- 1″ height and 3″ reach advantages

Strengths

Jury- wrestling, takedowns (2.99 @ 63%) submissions (6 subs), positional control, transitions, BJJ Brown belt, calculated striking, footwork/angles/movement, knockout power (5 KOs), SApM (0.72), TUF experience

Ricci- knockout power (4 wins), grappling, BJJ Purple belt, takedowns (1 @ 100%), top control, Tri-Star Training camp

Weaknesses

Jury- inexperience (12 fights), lack of adversity faced (0 defeats)

Ricci- inexperience (11 fights), point scoring ability (3-2 in decisions), SLpM (1.87) vs SApm (1.73), TDD (7 TDs vs Smith)

Key(s) to Victory

Jury- Myles needs to use a well balanced combination of striking and grappling. Put Ricci on his back early, do some damage from top position, and then be aggressive when on the feet.

Ricci- Mike should focus first on establishing his jab and reach advantage to keep Jury on the outside and then change the pace of his attack by closing the distance and busting him up with some dirty boxing and short elbow strikes. If he does elect to take the fight to the ground he will need to be careful of the potential for sweeps and reversals.

Key(s) to Defeat

Jury- If Myles fails to get inside the slight reach of his opponent it will make it difficult to set up his wrestling and/or striking attack.

Ricci- If his grappling game becomes the sole focus of his attack he will struggle to score points.

Prediction

Both fighters are young well rounded talents, with a lot of potential. Jury has looked quite impressive in his 3 UFC fights, while Ricci is still trying to find stride after a tough debut and a pedestrian sophomore appearance.

Jury showed excellent grappling skills; especially with his transitions and timing on his takedowns, in his wins over strong wrestlers Ramsey Nijem and Michael Johnson. Conversely, Ricci did win fights with his top game both on the show and against Colin Fletcher, but his one sided loss to Colton Smith was concerning. It did take place at Welterweight, but Mike appeared to have limited to no answer to the continual takedown attempts or smothering top game of his opponent.

On the feet both guys have a decent ratio of knockout wins for their short careers. Jury has a calculated and well timed striking attack. He quickly picked up on the openings left by Nijem and countered for the knockout. His hands are good and he utilizes his entire arsenal including a strong push kick to help establish distance. Ricci striking is solid as well, he scored a brutal knockout of Neil Magny on TUF with a well placed elbow. Ricci reliance on grappling against a less then refined striker in Colin Fletcher doesn’t exactly produce a lot of confidence in his stand up attack.

Considering that both fighters come from good camps and are still quite young, it is hard to anticipate what improvements will have been made between their last appearance and this one. Winning the grappling component of the fight seems to be more integral to the success of the Canadian, as Jury’s striking appears to be a little more diverse. Jury’s success and experience with Nijem and Johnson on the mat are significant and Ricci is going to be severely shorthanded if he can’t control the grappling exchanges. Jury will have advantages no matter where the fight goes, so my prediction is Myles Jury to defeat Mike Ricci by decision.

135lbs- #10 Ivan Menjivar (25-10-0) vs. Wilson Reis (16-4-0)

What have they done recently?

Menjivar- losses in 2 of his last 3 appearences

Reis- 4 straight wins

Key Victories

Menjivar- Joe Lauzon- Sub, Nick Pace- Dec, John Albert- Sub, Azamat Gashimov- Sub

Reis- Zach Makovsky- Sub, Bryan Caraway- Dec, Henry Martinez- Dec, Deividas Taurosevičius- Slit Dec

Key Defeats

Menjivar- Urijah Faber x2- Sub & DQ, Mike Easton- Dec, Brad Pickett- Dec, Georges St-Pierre- TKO

Reis- Eduardo Dantas- KO, Patricio Freire x2- KO & Dec, Joe Soto- Dec

Physical Comparison

Menjivar- 2.5″ height and 2″ reach advantage

Strengths

Menjivar- experience (35 fights), UFC experience (6 fights), BJJ Brown belt, submissions (10 subs), grappling, offensive guard, transitions/ sweeps, knockout power (9 wins), striking variety, speed

Reis- BJJ Black belt, submissions (8 subs), takedowns, transitions, point scoring ability (8-2 in decisions), Bellator experience (9 fights)

Weaknesses

Menjivar- opponent change, point scoring ability (6-6 in decisions), SLpM (3.14) vs SApM (3.02), takedowns (0.78 @ 31%)

Reis- UFC debut, late replacement, cardio, wild striking, size, chin (2 KOs), striking defense, positional control

Key(s) to Victory

Menjivar- Ivan’s focus should be to keep this fight standing and work his striking, especially his range weapons. Reis’s technique is rough and is a drain on his cardio so he will slowdown. If the fight does go to the mat, Ivan needs to focus first on not getting caught in a bad position and then consider attacking or getting vertical.

Reis- Wilson has to get this fight to the ground early and focus on maintaining his position before looking for submissions. If he gets too aggressive, Menjivar is more then capable of countering on the mat. When standing, he has to conserve his gas tank and limit his opponent’s opportunities to attack by remaining calm and calculated.

Keys(s) to Defeat

Menjivar- If the takedowns of Reis force him to hesitate that will greatly depreciate the value of his striking.

Reis- Being too aggressive will lead to sloppy work both on feet and on the ground, resulting in defeat.

Prediction

This matchup was thrown together after Reis’s UFC Fight Night 28 opponent (Hugo Vianna) and Menjivar’s UFC 165 opponent (Kid Yamamoto) were both forced to withdraw. As a result, neither man has had the normal amount of prep time for their specific opponent, but they have both had full camps to prepare for a fight.

Reis is a BJJ Black belt with most of his wins coming by either submission or ground based decision. His takedowns aren’t the greatest, but if he can close the distance and tie up it can quickly turn in his favour. On the mat, he will make some positional mistake in pursuit of the finish, which can ultimately cost him in a longer fight. Menjivar is a crafty veteran and while he is more then capable of pulling off the submission win, at the very least he should be able to work his way out of any bad positions he finds himself in. If Reis takes a more conservative approach he could score some serious points with his top control and limit Menjivar’s openings to counter, but that would be out of character for the Brazilian.

The striking favours the UFC veteran. He has significant knockout power and throws a lot of difficult techniques to defend. He dos have a closer strikes landed to absorbed ratio, but that is partially from the elite level opponents he has faced. Reis likes to wing wild power punches, that can be dangerous if they land, but his accuracy is severely lacking. Wilson is also the shorter fighter so he will be forced to be much more active on the feet when attempting to get in range and combined with his wild style he tends to slowdown when forced to trade on the feet for prolong periods of time. His chin is also a question mark with a pair of knockout losses, and as he fatigues the potential for a flush shot to connect grows significantly. Menjivar will either defend or avoid the grappling attacks of Reis and dominate the striking exchanges so my prediction is Ivan Menjivar to defeat Wilson Reis by knockout.

170lbs- Chris Clements (11-4-0 1NC) vs. Stephen Thompson (7-1-0)

What have they done recently?

Clements- undefeated in 6 with last fight becoming a No Contest

Thompson- picked up 2nd UFC win, after suffering first loss of his career

Key Victories

Clements- Jonathan Goulet- KO, Rich Clementi- TKO, Keith Wisniewski- Split Dec

Thompson- Dan Stittgen- KO, Nah-Shon Burrell- Dec

Key Defeats

Clements- Rory Markham- TKO, Jesse Bongfeldt- Sub, John Alessio- Sub

Thompson- Matt Brown- Dec

Physical Comparison

Thompson- 2″ height and 5″ reach advantage

Strengths

Clements- knockout power (10 KOs), chin (1 KO loss), unorthodox striking style, SLpM (3.92), wide variety of strikes

Thompson- Black belt in kickboxing, Black belt in Karate, knockout power (3 KOs), kicking technique, SLpM (4.5), BJJ Blue belt, reach advantage (5″), TDD (64%), improving grappling game

Weaknesses

Clements- 14 month layoff, defensive grappling, submission defense (3 losses), TDD (47%, 8 TDs in 2 fights)

Thompson- grappling defence, inexperience (8 fights), cardio, durability

Key(s) to Victory

Clements- The Canadian needs to brawl the kickboxer and make this fight dirty. Chris will need to close the distance, landing with power, while not allowing his opponent to set up his striking repertoire. He needs to test the chin and resolve of Thompson to come out on top.

Thompson- ‘Wonderboy’ has the more refined striking arsenal, but needs to respect his opponent’s power. If he can set up and range and land his kick and punches, aided by his reach advantage, he will either outpoint or knockout his opponent. The addition of grappling/ clinch fighting shown in his last fight could also prove useful here.

Key(s) to Defeat

Clements- He can not try and trade shot for with Thompson or a big shot will eventually get past his guard. He also needs to avoid getting pinned along the wall or on the mat.

Thompson- Allowing Clements to throw big volume brawling barrages would be a disaster.

Prediction

Both fighters are striking based, but Thompson comes from a far more accomplished background and possesses the vastly more refined skill set. He has a diverse striking repertoire and while Clements will throw some interesting techniques, he can’t afford to go shot for shot with the American. Both guys have knockout power, Thompson is most likely to land with success if he is able to set up, while Clement would benefit from being aggressive and attempting to overwhelm his opponent with high volume onslaughts.

Clements has had issues in his career with his grappling defense and while Thompson is far from an elite level grappler, he could find some success here. In his last fight he controlled his opponent on the cage using a clinch based attack and if he can replicate that here it will score him some significant points along with short circuiting Clements’s strongest weapons. Thompson is the superior striker and has the edge in grappling, but his gas tank is a major concerns as he slowed down noticeably in each of his last 2 appearances. Clements is a pressure based fighter and should benefit from facing his first non-grappling based opponent of his UFC career, allowing him to bring the type of pressure that will exhaust Thompson and shutdown his striking, while opening up opportunities to land with power, so my prediction is Chris Clements to defeat Stephen Thompson by TKO.

135lbs- Mitch Gagnon (9-2-0) vs. Dustin Kimura (11-0-0)

What have they done recently?

Gagnon- won first UFC fight after dropping debut

Kimura- undefeated, won UFC debut

Key Victories

Gagnon- Walel Watson- Sub

Kimura- Chico Camus- Sub

Key Defeats

Gagnon- Bryan Caraway- Sub

Kimura- None

Physical Comparison

Kimura- 2″ height and 3″ reach advantage

Strengths

Gagnon- BJJ Blue belt, submissions (9 subs)), physical strength, wrestling, ground and pound, SLpM (2.5) vs SApM (0.94), striking defense (77%), TDD 67%, chokes (RNC & Guillotine), scrambles

Kimura- submissions ( 7 subs), offensive guard, grappling, submission variety, sweeps/ reversals, improving striking, reach/ height advantage

Weaknesses

Gagnon- cardio, heavily muscled, 12 month layoff, simplistic striking

Kimura- lack of adversity faced (0 losses), elite level experience, 8 month layoff, takedown defense, weight cut (139.5 I debut)

Key(s) to Victory

Gagnon- Mitch’s needs to use his power in tight and on the mat. Close the distance and bust Kimura up in the clinch and then when the fight goes to the ground posture up and land big power ground and pound. When on top he needs to be mindful of submission and sweep attempts.

Kimura- Dustin’s priority will be to gain top position whenever the fight goes to the ground, if he gets put on his back he has to be offensive and try to take Gagnon’s power top game out of the equation. On the feet, he will benefit tremendously if he can establish his distance, using his reach and long range striking weapons.

Key(s) to Defeat

Gagnon- Mitch’s cardio is a major question mark and if he can’t put Kimura away early, can he hang around for the long haul. Additionally, if can handle the offensive guard of his opponent he will lose some of his most productive weapons.

Kimura- Dustin spent a lot of time on his back in his debut, but he can’t afford to do that here. If Gagnon is able to maintain to position he will score points and do damage.

Prediction

Kimura showed an excellent offensive guard in his debut, eventually submitting Chico Camus late in the fight. Gagnon dominated early against Bryan Caraway with thunderous ground and pound and effective scrambling. He slowed later on from the high pace of the battle and was submitted, but rebounded to score a knockdown and quick submission victory in his second fight. Kimura is an effective grappler from both positions, but benefitted from a series of mistakes made by his opponent in top position leading to the win. He can’t afford to allow Gagnon to spend too much time on top with his thunderous ground and pound capabilities, but Gagnon’s raw physical strength and low stature will make it difficult for Kimura to score his own takedowns.

The American has the long range striking advantage with better kicks and a superior reach. Gagnon is far more suited to attack from close range, blasting his opponent with short elbows, knees, and dirty boxing. Neither man has noteworthy knockout numbers, but both are capable of hurting their adversary with a well timed attack. Gagnon’s conditioning is a major concern, but Kimura could have issues too as he struggled to make the 135 limit on short notice in his debut (139.5), having spent the majority of his career at 145. Look for the Canadian to close the distance, land big shots, and eventually capitalize on a broken down opponent so my prediction is Mitch Gagnon to defeat Dustin Kimura by submission.

155lbs- Renee Forte (8-2-0) vs. John Makdessi (11-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Forte- won his UFC Lightweight debut, after losing promotional debut

Makdessi- back to back wins after back to back losses

Key Victories

Forte- Terry Etim- Dec

Makdessi- Sam Stout- Dec, Daron Cruickshank- Dec, Kyle Watson- KO, Pat Audinwood- Dec

Key Defeats

Forte- Sergio Moraes- Sub

Makdessi- Dennis Hallman- Sub, Anthony Njokuani- Dec

Physical Comparison

Forte- 3″ reach advantage

Makdessi- 1″ height advantage

Strengths

Forte- BJJ Black belt, submissions (2 subs), grappling, improving striking, SLpM (2.59), SApM (1.03), striking accuracy (73%), takedowns (1.07 @ 67%), TDD (64%)

Makdessi- striking, knockout power (7 KOs), Taekwondo Black belt, Shotokan Black belt, SLpM (4.47), striking defense (76%), kicking techniques, TDD (88%)

Weaknesses

Forte- inexperience 10 fights, 8 month layoff, wild striking, striking accuracy (37%)

Makdessi- defensive grappling, SApM (3.37), submission defense ( 1 lose)

Key(s) to Victory

Forte- Renee has to close the distance and pressure Makdessi to shutdown his striking and set up potential grappling scenarios where he can control Makdessi and put him on his back.

Makdessi- Maintaining a comfortable striking range with a stiff jab and variety of kicking techniques will limit Forte’s already limited striking attack and make it difficult for him to bring his grappling into the fight.

Key(s) to Defeat

Forte- Fighting on the outside and trying to continually close the distance by rushing forward will get him countered and potentially knocked out.

Makdessi- If he spends too much time on the mat he will either get submitted or drop a decision.

Prediction

Forte is going to want to get this fight to the ground or at the very least spend the majority of this bout at short range and Makdessi needs to do the exact opposite. Forte had a lot of success blitzing Terry Etim with heavy handed brawling attacks, but he will struggle to find similar success against the crisp counter striking of Makdessi. John’s lead jab negated the majority of the striking offense of Sammy Stout, and unless Forte is able to bull rush him his already paltry striking accuracy is going to take a big hit here with a lot of swinging and missing. Adding to the Canadian’s advantage on the feet are the wide variety of unorthodox kicking techniques he employs. Forte will find it difficult to defend against these attacks and the added distance created by the kicks will further limit the success of striking. Unless Forte can blitz his way to a knockout he won’t be able to find enough consistent success on the feet to win a striking dominated fight.

Makdessi was submitted in his first career defeat and Forte is a BJJ Black belt, but his wrestling isn’t the strongest. Makdessi has had a lot of success defending takedown attempts, keeping the fight in his realm of dominance and this should continue here. Forte would be best served by trying to rush his opponent and create chaos leading to either a takedown or scramble opportunities. Again, just like with his striking, his success here will hinge on his ability to close the distance and that is going to be difficult. Makdessi will land the cleaner and greater number of striking techniques, while shutting down Forte’s grappling advances, so my prediction is John Makdessi to defeat Renee Forte by TKO.

155lbs- Michel Prazeres (16-1-0) vs. Jesse Ronson (13-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Prazeres- lost UFC debut, first defeat of his career

Ronson- 8 wins in a row

Key Victories

Prazeres- Leandro Silva- Dec,

Ronson- Ryan Healy- Dec, Alex Ricci- Dec

Key Defeats

Prazeres- Paulo Thiago- Dec

Ronson- Mike Ricci- TKO

Physical Comparison

Prazeres- cutting down from debut at 170 pounds

Ronson- 3″ height advantage

Strengths

Prazeres- submissions (8 subs), point scoring (7-1 in decisions), UFC debut experience, fighting at 155, physical strength, heavy leg kicks, takedowns

Ronson- kickboxing, knockout power (6 wins), takedown defense, body shots, kicking game, fighting at home,

Weaknesses

Prazeres- opponent change, knockout power (1 KO), striking technique, fighting in Canada

Ronson- UFC debut, late notice , elite level experience, defensive grappling,

Key(s) to Victory

Prazeres- Michel needs to use his leg kicks at distance to take some of the bounce out of Ronson’s legs and then shoot hard for a takedown or clinch up along the cage where he can try and drag the fight to the mat. Once on the ground he needs to start chaining submission attempts together until something sticks.

Ronson- He has to sprawl and brawl. Keep this fight at a comfortable distance, land his kicks and hands while being cautious not to get too aggressive and open up takedown opportunities. WhenJesse does defend the takedowns, he needs to separate quickly to avoid getting sucked into Prazeres guard.

Key(s) to Defeat

Prazeres- If he allows Ronson to land at will without making his grappling a major aspect of this fight he will come up short.

Ronson- The more time spent on his back the less likely he is to win this fight.

Prediction

Ronson is a kickboxer, from a striking based camp, but he does have some decent takedown defense to keep his fights where he wants them. Against a strong grappler like Prazeres he needs to land his strikes and keep his opponent moving backwards, while being mindful of the takedown threat. Using underhooks and a quick sprawl he has had a lot of success defending takedowns, including in one of his more recent wins against wrestler Ryan Healy. If he does get put on his back he will in trouble with some a physically strong and talented fighter like Prazeres on top. Ronson has good leg kicks and will also target the body with his punches which will be an effective weapon if he can land with regularity. He has to land first and more frequently to overshadow the potential takedowns that his opponent will be looking for.

The Brazilian is a submission fighter, but he has some decent striking chops. His leg kicks are heavy and despite his minimal knockout numbers he does pack a decent amount of power behind his punches. He doesn’t throw a lot of flashy techniques and keeps thing simple, focusing on closing the distance to set up his grappling attack. He is strong in the clinch, heavy on top, and has decent sweeps if he is forced to pull guard. He should have a marked advantage over Ronson whenever he can close the distance. He held his own against the much bigger Paulo Thiago at Welterweight and returning to 155, his strength and surprising speed should translate well. If Ronson can maintain separation he has the advantage, but the talent gap on the feet isn’t nearly as significant as it is on the mat favouring Prazeres, so my prediction is Michel Prazeres to defeat Jesse Ronson by submission.

135lbs- Alex Caceres (8-5-0 1NC) vs. Roland Delorme (9-1-0 1NC)

What have they done recently?

Caceres- a no contest in his last fight ended his 2 fight winning streak

Delorme- 3 wins in his last 4 fight, with 1 no contest

Key Victories

Caceres- Cole Escovedo- Dec, Damacio Page- Sub, Motonobu Tezuka- Split Dec

Delorme- Josh Ferguson- Sub, Nick Denis- Sub, Edwin Figueroa- Dec

Key Defeats

Caceres- Mackens Semerzier- Sub, Jimy Hettes- Sub, Edwin Figueroa- Split Dec

Delorme- Eric Wilson- Split Dec

Physical Comparison

Caceres- 1″ of height and 2″ reach advantage

Strengths

Caceres- submissions (4 subs), transitions, scrambles, subs/ 15 min (2.12), offensive guard, sweeps/ reversals, long limbs, SLpM (3.53), SApM (1.55), subs/ 15 min (2.12), cardio

Delorme- Judo Black belt, BJJ Brown belt, grappling, submissions (6 wins), takedowns (3.89 @ 41%), TDD (50%), sub/ 15 mins (2.6), transitions, improving striking, durability, home country advantage

Weaknesses

Caceres- inexperience (14 fights), submission defense (4 losses), takedowns (0.19 @ 100%)

Delorme- SLpM (2.88) vs SApM (4.38), striking defense, lack of striking variety, inexperience (11 fights)

Key(s) to Victory

Caceres- Caceres needs to score with his range striking, focusing on his kicking game. When the fight goes to the ground, he needs to be aggressive with his sweep and submission attempts to set up his offensive attack and it will also serve to wear his opponent down.

Delorme- Rollie has to be aggressive with his takedowns and attack the defensive wrestling of his opponent. Once on top he has to focus on position over submission to avoid losing the dominant position. When he does go for submission he needs to be 100% sure of the opportunity or wait until late in the round.

Key(s) to Defeat

Caceres- Brue Leeroy can’t spend the entire fight on his back with no answer for his opponent’s top game.

Delorme- If he can’t maintain top position or get the fight to the ground on his terms he will struggle to win this fight.

Prediction

Bruce Leeroy should have the striking advantage over Delorme. Rollie is a serviceable striker and keeps things simple, but effective. He keeps his hands up and tight and has surprised his opponents with his power and ability to find the mark with quick combinations. Leeroy is far more loose with his techniques and can really pile up the volume when is able to unload. He find success with his kicks keeping Delorme’s punches out of range.

The ground exchanges will be the deciding factor of this fight. Caceres has shown vulnerabilities with his wrestling defense, getting taken down with regularity, but he has started to turn this around. He doesn’t score a lot of takedowns, but with his offensive guard and aggressive sweep game he has become a handful for his adversaries. Delorme is a solid grappler with good submissions skills, takedown capabilities, and transitions, but he was struggling with the aggressive push back from Edwin Figueroa. Despite being the superior grappler, Delorme was noticeably slowing down on account of the high pace of the fight and was put in a number of bad positions, including a close triangle armbar combo. Caceres will have the advantage on the feet and Delorme is going to be constantly on the defensive even after scoring his takedowns which will tax the Canadian’s cardio so my prediction is Alex Caceres to defeat Roland Delorme by decision.

265lbs- Nandor Guelmino (11-4-1) vs. Daniel Omielanczuk (15-3-1 1NC)

What have they done recently?

Guelmino- 7 fight winning streak snapped in Strikeforce debut

Omielanczuk- 11 straight wins

Key Victories

Guelmino- Emil Zahariev- Dec, Ivo Ćuk- TKO, Saša Lazić- Sub

Omielanczuk- David Tkeshelashvili- Dec, Farrukh Mammadiev- Sub, Tadas Miceika- Sub

Key Defeats

Guelmino- Josh Barnett- Sub, Semmy Schilt- TKO

Omielanczuk- Michal Wlodarek- Split Dec, David Oliva- Dec

Physical Comparison

Guelmino- 3″ height advantage

Omielanczuk- 10 pound weight advantage

Strengths

Guelmino- submissions (6 wins), Taekwondo Black belt, kickboxing Strikeforce debut experience

Omielanczuk- submissions (9 wins), leg kicks, takedowns

Weaknesses

Guelmino- UFC debut, 8 month layoff, defensive grappling, TDD, chin (3 KOs)

Omielanczuk- UFC debut, 9 month layoff, elite level inexperience

Key(s) to Victory

Guelmino- Nador needs to use his kicks to back Omielanczuk up and then try to counter as he comes forward looking to take the fight to the ground. If the fight does hit the mat ‘the Hun’ must be aggressive off of his back and either attack or get back to his feet quickly.

Omielanczuk- He has to get inside of the range of his opponent and drag the fight to the ground. Once on top he needs to focus on maintaining position and doing damage, before eventually looking for submission opportunities.

Key(s) to Defeat

Guelmino- Spending too much time on his back.

Omielanczuk- Either failing altogether to score takedowns or doing nothing with the position once he gets it there.

Prediction

This is matchup of a pair of debuting, European based heavyweights with limited big fight experience. There is a significant amount of unknown surrounding how each of these fighters will perform inside the Octagon. Nador had a brief debut in Strikeforce, showing next to nothing offensively in just over 2 minutes of action. While Omielanczuk is making his big fight debut, with a lot of momentum built off of 11 straight wins, but against some less then top level competition.

‘The Hun’ is a striking based fighter with a Taekwondo background, but he has won the majority of his bout by submissions, while suffering a trio of knockout defeats. His defensive grappling is in need of some work, as he has been taken down relatively easily in a number of different fights. He will try and attack off his back with subs or sweeps, but opponents have had success fending off the majority of his offensive guard work. Omielanczuk has won the majority of his fights by submission and has shown a comparable takedown and top game, which should be his main offensive weapons against Guelmino. On the feet he will use a stiff low kick to set the range and limit his opponent’s mobility which should come in handy as a counter to the reach of his taller opponent. Omielanczuk’s takedowns and top game combined with Nador’s defensive grappling issues appears to be the most clear path to victory for either fighter, so my prediction is Daniel Omielanczuk to defeat Nador Guelmino by submissions.

Prelim Predictions

145lbs- Felipe Arantes (15-4-1 1NC) vs. Kevin Souza (13-3-0)

What have they done recently?

Arantes- 2 wins and a draw in his last 3 fights

Souza- 7 straight wins

Key Victories

Arantes- John Lineker- Sub, Antonio Carvalho- Dec, Godofredo Castro- TKO

Souza- Fabiano Nogueira- TKO/KO x2, Joao Antonio de Oliveira Gois- TKO, Mauro Chaulet- KO

Key Defeats

Arantes- Yuri Alcantara- Dec, Rony Jason- Sub,

Souza- Marcos Vinicius – Sub

Physical Comparison

Souza- 4″ height advantage

Strengths

Arantes- Black belt in Muay Thai, Purple belt in BJJ, knockout power (7 KOs), striking accuracy (54%), SLpM (3.03), striking defence (69%), SApM (1.92), UFC experience (4 fights), chin (0 KOs), GnP

Souza- knockout power (12 KOs), height advantage, boxing, aggressive striker, good movement, high volume striker, level changes, reach

Weaknesses

Arantes- TDD (43%), grappling defense, point scoring (4-3 in decisions), opponent change

Souza- UFC debut, submission defence (3 losses), guard game, late notice replacement, lack of elite level experience, limited kicking game, holds hands low,

Key(s) to Victory

Arantes- Felipe needs to use his more diverse Muay Thai attack, focussing on his kicks to help combat the reach advantage of his opponent. Threatening with takedowns will both set up his brutal ground and pound if completed and keep Souza from being too aggressive.

Souza- Big Kev has to use his reach to keep the shorter Arantes at the end of his combinations. He throws with power and relatively high volume, which will be important to keep Arantes from setting up his own strikes and/or takedowns attempts.

Key(s) to Defeat

Arantes- A lack of a ground threat will allows his rangier opponent to establish his boxing and land with regularity.

Souza- He holds his hands low which creates openings for his opponent to attack and a lack of a strong kicking game makes him one dimensional. His biggest setback would come from an inability to keep this fight standing and being forced to defend off of his back.

Prediction

Souza is taking this fight on roughly a month’s notice and it will be further complicated by this being his UFC debut. A brief camp with limited time to peak physically combined with the effects of Octagon shock can significantly impact a fighter. Additionally, Souza is a big 145er at 6’0 tall and while he is seizing his opportunity to get his first UFC fight, is a month enough time to make the cut to 145 properly with significantly diminishing his physical capabilities? It will have been a little over 4 months since his last fight and unless he was training for another bout, a big cut in 30 days isn’t a good thing. So before stepping inside the cage the impacts of the short notice, a potentially difficult weight cut, and the debut jitters are all potential negative factors for Souza.

Souza is primarily a boxer with nasty knockout power and he attacks with an aggressive high output onslaught. He style is quite similar to Anderson Silva’s; using a low wide base, with his hands held a little lower then they should be. This is one of two major drawbacks to his attack along with leaving himself open defensively by hanging his hands, he uses a very limited kicking arsenal. Arantes is a Muay Thai striker and has a far more diverse striking repertoire. He also has respectable power, but the key difference is the variety of strikes he use- focusing on his kicks. His leg attack will allow him to overcome the reach advantage of Souza and should allow him stay just out of the boxing range, despite the length deficit.

Arantes is also a BJJ purple belt with 4 submission wins, and is coming off an impressive TKO stoppage of Godofredo Pepey via ground and pound. He really hasn’t showcased a dominant ground game but, he did score a pair of takedowns against Milton Vieira and his impress sweeps and then defense to offense transition on the mat versus Pepey were quite impressive. Souza has suffered all 3 of his defeats via submission and was getting dominated on the mat in his final Jungle Fight appearance, before scoring the quick knockout. He clearly has a deficiency on the mat that most of his opponents attempt to key on and Arantes should be no different.

Arantes is the more diverse striker, he should have a marked grappling advantage, and overall he is the more season and savvy UFC veteran. The multitude of negative factors impacting Souza (short notice, debut, weight cut) are enough to persuade against picking a fighter. Although he is a talented striker, this is a big step up in competition for a fighter that is relatively one dimensional in his attack so my prediction is Felipe Arantes to defeat Edimilson Souza by decision.

155lbs- Lucas Martins (12-1-0) vs. Ramiro Hernandez (13-4-0)

What have they done recently?

Martins- 1-1 in his first 2 UFC bouts

Hernandez- back to back wins

Key Victories

Martins- Jeremy Larsen- KO

Hernandez- Eric Wisely- Dec x2, Chris Tickle- Sub,

Key Defeats

Martins- Edson Barboza- Sub (punches)

Hernandez- Pat Curran- Dec, Michael Johnson- Dec, Jared Downing- Dec, Jeremy Spoon- Dec

Physical Comparison

Martins- 1.5″ reach advantage cutting from 155 to 135 pounds

Hernandez- cutting from 145 to 135 pounds

Strengths

Martins- Muay Thai, aggression, finishing ability, diverse striking attack, knockout power (9 KOs), Chute Boxe camp, fighting at home

Hernandez- knockout power (4 KOs), amateur boxing background, kickboxing, submissions (5 wins), good head movement, calculated striker, cardio

Weaknesses

Martins- SApM (6.07), durability (tapped to strikes), striking defence (holds chin high), cutting from 155 to 135. wild striker, vulnerable to right hand

Hernandez- point scoring (4-4 in decision), cutting from 145 to 135 pounds, UFC debut, fighting in Brazil, grappling defense

Key(s) to Victory

Martins- Lucas has power, but needs to avoid chasing the knockout and fight at a more measured pace. The more he can mix in his kicking arsenal the more effective he will be.

Hernandez- ‘Junior’ is the more calculated striker and he needs to avoid being drawn into wild exchanges. If he can pick his spots and wait for Martins to open up he should have plenty of openings to capitalize on.

Keys(s) to Defeat

Martins- If the impact of cutting down 2 division is too significant Martins is going to struggle maintain his typical pace, leading him to him slowing down and leaving openings to be countered.

Hernandez- His opponent does have power and if he connects, Junior could be in trouble. Hernandez is also dropping a division and a cardio issue would be a major setback.

Prediction

Martins has won 9 times by knockout including his come from behind third round KO of Jeremy Larsen in his last bout. He is an aggressive striker, exemplifying the Chute Boxe style. He fights from a Muay Thai base, throwing a variety of strikes and is capable of landing a well timed counter. He has the power to shut off an opponent with one shot and it should translate well in his new weight class, but his defensive striking is a significant drawback. In both the Barbosa and Larson fights he took some big shots and was dropped a couple of times. He appears to be incredibly vulnerable to a right hand, with Larson connecting over and over again with his big power hand power strikes. He also lifts his chin when under attack leaving him even more exposed and prone to getting knocked out.

Hernandez is also a striking based fighter, with an amateur boxing record of 10-5. He has a quartet of wins by knockout and is a more technically refined striker then his opponent. He has good head and foot movement, and will attack with high volume output. He has won a pair of decisions over UFC veteran Eric Wisely, showcasing his striking skills combined with above average cardio. If he can avoid getting drawn into a slugfest with Martins, there should be plenty of opportunities for him to land both his initial attacks and slip in some counters.

Both fighters have fought at Lightweight, and are now debuting as 135 pounders. For Hernandez, he spent a number of fights at 145 which should make the cut a little less drastic and toll taking. For Martins, he is moving directly from 155 to 135, which is a significant cut. He fights at a high pace and with his striking trending towards the wild side it can be taxing on a fighter’s conditioning as was evident in the Larsen fight. Hernandez is making his UFC debut and doing in enemy territory, which is double tough, but the cut for Martins should have a greater impact on the outcome of the fight. Hernandez is the more technically refined striker, his cardio is better, and if Martins begins to slow down from the cut and/or his wild style he will become even more susceptible to getting tagged with a big right hand or any other big shot so my prediction is Ramiro Hernandez to defeat Lucas Martins by knockout.

185lbs- Joao Zeferino (13-5-0) vs. Elias Silverio (8-0-0)

What have they done recently?

Zeferino- 7 fight winning streak snapped in UFC debut

Silverio- 8 wins to start his career

Key Victories

Zeferino- Sean Salmon- Sub

Silverio- Junior Orgulho- Dec, Pat DeFranco- Split Dec

Key Defeats

Zeferino- Rafael Natal- Dec

Silverio- None

Physical Comparison

Zeferino- 2″ height advantage

Strengths

Zeferino- submissions (9 subs), BJJ, sweeps, transitions, offensive guard, unorthodox throws/takedowns, Muay Thai, Rufus Sport training camp, UFC debut experience

Silverio- knockout power (3 KOs), Muay Thai, thai clinch & knees, point scoring ability (5-0 in decisions)

Weaknesses

Zeferino- wild striking, cardio, chin (3 KOs), opponent change, SLpM (0.93 in debut)

Silverio- late notice replacement, inexperience (8 fights), lack of adversity (0 losses), defensive grappling, offensive top game

Key(s) to Victory

Zeferino- Joao should look to drag this fight to the ground and he has a variety of unorthodox takedowns which should keep Silverio from being too aggressive when on the feet. His aggressive submission game should provide him with a number of opportunities to attack on the mat.

Silverio- Silverio does his best work on the feet and his focus should be on keeping it there. He has used takedowns and top control to score points, but that would play right into the strength of his opponent.

Key(s) to Defeat

Zeferino- His striking tends to be on the wild side and will leave him open against a superior striker.

Silverio- With limited experience against grappling based opponents, testing the waters on the mat with Zeferino would be a mistake.

Prediction

Zeferino has the advantage of having fought in the UFC once already, which is significant. He also competed at 185 against a veteran in Rafael Natal, so cutting down to 170 where he appears to be more naturally suited should also be a positive gain and he is taking on an opponent more suited to the level he is currently at.

Silverio comes in with an undefeated record, but with only 8 fights there are still some question marks. The Jungle Fight promotion provides decent competition, but this is a big step up. Additionally, it can be difficult for an undefeated opponent (see Nikita Krylov @ UFC 164) who hasn’t faced a lot of adversity to deal with the scenario where he doesn’t immediately smash through his opponent. With all 8 of his fights coming inside the last 2 years it is really hard to gauge the consistency and he is making his debut on short notice which can be difficult.

Zeferino is a submission fighter and far from textbook at that. He uses a variety of takedowns and throws, which can be hard to anticipate against. Additionally, he has won by a variety of different submissions and he has a sneaky way of setting up his attempts by hiding them from this opponent until the last moment. In his wins over Sean Salmon and Wellington de Oliveira he was able to disguise his submission attempts and effectively limit his opponents chance of defending against them. For Silverio he has limited experience with grapplers. Of his 8 opponents, 7 of them have won by submission 4 times or less, with most sitting between 2 and zero. In his split decision win over Pat DeFranco he struggled to mount much offense off of his back, riding out the round after being taken down and simply enduring the damage.

On the feet Silverio should have the advantage. He is a Muay Thai based striker with decent knockout power and noteworthy finishing instincts. His thai clinch and knee attacks are an effective weapon, but in order to use them he will need to be mindful of the clinch based trips and throws of his opponent. Zeferino is a little more wild on the feet and has no standing knockouts on record. The effect of his grappling advantage should aid him with the striking exchanges, helping to stunt the aggression of his opponent.

An undefeated record looks nice, but it can be misleading and while Silverio certainly has some decent skills, he is relatively untested. Zeferino is the more experienced fighter and his grappling advantage should have a significant impact on this bout, so my prediction is Joao Zeferino to defeat Elias Silverio by submission.

170lbs- Keith Wisniewski (28-13-1) vs. Ivan Jorge (24-3-0)

What have they done recently?

Wisniewski- back to back losses

Jorge- 6 fight winning streak

Key Victories

Wisniewski- Eddie Sanchez- Sub, Jorge Santiago- KO, Carlo Prater- Dec, Pete Spratt- Sub

Jorge- Lucio Abreu- Sub, Lindeclecio Oliveira- Sub, Jiovane Salviano Silva- Sub

Key Defeats

Wisniewski- Chris Clements- Split Dec, Josh Neer- TKO, Jorge Masvidal- Dec, Shinya Aoki- Sub

Jorge- Andre Santos- Dec, Luis Santos- KO, Yuri Ivlev- TKO

Physical Comparison

Wisniewski- 2″ height advantage

Jorge- moving up from Lightweight

Strengths

Wisniewski- experience (43 fights), submission skills (15 wins), size advantage, takedowns (2.12 @ 43%), TDD 75%, gritty style, chin

Jorge- submission skills (13 wins), back mount (7 wins by RNC), transitions, top control, point scoring (8-1 in decisions)

Weaknesses

Wisniewski- 16 month layoff, fighting in Brazil, submission defense (4 losses), point scoring (7-7 in decisions), SApM (4.96), leaves head/chin exposed, bleeder

Jorge- late notice replacement, undersized, UFC debut, chin (2 KOs), durability, reliance on grappling

Key(s) to Victory

Wisniewski- Keith needs to make this a war attrition. If he can defend the takedowns and pile up the damage on Jorge the Brazilian will fade. Additionally, the size advantage needs to made into an issue favouring the American., especially in the clinch where Keith should be able to do some serious damage with his dirty boxing.

Jorge- ‘Batman’ should have a speed advantage and he needs to out quick Wisniewski while trying to pull the fight to the ground. His back mount is his most effective position and would make the size issue non-existent, long with giving him plenty of submission opportunities.

Key(s) to Defeat

Wisniewski- An inability to defend that takedowns and then keep Jorge from advancing his position once they hit the ground would be his undoing.

Jorge- Getting drawn into a slugfest with a bigger man will play against him and take time away from his grappling game.

Prediction

There are a number of external factors impacting this fight before the opening bell even sounds. Jore is making his promotional debut, which can he difficult and to further complicate the situation he is moving up a weight class from Lightweight to Welterweight. The temporary division change is attempt to help him overcome the possibility of a tough weight cut after taking this fight on very short notice, but he is going to have to deal with a larger opponent. He is fighting at home in Brazil which should give him an added bounce, but not the same can be said for his American counterpart. Wisniewski will be entering hostile territory which is tough in itself, but he is also coming off a 16 month layoff so little big of ring rust is a possibility. Keith is a veteran of 40+ fights and has fought all over the world, so he should be able to deal with this setback. Finally, Wisniewski has dropped back to back fight since returning to the UFC and knows he enter this fight with his back against the wall and his job on the line.

Jorge is primarily a grappler with almost all of his wins coming by either submission or grappling based decision. He has good takedowns and solid transitions. His ability to put himself in position for potential submissions is impressive, with his back mount being his most lethal position. While he is capable of pulling of a number of different submissions, the Mata leão (rear naked choke) appears to be his finisher of choice. If he can get his opponent in this position, especially early on while he is still fresh, that will be to his advantage and could lead to the finish as Wisniewski has been submitted 4 times in his career.

Wisniewski is a veteran fighter that has a tonne of experience. He fights at a very deliberate, but high volume pace, absorbing and dishing out lot of punishment. He has racked up a number of submission wins and showed a pretty decent takedown game against Chris Clements, but he should focus more on his defensive grappling at least early on. His size and ability to strike at a high volume is a key to his victory. By clinching up with Jorge and working his dirty boxing, especially the elbow strikes, he will take a lot of the smaller fighter. Jorge has been KOed twice and seems to struggle when his opponent is able to put the pressure on with his striking.

The outside factors are a major concern for both fighters, but Wisniewski’s veteran experience should make him the more likely candidate to overcome these issues. Jorge appears to be a little one dimensional and while he is good at that one dimension, he is going to struggle to get his larger and grappling versed opponent into a position to use those skills. Wisniewski is desperate for win and his gritty style and size should be enough here so my prediction is Keith Wisniewski to defeat Ivan Jorge by TKO.

170lbs- Yuri Villefort (6-2-0) vs. Sean Spencer (9-2-0)

What have they done recently?

Villefort- back to back losses including UFC debut

Spencer- 3 fight winning streak snapped in debut

Key Victories

Villefort- Jason Fitzhugh- Sub, Julio Cesar Andrade- Dec, Joshua Lee- TKO

Spencer- Evan Cutts- Dec, Joseph Daily- Sub, Derrick Krantz- Dec

Key Defeats

Villefort- Quinn Mulhern- Split Dec, Nah-Shon Burrell-