UFC Fight Night 103: Rodriguez vs Penn Preliminary Predictions
125lbs- #8 John Moraga (16-5-0) vs #15 Sergio Pettis (14-2-0)
Getting the bump up to the main card, Flyweights John Moraga and Sergio Pettis look to continue their push to the top of the division in a crucial bout for both sides. Moraga was last seen dropping a split decision to Matheus Nicolau for his second consecutive loss- he had picked up back to back submission wins prior to his recent downturn. Pettis has rallied from his 2015 upset loss to Ryan Benoit, defeating both Chris Cariaso and Chris Kelades by decision.
Both men are 5’6″, but Pettis will have a 3″ reach advantage. Sergio is the younger man by 9-years.
Pettis is 5-2 in the UFC with both of his defeats coming via stoppage when he was most likely ahead with the judges. He is a perfect 8-0 on the cards with his 6 finishes split evenly between submissions and knockouts. Sergio has yet to finish an opponent inside the Octagon. Moraga’s last 2 wins pushed his submission total to 8. He has lost his last 2 decisions, with his last 15-minute win coming by split decision. Moraga won his debut by TKO.
Despite climbing the ladder very quickly in his UFC career, Moraga has just a single win on his record over a fighter currently residing on the UFC’s Flyweight roster. Offensively, John has been out-landed on the feet in 6 of the last 8 fights. He has a decent boxing attack, but too often he allows his opponent to strike first. While coming from a wrestling background, the former challenger’s wrestling game hasn’t served him well of late. He has averaged just over 0.5 completions per fight, giving up 23 takedowns compared to just 4 of his own.
On average, Sergio’s offensive output is superior to that of Moraga by a ratio of almost 2-1. He throws slick combinations, augmented by a decent kicking attack. He doesn’t have a tonne of pop in his strikes, but his speed allows him to routinely beat his opponent to the punch. The offensive wrestling of Pettis has also taken a notable upturn in recent contests. He has completed 6-takedowns over his last 3 bouts, including a trio of completions against Chris Cariaso. His defense has also improved as well, but if he gets taken down he is active off his back with submissions and sweeps.
While Moraga has faced the superior level of competition, Pettis is building some decent momentum of late. Moraga might be best served to use his wrestling and put Sergio on his back for the duration of the bout. Conversely, Moraga’s struggle with staying vertical and Sergio’s recent wrestling success could see the opposite scenario materialize. Pettis’s work rate and willingness to push forward combined with a couple of takedowns will give him the edge over the full 15-minutes, my prediction is Sergio Pettis to defeat John Moraga by decision.
265lbs- Aleksei Oleinik (50-10-1) vs Viktor Pesta (10-3-0)
In a battle of European Heavyweights, Viktor Pesta of the Czech Republic meets the Ukraine’s Aleksei “The Boa Constrictor” Oleinik. Pesta has lost back to back fights after a second round KO loss against Marcin Tybura. Oleinik returned from a prolonged layoff and lost a decision to Daniel Omielanczuk to end his 11-fight winning streak.
Pesta is an inch taller, but will give up 3 inches of reach with both men weighing around the 240 mark. Pesta is the younger man by 13-years.
The Czech grinder has been knocked out in back to back fights after showing a decent chin in his debut decision defeat. He is 3-1 on the cards to go along with 4 wins by knockout and a trio of submission wins. Oleinik has a massive experience advantage with 61 total fights. A Master of Sport in Combat Sambo and BJJ Black belt, he has recorded 41-wins by submission- most by some form of choke.
Pesta has relied heavily on his takedowns over his UFC run. Over his first 3 contests, he completed 10 takedowns, including 5 in his loss to Derrick Lewis. Viktor will either shoot in from the outside or clinch up and change levels to pull out his opponent’s base. Once on the mat, he utilizes a smothering top game to control his opponent while doing damage. Pesta’s striking is a secondary aspect of his attack. His volume is lacking and his tendency to lunged forward when engaging leaves him open to counters.
The layoff certainly could have played a role in his last performance, but pushing 40 and with bad knees, Oleinik’s issues could have been more than just the prolonged break. That being said, he got off to a strong start and spent the majority of the opening frame dominating the grappling exchanges. Everything that Aleksei does is heavy, not pretty, but heavy. He grinds opponents down, constantly looking to advance position and setup sub opportunities. He has won multiple fights via the unorthodox scare-hold headlock sub. On the feet, he slings heavy leather at close range while looking to close the distance.
Pesta is the younger man, but he appears to have less tools in the tool bag than his foe. His striking lacks the ferocity of Oleinik’s offerings both in power and volume. This will force him to rely heavily on his primary weapon and by taking Oleinik down, it plays directly into his submission-heavy attack. Oleinik struggled in the second half of his last fight, but against a much more experienced opponent who was able to find some success on the feet. That won’t be the case here. Look for Pesta to struggle with the aggression of the veteran and eventually wind up on his back where his submission defense will be put to the test- my prediction is Aleksei Oleinik to defeat Viktor Pesta by submission.
155lbs- Tony Martin (10-3-0) vs Alex White (11-2-0)
In the Lightweight division, Tony Martin looks to build on his most recent UFC victory when he takes on Alex “The Spartan” White. White is coming off a win over Artem Lobov to even his Octagon ledger at 2-2. Martin most recently defeated Felipe Oliveiri to improve to 2-1 over his last 3 fights- he earned a submission win over Fabricio Camoes at UFC 179.
White hasn’t fought in just over 11-months, while Martin has been on the shelf for nearly a year. Both men are 6’0″, but Martin will have a 2″ reach advantage. White has previously competed at Featherweight prior to this contest, moving up to take this fight on 1-month’s notice.
“The Spartan” owns the more diversified record, with 9 finishes- 5 by submission. He is 2-1 on the scorecards with 5 first round finishes. Martin’s record is more indicative of a specialist. Of his 10 wins, 8 have come by submission- showcasing a variety of holds. Tony has been subbed twice, both in the UFC, and is 2-1 in decisions. Both men arrived in the promotion undefeated.
White showcased his power in his debut, stopping a veteran fighter cold in under 2-minutes. Alex throws a solid right hand, cracking Artem on a couple of occasions. He is willing to stand and trade, but defensively he is quite hittable. Lobov was having success early, catching him in the pocket and Lucas Martins KOed him in the final round of a good scrap. White needs to avoid pushing forward behind his punches without moving his head. He did pick up a trio of takedowns in his last fight, but hasn’t shown his previously successful submission skills.
While adding to his submission totals, Martin demoed improved striking in his last bout. He continuously landed a strong right hand and pressured his foe. Martin did end up on the wrong end of the striking totals at 80-67, absorbing nearly 30 low kicks over 15 minutes. A BJJ Brown belt, White’s strength is his submission game. He has a physically overwhelming top position presence and while he has landed at least 1 takedown in 4 of 5 fights- he completes just 21% of his attempts. The big knock on Tony has been his cardio. After getting off to strong starts in multiple fights he has faded badly and either been finished or simply outworked.
White is moving up a division on short notice, but with a month to prepare he may actually benefit from the jump. He will want to keep this contest vertical as much as possible, especially early. Alex can put up some decent striking totals and is the superior offensive striker. If Martin can take him down, he should be able to overwhelm the former 145er. The big question is, without an early finish- how will Tony’s cardio hold up. White could be rendered defensive early on, but Martin’s lack of a strong wrestling attack is going to cost him. Martin might win the opening round, but he will start to slow and White will get the better of the striking exchanges in rounds 2 and 3- my prediction is Alex White to defeat Tony Martin by decision.
155lbs- Devin Powell (8-1-0) vs Drakkar Klose (6-0-1)
In a battle of debuting prospects, Devin Powell goes toe to toe with MMA Lab product Drakkar Klose in the Lightweight division. Powell has torn through 6 consecutive opponents, including his only WSOF appearance. Klose has yet to taste defeat, with his only non-victorious effort coming in the form of a split-draw in early 2016.
At 6’0″ even, Powell is 3 inches taller than Klose but they will share a 70″ reach. Klose is just 8-days older than his opponent.
After scoring 4 TKO victories over his first 5 bouts, Klose has gone the distance in each of his last 2 outings to improve his record to 2-0-1 on the scorecards. Drakkar has recorded a pair of opening round stoppages to go along with 2 more in the middle frame. Powell’s only loss came on the cards back in 2013. All 5 of Powell’s finishes, 3 by tap out, have gone down in round 1. He is 3-1 in decisions.
Powell enters the UFC as a product of the Dana White talent search series. Most reports regarding the newcomer are not overly complimentary. His last 4 opponents have accounted for a combined record of 33-31. In his last fight, he wobbled his adversary with a high kick before locking up a standing guillotine for the tap. All indications are that he is a kick-first fighter that is willing to trade on the feet. His forward aggression can transition to a takedown attempt, but he is more apt to look for a submission instead of grinding up the clock from top position.
Klose’s offense is built around his punching power. He throws decent combinations, set up by a strong jab. In an attempt to draw out his opponent’s attack, he will work some head fakes and look to counter strike. There isn’t much tape of Drakkar on the mat, but in one of his recent wins he dropped his foe with a hard right hand and scored the finished with heavy knees to his opponent’s side. In recent action, Klose has seen a rise in average fight time which usually comes with an increase in competition. He is also stepping into this contest on 3-week’s notice as a late injury replacement.
There is a lot of unknown surrounding this fight; with both men making their debuts, the short notice factor for Klose, and the overall limited amount of experience on both sides. Klose appears to be the more gifted fighter both technically and athletically. Powell’s reliance on a kick first offense with a low-level wrestling attack to back it up will make it hard for him to handle the output of a more conventional striker like Klose. There is no telling how either man will perform under these circumstances, but my prediction is Drakkar Klose to defeat Devin Powell by TKO.
115lbs- Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-3-0) vs Nina Ansaroff (6-5-0)
Headlining the Fight Pass undercard, a pair of Top 15 hopefuls collide in the Women’s Strawweight division as Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger fights Nina “The Strina” Ansaroff. JJL is 0-2 in the UFC with losses to Randa Markos and Tecia Torres. Ansaroff boasts a similar Octagon record, dropping decisions to Juliana Lima and Justine Kish.
Jones-Lybarger is 2 inches taller than her adversary, but will give up an inch of reach.
With just a single finish on her record, Jones-Lybarger is no stranger to the judge’s scorecards. She is 5-3 in decisions. Ansaroff has picked up a 4-pack of knockouts to go along with a 1-1 record in fights ending by submission. “The Strina” is a dismal 1-4 on the cards.
Lybarger is a willing combatant in the striking department. She sits down on her strikes and will trade in the pocket. The short notice of her debut made it hard for her to match the pace of Torres, but she landed 79 significant strikes against Markos over 3-rounds. JJL throws a long left jab and will sling a hook from the right side. As her record indicates, she doesn’t have a lot of power which makes it difficult for her to back her foe up when exchanging. Jocelyn tends to dip her head when attacking which opens her up to counters.
Against a dangerous striker in Kish, Ansaroff held her own. She landed quick combos with decent pop and augmented her hands with a snappy push kick to the body. Nina turned the aggression of Kish against her, countering as she pushed forward. In the second round, she appeared to hurt Justine with a hard combination and a high kick in the aftermath. She landed just a single takedown, but routinely looked to tie up Kish in the clinch when they closed. If the opportunity presents itself, look for Ansaroff to jump on a submission opportunity.
With both girls willing to exchange in the pocket, this fight has a lot of potential. Both girls throw with decent volumes, but the power edge lies with Nina. Her accuracy was impressive against Kish and her counter striking will serve her well against over-extensions of JJL. The kicking attack will also be a key weapon for Ansaroff. Nina could also opt to look for a takedown, but she needs to avoid giving up position in pursuit of a sub. Jones-Lybarger’s willingness to absorb punishment to stay in range is going to cost her here, my prediction is Nina Ansaroff to defeat Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger by TKO.
265lbs- Walt Harris (8-5-0) vs Chase Sherman (9-2-0)
In the Heavyweight division, Walt “The Big Ticket” Harris takes on Chase “The Vanilla Gorilla” Sherman. In an unsuccessful debut, Sherman lost a decision to rising prospect Justin Ledet. Harris is 1-4 inside the Octagon after losing a narrow split decision to Shamil Adburakhimov.
At 6’5″, Harris is an inch taller than his opponent, but will give up an inch of reach. Sherman is the younger many by 6-years and both fighters should weigh in around 250 pounds.
Harris has been a knockout or bust fighter, earning all 8 of his wins via KO or TKO. He has been knocked out twice and has an 0-3 record on the scorecards. Despite the split decision outcome in his last fight, he is a dismal 0-4 when forced to fight beyond round 1. Sherman is coming off just the second loss of his pro career. He dropped a 2014 TKO defeat to Alex Nicholson. Chase’s debut was his first bout to last longer than 5-minutes, including 6-wins before the 2-minute mark. All 9 of his wins have come by knockout.
“Big Ticket” appears to have all the tools to be a force, but inside the Octagon he simply has not performed. He did finish Cody East with a big right hand, in a bout where he was probably losing the first round. Averaging 2.36 SLpM and carrying a -0.81 striking exchange rate, Walt has had issues with getting outworked. He has some pop in his hands and will pair his punches together, but he often defaults to single strikes between periods of inactivity. Harris’s his kicking attack is a little stiff, but he still throws with power.
Sherman’s strikings trends toward the stiff side. His raw athletic ability helped him to overcome his technical shortcomings on the regional level. Against Ledet, the superior striker routinely beat Chase to the punch and fed the Mississippi-native a steady diet of jabs. Sherman did land some chopping low kicks, connecting 26-times to his foe’s lower half- almost 50% of his offense. While his chin held up, he got cracked with a 100+ striking onslaught. His defense is porous and he leaves his chin up and his head on the center line.
Harris’s hasn’t faired well in the UFC, but he has added a depth of experience that Sherman has yet to gain. Sherman’s level of comfort should improve for his second bout, but that might not lead to a better outcome. Harris is the quicker fighter and will have the edge in overall striking capability. The frequency at which Sherman got hit by Ledet is concerning especially if Harris is able to land at a similar rate. Harris will beat Sherman to the punch and eventually land something of significance, my prediction is Walt Harris to defeat Chase Sherman by TKO.
205lbs- Bojan Mihajlovic (10-4-0) vs Joachim Christensen (13-4-0)
The second fight of the undercard pits Denmark against Serbia in the Light Heavyweight division as Joachim Christensen meets Bojan Mihajlovic. Christensen made an unsuccessful first UFC showing last October, losing to Luis Henrique da Silva by submission- he had won 5 consecutive fights. Mihajlovic debuted in the Heavyweight division, lasting just 94-seconds with Francis Ngannou to snap his 10-fight win streak.
Bojan will be debuting as a Light Heavyweight, he weighed 228-pounds for his last fight. He will give up 4 inches of height and 3 inches of reach to Christensen who is the older combatant by 2-years.
With nothing in between, Mihajlovic has 6 wins and a pair of defeats in the opening round and a 4-2 record on the scorecards. Both of his submission victories came early in his career, helping him to rebound from an 0-3 start. Christensen is coming off the first loss inside the distance after compiling 4 wins by knockout and 5 more by submission. He is 4-3 when the judges get involved.
Looking a little soft and certainly undersized in his debut, moving to 205 is a smart move for Mihajlovic. However, the question still remains; how does the cut impact his performance? While not landing much against Ngannou, he showed his movement and speed sticking on the outside for most of the fight. Traditionally, he likes to kick from range before closing the gap to put his opponent on the floor.
Christensen put together a decent effort and even dropped da Silva prior to tapping out. The Dane has faith in his chin and ate some big shots from the Brazilian. Joachim will work quick combinations, attacking with volume and willingly eating strikes while moving forward. Look for him to attack with power from the right side and mix in some hard low kicks. Once he clinches, trips takedowns are his preferred method to put his opponent on the floor.
The Serbian is no stranger to going deep in fights, but he appears to lack the volume to match Christensen over a 3-round contest. The pressure-based striking onslaught of Joachim will serve to shut down the kick-heavy attack of his opponent. Unable to out-point his adversary, the solid chin of Christensen will make it difficult for Mihajlovic to score the finish. Christensen will continue to move forward and test the effects of the first-time weightcut, my prediction is Joachim Christensen to defeat Bojan Mihajlovic by TKO.
265lbs- Dmitrii Smoliakov (8-1-0) vs Cyril Asker (7-2-0)
Opening the night’s action, Heavyweight Cyril “Silverback” Asker battles Russian-born Dmitrii Smoliakov. Asker is coming off a debut defeat at the hands of Jared Cannonier- he had won 5 consecutive bouts to get the call to the big show. Smoliakov also fell in his debut, losing via submission to Luis Henrique for the first loss of his pro career.
Smoliakov is 2 inches taller than his opponent and should weigh-in roughly 5-pounds heavier. They share an identical 74″ reach and Asker is the younger man by 2-years.
The big Russian’s finishing rate on the regional scene has been impressive, stopping all 8 of his wins inside the opening round. Smoliakov has split his wins evenly between knockouts and submission, including a 4-pack before the 60-second mark. Asker’s last trio of bouts have all ended in the first frame, with a 2-1 record, including a TKO victory over Octagon alumni Ruan Potts. The native of France has picked up 3 of his 5 finishes by knockout and is 2-0 on the scorecards. To go along with his knockout loss in his debut, his other defeat came via submission.
Smoliakov showed the signs of a fighter taking a step up in competition after having blasted through all of his previous competition. After slowing down in the second half of round 1, he put up little resistance in the second round and was easily submitted. Against Asker, he will need to find more success with his striking and potentially look to incorporate some takedowns whenever possible.
While the fight lasted just over half a round and didn’t end in his favour, Asker did show indications of a decent striking game. He landed a couple of power strikes, but predominantly paired together his punches in short effective combinations. After a failed takedown attempt, the speed of Cannonier gave the Frenchman trouble- leading to the knockout.
Asker is coming off the first knockout defeat of his career, but it came against an opponent who’s stock is rising every day. Outside of stuffing a few early takedowns, Smoliakov simply didn’t look good. His less than adequate cardio isn’t going to hold up at this level, where he simply won’t be able to smash his way through every opponent. Dmitrii’s single note punching was coming up too short to place much faith in his ability to score the early knockout. Asker needs to work his combinations and press his foe into the cage, forcing him to carry his weight. Once the action starts to move towards round 2, the Russian will experience another slowdown rendering him defenseless- my prediction is Cyril Asker to defeat Dmitrii Smoliakov by TKO/