UFN 82: Hendricks vs Thompson- Prelim Predictions
155lbs- JOSH BURKMAN (28-12-0 1NC) vs KJ NOONS (12-7-0 1NC)
In the prelim headliner, Josh ‘The People’s Champ’ Burkman takes on Strikeforce vet and former Elite XC Lightweight champion ‘King’ KJ Noons. Burkman has struggled since making his return to the UFC, failing to earn a win in 3 bouts with a pair of losses and a defeat to Hector Lombard turned No Contest. Noons earned back to back wins over George Sotiropoulos and Sam Stout, but is coming off a loss to Alex Oliveira last May preceded by his own NC against Daron Cruickshank.
Burkman is cutting down to Lightweight for the first time in his career and at 35 years old the 15 pound weight cut is a major wildcard hovering over this fight. Noons has competed at 170 pounds in 2 of his last 3 fights, but his returning to the division where has spent the majority of his career. They are both 5’10” and have an identical 72″ reach- KJ is 2 years younger.
Noons comes from a boxing background, recording 9 of his 13 wins by knockout. He is a dismal 4-5 on the scorecards and has been subbed twice along with 1 knockout loss. Averaging 3.8 SLpM, his striking exchange rate is a razor thin 0.03 strikes. Not surprisingly he relies heavily on his hands to do the majority of his damage. KJ will sit in the pocket, pawing with his left looking for openings. Against Stout, he landed a brutal 1-punch KO connecting on a thunderous right hand. In the Sotiropoulos fight, he cut off the cage effectively but his offensive output was far and few between. After a decent opening round for KJ, the Aussie out-landed Noons by a count of 44 to 35 in the final 2 frames. While Noons is a capable striker, he can become too complacent and flatfooted allowing his opponent to outwork him. He has also had issues dealing with the variety of more diverse strikers like Jorge Masvidal and Donald Cerrone.
The grappling component has also been a point of contention for Noons. He does very little offensively and while his TDD was solid earlier in his career cracks are beginning to show with 10 takedowns given up over his last 4 fights excluding the 30 second bout with Stout.
Durability has been a hallmark for Burkman throughout his MMA run, but he is coming off his 1st career knockout loss. After multiple wild exchanges with Cote, the Canadian landed a massive right hand that sent Josh to the canvas for the eventual TKO defeat. Prior to the finish, he had hurt Cote with is own flurry of strikes. Josh has 7 wins by knockout, with his last coming at WSOF 9 over Tyler Stintson with his own right side power. Similar to Noons, he can be a patient fighter to a fault looking for the perfect opportunity to engage. In recent action, he has shown the trend of opening the fight with a kick heavy attack including stiff body and oblique kicks. Josh has been submitted 7 times compared to 10 victories, highlight by a number of wins using his signature guillotine. He has averaged 2.7 takedowns at a 38% completion rate- he has landed just 1 of 5 attempts since making his return.
Josh is 10-4 on the scorecards and has decent cardio to go along with his above average durability, but cutting 15 pounds can have a significant effect on a fighter’s physical abilities.
As in the case in most of his fight, Noons needs to force his opponent to fight him almost entirely on the feet in order to be successful. Burkman hasn’t shown a significant commitment to grappling, but considering his opponent he should make the appropriate adjustments. The kicking game of Burkman will also be a key part of his attack, as it will allow him to push Noons out of boxing range to further diminish the effeteness of his one-note offense. Regardless, there still exists the concern of Noons tagging Burkman during the exchange and the possible fragility resulting from the weight cut leading to a knockout. Noons has lost 5 of his last 7 decisions, indicating the importance of the knockout to his success. Despite 3 losses to quality opposition at Welterweight, Burkman was competative. Conversely, Noons has just 3 wins in last 10 bouts over opponents with a combined 3-12 record over their last 15 bouts- none of which are anywhere near the UFC level. Burkman remains busy on the feet, and lands a few key takedowns in a fight that could include some prolonged period of inactivity- my prediction is Josh Burkman to defeat KJ Noons by decision.
155lbs- Josh Burkman (28-12-0 1NC) vs KJ Noons (12-7-0 1NC)
- Josh Burkman $1.61 (71%, 55 Votes)
- KJ Noons $2.55 (29%, 22 Votes)
Total Votes: 77
170lbs-#2 Johny Hendricks (17-3-0) vs #8 Stephen Thompson (11-1-0)
- Johny Hendricks $1.48 (54%, 51 Votes)
- Stephen Thompson $2.90 (46%, 43 Votes)
Total Votes: 94
265lbs- DERRICK LEWIS (13-4-0 1NC) vs DAMIAN GRABOWSKI (20-2-0)
In the Heavyweight division, Derrick ‘The Black Beast’ Lewis enters the Octagon for the 6th time when he takes on promotional newcomer Damian Grabowski of Poland. Lewis is coming off a win over Viktor Pesta and has alternated wins and losses over his last 5 fights. Grabowski walks into the Octagon with wins in 7 of his last 8 including a 2013 victory over Kenny Garner to capture the M-1 Heavyweight championship.
Lewis is 2″ taller at 6’3″ and will have a sizeable 6″ reach advantage, along with roughly 20 pounds on Damian. Grabowski is 5 years older, has fought 4 more times as a pro, and will be coming into this fight off a near 15-month layoff.
Lewis is a massive man with soul-crushing power. He has won 12 times by KO/TKO, including all 4 of his UFC victories. While standing, he throws mainly single punches and kicks as he looks to close the distance and tie up. His lack of overall set up, highlight by a vacant jab keeps him from finding consistent success at distance. Where he does excel is in top position. Once he is able to get on top of his foe he unleashes a violent barrage of strikes that are near impossible to endure. Lewis can do damage from the clinch and will attack his opponent during scrambles as they attempt to take him down. Pesta had a lot of success putting him on the mat early, but Lewis continued to resist and once Pesta started to wilt he outmuscled him and put him away via GNP.
Lewis’s defensive wrestling is a major point of concern. Pesta took him down 5 times, Jordan scored 3 takedowns, and even the much maligned Ruan Potts put him on his back once.
A veteran of M-1 and Bellator, Grabowski is a BJJ Brown belt with 11 submission wins to his credit. He has finished 10 foes in the first round, but accomplished the feat only once over his last 10 bouts dating back to his Bellator debut. His takedown game is decent, offering both clinch and shot based attempts. Where Damian struggles is with his positional control. Against Garner, his early attempts to take him to the floor were short-lived as Garner was able to get vertical quickly. Both in the clinch and on the mat he appears to be too passive, conceding the position that his opponent dictates. Garner was able to routinely push him into the ropes and hold him there with little resistance. Additionally, when Marcin Tybura took his title, Grabowski offered limited defense once put on his back and was quickly locked up in the fight ending sub.
At range, he doesn’t do anything too impressive. He will bother his opponent with the odd oblique kick and will brawl if engaged, but he is mostly looking to clinch or score takedowns.
What Lewis lacks in technical refinement, he makes up for in raw horsepower. Despite being forced to grapple with Pesta and looking tired, ‘The Black Beast’ still carried his fight ending power deep into the contest. Grabowski is a solid grappler and knows how to finish on the mat, but his inability to control Lewis once taking him down will make it tough to set up a sub. He wasn’t able to tap Garner or even keep him on the floor until he was extremely exhausted. The size advantage of Lewis will be another factor; as the taller and heavier man he will be a lot for Grabowski to move around when they tie up. The American only needs 1 opportunity to unload and stop the fight. Look for him to fend off some early TDAs and/or get up after a few brief moments on his back while landing strikes in transition. Eventually, he will either hurt Damien or capitalize on a mistake leading to a dominant position- my prediction is Derrick Lewis to defeat Damian Grabowski by TKO.
265lbs- Derrick Lewis (13-4-0 1NC) vs Damian Grabowski (20-2-0)
- Derrick Lewis $2.30 (58%, 33 Votes)
- Damian Grabowski $1.77 (42%, 24 Votes)
Total Votes: 57
265lbs- #11 Roy Nelson (21-12-0) vs #12 Jared Rosholt (14-2-0)
- Roy Nelson $1.63 (59%, 41 Votes)
- Jared Rosholt $2.50 (41%, 28 Votes)
Total Votes: 69
125lbs- #11 RAY BORG (9-1-0) vs JUSTIN SCOGGINS (10-2-0)
In the Flyweight division, Ray ‘The Tazmexican Devil’ Borg attempts to continue his trip up the rankings when he battles Justin ‘Tank’ Scoggins. Borg has won 3 in a row since his debut defeat to Dustin Ortiz. Scoggins recently halted a 2-fight losing skid with a win over Josh Sampo- he is now 3-2 on the big stage.
Scoggins is 3″ taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage. Borg is the younger man by a year.
Holding a Black belt in Kempo Karate, Scoggins offers one of the most unique striking arsenals in the division. Employing a sideways stance, he throws a wide variety of kicking techniques- highlighted by his front leg side kick to body and front leg hook kick to chin. By alternating between the two maneuvers and disguising his setup, his opponents have a difficult time anticipating and defending against these strikes. From a defensive standpoint, he utilizes his front leg kicks to keep his opponent on the outside. Justin has good footwork, a nice straight left that he will follow with a hard right hand, and he has has 6 wins by knockout. With a quick reactive double leg, he has landed 17 takedowns compared to just 3 given up over 5 fights. Once on the floor, he is an aggressive guard passer and a pretty decent scrambler. Ortiz was able to get the better of the majority of the positions using his superior wrestling and Moraga took advantage of his Scoggins leaving his neck exposed on a TDA for an abrupt guillotine finish. Scoggins did an excellent job of preventing Sampo from closing the gap in pursuit of a TD, but on the one occasion he was taken down he appeared to slow down a little once he returned to his vertical base.
Scoggins’s tap against Moraga came as a shock as he had been dominating the fight with his wrestling while defending several similar positions during the earlier action.
While Scoggins offers a multi-dimensional attack, Borg’s focus is primarily grappling centric. He has submitted 6 opponents, 2 in the UFC, with 5 coming by rear-naked choke. Averaging 4.64 takedowns per fight at a marked 77% effeciency rate, he can shoot from the outside, score a big double leg slam, or drag his foe down from the clinch. On the floor he is relentless. Borg’s pressure is incredibly difficult to deal with as he remains in constant motion looking to pass guard and set up sub attempts. An excellent scrambler, he hit a beautiful switch to counter the top positon of Ortiz and posses a lightning fast back take. Even when he gets put on his back he is hard to hold down and will either counter or return to his feet quickly. Additionally, he strikes in transitions quite nicely. He doesn’t throw a tonne of volume, he is still able to hurt his foe enough to create openings for sub attempts.
The biggest area of concern for the ‘Tazmexican Devil’ is his striking. Maybe. He has been so successful forcing his foes into a grappling battle that he has yet to really showcase his striking capabilities in his UFC run.
This is a matchup of 2 very capable and young prospects in a division desperatly inneed of fresh blood. Scoggins is the bigger man and the more well-rounded fighter. While that might be the case, he needs to focus solely on his striking and keep his back off the mat at all costs. The key for Scoggins is his front leg kicking attack and its ability to keep Ray away from him. Borg is far too dangerous to for Justin to deal with in the grappling department. Whether through submission or prolonged top control, Borg’s path to victory is on the ground. The constant threat of being taken down will limit the vertical output of Scoggins. In previous fights, he has been drawn into grappling exchanges to his own detriment and that will be the case here. After their initial back and forth on the mat, look for Scoggins to start to slow down and become more suspectible to being taken down. In a addition to the Moraga fight, there have been other instances where he has left his neck exposed when grappling- Borg only needs one oppurtunity to shut it down. Borg gets the fight into his realm of dominance, out-scrambles Scoggins and either hops to back or jumps on a guillotine- my prediciotn is Ray Borg to defeat Justin Scoggins by submission.
125lbs- #11 Ray Borg (9-1-0) vs Justin Scoggins (10-2-0)
- Ray Borg $1.38 (69%, 43 Votes)
- Justin Scoggins $3.55 (31%, 19 Votes)
Total Votes: 62
205lbs- #6 Ovince St. Preux (18-7-0) vs #13 Rafael Cavalcante (12-6-0)
- Ovince St. Preux $1.27 (88%, 51 Votes)
- Rafael Cavalcante $4.65 (12%, 7 Votes)
Total Votes: 58
145lbs- NOAD LAHAT (9-1-0) vs DIEGO RIVAS (6-0-0)
Noad ‘Neo’ Lahat looks for his 3rd UFC victory when he takes on TUF Latin America competitor and promotional sophomore Diego ‘Pitbull’ Rivas. Lahat suffered a brutal 1st round knockout in his debut against Godofredo Pepey, but has since rebounded with a pair of wins over Steven Siler and Niklas Backstrom. Rivas has yet to taste defeat as a pro, earning a unanimous decision victory over Rodolfo Rubio in his first UFC fight.
Sharing an identical 69″ reach, Lahat is 1″ taller and 7 years older.
An unsuccessful run on TUF: Latin America ended for Rivas in the quarter-finals via submission against Gabriel Benitez. Of his 6 professional wins, 3 have come by sub (1 due to strikes) along with a pair of decision wins and 1 victory via TKO. His first 3 fights all ended inside the first round, but he has fought a combined 14 rounds over his last 3 outings. Rivas is primarily a grappler, but has had issues employing his main skill set. Against Benitez, he was routinely thwarted on his shot. When he did put his foe on the mat, Diego was unable to hold top position and more often than not was swept to his back. Once on his back, he looked even more out of his depth. Even in his victory over Rubio, he had mixed results with his grappling despite initiating the majority of the exchanges.
His striking is a work in progress. The right hand of the ‘Pitbull’ is his best and he will open up and brawl with his foe- but the majority of his time on the feet is spent looking for openings to close the gap.
Training out of AKA, ‘Neo’ showed marked improvements in his striking in his last fight. He throws a solid 1-2, packing decent power in his straight right hand. He will target the body with punches and hard body kicks, and throws a deceptive uppercut when in close. A BJJ Black belt and 2nd degree Judo Black belt, his grappling has been at the forefront of his success. Winning 4-times by sub outside of the UFC, his wins inside the Octagon have been the result of his takedowns and counter grappling. Against, Steven Siler he landed 4 takedowns and held prolonged periods of top control. Against Niklas Backstrom, he was shot on several times but was able to either defend the attempt or counter into a better position. From his back, Lahat will either elevate his opponent and roll them or attack with a sub and orchestrate a sweep while they are defending. When Backstrom shot from the outside, Noad showed a nice sprawl and immediately attacked his foe’s neck to back him off.
Lahat offers a nice variety of takedowns attempt; the traditional wrestling shot or working trips and throws from the clinch.
In a lot of fights between grappling oriented fighters their skills cancel each other out and a kickboxing bout is the result. That won’t be the case here. Rivas is extremely reliant on his takedown game and even when he was routinely getting countered by Benitez- he was still shooting. Lahat will be the better grappler both offensively and defensively. No matter who initiates the exchange, he will eventually get the better of the position. When they are on the feet, look for the ‘Neo’ to offer the more varied and impactful attack. Lahat’s activity botj on the mat and the feet will be too much for Diego to defend against, especially as exhaustion starts to take hold- my prediction is Noad Lahat to defeat Diego Rivas by submission.
145lbs- Noad Lahat (9-1-0) vs Diego Rivas (6-0-0)
- Noad Lahat $1.33 (71%, 32 Votes)
- Diego Rivas $3.74 (29%, 13 Votes)
Total Votes: 45
125lbs- #1 Joseph Benavidez (23-4-0) vs #8 Zach Makovsky (19-6-0)
- Joseph Benavidez $1.24 (85%, 39 Votes)
- Zach Makovsky $4.80 (15%, 7 Votes)
Total Votes: 46
170lbs- MICKEY GALL (1-0-0) vs MIKE JACKSON (0-0-0)
In the Welterweight division, Mickey Gall meets Mike ‘The Truth’ Jackson with an opportunity to win the “CM Punk Lottery” and earn the right to face the former WWE Champion turned MMA rookie on the line for Gall. Gall is 1-0 defeating fellow pro-MMA debutant Ron Templeton in front of Dana White and company on the 3rd episode of the ‘Looking for a Fight’ original UFC series. Jackson has yet to fight as a pro, with Sherdog.com listing just 1 amateur bout back in 2009 which he lost by decision and UFC.com citing 9 amateur bouts since 2008- but no actual results.
Both men stand 6’2″, which is above average for a Welterweight. Gall’s has a decent reach at 76″ compared to a 72″ reach for Jackson. Mickey is 7 years younger than his opponent.
In the UFC produced preview, Gall claims that his BJJ is “elite” and he is working to make his striking “elite” as well. This should be interpreted as he is a far better grappler than he is a striker. He is a BJJ Brown belt with grappling competition experience. He won his pro debut via rear-naked choke and he also picked up a pair of amateur wins by sub. Against Templeton, he showed a decent high kick and a willingness to stand and trade. He doesn’t load up in his strikes and throws with volume. The takedown that lead to the eventual finish was set up with a sequence of punches forcing his foe to cover up so Gall could shoot in for an undefended double leg. On the mat, he cut through his foe’s guard with ease, isolated an arm, and once they reacted to defend- Mickey move to the back for the fight ending RNC.
After the bout, Gall got on the mic and recognizing that Dana and Matt Serra were in the building he called out CM Punk offering himself for the Chicago natives UFC and MMA debut.
Jackson comes into his debut devoid of a single pro bout, but he does have professional combat experience. Adding to his 9 amateur fights, he is 2-0 as a pro boxer and 1-0 as a kickboxer- winning all 3 fights by knockout. In limit footage, which is on the dated side- Jackson is true to his roots relying almost entirerly on his boxing. ‘The Truth’ builds the majority of his attack off a quick left jab and will follow-up with a straight right. He will jab the body, has a decent counter left hook, and doesn’t use a lot of kicks. His footwork and head movement are sound and he showed good composure dropping his foe with a solid right hand but not jumping on them right away. He was able to recognize this his foe was hurt, but still had his senses about him. While this does show compsure, it also might point to his lack of a grappling game and concern with spending anytime on the floor- even in top position.
In a recent interview, Jackson claimed that Octagon jitters would not be an issue for him considering his previous combat experience- but he fully expected Gall to be overwhelmed by the moment.
Gall is being set up for a chance to fight CM Punk in a bout that will garner a lot of attention both in and out of the MMA world. That can add a lot of pressure for a young fighter and there are plenty of examples of future fights going asunder when one of the potential competitors fails to get the job done in a preceeding bout. Remember, this is not Sports Enterntainment. It is interesting to note that Gall has made the claim tha Jackson isn’t on his level and pointed out that he is just a part-time fighter. Conversely, Jackson has stated that he nor Gall or Punk really belong at this level- but he is happy to have the oppurtunity nonetheless. The UFC is marketing Gall as the next opponent for Punk, who clearly is the biggest name and has the most marketing potential in this triumvirate. This fight kind of has he feeling of a lamb being lead to the slaughter at the hands of another lamb, who will be on the menu later this year. Inspite of their lack of MMA experience, this fight is still a clash of grappler versus striker. Gall has stated that he would like a knockout, but talk is cheap and forgoing his strongest skillset and his opponent’s weakest would be foolhardy. Jackson needs to keep this fight at range and use his boxing to methodically pick Gall apart. Jackson has been handpicked for Gall to face and his lack of grappling experience makes him incredibly vulnerable on the mat. Gall needs to get past the hands of his adversary, but once on the inside he will drag him to the floor and take over from there- my prediction is Mickey Gall to defeat Mike Jackson by submission.
170lbs- Mickey Gall (1-0-0) vs Mike Jackson (0-0-0)
- Mickey Gall $1.21 (67%, 29 Votes)
- Mike Jackson $5.50 (33%, 14 Votes)
Total Votes: 43
205lbs- Misha Cirkunov (10-2-0) vs Alex Nicholson (6-1-0)
- Misha Cirkunov $1.13 (68%, 30 Votes)
- Alex Nicholson $8.50 (32%, 14 Votes)
Total Votes: 44
145lbs- ARTEM LOBOV (12-11-1 1NC) vs ALEX WHITE (10-2-0)
To open the evening’s festivities, Artem ‘The Russian Hammer’ Lobov steps beyond his time spent on the Ultimate Fighter to face Alex ‘The Spartan’ White in the Featherweight division. Lobov’s last performance was a subpar defeat in the TUF finals against Ryan Hall- he was 2-0-1 in his 3 bouts prior to entering the TUF house. White made a successful UFC debut, flattening Estevan Payan, but has since dropped back to back bouts to Lucas Martins and Clay Collard.
White last competed in late 2014, having sat on the sidelines for roughly 14-months. He is 3″ taller than Lobov and will have a 5″ reach advantage.
Lobov has just 4 wins by knockout as a pro, but built his power striking reputation with a trio of devastating finishes during the TUF tournament. He is a very unorthodox striker, utilizing a vertical stance and routinely hanging his hands. Pawing with his right hand, he throws a hard straight left and uppercut, he will target the body, and periodically attacks with leg kicks. While he appears stationary at times, look for him to slip off to the side when striking and attack from a variety of angles. His knockout in the elimination round demoed his counter striking skills, as he incapacitated his foe with a hard counter right hand as he came forward.
Against Hall, Lobov struggled to land or even throw strikes with consistency, routinely finding himself defending against the grappling attack of his opponent.
Despite a having 1 more win by submission than knockout, White does come from a striking background. He made extremely quick work of Payan, hurting him with a short left hand before ending the fight with second thunderous left during the follow-up attack. Kicks play a big role in his offense, employing a variety of techniques including a hard straight kick to the body. ‘The Spartan’ is aggressive when attacking, driving forward behind punch/kick combinations. Look for him to target the body with his hands and open up with various spinning attacks. White was rocked by a left hand from Collard and Martins hurt him several times before taking him out. Alex does have a tendency to stand tall, with his head up and chin exposed- as he tires his hands will begin to drop as well.
4 of White’s 5 submission came at the start of his career. He hasn’t used a tonne of wrestling in his 3 UFC fights, but did show glimpses of a serviceable grappling attack.
Lobov looked like an absolute killer on the show, but was a complete non-factor in his first official Octagon bout. White will oblige him in a fight that is more stylistically suited for his skills. The American is the larger man and more gifted athlete, but he struggled tremendously with the attack of Collard who he had similar advantages over. The difference between Collard and Artem, is that the Russian hits harder. Alex slowed down in the Collard fight and Lobov had similar effects on his TUF foes with his pressure and damage. The wildcard factor of White attempting to wresting Lobov for the full 15 minutes is certainly a concern. White gets hit too much for him to survive prolonged exchanges with his counterpart- my prediction is Artem Lobov to defeat Alex White by knockout.
145lbs- Artem Lobov (12-11-1 1NC) vs Alex White (10-2-0)
- Artem Lobov $1.74 (57%, 31 Votes)
- Alex White $2.73 (43%, 23 Votes)
Total Votes: 54
170lbs- Mike Pyle (26-11-1) vs Sean Spencer (12-4-0)
- Sean Spencer $1.63 (56%, 29 Votes)
- Mike Pyle $2.55 (44%, 23 Votes)
Total Votes: 52