UFC Fight Night 88 Preliminary Predictions
135lbs- #6 Sara McMann (8-3-0) vs #7 Jessica Eye (11-4-0 1NC)
In the Headling fight of the prelims, former title challenger and Olympic Silver Medalist Sara McMann takes on Jessica ‘Evil’ Eye in the Women’s Bantamweight division. McMann has just a single win in her last 4, falling to the next title contender Amanda Nunes, former champion Ronda Rousey, and current champion Miesha Tate. Eye has an identical record over her last 4 with losses to Tate, former title challenger Alexis Davis, and rising contender Juliana Pena.
Both girls are 5’6″ with a 66″ reach, but Eye is 6 years younger than McMann.
Eye is a high volume striker, averaging 4.18 strikes landed per minute, but she has landed more strikes than her opponent just once in her 5-fight UFC run. She put up an impressive 82 strikes in 6:30 of action against Leslie Smith, earning the Doctor stoppage TKO victory. It was just the third knockout win of her career compared to 7 wins by decision. She lacks significant stopping power, relying more on her speed and ability to outwork her foe. She used her hand speed to get the better of Kaufman, but struggled with the Canadian’s power. ‘Evil’ Eye throws a nice jab, has good footwork, and works volume in close range. She found success countering Tate and making her hesitate, routinely landing a counter right hand. Eye doesn’t throw a lot of kicks, which is to her benefit against McMann’s wrestling. Eye’s biggest area of vulnerability has been her counter wrestling. In her three losses, Pena, Davis, and Tate all found success taking Eye down and Jessica offered very little off of her back. Once Tate established her wrestling, Eye’s output drop significantly for fear of being taken down.
Eye formerly competed at 125 pounds, but moved to Bantamweight for her UFC debut. She has struggled at times with the size of her foes, but has stated she has no interested in moving back to the Flyweight if the UFC starts the division.
McMann is a decorated wrestler and not surprisingly her success in MMA has hinged on her ability to take her opponent down. Prior to joining the UFC, she picked up a 4-pack of victories where she compiled 26 takedowns. Continuing that trend, in her 2 UFC wins she landed a combined 7 takedowns and finished Sheila Gaff on the floor with elbows from the crucifix position. By comparison, she completed just a single takedown on 4 attempts during her 3 losses. Once on top she has strong positional control, but as was the case against Lauren Murphy- she needs to be more active with her GNP. On the feet, her striking is very much a work in progress. She did show signs of improvement against Tate, hurting her during an early exchange, but couldn’t build on it. Rousey was able to finish her with a well-placed knee to the mid-section and Nunes did some serious damage prior to getting the submission finish.
Against Murphy, Sara landed 5 takedowns but was badly outworked from the bottom and nearly lost a split decision.
This fight is very much a striker versus grappler showdown. Of the two, McMann is more likely to hold her own on the feet than Eye is to get the better of Sara on the floor. If McMann is to have any success while vertical, she still needs to establish the threat of her takedowns to slow Eye’s forward pressure. If Eye wants to remain upright, she needs to use her footwork, keep active, and anticipate the shot and get her hips back. That is going to be easier said than done. Eye lacks the type of power needed to back Sara off and keep her from pursuing the takedown. Once Sara gets her hands on Eye, she should have no problem taking her down and keeping her down. Both girls have struggled with elite level competition, but McMann possesses the needed skill set to replicate the issues that Eye has had during her current skid- my prediction is Sara McMann to defeat Jessica Eye by Decision.
155lbs- Abel Trujillo (14-6-0 1NC) vs Jordan Rinaldi (12-4-0)
The vicious Abel ‘Killa’ Trujillo takes on short-notice replacement Jordan ‘All Day’ Rinaldi in the Lightweight division. Rinaldi has picked up 5-straight wins including a submission of UFC vet Clay Harvison- he has lost to the likes of James Moontasri and Brian Ortega, but does hold a win over Dennis Bermudez early in his career. Trujillo is coming off of a win over Tony Sims and has just one official loss in his last 5-fights after the Gleison Tibau loss was overturned.
Rinaldi is replacing Carlos Diego Ferreira on a little less than 2-weeks’ notice. He is 2 inches taller than Trujillo and will have a 1″ reach advantage.
Trujillo is a berzerker, combining a relentless pace with brutal finishing power. He has stopped 5 foes by knockout and 4 more by submission. Abel submitted Tony Sims via guillotine and knocked out both Jamie Varner and Roger Bowling. Trujillo is a former NAIA wrestler and can do some serious damage on the mat generating massive power from top position. He has averaged 2.41 takedowns per fight, completing just over 1 of every 2 attempts. He landed 5 takedowns in his win over Roger Bowling and scored a pair in the early action against Ferguson. His defensive work on the mat is a major concern as he has lost a number of fights against superior ground fighters- including 3 submission losses and an overturned defeat against Tibau.
His aggressive style has been successfully overwhelming against some adversaries, but it has also cost him. After the early exchanges against Ferguson, he slowed noticeably prior to getting finished.
The UFC debutant has a submission heavy win total, winning 7-times by tap out compared to a single knockout victory and 4 decision wins. He has just 4 opening round stoppages. When looking to put his foe on the ground he will shoot a strong power double and has decent top control. He has a tendency to shoot from distance, which can catch his opponent off guard, but against higher level opposition it can also make his shot easier to defend. His striking is decent, working together a solid 1-2 with kicks and strikes to the body. He will remain active when attacking, but tends to let his chin rise up and got knocked out cold with a well-timed uppercut from Moontasri.
Rinaldi faltered in his bid to join the TUF Live season, submitting to Joe Proctor in the qualifying round.
There are 2 key areas where Trujillo has struggled that Rinaldi could capitalize on. If Rinaldi can work his ground game and drag Trujillo to the ground with consistency, it will open the door for him to capitalize on Abel as he slows down later in the fight. That being said, the two-week notice and debut factor could compromise the physical capabilities of Rinaldi that have helped him to succeed in longer fights. Trujillo’s physically imposing style can be a lot to handle and while top level grapplers/wrestlers have had success fending off his takedowns and taking him down- ‘All Day’ is not there.When Rinaldi shoots unsuccessfully, look for Trujillo to turn the position in his favour with hard elbows and knees along the cage. On the feet, Abel should find similar success inflicting damage- my prediction is Abel Trujillo to defeat Jordan Rinaldi by TKO.
185lbs- Jake Collier (9-2-0) vs Alberto Uda (9-0-0)
In the Middleweight division, Jake ‘The Prototype’ Collier’s spot on the roster is on the line when he fights promotional neophyte Alberto Uda. Uda is undefeated and is coming off of a win over former Octagon competitor Thiago Perpetuo. Collier lost by TKO to Dong Yi Yang following a split decision win over Ricardo Abreu- he is 1-2 inside the Octagon.
Both men are 6’3″ and Collier is 4 years younger. The Brazilian is replacing Keith Berish on roughly 2-months’ notice.
Collier dominated the early action against Vitor Miranda, but got cracked with a brutal right high kick in the final seconds of the first round leading to the stoppage. He showed all around improvements in his second fight, getting the better of the striking exchanges and limiting his foe’s success on the floor. He builds the majority of his offense off a strong left jab followed by a heavy right hand, hard leg and body kicks, and a stiff front kick. He strikes long, getting good extension on his punches, but he tends to leave his head exposed when throwing wide swinging hooks. Jake dropped Yang with a well-timed right hand, but struggled to land with consistency during the majority of the exchanges. While he looks to push a hefty pace, he tends to be a little awkward and disjointed in his attack.
Collier comes from a wrestling background and controlled the action early against Miranda on the floor, nearly submitting him. He had mixed results attempting to take Yang down and when he went for a pair of subs in round 2 he was unable to finish and got smashed with GNP leading to the stoppage.
Uda has only gone the distance once in his career, compared to 4 opening round finishes. He has split his finishes evenly between knockouts and submission, with 3 of his last 4 victories coming via TKO. He comes from a Muay Thai background and boasts a very strong clinch attack. He took out Perpetuo with a couple of hard knees from the Thai plumb and does his best work at short range letting go with elbows and quick punches. The Brazilian’s distance striking isn’t quite as complete, throwing a decent 1-2 and serviceable kicks up and down the body. When defending TDAs, he’s pretty good at remaining vertical and sucking his opponent into the clinch where he can transition to offense. His top game isn’t anything to write home about, but he is quite capable of attacking off his back. Alberto possesses a strong guard and submitted capable submission fighter Thiago Rela with a slick triangle-armbar combination.
Uda has face a pretty good level of regional opposition with his last 3 opponents holding a combined 31-17 mark. He picked up an early career victory over UFC vet Rick ‘Monstro’.
This might not be the prettiest of fights, but it should be entertaining for however long it lasts. Collier doesn’t excel in any one specific area and for the most part he is a willing combatant wherever the fight transpires. His readiness to wrestling and lack of a dominant takedown game is going to get him in trouble. As he closes the distance looking to take Uda down, the Brazilian will jam him up with his clinch game and then start to unload with short range strikes. If they do hit the mat with Jake on top, the aggressive guard play of Alberto will prevent him from settling in and dissuade him from future TDAs. The pair of knockout losses that Collier has suffered in the UFC suggest he won’t be ablet to withstand Uda’s attack once he starts to connect- my prediction Alberto Uda to defeat Jake Collier by TKO.
155lbs- Erik Koch (14-4-0) vs Shane Campbell (12-4-0)
In the Lightweight division, Erik ‘New Breed’ Koch returns to action after a prolonged layoff to meet tough Canadian ‘Shaolin’ Shane Campbell. Koch is coming off TKO loss to Daron Cruickshank which came after a win over Rafaello Oliveira- he is 1-3 in his last 4 fights. Campbell dropped a hard-fought decision to James Krause moving his Octagon record to 1-2.
Koch has been out of action for a little over 24 months while Campbell has fought 5-times in that span. The Canadian is 2 inches taller and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Koch is the younger man by a year.
‘Shaolin’ comes from a kickboxing background where he went 62-9 with 13 knockouts. He has 5 knockouts in his MMA career, including his eye-catching body kick/ Hadouken stoppage at WSOF 18. Prior to his decision win over Elias Silverio, he had recorded his last 3 wins by knockout. Campbell has averaged 4.33 SLpM, including a UFC-high 82 significant strikes against Krause. Against Makdessi, Campbell was busting up his lead leg and bloodied his nose with some slick combinations. He is very adept at landing strikes in between his opponent’s offense, attacking in transition and piling up significant volume. Shane can work both at distance and in close with short punches, kicks, knees, and elbows. Despite his striking background, he has a decent grappling game. His TDD is strong, and he is quite adept at scrambling and/or countering his way out of a bad spots.
Campbell is a BJJ Purple belt with a pair of submission wins. He survived an early sub attempt from Krause and has landed 4 takedowns over his last 2 fights.
Koch is also BJJ Purple belt and Tae Kwon Do Black belt. He has finished 4 wins by knockout and 7 by submission, including a brutal KO finish of current Bantamweight contender Raphael Assuncao. Koch offers a nice kicking variety in his attack and has decent pop in his hands. From a volume standpoint, he isn’t an overwhelming fighter averaging 2.38 SLpM compared to 2.34 SApM. He has been out-landed in 3 of his last 4 fights by a count of 110 to 52. On the mat, he is a capable grappler, but he has had issues with both creating separation in the clinch and defending takedowns. Jonathan Brookins smothered him along the cage and Poirier and Lamas both had success taking him down. His chin is also a point of concern, with a pair of knockout losses to Cruickshank and Ricardo Lamas, along with a getting knocked down by Dustin Poirier.
Since a pair of title fights with Jose Aldo were called off, Koch has gone 1-3 and struggled to find the success that lead him to getting paired with the champion.
Koch has been on the shelf for a long time which can be an issue, especially in the opening round. His lack of striking volume and questionable chin are two considerable vulnerabilities against a capable pressure striker like Campbell. If Koch is unable to drag him to the ground with consistency, he is going to struggle to keep up on the feet. Look for Campbell to simply out work his American counterpart at distance and on the inside along with potentially finding some success with his own takedowns as the impact of the striking piles up- my prediction is Shane Campbell to defeat Erik Koch by TKO
135lbs- #4 Aljamain Sterling (12-0-0) vs #8 Bryan Caraway (20-8-0)
In the Bantamweight division, ‘The Funk Master’ Aljamain Sterling makes his first appearance since signing his new contract when he takes on ‘Mr. Tate’ Bryan ‘Kid Lightning’ Caraway. Sterling is still undefeated with impressive wins over Johnny Eduardo, Takeya Mizugaki, and Hugo Viana. Caraway defeated former WEC champion Eddie Wineland in his last fight and is 6-2 over his last 8 outings.
Caraway, who hasn’t fought in 10-months, is an inch taller than Sterling, but will be at a 3″ reach disadvantage. Sterling is the younger man by 5 years.
A grappling specialist, Caraway has recorded 17 wins by submission. He has a lethal back mount, with 11 wins coming by rear-naked choke. ‘Kid Lightning’ has been submitted twice, both losses occurred at a heavier weight class, but he is a dismal 3-5 in bouts not ending in a submission and has dropped 4 of his last 6 decisions. Over his UFC/WEC career, he has averaged 2.8 takedowns per fight at a 33% completion rate while defending 81% of his opponents’ TDAs. Over his 4 UFC victories, he has dominated the takedown battle by a count of 11-2 compared to a much closer 4-2 total (still favouring BC) in his 2 defeats. Caraway has a suffocating top game, taking opponents down and working them over on the floor until they give up a submission or he grinds out a decision. He augments his ground attack with a decent striking repertoire, leading with his right hand and throwing primarily hooks and short punches in the clinch.
Against Wineland, Caraway went 0-12 on his takedowns but out-struck Eddie by a count of 61-52. Conversely, he had been out-struck by a count of 142-76 in his 2 previous fights where he struggled to implement his wrestling.
Sterling enters the fight with his focus on a potential shot at the title in the not too distance future. A former NCAA Division 3 wrestler, Aljamain has finished 9 opponents and 6 of his last 7. He has just a pair of opening round stoppages in his last 10 outings. ‘The Funk Master’ is a measured fighter, gauging his opponent and breaking them down methodically before looking for a finish. Limiting his opponents to a minute 0.99 SLpM, Sterling currently carries a +2.25 striking exchange rate. Sterling offers an ever expanding striking arsenal. Look for his to use long strikes; mixing between straight punches and variety of kicks. Against Eduardo, he mitigated the damage absorbed at distance until he was able to get on the inside and put him on the mat. Once on the floor, he nullified the Brazilian’s offense, cut through his guard quickly, and eventually locked up the power guillotine in round 2.
Sterling was taken down 4 times on just 6 attempts in his debut against Cody Gibson. Since the Gibson fight, his last 3 opponents have focussed very little on putting Sterling on his backside.
Caraway continues to struggle to gain recognition, despite his success. Even though he was able to beat Wineland without a takedown, he is still a specialist that relies heavily on his takedown game to separate him from the opposition. Sterling hasn’t had to deal with a grappling-centric fighter like Caraway, but he possesses the type of distance striking and clinch game to shut him out in the takedown department. Whether Sterling is able to bring his own ground game to the forefront or simply keep the fight vertical- he is the superior striker. Similar to with his takedown game, Caraway will have limited success closing the gap when striking to land with consistency. Sterling will work on the outside, picking Bryan apart, and when Caraway starts to get a little reckless trying to close the distance Sterling will change levels and put him on his back- my prediction is Aljamain Sterling to defeat Bryan Caraway by decision.
265lbs- Chris De La Rocha (4-1-0) vs Adam Milstead (7-1-0)
To kick off the night’s action, a pair of Heavyweights collide as UFC sophomore Chri s De La Rocha takes on promotional newcomer Adam ‘The Prototype’ Milstead. De La Rocha is coming off his first pro loss in his UFC debut, lasting just 48 seconds against Daniel Omielanczuk. Milstead lost his pro debut back in 2011, but has picked up 7-straight wins since, with his last 3 victims totalling a 34-35 combined record.
Both men stand 6’3″, but De La Rocha will have a 3″ reach advantage and should be close to 10 pounds heavier. Milstead is the younger man by 8 years.
Milstead is a well-built heavyweight, that his compiled a decent regional record on route to getting the call to the UFC. Of his 7 wins, 5 came via knockout along with a pair of submissions. He has fought outside of the opening round just twice, with 4 wins ending before the 120-second mark. The debut loss he suffered was by 1st round KO. Milstead is a striker, working a power boxing attack. His best work comes in the pocket where he will willingly sit down and sling heavy leather. He can work at distance, but his primary inclination is to close the distance when attacking. In one of his last pre-UFC bouts, he did a good job of cutting off the cage and battering his opponent with combinations. He finished the fight with a big straight right hand, that he will set up with his left hook.
‘The Prototype’ isn’t an overwhelming wrestler, but he will look for a takedown if the situation presents itself.
De La Rocha is still relatively new to MMA despite his age. His UFC debut didn’t do much to up his depth of experience. He was wobbled after getting plugged with an opening short left hand and struggled to regain his composure. Chris was eventually finished by a right hook. Against DJ Linderman, he stood in pocket and exchanged heavy leather, eventually knocking him out. Normally, his focus is to put his opponent on the mat and look for a combination of ground and pound and submissions. He has a pair of sub wins on his record, finishing all 4 of his victories- 3 in the opening round. His wrestling is a work in progress, as he relies heavily on is ability to out-muscle and force his foe to the mat.
De La Rocha took his debut fight on short notice, replacing Konstantin Erokhin on just over 2 weeks notice.
The knockout loss suffered by De La Rocha made him just the 3rd the man that Omielanczuk finished with strikes in 25-fights. It wasn’t an overly powerful punch that hurt him and as a result, it brings into the question the durability of the Washington native. Milstead is the more refined fighter and should be good enough defensively to fend off the takedown attempts of his foe, forcing him to exchange. Milstead’s speed and more refined punching attack will be too much for De La Rocha to handle once the leather starts to let loose. When Heavyweight starts to exchange, it only takes one big connection to turn the fight on its head, Milstead is the more likely to land that strike- my prediction is Adam Milstead to defeat Chris De La Rocha by TKO