UFC Fight Night 128: Barboza vs Lee Preliminary Predictions

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170lbs- Ryan LaFlare (13-2-0) vs Alex Garcia (15-4-0)

In the headlining fight of the undercard, Ryan LaFlare takes on “The Dominican Nightmare” Alex Garcia in the Welterweight division. Garcia is coming off an upset win over Muslim Salikov and has alternated wins and losses over his last 7-fights. LaFlare is looking to rebound from the first stoppage loss of his career, the knockout defeat against Alex Oliveira snapped his 2-fight winning streak.

The American will stand 4 inches taller than Garcia and have a 2″ reach advantage. Garcia is the younger man by 4-years.

LaFlare started strong against Oliveira, but the abrupt middle round knockout is a little concerning. Garcia has finished 6 opponents by knockout, including a pair in the UFC. He has significant power, but at times he struggles to deploy it with consistency.

While Alex has the edge in striking power, the advantage in cardio lies distinctly with LaFlare. Ryan is 6-1 in decisions, winning all of those fights inside the Octagon. Conversely, Garcia has had issues in longer fights, noticeably slowing down if he is unable to fight at his pace. He is 1-2 in his last 3 fights to go the distance and he was finished in the 3rd round by Sean Strickland back in early 2016.

The wrestling of both fighters has been at the forefront of their success. Both men have put up good wrestling numbers, both offensively and defensively. LaFlare has moved away from his big completion stats in recent action while Garcia has completed 9-takedowns over his last 3 wins.

Garcia has the power to threaten LaFlare, but he will need to find a way to get in range to land it and do so without compromising his cardio. Look for LaFlare to stick to the outside with kicks and long range weapons before moving into the clinch and eventually looking for takedowns, especially as Garcia tires- my prediction is Ryan LaFlare to defeat Alex Garcia by decision.Paragraph breaker

125lbs- #15 Magomed Bibulatov (14-1-0) vs Ulka Sasaki (20-5-2)

In the Flyweight division, Japan’s Ulka Sasaki takes on Russian-born and Top 15 ranked Magomed Bibulatov. Sasaki is coming off a submission loss to Jussier Formiga- he is 2-2 since moving to the Flyweight division. Bibulatov came to the UFC undefeated and a successful debut, he was abruptly knocked out by significant underdog John Moraga.

At 5’10”, Sasaki is 5 inches taller than Bibulatov and he will have a 6″ reach advantage. Sasaki is a year younger.

Similar to Bibulatov, Ulka came into the UFC with a considerable about of hype, but after a strong start, he has been finished in 3 of his 4 UFC defeats- twice by submission. Magomed has 5 wins by submission, but just 1 over his last 9 fights.

Despite landing just 2 takedowns in his debut, Magomed should look to return to his strong wrestling base against Ulka. While the Japanese fighter might welcome the trip to the mat based on his submission skills, he has given up 9 takedowns over his 4 UFC loss.

If the Russian wants to avoid the submission skills of his foe he may opt to keep this fight standing where he will have a marked advantage in the striking department.

Ulka has the skills to finish if he can find a way into a position to do so, but that will be easier said then done. Bibulatov either works from top position or keeps the fight standing and outstrikes Sasaki for the duration- my prediction is Magomed Bibulatov to defeat Ulka Sasaki by decision.

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170lbs- Siyar Bahadurzada (23-6-1) vs Luan Chagas (15-2-1)

In the Welterweight division, Siyar “The Great” Bahadurzada meets Brazilian-born Luan “Tarzan” Chagas. Chagas scored a second-round submission win over Jim Wallhead to evenly round out his UFC record at 1-1-1. Bahadurzada has won back to back fights, most recently winning a Middleweight bout over Rob Wilkinson.

Chagas is an inch taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 9-years.

Despite boasting a 12-KO total on his record, Bahadurzada is coming off his first win by knockout since his 2012 debut. Chagas was decent power as well and has shown a willingness to sit down and trade. He has 6 wins by knockout and has scored multiple knockdowns during his UFC tenure.

The big concern for “Tarzan” is his cardio. He tends to start strong, but fade. He has finished 10 opponents in round 1 while going 5-2-1 in outside of the first frame. Siyar has been finished twice, but he is just 4-4 on the scorecards

Chagas is capable of going to the mat, scoring his 9th win by sub last time out. Bahadurzada has struggled at times with his TDD, relinquishing 9-takedown over his last 4 fights.

Chagas has more tools to rely on in the form of a more diverse striking attack and capable ground game. If Bahadurzada can’t score the early knockout, his predictability will cost him against the more varied attack of his foe- my prediction is Luan Chagas to defeat Siyar Bahadurzada by submission.

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205lbs- #10 Corey Anderson (10-4-0) vs #11 Patrick Cummins (10-4-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, a pair of fringe Top 10 competitors go head to head as Corey “Overtime” Anderson goes head to head with Patrick “Durkin” Cummins. Cummins has won back to back fights, narrowly edging a split decision over Gian Villante and rallying to defeat Jan Blachowicz on the card. Anderson has dropped back to back fights and 3 of 4- his only win in that stretch came over Sean O’Connell by TKO with losses to OSP, Jimi Manuwa, and Shogun.

Anderson is an inch taller, but he will have a slightly longer 3″ reach advantage. Cummins is the older man by 9-years.

Breaking the trend previously established by the last regime, this fight will pair together a fighter on a winning streak against one that has struggled to gain traction of late. That being said, Cummins’s victories have been far from clear-cut as he faced a lot of adversity in the early goings of each fight.

Similar to “Durkin”, Anderson’s chin has become a major point of concern. He has now been knocked out 3 times, including in each of his last 2 defeats. Cummins has been stopped via strikes in all 4 of his losses.

With both fighters leaning heavily on their wrestling when successful, this fight could come down to who wins the striking exchanges.

Anderson appears to be the more technically sound striker and works at a higher volume. Additionally, Cummins has found success against opponents that have faded in the latter half of the fight- Anderson won’t do that.

Cummins will push forward looking for takedowns and while he might score a couple early, Anderson will eventually stabilize and catch him while coming forward- my prediction is Corey Anderson to defeat Patrick Cummins by TKO.

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135lbs- #9 Leslie Smith (10-7-1) vs #10 Aspen Ladd (6-0-0)

In the Women’s Bantamweight division, “The Peacemaker” Leslie Smith takes on the undefeated Aspen Ladd. Ladd is coming off a very successful debut, scoring a TKO finish of Lina Lansberg. Smith has also found her stride with back to back wins have struggling to find consistency early in her UFC run.

Smith is 3 inches taller than Ladd, but they have the same 66″ reach. Ladd is 13-years younger than Smith, who hasn’t fought in 9-months.

Averaging 7.46 significant strikes per minute, has surpassed the 100-strike mark in each of her last 2 fights and is coming off her 5th win by TKO. From a statistical standpoint, Ladd’s numbers were far from overwhelming in her debut as she was outlanded almost 2-1 before getting the finish.

Ladd found herself in a back and forth clinch battle with Lansberg, but the BJJ Purple belt turned the fight in her favour in the 2nd round when she scored a takedown, moved to mount, and pounded her way to a TKO victory.

Smith has been taken down on occasion, but overall she has stopped over 60% of her opponent’s TDAs.

Both girls are more than willing to bite down and trade, moving forward with limited regard for defence. Ladd could look to her takedowns, but it will be Smith’s superior technique, a slight edge in power, and endless gas tank that will be the difference. Ladd will match her early, but Leslie will pull away- my prediction is Leslie Smith to defeat Aspen Ladd by Decision.

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135lbs- Merab Dvalishvili (7-3-0) vs Ricky Simon (10-1-0)

The second fight of the night will feature the debuting LFA and “Tuesday Night Contenders” alumni Ricky Simon taking on promotional sophomore Merab Dvalishvili. Dvalishvili lost his debut via split decision to Frankie Saenz, ending his 6-fight losing streak. Simon enters the Octagon have won 5-straight fights including a 5-round decision victory over UFC veteran Chico Camus in 2017.

Both me are 5’6″, but Simon will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Simon is the younger man by a year.

The debut decision defeat for Dvalishvili was certainly contestable considering he completed 11 takedowns and kept the striking exchange total reasonably close. The loss dropped him to 4-3 in decisions.

Simon is a perfect 6-0 on the scorecards to go along with 5 wins by knockout. He is coming off a KO win that took just 59-seconds. It was his first opening round knockout since starting his pro career with 4 in a row.

Taking this fight on a month’s notice to replace Augusto Mendes, Simon didn’t secure a contact during his time fighting in front of Dana White, but by capturing the LFA Bantamweight title over Camus it put him on the radar for this opportunity.

While Simon has good wrestling and a decent set of hands, he will need to stay off his back to employ those skills. Merab showed he can keep pushing with his takedown game, but it is also concerning to note that he couldn’t keep Saenz down and didn’t offer much offense once on the mat.

Despite his impressive cardio and initial wrestling success, Dvalishvili’s struggles to do much else are concerning. Simon appears to be the better athlete with the more fleshed out skill set. He will probably be on the defensive at time, but overall he will do more offensively then his foe- my prediction is Ricky Simon to defeat Merab Dvalishvili  by decision.

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170lbs- Tony Martin (12-4-0) vs Keita Nakamura (33-8-2 1NC)

Opening the night of action in the Welterweight division, Tony Martin looks to continue his solid run when he takes on Japanese standout Keita “K-Taro” Nakamura. Nakamura earned a split decision win over Alex Morono and has alternated wins and losses over his last 5 fights. Martin dropped a split decision to Olivier Aubin-Mercier to snap his 3-fight winning streak.

Martin is an inch taller than Nakamura, but they share the same 73″ reach. The American is the younger man by 5-years.

Both competitors have won the majority of their fights via submission. Martin has secured 8 of his 12 victories by some form of tap while Nakamura as recorded 18 wins by sub. “K-Taro” has been subbed once in 44 fights while Martin has been caught twice.

Martin is making the move to Welterweight which should help him to deal with some previously concerning cardio issues. Conversely, the physicality that he used against the smaller Lightweights might not be as effective against bigger men at 170-pounds.

Statistically, Martin is 0-3 in fights where he doesn’t score at least a single takedown. Nakamura has completed 10 takedowns over his last 4 fights.

Look for this fight to be closely contested on the feet, but it will be Nakamura who finds success controlling Martin in the clinch and scoring a couple of opportunistic takedowns. Nakamura will wear on Martin and eventually get to his back, my prediction is Keita Nakamura to defeat Tony Martin by submission.

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