UFC Fight Night 134: Shogun vs Smith Preliminary Predictions

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155lbs- Nick Hein (14-3-0 1NC) vs Damir Hadzovic (11-4-0)

In the top bout on the undercard, Germany’s Nick “Sergeant” Hein takes on “The Bosnian Bomber” Damir Hadzovic in the Lightweight division. Hein suffered a first-round submission loss to Davi Ramos at UFC 224, he had won 3 consecutive decisions prior to the defeat. Hadzovic came to the UFC having won 6 consecutive bouts, he has gone 1-2 in the promotion with his only win coming by 3rd round KO against Marcin Held.

Hadzovic is the taller man by 3 inches and will have a 4″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 2-years.

“The Bosnian Bomber” showcased his stopping power in the final round against Held and he has knocked out 6 men overall. Statistically, he has been shut down inside the Octagon- landing just 45 significant strikes over 7 rounds of action. The primary cause of his struggles have been his TDD- he has relinquished a combined 13 completions over his last 2 fights. Damir tends to wade forward with little focus on defence which has played a significant role in his inability to stay vertical.

Damir is 2-3 in decisions, but he does have a pair of 3rd round stoppage victories.

Hein, a Judo Black Belt, has elected to spend the majority of his UFC tenure on his feet. He averages just .95 takedowns per fight at a 30% completion rate while never having landed more than 2 in a contest. Despite his recent submission loss, Hein remains a durable and tough to finish fighter. He moves in and out of the pocket and fires hard hooks. Unfortunately, the perceived power he throws with has resulted in just a single career win by knockout.

Hein returned to action against Ramos off of a near 2-year layoff- the longest layoff of his career.

Hadzovic throws hard and is the more complete striker, but Hein has the more complete all-around MMA game. If Hadzovic starts finding success with his striking, look for the German to change levels and plant him on the mat. Hein’s durability will allow him to hold his own on the feet between timely takedowns- my prediction is Nick Hein to defeat Damir Hadzovic by decision.

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170lbs- Emil Meek (9-2-1 1NC) vs Bartosz Fabinski (13-2-0)

The penultimate prelim skirmish will pit Norway’s Emil “Valhalla” Meek against Poland’s Bartosz Fabinski. Meek failed to build on his win over Jordan Mein in his debut, falling via decision to the fast-rising Kamaru Usman. Fabinski is 2-0 inside the Octagon with wins over Garreth McLellan and Hector Urbina.

At 6’0″, Fabinski is an inch taller then Meek and will have a slight 1″ reach advantage. Fabinski has not seen action in 32-months.

Meek gained notoriety with his abrupt knockout stoppage of Rousimar Palhares. He has finished 7 opponents by knockout, including 5 in the opening round. His vertical output carried him to victory against Mein, but he got off to a bit of a slow start before rallying to take control of rounds 2 and 3. The glaring stat surrounds his brief UFC tenure has been his below average TDD.

Meek has given up 11 takedowns over 2 fights, including 8 in his loss to Usman.

Fabinski’s 2 UFC performances provide a clear indication that he is capable of capitalizing on Meek’s defensive weakness. Fabinski completed 10 takedowns in his debut performance and 6 more in his win over Hector Urbina. Against Urbina, he came changed levels almost immediately with and planted him on the mat. He has a good base and is difficult to shake off. If his opponent is able to create some separation, the Pole is good in a scramble.

Bartoz has finished 8 opponents by some form of knockout, but just one since early 2014.

Stylistically, this is a brutal matchup for Meek. He has issues staying off his back and Fabinski has a one track mind. Bartosz needs to remain active to avoid giving up the position once earned and hope his pre-layoff cardio doesn’t falter. If Fabinski starts to fade, “Valhalla” will have an opening to rallying, but my prediciton is Bartosz Fabinski to defeat Emil Meek by decision.

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145lbs- Khalid Taha (12-1-0) vs Nad Narimani (10-2-0)

In the Featherweight division, Nad Narimani makes the walk to the Octagon to take on fellow debuting competitor Khalid Taha. While Narimani’s initial debut opportunity was scrapped, he enters the cage on a 3-fight winning streak. Taha won 11 consecutive bouts to begin his career and after suffering his first pro loss last December he rebounded with a submission win to start 2018.

Narimani is an inch taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. Taha is the younger man by 5-years and has competed at Bantamweight before. Afer Narimani’s debut fell thew, he has now been on the shelf for 15-months.

Both fighters have solid finishing numbers, Narimani has subbed 5 opponents and knocked out 2 more. Germany’s Taha has recorded 7 wins by knockout to go along with a pair of submission victories. Khalid has stopped 6 foes in the first frame while Narimani has finished just 4 and is coming off a 5-round decision win.

Building on a Muay Thai base, Taha has good power in his hands and keeps an active pace. He is coming off of a submission win, but it is first since late 2014. Khalid is more likely to posture up and land big power from top position. If his opponent attempts to take him down, the German will utilize a front headlock and then transition to knees strikes.

Including a pair of bouts under the RIZIN banner, Taha’s last 3 opponents have a combined record of 38-23. Narimani has spent time in the major UK promotions, with a trio of wins over fighters with a total record of 38-16.

Narimani relies on his takedowns to help him pile up points and set up a potential submission finish. He has had issues getting off to a slow start, before rallying back to score the victory. He has finished a trio of fighters after round 1. Indicative of his slow starts, he is 3-2 on the scorecards with a couple of razor close decisions going either way.

Narimani can stand and trade, but he also has the superior ground game which should be a major factor here. While Taha is dangerous, he is wild and susceptible to being taken down. Nad should find success putting Taha on the mat and grinding out rounds. Look for Taha slow down in the second half and become more susceptible to being taken down and less dangerous on the feet- my prediction is Nad Narimani to defeat Khalid Taha by submission.

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205lbs- Justin Ledet (9-0-0 1NC) vs Aleksandar Rakic (8-1-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division, Aleksandar Rakic welcomes former Heavyweight Justin Ledit to the division. Ledet went 3-0 at Heavyweight which included a decision over Chase Sherman and a submission of Mark Godbeer. Rakic extended his winning streak to 9 straight fights with a debut decision win over Francimar Barosso.

Ledet, a former Heavyweight, stands 6’4″ and is matched by Rakic. Ledet does have a slight 2″ reach advantage. Aleksandar is the younger man by 4-years.

Rakic came out throwing combinations and landing with power against Barosso. Representing his reputation as an aggressive fighter, he maintained good pressure and forced his foe to fight with his back off the cage. Augmenting his hands, his low kicks took away the movement of his foe.

Ledet builds his offence around his boxing background, working behind a solid jab. That being said, he has secured 5 of his 9 wins by submission. Ledet offers a multi-faceted attack, capable of winning a decision or finish his foe both on the mat and standing. In his last fight, he struggled at times with the aggression of his foe and despite consistently landing his jab he failed to follow with anything significant.

The big question surrounding this fight is cut by Ledet down to 205 and how it will impact him. His speed and cardio gave him an edge over most Heavyweights, but he may no longer have that advantage at Light Heavyweight and the cut could further hurt his performance if it goes poorly.

Rakic’s low kicks could play a significant role in this fight against Ledet’s use of a boxing stance. Conversely, if Ledet fights smart he should find success with his grappling attack against a fighter that has been put on his back before. Despite his debut, Rakic has limited experience beyond the first round. This fact will show up against as Ledet, who will force him to work from start to finish- my prediction is Justin Ledet to defeat Aleksandar Rakic by decision

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135lbs- Davey Grant (10-3-0) vs Manny Bermudez (12-0-0)

A rescheduled bout from UFC Fight Night 130 back in May sees the UK’s “Dangerous” Davey Grant finally squares off with UFC sophomore Manny Bermudez. Bermudez submitted Albert Morales in the second round of his promotional debut to remain undefeated. Grant’s last fight was a submission loss to Damian Stasiak- he is 1-2 in the UFC.

Bermudez is 2 inches taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. He is the younger man by 9-years. Grant has been on the shelf for 21-months.

This bout was formerly set to take place in England which favoured Grant. While the bout will still transpire in the Europe, it would appear that Davey has lost his home field advantage.

With a combined 16 wins by submission, there is a legit chance that this fight is contested and decided on the mat. Bermudez’s submission of choice is the triangle choke, but he has won by several different techniques over his career. He will pull guard and has is very slick when it comes to catching a sub in almost any position.

While Grant is capable of competing on the floor, he might be best served by keeping this fight standing. Bermudez’s striking is still a work in progress and he was struggling against Morales when forced to exchange.

Grant has been taken down in each of his 3 UFC bouts and simply seems too willing to compete on the mat to avoid doing so here. A slow start due to ring rust could get Grant in some trouble against a fighter known for early finishes. As the younger fighter, Bermudez will continue to show improvements in his overall game- my prediction is Manny Bermudez to defeat Davey Grant by submission.Paragraph breaker

205lbs- Jeremy Kimball (15-7-0) vs Darko Stosic (12-1-0)

In the Light Heavyweight division Jeremy “Grizzly” Kimball takes on the debuting Serbian Darko Stosic. Kimball is 1-2 in the UFC, winning his sophomore appearance over Josh Stansbury before suffering a first-round submission loss to Dominick Reyes. Stosic has won 8 consecutive fights dating back to his only pro loss back in 2014.

Both men are 6’0″ taller, but Stosic is the younger man by a year.

The stats suggest that this contest is not going to require the judges. Kimball’s only UFC win was the 11th knockout victory of his career. He has recorded a total of 7 opening round wins to go along with 5 first round defeats. By comparison, Stosic has 7 wins by some form of knockout- ending 7 fight in the first frame.

Stosic is a kickboxer who has spent some time working with Mirko Cro Cop. He throws heavy low kicks and powerful single strikes. He has shown some willingness to take the fight to the floor when needed. Kimball’s submission defence has been a point of vulnerability throughout his career. Stosic has just a single win by tap out.

Kimball is more capable then his physique would suggest. He will throw a variety of kicks and has some pop in his hands. He is quite durable but leaves a lot of defensive gaps when under fire.

Stosic is a big man and if the cut goes poorly, Kimball could overwhelm him and score the finish in the second half of the fight. If not, “Grizzly” is going to get chewed up by the superior striker. Look for the leg kicks of Stosic to play a big role in slowing Kimball down- my prediction is Darko Stosic to defeat Jermey Kimball by TKO.

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135lbs- Damian Stasiak (10-5-0) vs Pingyuan Liu (10-5-0)

The opening fight of the night, Poland’s Damian Stasiak looks to level his UFC record when he takes on the debuting Pingyuan Liu in the Bantamweight division. Stasiak has lost back to back fight since stringing together a pair of UFC wins- he is coming off a TKO loss to Brian Kelleher. After a rough 0-4 start to his pro career, Liu has won 11 of his last 12 fights- including a perfect 4-0 run in 2016 and a pair of victories in 2017.

Pingyuan is the taller man by 3 inches, but they share the same 70″ reach. The Chinese fighter is the younger man by 3-years.

With a just a pair of decision wins, Liu has finished each of his last 7 opponents- 4 by knockout and all but 1 in the opening round. Pingyuan hasn’t faced overwhelming opposition, with a combined record of 20-18. Stasiak is coming off the first stoppage loss of his career. He is 2-4 in fights that go the distance.

Stasiak has a solid submission game, but he has had issues with his TDD. He has been put on his back at least once in all but 1 of his UFC bouts. Offensively, he has taken each of his opponents down totalling 10 over his 5 fights. He has 5 submission wins coming by RNC.

Liu has some decent tools to build his game around, but he is still a developing fighter. Stasiak should find success capitalizing on his aggression, scoring takedowns, and going to work with his submission game. Pingyuan’s lack of long fight experience coupled with the debut factor should give Damian an advantage as the fight advances- my prediction is  Damian Stasiak to defeat Pingyuan Liu by submission.

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