UFC Fight Night 63: Mendes vs Lamas- Prelim Predictions
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135lbs- #9 Liz Carmouche (8-5-0) vs Lauren Murphy (8-1-0)
In the headlining bout of the undercard, former title challenger Liz Carmouche takes on former Invicta FC champion Lauren Murphy. Carmouche has lost 2 in a row and 3 of her last 4, with her only win coming over Jessica Andrade. Murphy’s debut was unsuccessful, dropping a decision to Sara McMann- the first loss of her career.
Both girls have an identical 6-0 record in fights ended by knockout. Murphy won the first 5 fights of her career by TKO, needing no more then 2 rounds in any of her wins. In similar fashion, Carmouche scored 4 TKOs and 1 submission in her first 6 fights.
Along with fighting for the title, Carmouche has a pretty sizeable advantage in quality of opposition. She has faced several of the top fighters in the division- Meisha Tate, Sarah Kaufmann, and Alexis Davis. She also nearly won the Strikeforce title against Marloes Coenen. Murphy has defeated a few of the more recognizable names in the Invicta Bantamweight division, but McMann remains her highest ranked opponent.
This fight will come down to how affective Carmouche’s wrestling is. Murphy is a BJJ Blue belt, but had significant trouble staying off her back in her debut- getting taken down 5 times. She was facing an elite level wrestler, but this vulnerability has shown up in other bouts. While she worked hard to remain active off her back and some felt she did more damage than her top positioned opponent, she still lost the fight because of position.
Carmouche is also a BJJ Blue belt and averages 2.75 takedowns at a 50% completion rate. She had a lot of success with her wrestling against Tate, landing 5 takedowns and doing some damage from top position. Her victory over Jessica Andrade was primarily based on her top position success, but her loss versus Davis had a lot to do with her inability to score takedowns.
Murphy is going to struggle to take Carmouche down, if she can that will be a massive coupe. She does have a decent top game, but her key to victory here is her striking game. She needs to stick and move, attack Carmouche’s legs and simply be the busier fighter. Conversely, Carmouche will look to bully her on the wall and mat, while her power will be her biggest asset when they are exchanging on the feet. This should be an entertaining scrap and the fighter with more dimensions to her game should get the nod, so my prediction is Liz Carmouche to defeat Lauren Murphy by decision.
155lbs- Gray Maynard (12-5-1 1NC) vs Alexander Yakovlev (21-6-1)
In the Lightweight division, former title challenger Gray ‘The Bully’ Maynard battles ‘The Thunder of the North’ Alexander Yakovlev. Maynard has lost 3 straight and has just 1 win since his back to back title fights with Frankie Edgar. Yakovlev has yet to pick up a UFC win through 2 tries, his last win came against UFC vet and current Bellator fighter Paul Daley.
The Russian is making his first cut to 155 pounds after competing solely at Welterweight. He will stand 3″ taller then Maynard along holding with a 4″ reach advantage.
Maynard is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and a BJJ Blue belt. Not to be out done, Yakovlev holds Master of Sports accreditations in various disciplines including Sambo and Freestyle Wrestling.
Gray recently made the jump to Power MMA and showed improvement in his boxing, landing some decent combinations throughout round 1 against Ross Pearson. He was able to work in his wrestling, landing a couple of takedowns and bullying Pearson along the cage. Unfortunately, the issue that continues to plague Maynard showed up in the middle frame when he was stunned and then shortly thereafter knocked out. It would appear that his chin has taken a drastic turn for the worse.
He has been knocked out 4 times, including in each of his 3 straight losses to TJ Grant, Nate Diaz, and the aforementioned Pearson.
With a even split of his 16 finishes between knockout and submission, Yakovlev brings a well-rounded skill set into the cage. He has not finished an opponent since 2011, a span 0f 7 fights. In his last fight, he deployed a solid straight left, sometimes alternating with a looping hook. He will also work in a hard inside leg kick.
He hasn’t mounted a significant offensive attack inside the Octagon, with the majority of his striking offense neutralized by his opponent’s grappling game. Yakovlev is a more then capable grappler, but spent prolonged periods of time pinned on the cage and the mat in those contests.
Maynard’s chin is a significant liability, even more so because after getting tagged he tends to freeze up and leave himself open to the follow up attack. His losses have come against top level opposition- a former champion, a title challenger, a #1 contender, and a TUF champ. Yakovlev is far from that. Maynard thrives when he is able to crush his opponent into the cage and work his wrestling in combination with his short range boxing. Alexander was neutralized by Nico Musoke on the wall and while he is the larger man, Gray is still very physically strong and the more adept wrestler. Gray’s chin has become cause for an automatic fade, but look for him to have success with his boxing and return to his roots with a solid wrestling performance- my prediction is Gray Maynard to defeat Alexander Yakovlev by decision.
265lbs- Shamil Abdurakhimov (15-2-0) vs Timothy Johnson (8-1-0)
185lbs- Ron Stallings (12-7-0 1NC) vs Justin Jones (3-1-0)
The first of a 4-pack of preliminary bouts will feature a pair of men who served as injury replacements in their debuts as Ron Stallings meets Justin Jones. Stallings lost via TKO to Uriah Hall as the result of a doctor stoppage- he has now lost 2 in a row. Jones went the distance with TUF winner Corey Anderson, but came up short for the first time in his career.
Jones made his debut at Light Heavyweight, but will stand 3″ shorter then Stallings. Jones will have a 3″ reach advantage.
The Strikeforce vet has a sizeable experience edge in total fights at 20 to 4, but Jones was a perfect 4-0 as an amateur before turning pro. 3 of Jones 7 Pro/Am wins came via guillotine, along with a 1 RNC. Stallings has split his 12 wins evenly between submission and knockouts. He has been defeated 3 times by knockout.
In a contrast of styles, Jones likes to sit down on his punches and generate as much power as possible. His footwork and set up are lacking, but his ability to do damage is significant. Conversely, Stallings comes from a Taekwondo background and offers a high volume striking attack. With 3 knockout losses on record, Stallings’s chin and ability to endure punishment is a bit of a question mark. His footwork is a little suspect and as a result he is very hittable which was exemplified in the Hall fight.
Jones offers a top game similar to his striking attack- based primarily in his power. While he will focus on doing damage, should the opportunity present itself he is more then capable of locking up a submission. Stalling’s submission game is respectable, but his lack of movement allows his opponents to close the distance and gain a positional advantage in the clinch and on the mat. He is a decent scrambler, but too frequently finds himself trying to work out of a negative position.
Jones throws hard and his willingness to sit in the pocket and exchange should pay dividends against an opponent devoid of a strong defensive game with a vulnerable chin. His power takedowns should serve well against Stallings’s below average TDD and will offer an alternative avenue of engagement to keep Stallings on the defensive. Jones is still very green, but he should be able to power his way through his opponent here, so my prediction is Justin Jones to defeat Ron Stallings by TKO.