UFC 194: Aldo vs McGregor- Prelim Predictions

135lbs- #4 URIJAH FABER (32-8-0) vs #13 FRANKIE SAENZ (11-2-0)

In the headlining act of the UFC 194 undercard, former WEC Featherweight champion and perennial contender ‘The California Kid’ Urijah Faber meets Frankie Saenz in the Bantamweight division. Faber is coming off his first non-title fight defeat since 2005, dropping a decision at Featherweight to Frankie Edgar. Saenz has won 7 consecutive fights, 3 in the UFC, most recently defeating Sirwan Kakai via split decision.

Both men are 5’6″, Faber will have a 1″ reach advantage. Saenz is the younger man by 1 year.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler and BJJ Brown belt, Faber does his best work on the ground. His top game is smothering, working ground and pound from the guard and he is an impressive 19-0 in fights ended by submission. He has won 9 times by his signature rear-naked choke, but as is the case for most of his Team Alpha Male teammates- any form of choke from Faber can be fight ending. He has won 7 times by knockout, with the last coming prior to debuting in the WEC. He averages 2.6 SLpM and is at his best when he is the faster fighter on the feet. Faber has been knocked out 3 times. In his decision defeats the key to beating him as been defending or getting the better of the wrestling exchanges. In his last 7 defeats, he has been on the wrong end of the takedown battle by a count of 18-3 and shut out entirely in 5 of those fights.

Statistically, Faber averages just 1.56 takedowns at a 33% completion rate, while defending 59% of his opponents’ tries. He has completed 14 takedowns in his last 5 wins.

Saenz is also a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and BJJ Blue belt. His takedown numbers have been a little stronger than Urijah’s, with an even 3 TDs per fight at 47% completion rate. He has defended 61%. Keep in mind these numbers have been compiled over a much smaller sample size and against far less accomplish competition than what Faber has been dealing with. He landed 8 takedowns over his opening 2 fights and defeated Iuri Alcantara largely on the basis of his takedowns and top game. He did a good job of grinding out the BJJ Black belt and dominating the positional battle. His striking is still a work in progress, although it looked improved against Kakai. Frankie out-landed his foe by a count of 80-55.

Where he did struggle against Kakai was in the wrestling department. He completed just 1 of his 6 TDAs and was taken down 3 times.

Saenz grabbed people’s attention with his win over Alcantara in Brazil. No easy feat. Additionally, he stepped up to take this fight when other Bantamweights were reluctant to face Faber for fear of losing momentum with a loss. Urijah is coming off a tough defeat and was arguably losing the Francisco Rivera fight prior to the unfortunate eye-poke and follow-up submission. Is it possible that he is losing a step? In this fight, he should be better at everything Saenz does well. Look for Faber to get the better of the striking with his speed and more varied attack. Saenz will struggle to establish his wrestling game and will most likely end up on his back. From that position, ‘the California Kid’ will unload his ground and pound from the guard and work towards submission oppurtunities- my prediction is Urijah Faber to defeat Frankie Saenz by submission.

145lbs- #3 Ricardo Lamas (17-5-0) vs #15 Jason Knight (20-2-0)

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205lbs- C. Daniel Cormier (19-1-0) vs #1 Jon Jones (22-1-0)

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170lbs- WARLLEY ALVES (10-0-0) vs COLBY COVINGTON (8-0-0)

In the Welterweight division, a pair of undefeated and highly regarded prospects collide as TUF Brazil 3 winner Warlley Alves meets Colby ‘Chaos’ Covington. Convington enters the bout with 3 UFC wins, most recently scoring a decision victory over veteran Mike Pyle. Alves has also won a trio of Octagon tussles, besting Nordine Taleb and Alan Jouban in his last 2 outings.

Both men stand 5’11” and have an identical 72″ reach. Alves is the younger man by 3 years.

Covington is a former NCAA D-1 wrestler and has parlayed those skills to 5 submission wins in just 8 career fights. He does have a pair of subs due to punches, including his UFC debut. He has never officially knock an opponent out. He largely builds his offense around his ability wrestling. Look for Colby to attempt to mask his shot with a couple of quick strikes. If he can’t score on the initial shot, he will work the clinch along the cage, do some dirty boxing, and drop for another TDA. His striking is still very much a work in progress. He has shown a decent body kick, but has struggled with the aggression of his opponents. When under pressure he will shoot almost immediately.

He has averaged just 1.8 takedowns per fight at a 46% completion rate. Once he got Pyle on the mat he smothered him from the guard and held the position for large durations of each round.

The Brazilian has also won 5-times by submission, 3 by his vaunted guillotine. Alves is incredibly aggressive and came out very strong against Jouban, nearly finishing him. It severely impacted his performance for the rest of the bout. Against Taleb, he was much more controlled but still active on the feet. He will throw hard body and low kicks, a clubbing left hook, and he has power in his big right hand. He has also shown the ability to wrestling and frequently will catch his foes’ kicks and convert them into takedowns.

Warlley has landed 5 takedowns over 3 fight and his TDD has been perfect. Against Taleb, the Canadian was unable to take him off his feet despite securing full control of Alves’s lead leg.

The Brazilian is the far more developed as a fighter. There still remain questions about his cardio. He is also facing an American wrestler for the 1st time in his career, which can be difficult. This fight is pretty simple for Covington; takedowns and top control. If he can’t put Alves on his back and keep him there, he is going to struggle to win. If he elects to kick Alves, he could get put on his back in an unfamiliar position. Additionally, his tendency to look for takedowns along the cage will create openings for Alves to attempt his signature choke. He caught Taleb along the cage on a failed shot. Look for Alves to be aggressive on the feet, back Covington up, and force him to shoot out of desperation. Whether on an early shot, after Colby gets clipped, or during an exchange along the cage Alves will go for the squeeze- my prediction is Warlley Alves to defeat Colby Covington by submission.

140lbs- #8 Aljamain Sterling (13-2-0) vs #14 Renan Barao (35-4-0 1NC)

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170lbs- C. Tyron Woodley (16-3-1) vs #1 Demian Maia (25-6-0)

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155lbs- LEONARDO SANTOS (14-4-1) vs KEVIN LEE (11-1-0)

TUF Brazil 2 Welterweight winner Leonardo Santos takes on fellow rising prospect Kevin ‘The Motown Phenom’ Lee in the Lightweight division. Lee enters action riding a 4-fight winning streak, earning wins over James Moontasri and Michel Prazeres in his last 2 bouts. Not to be out done, Santos hasn’t lost in 9 straight fights, most recently submitting Tony Martin last March.

Santos is 3″ taller than Lee, but the American will have a 2″ reach advantage. Lee is the younger man by a marked 12 years.

A BJJ Ace, Santos has been working to round out his striking attack. Against Martin, he utilized straight combinations, working in an uppercut, and augmented his boxing with quick low kicks.  Santos’s output is a bit of a concern, landing just 2.03 strikes per minute compared to 2.73 absorbed. Despite these improvements, his strength is still his mat game. After executing a beautiful trip versus Martin, he moved to mount, rotated to back control, and eventually secured the RNC. The 9th submission of the BJJ Black belts’ career. Arm-triangles have accounted for 5 of his 9 submission victories.

A Nova Uniao product, Santos’s wrestling is still a work in progress. Averaging just 1.22 takedowns at a 22% completion rate. He has never landed more than 2 takedowns in a fight, but sometimes only needs 1 completion to finish his foe.

A former NCAA D-2 wrestler, Lee has leveled a multi-functional attack through his 5 UFC fights. Offering a consistent striking attack with crisp boxing setup behind a good left jab and supported by a serviceable kicking repertoire. Lee has averaged 3.7 SLpM. His takedown game as been equally as effective, landing at least 1 in every fight. Prior to defeating Moontasri, he had completed 4 takedowns in each of his 3 previous UFC victories.  Equally as sound defensively, ‘The Motown Phenom’ has stopped 66% of his opponents’ TDAs. In fights where he has been taken down, Lee has done a good job of getting back vertical quite quickly.

All 5 of Lee’s wins that have come inside the distance have been by submission. A pair each by guillotine and rear-naked choke.

This fight will most likely be determined by Santos’s ability or inability to take Lee down. Lee’s defensive wrestling is strong, but Prazeres did manage to take him off his feet on 3 occasions. Santos won’t be as fortunate. His height advantage will work against him, making the level change required to put Lee on the mat much more difficult. When on the feet, Lee will remain the more active striker and his slight reach advantage will help him to deal with the height of his foe. The American is the superior athlete and the more well-rounded fighter. While Santos is incredibly talented, he is a specialist and Lee’s skill set will prevent Santos from getting in a position to use those skills. Lee’s volume and diversity allows him to distance himself on the feet, my prediction is Kevin Lee to defeat Leonardo Santos by decision.

145lbs- #9 Renato Moicano (10-0-1) vs #8 Brian Ortega (11-0-0 1NC)

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145lbs- Cris Cyborg (16-1-0 1NC) vs Tonya Evinger (19-5-0)

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115lbs- #5 TECIA TORRES (6-0-0) vs JOCELYN JONES-LYBARGER (6-1-0)

In the Women’s Strawweight division, Tecia ‘The Tiny Tornado’ Torres makes her 3rd UFC appearance when she battles UFC debutant Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger. Torres is 2-0 inside the UFC’s Octagon, building on her 4-0 run under the Invicta FC banner. Jones-Lybarger makes her debut on the heels of a perfect 4-0 run in the reputable Resurrection Fighting Alliance, most recently defeating Zoila Frausto to capture the promotion’s title.

Michell Waterson was originally pencilled in to face Torres but was forced to withdraw due to injury. Jones-Lybarger is stepping up on just over 2 week’s notice. She last fought in October.

JJL is 6″ taller and will have a 3″ reach advantage. Torres is 4 years younger.

Torres enters the cage with an unblemished MMA record both as a pro and an amateur. During that stretch she has won 11 times via decision (6 as a pro). She opened her amateur career with a pair of stoppages. A Black belt in Karate and Taekwondo and BJJ Blue belt, ‘The Tiny Tornado’ averages 4.27 SLpM. She holds wins over both Rose Namajunas and Paige VanZant, defeating both with a high paced mix of striking and wrestling. In her most recent victory over Angela Hill she showed improved wrestling, landing a couple of takedowns and smothering her foe with tight top pressure.

Tecia was ranked 3rd in the TUF tournament, but lost via decision to the unheralded Randa Markos in the opening round, before re-entering the competition, defeating Bec Rawlings, and then losing to eventual tournament winner Carla Esparaza.

JJL has a record similar to Torres, with 5 of her 6 victories coming on the scorecards. She did pick up a 27-second guillotine submission in her second pro bout. Employing a primarily boxing based attack. Jocelyn sits down on her strikes and can generate a decent amount of power with her hands. She dropped Frausto with a hard jab during their 5-round battle. She sits in the pocket and carries a pretty steady volume. Look for her to mix in a uppercut when appropriate. JJL can also do damage from the clinch, but it is a secondary focus of her attack. Kicks are a minor part of her offense, which isn’t  necessarily a bad thing considering she is facing an opponent that will be looking to take her down.

Against Frausto, she did a good job of shutting down her attempts to take her down. JJL can also go offensive with wrestling and is able to do some damage from top position.

JJL has the tools to give Torres a lot of trouble. Her willingness to stand and trade, accompanied by her reach and height advantage will serve as a nice counter to the volume striking of Tecia. If Torres can’t routinely get on the inside of her strikes, she will need to change gears and go to her wrestling game. If she can take JJL down that will both score points when they are on the mat and create some future apprehension when they are striking. The cardio complications that could come for Jocelyn with the short notice are also a major concern considering she is fighting an opponent who can go a full 3-rounds without a drop of in performance. Torres needs to avoid getting stuck at the end of JJL’s punch, but my prediction is Tecia Torres to defeat Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger by decision.

145lbs- Andre Fili (16-4-0) vs Calvin Kattar (16-2-0)

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170lbs- #3 Robbie Lawler (27-11-0 1NC) vs #7 Donald Cerrone (32-8-0 1NC)

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155lbs- JOE PROCTOR (11-3-0) vs MAGOMED MUSTAFAEV (12-1-0)

In the Lightweight division, TUF alumni Joe Proctor goes toe to toe with talented Russian Magomed Mustafaev. Proctor improved his UFC record to 4-0 with a last second submission win over Justin Edwards, he was submitted by Yancy Medeiros 1 fight earlier. Mustafaev started his UFC run with a victory, stopping Piotr Hallmann via doctor induced TKO- the win extended his current streak to 11 in a row.

Proctor has a 2″ height and 1″ reach advantage. He is 3 years older than his opponent. Mustafaev made his Lightweight debut against Hallmann, after spending his career at 170 pounds.

Since signing on with the UFC, Mustafaev has been spending time developing his game with the Jackson-Wink crew. He has finished his adversary in all 12 of his pro wins, 8 by knockout and 4 by submission. Never seeing a 3rd round, he record 7 opening round stoppages and 5 more in the middle frame. In his debut, he had a little trouble with the wrestling Hallmann, getting put on his back a couple of times. He was able to get back up, but against a top level wrestler that could be an issue to watch. He won the fight because he was the more impactful striker. Like most Russian fighters, he sits down on punches and throws with power. Hallmann actually got the better of the totals by a count of 29-18, but he wasn’t doing enough damage and was in turn getting cracked every time Magomed connected. With power in his hands, good offensive wrestling, and a sound grappling game he offers multi-layered offensive front.

The Russian’s 4 submission wins have been the result of 4 different holds. He also earned a KO victory via ‘powerbomb’ 2 fights prior to entering the UFC.

Proctor enters the cage having finished his opponent in 3 of his 4 UFC wins. Putting Edwards to sleep via guillotine was the 3rd time Lauzon had used his signature move to end a fight. Training under Joe Lauzon, his submission grappling continues to develop nicely. His wrestling is still a point of concern as he has yet to land a takedown in the UFC and gave up a combined 7 completions on 13 attempts against Edwards and Ramsey Nijem. On the feet, he has knocked out a pair of foes. His counter game is strong and once he was able to establish the timing of his last opponent’s forward push, he started to counter and make him hesitate. That will be key to his success against the aggressive Russian.

During his run on TUF: Live he submitted his first 2 opponents inside the opening 5 before falling to James Vick via decision.

Proctor is a crafty fighter, but he doesn’t appear to have the arsenal to back Mustafaev up. He is a competent counter striker, but the Russian’s willingness to keep coming forward is going to be difficult to stop. If Proctor is able to stem the tide on the feet, look for Magomed to make the appropriate adjustments and start shooting on Joe. Once on the ground, Proctor will be active, but similar to the Nijem fight he will lose the positional battle. Mustafaev is the more impactful striker, better wrestler, and his takedowns leading to top control combined with his grappling skills will nullify Proctor’s submission game. Joe will serve as a solid test for Mustafaev early on, but the damage will pile up- my prediction is Magomed Mustafaev to defeat Joe Proctor by TKO.

145lbs- Andre Fili (16-4-0) vs Calvin Kattar (16-2-0)


205lbs- #3 Jimi Manuwa (17-2-0) vs #5 Volkan Oezdemir (14-1-0)

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155lbs- JOHN MAKDESSI (12-4-0) vs YANCY MEDEIROS (11-3-0 1NC)

Canadian John ‘The Bull’ Makdessi battles Hawaii’s Yancy Medeiros in the Lightweight division. Makdessi’s is back in action after a TKO loss to Donald Cerrone- he has alternated wins and losses over his last 4 fights. Medeiros is also coming off a loss, falling via TKO to Dustin Poirier- the defeat ended his 2 fight winning streak.

Medeiros is 2″ taller and will have a sizeable 7″ reach advantage. The American is 2 years younger.

A Black belt in Both Karate and Taekwondo, Makdessi has recorded 9 wins by knockout- 3 in the UFC. ‘The Bull’ implements a largely kicking based attack. He will throw a lot of spinning and front leg kicking techniques. Drawing from his Karate background, he uses a more sideways oriented stance which can present an unfamiliar front to his opponents. Conversely, some of his recent opponents have found success battering his lead leg as he tends to put a lot of weight on it. Arguably his best weapon his is left hand. Makdessi will attack and counter with both a spearing left jab and hard leg hook.

His grappling focus is mainly defensive. He has been submitted just once and owns a stout 87% TDD.

A former Middleweight, who cut down 2 division upon entering the UFC, Medeiros has knockout 6 opponents. He also stopped Yves Edwards, but a failed drug test wiped that result out. He has shown signs up an improved grappling game, submitted his foe in each of his last 2 wins. Yancy is a long striker, popping out a left jab and following with a hard right hand. He will target the body with his hands and a hard turning side kick that he Joe Proctor with. He is a little non-committal on his low kicks, frequently retracting his kicks before completion.

Medeiros was tagged with some massive shots by Poirier and both Proctor and Edwards connected as well with some hard strikes. He has also been doubled over with strikes to the body on a couple of occasions.

Makdessi is undersized as a Lightweight and he has struggled with longer, technical kickboxers like Cerrone and Shane Campbell. He will be dealing with some length issues again in this fight. Additionally, he is coming off the first TKO loss of his career and suffered a broken jaw which could impact his ability to absorb punishment. Medeiros his hard, but he leaves himself open defensively and get hits with some big shots. Makdessi is the more technical striker and will exploit those openings. Watch for a turning side kick to Yancy’s midsection. The Hawaiian might consider trying to grapple with Makdessi, but it won’t prove successful- my prediction is John Makdessi to defeat Yancy Medeiros by TKO.

115lbs- Kailin Curran (4-4-0) vs Alexandra Albu (6-0-0)

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170lbs- COURT MCGEE (16-4-0) vs MARCIO ALEXANDRE Jr. (13-2-0)

The UFC 194 curtain jerker features TUF winner Court ‘The Crusher’ McGee returning to action against Brazilian Marcio ‘Lyoto’ Alexandre Jr. in the Welterweight division. McGee’s last fight was a decision loss to Ryan LaFlare, the first loss for Court at 170 pounds snapping his 2 fight winning streak. Alexandre could be on his last leg in the UFC having dropped 2 in a row, most recently falling via split decision to Tim Means.

McGee has been on the shelf for 2 years less a day as of fight night. He will have a slight 1″ height advantage, but give up an inch of reach to his opponent. The Brazilian is 4 years younger and has also experienced a prolonged break with his last fight taking place December 20th 2014.

Court is a volume striker, averaging 5.62 SLpM. He has just a trio of knockout victories, all early in his MMA career. He landed a career-high 166 significant strikes against Josh Neer and out-struck Nick Ring 108 t0 68 despite losing the decision. Look for him to incorporate a nice variety of kicking techniques into his attack. He augments his vertical output with a serviceable wrestling game. His numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he is 5-1 in fights where he lands a takedown and 0-2 when he does not. Against, LaFlare he completed 4 of 6 attempts. It is interesting to note that despite his high output and impressive cardio, McGee is just 6-4 in fights that go the distance.

McGee is a BJJ Purple belt and also comes from a Karate background, but arguably his greatest asset is his ability to push the pace without slowing down.

As his nickname implies, Junior comes from a Karate background and carries himself as such inside the cage. He has finished 10 of his 11 wins by knockout. 8 knockouts in the opening round, 7 before the 2-minute mark. Against Means, he was nearly knocked out but was saved by the referee who felt a knee that Means landed was illegal. After the action picked up again, ‘Lyoto’ landed his most significant strike of the fight, dropping Means with a head kick. Despite his striking success outside of the UFC, he has been out-landed in both of his fights. His inability to stay vertical against Warlley Alves was his eventual undoing as he was submitted in the final round.

Prior to entering the Octagon, the level of competition for the Brazilian was a bit of a question mark with his final 4 opponents holding a combined 3-13 record.

McGee has fought and defeated better competition then what Alexandre represents. The issue for Court is the layoff. He has been out of the game for a significant amount of time and if he can’t return to his high output offense- he isn’t the same fighter. If he can, he will have more than enough to get the job done here. The Brazilian struggled with the pressure of Means, routinely backtracking and struggling to return fire with any significance. If McGee opts to take the fight to the ground he should have a clear advantage there as well. Grinding out a decision or potentially locking up a submission are both possibilities. Short of Junior landing something significant or McGee returning as a shell of his former self, Alexandre will struggle to keep up- my prediction is Court McGee to defeat Marcio Alexnadre Jr. by decision.

125lbs- Eric Shelton (10-3-0) vs Jarred Brooks (12-0-0)

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