UFC 234- Preliminary Predictions

UFC 234- Preliminary Predictions

155lbs- Devonte Smith (9-1-0) vs Dong Hyun Ma (16-8-3)

In the headlining bout of the Undercard, Devonte “King Kage” Smith makes his sophomore walk to the Octagon opposed South Korea’s newly named Dong Hyun Ma. Looking to gain some distinction from the “Stun Gun”, Ma has won 3 consecutive bouts including a split decision in Australia against Damien Brown. Smith debuted with a crushing knockout of Julian Erosa to extend his winning streak to 10 straight.

Ma is 2 inches taller, but Smith will have a sizable 6″ reach advantage. Smith is the younger man by 5-years.

Smith showcased his violent striking, sending Erosa to the canvas with a quick 1-2 and follow-up ground strikes. He has finished 8 of his 9 wins by knockout, 5 in the opening round. “King Kage” also scored a 4th round TKO back in 2017. Smith is quick and moves very well, bouncing in and out with rapid combinations.

His Contender victory came via elbow strikes in defense of a takedown attempt along the cage.

Ma has put on multiple strong performances, but has more recently started converting his efforts into wins. The Korean has split his 12 finishes evenly between knockouts and submissions. A Judo Black Belt, Dong utilized his ground skills with a 4-pack of takedowns in his win over Brendan O’Reilly. Against Brown, he didn’t attempt a single shot opting to ride with his striking.

Willing to take damage, Ma’s current striking exchange rate sits at -0.76.

Ma is a willing striker with the ability mix in his grappling skills. Unfortunately, Smith is a considerably better athlete with a superior striking offense. Dong has to make this a war, survive the early exchanges, and hope Devonte wears down before he does. He won’t. Smith lets his hands go, capitalizing on Ma’s willingness to wade forward- my prediction is Devonte Smith to defeat Dong Hyun Ma by knockout.

145lbs- Shane Young (11-4-0) vs Austin Arnett (15-5-0)

The undercard co-main event transpires in the Featherweight division as “Golden Boy” Austin Arnett takes on Auckland-born “Sugar” Shane Young. Arnett had lost 3 straight fights including a pair of UFC bouts before scoring a decision win over Humberto Bandenay. Young dropped a decision to the hulking Alexander Volkankovski in his debut, but is coming off of a middle round TKO victory over Rolando Dy.

The American is 4 inches taller than Young, but they will share the same 72″ reach. “Sugar” is the younger man by 2-years.

The key to Arnett’s success has been his output. He was badly out-landed 155 to 55 over his first 2 Octagon adventures. Conversely, he defeated Bandenay with a consistently paced attack, ending the night with a 74 to 40 edge in overall strikes. Arnett didn’t start to find success until rounds 2 and 3 once his foe began to slow down.

Arnett was unsuccessful in his Tuesday Night Contender’s bid, dropping a decision to Brandon Davis.

Shane made his debut with just a week to prep for Volkanovski. Young gave up 5 takedowns in his debut, but looked to utilize a similar approach in his next fight. He completed just 1 of 5 TDAs against Dy. He maintains consistent pressure, forcing his foe to work off their back foot. He landed 104 significant strikes in just under 10 minutes.

Young is 2-4 in decision which is indicative of a fighter that is willing to absorb damage to deliver damage.

125lbs- Kai Kara-France (17-7-0 1NC) vs Raulian Paiva (17-1-0)

The Flyweight division continues on as New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France meets the debuting Raulian Paiva. Kara France has won 6 in a row after debuting with a decision victory over Elias Garcia. Paiva earned a split decision on the Brazilian Tuesday Night Contender series and has won 12 consecutive bouts.

Paiva is 3 inches taller than Kai and the younger man by 2-years.

A TUF: Tournament of Champions alumni, Kara-France has finished 9 opponents by knockout and put together an impressive 86-strike debut performance. Both standing and on the mat, KK-F maintained a constant flow of offense. The New Zealander did find himself in some tough spots, diving into his adversary’s guard and then defending multiple submission attempts.

Kai was eliminated in the 2nd round of the TUF tournament via decision against Alexander Pantoja.

Paiva is 12-0 on the scorecards while splitting his 6 finishes evenly between subs and knockouts. The Brazilian’s striking offense includes a sharp left jab and decent combination punching. He also offers good head movement; working in close while slipping and countering with crisp hooks.

If taken to the mat, he will attack with sub and scramble to a better position.

Paiva has faced and defeated experienced foes; his last 3 foes are a combined 56-28. Just 4-months ago he was involved in a motorcycle accident that claimed the life of his girlfriend which raises concerns about his mental state.

Kara-France found success based on Garcia’s willingness to give up position, but he also had issues with Elias’s aggressive guard. Paiva’s is a good scrambler and dangerous on the mat. He is an active striker capable of working on the outside or doing damage in close. Kai has power but he has struggled to reach longer fighters and will do so here. Paiva will come out motivated, landing better strikes and holding the edge in the grappling exchanges- my prediction is Raulian Paiva to defeat Kai-Kara France by decision.

135lbs- Teruto Ishihara (11-5-2) vs Kyung Ho Kang (14-8-0 1NC)

With his UFC tenure on the line, Japan’s Teruto Ishihara takes on “Mr. Perfect” Kyung Ho Kang in the Bantamweight division. Ishihara has lost back to back bouts; a knockout loss to Petr Yan and a decision defeat against Jose Quinonez. Kang dropped a split decision to Ricardo Ramos, ending his 3 fight winning streak- he is 3-2 in the UFC with a No Contest.

A big Bantamweight, Kang will stand 2 inches taller than Ishihara to go along with a 3″ reach advantage. Ishihara is the younger man by 4-years.

Ishihara’s strength lies in his striking- knockouts have accounted for 8 of his 10 wins. He has stopped 6 opponents in the opening round. He moves well, but his volume and below average cardio hamper his overall performance.

After earning back to back knockout wins, Teruto went a dismal 1-3 in decisions. All but 1 of his 6 career losses have come beyond the first round.

Kang lost significant time to his mandatory military service in his homeland. Prior to his hiatus, “Mr. Perfect” showcased his ground skills, completing 10 takedowns over his first 3 UFC outings. He has recorded 10 wins by submission- 4 by RNC.

Similar to his opponent, Kang’s record in longer fights is not strong. He is a 2-5 in decisions, including 1-1 in split decisions.

Ishihara has proven vulnerable to ground oriented fighters; he has been taken down in 6 of 8 fights. Kang’s size makes him a handful, especially in the clinch position. He should find success grinding Teruto down along the cage and dragging him to the fight. As the fight progress, Kang should find great successes bringing his grappling attack to bear- my prediction is Kyung Ho Kang to defeat Teruto Ishihara by submission.

155lbs- Lando Vannata (9-3-2) vs Marcos Rosa (6-4-0)

Fighting for the first time outside of North America, “Groovy” Lando Vannata takes on the debuting Marcos Rosa of Brazil. Vannata has just a single win in the UFC, including a pair of draws over his last 3 fights. Rosa is coming off of his 4th win in his last 5 fights to improve upon a 2-3 start to his pro career.

At 6’1″, Rosa is a tall Lightweight- 4 inches taller than Lando. The American is 6-years younger.

Rosa is far from a typical UFC debutant; he is 32 years old and holds a record barely above .500. He has finished his last 3 opponents, all in the first round. Marcos builds his attack behind a long jab and variety of kicking and spinning attacks.

The Brazilian has had issues with his defensive wrestling. His opponents have found success taking him down with regularity and keeping his back on the mat.

Despite taking part in some entertaining fights, Vannata has failed to convert his performances into wins. He has decent striking with finishing power, scoring a trio of knockdowns over his 2 draws. His awkward cadence can make it difficult for his opponent to get a read on him.

Lando will most likely look to his wrestling in this fight- he has completed 7 takedowns over his last 4 fights.

Vannata has been getting off to strong starts in recent action, but his willingness to brawl often brings his opponent back into the fight.

Vannata’s gameplan should be centered entirely around his wrestling. Rosa’s length and striking repertoire is decent, but it is his vulnerability on the floor that is too much to overlook. Vannata will most likely stick on the outside, inviting the early exchanges before changing levels for a takedown- my prediction is Lando Vannata to defeat Marcos Rosa by submission.

155lbs- Callan Potter (16-7-0) vs Jalin Turner (6-4-0)

The second fight on the card, features the sophomore appearance of Jalin Turner when he takes on the debuting Callan “The Rockstar” Potter in the Lightweight division. Turner took a short notice debut at Welterweight, suffering an opening round knockout to Vicente Luque. Potter’s 8-fight winning streak ended with a submission loss to Marcin Held- he rebounded with a split decision win in December.

Turner is 6’3″,  3-inches taller than Potter. Potter is a 11-years older and is stepping in on less than 2-weeks notice.

In his debut, Turner simply took on too much too soon. He utilizes his reach well, throwing heavy long-range strikes including a laser left hand. He has finished 6 opponents by knockout- all in the opening round. Conversely, the Luque loss was the third knockout loss of his career.

Despite the loss to Luque, Jalin did show good composer underfire against a larger and more experienced opponent.

Potter comes to the UFC with a stoppage heavy record. He has stopped his opponent in 16 of his 17 wins- 10 by knockout. Similar to Turner, he has also suffered multiple stoppage defeats- 3 by knockout and 4 by submission. “The Rockstar” has fought at Welterweight before which raises concerns about getting to 155 on short notice.

Of Potter’s 24 pro fights, 17 have ended in the opening round. Although, he does have a 5-round knockout win on his resume and is 6-1 in fights that go beyond the opening frame.

Potter needs to turn this fight into a brawl and force Turner to negate his physical and technical advantages. If he can take Jalin down, that could also give him a shot at victory. The Aussie isn’t overly fleet of foot and is quite hittable. Turner should find success keeping him at the end of his punches and doing damage- my prediction is Jalin Turner to defeat Callan Potter by knockout.

135lbs- Wuliji Buren (10-6-0) vs Jonathan Martinez (9-2-0)

In the first fight of the night, China’s “Beastmaster” Wuliji Buren takes on UFC sophomore Jonathan Martinez. Buren is 0-2 in the promotion after a knockout loss to Marlon Vera. Martinez made his debut as an injury replacement, dropping a decision to Andre Soukhamthath.

Buren is an inch taller, but Martinez will have a 1″ reach advantage. Buren is the younger fighter by 3-years.

Martinez looked decent on the outside with his kicking arsenal, but once he moved into range Soukhamthath dropped him on a couple of occasions and found success pushing him into the cage. He found his greatest success once he got his opponent on the mat, but overall he struggled with the physicality of his foe.

Martinez’s only loss prior to his UFC debut came due to illegal knee strikes against Matt Schnell.

The Chinese fighter has been a fast starter, but he has failed to convert his early success into victories. He put Rolando Dy in some bad spots on the mat but struggled on the feet. He has landed 6 takedowns in 2 fights, but had issues holding top position. Against Vera, his striking looked improved prior to getting dropped with a body shot.

Prior to coming to the UFC, Buren’s last 3 victories came over opponents with a record of 16-11 with a single opponent accounting for 13 of those wins.

Buren should be the larger man with a focus on taking the action to the floor. His willingness to commit to his takedowns will be at the center of his attack. Martinez could hurt Wuliji and score a finish, but look for him to spend the majority of the fight on the defensive and working off his back- my prediction is Wuliji Buren to defeat Jonathan Martinez by decision.

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