UFC 238: Cejudo vs Moraes | Prelim Predictions

UFC 238: Cejudo vs Moraes | Prelim Predictions

115lbs- #2 Tatiana Suarez (7-0-0) vs #3 Nina Ansaroff (10-5-0)

The headlining fight of the undercard will most likely determine the next title contender as Tatiana Suarez takes on Nina Ansaroff. The undefeated Suarez stopped former champion, Carla Esparza, last time out and is 4-0 in the UFC. After an 0-2 start to her UFC tenure, Ansaroff has turned her career around with a 4-pack of wins including an upset of former title challenger Claudia Gadelha.

Both are 5’5″, but Suarez will have a 2″ reach advantage. She is also the younger fighter by 5-years.

Suarez’s success has been the result of a dominant wrestling attack. Against a capable wrestler in Esparza, Tatiana mauled her on the floor with 9 takedowns and an eventual GNP stoppage.

The success of Ansaroff has come largely due to her striking skills. She offers a varied striking offense with good volume. She has landed more strikes than all of her opponents, including in each of her first 2 Octagon defeats.

Nina is coming off a fight against a capable ground fighter in Gadelha where she shut down 8 of 10 TDAs.

Suarez hasn’t had to showcase much of her striking, completing 81% of her takedowns and 18 takedowns over 4 bouts.

The victory scenario is pretty blatant for this pairing. Ansaroff has to stay off her back. If she does, she has the striking skills to pull off the upset. That is a difficult task to accomplish. Suarez has taken down better grapplers and Nina, while better lately- has proven vulnerable to a ground-centric attack. Look for Suarez to simply overwhelm her with top pressure in pursuit of a title shot- my prediction is Tatiana Suarez to defeat Nina Ansaroff by submission.

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135lbs- #3 Aljamain Sterling (17-3-0) vs #4 Pedro Munhoz (18-3-0 1NC)

Bantamweight title contenders Aljamain Sterling and Pedro Munhoz enter this bout potentially just a single win away from challenging for the title. Sterling has won 3 in a row and 5 of 6 including a wide decision over Jimmie Rivera. Munhoz scored a brutal KO win over former Champion Cody Garbrandt to extend his winning streak to 3 in a row- he is 7-1 over his last 8.

Sterling is an inch taller, but he will have a marked 6″ reach advantage. He is also the younger fighter by 3-years.

Munhoz further established himself as a multi-faceted threat. He is well known for his dangerous submission game- highlighted by a nasty guillotine. He creates sub opportunities through his vertical pressure forcing his opponent to panic wrestling shoot.

Against, Garbrandt he traded on the feet attempting to overwhelm Cody, but the Brazilian was able to score the knockout before need to look for a sub.

Sterling has also showcased his improved depth. Against Rivera, he focussed entirely on his vertical output and put together a complete striking performance.

In previous bouts, Sterling has leaned heavily on his takedowns and ability to maintain top control. Aljamain also offers a pretty solid submission game. While Munhoz utilizes speed to secure his subs, Sterling is more apt to focus on controlling his foe before going for the finish.

If Pedro can close the gap with regularity, he has the power to hurt Sterling. For Sterling, his reach, improved jab, and kicking arsenal will be the keys to mitigating the pressure and keeping his Brazilian foe on the outside. Munhoz will be forced to chase Sterling for the majority of the fight, struggling to find his range. Sterling’s counters and an uptick in aggression will hold up well with the judges- my prediction is Aljaman Sterling to defeat Pedro Munhoz by decision.

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115lbs- #10 Karolina Kowalkiewicz(13-4-0) vs #13 Alexa Grasso (10-2-0)

Former Strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkievwicz will attempt to snap a 2-fight skid when she meets Mexico’s Alexa Grasso. Grasso is coming off a submission loss to top contender Tatiana Suarez and is now 2-2 in the UFC. Kowalkiewicz lost a decision to Michelle Waterson and was brutally KOed by the newly minted champion Jessica Andrade.

Grasso is 2 inches taller and will have a 2″ reach advantage. She is also the younger fighter by 8-years, although she has not competed in roughly 13-months.

The Mexican comes from a boxing background and the majority of her MMA success has come down to her TDD. She gave up a combined 4 takedowns in her 2 UFC defeats and narrowly edge out a split decision against Randa Markos despite giving up 4 TDs.

In a similar fashion, Karolina has had the majority of her success on the feet. She offers a strong striking repertoire and has a tendency to get stronger as the fight advances. She has eclipsed 100 significant strikes landed mark in 3 of her 5 UFC wins.

Grasso has decent pop in her strikes and can string together her combination effectively. Conversely, she has appeared hesitant once the potential for takedowns has appeared.

For Kowalkiewicz, she has a tendency to get off to a slow start and then rally. Against Waterson, she struggled to find much consistency in her attack never got going.

The layoff and lack of activity could impact the performance of Grasso, especially for a fighter that has struggled at times to offer consistent output. For Kowalkiewicz, her back is against the wall at 0-2 and that should lead to an increased sense of urgency. Karolina should recognize the impact that the threat of the TDs has had on Alexa and opt to shoot at some point. Look for the superior volume of the Polish fighter to play a role as the fight advances- my prediction is Karolina Kowalkiewicz to defeat Alexa Grasso by decision.

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145lbs- #10 Ricardo Lamas (19-7-0) vs Clavin Kattar (19-3-0)

In the Featherweight division, former title challenge Ricardo “The Bully” Lamas takes on Massachusettes-native Clavin Kattar. Kattar scored a stoppage win over Chris Fishgold following his decision loss to Renato Moicano- he has lost just 1 of his 4 Octagon outings. Lamas smashed Darren Elkins with a late round TKO to end a 2-fight skid- he has won 3 of 5.

Lamas is 6-years older than Kattar. Calvin is the taller man by 3-inches and will have a 1″ reach advantage.

“The Bully” offers a strong kicking arsenal and serviceable jab to build his striking attack around. That being said, he does his best work on the mat with his top position ground and pound or opportunistic submission game.

Kattar relies heavily on his striking offense, work in and out of boxing range. His power is decent, resulting in a couple of recent stoppages. Where he struggled against Moicano was in finding his range. Unable to land with consistency, Kattar struggled to match the Brazilian’s output.

Giving up just a single TD over 4 UFC bouts, Kattar’s TDD will be tested here.

Lamas is a solid wrestler, but at times his inability to score takedowns has limited his best offensive weapons.

The volume of Ricardo has failed him at times resulting in close decisions losses. Kattar has shown he can put up some decent volume numbers and if he can stay vertical, it will remove one of Lamas’ most dangerous attributes. Lamas’ durability is also a major question mark and this is Kattar’s opportunity to take the next step- my prediction is Calvin Kattar to defeat Ricardo Lamas by decision.

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