UFC 239: Jones vs Santos | Prelim Predictions

UFC 239: Jones vs Santos | Prelim Predictions

145lbs- Gilbert Melendez (22-7-0) vs Arnold Allen (14-1-0)

In the final fight of the undercard, former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez returns to action to face surging Brit Arnold Allen in the Featherweight division. Allen is an impressive 5-0 in the UFC, most recently scoring a decision win over Jordan Rinaldi. Melendez has struggled during his UFC tenure- he is a dismal 1-5 with his only victory coming against Diego Sanchez back in 2013.

Melendez has not fought in roughly 20-months. He is 12-years older than Allen, but he will stand an inch taller to go along with a 3″ reach advantage.

Gilbert has been facing top-level competition since he came into the promotion, including a pair of title fight losses. The cut to Featherweight was expected to reinvigorate Melendez, but instead, he got outworked worse than he did at Lightweight.

Despite recording 11 wins by knockout, Gil has not finished an opponent since 2011.

While he might be undefeated, Allen has had to pull off a couple of come-from-behind victories. He has had issues with takedown oriented fighters. Giving up 12 takedowns over a trio of fights. He has also found success going offensive with his wrestling, but he does his best work on the feet.

Arnold has never fought in the USA, spending the majority of his career at home.

The cut to Featherweight seemed to magnify Melendez’s struggles and the layoff certainly isn’t going to help either. If Melendez can turn back the clock and meld together his aggressive striking offense with a couple of timely takedowns, he could edge out a decision. Unfortunately, Allen’s speed and superior striking will be the difference over the duration of the fight- my prediction is Arnold Allen to defeat Gilbert Melendez by decision.

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135lbs- Marlon Vera (13-5-1) vs Nohelin Hernandez (10-2-0)

With Sean O’Malley off of the card, Marlon Vera gets a new opponent in the debut Nohelin Hernandez. Vera has won 3-fights in a row, most recently defeating Frankie Saenz by TKO. Hernandez has also won 3 in a row compiling victories under the Bellator, LFA, and Tachi Palace Fights banners.

Hernandez is the taller man by 2-inches to go along with a 1″ reach advantage. He is 2-years younger than Vera and is making his debut with just a week to prep.

A multi-faceted fighter, Vera has started to add a dangerous striking attack to an already sound submission game. He has finished his foe in 6 of his 7 UFC fights. He does a decent job of utilizing his length when striking, offering some decent kicks and knees. He has also shown himself capable of operating in the clinch.

Despite his capable grappling skills, Vera has completed just 6 takedowns compared to 11 completed by his opponents over 11 fights.

Hernandez has some solid experience outside of the UFC. His last 3 opponents are a combined 28-14. An aggressive striker, he has recorded a trio of wins by knockout and is 6-1 on the scorecards. Hernandez likes to move forward and trade. He might not be as varied as his opponent, but his willingness to press forward makes him effective.

In his last defeat, got caught and dropped on multiple occasions in the opening round, but proved tough to finish and lasted the full 15-minutes.

Vera is a bit of a slow starter. He has battled through multiple fights where he was getting beaten before rallying for the finish. Hernandez is coming in on short notice which is not an easy task. To be successful, he will need to press Vera and keep engaging. Nohelin is the taller man which will aid him during the exchanges. If Vera can’t find success with his wrestling, look for Hernandez to outwork him on the feet. Unless Marlon can score a finish his struggles in decisions (2-5) will cost him here- my prediction is Nohelin Hernandez to defeat  Marlon Vera by decision.

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115lbs- #5 Claudia Gadelha (16-4-0) vs #14 Randa Markos (9-7-1)

Former Strawweight title challenger Claudia Gadelha will attempt to halt her descent down the ranks when she takes on Canadian Randa Markos. Gadelha is coming off a loss to Nina Ansaroff and has just a single split decision win over her last 3 outings. Markos scored a submission victory over Angela Hill and is 2-1-1 over her last 4 fights.

Both girls are 5’4″ and have an identical 63″ reach. Gadelha is the younger girl by 3-years.

Gadelha is an absolute monster on the mat which has been her key to success. Her inability to maintain her ground success has been at the heart of her struggles. The Brazilian is a fast starter, but her cardio issues make it difficult for her to maintain her offense.

Against Ansaroff she landed an early takedown, but once the action returned to the feet she looked tired and lost. She went 1 for 6 on her TDAs over the next 2 rounds.

Markos has had similar success with her ground game. She has taken down all but 1 of her UFC opponents and she is coming off her first UFC win by sub- 4th of her career. Randa can also operate on the feet, throwing with decent power.

Markos is 5-5-1 on the scorecards including a 1-2 record in split decisions.

Neither girl has elite level cardio and whoever fades first will most likely lose this contest. Gadelha is the more accomplish ground fighter, but Markos has shown she can hold her own on the floor. More important, Randa is a good scrambler and will force Claudia to expend a lot of energy to keep her on the floor. Look for Gadelha to come out strong, but fade and Markos to take over the final 2 rounds with a more consistent striking attack- my prediction is Randa Markos to defeat Claudia Gadelha by decision.

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135lbs- #14 Alejandro Perez (22-7-1) vs Song Yadong (13-3-0 2NC)

The first fight of the televised prelims is a battled of ranked Bantamweight and TUF winner Alejandro Perez and China’s Song Yadong. Perez is coming off of a loss to Cody Stamann, ending his 7-fight undefeated streak. Yadong has won 6 consecutive bouts, including a trio of UFC victories- most notably scoring a TKO win over Felipe Arantes.

Yadong is 2-inches taller, but he and Perez share a 67″ reach. Song is the younger man by 8-years.

Perez has built his UFC run on winning narrow decisions, some controversial. He has a decent kicking attack and will sit back and counter against an aggressive opponent. His willingness to allow his foe to lead the exchanges has resulted in some close striking totals.

Perez’s TDD is solid, stopping all 8 of Stamann’s attempts. He has also shown he can go offensive and pick up a key takedown when needed.

Utilizing heavy hooks, Yadong moves forward with constant pressure and power. He throws everything hard, but has finished just 4 opponents by knockout. His output was decent in his last fight, but the totals were close. He utilized a couple of takedowns to help secure key points.

It is worth noting that other than his second UFC fight which was in Singapore, Yadong has never fought outside fo China. The East to West travel and uncertainty of fighting in a new place could impact Song.

Perez tends to be in close fights, win or lose. Against a more aggressive striker like Song, his countering attack will need to be on point. That being said, the constant forward motion of Song will weight heavily with the judges and he also throws the more impactful offense. Unless Song’s performance is hampered by the travel factor, he should find success winning the majority of the exchanges against Alejandro- my prediction is Song Yadong to defeat Alejandro Perez by decision.