UFC Fight Night 143- Preliminary Predictions

UFC Fight Night 143- Preliminary Predictions

155lbs- #11 Alexander Hernandez (10-1-0) vs #13 Donald Cerrone (34-11-0 1NC)

The headlining fight on the undercard features the return of former title challenger Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone as he cuts back down to Lightweight to take on surging prospect Alexander “The Great” Hernandez. Cerrone went 6-4 at Welterweight, losing 4 of his last 6 fights but subbing Mike Perry last time out. Hernandez burst into the UFC with a knockout win over Beneil Dariush and followed it with a sound decision win over Olivier Aubin-Mercier.

Despite a 4″ height advantage, Cerrone will have just a one-inch reach advantage. Hernandez is 9 years younger than “Cowboy”, who has not fought at Lightweight since his 2015 title fight loss.

Cerrone’s Muay Thai striking is lethal, but he has struggled with consistency. Aggressive pressure based strikers have found success pushing him backwards and rendering him defensive. Additionally, his durability has been an issue- he has been knocked out in 3 of his last 5 fights and 4 times overall.

While the submission prowess of “Cowboy” is well known, his wrestling has shown improvements in recent outings. He has 17 wins by submission.

Hernandez’s debut knockout of Dariush exemplified his dangerous striking offence and he followed it up with a strong wrestling performance against a very good ground fighter in OAM. “The Great” carries a good pace and maintains consistent pressure in the face of his opponents.

Hernandez has gone 5-1 in 3-round fights while a perfect 5-0 in fights ending inside the first 5 minutes.

The outcome of this fight will be impacted greatly by where Cerrone’s head is at. He is on the wrong side of 35 and recently had a son. His focus has always been a concern and it still is. Hernandez’s aggression does open himself up to counter and more technically sound offense of the WEC alumni. Regardless, look for Hernandez to pressure Cerrone early, forcing him to work hard while testing his durability- my prediction is Alexander Hernandez to defeat Donald Cerrone by decision.

125lbs- #10 Joanne Calderwood (12-3-0) vs Ariane Lipski (11-3-0)

In the expanding Women’s Flyweight division, top-ranked Joanne Calderwood welcomes the debuting “Violence Queen” Ariane Lipski. Calderwood made a successful return to the division with an opening-round submission win over Kalindra Faria. Lipski makes the move from KSW where she went 5-0, after starting her pro career 2-3 she has won 9 straight fights.

Both girls are 5’6″, but Lipski is 9-years younger than JoJo.

Calderwood is a lethal striker, throwing a variety of Muay Thai techniques with devastating effect. She has struggled at times with her willingness to engage and that often has a lot to do with the threat of being taken down. The Scot has dropped 2 of her 3 pro defeats by submission and given up 5 takedowns over her last 3 fights.

Calderwood did rally with a sub win over Faria and showcased her own ground skills earlier in her UFC career with 8 takedowns during her first 3 UFC wins.

Lipski comes from a kickboxing background, stopping 6 opponents by knockout. She throws hard kicks to her opponent’s body and legs in accompaniment with sharp volume boxing.  The Brazilian showcased her ground game in recent action, scoring a takedown and catching an armbar off her back. A move that JoJo has struggled with.

The last knockout win on her record came over UFC vet Sheila Gaff, battering her with knees in the clinch before land a short counter right for the finish.

Calderwood has underachieved considering the hype surrounding her move to the UFC. While talented, she is a slow starter and struggles under pressure. Lipski is aggressive and should be able to capitalize with her accurate striking barrages. JoJo has used takedowns against aggressive strikers, but she has been open to armbar attacks- my prediction is Ariane Lipski to defeat Joanne Calderwood by decision.

205lbs- Alonzo Menifield (7-0-0) vs Vinicius Castro (9-1-0)

The heaviest fight on the undercard 2-time Tuesday Night Contenders winner veteran Alonzo Menifield takes on fellow UFC debutant and Contenders graduate Vinicius Castro. Brazil’s Castro has won 5 in a row since his only pro defeat- he went 5-0 in 2018. Menifield has yet to taste defeat since turning pro in 2015- he earned a 2017 win over former UFC roster member Daniel Jolly.

Castro is the taller man by 4 inches and the younger fighter by 2-years.

A former Canadian Football player, Menifield is undefeated with 6 of 7 wins coming by knockout. He has recorded 5 wins inside the opening round with his lone submission win coming by RNC. His last 3 opponents carry a combined record of 14-13. Alonzo’s Contender’s fights didn’t show a lot- an uneventful round leading to an injury finish following by a flash 9-second knockout.

In addition to his Contender fights, Menifield has fought in Bellator, LFA, and RFA.

Fighting out of Brazil, BJJ Black belt Castro has stopped all 9 of his opponents- 8 by submission. The majority of his wins have come by some form of choke with 5 fights ending before the first 5 minutes elapsed. Vinicius pushes forward, willingly eating shots to set up his takedowns. Once on the mat, he has a strong transitional top game setting up his sub attacks.

Prior to getting the tap in his last fight, he hat some big shots on the feet and look significantly out of his depth when trying to find an opening to clinch.

Castro has to get this fight to the floor and he is going to be in serious trouble. Menifield is far from a finished product, but he is the superior athlete and throws significant power. The Brazilian can not afford to take too many strikes in search of an opening for a takedown. Menifield could open himself up to the skills of his foe if he gasses out, but my prediction is Alonzo Menifield to defeat Vinicius Castro by knockout.

135lbs- Mario Bautista (6-0-0) vs Cory Sandhagen (9-1-0)

In another contest altered by injury, Cory Sandhagen takes on the short notice debutant Mario Bautista in the Bantamweight division. Sandhagen is 2-0 in the UFC, finishing both his opponents by middle round TKO, including Iuri Alcantara. Bautista turned pro in 2017 and won a trio of fights in each year, including a pair of wins under the LFA banner.

Bautista is stepping with a week to prep, replacing John Lineker who was replacing Thomas Almeida who Sandhagen was originally scheduled to face. Lineker had been tied to a bout with Dominick Cruz until it was scrapped. Cory is the taller man 2 inches, but he will give up 2 inches of reach.

Statistically, Sandhagen has put together some impressive stats. Over his 2 UFC fights, he has landed a combined 146 significant strikes compared to just 41 against. He limited Alcantara to just 9. Despite the lopsided stats, he battled through some adversity early vs Alcantara- suffering a knockdown and prolonged armbar/ triangle combo.

Cory’s win was a product of durability converted into a superior position and a barrage of unanswered ground strikes.

Bautista is coming off of the first fight of his career to go the distance. He has a pair of knockout wins and 3 submissions. His last 3 opponents are a combined 12-6, but each fighter was coming off a loss before fighting Bautista. He his aggressive, tossing out heavy strikes and closing the distance for takedowns.

The UFC newcomer is taking this fight on short notice, debuting, and fighting the most accomplished opponent of his career.

Bautista will need to overcome a number of negative scenario before even worrying about his opponent. His lack of long fight experience coupled with the short notice is major concerns against an opponent that pushes a torrid pace. Unless Sandhagen is unnerved by the multiple opponent changes, look for him to engage Bautista early and overwhelm him with offence- my prediction is Cory Sandhagen to defeat Mario Bautista by TKO.

155lbs- Dennis Bermudez (17-9-0) vs Te Edwards (6-1-0)

Moving up to the Lightweight division, Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez takes on UFC sophomore Te “T” Edwards. Bermudez has frustratingly lost 4 straight fights, including 3 straight by split decision Edwards entered the UFC on the strength of 5 consecutive wins, but dropped his debut via head kick knockout to Don Madge.

Edwards is 2 inches taller than Bermudez to go along with a sizeable 6-inch reach. He is also the younger fighter by 4-years. Dennis is moving to Lightweight after spending his entire UFC career at 145-pounds.

“T” Edwards has an impressive finishing rate; earning all 6 wins by first round knockout. Moreover, 5 of those wins came inside the first 2 minutes.  He hits hard and can wrestle, but he struggled with the submission attacks of his debut opponent.

On the negative side, Edwards has never won a fight that went beyond the first half of the first round.

While not cutting the extra pounds could help Bermudez’s durability- it could also further magnify the distance issues he had at Featherweight. Bermudez’s recent struggles has seen him either not land enough volume or struggle to find consistency with his wrestling.

Dennis’s chin has been a major concern throughout his pro run. Suffering a pair of knockouts and multiple knockdowns.

Edwards had a few moments in his debut, but his lack of experience was evident. Bermudez is taking a step back in competition, but is opponent still has the skills to exploit the shortcomings of the “Menance”. Dennis needs to be careful early of the power of Edwards, but if Bermudez can get this fight beyond frame 1 he should be in control- my prediciton is Dennis Bermudez to defeat Te Edwards by TKO.

170lbs- Belal Muhammad (14-2-0) vs Geoff Neal (10-2-0)

In the Welterweight division, Belal “Remember the Name” Muhammad looks to continue his strong push up the ranks when he takes on Geoff “Handz of Steel” Neal. Muhammad has won 4 in a row, including big wins over Tim Means and Jordan Mein in 2017. Neal is 2-0 in the promotion, debuting with a submission win over Brian Camozzi and following with a head kick knockout over Frank Camacho.

Both men are 5’11”, but Neal will that a 3″ reach advantage. He is also the younger man by 2 years.

Muhammad’s strength is his pace and conditioning. He blends his striking together effectively with well-timed takedowns and top control. He averages 4.63 significant strikes per minute and has completed at least a single takedown in all but 1 of his 7 UFC fights.

Belal lacks stopping power, finishing just 4 fights by knockout. Conversely, his chin has been an area of concern- Vicente Luque stopped him and Alan Jouban hurt him on multiple occasions.

Neal is aggressive and throws with power. His offense is highlighted by a sharp right jab and heavy straight left hand. He ended the Camacho fight with a brutal left high kick. Neal does his best work when he cuts off the cage and forces his foe to fight with their back to the wall.

With 8 fo 10 fights ending inside the distance, Neal has fought beyond the mid-way mark of a fight just 5 times. He is 3-2, with both career losses coming by 3rd round finish.

Muhammad will most likely opt to test Neal’s defensive wrestling. If Neal can stay vertical, he has the speed and sharp striking to counter the volume of his foe. “Handz of Steel” needs to engage Belal, but avoid over-extending himself. Muhammad had issues with the reach of Means and he will struggle with the similar length of Neal, backed by his power and quickness- my prediction is Geoff Neal to defeat Belal Muhammad by knockout.

170lbs- Kyle Stewart (8-0-0) vs Chance Rencountre (12-3-0)

The first UFC bout of 2019 will feature the debuting Kyle “Gunz Up” Stewart meeting promotional sophomore Chance “Black Eagle” Rencountre in the Welterweight division. Stewart opened his pro career with 10 straight wins before suffering his first defeat he rebounded with a victory to close 2018 with a 3-1 win. Rencountre came to the UFC on the strength on a 4-fight winning streak before dropping his debut decision to Belal Muhammad.

Stewart is replacing Dwight Grant who had to pull out of the fight after briefly being pegged to take the spot of Randy Brown. Stewart makes his debut with less than a week to prep. Both men are 6’2″, but Stewart will have a slight 1″ reach advantage.

Despite the win, Stewart didn’t have the best showing in his Contenders bout, spending the majority of the action on the floor in a defensive position. He did land some offence that led to a fight-ending ankle injury. He had similar issues in his LFA title shot, dropping a decision on the basis of his opponent’s superior wrestling.

He has finished 7 opponents, 6 in the opening round.

Rencountre took his debut on short notice and didn’t showcase much, landing just 16 significant strikes. He does have 6 wins by knockout, but he has recently showcased his grappling skills. His last 2 wins came by submission, including a first-round Brabo choke at Bellator 184.

“Black Eagle” went 2-1 under the Bellator banner including a rematch win over the man that defeated him in his debut. Similar to Stewart, his first career loss came against James Nakashima.

It is difficult to get a strong read on this fight as both men are relative unknowns and the multiple opponent changes really mixed things up. Stewart has been underwhelming against decent competition and his TDD is a major concern. Rencountre had a full training camp and appears to have a decent enough mat game to capitalize on Stewart’s struggles- my prediction is Chance Rencountre to defeat Kyle Stewart by submission.