UFC Fight Night 173: Shahbazyan vs Brunson | Prelim Predictions

UFC Fight Night 173: Shahbazyan vs Brunson | Prelim Predictions
135lbs- Jonathan Martinez vs Frankie Saenz

In the final fight of the prelims, Frankie Saenz (13-6-0) faces a near must-win situation. Saenz is coming off a TKO loss to Marlon Vera and has just 2 wins in his last 6 fights. Additionally, 2 of his last 3 UFC wins have come via split decision.

A former NCAA Division 1 wrestler, Saenz will focus his attack around his wrestling. Over his 5 UFC wins, he has completed 13 total takedowns while losing the takedown battle 6-1 over 4 defeats. The most likely avenue for victory in his bout will be his takedowns.

Frankie can hold his own on the feet, but his durability has been a point of vulnerability. In addition to the TKO loss to Vera, Saenz was also knocked out by Eddie Wineland and has been hurt on multiple occasions. He came out aggressive against Vera, opting for a striking based attack and got clipped before he could even start to wrestle.

A questionable split decision loss to Andre Ewell prevented Jonathan Martinez (11-3-0) from extending his winning streak to a third straight fight. He is now an even 2-2 inside the Octagon.

Martinez struggled with his TDD early in his UFC tenure, giving up a trio of takedowns in each of his first 2 fights. Neither of his last 2 adversaries attempted to take him to the mat. That trend will most likely change against Saenz. Martinez did look for a couple of takedowns against Ewell, but was unsuccessful.

Standing 2-inches taller to go along with a 4″ reach advantage, Martinez will have a length advantage over Frankie. Further extending the distance, the 26-year old throws a lot of kicks from distance. He will target the body and head and recently scored an impressive flying knee knockout.

At 39-years old, Sanez is getting up there, but he does have an avenue to victory in this fight. Martinez’s kick heavy offense will give Saenz an entry point to wrestle. Conversely, the southpaw stance of Martinez will create openings for his power kicking game and the tendency of Frankie to over-extend when striking opens him up to take damage. While Saenz may secure a couple of takedowns, Martinez will be the better striker and capitalize on his questionable durability- my prediction is Jonathan Martinez to defeat Frankie Saenz by TKO.

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205lbs- Ed Herman vs Gerald Meerschaert

Debuting all the way back in 2006, Ed Herman (25-14-0 1NC) continues to find success in the UFC with back to back wins to level his current UFC Light Heavyweight record at 3-3.

“Short Fuse” is a capable grappler with respectable power. He has finished 13 opponents by submission and 7 more by knockout. He has picked up a pair of recent TKO wins over Patrick Cummings and Tim Boetsch, landing hard knee strikes and eventually putting them down with punches. His last submission victory came in 2012.

Fighting from the clinch, Herman will look to land elbows, short punches, and the aforementioned knee strikes. He isn’t the quickest fighter so a short-range clinch battle is ideal. He has been stopped on multiple occasions with 3 losses by knockout and 6 by submission- but he is more durable then those numbers would suggest.

Another fighter long on experience, 44-fight veteran Gerald Meerschaert (31-13-0) makes the move up to Light Heavyweight for the first time inside the Octagon. “GM3” and Herman are the same height and share the same reach, but Meerschaert is the younger man by 7-years.

Meerschaert suffered his 2nd career knockout loss in his last fight, to go along with 8 career submission defeats. The Wisconsin native is a “kill or be killed” type of fighter with only 5 total fights seeing the scorecards.

A capable grappler, “GM3” will drag his opponent to the mat and look to set up submissions with an aggressive transition-based attack. On the feet, his striking is solid with decent pop including some effective body kicks. Meerschaert would benefit from a greater focus on blending his offensive skills together.

Meerschaert is stepping in on 2 week’s notice to replace Da Un Jung which raises some questions about his cardio if this bout turns into a grueling 15-minute affair. Herman will need to force the clinch position in order to keep Meerschaert at close range and hittable. “GM3” isn’t a high volume striker himself and the short notice could further impact that. Look for Herman to hold his own early, but start to grind on Meerschaert as he begins to fade, landing strikes with decent pop and avoiding Meerschaert’s attempts to get the fight to the floor- my prediction is Ed Herman to defeat Gerald Meerschaert by decision.

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145lbs- Johnny Munoz Jr. vs Nate Maness

With 2 fights changed and one fight scrapped on weigh-in day, the debuting Nate Maness (11-1-0) also gets a new opponent as the less and less reliable Ray Borg has withdrawn from another fight. In addition to missing weight 4-times, this will be the 9th UFC fight that Borg was pulled out of. Manees and his new opponent will now compete at 145-pounds.

Welcoming the opportunity to step up, undefeated Bantamweight and King of the Cage lifer, Johnny Munoz Jr. (10-0-0) puts his perfect record on the line. Munoz was expected to compete in a Contender Series bout this summer and prior to that he had some issues attempting to negotiate the jump to the big promotion.

Munoz has finished 8 of his 10 wins, 6 by submission, and 6 of those stoppages coming inside the opening round. He also has championship round experience, winning a 5-round decision in mid-2019 to capture the KOTC Bantamweight strap.

“Kid Kvenbo” has a solid BJJ game, with multiple RNC wins along with a couple of other subs on his record. He can work off his back and has good wrestling as well to help him get the fight to the floor. Standing, he is quite capable of shifting between more conventional striking and periodic spinning attacks.

As mentioned in the other breakdowns, the short notice is a considerable factor here, but the major difference is that Maness, just like Munoz is making his UFC debut. While Maness has had more prep time, he doesn’t hold an edge in experience either in quantity or quality and UFC jitters could also be a factor for him.

Further, Maness was cutting to 135 pounds and close to the scale which raises questions about how much that cut will impact him. Maness no longer has the considerable reach and height advantage he had against Borg which is a major change as well.

Maness has stopping power, but as mentioned in the Borg predictions, he struggles with pressure and Munoz should be able to capitalize on that. Look for Munoz to take advantage of Maness’s willingness to sit back and look for counters, allowing him to draw out a reaction and change levels for a takedown. Johnny might not be able to author a submission but between his time on the mat and a busier striking attack he will find himself ahead- my prediction is Johnny Munoz Jr. to defeat Nate Maness by decision.

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135lbs- Ray Borg vs Nate Maness -CANCELLED

Ray Borg (13-5-0) will continue his run at Bantamweight coming off a split decision loss to Ricky Simon. Borg has had a battle with the scale, missing weight 4-times in the UFC and as a result, he has been forced to leave the Flyweight division where he is a legit top contender.

Borg’s s grappling skills and ability to dominate opponents in the mat is at the forefront of his success. He is coming off just his second of 12 UFC bouts where he was unable to land a takedown. When he has the wrestling advantage, he can put up some lofty takedown totals. Additionally, he has a solid submission game and his scrambling skills are top-notch.

Despite the loss to Simon, Borg demonstrated a clear improvement in striking. His hands looked fast and he was landing with noticeably increased impact. Continued improvement in his stand-up will make Borg a multi-layered threat.

Making his promotional debut, Nate Maness (11-1-0) is coming off of a win in his first fight after suffering the first loss of his career. “Mayhem” will stand a full 6-inches taller than Borg with an even greater 9″ reach advantage. Manees competed multiple times under the TKO banner- earning a championship title in the process.

The UFC newcomer has recorded 4 wins by knockout and most recently uncorked a devastating right-hand that felled his opponent instantly. A capable counter striker, Nate will give ground and let his opponent walk onto powerful counter strikes.

Maness was KOed with a front kick to the body by former UFC competitor Taylor Lapilus to lose his title. He struggled with the constant forward pressure of Lapilus who capitalized on the willingness of Nate to give ground while looking to counter.

Borg will need to overcome the length advantage of Maness, but as previously mentioned Ray should be able to work his way into range while “Mayhem” attempts to counter strike. The power of Maness is a concern, but the speed and pressure of the former title challenger coupled with the potential for takedowns will give Ray the edge over a full 15-minutes- my prediction is Ray Borg to defeat Nate Maness by decision.

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195lbs- Markus Perez vs Charles Ontiveros– CANCELLED BEFORE IT EVEN STARTED

With a difficult weight cut forcing Eric Spicely from the event, Markus Perez (12-3-0) will now face the debuting Charles Ontiveros (11-6-0). A 10-fight Legacy veteran and 1 and done Bellator competitor, Ontiveros is a natural 170 pounder who is coming off of back to back first-round knockouts under the Fury FC banner.

“The American Bad Boy” has finished 4 opponents by knockout and 2 more by submission- he is a perfect 4-0 on the scorecards. Unfortunately, all 6 of his pro defeats have come by knockout including losses to Geoff Neal and his only Bellator opportunity against Michael “Venom” Page.

In Fury FC, he earned just a single win over an above .500 fighter, with his 5 defeated opponents combining for a record of 24-23 including 16 losses inside the distance. His pair of defeats in the same promotion came against better opposition with a combined record of 12-4.

Landing a looping left hook, Charlie KOed his last opponent and 1 fight prior he finished with a jumping knee. He is a little too stationary at times, planting his feet and looking to counter or throw unorthodox kicking techniques. Against Page, he opened with a sideways stance but was quickly taken down, lost his guard, and was KOed with brutal top position elbows.

For Ontiveros, this is an opportunity of a lifetime and with a half-decent showing, he will most likely get another opportunity at his natural weight class. Unfortunately, his struggles against lesser opposition on the regional scene does not bode well for him against a bigger, more skilled, and full camp Perez. The Brazilian offers his own variety of kicking techniques, but also can grapple and will most likely take this fight to the floor. If Page can dominate Charlie on the mat, so can Perez- my prediction is Markus Perez to defeat Charles Ontiveros by submission.

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185lbs- Markus Perez vs Eric Spicely -CANCELLED

Despite entering the UFC with a trio of wins over UFC talent, Markus Perez (12-3-0) has struggled to find consistency- alternating wins and losses over 5 bouts. He most recently lost to Wellington Turman after submitting Anthony Hernandez 1 fight prior.

Perez is a talented all-around fighter, offering a capable striking attack and solid grappling skills. He submitted Ian Heinisch to win the LFA Middleweight strap and has recorded 6 of his 9 finishes by submission. At 80% his TDD has also held up well when tested- he has defended 13 of the last 15 TDAs.

The Brazilian throws a variety of strikes, including various kicking techniques. He has found more success when focussing on function over flashier offense.

A BJJ Black belt, Eric Spicely (12-5-0) owns a victory over former LHW title challenger Thiago Santos, but overall he is just 2-5 inside the Octagon. Both of Spicely’s UFC victories were the product of his grappling skills. Conversely, his wrestling is not strong and when he can’t force a grappling exchange he usually gets second best.

Spicely is coming off of unexpected performance. After a pair of wins on the regional scene, Spicely returned to land 108 significant strikes. Previously, his UFC best was 17 and over 6 fights he had combined for 63 strikes landed.

He also got hit 169 times, was hurt on a couple of occasions, and has been finished via knockout twice in his career.

Perez has the grappling game and overall defensive skills to prevent Spicely from having success on the mat. If Eric can find some consistent striking volume, he could outwork Perez who isn’t known for his high output. That being said, Perez is the more impactful and skilled striker which should give him the edge on the feet. Look for the Brazilian to utilize the clinch to wear Spicely down in close and his kicks to bust him up at range- my prediction is Markus Perez to defeat Eric Spicely by TKO

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145lbs- Jamall Emmers vs Vicent Cachero

With the PFL/WSOF veteran Timur Valiev forced out of the fight with visa issues, LFA veteran Vicent Cachero (7-2-0) will make his UFC debut on just over 24-hours notice moving up from Bantamweight. Jamall Emmers (17-5-0) as previously noted, is making his sophomore appearance after a narrow split decision loss in his debut.

Cachero fought 7-times under the LFA banner and started his pro career 6-0 until back to back losses, including a vicious KO via knee versus Casey Kenny in an LFA Bantamweight title fight. He returned to the win column with a TKO win in early 2020- an event that Emmers headlined in victory.

“The Anomaly” demonstrated his power and willingness to trade against UFC vet Nohelin Hernandez. Vince scored a trio of knockdowns in round 1 before getting dropped himself with a big knee- he went on to win a decision. He finished his last opponent in a 150-pound catchweight bout with a sequence of clinch knee strikes that sent him to the mat.

Cachero will look for takedowns, using his speed to get in on his opponent’s leg and dumping them to the floor. He has a pair of RNC submission wins.

The short notice is clearly a factor for Cachero, but so is the move up in weight and more specifically the issue of Emmers’ length that comes with it. Vince might be the more active striker, but in order to enact such a game plan, he will need to close the distance without taking too much damage. Emmers fights long and can wrestle if the vertical exchanges are not going his way. Outside of Kenney, this is a big step up for Cachero while Emmers should benefit from not facing a vaunted kickboxer like Giga. With limited time to prepare, look for Cachero to come out strong but Emmers to hold his ground and start to pick him apart once he fades- my prediction is Jamall Emmers to defeat Vicent Cachero by knockout.

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145lbs- Jamall Emmers vs Timur Valiev -CANCELLED

A narrow split decision loss to Giga Chikadze halted the 4-fight winning streak of the debuting Jamall Emmers (17-5-0). Emmers’ last defeat came against recent UFC victor Julian Erosa via knockout on the Contender Series. He has finished 10 opponents- 7 by knockout and 7-2 on the scorecards.

Emmers is a relatively well-rounded fighter that can strike and wrestle. Against Giga, he completed a pair of takedowns and landed 54 strikes compared to 38 for his foe. He was wobbled early which put him at a disadvantage in round 1, but found his footing as the bout advance. He has been knocked out twice.

When he committed to his wrestling, he landed a beautiful takedown and drove his foe to the floor. Emmers has good timing on his level changes and the more he can use his striking to set up his shot the more effective he will be.

A 9-fight veteran of the WSOF/PFL Timur Valiev (16-2-0) went an impressive 9-1 with his 1-1 record against Chris Gutierrez. Timur lost the first fight via split decision but took the immediate rematch- also on the cards. Valiev has competed at both Featherweight and Bantamweight and will have to overcome a height and reach disadvantage against Emmers.

Quick on his feet, Valiev throws a nice variety of striking offense. He throws in busy combinations; working quick inside leg kicks, short punching barrages, and some flashier spinning attacks. He also moves in and out of range effectively.

The Russian will also author takedowns in conjunction with his striking attacks. Timur will punch and change levels do dive on a single leg and spin his foe to the mat. Once on the ground, he has a solid control game and remains active on top.

Valiev trains alongside Frankie Edgar, in addition to other top-end UFC talented, so while this might be his UFC debut- he will be ready for this level of competition. Emmers looked good at times against Giga, but is also hittable and can be a little too passive between offensive bursts. If Jamall can’t find success with his wrestling, Timur will offer a more consistent striking attack based on speed and activity- my prediction is Timur Valiev to defeat Jamall Emmers by decision.

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135bs- Cody Durden vs Chris Gutierrez

With a trio of wins to rebound from a tough debut loss, Chris Gutierrez (15-4-1) is coming off of arguably his best performance to date. Squaring off with fellow striker Vince Morales, the 29-year old went to work with a series of crippling low kicks that led to a second-round TKO win.

“El Guapo” has showcased a solid striking repertoire with power and respectable volume. Despite a finish heavy record, he has recorded just a trio of first-round stoppages. Gutierrez has championship round experience and fought in Bellator, WSOF, and LFA prior to arriving in the Octagon.

The grappling defense has been his biggest area of concern. After getting submitted in his debut, he did give up a couple of takedowns in a later fight which ended via split decision.

With Luke Sanders out of the fight, 13-fight veteran Cody Durden (11-2-0) steps in on just 6 days’ notice. This will be Durden’s 3rd fight of 2020, including an 80-second TKO win in mid-July; just 2-weeks prior to his UFC debut.

Splitting his 10 finishes evenly between knockouts and submissions, Durden has stopped 8 opponents in the first frame. He is just 3-2 outside of the opening round. His last 3 opponents are a combined 23-10 record.

Durden builds his offense around takedowns, including a brutal slam finish in recent action. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of footage available of his recent fights to confirm his development beyond a clear ability to finish.

This is a sizable step up in competition for Durden and he is doing so on extremely short notice. If his wrestling holds up, he could wrangle Guiterrez to the floor and nullify the danger presented by Chris’ striking. The veteran fighter with a full camp will have to fend off some early pressure, but as Durden slows from the lack of prep and minimal experience outside of the round 1- Gutierrez takes over. The leg kicks take center stages as Durden’s mobility is compromised and Gutierrez punishes him in the final 2 rounds- my prediction is Chris Gutierrez to defeat Cody Durden by TKO.


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