UFC on ESPN 12: Poirier vs Hooker | Prelim Predictions

UFC on ESPN 12: Poirier vs Hooker | Prelim Predictions
155lbs- Luis Pena vs Khama Worthy

In upset fashion, Khama Worthy (15-6-0) stormed onto the UFC scene with a shocking knockout of Devonte Smith. It was his 6th straight victory and 9th career knockout. He turned pro in 2012.

A former training partner of Smith, Worthy took the fight on short notice. He opened with a solid jab and a nice variety of kicks to the body and legs. After high-fiving following an exchange, Khama landed a short left counter that dropped Smith for just the 3rd opening round win of his career.

Worthy hasn’t not competed in just over 10-months.

Not immune to the upset bug, Luiz Pena (8-2-0) dropped a contestable split decision to Matt Frevola, but has since rebounded with his 4th win inside the Octagon. Both of Pena’s losses have been split decisions.

Pena does a solid job of using his long reach, especially on the mat. He will attack submissions or orchestrate transitions and sweeps. Conversely, he has had some issues with giving takedowns, including in his loss to Frevola.

“Violent Bob Ross” will stand 4-inches taller than Worthy and is 7-years younger.

Can Worthy find lightning in a bottle twice? He has power and dangerous on the feet. Although, his offense heavy approach has resulted in 5 losses by knockout and all 6 defeats coming inside the distance. Pena should be able to capitalize on his willingness to press forward and put Worthy on the floor. Once on the mat, Luis will either set up a submission or unload with a barrage of fight-ending GNP- my prediction is Luis Pena to defeat Khama Worthy by TKO.

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265lbs- Tanner Boser vs Philipe Lins

The 2018 PFL Heavyweight season winner was unable to parlay that success into a strong UFC start, falling via decision to former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski. Brazil’s Philipe Lins (14-4-0) suffered his first loss since he left Bellator where he produced an underwhelming 3-3 record.

Lins is predominantly a counter striker which caught up to him against Arlovski. He likes to sit back, slips or deflect the offense of his foe before returning fire with multiple strikes. Unfortunately, Philipe didn’t land enough against the Belarussian to make it count.

Lins has recorded 8 of his 14 wins by knockout to go a long with a trio of knock defeats.

“The Bulldozer” battled his way to a 3-round decision victory in his debut, but came up short against surging Heavyweight prospect Ciryil Gane. Canada’s Tanner Boser (17-6-1) has gone the distance in 6 of his last 8 victories.

Arguably his best weapons, Boser offers solid cardio and a respectable work-rate for a Heavyweight. He also throws some decent low kicks which have resulted in finishes.

Against Gane, he simply wasn’t able to account for the speed and mobility of his opponent and spent most of the bout chasing him.

This fight will most likely come down to who engages first. Boser tends to be a little flat-footed at times which should help the former Light Heavyweight Lins to land with regularity. Lins is the heavier hitter, but his willingness to counter can negate that advantage if he doesn’t throw enough offense. Boser is a step down from Arlovski’s mobile striking game which should help Lins set up his offense more effectively. Lins lands the bigger shots and routinely out quicks the Canadian, my prediction is Philipe Lins to defeat Tanner Boser by decision.

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170lbs- Jason Witt vs Takashi Sato

As COVID-19 claims another last-second victim, the UFC inturn exploits the desperation of a regional fighter wanting to make the big show and taking a fight on less than 48-hours notice. Jason Witt (15-5-0) will attempt to follow in the footsteps of last weekend’s Justin Jaynes who scored a shocking knockout of Frank Camacho on short notice.

As of writing, this fight still requires an official clearance which includes negative COVID-19 testing. If Witt is not cleared to fight, Dana and company will attempt to trick an unsuspecting participant into entering the cage before locking the door behind him.

Witt has fought in a variety of organizations and has just a single loss over his last 8-fights. His last 3 wins have come over opposition with a respectable 34-13 record. Of his 15 pro wins, 7 have come via submission.

In recent action, Witt has displayed his willingness to shoot a takedown or grab a kick and drive his foe to the floor. He offers solid ground and pound and a good submission attack.

Sato’s breakdown is posted below from his original fight with Brahimaj.

Takashi is dangerous on the feet, but he needs to present a constant threat to keep Witt at bay. The American is far from a lethal striker, throwing techniques with the expectation of shooting as soon as possible. If Witt can’t take Sato down he is going to struggle- he has been knocked out 3-times and hurt in other contests. The lack of a full camp will make it difficult for Jason to push a strong wrestling based attack deep into the bout- my prediction is Takashi Sato to defeat Jason Witt by knockout.

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170lbs- Ramiz Brahimaj vs Takashi Sato– Cancelled

A devastating knockout of Ben Saunders in his debut gave way to a 3rd round submission loss in his next outing for Takashi Sato (15-3-0). The long-time Pancrase veteran has knocked out 10 opponents.

Sato isn’t an overwhelming volume striker, instead, he looks to pick his spot and land with power. Over his 5-rounds of UFC actin, he has only landed more offense than his opponent once- the second in which he stopped Saunders.

Against Belal Muhammad, Sato began faltered as the fight advanced. He has recorded 9 of his 15 wins inside the first frame.

New York native Ramiz Brahimaj (8-2-0) compiled a respectable 4-2 record under the LFA banner- finishing all 4 wins by submission.

Similar to Sato, Brahimaj has thrived in the opening round with 7 of his 8 wins coming before the first 5 minutes has expired. He is just 1-2 outside the first frame.

In his last fight, Ramiz blasted his foe with a brutal overhand right before taking him down and eventually securing the finish. Similarly, he hurt TUF finalist William Macario on the feet and seamlessly took his back, eventually locking up a guillotine to put the Brazilian to sleep.

Against Macario, Brahimaj’s attempts to get the fight to the ground were routinely shrugged off and he was getting boxed up on the feet. The short notice for the Brazilian caught up to him in round 2, leading to the finish. Sato should be able to replicate those issues on the feet and the lack of long fight success suggests that Ramiz won’t be in a position to capitalize on a Sato slowdown. Takashi picks his spots, stays vertical, and eventually puts his foe down- my prediction is Takashi Sato to defeat Ramiz Brahimaj by TKO.

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145lbs- Jordan Griffin vs Youssef Zalal  a large portion of his UFC career on his back. He has relinquished 11-takedowns over 3 fights and his TDD will be tested again in his contest.

A strong UFC debut saw Youssef Zalal (8-2-0) plant his opponent on the floor on multiple occasions. “The Moroccan Devil” earned his first win by decisions- he has submitted 5 professional opponents.

Zalal also demonstrated a solid striking arsenal in his debut. He has solid footwork, throws a sharp low kicks, and will mix in some dangerous knees strikes.

Lingo’s forward pressure was routinely stifled by Youssef’s takedowns. Every time Zalal felt the forward pressure of his foe, he jammed him up with a takedown or clinch.

Griffin has won very few moments in his UFC career. His bruising forward pressure opens him up to an elusive fighter that can negate his attack with movement or a wrestler who can utilize well-timed takedowns. Youssef can offer a blend of both styles. Griffin benefited from Brown slowing down, but with Zalal training at elevation that won’t be the case here. Zalal will pick Griffin apart at range and level change once the gap closes- my prediction is Youssef Zalal to defeat Jordan Griffin by decision.

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115lbs- Jinh Yu Frey vs Kay Hansen

The opening fight of the night features a pair of long-time Invicta competitors making their official UFC debut. Kay Hansen (6-3-0) won 5 of her 8 Invicta outings, leaning heavily on her wrestling offense.

Hansen’s offense is grounded in her wrestling attack. She offers well-timed level changes and once on the mat an aggressive passing game which includes a solid back take.

She has recorded a trio of wins by submission.

Winning and defending the Invicta FC Atomweight title in 2018, Jinh Yu Frey (9-4-0) has main evented each of her last 3 pro bouts.

Utilizing a striking based attack, Frey has demonstrated solid takedown defense in the face of aggressive grapplers. In her last bout, she stayed vertical when under pressure but did struggle to create a separation from the clinch.

Frey throws nice low kicks and hard-punching combinations. In close, the Invicta champ will fire some decent clinch strikes and blast her opponent as they break from the clinch. Her consistent output has been a concern, in a 2-fight series with Minna Grusander she seemed hesitant at time to let her hands go.

Grusander dropper her during an early exchange and Frey has been knocked out twice, including a 2017 TKO loss to UFC vet Seo Hee Ham.

Frey will need to rebuff the early wrestling advances of Hansen and force her to stay vertical for as much of the fight as possible. With Frey moving up in weight, she could face a struggle with the physicality of a larger opponent. The quick level changes of Hansen will make it difficult for Jinh Yu to settle in and find her striking rhythm. Look for the smaller cage to help Kay to close off the distance quicker, routinely taking Frey down and eventually working to a dominant position- my prediction is Kay Hansen to defeat Jinh Yu Frey by submission.

 

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