UFC on ESPN 9: Woodley vs Burns | Prelim Predictions

UFC on ESPN 9: Woodley vs Burns | Prelim Predictions
125lbs- Katlyn Chookagian vs Antonina Shevchenko

Attempting to rebound from her title fight defeat and extract a measure of revenge against a sibling of the title challenger, Katlyn Chookagian (13-3-0) will make her first post-title fight appearance.

Katlyn put together a 4-1 run at Flyweight to earn a shot at the title before suffering the first stoppage loss of her career. She had previously gone the distance in 8 straight fights and 10 of 11.

A primarily striking based fighter, Chookagian likes to work from the outside and utilize her volume and movement. She has had issues with her connection rate, often short arming her techniques. This has raised some questions regarding the success of her offense and resulted in 1-2 record in split decisions and multiple other contentious scorecards.

The older sister of the dominant champion, Antonina Shevchenko (8-1-0) suffered a split decision loss to Roxanne Modafferi in her sophomore outing before rebounding with the first submission victory of her career against Lucie Pudilova.

Also building on a strong striking background, Shevchenko appears to be adding in a grappling element to her offense.

Prior to submitting Pudilova, she brutalized her in the clinch with hard knees to the body. Antonina demonstrated improved TDD and counter into superior grappling positions before locking up the RNC for the win.

Chookagian is entering her post-title fight letdown scenario. She will need to find some form of motivation heading into this fight and battling the sister of the champ could do that. Shevchenko’s undoing has been her defensive wrestling, but she has proven herself quite dangerous in that area and Katlyn has not put too much focus on takedowns in her attack. Look for Antonina to utilize the clinch to control the movement of her foe and batter her multiple ranges- my prediction is Antonina Shevchenko to defeat Katlyn Chookagian by decision.

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150lbs- Spike Carlyle vs Billy Quarantillo

In a catchweight contest, the “Alpha Ginger” Spike Carlyle (9-1-0) makes his sophomore appearance in the UFC. Spike scored an 85-second upset TKO victory over Aalon Cruz in February. He has won 6 consecutive bouts, including a trio of consecutive first-round TKO wins.

Carlyle overcame a significant reach and height disadvantage to land a big head kick and multiple short-range clinch strikes to eventually fell and finish Cruz. He will have a slight reach advantage in this bout.

Outside of the UFC, the “Alpha Ginger” has been known for maintaining an aggressive mixture of wrestling and powerful striking attack.

Billy Quarantillo had an equally successful debut, submitting Jacob Killburn in the middle round of his December contest. He has won 6 in a row, including a third-round TKO stoppage on the Contenders series.

Quarantillo has split his 10 finishes evenly with 7 stoppages coming in round 2 or beyond. He came out extremely aggressive in his debut; clinching, dragging his foe to the floor, hard ground and pound, while attempting multiple submissions.

Capitalizing on some poor decision making by his opponent, the TUF alumni caught an early-round 2 kick and to return the fight to the mat for a barrage of mounted GNP and eventual finish.

With this bout getting bumped to the main card, the spotlight will be even more intense for a fight that could earn some bonus money. Quarantillo dominated every minute of his debut, but he will face a tougher test this time around. Carlyle has the gas tank to match him and the Judo/BJJ/wrestling to defend and potentially attack Billy on the mat. Carlyle also has the power advantage on the feet against his hard-charging foe. Spike capitalizes on the aggression with well-timed takedowns and counter strikes- my prediction is Spike Carlyle to defeat Billy Quarantillo by TKO.

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205lbs- Klidson Abreu vs Jamahal Hill

Brazil’s Klidson Abreu (15-4-0) is coming off of a tough split decision loss that dropped his Octagon mark to 1-2. He debuted on a 6-fight winning streak.

A talented BJJ practitioner, Abreu has recorded 10 wins by submission- but none in the UFC. He has a solid takedown game, timing his opponent’s forward push and changing levels.

He has spent the majority of his UFC time on the feet, throwing hard kicks and power punches. He had success on the feet against Sam Alvey and overall seems comfortable exchanging on the feet.

A graduate of the Contender series, Jamahal Hill (7-0-0) took a decision over Darko Stosic in his debut. A physically gifted fighter, Hill will stand 4-inches taller than his opponent and will have 5″ reach advantage.

A creative striker, Hill mixes in punching combinations, stepping knees, and a variety of kicks. His movement is fluid, bouncing in and out of range. he was getting cracked by Darko as he tends to hold his hands low, but his distance management helps to keep him out of danger.

Stosic found some success with his takedowns, landing 6 throughout the fight, but Hill was able to routinely get up.

Klidson has a clear path to victory in this fight. Hill’s TDD appears a little suspect and if Abreu takes him down he can submit him or grind out a decision. Unfortunately, Abreu is too willing to stand and trade and that will get him into trouble. Hill is the more varied striker and his speed and length will make it difficult for Klidson to land with regularity. Hill picks him apart on the feet and the damage piles up as the fight advances- my prediction is Jamahal Hill to defeat Klidson Abreu by decision.

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125lbs- Tim Elliott vs Brandon Royval

Former title challenger Tim Elliott (15-10-1) has experienced ups and downs in the UFC career and appears to be in downswing entering into this bout. Losing back to back bouts and 3 of 4, this fight is a must-win.

Favouring a wrestling heavy attacked, Elliott has taken down all but 2 of his UFC opponents. Unfortunately, Tim’s time on the floor has produced mixed results. He has been submitted 4-times in his career including 2 of his last 3 setbacks.

Elliott is traditionally the taller/ longer fighter but that won’t be the case here. He is the shorter man by 2-inches and will give up 2-inches of reach.

A capable submission fighter, Brandon Royval (10-4-0) has tapped our 6 opponents, including UFC vet Joby Sanchez. He has just a single loss over his last 6-fights; a 5-round LFA title fight decision loss to Casey Kenney. He fought Kenney on 2-weeks notice.

Against Kenney, Royval demonstrated impressive submission defense- fending off multiple tight sub attempts throughout the fight.

In more recent action, Royval stormed out of the gates with a flying knee and started chaining submissions together leading to a 23-second armbar submission.

The UFC newcomer is making his debut on short notice and taking on an incredibly experienced opponent. Elliott is the better wrestler by far which is important in order for him to negate the grappling of Royval. But, if Tim gets too aggressive or sloppy, he could find himself in tight submission early. Conversely, Elliott’s cardio and non-stop pace will be too much for his foe who most likely start to fade due to his lack of camp time- my prediction is Tim Elliott to defeat Brandon Royval by decision.

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135lbs- Casey Kenney vs Louis Smolka

After gaining momentum in the Flyweight division, an increase in competition including a pair of title challengers, resulted in a 4-fight losing streak and the eventual dismissal of Louis Smolka (16-6-0) from the UFC. He has since won 5 of his last 6 fights including a 2-1 record in his return to the UFC.

At Bantamweight, Smolka utilizes an aggressive onslaught of transition grappling and underrated striking. In his last fight, he demonstrated a noteworthy focus on body strikes prior to finishing him with head strikes.

The Hawaiian has made some mistakes based on over-confidence in his grappling. Smolka will go to the mat, but if his offensive focus has offered opportunities for his opponents to get the better of the horizontal exchanges.

Casey Kenney (13-2-1) has spent a great deal of his UFC tenure on the mat. Over a trio of Octagon outings, Kenney has completed 4 takedowns will giving up 22. Despite those lopsided numbers, he has prevailed over a pair of capable ground fighters in Ray Borg and Manny Bermudez.

Kenney will need to overcome a sizable length disadvantage as Louis will stand 3-inches taller to go along with a 5″ reach advantage.

A capable ground fighter, Kenney has been able to routinely scramble out of his opponents’ takedowns and either get back to his feet or to a superior position.

Kenney will take Smolka down at will, partially because Louis is too willing to go to the floor. If he can’t catch Casey off his back early, Kenney will score significant points from top position. On the feet, Kenney offers a more impactful striking attack, but Smolka has shown signs of improvement. Kenney will utilize his more positionally responsible ground game and once Smolka begins to slow the gap will widen- my prediction is Casey Kenney to defeat Louis Smolka by decision.

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145lbs- Chris Gutierrez vs Vince Morales

Continuing the trend of fighter moving up a weight class to help deal with these uncertain times, Vince Morales (9-4-0) returns to action for the first time in nearly a year. Coming up short in his Contenders bout, Morales earned a victory in Bellator before getting the call to the UFC.

Against Benito Lopez, Morales dropped him in the opening round and landed more strikes overall but was unable to do enough to earn the judges’ nod. He has had issues closing the gap against rangier opponents, cutting down on the volume and impact of his strikes.

Morales will be the shorter man by 2-inches, but he will have a 3″ reach advantage over his foe.

More than willing to remain vertical, Chris Gutierrez (14-4-1) has finished 6 opponents by knockout. Where the Boston-native struggled has been on the mat. His debut performance started strong on the feet before he was put on the mat and submitted.

He gave up a pair of takedowns in his last fight, but managed to edge out a decision.

Gutierrez offers decent boxing and will counter striker, but his best weapons are his kicks. He was routinely landing low kicks on Geraldo de Freitas and buckled his base on a couple of occasions.

This should be an entertaining scrap, contested mainly on the feet. Morales appears to have the edge in power, but he needs to throw in combination more frequently. Gutierrez has the kicking game to replicate the success that Lopez had against Morales, but his willingness to move backwards might not sit well with the judges. Look for Morales to capitalize on his reach advantage when pushing forward, routinely backing his adversary up with hard combinations. Morales learns from his last fight and pushes a more aggressive pace from start to finish, my prediction is Vince Morales to defeat Chris Gutierrez by TKO.


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