Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Aug. 25, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 135: “Gaethje vs. Vick” storms Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 135 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.
Social media rivals Justin Gaethje and James Vick take center stage this Saturday (Aug. 25, 2018) when they headline UFC Fight Night 135 inside Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. Meanwhile, 10 pounds south, Michael Johnson attempts to end his current slump at Andre Fili’s expense, while Angela Hill fights Cortney Casey and Jake Ellenberger attempts to finally breathe life back into his Octagon career against Bryan Barberena.
Before all that, though, seven “Prelims” undercard bouts will set the stage on UFC Fight Pass and then FOX Sports 1. So let’s work our way up, starting from the bottom:
125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Kalindra Faria
The strong Invicta FC run for Joanne Calderwood (11-3) earned her the No. 2 seed on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, where she defeated Emily Kagan before falling to Rose Namajunas. She has since struggled to maintain consistency and enters the Octagon on the heels of losses to Jessica Andrade and Cynthia Calvillo.
This will be “Dr. Kneevil’s” first fight in 13 months.
Kalindra Faria (18-7-1) had faced a “Who’s Who” of women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) veterans on her road to the Octagon, including Claudia Gadelha, Vanessa Porto, Jessica Aguilar and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She ultimately made her UFC debut on a three-fight win streak, but came up short against Mara Romero Borella and Jessica Eye.
Seven of her 12 stoppage wins have come via (technical) knockout.
When Calderwood is on, she’s a match for anyone in the 125-pound division in the standup. That’s the rub, though, as she’s underperformed in the past and seems to lack the venom in her strikes she had during her Invicta FC days. I do expect her to look a lot better at her natural weight class, though, and I wasn’t terribly impressed with Faria’s UFC efforts.
There’s always the worry of the layoff and Calderwood’s inconsistency, but I like the style match up here. She’s busier and cleaner than the Brazilian on the feet and shouldn’t have too much to worry about in the takedown department. JoJo gets back on track by pot-shotting her way to a decision win.
Prediction: Calderwood via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Jon Tuck
Drew Dober (19-8) has come into his own since a 1-3 UFC start, winning four of his last five bouts. He is coming off of a knockout win over Josh Burkman and subsequent Fight of the Night slugfest against Frank Camacho in Charlotte.
He will give up three inches of height and reach to “The Super Saiyan.”
Jon Tuck (10-4) — once a red-hot prospect going into TUF 15 — has yet to find his footing in the Octagon, going even (4-4) since injury cut short his run on the show. After consecutive split decision losses to Josh Emmett and Damien Brown, Tuck choked out what’s left of Takanori Gomi for his first win since 2015.
This will be his first fight in 14 months.
The book is out on Tuck. For five-to-seven minutes, he’s a fast, athletic beast with one-shot knockout power and a lethal grappling game. For the rest of the fight, he’s a plodding mess saved by top-notch durability. The guy’s had eight UFC fights and gassed in all but one of the ones that went past the first round, so I don’t think that’s something he can fix.
Unfortunately for him, Dober is ridiculously durable and is learning to put some real heat behind his punches. Expect Tuck to look like a world-beater in the first round, only to once again run out of steam and get pieced up on the feet.
Prediction: Dober via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Rani Yahya vs. Luke Sanders
Rani Yahya (25-9) — who ended his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) run on a two-fight losing streak — continues to chug along, winning six of his last seven. His current run includes consecutive submissions of Henry Briones and Russell Doane.
He has submitted 19 opponents by more than a half-dozen different methods.
Luke Sanders (12-2) hit quite the bad luck streak after a dominant debut, falling to Iuri Alcantara and Andre Soukhamthath despite strong starts against both. He finally managed to break the slump in April with a decision over Patrick Williams.
“Cool Hand Luke” has knocked out six professional opponents and has six first-round finishes overall.
Yahya has done extremely well for himself as a miniature Demian Maia, pushing hard for early takedowns and outlasting those opponents he can’t submit in the first two rounds. It makes his fights annoyingly hard to predict, as there’s no real middle ground between his style working or not working, but at least it keeps things interesting.
What has me picking him here against a strong wrestler is Sanders’ fight with Alcântara. Sure, he laid an unholy smackdown on the Brazilian, but he got caught in the most telegraphed leglock I’ve ever seen in the process. That’s a simply unacceptable lapse against someone like Yahya, who’s got the ground game of a bear trap with arms. Yahya drags him down in the first few minutes, takes his back as he tries to scramble up, and finishes him with a rear naked choke.
Prediction: Yahya via first-round submission
Four more UFC Fight Night 135 “Prelims” bouts remain to preview and predict, among them the return of Mickey Gall and the latest from Bantamweight prospect Cory Sandhagen. Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 135 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET (also on FOX Sports 1).