Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Dec. 15, 2018) when UFC on FOX 31: “Iaquinta vs. Lee 2” storms Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC on FOX 31 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its final trip to FOX this Saturday (Dec. 15, 2018) with a top-notch Lightweight rematch at the helm. Kevin Lee, coming off of a brutal beating of Edson Barboza, takes on the man who handed him his first professional defeat in 2014, Al Iaquinta. UFC on FOX 31’s four-fight main card, which will take place inside Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisc., will also feature another rematch that pits Charles Oliveira against Jim Miller, as well as a banger between the aforementioned Barboza and Dan Hooker and a Bantamweight brawl between Sergio Pettis and Rob Font.
We’ll have a hefty six “Prelims” undercard bouts on FOX Sports 1 to set the stage before all that, though (check out the Fight Pass portion here), so let’s not waste time.
170 lbs.: Zak Ottow vs. Dwight Grant
Zak Ottow (16-6) — who made his UFC debut in 2016 with an upset decision over Josh Burkman — has alternated wins and losses in the Octagon and currently sits even (3-3) in the promotion. His last fight saw him drop Sage Northcutt in the opening seconds, but ultimately succumb to hammerfists in the second round.
He steps in for Erik Koch on two weeks’ notice.
American Kickboxing Academy’s Dwight Grant (8-1) has not tasted defeat since his second professional fight, knocking out five of his next seven opponents. After missing all of 2017, he appeared on “Contender Series” in June, where he flattened Tyler Hill in violent fashion to take home a contract.
He is two inches taller than Ottow and will have a four-inch reach advantage.
This is a bit of an obscure reference, but Grant reminds me of Valmir Lazaro, a Nova Uniao representative I was quite high on before he went 1-2 in the Octagon. He’s a haymaker-slinging puncher who relies mostly on his overhand right and counter left hook, neither of which are particularly crisp. He has the power to make it work, though, and Ottow has had very little time to prepare.
Koch’s technical kickboxing would have given Grant issues, but Ottow isn’t durable or savvy enough on the feet to exploit Grant’s limitations without getting chinned. Grant clips him with one of those giant swings and pounds him out quick.
Prediction: Grant via first-round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Jessica Rose-Clark vs. Andrea Lee (9-2)
Jessica Rose-Clark (9-5) didn’t let being the lesser name stop her from winning her first two UFC bouts, taking decisions over Bec Rawlings and Paige VanZant. Her streak would end there, as Jessica Eye defeated her in Singapore this past June.
“Jessy Jess” has knocked out and submitted two opponents apiece.
Andrea Lee (9-2) — former LFA Flyweight champion — was originally supposed to debut against Kalindra Faria in Oct. 2017, but had to withdraw because of the required length of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) testing window. “KGB” wound up entering the Octagon in May with a “Fight of the Night”-winning decision over Veronica Macedo.
Three of her four submissions wins have come by armbar.
The women’s Flyweight division may be, well, underwhelming at the moment, but this is a damn good fight. Both women are aggressive and well-rounded, and should offer plenty of entertainment wherever the fight goes.
The crux of this match up is Rose-Clark’s wrestling. Lee is the sharper, more powerful striker, but has historically struggled with defending takedowns, even from mediocre takedown artists. That consideration isn’t enough to offset Lee’s stand up superiority, though, so expect “KGB” to do enough damage to overcome the time she spends on her back.
Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Drakkar Klose
“King” Bobby Green (24-8-1) had a less-than royal time recently, going winless (0-3-1) over three years after a career-best victory over Josh Thomson. After those struggles and a variety of injuries, he finally got back in the win column with an entertaining unanimous decision over Erik Koch.
Green has since pulled out of two more fights with injuries, increasing his UFC total to six.
Drakkar Klose (9-1-1) followed a decent UFC debut against Devin Powell with a surprising upset of Marc Diakiese, only to run afoul of the surging David Teymur that December. He bounced back in July with an upset of Lando Vannata at UFC 226, out-striking the striker to win all three rounds on all three scorecards.
Four of his nine wins have come via (technical) knockout, though none since 2015.
Teymur showed that the linear Klose can be frustrated with good defense, patience and lateral movement, but I’m not convinced Green can pull that off. Even putting aside his never-ending string of injuries, Green is too hittable to win close-range exchanges and Klose’s low kicks will prevent the boxing-heavy “King” from finding success on the outside.
Though I’m glad to see Green actually, you know, fighting instead of just sitting on the outside and shaking his head every time someone punches him, he’s going to have issues with Klose’s pressure, leg attack, and takedowns. Klose’s versatility wins him a fun, back-and-forth battle.
Prediction: Klose via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Jared Gordon vs. Joaquim Silva
Jared Gordon (14-2) picked up his fourth consecutive victory in his UFC debut, pounding out Michel Quinones, before spoiling Hacran Dias’ UFC Lightweight debut four months later. Then came Carlos Diego Ferreira, who came back from a two-year hiatus to knock Gordon out in under tow minutes.
“Flash” is one inch taller than “Netto BJJ,” but will give up an inch of reach.
Joaquim Silva (10-1) reached the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil” 4 before tapping to eventual winner Glaido França, but started his Octagon career on the right foot with a split decision over fellow semifinalist Nazareno Malegarie. Two more victories followed, after which he lost a narrow decision to Vinc Pichel in Charlotte.
Despite the nickname, he has knocked out five opponents and submitted three.
“Netto BJJ” is kind of a misnomer — the Brazilian is quite capable on his feet and generally happy to keep it there, having attempted just one takedown in his four UFC appearances. It’s not quite enough to offset the wrestling disparity. Reza Madadi, a one-note wrestler stepping up on short notice, took him down five times, and the threat of Gordon’s takedowns will even the striking.
This will be similar to the Dias fight, in which the more capable submission artist is ground down by a relentless wrestler who dictates where and how the fight proceeds in all three rounds. Assuming no ill effects from the Ferreira fight, Gordon takes this with pressure striking and regular takedowns.
Prediction: Gordon via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Jack Hermansson
Gerald Meerschaert (28-9) opened his Octagon career with a pair of first-round submissions, extending his finishing streak to seven. Though Thiago Santos beat him down at UFC 213, he showed his grit with comeback finishes of Eric Spicely and Oskar Piechota, the former of which earned him “Performance of the Night.”
“GM3” owns 20 wins by submission and another three via (technical) knockout.
Jack Hermansson (17-4) rebounded from his submission loss to Cezar Ferreira with consecutive ground-and-pound stoppages of Alex Nicholson and Bradley Scott, but soon ran into the aforementioned Santos and suffered the first (T)KO loss of his career. His next time out, he defied visible agony to improbably pound out Thales Leites midway through the third round.
“The Joker’s” 14 stoppage wins include 11 (technical) knockouts.
I’ve picked Meerschaert’s last three fights wrong, so I’m not exactly the authority on what he can and can’t do. Just keep that in mind.
Meerschaert’s last two wins both saw him survive early trouble to get the win, but Hermansson doesn’t slow down. In other words, if “GM3” finds himself in an early hole, he’s not getting out of it. Hermansson figures to be the better striker, and though Meerschaert is dangerous on the ground, his wrestling is inconsistent. If it does wind up going to the mat, it will be on Hermansson’s terms, and the Swede has some nasty ground-and-pound.
Meerschaert’s too tough to get finished by accumulated strikes, but Hermansson’s ground assault will seize the momentum early and never let go.
Prediction: Hermansson via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Dan Ige vs. Jordan Griffin
Dan Ige (9-2) — representing Xtreme Couture — used his relentless wrestling to grind down and ultimately submit Luis Gomez on the first season of “Contender Series.” Though he fell to fellow alumnus Julio Arce in his UFC debut, he came back strong with a 50-second technical knockout of Mike Santiago in June.
“Dynamite” is three inches shorter than Griffin and will give up 3.5 inches of reach.
Roufusport’s Jordan Griffin (17-5) had won eight of his previous nine fights when he entered the Contender Series against Maurice Mitchell. After eating a hard right hand, he dropped Mitchell in return and choked him out late in the second round.
His last eight wins have come by stoppage, five by submission and three via (technical) knockout.
This is a clash between pragmatism and dynamism. Ige is a gritty wrestler, Griffin an athletic southpaw bruiser with a bad habit of sprinting after opponents with wide-armed swings. The oddsmakers have this as the closest fight on the undercard and I’m inclined to agree.
At the same time, they also have Ige as the favorite, and I am again inclined to agree. Griffin is the lesser grappler, and though he packs more power than Ige, he’s also overly aggressive with his linear offense and looks to be overly hittable. Ige exploits Griffin’s charges with well-timed takedowns and consistent, effective top control before ultimately choking out “The Native Psycho” late.
Prediction: Ige by third-round submission
UFC on FOX 31’s main card alone features three quality fights in the sport’s deepest division; therefore, it’s definitely worth spending your Saturday evening watching. See you there, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 31 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 3:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 182-82-1