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Emmett On UFC ‘Orlando’ Fiasco: ‘I Wish Ref Had Done His Job’

The fallout from last Saturday night’s (Feb. 24, 2018) controversial finish in the headlining bout of UFC on FOX 28 in Orlando, Fla., is still going strong. In the main event of the evening, Jeremy Stephens scored a knockout win over Josh Emmett in the second round (see it again here).

Then the controversy argument began.

Prior to “Lil’ Heathen” landing the finishing elbows to the face of Josh, Stephens apparently clipped his downed foe with an illegal knee to the head. Once his opponent was dazed, Stephens proceeded to storm in with some vicious ground-and-pound which included two apparent illegal elbows to the back of the head.

While the rest of the mixed martial arts (MMA) world argued about what was fair or illegal, Emmett himself appeared on “The MMA Hour“ to discuss the controversy.

“I’m not saying he’s a dirty fighter at all. But after watching it, I just wish I had more of a fair chance, you know? I wish Dan would have done his job. If he would have stopped the fight, I could’ve had a little time to recover or maybe took a point away from Stephens it could’ve been a completely different outcome. He is saying he didn’t see it. I watched the clip, Urijah (Faber) sent me a picture and it shows the knee connecting on my head and you can see Dan looking right at it. I just don’t get the whole, how he couldn’t see it. This has happened in the past, with UFC 210 with Weidman and Mousasi. That was a legal blow and he stopped the fight, but then this was an illegal blow and he didn’t stop it. I just wish I had a fair chance and it could’ve been a different outcome.”

So much for this.

Regarding the two elbows to the back of the head, Emmett says they were definitely illegal. As for what’s next, Emmett’s team over at Team Alpha Male plans to appeal the loss, and Josh himself hopes to score a rematch with Stephens sooner rather than later. That will be tough to come by, as “Lil Heathen” is eyeing a shot at the 145-pound title following his second straight knockout victory.

Still, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to believe Stephens would like to get rid of the cloud hanging over his win with a do-over against Emmett. If not, then maybe it’s in Josh’s best interest to sniff around this bush in hopes of finding a scrap.

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We Know Who Da Fook That Guy Is After UFC Orlando

There was a point in the latter half of round one when Josh Emmett was feeling pretty good about himself. After all, the Team Alpha Male product — who catapulted into the No. 4 slot in the official featherweight rankings by melting Ricardo Lamas — had already put Jeremy Stephens on his ass in the UFC on FOX 28 main event.

Shortly thereafter, Emmett pointed to the ground when “Lil’ Heathen” scrambled back to his feet, perhaps calling his shot inside Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., in a 145-pound headliner scheduled for five, five-minute rounds.

It never saw a third.

Emmett crumpled under the blitzkrieg of his resurgent opponent, who shook off the cobwebs and came back angrier. And one thing mixed martial arts (MMA) fans have learned after more than 10-plus years of watching the bearded brawler, is that Stephens is the opposite of Bruce Banner.

We do like him when he’s angry.

In 28 fights for the world’s preeminent combat sports promotion, Stephens (28-14) has 15 wins, eight of which have come by way of devastating knockout. His biggest issue to date has been consistency, resulting in a lukewarm reception to his inclusion in the UFC Fight Night 124 headliner opposite Doo Ho Choi back in January.

It also didn’t help that Conor McGregor, the most famous UFC fighter in the world, publicly mocked Stephens for competing in obscurity over the past decade, while “Notorious” punched his way into the mainstream in just a couple of years.

The question, as I’m sure you know by now, was “Who da fook is that guy?”

He’s the guy who will take pictures with your mom!

He’s also the guy who will put your head into the fifth row, which will no doubt have the MMA media rethink its hasty decision to drop Emmett in the No. 4 spot based on a single one-hitter quitter against a former title contender, especially considering he was unranked heading into UFC on FOX 26.

No matter.

By trashing Emmett in the UFC Orlando main event, Stephens proved that not only is he a featherweight work horse capable of taking out anyone willing to stand and bang, he’s also worthy of headlining major events on network television.

Stephens topped four events in his UFC career (so far) and three of them have returned performance bonuses, which include two “Fight of the Night” honors against Cub Swanson and the aforementioned Choi.

Hard to believe “Lil’ Heathen” is just 31.

That’s great news for both Stephens — now the winner of three straight — and the fans who support him. There’s still plenty of time to make a run at the division strap, currently held by Max Holloway, and it may not be as far away as it sounds. Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega eliminates one top contender at UFC 222 and sends the other into a “Blessed” title fight.

Elsewhere in the division, Swanson and Lamas are both coming off recent losses and Emmett just got wasted, so that leaves us with Chan Sung Jung. Unfortunately, “The Korean Zombie” has been sidelined until further notice as a result of a devastating knee injury.

It’s hard to say where Stephens fits into all of this but I would expect him to land in the top five after UFC on FOX 28. He may not be popular enough to generate this level of mass hysteria, but one thing he can generate is some serious knockout power.

I hear UFC on FOX 30 needs a main event.

For much more on UFC Orlando, including results, video highlights, reactions, and so much more, check out our “Emmett vs. Stephens” archive by clicking here.

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All Eyes On Emmett Tonight In Orlando!

The rise of Josh Emmett has been a quick one. After starching Ricardo Lamas with one punch back in December, the Team Alpha Male (TAM) standout will have yet another opportunity to improve his divisional ranking later tonight (Sat., Feb. 24, 2018) at UFC on FOX 28 from inside Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., when he takes on featherweight veteran Jeremy Stephens.

Needless to say, Stephens is going to test Emmett at every turn. He’s a skilled veteran with devilish power and is currently experiencing one of the best upticks in performance of his lengthy career. Unlike Emmett, Stephens has already headlined a few UFC events and understands what it takes to pace his output and production in a five-round affair.

Considering Stephens’ track record in UFC, it’s going to be difficult to find a fighter on the featherweight roster with more relevant experience. Luckily for Emmett, he has already demonstrated the ability to punch his way through a lack of experience and heavy odds when he smoked Lamas via knockout at UFC on FOX 26. Not only was “Bully” the first ranked opponent Emmett had ever encountered in UFC, but Emmett only had 30 days to prepare for the fight after filling in for former UFC champion Jose Aldo.

While few mainstream fight fans knew who Emmett was before his incredible finish over Lamas, it’s going to be hard to ignore the 32-year-old’s appeal moving forward. Emmett has always possessed a lot of potential as an up-and-coming prospect under the close watch of TAM head coach Urijah Faber, but he’s finally getting the high-profile matchups that his skill set requires. If it wasn’t for a split-decision loss to lightweight Desmond Green at UFC 210 last year Emmett would be currently undefeated at 14-0. Instead, that lone loss has helped propel Emmett’s urgency inside of the cage, which may or may not have played into his knockout of a former UFC title challenger.

Even though Emmett is unlikely to land a featherweight title shot with a win over Stephens this weekend due to the impending UFC 222 clash between top dogs Frankie Edgar and Brian Ortega, a victory over “Lil Heathen” should land Emmett a No. 1 contender’s bout sometime this summer. That’s incredible considering Emmett made his return to 145 pounds just four months ago.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 28 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

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Barao Expecting ‘Nice KO’ At UFC Orlando After Move To ATT

Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao will look to regain momentum tomorrow night (Sat., Feb. 24, 2018) at UFC on FOX 28 from inside Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., when he takes on rising contender Brian Kelleher in the preliminary headliner on FOX.

Barao, 30, just hasn’t been the same since losing his 135-pound crown to T.J. Dillashaw back in 2014. Since that title loss, which ended a 33-fight unbeaten streak, the Brazilian has turned in a pedestrian 2-3 record. That includes a rematch against Dillashaw and an unsuccessful shot in the UFC’s featherweight division.

Despite his struggle to find consistency over the past couple of years, Barao is still a relevant player at 135 pounds. And if his recent move from Nova Uniao in Brazil to American Top Team (ATT) in Florida is any indication of what “Baron” is capable of moving forward, the bantamweight elites better pay close attention.

“I got the best preparation possible,” Barao said about his move to ATT in a recent interview with Combate. “I already wanted to move to the United States. I want to bring my son over here, in the future. I chose ATT so I could change my way of training, look for improvements. Since I already had some friends of mine training over there, telling me how different everything was, that’s what me decide. Everything changed. I’m doing my cardio with one coach, boxing with another, wrestling with another. I think I improved quite a lot.”

While Barao hasn’t been finished since his defeats to Dillashaw, he has dropped disappointing decisions to featherweight staple Jeremy Stephens and bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling. Needless to say, the former UFC champion desperately needs a big win this weekend if he wishes to turn back the clock and make 2018 his comeback campaign.

Unfortunately for Kelleher, any success Barao has this weekend in Orlando will come at the expense of him. “Boom” is a finishing machine and has won two Fight Night bonuses in just three Octagon appearances to date, but it is Barao who is looking to walk away from UFC on FOX 28 with a knockout.

“He’s a tough guy, coming off a win, but I expect a nice KO,” Barao said. “I’m ready to give my best.”

UFC on FOX 28 will be headlined by a featherweight tilt pitting veteran Jeremy Stephens against rising contender Josh Emmett.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 28 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

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UFC ‘Orlando’ Clash: Andrade vs. Torres!

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Strawweight contenders Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres will collide this Saturday (Feb. 24, 2018) at UFC on FOX 28 inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

Against all but Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Andrade has proven to be a terrifyingly fierce force at 115 pounds. She’s utterly dominated a trio of tough opponents, recently solidifying herself as one of the division’s absolute best with a three-round shellacking of Claudia Gadelha. Meanwhile, Torres has been ranked near the top of the division since her first bout inside the Octagon, but she hasn’t yet been able to secure her title shot. Luckily, she’s undefeated outside of a tight loss to the current champion, and those two still have a rubber match to complete at some point.

Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each woman:

Jessica Andrade
Record: 17-5
Key Wins: Claudia Gadelha (UFC Fight Night 117), Joanne Calderwood (UFC 205), Angela Hill (UFC Fight Night 104), Jessica Penne (UFC 199)
Key Losses: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (UFC 211), Raquel Pennington (UFC 191), Marion Reneau (UFC Fight Night 61)
Keys to Victory: Andrade is an incredible and unique combination of being the strongest woman in her division and having impeccable conditioning as well. On the feet, she’s a clubbing brawler, but it’s Andrade’s power wrestler and jiu-jitsu that separate her from the pack.

In this match, it’s important that Andrade get her wrestling going. In a strict kickboxing match, she has a fair chance, but Torres is the more experienced striker on paper. Plus, Andrade’s sole recent loss came to a fighter able to circle around her strikes, which is impossible from the bottom. To do so, Andrade needs to time her bursts well. She cannot lunge in on a whim, as that will make it to easy for Torres to cut an angle and avoid the whole exchange. Instead, Andrade needs to strike when Torres’ cage position is weak, and targeting the body would be wise as well.

If Andrade is able to connect on punches, she’s in range to shoot. Torres is not a bad wrestler or weak fighter, but she’s at a size disadvantage, and that should be the edge Andrade needs to score a takedown and put herself in great position.


Tecia Torres
Record: 10-1
Key Wins: Rose Namajunas (Invicta FC 6), Michelle Waterson (UFC 218), Paige VanZant (Invicta FC 4), Felice Herrig (Invicta FC 7)
Key Losses: Rose Namajunas (UFC on FOX 19)
Keys to Victory: Torres lives up to her “Tiny Tornado” nickname, kicking at her opponents before suddenly bursting into a flurry of strikes. In addition, her wrestling has proven a valuable weapon as well, as Torres will hide a strong double leg behind those flurries.

In this match, nonstop footwork will be key. Jedrzejczyk wrote the book on dismantling Andrade, using lateral movement to avoid the fence and make Andrade swing at air. All the while, Jedrzejczyk stabbed at Andrade with kicks and body shots to slow her down. On paper, Torres has good footwork and range strikes. She’s not an easy fighter to hold down. It’s not her natural style, but Torres has the tools to fight the outside game and pick Andrade apart.

Torres needs to commit to the gameplan, but doing so gives her a real chance at scoring a major upset and earning a title shot.

Bottom Line: The winner will receive a title shot.

Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk will rematch in the beginning of April, which perfectly sets up the winner of this bout for a summer title shot. Regardless of which woman is champion, it’s an intriguing match up. For Andrade, she’ll have fully earned her rematch with Jedrzejczyk, and she’s a nightmare match up for Namajunas. In Torres’ case, she has a rubber match to settle with “Thug Rose” and has never even faced Jedrzejczyk.

Isn’t it nice when things work out simply?

The loser remains in the title mix, but this is nearly a guaranteed title eliminator. Title shots are never easy to come by, and losing out on a clear one here is a definite setback.

At UFC on FOX 28, Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres will go to war in the co-main event. Which fighter will secure a title shot?

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UFC Orlando Loses Lightweight Bout Following ‘Unsafe’ Weight Cut

We’re still two days out from the official UFC on FOX 28 weigh ins, but that hasn’t stopped the world’s preeminent mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion from yanking a scheduled lightweight scrap over a potentially unsafe weight cut.

Gilbert Burns will not be allowed to compete this Saturday night (Feb. 24, 2018), where he was expected to meet Olivier Aubin-Mercier in the UFC on FOX 28 “Prelims” on Fight Pass inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

That’s according to a report from Flo Combat.

“Upon his arrival, the UFC medical team determined that it would be unsafe for Burns to cut additional weight necessary to meet the 156-pound limit,” UFC said in its official release. “The card will proceed as scheduled with twelve fights.”

No word yet on whether or not either competitor will receive their “show” money after being yanked from the line up, or rebooked for a future fight card. Expect that announcement in the next few days.

To see the revised UFC on FOX 28 fight card and line up click here.

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Predictions! UFC ‘Orlando’ Undercard Preview – Pt. 2

There will be much swangin’ and, ideally, some bangin’ as well.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight sluggers Jeremy Stephens and Josh Emmett will attempt to parlay their recent knockout victories into a title shot this Saturday evening (Feb. 24, 2018) when they duke it out inside Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

UFC on FOX 28 also features a pivotal women’s Strawweight scrap between Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres, a Light Heavyweight throwdown between Ovince Saint Preux and Ilir Latifi, and a potential “Fight of the Night” between Mike Perry and Max Griffin.

The FOX portion of the card gets four “Prelims” undercard bouts to beef it up (check out the Fight Pass portion here). So, here they are, deboned and butterflied for your consumption.

135 lbs.: Renan Barao vs. Brian Kelleher

We are closing in on four years since Renan Barao (34-5) fell to T.J. Dillashaw in what remains one of the biggest numerical upsets in mixed martial arts (MMA) history. He is just 2-3 since that fateful night, most recently taking an absolute beating from Aljamain Sterling in Anaheim.

Though the two are the same height, he will have four inches of reach on Brian Kelleher (18-8).

“Boom,” sufferer of similar weight cut issues, submitted Iuri Alcantara in his UFC debut in a sizeable upset, only to be upset in return by Marlon Vera less than two months later. Undeterred, he returned to action against Poland’s Damian Stasiak and handed him a whooping in hostile territory, earning “Fight of the Night” in the process.

He has submitted eight professional opponents and knocked out another seven.

Back in the early ‘10s, when Barao could rehydrate with an IV and showed real confidence, this fight would have been a wash. He’d have jabbed and leg-kicked Kelleher to death on his way to 30-27s across the board.

Now? It’s impossible to have any faith in him. His fight IQ has looked utterly woeful in recent fights, leading him to try to slug it out with Jeremy Stephens and neglect his own grappling against Sterling until it was too late to matter. In addition, there’s no telling how his gas tank will hold up after another brutal cut to 135 pounds. Kelleher, on the other hand, has the motor on him to stay in Barao’s face all night and wear him down.

Barao just doesn’t seem to have the mental strength to compete at the highest level anymore. Kelleher outworks him to a narrow decision victory.

Prediction: Kelleher via split decision

135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Marion Reneau

Sara McMann (11-4) emerged from her 1-3 skid on the warpath, running over Jessica Eye, Alexis Davis and Gina Mazany with ease. Most expected her to do the same to Ketlen Vieira, but the Brazilian came back to submit her late in the second round in Sept. 2017.

She will give up two inches of reach to Marion Reneau (8-3-1).

“The Belizean Bruiser” is still going strong at age 40, arguably deserving the win in each of her last four fights. The two decisions she did get saw her stop Milana Dudieve and Talita Bernardo in the third round to up her career finish total to seven.

Five of those finishes came via strikes, including one in just 10 seconds.

McMann has the skills to crack the division’s Top 5 and never leave: Heavy hands, a developing submission game, and nigh-unmatched wrestling. I really thought she’d put it all together, only for her to collapse against Vieira and get submitted like old times.

She has to be firing on all cylinders here. If she gets lax in the striking, Reneau has the power to turn her lights out, and the Belizean’s guard is a genuine hazard should McMann get lax on top. Still, despite myself, I’ve got faith in McMann. She may not have enough time left in the cage to fully realize her potential, but even half of that potential is enough to carry her to victory here. Strong top control wins the day.

Prediction: McMann via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Maryna Moroz vs. Angela Hill

Maryna Moroz (8-2) announced her arrival into UFC with a 90-second armbar of Joanne Calderwood, and though she came up short against Valerie Letourneau her next time out, she bounced back with wins over Cristina Stanciu and Danielle Taylor. She couldn’t quite do the same against Carla Esparza, however, and struggled against the former champion’s takedowns en route to a decision loss.

She was supposed to fight Jamie Moyle last month, but the latter suffered an injury just days before the event.

Angela Hill (7-4) won and defended the Invicta Strawweight title before putting on a Fight of the Night with Jéssica Andrade in her UFC return. After getting back in the win column with a decision over Ashley Yoder, she threw down with American Top Team standout Nina Ansaroff and lost another competitive decision.

She will give up four inches of height and three inches of reach to Moroz.

Moroz’s key issue is that she has two solid aspects of her game, her boxing and her submissions, and zero ways to connect them. Her fights go where her opponents want them to. This time around, that means she’ll be trading with a better Muay Thai stylist despite having the skills to overwhelm her on the mat.

Moroz’s height and length definitely work in her favor, but Hill has the skills to get inside and go to work. Unless Moroz can hit a flying armbar, expect Hill to work her over at close range with punches and kicks for 15 competitive minutes.

Prediction: Hill via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Alan Jouban vs. Ben Saunders

Alan Jouban (15-6) got off to a strong 6-2 start in his UFC career, including three “Fight of the Night” bonuses and victories over Belal Muhammad and Mike Perry. He has since been on the wrong end of bonus-winning stoppages from Gunnar Nelson and Niko Price, the latter of whom needed just 104 seconds to put away Jouban with strikes.

“Brahma” has earned nine professional wins by (technical) knockout and one by submission to punches.

Despite three consecutive wins and UFC’s first-ever omoplata submission, Ben Saunders’ (21-8-2) second UFC run came to an end after a knockout loss to Patrick Cote. He came right back after submission Jacob Volkmann in 17 seconds, however, and defeated Court McGee before suffering a knockout loss to Peter Sobotta in Sweden.

He stands two inches taller than Jouban and will have four inches of both reach and leg reach on him.

There are two ways this fight could go: Either these two go at each other and turn the lights out in a hurry, or get overly protective after their recent knockout losses and stare at each other for 15 minutes. I’m thinking the latter, as both had been stopped before and came back aggressively.

Which is bad news for Saunders.

“Killa B” is one of the most entertaining grapplers in UFC and has heart for days, but his chin just isn’t there anymore. It seems like he gets rattled by every clean punch he takes and his defense has never been great. Worse, his ability to take it to the mat is limited to pulling guard against a defensive wrestler of Jouban’s caliber. While both are vulnerable enough to make this intriguing, expect Jouban to find a home for his left hand before long.

Prediction: Jouban via first-round knockout

UFC on FOX 28’s main event could be something special and there are a few match ups that just scream “highlight material.” See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 28 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” match online, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET before the FOX main card action kicks off at 8 p.m. ET.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 34-7

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Predictions! UFC ‘Orlando’ Undercard Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to UFC Fight Pass and FOX this weekend (Sat., Feb. 24, 2018) when UFC on FOX 28: “Emmett vs. Stephens” storms Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC on FOX 28 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ain’t no rest for the wicked …

Fresh off his knockout of “The Korean Superboy,” Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens returns to action this Saturday evening (Feb. 24, 2018) at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., taking on newfound contender Josh Emmett in UFC on FOX 28’s main event of the evening.

The four-fight main card also features a potential women’s Strawweight title eliminator between Jessica Andrade and Tecia Torres, plus Ovince Saint Preux vs. Ilir Latifi and a guaranteed slugfest that pits Mike Perry against Max Griffin.

With just four main card bouts that means a lot of “Prelims” undercard bouts, specifically nine this time around. It’s a 5:4 split between Fight Pass and FOX. So let’s take it from the bottom-up:

155 lbs.: Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier

Gilbert Burns’ (12-2) world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu and developing striking carried him to victory in his first three UFC appearances, but weren’t enough to save him from losses to Rashid Magomedov and Michel Prazeres in Brazil. His sole 2017 performance was perhaps his most impressive yet, however, as he destroyed Canada’s Jason Saggo with one punch in Pittsburgh.

“Durinho” owns seven wins by submission and another four via (technical) knockout.

Though he came up short against Chad Laprise in the finals of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations,” Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2) emerged as a standout contender with wins in six of his next seven fights. His current three-fight streak includes submissions of Thibault Gouti and Drew Dober, plus a split decision over Tony Martin.

Seven of the eight submission wins that “The Quebec Kid” has secured have come by rear-naked choke.

Now this is an interesting fight, pitting top-tier jiu-jitsu against top-tier Judo. Despite Burns’ struggles against the human-shaped bulldozer that is Michel Prazeres, I’m leaning his way, as he looks like the more complete and dangerous striker. It’s also worth remembering that Aubin-Mercier’s last defeat came against an excellent jiu-jitsu artist in Carlos Diego Ferreira, who has not shown Burns’ takedown skills or punching power.

Aubin-Mercier can play backpack against the majority of the division, but not against someone this skilled on the mat. Unable to engage in his ideal style of fight, he’ll be forced to trade strikes with a faster and more powerful kickboxer, ultimately losing the decision.

Prediction: Burns via unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Marcin Prachnio vs. Sam Alvey

A world-class Kyokushin karate standout, Marcin Prachnio (13-2) enters the Octagon on an eight-fight win streak, including six first-round knockouts. The streak includes a split decision over jiu-jitsu standout Leandro Ataides and an 83-second finish of 36-fight veteran Gilberto Galvao.

All of his 11 stoppage wins have come in the first round

Consecutive losses to Derek Brunson and Elias Theodorou didn’t discourage Sam Alvey (31-10), as he went on to win five of his next six bouts. He stumbled a bit last time, though, losing a snoozer to the debuting Ramazan Emeev.

“Smilin’” steps in for the injured Jake Collier on less than two months’ notice.

Prachnio’s Kyokushin base is extremely visible … and not always in a good way. While he’s lethal at short range, mixing up tight punches and surprisingly compact high kicks, his footwork is all over the place and he tends to wing his punches when launched from anywhere outside the pocket. If Alvey had any sort of consistency, I’d pick him to win here, as Prachnio leaves countering opportunities you could drive a truck through.

Unfortunately, Alvey is Alvey, cripplingly boring and painfully reticent to actually unleash the crazy power in his hands. Prachnio, if nothing else, is extremely busy, which ought to carry him past the ever-gunshy Alvey. Though an Alvey haymaker out of nowhere is always in the cards, Prachnio’s volume and aggression should win the day.

Prediction: Prachnio via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Rani Yahya vs. Russell Doane

More than 15 years after his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut, Rani Yahya (24-9) remains a standout Bantamweight, losing just once in his last seven fights. In his most recent bout, he put a loss to Joe Soto behind him with a rapid submission of Enrique Briones in the latter’s native Mexico.

He owns 18 professional victories via submission.

A perfect (2-0) UFC start, including a submission of jiu-jitsu ace Leandro Issa, gave way to four consecutive losses for Russell Doane (15-7), including first-round submissions against Pedro Munhoz and Mirsad Bektic. Last June, he came up big with his back against the wall by knocking out Korean striker Kwan Ho Kwak in Singapore.

He will have an inch of height and three inches of reach on Yahya.

Predicting a Yahya fight has gotten easier over the years. He’s going to spend the first round on top, then gas out halfway through the second before surviving the third. His opponents just have to survive, wear him out, and then deal as much damage as humanly possible in the final round.

Unless, of course, he manages to submit them. Unfortunately for Doane, he’s going to get submitted.

Doane has just one non-controversial win in his last six fights, got submitted by two of his last three opponents, isn’t a great wrestler, and doesn’t hit hard enough to turn Yahya’s lights out before he gets wrangled to the mat. Yahya locks up submission No. 19 before too terribly long.

Prediction: Yahya by first-round submission

125 lbs.: Alex Perez vs. Eric Shelton

Alex Perez (19-4) — the former Tachi Palace Fights Flyweight champion — put together a four-fight win streak to earn a spot on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series,” where he submitted Kevin Gray in less than three minutes. His UFC debut was equally successful, tapping Filipino prospect C.J. de Tomas with a lovely anaconda choke.

His only losses since 2012 came against TUF 24 competitor Adam Antolin and UFC veteran Jared Papazian.

Eric Shelton (11-4) and the judges had a bit of an adversarial relationship in his ZUFFA career, as he fell to Tim Elliott by majority decision on TUF 24 before dropping split decisions to Alexandre Pantoja and Jarred Brooks in his first two UFC appearances. He finally earned his first promotional victory in Nov. 2017 with a decision over former pro boxer Jenel Lausa in Sydney.

His finishes are split 5:2 between submissions and (technical ) knockouts.

An interesting factoid: Shelton actually has a loss to Gray back in 2015. Since then, though, he’s consistently held his own against world-class opposition, which gives him the edge in what looks like a very evenly-matched fight. Perez presents a similar skillset, combining quality combination striking with strong submission grappling.

The key difference, like I said, is that we know Shelton’s game works against the best. We don’t know if Perez’s does. Shelton edges out the striking and takedown battles to win a competitive decision.

Prediction: Shelton via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Manny Bermudez vs. Albert Morales

New England’s top prospect for quite some time, Manny Bermudez (10-0) has not tasted defeat since his second amateur fight back in 2012. All eight of his professional finishes have come in the first round, including seven submissions.

He stands three inches shorter than Albert Morales (7-3-1) at 5’6.”

Morales’ UFC career has been consistently entertaining, but not terribly consistent, as he is just 1-3-1 in five octagon appearances. He enters the cage on the heels of consecutive losses to Brett Johns and Benito Lopez, although most of the media scored the latter fight for Morales.

“The Warrior” has submitted three professional opponents and knocked out another two.

Bermudez’s Brazilian jiu-jitsu is absolutely sick. The man is a straight-up terror on the mat and has a Brian Ortega-esque ability to lock up front chokes in the clinch. The question is whether he has the wrestling to actually apply that jiu-jitsu — his controversial victory against Saul Almeida suggests that’s not necessarily the case. Morales, despite his ugly UFC record, is game as hell and capable of at least holding his own wherever the fight goes, meaning Bermudez is in trouble if he can’t impose his will.

That said, Morales isn’t a standout wrestler and the fight is basically over the moment Bermudez gets him to the mat. There’s also every reason to believe that Bermudez has improved considerably since that Almeida fight, as he is just 23. Though Morales has the skillset to play spoiler, I’m thinking Bermudez grounds him early and twists him into an unpleasant pretzel not long after.

Prediction: Bermudez via first-round submission

Four more UFC on FOX 28 “Prelims” bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including a pair of showdowns between top-ranked Bantamweight contenders. See you tomorrow, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 28 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” match online, which is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET before the FOX main card action kicks off at 8 p.m. ET.

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