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Predictions! UFC 227 Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FX this weekend (Sat., Aug. 4, 2018) when UFC 227: “Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2” storms Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 227 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has sequels on the mind this Saturday (Aug. 4, 2018) as T.J. Dillashaw and Demetrious Johnson defend their respective titles against former foes Cody Garbrandt and Henry Cejudo inside Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. UFC 227 will also feature a Featherweight crossroads fight between Renato Moicano and Cub Swanson, as well as top women’s Strawweight prospect Polyana Viana against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran J.J. Aldrich.

Prior to the start of the pay-per-view (PPV) main card, eight “Prelims” undercard bouts will set the stage, the latter four on FX for once. So let’s first check out the Fight Pass lineup:

125 lbs.: Jose Torres vs. Alex Perez

Jose Torres (8-0) went from the world’s top amateur to Titan FC’s Flyweight and Bantamweight champion in just five fights, both titles which he defended. While bulking up for a crack at the Featherweight belt, “Shorty” got a short-notice call to the Octagon, where he struggled early against Jarred Brooks before “The Monkey God” knocked himself out with a slam.

Torres has knocked out four opponents, including Brooks, and submitted another two.

Alex Perez (20-4) rebounded from the first two-fight skid of his career, which included the loss of his Tachi Flyweight title to future Ultimate Fighter competitor Adam Antolin, with four consecutive regional wins and an anaconda choke of Kevin Gray on “Tuesday Night Contender Series.” He has been equally impressive in UFC itself, choking out Carls John de Tomas and upsetting Eric Shelton by decision.

As you might imagine from his opponent’s nickname, Perez is two inches taller, though their reaches are identical.

Considering the short notice and the massive weight cut Torres had to go through to make 125 pounds, I can forgive his shaky performance against Brooks. When he’s on, “Shorty” is as good as anyone in the world, and I expect we’ll see a much better performance here.

Perez is a damn good wrestler who seriously impressed me against Shelton, but Torres’ boxing is quite a bit sharper, and Perez will find him much more difficult to keep on his back. Torres has the skills to keep it standing, sneak in a takedown or two of his own, and get to work with punching combinations. Perez should take the first round, as Torres is notoriously slow to get going, but expect “Shorty” to take over once the combos start flowing.

Prediction: Torres via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Ricardo Ramos vs. Kyung Ho Kang

Ricardo Ramos (11-1) came up short in his “Lookin’ for a Fight” appearance opposite Manny Vazquez, but earned a call up after choking out future “Tuesday Night Contender Series” hopeful Alfred Khashakyan. Following a decision over Michinori Tanaka, Ramos faced fellow prospect Aiemann Zahabi and wiped him out with an awesome spinning elbow.

He has gone the distance just twice as a professional, submitting six.

Kyung Ho Kang (14-7) put on one of 2014’s best fights against Michinori Tanaka, but was unable to capitalize on his momentum due to South Korea’s mandatory military service. He returned to action earlier this year, choking out TUF: “Latin America” alumn Guido Cannetti at UFC Fight Night 124.

“Mr. Perfect” has submitted 10 opponents and knocked out another two.

Most of the odds are already out for this event and Kang is around a two-to-one underdog. That doesn’t quite reflect the reality, which is that this is an extremely winnable fight for the Korean. Not only can he match Ramos’ height, he looks to be a fair bit thicker than the Brazilian and is enormously strong for the weight. In addition, he’s a sufficiently skilled takedown artist to put Ramos on his back and tricky enough to hold his own on the mat against the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace.

Kang has faded in the past, but his sheer physicality and ground skills seem like just the ticket to overwhelming the Brazilian. He banks at least two rounds through top control and submission attempts to get the decision.

Prediction: Kang via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Danielle Taylor vs. Weili Zhang

After a loss to the much, much taller Maryna Moroz in her Octagon debut, Danielle Taylor (9-3) got back on track with narrow decisions over Seo Hee Ham and Jessica Penne. Shew as unable to do the same against J.J. Aldrich, however, and is now sitting on a .500 UFC record.

As usual, the 5’0” Taylor will give up height, specifically four inches this time.

Weili Zhang (19-1) has not tasted defeat since her professional debut, establishing herself as one of China’s best fighters … period. She has been exceedingly efficient about it, too, going past the second round just once in her current streak.

She has knocked out nine and submitted six.

Some Chinese fighters have greatly exceeded my expectations upon joining UFC, but none have impressed me before their debuts as much as Zhang. She’s aggressive, powerful, entertaining and throws some lovely combinations. She’s borderline Top 10-quality already, an excellent addition to the roster.

Though Taylor has legitimate one-punch power and Zhang has been hurt before, “Dynamite’s” measly 30 percent striking accuracy and notoriously low work rate make this an uphill battle for her. Therefore, expect Zhang to rack up points with her low kicks and boxing on her way to a dominant decision.

Prediction: Zhang via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Marlon Vera vs. Wuliji Buren

Marlon Vera (12-5-1) put together an impressive three-fight win streak, among them stoppages of Brad Pickett and Brina Kelleher, to unexpectedly become a legitimate contender. He has since dropped decisions to power-punchers John Lineker and Douglas Andrade, though neither managed to significantly hurt him.

He steps in for the injured Bharat Khandare on two weeks’ notice.

Wuliji Buren (11-5) joined several of his countrymen in Shanghai in Nov. 2017, debuting against Rolando Dy in the midst of a four-fight winning streak. It wasn’t to be five, as “The Beastmaster” lost a wide decision to the Filipino boxer.

He has stopped six opponents, four by submission.

Khandare vs. Buren would have been an interesting clash of wrestlers. This is just going to be a stomp.

Buren really has no clear advantage here outside of his takedowns, and that weapon just puts him in danger of “Chito’s” submission arsenal. On the feet, Vera is the more proven kickboxer, meaning there’s no apparent avenue of victory for the China native. “Chito” touches him up with long-distance kicks until an ill-advised shot from Buren gives him the chance to lock up his neck.

Prediction: Vera via first-round submission

Four more UFC 227 “Prelims” fights to preview and predict tomorrow, including the debuts of two recent “Tuesday Night Contender Series” victors. See you then, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 227 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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Predictions! UFC 225 Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., June 9, 2018) when UFC 225: “Whittaker vs. Romero 2” storms United Center in Chicago, Illinois. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 225 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The two undisputed kings of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight division will duke it out once again this Saturday evening (June 9, 2018) when Robert Whittaker fights Yoel Romero in UFC 225’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The co-main event sees Rafael dos Anjos look to secure a title in a second weight class against Colby Covington, competing for the interim UFC Welterweight belt, and Invicta champ Megan Anderson fights Holly Holm in the third slot.

UFC 225 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around, four apiece on Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1. Let’s see what’s cooking on the Internet!

205 lbs.: Rashad Evans vs. Anthony Smith

It’s been more than four years since Rashad Evans (19-7-1) demolished Chael Sonnen in his last Octagon victory. He has since lost four straight, including a winless (0-2) Middleweight run that featured split decision losses to Dan Kelly and Sam Alvey.

“Suga” is four inches shorter than Anthony Smith (28-13) and will give up two inches of reach.

“Lionheart” — who was one-and-done in his first UFC venture — won eight straight to earn another shot in the Octagon. After splitting his first two bouts, he rattled off a three-fight knockout streak before succumbing to the power of Thiago Santos in February.

Fourteen of his 25 stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.

If Evans had shown even a modicum of his former self since 2013, I’d pick him to win this without much trouble. Smith’s takedown defense remains iffy and I don’t think moving to 205 pounds is the panacea for that particular trouble. As is, Evans is too reluctant to pull the trigger for me to pick him over someone who throws this much volume.

Evans needs to stay low, active and work his way inside Smith’s reach to overpower him on the mat. I’m sure he can still do that physically, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him finally pick up another win, but I say his hesitation costs him as Smith potshots his way to victory at range.

Prediction: Smith via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Sergio Pettis vs. Joseph Benavidez

After opening his UFC career 3-2, Sergio Pettis (16-3) finally got his feet under him and proceeded to win four straight, among them a main event victory over Brandon Moreno in hostile territory. Henry Cejudo proved a step too far, though, exploiting Pettis’ takedown defense to win a unanimous decision.

He will have two inches of height and four inches of reach on Joseph Benavidez (25-4).

Benavidez has won 13 of his last 15 fights, defeating everyone not named Demetrious Johnson along the way. His current six-fight streak includes a split decision victory over Cejudo in his last bout.

This will be his first Octagon appearance since Dec. 2016 thanks to ACL surgery.

In more than one decade as a professional fighter, Benavidez has only ever lost to the Flyweight G.O.A.T. and the arguable Bantamweight G.O.A.T. That streak has to end at some point, obviously, but it won’t be doing so this Saturday. He’s got the same sort of wrestling prowess that has stymied Pettis in the past and his sheer speed is enough for him to hold his own on the feet.

Unless Pettis can finally show off some stopping power, Benavidez is going to walk him down all night, clipping him with overhands and hooks until he can dominate on the mat. In other words, 30-27s across the board for Joe B.

Prediction: Benavidez via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Clay Guida vs. Charles Oliveira

Clay Guida (34-17) has found new life since returning to Lightweight, winning two straight after ending his Featherweight run on a 1-3 skid. His last fight saw him score his first (technical) knockout in almost a decade by stopping Joe Lauzon in just 67 seconds.

“The Carpenter” is three inches shorter than Charles Oliveira (22-8) and will give up four inches of reach.

A series of catastrophic weight cut failures — including weighing in at the Lightweight limit for his Featherweight fight with Ricardo Lamas — sent “Do Bronx” back to 155 pounds after 12 fights at Featherweight. He choked out Will Brooks in his Lightweight return, but got pounded into the dirt by Paul Felder in his most recent appearance.

He replaces Bobby Green on just over a week’s notice.

This could either be very entertaining or hideously boring — there is no middle ground. All things being equal, I lean toward Oliveira. On the feet, his height and clinch knees give him the edge, while his ground prowess is well-known. Guida risks a guillotine or sweep every time he ducks in for one of his favored double-legs and isn’t an active enough ground-and-pounder to break Oliveira’s will the way Felder did.

Oliveira is just too dangerous on the ground for Guida to execute his ideal gameplan and too dangerous with his clinch striking for Guida to grind him to death on the cage. In short, Oliveira catches him in something nasty before long.

Prediction: Oliveira via first-round submission

145 lbs.: Mike Santiago vs. Dan Ige

Mike Santiago (21-11) knocked out Mark Cherico on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series” to cap off an 11-fight win streak that included nine first-round finishes. He went on to lose to Zabit Magomedsharipov in his Octagon debut, then dropped a decision to Mads Burnell four months later.

He has submitted 10 opponents and knocked out another seven.

Dan Ige (8-2) rattled off five straight wins to earn a “Tuesday Night Contender Series” slot, choking out Luis Gomez in Week 3. Facing fellow “Tuesday Night Contender Series” alumnus Julio Arce in his UFC debut, “Dynamite” struggled to deal with his opponent’s striking and ultimately lost a unanimous decision.

He is three inches shorter than Santiago, but will have a two-inch reach advantage.

Santiago is the more entertaining of these two by a fair margin, which makes it a bit of a bummer that he’s going to eat his third consecutive loss. Ige may be a slow, one-note grinder, but a severely diminished Burnell managed to take down Santiago three times, so my faith in his counter-wrestling isn’t sky-high at the moment.

Santiago’s the better striker of the two and will have a considerable edge if he can force a high-pace, scramble-heavy bout. After his last performance, though, I see Ige’s meat-and-potatoes wrestling putting him on top long enough to get the decision.

Prediction: Ige via unanimous decision

Four more UFC 225 “Prelims” bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including the return of Mirsad Bektic and a clash of Top 10-ranked Heavyweight contenders in the featured undercard bout. See you there, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 225 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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Rutten Sticks Up For McGregor: ‘Give Him A Pass As A Fan’

Conor McGregor’s recent actions outside of the cage have not gone unnoticed.

The Irishman’s bus destruction in Brooklyn prior to UFC 223 last month has been talked about for weeks now, with most mixed martial arts (MMA) community members trashing the UFC superstar for going ape shit with no regard for the safety of others. After seeing all the footage of McGregor’s hunting party for rival Khabib Nurmagomedov, it’s hard to disagree.

That said, some are still willing to give “Notorious” a pass for his New York antics, which ultimately led to McGregor flying back to Ireland with a felony charge under his cap.

MMA legend Bas Rutten is one of those people willing to turn the page on the UFC 223 debacle, as he recently shed light on McGregor’s unique situation as a global superstar.

“We are not in Conor McGregor’s shoes. You know? People can shout what they want, they have no clue what goes on,” Rutten said during a recent interview with Submission Radio (shown above). “I think once people realize that you have 50 million dollars – he gets mail all day long from people with sick babies and sick kids and my grandma and everybody wants him to give money and so on.”

“I mean, he doesn’t only have money, he is super famous on top of that. I know the stupid stuff I did when I was 28 – I didn’t do that, okay, but you know, he has a group around him and he was already angry going in because they wanted to strip him of the title and he’s angry and now the partner, his friends, start saying, ‘hey, maybe we should throw something against them’. Like, ‘yeah,’ everybody starts agreeing. Yeah, you get caught up in the whole moment and you start doing it.”

We all understand that McGregor’s position is not an easy one. He’s young, extremely successful at his craft, just cashed in a career payday opposite Floyd Mayweather Jr., and is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world no matter where he goes.

But does that give him the ability to do what he did last month in Brooklyn? While Rutten agrees that McGregor needs to pay for what he did, he explains that maybe fight fans should give “Notorious” the benefit of the doubt.

“That’s why I said when I was with Joe Rogan, I said, guys, we should give him a pass. And people online, they were like, is he crazy? I’m not saying that (you excuse everything),” Rutten explained. “I’m saying, yes, he’s going to have to pay for what he did, he goes to court, he has to do all that. I’m not saying that (he doesn’t do those things). Of course, he has to – and I said that on Joe Rogan as well – but give him a pass as a fan. Don’t kick the guy while he’s down. Don’t throw him under the bus. He did so much good for MMA. He just needs to find his way in this world.”

“I hope they just … give him a pass, don’t spit him out yet,” he added. “Let him see if he cleans up. I mean, you give Jon Jones a lot of passes. And me too, I love Jon Jones, I want to see him back. He’s such a talent that is gone and I want to see him fight. This could be a guy that could literally go undefeated his entire life. So yeah, I would love to see a guy like that back.”

Whether you agree with Rutten or not, he probably isn’t the only MMA figure who believes McGregor should be forgiven for his actions. But it really is difficult to look past this incident, especially since the Irishman has been making so much noise everywhere other than inside the Octagon.

What say you, Maniacs? Should we give McGregor a pass for this one?

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Predictions! UFC Fight Night 128 Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ Preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., April 21, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 128: “Barboza vs. Lee” storms Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 128 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The lightweight division continues to churn out quality matchups, the latest of which headlines this Saturday’s (April 21, 2018) UFC Fight Night 128 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Said main event pits Edson Barboza, fresh off a mauling from newly-crowned division champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, against Kevin Lee, who succumbed to interim titleholder Tony Ferguson’s grappling late last year.

The supporting cast, meanwhile, features a rematch between featherweight veterans Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson and a top-flight bantamweight showdown between Brett Johns and Aljamain Sterling.

After last week’s 10-Prelim bonanza, we’re back to a more reasonable seven this time. Here are the first three, which take place on UFC Fight Pass.

135 lbs.: Leslie Smith (10-7-1) vs. Aspen Ladd (6-0)

Smith, entering her ninth year as a professional, enters the cage this Saturday on a winning streak for the first time since 2013. Undaunted by her knockout loss to Cris Cyborg, Smith upset Irene Aldana in a Fight of the Night-winning brawl before beating down unbeaten Brazilian Amanda Lemos in Glasgow. “The Peacemaker” stands three inches taller than Ladd at 5’9”, but their reaches are identical.

Ladd went 8-1 as an amateur, losing only to Cynthia Calvillo, before making her Invicta debut in 2015. She beat the likes of Amanda Cooper and Sijara Eubanks on her way to the Octagon, where she pounded out Lina Länsberg midway through the second round. She has stopped four pro opponents with strikes.

Ladd is a quality talent, but the stylistic matchup does not favor her. She’s an aggressive, come-forward striker who absorbs an inordinate amount of strikes until she can lock up a takedown and go to work with ground-and-pound. The problem here is that Smith hits way harder than Ladd does, is inordinately difficult to finish, and does not get tired.

Ladd’s strategy of pushing the pace until opponents succumb is profoundly ill-suited to dealing with the indefatigable Smith. “The Peacemaker” wears her down with body shots for a late stoppage.

Prediction: Smith by third-round TKO

135 lbs.: Merab Dvalishvili (7-3) vs. Ricky Simon (12-1)

Dvalishvili, a product of the vaunted Serra-Longo team, flipped the script on “Lookin’ for a Fight” by knocking out the favored Raufeon Stots in just 15 seconds. This set up a UFC debut against Frankie Saenz, who narrowly edged the Georgian in a grappling-heavy contest. Two of his three pro stoppage wins have come by knockout.

Though Simon emerged victorious on the Tuesday Night Contender Series, his split decision over Donavon Frelow wasn’t enough to earn him a UFC contract. Undeterred, he went on to batter Chico Camus for the vacant LFA Bantamweight title before flattening Vinicius Zani in his first and only defense. He replaces Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes, who ran afoul of USADA, on around a month’s notice.

Simon looked meh against Frelow, solid against Camus, and looked terrifying against Zani. He’s got great wrestling, great hands, and plenty of time to improve at age 25. The problem is that Dvalishvili is a tank of a bantamweight, incredibly strong and adept in the grappling. His strength and the threat of his takedowns are enough to shut down Simon’s high-octane striking.

It’s also worth noting that Simon slowed down against Camus right around the start of the third round, and Camus was not the sort of suffocating wrestler Dvalishvili is. The Georgian battles back from a rough first round to grind his way to a controversial split decision.

Prediction: Dvalishvili by split decision

170 lbs.: Tony Martin (13-4) vs. Keita Nakamura (33-8-2)

Cardio issues led Martin to start his UFC career 1-3, suffering submission losses to Beneil Dariush and Leonardo Santos despite starting strong in both fights He got back on track with three straight wins, only to lose a split decision to Olivier Aubin-Mercier in his last bout. This will be his first appearance at welterweight since his fourth pro fight in 2012.

“K-Taro” has alternated wins and losses since rejoining the UFC in 2015 with a come-from-behind submission of Li Jingliang that earned him Performance of the Night. Most recently, he rebounded from an entertaining loss to Elizeu Zaleski with a split decision over Alex Morono in Saitama. 15 of his 17 submission wins have come by rear naked choke.

I’m definitely interested in seeing how Martin looks at 170. His sheer physicality was a big part of his success at 155, but it also held him to only a few minutes of quality action. Nakamura is a quality test for him, incredibly savvy on the mat but frustratingly inconsistent with his fight IQ.

Though “K-Taro” is never far from an out-of-nowhere choke, Martin is the cleaner striker and his wrestling figures to be a match for Nakamura’s judo. In addition, I expect Martin’s gas tank to hold up far better at 170, giving him the energy needed to exploit Nakamura’s lapses. Martin grinds out a victory on the feet and the mat.

Prediction: Martin by unanimous decision

Four prelim bouts remain, including the return of Magomed Bibulatov. Same time as always, Maniacs.

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Finalized! UFC ‘London’ Fight Card, Fight Pass Line Up

With Michael Bisping no longer attached to the UFC London fight card, the promotion has instead called upon former heavyweight titleholder Fabricio Werdum to assume headlining duties against dangerous division standout Alexander Volkov.

Event: UFC Fight Night 127: “Werdum vs. Volkov”
Date: Sat., March 17, 2018
Location: O2 Arena In London, England
Broadcast: UFC Fight Pass

UFC Fight Night 127 Main Event:

265 lbs.: Fabricio Verdum vs. Alexander Volkov

UFC Fight Night 127 Main Card (5 p.m. ET):

205 lbs.: Jan Blachowicz vs. Jimi Manuwa
135 lbs.: Tom Duquesnoy vs. Terrion Ware
170 lbs.: Leon Edwards vs. Peter Sobotta

UFC Fight Night 127 Prelims (2 p.m. ET):

185 lbs.: Charles Byrd vs. John Phillips
170 lbs.: Oliver Enkamp vs. Danny Roberts
170 lbs.: Jack Marshman vs. Bradley Scott
145 lbs.: Hakeem Dawodu vs. Danny Henry
205 lbs.: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Paul Craig
155 lbs.: Kajan Johnson vs. Stevie Ray
155 lbs.: Nasrat Haqparast vs. Nad Narimani
265 lbs.: Mark Godbeer vs. Dmitry Sosnovskiy

For more upcoming UFC events click here.

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UFC 221 predictions: ‘Rockhold vs Romero’ Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Feb. 10, 2018) when UFC 221: “Rockhold vs. Romero” storms Perth Arena in Perth, Australia. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 221 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

With Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker on the mend, two of the 185-pound division’s most freakish athletes do battle in Perth, Australia, this Saturday night (Feb. 10, 2018) as Yoel Romero faces former division roost-ruler, Luke Rockhold, in UFC 221’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event.

The Aussie faithful will also get to see Mark Hunt face rising Heavyweight prospect Curtis Blaydes and up-and-coming knockout artist Tai Tuivasa throw down with Cyril Asker.

Before all that, though, we’ve got seven “Prelims” undercard matches that will set the PPV stage. Here’s the Fight Pass line up:

155 lbs.: Ross Pearson vs. Mizuto Hirota

Once feared as among the division’s premier strikers, Ross Pearson (19-14) enters the cage this weekend having lost four in a row and five of his last six bouts. He last fought in New Zealand, where local favorite Dan Hooker timed a vicious knee to turn the lights out in the second round.

He stands one inch taller than Mizuto Hirota (18-8-2) at 5’8.”

Hirota — who won Lightweight titles in both Sengoku and DEEP — finally picked up his first UFC victory in Dec. 2016 with a decision over Cole Miller. Things have been a tad disastrous since, however, as he was battered by Alexander Volkanovski and pulled from a fight with Charles Rosa because of a failed weight cut.

“Pugnus” has stopped 10 opponents with strikes, including fellow Japanese standouts Satoru Kitaoka and Masakazu Imanari.

This is probably the Japanese mixed martial arts (MMA) fanboy instincts I’ve tried so hard to suppress talking, but I’ve got Hirota here. The book is out on Pearson, who is just 2-6 in his last eight bouts and had to settle for split decisions in those two victories. Hirota is as durable as they come, can handle himself on the inside, and has the takedown prowess to ruin Pearson’s day.

Pearson does have a habit of coming up big when he’s been counted out, of course, and is sharper than Hirota with his boxing. Still, I believe Hirota can weather his best shots and eke out a decision through effective grinding.

Prediction: Hirota by split decision

135 lbs.: Teruto Ishihara vs. Jose Alberto Quinonez

The ever-charismatic Teruto Ishihara (10-4-2) rattled off two brutal knockouts following his draw with Mizuto Hirota in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Japan” finals, only to suffer consecutive upset defeats to Artem Lobov and Gray Maynard. When UFC next returned to Japan, “Yashabo” took on Filipino striker Rolando Dy and survived a late surge to win a unanimous decision.

This will be his first Bantamweight appearance since 2014.

Jose Alberto Quinonez (6-2) defeated Bentley Syler and Marco Antonio Beltran on his way to TUF: “Latin America” finals, where he lost a decision to former victim Alejandro Perez. Though he has fought just three times since that Nov. 2014 defeat, “El Teco” has yet to taste further defeat in UFC, most recently defeating former castmate Diego Rivas in Mexico City.

He has knocked out two professional opponents and submitted another.

Ishihara’s power is catastrophic, but there just hasn’t been any development in his game since joining UFC. He’s still a one-handed slugger with cardio issues and iffy defensive wrestling. Despite training with Team Alpha Male, his takedowns aren’t much better — the ones he tried on Dy looked more like football tackles than polished double-legs. If he can’t get rid of his opponents early, he’s in trouble against someone with a solid sprawl.

Quinonez is more polished all around, can wrestle fairly well and proved that he can fight through heavy firepower against Joey Gomez. Clean boxing and resilience carry him through the early storm, after which he takes over with punches and takedowns.

Prediction: Quinonez by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Luke Jumeau vs. Daichi Abe

Luke Jumeau (12-4) put submission losses to future UFC competitors Li Jingliang and Jake Matthews behind him with six consecutive stoppage victories, including a technical knockout of TUF: “Nations” competitor Vik Grujic. “The Jedi” upset Dominique Steele in his Octagon debut, but couldn’t quite handle the relentless pressure and wrestling of Shinsho Anzai in “The Animal’s” native Japan.

All nine of his professional finishes have come inside of two rounds.

Daichia Abe (6-0) made his professional MMA debut in Pancrase in April 2016 and won its Welterweight title little more than one year later, felling former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) standout and professional boxer Hiromitsu Miura with punches. He went on to face Korean bruiser Hyun Gyu Lim in his debut, fighting through an eye poke to drop “The Ace” late and secure a decision victory.

Four of his six wins have come by form of knockout, three in the first round.

The X-factor here is Abe’s judo. The two are well-matched on the feet, both packing plenty of skill and aggression, but Jumeau’s takedown defense and bottom game remain underdeveloped. Grujic and Anzai demonstrated that you don’t even need all that much craft to dominate him on the ground … just gusto and determination.

It’s a toss-up so long as it stays on the feet, with Abe’s power giving him a slight edge. It’s a wash on the ground, though, and that decides it. Abe holds his own in the exchanges and mixes in enough throws and top control to take the decision.

Prediction: Abe via unanimous decision

Four more UFC 221 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including the Octagon debut of one of the world’s best kickboxers. See you there, Maniacs.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 221 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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UFC 220 predictions: ‘Miocic vs Ngannou’ Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Jan. 20, 2018) when UFC 220: “Miocic vs. Ngannou” storms TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 220 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) event of 2018 features some very literal heavy hands.

Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic takes center stage at UFC 220 against the colossal power of Francis Ngannou in the promotion’s return to TD Garden in Boston, Mass., while Light Heavyweight roost ruler Daniel Cormier attempts to shut down the wholly unexpected rise of Volkan Oezdemir.

The PPV main card also pits two of the Featherweight division’s top prospects — Calvin Kattar and Shane Burgos — opposite each other, as well as must-watch Bantamweight standouts Thomas Almeida and Rob Font.

UFC 220 features seven “Prelims” undercard matches this time, split 4:3 between FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass. Let’s first check out the online line up:

145 lbs.: Matt Bessette vs. Enrique Barzola

Matt Bessette (12-1) put together a respectable 5-2 Bellator MMA record before making a full jump to CES, where he won and twice defended the Featherweight title. This got him a “Tuesday Night Contender Series” shot against Kurt Holobaugh, who knocked him stiff in the first round, but was subsequently discovered to have used an IV, resulting in a “No Contest.”

He replaces Arnold Allen, who ran into visa issues, on around a week’s notice.

Enrique Barzola (13-3-1) took home the gold on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Latin America” 2, out-grappling Mexican knockout artists Horacio Gutierrez in the tournament finals. Though a questionable decision loss to Kyle Bochniak halted his momentum, he enters the cage on a two-fight win streak, most recently defeating TUF: “Latin America” competitor Gabriel Benitez.

“El Fuerte” stands three inches shorter than the 5’10” “Mangler.”

I’ll admit, I haven’t watched as much tape on Bessette as I should. I had most of a writeup ready ahead of time for Allen vs. Barzola, since I was going to a place with iffy wifi, but then Allen had to go and have visa problems, so I’m working on limited information. There’s only so much you can do when you have to reconnect to the network every two minutes of a YouTube video.

Said limited information shows that — while Bessette is very capable on the inside — his ringcraft isn’t great and he can be overwhelmed by pressure. Barzola’s rapid-fire boxing and adeptness at blending his striking and takedowns seem like a good way to punish those deficiencies … especially on short notice. Barzola — who has proven his grit — sets the pace, lands punches and spends enough of the fight in top position to earn the win.

Prediction: Barzola via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Maryna Moroz vs. Jamie Moyle

Maryna Moroz (8-2) sent the women’s Strawweight rankings a-wobblin’ in her short-notice debut, which saw her upset the massively favored Joanne Calderwood by flying armbar. She’s gone 2-2 since, defeating Cristina Stanciu and Danielle Taylor between losses to Valerie Letourneau and Carla Esparza.

Five of her wins have come by either armbar or straight armbar.

Jamie Moyle (4-2) went 3-1 in Invicta, submitting J.J. Aldrich along the way, before becoming Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s second pick on TUF 23. Her run ended in the quarterfinals, after which she defeated Kailin Curran and dropped a decision to Viviane Pereira in UFC proper.

At 5’1,” she is six inches shorter than Moroz, though the reach difference is only two inches.

Man, that height difference. Moyle’s a capable wrestler and Moroz is too comfortable off of her back, but the other “Iron Lady” should be able to tear apart Moyle on the feet, using that range to stifle Moyle’s takedowns and steadily wear her down. Pereira showed that Moyle can be overpowered on the feet, which certainly bodes well for Moroz, and Moyle is neither the striker Letourneau is nor the takedown artist Esparza is.

So long as Moroz is busier and more aggressive than she was against Taylor, she should take this comfortably. Moroz pieces her up on the feet for a decision win.

Prediction: Moroz via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Gleison Tibau vs. Islam Makhachev

Gleison Tibau (32-12) put together a 5-1 streak from 2013 to 2015, beating the likes of Jamie Varner and Norman Parke, before falling short against Tony Ferguson. He bounced back by demolishing Abel Trujillo in 105 seconds, but saw the win overturned to a disqualification loss due to a failed drug test.

This will be his first fight in 26 months as a result.

Islam Makhachev (14-1) saw his unbeaten record go up in smoke thanks to a one-punch knockout loss to Adriano Martins, then had insult added to injury when he tested positive for meldonium before a planned fight with Drew Dober. He has since gotten back on track with consecutive decisions over Chris Wade and Nik Lentz.

He owns six wins by submission and another two by (technical) knockout.

While Makhachev isn’t quite the physical powerhouse Khabib Nurmagomedov is, I can see him finding success against the Brazilian goliath by applying a similar sort of mindset, relentlessly pushing for takedowns and forcing Tibau to either lose a decision on lack of volume or gas himself out trying to keep up. Tibau isn’t a cardio machine at the best of times and a two-year layoff cannot have helped things.

The one real concern is whether Makhachev’s mental fortitude can hold up against a man this big and this adept at stuffing takedowns. Having already powered through a brutal knockout loss, I say yes. Tibau starts off strong, but defending Makhachev’s dizzying array of takedowns and trips eventually wears him out enough for the Dagestani to pull ahead.

Prediction: Makhachev via unanimous decision

Four more UFC 220 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, among them three debuting “Tuesday Night Contender Series” winners and what should be a slobberknocking rematch between Abdul Razak Alhassan and Sabah Homasi.

Same time as always, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 220 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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UFC Fight Night 124 predictions: ‘Stephens vs Choi’ Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sun., Jan. 13, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 124: “Stephens vs. Choi” storms Scottrade Center in St Louis, Missouri. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 124 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) kicks off its 2018 campaign in St. Louis, Mo., this Sunday evening (Jan. 14, 2018) with a heaping dose of pure violence in FOX Sports 1’s main event.

Doo Ho Choi — a “Fight of the Year” recipient in 2016 — headlines UFC Fight Night 124 against veteran slugger Jeremy Stephens in what will almost certainly be must-see TV. One fight prior, hyper-dynamic knockout artists Uriah Hall and Vitor Belfort will duke it out in a Middleweight showdown.

UFC Fight Night 124’s main card will also see the return of Paige VanZant against Jessica Rose-Clark and Kamaru Usman taking on Emil Meek.

We’ve a hefty nine “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict this time around. So let’s first check out the five matches that are set to grace Fight Pass this weekend:

125 lbs.: Kalindra Faria vs. Jessica Eye

Kalindra Faria (18-6-1) put losses to Jessica Aguilar and Karolina Kowalkiewicz behind her with three consecutive wins, including a rubber match victory over Carina Damm for the Titan FC Bantamweight title. This earned her a spot in UFC, where she suffered an upset submission loss to late replacement Mara Romero Borella in her Octagon debut.

She owns seven professional wins by form of knockout and another five via submission.

The good news for Jessica Eye (11-6) is that she’s finally in her proper division. The bad news is that “Evil” re-enters it on a four-fight losing streak, although she deserved the win over Bethe Correia last time out.

She has not fought since Sept. 2016 due to both Aspen Ladd and Paige VanZant pulling out of planned bouts.

I feel like I say this every time I predict one of her fights, but Eye is legitimately better than her 1-5 UFC record would suggest. The decisions against Alexis Davis and Bethe Correia could have easily gone her way and the three women she lost clearly to were Miesha Tate, Sara McMann and Julianna Pena, all powerhouse grapplers and considerably larger than Eye.

At 125 pounds, she’ll do much better. Faria is a dangerous, powerful slugger, but Eye’s boxing is significantly sharper. She picks apart Faria to finally get back on track.

Prediction: Eye via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Talita Bernardo vs. Irene Aldana

Talita Bernardo (5-2) — riding a four-fight win streak — stepped up on less than a week’s notice to face Marion Reneau in Rotterdam last September. While she started strong, Reneau eventually overpowered her with ground-and-pound en route to a stoppage with just six seconds to go.

She is a full six inches shorter than Mexico’s Irene Aldana (7-4).

Aldana entered UFC with some hype following a pair of impressive knockouts in Invicta. She’s since struggled to regain that form, losing decisions to Leslie Smith and Katlyn Chookagian but earning “Fight of the Night” against the former.

She owns five professional wins by (technical) knockout and another two by submission.

I won’t deny that I’ve been disappointed with Aldana’s UFC run, but she’s still way too much for Bernardo. In addition to the massive height discrepancy, Bernardo looks like a complete novice on the feet, wholly unequipped to handle Aldana’s power and aggression.

She’s solid on the ground, of course, but her takedowns are inconsistent and Aldana shut down Chookagian’s wrestling in their fight. “Robles” sprawls-and-brawls to her first UFC victory.

Prediction: Aldana via second-round technical knockout

115 lbs.: Danielle Taylor vs. J.J. Aldrich

Danielle Taylor (9-2) won the King of the Cage Strawweight title twice before joining UFC, where she lost a snoozer to Maryna Moroz in her debut. She has since picked up controversial victories over Seo Hee Ham and Jessica Penne, which the majority of the mixed martial arts (MMA) media scored for her opponents.

She stands five inches shorter than J.J. Aldrich (5-2) at 5’0” and will give up seven inches of reach.

Aldrich impressed Joanna Jedrzejczyk enough to be her first pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23, only to fall in a clash with Team Claudia top pick Tatiana Suarez. Things didn’t go much better in her UFC debut against Juliana Lima, but she did manage to defeat Chan Mi Jeon at UFC Fight Night 110.

Two of her five professional wins have come by form of knockout.

I firmly believe Taylor has not won a single fight in UFC. She deserved to lose against Ham and certainly did not get the better of Jessica Penne. She has zero urgency or volume — it’s like judges look at her build and decide that any strike she lands must be a fight-changer.

Unfortunately for her, Aldrich is a skilled and active striker who defused a decent slugger in Jeon last time out and will have an unreasonably amount of range on her. She picks apart Taylor at range so thoroughly that even Taylor’s hypnosis fails to win enough judges over.

Prediction: Aldrich via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Mads Burnell vs. Mike Santiago

Mads Burnell (8-2) — riding a three-fight win streak — stepped up on short notice to face the human bulldozer that is Michel Prazeres in Rotterdam. His submission defense held up for two rounds, but the Brazilian — who came in overweight — caught him in a north-south choke early in the third.

His five submission wins include two by Japanese necktie.

The good news for Mike Santiago (21-10) was that his knockout victory on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series” earned him a spot in UFC. The bad news was that he had to welcome Zabit Magomedsharipov to the Octagon, suffering a submission loss in the process.

He has just one decision win since May 2011.

Burnell had basically the worst possible stylistic match up in his UFC debut. I expect him to do much better at his proper weight class against someone who isn’t as wide as Burnell is tall. Santiago is aggressive and well-rounded, but those 10 losses include eight by submission and Burnell has some nasty chokes.

The jury’s out on whether Burnell has the wrestling to be a real threat, but he’s fighting out of a decent camp and has lots of time to improve at age 23. Santiago’s onslaught opens him up to a takedown, after which Burnell locks up something unpleasant as they scramble.

Prediction: Burnell via first-round submission

135 lbs.: Kyung Ho Kang vs. Guido Cannetti

Kyung Ho Kang (13-7) got off to a shaky UFC start, losing close decisions to Alex Caceres and Chico Camus, before finally picking up a win over Shunichi Shimizu in Singapore. He went on to scrape past Michinori Tanaka in hostile territory, winning “Fight of the Night” in the process.

This will be his first fight in more than three years because of South Korea’s mandatory military service.

Guido Cannetti (7-2) got a second chance on TUF: “Latin America” when teammate Marlon Vera suffered a skin infection, only to get demolished by eventual winner Alejandro Perez in the semifinals. He has since split his UFC bouts, falling to Enrique Briones in his promotional debut before upsetting Hugo Viana his next time out.

He has not fought in more than two years because of a failed drug test.

Three years is a long-ass time, but not long enough to keep this from being a one-sided wipeout. Cannetti is a limited, chinny brawler who cannot match Kang’s size, wrestling ability or submission skills. Though Kang has had issues with maintaining position, Cannetti isn’t anywhere near the caliber of scrambler Caceres or Tanaka is and his wild rushes are perfect double-leg fodder.

The only question in this fight is whether Kang is too rusty to get the finish. I say no. He taps Cannetti in the first round.

Prediction: Kang via first-round submission

Four more UFC Fight Night 124 “Prelims” bouts to preview and predict, capped off by Michael Johnson’s Featherweight debut. Don’t miss it, Maniacs.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 124 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET before the FOX Sports 1 main card action kicks off at 10 p.m. ET.

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UFC 219 results: Live stream updates for Fight Pass, FOX Sports 1 – ‘Prelims’

The Octagon action unfolds this evening (Sat., Dec. 30, 2017) at UFC 219 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, as Holly Holm aims to knock off another women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) legend when she takes on UFC featherweight champion Cris Cyborg. In addition, undefeated lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov will look to remain perfect when he takes on Brazilian striker Edson Barboza in a potential No. 1 contender’s bout.

But, before the premier bouts get underway on PPV starting at 10 p.m. ET, UFC 219′s “Prelims” action will go down on Fight Pass starting at 7:30 p.m. ET and FOX Sports 1 starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Find out what happened right here as the UFC 219 undercard recaps roll in real-time:

Khalil Rountree vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk

The preliminary headliner saw former Ultimate Fighter standout Rountree (6-3) test his luck against light heavyweight newcomer Oleksiejczuk (13-2). Both men came out swinging. A Rountree front kick eventual led to a takedown by Oleksiejczuk. Rountree threatened with a guillotine choke in order to get back to his feet. Once there, Rountree blasted Oleksiejczuk with hard combinations, knees inside, and digging strikes to the body. However, Rountree began to tire and Oleksiejczuk took advantage with front kicks to the stomach. The UFC newcomer started to find a home for his hands, too, as Rountree offered little movement around the pocket. In Round 2, Rountree regrouped a little and got his hands going again. Oleksiejczuk returned favor with more strikes to the body. Both men looked visibly tired, but managed to exchange hard strikes in the middle of the Octagon. Oleksiejczuk was more active in the later minutes of the frame as Rountree had to reset after throwing just a few punches. The third and final frame saw Rountree land a ferocious barrage of strikes in the early going, but Oleksiejczuk took them in stride before landing a big-time takedown. From there, Oleksiejczuk would land some short shots to the body whiling controlling Rountree and sapping any energy he had left. In the end, it was Oleksiejczuk who did enough over the course of all three rounds to capture the unanimous decision win.

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Myles Jury vs. Rick Glenn

Former lightweight contender Jury (17-2) looked to continue his comeback campaign at 145 pounds when he squared off with gritty journeyman and streaking contender Glenn (20-5-1). Both men tangled along the cage early on. Jury took his time in landing some kicks to the body before landing in top position during a scramble to the canvas. Glenn got back to his feet, but Jury went back to the body with punches to soften the veteran up. In Round 2, Glenn pressured Jury up against the cage to wear him down. Jury got back to the middle of the cage and landed some good combinations that bloodied Glenn up. Glenn didn’t offer much offense outside of some clinch work. That was until Jury took him down and scored some valuable ground-and-pound. The third and final frame saw Jury land hard punches early. He was simply sharper and more technical than Glenn, who plodded forward and fell into Jury’s chest. Despite the close-quarter combat, Jury remained fresh and kept his feet moving around the pocket when the action broke up. In the end, it was Jury’s patience and persistence that did enough on the judges’ scorecards to walk away with the unanimous decision win.

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Marvin Vettori vs. Omari Akhmedov

In the lone middleweight bout of the evening, Italian prospect Vettori (12-3-1) looked to improve his divisional record to 3-1 when he took on Russian finisher Akhmedov (17-4-1). Akhmedov opened up with a hard kick to the body. Vettori responded with a short knee inside. The Russian came back with a huge right hand that stunned Vettori and then stalked him around the cage with even more power shots. Vettori did little to circle away and avoid Akhmedov’s best shots. In Round 2, Akhmedov came out with heavy inside leg kicks. Vettori came back with a kimura attempt before transitioning to a tight triangle choke. Akhmedov defended nicely and eventually sneaked free. Both men looked visibly tired as Akhmedov went back to the leg kick to dictate the pace of the fight. The third and finale frame saw a winded Akhmedov swing for the fences, as Vettori took more time to line up his shots, including a flying knee along the cage. Vettori followed that up with a nice one-two combination that snapped the Russian’s head back. Akhmedov tried to regain some momentum with a spinning back fist, but it didn’t land nearly hard enough. In the end, the bout was ruled majority draw.

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Louis Smolka vs. Matheus Nicolau

Sparking off the FS1 preliminary card was a flyweight tilt pitting Hawaiian veteran Smolka (11-5) against rising contender Nicolau (13-1-1). Nicolau landed a huge left hook early. Smolka tried to switch things up from range and change levels, but Nicolau tagged him at will on the inside, eventually scoring a brief knockdown. Nicolau dropped Smolka again and started to land heavy strikes on the ground before nearly locking up an arm triangle choke. Smolka defended nicely and eventually turned out of harm’s way. Nicolau ended up hurting the Hawaiian with another flush left hook counter before the end of the frame. In Round 2, Nicolau started to land even more left hooks, as Smolka stumbled away on almost every inside exchange. Smolka’s right eye really started to swell. Smolka tried to battle back with some kicks and attacks to the body, but Nicolau’s power punches continued to dictate the fight. The third round saw Smolka go right back to the body. That was until Nicolau caught a kick and scored a slick sweep. Nicolau would follow his efforts up with a timely takedown and an eventual submission attempt before the end of the fight.

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Tim Elliott vs. Mark De La Rosa

The opening bout of the evening saw former UFC flyweight title challenger Elliott (15-8-1) move up to 135 pounds to take on undefeated 23-year-old Texas prospect De La Rosa (9-1). The Octagon newcomer looked for a guillotine choke early on, but Elliott quickly transitioned and gained control on the mat. De La Rosa remained offensive off his back with an arm bar attempt. Elliott picked him up and slammed him on his head. From there, Elliott scored in bunches with hard punches to the body and slicing elbows. In Round 2, Elliott quickly scrambled and nearly locked in an anaconda choke. At one point, Elliott turned to the referee and said De La Rosa bit his arm. After another scramble on the ground, Elliott was able to lock in another anaconda choke and finally tap De La Rosa.

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MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 219 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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UFC 219 predictions: ‘Cyborg vs Holm’ Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Dec. 30, 2017) when UFC 219: “Cyborg vs. Holm” storms T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 219 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The Baddest Woman on the Planet will be determined this Saturday evening (Dec. 30, 2017) as UFC women’s Featherweight champion, Cris Cyborg, squares off with boxing legend and former UFC Bantamweight queenpin, Holly Holm, in the main event of UFC 219.

The pay-per-view (PPV) card, which takes place inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, will also feature an A+ Lightweight clash between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Edson Barboza, as well as the return of Carlos Condit against Neil Magny.

UFC 219 features just six “Prelims” udnercard bouts this time around, split 4-2 between FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass. Let’s dig in!

135 lbs.: Tim Elliott vs. Mark De La Rosa

Tim Elliott (14-8) made a strong return to UFC’s ranks by giving Demetrious Jonson a quality test, then defeated Louis Smolka in what was basically a 15-minute scramble. Less than two months later, he faced Ben Nguyen, who took advantage of his reckless grappling to choke him out in just 49 seconds.

He was last booked to fight just weeks ago against Pietro Menga, who flubbed his weight cut so badly he had to be hospitalized.

Mark De La Rosa (9-0) — husband of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 competitor Montana De La Rosa — picked up a pair of regional titles to earn a shot at the Legacy FC Bantamweight belt last year. He ended up no-showing the fight and heading to Combate, where he picked up a pair of submission wins.

Five of his nine wins have come by submission.

Legacy shenanigans aside, De La Rosa is an excellent pickup for UFC. He’s quick and slick on the feet, plus more than capable on the mat. Elliott has struggled with mobile strikers before, including Ali Bagautinov and the aforementioned Johnson, and is stepping up in weight, which initially had me leaning toward an upset.

On closer examination, however, De La Rosa has weighed in below the Bantamweight limit multiple times. In addition, he visibly slowed against Arthur Oliveira last year when the Brazilian kept the pressure on him. If nothing else, Elliott makes opponents work, and he’s more than durable enough to walk through De La Rosa’s best. He survives a rough first round to put the pace on him in two and three.

Prediction: Elliott via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Marvin Vettori vs. Omari Akhmedov

First-round finishes of veterans Jack Mason and Igor Araujo punched Marvin Vettori’s (12-3) ticket to UFC, which he made the most of by submitting Alberto Uda in his promotional debut. Antonio Carlos Junior proved too much to deal with his next time out, but he did manage to overwhelm “Shoeface’s” fellow TUF: “Brazil” finalist, Vitor Muranda, in June.

He owns eight wins by submission and another two by (technical) knockout.

Omari Akhmedov’s (17-4) impressive UFC start (3-1) gave way to consecutive knockout losses to Sergio Moraes and Elizeu Zaleski, both of which saw Akhmedov start strong but fade badly in the later rounds. The Dagestani grappler has since gotten back on track with decisions over Kyle Noke and Abdul Razak Alhassan, defying 2:1 odds to beat the latter.

He owns seven wins by form of knockout and has earned two “Fight of the Night” bonuses in UFC.

If this fight was at Welterweight, I’d take Akhmedov in a heartbeat. Vettori doesn’t pack enough heat in his hands to crack Akhmedov’s shaky jaw and is ostensibly on the wrong end of the wresting battle. Fifteen pounds is nothing to shake a stick at, though, and two solid performances can’t erase the memory of Akhmedov’s cardio failures.

Still, heavy hands and heavy hips go a long way. It’ll be close and probably packed with some wild scrambles, but Akhmedov spends enough time controlling the clinch and punching from top position to edge out the win.

Prediction: Akhmedov via split decision

Four more UFC 219 “Prelims” bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including top prospects Marc Diakiese and Khalil Rountree Jr.. Same time as usual, Maniacs!

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 219 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the pay-per-view (PPV) main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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