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Predictions! UFC 236 Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ Preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and ESPN this weekend (Sat., April 13, 2019) when UFC 236: “Holloway vs. Poirier 2” storms State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 236 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

A rematch seven years in the making helms the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) offering this Saturday (April 13, 2019) inside State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Ga., as Featherweight champ Max Holloway dukes it out with Dustin Poirier for the interim Lightweight title. Thirty pounds north, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) winner Kelvin Gastelum faces unbeaten phenom Israel Adesanya for the interim Middleweight strap, while knockout artists Eryk Anders and Khalil Rountree Jr. duke it out at Light Heavyweight.

UFC 236 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this weekend, half on Fight Pass and half on ESPN. Let’s have a look!

170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Curtis Millender

A 1-2 UFC start gave way to a four-fight win streak for Belal Muhammad (14-3), including an upset of Tim Means that saw Muhammad out-strike the vaunted Muay Thai artist. His run came to an end in January against Geoff Neal, whose power striking proved too much for “Remember the Name.”

He faces a three-inch height and four-inch reach discrepancy.

Curtis Millender (17-4) took home a “Performance of the Night” bonus for his knee knockout of Thiago Alves in his Octagon debut (watch highlights), which he followed up with decisions over Max Griffin and Siyar Bahadurzada to extend his win streak to nine. In his biggest fight to date, he took on the surging Elizeu Zaleski last month, tapping to a rear-naked choke midway through the first round.

His six knockout wins include two by head kick.

This is going to sound harsher than is warranted for someone who’s 3-1 in the Octagon, but I think this might be Millender’s ceiling. His takedown defense just hasn’t caught up with his striking — he’s been taken down at least once in all of his UFC fights, surrendering three to the compact Bahadurzada and one to Zaleski, who has a takedown accuracy of 15 percent.

Muhammad is tough as hell, isn’t lost against rangier strikers, and can wrestle. That seems like just the formula to handle “Curtious.”

Millender’s knees and head kicks will be a persistent threat, but as soon as Muhammad gets inside those limbs, he should be able to drag Millender to the mat with relative ease. Expect him to grind away for 15 one-sided minutes.

Prediction: Muhammad via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Montel Jackson vs. Andre Soukhamthath

A series of fouls in his “Contender Series” victory kept Montel Jackson (7-1) from getting an immediate contract, but he got the chance to step up on short notice against Ricky Simon less than two months later. Though he struggled with Simon’s grappling in defeat, he showed what he could do with a full training camp in Dec. 2018, dropping and choking out Brian Kelleher in 100 seconds.

He has knocked out five opponents as a professional and several more as an amateur.

Andre Soukhamthath (13-6) made UFC history in the worst way possible when he insisted on taking down Sean O’Malley despite the latter being unable to stand because of a foot injury, resulting in him losing a decision. He returned to action seven months later against late replacement Jonathan Martinez, winning a unanimous decision to raise his UFC record to 2-3.

He is one inch shorter than Jackson and will give up nearly a half-foot of reach.

I’m impressed Soukhamthath’s foot still works considering how many times he’s shot it, and his insistence on throwing away winnable fights is made only more frustrating by the fact that he’s legitimately powerful and dangerous when he wants to be. He’s the better striker on paper, but it’s impossible to have faith in his ability to execute an effective gameplan.

To make matters worse, Soukhamthath can’t fall back on his wresting against a superior takedown artist, and the reach disparity means that Soukhamthath will have to put himself in clinch danger if he wants to rip his customary body shots. Jackson mixes his long-range striking with regular takedowns, never letting Soukhamthath find a rhythm on his way to a dominant decision victory.

Prediction: Jackson via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Poliana Botelho vs. Lauren Mueller

The UFC debut for Poliana Botelho (7-2) was one of the stranger in recent memory, taking place almost entirely on the fence as Pearl Gonzalez failed to take her down, but Botelho gave a glimpse of her action potential with a 33-second body kick knockout of Syuri Kondo her next time out. She entered her next bout with Cynthia Calvillo as the favorite, only to tap to a rear-naked choke late in the first round.

All but one of her professional victories have come by knockout.

Lauren Mueller (5-1) put on a strong performance on “Contender Series,” then followed that up with a decision over TUF veteran Shana Dobson in her Octagon debut. She was doing well with her wrestling against Wu Yanan in her sophomore appearance, but got caught in an armbar four minutes into the first round.

She steps in for the injured Paige VanZant on six weeks’ notice.

This fight should tell us whether Botelho is a legitimate contender or just a fun action fighter. Mueller is a strong infighter with some wrestling she can fall back on, two areas that Botelho needs to prove she can hold her own in. It’s a competitive match up that looks fit to deliver plenty of entertainment in a division that, let’s face it, has been a disappointment since its inception.

Botelho’s the bigger hitter, sports a three-inch height advantage, and has more experience in insane brawls, so unless her takedown defense is a bigger Achilles’ heel than I thought, expect her to bomb Mueller out late in the first.

Prediction: Botelho via first-round technical knockout

135 lbs.: Randy Costa vs. Brandon Davis

Randy Costa (4-0) went undefeated (3-0) as an amateur in 2014, but several issues delayed his professional debut until 2018. “The Zohan” has made up for lost time, knocking out all four of his professional opponents in less than 80 seconds apiece.

One of his knockout victories came via head kick in 11 seconds.

Brandon Davis (9-6) put on one of the best fights against Austin Arnett on “Contender Series,” earning a UFC spot despite the lack of finish. He’s just 1-3 in the Octagon itself, though, most recently tapping to a kneebar from Zabit Magomedsharipov.

He will be making his Bantamweight debut.

Costa’s one of the stranger UFC signings in recent memory in terms of both the circumstances and the way he fights. As far as the former, his opponents’ records when he fought them were 0-4, 0-0, 5-9, and 0-1. As far as the latter, he mixes fast, dexterous and powerful head kicks with wound-up punches as heavy as they are telegraphed. It’s an inefficient style, and if nothing else, Davis is stupid durable and doesn’t get tired.

This one won’t be ending in one minute and 20 seconds.

I have concerns about Davis cutting to 135 pounds, since his issues appeared to stem more from technical limitations than being outsized. If the weight management puts a dent in his durability or gas tank, he’s defensively porous enough to get drilled early. Assuming he’s still at or near peak capacity, though, I say he weathers Costa’s early onslaught and settles down to win a war of attrition.

Prediction: Davis via third-round technical knockout

We’ve got four more UFC 236 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including an undefeated Chechen Welterweight with eight knockouts in eight wins and the long-awaited debut of Boston Salmon. Same time as always, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 236 fight card on fight night, 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 ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 236: “Holloway vs. Poirier 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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Predictions! UFC ‘London’ ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 2

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., March 16, 2019) when UFC Fight Night 147: “Till vs. Masvidal” storms O2 Arena in London, England. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Fight Night 147 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Two of the Welterweight division’s most effective strikers lock horns inside O2 Arena in London, England, this Saturday (March 16, 2019) when Darren Till looks to rebound from his loss to Tyron Woodley against veteran Jorge Masvidal. Also on tap are Leon Edwards vs. Gunnar Nelson, Volkan Oezdemir vs. Dominick Reyes, and top Bantamweight prospect Nathaniel Wood against Jose Alberto Quinones.

We’ve got three more UFC Fight Night 147 “Prelims” undercard bouts to look at (check out the first batch here). Shall we?

145 lbs.: Arnold Allen vs. Jordan Rinaldi

Arnold Allen (13-1) — whose only pre-Octagon loss came against future The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) competitor Marcin Wrzosek — made his Octagon debut in 2015 with a comeback submission of Alan Omer, earning “Performance of the Night” in the process. He’s won all three of his subsequent bouts, including another bonus-winning tapout against submission specialist Mads Burnell.

“Almighty” will give up two inches of height and reach to Jordan Rinaldi (14-6).

Rinaldi fell short in his audition for TUF 15, but got a shot in the Octagon via late notice debut against Abel Trujillo. Though he lost a competitive decision, he has since won two of three, a loss to top prospect Gregor Gillespie sandwiched between wins over Álvaro Herrera and Jason Knight.

He has submitted eight opponents, including a Von Flue finish of Herrera.

Neither man is particularly eye-catching in any specific area, but Allen looks to be the stronger of the two. Rinaldi doesn’t have the wrestling to exploit “Almighty’s” biggest flaw, his takedown defense, and Allen is the busier striker by a fair margin. With neither being likely to finish with strikes, Allen’s volume may be all he needs.

Both men are generalists, which could make for an entertainingly varied fight. Expect Allen’s youth, output, and sneaky submissions to overcome Rinaldi’s occasional takedown and secure the decision

Prediction: Allen via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Marc Diakiese vs. Joe Duffy

Marc Diakiese (12-3) cemented his top prospect status with wins in each of his first three Octagon bouts, capped off by a one-punch finish of Teemu Packalen that earned “Performance of the Night.” He enters the cage on Saturday winless in his last three, though, most recently suffering a one-sided loss to Nasrat Haqparast in the latter’s hometown of Hamburg.

Six of his eight stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.

“Irish” Joe Duffy (16-3) — who made his name with professional boxing experience and a win over Conor McGregor — won four of his first five Octagon bouts, the sole loss a bloody war with Dustin Poirier. This earned him a crack at the surging James Vick, who defied the odds to catch Duffy with an uppercut and pound him out late in the second round.

This will be his first fight in 16 months.

The ship appears to have sailed on Diakiese, and his recent move from American Top Team to a smaller camp doesn’t inspire confidence that he can turn things around. His technical striking hasn’t caught up to his explosiveness and his wrestling, which generally serves as a fallback, has proven insufficient at the highest levels.

And on top of that, it’s a horrible style match up.

Duffy’s slick boxing should keep him clear of Diakiese’s bombs and he’s lethal enough on the mat to punish any desperate shots. There’s also the possibility of Duffy bringing his own takedowns to bear should Diakiese get overeager to close the distance. Barring a stunning one-punch finish from “Bonecrusher,” Duffy outclasses him everywhere.

Prediction: Duffy via unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Sabarbeg Safarov vs. Nick Negumereanu

Sabarbeg Safarov (8-2) debuted on short notice in 2016, falling to Gian Villante in a wild battle that earned “Fight of the Night.” Thirteen months later, he returned to the cage against Tyson Pedro and tapped to a kimura late in the first round.

All but one of his eight stoppage wins have come in the first round.

Romania’s Nick Negumereanu (9-0) has yet to see the judges either, dispatching all nine of his pro opponents in 10 minutes or fewer. He’s finished three opponents by submission and six via (technical) knockout, including one via slam.

He replaces the injured Gokhan Saki on short notice.

Negumereanu has fought a total of three men with winning records. Other opponents include Yuri Gorbenko (12-4-1), Kovacs Kalman (2-15), and most recently Dan Konecke (10-13), who was on a four-fight losing streak. He’s strong, aggressive and can dish out some solid ground-and-pound, but it’s hard to get a bead on him when he’s only fought low-level opposition and looked mediocre doing so.

Even if Safarov is winless (0-2) in the Octagon, he at least got the experience and showed some decent power. Negumereanu just too raw, too untested, and too easy to hit. Safarov finally enters UFC win column with an early knockout.

Prediction: Safarov via first-round knockout

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 147 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 4 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2019: 31-16

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Predictions! UFC ‘London’ ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., March 16, 2019) when UFC Fight Night 147: “Till vs. Masvidal” storms O2 Arena in London, England. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 147 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

English sensation, Darren Till, returns to mixed martial arts (MMA) action for the first time since his Welterweight title shot this Saturday (March 16, 2019), taking on the indefatigable Jorge Masvidal in UFC Fight Night 147’s main event. ESPN+ subscribers will also get to see another pivotal 170-pound battle between Leon Edwards and Gunnar Nelson, as well as a Light Heavyweight bout that pits former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir against surging prospect Dominic Reyes.

O2 Arena in London, England, will also host seven “Prelims” undercard bouts this weekend, so let’s start from the bottom.

185 lbs.: Tom Breese vs. Ian Heinisch

Tom Breese (11-1) burst onto the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) scene with brutal knockouts of Luiz Dutra Jr. and Cathal Pendred, then followed them up with a decision over the durable Keita Nakamura. A controversial split decision loss to Sean Strickland prompted a move to 185 pounds, where he took out Dan Kelly in May 2018.

He has gone past the second round just three times as a professional, submitting six opponents.

Ian Heinisch went from winning the interim LFA Middleweight title to brutalizing Justin Sumter on “Contender Series” in the span of three months. He made his Octagon debut soon after, upsetting the resurgent Cezar Ferreira in Buenos Aires.

He replaces the injured Ferreira, who himself replaced the injured Alessio Di Chirico, on just over a month’s notice.

As intimidating as Heinisch is, Breese appears perfectly equipped to take him out. I’ve noted in the past that Heinisch tends to just burst into range with haymakers rather than employ set ups, and the 6’3” Breese has the range and blistering one-two combination to punish that all night. In addition, Breese is a stout wrestler in his own right, and though Heinisch looks the physically stronger of the two, Breese’s range management should give him plenty of time to snuff out “The Hurricane’s” double-legs and secure some takedowns of his own.

Breese is just too rangy and too good at doing damage from long distance for Heinisch’s face-first onslaught to work. The Brit clips him coming in and secures another submission once he’s hurt.

Prediction: Breese via second-round submission

145 lbs.: Dan Ige vs. Danny Henry

Dan Ige (10-2) gritted his way past Luis Gomez on “Contender Series” to earn a contract, but came up short against fellow alumnus Julio Arce in his Octagon debut. “Dynamite” went on to defeat two more “Contenders Series” participants in 2018, pounding out Mike Santiago in 50 seconds before out-grinding Jordan Griffin in Dec. 2018.

He is five inches shorter than Henry, though their reaches are the same.

Danny Henry (12-2) avenged his lone defeat to win the EFC Featherweight belt before his Octagon debut, which saw him survive early artillery to beat down the favored Daniel Teymur in a “Fight of the Night.” He was even more impressive in his next bout, dropping and choking out top prospect Hakeen Dawodu in just 39 seconds.

This will be the first fight for “The Hatchet” in 364 days.

Honestly, not sure where to go with this one. Ige’s tough as nails and has the wrestling to ruin Henry’s night, but “The Hatchet” is way taller and has a habit of making me look stupid. Though I’ll admit I use the phrase “nothing would surprise me” way too much, it genuinely applies here.

Henry had to fight through a lot of adversity against a shorter man in Teymur, and while Ige is nowhere near that caliber of striker, he’s not going to get tired and has the submission defense to avoid Henry’s front chokes. Ige grinds him out against the fence and from top position for another gritty decision win.

Prediction: Ige via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Priscila Cachoeira vs. Molly McCann

Priscilla Cachoeira (8-1) was supposed to debut in Dec. 2017 against Lauren Murphy, but visa issues led to a bout with Valentina Shevchenko in the latter’s Flyweight debut. Shevchenko wound up dishing out one of the most one-sided beatings in women’s MMA history before Mario Yamasaki finally intervened.

This will be her first fight since that loss 13 months ago.

Molly McCann (7-2) smashed Bryony Tyrell last year to earn the Cage Warriors Flyweight title and extend her win streak to six. Her Octagon debut was a double dose of misfortune, however, as “Meatball” missed weight and was subsequently choked out by Gillian Robertson.

Four of her seven professional wins have come via (technical) knockout.

I genuinely believe that McCann is better than she looked against Robertson. She’s a very solid boxer with decent power and takedown defense that, while not great, generally holds up pretty well. Cachoeira, on the other hand, has little to offer besides remarkable durability.

McCann is the crisper striker by a huge margin, won’t have to worry about the ground game, and isn’t coming off the beating of a lifetime. She pieces up Cachoeira all night.

Prediction: McCann via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Nad Narimani vs. Mike Grundy

Nad Narimani (12-2) unsuccessfully challenged Alex Enlund for the Cage Warriors Featherweight title in 2014, but came back three fights later to run roughshod over Paddy Pimblett and take home the belt. He’s gone perfect (2-0) in the Octagon, defeating top prospect Khalid Taha and veteran Anderson Dos Santos in subsequent bouts.

“Smiler” has submitted five opponents and knocked out another two.

Mike Grundy (11-1) took part in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, ultimately taking bronze in freestyle wrestling at 74 kg. Though he lost to future UFC competitor Damian Stasiak six months into his professional career, he enters the Octagon on an eight-fight win streak.

This will be his first fight since Nov. 2017.

Grundy’s wrestling pedigree and wins over the likes of Shooto standout Yutaka Saito, judo expert Michael Tobin, and The Ultimate Fighter: “Brazil” 4 runner-up Fernando Bruno make him an intriguing prospect. Narimani looks like too stiff a test, unfortunately; “Smiler” is a stout wrestler in his own right and neither Grundy’s striking nor his passing game have caught up with his takedown ability.

Narimani is sharper on the mat and the feet, and so long as he doesn’t leave his neck open to Grundy’s arm triangle or front chokes, should be able to edge Grundy with his physicality and versatility. Either Grundy grinds him out from full/half guard or Narimani boxes and scrambles his way to a competitive decision. I’d say expect the latter.

Prediction: Narimani via unanimous decision

We’ve got three more UFC Fight Night 147 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict, featuring an unbeaten Light Heavyweight newcomer and the return of Joe Duffy. Same time as always, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 147 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 4 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).

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Predictions! Breaking Down ‘Lewis Vs Dos Santos’

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is roughly 24 hours away from its UFC Fight Night 146 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on ESPN+, taking place this Sat. night (March 9, 2019) inside INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

UFC Wichita pits heavy-handed former title contender, Derrick Lewis, against ex-heavyweight champion, Junior dos Santos, in the five-round main event. In the 170-pound co-headliner, Curtis Millender looks to derail the hype train of Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos.

Before we break down those two bouts, have a look at the rest of the UFC Fight Night 146 main card here, then deconstruct the ESPN+ “Prelims” here and here. All the odds and betting lines for this weekend’s action can be found here.

Let’s get to work.

265 lbs.: Derrick Lewis vs. Junior dos Santos

Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis

Record: 21-6, 1 NC | Age: 34 | Betting line: +170
Wins: 18 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 79” | Leg reach: 43.5”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 419 of 822 (51%)
Takedown attempts: 5 of 21 (24%) | Current Ranking: No. 3

Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos

Record: 20-5 | Age: 35 | Betting line: -200
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 3 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 77” | Leg reach: 41”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 1035 of 2143 (48%)
Takedown attempts: 5 of 9 (56%) | Current Ranking: No. 8

Derrick Lewis is an anachronism, a one-dimensional slugger who shows a complete disinterest in learning anything about the nuances of mixed martial arts (MMA). That’s the kind of “kill or be killed” attitude that worked in the early days of UFC when the roster was comprised of shopworn strongmen or barroom bullies with size 14 feet. And yet here we are, with “The Black Beast” sitting at No. 3 in the heavyweight rankings. Not because he’s on some sort of Rudy-type run, the division is just that pathetic. Lewis, who has the jiu-jitsu of a newborn calf, is known for his comeback KOs, which are certainly fun to watch, but in order to come back, you must first be losing the fight.

Junior dos Santos is not the same fighter he was coming up through the ranks roughly a decade ago, but he’s still one of the better boxers in the heavyweight division. He understands how to manipulate distance, puts his combinations together well, and (gasp) even throws the occasional jab. The Brazilian is also well conditioned for a heavyweight and that may prove to be his biggest weapon on Saturday night. If “Cigano” can survive a round or two of incoming fire, Lewis is likely to gas himself out and become a sitting duck. From there, Dos Santos can pick him apart like he did in winning performances against Blagoy Ivanov and Ben Rothwell.

This is a fight Dos Santos should win. He’s the superior athlete as well as the better striker. But Lewis has 25 minutes to bumrush his way into the pocket and land something of merit. As we saw in losses to Stipe Miocic and Alistair Overeem, the Brazilian’s zombie-chin days are long gone and he hasn’t gotten any younger. Keep in mind the aforementioned Ivanov was able to land 51 significant strikes against Dos Santos, 40 of which were to the head. “The Black Beast,” who catches most opponents by surprise because of his speed and agility, is going to eventually make contact. If it’s flush, the night is over.

Prediction: Lewis def. Dos Santos by knockout

170 lbs.: Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos vs. Curtis Millender

Elizeu Zaleski “Capoeira” Dos Santos

Record: 20-5 | Age: 32 | Betting line: +100
Wins: 14 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 4 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC
Height: 5’11“ | Reach: 73” | Leg reach: 41”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 360 of 882 (41%)
Takedown attempts: 2 of 19 (11%) | Current Ranking: No. 14

Curtis “Curtious” Millender

Record: 17-3 | Age: 31 | Betting line: -120
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 0 SUB, 11 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’3“ | Reach: 75” | Leg reach: 43”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 174 of 365 (48%)
Takedown attempts: 1 of 1 (100%) | Current Ranking: Unranked

Elizeu Zaleski Dos Santos and Curtis Millender are battling to be the next big thing at 170 pounds and to date, both fighters have been impressive. The Brazilian stumbled out of the gate with a split decision loss to Nicolas Dalby in his Octagon debut, but has looked like a welterweight killer in the fights that followed, winning six straight with three violent finishes. As for Millender, he captured nine in a row, including three straight under the UFC banner. Not just scrubs, either, as “Curtious” turned away both Max Griffin and Siyar Bahadurzada, two very tough outs for any combatant.

Millender has been successful with a long, rangy striking game that gives him control of the Octagon. Opponents trying to slice their way in have found themselves cut up, instead. That probably won’t work against an aggressive action fighter like Dos Santos, who will come barreling in and won’t stop until he slugs his way into the phone booth. The question will be how Millender reacts and more importantly, how he adjusts. We already know what “Capoeira” is going to do and it’s going to be consistent across all three rounds. Even with his considerable height and reach advantage, I expect “Curtious” to be shut down and neutralized as his opponent grinds him against the cage, threatens takedowns, and forces a more defensive-based approach.

Prediction: Dos Santos def. Millender by unanimous decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 146 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the ESPN+ main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

To see who else is fighting at UFC Wichita click here.

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Predictions! UFC ‘Wichita’ ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., March 9, 2019) when UFC Fight Night 146: “Lewis vs. dos Santos” storms Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 146 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Two of the most lethal punchers on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster collide inside Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan., this Saturday (March 9, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 146 (a.k.a. UFC on ESPN+ 4) when former Heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos takes on “The Black Beast,” Derrick Lewis. Down at 170 pounds, Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos puts his six-fight UFC win streak on the line against the towering Curtis Millender and Tim Means squares off with fellow knockout artist Niko Price.

UFC Fight Night 146 features seven “Prelims” undercard bouts, all of which join the main card on ESPN+. Let’s start from the bottom …

265 lbs.: Maurice Greene vs. Jeff Hughes

Maurice Greene (6-2) emerged as the biggest personality on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28, beating Przemysław Mysiala and falling to Juan Espino among drunken benders and other shenanigans. Despite losing in the second round, he appeared at TUF 28 Finale, where he choked out Michel Batista midway through the first round.

He steps in for the injured Daniel Spitz on short notice.

Jeff Hughes (10-1) defeated Richard Odoms for the LFA Heavyweight belt in 2017, then defended it with a decision over Greene five months later. This set up a “Contender Series” opportunity, which Hughes made the most of with a dominant finish of Josh Appelt.

Hughes went 11-3 as an amateur before making his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut in 2014.

I’m not sure enough time has passed since their first meeting for anything to change significantly, but there is a major difference. Last time, Hughes had five rounds to work with and made the most of it by wearing down Greene with his volume. This time, he’s got just 15 minutes, and Greene has the gas tank to at least put in two good rounds.

That said, Hughes still looks to have the edge in most areas and avoided one of his self-admitted slow starts on “Contender Series,” suggesting he won’t fall into an early hole. I favor him to once again use his combination punching and effective top game to sap Greene’s energy and take a comfortable decision.

Prediction: Hughes via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Louis Smolka vs. Matt Schnell

Louis Smolka (15-5) — once on the verge of Flyweight title contention — washed out of UFC after four consecutive losses. “Da Last Samurai” picked up three wins on the regional circuit before successfully returning to the Octagon with an armbar finish of Sumudaerji in Nov. 2018.

Seven of his 13 stoppage wins have come by submission.

Matt Schnell (12-4) entered TUF 24 as the Legacy Flyweight champion and choked out Matthew Rizzo before tapping to eventual winner Tim Elliott. He suffered knockout losses to Rob Font and Hector Sandoval in his first two UFC appearances, but has since gotten back on track with decisions over Marco Antonio Beltran and Naoki Inoue.

“Danger” is one inch shorter than Smolka, but will have a four-inch reach advantage.

Schnell has been one of the more underwhelming TUF 24 alumni, giving up takedowns to most of his Octagon opponents, showing a poor chin, and barely squeaking past a skilled but extremely green Naoki Inoue in his most recent bout. For all of Smolka’s inconsistency, this looks like a winnable fight for him — Schnell doesn’t have the size or takedowns to physically dominate “Da Last Samurai,” nor particularly potent striking.

Against a chinny opponent without overwhelming wrestling, Smolka’s durability and submission prowess should carry the day. Expect him to either clip Schnell standing or drag him down in transition en route to a submission finish.

Prediction: Smolka via second-round submission

170 lbs.: Alex Morono vs. Zak Ottow

Alex Morono (15-5) started his UFC career perfect (2-0), but has alternated losses and wins since a knockout defeat to Niko Price was overturned because of Price testing positive for marijuana. He earned “Fight of the Night” for his most recent effort, an entertaining decision over Song Kenan in Beijing.

Despite his free-swinging style, “The Great White” has earned more wins by submission (six) than knockout (four).

Zak Ottow (17-6) has likewise struggled to put two consecutive wins together in the Octagon, going 4-3 without a single win streak. His last time out, he took on knockout artist Dwight Grant and defied lopsided odds to win a narrow split decision.

He has submitted 10 opponents and knocked out another three.

Ottow is a strange case — three of his four UFC victories were by split decision and, save for brief spurts of violence against Mike Pyle and Sage Northcutt, he never seems to get out of first gear. Morono, by contrast, never stops coming, making up for his technical deficiencies with gusto and a solid chin. In addition, he’s got a surprisingly strong ground game to fall back on should Ottow actually make an effort to take it to the mat.

Ottow just doesn’t do enough to earn a decision against someone as aggressive as Morono and he lacks the finishing ability to take the judges out of the equation. Morono outworks him in a brawl to win a decision.

Prediction: Morono via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Alex White vs. Dan Moret

Alex White (12-5) went 2-2 as a Featherweight in the Octagon, including a win over the inimitable Artem Lobov, before making the move to 155 pounds in 2017. Unlike Martin — whom White faced in his divisional debut — he hasn’t found similar success, going 1-3 and suffering a submission loss to Jim Miller in his last bout.

His 10 stoppages are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.

Dan Moret (13-4) did well for himself in organizations like RFA and LFA, losing only to future UFC competitors Luke Sanders, Bobby Moffett and Raoni Barcelos. He made his Octagon debut against Gilbert Burns last April, but succumbed to “Durinho’s” power early in the second round.

Five of his eight submission wins have come in the first round.

You can’t really fault Moret for getting nuked by Burns — that tends to happen to a lot of people lately. Still, he’s come up short in every attempt to step up so far, and though he’s clearly skilled on the mat, he just seems like he can’t take the next step.

Neither can White, admittedly, so this is an interesting match up in that sense. White’s the better striker, but his takedown defense consistently fails him, making this a toss-up against the grappling-focused Moret. It’s a coin flip, but considering Moret’s lack of size and leaky defense, I say White survives some early grappling trouble to take him out with punches.

Prediction: White via second-round technical knockout

We have three more UFC Fight Night 146 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including the delayed debut of “Contender Series” standout Grant Dawson. Same time as always, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 146 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).

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Predictions! Long Live The King…

I haven’t been excited for an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event in awhile, and of course I mean no disrespect to all the guys and gals who threw hands at UFC Prague, but most fight cards don’t really feel that “big” to me anymore.

UFC 235 is proving to be the exception.

The promotion’s next big pay-per-view (PPV) event will feature a quick turnaround for light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, as he puts his 205-pound strap on the line against top division contender, Anthony Smith. Before they handle their business, welterweight kingpin Tyron Woodley gets back into action against 170-pound wrestling powerhouse, Kamaru Usman.

And let’s not forget Ben Askren’s Octagon debut against ex-champion, Robbie Lawler.

Before we take a closer look at the five-fight main card, check out what Patrick Stumberg had to say about the UFC 235 “Prelims” bouts on ESPN and Fight Pass by clicking here and here. Odds and betting lines for all of tomorrow’s action can be located here.

Let’s get to work.

205 lbs.: Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones (23-1, 1 NC) vs. Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (31-13)

Any light heavyweight hoping that Jon Jones would be suffering from his extended layoff following his UFC 214 drug-test suspension was undoubtedly crushed to see “Bones” picking up right where he left off at UFC 232. No amount of pre-fight distractions, location changes, or “Mauler” improvements could make a dent in the armor of “Bones.” When you consider what he did to Daniel Cormier prior to his latest mishap, trying to make a case for his deterioration is a fool’s errand. Simply put, Jones is as good — or better — than he’s ever been, and he’s competing in his prime, to boot. You can make the case that Gustafsson laid an egg in their Inglewood do-over, but I doubt it would have mattered. Jones was locked in from the get-go and not the half-baked sloth who tried to mail it in at UFC 165.

That’s bad news for Anthony Smith, a formidable striker who earned his spot by knocking around shopworn ex-champions like Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. His win over Volkan Oezdemir was perhaps his most impressive, though it comes with an asterisk. What I liked about that performance was his grit and perseverance. “Lionheart” is clearly as strong mentally as he is physically, but let’s be honest, his technique in the “No Time” fight was simply dreadful. Those sorts of technical errors are forgivable when Jones decides to coast to a five-round decision, like he did in cruise control wins over Glover Teixeira and Ovince Saint-Preux, among others. But if the same Jones who destroyed Gustafsson comes out to play tomorrow night in “Sin City,” this is going to be a slaughter.

Smith has 13 professional losses and he’s been finished in 12 of them. That’s an alarming statistic against any fighter, let alone Jones. The counter to that, of course, is that “Lionheart” is currently on a 14-2 run and at age 30, is also performing at his peak and in his athletic prime. His clinch game is not to be taken lightly and some of his work inside the phone booth has been devastating, to say the least. 28 finishes in 31 wins is pretty fucking impressive. That said, can he handle the wrestling of Jones? Cezar Ferreira took Smith to the floor six times. Andrew Sanchez was able to do it four times. That tells me Smith was able to get back to his feet in those fights … though shucking off “Bones” won’t be as easy as muscling through the top game of “Mutante.”

I like Smith’s attitude going into this fight. He isn’t going to be psyched out by the champion and he truly has nothing to lose. Is that enough for the upset? Confidence can’t compensate for a staggering eight-inch reach disadvantage. Will does not repel the teep kick. Determination alone won’t stop the takedown. There is no area of the fight game where Smith is a better fighter and he’s not coming into this fight with Yoel Romero’s knockout power. Where does that leave him? On top of a pile of bodies that were better and more accomplished than him, but ended up in the scrap heap anyway.

Anything less than a violent finish would shock me.

Prediction: Jones def. Smith by submission

170 lbs.: UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley (19-3-1) vs. Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman (14-1)

It’s hard to be critical of Kamaru Usman when he’s done everything right in his UFC career. Originally a warm body for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21, “The Nigerian Nightmare” went on to capture the glass trophy, then won his next eight fights. Unfortunately for fight fans, seven of them were decisions and let’s be honest, his fighting style — while effective — is boring and difficult to watch. To be fair, Usman’s job isn’t to please us, it’s to win, and he’s done his job admirably. It also helps that Colby Covington is a total putz, paving the way for an early title shot.

There is a sharp contrast between “doing well” and winning a championship title. At the risk of nitpicking, we need to see how well Usman measures up against Tyron Woodley, who’s had a hot-and-lukewarm run as 170-pound kingpin. The challenger captured decision wins over accomplished veterans Demian Maia and Rafael dos Anjos to earn his place. The former turns 42 years old this November and the latter is a natural lightweight. I would have felt more optimistic had he turned away someone like Darren Till, or even Santiago Ponzinibbio.

Regardless, here we are, and all Usman has to beat Woodley with is his wrestling, which is not on the same level of the champion. “The Chosen One” was a Division I All American and Big 12 Champion, whereas Usman was Division II All American and captured a national title. Anyone familiar with collegiate wrestling understands there is a marked difference between divisions, and now is probably a good time to mention that Woodley trains every day with Ben Askren, so there is nothing Usman can bring to the cage on fight night that Woodley hasn’t already prepared for.

That’s really the story of this fight. Woodley is without question the superior striker, both in speed and power, and has faced — and beaten — some legitimate killers at 170 pounds. Usman has a slight height and reach advantage, but not enough to make it a factor. I do believe Usman will have his moments, thanks to his physicality and endless cardio, but much like their collegiate wrestling resumes, this is akin to the captain of the JV squad trying to prove his mettle against a varsity player.

Prediction: Woodley def. Usman by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler (28-12, 1 NC) vs. “Funky” Ben Askren (18-0, 1 NC)

This bout was designed to be a showcase fight for Ben Askren, the former Bellator MMA champion who got the cold shoulder from Dana White and Co. back in 2013 before settling into his transitional home at ONE Championship. That’s where “Funky” padded his resume by recycling Asian cans who were ill-prepared to deal with the kind of wrestling that took Askren to the 2008 Olympics. Now 34 and at the tail end of his prime, UFC fans will finally get to see what all the fuss was about against an ex-champion who is known for putting on electrifying performances.

I called it a showcase fight because Lawler has been taken down 20 times since rejoining the promotion at UFC 157. If Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone, and Matt Brown can get “Ruthless” to the floor, Askren is going to have a field day. I guess now is a good time to mention that Lawler turns 37 in less than a month and has been in more wars than John Rambo. I don’t think it’s outrageous to suggest that Lawler is on the downside of his career and outside of the knockout punch — still as potent as ever — there isn’t much here to look forward to.

Askren’s collegiate wrestling accomplishments are so impressive, I would need a separate column to list them all. Lawler is getting taken down because that’s what “Funky” does. He can’t strike and would be a complete fool to spend any real time on the feet. On the bright side, this is only a three-round fight, so we only have to endure 15 minutes of WrestleMania. And for all the boo birds out there, winning ugly is still winning, so if you really want to fuck Askren, root for Tyron Woodley to beat Kamaru Usman to keep Askren from getting a title shot.

Prediction: Askren def. Lawler by unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Tecia “Tiny Tornado” Torres (10-3) vs. Weili “Magnum” Zhang (18-1)

I know all the cool kids can’t stop raving about Weili Zhang, who is hyped as the next big female fighter and one of the more formidable prospects out of Asia, but let’s not toe-tag Tecia Torres just yet. Despite an underwhelming showing as part of TUF 20, Torres went on to prove her mettle with a respectable 6-3 record in the years that followed. Let’s also keep in mind her three UFC losses — all decisions — came to current strawweight champion Rose Namajunas, former 115-pound titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and two-time title contender Jessica Andrade. Those are the top three fighters in her weight class and she held her own in each contest.

Zhang is clearly the more experienced combatant and a savage finisher, racking up 16 stoppages in 18 wins. That kind of finishing rate is uncommon among female fighters and practically unheard of at strawweight. I’m sure it helped that “Magnum” was kicking cans on the international circuit, torching the likes of the 0-2 Shuxia Wu and the 1-1 Mei Huang. That’s a nice way of pointing out how all that glitters is not gold and Zhang has only faced real competition over the last year. So far, so good, turning away Danielle Taylor at UFC 227 before tapping out Jessica Aguilar in Beijing. “Jag” is 36 and dropped three of her last four, so take that for what it’s worth.

A Taekwondo blackbelt and former amateur kickboxing champion, Torres will always work to keep the fight standing, despite her impressive clinch work and ability to mug-and-slug. Where that factors into Zhang’s offense remains to be seen, as “Magnum” has shown the diversity to fight like a rabid dog, as well as a patient technician. How she adapts to the “Tiny Tornado” and her opponent’s punches in bunches may ultimate tell the tale. Working against Zhang is the fact that we’re dealing with a 15-minute fight, and I believe the busier Torres will stay off the ground and win a close, and perhaps uninspired decision from range.

Prediction: Torres def. Zhang by spilt decision

135 lbs.: Cody “No Love” Garbrandt (11-2) vs. Pedro “The Young Punisher” Munhoz (17-3, 1 NC)

Cody Garbrandt has a formidable skill set inside the cage, but his mental game is equally impressive. Coming off back-to-back knockout losses in championship title fights — to a fighter who is despised on a personal level — would be enough to break most combatants, but “No Love” wisely took some time off to reevaluate his life and career, found the hunger and desire to compete, and came back ready for more. Garbrandt fans are hoping that TJ Dillashaw simply had his number, but I don’t think losing to Pedro Munhoz would mean the ex-champ is on the decline or was overrated at 135 pounds, because the “Young Punisher” is pretty damn talented himself.

If you look at his three losses in UFC, two of them were split decisions to John Dodson and Jimmie Rivera, while the other was a unanimous decision defeat to Raphael Assuncao in early 2014. It’s not like he’s getting starched by a bunch of TUF rejects or coming up lame against Octagon rookies. Munoz is a durable bantamweight with great cardio and has one of the nastiest guillotines in the game, responsible for six of his nine submission finishes. I was particularly impressed with the way he dismantled Bryan Caraway, who despite his reputation as the ex- “Mr. Tate,” is a venerable 135-pounder with underrated grappling.

You never know how a fighter is going to look coming off a knockout loss. I think it’s premature to be pessimistic about Garbrandt’s place among the bantamweight elite. Losing to Dillashaw hasn’t made him less of a wrestler, nor has it taken away the power in his hands. Remember, this is the same fighter who outstruck Dominick Cruz for five rounds back in late 2016. That said, Munhoz presents a threat just about everywhere the fight goes, but more so on the ground, so Garbrandt will likely abandon his wrestling and instead work his hands from a distance. Expect a smart, measured pace that will bring about the win, just without any of the fireworks we’ve become accustomed to.

Prediction: Garbrandt def. Munhoz by unanimous decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 235 fight card on fight night (click here), 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 ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

For much more on this weekend’s UFC 235 PPV extravaganza click here.

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Predictions! UFC ‘Prague’ ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to ESPN+ this weekend (Sat., Feb. 23, 2019) when UFC Fight Night 145: “Santos vs. Blachowicz” storms O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 145 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits O2 Arena in Prague, Czech Republic, this Saturday (Feb. 23, 2019) with a pair of top-ranked Light Heavyweight contenders on tap as Thiago Santos squares off with fellow striking specialist Jan Blachowicz. UFC Fight Night 145’s main card, which will stream exclusively on ESPN+, will also feature veteran Stefan Struve against Brazilian knockout artist Marcos Rogerio Lima and John Dodson against surging prospect Petr Yan.

UFC Fight Night 145 will feature seven “Prelims” undercard matches this time, all of which will stream online via ESPN+ along with the main card bouts. Let’s check out the first four on the docket:

170 lbs.: Michel Prazeres vs. Ismail Naurdiev

Michel Prazeres (26-2) assembled a six-fight win streak in UFC’s Lightweight division, but his repeated inability to make the weight forced him to move back to 170 pounds. He narrowly defeated Zak Cummings in his return, then demolished Bartosz Fabinski in 62 seconds last November.

“Trator” is six inches shorter and 15 years older than “The Austrian Wonderboy.”

Ismail Naurdiev (18-2) scored 11 consecutive finishes in under two rounds after his first professional defeat, only to lose a hard-fought decision to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil” veteran Ismael “Marmota” de Jesus in 2017. He rebounded with a pair of first-round knockouts, one a wheel kick knockout and the other a 36-second stomping.

He steps in for Ramazan Emeev on short notice.

Naurdiev is a terrific young talent, a 22-year-old boasting a terrific wrestling pedigree to go along with his high-flying striking offense. That said, his issues with “Marmota” are worrying. The Brazilian exposed Naurdiev’s issues fighting off the back foot and also managed to drain his gas tank with fairly rudimentary pressure. Prazeres isn’t as big as de Jesus, but he offers a similar blend of aggression and physicality.

Prazeres’ wrestling and pressure nullify the threat of Naurdiev’s kicks, forcing him to rely on his unspectacular hands. Said hands aren’t enough to get Prazeres’ respect or slow down his takedowns, so expect “Trator” to recreate “Marmota’s” efforts with power hooks and brutal grappling.

Prediction: Prazeres via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Daniel Teymur vs. Chris Fishgold

Daniel Teymur (6-2) — brother of David Teymur — racked up six first-round victories to earn a contract in 2017. He’s yet to taste victory in the Octagon, however, gassing out in his debut against Danny Henry and tapping to Julio Arce 11 months later.

He’s got three wins apiece by knockout and submission.

Chris Fishgold (17-2-1) choked out Adam Boussif for the Cage Warriors Lightweight title in 2016 and successfully defended it three times, including two successful defenses in the span of two months. This led to a debut against Calvin Kattar, who put Fishgold away with punches late in the first.

He stands three inches taller than Teymur at 5’8.”

I’m on the fence on whether to write Teymur off as a bust yet; Henry went on to squash one of my top prospects in Hakeem Dawodu and Arce is a damn good fighter in his own right. Still, it’s hard to have faith in a guy with cardio problems against someone in Fishgold who both pushes a furious pace and has the wrestling skill to drag him out of his comfort zone.

Teymur needs the early knockout to win this fight, which is certainly feasible considering Fishgold’s loss to Kattar. It’s unlikely that he lands it before the Brit scores at least one takedown, though, and Teymur doesn’t have the gas tank to survive the grappling wringer Fishgold can put him through. Teymur starts strong, but fades from pressure down the stretch and ultimately taps to a choke.

Prediction: Fishgold via third-round submission

155 lbs.: Rustam Khabilov vs. Diego Ferreira

Rustam Khabilov (23-3) won his first three Octagon bouts, including a “Fight of the Night” decision over Jorge Masvidal, before tapping to Benson Henderson in his first main event. An upset decision loss to Adriano Martins followed, since which he’s won six in a row.

“The Tiger” will give up one inch each of height and reach to Ferreira.

Diego Ferreira (14-2) ran roughshod over Olivier Aubin-Mercier and looked poised to make a legitimate run, only to fail a drug test and miss two years of action. He returned last February with a 118-second beating of Jared Gordon and followed it up by pounding out late replacement Kyle Nelson at UFC 231.

He has submitted six and knocked out three.

Man, remember when Khabilov was exciting? From suplexing Vinc Pichel into the dirt to dropping Masvidal with a wheel kick to the neck, he was must-watch TV before the Henderson loss. I don’t know if gassing against “Bendo” shot his confidence or what, but Khabilov has turned into a gunshy grinder unwilling to even throw real ground-and-pound.

Fortunately for him, that might be enough. He’s a stronger wrestler than Ferreira and is at least competent enough with his hands to survive on the feet until the next double-leg opportunity pops up. As good as Ferreira’s jiu-jitsu is, Khabilov has the top control to steer clear of any danger from the Brazilian’s guard. Ferreira will almost certainly do more damage and make a greater effort to secure the finish, but Khabilov will score enough takedowns and ride out the clock enough to eke out the decision.

Prediction: Khabilov via split decision

155 lbs.: Damir Ismagulov vs. Joel Alvarez

Kazakhstan’s Damir Ismagulov (17-2) rattled off 11 consecutive wins on his way to the Octagon, winning and defending the M-1 Lightweight title along the way. He leaned on his wrestling for his UFC debut, an easy if unspectacular decision over Alex Gorgees in Adelaide.

He will give up two inches of height to “El Fenomeno.”

Joel Alvarez (15-1) started his career undefeated (5-0) before an appearance in M-1, where he suffered a wheel kick KO to Ali Abdulkhalikov. His current 10-fight winning streak includes a triangle finish of Radu Maxim for the AFL Lightweight title in his most recent effort.

Fourteen of his 15 submission wins have come by form of choke.

I haven’t found as much tape of Alvarez as I’d like, but the impression I get is of a marching-style striker with terrific submission skills and iffy wrestling. Unfortunately for him, Ismagulov is perfectly equipped to tear him up. The Kazakh has the kicking prowess to hold his own at range and Alvarez’s striking style opens him up to Ismagulov’s clinch game.

This fight will hit the mat at Ismagulov’s discretion, and though I have issues with his unwillingness to extend himself for the finish, his quality top control is more than enough to keep him safe from “El Fenomeno’s” bottom game. Ismagulov grinds him down in the clinch and from the top to win a clear decision.

Prediction: Ismagulov via unanimous decision

Three more UFC Fight Night 145 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including what looks to be a terrific brawl between Damir Hadzovic and Polo Reyes. Same time as always, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 145 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 2 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).

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Bellator 215 predictions, preview for ‘Mitrione vs Kharitonov’

Sergei Kharitonov

Bellator 215: “Mitrione vs. Kharitonov” airs tomorrow night (Fri., Feb. 15, 2019) from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The fans on the East coast are about to be treated to a massive mountain of muscle in the main event that comes packed with high knockout potential!

Let’s break it down:

265 lbs.: Matt Mitrione (13-6) vs. Sergei Kharitonov (29-7, 1 NC)

Former Heavyweight Grand Prix competitor Matt Mitrione was knocked out of his bracket in the second round … though not by knockout. Ryan Bader used his wrestling background to the fullest of his abilities to take the bigger and heavier Mitrione down to the canvas repeatedly, taking virtually no damage for the entire duration of the fight. The fans in Uncasville may not have been thrilled by this one-sided domination, but if Mitrione feels in any way responsible for the outcome, this main event is his chance to make amends.

Sergei Kharitonov is very unlikely to follow the same gameplan as Bader. With 57 percent of his wins (16 of 28) coming by knockout, including the notoriously hard to finish Roy Nelson in his last Bellator fight, expect him to engage with Mitrione for some fireworks. Mitrione’s style is even more singular than his opponent’s with 84 percent of his wins (11 of 13) coming by knockout, so the question isn’t if they will stand in a phone booth and haul off with strikes but when.

Not only are they perfectly matched for each other stylistically, but they are also perfectly matched for each other in age and size. Mitrione is 40 and Kharitonov is 38, Mitrione is 6’3” and Kharitonov is 6’4,” Mitrione has a 79” reach and Kharitonov has a 76” reach. While that gives a slight advantage to Mitrione on reach, it also gives Kharitonov an equally slight advantage in age, and it would appear those two things basically negate each other when all things are considered. The edge ultimately favors Mitrione, though, because we’ve seen cracks in Kharitonov’s chin that are deeper than “Meathead” has ever shown.

Final prediction: Matt Mitrione wins via first round knockout

170 lbs.: Logan Storley (9-0) vs. Ion Pascu (18-9)

Following an impressive win at Bellator 204 in Sioux Falls, Logan “Storm” Storley gets another fight on the main card against a hungry Ion “Bombardierul” Pascu. Why is he so hungry? Well despite getting half of his wins by knockout (nine of 18) he has yet to win in the Bellator cage. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is the stylistic match-up for him to turn things around. Storley is a wrestler both figuratively and literally, cut from Brock Lesnar’s mold — same hometown, same collegiate experience, same method of dominance. Storley has an uncanny ability to sweep opponents off their feet and lay in hands and elbows until they turtle up and capitulate. Unless Pascu is quicker to the punch or is able to time a takedown with a well placed knee, I see no reason Storley won’t remain undefeated.

Final prediction: Logan Storley wins via first round technical knockout

135 lbs.: Eduardo Dantas (20-6) vs. Toby Misech (12-6)

Things have not gone so well for Mr. Dantas of late. The former Bellator champion lost his title to “The Wolf” Darrion Caldwell in a grueling five-round decision, then got KTFO by the now retired Michael McDonald. Bellator is giving him every opportunity to turn things around with late notice fighter Toby Misech on this card. At 10-5 he’s certainly not a pushover, and he’s coming off a win on the “Prelims” undercard of Bellator 212, so good for him. The jury is still out on his overall game, though. He had a test on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender’s Series and flunked it, and he’s a “streaky” fighter who goes in surges and slumps. The difference maker is definitely the ground game. Misech has never submitted anybody, Dantas has six wins by submission, and after being rocked in his last bout, Dantas will surely want to avoid the stand up and take this one to the ground. We shall see.

Final prediction: Eduardo Dantas via third round submission

135 lbs.: Michael Kimbel (2-0) vs. Jonathan Douma (3-1)

Kimbel is a highlight-reel fighter with a somewhat mysterious background. That’s fine. Nobody is paying him to tell his life story — not yet anyway. Right now people just want to see him get quick finishes, and he’s two for two in that category. Douma is handpicked for him to get another stoppage. He’s not even undefeated on the minor circuit and is coming in off a technical knockout loss to Adam Acquaviva six months ago. The only thing Kimbel should worry about is that Douma may have improved somewhat in those six months.

Final prediction: Michael Kimbel wins via first round knockout

170 lbs.: Austin Vanderford (6-0) vs. Cody Jones (6-2)

Rounding out the main card is “Mr. VanZant” Austin Vanderford against yet another handpicked opponent in Cody Jones. Some say Vanderford is the most hated man in MMA, but I don’t think he’s exceeded Conor McGregor’s level of fame/infamy just yet. Not by a long shot. He’s a star on the rise, though, and curiously given his association with Paige VanZant UFC let him slip through its fingers despite having gotten an impressive come-from-behind win on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series.” He has split his finishes 50/50 between knockouts and submissions, while Jones is more of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu man (two out of three finishes). Given that Vanderford rolls with some studs out in Portland, Ore., I doubt that’ll be a problem for him.

Final prediction: Austin Vanderford wins via submission

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 215 tomorrow with a main card on Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET and DAZN fights starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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Predictions! UFC On ESPN 1 ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both ESPN and ESPN+ this weekend (Sun., Feb. 17, 2019) when UFC on ESPN 1: “Velasquez vs. Ngannou” storms Talking Stick Resort & Casino in Phoenix, Arizona. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC on ESPN 1 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Cain Velasquez finally makes his return to the Octagon this Sunday evening (Feb. 17, 2019), just in time for the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) foray into the ESPN Fight Night era. Standing in the way of his triumphant comeback is Francis Ngannou, freshly removed from a knockout victory over highly ranked Curtis Blaydes in Beijing, China. UFC on ESPN 1 will also feature a fight between top Lightweight talents James Vick and Paul Felder, as well as Cynthia Calvillo against Cortney Casey in one of the most alliterative match ups in UFC history.

There are seven “Prelims” undercard bouts split between ESPN and ESPN+. Let’s look at the first batch:

115 lbs.: Jessica Penne vs. Jodie Esquibel

Jessica Penne (12-5) — the former Invicta Atomweight champion — reached the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 before falling to top seed and eventual winner Carla Esparza. She edged Randa Markos in a “Fight of the Night” to open her Octagon career, then went on to lose three straight.

This will be her first fight in nearly two years.

Jodie Esquibel (6-4) fell short against Ashley Yoder in her TUF 23 bid, but joined UFC one year later, debuting against Karolina Kowalkiewicz in Gdansk, Poland. She lost a unanimous decision, then returned to action the following year with a loss to Jessica Aguilar.

She will give up five inches of height and three inches of reach to Penne.

I genuinely feel bad for Penne. Even though she’s undersized for the division, she’s a lot better than her 1-3 Octagon record would suggest — she deserved the win against Taylor and the other losses came against a pair of monsters in Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Jessica Andrade. She’s still a dangerous grappler with solid-if-unspectacular stand up, which should be enough to carry her past Esquibel.

Esquibel’s striking has been found wanting in the Octagon and she looks out-gunned on the ground. Penne wrangles her to the mat and chokes her out midway through.

Prediction: Penne via second-round submission

135 lbs.: Renan Barao vs. Luke Sanders

It is now more than 28 months since Renan Barao (34-7) won a fight, and more than five years since he won more than one in a row. He is just 1-5 in his last six and was last seen losing a split decision to newcomer Andre Ewell in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

He has submitted 15 opponents and knocked out eight others.

Luke Sanders (12-3) hit the ground running in UFC with a “Performance of the Night” submission of Maximo Blanco, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against Iuri Alcantara and Andre Soukhamthath, he rebounded with a decision over Patrick Williams, only to tap to a Rani Yahya heel hook four months later.

Six of his eight stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.

This is a “loser goes home” fight if I’ve ever seen one. Barao hasn’t even looked good in victory since thrashing Urijah Faber in 2014 and Sanders, though clearly talented, just can’t stop shooting himself in the foot. The difference is that Sanders is still a strong fighter when he’s at his best, while Barao doesn’t seem capable of reaching even a fraction of the heights he once cruised at.

Weird part? Sanders is actually the older of the two.

Barao’s ironclad takedown defense and “meh” offense wrestling means we’re in for a striking battle, one which favors the more powerful and far less weathered Sanders. Volume and a good sprawl carry “Cool Hand Luke” to a decision victory.

Prediction: Sanders via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Aleksandra Albu vs. Emily Whitmire (3-2)

Aleksandra Albu (3-0) signed with UFC in 2013, only to pull out from her debut against Julie Kedzie with an injury. “Stitch” ultimately made her first Octagon appearance two years later, submitting Izabela Badurek, then took a 27-month layoff before winning a decision over Kailin Curran.

This will be her first fight in 1.5 years.

Emily Whitmire (3-2) tapped Christina Marks in the opening round of TUF 26, only to succumb to Roxanne Modafferi’s ground-and-pound in the quarterfinals. TUF teammate Gillian Robertson caught her in an armbar at the finale, but Whitmire successfully upset Jamie Moyle in her next appearance.

“Spitfire” stands three inches taller than Albu at 5’5.”

There are only two types of information my brain retains: pointless pop culture minutiae and fights. Even then, I can barely remember anything about Albu’s UFC efforts. I had to look up tape on someone with two fights in the Octagon and I am, frankly, disappointed in myself.

Albu’s strength is impressive, but her rock-bottom fight IQ is worrying. Worse, she compensates for technical deficiencies with athleticism, which does a number on her gas tank. Whitmire’s superior technique and cardio should allow her to control things on the feet, and if Albu pulls guard or tries to force a throw, Whitmire’s submissions are a real threat. Whitmire turns away an early surge to tap an exhausted Albu late.

Prediction: Whitmire via third-round submission

Four more UFC on ESPN 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including a clash of unbeaten Bantamweight prospects and a featured fight between two Top 10-ranked fighters in the division. See you then, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on ESPN 1 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+ (7-day free trial here) “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 7 p.m. ET, before the ESPN main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC on ESPN 1: “Velasquez vs. Ngannou” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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Predictions! Breaking Down UFC 234 Main, Co-Main Event

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will take a break from its ESPN+ fight cards to bring mixed martial arts (MMA) fans its latest and greatest pay-per-view (PPV) offering, headlined by a middleweight title fight, as well as a 185-pound No. 1 contender’s clash.

Front and center will be Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum, who battle for “The Reaper’s” belt across five rounds of middleweight action. Unless, of course, something dramatic happens before the 25 minutes expire.

Speaking of dramatic, former 185-pound champion, Anderson Silva, makes his return to the Octagon against kickboxing import Israel Adesanya. The winner is expected to compete for the title, which means the winner of Whittaker-Gastelum already has his next opponent lined up.

Before we break down the main and co-main event (stream them on Amazon by clicking here), let’s take a look at what “Prelims” maestro, Patrick Stumberg, had to say about all the action spread across the ESPN and UFC Fight Pass cards by clicking here and here.

UFC 234 odds and betting lines can be unpacked here.

185 lbs.: Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum

Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker

Record: 20-4 | Age: 28 | Betting line: -235
Wins: 9 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 1 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 6’0“ | Reach: 73” | Leg reach: 43”
Stance: Orthodox | Striking accuracy: 774 of 1901 (41%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt | Takedown attempts: 4 of 7 (57%)

Kelvin Gastelum

Record: 15-3, 1 NC | Age: 27 | Betting line: +195
Wins: 6 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 5 DEC | Losses: 0 KO/TKO, 1 SUB, 2 DEC
Height: 5’9“ | Reach: 71” | Leg reach: 39”
Stance: Southpaw | Striking accuracy: 637 of 1458 (44%)
Ranks: 10th planet jiu-jitsu purple belt | Takedown attempts: 9 of 18 (50%)

I know Kelvin Gastelum doesn’t always get the respect he deserves, and sometimes he brings the problems upon himself. Whether it’s smoking pot before a big fight or refusing to skip pasta night the day before weigh ins, the former Ultimate Fighter (TUF) champion has relied more on talent than hard work. That should give you a pretty good idea of just how good he is (and can be), as the porky welterweight masquerading as a middleweight has been able to notch wins over some notoriously tough outs in the form of Tim Kennedy, Michael Bisping, and Ronaldo Souza. He also neutralized Tyron Woodley back when Uncle Dana allowed him to fight at 170 pounds.

He’s solid in just about every area and should not be taken lightly.

Unfortunately for Gastelum, he’s facing someone his own age and not a thirty-something veteran who’s been through the proverbial mill. Also a former welterweight, Whittaker has been an absolute monster at 185 pounds and is now the winner of nine straight with five finishes. The big selling point is “The Reaper’s” ability to withstand the bludgeoning power of Yoel Romero and for good reason: it’s something no other fighter has been able to accomplish in UFC. How those brutal, five-round wars affected Whittaker’s ability to compete at the highest level is certainly a question worth asking, but at age 28, I’m not sure he’s going to exhibit any signs of deterioration just yet.

This fight is fairly simple for me, at least in terms of predicting. Gastelum is like that entry level video game character who comes with a basic set of sills, enough to get the journey started, and would eventually become Whittaker after a series of level-ups and in-game bonuses. “The Reaper” is simply better in every department and I don’t see where the challenger has an advantage. Gastelum is not the better boxer, certainly does not have the better cardio, and won’t be able to wrestle his way to a decision. He is one tough S.O.B., however, and will likely be in the fight for all five rounds, but don’t expect the scorecards to be close.

Prediction: Whittaker def. Gastelum by unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Anderson Silva vs. Israel Adesanya

Anderson “The Spider” Silva

Record: 34-8, 1 NC | Age: 43 | Betting line: +450
Wins: 22 KO/TKO, 4 SUB, 8 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 3 DEC, 1 DQ
Height: 6’2“ | Reach: 77” | Leg reach: 42”
Stance: Southpaw | Striking accuracy: 740 of 1213 (61%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt | Takedown attempts: 3 of 4 (75%)

Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya

Record: 15-0 | Age: 29 | Betting line: -600
Wins: 10 KO/TKO, 5 SUB, 6 DEC | Losses: 2 KO/TKO, 2 SUB, 1 DEC
Height: 6’4“ | Reach: 80” | Leg reach: 44”
Stance: Switch | Striking accuracy: 241 of 436 (55%)
Ranks: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blue belt | Takedown attempts: 0 of 3 (0%)

I know all the cool kids already have Anderson Silva dead and buried, based on his age and tough run over the last couple of years, but let’s not break out the pine box just yet. I think in the case of “The Spider,” his extended layoff was a positive (just like his last drug test), because it gave his body and mind the ability to heal, refocus, and reenergize. We know going into this fight against Israel Adesanya that the action is going to play out on the feet and that will actually work to “The Spider’s” advantage. Keep in mind, this is only a three-round contest and we can already call the opening frame a wash, as both strikers settle in, establish range, and flick the jab, waiting for the other to commit.

We never got the chance to see Silva test his striking — both offensively and defensively — against any real competition. Finishes over guys like Chael Sonnen, Stephan Bonnar, and Yushin Okami look great in the highlight reels, but are they a true measure of one’s technical prowess? Adesanya, meanwhile, was making his mark in the kickboxing circuit which admittedly, has a depressingly shallow talent pool as the marquee names jump ship in search of those MMA bucks. But even Silva’s most challenging opponents who were best known for their hands, like Vitor Belfort and Rich Franklin, would get embarrassed in stand-up fights against most of Adesanya’s past opponents, like Bogdan Stoica and Simon Marcus.

Silva is over the hill and hasn’t looked impressive in many moons, but that doesn’t change him as a competitor. Why does he still fight at this age? He certainly doesn’t need the money. “The Spider” is a fierce competitor and loves to win, and I would expect the very best version of the Brazilian come fight night. It won’t be enough, but I think some fans are going to be surprised at just how competitive this bout is, and Silva may even leave with a moral victory. If Marvin Vettori and Brad Tavares can make it a fight against Adesanya, so can the former champ.

Prediction: Adesanya def. Silva by unanimous decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 234 fight card on fight night (click here), 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 ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

To see who else is fighting at UFC 234 click here.

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