Tag Archive for Predictions

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 2 this weekend (Sat., May 19, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 129: “Maia vs. Usman” storms Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 129 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Santiago, Chile for the first time this upcoming Saturday evening (May 19, 2018) with a pair of Top 10-ranked Welterweight contenders at the helm. The FOX Sports 1-televised main event pits rising bruiser Kamaru Usman (No. 7) against Demian Maia (No. 5), who replaces the injured Santiago Ponzinibbio on short notice, while top women’s Strawweight prospects Alexa Grasso and Tatiana Suarez duke it out in the co-feature. UFC Fight Night 129’s main card also features rising Light Heavyweight prospect Dominick Reyes against Jared Cannonier and a clash between inaugural The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Latin America” alums Guido Cannetti and Diego Rivas.

Three of the seven “Prelims” undercard matches take place on Fight Pass, the rest on the oft-neglected FOX Sports 2. Let’s start with the former:

145 lbs.: Enrique Barzola vs. Brandon Davis

Enrique Barzola (14-3-1) defeated Horacio Gutierrez in his Octagon debut to win TUF: “Latin America” 2, only to lose a controversial decision to Kyle Bochniak his next time out. He’s since rattled off three straight, including a mild upset of TUF: “Latin America” 1 competitor Gabriel Benitez.

He will give up three inches of height and two inches of reach to Brandon Davis (9-4).

“Killer B” defeated Austin Arnett in an excellent slugfest to earn a contract on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series.” Though he lost a decision to Kyle Bochniak in his Octagon debut, he returned less than one month later to out-slug Steven Peterson and earn “Fight of the Night” in the process.

He has knocked out three pro opponents and submitted another two.

This has the potential to be the most entertaining fight of the “Prelims” undercard, as both men are more than happy to bring it. Davis in particular is loads of fun, but unfortunately for him, Barzola has the tools to give him just as much grief as Bochniak did. “El Fuerte” is quite good at getting in and out of the pocket, keeping Davis from getting his longer combinations going, and he’s hit 21 takedowns in his last three fights, so any shenanigans from Davis will be punished by a trip to the mat.

If Davis just had a bit more stopping power, this would be infinitely more intriguing. As is, “Killer B” doesn’t have enough firepower to keep Barzola from picking him apart and manhandling him on the inside. In short, Barzola potshots and slams his way to victory.

Prediction: Barzola via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Enrique Briones vs. Frankie Saenz

Enrique Briones (16-7-1) wound up on the wrong end of an incredible upkick knockout on TUF: “Latin America,” but came back strong with a “Fight of the Night” finish of Guido Cannetti at UFC 180. Things went right back to bad, and “Henry Bure” enters the Octagon on the heels of one-sided losses to Cody Garbrandt, Douglas Andrade and Rani Yahya.

His stoppage wins are split 8/6 between knockouts and submissions.

Frankie Saenz (11-4) got off to a red-hot start in UFC, winning three straight and scoring one of the biggest numerical upsets in UFC history over Iuri Alcantara. He went on to lose three straight, including a narrow decision loss to Augusto Mendes that earned “Fight of the Night,” before returning to the win column with an equally narrow decision win over Merab Dvalishvili in Dec. 2017.

Briones is by no means a bad fighter, but this feels like a gimme for Saenz, who has proven he can at least be competitive against strong Bantamweight competition. He can match Briones’ grit and his wrestling, while not elite, should be more than enough to exploit Briones below average takedown defense.

Saenz can hold his own or at the very least survive on the feet long enough to open up his grinding clinchwork and takedowns, which will carry him to a wide decision victory.

Prediction: Saenz via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Felipe Silva vs. Claudio Puelles

A first-round knockout of UFC vet Anton Kuivanen brought Felipe Silva (8-1) to the Octagon, where he made an immediate impression by stopping Shane Campbell in 73 seconds. He was a tiny bit less successful against Mairbek Taisumov, who put the Brazilian to sleep with one punch.

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

Claudio Puelles — representing Team Chuck Liddell on TUF: “Latin America” 3 — fought his way to the finals before suffering a technical knockout loss to Martin Bravo. He’s been out of action since that Nov. 2016 bout, as injury scrapped a planned fight with Sage Northcutt.

Though he’s just one inch shorter than Silva, he will give up five inches of reach.

Puelles is a good-sized Lightweight with a wide skillset, but I’m not sure he’s quite UFC-ready yet. He struggled against Bravo’s rudimentary striking offense and his wrestling toolbox doesn’t look all that deep. Silva’s sheer power and lethality in the clinch make this a majorly rough matchup for the Peruvian.

Puelles is just 22 years old, so he has plenty of time to develop, but Silva and his kickboxing pedigree will give him a rude reminder that there are levels to this. He batters Puelles with clinch knees and body shots for an early finish.

Prediction: Silva via first-round knockout

UFC Fight Night 129’s other four “Prelims” undercard bouts include a rematch between Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja, so be sure to stop by tomorrow at the same time as always.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 129 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 2 at 8 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to UFC Fight Pass this weekend (Sat., March 17, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 127: “Werdum vs. Volkov” storms The O2 in London, England. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 127 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to The O2 in London, England, this Saturday (March 17, 2018) on Fight Pass, bringing with it a quality Heavyweight showdown in the main event. Indeed, former champion Fabricio Werdum looks to pick up his second consecutive headlining victory against towering Russian Alexander Volkov. In UFC Fight Night 126’s co-main event, Britain’s own Jimi Manuwa attempts to halt his skid in a rematch with the resurgent Jan Blachowicz, and Bantamweight blue-chipper Tom Duquesnoy faces Terrion Ware one fight prior.

We had eight Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts, but just seven remain at the moment. So let’s check out the first three below:

205 lbs.: Paul Craig vs. Magomed Ankalaev

Paul Craig (9-2) followed up his submission of Irish prospect Karl Moore and subsequent defeat of Marcin Lazarz for the BAMMA Light Heavyweight title by submitting unbeaten Luis Henrique in his Octagon debut, earning a “Performance of the Night” bonus for his efforts. Subsequent fights with Tyron Pedro and Khalil Rountree proved a tad more disastrous, though, as both men brutalized “The Bearjew” inside of one round.

Eight of his nine professional wins have come by submission, the ninth by (technical) knockout.

Dagestan’s Magomed Ankalaev (10-0) caught Bloody Elbow’s eye just three fights into his professional career and has since continued to impress on the Russian circuit. His current three-fight knockout streak includes finishes of veteran Maxim Grishin and two-time UFC competitor Wagner Prado.

He will give up two inches of height to the 6’4” Scotsman.

Ankalaev really looks like a top prospect. Though he still has some trouble with volume when his opponents don’t give him countering opportunities, he’s got serious stopping power in his hands, bone-crushing ground-and-pound and solid overall wrestling. Best of all, he’s only 25, meaning he’s got plenty of time to grow.

Craig’s grappling is for real, but unfortunately, the rest of his game just isn’t there. His striking and wrestling are way too lacking for him to impose his will on quality light heavyweights. He’s not going to be able to handle Ankalaev on the feet or take him down, and if Ankalaev decides to play Craig’s game and take him down instead, the Dagestani’s ground striking is terrifying. In short, Ankalaev steadily breaks him down on the feet before pounding him out in the second.

Prediction: Ankalaev via second-round technical knockout

155 lbs.: Stevie Ray vs. Kajan Johnson (22-12-1)

Scotland’s Stevie Ray (21-7) won five of his fist six UFC bouts in impressive fashion, including a bonus-winning knockout of Leonardo Mafra and decisions over veterans Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon. Fellow banger Paul Felder proved a tougher nut to crack, though, dispatching Ray with ground-and-pound in Glasgow.

He steps in for Rustam Khabilov on around one month’s notice.

Kajan Johnson (22-12-1) unsuccessful run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” didn’t stop him from winning two of his first three UFC bouts. After a two-year hiatus, he returned in Sept. 2017 to knockout Adriano Martins in Edmonton.

“Ragin” has submitted eight professional opponents and (T)KO’d another seven.

I firmly believe Martins could have smashed the bejeezus out of Johnson if he had just been a little more active. Johnson — skilled as he is — lacks the durability to survive prolonged exchanges. Unfortunately for him, Ray is a very willing striker who is as sharp or sharper than his Canadian foe.

Johnson has neither the firepower to overwhelm Ray on the feet nor the wrestling prowess to drag him out of his element and finish him on the ground. Ray holds his own in the stand up for about 1.5 rounds before finally finding the mark with something dramatic.

Prediction: Ray via second-round knockout

265 lbs.: Mark Godbeer vs. Dmitry Sosnovskiy

Mark Godbeer (13-3) — after a submission loss to Justin Ledet in his UFC debut — proved he was more than just an awesome name with a decision over Daniel Spitz last March. Things took a turn for the bizarre in his next fight, however, as Walt Harris kicked him in the face while the referee was pausing the action because of a low blow, resulting in a disqualification win for Godbeer.

Ten of his 13 victories have come via (technical) knockout within two rounds.

The 10 victories for Dmitry Sosnovskiy (10-0) include five (technical) knockouts, two submissions via choke, and forcing Aleksander Emelianenko to tap to strikes in 2014. UFC twice tried to book him against Justin Ledet, but the fight fell through each time.

He replaces the injured (and now released) Dmitry Pobrezhets on short notice in his first fight since May 2015.

Godbeer is legitimately powerful and boatloads of fun against opponents either willing to exchange with him or unable to take him down. Sosnovskiy is neither. The Russian’s only goal is to take his opponent down as quickly as possible before moving to mount/the back and punching away. He doesn’t so much strike as move his arms in various directions while charging forward.

Godbeer could certainly tear him up on the feet if Sosnovskiy can’t drag him down early or burns himself out looking for the finish, but the Brit has not shown stout enough takedown defense to survive the early onslaught. Sosnovskiy scores an early takedown, moves to a dominant position, and drops punches until the ref steps in.

Prediction: Sosnovskiy via first-round technical knockout

Four UFC Fight Night 126 “Prelims” undercard fights remain to preview and predict, including the debuts of a top Featherweight prospect and a “Tuesday Night Contender Series” standout. See you tomorrow, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 127 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m. ET, and then the remaining main card balance on Fight Pass at 5 p.m. ET.

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Predictions! Bellator 195 Picks For ‘Caldwell Vs. Higo’

Darrion Caldwell

Bellator 195: “Caldwell vs. Higo” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., March 2, 2018) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Darrion Caldwell — who claimed the Bantamweight title in Oct. 2017 — will put that same prize on the line this week against top contender Leandro Higo. Caldwell will see some familiar faces in Thackerville this weekend, including the multiple-time world champion he beat to prove he deserved a title shot (Joe Warren), and the only man to hand him a loss thus far in his career (Joe Taimanglo). It promises to be a very intriguing card for the fans watching on Paramount Network.

Let’s break it down:

135 lbs.: Darrion Caldwell (11-1) vs. Leandro Higo (18-3)

Four years ago, “The Wolf” Darrion Caldwell’s ascent to the top began at Bellator 112 in Hammond, Indiana. After submitting Lance Surma with a guillotine choke in just 50 seconds, Caldwell immediately went from an unknown undercard fighter to a former collegiate national champion who had added devastating submissions to his wrestling game. His upward momentum continued from there, culminating in a dominating victory over Joe Warren in Thackerville. A world title shot seemed next for Caldwell, but one mistake against Joe Taimanglo briefly slowed his roll.

Caldwell rebounded from that loss to defeat Taimanglo in a rematch and then take the belt from Eduardo Dantas in the same venue as Friday’s fight. Waiting for him there will be “Pitbull” Leandro Higo, a fighter who was relatively unknown outside Brazil until he took Dantas to a split decision in a non-title fight. Having made his name off that match he returned to Bellator and soundly defeated Taimanglo on the same night Caldwell won gold, setting up an eventual showdown between the pair.

The greatest strength for Caldwell has thus far proven to be his only weakness. His wrestling pedigree gives him both the confidence and ability to take down almost any opponent — even decorated wrestlers like the aforementioned Warren — but a technique better-suited for collegiate wrestling often leaves his neck exposed when he shoots for a double leg. An experienced Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner can do exactly what Taimanglo did — let Caldwell’s weight and momentum carry him right into a guillotine choke when he completes it. The bad news for Caldwell is Higo has gotten 56 percent of his wins by submission (10 of 18). The good news is that none have come via guillotine.

Caldwell has a size advantage going into this contest, standing 5’10” with a 74-inch reach, while Higo comes either 5’6” or 5’8” (it depends on who you believe) with a 72-inch reach. That makes Higo almost small enough to be a Flyweight and Caldwell almost large enough to be a Lightweight. While the submission skills of Higo should not be taken lightly, Caldwell will almost certainly own the distance between the two and land first in any exchange. And if he softens up Higo standing the way Dantas did, the takedowns that follow should come easily. Unless Caldwell makes a foolish mistake like telegraphing a takedown from a mile away or pulling guard to ice a round this should go his way.

Final prediction: Darrion Caldwell wins via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Joe Warren (15-6) vs. Joe Taimanglo (23-8-1)

Our preview of the main event has established who both of these men are so let’s get down to brass tacks. Joe Warren has not lost two MMA fights in a row since Bellator 60 in 2012, having most recently defeated Steve Garcia in Thackerville. Taimanglo, on the other hand, has been on a skid, losing back to back bouts to the aforementioned Caldwell and Higo. While Taimanglo certainly has the heart and experience with over 30 fights on his resume and 17 of 23 wins (74 percent) coming by submission (12) or knockout (5), his diminutive stature at 5’4” with a 65” reach comes up short compared to Warren at 5’6” and 69.” Even though Warren relies heavily on his Greco-Roman wrestling with 10 out of 15 wins (66 percent) coming by decision, there’s no reason for him to not take advantage of the reach differential and box Taimanglo then ice rounds with takedowns late.

Final prediction: Joe Warren wins via third round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Kristina Williams (1-0) vs. Emily Ducote (6-3)

The brash upstart Kristina Williams surprised the mixed martial arts (MMA) world with a one-sided massacre of Heather Hardy at Bellator 185 that required the boxer-turned fighter to get plastic surgery on her nose. We’ve been waiting to see what else Williams could do since that day, but while Hardy was a great boxer who had to learn on the job the hard way, the hard-nosed “Gordinha” Emily Ducote has already stacked plenty of MMA experience. She’s 4-2 in six Bellator appearances and has not lost two in a row in her entire career to date. The Oklahoma City native will have the crowd on her side and an arsenal of submissions in her back pocket, picking up 50 percent of her wins to date via one form or another. Williams could surprise us again by keeping Ducote at range and messing up her face with kicks, but it’s a safe bet Ducote read the scouting report and won’t make that same mistake.

Final prediction: Emily Ducote wins via rear-naked choke in the second round

145 lbs.: Juan Archuleta (17-1) vs. William Joplin (15-14)

It seems as though Bellator is making a habit out of putting at least one of its prospects on the card each time now. Although that ramps up the pressure on younger, more inexperienced fighters who are just getting their feet wet, it also gives Bellator a chance to make new stars. There’s definitely a lot to like about Archuleta, whose only professional loss was at WSOF 19 back in 2015. He’s a heavy hitter with 47 percent of his wins (eight of 17) coming by knockout. Joplin, on the other hand, is 2-3 in his last five and was knocked out in all three of those losses. You do the math.

Final prediction: Juan Archuleta wins via first round knockout

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 195 tomorrow with Paramount Network fights starting at 9 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 222 ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 2!

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., March 3, 2018) when UFC 222: “Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya” storms T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC 222 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) women’s Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg will look to go undefeated (2-0) against Invicta champs this Saturday when she takes on Russian standout Yana Kunitskaya in the main attraction of UFC 222, live from Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena.

Earlier in the evening, Frankie Edgar throws down with Brian Ortega in a top-notch featherweight clash, Sean O’Malley trades hands with Andre Soukhamthath at bantamweight, and Andrei Arlovski throws down with Stefan Struve in a potentially disastrous heavyweight battle.

FOX Sports 1, as usual, will host four UFC 222 “Prelims” undercard bouts before the main attractions begin (check out the Fight Pass portion here). So, let’s have a look:

115 lbs.: Ashley Yoder vs. Mackenzie Dern

Ashley Yoder (5-3) went 1-1 on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23, but earned a call to enter the Octagon after a submission win in Invicta. She has yet to taste UFC victory, though, losing decisions to Justine Kish and Angela Hill.

“The Spider Monkey” owns four professional wins by armbar, three in the first round and two in a combined 1:17.

A multiple-time world champion in both gi- and no-gi Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Mackenzie Dern (5-0) made the transition to mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2016 under the Legacy banner, eventually moving to Invicta for her last two fights. Though perhaps better known for her issues making weight, she’s nonetheless picked up three submissions in her five victories, including an Imanari choke of current UFC competitor Montana De La Rosa.

She will give up four inches of height to the 5’7” Yoder.

I am genuinely more interested in the fight between Dern and the scale than between Dern and Yoder. Yoder is almost exclusively a grappler and is going up against a woman who’s beaten Gabi Garcia, won ADCC, and earned more world-level medals than Yoder has MMA fights. The question is whether Dern can keep her weight in check and get the finish.

Barring a complete meltdown the likes of which would have Sara McMann wincing, Dern should utterly dominate this fight, wrapping up a submission if and when she wants it.

Prediction: Dern via first-round submission

155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush vs. Alexander Hernandez

A knockout loss to Ramsey Nijem in his second UFC fight didn’t stop Beneil Dariush (14-3-1) from winning seven of his next eight bouts, including consecutive victories over prospects James Vick and Radhid Magomedov. “Benny” enters the cage winless in his last two, however, having suffered a shocking knockout loss to Edson Barboza and settled for a draw with Evan Dunham after gassing out late.

Six of his nine stoppage victories have come by submission.

San Antonio’s Alexander Hernandez (8-1) has not tasted defeat since a split decision in his third professional fight. His current streak includes three consecutive finishes, including one in RFA and another in LFA.

He steps in for the injured Bobby Green on a week’s notice.

I cannot for the life of me find full footage of any recent Hernandez fights, not even on the seedier websites that give my adblock a hernia. All I’ve really got are short highlights from his last two fights, which show a quick, athletic, well-rounded fighter who’s comfortable from either stance and can finish fights on the feet and the mat.

They do not, however, show anything that could really trouble Dariush, especially not on short notice. Dariush’s ground game is top-tier for the division, he has underrated power in his kicks and punches, and his gas tank is generally solid when he doesn’t punch himself out like against Dunham. He holds his own in all areas of the game, ultimately wearing down Hernandez with low kicks en route to a late finish.

Prediction: Dariush via third-round submission

135 lbs.: John Dodson vs. Pedro Munhoz

This was supposed to happen on the main card of UFC Fight Night 125 before Pedro Munhoz (15-2) missed weight. Luckily, I was on main card duty that week, so I can copy-paste my pick with zero ethical conflicts.

I can’t look at John Dodson (19-9) and not see lost potential, even with his clear love for and dedication to the sport. His game has just never evolved from hurling left hands in new and exciting ways. He utterly lacks any kind of offense from his lead hand and his output fluctuates strangely, leading to unnecessarily close and dull fights.

See: Wineland, Eddie.

Luckily, though, I don’t see him challenging for the title with the Big Three (Dominick Cruz, T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt) and Marlon Moraes in the way, he’s still well-equipped to beat the majority of the division, including “The Young Punisher.”

Munhoz has an absolute bear trap of a guillotine and is tougher than a $ 2 steak in hockey pads, but his wrestling has not developed as it should, forcing him to use pressure striking to provoke opponents into ill-advised takedown attempts. While he has enough power and aggression to make this work more often than not, he can look worryingly mortal when the choke isn’t there.

Unless he can become the first person to dent Dodson’s chin, it won’t be there. Take Munhoz’s ground game out of the equation and you have a solid-but-not-spectacular bruiser, the sort who Dodson loves leading on merry, painful chases around the Octagon. Dodson’s freakish athleticism, speed and reflexes keep him on his feet as he potshots the advancing Munhoz for three full rounds.

Prediction: Dodson via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: C.B. Dollaway vs. Hector Lombard

From the end of 2014 through the first half of 2017, the MMA career of C.B. Dollaway (34-8-1) seemed like one disaster after another, as he went winless (0-3) with two knockout losses and suffered serious injury from an elevator mishap before UFC 203. He managed to return to action last July, picking up a decision over fellow veteran Ed Herman.

He will have five inches of height and reach on Hector Lombard (16-8).

It feels like eons ago that Lombard was on a 25-fight unbeaten run and considered a genuine contender for the best Middleweight on the planet. He enters the cage this Saturday on a four-fight losing streak that includes stoppage losses to Neil Magny, Dan Henderson and Anthony Smith.

He owns 19 finishes via (technical) knockout and another seven by submission.

This is not an easy decision to make. Dollaway’s overeager striking offense looks like the perfect way to get demolished by a Lombard counter, but Lombard is on one hell of a crappy run. 185-pound division has thoroughly passed both men by — each is more likely to get sent to Queer Street a couple more times than to re-enter title contention.

Dollaway will be making that trip first. Lombard may have lost those fights, but he still hurt Magny and Henderson badly. The reach difference won’t mean much when it’s Dollaway looking to slug inside; therefore, expect Lombard to crunch him in the first few exchanges.

Prediction: Lombard via first-round knockout

I’ll say one thing for certain: UFC 222 is going to be something unique … for better or worse. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 222 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.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 39-10

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

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

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

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

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

135 lbs.: Renan Barao vs. Brian Kelleher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Kelleher via split decision

135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Marion Reneau

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: McMann via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Maryna Moroz vs. Angela Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Hill via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Alan Jouban vs. Ben Saunders

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

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

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

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

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

Which is bad news for Saunders.

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

Prediction: Jouban via first-round knockout

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

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

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

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

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

Ain’t no rest for the wicked …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Burns via unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Marcin Prachnio vs. Sam Alvey

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Prachnio via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Rani Yahya vs. Russell Doane

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

He owns 18 professional victories via submission.

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Yahya by first-round submission

125 lbs.: Alex Perez vs. Eric Shelton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Shelton via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Manny Bermudez vs. Albert Morales

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Bermudez via first-round submission

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

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

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UFC 221 predictions: ‘Rockhold vs Romero’ FOX Sports 1 ‘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 continues the UFC 221 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Perth, Australia, won’t get to see local favorite Robert Whittaker defend his Middleweight title, but they still get to see a world-class match as Yoel Romero steps up to face Luke Rockhold in the pay-per-view (PPV) main event of UFC 221 this weekend (Sat., Feb. 10, 2018) inside Perth Arena.

Earlier in the evening, Oceanic knockout artists Mark Hunt and Tai Tuivasa take on Curtis Blaydes and Cyril Asker, respectively, and Jake Matthews attempts to reassert his status as a top mixed martial arts (MMA) prospect at the expense of Chinese slugger Li Jingliang.

Four FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts will set the stage before we get to the paid content (check out the Fight Pass portion here), though, so let’s have a look:

155 lbs.: Damien Brown vs. Dong Hyun Kim

Damien Brown (17-11) made his fellow Aussies proud at UFC Fight Night 101, surviving early adversity to edge Jon Tuck by split decision. “Beatdown” wasn’t quite as successful seven months later in Auckland, however, suffering a one-punch knockout loss to Vinc Pichel. The good news for his is that he rebounded well, taking Frank Camacho to a “Fight of the Night” split decision in Nov. 2017.

He’s stopped eight opponents via submission, six by form of choke.

Dong Hyun Kim (15-8-3) — best known for his insane war with Polo Reyes at UFC 199 — has dialed back his brawling a bit to secure two consecutive UFC victories. After a grappling-heavy victory over Brendan O’Reilly, he took on the smoldering husk of Takanori Gomi in Saitama and knocked him silly in just 90 seconds.

He will have an inch of height and two inches of reach on Brown.

Before anything else, please go to UFC.com and look at Kim’s haircut. Back? Alright, let’s get into it.

This just seems like a rough style match up for Brown. Kim looks to be the stronger grappler and showed that he knows how to scrap against Reyes, surviving the Mexican bruiser’s best shots for more than two rounds before finally succumbing. Brown is going to have to out-technique him, for which he doesn’t appear to have the toolbox.

If Kim does go full zombie again, it could come back to bite him, but he’s shown a willingness to actually fight smart recently. He mixes up straight punches and takedowns for a comfortable victory.

Prediction: Kim via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Rob Wilkinson vs. Israel Adesanya

Rob Wilkinson (11-1) earned (and defended) the Australian FC Middleweight title before answering UFC’s call in Nov. 2017. Stepping up on short notice for Abu Azaitar, Wilkinson took on the returning Siyar Bahadurzada and succumbed to the Afghan’s power partway through the second round.

He has submitted six professional opponents … all in the first round.

Israel Adesanya (11-0) — currently ranked the No. 5 middleweight kickboxer on the planet by LiverKick.com — put together a 65-5-2 record in the discipline despite splitting his time with MMA since 2012. His time in our sport of choice has seen him stop all 11 of his opponents, including Kenan Song and Melvin Guillard, with strikes in less than two rounds apiece.

He stands one inch taller than Wilkinson at 6’4.”

Fans should be as excited about Adesanya’s debut as they were about Gokhan Saki’s. Adesanya may not have quite the list of accomplishments “The Rebel” does, but unlike the Turkish slugger, he’s in his athletic prime at 28. It also helps that he’s a joy to watch, packing the sort of fluid and destructive attack his nickname suggests.

Wilkinson is a fairly solid wrestler, which is worth keeping an eye on after another striking prodigy in Muslim Salikhov got wrecked on the mat, but Adesanya’s got good hips and a knack for throws in the clinch. After the way Wilkinson struggled to manhandle a blown-up Welterweight in Bahadurzada, I don’t see him shutting down Izzy. Adesanya wears him down at range before polishing him off once he’s good and tired.

Prediction: Adesanya via second-round technical knockout

145 lbs.: Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy

Despite standing a mere 5’6,” Alexander Volkanovski (16-1) has emerged as a Featherweight prospect worth watching during his three-fight Octagon tenure. The former Australian FC champ brutalized both Yusuke Kasuya and Mizuto Hirota before outclassing New Zealand’s Shane Young on UFC’s last venture to “The Land Down Under.”

Nine of his 12 professional finishes have come by form of knockout.

Jeremy Kennedy (11-0) — who has had fights with the likes of Josh Emmett and Mirsad Bektic fall through — has used dominant wrestling to put together a three-fight win streak in the competitive Featherweight division. His victims include inaugural The Ultimate Fighter: “Brazil” winner Rony “Jason” and Kyle Bochniak, who was last seen beating prospect Brandon Davis.

“JBC” stands five inches taller than Volkanovski, though their respected reaches are identical.

Though Volkanovski is still a little too over-reliant on the overhand right, his wrestling technique, bottomless gas tank, and sheer power are enough to make him a massive handful. Even better, Kennedy doesn’t have the style to exploit Volkanovski’s lingering issues. He’s at home in the clinch and relentlessly pursuing takedowns, which plays right into Volkanovski’s sledgehammer hands.

Volkanovski’s strength gives him the edge inside and Kennedy’s usual gameplan puts him well within that overhand right’s limited range. Unless Kennedy has a jab and commensurate distance striking game to go along with it, the local boy overpowers him in the pocket for either a grinding-heavy decision or late stoppage via strikes.

Prediction: Volkanovski via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Jussier Formiga vs. Ben Nguyen

It’s been more than eight years since Jussier Formiga (20-5) beat Shinichi Kojima to become the world’s top Flyweight, but he’s certainly done well for himself in UFC. After a rough 1-2 start that featured losses to John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez, the Brazilian won five of his next seven bouts, most recently choking out “Ulka” Sasaki in Japan.

He has two inches of reach on ‘Ben 10.”

Ben Nguyen (17-6) went from viral sensation to legitimate contender in just five UFC fights, losing only to Louis Smolka in a barnburner during that span. His latest win was his biggest to date, a 49-second submission of Tim Elliott that earned him “Performance of the Night” honors.

He has knocked out nine opponents and submitted another five.

For my money, Formiga has the best back takes and back control since a prime B.J. Penn. He excels at exploiting any tiny opportunity he’s given and is an absolute leech once he gets his hooks in. He’s held his own on the mat against the likes of Wilson Reis and Ray Borg and has a significantly better body of work against world-class Flyweight fighters.

I just can’t pick against Nguyen, though. “Ben 10” might be the biggest puncher in the division and has shown much, much improved scrambling and takedown defense since that donnybrook against Smolka. He’s young, explosive and packs more than enough heat to crack Formiga’s jaw. Though another Formiga victory through positional brilliance is possible, my gut says Nguyen scores his biggest scalp to date.

Prediction: Nguyen via first-round technical knockout

If nothing else, Romero vs. Rockhold is some A++ matchmaking — can’t wait! See you Saturday, 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.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 25-3

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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 Belem preview, predictions for ‘Machida vs Anders’

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will continue its Brazilian journey this Saturday evening (Feb. 3, 2018) as the world’s largest mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion makes its debut in Belem.

In the main event, former champion Lyoto Machida looks for a much-needed win against rising star Eryk Anders, while former title contender John Dodson attempt to put his split decision loss to Marlon Moraes behind him against Pedro Munhoz one fight prior.

The card will also feature Valentina Shevchenko’s flyweight debut against power-puncher Priscila Cachoeira and an intriguing clash of styles between Michel Prazeres and Des Green.

As always, you can check out the UFC Belem “Prelim” predictions here and here, then wash them down with the odds and betting lines here.

Shall we?

185 lbs.: Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (22-8) vs. Eryk “Ya’ Boi” Anders (10-0)

This is how I envision the thought process behind this fight coming together

UFC Exec 1 (UFCE1): You know how Machida has been crushed by athletic southpaws three times in a row?

UFC Exec 2 (UFCE2): Yeah?

UFCE1: What if we put him against another one?

UFCE2: You’re a damn genius.

UFCE1: Damn straight. Now quit hogging the coke.

That’s oversimplifying things, of course, but the anticipation of watching Machida fight has been replaced with dread. I’m legitimately worried for his physical well-being at this point. If there was anything left of the former champ, he would have smashed Derek Brunson, whose boxing acumen doesn’t extend far past “I throws the left hands that makes the peoples fall down.”

Anders’ fight with Markus Perez, who seemed more concerned with his Genki Sudo impersonation than with actually winning the fight, showed that the former Alabama standout still needs a lot of refinement to make a true run at the division elite. Even still, I just can’t pick Machida against him. “The Dragon’s” defense has left him and the intercepting counters that felled light heavyweights just aren’t there anymore. Anders catches him in a wild exchange early on and hands Lyoto his third consecutive scary knockout loss.

Prediction: Anders by first-round knockout

135 lbs.: John “The Magician” Dodson (19-9) vs. Pedro “The Young Punisher” Munhoz (15-2)

I can’t look at John Dodson and not see lost potential, even with his clear love for and dedication to the sport. His game has just never evolved from hurling left hands in new and exciting ways. He utterly lacks any kind of offense from his lead hand and his output fluctuates strangely, leading to unnecessarily close and dull fights.

See: Wineland, E.

Luckily, though I don’t see him challenging for the title with the Big Three (Cruz, Dillashaw, Garbrandt) and Marlon Moraes in the way, he’s still well-equipped to beat the majority of the division, including “The Young Punisher.”

Munhoz has an absolute bear trap of a guillotine and is tougher than a two-dollar steak in hockey pads, but his wrestling has not developed as it should, forcing him to use pressure striking to provoke opponents into ill-advised takedown attempts. While he has enough power and aggression to make this work more often than not, he can look worryingly mortal when the choke isn’t there.

Unless he can become the first person to dent Dodson’s chin, it won’t be there. Take Munhoz’s ground game out of the equation and you have a solid-but-not-spectacular bruiser, the sort that Dodson loves leading on merry, painful chases around the Octagon. Dodson’s freakish athleticism, speed, and reflexes keep him on his feet as he potshots the advancing Munhoz for three full rounds.

Prediction: Dodson by unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (14-3) vs. Priscila “Pedrita” Cachoeira (6-0)

As I write this, Shevchenko is as high as a -900 favorite in places. The second-most lopsided favorite on the card is Fight Pass opener Polyana Viana at -370, whose opponent has never beaten anyone with a win on their record. Note that I said “win on their record,” not “winning record.”

Cachoeira winning this fight would flat-out astonish me. I’m talking Darren Elkins-Mirsad Bektic levels of jaw-dropping “that did not just happen.” She’s a flat-footed power-puncher with no concept of defense or pacing, the perfect opponent for Shevchenko to dissect as she sees fit.

Cachoeria was originally supposed to debut against Lauren Murphy, which would have been somewhat winnable, but she holds zero advantages over Shevchenko outside of one-shot power and a bit of height. Shevchenko basically wins this however she wants, outclassing Cachoeira on the feet and mat in a triumphant flyweight debut.

Prediction: Shevchenko by unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Michel “Trator” Prazeres (23-2) vs. Des “The Predator” Green (20-6)

Prazeres, one of the UFC’s assortment of Unreasonably Huge Brazilian Lightweights (UHBL) alongside Francisco Trinaldo and Gleison Tibau, suffered from traditional UHBL issues when he first joined the UFC, dominating the early portions of fights before gassing to death. Like Trinaldo, however, he seems to have fixed the cardio issue and emerged as a serious threat to the division.

When he’s firing on all cylinders, his relentless takedowns, suffocating top control, and surprising hand speed are a handful for almost anyone at 155. Green, though a capable wrestler and striker in his own right, will most likely struggle with Prazeres’ boxing and raw physicality.

The one caveat, of course, is that Prazeres has nuked the scale in two of his last three fights, weighing in at 158 against Gilbert Burns and 159 against featherweight late replacement Mads Burnell. Those fights also happened to be his best cardio performances to date, and while correlation is not causality, it’s worth keeping an eye on, especially since Green will make him work for every takedown.

Expect Prazeres to find most of his success on the inside, trading high-speed punches and keeping Green’s back acquainted with the fence and mat long enough to take the decision.

Prediction: Prazeres by unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Timothy Johnson (11-4) vs. Marcelo Golm (6-0)

I am of the school that believes that the onus is on opponents to keep people from being boring. If you can’t keep the guy from leaning on you for fifteen minutes, that’s your problem. People are going to fight in the way that maximizes their chances of making money, and if you don’t like it, make him stop.

That said, god damn is Johnson painful to watch. Despite his wrestling pedigree, he struggles badly to complete takedowns, turning almost all of his fights into painful slogs against the fence. He was originally set to fight fellow grind enthusiast Luis Henrique, which could have been absolutely agonizing. Instead, he gets Golm, an untested up-and-comer with quality finishing ability and serious size but little on his résumé.

Which sounds more than a little like Johnson’s last opponent, Junior Albini. And we all know how that went.

I’ll freely admit that this pick is colored by a personal distaste for Johnson’s fighting style, but I don’t think it’s too intellectually dishonest to pick a young, imposing powerhouse to beat a guy who just lost to a young, imposing powerhouse in one-sided fashion. Johnson’s win/loss/win/loss streak ends as Golm hands him the first losing streak of his career.

Prediction: Golm by first-round TKO

185 lbs.: Thiago “Marreta” Santos (16-5) vs. Anthony “Lionheart” Smith (28-12)

If you had asked me which early-2010s Strikeforce competitor would be on a three-fight knockout streak in a crowded division going into 2018, my answer probably would not have been “the guy who got knocked out by Adlan Amagov with the most telegraphed, straight-armed windmill swing I’ve ever seen.”

And yet, here we are.

Anthony Smith has gone from a finish-or-be-finished attraction to a genuine contender on an 11-1 run, finally utilizing his towering 6’4” frame to great effect and showing surprisingly resilient takedown defense. He seems to have finally hit his stride at the age of 29, ten years and more than 40 fights into his career.

Which is why it’s a shame that Santos is going to take his head off.

“Marreta” seriously impressed me in his dismantling of Gerald Meerschaert, whom I thought would dominate him on the mat. His enormous physical strength has translated into rock-solid balance and his power is as terrifying as ever. Though Smith isn’t as fragile as his six (T)KO losses would suggest, his defense is still lacking; he has the second-highest strikes absorbed per minute on the main card and gets hit by more than half the strikes that come his way. He simply cannot mix it up with Santos and expect things to go well.

I want to see Santos against a powerhouse wrestler before I hop back on the hype train, but I’m comfortable saying that he adds Smith to his highlight reel.

Prediction: Santos by first-round knockout

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 125 fight card on fight night (click here), 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 and the main card at at 10 p.m. ET.

For much more on this weekend’s UFC Fight Night 125 event, click here.

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