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All The McGregor Vs. Khabib MMA Media Predictions You Can Handle!

TL;DR: MMAmania.com polled more than 20 members of mixed martial arts (MMA) media, as well as its own staff, about who would win UFC 229’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event this weekend between Lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and former 145- and 155-pound kingpin, Conor McGregor. Of the 31 responses, 18 favored McGregor and 12 picked Nurmagomedov, with one individual undecided on the outcome. That would mean select MMA media gives “Notorious” a 60 percent chance of winning, while “The Eagle” has a 40 percent chance to retain his world title. Meanwhile, sportsbooks in Las Vegas, Nevada, currently (at the time of this writing) have Nurmagomedov as a slight betting favorite (-150) over the Irishman. But, let’s not bore you with stats and numbers, check out all the reasons folks are so split on this highly-anticipated match up … the biggest ever, according to UFC President, Dana White.


MMA Mania Predictions

Khabib 6, Conor 3

Jesse Holland (@JesseHollandMMA) – MMAmania.com: “You don’t need me to tell you that Conor McGregor is a magnificent striker with frightening knockout power, any more than you need me to remind you how great Khabib Nurmagomedov is at taking fighters down and smashing them into pieces. You know the old saying: always bet a horse by its record. “Notorious” has been taken down six times in his UFC career, but I’ve never seen “The Eagle” get knocked down. I’ve also seen McGregor lose rounds and get finished by submission. The only thing I’ve ever seen from Nurmagomedov is victory. “One shot, one kill” might work in those Hollywood sniper movies, but for a lightweight striker who lives and dies on his timing, a two-year layoff against an active ground fighter feels less like a title fight and more like corporal punishment.”

Thomas Myers (@TommyMyers ) – MMAmania.com: Back in 2006, I predicted that Renato “Babalu” Sobral would avoid the one-punch knockout power of then-Light Heavyweight champion, Chuck Liddell, close the distance, take down “Iceman,” strangle him and then hoist the 205-pound strap into the rafters. In hindsight, it was really, really dumb. But, I figured it was one of the few chances to actually make a logical argument against Liddell winning — he was in his prime and was straight up murdering dudes on the feet at the time (five straight knockouts). I was relatively young at the time, certainly not the brilliant “expert” analyst I have grown to become over time (this is oozing sarcasm). Indeed, I am older now, but not necessarily wiser … at least when it comes to fight predictions. So, naturally, I’ve decided to potentially repeat a terrible mistake from the past and will pick Nurmagomedov to close the distance, take down “Notorious,” strangle him and then hoist the undisputed 155-pound strap into the rafters this weekend. If McGregor wins, though, I will never bet against him again. Ever. And neither should you.”

Patrick Stumberg – MMAmania.com: “Conor McGregor is a special fighter, but I’m not sure he’s ‘come back from a two-year layoff against the toughest style match up in the division’ special. Khabib has shown the sort of durability and endless pressure that Conor has struggled with in the past, and the grueling nature of his grappling style means Conor’s gas tank is going to empty in a hurry. Khabib survives a few big shots in the first round to drag Conor to the mat and pound him into the dirt.”

Adam Guillen (@AdamGuillenJr) – MMAmania.com: “This is the type of fight that wake you up on a Saturday morning. I’m taking Khabib in this one. Conor is in fact one of the best to ever compete in the sport, but he’s never rubbed up against someone like Khabib. I don’t believe in ring rust, BUT, Conor’s stamina and cardio in a potential five-round fight will be tested here, as Khabib will more than likely drag this fight to the ground and smother and beat on “Notorious” for 25 minutes if he can. While I don’t think it will exactly be a repeat of the Edson Barboza beatdown, Khabib will do his thing in the grappling department and on the ground, ultimately getting a technical knockout win (ground-and-pound) over Conor in the 4th round.”

Ryan Harkness (@Ryan_Harkness ) – MMAmania.com: “I’m expecting this fight to go down similar to the Chad Mendes fight from 2015. Round one will see Khabib take down McGregor repeatedly, bloodying him up in the process. But in round two McGregor catches Khabib coming in sloppy. Maybe it’s a knee. Maybe it’s an elbow or punch. But the shot dazes Khabib and puts him on the defensive. McGregor starts lighting Khabib up on the feet. Khabib lands another takedown, but McGregor manages to stand right back up. McGregor stalks Khabib across the cage and catches him with a body shot that leaves Nurmagomedov hunched against the fence in pain. A big left hand from McGregor follows, landing right on Khabib’s jaw and dropping him unconscious to the mat. McGregor wins via KO in round two.

Daniel Hiergesell (@DH_MMA) – MMAmania.com: “While so many MMA pundits are convinced this is a bad matchup for McGregor, few are exploring the possibility that this is even a worse matchup for Khabib. The truth is, Khabib is entering unknown territory this weekend at UFC 229. Sure he has an undefeated professional record and has never lost a round in UFC competition, but the Russian “Eagle” has never flown this close to the sun. He has never competed on a grand stage that is likely to push out 2 million PPV buys and he has certainly never faced an opponent quite like McGregor, who possesses such elite spacing and precision on the feet. Will McGregor have trouble keeping Khabib off of him? Absolutely. Could McGregor experience some cage rust having not fought in MMA since his knockout over Eddie Alvarez two years ago? It’s possible. But, at the end of the day, we’ve seen McGregor taken down before only to get back up. We’ve seen him turn a good wrestler and all-around great fighter like Alvarez into a confused champion incapable of landing any offense. We’ve seen him tested by all kinds of different fighters inside of the Octagon and he has come out the other side fairly unscathed. What we haven’t seen is a forward-attacking fighter like Khabib take a punch on the chin from one of the best strikers in the game. We also haven’t seen Khabib consistently finish fights when the opportunity seems to be kicking down the door. More importantly, we haven’t seen how Khabib performs against an opponent he absolutely hates. That sort of added tension and emotional output often leads to uncharacteristic mistakes and depleted gas tanks. All of this paired with McGregor’s mental warfare leads me to believe he’s going to shock Khabib early. I’m leaving the door open for an all out war at UFC 229, but for now I’m expecting a first-round knockout for ‘Mystic Mac.’”

Andrew Pearson (@Vorpality) – MMAmania.com: “Three words: Khabib, 13 seconds. No, but seriously, probably Khabib. I won’t bet on it because I kinda, sorta want Conor to win, and I never bet against my preference, but I think the odds are ~60/40 in favor of Khabib taking Conor down and roughing him up. I’m not convinced that he will finish McGregor, though, despite the Irishman’s penchant for gassing. Conor seems to have put himself through a very grueling camp in preparation for a very grueling fight, and I do expect him to have a few fleeting moments of success, maybe even in the later rounds until he gets dragged down again. He’ll snap the Russian’s head back a couple of times, giving his fans flashes of hope … but ultimately, I’m predicting that Nurmy’s large adult skull can absorb that left. Nurmagomedov by decision.”

Steve Juon (@angrymarks) – MMAmania.com: “Nurmagomedov by decision. McGregor has had too many distractions over the last two years, he’s spent too long away from the Octagon, and we’ve already seen that he’s vulnerable to a takedown. Unless he lands that Jose Aldo punch eight seconds into this fight he’s going to be taken down and mauled on the ground repeatedly just like Khabib has done to everyone else.”

Brian Jeffries (@FlyinBrianJ) – MMAmania.com: “Each guy possesses the other’s kryptonite. Conor has the touch of death in his left hand, which seemingly spells disaster for Khabib’s rudimentary striking. Khabib is arguably the best takedown and ground and pound specialist in the UFC, plus he has amazing cardio. A combination that Conor has never been up against. Yada yada, we all know the stylistic matchup. I’m rooting for McGregor because he produces clicks for my videos, social media, articles, etc. Conor Bless. As for an official prediction? I’ve got Mystic Mac via left hand shot in the first round.”


MMA Media Predictions

Khabib 6, Conor 15, Undecided 1

Dave Meltzer (@davemeltzerWON) – MMAFighting.com: “This is a hard one because either can win and it depends largely on McGregor’s ability to defend takedowns, but in a five-round fight, he should have a chance to get his rhythm standing, and if he does, can finish Nurmagomedov.”

Luke Thomas (@lthomasnews) – Sirius XM / “The MMA Hour:” “I’d argue the kind of pre-fight analysis you’re bound to see is totally out of its depth and likely (more than normal) to be inaccurate. Both fighters have known games, but how the two will pair is exceedingly difficult to forecast. Lots of different complexions and outcomes are plausible. There are simply too many variables, known and unknown, that can skew this in a number of directions. Is there one outcome more likely than the plausible others? History would suggest a slight lean toward Nurmagomedov. His capacity for work in a labor intensive style against a fighter known to be severely diminished by fatigue onset probably will matter. That combined with his defensive instincts having never been KO’d or dropped in professional competition is something that stands out. Then again, whatever we think McGregor’s ceiling is, he routinely shows its underestimated on fight night. He is such a strong performer when the stakes are the highest and pressure the most intense. His ability to strike going forward or backing up is nearly peerless. His takedown defense and ground game are criminally underrated. There’s a defensible case for either. Championship material goes a long way. May the best man win.”

Stephie Haynes (@CrooklynMMA) – BloodyElbow.com: “I’ve been on the fence about this fight since it was first announced and have gone back and forth no less than 100 times. Now that it’s down to the wire and someone is asking me to make an honest to God choice, my gut is telling me McGregor. Both men are incredibly talented, but I think Conor’s power is going to be the game-changer and will bring an early end to the contest. That said, I would not be surprised in the slightest if it goes all five rounds and sees Nurmagomedov the victor.”

Mark La Monica (@LaMonicaMark) – Newsday: “I’ll start this prediction with a crazy prop bet: Conor McGregor will attempt and successfully complete a takedown of Khabib Nurmagomedov in the first round. Why? It’s the unconventional, unexpected move from McGregor. The best fighters often take the fight to their opponent’s area of strength to surprise them and to attempt to break their will. Jon Jones did it regularly. Takedowns or not, though, Nurmagomedov’s will appears extremely hard to break. Don’t mistake his silence at calm demeanor at public events as weakness or being rattled. He’s a subdued dude. He’s also an undefeated mauler of men (and a slightly kinder grappler of bear cubs). McGregor is something of an underrated striker (in the sense that his fighting ability usually trails his soundbites, personality, attire and whiskey in people’s talking points), yet he may be the best in the business at it. Nurmagomedov overcomes that and the referee stops the bout in the fourth round for the TKO.”

Heidi Fang (@HeidiFang) – Las Vegas Review Journal: “I’m going to pick McGregor based on his striking advantage and pinpoint accuracy. I know Nurmagomedov is undefeated and the favorite based on his superb ground game and ability to suck the will out of his opponents, but the fight starts on the feet. That’s where Conor has the upper hand. McGregor and his team have always produced the right game plan for most of their opponents and I think they will find a way to exploit the holes in Nurmagomedov’s striking. Not only that, should Nurmagomedov make the simplest of mistakes, McGregor will launch a counter that will end Nurmagomedov’s title reign.”

Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) – UFC.com: “It’s tough to pick against an undefeated wrecking machine like Khabib Nurmagomedov but I stopped doubting Conor McGregor a long time ago. I’m going with Conor by TKO inside three rounds.”

Jonathan Snowden (@JESnowden) – Bleacher Report: “In 2015, after an injured McGregor took everything Chad Mendes had to offer, I told myself that this was a fighter I’d never bet against. A lot of fighters have great physical tools. Just as many have the heart of a champion. But very few have both. Conor is one of them. He’ll weather an early storm and come back to knock Khabib out in the third.”

Hunter Homistek (@HunterAHomistek) – Flo Combat: “We’re well aware of the style matchup here. We know Conor owns the striking advantage. We know Khabib will turn the fight into a snuff film if he can take McGregor down. The only question here is: Which path will the fight actually take? Logic says Khabib should win. When a fighter boasts a “puncher’s chance,” that chance rarely materializes…. But, Saturday night is the exception. Conor will land that left, it will stagger Khabib, and he will follow-up with smart, precise shots to earn the TKO finish. Round 2.”

Andrew Lawrence (@TheClownKid) – MiddleEasy.com: “Conor McGregor bounces Khabib’s head off the canvas sometime in the first round. You gotta BELIEVE! Shout out to ‘The Secret.’”

Zane Simon (@TheZaneSimon) – BloodyElbow.com: “Gotta take Khabib all the way. While both men have gaps where the other excels, it’s a lot lot easier for me to see Khabib surviving just long enough standing to get McGregor down than it is to see McGregor surviving long enough under Khabib to get back up and start doing damage again. Either is distinctly possible, but if I’m playing the odds on what’s more likely, McGregor’s questionable takedown defense seems like the bigger liability.”

Shawn Bitter (@mmawizzard) – MMA Today News: “In terms of striking, McGregor has a huge advantage as Khabib comes in with a wide stance and is sloppy with his offense output on the feet. Khabib also comes in on a straight line where he doesn’t allow himself to create angles. Against a guy like McGregor who has incredible timing and accuracy he will knock out Khabib if he’s not able to close the distance. McGregor’s takedown isn’t bad but it’s his ability to get back to his feet once he winds up on his back which is the problem. With that said, if Khabib gets the takedowns he will easily win this. It’s a tough fight to predict as it’s who will execute their game play first. I’d have to go with McGregor just because I think he can catch Khabib early coming in and knock the Russian out in round 1 but I’ve literally went back and fourth with the outcome.”

Danny Segura (@dannyseguratv) – MMAFighting.com: “I think we may be in for an awakening. There’s no question Khabib is legit, but he’s been tagged before by fighters with much less power and striking technique than McGregor. I think to take McGregor down you need a blast-double-explosive-wrestling type of guy and that’s just not Khabib. I see McGregor winning by KO.”

Mike Allardyce (@mikedyce) – MMA at Sports Illustrated: “I’ve stopped doubting Conor McGregor because whenever he is faced with an opponent and appears over matched, he comes through in spectacular fashion. Khabib Nurmagomedov is his toughest challenge to date and will test that trend. But McGregor’s advantage is always that the fight starts standing up. Anyone coming in has to close the distance and risk being caught by McGregor’s striking. We’ve seen McGregor’s striking derail wrestler’s plans. We’ve seen McGregor appear emotional in the lead up to a fight but also his ability to leave that in the locker room and focus in the fight. At UFC 202 against Nate Diaz, McGregor was able to stick to a game plan and avoid following Diaz to the mat to put himself in jeopardy. We should expect another smart gameplan from McGregor. I expect a finish in the first three rounds.”

Jed Meshew (@JedKMeshew) – MMAFighting.com: “Conor needs a KO in early rounds and the ring rust with hamper his usual quick start. Plus Khabib is secretly extremely good at not getting hit. Nurmy Smash.”

Nick Baldwin (@NickBaldwinMMA) – BloodyElbow.com: “This is a true coin-toss fight. Of course, it comes down to whether Nurmagomedov can get McGregor down and keep him down — and more specifically, the latter. We all know Nurmagomedov will get McGregor down at least once, but perhaps McGregor’s get-up game has improved. Nurmagomedov needs to hold him down to win. On the feet, McGregor is far superior, and probably has just as big an advantage as Nurmagomedov does on the ground. Michael Johnson tested Nurmagomedov’s chin in 2016, and there’s a good chance McGregor tests it even more on Saturday. McGregor has fought the better competition, but usually things like that don’t matter in Nurmagomedov fights because no matter what, he just mauls guys on the ground. Such a tough one to call, and that’s one of the many reasons this is the biggest fight in MMA history. Ultimately, the coin lands on McGregor.”

Justin Golightly (@SecretMovesMMA) – Flo Combat: “Conor McGregor is like a snake that can fire a sniper rifle. He’s elusive, has a PhD in distance, possesses scary reach for a fighter his size, and mutant power. However, all these compliments exist as long as McGregor is vertical. An entire collection of hyperbole could be thrown around to describe Khabib Nurmagomedov once it goes to the ground. It doesn’t take an expert analyst to predict if McGregor gets taken down he’ll look like he got locked in a dryer with a bunch of bricks. On the other hand, if Khabib decides to work on his boxing for a couple of rounds like he did with Al Iaquinta, he’ll be sleeping on top of a Proper Whiskey logo. That’s why this fight is so compelling. Both fighters are so damn good in their specialties that the winner will be decided by who treads water the longest in an unsurvivable storm. Khabib’s a mauler, but he can’t take McGregor out in one shot. McGregor can and Khabib keeps his head straight up in the air. Every round starts standing and if McGregor can defend even a few takedowns, I think he creates a fraction more opportunities to win than Khabib does. I got McGregor via TKO in round two.”

Tony Fagnano (@BigToneMMA) – MMA Today News: “Khabib. But he’s chinny and McGregor has the touch of death you say. Well, maybe not. Hey Jamie pull that up real quick! In the Michael Johnson fight if you rewatch that sequence where the Dagestanian was “rocked” you’ll see a fighter shaken up for a split second after taking one on the chin and quickly regaining his composure. We’re talking about a guy who mauled one of the hardest hitters in the division and then decided mid fight he was going to have a sparring session with him. Can McGregor catch the unbeaten Sambo destroyer? Sure, everyone has a punchers chance and the Irishman’s takedown defense is nothing to scoff at. Nevertheless the most likely outcome is the former champ gasses as he’s done in his last 3 fights inside and out of the cage and is either TKO’d or more likely gives up his neck in the 3rd or 4th round.”

Phoenix Carnevale (@microphonephoen) – AXSTV Cage Side Reporter: “I hate to say this but I have got to go with Conor. It’s obvious to me that he has a plan and I think the superior speed and striking will prevail. He’s a wordsmith and he has me convinced.”

Tim Bissell (@timobiss) – BloodyElbow.com: “I’m not a good enough of an analyst to divorce what I want to happen from what I think will happen. What I want from this fight is chaos, both in the moment and for the future of the UFC (with a star whose control over their own career could bring about fundamental – maybe even cataclysmic – change for the promotion). For that reason, I’m picking McGregor by first round KO.”

Alexander Lee (@AlexanderKLee) – MMAFighting.com: “Nurmagomedov is the latest in a long line of McGregor foils who were all set to expose “The Notorious;” with respect to Jose Aldo et al., the difference is that the nigh-unstoppable Nurmagomedov will actually be the one to do it.

Lewis McKeever (@Mckeever89) – BloodyElbow.com: “I have this fight 50/50 down the line, although I lean ever so slightly towards Khabib simply for the fact that, historically, the grappler beats the striker. However, Conor is no ordinary striker and Khabib is no ordinary grappler. I will say that I want Conor to win because I find his style much more exciting. Could we see another Miocic vs. Ngannou? Possibly. Maybe. I have no idea.”

Lucas Rezende (@ rezenluc) – BloodyElbow.com: “My pick is Khabib. It might come as no surprise, but I’m betting on him taking Conor down every chance he gets and then just pounding him until he finds an opening for a submission, which I think will happen by, say, the third round.”

That’s a wrap! A huge thank you to all the MMA media members and online socialites who contributed to this post — we obviously couldn’t have done this without you. The only thing left to do now is enjoy the biggest, most anticipated UFC fight in recent memory.

Dee-lish.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 229 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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Predictions! UFC 229 FOX Sports 1 ‘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., Sept. 8, 2018) when UFC 229: “Khabib vs. McGregor” storms T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC 229 “Prelims” party with the second — and final — installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Showtime … at last!

Conor McGregor makes his long-awaited return to the Octagon this Saturday (Sept. 29, 2018) against reigning Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, headlining the year’s biggest mixed martial arts (MMA) event inside T-Mobile Arena in Last Vegas, Nevada. Meanwhile, former champs Tony Ferguson and Anthony Pettis battle in the co-feature of a pay-per-view (PPV) main card that also includes Derrick Lewis vs. Alexander Volkov for a potential crack at the Heavyweight title.

There are four more UFC 229 “Prelims” undercard bouts left to examine (check out the first batch here). Let’s go!

125 lbs.: Sergio Pettis vs. Jussier Formiga

Sergio Pettis (17-3) was in the midst of a four-fight win streak, the longest of his UFC career, when he ran afoul of future champ Henry Cejudo and suffered a decision loss in Dec. 2017. Six months later, “The Phenom” welcomed Joseph Benavidez back to the Octagon and became the first man not named Demetrious Johnson or Dominick Cruz to defeat “Joe B.”

He has knocked out and submitted three opponents apiece, though none in his last 11 fights.

Jussier Formiga (21-5) fought back from close losses to Henry Cejudo and Ray Borg to choke out Ulka Sasaki in Saitama, setting up a fight with the surging Ben Nguyen in Perth. Formiga proved he was more than just a grappler by dropping the local favorite with a spinning back fist before locking up his favored rear-naked choke.

Indeed, eight of his 10 submission victories have come via rear-naked choke.

Pettis impressed me in a big way against Benavidez, but it was hard not to notice the rust Benavidez was sporting, and the latter still managed to take Pettis down twice. In fact, Pettis has been taken down in all but one of his UFC fights. Even Brandon Moreno — not known for his wrestling prowess — got him down four times.

He’s usually able to scramble up, but that’s just not an option here. When Formiga gets you down, he goes to your back and he stays there until either the bell rings or he gets his forearm under your chin. Pettis doesn’t hit hard enough to dissuade the Brazilian, who’s developed enough striking to set up his wrestling. Formiga’s impeccable back control wins him another one as he stays glued to “The Phenom” for huge chunks of each round.

Prediction: Formiga via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Vicente Luque vs. Jalin Turner

A 1-1 run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21 and subsequent loss to Mike Graves at the Finale gave way to a 6-1 run for Vicente Luque (13-6-1), all the victories by stoppage within two rounds. Since losing a decision to fellow top prospect Leon Turner, Luque has submitted Niko Price and knocked out Chad Laprise.

He has knocked out and submitted six opponents each.

Jalen Turner (7-3) earned six first-round victories, five of them knockouts to earn a spot on the “Contender Series” opposite Max Mustaki. Turner dominated the first round with his striking before a broken foot forced Mustaki to bow out before the second.

“The Tarantula” will have a four-inch height advantage over “The Silent Assassin.”

Turner looks like a quality young prospect, and though he’s making his first appearance at Welterweight after a career-long run at 155 pounds, I expect his 6’3” frame to hold up nicely at this new division. That said, I’m not entirely sure what UFC was thinking pitting him against one of the most devastating young talents in the entire organization.

Turner is worryingly easy to hit, falling into the standard Lanky Dude Pitfall of standing too upright and not moving his head, and can step too far inside when looking to work the body. Beyond having the wrestling and ground game to exploit these habit, Luque’s developed genuinely crushing power in his hands. The math isn’t too difficult here.

Prediction: Luque by first-round knockout

135 lbs.: Tonya Evinger vs. Aspen Ladd

Tonya Evinger (19-7) pounded out Irene Aldana for the Invicta Bantamweight title in 2015, then successfully defended it four times before making the jump to the UFC. Her Octagon debut saw her step up on short notice against Cris “Cyborg” and survive two full rounds against the Featherweight champ.

This will be the first fight for “Triple Threat” in 14 months because of injuries on both her and Ketlen Vieira’s parts.

Following an 8-1 amateur run, Aspen Ladd (6-0) debuted professionally in Invicta and went undefeated (5-0), toppling Amanda Cooper and Sijara Eubanks along the way. Her Octagon debut saw her take down Lina Lansberg and secure her fourth ground-and-pound victory.

She has been out of action for nearly a year after a blown weight cut scrapped her April fight with Leslie Smith.

Though Ladd still has a lot of work to do cleaning up her striking, she already has the tools needed to win this. Evinger thrives when she can control the wrestling, which figures to be an uphill battle against the younger Ladd. In addition, Ladd pushes a terrific pace, allowing her volume to compensate for technical shortcomings.

This just looks like a case of a veteran getting outworked by a younger, more active fighter. Unless Ladd’s new weight class has a major impact, she lands enough left hooks and controls enough grappling exchanges to get the win.

Prediction: Ladd via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Alan Patrick vs. Scott Holtzman

Brazil’s Alan Patrick (15-1) has quietly assembled a 5-1 record during his five years in the Octagon, including an ongoing three-fight win streak. He was last seen returning from more than a year away to defeat Damir Hadzovic in Belem.

“Nuguete” will have two inches of height and five inches of reach on “Hot Sauce.”

Scott Holtzman (11-2) — a former hockey player — has gone 4-2 in the world’s largest fight promotion and will enter the cage this weekend on a two-fight streak of his own. He was last seen defeating Darrell Horcher in Fresno in Dec. 2017 on the Brian Ortega vs. Cub Swanson-led card.

Three of his five stoppage wins have come via (technical) knockout.

Patrick is a horrendously boring fighter, but you can’t argue with results. “Nuguete” has scored 19 combined takedowns in his last three fights, meaning the fight goes to the ground when, if, and how he wants it to. Though Holtzman is the sharper striker, his defensive grappling hasn’t caught up with the offensive part, and the need to get inside of Patrick’s reach to land strikes opens him up to those endless takedowns.

Patrick likely isn’t long for the sport at age 35 and doesn’t have the time to develop the striking needed to fully exploit his length, but this is an extremely winnable fight for him. Indeed, steady takedowns carry him to another decision victory.

Prediction: Patrick via unanimous decision

UFC 229: Must. See. T. V. There is nothing left to say. See you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 229 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: 138-64

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Predictions! Bellator 206 Preview, Quick Picks For ‘Mousasi Vs. MacDonald’

Gegard Mousasi

Bellator 206: “Mousasi vs. MacDonald” takes place this weekend (Sat., Sept. 29, 2018) at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., featuring the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion’s return to the famed “Shark Tank” with a meeting of two world champions and the renewal of an old rivalry that’s already taken place three times to date.

Let’s break it down:

185 lbs.: Gegard Mousasi (44-6-2) vs. Rory MacDonald (20-4)

Things are certainly rolling for Mousasi right now — he’s on a seven-fight win streak (five in UFC, two in Bellator) with five technical (knockout) finishes in that span. The last one of those was a quick first round finish of Rafael Carvalho that made “The Dreamcatcher” Bellator’s 185-pound champion. At 32 he may be actually getting better with age even though he’s already had more than 50 professional MMA fights. That’s a scary proposition for anybody seeking to dethrone him as the new champion.

MacDonald loves a challenge, though, and the Welterweight kingpin is looking to become a two-weight class title holder. This is only natural since the Bellator 206 card kicks off the Welterweight Grand Prix to find a new contender for MacDonald’s title, and “The Red King” needs something else to do in the meantime. He doesn’t hold the long win streak that Mousasi does, but considering he lost to Robbie Lawler and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson before jumping to Bellator, it’s not like he wasn’t fighting world class competition in all four of his most recent fights.

Can MacDonald successfully make the jump to 185 pounds to claim another belt? Well, he’s already a decent sized Welterweight (6’0” with a 76-inch reach), but Mousasi is two inches taller and has the same reach. Mousasi seems to be able to make the cut and keep all of his power in tact as shown by him having 24 knockouts in 44 wins (54 percent) and he’s also a strangler on the ground with 12 submission wins. There’s no good place to go with Mousasi — he’ll take an opponent standing or finish him on the mat.

MacDonald is the epitome of the “well rounded” modern MMA fighter, though — seven knockout wins, seven submission wins, and six decisions. Also if we learned anything from his two fights with Lawler let alone his war with Carlos Condit, it’s that you absolutely have to beat the bricks off MacDonald to get the win. He’s not the type to quit in a fight no matter how bruised, bloody or beaten he might be. Mousasi has finished numerous opponents with his power and accuracy, but the 28-year-old MacDonald has only been finished twice by the aforementioned Lawler and Condit.

In short, strap yourself in for an epic war this weekend.

Final prediction: Gegard Mousasi retains via split decision

265 lbs.: Quinton Jackson (37-13) vs. Wanderlei Silva (35-13-1-1)

I feel like there’s a metaphor in this fight somewhere about two old lions who no longer lead the pack, but still have their PRIDE (sorry I couldn’t resist) and won’t back down from each other. This will be the fourth time they’ve met over an epic series of fights that dates all the way back to Nov. 2003, an astonishing 15-year rivalry in a sport where longevity is no guarantee. On that very note things haven’t gone so well lately for either man. “Rampage” has dropped two straight to Chael Sonnen and “King Mo” Lawal, while Silva hasn’t strung together two back-to-back wins since 2005-2006.

Yikes.

For the series as a whole, Silva holds the 2-1 edge, but the last time they met a decade ago Jackson finished Silva with a vicious knockout. Jackson’s stand-up prowess is famous, yet we haven’t seen him knock anybody out since Christian M’Pumbu at Bellator 110, and M’Pumbu always seemed like a small and skinny Light Heavyweight, though credit where it’s due as Bellator’s inaugural champion. At least getting a knockout in 2014 puts him one ahead of Silva, who hasn’t had one in five years since facing Brian Stann on Fuel TV. Jackson is also slightly younger at 40 (versus 41) if that makes any difference.

The longer I spend trying to break down this fight the more I suspect that we’ve reached a point in their respective careers where there’s really nobody else left for the other to fight. Their rivalry is famous, but their records suggest that we won’t see them ever rise to the top again in any major promotion. On paper they are within shooting distance of each other in every way. Silva stands 5’11” with a 74-inch reach, while Jackson stands 6’1” with a 73-inch reach. Both enjoy striking more than submissions. What conclusion can we draw from this? Only one. They touch gloves, go back to their corners, and come out swinging at the bell to see who drops first.

There’s one other thing in Jackson’s favor and that’s having at least one (if not several) fights a year every year dating back to 1999. Silva, on the other hand, had a four-year layoff (due in part to a drug test failure) from 2013-2017 and hasn’t looked like he improved at all in that time, with an equally aged Chael Sonnen easily out-wrestling him last year. Rampage may be on the wrong side of his long career, but he did have a five-fight win streak during Silva’s absence. That plus the fight being tailor made to play to what Jackson loves to do the most leads me to think the series is about to be all tied up.

Final prediction: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson wins via second round technical knockout

170 lbs.: Douglas Lima (29-7) vs. Andrey Koreshkov (21-2)

This is the kind of fight I both love to see and hate to predict. I’d pick either man to beat just about anybody else in the entire division other than their opponent or the aforementioned “Red King.” In fact, history has played out precisely that way with Lima losing the world title to Koreshkov in 2015 then knocking him out to regain it in 2016. They are about as evenly matched as two men can be. Lima stands 6’1” with a 71-inch reach and has finished 24 of 29 wins (83 percent) with 11 knockouts and 13 submissions. The equally dangerous Koreshkov is the same height, 74-inch reach, knocking out 12 and submitting three. The third match will determine who advances in the Welterweight Grand Prix, but will do little to settle the rivalry. They could fight 10 times and go 5-5. It’s just that close. If their last five rounder is any indication, though, Lima may have more power in the later rounds than Koreshkov.

Final prediction: Douglas Lima via split decision

145 lbs.: Aaron Pico (3-1) vs. Leandro Higo (18-4)

Team Body Shop-trained fighter Aaron Pico is rapidly improving after a rough start in his debut on pay-per-view (PPV). He has reeled off three straight wins since that time and the power of his punch is quickly turning into something to make potential opponents turn down a fight. At only 21 years old, he has virtually nowhere to go in his career but up. Leandro Higo is more of a mixed bag. He was on an eight-fight win streak before coming to Bellator, dropped two of three since his debut, and missed weight for a title shot to boot. Even though he holds a huge experience edge over Pico, I honestly question how much difference it makes given Pico is 5’8” with a 70.5-inch reach and “Pitbull” Higo is 5’6” with a 72-inch reach. Higo is better known for submissions than striking so Pico needs to do what he does best — work the body.

Final prediction: Aaron Pico wins via first round technical knockout

115 lbs.: Keri Taylor-Melendez (2-0) vs. Dakota Zimmerman (0-0)

I’ll just keep this short and sweet like Keri Melendez herself — one is a ferocious fighter with a kickboxing background and the other has never had a professional fight in her life much less with a more experienced foe. The outcome is obvious.

Final prediction: Keri Taylor Melendez via second round knockout

145 lbs.: Gaston Bolanos (3-1) vs. Ysidro Gutierrez (4-2)

A very late addition to the main card sees the streaking Bolanos (back to back first round knockouts at Bellator 189 and Bellator 199) take on the more experienced Gutierrez, who is batting 500 over his last four bouts and most recently took a split decision win in July. Bolanos is the smaller fighter at 5’7” versus 5’9” but based on the fact Gutierrez has one knockout and three decision wins whereas Bolanos has three knockout wins and NO decisions, I think size is NOT a factor here. If it is then it’s actually because Bolanos can pack more muscle onto a smaller frame and hits harder as a result.

Final prediction: Gaston Bolanos wins by third round TKO

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 206: “Mousasi vs. MacDonald” this Saturday with fights streaming on DAZN at 10 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 Sao Paulo ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Sept. 22, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 137: “Santos vs. Anders” storms Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 137 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The injury bug is looking to give dengue fever a run for its money, as the“Manuwa vs. Teixeira”-led card this Saturday (Sept. 22, 2018) in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is now headlined by a Light Heavyweight bout between former Middleweight contenders Thiago Santos and Eryk Anders. Earlier in the evening, Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira takes on prospect Carlo Pedersoli Jr. and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira returns after nearly two years away to face Sam Alvey.

Fight Pass and FOX Sports 2 will host UFC Fight Night 137’s “Prelims” undercard bouts this time, split 5:4. Let’s check on the former:

170 lbs.: Sergio Moraes vs. Ben Saunders

Repeated injuries to himself and others kept Sergio Moraes (13-3-1) to just seven fights between 2012 and 2018, wherein he went 5-1-1. His last fight saw him take on towering striker Tim Means and escape with a highly controversial split decision in Belem.

“The Panther” has tapped seven as a professional, all but one by form of choke.

Ben Saunders (22-9-2) entered the Octagon in June against Jake Ellenberger in desperate need of a win, having suffered brutal knockout losses to Peter Sobotta and Alan Jouban in previous appearances. “Killa B” came up big with his back against the wall, knocking out “The Juggernaut” with a knee to the body in less than two minutes.

He will have two inches of height and five inches of reach on Moraes.

Moraes is as frustrating as he is talented. Despite boasting the strongest Brazilian jiu-jitsu credentials in the division behind Demian Maia, he’s content to brawl, and even when he does try to wrestle, he hasn’t developed that skill nearly enough. He’s hit one takedown in his last six fights and, going by UFC’s stats, has a takedown accuracy of less than 30 percent.

That’s an issue here. Though Saunders’ ability to take a strike has waned, he’s far sharper than Moraes on the feet. In addition, despite Moraes putting everything he’s got into all of his punches, the only (technical) knockout victory of his career came against an extremely gassed Omari Akhmedov. Saunders’ length keeps him safe from Moraes’ haymakers as he pieces up the Brazilian for a decision win.

Prediction: Saunders via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Mayra Bueno Silva vs. Gillian Robertson

Mayra Bueno Silva (4-0) scored first-round finishes in two of her first three fights to earn a spot on “Contender Series” last month, taking on unbeaten knockout artist Mayana Kellen. It took “Cheetara” just 62 seconds to lock up a ninja choke and secure a place in UFC.

This will be her return to Flyweight after two years at 135.

Gillian Robertson (5-2) — representing Team Justin Gaethje on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 28 — fell to eventual semifinalist Barb Honchak in the opening round. She’s fared quite a bit better in the Octagon itself, submitting castmate Ariel Beck and prospect Molly McCann in successive appearances.

Four of her professional wins have come by submission within two rounds.

The two fights I could find of Silva’s didn’t last long enough to give a good impression of what she can do — she’s as aggressive as you’d expect a Chute Boxe product to be and showed some sneaky submission chops. It just remains to be seen how she handles high-level opposition, and though Robertson isn’t elite, she’s a very capable fighter who beat a solid up-and-comer last time out.

As with McCann, this will be a good litmus test of where Silva is at. This is more a hunch than anything, as I mentioned that it’s hard to make a qualitative analysis of someone’s skills based on like three combined minutes of footage, but I say Silva catches her in transition for a crowd-pleasing finish.

Prediction: Silva via first-round submission

185 lbs.: Thales Leites vs. Hector Lombard

Thales Leites (27-9) exited UFC in 2009 after consecutive losses to Anderson Silva and Alessio Sakara, then won six of his next seven to earn another shot in the Octagon. Though he started his second Octagon tenure by going undefeated (5-0), he’s now lost five of his last seven, including suffering the first (technical) knockout loss of his career to a badly injured Jack Hermansson in May.

He stands four inches taller than Hector Lombard (34-9-1) and will have seven inches of reach on him.

Lombard — who once put together a 20-fight win streak — has not tasted victory since 2014, losing five straight since a failed drug test overturned a win over Josh Burkman. His latest defeat was the most bizarre yet, as he got himself disqualified by dropping C.B. Dollaway well after the bell.

He boasts 19 (technical) knockouts among his 26 stoppage wins.

Literally anything could happen here — this pair’s collective fight IQ struggles to reach the double digits. I wouldn’t be surprised by anything short of one of them pulling a knife.

In terms of pure ability, Lombard’s power and Judo prowess are more visually impressive, but Leites is extremely durable. As I mentioned, only Hermansson has put him away with strikes, and that was more accumulation than anything. Lombard’s inability to pace himself when he can’t wipe out his foe in a hurry is a critical flaw here, and after a strong first round, I expect him to lose more and more ground to Leites, who’ll strike his way to 29-28s across the board.

Prediction: Leites via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Elizeu Zaleski vs. Luigi Vendramini

Elizeu Zaleski (19-5) went from losing his UFC debut to winning five consecutive fights, earning three “Fight of the Night” bonuses along the way. His last time out, “Capoeira” lived up to his nickname in dramatic fashion by knocking out Sean Strickland with a wheel kick and follow-up punches.

He has knocked out 13 opponents as a professional.

A 22-year-old prospect out of Constrictor Team, which features the likes of Rani Yahya and Renato Moicano, Luigi Vendramini (7-0) has yet to see the judges as a professional, ending all but two fights in the first round. He last fought in Aug. 2017, knocking out Adriano Andre in his first trip to the third round.

He steps in for the injured Belal Muhammad on a week’s notice.

Vendramini’s a young guy out of a good camp, but his strength of schedule is horrendously bad. Only his most recent opponent had a win on his record. And no, I don’t mean “winning record.” Tapology has him outside the Top 100 among Brazilian Lightweights and, as far as I can tell, he’s never fought at 170 pounds.

Zaleski, on the other hand, is the most violent man in the division and on an absolutely terrific run. Unless Vendramini has improved exponentially in the past year, Zaleski obliterates him in short order.

Prediction: Zaleski via first-round technical knockout

115 lbs.: Livia Renata Souza vs. Alex Chambers

Livia Renata Souza (11-1) submitted Katja Kankaanpaa in her Invicta debut to win the Strawweight title, then stopped DeAnna Bennett in 90 seconds before losing a competitive split decision to Angela Hill. She picked up two more wins before signing on to debut against Jessica Aguilar in February, but wound up breaking her hand.

She has submitted seven opponents, including three by armbar.

Alex Chambers had the misfortune of facing Rose Namajunas in the opening round of TUF 20, becoming one of three women in the tournament to fall victim to her submissions. “Astro Girl” hasn’t fared much better in the Octagon, going 1-3 with the sole win a comeback submission over Kailin Curran.

Three of her four stoppage wins have come in the first round.

Chambers is 39 years old and her only win since 2013 came against a fighter who went 1-6 in the Octagon. She’s here to make Souza look good, although the Brazilian really doesn’t need the help — she’s an excellent grappler with surprising stopping power on the feet and has proven herself against some top-notch fighters in Invicta.

Unless Souza has some significant ring rust after more than a year away, she has Chambers out-gunned in every facet of the game. “Livinha” makes a statement in her UFC debut with a quick submission.

Prediction: Souza via first-round submission

Four more UFC Fight Night 137 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, among them two more “Contender Series” alums and a clash of top Lightweights. 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 137 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 2 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8:30 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” bouts to UFC Fight Pass this weekend (Sat., Sept. 15, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 136: “Hunt vs. Oleinik” storms Olympic Stadium in Moscow, Russia. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Fight Night 136 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Age is just a number.

Mark Hunt, 44, and Aleksei Oleinik, 41, headline the first-ever show for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in Moscow, Russia, this Saturday (Sept. 15, 2018) inside Olympic Stadium, leading a card full of Eastern European talent. Nikita Krylov returns after four consecutive stoppage wins in UFC Fight Night 136’s co-main event, taking on Jan Blachowicz and his three-fight win streak, while Andrei Arlovski looks to represent Belarus in hostile territory opposite Shamil Abdurakhimov. Finally, to kick off Fight Pass’ main card, undefeated M-1 Welterweight champion Alexey Kunchenko makes his Octagon debut against the ever-dangerous Thiago Alves.

Before all that, though, we’ve got four more “Prelims” undercard bouts to look at (check out the first batch here). Shall we?

185 lbs.: C.B. Dollaway vs. Khalid Murtazaliev

C.B. Dollaway (17-8) fought his way out of a three-fight skid last year with a decision over fellow The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Ed Herman at TUF 25 Finale. He then faced Hector Lombard, who got himself disqualified by knocking out Dollaway after the first-round bell.

“The Doberman” has scored six professional knockouts and three submissions.

Khalid Murtazaliev (13-2) has been nothing if not destructive in his five years as a pro, scoring (technical) knockout finishes in 11 of his 13 victories. His accomplishments also include reaching the Fight Nights Global tournament finals, where he suffered his second defeat to Absupyan Alikhanov in a bloody battle.

He takes this fight on one week’s notice after both Omari Akhmedov and Artem Frolov withdrew because of injury.

Murtazaliev’s as dangerous as the knockout percentage would have you believe, but he’s also an extremely raw talent. Though his kicks are devastatingly fast and powerful, he tends to wing his punches and showed issues getting past Alikhanov’s jab in their rematch. He also gassed late in that fight, allowing Alikhanov to catch him with an uppercut that would have felled a horse.

I see this as less of a challenge for Dollaway than Frolov would have been, but a bit more dangerous than Akhmedov. “The Doberman’s” chin has failed him in the past and Murtazaliev can do some real damage if he winds up landing on top. More likely, though, Dollaway outwrestles and outstrikes his short-notice opponent on his way to an increasingly dominant decision.

Prediction: Dollaway via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Petr Yan vs. Jin Soo Son

Petr Yan (9-1) entered the Octagon as the ACB Bantamweight champion, a title he earned by avenging a loss to Magomed Magomedov and defended with a knockout of unbeaten Matheus Mattos. He came up big as expected in his UFC debut, handing Teruto Ishihara the first knockout loss of his career.

“No Mercy” has knocked out four opponents and submitted one other.

Jin Soo Son (9-2) — a protege of “The Korean Zombie” — has spent almost all of his four-year career in Japan’s venerable DEEP promotion. His current four-fight win streak includes a knockout of Toshiaki Kitada, who had beaten Son by majority decision in 2015.

He steps in for the injured Douglas Andrade on short notice.

Full disclosure, I only managed to find one fight of Son’s, that being the finish of Kitada in April. I even tried searching his name in the original characters (손진수) without success. He wasn’t super active in that fight, either, mostly just stalking Kitada, smiling whenever he got hit, and ultimately putting him away the first time he really committed to his combinations.

It’s a good thing he enjoys getting hit, because Yan is going to hit him … a lot.

I genuinely believe Yan is already ready for a Top 15- or Top 10-ranked opponent. Andrade would have been an interesting foe, as Yan is a bit easy to hit and Andrade has concrete in his hands, but Son presents no such stylistic intrigue. “No Mercy” scores another early finish.

Prediction: Yan via first-round technical knockout

155 lbs.: Rustam Khabilov vs. Kajan Johnson

Rustam Khabilov (22-3) has quietly assembled a five-fight win streak since dropping consecutive decisions to Benson Henderson and Adriano Martins (all via decision). He was last seen defeating fellow wrestler Des Green, increasing his takedown total to 21 over that five-fight stretch.

This will be his first fight in nearly a year, as he was injured before a planned fight with Johnson in March.

Kajan Johnson (23-13-1) went from being on the wrong end of one of the most violent knockouts in TUF history to winning four straight, among them a one-punch finish of the massively favored Adriano Martins. The run came to an abrupt end in August when Islam Makhachev caught him in an armbar with less than 20 seconds left in the first round.

He has finished 16 opponents as a professional, 11 by submission.

Someone in UFC brass really wants to put Johnson on a losing streak. Though Khabilov isn’t quite as slick a submission artist as Makhachev, he’s every bit as dangerous with his takedowns and looks to be physically stronger to boot. Johnson’s newfound ability to work at his preferred range won’t be much use against someone willing to drive through his strikes to get the clinch and his takedown defense can’t stand up to the Dagestani suplex machine.

Khabilov has a bad habit at times of leaning too much on his stand up and letting himself fall into a hole against sharper strikers, which is definitely a concern, but he generally wises up before the lead gets insurmountable. Khabilov repeats his countryman’s efforts, repeatedly downing Johnson and chipping away with punches from the top all night.

Prediction: Khabilov via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Mairbek Taisumov (26-5) vs. Des Green

Despite the U.S. visa office’s best efforts, Mairbek Taisumov (26-5) has torn through all comers since his 2014 loss to Michel Prazeres, scoring five consecutive knockouts and three straight post-fight bonuses. His latest win was among the most violent yet, a one-punch starching of undefeated Felipe Silva in Rotterdam.

”Beckan” has just one decision victory, 15 of the others coming by (technical) knockout.

Des Green (21-7) — a former Bellator and Titan FC standout — started strong in UFC with an entertaining split decision over Josh Emmett. He struggled against fellow grinders Rustam Khabilov and Michel Prazeres, but righted the ship in June with a decision over Gleison Tibau.

He is one inch taller than Taisumov, though their reaches are identical.

This could go a lot of ways — Green has never been stopped with strikes, and while Taisumov has yet to show any fatigue in his fights since the Prazeres debacle, none of those lasted long enough for us to get an idea of how long he can maintain that vicious pace of his. Green has a legitimate avenue of victory if he can survive those sledgehammer punches and grind the pace to a halt.

Way easier said than done, of course. Taisumov’s speed and low kicks should prevent Green from generating any consistent pressure and “Beckan” is a sound enough wrestler to keep it standing. Taisumov goes to his first UFC decision in ages, outstriking but never quite felling the ever-durable Green.

Prediction: Taisumov via unanimous decision

UFC Fight Night 136 might be short on names, but there are plenty of fighters here who always bring excitement. See you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 136 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 10:30 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 2 p.m. ET, also on Fight Pass.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 125-60

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” bouts to UFC Fight Pass this weekend (Sat., Sept. 15, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 136: “Hunt vs. Oleinik” storms Olympic Stadium in Moscow, Russia. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 136 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its first appearance on Russian soil this Saturday (Sept. 15, 2018) with a pair of Heavyweight finishers in the main event. It’s the ferocious punches of Mark Hunt against the improbable submission skills of Aleksei Oleinik in a clash of two of the sport’s most-traveled mixed martial arts (MMA) veterans.

UFC Fight Night 136’s co-feature sees Ukrainian finisher Nikita Krylov make his Octagon return against the fast-rising Jan Blachowicz, while Andrei Arlovski faces Shamil Abdurakhimov and Thiago Alves welcomes Alexey Kunchenko to UFC to round out Fight Pass’ main card.

The entire event is on Fight Pass, actually, but still split into main card and “Prelims” undercard bouts. Let’s check out a chunk of the latter:

205 lbs.: Magomed Ankalaev vs. Marcin Prachnio

Magomed Ankalaev (10-1) looked every bit the top prospect he was supposed to be in his Octagon debut, handily outclassing Paul Craig on the feet and on the mat. In the waning moments of the fight, however, he panicked when caught in a triangle and wound up tapping with just a second left.

After starting his career with four consecutive decision, he’s scored a (technical) knockout in five of his last six wins.

Poland’s Marcin Prachnio (13-3) used his Kyokushin prowess to rack up eight consecutive wins, six of them knockouts, on his way to UFC. He was supposed to debut against Jake Collier, but instead faced late replacement Sam Alvey, who put him to sleep in violent fashion.

His only other defeat since his third professional MMA fight came against current rising star Aleksandar Rakic.

I was heartbroken when Ankalaev tapped out, but I still have faith in the young man. He’s a strong, well-rounded fighter with devastating ground-and-pound who could make a real impact in a top-heavy division. Prachnio, on the other hand, may not get too far. I knew his defense was lacking, but I didn’t realize he’d just walk face-first into a known counter-puncher’s best shots.

Ankalaev’s straight punches will allow him to control the fight at range, and while Prachnio is quite dangerous at point-blank range, his haphazard entries open him up to Ankalaev’s takedown game. As good a scrambler as the Pole is, Ankalaev is downright lethal once he gets on top. He gets Prachnio to the mat via either knockdown or trip, then pounds him out from there.

Prediction: Ankalaev via second-round technical knockout

185 lbs.: Adam Yandiev vs. Jordan Johnson

Adam Yandiev (9-0) — a decorated judoka — has ended all of his professional fights in the first round, six of them by choke or neck crank. Despite this success at Light Heavyweight, where he regularly weighed in under the limit, he’ll make the move to 185 pounds for his Octagon debut.

This will be his first fight in nearly three years.

“Big Swingin’” Jordan Johnson (9-0) put the hurt on Henrique da Silva in his Octagon debut, using wrestling and ground-and-pound to easily overpower the Brazilian. Marcel Fortuna and Adam Milstead proved a bit tougher, as while Johnson walked away with the victory both times, media outlets were split practically down the middle.

He replaces the injured Krzysztof Jotko on less than one month’s notice.

Yandiev’s a bizarre case. Almost none of his opponents were worth a damn and, according to Bloody Elbow’s Karim Zidan, his most recent opponent fought in a suspiciously stupid manner after Yandiev gassed himself out just minutes into the fight.

His Judo looks legit, but I can’t get a bead on the rest of his game.

Not a good sign when coming off a huge layoff against a grinder. Johnson’s a solid wrestler with the gas tank to pursue the takedown and do damage on top for all three rounds, something I expect him to have a lot more success doing at 185 pounds. Johnson avoids a few early grappling hazards before ultimately pounding out the exhausted Russian.

Prediction: Johnson via third-round technical knockout

170 lbs.: Ramazan Emeev vs. Stefan Sekulic

Russia’s Ramazan Emeev (17-3) entered the Octagon on a 12-1 run, the only blemish a loss to Vyacheslav Vasilevskiy that he later avenged. He’s gone perfect (2-0) in UFC with decisions over Sam Alvey and Alberto Mina.

“Gorets” has stopped seven opponents by submission and another three by (technical) knockout.

Serbia’s Stefan Sekulic (12-2) has tasted defeat just once in his last nine fights, a bout with Adriano Balby that he was dominating before a blocked high kick attempt broke his tibia. He was back in action just eight months later and has earned a pair of guillotine finishes on his way to UFC.

He steps in for the injured Claudio Silva on short notice.

I was honestly more impressed when watching Sekulic’s tape than I thought I would be. He wrestles quite well, particularly with a knee tap he’s fond of, and his straight left is plenty sharp. The problem here is that Emeev boasts a similar, but more proven skillset. He just seems to have the edge wherever the fight could take place, and Sekulic’s lack of time to prepare won’t do him any favors.

Emeev’s combination punching figures to be a bit more effective than Sekulic’s striking offense and “Gorets” should come out on top in the wrestling exchanges. Once again, not an action-packed show from Emeev, but a win’s a win.

Prediction: Emeev via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Merab Dvalishvili vs. Terrion Ware

The brief UFC career of Merab Dvalishvili (7-4), which began after he upset Raufeon Stots on “Lookin’ for a Fight,” has been as bizarre as it has been entertaining. After losing a split decision to Frankie Saenz wherein he took down the veteran 11 times, Dvalishvili put on a show against Ricky Simon before getting controversially submitted via guillotine at the literal final instant of the fight.

He stands two inches shorter than “Flash” at 5’6.”

Terrion Ware (17-7) has been similarly unsuccessful in the Octagon, though he’s likewise given a good account of himself. His three-fight skid includes competitive losses to current standouts Cody Stamann, Sean O’Malley and Tom Duquesnoy.

Six of his nine stoppages have come via (technical) knockout.

I’m normally a bit perplexed when someone goes 0-3 and stays on UFC’s roster, but I’m glad they gave Ware another shot. He’s a legitimately skilled striker who faced some dangerous match ups and, by and large, did pretty well against them. Unfortunately for him, this might be the most toxic style clash yet. Dvalishvili’s wild wrestling and immense strength mean Ware will struggle to get anything going on the feet before getting manhandled.

Though Dvalishvili will always be vulnerable because of his madcap aggression, this is an extremely winnable fight for him. Ware is nowhere near as dangerous on the ground as Simon and is a lesser wrestler than Saenz, allowing Dvalishvili to spam takedowns with impunity. Another smorgasbord of takedowns earn him the win.

Prediction: Dvalishvili via unanimous decision

Four more UFC Fight Night 136 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, among them the latest from knockout machine Mairbek Taisumov and blue-chip Bantamweight prospect Petr Yan. 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 136 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 10:30 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 2 p.m. ET, also on Fight Pass.

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Predictions! UFC 228 FX ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 2

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FX this weekend (Sat., Sept. 8, 2018) when UFC 228: “Woodley vs. Till” storms American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC 228 “Prelims” preview party with the second — and final — installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight and women’s Flyweight division face potential upheaval this Saturday (Sept. 8, 2018) when Darren Till and Valentina Shevchenko attempt to wrest the belts from Tyron Woodley and Nicco Montano. American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, will also see Zabit Magomedsharipov against late replacement Brandon Davis and what should be a slobberknocker between 170-pound knockout artists Abdul Razak Alhassan and Niko Price.

UFC 228 features four “Prelims” undercard bouts, which is chock-full of ranked fighters and still remains for us to check out (check out the Fight Pass portion here). Shall we?

115 lbs.: Carla Esparza vs. Tatiana Suarez

Carla Esparza (13-5) bounced back from losses to Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Randa Markos to win two straight, including an upset of Cynthia Calvillo at UFC 219. Once again an underdog in her next match against Claudia Gadelha at UFC 225, she fought the former top contender to a contentious split decision loss.

She is five inches shorter than Tatiana Suarez (6-0) and will give up four inches of reach.

Suarez rampaged through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23 and has looked similarly unstoppable in the Octagon, going 3-0 in her UFC tenure. Her last appearance saw her dominate fellow top prospect Alexa Grasso, submitting her in less than three minutes.

Three of her four professional mixed martial arts (MMA) stoppage wins have come by submission.

On paper, this looks like Esparza vs. Calvillo all over again, the underestimated veteran against a younger, ostensibly more athletic challenger whose areas of expertise match Esparza’s own. The difference here is that Suarez’s wrestling pedigree is in a whole different dimension from Esparza’s or Calvillo’s — she was on track for the Olympics before she got injured.

If she wants you down, you’re going down.

That’s the key: Esparza beat Calvillo with unexpectedly good striking. Suarez is going to wrestle with her and all signs point to her dominating in that area. Esparza’s still a truly elite Strawweight and has a big enough bag of tricks to make this interesting, but I say Suarez overpowers her on the ground for a dominant three rounds.

Prediction: Suarez via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Aljamain Sterling vs. Cody Stamann

Aljamain Sterling (14-3) — fresh off of a one-sided win over former champ Renan Barao — wound up on the wrong end of one of 2017’s “Knockouts of the Year” when he leaned into a knee from Marlon Moraes. “The Funk Master” has since bounced back with another wide decision over then-unbeaten Bret Johns in Atlantic City.

Six of his eight stoppage wins have come by submission, four of them by rear-naked choke.

After an entertaining win over Terrion Ware in his UFC debut, Cody Stamann (17-1) turned his sights toward more notable prey, ending his 2017 campaign with an upset of top prospect Tom Duquesnoy at UFC 216. Five months later, he survived a disastrous first round to pull out another split decision over the returning Bryan Caraway.

He’s only one inch shorter than Sterling, but will give up seven inches of reach.

I keep picking against Stamann and he keeps winning, but the sunk cost fallacy doesn’t intimidate me. Sterling has the top-notch wrestling to control any ground engagements and his prodigious reach advantage should allow him to kick with impunity. Further, he’s not going to burn himself out early the way Duquesnoy did, and the variety of his attack means he won’t be as predictable as Caraway was in the later rounds.

Stamann’s tendency to surprise will have to save him here, as the stylistic and physical edges go Sterling’s way. “The Funk Master” will struggle to put away Stamann, but should mix his kicks and takedown entries to take a clear decision.

Prediction: Sterling via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Jimmie Rivera vs. John Dodson

Jimmie Rivera (21-2) brought a seven-year undefeated streak into his Octagon debut and promptly added five more wins to it, including handing Urijah Faber the first non-title defeat of his professional career. Unfortunately, it took Marlon Moraes just 33 seconds to end the streak via switch kick to the face.

He’ll have an inch of height and two inches of reach on “The Magician.”

John Dodson (20-9) made the move to Bantamweight after his second loss to Demetrious Johnson, going 3-2 while alternating wins and losses. Following the second split decision loss of that run, Dodson took on the always-dangerous Pedro Munhoz and used his customary potshotting style to bank two rounds.

He has scored nine (technical) knockout wins as a professional, including five in UFC.

Sometimes I think about how good John Dodson could be if he’d just develop his right hand. It’s a frustrating thought exercise. He’s blessed with so much power and speed in his left hand that he’s happy to just dart in with it or try to catch people with it on the counter. He never sets it up, never uses his wrestling to open new opportunities for it, and it’s gotten predictable.

In Rivera, Dodson faces a longer, crisper boxer who can maintain distance with his jab and consistently outwork his foe. Sheer speed has diminishing returns, especially if it’s used in the same way every time. I expect “The Magician” to struggle at range as he did against Marlon Moraes, landing enough eye-catching straight lefts to sway a judge, but ultimately walking away empty-handed once again.

Prediction: Rivera by split decision

185 lbs.: Charles Byrd vs. Darren Stewart

It took longer than expected, but Charles Byrd (10-4) finally impressed Dana White enough to earn a contract after two submission wins on the Contender Series. He made the most of his opportunity by making short work of John Phillips in London.

He stands two inches shorter than his British foe at 5’10.”

Darren Stewart (8-3) didn’t exactly hit the ground running in UFC, losing three of his first four bouts and settling for a “No Contest” in the other because of a headbutt. His back against the wall, Stewart came up huge in Liverpool with a technical knockout of Eric Spicely.

“The Dentist” has stopped six opponents with strikes, four in the first round.

Even with his ugly record, I’m genuinely impressed by Stewart’s improvement during his time in the Octagon. And that’s the reason it’s a shame he’s going to lose this — not only can Byrd hold his own on the feet with his speed and power, he’s got a much more developed submission game than “The Dentist,” who wrestles well offensively but leaves himself too open.

Stewart needs a massive punch to turn the tide, and though he’s certainly capable of delivering it, the variety in Byrd’s game will keep him from ever getting comfortable. Byrd mixes it up on the feet long enough to set up a takedown, after which it’s just a matter of time until Stewart taps.

Prediction: Byrd via first-round submission

UFC 228 features two title fights, Zabit Magomedsharipov, and the utter insanity that will be Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Niko Price? I’m game. See you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 228 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 119-57

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Predictions! UFC 228 Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FX this weekend (Sat., Sept. 8, 2018) when UFC 228: “Woodley vs. Till” storms American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 228 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) titles are on the line inside American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, this Saturday (Sept. 8, 2018) as champions Tyron Woodley and Nico Montano look to turn aside Darren Till and Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 228.

Earlier in the evening, Brandon Davis steps up on short notice to face top prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov and Jessica Andrade pleads her case for another title shot at Karolina Kowalkiewicz’s expense on UFC 228’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card.

Before all that, though, UFC 228 features nine “Prelims” undercard bouts, five on Fight Pass and four on FX. So let’s start from the bottom-up:

170 lbs.: Diego Sanchez vs. Craig White

Diego Sanchez (27-11) has had a, well, self-descriptive go of things lately, suffering crushing knockout losses in three of his last four fights. The last one was perhaps the most brutal yet, a savage elbow from Matt Brown that knocked the legendarily durable Sanchez into another dimension.

“The Nightmare” will surrender four inches of height and reach to “The Thundercat.”

Craig White (14-8) answered the call when Gunnar Nelson withdrew from UFC Fight Night 130, stepping up to fight Neil Magny on short notice. Things didn’t exactly go swimmingly for him, as Magny dropped him with a knee before pounding him out.

He has never gone pat the second round as a professional or amateur.

This is about the most winnable fight in UFC’s Welterweight division for Sanchez and it’s still a toss-up. White is a below-average wrestler who relies on submissions off of his back, which is one of the few things Sanchez can still deal with. That said, White’s a fair bit larger than Sanchez and “The Nightmare” can’t take a shot anymore

It’s really going to come down to whether White can catch him coming in with a knee or one of the winging punches he enjoys, because otherwise Sanchez still has what it takes to sit in someone’s guard for three rounds. I say he pulls it off, using his size to offset the wrestling issues and clipping his fading foe with something gnarly on the way in.

Prediction: White via first-round technical knockout

155 lbs.: Jim Miller vs. Alex White

Jim Miller (28-12) — closing in on his tenth year on the Octagon — enters the cage this weekend on a four-fight losing streak, the longest of his career. His last fight saw him face fast-rising Kiwi Daniel Hooker and survive three minutes before eating a nasty knee to the face.

He stands four inches shorter than Alex White (12-3), though their reach is the same.

White has struggled to find consistency in the UFC since debuting with an 88-second smashing of Estevan Payan, losing four of his next six. He’s currently 1-2 since moving to Lightweight, a stoppage of Mitch Clarke sandwiched between losses to Tony Martin and James Krause. He has knocked out and submitted five opponents apiece.

Miller’s a strange case in that he hasn’t shown any super obvious physical decline, but his game just doesn’t work anymore. His only wins since 2015 were a knockout of a completely shot Takanori Gomi, a bogus decision over Joe Lauzon, and a win over Thiago Alves wherein “The Pitbull” came in seven pounds overweight.

On the other side is White, a generalist with solid punching power, but nothing particularly outstanding in his game. I’d pick the Miller of 2014 to smoke him, but that’s not who he’s facing here. White’s punching power and Miller’s iffy takedowns allow the former to rack up the damage on the feet and earn the win.

Prediction: White via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Irene Aldana vs. Lucie Pudilova

Irene Aldana (8-4) took home “Fight of the Night” in her Octagon debut against Leslie Smith, but couldn’t pull out the win against either her or Katlyn Chookagian her next time out. She finally managed to enter the UFC win column in January with a decision over Talita Bernardo in St. Louis.

Five of her seven stoppage wins have come by first-round knockout.

Lucia Pudilova (8-2) got the chance to avenge her sole career defeat in her Octagon debut, but couldn’t quite topple Lina Lansberg despite inflicting some horrendous swelling. She’s since righted the ship with decisions over Ji Yeon Kim and Sarah Moras, extending her current run to 5-1.

She has scored two wins each by (technical) knockout and submission.

Pudilova isn’t anywhere near as much of a gimme win as Bethe Correia would have been, but she’s still someone Aldana should dominate. The Mexican bruiser has shown difficulties with strong wrestling and extreme pressure, neither of which Pudilova is likely to offer, and she’s the harder puncher by a fair margin.

Though I’m still not sure Aldana will ever become more than a fun action fighter, that’s all she really needs to be to come out on top. So long as she stays at her preferred range, she boxes up her foe on her way to a mid-round stoppage.

Prediction: Aldana via second-round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Ryan Benoit vs. Roberto Sanchez

Ryan Benoit (10-5) made waves in 2015 when, after scoring “Fight of the Night” in a losing effort against Josh Sampo, he defied +500 odds to knock out Sergio Pettis at UFC 185. He’s alternated losses and wins since, most recently knocking out local favorite Ashkan Mokhtarian in Sydney.

He has knocked out eight professional foes and submitted one other.

Roberto Sanchez (8-1) took on fellow unbeaten prospect Joseph Morales in his Octagon debut, ultimately getting dropped and choked out late in the first round. “Little Fury” came back strong against Joby Sanchez, whom he submitted in less than two minutes.

All but one of his wins have come by either rear-naked choke or armbar.

Though Benoit packs some of the heaviest hands in the division, both his striking technique and his takedown defense have continued to lag behind. Fredy Serrano and Brandon Moreno dragged him to the mat a combined 10 times and he struggled with Mokhtarian’s movements in the early going.

Not a good sign against a quick, dangerous takedown and submission artist.

Benoit throws bombs and Sanchez got his clock cleaned by Morales, but I don’t believe Benoit can land a game-changing punch before Sanchez gets in on his hips, moves to the back, and chokes him out.

Prediction: Sanchez via first-round submission

As an aside, as I was finishing up this article, Jarred Brooks announced on his Instagram that Benoit was out and that he had taken his place. At the time of submission, however, I could not find confirmation from UFC, and since I’d already written up this particular fight, I’m going to leave it up. If Brooks does wind up subbing in, I’ve got him beating Sanchez by unanimous decision.

170 lbs.: Frank Camacho vs. Geoffrey Neal

Frank Camacho (21-6) has been nothing if not entertaining during his Octagon tenure, winning “Fight of the Night” against Li Jingliang, Damien Brown and Drew Dober. The former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) hopeful is just 1-2 in that stretch, but fought his way to a controversial decision loss against Dober his last time out.

Despite his grappling base, “The Crank” has knocked out 15 professional opponents.

Geoffrey Neal (9-2) earned a spot on “Contender Series” just 11 days after his previous win, showing no ill effects from the quick turnaround en route to stopping Chase Waldon in 116 seconds. His Octagon debut was equally successful, a first-round submission of Brian Camozzi.

“Handz of Steel” stands two inches taller than Camacho and will have as many inches of reach.

Camacho is a badass and I’m always happy to see him on my screen, but I just don’t think that free-swinging style of his can work against larger, stronger men like Neal. “Handz of Steel” is more than happy to trade leather and has the length, durability and power to come out on top.

There’s a difference between going life-and-death with natural Lightweights and duking it out with a guy who can compete at Middleweight. Unless Camacho can get his wrestling going and bring those Brazilian jiu-jitsu chops of his to bear, Neal outslugs him in a terrific opener for the evening.

Prediction: Neal via unanimous decision

Four more UFC 228 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including top-ranked Bantamweight contenders Aljamain Sterling, Cody Stamann, Jimmie Rivera and John Dodson. Same time as always, Maniacs.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 228 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

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Predictions! UFC Lincoln ‘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., Aug. 25, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 135: “Gaethje vs. Vick” storms Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Fight Night 135 “Prelims” party with the second — and final — installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

It’s time for less than five rounds of Lightweight action!

Human bonus-winning machine Justin Gaethje and surging contender James Vick take their feud from Twitter to the Octagon in Lincoln, Neb., this Saturday (Aug. 25, 2018), headlining UFC Fight Night 135 inside Pinnacle Bank Arena, which will air live on FOX Sports 1. UFC Fight Night 135’s main card will also feature Bryan Barberena vs. Jake Ellenberger, Deiveson Figueiredo vs. John Moraga, and Eryk Anders vs. Tim Williams, among others.

We’ve got four more UFC Fight Night 135 “Prelims” undercard matches to check out before that, though (check out the first batch here), so let’s continue, shall we?

170 lbs.: James Krause vs. Warlley Alves

Despite riding a two-fight win streak, James Krause (23-8) elected to try his hand on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 25, where he picked up another two wins before falling to Jesse Taylor in the semifinals. He has since notched victories over Tom Gallicchio and Alex White to move his UFC record to 6-3.

He stands three inches taller than Warlley Alves (13-2) and will have an inch of reach on him.

Alves followed up his dominant TUF: “Brazil” run with four consecutive Octagon victories, only to drop consecutive bouts to Bryan Barberena and Kamaru Usman. He has since gotten back on track with wins over Salim Touahri and Sultan Aliev, the latter of whom he finished via grotesque eye swelling.

Four of his six submission wins have come by guillotine.

Assuming he doesn’t have issues making the cut, I’d prefer to see Krause at 155 pounds. At Welterweight, he’s going to struggle against more physically powerful foes, a bill which Alves fits nicely. He’s got the heavier hands of the two and should be able to power through Krause’s long-range offense to do damage on the inside.

I’m not convinced Krause has the firepower to keep Alves off of him, and judging by that less than 20 percent takedown accuracy, he’s not shutting down Alves the way Usman did. Alves’ steady pressure stifles Krause’s kicks and allows him to beat up the head and legs for a clear decision.

Prediction: Alves via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Cory Sandhagen vs. Iuri Alcantara

Two knockout victories in a combined 4:07 erased the memory of Cory Sandhagen’s (8-1) lone career loss and brought him to the Octagon this past January on an eight-day turnaround. The short notice proved no issue as he put away Austin Arnett with body shots in the second round.

He’s two inches taller than Iuri Alcantara (36-9), but will give up an inch of reach.

Alcantara’s comeback kneebar of Luke Sanders gave way to upset losses to Brian Kelleher and Alejandro Perez, the former of whom handed “Marajo” his first submission loss since 2009. He went on to prove he was still dangerous by thrashing Joe Soto in 66 seconds to secure his fourth post-fight bonus in his previous six fights.

He has knocked out and submitted 14 opponents apiece.

As great as the Soto knockout was, it feels like Alcantara’s flashes of brilliance are getting fewer and farther between. “Marajo” took a career-altering beating from Sanders before pulling off a Hail Mary submission and sleepwalked through his fight with Perez. He’s also closing in on 40 years old, meaning that freak athleticism may not last much longer.

Sandhagen, meanwhile, is a decade younger and a much smoother striker. His body attack should work well against the explosive Brazilian and Alcantara’s never been a consistent takedown artist. Barring one of the bursts of violence “Marajo” is known for, Sandhagen avoids the big left hand and out-boxes him for 15 minutes.

Prediction: Sandhagen via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Andrew Sanchez vs. Markus Perez

Andrew Sanchez (9-4) looked poised to make waves in the division after a strong TUF run, dominating Khalil Rountree and defeating Trevor Smith in his first two Octagon appearances. His cardio issues have since reared their heads, allowing underdogs Anthony Smith and Ryan Janes to knock him out in brutal fashion.

He has knocked out five opponents and submitted another two.

Markus Perez (10-1) made the most of his first LFA appearance by choking out future “Contender Series” standout Ian Heinisch to win the promotion’s Middleweight title. He fell to Eryk Anders in his short-notice Octagon debut, but picked up his first UFC victory in May with a submission of James Bochnovic.

“Maluko” steps in for Antonio Braga Neto on three weeks notice.

Sanchez could really be something special if he could learn to pace himself. Solid wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu with serviceable striking is a quality skillset, even it’ll never carry him past the monsters waiting at the top of the division.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say he wins this, even if that seems hypocritical given how I talked about Jon Tuck yesterday. He just seems like he can outclass Perez in the latter’s area of expertise, and I’d imagine that thrashing from Ryan Janes has taught him not to blow his wad early. This is the last shot I’ll give him, but I say Sanchez comes up big with his back against the wall and mixes boxing and takedowns for the win.

Prediction: Sanchez via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Mickey Gall vs. George Sullivan

Mickey Gall (4-1) rose above his Octagon origins as a C.M. Punk opponent to become a genuine contender with his 2016 submission of Sage Northcutt. He had some good moments, but couldn’t do the same to Randy Brown at UFC 217, resulting his first-ever professional defeat.

All four of his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) wins have come by rear-naked choke.

George Sullivan (17-6) started his UFC career strong with wins over Mike Rhodes and Igor Araujo, closing as the underdog in both fights. He’s just 1-3 since, suffering stoppage losses to Tim Means, Alexander Yakovlev and Niko Price, and faced a two-year layoff because of USADA issues.

“The Silencer” has knocked out 11 professional opponents.

This is a fairly obvious get-well fight for Gall, albeit one with the slightest tinge of danger. Sullivan is a threat on the feet and showed some nasty ground-and-pound against Araujo. That said, he looked hopeless on the ground against Niko Price, who struggles in most aspects of the game that aren’t punching people extremely hard, and has been taken down at least twice in every UFC appearance.

Heck, Dom Waters got him down five times.

Gall’s going to get him to the mat as soon as he wants to, and from there it’s just a matter of time until he takes the back and puts on the squeeze.

Prediction: Gall via first-round submission

Justin Gaethje means I’m tuning in, no questions asked. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 135 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET (also on FOX Sports 1).

- Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 113-56

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Aug. 25, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 135: “Gaethje vs. Vick” storms Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Nebraska. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 135 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Social media rivals Justin Gaethje and James Vick take center stage this Saturday (Aug. 25, 2018) when they headline UFC Fight Night 135 inside Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. Meanwhile, 10 pounds south, Michael Johnson attempts to end his current slump at Andre Fili’s expense, while Angela Hill fights Cortney Casey and Jake Ellenberger attempts to finally breathe life back into his Octagon career against Bryan Barberena.

Before all that, though, seven “Prelims” undercard bouts will set the stage on UFC Fight Pass and then FOX Sports 1. So let’s work our way up, starting from the bottom:

125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Kalindra Faria

The strong Invicta FC run for Joanne Calderwood (11-3) earned her the No. 2 seed on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, where she defeated Emily Kagan before falling to Rose Namajunas. She has since struggled to maintain consistency and enters the Octagon on the heels of losses to Jessica Andrade and Cynthia Calvillo.

This will be “Dr. Kneevil’s” first fight in 13 months.

Kalindra Faria (18-7-1) had faced a “Who’s Who” of women’s mixed martial arts (MMA) veterans on her road to the Octagon, including Claudia Gadelha, Vanessa Porto, Jessica Aguilar and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. She ultimately made her UFC debut on a three-fight win streak, but came up short against Mara Romero Borella and Jessica Eye.

Seven of her 12 stoppage wins have come via (technical) knockout.

When Calderwood is on, she’s a match for anyone in the 125-pound division in the standup. That’s the rub, though, as she’s underperformed in the past and seems to lack the venom in her strikes she had during her Invicta FC days. I do expect her to look a lot better at her natural weight class, though, and I wasn’t terribly impressed with Faria’s UFC efforts.

There’s always the worry of the layoff and Calderwood’s inconsistency, but I like the style match up here. She’s busier and cleaner than the Brazilian on the feet and shouldn’t have too much to worry about in the takedown department. JoJo gets back on track by pot-shotting her way to a decision win.

Prediction: Calderwood via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Drew Dober vs. Jon Tuck

Drew Dober (19-8) has come into his own since a 1-3 UFC start, winning four of his last five bouts. He is coming off of a knockout win over Josh Burkman and subsequent Fight of the Night slugfest against Frank Camacho in Charlotte.

He will give up three inches of height and reach to “The Super Saiyan.”

Jon Tuck (10-4) — once a red-hot prospect going into TUF 15 — has yet to find his footing in the Octagon, going even (4-4) since injury cut short his run on the show. After consecutive split decision losses to Josh Emmett and Damien Brown, Tuck choked out what’s left of Takanori Gomi for his first win since 2015.

This will be his first fight in 14 months.

The book is out on Tuck. For five-to-seven minutes, he’s a fast, athletic beast with one-shot knockout power and a lethal grappling game. For the rest of the fight, he’s a plodding mess saved by top-notch durability. The guy’s had eight UFC fights and gassed in all but one of the ones that went past the first round, so I don’t think that’s something he can fix.

Unfortunately for him, Dober is ridiculously durable and is learning to put some real heat behind his punches. Expect Tuck to look like a world-beater in the first round, only to once again run out of steam and get pieced up on the feet.

Prediction: Dober via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Rani Yahya vs. Luke Sanders

Rani Yahya (25-9) — who ended his World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) run on a two-fight losing streak — continues to chug along, winning six of his last seven. His current run includes consecutive submissions of Henry Briones and Russell Doane.

He has submitted 19 opponents by more than a half-dozen different methods.

Luke Sanders (12-2) hit quite the bad luck streak after a dominant debut, falling to Iuri Alcantara and Andre Soukhamthath despite strong starts against both. He finally managed to break the slump in April with a decision over Patrick Williams.

“Cool Hand Luke” has knocked out six professional opponents and has six first-round finishes overall.

Yahya has done extremely well for himself as a miniature Demian Maia, pushing hard for early takedowns and outlasting those opponents he can’t submit in the first two rounds. It makes his fights annoyingly hard to predict, as there’s no real middle ground between his style working or not working, but at least it keeps things interesting.

What has me picking him here against a strong wrestler is Sanders’ fight with Alcântara. Sure, he laid an unholy smackdown on the Brazilian, but he got caught in the most telegraphed leglock I’ve ever seen in the process. That’s a simply unacceptable lapse against someone like Yahya, who’s got the ground game of a bear trap with arms. Yahya drags him down in the first few minutes, takes his back as he tries to scramble up, and finishes him with a rear naked choke.

Prediction: Yahya via first-round submission

Four more UFC Fight Night 135 “Prelims” bouts remain to preview and predict, among them the return of Mickey Gall and the latest from Bantamweight prospect Cory Sandhagen. 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 135 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET (also on FOX Sports 1).

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