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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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Predictions! Full Bellator 204 Main Card Preview For ‘Caldwell Vs. Lahat’

Noad Lahat

Bellator 204: “Caldwell vs. Lahat” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Aug. 17, 2018) at Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. With no other contenders on the horizon for awhile at Bantamweight, a unique non-title fight has emerged for the main event pitting two men with 12 wins each against each other for pride and glory.

Let’s break it down:

145 lbs.: Darrion Caldwell (12-1) vs. Noad Lahat (12-3)

When Darrion Caldwell walks into the Sanford Pentagon the crowd can chant “The Champ Is Here” like Jadakiss. With only one blemish on his record for his entire professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career — contested almost entirely inside the Bellator cage — Caldwell is a homegrown Bantamweight champion. He made it look it easy by wrestling Eduardo Dantas to defeat at Bellator 184, then made it look even easier with a first round finish of Leandro Higo in March. Caldwell has put such a stamp on his weight class that for the moment — at least — there’s literally nowhere to go but up.

That makes Israeli fighter Noad Lahat the man of the hour for his second main event in a row. With a 3-1 record in Bellator’s competitive Featherweight division, Lahat is certainly on the rise toward a title shot somewhere down the road. Even though he was born in Petah Tikva he fights out of American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, already well known as one of MMA’s elite stomping grounds for current and future world champions. Lahat has scored submissions in 50 percent of his wins (six out of 12) and — given that Caldwell’s lone loss comes via a guillotine choke — that has to give Lahat a lot of confidence going into this fight.

That’s the good news for Lahat. Now, here’s the bad news: Even though he’s a naturally strong and stocky 145-pound fighter, he gives up both height (5’9” vs. 5’10”) and reach (69” to 74”) to Caldwell. “The Wolf” has always been an incredibly tall drink at Bantamweight, so going up for this fight is simply a matter of cutting less weight, which may if anything make him stronger and faster. Caldwell is also in the habit of training for five rounds, but here he can dump his gas tank quicker for a non-title fight. Even though Caldwell only has one knockout versus five submissions, his striking technique and reach are what can rock the bells of opponents to make them vulnerable to a finish. If it doesn’t come the decorated collegiate champion can double Lahat to the ground over and over to grind out a win.

Final prediction: Darrion Caldwell wins via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Logan Storley (8-0) vs. A.J. Matthews (9-7)

This fight isn’t necessarily as lopsided as their pro MMA records may indicate. Veteran experience benefits Matthews as he’s had twice as many fights at 30 as the younger Storley has at 25. Matthews has also been on the wrong end of a few split decisions, including a fight with Andre Fialho that could have gone either way. After an emotional win over his friend Kendall Grove, Matthews has proved himself ready for this fight, but Storley is as blue chip a wrestler as they come and learned from one of the best as both an amateur and a “pro.” Matthews does have some stopping power (six knockouts), but we haven’t seen it since 2014, and Storley is what Jim Ross would call a “hoss” — he’s got thick, stocky strength straight off the farm in Webster, S.D., with six knockouts. Matthews is a good test of his potential.

Final prediction: Logan Storley wins via technical knockout

135 lbs.: James Gallagher (7-0) vs. Ricky Bandejas (10-1)

Bandejas comes to Bellator straight out of Cage Fury Fighting Championship (CFFC) in New Jersey. The former CFFC interim champion boasts a 10-1 record with three knockouts and three submissions. By now you know “The Strabanimal” Gallagher, but if you need a refresher he’s a training partner of Conor McGregor out of Straight Blast Gym (SBG) in Dublin, Ireland, submitting all but one opponent he has faced. Gallagher is so young (21) that he can only be getting better with age, and that’s a scary prospect for nearly every Featherweight out there — only he’s going the opposite direction of Caldwell and cutting to 135 pounds. He’ll still be the bigger man at 5’9” vs. 5’7,” so if he doesn’t have a difficult drawn out weight cut this is his fight to lose, although Bandejas didn’t sign a multi-fight deal just to be anyone’s stepping stone.

Final prediction: James Gallagher via majority decision

145 lbs.: Tywan Claxton (2-0) vs. Cris Lencioni (4-1)

Featherweight prospects get a nice share of the main card spotlight on the same night as Gallagher thanks to this bout. Tywan Claxton’s nickname is “Speedy” although only one of his professional wins was “fast” per se — his flying knee knockout of Jonny Bonilla-Bowman at Bellator 186. That highlight reel finish gained him some viral fame and a bigger push from Bellator though, so he’ll get another fight with a slightly more experienced man. If Claxton keeps it standing he should score the win whether or not he makes the highlight reel again.

Final prediction: Tywan Claxton via unanimous decision

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 204 tomorrow with Paramount Network fights starting at 9 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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

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

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

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

125 lbs.: Jose Torres vs. Alex Perez

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Torres via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Ricardo Ramos vs. Kyung Ho Kang

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Kang via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Danielle Taylor vs. Weili Zhang

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

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

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

She has knocked out nine and submitted six.

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

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

Prediction: Zhang via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Marlon Vera vs. Wuliji Buren

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

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

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

He has stopped six opponents, four by submission.

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

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

Prediction: Vera via first-round submission

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

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

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UFC On FOX 30 Predictions, Preview, And Analysis

Three former champions are on the road back to their respective titles as Eddie Alvarez, Jose Aldo, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk return to the Octagon this Saturday night (July 28, 2018) for the UFC on FOX 30 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, held inside Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Not surprisingly, Dustin Poirier, Jeremy Stephens, and Tecia Torres will have something to say about that once the cage door closes in “Stampede City,” while also carving out their own paths to the lightweight, featherweight, and strawweight titles.

Opening the card will be the less important but equally exciting Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Alexander Hernandez. The latter calls himself “The Great” and will have a chance to prove it against the longtime “Canadian Gangster.”

Before we deconstruct the four-fight main card, let’s see what’s happening on the UFC on FOX 30 preliminary line up by clicking here and here. Odds and betting lines for all the “Alvarez vs. Poirier 2” action can be perused here.

Let’s get to work.

155 lbs.: Eddie “The Underground King” Alvarez (29-5, 1 NC) vs. Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier (23-5, 1 NC)

Like most bouts that end in a controversial ”no contest,” there is unfinished business between Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. Though to be fair, the promotion probably wouldn’t have been in any big hurry to run it back had the stakes not been so high. Both Alvarez and Poirier are ranked in the Top 5 and with the division so unreliable these days, it would be nice to have the winner of the UFC on FOX 30 main event on standby for a late 2018 title fight.

Ya’ know, just in case Conor McGregor blows another gasket or Tony Ferguson shreds another limb.

Since they first went to war at UFC 211, Alvarez and Poirier yielded similar results; namely, electrifying wins over lightweight “Highlight” Justin Gaethje. “The Diamond” also squeezed in a thrilling submission victory over Anthony Pettis, an opponent “The Underground King” wrestled past in early 2016. I don’t think we’ll get dramatically different versions of either fighter on Saturday night and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as they are both in the running for the title of most exciting lightweight fighter of all time.

So who wins?

One of the things I like most about Poirier is his ability to evolve from fight-to-fight. He was always a proficient grappler with sneaky submissions, but compare his kickboxing against Cub Swanson at UFC on Fuel TV 7 to the measured, dynamic striker we saw last April and it’s like a completely different fighter. Alvarez, meanwhile, has always had outstanding boxing, which he complements with an underrated wrestling attack. He claims to be coming off the best fight camp of his career and I believe him, and there are probably one or two 155-pound fighters who can beat Alvarez at his best.

Poirier isn’t one of them.

They match up well in all departments, but the image of “The Diamond” going limp against Michael Johnson keeps creeping into my mind. That’s because Poirier, for all his improvements, charges forward with reckless abandon when he smells blood or tastes some of his own. Alvarez is no different in the “let’s make this a bar fight” mentality, but he does a much better job of maintaining his mechanics when it happens. Don’t be surprised to see another “Fight of the Night” after a patient first round, but somewhere late in the contest, when both fighters are bloodied and ready to go for broke, Poirier is going to make a mistake that will likely cost him the win.

Final prediction: Alvarez def. Poirier by technical knockout

145 lbs: Jose “Junior” Aldo (26-4) vs. Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens (28-14)

Once the undisputed king of the featherweights, Jose Aldo now finds himself in unfamiliar territory. The Brazilian was never that active as champion and the last time he competed more than twice in one calendar year was back in 2009. In addition, he’s only seen the inside of the Octagon four times over the last four years. To make matters worse, he’s just 1-3 during that span and was finished by knockout/technical knockout in all three losses. Granted, those defeats came against Conor McGregor and Max Holloway, the best the division has to offer, but to watch Aldo get so thoroughly whooped is unquestionably a red flag.

For this fight, “Junior” brings with him the usual bag of tricks. You would be hard-pressed to find a faster striker with more devastating leg kicks — when he decides to actually throw them — and his footwork and cage control have always been problematic for flat-footed power punchers like opponent Jeremy Stephens. On the flip side of that coin, his cardio remains problematic as the fight wears on, symptomatic of his brutal weight cut and advancing age. Since this bout is only scheduled for three rounds, Aldo should be able to make it to the finish line without running out of gas.

Stephens has experienced something of a career resurgence after hooking up with Alliance MMA, smashing his way up the 145-pound ladder and landing at No. 4 in the official rankings. While that sounds impressive, he’s only beaten one featherweight currently ranked in the Top 10. That was Josh Emmett at UFC on FOX 28, a bout that also saw him in all kinds or trouble before his thunderous comeback. I don’t know if we are seeing a brand-new “Lil’ Heathen” or simply a more refined, polished version of the one who already existed. Stephens has always had knockout power and like Aldo, he knows how to put a little mustard on those leg kicks.

Stephens, a former lightweight, holds a one-inch advantage in both height and reach. Without an effective jab, I’m not sure either of those will be a factor against Aldo. Both fighters like to stand and bang and the Brazilian has been doing it longer — and to much better results — against the toughest guys in the division. I know he’s coming off a dreadful stretch, but until I see Aldo get tooled by someone who isn’t the featherweight champion, I have to assume he’s still got the chops to beat everyone else in his weight class, Stephens included. I’m expecting “Lil’ Heathen” to fall in love with the killing blow, not be able to land it, then spend a majority of the bout clomping around the cage in frustration. “Junior,” meanwhile, will enjoy his role of mouse (to cat) and rack up enough points to make this a clean sweep on the judges’ scorecards.

Final prediction: Aldo def. Stephens by unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2) vs. Tecia “Tiny Tornado” Torres (10-2)

Joanna Jedrzejczyk is unquestionably the second-best strawweight in UFC and her consecutive losses — the second of which was razor-thin — is a prime example of how every great fighter has a foil. Newly-crowned champion Rose Namajunas may or may not be the better all-around combatant but in this sport, it doesn’t matter. Stylistically, “Thug Rose” is just a bad match up for the power-punching Pole and that cost her 115-pounds of gold. For her sake, I hope the ex-champ doesn’t attempt to overhaul her style or plan of attack, because the Jedrzejczyk who lost to Namajunas is still good enough to beat Tecia Torres.

The “Tiny Tornado” also lost to Namajunas but more tellingly, Jessica Andrade, who is probably the third-best gal in the division after knocking around Claudia Gadelha last September. That means Torres is probably going to remain in the middle of the pack and it’s not like we’ve seen anything spectacular in her eight trips to the Octagon. She’s gone to a decision in 11 of her 12 fights and there’s just no way she’s going to outpoint Jedrzejczyk in a three-round contest. Since they aren’t friends and haven’t crossed paths while sharing space at American Top Team (ATT), inside information is unlikely.

Torres is a talented striker who is well versed in both karate and kickboxing. But she comes into this bout with a five-inch disadvantage in both height and reach. Against Jedrzejczyk, a five-time IFMA Muay Thai amateur world champion, that’s a death sentence. She could, in theory, fall back on her serviceable wrestling, but Jedrzejczyk has a takedown defense of 81 percent, compared to an abysmal 43 percent for Torres. Both combatants can do three rounds without breaking a sweat and that pretty much says it all: there just aren’t any areas where Torres is better. Jedrzejczyk has defeated Andrade (No. 2), Gadelha (No. 3), Karolina Kowalkiewicz (No. 4), and Carla Esparza (No. 6). As for Torres, her biggest win to date came over the No. 7-ranked Michelle Waterson, her only victory over a Top 10 fighter, and her run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 was underwhelming, at best.

Torres is tough, no question about it, but she’s going to take a beating en route to a pretty decisive loss on the scorecards.

Final prediction: Jedrzejczyk def. Torres by unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Olivier “The Canadian Gangster” Aubin-Mercier (11-2) vs. Alexander “The Great” Hernandez (9-1)

Olivier Aubin-Mercier has continued to fly under the radar after coming up short in the finale of TUF: “Nations” back in early 2014. Since then, “The Canadian Gangster” has gone 7-1 with five violent finishes. That said, his destruction of Evan Dunham at UFC 223 — his fourth straight win — was the first time in his professional career that he’s ended a fight by way of knockout. I guess when you have eight submissions in 11 wins, it doesn’t matter if you can land the one-hitter quitter. Conversely, the 29 year-old Canadian has never been stopped in his career but somehow has failed to crack the Top 15 of his division.

I don’t know if that will change with a victory over the unheralded by extremely dangerous Alexander Hernandez, who made a smashing debut — literally — with his first UFC appearance back in March, demolishing lightweight veteran Beneil Dariush with one terrifying punch. What I like about “The Great” is his ability to finish the fight both on the feet as well as on the ground, evidenced by four knockouts against two submissions. I don’t want to get too excited, as we’ve only seen him compete once under the UFC banner, but he certainly didn’t seem too concerned with Octagon jitters his first time out.

Aubin-Mercier is a southpaw but gives up two inches in reach. I want to say that he’s faced stiffer competition across his four years in UFC but to be honest, some of the names on his resume are not that far off from the regional competition Hernandez has been knocking around on the local circuit. It’s hard to make a convincing case for either fighter because they cancel each other out in just about every category. “The Canadian Gangster” is a two-time junior national champion in Judo whereas “The Great” was a decorated high school wrestler. Both have serious ground skills though Hernandez likely has the edge in power. Will it be enough to make it two straight in UFC? Probably not, but this fight will still be too close to call, even after three rounds of back-and-forth action.

Final prediction: Aubin-Mercier def. Hernandez by split decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 30 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.

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Predictions! UFC Hamburg ‘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 (Sun., July 22, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 134: “Shogun vs. Smith” storms Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 134 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The inimitable Mauricio “Shogun” Rua returns to the cage for the first time in 2018 this Sunday night (July 22, 2018) when the Brazilian meets late replacement Anthony Smith inside Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany

The FOX Sports 1 fight card also features Glover Teixeira against Corey Anderson, Stefan Struve versus Marcin Tybura in an all-Europe heavyweight battle, and local standout Abu Azaitar’s Octagon debut opposite knockout artist Vitor Miranda.

Seven “Prelims” with some fresh faces are in store for the morning people among you. Let’s look at the first three airing at 10:30 a.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.

135 lbs.: Manny Bermudez (12-0) vs. Davey Grant (8-3)

Bermudez caught the UFC’s eye with nine first-round finishes in his first eleven victories, including several in under two minutes. It took him a bit longer in his UFC debut, but he nonetheless got the finish via guillotine against Albert Morales. All but one of his eight submission wins has come by choke.

Grant, the runner-up on The Ultimate Fighter 18, has faced difficulties both in and out of the ring, debuting in 2013 and fighting just three times in that span. He was supposed to fight Bermudez in May, but came down with a staph infection just days before showtime. He stands two inches taller than Bermudez at 5’8.”

Bermudez’s ultimate ceiling will boil down to how well his wrestling develops. As lethal as his ground game is, it’s not worth squat if he can’t consistently get it to the ground. Grant is a capable enough wrestler for this to be an informative matchup and a decent test that I believe Bermudez can pass.

After seeing Grant struggle with Damian Stasiak, I don’t see him having a lot more success against a spry young submission artist, especially with nearly two years of rust to shake off. Bermudez scores an early takedown and secures a fight-ending choke on the way back up.

Prediction: Bermudez by first-round submission

205 lbs.: Jeremy Kimball (15-7) vs. Darko Stosic (12-1)

Kimball’s short-notice UFC debut against Marcos Rogério de Lima went disastrously, but “Grizzly” bounced back with a bonus-winning knockout of Josh Stansbury in just 81 seconds. Things went right back to disastrous, though, as he tapped to a Dominick Reyes choke in Detroit. All but one of Kimball’s victories since 2013 have come inside the distance.

A protégé of Mirko Cro Cop, Stosic has knocked out seven professional opponents, all but one of them in the first round. His current eight-fight winning streak includes two finishes in under a minute and a first-round stoppage via leg kicks. This will be his light heavyweight debut.

If you’ve got a dangerous new striker to welcome into the UFC, Kimball’s your man; he’s durable and skilled enough on the feet to pose a threat and too incompetent on the mat to start wrestling if things go south. He should be lunchmeat against Stosic, who packs quite a bit more power and can take things to the mat should he get into dire straits.

My only real reservation here is that Stosic is 230 pounds and built like a brick wall. Each leg alone look like it would have to cut to make lightweight. So long as he can drop the weight safely, though, this is a heavyweight against a blown-up middleweight. Stosic tears up that lead leg for a late finish.

Prediction: Stosic by third-round TKO

145 lbs.: Damian Stasiak (10-5) vs. Liu Pingyuan (11-5)

After getting outwrestled by Yaotzin Meza in his Octagon debut, Stasiak proved his grappling chops were still legit with impressive submissions over Filip Pejic and Davey Grant. He couldn’t do the same against fellow submission artist Pedro Munhoz and, one fight later, fell to Brian Kelleher’s relentless pressure in a Fight of the Night war. “Webster’s” seven submission wins include five by rear naked choke.

Liu, one of the stars of China’s Wu Lin Feng promotion, picked up five wins in 2016 and two more in 2017 before signing to the UFC. He was set to debut against Bharat Khandare in Shanghai, but wound up withdrawing due to injury, allowing Song Yadong to make his first Octagon appearance instead. He has won 11 of his last 12 after starting his pro career 0-4.

Liu looks like another solid prospect out of China. Going by his shirt in one of his more recent fights, he’s training out of Tiger Muay Thai, which is one of Asia’s best camps. He’s got power, plenty of aggression, and can finish things on the mat as well.

His issue right now is polish; he’s so fixated on the knockout that he tends to overextend with his power swings. In addition, he’s fairly unproven against decent opposition. If nothing else, Stasiak is tough as nails and has a nasty submission game. Liu has the tools to be a contender, but for right now, I say Stasiak capitalizes on his overeagerness to lock up an early finish.

Prediction: Stasiak by first-round submission

Tomorrow’s four fights previewed for FOX Sports 1 include a pair of strong featherweight prospects and Emil Meek’s latest appearance, so be sure to stop by and have a look with us.

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Predictions! Breaking Down UFC Boise Main Card

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on FOX Sports 1 this weekend, because fuck your plans, WE’RE GOING TO BOISE!!! That’s right my fellow mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, the combat sports-deprived community in Idaho is FINALLY getting some face-punching action on Saturday night (July 14, 2018) inside the one-and-only CenturyLink Arena.

I’m actually pretty interested in the heavyweight main event between Junior dos Santos and Blagoy Ivanov, as “Cigano” represents the last of the old guard, at least in terms of title contenders, and just when you think his goose is cooked, he comes back and surprises you. It also gives “Blaga” a chance to put the division on notice by proving he’s not just a regional can crusher.

Also in action is Sage Northcutt, who for some reason compels me to watch because I want to see him win by highlight-reel knockout, or tap to some one-arm choke that’s not even that tight. Is that weird? Oh! And we get Chad Mendes back (finally) to shake things up at featherweight, not long after Cat Zingano tries to prove she’s still got something left at 135 pounds.

I know you’re all dying to see what the charming and affable Patty Stumberg had to say about the UFC Fight Night 133 “Prelims” card, spread across FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass, so click here and here for a complete and thorough breakdown. As for all the Boise odds and best bets, click here to crunch the numbers.

Now then, let’s chop down the six-fight main card:

265 lbs.: Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos (18-5) vs. Blagoy “Blaga” Ivanov (16-1, 1 NC)

Junior dos Santos, at one time, was the most feared heavyweight in UFC and had that incredible run where he turned Shane Carwin into corned beef hash, then scored consecutive knockout wins over Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir. Then Velasquez got his revenge — twice — in a pair of fights that likely changed the Brazilian’s career. In fact, the second five-round massacre was so violent and so difficult to stomach, there were calls to have “Cigano’s” cornermen sent packing. Fortunately for Dos Santos, he was able to extend the lease on his combat sports life with a razor-thin decision win over the still-green Stipe Miocic back in 2014, and showed that he can still outbox middling journeymen in 2016. But getting dry cleaned by both Alistair Overeem and the reborn Miocic were enough to finally convince me that Dos Santos is just a shell of his former self.

He hasn’t won back-to-back fights in over six years.

We also have to wonder aloud about his recent run-in with United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). While I’m sympathetic to the cries of shady supplements, it’s a tough pill to swallow these days because USADA has been around for a couple of years now and no one should be able to plead ignorance. So that means something really unfortunate happened, or Dos Santos was trying to game the system and came up snake eyes on his last roll. I don’t mention it because I like to pile on, but it’s certainly relevant here, particularly if “Cigano” was being assisted by “supplements.” At age 34 and with the face of a catcher’s mitt, one thing we can say for sure is that Dos Santos can still box, has good cardio for a heavyweight, and remains dangerous until he’s face down on the mat, no matter how many times you tag him. I know I’m not alone when I say that zombie Dos Santos is fun to watch in spite of the guilt I feel knowing it’s going to cost him another round of brain cells.

This being a five-round fight is of little consequence to his opponent, Blagoy Ivanov, as the Bulgarian bruiser has already done 25 minutes in victory. That was against Josh Copeland under the now-defunct World Series of Fighting (WSOF) banner, which recently transmogrified into Professional Fighters League (PFL) because rich white guys with lots of money don’t seem to mind wasting it. Anyway, Ivanov was undefeated in five appearances for WSOF/PFL and also went 5-0 for Bellator MMA before running into Alexander Volkov in 2014. That loss becomes more forgivable now that “Drago” has proven to be a top-five heavyweight and let’s not forget that Ivanov dethroned Fedor Emelianenko back in their Sambo days circa 2008. He’s not going to get outgrappled by Dos Santos and he hits just as hard, but he will have to overcome a four-inch reach disadvantage.

This is a fight that Dos Santos should win. Unless he’s just completely gone, I can’t imagine the decade of experience he’s accumulated fighting the best in the world has just magically dissipated. “Cigano” has faced great grapplers, deadly strikers, and just about everything in between. His size advantage, coupled with his opportunity to take time off to rest his brain, leaves me feeling pretty optimistic about Saturday night’s performance. Unless Ivanov can get him tied up against the cage, where he can drop a few Bulgarian bombs and crumple the Brazilian, a fleet-footed Dos Santos should be able to box his way to a sweep on the judges’ scorecards, though I would caution that we may hear from the boo birds on more than one occasion during this fight.

Final prediction: Dos Santos def. Ivanov by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: “Super” Sage Northcutt (10-2) vs. Zak “The Barbarian” Ottow (16-5)

I’ve kind of been fascinated by the Sage Northcutt experiment ever since it got underway at UFC 192 back in 2015. Originally the “pretty boy who made Dana White shut up,” the bodybuilder masquerading as an MMA fighter has done pretty well for himself, racking up a 5-2 record at just 22 years old. Unfortunately, he’s gone to a decision in his last three wins and looked amateurish against the likes of Mickey Gall and Bryan Barberena. Part of his problem is that he’s never been able to settle on a weight class, oscillating between lightweight and welterweight, and his megalomaniacal father still calls all the shots in training. Not unusual for his age, but a handicap nonetheless.

His bread-and-butter is striking and always has been, but his natural athleticism has allowed him to be a pretty decent offensive wrestler, building on his mat work from high school. I’m less worried about his submission defense and more concerned about his panic button, which appears to get pressed like one of those Staples “That was easy!” toys from a few years back. On top of that, his decision wins over Michel Quinones and Thibault Gouti — the occasional flashy kick notwithstanding — were unspectacular in every way. Where are all the stoppages? Hard to explain how a guy starts his career with six-straight finishes then can’t seem to close the deal, and it’s not like he’s been fighting the top 10 of his division, so I have to wonder where his head is at.

Zak Ottow has been something of an enigma himself, at least in terms of finding his identity as a fighter. He had a pretty remarkable run on the regional circuit where he spent most of his time running the table at King of the Cage (KOTC). That trend appeared to continue when he graduated to UFC in late 2016, capturing a hard-fought decision win over the venerable Josh Burkman. Then came a ho-hum 2-2 run which not only resulted in another pair of split decisions, but also a knockout loss to Jingliang Li. While he rebounded from the fight with a finish of his own, I’m not sure how much stock I want to put into a victory over the 42 year-old Mike Pyle, who entered that fight on the heels of two consecutive knockout losses.

Ottow bills himself as a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, though he’s yet to register a submission in six trips to the Octagon. One of my concerns is that he’s co-owner of his own gym and may be the big fish in a little pond and I always approach with caution when fighters start making up their own forms of tap out, which in this case, is the “Ottowplata.” I guess that makes sense when you consider his favorite strike is the dart punch, also known as the cobra strike (and a few other things), but that’s primarily to set up his takedown because his stand-up attack is average, at best. If he strikes to throw hands or stay in the pocket against Northcutt, he’s going to be looking up at the lights. Ottow is going to need to get “Super” to the floor and when he does, exploit the gaping holes.

While I earlier complimented Northcutt for his offensive wrestling, his defensive wrestling is atrocious, having been taken down 13 times in seven UFC fights. That said, I think the best is yet to come for the blonde bomber because he’s just 22 and improving every fight. Conversely, we’ve already seen the best Ottow has to offer and I’m not expecting much different when the cage door closes in Boise. A fresher, stronger, and healthier Northcutt — no longer depleted to make 155 pounds — shucks off a couple of early takedowns and turns this into a three-round, lopsided sparring match.

Final prediction: Northcutt def. Ottow by unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Dennis “The Menace” Bermudez (16-8) vs. Rick “The Gladiator” Glenn (20-5-1)

Dennis Bermudez hasn’t really changed much in the seven years we’ve watched him compete since cutting his teeth on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 14. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because one thing you’re guaranteed from “The Menace” is nonstop action, regardless if it carries with it any elite-level technique. We know what to expect from Bermudez and so does his opponent, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stop. Aside from his punishing left hook, the 31 year-old New Yorker was ranked in the top 25 in NCAA Division-1 wrestling. He’s going to come after you, he’s going to tie you up, and he’s going to swing for the fences every second his arms are free. Keep your chess match, that shit is fun to watch, though it hasn’t really paid off in the win column. Bermudez is mired in a dreadful 0-3 stretch and needs get the ship righted sooner, rather than later.

I might have picked this fight differently a couple of years back as Rick Glenn entered the UFC on a torrid 11-1 streak dating back to summer 2011, which included a string of appearances for WSOF. “The Gladiator” was known as a prolific finisher on the regional circuit, racking up an impressive 15 stoppages in 18 wins. I’m not sure what happened after hooking up with UFC just under two years back, but he’s been unable to close the deal in four trips to the Octagon. The result is a tepid 2-2 record, including last December’s unanimous decision loss to Myles Jury. Was the jump in competition that much greater? Jury was his only opponent who’s currently ranked in the top 15, so I’m not sure if he’s fighting not to lose or just having trouble pulling the trigger. Glenn doesn’t have a foundation in an existing discipline and simply went from his couch to the gym, which makes his record all the more impressive.

By that same token, he seems to have stalled since becoming a UFC fighter and that’s really not where you want to be against a lunatic like Bermudez. Glenn owns a brown belt in jiu-jitsu and has some sneaky leg locks, but when was the last time you saw “The Menace” hanging around long enough to slap one on? Glenn calls himself “The Gladiator” and that moniker will be put to the test in Boise. Without some exceptional skill set to make him a clear-cut favorite anywhere this fight goes, I’m not sure his significant height and reach advantage will be sufficient — or utilized quickly enough — to repel the sustained blitzkrieg.

Final prediction: Bermudez def. Glenn by technical knockout

170 lbs.: Randy “Rude Boy” Brown (10-2) vs. Niko “The Hybrid” Price (11-1, 1 NC)

One of the things that I liked the most about Randy Brown’s victory over Mickey Gall is that it showed us he fights with confidence and a strong mind. Prior to their UFC 217 showdown, Brown laid out exactly what he was going to do, as well as the areas that Gall was weak in, then went out and hit all his marks, walking forward and aggressively pushing the action. It was also an important performance because it immediately followed his unanimous decision loss to Belal Muhammed at UFC 208, which did raise some questions about Brown’s place in the 170-pound division. At 28, “Rude Boy” is in his athletic prime and this is probably the best time for him to put something together and try to crack into the Top 15.

The same can be said for Niko Price, who looks every bit of his “Hybrid” nickname, but can’t seem to stay consistent. He entered UFC after racking up a perfect 8-0 record on the regional circuit, then promptly ended the hype train of Brandon Thatch — while announcing himself in the process. What followed was three straight knockout finishes, but his stoppage over Alex Morono got overturned when Price flunked his UFC Fight Night 104 drug test (marijuana). From that point, Price put together a 1-1 record that included a submission loss to the venerable Vincente Luque. Like his opponent, the former American Top Team (ATT) product is a true mixed martial artist; meaning, he did not come from a competitive sports background and thus trained every discipline from day one. The results speak for themselves.

Brown holds an advantage in both height (3”) and reach (2”) and if he plans to win this fight he’s going to need to use them. Both fighters match up well in every department: good wrestling, competent striking, and cardio for days. Where Price has the advantage is in his fluidity. He’s a much more creative striker and his attacks are difficult to prepare for. Expect a competitive three rounds that has Price come out on top, simply because Brown will get frustrated trying to “fight his fight” without “The Hybrid” sticking to the script.

Final prediction: Price def. Brown by unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Chad “Money” Mendes (17-4) vs. Myles “Fury” Jury (17-2)

It’s been over two years since we last saw Chad Mendes inside the Octagon and considering the kind of slump he was in — back-to-back knockout losses — he was probably glad to get the time off to rest his brain. “Money” was popped by USADA back in July 2016 for using skin cream that contained growth hormone and to his credit, he owned his mistake and took his punishment with little fanfare.

Prior to his hiccups against Conor McGregor and Frankie Edgar, Mendes terrorized the featherweight division with a punishing wrestling attack and legitimate knockout power in his hands. You can see just how far his striking came by hearkening back to his Jose Aldo rematch in the UFC 179 main event, which we can attribute to the coaching of Duane Ludwig back when “Bang” was still employed by Team Alpha Male (TAM). Those days are over and I don’t expect Mendes to be the same striker when he steps into the cage on Saturday night.

Fortunately, he doesn’t need to be. Let’s overcompensate and assume the 33 year-old Mendes has regressed all the way back to his first Jose Aldo fight, which he earned by winning 11 straight fights, seven of them by decision. He would still be the kind of wrestler who can blast through just about any defense, including the one presented by opponent Myles Jury, because that is something he’s been doing his entire life and it’s basically in his DNA at this point.

Jury is a former lightweight wunderkind who first made his mark on TUF 13, which he abandoned after suffering a mid-season injury. Upon his return he continued his winning ways, racking up six straight wins before getting emasculated by Donald Cerrone at UFC 182. That prompted a drop to featherweight and Charles Oliveira gave him the rudest of welcomes, though undeterred, he hung around and rebounded with consecutive wins over Mike de la Torre and Rick Glenn, two unranked fighters who are just kinda “there.”

One of my biggest complaints about Jury is how poorly his resume holds up over time. The best thing he has going for him is his 17-2 mark, but there isn’t a single fighter on his record who’s currently ranked in the top 15. As for his skill set, he’s good at just about everything but great at almost nothing. His biggest asset is his wrestling, scoring takedowns in just about every fight. That’s not going to work against a bigger, stronger wrestler and he doesn’t have the kind of power Conor McGregor did that made “Money” too timid to set up his shots. Unless something crazy happens, I expect Mendes to dump-and-hump his way to the cards, largely uncontested.

Final prediction: Mendes def. Jury by unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Cat “Alpha” Zingano (9-3) vs. Marion “The Bruiser” Reneau (9-3-1)

I kinda get the feeling that UFC matchmakers are slowly working their way down the women’s bantamweight ladder in the hopes they’ll eventually find someone who Cat Zingano can beat. I understand it’s hard to let go of what could be one of the last of the old guard and let’s face it, there aren’t a whole lot of fighters with knockout wins over reigning champion Amanda Nunes and “Alpha” is one of them.

That earned her a spot against then-champion Ronda Rousey where she was summarily booted from the UFC 184 main event. She attempted to rebound the following year at UFC 200, but ran into a fighter in Julianna Pena who can do hustle-and-muscle better than Zingano can, probably because “The Venezuelan Vixen” is eight years her junior.

I mention the age because at 36, it’s a factor, and that showed against Ketlen Vieira back in March. You can argue that her two-year layoff was also a factor, but Zingano’s bulldozer style is built on pressure, not finesse, and that sort of thing is not easily eroded as say, the striking mechanics of someone elite like Conor McGregor.

So, with that in mind, UFC did the only thing it could and found someone even older than Zingano, though I’m not sure the 41 year-old Reneau is necessarily a downgrade in competition. “The Bruiser” has won two straight and three of her last four, with a majority draw to Bethe Correia sandwiched somewhere in the middle. She’s also fought some of the best in the world, including one former UFC champion and two former title contenders, and finished eight of her nine wins. For my money, Reneau should be ranked ahead of Zingano, who’s the loser of three straight, and not behind her.

Zingano has done some pretty remarkable things in her UFC career and it’s hard to pick against her in this fight. But Reneau is a jiu-jitsu black belt under Cleber Luciano and trains Muay Thai under Rafael Cordeiro. She’s able to perform at this level despite her advanced age simply because she’s that damn good. So too, is Zingano, but also a little more shopworn. Expect a competitive first round but the tide is likely to change midway through the fight and eventually Reneau is going to take over. “The Bruiser” — who got her nickname by bruising testicles in training — has a ton of momentum and more importantly, more tools to fall back on when it counts.

Final prediction: Reneau def. Zingano by decision

There you have it.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 133 fight card below, 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.

For much more on UFC Fight Night 133 click here.

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Predictions! ‘Budd Vs. Nogueira’ Main Card Preview, Quick Picks

Talita Nogueira

Bellator 202: “Budd vs. Nogueira” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., July 13, 2018) at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The women’s Featherweight champion and the No. 1-ranked division contender will have a showdown in the main event as the “Jewel” of the women’s division seeks to put another diamond in her crown when she takes on an undefeated rising star.

Let’s break it down:

145 lbs.: Julia Budd (11-2) vs. Talita Nogueira (7-0)

Julia Budd has had an eight-year journey through the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) until today, one which included stops in both Strikeforce and Invicta, one which featured fights with pioneers and legends of women’s combat sports like Ronda Rousey (which she lost) and Marloes Coenen (which she won). Suffice it to say that in her career she has faced all of the best women available to her at the time, and tomorrow night’s world title fight will be no exception. She’ll be putting both her Featherweight title and her nine-fight win streak dating back to 2012 on the line.

The difficulty for Nogueira coming in is that Budd is absolutely the best fighter she has ever faced in her young career. She looked impressive in her Bellator debut, but she was facing a career 5-4 fighter at the time. At 5’10” with a 70-inch reach, she’s a tall and lanky Featherweight, but with her takedown game it benefits Budd to be a little shorter at 5’8” with a 67-inch reach. There’s good news for Nogueira, though — that game looked ineffective in her last fight, though it may have been because Arlene Blencowe already knew Budd so well given it was a rematch.

The pressure is on Budd to show and prove why she’s the reigning queen of Bellator at 145. A less than stellar title defense, which the crowd in this same building was booing by the fourth round, left no one satisfied with the split decision at the end of the night. Nogueira literally has nothing to lose in the biggest fight of her life, and with seven out of seven wins by finish (two knockouts and five submissions) there really is no one better to face Budd. A loss for Nogueira won’t reflect badly on her in her first world title match but Budd will go from looking exposed by Blencowe to being exposed by Nogueira if she does what Rousey once did to her — grab an arm and try to rip it off her shoulder.

Final prediction: Julia Budd retains via five round split decision

135 lbs.: Eduardo Dantas (20-5) vs. Michael McDonald (18-4)

Eduardo Dantas is looking to bounce back from a loss against Michael “Mayday” McDonald in the co-main event of the evening. A former No. 1-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight contender and well rounded fighter with finishes in 83 percent of his wins (15 of 18), the only downside to McDonald is that he has very bad luck with injuries. He’ll look to shake that off and pick up his second Bellator win. It’s a coin flip on paper, though, as the former champion Dantas is 5’10” with a 69-inch reach and 50 percent of his wins being a finish (four knockouts, six submissions), while McDonald is two inches shorter in height, but one-inch longer in reach. The winner is knocking on Darrion Caldwell’s door.

Final prediction: Michael McDonald edges out a majority decision

185 lbs.: Chris Honeycutt (10-2, 1 NC) vs. Leo Leite (10-1)

Leo Leite comes in with something to prove after losing a unanimous decision to Phil Davis in his Bellator debut. It’s still the only loss on his record so that’s a plus, and he’s a multiple time Judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion in international competition, in addition to being a former Legacy FC champion before the promotion merged with Resurrection Fighting Alliance. Chris Honeycutt has something to prove as well after Rafael Lovato Jr. snapped his four fight win streak. The four year promotional veteran has TKO’d four Bellator opponents and was a two time NCAA All-American at Edinboro, so he’s as good on the feet as he is taking foes down. Honeycutt stands 5’10” with a 73-inch reach while Leite stands 6’1” with a 75-inch reach, so the size would seem to dictate Honeycutt wrestles with Leite, but giving a jiu-jitsu champion a chance to work off his back isn’t necessarily wise. Leite only has two technical knockout wins so his stand-up game may be lacking, so if Honeycutt can use footwork and pressure, this one’s his for the taking.

Final prediction: Chris Honeycutt via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Valentin Moldavsky (6-1) vs. Ernest James (0-0)

This very late addition to the main card of Bellator 202 doesn’t present much opportunity for research either fighter in terms of timing or the record of one of the two men in the fight. James has no professional MMA record? Well, that’s just great. All I can tell you is that he’s 6’3” and 265 pounds, so he’s packing some serious meat on his bones, and he hails from the Dethrone camp. His opponent, however, we have a full dossier on. He’s one of those Stary Oskol fighters from Russia (think Fedor) and for a Heavyweight he’s a little bit small (6’1” and 235 pounds), but he’s got great submission skills (three of six wins). I’m going to go with the guy who probably has Emelianenko on his contacts list. The only ding on his record would be that he hasn’t fought since Bellator 181 almost one year ago — that’s a long period to be on the sidelines.

Final prediction: Valentin Moldavsky via second round submission

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 202 “Budd vs. Nogueira” tomorrow with Paramount Network fights starting at 9 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

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Full Boat! Complete UFC 226 ‘Prelims’ Undercard Predictions, Preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., July 7, 2018) when UFC 226: “Miocic vs. Cormier” storms T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg delivers a complete UFC 226 “Prelims” undercard preview, including fight picks, below.

For the first time since B.J. Penn squared off with Georges St-Pierre for the second time way back in 2009, two Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) champions with actual title defenses will duke it out this Saturday (July 7, 2018) as Heavyweight kingpin Stipe Miocic welcomes Light Heavyweight roost-ruler Daniel Cormier back to the division where he got his start. Meanwhile, 120 pounds below, Featherweight champion Max Holloway squares off with the surging Brian Ortega in UFC 226’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, while Derrick Lewis gets his long-awaited grudge match with Francis Ngannou.

We’ve got seven “Prelims” undercard matches that will first set the stage inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, with three on Fight Pass and the rest on FOX Sports 1. Because this is a double fight week — The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 27 Finale takes place the night before — we’ve crammed them all into one post.

FOX SPORTS 1 ‘Prelims’ (8 p.m. ET start time)

185 lbs.: Paulo Costa vs. Uriah Hall

Paulo Costa (11-0) — the martial artist formerly known as “Borrachinha” — bounced back from an unsuccessful TUF: “Brazil” 2 run to win and defend the Jungle Fight Middleweight title. He has been every bit as successful in UFC, smashing Garreth McLellan, Oluwale Bamgbose and Johny Hendricks in his 2017 campaign.

He has never gone past 1:23 into the second round as a professional, knocking out 10 opponents and submitting one other.

Uriah Hall’s (13-8) ridiculous upset of Gegard Mousasi gave way to three consecutive losses, including first-round (technical) knockouts against Brunson and the aforementioned Mousasi in the rematch. Down on the cards and with his back against the wall, “Primetime” knocked out Krzysztof Jotko to win “Performance of the Night” and keep his Octagon career afloat.

These two were originally slated to fight in April before Costa suffered a biceps injury.

We all know how it goes at this point. Hall has the potential to knockout anyone in the division at any time, but it is beyond foolhardy to put any faith in his ability to execute against competent Middleweight competition. This is a guy who lost to Josh Howard and then went on to knockout Mousasi, a feat multiple world champions and quality Heavyweight kickboxers have failed to accomplish.

Costa is young, huge, incredibly powerful and seemed to have solid cardio in his two trips to the second round. The obvious outcome sees him pressure Hall against the cage and blast him with hooks for the finish as Chris Weidman and the aforementioned Brunson did. Barring another Hall miracle, that’s my call.

Prediction: Costa via first-round technical knockout

170 lbs.: Paul Felder vs. Mike Perry

Paul Felder (15-3) is 5-1 since consecutive losses to Edson Barboza and Ross Peason, securing three consecutive (technical) knockout victories. He was originally slated to fight James Vick in Boise, Idaho, but answered the call when Vick got called up to face Justin Gaethje and Yancy Medeiros busted a rib.

“The Irish Dragon” has knocked out 10 opponents and submitted one other.

Mike Perry’s (11-3) thunderous knockouts of Jake Ellenberger and Alex Reyes put him within spitting distance of title contention, only for Santiago Ponzinibbio to out-slug him in a grueling affair. He returned two months later against Max Griffin in what looked to be a rebound fight, but “Max Pain” defied considerable odds to pick Perry apart and secure a decision.

Seven of his 11 knockout wins have come in the first round.

Perry has all the tools to be a truly standout Welterweight, boasting hellacious power, hand speed and physicality, but his technique isn’t advancing the way it should. While losses to Alan Jouban and Santiago Ponzinibbio are understandable, Griffin is someone he should have destroyed. Felder is durable enough, adaptable enough, and versatile enough on the feet to recreate Griffin’s winning effort.

There is the concern of Felder being unable to stand up to the power of a genuine Welterweight, but he has absorbed blows from quality finishers like Edson Barboza and Daron Cruickshank without flinching. I have faith in his ability to steer clear of Perry’s bombs and pick him apart for a decision win.

Prediction: Felder via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Rob Font

It hasn’t always been the prettiest of affairs, but Raphael Assuncao (26-5) is 10-1 since his knockout loss to Erik Koch, beating the likes of T.J. Dillashaw, Bryan Caraway, Aljamain Sterling and Marlon Moraes, among others. His latest win was the most eye-catching yet, a brutal one-punch knockout of Matthew Lopez that earned the Brazilian his first post-fight bonus since 2013.

He is three inches shorter than Rob Font (15-3) and will give up five inches of reach.

Font scored brutal finishes in four of his first five UFC appearances and looked poised for another win in Oct. 2017, but succumbed to Pedro Munhoz’s infamous guillotine late in the first round. Against another dangerous foe in Thomas Almeida, Font survived a competitive first round to drop and stop “Thominhas” in Boston.

Font has knocked out seven opponents and submitted another four.

Well, if there’s anyone outside of Cody Garbrandt and John Lineker who could drag a great fight out of Assuncao, it’s Font. Dangerously powerful and aggressive, he’s everything you’d want in a young fighter. For all that destructive potential, though, I’m not convinced he’s sharp enough to take the Brazilian out of his comfort zone. Assuncao’s counterpunching is some of the best in the division — only Dillashaw and the incredibly adaptive Moraes have been able to consistently land on him without taking more in return. Based on what I’ve seen, he can slow this fight to his pace and consistently punish Font’s aggression.

I’m pulling for Font, as he’s exponentially more entertaining, but I say Assuncao picks him off enough to take a controversial decision.

Prediction: Assuncao by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Max Griffin vs. Curtis Millender (15-3)

Max Griffin (14-4) — after splitting bouts with Colby Covington and Erick Montano — threw down with Elizeu Zaleski at UFC Fight Night 119, coming up short on the cards but securing a $ 50,000 bonus for his troubles. Four months later, “Max Pain” took a wholly unexpected decision over Mike Perry, whom he outclassed on the feet.

Half of his pro wins have come by form of knockout.

The early 1-3 skid for Curtis Millender’s (15-3) didn’t stop him from winning six straight afterward, including solid victories in LFA. His Octagon debut pitted him against Thiago Alves, whom he caught with a vicious knee in the final minute of the second round.

“Curtious” stands four inches taller than Griffin at 6’3.”

Griffin impressed pretty much everyone against Perry, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him shut down “Curtious,” but this looks like a rough match up for him. In addition to the height disadvantage, Griffin is fairly easy to hit and got knocked down more than once against Zaleski. It’s also worth noting that his arsenal doesn’t prominently feature takedowns or low kicks, which are Millender’s key weaknesses.

Without the tools to get inside on Millender or make him hesitate on those long kicks, Griffin is going to struggle to bring his heavy hands to bear. Millender finds the mark with a head kick partway through the second round.

Prediction: Millender via second-round knockout

UFC Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ (6:30 p.m. ET start time)

155 lbs.: Gilbert Burns vs. Dan Hooker

Gilbert Burns’ (13-2) Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree earned him quite a bit of attention when he joined UFC and he lived up to the hype with wins in his first three Octagon appearances. A 1-2 stretch slowed his roll, but he has smashed his way back into contention with crushing knockouts of Jason Saggo and Dan Moret.

Burns has submitted seven professional foes, four by armbar, and knocked out another five.

After an inconsistent run at Featherweight, Dan Hooker (16-7) has reinvented himself as a Lightweight contender with three impressive finishes. He opened his 155-pound run with a knee knockout of Ross Pearson, submitted Marc Diakiese soon after, and went back to the basics with another savage knee against Jim Miller.

He will have two inches of height, four inches of reach, and three inches of leg reach on “Durinho.”

Hooker has looked like a new man at 155 pounds, discarding his face-first brawling in favor of a varied, tricky offense. Burns has looked ferocious as well, but I’m not sure energy-intensive headhunting is the best approach against the iron-jawed Kiwi. Hooker is notoriously durable and has gotten out from under ace grapplers like Hatsu Hioki in the past.

If he’d showed a better jab and more blended wrestling, I’d take Burns over most of the division. As is, while he’ll get plenty of highlight-reel finishes, the stylistic match up isn’t in his favor — Hooker is just too damn tough to get rid of and too sharp with his game planning. Heavy knees and straight punches keep the hard-charging Burns at bay for 15 minutes.

Prediction: Hooker via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Lando Vannata vs. Drakkar Klose

Lando Vannata (9-2) opened his UFC career with a near-upset of Tony Ferguson, dropping “El Cucuy” with a head kick before ultimately tapping to a d’arce choke. His Octagon career since has been inconsistent but entertaining, as he has gone 1-1-1 and earned three post-fight bonuses.

He has knocked out and submitted four professional foes apiece.

Drakkar Klose (8-1-1) — fighting out of The MMA Lab — defeated “Lookin’ for a Fight” product Devin Powell in his Octagon debut before using powerful leg kicks to upset Marc Diakiese. He had less success against David Teymur, who shut down his wrestling and picked him apart at range.

He will give up an inch of height and 2.5 inches of reach to the “Groovy” one.

Vannata is a match for anyone in the division in the first round. The reason he’s sitting on a losing UFC record despite his obvious skills is his inability to pace himself. That said, he still gave David Teymur a much tougher fight than Klose did and his slickster stylings seem well-equipped to shutting down Klose’s straightforward offense.

Klose will struggle to keep Vannata on the fence, isn’t a sufficiently overpowering wrestler to take him down in the center of the cage, and doesn’t have the power to put him away. Vannata banks at least two rounds with nifty long-range striking before fading enough for Klose to start connecting.

Prediction: Vannata via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Emily Whitmire vs. Jamie Moyle

Representing Team Justin Gaethje on TUF 26, Emily Whitmire (2-2) submitted Christina Marks in 40 seconds before falling to Roxanne Modafferi in the quarterfinals. Her woes continued at the Finale, which saw her tap to a Gillian Robertson submission in little more than two minutes.

She is five inches taller than Jamie Moyle (4-2), but will give up two inches of reach.

Moyle likewise went 1-1 in her TUF run, beating Alyssa Krahn in the elimination round of TUF 23 before falling to eventual finalist Amanda Cooper. Things have been similarly up-and-down in the Octagon, defeating Kailin Curran in her Octagon debut and losing to Viviane Pereira six months later.

This will be her first fight in 13 months because of injury.

Whitmire’s two professional victories came over opponents who were 0-0 and 2-7. She was a Strawweight before moving to 125 pounds for TUF, so she shouldn’t have much of a weight advantage. She has been submitted twice as a professional and got ground-and-pounded into the dirt on TUF.

That said, you can see why I’m not picking her over a capable wrestler.

Moyle has faced much stronger competition and has the stylistic edge to overcome the height disadvantage. She outstrikes, outwrestles and outgrapples Whitmire for up to 15 minutes.

Prediction: Moyle via unanimous decision

UFC 226 will feature two incredible world title fights, a grudge match, and the return of Gokhan Saki. If that’s not worth your money, I don’t know what is. See you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 226 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: 86-40

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to UFC Fight Pass this weekend (Sat., June 23, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 132: “Cerrone vs. Edwards” storms Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Fight Night 132 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Night owls and those who kinda just don’t sleep, rejoice!

Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore, plays host to the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) international venture this Saturday morning June 23, 2018), hosting a Welterweight crossroads bout between Donald Cerrone and Leon Edwards alongside 11 other bouts. UFC Fight Night 132’s main card also features Ovince Saint Preux vs. Tyson Pedro, Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Jessica Eye, and a guaranteed barnburner between Li Jingliang and Daichi Abe.

We’ve got four more UFC Fight Night 132 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so here’s what the late arrivals get to enjoy:

135 lbs.: Teruto Ishihara vs. Petr Yan

After ending his Road to UFC: “Japan” run with a draw against Mizuto Hirota, Teruto Ishihara (10-5-2) turned heads with his boisterous personality and brutal knockouts of Julian Erosa and Horacio Gutierrez. “Yashabo’s” fortunes took a rapid turn, however, entering the cage with just one win in his last four fights.

Eight of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.

Petr Yan (8-1) — fighting out of Tiger Muay Thai alongside the likes of Mairbek Taisumov and Ben Nguyen — won an ACB tournament before losing a controversial decision to Magomed Magomedov in a vacant title shot. Undaunted, “No Mercy” went on to beat Magomedov in the rematch and knockout previously unbeaten Matheus Mattos in his first title defense.

He has knocked out three opponents and submitted one other.

I’ve said this about a few different people and generally come out looking stupid for it, but tempting fate is fun. Yan is “Next Big Thing” material — he’s fast, powerful, aggressive and has deep wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu games to complement his core boxing game.

He can also take a punch, which is bad for Ishihara.

Yan has him beat in striking technique, wrestling skills and submission prowess. “Yashabo’s” only real chance is a one-hitter quitter from that sledgehammer left hand, and considering I’ve seen Yan absorb a flush spinning back fist without flinching, that seems unlikely. Yan dominates wherever the fight goes.

Prediction: Yan via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Felipe Arantes vs. Song Yadong

Consecutive upset submissions of Yves Jabouin and Jerrod Sanders made it look like Felipe Arantes (18-9-1) had found a home at Bantamweight, only for him to miss weight against Erik Perez and subsequently lose a split decision. “Sertanejo” returned to 145 pounds in Oct. 2017 with a decision loss to Josh Emmett, who knocked down the durable Brazilian multiple times on his way to victory.

Though he and Song Yadong (12-4) are the same height, Arantes will have a six-inch reach advantage.

Song made his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut at just 15 years old, cutting his teeth in China, Japan and Russia before making his Octagon debut in Nov. 2017. Facing Indian wrestler Bharat Khandare, Song showed some dangerous striking before locking up a bonus-winning guillotine choke late in the first round.

Four of his seven stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.

Song is aggressive and powerful, but extremely raw, the sort of fresh-faced youngster who Arantes can dramatically upend. “Sertanejo” is extremely durable and dangerously tricky, well-equipped to exploit the myriad openings Song leaves in his aggressive pursuit of the finish. He can control the stand up with his Muay Thai and lock up an armbar in a heartbeat should Song hit the deck or try to take him there.

Song has real potential, but he’s up against a taller, longer, more experienced veteran who can survive the early onslaught and end things as soon as he lets up. Arantes wraps up a submission late in the first.

Prediction: Arantes via first-round submission

145 lbs.: Rolando Dy vs. Shane Young

Rolando Dy (9-6) ran into some bad luck in his first two UFC appearances, as an eye injury cut short his fight with Alex Caceres and a point deduction against the aforementioned Ishihara turned what would have been a majority draw into a unanimous decision loss. He finally entered UFC’s win column in Nov. 2017 with a decision over Wuliji Buren in Shanghai.

“The Incredible” will give up three inches of reach to Shane Young (11-4).

“Sugar” Shane brought a five-fight win streak into his UFC debut, a short-notice bout with top prospect Alexander Volkanovski. Though he lasted the distance, he struggled with his foe’s wrestling en route to a decision loss.

Five of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.

This should be fun! Young’s a striker by trade and should be willing to engage Dy on the feet. Unfortunately, that’s a mixed blessing for “The Incredible,” who has a terrible habit of getting dropped. Even if things do wind up going the Filipino’s way on the feet, even Ishihara was able to take him down, meaning Young should have little trouble mixing things up and disrupting Dy’s rhythm.

Young’s the more durable of the two and can grapple if necessary. He controls the striking and mixes in a takedown or two to win the decision, possibly dropping Dy once or twice along the way.

Prediction: Young via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Hector Aldana vs. Song Kenan

Hector Aldana (4-0) picked up three stoppages in four wins to earn a spot on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Latin America” 2, where he represented Team Kelvin Gastelum. He defeated Alvaro Herrera in the elimination round, but suffered a submission loss to Enrique Marin in the semifinal round.

He stands three inches shorter than Song Kenan (13-4) at 5’9.”

“The Assassin” actually entered UFC on a two-fight losing streak, falling to Elnur Agaev and kickboxing standout Brad Riddell. He got back on track in his UFC debut with an upset knockout of Bobby Nash that took him just 15 seconds.

Nine of his 11 finishes have come in the first round.

Aldana has not had a professional fight since 2013 and two of his four wins came over guys making their debuts. Song may be a flawed fighter, but at least he’s got a solid punch and a boatload of experience.

On the more substantive side of things, Aldana doesn’t appear to have any takedown defense whatsoever and doesn’t look superior on the feet. Song takes him down early and locks up a quick submission.

Prediction: Song via first-round submission

Whether live or at an actually reasonable hour, there’s plenty here worth checking out. See you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 132 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 4:30 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 8 a.m. ET, also on Fight Pass.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 80-38

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