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UFC 236 Preview: The Dawn Of A New Error

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on pay-per-view (PPV) this Sat. night (April 13, 2019) for UFC 236: “Holloway vs. Poirier 2,” taking place inside State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, headlined by not one, but two interim title fights.

Unlike the traditional model, where fans simply called up their cable or satellite provider, UFC 236 will be the first event under the promotion’s new seven-year deal with ESPN where a subscription to the ESPN+ digital streaming service will be required to order the PPV.

That gives you, the fan, a handful of options. You can shell out five bucks a month for ESPN+ and then pay another $ 60 for every PPV that interests you, or pass on the service and head over to the local watering hole (like Buffalo Wild Wings) to watch it with your friends.

Yes, some fans illegally stream the events online anyway and this new, restrictive deal is likely to force even more viewers to give piracy a try. But there are also those consumers who already have subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu, among others, and simply can’t afford another annual commitment.

UFC will try to convince you that by lowering the price of the PPV from $ 64.99 to $ 59.99, it eliminates the price of the ESPN+ subscription and it’s basically a wash. Sounds great on paper, but it’s only a wash if you purchase all 12 events.

Sorry folks, but spending $ 780 to break even is not a wash.

Promotion president, Dana White, told Megan Olivi during their recent press conference (disguised as an interview) that UFC is simply joining the digital movement, which is the way of the future and everyone is inevitably cutting the cord anyway and blah, blah, blah.

He also said that anyone who doesn’t see the new ESPN deal as a “win” should shut up and stop covering the sport, because UFC got $ 300 million per year from the “worldwide leader in sports” in 2018 as opposed to $ 116 million per year from FOX back in 2011.

He forgot to mention the original asking price was $ 450 million.

How this new deal affects fighters, many of whom are accustomed to earning PPV points, is unknown. What I can say for certain is that for Jon Jones to sell 600,000 PPVs, there must first be a minimum of 600,000 ESPN+ subscribers, every single one of them must be UFC fans, and every single one of them must purchase UFC 239 in July.

Uh huh.

ESPN has done an admirable job of telling us how many new subscribers join every month, in what appears to be an outward justification for the hefty sum shelled out to carry UFC events. What the network hasn’t told us, is how many of those same subscribers jump ship after their seven-day free trial expires.

I’d love to know the numbers behind that revolving door.

I guess the above whine-a-thon was a longwinded way of being butthurt over the loss of freedom. I want to be able to pick and choose which UFC PPV events I purchase and I want to be able to push the button on my DirectTV remote to buy them.

UFC 236 is a solid card (see it) and let’s be honest, is there anyone out there in MMA land who believes the Max Holloway vs. Dustin Poirier rematch won’t deliver? And I’m also intrigued to see what Israel Adesanya can do against a grinder like Kelvin Gastelum. The interim titles up for grabs in both contests are of no interest to me because both champions, Khabib Nurmagomedov (lightweight) and Robert Whittaker (middleweight), are expected back in just a few months.

These are simply interesting fights that I’d like to see, but I’m holding onto my seven-day free trial for UFC 239, which on paper, is likely to be the most stacked fight card of the year. After that, I’m not sure what my plan is, but I sure do love that Thai Curry sauce on my hot wings.

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ONE: “Roots Of Honor” Preview (Pt. 1)

ONE: “Roots of Honor” is set for the MOA Arena in Manila on Friday (April 12, 2019) and features two title fights. Joshua Pacio will be looking to reclaim his strawweight strap while Martin Nguyen defends his featherweight belt for the second time.

The Philippines is currently without a ONE Championship titleholder after Eduard Folayang and Kevin Belingon both lost in Tokyo, albeit in wildly different circumstances. Pacio will be looking to rectify that situation when he faces Yosuke Saruta.

Meanwhile, Nguyen faces a former featherweight champion in Narantungalag Jadambaa. The card also features the remaining quarterfinal bout in the flyweight Grand Prix with Tatsumitsu Wada taking on Gustavo Balart.

Here’s my preview of the first seven fights:

125 lbs.: Ramon Gonzales vs. Akihiro Fujisawa (Strawweight)

Ramon Gonzalez (3-2) is a multiple time Karate champion whose life story was recently the subject of a TV drama in the Philippines. Despite coming from such a strong striking background he is coming off back to back submission wins.

Akihiro Fujisawa (5-0-1) had his first pro fight in 2008. He resurrected his career in Thailand a decade later and is riding a five fight winning streak. The Japanese fighter looks to be primarily a grappler.

115 lbs.: Bi Nguyen vs. Dwi Ani Retno Wulan (Atomweight)

Bi Nguyen (4-3) has been in with some very tough atomweights in the U.S. She’s perhaps better known for an appearance on the Survivor TV show than her exploits inside the MMA arena.

However, the Vietnamese American trains very seriously and has been at Tiger Muay Thai to prepare for her ONE Championship debut. She will be a strong favorite against Indonesia’s Dwi Ani Retno Wulan (1-0).

135 lbs.: Muay Thai — Lerdsila Champairtour vs. Kohei Kodera (Flyweight)

Lerdsila Champairtour is a Muay Thai veteran who has won two fights out of two in the ONE Super Series. The 38 year old is good at making opponents miss and then punishing them with a fast right kick.

Kohei Kodera looked very good in his ONE Super Series debut but faces a big step up in opposition here. He won the WBC International 126-pound title but is massively outranked by his opponent in Muay Thai terms.

135 lbs.: Niko Soe vs. Eko Roni Saputra (Flyweight)

Niko Soe (2-1) made his ONE Championship debut in 2016 but has not fought since. He’s been training MMA for the best part of a decade even if his fights have been far and few between.

Eko Roni Saputra is a decorated wrestler from Indonesia who trains at Evolve MMA. Local pride will be at stake here because his opponent fights out of Impact MMA in Singapore.

145 lbs.: Ahmad Qais Jasoor vs. Xie Bin (Bantamweight)

Ahmad Qais Jasoor (5-1-1) was originally scheduled to face Masakazu Imanari in Jakarta but couldn’t get a visa. He might feel he dodged a bullet by missing out on a matchup with the most dangerous leg lock specialist in the sport.

Instead, the Afghan finds himself facing Xie Bin (6-2). The Chinese fighter is on a five-fight winning streak and could establish himself as an unlikely title contender with a win in Manila.

145 lbs.: Muay Thai — Saemapetch Fairtex vs. Ognjen Topic (Bantamweight)

Saemapetch Fairtex is a former Channel 7 star who won one of the biggest tournaments in Muay Thai. He’s a southpaw with a solid left kick and has won all his ONE Super Series bouts so far.

Ognjen Topic is also coming off a ONE Super Series win and has been in with the likes of Saenchai Sor Kingstar and Tukkatatong Petpayathai although he lost both fights and will be an underdog here.

155 lbs.: Eric Kelly vs. Won Il Kwon (Featherweight)

Eric Kelly (12-6) is on a five-fight losing streak and hasn’t won a fight since 2015. He has hard kicks and can slap on rear-naked chokes from unorthodox angles but is a bit flat footed and the division has evolved since his days as a top title contender.

Won Il Kwon (6-1) is one of the tallest fighters in the division but is coming off a first career loss at the hands of Masakazu Imanari.

The entire ONE: “Roots of Honor” fight card will be available to view live and free in some territories using the newly launched app which you can download here. In the U.S. it will be streamed on B/R Live.

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Predictions! UFC 236 Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ Preview

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

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

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

170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Curtis Millender

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

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

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

His six knockout wins include two by head kick.

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

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

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

Prediction: Muhammad via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Montel Jackson vs. Andre Soukhamthath

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Jackson via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Poliana Botelho vs. Lauren Mueller

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Botelho via first-round technical knockout

135 lbs.: Randy Costa vs. Brandon Davis

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

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

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

He will be making his Bantamweight debut.

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

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

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

Prediction: Davis via third-round technical knockout

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

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 236 fight card on fight night, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

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

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

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

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

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

145 lbs.: Arnold Allen vs. Jordan Rinaldi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Allen via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Marc Diakiese vs. Joe Duffy

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

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

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

This will be his first fight in 16 months.

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

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

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

Prediction: Duffy via unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Sabarbeg Safarov vs. Nick Negumereanu

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

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

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

He replaces the injured Gokhan Saki on short notice.

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

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

Prediction: Safarov via first-round knockout

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

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

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

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

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

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

185 lbs.: Tom Breese vs. Ian Heinisch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Breese via second-round submission

145 lbs.: Dan Ige vs. Danny Henry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Ige via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Priscila Cachoeira vs. Molly McCann

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: McCann via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Nad Narimani vs. Mike Grundy

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

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

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

This will be his first fight since Nov. 2017.

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

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

Prediction: Narimani via unanimous decision

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

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

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

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

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

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

265 lbs.: Maurice Greene vs. Jeff Hughes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Hughes via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Louis Smolka vs. Matt Schnell

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

Seven of his 13 stoppage wins have come by submission.

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Smolka via second-round submission

170 lbs.: Alex Morono vs. Zak Ottow

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

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

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

He has submitted 10 opponents and knocked out another three.

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

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

Prediction: Morono via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Alex White vs. Dan Moret

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

His 10 stoppages are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.

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

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

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

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

Prediction: White via second-round technical knockout

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

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

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

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

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

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

170 lbs.: Michel Prazeres vs. Ismail Naurdiev

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

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

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

He steps in for Ramazan Emeev on short notice.

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

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

Prediction: Prazeres via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Daniel Teymur vs. Chris Fishgold

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Fishgold via third-round submission

155 lbs.: Rustam Khabilov vs. Diego Ferreira

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

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

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

He has submitted six and knocked out three.

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

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

Prediction: Khabilov via split decision

155 lbs.: Damir Ismagulov vs. Joel Alvarez

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Ismagulov via unanimous decision

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

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

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Bellator 215 predictions, preview for ‘Mitrione vs Kharitonov’

Sergei Kharitonov

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

Let’s break it down:

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

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

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

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

Final prediction: Matt Mitrione wins via first round knockout

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

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

Final prediction: Logan Storley wins via first round technical knockout

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

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

Final prediction: Eduardo Dantas via third round submission

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

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

Final prediction: Michael Kimbel wins via first round knockout

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

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

Final prediction: Austin Vanderford wins via submission

That’s a wrap!

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

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

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

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

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

115 lbs.: Jessica Penne vs. Jodie Esquibel

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

This will be her first fight in nearly two years.

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Penne via second-round submission

135 lbs.: Renan Barao vs. Luke Sanders

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

He has submitted 15 opponents and knocked out eight others.

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Sanders via unanimous decision

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

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

This will be her first fight in 1.5 years.

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Whitmire via third-round submission

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

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

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

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Predictions! Bellator ‘Newcastle’ Main Card Preview, Quick Picks

Patricky Pitbull

Bellator Newcastle: “Pitbull vs. Scope” airs tomorrow afternoon (Sat., Feb. 9, 2019) from Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle upon Tyne, England via Bellator.com. The main event will see a ferocious battle between two Lightweight contenders gunning for a shot at the crown Michael Chandler wears once again.

Let’s break it down:

155 lbs.: Patricky “Pitbull” Freire (20-8) vs. Ryan Scope (10-1)

When you make a list of the most feared fighters in Bellator’s Lightweight division, Patricky Freire’s name should be at or near the top. Thirteen of 20 wins (65 percent) have come via knockout, or looked at another way, he’s finished one out of every two opponents he has faced to date. A winning percentage that high in mixed martial arts (MMA) can only mean one thing — prodigious punching power. After his last highlight-reel finish he called out Brent Primus, but one can only assume he’d call out Chandler if he scores another big win in Newcastle.

The Sunderland Fight Pit prospect unapologetically called “Big Baby” would love to be a road block to Freire’s title shot. Ryan Scope started out his career with three straight rear naked choke wins, then showed off the power of his own hands by finishing four of his next six opponents. Unfortunately it’s hard to get a read on whether or not Scope could be a flash in the pan due to long periods of inactivity — two years off from 2014-2016 and only two fights from 2017 to the present day. He also took his first professional loss via (ironically) a rear naked choke to unheralded fighter Lewis Long (16-5), who also has a date on this card with “Judo” Jim Wallhead.

Fighting at home will certainly motivate Scope to be at his best against Freire, and he may have a small physical advantage at 5’10” to Freire’s 5’7” (Scope’s reach has not been disclosed before press time). Advantages on paper tend to diminish when you fight a “Pitbull” though, which is what makes Patricio and Patricky’s nickname so apt. They are relentlessly determined in every bout and always turn in a performance bigger than they are. While the younger Patricio has had more frequent and more lasting success at the highest levels, one can only assume Patricky could finally earn his shot too in this fight.

Final prediction: Patricky Freire wins via second round technical knockout

155 lbs.: Aaron Chalmers (4-0) vs. Corey Browning (3-1)

If you remember the name Aaron Chalmers it’s because we’ve covered the reality show star turned-professional fighter before. After making quick work of a sub-par opponent at Bellator 200, it’s now time to Chalmers to step up and face some stiffer competition to prove he really belongs in the big leagues. I’m not sure Corey Browning is that man, though. Let’s all be honest that Browning was brought in to be fed to “Baby Slice” at Bellator 207 yet Browning turned the tables and submitted him when he gassed out. That win earned him this return fight yet I can’t imagine they’re flying him in from Tennessee just to do the same thing to another up-and-comer they are trying to make into a star.

Final prediction: Aaron Chalmers wins via first round knockout

185 lbs.: Fabian Edwards (5-0) vs. Lee Chadwick (24-13-1)

In what is sure to be a crowd pleasing affair for Newcastle attendees, local stars Fabian Edwards (hailing from Birmingham) and Lee Chadwick (hailing from Liverpool) will put on a show at Middleweight. Chadwick owns an obvious experience advantage and comes in with a three fight win streak that includes two submissions. He’s also the elder fighter at 33, which may tip a small edge to the undefeated Edwards, young and hungry at only 25 years old. Although he hasn’t gotten as much press for it as Tywan Claxton did, Edwards also won his Bellator debut via flying knee, and has diversified his attack with two knockouts and two submissions since. Call it a hunch but I think Chadwick will get more than he bargained for. He has been submitted five times and to me that’s his Achilles heel.

Final prediction: Fabian Edwards taps out Lee Chadwick with a first round rear-naked choke

155 lbs.: Terry Brazier (10-1) vs. Chris Bungard (11-4)

This is another bout for the local boys to shine with Brazier hailing from London and Bungard hailing from Coatbridge, Scotland. Bungard’s record seems more shaky from the word go. Although he’s won four of his last five, he lost to “Freakshow” Colin Fletcher in that span, who I find to be a very middling Lightweight who losses to almost every decent man he faces — Norman Parke, Mike Ricci, Andre Winner, Alex Lohore, et cetera. Fletcher is your basic “gatekeeper” fighter and if Bungard couldn’t even beat him that’s troubling. Meanwhile Brazier has racked up nine straight wins dating back to 2015 and has a very well rounded game with four knockouts, two submissions and four decisions. Do I really need to say anything else?

Final prediction: “The Dominator” Terry Brazier finishes Chris Bungard in round one

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator “Newcastle” tomorrow with a main card start time of 5 p.m. ET on Bellator.com (“Prelims” undercard begins at 3 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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