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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both ESPN+ and ESPN this weekend (Sat., Jan. 19, 2019) when UFC Fight Night 143: “Cejudo vs. Dillashaw” storms Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 143 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

With the FOX deal going the way of Spike TV, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) enters 2019 in the greener pastures of ESPN and ESPN+, hitting Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.., this Saturday (Jan. 19, 2019) with its inaugural card. In the main event, T.J. Dillashaw drops 10 pounds in a bid to become a double champ against newly minted Flyweight king Henry Cejudo, while the controversial Greg Hardy debuts in the co-main against Allen Crowder. Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans will also get to see blue-chip Lightweight prospect Gregor Gillespie take on all-action Yancy Medeiros and the venerable Joseph Benavidez face the resurgent Dustin Ortiz.

Two of the six “Prelims” undercard bouts take place on ESPN+, just like the main card. Let’s begin, shall we?

155 lbs.: Dennis Bermudez vs. Te Edwards

Dennis Bermudez (16-9) enters the cage this Saturday on a four-fight losing streak, though only his knockout loss to Chan Sung Jung was definitive. His subsequent defeats to Darren Elkins, Andre Fili and Rick Glenn all came by split decision, with the majority of MMA media scoring them for “The Menace.” This will be his first Lightweight bout in more than eight years.

Te Edwards (6-2) smashed his way to UFC with a 28-second one-punch knockout of Austin Tweedy on “Contender Series,” his fifth consecutive win by first-round stoppage. The Muay Thai stylings of Don Madge proved too much, however, as the South African put him away with a head kick seconds into the second round. He stands two inches taller than Bermudez and will have a six-inch reach advantage.

Frankly, I expected quite a lot more from Edwards against Madge, but his lack of striking craft and defensive grappling showed themselves. He’s still got plenty of potential and those problems can be chalked up to a lack of experience; unfortunately, they’re not the sort of shortcomings that can be fixed in three months. He’s going to struggle against an experienced wrestler, even one he has two inches of height and six inches of reach on.

Bermudez has a bad habit of getting dropped and Edwards has the power to score an early finish. If Bermudez can survive a rough start, though, expect him to exploit Edwards’ lack of experience in deep waters and ground-and-pound the tiring “T” on his way to some 29-28s.

Prediction: Bermudez via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Belal Muhammad vs. Geoff Neal

Belal Muhammad (14-2) started his UFC career 1-2, but has since assembled a four-fight win streak that includes an upset decision of Tim Means. “Remember the Name” was last seen defeating late replacement Chance Rencountre, and was going to face Brazilian knockout artist Elizeu “Capoeira” in Sept. 2018 before pulling out because of an injury. He will give up three inches of reach to Geoff Neal (10-2).

“Handz of Steel” made the move to 185 pounds for his “Contender Series” bout with Chase Waldon, making short work of the former RFA title challenger to earn a contract. He dispatched Brian Camozzi with a no-hooks rear-naked choke in his UFC debut, then laid an unholy beating on Frank Camacho before leveling him with a head kick in Sept. 2018. Six of his eight stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.

I procrastinated on picking this one — it’s not the closest fight on the card in terms of odds, but it’s tough to get a good read on it. Neal’s superior power has me leaning his way, but Muhammad has come a long way since getting dropped left and right by Alan Jouban and Vicente Luque. Indeed, he’s evolved into a genuine contender despite his lack of stopping power.

This will come down to how much success Muhammad has with his takedowns. Neal’s reach advantage will make it difficult to get inside, though, and he’s shown that he can keep up an impressive pace, making it unlikely that Muhammad can wear him down and take over late. Expect a competitive striking battle until Neal finds the mark with something nasty.

Prediction: Neal via second-round technical knockout

Four more UFC on ESPN+ 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict, including multiple top prospects and the latest from “Cowboy” Cerrone. 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 143 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

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Predictions! UFC 232 FOX Sports 1 ‘Prelims’ Preview – Pt. 2

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Dec. 29, 2018) when UFC 232: “Jones vs Gustafsson 2” storms The Forum in Inglewood, California. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC 232 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The nightmare saga of UFC 232 concludes at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., this Saturday (Dec. 29, 2018) when Jon Jones rematches Alexander Gustafsson. In the pay-per-view (PPV) co-feature, Cris Cyborg throws down with fellow Brazilian knockout artist Amanda Nunes for the women’s Featherweight belt, while Chad Mendes squares off with Alexander in a pivotal clash of 145-pound contenders.

Four more “Prelims” undercard bouts on FOX Sports 1 remain to preview and predict (check out the Fight Pass portion here). Let’s get to it.

265 lbs.: Andrei Arlovski vs. Walt Harris

Once the terror of the Heavyweight division, Andrei Arlovski (27-17) is just 2-7 in his last nine fights, including four stoppage losses. Though he put together a two-fight win streak with decisions over Junior Albini and Stefan Struve, “The Pitbull” has since lost two straight to Tai Tuivasa and Shamil Abdurakhimov.

Walt Harris’ (11-7) decision to fight Fabricio Werdum on short notice got him tapped in 65 seconds, after which he cost himself what looked to be an easy win over Mark Godbeer by landing an illegal head kick. “The Big Ticket” returned to action seven months later, knocking out Daniel Spitz in the waning seconds of the second round. All 11 of his wins have come by knockout within two rounds.

Save for a few entertaining moments against Josh Barnett, Arlovski hasn’t looked good in a fight since thrashing Travis Browne in 2015. Even his wins were dull — Frank Mir and Junior Albini barely fought, while the extremely shopworn Stefan Struve had no answers for Arlovski’s wrestling. Admittedly, he hasn’t been knocked out in a while, but I’ve seen nothing to suggest he can handle Harris, who is probably the best fighter to go 4-6 in UFC.

“The Big Ticket” is bigger, faster and stronger than Arlovski, and though his takedown defense remains mediocre, Arlovski doesn’t have the gas tank consistently muscle him to the mat. Admittedly, Harris has an astounding ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but there’s too much going his way. Arlovski, who turns 40 in February, goes down early.

Prediction: Harris via first-round knockout

145 lbs.: Megan Anderson vs. Cat Zingano

Megan Anderson (7-3) scored three consecutive (technical) knockouts to earn a crack at the Invicta interim Featherweight title, which she won in dominant fashion with a head kick finish of Charmaine Tweet. She was originally supposed to debut against Cris “Cyborg,” but instead took on Holly Holm, who exploited the Aussie’s shaky ground game to win a dominant decision.

She is six inches taller than Cat Zingano (10-3) and will have a four-inch reach advantage.

“Alpha” Cat had a rough go of things from Feb. 2015 to March 2018, fighting just three times and losing all three. She finally got back in the win column in July by snapping Marion Reneau’s four-fight unbeaten streak in Boise.

Half of her wins have come by (technical) knockout.

In the pantheon of prospect red flags, getting out-wrestled by Holly Holm is way up there. Not that the Jackson-Wink product can’t defend a takedown, but if she’s initiating the wrestling and torching you on the mat, something is deeply wrong with your game.

Something that can’t be fixed in six months.

Zingano showed against Reneau that she’s willing to bring her offensive wrestling prowess to bare, and even with the considerable size difference she’s facing, that’s enough for me to give her the nod. Unfortunately for Anderson, “Alpha” is a bit nastier from top position than Holm. Zingano pounds her out from top position sometime in the second.

Prediction: Zingano via second-round technical knockout

135 lbs.: Petr Yan vs. Douglas Andrade

Petr Yan (10-1) — the ACB Bantamweight Champion — made his Octagon debut in triumphant fashion with a knockout of never-before-KO’d Teruto Ishihara at UFC Fight Night 132. He was booked to face Andrade in November, but instead fought late replacement Jin Soo Son, battering the indestructible Korean in the evening’s “Fight of the Night.”

He will give up 1.5-inch of reach to Douglas Andrade (25-2).

Andrade, now 33, has fought just once a year in the UFC, going 3-1 since losing his 2014 debut to future brawl participant Zubaira Tukhugov. His most recent bout saw him score a mild upset over TUF: Latin America vet Marlon Vera in February. He’s scored 19 knockouts as a pro, including a 10-KO streak at one point.

This is a Fight of the Night sleeper pick. Yan is arguably the best prospect in the division and consistently puts on a show, while Andrade hits like a truck. Both have sufficiently good takedown defense to keep it standing of one or the other feels inclined to take it to the mat and the durability to punish one another for all fifteen minutes.

This may boil down to output; Andrade can be surprisingly passive despite his considerable power, and though Yan is a little linear and hittable, the Brazilian slugger is going to find himself deep in a statistical hole if he can’t hurt Yan early. “No Mercy” has a tougher time than expected, but ultimately outworks his foe to win a unanimous decision.

Prediction: Yan by unanimous decision

155 lbs.: B.J. Penn vs. Ryan Hall

B.J. Penn (16-12-2) — 2.5 years after his disastrous Featherweight debut against Frankie Edgar — returned to the cage in the main event of UFC Fight Night 103, where he was summarily destroyed by Yair Rodriguez. He then lost a majority decision to Dennis Siver despite dropping the veteran, increasing his current losing streak to five.

This will be his first fight in 18 months.

Ryan Hall (6-1) scored a pair of rapid heel hooks on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 before running into Saul Rogers, but got a spot on the Finale anyway after Rogers was found to have lied on his visa.

He will also be returning from a considerable hiatus, having last fought in Dec. 2016.

I mean, if you had to pick someone for Penn to fight who’s unlikely to give him further brain trauma, it’s Hall. Hall is unequivocally there to grapple, though he’ll land some decent ground-and-pound if given the opportunity. Penn’s the better striker by a huge margin, but Hall’s endless range kicking and takedown bait will make it difficult for “The Prodigy” to establish his boxing game.

The result? Black belt vs. black belt on the mat.

Penn’s credentials on the mat hold up to Hall’s, but at 40 years old with a history of beatings and cardio failure, one can’t reasonably expect him to keep up with Hall for all 15 minutes. Penn starts strong, but fades down the stretch as he always does while Hall establishes dominant position after dominant position, too tough to finish but too broken to compete.

Prediction: Hall via unanimous decision

This is a horrific mess, but hopefully it’ll at least be an interesting mess. See you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 232 fight card on fight night, 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 pay-per-view (PPV) main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 232: “Jones vs. Gustafsson 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 188-84-1

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Predictions! UFC 232 Fight Pass ‘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., Dec. 29, 2018) when UFC 232: “Jones vs Gustafsson 2” storms The Forum in Inglewood, California. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 232 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) ends the year this Saturday (Dec. 29, 2018) in the most fitting manner possible: a logistical nightmare made possible, once again, by Jon Jones. He’ll fight Alexander Gustafsson inside The Forum in Los Angeles, Calif., after an “abnormal” drug test scrapped their original planned site of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Elsewhere on UFC 232’s pay-per-view (PPV) main card, women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes returns to 145 pounds to challenge division queenpin, Cris Cyborg, and Carlos Condit welcomes Michael Chiesa to the Welterweight division.

This cluster-you-know-what has eight “Prelims” undercard matches ready to set the stage. Let’s look at the first four:

135 lbs.: Nathaniel Wood vs. Andre Ewell

Nathaniel Wood (14-3) lived up to his name with a series of impressive victories on the British circuit, winning and twice defending the Cage Warriors Bantamweight title before joining UFC in June. After a tough first round that saw him rocked by Nova Uniao veteran Johnny Eduardo, “The Prospect” capitalized on a failed takedown attempt to submit Eduardo with a bonus-winning d’arce choke.

He has scored nine professional knockouts and three submissions.

Andre Ewell, the CES Bantamweight champion, hopped right into the deep end in his UFC debut against former champion Renan Barao in Sao Paulo. He came up big in hostile territory, taking home a split decision over the one-time Bantamweight great.

He steps in for the injured Tom Duquesnoy on short notice.

Wood vs. Duquesnoy had the better storyline, but this is still a terrific match up between strong prospects. Though Wood has more time to develop, being five years younger, both are worth keeping tabs on as they rise through the ranks at 135 pounds.

In what’s a pick-‘em fight both on paper and the sportsbook, the X-factor could be dimensions. Ewell is six inches taller than Wood and has a seven-inch reach advantage. Wood’s key weakness is that he’s hittable, which had him in trouble against Eduardo until the latter foolishly attempted a takedown. Expect Ewell to outland him at distance, racking up left hands and surviving the heavy blows coming back his way to take a narrow decision.

Prediction: Ewell via split decision

185 lbs.: Uriah Hall vs. Bevon Lewis

Uriah Hall (13-9), who became the first man to knockout Gegard Mousasi in 2015, is just 1-4 since that victory, including three (technical) knockout losses. Following his comeback knockout of Krzysztof Jotko, which snapped a three-fight losing streak, “Primetime” took on the rising Paulo Costa, who battered him into submission midway through the second round.

He has knocked out nine professional foes and submitted another two.

Bevon Lewis (6-0) dispatched Elias Urbina on the first season of “Contender Series,” but didn’t earn a contract in the process. After a decision in LFA, “The Extraordinary Gentleman” returned for Season Two, knocking out Alton Cunningham in the first round.

He will have three inches of height on Hall.

Hall is genetically engineered to piss off mixed martial arts (MMA) pundits — he has the athleticism and power to pull out a win from the depths of defeat alongside the fight IQ to pull out a defeat from the depths of victory. I don’t even know why I bother predicting his fights.

Oh, right. Because they pay me.

Lewis is a young, well-rounded prospect out of an excellent camp in Jackson-Wink. He looks to be durable enough to withstand Hall’s sporadic power punches and force it into the clinch, where his height, knees and elbows should pay dividends. He exploit’s Hall’s legendarily terrible ring craft to pin him against the fence and put him away late in the first.

Prediction: Lewis via first-round technical knockout

170 lbs.: Curtis Millender vs. Siyar Bahadurzada

A pair of highlight-reel head kicks extended Curtis Millender’s (16-3) win streak to six and set up a February UFC debut against veteran Thiago Alves. “Curtious” wound up starching Alves with a knee in the second round, earning “Performance of the Night,” then outclassed Max Griffin five months later.

He is three inches taller than Siyar Bahadurzada (24-6-1) and will have a 3.5-inch reach advantage.

“The Great,” who missed all of 2014 and 2015, is undefeated (3-0) with three finishes since returning to action in March 2016. After choking out Brandon Thatch, he proceeded to knockout Rob Wilkinson and Luan Chagas, earning “Performance of the Night” for his starching of the latter.

Thirteen of his 20 stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.

I’ll readily admit that I consistently underestimate Bahadurzada. He looks like a mediocre slugger, consistently winging straight-armed punches with nary a jab to be found, but he’s so relentless and hits so hard that it often doesn’t matter. I’m still going to pick against him, though, because his lack of set ups mean he’ll struggle to close the distance against the rangy Millender. And the threat of his wrestling is likewise mitigated by range at which he’d have to initiate his takedowns.

The threat of the one-hitter quitter is there, but the likeliest outcome sees Millender patiently take apart Bahadurzada at long range.

Prediction: Millender via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Brian Kelleher vs. Montel Jackson

I’m just going to go ahead and copy-paste what I wrote when these two were booked to fight at UFC 230 as a Christmas present to myself.

Wrestling, aggression and sheer grit carried Brian Kelleher (19-9) past Damian Stasiak and Renan Barao on his way to contendership. Those weren’t enough against John Lineker, who out-brawled Kelleher before knocking him stiff with a left hook.

“Boom” has five wins by guillotine, including one over fellow undercard fighter Julio Arce.

Montel Jackson (6-1) — whose “Contender Series” victory was marred by a series of fouls — got the UFC call anyway when Benito Lopez pulled out of a fight with Ricky Simon. Though he put forth a strong effort, he couldn’t overcome his foe on short notice and suffered his first career loss by decision.

He was supposed to fight Kelleher last month, but the latter withdrew due to illness.

Jackson is still somewhat green and came up short against Simon, but even on short notice, this is a much more winnable fight for him. He’s four inches taller than Kelleher and will have nearly a foot of reach on him. Kelleher gets inside through sheer tenacity, which just isn’t going to work against someone this rangy and hits this hard.

Kelleher’s only real chances of victory lie in Jackson gassing late or going for a takedown and leaving his neck out. Neither seems likely. Jackson plugs him with power shots at range to take a clear decision victory.

Prediction: Jackson via unanimous decision

Four more UFC 232 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, among them the latest effort from B.J. Penn and another appearance from blue-chip Bantamweight prospect, Petr Yan. Same time as always, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 232 fight card on fight night, 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.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 232: “Jones vs. Gustafsson 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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Predictions! Bellator 212 Main Card Preview, Quick Picks

Salute the Troops

Bellator 212: “Salute the Troops” airs tomorrow night (Fri., Dec. 14, 2018) from Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii, featuring a Lightweight title defense in the main event of the evening that is so long overdue it almost doesn’t feel real that it’s finally happening.

Let’s break it down:

155 lbs.: Brent Primus (8-0) vs. Michael Chandler (18-4)

This all started on June 25, 2017, at Bellator 180 in Madison Square Garden. Then-defending Lightweight champion, “Iron Mike” Chandler, was ready to collect his fifth straight win against the previously undefeated Brent Primus, but then the unthinkable happened. Primus landed a precise kick that wobbled his left leg and left him unsteady on his feet. Despite barely being able to stand, Chandler roared back and hurt Primus with a right hand, but as he continued to limp and stumble, referee Todd Anderson paused the match. And on the advice of the ringside doctor, the bout was stopped moments later. Indeed, Primus officially became a world champion via technical knockout at 2:27 of round one.

Several opportunities to make the rematch since fell through, including Bellator 197 earlier this year, and every step of the way Chandler blasted Primus as “heartless” and a “part timer” in the sport. Given Primus hasn’t taken a single fight until now since winning the Lightweight title it’s very hard to argue with at least one of Chandler’s two points. Unless a monster tsunami rises from the ocean and takes Honolulu off the map, we’ll finally find out if he’s right about the other point and see just how much “heart” Primus has in a rematch.

The Oregon-born, raised and trained Primus stands 5’10” with a 73” reach and mixed bag of finishes — two knockouts, four submissions, two decisions. Of those two knockouts one was actually the doctor’s stoppage mentioned above, so his power in the striking department can be questioned. Chandler’s power, on the other hand, cannot be disputed. He has knocked out seven foes, submitted seven more, and only four wins went to the judges scorecards. Even notoriously tough brawlers like “Pitbull” Patricky Freire have fallen to the power of his right hand.

In addition, Chandler’s two return fights since losing the title have both been convincing, from a brutal beatdown of Goiti Yamauchi for a lopsided unanimous decision to a strangulation of Brandon Girtz in a match Primus bowed out of. He has looked so good that the loss of his title now seems like even more of a fluke than it did in New York City. Meanwhile, because of his sheer inactivity, there’s little of Primus to compare against him, and split decision wins in two of his last three fights don’t suggest an ability to dominate over five rounds if it even lasts that long. There was no reason on paper to pick Primus the first time and sadly for the champion there’s even less reason to do so now.

Final prediction: Michael Chandler whoops ass until scoring a technical knockout in round two

205 lbs.: Frank Mir (18-12) vs. Javy Ayala (10-7)

This is another fight that is unlikely to go the distance. Already the loser of three straight, Mir has competed just once over the last two years, getting destroyed by Fedor in just 48 seconds back in April. Ayala, meanwhile, has been more active over that same span, but he lost a decision to Roy Nelson then got knocked cold by Cheick Kongo in May. You can put as much sugar and honey on this fight as you like, including the fact Mir is a former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title holder and Ayala once finished Kharitonov, but the fact is neither of these fighters are even near the middle of Bellator’s Heavyweight division. The only deciding factor to me is that Mir actually tagged Emelianenko with a punch in their fight that he admitted hurt him, and if Kongo can rock Ayala, I suspect Mir will too in a fight that should end quickly … and dramatically.

Final prediction: Frank Mir knocks out Javy Ayala in round one

145 lbs.: Derek Campos (19-7) vs. Sam Sicilia (15-9)

Campos was on a four-fight roll before Patricky Pitbull stopped him cold at Bellator 194 earlier this year. That may have motivated him to drop down from Lightweight to Featherweight, and if so, it could work well against Sam Sicilia. Campos stands 5’9” and has a 68” reach, while recent Bellator newcomer Sicilia is 5’8” with a 67” reach. Not only does that make the weight a better fit for Campos, he benefits from fighting a fighter on the decline who has lost four of his last five bouts dating back to 2015. As long as he makes a successful weight cut and isn’t dried up like a raisin this will go Campos’ way.

Final prediction: Derek Campos scores a third round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Alejandra Lara (7-2) vs. Juliana Velasquez (7-0)

Alejandra Lara had the honor of being the first woman to challenge Ilima-Lei Macfarlane for the women’s Bellator Flyweight title, but easily got outclassed in that fight and hasn’t been heard from since. This will mark her most active year since 2015 though as Lara has previously taken approximately one bout a year until now. Other than her debut and last year, Velasquez typically has two fights a year, and this will be her second of 2018 following an impressive technical knockout of Rebecca Ruth in April. The young Lara (24) stands 5’7” with a 68” reach, while the elder Velasquez (32) stands 5’6” with a 67.5” reach. As Mike Goldberg would say other than their age, “everything else is virtually identical.”

Velasquez has finished 57 percent of her opponents (three knockouts, one submission) in a thus far flawless career. Lara has fought more though and has finished 66 percent (three knockouts, three submissions). The most telling thing for me though is what doesn’t show up in the stats — how one-sided Lara’s loss to the champion was. When she’s faced older fighters — even if they have relatively the same number of professional bouts — they clearly don’t have the same level of experience between fights in the gym. I suspect what was true with Macfarlane is perhaps even more true with Velasquez — when “everything else is virtually identical” it’s that hard work outside of the cage that gives one woman the edge.

Final result: Alejandra Velasquez wins via technical knockout in round three

145 lbs.: A.J. McKee (12-0) vs. Daniel Crawford (10-2)

I’d like to say the Englishman Crawford has a chance here … but if I did I’d be lying. For “Mercenary” McKee this is simply a “stay busy” fight until he finally gets a world title shot against Emmanuel Sanchez. Crawford already lost his Bellator debut to Pedro Carvalho by split decision, and if that’s the best he can muster at anything above the BAMMA level, I don’t see him beating McKee. McKee stands 5’10” and has a 73” reach, while Crawford is at least one inch shorter in height with an undisclosed reach I don’t see closing the range of McKee with his hand speed and devastating kicks.

Final result: A.J. McKee wins via first round knockout

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 212 tomorrow with Paramount 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 ‘Milwaukee’ ‘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., Dec. 15, 2018) when UFC on FOX 31: “Iaquinta vs. Lee 2” storms Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC on FOX 31 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its final trip to FOX this Saturday (Dec. 15, 2018) with a top-notch Lightweight rematch at the helm. Kevin Lee, coming off of a brutal beating of Edson Barboza, takes on the man who handed him his first professional defeat in 2014, Al Iaquinta. UFC on FOX 31’s four-fight main card, which will take place inside Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisc., will also feature another rematch that pits Charles Oliveira against Jim Miller, as well as a banger between the aforementioned Barboza and Dan Hooker and a Bantamweight brawl between Sergio Pettis and Rob Font.

We’ll have a hefty six “Prelims” undercard bouts on FOX Sports 1 to set the stage before all that, though (check out the Fight Pass portion here), so let’s not waste time.

170 lbs.: Zak Ottow vs. Dwight Grant

Zak Ottow (16-6) — who made his UFC debut in 2016 with an upset decision over Josh Burkman — has alternated wins and losses in the Octagon and currently sits even (3-3) in the promotion. His last fight saw him drop Sage Northcutt in the opening seconds, but ultimately succumb to hammerfists in the second round.

He steps in for Erik Koch on two weeks’ notice.

American Kickboxing Academy’s Dwight Grant (8-1) has not tasted defeat since his second professional fight, knocking out five of his next seven opponents. After missing all of 2017, he appeared on “Contender Series” in June, where he flattened Tyler Hill in violent fashion to take home a contract.

He is two inches taller than Ottow and will have a four-inch reach advantage.

This is a bit of an obscure reference, but Grant reminds me of Valmir Lazaro, a Nova Uniao representative I was quite high on before he went 1-2 in the Octagon. He’s a haymaker-slinging puncher who relies mostly on his overhand right and counter left hook, neither of which are particularly crisp. He has the power to make it work, though, and Ottow has had very little time to prepare.

Koch’s technical kickboxing would have given Grant issues, but Ottow isn’t durable or savvy enough on the feet to exploit Grant’s limitations without getting chinned. Grant clips him with one of those giant swings and pounds him out quick.

Prediction: Grant via first-round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Jessica Rose-Clark vs. Andrea Lee (9-2)

Jessica Rose-Clark (9-5) didn’t let being the lesser name stop her from winning her first two UFC bouts, taking decisions over Bec Rawlings and Paige VanZant. Her streak would end there, as Jessica Eye defeated her in Singapore this past June.

“Jessy Jess” has knocked out and submitted two opponents apiece.

Andrea Lee (9-2)former LFA Flyweight champion — was originally supposed to debut against Kalindra Faria in Oct. 2017, but had to withdraw because of the required length of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) testing window. “KGB” wound up entering the Octagon in May with a “Fight of the Night”-winning decision over Veronica Macedo.

Three of her four submissions wins have come by armbar.

The women’s Flyweight division may be, well, underwhelming at the moment, but this is a damn good fight. Both women are aggressive and well-rounded, and should offer plenty of entertainment wherever the fight goes.

The crux of this match up is Rose-Clark’s wrestling. Lee is the sharper, more powerful striker, but has historically struggled with defending takedowns, even from mediocre takedown artists. That consideration isn’t enough to offset Lee’s stand up superiority, though, so expect “KGB” to do enough damage to overcome the time she spends on her back.

Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Drakkar Klose

“King” Bobby Green (24-8-1) had a less-than royal time recently, going winless (0-3-1) over three years after a career-best victory over Josh Thomson. After those struggles and a variety of injuries, he finally got back in the win column with an entertaining unanimous decision over Erik Koch.

Green has since pulled out of two more fights with injuries, increasing his UFC total to six.

Drakkar Klose (9-1-1) followed a decent UFC debut against Devin Powell with a surprising upset of Marc Diakiese, only to run afoul of the surging David Teymur that December. He bounced back in July with an upset of Lando Vannata at UFC 226, out-striking the striker to win all three rounds on all three scorecards.

Four of his nine wins have come via (technical) knockout, though none since 2015.

Teymur showed that the linear Klose can be frustrated with good defense, patience and lateral movement, but I’m not convinced Green can pull that off. Even putting aside his never-ending string of injuries, Green is too hittable to win close-range exchanges and Klose’s low kicks will prevent the boxing-heavy “King” from finding success on the outside.

Though I’m glad to see Green actually, you know, fighting instead of just sitting on the outside and shaking his head every time someone punches him, he’s going to have issues with Klose’s pressure, leg attack, and takedowns. Klose’s versatility wins him a fun, back-and-forth battle.

Prediction: Klose via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Jared Gordon vs. Joaquim Silva

Jared Gordon (14-2) picked up his fourth consecutive victory in his UFC debut, pounding out Michel Quinones, before spoiling Hacran Dias’ UFC Lightweight debut four months later. Then came Carlos Diego Ferreira, who came back from a two-year hiatus to knock Gordon out in under tow minutes.

“Flash” is one inch taller than “Netto BJJ,” but will give up an inch of reach.

Joaquim Silva (10-1) reached the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil” 4 before tapping to eventual winner Glaido França, but started his Octagon career on the right foot with a split decision over fellow semifinalist Nazareno Malegarie. Two more victories followed, after which he lost a narrow decision to Vinc Pichel in Charlotte.

Despite the nickname, he has knocked out five opponents and submitted three.

“Netto BJJ” is kind of a misnomer — the Brazilian is quite capable on his feet and generally happy to keep it there, having attempted just one takedown in his four UFC appearances. It’s not quite enough to offset the wrestling disparity. Reza Madadi, a one-note wrestler stepping up on short notice, took him down five times, and the threat of Gordon’s takedowns will even the striking.

This will be similar to the Dias fight, in which the more capable submission artist is ground down by a relentless wrestler who dictates where and how the fight proceeds in all three rounds. Assuming no ill effects from the Ferreira fight, Gordon takes this with pressure striking and regular takedowns.

Prediction: Gordon via unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Gerald Meerschaert vs. Jack Hermansson

Gerald Meerschaert (28-9) opened his Octagon career with a pair of first-round submissions, extending his finishing streak to seven. Though Thiago Santos beat him down at UFC 213, he showed his grit with comeback finishes of Eric Spicely and Oskar Piechota, the former of which earned him “Performance of the Night.”

“GM3” owns 20 wins by submission and another three via (technical) knockout.

Jack Hermansson (17-4) rebounded from his submission loss to Cezar Ferreira with consecutive ground-and-pound stoppages of Alex Nicholson and Bradley Scott, but soon ran into the aforementioned Santos and suffered the first (T)KO loss of his career. His next time out, he defied visible agony to improbably pound out Thales Leites midway through the third round.

“The Joker’s” 14 stoppage wins include 11 (technical) knockouts.

I’ve picked Meerschaert’s last three fights wrong, so I’m not exactly the authority on what he can and can’t do. Just keep that in mind.

Meerschaert’s last two wins both saw him survive early trouble to get the win, but Hermansson doesn’t slow down. In other words, if “GM3” finds himself in an early hole, he’s not getting out of it. Hermansson figures to be the better striker, and though Meerschaert is dangerous on the ground, his wrestling is inconsistent. If it does wind up going to the mat, it will be on Hermansson’s terms, and the Swede has some nasty ground-and-pound.

Meerschaert’s too tough to get finished by accumulated strikes, but Hermansson’s ground assault will seize the momentum early and never let go.

Prediction: Hermansson via unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Dan Ige vs. Jordan Griffin

Dan Ige (9-2) — representing Xtreme Couture — used his relentless wrestling to grind down and ultimately submit Luis Gomez on the first season of “Contender Series.” Though he fell to fellow alumnus Julio Arce in his UFC debut, he came back strong with a 50-second technical knockout of Mike Santiago in June.

“Dynamite” is three inches shorter than Griffin and will give up 3.5 inches of reach.

Roufusport’s Jordan Griffin (17-5) had won eight of his previous nine fights when he entered the Contender Series against Maurice Mitchell. After eating a hard right hand, he dropped Mitchell in return and choked him out late in the second round.

His last eight wins have come by stoppage, five by submission and three via (technical) knockout.

This is a clash between pragmatism and dynamism. Ige is a gritty wrestler, Griffin an athletic southpaw bruiser with a bad habit of sprinting after opponents with wide-armed swings. The oddsmakers have this as the closest fight on the undercard and I’m inclined to agree.

At the same time, they also have Ige as the favorite, and I am again inclined to agree. Griffin is the lesser grappler, and though he packs more power than Ige, he’s also overly aggressive with his linear offense and looks to be overly hittable. Ige exploits Griffin’s charges with well-timed takedowns and consistent, effective top control before ultimately choking out “The Native Psycho” late.

Prediction: Ige by third-round submission

UFC on FOX 31’s main card alone features three quality fights in the sport’s deepest division; therefore, it’s definitely worth spending your Saturday evening watching. See you there, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 31 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 3:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 182-82-1

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX this weekend (Sat., Dec. 15, 2018) when UFC on FOX 31: “Iaquinta vs. Lee 2” storms Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC on FOX 31 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Two top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight contender will run it back after nearly five years inside Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wis., this Saturday (Dec. 15, 2018) when Al Iaquinta (No. 8) rematches Kevin Lee (No. 4) in UFC on FOX 31’s main event. Setting the stage will be another terrific fight at 155 pounds that pits Edson Barboza (No. 5) against the indestructible Dan Hooker (No. 14). Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans will also get to see Sergio Pettis take on Rob Font and Charles Oliveira square off with Jim Miller in another long-simmering rematch.

UFC on FOX 31’s four-fight main card means there are more “Prelims” undercard matches than usual to preview and predict. Nine, to be exact, three of which are on Fight Pass. Let’s have a look!

205 lbs.: Adam Milstead vs. Mike Rodriguez

Adam Milstead (8-2) spent his first two UFC bouts as a Heavyweight, knocking out Chris de la Rocha and suffering a gnarly knee injury against Curtis Blaydes. Though the latter loss was overturned because Blaydes tested positive for marijuana, Milstead returned one year later as a Light Heavyweight, fighting unbeaten prospect Jordan Johnson to narrow split decision loss.

All eight of his professional wins have come by stoppage within two rounds.

Mike Rodriguez (9-3) scored one of the wildest “Contender Series” knockouts yet with a flying knee finish of Jamelle Jones, earning both a contract and his seventh first-round knockout. His takedown defense failed him in his UFC debut, however, allowing Devin Clark to bring him to the mat seven times and secure the decision.

“Slo-Mike” will have a seven-inch reach advantage on fight night.

After the Clark fight, it’s up in the air as to whether Rodriguez is a true prospect or just an entertaining striker who needs opponents to oblige him with a stand up battle. Luckily, Milstead is one of those opponents, an aggressive and hard-nosed brawler who’s happy to trade leather.

Rodriguez’s length will be key, allowing him to potshot from well outside Milstead’s range. If “The Prototype” gets too eager to close the gap, Rodriguez’s knees will be waiting for him. He pieces Milstead up on the outside before punishing an attempted rush with a fight-ending knee.

Prediction: Rodriguez via first-round knockout

185 lbs.: Trevor Smith vs. Zak Cummings

Trevor Smith (15-8) has gone 5-5 since making the move from Strikeforce to UFC in 2014, beating veterans like Dan Miller and Chris Camozzi along the way. In his most recent effort, he took on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” winner Elias Theodorou in Liverpool, dropping a decision to “The Spartan.”

“Hot Sauce” is three inches taller than Zak Cummings (21-6) at 6’0.”

Despite losing to Dylan Andrews on TUF 17, Cummings found a place for himself in UFC’s Welterweight division, winning six of his first eight bouts in the Octagon. This past May, he welcomed Brazilian former Lightweight Michel Prazeres to the 170-pound ranks, losing a close decision to “Trator.”

This will be his first Middleweight appearance since that TUF season in 2012.

Frankly, this is giving me a bit of deja vu, as it’s essentially the Prazeres-Cummings fight shifted one weight class upward. Cummings is the stronger submission artist, but he’s used to being the bigger man in the cage, and though Smith is slow and shopworn, he can still grind with the best of them.

There is, however, a world of difference between Cummings and the likes of Miller and Camozzi. And Cummings has both a dangerous front choke game and solid punching power to which to frustrate Smith’s attempts at getting his wrestling going. So long as Cummings stays busy with his hands and doesn’t settle for getting pressed against the cage for long periods of time, he should rack up enough damage and threaten enough submissions to get the decision.

Prediction: Cummings via unanimous decision

265 lbs.: Chris de la Rocha (5-2) vs. Juan Adams (4-0)

Chris de la Rocha (5-2) had what could charitably be called a rough start to his Octagon career, suffering (technical) knockout losses to Daniel Omielanczuk and Adam Milstead. He returned to the cage two years later — and 18 pounds heavier — against Rashad Coulter, surviving “Daywalker’s” early offense to pound him out in the second round.

He has knocked out three opponents and submitted another two, all within two rounds.

Juan Adams (4-0) went undefeated (four finishes) as an amateur before making his professional MMA debut in 2017. Thirteen months later, “The Kraken” appeared on “Contender Series,” brutalizing Shawn Teed with ground-and-pound to earn a contract.

All four of his professional wins have come by first-round technical knockout.

Adams is definitely a raw product, having had his first amateur fight just two years ago, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. He’s absolutely colossal, cutting weight to make the Heavyweight limit, and has some gnarly ground-and-pound that uses his 81-inch reach to its fullest. He has a very beatable opponent in front of him in de la Rocha, who is just an average all-rounder, but it could come down to his cardio.

I figured de la Rocha to be chinny after the 48-second loss to Omielanczuk, but he weathered a ton of punishment in his next two fights. And if Adams can’t keep that giant frame of his in fighting shape for more than five minutes, he’s in for trouble. All that said, his size and power ought to carry him to victory as he denies his opponent’s takedowns, bullies his way into top position, and drops bombs for the finish late in the first.

Prediction: Adams via first-round technical knockout

Six more UFC on FOX 31 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, capped off by the Octagon debut of knockout artist and “Contender Series” standout, Dwight Grant. Same time as always, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 31 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 3:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET (also on FOX).

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Predictions! UFC 231 Fight Pass ‘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., Dec. 8, 2018) when UFC 231: “Holloway vs. Ortega” storms Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC 231 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

Two weight classes produce their best match ups this Saturday (Dec. 8, 2018) when Max Holloway vs. Brian Ortega and Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valentina Shevchenko hit the pay-per-view (PPV) airwaves inside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Canada. Other UFC 231 main card attractions include Thiago Santos vs. Jimi Manuwa and the return of Gunnar Nelson against the surging Alex Oliveira.

Four FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard matches will set the PPV stage (check out the Fight Pass portion here). Let’s see how:

115 lbs.: Claudia Gadelha vs. Nina Ansaroff

Following wins over Cortney Casey and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, the latter of which saw Claudia Gadelha (16-3) score her first finish since 2013, “Claudinha” fell short in a wild “Fight of the Night” against Jessica Andrade. She returned to action nine months later against former champion Carla Esparza, narrowly edging “The Cookie Monster” at UFC 225.

She is one inch shorter than “The Strina” and will give up reach in both the arms and legs.

Nina Ansaroff (9-5) stumbled out of the gate with decision losses to Juliana Lima and Justine Kish, but has since won three straight. She choked out Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger for her first UFC victory, then defeated Angela Hill and Randa Markos in a pair of entertaining decisions.

Four of her six stoppage wins have come via (technical) knockout.

Ansaroff is legitimately one of the best strikers at 115 pounds, especially now that Joanna Jedrzejczyk is plying her craft at Flyweight. Heck, I think she’d be a decent match up for Rose Namajunas and most of the fighters in the rankings, save perhaps a handful of tough outs.

Gadelha is among that handful.

The key to wearing down Gadelha is making her burn herself out trying to establish and maintain top control, and while Ansaroff can control the striking even with the threat of Gadelha’s jab, I’m not sure she can consistently scramble out from underneath the hulking Brazilian. Gadelha will fade late as she always does, but I say she banks the first two rounds via top control and survives Ansaroff’s comeback attempt.

Prediction: Gadelha via split decision

125 lbs.: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jessica Eye

Katlyn Chookagian (11-1) went 2-1 as a Bantamweight in UFC before dropping to 125 pounds in January. After debuting with a decision over Mara Romero Borella in Charlotte, “Blonde Fighter” returned to the UFC on FOX airwaves with a successful back-and-forth battle with veteran Alexis Davis.

She will have three inches of height and two inches of reach on Eye.

Jessica Eye (13-6) won just one of her first seven UFC bouts, prompting her own move to Flyweight. She’s found considerably more success there, winning decisions over Kalindra Faria and Jessica-Rose Clark.

“Evil” has four wins via stoppage, three of them (technical) knockouts.

So, spoiler warning, this one’s going the distance. Chookagian has one finish in her last eight fights, Eye one in her last 10. It’ll be a measured striking battle at range, one that seems to favor Chookagian. Eye will struggle to outwork her foe, and though she’s crafty enough with her jab to find the mark against a lengthier opponent, she doesn’t have enough power to make up the difference.

Eye’s key to victory may be her wrestling, which she’s leaned on since dropping to 125 pounds. It’ll be close, and Eye could very well have an argument for victory, but considering their respective luck in close fights and Chookagian’s output, I say “Blonde Fighter” ekes out another decision.

Prediction: Chookagian via split decision

185 lbs.: Elias Theodorou vs. Eryk Anders

Elias Theodorou (15-2) — winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” — has quietly put together a 7-2 record in UFC’s Middleweight division. He currently rides a two-fight win streak, defeating Daniel Kelly and Trevor Smith by unanimous decision.

“The Spartan” has stopped six opponents with strikes, though none since 2015.

Eryk Anders (11-2) rebounded from a narrow loss to Lyoto Machida in his first UFC main event to knockout Tim Williams with one of 2018’s nastiest head kicks. Less than one month later, “Ya Boy” stepped up in weight on short notice to challenge Thiago Santos, ultimately succumbing to “Marreta’s” brutal striking.

Six of his eight stoppage victories have come in the first round.

This is one of those weird fights that will vacillate between exciting and unwatchable depending on who’s winning. It’ll be great if Anders is hurling his left hand with abandon, garbage if Theodorou is chilling in the clinch or throwing ineffectual kicks at range.

Unfortunately for “The Spartan,” Anders is strong enough to avoid being muscled around against the fence clinch and has far, far superior boxing. Theodorou is too durable to put away, but expect Anders to touch him up for the full 15 minutes.

Prediction: Anders via unanimous decision

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

Olivier Aubin-Mercier (11-3) put a surprising loss to Carlos Diego Ferreira behind him to win four straight, upping his Octagon record to 7-2. “The Quebec Kid” went on to face fast-rising Alexander Hernandez, and despite showing some slick Judo, faded down the stretch on his way to a decision defeat.

His eight submission wins include seven via rear-naked choke

Though Gilbert Burns’ (13-3) Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree carried him to UFC, his knockout power has taken center stage recently, earning him savage one-punch finishes of Jason Saggo and Dan Moret. He tried to do the same to Dan Hooker in July, but the durable Kiwi came out on top in a firefight and put away Burns midway through the first round.

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

This looks like one of those rare grappler-versus-grappler fights where the inevitable striking battle will wind up being actually watchable. Aubin-Mercier has developed a nasty body attack and Burns has dynamite in his hands. Even if we don’t get to see elite judo against elite jiu-jitsu, this could be fun.

Aubin-Mercier’s struggles against Ferreira and Hernandez have me questioning the effectiveness of his judo against big, explosive grapplers, a bill Burns fits nicely. “Durinho” gets back on track, keeping the fight standing and ultimately lamping the fading Canuck sometime in the second.

Prediction: Burns via second-round knockout

Holloway vs. Ortega is legitimately one of the best possible match ups in the entire sport — you better not miss it. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 231 card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 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: 178-78-1

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Bellator 210 predictions, preview for ‘Njokuani vs Salter’ on Paramount Network

Chidi Njokuani

Bellator 210: “Njokuani vs. Salter” airs tomorrow night (Fri., Nov. 30, 2018) from WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The main event will see two explosive Middleweights with first round finishing ability in a potential three round war!

Let’s break it down:

185 lbs.: Chidi Njokuani (18-5, 1 NC) vs. John Salter (15-4)

Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani is a devastating and lanky opponent at 6’3” with a massive 79” wingspan. Over 50% of his wins (10 of 18) come by knockout so what he lacks in muscle he makes up for in precision striking that’s deadly to the touch. He finished prospect Andre Fialho in 21 seconds with “blink and you missed it” accurate power. John Salter likes to strangle people into submission just over half of the time (eight of 15) and knock them out the rest (seven of 15) so if Njokuani wants to have a striking exchange Salter’s good to go. BJJ is his specialty though as he tapped out five of his last seven foes before Rafael Lovato Jr. did the same to him. He gives up both height and reach at 6’1” and 74” to Njokuani.

Njokuani has had a long lay off since his successful Middleweight debut and Bellator has certainly not given him an easy opponent for his return. Both are arguably in the prime of their career right now — Njokuani is only getting better at 29 years old while Salter at 33 was arguably one fight away from a Middleweight title shot when he faced Lovato. While “Bang Bang” is younger and faster on paper, Salter will give him the the toughest test he’s faced since Andrey Koreshkov last year. Two things make me narrowly edge this prediction toward Njokuani though — the ability to widen his lengthy stance if he’s pressed into the cage and avoid takedowns, and his unorthodox striking that leaves many opponents looking up at the lights.

Final prediction: Chidi Njokuani wins via third round technical knockout

170 lbs.: David Rickels (19-5) vs. Guilherme Vasconcelos (10-4)

“The Caveman” David Rickels always puts on a show for his loyal Bellator MMA fans, win or lose. Unfortunately for Rickels his last time out was a chance for MVP to put on a show of his own. He’ll attempt to bounce back from that loss against Guilherme Vasconcelos, but if he thought Michael “Venom” Page was a hard striker to deal with, “Bomba” will not make things any easier. His record is equally split between knockouts and submissions (five each) but at least size wise they match up well — Vasconcelos is 6’0” with a 74” reach and Rickels is the same height at a 72” reach. The downside is that Rickels used to have a size advantage against many of his Lightweight foes, but at 170 we can see that advantage is negated. Although he’s been dominant in three of four Bellator fights, that one blemish against the relatively unknown E.J. Brooks should give Rickels a little extra boost in confidence. He’s already faced many of the best and toughest Bellator has to offer.

Final prediction: Guilherme Vasconcelos wins via second round submission

145 lbs.: Juan Archuleta (20-1) vs. Jeremy Spoon (20-3)

The name brand of these two Featherweights may not light the MMA world on fire, but given their respective records it’s hard to argue it’s not a special fight. With 40 wins and only 4 losses between them combined, this is easily a fight between two of the best Featherweights in the world right now. The winner is going to take a huge step upward toward fighting the winner of Bellator 209 from Israel two weeks ago. “The Spaniard” Juan Archuleta wins 50% of his fights (10 to date) by knockout and hasn’t lost a fight since WSOF 19 back in 2015. Spoon is a two time Bellator tournament competitor who went on to lose a split decision for the VFC title against Ryan Roberts but win the SCS title against Josh Tyler just two bouts later. He’s an outstanding wrestler and grappler with 11 wins by submission.

It’s fair to say this will be the biggest test of Archuleta’s promising career, whereas Spoon has already had to taste the sting of tough opponents like Daniel Straus and Mike Richman in the past. Spoon stands 5’6” with a 63” reach while Archuleta is billed anywhere from 5’8” to 5’10” depending on the source, in either case holding a massive six inch reach advantage at 69”. Given “The Spaniard” is already known for his punching power this is a huge problem for Spoon. When Richman finished him at Bellator 76 he had the exact same advantages Archuleta did here — size and length. With only one knockout on his record, Spoon is clearly going to lose any fight in a phone booth, and with six wins by decision, it’s clear he’s not afraid to grind it out. I’m just not sure that works out though. Even if he forces a clinch and pushes Archuleta into the fence to look for a takedown, I think Archuleta either breaks free and rocks him on the exit or tags him with dirty boxing and pounces for the finish.

Final prediction: Juan Archuleta wins by knockout

125 lbs.: Kristina Williams (2-1) vs. Bruna Ellen (4-1)

After scoring an upset in her Bellator debut and going into hostile territory with Emily Ducote and coming away the winner, Kristina Williams finally met her match at Bellator 201 against veteran fighter Valerie Letourneau. If she looks to right the ship after that loss she’ll once again have to face a more experienced foe, and Ellen has had over a year to rest and recover after a hard fought split decision win against Veta Arteaga. While the outstanding striking background Williams has would favor a stand-up fight, but Letourneau showed her how to win and for a Team Nogueira fighter with her pedigree it’s hard to imagine her not forcing clinches and shooting for takedowns. The fact she’s the smaller fighter (5’4” vs. 5’8”) plays to her advantage in this respect.

Final prediction: Bruna Ellen wins a unanimous decision

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 210 tomorrow with Paramount 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 Adelaide ‘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., Dec. 1, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 142: “dos Santos vs. Tuivasa” storms Adelaide Entertainment Centre in Adelaide, Australia. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg delivers a complete UFC Fight Night 142 “Prelims” undercard preview, including fight picks, below.

Tai Tuivasa, Australia’s Heavyweight hopeful, faces his stiffest test to date this Saturday (Dec. 1, 2018) when the unbeaten Shoey welcomes former Heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos to Adelaide “Down Under.” Local favorites Mark Hunt and Tyson Pedro get top billing as well, squaring off with Heavyweight prospect Justin Willis and the legendary Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, respectively.

Seeing as we’ve got a packed weekend (Bellator 210, TUF 28 Finale and Wilder vs. Fury), we’re cramming all of UFC Fight Night 142’s “Prelims” undercard predictions into one post. Gotta keep things efficient, you know.

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

170 lbs.: Alexey Kunchenko vs. Yushin Okami

Russia’s Alexey Kunchenko (19-0) successfully defended his M-1 Welterweight title four times before making the jump to UFC in September, taking on Thiago Alves in Moscow. Despite a strong effort from the former title challenger, “Wolverine” took home a unanimous decision, snapping a two-fight knockout streak in the process.

He has knocked out 13 opponents as a professional.

Yushin Okami (35-11) returned to the Octagon after four years away in Sept. 2017, moving up in weight to face Ovince Saint Preux on short notice. Though he succumbed to “OSP’s” signature Von Flue choke, “Thunder” successfully returned to Welterweight in April with a decision over Dhiego Lima.

He is four inches taller than the 5’10” Kunchenko.

I’ve been an Okami faithful for many years now, but there’s a lot of mileage on those tires. “Thunder’s” wrestling and southpaw jab have lost their potency and he’s more fragile than ever. Even if this wasn’t a nightmarish style match up, I’d be worried about him.

Unfortunately, it’s a nightmarish style match up.

Kunchenko is a close-quarters bruiser whose punching power far exceeds Okami’s ability to withstand it. Okami’s only area of superiority is his top game, but he’ll need to engage Kunchenko on the inside to do it, which will end extremely poorly. Kunchenko blasts him out midway through the first.

Prediction: Kunchenko via first-round technical knockout

125 lbs.: Wilson Reis vs. Ben Nguyen

A 5-1 run at Flyweight earned Wilson Reis (22-9) a crack at Demetrious Johnson, who handed the Brazilian the first submission loss of his career. He went on to fall to Henry Cejudo’s punches, then lost a competitive decision to John Moraga in April.

He is one inch shorter than Ben Nguyen (17-7), though their reaches are identical.

“Ben 10” rebounded from his loss to Louis Smolka with wins over Geane Herrera and Tim Elliott, the latter of which earned him “Performance of the Night.” He couldn’t do the same to Jussier Formiga, who clipped him with a spinning back fist and finished him off with a rear-naked choke.

Eight of his 13 wins have come by (technical) knockout.

Nguyen’s issues with Formiga — a stud grappler with sneakily good striking — paint a grim picture of his chances against Reis, another stud grappler with sneakily good striking. That said, Reis struggled to implement his grappling against Moraga, a notoriously poor defensive wrestler, and his habit of getting dropped once a fight bodes ill against one of the division’s hardest punchers.

Moraga overcame Reis with aggression, speed and power, all of which Nguyen has in spades. Reis just doesn’t have the durability to bully his way through Nguyen’s power shots to bring his jiu-jitsu to bear. Reis hits the deck early, as he usually does, but Nguyen won’t let him back up.

Prediction: Nguyen via first-round technical knockout

170 lbs.: Keita Nakamura vs. Salim Touahri

It took him seven years, but Keita Nakamura (33-9-2) made his Octagon return in 2015 after an unsuccessful first run, submitting Li Jingliang to earn “Fight of the Night.” He has since alternated losses and wins, most recently dropping a decision to Prelim headliner Tony Martin in Atlantic City.

He will have one inch of height and reach on Poland’s Salim Touahri (10-2).

Touahri rode a five-fight win streak, which included four knockouts, into his short-notice UFC debut against TUF: “Brazil” veteran Warlley Alves. “Grizzly” struggled to get his offense going against the Brazilian, ultimately losing a unanimous decision.

This will be his first fight in more than one year, as injury scrapped a planned May bout with Brad Scott.

Nakamura is maddeningly inconsistent, but his grappling is no joke. Aside from his back-and-forth battle with Elizeu Zaleski, which could have gone his way, his issues have come against big, physical grapplers. Against Touahri, a striker without the firepower to crack Nakamura’s jaw, “K-Taro” should have considerably more success.

Of course, this is moot if Nakamura just decides to trade on the feet without bringing his grappling prowess to bear. Unwise though it may be, I’ll say he takes the obvious route, dragging Touahri to the mat and ultimately locking up his favored rear-naked choke.

Prediction: Nakamura via second-round submission

135 lbs.: Kai Kara-France vs. Elias Garcia

Kai Kara-France (17-7) — ranked No. 9 on TUF 24 — crushed Terrence Mitchell via 30-second knockout in the opening episode before losing to top-seeded Alexandre Pantoja in the quarterfinals. Though he lost a decision to Tatsumitsu Wada in his first post-TUF appearance, he went on to win five straight and earn a crack at the Octagon proper.

He has scored seven professional knockouts, including five in a row at one point.

Roufusport’s Elias Garcia (6-1) returned from 2.5 years away in 2017 to rattle off three more victories, among them a knockout of TUF veteran Adam Antolin. He made his Octagon debut four months later against Mark De La Rosa, who choked him out in Boise.

He replaces the injured Ashkan Mokhtarian on short notice.

Kara-France had a gimme fight against Mokhtarian, who isn’t anywhere near UFC-caliber, but he should still find success against Garcia. The latter has yet to develop the strong wrestling he needs to implement his excellent top game, and Kara-France has plenty of experience dealing with top-notch grapplers.

That just leaves the striking, where Kara-France’s power and experience far outstrip Garcia’s. Garcia is just too green at this point outside his area of expertise, which Kara-France won’t allow him to implement. Chalk one up for New Zealand as “Don’t Blink” puts away Garcia with an early right hand.

Prediction: Kara-France via first-round technical knockout


UFC Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ (7 p.m. ET start time)

155 lbs.: Mizuto Hirota vs. Christos Giagos

Mizuto Hirota (18-9-2) reached The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Japan” Finale, surviving a rough start to fight Teruto Ishihara to a split draw. He has since lost consecutive decisions to Alexander Volkanovski and Ross Pearson, returning to Lightweight for the first time in five years against the latter.

“Pugnus” is three inches shorter and will give up 4.5 inches of reach to Christos Giagos (15-7).

“The Spartan” went 1-2 in his initial Octagon run, then suffered a knockout loss to Josh Emmett upon his return to the regional circuit. He went on to win four of his next five bouts, heralding a return to UFC, but tapped to a Charles Oliveira rear-naked choke in September.

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

This will boil down to the scrambling and dynamic offense of Giagos against the boxing and clinchwork of Hirota. Giagos has the fancier striking, but a history of submission losses, while Hirota is an iron-tough boxer and takedown artist who’s consistently fallen short against top competition.

Not easy to get a bead on the outcome.

Hirota’s durability may be what decides this, as Giagos constantly has to worry about overcommitting to blows that won’t put away “Pugnus.” This could go either way, but the sentimental part of me says Hirota finally gets a break, eking out a split decision with good punching and top control.

Prediction: Hirota via split decision

155 lbs.: Damir Ismagulov vs. Alex Gorgees

Damir Ismagulov (16-2) — the first Kazakh to enter the Octagon — rides an 11-fight win streak into his Saturday debut. The run saw him knockout Maxim Divnich for the M-1 Lightweight title in 2017 and successfully defend it three times.

He is four inches shorter than the 6’2” Alex Gorgees (7-0).

Representing Australian Top Team, Gorgees went 4-1 as an amateur before joining the pros in 2016. He’s since racked up three (T)KO victories and two submissions, avenging his sole amateur loss along the way. He replaces Joe Duffy on a week’s notice.

Gorgees has the stopping power to back up his arrogant style, but like the Mokhtarian brothers, who run his gym, his record is built on garbage. He’s fought just two opponents with winning records, both of whom were in the midst of slumps. Not so Ismagulov, who’s faced a constant stream of solid competition on the Russian scene.

Like I said, though, Gorgees can hit, and he’ll have the edge in length. Even with that, Ismagulov is just a step too far, and this fight shouldn’t last long once the Kazakh drags Gorgees to the mat and starts punching.

Prediction: Ismagulov via second-round technical knockout

Heads will be knocked at UFC Fight Night 142 this weekend … I can assure you. See you Saturday, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 142 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 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: 167-76-1

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

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” undercard bouts to UFC Fight Pass this weekend (Sat., Nov. 24, 2018) when UFC Fight Night 141: “Blaydes vs. Ngannou 2” storms Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China. MMAmania.com’s Patrick Stumberg continues the UFC Fight Night 141 “Prelims” party with the second (and final) installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

The Heavyweights take center stage inside Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China, this Saturday (Nov. 24, 2018) as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Fight Pass for an early-morning show. In UFC Fight Night 141’s main event, Curtis Blaydes attempts to avenge his lone career loss against Francis Ngannou, while the co-main sees the venerable Alistair Overeem face one of Russia’s best in Sergey Pavlovich. Viewers will also get to see rising local standouts Yan Xiaonan and Song Yadong in action.

Before all that, though, let’s preview and predict the top four “Prelims” undercard bouts (check out the first batch here):

205 lbs.: Rashad Coulter vs. Hu Yaozong

Rashad Coulter (8-4) has yet to taste victory in the Octagon, but he’s certainly given fans their money’s worth during his three-fight UFC tenure. After securing “Fight of the Night” in his madcap debut against Chase Sherman, “Daywalker” succumbed to a flying knee from Tai Tuivasa and started strong against Chris de la Rocha before falling victim to the latter’s ground-and-pound.

All eight of his wins have come by knockout, six of them in the first round.

Hu Yaozong (3-1) became the first Chinese Heavyweight to step foot in the Octagon when he debuted against Cyril Asker last year. Unfortunately, “Bad Boy” had no answers for the Frenchman’s grappling and tapped to a rear-naked choke in the second round.

He is four inches taller than Coulter, but will give up as many inches of reach.

All things considered, Coulter really isn’t all that bad a fighter. He’s got quick hands for a Heavyweight, heart for days, and a chin that it took a 265-pound flying Aussie to crack. His cardio just isn’t there, unfortunately.

Hopefully, dropping a couple dozen pounds will pay dividends in that area.

Hu is coming off a loss to arguably the worst Heavyweight on the roster in Asker and has a fraction of Coulter’s experience. Even if “Daywalker” shows no improvement, he should be fine as long as he makes it to the scales without issue. Coulter overwhelms him with speed and power en route to finally entering the UFC win column.

Prediction: Coulter via first-round technical knockout

115 lbs.: Jessica Aguilar vs. Zhang Weili

Once the queen of the Strawweight division, Jessica Aguilar (20-6) has enjoyed mixed success in UFC, going 1-2. After consecutive losses to Cláudia Gadelha and Cortney Casey, “Jag” entered the win column in July with a decision over fellow veteran Jodie Esquibel.

She had won 10 straight before joining the Octagon, including two wins over arguable Strawweight G.O.A.T. Megumi Fujii.

Zhang Weili (17-1) established herself as China’s top fighter with 16 consecutive victories, all but one of them inside of two rounds. In her Octagon debut, she took on durable veteran Danielle Taylor and took home a unanimous decision.

She has knocked out nine opponents and submitted another six.

Now this is a crossroads fight. There was a time when Aguilar was the best in the world, while Zhang has been on a rampage since losing her debut. In addition, “Jag” will be the best wrestler Zhang’s faced to date, meaning there’s certainly a possibility that she plays spoiler.

Not a big one, unfortunately.

Zhang figures to have a considerable edge in striking and has proven herself able to do major damage on the inside, meaning every shot Aguilar takes will be fraught with danger. Worse, Aguilar’s fight IQ has been spotty during her Octagon tenure and Zhang hits too hard to permit mistakes. Zhang makes it 2-0 in UFC, outsriking Aguilar at range with her kicks and landing hard on the inside when the latter tries to force the takedown.

Prediction: Zhang via unanimous decision

125 lbs.: Wu Yanan vs. Lauren Mueller

Wu Yanan (8-2) rebounded from a loss to Yana Kunitskaya with two consecutive victories before making her Octagon debut. She took on grappling specialist Gina Mazany, who defeated her by unanimous decision and prompted her to drop to 125 pounds.

This will be her first fight in 355 days.

Just four fights into her professional career, Mueller defeated Kelly McGill-Velasco on “Contender Series” to earn Dana White’s attention. She debuted eight months later against The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Shana Dobson, taking home a competitive decision in Glendale.

She will give up three inches of height to “Mulan.”

Wu should have an easier time of things at 125 pounds, but that’s not enough to offset her non-existent takedown defense. Gina Mazany took her down five times, and opponents who saw that fight or the Kunitskaya stomping are going to zero in on that weakness without fail.

Mueller has the tools to do that.

“Princess” can keep up with Wu in a slugging match and has the option of bringing it south any time things get hairy. She grinds her way to a second consecutive UFC victory.

Prediction: Mueller via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Song Kenan vs. Alex Morono

Song Kenan started his Octagon career strong with a 15-second pasting of Bobby Nash in his Octagon debut, defying 2.5-1 odds to do so. He returned to action seven months later, stopping TUF: “Latin America” veteran Hector Aldana with punches late in the second round.

He has knocked out and submitted six opponents apiece.

Alex Morono (14-5) went unbeaten in his first three Octagon appearances, upsetting Kyle Noke and James Moontasri before going to a “No Contest” against Niko Price. He has since gone 1-2, a guillotine finish of Josh Burkman sandwiched between decision losses to Keita Nakamura and Jordan Mein.

“The Great White” is one inch shorter than Song, but will have an inch of reach on him.

Morono has definitely come up big when I wrote him off, but if you count the Price knockout and fix the judging against Noke and he’s essentially 2-4 in the Octagon. Though his grappling is legit, his lack of wrestling and ungainly striking relegate him to the role of “action fighter.”

Song might be in the same category, admittedly, but he’s the sharper kickboxer of the two and is durable enough to tank Morono’s swings. The real question is how he deals with Morono’s jiu-jitsu, as his takedown defense has been a little shaky. Morono’s more than happy to slug it out, though, and this likely comes back to bit him as Song outbrawls him for a decision.

Prediction: Song via unanimous decision

UFC Fight Night 141 features a few new faces worth keeping an eye on. Just be sure you’ve got some energy drinks on hand for the early-morning start time. See you Saturday, Maniacs.

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 141 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 3:15 a.m. ET right into the main card start time at 6:30 a.m. ET (also on Fight Pass).

Current UFC “Prelims” Prediction Record for 2018: 161-74-1

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