By Christopher Carpenter
The long-awaited UFC 254 fight card hangs in the distance only one week away and to say that the MMA community is excited would be an understatement. Before that showdown occurs, is a featherweight title eliminator bout between the Korean Zombie and Brian Ortega. The main event is an incredible fight but there are also some great fights on the undercard, so here are my predictions for the first six prelims.
Said Nurmagomedov vs Mark Striegl
My Pick: Nurmagomedov by Decision
Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs Maxim Grishin
My Pick: Grishim by KO
Fares Ziam vs Jamie Mullarkey
The third fight of the night will be a lightweight bout between Fares Ziam (0-1 UFC) and Jamie Mullarkey (0-1 UFC). Both of these fighters are one fight into their UFC tenure and while neither was able to secure a victory, there’s a second chance to succeed on Saturday night. Ziam is a Bulgarian fighter, coming off of a year long layoff, with a diverse skillset. Standing in at 6’1, he is a lengthy lightweight fighter with solid grappling abilities (5 career submissions. Mullarkey is also a tall lightweight, being six foot and with strong striking ability (8 career KO’s). In my opinion, this fight will be a position battle, with Ziam having the ground game advantage and Mullarkey having the striking advantage. With that in mind, Ziam’s striking looked relatively weak in his debut while Mullarkey had strong moments. Because of this I think Mullarkey will have the advantage.
My Pick; Mullarkey by Decision
Jun Yong Park vs John Phillips
The next fight will be a middleweight bout between Jun Yong Park (1-1 UFC) and John Phillips (1-4 UFC). Back in July, John Phillips had the hard task of welcoming the rising star Khamzat Chimaev to the UFC. He will be stepping back into the Octagon this weekend, looking to bounce back after a tough defeat. His opponent, Jun Yong Park, fighting out of South Korea is coming off of a win last December. Other than his last fight, Phillips has solid boxing and the resume to prove it with 19 of his career 22 wins coming by way of knockout. While this next fight is important for his future in the UFC, a knockout could secure his contract. Park is a rounded fighter with several submission, decision, and knockout victories. And while Phillips has power, Jun Yong Park has never been knocked out in his MMA career. Park does appear to have a stronger ground game as well, as he averages three takedowns a fight, while John Phillips has yet to attempt a takedown in the UFC. Because of Park’s chin and more rounded out skills, I believe he’ll have the advantage Saturday night.
My Pick: Park by decision
(15) Gillian Robertson vs Poliana Botelho
The fifth fight of the night will be between Gillian Robertson (5-2 UFC) and Poliana Botelho (3-1 UFC) in the woman’s flyweight division. Robertson is currently the fifteenth ranked flyweight in the world and another victory would definitely move her up in the rankings. Her opponent, Botelho, could make her debut in the rankings Monday morning with a victory this weekend. Gillian Robertson has established herself as a submission expert with six of her eight professional victories come by way of submission. On the other hand, Botelho has heavy hands with six of her eight professional victories coming by way of knockout. (If you’re betting this weekend, I would take the prop bet of this fight not going the distance). Botelho has solid takedown defense (88% UFC), and that could be an issue for Robertson if she wants to take the fight to the ground. Botelho is coming off of a year and a half long layoff so this may impact her performance. When it comes down to picking a winner, I think that Robertson has viable striking and the advantage in clinch and grappling situations, despite Botelho’s defense.
My Pick: Robertson via Submission
Mateusz Gamrot vs Guram Kutadeladze
The final prelim of the night will be in the lightweight division between Guram Kutadeladze and Mateusz Gamrot. Both of these fighters are making their UFC debuts and hardcore fans are excited to say the least. Gamrot is an undefeated fighter out of American Top Team, with seventeen career wins to his name. His opponent Kutadeladze, is on an eight-fight win streak. Gamrot is a rounded fighter with several finishes to his name and a win this weekend could put the lightweight division on notice. Kutadeladze is primarily a striker with seven of his eleven wins coming by way of knockout. Both of these fighters have very strong professional records so it is hard to know how strong the competition is that they have faced, but after Saturday we will know. Gamrot is the heavy favorite in this fight for a reason, he trains at one of the strongest gyms in the world with some of the best coaches and training partners. I believe the experience he’s gained from ATT will give him the edge in this fight and begin a promising career in the UFC.
My Pick: Gamrot by decision
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