The UFC ended its hiatus with one hell of a fight card, and for the first time in a while, they bring us a rare Wednesday UFC Fight Night. The headliners are Neil Magny and Michael Chiesa, but before they throw down, there is a whole slew of fights on the preliminary card.
Let’s take a look, starting from the bottom, and determine who should leave Fight Island with another win on their record.
Flyweight: Victoria Leonardo vs. Manon Fiorot
Pick: Leonardo. Both fighters in this bout are pretty well-rounded, and I don’t doubt their skills against one another in this contest. I side with Leonardo based on experience level she has against solid opposition. While they have each faced opponents with similar records, Fiorot has traditionally fought opponents that are quite a bit smaller than her. This works for her style, because she seems to like to overwhelm her opposition with pressure. I don’t think she will be able to do that against Leonardo, who looks to be a bit stronger then Fiorot. This should be a good one either way it goes.
Bantamweight: Umar Nurmagomedov vs. Sergey Morozov
Pick: Nurmagomedov. Another awesome booking by the UFC matchmakers. I predict that this bout will be pretty competitive for as long as it lasts. Aside from the relation to the current UFC lightweight champion, Umar Nurmagomedov looks to be a fantastic prospect in his own right. While he is well-rounded and can lean on his wrestling to mix things up, he has a dynamic striking game that implements kicks from all angles. Morozov, while solid, is a bit more stright forward when it comes to the MMA game. He is boxing-centric, but that’s because he boasts some serious power in his hands. If Nurmagomedov can avoid the power of Morozov, he should be able to win with his diverse skillset.
Lightweight: Mason Jones vs. Mike Davis
Pick: Davis. I’m excited about this one. Mason Jones is the latest champ-champ out of Cage Warriors, having captured both the lightweight and welterweight championship in the British promotion. Jones is fresh off of two first-round TKO’s and is understandably a hot prospect heading into his UFC debut. Mike Davis is a super tough test for the incoming Cage Warriors champ. Davis is very fast, and hits hard. His fight against Thomas Gifford is one of the worst beatdowns I’ve ever seen in the Octagon; Davis landed just about everything he wanted to until he eventually sent Gifford into a faceplant in the third-round. I think that Davis’ experience, combined with his athletic talents, will give Mason the first loss of his professional career.
Flyweight: Jerome Rivera vs. Francisco Figueiredo
Pick: Rivera. Rivera suffered a tough loss in in UFC debut, but even in losing, he showed why people were excited to see him in the Octagon. He has great movement and timing, utilizing his large flyweight frame to pick at a distance with kicks. While Figueiredo is a talented fighter, I don’t think he has the skills necessary to counter the variety of tools that Rivera brings to the table. If Figueiredo were to win, it would come on the floor. I just think that the overall skillset of Rivera will carry him through his sophomore effort.
Middleweight: Dalcha Lungiambula vs. Markus Perez
Pick: Lungiambula. This should be a fun one. Both athletes are explosive and hit hard. Perez has had a spotty run in the UFC that has seen him be stopped with strikes and wrestled to a decision. Both are possibilites against Lungiambula. The most likely way this bout unfolds is a decision win for Lungiambula, who has a great Judo background and is a rather imposing frame – especially for middleweight. The biggest variable for me is how Lungiambula deals with the cut to middleweight as this will be his first trip down to 185lbs in the UFC. If he deals with the cut well, and can avoid the hyper-aggressive style of Perez, he should come out with the win.
Flyweight: Su Mudaerji vs. Zarrukh Adashev
Pick: Mudaerji. I think this is Mudaerji’s fight to lose. Both men are adept in the standup department, but only one of them have knockout losses on their record. One thing that Mudaerji will have to be careful of is the grappling. While that sounds strange considering that Adashev is only 3-2 with a kickboxing background, it is clear from his showings in Bellator that he has focused big time on the ground aspect of MMA – an area that has been challenging for Mudaerji in the past. I think that ultimately Mudaerji will get a stoppage victory.
Bantamweight: Ricky Simon vs. Gaetano Pirrello
Pick: Simon. Pirrello is an adept striker who has overwhelmed opponents in the vast majority of his wins though the use of knees and elbows after bullying them to the fence. I don’t think that Simon will be so easy to bully. In addition to the high-level experience of Simon, he also possesses some high-level wrestling that I don’t think Pirrello has seen in his 21-fight MMA tenure. Expect Pirrello to be aggressive early on, but start to be a bit tentative as Simon’s takedowns add up.
Middleweight: Omari Akhmedov vs. Tom Breese
This could easily be a maincard fight. Since the move to middleweight, Breese has looked renewed and as lethal as ever. While he did drop a bout against prospect Brendan Allen, Breese continues to be one to watch in the ranks of the unranked. Akhmedov is a solid all-rounder who we last saw lose a decision to former champion Chris Weidman. I think that the well-rounded game of Akhmedov should prove successful against Breese. While Akhmedov has been vulnerable to strikes in the past, his only loss in the past four years was that decision loss to Weidman. This bout should be competitive, and Breese does have avenues to win, but Akhmedov should come out on top.
And that’s it! Thank you for reading. Keep up with me over at the Sparring Partners Podcast, and comment down below if you’d like to reach out.
See you guys and gals later in the week for our UFC 257 predicitons.