UFC 169: Full preliminary card preview and prognostications

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

UFC 169: Barao vs. Faber 2 will prove to contain all the action we crave from the lighter weight participants. Can the undercard rise above its 'on paper' mediocrity and steal the show?

John Makdessi (12-2) vs. Alan Patrick (11-0) Lightweight

The matchup: Makdessi is the kind of fighter you don't care about when it comes to wins and losses. He's just a joy to watch because he brings something entertaining and unique to the MMA proceedings. With his Taekwondo background, and efficient application of it in the octagon, he continues to prove that even traditional martial arts have a place in the real world beyond the run down neighborhood dojo.

He'll be facing the unbeaten "Nuguette" Patrick Silva, current Bitetti Combat LW champion. Patrick successfully debuted against Garett Whiteley at UFC Fight Night 29 with a TKO in the frist round. It was his 4th victory via TKO/KO.

Patrick, despite his brief career, isn't a prospect. He's just a solid all around fighter. He's like Gleison Tibau if Tibau were only slightly smaller and less talented; a fighter with good size and fundamentals, but not much else.

I'm not sure how much there is to unpack in his win over Whiteley. Normally you can get a decent gauge for what a fighter offers, but sometimes opponents make it difficult to learn much when they handwrap victory for you. Garett happily lunged into a left hand that put him down for the count.

Patrick is mostly known for his wrestling and top control. Aronaesque is Alan Patrick Silva Alves[/Goldberg]. In that respect, this could be a stylistically tough fight for Makdessi, who relies completely on keeping the fight on the feet. Makdessi is a excellent talent in that respect. He's adept at keeping his distance, which is important for fighters who want to use their feet a lot.

This is basically why I lean towards Makdessi. He's good at throwing strikes from far away enough to avoid the double leg. Against a plodding wrestler like Patrick, this will be huge. The first round may be competitive, but after that Makdessi will start landing. Despite 8 wins via TKO/KO, I don't think Makdessi is all that powerful, but accuracy is a good substitute for power. Expect Patrick to learn that lesson the foot fist way.

Prediction: John Makdessi by TKO, round 2.

Chris Cariaso (15-5) vs. Danny Martinez (16-4) Flyweight

The matchup: Cariaso spent the majority of his career fighting in Northern California before finding a place in the WEC. He only had two fights in the WEC, a win over Rafael Rebello, and a loss to current FW champ, Renan Barao. In the UFC, he's a respectable 5-3.

Unlike his opponent, Cariaso got a second shot in Zuffa. Martinez debuted against Jospeh Benevidez at WEC 37 and was never heard from again. Since then he's gone 5-1 in his career, with the one loss being to Jussier Formiga. I know...MMA life has exactly been easy for these guys.

First thing's first: this fight should deliver the violent goods.

While neither guy is some lights out dynamo, they both put in work and stay active in bouts. Cariaso is sturdy on the feet, throwing crisp combinations in tight . He doesn't have many knockouts on his resume, but he gets the job done with lots of lowkicks in addition. Submissions aren't his specialty but he knows his way around on the ground.

Martinez is like a less versatile, but stronger version of Cariaso. From his southpaw stance he throws an angry, strong left hand that often finds its mark. Even a competent guy like Formiga got bullied by Martinez early on with his high pressure attack.

Martinez is a potential upset pick, and I feel like a strong one. But it's hard to shake the fact that Cariaso is also the more well rounded fighter and has the option of grinding out a decision with a mixture of striking and ground and pound if he wants. If you're a gambling man, Martinez is a very sexy pick. But he hasn't fought since 2012. So maybe that changes your mind.

Prediction: Chris Cariaso by Decision.

Nick Catone (9-4) vs. Tom Watson (16-4) Middleweight

The matchup: Tom "Kong" Watson will forever be tied to his inexplicable bout with Murila Rua. I say 'inexplicable' because Rua did not belong in the cage at that time. The fact that Rua would later lose to Paulo Filho by TKO...in 2012...only highlights this unfortunate fact.

I bring that bout up because it's tough to put a fighter's ability into context when their opponents approximate the ability of a head of lettuce (not that Rua wasn't extremely talented in his prime).

Watson is 1-2 in the UFC. This is likely a pink slip bout, though his losses were to Brad Tavares and Thales Leites; two guys who are not terrible. His opponent is 3-4 in the UFC with a two fight losing skid on the books.

Catone brings with him his NCAA Division 1 pedigree. He's a top heavy wrestler who reads the game well; knows when his wrestling can set up strikes, and when his wrestling can set up submissions. This bodes well for him since Watson prefers to strike, opting for stiff combinations in close quarters.

Watson is a solid striker who has a varied attack, but his takedown defense won't be up to snuff against Catone who is also a brown belt in jiu jitsu. Not much to say here; Catone will get this fight to the ground, and control it from there.

Prediction: Nick Catone by Guillotine, round 2.

Al Iaquinta (7-2-1) vs. Kevin Lee (7-0) Lightweight

The matchup: Kevin Lee is a prospect in every sense of the word. At 21 years of age, he fits the standard definitions, so his unbeaten record will be dissected and emphasized by many. However, being a prospect is tough; the burden of expectations can lead you to think you're better than you are, which makes losing that much more significant.

This is critical to note because I think Iaquinta is a very tough fight for Lee. While the relative behind Lee's wikipedia page is clearly hoping this will be another victory, this might be too much too soon for Lee. It's one of those head scratcher bouts; why give a 21 year old a 26 year old with a 2-1 UFC record, and potential to boot?

Al is a solid respectable fighter. He likes to work on his feet, and when he does, he possesses a strong right hand, and good though sometimes erratic foot movement. He's strong in the clinch, preventing takedowns, or finding his own.

This is why I expect Lee to lose. Iaquinta is a saavy opponent with experience. Lee is a raw prospect who needs experience. Lee is a strong top control grappler, and hs last four wins have been by submission, but his striking still needs work.

While he uses his punches well to set up takedowns, or to initiate the clinch, it'll be hard to set these up against Al's movement. I see this fight basically coming down to Al sticking and moving, and coming out on top on the clinch battles. A competitive match with a clear winner, and that winner will be...

Prediction: Al Iaquinta by Decision.

Clint Hester (9-3) Andy Enz (7-0) Middleweight

The matchup: Hester got a decent amount of attention during his stint on TUF. Or at least I did. To me he looked like a solid prospect, so to see him get dominated by Jimmy Quinlan was odd(ish). Now we know exactly who he is. He's 2-0 in the UFC with wins over Bristol Marunde, and Dylan Andrews. The latter "win" occurred when Andrews dislocated his shoulder.

As for Enz, he's done his talking in Alaska. It's not the first place that comes to mind when I think of quality opposition, but that's exactly how he's been cutting his teeth, as his last five opponents all have winning records. Maybe Alaskan promoters know better than to let fighters with 0-23232 records compete.

Anyway, his style is pretty straightforward. At 22, I'd describe him as a prospect with a kitchen sink method. While most of his wins are by submission (5 of his 7), he's a striker in form and function. He loves to lunge in with a straight right and a dipping left hook that functions a bit like an uppercut. He finds his mark more often than not, and has excellent knees inside the clinch.

He's the better striker, despite Hester's advantage in raw power. But I favor Hester nonetheless because Enz just doesn't have sufficient takedown defense. While his recent opponents have decent records, just watching them illustrates a different quality of opposition compared to Hester. I mean, just look at one of Enz' victims, Thomas Ide, who is almost literally a MW Roy Nelson.

Expect Hester to get the bout to the ground on what should prove to be an interesting match on the feet, but an immutable one on the ground.

Prediction: Clint Hester by Decision.

Tony Martin (8-0) vs. Rashid Magomedov (15-1) Lightweight

The matchup: Like everyone else associated with M-1, they've finally slipped from the grip of Vadim Finkelstein whose plan to run a promotion based off the aura of one fighter didn't work out as well as he hoped. Rashid hasn't lost since 2010, and will be opposite another intriguing debuting fighter who stands at 6'1, and remains undefeated, probably because he stole Phillipe Nover's hype juice.

Both guys will approach this bout with radically different gameplans. Rashid is a patient, calculating striker. He unloads chopping, crisp kicks to the body, head, and legs from both stances and is able to chain together quick flurries in close and from afar depending on the action. He's not the Sambo expert casual fans assume just because he's from Russia, but I'm sure it's in his DNA anyway.

His grappling acumen is defensive in nature, and he does a good job of keeping the bout on the feet when necessary. His agility and grace on the feet make it all possible. It's easy to see how he wins this bout, which doesn't necessarily mean that winning the bout will be easy.

Martin is a big guy with experience training with ATT. He moves well on the feet for a guy who fights like he needs the takedown, entering exchanges confidently with punches or kicks, but ultimately he's looking for the double leg, the knee tap, or whatever he can get. Unlike many fighters who are good wrestlers, he doesn't give up if the first attempt fails, and has an arsenal of trips at his disposal.

When it comes to submissions he likes going for the power moves (the kimura being his prime asset). I feel like this is the kind of bout where Rashid basically dummies Martin for one round on the feet, but then loses steam and eventually gets taken down and submitted.

Martin is coming down from 170, so I can't help but suspect that size will be a major factor in this bout. If Martin was just your typical power double wrestler, I'd say he loses, but he's not, so I suspect he wins.

Prediction: Tony Martin by Kimura, round 3.

Neil Magny (8-3) vs. Gasan Umalatov (14-2-1) Welterweight

The matchup: Magny is spotting a 1-2 UFC record with his last loss coming at the hands of Seth Baczynski. It was a tough defeat, with some feeling like Magny could have taken the decision. Then again the fight wasn't exactly memorable so perhaps fans just didn't have his sympathy.

Across from the Grudge Training Center product is the Fight Nights Team MW up and comer in Umalatov. Gasan followed a very active 2012 with only one fight last year. Ring rust affects fighters differently, to torture the obvious. For prospects, it can be critical. For veterans, it may be less critical. Still, Gasan is the type of fighter whose mind needs to be sharp.

He's very much a plodder. He's got chops on the feet. He throws to the body and has a deceptive left hook he likes to lunge in with. In the clinch he's got a good bodylock takedown at his disposal, but other than that, he doesn't stand out much. Most of his finishes are by submission, but then you look at the record of some of his victims (like Artur Avakyan's 0-5 pro score) and you realize why.

Magny is simply the better fighter here. He's a larger guy who will be stronger in the clinch, where his knees will be a factor. If he wants it on the ground, he's got plenty of trips at his disposal and displays good movement for a guy his size on the feet. If he decides to keep it standing, he'll have the advantage as well where he'll be superior at range. Pretty ho hum I guess.

Prediction: Neil Magny by Decision.

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