These prelims aren't going to be epic by any means, but there are a few things worth keeping your eye on. Many consider Sergio Pettis to be a future star akin to his brother. Bobby Voelker and Lance Benoist are prone to fits of entertaining violence. And y'all remember that one dude that got decimated by Daniel Cormier on short notice? Yep. Patrick Cummins gets a real chance to show what he is actually capable of. That is, if you care.
It should be worth noting that all of the fights except for the Cummins-Narvaez fight will be on Fox Sports 1 with the lone exception on the Fight Pass.
Story Thus Far: Pettis has a hell of a hype train behind him being the little brother (physically and literally) of the lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and opening his career up with 10 straight wins. He fell short against Alex Caceres in his sophmore UFC effort, but it was a highly entertaining scrap that did nothing to deter the excitement in most pundits for the 20 year old out of Roufusport. The sky seems to be the limit.
Meza has his back against the wall. He was obliterated in his UFC debut as a short notice replacement against Chad Mendes, but dropped weight to 135 and pulled out a minor upset over John Albert after that. He couldn't get past Chico Camus though and is now sitting at 1-2 in the UFC. He is 33 years old going up against one of the UFC's most hyped youngsters. You better believe that the UFC is setting him up to fail.
Fighting Style: Pettis is always and forever going to get comparisons to his brother and there are certainly similarities. But Sergio doesn't have the same creativity as Anthony... or perhaps he has yet to reach a comfortable enough state in the cage to attempt the same type of stuff as Anthony. Nonetheless, Sergio throws very technically sound punches and kicks that can put out his opponent due to the mechanics, not his power. And the kicks go everywhere from the legs to the body. Being a smaller bantamweight, he struggles at times with getting within his opponents range.
Meza comes from a wrestling background. Despite dropping from featherweight, he really isn't a big bantamweight and is more of a scrapper than a grinder. Active in looking for submissions (particularly the guillotine choke) and good at sweeping his opponent from underneath, he has some tricks up his sleeve that make it necessary to avoid sleeping on him. His striking is... rudimentary at best and very little has been on display despite three fights in the Octagon.
What to Expect: This is very much a classic striker vs. grappler. With Meza being the grappler, he'll want to get the fight to the ground as quick and as much as possible. A double leg is his best weapon at grounding his opponent and look for him to do so as Pettis moves forward. Meza will probably use a jab to force Pettis to use odd angles to come at him and that is when he'll shoot.
As previously stated, Pettis isn't as flashy as his brother. He is much more straightforward and methodical and will do that here with Meza. He'll be aware of Meza's shot, so he might be a little bit stingy with his high kicks, but he'll certainly look to pick him apart with shots everywhere.
Meza will likely have the advantage on the ground overall, but the distance between them on the ground is much closer than it is on the feet. Pettis can hold his own and there is no doubt that he has learned from his match with Caceres. I wouldn't expect him to submit Meza due to Meza's excellent ability to wiggle out of a bad situation, but he'll probably try to do so. Also, look for Pettis to attempt a few takedowns of his own in order to keep Meza guessing and open up cleaner strikes.
X-Factors: How a young fighter responds to his first loss is always interesting, especially after he has had a long run of success as Sergio did. I would anticipate that he'll be fine though. You also can't help but wonder how a fighter responds to knowing he is being set up to fail as Meza is. He could channel that into bad or good energy.
Who Will Win: Everyone knows the UFC is setting up Pettis to succeed and I see that working here. It was a tight match with Caceres until the submission and Meza isn't as talented as Caceres. Pettis will look to make a statement coming off of his first loss and expect him to do so. Pettis by KO 2nd Round
Bobby Voelker (24-11) vs. Lance Benoist (6-2), Welterweight
Story Thus Far: Very much a throwback fighter, Voelker is looking to prove that time hasn't passed him by in the MMA world at the age of 35. Voelker is a favorite of Dana White thanks to his hard-charging style, Voelker has yet to pick up a victory in the UFC in three tries, dropping bouts to Patrick Cote, Robbie Lawler, and William Macario. Being a favorite of Uncle Dana will only get you so far and its likely this is it if he loses.
Benoist isn't exactly in a good situation himself. He won a fun decision over Matt Riddle in his UFC debut as an injury replacement, then dropped decisions to Seth Baczynski and Sean Pierson. What might be working against him the most is the fact he hasn't fought since September... of 2012. Most fans who knew him have forgotten about him. Recovering from a broken leg sucks! Benoist's biggest advantage over Voelker in the long run is his age (25). Even if he gets cut, he could make his way back.
Fighting Style: Forward, forward, and forward is the best way to describe Voelker. He was bleeding like a stuffed pig and continued to come at Macario so you know that he isn't going to change anything even if it isn't going his way, which is both admirable and stupid. By far the worst thing is his lack of movement as he makes an easy target of himself. He has good power when he connects (15 KO/TKO wins) and is most efficient when he can tie up his opponent and wear them down in the clinch. His boxing technique is good too, but struggles to close space outside of his bull rushes.
Benoist is incredibly scrappy. Not very big for the weight class, he is usually at a size disadvantage, but is hardly a finesse fighter. He uses a lot of Muay Thai (especially the knees) despite being smaller and has a nice variety of kicks from a distance. He is very active from his back with strikes and submission attempts and knows how to escape, something many fighters struggle with. He can be overpowered and (like Voelker) makes it too easy for his opponents to land on him.
What to Expect: Voelker's game plan is the wild card. He is the much slower of the two, but he is also much stronger. He'll come forward no doubt and look to clinch up and Benoist will be ready with some knees. Voelker has found his most success when he is willing to mix in the occasional takedown, but hasn't been looking for that recently. Benoist isn't too difficult to take down either...
Even though Voelker is always pressing forward, it doesn't mean he is the first one to get his strikes off. The combination of being slow and a lack of long range offense can result in him being picked apart or countered. Benoist doesn't throw a lot of combinations, but that is fine when facing Voelker. Its when his opponent is in one place for a while that he can land his shots. Lots of kicks and jabs should be expected from Benoist as well as moving away from Voelker.
Benoist is at his best during scrambles and Voelker is the ideal opponent for him to attempt to scramble with. Look for his to attempt some takedowns with the intention of creating a scramble. Of course he'll be happy if he can get the takedown... but either result should work for him provided Voelker doesn't simply stuff his and land some hooks or uppercuts.
X-Factors: Will Benoist have any ring rust? He has been away for a long time. I'm sure a lot of people forgot he was on the roster anymore. And Voelker has now lost three in a row with a devastating head kick and a bloody beatdown in the last two. Is that going to mess with his psyche?
Who Will Win: The question will be whether Voelker wants to bang (bro!) or if he wants to win. He can't just continue to come forward. He has the ability to be much better than I made him out to be. If he mixes things up with his wrestling and shows some movement, I like him to win. The question is whether or not I think he will. Screw it! Where is a quarter? Benoist by Decision
Story Thus Far: Nobody in the UFC needs a win as badly as Jorgensen. A former bantamweight title challenger in the WEC, Jorgensen has lost 5 of his last 6, including dropping his first two fights at flyweight. His hard charging style and past success have kept him around (as well as the fact that all of his losses have been to Top 10 fighters), but he knows as well as anyone that this is the end of the line if he comes up short here.
Martinez is a guy the UFC doesn't have a lot invested in. So despite only having one loss (in his only appearance as an injury replacement against Chris Cariaso), he could be on the chopping block too. He's been around for a while and trains with Ross Pearson and Jeremy Stephens and only lost to top competition. He's tough, but the fact he lost in the entry round for TUF 18 isn't in his favor either.
Fighting Style: Jorgensen owns a solid wrestling base as he wrestled for Boise St. in college and was a three time Pac-10 champion. He has a tendency to abandon his wrestling and fall in love with a slobber knocker as his chin has traditionally held up well. Problem is, his fists aren't as powerful as he thinks they are. A very physically strong wrestler (physical strength doesn't always transfer to striking), he may also be the slowest flyweight in the organization too. Zack Makovsky ran circles around him.
Martinez is about as classic of an example as you will find of a wrestle-boxer. He runs forward winging overhands and hooks to close the distance and shoot for a double leg. Most often this leads to the action being pressed up against the fence as he continues to work for the takedown until the referee comes and breaks up the (in)action. If he gets the takedown, he doesn't bother looking for a submission as he would rather pound things out... if he can keep his opponent down.
What to Expect: Martinez had some success in getting Cariaso down, but Jorgensen is much stronger and a much better wrestler. I would not expect Martinez to have much success in getting his takedowns with Jorgensen. I understand Jorgensen hasn't been a sterling example of takedown defense and he may end up on the ground a time or two, but Martinez doesn't vary up his approach and a takedown is much easier to stop when you know its coming.
While Jorgensen has enjoyed standing and trading to a fault, it may be beneficial for him to do so against Martinez. While he isn't as powerful as he likes to think, his punches do hurt and he is a much more skilled boxer than Martinez. Look for him to weaken the base of Martinez as well with leg kicks. Jorgensen usually throws a lot of those.
Jorgensen hasn't been very effective with his takedowns as of late, but I would look for success against Martinez if he wants to take that route. Expect him to. He won't go for takedown after takedown the way Martinez does, but he'll look to mix things up to better open up his striking and keep Martinez on edge.
X-Factors: With all of the losing he has experienced as of late, is Jorgensen's head in a good place? It can start to eat away at a person after a while. There is also a chance that Martinez mixes up his game plan. Wait... what? Did I really just say that?
Who Will Win: I think Martinez is lucky to have had the success he has had thus far. He is tough (never been finished... except in the TUF house) and his wrestling is solid, but he is far too one-dimensional to have any long term success. Jorgensen breaks his losing streak and maintains his employment. Jorgensen by Decision
Story Thus Far: Hoping to be known for more than just being the guy with the ugly toe injury on TUF 15, Tuck still has a ways to go. He did pull out a victory over Tiequan Zhang in his UFC debut, but that isn't an accomplishment many will care about or remember. Coming off of a loss to Norman Parke, Tuck has a very winnable fight here. He could end up getting cut if he doesn't pull a victory out of his hat.
Lindsey is replacing an injured Yosdenis Cedeno with about a months notice, so he should have enough time to prepare. Debuting in 2010, Lindsey has fought a good variety of fighters from veteran journeymen (Ted Worthington and and Marcio Navarro) to up-and-coming younsters (Zach Freeman and Bobby Cooper). His tendency to score a finish (7 out of his 9 victories) make him well worth taking a look at.
Fighting Style: For some reason Tuck always comes across as a non-descript fighter in my mind, but if you take a look at him he is actually quite fun to watch. He is very active in his grappling whether it be from the guard, trying to get his opponent's back (usually in scrambles), or putting on a little GNP. There is little power in his punches, but he has sound defensive technique, solid footwork, and willing to take a chance with something flashy like a flying knee every now and then. He hasn't stopped a takedown yet in the UFC and neither Parke or Zhang would be considered takedown specialist.
Lindsey is another fighter who stays active, but his style is certainly less aesthetically pleasing. Strongest in the clinch with short punches and elbows, he has some KO power that he will unleash as soon as the clinch is released. He usually doesn't look to take it to the ground, but owns active GNP and an advancing BJJ game. Don't mistake his wild punches coming forward for a lack of technique (though it is lacking) as he does it to initiate the clinch. Though if one of those wild shots happens to land all the more power to him.
What to Expect: While Tuck has shown to be a very capable grappler, he has made little effort to get his fights in the UFC to the ground. That will change here. Lindsey has the power to end the fight in a hurry and Tuck may be more technical, but doesn't have that power. When you also factor in that Lindsey's ground game is developing, Tuck would be dumb to stay standing.
Tuck will have to be careful with his shots. If he doesn't succeed he will be right where Lindsey is strongest in close quarters where Lindsey can easily clinch up. Tuck isn't weak there, but Lindsey is better. Thus I would expect that Lindsey is working very hard on his sprawl. The fight will likely be won or lost depending on who wins this battle of attrition.
If both end up staying on the outside, it is a little bit more difficult to predict. Tuck's technique and greater propensity to throw leg kicks will likely make the difference. Both throw jabs, but they do it more to gauge distance than to actually land. Both are willing to take chances though so it will be interesting to say the least.
X-Factors: This will be Tuck's first fight in the UFC on North American soil. It might not mean anything, but last I checked he fights out of Guam and that is a good flight. Lindsey's travel is much shorter (Kansas), but could get the debut jitters. Don't see much outside of that.
Who Will Win: Before saying who I think will win, I think this has a lot of potential for Fight of the Night. Both are tough to stop (remember that Tuck kept fighting after initially breaking his toe in the house entry round) and willing to throw down. I believe Tuck will be favored, but I'm going out on a limb and will say that Lindsey pulls it off in his debut with his aggression. Lindsey by Decision
Story Thus Far: Earlier this year the UFC tried to make a Rocky story out of Patrick Cummins to try and sell the UFC 170 PPV knowing that the chances of Cummins succeeding against Daniel Cormier were beyond thin. At least people kind of know his name now. Whether his career ends up being more than 15 minutes of fame will start right here with this match. The two time wrestling All-American from Penn St. has the chops to make it last longer.
Narvaez is getting this call with short notice... a bit over two weeks to be precise as Francimar Barroso pulled up lame. Normally a middleweight, he has a 6'3 frame indicating that he is big for the class. Fighting most recently out of the Legacy FC promotion, he hasn't fought anyone noteworthy with his most notable victory being over a journeyman in Hayward Charles. If it counts for anything, he was set to fight for the Legacy FC middleweight title before his call up.
Fighting Style: If his short encounter with Cormier is any indicator, Cummins wants to get the fight to the ground and keep it there. Considering he was an All-American it only makes sense to play to your strengths. His double leg has some power to it and is capable of getting most of the division down... just not Cormier obviously. Once there he would much rather pound out his opponent than look for a submission, but will sink in a choke if it is available for the taking. His standup still has a ways to go, but he throws a nice jab, mixes in some leg kicks, and has some power. He is still raw though.
I admit that it is hard to find footage of Narvaez, so I apologize if my assessment isn't totally accurate. He doesn't mind getting dirty and pushing things up against the fence, but that has been him as a large middleweight, not at light heavyweight. Usually he'll attempt to get to his opponents back and take it to the floor and from there he stays active and has some good GNP. A black belt in tae kwon do, he has some power in his striking, but he also has shown a tendency to get hit... and remember he hasn't faced anyone truly noteworthy.
What to Expect: I said that Cummins wants the fight on the ground and he'll want it there regardless of whether or not that would be Narvaez's strength. I don't see anything in Narvaez's abilities to indicate he'll be able to have any consistency in stopping Cummins so even if Narvaez can get back to his feet, expect takedown after takedown.
To his credit, Narvaez has some submissions in his bag of tricks, including a kimura that I would most likely see him utilizing to get Cummins out of top position if not submitting him. I haven't seen his guard, but I'm going to guess it isn't bad seeing as how he owns a black belt in BJJ. He'll have to be crafty to get out from under Cummins and maneuvers like that are going to be his best option.
Narvaez will likely be the more aggressive of the two when they are standing, but not by a lot. As indicated, Cummins will stick and jab with some leg kicks, but as raw as he is he'll be looking to go to his basics as quick as possible rather than search for a highlight KO. He knows he is on the hot seat now that he lost his debut... even if it was expected to happen. Narvaez hasn't shown great defense, so look for him to get tagged a good amount. If Narvaez starts teeing off on Cummins... well, Cummins tried to shoot on Cormier when that happened. He'll have more success here.
X-Factors: Narvaez is taking this fight on short notice. He was training for fight to take place just a week later, so conditioning shouldn't be too big of an issue. But Cummins is a different fighter than his previous opponent. Plus, its the bright lights of the Octagon. Cummins should feel more pressure to win this fight than he did his debut. Be interesting to see how it affects him.
Who Will Win: Cummins owns quick finishes in all of his victories so far, but none of them were even half decent journeymen. He'll be good enough to get the victory here, but he isn't get a finish over the tough Narvaez. Look for a boring grind fest. Cummins by Decision
Record for last Card: 10-2
Record for Year: 123-75-1
Note: I know that I've said I intend to try to start adding pictures and gif's and whatnot and still intend to. But I found I'm a bit of a perfectionist in how I want that to turn out and until I'm happy with the format I come up with, they won't be seen. Sorry.