Sarah Kaufman (16-2) vs. Jessica Eye (10-1) Women's Bantamweight
When we last left our heroes...Kaufman, once the darling of hardcore fans, was considered the real deal for years.She's only lost two fights in her entire career, but critics have since discarded her as a real contender in the division. Fine for here I'm sure, as it's always nice being the underdog when you're anything but.
Eye is coming into her own as a mixed martial artist. A Bellator veteran, and prospect, she's exactly what you'd expect out of someone entering this bout with veritable hype; she fits the profile of a good prospect. Though she's moving up in weight, she was always a fairly big Flyweight so it'll be interesting to see what happens in her UFC debut.
What both can do: Kaufman has remained a stalwart in the division because she just works so damn hard. I realize clichés, and schmaltz don't mean much in terms of describing ability, but she's the most consistent fighter around.
You know exactly what you're gonna get: solid, technical boxing, and a strong wrestling base to impose her game. It's not the fanciest set of tools she has at her disposal, but they work like gangbusters. Being able to string punches in bunches is an asset few BW women are capable of, so she's a fight auteur to say the least.
Eye is pretty similar. She has a strong striking base, with a heavy right hand from a traditional stance, and does an excellent job of keeping each fight on the feet. But as we saw in the Gurgel bout, she's got submission savvy too.
Her standing arm triangle finish was one of the best submissions of 2012, and a callout to all the UFC men who act like they hate their opponents, yet when it comes time to actually fight, seemed more inclined to play Tiddlywinks.
What both men can't do: I have these bulletpoints copy and pasted, so yes I'm aware that this sentence started out with "what both men can't do"...I'm lazy and I don't care. With that out the way the only thing I don't like about
Kaufman's game is that a good fighter or even a bad fighter on a good night can stiffen her posture, and make her tentative.
While she's really opened up lately (her fight with Smith was fantastic), it's been a problem for her in the past. Think the Takayo Hashi bout that had critics up in arms. As for Eye, she hasn't had any real challenges since 2011, so her flaws are well hidden (as with both fighters).
For Eye, the real problem will be dealing with Kaufman's boxing. It's one thing to throw heavy strikes one at a time, it's another to do so with a jab being stuck in your face. So that's the question for Eye. Honestly I feel like Jessica has the edge though. She has such good raw power that I feel like she'll be able to penetrate Sarah's generally sturdy chin.
X-Factor: Conor McGregor's poor attempts at humor.
Prediction: Jessica Eye by Decision.
George Sotiropoulos (14-5) vs. K.J. Noons (11-6) Lightweight
When we last left our heroes...It's been awhile since we've seen George. Despite receiving a ton of hype following wins over Joe Lauzon, Kurt Pellegrino, and Joe Stevenson, he's since fallen hard, losing three of his last three by decision or TKO, and even the decision contained countless knockdowns.
He hasn't fought since December 2012, so ring rust could be a factor. As for Noons, he's in a similar boat. He's lost three of his last three, though most weren't as emphatic as George's. There's not much to add here. While both guys are solid, once-elite fighters, they've crashed to earth hard, and right now it's the battle for a pink slip.
What both men can do: I'll never forget George's fight with Joe Stevenson. I know I've been down this road before, and I will never not take an opportunity to hype it up, but Stevenson/Sotiropoulos is my favorite MMA grappling battle of all time. And yes I've seen that overrated gentlemen's agreement that is Sakuraba/Newton. Just kidding hipsters.
Anywho, George is the superior grappler with a penchant for the rubber guard. Unlike most guys who shoot the leg up like anything is even being accomplished, George uses it well to transition. He'll need to grappler for reasons that have become obvious in his last several fights. Noons needs to do what he always does: keep the fight on the feet, and utilize his superior boxing. However....
What both men can't do: Noons even when he boxes, still gets a little silly on the feet. He'll wing punches, forget his jab, and pretend that having professional boxing experience makes him superior in and of itself.
That's probably still enough for this bout as George has shown himself to have a very crackable chin, in addition to having limited standup defense. I think this is the story of the bout; Noons cracking him ala Siver, with George scrambling unsuccessfully for the takedown, which Noons is capable of defending fairly well.
X-Factor: Noons gets possessed by Joe Stevenson's ghost and completes the rolling d'arce from the back.
Prediction: K.J. Noons by TKO, round 2.