Max Holloway (7-3) vs. Will Chope (19-5) Featherweight
When we last left our heroes, what they can and can't do, x-factors, we've got too many fights to preview so let's talk matchups already! Max is coming off a high profile loss to the perpetually hyped Conor McGregor but still holds a respectable 3-3 record in the UFC. His opponent is an interesting case study in quantity. When you look at his record, you almost want to exclaim "wow, he hasn't lost since 2006 I bet with a 14 fight winning streak...oh...ok..."
Chope hasn't lost since 2012 but against the strength of competition you'd expect. He's a moderately skilled, who relies on being a featherweight that happens to be 6'4. That's not to undersell his talent. His last win against Takumi Nakayama was a solid display of fortitude after he was hurt and eventually came back to win via TKO in the 3rd.
With a decent arsenal of Muay Thai tricks, Max would be wise to not take Chope for granted. Having said that, Holloway is a fairly technical and gritty striker. Chope's aggressiveness will be his undoing. He makes the cardinal sin of throwing leg kicks in too close, which sets up the counter punch. In addition Max won't be prone to Chope's usual method of winning (via submission) because he won't have the strength to put Max on his back where the rear naked choke has been successful for him (5 of his last 7 wins are via RNC).
Chope has potential, but I like Max to outpoint the overly active 23 year old.
Prediction: Max Holloway by Decision.
Katsunori Kikuno (21-5-2) vs. Quinn Mulhern (18-3) Lightweight
When we last left our heroes, what they can and can't do, x-factors, we've got too many fights to preview so let's talk matchups already! Former KOTC and Strikeforce product, Quinn Mulhern, is coming off a quick TKO loss to Rick Story who basically just decided Mulhern was an insect to be crucified underneath the magnifying glass. However, Quinn is a solid fighter with respectable skills. With a move down to LW, it'll be interesting to see how size affects his performance.
As for Kikuno...all I can say is what a relief. His karate style made him a darling of the MMA world back when Andre "Dida" Amada was considered a blue chip prospect, and Kikuno just cut him apart. After an admirable performance against Eddie Alvarez, it seemed like he'd only get better. Instead he's cooled a bit, though he only has three losses since then and is on a five fight winning streak.
Kikuno popularized the crescent kick, which our own Nate Wilcox did a great job of breaking down here. He's a beast on the feet, and now he can add palm strikes to his list of available weapons. He's also got an incredibly strong base; a point I'm always reminded of when you look back at the standing crucifix he almost pulled off on Alvarez...again broken down by Nate Wilcox who loves breaking things down.
Still, I'm curious how his style with conflict with Mulhern who will have an enormous reach advantage. Quinn was already a large, though lanky WW. His striking is rudimentary enough that Kikuno will exploit him on the feet but I worry that Mulhern might be able to wear him down against the cage.
No worries for Kikuno. The taller they are, the more room they give you to crescent kick their guts inside out.
Prediction: Katsunori Kikuno by TKO, round 2.
Royston Wee (2-0) vs. Dave Galera (5-0) Bantamweight
When we last left our heroes, what they can and can't do, x-factors, we've got too many fights to preview so let's talk matchups already! Unfortunately there's not a lot of footage of Galera although we know a bit about him. First off, he trains with Team Lakay, which is the Philippines' top MMA camp (to steal directly from Anton Tabuena), and he's finished all of his bouts. Wee is the hometown kid in this one, winning both of his pro fights in the first minute and change by submission.
It's difficult to say much about either guy since it's so early in their careers. Galera likes to throw a punch or two and then hit a single or double. He's a fighter that likes top control, and has some very slick submissions, and a particularly quick armbar, to accompany said top control. Wee will be looking to do the exact same thing...get a double and end up with a submission for his troubles.
Very tough bout to predict. Wee is the more athletic fighter but I don't know how much good that will do him up against the tall and lanky Galera. And I won't pretend to know how good Wee's striking is because there's not enough video. I'll go with the guy who isn't the one who last fought in 2011.
Prediction: Dave Galera by Decision.
Mairbek Taisumov (20-4) vs. Tae Hyun Bang (16-7) Lightweight
When we last left our heroes, what they can and can't do, x-factors, we've got too many fights to preview so let's talk matchups already! This one has FOTN written all over it. Or KOTN. A lot of fans have likely not seen Mairbek in action but the fireplug from Austria sets a high octane pace with a brutal lightning quick right hand.
Across from him is someone who MMA fans once knew because for a moment, he took on some big names in Takanori Gomi and Jorge Masvidal (going the distance with both) in 2008. Bang used to be a prospect, but oddly, he's only had 3 fights since those 2008 bouts in Sengoku.
Like Mairbek, Hyun brings with him a savage right hand that he'll he looking to land. The difference between both men is that Mairbek likes to throw his right hand from angles whereas Bang chambers them for the inside exchanges. Because of Mairbek's kicks, I like him to win the exchanges. Not comfortably, but enough to win the point war. I expect both guys to avoid the ground as Bang has a strong base and doesn't overcommit on his strikes.
Expect a full tilt boogie in this one ladies and germs.
Prediction: Mairbek Taisumov by Decision.
Dustin Kimura (10-1-) vs. Jon Delos Reyes (7-2) Bantamweight
When we last left our heroes, what they can and can't do, x-factors, we've got too many fights to preview so let's talk matchups already! Kimura suffered his first defeat against Mitch Gagnon at UFC 165. This weekend he'll be up against the Jon 'The Heat' Delos Reyes, who is on a four fight winning streak, all by stoppages.
Reyes has won four of his wins by submission and the rest by TKO/KO. He's a solid mostly well rounded fighter, but will struggle against a more experienced grappler as he did against one of the other fighters on the undercard in Russell Doane. For that reason I like Kimura - not just the submission, but the man.
He's got the experience to handle Reyes' striking who throws nice and compact leg kicks and punches, but not with enough authority to make Dustin uncomfortable.
Prediction: Dustin Kimura by RNC, round 2.
Leandro Issa (11-3) vs. Russell Doane (12-3 ) Bantamweight
When we last left our heroes, what they can and can't do, x-factors, we've got too many fights to preview so let's talk matchups already! Issa has put together a quiet but nice career, and is coming off a win over who Yusup Saadulaev, a fighter many including Jordan Breen considered one of the game's bright prospects.
Opposite Issa is Doane, who is fresh off a KO win via elbows over Jared Papazian who had an unfortunate run in the UFC, going winless in all three bouts. Issa will be looking to take this fight to the ground. He's a calculated, and methodical grappler who works quickly once the fight is on the ground. If he puts Doane on his back he'll have the advantage. Not that Doane can't grapple...though I'm not sure a wild flying armbar necessarily counts, but he won't panic.
It's what happens for Issa if the fight stays on the feet that's the question. Issa has a surprisingly decent jab, albeit a bit slow. But he understands enough to know when to throw it. However, Doane will have a major speed advantage on the feet. That's why I favor him. Issa doesn't have a lights out double leg and the striking advantage for Doane will put him ahead on the judges' cards until a potential TKO.
Prediction: Russell Doane by TKO, round 3.