Middleweight Magnus Cedenblad vs. Scott Askham (+145)
Welterweight Nico Musoke vs. Alexander Yakovlev (+180)
Featherweight Dennis Siver vs. Charles Rosa (+200)
Welterweight Cathal Pendred vs. Gasan Umalatov (+120)
Middleweight Tor Troéng vs. Krzysztof Jotko (+105)
Welterweight Mairbek Taisumov vs. Marcin Bandel (+165)
Featherweight Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Ernest Chavez (+205)
Fight with the Highest Stakes
Dennis Siver vs. Charles Rosa. You may not be familiar with Rosa's name but he's an exciting young prospect out of American Top Team with an amusing story: convinced he could be a mixed martial artist despite being a full time chef after sounding like he didn't have that much trouble getting the better of Cole Miller during a sparring session. He's finished all of his 9 pro fights, with 6 submissions and the rest by knockout. Plus he clearly knows what a Peruvian Necktie is.
In addition, his striking style is similar to some of the influx of karate-like fighters coming into the sport, as his own trainers liken him to Stephen Thompson on the feet. He switches stances a lot, and stays at range, but he's capable of throwing the meatier punches traditional boxers are known for. A win over a veteran like Siver is huge, and announces him as a FW player. Siver, on the other hand, needs to stay relevant after getting popped for human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCD for short. He's on a short lease, and seems like a classic gatekeeper who gets shut down by the elite.
I find this fight pretty fascinating. Siver is pretty well rounded, and his sometimes stiff striking doesn't seem to matter when he's so technically proficient while maintaining a high work rate. He strikes with economy, and could easily end up bullying Rosa on the ground. I don't think Rosa can submit Siver, especially from his back, but any sort of exchange on the feet turned scramble is a circumstance that will favor the submission savvy Rosa. Late notice or not, this fight feels like it's too early in his career.
Fight with the Lowest Stakes
Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Ernest Chavez. Don't take "low stakes" to mean irrelevant or boring. It's just that they have somewhat limited experience by comparison, and aren't in a matchup that helps them in terms of Featherweight capital (plus this undercard is filled with surprisingly decent fighters in competitive matchups, at least on paper). In fact, one of the reason to highlight this bout is that I think it should be a solid action fight. Tukhugov is an interesting fighter. His UFC debut versus Douglas Andrade wasn't earth shattering, but it's clear that the 23 year old has some unique chops for the division: despite a lack of KO's on his record, he has some very nice hand speed, and throws some of the sneakiest yet violent spinning back fists you'll see in this sport.
Only problem is that he's not as active as he should be. Andrade just stood there and bounced around in many spots and Tukhugov didn't feel pressed to do much in response. His demeanor is a little reminiscent of Mousasi, but unlike Mousasi, Zubaira has moments of being unhinged, wildly throwing punches. Chavez is a much better fighter than I anticipated when he came into the UFC. He struck me as a tough, durable ham and egger but his boxing is actually quite polished, and keeps improving. If he were a certified athlete (in addition to being younger), he could make some serious noise. As is, he may be tough enough to potentially win, but his ceiling is much lower than Tuks.
Fight of the Night Contender
Maribek Taisumov vs. Marcin Bandel. Between both men, they've competed in 41 professional fights, and between them, have only gone to a decision once (!). Hence this fight being in the spotlight for "fight of the fight". It's tough to say whether or not it'll be competitive, however. In fact, I'm predicting a very definitive finish.
Bandel is a 24 year old out of Drysdale Jiu Jitsu making his UFC debut, and he's a pure throwback. In his last 9 fights, all of which he finished, 6 were won via heel hook (against a good number of European vets too). Comparing him to Toquinho seems apt. He's like a movie slasher villain, except instead of directing his hate at over hormonal, thoughtless teenagers, he's a slasher of tarsals.
Still, Taisumov has a laser of a right hand. And Bandel has some pretty awful, if not lazy boxing defense. I'd expect him to get cracked pretty good. In addition, Taisumov has only been submitted once, back in 2008.
Cedenblad vs. Askham has a good case for being the actual Fight of the Night. Both guys are well rounded, and durable. Cedenblad is a solid 2-1 in the UFC with wins over Jared Hamman, and Krzysztof Jotko (losing only to Francis Carmont). Askham is undefeated out in Europe and in the UK with solid regional wins in his last three over Max Nunes, Jorge Bezerra, and Jack Marshman. Enough to earn him the second spot on Patrick Wyman's prospect list. Askham has a plodding, grinding style that just flat out works. His striking isn't always pretty, but with a brutal left high kick, and some efficient clinch striking, he's tough to deal with. And it should be no different against Cedenblad who doesn't have the advantage on the feet. Tough fight to predict, especially if both guys are constantly pushing and pulling against the fence like I expect. Your guess is as good as mine.
Musoke vs. Yakovlev is another one you could pencil in as a potential mismatch in practice, though not on paper. Musoke looked fairly decent against Kelvin Gastelum, who has been looking like a certified prospect. Whereas Yakovlev was pretty much murdered on the dance floor in round one against Demian Maia at the Miocic vs. Maldonado show. Of course, Maia is actually world class, so we shouldn't be too hard on him. At the same time, getting demolished and surviving isn't exactly a ringing endorsement. Yak is a solid as a fighter, less so as a musician. He wasn't intimidated by Paul Daley, so I doubt he'll be intimidated by Musoke who isn't as threatening on the feet but I also think that Musoke should be able to keep it standing against the "Bad Boy" from St. Petersburg.
Cathal vs. Gasan sounds less like a fight between two men, and more like something done inside the office of a urologist. Should be a good fight, but Pendrad is rightfully the favorite. Paulo Thiago hasn't looked good in years, so while it's a nice win on paper for Umalatov, it's also not a win that will prepare him for the truly hungry fighters like Pendrad. I like Cathal to mix it up, striking with Gasan and getting timely takedowns by changing levels when needed similar to how Pendrad defeated Che Mills.
As for Tor vs. Jotko, this is a really competitive fight that Troeng absolutely has to win. Especially after he was hyped up on TUF as some sort of fight Buddha. He's a solid, well rounded mixed martial artist but I don't know about "UFC material" per se. Losses to Trevor Smith and Rafael Natal don't look good on paper, and they didn't look good in practice. I was pretty shocked Jotko lost to Cedenblad. I thought his best shot was the ground against Magnus, and instead he bullied him with combinations in the beginning, and then got submitted at the end of round 2. I feel like Jotko is the fighter Chael was talking about on the show instead of Troeng, but these guys are very evenly matched.
Magnus Cedenblad by Split Decision.
Nico Musoke by Split Decision.
Dennis Siver by TKO, round 3.
Cathal Pendrad by Decision.
Jotko by Split Decision (yes, lots of splits here).
Mairbek Taisumov by TKO, round 1.
Zubaira Tukhugov by TKO, round 3.