The Line Up
Lightweight Jake Matthews vs. Vagner Rocha
Light Heavyweight Anthony Perosh vs. Guto Inocente
Welterweight Dylan Andrews vs. Sam Alvey
Welterweight Vik Grujic vs. Chris Clements
Flyweight Richie Vaculik vs. Louis Smolka
Middleweight Luke Zachrich vs. Daniel Kelly
Bantamweight Jumabieke Tuerxun vs. Marcus Brimage
3 Things you Should Know
1. Marcus Brimage used to be kind of awesome. Now he's just kind of decent.
I hate doing this. Writing about a fighter, and articulating their deficiencies as if I knew all along. I don't know if I picked Brimage over Conor McGregor, but I wouldn't be surprised if I did, and I'm too embarrassed to link it were that the case. Hopefully readers can talk about their picks that way I can vicariously live in shame.
Brimage reminds me a little of T.J. Waldburger: if you watch him selectively, he can look incredible. Unfortunately that's not who he is. Granted, supporters who bring up his loss to Conor will say "what are you crazy? He lost to the Featherweight t-shirt of the week but potential champion, and got jobbed on his bout with Russell Doane!"
Bollocks. Listen, I can't stand the eye rolling anti wisdom of "never leave it in the hands of the judges". I didn't like the decision. But Brimage did the same thing against Doane that he did against Maximo Blanco in their unholy fight: stopped moving, and made some awful assumptions about how the fight was going heading into the final round.
Still, Brimage is an exciting fighter when he keeps his feet moving. He has access to chopping leg strikes, and uses his wrestling to his advantage in a pinch. And he's facing Tuerxun who is +415. That's not all that insane when you consider thier styles: Brimage is the more polished striker, and is fleet enough of foot that he doesn't have to worry about Tuerxun's top control. It's not the craziest bet at those odds, and Brimage may not be as capable as he looks, but he is consistent.
2. There are some competitive fights despite some uncompetitive odds with numbers like +260 (Vaculik), +250 (Kelly), and +325 (Rocha).
Perhaps Smolka's six degrees of Kevin Bacon connection is what has him such an overwelming favorite, losing to Chris Cariaso in a bout that functionally determined who would fight for the Flyweight title. Whatever the case, Smolka is exciting, but not spectacular. He's a flawed scrapper, but with his high energy striking that shoots high as much as it shoots low, the odds are nonetheless justified.
Vaculik is a good upset candidate. He can win a scramble battle and work for a submission in a best case scenario. Still, Vaculik is better when horizontal, but Smolka can be blistering when he's vertical. As I always say, err on the side of dynamism and athleticism. This is the kind of fight where Smolka beats Vaculik up, but if Vaculik can get an opportunity to take the back late, it's his. Is Vaculik good enough to prevent early circumstances to enable late opportunities? That's the question.
Daniel Kelly didn't make much of an impression on TUF, which is generally an axiom of civilization for anyone who didn't win the show. But he nonetheless follows in the footsteps of really old judokas who are inexplicably spry. Kelly is 37, but not all that distanced from competing in the Summer Games in 2000 (9th), 2004 (7th), and 2012 (21st). Not for nothing, but I forgot to mention his appearance in the 2008 games. As a result, his MMA career, which began in 2006 hasn't taken off. He's a sparkling 7-0, but his competition doesn't tell us much. He got beat on the show by Sheldon Westcott.
Zachrich has some polish to his game. He's not much of an athlete but he's precise with his strikes, and really takes care of business in close. This could theoretically play into Kelly's hands, who won't mind the clinch, but Luke is pretty versatile. He's got a solid handful of submissions to his name, but he'll look to stay at range and picky Kelly apart. He's perfectly capable of doing that, as Kelly has that Jonathan Weizorek way of bulling forward as if standing knees are illegal, and therefore not a threat. But those are good enough odds to consider, even if it won't be my pick.
Matthews vs. Rocha is completely legit in terms of who it favors, but for as good, tough, durable, and strong as Matthews is not only in close, but peppering his opponent with strikes...Rocha is still a high level grappler who can capitalize on almost any opportunity, and has faced tough competition like Donald Cerrone.
3. This undercard is like taking your girlfriend to Waffle House. Something sweet might happen, but there's an "I told you so" to the experience of discomfort that occurs on reflection.
There's no real stinkers, but no matter how many guys have their own wikipedia pages, the card just won't make history anytime soon.
For example, Perosh (+175 on the books) is a fighter I really respect. He's 42, was gift wrapped his own toe tag by fighting Mirko Filipovic in 2010 after losing his previous two UFC bouts against lesser competition, isn't athletic or especially talented, and yet has gone 4-3 in his 2nd UFC stint, winning three in a row at one point. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if he beats Carlo Augusto "Guto Inocente" Filho*. But Filho's power should allow him to replicate what similarly striped fighters like Ryan Jimmo and James Te Huna were able to do.
For some reason I always remember Dylan Andrews for hearing Dana White shout, whisper, and repeat "from the bottom!" A reference to Andrews functionally getting TKO'ed from strikes landed from Uriah Hall's back. But he showed serious moxy against Luke Barnatt in a certified war. His opponent, Alvey, is your typical guy who competes in MMA because he knows MMA. There's just not much to say that hasn't already been said about a thousand different MMA veterans who are just good enough to be employed. Alvey should definitely be one of the crazier numbers by comparison. Andrews isn't a special fighter but I think he's pretty underrated. Like a poor man's Brad Tavares.
Chris Clements should be a much bigger favorite over Vik Grujic. Grujic didn't make an impression on TUF and the guys appears to be drowning in Aunt Jemina's when throwing punches. Slow, and plodding aren't descriptions that will get it done against the saavy striking of Clements.
Jake Matthews by TKO, round 3.
Guto Inocente by Decision.
Dylan Andrews by TKO, round 1.
Chris Clements by KO, round 2.
Louis Smolka by Decision.
Luke Zachrich by TKO, round 2.
Marcus Brimage by Decision.
*That is one big pile of Portuguese.