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UFC 171: UFC Fight Pass preliminary card preview and prognostications

The countdown to Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler starts with the Fight Pass undercard that highlights a slew of TUF'ers and prospects in what should be a very good start to the evening.

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Renee Forte vs. Frank Trevino Lightweight

Forte seemed like a guy who would be out of the UFC after two fights, but instead a drop in weight appeared to do him some good. He picked up a win over the still fearsome(ish) Terry Etim, giving him an 8-3 overall record. However, he's coming off a KO loss two minutes into his fight against John Makdessi.

Forte wasn't able to show much on TUF, but he lost to one of their best scrappers. As for Trevino, the product from Team Pound has managed an 11-0 professional record. There's not much to say about the veteran South Texas Fighting Championships welterweight turned lightweight.

Trevino is pretty much your standard issue journeyman. But a good one. His method of winning is evenly divided among KO's, submissions, and decisions. When he fights, you immediately understand why. He simply does a lot of things well without doing any one thing great. Trevino likes the left kick from a temporary southpaw stance. Despite how I label him, there's certainly a swagger to his game. It's just hard to gauge how well his game will translate against tougher competition.

Trevino is generally pretty good on the feet, with strong elbows in the clinch. Needless to say, this should be an action packed fight. Forte is a guy I was frankly shocked to see straight up merk Terry Etim for three rounds. Renee is a high octane offense fighter who loves throwing the kitchen sink to go along with the refrigerator. Between superman punches, knees of all sorts, and a right hand he loves to lob, there's a lot to enjoy about his game.

I suspect Trevino will surprise some people early in the fight. He's tough, and won't back down, and Forte has looked much more polished lately. In addition, I think Renee has the better ground game. He'll be able to control Trevino on the ground if he feels like standing with Frank is too risky.

Prediction: Renee Forte by Decision.

Will Campuzano vs. Justin Scoggins Flyweight

Campuzano is a great fighter for the division. No, not a great fighter: just the perfect type of scrapper who you want your prospects encountering every now and then. At 13-5 overall, he's pretty much as advertised. He put up a solid fight against the heralded Sergio Pettis, which is what you want your prospects doing; facing opponents who will be just challenging enough to force them to reflect on how they can be even better.

I mention this narrative because Scoggins is very similar in hype to Pettis. At 8-0, the American Top Team project has won 6 times by TKO/KO finish. He put on a clinic against Richie Vaculik and then some.

When you watch his stance, Scoggins is very much like Stephen Thompson. His stance is practically perpendicular with his opponent. Like Thompson, Scoggins can defend double legs better from this highly unorthodox stance, but unlike Thompson, Scoggins is an offensive machine in every way. While he's excellent on the feet from his southpaw stance, he loves digging for takedowns, cutting up the guard, and landing punches from top control.

It's a product of what he offers on the feet. He has an especially brutal, chopping left uppercut. His kicking game isn't as polished as the other karate experts, but he's got better power in his hands than most.

Even though Campuzano is more experienced, I feel like his defense will get exploited by Scoggins' boxing. Campuzano is the type of fighter who has trouble with specialists. Like all perennial undercard scrappers, no one skill allows him to take over a fight.

Will is generally pretty good boxer though. Just like with Pettis, Scoggins would be wise to stick to his typical gameplan without being too confident. This is why I like this fight. A lot. While Campuzano can flurry well, he's not gonna overcommit, so a grindy, clinchy, punchy bout could make this very competitive.

However, I follow the crowd and listen to what the cool people have to say. At 21 years of age, Scoggins is legit blue chip prospect being given a good fight. It's competitive, but in the end, won't be close with his striking and well executed takedowns that will net him the kind of top control that will give Will fits for three rounds.

Prediction: Justin Scoggins by Decision.

Robert McDaniel vs. Sean Strickland Middleweight

I don't think anyone expected much from Bubba McDaniel coming off the TUF season involving Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen. Especially after watching his Gilbert Smith fight. But he's a better fighter than the quote "what's wrong with my eye?" would indicate. At 21-7 overall, and coming off a loss to Brad Tavares, there's not much else to say.

As for the KOTC champ, it's late notice for him, as Tor Troeng pulled out of the bout due to injury. Sean is a perfect 13-0, in association with Cquence Jiu-Jitsu. 7 of those wins are by TKO/KO, with other 6 split by submission/decision over mostly decent competition.

The 23 year old is a lot like your typical wrestle boxer, but with a much more patient edge. Strickland's striking is not as good as his TKO record indicates, which isn't a bad thing. He's young, and still learning.

He likes to paw with the jab, and gauge distance with his punches. They're thrown with much more significant authority when he commits, and especially when he's in top control. It's a habit he'll need to ditch against better fighters, but he's been able to get away with it this far. He's capable of all out brawling as well because he seems confident in his raw power, which is a good thing for a prospect.

McDaniel is your standard issue jack of all trades type, but with much more ruminating on the tribulations of being stuck on a reality show.

I do think Bubba is a decent fighter. His southpaw stance makes him tricky to approach and he's pretty technical in the clinch. I thought Brad Tavares would steamroll Bubba, but instead he put up a good fight, and showed some actual moxy. While he's a decent overall striker, his best work is done on the ground. He's won 16 of his fights by submission. As an aggressive guard passer, he's able to put considerable pressure on his opponents.

However, I like the newbie to avoid the takedown with his wrestling and keep it on the feet where he just needs to land one big punch to turn the tide.

Prediction: Sean Strickland by Decision.

Daniel Pineda vs. Robert Whiteford Featheweight

I feel like I'm just repeating myself in describing Pineda as the perfect fighter for the division: a guy who is just good enough keep prospects and veterans on their toes. And so it goes. He's 3-3 in the UFC, with an 18-10 overall record.

His opponent, Whiteford, now getting practice in with American Top Team, showed us more or less what he has to offer. I feel like his bout against Hettes was pretty much the worst possible matchup for him, and it more or less played out that way.

Pineda is a fun guy to watch. He has that Palhares grappling instinct, where he's looking to maim more than secure position. I was far more impressed with him than Mike Brown in their scrap at UFC 146. He has excellent back control, and moves well from his back. Of course, that high flying offense comes at a price. His striking, which is itself wild, leaves him open for counter attacks. It also leaves him vulnerable to fighters who are more conservative.

Whiteford is definitely that. He likes to dirty box and work in the clinch. If not that, he keeps himself top heavy on the ground where even a guy like Pineda might have trouble. However, I've gotta go with the more dynamic fighter in this one. Whiteford is a lot like Mike Brown, just with less experience and raw talent. As tough as this bout is to predict, I think Pineda can threaten Robert with his submissions, which will eventually be the difference.

Prediction: Daniel Pineda by Triangle Choke, round 2.