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UFC Fight Night: Munoz vs. Mousasi - Main Card Preview and Prognostications

Four middleweights and two featherweights take center stage in Berlin, Germany. Below is an analysis of the three fights sans main event (to be previewed tomorrow).

Photo by Esther Lin of MMA Fighting

Francis Carmont vs. C.B. Dollaway Middleweight

We've finally moved on from the Lorenz Larkin fight, correct?

I think so. Carmont is who we thought he was. He's a massive MW who takes a risk-averse approach to prizefighting, While his style is anything but aesthetically pleasing, there's a place in MMA for fighters like Carmont. Again I defer back to the burden of violence principle. To claim victory in blood sweat and tears, the onus is on the losing fighter to press the action.

And no I'm not outing myself as Carmont's only fan.

He's fresh off a loss to Jacare, and his opponent is the inexplicably successful C.B. Dollaway.

Slight much?

I don't think so. Dollaway is just an odd beast. He could easily be 4-0 and a dance card of Jason Miller, Daniel Sarafian, Tim Boetsch, and Cezar Ferreira is nothing to scoff at.

I know what you mean though. He was basically lucky his Mayweather imitation didn't get him toe tagged against Mutante.

I wouldn't go that far. Although I do agree that luck, just like in life, is a factor in sports. We tend to dismiss it for a variety of invalid reasons. Either because it betrays our notions of free will, or because it undercuts principles of work ethic and diligence, but neither are true. Like the spandrel, traits like diligence, preparation, and ethic become part of the behavioral milieu that creates success rather than an impregnable foundation.

I remember reading Stephen Jay Gould. What does this have to do with Carmont vs. Dollaway?

Nothing. I just think CB is an interesting example of a fighter whose success is hard to quantify in light of his failures. The same people that picked him to beat Jared Hamman were the same people who picked him to lose to Tim Boetsch and Cezar Ferreira. The funny thing is that I think in his own crazy way, Dollaway, who is +140, is kind of a good matchup for Carmont.

Carmont doesn't like taking chances. His conservative style is doubly effective against linear fighters like Larkin and Philippou who need to fight one way in order to win. CB, for all of his faults, is what I like to call an effective gambler. Either in his exchanges with Cezar, or his ground scramble with Doerkson, the more chaos he can create, the better his odds get.

Unfortunately you can just as easily argue that it's Carmont's fight to lose. CB will put himself in harm's way, allowing Francis to just sit back and capitalize on his mistakes. Carmont is an imposing figure with solid leg kicks and a strong top control game that is rightfully branded as 'highly conservative'. While Dolloway is an effective scrambler, he needs to look for openings in the clinch or jockeying for top control. Carmont should and will be able to neutralize and minimize Dollaway's movement. Good thing for him he'll finally have some BE readers rooting for him.

Prognostication: Francis Carmont by Decision.

Luke Barnatt vs. Sean Strickland Middleweight

Bla bal bla. Sean Strickland is too young. Poor little prospects. Go on, get it over with.

With pleasure. Strickland is 23 years old, and fresh off his first UFC win over Bubba McDaniel. Now he gets Luke Barnatt who is 3-0 in the UFC? Granted, this isn't Charles Oliveira level bad, but I think a fight with Magnus Cedenblad would have been much better for his development.

Yea but we just want to see bloodshed. Not proper sports.

Well I can't argue with that.

Strickland is an interesting young fighter out of Cquence Jiu Jitsu who has a real patient quality in the cage. At +165, he's not a great bet, but I wouldn't dismiss his chances against the tall, rangy Brit. Barnatt has been a minor revelation. I picked him to get destroyed against Andrew Craig, and instead he dominated the fight wherever it went. On a side note, not sure why that bout got FOTN. Craig was a crash test dummy in that bout.

The biggest problem Strickland will have is dealing with Luke's jab and counter right hand. Strickland fights a very conservative pace on the feet. Defensively, he's sound, but once he's in close quarters his striking blooms. He appears to have a very high fight IQ, although whether or not that translates into success is another story. After all, we just don't know enough. I favor youth in fights that aren't for gold, but Barnatt is himself coming into his own while he's catching Strickland in a transitional period.

Prognostication: Luke Barnatt by Decision.

Tom Niinimaki vs. Niklas Backstrom Featherweight

Why would the incredibly talented center who is incorrectly beneath Alexander Ovechkin's shadow for the Washington Capitals fight in the UFC?

Not that Backstrom. It's this guy.

For a more detailed look at Backstrom's profile, as always, check out Patrick Wyman's material.

A tall, rangy grappler who favors kicks, the Allstars Training Center product is just getting started at 24 years of age. Granted, late notice and all,  but this is another fight I wish wasn't happening. Yet.

After all, Tom is coming off a big win over Rani Yahya. At the time, like in most cases, my prognostication of the fight was incorrect, but I did have a sort of sinking feeling that Yahya could lose against this "no namer" (credit to BE reader, King's Gambit, who utterly called that one).

Niinimaki, more than Benson Henderson (who I'm not claiming he's better than), deserves the nickname 'smooth'. The guy fights like a hitman in a Luc Besson film. Except instead of the creepy sexuality, there's just robotic precision in the way he approaches his victims.

It's rare to be impressed by a fighter's patience, but that's how I look at Niniimaki. "Composure" is a buzzword too often used to describe nothing of significance whatsoever, but it's the word that best scribes his style. All of it really comes down to his movement. I'd like to see Connor do a breakdown of his boxing, but Tom does a great job of being simultaneously economical, and unorthodox with his movements. His striking isn't particularly dynamic, but he slings punches that never put him out of position, and lasers a one-two that is often used simply to set up his takedowns.

His takedowns are electric in the way he so quickly secures them. On the ground he's not exactly the incarnation of Marcelo Garcia, but like on the feet, he moves swiftly enough that he can capitalize on ill-advised scrambles from his opponent.

For this reason, he'll take this bout comfortably. There's nothing Backstrom will offer from his back that Yahya couldn't do a thousand times better, and that's with complete respect for Backstrom's game (who has experience in grappling tournaments). Backstrom's reach could serve problems early, but Niniimaki will secure some takedowns and win via top control.

Tom Niniimaki via Decision.