If you're hoping for more out of a Boston undercard, you've come to the wrong place. This January 18th will have everything you've come to expect from the UFC at this point: a few good men. And nothing much else. Like every other undercard there are some fine fighters, but it's clear that most of the money went to promos for Conor McGregor vs. TBA at TD Garden.
The Line Up
Welterweight Cathal Pendred 15-2-1 vs. Sean Spencer 12-3
Welterweight John Howard 22-10 vs. Lorenz Larkin 14-4
Lightweight Zhang Lipeng 9-7 vs. Chris Wade 8-1
Flyweight Patrick Holohan 10-1-1 vs. Shane Howell 13-8
Lightweight Johnny Case 19-4 vs. Frankie Perez 12-0
Featherweight Charles Rosa 9-1 vs. Sean Soriano 8-2
Light Heavyweight Matt Van Buren 6-3 vs. Sean O'Connell 15-6
Flyweight Tateki Matsuda 10-6 vs. Joby Sanchez 6-1
John Howard +130 Lorenz Larkin -150
Cathal Pendred +140 vs. Sean Spencer -160
Chris Wade -450 Zhang Lipeng +360
Patrick Holohan -265 Shane Howell +225
Frankie Perez +155 Johnny Case -175
Charles Rosa -140 Sean Soriano +120
Matt Van Buren +158 Sean O'Connell -180
Joby Sanchez -160 Tateki Matsuda +140
3 Things You Should Know
1. Everyone always wants to know who can graduate to main carder. There are only two prospects on this card, and they are Charles Rosa and Joby Sanchez.
Charles Rosa is an interesting fighter to watch, in part because he had a hellacious debut on short notice against the guy in the main event, Dennis Siver. But he offers a unique skillset aside from just youth to qualify him as a prospect: he's a karate fighter who likes to win with submissions. When I previewed his bout against Siver, I had it more or less correct. Rosa would pose an interesting challenge to Siver with his wide base, and switching of stances, but would get bullied on the ground. It'll be interesting to see if Rosa can develop better takedown defense over time, along with polishing his overall game.
However, all the ingredients are in place for the former full time chef. Soriano is not a soft ball, however. He's got a well rounded game, has youth on his side to go along with experience training at solid camps like the Blackzillians, and is only winless in the UFC because he had incredibly tough opposition to Chas Skelly and Tatsuya Kawajiri. With his well rounded game, it should be a fairly competitive matchup.
Joby Sanchez, like Rosa, had a tough debut fight in the UFC, losing a unanimous decision to a still competitive Wilson Reis. But I consider him a prospect because he's 23 years old, and trains at Jackson-Wink MMA. More to the point, I didn't expect much from him against Reis, who has always been just a step below elite. Sanchez doesn't have a lot of experience, and his best win up to this point is against a rapidly fading Antonio Banuelos. But he gave Reis a real scare with that knockdown. Sanchez is a solid well rounded fighter with a good variety of offense on the feet, and an all around ability to capitalize on the chances he creates.
If he's developing like he should, Matsuda shouldn't be too much of a problem. Matsuda is the type of fighter whose talents you could figure out from his record. He's tough (never been knocked out) and well rounded. He prefers staying on the feet, where he has decent power, but doesn't get crazy. His defense is lacking, which is why I favor Sanchez.
2. The Howard, Van Buren, and Holohan fights are your best bets for performances of the night read: quick finishes.
John Howard has never amounted to much in the UFC: he's like a Taken sequel; nothing you're interested in seeing, but something you won't necessarily regret seeing if you do. That's a bit generous to Howard's mundane bouts if we're being honest. I'm kind of surprised he still has a job, to be honest. Even with that in mind, it's still a little disheartening to think of this bout as a pink slip fight given Larkin's exciting style.
I still expect Larkin to win even knowing what a bust he's been. It's amazing to think that the striker who took the world by storm in victory over Robbie Lawler can now have his losses justified by saying 'well he's faced some stiff competition because Derek Brunson and Brad Tavares aren't pushovers'. While true, it's also true that he was once primed for a breakout. Now we know exactly what he is: a talented striker, but a shoddy mixed martial artist. His swift combinations should be enough to get by Howard who doesn't throw enough to win a decision over the clinch vortex of Howard.
Holohan, like another Irishmen on the card, is getting quite the spicy meatball tossed his way, ready for deglutition. With one fight, I suspect fans and observers have turned Holohan into the new Paul Sass. It's an unfair comparison, but not all that distanced from truth. Thankfully for Holohan, Howell has lost 54% of his fights by submission (7 total). Is my analysis allowed to stop there? I'm pretty cool with prospects getting favorable matchups, but this one is a little too pandering for my taste. Hell Rony Jason drew Robbie Peralta in Brazil. Come on Joe!
Van Buren vs. O'Connell has the makings of a real blood bout. Both guys have been knocked out by lesser competition, and both will be looking to take each other out on the feet in different ways. It's a classic game of striking checkers with O'Connell looking for success in close against Van Buren's massive 6'5 frame, and Van Buren looking to close it out at range with his kicks. Neither guy projects to have a real future. Both are guys with limited experience despite being older, and neither exude durability.
3. Lipeng isn't a great bet, but the odds are a little too lopsided while the numbers in the Case vs. Perez bout shouldn't be as even. The Pendred bout sounds about right.
Lipeng has delivered more or less what you'd expect out of a TUF:China winner, which is to say, not a whole lot. He's a decent enough fighter with good size for the division, and a good style in the spirit of the once thriving arsenal of heavy breathing and horizontal ordinance.
But he's a little outmoded, as he does little else well enough to support his top control game. Wade is like what Lipeng's style looks like once it's hopped off the Bill Wallace burp machine. Wade isn't all that explosive either. He reminds me what Chad Mendes used to look like: physically skilled, but not urgent enough to be as imposing as he looks. Still, Wade is the better top control model.
Frankie Perez is not a guy that will linger on anyone's radar with his active, but conservative style. He has a nice array of kicks and a well rounded game but he's facing a very stiff test against the larger, harder hitting Johnny Case. Not only that but Perez tends to keep his head straight up, and with as quick as Case chambers that right, the styles leave me with little doubt as to who will be victorious when all is said and done.
Pendred hasn't quite impressed enough to think that Spencer will be another notch on the victory belt. This fight in general is pretty classic wrestler vs. boxer matchmaking. Pendred packs pop in his paws, but he won't fight comfortably against Spencer's searing leg kicks. While Pendred is a little slow for Welterweight, I still think he has the general capacity to fight with the type of attrition urgency required to win these matchups. I expect this fight to be fairly close, and possibly controversial ala Larkin vs. Carmont
Pendred by Split Decision.
Wade by Decision.
Case by TKO, round 3.
O'Connell by TKO, round 2.
Holohan by Peruvian Necktie, round 2.
Larkin by Decision.
Sanchez by Decision.
Rosa by Split Decision.