The Line Up
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
John Dodson -450 Zach Makovsky +360
Dong Hyun Kim -280 Josh Burkman +240
Rafael Natal +280 Uriah Hall -340
Nina Ansaroff +240 Rose Namajunas -280
Colby Covington -270 Mike Pyle +230
Islam Makhachev -320 Leo Kuntz +260
Josh Sampo +290 Justin Scoggins -350
3 Things You Should Know
1. The Fight Pass Prelims are can't miss if you care at all about prospects. Makhachev, Covington, and Scoggins are all an average age of 24, and have yet to realize their potential.
Covington is a heavy favorite over the more experienced Pyle, which to a lot of hardcore fans, feels odd and out of place. After all, Pyle is well rounded, flat out dangerous, and stars in Universal Solider movies. Who the hell do the oddsmakers think this Covington guy is? A legit prospect. Covington's training at ATT has paid dividends, and his stifling wrestling compliment his aggressive ground and pound. He's also extremely quick, and poised in the transitions which explains why so many of his wins are by submission. It's important to remember that Pyle is 39, and even though his last big win over Rick Story was only two years ago, he's clearly lost a step. Losing a step isn't always a deathknell for veterans, but Pyle has always been inconsistent to begin with. I'm not totally confident that Pyle isn't able to muster up some serious valor to put Covington in trouble, especially at those odds, but I don't see him neutralizing what Colby can accomplish on the feet either.
Makhachev is another in a long line of brutal, face smashing Dagestani prospects. Islam is a little different in that his striking has a stronger frat boy drunken feel to it (unlike his more polished peers), but he has the timing of a proper prizefighter, and is comfortable throwing from different stances, which makes him versatile. He's very good at writhing his opponent to the ground with various trip takedowns. While his opponent, Kuntz, is a young ATT product, the matchup feels tailor made for Islam. Kuntz is a solid well rounded fighter with pop in his right hand, but his defense is questionable at best. Against Islam, he'll have trouble dealing with his level changes while keeping his face from getting Ark of the Covenant'ed.
Scoggins and Sampo are two unlikely fighters currently sharing an 0-2 winless streak. Scoggins has always been a minor mystery. He has an efficient karate base that uses well within his diet Machida impression, and yet he's so drawn to fighting on the ground despite having less to offer. He's facing Josh Sampo, who is a little like a younger Mike Pyle; very well rounded, with a blue collar dynamism that you don't want to underestimate. This is a tough fight to predict despite how the odds make it look. Scoggins modestly sabotages himself at times, but at 23 he's not in some kind of decline either. Whereas Sampo is at the peak of his grapple centric abilities.
2. Let's talk about the one fight that could headline its own card.
Dodson belongs on the main card. Simple as that. Edgar vs. Faber could have used some high level, division relevant pugilism on the main card. It's a shame this bout is on any undercard. Especially against Makovsky who has been wowing us with his grappling prowess. The odds are very interesting. Makovsky is an excellent fighter whose only blemish is against the very forgottenly premier Jussier Formiga. His grappling has an element that I think is missing from even the elite; poise. He's incredible at staying balanced in all situations, looking more like a wrestler on the wrestling mats than a mixed martial artist replicating the action of the wrestling mats. However, Dodson's balance is elite, and even though Makovsky has never been knocked out, he's also never faced anyone with Dodson's lunatic power.
3. Now let's talk about all the rest from the Fox Sports 1 prelim.
Uriah Hall seems to have found some of the game everyone loved when he was on TUF, making Dana go bonkers. He's settled into a nice rhythm, and has now won his last three fights. However, it remains to be seen if he can keep up this pace as the competition gets better. Natal is a good step up for Hall without requiring the pugilism ladder. This is not to be confused with being some sort of set up bout to get Hall closer to relevancy. It isn't. I just happen to think both have a similar status in the division The casual fan might point out that Hall's more of a prospect, to which I'd remind you to check wikipedia. Hall is only 2 years younger than Natal. His boxing should earn him opportunities to catch Natal, and Natal's cardio could be a factor as the fight wears on. But Natal isn't some chump on the feet, and has some of the more effective leg smashing in the division. While his defense leaves a lot to be desired, so does Hall's output, which makes Natal an incredibly appealing bet, if not an outright slamdunk.
Burkman being a name that Zuffa hasn't forgotten makes the UFC experience feel like an anachronism. But he's earned his time back in the cage. Rattling off wins over Jon Fitch, Gerald Harris, and Aaron Simpson is a solid resume no matter where they're at in their careers for a guy who was significantly beneath them many years ago (well, some). How here he is, once again facing top notch competition in the form of Kim who had a nice four fight winning streak until Tyron Woodley stole his lunch money Macau. Kim is the obvious pick. Burkman has tweaked important parts of his game, like his striking, and his grappling has always had a x factor streak. But Kim is immune to rote striking without face melting power, and standard issue wrestling. This one won't be exciting, in my honest opinion. But it should be definitive.
Namajunas is a fighter still in between prospect and project. She showed real promise on TUF and picked up some decent wins. In the Finale she fells to Carla Esparza. While Carla predictably won the only way she could, there was still enough of Rose doing all the work for Carla that made the bout look like Namajunas still isn't sure what kind of fighter she wants to be. Picking an identify will be critical to her future. Her wild kicks make it seem like she's some crazed Alpha Male Machida hybrid, but her inability to consider the cost makes her look like a Paul Sass clone or something. Still, the foundation is there for something more. Despite the odds, Ansaroff is no walkover. She has a reputation for being a heavy puncher. This reputation is built off her left hand, which she sometimes throws like she's holding a mace. But she scrambles well on the ground (was even able to stave off some of Carla Espaza's ground attack), and is durable. In a way, Namajunas' attacks will play well against Nina's style. Nina isn't always the most active puncher, and Namajunas can initiate scrambles that should neutralize the heavy handed, but plodding Ansaroff.
Dodson by TKO, round 3.
Kim by Decision.
Hall by TKO, round 2.
Namajunas by Decision.
Covington by Decision.
Makhachev by TKO, round 2.
Scoggins by Decision.