A very stacked undercard projects to entertain the crowd this September 5, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Line Up
Preliminary Card (Fox Sports 1)
Lightweight Ross Pearson vs. Paul Felder
Bantamweight Francisco Rivera vs. John Lineker
Women's Bantamweight Jessica Andrade vs. Raquel Pennington
Featherweight Clay Collard vs. Tiago Trator
Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass)
Middleweight Joe Riggs vs. Ron Stallings
Lightweight Joaquim Silva vs. Nazareno Malegarie
Paul Felder -440 Ross Pearson +350
Francisco Rivera +100 John Lineker -120
Jessica Andrade -210 Raquel Pennington +175
Clay Collard -135 Tiago Trator +115
Joe Riggs +135 Ron Stallings -155
Joaquim Silva +110 Nazareno Malegarie -130
Pearson vs. Felder
Felder accomplished more in the public eye in losing to Edson Barboza than he did spin-fisting Danny Castillo. Felder appeared to have his coming out pugilism party this July despite being three fights into his UFC career. It was a good performance, but it seems odd for people to go nuts over the guy after losing to a fighter a lot of fans consider a bust. It was competitive, but Barboza clearly won the fight.
I preface this preview with a few comments about the Barboza fight not to gloat about being right for once, but because Felder's fight with Pearson deserves another emphasis on who Felder really is; he is a perfect plan tomorrow striker, which means the KO power isn't as readily evident against technicians.
Felder is still elite when vertical. It's not enough that he has good raw power in his fists, which he uses in a variety of ways. Nor is it enough that he chambers supernaturally fast leg kicks. Where Felder really stands apart is with his defense. He moves his head like he actually learned something from those Pernell Whitaker instructional videos, and keeps his movement synchronized with his attack. He's also never out of position. Striking aficionados could write essays for weeks on this dude.
But he's still a little too calculated for his own good. Barboza has been pressured before, made to look out of his element even. And Felder just couldn't replicate the success Michael Johnson, Donald Cerrone, or Jamie Varner all accomplished against him. As I said, Felder is not an all-in striker. He lets the knockouts happen, rather than try to force them, which is great. But as this is fighting, you kind of need force. This criticism of Felder is tantamount to nitpicking, but it illustrates how even the smallest flaws can have somewhat dramatic consequences (just look at Gegard Mousasi's career).
On paper, Pearson is battle fodder. He's been iced by Al Iaquinta, Cub Swanson, and even Cole Miller took the west Texas pump jack to him. But he's still a solid technical boxer; the kind of fighter not easily intimidated by flash and strength. Pearson will look to ugly the fight, and potentially win in the clinch, or on the ground. Felder can handle him in the clinch, but as we saw against Jason Saggo, he can have trouble against someone committed to avoiding the striking sandbox.
Rivera vs. Lineker
Dana White is supposed to have some sort of emphatic rule about missing weight three times, but if you have knockout power and are fun to watch, you can miss weight four times, and be punished by moving up in weight. Call me old fashioned, but for some reason, a fighter missing weight four times feels more nefarious to me than someone busted for elevated testosterone. Or maybe just call me dumb, but I find it hard to be objective about Lineker. Yes he's fun to watch, but what a complete jerk.
With all that out of the way, this is a fantastic fight that deserves a spot on the main card, probably more so than even Felder vs. Pearson. In part because it projects to have even more knuckle fireworks. Lineker is a stout combination puncher, and his work to the body should never be ignored. River is less of a boxer, but his strikes are a little more singularly aggressive.
Both guys are coming off wins over fighters whose talents are well ahead of their psychology in Alex Caceres and Ian McCall. You're never quite sure where their heads are at, so it's hard to measure how far along they're moving across the divisional hierarchy. I don't expect Lineker to lose too much power going up in weight, as his speed will more than make up for it. The size advantage may be gone, but the power remains. I like Lineker's ability to stay more active, but potentially be a little more strategic. He's just 25, so the potential isn't just there for sharper technique, but for sharper gameplanning.
Andrade vs. Pennington
Andrade will always be known for her gutsy performance against Liz Carmouche, and she's expanded on that performance since then, only faltering against Marion Reneau in February. She's facing Raquel Pennington, who I consider Andrade-lite. Pennington was last seen confirming that Holly Holm is not ready for a title shot, but that's a topic for another dead horse.
Despite what it says on her resume, losing to Holm via Split Decision isn't really a medal of honor so much as it is a symbol of Holm's bad habits. Pennington is aggressive, tough, and durable which is why Andrade shouldn't have much trouble grinding it out on the ground. It's a competitive fight, but not a close one. The bout is more interesting on the feet, but less so on the ground, which is where it should take place.
Collard vs. Trator
At 22 years of age, Collard has plenty to learn despite a whopping 21 professional fights. But he's still in the project stage of his career, not behaviorally sound enough to be a legitimate threat inside the cage. He's coming off a loss to Gabriel Benitez. But this is a great match up for him, as Trator likes to chop away with active, stinging leg kicks and will look to react to Collard's offense, allowing Clay to generate as much offense with his elbows as he can. Elbows have revitalized striking efficiency, and Collard makes expert use of them. Collard is a work in progress, and Trator projects to be the kind of fighter standing in the way of his progress.
Riggs vs. Stallings
No offense to Joe Riggs, but I sometimes worry that this preview is all for naught. Riggs is lot like Jamie Varner; victims of the MMA gods who like to roll the dice when it comes to injury. It's hard to tell just what Riggs peaked as. Riggs never had the chance to really identity himself in the cage in his prime, and injuries seemed to set a limit on who he could be showing promise, and insanity against Nick Diaz during and famously after the fight.
He's got a matchup that's pretty favorable. Stallings was predictable blitzed by Uriah Hall (just a really bad matchup), but he bounced back with a win over Justin Jones. Riggs would be wise to be careful; Stallings is similarly brittle, but only in the sense that once he loses his rhythm, he's lost in space. Stallings fights with a patience his game doesn't actually want or deserve. It's hard to say what Riggs has left; whatever the case, it's certainly not enough to think he'll win comfortably, but I favor him nonetheless.
Silva vs. Malegarie
Despite his "Netto BJJ", Joaquim Silva was last seen doing this:
So yea, he can do a little more than just grapple efficiently. Although it should be noted that Silva uses that overhand right a little too much. He's got some raw power, but I'd like to see him set it up rather than simply uncork it. Even on the ground, he's a bit of a loose cannon, more gifted offensively than defensively.
Malegarie had a forgettable Bellator run, going 1-3 in the promotion. This doesn't bode well for his UFC prospect, but it bodes reasonably well for this particular bout, as I think his more calculated style should pay dividends over the course of three rounds. He's not flashy, but he's fast and modestly furious, and should be able to strike, clinch, and defend his way through Silva's one note offense.
Felder via TKO, round 2
Lineker by Decision
Andrade by Decision
Collard by Decision
Riggs by Split Decision
Malegarie by Decision