If you get some sort of sick pleasure out of people fighting for their jobs, this portion of the card is for you. The first two contests smell of fighters on their way out of town if they don’t find a way to win. Remember that the new ownership is looking to make budget cuts which includes fewer shows next year in the unprofitable foreign markets. If you’re running fewer shows, you need fewer active bodies. See where I’m going with this?
The feature bout features a pair of young bantamweights looking to make their move up the rankings while Joe Soto saves a fight by stepping in on roughly a week’s notice to meet Marco Beltran. While the UFC is looking to trim roster fat, there is a good chance Soto negotiated a deal where his roster spot will be safe should he lose. I don’t know that for sure, I’m just speculating as I don’t see him willing to take the fight otherwise.
The FS1 prelims start at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT.
Erik Perez (16-6) vs. Felipe Arantes (18-7-1), Bantamweight
Both Perez and Arantes are on two-fight win streaks with the winner likely to earn a major jump in competition with a victory.
Perez no longer has the UFC-hype machine behind him the way he did a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean that he’s spent. Injury derailed his push from the UFC, although it appears those issues are behind him now. Still young at the age of 26-years old, Perez should have his best years ahead of him. However, he has been fighting for a long time which leads many to wonder how much more he can improve despite his relative youth.
Arantes experienced a career revival once he dropped down bantamweight last year, submitting both Yves Jabouin and Jerrod Sanders since that time. Marking the first time that Arantes has picked up consecutive wins in the UFC, it is easy to forget Arantes is relatively young himself at 28-years old seeing as how he has been around since 2011. He should be in or approaching his prime, making this the best time to make a run if he is going to do so.
Arantes’ submission victories in his new weight class have been impressive as he has picked each of them up off of his back. They are also cause for concern. While that indicates he has a dangerous guard, it isn’t wise to operate off of your back in today’s UFC. His takedown defense has been weak too, in part due to his comfort off of his back. As he works his way up the ladder, that will work against him. Perez has shown the ability to win by keeping his opponent on their back and avoiding their submission attempts which doesn’t bode well for the Brazilian. Arantes has the ability to scramble back to his feet, though that may be a dangerous proposition too as Perez is a dangerous opponent to try and scramble against.
So how does Arantes do on his feet? He does have some KO power in his punches, but he’s incredibly wild and inaccurate with his wild hooks that he favors. What he actually prefers to do is throw a large volume of kicks to all levels. Since his kicks are technically sound, Arantes is able to get away with this unorthodox style. The problem is that he usually doesn’t get a lot of volume unless the fight degenerates into a brawl, an environment in which he does well in thanks to his durability.
Perez has shown a willingness to brawl himself, though he has made greater efforts to remain composed and technically sound in recent fights. His strides in his footwork has helped him dart in and out of range to get his shots in without eating too much return damage. Typically a combination puncher who mixes in leg kicks, Perez isn’t much of a power striker. He makes up for that with a solid volume that has been able to overwhelm lesser opposition.
Perez is a sizeable favorite and with good reason. He was pretty much all of the advantages except for overall power and perhaps in the submission department. Perez is aggressive in fishing for submissions which could provide Arantes with the opening he is looking for to either sweep or submit him. Either way, expect Perez to get the fight to the ground for long periods of time and to exercise top control. Perez via decision
Marco Beltran (8-3) vs. Joe Soto (16-5), 140 Catchweight
Stepping in with less than a week’s notice, Soto replaces Guido Cannetti after USADA found something that shouldn’t have been in the Argentinian’s system.
Soto’s opponent, Beltran, has made the most of his UFC opportunity. Most – myself included – expected the 30-year old Mexico native would have washed out by now. Instead he has continued to improve and now has the look of a mainstay. Soto is by far the most difficult test Beltran has faced, but it is about time that he receives the opportunity against a higher level opponent.
Don’t let Soto’s 1-3 UFC record fool you. He deserves to be in the UFC. Stepping in on short notice is always a risky proposition and it would appear to be doubly so in Mexico City given the extreme altitude. Remember how Cain Velasquez looked well above sea level? Soto’s intelligence deserves to be questioned for taking this fight, but his heart and toughness shouldn’t be.
Soto isn’t a flashy fighter in any way. He doesn’t take high risk maneuvers nor does he look for the kill. That doesn’t make him boring as he is very active on his feet, bouncing in and out of the pocket looking to land his offense. Combinations involving mixing leg kicks with his punches aren’t uncommon as the volume tends to add up in a hurry pretty quickly for him. He doesn’t have too much power, but he’s technical enough that he can catch his opponent in just the right spot in order to put their lights out.
Beltran isn’t a power puncher nor is he a true volume striker. Though capable of putting together boxing combinations, he doesn’t stay active enough in the pocket to win the majority of those exchanges. As a result, he is either all in ripping into the body with knees in the clinch or throwing jabs – something he only started throwing with consistency recently -- and kicks from the outside. Not a great defensive fighter, Beltran tends to keep his hands low and take a few shots he should be able to avoid.
By far Soto’s biggest advantage will come on the ground as he has a decided advantage both in submission grappling and wrestling. No surprise that most expect Soto to take the fight to the ground as often as possible. Beltran has made some strides to improve his ground game and he is dangerous in scrambles, though not nearly enough to deal with Soto’s well-timed shot. Soto is also far more accomplished off of his back than anyone else Beltran has faced, though that strategy has gotten Soto in trouble at times as well as he’ll stay on his back too long and give the round away.
I really don’t want to be betting against Soto as he is easily the superior fighter. The problem is the late notice at a very high altitude makes this an uneven contest. I’d probably be willing to show Soto some love in my final analysis if the fight were taking place anywhere else, but I can’t do it. Soto lacks the power to end the fight early and though I’m not counting out an early submission, that’s a difficult thing to count on. Beltran is my pick, but only due to the circumstances of this fight. Beltran via submission of RD 2
Erick Montano (7-4) vs. Max Griffin (12-3), Welterweight
Expect the loser to be cut loose as both are coming off of a loss and hovering near the bottom of the division.
Montano may have a bit more pull seeing as how he was one of the winners of the second iteration of TUF Latin America as the UFC gives a bit more leeway to the TUF winners of the foreign editions. Wait… Glaico Franca – a TUF Brazil 4 winner – was one of the recent roster cuts? Never mind. Montano was never a blue-chipper anyway as he turns 31-years old later this month and has never had great physical tools to work with in the first place.
Griffin was pretty much rag-dolled in his UFC debut against Colby Covington on the heels of a long string of success on the regional scene. Griffin also turns 31 later this month, so he isn’t a young talent the UFC is looking to groom either. He has some talent as a striker, but he’ll need to keep the action standing if he hopes to remain employed.
Griffin was hitting his stride on the regional scene before getting the UFC call, his last three wins all coming by way of KO/TKO. He has fast hands and an above average 76" reach that serve his plus power well. The problem is that he tends to stick his chin out where it can be touched up and doesn’t use his jab enough for it to be a consistent weapon. Griffin is capable of countering, though he prefers to be the aggressor.
While Montano doesn’t have the same physical gifts possessed by Griffin, no one will argue that he doesn’t make the most out of what he does have. Though he is fairly big for 170, his natural advantages pretty much end there. Montano gets by on pure toughness, durability, and some unorthodox striking highlighted by a jab. He tends to spend a lot of time in the clinch too where he can better utilize his size advantage.
Considering Griffin is no slouch in the clinch and possesses little wrestling technique, look for Montano to try to outwrestle his more athletic opponent. Griffin’s athleticism helps him get back to his feet relatively quickly, but it doesn’t keep him standing. Montano has shown good scrambling ability despite lacking much in terms of quickness.
I said recently that I couldn’t think of a fighter on the roster I’d favor Montano against following his last loss. Props to Joe Silva as he found the right matchup for me to reconsider my statement. Montano looks as though he should be able to take whatever Griffin throws at him before the fight goes to the floor. It isn’t likely to be pretty, but expect the Mexican to grind out a decision. Montano via decision
Henry Briones (16-5-1) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (23-1, 1 NC), Bantamweight
Do we care at all about this contest? Briones hasn’t been seen in a UFC cage in 16 months while it’s been over 20 months for Andrade. I suppose with both out of action for such a long period of time, rust should affect them equally….
Briones was a member of the original cast of TUF Latin America. He surprised with a victory over Guido Cannetti upon his UFC debut to maintain a roster spot. Even more surprising was his performance against Cody Garbrandt as Briones has proven to be the only opponent the soon-to-be title challenger has been unable to finish in his professional career.
De Andrade was undefeated through the first 23 contests of his career, picking up his first loss in his UFC debut against Zubaira Tukhugov. He rebounded with an upset victory over Cody Gibson upon dropping to bantamweight which preserved his UFC employ only to end up taking his long hiatus.
A finishing machine on the Brazilian circuit, Andrade puts everything into his strikes in hopes of securing a finish. Thanks to his penchant for looking for the highlight, he’s highly inaccurate despite offering a degree of danger on the feet. He alternates between countering and leading the dance with the greater effectiveness coming as he waits for his opponent to move first thanks to his quickness. Leg kicks come at a decent clip with spinning back-kicks being a staple, but de Andrade’s fists are his primary source of punishment.
Briones has some similarities to de Andrade. He prefers engaging in a striking battle, he does most of his damage with his fists, and he has a tendency to brawl. However, he isn’t as athletic as de Andrade and is getting to be somewhat ancient for a bantamweight, having turned 36-years old last week. What he does have in his favor is his durability and experience as he has faced a much higher level of experience overall in comparison to de Andrade. Plus, he does an excellent job of mixing his punches to the body, an often overlooked trait.
Considering neither has attempted a single takedown in their UFC careers, don’t expect the fight to hit the ground. If it does, neither are exactly slouches, but neither are exactly creative in their submission abilities either. Briones deserves a slight nod here as he has shown a willingness to take the fight to the ground himself at times in the past in addition to a deeper submission repertoire.
While I’m not excited about this contest, I admit that it is some great matchmaking put in as these two are very evenly matched. I tend to favor youth and athleticism in these type of contests which is why I’m picking de Andrade in this. I’m hardly convinced it is a sure thing, but I really don’t want to spend more time analyzing this contest if I don’t have to. De Andrade via decision