(Editor's note: Please welcome aboard Dayne Fox to the Bloody Elbow team)
Is it just me, or do the UFC 199 Fight Pass prelims feel like a letdown compared to the previous incarnations the UFC provided us? Last week's battle of Aljamain Sterling and Bryan Caraway was the most high profile showing the UFC had featured for Fight Pass that was strictly meant for the prelims -- while Antonio Rogerio Nogueira may not have the same sizzle he once had, he is still a legend of sorts in the sport. Now we get ... Sean Strickland and Tom Breese. Hmm...
In all honesty, I am actually excited for that bout as both look like they have long UFC careers ahead of them, though there is little else to get excited for. Jonathan Wilson and Luiz Henrique da Silva are too much of a mystery, Kevin Casey and Elvis Mutapcic is the token middleweight bouts featuring fighters who are the definition of middleweight, and Polo Reyes and Dong Hyun Kim (no, not the Stun Gun) aren't ready for the UFC (if they ever will be).
The UFC 199 Fight Pass Prelims start at 6:15 ET/3:15 PT.
Sean Strickland (17-1) vs. Tom Breese (10-0), Welterweight
Though I'm traditionally not a fan of matching prospects up against one another at such a tender age, (Strickland 25 and Breese 24) this one makes a lot of sense. Expect the winner to receive a nice push.
Even though he'll get a nice push with a win, Strickland is expected to lose this one (at least according to most fans, though I'd say the oddsmakers are exhibiting better judgement this time), as Breese is the latest big deal to come out of England. Strickland doesn't have the same hype, but he is one of the few that can match the strength of the massive Breese. He struggled with the cut down to welterweight after initially starting his career at middleweight, though it looks as though he's figured out the cut now, as his energy level has returned and looks like he could be a serious force at 170. Strickland does his best work from the outside where he uses his 76"reach very well, peppering his opponent with his strong jab while mixing in the occasional power right. He isn't a bad wrestler either, using it mostly as a change of pace, though he'll use it often depending upon the matchup.
Breese has a lot of similarities to Strickland in that he is a long fighter with a nice jab. The differences are that he isn't quite as long with a 73" reach (despite owning a 2" height advantage) and that he fights out of the southpaw stance. He has shown a great set of defensive skills as well, taking minimal damage in the last few fights, as he uses his length and footwork to optimal levels. Then again, he hasn't exactly faced a true striker in his UFC stint quite yet. Where Breese has done the most damage is in the clinch, where he can more easily use his natural power.
That should create a hell of a dynamic as Strickland has noticeably improved his clinch skills after not utilizing it much upon his UFC entry. Will he be able to negate Breese's strength from there? This could be the first time we see Breese truly on the grappling offensive in the UFC. Many have forgotten that he came into the UFC with a reputation as a high level grappler. He showed some of his smooth guard passing skills in his last appearance against Keita Nakamura, but not his full arsenal. He still has room to grow as Nakamura had some unexpected shining moments on the ground when Breese was supposed to blow through him. Strickland doesn't have nearly as deep a grappling game, but he can survive with most opponents and is probably a better pure wrestler.
The Breese hype train has lost a bit of momentum after Nakamura gave him a tougher fight than expected, but it's still running pretty strong. As a result, Strickland isn't getting the props he deserves going into this fight. I am going to pick Breese though. Strickland has faced grapplers and physically strong fighters, but none with the combination Breese possesses, though it should be a close one. Breese via decision
Jonathan Wilson (7-0) vs. Luiz Henrique da Silva (10-0), Light Heavyweight
For all the talk that Misha Cirkunov and Corey Anderson are the only light heavyweight prospects in the UFC, are we possibly overlooking Wilson? This fight will give us some insight as he welcomes newcomer da Silva.
To be fair, the reason why Wilson hasn't been getting more hype is he is still just a bag of physical gifts at this time, without a notable win on his ledger yet. Yes, he won his UFC debut and did so impressively (in less than a minute), but that was against a late notice Chris Dempsey who is a natural middleweight and one of the least athletic dudes on the roster. Even in that short performance, holes in his footwork and cage awareness were noticeable. Wilson isn't as young as you'd hope for someone so raw (he's 29 in July), but it is often more about miles than age and he is still incredibly fresh in that regard. He has a lot of athleticism and explosion in his hands which make him worth keeping an eye on as everything else is correctable with time and training.
No, this isn't the same da Silva who fought Francis Ngannou in December. In fact, he is better known as Frank Waisten on the regional scene, but this is the name the UFC home page is posting so that is the name I'm going to go with. I would go with his nickname of Frankenstein, but da Silva is still easier to type and I'm lazy. Like Wilson, he too is inexperienced and has beat up a bunch of cans on the regional scene which makes him very much a mystery. All of his fights have ended via KO/TKO, which is impressive regardless of what anyone wants to say. That should be a big clue as to what type of fighter that he is as I have seen pretty nothing when it comes to wrestling skill out of the Brazilian. He isn't the most technical striker, but he does have enthusiasm and his kicks have a lot of sting to them as well with the ability to put the lights out if he goes to the head.
When it comes to what will happen in the cage, don't look for any takedowns in this one. I've already touched on da Silva's lack of wrestling and I haven't seen any out of Wilson either. Grappling footage has been hard to find for either, so I hope all of you watching will be fine with a striking battle. Wilson is a bit more technically tight, in addition to having shown more in the clinch. What I haven't seen is his toughness, whereas da Silva has shown the ability to eat a punch. In the UFC, that is often the biggest metric separating the mainstays of the organization from the journeymen.
I wouldn't touch this fight if I was a betting man as both are still very much unknown, but what would you expect from a pair of fighters who made their professional MMA debuts in late 2013? I'm picking Wilson due to his athletic and slight technical advantage, though Wilson's unknown chin does make me hesitant to do so. Wilson via TKO of the second round
Kevin Casey (9-4, 2 NC) vs. Elvis Mutapcic (15-4), Middleweight
In the plentiful land of journeyman middleweights who are capable of beating one another on any given day, the UFC looks to trim some fat, with the loser here assured to be looking for employment while the winner goes on to be the only "King" left in the UFC.
Casey is a heavily muscled grappling expert, not to mention the son-in-law of Muhammad Ali (not that that has anything to do with his fighting acumen). He was one of the more hyped prospects on the 17th season of TUF, but the sum of his parts hasn't quite added up. When it appeared he was on track to do just that, he was busted for PED's in the summer of 2014. He hasn't looked the same since ... not that he has been a cakewalk, but a snoozer of a win over grind-master Ildemar Alcantara is the only win he has produced in three tries since returning from his suspension.
Mutapcic is like Casey in that he has had a good amount of hype behind him as one of the best middleweights not in the UFC, with wins over UFC vets Zak Cummings, Cezar Ferreira, and Sam Alvey, only for him to disappoint upon hitting the big stage. To be fair, Mutapcic made his UFC debut on short notice at light heavyweight, but in another similarity to Casey it feels as though there is an extra gear in his toolset that he can't seem to hit for some reason.
Mutapcic is well-rounded without a true standout skill. Nonetheless, it feels like a no-brainer to assume that he'll have a significant striking advantage as he consistently puts together good punching combinations with KO power occasionally flaring up. Casey's power is on display more often, but he is incredibly stationary, picking his spots with single strikes while looking for the power attack without making efficient use of his 77" reach. Casey will look to take the fight to the ground where he is most comfortable using his BJJ skills or ground strikes, though whether or not he'll be able to is a greater question as he isn't a great wrestler who tends to gas early in fights. And that isn't even mentioning Mutapcic's above-average takedown defense.
Casey is too much of a one-trick pony for me. He doesn't throw enough leather to take consistent decisions and he has never been able to deepen his gas tank despite it being a long noted chink in his armor. Even if he get Mutapcic to the ground, Mutapcic has shown enough grappling acumen to make me believe he can survive what is coming his way and eventually return to his feet where he'll piece up the slower Casey. Mutapcic via decision
Polo Reyes (5-2) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (13-7-3), Lightweight
This is the type of fight we get when the UFC tries to expand into new markets: fighters who aren't ready for primetime matched up against one another so one of the markets can have their guy get a win.
Representing Mexico, Reyes was a contestant on the latest TUF Latin America installment. Like most competitors from that version of TUF, he has some raw skills that could be developed to make him a mainstay, though seeing him eventually emerge as a contender seems as likely as the Lakers leaving Los Angeles, especially when he is already 31 years old. A very one-dimensional fighter, Reyes wants to stay on the feet and trade strikes. He has shown KO power (as his one-punch KO in his UFC debut demonstrated), but he also showed poor defense in general as his opponent, Cezar Ardamendia, landed on him with ease, in addition to scoring several takedowns.
Kim had a bit more of a challenge in his UFC debut by taking the fight on short notice at welterweight against a much larger Dominique Steele. He ended up being bullied for just over two rounds before he was slam KO'd, proving that lightweight is his true home. He is a better rounded fighter than Reyes by far, as he does a good job of working in takedowns, though he does prefer to stand and trade himself. Kim is strongest in the clinch and will assuredly look to take the fight there where he can either wear down Reyes or use his bodylocks and trips to get his opponent to the ground and use his solid ground and pound.
Even though I don't believe that either of these guys are UFC caliber, I do think this is a fantastic curtain jerker as Kim (just like Reyes) doesn't pay much attention to defense. Translation: this could very well degenerate into a barnburner. Reyes has more striking power and perhaps is even a bit cleaner in his technique. What Kim has going for him is a bit more attention to detail of his defense -- he at least exhibits some head movement-- as well as his grappling advantage which includes his scrambling and submission abilities.
There isn't a great amount of interest in this fight, and rightfully so as neither is ready for true UFC competition at this stage of their careers. Though both have the physical potential for that to become a reality someday, the same could be said of others who never sniffed the UFC and I don't see either of these two doing that. Out of the two, I think Kim has more promise as his skill set runs deeper than Reyes. Kim via decision
Odds (from Odds Shark)
Sean Strickland (-120) / Tom Breese (-120)
Jonathan Wilson (-230) / Luiz Henrique da Silva (+170)
Kevin Casey (-140) / Elvis Mutapcic (+100)
Polo Reyes (+115) / Dong Hyun Kim (-155)