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Diggin' Deep on the UFC Fight Night 89 Fight Pass prelims

Get the rundown on the first four preliminary card fights slated for UFC Fight Night 89: MacDonald vs. Thompson Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Middleweights Elias Theodorou and Sam Alvey are the feature fighters on UFC Fight Pass.

Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

It's that time of the week again where we gear up for this weekend's offerings of combat sports and the UFC is offering a surprisingly deep Fight Night card. Usually they reserve this type of depth for their PPV cards, but are making a hell of an exception for their venture into Canada in order to help satiate some of the complaints from Canadian fans about recent quality of their cards. As a result, even the lowest depths of the card are of surprisingly high quality.

There is a former flyweight title challenger facing one of the brighter prospects of the division, a potential slugfest in the strawweight division, and one of the brighter Canadian prospects clashing with a KO artist to cap off the Fight Pass previews. What's that? You're asking whether or not there is a fourth fight as you had previously been informed? Yes... but I'm not excited about its potential for excitement. You shouldn't be either.

The Fight Pass prelims start at 6:45 ET/3:45 PT.

Elias Theodorou (11-1) vs. Sam Alvey (26-7), Middleweight

Theodorou and Alvey are coming off of losses following three-fight win streaks, and are looking to right their ship and begin ascending up the ladder once again.

Theodorou represents the grappler in this contest in addition to being a far superior athlete. He scored dominant victories in his first three UFC bouts, including winning the TUF Nations tournament in his debut. He handily took the first round in his contest against Thiago Santos before the wheels fell off the wagon for the rest of the contest. Aside from learning he isn't quite ready for prime time, we also figured out he has a pretty solid chin as he took some serious shots from the Brazilian striker.

Alvey has always been somewhat of an overachiever as he is a limited athlete with good takedown defense and that is about it. He's been able to get by due to his accuracy and timing with his powerful counter punches which led to all of his victories in the course of his winning streak coming by first round KO which is an incredible testament to his punching power. His chin has traditionally been exceptionally noteworthy too, but he is coming off of his first TKO loss of his career in addition to a broken jaw suffered during training camp that forced him to pull out of his scheduled fight against Daniel Sarafian in February. Has his durability deteriorated?

Theodorou's strength is grinding his opponent down using his endless cardio. He's an alright wrestler who usually times his shots well, but isn't the most technical when it comes to finishing the takedowns. His relentlessness makes up for that in spades though, and is an awesome grinder against the fence if he is unable to finish his shot. Since most of Alvey's wrestling skill comes in the form of stopping takedowns -- he hasn't landed a single one himself in his UFC tenure -- expect a large portion of the fight to take place against the fence.

Since Theodorou largely uses his grappling abilities in order to position himself for ground strikes, he doesn't get the credit he deserves on the ground. He'll own the advantage on the ground as Alvey's skills are limited to survival and getting back to his feet. Striking from a distance or in the pocket is about the only place where Alvey will have the advantage. Once he can get his opponent to throw, he counters not just with power, but with volume too. Since he rarely looks to be the aggressor, he has taken a lot of damage in most of his fights which worked for him thanks to his chin. Theodorou hasn't shown signs of being a KO threat on the feet and isn't fluid with his punches, but he does have a nice repertoire of kicks that will make it difficult for Alvey to land the kill shot that he regularly looks for.

In an era of well-rounded fighters, Alvey is one of the few specialists who has found success in the modern day. Being a specialist means he will never be able to break into the upper echelon. If he isn't taken seriously he can still score the upset over those that are clearly more talented than him. I struggle to see Theodorou underestimating him coming off of his loss to Santos. Expect it to degenerate into a brawl at times, though it will largely be a grinding affair. Theodorou via decision

Randa Markos (5-3) vs. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-2), Women's Strawweight

Markos and Jone-Lybarger meet in an unheralded bout to determine who the better action fighter is between the tiny sluggers.

It may not be fair on my part to call Markos a slugger as her grappling is actually the strongest part of her game. I call her that though as she has shown a willingness to trade punches, even against opponents who are reputed to be better strikers. Though she has had her moments in those exchanges, it hasn't always gone well for her. She dropped her last contest against Karlina Kowalkiewicz when she was unable to get the Pole to the ground where her dynamic grappling abilities could be shown.

Jones-Lybarger is more of an unknown quantity for fans, spending the majority of her career within the confines of the RFA while earning her UFC debut as an injury replacement following a win over Zoila Frausto. She didn't show a lot against Tecia Torres in that debut, but Torres is a tall order for a veteran with a full camp much less a newcomer on short notice. We should be able to figure out if she is genuinely UFC grade here as she gets a full camp against Markos.

The one positive thing that could be taken out of Jones-Lybarger was her sound takedown defense, though that may even come with the caveat that Torres is one of the smaller 115ers without much of a wrestling pedigree. Markos has traditionally used trips and throws to get the fight to the ground before Kowalkiewicz stuffed her almost every time, which perhaps makes this the most important aspect of the fight to look out for. Jones-Lybarger isn't a great offensive wrestler herself, more often than not only succeeding in pinning her opponent against the cage and working in short shot. She is also prone to long periods of inactivity from there, though Markos hyper-activity makes that unlikely.

It will no doubt be an entertaining fight on the feet as both are very aggressive, moving forward to meet their opponent. Jones-Lybarger is a bit more technical using sound angles and simple boxing combinations while Markos is more of a brawler who picks her spots to engage. While waiting for her time to pounce, Markos exhibits good head movement while eating most of her damage as she moves forward to attack when she mistimes her blitzes. She has a bit more pop in her punches and pounces once she realizes she has hurt her opponent.

Considering KO's are incredibly rare in the smaller weight classes -- especially amongst women -- look for a submission to come to pass if the fight doesn't go 15 minutes. Jones-Lybarger hasn't shown much in that aspect on the ground, preferring position over submission while looking to sweep when she is on her back rather than snagging an open limb. Markos is dangerous everywhere with a talent for nabbing the armbar. She isn't Ronda Rousey in that aspect, but few are better than she is.

Jones-Lybarger has the look of someone who could hang around the UFC for a while if given the right matchups. Torres and Markos certainly aren't those type of matchups I'm referring to. Markos is one of the favorites of the brass thanks to her entertaining style and it appears this is a matchup designed to get her a win in her Canadian homeland. Still, it should be a fun fight to watch. Markos via decision

Colby Covington (8-1) vs. Jonathan Meunier (7-0), Welterweight

Originally scheduled to be Covington against Alex Garcia, Meunier steps in for his teammate with just over a week's notice to make his UFC debut in this clash of prospects.

Covington stumbled pretty badly in his last appearance as he left his neck out there for Warlley Alves to take which resulted in Covington's first loss of his career. Despite the fact that he is 3-1 in the UFC with plenty of room to still grow as a fighter, he could still end up being on the cutting room floor if he falls here as his fight style is among the least aesthetically pleasing to fans.

Meunier may only have seven professional fights, but he has a total of 29 amateur kickboxing and MMA bouts so he is much more experienced in combat sports than his record would indicate. His nickname is The French Spider in honor of Anderson Silva, though his actual fighting style isn't reminiscent at all of the all-time great as he has emphasized wrestling more and more the further along in his career he has progressed.

It's actually good news for Meunier that his wrestling has progressed like so as Covington is a former two time All-American in wrestling. There are very few fighters in the modern day UFC who rely more on their wrestling than Covington as he has landed a total of 31 standing significant strikes in just under 35 minutes of Octagon time according to Fight Metric, less than one significant strike a minute on the feet. While that is an atrocious striking record, it also speaks volumes about how good his wrestling and grappling is that he has been able to find the success that he has thus far.

The funny thing about Covington's striking is that he actually throws fluid looking strikes while looking comfortable switching stances. His hooks look like they could cause some serious damage, but they largely are used to cover ground as he goes in for takedown with leg kicks actually being his most reliable strike. When he does close the distance, few are better at chaining their takedown attempts together and he usually gets the job done. From there he can execute his top-heavy grinding style which creates narcoleptic tendencies in the audience.

Meunier has shown a knack for well-timed reactive takedowns, though it's doubtful they'd be effective against the likes of Covington, especially when Covington will likely be actively seeking the takedown himself. Expect Meunier to return to his striking roots, though he hasn't shown the ability to throwdown in the confines of an MMA fight that his background would indicate as he has appeared tentative with most of his striking success coming from vicious elbows on an already downed opponent.

Despite the success the success Meunier has had as a striker in other combative sports, I'm not seeing it translate for him to UFC success. I haven't seen any sign that he has the wrestling ability to keep Covington from taking him down either which leads me to believe Covington will either grind out another boring decision or find a submission. I'm betting on the former while wishing that this fight was taking place later in the card so my bathroom break didn't have to come so early. Covington via decision

Ali Bagautinov (14-5) vs. Geane Herrera (9-1), Flyweight

Anyone else remember when Bagautinov challenged Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title? Now he's fighting for his UFC job against one of the better up-and-comers in a division severely lacking depth as the curtain jerker for a fight night card. One hell of a fall if you ask me.

For all the crap that Bagautinov has received about his failed PED test following the title fight, he was about as competitive with Joesph Benavidez as anyone this side of Johnson at flyweight which is a pretty solid indication that his early UFC success shouldn't be attributed strictly to PED use... provided he is now clean. It's clear that he isn't amongst the divisional elite, but he looks like he can have an extended career as a gatekeeper provided he can get past Herrera here.

Most pundits believe that is exactly what is going to happen, but Herrera shouldn't be overlooked. He has flashed brilliance in just about every phase of MMA (except wrestling), he just hasn't been able to put it all together. Despite not having a complete performance yet, Herrera looked mighty impressive in disposing of Joby Sanchez in his last appearance, being the first to stop the Jackson-Wink representative.

Bagautinov isn't Sanchez by any stretch of the imagination though, representing a huge step up in competition. Perhaps his biggest strength is his durability and resilience as he has never been finished despite being in the cage with the likes of Mighty Mouse, Benavidez, and the notoriously hard hitting John Lineker. Saying someone's chin is their best feature often represents a diss on their physical talents, but in this case it is more of a diss on Bagautinov's fight IQ as he has above average power in his fists and throws good punching combinations. He just doesn't throw them enough as he is too often caught standing and looking when at a distance. Hard to count his striking as his biggest strength when he doesn't throw fists often enough....

Herrera's aggressive style is the ideal style to draw out the best of Bagautinov as he will force him to throw punches or eat Herrera's power shots, something that was on full display when he floored Sanchez for the finish. The problem is that he doesn't flow from phase to phase very smoothly which gives him a bit of a disjointed style. Considering Bagautinov has a tendency to put himself into compromising positions on the ground Herrera would be smart to get the fight to the ground where his aggressive chain submissions and dangerous guard could catch his Russian counterpart. The issue there is that Herrera has proven to be a weak wrestler while Bagautinov has eaten up opponents without sound wrestling. Uh oh...

I love Herrera's dynamism in his strikes and his grappling which leads me to believe that he'll be one of the more entertaining 125ers for some time to come. I just don't think his time has arrived yet. I'm not counting out the possibility of him catching Bagautinov in a submission, though it seems more likely Bagautinov uses a wrestle-heavy approach to grind out a decision... well, at least as much as flyweights can grind. Bagautinov via decision

Odds (By Odds Shark)

Elias Theodorou (-265) / Sam Alvey (+185)

Randa Markos (-165) / Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (+125)

Colby Covington (-288) / Jonathan Meunier (+232)

Ali Bagautinov (-184) / Geane Herrera (+156)

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