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Diggin' Deep on UFC 201: Lawler vs Woodley Fight Pass prelims preview

Get the rundown on the Fight Pass portion of the UFC 201: Lawler vs Woodley card out of Atlanta headlined by young welterweight prospect Michael Graves testing his abilities against Bojan Velickovic.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Based on what the UFC is offering on Fight Pass this week, I'd say that they are getting away from offering featured matches worth tuning into. Then they turn around and decide to put Cub Swanson and Tatsuya Kawajiri on Fight Pass for next week's offering in Salt Lake City. What gives? I don't have the answer; I really want to know what gives.

To be fair, Michael Graves -€” the fighter the UFC is spotlighting -- is a prospect who appears to have a bright future. The problem is that his style isn't going to induce any gasps of excitement in addition to being green. It could be years before he is ready for primetime. Regardless, his continued progress should be an interesting development.

Personally, I'm more interested in the flyweight contest as both Ryan Benoit and Fredy Serrano possess rare power for 125ers which has been the biggest complaint against the little guys. If you watch just one fight on Fight Pass, I'd recommend tuning into those two.

The Fight Pass prelims start at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT.

Michael Graves (6-0) vs. Bojan Velickovic (14-3), Welterweight

While both of these welterweight prospects offer some potential, they present styles that make it difficult for the promotion to get behind them at this stage. Translation: this probably won't be the most entertaining contest.

Graves is the better known commodity to fans thanks to his exposure on TUF 21. While he has shown progression since his time on the show, his striking is still way behind his wrestling ability which leads to his fights being grinding affairs. He was able to find a submission finish in his last appearance against Randy Brown, offering hope that he doesn't develop into a Jon Fitch-like decision machine.

Velickovic may not be the explosive athlete that Graves is, but he is absolutely huge for welterweight. Owner of a thick 6'0" frame with a 76" reach, it's unusual when he doesn't pose a matchup problem for an opponent. While he made his UFC debut at middleweight, he's spent a good chunk of his regional career fighting at welterweight, thus the weight cut shouldn't create a mystery as to how he'll respond to the drop in weight.

As mentioned, Graves wrestling is his bread and butter. He has an explosive shot that almost always allows him to at least grab a leg even if he isn't able to finish the job. If he can't finish the takedown he'll push the fight against the fence, either chaining further attempts from there or striking with short knees and elbows. He's proven he isn't just a wrestler though as he's shown improved guard passing, greatly helped by his strong ground and pound. He isn't afraid to throw flashy strikes such as flying knees, but Graves' fundamentals haven't come along as hoped... yet.

Velickovic typically looks to grind out his opponents using his massive frame. That will be a difficult proposition for him against Graves as Velickovic isn't nearly the wrestler that his counterpart is. Instead, look for him to utilize his length, throwing a steady diet of kicks from a distance. While his punching is a bit clunky, he pumps a jab from a southpaw stance to some effect and has occasional power. Stagnant from the top position, Velickovic is sneaky good at scoring sweeps and snatching submissions in the midst of a scramble. Look for those abilities to come into play as his takedown defense has been underwhelming to say the least.

Velickovic appears to be tailor-made for Graves to pick up a win. It won't be a cakewalk as Velickovic is very durable, having never been finished over the course of his career. He's also the most experienced opponent Graves has faced by far. Still, I look at Graves win over the more athletic and lengthier Brown and see him being able to deal Velickovic in a similar manner. Velickovic's survival instincts will keep him from being finished, but that will likely be the only difference. Graves via decision

Ryan Benoit (8-4) vs. Fredy Serrano (3-0), Flyweight

Stepping in with just over a week's notice, Benoit looks to right the course of his UFC career against TUF Latin America product Serrano.

Benoit's UFC career has been up and dow, though mostly down. He scored a surprise KO victory over Sergio Pettis, but only after Pettis pieced him up for a round and a half. He followed that up by looking incredibly flat against Ben Nguyen, losing in less than three minutes. Despite his youth and potential, he needs a win here to remain on the roster as the KO has been about the only true bright spot in his UFC tenure.

Serrano appears to be the perfect type of fighter to help Benoit right his trajectory. It isn't that the raw Serrano doesn't have talent or the abilities to score the upset. It's that his ceiling is incredibly limited by his late entry to the sport, only beginning his professional career in his mid-30's. In a division where age seems to play a factor faster than any other division, the 36-year old Serrano's window appears to be very small.

Had he began his MMA career earlier, there is reason to believe that Serrano could have become a serious player. Representing Columbia as a wrestler in the 2008 Olympic games, Serrano has actually been more effective with his striking thus far. He has one-punch power, a major rarity in the flyweight division and has been making massive strides in his boxing technique. Serrano's wrestling abilities haven't successfully transitioned over yet as he struggles to disguise his shots, allowing opponents to fight off his takedowns. He'll find success once he can figure out how to disguise those shots thanks to his high level of athleticism and explosion. He still hasn't figured out what to do once he gets the fight to the ground, resorting to lay-and-prey.

Benoit has far more experience in MMA than his counterpart, but has been far more frustrating as he hasn't been able to put all the pieces together with any consistency. Like Serrano, Benoit possesses rare one-punch power for the division while throwing his punches with greater fluidity. The problem is that he puts too much trust in his chin, often moving forward chin first in his attempts to capitalize on the power he possesses in his fists. Benoit has been able to muscle opponents to the ground with his raw power, but don't expect him to find much success with that approach against the former Olympian.

The flyweight division would get more attention if there were more guys like these two, possessing the power to put the lights out of one another. Benoit's ability to put forth combinations should make him an easy choice, but he tends to headhunt and leave himself open for a counter. I don't think Serrano has developed enough as a striker to capitalize on that. Benoit is easily the toughest competition the Colombian has faced and I think the step up will be too much for him. Benoit via TKO of the 2nd round

Cesar Arzamendia (7-2) vs. Damien Brown (15-9), Lightweight

Paraguay and Australia are represented in this international contest. Expect the loser to be fighting in their home country on the regional scene soon enough.

It's actually a bit of a surprise that Arzamendia was kept around at all following his loss to Polo Reyes after the conclusion of TUF Latin America 2. It's true that there are raw skills to be developed in the 25-year old, but he may be better off honing those skills on a regional circuit rather than swimming with sharks. Can't blame the kid for wanting to be in the top MMA organization, but this could stunt his development by fighting

Brown is a completely different story, though he may not be UFC caliber either. A middling journeyman in the Australian circuit for the bulk of his career, Brown started putting it all together over the last 18 months to receive a call as a short-notice injury replacement this past March. At 31-years old with 24 fights under his belt, he doesn't seem to have much of a ceiling. That doesn't mean he doesn't have what it takes to turn away Arzamendia.

A closer look at Arzamendia makes it more understandable why the UFC hasn't already cut him loose. Owner of an aggressive boxing game, he throws out a stiff jab while following up with solid basic punching combinations. What has gotten him in trouble is his tendency to leave his chin out there as he attacks, not pulling out of the pocket fast enough to avoid the counter or taking his head off of the center line. Arzamendia's Thai clinch may be the strongest feature of his attack, digging the knees deep into the tissue of his opponent's midsection. Aside from some okay takedown defense, wrestling is largely absent from his arsenal.

Despite being an inferior athlete to Arzamendia, possessing a functional wrestling game will give Brown a more than adequate shot to walk out the victor. He doesn't have a traditional wrestling background, but he does have a double-leg that he lands with regularity which should be enough to help him maintain control of Arzamendia. There isn't anything special about his striking, employing the most meat-and-potatoes Muay Thai approach that you'll ever see. No one will label Brown's grappling as smooth, but it is effective enough to help him avoid most submissions. He'll probably need to utilize it to avoid Arzamendia's aggressive attempts to force a tap.

To sum it up: There is no question Arzamendia is superior physically. There's also no question Brown has a much better idea of what it takes to win. After seeing Brown struggle with Alan Patrick, a fighter similar to Arzamendia in striking style and frame, I'm going with Arzamendia. Brown will probably get a few takedowns, but I haven't been impressed with his ability to maintain control. Arzamendia lands a bunch of kicks and punches to score a decision or eventually put away the usually durable Aussie. Arzamendia via decision

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