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Diggin' Deep on UFC on FOX 21: Maia vs. Condit FOX prelims preview

Get the lowdown on the Fight Pass prelims of UFC of FOX 21: Maia vs Condit out of Vancouver, British Columbia! Smilin' Sam Alvey looks for his second consecutive win over noted BJJ artist Kevin Casey..

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Considering I already ripped on the quality of the fights on the Fight Pass portion, I didn't want to be too harsh on the televised portion of the prelims. But if I'm going to be honest, this isn't a very good portion of fights either. The headliner features Sam Alvey -- whose lone victory in his last three contests is over little-known Eric Spicely -€” and Kevin Casey -€” who has one official UFC victory in six tries. Not the most inspiring selection of contests.

Now I'm usually willing to forgive a lack of name value for the promise of good action. While the lightweight and featherweight contests have some promise, none of the contests are overflowing with it to deliver a FOTN contender. Some will point out Alvey's tendency to put his opponents to sleep, but also keep in mind his stinker against Elias Theodorou to start the summer. If he doesn't get the early KO, it could end up being a substitute for melatonin.

The FOX prelims start at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT.

Sam Alvey (27-8, 1 NC) vs. Kevin Casey (9-4-1, 2 NC), Middleweight

There never seems to be an end to the amount of seemingly non-descript middleweight contests the UFC can put together. At least Smilin' Sam is a likeable dude....

Alvey rebounded from a horrendous performance against Theodorou to score his first submission victory since 2010... over a submission specialist of all people. Taking a page out of the book of Neil Magny, Alvey is stepping into the cage for the third time this summer. That's what's possible when you barely take any damage in your fights.

The last time we saw Casey, he was fighting just after his father-in-law Muhammad Ali passed away. Scoring a draw against Elvis Mutapcic, Casey's single win over five fights in this UFC run is underwhelming. Granted that only one of those contests resulted in a loss, so it hasn't been as dire as it appears at first glance. He still needs to pick up a win here or he is going to be looking for a new employer.

Alvey's submission victory over Spicely in a guillotine choke was a bit of a fluke... at least as far as the method goes. Don't expect that to happen again as Alvey is about as pure of a KO specialist as there is. He doesn't throw a lot of volume and usually ends up eating a lot of punishment as he looks to land his patented left hand. Don't think that the southpaw doesn't have power in his right hand either though as he has dropped opponents with both hands. Because he rarely looks for the takedown, he's developed a reputation as a bad wrestler. That isn't true though as Alvey has consistently proven to be one of the toughest middleweights to take to the ground.

There is no doubt that Casey is the greater physical gifts between the two fighters. He isn't quite on Alvey's level when it comes to punching power, but he isn't far off either. He's also a highly skilled BJJ practitioner with plus submission skills. He wings powerful hooks not just as a means of scoring the KO, but also closing the distance so that he can clinch up where he can hit his trips to the ground. There are a few problems that keep him from reaching his physical potential as he tends to fade after the first round and doesn't respond well to adversity. Basically, he's a front-runner.

This is either going to be a quick contest or a long, drawn-out fifteen-minute affair that induces narcolepsy. Casey has the deeper skill-set for sure, but he also struggles to implement that upon his opponents. While he has the power to put anyone out cold, he isn't a very accurate striker. Alvey on the other hand usually picks his spots well and knows has to put his fist to his opponent's chin... provided they need to close the distance in order to find success. Casey needs to close the distance for his takedowns and punches. Can you see where I'm going with this? Alvey via KO of RD1

Enrique Barzola (11-2-1) vs. Kyle Bochniak (6-1), Featherweight

How many of you remembered that Barzola won the last iteration of TUF Latin America? Yeah, me neither. He gets his first fight since the tournament win against Bochniak.

The UFC's first fighter out of Peru, Barzola made his professional debut in late 2012. Considering he is still very young in the sport and hasn't received top training, Barzola could end up surprising many with a decent run up the standings. Keep in mind that everyone's favorite highlight reel Yair Rodriguez came upon the UFC scene the same way that Barzola did.

Coming out of Boston, Bochniak has had a more traditional upbringing in the sport than his opponent. While he isn't as experienced professionally -€” his debut came in early 2014 -€” he spent plenty of time in the amateur ranks before crossing over, dating back as far as 2011. His UFC debut was a short notice loss to Charles Rosa. He lost a clear decision, but also had a few bright moments.

In what was a bit of a surprise, Barzola showed improved wrestling in the finals over Horacio Gutierrez to coast to an easy win. While a big chunk of his success in that contest can be attributed to Gutierrez's poor takedown defense, Barzola's doggedness to chain together his attempts helped to hide some of his technical deficiencies. Expect him to continue to improve in that area. His grappling is even more raw as he struggles to pass guard, largely only going for ground strikes. He's tentative on his feet as well, which allows opponents to land quite a bit more than he does.

While Bochniak isn't a killer on the feet himself, he'll look to keep the fight standing as he'll have a massive advantage there over the unpolished Barzola. Bochniak picks his spots to attack, sitting back throwing leg kicks from the outside until he bursts with a flurry of punches. He can fall into bouts of inactivity, reacting slow as he tries to counter his opposition, though I'd imagine he'll be able to find success against Barzola. His takedowns haven't been impressive, but he is a good scrambler with the know-how to get out of bad positions.

I've picked against the TUF Latin America guys so many times only to be proven wrong that it isn't funny. They come back with an obvious growth in their skill set that was difficult to predict. So after being wrong so many times, I'm going with Barzola. I don't think Bochniak is a stiff, but who did he beat before coming to the UFC? None of those previous opponents are over .500, a bad sign. Barzola is tenacious as hell and I very much expect he'll show something new as it has been 9 months since we last saw him. Barzola via decision

Garreth McLellan (13-4) vs. Alessio Di Chirico (9-1), Middleweight

While I admit that Di Chirico offers promise, this feels like your typical middleweight contest that is about as middleweight as it gets.

McLellan hails from South Africa, easily his biggest claim to fame. Sporting a 1-2 record in the UFC, he fell to noted grinders Bartosz Fabinski and Magnus Cedenblad while scoring his lone victory in a come-from-behind effort against Bubba Bush after Bush dominated early. McLellan isn't very athletic, but he is tough, gritty, and willing to walk through hell to score the win.

Di Chirico found plenty of success in the European circuit over decent competition before falling short to Bojan Velickovic in his UFC debut. He showed promise and grit by outstriking Velickovic and surviving a kimura attempt, but his raw grappling skills resulted in him falling short in the end. At 26, he has plenty of time to develop into a keeper.

A far superior athlete to McLellan, Di Chirico hasn't figured out how to fully utilize it to his advantage quite yet. He throws a lot of kicks to the legs and body while often telegraphing the attempts to the head. He has improved his footwork some, but only throws single strikes with little follow-up. He has shown some countering ability in addition to powerful reactive takedowns, though he'd probably benefit from shooting for takedowns more often. Despite having nearly half of his wins coming via submission, I'd have to guess they were against lower competition based on what I saw against Velickovic as he quickly gave up position after scoring a takedown.

Can McLellan capitalize on that? Hard to say. He had a reputation as an aggressive submission fighter in Africa, but hasn't had much of an opportunity to display that in the UFC. So far all of his opponents have been better wrestlers -€” at least when they haven't gassed --   which he hasn't had much of an answer for besides being aggressive in scrambles. He has shown heavy ground strikes when he had the top position. On his feet, McLellan throws a lot of kicks from the outside with great reluctance to exchange in the pocket.

I admire McLellan's willingness to do whatever it takes to win. What I don't like is his lack of physical skills. He hasn't faced a plus athlete yet and has had subpar results despite that benefit. Di Chirico is a plus athlete. He hasn't completely developed his skills which does leave the door open for McLellan to pick up a victory, but I'm pretty confident that Di Chirico will be able to outpoint the African. Di Chirico via decision

Shane Campbell (10-5) vs. Felipe Silva (7-0), Lightweight

Make no mistake that this is Campbell's last chance to remain under UFC employ as he welcomes Brazilian newcomer Silva to the Octagon.

Campbell is lucky he is Canadian as I'm sure they would have already cut him loose otherwise -€” the UFC needs Canadian bodies for shows like this one -- as he is carrying a 1-3 UFC record into this contest. To be fair, he has been competitive in each of his losses up to a point and hasn't been given easy opponents, falling to John Makdessi, James Krause, and Erik Koch. He'll never be a world-beater, but he has proven to be an entertaining fighter at the least.

Silva isn't unlike many Brazilian newcomers in that there is a fair amount of mystery to him. Is he legit or is he another flameout? His victory over Anton Kuivanan to punch his UFC ticket was pretty damned impressive, so I'm not gonna be calling him a fluke. Though he is 32-years old, he has only been fighting professionally since 2013, indicating he still has plenty of room to grow.

It doesn't take much visual evidence to guess Campbell was a kickboxer before transitioning to MMA. Fairly tall for a lightweight at 6'0" with a 71" reach, he makes good use of a jab to feel things out before putting some heat behind his kicks and straight punches. Campbell throws at a high volume which also leads to him eating plenty of strikes in return, though he usually ends up landing more than his opponent. He isn't much of a wrestler, but is capable of scoring the occasional trip takedown from the clinch where he usually scores with some hard knees.

Silva is more of a brawler than anything. He prefers to wing hooks to the body and head as he moves forward with no period for feeling out his opponent. He has a lot of power, just not a lot of accuracy. His kicks are thrown with more skill than his punches and they have just as much power if not more than his fists. Silva's wrestling is below average, though he has shown an above average and extremely active guard. His lone submission victory was an armbar off of his back.

The primary strategy that Campbell's opponents have utilized thus far is trying to put the lanky kickboxer on his back. The results have been mixed thus far with only Koch successfully taking him down without Campbell stuffing attempt after attempt. Silva isn't going to be a takedown threat to Campbell which will allow Campbell to fight his fight. Combine the fact that Campbell is the cleaner striker, I favor him in this contest. Silva may have more power, but Campbell isn't a slouch in that area either. Should be a fun contest if nothing else. Maybe I was too harsh in my opening statement.... Campbell via decision

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