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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem Fight Pass preview

Get the lowdown on the Fight Pass prelims of UFC 203: Miocic vs. Overeem card from Cleveland, Ohio, headlined by Yancy Medeiros and Sean Spencer.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Trinaldo vs Medeiros Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

How to sum up the Fight Pass card this weekend? None of the contests are heralded, but they have some names that are somewhat recognizable like CB Dollaway and Yancy Medeiros. There doesn’t appear to be a hot prospect, though Jason Gonzalez is making his UFC debut against a Drew Dober, who appears to hitting his stride. For every excuse to rip on the card, there appears to be just as strong of an argument to give it a thumbs up.

Except for Francimar Barroso. I don’t know why, but the man can’t seem to be in an entertaining fight. I’m not saying he sucks. I’m not saying he should be cut. I’m saying he is boring. The only argument I will buy is if you watch all of his UFC contests in a row without falling asleep.

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

Yancy Medeiros (12-4, 1 NC) vs. Sean Spencer (12-5), Welterweight

Former lightweight Medeiros meets former middleweight Spencer in a bout that could very likely has employment at stake.

Despite being the former lightweight, don’t expect Medeiros to be that much smaller than Spencer if he is smaller at all. He fought at middleweight back in the day and his fight style has never been all that dependent upon him being the bigger man. Knowing that, the move up in weight may end up being good for him and could extend his UFC career.

Spencer has had a rough stretch, being robbed by the judges of a decision win over Cathal Pendred to open up 2015 and to watch a fight he was winning slip away in the final minute against Mike Pyle to open up 2016. The UFC is granting him some leeway it otherwise might not with the competitive nature of those losses in mind, but there is no doubt this is his last chance to make good.

If anybody has ever been the definition of a light-striking volume puncher, it is Spencer. He opened his career scoring a couple of stoppages against no-names and hasn’t finished a fight with strikes since. And yet he has a respectable 3-4 UFC record with a single takedown to his name. He throws constant short punching combinations at a heavy pace with good technique. Cardio is one of his biggest weapons as opponents struggle to keep up with his pace if they are foolish enough to try and do so.

To be fair in regards to my earlier comment about Medeiros not utilizing his size very well, he did utilize his reach well at lightweight with his probing jab and there is no reason for that to change. At 75", his reach is still longer than most in the division, though Spencer is one of the exceptions with a reach that is “virtually identical.” Like Spencer, he throws at a high volume but tends to start brawling once he gets hit a few times. He has enough power and a solid enough chin that it can work for him, but he’s better off countering with hooks and uppercuts. Watch out for the occasional spinning back-kick too. He has gassed in some of his fights, though only cutting to 170 should help him with that.

Medeiros has a definitive advantage on the ground as he is an underrated grappler with a knack for snatching guillotines in transition. The problem is that he has struggled to get the fight to the ground without a single takedown to his name in the UFC. Spencer has sound takedown defense, but more importantly is that he gets back to his feet in a timely manner.

Defense is what I believe this fight comes down to. Spencer has good footwork and head movement while Medeiros leaves himself out there to be hit far more than is reasonable. Medeiros is like Ricardo Lamas in that he is incredibly opportunistic so I won’t be surprised to see him floor Spencer with a hard hook and finish him off with a choke, but Spencer staying the course and outpointing him seems more likely to me. Spencer via decision

CB Dollaway (15-8) vs. Francimar Barroso (18-5), Light Heavyweight

Three straight losses have Dollaway on the ropes, enough that he is trying a move to 205 to resurrect his career. He isn’t the only one with his job on the line as Barroso’s less than entertaining style leaves him likely to be released with a loss as well.

Dollaway fought his way into his first main event against Lyoto Machida only to be finished just over a minute into the contest. From there he fell to Michael Bisping and a shopworn Nate Marquardt. Dollaway may be a favorite of Dana White, but there is no way in hell he’ll survive a fourth loss in a row, even if he is changing weight classes.

Barroso was finished by cult favorite Nikita Krylov in his last contest, his first fight in the UFC that didn’t go the distance. He’s earned the wrath of fans – and probably management -- for his grinding style which leaves the UFC looking for just about any reason to cut him loose despite being extremely thin at 205.

Prior to his recent skid, Dollaway had found the right mix of wrestling and striking to arguably earn him a five-fight win streak (few consider his loss to Tim Boetsch a loss). He developed a nice jab with the occasional power hook or overhand made effective by the fact that there is serious KO power behind it. At times he gets sloppy looking for the kill shot, especially when he doesn’t respect his opponent which is what did him in against Marquardt. Body and leg kicks have also become staples of his arsenal after rarely if ever being seen in his early UFC career. Stamina has been an issue at times, though it is likely the move up in weight will ensure that doesn’t happen.

Speaking of leg kicks, those are Barroso’s best weapon by far, no surprise considering he comes out of Nova Uniao. He was known for head kick KO’s on the regional scene, but those haven’t been shown since making it to the big show. He has become largely a head hunter with his punches, though he also uses them to cover the distance in order to enter the clinch and grind out his opposition. He stays just busy enough from there without doing any major damage, thus why his fights haven’t been must-see-TV.

Dollaway may be the first opponent Barroso has seen in the UFC who is the better wrestler. Barroso is strong in the clinch which is where he scores most of his takedowns as he tends to telegraph his entries from a distance. Dollaway isn’t going to be as strong as Barroso, but he is technically sound, sets up his shots well, and is relentless at chaining his attempts together. He’ll probably be happy just to cause a scramble, an area Dollaway is underrated in. Barroso’s lack of athleticism makes a difference there as well, though Barroso is probably the better BJJ practitioner.

This is a great fight to determine who is on their way out of the UFC. It’s easy to forget Dollaway’s recent successful stretch on the heels of his current losing streak, but there have been signs of that fighter still existing throughout his three losses. Barroso may be able to use his size to grind out the smaller Dollaway, but I think Dollaway’s wrestling ability will prevent that as he has proven very difficult to take down over his UFC career. It may be boring, but expect the American to emerge victorious. Dollaway via decision

Drew Dober (16-7, 1 NC) vs. Jason Gonzalez (10-2), Lightweight

Originally supposed to be Dober facing Erik Koch, TUF alum Gonzalez steps in on the notice of a single month to make his official UFC debut.

Gonzalez was a part of the US vs. Europe TUF season featuring Urijah Faber and Conor McGregor as coaches. He made the US roster only to fall short in the first round to Abner Lloveras. Since leaving the show, he handed up-and-coming prospect Chris Padilla his first loss. He also has a victory over former UFC vet Christos Giagos, so him getting his shot in the UFC isn’t really a stretch.

Dober had his back against the wall in his last appearance and responded not just with his best performance, but also his most complete. He took Scott Holtzman down multiple times in addition to winning the standup battle. It’s easy to forget he is only 27-years old since he has been in the UFC for almost three years. It’s likely we haven’t seen the best out of him yet.

The book on Dober had been set before the Holtzman fight as a high output Muay Thai practitioner with little power and good takedown defense. While that remains true, there is one change that I haven’t mentioned yet: he was known for his poor offensive wrestling. He flipped that narrative on its head by taking down Holtzman five times – which brought the total of takedowns he scored in the UFC to five. Dober used not only double-legs against the fence, but some nice trips from the clinch too. Will the takedowns become a staple of his arsenal? Hard to say.

Whether it is or isn’t is key not only Dober’s success, but Gonzalez’s as well. Gonzalez is pretty good about stopping the initial takedown, it’s the second and third efforts that get him into trouble. His takedown defense gets progressively worse the longer a fight goes too. He is able to survive on the ground off of his back and threaten with his guard. Sometimes he trusts too much in his abilities off of his back as he doesn’t make an urgent effort to get back to a vertical position.

It’s a no-brainer that Gonzalez will look to stay on his feet. Owning a 76" reach, he throws out a pumping jab and a variety of kicks to all levels as a way to best make use of his reach. He has decent power, enough that he can put his competition out cold if they aren’t respecting him. As already mentioned, Dober is a volume striker with little power. Considering his reach is only 70", I very much believe he’ll try to maintain his new found wrestling strategy. His chin has held up very well thus far, but he hasn’t exactly faced any heavy hitters.

This is an unheralded contest. Few are going to care about these names, but I expect that they will enjoy this fight. I don’t know how much Dober’s takedown abilities have genuinely improved, but that is the X-factor in this contest. My guess is his experience against better competition than what Gonzalez has faced will be another factor to push him over the top. It should be a good one. Dober via decision