Head to toe, I thought this was about as good as it gets for an FS1 preliminary card. Every contest was competitive with a good likelihood of being entertaining as well. Not all of the fights had implications in the rankings, but those that didn't featured fighters who weren't very far off from that level. And then Mairbek Taisumov was forced to pull out about a week before his contest with Nik Lentz to remind us that the MMA Gods will not allow a good thing to remain unspoiled.
To be fair, the other three contests remain untouched and should provide fight fans with a satiation of violence that they crave. And though I doubt Michael McBride -- Taisumov's replacement - is qualified to be fighting on the biggest stage, I'm probably best served to reserve judgement. Wait... you want my opinion? Oh right... that's why I write these articles. Good point. Fine, I stand by what I said. Three competitive fights and a lopsided contest.
The FS1 Prelims starts at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT.
Last summer, Correia was preparing to face Ronda Rousey for the title while Eye would probably earn a shot at the title with a win over Miesha Tate. Now? Correia has lost two in a row while Eye's losing streak sits at three. Someone could get cut with another loss.
Eye's 1-4 (1 NC) record in the UFC is deceiving as she has faced some of the best competition in the division, losing only to former title challengers plus Julianna Pena who could join that cast very soon. Despite the tough road, this is probably her last chance to remain employed, though getting the opportunity to do so in her hometown of Cleveland should be plenty of motivation for her to be at her best.
While Correia is another former title challenger to add to the list of Eye's opponents, no one actually believes Correia earned that title shot based on her fighting merit, using her mouth to get Rousey's attention. Beating a couple of Rousey's friends didn't hurt either. Her loss to Raquel Pennington in April helped solidify that thought. She isn't a gimme by any means, but her name recognition exceeds her actual abilities.
Both women are very similar in their styles as both high volume, low power strikers. It will be pretty easy to recognize the differences though as Eye prefers to stay on the outside and pick apart her opponent with jabs while Correia likes to stay in the pocket putting together punching combinations. The key to winning the fight will be whoever can establish their range.
Though Eye has had greater issues between the two of them in getting the fight where she wants it, a lot of that has to do with the type of matchups she has faced. Her opponents have looked to crowd her and take her to the ground time and again, something Correia is unlikely to attempt. Not worrying about the takedown should help Eye find her angles and sit down on her strikes to make them a bit more powerful. Though Eye has shown some solid offense in the clinch, Correia's lack of range should ensure that Eye keeps the fight on the outside.
Correia's only chance will be to drag Eye into a brawl. She's done that in her other UFC victories as she is able to remain technical in that environment, mixing her punches up to the body and head based on whatever is available. It also helps mask her lack of athleticism as she is among the worst athletes on the UFC roster. She can land a jab and leg kicks from the outside, but I struggle to see her outpointing Eye at that distance with her reach disadvantage.
I'd be shocked to see Correia win this one. Yes, she is a very technically sound striker, but so is Eye and Eye knows how to use her length very well. Eye has been gullible enough to be sucked into the type of contest her opponent wants, but Correia's style is too similar for that to have too much of a negative effect on Eye. Should be entertaining at the very least. Eye via decision
These guys are still around? It's been 16 months since Tavares was last seen in the Octagon while Magalhaes was last seen 14 months ago spitting blood at a Josh Samman offering a handshake. Class act.
Tavares is a product of when TUF products are handled correctly. He opened his UFC career 7-1 before being awarded a step up in competition and dropping three of four. It's hard to know how the time off will affect him, though it is possible that he needed a break after being amongst the busier fighters on the roster up to that point. At 28-years old, he should be hitting his peak soon.
Magalhaes was on a four-fight win streak prior to the Samman fight, including two finishes in less than a minute each. He soiled his reputation with his poor sportsmanship and may have put himself on thin ice as a result. It isn't like his win streak featured anyone of note with Trevor Smith being the only fighter still on the roster that Magalhaes beat. Nonetheless, it's clear the 28-year old has some talent that hasn't been fully tapped yet.
This will be a contest of technical vs dynamic as Tavares doesn't do much flashy while Magalhaes is constantly looking for the finish whether it be a KO or a submission. In fact, it is exacerbated by their finished rate, Tavares with one over the course of eight UFC wins while Magalhaes has finished all but one of his four UFC victories.
Tavares uses the most basic of punching and kicking combinations to wear down his opposition. One-two combinations, doubling up on jabs, finishing up a combo with a leg kick... nothing fancy. It does the trick though as he is very calculating with his attack, rarely pushing a heavy pace. He's also underrated in the clinch, consistently grinding away though it is highly unlikely he'd land a difference making blow from there as his lack of power is very pronounced.
If you could combine Magalhaes natural power and explosion with Tavares technique, you'd have yourself a title contender. As it is, Magalhaes is actually pretty terrible with his technique. He waits until he sees an opening he likes before exploding with a blitz of punches. Overhands, hooks, and hard kicks are the staples of his fairly inaccurate arsenal.
It's hard to say how much grappling will play in this contest as Tavares' takedowns have evaporated once he started facing better competition while Magalhaes hasn't been looking for them. Even when Magalhaes was looking for them, he was more enthusiastic than effective in his attempts. If he can get the fight to the ground, Magalhaes was a Brazilian national champion in BJJ. Tavares can hold his own on the ground, but it's more likely he'll be able to keep the fight standing as only Yoel Romero has been able to take him down with regularity.
This feels like a two-true outcome contest. Magalhaes will either finish things early with a blitz that Tavares can't defend or Tavares will drag Magalhaes into deep waters and win by decision. Tavares is far more consistent which leads me to believe that he's the one to pick even though I concede Magalhaes could end up getting the early finish. Tavares via decision
Nik Lentz (26-7-2, 1 NC) vs. Michael McBride (8-1), Lightweight
Visa issues prevented Taisumov from his highly anticipated bout with Lentz. Now we get the unknown McBride stepping in on a week's notice. No offense to McBride, but this is quite the letdown.
Lentz made a successful return to lightweight against Danny Castillo after damn near killing himself to make the featherweight limit. He most recently was involved in a media feud with BJ Penn that raised his notoriety more than any of his fights ever had. Instead of facing a legend as many thought was likely, he's facing someone very few a familiar with. Not the best way to follow up on the biggest spotlight he ever had in his career.
McBride is very much an unknown quantity. The Midwest Cage Championship lightweight title holder, the only notable victory he owns is over Bellator veteran Derek Loffer... and that isn't a truly notable victory. No doubt he is getting the call due to his proximity to Cleveland on such short notice as it has been extremely difficult to find any useful information on him.
Lentz was strictly a grinder upon his UFC entry. A wrestler at the University of Minnesota, he has developed much better striking to make him a competent striker even if he isn't exactly overpowering. Never a great athlete, Lentz is constantly moving forward, overwhelming his opponent with his pressure and punching combinations. He isn't easily hurt as his only KO/TKO losses have come in between rounds from a doctor stoppage, meaning he doesn't ever go away.
Even though he has become more than a grinder, that is still what Lentz does best. Knees from the clinch are a staple and he has good dirty boxing against the fence that wears down the opposition. If he gets top control, he'll look to pound out his opponent. Much like his standup, the punches on the ground aren't overpowering. Lentz just stays busy with it, enough so that he picked up three submission stoppages from punches on the regional scene.
This will probably be one of the few times Lentz is the better athlete as McBride is about as stiff as they come in the UFC nowadays. A lanky lightweight at 6'1", McBride throws awkward punches and kicks a single strike at a time. His defense is poor as he relies too heavily on his height to avoid damage. All isn't lost though as every single one of his wins have come by submission with six coming in the first round. An aggressive guard passer, chokes are his specialty. Getting the fight to the ground is the other part of the problem for the newcomer.
McBride may be the better pre BJJ practitioner and that is a pretty good compliment as Lentz is sound on the ground himself. But I don't see McBride getting the veteran Lentz to the ground where he can play to his strengths. Lentz should take care of the newcomer pretty easily. Lentz via TKO of RD2
Old guard meets new school as McCall makes his first appearance in about 19 months to see if he still has a trick or two he can show youngster Borg.
McCall was supposed to fight in late July against Justin Scoggins before Scoggins blew his weight cut and forced the cancelation of the fight. Thus the UFC tried to reschedule him as quickly as possible and paired him with Borg a little over a month later. McCall was rated the #1 flyweight in the world when he first came into the UFC only for injuries, inconsistency, and plain bad luck - his first fight with Demetrious Johnson - derailed him. At 32 years old, this could be his final run at the belt.
Borg has all the time in the world compared to McCall as he is only 23. The New Mexico product has been hyped as one of the top prospects in the division and had a three-fight win streak following a debuting loss to Dustin Ortiz. He had his hype train derailed a bit following a loss of his own to the aforementioned Scoggins and needs to get back on track. Don't expect him to be cut with a loss as McCall is a big step up in competition and Borg's potential is very high.
A large part of McCall's success is due to him not having a real weakness as he has only been finished once in his career, that coming way back in 2007 fighting at bantamweight. A diverse striker who switches up his stance, McCall utilizes a lot of movement on the outside as he looks for the proper angle in which to attack. He doesn't have a lot of power, but he can overload his opposition with volume as he leans heavily on his jab and leg kicks to slowly wear them down.
Borg's striking is very rudimentary at this stage of his development. He'll always be limited in his attack with a miniscule reach of 63", but the only thing his striking is consistently effective at doing is covering ground for his takedown entries. He's flashed a jab and some kicks, though they haven't been able to land with any regularity to this point.
What makes Borg such a special wrestler is his ungodly speed. Few, if any, can match it and he is fantastic at timing his shots. His quickness makes it so that finishing the takedown isn't a requirement as he can often find his way to the back so long as he can initiate a scramble. McCall's takedown defense has been phenomenal, amongst the best in the business. That's what has me worried about Borg's chances. In fact, Borg's lack of size has hurt him most in his takedown defense as an opponent doesn't have too much difficulty overpowering him so long as they are able to catch him. McCall's issues with taking down opponents has often been a lack of power, not timing or technique. This bodes well for him.
While I don't know if McCall is still among the elite, I feel confident in saying he still has what it takes to beat an unpolished fighter such as Borg. I'm sure Borg has learned quite a bit from his loss to Scoggins, but not enough to take down a more seasoned and wily competitor in McCall. It should be a fun fight that is likely to go the distance. McCall via decision