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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Sydney: Werdum vs. Tybura - Fight Pass preview

Get the inside scoop on the the Fight Pass prelims of UFC Sydney, featuring a slew of prospects, including TUF alum Eric Shelton and newcomers Nadia Kassem and Tai Tuivasa.

MMA: UFC 214-Shelton vs Brooks Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

UFC experience is in short supply for the Fight Pass portion of UFC Sydney. The combined amount of UFC fights fought by the participants heading into the event: eight. Alex Chambers possesses the most fights within the Octagon with three under her belt. As you’ve most likely guessed, the three contests feature prospects the UFC hopes to groom into contenders. I refuse to predict how high the prospects can climb, but I will state there is promise within each of them.

The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.

Alex Chambers (5-3) vs. Nadia Kassem (4-0), Women’s Strawweight

Wait… Chambers isn’t retired? Hmm. The native Aussie returns to the cage after being away for over two years, suffering a one-sided loss to Paige VanZant at UFC 191 in her last showing. Yeah, it’s been a while. A black belt in karate, Chambers prefers to stay on the outside where she can let her arsenal of kicks fly. She has struggled with aggressive and physical opponents, showing an inability to stop takedowns or navigate her way off the fence. Nonetheless, Chambers is hardly helpless if the fight hits the ground as she is an excellent scrambler and possesses a dangerous guard.

There isn’t a lot of footage on Kassem, though her dominance is more to blame than the available footage being hard to find. She has spent a total of 142 seconds of cage time in her four professional contests. However, her opponents also owned a combined record of 0-4 at the time they fought her. That doesn’t reveal very much about her abilities. What can be seen is an aggressive Muay Thai striker with a penchant for knees in the clinch.

Chambers is likely to struggle with Kassem’s pressure as the youngster doesn’t give her opponents any room to breathe. However, Kassem’s ground game is untested, giving reason to think Chambers could end up pulling off a submission. Chambers has never been KO’d either, showing a lot of durability. Plus, how will Kassem look if the fight leaves the first round? Nonetheless, Chambers is now 39-years old. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that she improved in her time away despite her age, but it doesn’t seem likely. The 22-year old makes a statement in her UFC debut. Kassem via TKO of RD2

Jenel Lausa (7-3) vs. Eric Shelton (10-4), Flyweight

If two judges had seen things just a little bit differently, we could be talking about Shelton owning a perfect 2-0 record in the UFC. Alas, he came out on the short end of the stick in a pair of split decision losses to Alexandre Pantoja and Jarred Brooks. A fantastic athlete, Shelton came into the UFC as an excellent scrambler with some solid wrestling to go with it and a developing boxing game. The boxing has certainly progressed, showing excellent timing on his counters, but he’s not yet a finished product.

Lausa is even more raw than Shelton, coming up on the Philippine circuit. Maintaining a successful boxing career prior to joining the UFC, Lausa shows excellent hand speed and puts together sound punching combinations. However, he doesn’t possess a lot of power and doesn’t offer much of a ground game outside of stout takedown defense.

Though Lausa’s ability to stuff takedowns has been better than anyone expected it would be, it has also come at a price. He’s constantly been on the ready to swat away the takedowns… that’s good. However, it has limited his ability to let his hands fly… that’s bad. Shelton’s athleticism and quick-twitch reactions allow him a more free-flowing attack. Lausa has proven to be gritty as hell, so he’ll end up going the distance. Shelton via decision

Rashad Coulter (8-2) vs. Tai Tuivasa (7-0), Heavyweight

Thanks to knee surgery, Tuivasa’s UFC debut has been delayed by almost a year, deflating much of the hype surrounding the 24-year old. Possessing an iron chin and professional experience in another combat sport, it’s easy to see why Tuivasa draws comparisons to his idol, Mark Hunt. Though he usually keeps his punches tight, he does tend to get wild when he’s looking for the finish, overextending and leaving himself open for a counter. Wrestling and grappling, much like Hunt, are areas that he is lacking in, relying purely on his physicality to muscle opponents to the ground or stuff their takedowns.

Coulter made a favorable impression in his debut despite coming up short. He showed tremendous heart and durability, taking a hell of a beating from Chase Sherman as Coulter continued to march forward and wing heavy leather. His boxing experience comes through with his technical combinations, but like Tuivasa, he tends to get sloppy when going for the kill or when he’s exhausted. Coulter is also a small heavyweight – he has fought as low as 187 in the past – and tends to be bullied in the clinch should he allow his opponent to close the distance. At a distance, he offers almost zero recourse to opponents who target his legs.

Coulter isn’t going to be an easy test for Tuivasa. That doesn’t mean Tuivasa shouldn’t be a heavy favorite as Coulter isn’t the only one with professional boxing experience. In fact, Tuivasa has more experience in that field against tougher competition. Though Tuivasa never fighting out of the first round shows his power, it also leaves a huge question mark about his gas tank. Despite that, expect Coulter to be finished by the big Aussie, much as Sherman did to the American. Tuivasa via KO of RD2