UFC 218 is an awesome card. It isn’t earth-shattering the way UFC 217 was, but there are a lot of fights with a lot on the line. Now, there is little name value on the Fight Pass prelims, the most familiar competitor being known for being punched in the face at the fighter’s retreat of all things. However, I do have my fingers crossed that a few of the names here could develop into fun action fighters and another flashing far more potential than that. Granted, it is far too early to call anyone on this card a future contender, but you’ll see what I mean if you ever see Dominick Reyes.
The Fight Pass prelims begin at 6:15 PM ET/3:15 PM PT on Saturday.
Amongst the least popular fighters on the UFC roster, most were surprised to find out Magana was still upon the UFC roster when she got into that scuffle with Cyborg Justino early this year. After all, she hasn’t been seen in the cage since the summer of 2015 and hasn’t even won a fight since 2011. Primarily a wrestler and grappler with a knack for the armbar, Magana has struggled to maintain a consistent attack, fading badly the deeper a fight goes.
Cooper is still young in her career with the potential to develop into more than just roster fodder. Possessing a solid all-around game, Cooper’s biggest weakness is her wrestling and submission defense… the two areas where Magana is strongest. Cooper does have the advantage on the feet, showing good technique in her punches, not to mention she can usually find her way back to her feet pretty quickly should the fight hit the mat.
Given it’s been six years since Magana last won a fight, it’s difficult to pick her here. She does have the skill set to give a still developing Cooper problems, but I’d expect Cooper’s continued improvement to be the difference in this contest. It should be competitive at the very least given how well Magana matches up with Cooper. Cooper via decision
While there aren’t many out there who expect either Homasi or Alhassan to develop into more than fun action fighters, this is a contest fans should be willing to circle as this contest is unlikely to see the final bell.
Homasi last stepped foot into a UFC cage almost 16 months ago, going out on his shield against Tim Means, showing depleted energy levels even before the first round was over. To be fair to Homasi’s stamina, he did take the contest on short notice. Nonetheless, his tendency to throw every single strike at 100% power doesn’t help to conserve his questionable gas tank. Still, Homasi’s power is readily apparent and he throws with sound technique. He’s showed hints of a powerful double-leg too, though it wouldn’t be fair to call it a consistent staple of his arsenal yet.
Alhassan can be summed up with two traits: explosive power and a shallow gas tank. Sure, this sounds similar to Homasi, but both traits are a bit more amplified with the raw prospect. Alhassan has never gone past 90 seconds in any of his victories while losing the lone contest that exceeded that time frame. Though he is reputed to have a strong judo background, it hasn’t been seen yet. Even worse, he was taken down at will by Omari Akhmedov in his last appearance.
There are still a lot of unknowns about Alhassan. Sure, his chin hasn’t been cracked as Homasi’s has, but Homasi has also consistently faced a far higher caliber of opponent. Homasi’s experience and flashes of wrestling are enough to convince me he can wrap up a W, though no one will be surprised should Alhassan find a way to crack Homasi’s chin early. Homasi via TKO of RD2
Securing three consecutive first round finishes is an impressive feat. Securing three consecutive finishes in less than a minute is damn near unheard of. While Reyes’ victims aren’t notable, it can at least be said they had winning records. Clocking in at 6'4" with a 77" reach, Reyes has developed a mastery of his physical advantages that belies his inexperience. Sure, someone like Alexander Gustafsson would easily be able to see his attack coming and counter, but Reyes is quickly making his way up the ladder securing highlight reel finishes with his fists and feet.
A former middleweight, Kimball doesn’t carry the extra weight at 205 very well, looking very doughy. Don’t let that fool you. Kimball can surprise with his speed and creativity with his offense, knocking Josh Stansbury to the ground with a standing hammerfist behind the ear. His use of fakes and feints is the biggest key to his offense opening up. What really kills Kimball is his vulnerability to strong wrestlers, a problem compounded by his fighting in a division where every one of his opponents is going to be bigger than him.
The biggest thing Kimball has going for him is Reyes is unlikely to take the fight to the ground. It’s hard to imagine that being enough for him to squeak out a win. Reyes is bigger, stronger, faster, and more explosive. The speed in which he’s been able to pick up the sport has been unique as well. Look for Reyes’ to continue his streak of first round finishes. Reyes via TKO of RD1
Willis is still a mystery despite a successful UFC debut against James Mulheron. He displayed a high level of intelligence, fighting at a measured pace while mixing his attack in a way that belies his lack of experience in the cage. However, Willis also owned a sizeable advantage in just about every physical category against Mulheron, a pleasure he won’t be able to indulge in against the taller and more athletic Crowder.
Crowder earned a contract through the Contender Series, showing an excellent gas tank and scoring a late stoppage over a big, athletic prospect in Dontale Mayes. A big key to Crowder’s victory was the fast pace he pushed, a very relevant fact given Willis’ conditioning being a major question mark. Like Willis, Crowder mixes in takedowns with his attack, but also shows far more aggression in his ground strikes, his elbows being particularly devastating. On the feet, Crowder throws a lot of leg kicks while developing more comfort in the pocket thanks to improving head movement and footwork.
Willis has some advantages. He tips the scales at the heavyweight limit and is difficult to move when he gets the top position. Working with phenomenal wrestlers such as Cain Velasquez and Daniel Cormier at AKA have sharpened his skills too. However, unless he can get Crowder to the ground early and often, I see Crowder wearing down the bigger man with his consistent attack. Plus, he shows a killer instinct that Willis has yet to display. Crowder via TKO of RD3