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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Houston: Bermudez vs. Korean Zombie - main card preview

Educate yourself for Saturday night’s main card for UFC Houston, featuring a violent opening contest between strawweights Jessica Andrade and Angela Hill.

MMA: UFC 192-Namajunas vs Hill Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If you look at this card and believe that it feels a bit shallow, you’d be right. The main card did experience a couple of injuries, which shook things up and removed some of the intrigue out of the contests. Fortunately, it did leave the most intriguing contest intact, the main card opener between Jessica Andrade and Angela Hill. Two women’s strawweights with a reputation for violence? Yes, please.

The main card begins at 10:00 PM ET/7:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Abel Trujillo (15-6) vs. James Vick (9-1), Lightweight

When Evan Dunham and Johnny Case were forced to pull out of their respective contests with Trujillo and Vick, it only made sense for the UFC to match up their opponents up. Both Trujillo and Vick have beaten every opponent they’ve faced outside the official UFC rankings for eleven wins between them. That isn’t going to hold after this contest.

Whether or not you believe Trujillo to be the scum of the earth – he had a history of domestic abuse before coming to the UFC – his entertaining nature in the cage cannot be denied. While he’s been referred to as a brawler, Trujillo has long stretches where he puts together crisp and technical punching combinations that belie his reputation. Then again, he does have that reputation for a reason. The aggregate of Trujillo’s speed, power, and durability have allowed him to thrive in the brawling atmosphere. Thanks to being manhandled by Khabib Nurmagomedov a few years ago – he was taken down 21 times in a single contest – he’s been known as a poor wrestler. He’ll never be mistaken for the elite, but Trujillo is more than adequate against the majority of the lightweight field in that capacity.

Vick is unlikely to take Trujillo to the ground – he has yet to score a single takedown in his UFC run – nor is his takedown defense considered to be a strength. However, few have proven to be more dangerous to take down as Vick has a knack for sinking in a guillotine choke as his opponent attempts to drive him to the ground, picking up two of his UFC wins in that manner. On the feet, Vick’s 6'3" frame and 76" reach has proven troublesome for his opponents to work around as he gains experience and better learns to use his length. Even with that said, he’s still figuring things out with his defensive development behind his offense as his chin can be found pretty consistently.

Trujillo is the rightful favorite as he has consistently faced better competition even if his recent stretch of victories haven’t been either the highest quality of competition or the best way to victory. Regardless, Vick showed he wasn’t ready for top competition when Beneil Dariush blew him out of the water. Trujillo isn’t at Dariush’s level, but he’s comparatively dangerous on the feet. I don’t like how that translates for Vick. Trujillo via KO of RD2

Ovince Saint Preux (19-9) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (12-1), Light Heavyweight

Originally scheduled to be a contest between Saint Preux and Jan Blachowicz, an injury to Blachowicz derailed that booking and inserted the unknown Oezdemir in his place on short notice. Perhaps this is fortunate for Saint Preux as he has lost two in a row and three of his last four. The former Tennessee Volunteer is badly in need of a win.

Perhaps referring to Oezdemir as unknown is a bit harsh as he has shown up in Bellator in addition to spending some time training with the Blackzillians. A Muay Thai practitioner, he possesses a kick heavy offense from a distance with a grinding approach when the distance is closed. Where Oezdemir has struggled is when his opponent has a modicum of wrestling ability as he possesses poor takedown defense and merely adequate ability to avoid submissions. He has been able to dominate opponents who don’t know what they’re doing on the ground, quickly dragging them to the ground with more power than technique and getting the mount position.

The last scenario mentioned for Oezdemir appears to be unlikely as Saint Preux may not be Daniel Cormier in terms of his wrestling technique, but he does have a solid base and is by far the best athlete Oezdemir has faced. Saint Preux has also shown plus ability with powerful and explosive submissions (i.e. kimuras), though he does struggle with the traditional grappling and wrestling control. On the feet, he largely waits for his opponent to make the first move before executing his counter punching or reactive takedowns, both heavily reliant upon his natural athleticism. His 80" reach helps him close the distance quickly with his power strikes, though he’s more likely to land the killshot with a head kick than he is with a flurry of punches.

Though Saint Preux has been on a skid of late, the only loss that looks really bad is his last one to Jimi Manuwa and he easily took the first round before slowing in the second and getting finished. Manuwa is a proven UFC talent. Oezdemir isn’t and wasn’t on anyone’s radar as a roster candidate before Blachowicz’s injury happened. Saint Preux is likely to keep the Swiss fighter guessing between his takedowns and his outside striking before finding a finish. Saint Preux via TKO of RD3

Anthony Hamilton (15-6) vs. Marcel Fortuna (8-1), Heavyweight

Typically, short notice contests feature some sort of injury, this is a rare exception as Hamilton and the debuting Fortuna were put on the card with about two weeks before the card was scheduled to take place. It kind of makes sense though as heavyweights typically don’t have to cut weight to prepare for their contests, so don’t expect these two to be drawn out as competitors usually are when given as much notice as these two received.

Hamilton is the veteran here with seven UFC appearances under his belt. He’s alternated wins and losses throughout his run as his level of competition has been similarly up and down. He’s an underrated athlete with the ability to head kick his opponent into tomorrow. Unfortunately for him, that hasn’t worked out too well at the UFC level. That’s just fine though as he borders the heavyweight limit and knows how to use that size well, bullying his opponent in the clinch with dirty boxing and dragging them to the ground with steady ground and pound.

It will be interesting to see how Fortuna deals with Hamilton’s wrestling as Fortuna is a high level BJJ practitioner whose only career stoppages have come by way of submission. However, he has never fought at the heavyweight limit before in his career, even fighting as low as middleweight in 2012. Fortuna does own a functional standup game with occasional power, but that is about the best thing that can be said about it as he is very stiff and prone to inactivity. If he is able to find his way to Hamilton’s back or operating from the top, he’s got a very good chance of ending the contest with a choke. The key will be getting the fight there. That won’t be easy as Fortuna’s wrestling isn’t anything special either.

I’m not a big fan of this contest. I have no problem with Fortuna getting a chance to prove himself in the UFC, but he should be fighting at 205, not against dudes the size of Hamilton. Fortuna has been bullied by others weighing in about 50 pounds less than what Hamilton will come in. Not a good sign. I expect Hamilton will bully him for the majority of the contest. Hamilton via decision

Jessica Andrade (15-5) vs. Angela Hill (6-2), Women’s Strawweight

No contest has more title implications riding on it than any other on this card. As the young strawweight division continues to sort itself out, Andrade appears to be a single victory away from challenging Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title after tearing through Jessica Penne and Joanne Calderwood. In fact, Andrade was offered the fight, but wanted to take one more contest before declaring herself ready to face the champion. Expect her to take the UFC up on the offer if she can get past the reigning Invicta strawweight champion Hill.

This contest was originally supposed to take place at UFC 207 with Hill filling in for an injured Maryna Moroz only for USADA red tape to get in the way as Hill was a returning fighter who hadn’t been in the testing pool for the required four months. After a bit of outcry, the four-month time period was waived, though it occurred long after UFC 207 took place. Regardless, the fight is happening and it’s hard not to be excited about the violent possibilities.

Severely undersized at 5'1" with a 62" when she was fighting at bantamweight, Andrade has looked much more at home since making the cut to 115. She has been at a disadvantage in terms of reach even with the drop in weight classes – and will be again against Hill – but the discrepancy hasn’t been as large. Neither have they been able to find any success in taking the fight to the ground where Andrade has been prone to mental errors. It has also made it easier to utilize her bullying style, pressing her opponent up against the cage, using her short stature to maintain leverage with head pressure while attacking with knees and elbows. The most underrated aspect of Andrade’s game is her front-headlock’s in transition as she has a wicked guillotine.

Hill only had a single professional fight under her belt when she made her UFC debut. After picking up a win over Emily Kagan, she was thrown into the fire against Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas and subsequently released as the former kickboxer struggled to adapt to the high level of grappling. While that is still a weakness, she has shored it up substantially, showing submissions from off of her back and the ability to get back to her feet in a timely fashion. Much like Andrade, Hill owns a dangerous clinch, though I’d say Hill is a bit more polished and technical.

The standup battle between these two is expected to be unreal. Though Andrade has a reputation as a power striker, she only has one stoppage from strikes out of her six UFC victories, depending on sheer volume to overwhelm her opponent. She relies on bursts attacks where she unloads an ungodly amount of punches that has pundits worried that she’ll have nothing left to offer by round three, a potential issue we haven’t seen play out since she made her drop to strawweight. Hill’s striking, like in the clinch, is more polished and technical which also makes her the greater threat to end the fight with a single strike. She prefers staying on the outside, using angles to pick apart the opposition with a jab and kicks, mixing in the occasional punching combination.

I really have no idea how this contest is going to play out. Hill has transformed herself so much since she last appeared in the UFC that I could see her using her using her length and technique to pick apart Andrade and pick up a decision. However, I’m banking on Andrade to use her powerful takedowns to get Hill to the ground, scoring some ground and pound, and grinding away in the clinch to take a judge’s decision. I already said I could be wrong, but the unknown factor is what makes me so excited for this contest. Andrade via decision