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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 214: Cormier vs. Jones 2 - Fight Pass preview

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Check out the inside stuff on the early fights on Fight Pass of UFC 214, featuring talented flyweight prospects Eric Shelton and Jarred Brooks doing the damn thing.

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Pantoja vs Shelton Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

I’m sure there are plenty of people who will look at the names on the Fight Pass prelims of UFC 214 and decide to pass. After all, the rest of the card is absolutely STACKED. However, I will warn you that you could be passing on an absolute gem… provided you are one of the few that gives a damn about the flyweight division. I’ve given you fair warning....

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

Kailin Curran (4-4) vs. Alexandra Albu (2-0), Women’s Strawweight

It has been almost four years since Albu first joined the UFC and we still don’t know very much about her. It may surprise some to discover she has stepped in the cage in that time, but only once against an opponent, Izabela Badurek, also making her debut whom the UFC released after that contest. What we do know about Albu: she’s very athletic with a karate background and fast hands and feet. She did have trouble in the clinch with Badurek as Albu is undersized, but she could have made great strides since that time as it was over two years ago that we last saw the Russian.

Curran has been an exercise in frustration for many as her physical talents are readily abundant. She has a sizeable frame for strawweight, great athleticism, and solid punching combinations. What is lacking is her striking defense and grappling ability. Oh yes... a good fight IQ too. She has made progress in her takedown defense, but not to the point where it can be something bettors can depend on. Curran does have some solid offense in the clinch of her own, but tends to be controlled against the fence for long periods of time.

I thought it would have been wiser to let Curran hone her skills in Invicta. I didn’t think about pairing her with Albu. Albu doesn’t possess the style that has given Curran problems, giving Curran every chance to get her career back on track. Even harder to know is what Albu has been doing in the time that we last saw her. I fear I’m going to regret this, but I’ll pick Curran thanks to Albu’s questionable ability in the clinch. Curran via decision

Eric Shelton (10-3) vs. Jarred Brooks (12-0), Flyweight

The UFC’s struggles to successfully promote the flyweight division have been well documented. There hasn’t been anyone with the personality and skill level to overthrow kingpin Demetrious Johnson whether as champion or in marketability. There are a select few who believe Brooks could be the marketable figure the UFC is looking for, a hell of a statement for someone who hasn’t fought in the UFC yet. I’m not one of those few, but I could be convinced. A bit on the small side – he has fought at strawweight – aggression is the name of the game for Brooks, constantly moving forward while looking to throw leather or get the takedown. The pace he pushes is fast enough to wear down his opponent, a rarity for flyweight. Brooks has also proven to be a top-notch scrambler with a knack for taking the back.

Shelton won’t make it easy as he’s one of the best pure athletes – if not the best – in the division and a hell of a scrambler himself. Like Brooks, he prefers to push a fast pace, though he gassed a bit late in his last contest with Alexandre Pantoja. Then again, they were fighting at altitude in Colorado. Despite the lack of KO’s on his record, Shelton possesses a lot of pop in his punches. What has limited his amount of KO’s is his reluctance to sit down on his strikes, preferring to flit in and out of range hoping to land something that might lead to more of a club-and-sub finish.

One of the most closely contested fights on the card, I’ve gone back-and-forth on my pick several times and could very well do so again after this is published. At this point, I’ve picked Shelton owing to his uber-athleticism more than anything else as neither is significantly more experienced nor is it a particularly bad stylistic contest for either. What I do know it will be: a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Shelton via decision

Josh Burkman (28-15, 1 NC) vs. Drew Dober (17-8), Lightweight

Does anyone care to tell me how Burkman is still employed by the UFC? The longtime veteran has one win in his last seven appearances and is getting yet another opportunity to pick up a win. The former TUF competitor’s durability – long a strength of his -- seems to be fading as he has gotten hurt in several of those appearances. Though he has acquired a vast amount of knowledge over the course of his career, he has also developed a tendency to freeze up at times over the course of a contest. When Burkman lets his fists fly, he still has enough power to put his opponent to sleep along with a dangerous guillotine.

Dober doesn’t have the same power possessed by Burkman, but he’s done just fine despite that. The Colorado native relies on a steady stream of volume from his kickboxing base, supplemented by an improving wrestling game. The improved wrestling has also translated to improved clinch work against the fence. At heart, he is still a club-and-sub style fighter, though he has begun to sit down on his strikes to add some pop to his punches.

Burkman looked completely shot against Michel Prazeres. Maybe he simply got caught early in the contest, but his lethargic performances before that contest indicate otherwise. I see no reason to expect a change of course against Dober. Dober via decision