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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Moncton: Volkan vs. Smith - FS2 prelims preview

Get the scoop on the televised prelims from southeast Canada, headlined by a welterweight clash between the cagey Nordine Taleb and athletic youngster Sean Strickland.

I usually try to use the opening paragraph(s) of my previews to highlight a contest or two that is worth highlighting. With UFC Moncton, I’m not sure what is worth highlighting in the televised prelims. I am excited about Chris Fishgold’s UFC debut, but he’s getting an opponent who typically makes his opponents look worse than they are. Nasrat Haqparast would seem to be an easy choice, but do I want to highlight what appears to be a squash match? I might have to. None of these contests are necessarily bad or lopsided. They simply don’t capture anyone’s imagination.

The FS2 prelims begin at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Nordine Taleb (14-5) vs. Sean Strickland (19-3), Welterweight

Far from flashy, the steady Taleb has exceeded the expectations of most during his UFC run that is currently working on its fifth year. While most would point to Taleb’s toughness and durability as the biggest reasons for his success – and they’ve certainly played a part – his simplistic kickboxing with an emphasis on jabs and low kicks deserves more credit than it has been given. Taleb uses his large frame to keep his opponents at bay defensively and his base is stout enough he can stuff most takedowns that come his way. Where the French import does struggle is in the grappling department, two of his three UFC losses coming by way of submission.

Strickland’s submissions might be the most underrated aspect of his game, though they would hardly be sufficient enough to give Taleb the type of issues he’s struggled with in the past. In fact, Strickland’s game is very similar to Taleb’s: he prefers operating behind a jab while using his large frame to stuff takedowns. Unless Strickland is facing an aggressive opponent, he can fall into bouts of inactivity, though he’s been making strides to be more active. Given Taleb’s issues in grappling, expect Strickland’s efficient wrestling to make an appearance, something that doesn’t always occur.

In many ways, Taleb looks like a future version of Strickland, though the younger fighter is unquestionably the better athlete. His game is better rounded too. However, Taleb has been more efficient at keeping the fight where he wants it, something Strickland has struggled to accomplish. It feels risky, but I’m going with the older and wiser fighter on this one. Taleb via decision

Thibault Gouti (12-4) vs. Nasrat Haqparast (9-2), Lightweight

An afterthought when he first arrived on the UFC scene as an injury replacement, the 23-year old Haqparast turned more than a few heads when he manhandled the formerly hyped Marc Diakiese a few months ago. Showing a maturity beyond his years when he picked apart the powerful wrestler, Haqparast isn’t a slouch on the ground either. In his UFC debut, he fought off the submission attempts of noted grappling expert Marcin Held. In other words, the Kings MMA representative is far more well-rounded than someone of his ilk has any business being.

Gouti has made strides to become a serviceable wrestler since entering as a light-hitting volume striker. However, the takedown is about where it ends as he has struggled to keep his opponent down once he gets them to the mat. On the feet, there is nothing wrong with Gouti’s offense as he puts together serviceable boxing combinations. It’s been his inability to keep his opponent from returning the favor nice and thick.

Gouti’s sole purpose in the UFC is to provide young prospects some experience as they look to continue climbing the ladder. In other words, he’s expected to be fodder for the German prospect. The UFC started looking at Haqparast as a serious prospect after the Diakiese win and rightfully so. Though Gouti is tough, a finish still feels appropriate. I’m expecting a club-and-sub. Haqparast via submission of RD2

Calvin Kattar (18-3) vs. Chris Fishgold (17-1-1), Featherweight

For those who follow the European scene closely, Fishgold is someone who they’ve been waiting to arrive on the roster for quite some time. Despite having been on radar for a while, Fishgold is still only 25. A talented wrestle-grappler, the last thing an opponent of Fishgold wants to do is leave their neck out for the taking as he’s prone to choking them out one way or another. The Englishman has yet to develop a striking game that’s liable to win him many fights on the big stage, though he has shown potential with his power.

Despite Kattar having only three previous UFC appearances, he made his UFC debut late and is thought to be an ideal veteran test for youthful prospects. Kattar isn’t the most physically gifted talent, but he knows just about every trick in the book. Throw in a lanky frame he knows how to use, solid takedown defense, and excellent timing and technique and it’s no surprise inexperienced fighters have struggled to overcome Kattar’s measured approach.

Fishgold isn’t exactly inexperienced, but he hasn’t faced anyone with Kattar’s know-how. Plus, Fishgold is making his featherweight debut. Will he be adversely affected by the drop to 145? Though I’m sure he’ll be fine, you never know. If Fishgold can’t get Katter to the ground, it’ll be a long night for the newcomer. Given none of Kattar’s previous UFC opponents got him to the ground – and all of them were at least decent wrestlers – it will probably be a long night for the debutant. Kattar via decision

Sarah Moras (5-3) vs. Talita Bernardo (4-3), Women’s Bantamweight

Despite having a place on the UFC roster for the past five years, this is only the fifth appearance by Moras in the Octagon. Despite her sporadic appearances, she has proven to be one of the craftier grapplers in the division. Unfortunately for her, her striking and wrestling hasn’t been as good as advertised. Takedowns have not come easily for Moras and her opponents have had little issue outstriking her due to her reluctance to let her fists fly. Basically, she’s had some luck on her side in her victories in the Octagon.

Bernardo is one of the few fighters on the roster whom Moras stands a good chance of outworking on the feet, low kicks being the only consistent part of the Brazilian’s striking. However, Bernardo also represents one of the better grapplers in the division, talented enough that she may be superior to her Canadian counterpart. Bernardo doesn’t have the wrestling background possessed by Moras, though she’s had more success in securing takedowns thanks to her dogged nature.

Moras is the more technical fighter in the wrestling and striking fields, which usually is enough for a fighter to emerge victorious. She also has a tendency to let her opponent dictate the pace. That has worked when Moras is able to catch them walking right into a submission. It seems highly unlikely Bernardo will do that. Bernardo’s aggression gives her the first UFC victory of her career, though I do fear the judges could provide some home cooking for Moras. Bernardo via decision