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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 230: Cormier vs. Lewis - FS1 prelims preview

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Get the scoop on the FS1 prelims for UFC 230, including a women’s flyweight contest between Roxanne Modafferi and Sijara Eubanks that could see the victor receiving a title shot.

I gave a ringing endorsement of the contests on the Fight Pass prelims. I still stand by that endorsement. I can’t quite go that far with the FS1 prelims. Don’t get wrong, there are some very intriguing contests. The winner of Sijara Eubanks and Roxanne Modafferi is likely to get a title shot. Julio Arce and Sheymon Moraes should put on a hell of a show, as should Lyman Good and Ben Saunders. And once upon a time, Jason Knight was just about the hottest thing in the organization. However, Knight has fallen on hard times and Eubanks and Modafferi isn’t a guarantee to be worth viewing as their first contest wasn’t great. The odds are good this will be a good watch, but I don’t have the same confidence in these contests that I do the Fight Pass offering. Take that for what it’s worth.

The FS1 prelims begin at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Jason Knight (20-5) vs. Jordan Rinaldi (13-6), Featherweight

It seems like ages ago that Knight was the hottest up-and-comer in the featherweight division. It was only 16 months ago that his train was derailed by Ricardo Lamas. He’s had two more losses since Lamas laid on a brutal beating on him, looking nothing like the confident – even cocky – jaw jacker who piled on the volume. Instead, he’s been reluctant to engage since that loss while his takedown defense has regressed back to where it was when he first entered the UFC. If Knight’s confidence returns, we’ll be in for a treat as he didn’t acquire the nickname Hick Diaz for just his trash talk. His outside boxing game is reminiscent of MMA’s favorite brother duo as well.

Rinaldi is dropping down from lightweight, though it isn’t clear if he’ll be the larger fighter. His wrestling may receive a boost now that he’s fighting opponents closer to his size. He’d better hope so as his grappling is the strongest aspect of his game. Rinaldi’s striking is competent, but nothing more than that.

Make no mistake, the UFC set up this contest in hopes of getting Knight back on track. Rinaldi doesn’t match up well with Knight as Rinaldi only chance to win is to submit the kid from Mississippi. Knight’s grappling was thought to be his biggest strength when he entered the UFC. In other words, it’s unlikely Rinaldi will catch Knight. The better question is whether Knight can find a finish of his own. I’m guessing he does. Knight via submission of RD3

Sijara Eubanks (3-2) vs. Roxanne Modafferi (22-14), Women’s Flyweight

Most famous now for Joe Rogan declaring he had no idea who she was when she was set to headline the card, Eubanks is no doubt looking to make a statement to ensure the world knows who she is. After all, a title shot is probably on the line. Eubanks may be inexperienced, but her record doesn’t show her impressive run through the TUF 26 tournament where she earned herself a title shot only to be hospitalized after missing weight. Did I mention she beat Modafferi in the tournament as well?

Eubanks was primarily known as a wrestler up to her stint on TUF. However, she’s shown some impressive striking chops since that time. Sure, there are still plenty of holes in her defense. But the power Eubanks possesses makes trading shots with her a risky proposition. Should Eubanks’ defense begin to falter, she’s been quick to go back to her roots, taking the fight to the ground. It could be said Eubanks is more dangerous on the ground than she is standing as her power submissions are unique in women’s MMA. I’m not even bringing up her brutal GnP either….

Modafferi, perhaps the nicest and most positive person in the sport of MMA, looks nothing like the fighter who made an underwhelming UFC debut five years ago. She’s turned back the clock, revamping her striking so that her funky movement and rhythm has some oomph behind it now in addition to racking up greater amounts of volume. Modafferi’s bread and butter is still her slick grappling, now supplemented by a functional takedown game centered upon trips and body-lock takedowns.

It’s damn-near impossible to root against the likeable Roxy. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to pick against her. Modafferi has already lost once to Eubanks and it’s likely Eubanks has only improved since that time. A bad weight cut could prove problematic for Eubanks, which could open the door to Modafferi to steal away a victory, but a repeat of their TUF contest is more likely. Eubanks via decision

Julio Arce (15-2) vs. Sheymon Moraes (10-2), Featherweight

Given the depth of young talent at featherweight – and bantamweight for that matter – you’re forgiven if you’re unaware of the talents of Arce and Moraes. At one point, they were both touted prospects who got lost in the shuffle following losses on smaller stages. Now, the winner is primed to regain their thunder.

Arce was touted at bantamweight before a pair of losses to Brian Kelleher took the wind out of his sails. He’s a well-rounded combatant, but he’s getting more credit for his standup after outstriking his two opponents in the UFC, putting together smooth combinations while smoothly mixing in low kicks. He does a fantastic job maintaining his distance too. Arce’s grappling chops aren’t too bad either, though he’s more likely to secure a sub in a scramble or in a club-and-sub situation than gradually working his way to the fight’s conclusion.

Moraes has a similar Muay Thai background to Arce, just with a bit more power than his counterpart. What he doesn’t have is the volume that Arce puts out there, settling for one-off strikes off the counter. The Brazilian prefers to close the distance and operate in the clinch where his elbows and knees are particularly lethal. Zabit Magomedsharipov took Moraes down whenever the Russian pleased, giving Moraes a bum rep as a wrestler. Don’t mistake my defense of Moraes as me stating he’s above average, but he isn’t nearly as bad as he appeared to be in his UFC debut.

Though Moraes doesn’t typically put up the volume of Arce, he did a great job of hanging with Matt Sayles in his last contest in terms of the pure numbers. Then again, Sayles isn’t Arce, meaning it’ll be doubly impressive if he can secure a decision here. At the very least, it should make for an entertaining contest. Arce via decision

Lyman Good (19-4, 1 NC) vs. Ben Saunders (22-10-2), Welterweight

Originally scheduled to face a grinding opponent in Sultan Aliev, Good gets a chance to put on a much more fan friendly contest with the lanky Saunders. Good marks a fun stylistic opponent for Saunders as he also is very active on the feet. In fact, he’s been one of the busier fighters in his two UFC appearances, engaging in a pair of fast paced contests. Though he’s fun to watch, there isn’t anything flashy about him, mostly operating behind a jab and low kicks. He can wrestle bit too, though he’s selective about whom he chooses to engage with on the mat.

Given Saunders’ lack of takedown, there’s a strong chance he’ll look to take the fight to the mat. Then again, Saunders’ knows how to use his long legs very well, owning one of the most dangerous guards in the game. In fact, Saunders is comfortable pulling guard, though I’m not advocating for him to take that route. On the feet, his use of his length is more inconsistent as opponents have regularly found their way past his jab as Saunders tends to keep his head high. However, his knees in the clinch have been known to induce narcolepsy in his opposition.

A favorite of the Bloody Elbow community, Saunders has been determined to ensure his fights don’t go the distance, sometimes to his own detriment. Good may not be known for his power, but he’s more than capable of putting his opponent to sleep, especially in the brawling environment this fight is likely to become. Plus, Good has never been KO’d in his career, going the distance with the likes of Andrey Koreshkov and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. If someone is going to sleep, my guess is it’s Saunders, as much as I hate to say it. Good via TKO of RD2