If there is a theme for UFC Austin’s FS1 prelims, it has to be youth. It isn’t necessarily that every competitor on the card has yet to see their best days, but it could be said about the majority of the combatants. In fact, while all of the matches should be highly competitive contests, at least one competitor in each bout is under the age of 30. While there are major doubts that any of them emerges as future title challengers much less champions, there is a certain level of excitement they provide that makes them fun to watch regardless of how high they can climb the ladder.
The FS1 prelims for UFC Austin begin at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT on Sunday.
Jared Gordon (14-1) vs. Diego Ferreira (12-2), Lightweight
Originally attempting to compete in the UFC at featherweight, Gordon was forced up to lightweight when a bad weight cut cancelled one fight and he missed by four pounds for another. Contenting himself at 155, he has since looked like a million bucks at his new home. There is nothing complicated about Gordon’s game. He pushes an insane pace, throwing simple punching combinations at a rapid pace in order to disguise his takedown attempts. Once in on the takedown, he continues chaining them together at a rapid rate. The onslaught only worsens once the fight hits the mat as he doesn’t let off the gas with his ground-and-pound for a second.
Ferreira hasn’t been seen for over two years as he failed a drug test, serving a USADA suspension. Though the 33-year old may have missed out on the prime years of his career, Ferreira is hardly an easy test. A technically sound grappler and crafty scrambler, Ferreira is about as positionally sound on the ground as you’ll find in the division. His wrestling hasn’t been as stout as originally reputed upon his UFC inception, but that doesn’t mean he’s a pushover. On the feet, Ferreira was slowly ironing out much of the clunkiness in his technique, making better use of his raw power. Even if he isn’t the most fluid striker, he’s still dangerous.
You never know what to make of a fighter coming off a lengthy suspension. If I knew for sure we were getting the Ferreira who handed Olivier Aubin-Mercier his last loss, I’d probably lean in his favor. However, Ferreira could be a completely different fighter now…for better or worse. The safe pick is Gordon, though I’m hardly assured he’ll be able to get Ferreira to the ground consistently. Gordon via decision
Geoff Neal (8-2) vs. Brian Camozzi (7-4), Welterweight
A surprise entry on the Contender’s Series as he filled in on short notice for Gabriel Checco, Neal made the most of the situation and put Chase Waldon away in less than two minutes. Owning a surprisingly long 76” reach on his 5’11” frame, Neal pumps a steady jab from his southpaw stance before unleashing his vicious straight left. Given his last three victories all came in the first round, it’s safe to say Neal has learned how to accentuate his simple strategy. Though he rarely looks to go to the ground, his takedown defense has proven to be solid.
Camozzi is one of the bigger welterweights on the roster at 6’2” with a 78” reach. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t been able to make effective use of his size to date since entering the UFC. His lack of athleticism has made it difficult to get the fight where he wants it, as opponents have been able to navigate his reach provided they possess decent footwork. If Camozzi can clinch up, he has a nice variety of trip takedowns and with knees he can wrack the body with. At a distance, Camozzi’s most effective weapon is his low kicks.
Neal possesses enough of the qualities of Camozzi’s two UFC opponents – which he decisively lost to -- that I struggle to see Camozzi coming out on top. Though Neal isn’t quite as athletic as Randy Brown, nor is he as technical as Chad Laprise, he’s close enough to each of them in those categories that he’s likely to overwhelm the stiff Camozzi relatively quickly. Neal via TKO, RD1
Roberto Sanchez (7-1) vs. Joby Sanchez (11-2), Flyweight
Though Roberto only turned pro three years ago, he’s the old man in this contest, turning 32 in less than a month. Nonetheless, his lack of experience in the sport gives him the stronger likelihood of having made notable improvements since the last time we saw the aggressive submission artist. Roberto pursues takedowns like a madman, hoping to create a scramble at the very least as he’s slick as hell at finding his opponent’s back with four RNC wins out of his seven victories.
Joby is already on his second stint in the UFC at the age of 26, but he has also proven himself to be a student of the game. Learning he isn’t a good enough athlete to overwhelm those at the highest level of MMA, Joby has become a real technician on the feet, mixing up his punches to the body and head expertly. He doesn’t have a lot of power, but he can pour on the volume in a hurry. Joby also made greater use of his wrestling in his appearance on the Contender’s Series, which also helped to open up his striking.
Roberto is running into the same problem Joby ran into upon his first trip into the UFC: he’s not a good athlete in comparison to the rest of the UFC’s flyweight division. Joby made plenty of adjustments when he was sent back to the regional scene and looks like he’ll be able to make better use of his time in the big leagues this time around. I’m not counting out Roberto’s ability to snag a submission, but Joby’s wily enough to survive whatever the Texas native throws at him. Joby Sanchez via decision
Sarah Moras (5-3) vs. Lucie Pudilova (7-2), Women’s Bantamweight
Most forgot Moras was even on the UFC roster when she faced Ashlee Evans-Smith this past September as it had been over two years since Moras last stepped in a cage and a USADA suspension had nothing to do with her absence. She proved she did more than just spend her time away healing, proving her already competent ground game was improved as she snagged an armbar from her guard. Despite being a strong grappler, Moras’ takedowns and sprawl have been inefficient in the UFC and her standup has been clunky at best. Nonetheless, her toughness and determination has made for those deficiencies in the past…against lesser competition.
Pudilova is the opposite of Moras as she prefers to keep the fight standing. Possessing a seemingly endless gas tank, Pudilova pushes a hard pace that opponents struggle to keep up with. Still young in her career with striking technique rapidly improving with the most obvious progress coming in her use of angles and in her jab. Her defense still leaves a lot to be desired and her ground game is untested, but Pudilova still has plenty of time to shore up those areas at the tender age of 23.
This fight comes down to who can get the fight where they want it as this very much represents a striker vs. grappler contest. Given Moras has struggled in her attempts to get the fight to the ground and Pudilova’s takedown defense has been surprisingly stout thus far in her UFC career, I’m going with the native of the Czech Republic in this one. Pudilova’s lack of power and Moras’ durability should ensure this goes the distance. Pudilova via decision