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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Singapore: Cowboy vs. Edwards - Preliminary card preview Part 1

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Get the scoop on the fights in the earliest prelims from UFC Singapore, including up-and-coming Aussie Jake Matthews as he looks to continue his ascent since moving up to the welterweight division.

There hasn’t been much buzz about UFC Singapore coming up this weekend. One look at the names on the earliest of prelims will give an example why. I don’t want to say the fights – or fighters – are crap as that wouldn’t be the truth. It’s more that there is a major lack of name recognition to all the contests. For example, Jake Matthews is probably the most recognizable name in the first half of the prelims. He has potential, but he doesn’t bring in an audience. His opponent – Shinsho Anzai – doesn’t ring a bell for anyone outside of the most hardcore audience, much less attract them to watch a fight. Throw in that the UFC is asking most Americans to sacrifice valuable sleep time over the weekend if they want to watch these fights live and it’s not hard to figure out why the UFC hasn’t been pushing this event.

The prelims begin on Fight Pass at 4:30 AM ET/1:30 AM PT on Saturday.

Shinsho Anzai (10-2) vs. Jake Matthews (13-3), Welterweight

Though he still has plenty of kinks to work out, Matthews has looked reinvigorated since moving up to welterweight after seven fights at 155 in the UFC. Always a solid counter striker with a bit of wrestling, Matthews had a direction in his last couple of contests and the results have been very promising. His defense could still use more than a bit of refinement, but he’s moving in the right direction.

Anzai is being used to prop up the young Aussie as the 32-year old’s upside is incredibly limited. Nonetheless, Anzai has been used in this manner by the UFC before and has come out on top. His constant pressure and takedowns can be overwhelming if an opponent isn’t prepared for them. Sure, his striking hasn’t progressed since he arrived in the UFC almost four years ago, but he has some power in those hooks he loves to wildly swing at the opposition.

The UFC has been patient with Matthews, though it should be mentioned he is still only 23-years old despite having been on the roster for over four years. However, he has progressed in the past only to hit a wall in his development, perhaps even appearing to move backwards at times. Then again, his losses have come to opponents with a more complex game than Anzai. Anzai will make Matthews earn his paycheck, but the youngster finds a finish before time runs out. Matthews via submission of RD3

Viviane Pereira (13-1) vs. Yan Xionan (8-1, 1 NC), Women’s Strawweight

Stepping in for an injured Nadia Kassem, Pereira is looking to get her career back on track after a one-sided shellacking at the hands of Tatiana Suarez last fall. Pereira’s downfall was her inability to stop takedowns and get back to her feet once Suarez got her to the ground. Fortunately for the Brazilian, that won’t be an issue against China’s Xionan.

Xionan utilizes a punches-in-bunches strategy, looking to turn a fight into a brawl at the first opportunity. She can be technical striker if given time and space, but there won’t be any of that if she has her way. Opponents have found success in smothering her against the cage or on the mat rather than engage in a slugfest, but Xionan hasn’t faced many counterparts with an inkling of wrestling. Pereira has shown the ability to engage against the fence in the clinch, but she prefers slinging counter shots of her own. Her range is limited by her short frame, but her ability to slip and rip belies her youth.

Part of Pereira’s weakness has been her willingness to allow her opponents to dictate where the fight takes place. Valerie Letourneau wanted an ugly fight against the fence, Pereira obliged. Jamie Moyle preferred a standup contest, again Pereira obliged. She can be forgiven for Suarez as Suarez will take any fight wherever she damn well pleases, but there is a distinct pattern. Xionan has power that’s rare for strawweight, so I’m going out on a limb and predict she finds the rare stoppage from strikes in the strawweight division. Xionan via TKO of RD1

Matt Schnell (11-4) vs. Naoki Inoue (11-0), Flyweight

Though not as well known as his sister Mizuki, Naoki Inoue may have a higher ceiling than his sister at this point. Then again, beating up on a low level of competition can really accentuate how good a fighter looks, including his UFC win over Carls John de Tomas. Inoue’s lanky frame, submission skills, and athletic ability do allow for a legitimate claim that he’s a future contender. He’s a slick submission specialist with an underdeveloped striking game. Inoue also has a long frame with some pop, but his defense is full of holes.

Schnell was knocked out in his first two UFC contests in the first round. Maybe that wouldn’t be a big deal if this was heavyweight, but this is flyweight. His chin is a major concern and he fought a very cautious fight against Marco Antonio Beltran to pick up his first UFC win. What was especially confusing about it was he avoided taking the fight to the ground, an area where he is thought to be at his best. Nonetheless, if Schnell gets the fight to the ground, he’s much like Inoue in that he aggressively goes after submissions.

Schnell doesn’t appear to be the same fighter he was before the consecutive KO’s. Yes, he did pull out a win in his last appearance, but he lacked the confidence he previously displayed in addition to fighting against type. Inoue’s confidence is not lacking in the least. Given Schnell has been prone to submissions himself, this should be another win for Inoue. Inoue via submission of RD2

Jenel Lausa (7-4) vs. Yuta Sasaki (20-5-2), Flyweight

Lausa can’t catch a break. He was originally scheduled to face Ashkan Mokhtarian before the Aussie pulled out with an injury. Now instead of a winnable opponent, he’s probably going to serve as a rebound for Sasaki… and probably ends up washing out of the UFC in the process.

I’ve clearly given away my pick for the contest, but Lausa stands a chance provided he can keep the fight standing to take advantage of his professional boxing background. What has limited him thus far has been his ground game, no surprise given his base. His takedown defense has been better than expected, but still not where it needs to be if he hopes to stick around a while.

Sasaki also presents a different type of challenge than what Lausa has faced thus far: a submission specialist. Every one of Sasaki’s submission victories have come by way of RNC, including all of his UFC wins. He’s developed a decent slugger, though he still hasn’t fully figured out how to use his 5’10” frame to its full potential.

Sasaki is going to have to ignore his reach advantage if he wants to close the distance and get the fight to the ground, which gives Lausa a chance… a slim one. Sasaki has found success against a higher level of competition than Lausa. There’s no reason to believe he won’t find a way to add another RNC to his ledger. Sasaki via submission of RD1

Melinda Fabian (4-3-2) vs. Ji Yeon Kim (7-1-2), Women’s Flyweight

This fight is so far under the radar, many websites aren’t reporting that it’s happening, including the UFC website. Then again, neither competitor is anywhere near contention….

Fabian was half of one of the worst contests to take place in the UFC in 2017 when DeAnna Bennett held her against the fence for the majority of the 15-minute contest. While the contest is an afront to pleasurable viewing, there were some positive takeaways from it for the Hungarian born Fabian. Despite Bennett’s constant attempts, Fabian never conceded a takedown, showing far better takedown defense than anyone expected out of her. She also delivered the only significant strike of the contest when she walloped Bennett with a head kick to close the opening frame. The head kick wasn’t a surprise as Fabian is a skilled kickboxer. However, the ability to stuff takedowns could be the difference between Fabian washing out and becoming a mainstay.

Then again, Fabian’s takedown defense probably won’t factor against Kim who’s trips from the clinch have been virtually nonexistent in her two UFC contests. Instead, the Korean representative has relied on a patient counter punching game with a bit of pop in her fists. Though she isn’t going to be overwhelmed by an aggressive opponent, she can let the fight slowly slip through her fingers if she is unable to get her attack in the clinch going.

Even if Fabian stuffed all of Bennett’s takedowns, she didn’t keep her from closing the distance. If she allows Kim to do that, she’s going to come out on the short end of the stick. Kim’s all-around striking game has looked improved too, indicating she could steal this win away from Fabian even if Fabian gets the fight she wants. Kim via decision