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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Boise: Dos Santos vs. Ivanov - FS1 prelims preview

Get the scoop on the televised preliminary action for UFC Boise, including a pivotal featherweight contest between a streak Darren Elkins and rising youngster Alexander Volkanovski.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The televised prelims for UFC Boise feature a unique mix of veterans, prospects, and debutantes. There’s a former WEC champion and a Nurmagomedov. There’s a TUF Latin America winner and one of the inaugural Contender Series’ winners. There’s even a title contender… if you value results over reputation at least. And yet… I can’t make any guarantees the action will be worth watching. That title contender has been called boring. The former champion is near the end of the line of a long career. And the prospects don’t appear to be surefire home runs. Nonetheless, my guess is there is a lot that could be learned from these contests. Even if it wasn’t my job to pay attention to these fights, I’d be watching.

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

Eddie Wineland (23-12-1) vs. Alejandro Perez (20-6-1), Bantamweight

With all due respect, Perez’s six-fight undefeated streak has been one of the least impressive stretches of that nature. Three of those contests could very easily have gone in favor of his opponents. In fact, according to MMA Decisions, media members sided with his opponent in two of those three contests while fans sided with the opponent in all three of those contests. Nonetheless, Perez left no doubt in his last contest when he knocked the block off Matthew Lopez for a definitive victory.

It isn’t that Perez is a poor fighter. In fact, he’s gritty as hell with a great will to win. It’s more that despite being a sound athlete, he can only rely on it so far up the ladder before he’s coming up short in that category, signs of those shortcomings in those controversial decisions. Nonetheless, his GnP is exceptionally good and he’s improved his technique enough to produce more consistent power in his punches. Perez still has plenty of defensive holes, but his resilience has also shown through to help him overcome that.

Wineland is at the tail end of his career. His only wins in the last four years have come against opposition more shopworn than he is. Nonetheless, the former WEC champion should still have something left in the tank. Wineland was unable to put his hands on the uber-quick John Dodson as Dodson didn’t want to risk being a victim of Wineland’s power. Wineland’s unorthodox footwork can be difficult to decipher for someone who isn’t prepared for it. Plus, he’s a solid wrestler, though he chooses to use his base to keep the contest vertical rather than shooting for takedowns of his own.

My brain tells me these two are on opposite trajectories and I should be going with Perez as he’s headed upwards. However, there’s a voice in the back of my mind telling me Perez has struggled with more simplistic strikers and may struggle to see Wineland’s punches shooting up from his waist. Plus, Wineland isn’t that old, having just celebrated his 34th birthday last month. There is a good chance I’ll regret this, but I’m going with the old vet. Wineland via TKO of RD2

Darren Elkins (24-5) vs. Alexander Volkanovski (17-1), Featherweight

After six wins in a row, there was talk Elkins could be put into a title eliminator in his next contest. Instead, he is being set up to be fodder for the up-and-coming Aussie, Volkanovski. If the UFC wants people to like Volkanovski, it isn’t a good idea to have him dispose of the ultimate underdog….

Despite a run of success that would give 90% of fighters on the roster an opportunity to set themselves up for a title shot, Elkins is being denied for a couple of reasons. Firstly, his grinding style isn’t aesthetically pleasing. Secondly, he’s come up short in the past against the likes of Jeremy Stephens and Chad Mendes. However, Elkins has moved his camp to Team Alpha Male and sharpened up his striking technique to catch up on some of the ground he needed to make up between him and the elite. Whether he’s caught up enough is up for debate, but it isn’t like the UFC wants us to find out… unless they view Volkanovski as an elite fighter.

Given Volkanovski’s best win came over a fellow prospect in Jeremy Kennedy, it would be foolhardy to consider him one of the best… at least at this point. The dominance he has displayed in his four UFC wins – two finishes and two lopsided unanimous decisions – has been impressive enough that he certainly warranted a top ten opponent, even if many – myself included -- disagreed with Elkins being that opponent. Volkanovski’s game is similar to Elkins, relying on a dominant wrestling game to floor his opponent. Even if he can’t complete the takedown, his ability to wear down his opponent against the fence usually makes things academic by the time the third round rolls around. That doesn’t mean Volkanovski is one-dimensional. His boxing, though very basic, has proven to be effective in the limited amount of time it has been on display.

Volkanovski is a far superior athlete to Elkins. However, many of Elkins’ victims had that advantage over him as well – Mirsad Bektic and Michael Johnson come to mind – but he’s still been able to overcome that deficiency. Elkins can be defeated, but he won’t be broken. No matter what Volkanovski does to him, he’ll keep coming in a manner that Volkanovski hasn’t dealt with in his career. Maybe I’m picking Elkins out of a desire to see him continue his improbable run – nothing against Volkanovski – but I’m going with him as Volkanovski’s quality of competition hasn’t been anything close to what Elkins will offer. Plus, you don’t out-Elkins Elkins. Elkins via decision

Justin Scoggins (11-4) vs. Said Nurmagomedov (11-1), Flyweight

Two years ago, Scoggins was on the verge of emerging as a flyweight contender. A bad weight cut led to a brief excursion to bantamweight. He lost that contest, leading him to return to flyweight… and lose his return contest. Now the 26-year old could be on his last UFC legs, a far cry from where everyone thought he would be at this point in his career.

It isn’t like there wasn’t a reason why many were excited about Scoggins’ future prospects. The young karateka offers a unique kicking arsenal that can turn the lights out while complimenting it with an improving takedown game. However, that takedown game has also gotten him into trouble as he tends to put himself into unfavorable grappling exchanges, his last three losses all coming by submission. If the South Carolina native can focus on keeping the fight vertical, he can probably get back to his winning ways.

Some might see the name of Scoggins’ opponent and think Scoggins is in trouble as the name Nurmagomedov has become synonymous with brutal GnP. However, Said isn’t like his cousin Khabib stylistically. That doesn’t mean Said is incapable of taking Scoggins to the ground. All I’m saying is Said is more likely to try and outpoint his opponent in a kickboxing match. He offers a far more diverse arsenal than his cousin – including an array of kicks to the legs and body – though he doesn’t have the same amount of fight-ending power.

Nurmagomedov doesn’t appear likely to make the same type of impact as his cousin, but he does have the look of a perennial contender at the very least in a division badly in need of fresh faces. Scoggins has proven he can compete with most of the division – he does own a win over Ray Borg – but he needs to avoid the mental errors that have plagued him. Until he shows he can be trusted, I’m not trusting him. Nurmagomedov via decision

Kurt Holobaugh (17-4, 1 NC) vs. Raoni Barcelos (11-1), Featherweight

Regardless of whether you’ve heard of Holobaugh, he is a controversial figure. Securing a contract to the UFC through the Contender Series isn’t controversial, but doing so after having tested positive for PED’s for that contest is. The UFC didn’t release him from his contract, instead having him serve a suspension.

Time now served, Holobaugh faces a debutant in Barcelos. Once a top prospect, Barcelos is now 31 and the fear is he will no longer be able to maximize his potential getting his break as late as he is given his reliance on his natural gifts. Nonetheless, he’s still very dangerous with plus power in his fists and impressive grappling accolades as a no-gi world BJJ champion. He has fallen in love with his striking in recent contests, not bothering to utilize his ground game. If he was a poor wrestler, perhaps that would make sense, but the Brazilian times his shots well.

Holobaugh was a prospect in his first go-around in the UFC and is now a grizzled vet. He has never been finished and has strung together a string of finishes against top regional competition to his chance back in the big leagues. A large featherweight with a pressuring style, Holobaugh is a fundamentally sound kickboxer offensively who has found ways to accentuate his power. His defensive deficiencies haven’t gone anywhere and he is an average athlete at best.

Many will wonder whether Holobaugh’s recent string of success is due to PED’s and there is every reason to question that. Will he be the same person who blazed his way back into the UFC? It’s impossible to know until he steps in the cage with Barcelos. Barcelos is better than those Holobaugh beat in that stretch and physically superior. The Brazilian could give it away with a mental miscue, but I’d guess he’ll pull it out. Barcelos via decision

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