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Diggin’ Deep on UFC on FOX 30: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2 - Fight Pass prelims preview

Get the scoop on the Fight Pass prelims, featuring a pivotal women’s flyweight contest between former title challenger Alexis Davis and Katlyn Chookagian.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Fight Pass prelims for UFC on FOX 30 feature three intriguing contests. Intriguing enough that I’d say the Fight Pass prelims feature better contests than the televised prelims on FOX. There’s a pair of young(ish) flyweights in Dustin Ortiz and Matheus Nicolau who could potentially break into the title picture. There’s a women’s flyweight contest between Alexis Davis and Katlyn Chookagian that could have title implications. And while the contest at women’s strawweight doesn’t seem to have any implications in the title picture, Randa Markos and Nina Ansaroff are two of the most consistently entertaining fighters in the division. Yeah…these prelims are better than what’s usually on Fight Pass.

The Fight Pass prelims begin at 4:00 PM ET/1:00 PM PT on Saturday.

John Makdessi (15-6) vs. Ross Pearson (20-14, 1 NC), Lightweight

Makdessi and Pearson have seen better days. Granted, both have been around for a long time, so it isn’t a surprise they’ve declined at this point in their careers. Despite that, it’s never easy to see two fighters continue to fight despite being shells of their old selves.

Perhaps saying they are shells of themselves is going too far, but it used to be that both could have a competitive contest with just about anyone. Pearson’s downfall is reflective in his record, having lost four in a row prior to snapping his streak against Mizuto Hiroka. His durability isn’t what it once was and he’s lost a spring in his step. He still has good timing on the counter, though he needs to remember that he’s far more efficient fighting off his back foot than he is pursuing his opponent. It’s rare that Pearson pursues the takedown, though he has hit the occasional well-timed shot dependent upon the matchup. Makdessi looks like he might be the right type of matchup for that.

Granted, Makdessi has always had solid takedown defense, knowing his success is completely dependent on his keeping the fight standing. A former kickboxer, Makdessi’s use of angles and spacing more than make up for his lack of height and reach. It surprises many to see someone of his stature with such an effective jab. He’s best known for his spinning back fist on the strength of a highlight reel KO of Kyle Watson many years ago, but he doesn’t pull it out as often as he used to. However, like Pearson, Makdessi’s speed and ability to eat a punch are on the decline.

Given the lack of faith most fans and analysts have shown in both competitors, this was a great bit of matchmaking. Makdessi is the cleaner striker by far, but Pearson has the better ground game. However, he needs to get the fight to the ground if he’s going to exploit his advantage on the mat. Given the lack of durability of both competitors, there is little confidence in my pick. I’m going with Makdessi to outpoint the Englishman. Makdessi via decision

Alexis Davis (19-7) vs. Katlyn Chookagian (10-1), Women’s Flyweight

Perhaps the biggest mystery of the card is why this contest was pushed so far down the pecking order. Sure, Davis and Chookagian aren’t big names to attract fans to turn their eyes to a card. However, the winner of this contest is a likely candidate to receive a title shot once Nicco Montano and Valentina Shevchenko (finally) take care of business. If you want to push a division, burying potential title contenders at the bottom of a card isn’t a smart way to do so.

Davis has been around since Ronda Rousey’s dominance forced the UFC to integrate women into the organization. She was also one of the victims the now Hall of Famer abused in her dominant title run. Davis’ natural weight has always been 125, so it came as no surprise when she picked up a win in her UFC debut at the newly formed division over Liz Carmouche. The Canadian is as cagey and experienced as they come in the women’s division, making up for her lack of physical advantages against all except the most gifted. Outside of an active – and effective – guard, there isn’t a defining characteristic for Davis. She’s tough as nails and just knows how to win.

Chookagian immediately became one of the better athletes upon her UFC entry. Unfortunately, like Davis, she was fighting in the wrong division at the time. Despite that, she put on her worst performance to date upon her drop to 125, continually coming up short on her punches against a game Mara Romero Borella. Normally, Chookagian’s punches have a nice little zip on them as she circles the cage looking for the counter. If she can get back to committing to her punches – and remembering to throw a steady stream of low kicks to boot – she stands an above average chance of winning this contest.

It’s hard to pinpoint what led to Chookagian’s poor performance against Borella, but she did walk away with a win. However, if she performs that way against Davis, she’ll be on the losing end for sure. The question is what version of her are we getting. Davis’ ability to do just enough to emerge victorious has me thinking she’ll do just that. Davis via submission, RD3

Dustin Ortiz (18-7) vs. Matheus Nicolau (13-1-1), Flyweight

If it wasn’t for a controversial PED failure through USADA – though it seems every failure with them is controversial nowadays – we might be talking about Nicolau as the next contender lining up opposite Demetrious Johnson. Instead, the young Brazilian was forced to sit out for a year. Fighting with a maturity that belies his youth, Nicolau shows an innate sense of timing and accuracy on his punches. Power doesn’t seem to be in abundance and volume is a problem if his opponent isn’t looking to push the pace. Despite that, Nicolau’s read on a fight has been more than enough in his limited UFC exposure thus far to keep him undefeated in the Octagon.

Ortiz has been a source of frustration for those who expected the well-rounded Tennessee native to emerge as a major player in the division. Still not even 30 yet, Ortiz provided indications he may be ready to bust out as he has put together consecutive wins for the first time in four years, one a brutal KO 15 seconds into the contest, the other a hard fought 15-minute battle. His toughness was a big key to his last win as Pantoja couldn’t put him away early and ended up fading hard. It also showed why Ortiz has struggled to go over the top, allowing his opponent, Alexandre Pantoja, to win the early scrambles. Is that something to worry about against Nicolau?

All the credit in the world to Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard as this is a great piece of matchmaking. Though most would agree Ortiz is what he is, he continues to flash moments of brilliance that indicate there is more to him. Nicolau doesn’t do anything flashy, but he doesn’t beat himself. That has been an issue for Ortiz in the past. Ortiz very well could have solved that issue, but it doesn’t look like it to me. The Brazilian exploits the small holes in Ortiz’s game – as well as the big ones – and takes home a comfortable decision. Nicolau via decision

Randa Markos (8-5) vs. Nina Ansaroff (8-5), Women’s Strawweight

Another excellent piece of matchmaking by Shelby and Maynard here as no one is sure just how good Markos and Ansaroff can be. That they have identical records with only four months separating their age is merely a coincidence.

Though both have the potential to breakout as serious players, the likelihood favors Ansaroff to be the one to emerge as she has begun receiving serious coaching in the last few years. The results have been obvious as she has grown in leaps and bounds in her last three appearances, showing great distance management and discipline in her contest with Angela Hill. It’s no small feat to outpoint the former professional kickboxer. Ansaroff’s power hasn’t translated over to the big leagues yet, but most would agree she is one of the harder hitters at strawweight.

Markos has been an exercise in frustration as she has looked like a world-beater in one contest only to come back the next time looking tentative and unsure of herself. It wasn’t just her leaving Tristar either, which tried reining in her aggression and having her fight against type. She does look more sure of herself since leaving, but the results haven’t completely translated as Markos has struggled to keep opponents down…if she can get them down.

This contest is completely dependent on if Markos can get her noted wrestling game going. Her hyper-aggression translates to the feet as well, resulting in just as many holes there as there is in her wrestling and grappling. Ansaroff has yet to find success looking to take her down or make things ugly. Not that she can’t find success in that environment herself, but she has proven a distance striking contest is her bread-and-butter. Though there is little confidence in my pick, I think Markos’ constant attempts to get the fight to the ground will prove detrimental to the girlfriend of Amanda Nunes. Markos via submission, RD3

Devin Powell (8-3) vs. Alvaro Herrera (9-5), Lightweight

No disrespect to Powell or Herrera, but both of them would have received a pink slip if I was running the UFC’s ship. Neither has shown the tools to succeed against top level competition despite having multiple fights in the Octagon under their belt. Some may look on Herrera’s record and see he was a win in the UFC. Keep in mind Herrera found his way to the roster through TUF Latin America. That win came against another TUF Latin American member who had no business in the UFC.

To Powell’s credit, there is no quit in the scrapper. In his debut, Powell was bullied by Drakkar Klose from pillar to post, Powell scratching and clawing until the final bell hoping to turn the tide. He did show some improved boxing chops in his last contest, a major upgrade from his arsenal that centered upon kicks prior to that, but his lack of physical skills is glaring.

Herrera is without a doubt a better athlete than Powell, has a solid frame for lightweight, and has some real power in his fists. However, he doesn’t have a feel for the sport and has an alarming lack of awareness on the ground for someone who has been employed by the UFC for multiple years. If Powell finds a way to plant him on his back, he’s screwed. Powell hasn’t shown much wrestling, but Herrera hasn’t shown much takedown defense either. Powell’s will to win gets him his first UFC win. Powell via submission, RD2