What the hell is the UFC doing? They have on their hands a potentially marketable foil for the women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko in Viviane Araujo and rather than promote her to the televised prelims of UFC 245, much less the main card, they bury her on the early prelims. It isn’t like they don’t think she doesn’t have talent; they are pitting her against recent title challenger Jessica Eye in just her third UFC contest. Regardless, they are banishing her to the portion of the card where the least amount of eyes will see her. I will grant that UFC 245 is one of the deepest cards of the year, but it does illustrate how poorly the UFC has promoted some of their divisions.
It’s the same tactic they used with pretty much every opponent Demetrious Johnson had. They have also done it with Katlyn Chookagian as she enters her title shot against Shevchenko. And they wonder why a large multitude of fans don’t get excited for some of their champions…
Jessica Eye (14-7, 1 NC) vs. Viviane Araujo (8-1), Women’s Flyweight
Before we get ahead of ourselves with Araujo, it needs to be said that Eye isn’t a walkover. Sure, many still remember her best for her stretch where she won a single fight over the course of six fights, but she did reel off three straight wins once she dropped down to 125 to secure her title shot. Eye isn’t a joke; she’s a legit top-flight fighter now that she has found her proper weight class.
Eye is a technically sound boxer with excellent timing on her combinations and the size to stuff takedowns from smaller opposition than what she faced at bantamweight. She has also been able to overcome a mental block that saw her shell up once her opponent begins to offer resistance. She’s looked her best when she mixes in the occasional takedown as it tends to open up her basic combinations. However, despite her technical superiority, Eye has ended up on the losing end of striking battles due to her predictability, not mixing things up from a basic one-two combination very often.
Predictability isn’t an issue for Araujo in the slightest. Willing to throw flying knees and spinning attacks, Araujo looks like she’s already one of the better athletes in the division after just two fights. She has impeccable timing on both her strikes and her takedowns, making up for her occasional recklessness that can leave her open for her opponent’s return fire. Fortunately for her, she has enough power to make up for a potential disparity in volume. Did I mention she has shown decent grappling chops too? There’s a reason many are excited about Araujo.
Even if I’m trying to defend Eye to the general public as an opponent capable of halting Araujo’s hype train, I’ll admit that I’m one of those who is completely behind the idea of Araujo emerging as a title contender. Her professional debut came just over four years ago and she still has plenty of room to grow. Her win over Alexis Davis proved she can avoid the dangerous trappings of a tricky vet. Referring to Eye as a tricky vet isn’t entirely accurate, but it isn’t like that works out to be a disadvantage for Araujo. Araujo via decision
Brandon Moreno (15-5-1) vs. Kai Kara-France (20-7), Flyweight
You know how I complained about how the UFC never promoted Might Mouse’s opposition, i.e. the flyweights appropriately? Well, this contest is another example of their incompetence as Moreno and France are two of the top young 125ers on the roster. And yet… they too are buried on the early prelims. Sigh…
Moreno was one of the first names the UFC signed back when it decided to not do away with the division after all. The organization had pushed him more than any of their other flyweight prospects prior to their contraction of the division, resulting in a main event spot against Sergio Pettis a couple of years ago. Moreno is an excellent scrambler, even by the standards of the flyweight division. His ability to push a pace often results in his opponents flagging towards the end of the contest. However, Moreno’s best skill is his opportunistic nature securing a pair of his UFC wins out of nowhere as he walloped the opposition for a club and sub. Overall, his boxing is sloppy, but he has no issue putting together volume.
Kara-France will do everything within his power to keep the fight standing as the biggest advantage of either competitor in this contest – by far – is his technical superiority on the feet. His left hand in particular is a potent weapon, though the power he displayed on the regional scene hasn’t translated over to the UFC. Kara-France has had a reputation as a poor grappler, though it’s largely attributable to a few early career submission losses. Since that time, he’s become a solid defensive grappler, though he’s unlikely to provide much of a threat himself.
Kara-France has made some noise since coming aboard the organization, but he’s also had some favorable matchmaking. Even though he’s a far superior striker and a competent defensive wrestler, Moreno will do everything in his power to push Kara-France into bad positions… and will likely succeed. Moreno has shown the one key element that was lacking in his first UFC go-around: maturity. He has a better feel for the fight and what he needs to be doing. Regardless of who wins, this should a favorite for FOTN. Moreno via submission of RD3
- To add even further insult to the previously discussed contests, Chase Hooper and Daniel Teymur is headlining the early prelims. No disrespect to these two competitors, but the 20-year old Hooper is making his UFC debut and the elder Teymur brother only picked up his first UFC win in his fourth attempt. Perhaps Hooper will be a high-level competitor someday, but featuring him at this point over potential title challengers in the next year? Alrighty then…. The lanky Hooper doesn’t exactly look fluid in the cage, but he’s still growing into his body and has shown more than enough physical tools to be something special. Teymur is undersized for featherweight, making it difficult for him to take advantage of his kickboxing abilities. Throw in his questionable ground game and Hooper should be able to overcome his youthfulness to secure a win. Hooper via decision
- Oskar Piechota had a nice start to his UFC career, but stumbled when given a pair of opponents who happened to be better in the field where he is considered to be at his best: grappling. To be fair to Piechota, Gerald Meerschaert and Rodolfo Viera are fantastic submission specialists, so that shouldn’t be seen as a knock on Piechota’s abilities. He has some power on the feet too, but is a bit stiff in his standup. He is getting a step down in Punahele Soriano, though it should be noted that Soriano is far more dangerous on the feet than any of Piechota previous opponents. However, Soriano is also less than mindful defensively, making it difficult for him to outpoint opponents unless he can suck them into a braw where technique goes out the window. For all Piechota’s faults, he tends to be smart enough to keep a fight technical. Piechota via decision