After a two-week absence, the UFC returns to action out of Washington DC with a… well, it sure as hell isn’t a bang. To be fair, UFC Washington has been plagued by bad luck and injuries, devastating a card that was originally a deep card for an ESPN card. As a result, several contests were either changed or removed, resulting in what we’ve got for the prelims. I wouldn’t say there is a contest that looks lopsided on paper, but there isn’t anything that jumps out either.
The early prelims begin on ESPN+ at 5:30 PM ET/2:30 PM PT and the televised prelims begin on ESPN at 7:00 PM ET/4:00 PM PT.
Thiago Alves (23-14) vs. Tim Means (28-11-1, 1 NC), Welterweight
At separate points, Alves and Means were some of the most consistent action fighters in the welterweight division. At the ages of 36 and 35 respectively, they’ve put a LOT of mileage on their bodies and can no longer sustain the aggressive nature that typically comes with the action territory. In an all too familiar story, Father Time continues his undefeated streak….
Y’all remember when Alves was the scariest MFer in the welterweight division? A seven-fight win streak highlighted by five finishes led directly to a title shot against GSP. For those of you who do remember, you’re some OG MMA fans as that chance for the gold came a decade ago and Alves has never been able to recapture that same magic. He still has some of the hardest low kicks in the business, but the explosiveness that made him so dangerous has all but evaporated. Alves can still find angles, hit the occasional well-timed takedown, and work his way to a decision. However, he needs to remain active and avoid taking too much damage in the process as he doesn’t have the durability he once did.
After being long regarded as one of the toughest SOB’s to put away, Means’ durability has also begun to wane, being KO’d for the first time since beginning his career in earnest by Niko Price earlier this year. Means did look good prior to Price finding another way to pull a violent finish out of thin air, perhaps indicating he has more left in the tank than his recent 2-4 record says. His work in the clinch has long thought to be his wheelhouse, working over the opposition with vicious elbows and knees. However, that thinking sells short his work from the outside, making great use of his jab in particular. The question becomes if he’ll take his foot off the gas now that he’s suffered the type of violent finish he’s been known to dish out.
Kudos to the UFC matchmakers here. Both have shown enough to leave many who see them believing they might have something left in the tank. Alves’ decline has been happening for a longer period of time, leaving me having more faith in Means as a viable threat. What has me most excited is the strong possibility of Means’ aggression pulling out the best performance out of Alves we’ve seen in a while. Even if it is the best Alves we’ve seen, I’m still favoring Means to get a finish. Means via TKO of RD2
- While most DWCS alum enter the UFC before they’re ready – and requiring the promotion to handle them with kid gloves – Billy Quarantillo is the exception. However, the reason Quarantillo is getting his UFC opportunity later rather than sooner is his limited upside. A plodding striker, he has surprising power and a strong ground game from top or bottom. He welcomes another DWCS alumni in Jacob Kilburn, a striker stepping in on short notice for Chris Fishgold. Kilburn’s Muay Thai arsenal is highlighted by his flashy kicks, more than capable of turning out the lights with a single connection. However, he also has miserable takedown defense. Quarantillo isn’t a great wrestler, but he has a knack for getting the fight where he wants it. Adding that to Kilburn taking the fight on short notice, Quarantillo is the favorite. Quarantillo via submission of RD2
- If Bryce Mitchell can find a way to make more consistent appearances in the Octagon, he has the charisma and fighting style to make himself a fan favorite. If he wants to be more than that, he’d benefit greatly from putting together striking combinations rather than throwing single power shots, but his scrambling and aggressive submissions should be good enough in the interim for him to at least hang around for a while. He’ll look to make a ground fight out of his contest with Matt Sayles, a teammate of Dominick Cruz. He isn’t as herky jerky as the former bantamweight champion, but the similarities are obvious, racking up volume in a hurry. If Sayles can keep the fight standing, he should overwhelm Mitchell. If Mitchell can keep the fight on the ground, he can steal the win. Don’t look too much into my pick as this is a pick ‘em in this featherweight contest. Sayles via decision
- After a four-plus year absence from the cage, Matt Wiman looked like the fight game had passed him by. He was undoubtedly game, looking to initiate scrambles and take advantage of submission opportunities. But the beating he took in his contest with Luis Pena was brutal as he put himself in several bad positions looking for those opportunities. This time around, he’s getting an opponent who will engage in the scrambles in Joe Solecki. That hardly means Wiman is getting a favorable matchup as Solecki has shown sound technique in all fields as well as continued improvement. In fact, Solecki somewhat reflects that of a young Wiman when the UFC was restarting the lightweight division. Wiman has never been submitted. Regardless, I’m favoring Solecki to do just that. Solecki via submission of RD1
- I was stoked at the possibility of Virna Jandiroba and Livinha Souza clashing to the point it was my favorite contest on the prelims. While there is disappointment on my part to losing that bout, I was happy to see Mallory Martin was called to replace Souza as she is one of the top women’s prospects outside of the UFC prior to getting the call. A hard-charging wrestler with ominous GnP, Martin will have a difficult time getting that side of her game going as Jandiroba is as wily as they come on the mat with elven of her fourteen career wins coming via submission. Even if Jandiroba can’t find the sub, she’s likely to neutralize Martin’s attack at the very least, leaving the contest to become a battle of attrition as neither has a distinct advantage on the feet. In a contest that close, I’ll favor the veteran Brazilian to find a way to emerge victorious. Jandiroba via decision
- The only reason a casual MMA fan would know the name of Makhmud Muradov is because he’s the only MMA fighter managed by Floyd Mayweather’s team. The Uzbekistan native is talented enough that it may not be long before he’s known for more than just that. A versatile striker who can lead the dance or fight off his back foot, Muradov showed well in his UFC debut against Alessio Di Chirico despite taking the contest very late. Underrated veteran Trevor Smith stands in his way. A couple of quick losses tainted Smith’s early UFC run, giving the impression of a weak chin. However, he’s done a better job of protecting his chin, has done a better job of incorporating his All-American wrestling pedigree, and become a more technical striker. Despite his improvements, Smith is also 38 and decidedly at a disadvantage in the athletic department. Plus, Muradov’s takedown defense has never been a weakness. The younger fighter should get the job done. Muradov via decision