Given it’s an ESPN+ card, it isn’t a surprise UFC Rochester is lacking in marquee names. However, even if the names aren’t marquee, the card does have several names most fans that follow the UFC on a semi-regular basis would recognize. Charles Oliveira owns the record for most submission victories in the UFC. His opponent, Nik Lentz, has been around the promotion for a decade. Aspen Ladd has the look of a future title contender according to many. Her opponent, Sijara Eubanks, was scheduled to headline a major PPV at one point. There are reasons to catch the main card of UFC Rochester, I just wouldn’t say they’re major reasons.
The main card of begins on ESPN+ at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Aspen Ladd (7-0) vs. Sijara Eubanks (4-2), Women’s Bantamweight
A rematch from the Invicta organization, Eubanks is being forced up to bantamweight after several issues making the flyweight limit. If Eubanks could make the weight, it’s conceivable she could be getting ready for a title shot. After all, it was just this past November she was scheduled to headline UFC 230 for the women’s flyweight title. Alas, it will be interesting to see if she can still employ her bullying strategy despite not having the size advantage she did at 125. She has progressed as a striker since she last fought at bantamweight – which was against Ladd -- indicating it shouldn’t be the issue some believe it could be.
Ladd, the winner of their first contest, isn’t as diverse as Eubanks is on the feet. However, it isn’t like her basic boxing game is her primary weapon. Physical in the clinch and a beast in the top position, Ladd was the more physical presence in their first contest, stuffing takedowns and marching down the BJJ practitioner with constant pressure. While Eubanks has improved her striking, there hasn’t been a whole lot of proof that she’s improved off the back foot. Ladd is almost always moving forward and has made subtle improvements of her own. I expect to see her secure her second win over Eubanks. Ladd via decision
Antonio Carlos Junior (10-2, 1 NC) vs. Ian Heinisch (12-1), Middleweight
Whoever wins this contest is primed for a crack at the middleweight elite. Carlos Junior has been around the UFC for five years now, having entered the organization as a raw BJJ champion. He’s at the point where he doesn’t have to rely solely on his grappling, developing a functionable striking game and better timing on his takedowns. There are still concerns about ACJ’s gas tank as he tends to finish his contests early – clearly not a bad thing – but he’s also proving to be a more deadly backpack than Demian Maia, securing five of his seven UFC victories via RNC.
Heinisch is almost assuredly to have his grappling chops tested as his takedown defense is still a major question mark. However, he also has a seemingly endless gas tank and better grappling defense than anyone anticipated, surviving numerous ground assaults from Cezar Ferreira upon debuting in the UFC. The hardened American is phenomenally strong and as gritty as they get, though there are enough holes in his technique – both striking and grappling – that it feels like he’ll be exposed sooner rather than later. ACJ will find his back before it’s over and force a tap. Carlos Junior via submission of RD1
Charles Oliveira (26-8, 1 NC) vs. Nik Lentz (30-9-2, 1 NC), Lightweight
It isn’t often the UFC puts together trilogies outside of title fights. For some reason, they saw fit to do so with Oliveira and Lentz. It isn’t like there was a pressing reason to pair them together. Then again, each of their previous contests was fun….
It’s been interesting to see the evolution of Lentz. Though he’s always been a grinder with a penchant for slowing late, that narrative is more pronounced on both accounts as he has loaded up on the musculature in recent years. He’s also developed into a decent power striker with KO potential. However, not only is Lentz still a limited athlete, he’s also slower than ever before and not quite as durable. He has made up for that a bit with his savvy – hard not to after 42 career contests – but he’s at the point where it feels like his declining skills is outweighing his experience.
Despite those shortcomings, it’s no guarantee Oliveira is going to emerge with another win. The submission expert tends to come out like a like his hair is on fire, immediately seeking a takedown in hopes of snatching the first available submission. If he doesn’t get the submission quickly, he’s prone to going into survival mode in a hurry as he exhausts his gas tank. When Oliveira chooses to strike, he’s got an underrated Muay Thai base. However, Oliveira also has a tendency to quit when things get tough. Regardless, I think he’ll find an early finish of Lentz. If not, he’ll be in danger of letting the former collegiate wrestler grind him out. Oliveira via submission of RD1
As for the rest….
- The contest between Vicente Luque and Derrick Krantz is has a strong likelihood of being lopsided as Krantz steps in for Neil Magny on about five days notice. Despite being a newcomer, Krantz is no prospect at age 31 with 34 contests under his belt. He’s not going to become more than what he is and though he’s as tough as they come, he isn’t on the same level as Luque. With all eight of his UFC wins coming before the 15 minute time limit, it feels like a safe bet to say Luque finds a way to finish Krantz. Luque via TKO of RD2
- After a short-notice debut at a weight class above his natural home, Davi Ramos has been a whirling dervish of violence at lightweight, securing three straight RNC victories in the process. He welcomes Austin Hubbard, the reigning LFA lightweight champion, into the organization. Hubbard is an aggressive grinder with an endless gas tank, but his style plays right into Ramos’ strengths. Expect a fourth consecutive win for the Brazilian. Ramos via submission of RD2