Ah yes, Fight Night cards out of Canada. They’ve established a consistent level of quality for their cards. Not to be a hater on Canada, but the quality isn’t very good. No longer the hotbed of MMA it once was, it’s hard to piece together a top-to-bottom card of interesting fights that all feature Canadians. It isn’t just the retirement of Georges St-Pierre either.
Besides, he wouldn’t be on a Fight Night card. Rory MacDonald’s defection to Bellator is a big hit. The aging out of action fighters like Sam Stout and Patrick Cote over the years have hurt the depth more than many figured it would. The UFC’s underappreciation of the likes of Sarah Kaufman doesn’t help either. Basically, there isn’t a whole lot to pay attention to on these prelims for UFC Ottawa. Nonetheless, I’ll highlight what appears to have the most significance.
The prelims begin on ESPN+ at 5:00 PM ET/2:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Macy Chiasson (4-0) vs. Sarah Moras (5-4), Women’s Bantamweight
Though there are few who would have advocated for the continuance of The Ultimate Fighter, even fewer will challenge that the UFC didn’t get themselves a hell of a prospect in Chiasson out of the last season. One of the few prospects on the show who appeared to be a legit featherweight, the massive Chiasson appears to have found a way to slim down to 135 in an efficient manner. Whether she can still push the insane pace she previously showed at featherweight is unknown as she disposed of Gina Mazany in less than two minutes upon her bantamweight debut. If she can sustain that style over the course of 15 minutes, her constant volume and pressure will be difficult for anyone to deal with.
Moras has plenty of shortcomings, but where she is strong is the areas where the UFC wants to see Chiasson tested. Durable with good stamina and a slick submission game, Moras stands as good of a chance of lasting the full 15 minutes with Chiasson as anyone that would pose a reasonable challenge for Chiasson at this stage of her development. However, Moras’ wrestling and lack of volume are major concerns. Outside of a miracle sub, I don’t see a way Moras wins this. Chiasson via TKO of RD3
Arjan Bhullar (8-1) vs. Juan Adams (5-0), Heavyweight
There were many who were excited about Bhullar coming into the UFC in 2017. An Olympic wrestler representing Canada in 2012, his wrestling hasn’t been nearly as effective as many expected it to be through three UFC contests. Given his level of competition has been low in that time and he hasn’t exactly overwhelmed his opposition, the hype has dissipated around him. There is still hope as Bhullar is fairly young in his career and has shown steady progress in each of his bouts. Still, the progression has been far too incremental for the likes of most.
Perhaps the largest member of the UFC roster, Adams still has plenty of analysts excited about his future prospects. Though he slowed in his UFC debut against Chris de la Rocha, Adams pushed through the exhaustion to score a third round finish after pushing a hard pace early. Less than two years into his professional career, Adams is still in the phase of his career where he should be making massive leaps and bounds in his development. Perhaps Bhullar can slow down the pace of the contest by pushing and grinding him against the cage, but it would take a lot of energy to hold a man of Adams size for an extended period. Look for Adams to get another late finish. Adams via TKO of RD3
As for the rest…
- Aiemann Zahabi – younger brother of famed coach Firas – hasn’t been seen since being on the receiving end of a brutal spinning back elbow from Ricardo Ramos in November 2017. Now 31, it feels out of place to call the bantamweight a prospect at this point. Nonetheless, the technically sound Canadian should find a way to outpoint defensively deficient Vince Morales. Zahabi via decision
- Massive welterweight Nordine Taleb had a surprising 6-2 stretch to open his UFC career, only to drop two in a row, including being finished by strikes for the first time since the infancy of his career. He’ll get a step down in competition as newcomer Kyle Prepolac steps in on short notice for an injured Siyar Bahadurzada. That isn’t to say Prepolac is incapable of winning fights in the UFC, but he’d fare better against opponents in his natural weight class of lightweight than against Taleb. Taleb via TKO of RD1
- Kyle Nelson surprised many in his UFC debut when he pushed Diego Ferreira subbing in as a late notice replacement. Now, he gets to fight in his natural weight class at featherweight against a smaller opponent in Matt Sayles, a product of Alliance MMA. It’s a tough matchup to call as there isn’t a lot to separate the two, but I’ll favor the fighter with the intangibles in his favor. The Canadian gets the nod, perhaps in part to some home cooking. Nelson via decision
- It’s easy to forget Mitch Gagnon is still on the roster, having fought just once in the last four years. It’s hard to put much faith in a fighter who fights that infrequently, even if his opponent is an injury replacement for Brian Kelleher. Nonetheless, Cole Smith makes up for his lack of MMA contests with boxing and Muay thai experience. Throw in a six-inch height advantage and Gagnon’s reputation for gassing, Smith seems ripe to score an upset in his debut. Smith via decision