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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 237: Namajunas vs. Andrade - ESPN prelims preview

Get the scoop on the televised prelims of UFC 237, featuring UFC Hall of Famer BJ Penn looking to return to his winning ways against energetic veteran Clay Guida.

If you’re an old school MMA fan, the televised prelims for UFC 237 are likely to prove depressing. Appearances by BJ Penn and Rogerio Nogueira once upon a time proved to be a titillating viewing experience for MMA purveyors. However, that was about a decade ago. At this point, long after their primes have passed, it’s more painful than anything when watching their performances in the cage given their advanced age. After their many battles in the forum, their bodies can no longer take the type of punishment they could in their younger days and – even worse – their creaky bodies can’t avoid the punishment very well either. And yet, they represent the contests the UFC is promoting for this portion of the card. Oh dear….

The prelims for UFC 237 on ESPN begin at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.

Rogerio Nogueira (23-8) vs. Ryan Spann (15-5), Light Heavyweight

While there is no doubt Nogueira isn’t the fighter he was in his prime – somewhat belying my comments in the opening paragraph -- he isn’t completely shot. The smaller of the Nogueira twins has won two of his last three contests. He just needs to keep the fight standing where he can utilize his savvy and technical boxing to pile up the damage as he can still put an opponent to sleep. However, it should be noted that those two victims – Sam Alvey and Patrick Cummins – are limited strikers. The question is whether Spann is diverse enough in his striking arsenal to avoid being lured into the type of fight Nogueira wants.

Spann isn’t an explosive athlete, nor is he a technical marvel, which is why there is cause for concern regarding his chances in this contest. However, even if he isn’t explosive or a marvel, he is a sound athlete with a long frame and reach, a combination that has proven to be troublesome even for opponents that have been able to turn him away. What he is best known for is his submission game, having secured two-thirds of his wins by eliciting a tap. Then again, that will likely prove to be a moot point given Nogueira’s well-renown submission game.

A year ago, I probably would be picking Nogueira in this one. It isn’t because he’s showing greater signs of age, but because Spann has shown signs of becoming a more methodical fighter. If he’s unable to get Nogueira out early – a distinct possibility given only three of Spann’s wins left the opening round – he should still be able to outpoint the creaky vet. Spann via TKO of RD1

Irene Aldana (9-4) vs. Bethe Correia (10-3-1), Women’s Bantamweight

For many, Correia has become a punchline. She’s a terrible athlete on the small side of the bantamweight division, meaning her ceiling is limited. However, had she not received the title shot against Ronda Rousey a few years ago – one Correia certainly didn’t deserve – her story of using MMA to get into shape and becoming a professional fighter in the world’s elite MMA organization would be one most fans would spout with admiration. For all her shortcomings, Correia is a tight and technical boxer with an intense determination few can match. Aside from Rousey’s physical domination, it has made her a tough out for all her opponents.

Aldana has some similarities to her opponent. She’s a solid boxer, durable, and quite determined herself. What Aldana possesses that Correia doesn’t is a lanky frame, though she hasn’t fully been able to utilize her length to her advantage. Even if the touted Mexican still has some major defensive holes, she can dish it out with the best of them. Correia’s attack isn’t diverse enough to avoid getting into a firefight, an environment Aldana has grown more comfortable with. Regardless of who wins, this should be a fun one. Aldana via decision

BJ Penn (16-13-2) vs. Clay Guida (34-18), Lightweight

Let’s give the UFC credit. If they’re going to continue to utilize Penn – and they will because someone else will if they don’t – at least they’re giving him opponents who aren’t likely to deal him too much damage. Last contest, it was renowned submission artist, Ryan Hall. For this contest, he’s getting longtime veteran Clay Guida. Guida is high energy and an aggressive wrestler, but he’s never been noted for his power. Penn showed he still has some power when he floored Dennis Siver in 2017, but Siver also represented a less active opponent than Guida. Far less active.

Penn still appears to be fairly durable, eating a lot of punishment before succumbing. However, given his inability to score any significant offense, eating punishment is pretty much the only thing he seems to do any more, meaning it isn’t necessarily a good thing. I think I’d rather see him get knocked out of a contest quickly rather than endure an extended beating. Guida is notable for being dropped at a high frequency, but also proving difficult to put away… provided he doesn’t walk into a sub. That’s Penn’s best avenue for victory, though I’ll admit I don’t see it happening. Guida outworks the generally immobile legend with ease. Guida via TKO of RD2

As for the rest….

  • Kurt Holobaugh’s return to the UFC has yet to earn him his first victory in the Octagon, but he has developed a reputation as a hell of an action fighter in the process. He’s hoping cutting down to 155 as opposed to 145 will produce some positive changes as he clashes with talented Brazilian, Thiago Moises. The 24-year old Moises has shown a well-rounded skill set and an ability to adapt. It’ll be a close contest, but Moises finds a way to outpoint the pathologically aggressive Holobaugh. Moises via decision