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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Minneapolis: Ngannou vs. Dos Santos - Prelims preview

Get the scoop on the early UFC action from Minneapolis, including a clash of styles as Brazilian submission specialist Vinicius Castro collides with former college football star Eryk Anders.

It’s been almost seven years since the UFC touched down in Minnesota, all the way back to when Bigfoot Silva and Travis Browne headlined. Yeah… it’s been a while. The UFC appears to be trying to make it up to the Minnesotan people by providing them with some high-quality contests at the top of the card. At the bottom there is… well, a bunch of matches. The most intriguing contests on the prelims were altered due to injury and the replacements aren’t quite up to snuff in terms of quality. I’m not trying to rip on them as they will no doubt do everything in their power to put on the best performance possible, but it’ll be a surprise if they exceed the expectations of the originally scheduled contests. Regardless, I’m here to give a lowdown on all the prelim action.

The UFC Minneapolis prelims begin Saturday at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT on ESPN.

Eryk Anders (11-4) vs. Vinicius Castro (9-2), Light Heavyweight

It wasn’t that long ago the UFC saw Anders as a future star, headlining cards against the likes of Lyoto Machida and Thiago Santos. Since then, Anders has lost three straight contests with his most recent loss, a three round beatdown at the hands of Khalil Rountree, being the most disheartening. Anders scored next-to-zero significant offense, largely proving to be a punching back for the kickboxer. No one denies Anders’ prodigious physical talents and toughness. It’s his ability to put together consistent offense over the course of 15 minutes as he’s almost assuredly to come out with an L if the fight goes to decision. Anders has plenty of KO power, it’s just a matter of him producing enough offense to actually secure the KO.

Fortunately for Anders, Castro appears to be a significant step down from the level of competition Anders has been facing lately. The Brazilian product is a poor athlete, showing poor fluidity and moving through the cage at a glacial pace. However, that doesn’t mean Castro doesn’t pose any sort of danger. With eight submission victories out of his nine overall – coming from a wide variety of methods – Castro by far represents the most dangerous ground fighter Anders has faced thus far. The problem for Castro will be getting Anders to the mat as Castro’s takedowns consist of wading into the clinch and searching for trips as his wrestling leaves much to be desired.

This could very well be a trap fight for Anders. Though he has all the physical advantages in the world over Castro, his confidence – generally a good thing – could be his downfall. It isn’t hard to see him allowing Castro to close the distance and securing a quick takedown. Anders has proven surprisingly difficult to submit in the past, but grappling with the likes of Tim Williams is a far cry from Castro. Nonetheless, I have to believe Anders has learned something from his recent hardships and should be able to dominate Castro on the feet, much like Alonzo Menifield did. Anders via TKO of RD2

As for the rest….

  • One of the contests that received a big hit was Ricardo Ramos looking to throwdown with Sergio Pettis. When Pettis pulled up lame, Oregon product Journey Newson stepped up to fill the void. Newson has been steadily showing more power as he progresses in his career, securing his three KO/TKO finishes in his last four contests. However, there doesn’t appear to be any standout physical tools possessed by the newcomer to indicate he could be a major player moving forward. On the flip side, Ramos is a very lanky 135er with a diverse Muay Thai style and a dangerous submission game. Ramos can be reckless, so a Newson victory isn’t out of the question, but it is unlikely. Ramos via submission of RD2
  • Roufusport product Jordan Griffin was supposed to welcome Chas Skelly back from a long layoff, only for Skelly to be another product to suffer an injury. Thus, Team Alpha Male product Vince Murdock receives his chance to fight in the Octagon. If you know anything about Team Alpha Male, you know the majority of their products consist of hard-charging wrestlers with a penchant for the guillotine. Aside from the guillotine, the stout Murdock is no exception. Griffin proved to be a formidable scrambler with toughness to spare in his UFC debut against a surging Dan Ige. He packs a solid punch too. His edge in experience should be enough for him to overcome the newcomer. Griffin via decision
  • It’s do-or-die time for lightweights Jared Gordon and Dan Moret, both entering this contest on two-fight losing streaks. Gordon entered the promotion as the more hyped of the two, a fast-paced pressure fighter who rarely gives his opponent an inch of breathing room. Previously, his durability allowed him to utilize the style to great effect, but he’s been finished in his two most recent contests. Moret relies a lot on pressure too, though he looks more for the submission one he gets the fight to the mat as opposed to the GnP approach of Gordon. I favor Gordon’s brand of physicality as Moret doesn’t possess the KO threat of Gordon’s previous opponents. Gordon via TKO of RD3
  • There isn’t a whole lot to go on for the contest between Dalcha Lungiambula and Dequan Townsend. This contest would feel more at home on LFA. Both combatants are making their UFC debuts and Townsend is fighting two weight classes up from his normal home of welterweight. Granted, he is a huge welterweight at 6’3”, but he’s rail thin at light heavyweight. Fortunately for him, Lungiambula isn’t a large 205er, but the champion from the South African circuit is at least used to banging it out with larger opponent. Plus, his judo background and questionable grappling skills from Townsend – not to mention taking the fight with less than a week’s notice after Justin Ledet pulled out – has me favoring him. Lungiambula via TKO of RD2
  • Amanda who? That’s what many are asking as Amanda Ribas hasn’t participated in a professional competition in three years thanks to a suspension. That cage wasn’t even a UFC cage, receiving the suspension even before debuting. At that time, Ribas was super-aggressive in getting the fight to the ground, pursuing the finish with submissions or ground strikes once the fight was there. However, a lot can change in three years. Her opponent, Emily Whitmire, is a great example of that, showing massively improved wrestling to greatly increase the effectiveness of her slick submissions. There is no reason to feel comfortable making any pick in this contest given the wild card nature of Ribas, but I’ll go with the visible improvement I’ve seen in Whitmire. Whitmire via submission of RD1
  • There may not be a more disappointing heavyweight prospect in the last few years than Junior Albini. After an impressive upset over a tough Timothy Johnson in Albini’s UFC debut, he’s dropped three in a row since, looking worse with each subsequent appearance. The big Brazilian is a deceptive athlete with solid power, but has cost himself each time with terrible cage awareness and IQ. His opponent, Maurice Greene, has been subject to lapses in judgement himself, though he has showed improvement in that area recently. The lanky kickboxer has also improved his ground game, but I doubt it’ll be enough to catch Albini in a trap. I’ll go with my head instead of my gut and pick Albini. Albini via decision