There isn’t much to see in the early prelims of UFC 241… unless you are a completist (for which I would sheepishly raise my hand even if I wasn’t employed by Bloody Elbow) or find enjoyment in win-or-go-home contests. There are two women’s contests in the early prelims, none of the combatants possessing a winning record. That doesn’t mean the action will suck. There’s a reason the UFC has kept around the women on the early prelims despite the fact none of them have a winning UFC record. The one fighter on the early prelims with a winning record in the world’s largest MMA organization, Kyung Ho Kang, is a solid fighter, though many believe he was cheated out of his physical prime due to mandatory military service for all qualifying South Korean males. Basically, it’s a longshot any of these fighters become major players… but that doesn’t mean they can’t entertain.
The early prelims begin on ESPN+ or Fight Pass at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.
Kyung Ho Kang (15-9, 1 NC) vs. Brandon Davis (10-6), Bantamweight
Kang has looked better than ever since returning to the UFC from his military service. The biggest difference has been his confidence, showing no hesitancy in his attack whether on the ground or on his feet. A brutally strong wrestler and grappler, Kang’s durability has made it difficult to resist his attempts to take the fight to the ground. He’s no Demian Maia by any means, but he’s in the top half of the division for his prowess on the ground. Though he has improved, he’s still stiff on the feet and suffers the occasional defensive lapse.
Those reasons offer hope for Davis, who successfully made his bantamweight debut in his last appearance. His nonstop attack makes for excellent viewership, but it has also seen him fall prey to more tactical fighters who won’t be sucked into a brawl. Given Davis is incredibly durable, that type of atmosphere suits him well. He’s also traditionally had a deep gas tank, though there are questions about how well it will hold up now that he’s cutting an extra 10 pounds.
The biggest concern for Davis has been his takedown defense. He was taken down at will by Enrique Barzola and Zabit Magomedsharipov, eventually subbed by the latter. Kang isn’t as creative on the ground as the Russian, but he is heavier on top and difficult to shake. Kang’s chin has proven to be durable too, so he should withstand whatever Davis throws at him prior to getting his American counterpart to the ground. The question is whether he finds a sub or grinds out Davis to a decision. Kang via submission of RD2
As for the rest….
- Somebody in the UFC higher ups really likes Jodie Esquibel. The JacksonWink product has lost all three of her UFC appearances by decision, none of them being particularly close. A former professional boxer who’d benefit from the UFC adding an atomweight division, Esquibel’s lack of size has made it difficult for her to get inside her opponent’s range to rack up the damage. Fortunately for her, the UFC is giving her someone her same size in Hannah Cifers, owner of a professional Muay Thai background. Cifers offers a more diverse skill set on the feet, but she is also a worse defensive fighter… and that’s saying something given Esquibel’s own issues there. Esquibel’s doggedness should allow her to prevail. Esquibel via decision
- Many were expecting Sabina Mazo to be an exciting new addition to the women’s flyweight division when she debuted earlier this year. Instead, she came out flat and fell on her face, showing signs of stage fright. Nonetheless, the 22-year old Colombian knows who to use her lanky limbs well, keeping a jab in her opponent’s face and having put a pair of opponents to sleep with kicks to the head. It’s been well over a year since her opponent, Shana Dobson, stepped into the cage, but that may be a good thing for the inexperienced product of TUF. Dobson isn’t as technical, but she has more power in her fists and likes to move forward. Though Mazo’s reluctance to push a pace worries me – allowing her opponent to dictate the pace -- I’ll favor her ability to pick off an advancing Dobson in a close decision. Mazo via decision