Given many expect Valentina Shevchenko to easily walk over Liz Carmouche, the fight many are most anticipating from UFC Montevideo is the co-main event between Vicente Luque and Mike Perry. Sure, it isn’t a title fight like the former. Hell, the two of them are still a way away from having an impact on the title picture at welterweight. Nonetheless, the two of them almost always produce a banger of a contest to the extent their six combined Performance bonuses seems low for their usual expectations. There could be some other worthwhile highlights on the main card as there are a couple of other contests with promise, but that’s the only contest I feel confident in highlighting as must-see-TV.
The main card begins on ESPN+ at 8:00 PM ET/5:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Vicente Luque (16-6-1) vs. Mike Perry (13-4), Welterweight
Those who pay close attention to the sport know what a buzzsaw Luque is. Since dropping his UFC debut, he’s won nine of ten contests, securing a finish in every single one of those victories. Not even Perry, noted for his penchant for violence, can match that type of track record. The biggest question mark has been his quality of competition as he has been subject to some questionable matchmaking at times. Nonetheless, Luque has shown gradual improvement.
Though Perry’s 6-4 record over a similar stretch of time isn’t nearly as impressive, he has consistently faced tougher competition than Luque in that time, partially explaining his inferior record. Because of that, Perry’s improvement has been more noticeable whereas Luque largely seems to truck over opponent after opponent. For instance, Perry effectively used his brute physicality to bully and exhaust Alex Oliveira in his last appearance, no small feat... at least the bullying part. Though the general thought is that Perry is a reckless brawler, that’s far from the story. Perry can be far too patient for his own good, sometimes waiting too long for the perfect counter. It has worked to an extent as it plays perfectly into Perry’s powerful striking – and he tends to let his fists fly once he connects -- but he’ll need to continue making adjustments if he hopes to advance up the welterweight ladder.
For some reason, hard-hitting is rarely one of the first descriptions attached to Luque despite six of his nine wins coming via strikes, though it should be. Part of that can be attributed to his well-roundedness. Luque’s base is his BJJ grappling, developing into a skilled and accurate combination puncher in the process of his career. His striking isn’t limited to his fists either. However, Luque’s defense is still his biggest weakness, trusting too much in his sturdy chin. While that has worked thus far, no one on Luque’s ledger hits nearly as hard as Perry.
The wild card in this contest is Perry’s attempts to improve his wrestling and grappling. It isn’t that those efforts have been in vain. It’s whether he feels impressed to put those skills on display, potentially walking into a submission much as he did against Donald Cerrone. Luque is more than capable of producing a similar finish. However, Perry showed restraint in putting his expanded skill set to use against Oliveira, sticking with what he does best. If Perry fights like he did with Oliveira, he’s got the takedown defense to keep the fight where he wants it and Luque’s defense is porous enough that Perry should find plenty of opportunities to land a bomb. That said, there are numerous different outcomes to this contest that don’t seem like a longshot. Perry via KO of RD2
Volkan Oezdemir (15-4) vs. Ilir Latifi (14-6, 1 NC), Light Heavyweight
After opening up 2018 fighting Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title, Oezdemir now finds himself with his back up against a wall, coming into his contest with Ilir Latifi on a three-fight losing streak. Granted, aside from Cormier, his other losses came against Anthony Smith and Dominick Reyes, who are no slouches either. Regardless, Oezdemir NEEDS the win against Latifi if he wants to continue being regarded as one of the best at 205.
The same type of pressure isn’t on Latifi as most feel he’s already bumped against his ceiling as a gatekeeper to the top ten. Short for the division at 5’10”, Latifi has always been prone to being picked apart from the outside by skilled strikers. Fortunately for him, the light heavyweight division has largely been devoid of such fighters. It has allowed the stout Swede to typically close the distance, pushing his opponent into the cage, and look for takedowns. The result is often drab for viewing purposes. Nonetheless, Latifi is amongst the strongest – if not the strongest – competitors in the division. If he can connect with one of his overhand bombs, the results are typically devastating.
Oezdemir may prove to be one of the rare such fighters with the striking skill to be kryptonite for Latifi. He’s accurate with his punches and has produced incredible power in close quarters, making clinching against the fence a risky proposition against him. However, the Switzerland native has also been prone to rushing out of the gate without restraint, leading to him depleting his energy levels at a rapid pace. To his credit, Oezdemir did show more patience in his point battle with Reyes, remaining effective even in the third round. If Oezdemir’s energy levels aren’t an issue, his takedown defense has been strong, something he’ll need against Latifi. Otherwise, it won’t be a surprise to see Latifi drag him down and either pound him out or submit him.
Even though Oezdemir looked better in his last contest when he paced himself, he still came out of it on the short end. Does that mean he’s going to abandon a measured pace? If he does, he’d better hope he finishes Latifi, a feat that may not be impossible, but has proven to be difficult. Part of the Oezdemir mystique has been shattered as two of his victims, Misha Cirkunov and Jimi Manuwa, have gone a combined 1-5 since their loss to Oezdemir. Maybe they were chinny to begin with. Regardless of whether Oezdemir’s power is an illusion, his chin is solid and he should be able to outpoint the slow-paced Swede. Oezdemir via decision
Rodolfo Vieira (5-0) vs. Oskar Piechota (11-1-1), Middleweight
There are many who are excited about the UFC debut of Vieira. A five-time world BJJ champion with other grappling accolades up the wazoo, Vieira may be the successor to Demian Maia as the best pure grappler on the UFC roster. There are reasons to doubt he’ll find similar success as being a dominant grappler isn’t enough in modern MMA to be a top-notch fighter. Maia was forced to develop his striking and wrestling before becoming the title contender he developed into. At this point, Vieira hasn’t shown much striking – low kicks being the only thing he’s shown thus far – and though his wrestling is further along, it’s still a work in progress. Regardless, if Vieira can get the fight to the ground, there’s always a strong chance he’ll find the submission finish.
Piechota remains a mystery at this point. Though he won his first two UFC contests in impressive fashion, they came over Jonathan Wilson and Tim Williams, hardly notable victories. Once he got in the cage with a savvy Gerald Meerschaert, Piechota seemed to wilt as soon as he faced some adversity, being submitted by the Roufusport product. Given Piechota is best known for his own grappling prowess, that’s cause for concern. Fortunately for the Pole, no one doubts he’s the superior striker and has the length to cause problems for Vieira as the Brazilian will look to close the distance.
Asking Piechota to keep the fight standing for 15 minutes is a tall order. That isn’t to say it’s out of the realm of possibility that he could put away Vieira on the feet – check out his head kick KO on the regional scene – but I haven’t been impressed by his ability to keep himself vertical when that’s his goal. Vieira should find success in his UFC debut. Vieira via submission of RD1
Enrique Barzola (15-4-1) vs. Bobby Moffett (14-4), Featherweight
It was a given Barzola, a native of Peru, would be on this card as soon as the location was announced. A product of TUF Latin America 2, Barzola developed into a legit UFC caliber fighter once he was able to begin training full time. With endless cardio, Barzola’s attack has largely centered around constant takedowns and low kicks when he’s on the outside. His funky boxing has been a later development – and still needs some work – but is functional at the very least.
There’s a good chance Barzola’s won’t get much of a chance to show his improvements on the feet as Moffett rarely looks to stand and trade himself. A grinder with a deep bag of submissions, Moffett’s own standup is more limited than Barzola’s, largely due to Moffett’s athleticism being severely limited. Regardless, Moffett makes up for his limitations with his intelligence and physical strength, proving to be extremely difficult to take to the ground when he doesn’t want to go. Despite Barzola being a dogged wrestler, his limitations as a wrestler were on display when he couldn’t get Kevin Aguilar to the mat. Will he run into the same problem against Moffett?
The big difference between Aguilar and Moffett is Moffett wants the fight to go to the ground at some point. Submissions are his bread and butter. However, Moffett dropped his last contest when Bryce Mitchell wiggled his way out of a constant stream of sticky situations due to his constant doggedness… a trait that I’ve already used to describe Barzola. Barzola’s athletic advantage and deep cardio should be enough to outlast Moffett, though not without a struggle. Barzola via decision
As for the rest….
- Any time the UFC goes into a new country, they sign a native from there to entice the home crowd to make their way out. This card is no exception. Luis Eduardo Garagorri is the hometown favorite in this one. An undefeated featherweight, Garagorri is aggressive and fun to watch, but he’s nowhere near ready for the UFC. However, the UFC is giving him about as big of a softball as it can in Humberto Bandenay. Bandenay is a heavy striker with far more experience than Garagorri despite being considerably younger. However, Bandenay hasn’t proven himself to be UFC caliber either. It’s impossible to feel comfortable picking either way in this contest, but I’ll go with Bandenay due to his experience. Bandenay via TKO of RD1