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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cerrone - Early prelims preview

Get the scoop on the early action from UFC 246, highlighted by fan favorite flyweight Tim Elliott clashing with undefeated Askar Askarov.

Can someone notify me who in the hell is in charge of creating the order of UFC cards? I’m sure it’s a stupid question to be asking as Dana White, regardless of how much attention he pays to the roster at this point, assuredly has final say. Why else would DWCS alum constantly be in the featured position of the televised and early prelims? Those are the only fighters on the lower end of the totem pole he ever takes a serious look at anymore. Even then, it’s only a single fight he watches. Plus, there is the miserable treatment of the flyweights… a division Uncle Dana wanted to get rid of just last year. Those who pay close attention to the organization would almost unanimously claim the fight with the highest stakes and best chance for a FOTN bonus on the early prelims would be between Askar Askarov and Tim Elliott… flyweights. Instead, we get Aleksa Camur of five professional fights headlining the early prelims with Justin Ledet, owner of a two-fight losing streak. Sigh….

Note: One of these contests will be moved to the televised prelims due to the cancellation of the Grant Dawson and Chas Skelly contest. However, at the time of posting, which contest was going to be moved was unavailable.

The early prelims begin on ESPN+ at 6:30 PM ET/3:30 PM PT on Saturday.

Askar Askarov (10-0-1) vs. Tim Elliott (15-9-1), Flyweight

The unorthodox Elliott was a fan favorite long before he earned his title shot against former divisional kingpin Demetrious Johnson. A lot of that has to do with his lack of attention to defense as his fights tend to break down into all out brawls, but that also explains why he hasn’t found more success in the UFC, sporting a surprisingly disappointing 4-7 record in the world’s premier MMA organization. Three of those losses have come via submission as his aggression tends to lead him directly into sticky situations he can’t escape despite his own scrambling prowess.

To focus on Elliott’s aggression and tendency to fall into his opponent’s mitts is to neglect the technical improvements in his striking, both offensively and defensively. It’s notable that he was beating future title challenger Deiveson Figueiredo on the feet before going for an ill-advised takedown attempt. In fact, Elliott hasn’t been involved in a true brawl since beginning his second stint in the organization. If he can get the upper-hand on the mat, Elliott’s knowledge of submissions makes him dangerous to deal with… if he can get the advantage.

There’s no question Askarov will look to attack Elliott on the mat, and not just because that seems to be Elliott’s Achilles heel. Askarov is a hell of a grappler himself. He ran into some problems getting the scrappy Brandon Moreno to the mat, but he did a fine job of controlling him once Moreno was grounded. Well… at least he did when he wasn’t fatigued. Askarov faded hard against Moreno raising questions about his stamina. However, that hadn’t previously been an issue and the fight with Moreno took place in the high altitude of Mexico City. There’s a chance Elliott could expose that as the American is a cardio machine.

The key to this contest is how well Askarov performs in the standup. Elliott’s takedown defense is sturdier than Moreno’s, making it harder for Askarov to control Elliott for long portions the way he did Moreno. Askarov has surprised some with the power in his fists, but hasn’t shown the same type of consistent attack Elliott has flashed in his recent contests. It’s very much a coin flip, but I’ll favor Elliott to keep the fight standing and outpoint the tough Russian. Elliott via decision

  • I may have crapped on Aleksa Camur and Justin Ledet headlining the early prelims, but it hardly means it’s a bad matchup overall. For all his inexperience, Camur hasn’t been can crushing, facing strong opposition for someone with the miniscule amount of fights under his belt. None of those opponents have been as experienced as Ledet, who also has several boxing matches under his belt. Thus, it’s no surprise Ledet is technical on the feet with a heavy emphasis on his jab, but has been overwhelmed by far superior athletes since dropping down to 205 from heavyweight. Camur appears to be a solid athlete, but not on the level of Aleksandar Rakic or Johnny Walker, the two opponents who crushed Ledet. The logical voice in my head says Ledet has the chops to pick apart Camur much the same way he did Chase Sherman – the past opponent of Ledet’s I’d most compare Camur’s abilities to -- but I also fear Ledet’s confidence may be shattered. I’ll go with the youngster, with great hesitance. Camur via TKO of RD2
  • An argument could be made that Brian Kelleher is one of the more underappreciated members of the bantamweight division. It isn’t that he’ll ever climb up the ranks to challenge for a title; his lack of physical gifts ensure that won’t happen. It’s that he’s always willing to lay it all on the line; kill or be killed. That’s why only one of his six UFC contests has gone the distance, half of them not even leaving the first round. His ability to find submissions in the midst of a scramble is his best skill, but he’s just as prone to getting caught himself. He welcomes another DWCS alum in Ode Osbourne, an unorthodox striker with lanky limbs. However, despite his striking prowess, most of his stoppage victories have come via submission as he’s a creative ground artist himself. I’ll favor the newcomer as Kelleher has struggled with the more athletic opposition… and Osbourne has a sizeable advantage there. Osbourne via submission of RD2
  • If you’re like me, you figured JJ Aldrich would possibly pick up one of two wins before washing out of the UFC. Instead, the workmanlike Aldrich continues to improve six fights into her UFC career, and I’m not talking minor improvements either. Aldrich has gained confidence, making her sound technique and efficient angles that much more effective as she throws her combinations with authority. However, the improvements shown by Sabina Mazo between her UFC debut and her sophomore effort were as much as a coach could ask for out of a pupil. Known for her outside striking and head kicks upon her entry, it was her work in the clinch and takedowns that allowed her to obliterate Shana Dobson in one of the more dominant performances of 2019. Aldrich is an obvious step up, but Mazo is young enough in her career that another massive leap in performance wouldn’t be a major surprise. The youngster takes a hard-earned decision in one of the hardest contests to pick for the evening. Mazo via decision