Coming off what appears to be the most impactful PPV of the year, it’s naturally going to feel like the following event is a major downer. Going from the somewhat surprising retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov to what appears to be the UFC forcing Anderson Silva out the door doesn’t help with that feeling either.
Regardless, the prelims… well, they’re hit and miss. There are some prospects with an abundance of promise and others whom generate minimal excitement. There are also names that were formerly dark horses to emerge as contenders, though they never did fulfill that promise in Alexander Hernandez and Cortney Casey. Given there is so much that is up in the air with the current pandemic, it’s tough to say whether it’s worth tuning into these prelims on Halloween. I’d probably say no under normal circumstances, but with trick or treating and parties a likely no go, watching willing participants play face punchy isn’t the worst option in the world.
Anyway, on to the previews!
- After his explosive debut that saw him dispatch of the respected Beneil Dariush in just 42 seconds, it’s all been downhill for Alexander Hernandez. Not that Hernandez hasn’t won any contests since his debut, but those victories have been nip and tuck with minimal entertainment value. To be fair, it would appear some of that can be attributed to Hernandez attempting to develop a more patient style. Hernandez has the physical skills to pull it off, but he doesn’t seem comfortable sitting back on his heels and play counter puncher. It might be good for him to return to his aggressive roots against Chris Gruetzemacher, a hard-nosed grinder who has struggled make regular appearances due to injuries. Gruetzemacher pushes a hard pace and is willing to eat a shot or two to deliver his own brawling style of offense. Unfortunately for Gruetzemacher, he doesn’t have a lot of power, nor does he have a lot of speed. Gruetzemacher just doesn’t have a lot of above average physical skills. Hernandez is head and shoulders above Gruetzemacher in terms of athleticism and power. Throw in the fact that Hernandez’s wrestling technique at least just as good and there is no good reason he should drop this contest. The UFC is giving him an excellent opportunity to right his ship. Even if he decides to stay the course as a counter striker, he should still be able to do enough to come out on top. Hernandez via TKO of RD3
- One of the more anticipated debuts out of this summer’s DWCS alumni, the time has arrived for Adrian Yanez. Though it could be argued he should have been signed by the UFC earlier, he made it in on the back of an explosive 39 second finish. Possessing long arms that belie his average frame – for bantamweight – Yanez is miles ahead of other regional prospects with his striking technique, effectively setting up his opponents for attacks as opposed to just waiting for an opening. What has kept him back from making it to the UFC prior to this point was his struggles with wrestling. Fortunately for Yanez, that isn’t the forte of Victor Rodriguez, a late replacement for Aaron Phillips. On the small side, Rodriguez is a spark plug with plenty of aggression, constantly on the look for the finish. He hasn’t shown one-punch power, but he doesn’t stop swinging once he has hurt his opponent, especially when the fight has hit the mat. The key will be whether Rodriguez can get his wrestling going as he’ll have issues navigating Yanez’s range. Rodriguez isn’t bereft of takedowns, but he’s also not used to facing competition the level of the well-tested Yanez. Regardless, it should be a lot of fun. Yanez via TKO of RD2
- Wait… Sean Strickland is still on the UFC roster? At one point, Strickland looked like one of the most promising prospects in the promotion. Now, after a two-year absence, many forgot he was still an entity. After spending most of his UFC career at welterweight, Strickland has opted to move up to middleweight. It could prove to be very beneficial as Strickland appeared to spend large chunks of his fights looking to conserve energy as he was cutting a lot of weight at 170. Perhaps now he’ll be more inclined to utilize his wrestling and physicality to greater effect. It isn’t like he didn’t find success largely employing a jab, but it always felt like Strickland was holding back. It’ll be difficult for him to do so against Jack Marshman, a brawler out of Wales. Marshman is a skilled boxer with an underrated ground game. Not that he’s a threat on the mat, but he has better survival instincts than he gets credit for. The problem is, his reputation on the mat is about as bad as it gets. Marshman should be more than competitive on the feet with Strickland. I just don’t think he has ground skills to be competitive, nor does he have the consistent power to trust he’ll get Strickland out of there. Not that it isn’t possible, but it appears to be a less likely outcome than Strickland pounding him out on the mat. Strickland via TKO of RD3
- The story for Jason Witt and Cole Williams is incredibly similar. Both were longtime regional vets before getting their short notice call to the UFC. Both were dispatch of very quickly in their UFC debuts. Neither looks like they have the physical tools to carve out a meaningful UFC career, especially given there are either in or approaching their mid-30’s. It seems like a safe bet to say the best opportunity for either one to pick up a UFC win would be right here against one another. Of course, that in itself might be reason to believe this fight will go to a draw, but I digress. Williams is the more technical striker with the lankier frame while Witt is the more powerful of the two with somewhat of a bully mentality. The issue for Witt is his power doesn’t translate to his striking; it’s mostly relegated to his double legs and top pressure. I’ll favor Witt as he’s been the busier fighter while facing better competition, but it’s hard to see this as anything other than a fight that feels better suited for a regional card. Witt via decision
- Can someone explain to me why Justin Ledet continues to ply his trade at light heavyweight? After opening his UFC career with three wins at heavyweight, the former professional boxer dropped to 205… and hasn’t won a fight since. A plus athlete at heavyweight, Ledet was able to dance around the plodding big men and wear them down, even if he didn’t have traditional heavyweight KO power. Now the inferior athlete, Ledet has been hoping his length and boxing technique can make up for the advantages he lost in the move. Given Dustin Jacoby has a similar background – former kickboxer – with a similarly lanky frame, Ledet may not even have those advantages to fall on. To be fair, Jacoby is the worst athlete Ledet has faced in the division, meaning Ledet might be able to pull this one out, especially if Jacoby fades down the stretch as he has done before. Despite that possibility, I like Jacoby’s abilities in the clinch and the potential mental block facing Ledet. It can be hard to remain confident in the face of three-fight losing streak when you were previously unbeaten. Jacoby via decision
- Priscila Cachoeira will always be remembered for being on the receiving end of one of the most one-sided beatdowns in UFC history. She has been able to give herself some form of retribution by securing a UFC win by KO’ing Shana Dobson, but that will always be her legacy. The beatdown came due to her incredible toughness and determination, refusing to give up as Valentina Shevchenko laid into her. No doubt those traits are more useful against lesser competition, giving her more time to land the heavy haymaker she’ll look to land cleanly, about the only reliable route to victory for her. There’s a good chance she can catch Cortney Casey, but no guarantee the intensely durable former soccer player will go out in the process. Casey isn’t a model of discipline either, but she is more technical, a far superior athlete, and a functional ground game. Given Cachoeira gives as little attention to defense as possible, Casey should be able to put one hell of a beatdown on her Brazilian counterpart. Casey via TKO of RD3
- There’s still plenty of reasons to feel like Miles Johns has a bright future, but a lot of that depends upon whether the youngster is capable of learning from his mistakes. It made sense for him to work on his standup on the regional scene as he was physically superior to his opposition and needed the reps in a real fight to make strides. Hell, he eeked out a win in his UFC debut that way. However, he abandoned his wrestling base in the process and ended up being KO’d by a better striker in Mario Bautista. Johns has a good jab, but lacks the dynamism on the feet to be effective without the threat of a takedown. Kevin Natividad will try to make him think twice about taking him to the mat given the UFC newcomer is a tricky grappler who could make Johns pay for utilizing his wrestling. In fact, Natividad appears to be the more dangerous fighter on the feet given his brawling nature and power. However, Natividad is leans towards being reckless with his attack. Johns is physically gifted and disciplined enough that he should be able to catch Natividad in those occasions with a counter or a reactive takedown. Tough contest to call, but I’m favoring Johns. Johns via decision