There’s a reason all of the attention for this UFC Vegas 14 card has gone towards the main event: there’s nothing else worth paying a lot of attention to. To be fair to the preliminary contests, that’s been fairly typical with the Fight Night cards during the pandemic… so I guess this is your typical preliminary card. It does lean more towards the young prospects than it does the older vets clinging to their jobs, but none of these competitors are anywhere near arriving at their final destination — unless making it to the UFC ends up being their final destination. Regardless, every contest is well made with none of the contests having a heavy favorite. Isn’t that what we want out of our fights?
- Scrappy is one of those adjectives that some take pride in while others shy from it. Whether she loves it or hates it, Ashley Yoder is best defined as scrappy. She doesn’t pack a wallop. She isn’t a top-notch athlete. In fact, she rarely seems to be the more physically gifted fighter in the cage. But damn it if she isn’t in every fight she’s in until the end. A cardio machine who has made visible strides in her boxing and wrestling since she made her UFC debut in late 2016, Yoder is also double-tough, never having been finished in her career despite often finding herself in some sticky situations. There’s a good chance she’ll find herself in some again as Miranda Granger developed a reputation as a submission specialist on the regional scene. That hasn’t translated in two UFC contests, but that’s also partially been by choice as she showed she bang on the feet, utilizing her length against Hannah Goldy. Unfortunately for her, Yoder has the longer reach and has no quit in her. If Granger can replicate a similarly disciplined approach as she did with Goldy, she should take the W. The problem there is Yoder tends to disrupt whatever her opponent’s strategy is. It doesn’t always lead to victory for her, but I think it does here. Yoder via decision
- Rhys McKee is best known for being one of the Khamzat Chimaev’s early victims. In other words, most UFC fans don’t know what he can and can’t do. Formerly a massive lightweight at 6’2” with a 78” reach, the lanky McKee decided he was done with cutting that much weight. There’s a reason to be wary of the move as McKee has been bullied by strong wrestlers at lightweight. Now he anticipates being able to fight off larger opponents at 170? While Chimaev appears to be a force of nature, McKee offered him nothing. Then again, Alex Morono is no Chimaev. In fact, Morono has never secured a single takedown of record in his UFC run despite 10 appearances. What Morono does have going for him is an increasingly technical striking game and an improving fight IQ. He’ll need to use those to his advantage as his typically deep gas tank and aggression will likely be matched by the longer McKee. Should Morono discover his wrestling, McKee is active off his back with some solid submission skills. There’s a route to victory for both, but there’s also a way for each to counter those routes. Morono’s additional experience against a tougher quality of opponent has me leaning in his direction. Morono via decision
- It’s time for the UFC to let Jose Quinonez sink or swim. Despite being on the UFC roster since 2014, his best win in that time is Teruto Ishihara. As charismatic as Ishihara is – who can forget “I love my bitches!” – he didn’t develop into the fighter the UFC hoped he’d be. Quinonez was protected for a long time, though he was offered as the sacrificial lamb to a returning Sean O’Malley earlier this year. Quinonez is a big, physical presence with solid boxing fundamental and a solid top game. The lack of dynamism has held him back from being more than a low-level gatekeeper, a role the UFC can easily fill. Louis Smolka is another favorite of the UFC brass who feels like he’s passed his expiration date on the roster. The Hawaiian is in his second stint, his first derailed by alcoholism. He’s overcome that, but his confidence has taken a hit and perhaps even his body. Smolka’s attack is more diverse – he’s an excellent scrambler, possesses a strong clinch attack, and has a strong arsenal of kicks – but I don’t think he can deal with Quinonez’s physicality. Quinonez via decision
- One of the most improbable streaks in all of MMA came to an end: for 17 consecutive contests, Randa Markos didn’t put together a streak of any type, alternating wins, losses, and draws throughout that time. Unfortunately for Markos, she didn’t end that run in the way she wanted, securing consecutive losses. Markos has no one to blame but herself, diving into the guard of Mackenzie Dern, displaying the level of fight IQ that many believe has been holding her back from ever being a true contender. She’s got good wrestling, sound submissions, and aggressive standup. However, she isn’t excellent in any one area and can’t ever put everything together in a single contest. She welcomes Japanese newcomer Kanako Murata, the most recent Invicta strawweight champion to vacate the title. On the small side – even for strawweight – Murata is most at home on the mat, utilizing trips, throws, and well-timed shots to get the fight to the ground. Her lack of size hurts her on the feet as she tries an in-and-out approach, not always to the greatest of success. Keeping the fight standing is probably Markos best shot at success. The problem is, I see no reason to trust her at this stage as her confidence appears to be shot. Murata via decision
- Every so often, a fighter who is greater than the sum of their parts comes around. Geraldo de Freitas would be one of those guys. A lot of that has to do with his unorthodox style – constant feints and underhanded punches to the body – as opponents aren’t quite sure what to make of him. He’s a competent grappler, his wrestling has been greater than the sum of its parts thus far, and he does a solid job of using his length to make up for his middling athleticism. If he uses those traits, he might be able to squeak by the favored Tony Gravely. Gravely is a plus athlete with a surprisingly long reach given his shorter frame. However, that reach isn’t as long as de Freitas’ and Gravely showed a weakness to the strong grappling shops of Brett Johns. If Gravely can close the distance, he has fast hands and good boxing in the pocket. There’s no reason to think Gravely won’t be able to enforce his will as de Freitas, though sound on the mat, isn’t the caliber of Johns. Gravely via decision
- The road for Dontale Mayes hasn’t been easy. He dropped his first contest on DWCS, needing two wins on the show before Uncle Dana gave him a contract. Then, when he gets to the UFC, he’s pit against two of the more promising heavyweights in recent memory, dropping both of those contests. There is a reason the UFC hasn’t given up on him. He’s got an ideal heavyweight frame at 6’6” with an 81” reach and plus athleticism to go with it. He’s improved his boxing and takedown defense, but still needs work on his grappling. Then again, it isn’t like there are many heavyweights who actively pursue grappling. Well, if you count wrestling as grappling, Roque Martinez will pursue it. A throwback to the early years of MMA, Martinez is compact, durable, and a better athlete than he appears, though that isn’t saying much. Martinez is a handful if he can get the top position on the mat as his GnP is very heavy. The problem is, that’s about his only route to victory. Mayes still has a lot of development to do, but he’s got the tools to dispose of Martinez. Mayes via TKO of RD3