I more or less said the preliminary contests this past Wednesday were largely for those who feel the need to tune into every contest the UFC presents. That’s not quite the case coming up this Saturday. Names such as Matt Brown and Darren Elkins dot the landscape of the prelims of Fight Night: Overeem vs. Harris. No, they aren’t former stars, but they’ve been around for a long time and produced several memorable moments between them. Plus, a contest between Mike Davis and Giga Chikadze has those frequently scouting the lower levels of the roster salivating.
The prelims begin on ESPN and ESPN+ at 6:00 PM ET/3:00 PM PT on Saturday.
Matt Brown (22-16) vs. Miguel Baeza (8-0), Welterweight
Once upon a time, Brown consistently fought about three times a year. After a decade in the UFC, the wear and tear finally caught up with one of the sport’s premier action fighters. Well, that and a torn ACL has left him with one appearance in the cage over the past two-and-a-half years. In that appearance, Brown looked good, utilizing a patient approach with an all-around attack. Brown will always be known for his elbows in the clinch – and his sensitive midsection – but his all-around abilities haven’t been given their due credit as a result of his sharp elbows in close quarters.
By a mile, Brown represents the most experienced opponent the youthful Baeza has seen. A big welterweight at 6’2” with a chiseled physique, Baeza has shown excellent boxing combinations with a developing kicking game. He’s also shown to be very susceptible to being pieced up himself, keeping his hands low for long stretches. The native Floridian has shown a lot of durability, but his level of competition has been anything but impressive. Even his lone UFC opponent, Hector Aldana, is one of the lowest level opponents on the UFC roster in recent years.
Aside from his midsection, another weakness for Brown over the years has been savvy submission specialists. That isn’t Baeza. Brown isn’t as durable as he used to be either, but he was also one of the most durable members of the roster when he was in his prime. He should still be able to take a hell of a beating. Brown also is the type to feast on inexperienced fighters. This should be a fun fight while it lasts, but don’t anticipate it will last too long. Brown via TKO of RD1
- Kevin Holland hasn’t been on the UFC roster for too long – less than two years – but he’s been a busy fighter with six appearances in addition to establishing himself as one of the eccentric members of the roster. From talking to himself amidst difficult grappling exchanges and attempting extremely unorthodox maneuvers, Holland can be just as frustrating as he can be entertaining. He’ll serve as a test against a young up-and-comer many have their eye on his Anthony Hernandez. After an impressive performance on DWCS that saw him mow down the opposition, Hernandez was schooled and subbed by veteran Markus Perez. As he’s supposed to do, Hernandez learned some lessons from his first career loss, attacked his opponent’s weaknesses, and scored a submission victory of his own, displaying better ground chops than most expected. He isn’t going to out-tough Holland, but he might be able to outslick him. It’s a tough pick, but I’ll go with the young prospect in this one. Hernandez via decision
- A collective sigh of relief came from the MMA community when Mike Davis and Giga Chikadze were rescheduled to do the damn thing after their February contest was canceled. Both are skilled strikers with an aggression that typically belies the skill they throw their strikes with. That has much to do with their backgrounds, Davis as a boxer and Chikadze as a professional kickboxer. Neither is known for their mat skills, but they should both be lauded for the progress they’ve made. Regardless, it would be a shock to see the contest spend an extended amount of time on the ground. Chikadze has faded hard in the final round whereas Davis may have trouble dropping down to 145 after a career at lightweight. This fight is about as much as a coin flip as it gets. I’m not comfortable with the pick, but I’ll go with the fighter with the higher ceiling in this contest. Davis via decision
- It felt like an inevitability that Cortney Casey would eventually make the move up to flyweight. She may have made weight regularly, but she has also looked far bigger than her opponents in most fights, indicating she may not be long in the smaller weight class. She’s finally making the move after 10 UFC fights, allowing her to be let off her chain. She’s tried a patient approach, but it doesn’t fit her at all. Perhaps not having to worry about those ten extra pounds will allow her to return to her aggressive ways. Her opponent, Mara Romero Borella, has had a habit of accepting the fight wherever her opponent wants to take, sometimes even initiating the action there. Not that Borella has a major weakness. She has serious power, solid grappling, and some good durability. If she can drag Casey to the mat for the majority of the contest, Borella can and should take the fight. However, it seems more likely Casey is the favorite. Casey via decision
- There was a lot of hype behind Nate Landwehr when he first came into the UFC earlier this year. His debut turned out to be a massive disappointment, finding himself KO’d by Herbert Burns, a submission specialist. I wouldn’t expect Landwehr to alter his hard-charging ways because of one loss, but the forward moving swinger is going to have do better than Darren Elkins at the same game. Elkins has been around for a long time and has endured a lot of damage over the years. However, many have tried to beat Elkins at his own game over the years – all of them had been blessed with better physical tools than Elkins – and few have been successful. If this were prime Elkins, I’d be picking him all day. I’m still picking him, but the years of damage might open the door for Landwehr to pull off the upset. Elkins via decision
- One doesn’t have to look hard at Dontale Mayes to figure out that he’s blessed with significant physical talents. At 6’6” with an 81” reach, he possesses the frame to present challenges for anyone and he’s been polishing his striking technique. His defense still needs work and his cardio can still be considered a question mark, but his skill level might be just enough for him to win given those physical attributes. Then again, it’s not like Rodrigo Nascimento is lacking for physical features himself. The Brazilian isn’t quite as tall as Mayes, but he has similar length and burst. However, it’s his BJJ chops that separate him as he may be one of the better grapplers in the heavyweight division already despite this being his UFC debut. There’s a good chance that all he’ll need is one takedown for him to find victory. Nascimento via submission of RD2