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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje - Early prelims preview

Get the scoop on the on the early contests of UFC 249, featuring an explosive rematch between action-fighting welterweights Vicente Luque and Niko Price.

Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Regardless of how you feel about the UFC putting on fights amidst the COVID-19, it’s going to happen. We might as well enjoy the show they’re going to put on. Given it has been about two months since they last put on a card – a Fight Night in an empty arena in Brazil – there’s no reason the UFC shouldn’t be able to put on a stacked card. Fortunately for us, they are. The early prelims feature Vicente Luque, a cult favorite amongst MMA analysis, headlines the early prelims in a rematch with Niko Price. The other two fights in the early contests aren’t quite as high profile, but they feature up-and-comers looking to make a statement. This should be a good time.

Vicente Luque (17-7-1) vs. Niko Price (14-3, 1 NC), Welterweight

There were few who were willing the question the toughness of Luque prior to his loss to Stephen Thompson. It’s doubtful anyone will ever do so again following the beating he endured at the hands of the karateka, continuing to move forward despite being significantly down on the scorecards. Though the loss made it clear there is an entire other level Luque has yet to reach, it also established him as one of the better action fighters of today, securing his third FOTN bonus in his last four contests and fifth performance bonus overall. Given Price has four bonuses of his own in ten UFC contests, there’s no reason not to expect this contest to produce anything other than fireworks in this rematch from October 2017.

Price has proven to be quite the enigma. Not exactly a standout athlete – though hardly a poor athlete either — Price’s aggression and creativity have maximized his physical gifts beyond what anyone would have predicted. However, he couldn’t get on track in the first contest with Luque, getting stuck largely in a boxing match with the technically superior Luque. Price had small pockets of success when he pressed the action into something more akin to a brawl, but Luque was quick to pull out of those situations. Barring a flash KO – a specialty of Price – the American will need to find a way to make the contest ugly.

That isn’t likely to involve taking the contest to the ground. Though Luque does most of his work on the feet, his base is his BJJ. Price never even tried to take the fight to the mat, acutely aware of Luque’s prowess there, though the Brazilian did eventually lock in a submission on his American counterpart after knocking him down. While Price has certainly improved since their first contest, it isn’t like Luque has been in a decline. In fact, he’s improved just as much – if not more – than Price. Expect Price to be more aggressive this time around, but a similar result to play out. Luque via TKO of RD2

  • He may only have three UFC contests under his belt, but there are few names in the featherweight division that can claim to be as consistently entertaining as Bryce Mitchell. Fortunately for viewers, one of those who can make that claim is Charles Rosa. Both are considered to be ground specialists, both entering the contest coming off first round submissions to back up that title. However, they came in very different ways. Mitchell is one of the best scramblers in the game, showing a rare never-say-die attitude many speak of but rarely show. He trapped Matt Sayles in only the second twister in UFC history. Rosa trapped fellow submission specialist Manny Bermudez in an armbar off his back, but endured a beating for two minutes straight before cinching the victory. While neither will back away from a brawl, neither has proven to thrive in a slugfest either, showing limited power and lacking the technique to consistently win on points. Given Rosa had numerous physical ailments sideline him for 28 months before that contest, I feel more confident the younger Mitchell will find a way to steal a largely ground affair. Mitchell via decision
  • Stylistically, you always know what you’re going to get out of Sam Alvey: patience, patience, and more patience as he waits for an opponent to come into range of his lethal left hand. Everyone knows this. Everyone plans for this. That’s why the Smilin’ one is currently riding a three-fight losing streak. Alvey has made the minimalist of efforts to increase his activity level, largely with low kicks. He’s going to have to up his volume if he’s going to find success beyond his left hand. His opponent, Ryan Spann, had many questioning his chin after his KO loss to Karl Roberson… three years ago. Spann has improved his ability to maintain range behind his 79” reach in addition to showing an innate ability to change up his approach depending on his opponent. Spann is also incredibly aggressive in his pursuit of guillotines, being willing to pull guard to cinch it in. Would he be willing to do that to Alvey? Given Alvey’s traditionally stout takedown and submission defense, that’s hard to say. What I do feel comfortable is this should be a fairly boring point fight. Spann via decision