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Diggin’ Deep on UFC Fight Island 8: Chiesa vs. Magny - Prelims preview

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Get the lowdown on the early action out of Abu Dhabi on the UFC’s midweek Fight Island 8 show, featuring fan favorite Ricky Simon welcoming aggressive newcomer Gaetano Pirrello to the UFC.

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Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

If you’re confused by the UFC not only putting on an event in the middle of the week, but doing so in the morning, you’re not the only one. There are obvious reasons that partially explain it. For instance, the event takes place in Abu Dhabi and with a limited live audience, they want to cater to the those taking in the event in the arena. Thus, the UFC Fight Island 8 event is starting in the late afternoon in Abu Dhabi. Completely understandable. As for any other reasons, it would be speculation on my part and I’d rather leave the speculation to the fight predictions.

  • No disrespect intended towards Gaetano Pirrello, but there are a lot of people disappointed he’s fighting Ricky Simon. It has nothing to do with him. Fans were just anticipating the clash between Simon and Brian Kelleher. Nonetheless, they may prove to be pleasantly surprised by Pirrello. A whirling dervish of violence, Pirrello is anything but a point fighter. As soon as he identifies a weakness, he attacks it with alarming aggression. As you would expect with someone who fights like that, his overzealousness also tends to get him into trouble. His biggest weakness appears to be his wrestling as he has been taken down by less than stellar wrestlers and kept down. That’s music to the ears of Simon who may be the best grinder in the bantamweight division this side of Merab Dvalishvili. Of course, Simon has been more willing of late to test his standup and may be willing to do so if he decides to underestimate Pirrello. Pirrello has a path to victory if that proves to be the case. Otherwise, it is hard to see Simon dropping the ball on this one. Simon via TKO of RD3
  • Context is everything. It could be said Zarrukh Adashev hadn’t lost in five years prior to his UFC debut. It could also be said he only had four professional contests prior to his UFC debut, which carries far more weight than the former statement. Then again, he has a fair amount of kickboxing experience, so maybe his lack of MMA experience isn’t that big of deal. If you’re not sure where I’m going with this, that’s kind of the point. Adashev is very much a mystery. He was KO’d just 32 seconds into his UFC debut and there isn’t a lot of weight that can be put into the level of competition he has faced. The same could be said of Su Mudaerji when he first came to the UFC, beating up on inexperienced fighters on the Chinese circuit… not that there were many other options, but it’s still an inaccurate measuring stick. Mudaerji dropped to flyweight in his last UFC contest and his power translated beautifully, eliminating Malcolm Gordon in just 44 seconds. There’s still reason to question his ground game, but Adashev isn’t going to be the one to test that. There’s a very good chance this will be a lot of fun – it’s rare when a flyweight contest isn’t – but there’s a lot of unknowns that make this contest very difficult to predict. I’ll take Mudaerji’s edge in experience to be the difference. Mudaerji via decision
  • There aren’t very many 5’8” middleweights who have found their way into the UFC. Dalcha Lungiambula already bucked tradition by making it to the UFC – at light heavyweight no less – but now he needs to start finding consistent success if he hopes to be more than just a footnote. Even at 33, Lungiambula is a plus athlete with plus power. He’s also a gifted judoka, capable of flipping the majority of his opposition on their head if given the opportunity. You might say he has everything… but the height, and that counts for a lot. Regardless, there’s no doubt Lungiambula has the tools to overcome Markus Perez. Not that Perez lacks talent. The Brazilian tends to shoot himself in the foot, too often allowing his opponent to dictate the pace and where the fight takes place. Perez looked good in his last contest when he aggressively went after Dricus Du Plessis, only to get caught and finished with a punch at an awkward angle. However, Perez is at his best on the mat, both of his UFC wins coming via submission. The problem for him is getting the fight there. Overall, this is a difficult stylistic contest for Perez as he isn’t a disciplined enough striker to make Lungiambula pay for being short. Lungiambula finds success in his middleweight debut. Lungiambula via KO of RD2
  • This could be a do-or-die moment for Jerome Rivera. A touted flyweight prospect going into DWCS, he earned his contract more on reputation than by impressive Uncle Dana. When he made his UFC debut, he fought incredibly well for a round against Tyson Nam, but got flattened in the second round. It doesn’t mean Rivera’s UFC career will be over should he lose here, all the goodwill he had prior to making it to the promotion will be spent. Then again, his loss to Nam shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise as striking in space is Rivera’s soft spot. He’s aggressive on the mat, strong in the clinch, and makes opponents second guess jumping into his guard. Unfortunately, low kicks are about the only consistent offense he offers in space. If Francisco Figueiredo gets his way, that’s the only place the fight will take place. Known as Sniper, Figueiredo likes to pressure while launching single, powerful strikes at a time. The Brazilian does reload quickly, so volume usually isn’t a problem, though he can be thrown off if his opponent consistently gets off first. For his faults in his standup, that usually isn’t a problem for Rivera. Throw in the American should have a sizeable advantage on the mat and I see Rivera righting his ship against the reigning flyweight champion’s younger brother. Rivera via decision
  • There’s a lot of people who believe Mike Davis could be a big deal. He was one half of one of the best contests ever to take place on DWCS, proving to be a hell of a handful against Sodiq Yusuff, going to a decision. When he did get to the UFC, Davis put on one of the most lopsided beatdowns in the history of the organization against Thomas Gifford. Basically, there is reason for Davis’ backers to have high expectations. The problem is he has more cancelled contests than actual contests since he made it to the UFC. If he can make it to the cage, Davis is a plus athlete with a lot of power and diversity in his striking, though his ground game still leaves a lot of questions to be answered. As much hype as there has been with Jones, there might be more around newcomer Mason Jones, a two-division champion in Cage Warriors. Jones isn’t quite as explosive or powerful as Jones, but he possesses solid defense and has a ground game that looks like it should translate well with the step up in competition. Jones takes a bit to get going as he feels out his opponent, but once he finds a weakness, he attacks it with surgical precision. Jones will also have a size advantage, which should allow him to bully Davis in the clinch should the smaller Davis begin to unload. This contest will be a lot fun if Davis gets his way, but the guess here is Jones dictates the pace and gets the decision. Jones via decision
  • It’s rare when a fighter makes it to the UFC having turned professional after less than three years and it not feel like they’re being rushed. Victoria Leonardo appears to be the rare exception. Granted, she did have an extensive amateur background, but those are the facts. A physically imposing grappler who aggressively pursues getting the fight to the mat, Leonardo has been developing a complimentary standup game. It still has rough patches, but her power has been making itself more manifest beyond just her GnP. She’d better hope her defense begins rounding into shape as Manon Fiorot doesn’t know how to take a step backwards in her attack. What she lacks in technique, she more than makes up for in confidence and enthusiasm. Not to say an experienced striker couldn’t take advantage of her aggression, but Leonardo doesn’t seem to fit that bill. Then again, Fiorot hasn’t shown much of a ground game outside of pounding away on overmatched opposition. There’s a good chance the table will be turned on her, provided Leonardo places a greater emphasis on winning as opposed to proving she can strike. Leonardo via TKO of RD2
  • There’s two ways to look at Omari Akhmedov, both of them true at the moment. Either he had his six-fight unbeaten streak broken by a former champion – pretty damned positive outlook – or he was the unfortunate soul who ended the skid of a man who had lost five of his last six outings. That’s a hell of a combination and also makes it hard to know where he’s at. His evolution from a hook-swinging KO artist to a thoughtful chess player who attacks opponents where they’re weak has been a fascinating development, keeping him on the roster far longer than most would have anticipated. It’ll be interesting to see how he attacks Tom Breese as Breese is strong in the areas Akhmedov usually attacks. Exceptionally tall for middleweight at 6’3”, the Brit’s jab is his single best weapon – he can put someone down with one placed in the right spot – and fans tend to forget how gifted he is on the mat, though it can be assured opponents are well aware how dangerous he is. Akhmedov’s own jab has developed into his best weapon on the feet, but attempting to play dueling jabs with Breese would be playing with fire. Of course, I haven’t mentioned the biggest wild card of all: Breese’s head space. If Breese gets frustrated, he tends to crumble in a hurry. Most of Breese’s wins have come quickly, but Akhmedov is difficult to put away. Breese did look fantastic in his last contest, but there’s no proof KB Bhullar qualifies as a quality win yet. I don’t think Breese can keep his head straight for the entirety of the fight. Akhmedov via TKO of RD3
  • The UFC has already tried twice to have Umar Nurmagomedov, Khabib’s cousin, make his debut. Circumstance has prevented that, so the hope is that the third time is the charm. While the other Nurmagomedov’s to come through the UFC after Khabib – Said and Abubakar — haven’t lived up to the legacy the all-time great has established, Umar looks like the best bet to even come close. A powerful wrestler – not quite on Khabib’s level, but who is? – Umar has comfortably cruised to every one of his wins thus far on the strength of his smothering top game. He’ll be welcomed by another newcomer in Sergey Morozov, a longtime veteran of the Russian MMA scene. Morozov is a skilled striker who works over all levels and doesn’t embarrass himself in the wrestling department. Unfortunately for him, he’s probably going to need to be better than that to stop the wave that will come at him in the form of Umar. Don’t be surprised if Umar has some jitters given his debut has been long anticipated, but he should get the job done with a level of comfort. Nurmagomedov via decision