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Diggin’ Deep on UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor - Early prelims preview

Get the lowdown on the early action of UFC 257, featuring TUF winner Andrew Sanchez looking to speed past rising up-and-comer Makhmoud Muradov in the middleweight division.

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Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

‘UFC 257 - ‘MCGREGOR VS POIRIER 2’ hits us this weekend. Hope you’re not sick of the UFC yet as the organization is dishing up it’s third serving in eight days. If you’re curious about these contests, you’re clearly a shit eating wild man who can’t get enough agreed upon violence. Not that the fights on the early prelims suck. In fact, I’d argue they are the best early prelims the UFC has offered on a PPV card in quite a while, each contest featuring a prospect that may be real movers and shakers in the near future. While I make no promises – successful prospects are hard to predict – but there’s no doubt promise is prominent in all of those up-and-comers.

  • One of the more frustrating members of the middleweight division, Andrew Sanchez may be on his last legs to bust into the rankings. The former TUF winner has had an association with the UFC for five years and has found a way to drop the ball every time it looks like he’s about to bust out. A solid wrestler who has cleaned up his striking significantly the last couple of years, his stamina has either led to his downfall or come thisclose to costing him on several occasions. The only times he hasn’t had issues with his energy levels is when his opposition allows him fight at a leisurely pace. It’s doubtful Makhmud Muradov will let him get away with that. The native of Uzbekistan proved to be the rare newcomer to the organization with a strong knowledge of proper distancing and footwork. If he can force Sanchez to chase him around the cage while picking him off with just enough offense, he could cruise to an easy win. Sanchez could counter that with takedowns as Muradov’s ground game is still largely untested, but wrestling tends to tire Sanchez in a hurry, meaning he’d need a quick submission. Not an impossible scenario, but it would appear to be more unlikely than the alternative. Muradov via decision
  • Originally scheduled to face Mike Grundy a week prior to UFC 257, Nik Lentz remained on Fight Island a week longer than expected and is being afforded the opportunity to derail the hype train of the undefeated Movsar Evloev. There have been several occasions over the last few years where it looked like Lentz was on his way out of organization. After all, he has 43 professional contests under his belt and is now 36. And yet, Lentz has successfully added to his toolbox, allowing him to be more than just a grinder as he was in his first few years in UFC. That’s good as the aforementioned Grundy already tried to grind out Evloev only for the Russian to continually get back to his feet and pick apart the slower Grundy. Lentz isn’t the same fighter as Grundy, but there’s enough similarities to believe the contest could play out in a similar manner. Lentz has become a savvy power striker and has improved his stamina, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility he can catch Evloev. I’d bet against it as the smaller Evloev has proven difficult to land cleanly upon and tends to time his own takedowns with expert timing. Throw in that Lentz has never been as good at stopping takedowns as you’d expect, I feel confident picking Evloev. Evloev via decision
  • Given the ease in which he disposed of Malcolm Gordon, Amir Albazi turned more than a few heads in his UFC debut. Granted, Gordon is hardly a proven commodity in the organization – and was disposed of with just as much ease in his sophomore UFC effort — but Albazi impressed with what he had in front of him. Though his jab was noteworthy, it was his work on the mat that raised the most eyebrows. His constant activity on the mat, all in the effort of improving his mat positioning, proved vital to him locking in a triangle choke, the type of submission that is rarely seen at 125 given the constant activity that’s typical of a flyweight contest. It’s unlikely he’ll be able to catch Zhalgas Zhumagulov in the same manner given the native of Kazakhstan knows just about every trick in the book to avoid being put away. Then again, the wily vet has to use those tricks as he is lacking they typical flyweight speed needed to be competitive in the UFC. Zhumagulov does have above average power and takes good angles on the feet, which may be enough for him to work around Albazi’s jab. What I don’t trust is he can avoid Albazi’s takedowns. Even if Zhumagulov can avoid being submitted – and I think he will – Albazi’s speed and activity should be enough to get him the W. Albazi via decision