There’s been a lot of complaints about the quality of the UFC Vegas 39 Fight Night card this weekend. Rather than try to defend it, I’m going to agree with those complaints. There’s a lot of fights that appear to simply be fulfilling contractual obligations. However, before those within the hardcore fandom hit me up, remember that this is a crappy card by UFC standards, meaning it’s still better than a high-level regional card. Think of it this way: if Michael Jordan had a bad performance by his standards, it was still usually better than that of an average player. And yes, I’ll still be watching, and not just because it’s part of my job. After all, one of the first steps towards getting this job is watching all thee cards that appeared subpar on the surface in the first place....
- Since dropping his UFC debut to Raoni Barcelos, Chris Gutierrez has managed to avoid taking any more losses in his last five appearances on the strength of his fight IQ. An average athlete at best, Gutierrez has utilized good attention to defense and one of the most lethal low kick games in the sport. Because he doesn’t have the same thud to his strikes that someone like Edson Barboza does, viewers – and even his opponents at times – don’t recognize the damage he’s doing until the hobbling is noticeable. The entirety of his game plan is likely to be focused on remaining upright as Felipe Colares is at his best controlling his opponent on the mat. While Colares is a better athlete than given credit for, he can be overwhelmed physically, though his durability and toughness make it difficult to put him away. Colares has improved his boxing, but his wrestling is subpar and taking Gutierrez down is no easy chore. Expect Gutierrez to cruise to an easy win. Gutierrez via decision
- Alexandr Romanov may have escaped his contest against Juan Espino with a win, but his reputation took a hit when it went to a technical decision after Romanov couldn’t continue after a groin shot. Prior to that contest, the man known as King Kong appeared to be an unstoppable physical force who would drive his opponents into the mat before pounding them out. Against Espino, Romanov appeared to be slowing significantly, leaving many to believe Romanov faked the extent of his injury to give him the possibility of a win. If that’s the case, a credit to his smarts since it worked. He’ll have a different challenge in Jared Vanderaa as Vanderaa is one of the few members of the roster who appears to have a size advantage over Romanov. For all Vanderaa’s flaws – and there are plenty – he’s plenty durable and will continue to move forward swinging, even after his gas tank is clearly compromised. He might be able to get a decision if he can tire out Romanov, but the most likely outcome sees Romanov taking his fellow big man down as many times as he needs before finding a stoppage. Romanov via TKO of RD1
- If trends count for anything, you can rest assured that Charles Rosa is about to get his ass handed to him. His pattern has been to get dominated, only to squeak out a close win in his next contest, and then lose in embarrassing fashion again. Some would say Rosa is fortunate enough this time around to be facing an opponent in Damon Jackson who is similar to him: a scrappy grappler who gets by on guts, guile, and know-how. The issue there is Bryce Mitchell and Darrick Minner – the last two opponents who dominated Rosa – could be described in the same way. Rosa has improved his boxing over the years, but he still tends to be overconfident in his grappling, not showing enough urgency to return to his feet once taken down. Jackson isn’t a great wrestler, but Rosa is terrible at stopping takedowns. There won’t be any shock in seeing Rosa eek out a win, but given his history against notable grapplers, the safer pick is Jackson. Jackson via decision
- While there is certainly some disappointment to see Sam Hughes removed from her contest with Lupita Godinez, I can’t help but think Godinez is silently excited. Not because Hughes was going to be an exceptionally difficult matchup for Godinez – Godinez beat her once already on the regional scene – but because she’s likely to get the type of firefight that can elicit a FOTN bonus out of new opponent, Silvana Gomez Juarez. Juarez throws a lot of 1-2’s, but she’s also isn’t very attentive to her defense. Fortunately, her durability allows her to eat a lot of damage. However, it boils down to whether she can outwork Godinez. Juarez is bigger, but she’s also taking the fight on very short notice, forcing her to move up her weight cut from her previously scheduled appearance on DWCS. Anything that might affect her gas tank is dangerous against someone as active as Godinez. Godinez’s improvement in her wrestling is the clincher in my mind, but I’m expecting this to be a hell of a fight. Godinez via decision
- Charlie Ontiveros is best known for suffering a freakish injury off a Kevin Holland slam in Ontiveros’ UFC debut... not the thing a fighter wants to be known for. That was nearly a year ago and this will be his first fight since being stretchered out of the cage. If Ontiveros can make the weight cut successfully – he’s never had an actual fight at lightweight – it’s possible he could make some noise with his lanky frame. Ontiveros does show some power, but he’s also very prone to being KO’d and dehydrating himself further doesn’t seem likely to help him in that manner. Even worse, Steve Garcia is known for collecting more than his share of KO finishes. Of course, most of Garcia’s wins have come at bantamweight, but he was always massive for that division. Nevertheless, I think the move to 155 will be beneficial for Garcia as he appeared to be having issues making 145, much less 135. His aggression and punching combinations should result in another KO loss for Ontiveros. Garcia via TKO of RD2