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UFC Vegas 42: Holloway vs. Rodriguez preview - Recent headliners dot the prelims

Get the dirt on the early action out of UFC Vegas 42, featuring several recent headliners in preliminary action, including Thiago Moises looking to bounce back against the slick Spaniard, Joel Alvarez.

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Thiago Moises between rounds against Islam Makhachev at UFC Vegas 31
Thiago Moises between rounds against Islam Makhachev at UFC Vegas 31
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Over the past year, the UFC has made a far more concerted effort to back load their cards, ensuring the better fights come on the main card. There appears to be an exception made with regards to UFC Vegas 42. While no one is denying the main event between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez is easily the most anticipated contest on the card, it’s arguable the second most anticipated fight is on the prelims. At the very least, the fight with the highest ranked competitors is on the prelims... outside of the main event of course. Unfortunately, women’s flyweight doesn’t have the same appeal as many of the other divisions, so Cynthia Calvillo and Andrea Lee is a fight that isn’t getting the love it probably deserves. Aside from that, there’s a recent Fight Night headliner and several other fights that have a very good possibility of producing a Performance Bonus. For a Fight Night card, this is some of the best prelims the UFC has put on in some time.

Cynthia Calvillo vs. Andrea Lee, Women’s Flyweight

It wasn’t that long Calvillo was absolutely walloped by Jessica Andrade, about a month and a half ago to be exact. And yet, she’s turning around very quickly in hopes to erase the memory of that loss, taking this contest with Lee on short notice after Jessica Eye pulled out. Most of the time when a fighter pulls of a quick turnaround after a loss like that, it doesn’t go well.

That isn’t to say there aren’t exceptions to the rule. In fact, Calvillo herself fell victim to Katlyn Chookagian’s quick turnaround last year after Chookagian had also been blown up by Andrade. Throw in the fact that Calvillo has an ideal skillset to knock off Lee and it may not be such a bad idea after all....

When Calvillo was at strawweight, she was one of the better wrestlers in the division. Many believed her wrestling would be greatly diminished once she moved up to flyweight... and thus far it’s fair to say they were right. However, she’s been able to make up for whatever she lost in terms of physicality with her exquisite scrambling, which has been looked better against larger opposition. It’s hard to think of someone in the division who better resembles a human backpack than Calvillo

However, I said Calvillo had the skillset to knock off Lee. I didn’t say she would use it. For all her prowess on the mat, Calvillo has continually fallen in love with her striking. She has come a long way from her UFC debut, her jab in particular becoming an effective weapon. What Calvillo lacks is the natural feel on the feet that comes with years of experience... which is exactly what Lee has.

Lee isn’t the beastly Muay Thai striker that many have made her out to be, but she does know how to let her fists fly in a high paced environment. Not the most fleet of foot, Lee has had to rely on her physical nature in the clinch. That could be a dangerous endeavor against Calvillo as Lee has the same problem as Calvillo, just in a different sphere: she’s too willing to fight on the mat despite being better on the feet. Lee can wrestle and has some good grappling chops, but it would be unwise to test that out against Calvillo.

In many ways, this fight serves as an IQ test for both women. If both were more attuned to fighting where they are at their best, it’s hard to believe neither woman wouldn’t be ranked higher than where they currently sit. Given what appears to be desperation on the part of Calvillo to erase the loss to Andrade, Lee feels like a much safer pick, though I expect the fight will be competitive regardless of who wins. Lee via decision

  • It’s been a hell of a fall for Thiago Moises. From fighting Islam Makhachev – who could conceivably fight for the UFC lightweight title in his next fight – to Joel Alvarez in the span of months is a hell of a drop. Not that Alvarez sucks. He is riding a three-fight win streak after all, every one of those wins coming long before the final bell. But a quick look at who Alvarez has been beating tells a different story as he’s been very fortunate in who the UFC has been lining him up with. Alvarez is a dangerous submission artist who makes good use of his long limbs on the mat. He’s still figuring out what to do on his feet, but at 6’3”, he’s got a lot to work with. The key for Alvarez has always been about getting the fight to the mat, but he may want to second guess that against Moises. Alvarez is undoubtedly gifted, but Moises is a very fundamentally sound BJJ practitioner with far more quality experience, but also capable of being creative. I don’t think Alvarez is going to catch Moises on the ground. Perhaps Alvarez can land something significant on the feet – most likely a kick to the head — but Moises has proven to be extremely durable. Throw in Moises’ own improving standup and underrated power and I feel confident the Brazilian gets back on track. Moises via decision
  • Every time I look at Sean Woodson’s lanky frame, I’m amazed he’s able to make it to 145. At 6’2”, he presents a unique challenge for every other competitor in the featherweight division. With every fight, Woodson seems to have a better understanding of how to utilize his reach – even while moving backwards – not to mention his improved takedown defense. He’ll need it to hold up against Colin Anglin as the Michigan native is at his best when he’s offering a diverse attack. Anglin can do a little bit of everything and tends to fight economically on offense. Unfortunately, part of that is due to his tendency to throw a single strike at a time, which also tends to leave him open to return fire. Given all the volume Woodson throws, it’s hard to see Anglin keeping up with him unless he’s able to get his takedowns going. Woodson has slowed late, so there’s a possibility Anglin can capitalize on Woodson should he slow. It’s a tough call, but I favor Woodson’s length to create too many issues and allow him to outvolume Anglin. Woodson via decision
  • Despite a subpar 5-8 UFC record, the organization continues to have Cortney Casey maintain her roster spot. When you embody the type of blood and guts action that Uncle Dana loves, you’re bound to have a longer leash than many others. With the toughness and durability to make her brawling nature work for her, it’s been an inability to stop takedowns that has doomed her from making the types of gains that many believed would have come by now. That leaves a wide-open hole for Liana Jojua to run through. The native of Georgia’s UFC run has been disappointing thus far as she has been bullied throughout her run, even after dropping down to flyweight. Jojua does her best work on the mat, but has struggled to get the fight to the ground. Casey has suffered from mental lapses from time to time, leaving open a big possibility Jojua can nab an arm or get a hold of Casey’s neck, but the more likely possibility sees Casey’s pace and volume overwhelming Jojua. Casey via decision
  • It wasn’t that long ago that Marc Diakiese was one of the top lightweight prospects within the organization. Why else would Uncle Dana keep him on the roster despite a three-fight losing streak? Unfortunately for DIakiese, he’s become a largely forgotten commodity after nearly a year away from competition. A top-flight athlete with lots of power, Diakiese got by on the strength of his physical tools in his early UFC run. When the three-fight losing streak hit, Diakiese began to adapt a more mature approach, utilizing his wrestling to control his opposition rather than just trying to blow them out of the water. He be wise to maintain that approach as that’s the most direct approach to beating Rafael Alves. The hard-hitting Brazilian is exceptionally creative and dangerous on the feet, to the point he’s most likely to win a pure striking battle, even with Diakiese’s improvements. Even if Diakiese were to take the fight to the mat, Alves is a tricky grappler, hardly making it a guarantee Diakiese wins even if he dictates where the fight takes place. Regardless, I like the superior athlete to emerge victorious. Diakiese via decision
  • It looks like Kennedy Nzechukwu is beginning to put it all together. Not that the massive 205er doesn’t have a way to go to fulfill his vast potential, but he’s starting to look like a fighter as opposed to a guy with talent trying to be a fighter. With plenty of durability, a surprisingly deep gas tank, and lots of power, it isn’t going to take a hell of a lot more refinement before Nzechukwu will not only be knocking on the door of the official UFC rankings, but winning fights against those with a number next to them. There’s some who think Da Un Jung should already be fighting a ranked opponent given he’s still without a loss after four UFC fights, but he’s also the Sam Alvey opponent in Alvey’s last seven fights that hasn’t been able to hang a loss on him. Regardless, like Nzechukwu, Jung can push a pace that belies his size. However, he’s further along in his development on the feet and has a reasonable wrestling game that he can pull out of his back pocket if things aren’t going his way. Unfortunately for him, takedown defense is the first thing Nzechukwu developed. Jung isn’t without talent, but it isn’t at the level of Nzechukwu and the big man from Africa is only getting better. Nzechukwu via TKO of RD2