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Diggin’ Deep on Usman vs. Burns - Why is one of UFC 258’s best fights buried in the early prelims?

Get the scoop on the earliest action, including an exciting bantamweight bout with the opportunistic Brian Kelleher and the scrappy Ricky Simon at UFC 258.

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Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Given the weakness of the UFC 258 card as a whole, it’s a surprise to see one of the better contests on the card being placed on the early prelims. Not that Ricky Simon and Brian Kelleher is going to sell any additional PPV’s if their contest were to take place on the main card, but the UFC isn’t trying to promote Fight Pass as they did in the past when their streaming service was still fresh. Perhaps I wouldn’t be concerned about that, but when the main card has two contests most would deem inferior to Simon and Kelleher. Oh well. It’s not like the UFC would ever consult the likes of me.

Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher, Bantamweight

While the combative styles of Simon and Kelleher are very different, their courses through the UFC have had quite a few similarities. After finding early success upon entry, they hit a rough patch and have largely been able to right their ship as of late. The likelihood of the winner of this contest getting a crack at a ranked opponent is very good.

While there’s no doubt both have the attitude Uncle Dana likes to see out of his contracted fighters, Kelleher is the one who employs the fighting style favored by the President. Closing in on his ten year anniversary as a pro, Kelleher is one of the more experienced bantamweights on the roster. He’s not much of an athlete and pays little mind to defense, but he packs a wallop and has picked up enough tricks of the trade to maximize his high-risk, high-reward style. There is a limit to his ceiling as he has been finished by the best athletes he has faced, but he’s secured his share of upsets too.

Though Simon is clearly physically superior, he does have a bit of a reckless nature himself… the type of recklessness Kelleher has been able to capitalize on. Nevertheless, Simon has proven to be more slippery than you’d expect out of someone who initiates as many scrambles as he does, having only been submitted once in his career when he was still a youthful prospect himself. A wrestler by trade, Simon employs a rinse and repeat style that tends to sap the willpower out of his opposition. He’s got some power in his fists, but isn’t a technician on his feet by any means.

Simon has been caught on the feet before by Urijah Faber, but has proven to be durable aside from that. However, it does mean he can be finished, which gives Kelleher all the opportunity he’ll need. Even more concerning for Simon is Kelleher’s signature submission: the guillotine. Simon’s tendency for blast doubles means Kelleher will be looking for those openings and it’s hard to believe he won’t catch Simon’s neck at least once. Simon may prove slippery enough to escape, but it’s no guarantee. Simon’s inability to secure finishes doesn’t bode well for him either. I like Kelleher to get the upset. Kelleher via submission of RD1

You won’t find many welterweights bigger than Philip Rowe. At 6’3” with an 80” reach, there just aren’t many people with his frame that are capable of cutting down to 170 pounds without sapping too much from their energy base. Then again, having a lanky frame and knowing how to use it are completely different things and Rowe is a long way from fully maximizing his frame. Regardless, having that frame allows him a margin for error others in the division don’t have and Rowe has proven to be solid in the clinch in addition to having a good gas tank and solid power. That might be enough to overcome Gabe Green, a savvy striker with a severe lack of attention to defense. Green is sure to get his offense in, but he was still outpaced by Daniel Rodriguez by 48 significant strikes despite landing 127 of his own as he’s too willing to wade into the pocket without proper footwork or head movement to avoid incoming damage. Being on the smaller side doesn’t help. It won’t shock me in the least if Green maneuvers his way into Rowe’s range and fires off enough damage. However, given his struggles with lanky opponents in the past, I’m going with the DWCS alum with great trepidation. Rowe via decision

There have been many who believe a breakout moment has been just around the corner for quite a while for Gillian Robertson. The problem is, “around the corner for quite a while” is an oxymoron. Given she’s been on the radar for quite a far amount of time, it’s easy to forget she’s still just 25-years old and has come a long way from when she first touched down into the organization. Her striking form is a lot cleaner than what it originally was and she is one of the best grapplers in the division. Unfortunately, despite having sound technique, she’s still uncomfortable standing and is far too willing to pull guard when she can’t get the fight to the mat with trips or wrestling. Given she’s matching up against Miranda Maverick, a solid grappler in her own right, she might want to reconsider her willingness to hit the mat on her back. Maverick is a younger prospect than Robertson – clocking in at 23 – and looks far more comfortable on her feet than Robertson. Robertson could very well catch Maverick on the mat if the younger fighter doesn’t respect Robertson’s capabilities, but Maverick’s maturity has been impressive. I see Maverick’s poise on the feet being the difference with both ladies largely neutralizing each other on the mat. Maverick via decision