After a week off, the UFC returns with a card that begins before noon, provided you’re watching the event from the Western Hemisphere. Is there any fight on the prelims that would require anyone to potentially move their Saturday schedule around to catch those contests? My first instinct was to say no, but a quick rundown left me saying… maybe.
There are a lot of prospects populating this card. A couple of them I’m very high on, others I’m not sold on… yet? That shouldn’t be seen as me trashing on them. It’s merely that I haven’t seen what they can do against decent competition, and I need to see more before I’m willing to jump on their bandwagon. Even if this wasn’t my job, it would be enough to entice me to watch. Whether that is the same for the casual viewer, I can’t say.
- It’s impossible to not have a healthy respect for Jim Miller. The all-time UFC leader in Octagon appearances may not be the same fighter he was in his prime – which was about a decade ago – but he’s overcome a lot to remain a viable gatekeeper of sorts after so many battles. Never a great athlete, he has lost a step and can’t withstand the amount of punishment he once could. Perhaps most devastating – he’s still plenty tough – is his gas tank isn’t as deep as it once was. Despite that, Miller is dangerous due to his innate ability to find a submission against overaggressive opponents. It’s certainly a risky style, but given his last four wins came via first round submission, it’s been paying dividends. One of the things that has become a consistent storyline is Miller submitting every young up-and-comer to step in the cage with him. Will the narrative be any different for Joe Solecki? The 27-year old is actually stylistically reminiscent of Miller, doing his best work on the mat. Solecki even proved to be a dangerous submission threat on the feet, securing a standing RNC in his last contest. However, though a competent striker, he doesn’t come across as a dangerous striker. Regardless, he also has a deep gas tank and a superior fight IQ compared to the other prospects Miller has turned away. The guess here is he avoids Miller’s early submission attempts and drags the aging vet into deep waters. Solecki via decision
- Mateusz Gamrot may have lost some of his steam when he suffered his first career loss in his UFC debut, but not as much as you’d expect given he was a heavy favorite. The former KSW champion hadn’t fought in a three-round contest for three years and was used to being able to give away a round before getting into his grove. Everything Gamrot was known for entering the contest was there. His potent jab. His deep gas tank. Even though he had to work harder for his takedowns than usual, he even landed five takedowns against a very difficult to take down Guram Kutatleadze. He may only need his wrestling to get by Scott Holtzman. Holtzman has come a long way as wrestler since he first entered the UFC, but still has some serious holes in his takedown defense. Holtzman does have a sturdy chin and it’s impossible to out-grit the former hockey player, particularly in the clinch. He’s an effective slugger in the pocket too. Unfortunately, Gamrot is far more effective at dictating where the fight takes place and Holtzman has continually been taken down by lesser wrestlers in the past. Stylistically, it’s very difficult seeing Holtzman taking this one. Gamrot via decision
- The jury is still very much in the air for Norma Dumont. In her UFC debut, she was blown out of the water by Megan Anderson and while she won her sophomore effort against Ashlee Evans-Smith, Evans-Smith put on the worst performance of her career. So… just how good is Dumont? While her striking technique is still in need of plenty of polish, she has little hesitation letting her fists fly and some violent finishes should be expected once the polish is applied. However, what will be her biggest advantage against Erin Blanchfield will be her size advantage seeing as how Blanchfield is a natural flyweight and Dumont moved to bantamweight from featherweight. Though just 21, Blanchfield displays a natural feel for the sport that typically doesn’t reveal itself until a fighter has been plying their trade for roughly a decade. Though she has been developing into a dangerous striker, her methodical, top heavy grappling is still her best attribute. However, size does matter and Dumont can hold her own on the mat against opponents her same size or even larger than her. Dumont may not be as suave as Blanchfield, but it isn’t hard to see her physicality overwhelming the much smaller Blanchfield. Blanchfiled has the brighter future, but that bright future isn’t in the bantamweight division. Dumont via decision
- The biggest question facing Ignacio Bahamondes: will he be able to make the lightweight weight limit? The 6’3” 23-year old has made the weight before, but it’s always worth wondering if a man that big can squeeze down to that weight as they get older. Regardless, Bahamondes’ experience level belies his youth, thanks to his being brought up by his father, a former champion kickboxer in South America. He’s exceptionally creative and has a huge arsenal of kicks at his disposal. The biggest concern with Bahamondes is his shoddy wrestling and grappling. Fortunately for the Chilean, it’s highly unlikely longtime UFC vet John Makdessi will be putting those skills to the test, having secured a grand total of zero takedowns in his UFC run despite having debuted over a decade ago. Makdessi comes from a kickboxing background himself, but his 5’8” frame has created issues against longer opponents. He’s been able to make up for that with expert use of angles and use of side kicks as they tend to shorten his reach disadvantage. However, there are two things that make me leery of Makdessi: his lack of a takedown threat which will allow Bahamondes to focus on his own standup and the lack of killer instinct from Makdessi in recent years due to his increasingly fragile chin. Did I mention he’s coming off a torn ACL too? Make that three things that make me leery. Bahamondes via TKO of RD3
- How in the hell is the Jarjis Danho experiment continuing? The former strongman hasn’t stepped foot in the UFC since 2016 and his prospects weren’t looking all that promising. While the native of Germany has a nearly immovable frame and possesses has all sorts of potential to be a powerhouse, Danho hasn’t been able to develop any functional takedown chops to take advantage of his greatest skillset: his GnP. His second option is controlling his opponent against the cage, but Danho’s limited gas tank limits the amount of strikes he throws in close quarters. Fortunately for Danho, Yorgan de Castro suffers from the same stamina and volume issues. However, de Castro has been able to make up for it with his sharp accuracy and power… at least early on. De Castro’s low kicks are his best weapon, capable of limiting his opponent’s mobility or even knocking them off their feet. Given Danho’s poor defense in the first place, I’d expect him to fall prey to de Castro’s attack early before de Castro’s stamina issues kick in. De Castro via TKO of RD1
- Given the amount of awesome prospects populating the bantamweight division, it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise that Jack Shore is regularly overlooked as one of the divisions better prospects. Part of that is due to his lack of explosive athleticism, but that hardly means Shore is a poor athlete by any means. In fact, Shore’s movement is smooth as butter; no wasted motion whatsoever. It could be argued he’s already one of the best BJJ practitioners in the division after two UFC contests; he’s that slick on the ground. Due to his opponent’s respect for his ground game, Shore’s feints and fakes keep them on edge and create for an effective standup game as well. That hardly means Hunter Azure should immediately be counted out. A powerhouse at 135 with a strong wrestling game, Azure has developed into a respectable striker on the feet. His obvious power has yet to translate to a finish in the big leagues, but his continued improvement in his striking makes it feel like an inevitability at some point. After all, he did get a knockdown in his last appearance against Adam Smith. Shore can’t hope to match Azure’s power and strength, but his fight IQ and deep bag of tricks that belies his youth should be enough for him to overcome Azure. Regardless, this could very well be the most intriguing contest on the prelims. Shore via decision
- It’s no secret Jordan Griffin is a favorite of Uncle Dana. The UFC president loves fighters who throw themselves into the muck without much of a thought for their consequences, particularly for what might be coming back at them. That describes Griffin to a tee. His iron chin allows him to avoid being finished as his wild striking is troublesome from a defensive standpoint. Then again, he tends to use it as a method to close the distance, enter the clinch, and get the contest where he is most at home: the mat. While his wrestling is best described as enthusiastic as opposed to good, Griffith is a fantastic scrambler who tends to put himself in bad situations only to miraculously escape. There’s a good chance he’ll find the finish if he can get Luis Saldana to the mat, though that will be easier said than done. Possessing a lanky 5’11”frame with a 73” reach, Saldana does a good job of keeping his opponents at the end of his kicks and punches. However, if opponents are successful in navigating his reach, he’s not too difficult to keep on his back. Griffin has the chin to take a hit and he has proven he’s willing to do so. He’ll get Saldana to the mat one way or another to get the fight he wants. Griffin via submission of RD2
- Given the lack of young blood at light heavyweight, it’s crazy there hasn’t been more buzz around Da Un Jung. He’s got length, power, durability, and stamina. What isn’t there to get excited about? Most of his issues are correctable. For instance, he can be too choosy about his striking selection, allowing his opponents to get ahead of him in terms of volume. That’s why Jung was unable to walk out of his contest with Sam Alvey without a win. Outstriking Alvey shouldn’t be too difficult for someone of his skill level. It leaves open the possibility William Knight can come in on short notice and upend the slight favorite. Knight isn’t as slick as Jung, but the stout fireplug will make things ugly as hell and has enough explosion to threaten with a violent finish if Jung doesn’t take advantage of his 5-inch reach advantage. Jung isn’t the most disciplined outfighter, leaving openings that Knight should be able to take advantage of. However, I did say Jung is durable and he has no problem throwing fisticuffs when the fight degenerates into a brawl. Plus, while Knight will pursue the occasional takedown, Jung’s takedown defense has been stout. I think the Korean representative can find a late stoppage. Jung via TKO of RD3
- Unfortunately for Impa Kasanganay, he’s now best known for being on the wrong side of one of the most epic KO’s when Joaquin Buckley kicked him in the face. What’s worse about it is there have been several occasions where fighters have developed mental block following such a KO, or even after their first KO loss. Not only was it epic, but it was Kasanganay’s first KO loss. If there are no adverse affects from the KO, Kasanganay is moving to a new home at 170. The move is a bit confusing as Kasanganay isn’t a wrestler and would benefit more from being faster than his opponents as opposed to bigger, but the DWCS alum is athletic and technical enough that he should still find success in his new home. Sasha Palatnikov will welcome him to the new weight class. In his UFC debut, Palatinikov showed a unique ability to stay cool under pressure despite his inexperience, securing a come-from-behind win over Louis Cosce. He’s a big welterweight who times his takedowns well, but his Muay Thai is his bread and butter. Unfortunately for him, his biggest issue is his lack of defense… something Kasanganay should be able to exploit. It’s a risk, but I think Kasanganay’s mentally strong enough to recover. Kasanganay via decision