Do you like grab bags? If so, the UFC Vegas 27 prelims are perfect for you. It’s hard to decipher a clear trend. There are several notable names – including a couple of fighters who have headlined past cards – and names even hardcore fans may not be familiar with. There’s some fights that look like they could be a lot of fun, others that appear to be a drag, and others that I have no idea what to expect. I suppose the best way to describe it is a fantastic card if you enjoy surprises.
- Even though he opened his career with the reputation as a skilled grappler – and a plethora of RNC’s to back it up – Bill Algeo has turned into an exciting striker known for engaging in brawls. Given he has never been much of a wrestler and has a lanky frame, it’s not a surprise Algeo had to evolve as his competition improved. Fortunately, the evolution has gone far better than many would have thought. Algeo has developed the ability to stick and move just enough to outland his opposition… but only just barely given his lack of attention to defense. Though Algeo’s chin has held up thus far throughout his career, Ricardo Ramos will surely put it to the test. The Brazilian has a tendency to throw reckless spinning and flying attacks that land far more often than they have any business landing. Ramos’ base is actually his ground game – half his wins have come via submission – but his own lack of wrestling has negated his biggest strength. Perhaps more worrisome is his moving up to featherweight as he no longer has the size advantage he enjoyed at bantamweight. There is hope as Ramos has been working with Team Alpha Male, but it takes time for some time for something like that to truly take effect. Ramos has the better chance of landing a single KO blow, but Algeo is more likely to overwhelm Ramos. Algeo via TKO of RD2
- I never thought I’d see Chris Barnett in the UFC. Not because Huggy Bear is without talent, but his diminutive frame – he’s only 5’9” – puts him at such a massive disadvantage against the other heavyweight giants with actual skill, he doesn’t seem like the type Uncle Dana would give an opportunity. Barnett himself is a skilled kickboxer with legit power and a penchant for spinning attacks, so he’s not without hope, nor is he without some impressive finishes. However, pitting him against Ben Rothwell for his first UFC contest feels like a cruel joke. One of the largest members of the roster – not to mention most experienced – Rothwell should be able to completely overwhelm the stout Barnett if he’s able to execute his typical strategy of pressuring his opponent against the fence. A single powerful shot from Barnett isn’t out of the question to end the contest, but Rothwell has always been very difficult to put away, his last being finished by strikes over a decade ago. Given Barnett sure as hell isn’t going to submit him, the smart money is on Rothwell to get the win. Rothwell via TKO of RD2
- The contest between Court McGee and Claudio Silva very much feels like a Joe Silva-made match as they may be the most foot slow members of the welterweight roster. Aside from being glacially slow, they don’t have much stylistically in common. Well, they do both pressure with great frequency, but that’s where the similarities end. McGee is a cardio machine who unloads punches in bunches with simple but tight boxing combinations, though he did up the level of kicks in his most recent appearance. However, due to his lack of power, McGee hasn’t secured a finish in over a decade. Silva has plenty of power, but he telegraphs his strikes due to his brutally sloppy technique. The differences even extend to their wrestling. McGee has good form on his single and double legs but is rarely able to finish his takedowns whereas Silva’s form is ugly as he looks to latch onto his opposition and drag them down in any way possible. For Silva, that tends to work… at least early on. His suffocating brand of grappling has been highly effective, but McGee’s defensive grappling is top notch. I can’t believe I’m saying this given he has dropped five of his last six and is past his prime, but McGee survives a rough opening round to outlast Silva over the last two rounds. McGee via decision
- It took several attempts, but it was nice to see Bruno Silva finally secure a UFC win when he upended hot prospect JP Buys. Silva’s scrappiness had never been in doubt, willing to stay in the pocket and trade punches and kicks, not to mention a willingness to shoot for takedowns. What was on display in his win was his improved wrestling and power in his punches many weren’t sure was there. Unfortunately for Silva, he lacks the classic quickness and speed that most members of the flyweight division possess. Fortunately for Victor Rodriguez, he looks like he has more than enough athleticism to fit into the division successfully. Of course, that’s the only thing it appears is definitively in his arsenal. Coming from the Alaskan scene, Rodriguez’s level of competition has been highly questionable, which was further proved when he was quickly overwhelmed in his UFC debut by Adrian Yanez. Rodriguez has been securing finishes on the regional scene in rapid fashion, indicating some level of power. The question is how well it translates to the big leagues. The guess here is he needed more seasoning on the regional scene and Silva’s doggedness will overwhelm the still green Rodriguez. Silva via TKO of RD2
- There wasn’t a lot of hype around Josh Culibao when he made his UFC debut, which shouldn’t be a surprise given he was late notice replacement. An okay athlete at best with below average power – by UFC standards – he’s been relying on his toughness and technique to get by. Given Culibao has decent size and length, it isn’t out of the question he could have a lengthy run despite his shortcomings as he’s defensively advanced for someone of his age and experience. He’ll be tested by a very mysterious Sha Yilan. There isn’t a lot of recent footage available of the Chinese newcomer, but given he’s among the large swathes of fighters coming of the UFC’s performance institute in China, its feels safe to say he’s used to being the more physically gifted performer by a wide margin with porous defense. At least, those are the traits that defined the debutants from last month at UFC 261. Yilan does show a nice burst, but his style leads me to believe he’ll struggle to match Culibao’s volume, but the lack of footage on Yilan makes this difficult to predict. Culibao via decision
- It’s easy to forget Yancy Medeiros is still on the UFC roster. It’s a shame given it seems his descent began immediately after he began to get some attention outside of hardcore fans, as he hasn’t won a fight since being awarded the headlining spot opposite Donald Cerrone over three years ago. Medeiros has returned to lightweight since that time – a change in diet has made taking off the weight easier – but it’s worth wondering if he wouldn’t be better off returning to welterweight. Formerly a reckless brawler who had little regard for defense, Medeiros output has dropped considerably in the last few years. Even worse, his previously iron chin doesn’t appear to be what it once was either. That’s good for Damir Hadzovic, a heavy-handed slugger with a penchant for the KO. Where Hadzovic has issues is stopping takedowns and getting back to his feet. He can hit a takedown of his own and do some damage from there, but he’s miserable from the ground defensively. It may not matter; Medeiros has secured a single takedown over the course of 14 UFC contests. If Medeiros looks anything like the fighter he was in 2017 – a high volume striker with stamina and durability — I’d pick him in a heartbeat. If he looks like the hesitant fighter that he’s been most recently, Hadzovic is the pick. Smart money says the most recent version shows up. Hadzovic via TKO of RD2
- Y’all remember Rustam Khabilov? It wasn’t that long ago that he was on the UFC roster, so I’m sure he’s a familiar figure to most reading this. Despite a 10-3 UFC record, the organization let him go since his fights tended to lean on the boring end. I fear the same fate could befall Damir Ismagulov. The native of Kazakhstan is about as technically tight on the defensive end as one can get, not to mention being a slick counter striker. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of power, resulting in few finishes. In the case of his opponent, Rafael Alves, finishes are integral to his success. The Brazilian is an explosive striker who is excellent at capitalizing on opponents mistakes to find the finish. The problem is, Ismagulov usually doesn’t offer too many mistakes, not to mention he’s never been finished in his career anyway. It doesn’t mean it’s an impossibility as Alves is very experienced with plenty of tricks up his sleeve, not to mention he appears to be in his physical prime. Then again, it could also be said the ultra-disciplined Ismagulov is in his prime. Hopefully, Alves can add some excitement to Ismagulov. Given Alves’ tendency to kill or be killed, this is about as good of a chance Ismagulov has to secure his first UFC finish. Ismagulov via TKO of RD3