Even though the card from last week ended up producing solid action, it was also a card that produced little excitement heading into the event. There’s a clear step-up in quality this week, especially in the UFC Vegas 32 prelims. One of the prospects the UFC has been pushing hardest is Adrian Yanez and he’s got a dance partner in Randy Costa who offers just as many explosive possibilities. Throw in a pair of middleweight youngsters Punahele Soriano and Brendan Allen – yes, Allen is still on the young side – and there’s plenty of potential difference makers in in the early portion of the card that it’s hard not to give a firm recommendation to these prelims.
- There aren’t many middleweights who hit harder than Punahele Soriano and the Hawaiian is well aware of it. That could very well come back to bite him in the ass at some point as he has a nasty habit of putting everything into every shot rather than just looking to touch up his opponent, leading to a strong likelihood of his getting walloped on a counter or fading fast once one of his UFC fights leaves the first round. Will that be the case with Brendan Allen? Hard to say. Allen’s striking defense has always been a mess, but he’s typically been durable and rarely gives opponents much room to wind up, staying on them like glue with his enthusiastic brand of wrestling. Soriano does have a wrestling background, but his groundwork has been a mystery thus far as it has rarely been seen. Regardless, I love the maturity Allen showed in his last performance, methodically getting the fight where he wanted against Karl Roberson. Soriano won’t be as easy to manipulate, but I still think Allen can do it. At the very least, Soriano’s predictability will make it easy for Allen to solve. Allen via submission of RD3
- It’s been a hell of a fall for Ian Heinisch. The DWCS product was pushed heavily after his first two UFC appearances, only for the former inmate to crash and burn when given a definitive step up in competition. Despite his recent skid, Heinisch has been making improvements, particularly in his striking. However, too often he ignores jab he has developed, falling into his old habit of winging heavy hooks with reckless abandon. Plus, his wrestling is still a mess, typically only succeeding with takedowns due to his enthusiasm. It could be argued Nassourdine Imavov is the lowest-profile opponent he has faced, but that doesn’t mean this represents a gimme for Heinisch. Imavov is exceptionally durable, has a deep gas tank, and has sniping power. The problem for Imavov is Heinisch also has a deep gas tank in addition to a relentless attitude, constantly remaining in his opponent’s face. Imavov’s underrated wrestling gives me a lot of hesitancy, but I’m going with Heinisch anyway as I don’t think he’ll give Imavov the space he needs. Heinisch via decision
- After a pair of highlight reel KO’s in his two UFC contests, Adrian Yanez has become a darling in hardcore MMA fandom. The youngster is playing with fire by typically keeping his hands low as he pressures his opponent into throwing at him, but Yanez’s timing and fast hands have allowed him to become not just a prospect the UFC is pushing, but potentially the prospect the UFC is pushing. The organization is also trying to protect him to an extent as he’s had issues with wrestling on the regional scene. Randy Costa isn’t a wrestler, but he’s not going to be a walk in the park either. Costa may have more natural power than Yanez and an innate ability for his feet to find his opponent’s head. Costa’s kryptonite appears to be leaving the first round as he’s never won a fight that has gone beyond that point. Of course, that’s only happened once. I prefer Yanez’s more technical brand of striking, though it should be a hell of a banger for however long it lasts. Yanez via TKO of RD2
- Not only has it been 20 months since we last saw Julio Arce, he’s moving down to bantamweight after spending his first 5 UFC contests at featherweight. That leaves a lot of questions about what he’s going to look like upon his return. Arce has been a well-rounded fighter who tends to let his opponent have the type of fight they want due to the trust he possesses in his skill set. Despite that, he’s got a winning UFC record. It won’t be easy to maintain that with Andre Ewell. The volume striker possesses a 75” reach and knows damn well how to quickly close the distance with his immense reach. What he doesn’t know how to do is keep his opponents from closing the distance and piecing him up. Despite that, I really like his chances of pulling off the upset as his takedown defense is underrated and Arce’s reluctance to play to his grappling advantage could be his undoing. Despite that, I’m still going with Arce as Ewell’s striking defense is a mess and his weaknesses are becoming far more apparent with each passing contest. Arce via decision
- The hope for Sijara Eubanks is that she has her weight cutting issues under control as her recent skid at bantamweight has her scrambling back to her old home at flyweight… where she has missed weight several times. If she can make weight, Eubanks physicality and grappling chops make her exceptionally dangerous. Her striking has been hit and miss, but her jab should increase in its effectiveness facing a smaller brand of opposition. Originally scheduled to face Priscilla Cachoeira until the Brazilian withdrew, she now faces a natural strawweight in short notice replacement Elise Reed. Reed is promising as she’s tough as nails with a strong fundamental foundation to her striking, but she’s also going to be severely outsized in addition to her being one of the most inexperienced members on the UFC roster. Eubanks should outmuscle her easily. Eubanks via submission of RD2
- The UFC has made several attempts to get Hannah Goldy back into the Octagon only for one thing or another to go awry for the combination puncher. It looks like she’s finally going to get back into the cage, but it’s going to be interesting to see how well her simplistic striking arsenal will translate to the UFC level. While she dominated her Contender Series opponent, Goldy’s 61” reach seemed to hold her back against Miranda Granger, reaching a point where the level of competition prevented her from being an outside striker. Now, she’s pitted against Diana Belbita, a former professional kickboxer who will have about a 7-inch reach advantage on Goldy. Goldy will need to close the distance to get in her offense – something she has been reluctant to do — and Belbita is at her best in the clinch even if Goldy does close the distance. If Goldy has a ground game she has been keeping in her back pocket, she might be able to expose Belbita’s weak ground game. Given I haven’t seen any signs of it, I’m not counting on it showing up. Belbita via decision