The televised prelims of UFC 265 are very much a mixed bag, but not necessarily in the way one would think when they look upon what’s being offered at first glance. There’s no doubt the featured prelim – between Rafael Fiziev and Bobby Green – is absolute fire, but the rest are deceiving.
At a time when most in their 40’s are looking to just hang on, one of the longest tenured members of the roster is looking to extend the longest winning streak of his UFC career. There’s a contest with a pair of former title challengers, but it may also be the least consequential contest on the card as there’s a possibility we never see one of them in the cage again, win or lose. Regardless, my guess is that it should be a good time.
- If the UFC handles him right, Rafael Fiziev could be a considerable star and open a lot of doors in his native Kyrgyzstan. Not that anyone sees Kyrgyzstan as a potential hotbed for MMA, but it would be foolish not to open up as many countries as possible. The former striking coach at Tiger Muay Thai, Fiziev is a glorious blend of technical striking and calculated risk taking, a pure delight to take in from a fan’s perspective. There are still many questions to be answered with regards to his ground game, though he’s been successful at ensuring it isn’t tested thus far. It’s hard to believe Bobby Green won’t at least try to put Fiziev on his back. Even though Green has favored boxing in the pocket throughout his UFC career, he’s always had his wrestling in his back pocket and has used it to great effect in the last year or so, turning around his recent poor fortunes in the process. Even though he’s not the athlete he was in his prime, Green is still pretty damned quick with an excellent sense of distance. However, Green has also been caught several times due to his defense that is heavily reliant on head movement. Strikers less dynamic than Fiziev have been able to catch Green in the past. I like his chances of doing that a time or two, likely outweighing whatever ground work Green accomplishes. Fiziev via decision
- There’s a degree of surprise Vince Morales is still on the roster given his 1-3 UFC record. Though he’s a skilled boxer, he’s an average athlete at best in a division that seems to grow deeper with dangerous young talent every passing day. Nonetheless, if an opponent gives Morales the fight in the pocket he so desires, he’ll have no problem utilizing his combination boxing to quickly rack up the volume. Given the questionable fight IQ of Drako Rodriguez, there’s a very good chance Morales gets the fight he wants. Still youthful at 25, Rodriguez is already a crafty grappler who tends to believe he can win no matter where the fight goes. Given Morales is coming off a long injury filled layoff, it feels safe to assume Rodriguez is the superior athlete and he has a knack for the kill. Morales is tough, but his durability can be questioned and he can be reluctant to engage if he doesn’t get the fight he wants. It’s a coin flip, but I’ll lean towards youth and athleticism. Rodriguez via submission of RD2
- The 40-year old I referenced earlier, Ed Herman continues to find ways to hang around and win fights. Of course, Herman isn’t exactly looking to climb the rankings at this point, content with being a gatekeeper while pulling in the paychecks befitting of a longtime veteran. Slow even when he was a youthful middleweight, Herman is forced to get by on timing and guile at this juncture as it’s difficult to think of another 205er who rivals his glacial speed, much less exceeds it. Given explosiveness is the most notable trait of Alonzo Menifield – and Herman’s durability can be questioned at this stage of his career – there’s every reason to be concerned this is where Herman’s hot streak comes to an end. Then again, Menifield tends to fall off a cliff after the first round and Herman is an expert at wearing on his opposition in the clinch. If Herman can close the distance and tie up Menifield early, this is his fight. However, there have been signs of Menifield maturing and he’s a far superior physical specimen to Herman. I like the younger fighter’s ability in this contest. Menifield via decision
- While the fight styles of Jessica Penne and Karolina Kowalkiewicz are different enough, they both have one very notable characteristic in common: they never looked the same after their losses to Joanna Jedrzerjczyk for the title. There are arguments to be made for both sides as Penne has dealt USADA issues which limited her scope of work whereas Kowalkiewicz’s losses have all come against quality competition. Penne is a former atomweight with a slick ground game. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the wrestling to put it to great effect. Kowalkiewicz’s background is in Muay Thai, possessing a vicious clinch. What has held her back is her level of athleticism, her opponents taking advantage of her lack of speed to beat her to the punch, literally and figuratively. It is possible Penne could use her stiff jab to outpoint Kowalkiewicz, but Penne’s comfort in the clinch makes it more likely she takes the fight into Kowalkiewicz’s wheelhouse. Plus, Kowalkiewicz took some much needed time off to allow her mind and body to recharge. I’m usually leery of extended layoffs, but I expect Kowalkiewicz’s to be a net positive. Kowalkiewicz via decision