Given the UFC Vegas 36 card was originally supposed to take place across the Atlantic, it’s no surprise there is a decidedly foreign feel to it. Every contest features a fighter from outside the USA, several of them not even having a single one. In fact, only two combatants on the prelims are from the states. The European feel helps to explain why the card is taking place as early as it is. The main card will begin at prime time in Great Britain. As for the prelims, there are several contests that I can look at and feel no surprise if they were to end up being FOTN. There may not be a theme to the prelims (aside from the transcontinental theme that dominates the entire card), but there are several fights that look awesome.
- It’s hard to get a feel for where Ji Yeon Kim stands in the grand scheme of things. She’s clearly a skilled counter striker who doesn’t mind engaging in a firefight if it boils down to that, but her level of competition has been all over the place. She came up short against Alexa Grasso and Antonina Shevchenko, two fighters who are flirting with the top ten of the division. However, none of her UFC wins have come against competition indicating she’s ready to make a big leap forward. There’s no doubt about where Molly McCann stands. A limited athlete who has been exposed on the mat multiple times, McCann’s toughness, durability, and willingness to throw down in the pocket have made her a fan favorite. She’s technical enough in her striking that it wouldn’t be fair to call her a brawler, but that description isn’t too far off. Whilst McCann’s takedown defense is porous, Kim rarely looks to engage the fight on the mat, attempting a single takedown attempt in her six UFC fights. If that history continues and she doesn’t give McCann any worries about going to the ground, the Brit should find herself back in the winning column despite Kim having a 10-inch reach advantage. McCann via decision
- I’m still waiting for the UFC to give Jack Shore the jump in competition he deserves. The undefeated Welshman fights with a wisdom that belies his age, fully aware of his physical limitations as well as where he best operates. To be fair, the UFC did try to pit him against Said Nurmagomedov before the Russian was forced to withdraw due to injury, but it still feels like a letdown to see him welcoming newcomer Liudvik Sholinian. Fresh off his TUF 29 stint, Sholinian is a relentless wrestler who has yet to prove himself a danger on the feet in any meaningful way. Given Shore is one of the most technically sound wrestlers and grapplers in the division, Sholinian could be walking into a wood chipper if his ground game is his only functional form of offense. Regardless, Sholinian doesn’t make a strong accounting of his lengthy frame on the feet, which should allow the wily Shore to piece him up standing as Sholinian isn’t athletic enough to expose Shore’s own physical shortcomings. I expect Shore finds a finish at some point. Shore via submission of RD1
- The best way to describe Julian Erosa is as a fighter’s fighter. He’s had more success than you’d expect of someone with his physical talents, though he does have his fair share of hard losses. Even with all those losses, Erosa is game to get back on his horse in no time whatsoever. After all, he’s taking this fight with Charles Jourdain on short notice after being KO’d in June. Normally, I’d be leery of a fighter turning things around so quickly, but this isn’t the first time Erosa has done this, mixed results coming from this strategy. Constantly pushing forward, Erosa’s opponents generally need to finish him as he has been prone to wearing out his opposition late if they don’t. That poses a serious challenge for Jourdain as he has a love of throwing high risk maneuvers that eat up his energy bar in a hurry, though the Canadian has learned to pace himself better in recent contests. Given Erosa doesn’t go away unless you put him away, Jourdain better not gas. Given Erosa tougher than he is durable, I think Jourdain can land one of his high-risk maneuvers and end the contest before it gets to the judges. Jourdain via KO of RD2
- At 5’8”, Dalcha Lungiambula is on the short side for the middleweight division, helping explain why the stout South Africa native made the move down from light heavyweight. An explosive athlete with serious KO power, Lungiambula is in trouble going the distance, whether it’s getting outworked by his opponent due to Lungiambula’s lack of volume or just not having the deepest gas tank and making him vulnerable to a late stoppage. There’s plenty of holes to point out in Marc-Andre Barriault, but volume and stamina aren’t issues. Not to say the burly Barriault doesn’t get tired, but the Canadian continues to work through his fatigue. He doesn’t stop moving forward either, uppercuts in the clinch being his most consistent weapon. Barriault won’t leave Lungiambula any shortage of opportunities to put him to sleep, but his chin has been remarkably solid. Barriault’s constant pressure should wear down Lungiambula enough for a late finish. Barriault via TKO of RD3
- MMA pundits have been all over the board with regards to the ceiling of Jonathan Martinez, but there’s no doubt he’s made strides in his UFC run. Always a fantastic and dangerous kicker, Martinez has sharpened up his fists and beefed up his takedown defense, seemingly ensuring he’ll be a mainstay with the organization at the very least. Of course, every time he receives a step up in competition, his defensive liabilities reveal themselves. Whether or not Marcelo Rojo can expose those deficiencies enough to secure himself a W is up for debate. While Martinez has some holes on defense, he at least makes an effort in that field. I’m not sure if Rojo knows the definition. If he does, he subscribes to the theory that more offense is the best defense. Low kicks are the biggest staple of his arsenal, but it could be argued the clinch is where he’s best. His forward movement should make it difficult for Martinez to let loose from the outside, where he’s at his best. It’s a hell of a way to kick off the night, but I favor the Argentinian. Rojo via decision