UFC 266 is STACKED. Every fight on the on main card and televised prelims features at least one ranked fighter. Well, Robbie Lawler and Nick Diaz aren’t ranked, but they are legends of the sport and appear to be the biggest draw of the card, so they get a pass. However, just because there is a clear and sizeable drop off on the streamed prelims, that doesn’t mean they utterly suck. Granted, there is a contest featuring a fighter who may not even be qualified for Bellator prelims, but there’s also a couple of hot prospects the UFC sees as future stars in Uros Medic and Manon Fiorot. I’m more sold on Fiorot than I am Medic, but it isn’t hard to see what the UFC loves about them. While I understand it’s hard to sit through hours of fights, but there’s a good chance you’ll see something awesome if you tune it early.
- Uros Medic scares me. Not in the way that he appears to be an absolute beast in the cage, though that does appear to be true. Medic scares me in the sense that I still have no clue just how good he can be because he’s been able to eliminate his opposition so damn fast that I still don’t have a good feel for him. Plus, his opposition has been less than credible thus far, at least in terms of the reputation he has developed. What scares me the most is his biggest weakness appears to be his groundwork... at that was against some low competition. Fortunately for Medic, Jalin Turner doesn’t seem like he’s going to be the one to expose him in that manner. However, Turner does look like he could be the first opponent in the same league of Medic in terms of physical tools. In fact, Turner is similar to Medic in many ways in that he’s an aggressive striker who is massive for the lightweight division. The biggest difference is Turner has proven he can go for 15 minutes effectively. However, Medic’s kill-or-be-killed attitude has be believing there’s no way this fight goes the distance. Turner may be the largest lightweight on the roster, but he doesn’t know how to use his length defensively. Medic’s defense is largely nonexistent too, but I think his higher level of aggression gets him the win. Medic via KO of RD1
- I’m not saying the contest between Mayra Bueno Silva and Manon Fiorot is one of the most anticipated contests on the card – this is a loaded card after all – but it has serious dark horse vibes to be one of the better fights on the card. Debuting earlier this year, Fiorot has already made a splash, some predicting she’ll be fighting for the title by 2023. Watching her tear apart Victoria Leonardo and Tabitha Ricci without context, those predictions make a lot of sense as Fiorot looked like a world-beater. Of course, both Leonardo and Ricci were making their UFC debuts in those contests, so context allows for one to pump the brakes a bit more. Fiorot has the kickboxing skills to make those predictions come true, but it will be dependent on how well her takedown defense holds up. Good news for Fiorot: Silva has yet to attempt a takedown in the UFC, much less complete one. She has benefitted from opponents not respecting her ground game as the Brazilian is a skilled grappler, but she’d rather trust in her toughness and athleticism and slug it out on the feet. She’s in trouble if she opts to do that with Fiorot. It’s hard to trust she won’t do that when an attempt to go to the mat hasn’t been made in four UFC contests. Not that SIlva can’t catch Fiorot, but I’ll side with the more decorated striker. Fiorot via decision
- It wasn’t that long ago many were thinking Karl Roberson was on the verge of becoming a big player at middleweight. Now, it appears he’s fighting for his job. No one denies Roberson is a technical striker with selective power, but his ground game is so damned spotty that it blows the mind that he’s been willing to engage on the mat as willingly as he has. Make no mistake, Nick Maximov will do everything in his power to take the fight to the mat as he has continually sharpened his BJJ skills in submission contests. Maximov’s standup is still raw as he hasn’t been properly tested on the feet in MMA, but he’s also proven fearless and durable. Fearless may not be the right approach against a striker like Roberson, but the physical tools are there for Maximov to become a star, so it isn’t incomprehensible to see him pulling off the upset, especially if the 23-year old sees his development accelerate. Roberson’s poor fight IQ makes it that much more likely. However, with his back against the wall, I think we see Roberson do everything in his power to keep the fight vertical, his experience against quality competition proving to be the difference. Roberson via TKO of RD1
- One of the most baffling signings in UFC history is Martin Sano. His mediocre 4-2-1 record is baffling enough, but throw in the fact he hasn’t had a professional fight since 2017 and it makes absolutely zero sense on the surface. However, the Diaz brothers had enough pull to get Chris Avila signed back in 2016, so it shouldn’t be too surprising they were able to get another one of their buddies a spot on the UFC roster. Regardless, it’s impossible to know what to expect from him after such a long layoff as he could have completely transformed himself after five years away. We know what to expect from Matt Semelsberger. A lanky welterweight with a deep gas tank, Semelsberger struggled against a disciplined striker in Khaos Williams. However, Sano hasn’t displayed that level of striking. In fact, his ground game appeared to be his biggest strength, though that also has some massive holes. Perhaps not the most technical striker, Semelsberger is a busy striker, possesses KO power, and shows respectable takedown defense. I’ll go with what I know. Semelsberger via TKO of RD2
- There’s a clear ceiling for Omar Morales as the native of Venezuela turns 36 next month. That doesn’t mean the talented striker should be considered over the hill at this point. Getting a late start on his MMA career, Morales hasn’t endured the amount of damage most fighters have at this stage of their career. A patient kickboxer with a respectable amount of power, Morales is an ideal gatekeeper of sorts, though he’d readily dispute that title. Regardless, the UFC believes it knows where Morales stands; they don’t know where Jonathan Pearce is at. The Tennessee native is a massive 145er with a persistent wrestling game and a steady jab. However, his most recent performance came against one of the smaller featherweights on the roster, allowing him to be the bully without truly testing his endurance as he cuts a lot of weight to get to 145. Morales takedown defense has held up, but it also hasn’t faced a real test in that manner. It’s a toss up, but I’ll favor youth in this case. Pearce via decision