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UFC Vegas 64: Rodriguez vs. Lemos prelims preview - Minner looking to stall skid

Dig into the preliminary action of UFC Vegas 64, topped by submission specialist Darrick Minner looking to put an end to his skid against upstart Shayilan Nuerdanbieke.

Darrick Minner punching Ryan Hall at UFC 269
Darrick Minner punching Ryan Hall at UFC 269
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

If you enjoy high stakes, UFC Vegas 64 prelims is short on that... unless you’re the fighters. Just about every fight in the prelims features at least one fighter who very well may be fighting for their jobs. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some prospects worth highlighting. Some would say Miranda Maverick is already a top ten flyweight in the women’s division. Mario Bautista would be highlighted as one of the better young talents in his division if he wasn’t in the impossibly deep bantamweight division. And it would be foolish to give up on Jake Hadley after the young Englishman has suffered his first loss.

  • Prior to his signing to the UFC, Darrick Minner came across as the ideal gatekeeper to determine if up-and-coming prospects belonged in the UFC. However, given his kill-or-be-killed style – only 3 of his 34 career fights prior to his signing went the distance – it didn’t seem like he’d be cut out for the UFC himself. Fortunately, Minner has made the most of his time in the organization, revamping his style just enough to allow him to remain effective over 15 minutes when he would previously gas after a single round. That doesn’t mean he’s no longer aggressive looking for submissions, but he is more judicious. He’ll probably get plenty of opportunities to snatch one against Shayilan Nuerdanbieke. The Chinese native is a bowling ball of a human being who aggressively pursues takedowns, looking to overpower his opponents. Nuerdanbieke has an extensive track record, but it’s largely come against cans on the Chinese scene. Despite that, he has played it safe since dropping his UFC debut, opting for takedowns and maintaining control for long stretches. Against TJ Brown, he got caught in several submission attempts. To be fair, Nuerdanbieke did escape from all of them to hold on for a win, but Minner is a different breed. I see him latching on at some point and getting the tap. Minner via submission of RD1
  • After dropping her first two UFC contests, Shanna Young looked like a completely different fighter after dropping down to the flyweight division. No longer severely undersized, she was able to fight off the takedown attempts of Gina Mazany, allowing herself to demonstrate her striking prowess that had previously been smothered by larger opposition. It’s unlikely she’ll get a similar opportunity as Miranda Maverick has proven herself to be one of the better wrestlers and grapplers in the division. If Maverick opts to drag Young to the mat, it’s hard to believe she won’t either find a submission or control her for the majority of the fight. That doesn’t mean Young is without hope. Maverick has been eager to prove she’s more than a ground fighter. She’s not wrong; she is a capable boxer with plus power. But that would also give Young the opening she needs to potentially outwork Maverick or perhaps find a finish. Even with that possibility, Maverick is tough as nails and it’s hard to believe she won’t look to utilize her wrestling at all. Maverick via submission of RD3
  • Signed off the first season of DWCS, Benito Lopez received one of the biggest pushes from the organization out of anyone else from that season. He did turn in some entertaining performances, but then he just disappeared, this being his first fight in over three years. Despite coming out of Team Alpha Male, his wrestling is the weakest part of his game, preferring to stand in the pocket and trade fisticuffs, utilizing his lanky frame to his advantage. Unfortunately, he hasn’t developed much defensive craft. Then again, his opponent, Mario Bautista, isn’t much of a defensive savant either, meaning there’s a very good chance we get another back-and-forth slugfest that was becoming Lopez’s calling card. Then again, Bautista could remember that he’s pretty slick on the ground, his BJJ being his base. Plus, Bautista has proven his power and dynamism has translated into the UFC ranks. That hasn’t been the case for Lopez. It’s possible Lopez has added to his arsenal or developed power as his body has matured, but knowing what we do know about both of them, Bautista has to be the pick. Bautista via submission of RD2
  • It isn’t hard to see the talent possessed by Polyana Viana. With a taller frame for the strawweight division and slick BJJ, the tools are there for her to become a major player in the division. Unfortunately, despite creeping up on five years on the UFC roster, her striking still comes across as clunky, struggling to make efficient use of her reach. That isn’t to say there hasn’t been any progress for her, but her defense is still very problematic. There isn’t anything dynamic about Jinh Yu Frey, but she has the fundamentals down pat. Her being undersized for 115 does limit her ceiling, but she is an effective boxer in the pocket and a sneaky good wrestler, though that aspect is typically utilized to turn away her opponents attempts to get her to the mat. Given Viana’s ability to secure takedowns is mediocre at best, that leads to the expectation this turns into a standup affair. Frey can be too patient for her own good, waiting too much for the counter. I like Viana’s dynamism and volume – even if It’s fake volume – to give her the edge in the judges’ eyes. Viana via decision
  • UFC debuts don’t get much worse than Liudvik Sholinian. To be fair to the Ukranian native, he had the deck stacked against him, debuting on short notice against Jack Shore, so it’s not right to take too much from that contest. Regardless, Sholinian offers a toolbox that has him adequate in all areas, but excelling in none. In the case of Johnny Munoz Jr., it’s the opposite. A talented grappler who skillfully chains together submission attempts, Munoz tends to come up short in just about all other areas. That doesn’t stop him from aggressively pursuing takedowns, spending the majority of his UFC debut pressing Nate Maness against the fence, unable to complete takedowns. Neither fighter is a physical standout, but both are tough as nails and are unlikely to crack mentally. While both appear to have limited ceilings, that Munoz has at least one area in which he can hang with the best has me leaning in his direction... provided he can get the finish. That is obviously easier said than done, but Munoz’s doggedness has me believing he can get the fight to the mat enough times to find the finish, despit Sholinian’s respectable takedown defense. Munoz via submission of RD1
  • Uncle Dana stuck his neck out for Jake Hadley when he signed him off DWCS despite the youngster missing weight. Hadley didn’t deliver in his UFC debut, turning in a disappointing performance against Allan Nascimento. Hadley couldn’t get his vaunted wrestling game going, having the tables turned on him by the slick Brazilian grappler. Whether he’s a better grappler than Carlos Candelario is up for debate, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who has observed these two studiously who would declare Candelario as the superior wrestler. That doesn’t ensure Hadley the victory. Candelario — another one Uncle Dana stuck his neck out for as Candelario was signed off DWCS on a loss — is as scrappy as they come and likely won’t be staying on the ground for very long. Should the fight become a striking battle for a long stretch, Hadley has the power advantage and may even be the better boxer in the pocket, but he doesn’t have the range or dynamism Candelario possesses. In other words, the expectation is Candelario would outwork him in a division where KO’s are rare. Despite that, I expect Hadley will exercise enough control on the mat to sway the judges in his direction. Hadley via decision
  • I hate to be disrespectful of these ladies, but the fact Ramona Pascual and Tamires Vidal are on the UFC roster is proof of just how shallow the women’s bantamweight division is. Neither appear to be ready for the big time and there’s serious doubt they ever will be. Nonetheless, they’re here. With Pascual, we at least know she has the requisite toughness to perform on the grand stage. It’s the rest that is concerning. She does have a large frame that could prove imposing if she can harness her opponent into her clinch. That’s been problematic as Pascual isn’t exactly nimble. Then again, Vidal isn’t fleet of foot either. Vidal looks like she might be able to make it to flyweight with proper diet and nutrition, but she doesn’t let that stop her from entering the pocket throwing fisticuffs. Her volume could prove to be enough to overwhelm Pascual, but there’s a decent amount of technique to Pascual’s offense that I favor her. Knowing she can take some serious punishment helps me settle into that decision. Pascual via decision