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UFC Vegas 53 prelims preview: A slimmed-down Romanov, and lots of filler

Get the scoop on the early action out of UFC Vegas 53, featuring rising heavyweight Alexandr Romanov looking to make an example of longtime veteran Chase Sherman.

Alexandr Romanov delivering ground and pound to Jared Vanderaa at UFC Vegas 39
Alexandr Romanov delivering ground and pound to Jared Vanderaa at UFC Vegas 39
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

“It’s another UFC card.” That’s the general feeling I’ve been getting about UFC Vegas 53. Much like the last two Fight Night cards, there’s a solid main event, one or two other fights that offer some intriuge, and then a bunch of filler. The prelims: all filler. There are two fighters on the prelims that look like they could populate the official rankings of their respective divisions in short order for a long time. However, they have caveats. Alexandr Romanov is facing a guy who was just cut after a three fight losing streak, only to be brought back a few days later when Romanov’s original opponent fell out. Not the most intriguing fight. The other fighter, Tatsuro Taira, is making his debut. In other words, he has looked good on the regional scene, but looking good on the Japanese regional scene doesn’t mean what it once did. He could just as easily be a bust.

I’m not 100% confident anyone else in UFC history has experienced the last few weeks or so that Chase Sherman has, but the list would be incredibly short if there is. Cut two weeks ago after three consecutive losses, Sherman found himself back on the roster on Tuesday when Tanner Boser was forced to pull out due to injury. Then, just hours before he was to compete with Alexandr Romanov, the fight gets cancelled and rescheduled for this week. There are those who don’t envy Sherman as Romanov has the look of a future contender to many. The Moldovan is an absolute beast in the cage, barreling over his opponents with his powerful wrestling and dominant GnP. There have been signs of weakness as he slowed considerably in his only UFC fight that has entered the third round. In fact, there’s a large contingent who believed he was on his way to his first career loss before he suffered an illegal low blow that stopped the contest. Then again, Romanov looked to be in the best shape of his life at the weigh-ins last week. Romanov’s standup is still very much a work in progress, enough that Sherman should have a sizeable edge in that department. The problem for Sherman is no one has been able to stop Romanov from taking them down, at least early on. Plus, Romanov has eaten damage well thus far. I don’t see Sherman stopping Romanov’s takedowns or stopping him with strikes. Romanov via TKO of RD1

In terms of pure physical skills, Francisco Figueiredo isn’t on the UFC roster due to nepotism. While he isn’t at the level of his brother, reigning flyweight champion Deiveson, the younger of the Figueiredo brothers has decent power of his own and the reach to create major problems. However, he also fights at a deliberate pace that doesn’t result in much action coming from his end. Even more troublesome, despite his slow pace, he still tends to slow considerably the deeper a fight goes. The same could be said about Daniel da Silva, but at least da Silva unloads a considerable amount of artillery before his tank ends up shorting out. Da Silva has a love for the high-risk, throwing spinning and flying attacks like their going out of style. Of course, he has never gone to a decision in his career, so it’s hard to crap on his go-for-broke style to this point given he’s made it to the UFC. He did drop his UFC debut to Jeff Molina, but he gave his fellow prospect a nice run for his money. I like his chances of putting away Figueiredo, but I would expect the champ’s younger brother to win if the fight leaves the first round. Da Silva via TKO of RD1

Yohan Lainesse picked up an undeserved bum rap when he secured a contract via DWCS, only for Jonas Bilharinho not to secure one off a spinning wheel kick. That isn’t to say Lainesse didn’t deserve his contract, but it did create an unfortunate air around him. Nevertheless, Lainesse has proven himself to be a regular finisher thanks to the prodigious power he produces with his fists. There are issues with his defense, but he has proven he can fall back on takedowns if he’s being pieced up on the feet. It isn’t because Lainesse is a technical wrestler; he’s just absolutely massive for 170 and can bully a large chunk of the welterweight population. Expect him to try that out as Gabe Green throws a LOT of volume. The American is primarily a boxer, but he mixes in enough kicks to keep his opponents honest. Green often forgets he’s in an MMA match rather than a kickboxing contest, meaning he’s often caught unaware to his opponent’s takedowns. However, on the other end, Green is a solid takedown artist when he remembers he go that route. Perhaps most importantly, Green has proven he can endure a firefight. There’s nothing wrong with Lainesse’s resume, but he hasn’t been dragged into the type of waters Green has. Thus, I favor Green, though I admit I have my concerns about Green’s layoff due to an alleged heart issue. Green via decision

Anyone else get the feeling the fight between Mike Breeden and Natan Levy is a loser leaves town match? I know they’ve only lost one fight and the UFC usually gives more leeway to their DWCS products. However, it also feels like the UFC is looking to trim some fat and neither one of these men appear to be top-flight prospects. Between the two, Levy appears to have the higher ceiling, but it’s also appears Breeden is the more polished product. With rapid boxing combinations and a deep gas tank he tends to weaponize, the road to victory is there for Breeden as Levy has had stamina issues in the past. Of course, that was also when Levy was fighting at featherweight and he’s no longer cutting those extra 10 pounds. Levy is on the small side, especially given his penchant for wrestling, but he’s also the superior athlete and harder hitter. Unless odds tilt too high in favor of one combatant, I wouldn’t consider dropping money on this contest. As it is, I’ll go with the younger fighter with greater upside. Levy via decision

The initial returns on Gina Mazany’s drop to flyweight appeared to be good. She utilized her newfound size advantage to her gain, bullying Rachael Ostovich to victory. However, in her sophomore effort at 125 saw her gas HARD, fighting just to survive around the halfway point of the second round. In other words, it appears Mazany’s success is completely dependent on whether she can cut down the required weight effectively, leaving her enough in the tank to perform in the cage. That isn’t to say Shanna Young won’t have something to say about the outcome. Though she has fought at flyweight before, it’s been several years since she competed there. However, she didn’t have much of a choice after being bullied in both her UFC bantamweight appearances. Young offers more on the feet by a wide margin, but it’s hard to see her keeping Mazany off her... at least in the early stages of the fight. It will be dependent on when Mazany’s stamina betrays her. Even if she lasts a while longer than she did against Prischilla Cachoeira, Mazany has to worry about being put away as Young has the skill set to do that. It’s a tossup, but I’ll go with Young. Young via TKO of RD3

Given the promise Tatsuro Taira has shown, I’m a bit shocked there hasn’t been more hype around the 22-year-old Japanese representative. Perhaps some of that has to do with him competing at flyweight, perhaps it has to do with his ground-heavy approach, or maybe people just don’t pay as much attention to the Japanese scene as they used to. Most likely a combination of all three. Regardless, Taira is surprisingly methodical for someone of his age. Not that he doesn’t possess any explosiveness, but while he’s adept enough at scrambling, he’s shown the ability to slowly work his way into position on the mat. That could be delivering some brutal GnP or finding a sub. He’ll have an unproven opponent in Carlos Candelario. The first product of DWCS to be awarded a contract off a losing performance, the American proved to be exceptionally scrappy. Plus, while his takedown defense is a major concern, his ability to get back to his feet is impressive. Throw in his occasional KO power and it’s not a guarantee he’s a stepping stone for Taira. Despite that, I still favor the youngster. Taira via decision