After a week off, the UFC returns to action in Jacksonville, Florida. Enjoy the offering the UFC provides at UFC 273 as there is going to be a dry spell of quality around the bend. Even the earlier fights at UFC 273 appear to be better than a large chunk of the contests that will be provided when the UFC returns to the Apex Center. That’s partially an indication of how bad the Apex Center fights are, partially an indication of how good the early prelims are. They’re very much a mixed bag. For instance, Aleksei Oleinik was headlining Fight Night cards about a year-and-a-half ago. Then again, he hasn’t won a fight since that time. Julio Arce was fighting a competitive fight with Song Yadong in his last fight... until he got KO’d. It wasn’t that long ago Kay Hansen was one of the most hyped prospects on the roster. Well, she isn’t now. Dig in and I’ll let you be the judge.
- Kudos to Jared Vanderaa for being the guy the UFC can turn to for a short notice fight at heavyweight, but that won’t ensure he stays on the roster if he doesn’t start winning some of those fights. The big man is a bit of an anomaly. Needing to cut weight to get under the heavyweight limit, you’d expect someone like him to pack a ferocious punch and to struggle with his gas tank. Instead, Vanderaa is largely a volume striker who struggles to put away his opponents unless he can get a dominant position on the mat and pound away. That’s going to be a risky proposition given the mat is where Aleksei Oleinik wants the fight. Given the prowess of Oleinik on the mat, he’ll be happy even if he’s on his back. The oldest member of the UFC roster, Oleinik lacks the stamina to depend on winning decisions. Though he has some punching power, he’s too awkward on the feet to count on that either. Oleinik’s crafty ground game is about the only way he can win. The sheer girth of Vanderaa makes him difficult to submit, but if there is anyone who can do it, Oleinik is the man who can. Vanderaa has improved his takedown defense, but the crafty Oleinik tends to eat up younger fighters akin to Vanderaa who have yet to put all the pieces together. Oleinik via submission of RD1
- Various issues prevented Anthony Hernandez from capitalizing on the momentum he built for himself after he submitted BJJ ace Rodolfo Vieira. Now, over a year after that monumental upset, all that momentum could be gone. Given a high degree of confidence is required to fight as aggressively as Hernandez does, I think the momentum is still there. Of course, it was Hernandez’s cardio advantage over Vieira that picked him up the win more than anything. In fact, it could be argued his aggression has been problematic for his UFC run. The debuting Josh Fremd has the power to make Hernandez pay a heavy price with his Muay Thai arsenal. However, Fremd is also taking the fight on short notice and is massive for 185. It’s hard to believe he won’t be compromised getting down to the required weight on his 6’4” frame. An early KO from Fremd still seems like a distinct possibility. A decision isn’t as likely, but could happen if Hernandez can’t find a way around Fremd’s consistent jab. However, given the likelihood Hernandez will be able to weaponize his cardio in this contest, I like Hernandez to shift the momentum in his favor over the last half of the contest to take a decision. Hernandez via decision
- As I mentioned earlier, there was quite a bit of hype around Kay Hansen when the UFC signed her up due to her youth and raw skills. Now sitting at 1-2, there are some already willing to give up on Hansen. Given she’s only 22 and opened up about some mental issues, it would be foolish to do so. After a tryst at 125, Hansen has opted to return to strawweight, hoping being the bigger competitor in the cage will better allow her to utilize her impressive strength to bully the debuting Piera Rodriguez. Rodriguez surprised many by utilizing an attack focused on grounding her opponent to secure her UFC contract on DWCS, but entered that fight with a reputation as an aggressive striker. Given Hansen’s striking is far behind her ground game, it would be shocking to see Rodriguez continue to emphasize her ground attack. Taking that a step further, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Rodriguez overwhelm Hansen on the feet. However, it seems more likely Hansen can ground Rodriguez regularly and exercise long periods of control as the takedown defense of the Venezuelan is a concern. Hansen via decision
- At one point, there was a sizeable contingency that believed Julio Arce was going to develop into a mainstay in the UFC rankings. After losses every time he has received a notable step up in competition, it doesn’t look like that’s going to become reality. Regardless, Arce has proven more than worthy of his roster spot, even if he isn’t going to reach elevated expectations some had for him. Though most view Arce as a versatile striker who works over his opponents to all levels, Arce has displayed the ability to score the occasional takedown. Unfortunately, he does it so infrequently that it’s unlikely his reputation solely as a striker will ever change. He welcomes a wild card in Daniel Santos. Though his record and level of competition appears to be solid, there’s enough can crushers he’s toppled to question his readiness for someone of Arce’s level. It has also been over two years since Santos competed. That could indicate he’s made leaps and bounds in his progress as he’s still only 27, but it’s impossible to know. The limited film available on his shows a solid athlete unafraid to take risks, but I don’t feel comfortable picking him against a proven commodity in Arce. Arce TKO of RD3