The televised prelims are sneaky good. Even if you think these prelims are solid, I’ll bet if you look deeper into them, you’ll walk away thinking they’re better than you originally thought. For example, Khaos Williams and Brandon Royval are developing into favorites to take home bonus money on any card they appear on. The winner of Macy Chiasson and Norma Dumont could very well be fighting for a title in their next appearance. I get it’s for the women’s featherweight title, but it would nevertheless be a title. Regardless, I have a hard time believing the prelims won’t be well worth watching.
For the early prelims preview, click here.
Randy Brown vs. Khaos Williams, Welterweight
It’s been six years since he touched down in the UFC, but Brown is finally on the verge of breaking into the official UFC rankings. It isn’t that no one recognized his immense physical gifts when he made his UFC debut. It’s that he was so raw – he had been a pro less than two years when he was signed up – there were worries he’d have his confidence shattered before he could begin to fulfill his potential. There were definitely moments it appeared that might happen, but the lanky striker has persevered, sharpened up his skillset, and looks like a fighter rather than an athlete trying to fight.
Despite all the positives with Brown – and I’m not going to be able to touch on all of them – there is one weakness that has persisted even as he improved: his striking defense. Brown’s footwork and distance management are still sore spots. Given his height – he’s 6’3” — it isn’t much of a surprise that he would have issues with that aspect. Most fighters tall for their division employ a style of tall man defense, so it’s not exactly a surprise.
The reason why it’s so notable is Williams has already established himself as one of the better KO artists in the entire division. Three of his four UFC wins have come via KO, two of those in under 30 seconds. Williams may not be the athlete Brown is. Williams may not have the diverse striking arsenal Brown possesses. Nor does Williams appear to have the grappling acumen of Brown. However, none of that will matter if Williams is able to land cleanly on Brown’s chin. It isn’t that Brown has a fragile chin. It’s that Williams has put to sleep guys who have been reputed to be difficult to put away and done so with minimal effort.
Even if Williams doesn’t get the KO, his opponents have shown him so much respect that he’s been able to chip away with low kicks and jabs to stay ahead on the scorecards. At one point, I believe Brown would have been willing to do that. However, the version of Brown we’ve seen in recent years is much more aggressive and confident than his younger self. He has the skills and the power to secure the win. Plus, Williams won’t have the reach advantage he’s used to owning. The most obvious road to victory for Brown might be taking the fight to the ground, especially given Williams’ wrestling hasn’t been as staunch as many believed it would be when he first entered the organization. The thing is, it all comes back to whether Williams can land one big shot. I don’t trust Brown’s defense enough to say it doesn’t happen. Williams via KO of RD1
Macy Chiasson vs. Norma Dumont, Women’s Featherweight
Dumont has come a long way from the UFC debutant who was disposed of with ease by Megan Anderson. Dumont may have been unsuccessful in her attempts to drop down to bantamweight, but it’s obvious she has also sharpened her skillset in that time as well. It may have been one of the most underwhelming headliners seen in the UFC’s long history, but she did headline a UFC card last year and emerged the victor.
While Dumont is a legit 145er, she doesn’t possess an imposing frame for the division. That’s due in part to her fighting style. Though Dumont has a respectable grappling background, her bread and butter has developed into her outside striking game. She didn’t have the reputation as a technician when she first came into the UFC, but she’s developed that reputation now. It should be noticed Aspen Ladd, the opponent she picked apart in her last contest, isn’t exactly noted for being anything other than a brawler on the feet, so perhaps we’re all putting too much stock into that performance.
Then again, it isn’t like Chiasson is a model of striking technique herself. Though she’s clearly the bigger fighter in this fight, she hasn’t established a consistent jab or front kick. She does find success with them on occasion, but Chiasson is a bully through and through. Her preferred method of fighting is to crowd her opponent against the fence, smother them, and wear them down with short strikes as she leans against them.
Even though she’s been the bigger fighter in all her fights, that hasn’t always worked for Chiasson. Though she has some brutal GnP, Chiasson has struggled to drag her opponents to the mat and keep them there. She received a bit of a pass as she debuted in the UFC young in her career – she still has yet to celebrate the five-year anniversary of her turning pro – but the lack of progress at this juncture is becoming a worry.
In terms of raw physicality, there’s no doubt Chiasson is the more talented fighter. However, the type of opponents who have been able to turn away Chiasson are those who have been equipped to deal with her physicality, perhaps even turn it on her. Dumont isn’t exactly a down and dirty fighter, but she will be the largest opponent Chiasson has faced in her UFC run. Throw in her progression as a fighter is imminently more visible than that of Chiasson and Dumont feels like the only reasonable pick. Perhaps Chiasson has learned some lessons from her loss to Raquel Pennington, but I believe that would be assuming too much. Dumont via decision
Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell, Flyweight
Along the lines of Jorge Rivera vs. Alessio Sakara and Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson, we must accept the fact the fates have decided Schnell is never to fight Alex Perez. The UFC spent about a year trying to make that fight happen, finally scheduling Schnell with someone other than the former title challenger. He’s not getting an easier opponent in Royval.
Royval is one of the most exciting members of the UFC roster. Not just the division, but the entire roster. That tends to happen when you fight with a degree of recklessness and fearlessness that isn’t seen at the UFC level. Typically, after a fighter suffers a KO or severe injury, they tend to dial things back. While Royval hasn’t been knocked cold yet, he does have a history of shoulder issues... and is still perfectly willing to through all sorts of spinning and leaping attacks that he can think of. You’d think he’d be able to get away with his high-risk ways due to elite athleticism. Royval isn’t a bad athlete by any means, but no one is going to make comparisons to Deiveson Figueiredo in terms of his physical gifts.
On the feet, Schnell is the complete opposite. With a questionable chin, Schnell is dependent on utilizing space, angles, footwork, and working behind a jab to keep his chin from being broken. It’s clear he also worked on rolling with punches as he withstood several hard shots from KO artist Tyson Nam, outworking him on the strength of his standup.
Perhaps Schnell can find success on the mat. While Royval may be one of the best scramblers in the division, he isn’t a great wrestler or BJJ practitioner in the traditional and technical sense. If Schnell can score takedowns and maintain top control, he may be able to force Royval into a mistake.
Schnell deserves a lot of credit. He went from a fighter many predicted would be on the chopping block in short order to someone who has been a mainstay in the flyweight rankings. However, Royval is a bad matchup for him. While he managed to get past Nam when most thought he’d have his block knocked off, Nam is also very one-dimensional. It was much easier for him to know what Nam was going to throw at him than what Royval might do. It’s always the ones you don’t see coming that get ya. It isn’t impossible to see Schnell winning, but the odds seem long. Royval via KO of RD2
- At some point, Father Time is going to get the better of Francisco Trinaldo. The effects of age have started to creep in on the 43-year-old Trinaldo, but he’s made some adjustments so he can remain competitive. For example, though his gas tank is still worrisome, he moved up to welterweight to save him the stress of cutting the extra 15 pounds. Trinaldo still has power and burst, but he has to be selective about using it, resulting in many of his fights being staring contests. The right opponents have been able to squeeze out fun fights from the durable Brazilian. It’s hard to say if Danny Roberts would be the right guy. Though Roberts would have been happy to engage in a firefight earlier in his UFC career, the Englishman has taken a more cautious approach since suffering consecutive losses for the first time. It may not be as exciting, but it has produced better results. For instance, the former boxer has been content to allow opponents to work in his guard. While Roberts does have sneaky subs off his back, that’s a high-risk endeavor. Roberts’ durability concerns leaves open the possibility of Trinaldo putting him away, but the most likely outcome sees Roberts using his length and diverse striking arsenal to outpoint the aging Trinaldo. Besides, it’s not like Roberts doesn’t have power. Roberts via decision