The last couple of years, it has been a rarity when the UFC hasn’t provided stacked cards for the PPV’s, top to bottom. Given UFC 275 is taking place in Singapore, I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Not that I’m knocking on Singapore; it’s just a very long flight and I’m sure the UFC has a hell of a time convincing fighters to make the travel while cutting weight. Thus, while the early prelims being short on name value is understandable for any card, it can be a bit jarring when the televised prelims feel like they’re coming up short for a PPV. Nevertheless, none of the matchups appear doomed to be snoozers, particularly 2022 most pleasant surprise, Andre Fialho. Plus, while they aren’t the best-known fighters, these are well-matched fight that no one should feel confident in making a pick without doing their homework.
For the early prelims preview, click here.
- After being blasted in his UFC debut by Phil Hawes in a matter of seconds, everyone believed Jacob Malkoun’s spot on the roster was solely attributable to him being the training partner of former champion, Robert Whittaker. Since then, the gritty Aussie has completely redeemed himself, picking up a pair of wins despite being a sizeable underdog. However, in retrospect, both of those contests appeared to be tailor-made for him as Razak Abdul Hasan has shown nothing on the mat in his UFC run and AJ Dobson is an undersized middleweight who was prone to Malkoun’s size and pressure. It doesn’t seem likely he’ll be able to institute his typical game plan with the same degree of success against Brendan Allen. While the prognosis on Allen’s ceiling is still very much up for debate, there is no doubt he’s proven himself to be someone who will populate the UFC roster for a long time to come. Always a skilled grappler and now an improved striker, Allen’s troubles seem to emerge when he becomes overconfident in his abilities. There’s no doubt Allen has the physical gifts to develop into a contender – and he’s had flashes where he has looked like one – but the mental side of things still leaves a notable doubt in whether Allen can run through Malkoun. If Allen is in tune mentally, it won’t matter if Malkoun is at his best. I can’t guarantee that will be the case, but it still feels foolish to pick Malkoun. Allen via decision
- Given the expectation for Josh Culibao was that he would wash out shortly after signing up as a short notice opponent for Jalin Turner in 2020, the Aussie has already exceeded expectations by picking up a win within the organization. Not that Culibao looks like he’s going to become a contender, but he can’t be taken lightly either. With tight combination boxing, sturdy takedown defense, and grit in spades, Culibao is the annoying combatant that will steal victory from opponents that that do underestimate him. The question is whether Seung Woo Choi underestimates him. Choi is one of the biggest featherweights on the roster and hits as hard as you’d expect him to with his shredded frame. When allowed to stand and bang, Choi has looked like a star in the making. When his opponent has been able to drag him to the mat, he looks like he could be on the receiving end of a pink slip in short order. To be fair, Choi has improved his takedown defense and he’s not too bad if he can obtain the top position. If Choi comes out overconfident in his power, the upset is there for Culibao. Given Choi is coming off a loss, I think he’ll take a more buttoned down approach and take the W. Choi via decision
- While most of the products of DWCS are far from proven commodities, Maheshate appears to be one of the most unknown products to ever be awarded a contract in the five seasons of the program. While his youth is certainly a large part of the issue – he is just 23 – the low level of competition on his ledger is the bigger problem. How to judge the limited footage of him that is available? If his DWCS appearance in any indication, Maheshate is more than capable on his feet, sporting a typical striking arsenal of the modern day. Whether any of his power translates as he faces better competition is unknown. It appears the power of Steve Garcia has translated well enough as the former bantamweight now plies his trade at 155. Though primarily known as a striker, Garcia showed he could wrestle a bit at his new home against Charlie Onteveros. Garcia’s biggest weakness on the regional scene was stopping takedowns, but no one has tried to exploit that since he hit the UFC. Given I don’t expect Maheshate to test that out, I expect Garcia’s edge in experience in combination with his aggressive all-around attack, I favor the veteran. Garcia via TKO of RD2
- For the moment, Andre Fialho is the UFC’s favorite shiny new toy. He has delivered two highlight reel KO’s since mid-April and is looking to add a third in a span of less than two months. No one has ever doubted the talent of the native of Portugal, but he’s kicked his development into high gear the last few years, his only loss in seven contests since 2021 coming to Michel Pereira. Given he’s shown power in both hands, Fialho isn’t the Dan Henderson-style, fist cocked fighter. That isn’t to say there isn’t vulnerability on the feet either; Cameron VanCamp rocked him, of all people. Perhaps more worrying is his struggles to stop takedowns against Jake Matthews. Matthews isn’t the one-dimensional ground fighter he was early in his UFC tenure, but the mat is still where his bread is buttered. While Matthews isn’t gobbling up the submission victories the way he did early on, he has developed a steady jab in addition to exercising improved control on the mat. However, the steadiest component of Matthews record is an inability to topple those who would qualify as above average athletes. Fialho isn’t an elite athlete, but he is the type of athlete Matthews has struggled with. Matthews is durable, but he isn’t indestructible. I do worry about Fialho making his third weight cut in less than two months, but I’’ll trust he knows his limits this deep into his career. Fialho via TKO of RD2