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UFC 277 early prelims preview: Scrappy youths start the evening

Get the low down on the earliest of UFC 277’s fights, topped by promising welterweight Michael Morales looking to snuff out Adam Fugitt’s potential Cinderella story.

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Michael Morales punching Trevin Giles at UFC 270
Michael Morales punching Trevin Giles at UFC 270
Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

As much as I’ve been praising the UFC for their PPV cards, UFC 277 necessitates an asterisk. The main card stacks up with just about any other main card the UFC has put on this year. However, the preliminary action is chuck full of filler. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but there aren’t names people outside of friends and family that have a vested interest in the fights on the early prelims. Well, perhaps MMA bettors care, but that would be it. Hopefully, that doesn’t discourage the participants in these contests, though I doubt it would. Fighters can easily go from being a filler fighter to a name. Hell, in less than two years, Anthony Smith went from being an underdog against Andrew Sanchez to fighting Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title. You never know who the next contender from out of nowhere is going to be.

  • Like many others, I was lukewarm to the potential of Michael Morales making an immediate impact in his UFC debut. After all, his regional competition was subpar and there’s a long list of DWCS alumni being overwhelmed in their official UFC debut. Instead, he took Trevin Giles – an established UFC veteran – to school. While Morales isn’t exceptionally tall for the division, he does have long limbs that allows him to land strikes at awkward angles and be effective from the outside. After Ramiz Brahimaj pulled out last week, there wasn’t a lot of time for Morales to find an opponent. Thus, Adam Fugitt gets the call. At 33, Fugitt is older than the usual debutant and isn’t the greatest athlete. Nevertheless, he is well-conditioned, pushes a hard pace, and packs enough of a punch that his power needs to be respected. It’s very plausible Morales makes the mistake of overlooking the newcomer and pays a heavy price for doing so. Still, I haven’t seen the level of delusional confidence out of Morales that would have me thinking that’s the most likely outcome. Morales should win, but it won’t be as dominant as the betting lines are indicating. Morales via decision
  • Due to her inability to stop takedowns, it looked like Joselyne Edwards was going to wash out of the UFC. Well aware of the stigma, the Panamanian striker brushed up on her takedown defense in her most recent contest, stuffing takedown attempt after takedown attempt from a larger opponent in Ramona Pascual. Despite that, those improvements probably won’t matter in this contest as Ji Yeon Kim has yet to secure a single takedown in her eight UFC contests. The South Korean native has picked up a pair of FOTN bonuses in her last two fights, showing off her durability and willingness to throwdown. While Kim is exciting, she’s lost fights where she was given the exact fight she prefers. Edwards isn’t bad in the pocket, but she’s at her best staying on the outside and picking apart her opponents. Given Kim is unlikely to grab her kicks and prove to be much of a takedown threat, expect Edwards to throw kicks with abandon and outpoint Kim with ease given her edge in technique despite stepping in on short notice. Edwards via decision
  • After dropping his UFC debut to Saparbeg Safarov in an embarrassing manner, I never thought I’d see Nick Negumereanu secure three consecutive wins in the UFC. There’s an extremely good chance he’ll make it four. While Ihor Potieria has won 17 consecutive fights, most of those have come against cans. To be fair to the debuting Ukrainian, he has a legit light heavyweight frame, a diverse attack, and sound cardio. However, he’s also reckless enough that it’s hard to believe someone with a little bit of timing and technique wouldn’t be able to exploit that. It’s doubtful Negumereanu will be the one to do so as the Romanian fighter is another brawler with a deep gas tank. What Negumereanu doesn’t have in comparison to Potieria is size. Despite that, Negumereanu has proven he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win and done so against a higher level of competition than Potieria. I’m not crazy about the long term prospects of either fighter, nor would I be willing to put money on this fight, but I’ll go with the more proven commodity. Negumereanu via decision
  • The UFC appears to be determined to give Mike Mathetha, aka Blood Diamond, every opportunity to succeed. A former professional kickboxer, Mathetha’s inexperience on the mat became glaringly obvious in his UFC debut against Jeremiah Wells. Thus, the UFC is matching him up against Orion Cosce. Cosce can wrestle – and actually did so in his UFC debut – but would much rather stand and bang it out. Cosce was used to being the superior athlete on the regional scene. In the UFC, he’s average at best. If he chooses to throw fisticuffs with Mathetha, he could regret it as Mathetha is a better athlete, more technically sound, and probably has more natural power too. This could be an easy win for Cosce if he were to play things right, but ego is something all MMA fighters have to stave off. If Cosce was still undefeated, the belief here is his ego would be getting the best of him. Coming off a loss, Cosce probably needs a win to keep his job. That should be enough to encourage a smart performance out of him. Cosce via TKO of RD1