While I already touched on the lack of depth of UFC 277 in the early prelims preview, I didn’t acknowledge the fine job Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby did. Sure, these prelims don’t have the typical name value most PPV prelims have had over the past year, but a couple of the televised prelims have a good chance of stealing the show. If Matt Semelsberger doesn’t end his fight early, he tends to end up in back and forth scraps. His dance partner, Alex Morono, usually doesn’t end up in boring fights either. However, the contest I would circle is Drew Dober and Rafael Alves. It’s been a rare occurrence for either of them to go the distance the last several years. Thus, even if the names aren’t all that recognizable, they are well worth watching.
- When you think of fighters with 10 or more wins in the UFC, Alex Morono typically isn’t one of those names on the tip of anyone’s tongue. Sure, he’s been on the roster for over six years at this point, but he’s never really had a breakout moment. Nevertheless, being as under-the-radar as he is hasn’t been a bad thing for Morono. Even as he has begun to carve out a name for himself, Morono’s opponents have continually overlooked him and his intelligent approach and scrappiness has allowed him to capitalize more often than not. He’ll get a similarly scrappy opponent in Matthew Semelsberger this time around. In other words, don’t expect to see Semelsberger getting taking the foolish approach towards Morono that so many of his past opponents have. Morono is the more technical striker of the two, but Semelsberger is the more explosive of the two, not to mention the rangier. Neither of them have opted to take the fight to the mat very often – though they might reconsider given both have shaky takedown defense – but should the fight hit the mat, Morono at least has a lengthy track record of proving capable. The same can’t be said of Semelsberger. Regardless, I favor the more athletic Semelsberger. While no one questions Morono’s toughness, his durability isn’t as proven. Semelsberger should land cleanly at some point. Semelsberger via KO of RD1
- The UFC is setting up Rafael Alves’ run within the organization to be a hell of a roller coaster ride. The Brazilian looked fantastic on DWCS to earn a contract. However, Alves badly botched his weight cut down to 145 in what was supposed to be his UFC debut. Thus, it appeared the UFC punished him by pitting him against Damir Ismagulov when forced to move to lightweight. Alves did lose, but he also put a hell of a scare into Ismagulov when he dropped him early. Alves didn’t get a huge step down in Marc Diakiese, but he coyly subbed the Englishman in less than two minutes. Bottom line with Alves is he is boom or bust. He’ll come out of the gate like a man on fire and if he doesn’t get the finish, tends to be vulnerable down the stretch. Given the toughness and durability of Drew Dober is well established, that could be problematic for Alves. Dober survived a similar styled attack from Terrance McKinney earlier this year, only to turn the tables in short order and deliver his own beatdown for the finish. With his pressure combination boxing supplemented by low kicks and the occasional takedown, Dober has the type of attack that Alves struggled with against Ismagulov. There is a path to victory there for Alves as Dober has been prone to being submitted and Alves tends to defend takedowns with guillotines, just like he did to Diakiese. Nevertheless, Dober has been in there with some of the best and I think that experience pays off for him here. Regardless of how it ends, it needs to be said again: expect this to be a contender for FOTN. Dober via TKO of RD2
- The track record on heavyweights joining the UFC with three of less fights is boom or bust. Provided Kimbo Slice was hand fed opponents in Bellator to capitalize on his celebrity, I’d say it’s safe to say he was a bust. Guys like Cain Velasquez and Ciryl Gane proved to be naturals in the sport. Does Hamdy Abdelwahab fall in line with those guys? Probably not, but he doesn’t have to be in order to get by Don’tale Mayes. It isn’t that Mayes is without talent. He’s got an ideal heavyweight frame with long limbs, good power, and has proven to be quite durable. What he doesn’t have is an elite skill he can fall back on when the going gets tough. Sure, he can do a little bit of everything – now that he’s developed some wrestling skills – but being known as well-rounded doesn’t count for much nowadays unless they excel in all those areas. Abdelwahab may already have that, despite the short nature of his career. After all, he is a former Greco-Roman Olympic wrestler. Abdelwahab has also shown plenty of power in his fists, though it should be noted he hasn’t fought anyone of any consequence. Regardless, Mayes hasn’t responded well when the fight is taken to him and I have no doubt Abdelwahab will do that. The first Egyptian to fight in the UFC makes his debut a success. Abdelwahab via TKO of RD2
- It’s still difficult to get a feel for Drakkar Klose. He was bowled over by Beneil Dariush about two-and-a-half years ago, establishing him as not on the level of ranked opponents. After taking some time to clear his head, he suffered a freak injury at the hands of Jeremy Stephens at the weigh-ins of their scheduled contest, knocking him out of action for another year. When he returned, he looked like a million bucks... against Brandon Jenkins. Put whatever stock you want into that. If just a shade of what Klose showed against Jenkins translates against a higher level of competition, he should be able to take the W over Rafa Garcia. Garcia may be the more talented athlete, but he’s not as disciplined in is approach as Klose. Garcia tends to sap his stamina with throwing heavy hooks and a constant pursuit of takedowns. There are some indications he’s turned the corner, picking his spots with greater efficiency. The problem is, Klose is great at neutralizing his opponents, spending large portions of the fight grinding away against the fence. Klose’s tendency to drag his opposition into deep water could create a panic in Garcia, resulting in the Mexican native to fall into old habits. Even if the Klose we saw against Jenkins doesn’t show up, I still think his typical strategy works like a charm against Garcia. Klose via decision