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UFC San Diego preview: Ranked women aplenty for early prelims

Get the dirt on the early action out of San Diego, including fan favorite Angela Hill looking to rebound against an upstart Lupita Godinez.

Angela Hill punching Virna Jandiroba at UFC Vegas 54
Angela Hill punching Virna Jandiroba at UFC Vegas 54
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC San Diego looks like Ladies Night with four contests within the women’s divisions. Though half of them are on the main card, those with the most name recognition are in the prelims, three of the four competitors a member of the official UFC rankings. Of course, each of those ranked women – Angela Hill, Cynthia Calvillo, and Nina Nunes – are all on losing streaks, which is why they’re on the prelims. Desperation can bring the best out of anyone, so perhaps we’ll see a revitalization out of them after some flat performances. The rest of the preliminary fights are more of a grab bag. Some of the fights look like they could be a lot of fun, some look like I may want to consider an extended bathroom break.

  • Given Lupita Godinez gaining a reputation as the next version of Angela Hill in the sense of her willingness to fight anyone at any time – this is going to be her sixth fight in 16 months since joining the UFC – it only makes sense for her to square off with the OG. Given Hill has far more name recognition, it’s hard to believe most aren’t picking when they immediately see the matchup. A closer look into all things concerning the contest and this is anything but clear cut. For one, Hill has lost five of her last six contests. To be fair to Hill, all those losses have come against opposition who have, at the very least, flirted with the top ten of the division, so she’s losing to quality opponents. Regardless, Hill has also been less competitive in each subsequent fight, indicating the 37-year-old may be in decline. On the flip side, Godinez has only looked better and better in each subsequent fight. The undersized Godinez pushes a hard pace, spamming takedowns and aggressively pursuing submissions. After all, her petite frame is less of a disadvantage if she isn’t throwing punches. Godinez does throw hard, but she’d be foolish to try and outpoint the crafty Hill on the feet anyway. Hill has improved her takedown defense from her early days in the sport, but there’s enough holes there and her overall ground game to believe Godinez can take advantage of that. Some may even point to Hill having a history of fading in fights, but that hasn’t been an issue for a while. I’ve vacillated on this contest a LOT, but I’ll go with a changing of the guard and pick the younger fighter. Godinez via decision
  • Martin Buday is a big boy. I mean BIG. He’s not physically ripped, but it’s clear there’s far more muscle on his frame than there is fat. Of course, when someone is that big they tend to be lumbering... and that describes Buday perfectly. Fortunately for the native of Slovakia, he’s proven durable and knows how to play to his strengths. Buday takes good angles behind a jab to walk down his opponents and crush them against the cage. There’s no doubt that will be the strategy once again against Lukasz Brzeski. The Pole is about as tall as Buday, but he’s not nearly as bulky. Despite that, Brzeski moves much more fluidly than Buday and is far more dynamic. Of course, just because Bzeski has more ways to finish the fight doesn’t mean he is more likely to finish the fight. Brzeski has the higher ceiling, but Buday is easily the more polished product at this stage. Throw in the fact Brzeski has exhibited a questionable gas tank before, it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to withstand the massive frame of Buday pushing him up against the cage for long periods and not have any adverse affects. Buday via decision
  • It’s been over two years since Cynthia Calvillo won a fight. If you think that’s a long drought, it’s been over three-and-a-half since Nina Nunes last won a fight. To be fair to Nunes, she had a lengthy maternity leave and has only fought the top opposition in that time. At her peak, Nunes didn’t excel in any one single area, but she was never overwhelmed anywhere either, proving to be slightly above average in every major area. Well... her cardio was exceptional, which usually allowed her to take control late in her fights. Regardless, at 36, being a relatively new mother, and being the secondary breadwinner in the house, it’s fair to question how much Nunes wants to continue fighting. The fact she’s moving up to flyweight only adds to those questions as she’s going to be on the small side at her new home. Fortunately for her, Calvillo is also a former strawweight and has struggled at flyweight as well. In fact, Calvillo looked like she was broken mentally at the end of her last two fights due to the physical beatdown she endured. For someone whose confidence has always appeared to be unshakable in the past, that’s a terrible sign for her going forward. If her head is on straight, there’s every chance for her to upend Nunes as she’s a slick grappler and reasonably dangerous on the feet. However, there’s too many unknown variables in this contest. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting money in this contest in the least. As it is, I was initially leaning towards Nunes, but the delay and helping her wife, Amanda, focus on her title fight leads me to believe her own performance is going to suffer. Calvillo via decision
  • Having dropped four of his last five fights, most assumed Gabriel Benitez had reached the end of the line. The longtime featherweight can no longer make 145 and is undersized for lightweight. Even more worrisome, traditionally a durable striker who took as good as he could give, Benitez’s chin shows all the traditional signs of deterioration that come with a long, hard-charging career. Despite that, there’s reason to believe he has enough in the tank as Charlie Ontiveros may have one of the most fragile chins of all those who have ever stepped foot in the Octagon. Ontiveros does have some power and his long frame is likely to prove difficult for Benitez to navigate. Plus, his unorthodox attack tends to catch his opponents off-guard. However, Benitez still hits plenty hard himself and has a better feel for MMA in general. While I feel strongly Benitez is going to make the most of his opportunity, I feel even stronger this fight isn’t going the distance. Benitez via TKO of RD1
  • It has been a decade since Tyson Nam upended the then-Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas, launching himself into the MMA scene. Nam never quite lived up to expectations, but he has established himself as one of the preeminent KO artists in the flyweight division. However, Nam is now 38-years-old and Father Time is the cruelest to the smaller weight classes. To be fair to the heavy hitter, he didn’t look like he lost a step the last time we saw him, but that was 19 months ago. Fortunately, power is typically the last thing to go with age, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if he’s able to touch up the chin of Ode Osbourne. After all, Osbourne isn’t exactly a defensive savant. In fact, there’s quite a bit of similarities between the two in that they’re both lanky strikers noted for their power. However, Nam is a selective counter striker while Osbourne tends to go with the flow, allowing his opponents to dictate where the fight takes place. If Nam were in his physical prime, I’d probably be picking him. However, Osbourne has been showing strides in his last several fights and I see no reason he shouldn’t continue to improve. Given Nam’s impressive durability, I expect he’ll make it the distance, but Osbourne gets the W. Osbourne via decision
  • It may not be an official victory, but the no contest did get Josh Quinlan a UFC contract. Whether Quinlan intentionally used PED’s for his DWCS appearance, they showed up in his system and very well may have helped him get into the UFC. Thus, it’s difficult to know exactly what he’s capable of. Regardless of the PED’s, he did bowl over his DWCS opponent in less than a minute, the type of performance that can’t be blamed exclusively on PED’s. In fact, what Quinlan does well matches up exceptionally well with the weaknesses of Jason Witt. Witt is a smothering grappler with a bricked up frame and relentless wrestling. However, he’s also a minus athlete with a weak chin. Three-quarters of his career losses have come from strikes, including all three in the UFC. That said, I’m not sold on Quinlan as a wrestler. Witt could very well manhandle him over the course of three rounds. But that chin.... There’s plenty of reason to question just how good Quinlan is going to be – his level of competition hasn’t been sterling – but what we do know about him indicates he should be able to have his way with Witt. Quinlan via TKO of RD2
  • Given it’s been over a year since we last saw Youssef Zalal and he’s currently on a three-fight losing streak, it’s understandable if you thought he had been released. Instead, the 25-year-old has been adjusting for his drop down to bantamweight in hopes of changing his fortunes. Given his losing streak coincided with his struggles to secure takedowns, dropping to a new class where he’s no longer undersized makes a lot of sense. Well, that was the idea, but he’s going to be the smaller man again against the debuting Da’Mon Blackshear. Like Zalal, Blackshear is best known for his ground game, but he’s not afraid to launch a flying or spinning attack. Blackshear isn’t exactly technical on the feet, but he’s as long and lanky as they come at 135, giving him a large margin of error. Given Zalal is lacking for power, Blackshear has even more room for error. Plus, Blackshear is by far the more dynamic fighter. However, despite all that in the favor of Blackshear, I’m still picking Zalal for three reasons: Zalal is more technically sound, Blackshear is taking the fight with about a week’s notice, and Blackshear struggles with the in-betweens of his explosive moves. Given Blackshear’s size, I can’t imagine the weight cut is going to be easy for him either. Zalal via decision