It’s another fight week, UFC Vegas 59 to be exact. However, there is a bit of an anomaly to this card: the overall quality of the card might be strongest on the prelims than it is on the main card. Most of that is attributable to the main card serving as the home to the ‘TUF’ (The Ultimate Fighter) finals – congratulations to both of you who watched every episode of the show – but there are some nice prospects on the bottom half. Terrance McKinney is one of the most hyped youngsters on the roster after opening his UFC career with a pair of quick finishes. Michal Oleksiejczuk hasn’t been gangbusters at light heavyweight, but it appears he’s finally making the move to his proper weight class. Bryan Battle continues to silence his doubters. And while Stephanie Egger and Mayra Bueno Silva aren’t hyped, they wouldn’t have a lot of work to do to make a serious move in the shallow women’s bantamweight division.
- It’s been eight consecutive fights in which Sam Alvey has come up short of securing a win. That’s a UFC record. His UFC demise has been predicted for the last four or five fights, but for whatever reason, he continues to maintain his spot. At this point, I’d rather see him on the roster until he wins, just to see how many losses he can rack up. It’s not like it’s impossible for Alvey to win as he’s had some bright moments in those fights. Hell, he’s come close to securing a win in a couple of those contests. But his power appears to have declined and that was his best source of winning when he was in his prime. Alvey isn’t exactly getting a step down in competition either in Michal Oleksiejczuk either. Long one of the smallest members of the light heavyweight division – if not the smallest – and is finally making the drop down to middleweight. Oleksiejczuk’s pressure would have fallen right into Alvey’s counter punching game back in the day, but Alvey’s loss of power and Oleksiejczuk’s iron chin make it less likely Alvey finds success. Alvey’s chin doesn’t appear to be what it once was either. The most likely outcome seems to be Oleksiejczuk cracking Alvey, but remember that a fighter can be as good once as they ever were. Oleksiejczuk via TKO of RD1
- For a dude coming off a first round loss, there sure as hell is a lot of hype around Terrance McKinney. Of course, that one round was one of the most exciting rounds in the history of the UFC as McKinney came thisclose to upending Drew Dober, one of the most respected members of the lightweight division. McKinney is a special athlete with rock solid wrestling foundation that he has largely ignored in the last few years. He’s been able to do that due to his explosive power, securing each of his last five wins in less than five minutes... combined. The loss to Dober proved there are limits to that approach, but it did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm around McKinney. Thus, it feels very much like Erick Gonzalez is a lamb being led to slaughter. Gonzalez has good size and is a scrappy striker, but he also is a limited athlete with poor defense. It would be considered an upset if Gonzalez makes it past the first round, much less wins. McKinney via KO of RD1
- Five fights into his UFC run and the jury is still very much out on Takashi Sato. There’s no shame in losses to the likes of Gunnar Nelson and Belal Muhammad, but he has yet to secure a win over an opponent that’s indicative of him being a long-term fixture on the roster. There’s no doubt he has the power and chin to be an action fighter, but his poor takedown defense and underdeveloped grappling would limit him to a gatekeeping role if he doesn’t exhibit some growth. The jury is still out if Bryan Battle is the guy to test how much progress he has made. The recent TUF winner has proven to be as crafty as they come, a feature that completely belies his experience level. He doesn’t hit extremely hard and is merely serviceable solely as a wrestler or grappler, but he knows how to find holes in his opponent’s defenses and pile up the volume. Of course, he’s done that in the UFC against opponents with a similar level of experience than himself. Sato has a major advantage in terms of the level of his competition, leaving some doubt as to whether Battle has what it takes to overcome him. Given Battle’s resourcefulness and the size advantage he’ll have – he is moving down to welterweight from 185 — I think he has the right stuff. Battle 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 or not, 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. Quinland via TKO of RD2
- I’ve never been a big fan of the present version of Cory McKenna. As for the fighter that I believe McKenna can become, that’s a different story. McKenna joined the UFC at the age of 21, not yet at physical maturity and requiring a LOT more polish. What she needed more than anything was experience... and she has fought twice in the two years since she joined. McKenna has a nice wrestling game and a boxing foundation to build off, but even those are far from fully developed. Miranda Granger may only have one additional fight under her belt, but she is a far more developed product. That doesn’t mean there aren’t holes in her game – she’s too willing to let herself be taken down thanks to her grappling capabilities – but she does do a better job of playing to her strengths than McKenna. Plus, Granger has roughly a 10-inch reach advantage on McKenna. McKenna is probably the better boxer, but she will need to navigate the kicks and punches from Granger on the outside for her boxing to come into play. I like Granger’s ability to stick to her strategy better. Granger coming off a two-year layoff due to maternity leave does open up a lot of questions, but every indication is that she planned her return right. Granger via decision
- Given Mayra Bueno Silva would benefit from picking up more experience, it’s good to see her getting into the cage regularly after several long absences in her UFC run. The matter of her talents has never been up for debate. Silva has plenty of power, a slick submission game, and has shown improved stamina since moving up to 135. The question has been about her fight IQ. Even though her BJJ is arguably her best feature, she has yet to successfully complete a takedown in six UFC contests. That’s why there’s every reason to believe Stephanie Egger has a damn good shot of pulling out the upset. The Swiss native knows what she’s good at and makes every effort to play to her strengths. However, that involves taking the fight to the mat, arguably Silva’s own area of strength. Then again, Egger is physically strong for the division and Silva has been controlled by opponents who have been alert to Silva’s capabilities on the mat. That does describe Egger. What doesn’t describe Egger is as well-rounded, which has been accurate of those who’ve been able to hang an L on Silva. I still have reservations about Egger’s standup, but I already stated I don’t trust Silva’s fight IQ. Given Silva is used to being the stronger opponent, I see Egger utilizing her judo and grappling skills to great effect on her Brazilian counterpart. Egger via decision