Typically, the depth of a PPV can be seen in the prelims. There’s been times when every fight on the PPV prelims have featured a ranked fighter during the course of 2022. UFC 279 doesn’t have a single fighter with a number next to their name. To be fair, it’s plausible Hakeem Dawodu could enter the rankings with a win. Even more promising is Jailton Alemeida, but he still has to answer the question of what division he will be fighting in long term. It’s hard to promote someone when you don’t know what division he’s expected to terrify going forward. Thus, it isn’t fair to say the televised prelims are barren, they are certainly below the standard of what the UFC has set for their PPV’s over the last year or so.
For the early prelims preview, click here.
- The Hakeem Dawodu bandwagon is now barren. When the Canadian striker entered the promotion, there were some who were of the belief he had the talent to develop into a legit contender. Dawodu has proven to be a difficult out, but being a gatekeeper to the official UFC rankings is a far cry from having his name whispered about in title talks. The one thing that would allow him to leapfrog a step or two is the one thing Dawodu appears to lack: killer instinct. Dawodu is exceptionally technical with great timing, but he’s been too content to outpoint his opponents rather than secure the highlight reel finish that might implore the UFC to give him a bit of a push as his five decisions out of six UFC wins attests to. Perhaps more finishes would follow if low kicks weren’t his favorite weapon, but I also can’t discount their effectiveness. If Dawodu is unable to put away Julian Erosa, it’s safe to say it was all a pipe dream. Not that Erosa isn’t dangerous. Erosa’s willingness to put himself in harm’s way makes him a far more dangerous threat to finish a fight than Dawodu is. However, while massive for the featherweight division, Erosa is a limited athlete and is far more ballsy than he is durable. If Dawodu leaves any holes, Erosa is likely to expose it. However, Dawodu’s discipline not only limits his own highlight reel, it limits his opponents’ too. Perhaps Erosa can expose Dawodu’s questionable ground game, especially given Dawodu’s wrestling can be exposed by the right fighter. I don’t trust Erosa is that fighter. Erosa will run himself up against Dawodu enough times before he cracks. Dawodu via TKO of RD3
- Can someone tell me what the hell is up with Jailton Almeida? The Brazilian is obviously extremely talented, but he can’t seem to make up his mind where his future is at. His UFC debut came at light heavyweight, his sophomore effort came at heavyweight, and now he’s accepting a short notice catchweight at 220. Where is his home? The indications are that he’ll be at heavyweight given he was originally scheduled to fight Shamil Abdurakhimov, but perhaps he’s just trying to gain experience without having to cut weight. What is known is Almeida looks like a special athlete with a lanky frame, serious power, and a dangerous grappler. That isn’t mentioning the vicious GnP he used to pick up his first UFC win. In other words, does anyone really think Anton Turkalj stands a chance? Turkalj displayed a hell of a motor and solid wrestling in his DWCS appearance, but it was his explosive, but reckless, standup that landed him a spot on the show. Perhaps Turkalj can get lucky with that approach, but Turkalj is taking a BIG step up in competition and doing so with minimal preparation. Kudos to Turkalj for being ballsy enough to step up in this manner, but it should be expected the only success coming out of this gamble is him getting on the UFC roster. Almeida via submission of RD1
- Given his physical attributes and technical deficiencies, Denis Tiuliulin has no business winning any fights in the UFC. He’s a mediocre athlete at best and is less than technical in just about every area, his boxing being the only exception. However, there have been plenty of fighters over the years who have managed to pick up UFC wins while having no business doing so. Tiuliulin’s chin can be cracked, but his toughness allows him to stay in the pocket and endure a hell of a beating before being put away. All the while, he’ll be swinging punches with enough power that he stands a good chance of cleaning his opponent’s clock. The pocket has traditionally been where Jamie Pickett is at his worst too, meaning Tiuliulin stands a fantastic chance of securing the upset if he can keep the fight at that range. However, with his lengthy frame, Pickett should be the one to dictate where the fight takes place. Pickett is still at his best operating in the clinch against the cage, but he has improved his outside attack enough that he can score effective offense from there for stretches. Couple that with his clinch/wrestling and I think he can ensure Tiuliulin doesn’t secure a win. Pickett via decision
- With all due respect to Chris Barnett and Jake Collier, they represent both the best and the worst of heavyweight MMA. They represent the worst in the sense their conditioning reflects the sport isn’t exactly getting the best and/or most disciplined of athletes in the sporting world. However, they represent the best in that everyone loves rooting for the everyman they can relate to. That said, Barnett and Collier do have skillsets that belie their flabby appearances. Barnett is the shortest heavyweight on the roster at 5’9”, but he may also be the most acrobatic and flashy striker in the division. Spinning attacks are his specialty, not allowing his height to impede his ability to land kicks upside their head. In Collier’s case, he’s a bloated former middleweight who has been able to retain some of the quickness atypical of his former weight class. Plus, Collier’s stamina has proven to be a notable weapon in a division notorious for short gas tanks... and Barnett’s ability to run deep is very much in question. Then again, Collier’s chin runs hot and cold. A comparison of those who have put away Collier reveals Barnett could very well be on par with those who’ve finished the job. If not, expect Barnett to slow enough for Collier to secure a late finish. I understand why Collier is the favorite and agree he should be, but my instinct says Barnett makes this a magic moment. Barnett via KO of RD1