UFC 284 kicks off with a series of contests that will struggle to gain any worthwhile attention. Most of the contests feature someone making their UFC debut, none of them with any significant hype. The most notable fighter in the early prelims, Loma Lookboonmee, appears to have a hard capped ceiling, despite being a favorite of MMA community. I wouldn’t tell anyone the contests are recommended viewing, but all four of the contests appear to be aesthetically pleasing based on the matchups. If you’ve got nothing better to do, they could prove worthwhile from an entertainment perspective, but I wouldn’t recommend rushing home to catch the action if that proves to be the case.
- The UFC debut for Don Shainis couldn’t have gone much worse. Not many people were giving him a shot against Sodiq Yusuff anyway, but I’m sure most would have predicted he would have lasted more than 30 seconds. Regardless, Shainis was a short notice replacement who appeared unlikely to have picked up a UFC contract any other way. Sure, he’s got some surprising pop and a more than functional ground game. But he’s also undersized for the division and a below average athlete by UFC standards. Perhaps most telling is he’s being pit as the B-side against debuting Aussie, Jack Jenkins. In terms of stature, Jenkins isn’t much bigger than Shainis, but he’s built like a brickhouse. There’s little doubt Jenkins will be the more physical presence in the cage, having ragdolled Freddie Linares on DWCS to earn his contract. While Jenkins still needs to add some polish to his striking if he hopes to break into the official rankings, the tools are there to accomplish that. Jenkins is far more dynamic than Shainis in all aspects. Maybe Shainis clips Jenkins off the counter or snatches an arm off his back, but it’s more likely Jenkins wears him down for a late finish. Jenkins via TKO of RD3
- Though there is most certainly a hard ceiling for Loma Lookboonmee, that hasn’t stopped her from becoming a fan favorite. It’s hard not to appreciate her abilities on the feet, despite being one of the smallest members on the entirety of the UFC roster. If the UFC had an atomweight division, Lookboonmee would be competing there. As it is, her decorated Muay Thai background gives her a technical advantage over most everyone in the division. Of course, her lack of size is the reason for ceiling. Fortunately for her, it won’t be an issue against Elise Reed, a similarly small fighter for the division. Reed is larger than Lookboonmee, but her striking-heavy approach from the outside plays right into Lookboonmee’s strengths. Reed probably has the power advantage, but Lookboonmee is exceptionally durable. Both ladies have showed improvements in their wrestling, but Lookboonmee has the heftier takedown defense and her trips are more reliable than Reed’s shots. I was leaning strongly towards Lookboonmee based strictly on her striking, but the apparent advantage on the mat solidified it for me. Lookboonmee via decision
- It’s been almost two years since we last saw Shane Young. Given he was coming off two consecutive losses, it’s safe to say most thought he had received a pink slip. The hard-nosed scrapper maintains his roster spot, which should be good news for those who enjoy a good old-fashioned barnburner. Young possesses a strong kickboxing background, operating at a high pace that can overwhelm. Unfortunately for Young, his physical skills are average at best. He’s not that big. He’s not that fast. He’s not that powerful. Regardless, while Young isn’t going to emerge as one of the better featherweights in the division, he poses a threat to anyone that can’t get him out of there given he won’t stop coming. Whether Blake Bilder can finish the fight is questionable. The undefeated 32-year-old is a DWCS product is, like Young, an overachiever. However, Bilder appears to be more effective on the mat than he is on the feet, possessing a nasty habit of getting hurt on the feet. Bilder is exceptionally resistant – explaining his unbeaten record despite his history of getting hurt – which leaves me doubting Young can finish him. As it is, I don’t trust Bilder’s wrestling against Young – even if he appears to have the edge on the mat — leaving me to conclude Young’s more technical kickboxing will secure him a W. Young via decision
- Anyone else get the feeling that no one frustrates Khabib Nurmagomedov more than Zubaira Tukhugov? Well, at least among the former champion’s friends, no one appears to frustrate him more. Tukhugov has flashed the ability that once had so many hyping him as a future contender, but he can’t ever seem to put it together over a significant period of time. Perhaps Tukhugov thinks no longer having to make the difficult cut to 145 will make the difference as he’s moving up to the stomping grounds of his former teammate. Provided he gets the right matchup, I’m sure we’ll see improvement from Tukhugov. The Russian has struggled to finish strong down the stretch thanks to the weight cut sapping his stamina. The prediction here is it will pay off. No disrespect to Elves Brenner, but the list of those who believe he belongs in the UFC is short. Then again, he’s only 25 and it has been almost a year since he last fought. It’s possible he could have made some major strides in that time. He’s also better suited for featherweight himself, meaning it will be difficult for him to get Tukhugov on his back where Brenner can execute his skilled grappling attack. Even if he can, Tukhugov is pretty damned good mat fighter himself. Despite that, I expect Tukhugov to try and strike as he loves looking for the KO. When he’s flowing, he’s more than capable of securing a finish. Regardless of how he looks to win, I feel confident predicting Tukhugov will get the W. Tukhugov via TKO of RD2