It seems on every prelim card there seems to be a fight with a Top 10 fighter in any one of the divisions involved to give them some form of relevancy. This one seems to be an exception... but in a good way. Three of these fights feature potential title challengers within the next year and two of those aforementioned fights (depending on the outcome of course) may have its winner getting ready for a title shot for their next fight.
So while there are some fights with more at stake than others on the main card (it'll be a fun fight... but Robert Whitaker and Stephen Thompson?), there are also some very (and I do mean very) exciting prospects making their UFC debuts. Don't want to look dumb? I got ya covered. Just keep reading and you'll find out what you need to know.
A high stakes fight that could produce the next challenger to the women's bantamweight throne. I suppose the only reason it didn't make the main card is the UFC didn't want two women's fight on the main card. Only thing I can reason. Now if only everyone could pay attention to this fight and not what the TSAC did or didn't find in Eye's system after her fight with Sarah Kaufman...
Davis isn't getting any sort of attention at this point and that is a load of crap. She actually ranks higher than title challenger Sara McMann, but she isn't a former Olympian so she doesn't have the same marketability. The only others that rank ahead of her are Cat Zingano (recovering from knee surgery) and Miesha Tate (lost to Rousey... twice). But she is getting no respect despite having won 7 of her last 8 matches. What gives? Maybe its the fact that while she does everything well, she doesn't seem to do any one thing great and thus doesn't really seem to stand out as a result. If there is anything that she does excel at it would have to be her submission game as almost half of her victories (7) have come that way, showing her black belts in both Japanese and Brazilian jiu-jitsu have been put to good use. With 5 victories via RNC, she has shown a great ability to get the back and end the fight from there. Though most of her accolades are in the grappling department, she has improved her striking throughout her career. She pressed the action against Liz Carmouche, controlled the center of the ring, and landed a bunch of kicks to Carmouche's right leg causing Carmouche to lose some mobility. She may not have dynamite in her fists as only 2 KO/TKO victories indicate, but she can take a punch and is very capable of of giving out some punishment of her own.
Eye caused a media firestorm by recently having her October victory over Sarah Kaufman overturned due to a failed drug test. It had slipped out before the TSAC made their formal announcement that the test failure was a result of marijuana, but Eye caused quite the comotion when she denied it claiming it was for blood thinners. It seems that the ordeal cost her any credibility. Lucky for her, she is a hell of a fighter regardless of whether she can be believed. Her fists are very fast and her jab is particularly effective at scoring points. Despite the fact that she formerly fought at flyweight, she shows good functional strength as she was able to push and clinch a strong Kaufman against the cage multiple times and shows nice knees from that position. She doesn't finish many fights though and believe if she were to sit down on her strikes a little more (similar to how she opened up her match with Zoila Gurgel) that could change. I won't lie and claim to know a lot about her grappling as there have been few times that I have seen her on the ground. She shows solid defense and based off of her submission of Gurgel, I'd imagine she knows some other slick subs. Considering that is Davis' world I imagine she'll try to keep things standing.
I'd say Eye did herself a major disservice by blowing up her NC into a bigger deal than it should have been and not just with public perception. She has been highly distracted by this saga and that means her focus hasn't been squarely on Davis. That is a major mistake. It will cost her. Davis by Submission 2nd Round
Assuncao was originally supposed to fight #11 ranked Francisco Rivera, but in a common theme with the card the injury bug reared its ugly head and highly touted prospect Munhoz stepped up on short notice for his chance to enter the UFC.
In March of 2011, Assuncao suffered a first round KO loss to Erik Koch giving him 3 losses in his last 4 fights. This precipitated a drop to bantamweight and he hasn't looked back since with 5 straight victories. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu master with 10 W's by submission, he has picked up his striking game since making the drop. Before it had served largely just to just score points or keep him alive in the fight until he could get it to the ground, it has become a legit weapon. He isn't Renan Barao by any means, but his TKO of Issei Tamura and being able to hang in there with Mike Easton and TJ Dillashaw on the feet show are plenty of testament to that fact. Relying less on power and more on precision and technique, Assuncao is far from a KO machine, but he can hurt you if you sleep on him and has learned to put together effective boxing combos. His jiu-jitsu hasn't seemed to suffer at all and even though it is questionable why many would want to take the fight to the ground, he has improved his takedown defense as well as only renowned wrestler Dillashaw has been able to take him down since crossing over to the UFC. Assuncao has been calling for a title shot with Renan Barao recently. He may get it as there are few viable contenders, but he'll likely have to win impressively to get what he wants.
Munhoz takes this fight with less than a month passing since his last battle... but considering that lasted 41 seconds I'm sure he won't suffer any ill consequences as a result. Munhoz actually has a number of similarities to Assuncao. A Brazilian with a an ace background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with an evolving striking game. This comparison holds more weight to it if we look at the Assuncao of a few years ago though. Not that Munhoz has horrible striking... its just very basic at this point. There is nothing dynamic about it and that is OK. Its stupid to force something that isn't there anyway. He does seem to have most of the boxing fundamentals down and mixes in some kicks, notably front body kicks which largely serve the purpose of keeping distance. If there is anything I might consider giving him an edge over Assuncao it is his wrestling which is surprisingly good for a young Brazilian. He shows good technique it utilizing the single leg to get his opponent to the ground. As already stated, his jiu-jitsu is fantastic and he is very aggressive in going for submissions and the speed in which he can slap them on is incredible. That would be the reason his last fight lasted 41 seconds.
While Assuncao is an established contender and Munhoz is a newcomer, this is a closer fight than it appears on first glance. But there is a reason Assuncao is a contender. The problem with the Assuncao's (Raphael's brother Junior included) is that they tend to fight fairly safe fights. Normally there isn't really anything wrong with that but with a potential title shot on the line it could be. Assuncao will get the win, the title shot I'm not sure about. Assuncao by Decision
Cody Gibson (11-3) vs. Aljamain Sterling (8-0), Bantamweight
A couple of young newcomers to the promotion square off in a fight that started as Bryan Caraway vs. Lucas Martins and evolved into this. Not a good thing, but not bad either as both prospects have potential.
Gibson has an aggressive and reckless style that is sure to make him a fan favorite... if he lasts long enough in the promotion. He is all offense and doesn't do much to protect himself including dropping his hands. He is lanky at 5'10, which allows him to strike from a distance, particularly with his jab, but his discipline is lacking to the point he doesn't do that as he should. He'll charge opponents which often leads to easy takedowns for them and submission opportunities for them too. To his credit he has shown great ring presence and submission defense (pretty good offensively too, but no savant), but as he advances up the ladder he will need to address his tendency to get in bad situations or he'll come tumbling down. It sounds like all I'm doing is ragging on him, but he is a talented kid who lets it all hang out there... including his weaknesses. He has a wrestling background and shows a good center of gravity to prevent takedowns and has cardio for days. His aggression is what makes him the fighter he is and has led to a lot of success recently so I wouldn't try to change that if I were his coaches. But if he tightens up his technique it could go a long way.
Sterling has unfairly received comparisons as a smaller version of Jon Jones... and I largely say unfair since no one should have those type of expectations heaped on them, not because he isn't talented. He is absolutely a physical marvel and considering he has only been in MMA for just about 4 years is what excites people. His movement is very fluid and is as technically sound as they get with his experience. He throws a lot of spinning and high kicks and does so efficiently as they aren't just for show. Don't let his one victory via KO/TKO fool you... more will come. If he opens his fight with his striking it will surprise you to learn that his background is actually in wrestling as he was a 2-time Division III All-American in college. He shows solid top control get takedowns with the strength and technique to carry them across the ring and slam them down. He is very quick and fluid in scrambles and transitions and has led to three straight victories by submission. Perhaps what impressed me most was in his last fight he was put into a bad situation early on and kept his composure, slowly worked his way out of the situation until he had the advantage and won with a RNC. The whole fight lasted less than two minutes. What should scare his opponents is his recent move to the Serra-Longo camp. One of the last gifted young wrestlers they developed was some kid named Chris Weidman. Hmm...
Gibson isn't going to be afraid of Sterling and will take it to him which is good as this would be the best way to victory for him. But Sterling is too gifted and now has some of the best coaches in the game. The styles clash ensures there won't be a decision. Sterling by TKO 1st Round
With both fighters coming off of victories in their UFC debuts and fighting in a shallow division, the winner of this bout could be headed for a title fight late this year or early next year. Think I'm kidding? Who does Demetrious Johnson fight after Ali Bagautinov? No definitive answer? Thats what I thought. Brad Pickett is the only other alternative and I'd say he needs two wins in the division to get the opportunity and he's currently at zero. If John Moraga can get a title shot, why not these guys?
Makovsky is a former Bellator bantamweight champion who dropped in weight after falling out of favor with the tournament-based promotion after dropping his last two fights. Makovsky should have been fighting at flyweight the whole time anyway as he was always at a size disadvantage and looks much better at his natural weight. The fact he took the bantamweight belt in the first place is a hell of a testament to the type of fighter he is, as is the fact that this will be his third fight in 3 months after making his UFC debut on short notice about 3 weeks after his last fight. He is first and foremost a wrestler and uses his tremendous speed to gain the advantage in scrambles and transitions. Even with the weight drop he isn't the most powerful fighter, but compensates with his technique. His striking is solid and can hurt his opponent, but nothing special. He uses basic combinations and utilizes good timing in his counterstriking. Though more than half of his victories have come by decision, he has solid submissions as 6 victories have come via submission.
Sampo missed weight in his UFC debut, but I have to say the fact that his fight was made with less than 2 weeks notice contributed to that. With a full training camp this time around, I doubt his weight will be an issue. Sampo is similar to Makovsky in the sense that he owns 6 submission victories and that he isn't much of a threat to end a fight via strikes. A more aggressive striker than Makovsky (though capable of effective counter striking), he does a good job of mixing punches and kicks to the body and head. The ground is his playground though. He'll get the fight to the ground utilizing single and double legs and once there, grounds out his opponent in an effort to create openings and improve his position to search for submissions which he is extremely active and creative in looking for. He can be overaggressive in looking for the submission resulting in him giving up position, but he shows good speed in transitions and grappling defense.
As both of these guys are grapplers, it will result in one of two things: a tedious fight on the feet due to them respecting one another too much or a highly entertaining grappling affair. Makovsky is faster while Sampo is slicker with his submissions. This one is a coin flip. I'll say if Makovsky wins its by decision and if Sampo wins its by submission. And the coin says... Makovsky by Decision
As you get older it gets harder to cut those pounds, thus Koch is moving up to lightweight. Oliveira gets to be his first test in 155 waters. And to think less than two years ago Koch was getting ready to challenge Jose Aldo...
After two straight losses at featherweight, Duke Roufus trained Koch thought a change of scenery was for the best. Koch was massive at 145, so he shouldn't be overwhelmed by moving up in weight. I would also expect improved cardio as well. As with just about any Roufus trained fighter, Koch has great technical striking and solid power behind it as well. He has a good repitoire of kicks (again, Roufus trained) that have KO potential. He is a patient striker waiting for his opening to go for the kill and when he does, his aggressive streak comes out. Before the kill though he utilizes a lot of leg kicks and jabs. He is noted as a striker, but 7 of his victories have come by submission and he showed he has an effective guard when he trapped Poirier into a deep triangle. The fact that Poirier got out of it was more of a testament to Poirier's defense than anything Koch did wrong. Some might question his chin, but the GNP Ricardo Lamas laid on him that put him out was as vicious as any I've ever seen and he survived some powerful shots from Dustin Poirier.
Oliveira hasn't had a lot of success in the Octagon bringing a 2-5 record in the UFC into this fight. Who are those victories over? John Gunderson and Yoislandy Izquierdo. This is likely the end of the line for "Tractor" if he falls short here. As his nickname indicates, he is a compact and fairly large lightweight, but he doesn't have an overpowering style. While he is a capalbe wrestler, he is a much stronger submission grappler than anything else as 5 of his victories have come by submission. His striking is very basic (not bad, just inadequate for UFC) and nowhere near Koch's level. Expect him to shoot for takedowns to get the fight on the ground. As for his own takedown defense... that is poor to say the least. Koch doesn't go for a lot of takedowns, but don't be surprised to see him make an exception here and get Oliveira down to the ground for GNP.
Koch was going to fight for the featherweight title just a year and a half ago before injuries and is now relegated to the Fight Pass prelims on an injury riddled card. Think he doesn't want to make a statement? I've often wondered what Oliveira was still doing in the UFC and believe I won't have to wonder any more after this. Koch wins emphatically. Koch by KO 2nd Round
With this bout being made with just over 2 weeks notice due to the cancellation of the Rustam Khabilov-Rafael dos Anjos fight, neither fighter had much time to prepare which could lead to a sloppy fight. But when you get an opportunity to go to the UFC, you take it.
Chavez is (or I should say was) BAMMA USA lightweight champion. He has been a pro for about 5 years now and still has an unblemished record. To be absolutely honest it is difficult to find out too much more about him. It has been a struggle to find footage of him. He throws looping haymakers without much technique and seems to prefer to clinch up against the cage and throw short punches and knees which wear down his opponent. I can't say anything for his grappling abilities, but I wasn't very impressed with his takedown defense. To his credit though, while he was taken down several times in the footage I found, he never stayed down very long. According to an interview some time ago with MMA Weekly, he considers the ground to be his strong suit, so perhaps there is something we aren't aware of there. I'll admit his frame seems suited for wrestling as well. He doesn't seem to have any issues with cardio either as he doesn't seem to tire in the cage.
Cedeno isn't as difficult to find. He's a hyped prospect who is a lot of fun to watch. He loves throwing flashy kicks (spinning wheel or spinning back kicks for example), but he throws them with enough technique that there is substance to his style. Its would be safe to assume that if he throws effective spinny kicks than his basic leg, body, and head kicks should have zing on them too. Not that I am assuming that... I've seen them and he gets them out fast. His boxing isn't very technical but effective thanks to his elusiveness and he has his hands down far more than any fighter should as he uses his abundant athleticism to avoid being stuck by his opponent. While it has worked thus far it will likely get him into trouble the higher up the ladder he climbs. He is active in top position on the ground and tries to be aggressive, but his lack of technique stagnates his aggression.
Due to the fact both of these men are UFC newcomers, there should be a lot of guesswork involved with how this plays out. But it seems straightforward to me. Chavez will look to clinch and take the fight to the ground and Cedeno will try to keep his distance and land a highlight reel KO. Cedeno is the more physically gifted fighter here and I think that will be the biggest difference. Cedeno by Decision
Record for Last Card: 9-3
Record for Year: 39-18
Feel free to call me names, just back up your insults with cleverness.