Though there are actually 13 fights on a card for the first time in quite a while (thanks injury bug) and there are some matches to definitely keep your eye on, there aren't any potential title contenders as there was on the last PPV preliminaries (Raphael Assuncao and Alexis Davis). Does that mean these will suck? Not really. I look at a few of these fights and see some potential stinkers in there, but I also see some slobber knockers emerging, though not many technical affairs.
Just a quick reminder that the prelims not shown on Fight Pass will be on Fox Sports 2, not the usual Fox Sports 1. Lousy Big East basketball tournament!
As the man who derailed the Uriah Hall hype-train, Gastelum has garnered a fair share of attention. Story is looking to get the victory and gain that attention for himself.
Story was riding a hell of a hype-train himself a few years ago with 6 straight victories, including one over title contender Johny Hendricks. He has since gone 3-4 since that streak was snapped and has become a forgotten man in many ways. At 29, he still has time to right his ship and become thought of as a contender once again.
Gastelum was the only one who thought he could beat Uriah Hall and proved how far that type of confidence can carry you. What fans shouldn't forget is he utilized a smart game plan by taking Hall down and outgrappling him. He's just a pup at 22 and if he can already figure out how to draw up and execute a smart plan, the rest of the division should line up to meet him now as he'll be a beast with further experience.
Story comes forward nonstop. Well, he used to. And the fact that he doesn't I'd say is a good thing. He never throws his punches at half-strength, its all-or-nothing with him. About the only thing he throws is hooks with both hands, but he does mix them to the body and head effectively and shows good form in his boxing. He seemed to show more patience in his fight with Brian Ebersole which is good as he tends to tire late in fights thanks to his style. Don't be mistaken though, he is still more aggressive than most.
Gastelum has nothing special that pops up in his game. And realize I'm referring to his weaknesses as well. He shows very good movement and mixes up his punches to the body and head very efficiently. It doesn't necessarily stand out due to the fact he does nothing fancy. Gastelum has been described as workman like and it fits him to a tee... and that isn't a bad thing.
This is were Story thrives as he is an expert at grinding out his opponent. His aggression lends itself to his wrestling too as he'll shoot for powerful single or double legs and grind out his opponent with some strong elbows and hammer fists. He is also excellent at maintaining control against the cage and utilizing dirty boxing.
Gastelum is similar to Story in the sense that he utilizes strong single and double legs, but takes a measured approach in everything. He is more active in looking for submissions as Story is more prone to simply try to overwhelm his opponent. His submission of Brian Melancon was textbook how-to-finish-a-fight from the takedown to the RNC.
I won't be surprised to see Gastelum pull this out and no one else should be either. How many of us predicted he would be in the TUF Finals let alone win the damn tournament? But I think Story is getting his career back on track and seems to be in a good place. Gastelum has yet to face a beast like Story and the two grind it out for the full 15. Story by Decision
While its true that both ladies are ranked, it doesn't necessarily make it high profile when one realizes how shallow the division is. But both are young... so could have massive future implications!
Andrade is only 22 with just over two years of professional experience, but maintained a bullish schedule to gain experience and her fighting style reflects that exactly. Her beating that she put on Rosi Sexton was of epic proportions (206 significant strikes landed!) and established her as someone to keep an eye on for the future.
Pennington is better known to fans due to her stint on TUF 18 where she made it to the semifinals of the tournament. She has had less time as a professional than Andrade, but has shown just as much potential up to this point. Its worth noting that she is an injury replacement for Julianna Pena.
You can look at the amount of strikes that Andrade landed on Sexton and know that she has some serious striking skills. What is scary is that she could be better. Though her punches fly in bunches, she doesn't throw the best combinations as she largely throws haymakers. Its a good thing she has great cardio as she throws all she has in every punch. If none of that makes sense just picture Wanderlei Silva if he were a woman and you get Andrade. That is one Joe Rogan comparison that was spot on.
Pennington has displayed a similar style herself as her brawl with Jessamyn Duke in the TUF house was an instant TUF classic. She doesn't throw everything she has into every punch the same way that Andrade does, paces herself much better and better combinations. But she has also has been tentative in her last two fights (including the TUF season) as her opponents showed some movement and will be in trouble if she comes out that way. I don't expect that though as I'm sure Andrade will lure her into a slugfest.
Despite her penchant to throw, Andrade has actually accumulated half of her wins by submission. Pennington will want to watch her neck, as they have all been chokes. She displayed her raw strength in her UFC debut against Liz Carmouche by lifting up Carmouche as Carmouche attempted to get her back and flipping her over with a modified fireman's carry (my wrestling terminology sucks and I had to look that up). At 5'2, it shouldn't be much of a surprise that she is as strong as she it.
Pennington has great potential to be able to outwrestle her opponents, but I don't think that she wants to be that type of fighter. She was able to get Roxanne Modafferi to the ground with ease, but only did so one time. She shows some good GNP, but struggles to maintain the position advantage on the ground.
This is a candidate for FOTN. Seriously. Andrade will throw down at any time and if Pennington's opponent wants to do so, so will she. I see less fear in Andrade's style and think that will be the biggest difference-maker. Andrade by TKO 1st Round
Two young featherweights with one loss apiece in the UFC square off to make a potential move into the top 10. Stop laughing... I'm serious! OK, maybe just Bermudez, but Hettes likely enters the rankings with a win here.
Bermudez has reeled off 5 wins in a row since losing the TUF 14 featherweight crown to Diego Brandao, including an epic war with Matt Grice last year that saw both men refuse to lose. His style has been very crowd-pleasing as he is more than willing to get into a slugfest.
Hettes gained the attention of fans with his dismantling of Nam Phan two years ago and hasn't exactly lived up to the expectations that were heaped upon him after that. He hasn't been a disappointment either, but he is capable of more. At 26, he still has time to learn and grow.
The best way to describe Bermudez's style is as a rolling ball of violence going forward. He packs a lot of power in his punches, but isn't the most technically proficient striker. Its amazing that he doesn't gas himself out as he swings very wildly. I'll admit that he has landed a fair amount of his shots, but I would say his past opponents had brawling tendencies themselves or a severe lack of striking defense. Its a good thing Bermudez has a good chin.
Hettes is a bit more technical in his striking, but a lot more uncomfortable as well. He would much rather try and clinch things up with Bermudez and try to get the fight to the ground with his extensive judo trips. I could go into more detail about his striking (he does have a boxing background... I just totally contradicted myself didn't I), but he isn't going to try and brawl with Bermudez. The biggest advantage I can see Hettes having is the fact he is a southpaw. That may or may not throw off Bermudez. Oh yeah... his reach as well. He'll have about 5 inches on Bermudez.
Due to his brawling nature, the wrestling abilities of Bermudez are often overlooked by fans. He was actually a decorated collegiate wrestler Matt Grice (a decorated wrestler himself) has been the only opponent who has been able to stifle the takedown attempts of Bermudez which have often been the difference in his matches.
The question is whether or not he wants to take the fight to the ground. As mentioned before, Hettes has a judo background and is excellent at trips. He'll look to get the fight to the ground himself as he has obtained all but one of his victories via submission. Throw in the fact that all of Bermudez's losses have come by submission... this could spell trouble for Bermudez. To sum it up, Hettes is a high level brown belt. Don't look at the brown part, pay attention to the high level part.
This is a dangerous match to pick as Hettes style could be kryptonite for Bermudez. But Hettes lost to Marcus Brimage and Bermudez is a similar fighter to Brimage... and better too. But I'm sure others will point out Brimage has a much longer reach than Bermudez. Screw that point. Bermudez will push forward and eventually catch Hettes with a bomb. Bermudez by TKO 2nd Round
Alex Garcia (11-1) vs. Sean Spencer (11-2), Welterweight
Garcia made an explosive and emphatic debut while Spencer has quietly plugged along winning his last two. So who wins... the flashy finisher or the quiet plugger?
Garcia made a hell of a splash in his UFC debut by pulling out a KO within the first minute of the fight with Ben Wall. The owner of a very muscular physique, he might be better suited to lightweight with his stout frame, but no reason to force a change until there is fair reason to make the move. Garcia has shown a lot of promise thus far.
Spencer was a short notice injury replacement just over a year ago against Rafael Natal and dropped to welterweight immediately after that match and has won both of his fights since. Though I labeled him a plugger (largely due to his lack of finishes), his style is more of a punches in bunches that is actually fairly entertaining.
Garcia's primary weapon is his tight and powerful boxing. That isn't to say that he doesn't have holes in it as he isn't the most efficient at putting together combinations, but his powerful strikes often make it so that he has no need to land more than on punch if he lands cleanly. He does mix to the body and head though as it was a body shot that led to the destruction of Wall.
As I somewhat mentioned before, Spencer is almost the exact opposite as Garcia: not a lot of power in his strikes, but very effective in landing combinations. His length is his best tool when it comes to landing all of those shots. His footwork is solid too as he can get in and out of his opponents and lands a variety of punches.He usually ends up landing more than his opponents, but does leave himself open to getting hit too. He'll need to avoid taking too many shots from Garcia.
Easily the biggest problem with Garcia is his questionable gas tank. His only loss occurred to Seth Baczynski after he tired... in the second round. He has only had one fight go to decision so he has plenty to prove with his gas tank. He does have an excellent (and powerful) double-leg takedown that is very difficult to stop. If he can get the mount and rain down GNP it is likely over as he can do some serious damage from that position.
Spencer's ground game is very much unproven. A much larger Rafael Natal was able to get him down almost at will and eventually finished him with a submission. He hasn't landed a single takedown himself yet... though he has only attempted one. I haven't seen anything that indicates he'll be able to stop Garcia's takedowns consistently... so hopefully he has done some work on that for his sake.
I think that I've made it pretty clear who I think will take this one. The only way that Spencer gets it done is if he can avoid Garcia's takedowns and power punches and drags out the fight for all 3 rounds. But I don't think he can do that. Garcia by TKO 1st Round
In an attempt to expand its general audience, the UFC is bringing in Trevino who is of Mexican descent. Forte is a passable test... can Trevino pass it.
Though of Mexican descent, Trevino is an American and will have a home advantage being from Texas himself. He will be making his lightweight debut having previously fought at higher weights before. He'll have a number of questions to answer making the cut.
Forte is a very good-sized lightweight who got his start in the inaugural TUF Brazil. He has been overwhelmed in his UFC defeats, but does own an upset victory within the organization. He is still young enough to develop into a mainstay, but will definitely need to improve to do so.
Trevino is gonna have a number of questions. Can he effectively make the new weight and if he can how will it affect him? Will he maintain his strength? Is he ready for the jump in competition? South Texas Fighting Championships hasn't exactly sent many prospects to the big leagues. Its hard to find footage of him, but what I found leaves one to wonder about more than those questions. He struggled in fighting from a distance and didn't have a lot of power. Granted, he was fighting larger men, but it doesn't look like a weight cut will help him overpower his opponents. He shows a lot of kicks which look very sharp which would say is his best weapon.
Forte has the physical tools to be a difference maker and has improved his focus, but still has some holes to fill. To his credit he has looked more comfortable in the Octagon with each appearance (I know he lost his last fight in just two minutes, but was opening up his strikes more than ever). He still lunges too much in his punches leaving him easy to counter, but has shown more snap in his kicks.
Trevino seems to leave a lot to be desired with his grappling as well. I would have thought that fighting larger opponents would have led to him developing solid technique... but alas, no. He gets swept easy and relied largely on grit and toughness. The weight drop will help him here, but he'll still need to improve to last long in the Octagon.
Like a lot of Brazilians, Forte doesn't have the best takedowns. He spends a lot of time up against the fence as he works to get his opponent to the ground. He'd be well-served to improve his dirty boxing as a result. Once the fight is to the ground he has a heavy mount and some efficient and active GNP... but has gassed himself with over aggression.
Neither of these fighters are very good by UFC standards and have very prevalent holes. I'm sure this fight has the least interest on the card as a result. I'm going with Forte as he has faced higher level opposition and feel he is better equipped to emphasize his strengths than Trevino. Forte by Decision
Scoggins could prove to be a phenom at the tender age of 21, but faces a stiff test in his development in Campuzano.
I was surprised that more people weren't on the Scoggins bandwagon when he jumped to the UFC. I understand that he fought subpar competition on the regional scene and 7 fights isn't a lot... but I was convinced from what I saw that his high level striking would translate well to the big leagues and he has proven me right thus far with a nice stoppage of Richie Vaculik, whom it is worth noting had never been stopped before.
Campuzano made his return to the UFC on short notice when he stepped up to replace an injured Vaughan Lee against Sergio Pettis. Though he lost, he acquitted himself quite well by getting the better of the grappling department. Considering his Zuffa record is 1-5 though, this may be his last chance to make good.
Scoggins surprised a lot of people by showing a ground game against a tough vet such as Vaculik as his strength is without a doubt his striking and his wide variety of kicks to be more specific. I've heard a lot of comparisons to Stephen Thompson (not unwarranted, especially considering he started in kickboxing), but believe that Scoggins has a much better chance of becoming a contender due to his young age and entering in the MMA scene at such a young age. Back to his striking. With 4 KO/TKO victories by head kick (some followed by punches), that tells you all you need to know about his kicks, but don't sleep on his fists either. His right hook seems particularly sharp.
Campuzano is a BIG flyweight. His 70' (or 71', depending on which website you look at) reach is almost unheard of at the weight class, though he needs to learn how to more efficiently use it. His skill set is best described as good-at-everything and great-at-nothing (and that is more than just his striking). His boxing is overall pretty solid and he mixes shots to the head and body, but he does get sloppy at times. If he could implement an efficient jab he might be able to take his game to the next level.
Scoggins answered a lot of questions about his grappling in his UFC debut as he was able to get Vaculik down multiple times and his GNP was efficient enough that he got the stoppage. He is only going to get better as his experience is thus far limited. Remember that Vaculik, though scrappy, doesn't have much of a wrestling background and Scoggins will likely get into trouble with someone who has plenty of experience there.
Lucky for Campuzano that he has shown greater wrestling ability as of late. He had one total takedown in his 5 previous Zuffa appearances combined, but scored 4 against Pettis. He showed grit in escaping Pettis' submission attempts too as it seems he has worked on escaping submissions recently... though not necessarily defense as he put himself in bad positions. His GNP hasn't been powerful and hasn't shown a lot of submission savvy though.
Though I consider myself to be on the Scoggins bandwagon, I think he comes up short here as Campuzano's improved wrestling should be enough to smother Scoggins. Scoggins could score a flash KO or take the steam out of Campuzano's legs with an early attack there... but Campuzano knows its now or never to prove he should be in the UFC. Campuzano by Decision
Stepping up with less than two weeks notice, Strickland makes his UFC debut against against notable (not for the right reasons) TUF alumni McDaniel.
Strickland has spent almost the entirety of his career fighting under the King of the Cage banner (only one fight outside the organization) which is made all the more impressive when you realize he started fighting professionally at the age of 17. Still only 23 years old, Strickland is far from a finished product... and that could be good or bad.
McDaniel gained plenty of notoriety for his complaining about making weight multiple times on the show, for gaining the wild card spot based on the strength of his relationship with his coach Jon Jones than anything his performance indicated, to bitching about back pain, and being laid to waste in 9 seconds by Uriah Hall. He has somewhat redeemed himself with a solid win over Gilbert Smith and a respectable loss to Brad Tavares. But he still has a long ways to go for full redemption.
Before I go any further, I want to state that it has been difficult to find footage of Strickland, particularly recent footage. So his evolution as a fighter could be at a much different point than what is stated here. With that said, he has some of the worst standup I have seen from a fighter with an undefeated record. He wings his punches out there with no technique and often just throws his arms out there without putting his body into the punch. While his kicks are a lot sharper, Strickland knows that the standup isn't his strength. (More on that in a bit)
McDaniel on the other hand isn't bad at all on his feet. For all of the ripping I've done on McDaniel to this point, he seems to have a different focus outside of the TUF house and should carve out a nice stint in the UFC. He is lanky and uses his length quite well. His punches are fluid and he throws good combinations when he chooses to push forward. His lanky frame prevents him from packing a lot of muscle on his frame, so he doesn't have a lot of KO power, but if that is the worst thing you can say (and it pretty much is), your doing pretty well.
Strickland's strength is by far his brutal GNP. Once he gets the mount, you almost feel like declaring the fight over as he attacks brutally and viciously with his powerful fists. His wild punching usually sets up his double leg, so at least he efficiently knows how to use his inefficient punches. If he ever learns to transfer his power into his standup (i.e. better technique), he could be a real beast.
McDaniel is actually very efficient on the ground himself with 16 submission wins on his ledger. He has developed a nice array of submissions over the years and is very savvy about taking what is given to him. Perhaps most important is that he doesn't panic when put in a bad spot... at least he hasn't since he left the TUF house.
I really believe that McDaniel is a better fighter than he showed on the reality show. And I feel he is on a mission to prove that. Strickland is far from a pushover and is capable of springing the upset. But McDaniel has more tools at his disposal. McDaniel by Decision
Daniel Pineda (18-10) vs. Rob Whiteford (10-2), Featherweight
If the UFC still believes in cutting from their roster (how is Dustin Pague still employed?!), one of these guys could be looking for a job with a loss.
Pineda has a respectable UFC record of 3-3, but those 3 losses have come in his last 4 fights and none of the wins have come over anyone on the current roster. While he does his work quickly when he wins (the longest bout of his UFC victories was two minutes and five seconds), the best thing for his here might be to prove he can earn a decision victory as he doesn't own one to his credit.
Whiteford beceme the first Scot to step into the UFC when he replaced Mike Wilkinson as an injury replacement last October against Jimy Hettes. Whiteford held his own striking with Hettes (and I'd say even had the advantage), but he'll have to improve his grappling to get an extended stay with the company.
As you would expect with someone who owns only first round stoppage victories in the UFC, Pineda is very aggressive. He throws nice boxing combinations and is generally moving forward. Despite some technical abilities, he enjoys a slugfest and is willing to draw his opponents into one. He faked an injury in his last fight with Diego Brandao to lure in Brandao and it almost worked. He doesn't have a lot of power in his fists and will likely wear down his opponent with a punches in bunches style. Also worth noting is his use of kicks to maintain distance.
Whiteford will be happy to oblige Pineda's willingness to get into a brawl as that is his favorite way to fight. He'll be the bigger and stronger fighter (the length will be up for debate) and will be a bigger threat to score a KO. This will probably sound weird, but he is a patient brawler. I know, complete oxymoron. He doesn't rush into the fray headfirst, but slowly lets it develop, usually against the fence as he favors the clinch. With a background in judo, it makes sense that he would look for trips from the position and also employs some solid dirty boxing.
Here's the X-factors (and they've been foreshadowed): Pineda has poor cardio and Whiteford isn't a very good grappler. Pineda should have been finished against Brandao but lucked out that Brandao has crappy cardio too. Whiteford had his weakness plainly exposed by Jimy Hettes who took him down at will and took advantage of the gift triangle choke that Whiteford gave him.
Here is what it will come down to: Pineda isn't great at takedowns, but he should be able to get Whiteford to the ground with his aggressive style. Throw in the fact that 12 of his victories have come by submission... you see where I'm going with this? Pineda by Submission 1st Round
Record for last Card: 6-3
Record for Year: 57-28