These are quite possibly the greatest prelims ever simply because of the headlining match of the prelims. Rafael dos Anjos and Khabib Nurmagomedov will square off in what is the most anticipated lightweight match up of the year thus far. I don't want to hear anything about Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson. Both are great fighters, but have leaned towards fighting safely in recent years and their match only further proved that point. dos Anjos and Khabib are smart and aggressive fighters and this is going to be an awesome clash!
A former title contender in Thiago Alves returns to action after a two year layoff due to injuries as well. Considering he never truly represented the killer we all knew before the title shot, I'm prone to believe that the layoff will have been overall good for him. He should still be in his physical prime at 30, so a career rebirth isn't out of the question. Only a long shot. Still, he'll be worth watching.
Pat Healy and Jorge Masvidal are two lightweights who are still capable of moving up the ranks, so that is worth watching too. So is the return of Jordan Mein from a year off. Other than that... just keep reading. I'm already prepping each match further down the article.
This is the fight I have most been looking forward to on the entire card. Let me repeat myself. The ENTIRE card. Who put this on the prelims? An atrocity has been committed! This should have been the co-main event! Who is running this place!?
dos Anjos has run up one of the quietest 5 fight win streaks in the UFC that I can remember. He has been a quality fighter for a long time, but he never does anything to draw attention to himself. Well, I shouldn't that. He did ask for this fight. Why is that such a big deal? Respected fighters such as Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez have passed up the opportunity to fight Khabib. While there were some extenuating circumstances involved for both, it took a long time to get someone to agree to take on The Eagle. That someone is dos Anjos.
Khabib (I'm not typing Nurmagomedov out every time!) has gained a massive cult following with all of the success that he has had. While the casual fan may not be aware of him, those in the know see him as potential championship material as he has run through every opponent with little problem save for Gleison Tibau. At 25 though, Nurmagomedov is still improving and has shown that improvement since the Tibau fight. Throw in the fact that the earlier mentioned title contenders have passed on the opportunity to fight him and its easy to see how his hype train has gotten so big.
When dos Anjos first entered the UFC he was known almost strictly as a BJJ expert. While many still think of him that way, no one can deny he isn't at least a very well-rounded fighter at this junction. He does have the power to catch his opponent off guard (remember his one-punch KO of George Sotiropoulos?), but is more likely to accumulate his punches in high quantity as he has developed a very functional boxing game with fast hands in addition to being light on his feet. But that is far from his best weapon as his leg kicks are among the best in the business. His Muay Thai is worth mentioning as well as his knees are probably more capable of putting out an opponent than his fists... it just hasn't happened... yet.
For all of the hype around Khabib (I'm not going to say its undeserved), his striking game has yet to develop into the level of the upper echelon. That isn't to say he sucks... it just hasn't caught up to his grappling quite yet. But I don't think it is far behind and at the rate he is improving... yikes! His boxing is solid as he throws a solid jab and combines that with haymakers that are fully capable of dropping his opponent.Oh, and watch out for his sneaky uppercut too. Just ask Thiago Tavares about those. It seems to be his favorite punch. His movement has been very good too as he stays light on his feet and hasn't taken any massive shots to date.
About the only thing needed to be said about his wrestling (or to be more correct, Sambo) is this: 21 takedowns in one match. Not a 5 round match either. I'm not going to say that Abel Trujillo is great at stopping takedowns... but damn. The easy thing to point out is that he needs some work on keeping his opponents down if he needed to repeatedly take Trujillo down, but clearly he can dictate where he wants the match to take place. His submission credentials are nothing to sneeze at either, but I wouldn't count on a submission victory over a BJJ wiz such as dos Anjos.
The biggest problem with being a well-known high level submission expert is that so few give you the opportunity to display that ability as dos Anjos has only earned 2 of his 8 submission victories in the UFC. That isn't to say that dos Anjos doesn't have any control over where the fight takes place as his sprawl is spectacular and he has greatly improved his takedowns as well. His most effective takedowns take place against the cage where he can pull his opponents legs out from under them (even drop them on their head) and ground them out with relentless if not heavy GNP and excellent positioning. His biggest advantage will likely come in his cat quick speed in transitions and scrambles. Khabib isn't slow by any means... but few are better than dos Anjos there.
I really expect this to be the Fight of the Night. Both of these guys are hungry to prove that they belong in the conversation for the elite of the division and will be looking to prove themselves. Its going to be awesome. I'm on the Khabib hype train though. He really looks like a future champion to me and he continues to prove that here. Nurmagomedov by TKO 3rd Round
Has it really been two years since we last saw Alves in the ring? In some ways it seems like longer, but its good to see the former title challenger come back to the Octagon.
It seems like nothing has gone right for Alves ever since his failed title bid 5 years ago against GSP. His anticipated rematch with Jon Fitch was delayed first because of a knee injury and then because of a brain irregularity in Alves. Follow that with underwhelming performances (even in victory over John Howard) and everyone thought he might be done. Then he starts to look good again and puts a beating on Martin Kampmann... only to get guillotined on a takedown. Due to many injuries and surgeries, that was the last we saw of him.
Baczynski is very much a forgotten man in this bout and I'm sure most people don't even realize who it is that Alves is fighting. Whether he cares or if it simply motivates him I really have no clue, but I do know that Alves has to take him serious. Its easy to forget that he is the last guy to beat Matt Brown. How many of you knew that?
Alves' pre-title fight form was a sight to behold. He won 7 in a row leading into the fight, including 5 KO/TKO stoppages over durable guys like Chris Lytle, Matt Hughes, and a prime Karo Parysian. Does he exist anymore? At 30, I'm inclined to believe he does. Maybe not quite at that same level... but a wrecking ball of violence nonetheless. At his peak, no one had more devastating Muay Thai than Alves. His knees were as liable to end a fight as Hendo's H-Bomb (maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but you get my point) and could even produce it while flying through the air. His leg kicks? They were the best in the business and may still be. A jab isn't something I recall being in his repertoire, but that is because he throws everything to end fights, not score points. If he is punching, its power hooks all the way.
Now what can Baczynski offer up against a beast like Alves? Baczynski is one of the biggest welterweights out there at 6'3 with a '75 reach. Despite the reach, Baczynski prefers to close the distance and make the fight a grinding affair. He does some of his best work up against the cage as he uses his massive frame to muscle up his opponent and wear them down as well as short punches and knees. He can use his reach with a beautiful straight right right in the style of a superman punch, but is inconsistent in his use of it. He was traditionally had a sturdy chin and good gas tank, but Brian Melancon recently KO'd him and Baczynski was the one running out of gas against Neil Magny despite earning the victory.
Where Alves has had the biggest problem has been with wrestlers. In his decision losses to GSP, Fitch, and Rick Story, he was taken down a combined 23 times. Does Baczynski have the ability to do this? Umm... no? Traditionally Baczynski has been terrible on his takedowns and though he had more success than usual against Magny, I wouldn't say it was an overwhelming improvement. Once he gets his opponent to the ground, Baczynski is at his most dangerous. He has a habit of catching his opponents in chokes... including catching Brown in a guillotine the exact same way Kampmann caught Alves. Can lightning strike twice?
I promise you Alves will be aware of the fact Baczynski owns a victory in that manner and I wouldn't look for him to go for a blasting double-leg. There seems to be no reason for Alves to take the fight to the ground. It isn't that he isn't capable as he owns a brown belt in BJJ and outside of his gaffe against Kampmann, hasn't been submitted in almost 9 years. But he owns such an advantage standing up that it would be dumb for him to do so. Against the lesser wrestlers (not GSP or Fitch for example) Alves has actually done a very good job defending takedowns. His best defense has actually been offense as his knees will make anyone think twice before shooting in on him.
I admit I am very excited to see Alves back. Especially if he comes back in full beast mode. Baczynski isn't a chump by any means and represents a good opponent for Alves to make his return against. But its Alves! Even though ring rust is a possibility, I think Alves will look very good. Alves by KO 1st Round
Pat Healy (29-18, 1 NC) vs. Jorge Masvidal (25-8), Lightweight
Both of these fighters are sitting just on the outskirts of the rankings. While neither can be considered prospects or true title contenders, they can pull out a competitive fight from anyone.
Anyone else thinking that Healy is regretting smoking that bowl? Healy was coming off of the most impressive win of his career last April over Jim Miller when he tested positive for marijuana, costing him a W and $65000 in the process. He lost his next two in the after that to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Bobby Green. What happens if he loses again? I'm sure he doesn't want to find out.
Masvidal isn't in nearly as dire straits. He won his first two UFC contests over Tim Means and Mike Chiesa, but fell short against the Rustam Khabilov. He has long been respected and took Gilbert Melendez a full 5 rounds just a few years ago, but has never been able to break through his ceiling. He isn't old at 29, but it makes one wonder if he ever will do so.
Healy is a massive lightweight. That is the first thing that anyone will notice about him and it makes him very difficult to get off of you when he presses you against the fence or has top position on the ground. But he is also a very plodding, straightforward striker. His best strike is probably his jab which is accentuated by his length, but he has had problems landing it due to his speed and the lack of angles that he uses. He is relentless and durable though and will not quit coming even as he eats a lot of shots coming forward, so even if Masvidal is able to avoid Healy's strikes, it'll be a long night regardless. If the fight is in a favorable position for Healy standing, he'll be grinding Masvidal against the fence with dirty boxing.
There is very little flash to Masvidal's striking, but he is a joy to watch. Well... I think he is. His boxing is textbook from his hand placement to the snap of his jab and even to the way he covers his face. He's another large lightweight (not quite on par with Healy) and has a reach just as long if not longer than Healy. While power isn't in abundance for him, he is so technically proficient that he is a threat to put his opponent to sleep. He throws in a lot of leg kicks to mix things up. He surprised me with his proficiency in the clinch with Khabilov by avoiding the takedowns and scoring some offense himself. His biggest weakness? Mental mistakes. There have been times he doesn't think the fighter in the ring is worth his time and it has cost him. I don't think he'll look at Healy that way.
I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised at Masvidal's ability to prevent takedowns against Khabilov because Masvidal is one of the best at preventing takedowns. But the last fighter to have a lot of success in taking down Masvidal? Ryan Healy, Pat's twin. It was 6 years ago though so don't expect a lot of what Ryan did to be just as effective. Masvidal is underrated with his grappling though and isn't easy to submit. (Don't bring up Imada, I attribute that to his brain farts) He showed his own ability by scoring an impressive brabo choke over Mike Chiesa last summer, only the second submission of his career. We know he has it though.
The more this goes the less I like this match for Healy. I love his doggedness and the fact that he never quits. As a result I promise that he will get Masvidal down at some point and time. But I don't know who long he'll be able to keep them there or if he'll be able to get a dominant position on someone like Masvidal. Healy got Green down three times but never was able to truly capitalize. If Masvidal suffers a mental misstep at any point on the ground, it will be game over as Healy isn't just good at sinking in chokes, he's great at it. But will Masvidal give him that opportunity?
I see too many similarities between Masvidal and Green to think that the fight will be much different for Healy than his fight with Green was. If anything I think Masvidal will probably land cleaner shots than Green did, but he isn't going to stop Healy. Should be a fun fight though. Masvidal by Decision
White is getting his opportunity as an injury replacement while Payan is on his last legs here and a loss will almost certainly lead to his release. Can you say desperation?
White is a very unpolished prospect who turned pro in 2010, but 8 of those have occurred since 2012 indicating that he has been very busy the last two years. Whats more is that 8 of those have resulted in a stoppage. At 27 he is a little older than what you would expect from someone who has been in the sport for such a short period of time, but he is far from old and very much a prospect worth taking a look at for the UFC.
Payan crossed over from Strikeforce when Zuffa decided to fold the organization into the UFC and has yet to record a victory in the organization in two tries. The US Army veteran has looked good during both matches, but hasn't done enough to seal the deal. His toughness has kept him employed thus far, but he needs to get a win here.
While I see potential in White, I see a lot of needed work too. He is very deliberate in his punches and occasionally on his kicks too, which will make it easy for his opponents to either dodge or counter his strikes. It does create for accurate striking though. He moves forward zombie-like, stalking his opponents down and tends to eat a lot of shots as he closes in. His technique isn't bad, he utilizes the length of his 6'0 frame well, and mixes his kicks to the head, body, and legs efficiently. He shows good knees from the clinch too. Expect to see him utilize it often.
While scrappy would be a great way to describe him, Payan's technique in his strikes is about the same if not just a bit tighter, but he shows much lighter feet and better head movement, though it hardly makes him great in either category. He'll flick out a jab every now and then, but throws hooks with both hands more than anything, often throwing one after the other. Look for him to throw a lot of leg kicks this fight too as White should have the reach advantage, something Payan isn't used to. Keep in mind that he can take a beating too.
Payan has done a great job of convincing no one that he can wrestle at this level. Jeremy Stephens and Robbie Peralta aren't known for being great wrestlers, but were both able to get Payan down with relative ease. It isn't like Payan has shown the ability to get anyone down either. I make it sound like he has zero chops, but that isn't necessarily true. He showed a nice reversal against Peralta early in their fight to take top position and was able to maintain it for the rest of the round. His GNP is nothing special and isn't likely to end a fight. And he hasn't been able to score a submission as his level of competition has grown either. Keep in mind he has never been submitted though as that is White's favorite way to end a fight.
All of that said about Payan, it isn't like White has shown much wrestling either. He'll commonly go from the clinch to the body lock and press his opponent against the fence and eventually try to muscle them down or trip them. Payan isn't great at stopping takedowns... but he is strong and savvy enough to know how to stop those type of takedowns. I like the speed of White's submissions that I've seen and he owns a more active guard than most fighters do at this point, but due to his slickness with subs he doesn't seem to demonstrate much urgency in scrambles and transitions. Against a fighter like Payan that could cost him greatly.
This is a very winnable fight for White, but it is a must-win for Payan. Fighting means a lot to him and he knows that his back is against the wall, so he'll throw the kitchen sink into this one... and it'll take more than that to put him out. Payan by Decision
There is very little narrative to this fight. Zachrich is far from a blue chip prospect and Magalhaes seems like a guy who will end up stuck in the middle of the division for the duration of his UFC career.
Magalhaes isn't a bad fighter and does have a wining UFC record at 2-1. But his last victory was tainted by the fact his opponent, Nick Ring, blew out his ACL during the course of the fight, which allowed Magalhaes to cruise to victory from there. Ring was in control up to that point... but a win is a win and Magalhaes is still young and talented enough to end up being a successful mainstay for the UFC.
Zachrich is a very late injury replacement for Josh Samman. Zachrich was a participant on TUF season 7 under Forrest Griffin and was the very last overall pick on the show. He does have a solid record, but he has largely faced tomato cans and a few respectable journeymen and its safe to say his best known opponents were his two losses. I don't think there were too many people available to take the fight if Zachrich got the call.
Magalhaes has a lot of raw power, but has yet to really find a way to translate that into his strikes. He hasn't figured out that its OK to take some steam off of his punches and throws all he has into them. He might be able to land with more accuracy if he does so. I haven't like what I've seen from his movement either as he didn't look much more active than Ring after Ring's knee blew. He throws a lot of leg kicks and will occasionally throw out a head kick, but hasn't really had success in landing it in the UFC. He showed he can take a beating as Karlos Vemola put a hell of a beating on him only for Magalhaes to rally for the victory.
There is nothing that stands out about Zachrich's standup when you watch him, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing as he he doesn't really have any massive holes. He doesn't swing wildly, likes to throw the jab, and shows solid technique without a lot of power. He prefers to clinch things up and will throw a lot of knees from there, but its usually a precursor to him getting underhooks and fishing for a trip takedown. He is willing to get into a slugfest and has a solid chin, but it isn't exactly advisable for him to do so considering he is less powerful than Magalhaes.
While it is well-established that BJJ is Magalhaes biggest strength, Zachrich is pretty solid there too and should be able to handle most of what Magalhaes throws at him. He is very well-versed in putting a lot of torque to his opponent's arms as 5 of his 7 submissions have come by armbar or keylock. I wouldn't expect him to catch Magalhaes that way, but Zachrich is fairly savvy and is fully capable of surprising Magalhaes if given the opportunity. Some of those subs were very fast and slick. He isn't too top heavy, but is versed in maintaining position and shows alright GNP.
My favorite part of Magalhaes game is how active he is off of his back in looking for submissions. He almost caught Vemola a couple of times in both a triangle choke and an armbar. Considering he was Brazilian national champion in BJJ, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise. He likes to go for the standing head-and-arm guillotine chokes a lot too, maybe to a fault. His GNP isn't heavy, but he stays busy enough to avoid a stand up from the referee. His wrestling is lacking as he largely uses his strong physique to outmuscle his opponents once he gets underhooks, but that is about it. As a result he struggles to get he fight on the mat which is where he wants it to be.
Zachrich isn't a chump as I made him out to be early on in the breakdown, but whether or not he is UFC-level can be debated. He is a smarter fighter than Magalhaes and more polished, but he doesn't have nearly the same bag of tricks that Magalhaes possess. Eventually Magalhaes will be able to overwhelm him. Magalhaes by Submission 3rd Round
Jordan Mein (27-9) vs. Hernani Perpetuo (17-3, 1 NC), Welterweight
Mein is a tough bastard who likes to throw and Perpetuo is from the Nova Uniao camp. That means high probability for violence. Hell yeah!
A year ago at this time people were incredibly high on Mein as his only loss in his last 10 fights had come at the hands of Tyron Woodley and included names such as Josh Burkman, Marius Zaromskis, and becoming the first person to finish the ultra durable Dan Miller. While he seemed to be a legit threat to beat (he was favored on the betting lines) Matt Brown, it was not to be and injuries have kept him on the side since. As a result, many have forgotten about him. Trust me, he's worth remembering.
Perpetuo is making his UFC debut and has been a recognizable prospect for the last few years. By winning the Shooto title and victories over many established names on the Brazilian circuit such as Tommy Depret, Daniel Acacio, and former UFC vet Edilberto de Oliveirea, Perpetuo has done more than enough to get his opportunity in the Octagon. In addition to those accomplishments, he owns a number of amateur kickboxing titles as well.
Its hard not to like Mein's fighting style as he owns 22 stoppage victories, including 15 by KO/TKO. The young Canadian has developed a smart boxing style over the years that is violent yet measured. More often than not he allows his opponent to throw first to start the match to get a feel for their range and style of attack. Once he gets it figured out he becomes the aggressor and scores most often with his left hand despite traditionally being right-handed, but is capable with both. He utilizes a lot of standing elbows as well. His fists are full of dynamite and he has an excellent killer instinct, but not expending all of his energy in the process.
Perpetuo is the type of fighter that plays in perfectly to Mein's style. He darts in and out often just throwing a single strike or leg kick. His jab is effective and he throws it to both the body and head. He throws a powerful overhand with either hand and will mix in the occasional head or spinning kick. I'm very impressed with his hand speed and can't help but wonder why he doesn't throw more combinations. His hands are where they need to be defensively, but he often allows his opponent to stalk him down. Can anyone else see where this could be bad with Mein? Mein is a smart fighter despite his young age as he has 36 fights under his belt. Perpetuo would be wise to try something outside of his usual book... and he has the ability to do so.
What has often been Mein's kryptonite is wrestling and unfortunately for Perpetuo, that is his weakest and/or most untested area. Considering there is a good amount of video out there, this is very disconcerting not to have much evidence. The takedown defense I saw was alright, but it seemed to be more of a case of crappy takedowns more than good defense. He owns 4 submission victories and each of them have come by a different technique, so he has to have a decent knowledge of holds.
When you look at the men who have dealt Mein his last three loses (Brown, Tyron Woodley, and Jason High), they are all good if not great wrestlers. Like I've already stated though, Perpetuo isn't going to be outwrestling Mein. Mein doesn't have horrible wrestling, but it could be polished up a lot more. Perpetuo looks to be a good opponent to test it on if he wants some in-ring experience with it. While he does own 7 submission victories, the subs have become a lot less frequent as the competition level has gone up. By far the best part of his ground game is his GNP. Remember that he finished Miller that way and no one else had done so... and Miller has faced awesome competition.
I know it would be a risk for Perpetuo to mix up his style against Mein. But the way he fights is bad stylistically against Mein. If nothing else he should amp up the aggression. Look what it did for Matt Brown. I think people will be talking about Mein the way they did after he put Miller away at the end of this fight. Mein by TKO 2nd Round
Record for last Card: 9-4
Record for Year: 79-49-1, 1 NC