I do the best I can to not lie to my loyal readers. Both of you have to be my favorite people that I've never met. But there is a reason that these are referred to as predictions. But I feel very safe in saying that these Fight Pass fights are going to be worth watching. I don't think you'll find a future champion in them... but you should find some highlight reel quality finishes. If I'm wrong then shoot me... you just gotta find where I live first...
Story Thus Far: Njokuani is a 13 fight WEC/UFC veteran who flies underneath the radar of the casual fan. Its kind of a shame. He won't ever contend for the title, but he is a fun striker to watch and a great gatekeeper for the younger up-and-coming fighters. Its been over a year since he last fought, so he is coming off of a long layoff.
Pichel took more than a year off himself after his first official UFC fight, but you can't blame him when he became known as the guy that Rustam Khabilov dumped on his head multiple times. He came back this past January and pulled out a workman-like victory over Garett Whiteley. Not exactly a name opponent, but ya gotta start somewhere.
Fighting Style: Njokuani is a very long lightweight with a 75' reach and does a very good job of utilizing it with some effective straight punches. Muay Thai is his primary background and he has some fantastic strikes in the clinch. His weakness is his ground game as he offers very little in terms of grappling offense (0 submission victories) and can be controlled on the ground. If the fight stays standing though, he is a threat to anyone at any time as his three KO of the Night's in a row from his WEC days attest to.
Pichel is a guy that does everything well but nothing great... which is unfortunately becoming more of an insult nowadays. That isn't to say that he is a bad test. He took Whiteley down at will (take that with a grain of salt people) and is fairly aggressive and accurate with his striking. He showed some sneaky submissions during his stint on TUF 15 as few think of him as a submission artist. He was able to get to the semi-finals during his time on the show.
What to Expect: Pichel can't be patient against Njokuani or he will get picked apart with Njokuani's leg kicks and jab all day long. Njokuani knows how to use his length to keep his opponents out of their range but still within his (he outstruck Edson Barboza by a large margin in their fight) and Pichel isn't nearly as polished in his standup as Njokuani. He'll want to make the fight as ugly as possible and brawl with the Muay Thai expert.
Considering Njokuani isn't skilled on the ground its obvious that will represent Pichel's best chance of victory. Njokuani has done a lot to tighten up his submission defense though and hasn't lost that way in 4 years in addition to his defensive wrestling. Njokuani struggled with the grapplers of the division like Danny Castillo and Rafael dos Anjos... but even they had to work to get him down. Pichel is going to try to get it to the ground, but is going to have a hard time doing so.
X-Factors: Ring rust for Njokuani. A year is a long time to be out of the ring and he actually stayed quite busy in the Octagon with the time leading up to his layoff.
Who Will Win: Njokuani is far to superior of a striker for Pichel to handle. He really has no good way to counter it. He doesn't have a powerful double leg that would be most effective to floor the Nigerian native and getting into the clinch with Njokuani is a bad idea. Should be a short fight. Njokuani by KO 1st Round
Story Thus Far: Sicilia has been an exciting fighter to watch thus far in his UFC stint, but has had trouble proving that he can be more than a guy that alternates wins and loses. His balls-to-the-wall style makes him a favorite of Dana White and he could end up getting Leonard Garcia treatment as a result if he doesn't rebound from his last fight.
Phillips was set to fight Thomas de Almeida for the Legacy FC bantamweight title in June before getting the call to replace Doo Ho Choi after Choi's injury. Fighting out of the same Gladiators Academy that produced top featherweight Dustin Poirier (before his move to ATT), Phillips has a thin resume of quality competition.
Fighting Style: Sicilia is a brawler through and through. He has some serious dynamite in his fists and loves to detonate it on his opponents chin. He'll take two punches to land one which has worked with the likes of Godofredo Pepey, but he paid for it against Cole Miller. Keep in mind that Miller has a monstrous reach at featherweight and has better learned to utilize it. Sicilia has a wrestling background which he uses to keep the fight on his feet. He does look to take the fight to ground a few times through the course of the fight, but hasn't been as efficient with his takedowns as you'd expect with his background.
Phillips comes from a Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do background, so as you can imagine he is a high impact striker who makes sure it hurts when he throws. He has more than enough ability to put an opponent out with one strike (strike, not just a punch). As a high school wrestler, he has shown some solid takedown defense as well as the ability to get back to his feet. The fact that he has fought some at bantamweight may be a factor to his success there. Remember that I said his level of competition is more than questionable.
What to Expect: Sicilia is the bigger, stronger, and more experienced fighter and will look to bully Phillips around to push the pace try to end the fight early. Sicilia likes to use the clinch to set up his takedowns, but Phillips is very comfortable from there and would land some nice elbows and knees from there. It is also worth mentioning that Sicilia doesn't always get to the clinch since eating shots can often impede progress.
One of the biggest problems for Sicilia is that his opponents have been able to land in high volume against him, but Phillips isn't a high volume striker. Phillips is often quite patient in setting up his strikes. Not that that is a bad characteristic, but Sicilia won't let him do that. He'll be up in his face the whole time.
Phillips was taken down multiple times in his last fight by a much smaller opponent simply due to the doggedness of the opponent. If Sicilia has seen that footage, he should know that he can Phillips down simply based on determination. If the fight goes past the first few minutes, look for Sicilia to use this strategy.
X-Factors: Octagon jitters are definitely worth mentioning here for Phillips. Especially when you figure the largest promotion he has fought in up to this point is USA MMA. I'm really interested to see how Sicilia comes out too based on his reaction to his last fight. It wasn't a close fight at all and a massive chunk of any sport is mental.
Who Will Win: Sicilia came out on fire the last time his back was against the wall and I expect him to do so here as well. Phillips hasn't been truly tested and is fighting out of his weight class here. I think Phillips will be a quality UFC fighter in time... but at bantamweight. Sicilia by KO 1st Round
Story Thus Far: Both of these young guns are making their UFC debuts with Michaud being an injury replacement for Danny Mitchell. Michuad lost his house entry fight during the 16th season of TUF to Eddy Ellis and is a more natural lightweight. Being an injury replacement, the UFC doesn't have high hopes for him, but he could surprise.
With that said about Michaud, the UFC certainly hopes that Li is able to walk away with the victory as it continues to try and make ground into more foreign markets. Asians have found limited success as of late, but the former Legend FC champion and is still only 26 and could prove different. Neither has a truly notable victory on their resume.
Fighting Style: Michaud is your classic wrestler-boxer with a grinding style. He doesn't do well in space as he is only 5'9 and is looking to close distance as quick as he can and will have his fists flying as he does so with his hook-happy approach. He likes working up against the cage where he can throw short punches and knees and is aggressive in looking for chokes too. Like most wrestlers, he struggles from off of his back and his opponents often look to put him there. When he gets top control though, he is very heavy has some seriously powerful GNP.
Li is known as "The Leech" due to his grappling skills, but remember that the grappling level in the Asian circuit isn't on par with the rest of the world. Nonetheless, his 5 submission victories show that he does indeed have know-how and is capable of catching those in the lower levels of the UFC in a sub. He is very strong (its worth checking out his slam of Andrei Liu) and isn't easily controlled. He isn't comfortable at fighting from a distance (like Michaud), but has shown the ability to survive at range without being overwhelmed.
What to Expect: This is going to be a very much grinding affair as one could guess when you get two grinders together. Li will have the size advantage which should result in a strength advantage too. Michaud is strong for his size, so he will certainly have his moments. But expect Li to be the one to maintain most of the control.
Li will have a reach advantage and is the better striker from a distance, but don't look for him to take that route. Grappling is his bread and butter and he won't look to change that, especially when he had his opponent change just 3 weeks before the fight. About the only thing to look for would be leg kicks.
Michaud is the more powerful puncher and if someone is going to get rocked from up close it is going to be Li. But Li's slams are a trademark of his so if Michaud gets on his back (not his strength), Li could put him out that route if Michaud tries to tie him up.
X-Factors: Michaud tore his ACL a few years ago, but it doesn't seem as though it affects him at all at this point. As with any fighter from Asia, the jet lag of coming over to the US could throw Li off of his game.
Who Will Win: This will be Li's first fight out of Asia in addition to his first fight in the UFC. That will be a good amount for him to overcome and I don't think that he can do that. He has also shown some vulnerability to chokes and I expect Michaud to catch him in one after Li tires a bit. Michaud by Submission 2nd Round
Record for last Card: 5-8 Record for Year: 101-63-1