I could lie to ya, but I won't. There isn't any hot prospects or under the radar veterans that could make a move on this portion of the card. You could probably not watch this and feel like you haven't missed a thing. So essentially what I'm saying is if you don't care about veterans who really won't be going anywhere, stop reading this and go find something more productive with your time. I'm serious. At least that way I can't point out that I told you to quit wasting your time when you ask why I'm writing these things.
Damn. I came across as an ornery ass there. I'm actually feeling quite pleasant... just trying to tell it like it is.
Story Thus Far: After opening up his UFC career at 2-1 in the featherweight division, Damm moved up to lightweight after experiencing some kidney issues and won in his return bout at the weight over Ivan Jorge. The member of the original TUF Brazil has been a professional for 10 years at this point and is 34 now. He isn't going to suddenly become a contender, but he is still a good test for the youngsters trying to move up.
With that said, Magomedov kind of fits the bill as he has been around the block for the M-1 Global promotion for a while, but isn't exactly old at the age of 30 either. Having spent most of his career at welterweight (and taking the M-1 welterweight title), Magomedov didn't seem to have problems making the weight in his UFC debut against Tony Martin, which he won despite getting into some tight situations early in the fight.
Fighting Style: Damm has been a bit of a conundrum as his background is extensive in wrestling and BJJ (once a member of the Brazilian national wrestling team and 3rd degree BJJ black belt), but he has struggled to take the fight to the ground... when he has tried. His standup isn't bad by any means, but it isn't anything special as it consists of some counter boxing with some leg kicks. What worries me the most is that he tends to make himself quite hittable as his movement could use some work.
Magomedov is a striker through and through, but don't be fooled into thinking he can be dominated on the ground. He is tough as hell and doesn't tap easily (see his debut against Martin) and has the patience to work his way out of bad situations while grappling. Largely a counter striker, he prefers to attack the legs and body over the head when forced to press the action and responds with nice combos with his hands and feet when when his opponent does so.
What to Expect: Every time I expect Damm to go back to his roots and utilize his wrestling and BJJ and every time I end up wrong. So Damm is going to throw caution to the wind and throw punches cause that is what he wants to do! But with both of them often taking a countering approach, this could get somewhat stagnant. Look for a lot of kicks to the body and legs from both sides.
If Damm does decide he wants to go to the ground (I'm still throwing out the possibility), Magomedov showed great counters to Martin's takedowns, ending up in the dominant position and I'd expect he'd do the same to Damm. If not he is taken down, Magomedov usually gets up quickly. Maybe thats why Damm isn't going to go to the ground...
Magomedov has no problem pushing the fight up against the fence and he'll have a size and strength advantage over Damm. I don't think he'll look to go to the ground (Magomedov usually doesn't), but he has no problem grinding things out and is effective against the fence. Then again, Damm isn't horrible there either. Expect a lot of trading position along the fence.
X-Factors: Damm is going to have a homefield advantage, but I do feel Magomedov responded very well to his first fight outside of Europe last time. This will also be Magomedov's second time cutting to lightweight and I expect that he'll be more comfortable with it this time... not that he looked bad.
Who Will Win: Magomedov still looks like he is improving while I feel like Damm has plateaued. It probably won't be the prettiest bout, but Magomedov will be the one that does just enough to emerge with a W. Magomedov by Decision
Story Thus Far: Chavez entered the UFC with many expecting him to be fodder for the more hyped Yosdenis Cedeno in both fighters debut, but he pulled the wool over those eyes as he grinded out an ugly victory. The former BAMMA USA lightweight champion still has a lot of doubters who claim Cedeno was more of a disappointment than Chavez being a pleasant surprise and this is another chance to prove his skill set.
Silverio entered the UFC as an injury replacement against Joao Zeferino at welterweight and walked away the winner in a one-sided performance. He really impressed though when he dropped to 155 and dominated a respected veteran in Isaac Vallie-Flagg who hadn't lost in his previous 12 attempts. At 27, Silverio is a big and often overpowering lightweight who could be entering the rankings by the end of the year. Seriously.
Fighting Style: Chavez is a grinder through and through. He appeared uncomfortable in space against Cedeno and only found success on the outside after Cedeno began to tire. He did close the distance before that occurred and did a very good job of controlling the Cuban. A purple belt in BJJ, he hasn't shown much (if any) submission savvy throughout his career as he has yet to score a victory that way. An opportunist in takedowns, he waits for his opponent to put themselves at a disadvantage to score them, such as when they are one leg following a kick attempt. His boxing technique is solid, but not exactly crisp, he throws leg kicks without snap, and likes working against the cage.
Silverio is a bit of a grinder himself, but offers a lot more diversity. Large for lightweight (he spent most of his career at welterweight), he loves to utilize the Thai clinch and throws a lot of knees from there. He isn't flashy and is content with letting his opponent be the aggressor as he waits for them to expose an opening he can capitalize on or a mistake. Once he has responded with a counter or a takedown, he swarms on his opponent and is very accurate. Like Chavez, he doesn't spend much time looking for a submission as he would rather wear his opponent down with strikes.
What to Expect: This has the makings of a very ugly grindfest written all over it. Silverio is the bigger of the two and did a great job of utilizing that to his advantage. Chavez is likely about to find out what it feels like to be on the other end of a grinding.
Silverio doesn't exactly look out of place in space either (which is why I won't be surprised to see him the rankings soon) and will likely open up the fight that way in order to get a feel for Chavez. Outside of countering Cedeno's kicks, the only attack Chavez threw with any consistency in that fight was some leg kicks. Vallie-Flagg had some success with that, but so did Silverio against him. Chavez really will want to close the distance and fast.
Both of these guys have a tendency to take their fights to a decision, in large part because neither of them seem to have debilitating power. That isn't to say that their punches don't hurt, but they don't come with a dose of Nyquil with them either. Expect it to go the full 15.
X-Factors: The usual questions of homefield advantage for Silverio and Chavez never having fought outside of North America before. Chavez barely made weight in his last fight, but I think that was due to the short notice of it more than anything. Chavez didn't seem to have the deepest gas tank either though.
Who Will Win: I've been wrong when I've said this before, but this seems like the biggest gimme on the card. Silverio has looked very sharp whereas Chavez pulled out a split decision over an opponent who was gassed by the second round. I'll be shocked to see Chavez pull it out. Silverio by Decision
Story Thus Far: Thiago is still around despite having suffered through the roughest patch of his career as of late as he has only 2 wins in his last 7 bouts. He is a crowd favorite though seeing as how he is a member of a special forces unit in his hometown in addition to fighting, so the UFC is fairly lenient with him as his victories over Josh Koscheck and Mike Swick seem like years ago at this point. Wait... they were years ago.
Umalatov had an unsuccessful UFC debut against Neil Magny back in February and might be in a do or die situation (like Thiago). At 31 and offering nothing truly unique in his skill set, Umalatov needs to start winning to stay employed. Not even being a foreigner would likely help him at this point seeing as how the UFC has stocked its roster with plenty of Russians. I'm positive that he has a fire under his butt.
Fighting Style: With a black belt in BJJ and in judo, Thiago is very much a ground specialist. He's had most of his success recently against those without a wrestling background or those that are simply undersized for the division as he can get them down and successfully pass their guard. Very telling is that he has 10 takedowns in his 5 UFC victories and 3 in his 6 losses. Everyone remembers his KO of Koscheck and he scored knockdowns on Jacob Volkmann and Swick as well, but that power hasn't been seen since. He is most effective with his power punches when he can mix his jab with his hooks efficiently. If he does that, he stands a much better chance of landing with force.
Umalatov looks to be a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none type fighter. His striking isn't bad. His takedowns are solid. So is his submissions. But none of them standout so much that he would be significantly better than anyone in a particular category. His striking doesn't have a lot of power behind it, but it is technically sound and accurate. He would help himself if he threw with more volume without that power. He is often predictable with his movement as well which could lead to a KO shot from his opponent. His biggest preference is to get the fight to the ground and utilize his sambo and try to score a sub.
What to Expect: Umalatov struggled mightily in the clinch against Magny and Thiago has been very good from there, so look for Thiago to try and initiate that. Even if the striking isn't working out for Thiago from there, he can easily score a judo trip or throw from that position. You would think Umalatov's sambo background would allow him to combat that more efficiently, but that wasn't happening against Magny.
Umalatov wanted Magny on the ground, but you have to wonder if that is the strategy he employs with Thiago considering Thiago is comfortable on the ground and an expert at sinking in a choke. Thiago isn't as busy of a striker as Magny, so I expect that Umalatov will be able to throw more volume himself and gain an advantage in the striking.
Thiago will have a better than 3' reach advantage and after the way Umalatov struggled with the reach of Magny, he would be wise to up his volume as well and jab Umalatov to death. As stated earlier, it would open up his power shots a hell of a lot. To Umalatov's credit, Magny is freakishly long for the division and even if Thiago tries to utilize his reach, it wouldn't be the same problem.
X-Factors: When someone has been losing as often as Thiago, I would question their mental state. But considering he deals with people shooting at him at his 9-to-5 job, I don't think losing fights affects him as much as it would others. Umalatov is traveling across both hemispheres, but these type of trips don't seem to affect the Russians as much as others. Don't know exactly why.
Who Will Win: No one will ever look at Thiago as a potential contender again and it is easy to forget why he was once looked at that way after his recent run. But Umalatov isn't a bad match for him and he should be able to walk away with a hard earned victory. Thiago by Decision
Story Thus Far: Eddiva surprised a lot of people when he upset Jumabieke Tuerxun at the TUF China Finale a few months ago as he had faced relatively low competition himself and had last fought 3 years previous. The Phillipino seemed to stay busy in the interim and showed some improvement. This fight will prove if Tuerxun was severely overhyped or if Eddiva really is that good. Either way though, he has some security being Phillipino as the UFC hopes to make headway there soon.
Souza (who goes by Kevin rather than Edimilson) has been sitting on the sidelines since September as he broke his hand in his upset victory over Felipe Arantes in which he served as an injury replacement. Having finished each of his opponents up until his UFC debut, Souza is riding an eight fight win streak and has the time at 29 to make a run into the rankings.
Fighting Style: Eddiva is a multiple time champion in Wushu Sanda, which essentially translates to him being an expert at some of the more acrobatic kicks like hook kicks or spinning wheel kicks. Despite those abilities, Eddiva would much rather close the distance and try to take the fight to the ground to win by GNP or submission. He found success against Tuerxun pressing him against the fence and controlling him due to Tuerxun being an undersized featherweight, but will struggle to do so against the rest of the division without much of a wrestling game.
At 6'0 with a 74' reach, Souza is incredibly lanky for a featherweight and has done a solid job of utilizing his long reach. He utilizes a wide base to keep the fight standing as he rarely if ever looks to take the fight to the ground. He throws a lot of feints in with his punches and keeps his opponent on the outside, often getting their back up against the fence. He could learn to utilize kicks more with his long legs to keep them further outside, but I guess you don't want to mess too much with what works.
What to Expect: The first thing that pops out to me with Souza's stance is how wide open his front leg is to being picked apart with leg kicks. Arantes went after it a bit, but not as much as I would have anticipated. Eddiva could have difficulty closing the distance to get at Souza's body, but the leg will be there all day. Look for him to pick it apart.
Eddiva is going to have a hard time utilizing his grappling with Souza as Souza will easily be the largest opponent that he has faced up to this point. Its guys like Souza who have specifically developed their style to ensure they stay on their feet that make me worry about Eddiva's abilities to take the fight to the ground and lack of wrestling. It isn't like Eddiva is completely screwed if he can't floor Souza, but he is certainly gonna have a hard time.
Souza will certainly look to be more aggressive this time around. His broken hand against Arantes occurred early in the fight and slowed his usually aggressive style and resulted in his first decision. I can't recall seeing Eddiva on the defensive, but with Souza's healthy and a 6 inch reach advantage, I expect that we will see Eddiva backing up a fair amount.
X-Factors: Eddiva has yet to fight outside of Asia and is facing an opponent in a country that is passionate about its fighters. You think homecourt advantage doesn't mean anything? Souza is also relatively new to the sport having made his debut only 5 years ago. He still has room to improve.
Who Will Win: Eddiva is better than I thought he was heading into his debut, but he isn't talented enough to make a run into the divisional rankings. Souza on the other hand has a unique physical skill set that could end up doing the trick for him. Souza by KO 1st Round
Record for last Card: 6-6 Record for Year: 107-69-1