The UFC returns to Canada, this time on a Sunday night, with an important featherweight anchoring the show. The fight card features an array of Canadian up-and-comers or recognizable vets, only some of whom are in important, competitive contests.
What: UFC Fight Night 74 (UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Oliveira)
Where: SaskTel Centre, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
When: Sunday, the two-fight preliminary card kicks off on Fight Pass at 6 p.m. ET, the four-fight preliminary card starts on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. and the six-fight main card begins at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
I've been hugely impressed with the technical and strategic maturation of both fighters. They're leagues beyond the fighters they were when they entered the UFC. That said, Holloway's improvements seem to be more comprehensive. He isn't as deadly in any one aspect as Oliveira is with his guard, but it may not matter. His ability to set up angles, strike and get out of the way, mix up attacks and adjust over the course of fight is some of the best in all of the UFC. If he isn't careful, Oliveira easily has the ability to make Holloway pay, including with his own much improved striking at range. But that isn't the likeliest of outcomes. Instead, Holloway will use his sensational movement and diversity to give cause Oliveira fits en route to a decision victory or late stoppage.
With a full camp, I'd feel better about Magny's chances. That isn't to say things are hopeless here. He didn't take a physical beating in his last fight and continues to improve, but I'm usually dubious of these quick turnarounds. Silva takes too many risks, but should be able to keep Magny on the defensive with his power striking or takedown threats. It's very possible Silva poorly manages the fight and the American stages a comeback, but all things being equal, this is Silva's fight to lose.
Burkman's second UFC run has been nothing to write home about, but he's got big power and decent takedown defense against more conventional attacks. I also don't think Cote's ability to absorb damage is what it once was. If the American can frustrate Cote's more recent interest in wrestling, he can easily bait a series of wild exchanges. On those terms, Burkman can still cause a ton of problems. It's not the most precise prediction, but it's not clear Cote's more direct attacks are enough.
Trinaldo is a bit of a bull in a China shop, the opposite of the more measured, motion-based Laprise. Laprise has worked diligently on creating angles, dictating distance and getting out of the way. It doesn't mean knockouts are impossible, but maybe rarer. Yet, Laprise's style is more effective now than ever while Trinaldo seems to have plateaued. The Brazilian has bigger power, but won't be able to match Laprise's control over the fight's terms.
Sims starts strong and has good command of range with his boxing. He can even effectively switch stances when given time to work. Sims' guard is decent to good and, if needed, has the ability to pressure fence takedowns as well. While I like his ability to hurt or frustrate Aubin-Mercier early, I suspect he'll fade under Aubin-Mercier's pressure. Sims' offensive depletion over the course of a fight is noticeable while Aubin-Mercier remains a steady presence in later rounds. In the end, that likely means the French Canadian should emerge the victor.
Letourneau is tough as nails and respectably well rounded, but Moroz is much more of an in-your-face from the opening bell type of fighter. Her style of fighting puts good fighters not merely on the defensive, but trying to technically play catch up in the fight. I suspect Moroz will back Letourneau into the fence, work a takedown and use striking to pass to set up submissions or more dominant positions. From there, her chances of closing the show are rather good.
From the preliminary card:
Sam Stout def. Frankie Perez
Felipe Arantes def. Yves Jabouin
Marcos Rogerio de Lima def. Nikita Krylov
Chris Beal def. Chris Kelades
Elias Silverio def. Shane Campbell
Misha Cirkunov def. Daniel Jolly