This is the first UFC card of 2017, and although it may not be too flashy, it’s a solid night of fights. It’s also on a Sunday, as opposed to the regular Saturday, which is a nice change from time to time. This card features a weird but interesting main event between legend B.J. Penn and rising prospect Yair Rodriguez, and a fun co-main event between high-level grapplers Joe Lauzon and Marcin Held.
What: UFC Fight Night 103
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena, Phoenix, Ariz.
When: Sunday, Jan. 15. The four-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 6:15 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the four-fight FOX Sports 1 main card begins at 10 p.m. ET.
B.J. Penn vs. Yair Rodriguez
Man, what a weird fight the UFC has put together between a fading legend trying to get back in the game and prove he’s still legit, and a hot, rising prospect that shows promise of being the next top contender. I can understand the criticism behind the matchmaking here, but I have to admit, it’s got my attention.
Rodriguez is a very athletic striker that utilizes a lot of spinning attacks, sometimes they’re very effective, sometimes they’re not. His grappling is not the best offensively, but it’s very solid defensively. On the other hand, besides experience, it’s really unknown what Penn has left in his tool box. At 38 years old, and keeping in mind his flat performance in his last fight against Frankie Edgar back in 2014, I’m not too convinced Penn will make a successful return. However, his training at JacksonWink has me thinking.
See, JacksonWink is a fantastic camp that can be great at rejuvenating fighters careers, best example being Andrei Arlovski. Also, many MMA pundits believe most of Penn’s career setbacks have come due to improper training, and JacksonWink offers nothing but quality training. And lastly, JacksonWink know Rodriguez very well, as he used to train there. So it’s possible that under a solid camp, Penn can have a successful comeback and defeat Rodriguez. However, I think the odds of that are not likely.
I see Rodriguez using movement, avoiding brawls, and defeating Penn on the outside.
Joe Lauzon vs. Marcin Held
I don’t understand the matchmaking with Marcin Held. ‘The Polish Prodigy’ is a very promising prospect, just 24 years old (same age as Yair Rodriguez), and has an impressively extensive record of 22-5. He could turn into a good star for the European market. So why match him up against the two most seasoned and toughest veterans in the UFC, Diego Sanchez, and now Joe Lauzon? I guess Jim Miller is next.
Anyways, Held is tough, has decent striking and has a very advanced ground game with a very dangerous leg lock system. But will this be enough to defeat the scrappy, tough hard-hitting Lauzon, who just happens to be very skilled on the ground too? I think not. Like Sanchez, Lauzon’s jiu jitsu game is good enough to shutdown Held’s leg locks, and that will allow him to turn the fight into a brawl. Lauzon’s scrappy striking should top Held’s clean striking in most circumstances. I see this being a typical Lauzon brawl filled with dramatic and exciting points in the fight.
Court McGee vs. Ben Saunders
McGee is not really great at anything, he’s just good everywhere. He’s a decent striker, a decent wrestler and decent on the ground. All that combined with his great durability, toughness and pacing, has given McGee a sustainable career in the UFC for seven years. Meanwhile, Saunders might not be as durable as McGee, but he is more technical. Saunders has a very good ground game that’s somewhat unconventional, as not that many people work the rubber guard like he does in MMA. He’s also a very dangerous with mis Muay Thai.
I see McGee outlasting and overpowering Saunders in decision. I think his toughness, and pacing get him the win here.
John Moraga vs. Sergio Pettis
Fun flyweight bout here. This is a big name fight for Sergio Pettis, as he faces Moraga, a former UFC title challenger and a top-10 fighter. I find Moraga to be more battle tested than the young Pettis. I’d also give Moraga an advantage in the striking. Wrestling is the only area I see Pettis topping Moraga, and that’s a big area to have an advantage on Moraga. I think this is a close fight, and I can see either fighter winning. But I think Moraga’s craftiness and experience can get him a long way here.
Frankie Saenz def. Augusto Mendes
Aleksei Oleinik def. Viktor Pesta
Tony Martin def. Alex White
Drakkar Klose def. Devin Powell
Nina Ansaroff def. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger
Walt Harris def. Chase Sherman
Joachim Christensen def. Bojan Mihajlovic
Cyril Asker def. Dmitrii Smoliakov