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UFC Utica predictions

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Fresno-Moraes vs Sterling Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, UFC Utica is taking place Friday night. Although this card snuck up on us almost undetected, it’s a pretty decent event. The headlining bout between Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes is an important bantamweight contest that could produce the next title challenger at 135 pounds. Apart form this fun main event, UFC Utica features a lightweight contest between unbeaten prospect Gregor Gillespie and Vinc Pichel, a clash of seasoned veterans in Jake Ellenberger vs. Ben Saunders, the debuts of former Cage Warriors champ Nathaniel Wood and two-division Titan FC champion Jose Torres.

What: UFC Utica

Where: Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, N.Y.

When: Friday, June 1. The three-fight UFC Fight Pass preliminary card begins at 6:30 p.m. ET, the four-fight FOX Sports 1 preliminary card begins at 8 p.m. ET, and the six-fight main card begins at 10 p.m. ET also on FOX Sports 1.


Jimmie Rivera vs. Marlon Moraes

It’s very unfortunate that Jimmie Rivera vs. Marlon Moraes is flying under the radar because this is world-class fighting.

Jimmie Rivera hasn’t fought since last July and has been off the map for a bit. But let’s not forget that the New Jerseyan is still unbeaten in the UFC and he holds wins over Thomas Almeida and Urijah Faber in his last two bouts. Rivera, ranked fourth in the division, has been defeating opposition with a mix of quick striking and explosive takedowns. Rivera is quite experienced at this point of his career, and fights with a smart approach.

His opponent, Marlon Moraes, is one of the most consistent fighters in the division.

The Brazilian is a constant threat. Moraes has excellent striking that’s backed by power and speed. He’s hard to takedown and even harder to hold down. Moraes is great at keeping the fight on the feet where he’s proven to be levels above most of his opposition. The former WSOF champ reminds me of a much more fluid version of Jose Aldo.

This should be an exciting and competitive bout. It should also be expected to keep a high pace. I favor Moraes over Rivera. I think Rivera has a path to victory and he’s had experience fighting someone with a relatively similar style to Moraes – Thomas Almeida. But even with that, I find Moraes to be good enough at defending takedowns and busy enough on the feet to have the best moments of the fight. I see it being an exciting decision win for Moraes.

Pick: Moraes

Gregor Gillespie vs. Vinc Pichel

I’m keeping a close eye on this fight.

Gregor Gillespie might be 31 years old, but I find him to be a promising prospect. Gillespie has shown a good amount of improvement in his four-fight UFC run and it feels like he still has another gear or two left in him. Gillespie is a fantastic wrestler with a very solid understanding of jiu-jitsu. The lightweight fighter is not a strong striker, but he can definitely hold his own. Meanwhile, Vinc Pichel is a well-rounded fighter with good counter striking. Pichel is experienced and durable.

I think Gillespie should be able to take down and control Pichel on the ground. I believe Pichel has the advantage in the striking department, but I don’t see much of the fight being contested on the feet.

Pick: Gillespie

Walt Harris vs. Daniel Spitz

Walt Harris is an athletic guy with decent wrestling and solid power in his striking. Daniel Spitz is tall, strikes with range, and moves well. I think Harris should be able to land the better shots. He should also be able to power his way through any grappling exchange.

I see Harris picking up a stoppage.

Pick: Harris

Jake Ellenberger vs. Ben Saunders

This an interesting fight between two seasoned veterans, and it might be a loser leaves town kind of affair.

Both Jake Ellenberger and Ben Saunders are on two-fight losing streaks.

Ellenberger possesses solid boxing and big power behind his shots. He is also a great wrestler, but steered away from that kind of fighting long ago. Saunders doens’t have the power of Ellenberger, but he does had a more diverse striking attack. Saunders also has an advanced jiu-jitsu game that’s quite effective.

I think Ellenberger will get a win here. He’s much stronger than Saunders, and I don’t see him getting taken down. Ellenberger will keep the fight on the feet and likely land a big shot to get a knockout win.

Pick: Ellenberger

Julio Arce vs. Daniel Teymur

Daniel Teymur is a bit of a wild card. He’s tough, he’s got dangerous striking and good grappling defense. He’s also had a tough time in the past managing his energy. Arce is solid on the feet and fights composed. He’s also durable and experienced.

I think Arce should be able to deal with Teymur’s initial threats to eventually win a decision.

Pick: Arce

Gian Villante vs. Sam Alvey

I think Rivera vs. Moraes will likely be Fight of the Night, but this fight can also be a potential winner. Both Gian Villante and Sam Alvey are very tough and both like to keep it standing. I think this could be a fun brawl.

Villante will have a size advantage here and this can help in any scenario where he ties up with Alvey. I think both are close in punching power, but I’d say Alvey has a better finishing ability. Villante should get the better shots early on, but Alvey has the durability and cardio to outlast Villante.

I see Alvey getting a decision win or a late stoppage.

Pick: Alvey

Undercard:

Sijara Eubanks def. Lauren Murphy

David Teymur def. Nik Lentz

Belal Muhammad def. Chance Rencountre

Desmond Green def. Gleison Tibau

Jessica Aguilar def. Jodie Esquibel

Nathaniel Wood def. Johnny Eduardo

Jose Torres def. Jarred Brooks

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