Here we go Anthony Johnson and Ryan Bader are battling for who might get a shot at Daniel Cormier but Jon Jones is most likely going to get that shot. Ryan Bader deserves it though especially if he pulls off this win as we has been rolling lately and has a crazy good skill set. We also get to see two big heavyweights clash in Rothwell and Barnett in the Co-main event. Fans who might have missed out on their opportunity already fans will also get the treat of seeing Sage Northcutt, who will be making his debut in the welterweight division. As normal our rankings if the fighter is ranked will be on the right of the ufc.com rank and the online prelims and a couple of the prelims will be just picks with not much analysis.
UFC Fight Pass Prelims (3:30 PM/ET):
Tony Martin (9-3) vs. Felipe Olivieri (14-4): This fight to kick off the night is in the lightweight division and will be a battle of counter opposites. Tony Martin is a submission artist and Felipe is a knockout artist making this a battle of who can get the other to the mat. I think Tony Martin turns around his bad run of late and picks up a 2nd round submission.
Damon Jackson (9-2) vs. Levan Makashvill (10-2): These two will square off in a battle in the featherweight division in another battle of opposites. Damon Jackson has finished every single one of his 9 wins 2 by KO and 7 by way of submission. Levan has finished 5 of his 10 all by KO otherwise they have gone to decision. If this fight goes to the mat Damon is definitely the favorite while standing should favor Levan. I am going to take Damon Jackson here in an upset via a 3rd round submission.
Matt Dwyer (8-3) vs. Randy Brown (6-0): This is going to be a battle in the welterweight division and fans should pay attention to Randy Brown if he pulls off this win. Neither fighter has gone to decision in a win meaning they are crowd pleasing finishers. Don’t get me wrong though because Matt Dwyer has the potential to be pretty awesome himself. Randy Brown was found on Dana White’s show “looking for a fight.” Matt Dwyer’s last fight was a loss but it was fight of the night and went to decision showing off his potential. I really am intrigued by this fight and will go with Randy Brown by way of a 1st round KO.
UFC Prelims on Fox Sports 1 (5 PM/ET):
Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres (10-8, 1NC) vs. Masio Fullen (10-5): To kick off the televised prelims we go to the bantamweight division. This fight will be entertaining naturally due to “Bruce Leeroy”. Masio is an intriguing fighter. He has finished 8 of his 10 professional wins, 5 of those stoppages have been in the first round. He has picked up 3 wins by way of KO and the other 5 are by some pretty smooth submissions. He is a boxer though so people shouldn’t overlook him as a submission artist because he has good hands and a good skillset. Alex Caceres is one of the most interesting fighters to watch, he has fun and always makes fights entertaining. “Bruce Leeroy” is his nickname and it shows his entertaining nature to his approach. He has lost 3 in a row and is really looking for a turn-around in his run of luck lately. Alex is quite entertaining because he is unpredictable and regardless of the situations during a fight he is always smiling. This fight will be fun to watch and you could see some pretty unorthodox techniques face off against a boxer giving us a clash of styles. I think Alex Caceres turns his luck around here and pulls off a win through unanimous decision.
George Sullivan (17-4, 1NC) vs. Alexander Yakovlev (22-6-1): The welterweight division is where this battle will stand here. Alexander Yakovlev is one of the smarter fighters in the UFC and knows when to strike and has great takedown defense. He has finished 16 of his professional wins, 8 by way of KO and 8 more by way of submission. He is returning here to the welterweight division and hasn’t fought since April 4th 2015. In the UFC he is 1-2 his last fight was a win over Gray Maynard and he looked good in that fight. I think he will have to really be at the top of his game here though because his opponent is George Sullivan. George is a kickboxer with phenomenal cardio and will be able to keep pace the whole fight. He has won 11 of his 17 by way of KO and he is rolling as of late winning 9 of his last 10 fights. This fight is honestly going to be a tough battle between the two. George Sullivan will win this one in my eyes by way of a unanimous decision.
#9 (8) Dustin Ortiz (15-4) vs. #12 (12) Wilson Reis (19-6): This battle could be on the Main Card honestly because these two are two ranked fighters with some pretty awesome skills. Wilson looks to turn around his loss to Jussier Formiga. Reis goes to decision fairly often as he has won 9 of his wins by submission as they are his only finishes. He is a good fighter who looks for the fights to go to the mat and hopes to finish them there. He has phenomenal skill set with great Jiu-jitsu, has some awesome ground and pound, and his stand up game consists of some pretty decent boxing but doesn’t really have one punch KO power. Now his opponent is a pretty impressive opponent and could make this fight really entertaining. Has he will be facing Dustin Ortiz who can dominate this fight if it stays standing and could be a good opponent for Reis on the mat. Ortiz has finished 9 of his wins, 6 by way of KO the other 3 are by submission. Dustin has won 7 of his last 9 fights and should be looking to keep his momentum moving forward. Now the thing that makes Dustin so entertaining is that his pace is incredible and will be going down the face of Wilson Reis and will make him fight from his heels. I really am excited for this fight and think Ortiz will pick up the win via 2nd round TKO after catching Reis as he goes for a takedown.
#15 (NR) Rafael Natal (20-6-1) vs. Kevin Casey (9-3, 2NC): This fight will be in the middleweight division between two guys who hope to one day be ranked in the top 10. Kevin Casey will be returning after his last fight ended due to a brutal eye gauging in the first round. Casey is a well-rounded fighter with the ability to finish standing or on the mat with 3 wins by KO and submission. Kevin Casey is considered a submission expert and will show his great skill set if the fight goes to the mat. Not that this has to do with his skills but his father-in-law is boxing legend Muhammad Ali. His opponent is Rafael Natal who is currently ranked in the UFC according to ufc.com. Rafael Natal’s last win was in my opinion was undeserved over Uriah Hall and honestly was a bad score on the judges score card. He has finished 11 fights with 8 wins by submission and 3 by KO. He has won 6 of his last 8 fights and will look to keep that momentum going. This fight will most likely go to the mat due to the fact that both fighters love to go to the ground and pick up the win that way. I think Natal is the favorite here but I will go with Kevin Casey via a unanimous decision.
Oliver Aubin-Mercier (8-1) vs. Diego Ferreira (11-2): The Co-Main of the televised prelims is a fight in lightweight division between two guys who are right at the edge of rankings. Diego Ferriera’s last two fights were his first two losses. They were to some pretty incredible fighters though in Dustin Poirier and Beneil Dariush and it should be nothing to be ashamed of. Diego has 7 stoppages in his wins, 6 by way of submission and one more by KO. Diego has a great ground game with some impressive skills in BJJ in which he will have to use to keep this fight in his best element. Now his opponent Oliver Aubin-Mercier is a grappling machine who is a very impressive and tough dude. He has stopped 7 of his 8 wins all by way of submission making this fight a very exciting one worth watching as it will go to the mat and become a thriller. He has stopped 5 of those 7 wins through submission in the first round. His lone loss was on TUF nations in the finals. I think this fight is honestly going to be a lot of fun to watch and we could be watching two fighters who could wind up ranked in the near future. I think Oliver Aubin-Mercier is going to pick up the win here via 1st round Submission.
#11 (11) Tarec Saffiedine (15-4) vs. Jake Ellenberger (30-10): The main event of the prelims has my blood pumping in the welterweight division. Jake Ellenberger is a beast and is so much fun to watch, he has a lot of skill and will be someone to watch as he tries to get himself re-ranked in the UFC. He is an incredibly tough fighter with an extremely tough chin, he has a granite jaw in other words. He has some pretty brutal hands and could end a fight in one punch without hesitation. He has a lot of heart too meaning when he is beat he doesn’t stop and he just keeps coming, looking for a finish. He is a very well-rounded fighter with some impressive skills and a lot of in the cage smarts and experience. He has lost 4 of his last 5 fights though and is looking to turn it around. Jake has stopped 24 of his 30 fights, 20 of those show off his incredible strength being by KO and the other 4 are by submission. Jake has stopped 13 fights in the very first round. Jake is going to need all of his skill sets to be able to beat his opponent tonight though as he squares off against Tarec Saffiedine. Tarec is a great fighter standing but he can finish on the mat having stopped 5 fights through submission and one by KO. Tarec is hard to take down which is interesting because this fight standing is honestly an advantage for Jake Ellenberger, so I don’t think Jake will look to take this fight to the ground. Tarec hasn’t fought though since October 4th, 2014 and might have some rust to shake off. I am going to take the underdog here for the surprise win. I think Ellenberger wins this fight through a 2nd round KO.
Main Card on Fox (8 PM/ET):
(#7LW) Sage Northcutt (7-0) vs. Bryan Barberena (10-2): To kick off the main card we are all in for a treat as “Super” Sage Northcutt is moving up to welterweight. This kid is going to one day be the best fighter in the UFC, maybe the best of all time. This kid has skills like no other. His opponent Bryan Barberena is coming into this fight on short notice. Bryan is a good fighter nonetheless and will be a good fight for Sage in his Welterweight debut. He is a tough dude who has stopped 9 of his 10 wins, 8 by way of KO and the other by way of submission. He is a fighter with a lot of heart and no quit, his skill set definitely favors a fight standing up. His opponent though is one guy who I just don’t see losing anytime soon. Sage just moved up a weight class and he looks incredible and comfortable, less strain losing the weight needed for lightweight is going to be an advantage for him. The only worry I had was his hand speed and if it would keep pace but he doesn’t seem to have lost his speed which means he will be as lethal if not more lethal in his new weight class. Sage can dominate standing or on the mat as he has shown so far in the UFC picking up a KO and a submission win in his only 2 UFC fights. Sage Northcutt is going to win this thing with a beautiful first round TKO.
#14 (14) Iuri Alacantara (32-6, 1NC) vs. Jimmie Rivera (18-1): This battle in the bantamweight division will be interesting to say the least. Jimmie Rivera is a good fighter with great striking skills, wrestling skills but he doesn’t have the greatest pace. Jimmie is 2-0 in the UFC and has yet to be taken down since fighting in the octagon. If Jimmie wins this fight he will quickly join the discussion of the top 15 and could see himself start to climb towards a possible title fight one day. Possibly but he has to overcome a great fighter here in Iuri. Iuri is a very fun fighter to watch has he has stopped 25 fights, 13 by KO and the other 12 by submission showing his skills no matter where this fight goes. Iuri has the edge in my opinion in all-around skills and will be Jimmie’s biggest test. This fight should be fun standing and more fun on the mat as these two will be going after this win on the ground or standing. I really think the youth will win this one and get himself ranked while de-ranking Iuri. I got Jimmie Rivera winning this thing by way of a unanimous decision.
#8 (8) Josh Barnett (34-7) vs. #7 (7) Ben Rothwell (35-9): The Co-Main event is a slug fest in the heavyweight division. This fight has two guys who claim they are both ready for the title and I think one of them might actually be and can prove so if he wins here but hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves prior, and that man is Ben Rothwell. Ben is a machine. He has finished 32 of his 35 wins. He has done so through 27 KO’s and 5 submissions. He has won 4 of the last 5 fights and picked up three straight wins with wins over 2 ranked fighters one is ranked above him still, which is confusing. On this 3 fight streak he has beat Overeem and Mitrione. Ben is a beast with a great chin and the ability to take a beating while dishing a beating. Now as most heavyweights he is underrated on the mat. His most recent win was a submission victory after he knocked Matt Mitrione to the mat where he locked in the D’arce Choke. Ben is a brutal man and will be able to take a beating if need be, his opponent can dish out a beating though. Josh Barnett is a monster with great skills on the mat and standing. He has picked up 28 wins by stoppage, 10 by KO and 18 wins by submission. Barnett has won 11 of his last 13, his last win was over an aging Roy Nelson on the way down and to me doesn’t justify a fight to make him considered a top contender. His fight before Roy, he received a brutal beating from Travis Browne which to me showed he doesn’t belong in the top on the division. Don’t get me wrong, Barnett has a lot of skills and is a good fighter, I just haven’t been so sold on him since his “win” over Frank Mir. I think this fight will stay standing and be brutal while it is standing and if it goes to the mat Barnett is probably the slight favorite. I think Rothwell will win this fight regardless and will show that he is truly bound for the top 6 and could find his way to the top 5. Rothwell wins in a 2nd round KO.
#2 (3) Anthony Johnson (20-5) vs. #4 (2) Ryan Bader (21-4): The Main event in the light heavyweight division will be a great battle. The winner of this fight in my opinion should get a shot at Cormier for the light heavyweight title over Jon Jones. The reason I bring this up is the fact that Jon Jones might get the shot first regardless that we haven’t seen him in almost a year, and he should fight someone else before he gets a title shot once he is officially back. Either way this fight will be incredible and a lot of fun for anyone MMA diehards or MMA moderate fans. Ryan Bader is an absolutely incredible fighter that could be the only fighter who could contest Cormier in his wrestling skills. Bader is a monster with great hands and great wrestling. He comes into this fight with 5 straight wins. Bader has some incredibly strong hands that could stop a fight while standing or from top position on the mat through some brutal ground and pound. Bader hasn’t been known as much for a finisher has he has only stopped 10 of his 21 fights. He has stopped 3 fights by way of submission and 7 through some brutal KO’s. He has stopped 80% of his stoppages in the very first round but that doesn’t mean he can’t pace himself and finish fights late. His opponent is a freak who has put on some brutal displays in Anthony Johnson. Anthony is a great fighter with some brutal strength who can stop a fight in one clean shot. His mat skills aren’t equal to Bader though and will need to step up his takedown defense to be able to stand a chance against Bader. Johnson is one of the best fighters in the UFC when he shows up, he is kind of like Uriah Hall, and sometimes he doesn’t seem to be 100% there and focused. Sometimes his skills have seemed to be MIA and I loved when the right Anthony Johnson shows up. He has stopped 14 of his 20 professional wins and all 14 of them are by way of KO, 10 of them are in the first round. He is incredibly powerful with a lot of speed which is a lethal combination. His first two wins in the UFC lasted a total of 64 seconds combined. I really have no idea who to take in this fight because standing up Anthony is a great fighter and Bader is pretty close to equal. Ryan Bader is in my eyes one of the best fighters on the mat in the UFC and Johnson is a tad bit weak and would be in a world of trouble if it stayed there. I really think Bader will carry his angry momentum and pick up a win tonight. Ryan Bader wins through a 4th round submission.
- Matt Koontz