FS1 Main Card (10 PM/ET):
#5 (5) Edson Barboza (19-5) vs. #6 (6) Kevin Lee (16-4): The main event of the evening will take place between two top lightweight fighters battling to throw their name in this overflowing list of title contenders. Both fighters are coming off disappointing losses and will each have a fire in their bellies to get back on track. Kevin Lee is returning from a disappointing loss to Tony Ferguson which I believe was due to a poor weight cut during the week and it drained his energy. Kevin Lee is a phenomenal athlete and when he isn’t messing around and makes a weight cut well he is one of the best fighters in the lightweight division. Kevin Lee is a wrestler with a vastly improving striking game. His submissions are nothing to forget as this guy has stopped 8 fights by way of submission and he can pounce on one with a knockdown instead of going for ground and pound. Lee would probably be best to get this fight to the mat and avoid many striking exchanges with Barboza as Barboza is the superior striker in this fight. Edson is coming off a disappointing loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in a fight that we saw Khabib refuse the stand-up and use his weight to keep Edson on the mat as he just ate ground and pound. Edson is a weaker fighter on the mat, but his striking and aggressive fight style has been something he has been able to rely on in his career. When Edson fights he seems calm and collected and then out of nowhere will explode offensively. Barboza should enter this fight with an offensive and aggressive display and land some powerful kicks to the legs and body to keep Kevin Lee slowed down. This fight will be a lot of fun for the fans especially if it lasts longer than a round as these two will try and figure each other out. No idea who is going to pull off this win as these two have some incredible skills and we will see a display of them for sure as each fighter has something to prove in this one. If Kevin Lee has cut weight well and is in great shape this fight I have him winning this one in round 3 by submission after a back and forth fun first two rounds. I will edit this pick if he seems to struggle with his weight cut Friday morning. Edited as Kevin Lee struggled cutting weight missing weight hitting 157 and I now believe he will be tired tomorrow. I am taking Edson Barboza to win by TKO in the 2nd round.
#2 (3) Frankie Edgar (21-6-1) vs. #3 (4) Cub Swanson (25-8): The co-main event of the evening is another one of these phenomenal fights in the featherweight divisions with a ton of potential to steal the show. Both fighters just like the main event are coming off a loss and looking to avenge that loss and get back in the title picture. Both fighters are actually coming off a loss to the same fighter just with different ways they lost. This is the 2nd fight between these two in which Frankie won by way of submission in round 5 after dominating Cub in their first fight. Cub is coming off a submission loss to Brian Ortega and his last 3 fights have all been fight of the night winners which shows you that good ol’ Cub is still good ol’ Cub. He is a BJJ black-belt with an elite ground game yet only 4 submission stoppages. Cub has finished 11 fights by KO and does so normally with his aggressive striking and seemingly invincible jaw. Cub throws a lot of heavy and accurate shots while moving forward and is willing to eat shots to land shots. It makes him a very dangerous fighter to face for any opponent. If Cub wants to win this fight he needs to keep the pressure on Frankie and test his chin after Frankie suffered his first ever KO loss and test his confidence in his chin as well. Now Frankie who every single fight fan will love forever is coming in as I just said off his first ever KO loss in his career. Frankie is one tough dude and probably won’t let a loss set him back. He is a great wrestler with the ability to keep his opponent grounded under him and keep it that way. His ability to smother an opponent and land shots from the top is extremely impressive and a large reason he has been so successful in his career. Frankie’s strategy gasses his opponents and leaves them open to submissions or a TKO from ground and pound they can’t escape. This fight is going to be so fun because neither guy knows the word quit and never will. Two warriors are about to go at it and leave their hearts and souls inside the octagon. I believe this fight is going to go the distance and we will see a bloody pair of warriors standing opposite of each other, but Frankie Edgar will get the win by split decision.
Justin Willis (6-1) vs. Chase Sherman (11-4): A heavyweight brawl is going to take place in this fight in which we are almost guaranteed to see some body’s lights go out. Chase is a great athlete in the heavyweight division and lands some powerful shots with his great speed and dynamic fight style. Sherman has struggled some in his career in the UFC as he has gone 2-3 since becoming a part of the UFC. Not that I expect Justin Willis to take this fight to the mat but if he attempted it is something worth noting that Chase Sherman has never been taken down since joining the UFC. Chase has stopped 10 of his 11 professional wins, all of them are by way of KO and 9 of those are in the very first round. Chase’s opponent Justin Willis is one hard working dude who continues to improve and never settles because of a win. Justin has won his only two fights in the UFC so far and if he can pick up a 3rd straight since coming to the UFC he will find a number next to his name next week. Justin has stopped 4 of his 6 wins by way of KO and 3 of them were in the first round including his last fight. Justin is one big dude with a lot of power in his hands and hasn’t lost a fight since his pro debut. He is riding a 6-fight win streak and is looking to use his continuing growth inside the cage to prove he is ready for a ranking and top opponent after this one. I have Justin Willis winning this fight in the 1st round by way of KO and proving to the big boys above him that he is here and a force to be reckoned with.
#7 (8) David Branch (21-4) vs. #11 (12) Thiago Santos (17-5): This middleweight fight is a battle of opposite strategies. Thiago Santos is one incredibly beastly savage with knockouts on his mind whenever he steps inside the octagon. Thiago is rolling right now as he has won 4 fights in a row all 4 have been KO victories and 2 of them won him performance of the night bonuses. One thing to love about Thiago Santos is that he won just stand there and throw a flurry of punches this man will kick you in the chest, the head, and the lead leg. Santos is a monster on his feet and the only way someone beats him is either endure the beating and hope he tires or get him to the mat and submit him. His last loss was a submission loss and if David Branch wants to have his hand raised at the end of this fight he will need to find a way to safely close the distance and get the takedown he needs and work a submission victory. Now David Branch is a well-rounded mixed martial artist, but his standup game is very slow and defensive. He doesn’t push a pace on his feet, but it works for him because he has a ton of power in his hands and can catch someone coming in clean and end their night with one shot. Branch has picked up 7 wins by submission and 5 more by way of KO. Branch will need to get this fight to the mat if he wants to have an advantage though because he does own a black belt in Renzo Gracie BJJ. He is a very skilled jiu-jitsu fighter and would have a significant advantage on the mat over his opponent in this one and if he gets it to the mat he would win this fight. I believe Thiago Santos will keep this from reaching the mat and pick up a 2nd round KO of David Branch.
#8 (8) Aljamain Sterling (14-3) vs. #14 (14) Brett Johns (15-0): This fight is going to take place in the bantamweight division and should be a great one for the fans. Brett is a young, skilled, and intelligent wrestler with an unbeaten record taking on the biggest test in his career. In his UFC debut he scored 11 takedowns to avoid taking any big shots and getting the fight to a place where he could dominate it. Johns is a black belt in judo, a purple belt in BJJ, and a brown belt in Muay-Thai, he is an extremely skilled fighter who has learned many forms of mixed martial arts. I love this because it gives him a diverse set of skills and makes him hard to figure out coming into a fight as he is improving leaps and bounds between every fight. His last fight with Joe Soto was extremely fast and we saw his first stoppage win in the UFC and I believe he will become a crowd-pleasing fight finisher. Now his opponent Aljamain Sterling is a UFC vet who loves to put on a show. Aljamain is an incredibly gifted wrestler just like his opponent and he also owns a purple belt in BJJ. He lost his last fight to Marlon Moraes in a fight where we saw him get knocked out in the first round. “The Funk Master” doesn’t stay down long as this guy is a hard working determined monster, honestly a savage. Aljamain loves to lock in a RNC submission as six of his submission wins have been by way of his favorite RNC. If this fight goes to the ground it will be a true display of incredible skills and a great finish could be in store for the fans. I believe this fight will not find a stoppage though and that we will see a decision. The winner of this fight could go either way, but I am going to give the edge to the fighter with the momentum as I have Brett Johns winning this fight by way of unanimous decision.
Jim Miller (28-11, 1NC) vs. #15 (NR) Dan Hooker (16-7): This is the first fight of the FS1 main card and it will take place in the lightweight division. This fight might start out with a slow pace as these two warriors try to figure each other out and what to expect from the other. Hooker’s last win was enough to impress me moving forward and has me believing he is a talent to be watched in this division. Hooker has fought in heavyweight before and as low as featherweight but has found his proper home in the lightweight division. Hooker is a blue belt in BJJ but doesn’t play favorites to the mat as he has stopped 7 by way of KO as well as 7 by submission. I used to underestimate Dan Hooker in the past, but I will not be making that mistake moving forward as this guy has an incredible skill set. His opponent Jim Miller has been around in the lightweight division for as long as I can remember but is facing a slippery road as he has lost his last 3 fights. Jim is a great fighter and will be fighting at home and will be looking to put on a display for his fans. Jim is a black belt in BJJ and his ground game skills have been proven a lot in his career as he has grabbed 14 wins in his professional career by way of submission. This fight will be interesting for sure as Jim is looking to get back on track and Dan is looking finally prove that he deserves a number next to his name. I think Dan Hooker wins this fight in the 1st round by way of submission and I think he will lock in a guillotine choke for the win.
FS1 Prelims (8 PM/ET):
Ryan LaFlare (13-2) vs. Alex Garcia (15-4): The main event of the prelims should be a lot of fun in the welterweight division. Alex Garcia a well-rounded mixed martial artist and is coming in off a submission victory. Garcia loves the Rear Naked Choke, 6 of his wins are submission victories and 5 of them are by way of RNC. If he gets to the mat he will most likely look to lock in his favorite submission, but he still might try and keep this fight standing as he has knock out power as he has stopped 6 fights by KO. He does take shots to land shots though and would need to avoid that one in this fight. His opponent Ryan LaFlare has wrestling and BJJ both in his arsenal. He has the skill set to put on a display on the mat, but he might look to keep this standing because of Garcia’s tendency to eat shots and LaFlare having a kickboxing background makes him a dangerous opponent. LaFlare is looking to get a number next to his name with a win here and I believe he will get that win with a 2nd round KO over Alex Garcia.
Merab Dvalishvili (7-3) vs. Ricky Simon (10-1): This bantamweight fight was originally on the online prelims but due to an injury to Magomed Bibulatov this fight was added to the televised prelims. Ricky Simon is from Dana White’s contender series and will be making his UFC debut on this card after picking up a split decision victory on the contender series. He is a blue belt in BJJ which gives him some comfort if the fight goes to ground, but he is a better fighter on his feet and will most likely look to keep this fight standing. If we don’t see any UFC debut jitters he could put on an interesting display for the fans including his great takedown skill set that we saw get him 14 takedowns in his contender series fights. His opponent Merab is fighting in his second fight in the UFC after being originally discovered in Dana White looking for a fight. Merab lost his UFC debut in a split decision that I actually believed he won, he landed 11 takedowns in that fight and somehow still got screwed over by the judges. Merab is a judo fighter and loves to strike but he also has good takedown skills just like his opponent and could lead to a fight with two men respecting each other’s skillsets too much and not going after it like they normally would. This fight will be interesting to say the least as it has gained a spotlight by being on the televised card we better just hope it lives up to this spotlight. If the UFC debut jitters doesn’t get to Ricky Simon I believe he will pick up a unanimous decision victory in this fight.
Siyar Bahadurzada (23-6-1) vs. Luan Chagas (15-2-1): This is the fight that fight fans should be most excited for on the prelims because these two welterweights know how to put on one hell of a show. Luan Chagas has never let a single one of his wins go to the judges score card and he really doesn’t seem to be stopping those type of performances anytime soon. This guy is a part of the future of this division and I don’t doubt that for one minute at 24 years of age and has 9 wins by submission and 6 more wins by way of knockout. He has stopped 10 of his wins in the very first round and he could do that again in this one. He is an extremely skilled mixed martial artist holding a black belt in BJJ and a black belt in karate. This kid is something really special to watch and is really strong and part of his strength is shown by his takedown defense because he has never been taken down in his UFC career. His opponent is a one punch KO fighter with great overall skill set. Siyar has only lost two fights in the UFC both losses were decision losses and he tend to slow down as a fight goes deep and will need to end the fight early if he wants to have his hand raised, at least based on his past. Siyar is a fun fighter to watch though and this fight we could really see fireworks fly. I think Luan Chagas is the better overall fighter in this fight and will have his hand raised in the end with a 2nd round submission victory.
#12 (10) Corey Anderson (10-4) vs. #13 (11) Patrick Cummins (10-4): We kick off the televised prelims with a ranked fight in the light heavyweight division. Patrick is coming in off an impressive win over Gian Villante and looking to use this head of steam to pick up the most impressive win of his career. Cummins was two time all-American and two-time US national team member in wrestling and would have the advantage on the mat in this fight. Patrick is one of the toughest LHW fighters as we have seen him take an absolute beating and not give up and keep fighting his fight. I think his cardio, grit, and determination keep him relevant in any fight he is in and will be a threat against his opponent in this one. Corey Anderson has all the talent in the world but has become what it seems like, scared to lose so he has become a slow-paced fighter with a lack of aggression. Corey has the ability to dominate in the UFC if he just pushed the pace of his fights and was more aggressive. He won TUF 19 and won 4 of the next 5 after that but has hit a brick wall once he got ranked competition. He has lost 3 of his last 4 fights and the last two were KO defeats. Corey needs to use his big size, power, and incredible athleticism to unleash the beast inside him that we saw in the TUF season he was on. When he is having an off night, he can put on one of the most boring LHW fights you will ever watch but when he is on this guy puts on one hell of a show. Which Corey Anderson shows up this weekend is the question that needs to be answered. This fight will move one of these guys into a top 6 battle in their next fight and could cost the loser a ranking depending so this fight is important to both of them. I have Corey Anderson unleashing his skill set again here and winning this fight by unanimous decision.
UFC Fight Pass Prelim (7:30 PM/ET):
Tony Martin (12-4) vs. Keita Nakamura (33-8-2, 1NC): The only fight remaining on the online prelims after one fight moving up to the televised prelims and another being scrapped entirely will take place in the welterweight division. Keita is an incredibly talented fighter who loves to finish fights in the first round doing so 17 times in his career. Keita has 16 submission wins, but 15 of those 16 is by way of a RNC and is without a doubt his favorite move to get someone in. He does have 7 wins by way of KO and he might actually be the better off keeping this fight on his feet. His opponent Tony Martin is an incredible athlete with a very gifted set of skills on the mat which I believe he will be looking to get this fight to the ground where he should have the advantage. Tony has only stopped fights through submission otherwise his fights have gone to decision, I love this fight as a start off to the night because it doesn’t look like it will be one going to decision. I have Tony Martin winning this one in the 2nd round by way of submission kicking off the night with a good fight.
- Matt Koontz