UFC Fight Pass (6 PM/ET):
Chris De La Rocha (4-1) vs. Adam Milstead (7-1): This fight to kick off the night is a decent fight and will be taking place in the heavyweight division. I think this fight will go one way and that is in favor of the new comer once he shakes off the first night nerves he could really do something dominant. I have Milstead picking up the win in the 3rd round through a TKO after getting his footing under him.
#4 (4) Aljamain “Funkmaster” Sterling (12-0) vs. #8 (9) Bryan Caraway (20-8): This fight has become a bitter rivalry and will be a big fight especially for the fight pass prelims because this fight is good enough to be on a main card on a pay-per view. This fight will take place in the bantamweight division and my advice to UFC fans is simply “don’t miss this fight.” Bryan hasn’t fought since last July where we picked up a very close unanimous decision victory over Eddie WIneland. Caraway will be looking to most likely take this fight to the mat where he has picked up 16 wins through submission, his other two stoppages were through 2 KO victories. Caraway is a very well-rounded fighter with great intelligence inside the octagon. He transitions well on the mat and is an incredibly gifted fighter on the mat with pretty decent skills while standing. Caraway is one tough dude to get to the ground as he has posted an 81% takedown defense in his UFC career and will definitely need to take this fight to the mat and keep it at his pace if he wants to win this fight. Now his opponent and him have been going at it online for months and will finally want to settle this rivalry in the octagon that man is the undefeated Aljamain Sterling. I think Sterling could get a well-deserved title shot if he picks up this win in a dominant fashion. This guy is a complete savage and one of the toughest dudes in the UFC. “Funkmaster” is a great wrestler and might actually be able to out wrestle Caraway and if he can do that he will pick up the win in this fight. Sterling has stopped 7 of his 12 fights, 5 of which are through submission and the other 2 through KO. Sterling has the cardio to go the full 3 rounds at full speed and still keep coming. I think this fight will honestly come down to the simple question of who is better on the mat. Sterling is more dominant on his feet I believe and that will leave this to who is truly the best wrestler. This fight is really close but I think “funkmaster” Sterling stays undefeated and picks up a 2nd round submission and shuts up Caraway.
Fox Sports 1 Prelims (7 PM/ET):
Erik Koch (14-4) vs. Shane Campbell (12-4): The fight to open the televised prelims will take place in the lightweight division. This fight will be a good way to start the televised prelims. I think that this fight could go the distance between some decent fighters with great skills on both their feet and on the mat. Both fighters in this fight have struggled as of late and will be looking to turn it around in this fight. I think Koch will win this one though through a unanimous decision victory.
Jake Collier (9-2) vs. Alberto Uda (9-0): The second fight is between two less well-known fighters and will be taking place in the middleweight division. These guys have both stopped over 75% of their fights professionally and will be looking to do so again here. Uda is entering his first fight in the UFC and Collier has gone 1-2 in the UFC since joining and will look to turn it around against the new comer. I think they will try to keep this fight standing and should be a real brawl in which we might see a KO stoppage. I think Uda will pick up his first win in the UFC and do so through a unanimous decision.
Abel Trujillo (14-6, 1NC) vs. Jordan Rinaldi (12-4): This fight in the lightweight division is going to be exciting between two guys who can stop the fight in their area of expertise. If Abel can keep this fight standing he will be looking to end this fight with his savage power. If Trujillo can keep this fight close and in his range while standing he could stop this fight with one punch. He has one of the strongest sets of hands in the UFC and without a doubt the strongest in his weight class. The fight standing is in Trujillo’s favor but if this fight goes to the mat Jordan Rinaldi will be a big time favorite. I really would like to see where this fight goes and see if it stays where it goes. I really am excited for this one even though it is underrated and viewed by a lot as a wash. I think this fight will shock a lot of people and I believe we will see Jordan Rinaldi pick up a unanimous decision.
#6 (6) Sara McMann (8-3) vs. #7 (7) Jessica Eye (11-4, 1NC): This fight in the women’s bantamweight division is going to be a fight between two girls who are going to be attempting a bounce back from two recent losses. Both of these ladies had the potential to be special but have seemed to hit some rough patches lately. Jessica has had it rough since joining the UFC she has gone 1-3 with 1 no contest. While Sarah has only picked up one win since her loss to Rousey and will look to avenge her back to back losses in this one. These girls have the cardio to last the full fight and have won most their fights by decision but both have the possibility end the fight via KO or submission. I think this fight will be fun in the women’s bantamweight division and we could see Sara McMann pick up a unanimous decision.
UFC Fox Sports 1 Main Card (9 PM/ET):
Joshua Burkman (29-12, 1NC) vs. Paul Felder (11-2): This fight in the lightweight division will kick off the main card on Fox Sports 1. This fight Paul Felder is a good fighter who can back down his opponents often and put pressure on his opponents. Felder is a strong fighter with the ability to stop his fights by way of KO and can do so with his brutal kicks. Felder has stopped 7 of his 11 wins by way of KO and his most recent victory was his long submission victory. Felder will win this fight if he can keep it standing and keep the distance long enough to land some brutal kicks to Burkmans legs and chest to slow him down and effect his stamina. His opponent Josh Burkman is one tough dude though. Burkman is one tough dude and is looking to turn around his luck of late regardless that he won his last fight. He has posted an abysmal 1 win 5 losses and 1 no contest in his last 7 fights. Burkman is a very well-rounded fighter and has picked up 9 KO stoppages and 8 more by way of submission stopping 17 of his 29 professional wins. The most impressive stat that Burkman has in his stoppages is that 15 of his 17 stoppages are in the very first round. If Burkman gets a hold of Felder he would be picking him up to land a powerful slam and capitalize on the mat either through submissions or some vicious ground and pound. This fight truly could be interesting and I think Felder will pick up the win in the 3rd round via a KO victory.
Jorge Masvidal (29-10) vs. Lorenz Larkin (16-5, 1NC): This fight in the welterweight division is going to be a real brawl between two guys who can turn off their opponents lights off with one punch. Lorenz Larkin is a monster who I think has yet to reach his full potential who hasn’t ever picked up a win on the mat but he has picked up 10 wins through knockout and the rest via decision. Seven of those wins have been stopped in the first round. Lorenz is a freakishly athletic kid and is so powerful. I truly believe one punch could end the find if it comes from Larkin’s fast yet very powerful hands. I think Larkin once he smells blood knows how to finish a fight among the best of them. Larkin will look to land some devastating strikes using his creative strikes and skills to possibly dazzle us all with a brutal flashy knockout potential. Now his opponent Masvidal has let a majority of his fights go to decision, only stopping 13 of his fights through 11 knockouts and 2 submissions. Masvidal is so hard to stop and just keeps coming and his heart is really what impresses me when I watch him fight. Masvidal is a tough guy to get to the mat as he has posted an 82% takedown defense but I think we will see him go to the mat as he is a better fighter on the ground then Larkin has shown to be. Masvidal in his last fight really took Benson Henderson to the end in a true test and showed that he can really fight with the best of them. I think this fight goes to the mat in the first round but Larkin will find a way to survive and catch Masvidal in the second as he shoots for a takedown. I think Larkin picks up a 2nd round TKO victory.
Chris Camozzi (23-10) vs. Vitor Miranda (13-4): This fight in the middleweight division is between two guys who both could find themselves ranked or one win away from being ranked with a win. I really love what both of these guys have done in their past couple fights. Vitor Miranda hasn’t loss since his first fight which was the finale of TUF. He has picked up three consecutive wins all through KO/TKO victories. Vitor has stopped 12 of his 13 professional wins, 10 of which are by KO and the other 2 are through submission victories. Vitor is an extremely exciting fighter and still has a lot of potential regardless that he is 37 years of age. Vitor was a pro kickboxer and posted a 23-8-1 record professionally as a kickboxer. Vitor is 3-0 at middleweight and honestly could be on the rise. His opponent Chris Camozzi has fought top middleweight fighter, Ronaldo Souza, and lost two times. Camozzi really struggled for a while in the UFC picking up 5 losses in a row at one point in his career. Since his loss to Souza he has picked up back to back wins and his last win was against Joe Riggs in a performance of the night victory. I think this fight could be a vicious brawl and they will stay standing and put on a show for the fans. I don’t think this fight will make it out of the first round though and I believe Miranda will pick up another win via a flying knee KO in the first round.
#10 (10) Tarec Saffiedine (16-4) vs. #11 (8) Rick Story (18-8): This fight will have some real fireworks as two guys who are looking for a top 5 ranking soon in the welterweight division meet. Rick Story is a bit of an interesting fighter to watch as he has the potential to be a fight finisher entirely but has let 10 of his wins go the distance. Story doesn’t get much credit for how well rounded of a fighter he is though and I think if his skills on the mat get overlooked in this fight it could be a devastating mistake. I’m not saying Rick is a better fighter on the ground than Saffiedine but he isn’t just purely a puncher. I do believe though if this fight stays standing and fails to really go to the ground it will be playing into Rick’s hands because this guy’s fists can put his opponents to sleep in an instant. Now one thing you don’t see a lot of in MMA is a guy who while standing that can utilize his elbows but Rick does and he does it better than almost anyone else in the UFC and as a former MMA fighter I will say elbows along with knees hurt worse than anything else. Rick will most likely as I said be looking to keep this fight standing and if he wants to win this one he will have to be the fighter applying the pressure for the majority of the fight. Now his opponent Tarec Saffiedine is a very skilled fighter and a technical striker. Tarec has sneaky power as he might not have the devastating power that Story does but a couple good open shots he can put his opponent on their rear end. He was a former Strikeforce champion in the middleweight division. He is coming off a pretty dominant win over Jake Ellenberger in his return to the octagon after a 15 month absence due to injury and rehab. Tarec has stopped 6 of his 16 professional wins, 5 of which are through submission and a lone KO victory. He did stop 5 of those fights though in the first round but it should be noted that he hasn’t picked up a professional stoppage victory of a fight since May 21st, 2010 against Nate Moore where he landed his lone professional KO victory. Another part of that I want to point out is that since joining Strikeforce and the UFC going back to July 20th 2009 that fight was his lone stoppage so almost 7 years and 9 wins later he has only stopped one fight. Tarec is a skilled fighter though as I said and he picks his shots well and lands well. I believe if Rick needed to take Tarec to the mat for some reason it would be a difficult task as he has been successful at defending the takedown 87% of the time in his career. I am excited to see how this fight goes I just hope these guys let the sparks fly and stop this fight thought the stats show that might not happen. I believe that if this fight stays standing though we will see a stoppage and it will be in the 3rd round after two slow paced first rounds. I see Rick picking up a 3rd round TKO victory.
#2BW (#6 FW) Renan Barao (35-3, 1NC) vs. #9 (9) Jeremy Stephens (24-12): The Co-Main event of the evening is going to be a fight we should have to pay to see and it will take place in the featherweight division. Jeremy Stephens is a great fighter and I think if he can pick up a win over Renan he should see himself back near the top 5. He has run into a rough patch though since January 2014, posting a 2-3 record since then. Jeremy is well known for his ability to stop a fight especially standing up where he will need this fight to stay if he wants to have a shot at getting his hand raised at the end of this one. Stephens has stopped 19 of his 24 professional wins and 17 of those 19 are through KO victories as he delivers devastating blows with one clean shot. He will only have a one inch reach advantage over Barao which is basically nothing I do believe Jeremy though is the stronger fighter and on his feet can be the more lethal fighter. One thing you can’t take away from Jeremy is his ability to take a beating and keep coming back at you this kid’s heart is unbelievable and I think could make the difference if it stays standing. In his last fight where he lost to Max Holloway I thought he could have taken a nap a couple of times but he kept coming through Max’s shots and made the fight go the distance. This could be a big advantage in the end because I have seen Renan tire in his last couple fights and if he exhausts himself trying to put Jeremy out we could see Jeremy capitalize. Now his opponent is the legendary Renan Barao who will be making his UFC featherweight debut in this fight. In Barao’s 2 loses to Dillashaw he looked like a different guy I was utterly disappointed in his performances and I still believe he is the better fighter than TJ but that is then and this is now. Renan is one of the toughest fighters if not the toughest fighter to take to the mat, not that Jeremy will be looking to take it there, as he has posted a 97% takedown defense in his career. Renan has stopped 23 of his 35 professional wins only 8 of those 23 are by KO. His 15 wins by submission show how lethal he is on the mat, honestly it doesn’t matter if he is on his back or in top position I believe there are only a handful of fighters in the UFC that can equal his skills on the mat. Don’t let his 35-3 record fool you either as far as age goes because he is only 29 years of age and still has a lot left in the tank I believe. I think he just needs to pick up a couple nice wins and get his confidence back. I think that this fight will be very exciting and we will see two opposites collide here. I think Stephens will look to do whatever he can to keep this thing standing while Barao will be patient and read his opponent while looking for his opportunity to take this fight to the mat. I’m not saying he’s there yet but imagine if Renan gets to the top 4 of this division Connor would have Renan, Frankie, Jose Aldo, Lamas, and Max Holloway waiting for him to return to the division he belongs in. Now I think we will see a more fit and better conditioned Barao then we are used to as of late enter this fight and he will get a 2nd round submission victory over Jeremy Stephens.
#7 (3) Thomas Almeida (21-0) vs. NR (8) Cody Garbrandt (8-0): Oh man this main event in the bantamweight division is more exciting than the looming title fight in the bantamweight division at UFC 199. These two undefeated superstars do not like each other, granted most the talking has come from Garbrandt but the kid can back it up so let the talking fly between these two. I think both of these guys are better fighters than the current champion no disrespect to Dominick as I think he is great I just believe that these guys are better at this point, and clearly better than Uriah Faber the challenger for the belt. I am a huge fan of both men’s fight styles and think that this fight has fight of the year candidacy written all over it. Cody is a beast with one punch good night power as he has stopped 7 of his 8 professional wins and all 7 have been by devastating KO victories, 5 of which including his last fight have come in the very first round. Garbrandt at this point is the best fighter fighting out of team alpha male at this point and I believe that he would be better off leaving but he seems loyal to his gym buddy Uriah Faber. So far in his three fight career in the UFC he has not been taken to the mat but I wouldn’t be shocked to see that change in this fight depending where Almeida wants this fight to go. Cody is 24 years old just like his undefeated counter-part and posted at 32 – 1 boxing record in his young career. Garbrandt is a good wrestler which gets overlooked due to how dominating he can be on his feet but training with Faber has that one huge advantage of becoming better on the mat and becoming a powerful wrestler. I think Garbrandt will look to push the pressure using his great boxing skills and footwork to keep Almeida from getting comfortable to try and keep this fight in his favor. Now his opponent is one of the fighters in my eyes with one more win I would consider a top fighter in the world and should be considered for a title shot, Thomas Almeida. Thomas is one incredibly gifted and tough fighter. He has had one issue only one really thus far in his UFC career and that would be in my eyes that he takes a bit of a beating before really getting going, who as of late is now reminding me of Bryan Barbarena just with more skills. Almeida has stopped his last 3 fights with KO stoppages with 16 professionally and 4 more victories by submission. Meaning in total this 24 year old kid with a 21-0 record has stopped 20 of his 21 professional wins. That lone win without a stoppage was his UFC debut and could be argued to be due to first night nerves. I honestly don’t know what I love most between these two crazy stats, he has stopped 14 of his last 15 by way of KO or that he has stopped 16 of his 21 fights in the very first round. Almeida doesn’t do it either by way of just straight up punching people in the face he lands some good body kicks and actually a fair amount of body shots with his hands too to wear down his opponent. Almeida has been working on his BJJ and looking to improve his ground game but I think if he goes to the ground he could make this fight really interesting fast because I actually think these guys are pretty even on the ground and it will come down to one simple question for Thomas. Can he avoid taking damage early? If he can then its goodnight for Garbrandt because I think once he gets his bearings under him he really steps up and could be the best fighter in the world one day with his skills. One other possibly worry is that Almeida has shown signs of slowing down before and he could do so again if the fight goes into the late part of the 2nd round and further. We shall see how this fight goes but I am willing to bet that this one goes down as one of the best fights of 2016. I am way more excited for this fight than I am most title fights. I am torn here but I think when it comes down to it Thomas Almeida is the better fighter but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Garbrandt pulls of the “upset”. I am going to go with Almeida in the 4th minute of the first round via a KO victory.
- Matt Koontz.