If the Winter Olympics didn't scratch the right itch, this mixed martial arts (MMA) menu just might.
Judo standout Ronda Rousey and freestyle wrestling champion Sara McMann will match unbeaten records and Olympic medals this Saturday night (Feb. 22, 2014) at UFC 170, a pay-per-view (PPV) event that takes place from Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Joining them are Light Heavyweight wrestling specialists Daniel Cormier and Patrick Cummins, who are likewise putting their unblemished professional MMA records on the line. Rory MacDonald will also be in action, looking to bounce back from his second career defeat at the expense of Demian Maia in a Welterweight showdown.
We examined the first two of six scheduled UFC 170 "Prelims" under card bouts that will air online via Fight Pass yesterday right here. Let's now take a deep dive into the remaining four that will air on FOX Sports 1 below:
135 lbs.: Jessica Eye vs. Alexis Davis
After hitting the mainstream courtesy of a one-minute submission of Zoila Frausto-Gurgel, Jessica Eye (10-1) found herself in the world’s largest fight promotion just two bouts later, facing veteran Sarah Kaufman in her Octagon debut. While she did narrowly edge the longtime standout on the scorecards, a failed post-fight test for marijuana left her with only a "No Contest" to show for it.
She has not technically tasted defeat in her last eight bouts.
After choking out Shayna Baszler, thereby avenging a 2010 defeat, Alexis Davis (15-5) got the call to compete at UFC 161, where she took on 11-year veteran Rosi Sexton and outgrappled her for a decision win. Though she has yet to score a finish in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), she nonetheless impressed against Liz Carmouche, utilizing an effective striking attack to shut down the former title challenger.
Seven of her victories have come via submission.
On the feet, this seems pretty even. On the ground, though, Davis has a sizeable advantage and I don’t see Eye stopping her from putting her there in a hurry.
I abhor the term "more ways to win," but it rings somewhat true in this case; I feel Alexis will certainly win if she can take Eye down but still possesses the necessary striking acumen to hold her own in that area. Though neither of the two are particularly devastating on the feet, both are consistently entertaining in that regard, so while it might last the full fifteen, it will at least be an interesting fifteen. Alexis uses a steady diet of strong kicks and top control to earn herself a potential crack at the victorious headliner.
Prediction: Davis via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Raphael Assuncao vs. Pedro Munhoz
A one-hitter quitter from Erik Koch, capping off a 1-3 run, sent Raphael Assuncao (21-4) to Bantamweight in 2011 and he’s been on fire since, winning five consecutive bouts. He picked up the biggest win of his career in Oct. 2013, controversially edging T.J. Dillashaw in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Ten of his victories have come by tapout, three others via (technical) knockout.
Regarded as one of the brightest prospects in the division, Pedro Munhoz (10-0) competed a scant month ago, choking out Billy Daniels to retain his RFA title. "The Young Punisher," fighting out of Black House and Kings MMA, answered the call when slugger Francisco Rivera was forced out little more than one week prior to UFC 170.
He stands two inches taller than Assuncao and has likewise relied on an excellent ground game in his career, tapping six foes in impressive fashion.
Munhoz is one to watch at 135 pounds -- he’s got that rare mix of lethal, aggressive submissions and the wrestling necessary to impose them on most of his opponents. Assuncao’s recent run and the short notice, however, make me hesitant to call for a successful debut.
Assuncao has developed his entire game in impressive fashion -- his striking and wrestling, both offensive and defensive, have been honed to a degree that they match up well with even the division’s elite. Though Munhoz has the Brazilian jiu-jitsu chops to put the hurt on Assuncao if he wrangles him down, I believe that -- despite Munhoz’s takedown ability -- Assuncao’s constantly-improving ability to both get to and stay on his feet will make it a moot point.
This isn’t going to be a blowout. In fact, expect Munhoz to give an excellent account of himself, but at the end of the day, Assuncao’s striking is just a little bit sharper.
Prediction: Assuncao via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Cody Gibson vs. Aljamain Sterling
Currently riding a six-fight win streak, Cody Gibson (11-3) takes this fight on less than two weeks’ notice, replacing the injured Lucas Martins. Of those six wins, four came inside the distance, one of the victims being World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran Chad George.
Gibson stands three inches taller than the 5’7" Aljamain Sterling (8-0).
A product of the Serra-Longo camp alongside Chris Weidman, Sterling has been a fixture on prospect lists for much of his brief career. The former Division III All-American wrestler was originally scheduled to face Martins as a substitute for Bryan Caraway, signing on two weeks prior to Martin’s own withdrawal.
His last three victories have all come by rear-naked choke.
While I have my reservations about the phrase "Jon Jones of 135" being bandied about, Sterling is certainly a very bright prospect. He’s got the same combination of long-range kicks and highly-effective wrestling and -- while he lacks the height advantage that Jones enjoys -- he makes it work quite well.
Gibson’s size and aggression make him a tough out, but Sterling’s wrestling should negate Gibson’s attempts to pressure. Sterling is a fantastic talent with a fantastic camp behind him and, after blunting Gibson’s aggression through strong kicks, he’ll prove it by choking him out in the first.
Prediction: Sterling via first-round submission
125 lbs.: Zach Makovsky vs. Josh Sampo
Despite winning six straight in the organization and winning its Bantamweight title, two straight losses led Bellator to release Zach Makovsky (17-4) in 2013. Undaunted, "Fun Size" dropped to his natural weight of 125 pounds and -- after two solid wins -- defeated Scott Jorgensen in his Octagon debut.
At 5’8," he stands three inches taller than Sampo.
Consecutive wins over Antonio Banuelos and Alexis Vila put Josh Sampo (11-2) on the map in 2013, earning him a place in UFC’s Flyweight division in Nov. 2013. While he failed to make weight, he was nonetheless successful, choking out Ryan Benoit late in the second round.
He has now won five straight since a knockout loss to Will Campuzano, picking up three of his six career submissions in that span.
Though Sampo is a very legit prospect, it’s hard to think of a worse match up for him outside of the Flyweight top five. High-speed, scramble-heavy wrestling is Makovsky’s forte and, if his fight with Jorgensen is any indication, it looks like he won’t have any more luck in the stand up.
Basically, Makovsky does everything Sampo does ... only better. He’s the taller man, more experienced at the upper echelons of MMA and the superior wrestling technician. If things work out right, we should end up with a crazy-active grapplefest, Makovsky winning the vast majority of the scrambles and what stand up exchanges arise for a wide decision win.
Prediction: Makovsky via unanimous decision
Yeah, it may have gotten ravaged by the injury bug, but we still get a title fight and a bevy of elite welterweights on the main card alone.
Works for me, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 170 card this Saturday night, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims," which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV action, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 20-13