Recently on the wrong ends of losses to Lyoto Machida, two of the more brutal finishers in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight division will battle this Saturday (May 31, 2014) when "Filipino Wrecking Machine," Mark Munoz, takes on former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi in the main event of UFC Fight Night 41.
The Berlin, Germany,-based card will also feature two more intriguing 185-pound match ups as Francis Carmont takes on C.B. Dollaway in the co-main event and Luke Barnatt faces Sean Strickland one bout prior.
Since we've also got The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil 3" Finale later that same day, we're eschewing our traditional two-part "Prelims" preview and predictions arrangement and doing each all in one shot. You can catch UFC Fight Night 41's "Prelims" alongside the main card on Fight Pass.
Let's take a look.
155 lbs.: Nick Hein vs. Drew Dober
Nick Hein (10-1) -- a police officer and former member of the German national Judo team -- enters the Octagon unbeaten in his last six fights. After spending much of his career at 170 pounds, Hein dropped to Lightweight in Feb. 2014, taking home a decision win in his 155-pound debut.
Four of his wins have come via submission.
Though he fell short in the elimination round of TUF 15, Drew Dober (14-5) earned a spot in UFC by stepping up on short notice in Nov. 2013. Fighting 15 pounds north of normal, Dober dropped a decision to Sean Spencer, ending a five-fight 2013 campaign.
Prior to the loss, he had won eight of nine previous fights, the sole loss to Bellator interim champion Will Brooks.
Though Hein is relatively untested and is making his UFC debut, I’m leaning toward him both because of his legitimate Judo pedigree and because I’m not convinced that Dober is all that good. He is a decent grappler and a decent striker, though not enough to where he can reliably overwhelm Hein in either area.
So long as Hein can consistently enter the clinch and isn’t content to trade, he shouldn’t have too much difficulty wrangling Dober to the mat and earning a win in front of his hometown crowd. Though the ever-present threat of Octagon jitters is there, Dober has not impressed me enough for me to pick him to beat even a jittery Hein.
The German takes the decision win.
Prediction: Hein via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Magnus Cedenblad vs. Krzysztof Jotko
After coming up short in his Octagon debut against Francis Carmont, injury kept Magnus Cedenblad (11-4) on the shelf from April 2012 to Aug. 2013. Returning against Jared Hamman, "Jycken" showed no signs of rust, tapping the American with a guillotine in less than one minute.
Ten of his wins have come inside the distance and he will have a two-inch height advantage.
The unbeaten Krzysztof Jotko (14-0) debuted in UFC last December in Australia, taking on Bellator tournament competitor Bruno Santos. Jotko successfully used his length and solid takedown defense to down the Brazilian grinder, taking home a unanimous decision win.
He has stopped six opponents.
Ah, nothing like a finisher vs. grinder matchup to make me rack my inadequate brains. Because I believe in the inherent goodness of the world, I’m picking the former.
"Jycken" possesses a length advantage and, if the Carmont fight is any indication, has some wrasslin’ chops of his own. Jotko likely won’t be eager to exchange on the feet. Unfortunately for him, aggressively pursuing the takedown puts him in the danger zone of Cedenblad’s guillotine. Whether by punishing the takedown attempts or working his way into top position himself, Cedenblad should earn the tap before long.
Prediction: Cedenblad via first-round submission
135 lbs.: Vaughan Lee vs. Iuri Alcantara
Vaughan Lee (14-9-1) entered his bout with Nam Phan on the heels of a submission loss to Raphael Assuncao, but showed no signs of discouragement, dominating the well-traveled veteran with a much-improved striking attack. The win marked just his fourth to come after the first round.
He is the only man to ever submit Japanese superstar KID Yamamoto.
Despite scoring mount and taking the back early, Iuri Alcantara (29-5) fell to Urijah Faber in Aug. 2013, struggling to keep the skilled wrestler off of him. He rebounded in Feb. 2014 against the highly-skilled Wilson Reis, taking a narrow split decision off of the Bellator veteran.
He has scored 24 finishes in his career, split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
Despite his recent missteps, I still consider Alcantara one of the dark horses of the division. He has punching power that can best be described as unfair and he’s got a killer submission game to match. Though Lee is the craftier striker, prolonged exchanges with "Marajo" are a terrible idea.
On the ground, I’d rate Alcantara slightly higher than Lee, especially since he’s likely the better wrestler as well. As long as Alcantara is willing to take the fight where he needs to and doesn’t try to force the knockout if he’s losing at range, he’s got all the tools to make short work of Lee.
Alcantara lands that massive left hand sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Alcantara via first-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Peter Sobotta vs. Pawel Pawlak
The first UFC run for Peter Sobotta (13-4-1) didn’t quite go as planned, losing three straight to Paul Taylor, James Wilkes and Amir Sadollah. He is unbeaten since, a draw in his first post-UFC appearance followed by five first-round rear-naked chokes.
All of his wins have come inside the distance, all but one inside the first round.
Pawel Pawlak (10-0) -- a Gracie Barra product -- competed five times in 2013, scoring finishes each time. He has not gone the distance since his second fight, picking up six knockouts and four submissions.
This will be his first fight outside of his native Poland.
Pawlak’s striking may be a liability, but his grappling is legit. If Sobotta’s record is any indication, he should be more than willing to engage Pawel on the ground, making this a potentially-excellent grappling affair.
Of course, such affairs often boil down to who can consistently get on top, an area eternally frustrating to evaluate. In any case, it ought to be a fun battle and I expect Pawlak to edge enough of the grappling exchanges to maintain his unbeaten record.
Prediction: Pawlak via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Andy Ogle vs. Maximo Blanco
Andy Ogle (9-4) followed his run on TUF 15 by dropping an extremely close decision to Akira Corrasani in England, having been unable to compete on the Finale because of his knockout loss to Al Iaquinta. While he rebounded with a win over Josh Grispi, he struggled with the grappling of Cole Miller and Charles Oliveira, losing a decision to the former and tapping to the latter’s triangle choke.
He is five years his opponent’s junior.
Like "The Little Axe," Maximo Blanco (9-6-1) opened his UFC career with a close loss, losing a dull bout to Marcus Brimage. Also like Ogle, he is 1-2 since, following a decision win over Sam Sicilia with a disqualification loss to Akira Corassani and a decision loss to Felipe Arantes.
He has stopped seven opponents via knockout.
Well, I’m sad to say that the Blanco ship has pretty much sailed at this point. While Arantes is a very legit featherweight and the Brimage fight was close, Maxi is nowhere near the wrecking machine I thought he would be. His fight IQ remains bottom-tier and his frantic aggression isn’t enough to overcome his technical striking deficiencies.
Still, he ought to beat Ogle.
Ogle is, by nature, a grinder. Against Blanco, who is not only the superior physical specimen but the more credentialed wrestler, that’s not a strategy that’s destined for success. If Blanco doesn’t ruin this for himself (again), there’s no reason he shouldn’t run over Ogle.
Blanco either beats him down in the first or gets disqualified trying.
Prediction: Blanco via first-round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Viktor Pesta vs. Ruslan Magomedov
Viktor Pesta (9-0), at 23 years old, is one of the younger members of the Heavyweight division, but possesses more than three years’ experience in the sport. The Czech has stopped seven opponents, all but one of those in the first round.
He will give up an inch of height to Magomedov.
Dagestan’s Ruslan Magomedov (11-1) earned the biggest win of his career last October, winning a decision over former UFC champion Tim Sylvia. In his previous four fights, he also picked up wins over Ricco Rodriguez and Bellator vet Mike Hayes.
He is a part-time training partner of Rustam Khabilov and Ali Bagautinov at Jackson’s MMA.
You never really know what you’re going to get with debuting heavyweights. Magomedov is the more experienced of the two, fights out of a better camp, and has faced much tougher competition. His primary weakness is also Pesta’s strength, though, as he struggles off his back.
As I often say, usually as a means to make it look like I’ve done more work in writing these than I actually have, I hate picking fights that come down to takedown defense. Magomedov’s combination punching and fast kicks ought to win him the striking battle with ease, but that’s all for naught if Pesta consistently takes him down.
I’ll err toward the side of experience, though, and say Magomedov stays on his feet and lights up Pesta up for the full minutes.
Prediction: Magomedov via unanimous decision
Contenders shmontenders, these guys are pretty likely to beat the hell out of each other.
I'll be watching ... will you, Maniacs?
MMAmania.com will offer LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 41 fight card on fight day (Sat., May 31, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. ET, right on through the Fight Pass main card, which is slated to begin at 3 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 67-33 (1 NC)