In a mixed martial arts (MMA) match up of nicknames worthy of a Saturday morning cartoon, UFC 174 hits Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Canada, this weekend (June 14, 2014) with "Mighty Mouse" vs. "Puncher King" at the helm.
In layman's terms, Demetrious Johnson defends his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight belt against Ali Bagautinov.
In addition, Rory MacDonald will face Tyron Woodley with a potential crack at the Welterweight title on the line, while Ryan Bader faces Rafael Feijao at Light Heavyweight.
170 lbs.: Daniel Sarafian vs. Kiichi Kunimoto
A terrific run on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil," capped off by a flying knee knockout of Sergio Moraes, made Daniel Sarafian (8-4) the favorite to win it all. Unfortunately, he was forced out of his Finale bout with Cezar "Mutante" and has since gone 1-2, including a loss to Mutante in his most recent fight.
This will be his 170-pound debut.
Kiichi Kunimoto (16-5-2) entered UFC with just one loss in his previous 12 fights, falling only to fellows signee Takenori Sato in that span. Sadly, his Octagon debut was cut short by a series of vicious elbows to the back of the head from opponent Luiz Dutra.
"Strasser has ended ten bouts inside the distance, eight by submission.
Despite his recent setbacks, I still believe in Sarafian. He’s certainly better suited for welterweight and C.B. Dollaway’s resurgence takes the sting off of the Brazilian’s loss to him. Kunimoto, while more experienced, seems likely to be physically overpowered by Sarafian.
Despite not having a pro knockout to his credit, Sarafian is dangerous in all facets of the game and should have the Judo prowess to down Kunimoto if needed. Expect the Brazilian to win in dominant fashion, taking down Kunimoto as many times as necessary to lock up an arm triangle.
Prediction: Sarafian via first-round submission
135 lbs.: Valerie Letourneau vs. Elizabeth Phillips
Valerie Letourneau (5-3) fell short in her first bid at the big stage, falling via submission to Roxanne Modafferi in the elimination round of TUF 18. A late injury to Germaine de Ramndamie opened the door for her to take this bout, which she did on less than two weeks’ notice.
She has won four of her last five and her only losses have come to Sarah Kaufman, Alexis Davis and Invicta standout Claudia Gadelha.
Where Letourneau is a late replacement for Germaine de Randamie, Elizabeth Phillips (4-1) is an even later replacement for Milana Dudieva, taking this fight on just seven days’ notice. She last fought on May 30, 2014, taking home a unanimous decision win.
Her lone loss is to the devastating Miriam Nakamoto in both women’s professional debut.
I admit, I’m pretty irked by the latest change. I figured Dudieva would submit Letourneau with relative ease, thus sparing me the need to think too hard and allowing me to go back to thinking about pie. Alas, reality is not kind to those who wish to think only of flaky crusts, and so Milana was replaced by a fighter with no recent footage.
Still, losing to Rocanne Modafferi at this point in time is never a good sign.
As has been made clear, I really have no confidence in this pick, but considering Letourneau’s aforementioned loss and history at 125, I think I’ll go with Phillips.
Prediction: Phillips via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Yves Jabouin vs. Mike Easton
Yves Jabouin (19-9) has had a rough go of it lately, losing two of his last three fights with a questionable decision over Dustin Pague sandwiched in between. The losses snapped a three-fight win streak "Tiger" had developed following his loss in his debut to Pablo Garza.
Eleven of his wins have come by knockout, though none in UFC.
Mike Easton (13-4) has likewise struggled recently, falling by decision in his last three fights. Most recently, he was on the wrong end of a beating from current champion T.J. Dillashaw after losing a close decision to Brad Pickett almost a year before.
Also like Jabouin, he has had trouble finishing recently, stopping just one opponent since 2009.
Just putting this on the table right off the bat: I cannot be objective about a Easton bout, nor any bout involving a Lloyd Irvin acolyte.
Even disregarding that, though, it’s hard to see Easton as anything other than a disappointment. For someone with his athletic gifts, he hasn’t showcased much power and seems to struggle with recognizing distance, often firing hooks that fall far short. In addition, his wrestling is underwhelming, preventing him from bringing his Brazilian jiu-jitsu to bear.
Though Jabouin can throw away wins like nobody’s business, he has very solid takedown defense and a powerful striking game. So long as his recent knockout losses have not cowed him, his superior kicks and straighter punches should allow him to bust Easton up. Though I’m quite certain Jabouin will find some way to put my foot in my mouth, I feel he should win a decision via long-range striking.
Prediction: Jabouin via unanimous decision
Quality title fight and knockout strikers up and down the card ... this ought to be something.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 174 fight card on fight night (Sat., June 14, 2014), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FX Network-televised under card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 83-36 (1 NC)