Two top-tier Featherweight stars with a penchant for pushing a furious pace will lock horns inside Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, this Saturday (Nov. 22, 2014) when Cub Swanson puts his six-fight win streak on the line against former lightweight kingpin Frankie Edgar.
The two will headline UFC Fight Night 57, which will also feature an excellent Lightweight match up between streaking Strikeforce import, Bobby Green, and Muay Thai menace, Edson Barboza. Fan-friendly Brad Pickett will be in action as well, taking on Chico Camus in the latter's Flyweight debut.
That's not all.
We examined the first three of the six scheduled "Prelims" bouts the other night right here. Hopefully, you haven't had your fill, since we've got three more to go.
Let's get to it:
265 lbs.: Ruslan Magomedov vs. Josh Copeland
Ruslan Magomedov (12-1) joined Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in May, coming off a decision win over former champion Tim Sylvia. Despite being dropped early, "Leopard" achieved victory in his debut with a unanimous decision over Viktor Pesta.
Magomedov was originally scheduled to face Richard Odoms at UFC 177 before the latter was removed for reasons unknown.
Josh Copeland (9-0) -- a stablemate of Justin Gaethje and Neil Magny at Grudge Training Center -- earned the RFA Heavyweight title by knocking out unbeaten Jan Jorgensen in July. The win marked his seventh pro stoppage and seventh in the first round.
He will give up four inches of height to Magomedov.
In the wasteland that is the Heavyweight division below the Top 10, Copeland seems to stand out. He’s a strong athlete with good power and some very solid offensive boxing. He throws well in combination and with surprising speed. And for Magomedov, who was dropped in his last fight, it could spell trouble.
Could, but won’t.
Magomedov is by far the more battle-tested of the two and is taller by a fair bit. His kickboxing is well suited to his length and is ostensibly more varied than Copeland’s punch-oriented style. Copeland’s relative lack of high-level experience will come back to bite him as Magomedov finds increasing success on the outside as the fight progresses.
Prediction: Magomedov via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Luke Barnatt vs. Roger Narvaez
Luke Barnatt (8-1) -- the first pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 -- ran afoul of last pick Dylan Andrews, ending his run on the show in the quarterfinals. Once in UFC proper, Barnatt reeled off three consecutive wins before winding up on the wrong end of an inexplicable decision against Sean Strickland.
He has finished six professional opponents by an equal mix of knockouts and submissions.
Roger Narvaez (6-1) pulled out of a Legacy Fighting Championship title bid to join UFC on short notice, facing Patrick Cummins at Light Heavyweight in June. "The Silverback" had no answer for his larger opponent’s wrestling advantage, falling to punches in the second round.
Narvaez, who has only gone past the second round once, will give up three inches of height to Barnatt.
Nonsense loss notwithstanding, I’m impressed with what I’ve seen out of Barnatt. He’s shown some real pop in his hands and surprisingly good takedown defense for someone of his height. Narvaez doesn’t seem well-equipped to deal with him, as Barnatt is one of the rare middleweights taller than him and has proven dangerous at range and inside.
Barnatt has been progressing nicely and I don’t expect Narvaez to be much of a roadblock, even if he’s at his proper weight class this time. Barnatt puts him away with volume late in the first.
Prediction: Barnatt via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: James Vick vs. Nick Hein
James Vick's (6-0) run on TUF 15 came to a halt by way of knockout at the hands of Michael Chiesa, leaving him medically unable to compete at the Finale. He has made up for lost time in the UFC proper, scoring wins over Ramsey Nijem and Valmir Lazaro in his two Octagon appearances.
He has stopped four opponents, all in the first round and three by submission.
Germany’s Nick Hein (11-1) entered UFC and the Lightweight division in June, taking on durable brawler Drew Dober in front of his countrymen. Utilizing his prowess in the clinch and improving striking, the judoka managed to pick up a unanimous decision, battering Dober along the way for his fifth straight win.
He will give up a staggering seven inches of height to Vick.
My dislike of Vick is well-documented, which is the reason it pains me to say that he’s probably going to win this easy. Hein has the prototypical judoka’s build for MMA -- squat and powerful. While it’s useful in the clinch, that’s not a position you’re likely to find yourself in too often against a kickboxer more than half a foot taller.
Hein’s striking, while powerful, is rudimentary, relying almost entirely on his left hand. He hasn’t shown me anything to suggest Vick won’t chew him up at range.
If Hein can somehow close the distance, him grinding out Vick isn’t outside the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. Vick potshots his way to a decision win.
Prediction: Vick via unanimous decision
The main- and co-main fights are terrific and we've got quality match ups scattered throughout. Not bad for a free card, eh?
See you deep in the heart of Texas on Saturday night, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 57 fight card on fight night, starting with the two Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1-televised under- and main-card matches, which are slated to begin at 8 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 172-72 (1 NC)