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UFC 182: 'Jones vs Cormier' preview, predictions for 'Prelims' Pt. 1

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More fights are coming to Fight Pass online digital network and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Jan. 3, 2015) when UFC 182: "Jones vs. Cormier" kicks off from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com's Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 182 "Prelims" party with part one of a two-part under card preview series.

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Dare I say ... grudge match?

After a well-publicized war of words (and fists that one time), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight Champion, Jon Jones, and Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier, will finally do battle in the main event of UFC 182, which goes down this Saturday evening (Jan. 3, 2015) inside MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

In the pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, Donald Cerrone will try to build off of the momentum of his excellent 2014 when he faces undefeated Myles Jury down at Lightweight. In addition, Brad Tavares will look to rebound from his stunning knockout loss to Tim Boetsch against Nate Marquardt in a Middleweight match up.

That's just the top of 11-fight card that will kickoff the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's 2015 campaign.

We've got six "Prelims" under card bouts to set the table. And, as usual, the first two will stream online via Fight Pass and the balance will air on FOX Sports 1.

Let's get to it:

155 lbs.: Evan Dunham vs. Rodrigo Damm

Evan Dunham (14-6) -- once one of the 155-pound division’s best prospects -- has struggled mightily in the last two years, losing four of his last five fights. While the losses to T.J. Grant and Rafael dos Anjos were questionable, the ones to Donald Cerrone and Edson Barboza were not, as both men finished Dunham in impressive fashion.

He stands three inches taller than his opponent.

Despite his early exit from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" because of weight-cutting issues, Rodrigo Damm (12-8) remained at 145 pounds for his first three Octagon appearances (going 2-1). Returning to Lightweight, Damm defeated Jungle Fights champ Ivan Jorge before losing striking battles with Rashid Magomedov and Al Iaquinta, the latter of whom knocked out Damm in the third round.

He has submitted six professional opponents.

It’s become abundantly clear that neither of these guys will ever make a run for the title, but Dunham’s struggles with the division’s best fighters are slightly less damning than Damm’s issue mediocre efforts against mid-tier featherweights and lightweights. Dunham still has excellent wrestling and solid cardio, while Damm doesn’t have the power or speed to make him pay for his recklessness the way Cerrone and Barboza did.

On paper, Dunham has the advantage everywhere the fight goes. Expect him to do his usual thing and bury Damm in activity for a wide decision win.

Prediction: Dunham via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Omari Akhmedov vs. Mats Nilsson

Omari Akhmedov (13-2) survived an early headbutt in his UFC debut to lay out TUF: "Brazil" veteran Thiago Perpetuo in the latter’s home country of Brazil. He had no such answers for Gunnar Nelson, who dominated him on the mat before submitting him with a guillotine late in the first round.

Akhmedov has stopped eleven professional opponents ... all in the first round.

Sweden’s Mats Nilsson (11-3-1) entered UFC having won seven of his previous eight fights, losing only to fellow signee Tor Troeng in that span. He came up short in his debut, falling to towering Englishman Luke Barnatt in London.

This will be his Welterweight debut after a career of fighting at Middleweight.

Akhmedov may not have the high ceiling of fellow Dagestanis such as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Rashid Magomedov, but he’s a dangerous fighter in his own right, packing the heavy hands and aggressive grappling endemic to the region. Nilsson, while a solid grappler in his own right, will have difficulty recreating the successful takedown efforts of Nelson.

On the feet, Akhmedov’s wildness limits him, but he packs quite a bit more power than Nilsson, who is every bit as awkward. Even with Nilsson dropping to 170 pounds, I expect him to struggle with Akhmedov’s strength, failing to get the takedown before getting clipped by one of the Dagestani’s haymakers late in the first.

Prediction: Akhmedov via first-round technical knockout

135 lbs.: Alexis Dufresne vs. Marion Reneau

Team Quest-trained Alexis Dufresne (5-1) tore through the competition on her path to UFC, ending each of her first five fights in the first half of the first round. Her debut could have gone better, however, as she not only missed weight by eight pounds but also lost a decision to Sarah Moras.

At 5’9," she is three inches taller than Marion Reneau (4-1).

"The Bruiser" reached the biggest stage of her career in July, defeating debuting Maureen Riordan under the RFA banner. Joining Invicta, she was scheduled to face Mexico’s Irene Aldana on the "Waterson vs. Tiburcio" card before bronchitis forced Aldana out of the fight.

Reneau’s last three wins have all come inside the first round.

This fight should come down to one thing: Whether Dufresne makes weight comfortably. She is ridiculously huge for 135 pounds and, if she comes in in shape, should be able to steamroll Reneau in the first round. Reneau’s chances of implementing her top control on a fresh Dufresne are slim.

Those are some big "ifs," though.

Dufresne’s complete failure to even get close to 135 pounds and subsequent poor performance against Moras are huge red flags for her future in the division. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt here, though, and say she overpowers Reneau early before stopping her with ground-and-pound.

Prediction: Dufresne via first-round technical knockout

Three more UFC 182 "Prelims" fights to preview and predict tomorrow, each featuring an undefeated prospect.

See you there, Maniacs!

Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 182 fight card below, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET before the PPV start time at 10 p.m. ET.