A pair of devastating punchers will do battle this Saturday (Dec. 13, 2014) at UFC on FOX 13, when Stipe Miocic looks for his fourth-straight win at the expense of former Heavyweight champion, Junior Dos Santos.
US Airways Arena in Phoenix, Ariz., will also play host to an intriguing Lightweight battle between Nate Diaz, fighting for the first time in over a year, and Rafael Dos Anjos, who has won seven of his last eight. In addition, Alistair Overeem will look to play spoiler for the returning Stefan Struve.
We looked at the first five (of nine) under card "Prelims" matches yesterday evening right here. Tonight, check out the remaining balance below:
John Moraga (15-3) followed up his submission loss to Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson in January, narrowly edging fellow scrambling enthusiast Dustin Ortiz. Though he suffered a stoppage loss to John Dodson because of a destroyed nose, he scored an impressive upset in September by choking out top prospect Justin Scoggins.
Nine of his career victories are by stoppage ... seven by submission.
Willie Gates (11-4), listed at 5’10" in places, has fought five times already in 2014, earning stoppages inside two minutes each time. Most recently, he took out Team Alpha Male prospect Hector Sandoval to earn the Tachi Palace Fights 125-pound championship.
He is a late replacement for former Shooto champ Jussier "Formiga."
Moraga has a few glaring flaws that will likely keep him out of title contention for good, namely his terrible takedown defense. That said, he is an excellent scrambler with deceptive power in his hands, a combination that should work well against Gates. Though Gates is surprisingly strong for his lankiness, I don’t expect him to be able to consistently shuck Moraga’s takedowns off.
Plus, aside from Sandoval, his recent competition has been garbage.
Gates’ best chance is to punish Moraga’s takedown attempts with knees and he is certainly capable of doing that. "Chicano John’s" relentlessness should prove too much, though, as he grinds Gates down for a one-sided decision win.
Prediction: Moraga via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Claudia Gadelha vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Claudia Gadelha (12-0) was twice booked to challenge for the Invicta Strawweight title, only to be forced out both times by a broken nose and gastroenteritis, respectively. "Claudinha" looked to make up for lost time in UFC by defeating Finland’s Tina Lahdemaki in June, scoring a unanimous decision over the previously-unbeaten fighter.
She will give up three inches of height to Jedrzejczyk.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (7-0) staked her claim as a fighter to watch by destroying veteran Rosi Sexton by knockout in June. She made her Octagon debut less than two months later, defeating Juliana de Lima on the "Lawler vs. Brown" card.
She has three stoppage wins ... two by knockout.
As my preview for her fight with Lima indicated, I am a huge fan of Jedrzejczyk -- she’s got vicious hands and puts together combinations beautifully. Unfortunately for her, I’d peg Gadelha as the worst match up in the division for her.
"Claudinha" is a very big strawweight with some of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu in the division and an impressive wrestling game to back it up. Though she did an excellent job of denying takedowns, Jedrzejczyk had difficulty staying out of the clinch against Lima.
She cannot afford to let Gadelha get her hands on her with that kind of ease.
Jedrzejczyk certainly has the power to end the fight instantly and any extended engagement on the feet will end in her favor. I just don’t believe she’ll be able to deny Gadelha’s grappling attack. The Brazilian earns the tap midway through the second.
Prediction: Gadelha via second-round submission
170 lbs.: Joe Riggs vs. Ben Saunders
The venerable Joe Riggs (40-14) seemed to have breathed new life into his career by winning Bellator’s first and only "Fight Master" series, defeating Mike Bronzoulis in Nov. 2013. In a move that rather invalidated the concept of the show, "Diesel" was booked to face Paulo Thiago in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), only to accidentally shoot himself while cleaning his gun (seriously).
He has scored finishes in 36 of his 40 victories.
Ben Saunders' (17-6-2) Bellator run and three-fight win streak came to a brutal end at the hands of rival Douglas Lima, who laid him out with a head kick on the promotion's centennial show. Returning to UFC the subsequent August, he showed that he’s still a factor by scoring the promotion’s first-ever omoplata submission over Chris Heatherly.
He stands three inches taller than Riggs.
Thiago was a very beatable opponent for Riggs; Saunders, not so much. "Diesel" may only be a year older than Saunders, but 54 fights have not been kind to him. Saunders’ brutal attrition striking seems tailor-made to break Riggs down.
Ben has developed a very good bottom game to complement his striking, but I’m not sure he’ll even need it here. Riggs, while still dangerous, isn’t capable of standing up to the kind of punishment that Saunders can dish out. He wilts to Saunders’ endless knee strikes late in the first round.
Prediction: Saunders via first-round technical knockout
Jamie Varner (21-10-1) appeared to have reignited he career when he downed the heavily-favored Edson Barboza in May 2012, coming in on short notice to do so. Since then, however, "C-4" is just 1-4, suffering an injury technical knockout to James Krause and a vicious knockout loss to Abel Trujillo in his last two fights.
Eighteen of his wins are by stoppage, including eleven submissions.
An 8-1 streak brought Drew Dober (14-6) into UFC as a short-notice replacement against Sean Spencer, he smacked the career Lightweight around in their Welterweight bout. Dropping back to 155 pounds, Dober ran afoul of German Judoka Nick Hein, losing the decision in May.
He has only been stopped once in 20 fights.
Though Varner’s on a pretty bad streak, he hasn’t really looked terrible in that stretch -- the Joe Lauzon fight was my "Fight of the Year" and the Trujillo loss was because of his willingness to trade rather than any appreciable degradation of skills.
If he loses to Dober, though, his time as an elite fighter is over.
Dober is durable and a decent striker, hindered by a lack of power and general athletic ability. Nothing he brings to the table should trouble Varner, who is the better wrestler, harder puncher and superior boxing technician. Assuming Varner hasn’t completely fallen off, expect him to smack Dober around for the full 15 minutes, whether he does it on the feet or the mat is entirely up to his discretion.
Prediction: Varner via unanimous decision
Three good Heavyweight scraps and a clash of top Lightweight standouts ... and that's just the FOX main card. For the low, low price of free, I'd call that a bargain.
See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 13 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 5 p.m. ET before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.