Red River Shootout?
Two of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight division's best will do battle this Saturday evening (Aug. 23, 2014) when the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion heads to BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., for UFC Fight Night 49.
In the FOX Sports 1 main event, former 155-pound champion Ben Henderson takes on veteran Rafael dos Anjos, both men coming off of impressive finishes. In the co-main, Mike Pyle looks to build off of his thrashing of T.J. Waldburger against, Jordan Mein, while Francis Carmont attempts to stop a two-fight skid against the resurgent Thales Leites in other main card action.
As mentioned before, each of the double-header "Prelims" gets its own article (To check out the one we did yesterday for UFC Fight Night 48: "Bisping vs. Le" click here). Here are the five set to set the stage in Oklahoma, the first on Fight Pass and the rest on FOX Sports 2.
Neil Magny (11-3) struggled early on in his UFC career, losing consecutive decisions after beating The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 castmate Jon Manley in his Octagon debut. Since then, however, he has shown remarkable improvement, winning three straight bouts and most recently knocking out prospect Rodrigo "Monstro."
At 6’3," he is half-foot taller than Alex Garcia (12-1).
Garcia, a Tristar product, opened his UFC career in violent fashion, knocking out Aussie Ben Wall in under a minute. While Sean Spencer proved a tougher out than expected in March, Garcia nonetheless stepped up to the challenge, knocking Spencer down in the second round en route to a split decision win.
He has 10 finishes among his 12 wins, split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
If Garcia gets on top of Magny or can consistently get inside his range, this fight will end in a hurry. Magny has not proven himself a threat off his back and Garcia has an excellent top game.
As much as I’d like to see Garcia paste him, though, I’m leaning towards Magny.
Magny has become very adept at using his length, which he will have a surplus of against Garcia. Further, Garcia has slowed down as the fight progresses, while Neil can fight consistently well for all three rounds. Neil should, at least after the first round, be able to keep Garcia at range and avoid both his bombs and takedown attempts.
Decision win for the TUF product.
Prediction: Magny via unanimous decision.
155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush vs. Tony Martin
Despite his opponent coming in on short notice, Beneil Dariush (7-1) earned a career-best win in his first UFC appearance, knocking down and choking out Charlie Brenneman in Jan. 2014. However, he found less success against TUF 13 runner-up Ramsey Nijem, who knocked out the Kings MMA product late in the first round.
He has submitted four opponents and knocked out two.
ATT’s Tony Martin (8-1) debuted in May, taking on M-1 Welterweight champion Rashid Magomedov at UFC 169. Despite nearly breaking his foe’s arm with an armbar in the first round, Martin could not overcome the Dagestani’s striking in the second and third rounds, eventually losing a unanimous decision.
He will have a three-inch height advantage over Dariush.
Though Dariush has some solid grappling, I imagine he’ll have some difficulties handling Martin’s size. Martin not only stands 6’1," but is a physical powerhouse to boot. He should be able to control the wrestling game and has proven himself pretty nasty from top position.
So long as he can maintain his offense for all three rounds, Martin should be able to dictate position, controlling and threatening with submissions from the top.
Prediction: Martin via unanimous decision
Aaron Phillips (5-1) entered UFC as a late replacement, taking on Sam Sicilia in March 2014 in place of Korean prospect Doo Ho Choi. Despite a good striking effort, including a knockdown late in the first, he could not overcome Sicilia’s relentless grinding, losing a unanimous decision.
He owns three wins via form of knockout, all three coming inside the first round.
Three straight wins, the last of which earned him the LFC Bantamweight title, led the UFC to sign Matt Hobar (8-2), pitting him against RFA champ Pedro Munhoz in his debut. "The Crowbar" was unable to budge "The Young Punisher," however, losing via knockout midway through the first round.
Half of his professional wins have come by form of choke.
Phillips is a very skilled striker and I expect him to have more success at bantamweight. That said, I’m still not comfortable picking him over a wrestling specialist. Like Sicilia, Hobar ostensibly has the ability to consistently bring Phillips to the mat and keep him there, well away from the latter’s area of expertise.
This has the makings of another of those annoying fights that’s decided by takedown offense versus takedown defense. I favor the former here ... Hobar grapples his way to a clear decision win.
Prediction: Hobar via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Ben Saunders vs. Chris Heatherly
Ben Saunders (16-6-2) originally left UFC in 2010 following consecutive losses to Jon Fitch and Dennis Hallman. One fight later, he joined Bellator Fighting Championships, racking up a 7-3 record in that span.
He was originally slated to fight for the Titan FC Welterweight title against "Pele" Landi-Jons, but rejoined the UFC after Landi-Jons was forced to withdraw because of visa issues.
Chris Heatherly (8-1) has done well for himself since a loss to Alex Garcia last year, going unbeaten in his last four fights and beating Dakota Cochrane in that span. The former wrestling standout has used his grappling well throughout his career, submitting four opponents.
He stands a massive seven inches shorter than "Killa B."
Though there is little tape available on Heatherly, I think it safe to say that Saunders is going to wreck him. There’s just too much of a length difference and, even if Heatherly does manage to bring him to the mat, Saunders ought to have the bottom game to give him fits.
Probably not going to get there, though.
If Heatherly can close the distance, he’s going to find himself in one of the most dangerous clinches in the sport. Either through kicks from the outside or his customary tornado of knees and elbows, Saunders will make his Octagon re-debut in style, battering Heatherly for a quick stoppage.
Prediction: Saunders via first-round technical knockout
Joby Sanchez (6-0) picked up the highest-profile win of his career just two weeks ago, knocking out former World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) and UFC competitor Antonio Banuelos in the third round. While this earned him a fight with TPF champ Matt Manzanares, Sanchez elected to answer UFC’s call when Tim Elliott was forced out of his fight on late notice.
All of his wins are by stoppage, split evenly between knockout and submission.
Following his exit from Bellator, Wilson Reis (17-5) returned to his winning ways in a hurry, picking up four straight victories. After defeating Ivan Menjivar in his Octagon debut in Sept. 2013, he gave the dangerous Iuri Alcantara an extremely close fight before losing a split decision.
Eight of his wins have come by submission ... all by form of choke.
By all rights, Reis should steamroll Sanchez. Despite a marked size disadvantage, he dominated Alcantara on the mat, no mean feat. So long as he’s not drained from the cut to flyweight, which by all rights he should not be considering his 5’4" frame, he possesses the grappling to own this fight.
Sanchez is a good prospect out of a very good camp in Jackson-Winkeljohn. Unfortunately, Reis has almost four times the experience and a resume filled with quality opposition. Sanchez seems fun to watch, but his UFC career opens with a loss.
Prediction: Reis via second-round submission
Two elite Lightweight contenders, plus a Welterweight war and prospects top-to-bottom.
Not bad for free -- catch you in Tulsa, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 49 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" match, which are scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 2 under card at 8 p.m. ET and the FOX Sports 1 main card at 10 p.m. ET.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 119-52 (1 NC)