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UFC 178 'Prelims' preview and predictions, Pt. 1

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More fights are coming to Fight Pass online digital network and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Sept. 27, 2014) when UFC 178: "Johnson vs. Cariaso" kicks off from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. MMAmania.com's Patrick Stumberg kicks off UFC 178 "Prelims" party with part one of a two-part under card preview series.

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Stacked.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will hit Las Vegas, Vegas, this weekend (Sat., Sept. 27, 2014) with one of its biggest pay-per-view (PPV) cards of the yea, UFC 178, from MGM Grand Garden Arena.

In the main event, Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson will look for his fifth title defense against Chris Cariaso, while Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez makes his long-awaited Octagon debut opposite the surging Donald Cerrone in the co-main attraction.

The rest of the main card is likewise excellent. At Featherweight, top prospect Conor McGregor will take a big step up in 145-pound competition against Dustin Poirier, while up at 185 pounds, Tim Kennedy will face the rising Yoel Romero. And last, but certainly not least, Cat Zingano returns against the dangerous Amanda Nunes at 135 pounds.

Of the six "Prelims" under card matches planned for UFC 178, two will stream live online via Fight Pass and the rest will air on FOX Sports 1.

Let's dig in, shall we?:

170 lbs.: John Howard vs. Brian Ebersole

John Howard (22-9)  entered UFC on short notice, upsetting Uriah Hall despite the jump in weight. After defeating Afghan bruiser Siyar Bahadurzada, "Doomsday" found his win streak cut short at the hands of Ryan LaFlare at UFC Fight Night 39 earlier this year in Abu Dhabi.

At 5’7," Howard is five inches shorter than Brian Ebersole (50-16-1).

Ebersole opened his UFC career with four straight wins, including impressive defeats of Chris Lytle, Dennis Hallman and T.J. Waldburger. He has since struggled to maintain that form, losing consecutive decisions to James Head and Rick Story.

This will be his first fight in 10 months and just his second in more than two years.

Ebersole looked like a monster his first two fights, but it’s become clear since then that if he can’t consistently get the takedown, he is sorely unimpressive. The Head fight in particular was a travesty to watch, with Ebersole sticking his head out to bait a guillotine attempt long past the point where it had any chance to succeed.

Against a Muay Thai specialist with serviceable wrestling like Howard, the prognosis isn’t great.

Though the height differential is troubling, I do not believe Ebersole has the striking acumen to exploit that advantage. Ebersole’s takedown offense should likewise be insufficient to control "Doomsday" and impose his ground-and-pound.

Expect a repeat of the Story fight, with Howard battering Ebersole with power punches to a decision win.

Prediction: Howard via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Jon Tuck vs. Kevin Lee

Guam’s Jon Tuck (8-1) didn’t make it into The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 15 house, but found success in his Octagon debut, defeating Tiequan Zhang in his first career trip to the judges. Though he lost to TUF: "Smashes" winner Norman Parke in his next appearance, Tuck earned his first UFC stoppage in June, forcing Jake Lindsey to submit to heel strikes from back mount.

His finishes are split evenly between knockout and submission.

Kevin Lee (8-1) opened his UFC career with a tough assignment, taking on Serra-Longo’s Al Iaquinta at UFC 169. Losing a close decision despite spending most of the second round attached to Iaquinta’s back, Lee earned his first UFC win in July by edging Canadian striker Jesse Ronson.

He has submitted four foes after opening his career with three decision wins.

Tuck has a dangerous top game and packs some heavy hands to boot. That said, his cardio issues and middling wrestling acumen will hold him back from contendership. Though Lee doesn’t complete every takedown, he’s relentless in his pursuit of them and can keep up his pace for all three rounds.

I don’t believe Tuck’s takedown defense can stand up to Lee’s pressure, especially once his gas tank begins to empty. Lee uses top control with increasing success, threatening with submissions along the way.

Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Manny Gamburyan vs. Cody Gibson

Manny Gamburyan (13-8) opened his UFC career with two straight losses, but righted the ship with consecutive wins over Michihiro Omigawa and Cole Miller. Unfortunately for "The Anvil," he dropped an (overturned) decision against Dennis Siver before losing officially to Nik Lentz.

This will mark his Bantamweight debut.

Cody Gibson (12-4) joined UFC on short notice, facing top prospect Aljamain Sterling and dropping a surprisingly-close decision. His sophomore effort was likewise on short notice, but the result more in his favor as he knocked out Johnny Bedford inside of one minute.

The 5’10" "Renegade" is five inches taller than Gamburyan.

Honestly, it’s been a long time since I’ve been impressed by Gamburyan. The Omigawa fight is only clear win since 2010 and those losses weren’t terribly close, save for his fight with Tyson Griffin in 2011. Gibson will enter the fight with a considerable height advantage and seems to have the power and defensive wrestling to give Gamburyan fits.

Even if the weight cut goes well, I don’t think Gamburyan has the skills to be a player at 135 pounds.

"The Renegade’s" length and takedown defense should allow him to punish Gamburyan’s wide swings and long-range takedown attempts. Gibson earns his second straight UFC victory by wide decision.

Prediction: Gibson via unanimous decision

Three UFC 178 "Prelims" matches remain to preview and predict tomorrow, including a fun Lightweight match up between fringe contenders and the return of the deposed Bantamweight champion after three long years.

See you there!

MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 178 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 card bouts at 8 p.m. ET and then main card PPV, which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET.