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UFC Fight Night 54 'Prelims' preview, predictions for 'MacDonald vs Saffiedine' in Halifax

More fights are coming to Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Oct. 4, 2014) when UFC Fight Night 54: "MacDonald vs. Saffiedine" kicks off from Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Canada. MMAmania.com's Patrick Stumberg kicks off UFC Fight Night 54 "Prelims" party with a full under card preview.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Can "Sponge" soak up "Waterboy?"

After dispatching Tyron Woodley in June, Canada's Rory MacDonald has a second Strikeforce standout in his sights, the now-defunct promotion's final Welterweight champion, Tarec Saffiedine, who will take on MacDonald in the main event of UFC Fight Night 54 this Saturday (Oct. 4, 2014) from Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Canada.

UFC Fight Night 54 will also play host to a pivotal Bantamweight clash as Raphael Assuncao puts his six-fight win streak on the line against submission machine Bryan Caraway. Plus, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" winner, Chad Laprise, will face Cuban prospect Yosdenis Cedeno in his second Octagon appearance.

The main card and the latter four "Prelims" under card bouts will take place on FOX Sports 1; however, two more "Prelims" setting the stage on Fight Pass.

Let's see what we've got:

155 lbs.: Daron Cruickshank vs. Anthony Njokuani

After a 1-2 stretch that saw clear losses to John Makdessi and Adriano Martins, Daron Cruickshank (15-5) worked his way into the Lightweight picture with impressive knockouts of Mike Rio and Erik Koch. Despite scoring an early knockdown, Cruickshank’s run came to an end at the hands of Jorge Masvidal, who grappled his way to a decision win.

"The Detroit Superstar" will give up four inches of height to Anthony Njokuani (16-8).

Following a tough loss to Rafael dos Anjos in 2012, Njokuani finally earned his first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) knockout a year later, flattening Roger Bowling with a gorgeous left hook. He had less success against TUF 15 vet Vinc Pichel, who capitalized on the World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) veteran’s grappling troubles to take a unanimous decision.

Njokuani has now alternated wins and losses since a 2010 knockout of Edward Faaloloto in WEC.

Njokuani looked atrocious against Pichel, but it’s worth remembering that he was coming off a year-long layoff and had won beforehand, meaning he was required to lose to maintain his win/loss pattern. Unfortunately for Cruickshank, that means he’s due for a win.

As flashy as Cruickshank is, he’s had trouble against technical strikers, and Njokuani has some exceptional Muay Thai when someone obliges him in the stand up. Compounded with Njokuani’s length advantage, I expect him to outstrike Cruickshank at range and get back in the win column.

Prediction: Njokuani via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Nordine Taleb vs. Li Jingliang

Despite unsuccessful runs on TUF: "Nations" and TUF 19, Nordine Taleb (9-2) earned a crack in UFC proper, debuting on the former’s Finale. There, Taleb successfully defeated "Nations" castmate Vik Grujic, picking up his first win after 1.5 years out of the professional cage.

The three-time Bellator veteran owns five knockout wins in his professional career.

Li Jingliang (9-2) joined UFC after a seven-fight run in China’s Legend FC promotion, going 5-2 and earning its Welterweight title. He debuted in UFC in May, using superior grappling to defeat David Michaud via split decision.

"The Leech" has finished six opponents overall, including four via guillotine.

One of Taleb’s major assets is his size; he is absolutely massive at 170. Now that he’s back at welterweight, I expect him to use that size to good effect against Jingliang. His takedown defense should stand up to "The Leech’s" grappling attempts and he figures to be a step above in the striking, packing some big power in his punches.

Taleb’s superior strength of schedule and stand up advantage should carry him to a stoppage victory. If Jiangling can’t get him to the ground quickly, and I don’t expect he can, Taleb should beat him down early.

Prediction: Taleb via first-round technical knockout

155 lbs.: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Jake Lindsey

Canada’s Olivier Aubin-Mercier (4-1) made short work of his foes on TUF: "Nations," defeating Aussies Jake Matthews and Richard Walsh in the first two bouts. He did not manage to enjoy the same success on the Finale, losing a split decision to heavy-handed teammate Chad Laprise.

All four of Aubin-Mercier’s professional victories have come by rear-naked choke inside of two minutes.

Jake Lindsey (9-1) entered the world’s largest fight promotion having finished four straight opponents via punches, including three in the first round. In June, Guam’s Jon Tuck managed to halt "The Librarian’s" momentum by forcing him to submit to heel strikes from back mount.

Lindsey is two inches taller than Aubin-Mercier and has scored seven finishes.

Considering Aubin-Mercier’s success on the show at 170 pounds, it will be interesting to see how far he can go back at his normal weight. After seeing Lindsey’s struggles with Tuck, I’m pretty sure the answer is "way past Lindsey."

Aubin-Mercier has shown an excellent ability to take the back and finish with the choke in short order. Considering Lindsey’s last fight, I think this one is pretty cut-and-dry.

Olivier chokes him out in the first.

Prediction: Aubin-Mercier via first-round submission

155 lbs.: Jason Saggo vs. Paul Felder

Jason Saggo (10-1) faced a stiff test in his first Octagon appearance, taking on Bellator veteran Josh Shockley in the opening bout of UFC 174. The Ontario native nonetheless managed to overpower Shockley, pounding him out from back mount in the waning seconds of the first round.

He has never gone the distance in victory, earning eight submission wins among those finishes..

CFFC champion Paul Felder (8-0) took out two TUF veterans in his last three fights, defeating TUF 16’s Julian Lane and TUF 11’s Marc Stevens. His most impressive win was his most recent, however, as he felled Craig Johnson by wheel kick in August.

He has knocked out six of his eight professional opponents.

Aside from a couple highlights and his third professional fight, pickings are slim as regards footage of Felder. What I have seen and read suggests that he’s a skilled striker, which is backed up by that 75 percent knockout rate. His grappling, however, seems to be a bit of a weakness.

Against someone with both quality takedowns and submission skills, that’s not the best skill set.

Felder’s proclivity for kicks may wind up being his undoing, giving Saggo the opportunity he needs to sling him to the ground. Once there, it shouldn’t be long before the Canadian moves to the back and locks up his fourth rear-naked choke in his last five fights.

Prediction: Saggo via first-round submission

170 lbs.: Albert Tumenov vs. Matt Dwyer

One of the most highly-touted Russian prospects in the sport, Albert Tumenov (13-2) came up short in his UFC debut, fading after dishing out a nasty first-round beating against Ildemar Alcantara and losing a split decision. In his second Octagon appearance, he showcased the power that earned him six straight knockouts before his debut, pasting Anthony Lapsley in the first round.

He has scored nine knockouts overall, including eight in his last nine wins.

Matt Dwyer (7-1) earned the highest-profile victory of his career in May, knocking out UFC vet DaMarques Johnson after two brutal rounds. The victory marked his seventh by knockout and just his second time past the first round.

He is five inches taller than Tumenov, standing an impressive 6’4."

Dwyer can certainly crack and is very long for 170 pounds. The issue is that he is a technically-poor brawler who is very easy to hit; Johnson, who is by no means a quality striker, dropped him twice, repeatedly landing his left hook with impunity.

And there aren’t many welterweights with better left hooks than Tumenov.

The Russian has crushing power, good speed and excellent timing with his counters. I will be very surprised if he doesn’t blow Dwyer out of the water fairly early in this fight.

Prediction: Tumenov via first-round knockout

135 lbs.: Pedro Munhoz vs. Jarrod Sanders

Pedro Munhoz (11-1) drew a tough assignment in his February debut, taking on top contender Raphael Assuncao on short notice. Though he lost a decision to Assuncao, Munhoz showed how he became RFA champion in his sophomore appearance, knocking out Matt Hobar in the first round.

"Young Punisher" has finished eight opponents overall, six by submission.

Sanders likewise got no matchmaking favors when he joined UFC, moving up in weight to face powerful Cuban Yosdenis Cedeno as a late replacement. Sanders bowed out after a brutal first round in which he suffered a leg injury, resulting in his first loss since his third pro fight.

This will be his Bantamweight debut.

Jarrod Sanders (14-2) deserves some slack for the rough time he had in his debut. Unfortunately for him, Munhoz isn’t going to give it to him -- Munhoz is a ferocious finisher, packing both a great grappling game and the wrestling to implement it.

Sanders’ only real shot at victory, in my opinion, is trying to grind Munhoz down, but I don’t believe he’s got the Brazilian jiu-jitsu to survive that tactic.

Whether he matches the wrestler’s takedown prowess or capitalizes on Sanders’ own shots, I fully expect Munhoz to finish this on the mat. "The Young Punisher" snatches a guillotine late in the first round.

Prediction: Munhoz via first-round submission

Two cards and plenty of intriguing fights. Not a bad way to kick off October.

See you there, Maniacs.

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 54 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches, which are scheduled to begin at  7 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports "Prelims" at 8 p.m. ET and then the FOX Sports 1 main card at 10 p.m. ET.

Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record 2014: 144-62 (1 NC)

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