It's a good weekend for Mexican combat sports fans.
While Saul "Canelo" Alvarez defends his country's honor against Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas, Nevada, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Arena Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico, with UFC Fight Night 78, which will also serve as The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Latin America 2" Finale.
UFC Fight Night 78's main event pits season coach Kelvin Gastelum against late replacement, Neil Magny, while Ricardo Lamas introduces Diego Sanchez to the Featherweight division.
We've still got four undercard "Prelims" matches to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), all of which will join the main card on FOX Sports 1.
Note: UFC has re-arranged the television line up. To check out the latest UFC Fight Night 78: "Magny vs. Gastelum" fight card and rumors click here.
What's in store for your telly? Let's find out:
135 lbs.: Erik Perez vs. Taylor Lapilus
Erik Perez (14-6) began his UFC career with a solid three-fight win streak, ending all three bouts inside the first round. Since then, the Jackson-Winkeljohn product has gone 1-2, defeating Edwin Figueroa between losses to Takeya Mizugaki and Bryan Caraway.
"El Goyito" has not competed since June 2014 because of a shoulder injury incurred while preparing to face Marcus Brimage at UFC 180.
Taylor Lapilus (10-1) -- known as "Double Impact" -- was once scheduled to face Dennis Siver for his first-ever fight under the unified rules, only for cooler heads to prevail. Against more reasonable opposition, he’s picked up two straight UFC victories over Rocky Lee and Yuta Sasaki, the latter a considerable upset.
He enters the fight as a late replacement for Poland’s Damian Stasiak.
I massively underestimated Lapilus prior to his fight with Sasaki and for that I apologize. His takedown defense proved far better than I anticipated and his striking looked crisp and effective. However, I simply don’t believe he has the correct skill set to beat "Goyito."
Perez’s last two losses came against a very skilled submission grappler (Bryan Caraway) and one of the grittiest guys in the division (Takeya Mizugaki), the latter of whom also possesses a well-developed takedown game. His pressure should work well against Lapilus, who lacks the option to put his foe on the mat should things go south on the feet.
Perez mixes in takedowns with effective volume striking to take a decision.
Prediction: Perez def. Lapilus via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Hector Urbina vs. Bartosz Fabinski
As a member of Team Edgar, Hector Urbina (17-8-1) competed on the execrable TUF 19, where he lost a unanimous decision to Cathal Pendred. In UFC proper, he submitted Edgar Garcia at UFC 180 and was scheduled to face Albert Tumenov at UFC 188 before pulling out because of injury.
He has knocked out nine opponents and submitted another five as a professional.
Poland’s Bartosz Fabinski (12-2) rode a four-fight win streak into his Octagon debut, replacing Krzysztof Jotko against Garreth McClellan in Krakow. The judoka used a steady diet of takedowns to take all the rounds and put an end to "Soldier Boy’s" six-fight win streak.
He has scored eight professional knockouts, though only one in his last four fights.
When Fabinski steps into the cage, his plan of attack is very simple: Je is going to slam your ass to the mat as many times as you’re willing to try get up afterward. His Judo prowess and massive strength make this a winning proposition against those whose games are too limited to exploit his own lack of variety.
Unfortunately for Urbina, he seems to fall into that category. "El Toro" -- though a capable finisher -- ostensibly lacks any real means by which to shut down his foe’s takedown assaults. Barring weight cut issues, which could be present because of this being only the second time Fabinski’s fought at 170 pounds, Urbina’s going for a ride.
"The Butcher" slams his way to either a decision win or late technical knockout stoppage.
Prediction: Fabinski via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Alejandro Perez vs. Scott Jorgensen
In his promotional debut at UFC 180, Alejandro Perez (15-6) avenged a 2013 loss to Jose Alberto Quiñones to win the first-ever TUF: "Latin America." His sophomore effort would not be quite so triumphant, as Patrick Williams rocked "El Diablito" with punches before putting him to sleep with a guillotine.
He has won five of his last seven and 10 of his last 13 matches.
Scott Jorgensen's (15-11) slide continued in July when he dropped a decision to Manny Gamburyan for his seventh loss in nine fights. Prior to this defeat, "Young Guns" had tapped to a Wilson Reis arm-triangle following a win over Danny Martinez.
He has earned seven stoppages in his nine-year career, five by submission.
Picking Jorgensen in this day and age feels somewhat like throwing my support behind Ralph Nader, but I really think he’s got this. Perez’s weaknesses are easily visible: Shaky chin, mediocre wrestling. Jorgensen remains a very capable grappler with decent hands, even with very little left in the tank.
Admittedly, Jorgensen’s shaky jaw makes this a risky pick, but he seems well-equipped to exploit the deficiencies in the TUF: "Latin America" winner. Jorgensen gets a reprieve from his freefall with a grinding decision win.
Prediction: Jorgensen via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Gabriel Benitez vs. Andre Fili
Gabriel Benitez (18-4) reached TUF: "Latin America" semifinals with a rear-naked choke of Diego Rivas, but fell short against Leonardo Morales over the course of three rounds. "Moggly’s" UFC career has been slightly better than Morales’ -- he has defeated Humberto Brown and Clay Collard in his native Mexico.
Nine of his 15 stoppages are by form of submission.
Team Alpha Male’s Andre Fili (14-3) roared out of the gate with a brutal knockout of Jeremy Larsen in his UFC debut, only to fall to Max Holloway in his second fight for the promotion. "Touchy" has since grinded out the very game Felipe Arantes and fallen victim to a Godofredo "Pepey" flying triangle.
He stands two inches taller than Benitez at 5’10."
I’ll admit to badly underestimating Benitez before the Collard fight. I now recognize that his striking is absolutely legit. While I may be primed to make an idiot of myself again, however, I’m picking against him once more.
The fight figures to be fairly evenly-matched on the feet, but I’m not convinced Benitez’s takedown defense is up to snuff. "Touchy" showed some solid takedowns and ground control both in the early going against Holloway and throughout the fight with Arantes.
The American has the goods to do the same here, stifling his foe for the full 15 minutes.
Prediction: Fili via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Polo Reyes vs. Cesar Arzamendia
In the quarterfinals, Polo Reyes (3-1) came out on top in the season's most brutal fight, a knockdown, drag-out slugfest with Christhian Soto wherein Reyes walked through some savage elbows to put Soto away with strikes in the second. Despite his toughness, his chin didn't manage to stand up to Horacio Gutierrez's punches, which dispatched "El Toro" in the first round.
Reyes has knocked out two professional opponents and submitted another.
Though a grappler by trade, Cesar Arzamendia (7-1) used striking to defeat Oliver Meza in rapid fashion in the quarterfinals. "Goku's" semifinal bout with Enrique Barzola proved a little less than super (Saiyan) as he tapped to a body punch midway through the first.
He owns a submission win over inaugural "TUF: Brazil" competitor Anistavio "Gasparzinho."
As with the Herrera fight, it's not terribly clear why one fighter is so favored. Arzamendia appears to have Tapology's userbase behind him, but the man is just flat-out bad on the feet. His punches look more like hammerfists than anything else and, while he does have the best win between the two with the aforementioned "Gasparzinho" submission, he doesn't really pass the eye test.
Reyes seems to have solid wrestling of his own, and the fight is no contest on the feet. Reyes picks him apart with punches and low kicks before finishing him late in the first frame.
Prediction: Reyes by first-round technical knockout
Despite the hilariously bad timing by UFC, it's a decent free card.
This do anything for you, Maniacs?
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 78 fight card, starting with the "Prelims" matches online at 6:30 p.m. ET and then the FOX Sports 1-televised undercard bouts, which are scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1 main card at 10 p.m. ET.