Out with the young, in with the younger?
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight Champion and pound-for-pound stalwart, Demetrious Johnson, will face one of the division's brightest prospects at UFC 186 this Saturday (April 25, 2015) in Japanese knockout artist Kyoji Horiguchi, who has defeated his last seven opponents.
The Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, will also play host to a bout between Middleweight standouts Michael Bisping and C.B. Dollaway, who are looking to rebound from losses to Luke Rockhold and Lyoto Machida, respectively. Plus, the ever-entertaining Fabio Maldonado faces former Light Heavyweight champion Quinton Jackson -- not Canada's Steve Bosse -- at 215 pounds, while John Makdessi takes on Hadouken-thrower Shane Campbell at Lightweight.
While the last few fights were on Fight Pass, which we previewed and predicted last night right here, the remaining "Prelims" under card matches will grace FOX Sports 1.
Here's what's in store:
170 lbs.: Patrick Cote vs. Joe Riggs
Patrick Cote's (20-8) decision to drop to Welterweight paid early dividends courtesy of wins over Bobby Voelker and Kyle Noke, the latter of whom he coached against on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations." He couldn’t make it three in a row, though, surviving but dropping a decision to striking phenom "Wonderboy" Stephen Thompson.
Eleven of his victories are by stoppage, eight by form of knockout.
Rather than resulting in a long tenure with the promotion, Joe Riggs' (40-15) victory in Bellator’s first, last and only iteration of "Fight Master" instead took him back to UFC, where he faced Ben Saunders after a self-inflicted gunshot wound nixed a fight with Paulo Thiago. Riggs’ bad luck continued, unfortunately, as he injured his neck with his very first takedown attempt and submitted to Saunders’ rubber guard.
The loss snapped a six-fight win streak, his longest since 2004.
Riggs is technically younger than Cote by three years, but is apparently aging in what Jack Slack appropriately termed "Nogueira years." He’s got a ridiculous amount of mileage on him and the Saunders fight showed that his body can’t be trusted to hold up anymore. Though Cote appears to be on the downswing as well, the Canadian bruiser figures to have a sizeable durability advantage and ought to be able to hold his own wherever the fight goes.
Riggs still has skills and, were he not in his 57th professional fight, would be a worthy underdog pick. As is, I think Cote picks up his first UFC knockout in seven years with his signature right hand.
Prediction: Cote via first-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Alexis Davis vs. Sarah Kaufman
Three straight UFC victories, culminating in a split decision over Jessica Eye, carried Alexis Davis (18-6) to her first UFC title shot. While she didn’t get armbarred, she was still routed by Ronda Rousey, who knocked her out in just 16 seconds.
Prior to this defeat, "Ally-Gator" had won nine of her previous ten fights, losing only to Sarah Kaufman (17-2) in that span.
Kaufman, the final challenger for Rousey’s Strikeforce belt, made her Octagon debut in Oct. 2013, losing narrow decision to Jessica Eye that was later overturned. In her sophomore appearance, she dominated rival Leslie Smith en route to a much wider decision win.
Ten of her victories are by form of knockout, though none since 2011.
These two have fought twice before with Kaufman coming out on top both times. Kaufman may have Sam Stout Syndrome (lots of knockouts pre-UFC, one or less in the UFC proper), but there’s no reason to think this one will be any different. Kaufman has the takedown defense to force a protracted striking exchange, where her aggression and volume seems likely to overwhelm Davis’s sound but relatively powerless offense.
Though Kaufman may never touch the title, she’s always good for a fun fight and is a tough match up for the majority of the division. Davis is no different and will wind up on the wrong end of a high-energy, 15-minute striking battle.
Prediction: Kaufman via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Chad Laprise vs. Bryan Barberena
Representing his native Canada, Chad Laprise (9-0) ran through the competition of TUF: "Nations," earning a "Performance of the Season" bonus for his savage knockout of Kajan Johnson. Dropping back to Lightweight, he earned his second straight UFC victory by grinding out Cuba’s Yosdenis Cedeno in Halifax.
He will give up two inches of height to Bryan Barberena (10-2).
"Bam Bam" first joined the world’s largest fight promotion as one of the cavalcade of opponents lined up for Joe Ellenberger’s debut, pulling out ostensibly due to the same curse that caught the rest. He finally got a chance to take Joe on at UFC on FOX 13, where he stopped the fading "Excalibur" with a brutal surge in the third round.
The win marked his seventh straight and his eighth by knockout.
As of this writing, the oddsmakers have Laprise as a 3:1 favorite over Barberena and I’m not sure how warranted that is. Barberena is a powerhouse who does lethal work on the inside and has a real chance of scoring the knockout if he can close the distance.
The problem is that he eats a whole lot of shots to get there.
Laprise has great offensive and defensive wrestling, which should allow him to steer clear of the clinch or the mat as needed. Barberena ate some huge bombs from Ellenberger, so he’s not likely to be stopped with strikes, but the fact that he ate those shots at all is telling.
Laprise potshots his way to a decision win on the feet.
Prediction: Laprise via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. David Michaud
Tristar-trained product Olivier Aubin-Mercier (5-1) ran through his Australian foes on TUF: "Nations," reaching the Finale with wins over Jake Matthews and Richard Walsh. After falling to countryman Chad Laprise once there, "The Quebec Kid" dropped to 155 pounds, where he submitted Jake Lindsey in Halifax.
All five of his victories are by submission, four coming inside two minutes.
David Michaud (8-1) first fought for the UFC on the ill-fated UFC 173 card, dropping a split decision to Chinese powerhouse Jingliang Li. He had slightly more success in his second appearance, a decision win over Garrett Whiteley.
"Bulldawg" has stopped five opponents in the first round.
It’s hard to see this as anything other than a showcase fight for OAM. He’s the better striker, the better grappler, looks to be the stronger man physically, and is fighting in friendly territory.
In short, Michaud is screwed.
The American is a decent grappler, but seems to be utterly outclassed in practically every aspect of the game by the young Canadian. Aubin-Mercier picks up his sixth submission win sometime in the first round.
Prediction: Aubin-Mercier via first-round submission
Losing T.J. Dillashaw and Quinton Jackson hurt, but there's still several folks worth watching here.
See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 186 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, right on through the FOX Sports 1 under card at 8 p.m ET and, of course, the PPV main card at 10 p.m. ET.