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UFC Fight Night 64 'Prelims' preview and predictions, Pt 1

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More fights are coming to Fight Pass only this weekend (Sat., April 11, 2015) when UFC Fight Night 64: “Gonzaga vs. CroCop 2” kicks off from Krakow Arena in Krakow, Poland. MMAmania.com's Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC Fight Night 64 "Prelims" party with the first installment of a two-part under card preview series.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Ready for a rematch eight years in the making?

One of the all-time great mixed martial arts (MMA) Heavyweight stars, Mirko CroCop Filipovic, will make his return to the Octagon this Saturday afternoon (April 11, 2015) against the man who so famously knocked him out, Gabriel Gonzaga, in the UFC Fight Night 64 main event from Krakow Arena in Krakow, Poland.

In addition, top Polish Light Heavyweight, Jan Blachowicz, will put his six-fight win streak on the line against the nuclear fists of "The Poster Boy," Jimi Manuwa, in the co-main event of the show.

The whole thing can be watched on Fight Pass during the late morning and afternoon. Here are some of the UFC Fight Night 64 "Prelims" under card matches that scheduled to set the stage.

265 lbs.: Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Anthony Hamilton

Daniel Omielanczuk (16-4), a judoka by trade, earned his first UFC victory in authoritative fashion by laying out Nandor Guelmino with a vicious left hand. Following a grinding loss to Jared Rosholt, Omielanczuk was booked to face Soa Palelei in Sydney, Australia, only for a broken thumb to force his removal.

He will give up five inches of height to the 6’5" Anthony Hamilton (13-4).

Hamilton joined UFC as the MFC Heavyweight champion, having scored notable wins over Smealinho Rama and Darrill Schoonover in the Canadian promotion. He has since gone 1-2 in UFC, a stoppage of Ruan Potts sandwiched between losses to Alexey Oleinik and Todd Duffee.

Eight of his professional wins are by stoppage ... seven via submission.

Heavyweight fights tend to be either quick and decisive or long and agonizing for everyone watching. Unfortunately, this has the hallmarks of the latter. Hamilton has the size and power to put away Omielanczuk, but he’s so far only been exciting in defeat during his time in UFC.

I’m still not sure why he’s the underdog, though; he’s the taller man by a fair margin and his wrestling ought to be sufficient to counteract his foe’s Judo.

Hamilton, while he’s shown that he’s not going to rise terribly high in the division, still looks like the superior fighter in most aspects of the game. Expect him to control Omielanczuk on the ground for the full 15 minutes.

Prediction: Hamilton via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Izabela Badurek vs. Alexandra Albu

After losing in her pro debut, Izabela Badurek (5-2) got in gear just over a month later, starting a 5-1 streak with each win coming by first-round submission. She last fought in January, armbarring her opponent just under halfway through the first round.

She trains alongside fellow "Prelims" competitor Bartosz Fabinski.

Alexandra Albu (1-0) made her professional debut in June 2013 with a technical knockout victory over one-and-done countrywoman Lyubov Demidova. She was scheduled to take on Julie Kedzie the next November, but was forced out because of injury, kickstarting Bethe Correia’s title run in the process.

She is two inches shorter than Badurek at 5’2."

In the interest of full disclosure, let me just say that I have zero confidence in my pick here. Albu looked solid in her one fight, but she’s been out of action for almost two years and, again, that one fight was her whole pro career. On the flipside, Badurek has the experience, but doesn’t look like a world-beater.

My gut says Albu.

What little I’ve seen of Albu on the feet is solid and Badurek’s game seems rather lacking when she can’t get it to the ground. Assuming she doesn’t have too terribly much ring rust, she ought to be able to dominate on the feet.  I say she earns the stoppage via accumulation somewhere in the middle round.

Prediction: Albu via second-round technical knockout

155 lbs.: Marcin Bandel vs. Stevie Ray

After starting his career 1-2, Marcin Bandel (13-3) went on something of a rampage through the Polish circuit, scoring 12 consecutive submissions within three minutes. Despite this momentum, his grappling prowess could not save him from Chechen bruiser Mairbek Taisumov, who put him away in 61 seconds in Stockholm, Sweden.

He has only ever been past the first round once in his career.

Stevie Ray (16-5) -- or "Braveheart" as he is known -- patronized the Cage Warriors promotion for his last five fights, going 4-1 with the sole loss coming to veteran Ivan Buchinger. Most recently, he avenged a loss to UFC veteran Curt Warburton twice over, taking a decision from him in June 2014 for the Lightweight title and choking him out five months later.

He replaces Canada’s Jason Saggo on less than two weeks’ notice.

Bandel is cut from the same cloth as Masakazu Imanari, Paul Sass and Ian Entwistle in that his fights go one of two ways:

  1. He ties up the opponent and submits them immediately, or
  2. He gets his face pushed in.

As the Taisumov fight showed, this approach won’t serve him well against the better fighters of the division, but it should be enough here. Ray’s well-rounded and battle-tested, but I don’t envy his chances against someone with Bandel’s unique style when he’s only had two weeks to prepare.

No matter what happens, it’s not going to be close. Whichever fighter wins, it’ll be by a lot. I’m banking on Bandel wrangling him to the ground one way or another and applying something painful.

Prediction: Bandel via first-round submission

145 lbs.: Taylor Lapilus vs. Rocky Lee

Taylor Lapilus (8-1) -- a native of France -- was first signed to UFC in Oct. 2014 to serve as a late replacement for Robert Whiteford against Dennis Siver. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the Swedish MMA Federation vetoed the bout, citing the fact that Lapilus had never competed under a ruleset that permitted ground-and-pound.

He will give up three inches of height to Rocky Lee (3-0).

Taiwan’s Lee got his first shot at UFC glory on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "China" series, where he fought under Hailin Ao as his second featherweight pick. After submitting his first foe in the quarters, Lee fell to the heavy hands of eventual winner Ning Guangyou in the semis.

Two of his three victories are by submission.

Lapilus’ defensive wrestling is flat-out awful -- I shudder to think what Siver would have done to him. Just based on that weakness, I was all set to pick Lee, but then I actually watched tape of him and was less than impressed. His wrestling just looks powerless, he barely scraped by a debuting fighter in his last fight, and he hasn’t competed in more than 1.5 years.

Lapilus’ range striking shoot be enough to carry him past Lee. As vulnerable as he is to any quality takedown artist, Lee doesn’t seem like he has the skills to exploit his weakness. Lapilus potshots his way to a decision win.

Prediction: Lapilus via unanimous decision

Four more "Prelims" to preview and predict tomorrow, capped off by what's sure to be a fun slugfest.

See you tomorrow, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 64 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m. ET, right on through the Fight Pass-only main card, which is slated to begin at 3 p.m. ET.