Still on "Cruz" control ...
With a stoppage win each since their first battle, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight Champion T.J. Dillashaw and former Bantamweight titleholder Renan Barao will duke it out once again in the main event of UFC on FOX 16, which is set to go down this Saturday (July 25, 2015) inside United Center in Chicago, Illinois.
On the female side of 135 pounds, former title challenger Miesha Tate will put her three-fight win streak on the line against Jessica Eye in the co-main event, while Lightweight knockout machines Paul Fender and Edson Barboza battle it out 20 pounds north.
The eight undercard "Prelims" bouts are split evenly between Fight Pass and FOX. Check out previews and predictions of the former below:
155 lbs.: Daron Cruickshank vs. James Krause
Daron Cruickshank (16-6) -- after an easy win over Anthony Njokuani -- ran afoul of K.J. Noons’ fingers in the second round of their showdown in Dec. 2014, cutting short an entertaining and evenly-matched fight. His streak of bad luck continued in March, when he tapped out against rising prospect Beneil Dariush at UFC 185.
"Detroit Superstar" will give up five inches of height to the 6’1" Krause.
James Krause (21-7) began his UFC run on the right foot with an impressive third-round submission of Sam Stout, but he’s tasted victory just once in his last four fights. Most recently, he dropped a narrow decision to Nova Uniao prospect Valmir Lazaro, having been soundly outgrappled by Jorge Masvidal in his previous effort.
He owns just two decision wins, 13 of the others coming by way of submission.
As entertaining as these two are, it seems clear that neither is a threat to crack the Top 10 anytime soon. Both have eye-catching striking arsenals, but lack cohesive attacks or the ability to deal with pressure.
I do think Cruickshank is the better of the two, though.
In addition to having the heavier hands and legs, Cruickshank has also demonstrated the ability to wrestle when needed, a skillset I’m still not sure Krause can properly deal with. So long as Cruickshank doesn’t hang back at the taller man’s range or get caught in transition, he should be able to win this comfortably. Cruickshank mixes in some well-timed takedowns and edges the striking battle for a decision win.
Prediction: Cruickshank via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Ramsey Nijem vs. Andrew Holbrook
Ramsey Nijem's (9-5) three-fight win streak following his debut loss to Tony Ferguson came to a crashing halt at the hands of Myles Jury, who put him to sleep with a vicious right hand in the second round. He managed to put together a two-fight win streak after being tapped by James Vick, only to repeat his same mistake and suffer a knockout loss to Carlos Diego Ferreira in Aug. 2014.
He owns five wins via stoppage, three by form of knockout.
Since debuting professionally in Nov. 2012, Andrew Holbrook (9-0) has finished every one of his opponents via submission. He’s never even seen the third round, stopping all but one in the first five minutes.
He enters the bout as a late replacement for Erik Koch.
I’m not convinced Nijem is salvageable at this point. He hasn’t got the chin to strike the way he tries to and, while he’s a very capable wrestler and overall grappler, he just leaves himself way too open. I’d be more optimistic about his ability to turn things around if he hadn’t mad the exact same mistake against Ferreira that he’d done so many times before.
Holbrook, though? He can handle Holbrook.
Holbrook’s regional competition has been a cavalcade of mediocrity and I’d peg Nijem as the superior wrestler -- certainly the best one Holbrook has ever faced. Ferreira proved that you don’t need to be a power-puncher to put down Nijem, but I don’t like Holbrook’s chances on short notice. Nijem brawls and wrestles his way to a decision win; hopefully, more of the latter than the former.
Prediction: Nijem via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Jessamyn Duke vs. Elizabeth Phillips
After earning "Fight of the Season" for her three-round war with Raquel Pennington on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18, Jessamyn Duke (3-2) opened her UFC career proper with a drubbing of former TUF teammate Peggy Morgan. She has lost twice since, a tough decision loss to Bethe Correia preceding a first-round thumping from Leslie Smith last July.
Duke owns a win over Elizabeth Phillips (4-3) in the amateurs, having defeated her via guillotine in 2012.
Despite a strong start that saw her bust up Valerie Letourneau’s eye something awful, Phillips’ cardio failed her in her Octagon debut, resulting in a split decision loss. Her second time out, it was the judges who failed her, robbing her of a clear 29-28 win over Milena Dudieva in a decision so egregious that Dana White personally removed one of the judges responsible.
At 5’6," she is five inches shorter than Duke.
Duke is one of MMA’s many poster children for "tall people with no idea how to fight tall." Correia is all of 5’4" and she still walked into punching range with absolute impunity. Smith is bigger, but she’s a pressure fighter without the ability to cut off the cage and had little trouble getting her hands on Duke. She seems to have suffered from the same issues that plague Travis Browne and Jake Ellenberger: While their time under Tarverdyan may have made them "more technical" boxers, it’s eliminated what made them successful in the first place.
Add that to Duke’s reported WWE ambitions and I’m practically picking Phillips by default.
Phillips is certainly better than her 0-2 record suggests, with a well-rounded skillset that includes capable grappling. So long as she stays aggressive and can hold up for three rounds, her activity should carry her past Duke without much trouble.
Prediction: Phillips via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Zak Cummings vs. Dominique Steele
Zak Cummings (17-4) used his size and grappling prowess to great effect in his first two UFC appearances, where he choked out Benny Alloway before upsetting Nova Uniao prospect Yan Cabral in hostile territory. Last July, his four-fight win streak came to an end at the hands of Gunnar Nelson, who handed Cummings his first submission loss in nearly six years.
He’s stopped 13 opponents overall, nine via submission.
Dominique Steele (13-5) hit a rough patch in 2012, losing three straight fights that included his sole Bellator MMA appearance. It’s been smoother sailing since, as he’s won seven of eight since dropping down from Middleweight.
"Non-Stop Action Packed" replaces the injured Antonio Braga Neto on approximately three weeks notice.
I'm not going to lie -- I’m far more interested in how Cummings deals with the weight cut than in how he deals with Steele. Cummings is huge for 170 pounds and missed weight by a hilarious margin against Alberto Mina. With the new IV ban, Cummings vs. The Scale is the real fight of the weekend.
If he can win that, he shouldn’t have much trouble with Steele.
In short, Steele really doesn’t look like he can wrestle that well, while Cummings is quite capable from top position. So long as he can hit 171 pounds, expect Cummings to dominate on the mat, possibly locking up a submission late in the first.
Prediction: Cummings via first-round submission
Four more UFC on FOX 16 "Prelims" matches to preview and predict tomorrow, including the return of fan-favorite Tom Lawlor and our very own Ben Saunders.
See you there, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 16 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4:15 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET before the PPV main card start time at 8 p.m. ET.