One is on the way up. Is the other on the way down?
Two of the Light Heavyweight division's most prolific finishers will duke it out this Saturday (Aug. 8, 2015) when Tennessee's own Ovince St. Preux looks to please the Nashville crowd inside Bridgestone Arena at the expense of Brazilian beast Glover Teixeira.
In addition, two of the fastest-rising Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight prospects, Beneil Dariush and Michael Johnson, will look to put their names into title shot consideration. "Smilin'" Sam Alvey will also be in action, looking for his fourth-straight knockout against Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA-trained fighter Derek Brunson.
Four of the seven UFC Fight Night 73 "Prelims" undercard matches will take place on FOX Sports 2 (see the Fight Pass portion here). For those masses without access to the channcel, here's what you're missing:
185 lbs.: Uriah Hall vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
Following an 0-2 start to his UFC career, Uriah Hall (10-5) managed to claw his way back into contention with three straight wins, two by form of knockout. "Primetime’s" momentum grinded to a halt once more in May, however, when he lost an incredibly uneventful split decision to Rafael Natal.
He owns eight wins by stoppage, six via knockout.
Oluwale Bamgbose (5-0) has spent the entirety of his two-year professional career under the Ring of Combat banner, where he has knocked out five opponents in the first round and earned the Middleweight title. His two fights in 2015, the most recent of which occurred in June, have lasted a combined 3:24.
He enters the fight as a late-notice replacement for the injured Joe Riggs.
As with the vast majority of Hall’s fights, the uncertainty here boils down to where his head is. Bamgbose has some gnarly power, but you could drive a train through the openings he leaves. He also tends to rely more on his speed and overall athleticism than in any technical prowess, and Hall should be able to at least match him in those departments.
By all rights, Hall should put a hole through his head with a counter right in minutes. By all rights, though, Hall should have also thrashed John Howard and Rafael Natal.
And yet here we are.
Hall’s tendency to give ground and put himself on the fence makes Bamgbose’s wild aggression a cause for concern, but his lack of quality competition and inexperience past the first round have me leaning toward "Primetime" anyway. Bamgbose runs headlong into something nasty in the first round.
Prediction: Hall via first-round knockout
135 lbs.: Sara McMann vs. Amanda Nunes
In just her second UFC appearance, 2004 Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann (8-2) took on women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey, suffering a body shot knockout 66 seconds into the fight. She rebounded with a narrow win over Lauren Murphy and broke Miesha Tate’s orbital in her next fight, only to fade late and lose a majority decision.
At 34, she is seven years older than Amanda Nunes (10-4).
Nunes opened her UFC run with dominant victories over Sheila Gaff and Germaine de Randamie, earning her a clash with Cat Zingano at UFC 178. Her cardio failed her after a tremendous first round, resulting in a technical knockout loss, but she managed to earn her third UFC win over Shayna Baszler this past March.
All 10 of her victories are by stoppage, nine by knockout, and eight came in the first round.
Nunes is not an easy person to be a fan of. She’s got massive power, solid wrestling and great ground-and-pound. For one round, she’s nearly unstoppable.
Shame there are usually at least three.
Despite this, I think she’s got the goods to take out McMann. The latter turns 35 next month and hasn’t had a great performance since beating Sheila Gaff, who Nunes stopped in approximately half the time in her Octagon debut. Expect Nunes’ power and physicality to carry the day as she pounds out the former silver medalist in the first round.
Prediction: Nunes via first-round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Dustin Ortiz vs. Willie Gates
After his narrow loss to John Moraga in Jan. 2014, Dustin Ortiz (14-4) defeated two of the division’s best prospects in Ray Borg and Justin Scoggins, raising his UFC record to 3-1. He came up short against one of the division’s best back in Nov. 2014, dropping a decision to Joseph Benavidez.
He will give up three inches of height to the 5’8" Willie Gates (12-5).
Gates began his UFC tenure on late notice, eventually tapping to a rear-naked choke against John Moraga after dropping him in the early going. His second time out, he earned his first win in the promotion by pounding out Darrell Montague in just 96 seconds.
Gates' last eight victories have come by stoppage.
Gates is skilled and dangerous in most facets of the game, but Ortiz is just all wrong for him. The Roufusport-trained product is too durable to be finished on the feet, too good a scrambler to get caught in transition, and too good a wrestler for Gates to dictate position.
The thing about Ortiz is that, while he’s not a great finisher and can’t break the Johnson-Dodson-Benavidez wall at the top of the division, he’s a headache for absolutely everyone else at 125 pounds. You have to be a very, very good fighter to beat Ortiz and I’m not convinced that Gates fits the bill ... especially not on short notice.
Ortiz can spoil like few others and I expect him to do the same here, shrugging off Gates’ strikes and submissions and grinding his way to a decision victory.
Prediction: Ortiz via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Frankie Saenz vs. Sirwan Kakai
Frankie Saenz (10-2) entered UFC on a four-fight win streak, which he extended to five with a comfortable decision win over Nolan Ticman in Aug. 2014. His second appearance was much more dramatic, scoring one of the biggest upsets of the year with a decision over Iuri Alcantara in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
He owns five wins by stoppage, three via knockout.
Though he came up short on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18, Sirwan Kakai (12-2) eventually joined UFC as part of a late-notice fight against Danny Martinez in June. "Zohan" won comfortably, dropping Martinez in the first round before taking a wide decision win to extend his current streak to three.
The American Top Team (ATT)-trained product is nine years younger than his opponent at 25.
Saenz deserves all the credit in the world for his win over Alcantara, but it’s worth noting that Iuri has the worst wrestling of the Bantamweight elite. Kakai, by contrast, has handled wrestlers his last two times out, showing solid takedown defense and scrambling ability in addition to his striking prowess.
Saenz might have to trade this time, and I don’t picture it going well for him.
Kakai’s lack of volume may be an issue, but I expect him to take over the fight late, stuffing takedowns and battering Saenz in the clinch for either a late stoppage or decision win.
Prediction: Kakai via unanimous decision
UFC Fight Night 73's main- and co-main events are great and there are some good match ups peppered throughout. And hey ... it's free.
See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 73 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 2 at 8 p.m. ET before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.