Once more ... with feeling. With Gunnar Nelson on the mend and his planned fight with Dong Hyun Kim scrapped, Gegard Mousasi and Uriah Hall have stepped up to the plate to headline UFC Fight Night 99, which takes place at The SSE Arena in Belfast, northern Ireland. In addition, Ross Pearson faces Stevie Ray in a solid Lightweight showdown and Timothy Johnson welcomes former Bellator Heavyweight Champion Alexander Volkov to the Octagon for the first time ever.
We’ve got a whole mess of "Prelims" undercard matches -- all of which will stream on Fight Pass alongside the main card -- to chew through. So, let’s hop to it.
125 lbs.: Ian McCall vs. Neil Seery
Ian McCall (13-5-1) has not had the best luck in the last few years, fighting just twice since 2013 because of various issues. While four of his six canceled fights in that span were injury- or illness-related on his part, his last two matches fell through thanks to Justin Scoggins’ failed weight cut and Ray Borg’s last-second illness.
"Uncle Creepy" will give up an inch of height to Dublin’s Seery.
Neil Seery (16-12) gave Brad Pickett everything he could handle in his Octagon debut and went on to win three of his next four fights, including an upset of Chris Beal and a "Performance of the Night"-winning guillotine on Jon delos Reyes. In his last bout, he faced Japanese sensation Kyoji Horiguchi and ultimately lost a decision, though he never went down from the heavy hitter’s punchers.
The 12 stoppage wins for "2 Tap" are split evenly between knockouts and submissions.
The long and short of this fight is that Seery can’t stop McCall’s wrestling. The Irishman is ridiculously tough and ridiculously wily, but none of that matters if he can’t keep McCall from putting him on his back. Brad Pickett, Louis Smolka and the aforementioned Reyes all found success with their takedowns against "2 Tap" and there’s no reason to think McCall will have any more difficulty than they did.
McCall can hold his own on the feet and isn’t likely to be caught in transition. Therefore, expect him to cruise to victory, surviving a few scares along the way.
Prediction: McCall via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Jack Marshman vs. Magnus Cedenblad
Jack Marshman (20-5) has been plying his trade on the English circuit since 2010, taking on the likes of Tom Watson, Scott Askham, and Abu Azaitar along the way. He joins the UFC as the Cage Warriors Middleweight Champion and having beaten Che Mills during his current six-fight win streak.
"Hammer" has scored twelve wins by knockout and five stoppages in his last six wins.
Magnus Cedenblad (14-4) rattled off three consecutive UFC victories, two by submission, before missing all of 2015. He returned in May with a knockout of South Africa’s Garreth McLellan, giving him 11 wins in his last 12 fights with nine stoppages among them.
"Jycken" is three inches taller than the 6’0" Marshman.
If Cedenblad wasn’t already in his mid-thirties, he’d be a dark horse in the division. He’s huge at 6’3," wrestles extremely well and has some solid striking to back it up. In short, not the kind of guy you want to face in your UFC debut.
Marshman has come up short in all of his major steps up and likely doesn’t have an answer for the Swede’s takedowns. Considering how Cedenblad survived a front kick to the face from Scott Askham, a one-hit knockout seems a remote possibility. Cedenblad dominates the grappling before eventually locking up a choke.
Prediction: Cedenblad via second-round submission
125 lbs.: Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Ali Bagautinov
Four consecutive UFC victories carried Kyoji Horiguchi (17-2) to a world title fight against Demetrious Johnson, who tapped him out with an armbar one second before the final bell. He has since rebounded with solid victories over Chico Camus and Neil Seery, giving him 11 victories in his last 12 fights.
He has knocked out nine opponents and owns a submission win over current The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 competitor Hiromasa Ogikubo.
Returning to the cage for the first time since his loss to Demetrious Johnson and subsequent drug-based suspension, Ali Bagautinov (15-5) fell to Joseph Benavidez at UFC 192 in Houston, Texas. Eight months later, he won an excellent fight with Geane Herrera to raise his UFC record to 5-2. He and Horiguchi were originally set to fight on the canceled Manila card in October.
I’d really love to know what idiot decided to put a fight between Top 10-ranked Flyweight contenders on the "Prelims" undercard not once, but twice. It’s an intriguing style match up, extremely relevant to the division, and ought to be a fun scrap to boot.
Bagautinov has considerable punching power and the better grappling pedigree, but he’s suffered from inactivity in the past and may not have the takedowns to overcome Horiguchi’s ever-improving defensive wrestling. Horiguchi’s the more versatile striker as well, not to mention being ostensibly faster.
Horiguchi remains Japan’s best hope for a UFC title and is constantly getting scarier. He outworks Bagautinov to a competitive -- but clear -- decision win.
Prediction: Horiguchi via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Kevin Lee vs. Magomed Mustafaev
Riding a four-fight win streak since his Octagon debut loss to Al Iaquinta, Kevin Lee (13-2) suffered one of 2015’s biggest upsets when Leonard Santos knocked him out at UFC 194. He righted the ship with a decision over Efrain Escudero, then pounded out fellow prospect Jake Matthews this past July.
He has submitted five professional opponents, four of them via choke.
A cut stoppage of Abubakar Nurmagomedov helmed Magomed Mustafaev's (13-1) pre-UFC resume, which he quickly built on with a technical knockout win over Piotr Hallmann. He returned six month later to batter Joe Proctor, earning his ninth (technical) knockout win and thirteenth stoppage overall.
This will be his first fight in 11 months.
This is a really, really good fight between two top-tier prospects. Lee impressed me in a big way against Matthews and Mustafaev is pure entertainment in the cage. Lee’s chinny enough to make it interesting, but Mustafaev’s issues with takedown defense may spell doom for the American Top Team-trained product.
The "X-factor" here is Mustafaev’s ability to land strikes in transition. Both Nurmagomedov and Hallmann took so much damage during their takedown attempts that they lost despite consistently putting him on his back. That said, I still have Lee, though he’s going to have to go through Hell to do it. Expect him to grind his way past Mustafaev in competitive fashion.
Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Amanda Cooper vs. Anna Elmose
Amanda Cooper (1-2) -- Claudia Gadelha’s third pick on TUF 23 -- scored two submissions in three wins to reach the Finale in July. There, she took on teammate Tatiana Suarez and succumbed to a d’arce choke in the latter half of the first round.
"ABC" picked up an 8-3 record as an amateur before turning professional in 2014.
Anna Elmose (3-1) knocked out her first three professional opponents as a Bantamweight before getting the call to face Germaine de Randamie in Rotterdam. Despite a striking background of her own, Elmose had no answer for "The Iron Lady’s" size and power, falling to a brutal knee late in the first.
This will be her Strawweight debut.
Elmose can punch. While she didn’t get a chance to show it against a larger and more decorated striker in de Randamie, the Dane has some lovely combinations and puts her weight behind her strikes like few others in the division. I think she can make a real impact at 115 pounds if she can get past Cooper.
That’s not a given, of course. Cooper is a decent striker in her own right and has some decent grappling to back it up. Still, Elmose’s speed and power are just too much to pick against. They trade hands for a while before "Panda" lowers the boom with a right hand.
Prediction: Elmose via first-round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Mark Godbeer vs. Justin Ledet
Mark Godbeer (11-2) -- proud owner of the best name in the sport -- fell to Cheick Kongo in his first and only Bellator appearance in Oct. 2013. He returned to BAMMA afterward, earning and defending their Heavyweight title in that three-fight stretch.
He has knocked out nine opponents and submitted another two.
Justin Ledet (7-0) got off to a perfect (5-0) start to his professional MMA career before leaving for professional boxing in 2012, ultimately returning to the sport with a submission of Jon Hill in February. He made his Octagon debut in August against Chase Sherman, whom he controlled at the end of his jab en route to his first-ever decision win.
Despite his striking background, four of his wins have come by submission.
Looking at this fight, I’m not seeing much difference between it and Ledet’s last fight. Godbeer is a very big man who hits very hard, but is somewhat lumbering and doesn’t have the craft to get past Ledet’s jab. While a surprise knockout is certainly a possibility -- this being the Heavyweight division -- it’s far more likely that Ledet plays matador until Godbeer’s sucking wind.
At that point, it’s just a matter of whether or how Ledet wants to finish it.
I’m going to be optimistic here and say Ledet puts that boxing background to good use, battering down a flagging Godbeer sometime in the second.
Prediction: Ledet via second-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Zak Cummings vs. Alexander Yakovlev
Though he fell early on TUF 17, Zak Cummings (19-5) won four of his first five UFC bouts, losing only to the aforementioned Nelson in that span. He recently hit a hurdle in the form of Argentina’s Santiago Ponzinibbio, who out-struck him on his way to a decision win.
Nine of his wins have come by submission, another five by knockout.
Alexander Yakovlev (23-7-1) -- with a win over Paul Daley under his belt -- joined UFC in 2014 and promptly lost decisions to Demian Maia and Nico Musoke. Wins over Gray Maynard and George Sullivan followed, the former at Lightweight, before he fell short against recent TUF winner Kamaru Usman.
"Thunder of the North" will have a one-inch height advantage on fight night.
Yakovlev consistently struggles against opponents he can’t physically overpower, a category Cummings fits neatly into. The Missouri native may not be the cleanest striker or the savviest wrestler, but he hits hard and can overwhelm foes with raw pressure and strength. Yakovlev -- who prefers grinding out fights from top control -- will almost certainly be forced to scrape together a Plan B.
While Yakovlev showed some sneaky power against Gray Maynard and George Sullivan, he’s not a consistent finisher and Cummings has never gone down to strikes. In what could be an agonizing slog, Cummings shuts down Yakovlev’s offense and does enough damage in the process to take the decision.
Prediction: Cummings via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Milana Dudieva vs. Marion Reneau
Milana Dudieva (11-4) joined the world’s largest fight organization with 11 wins in her previous 13 fights, the sole losses to current standout Jessica Andrade and Swedish prospect Pannie Kianzad, She’s gone even (1-1) in UFC proper with a split decision over Elizabeth Phillips and technical knockout loss to Juliana Pena.
This will be her first fight since April 2015.
Marion Reneau (6-3) impressed mightily in her first two UFC appearances, demolishing Alexis Dufresne and surviving a knockdown to submit Jessica Andrade. Losses to Holly Holm and Ashlee Evans-Smith followed, both by decision and the latter a split.
"The Bruiser" has knocked out three professional opponents and submitted another two.
This is Reneau’s fight to lose, through-and-through. In addition to Dudieva fighting just once in the last two years, the Russian is outgunned on the feet and may not have the wrestling prowess to bring her aggressive submission game to bear. Unless she wants to pull guard, Dudieva’s going to have to exchange with a heavier, cleaner puncher.
Dudieva should be winless (0-2) in UFC and Reneau deserved the win against Evans-Smith. "The Bruiser" rights these wrongs, steadily overpowering Dudieva before eventually putting her away with strikes.
Prediction: Reneau via third-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Brett Johns vs. Kwan Ho Kwak
Wales’ Brett Johns (12-0) dominated the Cage Warriors scene early in his career, wining its Bantamweight title with a decision over James Brum. He then moved to Titan FC, where he choked out Walel Watson for the vacant title and took a split decision over Anthony Gutierrez after losing the belt on the scale.
He has scored stoppages in half of his wins, four of them by submission.
Kwan Ho Kwak (9-0) knocked out his first five opponents and -- after a split decision over Trevin Jones -- began challenging for titles. In three successive fights, Kwak won the Top FC title, won the PXC title, and defended the Top title with a decision over UFC veteran Alptekin Ozkilic.
"Handsome" trains out of Korean Top Team alongside Dongi Yang and Hyun Gyu Lim.
This is a really, really good fight between two really, really good young prospects. Johns is a ruthlessly effective grinder and Kwak is just a whole lot of fun, a wild bruiser with solid power and a vast array of ridiculous kicks. While I expect both to have some shining moments, Johns’ wrestling should prove the difference.
Kwak is very good at doing damage in transition and scrambling back to his feet when taken down, but his aggressive style leaves openings that someone with Johns’ excellent takedown timing can feast on. Kwak will get in his licks, testing Johns’ chin and getting some fans along the way, but spend too much time on his back to win the inevitable competitive decision.
Prediction: Johns via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Charlie Ward vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
A teammate of Conor McGregor with a perfect (2-0) amateur record, Charlie Ward (3-1) debuted against mega-punching 16-6 veteran John Phillips and suffered a knockout loss in the second round. He has won all three of his fights since, including the infamous defeat of Joao Carvalho that resulted in the latter’s death.
He was originally set to face Randy Brown at UFC Fight Night 102 before running into visa issues.
Abdul Razak Alhassan (6-0) -- no relation to the former UFC Light Heavyweight whose arm Steve Cantwell famously broke -- has more or less rampaged through the competition thus far in his career, knocking out all six opponents in under ninety seconds each. His run includes two appearances in Bellator and one in Legacy FC. He was booked to face Dakota Cochrane in Bellator next month before signing onto this fight.
I really don’t want to watch Ward vs. Carvalho and there’s not much footage of Ward’s other fights, so I’m just stuck with what I’ve seen of Alhassan. Luckily for the Team Takedown-trained product, what I’ve seen is impressive. "Judo Thunder" hits every bit as hard as his record suggests and has the confidence in his takedown defense to throw some oddball techniques.
Alhassan is far more proven on the world stage and his raw power is too much to ignore. He disappoints the Belfast crowd with a rapid thrashing.
Prediction: Alhassan via first-round knockout
Stop by tomorrow when we preview and predict UFC Fight Night 100’s "Prelims" undercard (there are two UFC events this Saturday), which may or may not be totally accurate because UFC is too busy to release the bout order. In any case, see you then.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 99 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 12:15 p.m. ET, and then the remaining main card balance -- also on Fight Pass -- starting at 4 p.m. ET.