Five rounds of hard-hitting Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight action ... What could possibly go wrong?
Prolific knockout machine, Derrick Lewis, takes on Dagestani technician, Shamil Abdurakhimov, inside Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., this Friday evening (Dec. 9, 2016), headlining UFC Fight Night 102 on Fight Pass. Top prospect Top 15-ranked Heavyweight Francis Ngannou (No. 12) faces Anthony Hamilton in the co-main event, while Gian Villante welcomes Saparbek Safarov to UFC's Light Heavyweight division further down the card.
UFC Fight Night 102 can only be seen on Fight Pass, with the card split 4:6 between the main card and the "Prelims" undercard. Let’s dig into the latter:
115 lbs.: Justine Kish vs. Ashley Yoder
Justine Kish (5-0) joined 15 other elite Strawweight standouts on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, only to suffer a knee injury before her planned fight with Bec Rawlings. She eventually made her Octagon debut in January of this year with a controversial decision over Nina Ansaroff at UFC 195.
This will be her first fight in 11 months because of injury.
After cutting her teeth in BAMMA, Ashley Yoder (5-1) edged past Jodie Esquibel in TUF 23's elimination round to become Team Joanna Jedrzejczyk's third Strawweight pick. Though she lost a decision to , she rebounded with a submission over Amber Brown
Yoder is dangerous on the mat, but she's still got a lot of work to do before even approaching the elite. She's slow and awkward on the feet, not to mention mediocre in the clinch and with her takedowns. Kish has her own faults, namely her lack of lateral movement and rudimentary range striking, but Yoder is nowhere near as well-equipped to exploit them as Ansaroff was.
Kish's size and ability to do damage in the clinch should carry the day. Both women have had issues with making weight in the past, but assuming no serious issues, Kish marches through Yoder's shots and busts her up inside for the decision.
Prediction: Kish via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Randy Brown vs. Brian Camozzi
Randy Brown (8-1) caught Dana White's eye during his six-fight Ring of Combat run, capped off by a first-round knockout of Robert Plotkin while UFC's carnival barker was in attendance. He's gone 2-1 in UFC proper, beating Matt Dwyer, tapping to Mike Graves and tapping Erick Montano in 2016.
"Rude Boy" has knocked out four opponents and submitted another three as a professional.
Brian Camozzi (7-2) -- brother of Middleweight veteran Chris Camozzi -- put a two-fight skid behind him with five consecutive victories from 2014 to 2016. In his last bout, he choked out Nick Barnes in 1:40 to earn the vacant RFA Welterweight title and his sixth first-round stoppage.
He replaces Charlie Ward -- who ran into visa issues and was forced to debut in his native Ireland -- on one month's notice.
Camozzi reminds me of a more powerful version of his brother -- he has that same straightforward Muay Thai style, only he has as many knockouts since his 2013 debut as Chris has since 2007. He also, unfortunately, has the same defensive issues and a tendency to back straight up. Even Kenneth Glenn, who gave up eight inches of height, managed to land some quality punches before getting lamped by a head kick.
Brown's every bit as tall as "The Mantis" and, critically, has UFC experience. The classic Camozzi durability keeps Brian alive, but he'll eat more than he dishes out on his way to a decision loss.
Prediction: Brown via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Andrew Sanchez vs. Trevor Smith
After upsetting blue-chip prospect Phil Hawes in the elimination round, Andrew Sanchez (9-2) became Claudia Gadelha’s first Light Heavyweight pick on TUF 23 and lived up to her expectations with two more wins. At TUF 23 Finale, "El Dirte" ran over Team Jedrzejczyk’s Khalil Rountree to earn a dominant unanimous decision.
Five of his last six wins have come via technical knockout.
Trevor Smith (14-6) got off to a rough start in his UFC career, going 2-3 with sub-minute knockout losses to Thales Leites and Caio Magalhaes in his first five appearances. "Hot Sauce" has since picked up consecutive wins over Dan Miller and Joe Gigliotti to raise his recent record to 3-1.
Five of his nine submission wins have come by guillotine.
Smith’s greatest weakness is that he’s not durable enough to use his relentless forward pressure to maximum effect. Against people he can outwrestle, this isn’t an issue, but Sanchez doesn’t fall in that category. Sanchez is not only powerful enough on the feet to exploit Smith’s oft-cracked chin, he’s got the wrestling to either keep it there.
Sanchez is just a bad style match up for Smith, who feasts on under-equipped grapplers, but can’t handle return fire. Sanchez blows him out in the early going.
Predction: Sanchez via first-round technical knockout
185 lbs.: Joe Gigliotti vs. Gerald Meerschaert
Joe Gigliotti (7-1) had no need for the judges early in his career, stopping each of his first seven opponents. He went from RFA to UFC in August, losing a decision to grinding veteran Trevor Smith at UFC Fight Night 92.
"Capo" will give up two inches of height to the 6’1" Gerald Meerschaert (24-8).
Meerschaert’s up-and-down career stabilized early in 2013 when he kicked off his current 9-1 stretch. Said loss came against Sam Alvey in 2014 and his last fight saw him choke out Chase Waldon in 1:44 to earn the vacant RFA Middleweight title.
He replaces the injured Oluwale Bamgbose on just three weeks’ notice.
Unfortunately for Gigliotti, Meerschaert represents the same obstacles he struggled with against Smith: The RFA champ is an aggressive, capable submission artist who’s durable enough to withstand Gigliotti’s power and drag him to the floor. Meerschaert has as many (technical) knockout losses as I had good betting picks last week: Nil. Admittedly, seven of the guys he lost to were too busy submitting him to knock him out ... but still.
Gigliotti’s size, power and youth give me high hopes for his future, but in the here and now, Meerschaert is too experienced and too good on the mat. He wears down Gigliotti before tapping him midway through.
Prediction: Meerschaert via second-round submission
145 lbs.: Tiago dos Santos vs. Shane Burgos
Tiago dos Santos (20-5) won and defended the Jungle Fight Lightweight title during the nine-fight win streak that brought him to UFC. "Trator" has gone 2-1 in the promotion itself, decisions over Akbarh Arreola and Clay Collard sandwiching a technical knockout loss to Mike De La Torre.
He has knocked out seven opponents and submitted another six.
Shane Burgos (7-0) has been nothing if not efficient throughout his career, dispatching all seven professional opponents in less than two rounds apiece. After four submissions in his first five wins, "Hurricane" enters UFC with two consecutive first-round knockouts under his belt.
He replaces Zubaira Tukhigov, who’s dealing with the USADA, on just two weeks’ notice.
This is a really solid fight -- Burgos is a powerful, flat-footed counter-puncher while Santos is a purely offensive bruiser. Either Burgos plugs "Trator" early or the Brazilian overwhelms him with raw volume. Even with the short notice, I’m picking the former.
dos Santos’s loss to De La Torre is what has me concerned. The MMA Lab-trained product isn’t a light puncher by any stretch of the imagination, but someone with "Trator’s" reckless approach really ought to be able to withstand his punches. Burgos is just too dangerous on the feet to pick against after seeing that kind of vulnerability. Early knockout win for Burgos.
Prediction: Burgos via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Frankie Perez vs. Marc Diakese
After two of Johnny Case’s UFC Fight Night 59 opponents fell through, Frankie Perez (10-2) stepped up on short notice and suffered the first stoppage loss of his career. Undaunted, he returned to the cage in Aug. 2015, knocking out Sam Stout in less than one minute to earn "Performance of the Night."
This will be his first fight since, as he originally decided to retire.
Marc Diakese (10-0) crushed some bones on the English circuit to become BAMMA's Lightweight champion and defend it with two knockouts in a combined minute. "Bonecrusher" made his Octagon debut two months ago with a knockout of late replacement Lukasz Sajewski in a very entertaining two-round battle.
He has knocked out five opponents overall, four of them in the first round.
This here is a darn good fight. Perez’s technical grappling presents a lovely contrast with and important test for Diakese’s frantic bruising. Thus far in his career, the 23-year-old "Bonecrusher" has been able to compensate for his faults with raw athleticism and Perez presents a foe he can’t just Hulk his way past.
I’ll be rooting for Diakese, but I think this is where his "0" goes. Perez is durable enough to survive Diakese’s bombs and skilled enough on the ground to end it when the Congo-born slugger runs out of steam.
Prediction: Perez via third-round submission
185 lbs.: Keith Berish vs. Ryan Janes
Keith Berish (5-0) stopped four of his first five opponents -- two of them in the first round -- to earn a UFC shot in 2014. In his disastrous debut, his knee crumpled beneath him while carrying Brazilian jiu-jitsu legend Robert Drysdale, although Drysdale’s failed drug test overturned the loss.
This will be his first fight in more than two years because of injury.
Canada’s Ryan Janes (8-1) battled his way to the BFL Middleweight title in 2015 and successfully defended it four months later. He was set to make his Octagon debut in August before countryman Adam Hunter tested positive for lots of drugs, then missed out on a fight with Dongi Yang on the ill-fated Manila card.
Six of his seven wins have come by rear-naked choke.
Berish is definitely facing an uphill battle here. Janes is more experienced as a professional, has some quality grappling and isn’t coming off a two-year layoff. While I haven’t seen too much footage of Janes, there’s way too much working in his favor for me to pick against him.
If Berish can’t get a quick finish, Janes’s experience should carry the day. The rust just seals it. Janes overwhelms him for yet another rear-naked choke victory.
Prediction: Janes via first-round submission
115 lbs.: Juliana Lima vs. J.J. Aldrich
uliana Lima (8-3) hopped right into the deep end in her UFC debut, losing a decision to future champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Wins over Nina Ansaroff and Ericka Almeida followed, after which she lost a decision to former champion Carla Esparza at UFC 197.
"Ju Thai" is a full decade older than her opponent.
J.J. Aldrich (7-2) impressed Jedrzeczyk enough to be her first Strawweight pick on TUF 23, but came up short in a clash of first picks against eventual winner Tatiana Suarez. Undaunted, she’s won two straight since, including an Invicta fight just last month (Nov. 18, 2016). S
he steps in for the injured Suarez on one week’s notice.
There’s really not much going for Aldrich here. Not only is she fighting for the second time in less than one month and doing so on short notice, Lima has the kind of overpowering wrestling game that Suarez used to great effect. It’s hard to envision Aldrich spending much time on her feet, much less doing any lasting damage there.
Lima may never touch the title, but she’s got the style to give a good chunk of the division fits. Aldrich, unfortunately for her, falls into that chunk. Lima soundly outwrestles her for a decision win.
Prediction: Lima via unanimous decision
Hey, you’ve already got that $9.99 Fight Pass subscription -- might as well use it. See you Friday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 102 fight card tomorrow night, starting with the UFC Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, before the UFC Fight Pass main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.