Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is packing its bags for a journey to the Great White North, bringing a terrific Welterweight showdown to the TD Place Arena in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Local favorite and recent title challenger Rory MacDonald will look to begin another trek to the top at the expense of Stephen Thompson, who brings with him a six-fight win streak.
Fellow Canadian Patrick Cote faces Donald Cerrone in this Saturday night's (June 18, 2016) co-main event, while former enforcer Steve Bosse takes on Sean O'Connell in a clash of light heavyweight knockout artists.
You can catch the eight Prelims on Fight Pass and FOX Sports 2, with four apiece scheduled for the evening of July 18, 2016. Here's the former for those of you who have ponied up $9.99 a month:
185 lbs.: Elias Theodorou vs. Sam Alvey
The ever-stylish Elias Theodorou (11-1) tore through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Nations" and brought that momentum with him into UFC itself, where he won his first three bouts with two (technical) knockout stoppages. In Dec. 2015, however, he wilted under Thiago Santos’ striking onslaught en route to a unanimous decision loss.
He’s knocked out five opponents overall.
Despite badly underperforming in his Octagon debut, Sam Alvey (26-7) quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with three-straight first-round knockouts, one of which earned him a Performance of the Night bonus. Said streak came to a dramatic end last August when his habitual slow start allowed Derek Brunson to batter him into submission in the first round.
He was set to fight Daniel Sarafian early this year before suffering a broken jaw during training.
Alvey’s charming and hits ridiculously hard, but that loss to Brunson better have lit a fire under him. The man just lets his opponents get away with far too much before unleashing his own offense, turning far too many of his fights into a race against time to make up for all the ground he lost with a last-second knockout.
So, in short, I’m not terribly confident in my pick.
Alvey is a serious step up from the likes of Sheldon Westcott and Bruno Santos and, while he doesn’t have Santos’ striking variety or body assault, I’m not sure Theodorou can take what the Smiling One can dish out. Alvey spends on a round and a half on the wrong end of a well-rounded attack before turning things around with a barrage of power punches.
Prediction: Alvey by second-round technical knockout
115 lbs.: Randa Markos vs. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger
A pair of major upsets over Tecia Torres and Felice Herrig took Randa Markos (5-3) to TUF 20 semifinals, where she fell to the surging Rose Namajunas like so many of her fellows. In UFC proper, she’s sandwiched a decision over Aisling Daly between losses to castmate Jessica Penne and rising contender Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
Three of her five wins have come by armbar.
The towering Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger (6-2) took out former Bellator champion Zoila Frausto in Oct. 2015 winning the RFA title and earning her a crack at the world’s largest fight promotion. Two months later at UFC 194, she stepped in against Tecia Torres on short notice and put forth a solid effort despite ultimately losing a unanimous decision.
She stands two inches taller than Markos at 5’7."
If Randa Markos fights intelligently, she ought to win in a landslide. Her wrestling is more than adequate to offset Jones-Lybarger’s strength and the latter’s utter lack of striking defense should make Markos’ booming right hand a terrific weapon. That’s a considerable "if," though, as Markos can sometimes fail to notice which disparate aspect of her game is best-suited for the situation.
Still, Jones-Lybarger has little to offer besides pressure and decent power. Markos lands enough right-hand bombs and takedowns to score a wide decision.
Prediction: Markos by unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Colby Covington vs. Jonathan Meunier
American Top Team’s Colby Covington (8-1) absolutely demolished Anying Wang in his promotional debut, then followed that up with a submission of TUF: "Brazil 2" competitor Wagner Gomes and a decision over veteran Mike Pyle. His fourth bout pitted him against fellow prospect Warlley Alves, who punished an overzealous takedown attempt with a vicious guillotine eighty-one seconds in.
"Chaos" has submitted four opponents, not counting the one who tapped to strikes.
Tristar Quebec’s Jonathan Meunier (7-0) has seen the second round just once in his professional career, stopping all seven of his foes. He competed just last month, earning his second career submission with a rear-naked choke of Francis Charbonneau.
He replaces the injured Alex Garcia on short notice.
I can’t find any recent footage of Meunier, but if it exists, it better be damn impressive. Covington is an absolute powerhouse of a wrestler with quality cardio, a step above anyone Meunier’s fought before. I had him tabbed to beat Garcia and I expect him to dispatch the lanky Quebecois with far greater ease.
Meunier’s history of rapid wins may work against him as Covington pushes his conditioning to the limit, a hazard only exacerbated by the late notice. "Chaos" rebounds from his first career loss with a dominant performance, grinding his foe down before tapping him in the second.
Prediction: Covington by second-round submission
125 lbs.: Ali Bagautinov vs. Geane Herrera
Ali Bagautinov (13-4) -- alternately known as "Puncher," "King" or both -- brought an 11-fight win streak into his title shot against Demetrious Johnson, which failed to save him from a one-sided decision loss and subsequent suspension for PEDs. He returned to action almost 16 months later, losing a decision to Joseph Benavidez in Houston.
He’s knocked out five opponents and submitted another four.
Geane Herrera (9-1) took elite prospect Ray Borg the distance in his UFC debut in a game but losing effort. Four months later, "La Pulga" -- or "The Flea" for the gringos among you -- squared off with fellow young gun Joby Sanchez and knocked the striker out in the second round.
Five of his nine pro wins have come by submission.
Drugs aside, Bagautinov is a terribly frustrating fighter to follow. He has excellent wrestling and some serious power in his hands, but his poor ringcraft and lack of volume lead to regular underperformance. Though Herrera doesn’t present any difficulties that Bagautinov hasn’t overcome in the past, there’s a very real possibility that the former title challenger gives the fight away.
Still, Bagautinov is the better striker and wrestler overall. Expect him to potshot his way to either a wide decision or, should he decide to fully engage, a knockout midway through.
Prediction: Bagautinov by unanimous decision
Four fights remain, including Tamdan McCrory's latest appearance and a clash between Light Heavyweight prospects.
Same time tomorrow, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 89 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 10:30 p.m. ET.