Two former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight champions in need of a big win do battle this Saturday afternoon (Sept. 3, 2016) when Andrei Arlovski trades leather with Josh Barnett inside Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany. In addition, former Light Heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson returns after 11 months away to face Jan Blachowicz, while his Swedish buddy Ilir Latifi squares off with Ryan Bader in a clash of heavy-handed wrestlers.
UFC Fight Night 93 will stream entirely on the mixed martial arts (MMA) league's subscription-only online network, UFC Fight Pass, with seven "Prelims" undercard bouts setting the main card stage. Here are the first four.
135 lbs.: Leandro Issa vs. Taylor Lapilus
After tapping out to Russell Doane in his Octagon debut, Leandro Issa (13-5) showed off his Brazilian jiu-jitsu prowess with consecutive submissions of Jumabieke Tuerxun and Yuta Sasaki. His last time out, he grappled his way to an early lead against Iuri Alcantara before fading late in the face of "Marajo’s" power striking.
"Brodinho" has submitted nine opponents overall.
Taylor Lapilus (10-2) smashed up Rocky Lee in his UFC debut, then finished Yuta Sasaki in the second round for his first career knockout win. This set up a showdown with Jackson-Winklejohn product Erik Perez, who edged out the Frenchman over three competitive rounds.
His only other professional loss came against top-tier Flyweight prospect Magomed Bibulatov in 2013.
For someone with no experience under the unified rules before his UFC debut, Lapilus has been extremely impressive. His takedown defense has looked much stouter than expected and his striking has been crisp and effective.
In short, bad news for Issa.
The Brazilian’s top game is good enough to overwhelm almost anyone in the division should he get it to the mat, but his striking is an afterthought and his takedowns are extremely hit-and-miss. I doubt he’ll be able to control the Frenchman in the clinch and Lapilus’ striking edge ought to prove more and more effective as Issa’s failed attempts drain him. "Double Impact" pounds out a fading Issa in the third frame.
Prediction: Lapilus by third-round technical knockout
170 lbs.: Jim Wallhead vs. Jessin Ayari
Jim Wallhead (29-9) -- a Bellator MMA tournament competitor way back in 2011 and 2012 -- joins UFC after 11 years in the game. His resume includes wins over future/former UFC competitors Igor Araujo, Che Mills, Frank Trigg and Matt Veach, among others.
"Judo Jim" has won four straight since a knockout loss to Danny Roberts, three of them via knockout.
Jessin Ayari (15-3) has won six straight since a 2013 knockout loss, three of them via stoppage. His most recent bout saw him defeat former UFC competitor Mickael Lebout by decision. He is two inches taller than Wallhead at 6’0."
Not really sure on this one. Ayari’s physically strong and can put together some decent combinations, but Wallhead is far more experienced and proven on a high level. While he doesn’t have the takedown prowess that his nickname would suggest, he’s a very capable grappler and his recent knockout spree bodes ill for Ayari’s twice-cracked chin.
Ayari can do some damage in the clinch and his physicality might give him the edge in exchanges, but I think Wallhead’s experience, durability and punching power carry him to victory.
Prediction: Wallhead by first-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Veronica Macedo vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith
Venezuela’s Veronica Macedo (5-0) went undefeated (2-0) on the amateur circuit before making her professional debut this past March. She’s scored two finishes in that span, one via technical knockout and one by heel hook. She replaces the injured Germaine de Randamie on short notice.
The Octagon debut for Ashlee Evans-Smith (4-1) was a one-two punch of disappointment as she went out from a bulldog choke before being suspended for a failed drug test. She returned to action 15 months later with a close decision over Marion Reneau in Pittsburgh. She stands five inches taller than Macedo at 5’8."
I haven’t been very impressed with Evans-Smith’s UFC performances and I firmly believe she deserved the loss against Reneau, but it’s hard to imagine her losing here. Macedo is giving up size, her takedown defense isn’t up to snuff and she has less than six months of professional experience. Even if she wasn’t taking this fight on short notice, she’d be facing a major uphill battle.
Evans-Smith ought to dominate in a big way, grounding Macedo early and often before ultimately pounding her out.
Prediction: Evans-Smith via second-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Martin Buschkamp vs. Alex Enlund
Martin Buschkamp (9-0) has torn through the European circuit in his seven-year career, going past the first round just twice. All seven of those first-round stoppages have come by rear-naked choke and all but one have come within three minutes. At 25 years old, he is four years younger than Alex Enlund (14-2).
Two first-round losses in three fights slowed Enlund’s rise, but he’s gone on to win seven straight since. That run includes a submission of Artem Lobov and a five-round decision over Nad Narimani to earn the CWFC Featherweight title. He’s tapped 11 opponents and knocked out another two.
This is a really, really good fight that’s likely going to slip under the radar. Both Buschkamp and Enlund are tremendous grapplers with great takedown games and a knack for taking the back in scrambles. Buschkamp looks like the faster of the two and the more effective striker, while Enlund’s got the smoother takedown entries.
I’ve flip-flopped a few times, but I think I’m going to take Enlund. The Englishman is slightly more proven against quality opposition and his overall takedown game seems the better of the two. Though he is somewhat hittable, I expect him to win enough of the grappling exchanges to take a highly-entertaining opening bout.
Prediction: Enlund via unanimous decision
Three more UFC Fight Night 93 undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, featuring some of Europe’s best under-the-radar talent. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 93 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. ET, and then the remaining main card balance at 3 p.m. ET.