The most-stacked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) division churns out another quality scrap this weekend (Sat., Sept. 17, 2016) as Dustin Poirier and Michael Johnson battle it out in the FOX Sports 1-televised main event of UFC Fight Night 94 inside State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas.
In the co-main event, Derek Brunson will collide with Uriah Hall at Middleweight, while former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) Featherweight champion, Rick Glenn, will make his Octagon debut against Lightweight stalwart Evan Dunham.
Before all that, though, we’ve got four "Prelims" undercard matches to set the table on FOX Sports 1 to complement the two Fight Pass bouts we examined yesterday right here. Scroll down and let’s get into it:
145 lbs.: Gabriel Benitez vs. Sam Sicilia
Gabriel Benitez (18-5) -- represented Team Mexico on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Latin America" -- took out Diego Rivas in the quarterfinals before dropping a decision to Leonardo Morales in the semifinals. "Moggly" bounced back with two wins in two UFC appearances, but fell short against Andre Fili in Nov. 2015.
His 15 finishes are split 9/6 between submissions and knockouts.
An eight-second knockout in the elimination round got TUF 15 run for Sam Sicilia (14-6) off to a great start, only for Chris Saunders to end it via upset in the Round of 16. He has gone 5-5 in the promotion itself, most recently suffering a knockout loss to top prospect Doo Ho Choi.
He has knocked out eight opponents overall.
Sicilia really isn’t very good. He’s a brawler without the chin needed to brawl, a wrestler without the technique to set up his takedowns. The question is whether that’s enough to take out the fairly limited Benitez.
Hell, why not.
Benitez has the technical striking edge and could very well spark Sicilia, but his ground game is still a question mark. At the very least, Sicilia can maintain top position well and do decent damage from the guard. If he can mix up things even a bit, he should take a competitive decision.
Prediction: Sicilia via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Augusto Montano vs. Belal Muhammad
Augusto Montano (15-2) made an impressive statement in his Octagon debut, demolishing Chris Heatherly with a storm of knees. His next appearance was rather less triumphant, dropping a decision to Cathal Pendred and testing positive for testosterone in the aftermath.
All 15 wins for "Dodger" have come via stoppage, thirteen of them inside the first round.
After knocking out Steve Carl to earn the Titan FC Welterweight championship, Belal Muhammad (9-1) stepped up on short notice to take on Alan Jouban in July. There, he made a compelling case for his nickname, weathering a near-knockout to push the favored "Brahma" to the limit.
"Remember the Name" will give up three inches of height to the 6’1" Montano.
Montano is in for it here. The Mexican has solid size and power, but his technique is lacking across the board. Worse, Muhammad proved incredibly resilient in the face of Alan Jouban’s power shots. His grit and aggression are a hard counter for "Dodger’s" raw physicality.
Unless Montano can land a monster knee early on, Muhammad’s withering striking attack will carry him to a decisive victory. Muhammad picks him apart on the feet for either a unanimous decision or late technical knockout.
Prediction: Muhammad via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Jose Alberto Quinones vs. Joey Gomez
Jose Alberto Quinones (4-2) and his standout facial hair reached TUF: "Latin America" Finale before losing a decision to teammate Alejandro Perez. His second UFC bout saw him choke out featherweight finalist Leonardo Morales halfway through the first round.
This will be his first fight in 15 months.
Riding high on six consecutive first-round knockouts, Joey Gomez (6-1) stepped up on short notice to take on Rob Font in January. Font apparently had no respect for royalty, stopping Gomez with a powerful flurry late in the second. Five of the six professional wins for "The KO King" have come inside of two minutes.
This is honestly way more of a gut pick than I’m comfortable with, but I’m going with "El Teco." Gomez looked slow and gunshy against Font and, while that could have been Octagon jitters, it doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence. Especially since he’d never gone past the first round before.
Whether he was trying to conserve cardio or was just overwhelmed by the situation, he didn’t show enough for me to pick him over Quinones, a capable striker in his own right with some decent wrestling to back him up. The Mexican slugger drags him into deep waters for the decision win.
Prediction: Quinones via unanimous decision
185 lbs.: Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Leonardo Guimaraes
Antonio Carlos Junior (5-2) ran roughshod over his fellow Heavyweights on TUF: "Brazil 3," ultimately defeating Vitor Miranda by decision on the Finale. After losing to Patrick Cummins at 205 pounds, "Cara de Sapato" dropped to Middleweight, where he’s gone 1-1 (1 NC).
Four of his five professional wins have come by submission.
A seven-fight unbeaten streak -- capped off with a decision over TUF: "Brazil 3" competitor Richardson Moreira -- brought Leonardo Guimaraes (11-2) to UFC, where he debuted against Anthony Smith this past February. Despite a late surge, the Brazilian wound up losing the decision, his first defeat since 2011.
"Leleco" has submitted six opponents himself.
Honestly, I still have fairly high hopes for ol’ "Shoeface." He’s still young at 26, packs serious power in addition to his ground skills, and is fighting out of an excellent camp in American Top Team. By all rights, he should run roughshod over Guimaraes, who doesn’t have much to offer besides aggression and rudimentary striking.
All Carlos needs to do here is ensure that his takedowns are on point -- none of those hopeless double legs he tried against Daniel Kelly. Once he gets it to the ground, it’s a wash.
Prediction: Carlos via first-round submission
UFC Fight Night 94 features a pretty badass main event and -- even if you don’t like the rest of the card -- it’s free. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 94 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.