Two of the Bantamweight division’s most devastating punchers will battle it out this Saturday evening (Oct. 1, 2016) when John Lineker faces former Flyweight title challenger John Dodson in the main event of UFC Fight night 96, which will take place inside Moda Center in Portland, Ore., airing live and free on FOX Sports 1.
UFC Fight Night 96 will also see former Bellator MMA Lightweight champion Will Brooks square off against tough-as-nails Alex Oliveira and fan-favorite Flyweight Louis Smolka duke it out with recent The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) competitor Brandon Moreno.
We’ve got eight "Prelims" undercard matches attached to the four-fight FOX Sports 1-televised main card. Check out the Fight Pass line up below:
185 lbs.: Nate Marquardt vs. Tamdan McCrory
With five losses in his previous six fights, Nate Marquardt (34-16-2) appeared to breathe new life into his career with a stunning one-punch knockout of C.B. Dollaway. "The Great" couldn’t capitalize on the momentum, however, as he was blown out in the first round by Thiago Santos six months later.
The 37-year-old veteran has stopped his opponent in all but one of his wins since 2007.
After more than five years out of the sport, Tamdan McCrory (14-4) returned to the cage with two wins in a combined 1:27. He went on to submit Josh Samman upon re-signing with UFC, but suffered a surprise knockout loss to Krzysztof Jotko in June.
"Barn Cat" is four inches taller and eight years younger than Marquardt.
Even with the Jotko loss, I’m having a hard time picturing McCrory losing here. Marquardt is beyond shot. He was never a great technician and the grit and toughness that made "The Great" so fearsome in the past is gone. His wrestling hasn’t stood the test of time, either. McCrory’s length and power seem perfectly suited to handing Marquardt his fifth (technical) knockout loss in the last three years. He catches Nate early for the finish.
Prediction: McCrory via first-round knockout
205 lbs.: Jonathan Wilson vs. Ion Cutelaba
Jonathan Wilson (7-1) made quite the impression in his Octagon debut, knocking out Chris Dempsey in just 50 seconds. In his second Octagon appearance, "Johnny Bravo" slugged it out with Luis Henrique da Silva, who survived Wilson’s punches and put him away with ground-and-pound in the second.
Six of his profesional wins have come by knockout, five of them in the first round.
Moldova’s Ion Cutelaba (11-2) brought a seven-fight win streak, all by knockout, into his UFC debut opposite Misha Cirkunov. Cutelaba took him to the third round, but could not handle his fellow prospect’s grappling skills and wound up tapping to an arm-triangle.
All of his wins are by stoppage, seven of them inside one minute.
Oh, this is going to be good. Both Wilson and Cutelaba excel at early finishes and pack huge power in their hands. However long it lasts, it’s going to be absolutely wild and absolutely violent.
And then Cutelaba’s going to take his head off.
Against Henrique, Wilson ran out of steam after one competitive round. Cutelaba may not have had much success against Cirkunov, but he at least stayed in the fight for two rounds against a top prospect. When the fists start flying, I have more faith in Cutelaba’s ability to stand strong than in Wilson’s. The Moldovan pounds him out late in the first or early in the second.
Prediction: Cutelaba via first-round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Cody East vs. Curtis Blaydes
Another find from "Lookin’ for a Fight," Cody East (12-2) joined the world’s largest fight promotion with nine consecutive wins. Though favored against fellow slugger Walt Harris, "The Freight Train" succumbed to power punches late in the first round.
He has scored eight wins by knockout and three by submission.
Less than two months after his fifth knockout in five fights, Curtis Blaydes (5-1) stepped up on short notice to take on Cameroonian colossus Francis Ngannou in Zagreb. He managed to survive until the end of the second round, when a badly swollen eye forced the referee to call the fight.
He is one inch taller and three years younger than East.
Blaydes is still a solid prospect, honestly. He’s got a great wrestling base and showed impressive resilience against the nuclear fists of Ngannou. East will likely have difficulty staying off his back, especially since the streak that brought him to UFC featured a whopping zero quality takedown artists.
The power’s there for East, obviously, but if Ngannou couldn’t turn Blaydes’ light out, odds are "The Freight Train" can’t do it, either. Blaydes grinds him down for a decision victory.
Prediction: Blaydes via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Kelly Faszholz vs. Ketlen Vieira
Once set to face current division standout Valentina Shevchenko under the Legacy FC banner, Kelly Faszholz (3-1) instead stepped up on short notice to take on Lauren Murphy in Pittsburgh. Though she came up short, she did manage to give the former Invicta standout a tough out and earn "Fight of the Night" honors in the process.
All three of her wins have come by submission.
Ketlen Vieira (6-0) has spent her two-year career entirely in Brazil, earning stoppages in her first five fights. She had to go the distance for the first time in February, but picked up the win over then-unbeaten Estafni Rodriguez.
"Fenomeno" has scored three submissions and two (technical) knockouts.
Vieira is game, aggressive, and a very willing brawler. She’s also very raw and has faced nobody of note, while Faszholz stood up to an extremely tough scrapper in Lauren Murphy who had been competitive with some of the division’s best.
If and when the two elect to trade hands, Faszholz figures to be crisper and might have a bit more power. Vieira’s likely to struggle with her takedowns as well, as Faszholz to deny Murphy’s wrestling offense for a good chunk of the fight. Faszholz just seems to have the edge everywhere; expect her to stay in control no matter where the fight goes and eventually walk away with the decision.
Prediction: Faszholz via unanimous decision
Four more UFC Fight Night 96 "Prelims" undercard matches to preview and predict tomorrow, ranging from Featherweight to Heavyweight. Same time as always, Maniacs.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 96 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m. ET, and then the remaining under card balance on FOX Sports 1 at 9 p.m. ET, before the FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 11 p.m. ET.