Some people say lower-weight fighters aren’t exciting. As UFC Fight Night 96 this Saturday night (Oct. 1, 2016) will prove, those people are not terribly bright.
Brawler supreme John Lineker and former Flyweight title contender John Dodson will do battle this weekend inside Moda Center in Portland, Ore., looking to build off of their recent brutal knockout victories. In addition, Alex "Cowboy" Oliveira returns to the Lightweight division against former Bellator MMA champion Will Brooks, while Josh Burkman welcomes King of the Cage veteran Zak Ottow to the Octagon.
The four-fight main card features a four-fight "Prelims" undercard lead-in on the same network, FOX Sports 1 (check out the Fight Pass portion here). Here’s what that undercard set has to offer:
205 lbs.: Luis Henrique da Silva vs. Joachim Christensen
Luis Henrique da Silva (11-0) has made a habit of ending things early, stopping all 11 of his opponents by form of knockout. In his UFC debut, Brazil's "Frankenstein" out-slugged Jonathan Wilson and ultimately put him away with second-round ground-and-pound.
Eight of his 11 knockouts have come in the first round.
The latest Danish import to join the UFC, Joachim Christensen (13-3) enters the Octagon on a five-fight win streak. Said streak includes wins over former M-1 champion Stephan Puetz, Swedish prospect Max Nunes, and Bellator veteran Jonas Billstein.
He has earned four wins by knockout and five by submission.
All signs point to Christensen being a real handful for Henrique. The Dane has never been stopped and actually has experience going three rounds. He’s also significantly more proven against high-level opposition. Indeed, Henrique’s best wins came over Wilson -- who gassed out early -- and Ildemar Alcantara, who was giving him the business before being stopped.
Barring Octagon jitters, this looks like an eminently winnable fight for Christensen. He controls the striking at range and sneaks in a few takedowns to break da Silva down and eventually pound him out.
Prediction: Christensen by third-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Hacran Dias vs. Andre Fili
Following a 1-2 start to his UFC career, Hacran Dias (23-4-1) righted the ship with consecutive wins over fellow grinders Darren Elkins and Levan Makashvili. Ten months after the latter fight, he survived two knockdowns, but ultimately lost a decision against Cub Swanson.
"Barnabe" will give up two inches of height to the 5’10" Andre Fili (15-4).
Fili’s three-year UFC career has seen him alternate wins and losses en route to a 3-3 promotional record. Most recently, he took on Yair Rodriguez in April and wound up on the wrong end of a flying switch kick knockout.
He replaces the injured Brian Ortega on three weeks notice.
Fili may have a near-supernatural propensity for getting stopped in incredible fashion, but he’s the better striker of the two by a fair margin and ought to have the wrestling to shut down Dias’ grapple-heavy onslaught. There’s also Fili’s speed advantage to consider, an advantage he didn’t have against "Pantera."
Dias’ limited striking arsenal and lack of finishing ability will be his undoing. Fili steadily shuts down his wrestling game en route to a decision win.
Prediction: Fili via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Walt Harris
Nine wins in his previous 10 fights brought Shamil Abdurakhimov (16-3) to UFC, where he fell to first-round ground-and-pound against Timothy Johnson in his debut. Ten months later, he stepped back into the Octagon and took a decision over Anthony Hamilton in Pittsburgh.
"Abrek" has seven wins by form of knockout and four via submission.
Walt Harris (8-4) went two-and-out in his first UFC stint, then fell to Soa Palelei in his short-notice Octagon return. In April, he finally managed to pick up his first win in the promotion by knocking out Cody East in the first round.
All eight of his wins have come by first-round knockout.
Harris’ size, athleticism and power are all impressive, but he seems to run out of ideas if he can’t put his man away in the first round. He let the slow and awkward Jared Rosholt off the hook after dropping him early and even the aforementioned Palelei, notorious for being dead on his feet after the first five minutes, managed to overpower him well into the second round.
Considering Abdurakhimov has only one (technical) knockout loss on his record, which came from ground-and-pound, that’s not a good flaw to have. "Abrek" is the cleaner striker and ought to be able to withstand Harris’ early onslaught. Expect him to steadily pick Harris apart the way he did Hamilton, possibly stopping "The Big Ticket" late.
Prediction: Abdurakhimov via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Keita Nakamura vs. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos
Seven years after his exit from UFC, Keita Nakamura (32-7-2) returned to the promotion with a comeback submission of Jingliang Li at Saitama Super Arena. "K-Taro" then lost a decision to Tom Breese before dropping and stopping Kyle Noke in July.
Fifteen of his wins have come by rear-naked choke.
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (15-5) saw his four-fight win streak come to an end in his Octagon debut, where he fought Nicolas Dalby to a split decision in Goiania. Next time out, he overcame an early deficit to knock out Omari Akhmedov and earn "Fight of the Night" in the process.
Brazil’s "Capoeira" has knocked out 10 opponents and submitted another two.
"Capoeira" is the faster of the two and by far the bigger hitter on the feet, but his lacking takedown defense got him in trouble in both of his UFC fights. Nakamura is terrific on the mat, a far better finisher there than Dalby and Akhmedov -- if he gets Zaleski to the mat, he’s not getting back up.
While Zaleski will have a clear striking advantage, Nakamura hasn’t been stopped by strikes since 2008 and absorbed some heavy shots from Li without falling. Expect him to stand up to Zaleski’s power, capitalize on his aggression and drive him to the mat for the eventual rear-naked choke finish.
Prediction: Nakamura via second-round submission
Regardless of what you think of the rest of the card, UFC Fight Night 96's main event is absolutely must-watch mixed martial arts (MMA). See you Saturday, 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.