An intriguing crossroads fight helms UFC’s trip to Gdansk, Poland, this weekend (Sat., Oct. 21, 2017) as Donald Cerrone — riding back-to-back losses for the first time in his mixed martial arts (MMA) career — faces rising star Darren Till. UFC Fight Night 118 will also see local favorite Karolina Kowalkiewicz take on Invicta veteran Jodie Esquibel and Jan Blachowicz attempt to end his current 1-4 skid against Devin Clark.
You can catch the entire event on UFC Fight Pass. So let’s start from the bottom up — here are four of the seven “Prelims” undercard matches that will kick off just before noon.
185 lbs.: Sam Alvey vs. Ramazan Emeev
Sam Alvey (31-9) has had plenty to smile about recently, winning five of six in the span of 13 months. After a tough loss to Thales Leites in April, he notched perhaps the biggest win of his career with a split decision over Rashad Evans two months ago.
He replaces Trevor Smith on less than two weeks notice.
The Azerbaijan-born Ramazan Emeev (15-3) has long reigned as one of Russia’s top Heavyweight fighters, twice winning the M-1 Middleweight title and going 12-1 in his last 13 fights. His current four-fight win streak includes a submission of standout Vyacheslav Vasilevsky and, most recently, a decision over Anatoly Tokov that snapped the latter’s 17-fight win streak.
He has submitted seven professional opponents and knocked out another three.
Emeev — though not overwhelming in any particular area — certainly has the skills to excel in UFC. Solid boxing and top control have thus far carried him to success in Russia and ought to do the same against top Middleweight fighters.
That said, Alvey’s a significantly tougher match up than the game-but-fragile Smith. Emeev has proven easy to hit while closing the distance and isn’t a particularly overwhelming physical specimen at 185 pounds. Alvey may have a near-unmatched ability to shoot himself in the foot through his own lack of urgency, but Emeev’s style will give him way too many counter opportunities for me to pick against him.
Prediction: Alvey via second-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Artem Lobov vs. Andre Fili
Following a loss in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 22 house and consecutive defeats against Ryan Hall and Alex White in UFC itself, Artem Lobov (14-13-1) proved he was more than just a punchline by beating Chris Avila and Teruto Ishihara. These wins netted him a main event slot opposite Cub Swanson, who outstruck him over the course of five round in a “Fight of the Night”-winning bout.
He will give up a staggering nine inches of reach to Andre Fili (16-5).
“Touchy” — who entered UFC with some fanfare thanks to his Team Alpha Male association and debut knockout of Jeremy Larson — has yet to find consistency in UFC, alternating wins and losses. His last bout saw him face late replacement Calvin Kattar and, despite being a -350 favorite, lost a fairly one-sided decision at UFC 214.
Half of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.
By all accounts, Fili should smack the bejeesus out of Lobov. The reach advantage is absurd and Fili has the style to take advantage of it ... not to mention the meta fact that his win/loss alternation has him scheduled for a victory. Fili’s got a much more rounded striking game and superior wrestling on top of all that.
Lobov could undoubtedly surprise us again, but Fili’s holding all the cards. Heavy kicks and long-range punches steadily wear down Lobov for the finish.
Prediction: Fili via second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Lina Lansberg vs. Aspen Ladd
Lina Lansberg (7-2) was rather thoroughly deposed in her UFC debut when Cristiane “Cyborg” battered her into submission midway through the second round. “The Elbow Princess” bounced back with a decision over former foe Lucie Pudilova in March, but had to withdraw from a planned fight with Leslie Smith in Glasgow.
She has stopped four MMA opponents with strikes, two of them in the first round.
Aspen Ladd (5-0) followed her 8-1 amateur career by racking up five wins in Invicta, including a submission of TUF 23 finalist Amanda Cooper and a decision over current TUF 26 competitor Sijara Eubanks. This paved the way for a debut fight with Jessica Eye, only for Ladd to suffer illness on the day of the fight and withdraw.
She is 13 years younger than Lansberg (almost to the day).
The name of the game here is pace. Lansberg enjoys keeping opponents against the cage and going to work with knees and elbows, while Ladd throws a huge volume of punches while constantly pressing forward. I’m leaning toward Ladd’s activity. She’s hittable, wears damage and can be controlled in the clinch, but that frenetic offense looks like a recipe for success considering Lansberg’s struggles with Pudilova in the third round. Ladd outworks her for either a clear decision win or late ground-and-pound stoppage.
Prediction: Ladd via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Felipe Arantes vs. Josh Emmett
Felipe Arantes (18-8-1) opened his Bantamweight campaign with consecutive armbar finishes of Yves Jabouin and Jerrod Sanders, earning “Performance of the Night” for the former before losing a close split decision against Erik Perez. “Sertanejo” — who missed weight badly against Perez — went on to withdraw from a fight against Luke Sanders just two days before the event.
He has knocked out seven professional opponents and submitted another six.
The high-volume offense of Josh Emmett (11-1) carried him to victory in UFC bouts with Jon Tuck and Scott Holtzman. Former Titan FC champ Des Green proved a tougher out, wearing down Emmett en route to a split decision victory.
This will be his Featherweight debut.
Arantes is well-rounded and extremely durable, but held back by iffy takedown defense. Luckily, Emmett isn’t much of a wrestling enthusiast, preferring to trade hands. Arantes has a more complete kickboxing game and is dangerous enough in scrambles to punish Emmett if he tries to change levels anyway.
Cardio may be the key here. Arantes regularly comes on strong in the later portions of the fight and Emmett gassed badly against Green. “Sertanejo” absorbs Emmett’s early onslaught and ultimately whittles him down with heavy strikes and submission attempts.
Prediction: Arantes via split decision
There are three more UFC Fight Night 118 “Prelims” undercard matches to preview and predict, including Marcin Held in a must-win against an undefeated prospect. See you tomorrow, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 118 card on Saturday afternoon, 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 on Fight Pass at 3 p.m. ET.