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UFC Norfolk predictions, preview, and analysis

UFC Media Day - Sergio & Anthony Pettis Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on television this Saturday night (Nov. 11, 2017) with the UFC Fight Night 120 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on FOX Sports 1, which features a lightweight main event between Dustin Poirier and Anthony Pettis, who battle for a spot in the 155-pound title chase.

In the UFC Fight Night 120 co-main event, welterweight bruiser Matt Brown makes his final appearance inside the Octagon when he takes center stage opposite longtime veteran Diego Sanchez inside Ted Constant Convocation Center in Norfolk, Virginia.

Who wins and who loses?

I’m glad you asked. But before we get into the main card predictions, let’s first break down the UFC Norfolk “Prelims” on UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 here and here. Odds and betting lines for “Poirier vs. Pettis” can be located here.

155 lbs.: Dustin Poirier (21-5) vs. Anthony Pettis (20-6)

What in the world happened to Showtime?

Pettis went from being considered unstoppable to losing four of five and looking painfully mortal in the process. He only turned 30 this year, but it feels like he’s well past his best.

It’s worth remembering, however, that he lost to Rafael Dos Anjos, Eddie Alvarez (controversially), Edson Barboza, and Max Holloway, beasts one and all. Poirier is a physical powerhouse, no doubt, but neither the wrestler Alvarez is nor the technician the other three are.

Poirier pressures well, yes, but not as effectively as Dos Anjos. He also doesn’t work the body the way RDA and Max Holloway do, and most importantly, he leaves himself way too open when looking for the finish. Pettis fell to accumulation from Max Holloway, but his chin itself remains uncracked.

The same can’t be said for Poirier.

Pettis’ superior footwork and durability should pay increasing dividends as Poirier begins to overcommit to big shots. Expect him to rock Poirier on the counter and lock up a submission when Poirier instinctively shoots in.

Prediction: Pettis by third-round submission

170 lbs.: Matt Brown (20-16) vs. Diego Sanchez (27-10)

I get that Diego Sanchez is absolutely nuts, but someone really should have intervened between him being offered this fight and him signing on the dotted line. He got knocked out cold for the first time in April and his response was to move back to welterweight and fight one of the most violent dudes there.

Sanchez with an intact chin would have at least a decent shot considering Brown’s inconsistent takedown defense and ineffectiveness off of his back. The current Sanchez has a massive array of elbows, knees, and punches waiting for him when he tries to tie up. Brown has some of the best shot selection in the sport and more than enough gas to stand firm against Diego’s pace.

Sanchez is simply no longer capable of being the chin-first, balls-to-the-wall bruiser he so loves being and we’re past the point where he could make enough meaningful adjustments to his style to stay relevant. There’s not much he can do against a bigger, stronger, and more powerful striker. Brown crunches him with a knee or elbow inside for the finish.

Prediction: Brown by first-round TKO

265 lbs.: Junior Albini (14-2) vs. Andrei Arlovski (25-15)

At what point is it just irresponsible to send Andrei Arlovski back into the cage against big, young power punchers? He’s not like Alistair Overeem, who’s constantly switching up his game and still looks physically sound. Arlovski has these nostalgic little bursts of violence, but he’s shopworn, slowing down, and showed serious cardio flaws against Marcin Tybura.

I’m not saying he can’t knock Albini out, I’m saying that the chance of victory is no longer sufficient to justify putting him in this situation.

Albini is still unproven, but his power is legit and Arlovski’s there to be hit. Further, Arlovski hasn’t shown his sambo chops in years and Albini held his own against the very strong Timothy Johnson, so a takedown and vintage Arlovski leglock is pretty much out of the question. Albini sparks him early.

Prediction: Albini by first-round knockout

185 lbs.: Nate Marquardt (35-18-2) vs. Cezar Ferreira (11-6)

Props to Ferreira; he recognized that he does not have the defense or durability to fight the way he used to, so he fundamentally altered his style, going from straight-armed slugger to patient counter-puncher and focused wrestler.

It’s not going to get him any fans, but a win bonus beats a knockout loss most days of the week.

Marquardt, on the other hand, is pretty much still the same Marquardt we’ve been watching for over a decade, if a little less durable and a little more prone to stretches of inaction. He’s got the power to spark “Mutante” in one hit, but the inverse is also true, which could make for an agonizingly hesitant fight on both sides.

I’m leaning towards Ferreira’s strength, top control, and counters to carry him to a narrow victory. Maybe they can chat about how dumb it was to drop to welterweight while Ferreira’s on top.

Prediction: Ferreira by unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Raphael Assunção (25-5) vs. Matthew Lopez (10-1)

Well, if anyone’s going to drag a watchable fight out of the modern iteration of Assunção, it’s Lopez.

Assunção has legitimately world-class skills, but is so agonizingly painful to watch that he’d have to wipe the floor with every other contender in the division to be even considered for a title shot. Lopez is a good place to start thanks to his furious pace and willingness to scramble, which will give Assunção plenty of countering opportunities.

Though Lopez will have a monumental volume edge, Assunção has airtight takedown defense and should be able to slow the pace once his counters start piling up, especially since Lopez has been dropped hard in the past. As impressive as running over Johnny Eduardo was, Lopez is still just a bit too raw to win this on bravado alone. Assunção drops him with a counter and chokes him out when he tries to scramble up.

Prediction: Assunção by second-round submission

155 lbs.: Joe Lauzon (27-13) vs. Clay Guida (33-17)

This matchmaking brings to mind a simpler time of Spike TV and Corn Nuts, when the only way you could watch the Prelims was if someone on pay-per-view got thumped in under two minutes. They actually made their UFC debuts within a PPV of each other, Lauzon knocking out Jens Pulver at UFC 63 and Guida submitting Justin James at UFC 64.

Hard to believe it’s been eleven years since then.

It’s not as relevant as it would have been some years back, but this is still a solid opener. Lauzon’s always good for at least a round of insanity and Guida’s going to give him plenty of opportunities to pull off something wild on the ground. The question is what happens if Lauzon lets those opportunities slip by.

I don’t know if it’s just because of his style or what, but Lauzon has a nasty habit of turning into dead weight after five minutes and Guida, if nothing else, demands that you have top-notch cardio. If Lauzon can’t wrap up that caveman head early, Guida’s going to put his lungs through the wringer.

Expect plenty of early submission attempts from “J-Lau,” but Guida’s got enough left in the tank to scramble out of them and wear him down over fifteen grueling minutes.

Prediction: Guida by unanimous decision

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 120 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the UFC Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 "Prelims" bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

For much more on this weekend’s FOX Sports 1 event click here.

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