With local hero Mark Hunt forced to the sidelines for his own protection, it’s up to Fabricio Werdum to excite the Sydney, Australia, crowd when he takes on the rising Marcin Tybura in the main event of UFC Fight Night 121, which takes place inside Qudos Bank Arena this Saturday night (Nov. 18, 2017) on FOX Sports 1.
UFC Fight Night 121’s co-main event pits Bec Rawlings against fellow Aussie Jessy Rose-Clark, while Tim Means faces Belal Muhammad in what could be a show-stealing Welterweight brawl.
There is another 4:3 split for the “Prelims” undercard match this time. So, let’s start from the bottom:
125 lbs.: Alex Chambers vs. Nadia Kassem
Alex Chambers (5-3) — ranked No. 10 on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20 — fell to Rose Namajunas in the opening round and dropped a decision to Aisling Daly at the Finale. She got back on track with a comeback submission of Kailin Curran, only to get thumped by Paige VanZant soon after.
This will be her first fight in 26 months.
In four professional fights, Nadia Kassem (4-0) has spent a combined 2:22 in the cage, dispatching all opponents by (technical) knockout. Those victories included two at Strawweight, where she also earned an amateur win, and two at Flyweight.
The 21-year-old was originally set to debut in June before suffering an injury.
Before you ask: Yes, Kassem’s record is entirely empty. She has fought, in order, opponents who were 0-0, 0-4, 0-0, and 0-0. One of them, Belinda Sedgwick, is almost 40 and has been stopped in less than 100 seconds in all of her fights. To make my life more difficult, I can only find footage of about 30 seconds of that 2:22, plus some uninspiring amateur Muay Thai footage from 2015.
The next PVZ she is not.
Then again, Chambers has been dreadfully uninspiring in UFC, is coming off a huge layoff, is nearly 40, and really doesn’t like getting pressured. This is Kassem’s fight to lose — assuming she has at least eight minutes’ worth of gas, she walks down Chambers for either an accumulation stoppage or wide decision.
Prediction: Kassem via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Jenel Lausa vs. Eric Shelton
Jenel Lausa (7-3) — a former professional boxer — took home the PXC Flyweight title last year before roughing up Yao Zhikui in his Octagon debut. No good deed goes unpunished, though, and “Demolition Man” was subsequently selected to welcome top prospect Magomed Bibulatov to UFC, losing a one-sided decision in April.
He is an inch shorter and three years older than Eric Shelton (10-4).
Shelton’s run on TUF: “Tournament of Champions” ended in the semifinals with a majority decision loss to teammate Tim Elliott. His UFC run has been similarly contentious, dropping a close split decision to Alexandre Pantoja in his promotional debut before dropping a controversial one to Jarred Brooks six months later.
Half of his professional wins have come by submission.
Shelton legitimately lost to Pantoja, but he beat Brooks, and 15 of the 17 other media sites correlated on MMADecisions agree with me. He’s a legitimately elite Flyweight who has faced some bad breaks, packing quality striking, strong wrestling and effective scrambles. While Lausa is significantly better on the ground and at getting off of it than one would expect from a converted boxer, he’ll struggle with Shelton’s takedown game.
Lausa has legitimate power and skill on the feet, but not enough that he can blunt Shelton’s wrestling onslaught. Shelton hits takedown after takedown en route to a decision victory.
Prediction: Shelton via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Tai Tuivasa vs. Rashad Coulter
Tai Tuivasa (7-0) made the jump from rugby to mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2012 and got off to a roaring start, stopping multiple opponents in less than one minute apiece. After knocking out Brandon Sosoli in 21 seconds for the Australian FC Heavyweight title, he took on UFC veteran James McSweeney and forced him to bow out between rounds.
He stands two inches taller than Rashad Coulter (8-2) and, going by their last weigh-ins, should have about 20 pounds on him.
Following his first career defeat, Coulter rattled off five knockouts in less than three minutes apiece, appearing in both Bellator and Legacy during that span. This past May, he stepped up on short notice to fight Chase Sherman and earned “Fight of the Night” in an insane back-and-forth brawl in which he ultimately came up short.
Six of his eight (technical) knockout wins have come inside the first round.
Tuivasa is still just 24, but those of you hoping for the next Mark Hunt or Ray Sefo are going to be disappointed. He’s a big ol’ boy with legit power and a good eye for elbows inside, but he was gassed to death after five minutes with McSweeney and has some fairly iffy grappling outside his raw strength.
Luckily, Coulter’s going to come in there and bang with him. “Daywalker’s” only real hope is that the concrete slab he has instead of a head holds up long enough for Tuivasa to burn himself out trying to bust it, but with Tuivasa’s size and power that’s just not feasible. “Bam Bam” bulldozes Coulter early.
Prediction: Tuivasa via first-round technical knockout
Four more UFC Fight Night 121 “Prelims” undercard matches to preview and predict tomorrow, including a quality slugfest at Lightweight. See you then, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 121 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET before the FOX Sports 1 main card action kicks off at 10 p.m. ET.