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UFC Fight Night 121 preview, quick picks for ‘Werdum vs Tybura’

UFC 213: Nunes vs Shevchenko Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is back on television this Saturday night (Nov. 18, 2017) with the UFC Fight Night 121 mixed martial arts (MMA) event on FOX Sports 1, which features a heavyweight main event between Fabricio Werdum and Marcin Tybura, who battle for a spot in the 265-pound title chase.

In UFC Fight Night 121’s co-main event, Bec Rawlings jumps up to flyweight to battle late-replacement Jessica-Rose Clark inside Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney, Australia. Sure we’re going to break down the entire main card, but let’s first take a look at the “Prelims” preview and predictions here and here. UFC Sydney odds and betting lines can be located here.

Now then, let’s get to it.

265 lbs.: Fabricio Werdum (22-7-1) vs. Marcin Tybura (16-2)

I legitimately do not know how Tybura can win this fight barring a surprise head kick knockout. He puts together solid combinations and grapples well from top position, but Werdum seems to have him outclassed in every area of the game.

Werdum’s striking is fairly rudimentary, consisting mostly of 1-2s and clinch knees with the occasional kick thrown in, but he’s got solid power and is damn durable when he’s not running face-first into the division’s sharpest right cross. He’s also demonstrated sufficient cardio to keep those jabs and straights in his opponent’s face for all five rounds, while Tybura has never gone past three.

And we all know what happens if it hits the mat.

Tybura could have conceivably frustrated Mark Hunt with his length and kicking game. There’s no such avenue of victory against “Vai Cavalo,” who wears him down on the feet before either taking him down or capitalizing on a desperate shot for the submission win.

Prediction: Werdum by third-round submission

125 lbs.: Bec Rawlings (7-6) vs. Jessica-Rose Clark (7-4)

Rawlings is 2-3 in the UFC and there’s an argument that she should be 1-4 based on her fight with Seo Hee Ham. Moving back to strawweight doesn’t seem like the sort of panacea she needs, although it’s probably necessary considering her failure to make 116 against Tecia Torres in February.

Luckily, while Calderwood would have likely taken her apart, Clark sits comfortably within the skill range that Rawlings can handle. “Jessy Jess” had serious trouble with the volume of Sarah Kaufman in March and, while Rawlings isn’t anywhere near as crisp as the former Strikeforce champ, she’s nothing if not busy.

It’s also worth considering that Clark, to the best of my knowledge has never weighed in below 130 pounds and took this bout on relatively short notice. That, combined with how hittable she is, makes this Rawlings’ fight to lose if she can keep it standing. Rawlings’ volume punching carries her to victory.

Prediction: Rawlings by unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Tim Means (27-8-1) vs. Belal Muhammad (12-2)

Means is going to have three inches of height, reach, and leg reach on Muhammad, who was preparing for stocky wrestler Jesse Taylor before USADA laid down the law. Muhammad has struggled with rangier strikers in the past and isn’t the caliber of wrestler to successfully punch through Means’ inconsistent takedown defense.

“Remember the Name” is in for a rough night, is what I’m saying.

Even if Muhammad does get inside, Means is downright vicious at close range with his knees and elbows, meaning Muhammad can’t simply muscle his way in and hope for the best. Worse, Means won’t wilt under Muhammad’s pace and has some savage body shots to slow his assault to a crawl.

This is just a flat-out bad matchup for Muhammad, whose increasing desperation should get him clocked by an elbow sometime late in the second.

Prediction: Means by second-round knockout

170 lbs.: Jake Matthews (11-3) vs. Bojan Velickovic (15-5-1)

I get that it’s healthier for Jake Matthews and I’d prefer more fighters follow his example and fight closer to their walk-around weight, but his size and strength have been so integral to his success that it’s hard to see this return to 170 pounds going well for him.

Especially since he’s going up against a gigantic welterweight.

Velickovic is awkward and not technically adept in any particular area, but that size and strength might be enough. Just one of Matthews’ four UFC victories came over a current member of the UFC roster and he’s had some wrestling troubles both offensively and defensively, which “Serbian Steel” is well-equipped to punish.

There’s just not enough to Matthews’ game at the moment to favor him against someone he can’t physically overpower. Velickovic spends enough time pressing him into the cage and sitting in guard to eke out the decision.

Prediction: Velickovic by split decision

185 lbs.: Elias Theodorou (13-2) vs. Daniel Kelly (13-2)

Man, Kelly’s run through the middleweight division was one of the most delightful things to emerge from the UFC in recent memory. Watching a muffin-topped man in his late 30s rumble through a world-level jiu-jitsu artist (Antônio Carlos Júnior) and a former champion (Rashad Evans) through surprising clinchwork and sheer grit, all the while taped up like his knees would implode if looked at the wrong way, was the kind of feel-good story that brought the entire community together.

And then Derek Brunson had to go and knock him senseless. Shame.

Theodorou’s poor boxing technique makes this a winnable fight for Kelly, but “The Spartan” offers so much movement and volume that Kelly, never that quick even when he wasn’t 40 years old, will struggle to put hands on him. Kelly will have to walk through a barrage of kicks to get in the clinch, where he’ll have to contend with Theodorou’s strength and wrestling skills.

While Theodorou’s technique has yet to catch up with his athleticism, he should take this, piecing up Kelly at range with a variety of kicks for the decision win.

Prediction: Theodorou by unanimous decision

145 lbs.: Alex Volkanovski (15-1) vs. Shane Young (11-3)

Fun fact: Young is Volkanovski’s third booked opponent for Saturday, as both Jeremy Kennedy and Humberto Bandenay withdrew due to injuries. He’s definitely no scrub, though; Tapology had him listed as the top unsigned featherweight in the Australia/New Zealand region.

Watching him fight, he’s a solid striker with a knack for pulling his head just out of range before coming back with combinations, bolstered by the ability to finish things on the mat. At just 24, the Auckland native definitely has a future in the sport.

Unfortunately, that future includes getting mashed into the dirt on Saturday.

Volkanovski is a legitimate top talent, a tank of a man with booming power in his hands and an approach to ground-and-pound best described as “scorched earth.” His 5’5” frame is the only real worrying hurdle in the way of his rise, but Young will struggle to exploit that with the threat of Volkanovski’s takedowns muzzling his striking offense. Unless Volkanovski goes hog-wild headhunting and gasses himself out, expect him to ground Young early and beat him to a pulp until the referee steps in to save him.

Prediction: Volkanovski by second-round TKO

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 121 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 UFC Fight Night 121 event click here.

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