The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight G.O.A.T. gets another crack at his latest usurper this Saturday (Dec. 2, 2017) as Jose Aldo steps in on short notice to challenge Max Holloway for the 145-pound strap “Blessed” wrested from his hands this past summer.
Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich., will also see Francis Ngannou dip his toes in the deep end of the Heavyweight division against Alistair Overeem and Justin Gaethje throw down with Eddie Alvarez in a mouthwatering clash of Lightweight finishers.
UFC 218’s “Prelims” undercard matches are split 4:4 between Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this time around; therefore, let’s first see what your subscription gets you.
170 lbs.: Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Sabah Homasi
Abdul Razak Alhassan (7-1) more than lived up to his nickname with seven knockouts in less than 90 seconds apiece, including a 53-second obliteration of Charlie Ward in his Octagon debut. Dagestan’s Omari Akhmedov proved unexpectedly resilient, however, and defeated Alhassan by split decision at UFC Fight Night 109.
Despite being two inches shorter than Homasi, “Judo Thunder” will have a one-inch reach advantage.
One-and-done on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 21, Sabah Homasi (11-6) scored three consecutive knockouts on the regional circuit before stepping up on short notice to face Tim Means at UFC 202. “The Problem” struggled badly with his opponent’s Muay Thai prowess and ultimately succumbed to strikes in the second round.
He has knocked out eight professional opponents and submitted another two.
This looks like a get-well fight for Alhassan from where I’m sitting. Homasi is going to give him the slugfest he wants and, judging by Homasi’s three professional (technical) knockout losses, wind up rather decisively on the wrong end of it.
Alhassan desperately needs to fix his cardio and tighten up those home run swings if he wants to make a real impact in the Welterweight division, but anyone whom he can find with those fists of his is going down in a hurry. With Alhassan’s judo prowess stymieing Homasi’s hopes of grinding him down, Alhassan catches him in an exchange for another early finish.
Prediction: Alhassan by first-round technical knockout
205 lbs.: Dominick Reyes vs. Jeremy Kimball
Dominick Reyes (7-0) earned viral fame with his savage head kick knockout of Jordan Powell — his third consecutive knockout in less than 100 seconds. He kept that streak alive in his UFC debut by flattening Joachim Christensen in 29 seconds to earn “Performance of the Night.”
He stands four inches taller than Jeremy Kimball (15-6) at 6’4.”
Fighting both his opponents and his seeming inability to keep his weight consistent, Kimball rattled off four straight wins before suffering a career-first knockout loss to Marcos Rogerio de Lima in his short-notice UFC debut. He fared quite a bit better against Josh Stansbury, whom he knocked out in 81 seconds to earn “Performance of the Night.”
Eleven of his professional wins, including five of his last six, have come by form of knockout.
I’ll reiterate what I’ve said before: Kimball is not a light heavyweight. He’s a middleweight with weight-management issues. This means he’s damn quick compared to the rest of the division and is a skilled enough striker to make the most of that against lumbering guys like Josh Stansbury, but doesn’t seem like it’ll work well for him against a bigger man who can move well and deliver big punches.
Reyes — to Kimball’s displeasure — is a bigger man who can move well and deliver big punches.
The jury’s out on Reyes’ star potential until he proves he can handle a strong wrestler. Based on what he’s shown so far, though, he should be way too much for Kimball, chewing him up at range for an early finish.
Prediction: Reyes by first-round technical knockout
265 lbs.: Allen Crowder vs. Justin Willis
Allen Crowder (9-2) — who took on Curtis Blaydes in 2015 — rattled off three consecutive first-round (technical) knockouts to earn a spot on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series.” Despite being more than a 2:1 underdog, he wore down Don’Tale Mayes with constant takedowns before stopping him in the third round.
He stands one inch shorter than Justin Willis (5-1) at 6’2.”
The latest Heavyweight product of American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), Willis saw a planned Octagon debut against Marcin Tybura go up in smoke because of complications with his weight cut. He wound up finally debuting in July against James Mulheron, whom Willis outstruck and outwrestled on his way to a sweep on the scorecards.
“Big Pretty” has knocked out three professional opponents.
In one corner, we have a wrestling specialist with a horrific gas tank. In the other, we have a much larger wrestler who trains at one of the sport’s top camps in AKA.
Willis just seems to have the edge everywhere the fight could conceivably go. Crowder is unlikely to take him down or get any opportunity to take control of the fight before Willis takes the fight where he wants it. Willis picks him off with counters and scores a heaping helping of takedowns on his way to an increasingly one-sided decision victory.
Prediction: Willis via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Angela Magana vs. Amanda Cooper
Angela Magana (11-8) entered TUF 20 on a two-fight losing streak and didn’t fare much better on the show, getting pounded out by Aisling Daly in the third round. Since then, she’s lost to Tecia Torres and Michelle Waterson, sent to the hospital after refusing to tap to a twister in training, and punched by Cris Cyborg (watch it) after waging a sustained cyberbullying campaign.
This will be her first fight in more than two years.
Team Claudia Gadelha’s third Strawweight pick on TUF 24, Amanda Cooper (2-3) defeated Jamie Moyle and Lanchana Green to reach the Finale. She has gone 1-2 in UFC itself, suffering submission losses to Tatiana Suarez and Cynthia Calvillo but defeating Anna Elmose by unanimous decision.
She stands two inches taller than Magana at 5’2.”
Cooper has been thoroughly underwhelming in UFC, but she’s accomplished a damn sight more than Magana, who’s in her mid-30s and hasn’t won a fight since 2011 Sure, Magana has wins over Jessica Aguilar and Barb Honchak, but those were almost a decade ago and both Aguilar and Honchak were early in their careers.
This one comes down to takedowns. If Magana manages to get on top, she’s at least good enough to pick up the submission. With her layoff and losing streak, though, it’s hard to envision her getting to that point. Cooper’s top control wins her the decision.
Prediction: Cooper via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 218 “Prelims” undercard matches remain to preview and predict, including a clash of top Lightweight prospects and a tantalizing slugfest at 170 pounds. Same time as always, Maniacs!
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 218 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the pay-per-view (PPV) main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.
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