It’s five rounds of Lightweight mixed martial arts (MMA) mayhem in Norfolk, Va., this Saturday (Nov. 11, 2017) as former division champ Anthony Pettis looks to kick off another title run against fellow World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) import Dustin Poirier.
Even more old-school is UFC Fight Night 120’s co-feature, which pits Matt Brown against Diego Sanchez in a clash of two of UFC’s ballsiest competitors. Up at Heavyweight, meanwhile, the new school takes a crack at the old guard as Junior Albini looks to finally end Andrei Arlovski’s storied career.
We’ve got four more “Prelims” undercard matches to preview and predict before all that (check out the Fight Pass portion here), though, so let’s not dither:
135 lbs.: John Dodson vs. Marlon Moraes
An unsuccessful rematch against Demetrious Johnson sent John Dodson (19-8) back to Bantamweight, where he immediately annihilated Manny Gamburyan. He lost a headlining battle with John Lineker by the skin of his teeth, but re-entered the win column with a decision over Eddie Wineland in April.
He owns nine professional wins by knockout, including five in UFC.
Marlon Moraes’ (18-5-1) 13-fight win streak established him as arguably the best Bantamweight outside UFC, featuring multiple highlight-reel finishes and several defenses of the World Series of Fighting (WSOF) title. He finally made the jump to UFC in June, losing a controversial split decision to Raphael Assuncao in Rio.
He stands three inches taller than Dodson at 5’6.”
Dodson’s critical issues are that for all his speed and power, there’s no real nuance to the way he closes the distance and he might as well amputate his right hand to ease the weight cut for all the use he gets out of it. Ordinarily, he’s so fast and hits so hard that he can get away with it, but steadfast foes can run him into heavy strikes.
Moraes is not only blisteringly fast in his own right, he’s an incredibly varied striker with one-shot power in all four limbs. Whether on the counter or on the advance, I expect his length, footwork and superior arsenal to keep him away from Dodson’s sledgehammer left as he pieces up “The Magician” for a decision win.
Prediction: Moraes via unanimous decision
115 lbs.: Tatiana Suarez vs. Viviane Pereira
Tatiana Suarez (4-0) impressed Claudia Gadelha enough to be her first Strawweight pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23 and proved the faith was justified by submitting all subsequent comers. After tapping Amanda Cooper to win the show, she signed on to face fellow wrestler Juliana Lima, only to pull out due to injury.
She medaled twice in the World Wrestling Championships, winning bronze in ’08 and ’10.
A massive height and reach disadvantage wasn’t enough to stop Viviane Pereira (13-0) from defeating former title challenger Valerie Letourneau on short notice in her Octagon debut. She had even greater success against TUF 23 competitor Jamie Moyle, taking home a decision despite weighing in well under the Strawweight limit.
She will give up five inches of height and four inches of reach to Suarez.
This is an excellent fight to show us where Suarez is in her development. She’s a legitimately world-class wrestler, but her striking is essentially empty outside of a naked low kick she uses to pass the time until she shoots. Pereira showed solid counter-wrestling against Moyle and has effective boxing, on paper exactly the sort of style to force Suarez to show new wrinkles.
This is a fight that should mostly boil down to Suarez’s takedown offense against Pereira’s takedown defense. With Suarez’s layoff and underdeveloped striking, I’m leaning toward “Sucuri,” who should sprawl-and-brawl her way to an increasingly one-sided decision.
Prediction: Pereira via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Sage Northcutt vs. Michel Quinones
The Sage Northcutt Train (8-2) has not enjoyed the sort of smooth ride UFC would prefer. After tapping to an arm triangle from half guard against Bryan Barberena, Northcutt struggled with Enrique Marin before getting dropped and submitted by Mickey Gall.
This will be his first fight in almost 11 months thanks to injuries scrapping a UFC 214 appearance.
Though he lost in his sole Bellator appearance, Michael Quinones (8-2) rattled off five consecutive victories to earn a spot in UFC, including to sub-minute knockouts. After several false starts, he finally got to debut in June against Jared Gordon and suffered the first stoppage loss of his career.
“El Capo” has knocked out five opponents and submitted another.
We’ve seen that Northcutt is not the MMA fighter Dana White presented him as. This fight will determine if he’s at least the striker he’s supposed to be. Quinones is going to give Northcutt the stand up battle he wants.
Northcutt will almost certainly have a size and strength advantage, but he’s yet to look spectacular since his debut thrashing of Francisco Trevino. Quinones has none of the mental hang ups, none of the pressure on him, and won’t have to deal with the sort of suffocating pressure he did against Gordon. I say Quinones knocks Northcutt all the way off the rails, dropping him midway through the fight and locking up a submission.
Prediction: Quinones via second-round submission
115 lbs.: Angela Hill vs. Nina Ansaroff
Consecutive losses to Tecia Torres and Rose Namajunas led UFC to amicably part with Angela Hill (7-3) in the interest of giving her a chance to improve. She did so in a big way, winning and defending the Invicta Strawweight title before putting on a “Fight of the Night” with Jessica Andrade and defeating Ashley Yoder.
She has knocked out three professional opponents.
Nina Ansaroff (7-5) — who had to face Carla Esparza and Barb Honchak in her first three fights — got off to a rocky start in UFC, dropping a clear decision to Juliana Lima and a questionable one to Justine Kish. “The Strina” finally earned her first victory in the promotion in January by choking out Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger.
Four of her six stoppage wins have come by form of knockout.
This is a fight between two of the best strikers the division has to offer, Hill with Muay Thai and Ansaroff with Taekwondo. I expect this to be razor-thin and generate a lot of controversy, but I’ve got Ansaroff by a hair.
Without the threat of a takedown, we ought to be see the best Ansaroff has to offer, while Hill has to deal with the possibility of Ansaroff catching her kicks and working from top position. Further, Ansaroff’s kicking game looks the stronger of the two and she appears to be ever-so-slightly faster. She narrowly outlands Hill in an entertaining back-and-forth.
Prediction: Ansaroff via split decision
Pettis vs. Poirier is A+ matchmaking, Brown vs. Sanchez should be fireworks (while it lasts), and Junior Albini could be worth keeping an eye on. Sounds good for a free evening! See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 120 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.