So good they had to do it again ...
One of 2016’s most entertaining title fights gets a do-over inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, this Saturday evening (March 4, 2017) as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley once again takes on Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson. In addition, the long-awaited showdown between top-ranked Lightweight studs Khabib Nurmagomedov (No. 1) and Tony Ferguson (No. 2) finally goes down with the interim 155-pound title on the line, while Rashad Evans makes his Middleweight debut against Daniel Kelly.
There are seven "Prelims" undercard bouts that will play a supporting role before the pay-per-view (PPV) event begins, three on Fight Pass and the remaining balance on FOX Sports 1. Let’s see what we’ve got:
205 lbs.: Paul Craig vs. Tyson Pedro
Paul Craig (9-0) dominated the British circuit from 2013 to 2015, stopping seven opponents in the first round and one 42 seconds into the second. He needed a bit more time against Luis Henrique da Silva in his Octagon debut, but nonetheless walked away with a submission win and a "Performance of the Night" bonus.
"Bearjew" owns eight professional wins by submission, including three via triangle.
Australia’s Tyson Pedro (5-0) made short work of his first four opponents, finishing each in 3:05 or less. This set up a UFC bout with Khalil Rountree, who dropped Pedro with a thunderous shot early but ultimately succumbed to his grappling prowess.
His last three wins have come by rear-naked choke.
This one basically comes down to wrestling. Craig is slicker and far more proven on the mat, but he’s not a great takedown artist. Pedro consistently puts people on their backs, but he’s fought just two people with winning records.
I think I’ve got to go with experience here. Craig has faced quality grapplers like Karl Moore and -- even if he didn’t always stuff the takedown -- found the submission with impressive regularity. Expect Pedro’s aggressive wrestling to work against him as Craig puts him away with either a guillotine or triangle.
Prediction: Craig by first-round submission
115 lbs.: Amanda Cooper vs. Cynthia Calvillo
Claudia Gadelha’s third Strawweight pick on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 23, Amanda Cooper (2-2) defeated Jamie Moyle and Lanchana Green to reach the Finale. Though she lost to teammate Tatiana Suarez once there, she pushed her professional record back up to .500 last November with a decision over Anna Elmose.
She is an inch shorter and four years younger than Cynthia Calvillo (3-0).
After a perfect (3-0) amateur career that saw her defeat current Bantamweight prospect Aspen Ladd, Calvillo picked up a pair of pro wins to earn a spot on the inaugural LFA card. There, she overpowered Montana Stewart en route to a third-round finish.
In fact, two of her three pro wins have come via technical knockout.
I ate some crow in Cooper’s last fight, but I maintain that Anna Elmose had the tools to beat her. Though Calvillo isn’t as destructive on the feet as "Panda" was, the same holds true. She’s a very effective offensive and defensive wrestler with a strong ground game to back it up.
And Cooper’s takedown defense has failed her multiple times before.
So long as Calvillo stays committed to the grappling, she should cruise to victory via either decision or late ground-and-pound stoppage.
Prediction: Calvillo via third-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Albert Morales vs. Andre Soukhamthath
Albert Morales (6-1) went right into the deep end in UFC, fighting TUF: "Latin America" winner Alejandro Perez to a draw in his debut. He then faced an even stiffer test in knockout machine Thomas Almeida, who put him away with strikes in the second round.
He has ended five of six wins inside the distance.
Andre Soukhamthath (11-3), whose name rhymes with "succotash," enters UFC with three consecutive knockouts under his belt. A brutal knee to Kody Nordby’s jaw earned him the CES Bantamweight title in March 2016, after which he avenged a loss to Kin Moy in his first title defense.
Seven of his eleven wins have come by knockout.
This has low-key "Fight of the Night" potential. Both men are powerful-but-flawed strikers with a history of brutal finishes. It’ll be close, but I’m leaning toward Soukhamthath.
"The Asian Sensation" has the same problem as Patricio "Pitbull" in that he moves his head well when attacking, but backs straight up with his head ramrod-stiff. This has gotten him tagged by lesser strikers before and could spell trouble against someone as aggressive as Morales. That said, Soukhamthath is the more crisp and effective puncher and has never been stopped. It also remains to be seen how Morales’ knockout loss will affect his confidence.
Soukhamthath ends a barnburner sometime in the second.
Prediction: Soukhamthath via second-round technical knockout
Four more UFC 209 "Prelims" undercard matches to preview and predict tomorrow, including multiple top prospects in competitive match ups. Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 209 fight card, 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 main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on PPV.