Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson looks to add another line to his impressive resume this Saturday evening (April 15, 2017) when he headlines UFC on FOX 24 against Brazilian jiu-jitsu standout Wilson Reis in the tenth defense of his 125-pound title.
Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., will also see No. 4-ranked women’s Strawweight Rose Namajunas take on No. 6-seeded Michelle Waterson, former Strikeforce champion “Jacare” Ronaldo Souza face the surging Robert Whittaker, and Jeremy Stephens welcomes prospect Renato “Moicano” back to the cage after 11 months away.
UFC on FOX 24 will feature nine undercard matches, the first five of which will stream live online via Fight Pass (checkout those predictions here). The remaining four will be broadcast on FOX before the main card starts, so let’s dig in:
265 lbs.: Alexander Volkov vs. Roy Nelson
Immediately following the end of his nine-fight Bellator MMA run, Alexander Volkov (27-6) submitted prospect Denis Smoldarev for the M-1 Heavyweight title and defended it with a knockout of Attila Vegh. This earned him a shot in UFC, where he scraped past Timothy Johnson in his Nov. 2016 debut.
Eighteen of his professional wins have come by form of knockout.
One of the Heavyweight division’s premier collectors of post-fight bonuses, Roy Nelson (22-13) currently finds himself in a 3-6 slump. His last fight saw him knock out Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and subsequently kick referee John McCarthy, getting him in hot water with the Brazilian commission.
“Big Country” will give up a full seven inches of height to “Drago.”
Roy Nelson is, at best, the same Roy Nelson as always. He’s only looked decent in one of his last six fights: The aforementioned Silva knockout. Volkov has a boatload of height and reach on him and isn’t as bad at using it as the likes of Stefan Struve. And considering Nelson’s ever-diminishing ability to consistently land that killer blow, that’s bad news.
Nelson might actually be better served trying to exploit Volkov’s shaky takedown defense, but he showed in the Derrick Lewis fight that he doesn’t have the gas tank to pull that off. More likely, he fruitlessly chases Volkov around the cage for the full 15 minutes, eating plenty of punishment along the way.
Prediction: Volkov via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Patrick Williams vs. Tom Duquesnoy
Patrick Williams (8-4) — another Arizona State University wrestling alum — got off to a rough UFC start courtesy of a beautiful Chris Beal flying knee. After dealing with some injuries, “The Animal” rebounded in impressive fashion with a 23-second submission of Alejandro Perez.
This will be his first fight in 22 months and just his second in almost three years.
Considered by many to be the best prospect on the planet, Tom Duquesnoy (14-1) enters UFC with a trail of destruction in his wake. His current 11-fight unbeaten streak has seen him win both the BAMMA Featherweight and Bantamweight titles, stopping eight opponents in the process.
Overall, “Fire Kid” has knocked out seven opponents and submitted another four.
Duquesnoy basically has everything going for him but size. A combat sambo veteran with tons of martial arts experience, he’s an aggressive, effective switch-hitter with vicious knees and elbows. He’s also got a strong wrestling game to back it up.
And he’s only 23.
Williams’ inactivity makes it hard to get a bead on him, but what I saw in his two UFC fights was a quick, athletic fighter who couldn’t quite blend his wrestling with his movement-heavy striking style. This issue will likely produce quite a few clinches, where Duquesnoy’s a veritable blender. “Fire Kid” decks him on the inside for a dramatic finish.
Prediction: Duquesnoy via first-round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Bobby Green vs. Rashid Magomedov
Bobby Green (23-7) — whose Tapology page is a truly fascinating wasteland of canceled or rescheduled fights — won his first four UFC fights to earn himself a place in the rankings. “King” has since lost two straight, dropping a decision to Edson Barboza and suffering a brutal knockout from Dustin Poirier.
This will be his first fight in 10 months and second since Nov. 2014.
Rashid Magomedov (19-2) also started his UFC career with four consecutive wins to establish himself as a prospect to watch. Injuries kept him out of action for nearly a year following his dominant win over Gilbert Burns, after which Beneil Dariush ended his 12-fight win streak in Mexico.
He has knocked out eight opponents, though just one since 2011.
There’s a very, very good chance that this fight sucks. Both of these men are extremely talented strikers, but fight with little urgency even when it’s called for. Though a split decision either way wouldn’t surprise me, I’m leaning toward Magomedov.
Dariush showed that aggression and a strong clinch can nullify Magomedov’s footwork and long-range striking. Green doesn’t have that level of infighting prowess or frantic offense, which will leave him at the mercy of the Dagestani’s more fluid arsenal. Magomedov outworks him at range for a narrow victory.
Prediction: Magomedov by unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Louis Smolka vs. Tim Elliott
Undaunted by his decision loss to Chris Cariaso, Louis Smolka (11-3) rattled off four straight impressive wins to earn himself a spot in the Flyweight Top 10. A stunning upset loss to Brandon Moreno knocked him back down the rankings and a subsequent decision loss to Ray Borg left him sitting at No. 12.
His nine stoppage wins include five by submission.
Tim Elliott’s (13-7-1) entertaining-if-mostly-unsuccessful UFC run gave way to a two-fight reign as the Titan FC champion. A strong performance on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 earned him a shot at Demetrious Johnson, whom he pushed to the limit in a losing effort.
At 5’7,” he is two inches shorter than his foe.
Elliott thrives when he can use his size, strength and aggression to force unfavorable scrambles. The issue is that, if opponents can stay composed, they can take advantage of the many openings he leaves in the process. Unfortunately for him, Smolka has the same sort of fluidity and opportunistic submissions that Zach Makovsky and Joseph Benavidez used to fell him.
Smolka is still a great young talent despite his recent losses. He outworks Elliott on the mat for either a late submission or clear decision.
Prediction: Smolka via second-round submission
Say what you will about UFC on FOX 24’s main event, but there are some good scraps here. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 24 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX at 6 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 8 p.m. ET on PPV.