Once more ... with feeling!
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier makes his first defense in 1.5 years this Saturday evening (April 8, 2017) when he rematches Anthony “Rumble” Johnson inside KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York. The pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event pits Gegard Mousasi against former Middleweight champion Chris Weidman, while women’s Strawweight prospects Cynthia Calvillo and Pearl Gonzalez do battle in the third slot.
UFC 210 features eight “Prelims” undercard matches that are split evenly between Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1. Let’s check out the online line up below:
155 lbs.: Gregor Gillespie vs. Andrew Holbrook
A highly touted wrestling standout, Gregor Gillespie (8-0) took a sizable step up in his UFC debut opposite The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Brazil” 4 winner Glaico Franca. Despite this, he managed to overpower the Brazilian in hostile territory and take home a unanimous decision.
He will give up two inches of height to the 5’11” Andrew Holbrook (12-1).
Holbrook got off to a bumpy start in the world’s largest MMA promotion, controversially edging Ramsey Nijem before suffering a 34-second knockout loss to Joaquim Silva. Undaunted, he defied four-to-one odds to win a decision over Australia’s Jake Matthews in Melbourne.
Nine of his 10 stoppage wins have come by submission.
I honestly believed Gillespie was in over his head against Franca, but he pulled out a good win against a very capable Brazilian jiu-jitsu artist. Though Holbrook lacks Franca’s cardio issues, his relative lack of physicality may cost him dearly.
Gillespie goes to the ground where and how he decides to; as good as Holbrook’s scrambling is, it likely isn’t enough to either bring Gillespie down or keep him there should “The Gift” elect not to engage. Expect Gillespie to control the temp on his way to a decision win.
Prediction: Gillespie via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Josh Emmett vs. Des Green
Josh Emmett (11-0), a regional champion, turned heads in his debut when he out-dueled veteran Jon Tuck, surviving a gruesome finger injury to do so. Seven months later, he faced another stiff test in Scott Holtzman and passed with a unanimous decision.
Three of his five stoppage wins have come by knockout, including one over UFC veteran Christos Giagos.
Though he fell short against Daniel Weichel in a Bellator tournament final, Des Green (19-5) proved his mettle by winning the Titan FC Featherweight title two fights later. He lost the title to Kurt Holobaugh and dropped a decision to Andre Harrison in his next title challenge, but enters UFC having won four straight.
He stands two inches taller than Emmett at 5’10.”
This is another of those frustrating fights that boil down to takedown offense vs. takedown defense. Though Green isn’t a slouch on the feet, he is a wrestler first and foremost, not quite savvy enough to handle Emmett’s high-speed boxing offense. By the same token, Emmett won’t be a factor off of his back should Green put him there.
My gut says Emmett. Team Alpha Male tends to produce elite takedown defense and Green can be overpowered if he can’t get comfortable in top position. Green faded badly in his last bout and Emmett presents the same sort of scrambling prowess that drained him. Emmett steadily takes over, landing enough power punches to take the decision.
Prediction: Emmett via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Irene Aldana
Katlyn Chookagian (8-1), the CFFC Flyweight and Bantamweight champion, followed up a 45-second knockout of Stephanie Bragayrac with an upset decision over Lauren Murphy in her Octagon debut.
Two of her three professional finishes have come in the first round.
Irene Aldana’s (7-3) seven first-round finishes carried her into her Octagon debut against Leslie Smith as a sizable favorite, the third-largest on the UFC on FOX 22 card. Despite the hype, she struggled with her opponent’s pressure and power en route to a unanimous decision loss.
Five of those seven stoppages have come by knockout.
I’ve still got high hopes for Aldana’s future — she packs serious power for the division and, when given room to operate, can put together some downright scary combinations. Chookagian is effective and well-rounded, but I’m not sure she can handle the firepower discrepancy.
Though Aldana’s ground game and issues with pressure fighters remain cause for concern, Chookagian simply isn’t well-equipped to exploit those difficulties. Aldana overpowers her on the feet for an early finish.
Prediction: Aldana via first-round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Jenel Lausa vs. Magomed Bibulatov
Jenel Lausa (7-2), a former professional boxer who amassed an undefeated (7-0) record in his native Philippines, picked up the PXF Flyweight title to cap off a four-fight win streak and earn a crack in UFC. He debuted in Dec. 2016, out-slugging Zhikui Yao to take home a unanimous decision Melbourne.
“Demolition Man” has knocked out and submitted two opponents apiece.
After cutting his teeth in Europe, Magomed Bibulatov (13-0) dominated Donavon Frelow in his WSOF debut to win the promotion’s vacant flyweight title. He promptly dropped it and returned to Russia, where he dispatched three more opponents in 2016. He owns wins over UFC veteran Taylor Lapilus, TUF: “Brazil” 4 competitor Giovanni “Soldado,” and current Akhmat Fight Show Bantamweight Champion Said Nurmagomedov.
I’m pulling for Lausa, but this is Bibulatov’s fight to lose. Though Lausa’s overall wrestling game is better than one would expect out of a converted boxer, Bibulatov’s world-class takedown ability far outstrips the Filipino’s ability to handle it. Bibulatov is also no slouch on the feet, packing solid hands and an impressive kicking arsenal.
Bibulatov has all the tools to be an elite Flyweight — if he’s given the opportunities to get there, he could easily fight Demetrious Johnson by the middle of next year. He dominates Lausa with relentless takedowns, eventually locking up a submission.
Prediction: Bibulatov via second-round submission
Four more UFC 210 “Prelims” undercard matches to preview and predict tomorrow, including a nice pair of prospect showdowns at Featherweight and Welterweight.
Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 210 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 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.