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UFC Fight Night 109 predictions, preview, and analysis

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Gustafsson vs Blachowicz Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

After a tumultuous couple of years, the light heavyweight division continues its reconstruction process this Sunday morning (May 28, 2017) when former title challengers Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira do battle in Stockholm, Sweden.

Over on the prospect end of things, the surging Misha Cirkunov takes on dark horse Volkan Oezdemir in the co-feature, while Ben Saunders faces Peter Sobotta at welterweight.

Jesse is currently locked in an arm wrestling competition with his old trucking rival, so it falls to me to spread the word of Nostradumbass to all you sinners.

But let’s make sure we give some love to the “Prelims” card here and here, then crunch the odds and betting lines here.

205 lbs.: Alexander Gustafsson (17-4) vs. Glover Teixeira (26-5)

Alright, first off, go read Jack Slack’s breakdown. It’s good. I’ll wait.

Back? Okay, let’s go.

You know what’s weird? Gustafsson is 2-3 in his last five while Teixeira is 4-1, but Gustafsson is the 3-to-1 favorite. And the oddsmakers are right.

Teixeira’s striking, which seemed to finally be evolving from his one-size-fits-all counter right, seemed totally ineffective against Jared Cannonier, whose striking is much more basic and whose takedown defense doesn’t hold a candle to Gustafsson’s. Alex looked iffy against Jan Blachowicz last time out, admittedly, but not to the extent that Teixeira did.

It’s possible that Glover’s performance was due to getting knocked out for the first time, of course, but he’s also 37 and has historically been easier to hurt than Gustafsson has. He doesn’t have an answer for Gustafsson’s jab and, dangerous as his top game is, Gustafsson’s movement and length will cripple Teixeira’s takedown game.

I don’t see Gustafsson taking out Cormier or Jones in the rematch, but as long as the legs are still there, he thumps Teixeira with a counter for a first-round finish.

Prediction: Gustafsson by first-round TKO

205 lbs.: Misha Cirkunov (13-2) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (13-1)

Volkan Oezdemir is in for it.

The Swiss prospect may have the best win between them on paper, but his résumé begins and ends with one and a half decent rounds against the most listless Ovince St. Preux I’ve ever seen. Cirkunov, meanwhile, has consistently outclassed UFC-caliber opponents on the ground while developing a surprisingly dangerous striking game.

In addition, Oezdemir gassed himself out on a stationary target, while Cirkunov met Ion Cutelaba’s insane pace head on and had enough left in the tank to submit him in the third round. Cirkunov has also never been stopped by strikes despite facing hitters like Cutelaba and Alex Nicholson, making it unlikely Oezdemir lands a finisher before getting crushed on the mat.

As I mentioned in the betting guide, I’m afraid Cirkunov might hit a wall against the Gustafsson-Teixeira-Cormier-Jones quadrumvirate for stylistic reasons, but he handles pretty much anyone else at 205. He takes Oezdemir down and finishes him late in the first.

Prediction: Cirkunov by first-round submission

170 lbs.: Ben Saunders (21-7-2) vs. Peter Sobotta (16-5-1)

Our boy Ben has won five of his last six, including one over a guy in Court McGee whom I had pegged as a terrible style matchup for him. Though people seem to be having more success navigating his guard, he did a great job of maintaining range against McGee in the early portion of the fight.

It’s harder to get a bead on Sobotta, who has just one fight in the last eighteen month, but he’s another strong wrestler and showed some power in his hands against Nicolas Dalby. It’s been over a decade since he tapped, as well, making this another tough matchup for “Killa B.”

Saunders can still win this with the right mindset. If he can do what he did in the first round against McGee, picking off the shorter man coming in, he can outpoint Sobotta. At the same time, he can’t languish in guard if the submission isn’t there, as Sobotta can do damage from the top. It’ll be close, but I say Saunders’ activity nicks it.

Prediction: Saunders by split decision

170 lbs.: Abdul Razak Alhassan (7-0) vs. Omari Akhmedov (16-4)

Alhassan is in that delightful stage of his career where he thinks he’s invincible and, so far, he’s been right. Nobody’s been able to last more than 86 seconds against him and he fights like he’s personally offended that you’re still conscious.

This will undoubtedly result in a learning experience at some point where he fights someone with a brick head and gasses himself out trying to crack it, but Akhmedov’s poor punch resistance and persistent cardio problems make him a perfect mark for “Judo Thunder’s” balls-to-the-wall bruising.

I mean, I’m a Sergio Moraes fan to the bone, but if he knocks you out with punches, there is cause for concern.

A perfectly disciplined Akhmedov could win this fight with powerful low kicks and regular takedowns. No matter how good the game plan, though, it’s not worth anything if he can’t survive the first few minutes of artillery. Alhassan catches him in an exchange for another highlight-reel finish.

Prediction: Alhassan by first-round knockout

185 lbs.: Jack Hermansson (14-3) vs. Alex Nicholson (7-3)

I was absolutely convinced that Hermansson was going to turn Cezar Ferreira inside-out, but “Mutante” showed some new wrinkles in his game that completely defused Hermansson’s busy boxing.

Luckily for the Swede, Nicholson’s striking attack is significantly less nuanced and doesn’t have the threat of a quality ground game to bolster it. “The Spartan” is a straightforward slugger going up against a more experienced opponent with better footwork and zero knockout losses on his record. I can’t picture him finding Hermansson’s chin with any consistency, even if his own durability will give him fifteen minutes with which to work.

Nicholson is always dangerous, of course, and the threat of a one-hitter quitter will dangle over Hermansson’s head the entire time, but “The Joker” has the experience and boxing skill to tune Nicholson up for all three rounds.

Prediction: Hermansson by first-round submission

170 lbs.: Nordine Taleb (12-4) vs. Oliver Enkamp (7-0)

If you’re wondering why this fight is on the main card, it’s because TAleb was originally booked to face everyone’s favorite MMA Viking, Emil Meek, before the latter pulled out with an injury about two weeks ago.

Enkamp is, well, he’s not Meek. He’s a solid karateka with good kicks and the sort of charging flurries that Kyoji Horiguchi prefers, though not with the same kind of concussive force that the Krazy Bee product can produce. He’s also crafty on the ground, utilizing the same flexibility that makes him such a dangerous kicker to threaten chokes from odd angles.

That said, Taleb is a hulking welterweight whose performance against the ultra-dangerous Santiago Ponzinibbio was easily the best of his career. He’s the stronger wrestler of the two and, if he can land those same sorts of low kicks that he did against Ponzinibbio, Enkamp’s mobility edge won’t last long.

On short notice, what was already a round stylistic matchup becomes a nightmare for Enkamp. Taleb steadily overpowers him for a decision win.

Prediction: Taleb by unanimous decision

There you have it. will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 109 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 11 a.m. ET, before the main card start time at 1 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.

To see who else is fighting at UFC Fight Night 109 click here.

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