Two top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweights contenders with similar styles — and no lost love — duke it out this Sunday evening (June 25, 2017) inside Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., when Michael Chiesa takes on Kevin Lee in the main event of UFC Fight Night 112.
The FOX Sports 1-televised card will also feature a Middleweight scrap between Tim Boetsch and Johny Hendricks, as well as Tim Means vs. Alex Garcia at Welterweight.
It’s back to FOX Sports 2 for the latter four “Prelims” undercard matches (check out the FightPass portion here), so bring up that channel guide and try to remember where it is while we break them down below:
155 lbs.: Clay Guida vs. Erik Koch
Following consecutive losses to Benson Henderson and Gray Maynard, Clay Guida (32-17) made the drop to 145 pounds and started strong with decisions over Hatsu Hioki and Tatsuya Kawajiri in his first three fights. He’s just 1-3 since, however, suffering stoppage losses to Dennis Bermudez, Thiago Tavares and Brian Ortega.
He will give up three inches of height to Erik Koch (15-4), though their reach is identical.
It’s been nearly six years since Koch defeated Jonathan Brookins and was subsequently tabbed to face Jose Aldo and almost 4.5 since the brutal knockout loss to Ricardo Lamas that triggered a 1-3 run. He was last seen in May 2016, choking out Shane Campbell at UFC Fight Night 88.
This will be just his second fight since May 2014.
The Guida conundrum used to be that he had the cardio to try takedowns until one of them worked, the chin to shrug off any strikes on the way in, and the submission defense to sit in guard for an indefinite period of time without issue. The last two things no longer seem to be the case — “The Carpenter” has been finished repeatedly in recent years and is just 3-6 since his execrable 2011 fight with Anthony Pettis.
Koch, though an underachiever, has solid power and quality grappling when he actually makes it to fight night. A Guida snoozefest wouldn’t be surprising, but I say Koch clips him and locks up a submission off a desperate Guida takedown.
Prediction: Koch via second-round submission
115 lbs.: Carla Esparza vs. Maryna Moroz
Carla Esparza (11-4) ran the table on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, ultimately submitting Rose Namajunas at the Finale to become the inaugural UFC Strawweight champion. She’s fought just three times since that Dec. 2014 battle, losing her belt to Joanna Jedrzejczyk before defeating Juliana Lima and dropping a close split decision to Randa Markos.
She will give up six inches of height and four inches of reach to the 5’7” Maryna Moroz (8-1).
Moroz sent shockwaves through UFC’s Strawweight division in 2015 when she armbarred top striker Joanne Calderwood in Krakow. An upset loss to Valerie Letourneau slowed her roll, but she rebounded with decisions over Cristina Stanciu and Danielle Taylor.
“The Iron Lady” owns five wins via form of armbar.
The Esparza playbook remains simple: If she can score takedowns, she wins. The majority of mixed martial arts (MMA) media scored the Markos fight for her and Moroz — a striking specialist with a slick armbar but little in the way of strong wrestling — figures to be an easier stylistic match up.
Significant as the height and reach differences are, Moroz has neither the stopping power nor command of range to make Esparza hesitate on her shots. Esparza grinds her down to return to the win column.
Prediction: Esparza via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Devin Powell vs. Darrell Horcher
Devin Powell (8-2) — one of Dana White’s “Lookin’ for a Fight” acquisitions — entered UFC on a six-fight win streak, four of them via finish. He made his debut in January against MMA Lab prospect Drakkar Klose, who did enough damage at close range to take the decision.
He stands two inches taller than Darrell Horcher at 5’10.”
When Tony Ferguson pulled out of his fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov on short notice, Horcher put his five-fight win streak on the line to step up. Nurmagomedov proceeded to maul him and, soon afterward, Horcher suffered a motorcycle accident that’s kept him out of action for a year.
Six of his 12 professional wins have come by form of knockout.
He made it the distance with Klose when I didn’t expect him to, but I stand by my assessment that Powell just isn’t very good. He’s got a very limited wrestling game and his freeform striking, while decently powerful, leaves him very open to counters. Without the credible threat of a takedown, he’s in an uphill battle against a smoother and more dangerous puncher, especially since he tends to back straight up and throw naked kicks.
Horcher’s got speed and power; provided the accident didn’t knock those out of his body, that’s enough for me to pick him.
Prediction: Horcher by unanimous decision
Even putting aside the showmanship, UFC Fight Night 112’s main event is still a solid stylistic match up between elite Lightweight fighters. It’s not a bad way to spend a Sunday, I’d say. See you then, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 112 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET before the FOX Sports 2 “Prelims” undercard and FOX Sports 1 main card start time at 9 p.m. ET.