Three titles will be on the line when Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., this weekend (Sat., July 29, 2017) for UFC 214, headlined by the long-awaited rematch between Light Heavyweight rivals Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones. In addition, Tyron Woodley puts his Welterweight title on the line against Demian Maia, while Cris “Cyborg” throws down with Tonya Evinger for the vacant women’s Featherweight title one fight prior.
The latter four “Prelims” undercard matches (check out the Fight Pass portion here) will take place on FXX. Check out what’s in store when you turn that channel on for the first time ever:
145 lbs.: Ricardo Lamas vs. Jason Knight
Ricardo Lamas (17-5) rebounded from his knockout loss to Chad Mendes with a sound thrashing of Diego Sanchez, only to fall short against future champion Max Holloway in a terrific scrap. “The Bully” returned to action five months later against Charles Oliveira and, despite “Do Bronx” coming in a full weight class overweight, submitted the Brazilian to earn “Performance of the Night.”
He will give up two inches of height to the 5’10” Jason Knight (18-2).
Knight’s lethal guard carried him to eight consecutive victories, including an upset submission of prospect Musa Khamanaev, but wasn’t enough against Tatsuya Kawajiri’s legendary top game in his UFC debut. He then reinvented himself as a pressure fighter and has looked terrific, winning four straight and earning three post-fight bonuses along the way.
He replaces the injured Chan Sung Jung on less than two months’ notice.
Honestly, there are a lot of ways this fight could go. Lamas is a skilled enough striker and stout enough wrestler to keep it standing and win on the counter, but he does have some lapses in fight IQ and will be facing a man in Knight who simply refuses to wilt in the face of adversity. Nevertheless, it’s a fight that ought to be terrific no matter how it turns out.
While I’ve underestimated Knight before, I’m giving this to Lamas. He’s got powerful leg kicks that Knight’s relentless advance leaves him vulnerable to and experience against some of the best the Featherweight division has to offer. Lamas is tough enough to stay in there and give as good as he takes, so expect him to scrape out a narrow decision victory.
Prediction: Lamas via split decision
140 lbs.: Aljamain Sterling vs. Renan Barao
Four consecutive wins, capped off by a brutal guillotine of Johnny Eduardo, put Aljamain Sterling (13-2) within spitting distance of a Bantamweight title shot. Split decision losses to Bryan Caraway and Raphael Assuncao slowed his roll, but “The Funk Master” re-entered the win column in April with a decision over Augusto Mendes.
Six of his eight stoppage wins have come via choke.
It’s been three years since T.J. Dillashaw tore the Bantamweight title from Renan Barao’s (34-4) grip and kicked off a 1-3 run. He managed to earn his first UFC Featherweight victory last September with a decision over Phillipe Nover in Brasilia. This fight was originally set to take place at 135, but California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) refused to allow Barao to make the weight cut after his earlier difficulties.
Sterling’s punches aren’t the cringeworthy windmills they were early in his UFC career, but he’s still infinitely less effective when he can’t get the takedown. Unfortunately, that’s the situation he faces on Saturday — while Barao’s game has yet to evolve sufficiently, he’s still got ridiculous takedown defense. Dillashaw concussed the guy and still couldn’t keep him down.
On the feet, Barao’s jab and low kicks are enough to dictate the pace. Expect a slightly more exciting version of Sterling’s fight with Assuncao as the former champ shuts down Sterling’s wrestling and lands just enough to edge the decision.
Prediction: Barao via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Renato Moicano vs. Brian Ortega
Renato Moicano (11-0-1) made a strong first impression in UFC with a submission win over Tom Niinimaki, but injuries have kept him to just two fights since that Dec. 2014 victory. He edged fellow prospect Zubaira Tukhugov in May 2016, then used takedowns and top control to scrape past Jeremy Stephens in April.
He has three inches each of height, reach and leg reach on Brian Ortega (11-0).
A failed drug test eliminated the 99-second UFC debut victory for “T-City” over Mike De La Torre and kept him out of action for nearly a full year. Three consecutive finishes have put him back in fans’ good graces, however, including a brutal knee knockout of Clay Guida at UFC 199.
This will be his first fight in 13 months.
Ortega has spurts of brilliance, but if I recall correctly, he was losing all three of those fights before picking up late stoppages. While terrific on the mat, Ortega’s only a middling striker and hasn’t shown outstanding wrestling, forcing him to wait for opponents to give openings rather than making them himself.
If Moicano can make full use of his length advantage, he should be able to win comfortably. He’s sharper than Ortega at range, is a more proven takedown artist, and has the submission defense to stifle Ortega’s guard. The Brazilian may not earn fans, but he will get the win, potshotting Ortega with straight punches and mixing in takedowns to earn the decision
Prediction: Moicano by unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Andre Fili vs. Calvin Kattar
Andre Fili (16-4) — despite some strong performances — has struggled to find consistency in UFC, alternating wins and losses since joining the organization in 2013. After being on the wrong end of one of 2016’s “Knockouts of the Year,” he faced Nova Uniao grinder Hacran Dias and took home the decision win in a mild upset.
Eight of his 16 wins, including two of his four UFC victories, have come by form of knockout.
Calvin Kattar (16-2) earned the nickname “The Boston Finisher” with stoppages in his first nine wins, including eight in the first round. He hasn’t scored a finish since 2010, but enters Saturday’s fight having won eight straight.
He replaces the injured Doo Ho Choi on less than two weeks’ notice.
I can’t find any non-highlight footage of Kattar since his win over Saul Almeida in 2012, so this is far from scientific, but I do think Fili gets the win here. “Touchy’s” takedown defense and scrambles have improved considerably, allowing him to unleash his potent striking arsenal with more impunity, and it’s unlikely Kattar has had enough time to prepare for the diverse array of punches and kicks coming his way.
Fili’s been matched tough throughout his UFC career, but I still think he has the talent to at least breach the Top 15. He embarks on his first UFC win streak with an early knockout.
Prediction: Fili via first-round technical knockout
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 214 fight card on fight night, 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 FXX at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.