We’ve up to five rounds of pure mayhem in store this Friday when knockout machine Justin Gaethje makes his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut against Michael Johnson in Las Vegas, Nevada. The two headline the The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 25: “Redemption” Finale, which also features Dhiego Lima against the winner of Jesse Taylor vs. James Krause for all the marbles.
Elsewhere on the FOX Sports 1-televised card, Marc Diakiese takes on Drakkar Klose in a clash of top Lightweight prospects and Jared Cannonier faces Steve Bosse in what could be a terrific brawl.
A few Prelims remain, so let’s dive in.
115 lbs.: Angela Hill (6-3) vs. Ashley Yoder (5-2)
Amicably released by the UFC and instructed to hone her craft, Hill did just that with four straight wins under the Invicta banner, winning and defending their strawweight title in the process. She returned to the Octagon in February and put in a Fight of the Night-winning effort against Jessica Andrade that ultimately didn’t go her way. “Overkill” has stopped three professional opponents via strikes.
“The Spider Monkey” scraped past Jodie Esquibel in the elimination round of TUF 23, but Team Cláudia’s Kate Jackson ended her run in the quarterfinals. She went on to submit Amber Brown in her Invicta debut, then joined the UFC proper with a decision loss to Justine Kish in Albany. She will have four inches of height and five inches of reach on Hill.
Yoder would have had a solid shot at beating Hill if they’d fought on TUF 20. Now? I doubt it. Hill’s shored up her takedown defense in a big way and she’s got a huge advantage in the striking. Notably, Hill defeated an excellent Jiu-Jitsu fighter in Livia Renata Souza to win her title, while Yoder has no such experience against quality strikers.
Expect a classic sprawl-and-brawl from Hill as she owns Yoder on the feet until the ref decides to show mercy.
Prediction: Hill by second-round TKO
205 lbs.: Ed Herman (22-12) vs. CB Dollaway (15-5)
Herman, a TUF: 3 veteran whose first Octagon appearance came in 2006, went 9-7 (1 NC) as a UFC middleweight before making the jump to 205 in 2016. He started his light heavyweight career strong with a bonus-winning knockout of Tim Boetsch, but came up short against Ukrainian bruiser Nikita Krylov. Seven of his ten UFC victories have come by stoppage.
“The Doberman” breathed new life into his UFC career with a 4-1 run, the sole loss a bogus split decision against Tim Boetsch. Fortune has not been on his side since, as he dropped three straight and suffered a back injury due to a faulty elevator before his planned light heavyweight debut at UFC 203. This will be his first fight since December of 2015.
Two middleweights in their mid-thirties, each with two knockout losses in their last three fights, fighting at light heavyweight. Divisionally relevant this ain’t.
Could be fun, though. The stylistic matchup favors Dollaway, who packs the harder punches and the more effective takedown game. Herman’s tricky off of his back and proved that he’s not to be slept on standing with the Boetsch knockout, but he’s got too much wear-and-tear to pick him over a dedicated wrestler with solid submission defense. Steady takedowns carry Dollaway to his first light heavyweight victory.
Prediction: Dollaway by unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Jessica Eye (11-6) vs. Aspen Ladd (5-0)
“Evil” Eye, once among the world’s top flyweights thanks to a 58-second submission of Zoila Frausto, has yet to find her place in the UFC’s bantamweight division. She’s gone 1-5 since a drug test scuttled her win over Sarah Kaufman, most recently losing a narrow decision to Bethe Correia at UFC 203. Eye is eight years older than Ladd and made her amateur debut nearly five years before the latter did.
Ladd spent almost seventeen months on the amateur circuit, compiling eight wins and a single loss to Cynthia Calvillo, before making the jump to the pro circuit in 2015. Her five fights, all in Invicta, have seen her pick up wins in both the flyweight and bantamweight divisions, including a decision over Team Lloyd Irvin product Sijara Eubanks in January. She owns three professional wins by (T)KO and one by submission.
The big tragedy with Eye is that with the right judging and no marijuana metabolites, she could easily be 4-3 in the Octagon. She’s a sharp, effective boxer whose greatest struggles have come against bigger, stronger grapplers. That said, she’s not blameless for those close defeats; she can be frustratingly inactive in fights she should be dominating.
And if there’s one thing Ladd’s not, it’s inactive. She’s an extremely active striker, working behind a jackhammer jab and a left hook she’ll throw over and over. Eye’s the cleaner boxer and Ladd isn’t an overpowering takedown artist, but sheer activity and Eye’s own lapses should be enough to carry the UFC newcomer to a narrow decision win.
Prediction: Ladd by unanimous decision
There shall be an abundance of violence. See you Friday, Maniacs.
Current UFC "Prelims" Prediction Record for 2017: 78-38 (1 NC)