clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC 220 predictions: ‘Miocic vs Ngannou’ Fight Pass ‘Prelims’ undercard preview

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing a bevy of “Prelims” fights to both UFC Fight Pass and FOX Sports 1 this weekend (Sat., Jan. 20, 2018) when UFC 220: “Miocic vs. Ngannou” storms TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.’s Patrick Stumberg kicks off the UFC 220 “Prelims” party with the first installment of a two-part undercard preview series below.

UFC 219: Vettori v Akhmedov Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

The first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view (PPV) event of 2018 features some very literal heavy hands.

Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic takes center stage at UFC 220 against the colossal power of Francis Ngannou in the promotion’s return to TD Garden in Boston, Mass., while Light Heavyweight roost ruler Daniel Cormier attempts to shut down the wholly unexpected rise of Volkan Oezdemir.

The PPV main card also pits two of the Featherweight division’s top prospects — Calvin Kattar and Shane Burgos — opposite each other, as well as must-watch Bantamweight standouts Thomas Almeida and Rob Font.

UFC 220 features seven “Prelims” undercard matches this time, split 4:3 between FOX Sports 1 and Fight Pass. Let’s first check out the online line up:

145 lbs.: Matt Bessette vs. Enrique Barzola

Matt Bessette (12-1) put together a respectable 5-2 Bellator MMA record before making a full jump to CES, where he won and twice defended the Featherweight title. This got him a “Tuesday Night Contender Series” shot against Kurt Holobaugh, who knocked him stiff in the first round, but was subsequently discovered to have used an IV, resulting in a “No Contest.”

He replaces Arnold Allen, who ran into visa issues, on around a week’s notice.

Enrique Barzola (13-3-1) took home the gold on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Latin America” 2, out-grappling Mexican knockout artists Horacio Gutierrez in the tournament finals. Though a questionable decision loss to Kyle Bochniak halted his momentum, he enters the cage on a two-fight win streak, most recently defeating TUF: “Latin America” competitor Gabriel Benitez.

“El Fuerte” stands three inches shorter than the 5’10” “Mangler.”

I’ll admit, I haven’t watched as much tape on Bessette as I should. I had most of a writeup ready ahead of time for Allen vs. Barzola, since I was going to a place with iffy wifi, but then Allen had to go and have visa problems, so I’m working on limited information. There’s only so much you can do when you have to reconnect to the network every two minutes of a YouTube video.

Said limited information shows that — while Bessette is very capable on the inside — his ringcraft isn’t great and he can be overwhelmed by pressure. Barzola’s rapid-fire boxing and adeptness at blending his striking and takedowns seem like a good way to punish those deficiencies ... especially on short notice. Barzola -- who has proven his grit — sets the pace, lands punches and spends enough of the fight in top position to earn the win.

Prediction: Barzola via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Maryna Moroz vs. Jamie Moyle

Maryna Moroz (8-2) sent the women’s Strawweight rankings a-wobblin’ in her short-notice debut, which saw her upset the massively favored Joanne Calderwood by flying armbar. She’s gone 2-2 since, defeating Cristina Stanciu and Danielle Taylor between losses to Valerie Letourneau and Carla Esparza.

Five of her wins have come by either armbar or straight armbar.

Jamie Moyle (4-2) went 3-1 in Invicta, submitting J.J. Aldrich along the way, before becoming Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s second pick on TUF 23. Her run ended in the quarterfinals, after which she defeated Kailin Curran and dropped a decision to Viviane Pereira in UFC proper.

At 5’1,” she is six inches shorter than Moroz, though the reach difference is only two inches.

Man, that height difference. Moyle’s a capable wrestler and Moroz is too comfortable off of her back, but the other “Iron Lady” should be able to tear apart Moyle on the feet, using that range to stifle Moyle’s takedowns and steadily wear her down. Pereira showed that Moyle can be overpowered on the feet, which certainly bodes well for Moroz, and Moyle is neither the striker Letourneau is nor the takedown artist Esparza is.

So long as Moroz is busier and more aggressive than she was against Taylor, she should take this comfortably. Moroz pieces her up on the feet for a decision win.

Prediction: Moroz via unanimous decision

155 lbs.: Gleison Tibau vs. Islam Makhachev

Gleison Tibau (32-12) put together a 5-1 streak from 2013 to 2015, beating the likes of Jamie Varner and Norman Parke, before falling short against Tony Ferguson. He bounced back by demolishing Abel Trujillo in 105 seconds, but saw the win overturned to a disqualification loss due to a failed drug test.

This will be his first fight in 26 months as a result.

Islam Makhachev (14-1) saw his unbeaten record go up in smoke thanks to a one-punch knockout loss to Adriano Martins, then had insult added to injury when he tested positive for meldonium before a planned fight with Drew Dober. He has since gotten back on track with consecutive decisions over Chris Wade and Nik Lentz.

He owns six wins by submission and another two by (technical) knockout.

While Makhachev isn’t quite the physical powerhouse Khabib Nurmagomedov is, I can see him finding success against the Brazilian goliath by applying a similar sort of mindset, relentlessly pushing for takedowns and forcing Tibau to either lose a decision on lack of volume or gas himself out trying to keep up. Tibau isn’t a cardio machine at the best of times and a two-year layoff cannot have helped things.

The one real concern is whether Makhachev’s mental fortitude can hold up against a man this big and this adept at stuffing takedowns. Having already powered through a brutal knockout loss, I say yes. Tibau starts off strong, but defending Makhachev’s dizzying array of takedowns and trips eventually wears him out enough for the Dagestani to pull ahead.

Prediction: Makhachev via unanimous decision

Four more UFC 220 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, among them three debuting “Tuesday Night Contender Series” winners and what should be a slobberknocking rematch between Abdul Razak Alhassan and Sabah Homasi.

Same time as always, Maniacs!

Remember, too, that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 220 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania