Light Heavyweight knockout artists Volkan Oezdemir and Anthony Smith will look to pick off where Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor left off, headlining UFC Fight Night 138 this weekend (Sat., Oct. 27, 2018) inside Avenir Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. Also at 205 pounds, Misha Cirkunov takes on fellow grappling specialist Pat Cummins, while Michael Johnson steps up on short notice to fight Artem Lobov at Featherweight.
Four “Prelims” undercard bouts join the main card on FOX Sports 1 (check out the Fight Pass portion here). Let’s get to it:
170 lbs.: Nordine Taleb vs. Sean Strickland
Two unsuccessful appearances on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) weren’t enough to keep Nordine Taleb (14-5) from making a name for himself in the Octagon, where he has gone 6-3. Most recently, he went from scoring a 59-second knockout of Danny Roberts to suffering a massive upset defeat to Claudio Silva in Liverpool.
Half of his wins have come via (technical) knockout, two of them in UFC.
Sean Strickland (19-3) opened his UFC career 5-1, including a split decision over top British prospect Tom Breese at UFC 199. He’s just 1-2 since, suffering one-sided losses to Kamaru Usman and Elizeu Zaleski.
“Tarzan” will have two inches of reach on Taleb, though their heights are identical.
Now, isn’t this an odd one? Taleb looks to be on the wrong end of the size gap for once in his career, taking away one of his key attributes, but Strickland is one of the biggest underachievers in UFC. I wouldn’t be surprised by anything short of one of these guys hitting a gogoplata.
This fight may boil down to Strickland’s passivity, which allowed a smaller man in Santiago Ponzinibbio to tee off on him and should have cost him a decision against both Luke Barnatt and Tom Breese. Strickland should land plenty of jabs, but Taleb’s low kicks and greater willingness to throw power shots should let him eke out a win.
Prediction: Taleb via split decision
155 lbs.: Thibault Gouti vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Thibault Gouti (12-4) — who knocked out UFC veteran Anton Kuivanen to get a spot on the roster after a one-and-done TUF 22 appearance — is just 1-4 in the Octagon, suffering three stoppage losses along the way. He did give a good account of himself last time, however, earning a pyrrhic victory against Sage Northcutt in the eyes of most mixed martial arts (MMA) media, but ultimately going home empty handed with a decision defeat.
All but one of “GT’s” 10 stoppage wins have come inside the first round.
Nasrat Haqparast (9-2) scored eight consecutive knockouts before stepping up on short notice to face Marcin Held in his Octagon debut. He lost the decision despite dropping the Polish veteran, but bounced back strong with a dominant victory over Marc Diakiese in July.
He boasts six first-round finishes of his own.
I get wanting to go slow with a promising young prospect, but this seems like a considerable step back for Haqparast. Gouti doesn’t have the wrestling to shut him down the way Held did, nor the durability for extended trading on the feet. On top of that, Haqparast looks to be the faster and stronger of the two by a fair margin, leaving Gouti’s prospects dire no matter where the fight goes.
I genuinely see Haqparast getting ranked within 12 months if he’s given the opportunity, while Gouti has always just barely toed the line of being UFC-caliber. Haqparast channels doppelganger Kelvin Gastelum for an early left hand knockout.
Prediction: Haqparast via first-round technical knockout
145 lbs.: Calvin Kattar vs. Chris Fishgold
Calvin Kattar (18-3) got off to a red-hot start in the Octagon with upsets of Andre Fili and Shane Burgos, the latter of whom he knocked out in violent fashion to earn “Performance of the Night.” His momentum came to a halt against Brazil’s Renato Moicano, who snapped Kattar’s 10-fight win streak via unanimous decision.
He stands three inches taller than Chris Fishgold (17-1-1) at 5’11.”
Fishgold enters the Octagon on a seven-fight win streak that includes six first-round finishes. He choked out Adam Boussif in 93 seconds for the vacant Cage Warriors Lightweight title, then successfully defended it three times before dropping to 145 pounds for his UFC debut.
He has stopped 12 opponents via submission, 10 of them in the first round.
Fishgold is a quality addition to UFC’s roster, a rare English wrestler with a strong submission game. I expect the drop to Featherweight to work well for him, allowing him to overpower opponents with even greater ease. The issue is that his stand up relies on aggression and throwing hard rather than any real cohesive attack, and even though that can be enough to get opponents to back up to the cage, it’s a worrying flaw against a boxer of Kattar’s caliber.
Though Moicano found considerable success against Kattar despite visibly rougher striking, “The Boston Finisher” has the takedown defense and overall craft to ruin Fishgold’s night. So long as he can avoid getting pressed against the cage, he should be able to counter-punch his way to victory.
Prediction: Kattar via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Sarah Moras vs. Talita Bernardo
Sarah Moras (5-3) — representing Team Tate — reached the semifinals on TUF 18 before falling to teammate and eventual winner Julianna Pena by submission. She’s alternated victories and defeats in the Octagon itself, most recently losing a decision to Lucie Pudilova to even her Octagon record at 2-2.
She has armbarred and knocked out two professional opponents apiece.
Talita Bernardo (4-3) stepped up on short notice to face Marion Reneau in her UFC debut last year and was rewarded for her bravery by getting pounded out late in the third round. She returned to action four months later, lasting the distance against Irene Aldana but losing a wide unanimous decision.
All four of her wins have come by first-round submission.
Here we have a clash of submission artists held back by horribly inadequate wrestling. Both Moras’ takedown accuracy and defense are below 20 percent and Bernardo was an eye-popping 1/11 in trying to take down Aldana. Match ups between submission specialists of similar calibers often boil down to which one can wind up on top more often, which doesn’t seem easy to figure out here.
I’m leaning toward Moras, if only because of her superior strength of schedule. She spends enough time on top to take the decision.
Prediction: Moras via unanimous decision
UFC Fight Night 138 features some new names you should know about and a main event that screams “early finish,” which sounds about right for a free card. See you Saturday, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 138 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.