Derrick Lewis faces the biggest opportunity of his career this Saturday (Nov. 4, 2018) after less than one month to prepare, challenging Daniel Cormier for the Light Heavyweight title in the pay-per-view (PPV) main event of UFC 230. Down at Middleweight, Chris Weidman faces “Jacare” Souza in a long-awaited clash of elite grapplers and Jared Cannonier steps up on short notice to take on durable veteran David Branch.
We’ve got four FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict (check out the Fight Pass portion here), so let’s not delay.
145 lbs.: Jason Knight vs. Jordan Rinaldi
Jason Knight (20-5) — the man known either as “The Kid” or “Hick Diaz,” depending on the formality of the situation — took home three post-fight bonuses in four straight wins to establish himself as a contender. He has since lost three straight, succumbing to Ricardo Lamas’ punches before suffering upset decision defeats to Gabriel Benitez and Makwan Amirkhani.
He has submitted 13 professional opponents, 10 by form of choke.
Jordan Rinaldi (13-6), riding a five-fight win streak, debuted on short notice against dangerous brawler Abel Trujillo, losing an entertaining decision. He bounced back with a von Flue finish of Álvaro Herrera, but succumbed to Gregor Gillespie’s ground-and-pound five months later.
This will be his first fight at Featherweight since 2015.
I’m honestly not sure if Knight’s struggles are a product of that beatdown against Lamas or if he’s just been figured out; he’s still got that killer submission game and sneaky punching power, but something’s just been missing. He has to finish Rinaldi if he wants to prove he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
On paper, at least, Knight looks like he has all the cards, boasting superior grappling and a strong body attack to control things on the feet. So long as he fights up to at least a portion of his considerable potential, he drops and taps Rinaldi early.
Prediction: Knight via first-round submission
125 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Roxanne Modafferi
Sijara Eubanks (3-2) didn’t let a low seeding on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26 stop her from marching to the Finale in dominant fashion. Unfortunately, a blown weight cut cost her a shot at the new title, leaving her to debut against Lauren Murphy earlier this year.
“Sarj” stands three inches shorter than Roxanne Modafferi (22-14) at 5’4.”
Modafferi’s experience and strong Invicta FC run earned her the top seed on TUF 26, where she reached the semifinals before falling to Eubanks. She went on to replace Eubanks against Nicco Montano at the Finale, and though she lost that decision, she picked up her first UFC victory by stopping Barb Honchak seven months later.
“The Happy Warrior” has finished five opponents via submission and another four with strikes.
I’m not entirely sure what UFC intended to accomplish with this rematch — there’s nothing to suggest it will go any differently than the last time. Eubanks is larger and stronger than Modafferi on top of having more power in her strikes and a superior Brazilian jiu-jitsu pedigree. Modafferi needs to be able to establish top position and get her passing game going to be effective, neither of which she’ll be able to do here.
There’s always the worry of Eubanks flubbing her weight cut again, but if she enters the cage in anything even remotely close to fighting shape, she should dominate wherever the fight goes. Modafferi’s durability saves her from a finish, but power strikes and prolonged top control earn Eubanks another victory.
Prediction: Eubanks via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Julio Arce vs. Sheymon Moraes
Consecutive losses to Brian Kelleher slowed the rise of Julio Arce (15-2), but four more victories earned him a spot on “Tuesday Night Contender Series,” where he dominated Lloyd Irvin product Peter Petties to earn a contract. His Octagon career has seen him dominate Dan Ige and submit Daniel Teymur since the start of the year.
Five of his eight professional stoppage wins have come via form of choke.
Sheymon Moraes (10-2) jumped right into the deep end in UFC, facing top prospect Zabit Magomedsharipov in his promotional debut and tapping to a third-round anaconda choke. He had more success against another quality youngster in Matt Sayles, whom the Brazilian took two rounds from at UFC 227.
He’ll have an inch of height and two inches of reach on Arce.
We have a rather interesting match up here! Moraes figures to be the better striker, as he will be against most anyone at 145 pounds willing to trade with him, but Arce’s grappling game has the potential to throw a wrench in it. This fight will be decided by how well Arce can blend his striking and his takedowns.
Moraes exceeded my expectation against Sayles, which may be the reason my gut is telling me to pick him. I say he banks the first two rounds through precise punching and ultimately walks away with a contentious decision.
Prediction: Moraes via split decision
170 lbs.: Lyman Good vs. Ben Saunders
Lyman Good (19-4) — Bellator MMA’s first-ever Welterweight champion — started strong in UFC with a knockout of Andrew Craig, only to fail a drug test before a planned fight with Belal Muhammad. He returned after two years away to face Elizeu Zaleski in July 2017, losing a split decision but walking away with “Fight of the Night.”
“Cyborg” will surrender two inches of height and three inches of reach to Ben Saunders (22-10-2).
“Killa B” snapped a two-fight skid in June by crushing Jake Ellenberger with a knee to the body, earning “Performance of the Night” for his efforts. He couldn’t do the same to Sergio Moraes, who demonstrated the difference in jiu-jitsu levels by handing Saunders his first-ever submission defeat.
He steps in for Sultan Aliev on two weeks’ notice.
Though Good doesn’t always make the best of his considerable physical gifts, he’s heavily favored here and for good reason. “Cyborg” has never been stopped, shrugging off blows from heavy hitters like Andrey Koreshkov and Elizeu Zalaeski, and Saunders no longer has the durability to survive 15 minutes against strong punchers. Unless that layoff has seriously hampered Good, even a considerable reach advantage isn’t enough to save Saunders from eating heavier leather than he can take.
Saunders can still score a finish out of nowhere, but the likeliest outcome sees him succumb to Good’s power either late in the first or early in the second.
Prediction: Good via first-round technical knockout
UFC 230’s main event is going to be something special, even if I can’t for the life of me predict how exactly it’ll fulfill that adjective. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 230 fight card, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 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.