I hope you weren’t planning to sleep off your various Black Friday shopping wounds, because Ultimate Fighting Championship hits Cadillac Arena in Beijing, China, bright and early this Saturday morning (Nov. 24, 2018) with a Fight Pass start time of 6:30 a.m. ET. Leading the way are Heavyweight bruisers Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes in a rematch of Blaydes’ Octagon debut, while mutual victim Alistair Overeem welcomes Russian standout Sergey Pavlovich to the eight-walled cage one fight prior.
UFC Fight Night 141 features eight “Prelims” undercard bouts this time around, all of which will stream on Fight Pass alongside the main card. Let’s get to it!
185 lbs.: John Phillips vs. Kevin Holland
John Phillips (21-7) — who had two scheduled UFC debuts scrapped in 2017 — finally stepped foot in the Octagon in March, facing Charles Byrd in London. The SBG representative’s grappling failed him, however, allowing Byrd to choke him out in less than four minutes.
Eighteen of the 21 stoppage wins for “The White Mike Tyson” have come by form of knockout.
Kevin Holland (13-4) racked up four consecutive victories, including a decision over Will Santiago on the Contender Series, to earn a spot in the Octagon this year. His debut saw him face knockout artist Thiago Santos, who failed to put away Holland, but still took home a wide decision victory.
He stands four inches taller than Phillips at 6’3.”
Having power is a plus, obviously, but the nasty side effect is that fighters fall in love with it and fall behind in their technical development. Phillips has been in this sport for 13 years and has nothing to show for it besides power; his boxing is poor and his takedown defense is nonexistent.
The pool of UFC Middleweight talent he can beat is quite small. It doesn’t include Holland.
“Trailblazer” has half a foot of reach on Phillips, is the better wrestler, and is more than happy to sit at range plunking kicks off the Welshman’s guard while the latter plods after him. He’s never been stopped with strikes, either, and just survived three rounds against one of the scariest men in the sport. Expect him to cruise here, landing kicks until Phillips gets overeager, taken down, and submitted in short order.
Prediction: Holland via first-round submission
170 lbs.: Li Jingliang vs. David Zawada
Li Jingliang (15-5) is 5-1 since opening his Octagon career 2-2, earning two Fights of the Night and one Performance of the Night along the way. After a grueling loss to Jake Matthews in February, Li got back in the win column with a dominant decision over Japanese knockout artist Daichi Abe.
“The Leech” will give up three inches of reach to Zawada.
David Zawada (16-4) — a standout in Poland’s venerable KSW promotion — joined UFC on short notice this July against Danny Roberts. Despite being a moderate underdog, Zawada gave “Hot Chocolate” everything he could handle, walking away with “Fight of the Night” in a split decision defeat.
He steps in for the injured Elizeu Zaleski on short notice.
What Li pulled against Matthews was pretty inexcusable, but he’s still one of the most consistently entertaining fighters the promotion has to offer. His power, wrestling and reckless abandon make him a tough out for anyone at 170 pounds.
Zawada can strike and his sneaky takedown game is a threat, but he’s been hurt badly on the feet in the past, and Li’s punches demand extreme durability. Li’s physical strength also limits the effectiveness of Zawada’s sneaky takedown game, ensuring they spend enough time on the feet for one of “The Leech’s” bombs to land clean. Li clips him early in the second round.
Prediction: Li via second-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Liu Pingyuan vs. Martin Day
Liu Pingyuan (12-5) got called up to the UFC in the midst of a seven-fight winning streak, and though his initial debut against Bharat Khandare fell through, he got the chance to show his stuff in July against Damian Stasiak. He had some trouble with “Webster’s” grappling early on, but took over with his striking to win the net two rounds.
Five of his nine stoppage wins have come by submission.
Martin Day (9-2) came up short in his “Contender Series” bid, losing a decision to The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 24 alumnus Jaime Alvarez last year. “The Spartan” has since picked up a trio of victories, most recently knocking out Brady Huang to win the URCC Bantamweight title.
He is one inch taller than Liu, but will give up an inch of reach.
Day’s a lot of fun to watch, a long-distance striker with fancy kicks and some heavy straight punches. When given free rein to potshot at range, he’s a hassle. When he isn’t, well, things get dicey. Though he’s got a good eye for counter hooks, Alvarez repeatedly found his way inside to land punches and takedowns.
Liu looks capable of doing the same. The Chinese youngster is aggressive, durable and has some sneaky grappling of his own with which to disrupt Day’s rhythm. Expect an entertaining back-and-forth battle that sees Liu mix his boxing and takedowns to secure the win.
Prediction: Liu via unanimous decision
135 lbs.: Louis Smolka vs. Sumudaerji
Louis Smolka (14-5) put together a four-fight win streak with two bonus-winning stoppages to earn a spot in UFC’s Flyweight rankings, only to exit the promotion after losing four straight. “Da Last Samurai” went on to fight three times in 2018, racking up three stoppage wins to earn another shot in the Octagon.
His 11 stoppage wins include six submissions.
The single-monikered Sumudaerji (8-1), fighting out of the same Enbo Gedou camp that gave us Song Yadong and Liu Pingyuan, has yet to go the distance as a professional, ending all but three fights within three rounds. Depending on whether you trust Sherdog or Tapology more, he has already fought three or five times in 2018.
This fight came together on less than two weeks notice.
From what I’ve seen of Sumudaerji, he’s a Karate-style southpaw whose main weapons are fancy kicks from a wide, low stance and a powerful straight left that does the real damage. He’s plenty entertaining and his finishing skills are legit, but his three submission losses and lack of experience against top competition aren’t good signs against a grappler of Smolka’s caliber.
Smolka’s always been a terrific scrambler and submission artist held back by a lack of physicality and offensive wrestling. Hopefully, he’ll use the extra 10 pounds to pack on some beef, but even if he hasn’t, he’s durable enough to survive Sumudaerji’s left hand and drag him south for a quick finish.
Prediction: Smolka via first-round submission
Four more UFC Fight Night 141 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, including China’s best fighter in Zhang Weili. Same time as always, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 141 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 3:15 a.m. ET right into the main card start time at 6:30 a.m. ET (also on Fight Pass).