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UFC Denver preview, predictions for ‘Korean Zombie vs Rodriguez’ on FOX Sports 1

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Get your (legal) herbs ready, because Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is heading to Denver, Colorado this Saturday (Nov. 10, 2018) for its latest mixed martial arts (MMA) offering.

UFC Fight Night 139 features a pair of featherweight bonus machines in Chan Sung Jung and Yair Rodriguez, plus a bonkers welterweight throwdown between Donald Cerrone and Mike Perry. We’ll also see some former title challengers and undefeated fighters throughout the six-fight main card on FOX Sports 1.

We took a look at the UFC Denver “Prelims” here and here, plus the odds here. Managing Editor Jesse Holland is currently hunting down rogue Replicants and questioning his own humanity, so I’m here to guide you through the six-fight main card.

145 lbs.: Chan Sung Jung (14-4) vs. Yair Rodriguez (10-2)

The public about-face on Rodriguez was almost dramatic enough to give me whiplash. “El Pantera” went from a standard-bearer for the next generation of featherweights to being a punchline after getting mauled by Frankie Edgar. Thing is, Edgar does that to most people he fights; getting beaten pillar to post by one of the most accomplished fighters of this generation isn’t a nail in the coffin for a young prospect.

There was also the whole Zabit Magomedsharipov debacle, sure, but that’s not reflective of Rodriguez’s abilities.

All that said, this still looks like a rough out for him. Jung isn’t an overpowering wrestler, which remains the ideal skillset to ruin Rodriguez’s day, but his sheer tenacity presents problems for Rodriguez. Further, the “Zombie” is deceptively crafty, even on his feet, meaning Rodriguez’s tendency to not set up his fancier strikes could allow his foe to get inside and start landing right hands.

The key here might be Jung’s experience in deep waters, and I don’t just mean long fights. Rodriguez went five rounds with Alex Caceres, but that was more of a sparring session than anything. Jung has had some absolute wars and refused to slow down. As the fight progresses and Rodriguez’s explosiveness starts to wane, Jung will find his way into punching range more and more often. From there, his power and scrambling ability should allow him to get into dominant position and pound away for the victory.

Prediction: Jung by fourth-round TKO

170 lbs.: Donald Cerrone (33-11) vs. Mike Perry (12-3)

Donald Cerrone has lost four of his last five fights, two of them by brutal knockout. I am picking him to defeat a terrifying puncher who, by his own admission, weighed nearly 200 pounds less than a week before fight night.

I’m not a clever man, but I swear I can explain.

Even in the midst of that horrid stretch, Cerrone was plenty competitive with both Robbie Lalwer and Leon Edwards. Perry, meanwhile, is less than 10 months removed from getting outclassed by Max Griffin, and his victories since the Alan Jouban loss came over Jake Ellenberger, a late-notice Lightweight in Alex Reyes, and another late-notice (but admittedly very good) lightweight in Paul Felder.

Just pointing out how they did against other people isn’t sufficient analysis, but it does put things in perspective. Stylistically, as well, Perry is aggressive, but doesn’t offer the crafty sort of pressure Jorge Masvidal and Darren Till used to great effect. “Platinum” is shorter and less rangy than “Cowboy” alongside being too linear, making Cerrone’s intercepting knee a potent weapon. If Cerrone can blunt Perry’s charge and force the latter to fight more conservatively, his wider arsenal and more precise punches should allow him to pull ahead.

Perry is definitely fast and hard-hitting enough to take Cerrone’s head off during “Cowboy’s” customary slow starts, but after seeing Perry’s continued struggles with technicians, I say Cerrone boxes him up and proves he’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Prediction: Cerrone by unanimous decision

135 lbs.: Raquel Pennington (9-6) vs. Germaine de Randamie (7-3)

Y’all remember that bit when Germaine de Randamie was a UFC champion? Strange times. Then again, her entire career has been one long, confusing mess; she’s fought just three times in the last five years, pulling out of four different fights due to injury along the way. This will be her first fight since controversially beating Holly Holm more than 20 months ago.

Nobody can deny “The Iron Lady’s” striking skills, but outside of Holm, her résumé is nonexistent; wins over Larissa Pacheco (0-2 UFC) and Anna Elmose (0-2 UFC) aren’t exactly the stuff of legend. Pennington, meanwhile, has beaten the likes of Jéssica Andrade and Miesha Tate.

Pennington’s two big struggles here are going to come from de Randamie’s four-inch reach advantage and the mental baggage of mentally breaking against Amanda Nunes. Ordinarily, those would be enough for me to pick against her, but de Randamie’s inactivity and tendency to make fights closer than they have to be have me thinking Pennington wrestles and grits her way to a narrow victory.

Prediction: Pennington by split decision

125 lbs.: Joseph Benavidez (25-5) vs. Ray Borg (11-3)

Never mind, Borg’s out. Teach me to write things ahead of time. Instead, here’s the Prelim bout that’s replacing it.

155 lbs.: Beneil Dariush vs. Thiago Moises

Beneil Dariush (14-4-1) — who opened his UFC career 8-2 — has not tasted victory since upsetting Rashid Magomedov in Nov. 2016. After running face-first into an Edson Barboza knee, Dariush settled for a draw against Evan Dunham, then suffered a shocking one-punch knockout loss to unheralded Alexander Hernandez in March.

Six of his nine stoppage wins have come by submission.

Thiago Moises (11-2) submitted Dave Castillo in 2016 for the RFA Lightweight championship, which he defended twice before losing to Robert Watley after RFA merged with Legacy. After choking out Jeff Peterson, he got called up to “Contender Series,” where he knocked out an overweight Gleidson Cutis in the first round.

He replaces the injured Chris Gruetzemacher on two weeks’ notice.

Moises is a strong young talent at 23 years old, boasting solid combination punches, deceptively fast kicks, and a nasty submission game. Unfortunately, his skillset isn’t well-suited to dealing with what Dariush brings to the table; Moises struggled with Watley’s pressure and looks to be the lesser wrestler by a fair margin, meaning Dariush should be able to hold his own at range, in the clinch, or in top position if needed.

The unknown here is Dariush’s confidence after the last couple of years. He’s a genuine top-notch fighter, but two brutal knockouts can throw anyone off. Assuming Dariush has his head on straight, he stifles Moises’ kicks and beats him up at close range to take the decision.

Prediction: Dariush via unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Maycee Barber (5-0) vs. Hannah Cifers (8-2)

Since neither of these two have fought in the UFC yet, let’s have a quick crash course. Barber is a 20-year-old wunderkind who is, stylistically, not all that dissimilar from Paige VanZant. She prefers to either stay at range and flick out kicks or muscle her way inside, hunt for an outside reap, and finish things by ground-and-pound.

Cifers, replacing Maia Stevenson on short notice, is an aggressive combination puncher with some real pop in her hands and a delightful willingness to work the body. This would be a solid skillset to use against Barber if Cifers had fought more than one (1) opponent with a winning record. Her competition has just been nonexistent outside of her win over 5-1 Kali Robbins two months back.

The one time she fought a competent opponent before that? Gillian Robertson choked her out.

Barber has quite a bit of work to do if she wants to be the UFC’s youngest champ, but her top game ought to be plenty here. She drags Cifers to the mat before long, passes to dominant position, and pounds away for her third consecutive (T)KO stoppage.

Prediction: Barber by first-round TKO

155 lbs.: Luis Peña (5-0) vs. Mike Trizano (7-0)

Ah, good, two guys from an Ultimate Fighter series I barely watched. I am the ideal person to write this preview.

In all seriousness, this is a quality matchup. Peña’s size, power, and submission skills make him a top-notch prospect, but still a fairly unproven one, while Trizano defied the odds to defeat Joe Giannetti on the Finale. Whoever wins this has quite a bright future ahead.

Trizano’s victory over Giannetti suggests that he knows how to deal with rangy strikers, but where Giannetti throws noncommittal kicks and punches to harass opponents into ill-advised shots, Peña is out to break things. Trizano can’t sit at range and go strike-for-strike the way he did against Giannetti, and I’d imagine he’ll have quite a bit more trouble getting into punching range with genuine fire coming back at him.

And if he gets overeager and tries to bully his way inside, Peña’s chokes are waiting.

Four inches of height and seven inches of reach are just a bit too much for Trizano to overcome. Peña clips him on the way in and locks up a fight-ending choke on his dazed foe.

Prediction: Peña by first-round submission

MMAmania.com will have LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 139 fight card on fight night (click here), starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 7 p.m. ET, then the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard fights at 8 p.m. ET, and finally the main card start at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

For much more on UFC Denver click here.