Two top-ranked Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight contender will run it back after nearly five years inside Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, Wis., this Saturday (Dec. 15, 2018) when Al Iaquinta (No. 8) rematches Kevin Lee (No. 4) in UFC on FOX 31’s main event. Setting the stage will be another terrific fight at 155 pounds that pits Edson Barboza (No. 5) against the indestructible Dan Hooker (No. 14). Mixed martial arts (MMA) fans will also get to see Sergio Pettis take on Rob Font and Charles Oliveira square off with Jim Miller in another long-simmering rematch.
UFC on FOX 31’s four-fight main card means there are more “Prelims” undercard matches than usual to preview and predict. Nine, to be exact, three of which are on Fight Pass. Let’s have a look!
205 lbs.: Adam Milstead vs. Mike Rodriguez
Adam Milstead (8-2) spent his first two UFC bouts as a Heavyweight, knocking out Chris de la Rocha and suffering a gnarly knee injury against Curtis Blaydes. Though the latter loss was overturned because Blaydes tested positive for marijuana, Milstead returned one year later as a Light Heavyweight, fighting unbeaten prospect Jordan Johnson to narrow split decision loss.
All eight of his professional wins have come by stoppage within two rounds.
Mike Rodriguez (9-3) scored one of the wildest “Contender Series” knockouts yet with a flying knee finish of Jamelle Jones, earning both a contract and his seventh first-round knockout. His takedown defense failed him in his UFC debut, however, allowing Devin Clark to bring him to the mat seven times and secure the decision.
“Slo-Mike” will have a seven-inch reach advantage on fight night.
After the Clark fight, it’s up in the air as to whether Rodriguez is a true prospect or just an entertaining striker who needs opponents to oblige him with a stand up battle. Luckily, Milstead is one of those opponents, an aggressive and hard-nosed brawler who’s happy to trade leather.
Rodriguez’s length will be key, allowing him to potshot from well outside Milstead’s range. If “The Prototype” gets too eager to close the gap, Rodriguez’s knees will be waiting for him. He pieces Milstead up on the outside before punishing an attempted rush with a fight-ending knee.
Prediction: Rodriguez via first-round knockout
185 lbs.: Trevor Smith vs. Zak Cummings
Trevor Smith (15-8) has gone 5-5 since making the move from Strikeforce to UFC in 2014, beating veterans like Dan Miller and Chris Camozzi along the way. In his most recent effort, he took on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): “Nations” winner Elias Theodorou in Liverpool, dropping a decision to “The Spartan.”
“Hot Sauce” is three inches taller than Zak Cummings (21-6) at 6’0.”
Despite losing to Dylan Andrews on TUF 17, Cummings found a place for himself in UFC’s Welterweight division, winning six of his first eight bouts in the Octagon. This past May, he welcomed Brazilian former Lightweight Michel Prazeres to the 170-pound ranks, losing a close decision to “Trator.”
This will be his first Middleweight appearance since that TUF season in 2012.
Frankly, this is giving me a bit of deja vu, as it’s essentially the Prazeres-Cummings fight shifted one weight class upward. Cummings is the stronger submission artist, but he’s used to being the bigger man in the cage, and though Smith is slow and shopworn, he can still grind with the best of them.
There is, however, a world of difference between Cummings and the likes of Miller and Camozzi. And Cummings has both a dangerous front choke game and solid punching power to which to frustrate Smith’s attempts at getting his wrestling going. So long as Cummings stays busy with his hands and doesn’t settle for getting pressed against the cage for long periods of time, he should rack up enough damage and threaten enough submissions to get the decision.
Prediction: Cummings via unanimous decision
265 lbs.: Chris de la Rocha (5-2) vs. Juan Adams (4-0)
Chris de la Rocha (5-2) had what could charitably be called a rough start to his Octagon career, suffering (technical) knockout losses to Daniel Omielanczuk and Adam Milstead. He returned to the cage two years later — and 18 pounds heavier — against Rashad Coulter, surviving “Daywalker’s” early offense to pound him out in the second round.
He has knocked out three opponents and submitted another two, all within two rounds.
Juan Adams (4-0) went undefeated (four finishes) as an amateur before making his professional MMA debut in 2017. Thirteen months later, “The Kraken” appeared on “Contender Series,” brutalizing Shawn Teed with ground-and-pound to earn a contract.
All four of his professional wins have come by first-round technical knockout.
Adams is definitely a raw product, having had his first amateur fight just two years ago, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. He’s absolutely colossal, cutting weight to make the Heavyweight limit, and has some gnarly ground-and-pound that uses his 81-inch reach to its fullest. He has a very beatable opponent in front of him in de la Rocha, who is just an average all-rounder, but it could come down to his cardio.
I figured de la Rocha to be chinny after the 48-second loss to Omielanczuk, but he weathered a ton of punishment in his next two fights. And if Adams can’t keep that giant frame of his in fighting shape for more than five minutes, he’s in for trouble. All that said, his size and power ought to carry him to victory as he denies his opponent’s takedowns, bullies his way into top position, and drops bombs for the finish late in the first.
Prediction: Adams via first-round technical knockout
Six more UFC on FOX 31 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict tomorrow, capped off by the Octagon debut of knockout artist and “Contender Series” standout, Dwight Grant. Same time as always, Maniacs!
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC on FOX 31 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bouts at 3:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 5 p.m. ET, before the FOX main card start time at 10 p.m. ET.