Judges? Who needs ‘em!
The balls and the walls will be well-acquainted this Sunday evening (Feb. 18, 2018) when Donald Cerrone and Yancy Medeiros trade leather inside Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, in UFC Fight Night 126’s main event. Earlier in the night, Derrick Lewis looks to reassert his place among the Heavyweight division’s most feared finishers against Poland’s Marcin Tybura and James Vick throws down with Brazilian bulldozer Francisco Trinaldo.
We’ve still got four UFC Fight Night 126 “Prelims” undercard bouts to dissect (check out the Fight Pass portion here). However, before we start digging in, let’s turn back time and first address the aforementioned “Prelims” on Fight Pass. Yesterday, we mentioned that there were two undercard bouts, but, UFC is gonna UFC, and decided to add a third to its website officially just six days before showtime. So, to be completely thorough, let’s break it down right quick:
185 lbs.: Tim Williams vs. Oskar Piechota
Despite two shots on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), one on TUF 17 and one on TUF 19, Tim Williams (15-3) never quite got over the hump, falling to Dylan Andrews and Dhiego Lima. Undaunted, he enters the cage having won five straight, including victories over UFC veterans Nah-shon Burrell and Jay Silva.
“The South Jersey Strangler” stands two inches taller than Piechota at 6’2”.
An ADCC veteran with a win over Vinny Magalhaes under his belt, Oskar Piechota (10-0-1) scored a finish in all nine of his pre-UFC victories, each in less than two rounds. He had to settle for a decision in his Octagon debut, but nonetheless impressed with his striking and grappling against Jonathan Wilson.
His finishes are split 5-4 between submissions and knockouts.
There does not appear to be a clear avenue of victory for Williams. Should he attempt his customary brand of aggressive wrestling and top control, he’ll have to deal with literally world-class Brazilian jiu-jitsu. The striking doesn’t seem like it would go much better for him, as Piechota packs some serious heat.
Williams’ ideal course of action is to smother Piechota into submission with heavy, conservative top control, but the Pole is just too damn good on the ground. Worse, he has the tools to put Williams on his back should the opportunity arise. He wraps up a choke sometime late in the first round.
Prediction: Piechota via first-round submission
Now, finally, onto the FOX Sports 1 portion ...
155 lbs.: Jared Gordon vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira
He had to endure a bout of food poisoning to do it, but Jared Gordon (14-1) finally made his UFC debut in June 2017 and made the most of it with a ground-and-pound stoppage of Michel Quinones. Returning to Lightweight after a rough cut, he battered Nova Uniao standout Hacran Dias in Sao Paulo in Oct. 2017.
He will give up six inches of reach to Carlos Diego Ferreira (12-2).
Ferreira started his UFC career strong with consecutive bonus-winning stoppages of Colton Smith and Ramsey Nijem, but saw his momentum evaporate after losses to Beneil Dariush and Dustin Poirier. Despite these setbacks, he proved he’s still a force to be reckoned with in a one-sided victory over Olivier Aubin-Mercier.
This will be his first fight in two years thanks to a failed drug test.
Ferreira has the tools to win this fight. He looked like a genuine contender against Aubin-Mercier, dominating the Canadian judoka with absolute ease. Had he fought even once in the last 12 months, I’d be picking him here.
Thing is, he hasn’t, and Gordon pushes a downright murderous pace. Rock-solid cardio and a truly wilting pressure game make Gordon a nightmare to fight should you have any sort of cage rust. Ferreira should find early success with his striking and takedown defense, but as the round progress, Gordon’s unflappable assault will sap his cardio and will to fight. Gordon buries him in volume for the decision win.
Prediction: Gordon via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Geoffrey Neal vs. Brian Camozzi
Geoffrey Neal (8-2) cut his teeth under the Legacy and XKO banners, putting together a 5-1 run after a defeat in his third professional fight. His efforts landed him a spot on Dana White’s “Tuesday Night Contender Series,” where “Handz of Steel” [sic] tore up former RFA title challenger Chase Waldon in less than two minutes.
His last four wins have come by form of knockout.
Brian Camozzi scored six first-round finishes in his first seven fights, ultimately winning the RFA Welterweight title with a 100-second submission of Nick Barnes in 2016. He has yet to recapture that success in UFC, however, suffering stoppage losses to Randy Brown and Chad Laprise in his two Octagon appearances.
“The Mantis” will have three inches of height and two inches of reach on Neal.
Camozzi has a lot more power and better finishing instincts than his brother, but he’s still not a great fighter. His core issue is defense — for being ridiculously tall and long for the weight class, he let the comparatively diminutive Chad Laprise find the mark over and over in their fight. Neal, a powerful combination puncher, looks to have the right skillset to get inside on Camozzi and tear him up where those long arms become a liability.
Camozzi is definitely a threat on the inside and can do some damage at range with his kicks, but he’s going to struggle to keep the aggressive Neal off of him. Expect a fairly even striking battle until Neal finds his range and starts putting leather on Camozzi’s chin with regularity.
Prediction: Neal via second-round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Roberto Sanchez vs. Joby Sanchez
Roberto Sanchez (7-1) spent the entirety of his pre-UFC career in Legacy FC and the subsequent LFA, earning its Flyweight title last June. This set up a UFC debut less than two months later, where he suffered a submission loss to Team Alpha Male ace Joseph Morales.
His last six victories have come via submission.
The other Sanchez, Joby Sanchez (11-2), went 1-2 in UFC his first time around before picking up two regional victories and catching Dana White’s eye once again. In two “Tuesday Night Contender Series” appearances, he defeated former Legacy champ Manny Vazquez and beat down South African wrestling standout J.P. Buys to earn another shot with the organization.
He has knocked out and submitted four opponents apiece.
Yeah, I’m just going to refer to these two by their first names for clarity’s sake.
While Joby has definitely improved since his first UFC run, he still has a critical issue that Roberto has the skills to mercilessly exploit: Iffy takedown defense. Both Vazquez and Buys successfully put him on his back in their fights and Roberto — a strong wrestler and submission artist — presents a similar sort of quandary. As Joby lacks standout stopping power in his strikes, it’s hard to envision him deterring Roberto in his quest to put him on his back and do bad things to his circulatory system.
I still believe Roberto has quite a bit of upside despite the loss to Morales and the stylistic match up is all his. “Little Fury” wrangles Joby to the mat in the first couple minutes and locks up his fifth rear-naked choke.
Prediction: Roberto via first-round submission
135 lbs.: Sarah Moras vs. Lucie Pudilova
Sarah Moras (5-2) — representing Team Miesha Tate on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 — fought her way to the semifinals before falling to teammate and eventual winner Julianna Pena. After splitting her first two UFC bouts and missing almost 26 months because of injury, “Cheesecake” returned in Sept. 2017 in triumphant fashion with an upset submission of Ashlee Evans-Smith.
She has stopped two opponents with strikes and another two by armbar.
Lucie Pudilova (7-2) stepped up on short notice to rematch Lina Lansberg in her UFC debut, battering Lansberg’s eye to obscene proportions, but ultimately losing a decision. She had more luck against Ji Yeon Kim, whom she beat by decision in Singapore last June.
Her wins are likewise split 2:2 between knockouts and submissions.
Moras’ quality submission game is badly hamstrung by her poor wrestling. All the Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills in the world don’t mean squat if the whole fight takes place where her opponent wants it. Against Pudilova, she faces a superior striker whom she does not have the skills to take out of her comfort zone.
That’s the long and short of it, honestly. Moras is simply on the wrong end of the stylistic clash. Pudilova sprawls-and-brawls her way to a decision victory.
Prediction: Pudilova via unanimous decision
At the very least, we’ll get some quality highlight reel fodder. See you Sunday, Maniacs!
Remember, too, that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 126 card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass "Prelims" matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. ET, and then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 1 at 7 p.m. ET before the FOX Sports 1 main card action kicks off at 9 p.m. ET.