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UFC Chile preview, predictions for ‘Maia vs Usman’ on FOX Sports 1

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) hits Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile, this Saturday evening (May 19, 2018) for UFC Fight Night 129, live on FOX Sports 1.

The mixed martial arts (MMA) event features the venerable Demian Maia against fast-rising Ultimate Fighter (TUF) veteran Kamaru Usman in the main event, plus a co-feature between top strawweight prospects Alexa Grasso and Tatiana Suarez. Light heavyweight knockout artists Jared Cannonier and Dominick Reyes will be in action as well TUF: “Latin America” alumni Guido Cannetti and Diego Rivas.

As usual, we’ve got breakdowns of the Prelims on Fight Pass and FOX Sports 2 here and here, respectively, plus the odds here. As for the main card? Read on.

170 lbs.: Kamaru Usman (12-1) vs. Demian Maia (25-8)

The past ten months have seen Demian Maia fight two risk-averse wrestlers and look pedestrian in the process. I guess he saw this as an opportunity for redemption, because Usman ticks every box Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington do.

And unlike Covington, he’s got the skills to obliterate Maia on the feet.

Usman is a physical specimen with a strong wrestling pedigree and one-shot power in his hands that he’s finally learning to unleash. Maia’s beaten quality wrestlers before, but the sheer amount of energy he’ll have to expend to get Usman down bodes ill, especially since the Brazilian has slowed down in three-round fights before.

Five rounds aren’t going to be pretty.

Maia needs to do everything in his power to take Usman’s back inside of three minutes, because after that he’s just going to get overpowered. The finish is there if Usman wants it, but unless he comes out a lot more willing to take risks than we’ve seen, expect Woodley-Maia Part 3(0%) as he sprawls and potshots his way to a wide decision.

Prediction: Usman by unanimous decision

115 lbs.: Alexa Grasso (10-1) vs. Tatiana Suarez (5-0)

As of this writing, this is the most lopsided fight, oddswise, on the entire card. Even Usman isn’t as big a favorite as Suarez, sitting at -550 compared to her -650. Considering Grasso looked like the Next Big Thing at 115 when she made the move from Invicta, that says something about how dominant Suarez’s grappling is.

It’s also worth noting that Grasso, after a strong debut against Heather Jo Clark, underperformed against both Felice Herrig and Randa Markos, who hit a combined six takedowns on her. Grasso seems hesitant to let her hands go despite packing some of the division’s best boxing.

She who hesitates is lost.

Suarez is going to take her down early and often without a steady stream of jabs and power punches to keep her honest. Heck, she might do it even if there is a steady stream of jabs and power punches coming her way; woman’s a hell of a wrestler. Grasso’s takedown defense and scrambling just aren’t been up to snuff.

Grasso’s got stopping power, but it won’t matter much when she’s on her back. Suarez mauls her way to back mount and locks up a rear naked choke.

Prediction: Suarez by second-round submission

205 lbs.: Jared Cannonier (10-3) vs. Dominick Reyes (8-0)

Reyes is a young, exciting prospect in a division woefully short on young, exciting prospects. The last one I got stoked for, Magomed Ankalaev, panicked and tapped to a triangle with one second left in a fight he was dominating, so I’m really hoping Reyes wins big here.

Luckily, I think he will.

Cannonier has a cast-iron head and cast-iron hands, but was weirdly ineffective against the taller Jan Blachowicz, letting the Pole bank two rounds before finally coming alive in the third. That won’t do against Reyes, who stands five inches taller than Cannonier and has quite a bit more stopping power in his hands and feet than Blachowicz.

The key might by Cannonier’s inability to smoothly close distance. He’s lethal when fighters choose to bang with him, as Glover Teixeira and Nick Roehrick did, but he doesn’t have the tools to force the sorts of exchanges he thrives in against lengthier strikers. Reyes, meanwhile, has a cohesive and dangerous long-range striking game that should work wonders against “The Killa Gorilla.”

Reyes has only been out of the first round once, so this could get hairy for him if Cannonier drags things into deep waters, but I say Reyes’ shin meets Cannonier’s face and wins the very short argument that ensues.

Prediction: Reyes by first-round knockout

135 lbs.: Guido Cannetti (7-3) vs. Diego Rivas (7-1)

Cannetti is, if nothing else, memorable, which is probably why he’s still in the UFC despite a 1-2 Octagon record and a failed drug test. The man charged face-first into Alejandro Perez’s counter to lose on TUF: Latin America, then charged face-first into Enrique Briones’ counter to lose in his UFC debut.

He had his first fight in more than two years this January and got demolished by Kyung Ho Kang, so he’s not exactly aging like wine.

Conversely, you might remember Rivas from the time he lost a 10-8 round to Noad Lahat, then knocked his head into low earth orbit with a flying knee 20 seconds into the next round. He’s still got no takedown defense and isn’t a great finisher, but he should at least be better than Cannetti, or at least less likely to doom himself via too much gusto.

Two flawed-but-game fighters are usually good for a fun show, and as neither is a great wrestler, we could wind up with a genuinely entertaining throwdown. Cannetti’s incomparable penchant for self-sabotage rears its ugly head once again, allowing the hometown hero to drop him and lock up something nasty on the way up.

Prediction: Rivas by second-round submission

125 lbs.: Andrea Lee (8-2) vs. Veronica Macedo (5-1-1)

I remember seeing “KGB” Lee ages ago in her second pro fight and figuring a belt and/or stardom was already within her reach. A powerful, dangerous striker with the submissions and scrambling skills to be a threat on the mat, she looked poised to become something special.

Then Roxy Modafferi came in and showed that Lee’s wrestling just wasn’t there.

Lee has improved that area since, but it remains a blemish on her otherwise eye-catching style. She barely escaped with a split decision two fights ago after surrendering key takedowns in a fight she was easily winning on the feet. With solid grapplers like Nicco Montano and Alexis Davis lurking at the top of the division, she has to fix that ASAP.

Luckily for her, Macedo is ill-equipped to exploit that flaw. Macedo is coming off a nearly two-year layoff and had just six months between her pro debut and her UFC debut. The Venezuelan should do better at flyweight than she did at 135, but her kick-heavy striking and limited takedown ability make this an extremely tough out for her.

Lee’s aggression will stymie Macedo’s kicks, allowing her to either chew Macedo up with punches and clinch knees or bully her way into top position. Either way, she pounds her way towards a late submission finish.

Prediction: Lee by third-round submission

170 lbs.: Vicente Luque (12-6-1) vs. Chad Laprise (13-2)

It’s not super clear to me why Laprise is staying at 170. He did well for himself at lightweight and his last welterweight appearance saw him nearly KO’d by Galore Bofando. In Luque, he faces another heavy-handed slugger with, unfortunately for “The Disciple,” a hell of a lot more to his game than Bofando.

Luque has never been stopped with strikes, can do serious damage with his punches, and has the opportunistic submission game to turn any knockdown into an instant finish. Laprise is going to have to lean heavily on his boxing, a tall task considering he’s giving up four inches of reach to “The Silent Assassin.”

At just 26, Luque is already looking like a title contender. Laprise is skilled and dangerous, but against a bigger man with this breadth of skills, he’s going to struggle. Luque’s size and power let him force Laprise to the mat early with either punches or a takedown, after which it’s only a matter of time.

Prediction: Luque by first-round submission will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 129 fight card this Saturday evening, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on FOX Sports 2 at 8 p.m. ET, and finally the FOX Sports 1 main card 10 p.m. ET.

For more on this weekend’s Fight Night 129 card and the UFC’s other Fox Sports 1 programming, click here.

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