The world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) organization heads back to New York this Friday (June 1, 2018) as Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes headline UFC Fight Night 131 from inside Adirondack Bank Center in Utica. Earlier in the evening, Gregor Gillespie attempts to assert his status as the top Lightweight up-and-coming prospect in the game against Vinc Pichel, Walt Harris faces Daniel Spitz up at 265 pounds, and Julio Arce takes on Daniel Teymur in a clash of Featherweight strikers.
The FOX Sports 1 broadcast includes four “Prelims” undercard matches (check out the Fight Pass portion here), so let’s have a look, shall we?
125 lbs.: Sijara Eubanks vs. Lauren Murphy
Sijara Eubanks (2-2) came out of nowhere to rampage through The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 26, going from No. 12-seed to finalist with three dominant victories. Her weight-cutting issues reared its ugly head at the Finale, however, and “Sarj” missed her shot at the inaugural UFC women’s Strawweight title.
She stands three inches shorter than Lauren Murphy (10-3) at 5’4.”
Murphy hasn’t been so “Lucky” in the Octagon, going 1-3 as a Bantamweight and losing her first TUF bout to Nicco Montano. She got called up to the Finale anyway, taking a split decision over former Invicta champ Barb Honchak.
Seven of her 10 professional MMA wins have come via (technical) knockout.
Murphy’s fundamental issue is that she has a great top game, but struggles so badly to complete takedowns that she never gets to use it. It doesn’t even look like the move to 125 pounds has fixed that, as she could not consistently overpower Montano and Honchak.
That bodes ill for her against Eubanks, a bigger fighter with quite a bit more stopping power in her strikes and an A+ ground game to back it up. Murphy’s only real chance is to grind her out from guard, but unless Eubanks fouls up her weight cut again, Murphy doesn’t have the tools to do so. In short, Eubanks dominates the striking and overpowers Murphy in the clinch.
Prediction: Eubanks via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: David Teymur vs. Nik Lentz
David Teymur (7-1) won his first two bouts on TUF 22 before losing a majority decision to teammate Marcin Wrzosek in the quarterfinals. Undaunted, he has gone on to win four straight in UFC, including a “Fight of the Night” upset over Lando Vannata at UFC 209.
He has knocked out four opponents as a professional cage fighter.
Following a submission loss to Charles Oliveira in their rematch, Nik Lentz (28-8-2) returned to Lightweight, where he has won three of four bouts. In his most recent bout, he defied 4:1 odds to submit Will Brooks and earn “Performance of the Night” in the process.
He was originally set to fight Leonardo Santos, while Teymur was booked to fight Don Madge in Liverpool last Sunday.
I’m honestly more impressed with Teymur’s wrestling than anything else. Despite a purely striking background, he’s held his own in the grappling against both Vannata and Drakkar Klose. Lentz is a more dedicated takedown artist than those two, but he’s also terribly slow and hittable. He poses almost no threat on the feet, leaving Teymur free to double down on his takedown defense.
Lentz clearly has something left in the tank, but he hasn’t beaten a single member of the current UFC roster and he’s struggled to apply his customary pressure. Teymur shuts down his wrestling and eats him up at range with left hooks and low kicks.
Prediction: Teymur via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Chance Rencountre vs. Belal Muhammad
Chance Rencountre (12-2) went undefeated (8-0) as an amateur before opening his professional career perfectly (7-0), too. “Black Eagle” rebounded from a 1-2 skid to win five straight, including a decision over UFC veteran Jake Lindsey and a submission over Justin Patterson that avenged a loss.
He steps in for the injured Niko Price on short notice.
Belal Muhammad (13-2) went from opening his UFC career 1-2 to winning three straight, two of them as an underdog. He was last seen dueling the much taller Tim Means to a split decision victory in Sydney.
“Remember the Name” will give up four inches of height and three inches of reach to Rencountre.
There’s not much footage out there of Rencountre and what little there is isn’t overly flattering. He’s a rangy 6’2” with solid wrestling, but is more of a grab-bag striker than a focused machine and looks rather easy to hit. Even with his height and length, he looks to be in for a bruising against Muhammad’s boxing.
Rencountre has an avenue of victory if he can consistently drag Muhammad to the mat, but his foe’s wrestling has historically been stout. “Black Eagle” struggles to take flight in the face of powerful combination punching, losing a clear decision.
Prediction: Muhammad via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Des Green vs. Gleison Tibau
Des Green (20-7) — formerly the Titan FC Featherweight champion — defied the odds to take a split decision over Josh Emmett in his Octagon debut. He didn’t have quite as much success against fellow wrestlers Rustam Khabilov and Michel Prazeres, who beat him by unanimous decision.
He will have two inches of reach on Gleison Tibau (32-12).
The last few years have not been kind to Tibau, who saw a 105-second thrashing of Abel Trujillo overturned into a disqualification because of a failed drug test. More than two years later, he returned from his suspension and got knocked out in 57 seconds by Dagestani grappler Islam Makhachev.
Twelve of his 16 stoppage wins have come via submission.
The last time Tibau officially won a fight in UFC, Conor McGregor was fighting Dennis Siver later that night. The Brazilian giant is 34 years old and his cardio — never a strong point — probably won’t be improving anytime soon. Green can hold his own in the wrestling, outclass him on the feet, and has the gas tank to keep pushing long past the point when Tibau’s running on fumes.
I don’t have terribly high hopes of this being a slobberknocker, but I do expect a dominant performance. Green fights through a grinding first round to overwhelm Tibau with pace and power punches.
Prediction: Green via unanimous decision
UFC Fight Night 131 features an A+ main event and a supporting cast littered with prospects and the potential for some serious violence. Count me in! See you Friday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 131 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET, also on FOX Sports 1.