Middleweight-turned Light Heavyweight knockout artists Eryk Anders and Thiago Santos helm an injury-ravaged card this Saturday (Sept. 22, 2018) as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hometown favorite Alex “Cowboy” Oliveira throws down with late replacement Carlo Pedersoli Jr. in UFC Fight Night 137’s co-feature, while veterans Renan Barao and Randa Markos welcome newcomers Andre Ewell and Marina Rodriguez to the world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion.
We’ve four more UFC Fight Night 137 “Prelims” undercard bouts to preview and predict (check out the first batch here), so let’s not delay:
155 lbs.: Charles Oliveira vs. Christos Giagos
A series of massive weigh-in failures, culminating in him stepping onto the scale at 155 pounds for a fight at 145 pounds, led to the return of Charles Oliveira (23-8) to Lightweight after 12 appearances at Featherweight. He is 2-1 since moving back, a technical knockout loss to Paul Felder sandwiched between submissions of Clay Guida and Will Brooks.
“Do Bronx” has submitted 15 professional opponents and knocked out another six.
Christos Giagos (15-6) went 1-2 in his initial UFC run, losing to Gilbert Burns and Chris Wade, and suffered a knockout loss to Josh Emmett in his first post-Octagon appearance. “The Spartan” has since won four of five, however, and the only loss was a split decision against unbeaten ACB standout Shamil Nikaev.
He will give up 2.5 inches of reach to Oliveira.
I’m fond of Giagos’ style and glad to see him back in the Octagon, but this is a nightmarish fight for him. He’s not a great wrestler, instead relying on scrambles, and he cannot scramble with Oliveira and not wind up tapping within seconds.
While Giagos can pull off a finish out of nowhere, Oliveira is too good a takedown artist and too good a submission ace for “The Spartan” to get anything going before he gets grounded and choked out. In other words, expect another quick submission by the Brazilian.
Prediction: Oliveira via first-round submission
155 lbs.: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Evan Dunham
Undeterred by a shaky 4-3 start to his Octagon career, Francisco Trinaldo (22-6) put together one of the league’s longest winning streaks by defeating seven consecutive opponents, including handing Paul Felder the only stoppage loss of his career. He has since lost two of three to Kevin Lee and James Vick, though he did defeat veteran Jim Miller by decision in Oct. 2017.
“Massaranduba” stands an inch shorter than Dunham at 5’9,” but will have an identical reach.
Evan Dunham (18-7) pulled his way out of a 1-4 slump to go unbeaten in his next four, the blemish a draw against Beneil Dariush wherein he survived a 10-8 first round to win the next two. He couldn’t pull off the same comeback against Olivier Aubin-Mercier, who folded him with a knee to the body in the first round.
Six of his nine stoppage wins have come by submission, four chokes and two armbars.
This is actually a really good under-the-radar fight, pitting Trinaldo’s enormous strength and heavy strikes against Dunham’s relentless pressure. The deciding factor may be Trinaldo’s cardio — he’s done a much better job of pacing himself in recent years, but he’s 40 years old, huge and throws heat. He can’t stay too busy, and unfortunately, Dunham is going to make him work.
Trinaldo has a legitimate shot at the early finish, especially if he actually remembers to use his crazy hard body shots, but I say Dunham toughs out a rough start to take control of the fight with his pace and volume.
Prediction: Dunham via unanimous decision
205 lbs.: Luis Henrique (10-4) vs. Ryan Spann (14-5)
Following a knockout loss to Francis N’Gannou in his Octagon debut, Luis Henrique (10-4) got back on track by submitting Dmitry Smolyakov and Christian Colombo. He couldn’t keep the momentum going in 2017, falling to Marcin Tybura and Arjan Bhullar in successive appearances.
This will be his first appearance at Light Heavyweight since 2015.
Ryan Spann (14-5) got a shot on “Contender Series” in the midst of a 2-3 slump, only for Karl Roberson to knock him out with elbows in just 15 seconds. After winning three more fights and winning the LFA Light Heavyweight title, “Superman” got another chance against Emeliano Sordi and made the most of it, choking out the Argentinian in 26 seconds.
He steps in for Mark Godbeer on less than two months’ notice.
Spann clearly has athletic gifts out the wazoo, boasting solid striking, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and his losses are really nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, losing to the likes of jiu-jitsu legends like Leo Leite and Robert Drysdale or prospects like Trevin Giles could happen to anyone. He really seems to be coming into his own and I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops.
That said, the issue here is that he’s a former Middleweight against a former Heavyweight. Spann regularly weighs in around 204 pounds, so he’s not particularly large for the division, and I expect Henrique to look much better without all that excess weight. Worse, Spann has faded in the past when the early finish failed to materialize and Henrique’s grinding is nothing to scoff at. Expect a competitive, somewhat controversial fight wherein Henrique’s relentlessness outweighs Spann’s eye-catching early action.
Prediction: Henrique via split decision
265 lbs.: Augusto Sakai vs. Chase Sherman
Augusto Sakai went 4-0-1 in Bellator MMA before suffering his lone defeat, a split decision against Cheick Kongo. He proceeded to pick up a win in his native Brazil and punch his ticket to UFC with a knockout on “Contender Series.”
He has scored nine (technical) knockout finishes as a professional, five of them in the first round.
Chase Sherman (11-5) fell into a hole right off the bat in UFC, losing one-sided bouts to Justin Ledet and Walt Harris. Though he managed to even up his Octagon record with wins over Rashad Coulter and Damian Grabowski, “The Vanilla Gorilla” enters Saturday’s bout on the heels of losses to Shamil Abdurakhimov and Justin Willis.
His 10 (technical) knockout wins include nine in the first round.
It’s always nice to see a new Heavyweight who is under 30, and though I don’t see Sakai challenging for a title, he’s a huge, entertaining fighter with serious power and deceptively good cardio. He’s a bit slow and easy to hit — as you might expect from someone who cuts to make 265 pounds — but his toughness and finishing ability make up for it.
Sherman’s reasonably entertaining, but he’s equally iffy on defense and hasn’t demonstrated Sakai’s durability. In addition, his speed edge will have diminishing returns once Sakai’s leg kicks start piling up. Expect Sherman to do well early, only for the increasing damage to his lead thigh to leave him in punching range for just a second too long.
Prediction: Sakai via second-round knockout
We’re almost certainly getting a bunch of finishes, at the very least, this weekend with UFC Fight Night 137. See you Saturday, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 137 fight card this weekend, starting with the Fight Pass “Prelims” undercard bout at 6:30 p.m. ET, followed by the FOX Sports 2 “Prelims” undercard bouts at 8:30 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.