Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) makes its first-ever appearance on ESPN+ this Saturday (Jan. 19, 2019), live from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., with a “Champion vs. Champion” super fight at the helm. UFC on ESPN+ 1’s main event will see Flyweight kingpin Henry Cejudo take on arguable Bantamweight G.O.A.T. T.J. Dillashaw at 125 pounds. Before that, 140 pounds north, Greg Hardy makes his Octagon debut against “Contender Series” alum Allen Crowder in the co-feature. Other names of note include Paige VanZant and former title challengers Joseph Benavidez and Glover Teixeira, among others.
Four “Prelims” undercard bouts will air on ESPN between the ESPN+ broadcasts (check out the ESPN+ “Prelims” preview here). Let’s have a look:
155 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Alexander Hernandez
A disastrous rematch with Rafael dos Anjos led Donald Cerrone (34-11) to try his hand at Welterweight, where he won four straight by stoppage before hitting a 1-4 skid. Upon his return to 155 pounds, “Cowboy” faced fellow Jackson-Wink product Mike Perry and locked up a bonus-winning armbar late in the first round.
Cerrone has 17 submissions among his 26 stoppage victories.
Alexander Hernandez (10-1) exploded onto the scene with a short-notice 42-second knockout of Beneil Dariush, who was favored four-to-one going in. The victory earned him a crack at another contender in Olivier Aubin-Mercier, whom Hernandez outclassed in July 2018.
He will give up four inches of height and one inch of reach to Cerrone.
Hernandez is currently a moderate favorite and looked great in his two UFC appearances, but it’s worth noting that Cerrone is 11-2 at Lightweight since 2013, the only losses coming to dos Anjos. Hernandez doesn’t have the size or striking craft to exploit the flaws in Cerrone’s stand up the way Jorge Masvidal, Robbie Lawler, Darren Till, and Leon Edwards did, and his straightforward pressure leaves him open to Cerrone’s intercepting knee.
Cerrone lost to four of the Top 15 Welterweight contenders in the world. Hernandez, though undeniably talented, has one of the sport’s best bottom games and a merciless combination striking attack standing between him and his preferred grinding style. Cerrone wears down Hernandez with knees, kicks and punishing ground scrambles, eventually exhausting and finishing his shorter foe after a rough first round.
Prediction: Cerrone via third-round technical knockout
125 lbs.: Joanne Calderwood vs. Ariane Lipski
Joanne Calderwood (12-3) fell to Rose Namajunas on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 20, then opened her Octagon career 3-3. Consecutive losses to Jessica Andrade and Cynthia Calvillo sent her to Flyweight, where she showed off her grappling with a triangle-armbar finish of Kalindra Faria.
“JoJo” has five wins by (technical) knockout alongside that single submission victory.
Ariane Lipski (11-3) has won nine straight since starting her professional career 2-3, including a strong run in Poland’s KSW promotion. “The Violence Queen” won their vacant Flyweight title in 2017 and racked up a pair of successful defenses before making the jump to the Octagon.
That nine-fight streak includes five (technical) knockouts and two submissions.
Lipski is a terrific addition to the women’s Flyweight roster, easily the most significant acquisition not from TUF or “Contender Series.” She’s skilled, extremely aggressive and packs legitimate stopping power in both her punches and kicks.
She is also, unfortunately, going to open her UFC career with a loss.
Now that she’s in her proper weight class, we’re going to see what Calderwood is really capable of. Her greatest struggles have come against strong grapplers who can blend striking with takedowns, and though Lipski boasts a solid ground game, odds are we’ll get a pure striking battle. There, Calderwood’s experience and craft should just edge out Lipski’s volume in a fun, back-and-forth affair.
Prediction: Calderwood via split decision
205 lbs.: Alonzo Menifield vs. Vinicius Moreira
Alonzo Menifield’s (7-0) first “Contender Series” bout ended in anticlimactic fashion when opponent Daniel Jolly suffered an eye injury, forcing him to bow out after the first round. He went on to pick up a pair of stoppage wins in LFA, then returned to “Contender Series” with an eight-second technical knockout of Dashawn Boatwright.
All seven of his wins have come inside of two rounds, including six by knockout.
Vinicius Moreira (9-1) earned eight stoppage wins in less than two rounds on his way to a “Contender Series: Brasil” date with John Allan. “Mamute” had to weather some strong punches to do it, but Moreira ultimately brought his grappling to bear and tapped Allan with a second-round triangle choke to earn a contract.
He stands four inches taller than Menifield at 6’4.”
Menifield is a strong athlete, but still a definite work-in-progress. He’s got plenty of power and speed, plus a willingness to throw volume that I’d love to see out of fellow football import Eryk Anders. It’s the ground game that remains a question mark, plus his habit of overextending with his big right hand and opening himself up for takedowns.
Moreira a surprisingly fluid and lethal grappler for his size, making him a legitimate threat, but he’s absolutely lost on the feet. Though he has the top game to ruin Menifield’s day, the gap in speed in power is large enough to assuage my concerns about the grappling disparity. Menifield shreds Moreira standing for a quick finish.
Prediction: Menifield via first-round technical knockout
135 lbs.: Mario Bautista vs. Cory Sandhagen
Mario Bautista (6-0) went undefeated (4-0) as an amateur, then took a 3.5-year break before making his professional debut in 2017. He has racked up three submissions and two (technical) knockouts, including a pair of victories in LFA.
He steps in for the injured John Lineker on a week’s notice.
Cory Sandhagen (9-1) opened his Octagon career in January by thrashing Austin Arnett on eight days’ notice, using a powerful body attack to put him away in the second round. His next time out, he took on the ever-dangerous Iuri Alcantara, powering through a crushing armbar to pound out “Marajo” and secure “Fight of the Night.”
He has won four straight by knockout alongside two early-career submissions.
Bautista is young, fights out of a great camp in The MMA Lab, and looks to be a dangerous grappler who actually knows how to set up his takedowns with strikes. Unfortunately, Sandhagen is in a different dimension from practically everyone Bautista has ever fought. He already proved he could handle lethal submissions against Alcantara and figures to have a massive edge on the feet.
Bautista’s aggression should get him a takedown or two in the early going, but once Sandhagen’s body attack gets going, the short notice will take its toll. Sandhagen breaks him down late in the second round.
Prediction: Sandhagen via second-round technical knockout
We’ve got a brave new UFC world ahead of us, Maniacs. Let’s head into it together.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 143 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.