This Saturday (Feb. 2, 2019), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) travels to Northeast Olympic Training Center in Fortaleza, Brazil, for UFC Fight Night 144, the promotion’s second event to stream online via ESPN+. Though admittedly a step down from the organization’s debut event on its new online platform, this weekend’s main card features several seriously talented veterans and athletes in the title hunt. The main event in particular is an excellent battle of highly-skilled Brazilian veterans. Unfortunately, most of the undercard features fighters without Wikipedia pages — but that’s Patrick Stumberg’s problem rather than my own!
Oh, and of course, MMAmania.com’s Jesse Holland will preview and predict the main- and co-main events as we get closer to showtime. Let’s take a look at some main card fights!
Welterweight: Demian Maia vs. Lyman Good
Best Win for Maia? Jon Fitch For Good? Andrew Craig
Current Streak: Three losses for Maia, a win for Good
X-Factor: Maia being 41 years of age
How these two match up: Now here’s a strangely random fight, even if it does make sense in an odd sort of way. On one hand, we have the fairly recent title challenger Demian Maia: Brazilian jiu-jitsu mastermind with a shaky gas tank and no real Plan B. Everyone knows just what he’s going to do, but only a very small percentage actually manage to stop it.
Seeing as Maia has lost what is essentially the division’s best three fighters in his previous three fights — yes, you could make an argument for “Wonderboy” or Till as top three if you were feeling pedantic — a step back in competition is necessary. Good fills that role, but the former Bellator world champion is anything but a pushover. Good is a burly, hard-hitting pocket boxer who has never been finished.
It’s a Maia fight, so the determining factor is if Good can stop the shot. It’s that simple. Though Maia’s stock is low following consecutive defeats to amazing wrestlers, that’s not Good’s strength nor his background. Good may be physically impressive, but if Maia could briefly take down Kamaru Usman, I don’t expect him to fail here.
Maia reminds the world of his backpacking talents.
Prediction: Maia wins via unanimous decision
Lightweight: David Teymur vs. Charles Oliveira
Best Win for Teymur? Drakkar Klose For Oliveira? Jeremy Stephens
Current Streak: Five Octagon victories for Teymur, three for the Brazilian
X-Factor: Oliveira’s heart (or occasional lack thereof)
How these two match up: An excellent style clash sure to entertain, I don’t expect to see the judges’ scorecards here. Teymur is a highly decorated professional Muay Thai fighter, relying on impressive combinations and thudding kicks inside the Octagon. Perhaps more impressive has been his takedown defense and scrambling, as Teymur has grown quickly in that department over the last couple years.
On the other hand, we have Charles Oliveira, who recently broke the record for most submission wins in UFC history. With Maia (arguably the most effective grappler) and Oliveira (arguably the most potent) back-to-back, this really may stand out as a fun card for grappling fans.
As such, it once again becomes a question of takedown defense.
Again, I want to give Teymur all the credit in the world for his wrestling development: his ability to deny takedowns, scramble hard, and then return to kickboxing at a high pace is remarkable. Sadly for the Swede, it’s the wrong style of takedown defense against Oliveira. The best way to shutdown Oliveira’s offense is iron hips: shut down his initial shot and smash him for the attempt. Instead, Teymur does his best work after the shot has begun, in the immediate aftermath of scrambling and getting back up right away. That works tremendously against wrestlers like Nik Lentz and Drakkar Klose, but it’s more likely to see Oliveira take his back in transition, right where he wants to be.
Prediction: Oliveira via submission
Light Heavyweight: Johnny Walker vs. Justin Ledet
Best Win for Walker? Khalil Rountree For Ledet? Chase Sherman
Current Streak: A UFC victory for Walker, a loss for Ledet
X-Factor: Walker has some ugly knockout losses from a few years back
How these two match up: Walker turned heads in his debut, obliterating the promising Rountree with elbows in the very first round. A young knockout artist who ranked highly as a Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight in both Brazil and England, Walker seems to be a very real prospect at 205 pounds.
Meanwhile, 205 pounds may be a mistake for Ledet. At Heavyweight, the former boxer danced around his large opponents and jabbed the soul out of them, making great use of his speed and conditioning. In his Light Heavyweight debut, however, Ledet was thoroughly bullied and handed his first professional loss in one of the least competitive UFC fights ever.
On paper, the path to victory for Ledet is to box his way into the pocket, string together combinations, and take advantage of Walker’s less than impenetrable defense. It just seems unlikely though. Walker is much bigger and likes to work from a rangy Karate stance: he’s going to kick Ledet seriously hard any time Ledet tries to advance. Plus, Ledet closing the distance does not at all guarantee his safety. Walker knocked out his last foe brutally from inside the clinch, and he has a nice wrestling/top game to fall back on if need be.
The odds are against the American.
Prediction: Walker via decision
Women’s Strawweight: Livia Renata Souza vs. Sarah Frota
Best Win for Souza? Alex Chambers For Frota? Maiara Amanajás
Current Streak: A single UFC win for Souza, an undefeated debut from Frota
X-Factor: Souza’s physicality
How these two match up: Let’s be honest with ourselves, power punches and physicality are not the immediate thoughts when deep in thought about the Strawweight division. These two Brazilian athletes have a fair amount of knockout wins and muscle between them though, and it’s likely to be a violent showdown.
Souza’s debut was one of the most predictable things I’ve ever witnessed in the cage, and I knew nothing about her prior to the fight. On the walkout, it was immediately noticeable that she was simple another level of athlete from her opponent, Alex Chambers. Then, the UFC broadcasts talks about her dominating jiu-jitsu game. 90 seconds later, Souza had clubbed and subbed Chambers like she wasn’t even in the cage with her.
Frota has a much better chance at avoiding that fate due to her own strength and power punching. In fact, she’s probably the heavier hitter of the two. Ultimately however, power wrestling and a dominant, jiu-jitsu heavy top game is one of the most consistently successful paths to victory in MMA — and especially women’s MMA.
Hard to pick against it.
Prediction: Souza via decision
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 144 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. ET, before the main card start time at 8 p.m. ET (also on ESPN+).